FOXBORO, Mass. — This Sunday, Gillette Stadium will play host to a rare event: a late-season Patriots-Jets game with actual playoff implications for both teams.
New York boasts a 6-3 record, holding the fifth playoff seed in the AFC. New England currently is the No. 7 seed at 5-4. It’s the first time since 2015 and just the second time since the Jets upset the Patriots in the divisional round of the 2010 playoffs that these longtime AFC East rivals have squared off in Week 11 or later with both sitting above .500.
“I think that adds a little bit to it,” longtime Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said Monday. “There’s a lot at stake here. These next coming games, the back half of the season, everyone’s playing for something, especially in our division. So that rivalry is certainly renewed, not that it ever died. I think stakes are high, emotions will be high. It’ll be highly competitive, and there’s a lot on the line.”
The Patriots and Jets last met just three weeks ago, with the former dominating on defense and special teams in a 22-17 road victory at MetLife Stadium. New Engand’s Mac Jones-led offense struggled in that game, however, and New York rebounded with a signature surprise victory at Buffalo the following week, with quarterback Zach Wilson limiting the catastrophic mistakes that burned his team against the Patriots.
Both teams are coming off bye weeks and will be well-rested for this Week 11 rematch. The Patriots, pegged as three-point home favorites as of Tuesday morning, are expecting to face a hyper-motivated Jets squad.
“The reason why it’s so hard to beat another team (twice) is because they have that nasty taste in their mouth,” linebacker Jahlani Tavai said. “The same goes for us if we were playing a team we lost to these past few games. You have that nasty taste, and you want to come back for some revenge, you know? Especially since they’re coming here to play us at home. So our mentality’s got to be a bully mentality. We’ve got to be ready to be physical at every point of attack.”
Slater said he’s “certainly not surprised” by the Jets’ improved record this season under second-year head coach Robert Saleh. New York already has surpassed its win total from five of the last six campaigns and is on pace to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2015.
That also happens to be the last year the Jets defeated the Patriots, with Eric Decker catching a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick in overtime to secure a 26-20 victory at MetLife. Since then, Bill Belichick’s club holds a 13-game win streak in the biannual series, winning by an average of nearly 20 points per game.
“They’ve acquired a tremendous amount of talent over the past several years, and at the end of the day, players win games,” Slater said. “Coach Belichick will tell you that. They’ve got a lot of really good players. You knew at some point, it was going to come together, and obviously their staff has done a great job of getting them to believe in what they’re doing. You can tell they’re under the guidance of some good leadership. It shows.”
This Jets matchup kicks off an arduous home stretch for the Patriots, who have won four of their last five games to climb into the postseason picture. Five of their final eight games are against teams currently holding playoff spots, and another is against the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals, who should have star receiver Ja’Marr Chase back from a hip injury at that point.
The Patriots also will play three games in a 12-day span, following up this week’s with back-to-back Thursday night tilts: at the 8-1 Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving and home against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 1.