After their 37-16 dismantling of the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots head into Week 17 with a first-round bye in the playoffs secured. However, there is still business to be done. New England will look to secure the coveted top spot in the AFC playoff seeding. A win this week ensures that all playoff roads in the AFC will have to go through Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots beat the Jets 24-17 back in week 6 but obviously, a lot has changed since that game. Jets QB Josh Mccown, who threw for 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns, will miss this game due to a season-ending hand fracture suffered back on December 10th. Reserve QB Bryce Petty will draw the start for the Jets this time around. Coach Belichick offered his thoughts on facing Petty; “I thought [Bryce] Petty was impressive. [Josh] McCown had a good year for them, too, but Petty has come in and kind of, I’d say, plays a similar style to McCown .”
Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia talked a little bit about the challenges presented by the Jets other skill positions this week. “I think for the Jets, they obviously are trying to get the ball here in the run game and make sure that they get [Bilal] Powell going, use their receivers now with Robby Anderson really kind of emerging as one of their big-play guys. [He’s] extremely fast, an extremely quick player that can be explosive and create dynamic plays right away. [Jermaine] Kearse kind of is moving around a little bit more. [He’s] another guy that is very dangerous,” Patricia said during a Tuesday conference call. “I’d say the other big part of it is they really kind of settled into the tight end situation here with [Austin] Seferian-Jenkins being a big factor in the passing game. He’s obviously a big guy in general so he can be out there in the run game, big catch radius, very difficult to tackle. Someone who Coach [John] Morton, the offensive coordinator, does a good job of getting him the ball in those situations.
Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels also offered his thoughts about the Jets defense during the coaches conference on Tuesday. “I mean, there are significant challenges here. Their front seven is physical. Their inside linebackers are very fast, as fast as a twosome as we’ll see all year, and the outside linebackers do a good job of setting the edge in the running game, forcing you to run kind of in a small space. They have a very disruptive defensive line. The two young safeties, I think, are getting better and better each week. I think they’re going to be really good players.”
Obviously, Vegas odds-makers don’t feel as confident in the Jets ability to challenge the Patriots this week, as New York will come into the game a 16 point underdog. Even if the unthinkable happens and the Jets somehow stun the Patriots in Foxborough, New England can still secure the number one seed with a Steelers loss. Both the Patriots and the Steelers play at 1 pm this Sunday, so Pats fans should expect a full complement of snaps for all of the Patriots’ starters.
–Sam Puran is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @S_Pats21