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Looking back at Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, it’s obvious that the Patriots coaching staff did the best they could to set Mac Jones up for success.
Sunday’s American Football Conference Championship Game pits the two teams that have ruled the AFC this millennium. Including next month’s game in Houston, either the Steelers or Patriots will have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl ten times since 2001.
The Patriots will methodically do what they need to do to win, while also minimizing opportunities for Houston to come away with an upset victory. Houston has had issues this season with their special teams coverage. That could set the Patriots up with a short field and a quick score. Once the Pats take a lead this Texan team is in trouble. Their offense does not have the talent to keep up with the Patriots.
While we are all still basking in the after glow of a hard fought upset road victory against a quality team, here are some numbers from Sunday night’s game at Phoenix.
For most of the season the topic of conversation in regards to the New England Patriots has centered on the performance of the offensive line. While that unit has at times deserved scrutiny, the return of Sebastian Vollmer has seemed to have stabilized the group. Overlooked has been what may be the real Achilles heel for this squad as they battle the Denver Broncos on Sunday: the team’s third down defense.
Thanks to the epic meltdown by the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers advance in the NFL playoffs – and the New England Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs rather than Cincy in the division round of the 2015-2016 post-season.
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.
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.
An interesting aspect to this game is how well New England can run the ball, behind an inconsistent offensive line and their top two running backs now on injured reserve. If the Patriots are too one-dimensional on offense then Tennessee might keep it interesting for a while thanks to their pass rush, but in the end the Titans are just far too overmatched in all three phases of the game to keep pace. The Patriots already had their annual WTF game two weeks ago against Philadelphia; they are not about to look past this one or lose a second straight home game.
Take the Patriots minus the points despite the big line.
The 10-2 New England Patriots seek to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002 when they travel to Houston to face the 6-6 Texans on Sunday. The Patriots need a win to keep even with Denver and Cincinnati in the race for a first round bye in the AFC, while Houston looks to overtake Indianapolis for the lead in the AFC South.
Philadelphia rookie CB Eric Rowe gets his first NFL start Sunday, and it against a New England team that since 2003 is 38-4 coming off a loss and is 52-8 in the month of December since 2001.
It is incredible the number of statistical categories that these two teams both rank in the top ten, top five, or best overall in – especially when you compare the Patriot offense versus the Bronco defense.
The Patriots host the 5-4 Buffalo Bills in a battle between the longtime division rivals on Monday night. A victory by the Pats all but mathematically clinches the AFC East for New England; it also would keep the Pats in the number one seed in the AFC, setting up a crucial game next week at 7-2 Denver. Buffalo currently owns the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture, but needs a win to stay ahead of six other teams that are no more than one win behind them.
The Giants defense ranks 30th or worse in total yardage, passing yardage, third downs converted, first downs, yards per play, yards per drive, passes completed, sacks and sack yardage.
To me though the biggest concern is not one of the wide receivers, but tight end Jordan Reed. Reed is too quick for any linebacker to cover him, and at 6’2″ 237 it is a very difficult task for a corner to bring him down. The Patriots have had issues with opposing tight ends for several years now, and Reed could cause the Pats fits. In 4½ games this year – Reed has missed time due to concussions – the tight end has 350 yards receiving with three touchdowns and 22 first downs, catching 35 of the 47 passes (74%) thrown his way. Reed leads Washington in first downs and is tied for the lead in receiving yards and touchdowns, despite the time he has missed. To me the primary challenge is to stop Reed – much the way the Pats did against Tony Gonzalez a few years ago – and dare Cousins to beat the Patriots deep.