The New York Jets have spent the entire decade chasing, which might just be a nicer way of saying they spent the entire decade losing.
When it comes to the AFC East, the New England Patriots have consistently reigned supreme. The numbers don't conceal this fact. Three Super Bowls for the Patriots. Seven divisional titles. A 14-8 record against the Jets, including a 21-point playoff victory. New England runs the division.
The Jets brought a 5-0 record into New England in 2004 with Herman Edwards. They lost, 13-7. Eric Mangini was hired to imitate Bill Belichick and brought his 10-6 playoff team into New England in January of 2007. They lost, 37-16. Mangini was sent packing and Rex Ryan is now the latest Jets coach with a chance to seize control of the division away from New England.
There have been encouraging signs since the start of 2009. The Jets have beaten the Patriots two out of three times, including watching their handpicked franchise quarterback outplay Tom Brady in both of those wins. The Jets went to the AFC Championship Game last year, while the Patriots were smacked around at home in the wild-card round. However, the Jets still haven't won in New England since Rex Ryan has been hired, losing their only contest, 31-14, which is their biggest margin of defeat since he has been hired.
This has been a bizarre NFL season. The type of year where the Jets can win three straight games in miraculous fashion and the Patriots can lose by 20 to the Cleveland Browns and then follow the next week with a double-digit win in Pittsburgh. Regardless, the bottom line is that both teams sit at 9-2, tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the best record in football.
It is nearly impossible to imagine the winner of this game not winning the AFC East and not locking down a bye week in the playoffs. The loser will be banished to the wild-card race and will have to make their Super Bowl run entirely on the road.
For the Jets, this game is a culmination of the change of culture around their organization. They have given up the poor little brother, same old Jets mentality that was associated with constant losing, heartbreak, and disappointment. This is a team that now isn't scared to say they are going to lead the league in wins and then go out through 11 games and actually back those words up. This is a team that is never out of a football game and now has clutch play makers and elite talent on both sides of the football.
The entire country will be anxiously watching six days from now. Most will be expecting to see New England do what New England always does: win the game they need to and seize control of the AFC East.
The Jets have a chance to disappoint those expectations and disappoint everybody who hates to see their big talking, "lucky" team achieve success. More importantly, they have a chance to go into New England, sweep the Patriots for the 2010 season, grab the AFC East by the throat and show that this decade's version of Jets won't be chasing New England.