Tag Archives: Atlanta Falcons

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: What The “Fog” Was That From The Patriots?

Russ Goldman
October 24, 2017 at 10:47 am ET

This is our look back at the Falcons victory for the Patriots, and later on we previewed the Chargers game.

Patriots  Week 7 Report Card, Dominant for the First Time in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
at 8:07 am ET

The Patriots finally looked like the team we expected to see this season in what was billed as a Super Bowl rematch despite both teams saying that they’ve moved on to 2017. That is only true for one team, the Patriots have moved on.The Falcons are still stuck in the awful nightmare of the 4th quarter and overtime and are in a fog that somehow crept into Foxboro/Fogboro that is a perfect metaphor for their season so far.

But the Patriots hadn’t played a 60-minute game yet either. The defense was wide open to ridicule and beat up and the offense, despite the high output, hadn’t put a full game together. Well, if this is the product that the Patriots are going to put out the rest of the season, then buckle in for another long ride folks.

The Patriots were cool and in control, which contrasted sharply with the deer-in-the-headlights panic shown by Atlanta and coach Dan Quinn who went for a fourth and long in the first quarter and then stupidly went for a 4th and 6 at midfield with two minutes to go in the half, down only 10-0 and with Atlanta getting the ball at the kickoff in the 3rd quarter.

They failed and Tom Brady put a dagger into them, easily going the 53-yards putting the Patriots up 17-0 and this one was essentially over.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady didn’t have eye-popping numbers (21 of 29, 249 yards 2 TDs),  on Sunday night but he, like the rest of the team was in command all the way. Brady sees the field better than anyone and when he saw Dontari Poe taking his sweet time getting off the field, he quickly snapped the ball for an easy first and five. He made a beauty of a deep sideline throw to Gronkowski just as he went out of bounds. His throw to Chris Hogan on 3rd and 16 was a laser that protected his WR from getting popped, and those who talk about diminishing arm strength should watch that one again. Ditto for the nice 2-yard TD pass to James White. White was Brady’s third option on the play. Was there any doubt after Quinn panicked on the fourth down call that the Brady was going to put points on the board just before halftime? He loves those moments.

Running Backs: A

The running back depth was on full display on Sunday night. Atlanta may arguably have the best 1-2 combination in the league, but the Patriots five are second to none when it comes to versatility, depth, and dependability.

Dion Lewis (remember not long ago he was the subject of trade talk?) was once again the featured back in the offense, carrying 13 times for 76 yards, including a beauty of a 25-yard burst up the middle. Rex Burkhead returned from his rib injury since Week 2 and ran very well. Mike Gillislee also ran hard and was effective. He did get stuffed on the goalline but that wasn’t a good play call there and he had no chance of scoring there. James White? Think Atlanta had nasty flashbacks to February just before the half? White was the feature back for that sequence that ended with him scoring from 2-yards out. He had just five receptions but on just five targets. James Develin was his normal road grader self in the blocking game. The backs gained 162 yards rushing…nuff said.

Wide Receivers: B

Atlanta played this one a little differently, they sat back in two-deep zones trying to take away the deep ball, (perhaps seeing Brandin Cooks plenty before?), so the opportunities for the deep ball were limited. But the wide receivers had good productive games. Hogan  (4 catches 71 yards), ran a perfect route on the 3rd and 16 and corralled the ball in for a huge first down. Cooks (4 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD), took a shovel pass (stolen from the Chiefs) and rode Rob Gronkowski’s shirttail into the end zone for an easy touchdown. Ole, ole Robert Alford, the tape doesn’t lie. Danny Amendola had an uncharacteristic drop on an otherwise quiet night.

Tight Ends: B-

Rob Gronkowski didn’t have his normal stellar game but was good enough. He got flagged for an offensive pass interference that wiped out a 39-yard pass from Brady and it seems like the officials are always looking for that one. So many others consistently get away with it…however, it is what it is. He made a really nice sideline catch from Brady where #12 dropped it perfectly in the bucket. His block on Cooks’ TD will be an internet meme for years to come. Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister were invisible other than the blocks each missed which resulted in lost yardage. Hollister’s was down inside the five-yard line…not good.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line has been catching a lot of flak for the hits that Brady has been taking this year and with good reason. But on Sunday night, they had their best game of the season…by far. They gave up a couple of sacks but overall the protection while not perfect was plenty good enough.

But where the unit made their grade was in the running game. The Patriots gashed Atlanta for 162 yards and the holes were there to see on television. With the Falcons in a two-deep safety zone, they dared New England to run and got smashed in the mouth. What was especially impressive is, when killing the clock at the end of the game, the Falcons knew they were going to run and they still ate them up. They owned the point of attack all game long

Defensive Line: B

The Patriots defensive line was good but not great in this one. They did a good job of defending the run in the first half but were victimized by Atlanta a bit in the third and fourth quarters as Devonta Freeman was impressive. But when they had to be, they buckled down. The goal-line stand was very impressive. On the fourth down stop, Trey Flowers destroyed the tight end which forced Taylor Gabriel back where Kyle Van Noy shot in and stuffed him for a five-yard loss. Complimentary football as Bill Belichick would say.

Flowers was solid in the pass rush. Wise flashed a bit and Adam Butler got his first NFL sack. Cassius Marsh was a little bit out of control on two occasions where he rushed Matt Ryan with his hair on fire and lost containment. Alan Branch in a limited role was his normal immovable self.

Linebackers: B+

Kyle Van Noy made several splash plays including his goal-line stop and was flying all over the field. He’s at his best playing downhill and/or rushing the passer. He’s not great in coverage but he had a very productive game. Dont’a Hightower was mostly quiet on the edge and got hurt later in the game. There was a David Harris sighting in Foxboro! Yes, the veteran played in his most snaps this season, appearing in their base and goal line formations and looked like his old self, (I think I was the only one who didn’t believe he looked slow this summer). He made a bone-jarring hit on Freeman at the goal line. Was good to see him out there and contributing.

Secondary: A

With Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore out this week, the Patriots were missing two of their top three corners. Facing the potent Atlanta offense it was no surprise that the Patriots would double Julio Jones with safety help over the top. Jones had 9 catches for 99 yards and a garbage-time touchdown but was truly a non-factor in the game. The secondary play was stellar (when was the last time we said that?) throughout in this one.

Malcolm Butler was all over the field and easily had his best game of the season. He flew up and destroyed Tevin Coleman on a running play and stuffed a screen pass for a loss. Even the touchdown he was beaten for, he made a good play and was in the position to pick off Ryan but Jones stole the ball right out of his hands on a great play.

Johnson Bademosi will no longer be referred to as a special teams player only. For the past two weeks, he’s shown that he can play. The big corner, scrapped and competed all game. He had a nice breakup on a pass to Jones. And Jonathan Jones broke up a pass in the end zone for Sanu.

Devin McCourty was the deep centerfielder with Duron Harmon for much of this game and they were solid. Excellent effort and outstanding results for this group.

Special Teams: A-

Cassius Marsh (he of the hair on fire type) blocked a field goal on a tremendous play and got an in-game high five from Belichick which is a rarity. Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 3-3 on his field goals, and his kickoffs were as always excellent. The coverage units were on point and Danny Amendola with his sure hands recovered an onside kick.

The only downer was the not-so-smart penalty on Pat Chung for holding when he didn’t have to which wiped out an excellent field position situation.

Coaches: A+

Bill Belichick never blinks or loses sight of what is going on around him. In a big game for both teams he had his unit in control and they played like the Super Bowl champions that they are for 60 minutes. Contrast that to the panicky, way Dan Quinn approached this one. And the coach’s demeanor bleeds over to the players’ performances. Atlanta doesn’t faintly resemble that cocky, dominant team that rolled over Green Bay and stuffed New England for three quarters in the Super Bowl crew. That, boys and girls, is superior coaching.

The game plan was outstanding and executed to a tee. Josh McDaniels opted for a smash mouth ball control offense which kept Atlanta’s offense frustrated and on the sidelines. Point in fact, down three scores, Atlanta had three, just three second-half possessions. That is, to quote Charlie Sheen, “winning.”

Matt Patricia’s defense played by far their best game of the year, the much-maligned secondary, missing some key players was stellar and held Atlanta scoreless for 56 minutes. A tremendous performance by the coaching staff this week.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Dominant Effort in All Phases Pushes Patriots Past the Falcons 23-7

Steve Balestrieri
October 23, 2017 at 12:46 am ET

Surprise, surprise, surprise (Gomer Pyle voice), tell me if you saw this one coming. The Patriots put together their best defensive effort by far this season, against one of the most explosive offenses in football in Matt Ryan and the Falcons and shut them down and out for 56 minutes before what was essentially a garbage-time touchdown with four minutes to go. Missing two out of their top three cornerbacks wasn’t an issue on Sunday night as the team finally put a 60-minute effort together and yes they were impressive.

And the Patriots running game was not only able to take the heat off of Tom Brady but was able to control the clock and finish the game. Dion Lewis rushed 12 times for 76 yards and was the workhorse for the team, as the Patriots gashed the Falcons for 162 yards on the ground.

With the win, the Patriots improve to 5-2 and remain alone atop the AFC East. Speaking of which, your trivia question for the night, which division has the most wins in the National Football League? You guessed it, “that weak AFC East”.

Tom Brady was coolly efficient, passing 29 times, completing 21 for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offensive line had their best game of the season, as we pointed out in our pregame matchups, the best way to attack the Atlanta defense was to run right at them as their speed was too much on the perimeter but they’re smaller and the Patriots ate them up tonight by controlling the clock and the tempo. The Patriots held the ball for 34:05 seconds which kept Ryan and the Falcons offense on the sidelines.

But this was a night for the defense, no one foresaw the type of performance the defense put in tonight especially missing so many pieces on defense. But game balls have to go to Malcolm Butler who was flying all over the field and making plays and Johnson Bademosi, the special teamer who was placed into the starting lineup for the second week in a row due to injuries. Bademosi played very effectively and has given the coaches the confidence to use him now whenever he’s needed. Eric Rowe probably won’t be seen until after the bye but he’s earned more playing time.

The Patriots goal line stand was among the best sequences they’ve had defensively all season. Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu on the one-yard line and the defensive backs (Bademosi and Pat Chung) held him out of the end zone. On fourth and goal from the one, the Falcons tried to get a bit cute and run a jet sweep with Gabriel but it was read perfectly by Kyle Van Noy who burst into the backfield and dropped him for a five-yard loss.

Ryan finished with respectable numbers, 23-33 for 233 yards and a touchdown which broke the Patriots streak for allowing six straight 300-yard passers to open the season. But Ryan’s numbers were actually a bit skewed. After White’s touchdown, Atlanta got the ball with 21 seconds left in the half, and the Patriots allowed Ryan to hit three passes underneath before time ran out that totaled 36 yards but had no chance of getting any points. The same thing on Ryan’s final drive. Up 23-0, the Patriots weren’t going to give up anything deep and made them slowly work underneath and eat up precious time. Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a one-yard touchdown pass but even that appeared to be a Butler interception. It was just a magnificent play by Jones, by reaching over and stealing the ball away from Butler for his first TD of the season.

Atlanta was playing very aggressively going for a 4th and 7 at the end of the first quarter and again near the end of the half. That aggressiveness turned a bit foolhardy as the Patriots stopped them near midfield and then drove a touchdown right before the half that blew the game open at 17-0. Brady hit James White for a 2-yard touchdown at the end of a 7-play, 53-yard drive.

Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks had impressive games with each hauling in four passes each. Hogan totaled 71 yards and Cooks 65 with a touchdown, a shovel pass from Brady where he followed Rob Gronkowski into the end zone for an easy touchdown. Falcons corner Robert Alford won’t like the film review on that one. WIth Gronkowski bearing down on him at the three-yard line, Alford did his best matador impression and stepped aside, allowing Cooks easy access to the end zone.

Rex Burkhead returned to action for the first time since Week 2 and ran impressively, gaining 31 yards on six carries.

Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia have to be extremely proud of the way the defense stepped up tonight. Holding Atlanta to zip until garbage time was a tremendous effort. They held the Falcons to just 2-9 on third down and just 1-3 on fourth down.

Special Teams got into the act with a blocked field goal by Cassius Marsh and solid kicking by Stephen Gostkowski.

The only downer tonight was the penalties. The Patriots were flagged eight times for 65 yards. Although the offensive pass interference on Gronkowski was horrible as the holding call on Shaq Mason late in the fourth quarter.

The game was played in an increasing fog which got worse as the game went along. Although Devin McCourty after the game said that the conditions on the field were fine.

So with the win, they face the Chargers at home next Sunday at 1 p.m. San Diego er Los Angeles has won three in a row and shut out Denver 21-0 today. The Patriots sit atop the East and the AFC at 5-2 with the Chiefs and Steelers.

NFL Week 7 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
October 22, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

NFL Week 7 is highlighted by the most hyped and anticipated game of the 2017 season. The Atlanta Falcons travel to Foxborough for only the second time this millennium, in a rematch of the greatest Super Bowl in NFL history. The Patriots lead the all-time series 8-6 and are 5-0 in the Belichick-Brady era. New England was listed as a 3½ point favorite for most of the week, with that number dropping to three late Friday. As of Saturday night 63% of the money bet on the spread is taking the Falcons to cover, 74% of the money line is on Atlanta, and 77% is on the point total going over 56½ points.

Ironically the Pats-Falcons game will end up being no more than the second most exciting game of the week. In a departure from the usual Thursday night fare, NFL fans were treated to a wild and stunning ending to the week’s first game. If seven lead changes weren’t enough, consider the final half minute of the Raiders closing drive to beat Kansas City.

  • Completion on 4th and 11 for a first down.
  • Two incomplete passes.
  • Touchdown pass to tie the game.
  • Scoring play reviewed; call reversed, out of bounds inside the one yard line.
  • Ten second runoff; game clock down to 0:03 seconds.
  • Pass completed for touchdown.
  • Penalty, offensive pass interference; TD nullified, ten yard penalty.
  • Pass incomplete, clock at 0:00.
  • Penalty on defense; Raiders get an untimed down.
  • Pass again incomplete.
  • Another penalty on KC, another untimed play for Oakland.
  • Pass complete for touchdown to tie the game.
  • Extra point good to win the game.

As a whole the public tends to place more money on the favorite than on the underdog. Those that bet the chalk in week six lost their shirt. Favorites covered the spread in a mere three games last week, and underdogs won nine of those 14 games straight up. Both home teams favored by 13½ lost (Atlanta to Miami and Denver to the Giants). In addition Minnesota knocked out Green Bay, Pittsburgh handed Kansas City their first loss, and the Chargers (at Oakland) and Bears (at Baltimore) pulled off road upsets. The 2017 has provided plenty of inconsistency, with teams looking strong one week and bad the next.

Week 7 is full of games that are close matchups, at least on paper. While week six had what appeared to be plenty of blowouts (and we saw how that turned out), there are zero games with a spread of more than six points this week. Road teams are favored nearly as often as home team, accounting for many of those low odds. New Orleans at Green Bay and Tampa Bay at Buffalo appear to be the most watchable of the eight games in the early time slot. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh was flexed to a later kickoff to help improve the quality of the late afternoon games. Another good option as a prelude to the Pats-Falcons game is Denver at the Chargers. Atlanta at New England is of course the must-watch game on Sunday night. Monday night features Carson Wentz and Philadelphia hosting Washington. The Eagles went on the road to defeat Carolina last week, and now own the NFL’s best record at 5-1.

 

Early Games on CBS

3-3 Tennessee Titans at 0-6 Cleveland Browns
Titans favored by 6; over/under 45½; money line -250, +210

The Titans have displayed an annoying penchant for playing down to the level of their opponents. However, this is the Browns we are talking about. Even if Tennessee starts slow – as they often do – the Titans should still be able to win this game with less than 100% productivity.

Pick: Titans 24, Browns 20; Cleveland +6

 

3-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 2-4 Indianapolis Colts
Jaguars favored by 3; over/under 43½; money line -165, +145

The Colts are unable to finish games, a sign of substandard coaching. Jacksonville failed to live up to lofty expectations in 2016, but this season their defense (18.3 ppg, 312 ypg) is carrying the Jags to playoff contention.

Pick: Jaguars 27, Colts 17; Jacksonville -3.

 

3-3 Baltimore Ravens at 4-2 Minnesota Vikings
Vikings favored by 5½; over/under 38½; money line -250, +210

Don’t be fooled by Baltimore’s record. Their wins were against the Raiders without Derek Carr, the Browns, and a Bengal team still in preseason form in week one. The Ravens home loss last week to the lowly Bears was not an anomaly.

Pick: Vikings 24, Ravens 13; Minnesota -5½

 

4-2 Carolina Panthers at 2-4 Chicago Bears
Panthers favored by 3; over/under 41; money line -170, +150

So when the dust all settled this game was cross flexed from Fox to CBS and the Miami-Jets game went from CBS to Fox. Why bother? Is anybody outside of those four fan bases going to watch either game? Mitch Trubisky looks like he will become a good NFL quarterback. But for this game the Bears are facing a well rested Panther team wanting to rid themselves of the taste of last week’s defeat. Beating the Ravens doesn’t really count for much; the Bears still have a long ways to go before becoming a contender.

Pick: Panthers 24, Bears 17; Panthers -3

 

Early Games on Fox

3-3 New York Jets at 3-2 Miami Dolphins
Dolphins favored by 3; over/under 38; money line -175, +155

Adam Gase finally figured out that Jay Cutler (an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per pass attempt) was not going to lead the Dolphins to many victories. Miami made no pretense what their plan was, lining up in two or three tight end formations, and was able run the ball effectively in last week’s win at Atlanta. Expect more of the same in this game. Woody Hayes would love this game.

Pick: Dolphins 17, Jets 16; Jets +3, under 38

 

2-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3-2 Buffalo Bills
Bills favored by 3; over/under 45; money line -150, +130

Jameis Winston will get the start for the Bucs, despite his bum shoulder. Tampa Bay’s defense has underachieved this season, but they finally get the heart of their D – linebackers LaVonte David and Kwon Alexander – healthy and on the field together. Their productivity is key, as Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy has bounced back from a couple of sub-par games with 98 yards from scrimmage in the win at Atlanta, and 99 yards at Cincinnati.

Pick: Bucs 20, Bills 16; Tampa Bay +3; under 45

 

3-2 New Orleans Saints at 4-2 Green Bay Packers
Saints favored by 4; over/under 47½; money line -210 +180

The Saints look for their fourth straight win while Green Bay QB Brent Hundley gets his first NFL start. Unfortunately for him the New Orleans defense has risen from the dead, forcing nine takeaways this season. On the other side of the ball the Saints have discovered a running game – ironically, with incumbent Mark Ingram rather than Adrian Peterson.

Pick: Saints 31-17; New Orleans -4

 

3-3 Arizona Cardinals ‘at’ 4-2 Los Angeles Rams, in London
Rams favored by 3; over/under 45½; money line -160, +140

Adrian Peterson had a big game in his debut last week, but don’t expect a repeat performance. The Arizona offensive line is still awful, and the Ram defense is much better than Tampa Bay’s injury riddled D. Jared Goff and the LA offense (a league-best 29.8 points per game) should give European NFL fans plenty of scoring to cheer for. Arizona’s defense (26.3 ppg) is nowhere near as formidable as they had been the previous four years.

Pick: Rams 31, Cardinals 24; Los Angeles -3

 

Late Afternoon Games

2-3 Dallas at 0-6 San Francisco 49ers, 4:00 ET on Fox
Cowboys favored by 6; over/under 48½; money line -265, +225

The Cowboys have not lived up to pre-season expectations, despite being able to play Ezekiel Elliott. After losing five straight games by a field goal or less, the Niners finally get their first W.

Pick: 49ers 24-21; San Fran +6

 

4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 2-3 Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30 ET on CBS
Steelers favored by 5½; over/under 40½; money line -250, +210

It is amazing to consider the possibility that Cincinnati, who looked awful in their first two games, could be in first place in the AFC North with a victory. Steeler WR Martavis Bryant, who asked to be traded due to his role in the offense, could have a big game here. In five games against the Bengals Bryant has three touchdowns, catching 21 out of 32 passes thrown his way for 257 yards.

Pick: Steelers 24-20; Cincinnati +5½

 

3-2 Seattle Seahawks at 1-5 New York Giants, 4:30 ET on CBS
Seahawks favored by 4; over/under 39½; money line -210, +180

Seattle’s offensive line has caused problems for their offense. Their defense is still a force, which is bad news for an injury ravaged Giants squad.

Pick: Seahawks 24-13; Seattle -4

 

3-2 Denver Broncos at 2-4 Los Angeles Chargers, 4:30 ET on CBS
Even odds (pick’em); over/under 40½; money line -110, -110

The threat of Demaryius Thomas (10 catches, 133 yards last week) will enable CJ Anderson to run the ball. The Chargers will do what they do best: lose a close game.

Pick: Broncos 24-20; Denver (pk)

 

Prime Time Games

3-2 Atlanta Falcons at 4-2 New England Patriots, Sunday 8:30 ET on NBC
Patriots favored by 3; over/under 56½; money line -160, +140

Atlanta’s offense presents difficult matchups for the Patriot defense. The Falcons get a very tiny bit of revenge, but the Super Bowl LI legacy will live long after this game is forgotten.

Pick: Falcons 31, Patriots 27; Atlanta +3

 

3-2 Washington Redskins at 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles, Monday 8:30 pm ET on espn
Eagles favored by 4½; over/under 49; money line -225, +185

Philly is clicking on all cylinders right now. Washington on the other hand is banged up, with injuries to both corners.

Pick: Eagles 30-20; Philadelphia -4½

 

Best Bets:
Jaguars -3
Saints -4
49ers +6
Seahawks -4
Bucs-Bills under 45
Eagles -4½
Jets-Dolphins under 38

 

New England Patriots News 10-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 10-22, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots and Falcons played in the Super Bowl earlier this year and will meet again tonight on Sunday Night Football. Neither team has played anywhere close to their potential yet in 2017, but perhaps they’ll use this week’s game as a springboard to get back to where they were last season. But one thing that I won’t be looking forward to this evening is what they’ll be wearing.

The NFL has saddled those hideous Color Rush uniforms on us again with tonight’s game. They’re ugly and serve no purpose other than a money grab by the league. It is bad enough we have to put up with them on Thursday Night games, but now Sunday night’s as well. Enough. Ditch those duds (double entendre).

Injuries Piling Up on the Defense: The Patriots limp into this week’s game with a lot of missing faces on the defense. Two of their top three corners (Eric Rowe, Stephon Gilmore) are out with injuries and their replacement, Johnson Bademosi is questionable so it leaves them very thin on the perimeter facing one of the best passing attacks in the NFL.

An already thin linebacker core is also possibly going to be missing additional pieces. Elandon Roberts is questionable this week and after seeing the video of Harvey Langi in the hospital this week, he won’t be available for a quite a while if at all the rest of the season. Langi and his wife Cassidy were stopped at a traffic light last Friday night in Foxboro when another vehicle plowed into theirs. They suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Two bits of good news on the injury front is that help is coming. Shea McClellin returned to practice this week. He will be eligible to be activated off of IR and return in a few weeks. And RB Rex Burkhead, out since Week 2, should be active tonight.

How Quickly the Landscape Changes:
While the playoffs and playoff seeding are far, far down the road, it is always interesting to keep tabs on things as they play out. And the past week shows just how quickly the landscape can change, especially given how crazy the NFL has been this season.

Entering last week’s slate of games, the Chiefs were 5-0 and essentially had a three-game lead on the Patriots for the AFC’s top record considering they had a two-game lead with the Patriots at 3-2 and having beaten New England head-to-head on Opening Night. But back-to-back close losses in four days have dropped the Chiefs to 5-2. After the Pats win over the Jets, a win tonight over Atlanta would put the Patriots at the same 5-2 record. Kansas City would still own the tiebreaker over New England but it opens up a host of possibilities.

The Patriots play Pittsburgh later this season and the three teams “could” conceivably be in a three-way logjam at the top. Again, while it is still 10 games away from the playoffs, it just shows how volatile things are in the league right now and how quickly they can change.  

Rush Defense Quietly Making Strides:
Lost among the talk about the pass defense that has continued to struggle has been the play of the run defense. The last two weeks have seen some improved play in the rush defense, especially right up the middle. Part of it has been the moving of Dont’a Hightower back to the ILB spot on early downs as he’s helped solidify things in the middle at the second level.

But just as importantly has been the play of Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and Alan Branch inside. They’ve been very solid at standing up the offensive line push and holding their gaps allowing the linebackers and safeties to make plays. Brown had his best game of the season last week against the Jets, making two tackles for losses and registering a sack.

But perhaps the bigger story was the return of Branch, who had been a healthy scratch in Tampa Bay the week before. The coaches weren’t happy with his production and sat him down and left him in New England while the team traveled against the Bucs. But he responded in a positive way and played much better last week against the Jets. This is a positive sign that the team can build off, and once they get their corners healthy again, perhaps it is a sign that the defense can start building off of and play better.

Allen To “Turn the Corner?” Gronk Thinks So:
Not all of the Patriots moves bear fruit. They’ve swung and missed on many, but on the whole, their batting average has been pretty good under Bill Belichick. One of those misses thus far has been with tight end Dwayne Allen. Known primarily as a blocking tight end, Allen has also shown the ability to catch the ball as well. He was coming off of a 35 catch, 6 touchdown season with the Colts in 2016, the most catches that he’s had since his 2012 rookie season where he snagged 45.

With Rob Gronkowski healthy and returning this season, Allen was brought in to replace Martellus Bennett. Things have not gone smoothly. Thru the first six games of the season, he’s yet to make a catch. He’s had a few drops and there have been a few others such as the Panthers game where he was streaking down the field all alone and as Tom Brady released the ball, he was hit and it came up far short. But now he’s in danger of being frozen out.  We’ve seen that before with receivers who don’t catch on. Brady, once he doesn’t have trust in that receiver, won’t look his way. Last week, he barely saw the field against the Jets. But one player is convinced that Allen is going to break out soon is Gronkowski.

“Dwayne’s been a great teammate,” Gronkowski. “He’s a great guy and he comes out and works every single day, works his tail off, works his butt off, and I feel like he’s going to turn the corner soon. He’s right around the corner. He’s been working hard. He’s been grinding and he’s a great guy. I love having him out there with me.”

So, perhaps he’s practicing better and we are about to see Allen begin to have some production in the Patriots offense. That would be a nice bonus to what they already have and help things out quite a bit.

Bills Try To Lure Patriots CB Lewis Off of the Practice Squad:

The Patriots as we mentioned earlier, above are short a few cornerbacks right now due to injuries. If the Bills had their way, the team would be even shorter.

According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, Buffalo attempted to sign away Patriots practice squad cornerback Ryan Lewis to their active roster this week.  But the Patriots convinced the UDFA rookie from Pitt to remain by bumping his practice squad salary to $465,000.

Lewis posted very impressive numbers at his Pro Day this spring, running a 4.37 time in the 40-Yard Dash and logging a vertical leap of 35 inches as well as a very impressive 6.87 time in the 3-Cone Drill, a Patriots favorite. The 5’11, 192-pound Lewis spent training camp with the Cardinals before being released at the end of preseason.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 7:
Last week was another so-so week, however, with a very crazy NFL season, it is getting very hard to predict what upset will happen from week-to-week.  Either way, I finished with a 7-7 mark. Season Total: 57-34.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with Oakland (1-0), over Kansas City. Now for the rest of the slate for this week:
Buccaneers at Bills – Tampa Bay

Ravens at Vikings – Minnesota

Jets at Dolphins- Miami

Cardinals at Rams – Los Angeles

Jaguars at Colts – Jacksonville

Saints at Packers – Green Bay

Panthers at Bears – Carolina

Titans at Browns – Tennessee

Cowboys at 49ers – Dallas

Broncos at Chargers – Denver

Bengals at Steelers – Pittsburgh

Seahawks at Giants – Seattle

SNF Falcons at Patriots – Atlanta

MNF Redskins at Eagles – Philadelphia

Bye week: Lions, Texans

Next Thursday Night Baltimore over Miami

East  Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Can the Bills’ Offense Wake Up against the Bucs?

The Buffalo Bills sit at 3-2 and are still very much alive in the AFC East thanks to the stellar play of their defense thus far in 2017. The Bills defense has allowed just 2 passing touchdowns while logging 8 interceptions. This week they face the Buccaneers and Jameis Winston which will be another good test for their stellar defense.

However, Tampa Bay has the 30th ranked defense in terms of yards allowed and their pass defense has struggled. This is a prime opportunity for the Bills to remain within striking distance of the Divisional race in the AFC East.

But to do so, Tyrod Taylor is going to have to step up and play much better. The Bills passing offense is also ranked 30th in the league and throwing for just 165.0 yards per game. Taylor can’t just hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy and wait for the running game to open up play action passes for Buffalo to make that big step and regain a playoff spot.

He must be able to put the team on his back and throw effectively on days when the running game isn’t clicking. That’s what good quarterbacks do. Thus far in his Bills career, he hasn’t. This is when the Bills will have the chance to be players in the division race for the first time in a very long time. Their defense will be ready. Will their QB?

Dolphins Look For Some Payback to the Jets:

The Miami Dolphins have had an up and down season in 2017 so far, like most of the teams, they’ve struggled with their consistency. But like Buffalo, they too are still very much alive in the division, thanks to their stunning come-from-behind 20-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons after trailing 17-0 at the half.

Also, like the Bills, the Dolphins have leaned on the play of their defense which is ranked 11th in terms of yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed. Miami revamped the linebacker position, a big area of weakness in 2016 and the results, thus far speak for themselves.

But like Buffalo, their offense has struggled to score points, Miami’s offense is last in the NFL in yards per game and points scored, averaging a terrible 12.2 points-per-game. And much like Buffalo, their problems can be attributed to their QB. Jay Cutler has plenty of weapons around him, but to average 155.4 yards per game with just five touchdowns and five interceptions with the skill position players he has in Miami’s offense? That is totally unacceptable.

The Jets beat them in Week 3 and they sacked Cutler three times. Jay Ajayi had an off-game and Cutler was awful, going 26-44 for just 220 yards with a touchdown (as time expired in the game) and an interception. He’ll have to be much better this time around and the ground game should help their offense against the Jets defense that struggles against the run.

Jets Get Powell Back in Big Game in Miami:

The New York Jets will get a big piece of their offense back this week when they travel to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins. Bilal Powell will be back in uniform when the Jets take the field today. Powell missed the game last week as the Jets lost to New England at home with an injured calf, that was characterized as a strain.

They will need Powell as Miami’s defense is third in the league against the run allowing just 80.4 yards per game and just 3.5 yards per rush. But Powell, who was back to a full participant at practice has said that he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go.

This is a big game for both teams this week and Powell will help a running game that has struggled the past two weeks and the passing game of Josh McCown who can use him out of the backfield. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has caught 13 passes out of the backfield.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Falcons Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
October 20, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return home for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, October 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Boston – 10. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (4-2) beat the New York Jets 24-17. The Jets led 14-0 after the first quarter before the Patriots scored 24 straight points but had to hold on in the end.

The Falcons (3-2) lost to the Miami Dolphins 20-17. The Falcons led 17-0 at the half and allowed Miami to steal one away from them in Atlanta’s new dome.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Falcons are meeting for the 15th time overall and the first regular-season meeting since the Patriots traveled to Atlanta on Sept. 29, 2013, in a 30-23 win on Sunday Night Football from the Georgia Dome. And of course, the Super Bowl just ten months ago won by the Patriots in overtime.
The Patriots have won the last four times the teams have played in the regular season with wins in 2001, 2005 and 2013 at The Georgia Dome and in a 2009 win at Gillette Stadium.
Prior to those four wins, the Patriots had suffered four straight losses to the Falcons, dating back to 1989.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Falcons Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Atlanta

The Patriots running game showed some signs of life last week, by mixing in Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee the Patriots had good consistent running with the speedier Lewis and the power running of Gillislee. However, they only ran the ball 25 times. The coaches, mainly Josh McDaniels don’t have the faith in the running game to stick with it if things begin to slow down.

The Falcons run defense has been up and down. They are lighter and very fast and can flow to the ball extremely well. The slow developing stretch plays will not work against this unit. Dontari Poe inside will make life difficult to run. But Miami showed that running straight at the perimeters with the bigger back as Jay Ajayi can be very effective. Will the Patriots have the patience to stick with it? Judging by the play of the defense and the extra missing pieces this week? No.

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

The Patriots passing game, as we’ve said many times this season, even without Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell can throw the ball on anyone. The Falcons early in the SB flooded the middle of the field to take away the short/intermediate crossers the Pats love, forcing them to work outside. That was part of the reason that they got Brandin Cooks this year. He brings that element of speed on the outside that they must respect.

Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola will do the dirty work underneath. And in this one, the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski who was missing in February. James White (the Falcons will watch him closely) and Dion Lewis out of the backfield give Tom Brady plenty of weapons to target. It all depends on the time.

The Falcons secondary has been struggling to force turnovers, they have just two interceptions on the season, something no one foresaw this summer. Overall, the secondary play has been a bit of a disappointment. They have good edge rushers in Brooks Reed, Vic Beasley, and Takk McKinney, but where they were so effective in February was the interior push of the defensive line. That took away Brady’s ability to step up in the pocket and limited his effectiveness early. The Patriots offensive line hasn’t done a good job of protecting him although they did a much better job last week.

Next up the Falcons offense:

Falcons RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Atlanta

The Falcons have arguably the best running back duo in the league with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Can anyone forget the first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl? Freeman ripped off a 37-yard gain and was very effective in the early going. With Kyle Shanahan gone this season, will Atlanta stick with the running game? If they had last week, they may have beaten Miami.

The Patriots have not been good against the run especially up the middle, although they’ve made strides the past two weeks. Moving Dont’a Hightower back to the inside linebacker spot helped. Malcom Brown and Alan Branch will have to step up their games, even more, this week as New England will have their hands full with Atlanta’s dynamic duo.

Falcons WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Atlanta

Matt Ryan has struggled thus far in 2017, tossing just six touchdowns against six interceptions thus far. But rest easy Matt, not only are the Patriots struggling against the pass, allowing journeyman QBs like Josh McCown to throw for over 350 yards but now they are banged up as well. New England will likely only have three healthy corners, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi. The matchup against Julio Jones is a nightmarish one this week. Stephon Gilmore would be the logical choice but is out with a concussion. Butler is too small for the big Jones and Julio against Bademosi would be just unfair.

Mohamed Sanu should return this week and with Taylor Gabriel gives Ryan matchups galore. Gabriel had three catches for 76 yards in the Super Bowl. But where they Falcons can also pick them apart is underneath with the running backs, something the Patriots have struggled against. Coleman and Freeman can be just as effective in the passing game. The Patriots pass rush has been inconsistent at best. The safeties will have to cover a lot of ground in this one.300 yards? Nope. Ryan will probably throw for over 400 in this one. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a solid season and the Patriots coverage units have been very good, and now that Matthew Slater has returned they promise to be even better. Danny Amendola gives the Patriots an edge here as he’s been coming on lately in the punt return game. The team could use Dion Lewis to break a kick return this week.

The Falcons special teams have been victimized by penalties but they have a superb kicker in Matt Bryant but his back has been an issue with him. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and if it stiffens up on him, it would be an issue for the STs. Atlanta has an electric returner in Andre Roberts. He can be an “X” factor in this one.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will pit the two Super Bowl teams against one another. But in reality, although both teams have winning records, they’ve both dropped two games at home which isn’t the way it is done. Atlanta has struggled with finishing games and lost to both the Bills and Dolphins at home in successive games. The Patriots, on the other hand, have struggled defensively all season and have a tough time covering ordinary wide receivers. Enter Julio Jones. With a full complement of corners, I liked the Patriots to hold serve at home. With two out of their top three corners missing against this Atlanta team, the matchups for Matt Ryan will be plentiful. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will keep things close, I expect Rob Gronkowski to have a big game but I think that Matt Ryan will absolutely torch this secondary with their two biggest corners in Gilmore and Rowe. Losing three at home? When was the last time that happened? Short answer… 2017.  Falcons 38-31

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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Falcons, Like the Patriots Are Still Searching For Consistency

Steve Balestrieri
October 19, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

 

For most of the first six games of the 2017 season, the Patriots have scuffled along. At times playing very well, others they’ve looked lost out on the field with blown assignments and coverages and have allowed far too many yards and points. This was hardly the team that many experts were picking to finish 16-0 and repeat as Super Bowl Champions. And neither has been their foe in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta too has struggled with their consistency and although they’ve consistently stated that they’ve put that Super Bowl collapse behind them, their play on the field has shown that while they’ve stated that, they still may not have taken that lesson to heart yet.

They allowed the Patriots to come back from 25 points in the Super Bowl and eventually win in overtime. Last week the Falcons had a 17-0 lead over the Dolphins at home in their new domed stadium and somehow lost 20-17 to a Miami team that is struggling to score points with QB Jay Cutler.

This was coming off of their bye after they dropped another home game to the Buffalo Bills despite leading at the half in that one also. Perhaps the old myth that New England goes to the playoffs every season because they play in the AFC East will not get much play in Atlanta after the past three weeks.

Here are some of our first impressions of the Falcons this week as they face off with the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Matt Ryan Isn’t Producing Anything Close to 2016 Level: The Falcons quarterback was operating on a different plane in 2016. Ryan completed a career-high 69.9 percent of his passes for 4944 yards with 38 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. He led the league in a plethora of passing categories. Yards per attempt (9.3), Touchdown percent (7.1), Yards per Completion (13.3), and Passer Rating (117.1).

Ryan followed that up with an outstanding performance in the three playoff games, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 1014 yards (338 per game) with 9 touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 135.3.

Thru his first five games of 2016, Ryan threw for 1740 yards with 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In those games, after dropping the opener to the Bucs, the Falcons ripped off four wins in a row. In his first five games of 2017, his completion percentage has dropped but is still a very good 65.9 percent, but his yardage and touchdowns are way down and his interceptions are way up. Ryan has thrown for 1357 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. The Falcons are 3-2 and have had a couple of close calls in games they should have won easily….sound vaguely familiar?

Things may be looking up for Ryan this week, the Patriots defense has given every QB they’ve faced at least 300 yards passing. They’ve had numerous breakdowns in the secondary in coverage and the communication, even after six weeks is still hit or miss. Ryan should get Mohamed Sanu back this week which coupled with Julio Jones and their other receivers will be a big boost to the passing game. And New England will probably be without two of their top their corners in Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore who are injured and won’t play.

Running Backs Will Present Biggest Challenge: Even with a healthy secondary, one area that the Patriots defense is really struggling is covering the running backs and the Falcons have a pair of very good ones in either running or catching the ball out of the backfield. Devonta Freeman has 79 carries for 353 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns so far in 2017. No one can forget his first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl when he ripped off a 37-yard run to begin the game. Tevin Coleman has rushed 38 times for 213 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and a score so far.

But working underneath in the passing game is where they’ll be most dangerous against a team that has struggled to defend it. Freeman has 11 catches for 81 yards and Coleman has 14 receptions for 157 yards, 11.2 yards per catch and a score. With a secondary already missing two corners, the safeties of New England will be hard-pressed to keep up with the wide receivers of the Falcons. So who is going to cover the backs? Kyle Van Noy has struggled in coverage, Dont’a Hightower has been used as an edge rusher.  Elandon Roberts or Jordan Richards? That is a big mismatch that the Falcons will exploit.

Defense Hasn’t Created Enough Pressure: The Falcons had a lightning-fast defense in 2016 and one that gave the Patriots fits thru the first three quarters of the Super Bowl. One of the reasons they were so successful is that they were able to bring pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game, sacking him five times.

Despite investing heavily in the defense this season, they haven’t been able to ratchet up the pressure that they hoped to so at this point of the season. As a team, they have just 12 sacks which is tied for 21st in the league after five games. One of the trickle-down effects of this is that the team isn’t generating turnovers. Atlanta as a team has generated just three turnovers thru five games, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Think back to how dominant they were, rolling thru the playoffs generating six turnovers in three playoff games.

Coming into Sunday’s game against Miami, Jay Cutler had been sacked 10 times in four games. The Falcons with a big 17-point lead in the second half should have been in prime position to push the envelope and get after Cutler and create pressure and perhaps force a turnover or two which could have broken the game open. But they didn’t sack Cutler once and Miami came back and forced a turnover of their own after scoring 20 straight points.

The Time is Now For the Falcons to Turn It Around: The Falcons schedule isn’t filled with easily winnable games the rest of the way of the 2017 season. If they can regain their winning formula of the 2016 season, they are still in good position to take their division once again. And it won’t be easy, Carolina is playing better this season and is a half-game up at 4-2. New Orleans, has turned things around and sits with them at 3-2.

A look at the Falcons remaining 11 weeks is a tough slate. After facing the Patriots on the road on Sunday Night Football, they return home to face the Jets and then go away to Carolina, home against the Cowboys, away against the Seahawks, home against the Bucs, Vikings, and Saints, away against the Bucs and Saints, before finishing up with the Panthers at home. That finale (admittedly very far in the future), could be the difference in the division’s crown.

Other than the Jets, who admittedly have been playing much tougher this season, there are no easy wins on this schedule. They have a tough slate of games to go. But what better way for them to re-ignite their season than to beat the Super Bowl champs on Sunday Night Football on the road?

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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Podcast: Falcons vs. Patriots Preview

Russ Goldman
October 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm ET

In this episode, we first looked back at the Patriots victory against the Jets. Later on, we previewed the upcoming game for the Pats against the Falcons.

Five Monday NFL Thoughts After Week 6

Ian Logue
October 16, 2017 at 8:40 am ET

Sunday was an interesting afternoon with a variety of stories from around the league that stood out.  We’ll attempt to cover a few of them here each week, including several from yesterday.

1)  Undefeated no more – The Kansas City Chiefs suffered their first loss of 2017 after the Pittsburgh Steelers came into Arrowhead Stadium and dropped them to 5-1 on the season after a 19-13 loss.  They held the Chiefs to just three points through three quarters and the 12-3 lead Pittsburgh managed to put together over that span ended up being enough to hold them off.  Kansas City closed to within 12-10 with just over six minutes to go in the game, but Ben Roethlisberger came right back and hit Antonio Brown for a 51-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to put the game away.

Roethlisberger was coming off of a loss to the Jaguars the previous week where he questioned whether or not he still “had it”, but that seemingly was just him whining after he came out earlier in the week calling himself “one of the best in the world”.

“You wake up Monday morning, and you realize, ‘Man, I’m still one of the best in the world [to] do what I do,’ ” Roethlisberger said via the Post-Gazette. “I’m gonna have that confidence. I’m gonna have that when I go out there Wednesday to practice and Sunday when we go to Kansas City.”

Fortunately for Roethlisberger, his team did enough to improve to 4-2 on the season and lift his ego for at least another week, while also helping New England’s chances at getting the top seed now that the Chiefs finally have one in the loss column.


Rodgers won’t get an opportunity to potentially battle with Brady in February.

2) Tough break for Rodgers – Aaron Rodgers season may have come to an abrupt end after the veteran took a big shot out in Minnesota that saw him get carted off the field during a 23-10 loss out in Minneapolis.

Unlike New England, where there the news might have taken a few days to come out, the Packers announced the injury over their Twitter channel saying that “he could miss the rest of the season.”  It’s disappointing because his loss likely will put the Packers’ postseason chances in jeopardy, eliminating a potential match-up between Brady and Rodgers in February.

Brady found out about the injury during his press conference.

“I didn’t know that. That sucks,” said Brady.

Rodgers’ injury turns the reins over to back-up Brett Hundley, who head coach Mike McCarthy said is “my quarterback”, with Joe Callahan as his back-up as the team now tries to move forward with Rodgers sidelined.

3) Colin Kaepernick trying to land a death blow to the CBA – For some odd reason, Kaepernick seems to believe that his ongoing unemployment is related to NFL owners conspiring against him, which will now reportedly see the quarterback file a collusion grievance, which holds some significance due to its potential effect on the CBA if he’s successful.

According to ProFootballTalk.com, Kaepernick is hoping to trigger the termination of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement if he’s able to prove collusion by the owners.

It seems to be a long shot, because one of the things that’s seemingly gotten lost surrounding the beleaguered quarterback is the fact that he’s not unemployed because of the fact he started the kneeling movement during the national anthem.  People seem to forget he was wearing police portrayed as pigs on his socks during training camp, as well as featuring a police officer badge as a “runaway slave patrol badge.”


Kaepernick’s bad decisions, not his anthem protests, are likely the reason he’s still unemployed.

Those statements were pretty telling and while his actions sparked the current league movement, what Kaepernick has already done has been ugly enough where given that teams are escorted by police and security on a weekly basis, bringing a player who openly wears socks portraying them with a word that most officers dislike being called is something that is probably the bigger reason keeping owners from seeking his services.  Not to mention the fact that adding that drama and attention to their locker room is another thing they likely don’t want either.

Given that some of Kaepernick’s concerns involve racially charged accusations that most people dislike making blanket statements about, it’s ironic that Kaepernick made such strong blanket statements about police.  While it’s hard to deny that there may certainly be legitimate things that need to be discussed with this issue, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have and he really went too far, which has also hurt his cause.

The other issue is the fact that Kaepernick wasn’t playing at a high level during his final days in San Francisco and the negatives he brings as a distraction likely outweighs a substantial enough reason for a team to take the chance of bringing him in.  Had he knelt and then made his thoughts known to media outlets to bring his grievances to light in a more controlled manner, it might have played out differently.  But the pig socks and the strong Twitter statements haven’t helped his cause, and when you take into account the national backlash the league is already feeling over the anthem protest to begin with, it would be tough for one member club to want to take the additional baggage surrounding Kaepernick on.

Let’s be honest, when you look at how things have been handled by concerned players even here in New England, it’s completely different from Kaepernick’s actions.  Even Indianapolis has handled things better, with former Patriots Darius Butler and Kamar Aiken doing positive things to try and spark productive discussions with local police.  It’s a stark contrast to what the now unemployed player did, and it’s amazing that people seem to have forgotten that.

At the end of the day, Kaepernick had the right intention with his plight but it’s ultimately been his poor execution and decision-making that has him in this position.  He may try and prove collusion, but these are likely the real reasons his NFL career may be over.

He needs to look in the mirror instead of pointing any fingers when it comes to why NFL owners don’t want anything to do with him.  Hopefully the progress he ultimately makes someday years from now in sparking a positive change, which if Kaepernick is being truthful in some of the other things he’s said, will be more rewarding than the NFL career he cost himself by going too far with his actions.

He’s his own worst enemy.  The sooner he admits that and shifts his focus to truly wanting to finish what he started, the sooner maybe he’ll finally bring about the change he sought to begin with.


Matt Ryan fell apart Sunday against Miami.

4) Dolphins come away with big second-half over Atlanta – With the Falcons set to visit Gillette Stadium next Saturday night, they’ll likely be fired up after dropping a disappointing game at home against the visiting Miami Dolphins.

Atlanta put together a 17-0 first half lead, but were shut out by Miami in the second half as the Dolphins put up 20 unanswered points and forced an interception by Matt Ryan with 0:47 to go with the Falcons sitting at the Dolphins’ 26-yard line.  The turnover sealed the win for Miami, who improved to 3-2 on the season and kept them even with the 3-2 Bills, who are on a bye this week.

It’s the second loss to an AFC East team in successive weeks for Atlanta and it’s also the second-consecutive loss at home for the Falcons, who will face another AFC East foe this week on the road when they come to Foxboro next Sunday in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl.

Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen said that two home losses is a disgrace and at 3-2, they need to “reset” with a critical game on tap next weekend.

“We’ve got to reset,” Allen said via ESPN. “It ain’t no other way. What you going to do, just lay down? There’s s— else you can do. You’ve got be a man. You’ve got to know what we work for when we wake up every morning. What we grind for. What this team stands for. We’ve got to reset.”


Rivers and the Chargers did just enough to beat the Raiders Sunday.

5) Chargers Upset Oakland – Despite a hapless Los Angeles team that seemed like their season was headed into the tank, the Chargers managed to get their second win of the year after beating the Raiders 17-16 with a last-second field goal.

The Raiders saw quarterback Derek Carr return from his back injury but he’s clearly still hampered, with Carr struggling his way through a 21-of-30 performance that included two interceptions.

For the Chargers, it’s their second straight victory as they appear to be gaining some momentum and confidence despite playing in a division where they’re going to have their work cut out for them in catching the 5-1 Chiefs and 3-2 Broncos.

“I thought the guys stepped up and made plays when we had to,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said via ESPN.  “That’s what we’ve been talking about. I’m so proud that they starting to see the fruit of their labor because these men work hard every single week.”

The Chargers will visit New England in two weeks on 10/29 and one stat to watch will be the fact that Los Angeles’ defense has struggled in the first quarter, having been outscored 50-7 in the opening quarter through six games.   The Patriots have had some success scoring points in the first quarter, which has been the Patriots’ second highest scoring quarter with 40.  The Patriots’ highest scoring quarter has been the second quarter, which has seen them put up 71 points through six games.

NFL Week 7 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 4 vs Falcons

John Morgan
October 12, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds are posted prior to the following week’s games, including the Thursday Night Football game. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away. If you are in Vegas and have a good feeling about a matchup further down the road, the Westgate offers an opportunity to get a jump on odds that could be less favorable after Sunday’s games.

Week 7 is highlighted by a rematch of what was possibly the greatest championship game in pro sports history. The Atlanta Falcons will travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots a week from Sunday night. The professional handicappers at the Westgate have listed the defending champs as four point favorites for the moment.

Since home field accounts for about a three point advantage on NFL betting lines, that means the Pats would be considered to be slightly (one point) better than Atlanta on a neutral field. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those who have witnessed the performance of New England’s defense this season. On the other hand the Falcons had issues to deal with as well after losing to Buffalo. In spite of extra time to recuperate after last week’s bye, Atlanta still had nine players on this week’s initial injury report. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (hamstring), defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee), wide receiver Justin Hardy (illness) and kicker Matt Bryant (back) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) was limited, as was outside linebacker Vic Beasley. Atlanta’s premier pass rusher has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain/tear.

Aside from the Sunday night showdown, NFL week 7 does have other games of note. Kansas City is at Oakland for one of those rare Thursday night games worth watching. New Orleans travels to Green Bay in the early Sunday time slot, and the Broncos play the Chargers late Sunday afternoon. The week wraps up with the Eagles hosting Washington for what should be a good Monday night game.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati has been flexed from a 1:00 pm kickoff to 4:25. That may have been done to mask what was supposed to be a good game in that late afternoon time slot. The 0-5 Giants, now depleted of most of their wide receivers, are the week’s biggest underdogs at 7½ points – despite playing at home. Fortunately for Seattle fans that Seahawks-Giants game – which was originally slated to be the premier game for CBS – will remain in the late time slot. In other programming notes Carolina at Chicago moves from Fox to CBS; the Jets-Dolphins game will be found on Fox rather than CBS.

NFL Week 7 Early Odds

Thursday Oct 19 at 8:30 pm ET on CBS
Kansas City Chiefs (-2½) at Oakland Raiders

Sunday Oct 22 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Tennessee Titans (off) at Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings (-3)
Carolina Panthers (-4½) at Chicago Bears

Sunday Oct 22 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-4½)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills (-2)
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-6½)
Arizona Cardinals ‘at’ Los Angeles Rams (-3) in London

Sunday Oct 22 late afternoon games
Dallas Cowboys (-4½) at San Francisco 49ers, 4:00 pm ET on Fox
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7), 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Seattle Seahawks (-7½) at New York Giants, 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Denver Broncos (-2½) at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:30 pm ET on CBS

Prime Time Games, 8:30 pm ET
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots (-4), Sun Oct 22 on NBC
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-6½), Mon Oct 23 on espn

Week 7 Byes
Detroit Lions
Houston Texans