The Jets and Patriots, two teams whose years did not unfold the way they expected them to, will conclude their 2020 seasons against each other at overcast Gillette Stadium in the woods and under the overcast sky of Foxborough, MA.
The Jets have finished on a small uplift after a season-long downdraft to 0-13. They won their first game against the Rams in Los Angeles, then last week won their first home game over Cleveland.
Today (1:02 pm ET kickoff) the Green & White will attempt to post their first division win — and on the road vs. New England, no less. One more victory, besides providing the team with that subliminal boost heading into the offseason, will make the Jets the second NFL team since 1978 to lose their first 13 games and win their last three. Indianapolis in 1986 did the same and in '87 the Colts improved to 9-6 and wore the AFC East crown into the playoffs.
The Patriots, of course, have been used to winning, but this season, one year removed from the reign of QB Tom Brady, have fallen to 6-9. They are assured of suffering their first non-playoff finish since 2008, their first single-digits win total since 2002 and their first losing record since going 5-11 in 2000 — Bill Belichick's first season at the New England helm after departing the Jets.
This game will be more than Sam Darnold vs. Cam Newton but that's one of the sidebars for how this game turns out. The two have never played against each other. Newton led New England on its 30-27 comeback, secured on Nick Folk's walk-off field goal, in Game 9, but Darnold was sidelined with his shoulder injury and Joe Flacco led the Jets' offense. Darnold is 0-2 as a starter vs. the Patriots but never had the chance to meet Newton as Carolina's QB.
Can the Jets piece together a winning effort? Their injury story continues its season-long roller-coaster but they should have solid answers for this week's moving of veteran RB Frank Gore (chest/lung) and fill-in RG Josh Andrews (thigh) Injured Reserve and of rookie RB La'Mical Perine to the team's COVID list.
The Jets at RB will turn to Ty Johnson, who had their only 100-yard rushing game of the last two years when he ran for 104 yards against Las Vegas, and Josh Adams, who leads the Jets with 6.1 yards/carry on a limited number of 18 carries. And the original starting RG, Greg Van Roten, has been activated from IR and could step back into the OL mix at that position.
Starting CB Bless Austin (illness) is inactive. But rookie CB Javelin Guidry, inactive last week, is active today.
The Jets also released K Sam Ficken and will turn to Chase McLaughlin, who was acquired on waivers from Jacksonville on Dec. 14 but hasn't played for the Jets yet, to do their placekicking against Folk, their kicker from 2010-16 who's enjoying career accuracy as a New Englander.
The Patriots have had their own injury and COVID issues through the season. For this game, starting RB Damien Harris (ankle) has been placed on IR, as have DE Tashawn Bower (neck) and LB Josh Uche (foot). Starting C David Andrews (calf) and starting G Shaq Mason (calf), were both declared out on Friday. WR Julian Edelman (knee) will not play. And on Saturday they added five practice-squad players to their active roster.
Despite the gray nature of this game, Belichick's message to his team and Adam Gase's communication to his troops for today's encounter are the same: If you're a competitor, you'll come to play and compete and win in this last game of the year.
The Jets' six-player inactive list for today:
- QB James Morgan
- CB Bless Austin
- TE Ross Travis
- OL Jimmy Murray
- DL Trevon Coley
- WR Lawrence Cager
And this is the Patriots' seven-man inactive list:
- QB Brian Hoyer
- CB Dee Virgin
- CB D'Angelo Ross
- LB Terez Hall
- LB Anfernee Jennings
- G Shaq Mason
- C Dave Andrews