The New England Patriots still need a win over the New York Jets in Week 17 to clinch their traditional first-round playoff bye. The AFC East rivals will get things started at 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 30, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Fans in the northeast will be able to watch the game on CBS.
According to the Week 17 NFL odds, the Patriots are favored by 13.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 45. points.
Some questions have been asked of the Patriots in recent weeks following back-to-back losses to the Dolphins and Steelers. However, they responded last week with a comfortable win over the Bills to get back on track. That win got New England to 10-5 on the season, giving them a chance to earn one of the top seeds in the AFC.
A win on Sunday will guarantee the Patriots at least a first-round bye while a win combined with losses by the Chiefs and Chargers would get them the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, if the Patriots lose on Sunday, there’s a good chance they’ll miss out on a bye and face a difficult game next week in the Wild-Card Round.
Meanwhile, the Jets have lost eight of their last nine games, dropping them to 4-11 on the season. With a loss this week, the Jets will guarantee themselves a last-place finish for the third straight season. However, with a win, the Jets will have a chance to at least tie the Bills for third place in the AFC East.
Of course, New York’s late-season results can be a little a little misleading. The Jets are painfully close to winning four games in a row. But they have struggled to finish out games they had a chance to win against the Titans, Texans, and Packers over the past month.
As you can guess, the Jets haven’t had a lot of success in this rivalry. New England has won 13 of their last 15 games against the Jets, including a 27-13 win earlier this year. Perhaps more importantly, the Jets haven’t won a game in Foxboro since a playoff game following the 2010 season, a streak they would like to see come to an end.
As always, I hate swallowing this many points in a division rivalry game. I think there are enough lingering questions about the Patriots combined with enough promise from the Jets in recent weeks to avoid eating the points here. Admittedly, New England is close to unbeatable at home and always a threat to blow out lesser teams. But I’ll take my chances with the Jets beating the spread.
The Jets have been a different team since Sam Darnold returned from injury a few weeks ago. The rookie has thrown six touchdowns to just one interception over his last three games. He threw for 341 yards last week in a shootout against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, so he could be up for a similar game this week against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Late in the year, Darnold has started to develop great chemistry with receiver Robby Anderson and tight end Chris Herndon. He also doesn’t seem to be bothered by the December cold in the northeast, which has been a pleasant surprise for the USC product.
It’s important to remember that Darnold didn’t play when these teams met earlier in the season. It was Josh McCown at quarterback when the Jets only managed 13 points against the New England defense. The Patriots figure to have a much harder time this week against Darnold, who is a far bigger threat pushing the ball down the field than McCown.
Of course, New England has plenty of offensive firepower as well. Aside from what Brady and the passing game bring to the table, Sony Michel had a big game last week, rushing for 116 yards after a few off weeks. Michel and the running game have been vital to New England’s success all season, so last week’s performance was a good sign moving forward. He also put up 133 yards rushing against the Jets last month. If the New York defense can’t do a better job this week, they’ll have a hard time keeping the Patriots out of the end zone.
That being said, the Patriots have seemed a little out of sync offensively lately. Rob Gronkowski didn’t have any catches last week and has been held in check more times than not over the past month. New England is also averaging just 21 points per game over their last six games, nearly a touchdown less than their season average. That could be enough points to beat the Jets, but it may not be enough to cover the spread.
By no means do I think the Patriots are at serious risk of losing this game. But they haven’t played anywhere close to their best over the last month, at least not with any consistency. Meanwhile, I think Darnold has a chance to give them some problems. The rookie probably won’t lead the Jets to victory, but he’ll do enough to make the Patriots sweat and enable the Jets to beat the 13.5-point spread.