Where’s the noise? Where’s the bluster and the braggadocio? The New York Jets play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Thursday night and it seems someone hit the mute button on the eve of one of the NFL’s more personal rivalries.

Jets vs. Patriots. It’s one of the chest-thumping games on the schedule days before the opening kickoff. But these aren’t normal times, are they?

The Patriots (4-2) were on the verge of shaking off their new vulnerability with back-to-back statement wins over Cincinnati and Buffalo. Then Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley were lost for the season to injuries. Another linebacker and running back will step up to plug the holes, but it won’t be the same.

The Jets are 1-5, and second-year quarterback Geno Smith hasn’t shown the aptitude or the attitude to lead his team out of its morass. One more bad loss could or should cost Jets Coach Rex Ryan his job.

Bill Belichick won’t gloat and his players can’t. Kansas City kicked the Patriots to the curb, 41-14, three weeks ago and there are no assurances Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won’t do the same two weeks from now. If someone wants to make noise, they’ll do so with some risk.

Say hello to Ty Law, the retired defensive back and recent Patriots Hall of Fame inductee. He’ll step onto the turf at halftime to hear the applause and cheers from the crowd. Wednesday, there was no muzzle on him. This rivalry, he said, has lost something because “the Jets haven’t been a very good football team lately. In my opinion.

“Even though (the Jets) have beaten the Patriots under Rex Ryan, they’re not much of a threat when it comes down to it. You’re going to bring out the best in both teams (but) I think it’s not as prestigious as it used to be.”

When Bill Parcells left the Patriots to coach the Jets and took running back Curtis Martin with him it hurt. It was also temporary after Belichick fled the Jets to work for Bob Kraft and the Patriots and won three Super Bowls.

Former Belichick disciple Eric Mangini switches sides, goes to the Jets and New England fans are introduced to Spygate. Every Patriots success afterward is tarnished by the whispers that Belichick still somehow videotapes opponents’ workouts.

Players can become free agents and sign with other teams and there are few protests. Someone heads to the Jets or to the Patriots and they’re branded turncoats. Law knows. He played for the Jets but is back in the good graces of the Patriots.

“There’s always that little bad blood scenario with all of us interchanging,” said Law on a conference call. “Some of the top players, coaches. It’s always going to be there.”

The Jets wouldn’t pay defensive back Darrelle Revis what he wanted and now he plays with the Patriots after a stint in Tampa Bay. Revis hasn’t kicked the Jets publicly but he and Law are alike. Law would call out opposing wide receivers in team meetings.

“That’s how I got myself prepared,” said Law. “I wanted my teammates to feed off my confidence. I wanted to be contagious, letting guys know I was going out there to do my job.” Which is what Belichick asks of all his players: do your job.

The Jets will go after quarterback Tom Brady early and often. New York’s secondary is tattered, with one interception in six games. The Jets can’t give Brady time to be Tom Terrific.

And Brady doesn’t know how much time his patchwork offensive line can give him. Throw in a weather forecast for heavy rain and hope that Brandon Bolden, 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, can summon his LeGarrette Blount impersonation and run for 166 yards. As the 250-pound Blount did in the rain in last year’s playoff game with Indianapolis.

Once, Patriots vs. Jets was for top dog in the AFC East. Now it’s a game between two flawed teams both looking for evidence that this season still has promise. The Patriots can bury the Jets Thursday night with a win.

A Patriots’ loss? The sound of the crash would be the noise you don’t want to hear.


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