By Peter Schwartz
These are fascinating times in New York/New Jersey sports.
The Yankees actually shared some harsh feelings back and forth with Derek Jeter before coming to terms on a new deal.
Mets fans don’t know how to feel. They’re happy that there’s a new regime in place, but they’re not sure that the new regime has any money to spend.
The Knicks have won seven straight road games. Seven! The Knicks!
The Nets are still just the Nets. But they do have a new owner that really wants them to be more than just the Nets.
The Islanders have lost 17 out of their last 18 games. Can I just take off my media hat for just a second and be a fan? Thanks. OUCH!
Okay. That feels better!
Now let’s look at our local football teams.
The Giants seem to be back on track with two straight wins.
And then we come to the Jets and Monday night’s AFC East showdown with the Patriots. This is easily the most anticipated regular season game for the Jets in recent memory and it might just be the biggest in their history (see my last blog!)
Both teams are 9-2 and the winner takes over sole possession of first place.
Yep, it’s a huge contest!
“It’s a big game, there’s no doubt,” said Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “Our team seems to play well in big games. It’s another divisional rivalry-type game, so we need to play our best and give them our best shot in a tough environment. It’s going to take, definitely, our best effort and a good week of preparation. It’s going to take mistake-free play on offense, no turnovers, no penalties and we’ll have a shot.”
Even Sanchez’ counterpart, a winner of three Super Bowl rings, is pumped up for this contest.
“It’s always a big game when we play the Jets,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “It’s a division rival and a division game at home. You can’t expect to win the division if you can’t beat a particular team. It’s going to be a great game. I’m excited for it.”
The Jets, of-course, are dealing with some adversity after safety and punt returner Jim Leonhard suffered a season ending broken leg in practice on Friday. Leonhard’s injury was a devastating blow to the team but it hasn’t put the clamps on their confidence that they can still reach the promised land.
“Well, it is a damper, there’s no question about it,” said Ryan. “It is a damper, but the way this team is now we don’t want to let Jim down, either. We don’t want to let anybody down, our fans down, our teammates down, or ourselves down. We have got to find a way. Trust me, they (the Patriots) are not feeling sorry for us and that’s fine. We have enough players. We are going to get it done, one way or the other. We are going to find a way to get it done. That’s what I’m banking on. Do I think we’ll win the game? Absolutely.”
Filling the void at safety will be Eric Smith who Ryan has called the smartest player on the team. He’s ready for the challenge of taking over Leonhard’s responsibility.
He also believes that it will be a team effort in picking up the slack.
“It’s something we can’t control,” said Smith. “We can’t worry about it. Obviously, we’re there for Jim. You never want to see someone get hurt, but we just have to keep going. The guys that have to step in will have to perform well.”
To take Leonhard’s spot on the roster, the Jets have brought back wide receiver Laveranues Coles who has returned for his fourth tour of duty with Gang Green. He’s not expected to play, but the team feels that his presence might be an emotional lift after the injury to Leonhard.
A pat on the back is not something that the Jets have felt from the football world.There are many so-called experts out who feel that the Jets just aren’t that good. Now since resigning as HC of the NYJ after one day on the job following the 2009 season, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has not exactly been a big fan of the Jets.
But I think he might be able to form a better opinion on Gang Green than….oh let’s say…..Joe Theismann!!!!!!!!!
“I think their 9-2 record is what it is,” said Belichick. “It shows a lot about them right there and how they’ve won those games.”
Okay Jets fans, are your feelings towards Belichick any better now?
I didn’t think so but I think he’s right. Bill Parcells used to say “you are what you are” and for what it’s worth, the Jets are 9-2. But the Patriots are viewed as the better team even though the Jets beat them in week two at the Meadowlands.
So are the Jets underdogs in Foxboro?
“I think in the general court of public opinion, absolutely we’re the underdogs,” according to head coach Rex Ryan. “Do I view us as the underdogs? No. I think we’re going to win. I always think we’re going to win.”
As much as the Jets are confident in their own abilities, there are many who are not that impressed with Gang Green’s recent play including wins over the Broncos, Lions, Browns, and Bengals. From a Jets perspective, those sub-par efforts might have been losses in recent years. But this is a different Jets team. They find ways to win instead of finding ways to lose.
The Jets will certainly show what they are made of in their final five regular season games. They have the toughest remaining schedule of all playoff contenders as they face teams with a combined 33-22 record.
So one might think that the Jets are eager to make a statement to the football world that they are legit.
“No, I think we’ve earned the right to be where we’re at,” said Sanchez. “We know it’s going to be a great match-up, but nothing really changes other than that. We don’t need to make any statements. We just need to play well.”
It won’t be easy against a Patriots team that has won 25 straight games at Gillette Stadium with Tom Brady as their starting quarterback. The Jets did prevail in Foxboro back in 2008, but New England was guided that night by current Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell.
The Patriots will have to contend with the “Road Warriors”. The Jets have won eight straight regular season games dating back to last season. It’s the longest road-winning streak in Jets history.
With so much on the line, maybe its best to just throw the numbers out the window and just see what happens. When a game is this hyped, sometimes there’s a letdown in terms of how the contest unfolds. But it’s hard to see this being a blowout either way.
For a 12th game of the season, there’s a lot on the line.
“The only way it would be better is if it was the last game of the year,” said Ryan. “This is huge. You can’t deny the fact that it’s two excellent football teams going at it. We’ll see what happens.”
After 11 days of waiting since the Jets beat the Bengals and the Patriots knocked off the Lions to ensure that both teams would be tied, the waiting is over.
We’ll finally get to see what happens on Monday night.
The Jets lead the all-time series against the Patriots 51-48 with one tie. The Jets beat the Patriots 28-14 earlier this season in week two at the Meadowlands. Gang Green has won three of the last four meetings and is looking for their first season sweep since 2000. The Jets have won two straight games in Foxboro on Monday Night Football.
Okay, it’s prediction time. I thought this would be a tough spot for the Jets before Jim Leonhard got hurt and now I think that coming out of Foxboro with a victory is going to be an even greater challenge for Gang Green.
Patriots 31 Jets 28.
Enjoy the game and check back after the contest for my post-game blog!