Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Patriots vs. Jets: 3 keys to the game, fun facts, prediction

Ryan Hannable
December 30, 2017 - 1:02 pm

Week 17, the last week of the regular season, is here and the Patriots still have something to play for Sunday against the Jets.

With a win, the Patriots would clinch the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed and have homefield advantage throughout the postseason. They would also clinch with a Pittsburgh loss to the Browns.

The Jets, although they’ve had a much better season than many expected, do not have anything to play for and will start Bryce Petty at quarterback.

It will be a frigid game, as temperatures are expected to be around 15 degrees, which would be the second-coldest game ever at Gillette Stadium.

Patriots vs. Jets
Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017
1:00 p.m., CBS
Patriots -15.5, over/under 43.5

3 keys to the game

Getting up early

This one is pretty obvious, as it is big in any game, but especially this week. Building a lead early will likely have the Jets thinking about their offseason plans and ending the game as fast as possible. It would also give the Patriots the opportunity to get their starters out of the game and rest before the upcoming postseason. If the Patriots are up big, it would not be a surprise to see Brian Hoyer and some of the other backups to get some extensive playing time in the second half.

Seeing what James Harrison/Malcolm Mitchell have

This could be a big game for these two players (if active) as the Patriots will want to see what they have before the playoffs. Harrison was signed on Tuesday and after playing in just five games this season it would seem he has a lot left in the tank. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play upwards of 30 snaps. Mitchell returned to the practice field for the first time since Week 1 this week and New England may want to see what he has as well before it considers whether or not to make him active for the postseason. The team would need to make a corresponding roster move to get him on the 53-man roster, which does complicate things a bit.

Tom Brady turning things around    

Brady has thrown interceptions in five straight games for just the second time in his career and hasn’t played his best football of late. New England would like this to change so the 40-year-old is feeling more confident heading into the postseason. Facing the 23rd-ranked pass defense in the NFL certainly will help. Brady may also be more hurt than is being led on, as some of the throws he made last week against the Bills were uncharacteristically poor.

Fun facts

1. With a win, Bill Belichick will tie Tom Landry (250) for the third-most regular-season wins of all-time. Don Shula is first with 328.

2. Brady has gone five straight games without throwing for more than 300 yards. He hasn’t gone six straight games since the start of 2010 when he went eight straight.

3. Rob Gronkowski needs 116 yards to reach the top tier of his incentive-based contract and earn $10.75 million for the year. In 12 career games against the Jets, he has three, 100-yard games, but hasn’t ever gone over 114 yards. He did have exactly 114 yards in 2013.

4. Including the postseason, the Patriots are 13-0 when Duron Harmon records an interception.

5. With 204 yards of total offense, the Patriots will have more than they did last season. They need 10 points to eclipse last years total, as well.


Patriots 27, Jets 13

The only thing that will prevent this from being a blowout is the potential for the Patriots to pull their starters around halftime or early into the second half. If the Patriots get up big early, the second half could feature a lot of running plays just to make sure the team gets out with a win and stays healthy with the postseason now on tap.

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