Tag Archives: Devin McCourty

Building the 2020 Patriots Roster, Where are the Biggest Needs?

Steve Balestrieri
January 17, 2020 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots have a lot of work to do in the offseason and although the new league year doesn’t begin until March, their 2020 season starts now. They have to replace another coordinator (STs/WR coach Joe Judge) and perhaps their college scouting director (Monti Ossenfort) who is being interviewed for the open Cleveland Browns GM position.

Then there are a slew of the team’s free agents to decide upon. We’ll get to those in good time as we’ll take a look at where the team needs are. And a lot of what drives the train is always money. The Patriots have about $49 million to spend. It sounds like a lot. It is not. Especially when considering if the Patriots cut ties with Tom Brady is will cost them $13.5 million in dead money and a new contract will not come cheaply. 

So, let’s take a dive into the roster by position …as currently constructed and see where they’re at.

Quarterback: 

Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
*Free agent: Tom Brady 

The Elephant in the room and all of the ridiculous (and it IS as ridiculous as it is maddening) drivel about non-existent homes in Greenwich, his luxury suite at Gillette and the amateur psychologists who became overnight experts at reading body language and hidden meaning in every word of his have gotten out of control.

Our feeling here hasn’t changed. We feel that Brady will return given that the Patriots don’t really want to ear $13.5 million bucks. Plus, there isn’t anyone on the roster that is a no-brainer to take over. Stidham may well be that guy, but we don’t know and haven’t seen him take a meaningful snap in months.  So until Bill Belichick or Brady comes out and definitely says he’s not returning, we’re going under the assumption he’ll be back.

Running Back:

Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris, Fullbacks James Develin, Jakob Johnson 

Here is where things can get interesting. The team is set here at running back. In fact they’re a little too deep. They could add $4 million in cap space by releasing Rex Burkhead. However, Burkhead was their most productive back down the stretch, as he was a year ago. But injuries always seem to cut into his season and the team just spent a good draft pick on Damien Harris. Burkhead is a guy to keep an eye on. 

Develin had a neck injury and those can be tough to come back from. Don’t be shocked if they add another fullback this spring.

Wide Receiver: 

Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (future), Devin Ross (future)
*Free agent: Phillip Dorsett

The need for a speedy, reliable wide receiver here is critical. Edelman is going to be 34, Sanu will get all spring/summer to acclimate into the offense. Meyers and Harry will be fine. A lot of their issues had to do with overthinking things and that will be rectified in Year  2. Look for them to try to sign a fast, veteran outside wide receiver, possibly two and cut their ties with Dorsett. 

Tight End: 

Matt LaCosse Ryan Izzo
*Free agent: Ben Watson 

The most critical need of the Patriots, of the offense and the team overall. The offense really lacked a viable target down the seams all season.  Look for Ben Watson to retire and the team to double-dip here. Look for the team to sign a veteran free agent (Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry?) or try to swing a trade for an established veteran (O.J. Howard attempt again). And then address the need again with a young guy in the draft. 

Offensive Line:  

Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Najee Toran (future)
*Free agents: James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse, Joe Thuney, Jermaine Eluemunor (RFA) 

Another area of need. We heard through the grapevine that Marcus Cannon won’t be returning. If he doesn’t it will free up $5.8 million in cap space, despite him signing an extension last summer. Coupled with the unlikely scenario of Joe Thuney returning means the offensive line has a lot of work to do. 

Yodny Cajuste didn’t take a snap in either a game or practice last year. So, expecting him to just jump in and start is a very long shot. Is Froholdt going to be ready? Doubtful too. Look for the Patriots to bring back Karras and Eluemunor for sure and then address tackle and guard in either free agency or the draft. 

Defensive Line:  

Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman (future), Tashawn Bower (future)
*Free agents: Danny Shelton, Adam Butler (RFA), Keionta Davis (ERFA) 

Look for the team to attempt to bring back Shelton and Butler. But they’d still need at least another big run stuffer and a defensive end that can rush the QB. 

Linebacker:  

Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Brandon King, Terez Hall (future)
*Free agents: Shilique Calhoun, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy 

Winovich should be in line for a big uptick in snaps this season. He’s more of a pass rusher than a coverage guy and I’d expect he’ll be tasked with filling the big shoes of Van Noy. I don’t expect Van Noy back this year, he’s in line for a big payday. I do expect them to make a push to bring back both Collins and Roberts. 

Calhoun may come back and flashed some potential. Rivers is going to have to have a big spring or he may not even be around for training camp.  Retooling Hightower’s contract could free up some space.

Cornerback: 

Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, D’Angelo Ross 

The Patriots are in great shape here. With Gilmore, Jackson, and Jones, they have three starting corners who excel at their position. Williams played sparingly in his rookie season and could be ready for a big uptick in snaps. That could put McCourty on the block. If the team were to release him, they’d save an additional $3.8 million.  Also, reworking Gilmore’s contract could free up some cap space

Safety: 

Patrick Chung Duron Harmon Terrence Brooks Obi Melifonwu (future) Malik Gant Adarius Pickett (future)
*Free agent: Devin McCourty 

Big decisions loom here. McCourty arguably had the best season of his career in 2019 and would normally be ready for a big payday. But he’s 33 and with both he and Chung are getting older, the team needs to begin to address the future. Harmon has ostensibly been a starter for several years. Gant flashed a bit in camp last year while Brooks played well. I’d expect they’ll try to bring back McCourty for one more year, but it is time to bring in some younger players and get them groomed for down the road.  

Special Teams:  

K Stephen Gostkowski P Jake Bailey LS Joe Cardona
*Free agents: Nick Folk, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Justin Bethel 

I don’t see the team bringing Folk back and I think they’ll bring in another kicker for competition with Gostkowski this summer. Matthew Slater is the gold standard for special teams players. I expect the team to bring him back and to make an effort to bring back both Ebner and Bethel.

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

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PHOTOS: Jason McCourty Reflects On Playing With His Brother

Robert Alvarez
January 8, 2020 at 10:30 am ET

For the past two seasons, cornerback Jason McCourty has lived out part of his NFL dream playing alongside his twin brother Devin.

In 2018, the brothers made NFL history becoming the first set of twins to win a Super Bowl together.

Jason made a pivotal end zone pass break up to Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, preventing a late touchdown.

On Instagram this week, Jason reflected back on their two years playing together as Devin enters free agency.

Devin, expects to play in 2020, but whether or not he returns to Foxboro remains to be seen.

“I definitely see me playing football next year,” McCourty said after the Wild Card loss to the Titans.

“I’ve had a lot of fun this year with this group of guys. Each year, we get young guys in here, get to stay in the locker room, mold (these) guys, tell them stories of my past 10 years and how much fun I’ve had,” McCourty said.

“So, I can’t see it happening, me not playing football next year. So, I think over time, I’ll take some time away from football and I think the rest will kind of work itself out. We’ll see how that goes, but I definitely plan to be playing.”

Quarterback Tom Brady later voiced his appreciation for the twins with a comment on Jason’s posting.

“The best!!!! Thank you both for being who you are EVERY day!!!”, Brady wrote.

Patriots Free Agents Will Demand Several Important Decisions

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm ET

A look at the Patriots impending free agents shows that the team will be forced to make several very important decisions moving forward. There are several key players, especially on the defense that will require the team to decide whether to bring back those players or not once the new league year begins in March. 

The biggest question the Patriots have right now is are they all-in for another big push for a 7th Super Bowl, or is this a rebuilding year, where they break it down and start anew. Much of that answer will have to do with the first name on the list.

If he returns then it would most certainly mean that they’re planning on retooling for another run. The team has already lost STs/WR coach Joe Judge who is the new head coach of the New York Giants. That is the first big domino to fall.

First, here is a look at the Patriots free agents in 2020: 

Tom Brady
Devin McCourty
Kyle Van Noy
Matthew Slater
Phillip Dorsett
Nate Ebner
Jamie Collins
Danny Shelton
Nick Folk
Marshall Newhouse
Joe Thuney
Ben Watson
Shilique Calhoun
James Ferentz
Ted Karras
Elandon Roberts

Three players will be restricted free agents:
Keionta Davis
Jermaine Eluemunor
Adam Butler

Obviously, a lot hinges on Brady’s status. Are the Patriots going to bring him back for one more year? From a monetary standpoint, it would be beneficial to do so, if Brady leaves, the Patriots are on the hook for $13.5 million. Can the two sides work out fair compensation for both parties, but still allow them to retool and add enough weapons? 

This is the big one. Because if Brady returns (and we think he will), then they may feel they only lack a player or two to make another run. While they start the new year with seemingly plenty of cap space, a new Brady contract will eat a lot of that up. If they decide to move on from Brady, does this mean Jarrett Stidham is the man? And if so, does the offense change too? Interesting times ahead.

So who goes? I think that Kyle Van Noy will command a lot of cash in free agency and has earned his payday, with 6.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and a team-leading 58 QB pressures. No one else had more than 33. I think he’s gone. 

Joe Thuney will be one of the most sought-after guards in free agency.  He earned 2nd team All-Pro and has never missed a game…he’s gone too as he’ll get a big payday.

Jamie Collins came back to NE on a one-year prove-it type deal and he had an outstanding start to the season. While he finished quietly, what he showed early this season should earn him a healthy payday. His type of athleticism can’t be taught. 

Phillip Dorsett is a popular guy in the locker room, but after a very nice start to the season, he disappeared down the stretch with three catches in the final five games of the season and had only 29 catches on the year. I’d be surprised if he comes back.

Ben Watson came out of retirement to play for the Patriots one more time this season. He was released early but brought back and handled it the way he always has, with class. One of the nicest people to play the game, he had a disappointing season but still led all NE tight ends in receptions. He is likely to retire again, judging from his postgame comments. 

One of the toughest calls to make will be with Devin McCourty, a team leader on and off the field, McCourty had arguably his best season with the Patriots in 2019. His age and the amount of money it will take to bring him back will make it a difficult proposition. It may get compounded by if the team decides to cut ties with his brother Jason. I think they’ll try to work out a deal with him to stay for one more year. But if one of his former coaches wows him with a big-money deal, who knows?

Danny Shelton went from a healthy scratch late in the 2018 season to one of the team’s most important defensive linemen. He and Lawrence Guy were outstanding this season in the interior as run stuffers. 

Matthew Slater is a borderline Hall of Famer for Special Teams, a team captain and a huge veteran presence in the locker room. Any signs of aging in this 12th season at age 34? Not a bit. He was a 1st team All-Pro this year. It would be a huge surprise not to see Slater back in 2020. 

Elandon Roberts’ snaps went to a career-low defensively this season but if anything he’s improved his stock with the team. With James Develin and Jakob Johnson on IR, Roberts stepped up and played fullback and did a very commendable job. Belichick loves versatile guys who put the team first. 

Nate Ebner is a Belichick guy, a tough as nails STs guy, one of the better STs guys in the league… Will he back? Belichick wore his rugby jersey at joint TC practice with the Saints a few years ago…any questions?

Nick Folk stepped in (twice) for the Patriots this year with Stephen Gostkowski on IR and played pretty well. The only FG he missed was blocked. Gostkowski’s status may have a play in this, but the feeling is here, they’ll move on but keep his number just in case.

Marshall Newhouse started nine games this season, eight at LT for Isaiah Wynn, one for Marcus Cannon at RT. He’s played for seven teams in his career and is now 31. We’ll have to see how the Patriots feel about the return of Yodny Cajuste but the feeling here is they’ll let Newhouse walk. 

Ted Karras filled in for David Andrews all year at center, when the veteran suffered from blood clots in his lungs. Can Andrews even return to football this year? I think Karras returns and will battle for a guard spot if Thuney leaves and Andrews returns or is the team’s center if he doesn’t. James Ferentz is a backup interior lineman and won’t break the bank to get to return. He did make two starts this year inside. It will be interesting to see how Hjalte Froholdt works out. 

Shalique Calhoun is a situational pass rusher and he played in 15 games this year, at times pretty well. If the money’s right, he’ll be back. Ditto for Keionta Davis who spent the entire season on IR.

Adam Butler should be brought back. He notched six sacks, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss and five passes knocked down as an interior situational pass rusher. Great depth guy who can step up when needed. 

Jermaine Eluemunor is an interior OL who the Patriots traded a 4th round draft pick for this summer. He only played a handful of snaps this year and was a healthy scratch for most of the season. It shouldn’t break the bank for him as well. 

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Brady on What He’ll Do If His Future Is Without the Patriots? – ‘I Just Don’t Know’

Ian Logue
January 6, 2020 at 9:51 am ET

Tom Brady is certainly heading into uncharted territory this offseason as he’s potentially a 6-time Super Bowl Champion without a team in 2020.

After losing in the Wild Card round at the hands to Tennessee on Saturday night, Brady heads into this offseason with a contract that’s about to expire and a fair amount of uncertainty.  It seems strange to imagine, but the idea of whether or not an extension will get hammered out to keep him in the fold heading into next season doesn’t seem to be a given.

It’s a bizarre place for someone of Brady’s stature to be, especially given his history with this organization and all the unbelievable moments he’s brought to this region over the last 20-years.  Most would think that bringing him back would be a no-brainer, but there doesn’t appear to be any guarantees at this point.  In fact, even Brady doesn’t seem to know what his future holds.

So what will he do if his future isn’t with New England?  While many are already starting to speculate, with Dallas, the LA Chargers and Miami Dolphins among destinations people are already pondering, even Brady doesn’t know what he’ll do if the door closes on a return with the Patriots.

Speaking with Peter King, Brady admitted that he’s not sure what will he’ll do if he doesn’t take the field at Gillette Stadium next season.

“Yeah,” said Brady when King asked him what it was like to be a ‘free man’ this offseason. “I think I’m just . . . I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are. If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training.”

Former receiver Antonio Brown posted on his social media accounts that he doesn’t want to play for anyone but Brady in 2020, which given his past comments, that bridge appears to be burned for Brown in New England.  As a result, that would likely have Brown rooting for Brady to play elsewhere.  But given the importance Brady places on his family, the thought of having to pack everything up and move them somewhere else would seem to be a worst-case scenario that he and his agent would seemingly only consider if things reach a point of no return.

For now, Brady sounds like a player who really wants to stay.  The only problem appears to be that he may not be willing to take another home town discount, which could keep Bill Belichick from making the financial commitment to keep him here.  There’s no question that they need to surround him with additional talent, but the team is also faced with the challenge of re-signing free agents like Kyle Van Noy, Joe Thuney and Devin McCourty, along with whoever else they may look to bring in this offseason.

Needless to say, it’s a difficult situation.  At this point, you can tell by Brady’s comments that he’s a player who is hoping to stick around.  Whether or not the team is willing to pay him what it may take for that to happen now remains the biggest question heading into this offseason.

New England Patriots News 01-05, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 5, 2020 at 7:14 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-05 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots eliminated from the playoffs by the Titans, it marks the first time they won’t be in an AFC Championship Game since the 2010 season when the Jets beat them in the divisional round.  

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Richard Seymour – The former Patriot defensive lineman is once again a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Big Sey is more than deserving and he was truly dominant in the middle of the Patriots defense and was an integral part of three Super Bowl championships here in New England. 

Here’s hoping that he gets the call from Canton and will be wearing a gold jacket this summer.

Julian Edelman – ThePatriots wide receiver always has some great video content that he drops on the fans before big games and this week was no exception. The video that he posted this week was one of his best and Patriots fans, if you haven’t seen it yet, should check it out.

Tom Brady – Not to be outdone, Tom Brady had an even better one, narrated by Christopher Walken… the only thing missing was the quote from Man on Fire, “he’s about to paint his masterpiece”….

Antonio Brown – Took to Instagram to take a shot at the Patriots and Bill Belichick. With the Patriots losing he tweeted a picture of he and Belichick hugging with the hashtag  “What Could Of Been #YouChangedOnMe, #LookAtMeNow, #ABForPresident.”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Brady Puts Retirement Speculation At “Pretty Unlikely”: 

With the game winding down against the Titans, the talk picked up, which had talked about all week ad nauseam “Is this the last game for Tom Brady with the Patriots?” And it took Brady all of about five seconds to be asked that if he was going to return.

“Just very grateful for the experience playing this year for the team, this organization, and over the course of my career, too. I appreciate it. I hope I’ve always tried to do the right thing out there. Who knows what the future holds? So I’ll leave it at that.”

“I just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, “and I’m not going to predict it. And no one needs to make choices at this point. I love playing football. I love playing football for this team. I’ve loved playing for this team for two decades and winning a lot of games. And again, I don’t know what it looks like moving forward, so we’ll just take it day by day.”

We won’t really know anything for the next two months because Brady doesn’t become a free agent until March. But at this point, it would make no sense for the Patriots to move on from him unless they feel Jarrett Stidham was ready to be the next Brady. With a better receiving core around him in 2020, there is no reason the Patriots can’t be right back in the mix. But there is a slew of other free agents to make decisions on as well. 

NFL Releases Non-Statement on Video Taping Flap:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in Timbuktu, you’ll have noticed the NFL has been once again dragging its collective feet when it comes to an investigation regarding the Patriots. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to release the NFL statement that they’re continuing this latest flap. “The investigation is ongoing and there has been no discussion of any potential discipline. Any suggestion of potential discipline or a timeline on an announcement is pure speculation.”

Last week, it was widely reported that “NFL investigators were frustrated that attempts to link the video crew with football operations”, think about that for a second. Instead of investigating whether there was a link or not. They were frustrated that there wasn’t. 

While Schefter posted this statement, he also did a 180 and speculated on possible punishment by listing infractions by Cleveland and Atlanta that all had to do with football operations. Hmm, think he knows something?

NFL Schedule Wildcard Weekend, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week:8-8
Final Regular Season:162-93-1
Wild Card Weekend:

Saturday – Buffalo over Houston 
Tennessee over New England 1-1
Sunday –  New Orleans over Minnesota
Philadelphia over Seattle

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Miss Golden Opportunity to Advance:

The Buffalo Bills had dominated their road playoff game against the Houston Texans for better than 40 minutes, where it appeared they were destined to win and move on. But everything changed in an instant and they went home frustrated and still winless in the postseason since 1995. The Bills lost to Houston in overtime 22-19.

“We had opportunities to win the game and we came up short,” said coach Sean McDermott. “Not an easy thing, not an easy pill to swallow this time of year. A lot of pain in that locker room.”

The Bills had everything going their way until a sack by JJ Watt that forced Buffalo to kick a field goal to go up 16-0 lit a fire in the Houston sideline. If Buffalo goes up 20-0 there it is likely game over. But it woke up the Texans offense who were dead until then but were on fire after that. 

Still, the chances were there in overtime, they stopped Houston and were moving toward a game-winning field goal when they were stopped by a bad penalty. Then two huge breakdowns by their normally outstanding defense put the Texans in chip shot field goal range. It was a tough, tough loss for a team that is trending upwards. 

Dolphins #1 Need in 2020? A Franchise QB:

The Miami Dolphins started the season 0-7 and were embarrassed early in the season which had some wondering if they would tank the season for Tua. But Brian Flores wasn’t interested in the #1 pick and his players believed in him and what he’s trying to build in South Beach. The Dolphins finished 5-4 down the stretch and are still in decent position in the draft. 

With plenty of cash under the cap, the Dolphins need to decide if one of these QBs coming out is a guy they feel they can build their team around for the next decade. Josh Rosen obviously isn’t going to be that guy, but veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has more than showed enough for Flores that he can be the steady veteran presence that can be a bridge until whoever they decide on is ready to go. 

Free-spending Jets Back to Square One:

The New York Jets parted ways with former GM Mike Maccagnan last June, but not before he spent a boatload of money in free agency. Now, GM Joe Douglas is put in the same position the Jets were in for the past several years. They have holes abounding in their roster and have a lot of free agents hitting the market. 

But the Jets really need help along the offensive line where they could use three new starters, in the secondary, and at edge rusher. Although they have about $60 million in cap space with potentially a third more if they cut some contracts, they have 22 free agents of their own this spring. And two of them are going to command some big money.

Safety Jamal Adams won’t come cheaply this spring and although he’s not a free agent yet, the time to resign him is now before he hits the market. He’s slated to make $3.5 million in 2020 and will be looking for a new deal. How much?  I think the Jets would begin with how much Landon Collins got (6-year, $84 million, $44.5 million guaranteed) as the starting spot. That won’t be bargain-basement territory.

Neither will WR Robby Anderson, who has the speed that all teams are coveting these days. At only 26 and with 52 catches in 2019, he’s a guy who can play, but at what cost? If I’m the Patriots, I’d kick the tires on Anderson if he hits the open market. A 6’3 WR with speed is a good thing to have.

________________

We gave up 14 points tonight but in this game, it was too much. Weren’t able to get the ball back at the end. There were a lot of good things, but just not quite good enough tonight and that’s what it was. I have a ton of respect for this football team, these guys competed all year, everybody, all three units. We played hard and just came up a little bit short tonight. Bill Belichick on the play of the defense in the second half. It was somewhat telling when Belichick said 14 points was too much. 

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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Patriots-Titans Wild Card Game, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
January 3, 2020 at 7:35 am ET

The Patriots are at home against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card game of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. The Patriots (12-4) are the #3 seed while the Titans (9-7) are the #6 seed in the AFC. 

The Patriots have been outstanding at home in the playoffs and have won a playoff game for an NFL record eight years in a row. 

The Patriots were five and a half minutes away from a bye week if they held on to beat the Dolphins last week but that loss knocked them into the Wild Card weekend. Tennessee has been very good since installing Ryan Tannehill in at quarterback. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have scored at least 20 points in their last seven. 

However, he will be making his first postseason start while Tom Brady will be making his 41st career start in the postseason. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.  

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots running game has taken off in the past three games against Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Miami giving them something to build off of. For much of the season, they were stuck in neutral due to injuries and subpar play along the offensive line. But that part of the equation has ratcheted up and the backs, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead have looked much better and more explosive lately. 

The Titans are solid against the run coming in at #12 in yards against and #7 in yards per carry. They have the big guys upfront DaQuan Jones in the middle, with Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey on the ends in their 3-4. 

The Patriots need to establish the run early to get their passing game going and I expect Michel, Burkhead, and James White will get plenty of work. But I also expect former Patriots coaches Mike Vrable and DC Dean Pees to take a page out of Miami’s book and cheat the linebackers up and run blitz to disrupt the running game and dare the Patriots to beat them in the middle of the field with the tight ends.         

Patriots WRs vs Titans Secondary – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots passing game has had issues most of the season and while people will talk about Tom Brady’s decline, after Julian Edelman (100 catches) the next wide receiver in production of Phillip Dorsett with 29 catches. The tight ends have been disappointing in their production as well. Brady has had to rely on the consistent but banged up Edelman and James White (72 receptions) out of the backfield. 

The Titans pass defense isn’t great and finished at #24 in the league allowing 255 yards per game. With corners Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, safeties Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro they have a good group but they miss former Patriot Malcolm Butler who is on IR. 

The Patriots need everyone to step up this week and that includes the tight ends, who have to occupy the middle of the field. Tennessee has 43 sacks on the year, which is led by Harold Landry with nine. They can get after the QB and we’d expect some blitz action on third downs as Pees will mix things up. Protection for Brady, like always is key here. 

Next up the Titans offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton has continued to play outstanding football and have been excellent at slowing or stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to make plays. 

Tennessee has Derrick Henry who led the NFL with 1540 yards, an average of 5.0 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a big reason they were so successful down the stretch. Dion Lewis is their #2 back who can run or catch out of the backfield. QB Ryan Tannehill is very mobile and can run as well.

A big key for the Patriots is not only to slow Henry at the point of attack but setting the edge here as well. If Henry gets to the edge, bad things will happen for the Patriots defense. The defense has had some issues with big backs this season, Frank Gore, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon have all given them problems. On a short week with several players less than 100 percent, this could be problematic.  

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

The Tennessee passing attack has thrived under Ryan Tannehill who has played outstanding since taking over and getting out of Miami for a fresh start. Tannehill easily had the most impressive season in his career, completing 70 percent of his passes with a QB rating of 117.5 since taking over. He threw 22 TDs and just six INTs. 

Tannehill has several good weapons at his disposal. Rookie WR A.J. Brown, Corey Davis (who roasted the Patriots for 125 yards last season) and two good tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Andrew Firkser with Dion Lewis out of the backfield. 

The Patriots pass defense (until last week) was outstanding all season allowing just 180 yards per game It will be interesting to see if the Patriots decide to use Gilmore on Brown or Davis. With both Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones hobbling with groin injuries it cuts down on their depth. Tannehill won’t have slot WR Adam Humphries who is out with an injury. 

The pass rush, so dominant earlier this season has to ratchet it up now. The Patriots had 47 sacks but in the past few games, they’re just not getting home, just missing with the sacks. The Titans allowed a whopping 56 this season, and this is an area that the Patriots have to exploit or it could be a long night for the defense. Look for a similar gameplan like Kansas City where the Patriots try to keep everything in front of them.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams have been a big bright spot with four blocked punts and outstanding coverage. Nick Folk now has the team confident that he can consistently make field goals and extra points. Jake Bailey had a terrific rookie season with 36 punts downed inside the 20. 

The Titans like New England have gone through four kickers this season. Greg Joseph took over for the injured Ryan Succop two weeks ago and hasn’t attempted a field goal yet. Punter Brett Kern had an outstanding season averaging 47.1 yards per punt with 37 inside the 20 with just two touchbacks. 

Neither has much of a return game but the Patriots get the edge at home here and could use a big play (or two) from their STs this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots have a tough matchup this week with a very hot Titans team that has scored 20 points or more seven weeks in a row. When the defense has allowed 20 or more points this season, they’ve lost. So, the 20 point plateau is a benchmark to monitor.  

Here are our keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Slow Down Henry and the Run Game – The Patriots have to slow down Henry and force Tannehill into obvious passing situations. The linebackers have to have their best game of the year. Bringing down Henry is no easy task and they have to get him running east-west at the point of attack. 

With the Titans’ deep group of receivers, the Patriots won’t have the luxury of stacking the box as the Titans will on defense. The front seven will have to stand up and be the “Boogeymen” this week. If Henry gets going and puts the Titans on his back with second and third downs with short yardage, it will be a long game. 

Start Quickly and Get the Lead – The Patriots got off to a horrible start last week and appeared to be sleepwalking through the first quarter. They can’t have that this week if they want their season to continue.

The offense needs to get going early and get some points on the board and force the Titans to play catchup. It will put a little bit of pressure on Tannehill who is playing in his first-ever playoff game.

They have to have the lead late in the game and again put Tannehill in a position where he has to throw. A great bit by Mike Dussault of Patriots.com, Henry in the last seven games has 250 yards more than any other running back, 10 touchdowns and averaging 8 yards per carry in the second half of the Titans games. 

Brady Has to Get Everyone Involved – With the playoffs here, the Titans are going to stack the box to take away the run and dare Brady to beat them down the field. Expect Edelman to get bracketed all game long. So, they’ll need the secondary receivers, Mohamad Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry to step up and produce. 

This will be a big week for the tight ends if they can produce. The middle of the field will be there for the taking but Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson haven’t been able to do much this year. If they can hit a few seam passes it will open up a lot of room for the struggling players outside.  

Where are the Turnovers, They Need Turnovers – The defense hasn’t got any turnovers for the past two games and this week they could really use a few. If the pass rush can get to Tannehill, a strip-sack or a forced throw for an interception would go a long way in helping an offense that is having trouble consistently scoring points. 

Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson were both off their game a week ago. Look for them to be more competitive this week and try to steal a pass in some tight windows. 

___________

This is not a great matchup for the Patriots. Coming off of a short week, facing a physical and hot Tennessee team where the coaching staff and several players have plenty of experience in the New England system. 

We know the Patriots are very tough at home in the postseason and haven’t dropped a home playoff game since 2013.  But the Titans being able to mix things up on offense and having a tremendous red-zone offense (scoring 75.6 percent of the time) is a tough matchup this week.

There are plenty of ways I can see the Patriots circling the wagons and toughing out a hard-fought win at home. We’ve seen it too many times to count. But the feeling here is that the offense won’t be able to keep up and allow them to move on. Titans 24-17

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

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Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate The Holidays

Robert Alvarez
December 27, 2019 at 10:47 am ET

The New England Patriots had some downtime this week to spend time with their families for the holiday season.

Sitting at 12-3 and a first round bye within reach, Christmas day provided a much needed break from the busy playoff push.

Check out all the best messages and family photos shared over social media from current and former players below.

From everyone at PatsFans, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

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Merry Christmas!

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Christmas with the Macs 2019 -Dmac

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Merry Christmas!!🎄🎁

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Happy Holidays from the Wynns! 💜

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Merry Christmas 🎄🎄🎄

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Merry Christmas from the Develin’s

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Merry Christmas!!🎁🎄

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Merry Christmas from the LaCosse’s!

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Merry CHRISTMAS instafam!

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Best Of Social Media: Week 16 Bills vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
December 24, 2019 at 10:54 am ET

The Patriots returned home to Gillette Stadium for a rare Saturday night matchup with the rival Buffalo Bills.

With a win, the Patriots would clinch their 11th consecutive AFC East title and remain on track for a first round bye in the playoffs as the two seed.

Check out all the best sights and sounds as they occurred over social media from the game below.

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Urgency. #GameDay

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In the first quarter, the Bills made it known earlier this team was different than past years.

A forced fumble by safety Jordan Poyer gave the Bills an opportunity for points and a lead.

A Stephen Hauschka 35 yard field Goal gave the Bills the early road lead.

The Patriots responded, with quarterback Tom Brady finding tight end Matt Lacosse for a 7-3 lead after a quarter.

The second quarter opened with Brady continuing his hot start, passing aside, Brady also showed off his rare blocking abilities.

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Let’s Ride‼️

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A Nick Folk 36 yard field goal pushed the lead to seven. 10-7 Patriots midway through the second.

With the clock winding down on the first half, the Bills continued to show their resiliency and creativity.

A big man touchdown for Bills lineman Dion Dawkins tied the game at ten going into halftime.

Rex Burkhead bounced back from his earlier mistake to setup a go-ahead field goal with career highs in receiving yards.

A 13-10 Patriots lead following a Nick Folk 51 yard good attempt.

Once again the Bills battled back on the heels of Josh Allen’s arm.

A John Brown 53 yard touchdown pass Allen gave the Bills a 17-13 after three quarters.

Needing a spark on offense, who else but Julian Edelman to get it going for the Patriots to open the fourth quarter.

The Bills defense held up, and the Patriots had to settle with a Nick Folk 20 Yd Field Goal to cut the deficit to one at 17-16.

With five minutes to go in the game, and the Patriots defense remaining stout, a Brady QB sneak setup the go-ahead winning score.

A Rex Burkhead rushing touchdown following by a successful two-point conversion to Julian Edelman gave the Patriots a 24-17 lead.

Now trailing by seven, Allen and the Bills had one more opportunity to keep the game alive and force overtime.

A defensive stop inside the 15 gave the Patriots the victory and a division title.

The Patriots move to 12-3 with a 24-17 victory over the Bills.

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The force is strong in my family…

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My savages!! Great pic @adamrichinsphoto

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Hats&T-Shirts.

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The fam ❤️

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 Patriots Week 16 Report Card, Offense Reappears In Big Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Win 11th Straight Division Title

The Patriots all week leading up to this game stated that this was a playoff game, and judging from their preparation, intensity, and production, they totally bought in. They won their 12th game of the season, a hard-fought 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills which clinched the AFC East for the 11th year in a row and puts them one step away from a playoff bye and the #2 seed. 

We’ll get to the grades for the players in just a moment, but first a word about the coaching staff. In any profession, perhaps the hardest thing to do is assess oneself critically and be able to say that something isn’t working, even if that something was your idea. The ability to self-assess, or in Patriots parlance “self-scout” is something they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the league since Bill Belichick took the reins. 

Everyone says they’re going to “self-scout” and they all will change up their gameplans, and occasionally many teams come up with a brilliant one. But nobody, nobody can morph their teams from one week to the next, depending upon their opponent and put in the time, preparation and commitment than the Patriots have done the past 20 years. 

And the players have to buy in completely or it doesn’t work. How many times have we heard the past 20 years, “well Team A is more talented across the board” and how many times has Team A looked up at the wrong end of the scoreboard at the end of the day. So at the end of the day, when the votes are in for the Coach du jour, Belichick will get no votes but his team will probably win 13 games, while the naysayers will tell us they can’t win it all again. 

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

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady was showing signs of age, decline and his elbow has been bothering him for several weeks. Plus he was facing a team that has increasingly played him tougher and tougher for the past few years and was in the top 3 of most defensive categories. So, how did that work out? Brady had his best game in several weeks, perhaps all season. 

Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Completing nearly 79 percent of his passes while averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt against this Bills defense is outstanding work. 

Brady got everyone involved and mixing things up and hitting nine different receivers kept the Bills defense off-balance all night long. His back-shoulder throw to Matt LaCosse for a touchdown showed perfect touch. This was a vintage Brady performance.  

Running Backs: B+

The Patriots running game followed up their most productive game of the season in Cincinnati with a game that was arguably more impressive considering the opponent. The team rushed for 143 yards against a tough Bills defense and were running physical, getting yards after contact and following the blocking well. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing 21 times for 96 yards. Rex Burkhead, once again turning it on late in the season, rushed 5 times for 20 yards, including the game-winning touchdown run where he was hit in the backfield and broke two tackles to get into the end zone. 

N’Keal Harry had 18 yards on a reverse, with a lead block by Brady (yes everyone bought in). James White chipped in with 13 yards. Brady picked up a key QB sneak to keep the chains moving. The running backs (Michel, Burkhead, and White) combined for 235 yards rushing and receiving. Solid night? You bet.

Wide Receivers: B-

The Patriots wide receivers led by #11 (Who else?) had a solid night. Julian Edelman was questionable with knee and shoulder issues. Then he missed a few series that nearly took a quarter going through concussion protocol. But he still led all WRs with 5 catches for 72 yards. And maybe the Bills thought that as hobbled as he was, they didn’t need to double him. That assessment was wrong. He was beating coverage consistently and late in the game…was doubled. In a league where all the players are physically tough, Edelman is one of the toughest. 

Burkhead led all Patriot receivers with 77 yards on 4 catches, yes he had a fumble on a good defensive play but more than made up for it. He showed excellent vision and followed his blocks well. Jakobi Meyers came off the bench when Edelman was down and collected 3 passes for 25 yards.

Harry caught two passes for 25 while Mohamad Sanu caught 3 passes for 24. Sanu was again a disappointment. While he may have gotten a poor spot on a third-down pass short of the sticks, he totally whiffed on a block on a 4th and 1 with Harry getting stopped by his man on a play that could have went for a big gain. 

Tight Ends: B-

Matt LaCosse scored his first touchdown of the season on an 8-yard pass from Brady down the seam. He also had his best game in the run blocking department, the offense put him in motion and he did a good job, even lining up in the backfield. His pass protection was much, much better this week. 

Ben Watson had three catches on three targets with two going for first downs. He also had a 33-yard touchdown wiped out on an offensive pass interference call on Edelman. This was a much better day for the tight ends than we’ve seen in a while. 

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line play was outstanding on Saturday. Buffalo didn’t sack Tom Brady and for the vast majority of the game he played with a clean pocket. They also cleared out big chunks of yardage in the running game. It is amazing what the backs can do when they are not getting hit four yards deep in the backfield. 

Shaq Mason had a very impressive game in the run department, looking like the guy we’re used to seeing blowing people up in the running game. Ted Karras and Joe Thuney were also excellent in the running game. 

Marcus Cannon hurt an ankle and was replaced by swing tackle Marshall Newhouse who played well, he did a good job in the running game but gave up a pair of QB hurries and a hit. But this unit going against the Bills performed as well as one could hope for.                      

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line did a tremendous job of bottling up Devin Singletary holding him to just 46 yards on 15 carries (3.1-yard average). And that begins with Lawrence Guy who was outstanding once again. Guy led the team with six tackles, a sack of Josh Allen and two QB hits. Danny Shelton was also solid in the running game. 

John Simon had a QB sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Chase Winovich who is looking like Lucius Malfoy these days with his dyed hair more white than blond, was his normal flying around the field self. 

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers were led by Dont’a Hightower with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup while Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy weren’t as impactful as they can be and normally are. Ja’Whaun Bentley played his very tough, downhill style in the running game. 

Elandon Roberts played about 20 snaps as a fullback and seems to be relishing his role. “Same on defense, same on offense. When a linebacker steps into the hole, Imma run through their motherf***n’ face. Period. That’s all I think about, making my block, running through a motherf***r’s face.” How can one argue with that?

Secondary: B

The Patriots secondary had a good, but not great day against the Bills. While Josh Allen only completed 50 percent of his throws (13 of 26), hit on two long completions, one for a 53-yard touchdown and the other (33 yards to Dawson Knox) set up a 1-yard touchdown pass on a tackle eligible play. 

Stephon Gilmore got beat on a double move by John Brown and moved to the right. Brown cut left and safety Devin McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and Brown then blew right by him too. However, it was his only catch of the game. Knox only caught the one big pass over Pat Chung, but was open on a couple of others but was overthrown. 

Cole Beasley caught 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot and was finding excellent success all game long. The Patriots missed Jonathan Jones who was out with a groin injury. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams were led by Nick Folk on Saturday. Folk hit a 51-yarder to give the team the lead and was 3-3 on field goals for the day. You don’t have to hold your breath on kicks for the first time in a while this season. The return game was forgettable and the coverage units were okay but not their usual shutdown selves. Jake Bailey punted twice averaging 46.5 yards but didn’t drop either inside the 20.  

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff gets excellent marks this week. And it begins with Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was extremely creative of trying to get everyone involved in the offense this week and used so many different looks and formations, there were times he had the Buffalo defense thoroughly confused. That doesn’t happen very often. With his play-calling, they were able to put together those long drives in the death-by-1000 cuts mold. 

Defensively, they had Allen very confused early in the game but give the 2nd year QB credit, he made a few outstanding throws and hung in there. But with the Bills driving late in the game, they brought pressure and got a sack and forced a throw off his back foot to get an incompletion in the end zone to salt the game away.  

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

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

 

Patriots – Bills Week 16, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 20, 2019 at 8:45 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up their 11th straight division title with a win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in Gillette Stadium. Unlike in years past where the crowning of the division title was a foregone conclusion, this year is very different.

Even with a win, the Bills in order to win the division would have to win next week and have the Patriots lose to the Dolphins. While still a possibility, it is rather remote at this point. However, Buffalo has already clinched a playoff spot of their own and are looking to carve out their own identity. And they’d like nothing more than to knock the Patriots out of a playoff bye.

That could possibly set up a third meeting between the two teams during Wildcard Weekend in two weeks. So, with a playoff bye and the division crown on the line, this IS a playoff atmosphere this week. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by NFL Network on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Mike Tirico will handle play-by-play duties with Kurt Warner as the color analyst. Peter Schrager will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (11-3) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 34-13 and intercepted Andy Dalton four times, with Stephon Gilmore grabbing two, including a 64-yard pick-six.

The Bills (10-4) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 as the Bills also intercepted four passes and generated five turnovers in a big win for Bills.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Bills have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 120th time the two teams have faced each other. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won six in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 75-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 34-5 against the Bills.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game finally showed some life last week in Cincinnati as they rolled up 175 yards on the ground in the win over the Bengals. Sony Michel led the way with 89 yards while Rex Burkhead ripped a nice 33-yard touchdown run.    

The Bills are 10th in the league against the run allowing just over 101 yards per game. They have the stout men upfront, Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips are good at stuffing things at the point of attack. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards at linebacker are very active and aggressive in run support. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run between the tackles. In this one guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the keys to whether they can get any sustained yardage on the ground. Getting those two out front and doing some damage at the second level will be imperative for the backs to get some traction.

Michel, Burkhead, and James White will be looked to keep the offense in manageable down and distance. In the first meeting, Brandon Bolden got a carry in the red zone and chipped in with a 4-yard touchdown run. Could we see him a bit? Possibly.          

Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots passing game has been consistently inconsistent for several weeks. Julian Edelman is banged up and clearly hobbling. He shouldn’t even play this week, or next. However, it is all hands on deck time and I expect we’ll see him out there. How effective will Edelman be? It is doubtful we’ll see anything close to his optimal game. But he’s as tough as they come and he’ll give what he has. 

The Bills pass defense is second only to the Patriots in stickiness to the wide receivers. They allow only 190.5 yards per game via the air. The Patriots and Bills are #1 – #2 in points allowed this season (12.9, 15.9 respectively). Tre’Davious White leads the secondary with six interceptions on the year. They have an excellent pass rush led by Phillips with 9.5 sacks, Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes, and Shaq Lawson who all can get after the opposing QB. Two excellent safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde solidify things in the middle. 

What the Patriots need …desperately is for someone else other than James White to step up. Mohamad Sanu and Phillip Dorsett have been MIA for weeks now and if there is ever a time for them to shine, now would be a nice weekend to get it going.  In the first meeting, Dorsett was targeted nine times and had two catches for 10 yards. Look for N’Keal Harry to see some more snaps and targets this week. 

If the Bills pass defense struggles in any area it would be (like New England) with backs out of the backfield in the screen game. That’s why we should see plenty of White and Burkhead in this one.

Next up the Bills offense:

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

The Patriots front seven, in particular, Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have been fantastic against the run. They’ve held up opponents at the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to flow and make plays. Guy leads the league in missing only one of 53 tackles. Shelton has missed two 52 of 54 tackle opportunities. 

Buffalo has a big bruising back (Frank Gore who gained 109 yards in the previous meeting) and a faster back who can challenge out of the backfield in Devin Singletary who missed the first game. The Bills will want to run the ball to make life easier on Josh Allen in this one and Singletary will present a tough matchup. 

This will be a big game for the Patriots linebackers to try to take the running game away. Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins will have to be active and sure in their tackling this week as the Patriots will try to force the issue and make Allen throw to win. 

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

The Bills passing game with Josh Allen is beginning to emerge as he gets more and more comfortable in the offense of Brian Daboll. They have an underrated pass receiving group with John Brown who has emerged as their #1 target, Cole Beasley out of the slot and talented TE Dawson Knox, with Singletary out of the backfield.

The Patriots are allowing just 170.9 yards per game through the air. Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding and is in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). He’ll be matched up with Brown. They’ll try to mix up their coverages and looks and try to bait Allen into making a mistake. 

The big matchup to watch this week is Beasley out of the slot. Jonathan Jones is out with a groin injury. Jason McCourty has been battling a groin injury of his own. Those two would be the top two choices to cover Beasley. If neither is available, rookie Joejuan Williams would probably see some action in there or the team may opt for a safety. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams units have been the key to a lot of success this season and certainly had a hand in the win over Buffalo earlier this season. They blocked the first of four punts and Matthew Slater scored a touchdown. Look for them to come after some of Corey Bojorquez’s punts in this one to help out the offense. Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season while Nick Folk has at least solidified the kicking game. Coverage on kicks has been outstanding while the return game has been poor. 

Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka has been very inconsistent this season and has missed several kicks that have influenced games with a lack of range this season. Bojorquez is very solid and the Bills have a dynamic returner in Andre Roberts. But home cooking gives the Patriots the edge here.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills (31-3) and since Brady became the starter in 2001, and are looking for a win that will give them their 12th win of the season for an amazing 13th time since the 1970 merger which would tie San Francisco for the most in the league.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Those late-season walkovers are a thing of the past and although the Bills have never beaten Brady in a meaningful game in New England (Sean McDermott is 0-5 overall), the tides are changing. This one is going to be a battle. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Must Be Effective – Look for the Patriots to try to run the ball between the tackles this week. They have to help out a passing game that is really struggling and going against an outstanding pass defense, this is imperative.

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White must be physical, and get yards after contact this week. The guards (as we pointed out earlier), have to win their matchups.

Get After Allen – With the Bills offense still a work in progress throwing the ball, Allen still has occasional issues with accuracy and is prone to make mistakes. The defense will have to force the issue this week. They can’t lay back and just try to contain Allen in the pocket, they will have to get after him hard this week. 

Both defenses will be aggressive this week, the Patriots’ unit will have to be better and and generate a turnover or two. 

Continue the Script – This week, that means playing tough opportunistic defense, having the special teams flip field position, and securing the football as well as generating some turnovers. The Patriots are well versed in playing in big games and always seem to turn it up a notch in those….This is a prime opportunity to do so again.

___________

This should be a tough, physical contest… and a very low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo is just beginning to learn how to win. They’ve been given very little respect on the national stage. But a win over Dallas on Thanksgiving where they curb stomped the Cowboys started to change the narrative a bit. A win in Pittsburgh last week was impressive and now they are taking on their nemesis in the division. 

They have had zero success here in New England during the Brady/Belichick era but feel they have the team to create a new order in the AFC East. Is it this year? 

The Patriots have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion and they’ll have to once again. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and a huge stop late in the game to salt away another division crown.  Patriots17-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns for the final regular-season game of 2019 at home when the Pats take on the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

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

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