Much will be written and talked about when it comes to the matchup between the New England Patriots and New York Jets on Monday, Dec. 6. There is no shortage of juicy storylines as Jets coach Rex Ryan has called it the “marquee game of the year.”
From a Patriots perspective, none of the storylines will trump this: If they want the No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and a chance at home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, this is a game they have to win. Lose and they're looking at playing a wild-card game on the road.
Five games remain in the regular season and both teams are 9-2. But the first playoff tie-breaker is head-to-head competition, so the Jets have the upper hand thanks to a 28-14 win over the Patriots on Sept. 19.
If the Patriots lose to the Jets again, they would need the Jets to lose at least twice over their final four games to have a chance at the No. 1 seed. And that assumes the Patriots would win their final four games.
The Jets’ final four games are at home against Miami (Dec. 12), at Pittsburgh (Dec. 19), at Chicago (Dec. 26) and at home against Buffalo (Jan. 2).
The Patriots finish at Chicago (Dec. 12), at home against Green Bay (Dec. 19), at Buffalo (Dec. 26), and at home against Miami (Jan. 2).
But if the Patriots beat the Jets on Dec. 6, the picture would be altered significantly, the Patriots improving to 10-2, the Jets falling to 9-3.
In that scenario, the Patriots would have some wiggle room. They could lose one of their final games and still earn the No. 1 seed in a tie-breaker scenario with the Jets. After head-to-head, the No. 2 tie-breaker would be AFC East record, the No. 3 tie-breaker record in common games, and the No. 4 tie-breaker AFC record.
In his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI in Boston, linebacker Jerod Mayo reflected on the first matchup between the Patriots and Jets, and what he expects this time around.
“It was a very tough game the first time we played them,” he said. “We were kind of in control of the game early on and kind of lost it a little bit. They are a great team. It will be a major challenge for us.”
The atmosphere should be super-charged, playoff style, and that is appropriate given what is at stake.