The AFC East rivals meet Sunday for the first time since the NFL penalized New England $750,000 and a first-round draft pick for illegal sideline videotaping. But the animosity between them didn't start with Spygate, and it won't end when the two coaches -- former friends and colleagues -- meet for the perfunctory postgame handshake.
"I hate it when people say, 'Well, this one is really going to mean something.' Like the other 13 (games) didn't mean anything?" Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday. "We put everything into it that we can every week, so I hope that we go out there and play the best game of the year."
But for a team that has rarely been challenged this season, winning its first 13 games and approaching some of the NFL's most hallowed records, the game against the Jets offers something extra. The spying scandal did more than punish the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick; it also tarnished the three Super Bowl titles they've already won.
New England has already shown it can blow out opponents. Add in a little bit of revenge and the results could be historic -- oddsmakers originally established the Patriots as a 27-point favorite, a record for an NFL game that doesn't involve replacement players. The line has gone down a bit since.
"It's a passionate rivalry, and you enjoy the games. There's a lot of intensity on both sides and that's what you expect going into it," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "All the external things are things you can't focus on and can't look at because there's so much other work to do that's going to affect the outcome."
Mangini speaks highly of Belichick.
"I've got a lot of respect for him and he's done a lot for me and my career and nothing has changed from the first time that we played them," Mangini said.
Asked whether he thought there would even be a postgame handshake, Mangini said, "I don't expect to do anything outside the norm that I do every game with every head coach that I play against."
The two had a quick embrace last year after the Patriots beat the Jets 37-16 in the playoffs, though the moment was sort of spoiled when Belichick shoved a Boston Globe photographer.
Pressed on whether there was any personal aspect to the game, Belichick turned serious.
"It's the next game. It's a division game," he said. "Everything that's in the past is in the past. Everything that's in the future doesn't really matter. Right now it's a one-game season (and) we're focused on the New York Jets. That's all I'm focused on. And I'm happy to talk about that, and that's really about the extent of it."