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New England Patriots News 1-8, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
January 8, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 1-8, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Steve Balestrieri -

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Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 1-8, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Happy Birthday to Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll would have been 82 today. But he lives on, especially on the side of the Patriots helmets.

RIP to my friend, and colleague Tom Reilly. Tom taught English and Journalism while penning the most widely read OP-ED column in our little town of Millbury, “Just a Thought or Two.” But he was much more.

Besides being a wonderful husband and dad to two girls, he was the collective conscience of the town. No one waited for Thursday’s newspaper to hit the stand or the mailbox. They’d check on-line and see what political issue he was bringing sense to, while never taking himself too seriously. The smartest guy in the room, he’d never act that way, and he’d always fill his mentions of the some of the people that make Millbury such a great place. A die-hard Patriots fan, he loved watching Bill Belichick’s press conferences and talking about the games. I will miss my friend. But our town will miss him even more.

Ty Law, A Hall of Fame Finalist:
Former Patriots great Ty Law is a finalist for the first time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Law was a standout player for many years but is best remembered for his interception returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVI against Kurt Warner and the Rams. The Patriots were huge underdogs against the “Greatest Show on Turf” but it was Law who set the tone in that one. Law’s pick six gave the Patriots the lead 7-3 and they would go on to shock the Rams for the Pats first Super Bowl victory.

Law was one of the most physical, punishing corners of his time. So much so that after his mugging of the Rams and Colts receivers in the playoffs, the NFL changed the rules on illegal contact. After his three-interception performance against Peyton Manning in the 2003 AFC Championship Game, Bill Polian lobbied against Law and the Pats with the NFL Rules Committee.

I mean when they start, I won’t say changing the rules, but changing the rules because of the way he plays then there’s probably something to be said for that. I mean they didn’t change them-change them, but we all know what happened,” Bill Belichick said.

“Great. Yeah, a great player. Really no weaknesses in Ty [Law]’s game. Strong, physical, tackler, jam receivers, good coverage player, great hands, interceptor,” Belichick added.

Great Week for Matthew Slater:
Patriots STs ace Matthew Slater had himself quite a week during the Patriots bye. On Wednesday morning, the Patriots announced that he had been awarded the 2017 Bart Starr Award, which is given out annually to a player who exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field.

It was an award that his father Jackie had won with the Rams in 1996 and so that fact resonated closely with the Pats Pro-Bowl special teamer. He was surprised by a phone call from Starr’s wife during a team meeting where Slater got pretty emotional. It was also the first time a father-son duo has won the award.

“I’m not thinking me, but they call me down and the woman on the phone is Mrs. (Cherry) Starr,” Slater said. “She tells me I win the award, and they had the cameras in there and my allergies start acting up a little bit. You know, seasonal allergies there. She told me my dad and I were the first father and son to win this award and I mean, I don’t know. I’m just blown away by it. I really am.”

To watch Slater’s reaction on the award, click here for the video

On Friday Slater was the lone Patriot named to the NFL’s 2016 All-Pro Team while adding to his resume with his sixth Pro-Bowl slot. This year the NFL added a STs slot to the All-Pro squad and Slater is a great pick.

49ers Are McDaniels’ Top Choice If He Leaves:
Multiple reports out of the San Francisco Bay area cite sources close to Josh McDaniels saying that IF he leaves the Patriots, the Niners are his team of choice. And I accent the IF because I still don’t think that it is a done deal that he’s leaving.

However, there are plenty of reasons to like the choice and few against. The Bay Area is one of the nicest places in California and would be a wonderful place to move a family.

McDaniels interviewed with the Niners, Jags and Rams yesterday but the Niners with an HC/GM open slot could be an interesting option. Supposedly, San Francisco is also interested in Nick Caserio and he and McDaniels would make a very interesting tandem if he does decide to make the jump. They are also interested in former executive and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick for the GM job. Riddick is a McDaniels fan.

The 49ers have 11 draft picks this season, including the #2 overall pick. They also have the 2nd most room under the salary cap, so there is plenty of maneuver room to bring in some veteran players and turn things around.

One of the downsides to taking the 49ers gig would be CEO Jed York. He’d have to be relegated to an outside influence and leave the operation to the football guys.

Flowers Built Solid Season Behind Hard Work:
One of the biggest and best surprises in 2016 has been the outstanding play of DL Trey Flowers who led the team with seven sacks on the season. Flowers turned a lot of heads last training camp and preseason with a solid effort. But a couple of injuries derailed his 2015 season and expectations for this year were a question mark.

Trey Flowers has had a strong 2016 season. (SBalestrieri photo)

Considering the team entered with Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, and Rob Ninkovich at defensive end, Flowers was really thought to be a 4th option. No longer.

Flowers had a solid if unremarkable camp and gradually built his game this season with solid and at times outstanding play both on the edge and as an interior pass rusher. With both Long and Sheard free agents in 2017, Flowers isn’t going anywhere and will be looking to nail down an even bigger piece of the pie in terms of snaps into the playoffs and next year.

Anyone But Brady? Seems Like It:
Tom Brady was edged out by Matt Ryan for the 1st Team All-Pro this week and it set off a firestorm on social media for people both pro and con when it came to the Pats QB.

And this naturally led to the subject of the MVP award. I’ve been on record as saying, although I have a vote (and exercise it with the PFWA), I’ve never been a big fan of the award as it becomes too political year after year.

This year it seems to be falling into that realm again. Ryan appears to be the choice with the season he’s had, (I voted for him for 1st team All-NFL as well as MVP) but to hear the arguments against Tom Brady, it seems like it is more like “anyone except Brady” rather than a sensible argument.

“Well, he’s only played 12 games” argument is bunk. Let’s refresh back to 1989, Joe Montana, the QB Brady is most frequently compared to, was awarded the MVP that year when playing in just 13 games. By the way, the Niners were 3-0 in the games that Joe missed so the whole “the Patriots were 3-1 without Brady proves he’s not valuable” argument is also moot. I don’t recall any noise about Montana’s missing three games and SF winning all of them being a detriment.

Just a couple of seasons ago, Aaron Rodgers was the MVP of the 2014 season and one of the biggest arguments in his favor was his touchdown to interception ratio which was 7.6 with the nearest competitor only half with a 3.8.

This season, Brady’s TD to INT ratio is an incredible 14.0. The next closest? Dak Prescott with a ratio of 5.8, less than half that of Brady’s. Something tells me, that stat won’t be looked at quite as hard this time around.

If the argument is that Ryan was more valuable, state the case for his season stats, of which he’s had a terrific 2016. But don’t resort to the lame and lazy “anyone but Brady” excuses of games missed.

I’m not even going to touch the Coach of the Year Award which is the annual snub Bill Belichick contest. That is for another time soon.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Wild Card Weekend on Saturday: Houston over Oakland, Seattle over Detroit and for Sunday, Pittsburgh over Miami, New York Giants over Green Bay.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills, Taylor Heading for a Messy Divorce?
The Buffalo Bills tried to limit the damage this week, saying that they were aware of QB Tyrod Taylor’s core/groin muscle surgery. If so, then they may have set themselves up for an uglier resolution to an ugly situation.

The normal timetable for the rehab of a surgery such as Taylor’s is six to eight weeks. That would put his rehab right around the time the Bills have to make a decision on whether or not to cut Taylor or keep his current deal going at which time Buffalo will be on the hook for $27 million.

Reports were coming out of Buffalo prior to the Week 17 finale where he was benched that the Bills were leaning towards cutting their ties to Taylor. However, he must pass a physical on March 12 or his deal immediately kicks in. If the Bills attempt to cut him early or with him failing a physical, the players’ association would have something to say about that.

Now the Bills are in “wait and see” mode with Taylor in regards to his rehab. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out but this may indeed turn out to be an ugly situation if the team is intent on letting him go.

Dolphins Freeze Their Footballs to Prep for Pittsburgh:
The Miami Dolphins are preparing to play the third coldest game in franchise history when they take on the Steelers in the Wild Card Playoff game today in Pittsburgh.

To help their special teams’ punter and kicker to get used to kicking in the cold weather, the Fins’ ST coach Darren Rizzi has been placing Miami’s kicking footballs in the freezer during practice.

With game-time temperatures around 16-17 degrees, the Dolphins are leaving nothing to chance and preparing the kickers for shorter range with a cold (and yes deflated), football. One has to wonder if the NFL will “monitor” the air pressure today. But should they upset Pittsburgh, relatively balmy 28-35 degree temperatures are expected in Foxboro next week.

Jets GM Macaggnan Says Catching the Patriots ‘Not Unattainable’:
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. The New York Jets GM Mike Macaggnan told the New York media this week that they still have their eyes on catching the Patriots in the AFC East.

This was supposed to be the year that the Jets made a big push on New England.  The team under Todd Bowles was 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs in 2015. Tom Brady was turning 39 and was suspended for the first four games of the season.

But everything fell apart, the Jets limped to a 5-11 record and the Patriots won the division for the eight year in a row and 14 of the last 15. So, rather than take a cautious approach with many changes on the horizon, Maccagnan didn’t back away. Asked about knocking the Pats off the perch in the AFC East, Maccagnan stated, “it’s not unattainable.”

But more bad news on the horizon was that Jets’ 2nd round pick, QB Christian Hackenberg is already on the outs with the coaching staff. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that sources inside Gang Green are saying that the QB has regressed as the season wore on and at least one player was said to have told Manish Mehta that Hackenberg “will never make it.”

Schefter is reporting that one Jets coach said Hackenberg ‘couldn’t hit the ocean.’ Another team official said Hackenberg has regressed throughout this season; he’s struggled with his play and his confidence.”

So, the Jets with Bryce Petty and Hackenberg may still be in the market for a franchise QB. They are expected to cut ties with Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick this spring. Stay tuned.

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.

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Chris Hogan Danny Amendola DeflateGate Dion Lewis Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman Martellus Bennett Miami Dolphins New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Pittsburgh Steelers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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