Tag Archives: Detroit Lions

Patriots Not Unexpectedly Bid Adieu to Flowers, Brown

Steve Balestrieri
March 12, 2019 at 7:55 am ET

The Patriot Way Giveth and Taketh Away

While not shocking at all, it was nevertheless a blow to the Patriots as they waved goodbye and good luck to starting left tackle Trent Brown, who after one year is moving back to the Bay Area after agreeing to a big money deal with the Oakland Raiders.

It was more difficult, however, to part with Trey Flowers, the Patriots best defensive player on their front seven for the past several years and a consummate pro who spoke softly but led by his example on the field.

There is no way that the Patriots were going to match either offer. Call Brown and Flowers victims of the “Patriot Way”, where the team will not become enamored with any particular player. They’ll place a value on each player and will rarely if ever go over that amount when it comes to compensation.

It is why year after year, we watch players who came to Foxboro leave for big money contracts, much more than they would have received here. And it is also why, most of the big name, high-dollar free agents don’t sign here. So, every spring Patriots fans gnash their teeth in frustration over “the big fish that got away.”

It is also why, because the team won’t overspend for free agents that Patriots fans are glued to their television sets in late January and February every season. Because of their fiscal responsibility, they’ve been able to compete every year. The Patriots have been in the AFC Championship Game nine years in a row and have been in four of the past five Super Bowls. That isn’t a fluke. The Patriots build a complete team of 53 players every year. Because they won’t overspend and get into a bidding war over individual players, they’re able to sustain their success over the long haul.

It is why March is usually not fun to be a Patriots fan but February can be glorious. Which would you rather have?

Brown came to the Patriots with plenty of questions a year ago. Nobody…but the coaches were sure that he could play left tackle. But he hooked up OL coach Dante Scarnecchia and he parlayed that into a terrific 2018 season. Now he’s rewarded with a four-year deal worth $66 million dollars with $36.75 million guaranteed. He’s now the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Take a bow Dante…you’ve done it again.

Flowers came to the Patriots in the 2015 NFL Draft in the 4th round with the 101st pick that year. But he impressed right from the start and even when the Patriots had him tucked away in the far left corner of the locker room when they expand for training camp, one could sense that he wasn’t going to be tucked away for long.  

Flowers cashed in and has agreed to a four-year deal that is reportedly paying him between $16-17 million per year with the Detroit Lions and will join former NE defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who also signed former Pats WR Danny Amendola as well.

The Tennessee Titans supposedly outbid the Patriots for the services of free agent wide receiver Adam Humphries to the tune of a four-year deal worth $36 million. Humphries is a guy we said on these pages would have been a great fit in the Patriots offense. But he opted for the bigger payday with the Titans. It is the nature of the beast.

With the contracts of NFL players largely not guaranteed with their career spans in many cases woefully short, one should never fault the players for taking care of their future. In Brown and Flowers’ cases, the money they got was far beyond what the Patriots were going to offer. Nobody is going to argue that. How many of us would turn down millions of dollars? Not many I’d bet.

So what’s next for the Pats? Free agency in reality hasn’t even begun yet, because the league with their ridiculous “legal tampering period” has deemed that none of the deals are binding until 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday when the league year officially begins.

So, with free agency beginning and the draft around the corner, the team will try to address these as well as other holes to fill. In Brown’s case, his replacement is already here. Isaiah Wynn was the Patriots top draft choice a year ago and he’ll team up with Scarnecchia and get to work on becoming the new left tackle. He tore an Achilles tendon in preseason last year, but is expected to be ready to go once training camp begins this summer.

Brown’s departure will also impact on how the Patriots may value swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who is also a free agent. A valuable, versatile, tough player, Waddle was re-signed a year ago but played little due to the offensive line remaining healthy in 2018. But now bringing him back makes a lot more sense. He can play on either side, is an established, solid veteran and now will be one of the team’s priorities.

Replacing Flowers is more problematic. His greatest gift was his versatility. He was very good at rushing from and setting the edge. But he really made hay by rushing from the interior when they’d slide him inside on passing downs. He was tailor-made for the Patriots defense and their style of playing.

The blow was lessened a bit by the trade for Michael Bennett who came over from the Philadelphia Eagles with a 7th round pick in 2020 for the Patriots fifth rounder next year. Bennett is more productive from a pure pass rusher perspective but will he be able to do all of the things Flowers was tasked? We’ll see. But at 33, while still very productive, his shelf life will probably be a year or two at the most here.

At least for now, Deatrich Wise will be looked at to provide more in terms of every down production. He played just under 60 percent of the snaps last year. The team also has Adrian Clayborn, Keionta Davis, Ufomba Kamalu, Trent Harris, and 2017 top draft choice Derek Rivers. Rivers tore his ACL in his rookie training camp and missed all of that year. Last year he came back but flashed very little. The 2019 season will be a very big year for him moving forward.

There are still some intriguing names in free agency in terms of pass rushing edge players including Justin Houston, Cameron Wake and Ezekiel Ansah. Although the prices for each of them may preclude any from coming to New England. The Patriots will no doubt be looking at the draft to find the next Flowers.

It is a fact of life, that when the team has success in February, others will try to poach your best players and coaches from your roster. It is the way of the league in March. And it is just beginning.

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.

Kyle Van Noy, “Proving People Right” for the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
January 25, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Kyle Van Noy, From Bust to Key Cog in the Patriots Defense

There’s nothing like a change of scenery to alter one’s perceptions is there? For a player like Kyle Van Noy, that change of scenery in 2016 marked the first of three straight Super Bowl seasons he’s enjoyed.

And Van Noy was arguably the most impressive player the Patriots had on defense in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.

But much more than the change of venue, it is the career resurgence he’s had – on the field that has been astounding.  The Lions took Van Noy with the 40th pick in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft and used him as a DE. It was a position that he was not suited for and it showed in his production.

After having core surgery which ruined his rookie season, he was moved to the SAM or strong side LBer role. He didn’t play much in his sophomore season either but was playing a larger role and starting in his third. However, the Lions were ready to move on from him.

The Patriots traded their 6th round draft pick (#217) for Detroit’s 7th rounder and Van Noy at the trade deadline in 2016. The Lions used that pick on Miami QB Brad Kaaya. It is a trade that was an absolute steal for the Patriots.  

The Patriots took their time with him and he went from a healthy scratch to a sub-package linebacker in his first few weeks. But Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff did what they always do, they didn’t dwell on what Van Noy doesn’t do well, they focused more on putting him in positions where he’d succeed. And he has. Just a few weeks after the trade, Van Noy intercepted Rams QB Jared Goff, something the linebacker hopes he can replicate in about 10 days. By the Super Bowl against the Falcons, he was on the field for nearly 65 percent of the defensive snaps and had a half-sack, half of a tackle for a loss and a QB hit.

Last season with Dont’a Hightower on the shelf, Van Noy, despite having a nagging leg injury of his own he started 12 of 13 games for the Pats and was third on the team on the team in tackles with 73 and second on the defense in sacks with 5.5. Van Noy wore the green-dot communication device on the field and was asked to fill in at a number of different roles for the defense which went to and lost last year’s Super Bowl.

This summer during training camp, Bill Belichick spoke on how much Van Noy has grown into his role here in New England. “Kyle’s done a really good job for us. He was a player that didn’t start his career here, but has come in and really understood the way that we try to do things,” said Belichick. “He’s embraced it. He’s become very much of a leader in doing his job and doing it the right way but also helping other guys, particularly guys that transition on to the team as he did. He has a good perspective for that.”

“He’s been very durable, and dependable,” Belichick added. “He’s a smart football player. He’s versatile, can do a lot of different things defensively and in the running game, in the passing game, and in the kicking game. He’s got a good skill set, and he’s a smart player with experience and can fill a lot of different roles for us. Hard to find players like that. He’s been a valuable guy for us.”

This year, with a healthy Hightower playing in every game this season, Van Noy has been mostly terrific on the Patriots defense. The unit had their bumps on the road, especially early in the season, but they’ve been getting progressively better and since the bye week has been much, much better.

Against the Chargers Van Noy and Hightower were outstanding. With the Patriots trying to pressure Philip Rivers, the two were instrumental in disguising and creating pressure in the “Amoeba Defense” while keeping the Bolts offensive line off balance.

Last week against the Chiefs, as we said in our podcast this week, Van Noy was outstanding, he was flying all over the field, he made a game-high 10 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, five run stops and six QB pressures.

Thru it all, Van Noy has maintained a good relationship with the media and a great one with his teammates despite what one local radio talk show host continues to say about his “arrogance” off the field. Having been down there at Gillette, albeit infrequently, we’ve never seen that type of attitude as depicted. Van Noy has always been polite, funny and willing to talk.

This week in preparing to face the Rams, he was asked if he enjoys proving people wrong. He smiled and said, he’d rather prove people right, …family, teammates, and coaches who believe in one another and have each other’s backs. The entirety of that interview can be seen on Patriots.com here:

If the Patriots are to be victorious next Sunday, they’ll need another big performance both offensively and defensively. And rest assured, Van Noy will also play a big part of that. He’s been a steal for the team and winning a second Super Bowl in three years would be proving a ton of people right.

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 game analysis.

Patriots  Week 3 Report Card, Lions Crush New England

Steve Balestrieri
September 25, 2018 at 8:33 am ET

The Patriots were beaten badly for the second week in a row, and if possible, this one was more ugly than the last one. We’ve gotten used to these rotten apples in September before and the coaches always seem to get things figured out. But they face pretty much a must-win this week against 3-0 Miami. And there are lots of issues to fix right now on this team.

With no running game, wide receivers who can’t get separation and the inability to stop the run, you have a recipe for losing football. And they were again dominated at the line of scrimmage.  

So, once again the players won’t be rushing up to garner their grade sheets after this one. Burn the game film of this one, this was particularly bad..

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady was visibly frustrated after the game and seemed to be pointing his finger at Josh McDaniels decision to force feed Sony Michel the ball this week in an attempt, not to shake the rust off, but to burn it off. Brady said, that James White, who had the Patriots’ only touchdown Sunday night needs more touches.  “He’s got to be involved. The guys who can make plays, those are the ones who should be involved.”

Brady badly forced a deep ball to Phillip Dorsett who was double covered and the pass was picked off. And with no one getting open in the short to intermediate game, he was forced to take deep shots down the field.

Running Backs: C-

The Patriots were obviously forcing the issue with Michel, and while he had just 50 yards on 14 carries, on many plays, there was absolutely nowhere to run, (wasn’t that a song by Martha and the Vandellas?). He also had a costly drop in the passing game. Michel will get it going, this is just his second game after missing almost a month of practice and all of the preseason. But the team is limited right now and hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

Rex Burkhead was limited again and left with concussion issues…sigh. James White was once again the most dependable back on the field. White made a nice catch in the back of the end zone while the defender had tight coverage…which we’ve come to expect from him.

Wide Receivers: D-

The wide receivers are struggling big time and they’re not winning the one-on-one matchups. After a couple of decent performances, Dorsett didn’t register a catch even though Brady threw to him five times.

Hogan had a couple of catches and Patterson had one along the sideline. But the issue is, they are all complimentary receivers and they’re good ones. But none are able to assume the mantle of a top WR in this offense.

The Patriots get back Julian Edelman after the Miami game and have Josh Gordon waiting in the wings. Will it be enough? We shall see.

Tight Ends: C

Rob Gronkowski was blanketed by the Lions who were treating him and rightfully so as the primary target and they’d be right. He had a detail assigned to shadow him like the President. With Jacob Hollister getting injured this week, it took away another possible weapon for Brady to target. But what Gronk needs is others to step up. He can’t be the only game in the pattern.

Dwayne Allen isn’t used in the passing game as a target and is strictly a blocker, at a time when they desperately need weapons. And he got blown up by Tavon Wilson (remember him?) on a third and short running play.  That one stung.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line did a good job in pass protection. The Lions sacks were mainly those of the coverage variety. One sack Brady held the ball for almost 5-6 seconds.

However, the run game blocking was for the most part atrocious. If you look at the stats, 89 yards on 19 carries, it doesn’t look so bad, but that would be a mirage. The Pats have for years ran to the right behind Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason. And those two were beaten consistently which is troubling.

On third and 1, Mason was blown up by Ricky Jean-Francois (remember him too?), and Michel was stuffed. On another, to the right side the Lions swooped in and blew up the play in the backfield. And this was from a team allowing an average of 179.5 yards per game.

Defensive Line: D

The defensive line was manhandled at the point of attack as the Lions obliterated the right side of the Patriots defense consistently with their running game, their other “supposed” weakness. Frank Ragnow had Malcom Brown on roller skates all night, consistently pushing him deep into the second level. On one play, Brown and Keionta Davis were driven so far to the left that they almost were out of screenshot. So, Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions running back in five years to rush for 100 yards.

The pass rush for the second straight week was MIA. Matthew Stafford had all day to throw. The team missed Trey Flowers but the others have to step up and show something. Deatrich Wise had a lone bright spot, beating Taylor Decker on a nice inside move to sack Stafford when the score was 13-10 and they actually had hope.

The Pats run defense is now second worst in the NFL allowing 143 yards per game….ugh.

Linebackers: D-

This was an absolutely awful game for the linebackers who appeared to be running in cement. They couldn’t cover the backs in the passing game and were late or ineffective at clogging the wide open holes in run support.

Perhaps the most troubling of the players is Dont’a Hightower. He looks really slow right now and he is far from his normally very physical self on the field. They tried to move him around as a pass rusher but he was ineffective there as well. It may soon become the time to question whether maybe his multitude of injuries are catching up with him.

Ja’Whaun Bentley had the only splash play with a nice interception of Stafford when he had excellent position on tight end Luke Wilson.

Secondary: C

The secondary was missing two starters in Pat Chung and Eric Rowe and their defensive approach was obvious because of it. Chung was really missed in run support where he is a sure tackler and that was an area that the defense as a whole struggled with on Sunday.

Stafford wasted no time exploiting rookie Keion Crossen on a third and long, matched up with Marvin Jones. Duron Harmon blew a coverage where he was supposed to take Jones from Stephon Gilmore and stayed put allowing a long touchdown pass. Watching the game tape again, there was no Lions receiver on that side even in the zip code. These simple communication mistakes are correctable but that one stung.

Special Teams: C

Cordarrelle Patterson got a nice 42-yard return to start the game when it looked like they may actually start fast. But the coverage units were a bit leaky again and were fortunate to have a 32-yard punt return called back for a penalty.

Coaches: D-

Where in the world were the defensive adjustments? Bueller? Bueller? They didn’t seem to try much. After being gashed by the run for three quarters they switched up to a 3-4 look for a short time, but by keeping the two safeties back to protect against the deep passing, the Lions ran right at their front seven and dominated totally.

The team played with no urgency, no fire and that is on Bill Belichick. The offensive game plan had some serious question marks and the play calling was very suspect in this one.

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

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

Patriots Mauled By Lions on SNF 26-10, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
September 24, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Apparently, the message wasn’t sent or received this week. After a disastrous first quarter in Jacksonville last week, the prevailing theme was the Patriots needed to show much more urgency and energy to start this week’s primetime game against the Detroit Lions. The Lions were entering 0-2, players and fans were already rumbling about new coach Matt Patricia and a quick start it was thought would get the crowd and players doubting themselves…. Well, that didn’t happen. At all.

If anything the Patriots got out to an even worse start than in Jacksonville and you can’t blame the 99-degree heat and Florida zip code for this week’s debacle. Once again the Patriots were manhandled at the line of scrimmage badly as Detroit could do whatever it pleased on both sides of the ball and the results spoke for themselves as they cruised to 26-10 mauling of the Pats on Sunday Night Football.

While the pregame hype had more people watching Josh Gordon play catch with a Patriots coach than t.v. cameras looking for a puff of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel, they should have been watching the warmups for the offensive and defensive lines. Because for the second week in a row they were a no-show. Black smoke coming up for them.

The Patriots have some serious issues along the right side of the defense. We’ve been saying now since the Houston game, that teams were running to the left of the Patriots defense. One week in an anomaly, two weeks is concerning, three weeks is a trend. The game plan was for the Patriots to keep two safeties deep to take away the deep passing of the Lions. With three starters out on the defense, two in the secondary (Pat Chung and Eric Rowe), it made sense. But the DL didn’t hold up at all.

We mentioned in our key matchups that Detroit, after all, was averaging just 68.5 yards per game on the ground and hadn’t had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush nearly five years ago. We also wrote that the Detroit running game was the key defensively to the game. Stop the run and they’re one-dimensional. If they can run the ball, then it will open up all kinds of other options for Matthew Stafford.

Detroit ran the ball down their throats at will targeting the left. Frank Ragnow totally dominated Malcom Brown at the point of attack and had him on roller skates blowing him 4-5 yards consistently off the ball. That kind of push opened the doors for Kerryon Johnson to run for 101 yards on the night on just 16 carries. That is a 6.3 yards per carry average. Worse for the Pats is the play of Dont’a Hightower, also on the left who appears slow, and physically nothing like the player we’ve come to expect.

The Patriots running game has for the past few years run to the opposite side, to the right behind Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. They weren’t getting any push at all against Detroit’s front seven, which had resembled a sieve the first two weeks of the season. Opponents had been gashing the Lions front seven to the tune of 179.5 yards per game. That front seven swallowed up the Pats running game and spit them out.

Their smaller, speedy linebackers did a great job of negating the short passing game and Tom Brady was reduced to taking deep shots down the field into double coverage where only one pass was picked off and a couple of others may have been. It was an ugly, ugly night for the Patriots offense which gained a total of 209 yards on the night.

Detroit led 13-0 before the Patriots even had a first down, where was the urgency there? Patricia made a questionable decision to kick a field goal on the Lions first possession facing a 4th and 1 after they gashed the Patriots down the field.

But then Kenny Golladay just got the ball over the goal line on the Lions next possession before Stephon Gilmore stripped it away and it was 10-0 and things were going from bad to worse. Detroit was running the ball at will and Stafford all day to throw the ball. Offensively the Patriots couldn’t get a first down, let alone put points up.

They finally got a field goal before the half after they got the offense moving a bit and were fortunate to be down just 10 points at 13-3. Stafford then made a huge blunder at the beginning of the third quarter, trying to force a ball into tight coverage with linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley in perfect position to pick it off.

Brady quickly moved the Patriots the 52 yards to a score, capping it off with a TD pass to James White making it 13-10. But any hopes for a turnaround were dashed when Stafford led the Lions on a 75-yard drive eating up six minutes of the clock and capped it off with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones.

Gilmore had Jones and was attempting to pass him off to safety Duron Harmon. Harmon however, continued to play downhill and totally whiffed, forcing Gilmore to stop and then attempt to close again and was left far behind for an easy score. Poor communication topped off a bad night all around.

Stafford ended up 27-36 for 262 yards with two TDs and a pick. Brady finished just 14-26 for just 133 yards with a TD and a pick.

Lots of changes need to be done and this team can fix a lot of what ails it. But they have a lot of work to do before Miami who is 3-0 comes to Foxboro next week.

UP AND DOWN –

UP: (was there players trending up? Maybe a stretch)

Deatrich Wise: The second-year DE playing with his hand in a cast, tried to fire up the rest of his moribund teammates with a run stuff and a sack. A rare bit of emotion and energy from a defense that was sorely lacking in both.

James White: The Patriots talented pass-catching running back was his usual dependable self and the coaching staff would have been better served getting him more touches than trying to force feed it to rookie Sony Michel when it was clear he was laboring. White finished with 37 yards on just four carries and three catches in the passing game including the 10-yard touchdown pass from Brady for the Pats only TD.

Ja’Whaun Bentley: The rookie linebacker made a play on the interception that the team sorely needed to start the second half, giving them at least a shot at coming back. He’s now taken over the play-calling responsibilities in the middle. A big jump for the rookie 5th round draft pick.

Down:

Malcom Brown/Dont’a Hightower: This can’t be overstated. Teams are attacking the left side and those two are playing very badly right now. The Patriots tried to switch things up in the second half, going to a 3-4 look, taking Brown out and going with an extra linebacker. The former first rounders are not playing anywhere near their potential right now and may force the team to make some moves.

Shaq Mason: What happened to that run mauler that we’ve come to expect every week? Mason is being badly outplayed and beaten in one-on-one matchups every week and it is time for Dante Scarnecchia to light a fire under him and the entire offensive line when it comes to run blocking.

Duron Harmon: While Patriots fans were screaming on social media that Gilmore was toasted on that long touchdown pass to Jones, nothing was further from the truth. That was clearly on Harmon who failed to recognize what was happening and left his corner out to dry. After the Patriots had closed the gap to just three points, a breakdown of that magnitude was inexcusable.

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.

New England Patriots News 9-23, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-23, & AFC East Notes.

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

Jacob Hollister was a late addition to the injury report on Friday and has been ruled out of tonight’s game. He was one of the players we had in our pregame matchups to watch. He may miss a game or two according to reports.

Cyrus Jones is back in the fold and will probably be returning punts tonight. He was part of the last cuts by New England and landed on the Ravens practice squad. But the Pats signed him back to the active roster this week and look for a hungry and motivated Jones this week. An interesting tidbit was that Jones was practicing with the safeties this week.

Resilience:  The Patriots success under Bill Belichick is always enhanced by the fact that they don’t lose many games back to back. As we pointed out earlier this week, the Patriots are 45-6 since 2003 following a loss. And for those conspiracy theorists that lament the Patriots playing in the AFC “Least”? Since realignment in 2002, the Patriots are 51-16 against the NFC, the best interconference record in the NFL. 

Tom Brady reportedly was testy and irritable all week in practice. Mike Giardi from NFL Network reported that Brady was quite unhappy with the level of execution that the Patriots showed in Jacksonville and wants to ensure that it doesn’t happen again this week against the Lions.

Corey Coleman the former 1st Round draft pick of the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft was released by the Patriots to make room for Josh Gordon. But the next day after clearing waivers, the Patriots signed him to the team’s practice squad.

Coleman had only spent a week in New England and was inactive for the Jacksonville game but Bill Belichick was highly complimentary of the former Baylor wide receiver.

“He’s a player we want to work with,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it goes. We haven’t had him a long time but he’s done a good job with the opportunities that he’s had. We want to keep working with him. We’ll see how it goes.”

Malcolm Mitchell filed a grievance against the Patriots, as first reported by our old buddy Miguel Benzan, commonly known as @Patscap the salary cap guru. The former the receiver has filed an injury grievance against the team and was seeking his entire 2018 salary of $630,000.

Mitchell was released by the Patriots back on August 6. That release was not coupled with an injury designation, so the receiver could not recoup any money from his deal. Mitchell cleared waivers, however, late Friday night there were reports that the two sides had settled the dispute.

Pat Chung/Trey Flowers didn’t practice this week and are doubtful for tonight’s game. Their loss will be a big blow to the Patriots defense. Flowers is their best player on the defensive side of the ball and Chung is an excellent tackler and his presence will be missed in the running game and the covering of tight ends.

No One Wants to See Gordon Fail:

In the hoopla of the Josh Gordon trade this week, reactions were mixed but by far, most were exceedingly positive and the prevailing theme was, “Brady hasn’t had a target like this since Randy Moss.”

Others, including here in this column were against the trade. And my TL and DMs quickly jumped my mentions by explaining that it was a “low-risk, high reward” scenario. Other mentions accused me of wanting Gordon to fail, which is ridiculous.

But this move isn’t low risk, because Gordon isn’t being just brought in to be a complementary piece. All of the mentions states, the Patriots need a player who can stretch the field and take pressure off of the intermediate receivers. So, yes he will be expected to play a valuable role.

While the compensation is basically a wash, which is basically a no-risk scenario, the big risk here, as I pointed out in the Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on Tuesday is time. This wasn’t a trade you make in March and have six months to figure out if the player fits your offense, your locker room and has put his problems on the back burner enough for you to secure him a roster spot.

This scenario is after Week 2 of the NFL regular season. And the team doesn’t have the time to try to prepare for an upcoming opponent while trying to incorporate a new Wide Receiver into the fold while treading very lightly around said, player. And he is a player with serious addiction issues. It isn’t as some point out, “just weed” and is much deeper.

Saying all this can be easily fixed by just dropping him in the Patriots locker room is overly simplistic and doesn’t lend itself the seriousness of Gordon’s situation. What about when he goes home at night? That’s where his problems lie, not in the building.

Everyone here wants to see him be successful…at life, football is a far second to that. Addiction and drug use are big problems facing our nation as a whole. But his physical talents have never been in question.  Would we love to see him light it up and be a part of bringing Lombardi #6 home? Of course.

But it isn’t as simple or as easy as many will have you believe. Hopefully, Robert Kraft will put some quality off-field support mechanisms around Gordon to help him.

Derek Rivers Set To Make His NFL Debut?

The bad news of Trey Flowers having a concussion and having missed all of this week’s practice could be an opportunity for last year’s top draft pick Derek Rivers. Rivers has been a healthy scratch for both of the first two games of the season after falling behind Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise and Keionta Davis on the depth chart.

Rivers missed all of the 2017 season after tearing his ACL during joint practices with the Jaguars last August. He started slowly in training camp this year but came on and started to round into form.

It will be interesting to see how he can produce in a regular season game, which will be his first NFL action if Flowers is a scratch for tonight’s game. Rivers told NESN’s Doug Kyed this week that he hasn’t been frustrated by his lack of playing time yet but he’s just working hard and waiting for his chance.

“I’d be excited,” he said.  “But this is what we’ve been doing since camp. I got to play in the preseason, and every game is similar. I know everybody puts a lot of pressure on preseason and regular season, but a football game is a football game. It’s a blessing to play in each and every one of them. It will be exciting times, and god-willing, if this is the week, then I’ll be excited.”

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 9-6-1 Season 18-12-2

Thursday night’s pick Cleveland over the Jets 1-0

New Orleans at Atlanta: Falcons
Green Bay at Washington: Packers
Indy at Philadelphia: Eagles
Buffalo at Minnesota: Vikings
Oakland at Miami: Dolphins
Denver at Baltimore:  Ravens
Cincinnati at Carolina: Panthers
Giants at Houston: Texans
Tennessee at Jacksonville: Titans
San Francisco at Kansas City: Chiefs
LA Rams at LA Chargers: Rams
Dallas at Seattle: Dallas
Chicago at Arizona: Cardinals
New England at Detroit: Patriots
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay: Bucs

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Tough Matchup on the Road in Minnesota:

Buffalo is 0-2 and heading to Minnesota to take on the 1-0-1 Vikings. Since opening their new stadium in 2016, the Vikes are 14-4 at home, third best in the NFL behind New England and Philadelphia.

Josh Allen has the unenviable task of going with a shaky offensive line and a dearth of playmakers against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Vikings have seven sacks as a team, while the Bills have already allowed 11.

After being hammered in the first half and allowing 28 points, Head Coach Sean McDermott took over the defensive play calling in the second half and the unit responded, allowing just three points in the second half. That will bear watching today.

While we were adamant that Allen should have been sitting and learning in his rookie year, McDermott hit the panic button after just one half of the first game. Allen was sacked five times last week and has been put in a nearly impossible position to succeed. Buffalo will have to tread carefully here, these type of situations have ruined other young QB’s confidence. And the Vikes will be bringing the heat.

Dolphins Have Big Game At Home Against the 0-2 Raiders:

Miami is 2-0 and has played very well against both the Titans and Jets and sit alone atop the AFC East after just two weeks. So why is this game against the winless Raiders such a big one? Because these are the types of games the Dolphins have consistently dropped when having a chance to get momentum going.

Today’s home game will put the Dolphins at 3-0 and guarantee them of no worse than a tie with New England with a road trip heading up to Foxboro next weekend. And a win will put the Dolphins of a chance of going undefeated thru the quarter pole of the season  That will boost a lot of confidence in the team as they move forward.

With kickoff time temps of about 88 degrees with high humidity, it is a built-in advantage. Also, factor in the Raiders are making an East Coast swing for a 1 p.m. game, something that West Coast teams don’t normally play well in, it is something to watch for.

Miami has a prime opportunity for them to pounce on a team that hasn’t played well yet in 2018. And look for their defense today to make a couple of big plays. That will set up some good drama for Week 4, which will pit them against the Pats for the first time this year.

Darnold Takes Blame For Loss, But the Fault Was With Jets Coaches:

The New York Jets lost on Thursday Night Football 21-17 to the Cleveland Browns, the Jets third game in 11 days and may have run out of gas at the end. And of course, the popular narrative was that Baker Mayfield outplayed Sam Darnold on the big stage.

While you can certainly point to the numbers to make that case, it was hardly that simple. When Mayfield came in, the Jets were rolling 14-0. But rather than put restrictions on him, the Cleveland coaches cut him loose and allowed him to throw the ball all over the field, in other words opening the playbook completely to him. And Mayfield looked very much the part of the 1st overall pick in the draft against what is a pretty darn good Jets defense.

Darnold, in contrast, was just 15-31 for 169 yards and two interceptions, both thrown with under a minute and a half left in the game on desperation throws.

“From my point of view, I just have to play better, simple as that,” Darnold said after the game. “It’s not acceptable, the way I played. I know that, and I have to take it like a man. I feel like I’m responsible for some of the stagnant offense we had. I just have to play better, that’s it.”

While standing up and taking responsibility is laudable, the coaches deserve as much if not more of the blame for the stagnant offense. They have saddled the rookie with a very limited playbook. Worried about the Browns blitzing, they gave him a steady diet of screen passes and other very conservative options. They never allowed him to test the field the way the Browns did.

Even Jets WR Quincy Enunwa hit on the issue, although he worded it carefully, there is no doubt what he said here. “He did as well as he could with the plays that were given to him,” Enunwa said. “They had a lot of pressure, and that kind of messed us up.”

The Jets aren’t helping his progression by limiting what he can do on the field. Making things simpler is one thing, hamstringing a QB’s options are another. It is like being thrown the keys to a muscle car and then being told, not to shift it out of second.

NFL fans lost out on what would have been an interesting matchup between two QBs of the future. Darnold didn’t regress in his third start, the coaching staff blinked. Let him play the way he’s capable of.

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.

Players To Watch New England Patriots – Detroit Lions Week 3

Steve Balestrieri
September 21, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Sunday Night Football Primetime Matchup

The New England Patriots head back out on the road to take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is in his first year as a head coach of the Lions and is off to a rough start, going 0-2 to start the season.

The Patriots also lost last week in Jacksonville dropping them to 1-1 on the season and they’ll be looking to rebound. The Patriots defense will probably be without two of their best defensive players in Trey Flowers and Pat Chung who were in the concussion protocol all week and haven’t practiced.

The Patriots under Bill Belichick have been outstanding at limiting losing streaks and are 45-6 in games following a loss since 2003 and have been 51-13 against NFC opponents since realignment in 2002.

The Lions with Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, and Theo Riddick out of the backfield offer a serious challenge defensively, especially with the players missing this week. The Lions defense has eight sacks already and got six last week against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.

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

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back got into his first NFL action last week after missing all of the preseason and the first regular season game. This week should show a big uptick in his usage and he should probably be a big part of the Patriots game plan this week.

The Lions run defense has been gashed badly the first two weeks of the season. And look for the Patriots to try to take advantage of that fact with the very promising and explosive Michel.

Last week in shaking off the rust, Michel had ten carries, we look to see him get about double the touches this week between rushing the football and receiving out of the backfield with James White and Rex Burkhead.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots newest addition to the team just got on-board this week after coming over in a trade with the Cleveland Browns. He is still trying to learn the offense, (not surprisingly after just a few days of practice) and to boot hasn’t been 100 percent physically as he tweaked a hamstring last Friday.

In our pregame matchups, we wrote that we thought he’d be unlikely to play. But many of the national and local media types keep saying that although he’s not 100 percent that they believe the Patriots will install a small package of plays to get him on the field.

If that indeed is the case, then, of course, all eyes will be on the big, physical and athletic wide receiver. As to what he can bring to the table in such a short amount of time? No one knows and we’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cordarrelle Patterson/Cyrus Jones:

The Patriots picked up the very talented kick returner/wide receiver this offseason and he hasn’t been able to showcase any of his talents much in the return game. Jones was originally the Pats top pick a few seasons ago and tore his ACL last August before being released in September. He was a member of the Ravens practice squad but the Patriots signed him to the active roster just this week for his punt return abilities.

Both could play key roles this week. The Lions coverage units have allowed a 90-yard kickoff return and 74 and 43-yard punt returns already this season. This would be a primetime perfect time for the special teams’ units to break out and give the team a boost.

We’re looking for both of these players to make a splash on Sunday night. The Patriots special teams are always one of the strengths of this team and thus far, they’ve underperformed as to what we expect from them. A national television game is a perfect time to fix that and put some production on the board.

Derek Rivers:

The Patriots top rookie draft choice a year ago, also tore his ACL last August and was lost for the entire rookie season. He’s worked his way back and had a pretty good training camp but was passed on the depth chart by fellow DE Keionta Davis who also missed his rookie season of 2017 with a neck injury.

But with Flowers unlikely to play with a concussion, Rivers should be in line to make his professional debut on Sunday night in Detroit. It will be intriguing to see what he can bring to the table in terms of rushing the passer this week. He’s waited a long time to get on the field. Now maybe a chance to show what he can do.

Jason McCourty:

With Pat Chung likely out with a concussion, McCourty should see a big uptick in usage this week at the safety spot. Chung is an excellent tackler and always does a solid job of defending the tight ends so the “other” McCourty brother will have his work cut out for him this week.

McCourty could also see significant snaps at corner. When Eric Rowe was sat down last week in Jacksonville, McCourty came in and played nearly three-quarters of the snaps. Now Rowe is on the injury report with a groin issue and he’d normally be assigned the bigger Golladay (6’4, 213) to cover.

So depending on how the coaches see this week playing out in terms of player matchups McCourty could play significant snaps at either corner or safety, perhaps a bit of both. But he’ll definitely see the field quite a bit on Sunday night.

Rob Gronkowski/Jacob Hollister:

The Patriots tight ends may be a significant part of the game plan this week. Gronkowski had only two catches a week ago as the Jaguars used two, sometimes three different defenders to take him away. The Lions defense isn’t as deep as Jacksonville’s and they can’t afford to put that much capital to defend one man.

On a big national stage, we’re looking for Gronkowski to make a big rebound and for Tom Brady to try to get him involved early and often in the Patriots offense. It will be interesting to see how the Lions plan on matching him up.

For Hollister, the Patriots 2nd year tight end is a very good receiver in his own right and has the ability to stretch the field down the seams. We’re looking for Josh McDaniels and Brady to get him more involved this week. With the preponderance of the defensive effort geared to stopping Gronkowski, Hollister could have a nice productive game and we’ll look for Brady to get him more involved.  

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

Podcast: Patriots vs. Lions Preview Show

Russ Goldman
September 20, 2018 at 10:55 am ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Lions, as we went through the major match-ups, and also shared the keys to victory. We also gave our predictions for the game.

However, to start the show, we did our “Around The League” segment and the topics this week included , analytics in football, the Super Bowl Half Time Show, and drafting the right players that fit your team.

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

John Morgan
December 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds were posted a day after the Week 15 games finished. Keep in mind these odds were listed prior to any of this week’s injury reports, as well as any of the Week 16 games. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away from being played. Early lines offer a short opportunity to get a jump on odds that could become less favorable after Sunday’s games.

Handicapping games in the final week of the regular season can be a tricky proposition. Motivation could be difficult for a team that has played for the goal of making the playoffs for months, and suddenly finds themselves eliminated. A bad team might play loose and try things they normally wouldn’t, catching an opponent off guard. Good teams locked into a specific playoff slot may opt to rest players who would have otherwise started. The line in the Eagles-Cowboys game reflects that concept.

In Week 16 ten road teams are favored to win. That number falls back to a more typical number in Week 17, with five home dogs. The Saints are the biggest road favorite, minus 8½ points at Tampa Bay. The largest spread of the week is in Foxboro, where the Patriots are favored by 16 versus the Jets. That game is one of four double-digit spreads. The narrowest odds are with Houston as a one-point underdog at Indianapolis.

The most important games of Week 17 loom to be Carolina at Atlanta (-3½) in the NFC, and Jacksonville (-3½) at Tennessee in the AFC.

All games will be played on Sunday, December 31. There are no night games.
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on CBS

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-16)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3½) at Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-15)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-11)
Buffalo Bills (-2½) at Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1)
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on Fox

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3½)
New Orleans Saints (-8½) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-12)
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-9)
Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Late Games

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7), CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7), Fox
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-2½), CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-7), Fox

 

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16

 

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16

John Morgan
at 2:00 pm ET

Entering Week 16 five teams have clinched a playoff spot. The Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Eagles and Vikings have all punched a ticket for the post season. Philadelphia is the only team thus far to earn a first round bye.

In the AFC six teams have been eliminated: the Browns, Colts, Texans, Broncos, Bengals and Jets. The Dolphins and Raiders are technically alive, but comatose and on life support. The Chargers are not in much better shape, even though they are only one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Most likely it is Ravens, Titans and Bills battling for two wild card spots.

The Giants, Bears, Forty Niners, Bucs, Cardinals, Skins and Packers are all officially eliminated. Dallas, Seattle and Detroit face tall odds to get in. Philadelphia and Minnesota have won their divisions and will host at least one playoff game. The only way the Rams don’t win the NFC West is to lose twice while Seattle wins twice. The NFC South is probably going to send three teams to the playoffs. Games involving the Saints, Panthers and Falcons are the most intriguing over the next two weeks. Atlanta is at New Orleans this week, and then the Falcons host Carolina next week.

For the sake of clarity (and sanity), I will not consider ties in the following playoff scenarios. Yes, I know they can happen: just ask Donovan McNabb.

 

AFC Playoff Picture

#1 (11-3) New England Patriots
Home vs 8-6 Bills, home vs 5-9 Jets.
Have clinched AFC East and at least #3 seed.
Clinch #2 seed with win, plus a loss by either Jacksonville or Pittsburgh.
Clinch #1 seed with win, plus losses by both Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.
Clinch #1 seed with two wins regardless of what else happens.

#2 (11-3) Pittsburgh Steelers
At 4-10 Texans, home vs 0-14 Browns.
Have clinched AFC North and at least #3 seed.
Clinch #2 seed with win, plus Jacksonville loss.

#3 (10-4) Jacksonville Jaguars
At 4-10 49ers, at 8-6 Titans.
Clinch AFC South and #3 seed with either a win, or a Tennessee loss.

#4 (8-6) Kansas City Chiefs
Home vs 6-8 Dolphins, at 5-9 Broncos.
Clinch AFC West and #4 seed with a win, plus a Chargers loss.

#5 (8-6) Tennessee Titans
Home vs 10-4 Rams, home vs 10-4 Jaguars.
Clinch playoff spot with a win, plus losses by both the Bills and Ravens.

#6 (8-6) Baltimore Ravens
Home vs 3-11 Colts, home vs 5-9 Bengals.
Clinch playoff spot with two wins.

#7 (8-6) Buffalo Bills
At 11-3 Patriots, at 6-8 Dolphins.

#8 (7-7) Los Angeles Chargers
At 5-9 Jets, home vs 6-8 Raiders.
Eliminated with a loss.
Can win AFC West and #4 seed with two wins, plus two losses by Kansas City.
Scenario #1 as a wild card: win twice, Titans lose twice, Ravens win or lose out (don’t go 1-1), and Bills lose at least once.
Scenario #2 as a wild card: win twice, Ravens lose twice Titans win or lose out (don’t go 1-1), and Bills lose at least once.

#9 (6-8) Oakland Raiders
At 12-2 Eagles, at 7-7 Chargers.
Can only be a #6 seed, or miss playoffs.
Eliminated with a loss.
To make the playoffs the Raiders need to win twice while Buffalo and Tennessee both lose twice, Miami wins twice, and Baltimore wins at least once.

#10 (6-8) Miami Dolphins
At 8-6 Chiefs, home vs 8-6 Bills.
Eliminated with a loss.
Scenario #1 as a wild card: win twice, Titans lose twice, Bills lose to Pats, Chiefs lose to Broncos, and Raiders lose at least once.
Scenario #2 as a wild card: win twice, Ravens lose twice, Bills lose to Pats, Chiefs lose to Broncos, and Raiders lose to Chargers.

 

NFC Playoff Picture

#1 (12-2) Philadelphia Eagles
Home vs 6-8 Raiders, home vs 8-6 Cowboys.
Have clinched NFC East and at least #2 seed.
Clinch #1 seed with either a win, or a Vikings loss.

#2 (11-3) Minnesota Vikings
At 7-7 Packers, home vs 4-10 Bears.
Have clinched NFC North.
Clinch #3 seed with either a win, or a Rams loss.
Clinch #2 seed with both a win, plus a Panthers loss.

#3 (10-4) Los Angeles Rams
At 8-6 Titans, home vs 4-10 49ers.
Clinch a playoff spot with losses by the Falcons, Panthers and Lions.
Clinch the NFC West and #3 seed with either a win, or a Seahawks loss.

#4 (10-4) New Orleans Saints
Home vs 9-5 Falcons, at 4-10 Bucs.
Clinch at least #5 seed with a win over Atlanta.
Clinch NFC West and at least #4 seed with win over Falcons, plus Panthers loss.

#5 (10-4) Carolina Panthers
Home vs 4-10 Bucs, at 9-5 Falcons.
Clinch playoff spot with a win.
Clinch at least #5 seed with a win, plus Saints loss to Falcons.

#6 (9-5) Atlanta Falcons
At 10-4 Saints, home vs 10-4 Panthers.
Clinch playoff spot with a win.

#7 (8-6) Detroit Lions
At 5-9 Bengals, home vs 7-7 Packers.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice while Falcons lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, and either Saints or Panthers lose twice, and either Seahawks or Cowboys win twice.

#8 (8-6) Seattle Seahawks
At 8-6 Cowboys, home vs 6-8 Cardinals.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Must win twice plus Rams lose twice to win NFC West and #4 seed.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice, Panthers lose twice, and Saints lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, Lions lose at least once, and one of Panthers, Saints or Falcons lose twice.

#9 (8-6) Dallas Cowboys
Home vs 8-6 Cowboys, at 12-2 Eagles.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice, Panthers lose twice, and Saints lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, Lions lose at least once, and of Panthers, Saints or Falcons lose twice.

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

 

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.