Curran's Patriots-Jets Preview: Home frigid home
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
It’s going to be frigid and the Patriots are without Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee while James White had an ankle that kept him out last week. Dion Lewis is the only healthy back aside from Brandon Bolden. Meanwhile, Chris Hogan is still working back from his shoulder injury. In short, the Patriots could use a clean, tidy low-resistance game from the Jets in which they score early then have some time-consuming drives. The Jets have been pretty stingy against the run this year and have two solid young safeties and (Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams) along with inside linebackers Demario Davis and Darron Lee to bow up. Muhammad Wilkerson won’t play. He’s been a dink all year. The extension given to Todd Bowles lets the players know that his way of doing business isn’t going away so the likelihood of a mail-in effort has been reduced. Tom Brady’s thrown picks in five consecutive games. Like snowflakes, they are all a little different and all picks aren’t created equal. Still, it’s an unusual flurry. The Jets safeties will no doubt look forward to the challenge of dealing with Gronk, who’s been abusing secondaries for more than a month.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Look forward to seeing what James Harrison can do in this game. My feeling is he could go anywhere from being a vital contributor on all downs both as a pass rusher and edge-setting run-stopper all the way down to being released by Wednesday. I have no idea. The Jets are mulling getting some reps for 2016 second-rounder Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. He would spell Bryce Petty who is completing 46.2 percent of his passes in two starts since Josh McCown got hurt. That rotation will give this game a preseason feel.
THE KICKING GAME
The Jets opened last week’s game against the Chargers with an onside kick that they recovered. The high point for an otherwise horrible team when it comes to fourth down performance. They are among the worst in the NFL in punt returns (4.5 YPR) and are at 20.8 on kickoff returns. Punter Lac Edwards has dropped 31 of his 87 punts inside the opposing 20. Chandler Catanzaro is a kicker of minor distinction. Ryan Allen has punted 37 fewer times for the Patriots this season than Edwards. LOL.
PATRIOTS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: DT Alan Branch (knee), RB Rex Burkhead (knee) and RB Mike Gillislee (knee). QUESTIONABLE: WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), DE Eric Lee(ankle, finger), S Devin McCourty (shoulder), WR Matt Slater (hamstring), LB Kyle Van Noy (calf), T LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and RB James White (ankle)
JETS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: T Brandon Shell (concussion). DOUBTFUL: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ribs, foot). QUESTIONABLE: DE Kony Ealy (knee), RB Matt Forte (knee) and RB Akeem Judd (ankle).
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The bitter-ass cold. It could be down in the single digits. God knows where the wind chill will be. The Jets will take the field with three hours left in their season and 11 before the ball drops in Times Square. How interested will they be in going balls out and risking offseason pain and rehab in a meaningless game in arctic temperatures? Fun’s fun and you have to give an honest effort but let’s get out of here in one piece and start fresh at OTAs. That’d be my message.
JETS GOTTA STOP
Rob Gronkowski. He’s been outrageous this month with 29 catches in the past for games good for four touchdowns and 466 yards.
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP
Robby Anderson. Undrafted in 2016, the Jets 6-1, 190-pound wideout is 61 yards shy of 1,000 yards and has blossomed this season into a very capable receiver. With Austin Sefarian-Jenkins down, Anderson is the main receiving threat along with Jermaine Kearse.
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
“I’m always trying to keep those down. I think you're right, there’s been more in the last couple of games than there should be. I think it’s just making smart decisions. Whenever they get their hands on it, it’s not a good thing for the offense. Putting it in places where only we can touch it or we can catch it is important, especially understanding the situations in the games. We've been able to overcome a few of those but, obviously, like at Miami, we didn’t overcome them and ball possession is going to be extremely important in this game. We always try to do no turnovers. That’s a good goal for us. That’s what we should have every week. I can certainly do a better job than I’ve done protecting it and it's going to be really important.” – Tom Brady, on keeping the interceptions down. He’s had a rash of them in recent weeks.
THAT SUMS IT UP JETS STYLE
"We've got some prideful guys and we fight and we understand where we are, but that doesn't mean we don't try to go out and win every ballgame, and this week will be no different for us.” – Todd Bowles, Jets coach, who was given a contract extension on Friday.
THE CREW, THE BOOTH AND THE LINE
Brad Allen is the head referee for this game. Home teams are drawing 41 percent of the penalties his crew assesses. The Patriots are favored by 15 and the total is set at 43.5. Jim Nantz and Tony Romo are in the booth for CBS.
THE WINNER IS...
Patriots 27, Jets 6