NFL Nation: Chris Russo

Posted by's Tim Graham

Their history involves stealing players, reneging on contracts, tattling to the commissioner, suing their bosses and then playing some football. All of it happens in the sports crucible that is Boston-New York contempt.

Now that's a rivalry.

 AP Photo/Winslow Townson
 The Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini relationship has heated up in recent years.

The New England Patriots and New York Jets have established their series as the NFL's most intense.

They'll meet Sunday at the Meadowlands in a game that could symbolize a shift in the AFC East. The Patriots don't have star quarterback Tom Brady anymore and are considered the underdogs. The Jets have another first-ballot Hall of Famer in Brett Favre.

"The New England Patriots are the standard bearers in the AFC East," said former Patriots and Jets running back Keith Byars. "But the Jets smell a little blood in the water."

Sunday's matchup is compelling, but it's merely another episode in a series that has been nothing short of fascinating for a generation.

Head coaches Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, sharing professional lineage and mutual disdain, have worked for both teams and accused each other of various transgressions (see the Spygate chapter in your Rivalry Handbook). Several assistants and 51 players have jumped back and forth since Bill Parcells became Patriots coach in 1993 and Jets coach in 1997.

"When Joe Walton was coaching the Jets, we weren't taking Jets-Patriots calls," said legendary New York sports talker Chris "Mad Dog" Russo. "It wasn't Boston versus New York like Red Sox-Yankees, but when Parcells got in the mix, that's when the Jets-Patriots rivalry began in earnestness and spiraled out of control.

"It's all off-the-field stuff. It transcends the actual games."

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