By Abraham Gutierrez

Todd Bowles and his coaching staff’s mettle will be put to the test in Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season. Not only because Gang Green has a serious quarterback controversy on their hands, but also because they will have to handle it while preparing to face Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey will be the site for the first meeting of the season between these intradivisional rivals. Opening kickoff is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4:25 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on CBS.

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The last time these foes met dates back to the penultimate game of the 2015 NFL season on Dec. 27, when the hosting Jets stunned the Pats in overtime by a final score of 26-20. On that eventful day, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick outplayed the great Tom Brady (22-for-31, 231 yards, TD, INT, 89.6 QBR), completing 26-of-41 pass attempts for 296 yards, three touchdowns and no picks to earn a quarterback rating of 109.4.

New York also torched New England’s defense on the ground, racking up 143 rushing yards on just 27 carries. The win put an end to New England’s three-game win streak, but the Patriots still lead the overall series, 59-54-1. Gang Green will need a similar effort on Sunday in order to pull off what would be a mammoth upset over the red-hot Patriots.

New England Patriots Record: 8-2-0

Featuring arguably the greatest coach-quarterback combination in NFL history, the Patriots are once again the team to beat—not only in the AFC, but also in the NFL in most observers’ eyes. The Pats are the favorites to go all the way this season. They come into Week 12 with an 8-2 record, despite not having Brady for the first four games of the 2016 NFL campaign.

Winners of four of their last five, New England is 3-2 at home, unbeaten on the road (5-0), 2-1 against AFC East foes, 6-1 versus the AFC Conference and 2-1 when going up against the National Football Conference. If the playoffs started today, the Patriots would be the No. 2 seed in the AFC behind the Oakland Raiders, but would enjoy a bye in the first round as well as home-field advantage in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Patriots on offense

Offensively, everyone knows what the Patriots are capable of with Tom Brady at the helm. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the perfect fit for this offense and it shows, as they rank in the Top 10 in all four of the major NFL statistical categories.

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With 11 weeks of football in the books, the Patriots offense ranks sixth in points per game (27.1), total yards (387.1) and passing yards per game (268.8). On the ground, the Pats are also very efficient, as they head into Week 12 ranked eighth in rushing, averaging 118.3 rushing yards per game. Some of Brady’s favorite targets include wide receivers Julian Edelman (56 catches, 534 yards, 2 TDs) and Danny Amendola (19 catches, 205 yards, 4 TDs), along with the two-headed monster at tight-end known as Martellus Bennett (39 catches, 518 yards, 4 TDs) and (if healthy) Rob Gronkowski (25 catches, 540 yards, 3 TDs).

Patriots on defense

One of the traits that make Belichick arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history is the fact that he surrounds himself with highly intelligent human beings. Patriots’ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia certainly fits that criteria, as he’s not the typical DC one finds in the National Football League.

Instead, the aeronautical engineer is more like a rocket scientist. Given the fact that he can design specifications for military aircraft, stopping opposing NFL offenses has proven to be a feasible task for the Rensselaer Polytechnic product. Patricia’s defensive unit enters Week 12 ranked third in the NFL in points per game (18.0), 15th in passing yards (252.1), and 17th in both total yards (355.2) and rushing yards per game (103.1).

Patriots players to watch: Tom Brady, Trey Flowers

Coming as no surprise, the Patriots player to watch on offense is four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady (145-for-206 for 1915 yards, 16 TDs, 1 INT). As stated above, the former Michigan Wolverine sat out the first four games of the season due to a suspension. Since then (six starts), Brady has come back with a vengeance and has absolutely torched opposing defenses to earn an eye-popping quarterback rating of 123.3 on the year.

On the opposite side of the pigskin, the defensive player the Jets must keep an eye on is defensive end Trey Flowers. In his second season out of Arkansas, the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder leads the team in sacks (4.0), has racked up 24 tackles (14 total, 10 assist) in just two starts (10 games) to go with a pass defended.

Outlook

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Given the way the New England Patriots have been beating up on the rest of the league since Tom Brady’s return, NFL oddsmakers are being rather kind to the New York Jets. Opening NFL Week 12 point spreads for this AFC East clash have the Pats (-8) listed as only favorites by a touchdown and a two-point conversion against a Jets (+8) squad that’s still yet to decide who will start at QB on game day, while the OVER/UNDER tallies a combined 47 points total.