Leading up to the Pats game, there has been much talk about how in each of the prior 3 seasons in the Rex Ryan era, the Pats improved their performance against the Jets in the second game of the series. 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. Here is why that narrative is just another fairy tale, slanted by the tendency to anoint everything Belichick does with unparalleled genius.
1. The Pats are a notoriously slow starting team. There have been 11 full years, plus the partial year of 2012, since Brady started playing for the Pats. In 10 of those 11 full years the Pats have had a record in the second half of the year equal to or better than their first half record. The first game of the Jets/Pats series has come in the first half of the season, and the second game of the Jets/Pats series has come in the second half each of the Ryan years. Thus it should come as no surprise the Pats improve their performance the second game. They are simply a better team the second half of every season.
2. The sample size is way too small to draw even tentative conclusions about the meaning of the data. We are talking about 3 data points here. No competent statistician would draw any conclusions at all from such a limited data set. In essence, it is an interesting but completely meaningless factoid. It should be treated accordingly.
3. Even if we could draw some meaning from such a limited data set, the circumstances surrounding those games destroy any otherwise slightly warranted conclusions. The Jets were at home for 2 of the 3 first games, and on the road for 2 of the 3 second games. All else being equal, one would expect the Pats to do better at home than on the road. Thus the outperformance in 2 of the 3 games was an expected outcome, and we are left with only 1 data point, the 2nd game of 2011, when the Pats did the unexpected and played better against the Jets on the road. If anyone thinks they can draw any meaningful conclusion from ONE game, well, I have a bridge I'd love to sell you.
4. In the only year where there was a 3rd game, 2010, the Jets won that 3rd game decisively, on the road. If we are to believe that the Pats clean the Jets clocks in 2nd games because Belichick makes all the right adjustments to his game plan and Ryan makes all the right adjustments to his, ahem, wife's toes, what then are we to make of the 2010 result? Did Rex get really dumb in game 2, only to have a brain transplant in Game 3? Did Belichick make his usual genius adjustments in Game 2, only to suffer from a brain cloud in Game 3? Or is the most likely answer just that the results so far are essentially random data points, with the Pats in general getting the better of the Jets because they have been a better team? I think the answer is fairly obvious.
So when you hear yet again before the Thanksgiving game how Belichick always outperforms when he gets a second bite at the apple, don't believe it. It's just another cog in the great Belichick for Sainthoodie propaganda machine.
Belichick is a great coach. No need to give him credit where it is in fact not due. This talking point is not worth talking about.