Jets. Patriots. Monday Night Football. AFC East Division On the Line. Winner Hosts a Playoff Game.

The Jets won the first meeting, 28-14. They’ve won four games in a row (none over opponents with winning records). They’re a surprising 5-0 on the road (haven’t beaten a playoff-bound team, though). Last year, the Jets won the early meeting with the Patriots – 16-9 – and then were destroyed in Foxborough when then-rookie Mark Sanchez turned the ball over five times. Please read nothing into any meetings prior to 2009, as the Jets are a completely different team (new staff, new QB, new offensive weapons).

The Patriots opened as 3.5-point favorites. It’s moved up to 4 a few places. How can you pick against Brady and Belichick at home? We’ll go with Patriots 23, Jets 10. This isn’t about fearing Sanchez in a big spot on the road – he was brilliant at controlling the game in beating San Diego and Cincinnati on the road in the playoffs last year – it’s just that the Brady/Belichick combo is too good.

Their wins this season blow away what the Jets (or anyone in the league) have accomplished: Baltimore, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Put me down as cautiously optimistic for a Jets’ win (30% chance to win?) … but we’ve gotten our hopes up too many times, only to end up crestfallen. Witness:

Thoughts on how the Jets could win:

1) The Patriots’ run defense that shows up is the one Cleveland abused. New York goes heavy on the ground and pound (Greene gets 20+ carries, LT gets 15+). The Jets ran the ball well in both losses this season (100+ vs. Ravens & Packers). Which leads to …

2) Red zone creativity. The Jets play not to turn the ball over in the red zone because – I think – the offensive coordinator knows its his ass, and not Sanchez’s, if a turnover happens. Defenses – even bad ones, like Cincinnati’s – know exactly what is coming and when, and the Jets stall in close, often setting for FGs instead of TDs. See Baltimore, Minnesota, etc.

3) The Jets’ front four gets pressure on Brady without the use of the blitz. Good luck. Pace, Taylor and Ellis haven’t gotten to a QB all year, why would that change tonight? When Brady walks off the field with a clean jersey, I’ll end up staying up until 2 am writing about 10 defensive lineman the Jets should target with the 20th pick in the draft.

And yes, if the Jets do lose, I can totally envision a scenario where they go into a freefall and miss the playoffs. Worst case: Colts and Chargers catch fire, Chiefs win just enough games to sneak in and steal the other wild card (Baltimore’s getting one of them).

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