Today, the New England Patriots will play their first division game of the season. Fittingly, the opponent will be the team's AFC East arch rival: the New York Jets, who like the Patriots sit a 3-2 entering week six. Ever since both franchises were born in the old AFL, they have been at the forefront of the New York-Boston rivalry alongside major league baseball's Red Sox and Yankees.
The reasons for that extend beyond geography, though, as the rivalry has grown into one of the NFL's fiercest over almost 60 years and a total of 115 contests. Battles on and off the field – scandals, close games, fights – have contributed to the evolution of the rivalry. Let's take a close look at eight of the moments that have shaped the Patriots-Jets rivalry as we know it.
1. The first Patriots-Jets game ever: The rivalry between the two teams could not have started off any better. Week 2 of the AFL's inaugural season saw the Boston Patriots travel to New York to face the then-Titans. The visitors started the game well and jumped to a 7-0 lead before the Titans scored 24 unanswered points. However, the Patriots came back and trailed by only three when they forced a punt with 12 seconds to go. The snap was fumbled and ultimately returned for a Boston touchdown – one that infuriated the Titans as they believed the play should have been called dead once a Patriot had kicked the ball. What a start to the rivalry!
2. Spygate 1.0: While 2007’s videotaping controversy is the most famous scandal of its kind, it is not the only one in Patriots-Jets history. In 1978, after a 55-21 New England victory, Jets head coach Walt Michaels accused the Patriots of having used stolen signals to gain an advantage. The deciphered signals, Michaels believed, were given to his team’s rivals by a third party. The accusations never proved to be substantial but further fueled the animosity between the two clubs.
3. Bill Parcells leaves the Patriots to join the Jets: In the early 1990s, the Patriots were among the worst teams in the NFL. It all changed in 1993, when the team lured Bill Parcells out of retirement to serve as head coach. Under his leadership, the team changed its culture and became a winner again - culminating in the the AFC title in 1996. After the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl XXXI, however, Parcells left the team due to a dispute with owner Robert Kraft. It did not take long for him to find a new employer in the Jets. Not only did Parcells join New England’s rival, he also took some of the team’s coaches and players - most notably star running back Curtis Martin - with him.
4. The Patriots sign Bill Belichick: After Parcells stepped down as the Jets’ head coach after the 1999 season, Bill Belichick was designated as his successor. However, the plan never materialized as Belichick resigned during his introductory news conference in January 2000 only to join the Patriots shortly thereafter. What followed was a legal battle between the two clubs that ended with New England paying three draft picks for Belichick and two draft selections. Safe to say, the Patriots won that trade.
5. Spygate: It all started with the Jets hiring New England defensive coordinator Eric Mangini as their head coach in 2006. One year later, on 2007 opening day, it was Mangini who alerted the NFL that the Patriots were illegally taping signals from a location previously outlawed by a league memo. The practice, which stemmed from Bill Belichick interpreting the memo differently than the NFL, turned into a scandal - fueled by further, somewhat outlandish accusations that have never been proven - and ultimately cost New England its 2008 first round draft pick.
6. New York hires Rex Ryan: In 2009, New York announced the signing of Rex Ryan as its new head coach. Shortly afterwards, Ryan set his eyes on the rivalry with the Patriots when he declared that he did not join the AFC East with the intention of “kissing Bill Belichick's Super Bowl rings”. Ryan's bravado lifted the off-field rivalry to new heights. And while the on-field rivalry was still largely dominated by the Patriots, the Jets were able to eliminate the team from the 2010 playoffs.
7. The Buttfumble: During a 2012 nationally televised Thanksgiving game, one of the rivalry's signature plays took place: the Buttfumble. On a broken play, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez tried to gain ground with his feet only to find his scramble end in the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Moore. The impact caused Sanchez to fumble the football, which was recovered by the Patriots and returned for a touchdown - the second of three within just 52 seconds. Unsurprisingly, New England dominated the contest and won 49-19.
8. The Darrelle Revis Tampering Saga: The latest feud between the two clubs involved All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. The former Jets first round draft pick had spent the 2014 season with the New England Patriots, who had a contract option for 2015 as well. However, before the deadline to exercise the option, New York owner Woody Johnson had made comments about Revis that led to a tampering investigation and subsequent counter-claims made by the Jets about Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Revis ultimately joined the Jets, his new club was fines $100,000 and the rivalry lived on happily ever after.