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3 things to watch for from Patriots on Christmas Eve battle with Jets

The Patriots, as they usually are, will be heavy favorites in Week 16.Getty Images

The Jets always seem to give the Patriots a tough time, but it will take a Christmas miracle for them to pull this one off.

The 12-2 Patriots will host the 4-10 Jets on Saturday in hopes of improving to 4-2 on Christmas Eve. They’ve won their last two Christmas Eve games, in 2006 against the Jaguars and most recently in 2011 against the Dolphins.

With a win, the Patriots will earn their sixth 13-win season in franchise history. Having already locked up the AFC East and a first-round bye with last week’s win over the Broncos, the Patriots are still playing for the No. 1 overall seed.

They control their own destiny, meaning if they beat the Jets on Saturday and the Dolphins on New Year's Day, they’ll finish with the No. 1 seed. But if the Patriots win and the Raiders lose to the Colts on Saturday, New England clinches the top spot a week early.

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Will the Jets have anything to say about that?

Petty party

Jets quarterback Bryce Petty is expected to play Saturday, though he's not expected to play well. Facing a Patriots defense that is allowing the least amount of points per game (16.6), it might seem like Tom Petty, and not Bryce, is under center for the free-fallin' Jets. Boom, roasted. Petty, whom Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake turned into a sandwich last week, is going to gut it out and put his 64.6 quarterback rating to the test against the likes of Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty and Dont'a Hightower. On the year, Petty is 75-for-130 (57.1-percent) for 809 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions in five appearances including three starts. He's got one win under his belt, a 23-17 OT win over the 49ers in Week 14. Petty probably wouldn't be starting on any other NFL team, but since Ryan Fitzpatrick is the other option in New York, you can see why.

A haunting hit

It was Sept. 23, 2001, when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis launched Drew Bledsoe into the sidelines and in doing so launched Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career. That hit has come back to haunt the Jets franchise, as Brady is 22-6 against the Jets as a starter, in the regular season, the second-most wins he has against any opponent, behind the Bills. In the 29 games he’s played (including the Mo Lewis game), Brady has thrown for 6,900 yards, 41 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In his last meeting against the Jets back on Nov. 27, Brady completed 30 of 50 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 30 completions were the second-most he’s ever had against the Jets. The 39-year-old Brady is having an MVP-caliber season and is 270 yards away from passing Dan Marino for fourth all-time in passing yards (61,362). Sorry Jets, he’s not slowing down.

Finish the job

We poke fun at the Jets, but the bottom line is the Patriots had a chance to finish on top last season and were beat by the Jets and Dolphins to end the season. Those losses forced them to travel to Denver, where they lost in the AFC Championship Game. That is undoubtedly in the minds of many Patriots players in Week 16. The Jets may have nothing to play for, but they’d get enjoyment from playing the role of the spoiler. The Patriots can’t allow that.

“The [2015] season didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” Devin McCourty said. “I think the biggest thing we always talk about is past games, last year, the biggest thing is learning from those experiences.”

 
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