The 12-2 Patriots head to the Meadowlands on this holiday weekend to face a 9-5 New York Jets team that is fighting for its playoff life (Sunday, 1 p.m. - kickoff time, CBS - WBZ).
There’s plenty of history between the two organizations, and though Rex Ryan has gone north to Buffalo, expect a lot of emotion on the field Sunday.
For one, the Patriots can not only clinch the No. 1 seed with a win, but essentially end the Jets’ playoff hopes, too.But if the Jets pull it off, they’ll put themselves in prime position for a Wild Card spot with the Bills on tap in Week 17.
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There’s also the Darrelle Revis factor. We all know Revis left New England for greener pastures over the offseason. It’s looking like the Patriots made the right decision in not overpaying for him.
Can Steven Jackson play?
That’s a big question heading into Sunday – and he’ll be tested right out of the gates against a Jets rush defense that gives up 82.8 rushing yards per game, second-lowest in the NFL. Jackson hasn’t touched the playing field since last season, so just how easy can it be to learn a completely new offense – and put your body through its first NFL week in almost a year - in a week’s time? We’ll find out. Nobody has anything bad to say about the guy, he’s certainly hungry to play in the playoffs, and at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds should be able to barrel ahead for enough yardage to keep the run game a part of the Patriots attack. He’s also somewhat of a threat catching passes out of the backfield, though those duties should stay with James White.
Winning at the expense of whom?
This seems to happen every single season with the Patriots. With a playoff spot and first -round bye locked up, do they keep guys like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski off the field to preserve their health, or try for that No. 1 overall seed? It sounds like the Patriots are going for it this Sunday, as they should. Home field is important and there will be time to rest in Week 17 and with a bye. “Look, I expect all the guys to go out there and compete,” Belichick told Jets media. “That’s what we do every day. That’s what our program is built on is competition. That’s not any different this week.”
Grounding the Jets
Patriots cornerbacks will have their hands full on Sunday dealing with the wide receiver tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The 6-foot-4 Marshall has 1,261 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns and is a matchup nightmare. Decker, meanwhile, has 930 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The Patriots put Malcolm Butler in single coverage against Decker earlier this year, and Decker caught six of 12 targets for 96 yards. They doubled Marshall, holding him to four catches for 67 yards.