The New York Jets against the New England Patriots. Not so long ago this was must see TV. A little less than a decade ago the Jets put a beatdown on Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro to advance to the AFC Championship Game. It was the end of a three year stretch in which the Jets and the Patriots were roughly equals, with the Jets actually holding a 4-3 edge in the head to head competition form 2008-2010. With the Jets, not the Patriots, making it to the Conference Championship two years running, Jets fans could dream of a great rivalry for the foreseeable future, with the Jets perhaps even having the better of it.
Alas, it was not to be. That 2010 beatdown of the Patriots in Foxboro would be one of only two home losses in the playoffs for the Patriots over the next nine years, and the only time they lost at home prior to the Conference Championship. The Patriots would go on to play in each of the next eight AFC Championship Games, moving on to the Super Bowl five times and winning three.
The Jets? Well, unfortunately dreams of a Jets dynasty were, ahem, a tad premature. The Jets never again made it to the playoffs after 2010, and put together just one winning season over the next nine years. The rivalry with the Patriots became a fading memory, then a farce, as the Jets sank farther and farther behind.
The start of the 2020 season seemed to augur more of the same for this once intense rivalry. The Jets began the year as expected, losing early and often. The Patriots also began as expected, winning two of their first three, their only loss on the road against a tough Seahawks team. Then something unusual began to happen. The Patriots began to lose. And lose. And lose. Not only were they losing, the Patriots lost the ability to advance the ball through the air. They went five straight games without exceeding 175 yards passing. Tom Brady would be turning in his grave, if he wasn’t alive and kicking and thriving in Tampa Bay. Worse still, the Patriots forgot how to protect the football. The Patriots dynasty was built, in part, on dominating the turnover battle. Year in and year out the Patriots were at or near the top of the NFL rankings in turnover differential. They rarely gave the ball away. Until this year. This year it’s like you don’t even recognize this team as the Patriots. Who are these impostors?
The 2020 Patriots have turned the ball over on offense 15 times this year. The only NFL team turning the ball over more per game is the woeful Dallas Cowboys. Suddenly the Patriots look a lot like, well, the Jets. They have a quarterback ranking at the bottom of the league. They have few offensive weapons. They have mediocre running backs. And they never seem to have a lead. Quick, without looking it up, between the Patriots and the Jets, which team last held a lead at any time in a game? If you said the Patriots, you would be wrong. The Jets held the lead past halftime of their game against the Bills on October 25. The Patriots? In a shocking development, the Patriots went 0 for October. The last time the Patriots held a lead in any game was September 27, against the Raiders. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Anyone?
For years Jets fans watched as the Patriots bullied their way past every other team in the division. Jets fans could only watch and dream of the day when the mighty Patriots dynasty ended, and the Jets would rule the roost. It happened so quickly few saw it coming, but Jets fans, the Patriots dynasty is over. It is now the day we’ve dreamed of. Only we never dreamt it like this. Yes, the mighty have fallen. But the meek were supposed to rise in their place. What a sad mockery that, even as the Patriots finally stink, Jets fans have little reason to rejoice. Yes, the Patriots stink. They have been surpassed by all the other teams in the division. All the other teams, that is, except the Jets. Even as the Patriots sink into the muck and mire, the Jets lurk beneath them.
Jets vs Patriots on Monday Night Football. It once was a clash of the titans. Now it’s the incident of the inepts. And everyone’s a loser.