By Abe Gutierrez 

What a difference a year makes for the Jets and coach Todd Bowles. This time last season, the Jets were going for their 10th win and the NFL playoffs were still very much within their reach.

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In Week 16 of the 2016 NFL season, Gang Green will be trying to avoid losing its 11th contest, which will be much easier said than done, as the mighty New England Patriots are on deck for the Jets this Christmas Eve.

Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, will be rocking Saturday afternoon when two bitter divisional rivals collide. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on CBS.

The last time these teams met dates back to last month in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the Jets let the Patriots off the hook, 22-17, in what became an exciting contest. New England comes into Saturday’s game leading the head-to-head series 60-54-1 and have won four of their last five meetings with the Jets.

New England Patriots season record: 12-2-0

If the 2016 NFL playoffs started today, the Patriots would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC and would enjoy home-field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl. With Tom Brady and Bill Belichick leading the way in 2016, the Pats are 12-2 and are the team to beat in the postseason in most observers’ eyes.

This season, New England is 5-2 at home, 7-0 on the road, and 3-1 against divisional opponents. The Pats are also 9-1 against the AFC, 3-1 versus non-conference foes and are riding the momentum of a five-game win streak heading into Week 16.

Patriots on offense

With 15 years of NFL experience, Josh McDaniels is the Pats’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He’s in charge of an offense that comes into Week 16 ranked fourth in total yards (389.9) and passing yards per game (272.9). With Tom Brady leading the charge, this squad also has no problems putting up points on the board; they’re ranked sixth in the NFL, averaging 26.1 points per game.

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However, the one thing that’s different when it comes to this year’s Patriots (compared to teams of the past) is their balance on offense. Everyone knows what Brady can do through the air, but in 2016, New England actually ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards per game (117). That means that teams can no longer plan to pressure Brady and try and beat New England that way. They must contend with No. 12, as well as running back LeGarrette Blount (265 carries, 1060 yards, 15 TDs), who’s having a monster season.

Patriots on defense

The Patriots are the front-runners to win the 2017 Super Bowl because of the way their “D” has performed this season. Under the watchful eyes of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the Pats defense ranks among the best units in pro football, which is another wrinkle for this organization.

Entering Week 16, Patricia’s defense is ranked No. 1 in the National Football League in points, averaging a stingy 16.6 points per game. This team has also overachieved when it comes to stopping the run, earning an NFL ranking of third best by allowing an average of 89.7 rushing yards per contest.

When it comes to total yards allowed, the Patriots are ranked 10th in the league (336), and in passing yards per game surrendered, they are 17th in the NFL with 248.1 passing yards a week. Needless to say, the Jets are going to need to make a huge effort to deal with a team that’s as well-rounded as the 2016 New England Patriots are.

Patriots players to watch: Tom Brady, Trey Flowers

On the cusp of becoming the greatest NFL quarterback to ever live, Tom Brady (249-372, 3064 yards, 22 TDs, 2 INTs, 109.7 QBR, 10 starts) is always the Patriots player to watch on offense. Looking like a man on a mission, the four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP continues to raise the bar in his 17th season out of Michigan.

On the opposite side of the rock, there are a number of Pats defenders that are sure to cause havoc through out the whole game. The defensive player to watch in this game will be none other than DE Trey Flowers. In his second season out of Arkansas, the Huntsville, Alabama native leads the team in sacks (7) to go along with his 35 tackles (19 solo, 16 assist).

Outlook

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It should come as no surprise that NFL Week 16 oddsmakers aren’t giving the Jets much of a chance against the red-hot Patriots in Foxborough this week. According to opening point spreads, the New York Jets (+16.5) are currently listed as double-digit underdogs on the road against the New England Patriots (-16.5). Despite the fact that Gang Green only lost by five points back in November, the Patriots are still listed as -16.5-point favorites and the projected OVER/UNDER tallies 43.5 points.