Rex Ryan's fun-lovin' Jets are in Foxboro to take on Bill Belichick's down-to-business New England Patriots. Here's a reminder of what every pre-game report has already reminded you of: these coaches have one thing in common — dramatic pause — winning.
But everyone loves a contrast, right? And beyond their other uniting bond — their very good and very good-looking starting QBs, of course — these coaches always respond to that need. In interviews this week, Ryan was quoted as saying he hoped to "kick Bill Belichick's ass.'' Belichick responded, "Is that a big news story? That something we didn't know?'' Hearty gamesmanship vs. sarcastic bitesmanship and a built-in headline! I love it!
But really, the stage has not been set until a reference to Belichick's sweatshirt has been made. So: both teams are 9-2. They are tied for first in the AFC East. The winner will take first place in the overall conference standings and earn a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs — crucial for the Pats, who are 5-0 at home this year. In Week 2, the Jets beat the Patriots 28-14 in the Meadowlands. A New England win tonight would even the all-time series record at 51-51-1, which will up the symbolic ante for their next match-up even more.
Save coaching changes, of course, the drama here is fundamental. As ESPN's Jackie MacMullan reminds us, "Ryan is garrulous, profane and perpetually entertaining. Belichick is taciturn, profane and eternally uncommunicative. " And NESN's Eric Ortiz helpfully writes that Jets-Pats is "Brash vs. measured. Free-spirited vs. no-nonsense. Blunt vs. close to the sweatshirt."
Ah, the sweatshirt reference. Game on.