The Patriots hope to wrap up home-field advantage for the playoffs when they take on the New York Jets later on today. The Pats defeated the Jets back in Week 6, and they will need to do so again to lock up the AFC’s top seed.
Here are a few things to consider entering today’s game.
1. How do the Patriots match up with the Jets?
In Week 6, the contest between the Patriots and Jets was heavily competitive, as both sides matched each other stride for stride until the end. However, both teams have drastically changed since that game in October. The Patriots have improved their offensive line and secondary, but are banged-up at certain positions. The Jets were led by Josh McCown, who has since been replaced by Bruce Petty due to a hand injury suffered by the former. It will be interesting to see how the changed lineups impact the outcome fo the game.
2. The Patriots cannot repeat their mistake from 2015’s season finale
Back in 2015, the Patriots had a 12-3 record entering their Week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins, and had a 1 game lead over the Denver Broncos for the AFC’s top seed. The Patriots opted to adopt a conservative game-plan for that game in Miami, which resulted in a 20-10 loss that robbed them of the #1 seed (as Denver won on the same day). Due to this loss, the Patriots had to travel to Denver for the AFC Championship that year, where they ultimately lost 20-18. It is fair to assume that they would have won had the game been in Foxborough. This year’s Patriots are also 12-3 entering Week 17, and need to keep their feet on the pedal to assure that they will play all of their playoff games at Gillette Stadium. Ensuring that they play to win could save them from a tough trip to Pittsburgh in January…
3. TB12 needs to remain consistent
TB12 has not performed very well as of late, even though the Patriots have been able to continue winning. There isn’t a single root cause for his inconsistent performance, but you can blame inadequate pass protection and poor decision-making. This is the time of year where Brady needs to be spot on for the Patriots to have any chance of making another run to the Super Bowl. Hopefully playing a division rival will present an opportunity for Brady to get back to form.
Prediction: Patriots 28, Jets 13
TB12 & Co. should be able to take advantage of the Jets’ defense, and make it difficult for Bryce Petty and the Jets’ offense to keep up. Look for the Patriots defense to harass Petty, and force a few turnovers.