The New England Patriots turned their season around in plenty of time.
It's probably too late for the New York Jets, especially if they drop their sixth straight game when they visit the heavily favored Patriots on Thursday night.
"We're desperate, to say the least," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
The Patriots (4-2) quickly recovered from their low point, a 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that unleashed speculation quarterback Tom Brady was slipping and coach Bill Belichick's genius was fading.
Unlike the Jets (1-5), that slide lasted just one week. A 43-17 rout of the NFL's last unbeaten team, the Cincinnati Bengals, took care of that. And they followed it with a 37-22 road win over the Buffalo Bills.
"We'll have to keep perspective," Brady said, "not ride the highs and lows because there's a lot of them."
The Patriots had just five offensive touchdowns in a stretch of 14 quarters, then scored seven in the last eight. Against Buffalo, Brady had his best game of the season with 361 yards passing, four touchdown passes and completions to 10 receivers.
Ryan certainly didn't believe the criticism of the two-time MVP.
"That was hysterical," he said. "You know what I mean? It's like, 'Yeah, really? OK.' I mean, come on."
Now if he could only brush off criticism of his own quarterback so easily.
Geno Smith is last in passer rating in the league and was replaced in the fifth game by Michael Vick, who said he wasn't prepared. Smith started last Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Denver Broncos and Ryan is sticking with him against the Patriots.
"We have an opportunity here to kind of right the ship with our first division game," Smith said. "There is a shot. It's definitely one that's a stretch, but as long as we've got a shot, we've got an opportunity."
The first-place Patriots have a big edge over their last-place AFC East rival.
Brady has won 40 consecutive regular-season home games against AFC opponents and is 6-0 in Thursday night games. And a New England defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest yards in the NFL goes against an offense that has gained the third fewest.
The Jets rushed for just 31 yards against Denver, but the Patriots are wary of the potential of running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson.
"They're a big part of their offense," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said, not necessarily a good thing considering how the offense has struggled. "When you have two guys like that, it makes it tough to stop the running game."
Some things to look for as Ryan tries to break the longest losing streak in his six seasons as Jets coach:
INJURY LIST: Both teams will be without key players who sustained major injuries last Sunday. Jets CB Dee Milliner (torn right Achilles tendon) and left guard Brian Winters (torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee) were placed on season-ending injured reserve. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo, their leading tackler, and running back Stevan Ridley, their top rusher, are out with serious right knee injuries.
"It hurts to lose a guy who's given so much to this team for so long," Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower said of Mayo. "Not one man can fill those shoes."
REVIS VS. RYAN: Darrelle Revis faces the team with which he developed into a star cornerback from 2007-12 before leaving the Jets for Tampa Bay. In last year's opener, he had one tackle for the Buccaneers against his former team. He'll play the Jets for the second time on Thursday night.
"He's a great player, obviously," Ryan said. "Matching him on the top receivers and things like that. He's still just a great player."
GETTING THEIR KICKS: If the game comes down to field goals, both teams are in good shape. Nick Folk has made all nine of his attempts for the Jets and Stephen Gostkowski is 16 for 17 for the Patriots. He made his first 13, then missed a 36-yarder on a bad snap last Sunday. Then he connected from 42, 53 and 40 yards.
TURNING IT OVER: The Jets are tied for last in the NFL with a minus-9 turnover differential. The Patriots are tied for first at plus-9. Last Sunday, the Jets had a chance to tie with the ball deep in their territory with less than a minute left. But two plays later, Aqib Talib returned an interception for the clinching touchdown for Denver.
LOOKING AHEAD: After Thursday, the Jets' best hope for getting into contention is their easier schedule. In their past five games, the opposing quarterbacks were Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. And now Brady. But in their last nine games of the season, they face Miami and Buffalo twice each and New England, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tennessee once each.
The Jets game is the first of three in a row for the Patriots at home before a bye.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL