There’s an age old question in sports when it comes to rivalries: Is it still considered a rivalry when one team dominates the other? This can be asked of the “bitter rivalry” between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots. Rex Ryan and company would want you to believe that they go back and forth in a titanic battle with their AFC East counterparts. In actuality, the Patriots are 16-4 in their last 20 matchups against the Jets when they are the favorites, and barring a barrage of big time plays from rookie QB Geno Smith, the Patriots will likely add another notch into the win column when they travel to New Jersey on Sunday.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have somehow managed to come out of the first six games of the season 5-1 despite a laundry list of injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Danny Amendola has missed much of the season so far, and Rob Gronkowski has yet to take the field. On the flip side, Vince Wolfork was lost for the season earlier in the year, and Jerod Mayo recently joined him on that list. However, as you would expect from a Bill Belichick led team, the Patriots simply plug the holes with new bodies, and keep on trucking.
This isn’t to say that the Patriots have looked impressive throughout the year. Tom Brady is understandably struggling with his lack of experienced and talented weapons, as the Patriots are a disappointing 19th in the league in passing. However, they have been able to counteract that with the 11th ranked rushing attack in the NFL, a part they needed in a huge 30-27 win over the Saints last week.
Jets Marred by Inconsistency
The Jets on the other hand have had quite the rollercoaster season. The Jets followed up a thrilling opening game victory over the Bucs with a lackluster 13-10 loss against the Patriots. Then they pulled off a 27-20 win over Buffalo, only to get spanked by Tennessee 38-13. Now, they are coming off another win-loss trade, defeating Atlanta 30-28 before getting smothered by Pittsburgh 19-6.
In order for the Jets of pull off this win, their offense will have to be more effective. On the season, they are averaging just over 17 points a game, a number that likely won’t get the job done on Sunday. The Jets have been able to compensate for their lack of offensive power by establishing the 2nd best defense against the run in the NFL. The front seven will need to be active, both against the run and against Tom Brady.
Last year, the Patriots and Jets alternated a close game with a Patriots blowout. Last year, the Patriots eeked out a three point win at home in the beginning of the year, then followed that up with a 49-19 beatdown later in the year, the game with the now infamous butt fumble. In 2010, the Jets won by 14 points in one matchup, but lost 45-3 in the other game.
Big Game in AFC East
This game could have far reaching implications for the playoffs. If the Jets can pull off the upset, they will be just one game out of first in the division. If the Patriots win, not only will they have a three game lead on the Jets, but they will have a sweep on their side in case they collapse and need the tiebreaker.
The -4 spread is your typical trap spread. Everyone knows that the Patriots are at least a touchdown better than the Jets, even in New York. Yet, the spread is a measly four points?! Signs look to be pointing at Rob Gronkowski making his debut this Sunday, and historically, Gronk has dominated the Jets. Assuming he plays, I like the Patriots to win by at least two touchdowns. Even if he doesn’t play, I still like the Pats by a touchdown. In all likelihood, the Patriots will break 30 points, making the 44 point spread very reachable. I like New England to pull off the road win 31-17, sending the Jets back below the .500 mark for the first time all year.