Despite upsetting the Patriots in the playoffs last season, the New York Jets still look up at New England, the way a scrappy younger brother knows he’s not The Man until he can manhandle his big brother in the backyard. Last night was supposed to be the Jets’ moment, the changing of the guard in the AFC East. The Patriots were looking old, they’d lost two games in a row, and Bill Belichick’s defense was statistically the worst in the league. They were ripe for the taking. Yet, when the dust cleared, it was Tom Brady and the Pats giving the Jets noogies all night, as the “big-brothers” reestablished themselves with a convincing whipping of the Jets, 37-16. The sibling metaphor couldn’t have been more apt – and humbling – for the Jets than at the quarterback position, where Brady wore down the Jets’ pressure D, while New York’s Mark Sanchez made New England’s defense look like the 1985 Bears.
The thrashing capped a Sunday full of put-up-or-shut-up matchups, pitting some of the season’s young upstarts – San Francisco, Detroit, Buffalo, and Cincinnati – against traditional contenders. Detroit and Buffalo, it turns out, might not yet be ready for primetime. The Lions were spanked by surging Chicago, 37-13, and the Bills looked godawful against Dallas, 44-7. The Bengals at least gave the Steelers a game, proving that they’re not a fluke after a 24-17 loss. And in the biggest game at the old Candlestick Park in more than a decade, the Niners ran their winning streak to seven games with a 27-20 win over New York. “[San Francisco] might be the best team in the National Football League,” said Rodney Harrison, who clearly hadn’t reached his weekly quota of ridiculous comments intended to piss off the state of Wisconsin.
Two coaches who won’t be listening to talk radio this week? Atlanta’s Mike Smith and Philly’s Andy Reid. Smith went for a risky 4th-and-inches in overtime that quickly backfired and cost his Falcons the game against New Orleans. And Reid’s Eagles laid another stinker, losing by four at home to Cardinals backup quarterback John Skelton. Now 3-6, Philly is sadly the Lindsay Lohan of the league. Great talent with loads of promise – but a total trainwreck. They’ve coughed up five fourth-quarter leads this season, and just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Two more such losses, and Michael Vick might be posing nude. Not only are their playoff hopes practically finished, but Reid’s job might be at risk if it weren’t for the complete meltdown and utter disgrace that’s taking place not far away in Happy Valley.
Meanwhile, last week’s Sunday Night darlings, Joe Flacco’s Ravens, crashed to earth in Seattle, and in Kansas City, Denver’s miracle-worker Tim Tebow won again – despite only completing two passes. Two passes! (No, it wasn’t snowing or unusually windy.) It’s Jurassic football – Viva Tebowball!
Sunday night at least promised another hard-hitting round in the long and increasingly bitter feud between the two rivals – the all-time series between the two teams was tied 52-52-1. Plus, you had Belichick and Rex Ryan going head-to-head – in fashion. The three-time Super Bowl winner is a function-over-fashion guy, wearing the same hooded sweatshirt that your old gym teacher wore in 1986. Ryan’s black sweater-vest, on the other hand, might be the biggest sweater-inspired eyesore since Bill Cosby ruled Thursday night. The burly coach has singlehandledly undone all the fine work done by Chandler Bing and Jim Tressel, and in all honesty, I’m not sure the sweater-vest will ever recover.
But it wasn’t fashion that did in Ryan and the Jets. It was Adam Sandler. Before the game, Ryan spoke to Bob Costas – who himself bravely tried to pull off a black mock turtleneck – about his role in next year’s movie, I Hate You, Dad, alongside the Jack & Jill funnyman. Recall that back in 2007, Jets coach Eric Mangini – The Man-Genius – cameoed on an episode of The Sopranos. The next season, the promising Jets crashed to 4-12. Thus, Ryan’s Hollywood minute was a bad sign (though at least he left his sweater-vest at home during his scenes in the film.)
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