This was the prediction by many for the total number of regular season wins the Patriots would attain in 2010; "Nine. Maybe ten.". Some optimistic Patriots fans may have been so bold to predict eleven, but very few dared to go beyond that point, especially not fourteen.
The Jets were the best team in the AFC East. They had advanced all the way to the AFC Championship, riding the coat-tails of their impressive rookie duo at quarterback and running back. Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene did perform admirably throughout those playoffs. And now the Jets had all but won the AFC East next season.
The Patriots were rebuilding. Their defense was a huge weakness and Tom Brady would never be as good as he was in 2007.
Then the season started. The Patriots won in week one, the Jets lost. No one looked too much into it. Rather, everyone was focusing on week two, when these two teams would meet for the first time in New Meadowlands Stadium.
To make a long story short, the Jets won. They outplayed the Patriots and, even without Revis for part of the game, shut down Randy Moss and the Patriots' offense to come out on top by two touchdowns in the Week Two Super Bowl.
It was all over for the Patriots. Clearly, they were the inferior team in the AFC East. It certainly seemed that way for a number of weeks, as the Jets improved to 5-1 by their bye week. The Patriots gave up. They traded away their only deep threat and one of the biggest pieces of their historic 2007 offense, Randy Moss, and they had no running game. The previously up-and-coming Jets had overtaken them at last.
But the momentum shifted. After trading Randy Moss, the Patriots re-tooled their offense at a shockingly quick rate and lost only one game the rest of the season, an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Peyton Hillis and the Cleveland Browns. New England reverted back to their old method of spreading the ball around. Whether it was Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, or even Danny Woodhead, the Patriots seemed to have a different #1 weapon every game.
And, of course, the Patriots most impressive example of their new-look offense was against the Jets in their second match-up. The 45-3 annihilation that took place in Foxborough surely reverberates in the minds of every Jets and Patriots fan out there.
The Jets lost their momentum and finished the season with three losses in their last five games. The defense gave up forty-five points to the Patriots in week thirteen and then thirty-eight, in horrible conditions, to the Chicago Bears. They even lost a defensive battle - A 10-6 loss to another division rival, the Miami Dolphins.
And here we are again. The Jets and Patriots are set to face off tomorrow at 4:30 in a Divisional Round game of epic proportions. Trash-talking has run rampant, although much of it has been one-sided. Even threats of physical harm have been thrown out there (I'm looking at you, Bart Scott). Profanity has been issued quite liberally.
This is the Jets' chance to show that they were, after all, the better team in the AFC East. This is their chance to avenge their horrific 45-3 defeat. This is their chance to back up all the talk that has been spewed from their mouths since before the season even started.
This is the Patriots' chance to prove all of their pre-season (and mid-season) doubters wrong. This is their chance to show the nation that week thirteen was no "fluke", as the Jets' Matt Slauson insists it was. This is their chance to shut the Jets up.
This game may seem like a denouement, but it's quite the opposite. This is the commencement of a feud that is going to be at the forefront of the NFL for years to come. So, everyone, brace yourselves for the beginning.