FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -Brett Favre gripped the sides of the podium as he spoke, his camouflage cap and shorts making him look as though he were preparing for his latest hunting expedition.
Well, truth is, he is.
This week is the reason the New York Jets brought him in to be their quarterback on that shocking summer night in August, and he knows it.
The New England Patriots have been the hunted in the AFC East - heck, the entire AFC for that matter - for a long time. Favre gets another shot at chasing down the Patriots in a big spot, with first place on the line Thursday night.
``I know exactly what this game means, the weight it carries,'' Favre said. ``I'm well aware of what New England has done over the past decade or so. It just comes down to football.''
He makes it sound so simple, and maybe it is. After all, Favre spent the previous 17 seasons in the NFC, so he wasn't here when Bill Parcells bolted the Patriots for the Jets, and took Curtis Martin along with him.
when Eric Mangini left Belichick to become the coach of the Jets, creating a rift between the student and teacher that came to a head with the Spygate scandal of last season.
Still, Favre knows of New England's dominance in this decade, with the Patriots 13-3 in the series since the Jets won both meetings in 2000.
``Until we beat these guys or until anyone beats these guys and knocks them off from the top, then they're always going to be the team to beat,'' Favre said. ``We know that.''
The Jets came close in Week 2, falling 19-10 at home, but Favre was still trying to figure out the offense and learn his receivers' names. The revamped offensive line with Alan Faneca and Damien Woody was still jelling, and the defense still developing.
Nine weeks later, New York is a much different team than the one Matt Cassel beat in his first start at any level since high school.
``I don't want to say we didn't feel good about our team the second week,'' Favre said. ``With each week, I feel like we're getting better and better.''
The Jets have played like juggernauts the last two weeks, blowing away the Bills and routing the Rams by a combined 73-20. They're off to their first 6-3 start since 2004, lead the AFC in scoring, have one of the league's toughest run defenses and routinely introduce opposing quarterbacks to the turf.
They've got to beat the Patriots.
Forget the matchup with the undefeated Tennessee Titans in two weeks. In order to move forward, the Jets must exorcise the red, white and blue demons that have haunted them for so long.
And with Favre leading the way, New York believes the time is now.
``To get this win this week,'' cornerback Darrelle Revis said, ``would be huge for us.''
Favre has been far from fantastic this season, but the Jets knew what they were getting when they traded for him and jettisoned the efficient Chad Pennington. One of the game's greatest gunslingers has been incredible at times - his six-touchdown performance against Arizona - and incredibly shaky at others - his three-interception game against Kansas City. But his presence alone has given the Jets a mental edge they haven't had in years, especially in a game of these proportions.
``I haven't really thought about it,'' he said with that big, familiar grin. ``That may be true. Then again, it may not be. That may have been why we brought Kris Jenkins in. Let's put it off on Kris.''
He might be right, based on the dominant performance by the defense so far. But, to a man, the Jets have acknowledged that they never feel they're out of any game as long as Favre is back there throwing.
That element of confidence, maybe more than anything he actually does on the field, has been his most valuable addition.
it, since Joe Namath led the Jets to the Super Bowl in 1969, this is a franchise that has put its hopes for a return trip on the arms of guys like Richard Todd, Ken O'Brien, Boomer Esiason, Neil O'Donnell, Vinny Testaverde and Pennington. They were all pretty good quarterbacks at times, but none brought the intangibles Favre does.
Sit in on a press conference with Favre, and you can feel the intensity. He'll look directly into the eyes of his questioner and come back with a 5-minute answer that's usually so good and detailed, it's hard to believe it wasn't rehearsed.
The players say he's the same in team meetings and even more so in the huddle. Sure, he's 39 now and doesn't have the rocket arm he had when he helped Green Bay to consecutive Super Bowl appearances 10 years ago. He still has every bit of the passion, though, and that has been good enough so far for the Jets.
Think some of the Packers don't wish Favre was still their quarterback now? He led them within a win of the Super Bowl last season, and Aaron Rodgers looked good early but he and Green Bay have slumped to 4-5.
Meanwhile, the Jets are playing their biggest game since their playoff loss at New England in 2006, with a chance to put past failures far behind them.
``Having Brett speaks for itself,'' Revis said. ``He runs the offense well, he's a leader. We just let Brett handle what he handles because we know he does a great job. I'm just happy to have him on my team.''
And for the Jets, that might just be enough to help the hunters finally come out on top.
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