FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — It’s now or never for the Patriots if they want to make it into the playoffs.
On Christmas Eve they’ll host the defending AFC champion Bengals, who come in riding a six-game win streak and sitting atop the AFC North at 10-4.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are coming off arguably the most painful loss of the Belichick era — a walk-off interception against the Raiders. New England was clinging onto the seventh and final postseason spot heading into Las Vegas, but now it’ll be even more of an uphill battle to get there with the last three games of the season being against likely playoff teams.
The all-time series between the two franchises favors the Patriots, who hold a 17-9 record against the Bengals. They’ve also won the past three matchups.
However, this will be the first time the Patriots get a look at third-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who’s currently fourth in the league in passing yards and second in touchdowns.
The Patriots emphasized this week that they’re only looking forward after last week’s loss and their focus is solely on the Bengals.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on WPRI 12.
Be sure to join us Friday at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Providence for our New England Nation pregame show. Morey, Taylor, Sam and Gresh will dissect the matchup and get you ready for kickoff.
Below are some notes and quotes from the past week at Patriots headquarters:
- Patriots CB Jalen Mills, WR DeVante Parker and LS Joe Cardona have been ruled out for Week 16, while several other players are listed as questionable in the team’s injury report.
- The Patriots are 10-2 at home against the Bengals all-time, including 4-0 at Gillette Stadium.
- The Patriots defense has scored five touchdowns this year, just one short of their team record set in both 2003 and 2007.
Bill Belichick on the Bengals: “A really smart team, good situational football team. Field goal kicker is 12 out of 13 from over 50 yards or something like that. He hasn’t missed many. So, explosive in the return game. You can see why they’re one of the top teams in the league. Playing well here lately, maybe not quite as good at the beginning of the year, but they’ve certainly come along playing good football now. So, this will be a good opportunity for us Saturday. A challenge here to deal with these guys, they’ve got a lot of weapons and like I said, they’re very well coached. They don’t get penalized. They play a good, clean game. They make you earn everything. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Belichick on Burrow: “First of all, he’s tough. He’s a tough kid. He’ll stand in there, throw the ball and take a hit to make a play. Accurate, hits all the throws. Tough to tackle. Manages the game well. Sees the game well. Productive in critical situations, third-down, red area, big games. I’d say he makes a lot of his best plays at the right time when you really need him. He’s impressive.”
Mac Jones on third down difficulties: “I think third down is definitely a big down, especially in the National Football League. Then, as you get further away from the sticks, your percentages go down. So that’s just a fact. So you want to try and keep it as close as you can to the third-and-shorts, third-and-mediums. But going backwards on first and second down doesn’t help. Definitely want to improve. But the other part of it is you can’t overemphasize a certain down and put too much pressure on that situation. It’s another play. Yes, you’re trying to get past the sticks, but you have to play the play for what it is. Sometimes that might be taking the check down or whatever it may be. We’re just trying to end every drive in a kick. So that’s the important part. Whether that be an extra point, or a PAT, that’s great. Or if it’s a punt, obviously we don’t want those. But that’s also better than interceptions, turnovers and stuff. So that’s a big part of it, too. We definitely need to be better on third downs. So we have to improve that area.”
Jones on staying positive after loss: “I think it goes back to just trusting the process of everything and doing whatever you can do to become a great football player. Eventually, that will show up on film. So a lot of things as an offense, it’s 11 guys and you have to try to push everybody as a quarterback to do the right thing and make sure we’re all on the same page. We’ve done that at times, but just getting that consistency. Obviously, with myself, too. Just making sure all of my P’s and Q’s. Then it takes everybody else as well to hop on the train. It takes everybody. We’re working together, communicating really well, which is important between the players. At the end of the day, we have to go out there and compete for each other and play because we love this game. So we have a respect for each other in our room as an offense. That’s the most important part.”