With the season's grind taking its toll, the Patriots and Jets meet in a key divisional matchup without several starters at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
As we already knew, the Patriots are missing starting center David Andrews (concussion), DL Christian Barmore (knee), and safety Kyle Dugger (ankle) for Sunday's showdown in the Meadowlands. Along with their three key starters, the following players are also inactive for New England: DL Sam Roberts, CB Shaun Wade, and RB Kevin Harris. With the other notable players on the injury report active, there were no additional surprises for the Patriots.
Since the Patriots have nine offensive linemen active for Sunday's game, they can carry an additional player on the game-day roster, which is why there are only six inactive players off the 53-man roster.
After landing in concussion protocol due to an illegal blindside block by Chicago's Mike Pennel, veteran James Ferentz will step in for Andrews at center. Ferentz, who has a high football IQ and is the son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, contributes on the sideline as another set of eyes. The sixth-year pro also started two games at left guard for New England a year ago, where he only allowed three quarterback pressures on 53 pass-blocking snaps.
Although there is a drop-off from a center of Andrews's caliber to any backup, the Iowa product has steadily improved his ability to anchor and take on the bigger bodies in the interior. However, with Jets interior rusher Quinnen Williams having a career year, the Pats will need to find ways to bolster the inside rushing lanes with a backup at center this week.
The Patriots also elevated undrafted rookie center Kody Russey from the practice squad as depth, who is active for the first time in his NFL career. And they'll get additional reinforcements at offensive tackle with Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste ready to go.
The expectation is that the Patriots will have a similar rotation along the defensive line without Barmore. Run-stuffers Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, and Carl Davis will play on first down and short-yardage situations, while Deatrich Wise also plays a significant role.
At safety, the Pats will rely on their strong depth at the position as Jabrill Peppers and second-year safety Joshuah Bledsoe fill in for Dugger. Peppers can play similar roles in New England's three-safety package at all three levels of the defense, while Bledsoe could have a third-down man coverage role as he did when Dugger sat out the loss to the Ravens in Week 3.
As for the Jets, the team already ruled out wide receiver Corey Davis for this one. New York also placed standout rookie running back Breece Hall and top offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker on injured reserve earlier this week. They will not play.
The Patriots and Jets will kick off at 1 pm ET at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.