As Week 17 signals the end of the NFL Regular Season, the New York Jets head north to take on New England Patriots in Foxboro. This will be the 120th meeting between these AFC rivals with the Patriots having the all-time series lead at 64-54-1. This includes that Week 12 matchup when the Patriots up ended the Jets 27-13 behind a 133 yard rushing performance by Sony Michel.
For the Jets, the season comes to a merciful end as they enter the game having lost 8 of their last 9 games. While there was much optimism this year fueled by rookie 1st Round pick Sam Darnold, the year unfolded like it usually does for the Jersey Swamp Rats: Well below expectations. With many off season changes looming, there is nothing left to play for this Sunday other than their hate for the division leading Patriots.
Having won their unprecedented 10th straight AFC East Division title this past week, New England enters this game with an opportunity to clinch a first round bye in the AFC playoffs. After a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple of weeks ago, the Patriots earning a 1st round bye seemed like an unlikely scenario but a lot of fortunate things happened for them to stay in the running for one of the two top seeds in the AFC.
There is still a lot at stake….For the Patriots anyway….so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: While it’s true that New England’s Tom Brady is having a less than stellar year, there really isn’t that much going right for the Jets’ Sam Darnold. While he is coming off of his best statistical game as a pro, he has spent much of this season battling injuries or turning the ball over. While there is hope that he will develop into a serviceable NFL starter, at this point he has looked like just another QB coming out of USC.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: Led by rookie Sony Michel, the Patriots running backs have produced over 1,200 more yards from scrimmage and 11 more touchdowns than their Jets’ counterparts….Big advantage for New England if they stay committed to the running game and don’t forget about James White in the passing game.
Wide Receivers – JETS: New England heads into its second game without one of their leading wide receivers, Josh Gordon, who was lost for the year due to suspension. However, the remaining group, including Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Philip Dorsett, have nearly the same amount of yards as the Jets’ receiving group and more touchdowns. The Jets do get the slight edge in this matchup because of the big play making ability of Robby Anderson.
Tight Ends – PATRIOTS: While New England’s Rob Gronkowski looks like he’s running with Holley Mangold on his back, he has still managed to outperform all of New York’s tight-ends this season.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: While it hasn’t shown in recent weeks, the Patriots offensive line is doing a fairly good job at protecting Tom Brady while paving the way for the NFL’s 7th ranked rushing attack.
Defensive Front Seven – PUSH: Both defensive front seven units have been rather underwhelming this season. Neither team is in the Top 10 for Rush Defense or Sacks which is surprising with the reputation of both head coaches being “Defensive Minded”.
Secondary – PUSH: Much like the defensive front seven, both teams have fielded underwhelming secondary units this year. The only redeeming quality for both teams is that they are both in the Top 7 in the NFL for lowest opposing quarterback completion percentage.
Special Teams – PUSH: While return averages are similar for both teams, New York’s Jason Myers has been much more efficient that New England’s Stephen Gostkowski. Myers has missed practice this week, nursing a hip injury, and his status for Sunday is still unknown. The Jets’ punter, Lachian Edwards, is near the top of the league in the number of punts and punt yards but that is more of an indication on how anemic the Jets’ offense has been.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: The Jets’ Todd Bowles has done a far better job with the roster he was given than anyone could have anticipated but not getting his ‘star’ players to perform, especially on the defense, is really disappointing. The Patriots’ Bill Belichick, on the other hand, seems to keep finding ways to plug roster holes as the injuries mount up.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -13 ½
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Eye on the Prize: With the AFC’s #2 Seed on the line, the Patriots shouldn’t look at New York as a penciled in victory. While it’s true that the Jets players certainly have the U-Hauls ready, there are still players that want to look good on tape for possible new coaching staff coming in.
2) Use all the Running Backs: Whether or not Patriots fans want to face it, this year’s New England squad is a running football team. With three healthy running backs going against a team that gives up over 140 yards per game on the ground, there is no reason that the Patriots shouldn’t try to run the ball 40 times in this game.
3) Don’t Rely on History: While it’s true that the Patriots under Bill Belichick have not lost a home game versus a rookie quarterback, there is no reason for the Patriots to take the Jets lightly. Sure the Jets have absolutely nothing to play for and may have their front office and coaching staff blown up, but there is still may be some pride as players that the Jets have. New England needs to play this game with like their playoff lives depend on it because, in many ways, it does.
Don’t be surprised to see a usual AFC East Division game that is way closer than it needs to be that will keep Patriots fans on edge all the way to the end.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Jets 19
this article will stay on until Game Day