Fight or Fall
The Jets have backed themselves into a corner and they insist they are going to come out swinging. After trouncing the Lions by a 48-17 count in Week 1, the Green & White have gone 2-7 since and they are on a four-game losing streak. Despite a 41-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium in Week 10, Todd Bowles' club came back to work in good spirits.
"Morale is up. We lost the game, we lost it in a bad way. We understand that," Bowles said. "You either fight or you fall. All we know how to do is fight and I trust the guys in the locker room and coaching staff to fight."
Barring something improbable, the Jets will miss the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season. They would like to finish the 2018 campaign on a high note and a win over their old nemesis — the Patriots — would be a good place to start.
"Just fighting, fighting, keep fighting. That's all we can do and one game at a time," said second-year safety Jamal Adams. "Our goal, our mission, is to win all six of them. That's our goal and we're going to take it one game at a time."
Of the Patriots' six remaining games, four will be against divisional opponents including a pair against the Jets. They sport a 7-3 record overall including a perfect 2-0 mark inside the division. With a two-game lead over the 5-5 Dolphins and four-game advantages over the 3-7 Jets and the 3-7 Bills, the Pats are an overwhelming favorite to win their 10th consecutive AFC East title and 16th in 18 years.
Although the Patriots got stomped by the Titans before the bye and they are just 2-3 on the road, it's important to keep in perspective that New England had run off six consecutive Ws before Nashville.
"Wherever anybody is right now — coaches, players, whatever their role is — let's try to move past it and move into a higher ground. Let's try to improve by 5, 10 percent, each one of us… ," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during an appearance on WEEI radio. "What can we do better? How can we contribute more or contribute at a higher level than we're contributing right now? And I think if we all do that, I think the team will benefit greatly."
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is progressing, but he remained on the sideline when the team resumed practice Monday after its bye week. Darnold, who strained his right foot in the Jets' 13-6 loss to the Dolphins on Nov. 4, has been out of a walking boot for a week and he is jogging. The Jets will err on the side of caution with the 21-year-old signal caller, but the red-headed rifleman would love to be full go and get the rock against the Patriots for the first time.
"I think the idea of going up against him and the Patriots, Coach Belichick, all those guys, it's a cool thing especially with me growing up in the era where they really controlled the whole NFL for the most part," Darnold said. "So it's really cool to be able to have a chance to go up against them if I get the opportunity this weekend."
As offenses around the league are compiling astronomical figures, the Patriots remain an efficient attack while ranking seventh in scoring (28 Pts/G), 10th in total offense (377.2 Yds/G) and 11th in passing (268.7 Yds/G). The two most productive players on the Pats offense this season have been rookie back Sony Michel, a Georgia product who has averaged 4.3 yards per carry and has four rush touchdowns, and veteran James White, a fifth-year back who has easily become Tom Brady's favorite target with 66 receptions for 562 yards and six scoring catches.
"They do a lot of play-action passes," said defensive lineman Leonard Williams. "I think we need to be able to transition quickly when we see that it's pass and get out of a run mindset and transition quickly. We need to get as much pressure in his face as possible. Don't be too worried about getting a sack, but just constantly be in his face, constantly hit him and constantly be around him. You see it on film that even if he feels you a little bit, he's going to get rid of it."
Brady, who has been sacked just 16 times, will likely get tight end Rob Gonkowski back in the lineup. Gronk, who has been inactive three of the past four games, has just 29 receptions and his body has been ravaged by injuries.
"When he plays, he's Gronk. Obviously, he's been nicked up a little bit, but he's a great player," Bowles said. "You can't say enough about the guy. And he shows it every time he's out there."
The Jets have been limited to just 24 first-quarter points this season and they haven't scored in the game's opening 15 minutes since Week 7. After some self-scouting, it's imperative for the struggling club to get some points on the scoreboard early.
"I really feel like the preparation from Wednesday until Friday, during the week, has been excellent," said veteran Josh McCown, who will make his second consecutive start if Darnold isn't ready to go. "We just have to carry it over to the games and find a way to get that done and that will be what the next six weeks will be about."