By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) -- Todd Bowles seems like a good NFL head coach with the way he's running the 4-1 New York Jets this season. They have maybe the league's best defense and have also moved the ball effectively on offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. They are 7th in the league in points per game and 8th in total yards per game.
But like most of the league so far this season, the Jets haven't faced much legitimate competition. They get their first real test of the season on Sunday when they play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
And it is then when you will find out if Bowles truly "gets it" when it comes to coaching against Bill Belichick.
It feels like the Belichick Effect has infected and flummoxed teams this season worse than ever before, with coaching staffs trying to outsmart the un-outsmart-able and defeating themselves in the process.
You might recall the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley derailing a strong opening drive with a preposterously unnecessary trick play on opening night. And Chuck Pagano's words-cannot-express-how-badly-it-failed fake punt will go down as perhaps the foulest, most heinous brain-fart in the history of passing cerebral gas.
So many coaches, even good ones, lose their minds preparing for Belichick and the Patriots. They morph into a mix of John Nash and Howard Hughes, locked in a cabin with newspaper clippings and red string hanging everywhere, only taking breaks to pee in jars.
Some teams say "let's just play our game and not deviate from what we do well," and that doesn't work because Belichick forces you to do just that. Others say "we need to try some new tricks they haven't seen before," and that doesn't work either because Belichick is prepared for it. The Hoodie is usually prepared for everything.
John Harbaugh is typically a coach I would say gets it, and showed it with the way the Ravens played in the first half of the AFC Divisional playoff. But even he has visions of Belichicks dancing in his head, as evidenced by his postgame bellyaching about "deception" with the Patriots' tricky (but legal) formations. I thought Pete Carroll would get it, but in the end outsmarted himself at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.
Patriots Nation knows well by now what it takes to beat Brady & Belichick, and it hasn't changed since Brady and the offense launched into the stratosphere in 2007. On defense, pressure from only the front four is mandatory, and tight man-to-man coverage while flooding the short-to-intermediate areas of the field usually works as well.
On offense, you need to throw the ball. You need to go for big plays down the field, all day. You need to take chances, without getting silly about it. You need to go for it on 4th down in the red zone and almost never settle for field goals. Belichick rarely takes his foot off the gas on offense, and neither should you.
Does Bowles understand these things? On defense I think he does, and he has the personnel to pull it off. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie can provide strong coverage while the defensive front of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Damon Harrison can be ferocious getting to the quarterback, and they will be up against a banged up Patriots offensive line.
But when the Jets get the ball for the first time - probably when Belichick wins the toss with his two-headed coin and defers - everyone will find out if Bowles really knows what it takes. If Chris Ivory runs up into the line and Fitzpatrick goes for a play-action pass on third down, they don't get it. But if Fitzpatrick takes shots downfield to connect with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and tests the Patriots' questionable secondary, and (I can't stress this enough) does it for 60 minutes, then Patriots Nation could be in for a long day.
Belichick is so far ahead of every other NFL head coach it's almost frustrating. As a spoiled Patriots fan I know it's insufferable to say to opposing fans, but I want someone to go toe to toe with Belichick and give him a real challenge just to restore my faith in NFL coaches. I'm almost sick of seeing all these other head coaches soil themselves just thinking about the Hoodie and TB12. I want to see a competitive, tough game between the Patriots and Jets on Sunday.
Of course I'd be fine with a blowout too, but those get boring. Nail-biters are more exhilarating 100 times out of 100. I want the Jets and their fans wearing adult diapers out of excitement, not fear.
The Jets have enough players to give the Patriots a tough test on Sunday. But their performance will come down to whether Todd Bowles knows what is necessary as a coach to achieve that, and for the sake of entertainment I hope he does.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com and devout Belichick worshipper. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.
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