With one hyped matchup finished, the New England Patriots turn their attention to another – one in which they have also held an overwhelming recent advantage.
Coming off a satisfying win over a rival they have dominated, the Patriots host the surprising New York Jets on Sunday with first place in the AFC East on the line.
While New England has cruised to its first 5-0 start since a 16-0 regular season in 2007 behind its high-powered offense, stifling defense has New York at 4-1 for the first time since 2010 – the last year it made the playoffs.
The Patriots defeated Indianapolis 34-27 on Sunday in a rematch of the AFC championship game, which spawned the "Deflategate" scandal. Tom Brady threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns and New England also benefited from a botched fake punt by the Colts that led to a TD.
The Patriots, seeking their eighth straight win, have won seven of the last eight against the Jets. Brady is 21-7 in the series, including playoffs.
However, he suggested the rivalry has been tighter than his team’s record indicates.
"We’ve had a lot of close games with them over the years," he said. "A lot of situational football has come into play, a lot of two-minute drives and stopping them at the end, overtime games. Not too many games have really gotten out of hand."
The only matchup to slip away from the Patriots in the last five years was a 30-27 overtime loss Oct. 20, 2013. The past four matchups have been decided by three or fewer points, with New England’s two wins last season coming by a combined three.
This game pits the NFL’s top-scoring offense against the defense that has allowed the fewest points and is ranked No. 1 overall.
The Patriots have scored at least 28 in each game this year and are averaging 422.4 yards, second to only San Diego’s 433.0. New England’s 325.2 passing yards per game are also second behind the Chargers.
But the Patriots have not faced a passing defense ranked higher than 17th. The Jets are No. 2 with 186.6 yards allowed per game as part of their league-best mark of 269.2 yards given up.
A matchup with that defense means a reunion with cornerback Darrelle Revis, Brady’s teammate on the Patriots during their Super Bowl season of 2014.
After helping New England win a championship, the star cornerback will be trying to help slow the Patriots’ powerful passing attack as part of one of the best secondaries in the league that includes Antonio Cromartie and Marcus Gilchrist.
Revis has three of the Jets’ eight interceptions – two more than they had last season – as well as a career-high three fumble recoveries.
"His instincts are incredible out there," Brady said. "He’s one of those guys that sees everything on the field… He’s a very dependable, consistent player.
"It was great having him a part here, but he moved on and now he’s our competition again."
Though this matchup doesn’t need any extra hype, it will be lacking the usual bluster from Rex Ryan, the former Jets coach who often tried to pump his team up by baiting and needling the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick during his six years with New York. With Ryan gone to Buffalo, the Jets come in with a considerably more muted mindset under new coach Todd Bowles.
”Winning this game is not going to make us,” Bowles said. ”Losing this game is not going to break us.”
Guard Willie Colon added, ”We’re not trying to catch up on anybody. We’re not trying to make any statements. We just want to win, and everything will take care of itself.”
New York’s rushing attack, ranked first in the NFL with 146.0 yards per game, powered it to a 34-20 win over Washington last week. Chris Ivory had 146 of the Jets’ season-high 221 yards on the ground, and they’ll face a New England defense that’s had some issues stopping the run, ranking 22nd with 114.2 yards allowed per game.
The Jets could also have Stevan Ridley in the lineup after the former Patriots running back practiced for the first time this season Wednesday. Ridley is on the physically unable to perform list after tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee last year, but Bowles said there’s ”a chance” he could make his Jets debut Sunday.