On Monday night, the New England Patriots (10-2) not only wrestled away the AFC East divisional lead from the New York Jets (9-3), they kicked dirt in the eyes of their humiliated rival on their way to a 45-3 victory on Monday Night Football.
How the Jets respond could mean the difference between a long playoff run, or an utter collapse down the stretch.
Head coach Rex Ryan called the defeat the worst in his NFL coaching career. The Jets were beaten in every way. The Pats piled-up 405 yards in total offense, Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, and the Patriots scored two fourth quarter touchdowns as the Patriots kept their starting units in the entire game, as if to rub salt into the wounds of the tough-talking Jets.
The Jets, in all likelihood, have lost the division to New England, but, with four games remaining, have a chance to right their ship. The Jets host the Miami Dolphins (6-6) this week and then must go on the road to face AFC North division leader the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) and the NFC North division leading Chicago Bears (9-3).
Can Ryan rally the troops? Will the Jets play angry or demoralized? New York still has one of the best run defenses and running games in the NFL. Behind by so many points so early, the Jets could not establish their run game, though they tried with 31 rushing attempts for 152 yards. The bigger problem on Monday night was the play of Mark Sanchez and how he rebounds from a game in which he threw 3 INTs and a passer rating of 27.8 will go a long way in deciding between an early playoff exit and a repeat of last season’s success.
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