Patriots stunningly find themselves in Jets-like mess

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They’ve been disappointing and inconsistent this season.

They’ll play Sunday’s season finale already miles from playoff contention.

They were hurt before the season even began by key players opting out of the 2020 schedule because of COVID-19 concerns.

They endured a number of debilitating injuries during the season.

Their quarterback play has been vastly inconsistent with the future at the position in serious question.

They’ve been playing the season with a severe lack of explosive skill-position players.

These, of course, are the Jets …

… and the Patriots, too.

The 2-13 Jets, riding a two-game, feel-good winning streak, play the 6-9 Tom Brady-less Patriots, losers of their past three games, in Sunday’s season finale for both teams at Gillette Stadium.

While the Jets are fresh off upsets of the Rams, who were 9-4 at the time, and the Browns, who were 10-4 before last week, the Patriots have lost 24-3 to the Rams, 22-12 to the Dolphins and 38-9 to the AFC East-champion Bills in their past three games.

“It’s definitely different. … It’s weird not seeing them go to the playoffs,’’ Jets defensive end Henry Anderson said Wednesday of the Patriots — who beat the Jets, 30-27, on a final-seconds field goal earlier this season.

“It is bizarre, because you got kind of used to seeing them playing games in January and February,’’ Jets guard Greg Van Roten said Wednesday. “Yeah, it’s different, but these things happen in the NFL. They’re a team just like us that had a lot of injuries, they had a lot of guys opt out. It’s not an excuse, but it does make things more difficult, makes obstacles harder to overcome.

“It’s been one of those years for a lot of teams.’’

The Patriots, though, have made it an art form avoiding “one of those years’’ for years.

This will be the first season since 2008 they won’t be in the playoffs and only the second time since 2002. Their streak of 11 consecutive AFC East titles was stopped this year. Since Bill Belichick took over as their coach in 2000, the Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them.

They did all of that, of course, with Tom Brady at quarterback.

This Brady-less season has been a revelation, proof of Brady’s incredible ability to elevate the players around him. The lack of that has turned the Patriots from extraordinary to ordinary.

The Patriots tried to replace Brady with Cam Newton, whose MVP powers from the 2015 season appear to be long gone.

In short, it hasn’t worked, turning the Patriots from a team that went nearly 20 years without having to worry about the quarterback position to one of the many around the league that don’t have a dependable one.

Newton, who’s thrown just five touchdown passes in 338 attempts this season to go with 10 interceptions, has thrown only one TD pass in the past four games. He was benched and replaced by Jarrett Stidham in Monday night’s blowout loss to the Bills after completing 5 of 10 passes for 34 yards.

Asked this week what the transition has been like without Brady, after a long pause, Belichick replied: “Well … our record’s disappointing. Obviously, we are doing things differently than the way we’ve done them in the past. We just need to perform at a higher level. All of us. [We] keep working to do that.’’

Belichick has shown a curious unwavering support for Newton this season despite a number of spotty performances. Instead of playing the younger Stidham to have look at him as a possible starter in the future, Belichick stubbornly keeps trotting Newton out — as he’s expected to do Sunday against the Jets.

“Cam has worked hard,’’ Belichick said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s given us great leadership and toughness and competitiveness. I have a ton of respect for what he’s done for us this year.’’

But, just as Belichick has “a ton of respect’’ for Newton, the Jets have the same respect for Darnold, who at age 23 has shown terrific resiliency in the face of all the losing.

The problem for Belichick with Newton, though, is the same as it is for the Jets and Darnold: The play of both quarterbacks has not been conducive to winning football.

So that leaves the Jets and Patriots in very similar places once this season ends: with a lot of questions about the future of the quarterback position.

That, too, leaves New England in the stunning position of being essentially one and the same as the Jets, who for the past 20 years have been the Patriots’ personal punching bag.

And that has to chafe Belichick, whose disdain for the Jets is as transparent as a squeaky-clean sliding-glass door.

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