Opinion: Pats-Jets set to clash for AFC East

Both teams fighting for division, conference supremacy

Michael Christina
Journal Staff

It may sound cliché, but you really could not have scripted this upcoming Jets-Patriots game any better. This offseason, the Jets brought in an influx of talent not seen since the free agent frenzy of 2007, when the Patriots achieved an undefeated regular season. The differences only add fuel to the fire when it comes to these two teams squaring off in a heated, must-watch battle.

To examine how deep these distinctions go, you first have to start at the top. Rex Ryan savors the spotlight. He is unlike your prototypical NFL coach. The big man is bold, brash and full of confidence, and has made it clear since his arrival that he expects to beat any team in the league. Not since the days of Bill Parcells have New York fans latched onto a coach like they have with Ryan. You have the feeling that if it was up to Rex, that HBO documentary Hard Knocks would be in New York every year.

Unlike Ryan,  Bill Belichick is not known for his sound bytes. In fact, he is probably most well known for never saying anything. Always the consummate preacher of team football, Belichick has one of the coolest and ruthless demeanors of any coach the league has ever seen. He is never afraid to part ways with a player, even shipping off veterans when he deems it necessary. Where Rex Ryan allowed  wide-reciever Braylon Edwards to play, despite being arrested, Bill Belichick traded Randy Moss after a halftime argument with the quarterback’s coach. Where Belichick would never even consider wearing a costume to any football-related activity, Ryan did it at a press conference to have a little fun at the expense of his brother. And where Belichick would never try to get into a war of words with another head coach, Ryan has consistently tried prodding him into doing so. In a sense, he is extending the rivalry Eric Mangini began in 2006, only this time around, instead of an upstart protégé, Ryan provides the perfect nemesis for the hooded one.

The two offenses certainly do not have any shortage of talent, however, but the youthfulness is what distinguishes the two. Tom Brady and the offense, with the departure of Randy Moss, have had to completely shift to a young receiving corps. With Wes Welker coming off knee surgery and Deion Branch having to readjust to his old team, this offense has been consistent, and is currently the highest scoring unit in the league. A lot of the credit for this production should be given to the veteran leadership of Brady.

On the other side, you have Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is surrounded by an extraordinary group of veteran talent. With the off season acquisitions of Ladainian Tomlinson and Santonio Holmes, the Jets have the capability of being one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. While he has played well of late, he still has lapses in his progress, seeing as he has thrown at least one interception in his last six games.

The defensive side of the ball is a tale of Jekyll and Hyde. One is a veteran-clad group, while the other is a young, rookie-driven set of players. With the offseason acquisitions of Patriot-killer Jason Taylor and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, the Jets have been touted early as one of the most formidable defenses in the league. Highlighted by Darelle Revis and Bart Scott, their strong group has lived up to the expectations, with the team ranked No. 4 overall in total defense. The Patriots’ defense, on the other hand, has not faired as well. Currently ranked No. 30 overall, the young defense has adopted a bend but don’t break mentality. When they have been tested, however, they have risen to the occasion.

It is a young Patriots defense going up against a young quarterback, surrounded by veteran talent. It is a veteran Jets defense going up against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. It’s two coaches that could not be farther apart in terms of overall demeanor. It is New York against Boston for northeast bragging rights, continuing a bitter rivalry. Oh yeah, and they both happen to be 9-2, fighting for control of the AFC East. Everyone knew this Monday Night matchup was going to be special, but no one expected this. One thing is for certain though: these teams will settle their differences on Dec. 6 in what is shaping up to be a classic.

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