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New England Patriots News 11-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
5 years ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: NFL Commentary

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-27, and AFC East Notes for this week.

From all of us here at, we hope that everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day with their families. That’s what it is all about.

Tom Brady Has a Couple of Career Milestones on Tap Today:
It is amazing that Brady continues to play at such a high level at the ripe old age of 39 but he has and today a couple of career marks can be made.

With a win today, Brady will tie Peyton Manning’s career mark for wins by a QB (200), regular season and playoffs. And with just 57 yards passing, Brady will pass the 60,000-yard plateau for his career. Although he missed two days of practice and was slightly coy about his availability on Friday, it would be a shock if he doesn’t play today.

Salguero’s Powerful Piece on Kaepernick Worth Reading:
Take some time and read Armando Salguero’s piece on Colin Kaepernick. Salguero penned this early on Friday before the news of Fidel Castro’s passing and during a conference call with the Miami press, Salguero called out Kaepernick’s wearing of t-shirt with Castro on it.

Salguero was born in Cuba and left with his mother, but his father was detained under the Castro regime. He now writes for the Miami Herald and is one of the best Dolphins beat writers. He took great umbrage with Kap comparing families being broken up by a Communist dictator and those in the United States with people being put in prison.

It is a pretty powerful piece and written by someone with first-hand knowledge of the situation in Cuba. **Update** Salguero was on CNN Saturday night and when he disagreed with the CNN message that people in Miami were split on Castro’s death, he was taken off the air pretty quickly.

Clock Strikes Midnight for Vollmer, Tre’ Jackson:
The Patriots announced that guard Tre’ Jackson and tackle Sebastian Vollmer won’t play for the team in 2016 after starting the year on PUP and now being reverted to IR.

Both players had until Tuesday, November 22 to begin practicing with the team but never did. Mike Reiss of ESPN reported that Jackson had been regularly taking part in conditioning drills with the team prior to practice recently, so that is a bit of a surprise. It’s possible that he suffered a setback of some kind which necessitated his not being activated.

Vollmer was less of a surprise as he seemed a long shot to play at all this season. And with that, he’s probably played his last snap in New England. He’s due for a new contract in 2017, and probably won’t be brought back. His replacement, Marcus Cannon has far exceeded expectations this season with Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold.

White/Lewis Present More Matchup Problems for Defenses:
With the return of Dion Lewis last week in San Francisco, the Patriots now have a good problem to have, what to do with two backs who thrive on third downs? Well one solution is, they may begin to use more formations where the two of them are on the field together. They ran the two “Pony” back formation a few times last week and it was successful.

Bill Belichick spoke at his presser today (Friday) about having the two on the field and offered this analysis. “It presents a couple of different options to a defense. If you have a tight end and a back in there then I think they’re pretty sure the tight end isn’t going to handle the ball in the running game,” Belichick said. “When you have two backs in there then that’s a little bit of a different story. The tight end routes and the back routes are a little bit different, so tight ends have certain advantages, certainly in our case size, length.

“There’s a little bit of diversity with a back relative to a tight end so certainly a tight end is a better on-the-line blocker. Both [are] skill players, both can do things. They’re different. It’s not a tight end and a back,” he added. “It’s now two backs and how do you treat them and so forth. It’s another way to use those guys and put another log on the fire for the defense that they’ve got to make some kind of adjustment to.”

Will Belichick’s Sitting of Sheard in SF, light a Fire Under him?
In another surprising move for the defense in 2016, the Patriots made Jabaal Sheard a healthy scratch for the first time in his career for the game in San Francisco. Sheard was expected to be a key contributor this season after the Pats traded Chandler Jones to the Cardinals.

He was a starter at the start of the season but his performance has tailed off in recent weeks which led to his being left back in Foxboro in what Sheard described as a “coach’s decision: while the team traveled to SF. But if people were expecting to hear some complaining, they’d be disappointed, as he’s kept a positive mental outlook.

“I’m positive, man. There is great energy around here,” Sheard said. “There are things I have to work on to get better on the field and go out there and work, and hopefully that will make me active.”

When pressed on what he can do better this week, Sheard said, “Just do my job, I think,” he said. “Everything else, leave it up to coach. Practice hard, and when I get the opportunity, play hard.”

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 12-2 putting me at 93-65-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas (Thanksgiving games picked last Sunday), and for the games today, Tennessee, Buffalo, Baltimore, Atlanta, NYG, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, Seattle, New England, Oakland, Denver, Philadelphia.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Hopes to Have Watkins Back Today:
The Buffalo Bills are hoping to have a key part of their offense back today against Jacksonville. They’re making the decision on whether to activate WR Sammy Watkins from IR after he missed eight weeks after issues with his surgically repaired foot cropped up early in the season.

Watkins practiced all week and had no setbacks in his recovery which is a big sign for the Bills best WR. “I think he’s good to go,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said immediately after Friday’s walkthrough.

Dolphins’ Defense Big Reason For Turnaround :
Don’t look now but the Miami Dolphins have won five games in a row, are now 6-4 and with a win today against the 1-9 San Francisco 49ers would make the talk of the playoffs real. Not to mention, the Fins are still just two games back of the Patriots in the AFC East.

It is looking increasingly like the Week 17 game against Miami in South Florida may mean something for a change this season, possibly even a divisional title? We’ll see.

But the Dolphins have bought into Adam Gase’s system and their play especially on defense has them on a roll right now. One bright spot has been safety Bacari Rambo who was brought in after Rashad Jones went down for the season. Rambo and Isa Abdul-Quddus have filled in admirably in lieu of Jones and will be looked at to provide quality play for the Miami secondary down the stretch.

Jets Still Have a “Win-Now” Approach With Bowles:
Todd Bowles won’t address the 2017 season and is sticking with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to be his starting QB this week as he believes that the veteran gives Gang Green a better chance to win, especially with the Patriots coming to town.

We said last week in this column that we expected Fitzpatrick to play against New England and he does them a better chance to upset the Patriots. Fitz’s biggest issues this season has been the giveaways, he leads the league in interceptions. He’ll be facing a Patriots defense that hasn’t had one in a month.

I’m expecting Fitzpatrick to play well this afternoon, but if he doesn’t start off hot, expect to hear the fans. Most fans want Bryce Petty at QB, and will voice their displeasure with the coach’s decision to start Fitzy over the young signal caller.

It should be an interesting game today.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Posted Under: NFL Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers predictions Rex Ryan Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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