FOXBOROUGH, Mass. Jets ownership answered a major question about the teams future Friday with extensions for head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. Now, Sundays game with the Patriots will answer some questions about which players will stay with them in 2018.
The 5-10 Jets travel to Gillette Stadium with little to play for. Playoff hopes were dashed long ago. The 12-3 Patriots come into the game trying to lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Jets players are just trying to prove they are good enough for Bowles and Maccagnan to keep around next season.
At the end of the day, were paid to do a job, left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. Were paid to play a game that we love. Youve got to go and prove your love. This is a week to just put your pride on display. How much pride do you take in what you do every day?
Theres not much to play for but your pride. You want to get a win to end the season. You never want to end the season on a bad note. Its another opportunity for us to get a win. Its some rough conditions from a weather standpoint, but these are the games where you really see the character of the team and the character of the individuals.
With temperatures expected to be in the low teens and a wind chill expected to make it feel even colder, it would be understandable if the Jets started their offseason early, but players insist they wont. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins said pride will keep them from phoning it in.
If youre a man, youre going to play in times like this, tough times, cold game, dont have a winning record, Jenkins said. Those are games you have to show up and play. You cant just be like, Oh, weve got a losing record. Oh, its going to be cold. If you want to say youre a real man or the real deal, these are games you have to show up and play in.
Bowles now has a contract that runs through 2020. He is about to finish his third season with the Jets without a playoff appearance. If the Jets lose this one, they will have gone 5-11 in back-to-back seasons. There is still plenty of skepticism about Bowles from the fanbase, and Bowles said this week he knows he can improve.
I try to get better all the way around, Bowles said. I have a lot of work to do, obviously, and I try to get better. After the season Im very hard on myself as I am every week, and just try to get better in all facets of the game as you go.
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Jets S Jamal Adams
Gronkowski has plenty of reasons to be motivated Sunday. He needs 11 receptions or 116 receiving yards to trigger $2 million in incentives that his contract calls for. Standing in his way will be a cast of characters, led by Adams. The rookie had a tough time with Gronkowski in their first meeting of the season, when the Patriots tight end scored two touchdowns.
Adams will get help because the Jets know that one person cant stop Gronk.
When you look at him, you really have to do it by committee, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. You cant say, Well, were going to lock this guy on him. Ive sat in a lot of meetings playing against him so much like this week were going to put a corner on him, this week were going to put a safety on him, this week were going to put a linebacker on him. The guy is extremely talented and then when you overload to take care of him, you weaken yourself in the run game and the guy running the show [Tom Brady], hes excellent. He can see what youre doing and he goes somewhere else, but you leave this guy alone, hes a problem.
MVP, MVP: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown an interception in each of his last five games. Is he slipping?
No, not at all, Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said with a laugh. This guy makes my stomach hurt watching him. The weapons they have, the way he manages the game, this guy is [defying] father time. He is like a fine wine.
Brady is the favorite to win the MVP this season after throwing 30 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He is completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and has thrown for 4,387 yards.
The 40-year-old is 24-7 against the Jets as a starter with 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Jets defense has played well lately against top quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. Theyll have to take it to a whole other level against Brady.
Can he Hack it? Jets coach Todd Bowles left the door open this week to Christian Hackenberg getting in this game. The 2016 second-round pick has not played a snap in his career. Bowles did not commit to playing the quarterback, but for him to even leave open the possibility makes it seem like he will definitely play.
The expectations are, listen youre on a NFL team now, to go out and do the right thing, offensive coordinator John Morton said. To go out and do the best that you can to your ability and its my job to make sure that I put them in the right position to have success.
Fox-BRRRRRRR-ough: The expected temperature at kickoff is 15 degrees with a wind chill that will make it feel closer to 0. The temperature will make footballs slick and affect the kicking game. Todd Bowles emphasized protecting the football this week.
Obviously, taking care of the football is No. 1, Bowles said. You have to be able to take care of the football, not give them short field position like we did last year. So thatll be the No. 1 thing.
The Patriots are 42-10 in the last 24 years when the kickoff temperature is 34 degrees or colder.
Not so special: The Jets have gotten practically nothing from their return game this year. They are averaging 4.6 yards per punt return and 20.8 yards per kick return. Unless the Jets return a kick for a score in this game, this will be the fifth straight season they have not scored on a kick or punt return, something that used to be a specialty of the Jets under former special teams coach Mike Westhoff.
The Patriots have something to play for with the No. 1 seed in the AFC on the line. The Jets have nothing to play for but pride. Advantage Patriots. This one will be cold and ugly.
Patriots 35, Jets 3