Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Patriots Need To Beat Jets This Weekend

Once again the Patriots are in prime position to secure a #1 overall playoff seed. One more win and the road to the Super Bowl runs through Foxboro in the AFC. But if New England plans to make it to Levi Stadium in February, they need to a win in New York this weekend. They should not wait for the last game of the year to sew up that seeding.

The reason the Patriots need a victory on Sunday is it would knock out their toughest potential playoff foe: the New York Jets. A Pats win on Sunday virtually eliminates the Jets from the post-season. And while the rest of the AFC field poses some challenges, the Jets would be the toughest out for the Patriots in the Tournament.

Here is a breakdown of the AFC field, in descending order of much the Patriots should want to face them.

7. New York Jets

First off, the Jets have some history to lean on; the 11-5 Jets beat the 14-2 Patriots in Foxboro in 2011. And that was only a few weeks after the Pats laid a 45-3 beatdown on the Jets in New York.

Also, the 2015 Jets also blitz more than any team in the NFL, which sets them up to exploit the one New England vulnerability that won’t be getting any healthier: the offensive line.

Nate Solder isn’t walking through that door, and neither is Matt Light. The Patriots offensive line problems won’t be improved much between now and the playoffs. And the creative blitz schemes of Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles seem tailor-made to attack the one area the Patriots can’t shore up at this point.

Additionally, no team wants to face a divisional opponent in the playoffs. Historically division games are close, and those close games can be decided by random bounces or a single turnover. Not the kind of risk the Patriots want to take in January.

Pats’ ace in the hole: In his career, Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 1-7 record and a 79.7 QB rating against New England.

6. Kansas City Chiefs

Combine eight straight wins with a 41-14 beatdown in their last game versus the Patriots, and Kansas City is the next toughest foe. Chiefs QB Alex Smith has thrown just 4 interceptions in 424 attempts, for a lower interception ratio than even Tom Brady. And the Patriots who thrive on turnovers, would have a tough time doing so against a Kansas City team with just 12 the entire season (second-lowest in the NFL).

Pats’ ace in the hole: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 4-1 career against Chiefs head honcho Andy Reid.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are riding high, practically scoring 30 points before warmups are over. The Pats did beat Pittsburgh 28-21 on opening night, but that was without Martavis Bryant and before Ben Roethlisberger got rolling. And even though DeAngelo Williams rushed for 127 yards in that game, a three-headed receiving monster is much more dangerous against the Patriots than two receivers and a running back.

Pats’ ace in the hole: Tom Brady’s career QB rating versus the Steelers is 113.4.

4. Denver Broncos

In Brock Osweiler’s start, the Patriots were missing linebacker Jamie Collins, linebacker Dont’a Hightower most of the game, receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, and even tight end Rob Gronkowski at the end. And Denver still needed overtime to pull out the victory, even at home. So Patriots fans shouldn’t fear Osweiler in Foxboro in the playoffs.

Peyton Manning gives the Broncos a better chance to win in the post-season. But even if he returns, the Denver defense is ill-suited to stop Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

Pats’ ace in the hole: New England is undefeated in home playoff games against the Broncos (1-0) and undefeated in home playoff games against Peyton Manning (2-0).

3. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals playoff failures and prime-time game futility are well-documented. Head coach Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in the post-season and quarterback Andy Dalton is 0-4.

And if Dalton can’t go, AJ McCarron isn’t much of an option. He’d be making his fifth or sixth NFL start in a potential game against the Patriots; and quarterbacks are 1-6 in that scenario since Belichick arrived in Foxboro.

Pats’ ace in the hole: Cincinnati has never won a road playoff game in franchise history (0-7).

2. Indianapolis Colts

Even if Indy wins out and makes the playoffs, they wouldn’t likely give the Patriots much trouble. Quarterback Andrew Luck is 0-5 versus New England, and the Indy offense appears to be in shambles, scoring just 36 total points in their last three games.

Patriots fans should salivate at the prospect of a Colts playoff game in the frosty northeast. Add in a chance to stick it to the franchise that leaked info to the press about DeflateGate, and it would be a perfect storm.

Pats’ ace in the hole: Dome teams are 1-5 all time in playoff games in Foxboro, and the last win was 38 years ago.

1. Houston Texans

The Patriots easily dispatched the Texans in Houston two weeks ago, 27-6. And that was without Hightower or Edelman.

True, JJ Watt had just been injured, and he played better last week. But with Houston down to their fourth starting quarterback, and coming north to play outdoors, there’s little reason to think the Texans can take out the Patriots.

Pats’ ace in the hole: Don’t really need one.


Health will be the biggest determining factor in how deep a playoff run the Patriots can make. But second to health is whom they play. And the Jets are one of the tougher potential outs for New England. All the more reason to pull out all the gadget plays and go for the victory this weekend.

If the Pats fall on Sunday, and they have to face the Jets in the playoffs, Patriots fans should be worried. Very, very worried.

Enjoy the game!

- Scott

PS. 12-2!


  1. Great article Scott. I didn't receive this one by Email FYI. Glad to be sitting next to you at the Pats first home playoff game this year.


    1. I usually just send the weekly updates; not the interim ones. Too bad the game went the way it went. But I'd be lying if I told you I didn't predict it :)