What to Watch For: Jets vs Patriots
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Joe Calabro, GoLocalProv Sports Team
A win would give the Patriots the number one seed for the seventh time since 2003, and the third time in the last four years.
"It's huge. It's motivating. You don't play sports to not be number one. It's crucial. It's a big stock to get home field advantage and that's why we've got to put all our attention versus the Jets so we can go out there, we can compete, we can play, and do our best to get the win," said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during his press conference on Friday.
"I think, for us, the biggest thing is playing well. It's that time of the year where you don't want to go out there and just not be prepared, not go and play a good game. I think we talked about it all year of how we need to get better, we need to improve. Each week is about improving," said safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Wednesday.
The Patriots have already clinched a first-round bye after last week's win over Buffalo and Jacksonville's loss to San Francisco.
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
Jets vs Patriots
The Patriots and Jets will meet for the 118th time since the series began in 1960.
The Patriots lead the all-time series, 62-54-1.
New England is 33-25-1 all-time against the Jets at home, including 1-1 at home in the postseason. They are 12-3 at Gillette Stadium in the regular season.
Tom Brady is in the midst of one of the worst stretches in his career.
Brady has thrown six interceptions over his last five games, the first time he has done so since 2002.
In the month of December, Brady has more interceptions than touchdowns and a passer rating of 81.5, 19th best in the league.
On the interceptions, Brady said, “It’s all risk-reward for a quarterback. I mean, I’m never trying to throw them. Sometimes you try to make a throw, and they make a good play. Sometimes you try to make a throw, they don’t make much of a play, and they still come up with the ball because I made a really bad decision. If they make a great play then they make a great play. But you try to eliminate the ones where you just really hand them possession of the ball.”
He has also gone five straight games without 300 passing yards for the first time since 2014.
Over the last several weeks, Brady has appeared on the injury report with an Achilles and shoulder injury, but would not give comment on those during his Friday press conference.
It is also worth noting that historically, December is Brady’s worst month. In the month, Brady has a career passer rating of 92.3 and has thrown 45 interceptions.
Pats Pass Rush
New York's starting quarterback, Josh McCown is out with an injury meaning the Jets will start Bryce Petty under center.
In the last two games, Petty has completed only 46% of his passes.
If the Patriots can get to Petty early on in the game and make him uncomfortable, the Jets offense could be in for a long day.
So far this season, the Patriots defense has recorded 38 sacks with Trey Flowers leading the way with 6.5.
Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee have been ruled out and James White is listed as questionable after missing last week's game meaning that Dion Lewis might be the only option in the backfield.
Lewis has rushed 154 times for 803 yards and five touchdowns to lead all Patriots running backs.
Lewis also has 26 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's an unbelievable player. He's a beast for his size. I look up to him. The way he plays, the way he doesn't let people take him down inspires me because I'm like, ‘If that guy can do that, why can't I be able to break tackles like that?' So that just shows his inspiration of how hard he plays, how hard he works and a great dude to have on the team," said Gronkowski following last week's win against Buffalo.
The other running back on the roster is Brandon Bolden, who has a total of four rushing attempts this season.
Newcomer James Harrison is expected to play in Sunday's game against the Jets, though it is unclear how much.
"He's worked hard. Got a lot of information to process but he's working at it. We'll keep stringing them together here and see how it goes," said Belichick during his press conference on Friday.
This season with the Steelers, he has played just 40 snaps in five games, only 11 of those snaps have come since week seven.
He has one sack and three tackles on the year.
If he has anything left, it could be a huge boost for the Patriots defense.
It is going to be a cold one on Sunday, with temperatures expected to be in the low teens, not including the wind chill.
Over the last 23 years, the Patriots are 42-10 in games in which the temperature is 34° or below.
The coldest game in Patriots history is the 2004 playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. The temperature was 4° and there was a wind chill of -10.
The Patriots won the game 17-14
"I mean, it’s cold for everybody, so it’s cold for the fans, cold for the players, coaches, for you guys (the media), the refs, announcers. I think whoever deals with it best is going to win. Hopefully, us being out there and using all of this is a positive experience, even though you’re out there for a couple hours. It gets pretty cold, but you’ve just got to do the best you can do," said Brady during his press conference on Friday.
Rob Gronkowski added, "I would say it's more mental going out in these cold weather games, going out just even a cold weather practice. You've got to focus on the Jets still. You’ve got to prepare and be ready for them. At the same time just do what you've got to do, be mentally ready, physically, for the weather and the Jets."
For fans going to the game, the Patriots will be giving out 65,000 hand warmers upon entering the stadium.