As last night’s score moved from 31-3 to 38-3 and Tom Brady kept throwing the ball until it was 45-3 and then he remained in the game — and threw passes — until the Pats’ last drive with less than three minutes to play, we began to wonder whether the Patriots were giving the Jets extra motivation for a postseason rematch.
And then we realized what the Patriots were trying to do. They want to avoid a rematch.
By demoralizing the Jets, who next play the Dolphins, Steelers, and Bears before traveling to Buffalo, we think the Patriots have tried to spark a tailspin that will knock the Jets out of the playoffs completely. It happened most recently to the Jets in 2008, when 8-3 became 9-7 and the Jets missed the postseason and their head coach got fired.
With a three-game lead over the cluster of 6-6 teams hoping to rise up and steal the No. 6 seed, it really would take an all-out collapse to send the Jets packing. But even if the Jets still hold a spot in the postseason, they’d have to navigate the tournament the hard way, going on the road to Indy or Arrowhead before earning at some point a chance to go back to Foxborough.
The Pats seemed to be willing to risk facing a fired-up Jets team the next time around, given the chance that the uppercut delivered on Monday night will end up being a knockout punch.
Either way, the Patriots now hold a one-game lead plus the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers for the top seed in the AFC, which means that it’s highly likely that the Pats will need to win only two January games in Foxboro to earn a return trip to the Super Bowl.
The way the Pats are performing right now, it won’t matter who shows up to play them. But if they were telling the truth, they’d say that they hope it’s not the Jets.