The New England Patriots end their regular season with an AFC East matchup against the New York Jets. The Patriots have already clinched the AFC East and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Currently maintaining the top seed in the AFC by head-to-head tiebreak, New England needs a win on Sunday to ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Here are the Week 17 New England Patriots Keys to Victory.
Week 17 New England Patriots Keys to Victory
Don’t Sweat the Petty Things
The Patriots have faced their share of good quarterbacks this year in Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger. They’ve also faced their fair share of mistake-prone quarterbacks in Jameis Winston, Josh McCown, and Jay Cutler. The Patriots have had their ups and downs against all skill levels, but getting the Jets in week 17 is a gift for the AFC East champions.
Bryce Petty is, in short, awful. In nine games played, Petty has thrown 10 interceptions to only four touchdowns and has a career completion percentage of 53.1%. He has only found the end zone once this season in three games played. There have been whisperings that Christian Hackenberg might play against the Patriots in week 17. If Petty is a Jet, Hackenberg is a poorly folded paper airplane. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for New York, the passing offense isn’t going to be much of a threat.
Get Hot Early
The Patriots have been getting off to rough starts on offense recently. New England has been tied or trailing at the half in three of their last four games. There are no expectations that the Jets will put the Patriots in a hole early, and Bill Belichick would sure appreciate it if expectation became reality.
Tom Brady and company have to capitalize on early possessions and mount a substantial lead on the Jets before halftime. With the playoffs looming, minimizing star players’ exposure to potential injury is going to be in the back of the coaching staff’s collective mind. Fire up the cannons in the first two quarters and bring out Brian Hoyer to run out the clock in the second half.
Show off the Christmas Present
James Harrison is a New England Patriot. Again, for the folks in the back. James Harrison is a New England Patriot. The Patriots pass rush is suspect at best and has been wrecked by injury. Opposing quarterbacks aren’t shaking in their cleats to take on New England. But Harrison is the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time franchise sack leader. The veteran linebacker is expected to play on Sunday. Wouldn’t it be nice for Matt Patricia to roll out a pressure-heavy defense to remind Pittsburgh that they’re number two in the AFC? And who better to use as a tackling dummy than the inefficient Jets offense?
The Jets are also awful at protecting their quarterbacks. Jets quarterbacks have been sacked 43 times this season, which ranks in the bottom 10 for protection in the league. Opposing defenses have also picked off the Jets 12 times. While that’s not an outstanding statistic, that number should go up significantly when the Jets land in Gillette.
The Patriots and the Jets kick off on Sunday at 1:00 PM Eastern.