The Patriots and Jets do battle twice each year and the games are usually some of the most heated and competitive of the season. With yet another offseason's influx of green blood on the Patriots roster, this year's match up offers another in a series of hard-fought battles between extremely familiar enemies.
When two undefeated division opponents, especially in the realigned NFL, meet early in the year the game will always be an important one. But when you take into account the histories of these franchises, the histories of these cities in all sports and the extreme familiarity that exists, the game is magnified ten fold. While this year's game might not have the hype that has accompanied the games in past years, the rivalry remains as strong as ever.
But as much as this year's game is a product of history, it is also simply an important division game. While all parties involved know the history of the player movement, coach movement and the battles on field, they also know that in order to continue early-season success they must go through a familiar foe.
"It's always a big challenge, because they've always had a good defense," Jets running back and former Patriot Curtis Martin said. "They always put pressure on you and they've always played with a lot of fire so it's the same challenge it has always been. It's not like the Patriots have just started playing good defense. They've been playing good defense."
Martin has had significant success in games against his former team, but might not get the chance in this meeting. He injured his ankle in the Jets victory over Buffalo in Week 1 and is listed as questionable for this week's game.
Like Martin, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick had some nice things to say about the Jets as he prepared to face his former employer.
"Watching them all this year, this is a pretty impressive team," Belichick said. "This is a team that I think is a good, solid team. They've played well in all three areas of the game. So we're on the road in the division. I think we've got our work cut out for us this week. It's a short week so we've got a lot of work to do."
Some of Belichick's newest players and ex-Jets were only too happy to discuss their knowledge of this week's opponent. Late free agent signing Victor Green spoke highly of Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet, a guy he is likely to cross paths with on numerous occasions come Sunday.
"I pretty much know all their guys," Green said. "I was with them for a couple of years and Wayne for a long time so I pretty much know what they are capable of. Wayne is a guy that works as hard as anybody and he's got great hands. He's a guy that you definitely have to put somebody on or he can kill you."
Offseason border war side switcher Steve Martin also chimed in on a guy he will face this week, Jets center Kevin Mawae. Mawae has been to three-consecutive Pro Bowls and is a guy that Belichick called "one of the top linemen in the league."
"I think I have the inside corner on him because I know a lot about him, a lot more than most guys do," Martin said of Mawae. "He holds. He hits at the end of the play. What can't he do? He'd bit you if he could. I mean he'll poke you in the eye and talk bad to you, but that is Kevin. He's a unique player. He's a very good player and I have a lot of respect for him."
Martin was also eager to give his view on the rivalry as a guy who has seen it from all sides. Not only did Martin play for the Jets in 2001, he now calls New England home and can also remember looking in on the rivalry from afar earlier in his career.
"I think it shapes out to be [a rivalry]," Martin said. "I mean I have only been a part of it for two years. You hear about it across the league, but when you actually see it it is like, 'Wow there is a lot of friction around here.' But on the same note I am up here with a lot of the same guys I played with last year. So I mean I understand why there is a rivalry."
So there is no way around it, no matter how you approach this Sunday's game between the Patriots and the Jets it is a big one. From familiarity to geography to possible playoff positioning, Sunday at 1 p.m. at Giants Stadium a battle will unfold. The winner will walk away with heads held high, bragging rights until Dec. 22 and a feeling of pride over a familiar foe.