Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets better with age — and no one knows that better than the Jets.
The 39-year-old is 21-7 against his division rivals with 39 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He’s also one of the biggest reasons New England (8-2) is on pace to win its 13th AFC East title since 2001.
Brady’s been on a tear since returning from his four-game Deflategate suspension. He’s completed 70.4 percent of his passes (145 of 206) and thrown 16 touchdown passes and one interception in six games this season. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his Week 11 performance against the 49ers — the second time he’s received the honor this season and 27th time in his career, tying Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history.
According to Jets coach Todd Bowles, the future Hall of Famer is playing the best football of his career.
“Obviously, he keeps himself in remarkable shape and he’s an ultimate competitor,” Bowles said. “And he’s playing at a high level like he has been his whole career. You don’t see anything different, and that says a lot about the man and his work ethic.
“ . . . I appreciate guys that have been in [the league] for three to five years. To go that long and that good and to be playing at 39 years old — and not to miss a beat — still playing at a high level says a lot about the man. Again, his training must be off the charts and his work ethic is outstanding.”
Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick — who turned 34 on Thanksgiving Day — also credited Brady’s skill and longevity.
“We all know what a great player he is and even in a historical context what a great player he is,” said the Jets quarterback, who’ll make his first start since spraining his left MCL against the Dolphins on Nov. 6. “But to be able to take the hits week after week and continue to be out there — I don’t feel like I’m a spring chicken anymore. I’ll be 34 tomorrow. It’s amazing to see a guy like that that just looks better than ever.”
The Jets are desperate for something to change.
After losing two in a row and enduring a brief quarterback switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Bryce Petty, the Jets are eager for a bounce-back win.
“This would give us more confidence as a team coming out with a win on Sunday,” said cornerback Darrelle Revis, who won a Super Bowl with New England after the 2014 season. “We’ll be able to feed off of it. It would shot-put us in a place with momentum for the rest of the season.”
With the bye week now behind them, the Jets will play four divisional games in their remaining six games. So what is the team’s hope going forward?
“I’d like to see us win some games. I think that’d be great,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that’s the goal for everybody. We’ve got to continue to fight. I don’t think that’s something that has been an issue yet. We’ll continue to fight, but we’ve got to be able to finish in these games, too. Just put together a complete game of great execution not just in one quarter, not just in one half, but the whole game as a team playing together and fighting together. I think that’s what we’re looking for.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career numbers against New England: 2-7 record, 18 TD passes, 17 INTs
TIGHT END TROUBLE
Stopping tight ends hasn’t been easy for the Jets’ defense. They had no answers for the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce (six catches, 89 yards and a 12-yard touchdown in Week 3) or the Seahawks’ Jimmy Graham (six catches, 113 yards in Week 4). And even if Rob Gronkowski doesn’t play today, the Jets will have to contend with Martellus Bennett (four TDs) and Matt Lengel.
The Jets have three tight ends (Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Bostick and Eric Tomlinson) on their active roster and another (Braedon Bowman) on the practice squad. The position has yielded few results.
“Our tight ends do different things than their tight ends for the most part,” Todd Bowles said when asked about the Jets’ use of tight ends compared to the Patriots’. “And our scheme is different. It works out differently. If we had two tight ends like that to feature full time, I think we’d make [adjustments] to that. But our tight ends block more. We ask them to do more in blocking.”
Asked if their limited use of tight ends is based on a philosophical preference or is a result of their personnel, Bowles said: “A little bit of both.”
THE X-FACTOR: PATRIOTS’ RUSHING ATTACK
Getting to Tom Brady will be vital for the Jets’ defense. With that said, the unit can’t afford to let LeGarrette Blount or Dion Lewis break out. The Patriots average 103.1 rushing yards per game and the Jets’ defense has been known to give up the occasional big play on the ground (the Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi and the Cardinals’ David Anderson both rushed for 111 yards against them). Blount — who has 201 carries for 802 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns in 10 games — could be on the verge of breaking Curtis Martin’s franchise single-season record of 14 rushing scores (1995 and 1996). Lewis, who tore his left ACL in Week 9 last year, made his season debut last week against the 49ers.
-- Tom Brady needs only two more victories to surpass Peyton Manning and become the winningest quarterback in NFL history.
-- The Patriots’ quarterback currently is tied with Brett Favre with 199 career wins — 22 of which have come in postseason games for the Patriots. With a win today against the Jets, Brady would tie Manning’s record of 200.
-- Brady has 21 wins against the Jets as a starter and needs only 57 yards to become the fifth NFL player to reach 60,000 passing yards:
Peyton Manning 71,940
Brett Favre 71,838
Drew Brees 64,180
Dan Marino 61,361
Tom Brady 59,943
Super Bowl appearances Bill Belichick needs to break a tie with Don Shula (6) for most conference titles by one coach
Sacks David Harris has against Patriots in 17 career games
Rating for opposing QBs in the past six weeks against Jets (third-lowest in NFL during that span)
Receiving yards by Brandon Marshall against the Patriots, the 10th most in NFL history since the AFL-NFL merger
— The Patriots lead the Jets 59-54-1 in the all-time series. They’re 27-29 on the road against them, including 3-3 at MetLife Stadium.
— This is the latest the Jets have faced the Patriots for the first time in the regular season since Week 13 of the 2005 season.