Who Needs It More?
PATRIOTS NEED A WIN
At this time last week, the talk was that the New England Patriots were redefining offense in the NFL with an up-tempo, no-huddle attack that might rival the team's record-setting 2007 production. Meanwhile, the vultures were circling around the New York Jets after a 34-0 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers and then a 24-17 "Monday Night Football" home setback to the Houston Texans.
Things change fast in the NFL, don't they?
Both teams are 3-3 entering Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium, and simply put, the Patriots need this one more based on what happened last week when they self-destructed and let a victory slip away in Seattle.
This is a restore-the-order type of situation for them. Regain control of the AFC East. Recapture the momentum that had been built after back-to-back victories over the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos.
Let another slip away, and the Patriots could suddenly find themselves in an unexpected fight in the AFC East, with trips to the Jets (Nov. 22) and Dolphins (Dec. 2) still on the schedule as well as home dates against the Bills (Nov. 11) and Dolphins (Dec. 30).
The division looked like a Patriots runaway two weeks ago. Not so much right now.
There is one other aspect that makes this a got-to-have-it situation for the Patriots: Their much-maligned secondary is going up against one of the most limited offenses in the NFL. If they can't prevent the big play against a Mark Sanchez-led "attack" that is without top receiver Santonio Holmes, it will be fair to ask whether they'll be able to stop anyone.
This is a game the Patriots should win. They are the superior team, and they are at home.
Now let's see whether they can do what has eluded them in their three down-to-the-wire losses this season: close the deal.
JETS NEED IT MORE
For many reasons, the Jets need to win this game more than the Patriots. They need it for credibility. They need it for confidence. And they need it to avoid the tightrope.
If the Jets lose, their season would be pushed to the brink, just as it was before last week's rout of the Colts. They'll be 3-4, facing the Dolphins in a virtual must-win game at home. The quarterback controversy, relatively quiet this week, would be on the front burner again, with Mark Sanchez perhaps playing for his job. If the Jets were 3-5 at the bye, it would ramp up the Tim Tebow speculation.
The Jets don't want to go there. They don't want their season to turn into a series of death matches. That's why they need to beat the Patriots. They'd take control of the AFC East with a 3-0 division record, an enormous boost to a team that was left for dead after losses to the 49ers and Texans and season-ending injuries to Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes.
Once their lineup gets settled and comfortable, the Jets should be able to improve as a team over the second half of the season. It's a lot easier to grow and prosper when you're ahead, playing with a little house money. That's what a win over the Patriots would do.
Let's face it, the Jets need a program-changing victory. The last time they defeated a team with a winning record was ... you have to go back to the 2010 divisional playoffs, when they stunned the Patriots in Foxborough. That's right, none of their eight wins last season came against an opponent that finished better than 8-8.
So far this season, the Jets have defeated the Bills, Dolphins and Colts, proving they can take care of the teams they're supposed to beat. Now they step up in class with a chance to a deliver a punch to the heavyweights to the northeast.
The Patriots are good enough to survive a loss. The Jets, maybe not.