Rivalries are great things. They pit one team against another and, in our cases, one fanbase against the other. Head writers from our AFC East blogs always get a little "what about us" when I go into depth about the Patriots rivalry with the Colts and, to an extent, they have a point. Division rivalries are usually a bit more geographic, hence more tangible in a sense. The closer a city or state is, the more likelihood of having traveled there. Aside from geography, we play the other 3 teams in our division twice a year and typically have to get through them to make the playoffs. You know, win the division? This hasn't been a problem in past years. In fact, New England owned the division from 2003-2007, up until last year when the 11-5 Dolphins were crowned AFC East Division Champions.
The Indianapolis Colts rivalry stems from a number of things, but 2 come to mind: both teams possess 2 of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game and our teams typically have to contend with each other for playoff consideration. After Sunday's heart wrenching loss, there's not much else we can do but focus on the rest of the season and concentrate on taking the division. In the cross hairs for this coming Sunday are the New York Jets.
Aside from the fact that Bostonians typically have an irrational dislike of New Yorkers and vice versa, there's an enormous amount of history between these 2 franchises. After losing Super Bowl XXXI in 1996 to Green Bay, then New England head coach Bill Parcells, still in the last year of a 5 year contract with Kraft, took the head coaching job with the Jets. As compensation, the Jets handed the Patriots a first round draft pick. NE defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, and most of the coaching staff, went to New York with Bill Parcells.
Belichick was being groomed to assume head coaching duties for the Jets and when Parcells retired from coaching in 1999, Hoodie was the heir apparent. The next day, Belichick took the podium and issued his now infamous resignation, "I resign as HC of the NYJ". Belichick later accepted the head coaching job with the New England Patriots. The Jets claimed he was still under contract and demanded compensation. Then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue agreed and NE gave up a first round draft pick to New York.
The rest is history.
This year, NE still sits atop the division, but with a tenuous lead over the Miami Dolphins. At 6-3, our Patriots MUST continue to distance themselves from the 5-5 Dolphins. After our last minute loss to Indy, New York looks like a likely target for a drubbing. And head coach Rex Ryan is making it easy. Swagger is one thing, but outright trash talk will get your statements taped to someone's locker.
"I’ll just put it this way: Having Revis allows us to do things that most people don’t do, or have the courage for," Ryan said. "Man coverage. Man-up, and say, ‘Here we are.’ Now, Kerry Rhodes covers a lot of ground. So what may look like cover-2, because of the range Kerry has, might’ve been cover-1. Hey, all I can say is, we’ve got the best corner in the league and I don’t think there’s any dispute about that."
Best corner in the league? Revis is very good, don't get me wrong, but best in the league? If so we're happy to seem him taken out of the game all day covering Randy Moss. Tom Brady will simply carve up the Jets secondary with Wes Welker, Benjamin Watson, and Julian Edelman. Moss as a decoy? It's worked before.
Back to the division. After a fairly hot start, Rex and his boys have gotten banged around a bit. After going 3-0 to start the season, they managed a 1-5 record since, there only win in the last 6 games against the dreadful Oakland Raiders. Even Jacksonville and Buffalo took them to task, so it's interesting to see how Rex's swagger has dulled a bit and he's really only spouting about player matchups.
Ryan will need to remember this is a very different Patriots than he faced in Week 2. Brady's shaken off a lot of rust, Welker is back, Julian Edelman has distinguished himself as a legitimate "Welker Jr.", and there's significantly more film on Ryan's defensive strategies than in the beginning of the year. Oh, did I mention the loss to the Colts? I think Belichick is going to work to hang as many points on the Jets as he can humanly muster. If he hits triple digits, I don't think there's many that will cry foul. 59 points on the hapless Titans was roundly condemned by rival fans who know squat about football. Even THEY won't have an issue if we hang a hundred on Jabba the Rex.