Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 24, 2016
All week long, I’ve been thinking that the Patriots are in the same exact position they were in last season. They’re 12-2, AFC East Champs, possess the number one seed, and their next opponent? The New York Jets. So, if we’re looking at the surface, they are in the same position. Everything I just listed is the same as a year ago. But this game today will not produce the same results as what happened on December 27, 2015.
Last season, the Patriots waltzed into Metlife Stadium and lost in bizarre overtime fashion to the Jets. That game hurt, and for more than one reason. First of all, it was like the Pats didn’t try. No one played, the offense couldn’t move the ball, the defense couldn’t stop the ball, and the overtime decision making didn’t make any sense. Then, a couple of weeks later, it became apparent that, that Jets game was the genesis of a downward spiral which eventually ended with Tom Brady nearly dying in Denver.
However, as I said, this one will not turn out the same way because beyond the surface, nothing is the same.
Last year, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Patrick Chung, and Devin McCourty sat. This year, three of the four will play, and Amendola’s got more-than-servicable replacements. Last year, the Jets featured the 10th best offense in football. This year, they’ve got the 21st. Last year, the Jets had the 4th best defense in football. This year, they’ve got the 16th. Last year, the Jets were a decent football team. This year, they are bad, and in fact, not good — something that doesn’t stack up well against a team like the Patriots.
And check out these stats:
|Jets’ Offense||Patriots’ Offense||Jets’ Defense||Patriots’ Defense|
The disparity is obvious. The Patriots are good and the Jets suck. That probably sounds a little childish, but it’s not a secret. Even the point spread reflects it.
#Patriots have opened as a 16.5 point favorite against the Jets.
— Tyler Sullivan (@TylerSully) December 19, 2016
Plus, everyone, from Bill Belichick down, know that they messed up in 2015. They know that Week 16 contest was a missed opportunity. The number-one seed and homefield advantage is crucial for a team looking to make a Super Bowl run, and after last season, I guarantee they’ll be salivating at the chance to avenge that loss.
So, to answer the question in the headline, no, Patriots’ fans should not be concerned about this game. Yes, it’s a big deal, and has major implications for the rest of the season. Yes, the Jets always turn it up a notch when they’re playing the Pats. And yes, I know that neither team has won by more than seven points since the beginning of 2013. But what I also know is this game will be different. There will be no Fitzmagic. Instead, there will be Bryce Petty, and I’m sorry, but Bryce Petty is a bad quarterback. He will not lead the Jets to victory. He will lose, and so will his team. The Patriots will improve to 13-2 and become Colts’ fans for the rest of the day.
(A Pats’ W combined with a Colts’ W over the Raiders will clinch the one seed and homefield advantage for New England.)