Good morning and we hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving Day surrounded by friends, family, and football. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-28 and AFC East Notes.
The Patriots have won five in a row and now face the 8-3 Tennessee Titans this afternoon with a chance to regain the lead in the AFC East. The Patriots’ lead in the division was short-lived after the Bills beat the Saints on Thanksgiving. Their better division record gives them back the lead.
A win today will set up the Patriots for a big showdown with the Bills with two of the following three games against them. But for today, the Titans are hurting and will be without Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, and A.J. Brown.
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:
Richard Seymour/Vince Wilfork: The former Patriots greats were both 1st round picks and are both semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seymour was a key part of the Patriots’ defense for the first three Super Bowl-winning teams, was voted to seven Pro Bowls, five straight All-Pro teams, and was named to the NFL’s Team of the 2000s. Seymour was also elected to the Patriots’ Team of the 2000s, 50th Anniversary Team, and Hall of Fame. He has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist the previous three years.
Wilfork is in his first year of eligibility and spent 11 years as a member of the Patriots and was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was a member of two Super Bowl-winning teams. He was voted to the Patriots’ Teams of the 2000s and 2010s, as well as the 50th Anniversary Team.
But both Seymour and Wilfork will suffer from the “fantasy football” stigma. Both of their contributions on the field often didn’t register on the stat sheet despite being dominant players at their positions.
Rodney Harrison: The former Patriot and Charger great safety was snubbed by the Hall of Fame committee and didn’t make the semifinal group this year. He’s been singled out since his playing career for playing on the edge.
But he’s the outlier for the fantasy football crowd. He’s the only 30/30 guy (sacks/interceptions) other than Ray Lewis. Former Patriot exec Scott Pioli made a passionate case for Harrison on NFL.com.
Bill Belichick was asked about the candidacy of Seymour, Wilfork, and Harrison this week and had this to say. “For me, those are the two best defensive linemen that I’ve coached,” Belichick said about Seymour and Wilfork.
“In my Hall of Fame, those two guys are there, without a doubt,” Belichick added. Belichick said Harrison “absolutely” is in his HOF. Belichick said that he’s coached other safeties that have been inducted to Canton and Harrison 100% belongs in that conversation.”
J.C. Jackson: The Patriots’ cornerback who is 26 and inline to earn a huge payday next spring has indicated that he’d like to remain a Patriot if everything falls into place.
“I love playing for the New England Patriots, playing under Coach Belichick,” Jackson said. “I have grown as a football player since I’ve been here.
“I would love to remain a New England Patriot for a long time.”
4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We’ll be getting together on Monday to do a post-game look at the Browns and an early glimpse at the upcoming Falcons game.
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.
Jones Surprising His Teammates:
We’ve all seen rookie quarterback Mac Jones evolve quite a bit since the start of the season, having led the Patriots back to the top of the AFC East Division after a rough start. But even more than that, he’s quietly established himself as a leader in the locker room, catching the attention of special teams ace Matthew Slater, who continues to be impressed by New England’s signal-caller.
Slater admitted that he’s been impressed by just how quickly Jones took everything in and took charge of his role, and it’s clearly helped him establish himself despite being in just his first year with the club.
“This kid is very serious about what he’s doing,” Slater told ESPN’s Mike Reiss this week. “He spends more time in this building than a lot of guys I can ever remember here. I can’t believe how quickly he’s developed, as far as his understanding of the things we’re trying to do here — and that’s not just offensively. I’m talking about overall culture.”
Jones has already become the Patriots rookie all-time leader in wins following last week’s victory over Atlanta, with Jones notching his 7th victory after beating the Falcons 25-0. That moved him ahead of former Patriots QB Jim Plunkett’s mark of six set during his rookie year in 1971. Drew Bledsoe was right behind Plunkett, having won 5 games as a rookie for New England back in 1993.
However, Jones isn’t playing like a rookie. In fact, the former Alabama standout is on a tear as of late, having completed nearly 70% of his passes over the past four combined games while passing for nearly 800-yards. He’s completed 71-of-102 (69.6%) for 761-yards with 5 touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also been terrific late in the game over that span. He’s missed just one throw in the fourth quarter going back to the Jets game, connecting on 14-of-15 for 180-yards and a TD over the last five games.
You definitely can’t say enough about how well he’s played and he’s now got his team with a chance to win their sixth-straight on Sunday. A win over the Titans would certainly be an unbelievable feat, especially with a trip to Buffalo to face the Bills up next. However, at the rate Jones is going, Patriots fans should be feeling pretty good about New England’s chances when it comes to seeing this team make some noise in January.
Belichick Jokes About Vrabel’s Praise:
With the Titans on deck, former Patriots linebacker and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel had high praise for New England’s ground game, who he believes is the best in the league.
New England is actually currently ranked tenth in the NFL in rushing yards but they’ve been effective enough to compliment Jones in the passing game, which is quietly one of the things that has made the Patriots’ offense so effective. Bill Belichick was asked about Vrabel’s praise this week and he joked about the kind words from his former player, while pointing out that the fact that it really comes down to getting good execution, along with having good balance.
“Mike’s really tossing the bouquets, huh?” quipped Belichick. “Well, he should know a good running attack because [the Titans] have led the league in rushing down there pretty much since he’s been there. The running game is great if it’s effective. Everybody likes to call running plays, but if you’re gaining a yard, two yards, how many can you call? You can’t just be 2nd-and-10, 2nd-and-9, 3rd-and-8 all day. The running game’s great if you’re making yards, and if you’re not making yards, then it’s hard to keep going.”
“I think it’s really a factor of production, and certainly having balance in that your attack makes it difficult for the defense to just stop one thing. You don’t want to be a one-dimensional team, unless you’re just so, so good at it that even though you’re one-dimensional, it’s unstoppable. That’s hard to do in this league. As long as we can run the ball productively, I’m sure we’ll keep calling them. Whatever point that doesn’t happen, like the Tampa game, you can’t just keep calling runs and being 3rd-and-8 every down. That’s disheartening to play offense that way. Backs want to run the ball. Line wants to run the ball. If we do it well, then we’ll keep running it. If we don’t, then we’re going to have to do something else.”
For New England, Damien Harris has been outstanding as he continues what has been a solid year. He’s 10th in the league in rushing yards but with six games still left to go, he’s also on pace to finish with his first career 1,000+ yard season. Even better, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson has been terrific and has come on as of late, giving New England a devastating 1-2 punch heading into the time of year when the temperature drops and opponents have to try and bring them down in inclement weather.
The best running game in the NFL? That remains to be seen but like Jones, each of these players are quietly making names for themselves. That, coupled with how well we’ve seen the defense perform over the last few weeks, is yet another reason why Belichick’s club really could be a group that other teams in the conference shouldn’t be looking forward to facing down the stretch.
In the meantime buckle up, because December should absolutely be fun to watch.
Folk Taught Belichick Something This Season:
Patriots kicker Nick Folk has quietly been a big key to New England’s success this week, which garnered him some praise from teammate Joe Cardona.
Cardona reportedly called Folk “the epitome of a professional”, which Belichick felt described his kicker perfectly.
“I’d agree with Joe [Cardona] on that,” said Belichick. “Nick’s really the ultimate team player. He’s done whatever we’ve asked him to do. He’s always ready to go, prepared, mentally tough. When he was dealing with some stuff in training camp, wasn’t able to kick, he was really helpful to Quinn [Nordin] and even [Riley] Patterson when he was here the last couple weeks; just signed with Detroit.”
“Again, very professional. He understands, at a very high level, his job, his role, and some of the other things that go with his role: the holding, the snapping, placement of kickoffs for kickoff coverage. Things like that. The wind and how it is in different stadiums, what adjustments he needs to make and things like that. Nick’s really at a very, very high level of understanding the things that surround his position, and as a teammate and team member, he’s as good as it gets.”
After being challenged in the preseason, Folk has answered and has been nearly perfect this season. He’s hit every field goal attempt from 20-49-yards (22/22) and he’s missed just two from 50+, connecting on 4-of-6. He’s been consistent and has been yet another bright spot for a team that has had the luxury of not having to worry about the kicker position.
“The role is the role,” said Belichick. “There are only a few plays that those specialists play in every game. They’re not out there all the time. When they’re out there, they’re all critical situations, and the role really gets magnified for that particular play, but day in and day out, whatever you need him for, whether it’s helping the offense, the defense, or handling his roles out there, he’s always there. He’s helpful, and, again, very, very knowledgeable.”
“I’ve learned a lot from Nick Folk. I’ll say that. I’ve learned a lot. He’s really taught me a lot of little things that, honestly, I hadn’t really thought that much about, and once he pointed them out, I was kind of disappointed in myself that I didn’t put a little more importance on it earlier. Yeah. He’s really good.”
Week 12 Predictions:
The slate of games for Week 12 and my predictions straight up for this week.
Thanksgiving Day Football —
Detroit over Chicago
Dallas over Las Vegas
Buffalo over New Orleans 1-2
Cincinnati over Pittsburgh
Carolina over Miami
Philadelphia over NY Giants
New England over Tennessee
Atlanta over Jacksonville
Tampa Bay over Indianapolis
Houston over NY Jets
LA Chargers over Denver
San Francisco over Minnesota
Green Bay over LA Rams
Sunday Night Football
Baltimore over Cleveland
Monday Night Football
Washington over Seattle
Last Week: 9-6
Last Season: 169-86-1
2019 Season: 162-93-1
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season