"Every battle is won before it is ever fought." Sun Tzu, the Art of War
The New York Jets of recent years are a memorable team. Over time they've been able to hoard up on loads of talent(due to position in the draft) and also of course resentment for New England(who has owned the division with the allegedly-Sith duo of Belichick and Brady). Through their talent and resentment, and their hard-talking coach, they were able to challenge New England for supremacy in not only the division but the conference. How hard-talking? Hard-talking enough that LaDainian Tomlinson recently recounted on NFL-Network how Rex Ryan told his team before the game that he wanted to cross the field and punch Belichick in the face. They won that game. Of course, the last game between these rivals ended in agonizing defeat quickly followed by a cheap shot by veteran Nick Mangold(whom is better than that) and other veteran leaders who threw punches. A futile attempt against their divisional-overlords.
Indeed, the last game has followed a frighteningly-familiar pattern;
In September of 2009, Rex Ryan's first year as Head-Coach of the New York Jets, the Jets won 16-9 at home. In September of 2010, again at home, the Jets won 28-14. In 2011 the first contest between these teams was in New England and the Patriots won that one 30-21. Last year, 2012, the game was again at New England and the Patriots snatched an overtime victory in a 29-26 victory. Then as aforementioned there was the game that ended in bitter-agony for New York just last month. Again, in New England, the Jets lost the first match-up by a score of 13-10. That sounds like two teams that are relatively-even duking it out.
93 points for the New York Jets in the 1st regular-season match-up versus 95 for New England, compromised from 2 games at New York and 3 games at New England. We could look at this small sample-side and hypothesize on whether there are significant trends to be pulled from this data set. 5 games, all decided by home-field advantage? Perhaps this was a demonstration of the talent compared to when Rex Ryan first took over versus the present day?
What is known is that Rex Ryan was hired to take on Bill Belichick. That is what you do when you are trying to win in the AFC-East. And while it's great to play the Patriots tough in that first match-up they got to be ready for the second match-up. This is where things stop looking so close.
After beating the Patriots 16-9 in their own house in 2009, the Ryan-led Jets came to Foxboro and lost 14-31. After beating New England 28-14 in 2010, the Jets again came to New England and lost 3-45.(I'll get to that post-season game) In 2011 the Jets hosted the Patriots and lost 16-37. This is the first-time Ryan's Jets lost to Brady and Belichick at home. Last year leading up to this game some Pats fans brought this trend up with our friends at Gang Green Nation. Smackdad, an excellent writer, football guy, and all around dude, did what you'd expect a leader of a NYJ-fansite to do. He argued against it as well as anyone could.
The unspoken implication is that the Mad Genius Belichick somehow outfoxes the Fat Loudmouth Rex by making the necessary adjustments in game 2, leaving Ryan to wonder why Belichick is always a step ahead.
It's worth a read as there are a number of solid points. But how can you not forget the Thanksgiving Night game that happened just after this was written? The Patriots came into Jersey and handed the Jets a 19-49 defeat that wasn't even that close. As the Jets went to the locker-room at halftime the game was clearly lost before the first snap. Since 2009, with two contests in New England and two in New Jersey, the Patriots have won all four times. 73 points for the Jets(an average of 18.25 a game versus a 18.6 average in the five first-of-the-season games) versus 141 points for New England(an average of 35.25 per game versus an average of 19 points per game in the five first-of-the-season match-ups), a point differential of 68(compared to a difference of 2 points in the first match-ups of the year).
Of course, there was a 3rd game one year. It was even played in New England. And the New York Jets won that game. If you saw "LaDainian Tomlinson; a Football Life", you saw how pumped up they were. They came ready to die trying to win the game. The New England Patriots saw a team they defeated 45-3 just a matter of weeks before. The Patriots were highly-favored to win. Perhaps later I will examine the potential trend, but recent history certainly seems to suggest that the Patriots under-perform in games where they are highly-favored to win. That's a legitimate cause for concern with New England, but I digress.
If there is no trend, then the trend must end at some point. Tannebaum is gone. Sanchez is gone. If the Patriots put 35.25 points on Rex Ryan's team in New Jersey, which is 5-more than their season-best(at home versus that Rob Ryan defense), it seems impossible to think that Rex Ryan can keep his job as the head-coach beyond this season. Tannebaum is gone, and Idzik wants a coach that can win the division. To do that he needs a coach that can beat Belichick in adjustments and preparation because as Sun Tzu said, every battle is won before it is ever fought.