FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Welcome to Patriots week.
To whet your appetite for Sunday's first-place showdown, easily the biggest New York Jets-New England Patriots game since the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs, we provide five things you need to know about the recent rivalry.
1. The Patriots are 5-0, the Jets 4-1. As former Patriot Darrelle Revis said after Sunday's win, "We've been playing lights out." The last time the bitter rivals played a regular-season game with this much meaning was 2011, when both teams entered at 5-3. There was a lot of talk about how the Patriots were vulnerable, but they clobbered the Jets, 37-16. That quieted the vulnerability talk. From 2012 to 2014, the Jets pretty much stunk, draining a rivalry of its usual electricity.
2. Not only has Tom Brady "run the division," as Sheldon Richardson pointed out Sunday, but Brady has run the Jets. The Patriots have won seven of the last eight meetings, figuring out ways to win even in the games in which they were outplayed. Last year in Foxborough, the Jets did almost everything right, holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes, rushing for 218 yards and committing no turnovers -- and they lost, 27-25, when a long field-goal try was blocked as time expired. They became the first team in NFL history to produce those stats and still lose a game. Rex Ryan was so angry that he punched a wall on the way to his postgame news conference. Years of pent-up frustration were unleashed with that punch.
3. The last blowout occurred Nov. 22, 2012. You may remember that night as "The Butt Fumble" game, a 49-19 New England win. Mark Sanchez tried to make something out of an aborted play, he ran toward right guard Brandon Moore ... and, well, you know the rest. Since then, the rivalry has been extremely competitive, as the last four meetings were decided by three points or less. The Jets stole one of them, prevailing in overtime in 2013, 30-27, in what is remembered as "The Push Game." The Patriots' Chris Jones was flagged for a rare pushing penalty, nullifying a field-goal miss from 56 yards by Nick Folk in OT. That allowed the Jets to get closer, setting up the game-winning field goal. Ryan and Bill Belichick exchanged barbs through the media for a couple of days, but the Patriots got the last laugh, as they always do. In last year's nail biter in Foxborough, it was Jones who blocked Folk's kick, sans the push. Belichick took much joy in pointing that out after the game.
4. All things considered, the Jets have done a respectable job of defending the Patriots' two biggest stars, Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the last four meetings, they held Brady to five touchdown passes, keeping him under a 50-percent completion rate in two of those games. Gronkowski scored only one touchdown in the last three games, although he amassed 19 catches over that span.
5. The rivalry, of course, transcends football. The franchises have been bickering for the better part of two decades, the last dispute occurring last offseason when the Patriots filed charges against the Jets for tampering with Revis while he was under contract. It stemmed from Woody Johnson's end-of-the-season news conference, when he put foot in mouth by declaring he'd welcome a Revis return. After Revis signed with the Jets, they filed a counter charge against the Patriots, hoping to send a message to the league that the Patriots' claim was just as frivolous as theirs. It didn't work. Johnson was fined $100,000. Curiously, the league office never issued a public statement on its ruling. It just sort of went away.