BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- Sunday afternoon, the (7-3) New England Patriots will visit the (3-7) New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Both teams are coming off a bye week, both are coming off ugly, disappointing losses in week 10, but both teams are headed in entirely different directions. The Patriots are set to capture their sixteenth AFC East title since quarterback Tom Brady entered the league 19 seasons ago and the Jets are trying to justify why they have not fired their head coach midseason. Entering play, early odds have the Patriots as 9.5 point favorites.
Breathe it in.
We’re back to work.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 19, 2018
What to Watch For on Sunday:
1. The Jets’ Effort: Plaguing this Jets team: A lame-duck head coach (most reports are saying Todd Bowles will be fired at the conclusion of the season), an injured rookie quarterback (Sam Darnold still is not practicing, despite having the bye week to help to heal his injured foot), and speculation that general manger Mike Maccagnan may not be around for next year’s draft.
This team, that had blown out the Detroit Lions on National television in week one Monday Night Football action, had oddsmakers rethinking the Jets’ 100/1 to win the Super Bowl. But the Jets most recent game was one in which they lost miserably to Matt Barkley, a third string quarterback, and the Buffalo Bills. The Jets lost so miserably last Sunday that a fan, who was pulled over for suspected driving while intoxicated, told the arresting officers that ‘he drank so much because the Jets suck”.
So… what happened between weeks one and ten?
Darron Lee, Jets linebacker and I discussed the inconsistencies that have been plaguing this team. At Boone Enterprises Authentic Autographs in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, he told me: “I think you have a lot of those in dealing with young team. It’s hard to find that balance and your rhythm as a team. We’ve had stretches where we’ve looked like a really perennially good football team and we’ve had stretches where we haven’t looked like we even remotely belong. So, there’s up and downs of this league, there’s up and downs of a young team, and we’re a fairly young team and so, it just comes with it. You see the flashes of what we can become and consistency is a really hard thing in the NFL. So, I really think finding that way and finding that rhythm is very difficult, but we’ll have to try to find something [during] these last six games”.
2. Injury reports: Following a what the team is calling a “strained foot injury”, Sam Darnold’s status for week twelve action against the Patriots remains up in the air. Darnold told reporters: “we don’t want to rush things“. At practice today, Darnold was spotted in street clothes. Head coach Todd Bowles told reporters that Darnold’s status as: “day-to-day, week-to-week”.
While Darnold’s fate for week 12 is currently in limbo, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that Patriots’ pro-bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski will be back in the starting lineup. Lee didn’t directly answer my question on how having Gronkowski on the field changes the Jets’ game plan: “it effects it as long as #12 is the quarterback“. He continued: “we know what these guys are bringing to the table, this is my third year, my third go-around in getting to play these guys, so I already know what’s about to happen. We’re trying to be on our P’s and Q’s and we’re going to try to go out there and get a win, we’re not going to sit there and lay down, regardless of who they are. Any given Sunday, anything can happen, so we’re going to try to go out there and get a W.“
After missing three of the past four games with a lingering back injury, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be able to play in New England’s next game after Sunday’s bye against the New York Jets, per sources. More on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 18, 2018
3. Father time and Tom Brady? Eventually, father time catches up to everyone. Is 2018 the year in which 41-year old quarterback Tom Brady succumbs to him? According to NFL.com’s quarterback statistics, Brady is: 11th in passing yards, 14th in average yards per game, 15th in touchdowns, and 22nd in quarterback rating. So what is going on? He’s only been sacked sixteen times- ranked 25th of all starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The Jets know better than to believe the statistics. Lee told me: “It’s chess, not checkers playing that guy. I think that’s all you can really, possibly say. It’s Tom Brady. He’s been doing this since I was in the first or second grade. His film, his resume speaks for itself, I don’t even have to really speak for him.”
Biggest thing the #Patriots need to do coming off the bye week?
“Just try to improve.”
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 19, 2018
Brady told reporters: “ I got to go out there and play my very best these next six weeks to give our team the best chance…. We got another road test. Another opportunity to go up against the Jets, a division rival… and we got to have our best road game of the year, and that’s what I’m expecting from us.” To this, Lee responded: “It’s going to be a dogfight. It always is, we’re going to put our best foot forward, as we know they will so we’ll come prepared, ultimately.”