A week after losing despite a stunning late comeback, the New England Patriots would like to get things in gear a little earlier.
That wouldn't figure to be a problem against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Patriots look to rebuild some momentum and keep their slim hopes
for a playoff bye alive on Sunday when they visit Jacksonville, which
has one win in three months.
While New England is likely to be seeded no better than third in the
AFC, it can still claim the top spot with wins over Jacksonville and
Miami, and with Houston (12-2) losses to Minnesota and Indianapolis.
The Patriots (10-4) could also pass Denver (11-3) with two wins and a
Broncos loss to either Cleveland or Kansas City.
"I'm not smart enough to understand the 80 different things that can
happen,'' coach Bill Belichick said. "I don't really care. There's
nothing we can do about any of them."
It would take quite an upset for Belichick's club to lose back-to-back
games for the second time this season.
The Patriots are averaging 39.5 points with a 6-0 record against teams
with losing records, while Jacksonville is 0-6 against opponents with
Still, the AFC East champions appear to be guarding against a letdown
after splitting consecutive contests against top-tier clubs Houston and
"If you give the other team a chance, they're going to take it,''
receiver Brandon Lloyd said. "So you have to prepare the same way for
Lloyd had a season-high 10 catches for a career-best 190 yards to help
New England rally from a 28-point deficit and draw even in the fourth
quarter Monday night.
The Patriots, though, ran out of gas as San Francisco answered with the
next 10 points en route to a 41-34 victory that snapped the team's
seven-game winning streak.
Tom Brady completed 36 of a career-high 65 attempts in the loss with
one touchdown and two interceptions. He has thrown three picks in his
last three games after going five straight contests without one.
"We had a pretty good streak there going of wins and it feels pretty
good when you're on those winning streaks," Brady said. "And then when
you lose, it feels like you haven't won a game in three years.''
The league's most potent offense (36.1 points per game) could be even
stronger Sunday if tight end Rob Gronkowski returns from a broken
forearm. He is tied for third in the league with 10 touchdown catches
despite missing the last four games.
His return would be terrible news for a Jacksonville defense that has
allowed 27.4 points per game, ranking 29th in the NFL.
The Jaguars (2-12) have lost three straight and 10 of 11 after Sunday's
24-3 defeat at Miami on Sunday, and are guaranteed of at least a tie
for the worst record in franchise history.
"No one thought we'd be in this situation with only having two wins
this late in the year,'' linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "I think we
have too many guys who can make plays and do things the right way. But
for whatever reason, we haven't been able to bring it all together to
Playing at home hasn't helped the Jaguars, who have lost six of seven
there, with five of those losses by 17 points or more.
Chad Henne performed well against Houston and Tennessee in November,
throwing for six touchdowns, but the fifth-year quarterback has gone 58
for 119 (48.7) with one TD and three interceptions during the
Cecil Shorts has been one of the few bright spots, finishing with six
catches for 101 yards against the Dolphins for his fourth 100-yard
effort in seven games.
Jacksonville is still expected to be without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has missed eight games with a sprained left foot.
The Jaguars have totaled 13 points in their last two games, and 219 on
the season - the second fewest in the NFL.
New England has won five straight against the Jaguars and eight of nine
all-time meetings. Jacksonville's only win in the series was a 25-10
victory at home in the 1999 playoffs.