Jets vs. Patriots: The implications of season finale
By Bob Lederer
Sunday’s game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots has a major draft importance and chances for individual players to cement their 2018 roles.
The final game of 2017 is anything but 60 minutes of go-through-the-motions football for the New York Jets. The season finale is obviously important mainly for the final draft position Gang Green will have when it comes to their first-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Jets at this point in time will have the No. 8 spot, which, of course, is subject to change based on results of Sunday’s games. What happens between 1 PM and 7 PM EST can be wondrous or calamitous to the Jets’ fortunes.
Pro football players are in the business of winning games, however, I wouldn’t want to see the Jets spoil their current drafting position to win a game that, from a positive standpoint, would be a morale builder but, in reality, do nothing more than clinching a tie for third place in the AFC East. Actually, a win could do significant damage to the short-term future of the franchise.
Unless they completely screw up, Cleveland, which needs a top young quarterback, will get their man because they pick first and fifth in the upcoming draft. The Jets can barter with Cleveland for either of its picks–and the higher the Jets’ first-round selection, the fewer add-on top draft picks they will need to package to the Browns or any other team ahead of them to get the QB that they need.
The Jets with a win could truly harm their ability to grab that QB, whoever he is. The Jets’ number eight draft slot exists because they have played a tougher schedule than the three other five-win teams (San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver). It would actually help if SF, Chicago and/or Denver won because if the current situation stands, the Jets’ selection in Round 2 would fall back three slots, from eighth to 11th, and only return to eight in the fifth round.
As the result, not only am I rooting for the Jets to, once again, play competitively and lose… but to see the two four-win NFL teams, Houston and Tampa Bay, upend Indianapolis and New Orleans, respectively. The former is possible; the latter doubtful. A Jets’ loss and victory by either or both Houston and/or Tampa Bay would nudge the Jets’ draft position to number seven, or as high as sixth.
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Of course, if the Jets win, their pick could fall, at a minimum, to 11th and potentially worse as part of a group of six-win teams (Oakland, Miami, and Cincinnati). Sunday’s contest on the field is far from meaningless. The football gods have done the Jets a favor by forcing the Patriots to play their best offensive and defensive units so they can clinch home field throughout the AFC playoffs.
Bilal Powell is on a quest for a 1,000-year season. Can Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson repeat their performances of recent weeks? What did Jamal Adams learn the first time he took on Rob Gronkowski in Week 6, and, armed with that experience, how well is he able to counteract Tom Brady‘s favorite weapon this time? That will be telling for next year’s Jets-Patriots battles.
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What will the Jets get out of their defensive line, whose many new faces have experienced a radical change in playing time and career possibilities since Muhammad Wilkerson lost his place in the defensive rotation? Will the young linebackers continue to demonstrate improvement and professionalism as a unit? Like I said, this Sunday’s game can’t be ignored.