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Patriots News 01-09, Patriots Want To Enter Playoffs on a Roll, AFC East Notes

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

Patriots News 01-09, Patriots Want To Enter Playoffs on a Roll, AFC East NotesKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning and Happy New Year, here are your Sunday Patriots news 01-09 and AFC East notes.

Depending on how things shake out this weekend, the Patriots could finish anywhere between the #1 seed and the #7. And while it would take a major miracle for all of the pieces to fall into place for the Patriots to win the top seed, they want to enter the playoffs on a high note. Therefore, expect to see the starters play this afternoon and play all game.

The team will be missing Kyle Dugger this week who has really stepped up his game lately, hopefully, he’ll be ready to go for the Wild Card playoff game.  

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: 

Nelson Agholor: The Patriots’ wide receiver was removed from the concussion protocol this week, and although he was a limited participant all week, he should be available today to see some game action.

Agholor brings the element of speed to the Patriots offense, and although the chemistry between him and Mac Jones has been missing on the deep ball, teams have to respect Agholor’s deep speed and that opens up the middle of the field for some of the other members of the receiving corps and Mac Jones. 

Antonio Brown: If you’re like the majority of football fans (including here), you’ve probably heard enough of this saga. After his ugly exit from the stadium during his team’s comeback against the Jets, Brown claimed that he was hurt and refused to enter the game because of that. 

Bucs coach Bruce Arians said that at halftime Brown complained that he wasn’t getting enough targets, and didn’t mention any injury. Then Brown appeared on a podcast and the injury talk was put on the back-burner as he railed about his contract, Tom Brady, and over-estimated his own worth. 

After Tom Brady initially stepped up for Brown after the game, (it will be interesting to see if Brady does it further), not one Bucs player has stepped up to back Brown. That needs to be taken into consideration. 

While Matt Chatham’s response to this may be NSFW, it is spot on.

LaRoy Reynolds: The Patriots signed the 31-year old Special Teams player to the practice squad. It is the second stint Reynolds has had with the Patriots this season. He was signed by the team in March and spent the early part of the offseason with the team but was released with an injury settlement in May. 

Hunter Henry: It was a long-known fact that Bill Belichick had a man-crush on Hunter Henry when he played for the Chargers. But since signing with the Patriots during free agency, Henry is having the most enjoyable time of his career and says his time as a Patriot has made him a better football player. 

“It’s been a fun season,” Henry said earlier this week.  “Obviously, there was a lot of new things going on – new area, new team, new culture.  I felt like I meshed in well with it.  I’ve really enjoyed being here.  I’ve really enjoyed the season, too, and everything that’s come with it.  The good, the bad …learning.”

“I feel like I’ve become a better football player – overall, scheme, everything,” Hunter added.  “It’s been a pleasure, and I’ve really enjoyed this season more than I probably have almost any other season that I’ve had.  It’s been a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to keep going and excited for this week ahead.”

Calvin Ridley: The talented wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons has made it clear that he intends to play in 2022 after missing all but five games this season. And it is rumored that the player and team may be ready to move on from each other. 

Naturally, Patriots’ fans (and 30 other team’s fans) began the countdown to when their team would make a move to swing a deal with Atlanta to bring the 27-year old into the fold. And it is fun to think about the possibilities that Ridley would bring to an offense with Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and the running game. 

But there is a big caveat to this. Ridley missed all of this time due to mental health issues. Those aren’t as easily fixed as an injury from the field. Ridley’s option for 2022 has already been picked up by Atlanta, boosting his pay from $1.7 million to $11.1 million. The 27-year old is very talented but there is no guarantee that those issues are or will be behind him. Josh Gordon has struggled with those issues for years, and still does. So that would be a reluctant pass here.  

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I met on Friday to talk about the Jags game, Mac Jones, and the game against the Dolphins.

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.

Stevenson A Key Offensive Cog Moving Into the Postseason:

It isn’t often a rookie fits to be a big part of the Patriots’ postseason plans. But this year, the Patriots have two…Quarterback Mac Jones and running back Rhamondre Stevenson. 

The Patriots’ rookie running back has been a steal in the 4th round of the draft from Oklahoma this spring. The 6’0, 226-lb Stevenson has teamed up with Damien Harris to give the Patriots a dynamic 1-2 punch that makes them hard to stop. The running game helps Mac Jones to set up play-action passing that helps out the offense. With the playoffs right around the corner, that can’t be discounted. 

Stevenson has been very productive after a slow start to the season. A few weeks ago, MNF analyst Louis Riddick had some heady praise for the rookie. [Stevenson] “has every tool you are looking for — size, speed, agility, hands. He is still ascending and will play a bigger and bigger and bigger role as time goes on.”

“Mondre has improved a lot. He only had one year at Oklahoma. He picked up a lot there, but he’s just continued to develop in all areas — running, pass protection, blitz pickup, just overall patience in the running game, decision-making, and ball security,” head coach Bill Belichick said.

“He’s been asked to do a lot of things and he’s put in the extra time and really embraced the coaching and the detail he’s gotten, and tried to execute it. And he has. I think he’s earned everyone’s respect for his work ethic and his willingness to help the team in any way he can.”

Stevenson’s rise has come at a good time, with Harris nursing a sore hamstring, Stevenson has proven more than capable of stepping up and in for Harris. As he gets more experience, he should become an even bigger weapon out of the backfield in the passing game. But he along with Harris and Brandon Bolden as the dedicated 3rd down back should put the offense in great shape for not only the playoffs but for 2022 as well. 

Week 18 Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 1 and my predictions are straight up for this week.

Saturday
Kansas City over Denver
Dallas over Philadelphia

Sunday
Cincinnati over Cleveland
Green Bay over Detroit
Minnesota over Chicago
Washington over NY Giants
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Baltimore over Pittsburgh
Tennessee over Houston
New Orleans over Atlanta
Buffalo over NY Jets
LA Rams over San Francisco
New England over Miami
Arizona over Seattle
Tampa Bay over Carolina

Sunday Night Football
LA Chargers over Las Vegas

Last Week:         12-4
Season:            173-82-1

Last Season:    169-86-1

2019 Season:   162-93-1

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills to Reduce the Seating Capacity In Their New Stadium:

The Buffalo Bills currently have a 69.000 seat capacity in their stadium. They sold 60,000 season tickets in 2021, but in planning for the construction of their new stadium, they are planning on reducing the seating capacity to 62,000. 

The Buffalo News carried a piece where the Bills don’t believe the current season ticket numbers are sustainable. “Which is why the Bills plan to reduce the capacity in their new stadium to between 60,000 to 62,000 seats and general admission, standing-room-only party deck with space for up to another 5,000 fans. Shrinking capacity hasn’t gone over well with some fans. But sports marketing professionals, engineers, and economists explained the reasoning behind the national trend in interviews with The News.”

So, although the facility will be about 600,000 square feet larger, going from 900,000 to about 1.5 million square feet, the actual seating capacity will diminish. 

Dolphins and Harbaugh Subject to the Rumor Mill:

The Dolphins were eliminated from playoff contention after their loss to the Titans last week. Their seven-week losing streak, was too much to overcome, even after a seven-week winning streak that ended in Nashville last week. 

Now the rumor mill on whether Jim Harbaugh, the head coach at Michigan who has made it clear that he’d like to return to the NFL, may be once again on Miami’s radar.

Head coach Brian Flores inherited one of the worst teams in the league three years ago but it was readily apparent, that the players bought into Flores’ system. Last year, Miami won 10 games but didn’t make the playoffs. This year was a trying one for Flores and the players but they rebounded and have a chance to finish with a winning record. 

While the players still believe in Flores, will Miami stick with him or opt to go to Harbaugh? Miami courted him in 2011, even though they had Tony Sparano signed to coach the team. 

Jets Place Berrios on IR: 

The New York Jets have placed WR-KR Braxton Berrios on Injured Reserve. Berrios was having a terrific final quarter of the season and will be a free agent in 2022. 

The 5-9, 190, Berrios had played in 16 games this season and recorded 46 receptions, for 431 yards and 2 TDs. He also has 7 rushes for 40 yards and 2 rushing scores. 

Berrios had the best kickoff return average at 30.4. He had a 102-yard return for a touchdown against the Jaguars in Week 16. In 48 career games with the Jets, Berrios has 89 receptions, 940 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

_______________

“That’s a good question. I try to keep things concise. You have to get into details to get certain things done, but in terms of team messaging and all, I think if you don’t get the big picture, then a lot of times, the details don’t really matter. They get washed away. I thought my dad did a good job of that. I thought that Coach [Wayne] Hardin and Coach [George] Welsh did a good job of that at Navy when I observed them. Certainly, Coach [Bill] Parcells was outstanding at that. I think that’s one of the best things. He has a lot of great qualities, but I would put that near the top of the list. Bill could really identify, in very simple terms, what needed to be done, whatever the situation was, whether it was team building, a practice, a play, a technique, whatever it was, he could identify it in a very simple way. If you did that, you were going to be alright. If you talk about 10 other things and you didn’t do the one thing he was talking about right, you probably aren’t going to have much. I’d say Bill is probably as good as anybody I’ve coached with at that and I learned a lot from him on that and tried to look at things in a way, from a big picture way, that he looked at them, not the exact same thing, but the process of identifying things and the picture, making sure you get the big things right, identifying those properly, and communicating those to your team, individual player, or whatever it’d happen to be. Make sure you get the things right that you have to get right and then go to the next layer there. I’d probably put Bill and my dad at the top of the list.”

Bill Belichick when asked about where his consistency in getting the message across to his team and coaching staff. 

_______________

“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 Braxton Berrios Brian Flores Buffalo Bills Damien Harris Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Mac Jones Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Rhamondre Stevenson


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