Curran's Patriots-Jets Preview: Can Pats finish season on high note? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?"
Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.
"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!" - Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
The 2-13 New York Jets are in town for the season finale of this ill-fated 2020 campaign. And while most people would scoff at the mere suggestion of it, we’ll suggest it anyway: Are they the Ghost of Christmas Future for Bill Belichick?
Are they a cautionary tale in the same way we looked at the Bills and Dolphins as being examples of how to get out of the morass of mediocrity? As much as we presume the Patriots of Kraft and Belichick could never sink to the Jets' depths, acknowledging the reality of where the Patriots currently are means accepting Belichick may not be infallible.
This is the last game before one of the most important offseasons in Patriots history. The Jets are not a shadow “of the things that Will be.” But they are a shadow of how “things May be” if the Patriots continue to flail in their roster restock. The Jets come in on a two-game winning streak. The Patriots have lost three straight and have one touchdown in their last 12 quarters. Could the Patriots take a season-ending sweep from the rest of the AFC East?
When the Patriots Have the Ball
The Patriots are pretty clearly going to dance with the one that brung ‘em at quarterback. That would be Cam Newton. And after plays like this from Jarrett Stidham when trying to make an impression on why he should see more time, you cannot blame them.
That, my friends, is a fumble. Anyway, the Patriots are kind of licking the stamp on this one. David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Damien Harris have all been ruled out. The November hopes of getting Isaiah Wynn and Julian Edelman back from IR have gone by the boards (Wynn has now played 18 of a possible 48 regular-season games since being selected in the first round in 2018). So it’s run the ball with Sony Michel and J.J. Taylor, throw it over, under and around James White and Damiere Byrd and find Jakobi Meyers a time or two.
The Patriots need 348 passing yards to top 3,000 for the season. I don’t know if they could do that if you locked them in the fieldhouse by themselves all day.
When the Jets Have the Ball
The Patriots got absolutely tuned up by Buffalo on Monday night. It was bad enough that their run defense was flaccid in the two games prior. The Bills exposed them in the secondary as well, throwing for 344. The Patriots have allowed over 560 rushing yards in the last three games.
In beating the Rams and Browns the past two weeks (teams that desperately needed wins), the Jets played efficiently on offense with Sam Darnold going pickless in the last two games. And he’s been bad this year – eight touchdowns, nine picks and 32 sacks in 11 games. The Patriots have a similar litany of injuries on the defensive side as they do on offense. We’ll see which side is more motivated.
The Kicking Game
Jets kicker Sam Ficken has only missed two attempts this year, both outside 50 yards. Punt returner Braxton Berrios – the Jets' second-leading receiver – has been a handy player.
The Patriots really don’t want the indignity of seeing a guy they released having a day against them. The Jets punter is Braden Mann. The Jets stink at punt coverage.
Patriots Medical Report
OUT: C David Andrews (calf), RB Damien Harris (ankle), and G Shaquille Mason (calf).
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ja'whaun Bentley (shoulder), CB Justin Bethel (neck), DT Adam Butler (shoulder), LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), LS Joe Cardona (ankle), DT Byron Cowart (back), T Jermaine Eluemunor (ankle), K Nick Folk (back), DT Lawrence Guy (shoulder), LB Terez Hall (ankle), T Justin Herron (ankle), CB J.C. Jackson (knee), LB Anfernee Jennings (shoulder), S Devin McCourty (shoulder), WR Donte Moncrief (thigh), and WR Matt Slater (knee).
Jets Medical Report
QUESTIONABLE: CB Bless Austin (illness), CB Javelin Guidry (knee), and WR Jeff Smith (shoulder).
Game Within the Game
What’s your motivation? The Patriots aren’t going to the playoffs. They aren’t avoiding a sub-.500 season. Their best-ever player left before the season. Some of their best players opted out. Almost all the remaining best players are either on IR or sitting this one out. The players who are out there will try to win. But after three straight losses and more problems than solutions, there’s a bit of a white-flag feel from them. And the Jets? Winning a pair the past two weeks.
Jets Gotta Stop
“Well, at least Jakobi wasn’t bad…”
That’s pretty much the slogan for the Patriots offense over the past few weeks. He’s got 53 catches for 661 yards this year. That’s 10 more this year than N’Keal Harry’s compiled in two seasons. But I digress.
Patriots Gotta Stop
The Jets' little wideout has 13 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown the past two weeks. He threw a touchdown pass too. Darnold looks to him on third downs.
That Sums It Up Patriots Style
“It's just as important as any week honestly. We're a bunch of competitors. There's a lot of competitors in that locker room and losing, you know, losing sucks. Whether we're playing cornhole, rock, paper, scissors, you know, no one in that locker room wants to lose. So just knowing that you're going out there, you know, every Sunday with guys like that, it's a - the only thing to come off the field tomorrow is with a win. That's the only option for us.”
– Jonathan Jones, Patriots CB, on closing with a win.
That Sums It Up Jets Style
“The more he’s played with the wide receivers has been good. I mean, anytime you get a situation where we had a lot of moving pieces going on there for a while in the beginning of the season and then just having some consistency has been helpful for him. But, I think he’s also made some strides in his decision making. He’s done a good job of protecting the football and making sure we’re ending this possession with a field goal or extra point. If we’re punting, it’s the worst thing that’s happened to us. That’s something that’s going to be important for us this week.”
- Adam Gase, Jets head coach, on the recent improvement of Sam Darnold.
The Winner Is...
Jets 27, Patriots 19.