The NFL postseason doesn't officially begin until the second weekend in January. But for the New York Jets, it starts Sunday.
The 9-6 Jets are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, thanks to losing out on a tiebreaker with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall says he knows this week's tilt against the New England Patriots will be arguably the biggest game he's ever played.
"Yes. Absolutely," Marshall said Tuesday, via the New York Daily News. "It’s because it’s the next one. Obviously it’s the next one and we understand the implications attached to it. So yeah, the next couple will be the biggest games of my career."
Marshall has never been the playoffs in his 10-year NFL career, despite being one of the league's most productive wide receivers at times. This season, he's recorded 1,261 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Marshall and Eric Decker have combined for 21 touchdown catches this year, which is more than any other Jets receiving duo in history.
Per usual, the Jets have one of the better defenses in the league, ranked fifth overall. But the real difference with the Jets in 2015 has been their offensive firepower. They are 10th in yards and 11th in points scored, which is is a far cry from their ineptitude on that side of the ball under Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez.
Eleven-year NFL veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has arguably been the best Jets quarterback since -- wait for it -- Chad Pennington. He's passed for 3,428 yards this season, which means he's only 404 yards from surpassing his career high. He's completed 60.5 percent of his passes and thrown 26 touchdowns as well.
The Jets are poised to give the Patriots a competitive game Sunday, especially because they nearly knocked off New England in Week 7. And that was when the Patriots were still undefeated and at full strength. Now, with two games remaining in the regular season, the 12-2 Patriots are just hoping to get to the finish line.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski returned earlier than expected from a knee injury, but No. 1 wide receiver Julian Edelman is still out of action. Danny Amendola suffered a left knee injury in last week's contest against the Tennessee Titans, too, and his status for this week is questionable. Starting safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are banged up, as well.
Tom Brady has been getting hit a lot more often over the last several weeks and has been a different quarterback with many of his weapons missing. In his last five games, he's only surpassed the 300-yard marker once. For comparison's sake, he did it six times in his previous nine contests.
With all of these injuries and a playoff berth clinched, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said this week he would consider resting starters.
"We'll just have to do the best we can to balance all those things out. It's something we'll have to give some thought to and get as much information as possible because there are some guys that are in various states of physical health," Belichick said, via NFL.com.
But given Belichick's long-standing hatred of the Jets organization, it remains to be seen if he'll take a conservative approach to this week's game. One thing is for certain: The Jets certainly won't, because their season is on the line.
How to Watch
When: 1 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Commentators: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Online: NFL Game Pass