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New England Patriots News 10-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
October 29, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 10-29, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Steve Balestrieri -

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Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 10-29, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots take on the Chargers today and hopefully the teams will be able to get this game in before the heavy rain and winds with gusts that may reach 60 mph arrive in the area.

Early Start Even Earlier For the Chargers:
We mentioned this in our pregame matchups, but there is something to be said for West Coast teams traveling east and playing in the early (1 p.m.) start times. Is it an unfair advantage for the teams in the east? Possibly. Teams like the Chargers, Raiders, Niners, Seahawks, and Rams are essentially playing at 10 a.m. according to their own body clocks and can result in slower starts and a drop in production.

Case in point the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. The Cardinals were 7-4-1 in other games on their schedule, but 0-4 in games where they went to the East Coast and played at a 1 p.m. start time. In their four losses to the Bills, Panthers, Falcons, and Dolphins, the Cardinals averaged scoring 20.0 points per game and allowed an average of 31.8 points per game. In all their other games, Arizona scored an average of 28.2 points per game and allowed an average of just 19.6 points. A pretty significant difference.

Coincidence? Possibly. But the teams from the West Coast have traditionally played much better in the later games (4 p.m.) start times on the East Coast than the early ones and it will bear watching in the Pats game today and the Bills-Raiders game in Buffalo….also slotted for 1 p.m.

Another Key Loss (Hightower), How Will the Team Fill His Loss:
The news that LB Dont’a Hightower was lost for the season was a particularly tough one for a Patriots defense that was struggling terribly thru the first six weeks of the season. But it should be noted, in the last three games, the defense allowed a total of 38 points, less than 13 points per game. Not so coincidentally, that was when Hightower returned from his injury. He has always come up with the big play at the big time, each of the last two Super Bowl wins had huge plays by the big linebacker and his leadership and ability to call the defense will be missed.

But where do they go now? Many have pointed to Kyle Van Noy to step up more. Although his role may change slightly now, Van Noy is already playing close to 100 percent of the defensive snaps. Asking more of him isn’t really possible. But they may move him to more of an outside role where he can rush the QB, something that Hightower did a lot of this season. David Harris may see an increase at playing time inside along with Elandon Roberts. Harris is a very respected veteran and is still a thumper down inside. The problem is and with the linebacker group overall is a lack of coverage skills. Both Harris and Roberts will get picked on in coverage, it is neither one’s strong suit right now.

The good news is that Shea McClellin is able to come back after the bye week and is better in coverage and that will help things along those lines. He too can rush the passer a bit but I see his role as a coverage guy upon his return. With the pass rush, Van Noy may get a bit more involved with that and now the team will have to rely more on Deatrich Wise and Cassius Marsh in that department. Both have some talent but at times play too aggressively and lose containment on the edge.

Recent call-up Trevor Reilly from the practice squad and Marquis Flowers are more special teams guys than linebacker help right now. So while they won’t field any All-Pro nods for their linebacker position, once McClellin returns having him, Harris and Van Noy as the starters in the base package isn’t terrible. And the team could still swing a trade at the deadline if they can find a dancing partner.

Player Safety? Thursday Night Was a Poster Child for Bad Calls:
The NFL is forever giving lip service to the subject of player safety but a couple of incidents in the game just need to be explained by the league. Ravens QB Joe Flacco was scrambling out of the pocket and when he reached a point downfield, he went into a slide. Miami LB Kiko Alonso then came flying in and knocked Flacco out with a vicious spear. Later Ndamukong Suh shoved backup QB Ryan Mallett by the throat in a very dirty and deliberate move that is all-too-common with the Dolphins defensive tackle.

The league has already said that neither player will be up for suspension for these actions. Why?

Some have pointed to the quickness of the play with Alonso, claiming that he was moving in for the tackle just at the time that Flacco went into his slide. While that is entirely possible, why then didn’t he ease up and even give the slightest intention of trying to avoid the hit? No, he lowered his head and used it as a weapon and deliberately aimed for Flacco’s head. A clear-cut case of targeting that is becoming a trend with him.

Suh, on the other hand, has been a dirty player from Day 1 and yet the NFL acts like he’s just a misunderstood tough guy. His lame excuse was that Mallett was trying to attack him. Really? His comments after the game, “He came at me,” Suh said. “Tried to attack me. And I’m protecting myself. Regret what? No, I’m never going to regret protecting myself.”

How many times do we need to see him stomp a QB’s head, stomp on Aaron Rodgers or throat slam a backup before someone is seriously injured? Unfathomable. Player safety? Right…

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 8:
Last week there were a few surprises and I picked a couple of upsets that didn’t pan out so I finished with a 10-5 mark. Season Total: 67-39.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with the Baltimore over Miami (1-0). Now for the rest of the slate:
Falcons at Jets – Atlanta

Vikings at Browns – Minnesota

Panthers at Bucs- Carolina

Niners at Eagles – Philadelphia

Bears at Saints – New Orleans

Chargers at Patriots – New England

Raiders at Bills – Buffalo

Colts  at Bengals – Cincinnati

Texans at Seahawks – Houston

Cowboys at Redskins – Dallas

SNF Steelers at Lions – Detroit
MNF Broncos at Chiefs – Kansas City

Bye week: Cardinals, Packers, Jaguars, Rams, Giants, Titans

Next Thursday Night Buffalo over the New York Jets

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Dareus to the Jaguars:

The Buffalo Bills traded the former third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round draft pick. Dareus had developed into one of the league’s better interior defensive linemen and just two years ago, the Bills rewarded him with a mega contract extension. They were paying their defensive stalwarts after what had been a tremendous year defensively for the team.

Dareus got a six-year extension worth $100 million with a full $50 million guaranteed. He joined then Bills’ DE Mario Williams who got a six-year $96 million dollar deal. But a change in defensive philosophy quickly soured on Williams who was shipped out. Now Dareus is on the outs. It isn’t an indictment on the Bills, but with a new regime in place, they’re going to put the players they want in place.

And with the changes that came, Dareus’ production plummeted from 10 sacks to just 2 to 3.5. Now, many of the Doug Whalley draft picks are either gone or soon to be. In the NFL, the more things change…

Gase – Dolphins Offense is the Worst in the NFL:

The Miami Dolphins are 4-3 but the offense is really scuffling along and their winning record has more to do with the way the defense has been playing more than anything else. Miami is averaging just 252.4 yards of offense per game, last in the league and head coach Adam Gase isn’t mincing words, from a post on ESPN, he cut loose.

“We’re the worst offense in football. It’s hard to go lower than that,” Gase said. The Dolphins had everything implode on them on Thursday night in a 40-0 spanking by the Baltimore Ravens and on Friday, Gase was still upset.

“I’m pissed. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the offense being awful,” Gase said. “Guys better need to get their heads right. The coaching staff needs to do a better job, because obviously our players not knowing [what to do] is a direct reflection of them.”

Even worse, Gase claims that the issues are self-inflicted and the team’s work habits are not good enough. “We’re not putting the work in,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. If you can’t remember it, you shouldn’t be in the NFL. At the end of the day, guys have got to actually take this stuff home and study it. They’re not going to just learn it all in meetings. We’ve got to find guys that’ll actually put forth the effort to actually remember this stuff, and it starts with our best players.”

Ouch. The Fins have a minus 60 point differential, the worst for a team with a winning record in the NFL in the history of the league. The offense has plenty of playmakers and the fact they’re struggling so badly has been a big surprise. But the fact that despite this, the fact that they’re still 4-3 means, that if they get it figured out, they’ll be great shape down the stretch. But it is a big if…

Jets Skrine Will Miss Falcons Game with a Concussion:

The New York Jets will face the Atlanta Falcons today without one of their best cornerbacks in Buster Skrine.  Skrine suffered a concussion in the loss to Miami and won’t play this week.

It was his third concussion in the last three seasons. He had one in 2015 but played that week against New England, and then last season he missed a December game against the Dolphins with the same issue.

Skrine had a very rough second half on Sunday against Miami, getting flagged for penalties as well as having got beaten on several throws. Head coach Todd Bowles said he wasn’t certain of Skrine’s availability for the short turnaround on Thursday for the Bills game.

In lieu of Skrine, the Jets can go with either Justin Burris or Darryl Roberts on the outside as a starting corner and opt for either backup Robert Nelson or starter Morris Claiborne into the slot.

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 myself from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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Patriots Muscle Past Chargers 21-13, Move to 6-2 at the Bye

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: 2017 Patriots Season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower James White Malcolm Butler Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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