And, in a bit of a surprise, even Patriots players themselves are acknowledging that this is a big one.
Typically, New England's M.O. is to downplay regular-season contests in particular, but the reality is that this game is about as must-win a regular-season game as the Pats could have: they've lost to New York once, and losing the head-to-head tiebreaker would make their quest to win the AFC East title incredibly difficult. Assuming the teams finish with the same record, the Jets would get the division and likely a first-round bye, and New England would have to go on the road for the playoffs (despite the fact it would likely have a better record than any team it would play in the wild-card round).
"It is a big game. There’s no need to downplay it – it’s a big game," Alge Crumpler said. "Everybody understands what’s at stake, you know…it counts as one though."
As Bill Belichick noted during his lunchtime press conference, there's no love lost between the Jets and Patriots. That both of these teams are 9-2 heading into this game only heightens things.
"It's always a big game when we play those guys," Deion Branch said. "Who's to say what can happen after this game. With four games left, the best thing for us is to take advantage of what's in front of us."