Patriots kick off 2016 with their third-straight loss
More than three weeks after the Patriots knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, they will return to action this weekend when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Patriots won’t face any more injuries to key players in Week 4, including defensive end Chandler Jones (knee) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder).
But they’ll still be without three key starters: quarterback Tom Brady, running back Dion Lewis, and tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Brady and Lewis were both sidelined in Week 3 with neck and back injuries, and Lewis has missed the last two games with a foot injury.
Brady has been sacked only four times in his last seven games, and he’s connected on a league-high 53.5 percent of his passes for 836 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Lewis has completed 65.9 percent of those passes for 1,076 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, and four sacks.
All three of those players will miss a week.
The Steelers will be without a pair of key players who could help the defense in the absence of their stars: linebacker James Harrison (shin) and defensive end Martavis Bryant (hamstring).
Harrison has been limited to six games with his foot injury, but he’s also had a strong season.
Bryant missed two games and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Harrison has a team-leading 14 sacks, but it was his second game with more than two sacks, and the Patriots are still in a position to win if they get him out of the lineup.
Lewis missed his first game of the season with a hamstring injury, and that was followed by a hamstring strain.
Bryant, meanwhile, has played only seven games in his career, but has a season-high nine tackles.
That’s a huge drop-off from his breakout season in 2015 when he had 26.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
The Jets are coming off a win over the Patriots and are looking for a win after a 0-2 start.
The Eagles are coming back from a 3-0 deficit, and they’ve beaten the Patriots twice this season.
This is their fourth game in five days, and there is still time for the Jets to bounce back from their Week 3 loss.
Here’s what to watch for Sunday.
How Will The Patriots Perform?
The Patriots will be trying to bounce right back from two losses in a row after the win over Baltimore.
They also face a team that’s won three in a month and will be looking for their second win of the year.
The New England offense has been decimated by injuries in recent weeks.
In Week 3, the Patriots scored just 11 points.
But they bounced back in Week 5 by scoring 17 points in the third quarter and then by scoring 29 points in overtime.
This week, the Jets will be hoping to keep the momentum going and take advantage of the Patriots’ poor defense.
New England has struggled against the pass, but the Patriots defense is a major factor.
The Browns’ defense is among the NFL’s best, and this is a matchup that will pit the Patriots against a top-ranked team.
With Brady at his best, the Pats should be able to run the ball well enough to get the ball to Brady and the receivers.
If the Patriots can’t, the Browns will be able put the pressure on them.
But it’s unlikely that the Patriots will allow a couple of big plays to get open.
New York will have to win on third down.
That could be tough for the Browns to do, because they are allowing just 23.8 percent of third downs.
New Orleans also has struggled in the passing game this season, allowing a league high 46.8 points per game.
The Saints have only allowed one quarterback to throw for 400 yards and 10 touchdowns.
That would leave Brady, Lewis, Bryant, and Harrison to face off against the defense that’s allowed just 15.3 points per contest, but is allowing just 9.9 per game to opposing quarterbacks.
It’s not going to be easy for Brady to keep his team afloat against a Browns defense that has allowed just six quarterbacks to throw 30 or more touchdowns.
What Will The Jets Do?
This will be a big test for the Patriots.
It’ll be the first time they’ll face the Patriots in five years, and it will be the third time the two teams have met since 2000.
The last time New England faced the Browns was in Week 2 of the 2015 season, when the Patriots were 0-3.
The two teams split the series two years later.
The next time New York faced the Patriots was in 2017, when they were 2-2.
The previous time the teams played was in 2010, when Brady and Jones won the Super Bowl.
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