Tag Archives: Bill Belichick

New England Patriots News 11-19, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 19, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 11-19, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots game today in Mexico today will be the first game they have played outside the US since they appeared in London in 2012, a 45-7 win over the Rams. This will be the Patriots and Raiders third appearance in the International Series, and the Patriots first in Mexico City. The team did play a preseason game there in 1998.

Just in case anyone was wondering, five teams have not played in the International Series, the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, and Tennessee Titans.

“Don’t Hand it to Me Buddy, it’s Yours” Lewis Nearly Commits a Gaffe:
Lost in the Patriots dominance on special teams last Sunday night in Denver was a mistake by Dion Lewis that could have been costly but luckily for the team was a non-factor.

When the Broncos kicked off, the ball soared deep into the end zone. Dion Lewis catches it cleanly about 7 yards deep and promptly flips the ball to the official. The issue was, Lewis hadn’t taken a knee yet and the play was still live.

The official, more out of instinct, caught it and promptly handed it back where Lewis took a knee. Had the official let the ball go, things could have gotten interesting especially if the ball had rolled out of the back of the end zone.

Patriots Two Starters on the Offensive Line This Week:
The Patriots were without Marcus Cannon last week in Denver, who had been dealing with an ankle injury and he was ably replaced by LaAdrian Waddle. Cannon is out again this week and will be joined by David Andrews. Andrews was a late addition to the injury report which was characterized as an illness. It was reported that Andrews was suffering from a delayed reaction to the altitude.

In his stead, the team is expected to start Ted Karras this week. Karras could play center or guard. If they move him to guard, they’d slide out Joe Thuney to center.

Belichick Flying High At the Air Force Academy:
The Patriots decided to remain in Colorado after the Denver game for a couple of different reasons. One, that it cut down on the travel time that the team would be forced to deal with. A secondary reason was that it allowed the team extra bonding time on the road, which can never be overlooked and third, perhaps most importantly, with the game today in Mexico City at about 7200 feet above sea level, the air is even thinner than in Denver which is about 2000 feet lower than Mexico City. Coupled with the smog, which at times is very thick, it can be very difficult to breathe there. I spent months there a few years ago and it is a tough place to play football.

But Belichick, who arranged for the team to stay at the service academy which is located 6000 feet above sea level, the location couldn’t have been a coincidence. Belichick grew up at the Naval Academy and has great respect for the military and their traditions. And on Friday, when Mike Reiss of ESPN reported that Belichick watched all 4000 cadets march to lunch, and had the opportunity to address them, he had to be in his glory. Reiss reported that Belichick was presented with an Air Force Academy hoodie by Lt. General Silveria, the Commandant of the Academy. Belichick then presented the general with a Patriots hoodie. Belichick then presented the general with a Patriots hoodie. Reiss stated that Mitchell Hall erupted.

While the trip logistically made perfect sense, I’m sure that Belichick used the time to give the team a tour of the facility and did an impromptu history lesson while they were there.

Mass Native Melifonwu Excited About the Opportunity to Play vs the Pats:
The Raiders drafted Grafton-native Obi Melifonwu in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft this spring. The big safety put on a show at the NFL Combine and he shot up draft boards. But an injury in training camp derailed the start of his career and began the season on IR.

Melifonwu grew up a fan of the Patriots, players like Kevin Faulk, Troy Brown and Antowain Smith, now he’ll be facing them. He played sparingly in his first action last week against Miami but logged three tackles. He’ll be looking across at TE Rob Gronkowski this week.

“He hasn’t been able to be available for us, but we’re expecting him to step up,” Raiders’ defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said to the media this week. “This is the world champions, the guys who have been doing it really well for a long time. Obi is going to get introduced at a high level, but he’s very confident. We’re expecting him to play at a high level and accept the challenge.”

“I think he’s ready to help us. He’s big, strong, fast and he cares a lot,” Raiders’ head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Hopefully we can get him more involved this week and he can play well for us.”

For the rookie, he knows the assignment is tough but excited for the challenge. “I feel like a lot of people try to out-physical him and it’s just, play to your strengths,” Melifonwu said. “He’s a big, physical guy with strong hands, so it’s definitely gonna be tough. But it’s a matchup that’s gonna be fun.”

Stop Empowering the “Tin-Foil Hat” Wearers:
There has never been a shortage of naysayers on the internet who try to take down the legacy of Tom Brady by repeating the ridiculous notion that he’s a “system QB” and more a product of his coach than anything else ad nauseam. One particular troll has a full-time job on Twitter trying to engage every Patriot fan by twisting around facts to make you believe that Brady really isn’t that good at all. Okay. and just in case anyone was wondering, this guy lives in Western PA and is a diehard Manning apologist.

So while it makes for good ratings by inflaming the masses, stop giving this nincompoop the air time by putting him on the radio. And if you do, don’t act all incredulous at the drivel he spews.

Years ago during the Reagan administration, there was a guy who stood across the street from the White House wearing nothing but black trash bags and would point and yell at tourists that, “Reagan is putting the nation in the trash” amongst other things not fit to print. I don’t remember that guy getting airtime on CNN. Take advice from Bill Belichick, “Ignore the Noise” and quit feeding the trolls.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 11:
Last week 10-4 mark. Season Total: 94-52.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with Pittsburgh over the Titans (1-0). Now for the rest of the slate:
Lions at Bears – Detroit
Jaguars at Browns – Jacksonville
Ravens at Packers – Baltimore
Panthers at Texans – Carolina
Buccaneers at Dolphins – Miami
Rams at Vikings – Los Angeles
Chiefs at Giants – Kansas City
Redskins at Saints – New Orleans
Bills  at Chargers- Los Angeles
Bengals at Broncos – Denver
Patriots at Raiders – New England
SNF Eagles  at Cowboys –  Philadelphia
MNF Falcons  at Seahawks – Seattle

Bye week: Panthers, Colts, Jets, 49ers

Next Thursday Detroit over Minnesota, Dallas over the Chargers and Washington over the Giants

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Peterman Gets the Start at Bills Quarterback:

The Buffalo Bills made a surprise decision to start rookie QB Nathan Peterman over Tyrod Taylor this week on the road in Los Angeles. Two weeks ago the Bills were making noise about overtaking New England and gaining control of the AFC East. But after two blowout losses in a row, they’re now reeling and Coach Sean McDermott has mixed things up by replacing Taylor who was never the long-term answer anyway.

Peterman was the fifth QB taken in this season’s draft, in the 5th round and the 171st player overall.

With the game out of hand last week, he came on in garbage time and completed 7-10 passes with a touchdown against the Saints. This week, he’ll be leaning on the running game of Shady McCoy and have to do the heavy lifting if the situation calls for it.

With Buffalo still locked in a playoff spot, it is a calculated gamble by McDermott that this will ignite his team. If he struggles and McDermott goes back to Taylor, it could really hurt their playoff hopes and possibly damage the rookie’s confidence. We’ll be watching that one.

Dolphins Season On the Brink With the Bucs This Week:

The Miami Dolphins have lost three straight games, scoring an average of just 15 points per game and losing by a combined 67 points in those three games. They sit at 4-5 and after going 10-6 a year ago are in danger of falling out of the playoff race. If they have any hopes of rescuing a playoff berth they have to beat the 3-6 Buccaneers today.

But it hasn’t just been the offense struggling, the defense has been faltering as well, having given up 112 points in those three games.

A loss will drop them to 4-6 with a road trip to New England next week where they haven’t won since the Wildcat game in 2008. One thing the Dolphins will try to do this week is getting the ball in RB Kenyan Drake’s hands more, especially in space. The speedster from Alabama is electric, as evidenced by his 66-yard touchdown run against the Panthers last week. In the last two games, Drake has runs of 66 and 42 yards. While Damien Williams is technically the starter right now, Drake’s role should see a big increase down the stretch.

Jets During the Bye Week are Sticking With McCown:

The New York Jets are off this week but are surprisingly 4-6 as they hit the bye. They’ve already won more games than anyone would have thought possible and although a real long shot, they still have a chance at making the postseason. Raise your hand if you thought that possible by Week 10.

So despite the slim postseason hopes, the team is not going to throw in the towel and go with young QBs, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. They’re going to stick with QB Josh McCown, who has played very well this season.

Any further wins may hurt the Jets’ chances of finding a franchise QB in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Head Coach Todd Bowles isn’t concerned with that. He’s got his players focusing on the now and keeping their jobs. Now the only question is, does the front office step in and demand to see what they have in the two young QBs, or do they already feel that the two aren’t going to be the answer?

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 – Raiders Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 17, 2017 at 10:57 am ET

¡Bienvenidos a México! The Patriots finish up the first two-game leg of their road trip with an outside the border game in Mexico City this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, November 19 at 4:25 p.m. and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (7-2) are coming off a big 41-16 win in Denver, Tom Brady and Dion Lewis were AFC Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week respectively as the Pats rolled to an easy victory.

The Raiders (4-5) are coming off of their bye week. This was a team that was picked by many to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. But they struggled in the early going and dug themselves into a deep hole. They’ll have to go no worse than 6-1 down the stretch to make the postseason and have a chance for a deep playoff run. For the Raiders, the playoffs start on Sunday.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 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 Raiders have played one another since 1960 but have only met 34 times. However, the two playoff matchups both ended with very controversial calls. While many Raiders fans point to the “Tuck Rule” game of 2001, they forget the 1976 game in Oakland when referee Ben Dreith, an admitted Raiders fan called the phantom roughing the passer penalty on Ray Hamilton in the closing seconds of that one.

Overall the Patriots lead the series 18-15-1 and have won the last four meetings including a 16-9 win in Foxboro in 2014.

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 Raiders Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Oakland

The Patriots running game has been improving but still isn’t where they want it to be. They average just under 108 yards per game. The coaches seem to be settling on a duo of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead because it keeps opponents off balance and the team is just as likely to pass as run. James White is the third-down back and Mike Gillislee was a surprise healthy scratch last week.  

The Raiders run defense hasn’t been great allowing 116.6 yards per game but they’ve gotten a boost by adding NaVorro Bowman who was cut by the 49ers. The big man can’t move like he used to but remains a sure tackler inside and has been very productive in his three games with the Raiders.

Look for the Patriots to run just enough to keep the Raiders defense honest this week. I don’t expect a big game from either Lewis or Burkhead on the ground, but if they can get out to a lead, they may add some yards down the stretch.

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

The Patriots passing game is averaging 301.6 per game and Tom Brady continues his torrid 2017 season. Even with a banged up receiving core, with Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell on IR and Chris Hogan injured, the beat goes on. Brady still has Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Phillip Dorsett outside, with Rob Gronkowski and newly added Martellus Bennett at tight end with White, Burkhead and Lewis out of the backfield. There are plenty of options still to use and Brady does. The team has five players with 30 or more catches. The favorite target? The open one.

The Raiders secondary has struggled badly this season, their top three cornerbacks were among the worst rated at their position in the NFL. They lost their top draft pick, rookie corner Gareon Conley to IR. Their pass rush despite having Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Mario Edwards have netted just 13 sacks. They have an issue covering the tight ends as well where it could be a big mismatch with Gronkowski.

Look for the Patriots and Tom Brady to air it out this week. Oakland’s secondary has yet to record an interception this season and with the WRs and TEs putting pressure on the back seven, the running backs in the passing game should give Brady a huge edge here. It will be interesting to see if Oakland puts rookie Obi Melifonwu on Gronkowski. He has the size and speed to keep up with the big man. That’s why they drafted him. But he began the season on IR and has one game under his belt. But Gronkowski against either Reggie Nelson or Karl Joseph is a huge mismatch. We’re one of Obi’s biggest fans here, but this may be a tough matchup in just his second game.

Next up the Raiders offense:

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

The Raiders running game has been a disappointment in 2017. Last year the Raiders were 6th in the league and thought that adding former Bill and Seahawk Marshawn Lynch would vault them to the top. Things haven’t worked that way yet this season. The Raiders average just 87.6 yards per game this season, just 26th on the season.

The Patriots run defense has struggled in 2017, they were gashed early in the year with Dont’a Hightower playing outside and Alan Branch benched. Teams were running very effectively up the middle. But Branch has stepped up his game and although Hightower was lost for the year, veteran David Harris and Elandon Roberts are doing well in run support.

Look for the Raiders to try to get Lynch involved and active early in this game. It will help set up their big-play abilities in play action to take shots down the field. Lynch, if he can get going, gets more effective as the game goes on, so they’ll have to stay patient with the running game.   

Raiders WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Oakland

Oakland’s passing game got off to a very slow start. Part of the issue could be that they’re under a new Offensive Coordinator, Todd Dowling. They have all the necessary ingredients to be a tremendous passing offense with Derek Carr at QB, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Cordarrelle Patterson outside, Jared Cook at tight end and DeAndre Washington out of the backfield. But they’ve only averaged 237 yards per game throwing the ball.

The Patriots pass defense is playing much better since a nightmarish start to the season. Last week they got back Stephon Gilmore from a concussion injury and he held Demaryius Thomas to just 44 yards on five catches. He and Malcolm Butler are a fine tandem and if they get back Eric Rowe this week, it will be a huge boost. The Patriots pass rush is struggling as well, logging only 16 sacks themselves.

The Raiders passing game is beginning to round into form. In their last three games, Carr has thrown for 1025 yards against Kansas City, Buffalo, and Miami. Cooper is heating up as well as Cook. Cook has been thrown to 21 times the past three weeks and has 18 receptions. This will be a huge test for Matt Patricia’s defense. Have they truly turned the corner in the back seven? This will be a big measuring stick to find out.

The key from a Patriots perspective is to limit the big plays and make the Raiders work their way down the field. Carr is going to get his yards, but they must make the stops in the red zone and make the Raiders settle for threes.  

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski is having a very solid season. His kickoffs have been terrific to pin opponents deep.  The coverage units have been outstanding and keep getting better. The return game has been getting a boost by Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis. Lewis returned a kickoff 103 yards last week and 71 in the game prior. Ryan Allen has improved as the season has gone on.

The Raiders Special Teams boast one of the most dangerous returners in the game with Patterson and one of the best punters with Marquette King who owns a 50.3-yard average… (not a typo) In the thin air of Mexico City, King may put one in the traffic pattern at Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México. But the Patriots STs are operating on another plane right now and get the slightest of edges here.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one as we mentioned is a must-win game for the Raiders. A loss here will put them is in real danger of missing the postseason. The Patriots too need this game to keep pace with the Steelers who won on Thursday night to move to 8-2 in the AFC. The Raiders are coming off their bye and have had two weeks to prepare. But if there is a criticism of Jack Del Rio and Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr., they are a “we do what we do defense” If they don’t mix things up quite a bit, Brady will have a field day against this secondary. Mix in the unknown factor of playing in the altitude of Mexico City. The Patriots seem well prepared by their staying in Colorado this week.  Patriots 34-24

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.

Raiders in a “Must-Win” Position Against the Patriots This Week

Steve Balestrieri
November 15, 2017 at 10:28 am ET

The Patriots and the Raiders face off in Mexico City this week and while this is a big game for both teams, it has taken on an aura of a “must-win” for Oakland as their playoff hopes will take a big hit if they lose on Sunday.

The Raiders are 4-5 and coming off of their bye week, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare for the Patriots and they’ll no doubt have done their homework but one of the main reasons they are in the position they find themselves in is because of their defense.

The Raiders were one of the teams that were expected to push the Patriots in the AFC this season. Many of the pundits had them ready to leapfrog New England and represent the conference this season in the Super Bowl. A loss on Sunday may just about doom their hopes of even making the playoffs. The Raiders must really go no less than 6-1 down the stretch to have any shot at the playoffs, and even that may be a bit iffy. That is why this upcoming game for them is a must-win. And they’re going to need their defense to play much better than it has so far.

Bad Matchups Abound: The Raiders defense faces a tough task this week because overall they don’t match up well against the this Patriots offense. The defense has yet to post an interception on the year and their top three cornerbacks are among the lowest in the league statistically in opponent’s quarterback rating.

Oakland last year knew that they had to improve their defense to make the big jump they envisioned for this season. They spent their first two picks on their secondary with CB Gareon Conley and S Obi Melifonwu. But Conley was placed on IR this week and is gone for the season and Melifonwu, just came off of IR and played in his first game against Miami two weeks ago prior to the bye.

After watching some film on the Raiders, corners David Amerson and T.J. Carrie will probably get the start against Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett, as we expect Chris Hogan to sit again. That’s a matchup that favors the Patriots, but the real mismatches come inside.

The Raiders safeties Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph do not match up well at all with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. The Raiders linebackers have been woeful in coverage. Factor in Danny Amendola in the slot and running backs James White and Rex Burkhead in the passing game and Brady should be able to find mismatches all over the field.

Oakland may opt to put the big Melifonwu on Gronkowski this week. He has the size at 6’4, 244 and ridiculous athleticism to hang with Gronk. Nobody has been higher on Melifonwu than us here, and he has a tremendous future. But is it fair to saddle a rookie in just his second NFL game with guarding the best tight end in the league?

Pass Rush Disappointing: With a front four that features Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, you would think Oakland would be one of the better pass rushing teams in the league. But they haven’t lived up to that. The Raiders have only 13 sacks on the season which is actually less than the Patriots 16 thus far this season. That is one reason why the team has zero interceptions thus far this season.

Without a pass rush getting home and a shaky back seven on the defense it is no wonder opponents are completing better than 71 percent of their passes against Oakland’s defense. Opponent’s QB rating against them is 109.4. That is higher than Tom Brady’s 108.3 which explains the struggles that the Raiders secondary has had thus far this season.

Death By 1000 Cuts: The Patriots will no doubt opt to do what they always do and that is, be patient, let Brady find the mismatches and work their way down the field. James White leads the team with 46 receptions but the Patriots have five receivers with more than 30 catches. And opponents can’t go to sleep on Burkhead who missed several games with a rib injury, Dion Lewis or Martellus Bennett who just returned to the team after he was waived by the Packers.

However, if the Raiders start trying to crowd the underneath and middle routes, Cooks and Dorsett have the speed to stretch the field deeply. Look for Brady to work the middle to find the outside the numbers this week. They don’t normally take a lot of shots downfield but this week they may try to do more of those.

The Raiders haven’t been great against the run this season either and that could be a factor as well this Sunday. Burkhead, Lewis, White and Mike Gillislee give them plenty of options to keep the defense honest.

It will be intriguing to see how Oakland’s defense opts to play this week. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio have traditionally been a “do what we do” type of defense. If they don’t change things up this week, they could find themselves facing a tough uphill obstacle. But that’s why they play the games, every week is different and there are always surprises on the field.

¡Bienvenidos a México!

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: Patriots Win In Mile High

Russ Goldman
November 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm ET

In this episode, we discussed the Patriots victory against the Broncos. Later on, we previewed the game against the Raiders in Mexico. We also debated the situation with Martellus Bennett as he returned to the Patriots.

Patriots  Week 10 Report Card, Dominate Broncos on the Road

Steve Balestrieri
at 9:30 am ET

The Patriots quickly put the Denver Broncos in the rear view mirror due to outstanding special teams play on Sunday night and then with a tremendous offensive game plan, kept Denver’s defense off-balance and in chase mode all night long in a 41-16 rout.

With the stadium at Mile High in Denver has been a house of horrors for the Patriots, they’ve now won there in back-to-back seasons. Even more importantly, the win allows the Patriots to keep pace with Pittsburgh having the best record in the AFC at 7-2 and opened up a two-game lead in the AFC East due to Buffalo getting spanked at home by New Orleans.

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

Quarterback: A

The “No-Fly Zone” didn’t apply to Tom Brady on Sunday night. Denver’s strength on defense is their three cornerbacks, who are arguably the best in the NFL and their pass rush. So Josh McDaniels and Brady did the smart thing. They got the ball out quickly to negate the pass rush and attacked their weakness, the linebackers in coverage.

In our pregame matchups we pointed out that the place to attack was the linebackers with the tight ends and backs. And Brady was absolutely clinical in doing so, Denver had no answer for that. Brady’s first touchdown was to Rex Burkhead who easily beat his coverage on a skinny post to open the scoring.

Brady used play action passing to freeze the linebackers on more than one occasion but the best one was arguably on the deep 26-yard completion to Gronkowski where there was a huge gap in the coverage. Brady finished 25-34 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and should have had a fourth with the call on Gronkowski being called incomplete when the ball never touched the ground.

Brian Hoyer got to come in late and got in a bit of working going 3-3 including a really nicely designed and conducted screen pass to Brandin Cooks that went for 27 yards.

Running Backs: A-

The running backs were part of the focus this week and they didn’t disappoint. On a night where Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis were the focal points and both had very solid outings.

While the running game wasn’t dominant, it was good enough. Denver, other than last week in Philly has been very stout against the run and getting just under 100 yards kept the defense honest and allowed Brady to run play action.

Lewis didn’t have a catch but was good in the running game, lugging the ball between the tackles. Burkhead provided good power also between the tackles, moving the pile a few times in short yardage and picking up a key fourth down run. He was also very productive in the passing game. Both featured key moments on STs which we’ll get to below.

James White didn’t get a ton of snaps this week but he had a nice touchdown reception from Brady where he put an excellent move on safety Will Parks and had an easy pitch and catch for the score. James Develin was outstanding in run support getting the ball carriers to the second level.

Wide Receivers: B-

This was more by design than anything else. The team was shorthanded with Chris Hogan out so, they attacked the Denver weak spots using the backs and tight ends. However, they kept Denver’s secondary honest by targeting Cooks 11 times, mostly in short underneath routes. Phillip Dorsett and Danny Amendola were only targeted six times total but responded with six catches.

On a night the coaches were putting the onus elsewhere, the wide receivers still had decent production and did exactly what was asked of them.

Tight Ends: B-

Rob Gronkowski had a typical Gronkowski evening, seeing double, at times triple coverage down close to the goal line but still had good production with four catches for 74 yards. He also had a diving 19-yard catch for a touchdown erased by an official ruling that the ball hit the ground, but we’ve beat that horse to death enough.

Martellus Bennett was back in a Patriots uniform and although he played only about 8 snaps made his presence felt, catching 3 passes for 38 yards. His first catch was a big 27-yarder where the Broncos had a communication breakdown (other teams have them too), and two linebackers went after Burkhead leaving Bennett all alone.

Dwayne Allen finally got a catch and it was a big one, a touchdown catch where he was held by Von Miller and then made a nice catch on an outside pass by Brady. He was also very good in the running game. Jacob Hollister didn’t play on offense but had a couple of big plays on Special Teams.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line heard all week about the fearsome Denver pass rush especially by Von Miller. Miller was facing backup swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle filling in for injured Marcus Cannon at right tackle and had one pressure all night on Brady. Waddle, receiving little extra help, was mainly left on his own and held up extremely well. Ditto for Nate Solder. Shane Ray on the other side was relegated to milk carton status. The only sack given up was on a safety blitz where James White uncharacteristically whiffed on a pass block, with Brady getting sacked inside Denver’s 10 yard forcing a field goal.

The run blocking was okay but not great. But the bottom line is that the Patriots scored on seven straight possessions. That doesn’t happen…ever unless Brady is getting excellent protection. And yes they aced this test.

Defensive Line: B-

The Patriots defensive line was good but not great in this one. They did a decent job of defending the run although the Broncos did have a couple of really good chunk plays, most of those came after the team was comfortably ahead. But they were stout in the red zone which is a plus, with the Broncos scoring only one touchdown.

The pass rush however was virtually non-existent. Brock Osweiler was nearly as comfortable as Brady was in the pocket. This will be an area to monitor moving forward but they couldn’t get any consistent pressure even when Matt Patricia dialed up some blitzes.

Linebackers: B-

Kyle Van Noy gets high marks for his continuing high level of play all over the field. With Hightower gone for the year, Van Noy calls the signals for the defense and will rush the passer, cover the backs in the flat and drop into coverage. He read a play perfectly and blasted in dropping Jamaal Charles for a loss on one running play. David Harris got the most work of the season and was very good in run support and put a jarring hit on TE Jeff Heuerman knocking the ball loose. Elandon Roberts got good pressure on an A-Gap delay blitz and forced Osweiler to unload the ball.

Special teamers Marquis Flowers and Trevor Reilly got some work in as Matt Patricia worked everyone into the system and all played well.

Secondary: B

While Malcolm Butler had a very rough first half, Emmanuel Sanders had 114 yards receiving by halftime. He recovered however, and played tough and physical in the second half where Sanders could manage just 23 yards after the break. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination but Butler has a short memory and he doesn’t get down or sulk when he’s not playing well.

Stephon Gilmore returned from his concussion and played well. He was tasked with coverage on Demaryius Thomas and neutralized him quite well. Thomas had five catches for 44 yards. In Thomas’ nine games previously against the Patriots he has averaged 92.5 yards per game and 16.6 yards per reception. Thomas did snag a touchdown on Gilmore but that was just a well designed play by Osweiler. His play action fake froze the linebackers just long enough and Roberts didn’t get a deep enough drop where he’d have been right in the throwing lane. Thomas had inside position on Gilmore and made the catch for the score.

Devin McCourty was his normally solid self in centerfield and was forced to make a couple of key tackles when Sanders was getting loose. Pat Chung and Duron Harmon played well and Chung got an interception off of Osweiler when he read the play and jumped the route in front of Heuerman.

Special Teams: A+

The Special Teams get very high marks this week for turning in three tremendous big plays that easily turned this game into the laugher that it was. After the Pats were held to a three and out on their first possession, Jonathan Jones flew up the field on punt coverage and Broncos returner Isaiah McKenzie, who has shown a tendency for bobbling punts muffed this one. Jones blasted him, allowing Jacob Hollister to recover the ball. The Patriots would then score on seven straight possessions.

Dion Lewis had a 103-yard kickoff return for a score getting several key blocks including good ones from Hollister and Dwayne Allen. Once he reached the outside, he had clear sailing and no one was going to catch him. That silenced the crowd quickly.

Rex Burkhead came clean on a punt block after a fantastic play by Brandon Bolden freed him up. Bolden caused his man to step out wide and Burkhead burst thru the gap like he was shot out of a cannon. That set the Patriots up with a short field for a score.

Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs were a stake in the heart of the Broncos. He dropped them just short of the goal line time and again and the coverage units were outstanding. Trevor Reilly unloaded on McKenzie on one where it was amazing that McKenzie was able to hold onto the ball.

Denver made the night complete by jumping offside on a 4th and 5 where the Patriots lined up to punt. The first down resulted in the Patriots putting another score on the board where they completed a 16-play, 94-yard drive.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick’s team had two weeks to prepare to face a team that always seems to have its way with New England at home. Belichick and the staff came up with a fantastic game plan to attack the middle of the field with the tight ends and running backs and they simply eviscerated a very good, very proud defense where they scored on seven straight possessions. That doesn’t happen very often, if at all to Denver at home.

The players were focused and executed the game plan extremely well. Belichick likes to talk about producing in “All 3 Phases” of the game. The team did it and more. They allowed only one touchdown and just 16 points on defense, scored 41 points and had tremendous splash plays on special teams.

This was the perfect way to start off the second half of the season and a long road trip that will feature five of the next six games 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.

Patriots Special Teams, Dominant In Blowout Win Over Denver

Steve Balestrieri
November 13, 2017 at 9:10 am ET

One of the few complaints heard around Patriots Nation centers around Bill Belichick’s insistence on having so many players on the roster that contribute only on special teams. Sunday night’s game in Denver should put that argument to rest for quite awhile.

For the second game in a row, the Patriots special teams units were a huge difference in the game and were a big reason why the team was victorious.

New England and Denver are teams heading in opposite directions. The Patriots have won five in a row while the Broncos have dropped five straight. A major reason why this game turned into a blowout was the dominance of the Patriots STs units and Denver’s continued awful special teams play. The Broncos are done now, and can only play the spoiler. And it wasn’t the play of their QBs this week, it was their special teams and defense.

There were four huge plays by Joe Judge’s units that turned this game from a potentially close game into a rout. Let me caveat this by saying something straight out. I’ve been hearing the “Special Teams was the only reason the Patriots won” narrative. That doesn’t give hardly enough credit to Tom Brady and the offense. The Patriots offense scored on seven straight possessions. The Denver defense couldn’t stop the Patriots offense all night long. But back to the four key special teams plays.

  • After the Patriots went three and out on their opening possession, they were forced to punt. Ryan Allen’s punt had very good hang time and Jonathan Jones put pressure on Isaiah McKenzie and he muffed the punt. Jones blasted McKenzie and rookie Jacob Hollister recovered the ball and the offense was in business. It was a huge turn of events. Brady later hit Rex Burkhead for a 14-yard touchdown and the Patriots were off and running.
  • Denver answered by driving down and kicking a field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Denver kicked three yards deep to Dion Lewis. Lewis found a seam and burst thru the poor coverage by the Broncos and raced 103 yards for a touchdown. He received two key blocks by reserve tight ends Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister along the way
  • Rex Burkhead, who had a good night on the offense, provided the third key special teams play of the night. He burst thru the interior on a Denver punt and smothered the kick for a key punt block. The short field allowed the Patriots to kick a field goal. Which should have been a touchdown. I’m still waiting to the see the ball hit the ground there…
  • The final key play was early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots had started on their own six-yard line at the end of the third quarter. They moved to the Denver 41 where the drive stalled. But on 4th and 5, Denver jumped offside on the punt giving Brady and offense a fresh set of downs. Seven plays later Brady put the dagger in with a touchdown pass to James White, finishing a 16-play, 94-yard drive that took 7:31 seconds off the clock.

The Patriots special teams have been steadily improving as the season winds along. In their last game against San Diego, they tackled a punt returner for a safety and Lewis ran back a kickoff in that one of 71 yards. The coverage units have been outstanding and Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs are putting teams constantly in the hole behind the 25-yard line.

The only downer from the game was ST’s Captain Matthew Slater, pulling a hamstring in the game last night and not returning.

But if they continue to play at this kind of high level, the sky is the limit. They can match up with just about anyone they play and having an STs unit that can give the team a boost like that is outstanding.

We’re on to Mexico….

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.

New England Patriots News 11-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 12, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 11-12, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots are coming off the bye tonight and traditionally under Bill Belichick, they’ve done well with the extra week to prepare but with all of the injuries they’re currently suffering from, and given that Denver has always been a tough place for them to win in, makes for a very intriguing game tonight.  

Patriots Bring Back Martellus Bennett After His Release From Green Bay:
The Patriots brought back tight end Martellus Bennett after he was released by the Green Bay Packers this week putting in a waiver claim on him. The Packers said is that he was released for “failure to report an injury designation.”  He is reportedly suffering from a torn rotator cuff and shoulder labrum which will require surgery.

But he’s going to attempt to play thru the pain as evidenced by his appearance at practice on Friday.  Bennett was a very well respected member of the team during their Super Bowl run in 2016. He was productive in the passing game, he had 55 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as a tremendous blocker and he got high marks for playing through a myriad of ankle, knee and shoulder injuries all year.

Bennett took to social media on Friday to explain his side of the injury situation in Green Bay and lashed out at both team doctors and the front office.:
“The Packers examined my shoulder on my visit March 10 and cleared it,” he said “They even gave me an x-ray as well. It got worse during the season, specifically against the Cowboys [on Nov. 8], so I asked to have it checked and we checked it. After a few days of contemplating to play with it or get surgery, I chose surgery. Now here we are…”

“They tried to f— over me.”. “Dr. [Patrick] McKenzie trying to cover his own ass. After trying to persuade me to play thru a major injury and me choosing to get surgery. They have access to all my medical records. My shoulder wasn’t where it is now at the beginning of the season. I f—– it up playing for the Packers.”

“Dr. McKenzie didn’t make feel safe and was pushing to play, which I thought was weird. Not that he was trying to get me play thru it but the way he was saying things. I didn’t trust him. So I got three other opinions from doctors, who all said I need to get it fixed. So I decided to do that. And they decided to waive me with some bullshit excuse. Failure disclose.”

“Every week we do a body evaluation sheet in the weight and pretty much every week I circled my shoulder. I just kept playing, but it got worse. During the bye week, I got off anti-inflammatories to clean my system and could really feel the pain. So I asked to examine it [the] first day back in. And that’s when we found out it was really f—– up.”

“They knew.” “They panicked. Thinking that I was trying to go on the IR and be on their books next year. When I mentioned that I would possibly retire. So they tried to f— me before they thought I would f— them. This was all about the money. All about the money. I get it. But don’t lie, homie. You know wtf was up.”
“I had intentions of playing all eight games, as I mentioned in the post during the bye week, but found out it was worse than I felt after getting it checked out. Now I’m like f— it. I chose my health over the ‘team.’ They chose money over me.”

Patriots Minus At Least Three Starters Tonight, Several More Questionable:
The Patriots despite coming off of the bye week are still dealing with a multitude of injuries. Chris Hogan, dealing with a shoulder injury suffered against the Chargers is out. Likewise for starting right tackle Marcus Cannon and DL Malcom Brown.

There are five more players officially listed as questionable tonight who are also dealing with injuries. Tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Danny Amendola (knee), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle), defensive end Cassius Marsh (shoulder) and cornerback Eric Rowe (groin).

Gilmore spoke with the media early in the week and stated that he should be ready to return to game action. Amendola will probably suit up as well as the wide receiver position is banged up with Hogan hurting and Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell on IR. Mitchell is eligible to come off of IR and has recently started running again so he’s still several weeks away.

Filling in for Hogan this week is WR Phillip Dorsett who came over in the Jacoby Brissett trade. Dorsett has played sparingly thus far in 2017 and has just three catches. He, Amendola and Brandin Cooks are the only healthy wide receivers right now.

Ricky Jean Francois, “I’m In Dunkin Donuts Heaven” :
With the injury to Malcom Brown in the interior of the Patriots defensive line, the team signed free-agent veteran Ricky Jean Francois to help with the depth of the team. It is especially thin given that Vincent Valentine is still on IR and hasn’t begun practicing yet.

Francois, 28, has been investing his money down South in a very New England franchise, Dunkin Donuts and owns 30 of them between Savannah Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

This week, ESPN’s Mike Reiss asked him about how he felt coming to New England where not only the Patriots but DDs is such a part of the fabric of the area. This brought a laugh from Francois. “Believe me, that was one thing as soon as I got off the airplane, every block I hit I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts,” he said. “I was laughing; I must be in Dunkin’ Donuts heaven here.”

Reiss asked Francois if he had seen the commercials with Rob Gronkowski, and he laughed again. “I love him, because he has business booming. I told him every time I look at that commercial, I smile now.”

Francois isn’t an interior pass rusher, he’s more in the mold of an Alan Branch, a two-gap eating run stuffer. And he should see some action this week against Denver. He’ll wear #94. So if the Patriots win tonight Ricky, will there be 94 cents coffee in Savannah on Monday?

Waddle Will Have the Tough Task of Blocking Von Miller Tonight:
With Marcus Cannon out for tonight’s game with an injury, his starting slot at right tackle will fall to LaAdrian Waddle and he knows all eyes will be on him on national television as Miller is one of the premier pass rushers in the league.

The 6’6, 315-pound Waddle started in place of Cannon earlier this season against the Houston Texans and has the confidence of the coaching staff to get the job done. He’s leapfrogged Cameron Fleming for the top swing tackle job on the team behind Cannon and Nate Solder.

The coaching staff will keep a close eye on things and if Waddle begins to have trouble with Miller, we can expect one of the running backs to stay in and block or a tight end to chip on their way out in the pattern. But this will be one of the areas to watch tonight.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 8:
Last week wasn’t  a great one with some of my picks and I finished with a 7-6 mark. Season Total: 84-48.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with the Seattle over the Cardinals (1-0). Now for the rest of the slate:
Packers at Bears – Green Bay
Browns at Lions – Detroit
Steelers at Colts – Pittsburgh
Chargers at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Saints at Bills – Buffalo
Jets at Buccaneers – Tampa Bay
Vikings at Redskins – Washington
Bengals at Titans – Tennessee
Texans at Rams – Los Angeles
Cowboys at Falcons – Dallas
Giants at 49ers – New York

SNF Patriots at Broncos- New England
MNF Dolphins  at Panthers – Carolina

Bye week: Ravens, Chiefs, Raiders, Eagles

Next Thursday Night Pittsburgh over Tennessee.

And They Are Dancing in Jacksonville:
The Jacksonville Jaguars are playing good football right now and the investments made in the defense are paying tremendous dividends. The Jaguars are 5-3 and tied for first in their division. They are there primarily because of the play of their defense.

The Jaguars are third in the NFL in terms of yards allowed and first in the league in points allowed with just 117 points scored against them in eight games. Which comes out to just 14.6 points per game which is excellent.

On Sunday the Jaguars on social media released an animated GIF on Twitter showing the team dancing in the locker room after a victory. And invited fans to send in a video of their own celebratory dance moves after a victory. The responses are fun to watch.

For a franchise that has been down for a number of years, it is good to see the Jaguars turning the corner and being relevant again.

So, to see some of the video responses, type in the link: Tweet a video of you celebrating with #JagsWinDanceSweeps for a chance to win a signed football.

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Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Playoff Quest Begins With Big Matchup Against Brees, New Orleans:

The Buffalo Bills have to pick themselves off the mat after a terrible performance against the Jets 10 days ago on Thursday Night Football. The 5-3 Bills are locked into the playoff race and can’t have any more meltdowns such as last week.

This week they welcome Drew Brees and the Saints who are the hottest team in the NFL right now with New Orleans rolling off six wins in a row. The Saints offense still goes thru the ageless Drew Brees who is throwing for about 275 yards per game, but they are much more balanced now which is keeping opponents honest.

The big changes have been on the New Orleans defense, they are young and very fast. After suffering through the growing pains of communications breakdowns thru the preseason and the first two games, the Saints have figured it out and are playing very well for the first time in many years on the defensive side of the ball.

However, the Bills are 4-0 at home and Brees has struggled somewhat in the colder weather….and it is going to be cold in Buffalo today. Look for the Bills defense to have a big, bounceback day today and win a very close contest to move to 6-3.

Copycat League? Carolina Will Use the TE in Attacking the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins lost last week against the Oakland Raiders and during the game, one of Derek Carr’s biggest targets was tight end Jared Cook who caught nine passes for 126 yards and seemed to be dominating the matchup with LB Kiko Alonso as well as safety Reshad Jones. This week, we’ll watch as the Carolina Panthers may try to exploit the same matchups using Ed Dickson, the big tight end who is averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Dickson started off the season slowly but has been steadily getting better in the Carolina offense replacing All-Pro Eric Olsen who could come off IR in the coming weeks.

And it won’t just be the Panthers watching today’s contests; the NFL is a copycat league, all of Miami’s upcoming opponents have productive tight ends and they’ll see if last week was an anomaly or a trend.

The Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, have a pair of games upcoming, ditto for Buffalo’s Charles Clay. Kansas City with Travis Kelce, and Tampa Bay with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are all on the schedule. So the Dolphins defense, which has been better this season has some work ahead of it.

Jets Kearse Joins Chorus of NFL Players Who Want TNF Gone:

The New York Jets’ wide receiver Jermaine Kearse watched on Thursday night as his friend and former teammate suffered a season-ending injury, tearing his Achilles tendon against the Cardinals. Sherman didn’t practice all week leading up to the game for his Achilles already being injured.

Ah man, that sucks,” Kearse said of Sherman’s injury to the NY Daily News. “It’s definitely tough because I’ve seen that dude play through a lot of stuff, and I know it means a lot of him, especially him being out there with his teammates. I know it’s hurting him. But he’s going to bounce back. He has that grit and that perseverance.”

“Guys are putting their bodies on the line, day in and day out, even through practice. You see Deshaun Watson, who has a significant injury during practice, and not even in the game. So I think we definitely have to have a discussion on it.”

“You’re asking a lot of guys on one day to give it their all, and then have them come back and play just a couple days after, that’s asking a lot,” Kearse said. “This game is 100-percent injury rate. That’s the truth. That’s the facts. And…guys might be dealing with stuff from previous games that they’re still trying to recover from, but they’re still going out there on Sundays and playing and giving it their all and then you give them a short week like that, it’s tough.”

“Some guys are fighting their recovery until the night of the game,” Kearse added.

Could Sherman’s injury have occurred on Sunday if the teams had three more days of preparation? Of course, but in a physical game where the players are always getting banged up, asking them to turn around and do it again on three days rest doesn’t sit with the organization that constantly touts “player safety.”

The league saw a chance to increase profits by sticking these Thursday games into the season so now they rule on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. The revenue pours in and the owners reap the benefits. The players, like Sherman, have to pay the bill.

This is a situation that the Players Association has to dig their heels in about when the next CBA comes about. They can’t take no for an answer. TNF must go.

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.

ESPN Releases Trailer For Upcoming 30 for 30 On Belichick and Parcells

Robert Alvarez
November 11, 2017 at 10:17 am ET

ESPN unveiled the first trailer for its latest documentary in its “30 for 30” TV series this week entitled “The Two Bills”, which focuses on the relationship between coaching legends Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick over the course of their NFL careers working together and apart.

Before being an accomplished head coach in New England, Belichick gained most of his coaching experience from Parcells while working under him as a assistant coach and defensive coordinator with the Giants (1979-1990), defensive backs coach with the Patriots (1996) and Jets defensive coordinator (1997-1999). Belichick won his first two Super Bowl rings with Parcells and the Giants in 1986 and 1990.

The film will also feature the drama that surrounded Belichick’s hiring in New England and the toll it had on his friendship with Parcells.

Following the 1999 season, Parcells stepped down from the Jets head coach position expecting Belichick to take over. Instead, Belichick stunned the football world by resigning as Jets head coach after just one day on the job. He would take over as head coach of the Patriots instead for the 2000 season.

Parcells claimed that Belichick was still under contract to the Jets, and immediately demanded compensation from the Patriots. Then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue agreed with the complaint, and the Patriots gave the Jets a first-round draft pick in 2000 in exchange for the right to hire Belichick.

“The Two Bills” will also feature a rare interview with both coaches together in the same room along with notable special guests such as Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former NFL coordinator and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, former Giants linebacker Harry Carson and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

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

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2017 at 8:44 am ET

The New England Patriots begin the second half of the regular season when they travel to take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, November 12 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 (6-2) are coming off the bye week. In their last game, they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 21-13. They are banged up and missing several key players.

The Broncos (3-5) return home after an ugly 51-23 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ll be looking to get back on track at the hands of their hated rivals, who they always seem to beat in Denver.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 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 Broncos have met since the beginnings of the old AFL in 1960 and the games have always gone in streaks. However, in Denver, the Patriots always seem to play poorly and have had a rough time getting many victories there. Denver holds an all-time 30-22 advantage in their history and a commanding 23-10 edge at home. Although the Patriots took last year’s meeting 16-3 in Denver.

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 Broncos Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Denver

The Patriots running game has been emerging the past few weeks as they have been tinkering with different looks and formations. Dion Lewis has been the workhorse and figures to see the bulk of the carries again on Sunday. But they will use Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead liberally as well as they try to remain balanced.

The Broncos were allowing only about 72 yards per game on the ground after being gashed last season. However last week against Philadelphia, they were run on to the tune of 197 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t expect a repeat performance of that in Denver. Domata Peko has been an excellent acquisition for them in the running game.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up this week to try to keep the pass rush off balance. Lewis and Burkhead will probably the key runners to watch this week with Gillislee in for any short-yardage/goal line situations. It won’t be a big statistical day for the backs but if they can run enough to keep them honest it will be enough.

Patriots WRs vs Broncos Secondary – Razor’s Edge Denver

The Patriots passing game is averaging 300 yards per game, 2nd best in the league this season, despite Tom Brady being under a lot of pressure every week. Now they’re facing one of the better pass rushing teams in the league with Von Miller and the Denver secondary, the “No-Fly-Zone” which will be a big test for the passing game.

With no Julian Edelman and no Chris Hogan, Tom Brady will have Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Phillip Dorsett on the outside. The running backs, James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis will have to pick up some slack in the passing game this week. Denver has allowed just 192 yards per game via the air.

The key this week for New England is the tight ends. Rob Gronkowski will be the target that Brady will try to match up with. Denver’s defense, if it has a weakness is defending the tight ends. Of course, they know the Patriots are short-handed at WR and will try to matchup accordingly. This week we may see more of the rookie tight end, Jacob Hollister, attacking the seams in two tight end sets. The outside linebackers are very good pass rushers but aren’t as comfortable in coverage. Marcus Cannon may not play which means LaAdrian Waddle will be going against Von Miller. Another matchup to watch.

Next up the Broncos offense:

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

The Broncos running game has been up and down this season. When they won three of their first four, the new-found commitment to running the ball was paying dividends. But during their four-game losing streak, the running game has faltered and put too much pressure on their quarterbacks, who aren’t getting it done. The Broncos have a trio of good backs in C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker.

The Patriots have not been good against the run despite seeming to turn the corner in recent games. Against the Chargers, other than one play they set the edge and stuffed the inside very well. But that one play was one where everything broke down and resulted in an 87-yard touchdown run. Such has been the defense for much of this year.

This is the key to the game here. If Denver can’t run effectively enough to make play action passing a factor, and has to put the ball in Brock Osweiler’s hands, then it is a losing proposition for them. Alan Branch and Ricky Jean Francois, filling in for the injured Malcom Brown will have to step up. And setting the edge is extremely important this week.

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

Denver’s passing game has been mired in mediocrity because of quarterback play. They still have Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver, former Patriot A.J. Derby at tight end as well as Charles, Booker and Anderson out of the backfield. Broncos QBs have been sacked 28 times and intercepted 12 times.

The Patriots pass defense was historically bad thru the first six games of the season. But they’ve begun to turn things around and the past two games against Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers the secondary has been much improved. The team should get Stephon Gilmore back this week, helping the depth and hopefully Eric Rowe soon.

The key this week from a New England perspective is putting the ball in Osweiler’s hands. If he’s forced to throw in third and long all game long, that is a winning formula for New England. Denver’s pass protection has been shoddy, but the Patriots pass rush hasn’t exactly been superb this season. We’ll see if Matt Patricia dials up some different looks in an attempt to generate some turnovers.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a very solid season. His kickoffs have been spot on to pin opponents deep.  The coverage units have been outstanding and getting better. The return game has been getting a boost by Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis in recent games. Ryan Allen’s average hasn’t been great, but he’s consistently putting punts inside the 20-yard line.

The Broncos Special Teams has been pretty awful. Brandon McManus has missed five field goals out of his first 15 attempts before going 3-3 last week. Their coverage units haven’t been great and this is another area that the Patriots could exploit this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be a typical New England game in Denver where they always seem to struggle offensively to put points on the board. In the past five years, the Patriots average scoring 36 points in three home games against Denver and just 18.5 points a game in four away games.

Turnovers are going to be key here, the Patriots have to win the turnover battle. Back in 2015 they were controlling the game when a muffed punt opened the door for Denver to roar back and win the game in overtime. The Broncos offense has struggled to score in their four-game losing streak. Don’t give them any short fields for easy points.

Look for Brady to target his running backs a lot in this one to try to neutralize the Denver pass rush. James White and Rex Burkhead could figure prominently in this one. Look for Osweiler to make a mistake or two, as he’s been prone to do. This one won’t win any style points this week and could easily go the other way, but the Pats are on to Mexico with a 7-2 record.  Patriots 20-13

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.

Martellus Bennett Released by GB, the Patriots Should Be Very Interested

Steve Balestrieri
November 9, 2017 at 8:21 am ET

In a somewhat stunning turn of events, the Green Bay Packers suddenly released tight end Martellus Bennett on Wednesday. The reason given was “failure to disclose physical condition” designation. So the next question is, should the Patriots be interested in bringing Bennett back for a stretch run? The answer is an easy yes.

But there is a glitch in that, it isn’t going to be an easy slam-dunk signing. Bennett is now subject to waivers. All 31 other teams have until 4 p.m. ET Thursday to submit a claim on him. If he does not get claimed, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team at any time after that.

The rule from the NFL states that any vested veteran (which Bennett is) doesn’t have to go thru the waiver process until after the NFL trading deadline. And now many other teams will have a crack at claiming the veteran tight end for a late-season addition. Several playoff eligible teams should take a long look at adding Bennett who is a reliable receiver as well as an outstanding blocker.

Martellus Bennett could be a member of the Patriots again…if the cards fall right. (SBalestrieri photo)

Bennett surprised the Packers and many around the league when he announced during the bye week that this season may be his last. When asked by the media what made him come to that decision, he simply said, “Life.”

So, why should the Patriots be in the mix to bring Bennett back? The simple answer…Life.

Life in the NFL is a day-to-day existence and injuries occur all too frequently. The Patriots wide receiver core is banged up. Julian Edelman is already out for the year, Chris Hogan is expected to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury and Danny Amendola has been playing through a few ailments of his own. Malcolm Mitchell began the season on IR with a knee issue and it isn’t a sure bet that he’ll return for the remainder of the season. He recently began running again which means his return is weeks away at the earliest.

Bennett and Rob Gronkowski would automatically give the team a dynamic 1-2 punch in two tight end sets which would ease the burden of the wide receivers while adding another excellent blocker in the running game. He was a productive member of the Patriots last year and was a huge asset with the absence of Gronkowski after he was placed on IR with a back issue.

Bennett would be an immediate step up from Dwayne Allen. The former Colts tight end was signed as a free agent this spring to replace Bennett after he signed with the Packers. Allen as a blocker has been okay but has failed to catch on as a receiver. He has zero catches at the halfway point of the season and what’s worse, he hasn’t even been targeted in a month. Bennett knows the system and the offense and he and Brady had a great rapport last season. He was a trusted member of the offense and was a well-respected member of the team in the locker room, playing thru a variety of injuries all season.

Bennett would be immediate insurance for Gronkowski who has been outstanding this season, despite every team’s insistence on trying to beat him up and hold him on every down it seems. Gronk’s injury history is a matter of record and uniting him and Bennett together on the offense would be a plus.

The Patriots had a similar situation arise with LeGarrette Blount during the 2014 Super Bowl season when he was released by the Pittsburgh Steeler in mid-season and returned to help the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX.

Bennett caught 55 passes for 701 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns in 16 games. It was he who was targeted by Brady in overtime against the Falcons in the Super Bowl in overtime that set the ball up at the two. That set the stage for James White’s heroics. Bennett got open down the seam and he was interfered with at the two-yard line as the pass fell incomplete in the end zone. Had he not been interfered with on that play, he would have been the Super Bowl hero. Bennett signed with the Packers as an unrestricted free agent last offseason and started seven games. He had 24 catches for 233 yards.

So while it would be a no-brainer for the Patriots to explore this, the cards would all have to fall right for Bennett to have a reunion in Foxboro. Stay tuned…

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.