Category Archives: Patriots Rumors

New England Patriots News 2-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 17, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-17 and AFC East Notes.

Van Noy On Media Roundrobin: Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy has been seemingly everywhere lately in the media circles after the Super Bowl. And why not? After an outstanding postseason, the well-spoken, likable linebacker is enjoying his time in the spotlight. One of the best spots he did was on the NFL Network show, “Good Morning Football” where he and Nate Burleson spoke about how the Patriots found a way to use his talents and put him in the best position to succeed.

Speaking of Burleson, he did an earlier segment right after the Super Bowl on how well Bill Belichick and the Patriots build a roster from top to bottom. Which of course will not sit well with the “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill” crowd. Burleson said, “It’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re headed.” Really good stuff there.

Evaluating the Team Needs by Position Entering 2019:

In a perfect world, a team will sign all of their key free agents and have enough money left over to bring in fresh blood and retool on the fly. But the reality is, with the salary cap and free agency, it is hard to accomplish those goals on a yearly basis. And yet Bill Belichick has done that. So, here is our breakdown by position in terms of team need before free agency begins:

QB – Team Need – High:

While Tom Brady continues to play at a very high level and isn’t going anywhere, the time is here when they have to bring in his eventual replacement. At age 42 when the 2019 season starts, he isn’t getting any younger, (I know, we say this every year),

Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling are the backups and while Hoyer got and deserved huge kudos for running the scout teams of the opponents to prepare the team for the postseason games, neither of those two could step in and win much of anything in case of a Brady injury…or another league-sanctioned vacation over cold weather.

RB – Team Need – Low:

The team is in very good shape here, with Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and fullback James Develin in the mix. The team had Jeremy Hill in last year and he looked really good all summer before tearing an ACL in Week 1. He’d be a welcome sight if the team brings him back for depth.

WR – Team Need – Very High:

The Patriots currently have Julian Edelman and the unproven Braxton Berrios signed for the 2019 season so far and this position is critical in terms of need. Josh Gordon is a restricted free agent, but the team can’t be reliant on him getting back to the team anytime soon.

Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett are all free agents. Even if all three are resigned, which is doubtful, look for the Patriots to address this position heavily in both free agency and the draft.

Tight End – Team Need – High:

With the Rob Gronkowski retirement rumors swirling, the team really needs to add serious depth here this spring whether Gronk returns or not. Dwayne Allen is a terrific blocker but at $7 million with virtually no offensive output in the passing game?

They have some intriguing younger guys in Ryan Izzo and Stephen Anderson but like Jacob Hollister who can’t stay healthy, they’re all unproven. The team needs to address this position in either free agency or the draft.

Offensive Line – Team Need – Low/Medium:

The Patriots offensive line is stacked in the interior with three excellent starters (David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Joe Thuney) and depth behind them. RT Marcus Cannon returns while LT Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle are free agents.

If Brown bolts in free agency, top 2018 draft pick Isaiah Wynn is waiting in the wings which would go a long way in replacing Brown, who never played LT until last year. Waddle’s status is probably dependent on Brown’s. If he walks, then they’ll probably want to sign him to be the swing tackle again. If both decide to bolt for greener pastures, then the need goes up.

Defensive End/Edge – Team Need – High:

The top free agent for the team is Trey Flowers, he’s also the best front seven player on the defense. If they can’t ink him to a new deal before free agency, they hopefully have an agreement with him to let him find a deal and give the team a chance to match, like what they did with Dont’a Hightower.

Behind Flowers is Dietrich Wise Jr., Adrian Clayborn, Keionta Davis, Derek Rivers, and Ufomba Kamalu. Which adds up to a lot of depth, but not a lot of proven play-making ability there. Resigning Flowers is paramount first. If they don’t do that then they’ll need to sign a free agent as well as address this in the spring.

Defensive Tackle – Team Need –  Very High:

Both Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown are free agents. Both played well in the playoffs and having those big bodies that can stuff the run was a key reason the defense was so good in the final five games (two regular season, three playoff). And why it is critical to address this need this spring.

Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler return but the team needs to decide if either Brown or Shelton returns and then address this position in both the draft and free agency.

Linebacker – Team Need – Low:

My, my what a difference a few months makes. Back in the fall, we were lamenting the lack of an athletic linebacker but after watching the play of Hightower and Kyle Van Noy during the postseason, that need doesn’t seem as glaring right now. Elandon Roberts played well in short stretches as well.

The team needs to bring back John Simon in free agency, he played a valuable role and is versatile, something the team likes. Christian Sam spent the season on IR with the Foxboro Flu and is that athletic guy.

Secondary – Team Need – Low:

The Patriots are young and deep at cornerback. Stephon Gilmore is outstanding and behind him is J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, and Duke Dawson, all young players. Jason McCourty gave the team a solid veteran presence and may return. Jonathan Jones is a restricted free agent.

At safety, Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon are all under contract but McCourty was flirting with retirement. He and Chung are 32 so their replacements, while not imminent this year, need to be addressed at some point in the future.

The team signed Obi Melifonwu who is a physical freak and the feeling is here, that the Patriots will find some way to utilize his physical skills.

Special Teams – Team Need – Very High:

The Pats have both kickers entering free agency. Stephen Gostkowski has been with the team since 2006 when Adam Vinatieri left. Ryan Allen has been outstanding with his directional punting. Resigning them is critical.

Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, and Joe Cardona all return. Two other special teamers that need to be resigned are Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber.

Our Favorite Free Agent Targets For the Patriots:

With free agency getting ready to heat up, the Patriots have a slew of free agents that they’ll ultimately have to make a decision on whether or not to try to resign. But barring that for a minute, here is a list of guys, we’d really like to see the Patriots make a stab at bringing in this spring.

Wide Receivers: There are a couple of names to keep an eye on this spring. First among them is Adam Humphries from the Bucs. Humphries has been a favorite of nearly everyone in the New England area because one look at his game and you can see Patriots written all over it.

Just 26, Humphries had career highs in receptions, (76), yards (816) and touchdowns (5). He shows fantastic quickness off the line and moving horizontally and is very difficult to stop when running those routes underneath coverage and shallow crosses. He has the excellent ability to find holes in zone coverages. He’d seamlessly fit into the Danny Amendola role here in New England from Day 1.

Tyrell Williams from the Chargers, in our opinion, would be a great fit for the Patriots offense. Williams has great size, (6’4, 210) and has very good speed to go along with it. He’s been used as a deep threat in the Chargers offense, but the feeling here is that he could do much more than that with the Patriots and would offer that big body red zone target as well as a player that opponents would have to respect deep.

Golden Tate is long been rumored as someone the Patriots have coveted but his recent comments make it seem like he is wanting to stay in Philly although he had very limited chemistry with Nick Foles and none with Carson Wentz.

Defensive Ends: While we’d rather have Trey Flowers return in 2019, there isn’t a guarantee that happens. One sleeper to keep an eye on is Arizona Cardinal Markus Golden. In 2016 Golden had 12.5 sacks, with four forced fumbles but an ACL tear in 2017 set him back. While not completely healthy in 2018, his numbers dipped to just 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Golden may be available for a one-year prove it type deal with the option to play for a winner and the potential to increase his net worth. He seems to expendable in Arizona with the Cards signing former Falcon Brooks Reed.

Others such as Brandon Graham, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark et al will likely be too expensive for the Patriots but we’ll have to see how the market plays out.

One other player who can play the edge or in the interior depending on the alignment is Henry Anderson of the Jets.

One name to watch is tight end Jesse James of the Steelers. Known primarily for the “catch that wasn’t”, he’s second on the depth chart behind Vance McDonald and a had modest season with 30 catches for 423 yards and a pair of scores. However, playing on a team the past three years with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, LaVeon Bell and James Conner, it doesn’t mean he’s not a viable receiver.

James is a very good blocker who was credited in 2018 without missing one according to Sports Info Solution. In describing James, the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly tweeted,   “A 100 percent no-nonsense, hard-working, drama-free tough guy who refuses to miss practice and is an all-around great human. You win with a locker room full of those guys.” After describing the Steelers as the “Kardashians” last season, perhaps James is looking for a fresh start elsewhere.

Gronk Not a First-Ballot HOFer, According to Voters:

Certain things occasionally will slip thru the cracks when given the sheer volume of information that goes thru the Patriots timeline every day. And then there’s what transpired this week. Karen Gueregian of the Boston Herald wrote a piece that jumped off the page when she spoke with five different voting members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (there are 48) about Rob Gronkowski. And the question she posed was, “if Gronkowski retired today would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The short answer from the voters was no.

While they all agreed that “Gronkowski will eventually get in”, these five voters pointed to the lack of stats for Gronkowski as compared to players who are already in, because he’s played substantially shorter than players Tony Gonzalez (17 seasons) and Shannon Sharpe (14), there his catches and yardage numbers are naturally much lower.

Mike Chappel from Fox 59 in Indianapolis had this to say, “Everybody wants guys to be first-ballot guys. And they make it sound like they are no-brainers. The issue with him will be the brevity of his career,” he said.

“If someone said first ballot, I’d say let’s pump the brakes. But then when you look at the body of work when he played at the position, you want difference makers … “

John McLain who covers the NFL in Houston, however, isn’t buying this argument at all. “I’ve been watching football since 1960. When you think about the combination of size, the speed he had at that size, and being an underrated blocker, and being able to line up at so many different spots, his career average is over 15 yards (per catch). I’ll say this, when Gronk is eligible, I’ll vote for him. To me, he’s a no-brainer if he never plays another play.”

Gueregian’s entire piece can be referenced here:

We’ll leave it with this…in his era, nobody has come close to being the most overall dominant tight end in the past decade that Gronkowski has. That’s the true sign of a HOF worthy player. And he’s been at his best in the playoffs while competing against the best in the league. Gronkowski has competed in 16 playoff games, (we won’t bother with the Texans game where he broke his arm or the SB where he was on one leg), and his numbers were this:

Gronkowski 16 games, 81 receptions, 1163 yards, 12 touchdowns. Looking at the career records of Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, and Tony Gonzalez, they played a total of 39 playoff games and totaled 11 combined touchdowns in the postseason. Isn’t that the definition of a “difference maker”?

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Release TE Charles Clay:

The Buffalo Bills have released tight end Charles Clay. He had one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed before the 2015 NFL season. The Bills will save an estimated $4.5 million on their salary cap where Clay would have counted over 9 million against the cap in 2019.

Playing with a rookie QB, Clay had a down year in 2018 catching only 21 passes for 184 yards. The handwriting was on the wall when Clay was a healthy scratch for the Week 16 loss in New England.

Now the Bills will be revamping the position and trying to get 2nd-year player Jason Croom more involved with the offense. Croom had just 16 receptions as a rookie in 2018. The Bills will definitely be looking to add more depth this spring.

O’Shea – Dolphins to Bring Patriots-like Approach to Game Planning:

The Miami Dolphins have a totally revamped coaching staff, but a lot of them come from New England and they are planning on bringing a Patriot-esque view of how they approach to game planning and coaching.

New offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, spent 18 years in the Patriots system and when speaking to the Dolphins’ media, he stated that the coaching staff will adjust to the skill set of the players and not the other way around. From the MiamiDolphins.com, he had this to say:

“I think that you have a foundation and some core beliefs that you have offensively, but I think the key is to do what your players do well. It’s our job as a coaching staff to identify what are the skill sets of the players and how can we utilize those skillsets to be a productive offense.”

“That’s why we don’t talk about specific scheme. We talk about being multiple. We talk about being able to adjust. That’s a word that definitely is an important part of our offense is the ability for the coaches to adjust in the way we think as far as our scheme, and our players to be able to adjust and might be able to adjust weekly depending on what we need to do to win the game.”

So, the Dolphins offense should look much different in 2019. But first, they need to decide who their QB is going to be.

Jets Switching to a 4-3 Defense Under Gregg Williams:

The New York Jets are expected to switch to a one-gap attacking style of defense under Gregg Williams which is the style he’s always run and the Jets are hoping for bigger and better things from their defensive leader Leonard Williams.

They believe that playing Williams as a 3-technique with a defensive end on his outside shoulder. This way they hope it will free up more one-on-one matchups inside where Williams can create some mismatches.

But perhaps the biggest beneficiary to Williams’ system is safety Jamal Adams. In Williams’ style of defense, he needs a safety who can be versatile, play over the tight end and who could match up with a running back. Williams will take advantage of his aggressive style of play 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.

New England Patriots News 2-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 10, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-10 and AFC East Notes.

 An Emotional Bill Belichick: We are used to seeing to the normally clipped and reserved Bill Belichick over the course of the year, where he always keeps things in perspective and never gets too high or too low. But as the Patriots clinched Super Bowl LIII, all of those shrouds were lifted and we saw the joy for all of the hard work come thru. In typical Belichick style, he gave all of the praise to the players. NFL Films captured it perfectly right here:

Patterson With a Diamond-studded Gift for Brady: Patriots WR/KR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson was obviously very grateful for his 2018 season with the Patriots and especially with Tom Brady. Patterson made a gift of a diamond-studded TB12 logo to Brady after the Super Bowl, which no doubt set him back thousands of dollars. Brady posted a picture of his daughter wearing it on his Instagram page. She saw it and fell in love with it…Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

What a Crowd for the Parade: The Patriots 6th Super Bowl win this week featured a couple of huge crowds which put to rest that the fans were getting blase about the team’s continued success. The turnout for the send-off rally was over 35,000 fans and the Super Bowl parade which had a huge crowd of 1,500,000 fans in downtown Boston. The crowd at the game itself was the first time that the Patriots had a clear advantage in terms of crowd noise. It never gets old or taken for granted.

Did you Know? For the yards are more important than points crowd… The Patriots in SB LIII garnered more yards (407) than their season average (393) against the Rams. While the defense held the Rams to 160 yards fewer (260) than their season average which was 421. When we wrote about the defense coming together late in the season, many scoffed at it. After those last three playoff wins, nobody is scoffing now.

A Return for Amendola? The latest news out of Miami is that the Dolphins are rumored to be moving on from WR Danny Amendola after just one season in South Beach. If that were to happen, could a return to Foxboro be in the cards? Absolutely. And I know a certain QB that would love to see that happen as well.

Close the Roof: With another sound clip from just before the game started, watching Bill Belichick questioning the timing of the roof closure after the flyover shows how detailed the Patriots and their coaches are in preparation for every possible scenario.

Favorite Play of the Game in Super Bowl LIII:

In a game dominated by defense, there are several plays that could fit the bill as favorite plays of the game. The pass breakup by Jason McCourty in the end zone, Stephon Gillmore’s interception, Dont’a Hightower just blowing up Tyler Higbee during the Danny Shelton’s run stuff, but my personal favorite was from Kyle Van Noy.

The Rams rolled Jared Goff out to the right and had three WRs flooding the zone. Josh Reynolds was the main target doing a shallow cross about 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage with a deeper cross about 12 yards and Cooks running a deep corner route.

Van Noy was supposed to get sucked into Goff which allows his an easy window to complete the pass and have an easier 7-10 yard pass play. But Van Noy recognized the play coming, and slowed up to hit Reynolds with a forearm, flattening him. He then joined the rush after Goff, who had nowhere to throw and was forced out of bounds. It was a tremendous play.

Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network every week does his “Baldy’s Breakdowns” and highlights certain key plays and they are excellent. He calls this particular play here: 

Flores Brings Three Patriots Assistants With Him to Miami:

The Miami Dolphins hired former Patriots de facto Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores this week and Flores has brought three Patriots assistant coaches with him to Miami. Former WRs coach Chad O’Shea will become the Dolphins offensive coordinator. Josh Boyer who coached the NE cornerbacks will handle the same duties in Miami with the added title of defensive passing game coordinator as well. And Jerry Schuplinski, the assistant QBs coach will also handle the same duties there.

Greg Schiano Rumored to be the Next Defensive Coordinator:

With Flores departure for South Beach, the Patriots are looking for a couple of defensive coaches and what was first reported locally by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, the Patriots are reportedly close to signing former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano as their next DC.

Schiano spent the last two years as the Ohio State DC and is a friend of Bill Belichick’s. But where Schiano is best known for was his time as Rutgers’ head coach. During his tenure there 19 players who played for him made their way to New England.

Those players included Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, and current Patriots safety coach, Steve Belichick. Bill Belichick will always surround himself with players he likes, and the Rutgers connection with Schiano is a testament to that. He and Schiano should get along fine.

Patriots Have Large Free Agent Class in 2019:

As tough as it is moving on from Super Bowl LIII, time marches on and now the team will have a lot of tough personnel decisions to make in 2019. Here is the list, and it is lengthy of the Patriots free agents this year.

Trey Flowers
Trent Brown
Chris Hogan
Cordarrelle Patterson
Phillip Dorsett
Jason McCourty
Eric Rowe
Stephen Gostkowski
Ryan Allen
Malcom Brown
Danny Shelton
LaAdrian Waddle
John Simon
Albert McClellan
Ramon Humber
Brian Schwenke
Ulrick John
Jonathan Jones (RFA)
Josh Gordon (RFA)
Ufomba Kamalu
Cody Hollister

Obviously, the two top free agents are Flowers from the defense and Brown on the offense. Flowers has arguably been the Patriots best defensive player for the past three years and has led the team in sacks in those three. The Patriots will no doubt try to find a way to secure Flowers services but he’s in line for a huge payday and is considered one of the top free agents this spring.

Brown was brought on-board last spring and had never played left tackle. He took over the position early in training camp and never looked back. He was very solid in pass protection and was terrific in run blocking, especially in the postseason. He’s another guy inline for a huge payday.

Hogan will probably be gone although I do believe that the team will make efforts to bring back both Dorsett and Patterson, the latter who did a bit of everything this past season, playing wide receiver, running back and returning kickoffs. Patterson had a combined yardage total of over 1100 in 2018. Dorsett was a forgotten man during the time Josh Gordon was on the team, but contributed down the stretch and had a big TD reception in the AFC Championship Game.

Gostkowski and Allen are an excellent duo. Gostkowski has been here since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006. Allen was outstanding in the Super Bowl, pinning the Rams three times inside their 10-yard line.

It will interesting to see if McCourty returns, there were rumors that he and his brother Devin may retire after the Super Bowl but he played well all season and made a huge play in the Super Bowl, coming from across the field to break up a pass for Brandin Cooks in the end zone. Rowe began the year as the #2 corner before landing on IR after just four games.

Brown and Shelton are the two big guys in the middle of the DL.Both played well down the stretch and into the playoffs. However, after passing on the fifth-year options on both, the team may only resign one. Waddle has been a valuable swing tackle, with the health along the OL this season, he wasn’t used as much.

Simon, McClellan and Humber were brought in mid-season and all filled valuable roles. The team will probably look to retain all three. Jones and Gordon are restricted free agents. And the interesting aspect of Gordon is that he can apply for reinstatement in May of this year.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have $80 Million in Cap Space, But Preach Caution:

In a really good piece by Vic Carucci, the Buffalo Bills in the first two seasons under Sean McDermott have been trying to manage expectations and build for long-term sustained success. So with about $80 million in cap space this spring, GM Brandon Beane in a letter to season ticket holders is preaching more caution. The message is to not expect the team to go all-in in free agency for instant gratification.

“The sole focus is to build the Buffalo Bills into a championship contender and help create a culture aimed at long-term, sustained success,” Beane wrote.

That is the correct way to build a winner. The Bills are still a long ways off from being a true contender and now they’ll try to start adding the long-term pieces that they’ll need to surround their young QB Josh Allen.

“The previous two draft classes have begun a new foundation of young players on our roster,” Beane wrote. “We are encouraged by the development thus far by players like Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White and others. Each of them was given an individual plan of improvement at season’s end and they understand they have a lot of work in front of them.

“We have opportunities to improve our team this offseason and the Pegulas, Sean (McDermott) and I are all on the same page and determined to bring winning football to the city of Buffalo. Thank you for your loyal dedication to this franchise.”

Dolphins Hire Flores Who Brings Plenty of NE Coaches With Him:

The Miami Dolphins hiring of Brian Flores is a new change of regime, of which the Dolphins have had plenty but this time they are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a big New England Patriots presence going to South Beach with Flores, Chad O’Shea, Josh Boyer and Jerry Schuplinski also coming on-board.

One of the more surprising bits of news coming out of Miami is that the Dolphins are planning on moving away from WR Danny Amendola, who they brought in a year ago to bring the veteran presence to the Dolphins locker room. That will bear watching.

Flores, like Belichick is behind the power curve in terms of being far behind in preparation for the NFL Combine, but the Dolphins will be looking to find their next franchise QB and are in need of a true nose tackle either in free agency and the draft.

Jets Coaching Staff Seems Like Perfect Choice for Hard Knocks:

The New York Jets hired Adam Gase as the new head coach for Gang Green. And as Rich Cimini of ESPN has pointed out, there is certainly no lack for potential controversy there.

The full staff, announced Friday by the Jets, includes longtime NFL assistant Joe Vitt, Gase’s father-in-law, and Blake Williams, the son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

This is where it gets interesting.

Vitt and Gregg Williams were members of the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff implicated in the 2012 BountyGate scandal. In the bounty hearings, conducted by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Vitt accused Williams of lying in his testimony.

Vitt also said the players didn’t take Williams seriously because of his “false bravado” and “schtick.”

Blake Williams, 34, has a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way. As a St. Louis Rams assistant, he upset people in the organization by screaming at a draft prospect in a scouting-combine interview, a source said. He also was reprimanded multiple times for sitting in the wrong seat on the team bus; he kept sitting in a seat reserved for a senior member of the staff.

The Rams fired him after the 2013 season. Williams has only worked for NFL teams in which his father was on the staff.

Gase also hired Jim Bob Cooter as the Jets running backs coach. With an eclectic group like this with all of the potential fireworks with the coaching staff, I believe that this will be a perfect choice for Hard Knocks this summer.

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, 2-3, “The Patriot Way” or Belichick’s?

Steve Balestrieri
February 3, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, it is Super Bowl Sunday once again here in New England and here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-03.

Some Quick Hitters this morning: *No AFC East notes this week* They’ll be back next week after the Super Bowl when we begin looking at the NFL Combine and Draft. But first some kudos this week.

Congratulations to Ty Law for being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, very deserved to be sure. He was an integral part of those first Patriots championships, especially his pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVI. Hopefully, the voters will get it right with Richard Seymour next season.

Kudos to Patriots fans: Sunday, over 35,000 fans showed up for the Patriots send-off rally at Gillette Stadium. It was the biggest one yet of any of the Super Bowl teams with Brady and Belichick. This flies in the face of the hit piece in the Boston Globe that tried to claim that Patriots fans are growing bored with the team’s success.

The turnout on Sunday, television ratings all season long and merchandise sales all point in the absolute other direction. However, it should be noted that the flimsy “evidence” by the writer is coming from the same guy who said that Brady having a MAGA hat in his locker was hurting the team’s standing with the fan base two years ago.

Way to go Pats fans, that was an incredible send off rally. For the first time, could the Patriots fans outnumber the haters at a Super Bowl? …What a concept.

Kudos to WEEI: On Friday after with the buildup to the big game in full swing, ‘EEI swung … low and missed. How? By putting that noted hot-take artist Rob Parker on the air on Radio Row. Actually, calling Parker that is an insult to hot take artists, he hasn’t had an actual new thing or a hot take to say in years. WEEI decided to go for the lowest common denominator in their coverage. Don’t we have enough of that already on the air?  What’s next? Is Baghdad Bob going to be guesting on the air, to talk about the political climate of the Super Bowl?

Did you Know? With a win today, the Patriots will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins (6) in league history. They are currently tied with San Francisco and Dallas with 5 wins.

Did you Know Pt. 2: With a win today, the Patriots will move past the Steelers in all-time playoff victories with 37, the two teams are currently tied with 36. The Patriots already own the best postseason winning percentage with teams with a minimum of 15 playoff appearances.  
Team              Wins Losses Win Pct.
New England  36 20    .643
Baltimore        15 9 .625
Green Bay       34 22  .607
San Francisco 30     20 .600
Pittsburgh       36 25 .590

Did you Know Pt. 3: The Running game is a big part of the matchups this week. Since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 51-1 when a running back cracks 100 yards rushing in a game. In 2018, Sony Michel had four 100-yard games and the Patriots were 4-0 in those contests.

“The Patriot Way” Is All About the Team and Belichick:

With the kickoff this evening, the Patriots will appear in their 11th Super Bowl and the ninth in the Belichick-Brady era and this dynasty is truly something to behold. The Patriots under Belichick have remained steadfast in his philosophy about building a team, which has been dubbed “the Patriot Way” and even today, two decades later, there are still misconceptions about that.

In the Patriot way, which should really be called, “the Belichick Way”, there is a right way and a wrong way about building a football team that is constructed for the long run. And since 2001, the Patriots have far and away blown away the rest of the league in terms of staying competitive for a Super Bowl. A down year for the Patriots has been 10 wins or in the case of 2018, 11 wins. And yes, this was written up all fall as a down year, despite the fact that they’re one win away from their 6th Super Bowl title in 18 years.

In watching some of the endless programs leading up to the big game, I’ve seen the same thing, much like we’ve seen every Sunday for the past 18 years. The analysts will point to the rosters and say “Team A has better personnel up and down the roster” and at that point, you just have to shrug and turn the channel. They don’t get it, have never gotten it and most unfortunately never will get it.

To quote Belichick, “It’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a football team.”

And this one from Belichick is perhaps the most frequently overlooked but arguably most important.  “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”

Many teams, including this season’s Rams team, were the latest of the “dream teams” where they made a concerted effort to push all of their chips into the middle of the table and go all in for a title. They collected talent at every turn and didn’t see a free agent or trade scenario that they didn’t like. The fact that this team is unsustainable as it is currently constructed once they have to pay their QB who is still on a rookie deal is overlooked right now, but that day is coming.

Belichick has always kept an eye on the long-term goal of not just building a winner but maintaining it for the long haul. Which is why they A. never overpay for veteran players who are looking for the huge payday and B. done their shopping with many players who aren’t considered top players but will fit a role in the Patriots (read Belichick) system.

Look at this year’s Patriots defense, Kyle Van Noy and undrafted rookie free agent J.C. Jackson have become two of the most valuable players and some of their biggest performers down the stretch. Van Noy was considered a bust and the team got him for a song (6th round pick). Jackson went undrafted and has now worked himself into the starting rotation at cornerback.

On the subject of Van Noy, Belichick, rather than focusing on what he can’t do or trying to force him to do what the team wants, he’s learned what he does do well and puts him in a position to succeed. And he’s had a career resurgence with the Patriots. Belichick once spoke about the mistakes some coaches do with trying to squeeze a player into a system where the fit may not be the exact right fit.

“You definitely go through a stage, most coaches do, where you see a good player and you get enamored, you really like what the player does, but then when you put him into your system, it’s not quite the same player that he was in another system. He has some strengths, but you cant utilize all those strengths. If you try to utilize all his strengths, you end up weakening a lot of other players who are already in your system.”

That’s why the subject of “dream teams” is always interesting. Collecting all the talent doesn’t necessarily mean that those pieces will gel together. The Eagles a few years ago tried to buy a Super Bowl and then fell flat in the regular season. Not only do they have to fit what you’re doing but they also have to fit within the confines of the locker room.

Back to the Rams, watching television this week, I saw more than one analyst say, as we mentioned above, that the Rams defense is “more talented” at nearly every position than the Patriots. Is it true? Maybe so. But as a unit? Hmm, the numbers don’t attest to that. Looking at yardage, which everyone always has a fit over here in New England, the Rams allowed a half-yard less (yes 0.5 yards) per game than the Patriots. In points allowed (which Belichick preaches) the Rams were 19th, the Patriots 7th.  Hmm.

“A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing. And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers.”

Part of this philosophy is by design, Belichick knows how to build a football team and knows what will or won’t work. And part of it is by necessity. Because of their success, the Patriots are always picking in the #30-32 range in the NFL draft. You’re not going to find too many Khalil Macks or the next Randy Moss in that range very often, if at all. And the draft, as Belichick knows, beyond the first half of the first round is often times a crap shoot. Some players take longer to develop at the pro level and some peak in college and never work out. Which is why the Patriots would rather package picks and move down further to amass more selections which gives them a better chance at hitting on one of their prospects.

Belichick has a penchant for finding veteran players that fill a complementary role rather than being superstars and fit the team-first mentality. Which is why players like Van Noy and others that they’ve added in the years before have nearly always filled valuable roles for the team in their continued success.

One of the more prevalent myths that surround Belichick, and one we hear often is “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill,” as if this is a no-brainer. And it is as wrong as rain on a wedding day. It isn’t “luck” as some talking heads would have you believe that the Patriots have been in 50 percent of the Super Bowls since 2001.

No doubt it has been fantastic coaching but it has also been having an outstanding eye for talent. Talent to fit your team, your system and your locker room. Have they hit on everyone? Of course, not. They’ve had plenty of swings and misses. However, Belichick and Nick Caserio have done a fantastic job of assembling a scouting staff that has been able to identify talent that is out there that nobody else has seen and identifying the players that want to win championships. And that is the final piece of the puzzle.   

“For a team to accomplish their goal, everybody’s got to give up a little bit of their individuality.”

Lots of teams make the noise and spout the old clichés about “team-first” mentality and such but much of what you hear is just that …noise. Belichick has said this also in the past during the draft process.

“We’re looking for people … [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly,” Belichick said.

“You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.

Not many players are willing to give up their individuality, their stats, and their quest to get paid the most at their positions to win a championship. That’s another reason the Patriots success has lasted so long. They are like a chameleon, they can change their identity from week-to-week and adjust accordingly to create mismatches against their opponent.

A receiver could have 15 targets one week and be the team’s go-to guy and the next to be relegated to a mere decoy if the coaching staff feels, that they need to go run heavy and throw the ball elsewhere. If a player can’t handle that, he’ll either not sign here or soon find himself being released to take their talents elsewhere.

Brady is the final piece of Belichick’s “Patriot Way”. Having a QB who is the best to ever play his position and do it for so long has made Belichick’s job of sustaining excellence for so long much easier.

Brady was the outlier in the draft process. The guy no one including Belichick had the slightest idea would have ever thought would become the player he has. 198 players were selected before Brady in the 2000 draft, and the Patriots passed on him thru six rounds.

Brady outworked everyone and continues to inside the Patriots clubhouse. He’s totally bought into what Belichick preaches. And when the greatest QB to ever play the game buys in, if you’re a veteran and a role player, you think you’re going to buck the system?

And Brady has become the perfect foil for Belichick. We’ve all heard about the Monday film sessions where Belichick, as Tedy Bruschi as said, would “MF everyone”, even in big victories, pointing out mistakes in the endless quest for perfection. He frequently picks on plays made by Brady. The point being, if Brady’s going to get roasted, then you had better “Do Your Job” better than anyone else.

Brady has also totally bought into the team-first mentality by frequently taking team-friendly deals where he’s taking far below market value to allow the team to spend more on supporting cast members of the team. He’s not even in the Top 15 list of highest paid QBs in the league in 2018.  

How will all of this play out later this evening? Nobody knows, it is after all one game where anything can and will happen. But I wouldn’t bet against the Patriots, who are battle tested and playing their best football at exactly the right time. That just isn’t the Patriot Way, that’s the Belichick Way.

Defending the Rams Receivers All About the Matchups:

The Rams have a pair of dangerous 1000-yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. How the Patriots choose to match up with the Rams tonight will be fascinating to watch.

Stephon Gilmore practiced against Brandin Cooks all of last season, so he knows him well. But I believe (we wrote about this earlier last week) that Gilmore will cover Woods, who isn’t quite as fast as Cooks but is bigger. I think Jonathan Jones will cover Cooks with safety help over the top. Jones is speedier but… the Rams often put Woods in the slot, so that may fall to J.C. Jackson. So who will draw Josh Reynolds? Reynolds at 6’3 is too big and would present a mismatch against Jones. It is a interesting scenario.

Our feeling here is Gilmore – Woods, Jones – Cooks, and Jackson – Reynolds. But anything can happen and the defense may end up switching things up. Jason McCourty is also in the mix and he could replace Jones in the matchups.  

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 1-20, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-20, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning: *No AFC East notes this week*

Politics and Sports: Most of us enjoy sports as an outlet free from the day-to-day politics that now permeate our lives. One of my other jobs is to write about military and politics. And it is frankly much less enjoyable than this one. And it is always an uncomfortable moment at least for some of us when the two worlds of sports and politics collide.

Case in point, the Red Sox Alex Cora stating this week wavering on whether or not he’ll attend the ceremony at the White House to honor the Red Sox. Cora and the Sox are hardly the first in this. It has become a tradition for the standing President to host the winning team for a short visit for the purpose of honoring the champs. Now it has become a big story whoever wins a championship over who is NOT attending.

Perhaps, because this country has become so partisan and intolerant of any views other than their own, it is time for the practice to end. When the President invites someone to the White House, it is supposed to be received as respect for the office and not necessarily the man that the invitee would attend. Sadly, we as a whole have forgotten that.

Brady’s Accomplishments Get Pushed Aside Over the Cliff Talk: Trey Wingo on ESPN had a pretty interesting segment, that I caught on a replay, late on Sunday night after the Patriots win over the Chargers.

Wingo stated that Brady was playing in his 13th conference championship (today) and If you throw out 2008 where he played on the first quarter of the first game, he’s played in 17 NFL seasons. His percentage of reaching the conference championship game is at 76 percent. Wingo stated, Drew Brees just set the NFL record with a 74 % completion percentage this season. Wingo added, “Brady has a higher chance of a reaching a championship game than any QB ever had of completing a single pass.”

But I bet if you watch many of those other national shows, you didn’t see that, right?

Did you Know? From Inside Edge: When Tom Brady has more passing yards than his average (279), his team is 12-2 (.857) since the start of last season — best of 27 Qualified QBs in NFL; League Avg: .487

Did you Know Pt. 2: From Inside Edge- The Patriots are undefeated (16-0) when having the lead at the end of quarter 1 since the start of last season — tied for best in NFL; League Avg: .749 Also… The Patriots are 33-2 (.943) when leading at the end of the first half since the start of the 2016 season — best in NFL; League Avg: .799

Did you Know Pt. 3: From Inside Edge- The Patriots are 29-5 (.853) when forcing 1 or more turnovers since the start of the 2016 season — best in NFL; League Avg: .591

Trade Foles? Folly: After the Eagles dramatic loss to the Saints last week when Nick Foles pass passed right thru Alshon Jeffrey’s hands for an interception to seal a win for New Orleans, we still see the “trade Nick Foles” talk.

Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win last season and got them on a hot streak down the stretch and nearly pulled off a monumental upset last week. Philly would be insane to trade him rather than Carson Wentz. But hey, trade him to New England. With that “cliff” right around the corner, I’d take that guy as my QB in a second.

Edelman Remains A Key Component in the Offense:

Julian Edelman had a huge game for the Patriots last week against the Chargers catching nine passes for 151 yards which comes as a surprise to no one who follows this team regularly. Edelman’s nine catches now rank him #2 all-time in the career playoff list behind only Jerry Rice.

His 151-yard performance was the fifth in his career, the only two players with more 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs (Rice with 9 and Michael Irvin with 6) reside in Canton. Yet when people think of playoff superstars, does Edelman’s name ever come to mind? Perhaps it should start. His catch two years ago against the Falcons in the Super Bowl was the stuff of legend.

His QB knows how valuable he is to this offense and on Monday Brady spoke about how Edelman (much like himself) had grown into a tremendous player. “You just remember when nobody thought about Julian as what he’s become, except Julian,” Brady said.

“That’s a great lesson for all of us: When you believe in yourself, you can accomplish a lot of things. Julian has always had great belief in himself, and he’s had an incredible career. I think yesterday was one of the best games he’s ever played, at the biggest moment. That’s when Julian is at his best — in the biggest moments.”

If the Patriots are to win today and move on to Atlanta in the Super Bowl, they’ll no doubt need another big performance from Edelman. He currently ranks 7th all-time in playoff receiving yardage. With another 141 more, he’ll move all the way into 2nd place there, also behind Rice. Another two games could probably do the trick. It is amazing how underrated Edelman has been in his career. Still known only as a slot receiver, he’s been much, much more here in New England. He can play the “X”, the “Z” or the slot. He’s lined up in the backfield and runs the jet sweeps and returns kicks.

He probably won’t sniff Canton, but perhaps when his playing career is over, he should be in the conversation. Not bad for an option QB, that had to go to Junior College and learn an entirely new position in the NFL.

Patriots Embracing the Underdog Role:

With the end of the Chargers game, Tom Brady in his on-field interview with Tracy Wolfson said what the entire team is feeling and they are embracing it. Everyone outside of New England is wanting the Patriots to lose, picking them to lose and basically hoping they’ll lose. Of course, Brady’s “everyone thinks we suck” quote was reiterated in the locker room which produced a silly hair-splitting response from Andrew Siciliano asking “where did anyone say that?”

On his own network, one former player turned analyst gave the Chiefs every competitive advantage in the two teams’ matchups, (QB, RB, Pass Catchers, Defense, and Coaching).

One said that he’d take any QB over Brady in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Another had Brady 6th among trusted QBs in the playoffs. The ESPN “Power Poll” gives New England the least chance of winning the SB with a 15 percent chance of winning it all. And there were plenty of writers who gladly jumped on the “Patriots dynasty is dead” storyline only to see the Pats put a curb-stomping on the Chargers the likes of which we haven’t seen since “A Bronx Tale” bar scene.

We get it here, everyone is sick of seeing the Patriots win and no one outside of the New England states wants to see Brady and Belichick in another Super Bowl. But stop with this foolishness. I’ve seen several places where it has been said, the Patriots “have to play a perfect game to beat KC.”

Flashback to Week 6, NE gave up a 97-yard KO return, a 67-yard TD pass, a 75-yard TD pass, and Brady fumbled at the New England 29 to set up the Chiefs on a short field. Hardly perfect, but yet the Patriots won. Make no mistake, they have to play an excellent game tonight, but perfect? No. The Chiefs are latest, team du jour who everyone is rallying around as the next great team, and the one they want/hope will dethrone the Patriots.  

Patriots Versatility in the Running Game Key Tonight:

One Patriots’ key to winning this game is to remain balanced on offense and having the running game be effective. Their still a passing team first, however, an effective running game keeps the defenses honest and slows down the pass rushers, allowing Brady to throw from a clean pocket.

The Patriots have been running a lot of “21 Personnel” (2 RB, 1 TE, 2WR) packages down the stretch. And it has been a big reason why the offense has been so effective. They can mix and match different combinations with the backs and it gives options to Brady on how he wants to attack the defense, given how they match up defensively.

During the Week 6 matchup, the Patriots shredded KC’s defense when running the “21” package. They had a 65 percent success rate while running out of it with an average of 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. And an even better success rate of passing out of it, with an 80 percent success rate where Brady averaged 15.4 yards per attempt while passing out of the “21” package.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Conference Weekend Predictions:

Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:  0-4

Divisional Weekend: 4-0

New England over Kansas City
New Orleans over LA Rams

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 1-13, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-13, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Ignore the Noise: After Chargers beat the Ravens, as expected many of the national pundits raced to tell you why LA was going to win this matchup on the road against New England. The Chargers offense was more explosive, their defense much more stifling, they have playmakers all over the field…did we miss any?

But the numbers don’t really play that out. The explosive Chargers offense? They averaged 26.8 points this year. That scuffling Patriots offense averaged 27.2.  The Chargers defense allowed an average of 20.6 points per game. New England’s much-maligned defense allowed just 20.3 points.

The Bolts are a very good team in 2018 and do have a very good chance of pulling off the win today. But they’ll have to play better than they did a week ago. The Patriots don’t have Lamar Jackson under center. And the Pats are at home. Whoever plays better today will advance, but I wouldn’t buy into the hype that this is it for New England’s dynasty. That’s more wishful thinking than anything else.

Brady’s Cliff Has Different Parameters: Speaking of wishful thinking, several very biased hot take artists have been falling all over themselves to proclaim that Brady’s end is near and that he just doesn’t have it anymore. While issues with his supporting cast this season had as much to do with his numbers falling off as much as anything, but a closer look at those numbers reveal that there is a standard for Brady “falling off” and one for everyone else.

Look at Brady’s biggest rival, Peyton Manning in 2008. Manning completed 371 of 555 passes (66.8%) for 4002 yards, 27 TDs and 12 INTs with a passer rating of 95.0. Now with Brady’s #s in 2018,  375 of 570 (65.8%) for 4355 yards, 29 TDs and 11 INTs with a passer rating of 97.7. One is an MVP year and the other is falling off a cliff? Whose numbers were better?

Why did we bring up 2008? Because Manning’s numbers won him an MVP that year.

Did you Know? With a win today, the Patriots will move on to their eighth straight conference championship game and the 13th of Bill Belichick’s career. The only coach with 10 conference championship games since the 1970 merger is Tom Landry.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The Patriots with a win today will mark a record for Tom Brady in the divisional round at 13-2 in his career, including 12-1 in Foxboro.

Edelman Close to a Personal Milestone: Julian Edelman needs just five catches today to move past Reggie Wayne for second place all-time in playoff receptions. Wayne has 93 and Edelman enters today’s game with 89 career playoff receptions. Not bad for a college QB.

In case you’re wondering, Jerry Rice is far ahead of everyone with 151 catches in the postseason. With 39 receiving yards, Edelman will also move into the Top 10 in playoff receiving yards.

McDaniels Staying Put, At Least Thru 2019:

With the news that he didn’t get the Green Bay head coaching job, Josh McDaniels has announced that he’s off the table in manners of searching for the next head coaching position.

During a conference call with the media, McDaniels didn’t mince words. “The book is closed,” McDaniels said leaving no doubt for anyone to speculate.  “It’s always a humbling experience to have an opportunity to interview with anybody for that position.

“I was thankful for the opportunity to meet with Green Bay; it always gives you greater insight into another organization of how they do things. It’s been very educational for me every time I’ve gone through it and I’ve appreciated every single one of them.”

“I’m completely focused on the Chargers and our season and finishing it strong. And I’ll be here moving forward.”

Kraft Wins Genesis Prize in Israel, the “Jewish Nobel”:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being honored for his philanthropy work in Israel and is being awarded the $1 million dollar Genesis Prize, which is often equated as the “Jewish Nobel.” He will be awarded the honor at a gala in Jerusalem in June.

According to a statement released by the Kraft Group, he will be giving the money “to initiatives combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice as well as attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel.”

Kraft has given more than half a billion dollars to causes including health care, education, the Jewish community, Christian organizations, and local needs.

Genesis Prize chairman Stan Polovets called the Kraft “one of the world’s most generous philanthropists whose charitable giving reflects the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world.”

Patriots Versatility At RB May Serve Them Well This Week:

The Patriots have a versatile group of running backs heading into the postseason with rookie Sony Michel who had 931 yards rushing and six touchdowns is the primary running back in the ground game while James White with 87 receptions was the leading pass receiver of the group. Rex Burkhead who missed all but seven games is the guy who does a little bit of both. James Develin is the blocking fullback who can catch the odd pass. Their versatility helps keep each other fresh and opponents guessing.

This versatility will be needed today, now that the playoffs have arrived. If teams try to stack the box, Brady can put the backs in motion and split them out wide to create matchup problems. If they flood the secondary with defensive backs to stop the pass, they can run the ball and keep the sticks moving.

If the Patriots are going to move on the conference championship, they’ll need big games from their running backs, in both the running and passing games. In last year’s game against the Chargers, Brady completed 14-15 passes for 163 yards to the running backs. Look for them to try to replicate that success again today. And for the Chargers to try to stop that as well.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Divisional Weekend Predictions:

Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend: 0-4 (yikes)

Saturday – Kansas City over Indy
                 LA Rams over Dallas

Sunday –   New England over LA Chargers
                 New Orleans over Philly

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Big Decision Looming on Shady McCoy:

The Buffalo Bills finally have some long-term stability at quarterback.and now they have to decide on whether or not they move on from running back LeSean McCoy.

McCoy, the 30-year old running back has a lot of treads worn off on his tires after being a workhorse for his entire 10-year career. In 2018, he posted career lows of just 514 yards rushing, a paltry 3.2 yards per rush average and just three touchdowns.

Not all of the fault lies with McCoy, the Bills offensive line was a particular area of weakness this season and a place they’ll be looking to improve upon in 2019. Their passing game was also non-existent at times and teams loaded up the box to stop the run.

With a salary cap hit of $9.05 million dollars in 2019, the Bills will be looking to at least adjust his cap number but they may be looking to start fresh with younger players. One area that points to his decline, however, is in the passing game. McCoy caught 59 passes in 2017, this season they dropped to just 34. His touchdown totals in the past three seasons have fallen from 14 in 2016, to 8 a year ago, to just 3 this season.

Dolphins Expected to Hire Flores As The Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins are bucking the trend with going for the next offensive whiz-kid coach (read next Sean McVay), and are rumored to be hiring Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores as their next head coach. Miami was targeting defensive coaches and interviewed Saints DC Dennis Allen and Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richards among their candidates.

It is going to be a tough job for Flores who will have to go thru a bit of rebuild in South Beach before the Dolphins are ready to challenge in the AFC East. For the first time, he’ll have to go thru the process of hiring assistants, running the day-to-day operation of a team and have to deal with offensive personnel, something he’s had no experience with. Flores worked his way from the bottom with the Patriots from a scouting assistant, to a positional coach, STs assistant to the defensive coordinator.

But he has a great reputation as a commanding presence in the meeting room while maintaining a very good relationship with his players. He’ll be the second defensive coordinator in the past two seasons to bolt for a head coaching job.

Jets Hire Adam Gase and Bypass McCarthy:

The New York Jets have hired recently fired Miami coach Adam Gase as their new head coach after the fired Todd Bowles after the regular season. Many believed that former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy was the front-runner for the job, but they turned to Gase, who also has a track record of working with QBs, having worked with Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and had some success working with Ryan Tannehill.

And while many fans, especially those who listen to WFAN were unhappy with the news, Jets’ ownership is quite happy with the hiring. “At the onset of the interview process, I wanted to hire a head coach who was the right person and the right fit for our organization,” Johnson released in a statement. “We talked to a number of excellent candidates and it became clear to me that Adam was the person who will help us establish a winning program and a winning culture.”

“Adam is a young, creative mind, but he also has 22 years of coaching experience,” Johnson said. “He is an innovator whose path saw him succeed at both the college and the NFL levels. He has helped a number of different quarterbacks, at various stages of their careers, reach new heights. We think Sam [Darnold] will continue to develop under his tutelage, but we made the decision because of Adam’s vision for the entire football team.”

Meanwhile, on the “Benigno & Roberts” WFAN show, the duo was lambasting Jets ownership for not hiring McCarthy, which played well to some of the fans on social media. Roberts called Gase this week, “Peyton Manning’s coffee boy.”

Ouch. Welcome to New York Adam Gase.

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.

New England Patriots News 01-06, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 6, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-06, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

No…This IS 41: Last week in the aftermath of the Jets game, another hot-take artist of Fox Sports radio with an ax to grind, first complained that the league conspired to get the Patriots the bye because of what he called a terrible call of roughing the passer by the Jets against Brady. “NFL badly needed the Patriots to get that #2 seed. This call is total garbage. Patriots eventually score, up 21-3.”

Then he cherry-picked a missed throw by Brady to Hogan in the end zone to claim, “This is 41.” The funny part was the next day, he called out another writer for having a “garbage take” on the Antonio Brown saga. Glass houses, especially when in the game against the Jets, Brady completed over 70 percent of his throws, threw 4 TDs and had a passer rating of 133.8.

But we can cherry pick too, so…here’s your “This is 41”

Did you Know? Since 2001, the Patriots have had 13 byes, the most in the NFL. The next closest teams are the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers with 5. This is the ninth consecutive year earning a bye, the most prior to this Patriots run has been four. . Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995 and Denver had four straight from 2012 through 2015.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The only NFL team to win a championship and is no longer in the league was from New England. The Providence Steamroller was part of the league from 1925 -1931 and won the NFL Championship in 1928. Besides being one of two teams (Chicago Cardinals) to be the first to play a night game in 1929, Providence, due to a scheduling snafu and bad weather played four games in a six-day stretch which the night game, attended by 6000 fans was the second game of the stretch.

Patriots Unveil 2018 Playoff Motto: The Patriots, as part of their M.O., have unveiled a motto for the playoffs this year, “Everything We Got.” They unveiled a short video that showed many of the national pundits calling for the demise of the Pats dynastic run.

Then the video shows the team in a quick series of vignettes and then the narrator says:
To get everything,
It’s going to take everything.
So we’re going to give everything.
EVERYTHING WE GOT.

Is it as good as “Do Your Job”? Nope. But it is a step up from “One More” in our opinion. Enjoy the Wildcard Weekend’s slate of the games. There were 12 good teams entering the playoffs this weekend, 11 of them will lose their last game of the year. That’s why our motto, which we’d steal from Hollywood, would be. “There Can Be Only One!”

With McDaniels and Flores Being Courted, Focus on O’Shea, Bielema:

Like clockwork, the staff of Bill Belichick is being raided again as multiple teams have requested interviews with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores. McDaniels is rumored to be the top choice for the Green Bay Packers and is very much in the mix for Cleveland, he turned down a request to interview with Cincinnati. It might sound strange but the better job overall and probably better for McDaniels may be Cleveland.

The Packers have a 36-year old QB who got his last coach fired. The offense runs through Rodgers, it is doubtful, he’s going to want to learn a new system at this stage of his career. Cleveland has a good young defense, an exciting rookie QB that knows how to win and is a team trending up.

But we digress… If one, or both leave who will take over the reins as the coordinators for the Patriots in 2019? On offense, it seems like a no-brainer in that Chad O’Shea will take over the play calling there. He’s been being groomed for that spot for some time now. O’Shea has been with the team for 10 years and called the plays during the preseason last summer. That one seems like a slam-dunk. However, O’Shea’s name is being floated around as a possible Offensive Coordinator for Matt Patricia in Detroit. We’ll have to monitor that situation.

Defensively, the situation will be difficult as they have no clear-cut coach lined up to take the reins. In reality, Flores isn’t even a “true” defensive coordinator, as he’s not been even given the title of it yet… why, is a story for another time.

Bill Belichick would probably take most of the onus on himself as the defensive coordinator for 2019, however, there isn’t a clear-cut successor ready yet. The best choice? Bret Bielema who was a head coach at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Brendan Daly, who coaches the Defensive Line, may become a candidate in a year or two, but right now, the odds would be against him.

AB to the Pats? Not Happening:

When the news broke about the deteriorating situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, it was amazing how dysfunctional that team truly is. Mike Tomlin has always run a loose ship and that has come home to roost. But as soon as the story broke about Brown requesting a trade, Patriots fans jumped all over the story, wanting Belichick to swing a deal for Brown.

But there is no way that’s happening. For one, the Steelers would still be on the hook for Brown’s huge 2019 cap hit. They’ll probably try to mend the relationship between Brown, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Tomlin. Barring that, if they do decide to trade him, one place they never would trade Brown to would be New England.

And as ridiculously talented Brown is, I can’t imagine that there would be a mutual interest in bringing him here. Can you imagine Brown’s Facebook Live video going on while Belichick is addressing the team in a post-game setting? And Brown, although in the midst of a terrific season, was mad because Roethlisberger was making JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had an even better 2018, the focal point. I can’t see Brown accepting a role where he’s not “the guy” that the offense runs thru.

After last season and the tabloid-like story on the divorce of Brady/Belichick, while the team was going 13-3 and on their way to another Super Bowl, is there going to be a big breaking piece on the disintegration of the Steelers’ locker room? Their two most talented offensive players quit on their team this season…but we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Young QBs Have Fans Excited in Several Markets:

The NFL had an influx of young QBs this year and many of them played big roles for their teams right off the bat. And it is a great thing for several NFL franchises that have been downtrodden for a number of years as these young QBs generate hope and excitement for the next generation.

The league has their established stars in QBs like Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers but the story this season really wasn’t about any of them but Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, while technically not a rookie lit the league on fire this fall. While perennial bottom feeders in Cleveland now have an exciting young QB, Baker Mayfield who has instantly brought hope and respectability to the franchise. Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have had different levels of success but at least have their fans tuning in.

No one knows if any of these young studs can keep up the long-term success that they’ve found in their first year of playing.  There are no guarantees, injuries occur as well as other issues that can arise, but right now, the 2019 season looks to be, on paper one to really look forward to.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions:

Last week: 12-4 Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:

Saturday – Houston over Indy,
                 Seattle over Dallas
Sunday –   Baltimore over LA Chargers (tough start time for West Coast teams)
                Chicago over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have Their Man in Josh Allen, Now Need a Surrounding Cast:

The Buffalo Bills picked their guy in the QB Class of 2018 in the person of Allen, the big, strong-armed youngster from Wyoming who had a very up-and-down year, which isn’t a rarity for rookie QBs.

Allen has some obvious flaws in his game. He can be woefully inaccurate at times, but those are mechanical issues that can be solved thru coaching. But for a big guy (6’5, 237) he runs deceptively fast from the pocket.

The Bills need to surround Allen with better weapons next year. Although they have Zay Jones and Robert Foster, they could use another WR, RB, TE and a heckuva lot better support along the offensive line.

Allen ended the season in dramatic fashion, throwing for three TDs and running for two more, the first Bills QB to account for five TDs in a game since Jim Kelly. That left fans in Western NY, itching for a winner, looking forward to 2019. That may even stop them from throwing sex toys on the field during games… Maybe not.

Dolphins Search For the Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins, in a mild surprise, fired head coach Adam Gase after the season was over, but the way the team finished their final quarter of the season, it shouldn’t have been. After an improbable, last-second fluke win over the Patriots, Miami was blown out in Minnesota, lost by 10 to Jacksonville and by 25 to Buffalo.

The Dolphins are busy trying to find their next head coach. GM Chris Grier has interviewed the Patriots’ Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and now are set to interview Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. For Bieniemy, this season was just his first as a coordinator but it was his fourth interview this week. He also met with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other names included in the search include Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Dolphins’ Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi.

Jets May Have Interest in Baylor HC Matt Ruhle :

The New York Jets are in Texas this weekend, interviewing Cowboys’ assistant coach Kris Richard but multiple sources are reporting that the Jets may also have a lot of interest in Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle.

Ruhle would be an interesting choice as he’s been instrumental in turning around a couple of college programs. Ruhle was born in New York City and spent a year on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an assistant offensive line coach.

He was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Temple before becoming the head coach for four seasons. His last two in Temple, the team won 10 games, the only time in the program’s history that they accomplished that.  He then moved to Baylor to a program that had been rocked by a sexual assault scandal. In 2017, his team went 1-11. This season, they went 7-6. Ruhle got some interest from the Colts last year in their coaching search. He’d be a good coach it is believed to work with Sam Darnold.

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.

New England Patriots News 11-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-18, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

Not a SB Team?  Former Patriot front office assistant to Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi stated he has serious doubts that this Patriot team has what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl this year. On a podcast, he was direct in his belief.

“To me, this is not a good Patriots team. I have been saying it all year,” Lombardi said.

“They struggle to make explosive plays. Whether they have Gronk or don’t have Gronk, I think it is really problematic for them. When they are on the road — they didn’t have Shaq Mason at right guard, Ted Karras had to play in there — I thought the Titans did a great job. And Corey Davis here is a guy who has had one play over 25 yards all season. He had a 23-yard against the Eagles and a 55-yarder. The guy really makes plays down the field and he had seven (catches) for 125 (yards) in the game. That is not good.”

Did you Know? That yesterday November 17 was the 50th anniversary of the famous “Heidi” game. In 1968, the Jets and Raiders were locked in an epic shootout and the network cut away from the game to broadcast the film “Heidi” in their 4 p.m. time slot. The Raiders scored twice in the last minute to win 43-32, but the only people in America that got to see that were the fans in the stadium.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With 147 yards passing next week against the Jets, Tom Brady will become the NFL leader in passing yardage, regular and post-season combined.
Peyton Manning ……………………….79,279
Tom Brady …………………………….   79,133
Brett Favre………………………………. 77,693
Drew Brees ………………………………77,255

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2003, the Patriots are 46-7 (.868 win percentage) following a loss. That doesn’t bode extremely well for a Jets upset next week in the Meadowlands, but that is why they play the games.

Did you Know Pt. 4: Things that make you go hmm. There was a stat on social media, the other day, and I truly can’t remember who posted it to give proper credit, but here is a good one, especially for the “Belichick can’t draft” crowd.

Teams with the most draft picks that are still in the NFL:
Bengals     61
Ravens      54
Seahawks 54
49ers         53
Patriots     52

Now factor in WHERE the Patriots draft in relation to those other teams as well as everyone else, and presto!, their ratio isn’t so bad now, is it?

James White set a new personal best with 66 catches and is only 11 away from a new Patriots record. Tony Collins set the team record with 77 catches in 1986. White is also right on pace with some of the best #s of catches by a running back after 10 games.
Reggie Bush     2007  New Orleans  67
Larry Centers   1996  Arizona           67
Matt Forte        2014  Chicago           67
James White    2018  New England  66

Kaepernick to the Patriots Rumors:  The Patriots were rumored in September to be in talks with QB Colin Kaepernick to bring him to New England to back up Tom Brady. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, kind of dismissed that idea, not really confirming or denying it was true. However, in an interview with Devin Gordon of the NY Times, Kraft had this interesting tidbit about Kaepernick. “Let me say this: I would very much like to see him in the league,” Kraft said. That should stoke the Kaepernick to NE rumors again.

Heating Up in the Colder (Snowy?) Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along. Let’s see how this starts out in 2018 next week against the Jets.

Now Things Get Interesting, Pats Down the Stretch:

Last week we wrote that the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Chiefs who are 9-1 and now two games ahead of the Patriots in the AFC. The loss dropped New England out of the top two as Pittsburgh only has two losses (6-2-1). But the Patriots are far from out of the running for a bye once the playoffs roll around. Why? Take a look at the schedules of the teams involved.

The Chiefs (9-1) have an upcoming game this week against the Rams, and also have games upcoming against the Chargers, the Seahawks (in Seattle) and a possible trap game against the Ravens who have a tough defense.

The LA Chargers (7-2), I still have a hard time NOT saying San Diego, have games coming up against the Steelers, Chiefs and possible trap games against the Ravens and Bengals.

The Steelers (6-2-1) have the Chargers and then the Patriots and Saints in back-to-back games and also play the Jaguars today, the team who beat them twice in Pittsburgh last season.

The Patriots (7-3) have games with Minnesota, Miami (on the road where they always seem to play like poo-poo) and the Steelers

Everybody can’t win out, they all play each other. And think about this, the Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the loss column, that division is far from locked up. So, the Patriots are in a position where, if they play well down the stretch, should be in a great position to lock up a first-round bye for the playoffs. The games will get very intriguing from here on out.

Areas That Need Improving Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots off this week, they always do their own self-scouting and look to where the team feels it needs improving to finish the season strong. We’re going to post our own analysis on where we feel the team needs to improve to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and possibly parlay that into another game for NE in February.

Improve Special Teams- Specifically the coverage units. Very uncharacteristically for a Bill Belichick team, the Patriots have been bad in kick coverage this year. They currently rank 29th and 31st correspondingly in Punt and Kick coverage.

That is not good, especially with a defense that has had its struggles this year. The team seems to have already addressed those issues. They brought in STs/LBs Albert McClellan, formerly of the Ravens last week and just signed Ramon Humber who has spent time with the team in the past.

The return units are actually rounding into form quite well. The Patriots rank 2nd in the league in kickoff return yardage and 2nd in punt return average.

Get a Healthy Gronk and Burkhead Back for the Offense- The Patriots offense, while scoring at the 8th best mark in the league, can actually be much, much better. They’ve been very inconsistent and need to get their key skill position players healthy as well as their offensive line for a late-season push.

Gronkowski has missed several games and has been hobbled for much of the season beyond that. Besides being the best overall tight end in the game when he’s healthy, he provides matchup nightmares for defensive coordinators. If opponents double him, they leave someone else open. He’s a devastating blocker in the running game as well. Jacob Hollister has also been hurt most of the year, so it has left the tight end position with very little production. Dwayne Allen has two catches on the year.

Burkhead is a very valuable piece as he can spell both Sony Michel in the running game and James White in the passing game. While he’s the equal of neither in their respective strengths, his versatility makes him keep opposing defenses honest. Getting both Gronkowski and Burkhead back and healthy for a stretch run will do wonders for the Patriots offense.

Where’s The Beef (Pass Rush)- Thru the first 10 games the Patriots have just 15 sacks. That is 30th in the NFL and isn’t going to get it done. While they have gotten decent enough pressure on opposing QBs, the pass rush has to get home with much more regularity. It is a big difference between an incomplete pass on 2nd and 4 because of pressure and facing a 3rd and 12 or 13.

Trey Flowers has been outstanding and does so many things well, but the other players need to step up their games more. Although even Flowers would be best served with a bit more production as well.

They’ve been creating some extra pressure by using corner and linebacker blitzes. But as we’ve seen before, the best teams will pick up on those and it can be a dangerous situation if they do.

Brady Needs to Spread the Wealth Around- One of the things that has reared its ugly head last week in the loss to the Titans was the fact that Brady was locking into his primary receivers (Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White) and has pretty much ignored his secondary WRs (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett).

That’s always been a sure sign that Brady is struggling and that needs to change. Brady had Hogan wide open with what appeared to be a touchdown last week, instead, forcing the ball to Edelman on 4th down.

This plays into what we mentioned above and getting everyone back and healthy but he needs to do a bit better job overall and certainly to use all of his weapons. He said as much this week.

Brady and the Cliff…Keep Praying Boys, It May Come True Someday:

Our buddy Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda wrote a very intriguing piece the other day where he said there is a very real number of national football writers and NFL fans that can’t wait for the demise of Tom Brady. Mike hit it right on the head and I would encourage everyone here to check it out. And it is true.

Many of the hot take artists are really just jock sniffers wrapped up in a suit on national television. Brady has never fit the narrative because he was never supposed to be “the guy”. A 6th round draft pick #199 taken behind some of the quarterbacks that went before him in the draft that were underachievers…would be a politically correct term. He was supposed to be an asterisk on the minds of all. “Remember Tom Brady?” “Oh yeah, that unathletic kid from Michigan that won a bowl game…he wasn’t going to ever make it in the NFL.”

Remember 2001, that was a great story…9/11, We are all Patriots…yeah he had his moment but to the hot take crowd that was his 15 seconds. Now move over kid, the great one “Manning the #1 pick in the draft, he is the ONE.”

But 2003 happened and the kid showed it wasn’t a flash in the pan and he led another final Super Bowl drive to give his team another win and the hot take crowd wasn’t happy. By 2004, the great story had turned to an open hatred of him, his unquotable coach and the team that won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls.

After leaving Manning in the dust with eight Super Bowl appearances and five wins, now the cretin, ultracrepidarians can’t wait for him to fail. Which is why after every Patriot loss, they rush to the microphone to spew their latest drivel about the “cliff’ or whatever else they do. Don’t bother. One of those loudly proclaimed after the 2011 Super Bowl loss to the Giants that “Tom Brady will never see another Super Bowl” Three SBs and two wins later, now this buffoon rushes to the microphone to say…”All of those don’t really count”. Okay.

The two real questions are #1. Who would hire someone who is more wrong than the worst weatherman in the U.S.? And #2, Are your lives so pathetic, the hate for all things NE so bad, that you rush to listen to this after every NE loss? I wonder how bad the cheering will be against Brady this February when NE and NO have the Super Bowl QB AARP game of the ages?  Don’t bet against it. I called it before Week 1 and I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise. Fast forward to the 37:15 mark and there it is.

“Let the hate flow thru you…”

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 7-7 Season 96-50-2 Bye Week: NE, Buf, Mia, NYJ, Browns, 49ers

Thursday night’s pick  Seahawks over Packers 1-0

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ravens
Dallas at Atlanta: Falcons
Tampa Bay at NY Giants: G-men
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Houston at Washington: Texans
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Colts (SB Hangover)
Carolina at Detroit: Panthers
Denver at LA Chargers: Bolts
Oakland at Arizona: Raiders
Philadelphia at New Orleans: Saints (are we having fun yet?)
Minnesota at Chicago SNF: Vikings
Kansas City at LA Rams MNF: Rams

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

No AFC East Notes this week as everyone is on the bye week. We’ll have those back 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News 10-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 28, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-28, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here

Did you Know? Bill Belichick has coached the Patriots since 2000 and we’ve all seen some of the crazy stats that the team has amassed since then. One statistic that stood out and one that we haven’t seen before was even more startling. Although the Patriots lost the turnover battle last week in Chicago they ultimately won the game 38-31. But since 2000 when losing the turnover battle the Patriots are 38-37, or slightly over .500. But the rest of the NFL when losing the T.O. battle is just  713-2765-8. The next closest team in Indy who is winning at a .340 percentage.

Kyle Van Noy feels blessed to be part of the Patriots and on the anniversary of his trade to bring him to New England, he posted his feelings on his Twitter account. “Happy anniversary to me and my trade day! What a day that turned out to be!” #blessing #thanksbilltrill #thanksbob #champ

His worth is felt by Bill Belichick, “Kyle has a lot of versatility for us,” Belichick said. “Play the run, rush the passer and play in coverage. He does a good job at all of them and his versatility has been valuable for us.”

Patrick Peterson to the Patriots was never a rumor that we put much stock in here, it was totally debunked when Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, said his sources told him that the Patriots never reached out at all. However, (comma), the trade deadline is just a few days away, what positions could the Pats be targeting? Hmm, an interior pass rusher, a running back or my choice, a sub-package linebacker who’ll have the speed to cover. Arizona has a pair of former first-round draft picks who are on the trading block because they don’t the new system. Deone Bucannon and Haasan Reddick are the two names that come to mind.

Nate Solder has told the media, that he does not regret leaving the Patriots for the New York Giants even though he’s lost more games (six) in the first seven weeks than he did in any Patriots season, even the past two years combined. “I was certainly not expecting [the trades], but I am so thankful to be here under the leadership of [general manager Dave] Gettleman, coach [Pat] Shurmur,” he said.

“I just think that they’re building this thing the right way. I believe in those guys tremendously. All of the decisions they made I fully support, and whatever that means, we play it out however it needs to be played out.” Of course, signing a four-year, $62 million dollar deal helps ease the sting of those losses a bit.

Melinfonwu is an Intriguing Player That the Pats Brought In:

The Patriots brought in three free agent players this week for workouts. As usual, they’re updating their emergency lists or just to get a feel for some players and see what makes them tick, just in case they meet them down the road. The team brought in TE Ben Koyack and DB Dexter McCoil but the real intriguing name was Obi Melifonwu.

Melifonwu is from Grafton, Mass and attended UConn after high school. At the NFL Combine last year, the uber-athletic safety put on a show. His sheer athleticism and elite size, (6’4, 225), put him on the Raiders radar and they snagged him with the 56th pick

His rookie season was marred with two stints on IR, the second was a hip injury that required surgery. He was just getting back on the field this summer when he injured his knee and the Raiders, under a new regime cut their ties to him.

We spoke to him very early in the spring and his rehab for his hip surgery was still a slow process, which is normal for those type of injuries. But apparently, Gruden, who didn’t draft him wanted to go in a different direction.                                                                                                                                                           

But the Raiders never really had a plan on how to use him, something that New England and Bill Belichick wouldn’t have any issue in doing. He was a bit frustrated with Oakland. A source close to Melifonwu told us that last year he had just started practicing before the Patriots game as he came off IR.  He said that on Thursday, he’d practiced at safety but then on Friday during the walkthrough, he was told, he’d be playing corner, something he’d hadn’t practiced.

That didn’t end well for the rookie but if the Patriots were to sign him, he’d most definitely be used as a safety as his skill set is tailor-made for it. Our feeling here is …if he’s healthy would be a really nice addition to the backend of the defense.

Patriots Find Themselves in a Familiar Place:

The season started slowly at 1-2 for New England and of course, all of the talk was centered around “if this is the year” that the Patriots lose the stranglehold in the division. And that talk, as well as the demise of the team, seems to be once again premature.  

With a win on Monday Night in Buffalo, the Patriots will enter the midway point of the season at 6-2 with at least a two-game lead over the Dolphins (with a tiebreaker) and the Jets. And the best part of it is that the team hasn’t even played their best football yet.

Miami got off to a hot 3-0 start, but since then it has been strictly downhill for the Fins going 1-4 and with questions about Ryan Tannehill’s future, the Dolphins are in for a lot of questions this offseason. Meanwhile, despite suffering a large number of injuries, the Patriots are in good shape to challenge for one of the top spots in the AFC.  

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 8 Predictions:

Last week: 9-5 Season 67-38-2 Bye Week: Falcons, Cowboys, Chargers, Titans

Thursday night’s pick  Houston over Miami 1-0

Philadelphia vs Jacksonville in London: Eagles
Denver at Kansas City: Chiefs
Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Steelers
Washington at NY Giants: Redskins
Seattle at Detroit: Lions
Tampa Bay at Cincinnati: Bengals
NY Jets at Chicago: Bears
Baltimore at Carolina: Panthers
Indianapolis at Oakland: Colts
San Francisco at Arizona: 49ers
Green Bay at LA Rams: Rams
New Orleans at Minnesota: Vikings
MNF- New England at Buffalo: Patriots

Early Thursday Night Pick: Raiders over 49ers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Hoping Anderson Turns it Around This Week:

The Buffalo Bills face the daunting task of taking on their nemesis, the New England Patriots and Tom Brady this week. Their record against Brady is 3-28 and the Bills enter this week 2-5, while the Patriots, winners of four in a row are 5-2. But if they’re going to have any chance of upsetting New England, they’ll have to be a much better effort than last week from QB Derek Anderson.

Anderson, taking over for the injured Josh Allen last week, had a rough game, turning the ball over four times, three interceptions and a fumble. Having been only in the Bills’ system for three weeks, there are still plenty of things to learn for Anderson, in terms of the playbook.

He will, however, have a few things going for him. This will be the Bills first Monday Night home game in about a decade and it guaranteed to be rocking.

Anderson has already shown some decent chemistry with Kelvin Benjamin but he really needs to get on the same page and quickly with Charles Clay. The big tight end should be a big part of the game plan this week as New England has had issues covering tight ends.

Dolphins Defense Enters Midway Point of 2018 Struggling:

The Miami Dolphins as we mentioned above started the season strong, especially on defense where they thought they’d made several improvements. But since the Patriots throttled them a month ago, they’ve really struggled and Thursday Night’s showing against the Texans was particularly poor.

The Texans big four playmakers had tremendous games against the Dolphins, QB Deshaun Watson completed 80 percent of his passes and had a QB rating of 156. The big duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined for 206 yards and three TDs. And Lamar Miller ran for 133 yards. After allowing the Lions to rush for 248 yards, Houston ran for 188 more and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

And with a pass rush having the likes of Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake facing a Texans offensive line that has surrendered the most QB hits and sacks in the league, the Dolphins logged just one QB hit and zero sacks.

The Dolphins and coach Adam Gase are at a critical point of the season. They’ll have to turn things around and quickly, especially on defense this season if they are to make any noise this season. Otherwise, Gase’s seat could go from warm to hot this winter.

Jets Aware of Trubiski’s Ability to Scramble:

The New York Jets head out on the road to face the Chicago Bears this week and after watching the tape of last week, know that they must do a good job of limiting the scrambling ability of QB Mitch Trubiski who ran for 81 yards a week ago against New England.

The Bears offense, currently #6 in the NFL averaging 28.3 points per game is definitely being helped by the running of Trubiski who has rushed 31 times for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season.

“He does surprise me, actually,” DE Leonard Williams said. “You see some running quarterbacks that are able to run, but he actually looks like a runner when he’s running. He doesn’t just look like a fast quarterback. I think that’s definitely a challenge.”

Coach Todd Bowles is preaching a total defensive effort this week but the Jets have fared fairly well thus far against mobile QBs in 2018. Against the Browns Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor, Gang Green allowed just six rushes for 20 yards. Blake Bortles scrambled for 28 yards on three carries and Ryan Tannehill had 44 yards on eight scrambles.

For the Jets to pull off the upset, they’ll need to limit their turnovers and contain Trubiski in the pocket. Something the Patriots couldn’t do.

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.

New England Patriots News 10-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-14, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Josh Gordon said this week, that the transition to the Patriots offense hasn’t been that hard, because of all the support that he’s receiving from the other players, including Tom Brady. Gordon said the two talk football all day long and with his family here now, the transition to New England has been much smoother.

“Most of the day, we end up talking football, whether it be in the locker room here briefly or in most of the meeting rooms or the time after practice. We carve out time, and we make it happen,” Gordon said.

“I just ask and he’s open about it. It makes it easy for me to communicate with him and makes it a real natural type of relationship,” Gordon added.

Chris Hogan will have a lot of eyes on him this week and moving forward. Hogan was outstanding as a complementary WR in 2016 and then was on his way to another very solid 2017 when he went down with a shoulder injury. He struggled the rest of the season however, he had a very big game in the Super Bowl so the hope was that he was back.

However, thus far in 2018 Hogan has struggled to get any separation in man coverage and his numbers are way down. With Josh Gordon in the fold and Julian Edelman back from his torn ACL and four-game suspension, if Hogan is going to make a splash this season, the time is now.

QB Connor Cook, WR Devin Ross, TE Shane Wimann as well as edge players Will Clarke and Kasim Edebali were given workouts by the Patriots on Friday at Gillette Stadium. Wimann spent time with the Patriots during training camp before suffering an injury. Edebali went to Boston College and bounced around to several teams.

Tom Brady passing the torch as the premier QB in the AFC to Patrick Mahomes?  SMH. Noted bobo and hot-take artist Nick Wright said that should KC win tonight, the mantle may be passed from Brady to Mahomes. Pump the brakes a bit. Mahomes is off to a tremendous start, but we’ve seen this before, let Mahomes develop and actually win something before you anoint him as the next GOAT. Let’s see one has five SB wins and one has five wins…period. That’s a stretch even for Wright.

Rob Ninkovich has taken the side of Rob Gronkowski (not surprisingly), in the debate over who is the better tight end, Gronk or Travis Kelce. While both are talented pass catchers, Kelce treats blocking inside like kryptonite, something Ninko pointed out. However, having a former teammate jump to your defense isn’t exactly scientific.

Blueprint term overused much? One of the terms in the NFL that is used far too often is the word “blueprint”. Team A has a blueprint on how to defeat Team B, as if the different players had nothing to do with it and it is all scheme driven.

Case in point, this week I saw close to a half-dozen mentions of the Jacksonville “blueprint” on how to stop the Kansas City offense. While certain principles may apply on how to approach certain downs and situations, the differences in personnel for every team make that blueprint seem more guideline-ish. But maybe we’re just reading too much into it.  BTW, didn’t Jacksonville lose 30-14?

Jalen Ramsey who made such noise about Tyreek Hill being a “return specialist” was sure showing some respect last week. With the Chiefs facing a 3rd and 10 in the second half, Ramsey was giving Hill an 11 yards cushion. Not bad…for a return specialist. Hill had four catches for 61 yards and two runs for 26 more.

London Jaguars? PFT Fell For Another Banana in the Tailpipe:
Not Patriots related but some NFL “news” is that Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith saw the item in the British tabloids that not only is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is buying Wembley Stadium and….(gasp!) is planning to move the Jaguars there in 2022. Khan also owns the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League. Smith, as well as the British tabloids, had as their “source”, a former Fulham employee, Craig Kline who says that Khan “told this to him and to keep quiet” before he was fired from Fulham over a year ago.   

Kline, has been described (and aptly) by people that knew him in Fulham as a total flake. Since being canned, he’s accused the Khans of just about everything including racism. This latest take is just another “look at me” moment.

The Khans saw what the Patriots did in Foxboro with One Patriots Place and are trying to build the same type of facility and are actively pumping millions of dollars into the surrounding area of their stadium to make it a showplace and moneymaker. Hardly the move a smart billionaire would do if he’s planning on pulling out in a few years.

The NFL is committed to London by playing games there (at Wembley) every year. But moving a franchise there? That is still far in the distance and wouldn’t receive the necessary support from the other owners to make it happen.

White’s Versatility Has Him On Pace For Big Season:

Although this isn’t anything new, the Patriots have been relying on James White’s versatility heavily this season. And his numbers right now have him on pace for a record-breaking year.

White’s 32 catches and 270 yards currently have him slotted for a 103 catch, 864 yards receiving season which would be the most ever for a running back in NFL history (Matt Forte had 102) and the most yards receiving in a single season for a Patriots running back. Tony Collins holds the Pats record for a RB receiving with 684 yards. White also is on pace for 13 receiving touchdowns.

While part of his numbers has been the case of necessity early in the year, White has always been versatile and dependable. Besides never fumbling, he’s always productive in a multitude of ways.

White probably won’t be able to keep those numbers going. Now that Julian Edelman is back and with Josh Gordon in the fold, Tom Brady will be spreading the wealth around a lot more in the upcoming weeks. But it should do little to diminish his value to the team as a very dependable, versatile cog in the offense. We look to him tonight to be a big part of the game plan.  

McCourty: Pats Have to Find a Way to Negate Chiefs’ Speed:

In the leadup for tonight’s game, Devin McCourty was asked this week about the unenviable task of trying to slow down the high flying Chiefs offense. He told the Herald’s Kevin Duffy that Kansas City reminds him of the Steelers team of just a few years ago.

“It’s a little bit like I remember playing against Pittsburgh when it was Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders,” McCourty said. “Like that was just speed everywhere with a quarterback that can launch the ball and get it to them, and it’s the same thing. You have a receiving corps where I think 4.39 (40-yard dash time) is like the slowest speed out there.”

The Patriots will have their hands full tonight, trying to equate with the Chiefs speed outside where they don’t just air it out, but use Tyreek Hill’s speed in the running game as well. How well or poorly they handle that speed will go a long way in determining how tonight’s game goes.

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 6 Predictions:

Last week: 11-4 Season 49-27-2 Bye Week: Lions, Saints

Thursday night’s pick Eagles over the Giants 1-0

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: Falcons
Carolina at Washington: Panthers
Seattle at Oakland: Seahawks
Indy at NY Jets: Colts
Arizona at Minnesota: Vikings
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: Steelers
LA Chargers at Cleveland: Browns
Buffalo at Houston: Texans
Chicago at Miami: Bears
LA Rams at Denver: Rams
Baltimore at Tennessee: Ravens
Jacksonville at Dallas: Jaguars
Kansas City at New England: Patriots
San Francisco at Green Bay: Packers

Early Thursday Night Prediction: Denver over Arizona

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Fan Takes Shot at the Franchise Even in Death:

The Buffalo Bills have some of the most passionate football fans in the league. However, they can push the envelope as much, if not more than anywhere else. They’ve taken table crashing to an art form. And now one of their long-suffering fans has with a dying wish slammed his team one last time.

Lee Merkel, 83 passed away last week, without ever seeing his beloved Bills win a Super Bowl, although he watched them go four straight years to attempt to win the big one but ultimately fail. And one of his wishes was that six current Bills players act as pallbearers at his funeral. Why? So the Bills “can let him down one last time.”

Merkel, a long-time season ticket holder,  is to be buried in a Bills t-shirt that says “once before I die” was an Army veteran, a father, grandfather and ironically enough a member of the Utica Optimists Club.

Dolphins Face Pivotal Mid-Season Game At Home Against Chicago:

The Miami Dolphins are no strangers to questions being asked of them around this time of year. And the biggest question always is, “Who are the Dolphins going to be this year?” The last two years are prime examples.

Under Adam Gase, the team limped out to an atrocious 1-4 start in 2016, with the only win against Cleveland. But then they blew out Pittsburgh and finished strong, going 10-6 and making the playoffs before Ryan Tannehill was hurt and they were ousted in the Wild Card Round.

A year ago, they were thought to have turned the corner and started a very respectable 4-2 and the hope was that, despite losing Tannehill for the year in preseason, they’d be able to build on their success from 2016. Then came the debacle, a 40-0 whitewashing by the Ravens on national television and they would drop six in a row and finish out of the playoffs with a 6-10 record.

Wholesale changes were made. Locker room cancers were cut out and they brought in strong veteran leaders like Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and Robert Quinn. The Dolphins raced out to 3-0 start and things were looking up. But then two blowout losses, one to New England by 31 and the other to the Bengals after Miami led by 17 has the Fins in a very familiar position in mid-October. After today’s game against the Bears, we should know more about this team, depending on how they play.

Crowell A Game-Time Decision for the Jets:

The New York Jets Isaiah Crowell had a franchise record 219 yards rushing last week against the Denver Broncos on just 15 carries for a ridiculous 14.6-yard average. Crowell’s yard average, which is outstanding as a pass receiver was the highest by any player in league history with 15 carries.

He was outstanding and a big part of the reason that the Jets rolled easily at home over the Broncos last week. But he tweaked an ankle last week and after not practicing Wednesday and Thursday, he returned, albeit in a limited fashion on Friday’s walk-through, so coach Todd Bowles has stated that they’ll see where he’s at on Sunday morning.

“We’ll work him out Sunday and see where he’s at,” Bowles said.

Crowell had runs of 77 yards for a TD, 54 yards in the third quarter, and a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter en route to his big, big day. In the first five games of the season, Crowell has had five runs of 50 yards or more in the first five games of the season.

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.

 

Players To Watch Patriots-Chiefs SNF Week 6

Steve Balestrieri
October 12, 2018 at 9:07 am ET

“It Feels Like We’re Playing Kansas City”  

The New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in a much-hyped game for Week 6 in the 2018 NFL season. Except for Bill Belichick that is. Belichick wasn’t buying into all the talk for playing for AFC supremacy, home-field advantage or anything else. On Thursday at his press conference, he was asked a few times about how he feels about the significance of the game. Belichick’s not-so-surprising response… “it feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

But make no mistake it is a big game for both teams. The Chiefs have been on a roll and are 5-0, they want to continue their dominance and build upon that. But they also know they were in a similar position a year ago when the wheels came off. The Patriots started badly at 1-2 but have played much better the past two weeks and now it begins a very tough stretch of games for them.  

This game features two very intriguing QBs, Tom Brady, the reigning MVP and winner of five Super Bowls and Patrick Mahomes, the second-year player making just his seventh start in the NFL who has been lighting the league on fire for the first month plus. Their skill sets and strengths are pretty different and each will have the chance to showcase their talents again on the big national stage on Sunday Night.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is actually questionable to play with a knee injury and was limited in Thursday’s practice session. It isn’t known if this latest injury is a continuation of his knee that was drained of fluid during training camp or it is another new injury that he suffered during the Thursday night game against the Colts.

Michel in the past two weeks has gained over 200 yards and has been really rounding into form after missing all of the preseason games this summer. He has begun to show the form that he exhibited in college that attracted him to the Patriots this spring and gives them a dynamic back who gain can break a small run into a big one.

He should be (if he’s good to go), a big part of the game plan this week. The Patriots will look to stay balanced and run the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Kansas City’s pass rushers off balance. And the best way to do that is running the ball right at them.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots newest wide receiver has still only been a member of the team for about a month and is still learning the playbook and the route tree for the Patriots wide receivers. So far, the results while encouraging, have been small in relation to what his potential can be. Gordon has been saying and doing all the right things and his teammates seem to be completely behind him.

This might be a week where the coaches try to get him a bigger piece of the game plan and try to stretch the field more vertically. We saw last week, the Jaguars try to the same thing time and again, and while it was successful a few times, their protection didn’t hold up enough to make it viable.

The Patriots could opt to do some of the same, especially if Eric Berry and Justin Houston are out. Gordon has the size and athleticism to be a huge target down the field, opening up all kinds of room for guys like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to work the middle of the field.

James White:

Assuming everyone is healthy (or reasonably so) and on the field, White could be the Patriots “X-Factor” this week in the passing game. As we wrote in our keys to the game earlier this week, with the Chiefs having to cover Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon, it opens White up as the movable chess piece for Brady to use in the air.

While Michel is the valuable piece in the ground game, White is the Swiss Army Knife for the passing game. Look for Brady to put him in motion and try to isolate him on a linebacker where they can possibly get a mismatch.

White is one of the most dependable, versatile players on the Patriots offense. He can do it all, run between the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and pass block. He and Michel will no doubt feature prominently this week.

Tom Brady:

With all of the league abuzz, and rightfully so over the early season excellence of Patrick Mahomes, Brady is usually a player that will use that fact as fodder to motivate himself to elevate his game this week. Not that he should need any extra motivation. The past two games against Kansas City have ended badly for New England.

Brady started slowly this season, but the past two games, he’s looked much better and is getting hot at just the right time. The Patriots will need a big game out of him, and with many questioning, whether New England is ripe to fall, this game against the undefeated Chiefs will be a big measuring stick.

Brady will look to start quickly this week, something he did against the Colts where he went 9-9 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson. KC’s defense has given up a ton of yardage but has been very stout on 3rd down, which will automatically be something that will bear watching this week.

Pat Chung/Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots defense has a pretty heavy task in front of themselves this week, in trying to scheme a way to slow down the high flying Chiefs’ offense. To do so will require a total solid defensive effort but a couple of players must have strong games on Sunday night. And it starts with Chung and Van Noy.

The Chiefs’ RPO (run/pass option) game is strong and gave the Patriots fits last year, not only against the Chiefs but in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. No doubt Andy Reid took note of that. Van Noy will need a big game this week. KC likes to fake the run and get Travis Kelce that deep open space behind the linebackers with lots of room to move. Van Noy will have to get the depth and take away those easy passes.

Chung is outstanding in run support and he’ll probably draw the task of covering Kelce much of the time. It will be an interesting chess match. It won’t be an easy one to win but they should have a good game plan in place.

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.