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New England Patriots News 01-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 12, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-12 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots out of the playoffs, it is strange without a football game to play in the divisional round. It is a reminder to how blessed we’ve been around here since Belichick and Brady took over the playoff landscape in 2001. 

There are a lot of variables in play this year and the 2020 team may look quite different. But don’t be throwing dirt on this team just yet. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB (and yes…he still is until we hear different) addressed his Instagram post from earlier this week on the Westwood One radio show with Jim Gray. Brady spoke about his comment that he still has a lot to prove in this league. 

 “Well, it’s always been proving it to myself. and being motivated internally to push myself to the limits,” Brady said. 

“And sometimes the limits push back, I’ve experienced that, but I also think I’m inspired by so many people who push the limits. You know, I watch a lot of movies, I love watching documentaries of incredible human feats, and they’re inspiring when people climb these mountains and do things… things people never thought were possible,” he added. 

“And I’m at a certain point in my career where people think what I’m doing is, to a degree, impossible. For me, it’s about continuing to prove to myself that I can lay it all on the line and we can still try to achieve the ultimate goal, which is winning Super Bowls.”

Brady added a quote about his contract status with Gray, stating, “The contract things, a week after the season, I would say these things haven’t even started to pick up. It’s really not my concern at this point,” he said.

Andy Dalton – Really? Bart Scott started this Dalton to NE narrative, with no real basis but then a few others in print and on the air…say “it is a fit” For whom? And now it is being reported as a possibility. Yeah right, and Bill may hire me as a coach on the special teams too. 

Julian Edelman – The Patriots WR needs surgery on both his shoulder and knee but we thought that a while ago. But Edelman is (not surprisingly), the Patriots 2019 recipient of the 2019 Ed Block Courage Award. The honor is bestowed annually upon a player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. Watching him play through those injuries this year, that honor is no surprise… Well deserved.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Joe Judge Takes Over the Giants: 

With every passing year, it always seems that Bill Belichick’s coaching staff is getting picked through as many of his coaches, move up and move on. The latest was STs Coordinator/WR coach Joe Judge. 

When we heard he was being interviewed for the Giants’ open head coaching position, we put him pretty low on the possibility chart of getting the nod. We were wrong. Judge dazzled the Giants owner John Mara during the interview and got the job. Having worked for both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, Judge got to learn from some of the best. 

But while he takes some of the same philosophies from his mentors, he is definitely his own man. Anyone who watched him in the spring/summer workouts would see that. And in his introductory press conference, despite what some hot takez bobos have said, he nailed it. 

“I want teachers, not presenters,” Judge said of his coaching staff. “I don’t want someone who looks fancy in front of the screen that can say it with a lot of different sales lines. I want teachers, I want old school people who can get to our players and give them the mental image of what it’s supposed to look like. I want them to demonstrate on a daily basis the work ethic of what it’s going to take to do it successfully day in and day out.”

Judge has his work cut out for him and although he retained his excellent STs coordinator Thomas McGaughey, he still needs an offensive coordinator that can work with young QB Daniel Jones and a defensive coordinator that will be aggressive. They’ve asked to speak with Dolphins’ DC Patrick Graham. But he’s off to a good start. 

McDaniels Spends Seven Hours Interviewing for Browns Job:

The Cleveland Browns vacant head coaching position is still open as of Saturday evening… but perhaps the Browns saved the best for last. Josh McDaniels was the last candidate to interview and he and his wife spent seven hours at the Browns HQs. 

The other candidates are Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski, Bills OC Brian Daboll, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Eagles DC Jim Schwartz. Cleveland is clearly taking their time and doing their due diligence and are willing to take their time. 

Whoever does get the job will have to work the analytics team of Paul DePodesta closely. They’ll have a say in coaching and personnel decisions. McDaniels is from the area and would no doubt try to bring some more New England people with him. One name being thrown about is Director of Pro Player Personnel Dave Ziegler who may become a candidate for the vacant GM job. 

McDaniels was a huge fan of Baker Mayfield when he came out in the NFL Draft and visited with him three days before the draft while urging the Patriots to move up and take the QB. It will be intriguing to see if McDaniels gets the job, who the next Offensive Coordinator of the Patriots will be. The Browns are expected to make their decision within the next few days. 

NFL Schedule Divisional Weekend, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week:8-8
Final Regular Season:162-93-1
Wild Card Weekend: 1-3

Divisional Round –
Saturday – San Francisco over Minnesota
Baltimore over Tennessee
Sunday –  Kansas City over Houston
Green Bay over Seattle

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Daboll A Browns Coaching Candidate:

The Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll is one of the candidates for the vacant Cleveland Browns head coaching position. While Buffalo’s offense remains very much a work in progress, it is easy to see how Daboll is changing the offense from the awful unit that it was a few years ago to one that is definitely on the upswing.

Daboll’s good work begins with QB Josh Allen, who made big strides in Year 2 and is trending upward. Buffalo’s offense still has a long way to go, but if they lose Daboll, it may set them back. 

Also on the Browns’ radar is assistant GM Joe Schoen who is one of the candidates for Cleveland’s vacant GM position.  

Dolphins DC Graham May Be the Giants Choice for DC:

The Miami Dolphins were rebuilding in 2019 but finished strong going 5-4 down the stretch. But now the New York Giants have requested to speak to Miami’s DC Patrick Graham. The Giants new coach Joe Judge would like to add Graham to his staff as the Defensive Coordinator, a lateral transfer. 

Graham coached with the Giants in 2016-17. Miami has already fired OC Chad O’Shea and if they lose Graham, they will be putting a lot of pressure on Head Coach Brian Flores to rebuild his team and start from scratch with his coordinators. 

With Flores trying to build a winning culture into the program, losing both coordinators after just one season would not be the best scenario for Flores. 

Jets Darnold Has Thumb Surgery:

The New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was banged up physically in his sophomore season, and he had some needed surgery to repair the damage the toll of the 2019 season did to him. 

Darnold underwent a surgical procedure Tuesday to repair a ligament in his left thumb. The surgery was performed by the Jets team doctors, and he should be ready to go when the Jets begin their offseason workouts.

Darnold had to deal with this thumb injury for the final two months of the season. He originally injured it in a loss to the Jaguars on Oct. 27. However, he played through it and wore a brace under a glove on his left, non-throwing hand.

________________

Honestly, look, I know it’s out there, just like there’s a lot of other things out there. We could bring up 50 questions just like that one, and I told you what my state is on that. You can ask all 50 of them and it’s going to be the same answer 50 times, Ben. We’ve been working on Tennessee, it’s 12 hours after the game, not going to talk a lot of things about the future because it’s not – I’m not prepared to talk about it.” Bill Belichick on if he’d like to have some clarity on Tom Brady’s situation. 

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

New England Patriots News 01-05, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 5, 2020 at 7:14 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-05 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots eliminated from the playoffs by the Titans, it marks the first time they won’t be in an AFC Championship Game since the 2010 season when the Jets beat them in the divisional round.  

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Richard Seymour – The former Patriot defensive lineman is once again a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Big Sey is more than deserving and he was truly dominant in the middle of the Patriots defense and was an integral part of three Super Bowl championships here in New England. 

Here’s hoping that he gets the call from Canton and will be wearing a gold jacket this summer.

Julian Edelman – ThePatriots wide receiver always has some great video content that he drops on the fans before big games and this week was no exception. The video that he posted this week was one of his best and Patriots fans, if you haven’t seen it yet, should check it out.

Tom Brady – Not to be outdone, Tom Brady had an even better one, narrated by Christopher Walken… the only thing missing was the quote from Man on Fire, “he’s about to paint his masterpiece”….

Antonio Brown – Took to Instagram to take a shot at the Patriots and Bill Belichick. With the Patriots losing he tweeted a picture of he and Belichick hugging with the hashtag  “What Could Of Been #YouChangedOnMe, #LookAtMeNow, #ABForPresident.”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Brady Puts Retirement Speculation At “Pretty Unlikely”: 

With the game winding down against the Titans, the talk picked up, which had talked about all week ad nauseam “Is this the last game for Tom Brady with the Patriots?” And it took Brady all of about five seconds to be asked that if he was going to return.

“Just very grateful for the experience playing this year for the team, this organization, and over the course of my career, too. I appreciate it. I hope I’ve always tried to do the right thing out there. Who knows what the future holds? So I’ll leave it at that.”

“I just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, “and I’m not going to predict it. And no one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football. I love playing football for this team. I’ve loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. And again, I don’t know what it looks like moving forward, so we’ll just take it day by day.”

We won’t really know anything for the next two months because Brady doesn’t become a free agent until March. But at this point, it would make no sense for the Patriots to move on from him unless they feel Jarrett Stidham was ready to be the next Brady. With a better receiving core around him in 2020, there is no reason the Patriots can’t be right back in the mix. But there is a slew of other free agents to make decisions on as well. 

NFL Releases Non-Statement on Video Taping Flap:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in Timbuktu, you’ll have noticed the NFL has been once again dragging its collective feet when it comes to an investigation regarding the Patriots. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to release the NFL statement that they’re continuing this latest flap. “The investigation is ongoing and there has been no discussion of any potential discipline. Any suggestion of potential discipline or a timeline on an announcement is pure speculation.”

Last week, it was widely reported that “NFL investigators were frustrated that attempts to link the video crew with football operations”, think about that for a second. Instead of investigating whether there was a link or not. They were frustrated that there wasn’t. 

While Schefter posted this statement, he also did a 180 and speculated on possible punishment by listing infractions by Cleveland and Atlanta that all had to do with football operations. Hmm, think he knows something?

NFL Schedule Wildcard Weekend, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week:8-8
Final Regular Season:162-93-1
Wild Card Weekend:

Saturday – Buffalo over Houston 
Tennessee over New England 1-1
Sunday –  New Orleans over Minnesota
Philadelphia over Seattle

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Miss Golden Opportunity to Advance:

The Buffalo Bills had dominated their road playoff game against the Houston Texans for better than 40 minutes, where it appeared they were destined to win and move on. But everything changed in an instant and they went home frustrated and still winless in the postseason since 1995. The Bills lost to Houston in overtime 22-19.

“We had opportunities to win the game and we came up short,” said coach Sean McDermott. “Not an easy thing, not an easy pill to swallow this time of year. A lot of pain in that locker room.”

The Bills had everything going their way until a sack by JJ Watt that forced Buffalo to kick a field goal to go up 16-0 lit a fire in the Houston sideline. If Buffalo goes up 20-0 there it is likely game over. But it woke up the Texans offense who were dead until then but were on fire after that. 

Still, the chances were there in overtime, they stopped Houston and were moving toward a game-winning field goal when they were stopped by a bad penalty. Then two huge breakdowns by their normally outstanding defense put the Texans in chip shot field goal range. It was a tough, tough loss for a team that is trending upwards. 

Dolphins #1 Need in 2020? A Franchise QB:

The Miami Dolphins started the season 0-7 and were embarrassed early in the season which had some wondering if they would tank the season for Tua. But Brian Flores wasn’t interested in the #1 pick and his players believed in him and what he’s trying to build in South Beach. The Dolphins finished 5-4 down the stretch and are still in decent position in the draft. 

With plenty of cash under the cap, the Dolphins need to decide if one of these QBs coming out is a guy they feel they can build their team around for the next decade. Josh Rosen obviously isn’t going to be that guy, but veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has more than showed enough for Flores that he can be the steady veteran presence that can be a bridge until whoever they decide on is ready to go. 

Free-spending Jets Back to Square One:

The New York Jets parted ways with former GM Mike Maccagnan last June, but not before he spent a boatload of money in free agency. Now, GM Joe Douglas is put in the same position the Jets were in for the past several years. They have holes abounding in their roster and have a lot of free agents hitting the market. 

But the Jets really need help along the offensive line where they could use three new starters, in the secondary, and at edge rusher. Although they have about $60 million in cap space with potentially a third more if they cut some contracts, they have 22 free agents of their own this spring. And two of them are going to command some big money.

Safety Jamal Adams won’t come cheaply this spring and although he’s not a free agent yet, the time to resign him is now before he hits the market. He’s slated to make $3.5 million in 2020 and will be looking for a new deal. How much?  I think the Jets would begin with how much Landon Collins got (6-year, $84 million, $44.5 million guaranteed) as the starting spot. That won’t be bargain-basement territory.

Neither will WR Robby Anderson, who has the speed that all teams are coveting these days. At only 26 and with 52 catches in 2019, he’s a guy who can play, but at what cost? If I’m the Patriots, I’d kick the tires on Anderson if he hits the open market. A 6’3 WR with speed is a good thing to have.

________________

We gave up 14 points tonight but in this game, it was too much. Weren’t able to get the ball back at the end. There were a lot of good things, but just not quite good enough tonight and that’s what it was. I have a ton of respect for this football team, these guys competed all year, everybody, all three units. We played hard and just came up a little bit short tonight. Bill Belichick on the play of the defense in the second half. It was somewhat telling when Belichick said 14 points was too much. 

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

 Patriots Week 16 Report Card, Offense Reappears In Big Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Win 11th Straight Division Title

The Patriots all week leading up to this game stated that this was a playoff game, and judging from their preparation, intensity, and production, they totally bought in. They won their 12th game of the season, a hard-fought 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills which clinched the AFC East for the 11th year in a row and puts them one step away from a playoff bye and the #2 seed. 

We’ll get to the grades for the players in just a moment, but first a word about the coaching staff. In any profession, perhaps the hardest thing to do is assess oneself critically and be able to say that something isn’t working, even if that something was your idea. The ability to self-assess, or in Patriots parlance “self-scout” is something they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the league since Bill Belichick took the reins. 

Everyone says they’re going to “self-scout” and they all will change up their gameplans, and occasionally many teams come up with a brilliant one. But nobody, nobody can morph their teams from one week to the next, depending upon their opponent and put in the time, preparation and commitment than the Patriots have done the past 20 years. 

And the players have to buy in completely or it doesn’t work. How many times have we heard the past 20 years, “well Team A is more talented across the board” and how many times has Team A looked up at the wrong end of the scoreboard at the end of the day. So at the end of the day, when the votes are in for the Coach du jour, Belichick will get no votes but his team will probably win 13 games, while the naysayers will tell us they can’t win it all again. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting a bow on this week.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady was showing signs of age, decline and his elbow has been bothering him for several weeks. Plus he was facing a team that has increasingly played him tougher and tougher for the past few years and was in the top 3 of most defensive categories. So, how did that work out? Brady had his best game in several weeks, perhaps all season. 

Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Completing nearly 79 percent of his passes while averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt against this Bills defense is outstanding work. 

Brady got everyone involved and mixing things up and hitting nine different receivers kept the Bills defense off-balance all night long. His back-shoulder throw to Matt LaCosse for a touchdown showed perfect touch. This was a vintage Brady performance.  

Running Backs: B+

The Patriots running game followed up their most productive game of the season in Cincinnati with a game that was arguably more impressive considering the opponent. The team rushed for 143 yards against a tough Bills defense and were running physical, getting yards after contact and following the blocking well. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing 21 times for 96 yards. Rex Burkhead, once again turning it on late in the season, rushed 5 times for 20 yards, including the game-winning touchdown run where he was hit in the backfield and broke two tackles to get into the end zone. 

N’Keal Harry had 18 yards on a reverse, with a lead block by Brady (yes everyone bought in). James White chipped in with 13 yards. Brady picked up a key QB sneak to keep the chains moving. The running backs (Michel, Burkhead, and White) combined for 235 yards rushing and receiving. Solid night? You bet.

Wide Receivers: B-

The Patriots wide receivers led by #11 (Who else?) had a solid night. Julian Edelman was questionable with knee and shoulder issues. Then he missed a few series that nearly took a quarter going through concussion protocol. But he still led all WRs with 5 catches for 72 yards. And maybe the Bills thought that as hobbled as he was, they didn’t need to double him. That assessment was wrong. He was beating coverage consistently and late in the game…was doubled. In a league where all the players are physically tough, Edelman is one of the toughest. 

Burkhead led all Patriot receivers with 77 yards on 4 catches, yes he had a fumble on a good defensive play but more than made up for it. He showed excellent vision and followed his blocks well. Jakobi Meyers came off the bench when Edelman was down and collected 3 passes for 25 yards.

Harry caught two passes for 25 while Mohamad Sanu caught 3 passes for 24. Sanu was again a disappointment. While he may have gotten a poor spot on a third-down pass short of the sticks, he totally whiffed on a block on a 4th and 1 with Harry getting stopped by his man on a play that could have went for a big gain. 

Tight Ends: B-

Matt LaCosse scored his first touchdown of the season on an 8-yard pass from Brady down the seam. He also had his best game in the run blocking department, the offense put him in motion and he did a good job, even lining up in the backfield. His pass protection was much, much better this week. 

Ben Watson had three catches on three targets with two going for first downs. He also had a 33-yard touchdown wiped out on an offensive pass interference call on Edelman. This was a much better day for the tight ends than we’ve seen in a while. 

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line play was outstanding on Saturday. Buffalo didn’t sack Tom Brady and for the vast majority of the game he played with a clean pocket. They also cleared out big chunks of yardage in the running game. It is amazing what the backs can do when they are not getting hit four yards deep in the backfield. 

Shaq Mason had a very impressive game in the run department, looking like the guy we’re used to seeing blowing people up in the running game. Ted Karras and Joe Thuney were also excellent in the running game. 

Marcus Cannon hurt an ankle and was replaced by swing tackle Marshall Newhouse who played well, he did a good job in the running game but gave up a pair of QB hurries and a hit. But this unit going against the Bills performed as well as one could hope for.                      

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line did a tremendous job of bottling up Devin Singletary holding him to just 46 yards on 15 carries (3.1-yard average). And that begins with Lawrence Guy who was outstanding once again. Guy led the team with six tackles, a sack of Josh Allen and two QB hits. Danny Shelton was also solid in the running game. 

John Simon had a QB sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Chase Winovich who is looking like Lucius Malfoy these days with his dyed hair more white than blond, was his normal flying around the field self. 

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers were led by Dont’a Hightower with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup while Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy weren’t as impactful as they can be and normally are. Ja’Whaun Bentley played his very tough, downhill style in the running game. 

Elandon Roberts played about 20 snaps as a fullback and seems to be relishing his role. “Same on defense, same on offense. When a linebacker steps into the hole, Imma run through their motherf***n’ face. Period. That’s all I think about, making my block, running through a motherf***r’s face.” How can one argue with that?

Secondary: B

The Patriots secondary had a good, but not great day against the Bills. While Josh Allen only completed 50 percent of his throws (13 of 26), hit on two long completions, one for a 53-yard touchdown and the other (33 yards to Dawson Knox) set up a 1-yard touchdown pass on a tackle eligible play. 

Stephon Gilmore got beat on a double move by John Brown and moved to the right. Brown cut left and safety Devin McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and Brown then blew right by him too. However, it was his only catch of the game. Knox only caught the one big pass over Pat Chung, but was open on a couple of others but was overthrown. 

Cole Beasley caught 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot and was finding excellent success all game long. The Patriots missed Jonathan Jones who was out with a groin injury. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams were led by Nick Folk on Saturday. Folk hit a 51-yarder to give the team the lead and was 3-3 on field goals for the day. You don’t have to hold your breath on kicks for the first time in a while this season. The return game was forgettable and the coverage units were okay but not their usual shutdown selves. Jake Bailey punted twice averaging 46.5 yards but didn’t drop either inside the 20.  

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff gets excellent marks this week. And it begins with Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was extremely creative of trying to get everyone involved in the offense this week and used so many different looks and formations, there were times he had the Buffalo defense thoroughly confused. That doesn’t happen very often. With his play-calling, they were able to put together those long drives in the death-by-1000 cuts mold. 

Defensively, they had Allen very confused early in the game but give the 2nd year QB credit, he made a few outstanding throws and hung in there. But with the Bills driving late in the game, they brought pressure and got a sack and forced a throw off his back foot to get an incompletion in the end zone to salt the game away.  

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

New England Patriots News 12-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-22 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots playing in the rare Saturday game this week, it kind of throws everything off as we’re used to having Sundays as our normal game day. But Saturday this week it was…and it turned into a playoff game atmosphere with the Patriots beating the Buffalo Bills and winning their 11th straight AFC East Championship.

The players all got hats and t-shirts which read, “The East is Not Enough” 

We would like to wish all of our readers an early Merry Christmas and hope your holiday, however you choose to observe it, is a happy and healthy one.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Julian Edelman – The Patriots often outspoken wide receiver was asked about the latest controversy surrounding the team, the filming of the Bengals sideline and he didn’t disappoint. He told Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, “Yeah, that’s pretty much a joke,” Edelman said. “We haven’t even thought about it, honestly. We’ve been thinking about other things. It’s funny, but it is what it is. I don’t know, it’s ridiculous. My focus is on the Buffalo Bills.”

Jumbo Elliott – The former Giants player gets one of the Tweet of the Week mentions. Seeing Rex Ryan, pooh-poohing the latest Patriots faux scandal, Elliott tweeted out, “Had to laugh. Saw Rex Ryan commenting on Patriots filming Bengals sideline. So when his dad was Eagles coach I recall certain sons filming Giants practice from hotel off route 3 in N.J.  LMAO!!”

In a follow-up Tweet he posted, “I think it was 89 or 90.  Believe coach had state troopers go to the hotel and roust them.  We were running stuff we’d never call in a game. LOL”

Joe Mixon – The Bengals star running back was effusive in his respect for Tom Brady after the game last week and mentioned that he was going to ask #12 for a jersey but was too embarrassed. Brady heard about the comments and sent Mixon a jersey and a note that touched Mixon. 

He took to Instagram and posted that he’d be paying it forward. “Man I say this in the most humbled way I’m so Blessed to be playing this game in the @nfl and Super Thankful for the G.O.AT. @tombrady Best Christmas gift ever especially growing up not ever having nothing. Made a young kid from The Bay year. Later on Today I’m headed down to the boys and girls club today to give the gift forward today with my own jerseys,”

Netflix – The video giant released a trailer about former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez that will air as a three-part docuseries (The Killer Inside) on the NFL player turned murderer. In a phone call that was recorded while in prison, Hernadez had the following conversation.

“My whole body’s shaking right now,” Hernandez said.
“What happened?” a woman on the other end of the call asks.
“You know my temper,” Hernandez answers…

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Pro Bowl – I’ve never been a fan of the game (watched only one) or the voting, which is a joke. But many of the players have large amounts of money tied up in it because of bonuses if they are selected so I totally understand some of their angst. 

One member of the Patriots secondary gets a nod while another team, that didn’t have close to the season that they had defensively gets three? LOL Yep, it is a joke, which is why I’m glad that I don’t partake in any way. 

Keep “Wrighting” Off Brady at Your Own Peril: 

Every year like clockwork, the talk is always that “this could be it for Brady and the Patriots” and they begin throwing dirt on them long before the fat lady sings. This season has been a big struggle, offensive line issues, a revolving door of wide receivers, drops, injuries …you name it. Some of the talking heads can’t help but rub their hands with glee at every perceived slipup. 

But all week, it was the Patriots and not the Bills who played this one up as a playoff matchup and Buffalo’s very tough defense found out that playoff Brady is a different animal than the regular season one. You’d think that after 20 years, people would catch on the same film we’ve seen time and again. 

Brady channeled his best game of the season into a come-from-behind win on Saturday night. The best in the game always shine the brightest under the glare of the biggest lights in the biggest games. This was a big game and Brady looked laser-focused. 

He didn’t look anything like the guy who has struggled this season and the offense, against the #3 defense in the NFL was able to generate over 400 yards of offense. Someone wrote this week that he (Brady) looked like he doesn’t enjoy football anymore. 

Then we watched him throw a lead block on N’Keal Harry’s 18-yard run. Run a QB sneak for a 1st down and hook up with Edelman for a 30-yard gain on his first snap from scrimmage after missing about a quarter, going through concussion protocol.   

NFL Schedule Week 16, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 10-6
Season:141-82-1

Saturday Football –
Houston over Tampa
New England over Buffalo
San Francisco over LARams

Sunday
Pittsburgh over NYJets
New Orleans over Tennessee
Indianapolis over Carolina
Miami over Cincinnati
Baltimore over Cleveland
Atlanta over Jacksonville
NYGiants over Washington
Denver over Detroit
Oakland over LA Chargers
Seattle over Arizona
SNF Kansas City over Chicago
MNF Minnesota over Green Bay

Bye week: No teams

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Are Closing But Not Quite There Yet:

The Buffalo Bills had a legitimate shot at taking down the Patriots on Saturday although even with a win, the chances of them winning the division were rather remote as that would entail the Dolphins winning next week in Foxboro. But the Bills gave New England all they could handle and have narrowed the gap considerably. 

But in the end, they came oh-so-close but not close enough as they fell to 3-32 against Tom Brady. One thing is for sure, as the #5 seed in the playoffs, they are going to be a tough out to whomever they play (KC or Houston). 

Sean McDermott maybe is just 0-6 against Belichick, Brady and the Patriots, but the difference between now and a few years ago seems like light years ago. The division is going to be interesting from here on.  

Dolphins Gesicki Having Good 2nd Year, Working With Fitz:

The Miami Dolphins have been rebuilding in 2019 and cut loose many of the players they invested heavily in. But one of the players they kept and is paying dividends is TE Mike Geskicki. The 6’6, 250-pound tight end was used as more of an in-line blocking tight end in his rookie season by Adam Gase. But under Chad O’Shea, he’s lining up more as a “move” tight end and his production has doubled. 

He caught 22 passes in his rookie campaign and with two games to go against Cincinnati today and the Patriots next week, he has caught 41 for 454 yards and two scores. Not earth-shattering numbers but good enough for sixth in the AFC. 

Gesicki has loved playing with veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season.  “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been around, so it’s super easy to get along with him and play with him. It’s been great,” Gesicki said.

“He has great anticipation. He knows when things are going to happen before they happen. He obviously has a ton of experience, so to be able to play with him has been great for me and helped me get better.”

Jets Bell Will Face the Steelers for the 1st Time Today:

The New York Jets are playing out the season and will today face the Pittsburgh Steelers who currently hold the #6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. But for Le’Veon Bell, he’ll be facing his former team for the first time. 

Bell has had a down season, but that speaks more to what he has as an offensive line this season compared to what he had with the Steelers, rather than speaking to a loss of talent (Sony Michel bashers take note). Bell expects a ton of Steelers fans at MetLife Stadium today but isn’t sure what kind of reception he’ll get. 

 “I don’t know, honestly,” Bell said. “I think it will probably be 50/50. I think there will be half that will be happy to see me and still love me and half that hate me and despise me. It is what it is. I’m going to show love regardless. Everybody that’s wearing my jersey I’m going to go sign it and things like that. It’s going to be fun.”

“People look at the stats and they just go off of the stats,” Bell said. “I think people who understand football and break down the film and really watch it, they know exactly what’s going on and what type of player I am and how I’ve been performing,” he added. 

“Stats don’t really show how well I’ve been playing. Regardless of stats, I don’t really care what people think. I’ve been playing very good football and I’m continuing to get better. I’m smarter, learning a lot more as I continue to play. I’m healthy and I feel good in Week 16. I’m happy where I am.”

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Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. That’s what we’re here for. Yep. You work all year to put yourself in a position to play in a game like this where you can win the division. So, you couldn’t say that in Week 4, or Week 6, or Week 8 – whatever it was. Well, we’re saying that now, so now is the time for us to play and coach our best football. That’s what we’re all here for.” Bill Belichick on treating this week’s game like a playoff matchup. 

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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“The East is Not Enough” – Patriots Hold Off Bills 24-17

Steve Balestrieri
December 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm ET

Do you want a playoff atmosphere? You had it in spades today. The Patriots and Bills had a tremendous game with back and forth action and clutch plays by each team. But in the end, the Patriots made a few more plays than Buffalo did and scored 11 unanswered 4th quarter points for a come-from-behind 24-17 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

This win gives the Patriots an unprecedented 11th straight division crown. And a win next week assures them of no worse than the #2 seed and a bye in the playoffs. But it wasn’t easy or always pretty. But this is a mentally tough team and they never quit. 

Down 17-13 in the 4th quarter, they relied on Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Rex Burkhead who must love the cold weather because the past two seasons, he’s turned it up a notch in big games. Today was no exception. Down 17-16, Burkhead had a tremendous effort, breaking a tackle by Lorenzo Alexander in the backfield and keeping his feet and powered into the endzone with 5:06 remaining in the game and giving the Patriots the lead. They capped it off with a two-point conversion from Brady to Edelman to make it 24-17.

Edelman was out for a while, getting checked for a concussion. It happened on a play where Edelman got flagged for offensive pass interference that wiped out a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Ben Watson. We’re not going to get into the call or another on Watson that wiped out a huge first down by James White…

But after an impressive Bills drive got them with a first and goal with just under two minutes to go, the defense stiffened and made some huge stops when they had to. So, when the Patriots got into the locker room they had their hats and t-shirts for the division title, their 11th in a row. The message on the shirt, “The East is Not Enough”, and rightfully so. If they play like this, they can beat anyone. 

As we’ve been saying all year, this Buffalo team is tough, with a legit defense and they aren’t going away. They’ll be a tough out during the postseason. 

Some of our observations include:

The Patriots offense rolled up over 400 yards of offense against an outstanding defense of the Bills. And they had the balance they always seek with 271 yards through the air and 143 tough yards on the ground. While they struggled in the red zone again, this kind of offensive output has to be a sight for sore eyes. 

Tom Brady had his best game in quite a while. He looked spot on today and delivered the ball extremely well. Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a QB rating of 111. Maybe that sand in the hourglass isn’t quite ready to run out just yet? Hmm?

Burkhead, as we mentioned above, had a heckuva game, he carried the ball 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown and had 4 catches for 77 yards, shaking off an early fumble on the Patriots first possession. We pointed out in our keys that the way to beating the Bills defense was to get the running backs involved in the passing game. So with that…

Josh McDaniels gets a game ball. He called a tremendous game and they kept the Bills defense guessing all game long and they kept the tempo and pace in their own favor. McDaniels has had to be very creative with the offense struggling and he definitely was again today. 

Brian Daboll was equally creative for Buffalo. From the tackle eligible touchdown pass play to others, he was able to keep the Bills right on top through the 3rd quarter. This offense is going to get it together…it is easy to see it coming. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing for 96 yards on 21 carries with a 4.9-yard average. He frequently was making yardage after contact and kept his legs moving. 

The offensive line was outstanding, getting off the ball to rush for 143 yards on a very tough Bills defense and doing a much, much better job in pass protection allowing Brady to throw from a clean pocket for most of the game. 

The Patriots defense played tough when they had to, holding Josh Allen to just 176 yards net passing but gave up two big plays, a 33-yard strike from Allen to Dawson Knox just before the half, and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Allen to John Brown. 

Brown beat Stephon Gilmore with a double move but he passed him off inside to Devin McCourty. McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and under heavy pressure, Allen delivered another strike. Brown scored easily. 

Cole Beasley had another big day, catching 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot. Beasley has a habit of finding the open spots in the coverage and delivering. He’s a tough matchup and going back to the spring, I for one was hoping the Patriots would show some interest in picking him up. 

Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goal attempts including a 51-yarder that went right down the middle. It is nice to see the Patriots kicking game getting some traction. 

The defense did a great job of limiting Devin Singletary today. He averaged only 3.1 yards per rushing attempt (15 attempts, 46 yards) and just one catch for 2 yards. Meanwhile, Burkhead, White, and Michel combined for 9 catches, 106 yards. 

So the Patriots won their 12th game this season, the 12th time they’ve done so since the 1970 merger. They are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers with the most 12 win seasons since the merger. 

And the good news is, they are beginning to look playoff ready. With a win over Miami next Sunday in Foxboro, they’ll be 13-3 and getting that all-important bye week off to allow some of their banged-up players to get some much-needed rest. 

 

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Patriots – Bills Week 16, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 20, 2019 at 8:45 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up their 11th straight division title with a win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in Gillette Stadium. Unlike in years past where the crowning of the division title was a foregone conclusion, this year is very different.

Even with a win, the Bills in order to win the division would have to win next week and have the Patriots lose to the Dolphins. While still a possibility, it is rather remote at this point. However, Buffalo has already clinched a playoff spot of their own and are looking to carve out their own identity. And they’d like nothing more than to knock the Patriots out of a playoff bye.

That could possibly set up a third meeting between the two teams during Wildcard Weekend in two weeks. So, with a playoff bye and the division crown on the line, this IS a playoff atmosphere this week. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by NFL Network on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Mike Tirico will handle play-by-play duties with Kurt Warner as the color analyst. Peter Schrager 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 (11-3) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 34-13 and intercepted Andy Dalton four times, with Stephon Gilmore grabbing two, including a 64-yard pick-six.

The Bills (10-4) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 as the Bills also intercepted four passes and generated five turnovers in a big win for Bills.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 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 Bills have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 120th time the two teams have faced each other. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won six in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 75-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 34-5 against the Bills.

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 Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game finally showed some life last week in Cincinnati as they rolled up 175 yards on the ground in the win over the Bengals. Sony Michel led the way with 89 yards while Rex Burkhead ripped a nice 33-yard touchdown run.    

The Bills are 10th in the league against the run allowing just over 101 yards per game. They have the stout men upfront, Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips are good at stuffing things at the point of attack. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards at linebacker are very active and aggressive in run support. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run between the tackles. In this one guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the keys to whether they can get any sustained yardage on the ground. Getting those two out front and doing some damage at the second level will be imperative for the backs to get some traction.

Michel, Burkhead, and James White will be looked to keep the offense in manageable down and distance. In the first meeting, Brandon Bolden got a carry in the red zone and chipped in with a 4-yard touchdown run. Could we see him a bit? Possibly.          

Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots passing game has been consistently inconsistent for several weeks. Julian Edelman is banged up and clearly hobbling. He shouldn’t even play this week, or next. However, it is all hands on deck time and I expect we’ll see him out there. How effective will Edelman be? It is doubtful we’ll see anything close to his optimal game. But he’s as tough as they come and he’ll give what he has. 

The Bills pass defense is second only to the Patriots in stickiness to the wide receivers. They allow only 190.5 yards per game via the air. The Patriots and Bills are #1 – #2 in points allowed this season (12.9, 15.9 respectively). Tre’Davious White leads the secondary with six interceptions on the year. They have an excellent pass rush led by Phillips with 9.5 sacks, Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes, and Shaq Lawson who all can get after the opposing QB. Two excellent safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde solidify things in the middle. 

What the Patriots need …desperately is for someone else other than James White to step up. Mohamad Sanu and Phillip Dorsett have been MIA for weeks now and if there is ever a time for them to shine, now would be a nice weekend to get it going.  In the first meeting, Dorsett was targeted nine times and had two catches for 10 yards. Look for N’Keal Harry to see some more snaps and targets this week. 

If the Bills pass defense struggles in any area it would be (like New England) with backs out of the backfield in the screen game. That’s why we should see plenty of White and Burkhead in this one.

Next up the Bills offense:

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

The Patriots front seven, in particular, Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have been fantastic against the run. They’ve held up opponents at the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to flow and make plays. Guy leads the league in missing only one of 53 tackles. Shelton has missed two 52 of 54 tackle opportunities. 

Buffalo has a big bruising back (Frank Gore who gained 109 yards in the previous meeting) and a faster back who can challenge out of the backfield in Devin Singletary who missed the first game. The Bills will want to run the ball to make life easier on Josh Allen in this one and Singletary will present a tough matchup. 

This will be a big game for the Patriots linebackers to try to take the running game away. Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins will have to be active and sure in their tackling this week as the Patriots will try to force the issue and make Allen throw to win. 

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

The Bills passing game with Josh Allen is beginning to emerge as he gets more and more comfortable in the offense of Brian Daboll. They have an underrated pass receiving group with John Brown who has emerged as their #1 target, Cole Beasley out of the slot and talented TE Dawson Knox, with Singletary out of the backfield.

The Patriots are allowing just 170.9 yards per game through the air. Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding and is in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). He’ll be matched up with Brown. They’ll try to mix up their coverages and looks and try to bait Allen into making a mistake. 

The big matchup to watch this week is Beasley out of the slot. Jonathan Jones is out with a groin injury. Jason McCourty has been battling a groin injury of his own. Those two would be the top two choices to cover Beasley. If neither is available, rookie Joejuan Williams would probably see some action in there or the team may opt for a safety. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams units have been the key to a lot of success this season and certainly had a hand in the win over Buffalo earlier this season. They blocked the first of four punts and Matthew Slater scored a touchdown. Look for them to come after some of Corey Bojorquez’s punts in this one to help out the offense. Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season while Nick Folk has at least solidified the kicking game. Coverage on kicks has been outstanding while the return game has been poor. 

Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka has been very inconsistent this season and has missed several kicks that have influenced games with a lack of range this season. Bojorquez is very solid and the Bills have a dynamic returner in Andre Roberts. But home cooking gives the Patriots the edge here.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills (31-3) and since Brady became the starter in 2001, and are looking for a win that will give them their 12th win of the season for an amazing 13th time since the 1970 merger which would tie San Francisco for the most in the league.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Those late-season walkovers are a thing of the past and although the Bills have never beaten Brady in a meaningful game in New England (Sean McDermott is 0-5 overall), the tides are changing. This one is going to be a battle. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Must Be Effective – Look for the Patriots to try to run the ball between the tackles this week. They have to help out a passing game that is really struggling and going against an outstanding pass defense, this is imperative.

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White must be physical, and get yards after contact this week. The guards (as we pointed out earlier), have to win their matchups.

Get After Allen – With the Bills offense still a work in progress throwing the ball, Allen still has occasional issues with accuracy and is prone to make mistakes. The defense will have to force the issue this week. They can’t lay back and just try to contain Allen in the pocket, they will have to get after him hard this week. 

Both defenses will be aggressive this week, the Patriots’ unit will have to be better and and generate a turnover or two. 

Continue the Script – This week, that means playing tough opportunistic defense, having the special teams flip field position, and securing the football as well as generating some turnovers. The Patriots are well versed in playing in big games and always seem to turn it up a notch in those….This is a prime opportunity to do so again.

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This should be a tough, physical contest… and a very low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo is just beginning to learn how to win. They’ve been given very little respect on the national stage. But a win over Dallas on Thanksgiving where they curb stomped the Cowboys started to change the narrative a bit. A win in Pittsburgh last week was impressive and now they are taking on their nemesis in the division. 

They have had zero success here in New England during the Brady/Belichick era but feel they have the team to create a new order in the AFC East. Is it this year? 

The Patriots have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion and they’ll have to once again. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and a huge stop late in the game to salt away another division crown.  Patriots17-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns for the final regular-season game of 2019 at home when the Pats take on the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

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 and breakdown game analysis

New England Patriots News 12-08, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 8, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-08 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are back at home to take on the Chiefs in the late afternoon game later today. 

Yesterday was Pearl Harbor Day and we paused to remember those Americans who died that day as we were thrust into World War II. Today, 78 years ago, we declared war on Japan and the world changed forever. 

The weather isn’t supposed to be a factor in Foxboro this week for a change and the Patriots finish with three of their final four games at home. With KC, Buffalo, and Miami on the slate, they only travel to Cincinnati to finish off the year. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Nick Folk – The veteran kicker is back with the team according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Folk suffered appendicitis and was released for Kai Forbath But after one week, and an extra point miss, Forbath is gone and Folk is back. 

Dez Bryant – Is the latest contestant for “Whose Name Can We Throw at a Wall at WR?” Dez Bryant! Come on Down! Please stop with the nonsense, the team is going to bring in a guy who doesn’t know the offense and has played for two years with a month to go in the season? Ah, we’ll take the under.

Some of the tweets this week have been unintentionally hilarious. I saw two different folks begging Kraft to allow AB to return as “Patriots Nation is suffering”, sorry, but if there is one fan base that ISN’T suffering it is this one. 

Bart Scott –  Is the latest NFL player that seemingly has a future in politics. Just like nearly every candidate has a preponderance to spout “facts” without checking, Scott was the latest hot take artist to firmly place his foot in his mouth (again). “They’ve (Patriots) never won when they had to go on the road!” Sounds great on tape for the anti-NE crowd. But rewind to January…AFCCG in Arrowhead. Not to mention not one but two conference title games in Pittsburgh…oops.

My Cause, My Cleats – Lots of good entries from the Patriots this season. I like all of them. But sorry, Alejandro Villanueva of Pittsburgh gets my vote with a cause that close to my heart, (and one I’ve donated to), the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. 

Villanueva was a Lieutenant in the 75th Ranger Regiment and did multiple combat tours in Afghanistan. Was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor. The SOWF helps families and children of our Special Operations warriors who have been killed or severely wounded in combat. Hey Bill, there’s an Army guy worth having…just sayin’.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

McDaniels, Caserio Already On the Hot List of Hires: 

Bill Belichick has always had to retool his coaching staff and front office people seemingly every year. This spring was no exception as the team lost a slew of coaches including the de facto Defensive Coordinator and all of the defensive staff save Belichick’s own son Steve.  

And although we’re only three-quarters of the way through the 2019 season, a couple of names are already surfacing on other team’s radar. Josh McDaniels and Nick Caserio are once again two of the hottest names to be mentioned as being coveted by other teams. 

Caserio has been courted twice by the Houston Texans. Houston was even charged with tampering by New England this spring. Now Houston, as of last week, stated that they’re fine with having no GM and allowing Bill O’Brien to run the show as the head coach and de facto GM. Don’t believe it. O’Brien smartly deflected it as to avoid another tampering charge. Look for Houston to make another big push for his services as Caserio’s chances of landing an extension in New England are slim. 

Josh McDaniels has already been rumored to be on the Dallas Cowboys’ radar as well as the Carolina Panthers who have fired head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera was always a highly thought of coach despite three winning seasons in nine years at the helm. The Dallas job would carry plenty of prestige (and no doubt a high salary) but with the meddling Jerry Jones trying to own, act as the general manager, and be the de facto head coach is not a good situation for any coach. 

Tom Brady Leaving? Too Soon for That Talk:

You know the post-season is approaching when all of the talk is designed to scare the snot out of Patriots fans. “Is This the Year they Fall?”, “The Pats Can’t Win on the Road”, and now with four games to play and the team just a tie-breaker out of the top seed in the AFC, “Are We Seeing the End of Tom Brady in NE?” 

Aren’t we used to this by now? It isn’t a NE post-season upcoming without a writer from the “network” trying to dig up some dirt, or in the case of this fall, writing a bunch of words without saying a single thing, or some other pseudo-controversy. Now its Brady.

Tom Brady’s status is in doubt… something we’ve known since the spring. (SBalestrieri)

Look Brady may well be done in New England after this season, he could retire, he could become a free agent and sign to be the quarterback of the London Silly Nannies (Family Guy reference). Or he could pack Gisele and the kinder up and decide to run for political office. 

Honestly, (and excuse my French), I don’t give a shit. And neither should you. This isn’t breaking news, we’ve known this since the spring.  There are four more games left to play and then the playoffs beckon. This season there are so many intriguing storylines to watch, it would a shame to be sidetracked by needless worrying over silly crap that won’t be addressed until after the season is over. The endless fodder with that is just rot.

And when the season is over, hopefully, with the team making one more trip to Miami, there will be plenty of time for the doom-sayers to sound the death knell and begin the mourning phase for the franchise. But for now, just ignore the same old BS and enjoy the ride. 

NFL Schedule Week 14, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 5-11 (ouch)
Season:121-70-1

Thursday Night Football
Dallas over Chicago 0-1 

Sunday
Atlanta over Carolina
Indianapolis over Tampa Bay
NY Jets over Miami
SF 49ers over New Orleans
Minnesota over Detroit
Houston over Denver
Baltimore over Buffalo
Cleveland over Cincinnati
Green Bay over Washington
LA Chargers over Jacksonville
Pittsburgh over Arizona
Oakland over Tennessee
New England over Kansas City
SNF Seattle over LA Rams
MNF Philadelphia over NY Giants

Bye week: No teams

Thursday Night Football – Baltimore over NYJets

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Tremendous Opportunity At Their Doorstep:

The Buffalo Bills are the NFL’s biggest secret at 9-3. Nobody has (other than in Western NY) given them much love this season. They’ve been virtually ignored as being a “fluke team from the woeful AFC East” so far. They did get a few raised eyebrows when they curb-stomped Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, but the Cowboys have been in free fall. But all of that can change today. 

They have the opportunity, and the personnel to knock off the mighty Baltimore Ravens today and vault themselves right into the mix of the AFC race. That will be no easy task, but they’ll be at home in front of a loud, raucous crowd and have the defense to slow down the Ravens. If they were to upset Baltimore, it opens up a lot of different scenarios. 

A Bills win with a Patriots loss sets up a game in two weeks for the AFC East crown. And coincidentally, another Buffalo win there puts them where? The #1 seed. Now, there is a ton of ifs there, but for the first time in a very long time, the Bills can control their own destiny come playoff time and actually host a playoff game.  

Dolphins Staff Has Weathered the Storm :

The Miami Dolphins have played hard for head coach Brian Flores and his new coaching staff all season long in a rebuilding year. But they’ve remained competitive and won a couple of ballgames and that has the needle pointing up in Miami. 

Miami’s staff is free of the distractions of whether or not they’ll be here next year and can go about the business of building a better team in 2020. Cleveland, Cincinnati, the NY Giants, Dallas and the Dolphins’ opponent today the NY Jets all face wholesale changes. 

Flores is building something in South Beach, whether or not he can take Miami back up to the level where they aspire to be, will in no small way go to whether they can find a franchise QB next spring. Tua look good in teal?

Jets May Have to Go Without Bell Today:

The New York Jets have a game at home with the Miami Dolphins today. But they may have to go without their $52.5 million dollar running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell has missed practice for two straight days with an illness. 

 “I don’t know. They just said it was an illness. He’s sick,” coach Adam Gase said. “It’s probably the same thing that’s going on with a lot of these other teams. The biggest thing was getting him checked out and then getting him out of the building so nobody else gets sick.”

Bell has averaged just 3.2 yards per rush this season, his first with the Jets and his first without that stellar offensive line of the Steelers to run behind. Which shows how important that line is to running backs (take not Sony Michel haters). The Jets and Miami are playing today for the purpose of who has the ignominious title of being in last place in the division. Tickets are readily available. 

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Well, the more you see them, the more you can get used to playing them. One of the problems with the RPO play, just in general, is just the offensive pass interference and blocking down field conflicting with the pass. So, if it’s a run, it’s no problem. If the ball actually gets thrown, like what happened last week in the Houston game – it was called once. I would say any time you run that play there’s some degree of, “Is there blocking down field or not?” Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. It’s a tough call for the officials, but that’s sort of what that play – the complications of that play defensively.”Bill Belichick being asked about how difficult it is to defend the RPO (run/pass option).

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“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

No Panic Necessary, Patriots To Stay the Course With the Offense in 2019

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

The Patriots offense has been scuffling along for the majority of the 2019 season and we’re now three-quarters of the way through. The team struggles in the red zone, on third down and doesn’t seem to have an offensive identity. 

Much of the fanbase has descended into full-blown panic mode, begging the owner of the team to sign one of the most self-centered players to suit up in the NFL within memory. Forgetting that the same player has only himself to blame for his ouster. All he had to do was shut up and play football. That was too much to ask. Ciao…

So, with the offensive struggles, we’ve heard the same things, we hear every year, “the Patriots are done, Brady is done, they can’t win…yawn. Wash, rinse, and repeat. As my friend Terry said the other day, “Bashing Tom Brady has become a cottage industry.”

After the loss to the Texans that dropped the team to 10-2, (gasp, how horrible!) the crescendo rose even louder. But what about the Patriots? Is there any panic coming from Gillette Stadium? Nope. Frustration, sure, who wouldn’t be? 

Flashback to Week 15 last year, the offense was ugly in the 17-10 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh and everyone (again) wrote the team off. They figured things out and then won their last two games of the regular season averaging 31 points and then three playoff games where they averaged 30 more.

We’re in Week 13 now, with the Chiefs who are playing much better now than they were about a month or two ago. So, they have a month instead of two weeks to figure it out. 

I know, I know, “this team doesn’t have that feeling that they can turn it around” right? How many times have we heard that one? The issues on offense, HAVE been consistent, so is the panic justified this time or is it just more of the same old rot?

However, the fact remains that what ails this offense is execution issues. The plays are there, they’re schemed up but for some reason, aren’t getting done.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been one to say that they lack speed on the outside and it influences the way opponents play them. And I’ll stand by that, however, (comma), the Patriots have never really had a bunch of speedy wide receivers. 

So, what’s the difference this year (so far), execution. Just like Bill Belichick says all the time that pass defense is a combination of pass coverage and pass rush, the passing game is a combination of three things. 

The offensive line has to give the quarterback enough protection to allow him to go through his progressions to hit the open receiver. The wide receivers have to run precise routes and be on the same page as the quarterback in terms of route selection. And the quarterback has to make his reads and deliver the ball accurately to where the receivers are. 

Too often this year, one or more of those three items have broken down, sometimes several on the same play. These items are still fixable. Two of the wide receivers (Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry) are rookies with Harry only playing in a couple of games due to injury. Mohamad Sanu came over in midseason from the Falcons and may still be hobbled a bit by his ankle injury. 

Phillip Dorsett is coming off a concussion, however, he’s now in his third season with the Patriots and his production is far from what it should be now. It seems like ages ago we were discussing his streak of completed passes thrown his way. 

All of them can be better, and in doing so, take some of the pressure off Julian Edelman. 

The offensive line has been in flux all season. Isaiah Wynn was taking over at left tackle and then was injured and put on IR. He’s been back just two games. David Andrews was lost for the year on IR, Ted Karras took over at center, now he’s hurt and may miss a few weeks. Marcus Cannon has been fighting an illness for two weeks. And Shaq Mason just isn’t having the type of season we’re accustomed to seeing from him. 

We have seen some improvement in the run blocking, the team ran for a season-high 145 yards on Sunday, facing a team (KC) that is pretty awful at defending the run (141.3-yard average), it is imperative that they run the ball well. 

Which leads us to Brady. Of course, the national bobos who glance at stats and will have you believe that he’s done have been saying that BS for years. But if you see the game and not just watch it, the truth says differently. Can he be better? Of course, but the lack of a running game, hit or miss protection and an inexperienced WR core have taken its toll. Is the trust factor real or imagined? I tend to believe it, but some ex-players have pooh-poohed the idea as overrated.

Josh McDaniels on a conference call with the media earlier today (Dec.4) spoke about what the team needs to do to right the ship. 

“I think there’s a lot of factors in the passing game that would determine what being on the same page really means, but practice, repetition – there’s no shortcut to it, he said. 

“Every rep we take in practice, every pass we throw, every side session that we’re able to take part in, every conversation, every one-on-one drill that we do in practice, every film session that we’re in, it just continues to try to build off of the last one. I think patience is something that – I know everybody wants everything to be a finished product, and we do too, but at the same time you have to understand there’s going to be a process and we’re going to try to stick to it.” 

He added, “We have to be committed to it, and we know that it’s productive when we stay the course and continue to coach the right things and fix the right things and then the players go out and make corrections and they have success with it.”

There is a month to go, tough matchups with KC and Buffalo are at home where they tend to play better. Those games are sandwiched around their last away game in Cincinnati and at home against Miami. Both of those are eminently winnable. 

They have a month to figure things out, can they do it? While many people tend to think that they can’t, their track record speaks otherwise. 

I’ve seen many, too many posts that say… “There’s no way they beat Kansas City this week!” I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid this week and say the offense plays much better and begins to turn things around. 

Who knows? That’s why they play the games. Check back later tomorrow and we’ll have the breakdown of the Chiefs game and the key matchups.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Texans Dominate Listless Patriots 28-22, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 2, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

It appeared that the plane carrying the players suffering from the flu was the only one that landed in Houston this weekend. The Patriots looked like a team suffering from a malaise that had them as a group, a step (or two) slower than the Texans. 

Houston dominated this game completely for about 50 minutes and then went to sleep, playing soft defense that allowed the Patriots to make the score much, much closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field. They nearly gave it away as Brandon Bolden got a hand on an onside kick that bounced just out of his reach or Houston may have given the game away completely. 

But don’t let that distract from the fact that the Patriots looked terrible all game long. The offense is adrift with no identity, no separation from their receivers, no team speed, and right now no answers.

Worse, the defense, which has been the strength of this team all season long looked slow, out of sorts and out-coached on Sunday night. And if the Texans made the defense look slow, the team has Kansas City next up on the slate. They blew out the Raiders earlier on Sunday.

The ugly loss in Houston, knocked the Patriots out of the #1 seed as the Baltimore Ravens now own that, courtesy of a knock-down, drag-out last-second win over the San Francisco 49ers. But the Patriots now have to look over their shoulder in the division at the 9-3 Buffalo Bills who are now just a game back. 

Here are four main observations from the game:

The Offense is Adrift In a Sea Of Mediocrity: 

Perhaps even mediocre is a stretch right now. This offense right now looks terrible. And there aren’t any excuses anymore about guys being injured. All week, we said that there was a chance that everyone could be back (they were) this week and that the Patriots offense would have their full complement of weapons (they did) as they’d have for the rest of the season. And if this is what they have, then it is a scary proposition. 

The lack of speed on this offense right now is alarming. Opposing defenses now know that they have to double cover Julian Edelman. And because of the dearth of speed outside, they can afford to put a safety on James White, because they don’t fear any of the other receivers or tight ends. 

As a result, the number of targets successfully completed to either Edelman or White has dropped. Last night Brady was just 14 of 23 targeting those two. And yes, many of those came in garbage time. The secondary players have to step up and make the defense pay. They haven’t and last night was a microcosm of what this offense is suffering from. The remaining receivers were targeted 23 times by Tom Brady and he completed only 10 of those. 

Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu were targeted 11 times and they combined for 5 catches for 29 yards. That just isn’t going to cut it in any way, shape or form. That is averaging just 2.6 yards per target and under 6 yards per reception. 

And it isn’t like the Texans have some sort of juggernaut defense. They entered the game with a suspect run defense and a pass defense that had been burned for most of the season. The shut down the receivers and blanketed them far too easily.

Coaching Staff Made Some Curious Decisions:

The Patriots usually are the ones who make the opposition crap their pants and make decisions that go a long way toward New England coming away with a win. In Houston, it was their turn to wear the propeller hat.

Down 14-3 late in the first half, they faced a 4th and 10 from the Houston 39-yard line with just 26 seconds to go. A first down would have given them a chance to at least kick a field goal to go into halftime with a bit of momentum and the opportunity to double score. 

Instead, they opt to punt conceding a scoring chance, which says a lot on how they feel right now about this offense and the lack of trust they had last night with the defense being able to stop Houston with 20 seconds to go. 

In the second half, they seemed to abandon the running game far too quickly, rendering Sony Michel to the bench. We thought that they would be able to run the ball against the Texans defense and in the first half, they did so, fairly effectively. This put even more pressure on a moribund passing game. 

James White ran effectively later in the game, but much of that had to do with Houston just trading space for time after they opened up a big lead. 

Then in the second half, after they scored a touchdown, they lined up to go for two. Seeing something they didn’t like with the Houston alignment on defense, instead of calling a time out, they took the five-yard penalty and then flipflopped, opting to kick the extra point. Kai Forbath then hooked it badly left…Ugly. 

And Then There is Harry:

Patriots 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry was used as a blocker on the early drive and performed well, showing the willingness and ability to use his size and physicality to their advantage.  Then came Brady’s interception.

Harry ran a slant from the left side on a 3rd and 4 and allowed Bradley Roby, who gave him a slight tug on the jersey, to get inside and pick off Brady. Harry slowed his route, something he can’t do and didn’t use his body effectively enough. It was a rookie mistake and one that has to be corrected. 

But that was it essentially for Harry for the night. He had played 12 snaps up to that point. He wasn’t totally benched but only played 10 snaps the rest of the game. And wasn’t targeted again. We’ll have to rewatch the tape, but I didn’t see him in the second half. 

It doesn’t matter whose decision it was, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Brady, but this is the kind of situation that needs to be looked at. Granted Harry made a mistake, but for him to get completely frozen out for the rest of the game over it? Ouch. And it wasn’t like the rest of the receivers were lighting it up making him expendable. 

Where do we go from here? Good question…

Texans’ Coaches Had the Patriots Defense Figured Out: 

This was a great coaching job by Houston and flawlessly executed by QB Deshaun Watson. The Patriots were a bit passive early and dropped back in zone coverage, respecting their speed at wide receiver and Watson’s ability to move in the pocket. 

When the Patriots played that way, Watson immediately targeted the middle of the field in the sweet spot and was hitting on those passes easily. Or they’d isolate a linebacker in coverage with Duke Johnson out of the backfield, which was a mismatch. 

When they switched to man coverage and specifically to their Cover 0 technique, the Texans went deep. Their speed (unlike New England) was on full display, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, and Will Fuller gave them problems in this look.

The pass rush wasn’t much of a factor for much of this game, which hurt. And then when it did get home, Watson escaped with a great move and kept a drive alive which resulted in a Houston touchdown.

Give a ton of credit to Houston’s offensive game plan, they knew what they wanted to do and executed it extremely well. 

So, the Patriots return home at 10-2 with the Chiefs coming into town with many more questions than answers on this snowy Monday morning.

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

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

New England Patriots News 11-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 24, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-24 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are back home to face the Dallas Cowboys later this afternoon. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Bill Belichick – As part of the NFL’s Top 100 Panelists, is it any wonder that Bill would rave about one of the last of the two-way specialists, Earl “Dutch” Clark who played for the Portsmouth Spartans? Last full-time player to drop kick. On Jim Brown, Belichick said, “I’d still put him in there on 3rd and 1.”

Rob Gronkowski – Is holding a beach party on Super Bowl Sunday… that was his big announcement on Tuesday. If you expected anything else, shame on you. He’s made it clear that he’s in a good place with his retirement. He just hints around that he may not be done just yet. It is sinking the hook into a fanbase that is desperate for him to return. As I said earlier this week on the Pats UK Podcast, if he was coming back, the Patriots would have announced the press conference. 

Look, he put up with a bunch of injuries and surgeries and was always the good, loyal soldier who busted his tail for the team and the league. If he can use his fame to further his own business ventures….more power to him. 

AB – Now that Gronk isn’t coming back, Patriots fans are clamoring for AB to return. It is really a panic move as they’re convinced that the Patriots can’t win #7 without bringing AB back to the offense. Brown’s apology looked suspiciously like Drew Rosenhaus wrote it up, right down to the semicolon. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Myles Garrett Suspension Upheld: 

The NFL has upheld the Browns player’s indefinite suspension. One interesting tidbit was that Garrett in his appeal said that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur towards him in the moments immediately before Garrett ripped off Mason’s helmet and swung it, hitting the Steelers QB over the head with it. 

The Steelers were justifiably ticked that Garrett used this ploy to lessen his suspension now when prior to his hearing, he hadn’t said a word about this, which makes it quite unbelievable. 

In fact, when he apologized to the Steelers and Rudolph on the day after the game, he didn’t utter a word about this. “Last night, I made a terrible mistake. I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable. I know that we are all responsible for our actions and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward. I want to apologize to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organization, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake and I fully intend to do so.”

The NFL replayed its on-field audio and could find no such thing was uttered by Rudolph. Timothy Younger, Rudolph’s attorney made the following statement: “According to ESPN, in his appeal, Myles Garrett falsely asserted that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur toward him, prior to swinging a helmet at Mason’s uncovered head, in a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett. The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment.”

Isaiah Wynn Will Return Today, Coaches Confident on His Impact :

Isaiah Wynn has been activated and should see his first action since September later today against the Cowboys. While we believe he’ll definitely help the Patriots offense, we have tempered our expectations a bit. But the Patriots coaches are having no such thoughts. In fact quite the opposite. 

Running back coach, Ivan Fears, normally a man who gives faint praise, surprisingly was quite confident. Asked how much Wynn could help, he said: “A lot,” running backs coach Ivan Fears replied. “We were just talking about it. Isaiah is a very good football player. He’s a talented athlete that’s got a great love for the game and he’s got a little nastiness, which is what you need. Having him back in there will make a world of difference when it comes to making some of the blocks that we like to see that guy make — and I think he’s capable of doing that stuff. That’s probably going to open a hole here or there.”

“ I think right now, what we’re seeing is a guy that’s really, completely healthy. Stronger than he’s been,” said Dante Scarnecchia. “We thought he was a good player when we went into the season and we still think even that much more of him now.”

“I really like Isaiah,” Scarnecchia added. “I like the person. I like the player. We all like the person and we like the player. We’ve just gotta keep him out there. That’s really important.”

Bill Belichick chimed in as well. “Isaiah always works hard,” Belichick said. “He did a lot of scout team work to get his timing back and all of that, so working against a defense. But yeah, he works hard and he’s always ready to go.”

Sanu and Dorsett Are Questionable Today: 

As the Patriots get ready to play Dallas this afternoon, they are physically beaten up and have 12 players listed on the injury report. QB Tom Brady headlines the list with an elbow injury that just popped up on the report, but he’s expected to play. Right now, however, the big names that are questionable are WRs Mohamed Sanu and the Phillip Dorsett. 

With a Patriots offense that is struggling to move the ball consistently and score in the red zone, losing both of those players will really put a damper on the offense if they can’t play today. Sanu injured his ankle returning a punt against the Eagles and Dorsett suffered a concussion after he was drilled in the aftermath of his touchdown catch. 

The Patriots listed as questionable to play include: QB Tom Brady (right elbow), RB Damien Harris (hamstring), WR Mohamed Sanu (ankle), WR Phillip Dorsett (concussion), WR Julian Edelman (shoulder), WR Matthew Slater (hamstring), OT Marcus Cannon (illness), DE John Simon (elbow), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee), CB Jason McCourty (groin), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), S Nate Ebner (ankle/back)

NFL Schedule Week 12, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 13-1
Season:105-56-1

TNF Houston over Indy 1-0

Seattle over Philadelphia
Detroit over Washington
Oakland over NY Jets
New Orleans over Carolina
Cleveland over Miami
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Chicago over NY Giants
Buffalo over Denver
Tampa Bay over Atlanta
Tennessee over Jacksonville
Dallas over New England
SNF 49ers over Green Bay
MNF Baltimore over LA Rams

Bye week: Arizona, Kansas City, Minnesota, LA Chargers

Week 13 Thanksgiving Day Football
Detroit over Chicago
Dallas over Buffalo
New Orleans over Atlanta 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Tough Four-Game Stretch Upcoming:

The Buffalo Bills are 7-3 and off to their best start in 20 years, but although the defense is playing very well, the offense can’t seem to get untracked or find an identity. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll is trying to find a package that works. But after the Bills game against Denver today, they have a very tough four games that may define their season. 

The Bills go to Dallas, come home against the Baltimore Ravens and then go back on the road in back-to-back weeks against the Steelers and Patriots before closing out at home against the Jets. 

How the Bills fare in those four big games, with three of them on the road will go a long way in determining if they are playing in the playoffs or going home. The Bills have only made the playoffs once in 20 years and that was a one and done 10-3 loss.This year’s Buffalo team seems much better designed and constructed to handle tough games down the stretch. 

Dolphins Facing a Browns Defense Missing 6 Week 1 Starters:

The Miami Dolphins are taking on the Cleveland Browns today and the Browns have a bunch of players who are missing. Morgan Burnett injured his Achilles and is out this week.  Both Myles Garrett (suspended for the remainder of the season) and Larry Ogunjobi (suspended 1 game) are both going to be missing for their roles in the melee at the end of the Steelers game. 

But the Browns have had a slew of injuries on their defense. Sunday they could be without six of their original Week 1 starters on defense. That could play into the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins offense. 

Or will it be Josh Rosen? With Miami not going anywhere this season, there is some noise about replacing Fitzpatrick with Rosen to end the regular season and build for the future. Will that hold Rosen? Or will they look to the draft (still Tua?) to find their franchise QB? 

Jets Face Big Test in the Raiders At Home:

The New York Jets have built up a little bit of momentum winning their last two games against the Giants and Redskins but now face a much tougher test against a Raiders team that is in the playoff hunt. And the defense will be looking to set the tone. 

The Raiders have a very tough, physical offensive line and running back Josh Jacobs, the league’s 4th leading rusher has run for 100 yards or more in four of his last six games. But the Raiders have also given up six sacks in their last two games and that may be a key to a win today. 

While Derek Carr is completing 72 percent of his passes thus far this season, look for Gregg Williams to attack the Raiders with blitzes and over-pressure to force the issue. “We don’t catch and react. We’re an attacking defense and you’ve got to do a really, really, really good job on not letting them get outside,” Williams said. 

“When you let them get outside, it’s a tough game to play because now you’ve got to match up with them in space. If your athlete isn’t as good as their athlete – they do a good job. Tom Cable, Jon Gruden, that staff is a really, really good staff on running the football and we’ve got our work cut out for us this week.”

________________

Yeah, we’ll share it when the injury report comes out after practice. I’ll make sure you get a copy. No point in guessing on it. Might as well go out and practice, see what they can do, and make an accurate report. I’m not going to sit here and try to ouija board it here this morning, tell you how a guy is going to feel before he’s gone out and done anything. I mean, that wouldn’t be responsible on my part.”Bill Belichick being asked if he had a sense on the status of Sanu and Dorsett. When pressed if he’d share, this was his answer.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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