NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Monday, December 21, 2015, 8:39 PM
Before Jets fans start worrying about the possibility of going 11-5 and missing the playoffs, the team needs to clear a major hurdle. It’s their old nemesis, the New England Patriots.
Gang Green has come close but fallen short against the Patriots so many times in recent years. And that was the case again in Week 7 this season, when the held a 4th quarter lead but blew it against their hated rival.
But now the Jets are hot, on a four-game winning streak, and fighting for an AFC wild card spot. And so Todd Bowles is hoping it’s the newest version of his Jets — the one that makes plays down the stretch rather than surrendering leads — that shows up at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Does Bowles think they are truly a different team now than they were the last time they faced New England?
“I hope we are. We’ve grown some,” Bowles said. “You’ve got to play the game on Sunday to find that out.”
But he did say he believes the Jets have matured some and that “they just play for each other a lot more now, and that’s part of the growth of a new team.”
Beating the Patriots, obviously, is no easy task. And while Bowles is hoping to get a different performance from his team this time around, he doesn’t see much change from New England.
“Not much different. They’re winning. They’re beating everybody,” Bowles said. “Same team they’ve always been. They do what they do and they do it very well.”
Patriots Week always comes with a certain type of buzz, even if that was dulled in Week 7 by Bowles’ philosophy to not treat New England differently than any other opponent. Back then, it was just another game. But even Bowles admitted on Monday that the stakes are higher this week.
“It’s a different feeling about the game. It’s not necessarily the Patriots, it’s just about the position we’re in as far as giving us a chance to make the postseason,” Bowles said. “So, we’ve got to give ourselves a chance, it doesn’t matter who we were playing this week, it would be an important game, it would be a big game for that reason.”
“The fact that it’s the Patriots makes it a division rival game, but for us, we’ve got to win regardless,” he added.
Despite their 9-5 record, the Jets do not control their own destiny. Even if they win their final two games against the Patriots and Bills, respectively, the Jets will need either the Steelers, Chiefs or Broncos to lose in order to reach the postseason. They nearly got that Steelers loss on Sunday, but Pittsburgh battled back to beat the Broncos.
Technically, the Jets could still have a shot at making the playoffs even if they lose to New England — it would require two losses from one of the three aforementioned competitors — but that obviously is not a road the team would like to go down. If the Jets lose to the Patriots and the Steelers, Chiefs and Broncos all win this week, Gang Green would be eliminated.
“We don’t know what our chances are, we don’t control our destiny,” Bowles said. “So we’re just going to try and win those two games and make positive steps going forward. If the football gods deem that we’re worthy, somehow, we win these last two games, maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But you can’t worry about it because you can’t control it.”