FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots are playing a big rivalry game against the New York Jets on Sunday, but there’s more on the line this time than in seasons past.
First place in the AFC East is at stake, and the unbeaten Patriots know that even if Week 7’s showdown wasn’t as important, there would still be plenty to play for.
“It’s a great rivalry,” quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday. “I think it’s always — I remember the first game in 2000. It was a Monday night game, and I went down there in the old Jets stadium, and it was a great atmosphere for football. We’ve had a lot of great games against them, some meaningful games.”
Brady even went so far as to say that the Jets and Patriots have a lot in common.
“They’re very similar to us in a lot of ways,” Brady said. “They’re a big, tough, physical team. You play in these elements. I think there’s a lot of characteristics that make them tough to beat.”
At the same time, the Patriots don’t want to build this game up more than it already has been. The Jets have one of the best overall defenses in the NFL — they’re No. 1 in yards allowed per game at 262.2 — so the Patriots need to focus more on that than on remaining in first place.
“You want to win every game you play,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said. “That’s how we look at it. It’s the next game on the schedule. That’s why we’re going to prepare our tails off to get to where we need to be, put our guys in position to make plays, move the ball and do our job. So that’s really the only thing we’re focusing on.”
And that’s easier for some players than for others.
“I know nothing (about the rivalry),” tight end and offensive tackle Michael Williams, who came to New England from the Detroit Lions this season, said. “I know it’s the next game. That’s all I know.”
Not to mention, the Patriots also know the Jets can play well against them no matter what. Even last season’s 4-12 team lost to New England by just one and two points in their two meetings.
“Like I said, they’re very tough to beat,” Brady said. “We’ve had a lot of close games with them over the years. … Not too many games have really gotten out of hand.”
But at the end of the day, the Pats want to make sure the Gillette Stadium crowd gets what it wants.
“It’s a lot to prepare for,” Brady said. “We play them at home, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images