Merry Christmas everyone!!! Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk football. This is probably the most important game that the Jets have played since 2010. A loss would all but eliminate the Jets from playoff contention. Playing against a 12-2 Patriots team that beat them earlier in the season, the Jets have their collective back against the wall. Now all I want for Christmas this year is a Jets playoff berth. The Jets need to win on Sunday.
Where We Are
The Jets are trapped in a 3 way tie with 2 teams that have been absolutely dominant down the stretch. The Steelers have won 5 of their last 6, with their only loss coming in a nail-biter against the red hot Seahawks. The Chiefs haven't lost a game since week 6. Their collective opponents are the Flacco-less Ravens, two games against the hapless Browns, and the sub-.500 Raiders. Since the Jets also lose tiebreakers to both teams in the event of an even record, the Jets are what we often refer to as "boned." All the Jets can do now is win out and hope that one of the powerhouse opponents drops a game down the stretch. Help could come in the form of a Chiefs win and Broncos loss, however. The Broncos are playing against a strong Bengals team that is fighting for a first round bye. A loss by the Broncos could tie them with the Jets for the 6th seed in the event of every other team winning. The Jets would hold the conference record tiebreaker with the Broncos, meaning they could still earn a playoff spot. This could go down to the wire.
Where They Are
Hardly even seems worth mentioning. Cheating scandal. Free agent exodus. Clinched AFC East and first round bye in week 15. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Injury Report (Status not yet listed. Blame Xmas.)
|Fitzpatrick, Ryan||QB||Left Thumb||FP||FP||-||-|
I have to go with Chris Ivory here. Ivory hasn't been the same back that he was in the first quarter of the season. I'm not sure what happened, but over the last 3 weeks, Bilal Powell has looked like the better option. Since week 7, Ivory has had only one 100 yard rushing game and has averaged under 3 yards per carry in 4 contests. He's only had one touchdown in the last 6 games. Last week, Ivory toted the ball 13 times for only 37 yards and no touchdowns. This is not the Ivory we saw during the first quarter of the season, who averaged over 100 yards and a touchdown per game. Maybe he's wearing down after seeing the most work of his career. Maybe the run blocking is just that bad. Maybe it's a combination of the two. But if the Jets want to beat the Patriots, they'll need more from their bruiser. His disappearance in our first meeting decimated the Jets run game.
As long as he's healthy, my choice almost has to be Gronkowski. Along with J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald, Gronkowski is the only player who totally dominates his position. There's just no one else who can do what he can. Jimmy Graham's 2013 season was considered to be a thing of beauty, a year in which people realized he was the best receiving tight end the NFL could offer. His numbers (1215 yards, 16TDs) don't even meet Gronkowski's sophomore campaign (1327 yards, 17TDs.) Gronkowski is a monster in the run game and the best receiving tight end in the NFL. Every season thus far in which he's had over 1,000 receiving yards has seen the Patriots play in the Super Bowl. When healthy, he's almost impossible to stop. The Jets will have to try with a combination of players which I expect to include Revis, Skrine, Pryor, Harris, Gilchrist, and Cromartie. No matter who covers Gronk, expect him to put up numbers. He's just too good to stop entirely.
Keys To Victory
Offense: I honestly think Malcolm Butler has become insanely overrated in recent months. He's got a bright future ahead of him as a young player, but the guy should not be going to the Pro Bowl this year. I'll trust Brandon Marshall in one on one coverage with Butler in the red zone. I've seen him give up some plays when missing on interceptions. McCourty hasn't been quite up to the form he was in last year, but the Patriots have made up for these losses by getting healthy at linebacker. Don't bother throwing too many short RB routes because our RBs are not shifty enough to beat their excellent LBs. Pound it up the middle, set up play action, and rely on our superior receivers against inferior coverage corners. Don't be afraid to give the ball to Kerley.
Defense: If you don't know how the Patriots offense works by now, you probably never will. Cover the short pass. Cover it again and again and again. And again. And then some more.
The Bottom Line
I'm torn here because I think most people would agree with me that the Patriots are the better team. The defense is solid and any offense with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski is going to be prolific. But the Patriots really don't have much to play for at this point, while the Jets are red hot and desperate for a win to remain in playoff contention. I think that the Jets pull out a win. Or maybe I just hope that they do.