Not long after the Jets beat the Bengals on Thanksgiving night, Bart Scott looked ahead to the next matchup with the New England Patriots.
He listed some of the details that make Monday night's matchup such a big game and concluded, "Sounds like the playoffs to me."
We've been through the playoff implications - winner has the inside track to the top seed in the AFC, loser might not get a home game in the playoffs at all.
Bart Scott talks a lot.
In this case, his words carry weight.
The Jets and Patriots should treat this game like the playoffs.
Expect the entire playbook to be used in this one - kind of like the last day of the baseball season when everything's on the line. Everyone plays - no one is saved for tomorrow because there might not be a tomorrow...that sort of thing.
For the Jets, opening the playbook - besides meaning maybe using an effective passing play before there are 10 second remaining in regulation or overtime - means expect a gadget play. Maybe a pass from Brad Smith to Mark Sanchez. (I've been waiting for that one ever since they showed how good Sanchez's hands were in 'Hard Knocks'.) Maybe a few more looks with Brad Smith in the Wildcat. Maybe even a fake punt or field goal, if the situation presents itself. Or something like an unexpected onside kick.
It's encouraging to think back to the first matchup of the season - where even though Randy Moss beat Darrelle Revis badly at the end of the first half (sending him to the sideline for a couple of weeks), the Jets came back with a stellar second half to win comfortably - but these are really two different teams from that game. The Patriots have hit their stride - which they had yet to do in that Week 2 matchup. And of course they no longer have Moss.
The Jets will be without Jim Leonhard, who broke his leg on Thursday in practice and is done for the season. Laveranues Coles is back with the team, which may or may not give the offense a different look. The Jets' defense is in some ways better than that matchup - Revis is at 100% - and in some ways weaker - they haven't been as dominant as last year's version, which has become more clear than it was in Week 2.
But the Jets seem to respond to these big games. Rex Ryan talked this week about how Mark Sanchez plays his best when the stakes are highest - and the stakes are high in this one. Of course, the Patriots have won their share of big games as well.
But when it comes to recent big games, the Jets have the better track record. Talk all you want about the Patriots' 25-game home winning streak with Tom Brady at QB - but in their biggest game at home during that time, they lost. Badly, too - to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs last year. That happened while the Jets were on their way to 2 out of 3 wins in the playoffs.
Sounds like the playoffs? I like the Jets' chances Monday night.