NFL regular-season games don't get much more important than this. The Jets (9-2) visit the Patriots (also 9-2) with much more than first place in the AFC East on the line. The winner will have the inside track to a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The loser will likely be relegated to a No. 5 seed. Some think this game is worth about a quarter of a Super Bowl berth. That makes it a bigger deal than a wild-card playoff and almost as big as a divisional game.
The Jets won the first meeting between the two teams in Week 2. That means they have a better shot at winning the division if they lose this game. But neither team should count on a home playoff game with a loss on Monday.
Which team has the edge? The Jets have the better defense, especially against the pass. New England's has been atrocious for much of the season. Even though Mark Sanchez has taken major strides, Tom Brady is still the better quarterback. But Sanchez isn't playing Brady, he's playing the Patriots defense, which is riddled with holes and has put up some of the worst numbers in franchise history. Brady will get his points, but don't be surprised if the Jets put up 30. As for the injury to Jim Leonhard, don't be surprised if that helps the Jets. He was a matchup liability against Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Eric Smith may be a better fit.
The Jets were the last team to beat Brady in Foxborough in the regular season. That came in 2006. If they want to reprise that, they will need to force turnovers — Brady hasn't thrown a pick in 199 attempts — and take care of the ball themselves. They have made a name for themselves as comeback kids, and, given the Patriots' shortcomings, that method could work again. But the Jets would be better off playing from the front, and they're capable of doing just that.