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7 Points: Jets 'Trying to Unseat the Patriots' in Season Finale

Sam Darnold Goes Up Against Tom Brady for the 1st Time at Gillette Stadium


In one way, the Jets and New England are alike as they head into their regular-season finale on Sunday — both AFC East teams have lost two of their last three games.

But that's where the similarity ends. The Jets are 4-11 and heading home after this game while the Patriots are 10-5 and are heading for the postseason.

Jets head coach Todd Bowles gave his typical hard edge to the prospects of trying pay back the Pats after losing to them at home five weeks ago, 27-13.

"We're just trying to win a game, same as every week," he said "Same approach, same feeling."

And Bowles is not one to bemoan the inequity of the Jets every year since 2002 looking up at the Patriots in the standings at this time of year.

"We're just trying to unseat the Patriots on Sunday," he said, "and we'll worry about the coming years in the coming years."

The Jets at least have gotten over their midseason doldrums. They're scoring again and making their games competitive. They've lost six one-score games this season and 13 in the last two seasons, their most in back-to-back seasons in franchise history.

They'll need to take that competitive nature, and rookie QB Sam Darnold's maturation, and S Jamal Adams' ascendance, and a hoped-for close game at Gillette Stadium into the offseason to gird themselves for a run for loftier heights in 2019.

Here are seven more points of interest for Sunday's Jets-Patriots affair (1 p.m. ET kickoff):

1. Rivalry's Tough Road
It's been nine miles of hard road for the Jets in the rivalry. They're 54-64-1 in the overall series, 25-34-1 at the Patriots, and 0-7 at "The Razor" since their 28-21 conquest in the 2010 playoffs. It's only fair to note they're not the only team to struggle in the Massachusetts countryside. New England has won its last 14 at home, including last year's two playoff games, during which span they've outscored opponents by an average of about 30-16. Another one of those 14 wins was by 26-6 over the Green & White in last year's regular-season finale. If the 2018 Jets have one more big game in them, this is the time.

Take a Look Through Top Photos from the AFC East Rivalry

2. Tom by the Numbers
This isn't one of Tom Brady's most dominant seasons. His TD rate (4.7% of his passes) is his lowest in five years, his INT rate (2.0%) his highest in seven years, his passer rating (95.4) his lowest in five years, his losses (5) the most since 2009, his drive metrics tamer. Add to that the loss of WR Josh Gordon to an NFL suspension and WR Cordarrelle Patterson's sore knee and that means the Patriots are vulnerable, right? Hardly. Their offense is fifth in the NFL in total yards and eighth in points. And in Tom's last 16 starts vs. the Jets at Gillette, he's thrown 25 TD passes to four INTs, has a 95.1 rating and the Pats are 14-2.

3. Rookie Wrap
Darnold was sidelined for the first Patriots meeting. But the Jets QB is wrapping his rookie campaign with starts against Aaron Rodgers and Brady, and he fared well in directing four TD drives and taking the Packers to OT last week. Even though receiving consistency has been hard to find, with current injuries to Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse, he found WR Robby Anderson and TE Chris Herndon for a combined 15 catches, 222 yards and two TDs vs. the Pack. Darnold reminded he's not fighting Brady in a steel cage — "Obviously we're looking at the defense" — but admitted that in playing two NFL greats, "There's a little something extra there."

4. The Turnover Test
The Jets began the season with a five-takeaway bang at Detroit, and they would enjoy doing something close to that to the Patriots in their finale. It doesn't seem likely, of course. In turnover margin, the Pats are plus-7 while the Jets are minus-7 this season. Then historically, in their last 17 games at Gillette, the Jets' margin is a minus-17. Maybe the Bills' three takeaways at New England last week served as inspiration for the Jets D this week. Adams and friends don't have to pick Brady five times like they did Matt Stafford, but the TO game plan in their last five visits to New England — minus-10 margin, zero takeaways, five losses — isn't working.

5. Hold That Line
DC Kacy Rodgers said the Patriots "whipped us at the point of attack" last game with 215 rush yards led by rookie Sony Michel's 133, so MLB Avery Williamson and the Jets have to be ready to stop the run in general and in short-yardage/goal-line in particular. They gave up four goal-to-go TDs to Green Bay, including two 1-yarders by Rodgers. Brady has been notoriously hard to stop when keeping on third-/fourth-and-1 — he's converted 17 of 17 times vs. the Jets. But why should Tom throw his body into the fray when he can hand off to FB James Develin, who vs. the Jets can become the first player since 1970 to score more than four TDs on fewer than 10 carries.

6. Happy Returns
The Jets' five TD returns — Andre Roberts' punt- and kickoff scores and pick-sixes by Darron Lee, Mo Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson — are second in the NFL this season and are as many as they had in the previous 5½ seasons. A return score seems unlikely Sunday, since the Patriots have given up no return TDs, tied for fewest in the league this year. But a mere 220 total kick return yards for Roberts (after racking up 215 vs. GB) would give him Bruce Harper's franchise season record. And with the Jets first in PR average and second in KR average while the Pats are 27th and 28th in defending punts and kicks, such a return bounty is at least thinkable.

7. Grand Finale?
These AFC East neighbors played in the final regular-season game only twice before 2017. In 1998, Vinny Testaverde led the Jets to a 31-10 Meadowlands victory and into the playoffs. And in 1966, the Jets came to Shea at 5-6-2 while the visiting Patriots were 8-4-2 and with a win or a Buffalo loss would've clinched the Eastern berth in the AFL title game. But Joe Namath threw three TDs and directed a 528-yard offense in the 38-28 upset and then both teams went home for the winter when the Bills won their game. Fifty-two years later, the Jets would love to present their fans and their division rivals with a somewhat similar season-ending holiday surprise.

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