The 2018 regular season has flown by, as Week 17 is upon us. The Patriots hope to clinch a first-round bye when they welcome the New York Jets (4-11) to Foxborough. Winning this game would guarantee the #2 seed for the Pats, but they could still gain home field advantage if the Chargers and Chiefs lose this week.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 17 contest.
1. What will be the focal point of the offense?
Over the last few weeks, the Patriots have had a run-oriented offense, which has helped in relieving pressure from Tom Brady. Sony Michel and the running backs had a brilliant game last week against Buffalo as they totaled more than 250 yards on the ground. I would expect the Pats to continue to lean on the running game, as the Jets come into this game with the 26th ranked rushing defense. Michel had over 130 yards the last time these teams met , which should be an encouraging sign for the Pats. It’ll be important for the Pats to maintain the health of Brady, Gronk, and Julian Edelman because they’ll be essential for the team to make a run in the playoffs.
2. Can the defense stifle Darnold?
In Week 12, the Jets were without their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and had veteran Josh McCown start instead. Darnold has had an up and down rookie season, as he’s shown flashes of brilliance while also leading the NFL with interceptions thrown. I would expect the Pats to try to come after Darnold with Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower, who are amongst the NFL’s leaders with pressures on the quarterback. Bill Belichick will likely challenge Darnold to beat man coverage or try to fool him with zone schemes. Dominating the line of scrimmage will be essential if the Pats want to stifle the Jets’ rushing attack and force Darnold to play from behind.
- Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Out
- Dwayne Allen (knee) – Questionable
- Brandon King (knee) – Questionable
- Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) – Questionable
- LaAdrian Waddle (illness) – Questionable
- Morris Claiborne (shoulder/ankle) – Out
- Quincy Enunwa (ankle) – Out
- Jermaine Kearse (achilles) – Out
- Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) – Out
- Jordan Jenkins (ankle) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 13
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 17 contests.
Last week: 10-4
Dolphins at Bills: Bills
Falcons at Buccaneers: Falcons
Cowboys at Giants: Cowboys
Panthers at Saints: Saints
Jaguars at Texans: Texans
Lions at Packers: Packers
Eagles at Redskins: Eagles
Chargers at Broncos: Chargers
Raiders at Chiefs: Chiefs
Bears at Vikings: Vikings
Browns at Ravens: Ravens
49ers at Rams: Rams
Bengals at Steelers: Steelers
Cardinals at Seahawks: Seahawks
Colts at Titans: Colts