New York Jets (4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (10-3 SU, 10-3 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday December 24th 1:00 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NYJ +16 / NE -16
Over/Under Total: 43.5
AFC East rivals going in opposite directions will clash on Sunday at Gillette Stadium when the New York Jets head to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. The Jets occupy the divisional basement and with last weeks blowout loss at home to the Dolphins guaranteed themselves their third season in the past five years that they will be finishing with double-digit losses, while the Patriots went on the road and beat Denver to solidify their 14th season in a row with double-digit wins and their 8th in a row with at least twelve wins and also earning a bye in the first round. New England has now won the AFC East eight straight seasons and in thirteen of the last fourteen years, whereas the Jets have taken home the divisional crown only twice since 1969.
The 41-10 loss against Miami at MetLife was the icing on the cake of terribleness that was the Jets 2016 season, who now have only one win at home in seven games this year. They have finished with less than two home wins only once since 1977, and that was their infamous 1996 squad that went 1-15 under head coach Rich Kotite and unfortunately for fans of Gang Green, have plenty of other similarities to this years team. Both struggled in many areas including- 1) consistency at quarterback with Neil ODonnell/Frank Reich/Glenn Foley replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick/Bryce Petty/Geno Smith, 2) squandered talent at both running back with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell doing what they could behind a disappointing offensive line, much like Adrian Murrell did when he ran for 1,249 yards and 6 touchdowns in 1996 and 3) not taking full advantage of having an elite wide receiver on your roster. In 1996 the Jets took Keyshawn Johnson with the 1st pick in the draft and he managed to put up 844 yards and 8 touchdowns despite playing second fiddle to Hofstra legend Wayne Chrebet, while this year they have watched as their best offensive player, Brandon Marshall, went to waste on a weekly basis as part of the 25th ranked passing offense in the league.
Marshall is in the midst of a current stretch where he has scored just one touchdown in the past nine weeks and has only 8 receptions for 92 yards over the last three weeks combined. The turmoil behind center has certainly done him no favors, and while Petty may be the fans choice to start at quarterback he is likely not Marshalls pick, as the wideout has caught just 12 passes for 107 yards and zero touchdowns in games started by Petty. With Brandon Marshall and injured receiver Eric Decker both under contract next year for just under 15 million dollars combined, the Jets will be hoping/praying for a lot better and more consistent play from their quarterback in 2017, the main issue they face though is where to find that player as there likely wont be a whole lot of quality options to choose from in the offseason.
Based upon the current NFL standings the Jets would have the fifth pick in the upcoming NFL draft, which would usually put them in a decent position to get someone at the position. Unfortunately for them it wont even matter that a majority of the teams around them are in need of a quarterback as well, the biggest obstacle in their way is that this years QB draft class one of the worst in recent years at and there is no one close to being worthy of that high of a pick. They are supposedly enamored with Mitch Trubisky of UNC, but he hasnt even declared yet and if he does still would not carry a high enough draft grade to warrant a top 5 selection, much like those expected to be off the QB board first like DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame and Deshaun Watson of Clemson. They should be able to find value in a later round, though fans will be hoping they dont fall into the same trap they did in the second round a year ago with Christian Hackenberg and over reach for someone who has little chance of ever being successful in the NFL.
If they are unable to address the need in the draft that leaves free agency, and the choices are pretty slim with that route as well. The best free agent available is Kirk Cousins, though he is likely going to resign with Washington which leaves only younger starters like Mike Glennon, Case Keenum, Blain Gabbert and Matt Barkley or a roll of the dice with a veteran like Brian Hoyer or Matt Cassell. The other possibility is the trade market or someone getting released, with Tony Romo or Jay Cutler likely the best options available in that regard. One thing is for sure is that they will not be bringing back either of their own unrestricted free agents Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick, though there is always the slight possibility of Mark Sanchez returning to finish off his career where it started and hopefully give us some more noodle armed excitement and if were lucky enough another butt fumble like he did against the Patriots four years ago.
Thankfully for New England fans, consistency at the quarterback position is the last thing they have had to worry about in recent years, as while the Jets have started 13 different quarterbacks over the past 13 seasons, the Patriots have started just 4 in that same time span and only 6 in their last 23 seasons. Tom Brady continues to add to his legend and lore this season while leading the NFL in quarterback rating and throwing for 22 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions, and appears likely to continue that success against a Jets team he has had the clear upper hand against in recent years. New England has won their last seven regular season games at home versus New York, and in those contests Brady has thrown for fourteen touchdowns and just one interception, and is currently in the midst of a 189 passing attempt streak without having thrown a pick against the Jets in Foxboro. In total Brady holds a 22-7 record in 29 games against the Jets while putting up a 41-13 TD/INT ratio and also rushing for a whopping three touchdowns, the most he has against any other team in the league.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski already out for the year and Danny Amendola currently on the shelf, the Patriots and Brady were in dire need of depth at the wide receiver position and were able to sign just released wide receiver Michael Floyd off of waivers from Arizona in the middle of last week. The former Notre Dame star has experience with the Patriots system after playing for contemptuous Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and also provides a possible free agent option at the position for next season in a scenario where Floyd could sign a short term deal in hopes of proving himself all over again and reinvigorating his NFL career after struggling both on and off the field in 2016.
It was no surprise that Floyd didnt play against Denver last week after just having joined the team and while the passing offense could have used him, their running game and all around defensive effort proved to be enough to beat the Broncos 16-3 in Mile High and likely eliminate last seasons Super Bowl champs from playoff contention. The Patriots backfield was led by both LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, and though Blount struggled gaining yards he still scored his league leading 15th rushing touchdown and Lewis contributed his best game of the season with 95 yards rushing on 18 carries. While the New England running game found success, their rushing defense was just as good, limiting the Broncos to only 58 yards on the ground and have now let up just 200 yards on 67 carries through their last four games.
This week the Patriots come in as a 16 point favorite against the Jets, which is a quite a lot of points to lay in any pro game, whether regular season or even the usual line inflating playoffs. While I was hoping the price would have been lower than two touchdowns I still think New England is the better play on Saturday, even with the Jets plentiful head start. In every week of the current NFL season at least two teams have won by 16 points or more and through fifteen weeks it has happened 47 times for an average of over three per week, including five of which that were 16+ point losses by the Jets themselves. The Patriots definitely have the personnel matchups in their favor, as they rank 4th in offensive scoring and 1st in defensive scoring, while the Jets rank 30th offensively and 26th defensively in the same categories. Last year New England ended their season with two losses and cost themselves home field advantage for the AFC Championship Game that they eventually lost in Denver, and they will not let that happen again. Patriots fans and their financial supporters get an early Christmas present on Saturday as the Patriots and Tom Brady continue their home success over the Jets and get an easy win and cover in Foxboro.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -16