Week 17 frequently has been a formality for the Patriots over the past two decades, but it’s certainly not the case this season.
New England checked off one box last weekend by securing an AFC East title with a win over the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots must now notch a victory over the Miami Dolphins this Sunday in order to lock up the AFC’s No. 2 seed, which would ensure a first-round bye.
But outside of team objectives, players can use the regular-season finale as one final tune-up before the playoffs commence. ESPN believes there’s one Patriot, in particular, who could benefit from posting a strong performance in Week 17.
“The Patriots traded a second-round draft choice for (Mohamed) Sanu, and while he is playing a lot of snaps, his production as a pass-catcher has been limited,” Mike Reiss wrote. “On Saturday against the Bills, he was on the field for 70 snaps — more than any receiver — and finished with three receptions for 24 yards. One of the receptions came short of the first-down marker, and he didn’t exhibit the explosion to get to the sticks. While Sanu has contributed in other ways, such as returning punts, the Pats would naturally like to see some more in the pass-catching area, starting next week against Miami.”
It looked like Sanu was going to take off with the Patriots after he logged 10 catches for 81 yards with a touchdown in just his second game with the team. But it’s been downhill from there for the veteran receiver, who’s only caught a combined 11 passes over his last five games. These numbers are substandard in any regard, but especially so considering the state of New England’s receiving corps. Sanu was expected to flourish in Foxboro given his vast skill set, but for whatever reason, his chemistry with Brady still is lagging.
But sometimes it only takes one outing for a player to find a groove. The Patriots surely are hoping this is the case for Sanu as they head into their tilt with the Dolphins.