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

Ryan Hannable
December 29, 2018 - 2:08 pm
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Believe it or not, the regular-season finale is here.

It is pretty simple for the Patriots against the Jets: win and get at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. Lose, and be the No. 3 or 4 seed and have to play on wild card weekend.

The Patriots come into the game following a win over Buffalo last week, but it wasn’t convincing by any means, especially passing for only 117 yards. The Jets have lost eight of their last nine games, including 44-38 in overtime last week against the Packers.

This very well could be Todd Bowles last game as Jets coach, so clearly he and the team have nothing to lose.

Jets vs. Patriots
Sunday, December 30, 2018
1:00 p.m., CBS
Patriots -13.5, over/under 46.5

3 keys to the game

Get passing game going

The Patriots would love get to the passing game back on track as it will not be able to win many playoff games with the way it performed last week. It would be nice for Tom Brady to go into the playoffs on a good note, as well as get pass catchers Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan going. Gronkowski didn’t have a single catch last week against the Bills for just the fourth time in his entire career, and despite playing 62 snaps, Hogan wasn’t targeted once. New York enters with the 26th-ranked pass defense and just allowed 413 yards passing to Green Bay last week, so the opportunity is there.

Stop turning the ball over

Although the Patriots beat the Bills last week, they turned the ball over three times, which will not cut it in any playoff game. In the middle of the year, there was a streak of having only one turnover in six games and the team would certainly like to get back to that. Meanwhile, the Jets defense has forced 20 turnovers this year, but 15 occurred in the first six games. If the Patriots can’t take care of the ball against the Jets, they will have a real hard time doing it when it counts in the playoffs.

Continue strong pass defense

The Patriots’ pass defense has been solid the past few weeks and it certainly would like that to continue. Rookie Sam Darnold has been impressive since returning from an injury and should give the Patriots defense a tough test, as long as the Jets offense comes to play. JC Jackson has emerged as the No. 2 cornerback opposite of Stephon Gilmore and he will look to keep his strong play going into the postseason.

Fun facts

1. A win would give the Patriots a first-round bye for the ninth straight season, extending their NFL record. The previous longest streak was four years.

2. Since 2001 in the regular season, the Patriots are 156-27 when scoring first.

3. A win would give the Patriots their seventh undefeated season at home under Bill Belichick.

4. If Sony Michel played a full 16-game season with current stats, he would have 260 carries for 1,174 yards, which would be the seventh-most rushing yards in a single season in Patriots franchise history.

5. In the regular season, the Patriots are 93-1 when leading at halftime in the history of Gillette Stadium.

Prediction 

Patriots 30, Jets 13

While the Patriots didn’t cover the big spread last week, expect them to this week. The Jets don’t have anything to play for, their head coach is likely coaching his last game and several starters have already been ruled out. Meanwhile, the Patriots are treating this like a playoff game, which means this one could be over and over early. New England needs a strong, confidence-boosting game before the playoffs.

Related: Mike Lombardi on OMF connects some of Tom Brady's struggles this year to missing OTAs

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