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Analysis: Patriots Rule Out Two Players, List 12 as Questionable for Sunday's Regular-Season Finale vs. Jets

The Patriots will be without OT Trent Brown (illness) and TE Hunter Henry (knee) vs. the Jets in Week 18.

Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers (5).
Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers (5).

The Patriots will try to set a new franchise record by winning their 16th consecutive game over the Jes in Sunday's regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium. 

On Friday, the Patriots ruled out OT Trent Brown (illness) and TE Hunter Henry (knee) for Sunday's regular-season finale. According to head coach Bill Belichick, Brown did not practice this week due to flu-like symptoms. Henry will miss his third-straight game after injuring his knee in Week 15. 

New England listed 12 players as questionable for what is expected to be a snowy afternoon in Foxborough: DL Christian Barmore (knee), TE Pharaoh Brown (ribs), DB Myles Bryant (illness), LB Anfernee Jennings (knee), CB Jonathan Jones (knee), S Jalen Mills (ankle), WR DeVante Parker (ribs), S Jabrill Peppers (hamstring), ST Matthew Slater (hamstring) ,LB Jahlani Tavai (tooth), WR Tyquan Thornton (ankle), and CB Shaun Wade (hip). 

New York has officially ruled out quarterback Zach Wilson (concussion) for Sunday's game. The Jets will start veteran Trevor Siemian at quarterback for the third consecutive week. 

Starting with Brown, it has been a rocky finish to the year for a player who is a starting-caliber tackle when properly motivated and healthy. After platooning with Vederian Lowe and Conor McDermott at left tackle, Brown was a healthy inactive against Buffalo last week. The veteran has been on and off the injury report with an illness and didn't practice this week. 

However, there are reports that effort has been an issue for Brown, particularly since ankle and knee injuries derailed his season. With Brown's playing time decreasing due to injury, the Pats left tackle began missing out on playing-time incentives in his contract. Although it's purely speculation, some reports suggest those things have affected Brown's playing time. Again, head coach Bill Belichick noted Brown has "been dealing with some sickness and some flu-type symptoms."

With Brown unavailable, the Patriots will likely start Vederian Lowe at left tackle. Lowe has fared much better at left tackle after struggling earlier in the year on the right side. The former sixth-round pick has allowed zero sacks, one quarterback hit, and three total quarterback pressures in two starts at left tackle. New England's projected starting offensive line is LT Vederian Lowe, LG Atonio Mafi, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, and RT Mike Onwenu. 

The Patriots offense will be without starting tight end Hunter Henry (knee) and could also be missing WR DeVante Parker (ribs). Henry, who practiced in a limited capacity throughout the week, hasn't played since taking a low hit to the knee in Week 15. Parker, on the other hand, practiced all three days in a limited capacity after leaving last week's loss to the Bills early. 

If the Pats are down their two veteran pass-catchers, second-year quarterback Bailey Zappe's supporting cast will consist of DeMario Douglas, Tyquan Thornton, Jalen Reagor, and possibly rookie Kayshon Boutte at wide receiver. At tight end, New England has Mike Gesicki and Pharaoh Brown, while practice-squad TE Matt Sokol is also an option.

On defense, safety Jabrill Peppers is officially questionable with a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Week 15. Peppers told reporters he plans to play on Sunday, providing a boost for a Patriots defense that has missed his tone-setting presence. Peppers is having a breakout season, ranking fifth among safeties with a Pro Football Focus grade of 87.0. He's also tied for fourth among all defensive backs with 17 run stops, has two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a sack. The former first-round pick has emerged as a standout contributor this season and deserves to finish a career year by playing in Sunday's game. 

Elsewhere on the roster, special teams captain Matthew Slater has not tipped his hand about retirement following his 16th NFL season. However, Slater did speak about how "emotional" Sunday's finale will be for him. The ten-time Pro Bowler also picked the practice music playlist all week and has been "feeling the love" from the organization. Slater contemplated retirement last offseason, with one of his best friends and former teammates, Devin McCourty, hanging up the cleats after the 2022 season. If it's Slater's last game, it'll be the final chapter in a Hall of Fame career.

Although there aren't any playoff implications to Sunday's game, the outcome will majorly affect the Patriots selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. Currently, New England holds the third overall pick next April, with the possibility of going as high as second overall or realistically as low as fifth overall. The coaches and players participating in the regular-season finale for the Patriots will be trying to win, but fans will certainly be focused on the impact the result has on the draft. 

Lastly, there's a chance Sunday's game could be head coach Bill Belichick's last on the Patriots sideline. Due to the team's disappointing 4-12 record and zero playoff wins since the 2018 season, Belichick's future with the team is in question. According to a report by ESPN's Mike Reiss, Belichick will meet with Patriots ownership on Monday to discuss the state of the team, a meeting that has been customary over the years. There's no timetable for a decision on Coach Belichick's future.

With a major offseason ahead, the Patriots will wrap up the 2023 season against the Jets with kickoff at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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