What to Watch For: Jets vs Patriots
Sunday, December 30, 2018
New England Patriots host the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots can lock up the second seed with a win or a loss by the Texans.
“This is as close as it can get to a playoff game for us, as it is during the regular season. It’s going to be a big game; definitely a huge one. Every time we play the Jets, no matter what, at their place or here, it’s always a challenge mentally and physically. They’re always bringing it. We’ve got to be ready and technically it’s a playoff game; big time for us,” said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during his press conference on Thursday.
See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below
Patriots running back James White added, “It’s a one-game season. We’ve got to play our best football this week. It’s always tough when we play these guys, home or away. They’re going to come in ready to play no matter what their record is. We’ve just got to play our best football which we haven’t done yet, which I’ve said a lot this year.”
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Patriots vs Jets
The Patriots and Jets will meet for the 120th time in history on Sunday, with the Patriots leading the series 64-54-1.
New England has won the last five games in the series, including a victory earlier this season in New York.
“This will be a big challenge for us. We’ll have to play better than we did in the last game. They’re definitely better than they were when we saw them, whatever it was, six weeks ago. So, it will be our challenge to improve and match up,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference on Wednesday.
New York’s last win came in 2015 when they held off the Patriots 26-20 in the Meadowlands.
See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below
Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Jets vs Patriots - December 2018
The Patriots have had a habit of getting off to slow starts this season and it has cost them on several occasions.
They have had chances to put teams away early and did not capitalize, for example, the road game against Miami and the road game against Chicago, though New England pulled that one out.
The Patriots have had a hard time putting a full 60 minutes together this season, can they do it in week 16?
"We’ve been working and building and trying to get there and it’s been a lot of moving parts all year – it’s just part of the football season, it’s like that for us, like that for everybody. But competing for all 16 weeks is what it’s all about and we’re at Week 16 and we’ve got to finish strong," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.
The New York Jets come into the game with nothing to play for and several of their key players already ruled out.
Cornerback Mo Claiborne is out, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa is out and so is receiver Jermaine Kearse.
“It’s a tough division opponent that we know pretty well. It’s a tough, grind-it-out game. They’re well-coached, they’ve got some good players, good defense, playing well offensively so it’s a big test,” said Brady.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did little to quell the report of a torn or partially torn MCL in last week’s game against Buffalo.
Prior to the game, Brady came out for warmups and jogged to about the 40-yard line before stopping and throwing warmup passes. Usually, Brady jogs all the way down the sideline.
Against Buffalo, he completed just 13 of 24 passes for 126 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
When he did throw it, it was mainly to Julian Edelman and James White.
“You look at each play differently and at the same time, they’re all individual plays and it just comes down to good execution. If you throw it five times in a game, you’d love to have five well-executed pass plays. If you throw it 50 times, which we’ve done, you like to have 50 of those, and the games are going to take a different shape and so forth. It really comes down to execution in the run game and the pass game and them complementing each other so it makes it difficult to defend,” said Brady on Friday.
In his press conference, Brady was asked about his stats this season.
“I’m not really a big stat guy. I’m into wins. Wins is the one and that’s what we’re here for. There’s a lot of ways you can evaluate stats and so forth. Winning the game is what’s most important.”
On the season, Brady as 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and an interception percentage of 2.0, his highest since the 2011 season.
“The ratio is not as big of a deal as the interceptions because I think the turnovers are what hurts you. If you turn the ball over, you’re not giving yourself an opportunity to score. Whether you throw it in from the 1 [yard line] or hand it off on the 1, a touchdown’s a touchdown. But interceptions are tough to overcome if you’re giving the defense a lot of chances to score more points,” said Brady.
Brady’s completion percentage is 65.4, the lowest since 2015. He also had a quarterback rating of 67.4.
Brady added, “I think just making the right plays. I think your focus as a quarterback is just making the right play whenever it’s there. You could throw a ball away instead of taking a sack and it looks like you have a low completion percentage but you’re making a good play for the team. I just have to make good plays for the team and that part of it is just good, solid football and making good decisions, throwing to the guys who are open.”
If the Patriots are going to make a run in the playoffs, Brady is going to have to complete more than 13 passes in a game and find a way to get the ball to players other than Edelman and White.
Wide receiver Chris Hogan has seemingly disappeared from the Patriots offense.
Last week against Buffalo, the Patriots first game without Josh Gordon, Hogan played 83% of the snaps (62), more than any other Patriots receiver.
However, he was not targeted once.
Following one particular series, Hogan came to the sidelines with his palms to the sky and threw his helmet into the ground.
He then took a seat on the defensive side of the bench.
“Sometimes certain guys don’t touch it as much, and then the next week, it’ll flip around and somebody else will have it a bunch and somebody else might have it less. A lot of that is determined by what the defense does and doesn’t do, which is completely out of our hands. We don’t pick what they do. Hopefully, we just try to do the right thing every play," said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Monday.
However, Hogan has not been targeted much at all over the last several weeks.
Since the October 29 game against Buffalo, only once was Hogan targeted more than two times in a game, and that was the three times Brady threw him the ball against Pittsburgh.
One of those resulted in a touchdown.
In fact, Hogan has been held without a catch in four of New England's last seven games.
On the season, Hogan has been targeted 44 times and has 29 catches for 468 yards and three touchdowns.
“We have one ball on every play, and there are lots of skilled guys out there that can do good things with it. Sometimes it’s designed to go to somebody and [the other team] takes it away on defense, [or] sometimes there’s more than one guy open and it can only go to one of those guys," said McDaniels.
He is in the final year of his contract with the Patriots.
Gilmore vs Anderson
New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson has become the favorite of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who New England will see for the first time.
“Darnold’s a big, athletic kid. He can certainly move if he has to. He can get out and escape the rush. He’s done that plenty of times. He has a solid skillset, no question about it – good arm, can make all the throws, big, strong kid, hard to get down in the pocket, has good feet, can get out if he needs to,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his Wednesday press conference.
In the last two games, Anderson has been targeted 24 times and has 16 catches.
As mentioned above, Jets receivers Enunwa and Kearse are out so if Gilmore can keep Anderson in check, it should be a good day for the Patriots defense.
The rest of the Jets offense has had their share of struggles.
Running backs Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell are both out, which means Elijah McGuire is the running back.
He has 235 rushing yards on 74 carries this season.
New York hasn’t run for more than 100 yards as a team since December 2.
The current AFC playoff picture is as follows:
*1. Chiefs 11-4
*2. Patriots 10-5
*3. Texans 10-5
4. Ravens 9-6
*5. Chargers 11-4
6. Colts & Titans Tied at 9-6
*Clinched postseason berth
First Round Bye
The Patriots can clinch the second seed and a first-round bye with a win over the Jets or a Houston loss to Jacksonville.
New England could still get the number one overall seed if they win and both the Chiefs and Chargers lose.
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