Neither the Patriots nor the Jets need any explanation of what's at stake in Sunday's rematch of the two AFC East rivals. Three short weeks ago the Pats knocked off the Jets but their rivals from New York quickly turned around and handed a loss to Josh Allen and the Bills, as the division race is as competitive as it's been in a long time.
Every game carries a lot of weight, especially over the final eight weeks of the season as the playoff jockeying becomes more intense. With four teams all looking to punch their postseason ticket, the Patriots' final four divisional games will largely define where their 2022 season ends up and it all starts this weekend with a hungry Jets team coming to Foxborough and looking for payback.
"It's always hard to beat a team twice no matter where you are," said linebacker Jahlani Tavai. "They have a bunch of film on us, hopefully, we correct those little mistakes we had in that previous game and hopefully we just do our jobs, that's the biggest thing. As long as everyone does their one-of-eleven I have faith that we can do whatever we want to do."
A physical and versatile linebacker who has been one of the new bright spots on defense, Tavai figures to play a key role in the matchup against a Jets offense that will want to get their rushing attack going.
"The reason it's so hard to beat a team twice is that they have that nasty taste in their mouth, same goes for us if we were playing a team that we lost to in these last three games," continued Tavai. "You have that nasty taste and you want to come back for revenge. Especially since they're coming here to play us at home. Our mentality's got to be a bully mentality, we have to be physical at every point of attack.
"It's going to be a physical game. You gotta bring your mouthpiece because it's going to be that kind of game every time you play a team twice."
Captain Matthew Slater dismissed reminders of last year's post-bye performance when New England lost four of their final five games including a season-ending blowout at the hands of the Bills. With eight games to go, this year's team has the chance to write a new ending and break the three-year cycle of late-season flameouts.
"When you have a great sense of urgency, you can't take anything for granted, we have to stay in the moment," said Slater. "Last year's obviously not going to have any bearing on this team and what happens this year."
Slater acknowledged the Jets are a different team than in years past, something he and his teammates could see coming as New York continued to add talented high-round draft picks to their personnel.
"They play the game the right way, I think you have to respect that. They play hard, they're coached well and obviously, they're much improved this year. We know Sunday's going to be tough," said Slater. "We're in the division. It's very clear how both teams feel about each other. It's very clear what both teams are hoping to do.
"Stakes are high, emotions will be high. It will be highly competitive and there's a lot on the line."