The New England Patriots have difficult decisions to make before they travel Saturday to play the New York Jets.
The Patriots already ruled out linebacker Jonathan Freeny (hand), and wide receiver Julian Edelman is doubtful to play with a foot injury. The tricky choices will come on the eight key players listed as questionable to play against the Jets on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Wide receivers Danny Amendola (knee) and Brandon LaFell (foot), tight end Scott Chandler (knee), offensive lineman Josh Kline (shoulder), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) and safeties Devin McCourty (ankle), Patrick Chung (foot) and Nate Ebner (ankle) all have 50-50 chances of playing, according to the team’s injury report.
Amendola and Hightower seem unlikely to play after being unable to finish the Patriots’ Week 15 win over the Tennessee Titans. McCourty also probably won’t suit up, since he’s reportedly dealing with a high ankle sprain.
Chung probably will play, since the hip ailment he suffered last week was never added to the injury report. Chandler also should be good to go, since the Patriots were willing to waive fellow tight end Asante Cleveland on Friday. Kline is likely to be active, since he played last week, and there isn’t much known about LaFell and Ebner’s injuries.
The Patriots could struggle against the Jets because of injuries. Check out this week’s keys to the game:
MAKE AN ATTEMPT AT ESTABLISHING RUN GAME
Which would be more than the Patriots did in Week 7 against the Jets, when they handed off the ball just five times, and quarterback Tom Brady led the team with 15 yards on four rushing attempts.
The Patriots likely will activate Steven Jackson, Joey Iosefa, James White and Brandon Bolden on Sunday. Jackson, Iosefa and Bolden probably will share carries, while White continues to handle third-down receiving duties.
Jackson practiced with the Patriots this week, but this game will be his first chance to show his new team if he has anything left in the tank.
It will be a challenge for the Patriots to move the ball against the Jets, but they need to try if they want to win this game. The Jets are second in the NFL, allowing just 82.8 yards per game, and they’re fifth with 3.8 yards allowed per carry.
The Patriots will likely be without Edelman, and they could sit Amendola, as well, which would mean the quick passing game is out of the equation. The Patriots instead will need to move the ball on the ground in short-yardage situations.
FORCE TURNOVERS ON DEFENSE
Ryan Fitzpatrick has his lowest interception percentage since 2008, and he’s thrown just one pick in his last four games. That probably means he’s due for a turnover (or two) against the Patriots.
The Patriots are seventh in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-seven. The Jets are fifth at plus-eight. The Patriots, despite having one of the best young defenses in the NFL, have forced just 20 turnovers this season. The Jets are third in the NFL with 28 takeaways.
The Patriots must win the turnover battle, and they might have to do it without Hightower and McCourty.
MALCOLM BUTLER MUST MATCH DARRELLE REVIS
Butler had an up-and-down showing in the Patriots’ first matchup with the Jets, allowing five receptions on 11 targets for 82 yards with three penalties while being matched up against receiver Eric Decker.
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was much better, allowing one catch on four targets for 5 yards. Revis has an even easier matchup this time with Edelman doubtful to play. Butler will either match up against Decker or Brandon Marshall, both of whom would be difficult for the Pro Bowl cornerback.
This is the perfect time for Butler to prove he deserved that Pro Bowl nod, however.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Nov 23, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) during the second half of the New England Patriots 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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