Tag Archives: Christine Michael

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of Seattle

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2016 at 7:43 am ET

Seahawks Need Wilson and Graham to Be Healthy

The Patriots return home this week for a primetime matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. This week’s game rekindles the 2014 Super Bowl rivals as they enter the second half of the season. It also could be a preview of a possible February matchup between two of the more talented NFL teams.

The Patriots (7-1), are just getting off their bye week. It came smack in the middle of the season and finds the Patriots on a four-game winning streak and in good shape health wise. The have a three-game lead in the division over Miami, four games on the Bills in the loss column and five on the Jets.

The Seahawks (5-2-1) defeated the Bills on Monday Night Football 31-25. The biggest issue with Seattle has been inconsistency and much of that has to do with their health. Seattle has been banged up physically on both sides of the ball. The defense hasn’t been as stout and the offense has struggled to run the ball.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Seahawks:

No Beast Mode in the Running Game: The Seahawks running game has been mired in neutral for much of this season. Seattle is averaging only 82.1 yards per game entering their MNF game with Buffalo, and added just 33 yards on 12 attempts.

Christine Michael was ineffective against the Bills and had just one yard on five carries. He was replaced in the third quarter by rookie running back C.J. Prosise. The big, (6’1, 220-pound) rookie may see some extended looks this week as they search for a spark in the running game. But the two backs combined for just 10 yards on eight carries. They’ll need more from these two moving forward.

They miss RB Thomas Rawls who has been injured and isn’t expected back until November 20. Of course, the most dangerous runner may end up being the elusive and talented Wilson. When he’s healthy he can make plays with his feet and pressure the defense.

Wilson and Graham are a Potent Duo: The Seahawks got a healthy Jimmy Graham back this season and he’s heating up. Monday night against the Bills, Graham caught 8 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. That is his third 100-yard game of the season, which is two more than he had in 2014 and 2015 combined. Both of his scores were of the incredible variety, one-handed grabs (17 and 18 yards), in the end zone. He’ll provide a very tough matchup for the Patriots defense.

Wilson is probably healthier than he’s been all season and on Monday night, it showed. Coach Pete Carroll stated earlier that with Wilson rounding back into the form that they’d allow Wilson to open things up more offensively.

He was the key in the 28-point first half, running for a three-yard score, his first of the year and completing 14 of 17 passes for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Graham. His passer rating for the first half was a near perfect 158.0. He finished with good numbers, 20-26 for 282 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 137. The Patriots are aware of how difficult he is to defend when he’s able to move around and break containment. That will be a primary focus this week.

Seattle’s Defensive Dominance Continues: Granted the Seahawks defense is a bit banged up right now with the absence of Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor, but this unit has been the gold standard for the past several years.

Since 2012, Seattle is head and shoulders above everyone else in the most important defensive metric….points allowed. The Hawks defense has allowed just 15.6 points per game and is far ahead of their closest competitor, the Patriots at 19.8. The NFL average is 22.9 points per game.

They’re fantastic at generating turnovers and since 2012 are second in the league with a +51 in the turnover ratio department. The Patriots are the top team with a +56 margin. The next closest team? The Cardinals at +27.

Seattle has been the top team the past several years in pass yards allowed and have the second highest QB pressure percentage. And they do so without having to blitz much. The Seahawks blitz on just 25 percent of opponents drop backs, but when they do, they’re very effective. Seattle gets pressure on 38.7 percent of their blitzes, tops in the NFL.

Seattle Getting Healthier for Second Half Push: The Seahawks have been a banged-up unit this season. We mentioned above how Wilson is just starting to round into form after suffering from a couple of different injuries. But he isn’t the only one who is getting healthy.

Chancellor, the Seahawks starting safety and emotional fireplug has missed four games with a groin injury but is expected back this week against the Pats. There’s no doubt that they missed his veteran presence as well as his physicality in the secondary.

Rawls is expected back in the Hawks November 20 game against the Eagles and Bennett and tight end Luke Wilson are expected to return to practice this week. Their availability for the Pats is still up in the air, however.

Tyler Lockett who got hurt in the Rams game back in Week 2, seems fully healthy for the first time since. He was a big factor against Buffalo, notching a 13-yard end around, a 43-yard kickoff, a 22-yard punt return, and a 17-yard reception.

Sherman Front and Center for Two Critical Plays: Not surprisingly, whenever the Seahawks play, CB Richard Sherman always plays a critical role for the Seahawks. He has against the Patriots in the past and no doubt will again this week. Last night at home against the Bills, he was involved in two plays that drew the ire of many people during the action.

During the Bills’ final play on offense, Sherman flattened Bills receiver Walt Powell in the end zone. Deadspin tweeted a picture of it out and ask “Wonder why this guy wasn’t open?” But looking at the play again on the tape, once QB Tyrod Taylor scrambles out of the pocket, that play was legal, so long as the ball wasn’t in the air. Sherman did the smart move and didn’t allow the receiver to get open.

He took a page out of Tom Brady’s book and quickly tweeted to Deadspin to “check the rule book.” And he was right.

He was also in the center of a bizarre sequence at the end of the first half. The Bills lined up for a field goal. Sherman, attempting to block it, rushed offside. He dove at the ball and took out Bills kicker Dan Carpenter as he skidded down on the field.

In retrospect, he should have been flagged twice, for the offside and the roughing the kicker penalty which would have set the Bills up for a very makeable kick at the end of the half. The officials compounded the problem with a serious screw up of not resetting the game clock after a spike which cost Buffalo five yards. Rex Ryan was justifiably furious after the game. One thing is for certain, Seattle is always the home of some crazy plays either at the end of halves or the game.

Sherman defended his actions after the game, stating, “I went straight for the ball. I didn’t go for the kicker. I slid for the ball,” Sherman said. “He should not have kicked it. Maybe he wanted to. I went for the ball. That’s where I went. So, if the ball gets tipped on the play, the rule is if it’s tipped there’s no flag.”

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

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Cowboys

Steve Balestrieri
October 6, 2015 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots are finished with their bye week break and now hit the road for back-to-back games, this week in Dallas against the Cowboys and then next Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis.

The game is slated for a Sunday afternoon at 4:25 p.m. start time and we should see the top announcing crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on CBS on the call which will be broadcast locally on WBZ-TV.

The Cowboys (2-2), dropped a heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints 26-20 in overtime as RB C.J. Spiller caught a Drew Brees pass on the second play in OT and rumbled 80 yards for the winning score. Prior to overtime, QB Brandon Weeden led Dallas to a 90-yard tying touchdown drive after what was a predominately lackluster game.

The Patriots (3-0) were on their bye week but in their last action during Week 3 they blasted the Jacksonville Jaguars 51-17 as Tom Brady joined the 400 TD pass club.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Cowboys:

Cowboys Banged Up, Injuries Piling Up: Injuries happen, it is a fact of life in the NFL but the rash of banged up bodies for the Cowboys can hardly be considered normal. They first lost top cornerback Orlando Scandrick during a training camp practice when he tore an ACL and was lost for the season. Then WR Dez Bryant, QB Tony Romo and DE Randy Gregory went down with different injuries.

On Sunday night in New Orleans, LB Sean Lee suffered a concussion and running back Lance Dunbar suffered a serious knee injury that is believed to have ended his season. WR Brice Butler who caught a 67-yard pass during the game tweaked a hamstring and is listed as day-to-day.

This is a good example of how fickle fate can be in the NFL; when the schedule came out, many were wondering how the Patriots would fare without Tom Brady who was facing a four game suspension. Now with his suspension vacated, Brady will start for the Patriots but it is the Cowboys offense that will be short-handed with the loss of both Romo and Bryant.

Dallas Defense Gets back McClain, Hardy This Week: It wasn’t all bad news coming out of Dallas this week. The defense received the good news that LB Rolando McClain and DE Greg Hardy will return from suspensions this week.

McClain’s suspension was also tied in with off-season knee surgery that caused him to miss much of the off-season workouts. He was the second leading tackler on the Cowboys last year with 108. Hardy was suspended under the personal conduct policy but it is his prowess at rushing the QB that caused Dallas to take a chance on him. Hardy has 27 sacks in his last 32 games and he’ll provide the Cowboys pass rush a huge boost. Fellow DE Gregory will also return to practice on Tuesday where the Cowboys will hold a walk-thru with the first major practice coming on Wednesday.

Getting Hardy and possibly Gregory back this week will be a big addition for the defense that will be expected to keep the Cowboys in the game on Sunday given the injuries on the offensive side of the football to Bryant, Romo and Dunbar.

With Lee going thru concussion protocols this week and his status uncertain, getting McClain back will definitely help out the defense as well although Anthony Hitchens, filling in for Lee on Sunday was very active, making plays all over the field.

Offensive Line Taking Heat For Underperforming: The Dallas offensive line was among the best, if not the best in the NFL last season. Running back DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant both turned in outstanding 2014 seasons that had the Cowboys within a controversial dropped pass call of going to the NFC Championship Game.

This year they just haven’t had the same dominance that one was expecting from the unit. Of course not having Romo and Bryant on the field has given opposing defenses the options of stacking the box without having the fear of their passing game. Murray now with the Eagles (you think he’d like to have a do-over?) lost the team a big runner as well.

Facing the Saints last week, Christine Michael only got a single carry, with the team relying on Darren McFadden mainly for blitz pickups. Look for the OL to try to regain some of their mojo with Michael this week against a Patriots team that hasn’t been great against the run.

Brandon Weeden May Be Looking Over His Shoulder: The Cowboys journeyman backup didn’t play exceptionally well but was ok against a so-so Saints defense until late in the fourth quarter when he led a 91-yard drive to tie the score. He finished the evening 16-26 for 246 yards and touchdown against New Orleans.

The offense is more limited with Weeden under center, which isn’t surprising. Relying more on the passes of the shorter variety, Weeden has completed 76 percent of his throws so far 45-59 for 551 yards and two touchdowns and one interception for a QB rating of 108. But in the NFL numbers at times can be deceiving. QBs have to win and Weeden as a starter has not. He’s now 0-10 in career starts. He’ll be looking for that elusive first win this week.

And if he falters this week, he may be looking at former Patriots backup Matt Cassel coming in on relief. After Romo went down the Cowboys brought in Cassel from the Bills to backup Weeden. But after a crash course in the Cowboys’ offense the past few weeks, it would not be inconceivable to see Brady’s former understudy come in if things don’t go well for Weeden.

Weeden will be looking to have a solid game and hold off Cassel until the time where Romo returns. In a NFC East where Dallas (2-2) is still in a tie for first, he won’t have the luxury of having very many more losses. So the pressure is on for him.

Check back later this week, we’ll have all the key matchups in our Razor’s Edge breakdown of the Cowboys – Patriots game as well as our prediction.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.