|Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas will be looking for a rare win against the Patriots, who have won eight of the past nine AFC East titles. (US Presswire)|
The challenge for all teams is to keep changing but not out-fox themselves or shoot themselves in the foot. For the Jets (4-6, 2-2 AFC East), the priority is the latter because the Patriots (7-3, 3-0 AFC East) always do the former extremely well. But one of the Jets' closest games this year was against the Patriots in Week 7 when they lost, 29-26, in overtime.
LB Bryan Thomas has played the Patriots 25 times in his 11-year career. And to quote an old adage, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Patriots have been consistently at the top of the AFC East division for the better part of a decade. Since 2002 (when the Jets last won the division), the Patriots have taken every title except 2008 (Miami). And yet the Patriots have continually changed their schemes over the years -- all seamlessly. "Now they're more of an up-tempo team," Thomas said. "They used to be a pounding team. They can do it all. That's what makes them so good."
Another thing that C Nick Mangold noted is how they stay consistently honed in on the fundamentals and the details. "A lot of [what they do] relies on sound technique and knowing your job," he said. He said the encouraging thing from the Jets vantage point is that they are, "Starting to play a little more mistake-free football."
The Jets have been frustrated all year by what they refer to as self-inflicted wounds -- turnovers and penalties. The Jets had accrued 60 penalties worth 530 yards this season. Interestingly, the Patriots are about even with 59 penalties for 537 yards. The difference is turnovers, where the Jets have 17 fumbles, losing eight and the Patriots have eight fumbles, losing four.
A toned-down CB Antonio Cromartie (he once called Patriots QB Tom Brady an "asshole") was more reserved this week and talked about what the Jets needed to do, rather than verbally taking on the opponent. He echoed what others have said: "We've got to make sure we don't beat ourselves. We've got to play football the best way we know how."
S LaRon Landry, also known to occasionally sound off, said of the rivalry and their first game this year: "What happened in the is past is the past. We didn't win." As for what they can do to stop Brady, "He's one of the top three quarterbacks (in the NFL); one of the elite," Landry said. "Keep him off his target and play well."
The Jets season is on a precipice. Thanksgiving night's game could have them working toward next year or launch them toward a playoff run. All depends on how they play it.