NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, December 24, 2015, 11:04 PM
News columnist Gary Myers says all signs point to victory for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jets over Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and hated Patriots on Sunday.
Merry Christmas, Jets Nation. Under the tree is going to be a Jets victory Sunday against the Patriots.
What has been an antiseptic MetLife Stadium for the most part since the Jets move in as co-owners with the Giants in 2010 should be rocking Sunday. If the Jets are going to have their first real home field advantage since the days of Shea Stadium, this is the game.
It has all the ingredients for a wild day:
– It’s the Patriots with their lovable coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom Brady, who the Jets and their fans love to hate. Brady is 22-6 vs. the Jets with 42 TDs and 13 INTs. This is one of the most intense rivalries in the NFL.
– The Jets have been red hot down the stretch, winning four in a row, although it’s only been against the Dolphins, Giants, Titans and Cowboys, who are a combined 18-38.
– The Jets are 9-5, guaranteed their first winning season since 2010. They are tied for the two wild card spots with the Chiefs and Steelers. If all three teams win out, the Jets will be left out. But the Jets would make it if the Chiefs, one game behind Denver, win the AFC West. The Jets would have the tie-breaker over the Broncos.
The Jets have lost three straight to the Pats by a total of 10 points. Basically one play away each time. The Jets are the desperate team fighting to get into the playoffs and I think that translates into a 27-24 victory.
The Jets are three games behind the Patriots, who have clinched the AFC East, and each of the three games represents the three crucial spots where the Patriots are better than the Jets: Belichick, Brady and tight end Ron Gronkowksi.
Belichick has the edge over Jets coach Todd Bowles, who has had an impressive rookie season, even if he stills needs work on his game management skills. A lengthy tutorial in the offseason with Bill Parcells, one of his mentors, should fix that.
Belichick is the NFL’s best coach since Vince Lombardi, but that has not made him immune to doing dumb things. He didn’t use a timeout in the final minute of the Super Bowl and no matter how the Patriots want to spin it now, he would have been second-guessed for the rest of his career if Pete Carroll, another former Jets coach, didn’t bail him out by making an even dumber mistake by having Russell Wilson throw the ball at the goal line instead of handing it off to Marshawn Lynch. Belichick’s decision to go for a bizarre dropkick on the kickoff helped get the Pats beat against the Eagles earlier this month.
Belichick has been creative in incorporating new players into the program in the middle of the season to cover up some of the many injuries 14 players are on injured reserve, twice as many as the Jets — as he keeps on winning.
Eric Decker and the Jets face their biggest game of the season Sunday against the hated Patriots.
“We just do the same thing we’ve always done, take our situation week to week and try to compete against our opponent based on what we have available and what our opponents do,” Belichick said. “So really we haven’t done anything differently.”
Brady, of course, gives the Patriots a huge edge at quarterback, but that is not a slight on Ryan FitzMagic, who is having a career year. Fitzpatrick at least has closed the gap on Brady after four years of Mark Sanchez and two years of Geno Smith. Brady is having a spectacular season (35 TDs, six INTs, no deflated-football controversies, no Wells reports) even with a patchwork offensive line (only two starters left from the Super Bowl); the loss for the season of running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount; Julian Edelman being out with a broken foot he suffered Nov. 15 (though he could be back next week); and Danny Amendola always getting hurt.
Gronk, who is impossible to cover, is the Patriots’ second best player and plays a position where the Jets have seemingly not had a dominant player since Pete Lammons and Richard Caster.
Brady has the ability to make ordinary players play like stars. He makes everybody around him better and it doesn’t matter who they are. That’s why the Patriots are winning this year. Brady continues to put up huge numbers even though, with Edelman out, Gronk is his only skill position player who could start for another other team.
Every week, the Patriots lose another important piece.
“We have guys out there playing now that weren’t here a month ago that are helping us win,” Brady said. “That’s just the way it is.”
The Patriots are also better than the Jets at linebacker. But the Jets are better on the offensive line and at running back, and wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are better than Amendola, Brandon LaFell and whomever else Belichick has signed this week. Chris Ivory is better than the Patriots’ backfield combination of Brandon Bolden, James White and newly signed Steven Jackson, who has not played anywhere this season.
The Jets’ defensive line depth is the strength of the team with Muhammad Wilkerson putting on a rush for the money. The Jets’ secondary is better. If Belichick tries to single up Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler on Marshall, then Marshall will get the same productive results on Butler as the Steelers got with Antonio Brown and the Giants got with Odell Beckham Jr.
The Jets have to beat the Patriots and Bills and get some help to make it to the playoffs. I think they hold up their end Sunday and beat New England.