Category Archives: Patriots News

New England Patriots News 1-19, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 19, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-19 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the latest winter storm rolling through the area, it is a good time to relax and stay home and watch some playoff football, unfortunately, the Patriots aren’t involved in the conference championships for the first time in many years. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – It turns out, he didn’t move to Greenwich, and didn’t buy a house there, but wait, he’s moving as soon as his kids finish school now? Ugh, the next almost 60 days are going to be unbearable with this stuff. 

Stephon Gilmore – Congrats to the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Gilmore was outstanding all season long and was very much deserving of the honor. 

Ben Watson – One of the nicest guys to play the game announced that he played all season on a partially torn Achilles. Unbelievable toughness there. But it does beg the question…Are the Patriots going to get in trouble by not listing Watson on the injury report? We know other teams have seemingly fudged on it as well… but, this is NE.

Luke Keuchly – The excellent Panthers and BC linebacker announced his retirement at age 29. He along with Rob Gronkowski, Andrew Luck, and others are finishing their careers before they reach the age of 30. But premature retirement as some say? Keuchly’s eight-year stint is twice as long as the average player. But he’ll be missed. 

Jimmy Johnson – The former coach had a very emotional moment on the Fox broadcast when he was announced as being selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And then when they cut to Green Bay where Troy Aikman, who played for Johnson in Dallas was clearly moved by the news, it was an incredibly moving moment. Well deserved coach.

CBA – Don’t expect much movement on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players Association and the Owners anytime soon. 

The league sent out a letter to all 32 teams stating that “[a] number of important issues remain to be resolved and we remain committed to the bargaining positions reviewed with you at the December meeting.”

Tre Roberson – The Patriots have brought in yet another ex-QB for a workout. Roberson was on the Vikings PS as a cornerback but has played in the CFL for the past two seasons. With Calgary in 2018, he won the Grey Cup and had 3 INTs. Last season he had seven INTs and returned a fumble 93-yards for a TD.  

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Curious Timing With AH Docuseries or Coincidence:

I haven’t watched the Aaron Hernandez docuseries on Netflix yet, but judging from the reactions I’ve seen on social media, it has inflamed many of the same reactions it did when the news first broke about him being arrested for the murder of his friend, Odin Lloyd. Some were still outraged at him throwing away a promising career while others still have sympathy for him, mainly because of who he played for. 

I just find the timing of the release of this series a bit suspect. If the Patriots had won their last regular-season game, they’d have been playing the Chiefs at home last week, and this week could have been hosting the AFC Championship (a lot of ifs…to be sure). But don’t for a second think that that exact scenario didn’t enter the minds of the folks in charge of Netflix. It seems like every year, there pops up something in the middle of a playoff run…sorry folks. Your miniseries isn’t going to get near the attention it would have gotten if Brady and Co. were playing today. 

Belichick’s Staff Has Been Raided A Lot:  

Last week we wrote: “With every passing year, it always seems that Bill Belichick’s coaching staff is getting picked through as many of his coaches, move up and move on. The latest was STs Coordinator/WR coach Joe Judge.” 

We read a great bit from a good friend on Twitter @Patriots7thRing who posted that in the 20 years that Bill Belichick has been the Patriots coach, he’s had 54 assistants get poached from other teams in that timeframe. That’s nearly three per year. 

So the next time someone says that the only reason the Patriots win is that they cheat, then ask why the rest of the league is so anxious to hire his staff. This year, they lost ST’s Coordinator Joe Judge, while OC coordinator Josh McDaniels and Head of College Scouting Monti Ossenfort interviewed for open GM positions with the Cleveland Browns. 

 Speaking of Judge, he’s off to a good start. He retained excellent STs coach Thomas McGaughey and then he hired former Patriots assistant and Dolphins DC Patrick Graham to run the defense. On Friday, they signed former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator. Say what you will about Garrett as a head coach. But he’s a very good coordinator and it will be interesting to see what he can with Daniel Jones.

Some Interesting Free Agents to Help the Passing Game:

The Patriots need some playmakers to help the passing game in 2020. Especially at tight end. The team needs an influx of playmakers to stretch the seams and attack the middle of the field. At wide receiver, they can really use a speedy wide receiver that can turn a 5-yard slant into a 55-yard touchdown. 

Here’s a look at some of the free-agent tight ends that will be available in March. I’d expect that the team may look at both free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft to restock the position. However, we thought that last year, so this is just spit-balling at this point. But the lack of production in 2019, pretty much concludes that something has to be done at the position. 

Austin Hooper – 2019 with the Falcons. Hooper is only 25 years old and had a really good year in Atlanta. He had 75 catches for 787 yards with 6 TDs. Hooper is more of a “move” tight end than a traditional in-line tight end. He isn’t a great blocker but for production, he’d be a great fit. Whether Atlanta lets him walk is another story.

Hunter Henry – 2019 with the Chargers. Henry is just 25 as well, he’s 6’6 and had 55 catches for 652 yards with 5 TDs. Again, he’s more of a receiving threat than a traditional blocking TE, but he’d be a great fit in the offense. 

Eric Ebron – 2019 with the Colts. Ebron had modest numbers this year, 31 catches, 375 yards with 3 TDs. But in 2018, he had 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 TDs. GM Chris Ballard made it clear that Indy was probably moving on, believing that the TE had regressed. Would it possible for the Patriots to make another run at O.J. Howard? Maybe, but they’ll have to convince Tampa Bay to let him go. 

Just a couple of wide receivers to look at right now, I’m sure they’ll have plenty of other targets at wideout. Several people are saying that the team will target A.J. Green in free agency, maybe, but I don’t think they’ll be interested…we’ll see. 

Robby Anderson – 2019 with the Jets. Anderson had 52 catches for 779 yards and 5 TDs in 2019. He’s just 26 and has that speed that the Patriots wide receivers lack. And he has the ability to put it to use. 

Emmanuel Sanders – 2019 with Broncos/49ers. Sanders is a player that the Patriots have coveted for some time. They tried to sign him a few years ago but the Steelers matched their offer. Although he’s 32, he’s still very productive. He had a combined 66 catches for 869 yards and 5 TDs this year. As a fit, absolutely. How much will it cost? That may be a show stopper. But definitely worth kicking the tires on. 

NFL Schedule Conference Championship Weekend, 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. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/
Final Regular Season:162-93-1
Divisional  Weekend: 3-1

Conference Championship Round –

San Francisco over Green Bay – Aaron Rodgers hasn’t fared well on the road in general and especially against good teams. Facing teams at least six games over .500 on the road, he’s 0-7. Facing the #1 defense on the road…he’s 0-4. The Niners running game and their TE George Kittle should be the difference as well as their defense here.

Kansas City over Tennessee – This should be a very interesting matchup. The Titans won an earlier matchup 35-32 in Nashville when Derrick Henry rumbled for 188 yards. But Patrick Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs are at home and should present a tough matchup for the Titans defense. I believe Henry will keep the game close, and maybe close enough to win, but at home, I like the Chiefs to advance to Miami.

No AFC East Notes this week, we’ll have those back next week after the Conference Championships.

________________

“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.

 

New England Patriots News 01-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 12, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-12 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots out of the playoffs, it is strange without a football game to play in the divisional round. It is a reminder to how blessed we’ve been around here since Belichick and Brady took over the playoff landscape in 2001. 

There are a lot of variables in play this year and the 2020 team may look quite different. But don’t be throwing dirt on this team just yet. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB (and yes…he still is until we hear different) addressed his Instagram post from earlier this week on the Westwood One radio show with Jim Gray. Brady spoke about his comment that he still has a lot to prove in this league. 

 “Well, it’s always been proving it to myself. and being motivated internally to push myself to the limits,” Brady said. 

“And sometimes the limits push back, I’ve experienced that, but I also think I’m inspired by so many people who push the limits. You know, I watch a lot of movies, I love watching documentaries of incredible human feats, and they’re inspiring when people climb these mountains and do things… things people never thought were possible,” he added. 

“And I’m at a certain point in my career where people think what I’m doing is, to a degree, impossible. For me, it’s about continuing to prove to myself that I can lay it all on the line and we can still try to achieve the ultimate goal, which is winning Super Bowls.”

Brady added a quote about his contract status with Gray, stating, “The contract things, a week after the season, I would say these things haven’t even started to pick up. It’s really not my concern at this point,” he said.

Andy Dalton – Really? Bart Scott started this Dalton to NE narrative, with no real basis but then a few others in print and on the air…say “it is a fit” For whom? And now it is being reported as a possibility. Yeah right, and Bill may hire me as a coach on the special teams too. 

Julian Edelman – The Patriots WR needs surgery on both his shoulder and knee but we thought that a while ago. But Edelman is (not surprisingly), the Patriots 2019 recipient of the 2019 Ed Block Courage Award. The honor is bestowed annually upon a player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. Watching him play through those injuries this year, that honor is no surprise… Well deserved.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Joe Judge Takes Over the Giants: 

With every passing year, it always seems that Bill Belichick’s coaching staff is getting picked through as many of his coaches, move up and move on. The latest was STs Coordinator/WR coach Joe Judge. 

When we heard he was being interviewed for the Giants’ open head coaching position, we put him pretty low on the possibility chart of getting the nod. We were wrong. Judge dazzled the Giants owner John Mara during the interview and got the job. Having worked for both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, Judge got to learn from some of the best. 

But while he takes some of the same philosophies from his mentors, he is definitely his own man. Anyone who watched him in the spring/summer workouts would see that. And in his introductory press conference, despite what some hot takez bobos have said, he nailed it. 

“I want teachers, not presenters,” Judge said of his coaching staff. “I don’t want someone who looks fancy in front of the screen that can say it with a lot of different sales lines. I want teachers, I want old school people who can get to our players and give them the mental image of what it’s supposed to look like. I want them to demonstrate on a daily basis the work ethic of what it’s going to take to do it successfully day in and day out.”

Judge has his work cut out for him and although he retained his excellent STs coordinator Thomas McGaughey, he still needs an offensive coordinator that can work with young QB Daniel Jones and a defensive coordinator that will be aggressive. They’ve asked to speak with Dolphins’ DC Patrick Graham. But he’s off to a good start. 

McDaniels Spends Seven Hours Interviewing for Browns Job:

The Cleveland Browns vacant head coaching position is still open as of Saturday evening… but perhaps the Browns saved the best for last. Josh McDaniels was the last candidate to interview and he and his wife spent seven hours at the Browns HQs. 

The other candidates are Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski, Bills OC Brian Daboll, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Eagles DC Jim Schwartz. Cleveland is clearly taking their time and doing their due diligence and are willing to take their time. 

Whoever does get the job will have to work the analytics team of Paul DePodesta closely. They’ll have a say in coaching and personnel decisions. McDaniels is from the area and would no doubt try to bring some more New England people with him. One name being thrown about is Director of Pro Player Personnel Dave Ziegler who may become a candidate for the vacant GM job. 

McDaniels was a huge fan of Baker Mayfield when he came out in the NFL Draft and visited with him three days before the draft while urging the Patriots to move up and take the QB. It will be intriguing to see if McDaniels gets the job, who the next Offensive Coordinator of the Patriots will be. The Browns are expected to make their decision within the next few days. 

NFL Schedule Divisional Weekend, 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. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week:8-8
Final Regular Season:162-93-1
Wild Card Weekend: 1-3

Divisional Round –
Saturday – San Francisco over Minnesota
Baltimore over Tennessee
Sunday –  Kansas City over Houston
Green Bay over Seattle

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Daboll A Browns Coaching Candidate:

The Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll is one of the candidates for the vacant Cleveland Browns head coaching position. While Buffalo’s offense remains very much a work in progress, it is easy to see how Daboll is changing the offense from the awful unit that it was a few years ago to one that is definitely on the upswing.

Daboll’s good work begins with QB Josh Allen, who made big strides in Year 2 and is trending upward. Buffalo’s offense still has a long way to go, but if they lose Daboll, it may set them back. 

Also on the Browns’ radar is assistant GM Joe Schoen who is one of the candidates for Cleveland’s vacant GM position.  

Dolphins DC Graham May Be the Giants Choice for DC:

The Miami Dolphins were rebuilding in 2019 but finished strong going 5-4 down the stretch. But now the New York Giants have requested to speak to Miami’s DC Patrick Graham. The Giants new coach Joe Judge would like to add Graham to his staff as the Defensive Coordinator, a lateral transfer. 

Graham coached with the Giants in 2016-17. Miami has already fired OC Chad O’Shea and if they lose Graham, they will be putting a lot of pressure on Head Coach Brian Flores to rebuild his team and start from scratch with his coordinators. 

With Flores trying to build a winning culture into the program, losing both coordinators after just one season would not be the best scenario for Flores. 

Jets Darnold Has Thumb Surgery:

The New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was banged up physically in his sophomore season, and he had some needed surgery to repair the damage the toll of the 2019 season did to him. 

Darnold underwent a surgical procedure Tuesday to repair a ligament in his left thumb. The surgery was performed by the Jets team doctors, and he should be ready to go when the Jets begin their offseason workouts.

Darnold had to deal with this thumb injury for the final two months of the season. He originally injured it in a loss to the Jaguars on Oct. 27. However, he played through it and wore a brace under a glove on his left, non-throwing hand.

________________

Honestly, look, I know it’s out there, just like there’s a lot of other things out there. We could bring up 50 questions just like that one, and I told you what my state is on that. You can ask all 50 of them and it’s going to be the same answer 50 times, Ben. We’ve been working on Tennessee, it’s 12 hours after the game, not going to talk a lot of things about the future because it’s not – I’m not prepared to talk about it.” Bill Belichick on if he’d like to have some clarity on Tom Brady’s situation. 

________________

“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.

PHOTOS: Benjamin Watson Hints At Second Retirement From The NFL

Robert Alvarez
January 8, 2020 at 10:39 am ET

New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson hasn’t formally announced his retirement from the NFL yet, but his latest Instagram post may reflect the direction he’s leaning.

Watson said the following in an emotional photo caption;

“Saturday’s game was tough for a number of reasons. This season, this calendar year, had many expected and unexpected challenges professionally and personally. The emotional investment rivals the physical in this sport, and after months of competition, adversity, and perseverance the bonds between brothers run deep and expectations remain high as we pursued the coveted return. Through it all I’m thankful for another season to play this great game. It has been a joy to share the locker room with these men and truly special to reunite with so many familiar faces. I wish it would have ended in Miami. There’s nothing I wanted more for my family and myself especially at this point in my career. Life is about perspective and disappointment has a special way of challenging that conviction. Thank you for supporting my family and this team this year. We could feel the love. We are truly blessed. Best of luck to Tennessee and the other teams still in the race. #Sweet16″

View this post on Instagram

Saturday’s game was tough for a number of reasons. This season, this calendar year, had many expected and unexpected challenges professionally and personally. The emotional investment rivals the physical in this sport, and after months of competition, adversity, and perseverance the bonds between brothers run deep and expectations remain high as we pursued the coveted return. Through it all I’m thankful for another season to play this great game. It has been a joy to share the locker room with these men and truly special to reunite with so many familiar faces. I wish it would have ended in Miami. There’s nothing I wanted more for my family and myself especially at this point in my career. Life is about perspective and disappointment has a special way of challenging that conviction. Thank you for supporting my family and this team this year. We could feel the love. We are truly blessed. Best of luck to Tennessee and the other teams still in the race. #Sweet16

A post shared by benjaminswatson (@benjaminswatson) on

Watson’s first and potentially final quarterback Tom Brady left a comment of support on the post that read “Love you! There is no better man, teammate or friend to have in this world then you!!!”

Brady was Watson’s first NFLquarterback from 2004-2009, earning his only ring with him in 2004 before his return to Foxboro this year.

Watson finished the 2019 season with 17 catches for 173 yards in ten games.

Following Sunday’s loss, Watson dropped additional retirement hints.

“I love playing this game, but there is a time when you definitely have to move on. Definitely won’t be back here next year probably and probably won’t be playing at all.”

“You know, it’s something that I’ve tried to do before and it didn’t work, but there’s only so much your body can take and so much you can put your family through before you want to settle down and have some roots and figure out what the next chapter of your life is going to be.’’

PHOTOS: Jason McCourty Reflects On Playing With His Brother

Robert Alvarez
at 10:30 am ET

For the past two seasons, cornerback Jason McCourty has lived out part of his NFL dream playing alongside his twin brother Devin.

In 2018, the brothers made NFL history becoming the first set of twins to win a Super Bowl together.

Jason made a pivotal end zone pass break up to Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, preventing a late touchdown.

On Instagram this week, Jason reflected back on their two years playing together as Devin enters free agency.

Devin, expects to play in 2020, but whether or not he returns to Foxboro remains to be seen.

“I definitely see me playing football next year,” McCourty said after the Wild Card loss to the Titans.

“I’ve had a lot of fun this year with this group of guys. Each year, we get young guys in here, get to stay in the locker room, mold (these) guys, tell them stories of my past 10 years and how much fun I’ve had,” McCourty said.

“So, I can’t see it happening, me not playing football next year. So, I think over time, I’ll take some time away from football and I think the rest will kind of work itself out. We’ll see how that goes, but I definitely plan to be playing.”

Quarterback Tom Brady later voiced his appreciation for the twins with a comment on Jason’s posting.

“The best!!!! Thank you both for being who you are EVERY day!!!”, Brady wrote.

Patriots Free Agents Will Demand Several Important Decisions

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm ET

A look at the Patriots impending free agents shows that the team will be forced to make several very important decisions moving forward. There are several key players, especially on the defense that will require the team to decide whether to bring back those players or not once the new league year begins in March. 

The biggest question the Patriots have right now is are they all-in for another big push for a 7th Super Bowl, or is this a rebuilding year, where they break it down and start anew. Much of that answer will have to do with the first name on the list.

If he returns then it would most certainly mean that they’re planning on retooling for another run. The team has already lost STs/WR coach Joe Judge who is the new head coach of the New York Giants. That is the first big domino to fall.

First, here is a look at the Patriots free agents in 2020: 

Tom Brady
Devin McCourty
Kyle Van Noy
Matthew Slater
Phillip Dorsett
Nate Ebner
Jamie Collins
Danny Shelton
Nick Folk
Marshall Newhouse
Joe Thuney
Ben Watson
Shilique Calhoun
James Ferentz
Ted Karras
Elandon Roberts

Three players will be restricted free agents:
Keionta Davis
Jermaine Eluemunor
Adam Butler

Obviously, a lot hinges on Brady’s status. Are the Patriots going to bring him back for one more year? From a monetary standpoint, it would be beneficial to do so, if Brady leaves, the Patriots are on the hook for $13.5 million. Can the two sides work out fair compensation for both parties, but still allow them to retool and add enough weapons? 

This is the big one. Because if Brady returns (and we think he will), then they may feel they only lack a player or two to make another run. While they start the new year with seemingly plenty of cap space, a new Brady contract will eat a lot of that up. If they decide to move on from Brady, does this mean Jarrett Stidham is the man? And if so, does the offense change too? Interesting times ahead.

So who goes? I think that Kyle Van Noy will command a lot of cash in free agency and has earned his payday, with 6.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and a team-leading 58 QB pressures. No one else had more than 33. I think he’s gone. 

Joe Thuney will be one of the most sought-after guards in free agency.  He earned 2nd team All-Pro and has never missed a game…he’s gone too as he’ll get a big payday.

Jamie Collins came back to NE on a one-year prove-it type deal and he had an outstanding start to the season. While he finished quietly, what he showed early this season should earn him a healthy payday. His type of athleticism can’t be taught. 

Phillip Dorsett is a popular guy in the locker room, but after a very nice start to the season, he disappeared down the stretch with three catches in the final five games of the season and had only 29 catches on the year. I’d be surprised if he comes back.

Ben Watson came out of retirement to play for the Patriots one more time this season. He was released early but brought back and handled it the way he always has, with class. One of the nicest people to play the game, he had a disappointing season but still led all NE tight ends in receptions. He is likely to retire again, judging from his postgame comments. 

One of the toughest calls to make will be with Devin McCourty, a team leader on and off the field, McCourty had arguably his best season with the Patriots in 2019. His age and the amount of money it will take to bring him back will make it a difficult proposition. It may get compounded by if the team decides to cut ties with his brother Jason. I think they’ll try to work out a deal with him to stay for one more year. But if one of his former coaches wows him with a big-money deal, who knows?

Danny Shelton went from a healthy scratch late in the 2018 season to one of the team’s most important defensive linemen. He and Lawrence Guy were outstanding this season in the interior as run stuffers. 

Matthew Slater is a borderline Hall of Famer for Special Teams, a team captain and a huge veteran presence in the locker room. Any signs of aging in this 12th season at age 34? Not a bit. He was a 1st team All-Pro this year. It would be a huge surprise not to see Slater back in 2020. 

Elandon Roberts’ snaps went to a career-low defensively this season but if anything he’s improved his stock with the team. With James Develin and Jakob Johnson on IR, Roberts stepped up and played fullback and did a very commendable job. Belichick loves versatile guys who put the team first. 

Nate Ebner is a Belichick guy, a tough as nails STs guy, one of the better STs guys in the league… Will he back? Belichick wore his rugby jersey at joint TC practice with the Saints a few years ago…any questions?

Nick Folk stepped in (twice) for the Patriots this year with Stephen Gostkowski on IR and played pretty well. The only FG he missed was blocked. Gostkowski’s status may have a play in this, but the feeling is here, they’ll move on but keep his number just in case.

Marshall Newhouse started nine games this season, eight at LT for Isaiah Wynn, one for Marcus Cannon at RT. He’s played for seven teams in his career and is now 31. We’ll have to see how the Patriots feel about the return of Yodny Cajuste but the feeling here is they’ll let Newhouse walk. 

Ted Karras filled in for David Andrews all year at center, when the veteran suffered from blood clots in his lungs. Can Andrews even return to football this year? I think Karras returns and will battle for a guard spot if Thuney leaves and Andrews returns or is the team’s center if he doesn’t. James Ferentz is a backup interior lineman and won’t break the bank to get to return. He did make two starts this year inside. It will be interesting to see how Hjalte Froholdt works out. 

Shalique Calhoun is a situational pass rusher and he played in 15 games this year, at times pretty well. If the money’s right, he’ll be back. Ditto for Keionta Davis who spent the entire season on IR.

Adam Butler should be brought back. He notched six sacks, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss and five passes knocked down as an interior situational pass rusher. Great depth guy who can step up when needed. 

Jermaine Eluemunor is an interior OL who the Patriots traded a 4th round draft pick for this summer. He only played a handful of snaps this year and was a healthy scratch for most of the season. It shouldn’t break the bank for him as well. 

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.

Despite Patriots Loss, End of Dynasty Talk Can Wait For Some Other Day

Bob George
January 6, 2020 at 10:29 am ET

End of an era?  Save that for March when some famous quarterback’s contract expires.

It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s over.  No more football in New England until this summer.  The 2019 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, as former Patriot Mike Vrabel led his Tennessee Titans to a hard fought 20-13 win over the former Super Bowl Champion Patriots, sending his charges to Baltimore to take on the top-seeded Ravens next weekend.  Derrick Henry rushed for 182 yards last night, but the Titans’ defense may give up 282 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson next week.  That’s Tennessee’s problem, not New England’s.

What is their problem is what to do moving forward.  This team turned out to be one of the worst 12-4 teams in recent NFL history.  This season was clearly mischaracterized by the ridiculously easy early first half of the season, where the Patriots went 8-0 and beat teams that woebegone UMass might have given a good game.  Once the good teams started lining up on the opposite side of the ball, things began to change.  The last two games, home losses to Miami and Tennessee, revealed to the pro football world what the 2019 Patriots really were.  Key injuries, key retirements, and a general misjudging of the talent on this team all combined to lead to their early playoff exit, something not seen around these parts in exactly a decade when Baltimore came into Gillette Stadium and blew out the Patriots, 33-14 in the last Wild Card round game this team has played until last night.

That said, here are the five main reasons why the team crashed and burned and saw their Super Bowl championship come to an end last night.

#5 – Offensive line needed more than just Coach Scar

 This was a bad year for the offensive line, period.  David Andrews was lost in training camp for the season due to blood clots in his lungs (more on him later), which got things off to a bad start.  But basically, this unit never jelled at all.  For much of the season, the line started guys like Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse and Jermaine Eluemunor.  Starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon missed significant playing time.  Wynn came back for the Dallas game, but the team went only 3-4 after he came back.   Cannon had a substandard season at right tackle when he did play.  Karras is simply no Andrews, and Newhouse and Eluemunor were stopgap fill-ins, nothing more.  Except for a few nice runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead here and there, this line had a bad year.  Tom Brady’s pass blocking protection this year was mostly non-existent (his season passer rating of 88 was his lowest since 2013).  If Brady either retires or winds up leaving the Patriots, one has to wonder if the bad performance of the offensive line will be a major factor.

#4 – A vastly overrated defense, totally exposed in the end

 They were being held up there with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers as one of the best one-season defenses in NFL history.  They were 8-0, and fantasy owners who had the Patriot defense (Yours Truly included) enjoyed astonishingly high numbers.  Then along came Lamar Jackson and everything changed.

Granted, Jackson has made a lot of defenses look like a combination of matadors, young guys suddenly looking old as dirt, and befuddled dopes who would have problems stopping a high school option offense.  But the Patriots always seemed to have an answer for everything.  They were powerless to stop Jackson, but that soon begat getting shredded at home by Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and bludgeoned by Mark Ingram, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry.  They could not stop a final scoring drive at home from Miami with a first-round bye on the line.  All-Pro Stephon Gilmore suddenly looked like 1997 top draft pick Chris Canty when trying to cover Devante Parker in that hideous regular season finale.

Explaining the offensive line was easy.  Explaining the collapse of the defense isn’t.  Granted, the unit played okay Saturday night and allowed only 13 points, but stopping Ryan Tannehill (previously 0-6 lifetime against the Patriots) is like Dietrich Wise or Adam Butler trying to stop a six-year old kid from entering a candy store.  Henry won the game for Tennessee Saturday night, not Tannehill, and they even allowed some Harvard grad named Anthony Firkser to catch a touchdown and make a key third down catch late in the game.  There was no clutch in this group down the stretch, and all the big plays that are usually made were not made this year.

Wow.  First Fitzpatrick, and now Firkser.  Let’s send some more Patriot scouts to Cambridge from now on.

#3 – Brady cannot totally blame his receivers for lack of chemistry

 Late in his career, the Celtics allowed the late, great John Havlicek to report to training camp late.  He simply needed more rest at his advancing age.  Problem is, the last two Celtics teams he played on were knocked out of the playoffs by Philadelphia, and failed to make the playoffs in his final season.  Was Havlicek reporting late the reason why?  Certainly not, as the front office made one bad trade after another and by 1978, the team was so bad that perhaps Red Auerbach could be forgiven if he yelled “Russell is not coming through that door!  Neither is Heinsohn, Cousy, or anyone named Jones!”

For the last two offseasons, Brady has missed all of the voluntary OTAs.  He is spending more time with his wife Gisselle and his children, consorting with his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, and working with his personal quarterback coach, former Red Sox lefty reliever Tom House (whose only other claim to fame is catching Hank Aaron’s 715th career home run in 1974 in the Atlanta Braves bullpen).  At Brady’s age, you have to figure that he’s earned it.  He’s the GOAT, and he doesn’t need all this voluntary offseason stuff that the younger, more mortal players need.

But as the Ghost of Christmas Past told Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol (this is the version that stars George C. Scott as the Humbug Homey), “You have shown me what you have gained!  Now I will show you what you have lost!”

Brady gains valuable family time, and is totally comfortable with Guerrero and House, as most of us all know (especially if you watched that Facebook feature Tom Vs Time two years ago).  But his not attending the OTAs meant that he didn’t get a chance to build a rapport with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski and Matt La Cosse.  In past years, this was why a Wes Welker could be cast aside and a Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman could be groomed to take his place.  By not attending the OTAs, Brady never got that time in.

As a result, in most of the games played, all defenses had to do was account for Edelman and James White, and that was that.  Brady was never on the same page with anyone other than those two veterans.  You can’t count Antonio Brown in this discussion, as he was only here for one week.  But his choosing to spend time away from Foxborough in the offseason did have some repercussions.

#2 – Injuries to Andrews and Develin were not overcome

 Andrews, as previously stated, had blood clots in his lungs and was declared out for the season in training camp.  That left all his responsibilities to Karras, and the dropoff was noticeable.  The center does a lot more than snap the ball.  He calls out blocking assignments and sets the line for the next play.  Of course, he also has to be a good blocker.  In both areas, Karras simply did not account for the loss of Andrews.  Dante Scarnecchia had plenty of time to develop either Karras or some other player to at least hold down the fort in Andrews’ absence.

Develin’s injury may have been even more damaging.  His lead blocking for Michel and Burkhead might be seen by some as overlooked, but not by those who really know the game.  Linebacker Elandon Roberts turned out to be the replacement for Develin as Jakob Johnson also went down with an injury.  Roberts was much like Karras in that he did okay but was clearly no Develin.  Roberts was called upon to try and convert a third and one on Saturday night but was stuffed for no gain.  He did crack off some nice lead blocks, but the failed first and goal at the one exposed the absence of Develin at a time where a touchdown was badly needed but a field goal was all they got.

#1 – Gronkowski was never replaced, even slightly

 Rob Gronkowski retired last March, and kept true to his word.  Several experts predicted he would come back around November, but he never did.  He is still trying to become a comedian on the Fox pregame show rather than trying to surprise Patriot Nation with a late return to the Patriot lineup.  He is done with football.  Period.

The Patriots did not draft a tight end.  All the Patriots did was to bring in La Cosse and ancient former Patriot Ben Watson, who had to be talked into coming out of retirement.  Even Jacob Hollister was cast adrift, now catching tosses from Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks.

Brady missed Gronk big time.  Yes, the Patriots did win Super Bowl LI with that biblical comeback without Gronk in the lineup.  But over an entire season, the Patriots had no Martellus Bennett this year.  Without Gronkowski or Bennett to worry about, defenses double teamed Edelman with no qualms or trepidations.  They didn’t worry about Dorsett, Harry or Meyers.  This all combined to throw Brady off kilter and reduce the Patriot passing attack to something merely mortal.

Patriot Nation certainly knew what it had with Gronkowski.  Sometimes Bill Belichick can get away with personnel magic, but he couldn’t this time.  Both Brady and Gronkowski made it to the NFL Network’s Top 100 list at their respective positions (as did Belichick).  It could be that Belichick didn’t restock on tight end because perhaps he thought Gronk would come back in November.  Didn’t happen.

Add it all up, and it’s someone else’s turn this year.  Any talk about the end of the dynasty can wait for some other day.

Best Of Social Media: The Patriots Ring In The New Year

Robert Alvarez
January 3, 2020 at 10:43 am ET

With the 2019 calendar year in the rear view mirror, the New England Patriots were on to 2020 over social media this week for New Years Day.

Check out some of the best social media postings shared by the team as they look ahead to the “new season” of playoff football that begins this Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans.

View this post on Instagram

2020, and still here. #LFG

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

View this post on Instagram

New year, new season…

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

View this post on Instagram

All positive vibes in 2020 🙏🏾

A post shared by James White (@sweetfeet) on

View this post on Instagram

2020! God Got it.

A post shared by Ja’Whaun Bentley (@warriormentality) on

As an added bonus, Rob Gronkowski continues to live his best life in retirement, Lego Steve never had a chance in 2020.

Richard Seymour Named Pro Football Hall Of Fame Finalist For Second Time

Robert Alvarez
at 10:43 am ET

For the second consecutive season, former New England Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour has been named one of the 15 Modern-Era Player Finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

On the eve of Super Bowl LIV in Miami next month, the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee with choose and announce five of the 15 finalists for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

During his eight seasons in New England, Seymour was a key contributor on the Patriots first three Super Bowl championship teams, and earned five consecutive Pro Bowl selections with the franchise.

Seymour was traded to the Oakland Raiders following the 2009 preseason where he would go on to earn two more Pro Bowl honors and finish his career.

In 2010, Seymour was named apart of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s and is a member of both the Patriots 50th Anniversary and All-2000s Teams.

Patriots-Titans Wild Card Game, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:35 am ET

The Patriots are at home against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card game of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. The Patriots (12-4) are the #3 seed while the Titans (9-7) are the #6 seed in the AFC. 

The Patriots have been outstanding at home in the playoffs and have won a playoff game for an NFL record eight years in a row. 

The Patriots were five and a half minutes away from a bye week if they held on to beat the Dolphins last week but that loss knocked them into the Wild Card weekend. Tennessee has been very good since installing Ryan Tannehill in at quarterback. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have scored at least 20 points in their last seven. 

However, he will be making his first postseason start while Tom Brady will be making his 41st career start in the postseason. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson 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.  

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 Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots running game has taken off in the past three games against Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Miami giving them something to build off of. For much of the season, they were stuck in neutral due to injuries and subpar play along the offensive line. But that part of the equation has ratcheted up and the backs, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead have looked much better and more explosive lately. 

The Titans are solid against the run coming in at #12 in yards against and #7 in yards per carry. They have the big guys upfront DaQuan Jones in the middle, with Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey on the ends in their 3-4. 

The Patriots need to establish the run early to get their passing game going and I expect Michel, Burkhead, and James White will get plenty of work. But I also expect former Patriots coaches Mike Vrable and DC Dean Pees to take a page out of Miami’s book and cheat the linebackers up and run blitz to disrupt the running game and dare the Patriots to beat them in the middle of the field with the tight ends.         

Patriots WRs vs Titans Secondary – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots passing game has had issues most of the season and while people will talk about Tom Brady’s decline, after Julian Edelman (100 catches) the next wide receiver in production of Phillip Dorsett with 29 catches. The tight ends have been disappointing in their production as well. Brady has had to rely on the consistent but banged up Edelman and James White (72 receptions) out of the backfield. 

The Titans pass defense isn’t great and finished at #24 in the league allowing 255 yards per game. With corners Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, safeties Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro they have a good group but they miss former Patriot Malcolm Butler who is on IR. 

The Patriots need everyone to step up this week and that includes the tight ends, who have to occupy the middle of the field. Tennessee has 43 sacks on the year, which is led by Harold Landry with nine. They can get after the QB and we’d expect some blitz action on third downs as Pees will mix things up. Protection for Brady, like always is key here. 

Next up the Titans offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton has continued to play outstanding football and have been excellent at slowing or stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to make plays. 

Tennessee has Derrick Henry who led the NFL with 1540 yards, an average of 5.0 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a big reason they were so successful down the stretch. Dion Lewis is their #2 back who can run or catch out of the backfield. QB Ryan Tannehill is very mobile and can run as well.

A big key for the Patriots is not only to slow Henry at the point of attack but setting the edge here as well. If Henry gets to the edge, bad things will happen for the Patriots defense. The defense has had some issues with big backs this season, Frank Gore, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon have all given them problems. On a short week with several players less than 100 percent, this could be problematic.  

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

The Tennessee passing attack has thrived under Ryan Tannehill who has played outstanding since taking over and getting out of Miami for a fresh start. Tannehill easily had the most impressive season in his career, completing 70 percent of his passes with a QB rating of 117.5 since taking over. He threw 22 TDs and just six INTs. 

Tannehill has several good weapons at his disposal. Rookie WR A.J. Brown, Corey Davis (who roasted the Patriots for 125 yards last season) and two good tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Andrew Firkser with Dion Lewis out of the backfield. 

The Patriots pass defense (until last week) was outstanding all season allowing just 180 yards per game It will be interesting to see if the Patriots decide to use Gilmore on Brown or Davis. With both Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones hobbling with groin injuries it cuts down on their depth. Tannehill won’t have slot WR Adam Humphries who is out with an injury. 

The pass rush, so dominant earlier this season has to ratchet it up now. The Patriots had 47 sacks but in the past few games, they’re just not getting home, just missing with the sacks. The Titans allowed a whopping 56 this season, and this is an area that the Patriots have to exploit or it could be a long night for the defense. Look for a similar gameplan like Kansas City where the Patriots try to keep everything in front of them.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams have been a big bright spot with four blocked punts and outstanding coverage. Nick Folk now has the team confident that he can consistently make field goals and extra points. Jake Bailey had a terrific rookie season with 36 punts downed inside the 20. 

The Titans like New England have gone through four kickers this season. Greg Joseph took over for the injured Ryan Succop two weeks ago and hasn’t attempted a field goal yet. Punter Brett Kern had an outstanding season averaging 47.1 yards per punt with 37 inside the 20 with just two touchbacks. 

Neither has much of a return game but the Patriots get the edge at home here and could use a big play (or two) from their STs this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots have a tough matchup this week with a very hot Titans team that has scored 20 points or more seven weeks in a row. When the defense has allowed 20 or more points this season, they’ve lost. So, the 20 point plateau is a benchmark to monitor.  

Here are our keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Slow Down Henry and the Run Game – The Patriots have to slow down Henry and force Tannehill into obvious passing situations. The linebackers have to have their best game of the year. Bringing down Henry is no easy task and they have to get him running east-west at the point of attack. 

With the Titans’ deep group of receivers, the Patriots won’t have the luxury of stacking the box as the Titans will on defense. The front seven will have to stand up and be the “Boogeymen” this week. If Henry gets going and puts the Titans on his back with second and third downs with short yardage, it will be a long game. 

Start Quickly and Get the Lead – The Patriots got off to a horrible start last week and appeared to be sleepwalking through the first quarter. They can’t have that this week if they want their season to continue.

The offense needs to get going early and get some points on the board and force the Titans to play catchup. It will put a little bit of pressure on Tannehill who is playing in his first-ever playoff game.

They have to have the lead late in the game and again put Tannehill in a position where he has to throw. A great bit by Mike Dussault of Patriots.com, Henry in the last seven games has 250 yards more than any other running back, 10 touchdowns and averaging 8 yards per carry in the second half of the Titans games. 

Brady Has to Get Everyone Involved – With the playoffs here, the Titans are going to stack the box to take away the run and dare Brady to beat them down the field. Expect Edelman to get bracketed all game long. So, they’ll need the secondary receivers, Mohamad Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry to step up and produce. 

This will be a big week for the tight ends if they can produce. The middle of the field will be there for the taking but Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson haven’t been able to do much this year. If they can hit a few seam passes it will open up a lot of room for the struggling players outside.  

Where are the Turnovers, They Need Turnovers – The defense hasn’t got any turnovers for the past two games and this week they could really use a few. If the pass rush can get to Tannehill, a strip-sack or a forced throw for an interception would go a long way in helping an offense that is having trouble consistently scoring points. 

Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson were both off their game a week ago. Look for them to be more competitive this week and try to steal a pass in some tight windows. 

___________

This is not a great matchup for the Patriots. Coming off of a short week, facing a physical and hot Tennessee team where the coaching staff and several players have plenty of experience in the New England system. 

We know the Patriots are very tough at home in the postseason and haven’t dropped a home playoff game since 2013.  But the Titans being able to mix things up on offense and having a tremendous red-zone offense (scoring 75.6 percent of the time) is a tough matchup this week.

There are plenty of ways I can see the Patriots circling the wagons and toughing out a hard-fought win at home. We’ve seen it too many times to count. But the feeling here is that the offense won’t be able to keep up and allow them to move on. Titans 24-17

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

 

Four Patriots Thoughts Heading into the Playoffs

Ian Logue
December 31, 2019 at 12:08 pm ET

Some quick thoughts as we turn the page to the postseason.

1) As much as it would be nice to remain optimistic about the Patriots chances of playing in February, it’s hard to deny the fact that Sunday’s loss to Miami was definitely significant. Losing the bye was critical because New England’s success desperately hinges on the health of wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was in dire need of a week off to recuperate given how banged up he’s been. Unfortunately now, he’s not going to get it.

The other key part of this equation also falls on Tom Brady who, as much as he wants to continue to deny it, is clearly still dealing with pain in his throwing elbow after cameras caught him looking uncomfortable again on Sunday while throwing on the sideline.

Let’s not kid anyone, Edelman has been key during New England’s previous championship runs and the fact he’s as hampered as he is doesn’t bode well for their postseason hopes. With the offense struggling badly, it remains a group that still hasn’t quite come around and certainly isn’t riding any momentum heading into January.

Unlike previous years, they’re heading into the playoffs coming off of a short week and it gives them little time to fix a unit that, with the Titans up next, may struggle if this becomes a high-scoring affair against a team that blew them out in a previous meeting. Unlike the Patriots, Tennessee has been playing their best football as of late and that makes them a pretty dangerous foe heading into Saturday night’s showdown at Gillette Stadium.

2) On a side note, my family and I spent the holiday week on vacation and that led to two instances where I was unable to watch the game and instead forced to listen to the radio broadcast with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak, which was a bit eye-opening for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to hear them. Zolak is a breath of fresh air as a color commentator, offering up terrific insight and honest analysis. More importantly, he more or less calls it how he sees it, with Zolak being quite critical of wide receiver Mohammed Sanu and he blamed Sanu’s drop on Sunday for Brady’s pick-six, as the interception came just after Sanu’s miscue, leaving Brady likely leary of looking his way. Instead, he tried to force the football to Edelman, with former Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe being far too familiar with that connection and he stepped in front and took off for the races. That doesn’t excuse Brady from the interception but listening to how the sequence played out, it definitely put a negative spotlight on Sanu, who hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations since they traded for him.

Zolak also went on to call Sanu “useless” while also mentioning that he’s “not worth” the second-round pick the Patriots gave up to Atlanta to acquire him. Add in some of the officiating issues from the previous week in Buffalo, which led to Zolak pointing out the official that continually overlooked the abuse N’Keal Harry took against the Bills’ secondary, and moments like that are ones that definitely made for some entertaining radio.

All-in-all, Zolak’s approach is pretty refreshing given how stale and “safe” a lot of on-air analysis tends to be these days. While some may disagree, it’s nice to hear him echo the thoughts that many fans may have while watching the game and listening to the broadcast. Don’t get me wrong, former broadcaster Gino Cappeletti will always be a legend in New England and in his prime was one of the best during his time as the color commentator with the late Gil Santos. However, Zolak really has been an outstanding replacement and it makes me wish there was an easier way to sync the broadcast each week, especially considering some of the people on the national networks that we’re forced to listen to over the course of the football season.


The Patriots are missing playmakers like Gronkowski around Edelman on offense this season.

3) Getting back to some additional thoughts heading into the playoffs, while I don’t think a deep playoff run or Super Bowl shot is impossible, there’s no question that the Patriots now face a remarkably uphill battle in order to pull it off.

The obvious reason is the fact they’re just not playing well offensively and have been undeniably inconsistent. This is the first season in recent memory where they’ve literally been a completely different team from week-to-week and just can’t seem to string together anything positive on the offensive side of the football from one week to the next. In years past, we’ve seen them slowly make progress and get better, but that just hasn’t happened this year as Brady continues to struggle building chemistry with the weapons they’ve provided him with this season.

Rookie N’Keal Harry continues to get a little better, with Brady going to him a little more each week but they still haven’t quite gotten completely on the same page. Jakobi Meyers has also had some good moments, but it’s been a similar story. We’ve already mentioned Sanu, who Zolak said needed to “wake up” and become someone who can start making the key plays.

Truthfully, that’s what New England is missing right now. They just don’t have enough guys who can make a big play in a key situation, which obviously has been the hallmark of this club in past years. Heading into this postseason, they don’t have additional players like Rob Gronkowski or even Chris Hogan to compliment Edelman, which is a little concerning. They’re also still having a tough time running the football, which was also one of their strengths at this time last season.

It’s not going to be easy. Honestly, they’re about to embark on what they hope is a 4-0 run to win it all with one of the toughest roads imaginable. Playing Tennessee, despite the fact they’ll face them at Gillette Stadium, is no easy task and the prospect of having to venture into Kansas City missing the key faces that helped them win there the last time is also daunting. Factor in that the next step would be having to beat the Ravens at home (if Baltimore advances) to earn a shot at a trip to Miami won’t be easy either.

Obviously, plenty of people also didn’t expect the Giants from pulling off a similar feat years ago when they ran the table and shocked the unbeaten Patriots in a game that no one here in New England likes to talk about. But Eli Manning did that with a serviceable group of receivers and an offense that happened to peak at the right time. Brady is going to have to do it with his best receiver dealing with a sore knee and a banged-up shoulder while relying on other players that he’s seemingly just not confident with. It would be great if they picked next week to start putting it all together, but we haven’t exactly been given reasons to believe that’s going to happen.

It’s not impossible, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s hard enough to win four straight games in this league as it is, even against so-so competition. Having to take on that task facing the NFL’s best with a group that’s scrambling to find themselves may be the biggest challenge of Brady’s career and it remains to be seen whether or not they can finally figure things out.


New England’s defense couldn’t quite close out the game on Sunday against Miami.

4) The other concerning part of this equation is the fact that New England’s defense has been shaky in recent weeks and even more importantly, has struggled closing out opponents. Sunday’s loss to Miami was clearly the worst, especially given what was on the line since New England held the lead during those final moments of the contest and all they had to do was keep the Dolphins out of the end zone. Instead, they couldn’t do it.

Injuries have been an issue on that side of the football in recent weeks, which is another huge reason why losing the bye was so important. They’re now forced to spend this week trying to get healthy on a short week against a pretty good passing offense. While many will talk about Ryan Tannehill’s issues in Miami, he doesn’t look like the same player with the Titans after they’ve done a good job of helping him turn things around and it’s been one of the big reasons why Tennessee is in this position.

Meanwhile, no one probably expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to pull off what he did on Sunday, especially given how bad he played in the previous meeting. But the frustrating part of that wasn’t the fact Fitzpatrick was able to make some plays on Sunday, but rather that the defense allowed a game-winning drive where all they needed to do was keep Miami from scoring a touchdown.

Should New England find themselves in a tight game with the lead, what happened on Sunday will likely be fresh in their minds and until they prove they can close things out, it’s going to be hard for Patriots fans to not be a little nervous.

We’ll see if Saturday night will be the start of something great or just the culmination of a frustrating season. At this point, history has shown that anything can happen. Now we just have to hope that Bill Belichick and Brady still have a little magic left in them when it all begins this weekend.