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Patriots' 60-second rant: Jets game teetering on 'must-win'

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Nov. 30, 2010 @ 7:31 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The Patriots have looked like one of, if not the, best team in the NFL the last three weeks.

They walked into Pittsburgh and had little problem with the Steelers, shutting down QB Ben Roethlisberger early and racking up plenty of yardage against the vaunted Steelers' defense.

The next week, they hosted Peyton Manning and the Colts and again showed a prolific offense, holding off a late Manning charge for the win.

Then in Week 12, the Pats got a scare from the Lions in the first half before exploding in the second half and blowing out Detroit 45-24.

They are 9-2 and playing their best football, with Tom Brady playing like an MVP. Despite some tough games remaining on the schedule, the Pats should make the playoffs.

A loss on Monday night to the Jets does not kill the Patriots' playoff hopes, nor does it mean much more than home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (not to discount Brady's success in Foxborough). But if the Patriots fall to the Jets on national TV, the confidence that a team mixed with rookies and veterans could make the Super Bowl is gone, and the Jets will continue to reign supreme.

The players and coaches are well aware of the implications surrounding the game (and because it is on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," the rest of you will all know every detail by kickoff). As good as the Patriots have looked, their Achilles' heel remains their defense, a unit now ranked 31st in the league. If they fall to the Jets, the doubters will return and say that this is a wild-card team and no more. A win, and the Pats are the best team in the NFL.

Because of the doubters, the Patriots need this game more than the Jets. While the Jets have been shaky, they don't have the question marks surrounding their roster that the Patriots have. A second loss to the Jets, and this time at home, would make most people believe the Jets simply have the upper hand in the rivalry this season, and a future meeting in the playoffs would produce the same result. No, a loss does not kill the Patriots' season, but to be the best you need to beat the best, and while the Pats have beaten the Chargers, Ravens, Steelers and Colts, they still have that loss to the Jets, and another one shows that the Patriots are merely playing second-fiddle this season.

It's the quiet genius Bill Belichick vs. the boisterous Rex Ryan. It's Brady vs. Sanchez. Wilfork vs. Mangold. The game is full of intriguing battles with the winner gaining much more than simply being alone in first place. It won't be an easy game (don't be fooled by the Patriots being favored), but a win would go a long way in making this a special season for the Patriots.

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