By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
For the final game of the year, the weekly ‘key matchups’ are going to look a little different. With no playoff stakes on the line for either team, identifying what each team needs to do best to win sort of feels like talking to a brick wall.
Instead, with so many fans already focused on the offseason, let’s take a look at three players who have one final chance to raise or lower their stock with the team heading into a crucial offseason.
Tight end should be one of the main focal points of the Patriots offseason, which is tough given the draft stock the team invested in the position last year. With a generational prospect looming in the draft this year, the team will need to take a long-hard look and decide if he’s worth the investment in the current context of the roster.
Complicating that analysis is the relative unknown that is Devin Asiasi. The Patriots clearly saw something in him during the scouting process – otherwise they wouldn’t have made him a top-100 pick. However, there hasn’t been much of a chance for a pro evaluation, due to limited playing time and a mid-season injury.
Of course, the team has seen much more of Asiasi (in practice) than those of us on the outside. But those in-game reps are valuable, and Sunday represents a final chance for him to make his case before the roster is retooled for 2021.
It was certainly an up-and-down year for Chase Winovich. He started the season as one of the most promising young players on the Patriots’ defense, before mysteriously being benched for most of October. In the second-half of the season he once again became an on-field regular, but didn’t seem to have the same pop he did early on.
Against a Jets team that was surprisingly successful in their last meeting, Winovich will have a chance to end the season on a high note. If he can put together a strong showing against Jets tackle Mekhi Becton, who has been one of the best rookies in football this year, he’ll enter the offseason on a high note.
With Josh Uche and Tashawn Bower now on IR and Anfernee Jennings missing practice time, the edge rotation should be cut down significantly this week. Winovich should get plenty of time on the field, we’ll see how he makes the most of it.
Quietly, Moncrief has proven to be a solid in-season acquisition for the Patriots. Since debuting in Week 11 he’s provided a boost on special teams, including a 53-yard kickoff return against the Cardinals.
There actually could be a solid role for him on the 2021 Patriots as well. With an infusion of young talent at the receiver and tight end positions, and Julian Edelman’s future up in the air, he could prove to be a veteran presence as a pass catcher while contributing mostly on special teams.
At the same time, there will undoubtedly be chances for him to prove he can contribute regularly on offense as well. If the Patriots take a more preseason-like approach on Sunday, it could serve as an early chance for him to show off on offense.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.