Tag Archives: Chris Hogan

Podcast: Chiefs vs. Patriots Victory Recap And Bears Preview

Russ Goldman
October 17, 2018 at 11:54 am ET

In this episode, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots victory against the Chiefs. We ended the show by previewing the upcoming game against the Bears.

Best Of Social Media: Week 6 Chiefs vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 16, 2018 at 8:45 pm ET

On Sunday night the New England Patriots entered their Week 6 matchup with the undefeated 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs.

Coming into the game, in the Belichick/Brady era, the Patriots were seeking to move to 24-0 at home in the regular season against rookie quarterbacks. Chiefs standout rookie Patrick Mahomes stood in the way.

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Attack

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Locked in. #LFG

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Back at it again. #Gameday #LFG

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In the first quarter after both teams traded field goals, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower recorded his first career regular season interception to set up the games first touchdown.

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Running back Sony Michel continued his hot pace, becoming the first Patriots rookie to record a rushing touchdown in three straight games since Benjarvus Green-Ellis in 2008.

After the Chiefs responded with their second field goal, the Patriots led 10-6 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Patriots opened the scoring when Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for his first touchdown reception of the season, his first since the 2016 AFC Championship game. 17-6 Patriots.

Leading 17-9 following a third Chiefs field goal, rookie Sony Michel found the end zone again, becoming the first Patriots rookie with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Laurence Maroney in 2006. 24-9 Patriots heading into halftime.

HALFTIME 27-9 New England.

In the third quarter, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs began their comeback, with Mahomes finding Kareem Hunt deep for a 67-yard touchdown to close the gap to 24-16.

After another Chiefs field goal to cut their deficit to 27-19, the defense also made plays, forcing a Brady fumble that led to another touchdown.

With a minute to play in the third, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill to make it a one point game at 27-26 after three quarters.

Although the Patriots opened up the fourth quarter with a field goal to push the lead back up to four at 30-26, the Chiefs kept the pressure on following this 97 yard kick return by Tremon Smith.

The return setup a Mahomes to Hill 1 yard touchdown pass to give the Chiefs their first lead of the night at 33-30.

Needing to respond, Brady and the offense drove down the field on the following possession, enter Chris Hogan.

The deep ball setup this Brady four yard touchdown run to retake the lead, here comes the Clydesdale! 37-33 Patriots.

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With the Chiefs trailing by seven following another Patriots field goal, with three minutes to go in the game Mahomes again attacked the Patriots secondary and found Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game at 40.

The good news, the Patriots had three timeouts and plenty of time…oh and some guy named Tom Brady.

With 3:03 to go in the fourth, Brady marched the Patriots down the field with a little help from his tight end.

The drive setup a 28-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski, who drilled it for the 43-40 victory.

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VICTORY.

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W (Lay down @gronk! Go to sleep!)

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Patriots  Week 6 Report Card, New England Holds Off Chiefs 43-40

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:03 am ET

The Patriots are on a bit of a roll and have won three in a row. Last night’s win over the Chiefs won’t win many style points, but at the end of a scrap, it doesn’t really matter. The “W” is what was important especially coming in at 3-2 and the Chiefs undefeated.

A loss would have put them far, far back in the standings, as early as it still is for the AFC’s top seed, instead, they’re right back in the mix of things once again. After a good first half, the defense at times got smoked by the fastest offensive unit in the NFL. The Patriots offense left some points on the board but still scored 43, which speaks volumes at the progress they’ve made on that side of the ball.

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady knew that everyone was talking about Patrick Mahomes this week…and rightfully so. The second-year player but only starting his seventh game as a pro came in unbeaten and was lighting it up. Brady got off to a slow start this year but has been getting better.

On Sunday night, Brady completed 24-35 for 340 yards and 1 TD. He also ran for a late touchdown on a short scramble that won’t confuse anyone with Tyreek Hill speed but was effective none-the-less.

Brady was his vintage self, he had the offense in control and kept the Chiefs off balance all night. The Patriots rolled up 500 yards of offense and didn’t punt once. His only bad play was a poor decision to hold the ball far too long with no one open and was stripped sacked. Brady’s best pass was the touchdown to Edelman, on 3rd and 10, he dropped a dime in the corner of the end zone while under pressure.

But late in the game, his deep passes to Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski were also beautifully thrown. While Mahomes impressed for the seventh straight game, Brady showed what he’s been doing for 18 years.

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel led the way on the ground with 24 carries for 106 yards and 2 scores. His ability to make those short-yardage conversions was very impressive. He hasn’t become a factor in the passing game…yet.

James White is so reliable that when he has another game like Sunday night, you begin to take them for granted. White had six carries for 39 yards and five catches for 53 more. Six yards a carry, and over 10 a pop in the air. White and Michel have become a dynamic tandem that is just what the Patriots need.

Kenjon Barner appeared for a series or two and chipped in with  3 carries for 16 yards as he is trying to assimilate in the offense. James Develin provided his usual hard nose in the blocking game and had a couple of pass receptions.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers were solid on Sunday night.  Josh Gordon is still working thru some growing pains with Brady, their chemistry on the deeper out routes or the comebacks is still a work in progress. But he has very good hands, isn’t afraid to go over the middle to do dirty work and is still a big, fast athletic receiver. He made 5 catches for 42 yards but also drew a big 37-yard pass interference penalty on the one-yard line.

Julian Edelman had 4 catches for 54 yards including that nice touchdown pass from Brady. He had a solid game and chipped in one run as well for 7 yards. For a smaller WR, Edelman is an effective blocker in the running game.

Chris Hogan has gotten a lot of negativity thrown his way lately. But on Sunday night, with a full complement of receivers on hand, Hogan was facing the 2nd and 3rd corners that he traditionally has gone up against. And he produced. Hogan was targeted just four times but caught all four for 78 yards. His big one was the 42-yard bomb from Brady where Hogan got separation and was being interfered with but still made the catch.

Cordarrelle Patterson had one catch for 13 yards, one run for three yards and a 30-yard kickoff return. Phillip Dorsett was MIA, we had to check twice to ensure he was active.

Tight Ends: B+

Rob Gronkowski was quiet most of the night, as the Chiefs, like other teams made it their focus to take him away. But in the fourth quarter, Gronkowski came up with two huge plays. A beautifully designed 42-yarder where Trent Brown shot out and blocked the corner on the line, allowing Gronk a free release. He then gave the safety a stiff arm that put him on his back.

On the final drive of the game, Brady found Gronkowski down the right sideline for 39 yards, putting the Patriots in chip shot field goal range. His run blocking is outstanding and the big man was a key reason why they ran the ball down the Chiefs’ throats. Three catches, 97 yards, and his production came when they needed it.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line was outstanding against an arguably depleted Chiefs front seven. But it doesn’t matter, you dance with the ones who brought you. They pushed the Chiefs back consistently in the running game. Brady was sacked twice but one was his own fault, holding the ball too long. Only 1 QB hit. The Patriots held the ball for 36 minutes and averaged over 8 yards per play and rolled up 500 yards of offense.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was able to bring some pressure in the first half but got no sacks. Although they did influence several throws, especially in the red zone where it could have resulted in touchdowns. In the second half, the pressure was down and they allowed Mahomes to break containment several times.

Kareem Hunt gashed them again garnering 80 yards on just 10 carries.  After a promising start, they faded down the stretch.

Linebackers: C

This was a tale of two halves as well for the linebackers as their performance was up and down. The KC offense was targeting Dont’a Hightower early in the game with RPOs but then he picked up his game a notch and had several key plays. The interception of Mahomes where he put the Pats in prime position to score was a huge turning point. After showing blitz, he dropped and sat in coverage right in the throwing lane.

At the end of the half, he had pressure on Mahomes and had a hold of his shirt where the hurried throw was picked off in the end zone by Duron Harmon. Kyle Van Noy had a couple of chances at big tackles for loss against Hunt but missed…which is hardly a surprise, Hunt makes a lot of people miss.

Elandon Roberts had a couple of splash plays, a big run stuff near the goal line, and a deflected pass. An up and down night, but as we put in our keys to the game, the Chiefs offense is predicated on stressing the linebackers, which they do quite well.

Secondary: C

The secondary also was a mixed bag. The corners played a very solid game with one exception while the worst of the Chiefs’ production was the result of burning the safeties. Jason McCourty had a good game, the one play that was bad was where he had Hunt coming out of the backfield and peeked back at Mahomes in the pocket. Hunt kept going and was wide open. Mahomes hit him in stride for a too-easy 67-yard touchdown. Stephon Gilmore was excellent. He was locked up with Sammie Watkins and held him to two catches for 19 yards. He had a nice pass deflection in the end zone. Jonathan Jones got a freebie when Hill blew by him but the pass was overthrown. But he too was good.

The safeties? Sunday night was a rough one. McCourty was victimized twice by Hill for touchdowns and Hill’s 75-yarder was the result of him blowing by Duron Harmon easily. The majority of the damage done by Hill was the result of the safeties breaking down. After a good first half, they had a disastrous final two quarters that nearly cost the Patriots the win.

Special Teams: C

Stephen Gostkowski saves this grade from being much lower. He was outstanding kicking 5-5 on his field goal attempts. The game-winner, although a chip shot is still a pressure kick as we saw in the earlier games on Sunday afternoon. Ryan Allen had the night off except to hold and never punted.

The coverage units allowed the Chiefs good field position consistently and then gave up a 97-yarder that put the Chiefs on the three and gave them the lead. Patterson had one decent return.

Coaches: B-

The Patriots had an excellent game plan coming in and they executed it to near perfection in the first half, heading into intermission with a 24-9 lead.  Bill Belichick had the team ready to go. The defense was aggressive and forced some errant throws by Mahomes early. The offense was clicking right from the start.

When the Chiefs adjusted in the second half, we started to see the coverage breakdowns and big plays that they hoped to avoid. They nearly lost a game that they had much in hand at halftime.

In the end, they made a few more plays than the Chiefs did and controlled the clock at the end to not give KC another shot. We’re on to Chicago.

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.

Patriots, Brady Hand KC First Loss 43-40, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2018 at 6:32 am ET

Who can go to sleep after that one?

This one lived up to the billing. The Patriots-Chiefs Sunday Night Football game turned into an instant classic, at the end of the night resembling an old-fashioned AFL shootout as the teams were scoring back and forth. Punters? Who needs ‘em? This was a night for offense and big plays and the Patriots made just a couple more than the Chiefs did in the end and walked off with 43-40 win on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time ran out.

Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a huge 39-pass play down the right sideline to set up the game-winner as he and KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes put on a show for fans at the stadium and watching on television. If you were looking for offense and points scored, this was the place for you on Sunday night and you would not have been disappointed.

We wrote in our pregame keys that this would come down to whoever got the ball last. We said Brady would lead them to a 38-35 win on a late drive. We didn’t give the offenses enough credit.

The Patriots defense played a tremendous first half, holding the Chiefs explosive offense to just nine points and forced Mahomes into two costly interceptions, one which put the New England offense on the doorstep for an easy TD, and the other at the end of the half in the Pats end zone which cost KC three points at the end of the half.

They were aggressive and disruptive and did enough to slow down a Chiefs offense which had outscored their opponents by a whopping 59-9 in the first quarter of their first five games. But Mahomes in the second half showed the stuff that has been the hallmark of the Chiefs’ offense this year.

They began hitting big plays and turned a comfortable 24-9 lead at the break into a track meet. Mahomes made one play, running to his left and then in a twisting motion, firing a frozen laser downfield about 30 yards to an open Tyreek Hill that was just sick. And the 67-yard strike to RB Kareem Hunt had the déjà vu feeling of a year ago when the Chiefs torched the Pats on opening night.

He brought the Chiefs back to take the lead in the fourth quarter 33-30 on a pass to Tyreek Hill which quieted what had been a raucous New England crowd. That came on the heels of another big play, a 97-yard kickoff return by Tremon Smith that set the Chiefs up on the doorstep.

Brady behind the running game of Sony Michel who rushed for another 106 yards, then put up the next 10 points giving the Patriots a 40-33 lead with a little bit more than three minutes left on the clock. Mahomes and the Chiefs would need only 12 seconds of that, thank you very much. Hill flew down the field like he was shot out of a cannon, dusting Duron Harmon, who is one of the fastest Patriots like a turnstile at the airport, going 75-yards in one play and the score was tied at 40. If there was one mistake in that, it was that KC left Tom Brady too much time. With 3:03 left and all three timeouts remaining, the Patriots did what great teams are supposed to do in big moments. They answered the bell. Michel picked up a key 3rd and 1 at the Patriots 34 and they were in business.

Brady hit James White for 16 and then Gronkowski for 39 to set them up for milking the clock and getting the ball on the left hashmark for Stephen Gostkowski who nailed the 28-yarder as time ran out to give the Patriots the win and improve them to 4-2.

Brady finished 24-35 for 340 yards with a TD. He also ran one in from 4-yards for another. Mahomes finished 23-36 for 352 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs. While they flustered him a bit early in the game, he never panicked and was cool down the stretch and once he got them going, the Chiefs offense looked unstoppable.

The Patriots two-head RB tandem of Michel and White was again excellent, Michel carried 24 times for 106 yards, while White had 8 carries for 39 yards and added 5 catches for 53 more. Rob Gronkowski was quiet until the fourth quarter, catching two huge passes, a 42-yarder, where he displayed a stiff arm that belongs in the WWE, to set up the go-ahead score and his final catch that set the team up for the win. He finished with 3 catches for 97 yards. New England finished with 500 yards of offense.

Hunt showed he loves playing in Foxboro, he had another mammoth game for KC carrying 8 times for 80 yards and caught 5 passes for 105 more. Hill caught 7 for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Kelce had 5 grabs for 61 yards but the Patriots did a good job of neutralizing him early on.

The Patriots are on to Chicago to take on the Bears who lost in overtime to the Dolphins in Miami. They play 4 of the next five on the road.

Patriots Three Up, Three Down:

Trending Up:

Tom Brady – This wasn’t his best game, he made mistakes, he held the ball too long on a third-down play in the third quarter that ended up being a strip sack, but he more than made up for it. But on a day where the offense rolled to 500 yards, Brady threw for 340 and added a heads up running touchdown. And the final drive of the game was vintage Brady, Josh Gordon characterized his demeanor in the huddle then as “very poised.”

Sony Michel – Remember a few weeks ago some bobo began calling him a bust? And he got many fans jumping on board with that absurdity. How do you like them apples? Michel had another strong game and his ability to pick up the short-yardage conversions has been excellent. His last three games? He’s racked up 112, 98, and 106 yards and the Patriots have scored 119 points in those three games and won all three.

Dont’a Hightower– On the Chiefs first possessions, they were targeting Hightower using the RPO (run/pass option). But that changed. He began to play a more aggressive game and was chipping Kelce before he was going out in the pattern, and got a key interception. Faking a blitz, he dropped into the throwing lane where he picked off Mahomes. He later brought pressure on Mahomes which forced a throw that was picked off by Harmon in the end zone. The aggressiveness shown by Hightower and the defense held KC to just 4-10 on third down.

Honorable mention – Patriots offensive line. When you roll up 500 yards of offense, including 173 yards on the ground and control the clock for 36 minutes, you’ve done your job.

Trending Down:

Jason McCourty – The Patriots corner who has played so well this year, committed the cardinal sin of peeking back in the backfield early in the third quarter. It was then that Hunt blew by him and Mahomes hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown strike.

Devin McCourty – Yes, it wasn’t the greatest of nights for the twins from Rutgers. McCourty had the unenviable task of trying to stick with Hill. Nobody has the kind of speed that Hill has. He makes everyone chasing him look slow and he easily beat McCourty twice for touchdowns in the second half.

Patriots coverage units – Remember when the Pats special teams were among the best in the business at covering kicks and punts? The unit got gashed and hard by the Chiefs tonight. Smith returned one kickoff for 33 yards out to the 37 to give KC excellent field position which led to a field goal. Next, he returned on 97 yards to put the Chiefs inside the five-yard line for an easy go-ahead score. That is unacceptable.

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.

New England Patriots News 10-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-14, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Josh Gordon said this week, that the transition to the Patriots offense hasn’t been that hard, because of all the support that he’s receiving from the other players, including Tom Brady. Gordon said the two talk football all day long and with his family here now, the transition to New England has been much smoother.

“Most of the day, we end up talking football, whether it be in the locker room here briefly or in most of the meeting rooms or the time after practice. We carve out time, and we make it happen,” Gordon said.

“I just ask and he’s open about it. It makes it easy for me to communicate with him and makes it a real natural type of relationship,” Gordon added.

Chris Hogan will have a lot of eyes on him this week and moving forward. Hogan was outstanding as a complementary WR in 2016 and then was on his way to another very solid 2017 when he went down with a shoulder injury. He struggled the rest of the season however, he had a very big game in the Super Bowl so the hope was that he was back.

However, thus far in 2018 Hogan has struggled to get any separation in man coverage and his numbers are way down. With Josh Gordon in the fold and Julian Edelman back from his torn ACL and four-game suspension, if Hogan is going to make a splash this season, the time is now.

QB Connor Cook, WR Devin Ross, TE Shane Wimann as well as edge players Will Clarke and Kasim Edebali were given workouts by the Patriots on Friday at Gillette Stadium. Wimann spent time with the Patriots during training camp before suffering an injury. Edebali went to Boston College and bounced around to several teams.

Tom Brady passing the torch as the premier QB in the AFC to Patrick Mahomes?  SMH. Noted bobo and hot-take artist Nick Wright said that should KC win tonight, the mantle may be passed from Brady to Mahomes. Pump the brakes a bit. Mahomes is off to a tremendous start, but we’ve seen this before, let Mahomes develop and actually win something before you anoint him as the next GOAT. Let’s see one has five SB wins and one has five wins…period. That’s a stretch even for Wright.

Rob Ninkovich has taken the side of Rob Gronkowski (not surprisingly), in the debate over who is the better tight end, Gronk or Travis Kelce. While both are talented pass catchers, Kelce treats blocking inside like kryptonite, something Ninko pointed out. However, having a former teammate jump to your defense isn’t exactly scientific.

Blueprint term overused much? One of the terms in the NFL that is used far too often is the word “blueprint”. Team A has a blueprint on how to defeat Team B, as if the different players had nothing to do with it and it is all scheme driven.

Case in point, this week I saw close to a half-dozen mentions of the Jacksonville “blueprint” on how to stop the Kansas City offense. While certain principles may apply on how to approach certain downs and situations, the differences in personnel for every team make that blueprint seem more guideline-ish. But maybe we’re just reading too much into it.  BTW, didn’t Jacksonville lose 30-14?

Jalen Ramsey who made such noise about Tyreek Hill being a “return specialist” was sure showing some respect last week. With the Chiefs facing a 3rd and 10 in the second half, Ramsey was giving Hill an 11 yards cushion. Not bad…for a return specialist. Hill had four catches for 61 yards and two runs for 26 more.

London Jaguars? PFT Fell For Another Banana in the Tailpipe:
Not Patriots related but some NFL “news” is that Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith saw the item in the British tabloids that not only is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is buying Wembley Stadium and….(gasp!) is planning to move the Jaguars there in 2022. Khan also owns the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League. Smith, as well as the British tabloids, had as their “source”, a former Fulham employee, Craig Kline who says that Khan “told this to him and to keep quiet” before he was fired from Fulham over a year ago.   

Kline, has been described (and aptly) by people that knew him in Fulham as a total flake. Since being canned, he’s accused the Khans of just about everything including racism. This latest take is just another “look at me” moment.

The Khans saw what the Patriots did in Foxboro with One Patriots Place and are trying to build the same type of facility and are actively pumping millions of dollars into the surrounding area of their stadium to make it a showplace and moneymaker. Hardly the move a smart billionaire would do if he’s planning on pulling out in a few years.

The NFL is committed to London by playing games there (at Wembley) every year. But moving a franchise there? That is still far in the distance and wouldn’t receive the necessary support from the other owners to make it happen.

White’s Versatility Has Him On Pace For Big Season:

Although this isn’t anything new, the Patriots have been relying on James White’s versatility heavily this season. And his numbers right now have him on pace for a record-breaking year.

White’s 32 catches and 270 yards currently have him slotted for a 103 catch, 864 yards receiving season which would be the most ever for a running back in NFL history (Matt Forte had 102) and the most yards receiving in a single season for a Patriots running back. Tony Collins holds the Pats record for a RB receiving with 684 yards. White also is on pace for 13 receiving touchdowns.

While part of his numbers has been the case of necessity early in the year, White has always been versatile and dependable. Besides never fumbling, he’s always productive in a multitude of ways.

White probably won’t be able to keep those numbers going. Now that Julian Edelman is back and with Josh Gordon in the fold, Tom Brady will be spreading the wealth around a lot more in the upcoming weeks. But it should do little to diminish his value to the team as a very dependable, versatile cog in the offense. We look to him tonight to be a big part of the game plan.  

McCourty: Pats Have to Find a Way to Negate Chiefs’ Speed:

In the leadup for tonight’s game, Devin McCourty was asked this week about the unenviable task of trying to slow down the high flying Chiefs offense. He told the Herald’s Kevin Duffy that Kansas City reminds him of the Steelers team of just a few years ago.

“It’s a little bit like I remember playing against Pittsburgh when it was Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders,” McCourty said. “Like that was just speed everywhere with a quarterback that can launch the ball and get it to them, and it’s the same thing. You have a receiving corps where I think 4.39 (40-yard dash time) is like the slowest speed out there.”

The Patriots will have their hands full tonight, trying to equate with the Chiefs speed outside where they don’t just air it out, but use Tyreek Hill’s speed in the running game as well. How well or poorly they handle that speed will go a long way in determining how tonight’s game goes.

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 6 Predictions:

Last week: 11-4 Season 49-27-2 Bye Week: Lions, Saints

Thursday night’s pick Eagles over the Giants 1-0

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: Falcons
Carolina at Washington: Panthers
Seattle at Oakland: Seahawks
Indy at NY Jets: Colts
Arizona at Minnesota: Vikings
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: Steelers
LA Chargers at Cleveland: Browns
Buffalo at Houston: Texans
Chicago at Miami: Bears
LA Rams at Denver: Rams
Baltimore at Tennessee: Ravens
Jacksonville at Dallas: Jaguars
Kansas City at New England: Patriots
San Francisco at Green Bay: Packers

Early Thursday Night Prediction: Denver over Arizona

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Fan Takes Shot at the Franchise Even in Death:

The Buffalo Bills have some of the most passionate football fans in the league. However, they can push the envelope as much, if not more than anywhere else. They’ve taken table crashing to an art form. And now one of their long-suffering fans has with a dying wish slammed his team one last time.

Lee Merkel, 83 passed away last week, without ever seeing his beloved Bills win a Super Bowl, although he watched them go four straight years to attempt to win the big one but ultimately fail. And one of his wishes was that six current Bills players act as pallbearers at his funeral. Why? So the Bills “can let him down one last time.”

Merkel, a long-time season ticket holder,  is to be buried in a Bills t-shirt that says “once before I die” was an Army veteran, a father, grandfather and ironically enough a member of the Utica Optimists Club.

Dolphins Face Pivotal Mid-Season Game At Home Against Chicago:

The Miami Dolphins are no strangers to questions being asked of them around this time of year. And the biggest question always is, “Who are the Dolphins going to be this year?” The last two years are prime examples.

Under Adam Gase, the team limped out to an atrocious 1-4 start in 2016, with the only win against Cleveland. But then they blew out Pittsburgh and finished strong, going 10-6 and making the playoffs before Ryan Tannehill was hurt and they were ousted in the Wild Card Round.

A year ago, they were thought to have turned the corner and started a very respectable 4-2 and the hope was that, despite losing Tannehill for the year in preseason, they’d be able to build on their success from 2016. Then came the debacle, a 40-0 whitewashing by the Ravens on national television and they would drop six in a row and finish out of the playoffs with a 6-10 record.

Wholesale changes were made. Locker room cancers were cut out and they brought in strong veteran leaders like Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and Robert Quinn. The Dolphins raced out to 3-0 start and things were looking up. But then two blowout losses, one to New England by 31 and the other to the Bengals after Miami led by 17 has the Fins in a very familiar position in mid-October. After today’s game against the Bears, we should know more about this team, depending on how they play.

Crowell A Game-Time Decision for the Jets:

The New York Jets Isaiah Crowell had a franchise record 219 yards rushing last week against the Denver Broncos on just 15 carries for a ridiculous 14.6-yard average. Crowell’s yard average, which is outstanding as a pass receiver was the highest by any player in league history with 15 carries.

He was outstanding and a big part of the reason that the Jets rolled easily at home over the Broncos last week. But he tweaked an ankle last week and after not practicing Wednesday and Thursday, he returned, albeit in a limited fashion on Friday’s walk-through, so coach Todd Bowles has stated that they’ll see where he’s at on Sunday morning.

“We’ll work him out Sunday and see where he’s at,” Bowles said.

Crowell had runs of 77 yards for a TD, 54 yards in the third quarter, and a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter en route to his big, big day. In the first five games of the season, Crowell has had five runs of 50 yards or more in the first five games of the season.

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.

 

Good News, Bad News: Patriots Offensive Totals Through 5 Games

Ian Logue
October 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm ET

Some interesting numbers after five weeks for the Patriots offense, with a different take on some stats after comparing some totals at this point last season.

Here’s a little good news, bad news after looking things over:

Bad News: Rob Gronkowski doesn’t have a red zone reception so far through five games on just one target.
Good News: Gronkowski had just one red zone reception (a touchdown) in 2017 on six targets at this point, so he’s not far off from where he was last season in that regard.

Bad News: The Patriots have 443 fewer total receiving yards so far than they had at this time last year.
Good News: They have more red zone receiving yards (114yds) than they had at this point last season (107yds).

Bad News: The Patriots have fewer receiving first downs (63) than they had at this point last season (79).
Good News: They actually have one more receiving touchdown (12) than they had at this point last season (11).


Gronk currently leads the Patriots in receiving yards. (USA TODAY Images)

Bad News: The Patriots have just two receivers with 200+ yards receiving, with only Gronkowski eclipsing the 300+ plateau.  Last season at this point, the Patriots had five receivers with 200+ yards, including two who were over 300.  Gronkowski (318yds) and former Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks (379) were the two with those totals.
Good News: This season the Patriots have 11 receivers with double-digit yardage totals compared to 10 last season. Not exactly a huge positive, but a positive nonetheless.

Bad News: The Patriots have just two receiving plays of 30+ yards so far this season compared to eight at this point last season.
Good News: None…that isn’t good.  However, both of those plays occurred in each of the last two games (Patterson’s 55-yd TD against the Dolphins, and Josh Gordon’s terrific 34-yd touchdown Thursday night against Indy) so hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

Good News: Tom Brady has thrown for more second-half touchdowns (5) than he had at this point last season (3).
Bad News: Four of his six interceptions so far this season have all come in the second half.  He hadn’t thrown any in the second half at this point in 2017.

Good News: For the most part, the Patriots offense has done a good job of staying out of long-yardage situations on offense, especially on 3rd down.   At this point last season they had already faced 3rd-and-10 seven times compared to just four this season, along with having been up against 3rd-and-over-10 yards twelve times compared to just eight this season.
Bad News: They’re 0-for-4 converting on those 3rd-and-10 attempts while converting just 2-of-8 on 3rd-and-over-10.  Again, obviously, not great news but that should also hopefully improve moving forward.

Bad News: Through four games, Tom Brady was just 15-of-30 (50%) for 143-yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs in the first quarter, compared to 33-of-49 (67%) for 433-yards and 4 TDs last season.
Good News: After the Colts game, where he was 12-of-13 for 105-yards and 1 TD, Brady’s first quarter completion percentage jumped to 63% with his totals now sitting at 27-of-43 for 248yds, 2TDs, 2INTs.  Players who helped raise that stat last Thursday night include James White (4/4 38yds), Julian Edelman (3/4 28yds), Corradelle Patterson (2/2 11yds, 1TD) and Rob Gronkowski (1/1 19yds). This improvement has been key as the Patriots have scored 10 of their current season total of 19 first-quarter points over the last two games.

Good News: Dwayne Allen actually has a reception through five games, which is certainly better than the 0-for-6 total he carried through the same number of games last season.
Bad News: That one catch went for a 4-yard loss.

LEFTOVERS:

– Sony Michel is ahead of last year’s leader at this point, Mike Gillislee, with Michel carrying the football 67 times for 294-yards along with 2 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry.  That’s better than Gillislee’s 69 rushes for 246 yards, which was an average of 3.6 yards. However, Gillislee also led all rushers at the time with four touchdowns.

– At this point last season, Chris Hogan had 23 receptions for 288 yards and a team-leading 5 touchdowns.  So far this year Hogan has just 11 receptions for 143-yards and 2 touchdowns, just one reception ahead of newcomer Corradelle Patterson (10 catches, 10yds, and 2TDs).  With Gordon and Edelman potentially taking the focus off of him, Hogan’s production should hopefully improve.

– One final related stat for Hogan, he had five red zone receptions at this point last season, with four touchdowns after being targeted nine times.  He’s been targeted just once thus far in 2018, which was a 7-yard touchdown.

– It’s hard to believe that James White didn’t have a touchdown reception at this point last season, but so far in 2018 he already has a team-best 4 touchdowns.  He also leads the team in receptions so far with 32 receptions for 270-yards.  He also led the team at this point last year with 29-catches for 230 yards, ahead of Hogan (23) and Amendola (23), followed by Gronkowski (20) and Cooks (18), who rounded out the top 5 in that category.

– Tom Brady has 8 red zone touchdowns so far, which is actually one better than the 7 he had at this point last season.  White (4), Phillip Dorsett (2), Hogan (1) and Patterson (1) are the ones who get the credit for that total.  Last season it was Hogan (4), Danny Amendola (1), Rex Burkhead (1) and Rob Gronkowski (1) who each accounted for that total.

For a more detailed look at much more sortable stats, view our Stats Page: 

Players To Watch Patriots-Chiefs SNF Week 6

Steve Balestrieri
at 9:07 am ET

“It Feels Like We’re Playing Kansas City”  

The New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in a much-hyped game for Week 6 in the 2018 NFL season. Except for Bill Belichick that is. Belichick wasn’t buying into all the talk for playing for AFC supremacy, home-field advantage or anything else. On Thursday at his press conference, he was asked a few times about how he feels about the significance of the game. Belichick’s not-so-surprising response… “it feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

But make no mistake it is a big game for both teams. The Chiefs have been on a roll and are 5-0, they want to continue their dominance and build upon that. But they also know they were in a similar position a year ago when the wheels came off. The Patriots started badly at 1-2 but have played much better the past two weeks and now it begins a very tough stretch of games for them.  

This game features two very intriguing QBs, Tom Brady, the reigning MVP and winner of five Super Bowls and Patrick Mahomes, the second-year player making just his seventh start in the NFL who has been lighting the league on fire for the first month plus. Their skill sets and strengths are pretty different and each will have the chance to showcase their talents again on the big national stage on Sunday Night.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is actually questionable to play with a knee injury and was limited in Thursday’s practice session. It isn’t known if this latest injury is a continuation of his knee that was drained of fluid during training camp or it is another new injury that he suffered during the Thursday night game against the Colts.

Michel in the past two weeks has gained over 200 yards and has been really rounding into form after missing all of the preseason games this summer. He has begun to show the form that he exhibited in college that attracted him to the Patriots this spring and gives them a dynamic back who gain can break a small run into a big one.

He should be (if he’s good to go), a big part of the game plan this week. The Patriots will look to stay balanced and run the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Kansas City’s pass rushers off balance. And the best way to do that is running the ball right at them.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots newest wide receiver has still only been a member of the team for about a month and is still learning the playbook and the route tree for the Patriots wide receivers. So far, the results while encouraging, have been small in relation to what his potential can be. Gordon has been saying and doing all the right things and his teammates seem to be completely behind him.

This might be a week where the coaches try to get him a bigger piece of the game plan and try to stretch the field more vertically. We saw last week, the Jaguars try to the same thing time and again, and while it was successful a few times, their protection didn’t hold up enough to make it viable.

The Patriots could opt to do some of the same, especially if Eric Berry and Justin Houston are out. Gordon has the size and athleticism to be a huge target down the field, opening up all kinds of room for guys like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to work the middle of the field.

James White:

Assuming everyone is healthy (or reasonably so) and on the field, White could be the Patriots “X-Factor” this week in the passing game. As we wrote in our keys to the game earlier this week, with the Chiefs having to cover Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon, it opens White up as the movable chess piece for Brady to use in the air.

While Michel is the valuable piece in the ground game, White is the Swiss Army Knife for the passing game. Look for Brady to put him in motion and try to isolate him on a linebacker where they can possibly get a mismatch.

White is one of the most dependable, versatile players on the Patriots offense. He can do it all, run between the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and pass block. He and Michel will no doubt feature prominently this week.

Tom Brady:

With all of the league abuzz, and rightfully so over the early season excellence of Patrick Mahomes, Brady is usually a player that will use that fact as fodder to motivate himself to elevate his game this week. Not that he should need any extra motivation. The past two games against Kansas City have ended badly for New England.

Brady started slowly this season, but the past two games, he’s looked much better and is getting hot at just the right time. The Patriots will need a big game out of him, and with many questioning, whether New England is ripe to fall, this game against the undefeated Chiefs will be a big measuring stick.

Brady will look to start quickly this week, something he did against the Colts where he went 9-9 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson. KC’s defense has given up a ton of yardage but has been very stout on 3rd down, which will automatically be something that will bear watching this week.

Pat Chung/Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots defense has a pretty heavy task in front of themselves this week, in trying to scheme a way to slow down the high flying Chiefs’ offense. To do so will require a total solid defensive effort but a couple of players must have strong games on Sunday night. And it starts with Chung and Van Noy.

The Chiefs’ RPO (run/pass option) game is strong and gave the Patriots fits last year, not only against the Chiefs but in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. No doubt Andy Reid took note of that. Van Noy will need a big game this week. KC likes to fake the run and get Travis Kelce that deep open space behind the linebackers with lots of room to move. Van Noy will have to get the depth and take away those easy passes.

Chung is outstanding in run support and he’ll probably draw the task of covering Kelce much of the time. It will be an interesting chess match. It won’t be an easy one to win but they should have a good game plan in place.

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.

Patriots-Chiefs Week 6, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The New England Patriots host Sunday Night Football, their second primetime game in a row, where they will appear in four in five weeks. The Patriots travel to Chicago for a 1:00 p.m. start next week followed by a Monday Night Football game in Buffalo and then another Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (3-2) defeated the Colts on Thursday night 38-24. Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns while Sony Michel rushed for 98 more yards this week as the offense played the best game that they’ve had all year.

The Chiefs (5-0) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-14 as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense sliced and diced the Jags defense. After the talk that Jacksonville did before the game, it had to have been demoralizing to the say the least.

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 Chiefs are meeting for the 36th time including the playoffs in their history since the days of the old AFL when they would meet twice a year. Kansas City holds the overall lead 18-14-3. The Patriots own the edge in games in Foxboro with an 11-7-2 record. This is the fourth straight primetime game between the two teams since 2011.

The Chiefs won the last matchup between the two teams 42-27 on Opening Night in the NFL for 2017.

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 Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has found its rhythm the past two games with Sony Michel and James White sharing the duties. Michel had 112 yards against Miami and then 98 more against the Colts last Thursday night. They just brought back Kenjon Barner to add some depth. But they miss Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead who are both on IR.

The Chiefs defense has struggled against the run allowing an average of 118.8 yards per game and a whopping 5.8 yards per rush. And a part of that is that the Chiefs have been playing with the lead every game and are pinning their ears back with their pass rush. However, they aren’t great against the run and can be run on, running right at those edge rushers.

Look for the Patriots to stay balanced and keep riding Michel attempting to keep the Chiefs defense on the field and to slow down their pass rushers. This will allow them to use play action passing on early downs as well as to control the clock.

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

The Patriots passing game finally has all of their weapons on the field at the same time. And that unit looked nothing like the one that struggled for the first few weeks of the season. Having Julian Edelman back gives them a huge boost from the short-yardage slot position and this keeps the chains moving. Josh Gordon has only caught four passes in two games but brings a different element to the field. As he gets more and more comfortable in the offense, his production will increase.  Rob Gronkowski has been slowed by a bothersome ankle but should see a spike as well.

The Chiefs pass defense has struggled in 2018 allowing an average of 343 yards per game. They miss safety Eric Berry who may not play this week. Pass rushers Justin Houston and Tanoh Kpassagnon may also miss this week with injuries as well. Only the Bucs have allowed more yardage thru the air and the KC defense is dead last in total yards allowed as well as 25th in points.

Look for Brady to attack the middle of this defense, especially if Houston is out with Edelman and Gronkowski early. This should open up opportunities on the perimeter with Gordon and their complementary guys in Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan. The “X-Factor” for the passing game this week is James White out of the backfield. With a full complement of receivers now, he can be a big mismatch when they split him out wide. This would be a good week to get Jacob Hollister involved a bit more in the passing game as well.

Of course, everything depends on the protection. The Patriots offensive line has to do a good job of keeping the Chiefs pass rushers at bay. They saw how Dee Ford single-handedly impacted the Jacksonville game. That must come with a combination of better blocking and having the running game keeping them off-balance.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs have their workhorse in Kareem Hunt who burst on the scene as a rookie with a huge game against the Patriots in his first NFL game. Hunt led the league in rushing a year ago and tremendous vision, balance and runs with good power.

Kansas City didn’t use him much the first couple of weeks because they were just lighting up the opposition through the air but that changed in Oakland where he rushed for 121 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

The Patriots run defense was awful for the first three weeks of the season and very good the past two weeks, albeit playing against teams that don’t run the football well (Dolphins/Colts).  But the difference was the play of the front seven, specifically the defensive line. Where they were getting pushed around a lot, they stiffened and were getting penetration, disrupting the opposition the past two weeks.

The Chiefs gashed New England with Hunt a year ago, opening up all kinds of holes in the passing game, particularly running to the right. Look for much of the same with Hunt who it seems is starting to find his groove.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game has been lights out so far in 2018. No one has figured out a way to stop them and with a plethora of playmakers to throw to, (Tyreek Hill, Sammie Watkins, Travis Kelce and Hunt out of the backfield), Patrick Mahomes has had historically crazy success. Thru five weeks he’s averaging nearly 300 yards per game with 14 TDs and just 2 interceptions.

The Patriots’ secondary play has been better as of late, however, the pass rush has been inconsistent again and they’re allowing opposing QBs for the most part too much time to see the field and throw the ball. Against the Chiefs this week, that is a recipe for another big night for Mahomes.

Look for the Andy Reid to run those RPOs (run/pass option) plays that they sliced New England up with last year again. Those plays freeze the defense and allow the TE Kelce to get immediate separation in the gap behind the LBs with room to move. When the Chiefs get in the red zone, they spread the ball around beautifully and nine different players with TD catches… Who do you try to take away?

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Chiefs

The Patriots have a solid group of specialists with Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, and returners with Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson returning punts and kickoffs. The coverage units have been a bit inconsistent and need to play better.

The Chiefs counter with Harrison Butker and the excellent Dustin Colquitt in their kicking duties. But the Chiefs feature the dangerous Hill who returns kicks and has a 91-yard punt return. As a team, the Chiefs are averaging a ridiculous 26.7 yards on punt returns, while holding opponents to 1.7 yards per return average. That’s called flipping the field.

The pressure will be on Allen this week, to keep the ball away from Hill and angle his punts out of bounds.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is shaping up to be an exciting Sunday Night game, that may harken back to those days of the old AFL shootouts before the 1970 merger. Reid’s offenses always get off to a fast start in the season. It will be interesting if the Patriots and Belichick, with 10 days to prepare to figure out a way to slow down the Chiefs offense.

The feeling here is to do that, they’ll have to be aggressive, play Cover 1 man and try to jam and reroute and/or slow the receivers at the line of scrimmage. If they can do that and disguise their coverages, then they have a shot at slowing down KC’s offense. But traditionally against mobile QBs such as Mahomes, the Patriots M.O. has been to be more passive and in a react, containment mode. That, in our opinion, will not work and they’ll get smoked if they do that.

Offensively, the Patriots offense can match up just as well against the Chiefs defense with Brady leading the way. They can stress the KC defense with plenty of weapons of their own. One big area to watch is third down, one area that the Chiefs defense has done very well in.

The key from a New England perspective is to start fast. KC has outscored the opposition 59-9 in the first quarter of the games this season. They’ve either been slightly outscored or are even in every other quarter. They have to find a way to get the lead and force the Chiefs to play catch up for a change. This could be one of those games where the team that has the ball last wins. Since the Patriots are home, we’re saying that it will be Tom Brady.  Patriots 38-35

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 10-07, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-07, & AFC East Notes.

With the Patriots playing on Thursday night, today we get to relax and watch a nice slate of games on tap for the remainder of Week 5.  

Robert Kraft and the coaches were sporting the new Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Fly Knit Low RKK on Thursday night. The new shoe design commemorates Kraft’s 25th anniversary of owning the team. And proceeds from the sales will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. And for $160 bucks, you too can sport these.

“This shoe will get us over $2 million to the Boys & Girls Club of Boston,” Kraft said. “So whenever you can do something you love, you wear it, and you can do good in the community, it’s a win all around.”

Josh Gordon had an interesting comment after the game on Thursday night, as he spoke with Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston. According to NBCSB Curran asked Gordon how it felt to NOT be the focal point of the offense. And Gordon replied it was a relief. Curran, as relayed from Phil Perry said that Gordon said he liked watching the other players do their thing and he’s happy just to contribute right now.

Jason McCourty is enjoying a fantastic start of the season. It wasn’t that long ago, we were talking about him being on the roster bubble in training camp after a lackluster showing was moved to safety.

So now at the Week 5 mark, where is McCourty now? He’s the fourth-rated CB in all of the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). McCourty has allowed only 13 catches on 26 attempts for 116 yards with three passes defensed. On Thursday night, McCourty allowed just 4-10 passes for 44 yards with two passes defensed, one of which should have been an interception.

J-Mac has gone from the bubble to one of the team’s best defenders in just a few short weeks. And after going thru the travails of a 0-16 season in 2017, McCourty is loving his time in New England.

Belichick Sings Praises of Brady:

Tom Brady was given extremely high praise by Bill Belichick this week after achieving two milestones, throwing his 500th TD pass and setting the record for having the most receivers catching a TD from him (71), both on the same play to Josh Gordon.

“It’s tremendous,” Belichick said of Brady hitting 71 different receivers, via quotes distributed by the team. “That’s a lot of touchdown passes to a lot of different guys, too,” Belichick added, never one to downplay the historic aspect of NFL history.

“There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” Belichick said. “He does a great job week in and week out, year in and year out, all of the situations. He does a great job.”

Belichick even commented on the big play itself, giving both Brady and Gordon kudos for improvising.

“It wasn’t really the way we drew it up, but it ended up being an extended play with two great players making a great play,” Belichick said. “Josh has worked hard. Tom has spent extra time working with him and really all of the receivers, backs and tight ends, as well. It’s good to see that hard work pay off.”

When asked about Brady’s place in Patriots lore, Belichick gave the media another tidbit.  “There’s a lot of people who have meant a lot to this organization, but certainly nobody more than Tom Brady,” Belichick said.  

Gordon and Edelman Helped Passing Game Get Back in Sync:

It was tough to tell that Julian Edelman hadn’t played a meaningful game since the Atlanta Super Bowl on Thursday night. After missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL, the Patriots WR, fresh of a four-game suspension to boot, appeared to be his normal self, quick, making fast, decisive cuts and finding the open spots of the Colts zone defense.

Edelman brings that energy and “in-your-face” attitude that the team has lacked. The energy he brings to the table is infectious. The offense took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field, where Brady was 9-9 for 78 yards and the Patriots offense had the sparkplug in the slot that they’ve lacked.

With Gordon, he is still learning the playbook so he’s just beginning to scratch the surface on what his potential can be in this offense. So far, he’s doing and saying all of the right things. He brings the element of size, freakish athleticism and speed that opposing defenses must honor and the fearlessness to go over the middle and do the dirty work.

With Edelman just back, Gordon still in the early stages of learning the playbook and Sony Michel just finding his feet in the offense after missing all of the preseason, there is a reason for optimism for this offense, that just two weeks ago appeared bare of weapons for Brady.  

Patriots Offense Will Have to Add Another RB Soon:

The Patriots pair of running backs with Sony Michel and James White is looking to be a dynamic 1-2 punch for the offense. But sometime soon they’ll have to add another back to the mix.

White is an established, battle-proven member of the offense who has continued the team’s legacy of excellent 3rd down backs who are versatile and tough. His value in the passing game is ridiculously high every year despite the number of WRs who constantly get the focus as well as Rob Gronkowski at tight end.

Michel was a first-round draft pick (31st) overall in this year’s NFL Draft. While many people normally (including the Patriots) eschew taking a running back that high in the draft, they made an exception for Michel. So naturally, (hey this is Boston after all), everyone jumped all over Michel and despite him missing all of the preseason games, he was hearing the “bust” label after just two games.

He’s just starting to scratch the surface on the potential that the Patriots saw in him. In the past week (Sunday/Thursday games), Michel has 223 yards rushing, including a highlight reel 34-yard TD run with a major league stiff arm. He’ll eventually get more involved in the passing offense, the Patriots are taking their time with him and not wanting to put too much on his plate too soon.

But if anything were to happen to either White or Michel, the team would really be in a bind. Does 2015 ring a bell? The team was banged up and brought in Stephen Jackson who was ready to retire. And it hurt them, especially in the playoffs. Look for them to add someone soon. Kenjon Barner’s number still on speed dial?

Fast Starts Are Nothing New for the Chiefs:

One game this week, that we’ll be watching closely is the Chiefs-Jaguars matchup. Kansas City is New England’s next opponent on next Sunday night. The KC offense under Pat Mahomes has been off the charts thru the first month of the regular season.

But much like the slow starts that the Patriots have regularly suffered and have had no adverse consequences, the opposite is true for Kansas City who are known for getting off to fast starts. The following is just for an example of some hot starts by the Chiefs.

1996: 3-0
2003: 9-0
2010: 3-0
2013: 9-0
2017: 5-0

What is remarkable about every one of those seasons? Not one of those resulted in a playoff win. This year’s Chiefs’ team is 4-0 and maybe the outlier of that stat. Mahomes is off to a historic start to his career. Which is why today’s game vs the Jaguars will be a must watch game before the Chiefs come to Foxboro next week in primetime.

And we all remember how their last visit to Foxboro went in the 2017 season opener.

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 12-3 Season 38-23-2 Bye Week: Bears, Bucs

Thursday night’s pick Pats over Indy 1-0


TITANS AT BILLS – Tennessee
FALCONS AT STEELERS – Pittsburgh
BRONCOS AT JETS – Denver
JAGUARS AT CHIEFS – Kansas City
PACKERS AT LIONS – Green Bay
RAVENS AT BROWNS – Baltimore
GIANTS AT PANTHERS – Carolina
DOLPHINS AT BENGALS – Cincinnati
RAIDERS AT CHARGERS – LA
CARDINALS AT 49ERS – Arizona
VIKINGS AT EAGLES – Philadelphia
RAMS AT SEAHAWKS – LA
COWBOYS AT TEXANS – Houston
Monday Night Football
REDSKINS at SAINTS – New Orleans

Early Thursday Night Prediction: Denver over Arizona

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need a Big Offensive Effort to Get Things Turned Around:

The Buffalo Bills offense was particularly awful last week in a 22-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers and if they’re going to challenge the Titans today that must change. It should begin with getting LeSean McCoy and the running game going. McCoy had four…not a typo, four attempts against the Packers last week. That is not the way to protect a rookie quarterback.

Speaking of rookie QBs, Josh Allen really looked like one last week. With no running game and a leaky offensive line, he’s feeling the heat. And he’s falling into bad habits that come with the territory. He bailed too early in the pocket, took far longer to get the ball out of his hands and had a truly awful game.

In a good bit from the Buffalo News, Zay Jones, the Bills WR who leads the team with 10 catches for 144 yards. Of those 10 catches, nine of them for 127 yards have come with the Bills trailing by 17 points or more. Some production while the game is in doubt would be appreciated.

Dolphins Banged Up Before Big Game Against the Bengals:

The Miami Dolphins have about a dozen players banged up before their game against the Cincinnati Bengals today. Key among them is DE Cameron Wake who didn’t practice this week. With Andre Branch out as well, the Dolphins will roll with Robert Quinn and Charles Harris.

Back up QB Luke Falk (wrist) was placed on IR, CB Bobby McCain was injured against the Patriots and is out. DeVante Parker is also expected to miss today’s game. TE A.J. Derby is out today and the team will go with rookie Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, and the recently activated Nick O’Leary.

But the good news is that safety Reshad Jones is looking like he’ll return this week after missing the last few games, which is good news for a defense that is a banged-up unit.

Darnold’s Confidence Still High Before the Jets Take on Denver:

The New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is looking to turn the corner this week against Denver. Darnold shined in the opening game against the Detroit Lions but has struggled for three games in a row. But that doesn’t have him down, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Darnold is confident that the offense is getting ready to break out, and not the Taylor Price variety. “As a team, I feel like we are really close,” Darnold said. “And for me personally I feel like I’m just on the edge. I’ve just got to continue to find completions, hit my guys deep when they are there. It will come, it’s just a timing thing. It’s going to click one of these games, I know it is. It’s just kind of waiting on that opportunity.”

Darnold, according to his coaches, is seeing the field better and recognizing what opposing defenses are trying to do against the Jets offense. That means an increase in the way follows his progressions and ultimately getting the ball out faster and more accurately. One good sign was the Jets were allowing him to use the entire field and throw the ball down the field for the first time and with that trust, he’ll have to start delivering. The coaches believe too that he’s on the verge of breaking out as well. Today at MetLife Stadium may be a great place to start.

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 5 Report Card, New England Downs Colts Again 38-24

Steve Balestrieri
October 5, 2018 at 11:29 am ET

The Patriots were facing a short week and a familiar nemesis or perhaps that is a harsh term, foe may be a better description. Other than the ones who began the entire Deflategate fiasco with the league, the Patriots have owned the Colts for the previous seven games winning by an average of about 20 points.

Thursday night began much the same way, the Pats were up by 21 at the half and it looked like they may hang a 50 burger on a very shorthanded Colts team. And by all accounts, they should have.  But sloppy ball control in the second half cost them and due to the outstanding effort of Andrew Luck, the Colts narrowed the score to 24-17 and it was a game.

The Patriots quickly responded and put two more scores up to put it back up by 21 before Luck led a late drive to make it seem respectable at 38-24. This was Thursday Night Football in a microcosm. Dropped passes on both sides, five turnovers, players getting hurt. Not to mention those god-awful all blue monstrosities that pass for uniforms. Hell Indianapolis couldn’t even field an entire 46-man team last night. But hey Commish, tell us again how the players’ safety is #1 in your book.

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady was totally in control last night and was meticulously picking the Colts zone defense apart from start to finish. He started the first drive of the game by going 9-9 and throwing a touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Of his first 13 passes, the only incompletion was a drop by Julian Edelman.

He did miss a few throws to Josh Gordon, but we chalk those up to be still working on their chemistry and timing together. But last night one got the feeling that the Colts defense wasn’t going to stop them, and it was correct. He threw for 341 yards and three TDs while completing 34-44,  and it could have been even more.

His two picks were not only preventable but right in the hands of his receivers, one of which looked more fumble than interception…but whatever. Brady passed two big milestones becoming the 3rd member of the 500 TD club and the only one to do it with one team.  He also set a new record by passing a TD to 71 different receivers, more than anyone else.

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel just missed a second 100-yard outing getting 98 yards on 18 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run was stuff we saw from him in college. In the past five days, Michel has gained 223 yards on the ground.  And he’s getting better every day.

James White was a guy we highlighted to have a big game and we were spot on there. White caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and is so valuable in the Patriots passing game.

Michel needs to get better, and will, in the short-yardage running game, but that isn’t really his strength. James Develin continues to amaze as a blocker in the running game.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers are now finally all in place, and you know what, you can stop lining up at the Tobin because “Bill doesn’t give Tawmmy enuff weaponz”. This group looked very dangerous and they’re just scratching the surface of their potential.

Julian Edelman is back and answered the questions as to whether he’d still have the quickness that we’re accustomed to seeing. He made his mark on the game right off the bat, catching three passes on the opening drive.

Gordon is still learning the offense and was only targeted a few times but had two big catches including the highlight reel 34-yard touchdown pass from Brady. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Patterson are now the complementary guys and as such their production was just fine, 8 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown. Hogan had the one brutal drop for a pick.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was obviously hobbled and in pain last night, one could see him limping several times after the play. But Brady and offense didn’t go thru Gronk and his numbers were OK, 6 catches for 75 yards. On the dropped/interception/ fumble, which we thought was a fumble, had it stood up he would have ended with 7-90, and yes we would gladly take that on a bad ankle.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line was once again outstanding last night. The Colts entered the game with 17 sacks in the first four games and Brady’s pass protection was, for the vast majority of the game terrific. They had just 4 QB hits and 0 sacks.

Michel had room to run again and the boys up front did a fantastic job. Rewatch Brady’s 500th TD to Gordon, and he had an unreal amount of time to throw the football.

Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line did an okay job of stuffing the sputtering running game against the Colts. They had a big run at the end of the first half and some yards late in the game, but overall, it was good enough to force Luck to have to pass 60 times.  

The team only had one sack, a nice play by Trey Flowers in the first quarter. Adam Butler made a nice play of recognizing a screen pass and stuffing it for a loss. Adrian Clayborn had his best game of the season and was getting a lot of pressure on Luck. His pressure caused the Chung interception.

Linebackers: B

This wasn’t the fantastic day they had on Sunday but it was good enough. The linebackers were tasked with covering the running backs and they did a decent job of it. Nyheim Hines led the Colts with 22 receptions and he made 7 last night but for just 45 yards, which while solid enough numbers, wasn’t what the Colts needed with an injury-depleted roster.  

Hightower got beat by Eric Ebron on their final touchdown with a minute and a half to go when he bit hard on a run fake.

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t quite as bad as some were pointing out last night. Luck put on a nice show and threw for 365 yards and was dropping some really nice throws that was belying the hot take that his arm strength was suspect.

He also threw 60 passes so he was averaging less than six yards per pass. His passer rating was around 84 so that wasn’t great either. Jason McCourty had another strong game and is quickly becoming a very solid as the second corner. Stephon Gilmore was solid all game long, he was burned on one deep route but the receiver dropped the ball.

Jonathan Jones had a rough night and Luck was picking on him. Luck’s best target was TE Eric Ebron who gave Devin McCourty fits. Pat Chung also shared coverage responsibilities with Ebron. The two safeties got low marks for that, however, Chung was making plays all over the field and had 11 tackles, an interception, and a QB hit. McCourty forced a turnover too, so again, it wasn’t as bad as Twitter would have you believe.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski was 5-5 on extra points and nailed his only field goal attempt. Ryan Allen averaged 48.3 yards per punt but did outkick his coverage on one and it allowed the Colts to return it 32 yards. Julian Edelman was returning punts and looked very good. The Colts weren’t allowing Patterson to return any kickoffs and boomed them away.

Coaches: A-

Faced with a short week, was there any doubt which team was the most prepared to go on Thursday Night Football? Bill Belichick had the team ready to go and they had a good gameplan and the offense looked like a house on fire racing out to a 24-3 halftime lead.

After Luck and the Colts narrowed it down the one score early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots put them away with two big scoring drives.

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