FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If you’re a fan of strategic board games like Chess, Checkers, Risk, Backgammon or Monopoly (not the McDonald’s version), then you’re going to love watching the New England Patriots play the New York Jets this afternoon.
Because when these two teams meet at Gillette Stadium at 4:25 p.m., it’s all about strategy. And it’s really all about in-game strategies.
Dating back to their AFL days, when the Jets were first known as the Titans, the Patriots have played the Jets more times (106) than any other team in their history.
So they know a little bit about each other.
And that’s why, said Bill Belichick, it doesn’t matter how much you prepare going into the game — though that’s important, too — the game is ultimately going to be decided by who can figure out what the other team is doing the quickest.
“I’m sure the game will start to unfold after the first series, the first time we have the ball, the first time they have the ball,” Belichick said. “There will be some elements of the game that we’ll say, ‘OK, this is going to be more important in this game than it has been in some other games.’ I don’t doubt that.
“I’m sure once we’ve played a quarter of this game, there will probably be a good percentage of what we’re going to see the remaining three quarters. Sure, I think it will happen right off the bat and then as one team adjusts, then the other team will try to counter that.”
The Patriots lead the all-time series between the teams by just one win: 53-52-1. Their seasons have mirrored each other so far this fall. Both teams are 3-3 entering the game, tied for first (and last) in the AFC East along with Miami and Buffalo, also both 3-3. The Patriots and Jets have played extremely well at times, extremely poorly at others.
“You know, you are what your record says,” said Mark Sanchez, the Jets quarterback. “That’s they way you’re judged.”
Both coaching staffs, the Patriots led by Belichick, the Jets by Rex Ryan, game-plan for each opponent, meaning they might do something well one week, and not do it at all the next.
That’s what makes both difficult to prepare for.
“A lot of the things that you work on this week that they ran against Indianapolis or Houston or San Francisco, you’re not going to see,” Belichick said of the Jets. “You’re going to see something that’s a little different based on what they think you’re going to do. That will be an element of the game.
“We know we’re going to have to adjust. They’re not going to lay it out there and say, ‘OK, here it is. Here’s where we’re at.’ They just don’t do that.”
Asked if it’s possible that one team can pull out something that will surprise the other, Belichick almost chuckled.
“Nine-foot line splits?” he asked, with a smile.
“I don’t know,” he continued. “I think it really comes down to execution. I’d be surprised if this game is won by a team that comes out running something that’s never been seen in the history of football before. I think this is going to a game of execution: blocking, tackling, running, throwing, catching, defending, kicking game.”
Tom Brady, who has a 15-4 record as a starting quarterback against the Jets in the regular season, said nothing the teams do will surprise anyone.
“We’ve played so many meaningful games against these guys,” he said. “It’s like, we do the scouting report and they go through the names on the list and you’re like, ‘I know every single one of these guys on the list.’ “
And that, he said, is what makes this game fun to play.
“We know what they do well and we try to find ways to exploit the things that we don’t think they do very well,” Brady said. “We probably know these guys better than just about anybody.”