Why this game is intriguing: No teams ignite midweek coverage like the Patriots andJets, and one could only guess what topics will be discussed in the papers as the week transpires. It should make for some must-read material. But if there is one thing that's evident, it's how damning this matchup can be. Last year, a depleted Patriots team drummed the Jets 37-16 in Week 10, alerting us to the run they were about to go on. Back in 2010, the Jets shook off a 42-point shellackingin Week 13 and stunned the top-seeded Patriots in the playoffs. When these teams play, it matters. These Jets were built with the Patriots in mind, and the Pats thought so highly of Jets players last year that they stocked their team with them. The emotion should be palpable on Sunday.
What to watch: A few weeks ago, as the Jets were losing their two best players (Revis and Santonio Holmes), it seemed like this would be a romp. It seemed like the cruise-control Patriots would dominate their way up to the game, then slide on by with minimal resistance. Nope. In a stunning dose of reality, both teams are 3-3. And with the Jets waxing the Colts last week and the Patriots exiting Seattle humbled, the fact is, this will be a battle. The Jets have kept Tim Tebow under wraps most of the season, except on special teams. Is this the game they bust out their bag of tricks? The Patriots get to face the Jets without Revis, but how will they exploit Gang Green cornerbacks not named Cromartie? Can Ryan's schematic mastery bail out an undermanned team? Will the Patriots' offense finish this one out? Intrigue abounds.
Another date with the New England Patriots has New York Jets coach Rex Ryan running his mouth.
Nothing unusual in that.
The fact his banged-up squad has the same record as New England, however, may be a bit more odd.
Two of the four AFC East teams knotted at 3-3 continue their tense rivalry Sunday when the Patriots host the Jets.
Facing the Patriots always seem to bring out an even more boisterous side of Ryan, who again expressed confidence despite his team being outscored 112-40 in losing the last three regular-season meetings.
"I want them to know, and they know, that I think we're going to beat them," Ryan said. "I don't buy into all that other stuff. Look, I recognize they're a great football team and (Bill) Belichick's a great coach. I've never once said he wasn't, OK, but we're not going to back down or concede anything."
Sunday's contest will give the winner an upper hand over the other in the division race, with the Jets trying to improve to 3-0 against East rivals.
"I've never stopped not thinking about them," Ryan said. "That's the team you have to beat to win our division. You always think about them."
Tom Brady took a more leveled approach to the importance of this matchup. New England has won three of the last four overall meetings, falling 28-21 at home in the divisional playoffs Jan. 16, 2011.
"A division opponent is critical. We've only played one of those games this year," Brady said referring to a 52-28 win over Buffalo on Sept. 30. "We play a team that we know pretty well that always gives us challenges defensively. They're always a very good team. They're very much a game-plan defense. They're going to try to figure out what they need to do to stop us and we've got to figure out ways to move the ball and really put the ball in the end zone."
Brady completed 36 of his career-high 58 attempts for 395 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions Sunday, but Seattle's 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 remaining dealt New England a 24-23 defeat.
Wes Welker caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots, whose losses have come by a combined four points. They fell 20-18 to Arizona on Sept. 16 afterStephen Gostkowski missed a field goal as time expired, and 31-30 at Baltimore on Sept. 23 when the Ravens made their winning kick with no time left.
"We're 3-3. We haven't earned a better record than that," Brady said. " We haven't played well enough and consistently enough to be better than that, but I don't think six games defines a season and I think that what will define our season is what we do over the course of the next 10 weeks."
While the Patriots may be disappointed with their mark, the Jets may feel a bit more proud given their struggles with injuries.
In fact, health issues led Ryan to say this week that quarterback Tim Tebow could see time at running back Sunday. Backups Joe McKnight (sprained ankle) and Bilal Powell (separated shoulder) are likely to miss the game, leaving starter Shonn Greene as the only active running back who has received a carry.
Tebow has carried the ball 18 times for 64 yards, but Ryan says he's "got power," and as a quarterback, he "knows all the positions."
Among the more serious injuries New York has had were shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis (ACL) and top receiver Santonio Holmes (foot) being lost for the season in September. Additionally, tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring), rookie wideout Stephen Hill (hamstring) and center Nick Mangold (ankle) all have been nursing injuries.
Nothing slowed the Jets last week, though, as they routed Indianapolis 35-9 to end a two-game skid. Embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez finished 11 of 18 for 82 yards and two touchdowns, including a five-yard scoring pass to Hill.
"It was big, especially having some losses like we did," said Keller, who had one catch in his first game back since the season opener. "This is a big win for us. ... It's going to give us a little momentum going into this next game."
The star, though, was Greene, who rushed 32 times for a career-best 161 yards and three touchdowns. He had 49 attempts for 123 yards and no touchdowns in his previous four games combined.
"I think we can do it every week against any team," Greene said. "It's just a matter of us executing, not stopping ourselves and working hard during the week."
Greene rushed for 61 yards and Sanchez threw two interceptions in a 37-16 loss to New England on Nov. 13 in the most recent meeting. Brady, who has a 112.7 passer rating and 10 touchdowns in his last four games versus the Jets, threw for 329 yards in that contest, including 113 and two TDs to Rob Gronkowski.