The 10 Most Pivotal Players for 2012

1. Devin McCourty

After a shortened off season due to the lockout, McCourty had a horrible start to the season getting burned by Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson. In fact, in many cases Kyle Arrington played better than McCourty.

In order for the Patriots to have a better defense, McCourty has to play smarter and overall just better.

2. Patrick Chung

Chung has the potential to be a Pro Bowl safety if he can stay healthy. Apparently, that is a big if, but if he does the safety position will be solidified.

3. Ras-I Dowling

Dowling was very hyped going into his rookie season. I thought he was the best corner in the draft. Like Chung, if Dowling can stay healthy he can be starting opposite of McCourty.

4. Nate Solder

Matt Light is retired and Solder will be thrown into the fire either at left or right tackle (depending on Sebastian Vollmer). Either way, Solder has big shoes to fill on the offensive line, not to mention dealing with the new AFC East pass rushers Mario Williams and Quinton Coples.

5. Chandler Jones

We all can agree the Pats have been missing a pass rush for the past few years. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson were good stopgaps last year, but Jones has the potential to be a Jason Pierre-Paul type player. If Jones can get anywhere near the 15 sacks his coach says, the pressure on the secondary will be a whole lot less.

6. Brandon Lloyd

The Pats offense has stalled in recent years in the playoffs. The receivers can’t separate from the corners and there is a lack of a deep threat. Lloyd will add the deep threat dynamic to the offense and much more.

7. Stevan Ridley

Stevan Ridley is has shown more than Shane Vereen and looks to be the starting running back going into next season (granted, Vereen was injured). I have high hopes that Ridley can build off of last year’s success and provide the Patriots with a top running game that will keep defenses honest.

8. Donta Hightower

Hightower brings impact, impact, and more impact plays to the defensive side of the ball. He can play all over the field and bring that next level to the linebacking core.

9. Kyle Love

After Vince Wilfork, the defense line drops off greatly in talent and ability. Love has to step up and play better against the run.

10. Steve Gregory

The safety position was horrible last year. Gregory is hopefully better than Sergio Brown and James Ihedigbo.

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The Night Before the Draft

 

Draft Info:

  • Round 1: Thursday, April 26 (8 p.m. ET)
  • NFL Network and ESPN are broadcasting it

Twitter Accounts To Follow:

My Patriots Mock Draft:

  • 27: Nick Perry, DE
  • 31: Janoris Jenkins, CB
  • 48: Brandon Thompson, DT
  • 62: Alfonzo Dennard, CB
    • Dennard would be a higher pick if he didn’t attack a cop…
  • 93: Joe Adams, WR
  • 126: Charles Mitchell, S
    • I love Mitchell’s play at Mississippi State

My NFL Mock Draft (with out trades):

  1. Colts select Andrew Luck, QB
    • The Colts have already said they will draft Luck, who is the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning
  2. Redskins select Robert Griffin III, QB
    • The second best quarterback of this years draft, RG3 compares greatly to Aaron Rodgers. He also has a higher ceiling than Andew Luck, but caries a much lower floor
  3. Vikings select Matt Kalil, LT
    • The Vikings have been shopping this pick around, so don’t be surprised if they do trade down. If they don’t though, Kalil will be their man
  4. Browns select Trent Richardson, RB
    • I’m no sold on taking a running back this early, but the Browns have all but said they will draft Richardson
  5. Buccaneers select Morris Claiborne, CB
    •  Ronde Barber is 37 years of age and Aqib Talib is a mess. Claiborne will shore up the secondary and will provide instant playing time
  6. Rams select Justin Blackmon, WR
    • Sam Bradford has had zero targets in his two seasons in the NFL. The Rams take Blackmon to provide him with a threat. However, Michael Floyd, in my opinion, is the better receiver in this years draft
  7. Jaguars select Michael Floyd, WR
    • In my first mock, I had Melvin Ingram in this spot. Then I had Stephen Gilmore, and now Michael Floyd. Floyd will give the Jaguars a much needed threat
  8. Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill, QB
    • Tannehill is the closest thing to a franchise quarterback left in this years draft
  9. Panthers select Fletcher Cox, DT
    • If this draft was right after the Combine, Dontari Poe would be drafted in this spot. However, Poe is now considered a work out warrior, which has helped Cox’s rise. Did I mention that Fletcher Cox is pretty good too?
  10. Bills select Riley Reiff- OT
    • Reiff makes too much sense for the Bills to draft. He has the overall package to be a All-Pro and the Bills have a very leaky line that led to Ryan Fitzpatrick playing with broken ribs most of the latter half of the season.
  11. Chiefs select Luke Kuechly, ILB
    • Kuechly reminds me of Zack Thomas, which is a very good thing for the Chiefs
  12. Seahawks select Melvin Ingram, DE
  13. Cardinals select Cordy Glenn, OG
    • Glenn’s stock has shot up through the roof these past few weeks, the Cardinals pair him up with Levi Brown to give Kevin Kolb more than enough time to through the ball
  14. Cowboys select Mark Barron, S
    • First off let me say that I do not like Barron this high up. In fact, I like his teammate Dre Kirkpatrick more than him. However, the Cowboys want him according to many other draft pundits…
  15. Eagles select Quinton Coples, DE
    • If the draft was based on talent alone, Coples would be the first DE taken. The draft is based on more than that though, so Coples drops to the Eagles at Pick #15. I would not be surprised though if the Eagles draft Chandler Jones or Michael Brockers
  16. Jets select Courtney Upshaw, OLB
  17. Bengals select Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
    • Newly acquired corner Terence Newman is not more than a stop gap. The Bengals know this and without any pressing needs, they go out and get the next Nate Clements in Dre Kirkpatrick
  18. Chargers select David DeCastro, OG
    • The Chargers are one injury away on the offensive line from another disaster of a season. DeCastro will be an All-Pro and will be more than worth not drafting a pass rusher
  19. Bears select Chandler Jones, DE
    • I’ve heard two names popup constantly when you talk about who the Bears are going to draft, Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus. Jones is more polished than Mercilus, so the Bears draft Jones
  20. Titans select Stephen Gilmore, CB
    • Stephen Gilmore reminds me of Cortland Finnegan, the recently departed Titan
  21. Bengals select Jonathon Martin, OT
    • The Bengals shore up the offensive line to give Andy Dalton more time to connect to A.J. Green and possibly Doug Martin
  22. Browns select Kendall Wright, WR
    • Brandon Weeden will be a thought here, but the Browns can get him later on at Pick #37
  23. Lions select Courtney Upshaw, DE
  24. Steelers select Donta Hightower, LB
    • Initially I had Mike Adams here, but Hightower is the better value and player, so the Steelers go with the best overall player at this point
  25. Broncos select Michael Brockers, DT
    • The Broncos will be absolutely delighted if Brockers is still on the board at this point
  26. Texans select Stephen Hill, WR
    • The first  reach of the draft, Hill just reminds too many people of Calvin Johnson. Can you imagine having to go against Andre Johnson and Stephen Hill?
  27. Patriots select Nick Perry, DE
    • Perry is the best pass rasher at this point in the draft, and Perry has lots of ability and a high ceiling
  28. Packers select Shea McClellin, OLB 
  29. Ravens select Peter Konz, C
  30. 49ers select Rueben Randle, WR
    • The other reach of the first round, the 49ers take the dynamic Rueben Randle. Randle never had the type of production you would like of a 1st round receiver, but he never had a legitimate quarterback in Jordan Jefferson. He is very untapped and Jim Harbaugh knows this
  31. Patriots select Janoris Jenkins, CB
    • On talent alone, Jenkins is the best corner in this year’s draft. He has alot of problems with drugs and immaturity though. Coach Belichick has taken other drug risks like Aaron Hernandez and I don’t think the drug problems effect his decision with taking Jenkins
  32. Giants select Coby Fleener, TE
    • Fleener is the best tight end in a very weak class
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Pats sign Donte Stallworth and Robert Gallery

The Patriots have signed former Pats wide receiver Donte Stallworth. Jason Cole and Adam Schefter both are reporting that it is a 1 year deal. Playing for the Redskins in 2011, Stallworth had 22 catches for a total of 309 yards and 2 touchdowns. The last year he played for the Patriots (2007), he put up 697 yards.

Also offensive lineman Robert Gallery has agreed to terms with the Patriots according to Michael Lombardi.

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The Giants (as told by numbers)

Created for PatsFans.com – Stats from Pro-Football-Reference

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Pregame on Playoff Saturday

The players involved in tonight’s game need no mention. You all know the Tim Tebow story and the score of the last match up between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. However, this is not the same Broncos team. The win against Pittsburgh proved that this team is real. Robert Ayers is living up to his draft expectations, Von Milller is playing lights out, and Demaryius Thomas is coming along. Ian Logue wrote a great article about how the Broncos having nothing to lose and all to gain in tonight’s match up.

Though the situation is different, the outcome will be the same. The Patriots will be the Broncos tonight and Denver’s magical story will be over.

Game Info:

  • On CBS at 8:00 ET
  • Played at home in Foxborough

Inactives:

  • Ryan Mallett, QB
  • Nate Jones, CB
  • Shane Vereen, RB
  • Gary Guyton, LB
  • Donald Thomas, OG
  • Sebastian Vollmer, T
  • Ron Brace, DE

Questions:

  • Will the Demaryius Thomas effect be felt again this weekend?
  • With Chung and Spikes back, how does the defense play?
  • Does McCourty play more safety than corner?
  • How does Denver cover Gronk, Hernandez, and Welker?

Predictions:

  • Ridley and/or Green-Ellis run for 2 touchdowns
  • The game is competitive for the first half, but second half adjustments made by BB will put the Broncos down
  • Patriots 34, Broncos 27

Interesting Links:

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Pregame Post: Pats take revenge on the new year

Last time these two teams played each other the Bills pulled a major upset and looked like the team to beat. It’s now a new year and almost two different teams are playing. The Bills are 6-9 and the Patriots are 12-3 looking to secure the number one seed in the AFC.

These Bills aren’t limping into Foxborough though. They have one of the better turnover creating defenses and have a very potent offense lead by Ryan Fitzpatrick, C.J. Spiller, and Stevie Johnson. Like I said before, the Bills are not the same team that beat the Patriots in Week 3. They lack Fred Jackson and the offense is very mistake prone.

The Patriots should win this game without much effort.

Game Info:

  • In Foxborough starting at 1:00 ETS
  • On CBS

Pats Injuries and Inactives:

  • Logan Mankins
  • Sebastian Vollmer
  • Ron Brace
  • Tracy White
  • Kevin Faulk
  • Shane Vereen
  • Ryan Mallett

Key Matchups:

  • Stevie Johnson vs Devin McCourty
    • Last time these two teams faced each other Johnson averaged 11.8 yards per catch and we all know McCourty’s issues
  • C.J. Spiller vs Pats Run D
    • Spiller has played well the last two games and the Patriots run defense is ranked 17th in the league. If the Patriots want to help their leaky pass defense, then stopping the run is a must.

Questions:

  • Will Stevie Johnson have an impact?
  • Does C.J. Spiller have a great day?
  • Will Ridley score a touchdown or two?
  • How does the offensive line play today?

Predictions:

  • Tom Brady will throw for four touchdowns and Ridley will runs one in
  • The defense will look strong
  • Patriots 38, Bills 21
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Pregame Post: Pats Go Ice Fishing

As the season enters a new phase, the Patriots enter the final stretch starting off with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins, 5-9, enter this game with the hopes of messing up the Patriots #1 seed hopes while the Patriots just need to win the next few games to keep the seed.

The Dolphins are lead by journey man Matt Moore and running back Reggie Bush who combined have put up decent numbers. Don’t let their record fool you though, this Dolphins team is vastly improved since Chad Henne was starting quarterback.

Game Info:

  • 1:00 ETS on CBS
  • Played at New England

Injuries and Inactives:

  • Ryan Mallett
  • Patrick Chung
  • Shane Vereen
  • Brandon Spikes
  • Matt Lightn
  • Sebastian Vollmer
  • Ron Brace

Key Matchups:

  • Reggie Bush vs Pats LBs
  • Welker vs Dolphins Corners (not named Benny Sapp)

Questions:

  • Will Reggie Bush have a 100 yard day?
  • Does Brady torch the Dolphin secondary again?

Predictions:

  • The Patriots defense shuts out Miami in the first half. The bulk of their offense comes in the second half
  • Patriots 34, Dolphins 21
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Pats go Tebow-ing

It’s that time of year again, Christmas time! This year the Patriots are traveling to Tim Tebow and his Broncos at Mile High. Denver is currently 8-5 looking in at the playoffs while our Pats are sitting comfortably at 10-3.

Game Info:

  • On CBS at 4:15 ETS
  • Played at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver

Pats Injuries and Inactives:

  • Ryan Mallett
  • Patrick Chung
  • Shane Vereen
  • Brandon Spikes
  • Nick McDonald
  • Sebastian Vollmer
  • Deion Branch

Key Matchups:

  • Willis McGahee vs Pats Linebackers
  • Von Miller vs Pats OLine
  • Eric Decker vs Pats Secondary
  • Welker & Gronk vs Denver D

Questions:

  • Will Tebow burn the Patriots 32rd ranked defense?
  • Does Tebow run all over the Pats? How bout throw all over the seconday?
  • Will Von Miller sack Brady?
  • Does Brady have 300+ yards today?

Predictions:

  • There is no Tebow Miracle today
  • Patriots  27, Denver 21
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Pregame Post: Downing Eagles

Before this season I predicted that this year’s SuperBowl would be the Patriots and Eagles. Well, I guess I was wrong on that, but the Eagles record doesn’t actually represent their talent or ability. This game comes down to defense. Both offenses are able to score and bring a load of talent to the field. The key for the Eagles is to slow down Brady and stop the Pats on 3rd downs while the Pats key is to force Vince Young into mistakes and to establish the run.

Game Info:

  • Starts at 4:15 EST
  • Played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia
  • On CBS

Pats Injuries and Inactives:

  • Patrick Chung
  • Chad Ochocinco
  • Brandon Spikes
  • Dan Connolly
  • Dane Fletcher
  • Devin McCourty
  • Ryan Mallett

Key Matchups:

  • Jason Babin and Trent Cole vs Pats O-Line
    • Babin and Cole have a combined 15 sacks on the year. The Pats line has let up 19 sacks on the year so don’t be surprised to see running backs blocking in the backfield helping Tom Brady out with the rush
  • DeSean Jackson vs Kyle Arrington
    • DeSean Jackson can burn about any corner in the league. He is a difference maker, but with Young at the helm we’ll see what he does…
  • LeSean McCoy vs Pats Linebackers
    • Spikes is out and McCoy is one of the, if not the best, running back in the league right now. Not a good matchup without Spikes.
Questions:
  • Will McCoy be contained?
  • How many sacks will Andre Carter get?
  • Will Vince Young be harrased all day?
  • will the Eagle secondary be able to contain Gronk?
Predictions:
  • McCoy will be held for under 100 yards
  • Kyle Arrington has gets another interception
  • Gronk has 2 touchdowns
  • Taylor Price makes his presence known
  • Patriots 34, Eagles 14
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Pregame Post: Demoted to Chiefs

The Chiefs, well, aren’t that good. Even with Matt Cassel they aren’t scary. Now that Palko is in and Cassel is out, any hope of them competing is out of the question.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs have the 9th ranked running game featuring the Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster combo. Dwayne Bowe can burn defenses, but considering Tyle Palko is the quaterback throwing to him, no worries. On defense, they feature a overall better unit than the Patriots. Brandon Flowers is a great corner who can ball with the best of them.

For the Patriots, on offense they had a great 2rd half against the Jets last week. BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley should be able to run all over this Chief defense. Welker is always Welker and Ochocinco is finally getting involved. Hernandez and Gronk should provide a huge mismatch in the Patriots favor. On the defensive side, Andre Carter is on fire coming off of a great 4 sack game against the Jets. Mark Anderson is more involved and Mayo will make plays today.

 

Game Info:

  • Starts at 8:30 P.M.
  • At Gillette Stadium
  • On ESPN

Pats Injury and Inactive Report:

  • Patrick Chung
  • Devin McCourty
  • Brandon Spikes
  • Kevin Faulk
  • Dane Fletcher
  • Jeff Tarpinian
  • Ryan Mallett

Questions:

  • How will the Pats defense play this week?
  • Will Andre Carter have a sack?
  • Does Andre Carter and Mark Anderson line up as ends?

Predictions:

  • Tom Brady has a great game
  • Palko from the Chiefs is intercepted twice
  • Patriots 34, Chiefs 7
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