Patriots at Jaguars -- Week 16

Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla. (grass, outdoors)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Spread: New England by 14.5 

Forecast: Temperatures in the mid 50s; partly cloudy.

Records: Jaguars (Overall: 2-12; AFC South: 2-3); Patriots (Overall: 10-4; AFC East: 5-0)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 27, 2009: Patriots 35, Jaguars 7; Jan. 12, 2008: Patriots 31, Jaguars 20 Series record: Patriots hold an 8-1 advantage.

What matters: The competitive part of the season has long been over for the Jaguars. Fans already are focusing on the draft after a three-game losing streak has them tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the league's worst record. A loss to the Patriots will lock up a top-two pick for Jacksonville in next year’s draft. There are still jobs on the line, though. Coach Mike Mularkey, GM Gene Smith and much of the roster still needs to finish strong to prove to ownership that there’s some form of progress is being made. The Patriots have clinched a spot in the playoffs, but a first-round bye and home-field advantage are both still in play. 

Who matters: The defense will be under the microscope with the Patriots coming to town. LB Paul Posluszny will need to have another big game. The former Buffalo Bill should be accustomed to playing New England. He has 122 tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. He’ll need to get the defense in the right position and keep an eye on New England RB Stevan Ridley. CB Derek Cox (hamstring) has been slowed some, but he was back at practice on Thursday. He and the rest of the secondary will have the task of controlling a passing attack that is third in the league with an average of 295.7 ypg.

Key matchup: He doesn’t record too many stats, but moving the ball against New England’s defense starts with neutralizing 330-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork. That task will fall on C Brad Meester, LG Austin Pasztor and RG Uche Nwaneri. If they can get some push on Wilfork, the Jags might be able to move the ball some on the ground and control the clock to keep the Patriots offense off the field.

Injuries of note: RBs Rashad Jennings (concussion) is out but there's a slight chance Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) could see limited action. That means RB Montell Owens will likely make his third straight start. CB Aaron Ross (calf) is questionable. LB Daryl Smith, who has missed the whole season with a groin injury, could see his first action on Sunday. A final decision has yet to be made, but Smith was back on the practice field this week and Mularkey sounded optimistic this week that he would get a chance.

Inside stuff: The Jaguars are removing the tarps that normally cover section 442 of EverBank Field due to increased ticket demand this week. It’s a pretty safe bet that the move reflects an interest in seeing the Patriots.

Connections: Patriots DE Jermaine Cunningham, TE Aaron Hernandez and LB Brandon Spikes will all return to the area after playing at the University of Florida. Jacksonville and Gainesville are about 90 minutes apart. All three also played with Jaguars DE Jeremy Mincey with the Gators from 2007-09.

Stat you should know: Looking for a glimmer of hope for the Jaguars? The Patriots are 29th in the NFL in pass defense, giving up an average of 270.4 yards per game. Jacksonville isn’t exactly known for its elite passing offense, but QB Chad Henne has thrown for at least 220 yards in half of the six games of which he’s played the majority.  

Looking ahead: The Jaguars end their season with a trip to Tennessee (5-9) in Week 17.

Prediction: Patriots 35, Jaguars 14

For more Jaguars news and analysis, follow Daniel Lewis @CBSJags.