It's a rare thing to experience a victory this sweet. Off the top of my head, the three Super Bowl wins, beating Manning in the playoffs, and the AFC Championship rout over Pittsburgh in 2004 are the only ones that surpass what the Pats accomplished last night. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the crew just put the New York Jets on ice, carved them up, and served them the franchise's worst loss in 25 years.
For months, we've suffered through the hype and the trash talk coming from New York. The Patriots' stall-out in the second half of their Week 2 matchup, only added fuel to the fire. Then, Pats fans pulled our hair out, week after week, as the Jets seemingly pulled W's out of thin air against some of the league's worst teams. New England had earned it's 9-2 record by beating the AFC's elite: the Ravens, Steelers, Colts, and Chargers. The Jets were paper champions, feasting on the bottom-dwellers. Of New York's nine wins, only one came against a team with a record above .500, the Pats in Week 2. Yet heading into Monday Night's game, the Jets were technically ahead of the Patriots in the standings. As unjust as it seemed, the luckiest team in football was a single victory away from all but clinching the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. We were a mere 60 minutes away from a nauseating end to 2010.
They say that it's better to be lucky than good. The Patriots took their muskets and shot that notion down. As the Jets proved last night, luck eventually runs out. When you're as good as the Patriots are, you have the ability to win week after week no matter which team is placed on your schedule. You're able to make your own luck. You can force Peyton Manning to throw a pick in the last seconds of a tight game, you can will your way back from being down 10 in the fourth quarter agains the stingy Baltimore defense, you can trade away your most powerful offensive weapon and become an even more explosive scoring force by playing as a team.
I began this season by stating that whoever won the Super Bowl this year, would win it by "default". I looked at the regressing Saints and Colts, saw the holes in Atlanta, Green Bay, New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and even New England, and didn't see an "elite" team in the bunch. I don't feel that way now. There are only two elite 10-2 teams in the NFL right now, the Falcons and the Patriots, and I think everyone now has to say, without question, that they are each the class of their respective conferences. That doesn't mean you can pencil in New England for a seventh Super Bowl appearance just yet. As Belichick drills into every player who puts on a Patriots' uniform, it's all about one game at a time. Up next are clashes with the NFC North titans, followed by two critical, critical AFC East matchups. If the Patriots do claim the conference's top seed and the bye week that comes with it, they will have to earn it over the course of these next four games.
Some quick hits...