We all know the many misfortunes that have hit the New England Patriots this offseason. From the departure of Wes Welker to the five (5!) surgeries Rob Gronkowski has had to endure to the Aaron Hernandez situation, leading to his being cut
to the Patriots signing Tim Tebow, the Jets' archrivals have been in turmoil since the end of the 2012 season. In the plausible event that Gronk is put on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start the season, Tom Brady will be without any of his usual targets to start the season, and will be almost wholly reliant on the oft injured Danny Amendola for his vaunted middle of the field attack. Since the Pats still have Brady, they remain dangerous, and certainly the favorite in both games against the talent challenged Jets. However, there is no denying that for the first time in a long time there is a hint of vulnerability in the air. Maybe, just maybe, we are seeing the beginning of the unraveling of the Patriot dynasty. And while the problems the Pats have been plagued with recently are certainly the biggest factor in the unlikely possibility of a Jets upset this year, they are not the only factor.
The schedule makers have done the Jets a rather large favor in their rivalry with the Pats this year. For the first time since the start of the Belichick Era in 2000, the Jets play both of their games against the Pats in the first half of the schedule, with the games scheduled for weeks 2 and 7 of the regular season. Keep that year 2000 in the back of your mind; we're going to circle back to it a little later on.
The significance of the Jets playing both their games against the Pats is just this. In the Belichick Era the Patriots have been a decidedly better team in the 2nd half of the schedule as compared to the first half. The Pats record during the first half under Belichick is a very good 68-36 for a healthy .653 winning percentage. However, the Pats record in the 2nd half is 83-21 for an other worldly .798 winning percentage. The Pats have lost a grand total of one (1!) game in the second half of the season since 2009. It's never easy beating the Pats, but if you're going to have a decent shot, you better hope the game is in the first half of the season. In a gift from the schedule makers, both the Jets/Pats games are in the first half of the 2013 season.
But wait, there's more! In 2013 the Jets play the Pats in the Pats' 2nd game of the season and their 7th game. The Pats during the Belichick Era are 7-6, a .538 winning percentage, in 2nd games, and 8-5, a .615 winning percentage, in 7th games. Both records are worse than not only their overall record but also worse even than their 1st half record.
And still more.... week 2 has been a particularly popular choice for the NFL to schedule Jets/Pats games. In the Belichick Era the two teams have met 7 times in Week 2. Surprisingly, the Jets have gotten the better of the Pats in those encounters, holding a 4-3 edge in Week 2 games. In Week 7 games the record is even at 1-1, with the Pats only win coming in overtime last year in a game the Jets should have won. So, despite the Pats being the vastly superior team during the Belichick Era, in games played during the two weeks the two teams meet in 2013, the Jets have had the better of the rivalry. Aren't numbers fun?
Of course, none of this is meant to be taken very seriously. The Pats remain a prohibitive favorite against the Jets in 2013, and rightfully so. Until Brady retires or seriously declines, the Pats will likely always be favorites. But I said I'd circle back to the last time the two teams met twice in the first half of the season, back in 2000, remember? So I leave you with this to ponder. Only once during the Belichick Era have the Jets swept the Pats in a season series. That sweep came back in 2000. The only other year that, you guessed it, the Jets played the Pats in weeks 2 and 7. Who knows, maybe they're our lucky numbers.