Usually these pregame articles contain lots of facts regarding each team's advantages and disadvantages, outline the key match-ups and offer some in-game elements to keep an eye on. This week, there isn't much to say.
Well that's not true. There is plenty to say, it's just all been said so many times and these two QBs and coaches and wide receivers and offensive lines have met so often that it's actually become a bit predictable.
Maybe all the Penn State drama is affecting my sports psyche, but this week's Patriots-Jets game seems a little bit underwhelming.
Perhaps it's because the two teams have been so hot and cold this year that it's hard to assign them any type of identity. It could be because Rex Ryan has been uncharacteristically humble and subdued since he did what some thought was impossible and embarrassed himself when he retroactively guaranteed Super Bowl rings for a team he never coached. Maybe Bill Belichick's know it all antics, media-shunning and continued charade of hard-work-conquers-all mentality seem a little harder to swallow in light of Joe Paterno's fall...excuse me, crash landing, from grace.
No matter the reason, neither is the team it was a year ago when this matchup's tension was tangible. They are both good. They could both make the playoffs, or not. Week 10 is like the halftime of the NFL season. It's always nice to feel confident going into the second half , but unless you're winning or losing by forty, it's still anyone's game.
At the end of the day, one of these two teams will win, and one will lose; and the loser will be one game back with seven games to be played. We all want to think that this game is such an important one for the Patriots, because three losses in a row would spell disaster for their season. But would it? Really?
Is one game back really an insurmountable disadvantage with so many games to play in a division where Tom Brady's best competition is Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mark Sanchez? Fred Jackson has played incredibly for the Buffalo Bills, but Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Arian Foster can all tell him how that story ends. I'd count myself as not surprised if the Bills lose 4 or 5 of their last 8 games. And despite a three game win streak, the Jets look every bit as beatable as the Pats do right now.
Not to mention that the AFC East plays the AFC West and NFC East this year; all three divisions are currently up for grabs, with no decided favorite or clear advantage lying with any one team. The Jets, Pats and Bills will likely be fighting for a playoff spot until the very end of the season, so right now it's just not do-or-die yet. This game might as well be up to a coin toss. It would take a spectacular, earth-shattering performance by the Patriots' defense, most specially its secondary, to make a win in the Meadowlands seem overly significant.
A season sweep of the Jets would definitely give the Patriots a nice edge and confidence within the division, but that only illustrates why the Jets might be hungrier for a win.
The fact of the matter is that the Patriots' best is better than the Jets' best. If the Patriots can fire on all cylinders, even with the systemic and positional weaknesses they have struggled with, this game is theirs to lose.
But after the past two weeks of sub-par production from the offensive line, continued downright pathetic performance by the secondary and mediocre coaching, the Patriots haven't given anyone reason to believe they can go on the road and beat a hot Jets team.
My Prediction: Jets win the battle of defensive line vs. offensive line, Sanchez increases targets to Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes in light of the Pats inability to cover, Revis takes away one of Brady's go-to guys (either Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowsi) and New England loses their third game in a row.