What if the Jets beat the Patriots?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The presumption is the New England Patriots will smash the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Gillette Stadium.

Las Vegas has the Patriots pegged by two scores.

Morning headlines in the New York newspapers include references to what a Jets loss will mean for head coach Rex Ryan. The New York Daily News used the phrases "embarrassing themselves" and "a sob story."

We've been reminded all week, as we usually are after a Patriots loss, they rarely lose two straight (not since November 2006) and even less frequently get swept by division opponents (not since 2000).

Few think the Jets can defeat the Patriots again this year. A sweep will be more difficult for all the reasons you've considered this week: Tom Brady is more at ease in the pocket; Wes Welker will play; Randy Moss' back doesn't hurt; Jerod Mayo is in; Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington are out.

But let's stop for a moment and consider what would happen if the Jets pull off the road upset.

The AFC East standings wouldn't look so obvious anymore. The Patriots were two minutes from running away with the division last Sunday, but falling to the Jets not only would give the Patriots two losses in a row, but maybe three. They will visit the New Orleans Saints next week in the Superdome.

A Patriots setback on Sunday would put the Jets and Miami Dolphins only one game back with six to play. Because of how the conference is sorting itself out, it would appear the only way for an AFC East team to get into the playoffs would be to win the division.

The Dolphins would appear to have the inside track on the Jets because of momentum and remaining opponents, but the Dolphins' hopes are tempered by mounting injuries.

The Jets, considered all but dead because they've lost five of their past six games, can get back in the hunt with a big surprise in Gillette Stadium.

That probably won't happen, but it sure would make the rest of the season more interesting if it did.