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Patriots News 11- 7, Players to Watch, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 weeks ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

Patriots News 11- 7, Players to Watch, AFC East NotesDavid Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning and we hope everyone has a happy Sunday.  Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-07, and AFC East Notes.

Gameday, the Patriots have another big game today against the Carolina Panthers with a chance to win their third game in a row and go over .500 since the first game of the 2020 season. We expect a tough, physical defensive contest this afternoon. 

This afternoon’s game tips the scale for passing the halfway point in the season due to the 17-game schedule this year. November is usually the month that Bill Belichick’s teams traditionally begin to come together and play good football. 

Not Patriots-related by MIAA high school football-related today. Big-time congratulations to Chris McMahon and the Grafton Gators for an undefeated regular season (with traditional Thanksgiving rival Millbury still on deck), Grafton had their first playoff game on Friday night and the Gators rolled 35-7. 

I covered Grafton sports for about eight years for the Grafton News and was always greatly impressed with the professionalism with not only McMahon but his entire staff. They are tough, demanding, but always have the kids’ overall development at heart, both on and off the field. The Gators have an outstanding program and had no easy games on their slate in 2021.

I often said, that if I had a son in Grafton who wanted to play football, there is no one, I’d rather have to coach him than the staff of Chris McMahon. I miss the fall games at “The Swamp” and wish them the very best moving forward in the playoffs.   

The Gators even had a nice message from Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who wished them luck before the playoff game. Spagnuolo was a Grafton alum and still has a place in his heart for the team. Gator’s outstanding QB Tyler Dimond tweeted out Spags message.

 

Have you checked out our PatsFans.com sortable stats for the Patriots? It is a great resource for all of the players on the roster.  

Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Aaron Rodgers: The Packers QB is out this week, due to a positive COVID-19 test, he was on The Pat McAfee Show and was trying to explain his reasoning for not getting vaccinated (which he has the right to refuse), but back in training camp he gave every indication that he was. 

Appearing with McAfee, Rodgers said has followed almost all protocols for unvaccinated players and explained his reasoning for not getting one of the traditional COVID-19 vaccines claiming that he is allergic to an ingredient in two of the three approved vaccines — the ones produced by Moderna and Pfizer, known as mRNA vaccines.

“First of all, I didn’t lie in the initial press conference,” Rodgers said during the show on Friday. “During that time, it was a witch hunt that was going on across the league, where everybody in the media was so concerned about who was vaccinated and who wasn’t and what that meant and who was being selfish and who would talk about it, what it meant if they said it’s a personal decision and they shouldn’t have to disclose their own medical information.

Whether you agree with Rodgers (and many do) or not, the issue now is… and abundantly clear is that Rodgers and the Packers repeatedly broke the league’s protocol when it comes to unvaccinated players. 

Every week, both Rodgers and the Packers’ social media accounts posted pictures of Rodgers boarding the team plane for away games. That is verboten under the league rules. Unvaccinated players are supposed to travel separately from the team. 

Other rules include but are not limited to:

  • Unvaccinated players are not permitted to participate in in-person meetings at the facility.
  • Unvaccinated players are prohibited from gathering in groups of more than three team-affiliated individuals outside the team facility (those in one of three Tiers outlined by the NFL) or during travel, including training activities unless otherwise approved by both the NFL and NFLPA.
  • Unvaccinated players are not permitted to travel on the team charter, even with a religious or medical exemption, and must travel separately. They also must pass a COVID-19 test to rejoin the traveling party and must test daily thereafter during road trips. They cannot eat in the cafeteria. All players, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask during air travel and on buses.
  • Unvaccinated players cannot mingle with other members of the traveling party once they’ve arrived in a game city, including at the hotel. They also cannot use the pool or other common areas in the hotel unless the facilities are closed to other hotel patrons.
  • Those who are unvaccinated are designated as “high risk” close contacts when regarded as close contact to another player or staff member on the team who tests positive. Those players must remain away from the team for five days even if asymptomatic (if symptomatic, it’s the longer 10-day wait). This was the case for Allen Lazard when he was designated a close contact last week and missed the game in Arizona.
  • Unvaccinated players are tested every day, with vaccinated tested once per week.
  • Unvaccinated players are subject to fines for refusing to follow guidelines, including maintaining physical distancing or attending indoor events or gatherings of more than 15 people without masks.

Rodgers has not worn a mask at his post-game press conferences which is also a violation. Now, it is up to Park Avenue to determine what (if any) consequences Rodgers and the Packers will face. And we all know how inconsistent they are. Stay tuned…

Trade Deadline Non-Moves: While the majority of fans and media expected the Patriots to make a move or two at the trade deadline earlier this week, it wasn’t really surprising that they did not. 

While there were players out there for the taking, we don’t know what the asking prices were. But even more importantly, while the Patriots spent a lot of cash in free agency, there remains a lot of holes that remain to be filled and there is little doubt that many veterans will no longer be with the team next spring. 

And those holes will require a lot of their draft capital. So, while slightly disappointing, it wasn’t a shocker that the team made no moves at the deadline.

OBJ Unlikely to be Claimed on Waivers: Prior to his release by Cleveland, Odell Beckham Jr., and the Browns reworked his current contract that will make it pretty much a given that he will pass through waivers and be able to pick his next team.

Pending NFLPA approval, the Browns agreed to remove the final two years of Beckham’s deal, meaning he now is scheduled to be a free agent after this season.

Any team that claims Beckham, would be responsible for the remaining $7.25 million of salary for the remainder of the season, sources told ESPN. The cost is considered high for a player who now will be in the final year of his contract.

This makes it unlikely for any team to claim him and gives OBJ the freedom to choose his next team. Among the teams rumored to have interest, including New England, Green Bay, Seattle, Las Vegas (especially following the Henry Ruggs development), Buffalo, and Atlanta. 

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Derek and I spoke about the big win over the Chargers and the preview for the Panthers.

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Belichick With Another UDFA Gem in Bryant? 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has taken a lot of heat with his drafting record, especially with their 2nd round drafts, where Belichick has said that he has taken plenty of risks, where several players didn’t pan out. Although halfway through this season, the team’s 2nd round pick Christian Barmore appears in early returns to be a steal. 

But when it comes to UDFAs, the Patriots under Belichick continue to find gems that not only make the team but excel and play prominent roles with the team, especially at cornerback.  And a UDFA from last year, Myles Bryant is beginning to turn heads with his play since he was elevated due to Jonathan Jones’ injury. 

Bryant made the team a year ago and played well but sparingly in the slot in 2020. He had a very impressive summer and was signed to the team’s practice squad. Since Jones’ injury and subsequent trip to IR, lost for the season, Bryant was activated to the active roster and his play, although a small sample size has been impressive. 

Belichick’s mantra has always been that it doesn’t matter where you were drafted, it doesn’t matter how you got to New England, you’ll be judged on how well you do with the opportunities given to you. 

While still early, Bryant seems to be tracking towards being another UDFA who will shine with the Patriots defense. Some of the other recent corners who also fit the bill are Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, and J.C. Jackson, who has taken over the #1 corner spot and who is primed to get a big payday this upcoming spring. 

Yes…I know, “Bill can’t draft and is terrible GM” right? This list somehow is never part of the equation…hmm. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today:

Every week we look at the game within a game. Here are our players to watch from a Patriots perspective today. 

Mac Jones —  The Patriots’ rookie QB is on this list every week and with good reason. He’s now the leader of the offense and he’ll have his work cut out for him this afternoon. The Panthers rank near the top of nearly every defensive category including pass defense. 

Jones must protect the football and still be able to make throws down the field. As we pointed out in our keys, the screen game and those short horizontal passes will not work against this Carolina defense. They’ll have to push the ball down the field.

Christian Barmore/Matthew Judon — The Patriots’ defense may be facing an offense without Sam Darnold and Christian McCaffrey (as of Friday night). However, it doesn’t matter who is playing for Carolina, the defense has to stop the run and get after the QB. 

And Barmore and Judon have been the Patriots’ best at disrupting both. Barmore has been a 2nd round steal and seems to be improving every week, while Judon has been a terror coming off the edge at opposing QBs. If it is indeed P.J. Walker at QB for the Panthers, look for Judon to be a movable piece in trying to pressure him into making mistakes in just the second start of his career.

Kendrick Bourne — The Patriots’ wide receiver was benched after his fumble last week against the Chargers, but he’s been a valuable addition to the offense this season and this could be a huge bounce-back game for him. 

With the passing game possibly looking to push the ball a bit deeper than normal this week, Bourne should see plenty of passes heading his way. 

Adrian Phillips —  The DPOW against the Chargers, should see Phillips revert to his hybrid role against the Panthers who like to keep things balanced. His role will be to cover Chuba Hubbard or McCaffrey if he’s able to go. 

Damien Harris — Harris is the Patriots leading rusher and has been the hard-luck recipient of having several long runs including TD runs called back because of penalty.  But this week, the Patriots have to get their running game going, and with improved offensive line play, it will be up to Harris to keep the offense balanced and the chains moving. 

Week 9 Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 9 and my predictions for this week.

Thursday Night Football
Indianapolis over NY Jets  1-0

Sunday –
Raiders over the Giants
New Orleans over Atlanta
Buffalo over Jacksonville
Cincinnati over Cleveland
New England over Carolina
Dallas over Denver
Baltimore over Minnesota
Miami over Houston
LA Chargers over Philadelphia
Kansas City over Green Bay
Arizona over San Francisco
Sunday Night Football
LA Rams over Tennessee
Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh over Chicago

Last Week:          11-4
Season:               84-38

Last Season:    169-86-1

2019 Season:   162-93-1

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Down Three Starters Vs Jacksonville:

The Buffalo Bills travel to Jacksonville today without three of their starters, and two more are questionable to play this weekend. On the team’s injury report. Dawson Knox (hand), Spencer Brown (back), and Jon Feliciano (calf) have all been ruled out. None of the three were able to practice this week. 

In addition to those three, Cole Beasley (ribs) and Jordan Poyer (shoulder) are both questionable, able to practice in a limited fashion Friday after missing Thursday’s practice. However, even missing those players, the Bills should still be prohibitive favorites playing the Jaguars today.

Parker to IR, Could Miami Lure OBJ to South Beach? 

The Miami Dolphins have placed the very talented but oft-injured Devante Parker on IR. Parker’s latest woes concern shoulder and hamstring issues. With his absence, the question now remains could Miami entice the talented but underachieving Odell Beckham Jr. to Miami. 

With Parker out and Will Fuller on IR (his story is similar to Parker’s) as well as Preston Williams out, the Dolphins need help. OBJ had a great start to his career with the Giants but since his first three seasons, he’s steadily declined. 

But would Beckham sign with the Dolphins? Despite the weather, no state taxes, and the nice living of South Florida, it is doubtful he ends up in South Beach. 

Jets Crash Back to Earth After Upset Win over Cincinnati:

The Jets’ feel-good story of last Sunday’s huge upset win over the Bengals all came crashing down to earth on Thursday night in Indianapolis. QB Mike White made his first start and was excellent throwing for over 400 yards against Cincinnati, but early in the game on Thursday night, he hurt his forearm and gave way to Josh Johnson. 

But the bigger story was the Jets’ inability to slow down the running game of the Colts, which ran roughshod over the Jets defense. The Colts ran for 260 yards and passed for 272 more while running up 45 points. Just two weeks ago, the Jets gave up 54 to the Patriots. And after the big win over the Bengals, they looked completely unprepared for the Colts. 

_______________

“They have some different packages defensively. They mix their fronts. They do a good job of that, and that’s challenging for the offense just in terms of communication, identification, but they have multiple players play different things just based on what they have called with Coach [Phil] Snow. [He] calls what group they’re in, and then they have a couple of different fronts to go with each group, so yeah. Those seven guys can be in different positions, and then you have to decide whether you treat them as a down lineman or a linebacker. Not just Thompson, but [Brian] Burns, [Haason] Reddick, so they present a number of problems depending on what group they’re in, how you need to treat them. They do a good job of that.”

Bill Belichick’s comments when asked about how the Panthers use talented linebacker, Shaq Thompson.

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 


Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Carolina Panthers Christian Barmore Christian McCaffrey Devin McCourty Jamie Collins Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots New York Jets NFL P.J. Walker Patriots Patriots edge rushers Sam Darnold


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