EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The buzz that once surrounded the AFC East rivalry between the New England Patriots and New York Jets isn’t quite what it was.
There always seemed to be a little extra something about the week leading up to the teams’ two meetings every regular season, with some bold trash talk and colorful Boston-New York comparisons spicing things up.
Not so much this time around.
It doesn’t help, of course, that the Jets (3-7) are struggling mightily while the Patriots (7-3) appear headed to their 10th straight division title and 15th in 16 years. But New England is hitting the road, where it’s 2-3 this season, and knows to not expect a cakewalk Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“Throughout all sports history, it’s always that rivalry there,” Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said of Boston vs. New York. “When we go down there, it’s not many Patriots fans in there. If they are in there, you probably don’t want to be too loud in that stadium because the Jets fans will get rowdy. It’s a lot of fun.”
Coming off a 34-10 loss to Tennessee two weeks ago , the Patriots are looking to avoid their second two-game losing streak of the season — something the franchise hasn’t experienced since 2015.
This might be as good a week as any to get things back on track for New England, which has won four straight in the series against New York and seven of the last eight.
“I think the rest kind of came at a good time for us to evaluate ourselves, get some rest, recover up, just come back and get ready to go for this last six-game stretch,” running back James White said. “Lot of division games, big, tough one against the Jets this week, so we’ve just got to come out ready to go from the start to the finish. It’s tough every time we play those guys. It’s never easy.”
That’s true on the road, despite the lopsided results in the Patriots’ favor.
In the last five games between the teams at MetLife Stadium, all have been decided by seven points or less — including a 26-20 overtime win by the Jets in coach Todd Bowles’ first season.
These are tough times, though, for Bowles. His future beyond this year is in serious doubt, with the Jets’ four-game losing streak — capped by an embarrassing 41-10 loss to Buffalo two weeks ago — making matters worse.
New York is hoping to turn things around at home and avoid its first five-game losing streak since dropping eight straight during Rex Ryan’s final season as coach in 2014.
“There’s some things that we can exploit,” wide receiver Quincy Enunwa said, “but we just have to be smart.”
Here are some other things to know about the latest Patriots-Jets showdown:
With Jets rookie Sam Darnold out with a foot strain , 39-year-old backup Josh McCown will get his second straight start.
That means this game will likely feature the NFL’s second-oldest QB combo at 80 years, 258 days with 41-year-old Tom Brady expected to go up against McCown. Brady was limited during the week with a sore knee, and didn’t practice Friday and was listed as questionable.
Only Carolina’s Vinny Testaverde (44) and Green Bay’s Brett Favre (38) in 2007 are an older combination at 82 years, 44 days old.
“Our careers, other than the age, there’s probably not a lot of similarities,” McCown said. “But I can respect what he’s gone through year in and year out to get himself ready to play, physically, mentally, and then the focus that it takes to do that is remarkable.”
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to return from back and ankle injuries after sitting out the last two games. He was listed as questionable after being limited at practice all week.
“When he plays, he’s Gronk,” Bowles said. “Obviously, he’s been nicked up a little bit, but he’s a great player. You can’t say enough about the guy. And he shows it every time he’s out there.”
Brady needs four touchdown passes to top Peyton Manning (579) for the most in NFL history, including postseason games.
The Patriots QB could make some more history. He needs 147 yards passing to top Manning (79,279) for No. 1 on the career list.
With 252 yards passing, Brady would reach 3,000 for the 16th straight season to tie Manning for second most behind only Brett Favre (18).
Jets second-year safety Jamal Adams has been a bright spot for New York. He leads NFL safeties with eight tackles for loss and is tied for second with nine passes defensed, four QB hits and two forced fumbles. Adams also is the early leader in Pro Bowl voting among all safeties.
“Jamal is having a great season, in my opinion,” said Bowles, who rarely dishes praise on his players. “His eyes are better from a study standpoint.”
MARK OF CONSISTENCY
With a win, the Patriots would clinch their 18th straight season with a .500 record or better. That would rank second in NFL history to only Dallas, which had 21 in a row from 1965-85.
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