Tag Archives: DeflateGate

Podcast: Patriots Training Camp Approaches

Russ Goldman
July 16, 2018 at 12:13 pm ET

In this episode, with Patriots Training Camp approaching, we talked about several subjects that are on our minds. We discussed in detail the latest Sunday Notes Column by Steve Balestrieri. He first highlighted Free Agents still out there that the Patriots can target, and we talked about them. After that we discussed, the Patriots players that need to step up as we enter Training Camp. We talked about the players mentioned in his column.

If you are looking for actual football talk on the Pats, this episode should do the trick.

New England Patriots News 5-7, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 7, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-7, & AFC East Notes.

Not that it will have any effect on the Patriots LS Joe Cardona, but the military did an about face on the issue on whether to allow US military service academies to pursue a professional sports career right out of school.

The Defense Department released a memo that states: “The Military Service Academies or Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and lethality of our military services,” the memo says.

This is the second change that the Pentagon has enacted in the past two years and now the athletes graduating cannot defer their service obligations and will have to spend a minimum of two years as a military officer before heading off to the professional athletic career. This mostly affected Air Force WR Jalen Robinette who was expected to be a mid-round draft choice last weekend. Instead, he went undrafted.

Last year Cardona and Keenan Reynolds were allowed to enter the Ready Reserve or in Cardona’s case, he was assigned to the Naval Preparatory Academy in Newport, RI. Unfortunately, in Robinette’s case, he found out just hours before the NFL Draft began that he’d no longer be eligible for the deferment.

Butler Desperate to Get Paid, Not Traded:
A lot of people took a comment by CSNNE’s Mike Giardi and ran with it, in a case of 1+1 =4. Giardi, in a report on the Malcolm Butler developments this week, stated that Butler “desperately wanted to get traded to New Orleans.”

That set off a social media storm that drew the ire of a lot of fans and some of the sites that cover the team. Pump the brakes on that one folks. Butler desperately “wants to get paid” and if that is in New Orleans, New England or Timbuktu, so be it. He feels like he’s earned it and realizes that his career is as short as one play away.

Butler did the “good soldier” routine this week, [he’s been that for his entire career] and showed up for the “voluntary” off-season workouts at Gillette. It is hard to find fault with Butler and his feelings on this. Now the question is, with a lot of cap space left, do the Patriots extend him for 3-4 years and bump his pay into the $7-8 million range? It won’t be Gilmore money but could go a long way in mending fences.

Lifting the Veil on Tom Brady’s Personal Trainer, Alex Guerrero:
Julian Edelman calls him Mr. Miyagi, Danny Amendola calls him a wizard but Alex Guerrero is Tom Brady’s personal fitness guru and as much as many in the media would love to portray him as some kind of charlatan, many professional athletes have trusted their livelihoods to Guerrero including Brady, Wes Welker, and LaDainian Tomlinson.

His methods are unconventional but since Brady tore his ACL in the 2008 season opener, he’s been sold. Guerrero got him back in game shape in record time and he’s part of the TB12 clinic in Foxboro next to Gillette Stadium.

In this piece for Men’s Journal, the author who had crushed his heel in a rock climbing fall, seeks out Guerrero for treatment. It is an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at both Guerrero and the TB12 clinic. To read the entire article from Men’s Journal, click here:

Turning Tragedy into a Positive:
In a terrible, heartbreaking accident, former Ravens’ TE Todd Heap lost his daughter when he accidentally struck and killed his daughter, who would have turned 4 last week when moving his truck in their driveway.

He started the Hugs From Holly Day and the support from around the country and the NFL began. A total of 28 of the 32 NFL teams tweeted out their support for the Heap Family in their hour of need, including many of Heap’s former teammates.

Patriots “Three Games to Glory V” Released on DVD:
The Patriots are Super Bowl champions for the fifth time and their fifth in a series of behind the scenes videos “Three Games to Glory V” is now available for immediate purchase.

From the Patriots website, “fans can purchase “3 Games to Glory V” at the Patriots ProShop at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass. or online here. Blu-ray discs will be sold for $49.99 while DVDs are available for $39.99. It will also be sold via digital download.”

Digital downloads straight from I-Tunes cost $12.99. And they are the must-see films for any Patriots fan. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gift idea? Free advertising from us to the Patriots…LOL. But seriously, you won’t be sorry.

Kraft Unloads on Other Owners ‘Envy and Jealously’ in Deflategate Rant:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft ire was directed at his fellow owners this week rather than Roger Goodell.  He called the Deflategate investigation and punishment “nonsense and foolishness” and vowed to never forget, calling out his fellow owners.

“Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases”, Kraft said via an interview on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” in an interview with Andrea Kremer via USA TODAY. “I’m going into my 24th season as an owner. I’m passionate about owning a football team in my hometown.”

“If I hadn’t won, I would be so angry at our folks and thinking about what we’d have to do [to win a title]. So, our competitors, I understand how they brought pressure on the league office to be very strong and [lobbied] not to compromise on an issue that was nonsense and foolishness.”

CBS Sports, “Patriots Won Draft Before It Even Began”:
An interesting piece concerning the Patriots was written by Will Brinson this week as to their approach to the 2017 NFL Draft. Brinson thought that Bill Belichick had done a great job before the draft had even begun.

The Pats strolled into the NFL Draft late in the second day, not even making a pick until the third round. But don’t let that fool you into believing that Belichick and Co. weren’t active. They just took a different approach to “drafting” players, which might become a more common thing in a copycat league. It might be Moneyball, if indeed acquiring talented young veterans for upcoming draft choices is an inefficiency.

That contrasts sharply with the way that some media members from Boston lambasted Belichick’s approach. But that isn’t anything new there. Brinson’s entire piece can be read here:

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Decline 5th Year Option on Watkins, Interview Brown for GM:
The Buffalo Bills have declined the 5th year option on talented but oft-injured Sammy Watkins which may open the door for him to play his way right out of Buffalo.

The Bills gave up a lot to draft Watkins, but he’s battled injuries his entire career. Now they’re basically daring him to stay healthy and have the kind of monster season that was forecast for him since he entered the league. He could still conceivably return to Buffalo in 2018, but the cost will be much higher.

The Bills are also interviewing former Patriots scouting assistant Trey Brown for the vacant GM job. Brown spent four years with New England and Philly as a scout before becoming the Eagles Director of College Scouting in 2016.

Gase Believes Miami is Better Now, In the 2nd Year of his System:
The Miami Dolphins made some nice moves in the draft and during free agency but as for Adam Gase, his belief that the Dolphins are better now than a year ago stems from a different reason.

In a piece by Armando Salguero for the Miami Herald Gase spelled it out for the media.

“But I think the different feel for myself and a lot of the guys in the building — even the players — is you know our routine a little bit. And there’s a little different swagger about what our guys have right now in a positive way. There’s no indecision about what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it, what they’re responsible for. Guys can get from Point A to Point B kind of quick. There’s no issue with gray in our building right now. Guys are wired in to what we want to do. That’s not what you want to hear, but there’s a different feel with what we’ve got going on right now, day in and day out.”

This is just the kind of small, under the radar reason why it makes you think that the Dolphins got it right this time.

ArDarius Stewart Brings “Awesomeness” to the Jets:
The New York Jets drafted the talented ArDarius Stewart from Alabama with the 82nd pick in the 3rd Round of the NFL Draft last weekend. And the rookie certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence. When he conducted a conference call with the Jets media, he didn’t hold back.

“I’m bringing a load of, you know, awesomeness,” Stewart said. “That’s all I can tell you.”

Coach Todd Bowles gushed about Stewart as well. “When I went to see him work out, his route running was a lot better than it showed on film because they only did certain things,” Bowles said. “He’s tough, he brings a lot of attitude to the game and he plays it the right way. We really thought he could help us.”

The Jets will be looking for Stewart to take a big role this season. With Brandon Marshall gone and Eric Decker trying to come back from two serious injuries, the opportunities will be there for Stewart to have a big impact in 2017.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 2-26, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 26, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 2-26, & AFC East Notes.

So, glad that the Roger Goodell is hard at work protecting the shield and the “Integrity of the Game”, aren’t you? After bypassing his own standards in the Josh Brown incident that went well beyond what was reported, the Giants get hammered with a feather for illegally using walkie-talkies by having their 4th-round draft pick moved back 10 spots.

This was one week after the same team broke protocol by having pressure gauges on the sidelines when the Steelers footballs were light and affected by the Ideal Gas Law.

Goodell looks even more foolish when the depth of the Jets tampering saga of Darrelle Revis surfaced this week from Manish Mehta. Wonder how the folks in KC feel about that since they were hammered with fines and losses of draft picks for doing much the same thing and at least coming clean on it. Consistent only in his inconsistency…

Sanu Blames Late Collapse by Atlanta on Lady Gaga:
The Patriots late game rally is still provoking big-time reactions from Atlanta Falcons fans and now the players. Mohamad Sanu says the long halftime show by Lady Gaga was to blame for their 4th quarter swoon.

“It definitely did,” Sanu said on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football Show.

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

This was many of the Falcon’s players first trip to a Super Bowl. And for players like Sanu, they had never experienced this.

“I don’t know if you can simulate something like that,” Sanu said. “That was my first time experiencing something like that, and it was different.”

However, for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, this isn’t exactly uncharted waters and the Patriots like they are for most everything were prepared.

Prior to the Super Bowl, Belichick gave his team a 30-minute break in the middle of practice in order to simulate the halftime show.

“It really gets into a whole restarting mentality,” Belichick said. “It’s not like taking a break and coming out in the second half. It’s like starting the game all over again. It’s like playing a game, stopping, and then playing a second game. It’s like a double-header in baseball if you will.”

Cyrus Jones Needs to Make a Big Leap in Year Two:
One of the bigger disappointments of 2016 was the play of the Patriots top draft pick, 2nd round CB and KR Cyrus Jones. Jones was a dynamic kick returner at Alabama, bringing back four for touchdowns in his senior season.

But for the Patriots in 2016, his season was a nightmare. He constantly either bobbled or fumbled kicks and his play against Baltimore where he chased a ball downfield before inadvertently touching it reeked of a player with his confidence squarely shaken.

Worse, he barely made a dent in the rotation defensively, being passed on the depth chart by UDFA Jonathan Jones. We could trace Jones’ struggles on kick returns all the way back to the first day of minicamp. On a cloudy, blustery day, Jones dropped one punt off the foot of left-footed Ryan Allen. He bobbled another and was replaced by D.J. Foster who bobbled one of his own. That set in motion a series of bobbles and drops all thru training camp and into the season.

Look for Jones to make a comeback this season, he’s much too talented in both the return game and defensively for this to mark his career.  

Jimmy Garoppolo Trade Talk Heats Up:
With the NFL Combine just days away and the beginning of free agency right behind that, the talk on where Jimmy Garoppolo plays next year is a hot topic. And the bottom line is, he may be still right here in New England once training camp begins in July.

Depending on the source, Garoppolo is a shoo-in to the be the next QB for the Browns, 49ers or Bears….or not being on the trading block at all. The current crop of QBs entering the draft is not highly regarded. Does that mean, that they’ll never develop into franchise QBs? Of course, it doesn’t, but it does mean that teams will have to be patient and allow them to develop.

Garoppolo is generally considered superior to every one of the signal-callers entering the draft. So, the market for him should be considered high, right? The Patriots are reportedly asking for a 1st and 4th round pick for Garoppolo to be the floor for any offer. Which is a bargain if you’re getting a franchise QB.

But the caveat is that his NFL resume consists of two games only. And many will recall the steep price that Houston paid last year for Brock Osweiler who fell flat on his face. Osweiler had much more experience than Jimmy G.

Also muddying the waters are the cases of Tony Romo and Tyrod Taylor. Both of whom could become released free agents soon and teams may opt to sign one of them and allow a younger quarterback to develop.

The ball is totally in the Patriots hands. Jimmy G. is under contract for 2017 and they are under no compulsion to trade him. They can keep him for insurance for Tom Brady or for the fact that they believe him to be the heir apparent. This should prove to be very interesting in the coming days and weeks.

Patriots Pick up Two Compensatory Picks in NFL Draft:
The Patriots picked up two compensatory picks for the 2017 NFL Draft, nabbing a third rounder from the Cleveland Browns from the Jamie Collins trade and a fifth-round pick. With these picks in place, the Patriots will have at least four selections in the first 103 picks in the draft (see Garoppolo trade rumors above).

The Browns agreed to a third-round compensatory pick to the Patriots for Collins, who they signed to a long-term extension earlier this offseason if they received one. The Browns were awarded the 103rd pick in the third round and now that comes over to the Patriots. Otherwise, the compensation would have been a fourth-round pick.

The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round compensatory pick for the loss of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson which was weighed against them signing Shea McClellin in free agency.

Deflategate Will Finally End During the Draft:
While fans were pointing to the Super Bowl as to when Deflategate finally ended, it hasn’t. The occasion of the NFL Draft will finally end that particularly sordid chapter in the NFL’s relentless defending of the 31 other teams not from New England. The Patriots had two picks in the fourth-round of the draft. But the lower of the two, the 132nd pick from Seattle, now goes away due to the league’s punishment.

The Patriots also have their 137th pick, which they’ll keep but should’ve had two in that round. But when that pick comes around, the Patriots will lose it and then finally get to say that it is over.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills’ Woods Says Whoever the QB is May Factor in His FA Decision:
Buffalo’s Robert Woods is a free agent this spring; he’s been a very effective wide receiver since being drafted in 2013. But while he wants to get paid, he says his decision to return or move on has a lot to do with who is the Bills QB in 2017.

Woods was on Sirius XM NFL Radio and said that “Everything factors in,” Woods said.

“It has to be the right amount as well as quarterback decision. Yes, they don’t have a quarterback right now. Tyrod (Taylor) is a pending free agent. EJ Manuel is coming up as a free agent and there also are many quarterbacks on the market as well.

“Who knows what the decision is going on upstairs? But in a few weeks, we’ll all find out.”

In his four seasons, Woods has caught 203 passes for 2,451 yards (an average of 12.1 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns.

Miami Receives Three Compensatory Picks:
The Miami Sun-Sentinel is reporting that the Dolphins have received three additional picks in the 2017 NFL draft in compensation for last off-season’s free-agent departures.

Miami received a third-round pick and two fifth-round picks for losing defensive end Olivier Vernon (New York Giants), running back Lamar Miller (Houston Texans) and receiver Rishard Matthews (Tennessee Titans), it was reported Friday.

Miami drafted all three of those players in 2012 and each had productive 2016 seasons with their new teams, which is factored into the league’s compensatory pick formula.

The three new compensatory draft picks gives the Dolphins seven total selections in April’s draft.

Jets Release Nick Mangold After 11 seasons:
The New York Jets have released veteran center Nick Mangold after 11 outstanding seasons at Gang Green. The release of Mangold, 33, frees up the Jets from paying Mangold $9.1 million against the salary cap this season. The Jets also released OL Breno Giacomini, and Ryan Clady freeing up $14 million in cap space.

Mangold released the following statement from his phone on Saturday afternoon.

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.

NFL Network Analyst Heath Evans Writes Instagram Post Complementing Brady and Kraft

Robert Alvarez
February 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm ET

Sometimes you just need to speak your mind, and on Instagram Thursday, NFL Network Analyst and former New England Patriots running back Heath Evans did just that.

Evans posted a photograph of quarterback Tom Brady and Owner Robert Kraft sharing an emotional post-game embrace followed by a lengthy show of support while complementing the two men who he once worked with.

Evans was a vocal supporter of Brady during and after Deflategate, going as far to say NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was “not his boss”, despite working for the leagues cable channel.

“People just want to say, ‘Hey, we want the Patriots to be cheaters’ because they can’t wrap their minds around for the last 15 years, they’re just better than everybody. That’s just the truth. People love to hate on the best.”

Sometimes you display power and character by defending yourself. Sometimes you display power and character by defending others. And sometimes, despite the excruciating emotional pain, real power and character is displayed by choosing silence. Letting the world think and say what they may, knowing that in the end what people say and think has no bearing on the truth. I've known and seen both these men display all 3 versions of power and character for over a decade now with consistency, grace, and most importantly, humility! Both Mr. Kraft & @tombrady know real power, and character will always display itself in the end. In the end they were the last one standing and those living in glass houses throwing stones had no more stones to throw. @patriots #superbowl #51 #champions #power #character #truth

A post shared by HeathEvans (@heathevans44) on

New England Patriots News 1-8, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 8, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 1-8, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Happy Birthday to Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll would have been 82 today. But he lives on, especially on the side of the Patriots helmets.

RIP to my friend, and colleague Tom Reilly. Tom taught English and Journalism while penning the most widely read OP-ED column in our little town of Millbury, “Just a Thought or Two.” But he was much more.

Besides being a wonderful husband and dad to two girls, he was the collective conscience of the town. No one waited for Thursday’s newspaper to hit the stand or the mailbox. They’d check on-line and see what political issue he was bringing sense to, while never taking himself too seriously. The smartest guy in the room, he’d never act that way, and he’d always fill his mentions of the some of the people that make Millbury such a great place. A die-hard Patriots fan, he loved watching Bill Belichick’s press conferences and talking about the games. I will miss my friend. But our town will miss him even more.

Ty Law, A Hall of Fame Finalist:
Former Patriots great Ty Law is a finalist for the first time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Law was a standout player for many years but is best remembered for his interception returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVI against Kurt Warner and the Rams. The Patriots were huge underdogs against the “Greatest Show on Turf” but it was Law who set the tone in that one. Law’s pick six gave the Patriots the lead 7-3 and they would go on to shock the Rams for the Pats first Super Bowl victory.

Law was one of the most physical, punishing corners of his time. So much so that after his mugging of the Rams and Colts receivers in the playoffs, the NFL changed the rules on illegal contact. After his three-interception performance against Peyton Manning in the 2003 AFC Championship Game, Bill Polian lobbied against Law and the Pats with the NFL Rules Committee.

I mean when they start, I won’t say changing the rules, but changing the rules because of the way he plays then there’s probably something to be said for that. I mean they didn’t change them-change them, but we all know what happened,” Bill Belichick said.

“Great. Yeah, a great player. Really no weaknesses in Ty [Law]’s game. Strong, physical, tackler, jam receivers, good coverage player, great hands, interceptor,” Belichick added.

Great Week for Matthew Slater:
Patriots STs ace Matthew Slater had himself quite a week during the Patriots bye. On Wednesday morning, the Patriots announced that he had been awarded the 2017 Bart Starr Award, which is given out annually to a player who exemplifies character and leadership on and off the field.

It was an award that his father Jackie had won with the Rams in 1996 and so that fact resonated closely with the Pats Pro-Bowl special teamer. He was surprised by a phone call from Starr’s wife during a team meeting where Slater got pretty emotional. It was also the first time a father-son duo has won the award.

“I’m not thinking me, but they call me down and the woman on the phone is Mrs. (Cherry) Starr,” Slater said. “She tells me I win the award, and they had the cameras in there and my allergies start acting up a little bit. You know, seasonal allergies there. She told me my dad and I were the first father and son to win this award and I mean, I don’t know. I’m just blown away by it. I really am.”

To watch Slater’s reaction on the award, click here for the Patriots.com video

On Friday Slater was the lone Patriot named to the NFL’s 2016 All-Pro Team while adding to his resume with his sixth Pro-Bowl slot. This year the NFL added a STs slot to the All-Pro squad and Slater is a great pick.

49ers Are McDaniels’ Top Choice If He Leaves:
Multiple reports out of the San Francisco Bay area cite sources close to Josh McDaniels saying that IF he leaves the Patriots, the Niners are his team of choice. And I accent the IF because I still don’t think that it is a done deal that he’s leaving.

However, there are plenty of reasons to like the choice and few against. The Bay Area is one of the nicest places in California and would be a wonderful place to move a family.

McDaniels interviewed with the Niners, Jags and Rams yesterday but the Niners with an HC/GM open slot could be an interesting option. Supposedly, San Francisco is also interested in Nick Caserio and he and McDaniels would make a very interesting tandem if he does decide to make the jump. They are also interested in former executive and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick for the GM job. Riddick is a McDaniels fan.

The 49ers have 11 draft picks this season, including the #2 overall pick. They also have the 2nd most room under the salary cap, so there is plenty of maneuver room to bring in some veteran players and turn things around.

One of the downsides to taking the 49ers gig would be CEO Jed York. He’d have to be relegated to an outside influence and leave the operation to the football guys.

Flowers Built Solid Season Behind Hard Work:
One of the biggest and best surprises in 2016 has been the outstanding play of DL Trey Flowers who led the team with seven sacks on the season. Flowers turned a lot of heads last training camp and preseason with a solid effort. But a couple of injuries derailed his 2015 season and expectations for this year were a question mark.

Trey Flowers has had a strong 2016 season. (SBalestrieri photo)

Considering the team entered with Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, and Rob Ninkovich at defensive end, Flowers was really thought to be a 4th option. No longer.

Flowers had a solid if unremarkable camp and gradually built his game this season with solid and at times outstanding play both on the edge and as an interior pass rusher. With both Long and Sheard free agents in 2017, Flowers isn’t going anywhere and will be looking to nail down an even bigger piece of the pie in terms of snaps into the playoffs and next year.

Anyone But Brady? Seems Like It:
Tom Brady was edged out by Matt Ryan for the 1st Team All-Pro this week and it set off a firestorm on social media for people both pro and con when it came to the Pats QB.

And this naturally led to the subject of the MVP award. I’ve been on record as saying, although I have a vote (and exercise it with the PFWA), I’ve never been a big fan of the award as it becomes too political year after year.

This year it seems to be falling into that realm again. Ryan appears to be the choice with the season he’s had, (I voted for him for 1st team All-NFL as well as MVP) but to hear the arguments against Tom Brady, it seems like it is more like “anyone except Brady” rather than a sensible argument.

“Well, he’s only played 12 games” argument is bunk. Let’s refresh back to 1989, Joe Montana, the QB Brady is most frequently compared to, was awarded the MVP that year when playing in just 13 games. By the way, the Niners were 3-0 in the games that Joe missed so the whole “the Patriots were 3-1 without Brady proves he’s not valuable” argument is also moot. I don’t recall any noise about Montana’s missing three games and SF winning all of them being a detriment.

Just a couple of seasons ago, Aaron Rodgers was the MVP of the 2014 season and one of the biggest arguments in his favor was his touchdown to interception ratio which was 7.6 with the nearest competitor only half with a 3.8.

This season, Brady’s TD to INT ratio is an incredible 14.0. The next closest? Dak Prescott with a ratio of 5.8, less than half that of Brady’s. Something tells me, that stat won’t be looked at quite as hard this time around.

If the argument is that Ryan was more valuable, state the case for his season stats, of which he’s had a terrific 2016. But don’t resort to the lame and lazy “anyone but Brady” excuses of games missed.

I’m not even going to touch the Coach of the Year Award which is the annual snub Bill Belichick contest. That is for another time soon.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Wild Card Weekend on Saturday: Houston over Oakland, Seattle over Detroit and for Sunday, Pittsburgh over Miami, New York Giants over Green Bay.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills, Taylor Heading for a Messy Divorce?
The Buffalo Bills tried to limit the damage this week, saying that they were aware of QB Tyrod Taylor’s core/groin muscle surgery. If so, then they may have set themselves up for an uglier resolution to an ugly situation.

The normal timetable for the rehab of a surgery such as Taylor’s is six to eight weeks. That would put his rehab right around the time the Bills have to make a decision on whether or not to cut Taylor or keep his current deal going at which time Buffalo will be on the hook for $27 million.

Reports were coming out of Buffalo prior to the Week 17 finale where he was benched that the Bills were leaning towards cutting their ties to Taylor. However, he must pass a physical on March 12 or his deal immediately kicks in. If the Bills attempt to cut him early or with him failing a physical, the players’ association would have something to say about that.

Now the Bills are in “wait and see” mode with Taylor in regards to his rehab. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out but this may indeed turn out to be an ugly situation if the team is intent on letting him go.

Dolphins Freeze Their Footballs to Prep for Pittsburgh:
The Miami Dolphins are preparing to play the third coldest game in franchise history when they take on the Steelers in the Wild Card Playoff game today in Pittsburgh.

To help their special teams’ punter and kicker to get used to kicking in the cold weather, the Fins’ ST coach Darren Rizzi has been placing Miami’s kicking footballs in the freezer during practice.

With game-time temperatures around 16-17 degrees, the Dolphins are leaving nothing to chance and preparing the kickers for shorter range with a cold (and yes deflated), football. One has to wonder if the NFL will “monitor” the air pressure today. But should they upset Pittsburgh, relatively balmy 28-35 degree temperatures are expected in Foxboro next week.

Jets GM Macaggnan Says Catching the Patriots ‘Not Unattainable’:
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. The New York Jets GM Mike Macaggnan told the New York media this week that they still have their eyes on catching the Patriots in the AFC East.

This was supposed to be the year that the Jets made a big push on New England.  The team under Todd Bowles was 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs in 2015. Tom Brady was turning 39 and was suspended for the first four games of the season.

But everything fell apart, the Jets limped to a 5-11 record and the Patriots won the division for the eight year in a row and 14 of the last 15. So, rather than take a cautious approach with many changes on the horizon, Maccagnan didn’t back away. Asked about knocking the Pats off the perch in the AFC East, Maccagnan stated, “it’s not unattainable.”

But more bad news on the horizon was that Jets’ 2nd round pick, QB Christian Hackenberg is already on the outs with the coaching staff. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that sources inside Gang Green are saying that the QB has regressed as the season wore on and at least one player was said to have told Manish Mehta that Hackenberg “will never make it.”

Schefter is reporting that one Jets coach said Hackenberg ‘couldn’t hit the ocean.’ Another team official said Hackenberg has regressed throughout this season; he’s struggled with his play and his confidence.”

So, the Jets with Bryce Petty and Hackenberg may still be in the market for a franchise QB. They are expected to cut ties with Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick this spring. Stay tuned.

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 1-1, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 1-1, and AFC East Notes for this week.

From all of us here at PatsFans.com, we wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year. So, if the results of your New Year’s Eve has your head a bit fuzzy this morning, here are some football tidbits to have with the morning coffee. And while we don’t get paid to advertise with them, if you prefer your coffee dark and strong, try Black Rifle Coffee, a veteran owned and operated company. It is among the best I’ve ever had…

Another Brady Milestone This Week?
Tom Brady needs just 56 yards passing today to pass Dan Marino to become the 4th all-time leading passer in NFL history. Marino is currently in 4th place with 61,356 yards passing. Brady sits at 61,306.

So, in front of a partisan fan base in Miami, Brady should pass Dan the Man in the first half of today’s game. While Brady never makes a big fuss over his individual accomplishments, it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins acknowledge this milestone.

Questions Once Amendola Returns:
The Patriots may get Danny Amendola back for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, although he hasn’t been seen on the practice field since injuring his ankle. His injury was the main reason they sought the depth of Michael Floyd from the Cardinals.

Floyd played a few snaps against the Jets and should see more against the Dolphins with Malcolm Mitchell doubtful this week with a knee injury. But it begs the question, if and it is still an if right now, Amendola returns and is healthy for the playoffs, will the Patriots opt to keep an extra wide receiver active or will Floyd be a healthy scratch?

It will be an interesting dilemma and frankly, it is a good problem to have. But how would Floyd, a proud and established veteran handle being a healthy scratch come playoff time? Mitchell and Chris Hogan are established in the offense, and if they do decide to keep them all active, someone else will have to be scratched. It will bear watching.

Jamie Collins Comments a Possible Indicator Why He was Traded:
As comments go, this one was pretty telling. Jamie Collins, traded two months ago by the Patriots to the Cleveland Browns was speaking with the media on Friday about his upcoming free agency and was asked if he’d be returning to the Browns.

“Losing is a deterrent but at the same time, money comes into play around that time,” Collins said. “If the money is right then I could stay here. Obviously, I’m not going to turn it down.”

On the surface, the comments seem very selfish but who can argue with a player that wants to get paid? Well, the Patriots are sometimes that “who”. When players’ wants and possible worth conflict with what the team believes is the best value, then those players either walk in free agency or get traded as what happened to Collins.

Speaking of playing in Cleveland, Collins had this to say.

“It’s been pretty good,” he said. “I have zero complaints. Obviously, the win-loss column, but you can’t control everything. You’ve just got to use it and take advantage of the downfalls you get as stepping-stones. I have no doubt about me staying here if that was the case. I would like to be here. But it’s not just me wanting to be here.”

The Patriots defense has been much better since the trade of Collins; however, it should be noted that the team faced a lot of less than prolific offenses down the stretch. The final measuring stick will the playoffs. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, then the pundits will look upon this as a good trade, if they falter, then the finger pointing will begin, regardless of whether the defense was at fault.

Top 6 Red Zone Offenses Out of the Playoffs:
In a curious twist of fate, the top six teams in terms of Red Zone offenses are out of the playoffs after Week 16. Tennessee, New Orleans, San Francisco, Buffalo, Arizona, and Indy are all eliminated from the playoffs despite being very efficient in the red area on offense. Coincidentally the teams at #7 and #8 are Dallas and New England, the top two seeds of each conference.

Indianapolis is also a Top 5 team in Red Zone defense but despite playing in the AFC South, will miss the playoffs this season. A note to Patriots fans that love these “curse” stories, the top red zone defense belongs to the New York Giants, who beat Dallas twice this season.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 8-7 putting me at 146-91-2 for the season.

The last week of the season is almost as difficult in picking as the first. Some teams have checked out, others are resting starters for the playoff push. This week, I’m going with Atlanta, Baltimore, NYG, Houston, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Indy, NE, Minnesota, Buffalo, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Denver, KC and Seattle.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Ryan Fired, Where Do the Bills Go Now?
The Buffalo Bills let go of 2nd-year coach Rex Ryan along with his brother Rob this week. Regardless of whether it was too soon or not, depending on your point of view, it was done. But that wasn’t all that transpired. Apparently, the Bills are going to cut ties with QB Tyrod Taylor this season as well. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports is reporting Taylor is out as well after the season.

Taylor injured his groin more than a month ago, so the team is sitting him down this week and starting E.J. Manuel. If Taylor were to play and be more seriously injured, the Bills would be on the hook for over $30 million.

So the Bills must not only replace their head coach but their starting QB as well. Former Bills great, Marv Levy said he would consider it if the Bills come calling.

“[If] they offered, I might do it. It was one of those things where after 47 years of coaching I really needed to get that deep breath to step aside but after a couple of years passed I very much would have liked to come back … But I’d do it but I’m not deluding myself to think that the offer would come. If the offer did come I sure would consider it. Sure.” But Levy is 91 years old and he needs to enjoy retirement.

Tom Coughlin’s name was bandied about a bit during the season, and he would immediately ramp up the rivalry between the Bills and the Patriots. Coughlin, however, sat down with the Jaguars this week, where he coached before and still owns property in the area. The offseason will be a very important one for Buffalo. Stay tuned.

Resilient Dolphins Overcome Slow Start and Injuries to Make Playoffs:
The Miami Dolphins are in the postseason for the first time since 2008. New head coach Adam Gase has done a tremendous job of getting all of the players to buy in and they did it despite a slow 1-4 start but more importantly by overcoming a slew of injuries.

In the past, if a Dolphins team had either started slow or got hit by the injury bug, it would have been…season over, see-ya next year. But not in 2016.

Miami will likely be down four starters from their Week 1 offense and five starters from the defense. Despite this, Miami has adopted a “next man up” mantra under Gase which has served them well.

Revis Wants to be Treated With Class by the Jets:
The New York Jets always seem to be a lightning rod for controversy but the latest involving CB Darrelle Revis is perhaps the most intriguing.

Revis’ future is very much in question at this point. His play has fallen off to the point where opponents no long fear to tread on “Revis Island”, but in fact seek it out. But according to Revis, it will come down to whether or not the Jets treat him “with class.”

“Would I love to be here? Yes,” Revis said to the New York Post. “Will I be back? That’s a great question. My thing would be this: Do the New York Jets want to treat my situation with class or no class? With me being one of the best players in the history of this franchise, do they want me to retire here or not retire here?

“Obviously, everybody’s a little bit concerned because that’s not what I’m displaying anymore. I can’t stay 24 (years old) forever. Every player ages in this game. You’ve got to understand that. Now, can I still play? Yes, I can still play. This game is a love for me. It’s like a girlfriend. And we’ve been dating for a long time — many years. She’s been great to me and I appreciate it. I love my girlfriend.”

Revis has always been a great negotiator and reaped great financial gain by his leverage. But a 31-year old corner with fading skills being paid $15 million in 2017? I’ve always been a great admirer of his, but that takes “class” to another level.

The Jets, like the Bills, have some serious decisions to make this offseason.

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

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

New England Patriots News 12-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 18, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 12-18, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Ever Wonder What It is Like to be a Part of the End Zone Militia?
Everyone who has ever been to or watched a Patriots game on television knows who the Patriots End Zone Militia is. Every time LeGarrette Blount scores a touchdown at home, he rushes to take a photo with the group. They are instantly recognizable in their Colonial garb but much of the background information on them is still cloaked in the shadows.

We were able to sit down with one of the senior members of the militia, Bob Elliott this week. Bob and his wife Katherine are a wonderful couple who are actively involved in Millbury’s Asa Waters Mansion. Not surprisingly, it is a Colonial-era mansion that maintains the look and feel of that era. Katherine, until recently was the Executive Director there until retiring. Bob and members of the militia have appeared at events there as well.

I asked Bob how the militia got started and was surprised to learn it wasn’t with the Pats. “No, it wasn’t,” he said. “The group originally got started with the New England Revolution (soccer team). It wasn’t until later the group starting attending Patriots games in the old stadium.”

Bob has been with the group since 1998 and has seen plenty of Patriots games with the best standing spot (they don’t sit) in the stadium. So…I asked, ‘How does one become a member of the Militia?’ Bob laughed, “it is a question we get asked a lot,” he said. “You have to be a regular Revolutionary War reenactor for about 5-years, and have to own all of your own gear.”

“And if there is an opening, we’ll bring someone on board.”  But don’t hold your breath. Bob has seen only about 3-4 additions in his 18 years there as some members move away or retire. There are 37 members of the End Zone Militia but only 20 work each game, 10 in each end zone. When members have family or other commitments, they’ll pass off a certain game to the backups. The senior members, like Elliott, get to pick which games they can work.

They were strictly unpaid volunteers until the 2012 season. “The NFL was cracking down on the number of volunteers on the field, so Mr. Kraft immediately put us on the payroll.” Is it a lot I asked? He laughed again, “no it isn’t a Tom Brady type contract. But it does cover the cost of our black powder but not much else.” But to a man or woman, that isn’t why they are here.

What was the most magical or special moment in your 18 years here I asked him? He didn’t hesitate. “The final game in the old stadium, the Snow-Bowl, Tuck Rule Game. It was really special. The near blizzard conditions, fans throwing snow in the air, I will never forget that night,” he said.

“It was so dramatic and then we fired a shot after the Patriots won and a few days later a friend of mine called my wife and said, ‘did you know that your husband is in Sports Illustrated?’ What a great time that was.”

Finally, I asked him if the End Zone Militia would travel to Houston this year if the Patriots make the trip. “We’ve never been asked,” he said. “But we’d all go in a heartbeat.” You get that Mr. Kraft?

Patriots End Zone Militia, Bob Elliott, third from the left. (Bob Elliott Facebook page)

Goodell and the NFL Show Their Bias with the Deflategate II and Walkie-Talkie Issue with the Giants:
Just when you thought that the Deflategate sorry saga was finally over and done with, it raises its ugly head and more questions about the NFL and Roger Goodell. Jay Glazer broke this story on Fox’s pregame show last week.

Two weeks ago, the Giants were playing the Steelers and intercepted two of Ben Roethlisberger’s passes. When the footballs were on the sidelines, the Giants thought that the footballs were feeling soft and measured them on the sidelines. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that the two footballs in question measured 11.4 and 11.8 PSI which is below the league mandated 12.5 PSI. The Giants alerted league officials about it but did not make a formal complaint. Ben McAdoo the Giants coach admitted, that this is how they found out about the air pressure. There were two things that needed to be addressed about this incident by the league.

First, why were the Giants in possession of a gauge or measuring device on the sideline when those are expressly forbidden by the NFL? Second, where was the leaks of this information by the league office to selected media members. Where was Mike Kensil rushing to the Pittsburgh sideline and yelling at the Steelers’ coaches that “you’re in big f**king trouble.” Where was Ted Wells hiring a junk science firm that will say whatever you want them to, so long as you’re the one footing the bill?

After all, this Commissioner stated that air deflated from a football was akin to performance enhancing drugs. And the rules would be applied EVENLY and enforced as such across the board. And where the hell was that dreaded word that Goodell shoved down New England’s collective throats for 15 months? What about the “Integrity of the Game” Roger?

The league would have never mentioned it, had not Glazer done so in the pregame of last week’s games. But did the NFL leak out erroneous BS data to media members to enrage the populace? Nope…silence. For a week. And then about an hour after Glazer’s report, they released a statement that effectively ended any further discussion.

“The officiating game ball procedures were followed and there was no chain of command (sic… custody) issues,” the league’s statement read. “All footballs were in compliance and no formal complaint was filed by the Giants with our office.” No, they weren’t because no one is supposed to have a gauge on the sideline. But Goodell pooh-poohed that off as well, “You have to go by the league’s gauges? Really?

What does this tell you? That the league’s little data collection exercise of 2015 with the air pressure in the footballs showed what any smart sixth grader already knew. That the Ideal Gas Law, which the blowhards on Park Avenue never heard of before the 2014 AFC Championship, showed that air pressure will drop in footballs in cold weather.

Did we want Ben Roethlisberger punished with a suspension and the Steelers to lose a million bucks and multiple draft picks? No, because the air deflation happens naturally in every football in cold weather.

Except if your name is Tom Brady and you play for the Patriots. It shows that this was a set-up from the jump and Goodell caved to teams and owners that were sick of seeing the Patriots win too consistently. Not even the most die-hard fan would expect to ever see the league recompense the Pats the draft picks, but this latest NFL fiasco should clear the Patriots name in this bogus generated mess. Not that they’d ever say so.

But one has to consider this… if the Giants were playing New England two weeks ago, would the Mara Family, the owners of the Giants have made a complaint?

The second issue also had to do with McAdoo and the Giants. During Sunday night’s game in the Meadowlands against Dallas, Eli Manning was having consistent problems hearing the play call from the sidelines. During the 4th quarter, it stopped completely.

But in plain view of the television audience, McAdoo was calling the plays to Manning on a walkie-talkie which is expressly verboten by the league as well. As I watched this unfold, I grabbed my phone and was monitoring Twitter as I assumed (you know what happens there) that the national media would be screaming for a pound of flesh from the Giants. Nada, nicht, nothing.

Peter King in his MMQB, didn’t even mention it although he talked about the game at length. From the league? Deafening silence. On Friday, the NFL issued a statement that they were “looking into the Giants use of a walkie talkie,” McAdoo mentioned in his Friday presser that he and the team were cooperating with the league’s investigation. The Cowboys, it has been reported had NOT made a formal complaint. Now imagine this was Belichick. Would the media be so quiet? Would the Jones? Or the league?

Floyd Signing Draws the Ire of Two Former Colts:
After a disappointing season with rumors of a work ethic problem, the Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver Michael Floyd after being arrested for DUI on Monday morning. After passing thru waivers, the Patriots claimed him on Thursday.

He practiced on Friday and traveled with the team to Denver although it is unsure whether he’ll be active. It was a low-cost, possible high reward move as the Pats are only on the hook for Floyd’s remaining salary, about $1.2 million dollars.

But two former members of the Colts organization, General Manager Bill Polian, and C Jeff Saturday, lambasted the move. Polian, stated that Colts fans would never approve of such a move and Saturday, went even further stating, “What is this? A win at all costs mentality?

I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of this signing either, but for different reasons and these two ring of sour grapes. Please don’t throw stones at a guy who, no doubt was driving intoxicated but you were strangely silent when the owner of the Colts was arrested with cocaine and a load of cash in the trunk.

Nobody from the Colts talked about winning at all costs when WR Marvin Harrison shot a man in 2010. And the same man was later found shot to death just blocks from a bar Harrison owned. The only surveillance video of the shooting death was ironically from Harrison’s own bar, but….had three minutes of video erased when the shooter approached the man’s car and could have been identified.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 8-8 putting me at 112-84-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Seattle (Thursday Night Football picked last Sunday), Miami on Saturday night and for the games today, GB, Buffalo, Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, NYG, Minnesota, Houston, Arizona, Atlanta, Oakland, NE, Dallas, and Washington.

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, NYG over the Philly. Saturday’s Christmas Eve slate …Buffalo, NE, Tenn, GB, Cleveland, Washington, Atlanta, Oakland, TB, Seattle, LA, and the Texans.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Offer $10 an hour and a free ticket for shoveling snow:
The Buffalo Bills’ playoff hopes are barely hanging on but today, they face the Cleveland Browns and a chance to get untracked, both offensively and defensively. With the snow that fell over the stadium this weekend, the Bills were making an attractive offer to those who would help with the snow removal.

Bills management made an offer of $10 and hour to anyone 18-years old or older who agreed to shovel snow out of the stadium, but there were perks. If you shoveled for four hours or more, you got a free ticket to the game. Or if you couldn’t make four hours, you could purchase a ticket to the game for just $8.

Granted the Browns are winless but the Bills are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. That is a pretty cheap ticket. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the temps are scheduled to be around 30 degrees with scattered snow showers.

Moore, Maxwell Are the Focus Players for Saturday Night Game:
The Miami Dolphins will have completed their Saturday night game against the Jets when this hits the airwaves. But the story of the game going into the Meadowlands this week center around QB Matt Moore and CB Byron Maxwell.

Moore is getting the start, his first in five years and will have to play well if the Dolphins want to keep their playoff hopes alive with Ryan Tannehill out with a knee injury. How will the perennial backup fare against their hated rivals? Fair or not, he’ll be judged by how well the offense played in a cold, stadium, something that they’re not accustomed to.

Maxwell is a great story himself, after a disastrous campaign in Philly in 2015, he ended up with Miami and his season didn’t exactly light the world on fire. He was benched briefly but since returning to the starting lineup, he’s performed excellently and now is one of the bright spots for the Miami defense.

In a hidden chess match of this game, Jets WR Brandon Marshall has been involved in a war of words with Maxwell all season, prior to the November meeting, he claimed that Maxwell held on every play, back in 2015 and this week said he was bringing his own flag to the game …ostensibly to help the referees out.

Are Petty and Hackenberg the Future for the Jets? They Better Be:
The New York Jets have had a nightmarish 2016 after Coach Todd Bowles first year had them filled with such hope. Injuries, poor play, and some questionable decisions have derailed the year that the team hoped would result in a playoff spot. But the most glaring position this year was one, they’d hoped they were prepared for. The quarterback position.

The team went out and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a big one-year deal with options and the hope was that Fitzy could recreate more of the magic from 2015 where he led the Jets to an improbable 10-6 record. But that hasn’t materialized. Fitzpatrick has been a turnover machine throwing14 interceptions against just 10 touchdowns this season. He was benched for Bryce Petty.

Petty was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and in a perfect world, would become the Jets backup quarterback. The team may let him finish out this season to see what they have in him but here lies the crux of the matter. Many Jets fans and some media think the team will jump into the 2017 NFL Draft for the fifth straight season looking for a franchise quarterback. That would be a big mistake.

The Jets spent a 2nd round pick this season on Christian Hackenberg. He hasn’t even taken the field yet. Washing your hands from this young QB this soon would be disastrous for Gang Green. But we’ve seen this before and there are some who are clamoring for the Jets to draft either DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame or DeShaun Watson from Clemson.

Will they do it again and go high for another young QB? Smart money says no because none of the QBs in this draft stand out so far. But time will tell.

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.

Brady Slices and Dices Top Defense of Ravens on MNF

Steve Balestrieri
December 13, 2016 at 7:34 am ET

The much-anticipated matchup between the Patriots and Ravens lived up to its hype with the Patriots taking a hard-fought physical battle 30-23 at Gillette Stadium. After a slow start, Tom Brady made short work of the #1 defense in the NFL passing for 400 yards and three touchdowns and the Patriots running game with LeGarrette Blount pounded out the yards when they needed them as the Patriots rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense.

After winning three in a row over the 49ers, Jets, and Rams, there were questions of how good this Patriots team is because of the level of competition. Wait until after Baltimore the critics said. Well, the Patriots physically dominated a team that “is not afraid of them” and despite the return game making this a lot closer than it needed to be, showed the mettle to close out a tough game and opponent.

With the win, the Patriots are 11-2 with the best record in the AFC and have a 1-game lead over both KC and Oakland in the conference and are tied with Dallas for the best record in the NFL. It is looking like the playoffs will go thru Gillette. While there’s still plenty of time for things to change, the Patriots firmly hold their own destiny in their hands.

Here are some observations from tonight’s game:

Maybe Baltimore Doesn’t “Have Brady’s Number” After All: Much of the talk (including here) prior to the game was how difficult the Ravens had made life for Tom Brady. Maybe it is time to change that narrative. Perhaps it’s time to say how difficult Brady makes life for the Baltimore defense. In the last three meetings with the Ravens the Patriots have scored 106 points which comes out to 35.3 points per game.

Brady and the offense started slowly going just 3 for 8 with a couple of drops and one deep route by Julian Edelman where it seemed like the WR stopped running. But Brady heated up and started hitting big chunk plays all over the field. Brady ended up completing 25 of 38 passes for 406 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The one pick was an ugly one, facing 3rd and goal from the two, Brady should have thrown it away, but instead, he floated a gift to Eric Weddle in the end zone.

However, he more than made up for that gaffe with some beautiful throws including a laser on a slant where James White rolled for a 61-yard gain, a nice drop in the bucket to Martellus Bennett for a big 19-yard touchdown, and the beautifully thrown deep ball to hit Chris Hogan in stride to put the game away for a 79-yard score.

Brady entered the game, facing the #1 defense in the NFL at home six times in his career with a record of 6-0. Make that seven now. In Brady’s last two games against Baltimore, he’s completed 58 of 88 (65.9 %) for 773 yards, good for 8.78 yards per attempt, six touchdowns and two picks for a QB rating of 106.8. Those are some pretty impressive numbers for a team that has his number eh?

Defense Was Very Good and Had a Great Game plan: Kudos to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia for coming up with a very good game plan slowing down the Ravens offense and Joe Flacco. Entering tonight’s game, the Patriots were primarily a man-coverage team and Baltimore was expecting more of that. Flacco said as much in his postgame comments.

But the Patriots mixed in a ton of zone coverages and where mixing their pass rush up, dropping defensive ends out in the flat and bringing linebackers or corners. As a result, they got good pressure on Flacco all night, but without sacrificing their coverage integrity.

The vertical passing of Baltimore was limited for most of the game. Flacco was forced to check down to the shorter stuff underneath where the Patriots were making the tackles short of the sticks. Flacco’s average yards per attempt was just 5.7 on the night. Other than two short field touchdowns were the Ravens had to go a total of just 25 yards because of a pair of special team gaffes, Baltimore had a total of just three field goals.

The Ravens managed just 42 yards on the ground on 14 carries.

Offensive Line Won the Battle: One big matchup entering tonight was the Patriots offensive line against the physical, front of the Ravens. Well, the crew of Dante Scarnecchia passed this test, doing a phenomenal job of keeping Brady upright and opening holes for the running game.

Baltimore has an impressive pair of bookend edge rushers in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. They like to bring pressure on A-Gap blitzes and at times overload one side. While it wasn’t perfect, it was good enough.

Suggs and Dumervil did bring some pressure at times but the only Ravens sack was from Eric Weddle on a safety blitz. And their edge rushers each finished with just a single tackle.

And the Patriots running game churned out 95 tough yards on a night when Brady threw for over 400. Most impressively, they were able to grind out the final first down needed to close out the game when they needed to with Blount. Speaking of which…

Blount sets New Career Milestones: One can’t speak enough about what a solid season LeGarrette Blount is having. Having turned 30-years old this week, this is the time when running backs tend to break down. Instead, Blount is playing some of the best football of his career.

Blount’s previous best season was his rookie year with Tampa Bay where he gained 1007 yards. He went over the 1000-yard mark tonight and now has 1029 yards on the season with a 4.1-yard average.

His touchdown run in the first half gives him 14 scores for the season which ties the Patriots team record set by Curtis Martin (twice). With three games remaining, two of which are against teams struggling to stop the run, he’s in good shape to break the team record for rushing touchdowns down the stretch.

Cyrus Jones Struggles Dampens a Great STs game: The Patriots are going to have a problem down the stretch until Danny Amendola returns. Cyrus Jones has been an unmitigated disaster in the return game. The Patriots top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft was brought here specifically because the return game was supposed to be his strength. His struggles have the team searching for answers. He can’t hold onto the football and his boot of a punt turned the game around.

With the score 23-3, and the Patriots cruising, Jones dropped back once again to receive a punt. Sam Koch’s kick was short and bounced in front of him. Rather than move to the side away from the ball, Jones allowed the ball to hit his foot and the Raven recovered at the Patriots three-yard line. After a score, the team put Matthew Slater back for the kickoff, not trusting Jones and Slater, who missed the previous few games with an injury, coughed it up. A rout became another close game, much like the loss in Denver last year.

Other than that, the STs were excellent. Shea McClellin channeled his inner Jamie Collins, leaping over the line of scrimmage and blocking a chip shot field goal from Justin Tucker. McClellin also played a solid game again at linebacker.

Ryan Allen dropped two punts inside the five-yard line, the first becoming a safety for the Patriots defense. Stephen Gostkowski hit on all four of his extra point attempts.

No Rest Now, Short Week to Denver Awaits: The Patriots will have very little time to savor this one. Because of playing on Monday night, they now face a short week of preparation before heading to Denver to play the Broncos.

After putting a damper on the Ravens’ chances of a playoff berth, the Patriots can do the same thing against their rivals from the West this week. Denver has always been a house of horrors for the Patriots but this will be a great chance to erase some of those memories this week.

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

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

New England Patriots News 12-4, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 4, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 12-4, and AFC East Notes for this week.

So sad to hear the news about former Jet RB Joe McKnight who was shot to death in a needless road rage incident this week in New Orleans. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family

Martellus Bennett Sums Up Patriots Success:
While you won’t hear many sound clips of his answer after he was asked how he equated the Patriots success, it was spot on. He made a succinct, perfect answer when asked after the Pats win over the Jets on Sunday.

“That’s the only way to look at it — you just expect to move the ball,” the entertaining Bennett said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s hope.’ We don’t hope to move the ball. We expect to move the ball. Hope don’t get you anywhere.”

After the offense struggled for much of the first half, Bennett was asked why the Patriots expect to have success. Said Bennett, “Because we work (expletive) hard every (expletive) day,” Bennett said. “We work hard at this (expletive). Those moments, we work in those moments. They get paid millions of dollars to stop us, but we get paid millions of dollars to make plays, and we’re going to make them.”

There you go, it doesn’t get any simpler than that. Somebody pay the man.

Bennett will become the go-to tight end now:
With Rob Gronkowski’s back injury, Bennett will once again become the go-to target at tight end for Tom Brady. He’s was brought to New England to be a dual tight end with Gronkowski but with #87 shelved with back surgery, he’ll be the sole receiving threat out there at the position and he’ll handle it just fine.

“I’ve been in the league for a long time. It’s Year 9 for me. I’ve started, and me and (Gronkowski), we’re interchangeable,” Bennett said. “We do a lot of things differently, but at the end of the day, I always come in, and everyone treats me like a starter.”

“They respect me, and nothing changes in the game plan or anything if I’m in or Gronk’s out or anything like that. We just run our offense.”

Expect to see much more of the three or four wide receiver sets now, if the Pats do go two tight end formation for the running game, they have Cameron Fleming and Matt Lengel mainly as blockers.

Marcus Cannon Gets Paid:
The Patriots right tackle has been a lightning rod for criticism (including here) in the past, but in 2016 it has been a completely different story. Now healthy after battling thru foot injuries in 2015 and with Offensive Line coach Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold, Cannon has had the best season of his career. And he’s parlayed that into a big contract extension.

The Patriots signed Cannon to a 5-year extension this week worth $32.5 million dollars with $14.5 million fully guaranteed. The first three years of his new extension will pay Cannon a total of $19.8 million dollars.

With Sebastian Vollmer out all season with a hip injury, Cannon has been the starter since Day 1. He’s been especially effective in the running game where he uses his 6’5, 335-pound size to great advantage. Scarnecchia has worked with Cannon on his pass protection technique which he credits to his resurgence this season.

Vollmer, a free agent in 2017 is likely done in New England. But with Cannon, the Patriots now have the right tackle position locked up for at least the next three years. He’s already come back from cancer in his senior season in college which led to his drop in the 2011NFL Draft, now he’s making a second comeback and played it into a big payday.

Former NFL PR Exec Gets Blasted by Pats:
One can imagine that there is no love lost between the Patriots front office and the NFL these days after the long-drawn out affair between the team and the league over Deflategate. So, it wasn’t a shocker when the Patriots jumped all over an insensitive tweet by former NFL PR Exec Joe Browne when he tweeted about the recent plane crash in Colombia of a football team from Brazil.

Browne, in a now-deleted tweet, was trying to complement the NFL on its forward thinking if a tragedy like this struck, but it came out all wrong. “NFL club partnership so strong that if there were tragedy similar to Brazilian soccer crash other NFL clubs would restock affected team,” Browne tweeted out on Tuesday.

The Patriots from their own Twitter account blasted Browne stating “ Poor choice of words & disrespectful to all who lost lives. Players are not stock; they’re the most important people in NFL.”

joe-browne-tweet-brazil

Browne deleted the tweet and apologized stating “Thought I was being informative today re: terrible Brazil soccer tragedy but the tweet was ill-timed and poorly worded. I’ve deleted it.”

If the Patriots snarky comment is surprising, it shouldn’t be. Browne was/is a long-time hater of the Pats and while Robert Kraft may play nice with Roger Goodell, there are some in the ownership group who have long memories and this was a small bit of payback.

Bledsoe Speaks to High School Football Players Tuesday:
It was great to see former Patriot great Drew Bledsoe this week. He was the featured guest speaker at the MIAA Championship Breakfast. Bledsoe reminded all of the players that just being in the state championship games is a tremendous feat in itself.

“Nobody gets to play in a state championship game by accident,” Bledsoe said. “Most of you have been working hard at this game, been working hard in the room, been putting in all of those hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears into this game. That work ethic that you have to have in order to be successful at the game of football is really, really important.”

Bledsoe then spoke about his father and the relationship he had with his athletes and how now he is coaching high school football and how important it is to building character and relationships.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 12-4 putting me at 105-69-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Dallas (Thursday Night Football picked last Sunday), and for the games today, KC, NO, NE, Denver, GB, Philadelphia, Baltimore, SF, Oakland, NYG, Washington, SD, Seattle, NYJ. Early pick for Thursday Night: Oakland over KC

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Watkins Differs on What Bills OC Says About Injured Foot:
The Buffalo Bills listed WR Sammy Watkins as questionable with his recurring foot injury for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. But according to Rex Ryan, Watkins is good to go. When asked, Ryan told the media that Watkins was “gonna play” today.

Bills OC Anthony Lynn said that Watkins’ left foot is still broken despite his returning to play last Sunday. “The guy has a broken bone in his foot,” Lynn said. “I don’t know if he’s gonna play one play or 20 plays. So, we’ll just see how big his role is. I’d like to keep him in there the whole time, but I can’t say. He’s tough. He’s very determined to stay on the football field and help us win games, but he has a broken bone in his foot.”

When asked about Lynn’s comments that his foot is still broken, Watkins denied it…sort of. “Not necessarily,” Watkins said. “You hear a lot of things. Right now, my focus is the Raiders and trying to go get the win.”

Tannehill Riding Hot Hand During Fins 6-game Winning Streak:
One big reason that the Dolphins have won six games in a row is the play of the much-maligned QB Ryan Tannehill. During the six-game streak, Tannehill has tossed nine touchdowns and just one interception.

Under the tutelage of the “QB Whisperer” Adam Gates, Tannehill is having an outstanding second half of the season. Gates helped Jay Cutler to a very solid 2015 and now he’s having a similar reaction with Tannehill. He’s shown much better patience in the pocket and he’s become much more adept at moving the deep safeties with his eyes.

His comfort within Gase’s offensive system is clear and after a slow start, he and the rest of the offense have really picked up recently.

Jets Sticking With Fitzpatrick…for Now:
The New York Jets, much to the chagrin of their fan base are sticking with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least one more week. Fitzpatrick threw for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 22-17 losing effort against the Patriots last week.

When pressed by the media on why he’s sticking with Fitzpatrick over Bryce Petty, coach Todd Bowles says he’s not being swayed by what happens in the future.

“We’re all trying to win every game, whether we’re trying to get to 8-8 or whether we’re trying to be 16-0,” Bowles said. “It’s not about Bryce and it’s not about Fitz. It’s about our team trying to win ballgames. Right now, Fitz is our starter.”

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 11-20, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 20, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-20, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Congratulations to Ty Law for being a semi-finalist for the 2017 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Law may not make the cut this year but he certainly belongs. His numbers speak for themselves. His 53 career interceptions are tied with Deion Sanders. Durable, tough and a key cog on three Super Bowl winning teams. He was a big reason that Bill Polian lobbied the rules committee [of which he was a member] to have the PI rules changed after Law, beat up on the Colts WRs and picked off Peyton Manning three times in the playoffs.

Classy move by Tony Romo this week. How tough was that to admit, that you don’t deserve to be the starting QB for the Cowboys down the stretch. He’ll probably wear orange next season….just a guess but we’ve seen that before.

Bennett Trade Proves Smart with Gronkowski Injury:
The news that TE Rob Gronkowski wasn’t going to travel this week and therefore not play in today’s game against the 49ers wasn’t a shock. Gronk took a thunderous, but legal hit from safety Earl Thomas in last week’s loss to the Seahawks and had a chest injury, some called a perforated lung. Whatever it was/is, he didn’t practice this week.

But the trade that brought Martellus Bennett to the Pats is proving to be a valuable one. Bennett filled in nicely during the first four games of the season when Gronk missed the first two and was slow to work his way back in the next pair.

Now he’ll be asked to be the primary tight end in the passing game and with Chris Hogan also out this week [back], his importance in the game plan will become even more pronounced.

Belichick Isn’t a fan of Advanced Metrics:
In one of the more colorful press conferences this fall, Bill Belichick made his feelings known about advanced metrics. Asked on Friday if a quarterback’s quick release had always been a focal point of his offense, or whether it became more important after the rise of advanced metrics websites, Belichick unloaded.

“What the hell is that?” Belichick said. “You can take those advanced websites and metric them wherever you want. I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve never looked at one. I wouldn’t even care to look at one. I don’t even care what they say.”

But he wasn’t done there, he broke it down into the simplest terms and preached a team concept on an effective quarterback and offensive play. Remember this is the coach who loudly preached in 2009 that, “Stats are for losers.”

“It’s timing, decision making, execution by the entire offensive team, that’s what the passing game is,” Belichick said. “Receiver’s got to get open and catch the ball. The quarterback has to read the coverage, make the right decision, make an accurate throw.

“All the metric pages and all that, I have no idea. You’d have to ask that to a smarter coach than me. I’m sorry.” While typically Belichick-ian in his response, essentially Bill said the same thing while kinda thumbing his nose at the guys from PFF.

More Intrigue with the Defense, Did Sheard Stay in NE?
While the Patriots were over the skies en route to San Francisco, Jabaal Sheard [or someone using his account], sent an Instagram post from the Celtics game on Friday night. Sheard wasn’t listed on the injury report this week. So, if he indeed stayed home then one would have to assume that he’s going to be a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.

Such a move would show a definitive dissatisfaction with the big man’s play. Big things were expected this season from Sheard, who moved into the starting lineup with the trade of Chandler Jones. But his play this season hasn’t matched up to that from last year where he had 8.5 sacks as a sub-package plugin. He played a season-low 16 snaps against Seattle last week, giving way to Trey Flowers on the depth chart.

As we write this [Friday evening], we’ll watch for updates and confirmation from SF to find out if he indeed stayed home this weekend.  If so, then that won’t bode well for the 27-year old who is in a contract year.

***UPDATE*** Sheard was indeed left in New England and won’t play for performance reasons this week. If that is the case, the chances of them bringing him back next season are about nil now. The team will definitely be in the market for an edge rusher.

Patriots May Ease Dion Lewis Back into the Mix Today:
In a bit of good news this week, Patriots running back Dion Lewis made the team’s flight out to San Francisco and could make his season debut against the Niners today. Lewis was dynamic a year ago out of the backfield for the Patriots before tearing his ACL on a non-contact play against the Redskins.

Lewis activated from the PUP to the active roster last week but was inactive against the Seahawks. Could he see his first action this week? It would appear so. The Patriots have wisely taken a cautious approach with Lewis, allowing him to work his way back from the serious leg injury.

And with good reason, James White has had a very good 2016 season thus far and has become a valued, trusted member of the offense. Both are equally good at catching the ball out of the backfield. Lewis had the innate ability to make people miss and is the most elusive of the two. How will they ease him into the mix and how will he be used more down the stretch?

Look for Brady to put him in motion and flex him outside creating mismatches on linebackers. It was an area where they created quite a bit of production last season and something they haven’t done much with White this year.

Good Acting? Or Was Brady Sending a Message?
The recently released and quickly gone viral video for Footlocker that Tom Brady did this week was a hilarious view on Deflategate by the Patriots QB.

The never-mentioned but thinly veiled shot at Roger Goodell and the NFL over Brady’s suspension over ignoring of the Ideal Gas Law quickly struck a chord with Patriots fans. But now it begs the question…. Was it good acting or was Brady venting his true feelings after nearly two years? Watch it one more time and you be the judge.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 7-7 putting me at 81-63-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Carolina from TNF (picked last Sunday) Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, Tennessee, Cincinnati, KC, NYG, Minnesota, Miami, NE, Seattle, Washington, Oakland

Early pick for Thanksgiving Day/Night Football, (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Secondary Looking for Better Results vs Cincinnati:
The Buffalo Bills are coming off their bye week and although the lead the league with 30 sacks in 2016, they’ve given up an alarming amount of big plays and this area is one where both the coaches and players are looking to correct.

Buffalo has allowed a league-high seven plays of 50+ yards in the passing game this season and coach Rex Ryan isn’t pleased. Ryan said this week that Bills opponents don’t fear to attack Buffalo’s secondary vertically and that is a prime reason for the Bills 4-5 record at the break.

CB Stephon Gillmore fired back stating that a team that plays as much man coverage as the Bills will have the occasional big play allowed.

“We probably play the most man in the league,” he said. “You can’t name a team that plays more man than we play, so you’ve got to stop everything. You can’t just play the vertical passing game. You’ve got to stop every route.”

Ryan made some moves this week, releasing safety Duke Williams and replacing him with veteran James Ighedibo and stating that he may go with corners Corey White and rookie Kevon Seymour and sit Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey-Coleman.

These moves, if they are indeed done, will bear watching against the struggling Bengals.

Dolphins Want Parker Involved More in the Offense:
The Miami Dolphins won their fourth game in a row with a four interception fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers last week. A win this week against the Rams starting a rookie QB, Jared Goff, would put Miami at 6-4 and open the talk for a possible playoff scenario.

But Miami wants to get WR DeVante Parker more involved in the offense. They believe that for them to make the jump, that they’ll need for the talented but inconsistent wide receiver to take it to the next level.

“We think he can be one of the top guys in the league,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said to the media this week. “We see it every day, a big catch here and a big catch there. A big thing is his health, and keeping him healthy… We need a consistent DeVante Parker, where it’s week-in, and week-out where people fear him. He took over the game in his way last week and gave us a huge lift.

“I think he is really key to us going from solid to good on offense. I think he’s the guy, his big plays. Those are the plays that take you to whatever that next level is, one notch better. And minus those big plays makes it harder.

Parker had five catches for 103 yards last week but has only 403 yards and one touchdown on the season. Those are numbers far below what Miami believes him capable of producing.

Jets Bye Week, Fitz or Petty against the Patriots?
With the Jets surprisingly at 3-7 during their bye week, not many people expected them to be in this position after 10 games. With a shot at the playoffs becoming a distant memory now they must balance the present with the future.

GM Mike Maccagnan has stated that head coach Todd Bowles has the final say in who will be the quarterback when the Jets host the Patriots next week in the Meadowlands. Bryce Petty played last week in the Jets 9-6 loss to the Rams but did lead the team on a 99-yard drive that resulted in their only points of the day. Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched to let them see what they have in Petty, the second-year QB from Baylor

Bowles has stated that he’ll go with the best choice that will give their team a chance to win. That would be Fitzpatrick. But Bowles has also stated that he’s worried that his players will check out if Petty is named the starter. Fitzy isn’t in the future plans for the Jets. Will Petty be? One game won’t be enough to judge him on.

It is going to be a complicated decision but I’d bet Fitzpatrick is under center next week when the Patriots come to town.

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.