NEW YORK JETS (5-10) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-3)
SERIES HISTORY: 115th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 60-53-1. The well-documented history of these AFC East rivals dates back to the twice-yearly battles of the original season of the AFL in 1960. The Jets had the better of things for long stretches in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but New England has been on top of things far more often in the last two decades. The Patriots have won 11 of the last 13 regular-season meetings, including a 24-17 victory in Week 6 at MetLife Stadium, when Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski. With the win, Brady improved to 25-8 against the Jets. The teams have met three times in the postseason -- the Patriots won in the 1985 and 2006 wild-card games, and the Jets took the 2010 divisional game, 28-21, as Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes. New England is 53-41 against the Jets since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Defensively, the Jets have made only one interception the last five games, and that was by defensive end Leonard Williams. Strangely, Tom Brady has thrown at least one pick each of his last five games. If the Jets can nab one, it should go a long way toward avoiding a blowout.
The Jets' defense is lackluster against both the pass (23rd) and the run (19th). Certainly, Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels will look to find improvement on third downs, which have been an issue in recent weeks, as well as utilize a still-strong cast of complementary weapons, but he will also likely continue to feed Rob Gronkowski as the focal point of the passing game and running back Dion Lewis as the lead back on the ground.
The Patriots' defense has been making enough red-zone stops and key plays in recent weeks to overcome some otherwise suspect play. Their biggest goal remains avoiding big plays, especially in the passing game, where New York has hit its share, especially with top receiver Robby Anderson.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler need to play more competitively, but given that Jets quarterback Bryce Petty has yet to complete more than 50 percent of his passes or notch a rating over 50, the challenge New York presents through the air is minimal. The Jets will likely continue to run the ball, as all New England opponents have against the Patriots' undermanned front seven.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Patriots S Patrick Chung. New England's veteran safety is generally tasked with dealing with opponents' pass-catching tight ends, and he has had mixed results. Chung was impressive in New England's win over the Buffalo Bills, but he allowed Seferian-Jenkins to catch eight passes for 46 yards and a touchdown when these teams met in Week 6 in New York. Seferian-Jenkins has been one of the Jets' most consistent contributors on offense, ranking third on the team with 50 catches for 357 yards and three scores.
--Patriots RT Cameron Fleming vs. Jets DE Leonard Williams. As a Jets defensive line built around first-round picks falls apart, Williams remains the premier player. He's a disruptive athlete who will move around a bit and challenge more than one blocker. Fleming has taken over the starting job at right tackle with starter Marcus Cannon on injured reserve and part-time fill-in LaAdrian Waddle reduced to reserve duty. Fleming has performed well in recent weeks, but Williams, who leads the Jets with 27 QB hits, presents a unique challenge.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
NEW YORK JETS
--Out: T Brandon Shell (concussion)
--Doubtful: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ribs, foot)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
--Questionable: WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), DE Eric Lee (ankle, finger), S Devin McCourty (shoulder), WR Matt Slater (hamstring), LB Kyle Van Noy (calf), T LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), RB James White (ankle)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Patriots LB James Harrison. Much has been made about Harrison signing with the Patriots, but the 39-year-old played just a handful of games this season and had three tackles and a sack. The Jets' offensive line is beat up, so it will be interesting to see whether Harrison has anything left in the tank. If he is even active.
FAST FACTS: Jets RB Bilal Powell rushed for 145 yards, including a 57-yard TD, last week. Since 2016, has a 4.89-yard average, second-highest in the NFL (minimum 250 attempts). ... Jets WR Robby Anderson has a TD catch in three of his past four games vs. the AFC East. He leads the team with 939 receiving yards and seven TD catches. ... Jets LB DeMario Davis is one of three AFC players (C.J. Mosley and Wesley Woodyard) with 100-plus tackles (124) and 10-plus tackles for loss (11). ... Jets S Marcus Maye is the only rookie safety with 75-plus tackles (77) and two INTs. ... The Patriots have 12 wins for the eighth consecutive season, the longest streak in NFL history. They won the AFC East and secured a first-round bye. They can clinch home-field advantage with a win or a Pittsburgh loss. ... Patriots QB Tom Brady leads the NFL with 4,387 passing yards, his ninth career 4,000-yard season. ... RB Dion Lewis had a career-high 153 scrimmage yards (129 rushing) and two TDs in Week 16. ... TE Rob Gronkowski had a TD catch last week. He caught six passes for 83 yards and two TDs in the last meeting. He has four 1,000-yard seasons, tied for most in NFL history by a tight end (Tony Gonzalez & Jason Witten). ... CB Malcolm Butler had an interception, forced fumble and three passes defensed in the last meeting. ... LB Marquis Flowers had a career-high 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks last week.
PREDICTION: The Patriots still have something to play for -- home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Don't expect a miracle from the Jets, but maybe if they can run the ball and use some clock, they can at least keep it close.
OUR PICK: Patriots, 27-17.