New York Jets at New England Patriots: 2020 Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Jets (2-13) at New England Patriots (6-9)

The Patriots have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league this season. They’ve beaten quality teams like the Dolphins, Raiders, Cardinals, and Ravens, with the first two coming by double digits. They have a 45-0 win over the Chargers and have also kept it close with the Seahawks and Bills. At the same time, they lost their rematch to the Dolphins and badly lost their rematch to the Bills. They also have double digit losses to the Rams and 49ers and have lost to the Texans and Broncos, while almost losing to the Jets, before pulling out a mere field goal win. 

There also isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason to their inconsistency, as their loss to the Texans came in the middle of a 4-1 stretch, while their recent 3-game losing streak (Rams, Dolphins, Bills) has come after probably their most complete game of the season against the Chargers. Their schedule hasn’t been easy and they haven’t been horrible all things considered, ranking 22nd in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -0.76%, but they’ve been very tough to predict week-to-week.

In terms of variance, the Patriots rank 5th in the NFL and their inconsistency is even worse than that suggests, as most teams that rank high in variance have had injury problems throughout the season that have caused them to not have the same personnel available to them every week, which hasn’t really been the case for the Patriots. The best explanation I have for their inconsistency is that they’re a bottom-third team talent wise that is more likely to exceed their talent level and play surprisingly well than your average bottom-third team because of their coaching edge.

Given that, it’s hard to ever bet them confidently, but it seems like the Patriots’ stock is so low now after their recent 3-game losing streak that they are a reasonably safe bet, now favored by just 3 points over the Jets, after being favored by 9 points on the early line last week. Everyone saw them get blown out by the Bills on Monday Night Football, but the Bills are arguably the best team in the league and, even if the Patriots don’t play their best game, they should be able to win this game by at least a field goal against one of the worst teams in the league.

Massive line movements like that almost always tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. The Patriots’ injuries are starting to pile up, with key offensive linemen David Andrews and Shaq Mason and talented edge defender Josh Uche now sidelined after playing last week, joining top running back Damien Harris and top cornerback Stephon Gilmore as key players to go down in recent weeks, so some line movement was justified, but the Patriots still rank a somewhat respectable 24th in my roster rankings, while the Jets rank 31st.

The Jets have won back-to-back games after losing their first 13 games of the season by a ridiculous 16.15 points per game, but I don’t think they’re suddenly a drastically improved team, as they seemed to catch the Rams off guard more than anything and last week they faced a Browns team that was missing several key players on offense, including their top-4 wide receivers. Teams also tend to be overrated after wins as big home underdogs like the Jets got last week, covering at a 43.1% rate after a win as home underdogs of 3.5 or more. 

Like the Patriots’ loss to the Bills, the Jets win last week shouldn’t have led to a line movement of more than a point or so. I’m not saying this line should still be at 9, after the results of last week and the Patriots’ injuries, but I still have it calculated at New England -5, so we’re getting decent line value with the Patriots. The Jets have also seen injuries start to pile up in recent weeks, something that has been overlooked because of their mini winning streak, most notably the absence of their top defensive player Quinnen Willliams, who went down for the season after the win against the Rams week 15.

I hate betting on a team that has been as tough to predict as the Patriots, but even in one of their worst games of the season, they were able to beat the Jets in New York by a field goal, so they should be able to win ugly again at home if they have to and the Patriots’ obvious coaching edge gives them a better chance of winning this game easily than most teams with an underwhelming roster. The most likely outcomes of this game, in order, are a close Patriots win, a not so close Patriots win, and then a close Jets win, so I like my chances at New England -3.

New England Patriots 23 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: New England -3

Confidence: Medium

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