The Jets have been pegged as 24-point underdog's to the undefeated Patriots. However, contrary to the team's feelings of disrespect they openly conveyed when Vegas believed they were inferior to the winless Dolphins, this time they aren't admitting to any disrespect.
"From those numbers alone, we don't stand a chance," Safety Kerry Rhodes said. "That's outside of this locker room. We don't feel that way. We feel that we can play with anybody on any given day. I'm sure anybody in the league would say the same thing."
The mammoth 24-point spread does little to explain why such a one-sided thumping is anticipated. The Jets are not the worst opponent the Pat's have faced this season; that honor is bestowed upon the Dolphins. Rather, the rational behind the lopsided prediction stems from other, more deep-rooted, sources.
It stems from the animosity lingering between Bill Belichick and his former protégé, Eric Mangini. It stems from the long-rooted hatred Belichick harbors toward the Jets organization. It stems from the belief that Belichick's enormously talented team has the ability to score at will. And most importantly, it stems from the belief that scoring at will is precisely what they plan on doing.
Although he has never admitted to it publicly, it's assumed Belichick's has felt resentment toward the Jets since he resigned as the teams head coach in 2000. The Jets believed he was still under contract, the league agreed and the Jets were compensated with a first round pick from the Patriots. The relationship with the organization hasn't seemed to improve since. It was reported that Belichick urged Mangini to decline the Jets coaching offer.
Mangini, of course, did not heed the advice.
And since he took the post, the relationship between the two has deteriorated to what is assumed to be pure disdain on the part of Belichick.
The Patriots coach has taken exception to several Mangini tactics over the past two years.
There was the signing of Matt Chatham, the supposed interference in the Deion Branch negotiations, and of course, the Jets role in Spygate. All essential elements in understanding the evolution of what has become the most over-hyped regular season mismatch of the season.
If one thing can be said for the Jets in 2007, it is that they have showed a ton of pride.
They rarely complain, they refuse to quit and many players have played through injuries without much reason to do so. If they want to avoid embarrassment this Sunday afternoon, that pride must be on full-display. They are facing an opponent who views them as a team that threatened to taint their legacy, and it appears they will stop at nothing to repay the favor. Regardless of what the Jets want to say, a 24-point spread represents more than a number. To Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, it represents revenge.