Tag Archives: Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots News 1-7, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 1-7, & AFC East Notes.

We hope everyone made it thru the first big winter storm that rolled thru the area this week. If you lived on the coast, some areas were hit really hard with some awful flooding. That’s mother nature’s way of reminding us that she can really pack a wallop. Let’s hope everyone is ok and back in their homes soon.

It Has to be Playoff Time When You See…:
Unless you’ve been on a winter trip in the Amazon, by now you’ve heard about the story in ESPN about the Patriots coming apart at the seams and the feuding going on between Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

It never ceases to amaze that the network always “breaks” these stories around the time the playoffs are going on…coincidence? A few of the items in the story just jump out, so our two cents on these, in no particular order:

-Trade Demanded by #12:  If you believe that Tom Brady forced Robert Kraft to force Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, you just haven’t paid any attention to what’s been going on around these parts for the past 17 years. Brady lives for competition, it drives him and it has been why he’s so successful.

How many times have we talked about and remarked how competitive he is…in practice? Brady regularly treats practice in training camp like a playoff game. If the Patriots’ coaches told him that Garoppolo is soon to take over, it’s going to light a fire under his butt, not drive him to run to Kraft demanding Jimmy G. gets traded.

Brady has always adopted an almost warrior-type bushido in his professional career. The average man looks at events that occur in his life as a blessing or a curse. The warrior looks upon those same events as a challenge.

-Garoppolo Turned Down $17-18 Million Dollar Extension: This one got into specifics and was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire piece. Supposed, the Patriots went to Garoppolo and Don Yee, his manager, who also reps Brady and offered him a nice extension but were turned down. Two Patriots insiders Tom E. Curran, and Mark Daniels have their own sources and stated that this never happened. As for Garoppolo being locked out of the TB12 clinic next door? Please. This fall, I walked into the front door of the place, looking for alternatives to gel injections for arthritic knees and waltzed right in. That’s one of the more ridiculous mentions. And as for Garoppolo claiming that Brady refused to help him? Well, a month ago Brady said that the two still talk regularly and have a great relationship. Garoppolo gave Brady credit for helping him in a presser for the Niners…hmm.

-Brady and Belichick Are Feuding Over Guerrero: While there may be a slight lingering of hurt feelings over Guerrero, I wrote here two weeks ago that even those I believe to be overblown. Belichick needs one voice in the locker room and on the field and that is the team’s. Many of the beat writers have said that the relationship between the coach and QB has never been a close personal one but a close professional one.

And you’re dealing with big egos here. Are there going to be disagreements and even arguments? After a 17-year marriage? Are you kidding me? When you put two Type-A personalities in the same room, of course, there will be plenty of those…it comes with the territory. I can speak from personal experience. As the Commander of a Special Forces A-Team, it was never-ending. Put 12 Green Berets in a room to plan an operation, get your popcorn and watch the show. We used to joke that the only difference between God and a Green Beret was that God didn’t think he was a Green Beret… So the fact that Belichick and Brady have huge egos isn’t either news or a surprise.

A few of the other tidbits, that the young players call Brady “sir”…that is laughable. And if they did, shame on them. Many of the players, especially Brissett and Garoppolo when they were here cracked on Brady because of his age. And Brady bristling about not getting “Patriots Player of the Week” is pretty bizarre. He’s never been about individual awards but about team accomplishments. See the first paragraph.

But perhaps the most intriguing thing about this entire piece was the fact that the author got so many juicy quotes from team staffers. The beat guys work for years to build up relationships that open up a crack in an organization that is more locked down than Langley. And yet a guy, who rarely, if ever comes here, blows into town for a few weeks and gets over a dozen people to open up to him and give these incredible quotes which were the true meat of the story.

In the words of the Wells Report…”it is more probable than not” that there was just maybe a little bit of exaggeration there. Either that or the author missed his calling and belongs in the above-mentioned cubicles of Langley since it would qualify as a tremendous amount of elicitation in a record amount of time.

“We Stand United”, Patriots Big Three Answer:
Again, you know it is playoff time when the Patriots have to answer questions about ridiculous scandals that never show up until January. The timing of the ESPN piece was not a coincidence since it was posted just hours after the team was released for a few days during the bye week before the Divisional Playoff prep.

But respond they did, the Patriots released what they characterized as a joint statement from Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to address the latest round of hoopla. The team minced no words on calling some parts of the article “highly exaggerated” or “flat-out inaccurate.”

Perhaps the most intriguing of the team’s response was the one line that could mean nothing or perhaps is telling where they addressed the future. “We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future.” Stay tuned. So, back to football

Patricia’s Defense Ends up Top 5 In Points Allowed:
For all the criticism about the Patriots defense in 2017 and much of it deserved, especially early in the season, Matt Patricia’s unit excelled in the one area that is most important. Points allowed.

The Patriots defense finished 5th in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 18.5 points per game. During the first four games of the season the unit allowed 128 points (32 points per game), however during the last 12 games, the defense allowed just 168 points (14 points per game). That speaks to the way that Patricia coached them to tighten up in the red zone. The Patriots defense was 4th in the NFL in the number of red zone TDs allowed and 1st in the league in the scoring percentage allowed in Red-Zone possessions.

That’s not to say that the Patriots defense is a Top 5 unit, but are they good enough to get them to Minnesota and win in the Super Bowl? The short answer is yes. And Patricia who already has interviewed with the Giants and Lions for head coaching opportunities has a lot to do with their success.

Who Takes Over as Coordinators if Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia Leave:
Just as the usual stories arise to distract the team every playoff season, the Black Monday coaches purges always bring many of the Belichick assistants into the limelight.

McDaniels is rumored to be on the Giants radar as a frontrunner while Patricia is also rumored as the top choice for the Detroit Lions. So, if these two excellent coordinators do indeed leave this offseason, who takes over and is will there be an appreciable drop in the collective performances in each unit?

The first part is easy, the second will have to wait. Chad O’Shea would be the front-runner to replace McDaniels as the Offensive Coordinator, although the rumor mill has the Pats going after former coach Brian Daboll who is now the OC for the Alabama Crimson Tide who are preparing for the National Title Game against Georgia. O’Shea has been with the team since 2009 and is currently the team’s Wide Receivers Coach.

The favorite on Defense is Linebackers Coach Brian Flores. Flores coincidentally is also in the interviewing process for the Arizona Cardinals as their next head coach as Bruce Arians retired. Flores is on the Cards radar for a reason, despite not having any coordinator experience, he’s just about done it all with the Patriots. After graduating from BC, he joined the Pats as a scouting assistant. After two years, he became a full-time scout. Then after two years, he became a coaching assistant with the Special Teams. He’s served as a defensive and offensive assistant, then became the safeties coach before moving over to the linebackers in 2016.

Flores may be a year or two early for a head coaching job but he’s an extremely well-rounded coach who garners great respect from his players. He has been being groomed for the DC job. He’s called the defensive signals for both the 2016-17 preseason finales where Belichick begins the grooming for assistants. O’Shea called the signals for the offense this season in the finale against the Giants as Patricia and McDaniels both got the night off.

Will they succeed? Time will tell, but the way Belichick grills his assistants early and then grooms them for bigger and better responsibilities has always seemed to bear fruit. I would expect both to do well if indeed Patricia and McDaniels move on.

Harrison Signing Was a Potential Big Return on Small Investment:
Once James Harrison was released by the Steelers, the Patriots invited him to Foxboro and signed him for the remainder of the season. Which, cost them about $57K. After what we saw against the Jets, it was a bargain.

After the normal drivel of “they signed him to get the Pittsburgh playbook” nonsense, Bill Belichick put those thoughts to rest. After just about 4-5 days of prep time, Harrison played quite a bit against the Jets and played well. Regardless of his age, (39), Harrison keeps himself in excellent condition and has fresh legs, having played a total of 40 snaps for the Steelers all season. Harrison made a couple of nice plays, burying Robby Anderson with a big hit short of the sticks on a third down as well as a couple of sacks, including a strip sack of Bryce Petty.

Harrison admitted to being a bit nervous about his first action with the team. Equating himself to a rookie stating, “it is like starting your rookie season. New game plan, you got to pick things up.” He even sounded a bit like Belichick when he talked about “just doing my job” and gave credit to his teammates. “I was getting a lot of help from the guys around me.  

If Harrison can give the Patriots 25-30 plays like that in the next few weeks, it will be a boost for the defense. Don’t forget, he had big plays against Eric Fisher and the Chiefs both last year in the playoffs and this season in the regular season.

Brady, Gronkowski Named First Team All-Pro:
The Patriots dynamic duo were the only two members of the team named as first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. It was Gronkowski’s fourth time on the list while surprisingly it was just Brady’s third selection.

Brady easily distanced Eagles QB Carson Wentz after the Eagles signal caller went down with an injury forcing him on IR a few weeks.  Brady is expected to be named as the league’s MVP. He also won the MVP in both 2007 and in 2010. Gronkowski, also, easily distanced himself from Chiefs Travis Kelce at tight end.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Wildcard Weekend:
Last week 13-3 mark. Regular Season Total: 170-86.

Saturday: Titans at Chiefs – Kansas City
Falcons at Rams – Atlanta

Sunday: Bills at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Panthers at Saints – New Orleans

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to be Creative Against the Jaguars:

The Buffalo Bills have the 31st ranked passing attack in the NFL. Tyrod Taylor is the lowest ranked QB in the playoffs. They’re on the road facing the #1 pass defense in the NFL that allows just 169 yards per game. Their work is cut out for them in the Wildcard Game. Is it season over for the BIlls? Not so fast.

Buffalo can’t go in with the mindset that they’ve had all season by trying to be conservative and win by running the ball. If they do that, it will be a long quiet plane ride home. They’re going to have to be creative and take shots in the passing game.

Play action passes on first down, be willing to take risks, something Taylor is loathe to do will be the only way they score enough to win. Empty the playbook, get Kelvin Benjamin involved and let Taylor run.

On defense, the Bills rush defense will be up against it with Jax’s Leonard Fournette, but again, with an approach of loading the box and daring Blake Bortles to beat them may work. The Bills secondary can hold their own but a conservative approach won’t win them the game. Sean McDermott is on the clock. How will they proceed?

 

Landry fined $48K, Dolphins Fans Rejoice “Patriots Downfall”:

The Miami Dolphins were assessed three fines for the finale against the Buffalo Bills. Worst hit was WR Jarvis Landry who assessed a $48,620 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct and abuse of an official. Kenyan Drake was fined $12,154. Landry was considered a repeat offender by the league and this was why he was tagged for more.

But a couple of Dolphins’ fan websites were more interested in the “meltdown in Foxboro” as an omen that bodes well for Miami, more so than worrying about improving their own team. Word to the wise, believe about half what you read and when the season opens next year, prepare to see both Belichick and Brady across the field from you, and get Ryan Tannehill back and healthy.  

Will the Jets Go After FA QB or Look to the Draft:

The New York Jets over-achieved for Head Coach Todd Bowles in 2017, winning five games when many expected the Jets to finish similar to the Browns, winless this season. Much of their early-season success, when they went 3-2 was due to Josh McCown. If they were to pursue a FA QB like Kurt Cousins, then, of course, McCown would be gone, but if the Jets were to draft one of the big name QBs in the draft at #6, then McCown could and should be kept around as a bridge.

Who could the team then approach the draft in a different light? Picking at #6, who could the Jets target?

Rich Cimini of ESPN had an interesting take in his column. He made the case for taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. While running backs aren’t normally taken that high much anymore, Barkley would be an intriguing addition to the Jets offense, especially with Bilal Powell turning 30.

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.

Podcast: The Coaching Carousel And The NFL Playoffs

Russ Goldman
January 4, 2018 at 12:39 pm ET

In this episode, we first looked back at the Patriots victory against the Jets. Next, we talked about the coaching vacancies in the NFL that could interest a few Patriots coaches. Later on, we previewed the Playoff Games for this weekend.

2017 Playoffs: Predicting the Patriots Opponents

Ian Logue
January 2, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

With a bye week coming up for the Patriots, it’s safe to say that every fan in New England will be waiting with anticipation to find out who the first opponent will be one week from Saturday when they next take the field.

Looking at the two games in play for the AFC next weekend, it presents a couple of good match-ups that should set up an interesting postseason run for this year’s Patriots team.

Up first will see the Titans head out to Kansas City to face the Chiefs.  Looking at this game, the odds are pretty good that Tennessee won’t be able to handle a Chiefs team that really came on at the end of the year and ran off four straight victories and seems to have the momentum.  Tennessee, meanwhile, managed to eek out a win against Jacksonville but had lost three in a row prior to that game.

The biggest X-factor in that match-up will be which Marcus Mariota we’ll see in that game.  Mariota threw for less than 200 yards in four of Tennessee’s final six games and only threw for more than one touchdown three times all season.  In fact, he threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) in 2017.

But one of the biggest moments in Sunday’s win was a run by Mariota on 3rd-and-5 where he willed his way to a first down with just over 2-minutes left in the game, keeping the chains moving while allowing Tennessee to keep the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands until there was just 0:18 left to play to essentially secure the victory.

However, against the Chiefs, he’ll have to put up points if he hopes to keep his team in the game.  Kansas City has scored 27 or more points in all but one of their home games, compiling a 6-2 record over that span.  That seems unlikely and unless he can keep the Titans in the game, it would be hard to see Tennessee winning this one. Needless to say, the more likely opponent for New England next weekend will probably be the Chiefs.

Predicted Divisional Round Opponent: Chiefs


It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jaguars upset Pittsburgh and end up in Foxboro. (USA TODAY Images)

Meanwhile, the Jaguars had their way against the Steelers earlier this season, showing no fear at Heinz Field as they forced five interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, who was so distraught after the game he was questioning his future.

Despite their loss to Tennessee this past Sunday, the Jaguars are still playing good defense and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they upset the Bills and advance into the Divisional round.  That’s where things get a little interesting if the Patriots are able to get redemption against Kansas City.

With a potential match-up against New England riding on their success in this game, it’s entirely possible the Steelers could be looking a little too far ahead when the Jaguars come into Pittsburgh.  As a result, seeing  Jacksonville shock the Steelers’ faithful and force an early playoff exit doesn’t seem as much of a longshot as some may think.  The Jaguars have already done it once and if they’re able to beat Buffalo, it will be another confidence boost to use against an opponent who should have every reason to be afraid of a Jacksonville club who has already surprised everyone to get to where they are.

It would be pretty hilarious to see Pittsburgh be one-and-done, which would probably set up an interesting offseason after another squandered season by a group that had championship aspirations.

Last year, Roethlisberger was pondering retirement after New England knocked them out. If Pittsburgh goes down against Jacksonville, expect a similar situation after this one as well.

Predicted AFC Championship Opponent*:  Jacksonville
(*if NE advances)

It should be a fun couple of weeks and hopefully, it’s New England who is left standing by the time it’s over.  This is what Belichick’s club has fought so hard for to get to this point, so we’ll see how the second season plays out when they next hit the field in two weeks.

NFL Playoff Picture for Week 17

John Morgan
December 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET

The 2017 NFL regular season wraps up on Sunday afternoon. There is not as much drama this year compared to the week 17 of many previous seasons. The 2017 NFL playoff picture is relatively settled. In the AFC there are four teams battling for two wild card spots. The NFC still has one division title up for grabs, but has just two teams competing for one final playoff slot.

For the sake of clarity and sanity, ties have been omitted from the scenarios below.

 

AFC Playoff Picture for Week 17

12-3 New England Patriots
15½ point home favorites vs Jets.
Have clinched AFC East and a first round bye.
Clinch the #1 seed with either a win, or a Pittsburgh loss.

12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers
7 point home favorites vs Browns.
Have clinched AFC North and a first round bye.
Need a win plus a Patriots loss for #1 seed.
Are the #2 seed in any other scenario.

10-5 Jacksonville Jaguars
3 point underdogs at Tennessee.
Have clinched AFC South and #3 seed.
Locked into the #3 slot.

9-6 Kansas City Chiefs
3½ point underdogs at Denver.
Have clinched AFC West and #4 seed.
Locked into the #4 slot.

9-6 Baltimore Ravens
9½ point home favorites vs Cincinnati.
Become #5 seed with either a win, or losses by both Buffalo and Tennessee.
Become #6 spot with loss, and either Buffalo or Tennessee loses.
Miss playoffs with a loss, plus both Buffalo and Tennessee win.

8-7 Tennessee Titans
3 point home favorites vs Jacksonville.
Become #5 seed with a win, plus Baltimore loses.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus Baltimore wins.
Can still become #6 seed despite a loss if both Bills and Chargers lose.
Eliminated with a loss, plus a win by either the Bills or Chargers.

8-7 Los Angeles Chargers
8 point home favorites vs Oakland.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both Tennessee and Buffalo lose.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both Tennessee and Baltimore lose.
Chargers are eliminated with a loss, or if Tennessee wins, or if Buffalo wins and Baltimore loses.

8-7 Buffalo Bills
2½ point favorites at Miami.
Clinch #5 seed with a win, plus losses by both Baltimore and Tennessee.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus Baltimore loses.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both the Titans and the Chargers lose.
Eliminated with either a loss, or if the Titans and Ravens both win, or if the Chargers and Ravens both win.

 

NFC Playoff Picture for Week 17

13-2 Philadelphia Eagles
3 point home underdogs vs Dallas.
Have already clinched NFC East and #1 seed.

12-3 Minnesota Vikings
12 point home favorites vs Chicago.
Will be the #2 seed unless they lose, Carolina wins, plus the Saints and Rams both lose.

11-4 Los Angeles Rams
3½ point home underdogs vs San Francisco.
Clinch the #3 seed with a win, or with losses by both Carolina and New Orleans.
Drop to #4 seed with a loss, plus a win by either Carolina or New Orleans.

11-4 New Orleans Saints
7 point favorites at Tampa Bay.
Become #3 seed with a win, plus loss by Rams.
Win NFC South and #4 seed with either a win, or Carolina loss.
Become #5 seed with a loss, plus a Carolina win.

11-4 Carolina Panthers
3½ point underdogs at Atlanta.
Clinch #2 seed and first round bye with a win, plus losses by the Vikings, Saints and Rams.
Win NFC South and #3 seed with a win, plus losses by both the Saints and Rams.
Win NFC South and #4 seed with a win, plus loss by Saints.
Become #5 seed with either a loss, or a New Orleans win.

9-6 Atlanta Falcons
3½ point home favorites vs Carolina.
Make the playoffs as #6 seed with either a win, or a Seattle loss.
Miss the playoffs with a loss, plus Seattle wins.

9-6 Seattle Seahawks
9½ point home favorites vs Arizona.
Make the playoffs as #6 seed with both a win, plus Atlanta loss.
Miss the playoffs with either a loss, or an Atlanta win.

 

Patriots – Jets Part II Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2017 at 10:28 am ET

The New England Patriots finish off the 2017 regular season by taking on the New York Jets in Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium.

The teams have moved in different directions since the last time the teams met in Week 6. Both entered that game at 3-2 and since, the Patriots are 9-1 and are in line for the AFC’s top seed. The Jets are 2-8 since that matchup and are left looking for answers.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 31 at 1:00 p.m. ET 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 (12-3) took care of business last week by defeating the Buffalo Bills 37-16. Dion Lewis rushed for a career-high 129 yards as the Patriots ground out nearly 200 yards on the ground. The defense held the Bills to just three field goals.

The Jets (5-10) lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 14-7 as they limp to the season’s finish line but still are playing hard for coach Todd Bowles. They’ve been in all of their games this season and looking to the future.

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 are meeting for the 118th time. The Patriots hold a 62-54-1 edge overall. The Patriots are 33-25-1 all-time at home against the Jets. The Patriots have won the last three matchups and the past two wins by Gang Green have been in overtime. One of which was in 2015 with the famous “pushing rule” game which cost the Patriots home field advantage in the playoffs but wait, the Pats get all the calls right?

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 Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been steadily getting better as the season goes along and Dion Lewis has emerged as the Pats go-to back. Last week against the Bills, they were missing Rex Burkhead and James White, but Lewis and Mike Gillislee gashed the Buffalo defense for nearly 200 yards.

The Jets, like the Patriots, have had issues stopping the run and have allowed 116 yards per game. In the first matchup this season, New England ran for 125 yards. The key matchups will be how effective the Pats offensive line is at getting to the second level against a good linebacking core.

Lewis will be the main back again, however, with Burkhead on the shelf, Gillislee has missed practice time with a knee injury. If he’s unable to go, we may see more of Brandon Bolden this week.

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

The Patriots passing game is still missing a ton of key players with Chris Hogan, White, and Burkhead out. But the good news is Malcolm Mitchell is back and is slated to play some this weekend. He’ll no doubt have some rust issues but his return is very good news for the passing offense. Matching up with Rob Gronkowski has to be the Jets priority on Sunday. I’d expect to see him doubled this week.

The Jets have done a good job of defending the pass this year allowing just 237 yards per game. They’ve only had two teams pass for 300 yards or more against them this year. Their improved secondary begins with the two rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who have come in and played much better than anyone could have hoped this early in their careers.Their biggest weakness remains, rushing the QB and if they give Brady time, he should have a big day.

Gronkowski had a big game with two touchdowns in the last matchup and the Jets will have to find a way to slow down the big man. It will be up to the other players on the offense to make them pay if they decide to double Gronk. Brandin Cooks will have to step up this week and make the Jets force coverage toward him.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York

The Jets have a very good running back in Bilal Powell and he is coming off a big game last week (145 yards) against the Chargers. Look for the Jets to test the edge of the Patriots defense which has been leaky for much of the season. Powell missed the first game and has usually played well against the Patriots.

The Patriots run defense has had major issues this season defending the run especially on the edge and they’ll be short inside with Alan Branch still out injured. But there are a couple of silver linings this week. Malcom Brown played arguably his best game of the season last week against the Bills and the Patriots just picked up James Harrison. The Steelers all-time sack leader is closer to the end of the road than the beginning but I think he’ll be looked to primarily help with setting the edge here. If he can do that, then his time here regardless of his pass rush ability, will be a success.
We don’t know how much he’ll play this week, but they’ll be a lot of eyes on him and we’ll be focusing on the running game first.  

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

Josh McCown is out for the season and the Jets now have Bryce Petty under center. He has some good weapons in the passing game, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse outside, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Powell out of the backfield. The problem has been protection this season. Jets QBs have been sacked 43 times in 2017.

The Patriots pass defense has been light years better since the first Jets matchup where McCown threw for 350+ yards. The secondary didn’t have a good week against Buffalo last week and will be looking to enter the postseason on a high note.

Look for Matt Patricia to be a bit more aggressive this week with Petty under center than McCown. We’ll see some safety or corner blitzes and some A-Gap pressure as well.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams are among the best in the NFL, they excel in punt and kick coverage and continuously turn in big plays.

The Jets STs units are a step below the Patriots and don’t have the edge anywhere here. But they showed last week that they’ll be aggressive, starting off the Chargers game with a successful onside kick. Expect them to empty the tank this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This key here from a Patriots perspective is getting off to a fast start. Game time temps are slated to be 10-15 degrees with a wind chill below zero. The Jets, although they’ve played hard all year are playing for nothing but pride. If New England gets off to a quick start, they may just want to fold up tents and get home to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

Turnovers are key here as well. The Jets don’t have a prolific scoring offense so ball control and not turning it over is key here.They can’t give the Jets any short fields and any momentum to pull off the upset.

Look for the Brady and the offense to keep it varied, mixing in the pass and run equally and the defense to get a couple of sacks as well as a turnover of their own…or two.  Pats finish the regular season 13-3. Patriots 34-13

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.

Podcast: James Harrison Signs And Jets Preview

Russ Goldman
December 28, 2017 at 10:17 am ET

In this episode, we discussed the victory against the Bills, and later on previewed the upcoming game against the Jets. However, we started the show by discussing the signing of James Harrison.

Patriots  Week 16  Report Card, Patriots Run Over Bills 37-16

Steve Balestrieri
December 26, 2017 at 9:12 am ET

The Patriots took care of the Bills again and won by 21, but it wasn’t as easy as the score would indicate. Buffalo had a much better game plan this time around and played hard. The score was very close until about midway thru the fourth quarter when the Pats pulled away.

This one had more controversy as Kelvin Benjamin appeared to snag a go-ahead touchdown just before the end of the half. The referees signaled a touchdown but the league’s replay officials, (which took forever) decided it wasn’t a catch. Whether you believe it was a catch or not, it certainly appears that the league’s officials in New York are adding to the problem with over-analyzing these things rather than simplifying them.

But in the end, the Bills with an extra four points or not, couldn’t stop the Patriots or Dion Lewis and New England scored on six straight possessions. Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo offense weren’t going to match that and the Pats win assured them of their eight straight 12-win season and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady much like the first game in Buffalo wasn’t sharp in the early going, before getting it going in the second quarter and beyond. He was late in throwing a slant to Kenny Britt which resulted in a Jordan Poyer pick-six and a 10-3 Buffalo lead. He threw well behind Rob Gronkowski and then overthrew him on passes where he was wide open. But he quickly found his game.

After the pick-six, the Patriots would outscore Buffalo 34-6 and Brady began heating up. He didn’t throw an incompletion in the second half and ended up 21-28 for 224 yards with 2 TDs and an interception.  

Running Backs: A

No James White, no Rex Burkhead? No problem. Dion Lewis, the guy whose name former Bills coach Rex Ryan claimed he didn’t know slashed Buffalo again. Lewis headlined a Patriots ground game that gashed the Bills for 193 yards. The Patriots knew the Bills were selling out trying to stop Brady from throwing and had a slew of smaller defensive backs in to stop the pass. The Patriots ran right at this group with deadly effect. New England ran for 191 the first time the teams played and 193 on Sunday.

Lewis led the way with 24 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns. In two games against the Bills, this season Lewis ran for 221 yards. It is safe to say they know his name now.

Wide Receivers: C
The wide receivers again this week were pretty much a non-factor in the game. Buffalo’s secondary as we said, tried to take them away by flooding the field with DBs and it worked for the most part. NE’s wide receivers had a combined 7 catches for 87 yards.  Danny Amendola had three catches for 28, Phillip Dorsett had one catch for 24 yards, newcomer Kenny Britt had just one reception for 16 yards and Brandin Cooks had just two receptions for 19 yards, but he did draw a 49-yard pass interference penalty.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski was a big factor in the passing game catching five passes for 67 yards including a sick 17-yard touchdown grab. Running a go route down the left sideline, Brady threw a back shoulder pass that Gronk snagged one-handed and was able to get both feet down for a highlight reel touchdown. He also drew a couple of pass interference penalties on the Bills as well as producing his normal stellar work in the running game.

Dwayne Allen had two catches for 26 yards while Jacob Hollister had a catch and a run for five yards each. On his run, if he stayed with Gronk and Allen to the outside, he had a touchdown. But he cut back inside and was tackled on the three.

Gronkowski also was asked about the Patriots success (12+ wins in the last eight seasons) and had a typically Gronk answer:


Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line’s play was very good this week, especially in the passing game. Brady was sacked twice but was only hit on two other occasions. He worked from a clean pocket for most of the day.

The running game was on point again as the offensive line was winning the battles there and opened up big holes for Lewis to exploit. They were getting to the second level and keeping the linebackers off the runners.  The Patriots set the pace and dictated how the game was going to be run.

Defensive Line: B

It was a good day for the Patriots front seven especially the defensive line. The Bills ran for just 84 yards on 24 carries, a 3.5-yard average. LeSean McCoy had the lion’s share of that with 17 carries for 71 yards. He had a nice 18-yard run on the edge, but the longer the game went on, the better the run defense got especially inside. The Patriots sacked Taylor six times and had 11 tackles for loss.

Linebackers: B

Marquis Flowers had a big, big day as he notched 2.5 sacks and had three tackles for loss and three QB hits in the Bills backfield. Elandon Roberts shared a TFL with Eric Lee but this week, there weren’t the glaring errors with misses and filling the wrong gaps as the linebackers were prepared and stepped up.

Especially with Flowers who has always been known as a STs guy but had a career-type of a day that was an unexpected bonus.

Secondary: C

After having their best day of the year the last time the teams played, the New England secondary had its issues all day long with the Bills receivers. Kelvin Benjamin is a beast. Even on one leg, (he needs MCL surgery after the season), the 6’5, 243-pound Benjamin gave Stephon Gilmore fits. The Bills were high-pointing the ball or allowing Benjamin to use his body to screen off Gilmore where he had five catches for 70 yards. But at least he was there with him all day.

Malcolm Butler had an awful day against Deonte Thompson who had Butler turned all around a few times with four catches for 91 yards. Butler was caught biting on a double move and just had a rough day all-around. Shady McCoy had five catches for 76 yards, with most of it coming on an outstanding 39-yard run where he caught a screen pass at the line of scrimmage and weaved and faked his way thru the Patriots secondary down to the 10-yard line.

Pat Chung did a pretty decent job on Charles Clay and Devin McCourty was solid in the back end but it wasn’t the greatest day for the secondary as a whole. But they were bailed out a few times by Taylor’s poor decisions to not throw the ball away, where he took horrible sacks and by curious decisions by the Bills coaching staff.

Special Teams: B

No worries here, Stephen Gostkowski was perfect in his four extra points and three field goals. His kickoffs as always are spot on and allowed the Patriots coverage units to do a great job of limiting the Bills return game. Ryan Allen punted only once for 44 yards with no return. Buffalo’s coverage units also had a very solid game. Special Teams play only played a key role in the Bills’ missed 50-yard field goal.

Coaches: B+

Bill Belichick had the team coming home after a long road trip and a particularly emotional win over the Steelers. Although they started slowly, the team was prepared and they had a good game that was executed well. As always, the Patriots halftime adjustments were outstanding, outscoring Buffalo 24-3 after the break.

Josh McDaniels’ offense was missing Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Martellus Bennett, Marcus Cannon, Rex Burkhead and James White. And they still scored 37 points without a big turnover from the defense. That was their second highest output of the season.

And for all the hand-wringing about the Patriots defense, Matt Patricia’s unit gave up a total of nine points on just three field goals, the only touchdown the Bills scored in two games this season was by their defense. While it was neither perfect nor pretty, it was still effective.

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 Overcome Slow Start, Run Away From Bills 37-16

Steve Balestrieri
December 25, 2017 at 6:47 am ET

The Patriots took the Bills best shot and like the champion fighters that they are, got off the mat and put up a relentless assault scoring on six straight possessions to pull away from a game Buffalo team late to post a 37-16 victory.

The win puts New England at 12-3 and guaranteed a bye for the Wild Card round of the playoffs. It is also the eighth straight season of 12+ wins for Bill Belichick’s teams. Those are some unchartered waters right there folks. Jacksonville lost today to the 49ers so the Pats are guaranteed a bye. If the Steelers lose either tomorrow against the Texans or to the Browns,…or the Patriots beat the Jets next week they’re the #1 seed.

The Bills played really well for the first half and appeared to score a touchdown right before the half when Tyrod Taylor threw to Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone. It certainly appeared to be a touchdown but upon further review, the officials ruled that he didn’t maintain control long enough. This is a case where the replay officials in New York are just plain over-analyzing these things. Enough already.

But Tyrod Taylor and the offense, while moving the ball all day lacked finish and he made some terrible decisions with the football which killed drives. And while certain people like to denigrate the wins by stating that the opponent “crapped themselves”, the Patriots offense and Brady have a big hand in that as well. They put pressure on opponents by scoring six straight possessions. And for a Patriots offense missing Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Martellus Bennett, James White, Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead and starting RT Marcus Cannon, the 37 points were the second most they scored all year.

Don’t be fooled folks, this was a huge win. The Bills entered this weekend a playoff team and needed this one to stay alive. They weren’t playing out the string and going thru the motions here. The Bills led until late in the third quarter and you could see New England taking over this game, which they did and never looked back. Other observations include:

Brady Starts Slow, Takes Over: I have to shake my head sometimes at the commentary I see. Take a good look at the names on the key missing parts of the offense two paragraphs above.  Yes, Brady started slowly and made some poor throws and bad decisions. And yet, given that, and missing the above names, he still scored on six straight possessions and put up 37 points on a pretty good defense.

Brady finished 21-28 for 224 yards with 2 TDs and a pick, for a QB rating of 106.9.

Brady made a poor decision on the pick-six and where he took too long getting the throw out. That was also a great play by Jordan Poyer who jumped the route and picked it off, carrying it for a touchdown.

But Brady got better as the game went on and didn’t have a single incompletion in the second half. “But, but, but he only threw for 224 yards.” For years we’ve been clamoring for the Patriots to get a running game going where Brady didn’t have to throw for 300-350 and 45-50 times a game for them to win. They’ve now got that and despite them missing several key components were asserting their will, with #12 pulling the strings.

Lewis, Gronkowski Lead the Offense: Dion Lewis had a fantastic day running the football, gaining 129 yards on the ground on 24 carries with a touchdown each running and receiving. Lewis, the vertically challenged but tough and incredibly difficult runner to bring down added five catches for 24 yards. He was like trying tackle a ghost out there and consistently made yardage after contact. Mike Gillislee returned to the active roster and provided a solid 28 yards on six carries including a one-yard touchdown.

Gronkowski was a force once again hauling in five catches for 67 yards including a highlight reel touchdown as well as drawing a couple of very big pass interference penalties which were as good as big gains. On Gronkowski’s touchdown, Brady threw a back shoulder throw down the left side to the pylon and the big man snatched it out of the air with a beauty of a one-handed grab.

It should be noted that there was none of the targeting of Gronkowski that was feared before the game. Bills’ coach Sean McDermott had said that Buffalo was intent on playing for a playoff berth not seeking revenge and that’s exactly what they did. Buffalo played Gronkowski tough and physical but there were no cheap shots taken.

Curious Decision By McDermott Dooms Buffalo: One of the bigger head-scratchers of the day was by McDermott, who had been playing aggressively all day. Facing a 4th and 1 and down by seven points in the fourth quarter, McDermott opted for a 50-yard field goal, never a sure thing and Steven Hauschka pushed it wide right.

The Patriots responded by going on a 60-yard drive with Lewis putting the finishing touches on that drive and the game by putting the Patriots up by 14 with nine minutes to go. With LeSean McCoy in the backfield, it seemed like a no-brainer that the Bills would go for it and try to break their red zone frustrations against the Patriots.

The Bills were 0-4 on Sunday and 0-6 in the red zone against the Patriots this season. Buffalo’s offense this season against the Patriots defense managed four field goals in two games. Speaking of the defense…

Front Seven Do a Go Job of Limiting McCoy: Coming into this game, the concern was that the Patriots front seven would have a very hard time of slowing down McCoy in the running game where they’ve struggled. And this game was close for more than three quarters, so the scenario was perfect for McCoy to put his stamp on things. The bottom line was McCoy was good but not great and he never was able to consistently take over and finish drives for the Bills.

He had his moments, a nice 18-yard run and a scintillating 39-yard catch and run on a screen pass from McCoy. But overall the Patriots front seven did a pretty good job overall on him, limiting him to 71 yards on 17 carries (4.2-yard average). Overall the Bills running game averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, netting just 84 yards on 24 carries.

Kelvin Benjamin is a Beast: The Bills made a trade for Benjamin this season with Carolina and the big man has been hurt, playing on a bad MCL which will require surgery in the off-season. That has limited his downfield production but he was using his incredible size to his advantage all day against Stephon Gilmore.

Benjamin had a tremendous height advantage on the Patriots corner and was giving him fits all day, leaping for throws on the sidelines and using his 6’5, 243-pound body to use by boxing out Gilmore, who was competitive but couldn’t stop him. Benjamin ended up with five catches for 70 yards on seven targets.

More concerning than Gilmore was the struggles Malcolm Butler was having with Deonte Thompson. Thompson had four catches for 91 yards on five targets with Butler guessing wrong and being beaten on several occasions. Against a limited Bills passing offense, the secondary didn’t have its finest hour.

Tyrod Taylor had 281 yards thru the air but just 242 net after making some terrible decisions with the ball and taking a couple of awful sacks rather than just throwing the ball away. And the curious decision was time and again with the 32nd pass offense in the NFL, McDermott in third or fourth down in short yardage, decided to put the ball in Taylor’s hands rather than McCoy. And it cost them.

___________

With the win, the Patriots move to 12-3 and a bye. They don’t need any outside help to secure the #1 seed in the AFC, with a win over the Jets next week, they’ll be home as long as they keep winning. Missing several key players, this was a big, and important win. Buffalo still has a shot at making the postseason, but they’ll need to beat Miami next week and get some help from the outside.

New England Patriots News 12-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 12-24, & AFC East Notes.

RIP to Dick Enberg, one of the best announcers we’ve had the pleasure of listening to. He had a style all of his own and was universally lauded as one of the great guys in the game. We miss his signature “Oh My!” during the games.

The Patriots and Bills are playing in a playoff game today. The Pats need this game to keep their hold on the #1 seed for the AFC. The Bills are trying to hold off Baltimore et al that are chasing them for the 6th and final playoff spot. A Buffalo win could … conceivably set up a third meeting of these two teams down the road in a few weeks.

However, one thing to keep in mind today is that Buffalo has only defeated Brady once in Foxboro. That was in the season finale of 2014. The Patriots rested most of their starters and Brady, whose primary target that day was Brian Tyms, played only the first half of the game.

Brady, Belichick, and Guerrero Aren’t (IMHO) The Big Story It is Being Portrayed:
We got a few messages this week and asking why we haven’t had more about the ongoing saga which we feel is way overblown on the Alex Guerrero story. Look, I don’t blame the bigger site Pats beat writers, they have editors and they’re being told to ask the questions, and that’s what they get paid for. But to us… there isn’t enough information to accurately come up with enough of a narrative to publish anything that isn’t all conjecture. And for me personally, it isn’t that big of a story. But it won’t go away so, here’s our two cents.

We do know that Tom Brady swears by Alex Guerrero and his training methods and says publicly that Guerrero is the reason that his career has stayed so productive at an age where he should be retired. Now Rob Gronkowski and several other players are going to Guerrero as well. No harm, no foul there.

Here’s the one issue. Guerrero’s methods differ from the Patriots training staff, there was a blurb last week where the team’s training staff told a player to do squats and while meeting with Guerrero he advised against it. The player refused to do them. Now, the training staff is hired by the team and there certainly has to be a bit of jealousy there. And… they are being evaluated for their own jobs on how they produce with the players. Something has to give. Belichick can’t allow Guerrero on the sidelines because it opens the door for other players to want “their guy” on the sidelines as well. For Belichick, there can be only one voice on the sideline, the team’s and so he nipped it in the bud.

Players aren’t forbidden to see Guerrero or seek his advice right next door at the TB12 Clinic in Patriots Place. But while they are in the building, they’ll take their direction, all of it from the team. End of story.

I wasn’t in the room on Friday but watched it live on the Pats’ website, while I wouldn’t characterize Brady’s reaction as testy, I bow to the guys who were. I took it as being a bit frustrated. Testy was the Deflategate BS.

My concern with this… not someone per se in the Boston media but we all know that other media markets (a few hours south of here) will try to take this in a different direction. And if the Patriots are successful in the next four weeks, seeing a story come out say January 21 around 9 p.m. that Guerrero’s secret with Brady and Gronkowski is centered around PEDs. It isn’t a stretch to foresee that happening.

That’s why T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s take on Colin Cowherd’s show was so important. Houshmandzadeh stated he went to Guerrero while a very young player in college when his trainers couldn’t figure out what his muscle problems were. He spent about four sessions with Guerrero and poof, issues gone. Cowherd right away asked if it was anything pill or medicine related and he said no. Guerrero’s method was strictly working directly on the muscles with stretching etc.

You can see the entire clip here:

But to finish this off, [it is already too long] all of these national pundits writing about how this “rift” between Belichick and Brady could affect him in the games or already has? Please. This is the same guy who has the stones of iron and brought his team back from 25 in the Super Bowl and he’s going to wilt because Alex isn’t there to prop him up? Really? Are we really going to use that as the “hot take” of the week?

Tom Brady Gets Kurt Warner’s Son’s Vote for the G.O.A.T.:
Tom Brady got some love for being the Greatest QB of all time from some different households this week including one from a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Kurt Warner told a funny story this week of walking in on his son doing a homework project and had a story of Brady up on his computer.

Warner asked, “You doing a story on Brady? His son replied, “No, I’m doing one on the Greatest QB of All-Time.” Warner got some great responses on social media when he posted these Tweets up about the humorous episode.

Pittsburgh Sideline Wilts During Review:
One of the more intriguing parts of the aftermath of the win over the Steelers was watching the Pittsburgh sideline during the Jesse James TD/Drop Review. There was obviously a difference of opinions on how they should proceed but they didn’t take the time that was afforded during the review to come up with a probable course of action if the play was reversed. Instead it looked like a Chinese Fire Drill. That isn’t an indictment of the players, but the coaching staff. Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley looked lost out there when they had plenty of time to call two plays in case the play was reversed, which it was. Tomlin, who was calling for this matchup for nine months looked out in left field.

Ben Roethlisberger compounded things by promptly throwing his coaches under the bus. If the play wasn’t there [it wasn’t there were four Patriots defenders in the area], throw the ball away, kick the field goal and go to overtime. For a guy who’ll reside in Canton one day, it’s a bad look to not take responsibility for his own actions.

Those situational football scenarios are why the Patriots always seem to win these type of games and their opponents do not. We always here about the “luck” of New England. That luck is forged on the practice fields by constant drilling starting back in July. It is unfathomable to think Josh McDaniels and Brady wouldn’t have a plan in place given that much time.

And on the subject of the other “The NFL Favors NE Nonsense”, watch Week 1 against KC. Gronk hauls in a pass in the end zone against the Chiefs that would make the score 14-0. It is overturned on the same going to the ground rule. Gillislee is stuffed on 4th and 1. You think that game might have turned out differently? Where was the “catch rule needs to be changed”  then? Reminiscent of the Tuck Rule, the Patriots were hurt by it before they benefited from it.

Tomlin, said after the game the league, “needs to look at the rule” after the season. They did in 2015, he should know. He was on the Rules Committee and voted in favor of keeping the current one in place. File it under Sour Grapes.

James Develin Takes An Unlikely Path to the Pro Bowl:
Kudos to Patriots fullback James Develin who was named to his first Pro Bowl as the lone fullback named to the AFC roster this season. It is a great story in that Develin took a roundabout path to be acknowledged around the league but he’s had great respect of his coaches and teammates as he makes the running game go with his tremendous blocking skills in the Patriots “21 Personnel” package.

Develin played defensive line in college at Brown and went undrafted. He switched to fullback and played in the Arena Football League before landing on the Bengals practice squad in 2010. The Patriots picked him up in 2012 and Develin has never looked back.

He was really missed in the running game when he broke his leg in preseason in 2015 and was lost for the season. Now, he’s being acknowledged around the league but told the media, he’d just as soon skip the Pro Bowl if New England is gainfully employed during the SB this year.

Kenny Britt Likens the Patriots to Rutgers:
It is still very early in Kenny Britt’s tenure with the Patriots, but so far, he’s all smiles and seems to be truly happy to be in New England. What a difference a week makes, he was cut loose from the winless Cleveland Browns and now he’s a member of the AFC’s #1 seed entering Week 16.

It wasn’t lost on Britt who has almost ended up in New England before but said financial decisions kept him away. Now he’s here for a football decision and couldn’t be happier. “I always had my sights on here and playing with the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. And a head coach we have, and how they run the organization.”

Britt had some off-field issues early in his career but he chalks that up to youth and inexperience. Now he’s focusing on learning the playbook as quickly as he can and become a member of Tom Brady’s “Circle of Trust” in the passing game. With his size, 6’3, 225-pounds, he could become a big red zone target with Rob Gronkowski.

Matthew Slater a HOF Bid? It Could Happen:
Among the other Patriots selected to the Pro Bowl this week was Special Teams standout Matthew Slater, who made a very nice play in Pittsburgh downing the ball inside the five-yard line on a Ryan Allen punt.

Former Patriots ST standout Matt Chatham made the point and case for Slater to be considered for Canton and the NFL Hall of Fame this week and it deserves to be mentioned. While he probably won’t be a first-ballot guy, and we know special teams guys just don’t get the love that they should by the voters in Canton, Slater has really stood out among his peers both on and off the field. So, how do we feel about Matthew Slater going to the NFL Hall of Fame?

<blockquote class=”twitter-video” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>&quot;How do we feel about being 10-2?&quot;<br><br>A look inside the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Patriots?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Patriots</a> locker room after Sunday&#39;s victory in Buffalo: <a href=”https://t.co/t6moHl2zub”>pic.twitter.com/t6moHl2zub</a></p>&mdash; New England Patriots (@Patriots) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/938153024089817088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 5, 2017</a></blockquote>

<script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 14:
Last week 14-2 mark. Season Total: 157-77.

This week’s Saturday games I went with Baltimore over Indy. And the Vikings over Green Bay.  Now for the rest of the slate:
Rams at Titans – Los Angeles
Bills at Patriots – New England
Browns at Bears – Cleveland (gotta win one)
Falcons at Saints – New Orleans
Lions at Bengals – Detroit
Buccaneers at Panthers – Carolina
Dolphins at Chiefs – KC
Broncos at Redskins – Washington
Chargers at Jets – Los Angeles
Jaguars at 49ers – Jacksonville
Seahawks at Cowboys – Dallas
Giants at Cardinals – Arizona
Christmas Day Steelers at Texans – Pittsburgh
MNF Raiders at Eagles – Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Incognito Goes Against the Grain with the Bills “Retribution at Gronk” Talk:
The Buffalo Bills Richie Incognito is no stranger to talk about dirty play. He’s been known and voted on, by his peers as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. So when he talks about players getting even on Rob Gronkowski after his cheap shot in the last Bills – Patriots game, people will listen.

“Gronkowski took his shot,” Incognito said. “Now it’s our defense’s chance to take their shots on him.

“When you do dumb stuff like he did, you open the door. The referees are a little more lenient because they know you got it coming. You’ve just got to be prepared to take it.”

However, Incognito was quick to point out, he likes Gronkowski and doesn’t believe him to be a dirty player.

“Gronk’s a good kid. I know Rob. I’ve hung with him. I’ve partied with him,” Incognito said. “He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s not mean-spirited.

“You can’t judge a man by that one action. You’ve got to look at Rob over his whole career. This is out of character for him.” So we’ll see how this plays out. Gronkowski on Friday said that he expects to prepare for a hard-nosed football game and downplayed any talk of revenge.
Cutler Returns to Form in Ugly Dolphins Loss in Buffalo:
The Miami Dolphins made a $10-million dollar investment in Jay Cutler this summer after Ryan Tannehill went down and … they’ve gotten exactly what they bargained for. Cutler has always had the reputation, a well-deserved one that he’s great one week and awful the next. Despite an incredible arm that can make any of the throws, he’s always been a guy with sloppy footwork and makes bad decisions. His career numbers play that out and why no one was beating down his door to sign him this summer.

Last week was a prime example. On Monday Night Football he torched the Patriots for three TDs and no interceptions as the Dolphins won 27-20 and South Beach fans and players were celebrating like it was 1972 again.

But the awful Jay Cutler quickly reappeared on the scene in Buffalo on Sunday as he had a brutal game throwing three interceptions and fumbling the ball four times as Miami’s hopes for a playoff spot took a left-hook to the jaw. What a difference six days makes. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. That’s Jay Cutler. Today in KC, I’m expecting the Buffalo version of Cutler to play with a vengeance. Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) Miami.  

How Will the Jets, Spend More Than $90 Million In Cap Space? Start with a QB:
The New York Jets will enter the offseason with about $81 million dollars in cap space. They are sure to cut loose DL Muhammad Wilkerson which will add about $11 million more to the Jets coffers. So how should they spend their money?

Start at QB, a couple of guys are going to be available this spring and rather than take a chance on an untested rookie, the Jets could entice a guy like Kurt Cousins or possibly an Alex Smith to New York. They could sweeten the pie by enticing a high priced free agent WR to boot.

The Jets also have needs along the offensive line and secondary at corner but may opt to build those from the draft. But they’ll have plenty of cash to be players in the free agency market. But until they find an answer at quarterback, they aren’t going anywhere. A big free-agent signing at QB would certainly set tongues wagging around the fan base and the AFC East.

Merry Christmas!

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.

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

John Morgan
December 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds were posted a day after the Week 15 games finished. Keep in mind these odds were listed prior to any of this week’s injury reports, as well as any of the Week 16 games. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away from being played. Early lines offer a short opportunity to get a jump on odds that could become less favorable after Sunday’s games.

Handicapping games in the final week of the regular season can be a tricky proposition. Motivation could be difficult for a team that has played for the goal of making the playoffs for months, and suddenly finds themselves eliminated. A bad team might play loose and try things they normally wouldn’t, catching an opponent off guard. Good teams locked into a specific playoff slot may opt to rest players who would have otherwise started. The line in the Eagles-Cowboys game reflects that concept.

In Week 16 ten road teams are favored to win. That number falls back to a more typical number in Week 17, with five home dogs. The Saints are the biggest road favorite, minus 8½ points at Tampa Bay. The largest spread of the week is in Foxboro, where the Patriots are favored by 16 versus the Jets. That game is one of four double-digit spreads. The narrowest odds are with Houston as a one-point underdog at Indianapolis.

The most important games of Week 17 loom to be Carolina at Atlanta (-3½) in the NFC, and Jacksonville (-3½) at Tennessee in the AFC.

All games will be played on Sunday, December 31. There are no night games.
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on CBS

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-16)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3½) at Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-15)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-11)
Buffalo Bills (-2½) at Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1)
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on Fox

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3½)
New Orleans Saints (-8½) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-12)
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-9)
Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Late Games

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7), CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7), Fox
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-2½), CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-7), Fox

 

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16