There was no way the New England Patriots and the New York Jets were going to avoid each other in the AFC playoffs.
The banter has already started.
But make no mistake about it, cocky Jets coach Rex Ryan has a method to his madness.
By telling the media that Sunday’s playoff game in Foxborough is “personal” between him and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, he is smartly diverting attention from his players.
He is turning the game into a duel between the head coaches.
His players will admire the fact he is putting himself on the line and that will serve as extra motivation.
The Jets are in a no-lose situation while the Patriots are in a no-win situation.
On Dec. 6, in front of a Monday night viewing audience, the Patriots embarrassed the Jets 45-3.
Ryan had all but predicted a win before the game and had to eat a huge piece of humble pie.
Ryan knows there is no way the Patriots are going to beat his Jets by 42 points again on Sunday.
It will be a much closer game and, even if the Jets lose, they will save face.
They have already upset Indianapolis on the road and have three road playoff wins the past two seasons.
If they win, Ryan will be the toast of New York and his Jets will have a legitimate shot to make the Super Bowl.
Thanks to the late-season demise of the Giants, who didn’t make the playoffs, the Jets are dominating the sports pages in New York and Ryan is loving it.
Meanwhile, Belichick is low-key and humble and has wisely told his players not to get involved in a war of words with Ryan or the Jets.
Teams from New York and Boston have always been archrivals due to their close proximity to each other and the passion of their fans.
But rivalries can stagnate if the teams aren’t title contenders.
The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers were rivals in the 1970s but the Bruins haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1972 and the Rangers went 54 years between Cups before winning it for the last time in 1994. The Celtics won the NBA title in 2008, ending a 22-year drought, while the New York Knicks haven’t won an NBA championship since 1973.
The rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, who have combined for three World Series titles since 2004, is the best in all of sports thanks to their recent success.
Switching sports, now that Maine has played every Hockey East team, it is evident that Boston College and New Hampshire are going to battle for the league’s regular season title. BC has just started playing up to its potential but senior goalie John Muse is having his best season and bailed them out early. They’ll make another run for their third NCAA title in four years.
New Hampshire has been surprisingly good. They’ve shown tremendous resiliency with several late goals that have produced wins or ties.
Where UNH struggles in is the NCAA playoffs (14-24 overall, 12-16 since ’85).
Maine will battle upstart Merrimack, Boston University and Northeastern for the final two home quarterfinal playoff berths.
The Black Bears have already won the season series with Northeastern and have two home games apiece with BU and Merrimack.
So they control their own destiny.
If the Bears play with grit and a competitive fire, they could finish as high as third.