Happening right on schedule
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Feel better now?
As much as the hysteria has rained down the previous two weeks in Patriot land, the bottom line is they still have Tom Brady and the Jets don’t. Not even close.
For as long as that remains the case, the Patriots will own the AFC East - in the regular season, for what that’s worth - and the Jets will have to carve out life on the postseason road, if they get there. It has worked for them in going to back-to-back AFC Championship games, but a level of respect has been missing.
The Jets know it. They talked about wanting it. And they had it right there on a silver platter last night.
But New York, in similar fashion to the 45-3 loss last year at Gillette Stadium, just didn’t show up for the neighborhood corner fight, as the Patriots emerged with an easy 37-16 victory.
“We wanted this game in the worst way,’’ said Jets coach Rex Ryan. “Our fans were ready to go, just like I thought we were. It’s disappointing.
“They’re a good football team and they have No. 12 out there, I don’t care who else you’ve got. You see the difference a great quarterback makes in this league. This guy is an amazing player.’’
The calendar may read Nov. 14, but it might as well be Jan. 1.
The race for the AFC East title is over. The Patriots, barring an injury to Brady, will win it for the eighth time in nine seasons. They have the tiebreaker over the Jets after a season sweep, the Bills are fading, and the Dolphins are waiting for the draft.
It burns Gang Green that again they’ll have to look at the final standings and see the Patriots on top.
“It’s just tough because they beat us twice,’’ said Ryan, who talked this week about this being a measuring-stick game. “We think we’re as good as they are, but clearly, you know, we’re not. We weren’t today, that’s for sure.’’
The stick said, not good enough. Again.
Whether the Patriots winning the division again means anything when it comes to the postseason - we don’t think it will - remains to be seen.
The Jets and Bills still have hope for a three-way tie since all four stand with 4-1 division records. But the difference in the Patriots’ favor is that the rest of their schedule is so full of cream puffs it would make a bakery jealous.
The Chiefs pay a visit next Monday night after consecutive losses to the winless Dolphins and the Broncos when Tim Tebow completed two passes. Fairly certain Brady can do that lefthanded.
A trip to Philadelphia is next, where the Eagles could be in a complete meltdown now that “The Dream Team’’ is out of playoff contention with a 3-6 record.
The Colts come to down after that for what was supposed to be a Sunday night game. But without Peyton Manning, and the Colts winless, NBC set the new land speed record for flexing out of that matchup.
Against the Broncos, the Patriots’ secondary has its dream matchup: a team that struggles to complete a pass under any conditions. If Tebow throws for 300 yards, de facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and secondary coach Josh Boyer shouldn’t even show up for work on Monday.
The Dolphins have won two straight games, but the last time Miami visited Gillette Stadium near the end of the 2010 season, the Dolphins quit on coach Tony Sparano and were embarrassed by Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
By the time the Bills, who have lost two straight, visit Gillette Jan. 1, they might not have any players left. It’s been one injury after another for a Buffalo team that is headed in the right direction, but not quite ready for prime time.
That means the Patriots are headed for a 13-3 record - at worst 12-4 - and will have a bye in the playoffs.
“It’s tough because really for the first time in the last three years since Rex has been here, it was right here,’’ said Jets safety Jim Leonhard. “We win this game, we’ve got kind of a stranglehold on the division, and we let it slide. Obviously, there’s a lot of frustration. It was a big goal of ours to go ahead and win this division and we put ourselves in a hole again. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it’s unlikely to happen at this point.
“You can’t make the mistakes we made and beat that team, yet we continue to try. It’s a struggle, you know you have to play good football against a team that doesn’t beat itself, and we continue to do that.’’
In New England, you’ll feel the Patriots’ bandwagon fill up again with each empty victory.
All that talk about the coaching staff being subpar?
The Patriots’ poor drafting history?
The dynasty ending?
Just another reason to laugh at the media.
All of that stuff will be on the back burner, and in the back of the minds of most fans, until the Patriots’ inevitable loss in the postseason.
No matter what happens after this victory - and it was a tremendous team effort that should be applauded and savored, because they don’t happen that often, even for the Patriots - the underlying fact remains that this defense is not talented enough to make the stops needed in the postseason against really good quarterbacks.
Even with a 13-3 record, the Steelers would still pick apart this defense.
So would the Texans, who are 7-3 even without receiver Andre Johnson for the past six games.
And if the Patriots don’t stop the run, the Ravens and Jets would again be formidable.
But that’s for later.
For now, the Patriots are still on top in the AFC East.
If that means anything anymore.