Here are the five most important things that we learned.
Ugly, but effective
At first, it appeared as if the Patriots were taking advice from last week’s column and had decided to make an attempt to intentionally tank and lose the football game. However, it was quickly noticeable that even if the Patriots were trying to lose the game, the Jaguars just weren’t good enough to win it. With the amount of sloppy plays and turnovers that filled the first half for New England, they’d have been down 31-3 again if they were matched up against an actual NFL team. However, at the end of the day, a win is a win and the Patriots will take it.
Patrick Chung, the Commissioner’s office is on Line One…
Patrick Chung’s brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Jaguars’ receiver Cecil Shorts III is everything that the NFL wants out of its game. The direct intent to injure a defenseless player that has resulted in countless concussions over the years was very evident on the play. After being benched in favor of Devin McCourty, was this a move made out of frustration in an attempt to make some noise for himself? Only No. 25 could tell you that. But taking guys heads off and costing your team fifteen-yard penalties is no way to go about earning more playing time.
Do numbers lie?
Despite the loss, Sunday was a record-setting afternoon for the Jacksonville Jaguars. At the end of the first quarter, Chad Henne’s offense had put together 202 total yards, a new franchise record. On the day, the team finished with 436 total yards of offense, yet only 16 points. The Patriots’ defense was far from perfect, allowing one-too-many game-changing plays to a less-than-mediocre offense. However, the ridiculously high watermark of 436 yards is what really stands out. Is the Patriots defense reverting to old habits, or is this a case of the numbers not telling the whole story?
Resting your starters is key
As we saw against Jacksonville, the Patriots decided to play it safe with a few of their key injured superstars. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm), rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee, hamstring) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee, ankle) all didn’t even make the trip to Florida this week. With not much on the line against the Dolphins in Week 17, I’d expect to see names like Gronkowski, Spikes, Dennard, Aaron Hernandez, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork all potentially on the inactive list.
Matchups, Matchups, Matchups
While the composition of the AFC playoffs is no longer a question, the seedlings most certainly are. The Patriots – currently No. 3 – can finish either first, second, third or fourth in the AFC, dependent upon the outcome of next week’s games. The simplest way to put it is this… IF the Patriots win against Miami next week, they can secure a bye week with EITHER a Houston loss (at Indianapolis) OR a Denver loss (vs. Kansas City)…. IF the Patriots lose AND the Ravens win (at Cincinnati), then the Patriots will fall to the No. 4 seed in the conference. The best way the Patriots can approach this is to just go out and win their game while letting the rest of the chips fall where they may.
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