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Jets QB Sam Darnold Ruled Out, Josh McCown Will Start vs. Patriots 

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After not practicing this week, Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold was listed out of Sunday’s contest against the Patriots at MetLife Stadium.

“It’s hard. As a competitor, you always want to go out there and play,” said Darnold this week. “When you’re not doing that, it sucks. I always want to go out there and play and have fun, but then again I also want to be healthy. So trying to manage those things and trying to do that is really the hardest thing for me and the hardest thing for me to understand, but I just have to stay with the process and just continue to work hard every single day to get back. At the end of each day, if I can tell myself that I did the best I could to get better and get my foot better, then that’s all I can do.”

Darnold, who was injured during the Jets’ 13-6 loss to the Dolphins on November 4th, was inactive in Week 10 and then had the benefit of a bye. His condition has gradually improved and he suited up for each of the Green & White’s three workouts this week. With Darnold missing a second consecutive contest, McCown will start in Week 12.

“They’re fundamentally sound, they’re well-coached,” McCown said of the Pats. “They’re going to be where they’re supposed to be and they play hard. I think that’s what has allowed them to play at a high level all these years and you always have your hands full when you’re playing against them.”

In McCown’s only action in 2018, he completed 17-of-34 passes for 135 yards and was intercepted twice in the Jets’ 41-10 loss to the Bills. During the Green & White’s four-game losing streak, they have averaged 11 points and 238 yards while converting on just 8-of-52 on third down.

“It’s not on Josh, it’s on the offense in general,” said head coach Todd Bowles. “As a team, we have to play better. It’s not just one person. Everyone has to play better. If everyone plays better, then we’ll do better.”

Guard Duty
Both WR Robby Anderson (ankle) and OLB Brandon Copeland (elbow) were limited at practice and are listed as questionable. Second-year safety Marcus Maye (shoulder/thumb) and LG James Carpenter (shoulder) didn’t practice this week and are unlikely to face the Pats. Since signing as a free agent in the spring of 2015, Carpenter has started 58 consecutive games.

“We worked three guys there and we’ll choose between the three on Sunday,” Bowles said of the team’s options at left guard.

Game Within the Game
The Jets-Patriots divisional clash will feature two of the NFL’s top return men. Andre Roberts leads the NFL with a 16.8-yard punt return average and his 24.1-yard kickoff return average ranks seventh. The Patriots will counter with Cordarrelle Patterson, who leads the league with a gaudy 30.9-yard average on kick returns.

“The best kick returner in the game,” said Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer of Patterson. “I think he sets up his blocks, is a patient runner and then explodes and breaks tackles as good as anybody in this league. I think he has size, he has cutback ability. I think he does an outstanding job.”

Striking First
While the Jets lack of production early has been well-documented, the Patriots have uncharacteristically gotten off to slow starts in both the first quarter and after halftime. The 7-3 Pats have been outscored 56-47 and 61-40 in the first and third quarters, respectively. The Jets have totaled just 24 points in the first quarter this season with their last score coming on tight end Chris Herndon’s 12-yard reception against the Vikings in Week 7.

“The glaring thing that stands out is third-down execution and it starts with play-calling and scheming it up,” said Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. “We have to be able to have more plays and be able to get in rhythm. Right now, we're not getting in rhythm and we just have to find that again.”

Brady Begins Tough Stretch
Of the Jets’ six remaining games, three will come against future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Brady (the Green & White end their regular season in New England) and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will come to town on Dec. 23. Texans second-year passer Deshaun Watson, a first-round pick in 2017 who has completed 63.7% of his passes with 37 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 17 career games, will also be at MetLife Stadium in Week 15. The key for the Jets, who have the NFL’s No. 2 ranked third-down defense, will be to find a consistency that has eluded them to this point.

“We’re too spotty,” said veteran cornerback Buster Skrine. “Sometimes we don’t fit the run because someone isn’t staying in their gap. Sometimes the secondary will have a blown coverage or some silly technique error. There is too much every now and then. Guys can try to do too much.”

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