BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are getting ready to face off against their biggest rival, with first place in the AFC East on the line.

Before the season began, it was the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills who were supposed to supply New England with some resistance within the division. But with those two teams sporting a combined record of 5-6 and playing some rather uninspiring football, it’s the New York Jets who are nipping at the Patriots’ heels within the AFC East.

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The Jets are off to an impressive 4-1 start under first-year head coach Todd Bowles, with one of the best defensive units in the NFL. While he is 20-6 against them during his career, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady knows things are never easy against the Jets.

“We’ve had a lot of great games against them, real meaningful games. They’re very similar to us in many different ways; they’re a big, tough and physical team,” Brady told reporters on Wednesday. “They have a phenomenal defense, they’re in the Top 5 of almost every category. It’s a great challenge for us.”

Brady pointed out New York’s stout defensive line and secondary. New York is holding opponents to just 269.2 yards of offense per game, which tops the league.

“There is a lot of experience and high draft picks on that defense and they’re playing as well as any defense in the league,” he said. “They are very tough to beat. We’ve had a lot of close games against them over the years where a lot of situational football has come into play; lots of two minutes drives, stopping them at the end, overtime games. Not too many games have ever really gotten out of hand.”

Brady knows the Jets will be sending plenty of pressure his way on Sunday, but they have also been great at forcing turnovers. Their secondary has picked off opposing quarterbacks eight times, led by Darrelle Revis (three picks), second-year corner Marcus Williams (two interceptions) and safety Marcus Gilchrist (two interceptions). The Jets have also forced seven fumbles so far this season, which ranks second in the NFL.

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“They have a lot of playmakers and you have to be conscious of where you’re throwing the ball,” Brady said of the New York secondary. “You can’t just throw it up for grabs, because they have guys with great ball skills.”

A lot of that defensive success has to do with the return of Revis, who has three fumble recoveries to go with that trio of picks. Brady had a front row seat of Revis’ defensive abilities last year on the practice field, and knows from past battles that he’ll have his work cut out for him on Sunday.

“There was a lot of competition in practice last year with him. He makes it tough. His instincts are incredible out there,” Brady said of his former teammate. “He’s one of those guys who sees everything on the field; rotation, routes, splits – anything pre-snap that can help him get an idea whether the ball is coming his way. He is a very dependable, consistent player and an incredible playmaker since he came into the league, covering the top guys every week.”

Brady was a little bummed to see Revis go during the offseason, but understands that’s just the business side of the game.

Darrelle Revis and Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis and Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

“It was great to have him a part here, but he moved on. Now he’s our competition again,” said Brady.

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Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Jets game on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV — the flagship stations of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins on 98.5FM at 10am with Patriots Preview, with three hours of reaction and analysis following the game. WBZ-TV kicks off their coverage at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay, and you can catch Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s press conferences live on Patriots 5th Quarter after the game!