Patriots vs Jets

Patriots vs Jets : The season hasn’t gone quite as expected, but the Patriots yet again find themselves in a favorable spot entering the finale. They’re in decent health. They’ve suffered few impactful season-ending injuries. Despite their radical home-road splits, they’re currently occupying the No. 2 seed in the AFC, one win away from a ninth consecutive first-round bye.

Patriots vs Jets Live NFL Week 17

All they need to do is beat the 4-11 Jets, who haven’t won at Gillette Stadium since the 2010 playoffs.

Here are five things to watch in the Week 17 matchup…

There was plenty to like from the Pats’ Week 16 win over the Bills. The running game will need to be the foundation of the offense going forward, and it looked phenomenal against Buffalo.

An underrated offensive line and the combination of Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and James Develin opened massive holes for Sony Michel and Co.

The passing attack was a different story.

This has been a difficult year for Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels. There’s been a whole bunch of re-tooling on the fly. That’s still the case with the playoffs right around the corner.

In their first game without suspended receiver Josh Gordon, the Patriots didn’t throw effectively. All but two of Brady’s 13 completions were caught within five yards of the line of scrimmage. This was partially by design; the Bills couldn’t come close to slowing the New England rushing attack, and the game was well in hand, so why put Brady in a difficult spot?

But when the Pats did choose to pass, there were myriad issues. Brady was inaccurate and jumpy in the pocket. Gronkowski let a ball slip through his hands for an interception. Chris Hogan wasn’t targeted on 63 snaps.

A solid outing from all three players against the Jets would go a long way in boosting the collective confidence of the Patriots’ passing attack.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think New York Jets?

Probably not a high-flying passing attack.

The Jets rank 21st in scoring offense, but they’re far from incompetent. They’ve exploded for games of 48, 34, 42, and 38 points, all with Sam Darnold at quarterback.

In Darnold’s starts, the Jets are averaging 23.8 points per game, which would rank in the top half of the league.

His top targets are big-play receiver Robby Anderson and tight end Chris Herndon.

Anderson has scored in three consecutive games and averaged 104 yards per game in that span. The Pats will likely use Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore to take away Anderson.

Herndon, though, could be an issue.

The rookie tight end has come on strong, catching nine passes for 135 yards in the past two weeks. He recorded seven receptions for 57 yards in the first meeting with the Patriots.

“He’s moving about the same speed as the receivers are, so just on tape, he plays fast, (he’s a) good vertical player and gets across the field quickly on the over routes,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “It seems like there’s certainly chemistry developing between Darnold and Herndon.”

In Week 12, the Patriots used several different defenders to cover Herndon, including linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung.

Much has been made of the Patriots’ road struggles. It’s certainly out of character.

The glass-half-full view: The Pats are 7-0 at home and they’re in position to host a divisional round playoff game. That bodes well for their chances of making an eighth straight AFC Championship game.

The last time the Patriots went undefeated at home was in 2013, when all five of their losses (including one in the playoffs) came in road games. That year, the Patriots found a way to win some tight games at Gillette, beating the Jets, Saints, Broncos, and Browns by three points or fewer.

This season, they’ve dominated at home, winning by an average score of 32-19. Minus the Chiefs game — a 43-40 shootout — they’ve held six other opponents to 14.5 points per contest at Gillette.

They’ll look to keep it going against the Jets.

Don’t underestimate the impact of a coach emptying the playbook in his final game.

Rumors have been swirling that Todd Bowles will be out as Jets head coach at the end of the season (Bowles declined to comment on his future this week).

“I do not talk about my job,” Bowles told New York reporters earlier this week.

If Bowles is indeed coaching his last game, he might as well go out with a bang.

That could mean trick plays and an ultra-aggressive approach from the 4-11 Jets.

The Patriots won’t be scoreboard-watching nearly as intently as they were a week ago, when the Eagles knocked off the Texans and subsequently launched the Pats into the coveted No. 2 seed.

Thanks to the assist from Nick Foles, the Patriots simply need to take care of business themselves in Week 17 to earn a first-round bye.

But the rest of the AFC Playoff Picture remains unsettled.

The Chiefs and Chargers are the front-runners for the No.1 seed (the Patriots could still claim the top spot with a Week 17 win and losses by Kansas City and Los Angeles, an unlikely scenario). They’ll be interested in the outcome in the AFC West regardless. The team that does not win the division will be the top Wild Card and the No. 5 seed. That means a visit to Gillette Stadium for the divisional round could be in play.

Entering this weekend, four teams have locked up playoff spots: The Patriots, Chiefs, Chargers, and Texans. Four others — the Colts, Titans, Ravens, and Steelers — are fighting for two spots.

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