Tag Archives: Brandon Marshall

Five Patriots Players To Watch Against the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2016 at 8:07 am ET

The Patriots return home for their last regular season home game of 2016. The next time fans see the Pats at Gillette will be the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Patriots are 12-2 and could clinch the top seed in the AFC today with a win coupled with either a Raiders loss or tie. The team remembers the late season swoon in the final two games, losses to both the Jets and Miami which cost them home-field advantage. They won’t be wanting that to happen again.

The Jets are 4-10 and playing out the string. The season has been a crushing disappointment for Todd Bowles crew. He was admitted to the hospital yesterday in New York with an undisclosed illness and may not be there on the sidelines later today. But they’d love nothing better than putting coal in the Patriots Christmas stocking again this year.

Here are our five players from a Patriots perspective to watch on Sunday:

QB Tom Brady: Brady popped up again on the injury report this week with a thigh injury. Although it is considered minor, anything to do with #12 will bear watching. Brady didn’t have big game numbers wise last week, but a lot of that was by design as the team opted to use a bigger approach to the running game.

This week, look for the offense to get back into their normal balance. And that begins with Brady. The Jets secondary has been suspect this season which the lack of pass rush hasn’t helped.

Look for Brady to try to get the passing game back in gear quickly today. They’ll want to get out to a quick start and to do so will require Brady to be sharp. With plenty of weapons that can be brought to bear, he’ll spread it around.

LB Dont’a Hightower: Hightower is also dealing with an injury, a knee issue that was clearly bothering him in Denver. But it is reported that he’ll play thru it again this week. Hightower is the Patriots main man in the middle of the defense. He’s the guy that cleans up the play after the defensive line slows down the run at the point of attack.

The Jets have been very successful lately at running Bilal Powell with Matt Forte hurting. Powell is a guy that has hurt the Patriots in the past and they’ll want him keeping the pressure off the inexperienced Bryce Petty at QB.

The Patriots will want to naturally put the ball in Petty’s hands and force him to beat them. And that means stopping the running game. Hightower will be a big part of the defense in that aspect. Going against a beat-up Jets offensive line, he’ll be a key player to watch especially if they decide to blitz him up the A-gap.

RB LeGarrette Blount: Blount wasn’t the focus of the Patriots running game last week in Denver, they opted for the smaller, quicker Dion Lewis to go against the Broncos defense. Although Lewis will again get a lot of reps today, look for the focus to be back again on the Pats’ big man on the ground.

With the focus on having the balance back in the offense this week, they’ll want to hammer the ball inside with Blount and keeping the Jets defense honest and keep them from blitzing on obvious passing situations.

Look for Blount to get upward of 20 carries today against the big, physical front of the Jets. And that should be a recipe for success, the more carries Blount gets, it means that the Patriots should be in control of this one.

CB Malcolm Butler: The Patriots secondary has had their issues with the Jets big wide receivers in the past. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker (IR) and Quincy Enunwa have given them problems in the past. And their first line of defense will be deciding on who Butler covers.

Butler did an excellent job at limiting Emmanuel Sanders last week save for a few garbage time catches. The Jets still have Marshall and Enunwa and with Decker out, Robby Anderson has been a favorite target of Petty. In his last two games, he’s caught six passes for 99 yards and added four catches for 80 yards against the Dolphins.

It will be interesting to see who the Patriots turn their most attention to. But Butler has been their best corner all season and he’ll be the guy they trust the most, regardless if he has over the top safety help…right, Emmanuel?

WR Malcolm Mitchell: The wide receivers other than Julian Edelman were mainly used as decoys a week ago. Mitchell and Chris Hogan were tasked with pulling the Broncos corners away from where they intended to go. With so many weapons, it is a good problem to have. Now they’ll want to get all of them involved in the passing game again.

While Edelman will remain the primary target for Brady on most downs, Mitchell, as well as Hogan will be important players to watch in the passing offense today. The rookie wide receiver from Georgia has been a nice addition to the offense this year. He’s earned Brady’s trust and they know he can be counted upon in crunch time.

Against the Jets last month, Mitchell caught two touchdowns on passes from Brady. The second one, after the two-minute warning, gave the Patriots the win over the Jets. Both coincidentally were against Darrelle Revis. That won’t be forgotten by the Jets, especially Revis as they prepare for this week’s game.

For that reason alone, Mitchell would be a player to watch today, but with him becoming a more valuable role player in the offense, he’ll be looked to by Brady to provide some key catches at important parts of the game.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have up-to-the-minute breaking news as well as post-game analysis.

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 – Jets II Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 23, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for their final regular season home game to take on the New York Jets. The game is scheduled for Saturday Christmas Eve, at 1 p.m.

CBS will televise this week’s game and it can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (12-2) improved to 7-0 on the road this season with a convincing 16-3 win over the Denver Broncos. Dion Lewis rushed for 95 yards and the Pats got three turnovers while holding the Broncos to just three points and shut them out for the final 53 minutes of the game.

The Jets (4-10) were hammered by Miami last week. Career backup Matt Moore threw for four touchdowns in the win. QB Bryce Petty was hit hard and had to leave the game but is expected to play this weekend.

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 Jets meet for the 116th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 60-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Patriots hold a 32-25-1 edge overall at home and have won 9 of the last 11 meetings. The Pats won a close 22-17 win in the Meadowlands in the first meeting this season as Tom Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell with the game-winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go. Mitchell had a pair of touchdowns in the game.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, A Second Look at the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2016 at 6:49 am ET

Jets Are Beaten Up and Looking At Another House Cleaning

The Patriots return home for their final home of the 2016 regular season when they take on the New York Jets on Saturday. The Christmas Eve kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots (12-2), defeated the Broncos 16-3 in Denver as Dion Lewis led a Pats running game that controlled the clock and the tempo. He gained 95 yards on 18 carries. LeGarrette Blount scored his NFL leading 15th rushing touchdown and the defense forced as many turnovers as points allowed.

The Patriots win clinched the AFC East for the eighth year in a row, and the 14th in the last 16 seasons. They sit alone atop the AFC with the top seed ahead of Oakland by a game and two over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Jets (4-10), are just playing out the string this season. After barely missing the playoffs a year ago, there was much hope for a big season in 2016 but injuries, poor play at key positions and some questionable coaching decisions leave the Jets in a bad way with two games to go.

Here are our Second Five Impressions of the Jets:

Offensive Line is Decimated by Injury: The Jets left guard James Carpenter, who will start this week against the Patriots is the only remaining starter from the start of the 2016 season. The Patriots from 2015 feel your pain, but this year, it was the Jets bad luck to be hit hard by the injury bug.

In 2015, the Jets stayed healthy, remarkably so, with starters missing just 20 games due to injury. The Jets used only 60 players during the season, making Todd Bowles first year at head coach a smooth one. But 2016 has been a disaster, especially at the offensive line. Jets starters have missed 81 games this year and they’ve been forced to use 70 players, the most in the NFL.

The Jets offensive line was once one of the league’s best. Now, it is a collection of aging, beat-up players, well past their prime. LT Ryan Clady was brought in to solidify things this season. He landed on IR. Center Nick Mangold will miss his ninth game, RG Brian Winters was just placed on IR and RT Breno Giacomini will miss his 11th game and is on IR as well.

The probable starting unit on Saturday is very short on experience. ESPN’s Rich Cimini put out this startling tidbit this week. LT Ben Ijalana has 11 career starts, LG Carpenter has 69 and is the only opening day starter left. Center Wesley Johnson has seven, RG Dakota Dozier will be making his first career start and RT Brandon Shell will be making his second.

Maccagnan Needs to Clean House…Again: The Jets followed a path that many teams do when changing a head coach, as they did with the hiring of Bowles. They overpaid a bunch of veterans with the “win-now” approach attempting to re-ignite the fan base and put the new coach in a favorable position.

It backfired. The Jets are once again in salary cap hell and currently are already over the 2017 salary cap as it is currently projected. This is a defense that very much underachieved in 2016 and with an offensive line badly in need of an overhaul.

We mentioned the OL above as being beaten up. It is also showing its age and needing an influx of youth. Clady, 31 has played in just 27 of a possible 64 games in the past four years. Cutting him would save about $10 million in cap space. Center Nick Mangold is now 33 and cutting him would save $6.7 million. Breno Giacomini is 32 and cutting him would save the Jets $4.5 million. And that is just the offensive line.

The Jets secondary is looking at a number of hits too. It begins with Darrelle Revis, who is now picked on by opposing teams. Rather than shy away from “Revis Island”, opposing WRs are booking their stays there and piling up big stats. He’s maybe going to move to safety, but paying a safety $15.3 million? Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist will be looked at as well for either renegotiation or being cut. DL Sheldon Richardson is another player that if they cut or trade can save the Jets $8 million.

The spending spree the Jets went on two years ago when they cut Rex Ryan loose didn’t pay dividends and will force them to go thru a ton of turnover in 2017.

Petty Should Be Back Under Center: After taking a scary looking hit in the Dolphins game, it looked like QB Bryce Petty’s audition for the 2017 starting job was going to be cut short. He took a tremendous hit in a sandwich by Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake last week and was forced to leave the game.

But he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and should be under center when the Jets visit Foxboro this weekend. If so, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the backup. This year’s 2nd round draft pick Christian Hackenberg is said to still be nowhere close to NFL ready so in essence, the Jets really have no idea what they have in him.

Petty, who will wear a protective chest pad under his shoulder pads has had flashes of nice play intermingled with the expected poor decisions that plague QBs in the first year of starting. His completion percentage to his two big targets Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Marshall will have to improve. He’s completed just half of his throws to Enunwa and less than a third to Marshall.

Richardson Adds to Already Bad Situation on Snapchat: As if the Jets needed any other distractions. Jets’ safety Rontez Miles captured DL Sheldon Richardson on his phone doing a short video which he then posted on his Snapchat account.

“Snapchat takeover gang gang in this (expletive),” Richardson said on camera. “You know, pre-game (expletive). Where the hoes at, though.”

The final few seconds of the video are fuzzy at best, but Richardson appeared to say “(expletive) this game,” or “(expletive) this guy.”

Coach Todd Bowles wasn’t pleased and said he spoke with Richardson and that the situation was handled in house. Richardson appeared unfazed by the uproar, however. He was under fire earlier this season for another off-field incident when he was arrested in suburban St. Louis in 2015 for racing his Bentley, at times as high as 143mph with a 12-year old relative in the car while fleeing police.

Injuries Impacting Special Teams: The trickle-down effect to all the injuries that the Jets have suffered is that eventually, they make their way down to their special teams. And it is making its mark on the Jets kick return units.

The Jets kickoff return team has eight different players who weren’t even on the team or part of the 53-man roster at the beginning of the 2016 season. Where teams usually try to find a solid unit and work them into a smooth performing machine, that has been lost to the Jets this year.

This week’s game will bear close watching on the Special Teams’ units as with so many new and different faces, the Jets may be at a disadvantage here. Nothing can turn a game around so quickly as a big STs play. And although all of the Patriots – Jets games since the “Butt Fumble” game have been remarkably close, this one has the potential to be a lot less close.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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.

How Can The Patriots Defeat Denver’s Pass Defense?

Steve Balestrieri
December 15, 2016 at 11:30 am ET

All-22 Film From Atlanta May Hold the Key

Facing the #1 pass defense of the Denver Broncos is always a tough task, for the Patriots, facing them in Denver makes it even tougher. The thin air of the Rocky Mountains has been a tough place for Tom Brady and the Patriots and this week will be no exception.

So how will the Patriots and Josh McDaniels decide to attack the vaunted Denver pass defense this week? Well, we know that the game plan will feature more of the running game, an area that the Broncos defense has struggled in this year. The answer to the passing dilemma may rest with the running backs as well.

We rolled back the tape of the Denver Week 5 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. In that game, while the Broncos excellent tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at cornerback kept the Falcons duo at WR of Julio Jones and Mohammad Sanu in check, it was the backs who did the major damage for Matt Ryan.

Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman had a combined 286 yards from scrimmage during Atlanta’s win in Denver that day. Freeman did the bulk of his work on the ground, grinding out 88 yards and a touchdown. While Coleman was devastating thru the air catching four passes for 132 yards and a score. Atlanta mixed up the run and pass well that day and the combination of the two backs along with fullback Patrick DeMarco took advantage of matchups. The Falcons attacked inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis by isolating them in coverage.

The Patriots have three backs with LeGarrette Blount, James White and Dion Lewis who the Pats use in much the same way along with fullback James Develin. It comes down to getting the right matchups and execution.

Here’s a look at the Coaches’ All-22 film from NFL Gamepass that highlights how Atlanta was successful.

Coleman 48-yard Pass Play: On the Falcons first possession, they go with three wide receivers with the tight end aligned in line on the right. Two receivers are bunched together on the left. Ryan moves Coleman out to the right slot where he’s isolated on a linebacker. Denver is playing man coverage with two deep safeties in a Cover 2.

At the snap, the three wide receivers run deep patterns taking their coverage with them down the field. After chipping the edge rusher, tight end Jacob Tamme runs a shallow cross with Coleman. Coleman runs underneath and gets a free release when both Broncos defenders get caught up in the legal pick play by Tamme.

Coleman runs a short 4-5-yard slant and Ryan hits him with the pass easily in stride. With the receivers clearing out the coverage, there is a huge gap in the middle of the field. Coleman catches the pass and turns up the field, where the safeties are much too deep to influence the play.

Freeman 14 Yard Pass Play: During the same opening drive, the Falcons once again, used their running backs in a mismatch against the linebackers. This time Ryan flexed Freeman out to the left slot where he was aligned with Marshall. Denver this time is in a Cover 3 where the safeties again take deep drops.

At the snap, Freeman runs a dig route where once he gets the ball from Ryan, about 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, he reverses his run and cut back to the outside where he picks up about 8-9 more yards on the play.

Coleman 31-yard Touchdown: Coleman later burned Marshall badly for a deep touchdown pass from Ryan where the safety seemed to be in double coverage on Jones to the outside.

Atlanta lines up with three wide receivers, with two to the left and one to the right. Coleman moves to the left slot giving Atlanta three receivers on one side where he’s again in single coverage with Marshall.

At the snap, Coleman blows right by Marshall, who is chase mode. Ryan lays the ball out perfectly for Coleman at the 10-yard line. Safety T.J. Ward who was providing deep coverage to the outside can’t react in time and Coleman has the touchdown.

Coleman 49-Yard Pass Reception: Atlanta got aggressive at their own 25-yard line by going five wide with three wide receivers, the tight end, and Coleman split out to the slot on the right. Denver is in man coverage with a single deep safety, Ward in the middle of the field.

Davis gives Coleman a nice cushion but froze flat-footed at the snap, perhaps the crowd noise distracting him. Coleman blows right by him and is wide open down the sideline. Once again Ryan delivers the ball perfectly and Ward is late in getting over. The result was another huge gain for the Falcons.

The Patriots can use White and Lewis in similar ways this week, they can show run and motion them out to the outside where they’ll have single coverage on the linebackers. White has functioned almost as a slot receiver at times and is excellent in blitz pickup. Lewis is more of a runner out of the backfield than White is and is also good at catching passes out of the backfield. They give Tom Brady plenty of options in the passing game.

While this may not be a great statistical week for wide receivers, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell due to the strength of the Broncos cornerbacks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Brady can’t have a successful day throwing the ball. White and Lewis will probably factor big into this week’s game plan.

The “X-Factor” for the Patriots is tight end Martellus Bennett. If the offensive line can hold up well enough, Brady can get him more involved in the passing game. There he can also create mismatches on the linebackers and force the safeties to get more involved with him, which will allow others the opportunity to win one-on-one battles.

The difficulties of facing the Denver pass defense is daunting, especially with the way New England has played there in the past but not impossible. It will require a good game plan and the players to execute it. This should prove to be a very intriguing chess match to watch. Wade Phillips defense, which likes to be aggressive going against Brady and the Patriots on Sunday, what better way to spend the afternoon?

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

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2016 at 9:00 am ET

The New England Patriots travel to the NJ Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets in the first of two divisional matchups between the two teams. The game was initially scheduled for Sunday Night Football but has been flexed by the NFL to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

This week’s game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Greg Gumble will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Jamie Erdahl will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (8-2) improved to 5-0 on the road this season with a 30-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Tom Brady was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the 27th time in his career with a four touchdown-zero interception effort. LeGarrette Blount led the running game with 124 yards on 19 carries.

The Jets (3-7) are coming off their bye week. Two weeks ago, they lost to the LA Rams 9-6 as QB Bryce Petty in his first NFL start subbing for an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick could only lead the Jets to a single touchdown drive. Fitzpatrick is healthy this week and has been given the nod by coach Todd Bowles as the starter.

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 Jets meet for the 115th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 59-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Jets hold a slim 29-27 edge overall at home. The Patriots have won 8 of the last 10 meetings, however. The teams split a pair of close games a year ago. The Patriots held serve in Foxboro with a 30-23 win and the Jets in the Meadowlands won a 26-20 overtime win on December 27. The Patriots won the toss and deferred, and Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a quick touchdown drive

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
November 23, 2016 at 8:51 am ET

Toss Out Jets Disappointing 2016 On Sunday

The Patriots go back out on the road on Sunday afternoon as they’ll go down I-95 to the NJ Meadowlands to take on their heated rival, the New York Jets. It will be the first meeting between the two teams this season and the games are always close and hard fought. Forget about the records when these two teams meet.

The Patriots (8-2), are coming back from the West Coast and a win over the San Francisco 49ers 30-17 on Sunday. LaGarrette Blount ran for 124 yards on 19 carries and Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, the 21st time he’s done that in his career.

The Patriots hold a two-game lead in the division over the 6-4 Miami Dolphins who have won five in a row. The Pats are now tied for the best record in the AFC with Oakland but the Raiders now hold the tie breaker for the time being, given their win over Houston.

The Jets (3-7), were thinking playoffs after last season’s 10-win season but a tough early season schedule coupled with poor QB play has Todd Bowles’ group looking down at another disappointing finish. They went from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to Geno Smith, back to Fitz, and gave rookie Bryce Petty the start before their bye week in the loss to the Rams. Now, Bowles is going back with Fitzpatrick this week.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Jets:

Bowles Going With Fitzpatrick, the right move this week: The QB carousel for the Jets is swinging back to Ryan Fitzpatrick this week and Bowles is hearing it from not only the media but Jets fans as well. And in part, the criticism is justified.

The Jets went thru a protracted salary negotiation with Fitzpatrick this spring/summer and the QB ultimately bet on himself with essentially a big one-year deal. That has failed for both the QB and the team. Fitzpatrick has struggled mightily this season and leads the league in interceptions with 13 despite playing in less games than most of the starting QBs in the NFL. And with Fitzpatrick not in the Jets plans after this season, the time is right to see what they have in Petty.

Petty started Week 10 while Fitz rested a knee injury and played fair in a 9-6 loss to the Rams. He completed 19-32 for 163 yards with a touchdown and interception. Bowles, however said now that Fitzpatrick is healthy, that he’s the starter and gives the Jets a better chance to win. And he’s right.

We’ve seen Fitzpatrick play poorly, he’s a gunslinger and will take chances that may seem foolhardy at times. We’ve also seen him play well and that is the guy the Jets are hoping can turn things around this week. Facing a Patriots team with Bill Belichick, even with a defense that has been scuffling along lately, Petty in just his second NFL start was bound to see looks that he wouldn’t recognize and would no doubt struggle.

Bowles doesn’t care about the media and fan criticism. His job is to win football games. And his job depends on that. There is still time to do a proper evaluation on Petty. The Jets aren’t going to make the playoffs, even if they were to run the table. And the cries of derision for him on Monday will turn to cheers from the fickle fans if Fitzpatrick can coax a victory over the Pats this week.

Bilal Powell is the “X-Factor” for Gang Green This Week: The Jets brought in veteran running back Matt Forte this season and he’s the primary running back for Gang Green this season. He’s rushed for 732 yards and the Jets are 3-0 when he carries the ball 25+ times. But he’s been used less as a receiver this season than in his time with the Bears. That player has been Bilal Powell and he has the capability to be a game changer for the Jets this weekend.

Powell only carried the ball 40 times this season but has racked up 272 yards and a touchdown, good for a stellar 6.8-yard average. He’s also hauled in 36 passes for 240 yards and a score. He’s gotten hot in the past two games with 11 pass receptions and the Jets only score against the Rams.

Last year he had just 12 touches against the Patriots in the Meadowlands but went for 90 yards with seven rushes for 56 and five catches for 34 yards in the OT win. With a NE defense struggling to defend the wheel route and backs out of the backfield in general, look for the Jets to get him involved early and often.

The Patriots Must Account for Williams on Every Snap: The Jets have underperformed as a group this year, but for Leonard Williams, their top draft choice of 2015, the season has been a success. Williams leads the Jets with six sacks and is tied for the team lead in QB hits with 15.

Although the Jets as a unit have registered only 19 sacks (two less than the Patriots), NY defensive line coach Pepper Johnson thinks his group has played well. “They’re playing very well. These guys made me defensive line coach of the year last season,” he said, (awarded by ProFootballFocus). “I think they’re doing better this year.”

Williams leads a very stout Jets run defense that allows just 85.4 yards per game and has 10 tackles for a loss included in his stats this season. While there have been some issues with his teammates Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, specifically their tardiness in the news, Williams has soldiered on and is the guy the Patriots OL must account for on every play.

Enunwa and Marshall Are the Go-To Guys in the Passing Game: Jets wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa are going to be the two main focuses of the Patriots secondary this week. Both got off to great starts in 2016, but with the slide of their QB play, their numbers are going down in recent weeks. Expect the challenge of playing NE this week to change that in a big way.

Enunwa was a steal for the Jets when they drafted him in the sixth round (209th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s caught 38 passes this season for 534 yards and three touchdowns this year, but in recent weeks, the Jets have really missed Eric Decker who was placed on IR. He’s caught just one pass each in the last two games, look for Fitzpatrick to get him involved early this week.

Marshall is on pace for one of the least productive years of his career. The 11-year vet has 43 catches for 601 yards and just two touchdowns after having 62 for 800 and seven touchdowns in 2015. Part of the problem has been the QB play, part on the loss of Decker, but a foot injury suffered early in the season may be the most to blame.

Will the Patriots Try “Revis Island” This Week? No one has slipped more this season than the Jets $70 million-dollar man. However, don’t make a mistake about this, while the Patriots are being given lots of kudos for passing on Revis’ 5-year, $70 million-dollar deal with $39 million fully guaranteed, they still were offering big bucks for the talented corner to return.

But if Revis did show signs of slowing down last year, then he’s definitely sliding in 2016. By his own account, his body is breaking down on him and the the air of invincibility of him is gone. No longer are teams only looking at the other side of the field, they can now specifically target Revis in their game plan. That thought was blasphemous not long ago.

It will be interesting to see if the bye week rejuvenates Revis to play at least for a week, to the level we’ve become so accustomed to. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots test the waters of Revis Island this week.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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.

Wednesday Daily Rundown 6/1: New England Patriots News and Notes

Ian Logue
June 1, 2016 at 8:42 am ET

A quiet morning on this Wednesday, but here’s a quick rundown of this morning’s top stories.

Brady Gets Some Help – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got a little help last week from a group of independent scientists as well as Robert Kraft, with both filing “friend of the court” briefs in an effort to bolster Brady’s shot at getting a rehearing in front of the U.S. Second Court of Appeals.  However, Tuesday a report came out that saw a key player step forward and file a brief that could hopefully tip the scale and get Brady’s case back in front of the judges.

According to reports, the AFL-CIO joined the case, with the Federation of Labor Organizations filing a brief that certainly hits home with what’s transpired over the last year-plus.

The brief leads off with a key point as it pertains to collective bargaining agreements with discipline, and feels Roger Goodell didn’t fairly handle the arbitration process.

“The AFL-CIO is a federation of 57 national and international labor organizations representing approximately 12.2 million working men and women,” the brief, prepared by attorney James Coppess, stated.  “Most collective bargaining agreements negotiated by AFL-CIO-affiliated unions contain arbitration provisions to resolve disputes over the meaning of the contract, including with regard to discipline. As a result, the AFL-CIO has extensive experience with the operation of arbitration procedures in the disciplinary setting and a significant interest in the application of the proper standard for judicial review of decisions rendered pursuant to arbitration procedures.”

From there, the brief gets right to the point and immediately points out what most of us already know, which was this whole procedure was never fair and Brady never had a shot at a proper arbitration hearing, which – like most of us obviously feel about the entire investigation – was never neutral.

“Because the Commissioner – who issued the discipline to Brady in the first instance – failed to follow basic procedural fairness and acted arbitrarily as an employer seeking to justify his own disciplinary decision rather than as a neutral arbitrator considering an appeal – his decision should be vacated,” the brief stated.

“While the NFL and NFLPA bargained to allow the Commissioner to hear appeals of disciplinary decisions, they did not agree to let the Commissioner, sitting as an appellate arbitrator, to act in a manner that is arbitrary and capricious. Regardless of who hears appeals, labor arbitration always must be fundamentally fair.”

“Fundamentally fair” is hardly how anyone would describe what’s gone on.  In fact, the brief goes on to point out one key fact that “rather than limiting his review to his initial
rationale for the discipline,” the Commissioner “instead “changed the factual basis for the
disciplinary action after the appeal hearing concluded.”  From there Goodell, “rather than engage with this issue to test ‘the correctness of [the discipline]’ based ‘upon the reason given at the time,’ the Commissioner “attempted to strengthen the employer’s defense.”

Obviously when a key labor organization can see the obvious, that should hopefully be enough to give Brady another shot at beating this thing.  It backs attorney Ted Olson’s argument about the fact this ruling goes well beyond football, and now places even more importance on the outcome of the case given the precedent it will obviously set.

This whole thing hasn’t been fair since it started, and seeing anyone lose in a situation where they never had a fair chance is always frustrating.  A decision on whether or not the Second Circuit will rehear the case will reportedly be made the end of June.  Most experts, including SI.com and UNH Professor Michael McCann, thought it would be a long-shot that Brady would get that chance.

After Tuesday, things are certainly a little more encouraging.


Another player threw their hat into the ring in support of Brady this week.

Butler To Show Up at Patriots OTAs – Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported on Tuesday that Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler will be at OTAs this week, despite Mike Reiss’ report about the fact he’s unhappy about his contract.

According to Howe, Butler’s absence last week had nothing to do with his current contract situation.

“The Herald was given a strong indication Butler’s absence last week was not related to his contract,” Howe wrote on Tuesday. “Furthermore, Butler doesn’t want to draw any added, unnecessary attention to himself this offseason, particularly as it relates to his contract, after last offseason when he missed a flight and reported late for OTAs.”


Malcolm Butler will be at the OTAs this week and Jeff Howe from the Boston Herald is reporting that his absence last week had nothing to do with his contract situation. (USA TODAY Images)

Having Butler back at work is obviously a big key as now is the time to start building some continuity among some of the new players who will be in the locker room this season.  After the Patriots finish these final practices, they’ll break one last time before training camp starts next month.

With Butler back in the fold, that will certainly help shift the focus back to where it should be, with Butler seeing if he can’t help get his team back to playing at a championship level one more time.

Jets See Decker and Marshall Return – If you’ve been following the disaster going on down in New York, their situation finally settled down a bit this week.

After skipping workouts in support of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall were back at voluntary practice despite the fact no deal has been reached to keep their QB in the fold.

According to reports, the offer on the table for Fitzpatrick is 3-years, $24 million which includes $15 in guaranteed money.  Part of that guarantee includes $12 million in the first year, but from there it starts to come to light as to why Fitzpatrick remains at odds.

According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Fitzpatrick’s compensation over the final two seasons drops to $6 million per season.  Fitzpatrick isn’t a dumb guy, having come from Harvard and he likely knows how important his role is to keeping the Jets on the upward trajectory they finished on last season.  They have a good nucleus in place and bringing Fitzpatrick back once again makes them a dangerous team heading into 2016 that could surprise people.

But that won’t happen unless they lock up Fitzpatrick, and give him credit for playing hardball.  Their current stance reportedly has the veteran frustrated, to the point they’re even worried about him taking less money out of spite.  The New York Post suggests making the deal a one-year contract at $12 million and letting Fitzpatrick gamble and see if he can cash in during free agency in 2017.

At 33-years old, he’s still got some good years left.  But at this point it’s been a contentious offseason and not having him around certainly isn’t helping their preparation.  That’s certainly fine for everyone following this story here in New England.  It’s always fun watching the Jet squirm, and it looks like this current mess is definitely far from over.

New England Patriots News 5-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 29, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 5-29 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Memorial Day Denotes Sacrifice: We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. But at the same time take an opportunity to remember the countless Americans who’ve paid the price to keep our way of life intact.

Freedom isn’t free and it isn’t a right that everyone in the world is blessed with. Our freedoms to choose our own path were paid for by Patriots who paid the ultimate price. The New England Patriots are fortunate to have both a coach in Bill Belichick who spent his early life at the Naval Academy and a player in Joe Cardona who know and respect the commitment that goes with protecting those freedoms.

Balestrieri family WWII

Growing up in a military family that saw my father and his five brothers serve in combat in WWII, the appreciation was inbred at an early age. Growing up two of my favorite NFL players were Roger Staubach who after winning a Heisman, went to Vietnam and Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Rocky Bleier who was wounded in the same conflict and was thought to have no chance of resuming an NFL career as a result. And of course, Pat Tillman who gave up a million-dollar NFL career and died in Afghanistan.

And today there are many Americans serving far from home in harms’ way that are still serving and protecting our freedom. To them we thank you.

“When you go Home, tell them of us and say, for your Tomorrow, we gave our Today” John Maxwell Edmonds 1916

Patriots Conduct OTAs, Let the Overreactions Begin:
With the Pats back on the field doing football-type stuff initially in 2016, it was an opportunity to see many of the players in a Patriots uniform for the first time.

And as frequently happens in the early going, a fair amount of overreaction occurs in regards to who is or isn’t present and who is making the big plays of the day. Many fans were upset at the high number of veterans who weren’t present at the only media portion of the week’s practices. But many could be explained away as being vets, perhaps they were given the final practice of the week off.

It’s important to remember the beat writers can only report on what they are seeing in front of them. But also remember this, it is still only May, and the players are in pads yet.

There are still a lot of practices to go before they even get to the pads of training camp and then plenty of work between July 27 and the first regular season game in Arizona. With that in mind….let’s take a look at who was starting quickly this spring.

Bennett wastes no time in working closely with Brady:
New tight end Martellus Bennett, signed this spring away from the Bears was, to no surprise a frequent target for Tom Brady in the Thursday’s practice. With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola not present, it was Bennett who was getting frequent attention in the passing game with Brady.

As we pointed out early in the week about OTAs, the big thing to take away from the early work was building the rapport and “trust factor” with Brady. And right away, as soon as the team broke down into a special teams’ exercise, Brady and Bennett moved off to the side and began working on situational football. Later they were reportedly joined by TE Clay Harbor and FB/TE/HB James Develin.

That’s the big takeaway from the early work here. Bennett and Gronkowski who is already wired in tight with Brady will be his first reads in the red zone and the possibilities with the two are intriguing, to say the least.

Good Battle Brewing at Center with Stork/Andrews:
One of the more intriguing positional battles this year will be at center. Bryan Stork played well for the Patriots during the Super Bowl run but began 2015 on the IR-designated to return list. David Andrews, a UDFA center from Georgia, started the first nine games until Stork returned.

Now the two are seemingly locked in a tough positional battle heading into mini-camps and training camp. Stork is a versatile player that can play guard and even slid out to tackle during a pinch last season, while Andrews is strictly just a center. It should be an intriguing battle to watch.

Darryl Roberts Picks Up Where He Left Off:
After an impressive start to training camp last year where he earned the start in the team’s first preseason game, CB Darryl Roberts suffered a wrist injury that landed him on IR and he missed all of the 2015 regular season.

Roberts-breaks-up-pass-to-T

Now with all eyes on this year’s top draft choice Cyrus Jones, the 2nd year corner from Marshall is out to make people stand up and take notice again. With both Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan not present on Thursday, Roberts made the most of his opportunities, just like last year where he led the team with 10 passes defended in camp. Just don’t call these chances “first team reps”.

“I wouldn’t say really first-team reps. We don’t really have starters,” Roberts said to the media Thursday. “Everybody just out here having fun, flying around and competing, so with those guys not being here, I’m just trying to step up and try to help the team any way I can.”

“I’m just trying to come out here and grind and try to compete and get better each day,” Roberts added.

If last summer’s performance was any indication, he should be ready to compete for not only a roster spot but some playing time.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Parker Ready for Year 2 Jump/Misi Involved in Bar Fight:
After at times frustrating rookie season, Miami WR DeVante Parker seems poised to be the playmaker he was envisioned when the Fins drafted him in the first round of the draft. Miami’s prior regime seemed reluctant to cut the rookie loose and it wasn’t until after Rishard Matthews got injured that Parker was able to make an impression.

He finished with 26 catches for 494 yards and three touchdowns with 22 of his grabs coming in the final six weeks of the season. Now he’s ready for a bigger role and new coach Adam Gase and his QB thinks he’s going to produce.

“I expect big things out of him,” Ryan Tannehill said. “I expect him to be a heck of a football player — a guy that other teams fear because he can make big plays down the field and inside.

“He’s a big-bodied guy. He’s a guy that we’re going to want to use in the red zone and we’re going to want to use him on third downs and to stretch the field.”

In other news, Miami LB Koa Misi was involved in a bar fight where another man got knocked to the ground and needed medical attention. In a story from Ft. Lauderdale’s Local News 10, Misi apparently had words with a patron then rushed back to the entrance of the bar and assaulted a man, knocking him to the ground.

A police officer detailed to the establishment had his statement posted to the story and tried three times to bring Misi to the ground but he each time Misi was assisted by 10-15 members of his entourage (Cris Carter must surely approve). Eventually, Misi was released as the victim declined to press charges. Not a good look for the player or the team there.

Jets Offer to Fitz Reported $12 Million in Year 1:
While QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets haven’t yet come to terms with a contract for the 2016 season and beyond, it is now being reported that the two sides weren’t as far apart as previously reported.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini has reported that the Jets offer, originally thought to be around $8-million was in fact in the neighborhood of $12-million in Year 1 however, the exact amounts and the guaranteed amount of money haven’t been specified. So now the game has resorted to a he said-she said.

Fitzpatrick certainly has the backing of many of his teammates. Both Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall have stayed away from OTAs, Decker was openly stating that he was doing so to support the QB while Marshall’s reasoning, although technically not known was reported to be a show of support as well.

Rob Ryan Says Bills Will Beat the Patriots:
There are two Ryans in Buffalo this season, so the rhetoric is bound to be ratcheted up even more in 2016. So not surprisingly,  the first shot fired across the bow was not done by Rex, but by his brother Rob whom he hired to run the defense for the Bills.

“All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick. That was fantastic training, working for him for four years, and I learned a ton,” Rob Ryan said. “Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it’s not just Rex. Rob was an assistant coach with the Patriots from 2000-2004.

“But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we’re going to beat the best. It’s two against one. Him one-on-one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he’s also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.”

Although Ryan-coached teams always play the Patriots as tough as any team, he’s still only 4-11 head-to-head against Bill Belichick. And the Bills are just 4-28 against Bill Belichick since he took over the reins in 2000. So while the results have been decidedly one-sided, the hype just increased quite a bit this season.

The first meeting between the two teams is slated for Week 4 at Gillette Stadium on October 2.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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 2-21 and AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 21, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division.

Mayo Was the Bridge from SB teams to the Current: With the retirement of Jerod Mayo this week, comes the end of an era. Mayo came along when the Patriots juggernaut of the early 2000s was reaching the end of the road. Linebacker Ted Johnson was already gone and Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest were nearing the end of the road.

Mayo was taken with the 10th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft and immediately paid dividends. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year and a 2-time Pro-Bowler but he was much more than that. He was the bridge that stepped in from those earlier Super Bowl teams and helped glue the defense until the time when they were able to add more pieces to form that winning Super Bowl unit of last season.

Mayo’s stats could have much higher in other places with other teams. But the Patriots asked him to stay at home and do the dirty work inside. And he did and paid the price of all those seasons with 100+ tackles as his body began to break down the last couple of years.

But he never complained and was a consummate professional, taking over as a team captain in Year 2. Bruschi called him an “old soul”, Bill Belichick raved about his work ethic and intelligence. Highly thought of by his teammates, kudos poured in this week from current and former Patriots who valued his presence both on and off the field.

While his retirement was a surprise, and he didn’t fit in the team’s plans perhaps in 2016, he will be missed.

Price Interview with T.J Moe Radio Gold: Our good friend from WEEI Chris Price is everywhere these days, in print on the station’s website, on the air with his Sunday football show and all over television as his expertise keeps finding new outlets.

But his podcast interview with former Missouri and Patriots slot receiver T.J. Moe is a must listen. Consider this one “Patriots Porn” for the football junkies. Moe spoke in detail about the NFL Combine and what he thinks of it and changes that should be made.

But the best part of the interview is when Moe talks in depth at the interview process with the Patriots as well as other teams. We’ve heard for quite some time that their method of conducting interviews was very different than other teams, and Moe brings you inside where few people have ever tread.

Moe also talks about Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and why NE wins so much…

Take a listen here: You’ll be glad you did.

What a send-off for Jared Allen, the long-time defensive end retired and rode off in the sunset with the best retirement video yet.

Coach Scar and the 2nd Year Jump: With the problems the Patriots had with their offensive line this season, it was easy and perhaps too much so to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

While he was perhaps not reaching the players in the manner that the team hoped, the injuries and constant shuffling of players was a very difficult situation for anyone to be in. Much has already been said about his having to come in and immediately lose their toughest player, Logan Mankins but after a bad start the team turned things around and won a Super Bowl, so let’s not get too carried away with that.

But his contract wasn’t renewed and Dante Scarnecchia will be back in 2016. One obvious advantage he’ll have is that he’s scouted all of these players and knows their strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. So he should get them playing at a high level quickly.

Of course getting left tackle Nate Solder back is key for Brady’s blind side, but also the young players on the interior, guards Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson will be entering their second season as will center David Andrews. With Jackson and Mason making the all-important 2nd season jump in play, they should be much better in 2016. Andrews may push 3rd year center Bryan Stork for starting reps with the other perhaps backing up as a guard.

The team could use a veteran guard, perhaps the return of Ryan Wendell would ease things along. And an upgrade at right tackle, with many veteran tackles in free agency, the Pats could use an upgrade of youth and athleticism. Sebastian Vollmer has been one of the better RTs in the league. But he’s aging and has back and knee issues which aren’t good for big men. Perhaps bring in a FA (Mitchell Schwartz is frequent name linked to NE), redo Vollmer’s deal and move him to swing tackle. That would prolong his career and give the Pats an upgrade over high priced but often criticized Marcus Cannon.

This time with free agency and the draft should answer some questions along with the return of Coach Scarnecchia.

Teaser for a Guy with the “Right Stuff”: Check back with us soon for an interview with small school linebacker Larry Butler III.  Butler was the 2nd ranked linebacker coming out of JUCO and although had a commitment at Tennessee, opted for Div. 2 due to a technicality.

We sat down with this impressive young man and spoke to him, his head coach and defensive coordinator. He’s a small school stud that could find himself a home being a MLB/ILB in the NFL given a shot. He unfortunately wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine but that won’t stop this guy…

Goodell’s “Value” Poor at $34 Million: We frequently talk about player’s contracts and their value in terms of what the team gets in return. Well the NFL released its income for the 2014 season and Commissioner Roger Goodell was paid $34.1 million-dollars.

The Commish’s salary included a $3.5 million salary, a $26.5 million bonus, $3.7 million in retirement benefits and $350,000 in “other” benefits. According to the New York Times, “Goodell’s bonus was calculated in part on new business deals he brought to the league the previous year, which means that his bonus in 2014 reflected broadcast contracts and other revenue secured in 2013.”

NFL owners have frequently defended the enormous salary that Goodell is paid by the owners not the fans because they claim he’s brought so much to the table in increasing the league’s revenues. Bunk…. The product on the field sells, the players sell and the NFL would increase revenue with just about anyone as the Commissioner.

An interesting factoid in this is that Goodell’s compensation is determined by a committee that consists of Arthur Blank, Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers and Bob Kraft owner of the New England Patriots…

The second highest paid member of the 345 Park Avenue HQs is NFL Counsel Jeff Pash (yes that one), who is paid $7.5 million-dollars per year. Value?

East Bound and Down, AFC East Notes:
Jets Brandon Marshall on Belichick, “I Own Him”:
Chalk this one up to just some off-season bravado, but it is guaranteed that it will be posted in the Patriots locker room this season. During a question and answer session on Twitter this week, Jets WR Brandon Marshall was asked if “Belichick haunted his dreams”…

Well Marshall’s answer was certainly one that didn’t mince words when he said, “I own him.”

Marshall has had good numbers against the Patriots in his career, in 10 games he’s 52 catches for 785 yards and five touchdowns, including a big 115-yard, two score game in the OT win by Gang Green in 2015. Those numbers are right around his career averages.

But lost in the message…Marshall’s teams are 3-7 against Belichick, hardly the ownership of him. Marshall is still looking for that first playoff appearance by the way, not Super Bowl, not win, ….appearance. But hey, it made for a fun day of Twitter.

Gase, the next BB has 3 Years to Turn Dolphins Around: Hyperbole wasn’t just around in NY this week, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross didn’t mince words this week, telling the media that new coach Adam Gase is the equivalent of Belichick and Bill Parcells.

“Instead of getting a retread that really hasn’t had a great track record as a head coach, I was looking for somebody that could be the next, if you will, Bill BelichickBill Parcells, you know, really great head coach, and I think we got one,’’ Ross said.

Ross went on to say, that Gase has three years to get Miami to the post season.

“Every year, there’s anywhere from six to eight coaches [who are fired], it’s the most objective thing in the world — everybody looks at their won-lost record,’’ Ross said. “There’s no other excuses. So every team, after three years, if we haven’t made the playoffs, we’re looking for a head coach. That’s just the way it is. The fans want it.’’

Things ought to be interesting in Miami next season.

Mario Williams on the Outs in Buffalo? There are more and more rumors that the Bills plan on releasing DE Mario Williams once the league year opens. The move will free up $12.9 million-dollars of cap space but is an intriguing one.

Reports have stated that Williams “struggled mightily” in 2015 and logged only 5 sacks after notching 14.5 in 2014 for the Bills. Sources from the Bills have quoted unnamed players stating that Williams wasn’t putting forth the effort last year.

Williams was outspoken on the Bills defensive game plans and was asked to drop into coverage a lot more than in the past under Jim Schwartz. Asked about a possible move into free agency, Williams spoke clearly that he expects 2016 to be much better.

“At the end of the day, if I’m not there, I’ll show you that I’m better than what I’ve been before. Like, that’s just a chip on my shoulder regardless of whether I am there or not, because given the opportunity I’ll get back to what I was.”

The money saved on Williams’ contract will be used to sign free agents Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn according to GM Doug Whalley, their signings were “imperative” for the Bills this season.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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, Broncos Keys to the AFCCG, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
January 22, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots need one more win to get back to the Super Bowl with a chance to repeat as champions. But to do so, they face a familiar nemesis in the Denver Broncos.

The game will be televised by CBS with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak doing the play-by-play and analysis. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET

The Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round 27-20 as Tom Brady threw for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski. The team welcomed back Julian Edelman and his presence ignited the short passing game. Edelman missed the final seven games but had 10 catches for 100 yards on Saturday.

The Broncos made a big fourth quarter comeback and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16. Trailing 13-12, it appeared as if the Steelers were driving for clinching touchdown when a fumble turned the game around. The Broncos scored the next 11 points in the final four minutes to pull away for the win.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our playoff edition of the “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give a quick break down on some of the key match-ups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Broncos will meet for the 51st time in their history, the most the Patriots have faced an opponent that has been outside their division. The Patriots never seem to play their best football in the altitude there as they’ve been 9-20 in Denver since the early days of the NFL. There was one stretch from 1984 -1998 that the teams met 11 times, nine of them in Denver and the Pats lost them all.

The two teams met in November in Week 12 with the Broncos taking a 30-24 win in OT.

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

First up is the Patriots offense: