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This feels like the Jets’ best chance at toppling the Patriots in years. New England has lost three in a row and has looked bad doing it. The Jets have won two straight and are playing inspired defense. I’m not buying it. The Patriots figure this out and score at least one defensive touchdown.
Patriots 35, Jets 6
Jets QB Sam Darnold vs. Patriots coach Bill Belichick
This may be Darnold’s final game as a Jet. The team is going to have a major decision to make this offseason: whether to stick with Darnold or to draft a quarterback with the No. 2-overall pick.
If it is Darnold’s final game for the Jets, he gets one last crack at the Patriots. He has been awful against the division rival. Darnold has only played the Patriots twice, missing three games with injury or illness. He has yet to throw a touchdown against New England and has been intercepted four times. He has a 29.4 quarterback rating against the Patriots, his worst against any team. The last time Darnold played the Patriots was when Belichick made him see “ghosts.”
The 23-year-old Darnold reiterated this week that he is not focused on the future, but when pressed he said he does believe his future remains bright.
“I absolutely believe my best days are ahead and I’m just going to continue to work and like I said, put that work in to be able to get better and improve every single year,” Darnold said.
Cam jam: There was a point early in this season when the Patriots’ signing of Cam Newton looked like another stroke of genius by Bill Belichick. Now? Fans in New England are wondering why Jarrett Stidham is not starting this game.
It is possible the Jets will see Stidham on Sunday. Belichick has kept his quarterback decision quiet, but he also has not indicated he is ready to bench Newton. Belichick pulled Newton in the second half of last week’s loss to the Bills, but then backed him in the postgame press conference.
“Cam did a good job for us. I mean, that wasn’t the problem,” Belichick said. “We were just not very competitive in the beginning.”
The first year of life after Tom Brady has not gone well for the Patriots, who have the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense. Newton has just five touchdown passes to go along with 10 interceptions. He has run for an additional 12 touchdowns.
Big D-velopment: The Jets’ defense has come to life over the past two weeks and led the way to the two wins. Interim defensive coordinator Frank Bush has his unit playing hard. The Jets held the Rams to 303 yards and the Browns to 299 — two of the Jets’ three lowest totals given up this year. Last week, the Jets held a strong Browns rushing attack to 45 yards.
“We changed a couple of things,” Bush said. “Obviously, the guys have bought into what we’re selling right now. We’ve done some things, kind of pared things down, and gave them a chance to play a little bit smarter and a little bit faster.”
Running low: The Jets will have a new starting running back for their final game of the season. Frank Gore, who started 14 games this season, suffered a bruised lung last week and was placed on injured reserve. Rookie La’Mical Perine was expected to start, but then tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and will miss the game. That leaves Ty Johnson and Josh Adams to carry the load. That duo actually played well against the Raiders last month after Gore exited with a concussion. Johnson, who ran for 104 yards that day, is the only Jets running back to gain 100 rushing yards in a game in the past two seasons.
Decade of despair: The Jets have not won in Foxborough in nearly 10 years. Their last victory at Gillette Stadium was their 28-21 playoff victory on Jan. 16, 2011. They have lost their past nine games there. Overall, they have also lost nine straight to the Patriots, their last win coming on Dec. 27, 2015, at MetLife Stadium in overtime.
The Patriots have dominated this rivalry for years, but this is not the same New England team Jets fans are used to watching pound their team. The Patriots (6-9) have lost three in a row and are not going to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. This is New England’s first losing season since 2000, Belichick’s first year as coach.