The Jets evened the score in November when they came to Foxborough and upset the Patriots 17-14. The winner of the rubber match will not only win the season series, but will also live to fight another day and advance in the playoffs.
Head coach Eric Mangini has done a tremendous job with the Jets this season. He took a team that won just four games in 2005 and guided them into the postseason. Bill Belichick has taught Mangini, he's just hoping he hasn't taught him too well. Belichick has had no problem hiding his sudden disdain for his former defensive coordinator, something that motivated the Jets players the last time they came to Foxborough.
"We didn't like the way he's been treating Eric and that motivated us to come in here and play well," defensive end Shaun Ellis said after the Jets win. "We believe in our coach and we showed that out there on the field."
The last time the two teams met, the Jets put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady, sacking him four times and hitting him on a number of other occasions just after he released the ball. Timely blitzes from the outside, particularly by linebacker Victor Hobson, had Brady under fire all day and the Jets players could sense his frustration.
"I think the pressure got to him a little bit," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "I'm not sure but I think it did. We knocked the timing off a little bit and that was the biggest thing. I think we were able to rattle him and you could see it on his face in the second half."
Things could be a bit tougher for the Jets defense this time out. The Patriots passing attack is much more lethal now than it was the last time the two teams met. Brady hasn't thrown an interception in his last four games. After a shutout loss to the Dolphins, New England has scored 75 points in its last three, all wins over Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee.
"Well, we won three in a row, haven't turned it over in three weeks, so I think I'm excited about that offensively," Brady said. "The defense is playing as well as anybody. Like I said, none of it means anything unless you go out and perform next week but I think everybody likes our chances in the playoffs."
The Jets also come into this game on a hot streak. They've won four of their last five games on route to nailing down the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. Statistically, New York doesn't do anything on either side of the ball that's overly impressive but they're well coached and the team does the little things well. The Jets don't turn the football over often and are very good in the special teams department, two things that can be a difference maker in close games.
"The Jets are very hot right now," Bill Belichick said. "They've won six out of their last eight games, including all of their division games on the road. Eric has really done a great job with the team."
This game should be a heck of a battle on Sunday. Not only will Belichick and Mangini be matching wits on the sidelines, two good teams will be fighting it out on the field. No matter what the outcome is, the Patriots don't intimidate the Jets after New York has already beaten them once this year on their home turf.
"We finally beat the bully," Ellis said after the Jets victory in November. "They've been bullying us for a while. It was good to finally step up and get a win against them in their house. They can't take our lunch money no more."
--This Sunday's game marks the 95th meeting between the Patriots and Jets. That makes the Jets New England's most frequent opponent in franchise history.
--The Jets 17-14 victory over the Patriots in November broke a 7-game winning streak by New England in this series. It was the Patriots longest winning streak against the Jets since the teams started playing each other in 1960.
--The Patriots will play on Wild Card Weekend for the sixth time in team history. They have compiled a 3-2 record in the previous five games, including a 28-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
--"Hopefully, we've grown a lot since that last game. I think this team has a great challenge this week. They're very difficult to prepare for because they present so many different scheme-type things. It's one of the toughest teams we prepare for all year. Our team has showed some resiliency this year and hopefully we're up for the challenge." Tom Brady on facing the Jets this week.
--"I don't think this is really a game about relationships, I think it's about two football teams. We're trying to put our game out there, and I'm sure Eric and his staff and his team are going to do the same on Sunday. That's really our focus, on the game." Bill Belichick about his relationship with Jets Head coach Eric Mangini.
--Under Belichick, the Patriots are 10-1 in the playoffs and 8-1 at home in postseason games. The Patriots haven't lost a playoff game at home since 1978, when they fell 31-14 to the Houston Oilers.
By The Numbers: 9-2 -- Tom Brady's career record against the New York Jets.
They Said It: "That (jerk) is over there laughing about it." -- Bill Belichick on Jeff Fisher's reaction when Rodney Harrison was injured.