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New York Jets host New England Patriots in surprising battle for first in AFC East

No one can take the New York Jets’ three-game win streak away from them. Even last week’s 17-14 victory on the road against the winless Cleveland Browns still counts on their ledger as a three-point victory, nothing more or less.

But the perception, even in preseason when Gang Green was expected to be a laughingstock, was always that the Cleveland game was quite winnable. The remainder of the slate, at this point, offers no more soft matchups.

That’s especially true as the Jets prepare to host the New England Patriots and renew a bitter rivalry with coach Bill Belichick’s bunch. Here are recent trends in the bitter rivalry entering the matchup, which would net the winner sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

Brady gonna Brady

Even at 40, legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remains a stud. After a rough Week 1 effort against the still-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, Brady’s has completed at least 71 percent of passes each of the last four games and sports a TD-INT ratio of 11-1.

Brady’s last four times facing coach Todd Bowles’ Jets have yielded strong results too, although Gang Green tends to keep him in relative check compared to his usual numbers the last few years.

But even in the Jets’ lone win over New England under Bowles, Brady still tends to play at a high level. Perhaps containing the future Hall of Famer is a more realistic goal than truly stopping him.

No place like home

If this game was in Foxboro, Massachusetts, as it will be in the season finale on Dec. 31, there would be no sugarcoating the six years since the Jets beat the Patriots on the road. But at MetLife Stadium, the playing field is level.

The Jets have won three of seven at home against New England since vacating Giants Stadium. Moreover, the teams have split the previous four meetings in East Rutherford, New Jersey with an average margin of victory of less than four points. Both of the Jets’ recent wins came in overtime.

With the Pats and Jets, both 3-2, trending in opposite directions from preseason expectations, there’s no reason to think this will be a blowout either way.

Don’t fear the defense

Only two teams score more points (29.6) than the Pats, but just one surrenders more than their 28.4-point average.

That fact alone should offer hope to a Jets offense than has looked, more often than not, like a piecemeal collective this season. Since an abysmal 12-point effort in Week 1, the Jets have scored either 17, 20 or 23 points in each game for a 20-point average.

Assuming an uptick in production by quarterback Josh McCown against a porous Pats secondary, Gang Green should be able to keep pace as long as the defense continues to make Week 2 — in which the Oakland Raiders scored 45 points — look like an aberration.

Scott’s prediction

Patriots 34, Jets 27

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