‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
It gets real easy for Jets fans this week.
Get on out to MetLife Stadium Sunday, settle into your seats at about 8:15 p.m., and scream your lungs out like tomorrow will never come.
This is your chance to turn that big, gray stadium into a green-clad Bedlam, a cauldron where no opponent, much less a truly ticked off New England Patriots squad, would dare to tread without a good silent count at the ready.
The Jets will need all the sound and fury their fans can offer, for what will happen Sunday night is truly the biggest thing that these fans have seen in the new stadium’s one-and-a-half seasons of existence. This is a battle for first place in the AFC East, and a second half of the season battle at that. Last year bore none of that drama, not even in the playoffs since they went on the road for their entire postseason run to the championship game.
By this point last year, the Jets were a comfortable 6-2, having just beaten Detroit at Ford Field in their first of two straight overtime games. And by the end of Week 10, they were 7-2, and in a first-place tie with New England after their second overtime win in Cleveland.
Their next two games at what was then called the New Meadowlands Stadium hardly qualified as titantic matchups, though it did take some doing to get past Houston, dwelling in the AFC South’s cellar, that first week. And their 26-10 win over Cincinnati the following week, while it allowed them to keep pace with the 9-2 Pats, proved anything but exhilarating.
And then came that 45-3, Monday night disaster up in Foxborough.
The Pats were in first place alone, and would only put distance between themselves and Rex Ryan’s bunch the rest of the season. The only drama left for the Meadowlands crowd involved wildcard seeding. Hardly the stuff of legendary matchups.
This is far different. The Jets have a chance, right here, right now, to put the Patriots’ shoe on the other foot, so to speak. A win at MetLife could start the distancing of the Jets from the rest of the AFC East pack. A loss could consign them to another year of wildcard status, if that.
The next two home games come against the Bills, which the Jets have already beaten in Orchard Park, and the Chiefs, who could be headed downhill after a fast start. Key games, but certainly not sexy ones. And the next chance to get really excited after that will be Christmas Eve day, when they face their co-homies, the Giants.
By then, though, the Jets’ fate may already be determined, for better or worse.
Nothing will be easy about this, which is another reason for the crowd to get jacked. Perhaps hanging Fireman Ed off a blimp is in order here. But at the very least, the 80,000 PSLers need to get behind this team as it never has before. Not since they rocked the old joint in Ryan’s home opener in 2009, when they beat those same Patriots.
“As I look at it, the fans are coming off a bye week and they had a road game, so we’re rested,” Rex Ryan said. “Our fans are rested. We’re ready for a huge performance, and we need you. That’s what we talk about, that home-field advantage. That’s where I think our fans can be the difference again.”
So this is it. This is the time.
If not now, then when?