Shortly after the Patriots' 38-14 win over New York on opening day, it was revealed that the Jets had informed the NFL that New England was videotaping their defensive signals, a violation of league rules. When news of this hit the press, the term "Spygate" was born. The controversy brought a media circus to New England, as reporters from all walks of life came to question Bill Belichick about the allegations. In the end, Belichick and the organization were fined $750,000 by the league and stripped of a first-round draft pick.
As low as the "Spygate" incident was for the Patriots, things have gotten much worse for Eric Mangini in New York. Since the last time the two teams met, the Patriots have established themselves as the NFL's best team, while Mangini and the Jets are finishing up what has turned into a nightmare season.
The New York media termed the Jets coach "Mangenius" last year after he took his overachieving team to the playoffs. A year later, that same New York media is now calling for Mangini's job. That's life in the Big Apple for a head coach.
After losing to the Patriots, the Jets went 1-6 in their next seven games, with all the losses coming by 11 points or less. Quarterback Chad Pennington took a lot of the blame for New York's disappointing start. Pennington was completing 67 percent of his passes on the year but costly interceptions at key moments prompted Mangini to make the switch to Kellen Clemens eight games into the season.
Clemens has been far from spectacular but despite his lackluster numbers, he's shown some leadership qualities, leading the team to two wins as a starter. The Jets coaching staff will need to decide if Clemens is the quarterback of the future or if the team needs to go in a different direction this offseason. He could be in for a tough day on Sunday against the Patriots defensive front.
New York's offensive line has been abysmal all year. Center Nick Mangold is the lone standout but former first-round pick D'Brickashaw Ferguson is looking more like a bust with each passing week. Ferguson was abused by Jarvis Green back in Week 1. On the season, the Jets offensive line has given up 39 sacks and has been overpowered by defenses in the running game.
Thomas Jones had New York fans excited when the team traded for him this offseason. However, because of injuries and an ineffective line, Jones has struggled all year, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and scoring a measly one touchdown on the season.
Last year, Gang Green's defense had a tough time stopping the run. Unfortunately for the Jets, they are equally inept in that department this year, ranking near the bottom of the league in rush defense.
While the defense hasn't played great as a whole, there have been some individual bright spots. Nose tackle Dewayne Robertson is having the best season of his career and is finally turning into the force the Jets thought he would be when they drafted him fourth overall, Meanwhile, this year's two top draft picks -- CB Darrelle Revis and LB David Harris -- look like future stars. Revis has shown the potential to be a shutdown corner in coming years, while Harris leads the team in tackles as a rookie.
Mangini and the Jets could be in for a long, long afternoon on Sunday. Belichick isn't known as someone who forgives and forgets. The "Spygate" incident put a dark cloud over the Patriots and all their accomplishments and you can bet that's something Belichick and the team doesn't take lightly.
During an interview with a New York radio station earlier in the year, the host jokingly asked Belichick not to beat the Jets by 80 points when they played them. After the question was asked, there was deafening silence.
SERIES HISTORY: 97th meeting. Jets lead all-time series, 48-47-1. Eric Mangini's flight to New York added new spice to the Patriots' AFC East rivalry with the Jets that spans all the way back to the AFL's infancy. Both sides have enjoyed runs of success in the series, including New York's 17-2-1 stretch in the late '60s and early '70s, but the Patriots have had the upper hand of late, winning 10 of the last 12 meetings. Mangini's rebuilding efforts for Gang Green hit a milestone last November with a 17-14 win over New England at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots got revenge in the season opener by blasting the Jets, 38-14, in a game that will forever be remembered as the prelude to "Spygate" and for elevating the hatred between the two franchises to an all-time high.
--The Patriots game against the Dolphins on Dec. 23 has been moved to 4:15 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but by moving it to 4:15 p.m., it will be seen in more homes nationally.
--The Patriots have held the Jets to 17 points or fewer in nine of the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
--Seven members of the Jets coaching staff are former Patriots coaches, players or staff members, led by head coach Eric Mangini.
--"They are a football team that proves that you don't have to have a running game to win. They are so good at what they do. They have so much confidence and talent. They may be unbeatable." -- Former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer, on the Patriots.
--"Everything that is in the past, is in the past. Everything that's in the future doesn't really matter. Right now it's a one-game season and we're focused on the New York Jets. That's all I'm focused on. I'm happy to talk about that, and that's really the extent of it." -- Bill Belichick, on the "Spygate" incident.
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