Tag Archives: Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots News 01-06, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 6, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-06, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

No…This IS 41: Last week in the aftermath of the Jets game, another hot-take artist of Fox Sports radio with an ax to grind, first complained that the league conspired to get the Patriots the bye because of what he called a terrible call of roughing the passer by the Jets against Brady. “NFL badly needed the Patriots to get that #2 seed. This call is total garbage. Patriots eventually score, up 21-3.”

Then he cherry-picked a missed throw by Brady to Hogan in the end zone to claim, “This is 41.” The funny part was the next day, he called out another writer for having a “garbage take” on the Antonio Brown saga. Glass houses, especially when in the game against the Jets, Brady completed over 70 percent of his throws, threw 4 TDs and had a passer rating of 133.8.

But we can cherry pick too, so…here’s your “This is 41”

Did you Know? Since 2001, the Patriots have had 13 byes, the most in the NFL. The next closest teams are the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers with 5. This is the ninth consecutive year earning a bye, the most prior to this Patriots run has been four. . Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995 and Denver had four straight from 2012 through 2015.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The only NFL team to win a championship and is no longer in the league was from New England. The Providence Steamroller was part of the league from 1925 -1931 and won the NFL Championship in 1928. Besides being one of two teams (Chicago Cardinals) to be the first to play a night game in 1929, Providence, due to a scheduling snafu and bad weather played four games in a six-day stretch which the night game, attended by 6000 fans was the second game of the stretch.

Patriots Unveil 2018 Playoff Motto: The Patriots, as part of their M.O., have unveiled a motto for the playoffs this year, “Everything We Got.” They unveiled a short video that showed many of the national pundits calling for the demise of the Pats dynastic run.

Then the video shows the team in a quick series of vignettes and then the narrator says:
To get everything,
It’s going to take everything.
So we’re going to give everything.
EVERYTHING WE GOT.

Is it as good as “Do Your Job”? Nope. But it is a step up from “One More” in our opinion. Enjoy the Wildcard Weekend’s slate of the games. There were 12 good teams entering the playoffs this weekend, 11 of them will lose their last game of the year. That’s why our motto, which we’d steal from Hollywood, would be. “There Can Be Only One!”

With McDaniels and Flores Being Courted, Focus on O’Shea, Bielema:

Like clockwork, the staff of Bill Belichick is being raided again as multiple teams have requested interviews with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores. McDaniels is rumored to be the top choice for the Green Bay Packers and is very much in the mix for Cleveland, he turned down a request to interview with Cincinnati. It might sound strange but the better job overall and probably better for McDaniels may be Cleveland.

The Packers have a 36-year old QB who got his last coach fired. The offense runs through Rodgers, it is doubtful, he’s going to want to learn a new system at this stage of his career. Cleveland has a good young defense, an exciting rookie QB that knows how to win and is a team trending up.

But we digress… If one, or both leave who will take over the reins as the coordinators for the Patriots in 2019? On offense, it seems like a no-brainer in that Chad O’Shea will take over the play calling there. He’s been being groomed for that spot for some time now. O’Shea has been with the team for 10 years and called the plays during the preseason last summer. That one seems like a slam-dunk. However, O’Shea’s name is being floated around as a possible Offensive Coordinator for Matt Patricia in Detroit. We’ll have to monitor that situation.

Defensively, the situation will be difficult as they have no clear-cut coach lined up to take the reins. In reality, Flores isn’t even a “true” defensive coordinator, as he’s not been even given the title of it yet… why, is a story for another time.

Bill Belichick would probably take most of the onus on himself as the defensive coordinator for 2019, however, there isn’t a clear-cut successor ready yet. The best choice? Bret Bielema who was a head coach at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Brendan Daly, who coaches the Defensive Line, may become a candidate in a year or two, but right now, the odds would be against him.

AB to the Pats? Not Happening:

When the news broke about the deteriorating situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, it was amazing how dysfunctional that team truly is. Mike Tomlin has always run a loose ship and that has come home to roost. But as soon as the story broke about Brown requesting a trade, Patriots fans jumped all over the story, wanting Belichick to swing a deal for Brown.

But there is no way that’s happening. For one, the Steelers would still be on the hook for Brown’s huge 2019 cap hit. They’ll probably try to mend the relationship between Brown, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Tomlin. Barring that, if they do decide to trade him, one place they never would trade Brown to would be New England.

And as ridiculously talented Brown is, I can’t imagine that there would be a mutual interest in bringing him here. Can you imagine Brown’s Facebook Live video going on while Belichick is addressing the team in a post-game setting? And Brown, although in the midst of a terrific season, was mad because Roethlisberger was making JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had an even better 2018, the focal point. I can’t see Brown accepting a role where he’s not “the guy” that the offense runs thru.

After last season and the tabloid-like story on the divorce of Brady/Belichick, while the team was going 13-3 and on their way to another Super Bowl, is there going to be a big breaking piece on the disintegration of the Steelers’ locker room? Their two most talented offensive players quit on their team this season…but we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Young QBs Have Fans Excited in Several Markets:

The NFL had an influx of young QBs this year and many of them played big roles for their teams right off the bat. And it is a great thing for several NFL franchises that have been downtrodden for a number of years as these young QBs generate hope and excitement for the next generation.

The league has their established stars in QBs like Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers but the story this season really wasn’t about any of them but Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, while technically not a rookie lit the league on fire this fall. While perennial bottom feeders in Cleveland now have an exciting young QB, Baker Mayfield who has instantly brought hope and respectability to the franchise. Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have had different levels of success but at least have their fans tuning in.

No one knows if any of these young studs can keep up the long-term success that they’ve found in their first year of playing.  There are no guarantees, injuries occur as well as other issues that can arise, but right now, the 2019 season looks to be, on paper one to really look forward to.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions:

Last week: 12-4 Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:

Saturday – Houston over Indy,
                 Seattle over Dallas
Sunday –   Baltimore over LA Chargers (tough start time for West Coast teams)
                Chicago over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have Their Man in Josh Allen, Now Need a Surrounding Cast:

The Buffalo Bills picked their guy in the QB Class of 2018 in the person of Allen, the big, strong-armed youngster from Wyoming who had a very up-and-down year, which isn’t a rarity for rookie QBs.

Allen has some obvious flaws in his game. He can be woefully inaccurate at times, but those are mechanical issues that can be solved thru coaching. But for a big guy (6’5, 237) he runs deceptively fast from the pocket.

The Bills need to surround Allen with better weapons next year. Although they have Zay Jones and Robert Foster, they could use another WR, RB, TE and a heckuva lot better support along the offensive line.

Allen ended the season in dramatic fashion, throwing for three TDs and running for two more, the first Bills QB to account for five TDs in a game since Jim Kelly. That left fans in Western NY, itching for a winner, looking forward to 2019. That may even stop them from throwing sex toys on the field during games… Maybe not.

Dolphins Search For the Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins, in a mild surprise, fired head coach Adam Gase after the season was over, but the way the team finished their final quarter of the season, it shouldn’t have been. After an improbable, last-second fluke win over the Patriots, Miami was blown out in Minnesota, lost by 10 to Jacksonville and by 25 to Buffalo.

The Dolphins are busy trying to find their next head coach. GM Chris Grier has interviewed the Patriots’ Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and now are set to interview Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. For Bieniemy, this season was just his first as a coordinator but it was his fourth interview this week. He also met with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other names included in the search include Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Dolphins’ Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi.

Jets May Have Interest in Baylor HC Matt Ruhle :

The New York Jets are in Texas this weekend, interviewing Cowboys’ assistant coach Kris Richard but multiple sources are reporting that the Jets may also have a lot of interest in Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle.

Ruhle would be an interesting choice as he’s been instrumental in turning around a couple of college programs. Ruhle was born in New York City and spent a year on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an assistant offensive line coach.

He was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Temple before becoming the head coach for four seasons. His last two in Temple, the team won 10 games, the only time in the program’s history that they accomplished that.  He then moved to Baylor to a program that had been rocked by a sexual assault scandal. In 2017, his team went 1-11. This season, they went 7-6. Ruhle got some interest from the Colts last year in their coaching search. He’d be a good coach it is believed to work with Sam Darnold.

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.

Patriots Week 16 Report Card, Hats and T-Shirts in Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
December 25, 2018 at 7:59 am ET

The Patriots returned home and the results were much better than the previous two weeks as they clinched the AFC East with a 24-12 win over Buffalo. The defense held the Bills to just a pair of field goals until a late garbage-time touchdown, the offense rolled up 273 yards on the ground, and they got some splash from their special teams.

The win, coupled with the Texans loss vaulted the Patriots right back into the #2 seed and a bye if the season ended today. They could be the #1 seed amazingly enough, although both KC and the Chargers would have to lose and then the Pats beat the Jets.

But there was still a lot of sloppiness and they turned the ball over three times which can’t continue.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady threw two interceptions, although neither was his fault. The first one had Rex Burkhead turn outside where Brady expected him to turn across the middle. The result was an easy pick for Lorenzo Alexander. The second was a short pass to Rob Gronkowski where the ball sailed right thru his hands…ditto Jordan Poyer.

The fact that the Pats only threw 25 passes wasn’t a bad thing considering the running game was pounding the ball against the Bills front seven. But with the running game so effective, the play-action passing game should have skewered Buffalo. It did not.

Brady was off on several throws which keeps giving rise to the rumors that his knee isn’t even close to 100 percent. Not one pass was completed beyond 5-6 yards past the line of scrimmage. The pass protection wasn’t great and although Brady moved and slid well in the pocket, he didn’t target Chris Hogan or Phillip Dorsett once. In 89 combined snaps they weren’t targeted at all.

Running Backs: B+

Sony Michel had a big day running the ball, piling up 116 yards in 18 carries. While he was getting good blocking up front (something that several media members hold against only him among running backs when he has a big day), the most impressive thing about his day was after contact. Michel kept his legs churning and carried the pile further for more yardage. It paid off with his touchdown run where he carried the pile into the end zone where he was contacted around the two-yard line.

James White had 41 yards on five carries but his 27-yard touchdown was a beauty. Facing a 3rd and 2, White sliced thru the line and broke to the outside and raced down the left side for a big touchdown run. He had just two catches for 13 yards on four targets in the passing game.

Rex Burkhead had a couple of good plays in both the passing and running games but was also involved in two turnovers. He got the ball punched out after catching a pass from Brady in the first half and then ran the wrong route across the middle leading to an easy interception. He took over for Michel down the stretch, in the kill the clock mode.

Wide Receivers: C

Julian Edelman contributed the only notable splash play in the passing game, catching a six-yard Brady pass on 4th and 4 from the Bills 32-yard line. He was tackled by two Bills defenders but landed on top of them and alertly rolled off and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. He was the only consistent target in the passing game for the WRs catching six passes for 70 yards on ten targets. But Edelman also had two costly penalties and a drop.

Cordarrelle Patterson was targeted twice in the passing game and had one catch for three yards. But Patterson was outstanding at running the ball on the Jet sweeps gaining 66 yards on 4 carries, using his speed to burn past Bills defenders.  Phillip Dorsett had 13 yards on two carries after Patterson tweaked his knee. One was blown up for a four-yard loss but the other was a nice 17-yard scamper.

But neither Dorsett or Chris Hogan was targeted once in the passing game…which is inexcusable.

Tight Ends: C-

Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen were both mainly excellent in the run blocking department, acting as an extra tackle and blowing Bills defenders off the ball which helped create nice running lanes for the running backs to follow.

But neither was a factor at all in the passing game. Gronk was targeted three times and zero catches. Worse, he had a pass zip right thru his hands on the first play of the second half which was picked off by Jordan Poyer.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line did a tremendous job in the running game. Considering that they piled up 275 yards rushing before Brian Hoyer’s kneel-downs, that is exactly what the doctor ordered. Shaq Mason got downfield and put a huge block on Lorenzo Alexander on White’s long touchdown run. Trent Brown consistently was putting Bills defensive end Eddie Yarbrough on roller skates.

But the pass protection was not great. Although Brady was only sacked once, he was under duress far too often in the pocket. And this was on a day where the passing game was dinking and dunking along.

Defensive Line: A-

This was a huge bounce-back game for the defensive line. Danny Shelton was back over the nose and although he made only two tackles, having a big man that cover the two gaps made everything go much smoother in run defense. Bills running backs gained on 42 yards on 13 carries which is a 3.2-yard average.  The Bills only gained 72 yards overall on the ground, a big improvement over the past few weeks.

Trey Flowers was disruptive all game and Lawrence Guy was his normal solid self. Newcomer Ufomba Kamalu played about a dozen snaps and dropped Shady McCoy for a four-yard loss on his first snap as a Patriot.  

Linebackers: B

The Patriots linebackers biggest responsibility in this game was to keep Josh Allen from running rough-shod over them in scrambling from out of the pocket. In the Bills past four games Allen ran for 351 yards out of the pocket when things broke down. In this one, he was able to scramble for only 30 yards on five carries.

Linebackers John Simon and Kyle Van Noy were both very good at staying home and cutting off any lanes for Allen to run.  

Secondary: A-

The secondary had only two blips in the game. In the first quarter, Robert Foster had beaten Stephon Gilmore cleanly down the right sideline and then lost a well-thrown ball in the sun. And Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson collided on a crossing route late in the game allowing Zay Jones to be all alone for a 31-yard touchdown.  Other than that final garbage time drive, the secondary’s play was terrific.

Gilmore broke up a fourth-down pass to Foster in the first half and a 3rd and 3 to Jones in the second half. Jackson flashed great ball skills in picking off a pass which was a poor decision by Allen. He’s rapidly turning into a terrific player and a total steal.

Jason McCourty picked off a pass as well on a nice move. He also ripped the ball out of Jason Croom’s hands on the five-yard line. Pat Chung was a factor and making plays all over the field.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had another strong game, Ryan Allen boomed a 55-yarder pinning the Bills back inside the 10-yard line. He pinned them inside the 20, three times. Julian Edelman had a beauty of a 25-yard punt return which set up a field goal. And Matthew Slater blocked a punt, the third in three weeks.

The only knocks were the final two kickoff returns by Patterson that were blown up by the Bills and Michel who filled in for him after he tweaked his knee, muffed the kick and then got stuffed at the 12. Julian Edelman took a dumb penalty and the second time he’s done this recently by calling for a fair catch and then blocking a gunner.

Coaches: B+

The Patriots coaching staff put the onus on the running game this week which Buffalo’s defense, the best at stopping the pass, was unable to cope with. They also put a premium on stopping Josh Allen from scrambling and opening up plays downfield, which they did quite well. And they obviously wanted to shut down Buffalo’s running game and force Allen into trying to beat them thru the air. They did that and the Bills showed they are incapable of doing that.

We’re on to the Jets…

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.

Running Game Vaults Patriots To 10th Straight Division Crown

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2018 at 7:35 am ET

Running Game Vaults Patriots To 10th Straight Division Crown

The New England Patriots refound their running game and leaned hard on it, running for 273 yards against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon en route to a 24-12 win at Gillette Stadium. The win not only gave the Patriots the AFC Division Crown for the 10th year in a row but for the time being, put the Patriots back in command of their own destiny for a bye during Wildcard Weekend.

The Houston Texans lost on a last-second field goal in Philadelphia which put the Pats back up to the #2 spot. And coupled with the losses by the Chargers and Chiefs, the Patriots could actually still get the #1 seed, however, both teams would have to lose again and have the Patriots beat the Jets. That last second loss in Miami now looms large in the grand scheme of things.

The Pats flipped the script against the Bills from the last two weeks and controlled the line of scrimmage in the running game both offensively and defensively. Both were a welcome sight. Especially with the passing offense mired in neutral all game. Here are some of our observations from Sunday’s game:

Run Defense Much Better:

After being gashed recently against the run, the Patriots run defense was much better this week against the Bills. It was helped by re-inserting Danny Shelton into the lineup and playing him over the nose and filling two gaps. But the rest of the front seven played much better this week, being stout at the point of attack and doing their job.

Buffalo ran for just 72 yards total but their running backs averaged just 3.3 yards per rush while Josh Allen, who’s been scrambling wild lately was held to just 30 yards this week. LeSean McCoy was held to just 9 yards or 6 carries. While he’s been slowed by a bad hamstring, the Bills will have a tough decision to make on him in the spring.

As much as we’ve criticized the front seven’s play the past few weeks, they deserve a lot of credit here. They played the run tough all day and allowed only three rushing first downs all day and held the Bills to a 2-12 and 0-1 totals on third and fourth downs respectively.

Running Game Set the Tone For Keeping the Bills On Their Heels:

Sony Michel led the way with 116 yards on 18 carries as the Pats rolled up 273 yards on the ground. Much of the credit goes to the offensive line who won their matchup with the Bills interior DL and were consistently getting a good push. Michel, who always gets his results pooh-poohed by many of the media members in Boston when he has a good game, was very sharp in this one. Strange, when Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley have big games, do the Dallas or LA media caveat their stories with “yeah but the OL was opening big holes”? Not very likely. Give Michel his due, he’s had a terrific rookie season.

Cordarrelle Patterson was gashing the Bills on Jet sweeps before injuring his knee as they did a terrible job of staying at home and setting the edge. Patterson gained 66 yards on just four carries, although on one play it seemed Lorenzo Alexander was in perfect position but Patterson’s speed just beat him to the edge.

But the Patriots ground game resulted in the Pats controlling the tempo and the clock. At one point they ran seven straight times. On another drive, they ran 10 straight as they held the ball for more than 35 minutes.

Mental Mistakes Still Maddening:

The Patriots allowed the Bills to hang around for far too long in this game because of mental mistakes and turnovers and the majority were made by veterans, not rookie UDFAs. Julian Edelman had a drop on the Patriots first series and then had two penalties, one for blocking on STs after calling for a fair catch, the second time he’s done that in recent weeks. The other was a holding call that erased a nice Sony Michel run (how many times have we heard that this year?).

But Edelman atoned for that with a great heads’ up play where he caught a pass from Brady on a key 4th down call. Facing a 4th and 4 at the Bills 32-yard line, Brady zipped a nice pass to Edelman who easily had the first down. But as two Bills defenders brought him to the turf, he landed on them, never touching the ground and had the presence of mind to keep going…for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

Rex Burkhead fumbled on one run after the catch in the first half. The ball was punched out as he was going to the ground where Micah Hyde recovered and ran it back to the Patriots 40-yard line. But then later in the half, Burkhead cut outside when Brady expected him to cut across the middle and the result was Lorenzo Alexander picking the pass off at the Bills 21.

And on the first play of the second half, Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski who let the ball zip right thru his hands and into the lap of Jordan Poyer

Passing Game Struggles Badly:

The fact that the Patriots ran the ball so effectively covered up the fact that the Bills #1 pass defense totally shut down the Patriots passing game. Tom Brady had very pedestrian numbers of 13-24 for 126 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. While neither interception was Brady’s fault, it doesn’t hide the fact that the passing game has a ton of work to do.

Brady only targeted two wide receivers Edelman and Patterson, and only went to Patterson twice. Both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett were not targeted in the passing game at all. Gronkowski was targeted twice with no catches and a pick.

The Bills front seven deserves a lot of credit here, they were getting plenty of pressure on Brady and were forcing bad throws all game long. With Josh Gordon gone, changes will have to be made, but this doesn’t fill one with confidence heading into January. WIth the running game gashing Buffalo, play action should have been wide open but it wasn’t for the vast majority of the game.

Another Blocked Punt for the STs:

For much of the year, the Patriots special teams had uncharacteristically struggled. But they brought back Ramon Humber and signed former Raven Albert McClellan and the results have been very favorable. McClellan blocked a pair of punts in Miami two weeks ago and on Sunday, STs ace Matthew Slater turned the trick on Buffalo.

With about six minutes to go, Slater came in thru the inside and blocked the punt which took a Buffalo roll and actually got 10 yards where the Patriots took over on the Bills 33.

Edelman had a big punt return of 25 yards that set the Pats up in Buffalo territory for a drive that stalled at the Bills five, but they kicked a field goal that effectively sealed the game at that point.

Defense Gets Two Interceptions of Allen:

The Bills passing offense came in ranked among the worst in the league. And on Sunday they showed why. They dropped numerous passes although, in fairness to Robert Foster, a deep ball was right where he lost it in the sun. While several of Josh Allen’s throws were well off target.

However, the Patriots secondary made a couple of nice interceptions. Rookie J.C. Jackson made a nice play on a deep pass from Allen where he definitely shouldn’t have thrown that pass. But Jackson cut in front of the receiver and high-pointed the ball.

Later Jason McCourty also made nice play on another pick. Newcomer Ufomba Kamalu played about a dozen snaps on defense and had a nice tackle for a loss on his first snap as a Patriot.

The Patriots finish out the regular season by hosting the Jets who lost in O.T. to the Packers. Stay tuned…and 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News 12-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 23, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-23, & AFC East Notes.
From all of us here, we wish you all an early very Merry Christmas.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Just a reminder that you revisit our keys to the game here:

Did you Know? That the Patriots currently have a regular season home winning streak of 11 games dating back to last season. That is currently the fifth longest in team history and can move into a 4th place tie with the team from 2006-2008.

Did you Know Pt.2? The Patriots picked up Cordarrelle Patterson to help with the kickoff return game. The Patriots currently rank 2nd in the league with a 28.6 yards per return average. If that number remains the same or increases, it will be the team’s best average in the Bill Belichick era, beating the 2006 team’s average of 26.8 yards per return.

Did you Know Pt. 3: With just 21 yards passing today, Tom Brady will reach the 4000-yard mark for the 10th time in his career, the 3rd most in NFL history. Also with just three catches, Julian Edelman will move past Ben Coates (490) in career catches with the team, which will put him in 5th place.

Points Allowed Stats: One of the more interesting stats especially for those who like to chime in with the “Bill can’t coach defense anymore” crowd is the fact that since 2001 the Patriots have the most seasons allowing 20 points per game or fewer with 12. The Ravens and Steelers are next with 11 each. Baltimore is a shoo-in for their 12th this season unless they allow 68 points in their last two games, which isn’t likely. The Patriots would have to hold the Bills and Jets combined for 10 points…very unlikely. The Steelers would have to hold their opponents (New Orleans today) to four points or less.

Josh Gordon’s Story Shows Why Mental Health Is Such an Issue :

With the news this week after Josh Gordon announced that he was stepping away from football to concentrate on his own mental health and addiction issues and the league announced that he failed another drug test, the social media world exploded.

Several noted hot take media types including a few here in the Boston market took to calling Gordon “selfish” and not taking “individual or personal responsibility” is short-sighted and wrong. We were guilty of it here as well, not being aware of how deep his mental health issues were initially until the team signed him.

And mental health and addiction issues DO go hand-in-hand. I keep reading and hearing people go on and on about “choices” which is patently ludicrous. Does anyone seriously think that a person with their first drink or taste of an illegal substance plan on becoming an alcoholic or drug addict?

Chris Carter who had his own issues with addiction during his playing career was very emotional about the entire Gordon issue and how he feels most people still don’t understand it all.

“And the kid needs help! He does not need football. He needs help. He needs tools that he can be able to say ‘no.’ No to those drugs. No to the world, and yes to his opportunities. Yes to relationships.

That’s what so upsetting [for] me is just the lack of understanding. This is what addicts do. They don’t show up for work. They lie. They deceive. That’s what they do. But addicts need help. Myself, I need help. Josh needs help. And I hope that he’s able to continue this long, long battle, because there is no cure. The day you’re cured is the day they put you in the ground.”

The Patriots, who are now being roasted by the “I told you so” crowd, certainly knew the risks with signing a player with a troubled history such as Gordon’s. They did everything they could as an organization to help him find his way here. They installed him with a locker right next to Tom Brady’s where the two would certainly interact more.

The coaches stayed late with him, helping him learn the offense and navigate the intricacies of it. Even the PR Dept. of Stacey James took great care with his interactions with the media, trying to keep everything on point and limit the talk about the off-field distractions that had derailed such a promising career.

There were even rumors to the effect that the team had hired people to hang with Gordon in the off-hours to keep him away from the demons that have haunted him. Not like Foxboro on a Friday night will be confused with Vegas. But even that, wasn’t enough for a person/addict with issues to fall back into their destructive behavior. For the first time in his professional career, Gordon was playing for a winner with a chance to write his own redemption story.

That’s the saddest part of the story. I would encourage anyone to attend an Alcoholic’s Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting sometime and listen to the stories of those who tried and failed many, many times before finally slipping away from the bonds of their demons. Rarely if ever it is done on the first attempt.

The Patriots issues at wide receiver are minuscule next to a man’s life. We hope that Gordon, the man, will find his way back to mental health and be able to live his life as normally as possible. Whether or not he ever gets another chance to play in the NFL is secondary at this point.

Ufomba Kamalu Presented With a Chance to Stick:

When the Patriots signed OLB Kamalu to their practice squad on November 5th, it barely registered on the social media spectrum, other than his unusual name. But what is really intriguing about Kamalu, who has been signed to the active roster in the fallout from the Josh Gordon situation is his size and athleticism.

Kamalu originally was an UDFA from Miami and signed with the Houston Texans in 2016. He’s 6’6 and weighs 295 pounds, but for a big man, he’s pretty athletic. Kamalu ran a 4.88 in the 40-yard dash, a 31.5-inch vertical leap, 7.32-second 3-cone drill, and a 4.58-second short shuttle at his pro day.

In his time with the Texans, they used him at OLB and in 13 games with three starts, he logged 11 tackles and three sacks before being let go in the final cutdown this year. He briefly spent time with the Cardinals on their practice squad before signing with the Pats.

Now he’s on the active roster and although Bill Belichick had been wondering how the Pats would use him, maybe this week and next against the Jets, he’ll see some snaps and we’ll catch a glimpse of what he can do. Belichick was asked by NESN’s Doug Kyed a few weeks ago how the team envisioned Kamalu.

“I think we’re trying to figure it out, but he’s an interesting player to work with and a good player to work with,” Belichick said. “He works hard, smart. He’s played outside linebacker to defensive end to defensive tackle. So, he hasn’t really done a lot in our defense. It’s been more scout team and so forth, drills.

“But he works hard, he’s smart. He picks things up. He’s … done and is able to do different things for us. We’ll see how it goes. But yeah, he’s an interesting guy. We don’t really have anyone like him from a skill-set standpoint, so I’d say we’re kind of trying to figure it out. But he gets better every day. So, we’ll keep working with him. We’ll see how it goes.”

With Kamalu’s size, he won’t be an OLB with the Patriots but probably a DE or kick into the interior on passing downs. If he is active today, that would mean he’s leapfrogged both Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis on the depth chart as both have been inactive lately. But it is also said that Belichick remembers when opponents have big games against them. Well in a 2017 preseason game, Kamalu had four tackles, a sack and two QB hits against the Patriots.

On a defense that could really use some help in the front seven, perhaps Kamalu could work himself into a job beginning today.

Patriots Secondary Deep and Underrated:

The most overlooked aspect of the Patriots this season has been the play of their secondary. Which overall this season has been very good. The team has their best corner, Stephon Gilmore playing at a high level, he’s been outstanding from the first snaps during OTAs and has continued that. Even though the team lost Eric Rowe to IR, they’ve scarcely missed a beat with Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and rookie J.C.Jackson holding down the cornerback position.

They have been playing so well that this year’s 2nd round draft pick Duke Dawson who was injured for most of the first half of the season, hasn’t even played yet. Jackson, the UDFA from Maryland has been terrific so far as he’s making his presence felt in the 2nd half of the season.

At safety, the team still has Devin McCourty and Pat Chung along with the “closer” Duron Harmon and then the team added former 2nd round draft pick Obi Melifonwu. That’s a deep area as well.

Ah, you say, but what about the yards allowed. The Patriots allow 256 yards thru the air each week, only 23rd in the league. But opposing QBs are still not very efficient when facing the Pats secondary. They currently rank 9th in the league in opposing QB rating with an 88.5 mark.

Jackson leads the way (albeit in a limited body of work) with opposing QBs having a rating of just 26.0 when targeting him. Gilmore has an outstanding 60.1 rating, frequently covering the opposition’s top WR. Jonathan Jones who plays the very tough position in the slot where a WR can go in either direction has a rating of 79.5 when being targeted. McCourty brings up the rear with a 98.8 but has played tough all year.

It will be interesting to see if the pass rush picks up how well the secondary can keep playing to their strengths/

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 16 Predictions:

Last week: 9-7 Season 141-81-2

Saturday picks: Titans, Chargers

Cincinnati @ Cleveland: Browns
Tampa Bay @ Dallas: Cowboys
Minnesota @ Detroit: Vikings
Buffalo @ New England: Patriots
Green Bay @ NY Jets: Packers
Houston @ Philadelphia: Eagles
Atlanta @ Carolina: Panthers
NY Giants @ Indianapolis: Colts
Jacksonville @ Miami: Dolphins
LA Rams @ Arizona: Rams
Chicago @ San Francisco: Bears
Pittsburgh @ New Orleans: Saints
Kansas City @ Seattle SNF: Seahawks
Denver @ Oakland: Broncos

**Note, No Saturday Games Next Week**

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Want to Rely on Defense to Keep the Game Close:

The Buffalo Bills are smelling blood in the water this week as absurd as that sounds for a team that is 3-29 against Tom Brady. All of the talk out of Western New York this week centers around “3”. Can the Bills make it three in a row that the Patriots lose?

With their offense improving but still among the worst in the league, Buffalo will have to rely on their defense, including their top-ranked pass defense to keep the score close and give Josh Allen and the offense the opportunity to steal one on the road.

They’ll not only need a big game from their secondary but from the big guy Kyle Williams inside. Buffalo hasn’t got a sack in their last two games but they’ll need Williams to bring pressure inside where Brady can’t step into his throws. If they can do that, they’ll have a puncher’s chance, as they did in October.

Dolphins Trying to Break Out of Mediocrity Slump:

The Miami Dolphins are 7-7 and still in the playoff hunt but to get there they are going to need some help. But the ownership will be looking hard at once again making some changes at the end of the season and that begins with Executive VP of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier.

Tannenbaum has been at the helm for the Dolphins for the past four years and the franchise is no better or worse than they were when he took over. Is this the end for him? Very possibly. And he may not be alone. Head Coach Adam Gase, like his team, has been very inconsistent. These next two games may hold a lot of the future for these two. An 8-8 finish might be the end for the both of them.

The once proud Dolphin franchise is 199-1949 since the 1994 season. The Patriots in the same time frame in the regular season are 277-121. Plus they are 30-14 in the post-season. Since Gase has taken over, the mediocrity has continued with a 23-23 mark. Those numbers would both be under .500 if not for a “miracle” finish.

These next two games may decide a lot. Tannenbaum has the confidence of Matt Higgins, the Dolphins VP and a close confidante of owner Stephen Ross. Higgins is reportedly not happy with Gase. Stay tuned…

Jets Hoping Darnold Can Spark a Win Over the Packers:

The New York Jets 2018 season is over as far as any hopes for a playoff berth are, however, there is an awful lot to play for in the next two weeks against the Packers and then next week at the Patriots. And it isn’t just for pride and jobs in 2019. It is hope.

The Jets are looking for a sign that their fortunes are headed in the right direction. After two decades of having the Patriots dominate the division, the Jets invested heavily in QB Sam Darnold. Any rookie QB starting in the NFL is going to struggle at times and Darnold was no exception.

But he played his best game of the year last week against the #2 seed in the AFC, the Houston Texans and the Jets came up just short of upsetting Houston. Now Darnold gets to take on two of the best QBs of this generation. Aaron Rodgers this week and Tom Brady in the finale in Foxboro. This will be a huge opportunity for the Jets and Darnold to build some momentum for 2019.

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.

Patriots-Bills Week 16, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 21, 2018 at 7:35 am ET

Patriots-Bills Week 16, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

The New England Patriots are sailing in some uncharted waters this week. When we looked at this game on the schedule back in the spring, we expected that the division would be wrapped up and this game would only figure in whether New England was still playing for the top seed. And….we were wrong.

This game is extremely important to the Patriots this week because the division isn’t wrapped up and they need a win to do just that. The team can still get the #2 seed and a bye but now they no longer control their own destiny. They need to win their final two games at home this week against Buffalo and the Jets next week and hope that the Texans lose to either the Eagles or the Jaguars. Uncharted waters indeed.

The Patriots (9-5) lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 last week as the offense only scored 10 points and made a ton of mistakes. Dropped passes on third down, penalties (14) and breakdowns at key times was the story as they dropped their second in a row.

The Bills (5-9) beat the Detroit Lions 14-13 as Josh Allen hit Robert Foster with a 42-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to come from behind.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Bills are meeting for the 118th time and the Patriots have dominated overall 73-43-1. And since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots have won 32 of 37 games between the two teams.

Tom Brady’s record against the Bills in games where he’s started and finished the game is 29-3. The Patriots won the last meeting between the two teams 25-6 on October 29 as the teams met on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 23 at 1:00 p.m.and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green and Bruce Arians as the color analysts. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines.

The game will also be broadcast on the Patriots flagship station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci doing the play-by-play, with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

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 has sputtered the past two weeks on the road as the play of the offensive line has been consistently, inconsistent. Sony Michel is leading the way for the Patriots along with Rex Burkhead and James White. Fullback James Develin has been getting the ball more in short yardage and goal line.

Buffalo is 10th in the league allowing just 104.8 yards per game on the ground and just 4.0 yards per rush.  It starts up front with the big men, Kyle Williams, and Adolphus Washington with the linebackers, Matt Milano and Preston Brown being very active. However, with Milano suffering a broken fibula against the Jets, it is a blow to the defense.

In the first meeting, the Patriots didn’t have either Sony Michel or Rex Burkhead who were both out with an injury. However, look for the Bills to put pressure on the Patriots on early downs to try to force them into third and long situations.

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

The Patriots passing game just lost a huge piece as Josh Gordon’s mental health issues are forcing him away for the game, possibly for good this time. He averaged 65 yards per game receiving in his 11 games with the Patriots and it won’t be easy to just say, “next man up” as they have around here in the past.

In the first meeting, Tom Brady threw for 324 yards in Buffalo. It will be difficult to throw for that much this time around despite still having Julian Edelman, James White, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett.

The Bills defense is #1 against the pass allowing just 187.4 yards per pass play. They’re getting very good play from their corners and linebackers and safeties in coverage. The Bills have 31 sacks on the season.

With Gordon gone Brady will have to lean on everybody else now to pick up the slack. I would expect him to go both Julian Edelman (9-104) and James White (10-79) as he did in the first meeting to keep the chains moving.  The Bills did a good with their safeties on Rob Gronkowski in the first meeting and I’d expect more of the same. Buffalo is outstanding at not allowing big pass plays and I’d expect Brady to keep the ball in the short passing game.  

Next up the Buffalo offense:

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

As yes as strange as this sounds I expect the Patriots run defense which has been awful for the past few weeks to be better this week. The Bills running game has been struggling with their backs running the ball. LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory have averaged just 3.3 and 3.4 yards per rush respectively in 2018. Part of the reason is the offensive line was bad earlier in the season but has been playing better of late.

However, Josh Allen has transformed the running game. He’s rushed for 506 yards on the season and without him, the Bills rushing average of 124.7 would transform to just 90.9 yards per game.

With the issues the Patriots have had stopping the run, I’d look for Danny Shelton to make a return this week. Buffalo has the 31st rated pass offense and they want to run the football. The Patriots need a player over the nose that can two-gap. He’s been a healthy scratch the past few weeks but this week, I’d expect him back.

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

The Bills passing game has been really struggling as Josh Allen has struggled in his rookie season. But he’s gradually learning his craft and he’s cutting down his mistakes. But overall, they average just 168.7 yards per game, 31st in the NFL. He has Robert Foster who is becoming the Bills big play WR, he’s averaged 25-yards per reception this year. Zay Jones is their leading receiver with 49 catches.

The Patriots pass defense is currently 23rd allowing 256 yards per game, however, the secondary has been playing quite well and it seems that they’ve found another quality UDFA in corner J.C. Jackson. The Patriots don’t generate a ton of sacks but are tied in the league at pressuring the QB without blitzing.

The Bills like to run deep crosses using a rub route to get Foster open deep across the middle of the field. For the Patriots, they’ll look to bring pressure and force Allen to throw from outside the pocket without allowing him to run…More of this below.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots tandem of Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen have a slight edge over Stephen Hauschka and Corey Bojorquez in the kicking game, especially being at home. But their numbers are pretty similar. But with Cordarrelle Patterson in the kick return game, the Patriots get the edge in there, although in the first meeting Micah Hyde had a 31-yard punt return.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will be closer than people are predicting. The Bills defense is tough and knows the Patriots well. They played them very tough in the first meeting back in October. I would expect this game to be much of the same.

Three keys to the game from a Patriots perspective include:

Win the Turnover Battle:

The Bills are -8 in the turnover department. Buffalo QBs have thrown 20 interceptions this season, with Allen tossing nine of them. They are the 31st team in the league in scoring averaging just 15.4 points per game. They don’t have the kind of offense that can afford to give away points. If the Patriots can play a clean game, they will put pressure on the Bills offense to take some chances.

Force Allen to Throw From Outside the Pocket:

Allen has played better of late as his pass protection has improved. But if the Patriots can generate pressure while keeping a spy on Allen and not allowing him to run, his numbers throwing outside the pocket are not good. ESPN’s Mike Rodak just posted some stats when Allen is forced to throw outside the pocket.
Completion percentage- 20 (33rd in the league)
Passing Yards per Attempt- 3.1 (30th in the league)
Off Target Throws- 40 % (most in the NFL)
Interception Percentage – 6.9 % (4th most in the NFL)

If the Patriots are successful in getting some pressure on Allen, they’d need to put a spy on him. I really don’t believe that their linebackers are fast enough to do the job…possibly Kyle Van Noy. But one possible piece would be to go to their “Big Nickel” with Obi Melifonwu substituting on obvious passing downs. He’d have the speed to keep up with Allen.

Spread the Ball Around:

The Patriots are at their best when Tom Brady spreads the wealth equally among the players. They need to run the ball better and will need a lot better effort from the offensive line. I’d expect to see the uptempo offense with the Pony formation with Burkhead and White a bit on passing downs.

This one will be close but eventually, the Pats will pull away and they’ll finally be able to break out the Hats and T-Shirts. Patriots 27-17

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-Dolphins Week 14, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 7, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots head out for the first of their final two road games of the 2018 regular season. They play in Miami this week and Pittsburgh next week in games that will go a long way in determining where they stand in terms of AFC Playoff seeding.

The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight AFC East title with a win or a tie and would set a record for making the playoffs in10 straight years. They are currently tied with the Dallas Cowboys (1975-83) and the Indianapolis Colts (2002- 10) as the only teams to play in the postseason for nine straight seasons.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn 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 (9-3) beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in Foxboro as the defense was outstanding limiting the Vikings offense to just 278 yards while rolling up 471 of their own.

The Dolphins (6-6) beat the Buffalo Bills 21-17 as Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter come-from-behind win.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Dolphins are meeting for the 107th time in their history. Miami holds the overall edge 54-52 with each team holding big advantages at home. Against the Dolphins in Miami, the Patriots are 4-15 in the month of December.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is nearly back to full strength with Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead as the three main backs in the backfield. But Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson both will see some carries on Jet Sweeps. James Develin, their big blocking fullback is now a short-yardage option. He scored a pair of touchdowns last week against Minnesota.

The Dolphins run defense was first gashed by the Patriots to the tune of 175 yards this season after Miami began 3-0. Since then they allowed 164 to the Bears, 248 vs the Lions, 188 to Houston, 195 to Green Bay, and 198 to the Bills. Miami is allowing an average of 144.7 yards per game and 5.0 yards per rush, which is 30th in the league.

Look for the Patriots to try to pound the rock all day between the tackles. Miami’s defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Akeem Spence have not played well against the run and neither have linebackers, Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso. If DC Matt Burke tries to bring the safeties up into the box in run support or blitz the linebackers, it will open up play-action passing.

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

The Patriots passing game has been playing their cards close to their vest lately as their being fairly conservative in the passing game. But in Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan at wide receiver, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel out of the backfield, Tom Brady has a plethora of weapons. Add it Patterson and Phillip Dorsett and the depth is there for them to mix it up.

Miami may be without their best defensive player in Xavien Howard who has a knee injury. He’s an All-Pro talent who leads the team with seven interceptions this year. With him injured they’ve been forced to play Minkah Fitzpatrick at the other corner with Bobby McCain in the slot. If Howard can’t go, 2nd-year corner Torry McTyer will get the start. Miami has two very talented edge rushers in Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake but they’ll need to get pressure up the middle if they want to be successful there.

Look for Brady to utilize the “Pony” backfield with White and Burkhead on third down a lot in this one, they’ll try to isolate the linebackers in coverage and keep the sticks moving. If Howard is indeed out, look for Brady and Gordon to test McTyer. Chris Hogan could be an “X-Factor” this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins running game is averaging 102.7 yards per game (24th) this season with a 4.3 average yards per carry. They have two very good backs in the ageless Frank Gore who leads the team with 616 yards and the dangerous Kenyan Drake. Their problem has been the offensive line hasn’t been on the field enough because of injuries.

The Patriots rush defense is currently 13th allowing 106.7 yards per game. They’ve been trending up in that regard and this week, they’ll have their hands full as the Dolphins will try to mix things up by using both Gore and Drake. They’ll have to get a big game out of their linebackers, especially Kyle Van Noy who Adam Gase was talking about this week.

Look for the Patriots to go to a bigger front this week with Gore in the lineup and try to get Miami into the 3rd and long passing situations. They’ll have to set the edge this week as the Dolphins should be much more patient with their running game than the Vikings were.

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

The Miami passing game is 28th in the league averaging just 199.4 yards per game. But getting Ryan Tannehill back from injury has helped and in the last two games, he’s had a passer rating of over 100 against the Colts and Bills defenses. He has DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Danny Amendola as wide receivers with Nick O’Leary and Mike Gesicki at tight end with Drake out of the backfield. The team was much more explosive before Jakim Grant and Albert Wilson went on IR.

The Patriots defense had their best game of the year last week against the Vikings. The secondary stuck like glue to the receivers and they had constant pressure on QB Kirk Cousins. Can they do that again in South Florida?

I would expect they will try to match Stephon Gilmore on Stills which should be a great matchup to watch. And I’d expect either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson on Parker with either McCourty or Jonathan Jones on Amendola in the slot. The key is getting pressure on Tannehill and look for the Patriots to attack the middle/right side where the Dolphins OL is banged up and RG Jesse Davis has not played well.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Miami

Both teams have gotten solid play in the kicking game from punter Matt Haack and kicker Jason Sanders for Miami and Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski for New England. But Sanders gives the Dolphins the edge in the kicking game, especially at home. While Patterson in the return game is always a threat to return a big one. But although Miami misses Grant in the return game, the Pats coverage units have been uncharacteristically very inconsistent.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a playoff game for both teams. Unlike 2013 and 2015 when the Patriots came limping into Miami beat up, this year it is the Dolphins who are all banged up with injuries while the Patriots are as healthy as one can expect at this time of year.

Last year the Pats got caught looking ahead to Pittsburgh and got their butts handed to them. But last year they afford that loss and keep the #1 seed as long as they beat Pittsburgh the next week. This year they don’t have that luxury and they know Miami still has a shot for a playoff berth.

Three keys from a Pats perspective:

Run the Ball Between the Tackles:
Miami isn’t good against the run and they’re ranked 30th for a reason. Spread the wealth between the three RBs and keep their defense on their heels. Plus it will open up play action and slow down their edge rushers.

Win the Turnover Battle:
Miami isn’t an offense that scores a lot of points, they can’t afford to get into a shootout situation. Their 29th in offense and 29th in defense. They are still in the hunt because they force a lot of turnovers. Make them go the length of the field with no easy scoring drives is a win-win situation.

Get After Tannehill:
Dolphins QBs have been sacked 31 times this year, the offensive line is suspect. Especially in the center and on the right. The Patriots don’t have a lot of sacks this year but they are among the top teams at creating pressure. They need to do that and force Tannehill into making mistakes. When they’ve lost to Miami down there, he was standing flat-footed in the pocket for much of those games.

Look for the Pats to play much better this time around. Belichick will harp on the way they looked past them last December and they should be ready to play. Look for Michel, Burkhead, and White to all have big games for the Patriots as the defense clamps down this time in South Beach. The East goes thru New England again.   Patriots 27-13

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.

New England Patriots News 12-02, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 2, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-02, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Just a reminder that you revisit our keys to the game here:
And our players to watch from a Patriots perspective by clicking on the links:

Trey Flowers missed practice on Friday, and immediately alarm bells went off. But then it was announced that his absence was not injury related. He published the reason for his absence later and it was a good one.

Did you Know? With two touchdown passes, Brady will move past Brett Favre for the second-most TD passes in the regular season with 509, (Manning has 539), and he’d move ahead of Manning for the most TD passes for both the regular and postseason combined with 580.

Did you Know Pt.2? Since 2001, the Patriots are 91-12 (.883) when they don’t turn the ball over and 144-12 (.923) with a positive turnover margin.

Did you Know Pt. 3: With a win, the Patriots will own a 54-14 (.794) record vs. NFC teams since
realignment in 2002, which is the best interconference record in the NFL during that time, including a 17-3 mark against the NFC North. With a win today the Patriots will improve their home record versus the NFC to 27-7 (.794)

Bill Belichick coaches his 300th regular season game for the Patriots today. Since 2000, he has a record of 222-77 (.742) and led the Patriots to 15 division titles in 18 seasons.

The NFL and KC Chiefs organizations continue to hit the low bar when it comes to violence against women. The Chiefs released Kareem Hunt on Friday after the video of an assault against a woman he had spent the day with surfaced on TMZ.

The Chiefs and NFL knew about this when it happened in February and the league with a large investigative branch of ex-cops, FBI agents and private investigators couldn’t find in nine months what TMZ did? They turned a blind eye toward it until it hit them in the face (Ray Rice video ring a bell?) The truth is…the Chiefs didn’t want to know, they were content, chalking this up to being young and inexperienced. Which is worse.

McDaniels Leaving? Doubtful:

Every year when the list for potential new NFL head coaches come out, Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels normally is one of the most mentioned coaches that may be on the market.  I highlight “may-be” because I really don’t think that McDaniels is going anywhere this spring, although stranger things have happened.

After the Indianapolis Colts had their flirtation with McDaniels and he bolted at the last possible second and opted to remain with the Patriots, he was signed to a five-year deal which supposedly pays him in the top tier of assistant coaches in the NFL.

If there was one place where he could possibly be enticed, it would be Cleveland. The Browns have seemingly turned a corner and it was known that McDaniels really liked Baker Mayfield in last spring’s NFL Draft. But one would have to believe that as long as Tom Brady is playing, that McDaniels is staying put as well.

Belichick is Pleased With Patterson in 2018:

The Patriots picked up Cordarrelle Patterson this year and no one was really sure how’d he’d do in the New England system. Patterson has always been a dynamic kick returner and this season has been no exception, he’s returned one for a TD, while most times teams are content with booting the ball out of the end zone and giving the Patriots the ball at the 25-yard line. But beyond that, it was a question mark.

Patterson has fit in quite well, doing a little bit where ever he’s been needed. Early in the year when the team was woefully thin at WR, he filled in and had some production there. Later as injuries wracked the running back position, Patterson accepted the challenge and filled in there as well. On the season Patterson has caught 13 passes for 122 yards with 2 TDs including a 55-yarder. He’s carried the ball 37 times for 156 yards and a score. In the kicking game, he’s returned 17 kicks for 525 yards (30.9-yard average) with a 95-yard return for a TD.

Bill Belichick mentioned Patterson during his comments on Weds. “…he’s been a good player with two different organizations,” Belichick said.  “You know, he ran the ball, he caught it, he ran with it, he returned it, he covered kicks, he blocked – he has a lot of skill and he’s a big guy that can run, he’s tough, and he shows up every day.

“So, we thought were getting that, that’s what we got and we’ve used him in different ways.  He’s embraced it, he’s worked hard to learn and accept different roles and he’s done them well.  So, he’s been a pleasure to coach, he’s been a great addition to our team and he’s given us a lot of versatility, and times where we’ve really needed him to step in and help us, and he has.”

Tom Brady has blessed Patterson with the nickname, “The Experiment” and it is one the player has embraced. “Oh man, I like any nickname Tom gives me,” Patterson said.  “I’m enjoying my time here. I am having fun, as always. No matter where I am I am going to have fun and enjoy myself like it’s my last.”

McCourty Helping Melinfonwu Get Up to Speed with the Safties:

Zack Cox from NESN had a nice piece this week on the website about how veteran Devin McCourty and the other safeties are aiding newcomer Obi Melifonwu to get fully acclimated to the Patriots defense. After saying that the Grafton, Mass. native and UConn alum was “freaking huge”, McCourty said the 6’4, 224-lb safety is doing all the right things with his teammates.

“He’s a bigger, physical guy,” McCourty said to Cox “and I thought he’s done a great job, whether it’s staying after with (Steve Belichick), talking to myself, (Pat) Chung or (Duron Harmon) (about) when he’s out there, what we expect of him and what we need him to do and then what he expects of us and what we need to do to help him.”

McCourty reiterated what we’ve said here, Melifonwu may be the team’s long-term answer covering opponent’s tight ends. “(He’s a) very athletic guy,” McCourty added. “He’s able to go up there and match up on some tight ends, and where we’re talking about being undersized against them, he lines up and is mano-a-mano, same size.

We’ve been on the Obi bandwagon since the 2017 NFL Draft, so to say we’re optimists here would be an understatement.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 13 Predictions:

Last week: 10-5 Season 114-60-2

Thursday night’s picks Saints over the Cowboys 0-1

Baltimore at Atlanta: Falcons
Denver at Cincinnati: Broncos
LA Rams at Detroit: Rams
Arizona at Green Bay: Packers
Buffalo at Miami: Dolphins
Chicago at NY Giants: Bears
Carolina at Tampa Bay: Panthers
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: Colts
Cleveland at Houston: Texans
NY Jets at Tennessee: Titans
KC at Oakland: Chiefs
Minnesota at New England: Patriots
San Francisco at Seattle: Seahawks
LA Chargers at Pittsburgh SNF: Chargers
Washington at Philadelphia MNF: Eagles

Thursday Early Pick: Titans over Jaguars

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look To Continue Winning Ways In Miami:

The Buffalo Bills own a modest two-game winning streak, but when you’re 4-7, you look for positives where they may fall. Technically the Bills still have a minuscule chance at the post-season, they’d have to run the table and finish at 9-7 and still need help but they are playing a Dolphins team that is also struggling at 5-6 and on defense.

Rookie QB Josh Allen has struggled this season but against a Miami defense that is  29th in total yards allowed, 30th in passing yards per attempt, 29th in sacks and 29th in rushing yards allowed, things are looking better for a Bills offense that has struggled.

But the Buffalo defense will have to be much better against the run this week. They were gashed by the Jaguars to the tune of 225 yards before Leonard Fournette foolishly got himself ejected from the game. And they’ll have to deal with Frank Gore and Kenyon Drake who gives Miami a nice 1-2 punch.

Clock Running Out on Dolphins/Tannehill:

The Miami Dolphins have been patient, very patient in waiting for Ryan Tannehill to become the franchise QB that they hoped they drafted in 2012 when they selected him with the 8th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

But here he is and will be entering the fourth year of a six-year, $95.272 million deal that he signed in 2015. And the Dolphins are still waiting. Tannehill has only played in six games this year, getting injured in his throwing shoulder. But in those games, the Dolphins are 3-3, with Tannehill going 102-154 for 1,176 yards, 10 touchdowns, and five interceptions.

Miami, like Buffalo, has to go on a roll at the end of the season to make the playoffs. That may be the only thing that saves Tannehill’s tenure with the Dolphins. He can be jettisoned next spring when he’ll be owed a cap hit of $26,611,666. Miami will absorb a $13,423,334 dead cap hit if they release him in March.

McCown Expected to Start in Tenn. for the Jets:

The New York Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold is rapidly getting back to normal from his injured foot and was removed from the injury report on Friday. But even still, the Jets are expected to roll with the veteran Josh McCown this week and possibly start Darnold against Buffalo next week.

At 3-8, the Jets season is over and now they’re playing for pride…and jobs for next year. But this week, they’re facing a 5-6 Tennessee team that still has a shot at a playoff berth but was smarting from a loss at Houston last week.

The Jets are reeling, losers of five in a row and have allowed back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances by the opposition. Facing a rush-heavy Titans attack with Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, and QB Marcus Mariota, the pressure will be on the Jets front seven to play much better this week.

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

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

Patriots Finish Strong, Improve to 8-3, Beat the Jets 27-13; Observations

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2018 at 9:03 pm ET

In the end, we knew this would be a typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands. The Patriots were very much up and down in the first half in all phases of the game, but played much better in the second half, dominating the Jets with a punishing ground game, pulling away to beat the Jets 27-13.

We’ll get to our observations but first some quick hitters for the history buffs. The win which put the Patriots at 8-3, guarantees New England a .500 record or better for 18 straight years. The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL record with 21.

And Tom Brady set the NFL record for most yards passing in his career, both regular and postseason, passing Peyton Manning. Surprisingly, (perhaps not so), it scarcely got a mention on the telecast and the NFL? Crickets.

**Update**:  The Steelers lost in Denver and the Patriots are now the #2 seed behind Kansas City. The two teams will play in Pittsburgh later this year, but the Steelers also have games next week against the Chargers and the Saints after they play the Patriots.

Some observations from the game include:

  • Running Game Set the tone: The Patriots offensive line took this game over in the second half. After being tied at 10 at halftime, the Pats outscored the Jets 17-3 and they did it with the running game. Sony Michel was excellent, rushing 21 times for 133 yards and a TD. NE ran for 215 yards, the most since the Jonas Gray game in Indy. James White added 73 yards on nine carries.
  • Welcome Back Gronk: The Patriots big man made his return to the field, for the first time in nearly a month and his impact was felt in both the passing and running games. He had three catches for 56 yards, including a beautifully thrown ball for a 34-yard touchdown by Brady. That was an encouraging sign. It was his first TD since Week 1 against Houston.
  • Bowles Plays by the Book and it Costs Him: In the first quarter, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 2 from the Jets 24. Brady tried a deep pass to Edelman that was incomplete. James White was flagged for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference. Rather than let the Pats attempt a 41-yard goal, Jets coach Todd Bowles took the penalty, giving Brady another 3rd down shot on the Jets 34 with 12 yards to go. That’s when Brady hit Gronkowski down the seam for a TD.
  • Containment Still an Issue: We have heard ad nauseam about containing mobile quarterbacks, but what about a 39-year old journeyman? Too many times today and it has been an issue all season, the Patriots edge players were running past Josh McCown and allowing him to step up and throw the ball or scramble for yardage.
  • Brady Bum Knee? Not Visible: Tom Brady played well today and completed 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 TDs, the 34-yarder to Gronk and a 21-yard play to Julian Edelman. He averaged 9.1 yards per attempt and his QB rating was 115.4. He set another personal milestone passing Manning but that is nary a mention, even among the team. Best of all, Brady was spreading the ball around. Eight different receivers caught passes today…much more like it.
  • Defense-Tight Ends and Backs in the Passing game: The Patriots defense is facing the same thing every week, as teams have recognized what their weakness is and are exploiting it. They have issues covering opposing tight ends and backs out of the backfield are making the LBs appear really slow in coverage.
  • Offense Thy Name is Versatility: With Michel and White setting the tone on the ground, the Patriots rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense. Getting Shaq Mason back was a boost in the running game. But as we mentioned above, Brady shared the wealth in the passing game. Edelman led the way with 84 yards on four catches, Josh Gordon had 70 yards on five catches, Gronk with 56 on 3 grabs and Chris Hogan had two catches for 47 yards.
  • Penalties were a Thorn in the Backside: Coming into the game, the television crew mentioned that this refereeing team led by Ed Hochuli’s son, called the most penalties per game in the NFL. And they wasted little time in making their presence felt. The Patriots were flagged a season-high 11 times for 105 yards. Normally, I’d say here, this is something that the Patriots need to clean up. But they are never penalized much and this is the outlier. Today was more about the officiating crew than it was about the team.
  • The Play-calling, especially in the Red Zone: The Patriots, as we mentioned above rolled up almost 500 yards of offense…so scoring 27 points is low for that kind of day. The play calling by Josh McDaniels is getting very predictable in the red zone is a constant area where the team leaves points on the field every week. Three straight passes after a first and goal from the nine-yard line, the same play run twice with virtually no chance of success. That was an ugly sequence.  
  • Melifonwu Plays for His Hometown Team: Newly signed safety Obi Melifonwu saw some defensive snaps and plenty of work in the kicking game. He’s a guy I’d like to see more of in the tight end coverage role. But for his first action with his new team, it was a good debut.

Overall, the Patriots got out of the Meadowlands exactly what they wanted/needed. They got a road win in the division at a place where the opponent always plays them tough. They got a lot of their pieces on offense back and rolled up a ton of yardage.

They return home for a big Sunday afternoon game against Minnesota at 8-3 with a three-game lead over Miami with the tie-breaker in hand. The running game has been rediscovered with Michel, which we predicted in our keys to the game as well as the score which was spot on:

“New England will rediscover their running game with Sony Michel and force a couple of turnovers to pull away late in the game. Patriots 27-14”

Coupled with a late afternoon Pittsburgh loss and the Pats are now the #2 seed. There is plenty of football left to be played and this team still has a long way to go. But things are beginning to fall into place for them.

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.

New England Patriots News 11-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, we hope that everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving and that you were surrounded by the Four “F”s, friends, family, food and football on this very American holiday. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-25, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

No Brady? Don’t Count on That:  Friday, was a very rare occurrence where Tom Brady missed the practice and was listed as Questionable for today’s game against the Jets. He popped up on the injury report with a knee injury from the Titans game. Other than his 2008 ACL tear in Week 1, Brady hasn’t missed any games due to injury. He did miss 4 games in 2015 due to the Patriots playing in cold weather.

Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans passed away on Friday at the age of 81. He was the driving force to bring the NFL back to Houston after the Oilers left for Tennessee in 1996. The team didn’t announce the cause of death, but McNair had dealt with several various forms of cancer in the past.

Did you Know? That with 252 yards passing today, Brady will have surpassed 3000 yards passing for the 16th time in his career. He will tie Drew Brees and Peyton Manning for the second most seasons. Brett Favre had 18.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With three touchdown passes, Brady will tie Favre for the second-most TD passes in the regular season with 508, (Manning has 539), and he’d tie Manning for the most TD passes for both the regular and postseason combined with 579.

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2015, James White is second in NFL running backs with receptions with 222, Theo Riddick leads the NFL with 227 (and added 7 more on Thanksgiving Day).

“Friends” Thanksgiving Video: The Patriots took a step back in the nostalgia machine by compiling a Thanksgiving montage of the show Friends best Thanksgiving moments and superimposing Patriots’ heads on them… a bit corny but well done.

New England continues to live rent-free in Lane Johnson’s head. After winning a SB with Philly last year, he talked about NE incessantly during the offseason and now with the champs at 4-6 continues to talk about the Patriots…file under: fix your priorities.

Gordon Still Has a Lot More to Contribute:

Pats WR Josh Gordon has helped stretch defenses out since signing here and is averaging a big 18.3 yards per reception with 26 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns in 7 games. That projects out to a 60-catch, 1100-yard season over 16 games which isn’t bad considering he’s essentially missed nearly three years.

Gordon, however, told MassLive.com that he’s capable of much more and is hoping to show that down the stretch. Granted he was learning a new offense on the fly and was dealing with a balky hamstring during most of that time. Now both of those issues should be fixed although his chemistry with Brady is still a bit of a work in progress.

Will he ever again be that burner that people used to sit back and marvel at? That is still up in the air, he possesses very good speed but it has been quite a bit off of what we saw back in 2013. And his catch percentage of 53.1 percent could use improving but it is about where it has been his entire career.

The Patriots could use a productive Gordon down the stretch and the wide receiver is anxious to play meaningful games for the first time in his professional career in December and January.

 “It’s different, that’s for sure. It’s exciting, though,” Gordon said to MassLive. “It’s motivational for me, for everybody. I’ve never really had the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now. It’s a blessing.”

Pats Hoping For Vintage Gronk Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots offense scuffling in Tennessee, the bye week came at a perfect time to let Rob Gronkowski have some extra time to heal up from the back woes that have sidelined him for three of the past four games.

Gronkowski is expected to suit up today and play and at his press conference on Friday was proclaiming himself ready to go. In just 7 games this season, Gronkowski has just 29 catches for 448 yards and one touchdown, numbers far less than his normally stellar production.

He made the trip down to Nashville, but the team held him out, probably to give him an extra two weeks to get ready with the bye week last Sunday. A healthy Gronkowski means the rest of the offense operates at close to peak performance. Tom Brady is happy to hear that the big man is returning soon.

“Absolutely. I’ve played a lot of football with him, and I think I have a lot of trust and confidence in a lot of the things that have happened over the years,” Brady said. “When he’s not there, there’s a different level with other players. Sometimes we don’t try things because Gronk isn’t in there. Sometimes we do.

“Obviously, the more dependable, consistent players you have on the field, the more productive and efficient you’ll be, which leads to more points, which leads to better opportunities to win the game, which is ultimately the reason we’re all here.”

Burkhead Return Should Be a Great Help to the Offense:

Much like Rob Gronkowski, getting Rex Burkhead back for the Minnesota game should be a significant boost to the offense. Burkhead went on IR after the Lions game due to concussions but now he’s been back at practice and we haven’t heard about any setbacks in his rehab, so things are looking up.

Burkhead has been (when healthy) a valuable, versatile part of the team’s offense. While he doesn’t run as well as Sony Michel, nor catch the ball as well as James White, he does both of those things quite well, so when he’s on the field, the opposition doesn’t have a clue as to what the Patriots will do.

If he continues on with his rehab and is ready for a stretch run for the Pats, along with  Gronkowski, the offense will be much harder to stop. The team hasn’t had a full offensive roster at any time this season.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 8-5 Season 104-55-2 Bye Week: Chiefs, Rams

Thursday night’s picks  Bears, Cowboys, Saints 3-0

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Bengals
San Francisco at Tampa Bay: 49ers
Jacksonville at Buffalo: Jaguars
Oakland at Baltimore: Ravens
Seattle at Carolina: Panthers
New England at NY Jets: Patriots
NY Giants at Philadelphia: Eagles
Arizona at LA Chargers: Bolts
Miami at Indianapolis: Colts
Pittsburgh at Denver: Steelers
Green Bay at Minnesota (SNF): Vikings
Tennessee at Houston (MNF): Texans

Thursday Early Pick: Saints over Cowboys

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen Returns for the Bills Against Trash-talking Ramsey:

The Buffalo Bills take on the Jacksonville Jaguars today at New Era Field, the first time the teams have met since the Wildcard game of 2017 where the Jags held off Buffalo in a very ugly 10-3 win. But both teams learned that being the hunted is not so easy. The Jags started off 2-0 but have since gone 1-7. The Bills are also 3-7 and seasons of high hopes for both teams have gone up in smoke.

Now Josh Allen returns from an injury and his job is to the get the Buffalo offense going. And he is going to have the luxury of working thru much rust after missing a month. Allen was not very accurate before his elbow injury and facing one of the better pass defenses in the league will be a daunting task.

The Bills and OC Brian Daboll kept things simple for Allen in the early going and it will be interesting to see if he takes the training wheels off for the rookie this week. After Jalen Ramsey called Allen “trash” and a “stupid pick”, you think the Bills coaches wouldn’t love to see their top draft pick light up the Jags secondary (and Ramsey) with a big game today?

All About the QBs Today for the Dolphins/Colts:

The Miami Dolphins hit the road for Indy today and face the much-improved Colts in a big game for both teams. Today it is all about the signal callers for both teams and how well (or not) each plays which will determine who walks away with a win.

The Dolphins defense has to find a way to slow down Andrew Luck, who has been on a roll lately for the Colts. Luck knows his go-to guy, T.Y. Hilton will be locked up with Xavien Howard all day and that will be a battle to watch. But while other teams do that, Luck has leaned heavily on TE Eric Ebron who is leading the Colts in receptions, touchdowns, and targets. Covering him will be safety, big nickel LB, Minkah Fitzpatrick. The rookie will have his hands full today.

Ryan Tannehill has missed a month and the Dolphins offense without him has looked…at times, awful. Like Allen, Tannehill will have no time to work thru the rust factor. The Fins are 4-6 and have zero wiggle room left if they want to make a playoff run this year. The time is now or never for Tannehill, and the pressure is on him to produce. Not next year, or next month, or even next week. For Tannehill, the playoffs start today.

Jets Look to Follow the Blueprint to Beat New England:

The New York Jets have seen the Jaguars, Lions, and Titans blast the Patriots this season, and they know the key is getting off to a fast start as the Patriots have struggled in the first quarter of the road games they’ve lost this year. And getting their 29th ranked offense and 32nd ranked 3rd down offense off and running quickly. Just like the Titans did two weeks ago.

Sam Darnold won’t play but the wily veteran Josh McCown, played a very solid game in the Meadowlands last year where they Jets converted 9 of 17 third downs. Tennessee scored 17 points in the first 10 minutes, more than they were averaging over 60 minutes and the Jets know that starting fast is imperative.

They also will be getting Gronkowski back against them this week. Gronk has traditionally been a thorn in the Jets backside. In 13 games against Gang Green, Gronkowski has 60 catches for 738 yards and 8 touchdowns. Plus, he’s a very good blocker in the running game. They will look to put a lid on Gronkowski and force Brady to look elsewhere in the passing game.

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.

New England Patriots News 11-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-18, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

Not a SB Team?  Former Patriot front office assistant to Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi stated he has serious doubts that this Patriot team has what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl this year. On a podcast, he was direct in his belief.

“To me, this is not a good Patriots team. I have been saying it all year,” Lombardi said.

“They struggle to make explosive plays. Whether they have Gronk or don’t have Gronk, I think it is really problematic for them. When they are on the road — they didn’t have Shaq Mason at right guard, Ted Karras had to play in there — I thought the Titans did a great job. And Corey Davis here is a guy who has had one play over 25 yards all season. He had a 23-yard against the Eagles and a 55-yarder. The guy really makes plays down the field and he had seven (catches) for 125 (yards) in the game. That is not good.”

Did you Know? That yesterday November 17 was the 50th anniversary of the famous “Heidi” game. In 1968, the Jets and Raiders were locked in an epic shootout and the network cut away from the game to broadcast the film “Heidi” in their 4 p.m. time slot. The Raiders scored twice in the last minute to win 43-32, but the only people in America that got to see that were the fans in the stadium.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With 147 yards passing next week against the Jets, Tom Brady will become the NFL leader in passing yardage, regular and post-season combined.
Peyton Manning ……………………….79,279
Tom Brady …………………………….   79,133
Brett Favre………………………………. 77,693
Drew Brees ………………………………77,255

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2003, the Patriots are 46-7 (.868 win percentage) following a loss. That doesn’t bode extremely well for a Jets upset next week in the Meadowlands, but that is why they play the games.

Did you Know Pt. 4: Things that make you go hmm. There was a stat on social media, the other day, and I truly can’t remember who posted it to give proper credit, but here is a good one, especially for the “Belichick can’t draft” crowd.

Teams with the most draft picks that are still in the NFL:
Bengals     61
Ravens      54
Seahawks 54
49ers         53
Patriots     52

Now factor in WHERE the Patriots draft in relation to those other teams as well as everyone else, and presto!, their ratio isn’t so bad now, is it?

James White set a new personal best with 66 catches and is only 11 away from a new Patriots record. Tony Collins set the team record with 77 catches in 1986. White is also right on pace with some of the best #s of catches by a running back after 10 games.
Reggie Bush     2007  New Orleans  67
Larry Centers   1996  Arizona           67
Matt Forte        2014  Chicago           67
James White    2018  New England  66

Kaepernick to the Patriots Rumors:  The Patriots were rumored in September to be in talks with QB Colin Kaepernick to bring him to New England to back up Tom Brady. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, kind of dismissed that idea, not really confirming or denying it was true. However, in an interview with Devin Gordon of the NY Times, Kraft had this interesting tidbit about Kaepernick. “Let me say this: I would very much like to see him in the league,” Kraft said. That should stoke the Kaepernick to NE rumors again.

Heating Up in the Colder (Snowy?) Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along. Let’s see how this starts out in 2018 next week against the Jets.

Now Things Get Interesting, Pats Down the Stretch:

Last week we wrote that the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Chiefs who are 9-1 and now two games ahead of the Patriots in the AFC. The loss dropped New England out of the top two as Pittsburgh only has two losses (6-2-1). But the Patriots are far from out of the running for a bye once the playoffs roll around. Why? Take a look at the schedules of the teams involved.

The Chiefs (9-1) have an upcoming game this week against the Rams, and also have games upcoming against the Chargers, the Seahawks (in Seattle) and a possible trap game against the Ravens who have a tough defense.

The LA Chargers (7-2), I still have a hard time NOT saying San Diego, have games coming up against the Steelers, Chiefs and possible trap games against the Ravens and Bengals.

The Steelers (6-2-1) have the Chargers and then the Patriots and Saints in back-to-back games and also play the Jaguars today, the team who beat them twice in Pittsburgh last season.

The Patriots (7-3) have games with Minnesota, Miami (on the road where they always seem to play like poo-poo) and the Steelers

Everybody can’t win out, they all play each other. And think about this, the Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the loss column, that division is far from locked up. So, the Patriots are in a position where, if they play well down the stretch, should be in a great position to lock up a first-round bye for the playoffs. The games will get very intriguing from here on out.

Areas That Need Improving Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots off this week, they always do their own self-scouting and look to where the team feels it needs improving to finish the season strong. We’re going to post our own analysis on where we feel the team needs to improve to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and possibly parlay that into another game for NE in February.

Improve Special Teams- Specifically the coverage units. Very uncharacteristically for a Bill Belichick team, the Patriots have been bad in kick coverage this year. They currently rank 29th and 31st correspondingly in Punt and Kick coverage.

That is not good, especially with a defense that has had its struggles this year. The team seems to have already addressed those issues. They brought in STs/LBs Albert McClellan, formerly of the Ravens last week and just signed Ramon Humber who has spent time with the team in the past.

The return units are actually rounding into form quite well. The Patriots rank 2nd in the league in kickoff return yardage and 2nd in punt return average.

Get a Healthy Gronk and Burkhead Back for the Offense- The Patriots offense, while scoring at the 8th best mark in the league, can actually be much, much better. They’ve been very inconsistent and need to get their key skill position players healthy as well as their offensive line for a late-season push.

Gronkowski has missed several games and has been hobbled for much of the season beyond that. Besides being the best overall tight end in the game when he’s healthy, he provides matchup nightmares for defensive coordinators. If opponents double him, they leave someone else open. He’s a devastating blocker in the running game as well. Jacob Hollister has also been hurt most of the year, so it has left the tight end position with very little production. Dwayne Allen has two catches on the year.

Burkhead is a very valuable piece as he can spell both Sony Michel in the running game and James White in the passing game. While he’s the equal of neither in their respective strengths, his versatility makes him keep opposing defenses honest. Getting both Gronkowski and Burkhead back and healthy for a stretch run will do wonders for the Patriots offense.

Where’s The Beef (Pass Rush)- Thru the first 10 games the Patriots have just 15 sacks. That is 30th in the NFL and isn’t going to get it done. While they have gotten decent enough pressure on opposing QBs, the pass rush has to get home with much more regularity. It is a big difference between an incomplete pass on 2nd and 4 because of pressure and facing a 3rd and 12 or 13.

Trey Flowers has been outstanding and does so many things well, but the other players need to step up their games more. Although even Flowers would be best served with a bit more production as well.

They’ve been creating some extra pressure by using corner and linebacker blitzes. But as we’ve seen before, the best teams will pick up on those and it can be a dangerous situation if they do.

Brady Needs to Spread the Wealth Around- One of the things that has reared its ugly head last week in the loss to the Titans was the fact that Brady was locking into his primary receivers (Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White) and has pretty much ignored his secondary WRs (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett).

That’s always been a sure sign that Brady is struggling and that needs to change. Brady had Hogan wide open with what appeared to be a touchdown last week, instead, forcing the ball to Edelman on 4th down.

This plays into what we mentioned above and getting everyone back and healthy but he needs to do a bit better job overall and certainly to use all of his weapons. He said as much this week.

Brady and the Cliff…Keep Praying Boys, It May Come True Someday:

Our buddy Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda wrote a very intriguing piece the other day where he said there is a very real number of national football writers and NFL fans that can’t wait for the demise of Tom Brady. Mike hit it right on the head and I would encourage everyone here to check it out. And it is true.

Many of the hot take artists are really just jock sniffers wrapped up in a suit on national television. Brady has never fit the narrative because he was never supposed to be “the guy”. A 6th round draft pick #199 taken behind some of the quarterbacks that went before him in the draft that were underachievers…would be a politically correct term. He was supposed to be an asterisk on the minds of all. “Remember Tom Brady?” “Oh yeah, that unathletic kid from Michigan that won a bowl game…he wasn’t going to ever make it in the NFL.”

Remember 2001, that was a great story…9/11, We are all Patriots…yeah he had his moment but to the hot take crowd that was his 15 seconds. Now move over kid, the great one “Manning the #1 pick in the draft, he is the ONE.”

But 2003 happened and the kid showed it wasn’t a flash in the pan and he led another final Super Bowl drive to give his team another win and the hot take crowd wasn’t happy. By 2004, the great story had turned to an open hatred of him, his unquotable coach and the team that won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls.

After leaving Manning in the dust with eight Super Bowl appearances and five wins, now the cretin, ultracrepidarians can’t wait for him to fail. Which is why after every Patriot loss, they rush to the microphone to spew their latest drivel about the “cliff’ or whatever else they do. Don’t bother. One of those loudly proclaimed after the 2011 Super Bowl loss to the Giants that “Tom Brady will never see another Super Bowl” Three SBs and two wins later, now this buffoon rushes to the microphone to say…”All of those don’t really count”. Okay.

The two real questions are #1. Who would hire someone who is more wrong than the worst weatherman in the U.S.? And #2, Are your lives so pathetic, the hate for all things NE so bad, that you rush to listen to this after every NE loss? I wonder how bad the cheering will be against Brady this February when NE and NO have the Super Bowl QB AARP game of the ages?  Don’t bet against it. I called it before Week 1 and I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise. Fast forward to the 37:15 mark and there it is.

“Let the hate flow thru you…”

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 7-7 Season 96-50-2 Bye Week: NE, Buf, Mia, NYJ, Browns, 49ers

Thursday night’s pick  Seahawks over Packers 1-0

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ravens
Dallas at Atlanta: Falcons
Tampa Bay at NY Giants: G-men
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Houston at Washington: Texans
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Colts (SB Hangover)
Carolina at Detroit: Panthers
Denver at LA Chargers: Bolts
Oakland at Arizona: Raiders
Philadelphia at New Orleans: Saints (are we having fun yet?)
Minnesota at Chicago SNF: Vikings
Kansas City at LA Rams MNF: Rams

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

No AFC East Notes this week as everyone is on the bye week. We’ll have those back next 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.