Robert Saleh is not concerned about his team being too amped up or feeling overconfident heading into Sunday’s AFC East matchup. He said the three most dangerous words in football are “I got it.” For the Jets, it’s been: New England Patriots.
The Jets believe that’s going to change. They can change it on Sunday at Gillette Stadium by finally snapping a 13-game losing streak against Bill Belichick’s team.
If the Jets do that, they will be in first place in the AFC East at 7-3 with seven games to go and position themselves well to end another long skid. They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season.
“I think it’s a great place to be,” tight end Tyler Conklin said. “It’s exactly where we want to be. It’s where we expected to be. I think it’s definitely super-neat that we got a chance to go and beat New England for the first time in  matchups. Who doesn’t want to sit atop the division? That’s a hard thing to do.
“If we go in and we win this game like we should this week, at least you control your own destiny. It’s always better to control your destiny than to have it in other people’s hands.”
It’s an enormous swing game in the AFC East, where all of the teams are over .500. If the Jets win, they will be in first. If they lose and Buffalo wins, the Jets will fall to last.
The Jets have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL. With each game, their confidence is growing and their performances are becoming less surprising.
They have lost only once in their last six games. That was to New England, 22-17, in Week 8 in a game that still haunts them. They had a pick-6 taken away by a roughing-the-passer penalty on John Franklin-Myers and Zach Wilson threw three interceptions.
That was a game that the Jets truly feel they should have won. They know they have to play smarter and take care of the football, because the Patriots (5-4) capitalize on other teams’ mistakes.
The Jets are looking forward to the rematch, especially because the wound is still fresh. They have played only one game since then; they upset Buffalo and then had their bye last week.
“We definitely felt like that one slipped away from us,” cornerback D.J. Reed said of the Patriots game. “Do right longer. It’s definitely a game I want to play personally.”
Reed and Conklin are in their first seasons as Jets. They don’t know all of the history between the two franchises, but Conklin quickly learned how important this game is, and not just in the standings.
“I realized it the first time we played them,” Conklin said. “Just from the fans and people I talk to and random people I work with outside the facility — everybody brings it up. Like Patriot Week. Patriot Week. Patriot Week. I’m like, OK. I get a sense of how big it is not just to us but to this fan base. We want to snap the streak just as bad as everybody else wants it snapped.”
Saleh likes where his team is mentally. The Jets recharged during the bye week and understand that they have a long way to go before reaching their goal. He said the locker room has “a quiet confidence” and doesn’t have the “I got it” mindset. They’re “attacking” every day.
He also said they know the importance of this game because of the rivalry and the significance a win would have for the organization, but he’s tried to stress that it’s one of eight remaining on their schedule.
“We’re too young,” Saleh said. “We haven’t been here long enough to experience the scars and all that stuff. Divisional games are always important because there’s ramifications way down the line from a scenario standpoint.
“I get it’s the Patriots and I get it’s big for the fans and some of the people upstairs in the business department and ownership and all that stuff. But for us as coaches, players, you got to keep the main thing the main thing. This is another championship opportunity versus a championship, and we got to play at a championship level.”
Reed echoed Saleh’s sentiments, saying that beating New England would be “a steppingstone.” He called it “a championship week” and said that’s how he treats every week. The fifth-year cornerback has played a huge role in the Jets being one of the top defenses.
Reed initially was surprised at the many long streaks this team had coming into this season. They hadn’t won in September since 2018 and their last AFC East win was in 2019 — to name a couple.
The Jets stopped those, and they have an opportunity to end another on Sunday.
“It’s a divisional game,” Reed said. “These are big games. It’s just exciting. They beat us last time. Definitely want to be able to beat them, especially to be on top of the AFC East for right now. That would be dope.”