New York Jets Week 17 Preview: Playing Patriots spoiler

UPDATE: The New York Jets have extended Todd Bowles’ contract through the 2020 season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The New York Jets face a rather anticlimactic finale to the 2017 season when they travel to Gillette Stadium to battle the mighty New England Patriots.

At 5-10, it may appear as if Gang Green has nothing to play for. That could be true if Todd Bowles has already done enough to earn a fourth season at the helm. However, the jury appears to still be out when it comes to Bowles’ future with the club.

It’s clear the Jets have played hard for Bowles all season, and they’ve been in all but two games this season. New York’s Week 6 loss to New England at MetLife Stadium was emblematic of Bowles’ third season. The Jets kept it close with the defending Super Bowl champions all game long, but eventually squandered any upset hopes in the second half, falling 24-17.

Motivation could play a role in this game. The Jets will likely give it their all and Bowles will hope for one more gutsy performance to cement the notion in management’s head that the team is improving under his watch.

We’re not exactly sure what to expect from the Patriots, however. New England would clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a victory, but is that a great enough incentive to keep stars such as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in the entire game? Probably, but it isn’t a certainty. Brady was limited in practice Thursday and Gronkowski was held out with an illness. Could the Pats actually play it safe with some of their stars? We’ll see on Sunday.

The Jets also have an interesting decision to make Sunday at quarterback. Bryce Petty will start the game, but will he finish it? Petty has been lackluster in his previous two starts this season and has proven he’s not the answer at the position. Depending on how the game transpires, the Jets could finally turn to 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg, who has not taken a regular-season snap yet in his career.

Hackenberg is nothing short of an enigma. Bowles didn’t give any indication as to whether Hackenberg would see some action Sunday afternoon, but he didn’t rule it out. The Jets have kept the Penn State product in bubble wrap since reaching for him two drafts ago. If he doesn’t play Sunday, he will be the third quarterback since the merger not to take a snap in his first two seasons after being drafted in either Round 1 or Round 2 of the NFL draft.

The strategy remains the same for the Jets: Stop Gronkowski. New York surrendered six receptions and two touchdowns to Gronk in the first meeting while allowing New England to rush for 118 yards. The Jets also struggled to contain Brandin Cooks, who caught six balls for 93 yards in the contest.

Perhaps Petty can get something going against New England’s susceptible defense. Josh McCown completed 31-of-47 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting, so a decent outing from Petty isn’t completely out of the question. The Jets must do a better job on the ground the second time around after rushing for only 74 yards in the first contest.

The storylines in this game are more amusing than the matchup. The Jets are better off losing to better their draft position. The Patriots can secure another No. 1 seed with a victory. New York’s head coach needs to impress, while New England’s looks to add to his already impeccable resume. What else is new?

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