Pats Preview: Patriots Vs. Jets
As the New England Patriots prepare for their regular season finale against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon, here are some pregame story lines to keep in mind:
Win & You're One- It's a rather simple scenario for the Patriots, coming into the final game of the season; win the game and clinch the top spot in the AFC. New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers enter the final week of the regular season with identical, 12-3 records, though the Pats sit in the driver's seat after beating Pittsburgh 27-24 in their lone meeting of the season. If both team's win, the Pats will claim the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the postseason, having the tiebreaker in their back pocket.
A New Edge Setter- The Patriots, who have struggled all season to set the edge along the line of scrimmage and bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks, will be unveiling their newest potential fix to that problem on Sunday. Newly signed linebacker James Harrison, who was surprisingly released by the Pittsburgh Steelers late last week, is expected to play against the Jets, as the team looks to judge his ability to help them over the stretch run. Harrison, who is 39 years old, has played in only five games and only 40 totals snaps this season, so he should be fresh enough to play. It will likely be a matter of whether or not he is effective enough to play.
A Returning Wide Receiver- The Patriot offense might also get a boost this week, as second year wide out Malcolm Mitchell, who has been on injured reserve all season, has returned to practice. The team now has three weeks to decide whether or not to activate Mitchell from the reserve list. While they are said to be taking it on a day-to-day basis with Mitchell, the hope is that he can return to the roster prior to Sunday's game so they can use him and gauge his ability to help the team. With the receiving corps dealing with injuries all season long, getting back Mitchell, who flourished in his role as a rookie last season and played well in the postseason, back into the fold could be a huge boost for the New England offense.
Looking For Win 25- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be looking to record his 25th career, regular season win over the Jets on Sunday. Brady has a 24-6 record over New York, having only beaten the Buffalo Bills (28) more times throughout his career.
Trying To Play Spoiler- While the Pats are playing for the top seed in the AFC, a crucial piece to the postseason plan, the Jets have nothing of true significance to play for. As they sit stuck in the middle of the pack, in terms of record, they won't likely get a huge boost from tanking the final game, though a win does nothing but give them a measly six on the season. With that in mind, New York will likely attempt to channel their passion for the game into trying to spoil the Pats' run at the top seed.
Back-to-Back- With a win new England will cap off back-to-back seasons in which they have swept the season series from the Jets. The Pats beat New York 24-17 at MetLife Stadium back in Week 6.
Keep Everyone Healthy- Aside from clinching the top seed, the next most important thing for the Pats to do on Sunday is to get through the game as healthy as they start it. Week 17 would be a horrible time to loose any contributors, let alone players that make a real difference on either side of the ball. If the Pats jump out to a substantial lead early, expect the coaching staff to employ the full compliment of their 46-man game day roster in efforts to get indispensable guys off the field. Also, don't be surprised to see another week without the services of Chris Hogan and Kyle Van Noy, along with Rex Burkhead and Alan Branch.
Prediction- The Pats will likely put the Jets to bed early, using their passing game and Dion Lewis to put double digit points on the board early. The way the Jets have played this season, if the Pats jump to the early lead, New York will probably pack it in for the season and move on to their off-season plans. Expect that to be the case on Sunday.
Pats 33, Jets 6