The end of the 2020 NFL season cannot come fast enough for the New England Patriots.
The Patriots suffered an embarrassing 38-9 defeat to the rival Buffalo Bills in a Week 16 matchup on "Monday Night Football." It was New England's worst home defeat in Bill Belichick's 20 years as the team's head coach.
The Bills dominated in every facet of the game and made a statement to the rest of the league. The loss dropped the Patriots' record to 6-9, guaranteeing a losing season in New England for the first time since 2000.
Here are three instant reactions to the Patriots' latest defeat.
1. There's no reason to play Cam Newton in Week 17.
The Patriots should have started backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham on Monday night, but it's not hard to see some of the potential reasons for why head coach Bill Belichick wanted to stick with Newton versus the Bills. A loss would have given the Bills a season sweep of the Pats and end a 20-year streak of New England not being swept by a divisional opponent. Buffalo also is a rival playing as well as any team in the league right now, and the competitive nature of Belichick probably felt Newton gave the Patriots their best chance to win.
But there should be no debate about the starter for next Sunday's regular season finale when the Patriots host the 2-13 New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. It's not a game the Pats need to win -- in fact, a loss is ideal because it could improve New England's 2021 draft position -- so why not give Stidham a look? Stidham has only seen action in garbage time this season, including his appearance Monday night when he replaced Newton with 8:33 left in the third quarter.
If the team thinks Stidham could play any role in its future, give him a full week of practice reps as the starter and create a game plan based around his skill set.
2. J.C. Jackson is finding out the No. 1 cornerback role is hard.
Jackson is a fantastic cornerback and probably should have been selected to the Pro Bowl, but he isn't an elite No. 1 cornerback just yet. The 25-year-old defensive back lost his matchup to the Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The Bills star has been the league's top wideout this season, and he tallied nine receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns on Monday night. A lot of that production came against Jackson, who gave up a 50-yard touchdown to Diggs in the second quarter and a 18-yard score in the third quarter.
Being a No. 1 cornerback is difficult, and Jackson has found out the hard way as Stephon Gilmore has been sidelined due to injury. This stat doesn't paint a pretty picture for Jackson:
Jackson will be a restricted free agent in the offseason and deserves a nice raise. He ranks second in the league with eight interceptions and has steadily improved in each of his three seasons. Jackson isn't a true No. 1 cornerback yet, though, and Monday night was more proof of that.
3. The Bills are a legitimate threat to the Chiefs in AFC title race.
The Bills are playing their best football at the perfect time as the playoffs near.
It's still pretty hard to pick against the Chiefs winning the AFC. Kansas City is the defending Super Bowl champion and likely will finish with a 15-1 record in the regular season. The Chiefs have the best player in the league in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who leads an offense loaded with depth, high-end talent and speed at every position.
However, if any team is going to derail the Chiefs' march toward back-to-back titles, it's probably the Bills. Buffalo has won eight of its last nine games and is scoring 32.1 points per matchup over that span. The Bills offense is led by quarterback and MVP candidate Josh Allen, who has shattered his previous career highs in completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns.
The Bills lost 26-17 to the Chiefs at home in Week 6, and you can bet Buffalo is motivated to earn a rematch with Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game and prove it's a legitimate Super Bowl contender.