Patriots should be up for the “challenge.”

DON’T BELIEVE the hype you’re hearing out of Foxborough, Mass.

The J-E-T-S, this week’s sacrificial lambs for the powerful Patriots, are an M-E-S-S.

Their quarterback has mono and they’re down to their third stringer. Their top wide receiver and so many others are hurt. They started their season with three good quarters, with much of the positive work done by their defense, but have scored three points in their last five-plus quarters.

“I’d say mentally this is not the easiest game because of the amount of things that they do and how well they do them,” Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “So that’ll be a challenge for us here, as well as just what normally comes with preparation for the game.”

A challenge? If this is a challenge, then we’re all grossly misjudging both of these old rivals. With Sam Darnold in there, maybe. Quincy Enunwa catching Darnold passes, perhaps. Tom Brady hurting? Wouldn’t matter.

Just can’t see this being a game — and the Jets are followed on the schedule by road games at Buffalo and Washington, the Giants at home, at the Jets and home against the Browns.

Hardly a march through the desert.

The Pats, whose defense has been as close to perfect as possible through the two wins (three points allowed) WILL have to deal with Le’Veon Bell. Said Belichick: “He’s a very explosive player. Yeah, if it’s there, he’ll hit it. If not, he does an excellent job of setting the blockers up and making the defenders commit, and then finding space and going. You don’t see him running into the back of his blockers and running into a pile and things like that. He makes guys commit, and then he finds space and is able to get to it. He’s an excellent player.”

Count on the Patriots handling Bell and anything else the Jets might have to offer.

Speaking of Brady, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets: “Raekwon McMillan told me when he hit Brady on Sunday — a perfectly legit hit — the referee told him “Stay off Tom.” NFL still protecting those QBs amid several early-season injuries to marquee ones.”

Jalen boasts

Naturally, with the Patriots always there to collect unhappy players from other teams, their fans paid immediate attention to Jalen Ramsey saying he wants out of Jacksonville.

Ramsey also says there “ain’t no doubt” who is the best cornerback in the league.

Ramsey, right?

Not so fast. He forgot to say that.

“I was not aware that he has become such an impassioned fan of Stephon Gilmore,” tweeted WBZ’s Michael Hurley.

Others appreciated Ramsey not mentioning his own name when talking about the best CB in the league.

Wednesday, Jets coach Adam Gase cast his vote … for Gilmore.

“Well, I mean (Gilmore’s) probably the best corner in the league,” Gase said on a conference call with the New England media. “Just the fact of, if he’s one-on-one, he’s very difficult to get open on. He has a very good knowledge of the game. He understands splits, he understands break points, he understands stems and things like that, that really make it challenging for any receiver. But as a play-caller, you’re aware of that and just have to understand that he’s playing chess while everybody else is playing checkers.

“He’s really, especially the past couple years, he’s playing at an extremely high level.”

Gilmore agreed with Gase, saying, “Anybody can say all that, but I just try to go out and do my job … Everybody has their opinion. You can’t control what other people say. You just gotta prove yourself each and every day and as long as you prove yourself, the truth comes out.”

Giant week

What happened with Carl and grandson Mike Yastrzemski at Fenway this week was truly something special, including the Hollywood bit of young Yaz hitting a home run Tuesday night. And Wednesday night, the Giants presented retiring manager Bruce Bochy with his 2,000th win.

Special moments. It would have been nice if the Red Sox were still relevant. But for the Sox, things were not special at all, as the season boiled down to seeing how Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts finish their special seasons.

The left side of the Red Sox infield are the first teammates ever with 30 homers and 50-plus doubles apiece in the same season.

More Devers, from the Red Sox’ post-game notes Wednesday: He is one of two third baseman in MLB history, regardless of age, with 30-plus homers. Alex Bregman (31 HR, 51 2B in 2018) is the other.

And, he became only the 11th player ever with 30+ HR, 100+ RBI, and 100+ runs in a season, all before turning 23...He joins Juan Soto, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Mathews, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Hal Trosky, Jimmie Foxx, and Mel Ott.

And, his “30 HR are tied for the most ever by a Red Sox third baseman (also Butch Hobson in 1977); and, “his AL-leading 84 XBH are the most ever by a Red Sox 3B in a season and the 2nd-most by a Red Sox in a season prior to turning 23 (Ted Williams, 86 in 1939); and, “Is the 8th player in MLB history with 84+ XBH in a season, all prior to turning 23...He joins Joe DiMaggio (2x), Alex Rodriguez, Hal Trosky, Albert Pujols, Ted Williams, Eddie Mathews, and Johnny Bench.”

By the way, when examining what went wrong for your defending champions, consider this: Chris Sale and David Price combined to go 13-16. Think about that. For $46 million.

Special book

We often recommend good reads to you in this space but here’s a book that is also doing the charity thing.

Column pal Brian Kalfass, whose son is a cancer survivor, has written “The Adventures of Fenway & Hooper At Fenway Park,” a classy children’s book marvelously illustrated by Meaghan Arbital.

It’s a book that depicts Fenway and Hooper, two dogs and “the adventure of a lifetime through America’s most beloved ballpark,” and is filled with Red Sox historical factoids. Great stuff. The hard cover book sells for $24.99, with $2 from every sale going “for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.” The book is available at

If you didn’t hear, we give you the winners of the Red Sox’ minor league awards: Offensive Player of the Year: 1B/3B Triston Casas; Defensive Player of the Year: INF Ryan Fitzgerald; Pitcher of the Year: RHP Thad Ward; Baserunner of the Year: OF Jarren Duran; Latin Program Position Player of the Year: OF/1B Darel Belen; Latin Program Pitcher of the Year: LHP Nixson Muñoz. Remember the names.

And, from the club’s release: “Additionally, right-handed pitcher Trevor Kelley has been recognized as the 2019 recipient of the Lou Gorman Award. Created in 2011, the award is given annually to a Red Sox minor league player who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the major league team.”

The managerial 2,000 Club: Connie Mack (3,731), John McGraw (2,763), Tony La Russa (2,728), Bobby Cox (2,504), Joe Torre (2,326), Sparky Anderson (2,194), Bucky Harris (2,158), Joe McCarthy (2,125), Walter Alston (2,040) and Leo Durocher (2,008).Finally, you don’t think there’s any chance Theo Epstein comes back to the Red Sox, do you? Do you?


Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.