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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 08/10/2011

Belichick and Ryan playing high-stakes poker


Bill Belichick is focused on one-upping Rex Ryan. (Winslow Townson - AP)
Like Alex Rodriguez, Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan are engaged in a game of high stakes poker. While Belichick bet on Albert Haynesworth to improve his defense, Ryan went all in on Plaxico Burress to improve his offense. Did Belichick call?

No, Belichick has raised him Shaun Ellis, a Patriot-killing Jet last year. Ryan’s response? “There’s no way I’m going to wish him (Ellis) well. There’s no chance of that.”

And so the the New York/Boston rivalry, already overblown in baseball, is escalating in the NFL to levels that only Derek Jeter and David Ortiz might understand. To paraphrase Wes Welker, New York is currently leading by a toe. Last year’s playoff victory by the Jets over the Patriots gave the Jets the lead.

But anyone who counts out Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (well, except for the last seven years) is clearly foolish. Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest NFL coach in history. Tom Brady, I would argue, is the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

And the Jets? Well, Rex Ryan is already one of the most entertaining coaches in NFL history, while Mark Sanchez, some would argue, is one quarterback in the history of the NFL. Yet Sanchez, despite his pedestrian numbers, has a certain something that seems to show up at the biggest moments. At times, he is almost Brady-esque. So on the subject of the Jets quarterback, did I just contradict myself? Yes I did. My point is that Mark Sanchez is a mediocre quarterback, except when he isn’t.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history, except when he is battered by defensive lineman. That’s when Brady becomes mediocre.

Last year, Shaun Ellis battered Brady. This year, Ellis is Brady’s teammate.

With a Parcells/Belichick history feeding the Jets/Patriots rivalry, the tussle between the two AFC East franchises has been intense for more than a decade. But this year, it’s looking to go up a notch and there is nothing better to fuel a rivalry than a head coach with his body half full of chromosomes from the legendary Buddy Ryan. Rex Ryan is loud, brash, and so far, at least against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, he has backed up all the talk.

And Belichick? The hoodie just mumbled, and then he acquired two more defensive lineman — Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. But it was the signing of Ellis that proves the hoodie understands math as well as high-stakes poker. By subtracting from the Jets, he added to his defense. That’s simple arithmetic.

So while Rex Ryan has added Burress and then Derrick Mason for Mark Sanchez to throw to, Belichick added a handful of lineman to batter Sanchez before he can throw. What does it all mean? It means New England and New York are ready for some football.

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Brian Tarcy at briantarcy.com is the co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Football" with Joe Theismann, and the creator of the NFL humor site Whatzgonnahappen

By Brian Tarcy  |  10:20 AM ET, 08/10/2011

Tags:  Brian Tarcy

 
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