The Patriots return home for their final home of the 2016 regular season when they take on the New York Jets on Saturday. The Christmas Eve kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots (12-2), defeated the Broncos 16-3 in Denver as Dion Lewis led a Pats running game that controlled the clock and the tempo. He gained 95 yards on 18 carries. LeGarrette Blount scored his NFL leading 15th rushing touchdown and the defense forced as many turnovers as points allowed.
The Patriots win clinched the AFC East for the eighth year in a row, and the 14th in the last 16 seasons. They sit alone atop the AFC with the top seed ahead of Oakland by a game and two over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Jets (4-10), are just playing out the string this season. After barely missing the playoffs a year ago, there was much hope for a big season in 2016 but injuries, poor play at key positions and some questionable coaching decisions leave the Jets in a bad way with two games to go.
Here are our Second Five Impressions of the Jets:
Offensive Line is Decimated by Injury: The Jets left guard James Carpenter, who will start this week against the Patriots is the only remaining starter from the start of the 2016 season. The Patriots from 2015 feel your pain, but this year, it was the Jets bad luck to be hit hard by the injury bug.
In 2015, the Jets stayed healthy, remarkably so, with starters missing just 20 games due to injury. The Jets used only 60 players during the season, making Todd Bowles first year at head coach a smooth one. But 2016 has been a disaster, especially at the offensive line. Jets starters have missed 81 games this year and they’ve been forced to use 70 players, the most in the NFL.
The Jets offensive line was once one of the league’s best. Now, it is a collection of aging, beat-up players, well past their prime. LT Ryan Clady was brought in to solidify things this season. He landed on IR. Center Nick Mangold will miss his ninth game, RG Brian Winters was just placed on IR and RT Breno Giacomini will miss his 11th game and is on IR as well.
The probable starting unit on Saturday is very short on experience. ESPN’s Rich Cimini put out this startling tidbit this week. LT Ben Ijalana has 11 career starts, LG Carpenter has 69 and is the only opening day starter left. Center Wesley Johnson has seven, RG Dakota Dozier will be making his first career start and RT Brandon Shell will be making his second.
Maccagnan Needs to Clean House…Again: The Jets followed a path that many teams do when changing a head coach, as they did with the hiring of Bowles. They overpaid a bunch of veterans with the “win-now” approach attempting to re-ignite the fan base and put the new coach in a favorable position.
It backfired. The Jets are once again in salary cap hell and currently are already over the 2017 salary cap as it is currently projected. This is a defense that very much underachieved in 2016 and with an offensive line badly in need of an overhaul.
We mentioned the OL above as being beaten up. It is also showing its age and needing an influx of youth. Clady, 31 has played in just 27 of a possible 64 games in the past four years. Cutting him would save about $10 million in cap space. Center Nick Mangold is now 33 and cutting him would save $6.7 million. Breno Giacomini is 32 and cutting him would save the Jets $4.5 million. And that is just the offensive line.
The Jets secondary is looking at a number of hits too. It begins with Darrelle Revis, who is now picked on by opposing teams. Rather than shy away from “Revis Island”, opposing WRs are booking their stays there and piling up big stats. He’s maybe going to move to safety, but paying a safety $15.3 million? Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist will be looked at as well for either renegotiation or being cut. DL Sheldon Richardson is another player that if they cut or trade can save the Jets $8 million.
The spending spree the Jets went on two years ago when they cut Rex Ryan loose didn’t pay dividends and will force them to go thru a ton of turnover in 2017.
Petty Should Be Back Under Center: After taking a scary looking hit in the Dolphins game, it looked like QB Bryce Petty’s audition for the 2017 starting job was going to be cut short. He took a tremendous hit in a sandwich by Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake last week and was forced to leave the game.
But he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and should be under center when the Jets visit Foxboro this weekend. If so, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the backup. This year’s 2nd round draft pick Christian Hackenberg is said to still be nowhere close to NFL ready so in essence, the Jets really have no idea what they have in him.
Petty, who will wear a protective chest pad under his shoulder pads has had flashes of nice play intermingled with the expected poor decisions that plague QBs in the first year of starting. His completion percentage to his two big targets Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Marshall will have to improve. He’s completed just half of his throws to Enunwa and less than a third to Marshall.
Richardson Adds to Already Bad Situation on Snapchat: As if the Jets needed any other distractions. Jets’ safety Rontez Miles captured DL Sheldon Richardson on his phone doing a short video which he then posted on his Snapchat account.
“Snapchat takeover gang gang in this (expletive),” Richardson said on camera. “You know, pre-game (expletive). Where the hoes at, though.”
The final few seconds of the video are fuzzy at best, but Richardson appeared to say “(expletive) this game,” or “(expletive) this guy.”
Coach Todd Bowles wasn’t pleased and said he spoke with Richardson and that the situation was handled in house. Richardson appeared unfazed by the uproar, however. He was under fire earlier this season for another off-field incident when he was arrested in suburban St. Louis in 2015 for racing his Bentley, at times as high as 143mph with a 12-year old relative in the car while fleeing police.
Injuries Impacting Special Teams: The trickle-down effect to all the injuries that the Jets have suffered is that eventually, they make their way down to their special teams. And it is making its mark on the Jets kick return units.
The Jets kickoff return team has eight different players who weren’t even on the team or part of the 53-man roster at the beginning of the 2016 season. Where teams usually try to find a solid unit and work them into a smooth performing machine, that has been lost to the Jets this year.
This week’s game will bear close watching on the Special Teams’ units as with so many new and different faces, the Jets may be at a disadvantage here. Nothing can turn a game around so quickly as a big STs play. And although all of the Patriots – Jets games since the “Butt Fumble” game have been remarkably close, this one has the potential to be a lot less close.
Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.
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