As soon as the Jets beat Indianapolis on Saturday, it became obvious that the third installment of this turf war between New York and New England would bring out the best -- or, depending on who you ask -- the worst -- in both sides.
Leave it to Jets head coach Rex Ryan to get the ball rolling on what New England fans traditionally refer to as "Jets week" around the Foxborough area.
On Monday, Ryan put all the pressure on himself, claiming the reason the Jets got plastered, 45-3, on Dec. 6 was because Bill Belichick "out-coached" him, not because the players didn't execute (or whatever other reasoning coaches come up with for lopsided losses). Furthermore, he said Sunday's rematch in the divisional playoffs will hinge on which coach can outmaneuver the other, and that if Belichick "slips up," the Jets will win.
Belichick, as expected, had a much different take on the issue. Asked if this week's matchup is all about he and Ryan matching wits, Belichick quipped, "I might have a little quickness on him, he might have a little more strength and power on me," before adding, "I don't think you will see either one of us out there making any blocks or tackles."
The bottom line, despite what Ryan suggests, is the Jets must find a way to do what few teams have done since 2007, which is beat the Patriots at home with Tom Brady at quarterback. The Ravens did it last year in the postseason, but Brady hasn't lost a regular-season game at Gillette Stadium since 2006, so his track record at home is solid, to say the least. The Jets also need to erase the bad taste from their mouths stemming from that lopsided loss in December and find a way to be more competitive, similar to their effort in Week 2 when they beat the Patriots in New York.
Apparently, Ryan's plan is to take the pressure off his players and put the target directly on his back, as evident by his comments Monday, but he's also doing his best to send a few jabs in Brady's direction. Before last week's game against the Colts, Ryan -- in his own unique way -- suggested Manning is the more studious quarterback of the two, and when told Monday that Brady attended a Broadway play instead of watching Saturday's divisional playoff game, Ryan quipped, "Peyton Manning would've been watching our game."
What may seem like good-natured fun right now could turn ugly on Sunday afternoon. As for Ryan's insinuation that Brady benefits from the help of his coaches, Brady said, "I get a ton of help from our coaches. Of course we do. I think we have the best coach in the history of football. We have a great offensive staff, a great defensive staff that get all the players prepared."
The fun is just beginning, and we're not even halfway through the week yet. Just imagine what both sides will be saying as the game gets even closer.
"We're all at the point this year where we're motivated by much more than what someone may say about us," Brady said. "We're motivated by the fact that we have a great opportunity to be playing a division rival at home in the most important game of the year. That's plenty of motivation for us.
"We're going to let our play do the talking as we always do. There's going to be a lot of hype and buildup and people saying things. The reality is none of it matters. What matters is that whistle is going to blow at 4:30 on Sunday night and the team that executes the best and is the most prepared is the team that's going to win."
--The Patriots have compiled an 8-5 all-time record in divisional playoff games, including 5-1 at home and 3-0 at Gillette Stadium. Their only home loss was in 1978, the first home playoff game in franchise history.
--New England and New York will meet in the playoffs Sunday for the third time. The Patriots won a first-round game, 26-14, at Giants Stadium in 1985 to begin their run to the AFC championship. The Patriots' 2006 team also beat the Jets, 37-16, at Gillette Stadium in a first-round game in January of 2007.
--The Patriots are 11-2 at home in the playoffs in their history. Twelve of the franchise's 13 home playoff games have taken place since Robert Kraft purchased the team 17 years ago. After Kraft bought the team, the Patriots won 11 consecutive home playoff games before experiencing a home loss last year against Baltimore.
Brady won his 100th game as a starter on Monday Night Football at Miami in October. He is the 11th NFL quarterback to register 100 wins as a starting quarterback. Brady reached the milestone in the fewest number of starts (131) among quarterbacks who began their careers in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished the 2010 season with 1,008 rushing yards, becoming the first Patriots player to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark since Corey Dillon had a team-record 1,635 rushing yards in 2004.
--TE Rob Gronkowski finished first among all rookie tight ends with 10 touchdown catches, while Aaron Hernandez ranked second with six. Gronkowski and Hernandez are the first pair of rookie tight-end teammates with at least five TD receptions in the same season in NFL history.
--QB Brian Hoyer recorded his first career touchdown pass on a 44-yard pass to Brandon Tate in the season finale against Miami. The completion to Tate was his second NFL touchdown; he had his first NFL touchdown on a 1-yard rush last year against Tennessee.
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