Cam Newton said this week he wants to “tie this year up, put a big knot on it … buy every single lock, key and throw away all of them.” He’s certainly not alone on that front.
But before the 6-9 New England Patriots can leave the 2020 season behind, they have one more game left to play. Their opponent: the 2-13 New York Jets.
Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
Spread: Patriots -3
Over/under: 39 1/2
The Patriots and Jets both are 6-9 against the spread this season. The “under” has hit in 11 of New England’s 15 games, including each if its last seven.
Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention, and the Jets are locked into the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Patriots will pick 14th or 15th if they win Sunday but can climb as high as No. 10 with a loss.
The Patriots were run over by the Buffalo Bills on “Monday Night Football,” falling 38-9 and losing several key players in the process (more on that below).
It was the Patriots’ third consecutive loss. They’ve scored just one total touchdown during their losing streak.
The Jets started the season 0-13, but they’ve been on a roll of late, scoring back-to-back wins over two potential playoff teams in the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns.
The Browns, who were missing its top four wide receivers due to COVID-19 contact tracing, lost 23-16 at MetLife Stadium last Sunday.
The Jets nearly knocked off the Patriots in the teams’ first meeting in Week 9. New England trailed for much of the game before prevailing on a last-second 51-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
The Patriots were hammered by injuries last week and will be without several key players Sunday.
Running back Damien Harris (ankle), center David Andrews (calf) and right guard Shaq Mason (calf) all were ruled out Friday, and 16 more players were listed as questionable:
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (shoulder)
CB Justin Bethel (neck)
DT Adam Butler (shoulder)
LB Shilique Calhoun (knee)
LS Joe Cardona (ankle)
DT Byron Cowart (back)
T Jermaine Eluemunor (ankle)
K Nick Folk (back)
DT Lawrence Guy (shoulder)
LB Terez Hall (ankle)
T Justin Herron (ankle)
CB J.C. Jackson (knee)
LB Anfernee Jennings (shoulder)
S Devin McCourty (shoulder)
WR Donte Moncrief (thigh)
WR Matthew Slater (knee)
The Patriots, who placed Josh Uche and Tashawn Bower on injured reserve Friday, will be especially thin at linebacker if Bentley, Hall and Jennings can’t go. Bentley didn’t play against the Bills. Hall and Jennings both did not practice this week.
New England still is without top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, wide receiver Julian Edelman and left tackle Isaiah Wynn, all of whom are on IR.
The Jets will be shorthanded at running back after placing Frank Gore on IR and La’Mical Perine on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. Cornerbacks Bless Austin (illness) and Javelin Guidry and wide receiver Jeff Smith (shoulder) as questionable.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cam Newton, Patriots quarterback
Bill Belichick hasn’t confirmed which quarterback will start Sunday, but it’ll likely be Newton, who’s looking to close out his frustrating first season in Foxboro on a positive note. This very well could be Newton’s final with the Patriots, as he sounded this week like a player who does not expect to be back next season.
Perhaps we’ll see Jarrett Stidham at some point, as well. The second-year backup has relieved Newton in three of the last four games — two blowout losses and one comfortable win.
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots wide receiver
Had he been a part of the Patriots’ offense from Week 1, Meyers might have eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards this season. The second-year wideout has 661 yards on 53 catches with one game remaining despite hardly seeing the field until Week 7.
Meyers’ emergence has been a clear bright spot in an otherwise ugly campaign for the Patriots’ passing attack, and he’ll look to deliver one more impressive performance against a Jets team he torched for 169 yards on 12 receptions two months ago.
J.J. Taylor, Patriots running back
Sony Michel, who’s run very well of late, will continue to handle lead back duties with Harris sidelined, but expect to see Taylor mixed in some, as well. The diminutive undrafted rookie ripped off a 28-yard run last week and has impressed in his limited opportunities.
Belichick praised Taylor this week, saying, “He?s a guy that?s got a future if he can continue to improve and do things in some of the areas that maybe he hasn?t been asked to do as much in — things like pass protection, route-running and so forth.” He’ll be a player to watch in 2021.
Chase Winovich, Patriots linebacker
Given the Patriots’ rash of injuries at linebacker, we could see Winovich return to the off-the-ball role he played against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10. The Patriots currently have just one fully healthy inside ‘backer: sixth-round rookie Cassh Maluia, who played the first defensive snaps of his young NFL career last week.
Since Maluia is on the practice squad and already has been elevated twice, the Patriots would need to sign him to their 53-man roster in order to use him Sunday.