The path to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through New England.
That’s been the case for most of the last 20 years and it is the case again this season after the Patriots’ 26-6 win over the Jets on Sunday. The Patriots rode the No. 1 seed to the Super Bowl last year and are trying to become the first team to repeat as champs since they did it after the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
Sunday’s game saw the Patriots start quickly with a 75-yard touchdown drive and then slow down offensively for much of the first half, but they were able to turn a couple of first downs off of Jets penalties into a touchdown and then score again before the half to create plenty of breathing room. The second half saw the Patriots start to take some starters out of the game and it was essentially a done deal when Jets coach Todd Bowles elected to kick a field goal while down 21 points with 10:28 left to play in the game.
It wasn’t Tom Brady‘s sharpest game as he went 18-of-37 for 190 yards without targeting tight end Rob Gronkowski at all. Two of those completions were touchdowns, however, and Dion Lewis ran the ball 26 times to keep the clock moving on a cold afternoon in New England.
Bryce Petty‘s day wasn’t any better, but neither that nor the score was enough for Bowles to give Christian Hackenberg his first regular season playing time. That’s now two years on the bench and counting for the 2016 second-round pick, who clearly hasn’t impressed the Jets with his ability to run an offense.
Petty hasn’t either and his season ended with back-to-back sacks by new Patriot James Harrison. Harrison played a fair amount after being stuffed in a corner by the Steelers all season and had a big stop on Robby Anderson to thwart one of the 12 third downs the Jets faced on Sunday. They didn’t convert any of them, which is a nice way for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to head into possible head coaching interviews this week.
It’s also a nice way to lock up the top seed in the conference and set up two weeks to prepare for another game.