The New England Patriots are done living on cloud nine.
Following consecutive losses against two seemingly playoff-bound teams in Indianapolis and Buffalo, the Patriots dropped to the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture and face an uphill climb to reclaim the division lead.
The good news is New England controls their own destiny. Win the final two games against Jacksonville and Miami, and they’re in. Who knows? With a little bit of help, they could make a last-ditch ascension up the standings.
With that said, it’s a little worrisome that the Patriots’ best players have hit a little snag during this two-game skid.
While you can rattle off a host of players who fall under that category, this trio really needs to get it together before the playoffs. If it doesn’t, well, New England will be headed for an earlier-than-expected offseason.
3 Patriots players who will be crucial to playoff run
3. JC Jackson
JC Jackson has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season, and his efforts were rewarded with a Pro Bowl nomination. However, Sunday’s loss to Buffalo proved just how vital he is to New England’s success.
By all accounts, Jackson had a poor game. On top of giving up five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown on nine targets, he was also abused against the run and dropped two interceptions at key moments in the game.
The second of those drops came in the middle of the fourth quarter with the Patriots trailing 26-21. With Ja’Whaun Bentley in position to block any nearby tackler, Jackson might’ve returned it for a touchdown.
Maybe Jackson just has to avoid playing against Buffalo in the playoffs, because Stefon Diggs seems to be his kryptonite.
Whatever the case, the star corner needs to be at the top of his game for New England to stand a chance against some of the heavyweights in the AFC. That goes beyond battening down the hatches in coverage.
After all, teams that fail to pounce on gift-wrapped turnovers typically end up being one-and-done in the postseason.