For several weeks, the Jets have bristled over being called "lucky" by the media for their string of heart-pounding and often fortuitous victories.
So as soon as they dispatched woeful Cincinnati, 26-10, on Thanksgiving night, the Jets already were thinking about the game that could put all those notions to rest once and for all.
The Jets (9-2) will visit New England (9-2) on Monday night with first place in the AFC East on the line. If the Jets win, they will have swept New England and will have a one-game lead on the Patriots with four games left in the regular season, plus the tiebreaker advantage. If the Patriots win, they would have a one-game lead, but the tiebreaker would have to be determined later, if necessary.
"That type of game deserves a lot of hype," right tackle Damien Woody said, and he added that the Jets have to worry more about themselves than about their opponent.
"Our whole mindset is, it's not about our opponent, it's about us," Woody said. "We know that New England is a tough opponent, but at the end of the day, it's still about us. It's still about what we do and how we do things. We know we can beat them, but it's not going to be easy. Especially at their place, they are notoriously tough up there. We just have to keep addressing the self-inflicting type of stuff, but we have a lot of confidence in the guys in this locker room and the coaching staff."
Mark Sanchez had a lackluster game against Cincinnati (2-9), but he played very well in the Jets' 28-14 win over New England on Sept. 19. The Jets trailed 14-10 at halftime, but Sanchez led scoring drives of 80, 70 and 63 yards in the second half.
The defense held Tom Brady & Co. scoreless after Brady had thrown for two second-quarter scores, including a 34-yarder to then-Patriot Randy Moss, who beat Darrelle Revis on the play. Revis strained his hamstring on the play and missed the next two games. However, he seems to be back to his lockdown form of 2009, and likely will cover Deion Branch this time around.
Revis said of the Pats, "they're going to bring their 'A' game and we're going to bring our best. I'm looking forward to it and I think they are too."
"You play to be in big games like this," strong safety Jim Leonhard said. "To both be 9-2 on Monday night, the NFL couldn't have scripted it any better. Now it's up to us to go out there and play a great game and get a victory. This is why you play the game of football. You don't play to beat Cincinnati, you don't play to beat anybody else, you want to play the best and see where you match up.
LINEUP WATCH: FS Brodney Pool was replaced in the starting lineup by Eric Smith against Cincinnati. The Jets' secondary had communication problems during Houston's 20-point fourth-quarter outburst four days before. Pool played in extra-DB packages.
UNDER THE RADAR: LB-DE Vernon Gholston has had three quarterback pressures in the last four weeks and is getting closer to his first-ever NFL sack. The third-year pro has been a major disappointment thus far.
--QB Mark Sanchez went 16-for-28 for 166 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 71.4, and acknowledged in his post-game interview how poorly he had played. Sanchez knows he must play a lot better for the Jets to defeat New England on the road.
--WR Jerricho Cotchery sat out a second straight game because of a groin injury suffered at Cleveland on Nov. 14. However, there is a good chance he will be able to return for the New England game.
--WR Patrick Turner, who was signed from the practice squad on Nov. 19 because of Cotchery's injury, has had one reception in each of the last two games, including a 21-yarder that contributed to the Jets' first touchdown drive versus Houston. Turner, a 2009 third-round pick of Miami who was released in September, is 6-foot-5 and the Jets believe he could develop into a reliable receiver.
--RT Damien Woody started and finished the game despite a sprained MCL in his right knee which he had suffered against Houston. He will receive extra treatment throughout the 10 days between the Cincinnati and New England games and is expected to play against the Patriots.
--WR Brad Smith became only the third wideout in NFL history to record touchdowns both on a rush and a return. He had a 53-yard run for a score against Cincinnati and an 89-yard kickoff return. Billy "Whiteshoes" Johnson (Houston, 1977) and Bobby Mitchell (Cleveland, 1960) are the others.
This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange.