Archive for October, 2010

Patriots Inactives

The Patriots inactives are as follows: WR Price, WR Slater, RB Taylor, S Chung, S Page, OL Ohrnberger, OL LeVoir, and DT Love.

Vikings Inactives

Inactives for the Vikings are as follows:  QB Webb (third QB), WR Baskett, S Johnson, CB Sheppard, RB Young, LB Erin Henderson, G DeGeare and DT Kennedy.

My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Vikings

After beating the Chargers last week 23-20 out in San Diego, the Patriots are back home this week for a match-up against the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium.  Before each Patriots game this season, as always here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory. 

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on Fox Sunday at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The Vikings are coming off a tough 28-24 loss on the road to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.  However, even with this loss, the Vikings are only a game back in the NFC North in the loss column. To keep pace Minnesota really needs to beat the Patriots, and this is a very talented team coming to Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

On defense, this unit is very stong up front. The defensive line is very good and the Pats will find it extremely hard to run against them. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are very active in the middle of this line. However, the Vikings also have two defensive ends that have the ability to get to Tom Brady. Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are very good at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The linebackers are very solid, led by E.J. Henderson. The weakness of this defense would be the defensive backfield. Antoine Winfield is still a pro bowl caliber cornerback, but New England should be able to take advantage of the rest of this unit.

On offense, they have a tremendous amount of talent at the skill positions. Adrian Peterson continues to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. He already has 684 yards with a 4.9 yards per carry average this season. 

In the passing game they obviously have wide receivers Randy Moss and Percey Harvin. Pats fans know about Moss, but a player to watch on Sunday has to be Harvin. He has the potential to be a top flight receiver in this league. So far this season he has 25 receptions for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. They also have a very accomplished tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe.

The big question for this unit is who will be the quarterback? Will it be Brett Favre or¬†Tavaris¬†Jackson? Favre is injured but I would not be surprised to see him play on Sunday. ¬†The quarterback play for the Vikings seems to be the weak link for this unit thanks to Favre’s tendency to give away the football. For the Vikings to be successful they are going to need their quarterback to¬†be efficient¬†on Sunday.

The Vikings are a very dangerous team. They might be 2-4, however this team has the talent, and has the ability to be a tough opponent for the Patriots.   

Here are my ‚Äúfive keys‚Ä̬†which¬†¬†I believe could¬†play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The Patriots need to stop Adrian Peterson.  In the last couple of games the Patriots defense has done a nice job stopping the run. The Pats are currently 9th in the NFL in rushing defense. If the Pats can slow down Peterson, it could force the Vikings to depend more on their quarterback to create offense in the passing game.

2. The Patriots need to contain Percey Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe. Randy Moss is not the player in the passing game I think the Pats need to fear on Sunday.  Moss I think will open up the middle of the defense for Harvin and Shiancoe. The intermediate routes for these two players could be where they make their yardage. Jerrod Mayo and Brandon Spikes need to control their area of the defense. The Pats safeties also need to play of role of containing Harvin and Shiancoe.

3. The Patriots defense needs to¬†be¬†efficient on third down defense.¬† The Patriots continue to be the worst in the league on the¬†third down¬†conversion rate at 48.8%¬†on defense.¬†This unit needs to get off the field on third down, and that’s obviously going to be a big key Sunday against Minnesota.¬†¬†They cannot let the Vikings control the game and the clock.

4. The Patriots need to win the turnover battle. Favre has already thrown 10 interceptions. If he plays, the Patriots might have a great chance at creating turnovers.  The Vikings are currently at a -6 turnover ratio.  The Patriots are at +6 turnover ratio. Winning the turnover battle generally leads to a win, and clearly I expect that to be important Sunday.

5. The offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. I thought the offensive line did a poor job¬†last week, as Brady was under constant pressure.¬†Looking at the Vikings defense I think the¬†Patriots could find it difficult to run in this match-up.¬†They’ll need to give him time, so that Brady¬†can¬†find open receivers and hopefully not finish the first half 0-for-6 on 3rd down.¬†Allen and¬†Edwards can both get after the quarterback. The offensive line’s ability to¬†give Brady time to throw¬†will be important, so Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer need to be at their best against their opponents.

The Patriots are excellent at home at Gillette Stadium. However, the Vikings are very talented and this game will be a challenge. I think the game will come down to quarterback play. The Patriots I believe have a huge advantage at this position. I am predicting a Patriots 31-21 victory over the Vikings.

 What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section and I look forward to reading them.

Patriots vs. Vikings: Five Questions With Jeremy Fowler Of The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Jeremy Fowler who is the Vikings beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Jeremy was nice enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who covers the opposing team on a daily basis.

Here are my ‚ÄúFive Questions About The Upcoming Vikings Game with Jeremy Fowler Of The St. Paul Pioneer Press.‚ÄĚ

1.¬†The Vikings are 2-4 so far this season, which is certainly very different compared to last year’s team. What do you think is the cause for the tough beginning in regards to how things have gone so far?

There are several factors playing into the poor start, but the biggest culprits: Favre’s turnovers, the offense’s slow starts and the lack of quarterback pressure from the defensive front. Pound-for-pound, the defense is playing inspired football despite a combined 2.5 sacks from Jared Allen and Ray Edwards on the edge. But no defense can survive a quarterback who turns it over 14 times in six games, especially when opponents capitalize with 51 points off those turnovers. The offense hasn’t scored a touchdown on the first two drives of the first six games, forcing Favre to improvise late in the game.

2. There has been talk here in New England about which Viking quarterback would be a better match-up for the Pats. From a Viking perspective, is the team better off with Brett Favre or Tavaris Jackson starting at quarterback this Sunday?

If Favre can somehow limit the turnovers, then it’s no question he’s the better option than Jackson. But at least Jackson can manage the game, throw a couple of screen passes and protect the football. Put it this way: I’d rather have Favre in the fourth quarter, but Jackson gives them a safer game plan and, thus, a better chance to win.

3. On offense, the Vikings running game is still one of the best in the league. The question mark still seems to be the passing game. How much has the trade for Moss improved the passing game?

It’s certainly helped, but I’ve seen Favre force several intermediate-range throws to Moss’ direction that result in interceptions. Moss and Favre always wanted to play together, but Moss got Favre too late in the quarterback’s career. The Vikings probably need to take more shots downfield to Moss, who, at worst, can play defense on the ball and prevent an interception on those lobs. Right now he’s a possession receiver without a catch longer than 37 yards with the Vikings this year. He’s capable of much more production. In short: He helps, but not as much as advertised so far.

4. On defense, what do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses for the Vikings after what you’ve seen so far this season?

The Vikings still have a stout run defense, ranked sixth in the league after four consecutive years of a No. 1 or No. 2 ranking. The Patriots will have to work for every inch inside. But the biggest strength so far has been the versatility of the linebackers, particularly outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who leads the team in tackles (65) and tackles for loss (seven), and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Both are effective in base or nickel coverage. The secondary has battled injury, but throwing to cornerback Antoine Winfield’s side is still generally ineffective for opponents, especially on short routes.

5. And finally, what do you feel will be the key match-up to watch for between these two teams?

It’s got to be Moss vs. the Patriots secondary. I assume rookie Devin McCourty will cover Moss, and McCourty’s a promising, athletic corner. But Moss has shown in the past that when he’s inspired, nobody can cover him consistently. Returning to Foxborough should suffice.

Jermy Fowler’s¬†¬†Prediction: Patriots 24, Vikings 17

Patriots are too tough at home, and even if Favre plays, there’s no guarantee he can be effective on that fractured heel so soon — at least not at this age.

A special thanks to Jeremy for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him on twitter at @VikingsNow.

What We Learned From The Patriots Victory Against The Chargers

In my history of watching the Patriots I don’t think I have seen a game¬†quite like the one we watched yesterday when New England hung on to beat the Chargers 23-20 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. ¬†

So what did we learn from watching the game yesterday?

The first thing we learned is the San Diego Chargers are an extremely talented team on both offense and defense. Phillip Rivers is still an elite quarterback, and his talent was on display against the Patriots. Rivers was 34-50 for 336 yards and 1 touchdown. Even though the Chargers were missing a few key recievers to injuries, they were still able to move the ball and get into scoring situations.  They put together 17 points in the fourth quarter, and almost did enough to force overtime. 

Offensive lineman Matt Light had a tough day on Sunday (FILE:ICON/SMI)

On defense, the Chargers were putting constant pressure on Tom Brady.¬†Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes were bothering Brady pretty often in this game, with Barnes making Matt Light’s life fairly difficult.¬† The defensive backs were¬†covering the Patriot receivers very well, leaving them very little room to get open.¬†This unit was dominating.

So¬†with both the San Diego offense and defense being in rare form how could they lose this game? The¬†Chargers lost this game with mental errors and bad coaching. They had four turnovers which really aided the Patriots cause on Sunday. Richard Goodman made one¬†after making a great catch, and then¬†decided to just¬†leave the ball on the ground. The Patriots recovered,¬†and the¬†Chargers were lucky they didn’t capitalize.¬† Then later on, Rivers threw a pass that was a lateral, and Jacob Hester thought it was an incomplete pass and didn’t¬†go after the ball.¬†¬† As a result, the Patriots¬†recovered the fumble – with Rob Ninkovich picking it up and taking it down to the Chargers’ 8-yard line.¬† That lead to a Patriots field goal.

We also saw Kris Brown kick the ball out of bounds on¬†kickoff, which came on¬†a pivotal drive following a touchdown¬†– putting the Patriots at the 40 yard line.¬† Again, San Diego was lucky New England didn’t take advantage of yet another miscue.

And finally, before the final kick which would have sent the game into overtime, the Chargers got a 5 yard penalty on¬†a false start that moved them back farther.¬†¬†Brown’s attempt hit the right upright, and as the ball fell to the ground – so did San Diego’s hopes of a comeback.¬†

I could go on and on with all the mistakes that the Chargers made. The Chargers are just poorly coached and not a disciplined team, and their mistakes played a huge role in this game.

On the Patriots, let’s start with the offense.¬†Brady had a rough game. His first half was one of the worst¬†I have seen during his entire career, with the offense totalling a mere 38 net yards. Overall, he was 19-32 for 159 yards and 1 touchdown.¬†The good thing about the offense is that they rallied in the second half. Their first drive in the second half was tremendous, and really put the Patriots in position to win.¬†This drive took up 8:35 seconds of the¬†third quarter and put the Pats up 20-3. The offense played better¬†in the second¬†half, but overall it was a below average day for this unit.

The defense I have to say I am seeing more improvements. Going halfway into the fourth quarter, they only gave up 6 points. It was at that point when they started to play a prevent defense that Rivers really started to get going. He was taking what the Patriots were giving him, which was all the underneath routes. Rivers would eventually score twice and make this game very close at the end. However, I thought this unit did a decent job putting pressure on him, and made him uncomfortable in the pocket for many drives in this game. We also saw a great play by Devin McCourty, who leaped in front of Patrick Crayton for an interception Рthe first of his career. As a result a major positive that come out of this game was the continued improvement of this young defense.

The special teams unit did not have a banner day. All I need to do is point to the onside kick. There is no excuse for this unit not to be prepared for this kick late in the game. The players were at the 45 yard line instead of the 40. Also, Brandon Tate did not have much room to run back kickoffs. Overall, this unit did a poor job on Sunday.   

This victory by the Patriots was a combination of Chargers mistakes and the Patriots being able to capitalize on some of these errors. In the end these are the type of games you need to win.     

As I always do, I like to look¬†back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game.¬† Below¬†is my analysis of ‚ÄĚ My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The¬†Chargers ‚Äú.

1. The Patriots Special Teams need to take advantage of the Chargers unit.  As I stated earlier, the Pats special teams did not have a strong day, and the Chargers unit took advantage of them on Sunday.

2. The Patriots need to stop Antonio Gates.  The Patriots did a nice job on Gates for the majority of the game. Late in the fourth quarter Gates did come alive. His overall numbers were 4 receptions for 50 yards and one touchdown.  However, I thought the Pats defense did their job against him.     

3. The Patriots defense needs to prevent the big play in the passing game.  The Patriots defense prevented the big play for San Diego. Rivers rarely went deep, and one of the few times he went up top, he was intercepted by McCourty. Rivers ended up with very good numbers on Sunday, but there were no quick strikes by the San Diego quarterback.  

4. The Patriots offensive line needs to play at high level in protecting Tom Brady. The Patriots offensive line did a horrible job in protecting Brady. He was under constant pressure the majority of the game. Light was horrible, and gave up a few sacks.  Overall this group gave up four sacks, and their lack of protection I thought really stifled the Patriots offense.    

5. Tom Brady¬†needs to take advantage of the Chargers Secondary.¬† Brady did not have one of his better games, and wasn’t able to¬†victimize the Chargers secondary. In fact the¬†Chargers won most of the battles against the Patriots¬†recievers.¬†¬†

So what did we learn from this game? I think we learned that the Chargers have a great deal of talent, but do not have the discipline to win a championship. I think we¬†saw a Patriots team that had a below average game¬†on offense and special teams. However, I still think the defense overall played well for the majority of the game. They are still improving. We¬†also learned that coaching is a¬†major factor in the NFL – and the Chargers aren’t going anywhere as long as Norv Turner is at the helm.¬†

Overall, what we learned is that even if your team is not playing at its best in all three phases of the game, as long as you win that is all that really matters. 

What are your reactions to the game?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 23-20 win over San Diego.

Patriots Inactives

The Patriots inactive players are as follows: DL Ron Brace, OT Mark LeVoir, DL Kyle Love, OL Rich Ohrnberger, S Jarrad Page, WR Taylor Price, RB Fred Taylor, and CB Terrence Wheatley.

Chargers Inactives

The Chargers inactive players are as follows: K Nate Kaeding, WR Legedu Naanee, SS Darrell Stuckey, LB Larry English, LB Cyril Obiozor, DT Cam Thomas, T Adam Terry, WR Malcom Floyd.

My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Chargers

This week the Patriots are¬†playing the San Diego Chargers on the road¬†at Qualcomm Stadium.¬† So before each Patriots¬†game¬†this season, as always here’s a¬†preview¬†with my¬†five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.¬†

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on CBS Sunday at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The¬†Chargers are coming off a bad loss on the road to the St. Louis Rams 21-17. Their current record is 2-4. However, all of¬†Chargers¬†losses¬†have come on the road, and their home wins have been blowouts. This team has started slow the last few seasons, and they’re still very dangerous playing in front of their home crowd.¬†¬†¬†¬†

On defense, the Chargers are currently ranked number one  in total defense. The strength of this defense is in the front seven. On the defensive line Luis Castillo is a dangerous player to stop. Their linebackers are solid, and are led by Shaun Phillips coming off the edge at outside linebacker, and Stephen Cooper at inside linebacker. The weakness of this defense could be the secondary.    

On offense, this unit is also number one in total offense in the NFL. The Chargers are led by Phillip Rivers who is still considered to be an elite quarterback. Rivers has already started strong this season, throwing for 12 touchdowns and only having 5 interceptions and has a passer rating of 100.7. The running game is led by rookie Ryan Mathews who has a 5.1 yards per carry average. Darren Sproles also is always a threat running the ball. 

In the passing game the Chargers have Antonio Gates at tight end, who continues to be one of the best in the league. However, he is questionable for the game with an injury. The wide recievers also have several injuries going into this game. Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee are listed as doubtful. However, the Chargers still have Buster Davis and Patrick Crayton to count on for Sunday.  

The Chargers might be 2-4, but this team is always dangerous and especially at home. The Patriots will need to play at a high level to come home with a victory on the road.  

Here are my “five keys”¬†which¬†¬†I believe could¬†play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The Patriots Special Teams need to take advantage of the Chargers unit. The Chargers this season have had issues with special teams. They have had two kickoff returns for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, and have also had two blocked punts against them. The Patriots special teams has been on the other side of that, and have made plays so far this season. Brandon Tate has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and he might have a chance to really make a difference in this game. The Patriots in the Miami game blocked a punt and a field goal. They have also given the Patriots great field position to start drives. This unit on Sunday has a real chance to take advantage of the Chargers.      

2. The Patriots need to stop Antonio Gates.  The Patriots have had a tough time stopping tight ends this season. I thought they struggled to contain Todd Heap of the Ravens. Gates is still an elite tight end and has the ability to take over the game. He might be injured but I expect him to play.  He leads the Chargers in receiving with 31 receptions and 7 touchdowns. If he plays, the Pats will have their hands full.

3. The Patriots defense¬†need to prevent the big play in the passing game. Rivers loves to take deep shots against the Patriots defense, so you have to believe¬†he’ll try and¬†go after¬†Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington. The Chargers still have¬†deep threats on Sunday with¬†Patrick Crayton and Buster Davis. If the secondary¬†can prevent the big play, the Pats could be in good shape. ¬†¬†

4. The Patriots offensive line needs to play at high level in protecting Tom Brady. I thought last week this unit struggled at times to protect Brady. The Chargers can still get after the quarterback. Shaun Phillips already has 6 sacks and Kevin Burnett has 5 sacks. For the Pats to win, the offensive line is going to need to give Brady enough time to find an open receiver. 

5. Tom Brady¬†needs to take advantage of the Chargers Secondary.¬† If there is a weakness on the Chargers it is their secondary.¬†Quentin¬†Jammer is still back there, but Brady should be able to find several¬†openings in the¬†secondary. I wouldn’t be surprised to see¬†Deion Branch and Wes Welker have big games on Sunday.

San Diego is a tough place to win for any road team. However, the Chargers have many injuries that I think will hurt them on Sunday. I still think Rivers will be able to score several points against the young Patriots defense. In the end I think Brady will be able to generate enough offense to win. This game could be a shootout. I am predicting a 35-28 Patriots victory.

 What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section and I look forward to reading them.

Patriots at Chargers: Five Questions with Tim Sullivan Of The San Diego Union-Tribune

Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Tim Sullivan who covers the Chargers as a columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune.

Tim was generous enough¬†to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some¬†insight from someone who covers the opposing team on a daily basis.

Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming Chargers Game with Tim Sullivan Of The San Diego Union-Tribune.”

1. For a few seasons now San Diego has gotten off to slow starts. They’re currently 2-4 in the AFC West, yet fortunately that’s the case with three out of the four teams in that division so they’re certainly still in contention. What do you think is the major cause for the tough beginning of this season for the Chargers?

The primary cause of the Chargers’ problems has been special teams. In three of their four losses, they have experienced significant lapses that have put points on the board for their opponent: two kickoff returns for touchdowns in Seattle, a punt return for a touchdown in Kansas City and two blocked punts in Oakland. Last week, a critical field goal attempt was blocked, possibly because of a groin strain that limited kicker Nate Kaeding. Without these severe lapses, the Chargers figure to have won at least two of those four games, maybe more.

2. The Chargers are currently number one in the NFL in total offense and defense. Are these statistics an indication that the Chargers are close to turning their season around?

The offensive number is indicative of the firepower the Chargers had when they had most of their offense healthy. Now, with Antonio Gates nursing a sprained ankle and Malcom Floyd battling a hamstring pull, they may have fewer weapons for a few weeks. The statistics are slightly misleading, though, for a couple of reasons: 1) The comparatively weak schedule the Chargers have played to date; 2) The lack of time the defense has spent on the field because of special teams breakdowns.

3. The Chargers in the past have been very balanced attack on offense. However, Phillip Rivers has had some success in the past against New England taking some shots down the field in the passing game. Do you see them trying to take some chances against the Patriots’ young secondary?

The Chargers drafted Ryan Mathews in an effort to bring balance to their offense, but they are certainly a pass-first outfit. I don’t know how many deep balls Rivers will throw this week if Floyd is unable to play, though, so it may be more of an underneath passing game.

4. On defense what do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses for the Chargers after what you’ve seen so far this season?

The strength of the Chargers’ defense had been their cornerbacks, until last week. Rams’ rookie Sam Bradford exposed Antoine Cason repeatedly in St. Louis. Quentin Jammer remains a very solid cover corner, but he doesn’t have a big reputation because he doesn’t seem to make a lot of plays on the ball and, when he does, his hands don’t always hold on.

The weakness of this defense, as I see it, is up the middle. I don’t think this is a team that goes toe-to-toe very well, as evidenced by Stephen Jackson’s successful third-down runs when the Rams were trying to run out the clock. If you’re getting pushed back at the line of scrimmage, it’s not usually a good sign.

5. And finally, what do you feel will be the key match-up to watch for between these two teams?

One matchup I will be watching is Chargers‚Äô left tackle Marcus McNeill against Patriots‚Äô outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. McNeill returned to action last week following a lengthy holdout and the Chargers allowed seven quarterback sacks ‚Äď the highest total of Philip Rivers‚Äô career. If the Chargers can‚Äôt protect Rivers‚Äô blind side any better against the Patriots, it promises to be a long afternoon.

Mr. Sullivan is predicting a 27-23 Patriots victory.

A special thanks to Tim for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him¬†on¬†twitter at sdutsullivan.

Interview With Felger Gets a Mention on ‘The Final Word’ On 98.5 The Sports Hub

Marc Bertrand and Tony Massarotti had a pretty funny ending to the Felger and Massarotti show yesterday. In the segment called “The Final Word” Bertrand and Massarotti take some funny shots at Michael Felger over some of his responses from the “Sunday Morning Conversation” he did with us that ran over the weekend.

Please feel free to check out the link below that will take you to the audio clip.

CLICK HERE: The Final Word With Marc Bertrand