New England Patriots News, 10-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 21, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-21, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Stephon Gilmore’s contract was tweaked a bit this week, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network and that frees up almost $3.7 million in salary cap space. That means that the Patriots could either try to sign a free agent or maybe trying to swing a deal for another player at the trade deadline. The team only had a bit more than $1 million in salary cap space this week. BTW, the NFL trade deadline is October 30, just nine days away.

Rob Gronkowski has been battling an ankle issue an injury for some time, but once the Friday injury report was released, the Patriots big tight end is also battling a back injury and is officially listed as questionable for today. He’s had back injuries and a pair of back surgeries in the past. So this will bear watching. **Update** Gronkowski didn’t make the trip to Chicago so, there will be a lot of Dwayne Allen in the blocking game, but this could also be a chance for Jacob Hollister to shine as well. 

Marcus Cannon is out for today’s game with a concussion, he will be replaced by LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle. Waddle is one of our players to watch today as he fills in for Cannon, which is why they brought him back this spring.

Khalil Mack on the flip side is expected to play today. The Bears big pass rusher missed practice on Weds and Thursday but did return for the walkthru on Friday. How effective he’ll be will be an area to watch. Waddle did a good job on Mack a year ago when Mack was a Raider in the game in Mexico City.

Josh Gordon believes that the minor chemistry issues he’s having with Tom Brady are about ironed out. Gordon spoke with NESN’s Doug Kyed on Friday and said that the two are constantly working things out, as they’ve only been practicing for a month together. But he thinks, it is ready to take off.

“I think that comes with more experience with Tom and knowing certain situations and certain looks,” Gordon said. “But moving forward, I think we got a good grasp on that right now, and (if the) opportunity presents itself, I think we can take advantage of it this time.”
Brady agreed. “Yeah, I think the longer you play with guys, you just learn body language and they know when to expect it and look,” Brady said. “I think those plays — I think timing and accuracy are important on all those ones. So I’ve just got to do a better job giving him opportunities to catch them. I think he’s got great hands. He’s got a great awareness and feel. I’m just so impressed with how he’s come in and learned everything and the role that he’s taken on.”

2018 Red Sox-A Prime Example of Sitting Back and Enjoying the Ride:

Although this isn’t about football, I think you can draw a clear parallel to the Patriots here. This 2018 Red Sox team has been special since April, they went on a long winning streak early in the season, won 108 games, something no Red Sox team ever…has done. But instead of just enjoying the process of watching how the season plays out, many, far too many fans and media members have gone way overboard trying to find faults and negativity behind every win. Shame on you. I grew up in an era where the Sox were terrible and fans were hungry for a winner. Some hot-take radio personality ridiculed RS fans this week for recalling the “loser” teams of 1967 and 1975.

Many of us remember those days as times when the RS overachieved and gave the fans something to cheer about. We didn’t take it for granted that they’d win every day, every year. This 2018 team is a great example of a “team”. Every night, somebody different is stepping up and they’re finding ways to win.

But on social media it was a constant barrage of “this means nothing”, “the bullpen is the worst in baseball”, “Dombrowski did nothing to help them at the deadline”, “Price sucks and should NEVER be allowed to pitch for the RS again”, and my two favorites…”This team CAN’T beat the Yankees”, “Houston is better in every matchup up and down the lineup.”

Not only did the Sox win, but they also went 5-0 in Yankee Stadium and in Houston. Now they’re on to the World Series. Will they win? Who knows? But it will be fun watching it unfold either way. The Patriots for the past 18 years are in the middle of an unprecedented run. And yet we hear the same drivel time after time. A friend of mine who is a die-hard Patriots fan from overseas finally got his chance to fly over to see a game in person last season.

He and his wife flew over on a Thursday and they spent the weekend going to Patriots Place, taking in the Hall, and finally the game (35-17 win over Miami). On his way home he emailed me horrified at what he heard not only from what he was hearing on sports talk radio from the hosts but from the callers.

He said he was astounded that people acted like the team was 2-9 rather than 9-2 and a Super Bowl Champion. I told him my first Pats game was in Fenway Park just a few weeks after those “loser” Red Sox dropped Game 7 of the ‘67 WS. The Pats were awful then and were absolutely obliterated by the Raiders that afternoon. That team WAS a two-win team at the time.

Someday, and maybe soon, this unbelievable run of success that Boston sports fans are enjoying will end. And unfortunately for many, they’ll have totally missed it.

Patriots Have to Find a Way to Negate Slow Starts on the Road:

In the first two road games of the season, the Patriots started slowly…awful may be a better way to describe it. Far unlike the way this team has been playing the last three weeks and certainly not as well as they are capable of playing.

So the focus today for the Patriots is to start road game number 3 much better than they played in the first two. In those losses, by the time the team woke up, it was too late. And for one of the captains of the team, Devin McCourty, they know that has to change.

“I think when you’re on the road and you fall behind, it’s like everything’s against you and you’re just fighting uphill. So that’s something we talked about getting off to a fast start across the board — offense, defense, kicking game,” McCourty said.

Trey Flowers told MassLive.com that the team needed to bring energy right from the outset. “We’ve got to bring our own energy, and it’s something we probably haven’t done this year,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “I think it’s just a matter of just energy and bringing that focus throughout the week and being able to bring our own energy instead of feeding off the crowd.”

Patriots Traditionally Dominant vs NFC Especially NFC North:

This 2018 season will be an intriguing one as the Patriots schedule this season has them playing against the NFC North. Notwithstanding the Week 3 blowout by the Detroit Lions who are probably the worst team in the NFC North, the Pats have traditionally done very well when playing the old “black and blue” division.

Since realignment in 2002, the Patriots are 14-3 vs the NFC North. Included in this, the Pats are 4-0 versus the Bears since 2002. Overall, since the 2001 season, the Patriots have an incredible 54-15 regular season record against the NFC, the best interconference record in the NFL.

With a resurgent Bears team today and the upcoming games against Green Bay and Minnesota, this will be an interesting slate of games. And their success or lack thereof will have a major impact on their hopes for another division crown and a first-round bye.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 7 Predictions:

Last week: 9-6 Season 58-33-2 Bye Week: Packers, Raiders, Steelers, Seahawks

Thursday night’s pick Denver over Arizona 1-0

Tennessee at San Diego (London): Chargers
Carolina at Philadelphia: Eagles
Minnesota at NY Jets: Vikings
Buffalo at Indy: Bills
New England at Chicago: Patriots
Cleveland at Tampa Bay: Browns
Houston at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Detroit at Miami: Dolphins
New Orleans at Baltimore: Saints
Dallas at Washington: Cowboys
LA Rams at San Francisco: Rams
Cincinnati at Kansas City: Chiefs
NY Giants at Atlanta (MNF): Falcons
Early Thursday Night Prediction: Houston over Miami

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Anderson, the Latest on the Bills QB Carousel:

The Buffalo Bills boast one of the league’s top defenses. They’re excellent against the run and pass and are a pain in the a$$ to gameplan against. But as good as their defense is, their offense is equally inept. Buffalo rivals only Arizona as the worst offense in the NFL. Now due to the injury to QB Josh Allen’s throwing elbow, Derek Anderson will become the third Bills QB to start a game in 2018.

The Bills started Nathan Peterman to start the season but he flamed out early and coach Sean McDermott decided to go with the rookie Allen. Now with Allen’s injury, the reins of the woeful Buffalo offense go to Anderson. He hasn’t played since starting in place of an injured Cam Newton in Week 5 of the 2016 season.

The good news for Anderson is that the Bills are playing the Colts this week and their defense is pretty forgiving of mistakes, allowing an average of nearly 387 yards a game. With the Bills defense, keeping them in nearly every game, Anderson doesn’t have to do too much this week. Expect for them to rely on Shady McCoy and the run game.

Osweiler Gets the Nod for the Dolphins Against Detroit:

The Miami Dolphins starting QB Ryan Tannehill has a shoulder injury and will miss this week’s game again as questions about his durability are raised again after another injury for the Miami signal-caller. In lieu of Tannehill again is Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler had a fantastic day last week, throwing for 380 yards in the overtime win over Chicago. This week, he’s facing a Lions’ defense that is much stingier, allowing only about 222 yards per game thru the air.

But the key to this one may be the Miami running game. Although far from prolific, the Lions defense allows 145.8 yards per game. Factor in the South Florida heat, and in a close game, the heat, like it did with Chicago, may factor into this game, especially with Frank Gore pounding the rock. That may open up things quite a bit for Osweiler.

Jets Have to Stop Thielen This Week:

The New York Jets have a difficult road this week if they want to get over .500 and that means they have to defeat the Minnesota Vikings at home. The Jets are 3-3 and have played better than most people had given them credit for. But after a slow start, the Vikings are starting to put it together and are looking for their third straight win.

And the one guy the Jets defense will have to account for is wide receiver, Adam Thielen. He’s off to a ridiculously hot start in 2018 and already has 58 catches (not a typo) for 712 yards (12.3-yard average) and four touchdowns. Thielen has had 100-yard games in all six Vikings contests this year.

The Jets secondary is banged up right now, CBs Buster Skrine and Trumaine Johnson along with safety Marcus Maye, may all miss this game. So the onus will be on the Jets defensive front to bring pressure on Kurt Cousins and for the Jets offense with Sam Darnold to score enough points to keep up.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

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