BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are hosting the 4-11 New York Jets on Sunday to wrap up their regular season.
But don’t think the playoff-bound Patriots are going to take the lowly Jets lightly. With a win, the Patriots clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC and earn an all-important first-round bye. A loss means they’ll need some help to snag that bye, but it wouldn’t be wise to count on the 5-10 Jaguars to pull off an upset over the Texans in Houston.
A loss to the Jets will likely mean the Patriots find themselves playing on Wild Card weekend for the first time since 2009. They would very much prefer to have a week off before hitting the field for a playoff matchup, so they’re treating Sunday’s tilt against the Jets like it’s a postseason game.
“For us, this is a playoff game, so we just worry about what we can control,” safety Patrick Chung said on Wednesday. “Win our game, if things happen, it could work out. If things don’t happen, we know we did our job. It’s really a playoff game for us to get that bye week. It’s a good opportunity for us to go get that.”
“We still have business to do in the regular season. We have to approach this, I think, like it’s a playoff game,” added receiver Chris Hogan. “There’s a lot riding on this game, and I don’t think we’re looking forward to what happens in the future. I think all of our focus is on the Jets and what we have to do to come out and play a good football game against them.”
“It’s a one-game season,” said running back James White, who ran for 73 yards against New York in Week 12. “We’ve got to play our best football this week. It’s always tough when we play these guys, home or away. They’re going to come in ready to play no matter what their record is. We’ve just got to play our best football which we haven’t done yet, which I’ve said a lot this year. I think we all know that we can play better in general and maybe that’s enough motivation for us to go out there and play our best.”
The Patriots beat the Jets 27-13 in New Jersey in Week 12, but they’ll see a different Jets team on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold did not play in that game because of a bad foot, so this will be New England’s first look at the No. 3 overall pick. And Darnold is on a tear as of late, throwing for 764 yards and six touchdowns to just one interception in his last three games.
The Jets have gone just 1-3 since they lost to the Patriots, but each of those games have been decided by seven points or less.
“This will be a big challenge for us. We’ll have to play better than we did in the last game,” head coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “They’re definitely better than they were when we saw them, so it will be our challenge to improve and match up.”
The Patriots have split their four games since visiting the Jets, snapping a two-game skid last weekend with a 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. The New England defense played extremely well against another rookie quarterback in that game, picking off Josh Allen twice in the victory.
But that performance will mean very little when the Patriots take the field on Sunday.
“You’ve got to forget about that last game. We played good, that’s great, but if we can’t do it again – like I said, it’s a playoff game,” said Chung. “It’s like us losing in the playoffs. I mean, yeah, it’s good, but we’ve got to try to do that consistently and do it play by play, game by game and kind of go from there. Can’t really ride the train, you know.”
Tune in to Patriots-Jets Sunday afternoon on WBZ-TV — the home of the New England Patriots. Coverage begins Friday night with Patriots All Access at 7 p.m., and kicks off Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay. After the Patriots and the Jets square off at 1 p.m., switch over to myTV38 for all the reaction and analysis from the game on Patriots 5th Quarter!