Dyer: A Balance Shift In The AFC East
By Kristian Dyer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Watching the daily coverage of the Jets Week 9 game against the Patriots, it is enough to make one wonder if the volume button on the remote control is working. The talk between these two teams is usually high if not frenzied but this week it has been tame and docile. It seems like any other week in New York and New England.
That’s because these are two teams that now stand as equals and neither side is giving the other an inch, including in the press clippings. Simply, the Jets don’t need to jaw anymore and the Patriots can’t afford to.
Last year, it was different. The Jets were still the new kids on the block and their brash style was annoying at best to the team up I-95, a franchise that has been the standard bearer of the league the past 10 seasons. It was pesky to hear the Jets talk, especially the bravado and blustering of their head coach, but it was nothing more than that. But now, these Jets are very much for real, having made consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances and holding an identical 5-3 record with the Patriots as part of a three-way tie atop the AFC East.
That’s why this week, there is no need for the Jets to talk big and the Patriots don’t want to fan the fire. The balance of power has shifted in the AFC East and both teams sense it.
Last year, Tom Brady left little room for interpretation when he said “I hate the Jets,” four strong words which led to a string of equally strong responses from the Jets locker room. The two teams sniped at each other leading up to last year’s Week 2 game, a Jets win, and went back and forth before the Patriots blowout win 11 weeks later. Then in the lead up to the playoffs, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, while speaking to a member of the media, called Tom Brady a word unfit for publication and Wes Welker made foot jokes at Rex Ryan’s expense.
This week, there has been nothing from either party but some respectful words. Yet from the quietness of the Jets there is something clearly coming from the Patriots camp – a loud point is being made.
New England knows that these Jets are for real – and the Jets know it too.
The Sunday night game won’t make or break the Jets season and yet it is being billed as a “must-win” for the simple fact that a Patriots loss would put the Jets in the driver’s seat for the division, something they haven’t won since 2002. After a 30-21 loss to the Patriots in Week 5, it would seem that the Patriots should have momentum in this game, but New England has lost their last two games and the Jets are surging. Winners of three straight games, the Jets are now every bit the equal of their biggest rival.
Far from limping into playing New England, the Jets are flush with confidence having beaten San Diego and Buffalo their past two games. The Patriots see it – they see the way the Jets are playing – and they know they’ve caught up to them. They have to focus on themselves now and not the annoying Jets.
There aren’t bold comments from Brady this time around, nothing that can be pinned up in the Jets locker room for motivation and Welker doesn’t seem nearly as interested in feet, perhaps realizing he put his own foot in his mouth with his juvenile remarks. New England has learned that now, the Jets are very much playing at their level and they needn’t give any edge to their divisional foe. The silence from New York this week is a quiet acknowledgement that now, finally, they can let their play on the field do the talking.
The Jets walk can finally talk now, and New England is biting their tongues.