Expect the New England offense to perform much better than it did last week. Let’s give credit where it is due: the Jet defense is one of the best in the NFL. The Patriots should have much better success on third down than they did last week, which will lead to more scoring opportunities – and at the same time keep the Patriot defense off the field, allowing them to be less gassed and more effective.
One nice thing about the final week of the season for football fans is that two networks televise both an early and late game, plus restrictions that prohibit another game being televised while the local team plays a home game are lifted. There was a time when this was actually standard operating procedure: the AFL would televise two games on NBC, and the NFL would televise two games on CBS. Once the two leagues merged that ended though, and now pro football fans are forced to either pay big bucks or watch crappy games between losing teams far too often.
While many of the top NFL teams such as New England, Seattle, Carolina and Green Bay lost in Week 16, nobody was more negatively affected than the Pittsburgh Steelers. A shockingly flat performance against an injury-riddled Baltimore team that was forced to start an out-of-work Ryan Mallett at quarterback will most likely keep them out of post-season play. Losses by the Patriots and Panthers prevented those teams from securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but did not drop them in the playoff standings. Seattle’s loss at worse means only the difference between a fifth and sixth seed, and despite the Packers looking abysmal on Sunday night, they are still in the driver’s seat to win the division and claim the number three seed in the NFC.
In one of only three NFL Week 16 games between two teams with winning records, the 12-2 New England Patriots take on the 9-5 New York Jets in a game with playoff implications for both teams. The Patriots have already won the AFC East title (for the seventh consecutive season) and earned a first round bye. The Pats can clinch the number one seed and home field throughout the conference playoffs with a win over their arch rivals (or with a loss by Cincinnati). The Jets have the same record as Pittsburgh and Kansas City but need help because they would lose tiebreakers to the Steelers or Chiefs. Gang Green will be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss combined with wins by the Broncos, Steelers and Chiefs. The Jets would also be eliminated from the number five seed with either a loss plus a Pittsburgh win, or a loss plus victories by the Broncos and Chiefs.
On Thursday, prior to the start of any Week 15 games, the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published early ‘look ahead’ odds for the following week’s NFL action. The line originator installed the New England Patriots as three-point road favorites over the New York Jets in what will be the 114th meeting of these two bitter rivals from the AFL. Since the finish of Sunday’s NFL games 14 other venues have followed suit and list the Pats as three-point favorites, while four are placing New England at minus 3½ points.
In both conferences the race for the number five seed is nearly as meaningful as getting a first round bye. Both of the number five seeds will most likely be playing against a team with a .500 (or losing record). On the other hand the number six seed will have to go on the road against a ten or eleven-win club.
Prior to their come from behind victory over New Orleans, Carolina became the first team to clinch a playoff spot when Tampa Bay defeated Atlanta 23-19. The Panthers have won their third straight NFC South title and are a virtual lock for a first round bye. Meanwhile New England’s upset loss to Philadelphia dropped the Patriots to the number three seed in the AFC – though what many are overlooking is that the Pats still control their own destiny for a first round bye since Denver and Cincinnati play each other in Week 16.
In a Tweet from NFL.com, Brady was front and center in another photo showing the Playoff Picture if the season ended today.