Rivalries lose a bit of their luster and spark when one team is struggling and can’t carry its weight.

Such has been the case with the New York Jets and their longstanding football feud with the New England Patriots which resumes tonight at Gillette Stadium. Of late the Jets losers of four straight to their AFC East foes haven’t held up their end of the bargain.

They’ve provided more comic relief than serious competition for the Pats. Last year’s ineptly hilarious Mark Sanchez butt fumble is the play that probably best sums up the downside turn of the franchise.

Still this is the Jets. It’s Rex Ryan. With them comes constant drama. It runs 24/7 at Florham Park or wherever they happen to go. The most recent story lines paint Ryan as a lame duck coach. There’s also a quarterback controversy. Rookie Geno Smith has the job now but will Mark Sanchez re-take the spot when he’s healthy? Needless to say jobs are on the line.

Heading into their 18-17 season-opening win against Tampa on Sunday many prognosticators had the Jets ranked as the worst team in the NFL.

Beating the favored Bucs with a supposedly unprepared rookie quarterback was surprising to say the least. It also gave Ryan a chance to stick it to the media. Now imagine what he could do if he somehow is able to stun the Pats tonight. Yes Rex is licking his chops for this one.

At least that’s the backdrop from Gang Green’s sideline.

The Pats?

No way no how Bill Belichick will allow the Jets to come into Foxboro and embarrass his team during its home opener. It doesn’t matter how far the Jets have fallen Belichick & Co. will want to bury Ryan tonight. That’s how they roll when it comes to their division rivals who are trying to get up off the mat from last year’s 6-10 season.

The players provided a hint of that theme in the lead-up to tonight’s showdown.

“We’re two competitive football teams coached by two competitive coaches. We’re divisional opponents. Obviously some of the characters have changed over the years but I think the plot is still the same” Pats special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “We’re both two teams that have the same goal in mind and have a strong desire to have success against the other.”

Earlier in the week Jets defensive lineman Muhammed Wilkerson didn’t quite guarantee a victory but he came close enough.

“If our game plan is as good as it was (against the Bucs) I don’t see why we won’t be 2-0” Wilkerson was quoted as saying in Newsday. “I’m confident in our coaching staff to have a great game plan and us being 2-0.”

While the Jets still aren’t getting much respect the Pats are in a similar boat. They aren’t getting much either.

Even though the Pats have had a lot more success than the Jets the past decade or so no one is putting them on a pedestal this season. If anything doubts have crept in especially after watching an uneven and mistake-filled performance by the offense in Sunday’s nail-biting 23-21 win over the Bills.

Add in injuries to key contributors Danny Amendola (groin) and Shane Vereen (wrist) the continued absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski (back and forearm surgeries) and rookies who are trying to adapt to the offense and the Pats appear vulnerable.