Tag Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

Patriots Week 15 Report Card, Back On Winning Track with 34-13 Win Over Cincy

Steve Balestrieri
December 17, 2019 at 6:25 pm ET

 Patriots Defense/Special Teams Key Big Win

The Patriots got back in the win column with a 34-13 win over the lowly and struggling Bengals, The win couldn’t have come at a better time, after dropping two in a row and three of their last five, the team needed this one to begin to try to build some momentum in the final few weeks of the season.

The offense continues to struggle but this week, the defense helped them out by getting four interceptions of Andy Dalton and giving the offense the benefits of short fields as well as a score on a pick-six. 

The win, the 11th of the season marks the 10th year in a row that the team has won 11 or more games. It also punched their ticket to the postseason. This sets up a huge game against the Buffalo Bills next week in Gillette for the division title. 

And with the all-important bye week that comes with the #2 seed still very much in doubt, the Patriots will need to win both of those games against Buffalo and Miami to end the regular season and let some players heal up a bit. 

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

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady was facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL on Sunday, and he and the passing offense could muster just 15-29  for 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. His elbow, which has been hurting for a while, was clearly bothering him. He sailed more than one pass well over his intended target. And he short-armed another to Sony Michel that was well behind him which cost the team a touchdown. 

The Patriots passing offense averaged just 4.4 yards per pass play. That is less than Sony Michel averaged on his 19 carries. Let that one sink in for a second. His pass protection was not good, getting pressured on about half of his dropbacks in the first half. And there are the drops, which usually come at the worst possible time. 

Brady really needs some rest which is why the bye week is so important, but there’ll be no rest this week with the Bills and their defense coming to town. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game had their best game of the season, rushing for 177 yards on 30 carries before Brady had a couple of kneel-downs in victory formation. Granted the Bengals rush defense is awful, dead last in the league, but at least they made they look that way. Facing some other poor run defenses they haven’t been able to muster much. 

Sony Michel looked good, gaining 87 yards on 19 carries and showed good vision following his blocks and was able to drive through tackles and gain yards after contact. Rex Burkhead, right on time at the end of the season, chipped in 53 yards on 6 carries including a really nice 33-yard touchdown run. Burkhead ran straight ahead and burst through the line, dipped his shoulder and faked out the safety and had clear sailing into the end zone. 

James White had 13 yards on 3 carries. The team got N’Keal Harry involved on a couple of jet sweeps and the big rookie got 22 yards on two carries and two first downs. A much better day for the backs both in the running game and in the passing game. 

Wide Receivers: C-

The Patriots wide receivers almost rated an incomplete grade here. Julian Edelman tried to play through a myriad of issues and didn’t look anything like his normal self. He was laboring walking, never mind running but tried to gut through it like the professional and tough dude that he is. So it is of little surprise that he caught just two passes for nine yards on Sunday. 

Mohamad Sanu is also playing through an injury and he too isn’t moving anywhere near 100 percent. However, the 4th down drop was not injury-related and that is becoming a troubling trend for the Pats WR. He was targeted eight times and had just 2 catches for 13 yards.

N’Keal Harry had a pair of catches for 15 yards including a really nice 8-yard touchdown pass along the back of the end zone. His best play was wiped out due to a false start by Edelman. Harry beat the coverage down the right sideline and made a beautiful leaping catch that would have gone for 36 yards.

James White was the big recipient on Sunday, getting 3 catches for 49 yards including a nice 23-yard touchdown pass on a screen from Brady. Michel and Burkhead also chipped in as the backs combined for 6 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. 

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was targeted 3 times and had 3 catches for 22 yards, that’s it for the group… Yuck. He played about 50 snaps compared to just 34 for Ben Watson who wasn’t targeted and pretty invisible all day. The run blocking overall was better this week. LaCosse had a really nice block on Burkhead’s touchdown run. However, in pass protection LaCosse was victimized several times and gave up several QB hits

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line play was a mixed bag on Sunday. While the team had a season-high number of yards rushing, the pass protection was not great as Tom Brady was pressured on about half of his pass plays in the first half. However, Isaiah Wynn looked much better this week. Joe Thuney was also very good and had an outstanding block that sprung White for his touchdown reception. Thuney got out in front of White and pancaked the in-the-box safety. 

Ted Karras returned to action and played in all 65 offensive snaps at center. Shaq Mason was looking more like himself, especially in the running game, albeit against the Bengals. Marcus Cannon both had a rough day. Mason injured an ankle which will require a close watch this week with the Bills coming into town.                     

 Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line had a rough day trying to contain Joe Mixon who rushed for 136 yards 25 carries. On the Bengals’ first few drives, they made it their intent to run the football and they just lined up and smashed it in there. The defensive line was getting pushed back a lot in the early going. 

Although they had issues with Mixon all game long, the defensive line keyed the big turning point in the game. On a 4th and 1 from the Patriots 30-yard line, they stuffed the run of Mixon getting him for about a half-yard loss. Danny Shelton had six tackles on the day With the only QB hit coming from Deatrich Wise, who made seven tackles and was very active. 

However, the pass rush? It seemed a half-step late, which is something we’re seeing more of in the second half of the season.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues (among others on defense) with tackling in this game. Joe Mixon’s 29-yard run should have been a two-yard loss but Jamie Collins couldn’t wrap him up and he broke free. Collins was also so-so in coverage, although he did make a nice play and tipped a pass that appeared wide open. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower had just five tackles between them, a quiet game for two who are normally near the top of the list. Most of the missed tackles were from the linebackers, which is a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

Ja’Whaun Bentley, however, had a big game using his size and downhill style as a run-thumper to perfection He led the team with eight tackles including 0.5 for a loss. Elandon Roberts gets high marks for playing 24 snaps on defense and 10 for being the fullback on offense.

Secondary: A

The Patriots secondary had a tremendous afternoon, allowing one touchdown an 8-yard pass play where Jonathan Jones fell down but scoring one on a 64-yard Stephon Gilmore pick-six. Gilmore and J.C. Jackson each had two interceptions and are #1 and #2 respectively in opposing QB rating when targeted. Opponents targeting Jackson have a 28.6 QBR while those targeting Gilmore have a QBR of 32.8. 

The Bengals had 6 receptions for 51 yards on 15 targets when targeting either Gilmore or Jackson on Sunday. They had four interceptions including a pick-six and two pass breakups in those plays. That is domination. Gilmore is just in a league of his own. And to think he got outvoted to the Pro Bowl by Marcus Peters? Child, please…

Overall, Andy Dalton was 17-31 for 151 yards with 1 TD and 4 INTs for a QB rating of 39.2 which is great defense, regardless of the opponent. Jonathan Jones was injured on Sunday and his injury is a big one to monitor this week. 

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams came up with yet another big play made by the outstanding tandem of Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel. Slater as a gunner, flew down the field and jarred the ball loose on Alex Ericson when he tried to field a punt with perhaps far too little room. Bethel recovered and the Patriots took the lead right before the half. 

Nick Folk made all four extra points and two field goals in two attempts. He’s solidified the position. He doesn’t have the range to go for much over 50 yards but he’s playing well and with confidence, something we haven’t had this year. 

Coaches: B

The Patriots coaching staff, especially Josh McDaniels is working overtime, trying to breathe some life into the offense. And for the 2nd week in a row, he put together a drive that went 75 yards for a touchdown. Then the offense struggled to move the ball. 

The defense was getting gashed early (a troubling trend) but then shut down the Bengals holding them to just three points after allowing them to score 10 points in the first quarter. 

Bill Belichick and the staff always seem to make good adjustments to whatever the opponent is doing well and countering it.

So the Patriots last two regular-season games will be at Gillette Stadium.  Starting with the Buffalo Bills. A win gets the Patriots the division-clinching win. But unlike other years with a late-season game against the Bills, this one won’t be easy. 

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

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

 

5 Thoughts After the Patriots Win Over the Bengals

Ian Logue
December 16, 2019 at 9:35 am ET

After losing two in a row the Patriots got back on the right track with an impressive 34-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday.

Here are a few thoughts on the win, which improved New England to 11-3 on the season.

1) With the Patriots as depleted as they are at the wide receiver position, Sunday’s performance by rookie wideout N’Keal Harry was certainly impressive but more importantly, it was much needed.  The rookie finished the afternoon catching two of Brady’s four targets thrown his way including a terrific grab in the back of the end zone for one of New England’s touchdowns.  What’s even more impressive was the fact they both came on 3rd down, which clearly shows how far he’s come in recent weeks.

The rookie was also used as part of New England’s ground game, with Harry carrying twice and accounting for 22 of the 175-yards the Patriots put up against the Bengals defense rushing the football.

However, it was one of the receptions he made that didn’t show up in the stat sheet that gave fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of, with Harry making a terrific diving reception early in the game that would have gone for 36-yards but was negated by a false start by Julian Edelman.

Coming into the game, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had said that he planned on getting the rookie involved more in the offense.  That seemed to be the plan on Sunday and it was a nice step forward Harry, who will potentially be a big key here down the stretch as New England begins their push for a top seed over these final two games.

2) Wide receiver Julian Edelman was a game-time decision and after watching him Sunday afternoon, he definitely appeared to be significantly hampered during this one.

Edelman finished the afternoon with two receptions for just 9-yards and really labored through the contest, which wasn’t really a big surprise.  Reports coming into the game said he’s dealing with both a knee injury and a significant shoulder injury but he continued gutting it out.

The veteran was targeted five times on Sunday and didn’t look close to like himself, but he battled through.  There’s no rest for the weary as New England faces a tough test with the Bills coming into Foxboro on a short week next Saturday and Buffalo is still playing well, having beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 in a hard-fought game Sunday night.

In their last meeting, New England barely escaped with a 16-10 win out in Buffalo and were actually playing better offensively at that point compared to where they are currently.  Hopefully, things go a little differently this weekend and they’ll be able to get out in front early and limit Edelman’s time on the field.  He’s been critical to their success in the past and they’ll definitely need him healthy here down the stretch if they hope to have success in the postseason.


Brady had decent protection on Sunday in Cincinnati.

3) It was another nice step forward for the Patriots’ offensive line who, for the most part, did a pretty decent job in the running game on Sunday.  They helped open up holes for New England to put up 175-yards on the ground, 89 of which came from Sony Michel.  Michel carried 19 times and averaged 4.7 yards per carry, looking more explosive than we’ve seen him all season as he broke through several tackles and managed to make some tough yards after contact.

Rex Burkhead also played well, with Burkhead coming in and putting up 53-yards on 6 carries, including a touchdown.

Despite two sacks, Brady also got relatively good protection and had time to throw, which helped New England pull away in the second half after the defense pulled off a couple of turnovers.  That was important because like Edelman, Brady clearly appears to be dealing with some pain of his own as he missed some throws he normally makes.

The Patriots’ success is likely going to depend on how this group performs and it remains a work in progress as the team continues dealing with injuries.  This has been a difficult year to say the least but they’ve at least taken steps forward.  Hopefully, they’ll take another next week against the Bills.


Gilmore has had one of his best seasons this year.

4) Watching Stephon Gilmore on Sunday was a reminder that the Patriots clearly made the right decision when it came down to investing their future in the former Buffalo Bills defensive back in lieu of former Patriot, Malcolm Butler.

At the time, that was one of the more heated debates of the offseason and most fans had seen little of Gilmore, who the Patriots had had some success against in their previous meetings prior to his signing.  Gilmore received what at the time was one of the largest contracts given to someone at that position by the team, but he’s earned every penny during his tenure with the team and Sunday was another great example of his value.

As we’ve seen several times this season, some of the interceptions made by New England’s defenders have simply come from being at the right place at the right time and being alert enough to make a play.  But both of Gilmore’s turnovers Sunday due to the defensive back showing off his athleticism, with each instance seeing him run the route stride for stride with the receiver and then break in front of the football to make the reception.

That was the most obvious on the interception where Gilmore scored.  On the play, he made a terrific move to cut off the pass and snatch away the football, taking it 64-yards the other way for the touchdown.  Both of those plays solidified that Gilmore is clearly the best cornerback in the game right now and the Patriots’ success may hinge on how he continues to play in the weeks ahead.  In the postseason, turnovers and big plays matter and New England is fortunate that despite an already impressive season, Gilmore appears to be peaking even more at just the right time.

5) One of the most important aspects of Sunday’s game was quietly the fact kicker Nick Folk looked much more like himself, which comes one week where he didn’t see much action but didn’t quite appear to have recovered from the emergency appendectomy that had sidelined him.

Against the Chiefs, Folk hit one of two attempts and had one blocked, but did connect on his only extra point attempt.  He didn’t look comfortable and it was apparent that his range was also limited given how it affected their offensive decisions that afternoon.  On Sunday he looked much better, hitting each of his two field goals right down the middle, although long kicks appear to be his only weakness.

The absence of Stephen Gostkowski has been one of the issues plaguing this football this season but the fact Folk appears to at least be getting healthy is a positive sign given how important the kicking game is as they continue trying to make their push toward the postseason.  While extra points have been a problem, Gostkowski’s prowess when it came to field goals has always been an asset and it’s been frustrating to watch how not having that has affected some of their decisions this season.  Adding into it the fact that the offense has struggled, the timing of Gostkowski getting hurt certainly hasn’t helped.

Fortunately, Folk has at least been serviceable and appears like he might give them enough to do some damage in tight games.  The big question at some point could come down to whether or not he can come through with a key kick to win a game.  We know Gostkowski had it in him but Folk has yet to really be put into that situation.  Hopefully, the offense will get it together and if all goes well, we won’t have to find out.

The Patriots will now spend this week preparing for a visit from the Bills, who will be looking to keep New England from clinching the AFC East when the two clubs meet in a key showdown on Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm.

Patriots Defense Keys Big 34-13 Win Over Cincinnati

Steve Balestrieri
December 15, 2019 at 8:26 pm ET

This is the week of Eleven. The Patriots punched their ticket to the postseason with a 34-13 win over Cincinnati and won their 11th game of the season for the 10th straight season. This is also their 11th straight playoff appearance.

The defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and the Special Teams recovered a fumble as once again those units carried the team to an easy victory. But none of the questions about the offense were answered, despite putting up 34 points. 

Some of our observations include:

The offensive line had a very mixed day, on one hand they did very good in run support as the team rushed for a season-high 175 yards on 32 carries. Of course, Cincinnati has the worst run defense in the NFL and came into this one allowing over 150 yards per game. But the pass protection for Tom Brady was terrible for virtually most of the game. Brady was sacked twice and pressured on half of his dropbacks.

Sony Michel had a good, solid day and ran for 89 yards on 19 carries. He displayed good vision and followed his blocks well. He was able to break a few tackles and was getting some nice yards after contact.  

Brady was clearly bothered by his elbow injury. During the warmups, Mike Giardi of NFL Network said he was having trouble throwing the ball. He sailed several throws including one to Mohamad Sanu in the end zone. 

He also short-armed a throw to Sony Michel on a perfectly designed play that should have been a touchdown. Brady finished 15 – 29 for just 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 Interceptions.

Edelman and Sanu are both hobbled, Edelman especially so. He looks like he can barely move at this point. He finished with just two catches for nine yards on five targets. Sanu had just two catches for 13 yards on eight targets. He had another key drop on fourth down,

Josh McDaniels said earlier this week that they were planning on getting N’Keal Harry more involved with the offense. He had two carries in the running game for 22 yards and two catches for 15 yards including a nice 8-yard touchdown pass reception where he cut across the back of the end zone. 

Harry also had the Patriots best play of the day, he beat his coverage down the right sideline where Brady dropped a perfect pass to him where he made a nice catch for a 36-yard gain. Unfortunately, it was wiped out by a false start by Edelman.

The offense continues to struggle especially in the passing game. On their opening drive where they went 75 yards in eight plays where James White hit a very nicely executed screen pass for a 22-yard touchdown. It was keyed by an excellent block by Joe Thuney, however, they didn’t put together another long drive for the rest of the game. Fortunately, the defense and STs set them up with short fields.  

The run defense was gashed early, on Cincinnati’s opening drive, Joe Mixon was proving very hard to bring down and the Bengals ran the ball on every play all the way to the Patriots eight-yard line. There Andy Dalton threw his first pass, an eight-yard TD to TE Cethan Carter with Jonathan Jones falling down in coverage. It would be the only TD that the Bengals would score.

Although the defense stiffened and allowed only two field goals after that, they never really figured out stopping Mixon who had a very good day on the ground, gaining 136 yards on 25 carries. 

With the score tied at 10-10, the game flipped with one big special teams’ play. Jake Bailey skied a punt and Matthew Slater racing downfield stripped the ball away from Alex Erickson. Justin Bethel recovered at the Cincinnati 23. Although the offense moved backward with a sack on 3rd down. It allowed them to kick a field goal and go into the half with a 13-10 lead. 

That’s when the wheels came off for Dalton and the Bengals. On the third play from scrimmage in the 3rd quarter, Stephon Gilmore picked him off, cradling the ball in his right arm while holding off Tyler Boyd with his left. 

Brady moved them 43 yards on a short field for a touchdown with Harry making the catch at the back of the end zone. Dalton moved the Bengals to the Patriots 41 when he was too late throwing an out route and Gilmore jumped the route and picked it off going 64-yards for another touchdown making the score 27-10 and the rout was on.

The Bengals kicked a field goal making it 27-13 and then tried an on-side kick that went only five yards. The Patriots took over at the Cincinnati 40 and cashed in again. After a two-yard pass from Brady to Matt LaCosse and a five-yard penalty on the Bengals, Rex Burkhead took a handoff up the middle, juked the safety Bates and raced 33 yards for a touchdown making it 34-13. 

The secondary once again was stellar, besides Gilmore’s two interceptions, J.C. Jackson had two of his own, both were outstanding plays. The first he went up high and after corralling the ball, he was able to come down with both feet inbounds. On the other Dalton tried to go deep down the left sideline and Jackson turned and tracked the ball, getting inside leverage, picked it off easily. 

Dalton finished 17-31 for 151 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. His QB rating was just 39.2. While the pass rush didn’t record a sack, they did bring some pressure on Dalton and did influence some of those picks. 

But scoring 34 points on short fields against the 1-13 Bengals is one thing. With a passing game averaging 4.4 yards per play? That isn’t going to cut it. With awful pass protection and wide receivers again dropping more passes (New England now leads the league in that dubious category), it hardly appears they’ve found an identity. And the Bills defense is coming to town next week. 

The defense and special teams will always give them a chance to win but the play of the offense remains a huge red flag with two games left on the regular-season schedule. If they can win those next two games, they’ll get an all-important bye until the divisional round. They can use the rest of the bye, but first, a huge game for the division awaits against the Bills. 

__________________

Prior to the game, social media was abuzz at the film that the Bengals released of the Patriots filming their sideline in Cleveland. This was just a short clip that was gotten by Jay Glazer. We’ll learn more later when the entire film is released but contrary to what Patriots fans are saying, this…if it is indicative of the entire film (and a big if), then it is damning evidence. 

It doesn’t show the field, the plays or the Cleveland sideline, it is focused on the Cincinnati bench. Of course, since the Bengals released this, could it be that they want to release something more beneficial to their side? Of course, but that tape, again, if it is indicative of the entire film, will result in a stiff penalty… No reason for being that dumb to leave a large monitor in the press box showing what you’re doing. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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

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

Edelman Active, Battling Through “Grotesque” Shoulder Injury, Knee Issues

Ian Logue
at 12:42 pm ET

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is an intricate part of New England’s offense and it’s safe to say that he’s certainly been proving his toughness more than ever this season.

Edelman, who missed a day of practice this week as he continues battling through injuries, is in Cincinnati and will be out there today against the Bengals.  The veteran receiver is reportedly dealing with a “tendon injury” in his knee but it doesn’t end there.  He’s also apparently dealing with a shoulder injury which, according to NBC Boston’s Tom Curran, appears to be pretty significant.

Curran said on Wednesday during his weekly appearance on Dale & Keefe on WEEI that he saw Edelman in the locker room and the fact he’s been out on the field to this point shows just how tough he really is.

“I just don’t think you can sit down the most important player in the offense with a shoulder injury, which is a fairly grotesque looking injury,” said Curran, when asked about Edelman’s absence at practice this week. “I happened to see him the other day in the locker room and it looks like, did you ever see that [episode of] Family Guy where he grows another head on his shoulder?  That’s what it looks like.  He’s got another tiny little Julian head on his shoulder.”

“It’s a weird-looking situation.  I don’t know if it’s a bone bruise, I don’t know if it’s a blood swell, it’s weird.  It’s swollen up on the bump on his shoulder.  It’s swelled up significantly.”

Curran also pointed out that given how depleted the Patriots have been at the receiver position all year, Edelman’s role has been critical and the fact he’s continued to be able to answer the bell has been key to New England’s success this season.

“But if you look at the role that he’s carried, you know, 90 catches, 1010 yards, 3 games to go, it’s pretty remarkable,” said Curran.

As for Edelman, he’s ready to go.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00pm today.

Patriots-Bengals Week 15 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 13, 2019 at 6:50 am ET

One more for the road. The Patriots play their last regular-season road game of the 2019 schedule with a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. It is the first 1:00 p.m. start for the team in two months.

Several weeks ago before the Baltimore game, we had this one circled as a game where several players may get a respite and see a reduced workload (Julian Edelman) and maybe see a lot of a younger player like Damien Harris and Joejuan Williams. Now, after losing three of five, that isn’t going to happen. This game has become important for holding off  Kansas City for the #2 seed and the all-important bye. And to hold off the Bills in the division. 

With a win on Sunday night, the Patriots would win the 11th game of the year, marking 10 straight seasons with at least 11 wins, which is an NFL record.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Andrew Catalon will handle play-by-play duties with James Lofton as the color analyst. Amanda Balionis 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 (10-3) lost to the Chiefs 23-16 last Sunday at Gillette Stadium 

The Bengals (1-12) are coming off of a 27-19 loss to Cleveland 

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Bengals have met 25 times since Cincinnati entered the league in 1968 and the Patriots hold an overall 16-9 all-time edge. Of course, the most famous matchup was the “we’re on to Cincinnati game…which just happened to be after a loss to the Chiefs.

The Patriots have won the last two meetings including a 35-17 win in Gillette the last time the two teams met. The last game in Cincinnati was a 13-6 win for the Bengals back in 2013 in that monsoon game where neither team was able to do anything offensively. 

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 Bengals Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cincinnati

The Patriots running game had an awful outing last week, gaining 94 yards against the Chiefs 31st ranked run defense. Kansas City entered the game allowing 141.3 yards per game and then dominated the Patriots upfront. By the end of the game, the Chiefs woeful run defense was preening and talking about how they hope to see the Patriots again in the playoffs… that is bad. 

Enter Cincinnati’s run defense. If you thought the Chiefs were bad, the Bengals, have been worse. Cincy’s porous run defense is dead last in the NFL allowing a whopping 156.7 yards per game on the ground. This should be a mismatch…right?

The offensive line has to open some holes this week for Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. But honestly, I’d look at giving some snaps to Brandon Bolden, who has been effective whenever he’s been tasked and Damien Harris, giving Sony a week off. Will they do either of those? Nope. Will the Patriots run roughshod over another sieve run defense? While I’m not from Missouri, …show me. 

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

The Patriots passing game has consisted of Julian Edelman, James White, and a big question mark. That makes the opposing defense’s job a heckuva lot easier. They need both Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu to step up (sounds like a broken record at this point). Tom Brady’s pass protection has been shoddy and inconsistent for much of the season. 

Cincinnati’s pass defense hasn’t fared much better than their run defense and is 19th in the league. Their corners, William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard are okay but not special. The closest thing to a ballhawk in the back end in safety Jessie Bates with three interceptions. Their pass rush has a couple of names to watch. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, although they haven’t accounted for a bunch of sacks, just 21 as a team.

Again, on paper, this seems like a mismatch but this time, I do give the edge to the Patriots as Tom Brady can find a way to manipulate this secondary….if he has time to throw. Atkins is a big, disruptive inside presence. He can do damage and will be going against the #3 center in James Ferentz. Dunlap and Sam Hubbard are guys who can bring the pressure from the edges. Protection is the key here.

So, Josh McDaniels, are the Patriots going to get N’Keal Harry more involved in the passing game anytime soon? This would be a prime week to do so. It isn’t exactly like Dorsett and Sanu are lighting it up and not allowing him a chance to play…throw him the damn ball this week.  

Next up the Bengals offense:

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

The Patriots run defense has been rock solid and it all begins with the outstanding work of Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton inside. They’re both doing a great job of penetrating and holding up the line of scrimmage allowing the Patriots linebackers to fly up and make plays. 

Cincinnati has a couple of talented running backs in Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard, but when they’re constantly playing catchup, it has been difficult for them to stick with the running game, which is why their paltry 85.8 yards per game average is a tad misleading. Mixon has gained 789 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this year and is capable of producing a big game. 

Look for Cincinnati to get Mixon going this week in an attempt to stick close and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. But this is a matchup the Patriots can and should win with the play of the front seven which has been very good all season.  

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

The Bengals passing game has Andy Dalton back under center and he gave the team, their only win of the season over the Jets. He’s kept games close, and will try to once again. The problem with their passing game sounds like the Patriots. He has Tyler Boyd, who is having a very good year (73 catches, 833 yards, 3 TDs), Gio Bernard out of the backfield and a not a lot elsewhere. John Ross is their speedster and is back after spending time on IR. Bengals QBs have been sacked 43 times for 309 yards this season. 

The Patriots pass defense has been excellent this season. Expect Boyd to get matched up with Stephon Gilmore this week and Ross to get watched by Jonathan Jones or J.C. Jackson. Bernard will bear watching out of the backfield, he’s a very good weapon there. But look for the defense to be aggressive in this one and try to get after Dalton to force the issue and some turnovers.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New Englan

The Patriots special teams has Nick Folk back as their kicker. While he had a field goal blocked last week, that was a rare failure of the blocking up front. Jake Bailey has been outstanding punting this season and the coverage units have been terrific. Nate Ebner blocked the Patriots’ fourth punt of the season. 

Cincinnati has the reliable Randy Bullock who has been perfect on PATs and has made 21-25 field goal attempts. Kevin Huber had done a very good job of punting. Like NE, the Bengals haven’t generated much in way of the return game. Look for the Patriots to try to make it five blocks this season and give their struggling offense a short field.

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 11-3 and now this game becomes a must-win, there are no more alibis left to give if they want a bye and a guaranteed home game for the division round of the postseason.   

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Protect Brady and Get Others Involved in the Passing Game – The Patriots can’t be a two-man passing team in the last three games and into the postseason. That means other players have to step up and the coaches have to get others involved. This is a prime week to make that happen.

Getting Harry, Dorsett, Sanu, and Jakobi Meyers more involved in the passing game, shouldn’t be that hard, but yet here we are. It all begins with Brady’s protection but they have to start winning some battles on the line. Getting more from tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse would be a welcome sight as well. Get it done.

The Defense Should Pin Their Ears Back- The Patriots defense has been a constant bright spot all season, this week, they should feast on a Bengals offensive line who have been gashed for 43 sacks. With a limited offense, the Patriots can dictate where and when the pass rush is coming from. Look for Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins to be very active this week.

Turnover Time  – The Patriots are +19 in the turnover department, tops in the NFL. Cincinnati is -11, 30th in the league and a big reason they are 1-12. The Patriots defense was huge earlier in the year at getting turnovers and helping out the offense. That has slowed a bit in the second half…time to feast.

___________

Prediction: 

This should be a walk in the park for the Patriots who are clearly the better team. But the offensive struggles have made every game a slogfest. The Bengals are playing for nothing but pride and jobs at this point of the season. But this week is their Super Bowl with a chance to knock off the defending champs. Plus the entire filming fiasco of last week, should light a fire under their behinds. Unless the defense gets a score or a slew of turnovers, this one will remain closer than anyone wants.  Patriots  20-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” heads back home for the final two regular-season games of the season and next week is a big one with the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East.

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

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

 

Latest Patriots Video Flap Was Dumb and Entirely Avoidable

Steve Balestrieri
December 11, 2019 at 9:14 am ET

File this under: “The more things change… or a better one will be “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have turned off social media (probably a smart move), you would have missed this latest Patriots scandal involving filming the Bengals sideline during their game on Sunday against Cleveland. 

What we do know is, there was a film crew from Kraft Productions that was filming an upcoming episode of the“Do Your Job,” which in this case was profiling a week in the life of a Patriots pro scout. These short subjects have been fascinating as we’ve been able to glimpse behind the curtain at a number of people who otherwise would be in the shadows. 

The three-man film crew conducted an interview with the scout and then followed him to Cleveland to film him doing advanced scouting of the Bengals before the game against Cincinnati which is the norm for all teams. 

The film crew asked the Browns for media credentials for the day after explaining what they were about to do. And the Browns granted their request. As part of the feature, the crew shot was is commonly referred to as “B-Roll” footage, secondary film work that plays over the interview that shows what the scout would be seeing during the game. That’s when everything went awry. 

While it is acceptable for the scout to watch the opposing sidelines during the game, all scouts do that, filming the sideline is not. And the B-Roll most certainly did videotape the Bengals sideline, reportedly eight minutes worth. 

The monitor in the press box was visible to all there, including a Bengals staffer who could see the sideline being filmed and reported it to NFL Security. They stopped the filming at that point and confiscated all of the videotapes including the interview with the scout and all of the earlier footage. 

This crew allegedly didn’t know that filming the sidelines was prohibited as they’ve been granted access to the Patriots’ sidelines during home games at Gillette. Only the NFL and the broadcasting television network are allowed sideline access during the games.

The Patriots, knowing they were at fault here, immediately released a statement stating “full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game.”

Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote on Tuesday that when Patriots coach Bill Belichick found out about this, he was furious. He should be. Because regardless of intent, nefarious or not, this entire episode is going to get laid right at his feet. And whether he had any knowledge or not, it is his legacy that will be called into question, yet again.

Many are arguing that filming the coaches on the sideline has dubious value these days since everything is relayed into the game via a transmitter in the player’s helmet, the green dot, as we’ve all heard countless times. It doesn’t matter. Videotaping the sideline is still illegal via the press box and it doesn’t matter that “anyone can do it from the crowd”. 

And the ignorance of the rule sounds patently ridiculous. The video people are all adults and were certainly alive in 2007 when the original flap over filming other teams reared its ugly head. And although they’re granted access to the Patriots sidelines during home games, they also know that the other team’s sideline is prohibited. 

This entire fiasco was entirely avoidable, while they were granted access from Cleveland, they should have notified the NFL and Cincinnati of what they were doing. Then, anything that occurred during the game, could have been handled on the spot and stopped if the league or the Bengals found something objectionable. The events are 2007 should have certainly prompted this crew to know, that when it comes to anything with video, the Patriots have to do it cleaner than anyone else. 

The league won’t tolerate another flap like this. And trying to justify it by downplaying the value of it or the fact “it’s the Bengals” isn’t going to resonate anywhere but in New England. 

Many are trying to argue the logic of it all which again begs the question, isn’t anyone paying attention here? Nobody outside of New England cares that “Kraft Productions is a separate entity from football operations.” Opponents, sick of the Patriots being on top, made it clear that they wanted their pound of flesh during Brady’s case after the AFC Championship Game with the Colts. It is only going to grow now.  

And how will the NFL react? One must remember that this is the same league that suspended Tom Brady for a quarter of a season for cold weather. Does anyone really feel that they’re going to buy this alibi that they weren’t aware of the rule? So, please don’t try to apply logic to any of this latest fiasco.

Howe also wrote that many in the Kraft Productions house relating to video production are in fear for their jobs. Again, they should be. If what they were doing truly was innocent filming of a documentary, which it very well was, then it is even dumber that they put the team in this position.

This entire ridiculous controversy was entirely unnecessary and avoidable. The league should be grateful. The awful officiating of Jerome Boger’s crew is now far in the rearview mirror. Where the heck is Mona Lisa Vito when she’s needed. 

“People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” – James Baldwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

John Morgan
December 22, 2017 at 8:01 pm ET

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

Week 16 is unique, with neither Thursday nor Sunday night football – but with two games on Monday. Five teams have clinched a playoff spot and 14 others are still in contention for the post-season. There are plenty of intriguing games worth watching this weekend and next before the playoffs commence. The theory of home field advantage will be put to a test during these three days. Road teams are favored in ten of the sixteen games this week.

There is another oddity about this week’s schedule. Of the four games between teams with winning records, none are on in primetime – and three are broadcast in the early time slot. Fox has always had an affinity for NFC East teams due to their large market sizes. But if the network is not going to make the best game of the week (Falcons at Saints) their showcase game, then give it up to be flexed to Saturday night. Net result is that the two best games (NO-Atl and Patriots-Bills) are on at the same time. Those two back-to-back would have made for superior programming.

To see what games are being broadcast in your area, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

 

National Broadcasts

3-11 Indianapolis Colts at 8-6 Baltimore Ravens
4:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NFLN; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Ravens favored by 13½; over/under 41 points; money line -1000, +675

Baltimore has averaged 31 points over their last five games, in large part to an NFL-best plus-17 turnover differential. The Raven defense ranks 4th with 18.3 points per game and has a league best 33 takeaways. I don’t see how the Indy offense (16.1 ppg, 31st) can keep this game close.

Pick: Ravens 31, Colts 13
Ravens -13½, over 41

 

11-3 Minnesota Vikings at 7-7 Green Bay Packers
8:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Vikings favored by 9; over/under 41 points; money line -430, +340

The Vikings are playing for at minimum a first round bye, while Green Bay is eliminated. Minnesota’s defense will dominate a team that may be giving second stringers playing time with an eye on 2018.

Pick: Vikings 27, Packers 13
Vikings -9, under 41

 

11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-10 Houston Texans
4:30 pm ET, Monday 12/25 on NBC/NFLN; Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner
Steelers favored by 9½; over/under 45 points; money line -450, +350

I’m interested to see if Pittsburgh comes out with their hair on fire after last week’s last second loss. Or will the Steelers play down to their opponent’s level, as they often do. Pittsburgh is notorious for not playing well on the road either, and no Antonio Brown does not help matters. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pittsburgh comes out flat, but Houston has lost too many key players over the course of their season.

Pick: Steelers 24, Texans 20
Texans +9½, under 45

 

6-8 Oakland Raiders at 12-2 Philadelphia Eagles
8:30 pm ET Monday 12/25 on ESPN; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
Eagles favored by 9; over/under 47½ points; money line -400, +330

Oakland is all but mathematically eliminated, and traveling cross country for a meaningless game. Philly wants to clinch the number one seed in the NFC and Nick Foles (4 TDs last week) showed the 31.3 ppg offense is still in capable hands. The Eagle defense should be able to handle Oakland and control this game.

Pick: Eagles 34, Raiders 17
Eagles -9, over 47½

 

Early CBS Games

8-6 Buffalo Bills at 11-3 New England Patriots
Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Patriots favored by 12; over/under 47½ points; money line -750, +525

This should be a great game, as both teams have plenty to play for. The Patriots need two wins to insure home field throughout the playoffs. Buffalo needs a victory (and help) to make the playoffs. To add to the drama this is a revenge game for the Bills after the hit three weeks ago that resulted in Rob Gronkowski’s suspension. Sean McDermott came up with a great defensive game plan for Buffalo in the last meeting; it will be interesting to see what he has in store Sunday.

Pick: Patriots 27, Bills 20
Bills +12, under 47½

 

7-7 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-9 New York Jets
Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Chargers favored by 7; over/under 42½ points; money line -300, +250

After a surprisingly good start, the Jets are 2-7 in their last nine games. As the season has progressed their lack of quality depth has become apparent. The Chargers are in a must-win spot here; the Jets can go back to their original plan of tanking the 2017 season.

Pick: Chargers 27, Jets 17
Chargers -7, over 42½

 

6-8 Miami Dolphins at 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs
Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Chiefs favored by 10½; over/under 43½ points; money line -550, +425

Dolphins on the road outdoors in cold weather equals a Miami loss. Kansas City has finally righted their mid-season swoon with home victories over the Raiders and Chargers. Make it three in a row for the Chiefs.

Pick: Chiefs 27, Dolphins 14
Chiefs -10½, under 43½

 

5-9 Denver Broncos at 6-8 Washington Redskins
Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Redskins favored by 3½; over/under 40½ points; money line -180, +160

Washington is again in a difficult position due to injuries on their offensive line. Denver has finally got it together the last couple of weeks, just in time to win enough games to miss out on a top-5 draft pick.

Pick: Broncos 20, Redskins 17
Broncos +3½, under 40½

 

0-14 Cleveland Browns at 4-10 Chicago Bears
Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein
Bears favored by 6½; over/under 38 points; money line -280, +240

Chicago has played well at home this year, beating the Steelers and Panthers. Their home losses have all been close (an average of 5 points), and mostly to good teams (Falcons, Vikings, Packers). Cleveland’s 0-16 parade plans remain intact.

Pick: Bears 24, Browns 13
Bears -6½, under 38

 

Early Games on Fox

9-5 Atlanta Falcons at 10-4 New Orleans Saints
Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Saints favored by 5½; over/under 52½ points; money line -240, +200

Set your DVR so you can record and watch this game after the Patriots-Bills ends. Two weeks ago the Falcons beat the Saints 20-17 in Atlanta. It is really difficult to sweep a good division rival. The Falcons should be able to keep it close, especially now that RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) has been cleared to play.

Pick: Saints 27, Falcons 24
Falcons +5½, under 51½

 

10-4 Los Angeles Rams at 8-6 Tennessee Titans
Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Rams favored by 6½; over/under 47½ points; money line -290, +240

On one hand you have a west coast team having to travel 2000 miles and play a game three hours earlier than usual. On the other hand the Rams are a far superior team than the Titans. LA is back in sync now that Robert Woods is back on the playing field.

Pick: Rams 24, Titans 20
Titans +6½, under 47½

 

8-6 Detroit Lions at 5-9 Cincinnati Bengals
Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Lions favored by 4; over/under 44 points; money line -210, +180

This will be the final home game for Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis. Maybe he and Jeff Fisher can form a speaking tour and teach people how to retain a job much longer than they deserve.

Pick: Lions 24, Bengals 17
Lions -4, under 44

 

4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 10-4 Carolina Panthers
Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber
Panthers favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -475, +375

Can somebody please explain to me why Carolina LB Thomas Davis was originally suspended for two games, rather than one? I think Roger Goodell uses one of those magic eight-balls from the sixties when deciding his punishments.

Pick: Panthers 34, Bucs 17
Panthers -10, over 46½

 

Late Games

10-4 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-10 San Francisco 49ers
Andrew Catalon, James Lofton (CBS)
Jaguars favored by 4; over/under 42 points; money line -210, +175

When Jimmy Garoppolo was traded, Pats fans wished him well. Now Patriot Nation is full of hand wringing seller’s remorse. The Niners have won three in a row since inserting Jimmy G as their starting quarterback, after a 1-10 start. Jacksonville could be in for a battle on the road here, especially if the Jags have to count on Blake Bortles at critical junctures.

Jaguars 23, Forty Niners 20
Niners +4, over 42

 

8-6 Seattle Seahawks at 8-6 Dallas Cowboys
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman (Fox)
Cowboys favored by 5; over/under 47½ points; money line -240, +200

Dallas has won three straight and have RB Ezekiel Elliott for this game. His presence completely changes the Cowboy offense. Seattle’s defense is just a shell of its former self to injuries. Is it time to replace Pete Carroll?

Pick: Cowboys 27, Seahawks 17
Cowboys +5, under 47½

 

2-12 New York Giants at 6-8 Arizona Cardinals
Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth (Fox)
Cardinals favored by 3½; over/under 40 points; money line -185, +165

Ho hum, a battle of two under achieving teams. Giants are the bigger mess right now and on the road.

Pick: Cardinals 24, Giants 13
Cardinals +3½, under 40

 

 

NFL Week 12 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 26, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

More than half of the remaining NFL Week 12 games have odds of seven or more points. On paper there are few competitive games, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Last week the Chiefs were double-digit favorites but lost to a one-win Giants club in disarray. Washington was an injury riddled 7½ point road dog up against a hot team on a seven game winning streak. The 4-5 Skins were up by 15 with less than two minutes to play and nearly upset the Saints before losing in overtime in one of the season’s most exciting games. On the other hand there are the Patriots, who have not lost since October 1st – and have covered the spread four weeks in a row.

Should the Patriots-Dolphins game turn into a blowout, there may be some competitive games in the early time slot. Buffalo is at KC in a battle between two fading teams. Tampa Bay at Atlanta could be interesting should the Falcons have a letdown after winning at Seattle. In the late time slot the Saints at Rams should be a great game. The night games are nothing special. Green Bay at Pittsburgh would have been a good game if Aaron Rodgers was the QB rather than Brett Hundley. Monday night it is Houston at Baltimore. The only reason to watch that is to witness a potential John Harbaugh meltdown and another Baltimore loss.

Unfortunately New England fans are once again saddled with Ian Eagle and the incompetent Dan Fouts as the broadcast crew for Sunday’s game. It boggles my mind that somebody at CBS considers this pair to be their second best set of announcers. How can anyone possibly consider those two to be better than Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, or Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon?

For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

Early Games on CBS

4-6 Miami Dolphins at 8-2 New England Patriots
Patriots favored by 16½; over/under 47½ points; money line -1900, +1000

The Patriots have often struggled against quarterbacks that they have little film to review for tendencies and weaknesses. Does that mean that Matt Moore will lead the Dolphins to an upset? Of course not. The offense is clicking despite several injuries, and the defense has made a 180 turn from the first month of the season.

Pick: Patriots 38, Dolphins 17
New England +16½, over 47½

 

0-10 Cleveland Browns at 4-6 Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals favored by 8; over/under 38 points; money line -410, +340

DeShone Kizer has thrown 14 interceptions, most in the NFL. Cleveland’s defense has been decent, but having to overcome all those turnovers is too much to ask for.

Pick: Bengals 24, Browns 13
Cincinnati -8, under 38

 

5-5 Buffalo Bills at 6-4 Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -500, +400

Buffalo HC Sean McDermott may be in over his head. With a 5-4 record and the Bills holding onto a wild card spot, he inexplicably benched QB Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is not an elite quarterback by any means, but the replacement was a 5th round rookie going on the road to make his first NFL start. Nathan Peterman proceeded to throw an interception on four of the first five drives, and was mercifully yanked after his fifth pick. McDermott’s reasoning was that he wanted to see what Peterman had and how he could do. Isn’t that what a blowout game in the fourth quarter is for? Or preseason? Or games in December after you have been eliminated from the playoffs, as opposed to a midseason game when you have a winning record?

Pick: Chiefs 31, Bills 20
Kansas City -10, over 46½

 

Early Games on Fox

3-7 Chicago Bears at 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles favored by 14; over/under 44½ points; money line -1100, +700

Philly has won eight in a row and is coming off a huge win over division rival Dallas. The Eagles will be on the road for the next three games, playing the Rams, Seahawks and Giants. The Bears have already taken advantage of superior opponents in trap games twice, defeating the Steelers and Panthers. While an upset would be shocking, A close game would not be a surprise.

Pick: Eagles 24, Bears 20
Chicago +14, under 44½

 

4-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6-4 Atlanta Falcons
Falcons favored by 9½; over/under 48½ points; money line -475, +375

In their victory last week at Miami the Bucs allowed three pass plays of over 40 yards. That kind of pass defense is going to be in a world of hurt against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta offense.

Pick: Falcons 30, Bucs 21
Tampa Bay +9½, over 48½

 

7-3 Carolina Panthers at 4-6 New York Jets
Panthers favored by 5½; over/under 40 points; money line -250, +210

Will Carolina be well rested or rusty coming off the bye? If the Panthers are looking ahead to next week’s game at New Orleans, the fundamentally sound Jet defense could cause enough problems to pull off an upset.

Pick: Panthers 20, Jets 17
New York Jets +5½, under 40

 

6-4 Tennessee Titans at 3-7 Indianapolis Colts
Titans favored by 3; over/under 45½ points; money line -165, +145

The Titans bounce back from last Thursday’s loss to Pittsburgh by feasting on an inferior opponent.

Pick: Titans 24, Colts 17
Tennessee -3, under 45½

 

Late Afternoon Games

6-4 Seattle Seahawks at 1-9 San Francisco 49ers
4:05 ET on Fox
Seahawks favored by 6½; over/under 45½ points; money line -300, +250

The 49ers may be able to keep it close thanks to all the injuries on Seattle’s defense. The Niners just don’t have enough talent to beat the Seahawks though.

Pick: Seahawks 27, Niners 20
Seattle -6½, over 45½

 

8-2 New Orleans Saints at 7-3 Los Angeles Rams
4:25 ET on CBS
Rams favored by 2½; over/under 53½ points; money line -145, +125

By far the best game of the week. The Rams have beaten only one good team all season (Jacksonville), and were a bit disappointing in last week’s loss at Minnesota. I’m expecting them to bounce back at home against New Orleans. The Saints defense has been opportunistic (ten interceptions, 13 takeaways) but could be overpowered here. New Orleans gave up 31 points at home to the injury riddled Redskins last week, and haven’t faced an offense this good since their week two loss to the Patriots.

Pick: Rams 31, Saints 27
LA Rams -2½, over 53½

 

7-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-6 Arizona Cardinals
4:25 ET on CBS
Jaguars favored by 5½; over/under 38 points; money line -240, +200

The Jaguar defense is allowing just 14.1 points per game, by far the lowest in the NFL. Jacksonville should be able to feast on Blaine Gabbert and an anemic Arizona offense that has scored more than 21 points just twice all year.

Pick: Jaguars 20, Cardinals 13
Jacksonville -5½, under 38

 

3-7 Denver Broncos at 4-6 Oakland Raiders
4:25 ET on CBS
Raiders favored by 5; over/under 43 points; money line -240, +200

Remember when the experts declared the AFC West to be the best division in the NFL before the 2017 season began? Not much of that talk now, thanks to these two disappointing teams that failed to live up to the hype. Denver has lost six in a row, their worst losing streak since 1990. They could actually benefit from Tim Tebow at this point.

Pick: Raiders 24, Broncos 21
Denver +5, over 43

 

Prime Time Games

5-5 Green Bay Packers at 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday night at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Steelers favored by 14; over/under 43½ points; money line -1000, +600

Last week Pittsburgh was able to stop Tennessee’s running game, force the Titans into predictable pass plays, and take advantage of poor down-and distance situations. That resulted in four Marcus Mariotta interceptions and a 40-17 victory. The same formula worked for Baltimore last week in their 23-0 rout over the Packers as Green Bay turned the ball over five times. No reason to believe this game won’t be more of the same.

Pick: Steelers 31, Packers 10
Pittsburgh -14, under 43½

 

4-6 Houston Texans at 5-5 Baltimore Ravens
Monday night at 8:30 pm ET on espn
Ravens favored by 7; over/under 38 points; money line -320, +260

Tom Savage has ten turnovers (3 picks, 7 fumbles) in just 125 pass attempts. He has been sacked 13 times and is averaging a league-worst 4.54 yards per dropback. This all plays right into the strength of Baltimore’s defense, to force turnovers (an NFL-best 23).

Pick: Ravens 24, Texans 13
Ravens -7, under 37

 

NFL Week 11 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 19, 2017 at 11:00 am ET

The Patriots versus Raiders in Mexico City highlights a decent slate of pro football games in Week 11. Four games in particular stand out, conveniently with one in each time slot.

The day kicks off with a matchup of division leaders, a rarity in the early time slot. The 7-2 Rams have won four straight and bring their top ranked offense (32.9 ppg) to Minnesota. The 7-2 Vikings have won five in a row and are allowing just 18.3 points per game. Minnesota is listed as a 2½ point favorite.

The Patriots and Raiders renew their decades long rivalry in the late afternoon time slot. New England puts a five game winning streak on the line in their second consecutive game on the road at high altitude. The Patriots need a win to keep pace with Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC, and to maintain their two game lead in the AFC East. 4-5 Oakland has been inconsistent this year but still possess plenty of talent on offense. The Raiders need a victory to keep hopes of winning the AFC West alive.

Sunday night has a good game with Philadelphia at Dallas. The Eagles own the NFL’s best record at 8-1, and have a league-high seven game winning streak. The 5-4 Cowboys need a win to stay in contention for a wild card spot, as nine other NFC teams have at least five wins. With all that has been happening off the field for Jerry Jones, a victory would be sweet. The Jerrah now knows first hand with what it is like to be on the wrong side of Roger Goodell’s erratic system of lies punishment.

Week 11 wraps up with a good game on Monday Night. 5-4 Atlanta travels to Seattle to play the 6-3 Seahawks. The defending NFC champs are in third place, two games behind New Orleans. The Falcons need a win here to not only stay close in the NFC South, but to just keep up as a wild card contender. Seattle is only one game behind the Rams in the NFC West but they have bigger issues. The Seahawks will be without Pro Bowl CB Richard Sherman (ruptured Achilles’ tendon) and Pro Bowl SS Kam Chancellor (neck stinger).

For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

Early Games on Fox

5-4 Detroit Lions at 3-6 Chicago Bears
Lions favored by 3; over/under 41 points; money line -150, +130

The Bears continue to find a way to lose close games. Mitch Trubisky has a bright future but right now he’s going through the growing pains of being a rookie quarterback on a bad football team.

Pick: Lions 21, Bears 17
Detroit -3, under 41

 

3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4-5 Miami Dolphins
Pick’em; over/under 41½ points; money line -110, -110

How much of a distraction will the Uber allegations against Jameis Winston be for the Bucs? This game comes down to which CB gets burnt more badly, Miami’s Xavien Howard or Tampa’s nickel duo of Javien Elliott and Robert McClain.

Pick: Buccaneers 20, Dolphins 17
Tampa Bay -0, under 41½

 

7-2 Los Angeles Rams at 7-2 Minnesota Vikings
Vikings favored by 2½; over/under 45½ points; money line -135, +115

Most of the talk has been about Jared Goff and the #1 LA offense against a tough Viking defense. The Rams are well balanced, with Aaron Donald leading the way in Wade Phillips’ defense. LA is allowing just 18.0 points per game and has forced 19 turnovers. Keep an eye on Viking WR Adam Thielen. The D-2 receiver has five games with at least 90 yards receiving, and at least five receptions in all nine games.

Pick: Rams 24, Vikings 20
Los Angeles +2½, under 45½

 

4-5 Washington Redskins at 7-2 New Orleans Saints
Saints favored by 7½; over/under 51½ points; money line -380, +310

The Saints are playing well in all three phases of the game. The offense is far more productive with more emphasis on the running game, keeping opposing defenses off balance. Net result is a 7-game winning streak, tied with Philadelphia for the longest in the NFL this season. Make that eight straight over the injury depleted Skins.

Pick: Saints 31, Redskins 21
New Orleans -7½, over 51½

 

4-5 Arizona Cardinals at 3-6 Houston Texans
Texans favored by 1½; over/under 37½ points; money line -125, +105

You want to know why ratings are down? Games where the starting quarterbacks are Tom Savage and Drew Stanton may have something to do with that.

Pick: Cardinals 19, Texans 16
Arizona +1½, under 37½

 

Early Games on CBS

6-3 Kansas City Chiefs at 1-8 New York Giants
Chiefs favored by 10; over/under 46 points; money line -500, +400

Remember when preseason prognosticators were predicting that the Giants would win the division and contend for the Super Bowl? Now Big Blue is a double-digit underdog at home and instead in contention for the number one pick in the 2018 draft.

Pick: Chiefs 34, Giants 10
Kansas City -10, under 46

 

4-5 Baltimore Ravens at 5-4 Green Bay Packers
Ravens favored by 2; over/under 38 points; money line -130, +110

Brett Hundley looked awful in his first two games, but was improved last week. Packer RB Jamaal will need a productive day to counter Baltimore’s blitz-heavy defense on a cold (33) and windy (12-25) day.

Pick: Packers 20, Ravens 17
Green Bay +2, under 38

 

6-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 0-9 Cleveland Browns
Jaguars favored by 7½; over/under 37 points; money line -380, +310

Jacksonville may be without their top four receivers, so it will be imperative that the Jags get their running game in gear. Jacksonville’s offensive line has performed well this year, with the Jaguars averaging an NFL best 163 yards rushing per game. Cleveland’s run defense has been their lone bright spot. The Browns are allowing an NFL-low 3.1 yards per carry and just 86 yards rushing per game.

Pick: Browns 20, Jaguars 16
Cleveland +7½, under 37

 

Late Afternoon Games

5-4 Buffalo Bills at 3-6 Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 ET on Fox
Chargers favored by 5½; over/under 41½ points; money line -250, +210

Nathan Peterman gets the start at quarterback over benched Tyrod Taylor. Expecting a rookie QB to win on the road in his first NFL start is a tall order, even though the Chargers have virtually no home field advantage.

Pick: Chargers 27, Bills 16
Los Angeles -5½, over 41½

 

3-6 Cincinnati Bengals at 3-6 Denver Broncos, 4:25 ET on CBS
Broncos favored by 2½; over/under 38½ points; money line -145, +125

Denver has lost five straight and Bronco fans are pointing their fingers at everybody, including John Elway. If the Bengal secondary could not cover Tennessee receivers last week, what will they do at Mile High against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders?

Pick: Broncos 23, Bengals 20
Denver -2½, over 38½

 

7-2 New England Patriots vs 4-5 Oakland Raiders
4:25 pm ET on CBS, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City
Patriots favored by 7; over/under 54½ points; money line -320, +270

Jack Tatum. Daryl Stingley. Russ Francis. George Atkinson. Phil Villapiano. Ray Hamilton. Ben Dreith. Stop whining about the Tuck Rule, Raider fans. You scored six points on your final ten possessions of that game, and failed to stop the Patriots on three of their last four possessions.Pats improve to 19-15-1 all time in this series.

Pick: Patriots 31, Raiders 17
New England -7, under 54½

 

Prime Time Games

8-1 Philadelphia Eagles at 5-4 Dallas Cowboys
Sunday night at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Eagles favored by 5½; over/under 48 points; money line -240, +200

Carson Wentz has thrown 17 touchdown passes against three interceptions in the last five games. Dallas has not been able to contain good quarterbacks and high scoring offenses this year. The Cowboys gave up 35 points in home losses to the Packers and Rams, and 27 points at Atlanta last week.

Pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 20
Philadelphia -5½, over 48

 

5-4 Atlanta Falcons at 6-3 Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks favored by 3; over/under 45 points; money line -150, +130
Monday night at 8:30 pm ET on espn

The Seahawks are in a difficult situation, playing without CB Richard Sherman and SS Kam Chancellor. Seattle does benefit with the return of FS Earl Thomas, and Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) is out. This could easily go either way; it’s tough to pick against Seattle at home. Former Patriot Justin Coleman gets the start at corner in place of Sherman.

Pick: Seahawks 24, Falcons 20
Seattle -3, under 45

 

Bye Week:
7-3 Carolina Panthers
3-7 Indianapolis Colts
4-6 New York Jets
1-9 San Francisco 49ers

 

For a sneak peak at next week’s games, check out NFL Week 12 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead Lines: Pats favored by 14.5 vs Miami.