The New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills stood toe to toe at halftime in Foxborough, Mass, just before the Pats would score 24 to the Bills three in the second half. It was a game that would determine home-field advantage for the Patriots, after their win in Pittsburgh the week before secured them a bye in the post-season. The Bills were playing to have the advantage against other wildcard hopefuls, the loss didn’t take them out of the race.
While the Patriots currently hold the number one seed in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the same record and could overtake them in week 17 with a Pats loss to the New York Jets and a Steelers win over the Cleveland Browns.
It would be a bold move for the Patriots to sit their starters this week, especially since both matchups are slated for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
I wouldn’t put it past head coach Bill Belichick to put a call into Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to work out a deal to keep their players safe, but that runs the risk of outsiders bringing back the chorus of “cheating” and “collusion”.
Quarterback Tom Brady was only brought to the ground for a loss twice during the game, indicating that the offensive line play is improving. That said, Brady made it back on the injury report this week for his nagging sore Achilles, and now a shoulder injury. Both kept him from practice on Wednesday. While it could be a precaution, and a veteran’s day of rest, at 40 years old the clock is ticking till these minor injuries get the best of the star quarterback. On Friday, Brady’s name was absent from the injury report, indicating that he will be in the lineup on Sunday.
Right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle, who has been on and off the field for the last part of the season due to an ankle injury, was again limited in practice on Wednesday and will probably finish off the week as such. Expect Waddle to see the field Sunday protecting his quarterback from the Jets pass rush.
If Brady is on the bench and not attacking the Jets from the air, Belichick will have to get fancy with his play calling as three of his running backs are listed on the injury report this week. Running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee were sidelined during practice on Wednesday for knee injuries. Burkhead was not in the game on Sunday due to injury, but Gillislee had a handful of yards and a touchdown. Gillislee was downgraded to Out, on Friday’s report.
Running back James White, who is dealing with an ankle injury, was limited in practice. White has been a sufficient pass-catching back when he isn’t fighting for time with the other backs in the Patriots rotation. Look for running back Dion Lewis to get the bulk of the attempts this weekend, like he did on Sunday, even if any starters sit.
Other players who were on Wednesday’s injury report:
Held from practice- defensive lineman Alan Branch (Knee).
Limited in practice-wide receivers Chris Hogan (Shoulder) and Matthew Slater (Hamstring), defensive lineman Eric Lee (Ankle), defensive back Devin McCourty (Shoulder), and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (Calf).
New York Jets Injury Report:
The Jets are coming off a defensive bout with the Los Angeles Chargers, in which only three scores were made between the two teams. For the Jets, running back Bilal Powell stole the show with 145 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. The Jets fell to the Chargers due to a running back Melvin Gordon touchdown and a tight end Antonio Gates score.
The last time the Jets and the Patriots met this season, it looked like a potential upset until Brady and co. were able to mount a late-game comeback.
Jets players who didn’t practice on Wednesday: defensive lineman Leonard Williams (Back), offensive lineman Brandon Shell (Concussion), wide receivers Robby Anderson (Illness) and Jermaine Kearse (Ankle), running back Matt Forte (Knee), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Ankle), and defensive back Mo Claiborne (Foot).
Linebacker Jordan Jenkins (Ankle/ Shoulder) was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Players listed as full practice on Wednesday: linebacker David Bass (Ankle), wide receiver JoJo Natson (Shoulder), and offensive linemen Wesley Johnson (Hip) and James Carpenter (Knee).
–Nate Cheatem is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage. He covers the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @natecheat