Zach Wilson Credit: Bill Moore photo

The Jets and Patriots will forever be connected by their AFC roots and two legendary coaches in Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Belichick was a longtime assistant for Parcells first with the Giants then the Jets.

In one of the most bizarre and unexpected occurrences in NFL history, he famously spurned the Jets on Jan. 4, 2000, to succeed Parcells as the franchise’s next head coach shortly before a scheduled press conference was set to begin to formally make the announcement. Belichick met with the press for a little under an hour then exited the Jets facility.

Twenty-three days later, on Jan. 27, 2000, he was hired as the Patriots head coach and since then has led them to ten Super Bowls and won seven. One more anecdote, Jets linebacker Mo Lewis’ vicious hit on Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the second game of the 2001 season began the remarkable story of his then backup Tom Brady, who went on to arguably become the best quarterback of all-time.

From the time Belichick, who was the Patriots assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 1996, took over that team’s reins nearly 23 years ago, the Jets have made six playoff appearances and have not reached the Super Bowl. Their last trip to the postseason was 2010.

They can end the long drought this season and defeating the Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium this Sunday can be a significant step toward that goal. The
6-3 Jets are tied with the Buffalo Bills for second place in the AFC East behind the 7-3 division leading Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are well in the hunt at 5-4 and can pull even with the Jets with a win.

“The advantage of youth is that they’re not connected to all the history, what the organization has gone through,” said Jets head coach Robert Saleh to reporters on Monday. “They don’t know any better, they don’t have the scarring or the idea of what’s supposed to happen. They know they’re talented enough that if they don’t make mistakes, we’re going to be tough to beat. It’s what they know. It’s what we know.”

The Jets lost to the Patriots on Oct. 30 in Week 8 at MetLife Stadium by 22-17. So another defeat to New England could have significant implications for both teams in the playoff race. The Jets have won five of their last six games and are coming off their bye-week. In their previous game on Nov. 6 at home, they overtook the Bills 20-17 after trailing 14-10 at halftime in a gripping and confidence boosting win.

In the Jets’ loss to the Patriots, second-year quarterback Zach Wilson passed for 355 yards and two touchdowns but had three damaging interceptions. In another shared moment of Jets-Patriots history, the New England victory gave Belichick his 325th career win, moving him into second place on the NFL’s all-time list for head coaches.

“[People are] holding him hostage for four, five plays against New England, externally,” said Saleh of Wilson’s critical turnovers. “Internally we have a lot of faith in Zach to do it in an efficient manner…It’s hard to play quarterback in this league. It’s our job to make sure he’s not asked to do that constantly, but if asked we’re confident he can do it.”

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