INSIDE SCOOP

Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 27, 2018 at 1:43 am.

First-round bye is Patriots goal

The New England Patriots are 10-5 and have clinched the AFC East. The Patriots must win Sunday to earn a first-round bye. If the Patriots have any chance of going to the Super Bowl, they likely need the bye. With a 3-5 road record this season, the Patriots will only have to play at most one road game to get to the Super Bowl if they have a first-round bye.

Their opponent Sunday, the Jets, has played better lately – having almost defeated the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers the past two weeks. The Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has played well since he returned from injury with six touchdowns and one interception. He has a passer rating above 100.

When the Patriots last played the Jets in New York, the veteran Josh McCown (who has mentored Darnold) was the quarterback. The Patriots defense played well that day – holding the Jets to only 13 points. The Patriots struggled at times against receivers Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa. Trey Flowers might have had his best game of the season that day as he was effective against both the run and pass. Stephon Gilmore will likely take away top Jets receiver Robby Anderson like he did in the first game. The Patriots will need to stop Kearse, who had his second best game of the year against the Patriots, at the end of November. Enunwa (who did not practice Wednesday) is unlikely to play. The Patriots also need to do a good job against Jets tight end Chris Herndon who has played well this season.

SERIES HISTORY: 117th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 62-53-1. The rivalry between the Patriots and Jets has always been competitive. In Rex Ryan’s first two years with the Patriots, he went 3-2 against the Patriots including a playoff victory in 2010 at Gillette Stadium. Since 2011, the Patriots have dominated with a 12-2 record. The Patriots two losses were in New York in overtime and the Jets have not made the playoffs during that stretch.