Category Archives: Patriots Commentary

New England Patriots News 10-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 20, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-20 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, but not for the Patriots who play the Jets on Monday Night Football tomorrow night.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Patrick Mahomes – it seems dodged a serious injury on Thursday night in Denver. And that is a good thing not just for Mahomes and the Chiefs but for the league as a whole. Mahomes’ star is rising and he’s quickly becoming one of the new faces of the league. No one wants to see any player, let alone a star suffer a serious injury. Anyone who would do so, needs to seriously reevaluate the lives. 

However, what the heck is wrong with some media types who before Mahomes is even off the deck, turn his injury into some kind of an anti-Patriots diatribe. It was a disgusting lack of empathy. We know you can’t help the slant against the Patriots but for cryin’ out loud, have a little humanity.  His injury at the time had zero to do with NE, a horrible lack of timing there, but it has become par for the course in some places.

Andy Reid – He knows he dodged a bullet with Mahomes’ injury and he’ll return at some point this season. Hopefully, he won’t rush his QB back too soon and risk further injury. Despite the game on Thursday, they have a woeful defense, but they still have plenty enough playmakers on offense to remain competitive in Mahomes’ absence. They’ll still be in a position to carry their division with Matt Moore. They’ll get their QB back for the stretch run and go from there. 

Eric Tomlinson – had a crazy week. According to NESN, the Patriots new tight end signed and practiced with the team on Tuesday, and then jetted off to Texas for the birth of his son who was delivered by Caesarian section on Wednesday morning. He’s back in Foxboro and preparing for his former team the Jets and may see reps at both tight end and fullback.  

Two-Point for Tua? Seemed So- The Miami Dolphins scored a late touchdown last week against the Washington Redskins in the closing moments of the game and trailed 17-16.  Rather than attempt an extra point to tie the game and send it into overtime, Miami, winless like the Redskins, decided to go for the win. But their attempt seemed like they were determined to fail rather than succeed. The Redskins snuffed it out in the backfield and came away with a victory in the debut of interim coach Bill Callahan.

Trent Brown – In case anyone was wondering is a member of the Oakland Raiders. In fact, Oakland signed Brown to the highest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history this spring. But once Brown was charged with domestic assault, Brown wasn’t a Raider at all. Several media outlets including those here in Boston led off with “Former Patriots OL Trent Brown…” Funny thing is when all of the sexual assault allegations came against Antonio Brown, I didn’t see a single headline stating “Former Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown…” and yet every allegation against him occurred when he was a member of the Steelers. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Brady Rightfully Pi$$ed At Supposed Kraft Dig:

Tom Brady is livid that people who saw a clip of a new Paul Rudd Netflix film, took it to mean that it was a dig against Robert Kraft. And unless everything we’ve ever believed about Brady and his relationship with Kraft is wrong, then yes, people jumped to conclusions before bothering to research the clip and the meaning.

“That’s not what that was about,” Brady said. “I think that was taken out of context, just like you’re taking it out of context and trying to make it a story for yourself, which has a negative connotation to it, which I don’t appreciate. It was meant to be something different than that. The fact it’s a distraction or you’re bringing it up is not something I want to be talking about.”

“It was shot on a green screen,” he said, remarking it was not filmed at a strip mall. “It was agreed to a year ago. It was written four years ago. Again, it’s unfortunate that people would choose to think I would ever do something like that about Mr. Kraft. I think that’s a very bad assessment of my relationship with him. I would never do that.”

Timothy Greenberg, a fan of the New York Jets, said that he wrote the scene as a “subtle dig” at Brady, who at the time was coming off his “Deflategate” suspension. Brady, while exiting the spa is supposed to be a clone of himself, not receiving a “happy ending” at a massage parlor.

“There was this implication that maybe he’s a clone and he’s cheating,” Greenberg said in an interview. “When I wrote it, he was 37 and had won four Super Bowls. And then by the time I actually make the thing, he’s now 41 and he’s just coming off his sixth Super Bowl win. So he became even more perfect. He was our number one choice for that.”

The media ran with the clip without bothering to do due diligence in an attempt to get it out there first and tried to paint it as Brady slamming his boss when the fact of the matter is that it had nothing to do with Kraft or his situation. I’d say we’re shocked, but no…we’re not here. He’s been raked over the coals for nothing for the past several years and one has to wonder when he’ll decide it isn’t worth it anymore.

The filmmakers knew what they were doing, they filmed Brady on a green screen and then after the Kraft situation, superimposed the strip mall to make it look like the Florida spa. They did him dirty, but no worse than all of the sites who ran with the false narrative. The total a$$-covering by the rest is… not surprising.

Will Michael Bennett’s Situation Play Out? Probably Not Well:

After the Patriots suspended DL Michael Bennett for “conduct detrimental to the team”,  it naturally opened up conversations if Bennett is on his way out of Foxboro. It certainly would appear so, his snaps have been steadily decreasing and last Thursday he played in only a handful of snaps against the Giants, most of which at garbage time. That led to what Bennett described as a “philosophical disagreement” with positional coach Bret Bielema. 

Bennett was brought in to help replace Trey Flowers after he bolted in free agency. Bennett thrives in a 4-3 system as a defensive end, which is what the Patriots played in 2018. But the defense morphed into more of a 3-4 defense this season and that hasn’t played into Bennett’s strengths. Because the down linemen in the Patriots 3-4 still have the same two-gap responsibility that they’ve always had. 

Bennett has always been an attacking 4-3 end and a 3-4 defensive end is more of an interior lineman. It hasn’t been a great fit, scheme-wise. When he’s able to pin his ears back and rush the QB, he’s been pretty successful. But with the depth and the production of the linebackers, he’s been relegated to a subpackage interior pass rusher. So, now the question arises, where do they go from here?

The trade market would be very limited, given Bennett’s age and the state of the league. Few of the teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot would be willing to take on or need a player with his strengths. The Lions or the Raiders would possibly make sense or maybe the Rams who are looking for a spark defensively. If the Patriots were to trade Bennett it would free up about $2 million in salary-cap space where they’re right up against the cap.

Releasing Bennett is, of course, an option, if those philosophical disagreements get any worse or continue for that matter. That would free up the cap space and possibly rid the team of any distractions in the locker room. But then you run the risk of another rival picking him up for nothing and adding him to the mix against you down the road in the postseason. And if the team suffered an injury on the defensive front, it would leave the team thinner with their depth. 

Or they could choose to ride things out and hope that they can get Bennett to buy-in for the duration of the season. With several tougher games on the slate, a player like Bennett, especially in the postseason has the experience and pedigree to give the team some outstanding production in those game-changing moments. 

But Bennett is a proud player and in reality, not a great fit for what the Patriots are running defensively right now. And I will be surprised if he’s still with the team by the end of the season. 

Demaryius Thomas’ Tenure With NE as “A Waste of Time” :

The Patriots traded WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets in the fallout of the signing of Antonio Brown and hindsight being 20/20 it shows that now it was a mistake. Both in trading Thomas and of course signing Brown.

Thomas on Wednesday didn’t mince any words over how things played out and characterized the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s actions as “disrespectful”. 

“Like, you know, you could trust me and I could trust you,” Thomas said. “You told me when you cut me at the [final] cut, sit around you’ll bring me back. And I stayed. I could have easily become a Jet once I got cut.… I could have been here the next day after I got released. But I chose to stay.”

“Bill Belichick came up to me and was like, ‘Uh, we got too many guys. We can’t get the ball around enough and we’re going to trade you to the Jets,’” Thomas added. “And that was that…. Ain’t no reason to yell. They’ve won championships without me. I was only trying to be a part of something that was going to be good when I was there… They’re doing a hell of a job.”

Thomas’ frustration is certainly understandable but he must remember that he told the media that the Patriots were the only team who contacted him after his Achilles injury with the Texans. They worked with him all spring and summer, and in retrospect should have stuck with him. But from a pure football standpoint, the decision between Thomas at this point in his career and Brown is truly a no-brainer.

NFL Schedule Week 7, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 7-7
Season: 54-37-1

TNF Kansas City over Denver 1-0 

Buffalo over Miami
Jacksonville over Cincinnati
Minnesota over Detroit
Green Bay over Oakland
LA Rams over Atlanta
Indy over Houston
49ers over Washington
NY Giants over Arizona
Tennessee over LA Chargers
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Ravens
SNF Philadelphia over Dallas
MNF Patriots over NY Jets

Bye Week – Panthers, Browns, Steelers, Bucs

Early Thursday Night Football pick Minnesota over Washington

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking to Be Buyers at the Trade Deadline:

The Buffalo Bills currently have the second-best record in the AFC behind the Patriots and will almost certainly improve that today with a home tilt against the Dolphins. With the trade deadline approaching in less than 10 days, the Bills aren’t looking to unload talent, but bring some in to help for a postseason push where they are still very much alive in the AFC East. 

Buffalo’s defense is stacked although if they were to add a piece there, they may want a defensive end who can get after the QB. The Bills have plenty of depth there but not a ton of production. But overall, their defense is solid and the strength of the team. 

If they can use some help, it would probably be at wide receiver. A.J. Green has been mentioned as a possible Buffalo target (including here), he’d give the Bills a big, physical target who has had plenty of production in his career but has had issues with staying healthy and on the field. 

Other names that have been supposedly tied to Buffalo include the Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Giants wideout Golden Tate, and TE O.J. Howard. Sanu has played mainly in the slot for the Falcons but can slide inside or outside and has made an average of 64 catches for over 700 yards in his time in Atlanta. 

Tate is a talented receiver but the Giants, who aren’t going anywhere this season have two young talented WRs in Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard and may decide to dangle Tate as a search for draft capital. 

Howard is a very talented tight end who is not being utilized in the Tampa Bay offense. Coupled with the young and talented Dawson Knox, he could give the Bills a huge and athletic target in the passing game. He’s also an excellent blocker.  

Dolphins Drake on the Trading Block:

The Miami Dolphins in the midst of an awful rebuilding program where the fans are either on the “Tanking for Tua” or “Bailing for Burrow” storylines won’t be surprised to see that several teams are contacting the Dolphins about the availability of running back Kenyan Drake for a possible deadline trade. 

The former 3rd-round draft pick has always somewhat under-utilized in Miami’s system under both Adam Gase and now Brian Flores. With the bad offensive line play, Drake is on par for his worst statistical season of his career. 

Drake is in the final year of his rookie deal and would be a really nice pickup for any playoff teams looking for a reliable, versatile player. 

Jets/Docs Dispute Extent of G Kelechi Osemele’s Shoulder Injury:

The New York Jets are facing some backlash over the shoulder injury suffered by guard Kelechi Osemele. He’s been out for four weeks with his injury and the Jets team doctor and an independent doctor have cleared him for play. And if he doesn’t return to practice by Saturday, Osemele is subject to fines and/or suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.” 

The rub is Osemele is saying he needs surgery to repair his shoulder. The Jets counter that the injury is a pre-existing one that can wait until the season is over. 

“It’s been killing me,” Osemele said to the media on Friday. “I’m just trying to get this done. I’ve done everything I can. I’ve been at work every day, waking up at 5 in the morning, doing all the rehab and the treatments and stuff like that. I’m like the last dude out of here at night. I’m doing everything I can.

“I’m working with my agent. We’re communicating with the team. There’s just no communication between the team and my doctor and my agent. It’s just been butting heads for whatever reason. Hopefully, it gets resolved soon.”

There is a source who reported to the Jets media that Osemele wasn’t cleared by the two doctors and that surgery was recommended, due to a torn labrum. The same source also said Osemele was told to take the painkiller Toradol, prescribed by the Jets’ doctor, so he could play. He did and aggravated it against the Patriots a month ago. He’s making $11.7 million dollars this season (non-guaranteed) but if he’s injured, the Jets can’t cut him loose without forking over the rest of his money.

________________

“Demaryius is a great kid. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s very professional and did everything we asked him to do. Our circumstances changed a couple times in that period leading up to when he was traded, and so I felt like I was always truthful with him, but things changed, and therefore what I said was not the same as what it was – what I had said previously. So, it is what it is..” – Bill Belichick being asked about the comments by Demaryius Thomas on the “insulting and disrespectful” trade by the Patriots with the Jets.

________________

“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 blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Patriots – Jets Week 7 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 18, 2019 at 7:03 am ET

The Patriots head out to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. The Patriots are off their fourth 6-0 start in their history and are on pace for a record league-low in points allowed. With a win, they’ll improve to 7-0 for only the third time in team history.

This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN and can be seen locally on WCVB Channel 5 on Monday, October 21 at 8:20 p.m.. Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play duties with Booger McFarland as the color analyst. Lisa Salters will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (6-0) beat the New York Giants 35-14 on Thursday Night Football where the STs and defense each scored in the victory. Tom Brady rushed for two touchdowns.

The Jets (1-4) came off of their bye week and beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-22. Sam Darnold returned after missing the past three games and threw for 338 yards.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets have been rivals since the earliest days of the old AFL. The Patriots lead the all-time series 66-54-1 including a 36-25-1 record at home and 30-29 on the road against the Jets. The two teams have met three times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 2-1 edge there. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past three years. The Patriots beat the Jets 30-14 a month ago in Foxboro, but that was with 3rd string QB (since released) Luke Falk at quarterback.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York Jets

The Patriots running game remains an iffy proposition, last week against the Giants they struggled to run the ball, especially in short yardage situations. Sony Michel has been mostly ineffective, where the play of the offensive line and the tight ends hasn’t been good enough. But Michel has been a tad slow at hitting the holes. Brandon Bolden was brought in for some short yardage situations and Brady had two QB sneaks on the goal line scoring a pair of touchdowns. 

The Jets run defense has been solid but not great. They are allowing 95.8 yards per game which is 13th in the league. Last week they kept Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott mainly in check until the very late stages of the game. If they get MLB C.J. Mosley back this week it willl be a huge boost to both the run and pass defenses. Rookie Quinnen Williams is living up to his 1st-round draft pedigree and has been very good against the run.  Rookie UDFA Kyle Phillips has been a steal and was outstanding against Dallas.

With the addition of former Jets TE Eric Tomlinson, he should help somewhat in the blocking game, if he’s active on Monday night. If Rex Burkhead is ready to go, he’ll provide a boost to the running game as well. Look for Josh McDaniels to try to scheme up some running plays for the offense. Those outside zone runs aren’t working.  Look for some inside running plays to see if they can get some needed yardage and open up play action.                     

Patriots WRs vs Jets Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is dealing with injuries to Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett as well as Rex Burkhead have been missing time. Rex Burkhead has missed the past two games.also. That leaves them painfully thin. Julian Edelman has been dealing with sore ribs he got in the Jets game last month. The Patriots are hoping to get Dorsett and Burkhead back for Monday night. That will go a long way in helping the offense get untracked. And with Ben Watson back in the fold, the Patriots have a TE that can threaten the seams and help open things up underneath. 

The Jets have a very good front seven, and with Mosley they are even better. But although they have a pair of outstanding safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, their cornerbacks are a definite weakness. Former Patriot Darryl Roberts, Trumaine Johnson, and Brian Poole are the weak links of the Jets defense. They’ve allowed 262.0 yards per game, 21st in the league. Gregg Williams’ blitzing defense brings good pressure but they only have 7 sacks as a team. If the blitz is picked up then the corners won’t hold up.

Brady and the offense will have to attack the Jets’ pedestrian corners, notably Poole with Edelman in the slot. Edelman had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown when he was injured in the second quarter of the game a month ago. Look for the Patriots to use the 2 RB set (James White, Rex Burkhead) in the passing game. With no Gordon, the backs will have to take up some of the slack. Ben Watson too.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

It’s impossible to judge anything regarding the Jets offense from the first meeting when they were missing both Sam Darnold and Trevor Siemian when they arrived in Foxboro. But the running game of the Jets has struggled to run all season, even when Darnold was in the lineup. Le’Veon Bell is averaging just 3 yards per carry. With Darnold back, the Jets passing game figures to be much better, but they also need the running game and Bell to keep the offense from being one-dimensional. The Jets offensive line also (like New England) needs to do a better job.

The Patriots run defense has been solid this season and is allowing just 73.7 yards per game, good for third best in the league. The average allowed per carry of 4.1 yards is misleading. The one 65-yard run by Frank Gore raised the average per game by 10 yards. Without that run, the average would be 62.8 yards per game and 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, and Adam Butler have been excellent at stopping the runs at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up and make plays. 

Having Darnold back in the fold will definitely help as he’ll force the defense to play it straight up and not allowing opponents to stack the box. This matchup will go a long way in deciding this game. If the Jets become one-dimensional and constantly are in 3rd and long situations, the Patriots defense will make life tough for them to move and score points. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are key here for the Pats.  

Jets WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Jets finally got their passing game untracked on Sunday as Sam Darnold threw for 338 yards while completing 23-32 passes with two TDs and an interception. He has Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder in the slot and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver. They’re hoping to get TE Chris Herndon back for this one which will definitely open things up for them down the seam. Bell is always a threat out of the backfield. 

The Patriots pass defense has been simply outstanding in 2019, allowing just 161.0 yards per game, good for #2 in the NFL. They’ve already intercepted 14 passes and made 25 sacks. They made 30 all of 2018 and have nearly matched that less than halfway into the season. The secondary has been like glue while the linebackers have been tremendous in helping with the pass rush. One of the most impressive things has been the communication, they way they pass off responsibilities when recognizing a blitzing opportunity. 

Anderson will be going against Stephon Gilmore who held him to just 3 catches for 11 yards in the last meeting. But Anderson lit up the Cowboys, including a 92-yard touchdown, so his confidence is high with his starting QB back. Crowder should be matched up with Jonathan Jones in the slot while Thomas will draw either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson. All three should be great matchups to monitor. 

In the first meeting, the Patriots got five sacks and with the Jets, they’ll be minus their starting LT Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell will be getting his first NFL start. Look for the Patriots to test him early in this one. With Darnold back, the Jets threw on first down more than ran (17-9) and he used play-action very effectively  Overall, on first down, he was 13-15 for 202 yards and a TD. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Mike Nugent seems to have the coaches’ confidence, last week he doinked a kick off the upright but the high winds were a huge factor in the kicking game. Jake Bailey has come on extremely well and his strong leg has been on display numerous times already The return game has been so-so at best with Gunner Olszewski but the coverage units and punt blocking teams have been outstanding.

The Jets Sam Ficken has settled down the kicking game. Lachlan Edwards has done a solid job of punting, and the Jets coverage units have been solid. However, Braxton Berrios hasn’t provided much in the return game.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are looking for a sweep of the Jets and of their divisional opponents on the road enroute to a 7-0 start. The Jets started off nightmarishly but confidence is high in the Meadowlands as they get their injured players back and their schedule does get markedly lighter after this week. They feel like they can with a second upset in a row go on a winning streak. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Defense Sets the Tone – Look for the Patriots defense to remain aggressive and challenge the Jets receivers. The secondary is playing tremendous and they’ll try to show different looks in trying to get Darnold to make a mistake. The key for the Patriots defense is to take away Le’Veon Bell, in both the running and passing game. If they can neutralize him, they have the secondary players to match up well. 

The pass rush will be an area to watch. Darnold has the ability to move in the pocket and throw on the move, unlike the previous matchup. They’ll attempt to test Shell on the left side and they’ll show him different looks as well. 

Edelman and the Running Backs in the Passing Game: Tom Brady passed for 306 yards on 28 of 42 passing in the first matchup with two touchdowns. Julian Edelman was giving the Jets fits until he was injured. With C.J. Mosley stating he’ll play on Monday, that should help the middle of the field immensely. But Poole is at a disadvantage against Edelman, it will be interesting to see if they give him help. 

James White, who missed the first matchup due to the birth of his son and Burkhead, if he’s able to go will see lots of reps. Expect to see a lot of the two-back “Pony” set where Brady will move them around to create mismatches. It will also help in keeping the Jets from blitzing at times. 

Play-action will be key here. If they can freeze the Jets linebackers ever so slightly, it will open up things more for Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and TE Ben Watson.

Get the Running Game Going: Easier said than done. The Patriots running game has been stuck in neutral for much of this season. But they need to scheme some things up to get it going with Sony Michel and Burkhead with a bit of James White and Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

The Jets run defense is solid and they’ll need an A-game from the offensive line. Michel is the key to get everything else going. If they are constantly in 3rd and long, it will be a long evening for the offense. 

___________

This should be a typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands, with the game tight right down to the very end. Points will be at a premium here for both teams but in the end the Patriots should be able to pull away thanks to the defense generating a turnover or two. The last thing the coaches want is to see the Jets get off to another start like they had last week. They’ll want to come out strong.  Patriots 23-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back home next Sunday with a 4:25 p.m. game against the Cleveland Browns.

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 I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Adam Butler Has Stepped Up His Game For the Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
October 17, 2019 at 7:58 am ET

The New England Patriots defense is off to a tremendous start in 2019, thru the first six games, they’re off to an unprecedented start and are playing some tremendous football. As Bill Belichick would say, “there is a long way to go”, (there is), and the true meat of their schedule lies in front of them. However, regardless of the opponents, the way the defense is playing right now is awfully impressive. 

And speaking of an unprecedented start, third-year defensive lineman Adam Butler has been playing tremendous football. In his first two seasons, the UDFA from Vanderbilt was used mainly as a third-down pass rusher. In 2018, Butler played on 36 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and garnered 3 sacks, 2 passes batted down and one forced fumble. 

Through the first six games this season, Butler’s playing has increased to 50 percent of the defensive snaps. This off-season the Patriots 4-3 base defense has morphed into more of a 3-4 base but they are very multiple and switch fronts and looks constantly. And Butler’s rise in the interior DL has given way to better production, he’s already notched 2.5 sacks, a pair of passes knocked down and 3 quarterback hits. 

Butler’s rise has been a major factor in the reason that Michael Bennett’s snap counts have decreased so much. It isn’t so much that Bennett has been playing poorly, but that Butler has played so well. 

Butler and defensive line coach Bret Bielema spoke in the spring about Butler having a bigger impact and becoming a more complete player. Bielema, it should be noted, that besides being a head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas, he was a defensive coordinator prior to that at both Kansas State and Wisconsin. He comes from a defensive background. And he’s liking what he’s seeing from the 3rd-year lineman. 

“He’s long, he’s athletic; he has a way to bend. He’s one of those guys that really does very seldom ever get out of position. He has very good balance; understands leverage. He’s a very intelligent player,” Bielema said on a conference call to the media. 

“He truly is a guy that really gets it, understands it, can process it and the thing this year working with him during the course of a game, he literally understands when things happen literally on the spot. He can come to the sideline, digest what just happened, what they’re trying to do, how we can combat it. He gives a lot of really good information. As coaches, sometimes you don’t get all the most accurate information sometimes, but I will say that AB really does take a lot of pride in his skill set on game day and that’s what’s really shown up.”

Butler still is playing his role as a designated interior pass rusher but has expanded his role into more of a base role and has earned his coaches’ respect. Bill Belichick spoke about him after the Buffalo game. 

“Adam’s a very intelligent player and he has very good football instincts,” said Belichick. “So you can give him a lot of information and he kind of knows when to apply it and when not to apply it. So his ability to do the right thing at the right time based on a call, or based on the way that the line blocks, or kind of the protections they use, things like that in the pass rush, even in the running game; he does a good job of recognizing those things quickly and making good decisions, which is really hard to do when you’re in-line like that.”

Belichick added, “All players get better with coaching, all players get better with experience, but his growth in three years now has really been impressive.”

Butler’s rise has been impressive in his third year. On a defense that has been firing on all cylinders, Butler doesn’t do a lot of the flashy stuff that ends up on the highlight reels but he’s been playing his role extremely well and for the 6’5, 300-pound lineman, his coaches have seen his value. And they’re rewarding him with more playing time and responsibility. 

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

Patriots 2019 Opponents, Week 7, Jets Get Darnold, Optimism Back

Steve Balestrieri
October 16, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The New York Jets won their first game of the season last Sunday in the Meadowlands over the Dallas Cowboys and there was optimism in the air. Not only did they get off the schneid, but they got their quarterback, Sam Darnold back on the field, which gave their offense a huge shot in the arm. 

All of a sudden, Adam Gase, who many fickle members of the NY press corps were calling for his head a week ago, now has, as they put it, has a chance to go on a run. As Yakov Smirnov would say, “What a country” only in New York. 

So, here are our second look at the Jets this season:

Darnold Didn’t Look Like He Missed a Beat:

Sam Darnold missed three games with mono and returned to play a very impressive game last Sunday against Dallas. The Jets offense was non-existent during his absence, however, in all fairness, his backup QB was injured early in Game 2 and they were forced to go with Luke Falk who was signed off their practice squad. 

Darnold showed no signs of rust and led the Jets to a big first-half lead which they parlayed into a 24-22 win over Dallas. Darnold finished the game 23-32 for 338 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. It was one of the best games in his young career. It was highlighted by an impressive 92-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson in the first half. He also hit Jamison Crowder six times for 98 yards. 

In the three games that he missed, the Jets offense scored one offensive touchdown. On Sunday, they scored three. Is it possible for just one player to transform an offense? It certainly appeared that way on Sunday. He had them moving the ball well all day long.

The Running Game Has Yet to Get Going: 

The Jets got Darnold back and the passing game was clicking for the first time this season with Anderson, Crowder and Demaryius Thomas all contributing last week. But now the focus will be getting the running game with Le’Veon Bell untracked. Bell was given a four-year deal worth $52.5 million dollars this spring, but has yet to break out.

Part of the reason has been with Falk at quarterback, opponents were stacking the box and basically daring the Jets to throw the ball. Which is why Bell has had 85 rushing attempts (16th in the NFL) but only 256 rushing yards. That is only 27th in the league with a long run of just 13 yards. The Jets as a team are averaging just 64 yards per game on the ground, 30th in the league. That will have to change.

They’re going to need a better push from their offensive linemen but with the team using more play-action on first down, that should definitely help matters. Even though left guard Kelechi Osemele is having shoulder surgery, his replacement Alex Morgan is playing well and may have supplanted the veteran.

Williams on the Trading Block? Possibly As the Deadline Approaches:

The jets have a decision looming with their excellent DT Leonard Williams. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract and the 25-year old is expected to draw significant interest…as well as significant money on the free-agent market. That is if the Jets allow him to hit free agency. 

But the Jets have other options, they can lock him up with a long-term contract extension now, or wait and re-sign him in the spring. But another option is out there and that is, they could trade Williams at r before the trade deadline.

There are reports out on social media that the Jets are receiving lots of offers for Williams, and rightfully so, he is an outstanding defensive lineman who frequently draws the double teams from opponents. The Jets have said that, right now, they have no plans to trade him. But with Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon and this season’s first-round pick Quinnen Williams on the roster, they could set themselves up with a deal at the trade deadline. 

Jets Could Get Mosley, Herndon Back for Monday Night: 

The Jets are hoping that LB C.J. Mosley and tight end Chris Herndon can return and play this week against the Patriots on Monday night. The Jets signed Mosley to a huge free-agent contract this spring and he was the QB of the defense and their unquestioned leader. It was no coincidence that before Mosley injured his groin in Week 1, the Jets were beating Buffalo 16-0. After he left, the Bills scored 17 unanswered points to pull out a victory. 

Coach Adam Gase said on Monday that Mosley’s been progressing well and they believe he’s ready to begin practice. If he can practice and play on Monday night, it will be a big boost for the Jets defense. The offense could also be getting a key player back on Monday in tight end Chris Herndon.

Gase also remarked that Herndon is progressing well from his hamstring injury that he suffered as he returned from his suspension and that the team was going to be smart with it and see how it responds. Herndon can give the Jets the ability to attack the seam more and be a bigger red-zone target than his replacement Ryan Griffin. 

Bucking the Trend, Jets Looking to Erase Frustration: 

In recent years the Patriots have owned the Jets in the head-to-head matchups winning the last seven in a row. And that number could have been much, much higher as the Jets pulled out two overtime victories in the Meadowlands including the 2013 game with the bogus “pushing” penalty on Chris Jones, gave the Jets a second chance, erasing a 56-yard miss with a 15-yard penalty, where Nick Folk made his 42-yarder for the win. That penalty hasn’t been heard from since…but New England gets all the calls, right?

This week, optimism is high in New Jersey as the Jets have refound their swagger on offense, their defense has been playing solid football and with their QB and other players coming back, they are hoping to catch the Patriots at just the right time. 

New England lost Dont’a Hightower, Pat Chung, Josh Gordon, Matt LaCosse, and Jakob Johnson to injuries last week. Johnson ended up on IR, while Gordon is not expected to play. If Chung especially, and Hightower can’t go, it puts the Patriots in a much more vulnerable position on Monday night. 

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

Patriots Addressing Tight End With Tomlinson, Watson

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2019 at 7:07 am ET

 Ch-ch-changes, There’s gonna have to be a different man

The Patriots are looking to make some needed additions at tight end this week as they prepare for the Jets on Monday Night Football next week.  NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport has reported that the Patriots are signing former Jets and Giants tight end Eric Tomlinson to the 53-man roster. 

Yesterday, Field Yates of ESPN reported that the team was bringing back veteran Ben Watson. Watson was signed this spring but was suspended through the first four games by the league. The team then balked at adding him to the roster, releasing him. Bill Belichick said at the time that there just wasn’t a roster spot for Watson at this time. Apparently, now there is room. 

Matt LaCosse was injured early in the Giants game and reportedly has an injured MCL that will require him to miss several weeks. He’s been dealing with nagging injuries all year. A roster spot was opened up when the Patriots placed fullback Jakob Johnson on IR with a shoulder injury. 

If the Patriots are to add both Tomlinson and Watson, another corresponding roster move must be made and perhaps it is moving LaCosse to IR. But that isn’t official, just speculation at this point. 

The tight end position has been a weak spot for the team through the first six games of the season. LaCosse has only 3 catches for 55 yards while Izzo has made 6 receptions for 114. But neither has done a consistent job in the blocking department. Which is something that has really hurt the Patriots running game. 

The Patriots were starting from scratch this year, with all three TEs from the 2018 roster gone. Rob Gronkowski retired and Dwayne Allen signed with Miami and is now a free agent, while Jacob Hollister is with Seattle and was just added to their 53-man roster. 

If there is one area that the Patriots front office neglected this spring, it is the tight end position. After losing all three including a Hall of Famer in Gronkowski, the team opted to bypass several viable tight ends in the draft and instead, signed veterans Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins was given his release to attend to personal problems and Watson, to date, has yet to suit up in a game. Izzo returned from IR and later the team added LaCosse.

Watson is an experienced pass catcher and should immediately help in attacking the seams of the defenses. Tomlinson who has good size at 6’6, 253 has caught only 16 passes, for 193 yards and one touchdown in his NFL career but is known more as a blocker, (something Izzo has struggled with) and STs contributor. 

With injuries at WRs Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett as well, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry is expected to be back at practice tomorrow.  While he has been active in the meeting room with the offense and wide receivers as is allowed by the NFL rules while on IR, he hasn’t practiced with the team since training camp. Bill Belichick said yesterday, he’ll have to show he can out and physically compete at practice. 

He is eligible to return to the active roster in two weeks after the Wednesday date and, if healthy enough, play against the Ravens on November 3.  

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 I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

Patriots Week 6 Report Card, 35-14  Win Over the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2019 at 7:37 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 6-0 but Got Banged Up On Thursday

Time to clean out the notebook from the Giants and begin to move on to Week 7.

The Patriots are 6-0 and remain with the impressive 49ers as the only undefeated teams in the NFL. The landscape changes so much from week to week that winning is far from guaranteed regardless of the competition.

The Patriots were favored by as much as 17 before the game and won by 21 but this game appeared to be anything other than a blowout until the final 8-9 minutes. Six different players were injured and five didn’t return, so the extra off time will prove to be a needed respite this week. 

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady had another interception in the first half where it seemed like either he and Julian Edelman were way off of the same page or the wind affected a deep pass where it was easily picked off by Janoris Jenkins. He also suffered a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown.

But in the second half, at one point he completed 15 passes in a row and finished 31-41 for 334 yards with an interception. He also scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks. Considering that he was playing without Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett and had UDFA wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as his #2-3 WRs, things weren’t as bad as some were painting the situation.

Running Backs: B-

The favorite whipping boy for much of the media and the fan base, Sony Michel was bottled up all night until his final run at the end of the game. He finished with 86 yards on 22 carries, a 3.9-yard average. But the blocking for him just wasn’t there at all. 

James White was stuffed on his two rushing attempts, while Brandon Bolden scored the game’s first touchdown and had 23 yards on three attempts. Brady scored on the other two touchdowns on the ground.

Overall, the Patriots ran for 114 yards on 34 carries [3.4-yard average] which isn’t good enough. And they lost another fullback Jakob Johnson who is going on IR. 

Wide Receivers: C+

Julian Edelman had his second 100-yard game in a row [9 catches 113 yards] and was his normal pain-in-the-backside self to the defense. With no Gordon or Dorsett, the Giants knew they had to stop him but couldn’t. He had two drops that hurt considering the circumstances. 

Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski both contributed with 4 catches for 54 yards and 2 catches for 34 yards respectively. Both are normally working more with the scout team than the offense in practice, so they get high marks for their night. But although the team got by on TNF with them as the #2-3 WRs, this isn’t sustainable. 

Josh Gordon had one catch before getting injured. James White had nine catches on nine targets but for only 46 yards. Michel and Bolden each chipped in with a pair of catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was hurt again and left the game in the first half. He has been largely MIA all season. Ryan Izzo gave up the edge on the strip-sack TD on Brady and has not been good on those outside zone runs where the team has been stuffed nearly every time this year [18 outside zone attempts, 21 rushing yards this season]. 

Izzo caught two passes for 31 yards including a 20-yarder where he was able to shake free when Brady had all day to throw. Due to LaCosse’s injury along with others, the team was forced to play in only “11 personnel” [1 RB, 1TE, 3 WRs] for the entire second half on Thursday.    

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line, with the exception of the aforementioned Izzo sack and Marshall Newhouse, had a very solid night of pass protection. The Giants, and rightfully so, targeted Newhouse’s side for their pass rush and were successful. Newhouse has allowed too many sacks and the coaches are going to have to give him some help, especially with the blitz-happy Jets on-deck.

The run blocking remains very much hit or miss, they run well between the tackles but those outside zone runs and sweeps aren’t getting any traction. Short yardage runs are still a sore spot. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again was very good. The Giants running game was predictably held in check with no Saquon Barkley with 52 yards on 16 attempts. Lawrence Guy was solid as always upfront and played more than everyone else as they rotated bodies on a short week. 

Deatrich Wise had two QB hits, but the Giants OL did a very good job of limiting pressure from the DL. Michael Bennett’s playing time continues to dwindle, he played in only 11 snaps late in the game and is now the subject of trade rumors, something to keep an eye on with the October 29th trade deadline upcoming.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers didn’t dominate the way we’ve seen in the past few weeks, but they were still excellent although they lost Dont’a Hightower in this one. But Kyle Van Noy was the man once again for this unit. Van Noy had the team’s only sack, two QB hits, six hurries and scoop and recovery of a fumble that he returned for a touchdown that put the game away. 

Jamie Collins snuffed out the screen pass to Jon Hilliman and put a big hit on the back jarring the ball loose on the fumble, which Van Noy returned. Hightower, before being hurt had three tackles and a QB hit. 

Secondary: A-

The secondary continues to stick like glue to the opposition’s receivers. Stephon Gilmore continues his outstanding play and Daniel Jones would have been wise to avoid his side of the field. Gilmore was targeted six times and had an interception and five passes broken up. He had another pick right in his hands but couldn’t hold on. He also deflected another that was intercepted by John Simon.

Jonathan Jones battled Golden Tate in the slot all night and gave up the Patriots first touchdown receiving this year. But even on that play, he had tight coverage and got his hand on the ball. But it was a great throw by Jones and a super play by Tate who was able to corral it and haul it in. 

Jones completed less than 50 percent of his throws and had a passer rating of just 35.2 on the night while the defense intercepted him three times. Nuff said.

Special Teams: A-

Mike Nugent had a miss of a field goal that doinked off the upright but the replay clearly showed that holder Jake Bailey didn’t rotate the laces away, so we’ll cut him some slack there. Also, the extra points were all good this week…small steps.

Jake Bailey had to contend with the gusty wind and averaged only 40.7 yards on his punts. The Giants Riley Dixon, also with a strong leg averaged only 39.2 on the night. 

But the STs struck a big blow again when Mr. Do-Everything Brandon Bolden made a tremendous play, pushing Nate Stupar into the punter Dixon, causing the punt to carom off of his head. It was scooped up by Chase Winovich who scored his first NFL touchdown. 

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff made the adjustments they needed to make offensively, out of necessity on Thursday night when injuries forced Josh McDaniels to operate out of one personnel grouping for the entire second half. Brady mentioned after the game it was the first time he ever remembers the Patriots doing that in his 20 years here. 

Defensively they pushed all the right buttons and limited the Giants to just the one big scoring play and nothing else. They rolled their coverages and created mixed presures that kept the Giants off-balance.  

 

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 I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

New England Patriots News 10-13, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 13, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-13 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, but not for the Patriots who are off until next Monday evening when they take on the Jets on Monday Night Football.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – so much hand-wringing over a QB who completed 31-41 for 334 yards on a short week throwing the ball to two UDFA wide receivers and a seventh round tight end. Look, no one is arguing that Brady was lights out in the Giants game…he wasn’t. But despite all the missing pieces, and the scuffling of the offense, he completed 15 in a row at one point and made some terrific throws. On that subject…. 

Wright, Kellerman, Parker – who or what exactly are the Three Stooges going to make asses of themselves with every week when Brady retires. How anyone can actually watch these bobos or take anything they say remotely seriously? I see the clips every week on social media. It is the dumbing down of America. Are the haters of everything Brady and Patriots so desperate for hope that they get their pablum from these people?    

Chase Winovich – The Patriots rookie LB scored his first NFL touchdown on a blocked punt in the Giants game and then hurled it deep into the stands…oops! His boundless enthusiasm and motor got the best of him there. Hopefully, the fan with the ball will get some face time with “Thor” and return it for some Pats swag.

Matthew Slater – was quoted as not being a fan of the Thursday night games and made his point in his usual eloquent style. “You could be 22 years old — it’s [still] tough. Player safety, player health? This doesn’t fit into that as far as I’m concerned,” Slater said. “I know we’ve had a lot of discussions about it as a union. I know it’s a good product as far as the consumers are concerned, and the fans enjoy these Thursday night products. But I think when you talk about the rigors of playing in an NFL game, and then what it takes to recover and be able to do it again the following week, to do a Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround is tough. It doesn’t fit under the umbrella of player safety as far as I’m concerned. But you guys know that — I’ve said that every year.”

TNF – I’ve made it clear I hate Thursday Night Football. From the lack of preparation/rest that creates sloppy football, it is dangerous to the players as well. The Patriots suffered six injuries on Thursday night. And yes it includes those awful “color rush” monstrosities that the NFL has sold the fans on what they “must-have”…heaven knows why. “If you take the blue pill..” However, I digress.

If the league was truly invested in player safety then make TNF after the opening week wait until teams come off their bye week [Thanks Murph]. Teams coming off the bye week can play on Thursday nights, and still, have 10 days until they play again. Problem solved. It can be done but would require some work by the good folks on Park Avenue. Although we’d still be subjected to those awful uniforms…

Sunday’s Games – One of the key games to watch today will be the Houston-Kansas City game with the Chiefs being the home team. This should be as exciting a matchup as we’ve seen all season. The Chiefs are coming off a home loss to the Colts and are getting Tyreek Hill back from injury. But Patrick Mahomes isn’t completely healthy, he injured an ankle against the Colts that could the mobility that makes him so dangerous.

For the Texans, they’re coming off a 50-point explosion where QB Deshaun Watson threw for five touchdowns. This one ought to be fun to watch and may come down to the team with the ball last wins. 

But the NFL is a Passing League: You know the old saying that the NFL is a copycat league? If you think teams didn’t notice how the Patriots ran the ball in the playoffs, think again. While going to these light fronts with smaller athletic players on defense, offensive coordinators are adjusting accordingly. Look at last week…

Carolina gashed Jacksonville for 285 yards rushing including 176 for my early MVP vote Christian McCaffrey. The Colts kept the potent KC offense sitting on their hands Sunday night while rushing for 180. San Francisco’s two-headed rushing attack had 275 yards against the Browns, while Arizona ran over Cincinnati to the tune of 266 yards on the ground. Think Bill Belichick may have been ahead of the curve once again?

Issues in the Running Game Start at Tight End:

After the lackluster game by the offense in the 35-14 win over the Giants, the lack of a consistent running game has really hurt the offense. The box score of the Patriots rolling up over 400 yards of offense and over 100 on the ground belies the fact that they were struggling for much of the night, especially on the ground. 

Naturally, the abuse gets piled on the head of Sony Michel [“He sucks, he blows” ring a bell?]. But while we can point fingers at Michel’s lack of quickness in getting to the hole at times, you can’t fault him when he’s being consistently hit behind the line of scrimmage.

The offensive line hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination, but a big part of the issue is at tight end. The Patriots were spoiled the past few years having Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen in the blocking role at tight end. They were like having an extra tackle out there. They drafted Ryan Izzo in the 7th round [250th overall] last year, and that was supposed to be his strength. But being put out on the edge hasn’t been anywhere near good enough. 

Look, comparing him to Gronkowski isn’t fair, we know that. But one stat that leaps off the page is this. The Patriots have run 18 outside zone runs this year. It is a staple of their offense…in the past. Gronkowski and Allen were outstanding at blocking in these. Those 18 runs this year have resulted in just 21 yards this year. Izzo and Matt LaCosse just aren’t getting it done. He’s constantly overmatched out there. Last week LaCosse and Izzo were better, but they took a step back against the Giants.

And now LaCosse is hurt again. He has been snakebit by injuries this season. The runs inside, between the tackles, have been much better, Michel’s big runs against Washington and his final big run against the Giants come to mind. Brandon Bolden has chipped in here as well. 

While everyone is clamoring for the Patriots to trade for a wide receiver [and with the injuries it may happen, more to that below] bringing in a blocking tight end, and yes, Dwayne Allen is available, maybe in the cards. They could still trade for one too.  

Wide Receiver Depth, Becoming a Show-stopping Issue:

The Patriots have a little bit of time to do some self-scouting they normally do during the bye week, but thanks to the TNF schedule have some time to do so again.  Julian Edelman has been banged up for the past few weeks but has toughened it out Phillip Dorsett has a hamstring injury where he missed nearly all of the Redskins game as well as this week. Josh Gordon injured his knee on Thursday and although it looked ugly, we’re told he didn’t injure it “significantly”. 

This left the Patriots with a hurting Edelman and two rookie UFDA wide receivers [Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski] as the only wideouts remaining. With the Monday night game coming in eight days, we still have no idea about the availability of either Gordon or Dorsett, but smart money suggests Gordon won’t be ready. 

And if both are out, that leaves the cupboard dangerously thin. One injury to any of the three listed above and they won’t have enough WRs to fill out their “11 personnel” package. They need to get healthy and still get some help there. 

The rumor mill has beaten the Stefon Diggs story to death and while others are beating the AB return to New England, that has a less likely chance of happening than the Patriots bringing in an Army guy. Rumors continue to swirl around A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders. Of those, Sanders would be the best, most logical choice. The Patriots liked him enough a few years ago to sign him to an offer sheet. He’s in the last year of a contract with a team with a real chance of being 1-6 by Thursday. He’d be a seamless fit in the offense if they can pry him away from Denver. But John Elway knows they need help and he’ll try to squeeze them for everything he can. 

However, help IS on the way. N’Keal Harry the Patriots 1st-round draft pick can begin practice on Wednesday. And he’s eligible to return two weeks hence. If Dorsett and Gordon can return soon, the coaches may opt to wait it out and have Harry help out the passing game. We’ll see how this plays out. 

Jakob Johnson to IR, Another Big Blow for the Offense:

Wait! What? Did I just hear myself say that? If I said back in June during minicamp that losing Jakob Johnson in early October would be a big blow to the Patriots offense, I can only imagine what my timeline would like. “You’re outta yur mind, you loosah!” But here we are.

After losing James Develin to a neck injury, the Patriots turned to Johnson who has looked good thus far but in the Giants game, he suffered a shoulder injury, that, according to Jim McBride of the Globe will put him on IR. The team is now lacking a fullback. And that is a big blow. 

No team relies on their fullback as much as the Patriots do. They rely on their fullback to open holes in the running game. So, what do they do from here? Well, they can sign one, and while there aren’t a ton of fullbacks out there, I’m sure they could bring one in for him to learn the offense. Or the answer may be internally answered. 

The team used Izzo a few times in that role on Thursday night. His size would lend itself well to that role…plus he already knows the offense. But with tight end bare already with LaCosse always hurt it may require more help. Enter Brandon Bolden. While he has nowhere near the size of a Develin/Johnson-type, he can add more in short-yardage as a ball carrier and pass receiver than those two plus he’s already on the roster and there isn’t much he can’t do.  

NFL Schedule Week 6, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 8-7
Season: 47-30-1

TNF New England over NY Giants 1-0 

Carolina over Tampa Bay [London]
Washington over Miami
Philadelphia over Minnesota
Kansas City over Houston [Mahomes isn’t 100%, shootout]
New Orleans over Jacksonville
Seattle over Cleveland
Baltimore over Cincinnati
LA Rams over San Francisco
Atlanta over Arizona
Dallas over NY Jets
Tennessee over Denver
SNF LA Chargers over Pittsburgh
MNF Green Bay over Detroit

Bye Week – Buffalo, Chicago, Indy, Oakland 

Early Thursday Night Football pick Kansas City over Denver

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills on the Bye, A Likely Landing Spot for A.J. Green? Maybe:

The Buffalo Bills are 4-1 and on their bye week. They’ve had an impressive start to the season, with their only loss to the Patriots at home. Their defense has been top-notch and impressive but offensively, they’re in need of some help, as their division rival Patriots at the wide receiver position. While many people have A.J. Green on the Patriots radar, he could also be on the Bills’ and even more so. 

Buffalo has two good wide receivers in Cole Beasley and John Brown but lacks a viable third option. Beasley is the Edelman of the Bills offense but they lack that big wide receiver on the outside, [Beasley is 5’9, while Brown is 5’10,180]. They traded away Zay Jones this week. 

Green, if healthy, would give them a big, viable target who would instantly upgrade the offense. And, if the rumors of New England being interested are indeed true, it would keep him away from the Patriots while helping Josh Allen.  

Dolphins Take on the Redskins in the Tua Bowl:

When the Miami Dolphins take the field against the Washington Redskins, the fans for both teams will be torn in their loyalties. While both are winless, Washington is 0-5 and Miami is 0-4, their fans will balance their desire to see their team win with the knowledge that the worse record will result in a better position to draft the next big QB prospect, in this case, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Miami, coming off of a bye week, is reeling with 11 players listed as questionable. Cornerback Johnson Bademosi, [ankle]; running back Kalen Ballage, [foot]; guard/tackle Jesse Davis, [elbow]; wide receiver Jakeem Grant, [hamstring]; linebacker Trent Harris, [foot]; cornerback Xavien Howard, [knee]; safety Reshad Jones, [ankle]; cornerback Chris Lammons, [toe]; safety Bobby McCain, [hamstring and shoulder]; wide receiver Albert Wilson, who is hoping [calf and hip]; and cornerback Jomal Wiltz, [groin]. 

The Redskins are beat up as well and have already ruled out several players. Tight end Vernon Davis is out of the game [concussion]; safety Deshazor Everett [ankle]; linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons [hamstring]; guard Wes Martin [chest injury]; and tight end Jordan Reed [concussion]. The team also listed tackle Donald Penn on the report, listing him as questionable, with a hamstring issue.

The big question is…other than the fanbases, will anyone be watching this one?

Jets Facing the “Laughably Overrated” Cowboys:

Leave it to Manish Mehta, the Jekyll and Hyde beat writer for the Jets, who proclaims every spring that the Jets will unthrone the Patriots in the AFC East, then calls for the coach to be canned in his next tweet. The 0-5 New York Jets face the 3-2 Cowboys who Mehta calls “laughably overrated”. 

Mehta was saying that “back-half of the 2019 [Jets] schedule is cupcake city.” If there is something the Jets and Adam Gase shouldn’t be doing, it is considering any of their upcoming opponents as cupcakes. 

But that never stopped Mehta from bloviating his usual tripe. He’s putting this one as eminently winnable despite the fact that the Jets rank near the bottom of every offensive category. If the Jets do pull the upset today [don’t hold your breath], then Mehta will go over the top with the Jets-Patriots predictions next week.

________________

“No, we’re trying to cover the receiver, and when he tries to catch the ball we use technique. Jon [Jones] did a pretty good job of that. He got his hands on the ball, but it just popped up in the air and went to Tate. I thought he played the ball well. It’s the National Football League. It was a good throw and they got a favorable bounce on it. We could’ve certainly played it better and done some other things better but Jon was in good position. He did what he was coached to do.” – Bill Belichick being asked about the touchdown pass allowed this week and specifically if Jonathan Jones played it correctly

________________

“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 blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Injury-Riddled Patriots Move to 6-0 With 35-14 Win Over Injury-Riddled Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2019 at 7:13 am ET

Mini-Bye Week Comes a Great Time for NE

The Patriots are 6-0 and defeated the New York Giants 35-14 but this one went unlike most had envisioned on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Most had this one as a blowout which the final score indicated but in reality, it was anything but. 

Ah, the joys of Thursday Night Football…

With solid play and timely stops by their defense, the Giants were very much alive in this game with about nine minutes to play, with the score just 21-14. Then the Patriots defense, which was outstanding again, turned the game into the Pats’ favor for good. Jamie Collins jarred the ball loose from running back Jonathan Hilliman, where Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up and rolled for a touchdown. Game over, thanks for coming, drive safely down Route 1.

New England could breathe a sigh of relief as this one was effectively over. Tom Brady added a final touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak to finish off the scoring, his second rushing touchdown of the game to put a bow on it, making the score 35-14.

It was the Giants who entered this game beat up missing three of their top offensive players [Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram], but it was the Patriots who limped out of this one. New England entered the game missing two of its own offensive performers, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Rex Burkhead. But they then suffered a slew of injuries during the game.

Josh Gordon left after awkwardly twisting his ankle/knee and didn’t return. Fullback Jakob Johnson also left with an injury, as well as tight end Matt LaCosse who left early in this one. These losses would affect the way the offense was able to line up the rest of the game. With only one tight end and no fullback, the Patriots ran only 11 personnel grouping [3 WRs, 1TE, 1 RB] for nearly the entire second half. 

Gordon’s loss hit an already thin wide receiver position and forced undrafted rookie wide receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, into prominent roles in the offense. 

On defense, Pat Chung, Dont’a Hightower, and J.C. Jackson left with injuries, although Jackson was able to return later. So, the mini-bye week with 10 days off before playing on Monday Night Football against the Jets, couldn’t come at a better time.

Other observations from tonight’s game include:

Defense Steps Up Again With Four More Turnovers:

The Patriots defense continues to play stellar team defense with great coverage in the secondary while generating turnovers. On a night where they generated just a single sack, the defense forced four turnovers with the aforementioned fumble and score by Van Noy and three interceptions by Duron Harmon, John Simon, and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore almost had a fourth but dropped it when he jumped a route to Golden Tate on a third-down near midfield. 

The coverage was sticky all night long against a game but depleted Giants WR core. The defense did give up its first passing touchdown of the year, a 64-yard scoring pass from Daniel Jones to Tate, although Jonathan Jones had tight coverage and actually got his hand on the ball. But credit Tate with an outstanding play, he was able to keep his concentration and still able to haul it in for the score. 

But the defense limited the Giants to just 213 total yards [52 rushing, 161 passing] while being outstanding once again on third down, holding the G-men to just 2-10. 

You Think Bringing Back Brandon Bolden Was Worth It?

At the time Brandon Bolden was re-signed and brought back after a year with Miami, there were many who panned the signing,[including a hot-take dolt on the air] saying that Bill Belichick signs too many players with Special Teams talent only. As the Southwest Airlines commercial says, “Want to Get Away?” No, the return of Bolden has done nothing but pay dividends. 

Back in minicamp, I spoke with RB coach Ivan Fears prior to practice and asked him about bringing back the popular teammate inside the Patriots locker room. And what Fears said has rung true this season.  “No matter what we ask him to do, Brandon will do it, and do it well,” Fears said. 

In the last three games, Bolden has scored three touchdowns and figured prominently in a fourth. Bolden had a rushing touchdown against Buffalo, caught a 29-yard score from Brady against the Redskins and ran one in against the Giants in short-yardage tonight. But he caused the blocked punt in the first half which resulted in a Chase Winovich touchdown. 

Bolden rushed in on a punt block and drove Nate Stupar backward where Riley Dixon’s punt went off Stupar’s head. The ball bounced backward where Thor scooped and scored. This was all because of Bolden’s work while out on the field. 

Daniel Jones Can Sling It: 

What? you say, are you kidding? And a look at Jones’ numbers would seem to play that out. How so when he completed only 15 of 31 for 161 yards which was only good for 5.2 yards per pass and three interceptions?  

Granted Jones’ numbers weren’t good, nor his passer rating of 35.2, but his depleted receiving core was blanketed all night long and he frequently had nowhere to go with the football. 

But several of his throws, including the touchdown to Tate and another pass to Tate on a third-down slant were delivered in very tight windows, quickly and accurately. If you look past the boxscore and rewatch the tape, Jones did as well as could be expected given the circumstances.

The Giants, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, would move Tate into the slot to take him away from Stephon Gilmore and have him battle Jonathan Jones. It was a good hard battle all night long.  

Jones had plenty of bad moments and plays to be sure, but he looks to be a good QB who was just placed in an unwinnable situation

Offense Needs Help But They Weren’t Quite As Bad As Believed:

  The Patriots struggled on offense for much of the night and had to claw and scratch for everything they got. The play of the offensive line continues to be suspect at times and they seem to be scuffling along in search of an identity. 

But at the end of the day, the generated 424 yards of offense and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which really tired out the Giants’ defense. 

Tom Brady struggled in the first half but ended up 31-41 for 334 yards. He scored on two short QB sneaks but threw a weird interception in the first half. While attempting a deep post to Julian Edelman, the ball was well behind Edelman where Janoris Jenkins picked it off. Was it miscommunication or the wind?  Edelman was outstanding with nine catches for 113 yards including a beautiful diving catch which set up Brady’s last TD dive. 

Sony Michel struggled for much of the night but ended up with 86 yards on 22 carries. The Patriots ground game, which struggled for much of the night ended up with 114 yards. But the offensive line and wide receivers need help. 

TE Ryan Izzo has really struggled with blocks to the edge which is supposed to be his strong suit. LaCosse can’t catch a break, or stay healthy, he’s hurt again. With the injuries to Dorsett and Gordon, an already hurting WR core was stretched mighty thin. Kudos to UDFA rookie wide receivers Meyers and Olszewski who both contributed in the passing game. Meyers had four catches for 54 yards including a nice 23-yarder where he high-pointed the ball and had the awareness to raise it over the defender to keep it from being knocked away. Olszewski chipped in with two catches for 34 yards. 

But within the next 10 days, they have some decisions to make. Even if Gordon and Dorsett are back, they should probably look at adding some help. One thing to keep in mind, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry can begin practicing on Wednesday and return in another two weeks from then. 

And with LaCosse hurt again, it may be time to explore bringing in another tight end. The offense is getting by for now but with the meat of their schedule upcoming with Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cleveland, Houston. and Kansas CIty yet to come, they need to get the offense figured out. 

_________

Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

Patriots Players To Watch, Week 6 Against the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 10, 2019 at 11:00 am ET

 

The Patriots are back home in Gillette Stadium to face the New York Giants. With the short week to prepare, the game plans for either team will probably be limited so it comes down to execution. Thursday night games tend to be sloppier than their Sunday counterparts, so limiting mistakes while trying to force some mistakes on your opponents are always a big key, even more so than on Sunday.

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as the Patriots try to improve to 6-0 on the season against the Giants. 

James White: 

The Patriots, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, will no doubt try to target the Giants linebackers in the passing game by putting them in coverage against the running backs. And their main weapon in that regard continues to be James White. 

White is fantastic out of the backfield and keeping the sticks moving and when the defense wants to drop back and play coverage, he has always been able to take advantage of his opportunities in the running game. 

We look for White to play a big role this week in the offensive game plan, facing a defense that has struggled to stop the run or the pass, White on the field is the kind of versatile chess piece which will keep the defense guessing.

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebackers are having a fantastic season. Dont’a Hightower has dubbed them “the Boogeymen” and Collins has fit the bill [no pun intended], as the top Boogeyman for opponents to face. Collins is having a fantastic second stint with the Patriots. He’s been disruptive, has done a great job of setting the edge, getting after the quarterback and dropping into coverage. 

Every week it seems that we’re singing the praises of one of the linebackers after a game. Two weeks ago it was Kyle Van Noy, who was the defensive player of the week. Last week it was Hightower who seemed to be everywhere in disrupting the Redskins offense. This week, it is Collins’ turn. 

With the Giants missing three of their top offensive chess pieces in this game, it will allow Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to give Collins more opportunities to disrupt the flow of the Giants offense. And we expect him to do just that. 

Julian Edelman:

Bill Belichick said this week that Edelman is “one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached.” Tom Brady took it one step farther heaping huge praise on the tough yet banged-up wide receiver. 

“He’s one of the best players in the history of the franchise,” Brady said in a radio interview on Monday. “When you think of some of the great receivers we’ve had, Julian is right up there at the top. So you’ve got to get him the ball, and he’s making a lot of yards with it in his hands. We put a lot on Julian. Julian’s a very smart player. Very tough. He’s mentally, physically tough. What he’s gone through the last few weeks with his injury and then still just laying it on the line — you see even on that catch-and-run there in the third quarter, him kind of diving over the pile. He’s an incredible player, an incredible teammate, and the more we get him the ball, the better it is for our offense.”

Edelman is questionable for this game as his chest/rib injury has been very painful, he’s been wincing every time he gets off the turf. But It would be folly to count him out of this nationally televised game. He knows how valuable he is to this offense. He’s the one matchup nightmare that the Giants will have a hard time covering tonight. 

Jonathan Jones:

Jones seems to be finally be getting his due as one of the outstanding slot corners in the NFL. The Patriots rewarded him with a 3-year extension this summer worth around $21 million dollars. Along with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, the Patriots have one of the deepest and most talented cornerback groups in the league.

Jones may see a lot of Golden Tate this week. With Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram out this week, Tate may be the go-to guy for Daniel Jones and the Giants passing game. And the G-men may move Tate in the slot to keep him away from Stephon Gilmore and give Tate more options to break on the ball. 

This promises to be a great matchup between the two. Tate is an accomplished veteran who has been in many big games. The moment will never be too much for him and as he stated this week, the Giants aren’t intimidated by the moment. 

Matt LaCosse: 

LaCosse was a bit more involved in the offense last week, he only caught a single pass for 22 yards and has only caught three passes on the season, but he’s been banged up and now that he’s healthy, the Patriots are hoping that he can be more productive in the passing game. He did show up nicely in the running game, and easily had his best game of the season in that regard. He made a key block in springing Sony Michel for his 14-yard touchdown run. That is the type of play the team needs consistently.

The focus on LaCosse and Ryan Izzo will be much closer now that the team has decided to release veteran Ben Watson. Watson was considered to be the main TE target once his suspension was over. Now he’s gone and there the focus will be on these two, TEs to get it done. Especially on LaCosse who is considered the better receiver of the two. 

We’ll see if Josh McDaniels tries to get LaCosse more involved in the passing game this week. With WR Phillip Dorsett out with a hamstring injury, it would be a prime opportunity for him to begin to carve out a role for himself.   

_________

Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

Patriots – Giants Week 6 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots return home on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The team has the opportunity to begin the season 6-0 and will have 11 days off before facing the Jets next week on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 10 at 8:20 p.m. and can be seen locally on WFXT Fox  25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (5-0) beat the Washington Redskins 33-7 with the defense getting six sacks and an interception while Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three TDs.

The Giants (2-3) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 28-10. Daniel Jones threw a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass but missed too many open receivers. The Giants run defense was gashed on the day to the tune of 211 yards.  

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Giants have met 29 times in the preseason including 15 years in a row. But they are meeting for just the 11th time in the regular season. The Patriots lead the overall series 6-4, but the G-men can lay claim to two Super Bowl victories over Brady, Belichick and the Patriots after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.  

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Giants Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game finally showed some signs of getting itself untracked against an albeit awful Redskins run defense which entered the game allowing 147.5 yards per game. Sony Michel churned out 91 yards, most of which in the second half as the run blocking got much better after halftime.

The Giants got chewed up last week and are allowing an average of 130 yards per game. The big men up front led by rookie Dexter Lawrence are playing well, but they were victimized by zone running plays that tested their speed and athleticism. They should get linebackers Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis back this week, which should help the run defense. 

With the quick week coupled with the travel, and the weather where it is expected to have heavy rains and winds over 20 mph, the Patriots may opt to further wear down a run defense that took a beating on Sunday. Look for plenty of Michel and Rex Burkhead, if he’s able to go tonight.           

Patriots WRs vs Giants Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game ended up having a very solid Sunday as Brady passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns after getting sacked three times in the first half. Julian Edelman was nearly uncoverable where Washington had no one that could stick with him. The running backs out of the backfield made big contributions with James White doing his normal solid work and Brandon Bolden hauling in a 29-yard touchdown. 

The Giants pass defense has been bad, allowing over 280 yards per game and allowing opposing QBs to post a 106.8 passer rating. Rewatching the tape of the Vikings game showed the play-action passing and crossing routes were giving them fits. However, the way to beat Brady and the Patriots offense is to bring pressure up the middle. That’s where Lawrence comes in. He has the ability to throw a monkey wrench into the Patriots plans. 

Look for the Patriots to utilize Edelman on those shallow crossers as he’ll take on Grant Haley in the slot. There will be no Phillip Dorsett, so Josh Gordon will be working against Janoris Jenkins. Look for the Patriots to run a lot of those two-back “Pony” sets with James White and Burkhead. Play action passing will be huge here to slow the pass rush and get the open man quickly.

Next up the Giants offense:

Giants RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Giants are missing the outstanding Saquon Barkley and his backup Wayne Gallman this week. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain and is week-to-week and Gallman suffered a concussion against the Vikings. Now they’ll go with former practice squadders Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Perry.  Perry is an intriguing player, tough physical, can carry the ball a bit and make the occasional catch. 

The Patriots front seven has been very good against the run. Last week, they had a single breakdown of a 65-yard jet sweep where the secondary missed tackles but other than that, they shut down the Redskins ground game. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been excellent at slowing things at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. Unlike previous years, the Patriots are doing a much better job of setting the edge with John Simon and Jamie Collins doing a tremendous job. 

The much anticipated matchup with Barkley won’t happen this time around and with the G-Men on their third and fourth options, I don’t see them running a consistent rushing attack against a unit allowing 78 yards per game. 

Giants WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Giants passing game has shown definite signs of life with Daniel Jones, who was impressive here in August for the fourth preseason game. But he’s missing his top WR in Sterling Shepard as well as his top tight end Evan Engram who are hurt. He still has the talented Golden Tate and Darius Slayton but will that be enough? 

The Patriots pass defense has been on an absolute roll this year. With a deep and talented secondary with 11 interceptions, an excellent group of linebackers and a pass rush that has already generated 24 sacks, they are playing outstanding football. They are tops in the league allowing just 160.4 yards per game through the air and just 6.8 points per game. Despite the short week, the Patriots defense will have a slightly easier time to prepare for the Giants passing offense as it bears many of the same looks as Washington’s. 

Jones has mobility but look for the Patriots to continue to be aggressive and attack the Giants offensive line while rolling their coverages to try to confuse the rookie QB. Jamie Collins may be a spy on Jones if he starts to hurt the defense with his legs. But with a depleted pass receiving core, this matchup should easily favor New England.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York

The Patriots Mike Nugent missed his first extra point attempt but then was perfect on his next three while hitting two chip shot field goals. Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding. While the return game has been hit or miss with rookie Gunner Olszewski. 

Meanwhile the Giants Aldrick Rosas hasn’t missed an extra point and has only one field goal miss although his long is only 36 yards. Punter Riley Dixon has been excellent and is averaging 47.5 yards per punt. Corey Ballentine has done a good job on kick returns, while Golden Tate and T.J. Jones handle punt returns. 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are playing on a short week, but get this one at home, which always helps on Thursday Night Football. The Giants are beat up physically and missing several key skill position players on offense. Their defense has been allowing over 400 yards and over 25 points per game.  

Bill Belichick has been kryptonite for rookie QBs when facing them for the first time and Tom Brady has an 11-1 record in Thursday games. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Center Stage – Look for the Patriots once again to try to establish the run against a team that is struggling to stop it. Sony Michel should see plenty of work along with Burkhead [if he is active], James White with some Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

Getting in good position on early downs will open up the entire offense. On the flip side, with no Barkley and Gallman, the Patriots should be able to shut down the run. 

Do a Better Job on Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled again on third down going just 5-15 last week in Washington. That stat has to improve. With a strong running game, it will open up play action especially in third and short situations. The running backs in the passing game along with Edelman will be third down keys. 

The Patriots defense has been outstanding on third down and held Washington to just 1-11 last week. They will look to continue that as well as limit big plays by the Giants offense. They should be able to stifle them from making the long ball-control type of drives, so the Giants may have to hit some big chunk plays to keep pace. 

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers – The Patriots have been crazy good at creating turnovers defensively with 11 interceptions and one fumble recovery. Look for them to try to keep creating a favorable field position for the offense. With a young, rookie QB, they may be able to bait him into making a mistake or two.

Brady has made two red-zone interceptions in the past two games, both of which were poor decisions. Those have to be cut out as well as maintaining good ball control on a night where the weather conditions are predicted to be bad. 

___________

This should be a game, [on paper] where the Patriots should roll easily. The Giants offense is missing their top two rushers and their top two pass receivers. Going against a defense that has been playing as well as New England’s while facing a rookie QB, it has the potential to get away from the away team quickly. That’s why they play the games. 

It will be interesting to see Josh McDaniels’ approach for the offense in this one. But with Sony Michel and the running backs in the passing game, along with Edelman and Gordon, Brady should have plenty of targets to go after a suspect Giants defense. Patriots 27-6

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads to New Jersey and a Monday Night Football matchup with the New York Jets next week. 

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 I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis