Jets-Pats is a Huge Turning Point for Both Teams--For 2017 and Beyond
A year after the New England Patriots went 14-2 and won their fifth Super Bowl of the decade, and the New York Jets went 5-11 and released practically every player over 30 they had, they are facing off in a Week 6 battle that nobody expected to be good football. The Patriots had shockingly large 15-4 odds to win the Super Bowl, compared to the Jets 200-1 odds. In a USA Today article that projected every team's record, the Patriots were picked to go 16-0, with the Jets going 1-15.
Needless to say, the hype was a little off course.
Going into their Week 6 matchup, the Jets and the Pats both stand atop the AFC East standings, along with the Buffalo Bills, all of which are 3-2. Both teams being 3-2 have people shocked, but for very different reasons. Tom Brady has been as good at 40 as he's been his whole career, throwing 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception, while also leading the league in passing yards. But other than Brady, New England has been a big disappointment thus far, with their defense being a big issue. They have the best offense in the league in yards per game, and they're third in points scored per contest. On the other side of the ball is a completely opposite story. They rank last in yards allowed, and second to last in points allowed. They've only had one game of domination, when they beat the New Orleans Saints 36-20. Other than that, their wins have been by 3, and 5 points, over the Texans and Bucs, respectively. The last time the Patriots went 3-2 or worse through their first 5 games? That would be the 2008 season--when Tom Brady went down with a season-ending ACL injury in Week 1. So it's understandable that this start has garnered disappointment.
The Jets, on the other hand, have been a pleasant surprise. The offense has been very solid, with 38-year old journeyman QB Josh McCown having potentially the best year of his career so far. He has a completion percentage of 71.6%, which is second in the league for QB's with at least 100 attempts, behind only MVP-candidate Alex Smith. McCown hasn't made many big plays, has made very few mistakes. The offense has been conservative, but good enough to garner three wins in a row. The defense has also been good. Rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have been very impressive. Take away a 45-20 loss in Week 2 to a high-powered Oakland offense, and the Jets have given up 15.3 points per game. Even special teams have been good for the Jets--Chandler Catanzaro broke the record for the longest field goal in Jets history this past Sunday with a 57-yarder to put the Jets up 3-0 on the Browns.
But while there's been lots of negativity surrounding New England and lots of positivity around the Jets, Tom Brady's squad still remain heavy favorites this coming Sunday, and for good reason. The Jets' schedule has been significantly easier than the Patriots so far. And, of course, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. He's the best QB in the league still, and is still playing the best football he's ever played. Josh McCown has thrown 4 interceptions, and they still have one of the worst offenses in the league.
But I'm not here to convince you the Jets are going to win. I know how low those chances are. The Pats are currently favored by 9.5 points. It'll be a huge upset if the Jets win.
And yet, there's still a chance. Don't look into it too much. Right now, they're both 3-2. Right now, the Jets offense looks like they could run all over the Patriots D, even without lead back Matt Forte, who was out for the Cleveland game with turf toe. And if the Jets do win, it would be a season-altering win. Right now, this looks like the most important game for New York since Week 17 in 2015, when they lost a heartbreaking game in Buffalo that would've put them in the playoffs. If they win, they will be 1st in the AFC East standings (the Bills have a bye). It'll be time to start thinking playoffs for New York if they come up with the win. They'll have beaten New England, who has been the Jets' worst nightmare this entire century. And it'll signify the start of a new era in New York Jets football. After saying goodbye to so many familiar faces on both sides of the ball, the Jets have many young players to be excited about--especially if they start the year 4-2, with a win over their division rivals, who also happen to be the reigning champions.
The massive implications don't just lie with the Jets, though. This is a huge game for New England, too. Falling to 3-3 at the hands of the Jets would send the fans into panic mode, questioning if the era of greatness they've cherished for so long is finally over. If the defense struggles again, coordinator Matt Patricia, who has been with the team since '04, will be on the hot seat. All in all, a loss is the last thing the Patriots need. Amidst all of the underachievement, expectations are high right now in Foxborough, as they have been since 2001. Losing to a Jets team led by Josh McCown would set them back further than Spygate ever did.