New England Patriots (7-3 SU, 7-3 ATS) vs. New York Jets (3-7 SU, 3-7 ATS)
NFL Week 12
Date/Time: Sunday November 27th 4:25 PM EST
Where: MetLife Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:NE -8 / NYJ +8
AFC East divisional rivals will battle it out on Sunday when the New England Patriots take on the New York Jets in a late afternoon matchup at MetLife Stadium. The game was originally supposed to be broadcast on Sunday night, but with the expected entertainment value having been severely cut down due to the Jets struggles throughout the season so far, the NFL made the switch to the Chiefs/Broncos tilt instead.
With a 3-7 record and next to no hope in site for a turnaround, it’s a near lock that this will be the fifth time in the past six years that the Jets finish their season without a winning record. Much of the attention on the team’s difficulties have focused on the offense, which currently ranks 23rd in yards, 29th in scoring and 26th in passing, and with struggles in those categories it is no surprise that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to receive a majority of the blame. He has started eight of their ten games this season and has been plagued by turnovers throughout, as evident by his 13 interceptions thrown so far which has him tied for the league lead with Blake Bortles of Jacksonville. Fitzpatrick has also continued a particularly stunning career long record of inferiority, and is now 0-25 in his NFL lifetime playing on the road against teams that finished the previous year with a winning record.
Many residents of Jets Nation were up in arms when head coach Todd Bowles announced Monday that Fitzpatrick would remain the team’s starter for the game against New England this weekend. While it has been widely reported that he has far outperformed second year quarterback Bryce Petty in practice, most seem to want the team to focus on the future and give Petty a shot or at least some in game experience, especially when considering Fitzpatrick has zero future with the team after their season ends. Unfortunately for them rookie 2nd round pick Christian Hackenberg is nowhere close to being ready, and there is some question if he ever will be as he really wasn’t overly impressive in his last two years at Penn State and was taken far too high in the draft considering his performance regression, but as he was a name player for a popular college, style won out over substance.
The lack of success from the quarterback position has had the expected negative impact on the rest of the offense, most notably to star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has scored just two touchdowns on the season while contributing a lower than projected 43 catches for 601 yards. The receiving corps took a big hit when they lost their 1-A receiver Eric Decker for the season after he was forced to undergo hip and shoulder surgeries thanks to injuries suffered back in September, though backup Quincy Enunwa has at least done an admirable job in attempting to fill the positional void and has posted stats similar to Marshall’s with 38 receptions for 534 yards and three touchdowns. With star offensive lineman Nick Mangold currently out with an ankle injury and considered questionable for Sunday after having missed their last game against the Rams, it doesn’t look like there is much for hope for an uptick in their point scoring potential anytime soon.
Offensive production has been far from an issue for the Patriots, currently ranking 6th in the NFL in all four major offensive categories – rushing yards, passing yards, total yards and points per game. They have only gotten better since star Tom Brady returned in week five, with the New England quarterback ranking first in the NFL in QB rating after having completed 70% of his passes and thrown 16 touchdowns compared to just one interception on the season thus far. Last week’s victory was the 199th of Brady’s career and he now remains just one away from tying Peyton Manning for the NFL record. And after last week’s victory against the 49ers, has now completed touchdown passes to 63 different players throughout his career, which ranks second all-time in league history behind former Jets and briefly Patriots quarterback Vinny Testeverde, who tops out the list with 71. While the next is a team accomplishment it is definitely a record that Brady has helped substantially with, as last week’s victory guaranteed that New England would finish with at least a .500 record for an NFL best 16 seasons in a row, a streak which started in no coincidence when Brady’s tenure started in Foxboro.
One member of the Patriots team not having the most productive of seasons is kicker Stephen Gostowski, who many considered to be the best kicker in the league going into this season but has struggled throughout 2016 and currently ranks just 20th in the league in field goal percentage and 26th for extra points. Gostowski, who holds the NFL record for consecutive extra points made with 523, has been accuracy challenged of late at the points after touchdown, having now missed three in the last five games. What many hope was brief issue with the yips has now gone from a couple of games instances to a consistent problem that Patriots fans are hoping can be fixed or at least somewhat corrected before the playoffs start, as many still have in their head the memory of his missed extra point against Denver in the AFC Championship game last year that ended up costing the Patriots dearly by game’s end.
While the New England offense remains on point and at least part of the special teams attempts to kick their way out of a slump, the defense continues to face challenges of their own. Though they were able to easily get past the 49ers and their hapless quarterback after limiting Kapernick to just 9 of 21 passing and 92 yards in the second half, they still ran into repeated issues that could easily become a much bigger problem if playing against a team with a remotely competent signal caller. They continue to clearly miss departed linebacker Jamie Collins, most notably when attempting to cover anyone coming out of the backfield on a passing play, and also maintain a similar issue when it comes to causing turnovers, ranking 27th in the league after intercepting five passes and recovering only four fumbles on the season thus far. Another game against a struggling offense should give them the additional time they need to gel together with their new look defense, though considering they are going on the road to take on a divisional rival that has the added benefit of coming off of their bye week, it would be grave mistake to take this weeks’ game in East Rutherford lightly.
Over the last ten games between the Patriots and Jets, New England has gone 8-2, but if you look closer at their most recent matchups, Gang Green stacks up better than they appear. The Jets have gone 5-0-1 against the spread over the last six contests between the teams and have won outright two of the last three games against the Patriots at MetLife Stadium. All that being said, I’m still going with the Brady/Belichick combination to get the win and cover on the road in Jersey. The Jets season is all but over, guaranteeing their followers another long year of listening to fans of opposing teams point out the fun fact that they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the moon landing, and while that may not bother those on the playing field, the question remains what internal motivation will they find to drive them considering they are essentially walking dead until week 17 comes to a conclusion and they are no longer stuck playing for a team where the most important position of quarterback is held by an essential default. When one team holds a clear advantage in terms for player talent, coaching and motivation, it’s usually a good idea to back them. Go with the Patriots.
Mike M’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -8
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