The New England Patriots and New York Jets will put the 2020 season to bed on Sunday as they go toe-to-toe in Foxborough. Truth be told, Bill Belichick's squad would probably be best served to lose this game to help their draft position rather than get a win and simply end the year at 7-9. However, that's not in New England's DNA even in this rare down season that sees them on the outside looking in of the playoffs for the first time since 2008, so they'll likely be going down swinging. As for the Jets, they are locked in with the No. 2 overall pick after a surprising two-game winning streak to snap an 0-13 run to begin the year.
While this game doesn't have any playoff juice to it, it's still a bitter rivalry that is poised to be pretty entertaining from the jump. Tom McCarthy and Jay Feely will be on the call for this matchup and before we dive deeper into this head-to-head, here's a look at how you can catch the action on CBS.
How to watch
The passing game has been an issue for the Patriots all season long but has really hit a speed bump over the last handful of weeks. In the last five games, New England has totaled just 550 yards passing combined. The Patriots' Week 16 loss to the Buffalo Bills was arguably rock-bottom in that regard as Cam Newton threw for just 34 yards before being benched for Jarrett Stidham in the third quarter. While Newton was once again able to make plays with his feet (including running for a touchdown), the lack of ability by both Newton and his surrounding cast to make plays through the air made it nearly impossible to catch up to Josh Allen and the Bills when they rattled off 21 unanswered points.
As mentioned earlier, the running game has been a strongpoint in New England's offense with Newton at the helm, but they do run into trouble when a deficit starts to form and they are forced to move off it. Coming into Week 17, New England ranks fifth in the NFL with 145.3 yards rushing. In the last three games combined, the Patriots have scored just 24 points, which is the fewest in the NFL over that stretch. Defensively, stopping the run has become an issue with linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley and defensively tackle Lawrence Guy both dealing with injuries. In the absence of Stephon Gilmore, the secondary was also gashed by Stefon Diggs for 145 yards receiving and three touchdowns on Monday.
That downward swing both offensively and defensively by the Patriots may help Adam Gase and his club possibly make it three wins in a row to close out 2020. New York's defense has been pretty stout over this two-game winning streak, allowing an average of just 18 points per game and 301 yards of offense. Of course, the Jets were assisted last week in the victory over the Browns after Cleveland was missing almost its entire receiver unit due to COVID-19, but this team has been impressive to close out the year.
Sam Darnold is also trying to state his case to remain as the Jets starter for 2021 and beyond. Over this two-game winning streak, he's completing 60.3% of his passes for 191 yards passing per game, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
The NFL odds over at William Hill Sportsbook have the Patriots as a three-point favorite heading into this matchup. Back in Week 9, New England defeated the Jets 30-27 as a 9.5-point favorite. Bill Belichick's club has also won nine-straight meetings in the series, which is the second-longest active win streak in any NFL matchup. However, the Patriots are 0-3 ATS and SU over the past three weeks while the Jets are 2-0 coming into this matchup and have covered in six of their previous nine contests.
Given the way both of these teams have played as of late, the way to lean would appear to be the Jets, which may have been unthinkable as recently as a month ago. While Darnold is no Josh Allen, the Jets quarterback does have the ability to open this game up through the air and, if he does, the Patriots could find themselves needing to pass themselves to a victory, which is something they haven't shown they can do this year. New York also ranks as the ninth-best run defense in DVOA, which could negate New England's one strength offensively.
Score prediction: Jets 21, Patriots 17