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New England Patriots News 11-10, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-10 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots are off, on their bye week so, this weekend is a time to watch the other games and check out some of the Pats’ future opponents.

Veterans Day is tomorrow. To those who served before me, to those I served with and to the ones who followed and will follow in the future…I salute you. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady/Ed Reed – We saw a glimpse of the two in the tunnel before the game on Sunday night embracing and it wasn’t hard to see the respect those two have for each other. Of course, NFL Films detailed the respect Brady and Belichick have for Reed a long time ago. Reed was honored at halftime after being inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

OBJ/Larry Fitz – It seems Larry Fitzgerald to New England rumors will finally go the way of the dodo. And the rumor makers have seemingly found new fodder for the rumor mills- Odell Beckham Jr. We’ll be hearing and seeing this rumor a lot from now on.

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. 

Iron Men – The Patriots offense played virtually the entire game against Baltimore with the same 10 players. Nine players were on the field for 100 percent of the snaps. A 10th player, Phillip Dorsett missed one play and was replaced by Jakobi Meyers. The only position where the team rotated was running back.

Former Patriot DE Jake Bequette Now An Army Officer: 

After his playing career ended, former Patriot defensive end Jake Bequette fulfilled a life-long dream of his, in serving in the US military. Jeff Howe of the Athletic got in touch with Bequette who is now a 1st Lieutenant and serving in the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, KY. 

Bequette, now 30, spent parts of four seasons with the Patriots (2012-2015) before moving on with his life. Initially, he couldn’t pass the medicals to enter the Army because of the injuries he suffered as a football player. 

“I’ve known for a long time I wanted military service to be part of my life,” Bequette said to Howe. “I couldn’t say for certain exactly how that was going to manifest itself. I wanted to play football for as long as I could. Toward the end of my time in New England, I knew if I wanted to serve in active duty, if I wanted to do what I wanted to do — be an infantry officer and go through Ranger School and all that — it was kind of now or never.”

Bequette graduated the physically grueling Army Ranger School in 2018 and has already conducted two combat tours. 

“Ranger School is a life-changing experience,” Bequette said in the interview. “It challenged me like I’ve never been challenged before. Mentally, physically, it’s a great leadership challenge as well. That was a goal I had going in, to graduate Ranger school. I was lucky enough to accomplish that goal. It was tough going from football. I played ball at about 270 (pounds). I went into Ranger School about 245. I graduated at about 200 pounds. People lose a lot of weight during Ranger School. Coming from a sports background, we’re used to being well-fed. Ranger school is more about pushing yourself past what you think are your boundaries. That was definitely one for me.”

With Veterans Day tomorrow, it is great to see more young men like Bequette take up the call and serve our country. Maybe this will soften Bill Belichick about getting an Army guy on the team… Maybe not.

Patriots Players Up and Down At the Bye Week:

It is hard to argue with the fact that the first half of the season has been very successful for the team at 8-1. While too many people (media/fans/hot take artists) are dwelling on their one loss, only one team, San Francisco has a better record at this point. 

So, here are our Patriots Players who have performed well or better than expected at this juncture of the season and those who have not. 

Players Trending Up: 

Jamie Collins – Taking a page out of the Pat Chung “Yes you can go home again”, Collins has been fantastic through the first half of 2019. The Browns cut him loose after a so-so time in Cleveland. He has been a huge FA signing by Bill Belichick. He’s had 48 tackles, including seven tackles for a loss, six sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions.  And scored a touchdown. 

Yes, you can go home again. We were very wrong with this signing. And right beside Collins, you can add Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower.  The Boogeymen cometh.

Stephon Gilmore – No surprise here. He’s finally getting the due across the league as the best corner in football and his performance through the first nine weeks has put a stamp on that.  Remember a few years ago in his first few games as a Patriot? Bill Belichick took a lot of heat on that one… Those people are very quiet now.

Jake Bailey – The Patriots rookie punter caught a bit of flak when the usual ninnies who are infinitely better GMs than Belichick whined: “Why is Bill wasting a 5th round pick on a punter?”  After watching him put several punts in the ozone during minicamp/training camp he beat out Ryan Allen who was outstanding at directional punting in his time here.

But Bailey has been getting better and better with his own directional game and he still routinely puts punts into the flight path at Logan. He’s helped out with kickoffs as well as punting and has proven to be a very smart selection…Imagine that?

Honorable mention: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, James White. Much is always expected from these three and they’ve done nothing to disappoint. 

Players Trending Down:

Offensive Line – The favorite whipping boy, Marshall Newhouse is already on the tip of everyone’s tongue but in reality, he hasn’t been bad. He’s a long-time veteran journeyman offensive lineman, thrust into the starting left tackle for the most successful franchise over the last 20 years. Has he been good? No, but he’s hardly alone.  

The offensive line as a whole has not performed as expected and that includes such usually solid performers Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon.

Sony Michel – As the season began, we all expected big, big things from the Patriots 2nd-year running back. Things haven’t worked out that way as Michel has struggled.

While much of his struggles concern the play of the line (see above), Michel isn’t totally blameless as he’s not seeing the holes and reacting quickly enough. 

Rookie Class – With the exception of the aforementioned Bailey and Chase Winovich the Patriots haven’t got much from their rookie class. N’Keal Harry has been injured and hasn’t played a snap. 

Joejuan Williams, Damien Harris, Jarrett Stidham (thankfully), and Byron Cowart have barely seen the field. Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt are on IR. Ken Webster was cut and is a Dolphin.  Although UDFAs Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski have played well in spurts. And part of that is the depth that the roster has…Glass half-full.

NFL Schedule Week 10, 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: 9-5
Season:88-46-1

TNF Raiders over LA Chargers 1-0

Kansas City over Tennessee
Arizona over Tampa Bay
NY Giants over NY Jets
New Orleans over Atlanta
Green Bay over Carolina
Buffalo over Cleveland
Baltimore over Cincinnati
Detroit over Chicago
Indy over Miami
LA Rams over Pittsburgh
SNF Dallas over Minnesota
MNF San Francisco over Seattle

Bye week: Patriots, Eagles, Broncos, Texans, Jaguars, Redskins

Week11 Thursday Night Football Browns over Pittsburgh

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Getting No Respect From Vegas, Underdogs at Cleveland:

The Buffalo Bills are 6-2 and have only lost to the Patriots and the Eagles. But somehow they are three-point underdogs as they travel to the dog pound to take on the very dysfunctional Cleveland Browns who are 2-6.

Has Cleveland done anything to deserve the preseason hype piled upon them? And the Bills are getting no love or respect around the NFL as they have compiled a very good record through the first half of the season. The Bills are completely healthy today, they had nobody on the injury report, a rarity these days.

Baker Mayfield and the underutilized OBJ will be facing a very tough defense in the Bills this week. Look for the Browns to feed Nick Chubb a lot in the early going as the Bills have struggled a bit in their run defense. Take the Bills, they’re for real. 

Dolphins Gesicki Being Utilized More Lately and Thriving:

The Miami Dolphins barely used 2nd-year tight end Mike  Gesicki in the first four games of the season but in the last four, his numbers have more than doubled as he begins to thrive in the Miami offense. Gesicki had just six catches in the Dolphins first four games but has 15 more in the last four. 

Gesicki had 22 catches as a rookie last season and has nearly equaled that halfway through the 2019 season.  Gesicki has developed a nice rapport and chemistry with veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who recognizes the value of a big (6’6) tight end. 

“The big thing about playing with Fitz is that he’s just going to give you a chance to go make a play, which as a receiver, tight end, any pass catcher, that’s the trust and the belief that you want your quarterback to have in you that when the play … worst comes to worst, he’s just going to give you a shot and go make a play for him,” he said in an interview with The Audible.

Jets Enter Home Stadium “Rivalry Game” Against the Giants:

The New York Jets are 1-7 and in the throes of another meltdown and are facing the 2-7 New York Giants in what some NY fans are dubbing the “Toilet Bowl”.  Expectations are so low for this game, that some innocuous comments by Jets LB Jordan Jenkins have been termed trash-talking by the media.

Said Jenkins, “We both share the same stadium. It’s almost like playing for the rights [to it].”

“It’s the team right up the street. You’re competing with who has bragging rights for the year and all that type of stuff,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a physical game. We’re battling for who’s home field it really is. It’s going to be fun.”

I doubt even the Patriots would find that bulletin board material. But I digress. C.J. Mosley will miss another game, it was a huge mistake for the Jets coaches to allow him to come back …too early against the Patriots and now he’s hurt and the season is rapidly becoming a wasted one for the big-money free-agent inside linebacker.

The clock is already ticking for Adam Gase and a loss to the Giants and his hot seat may become too hot to handle.

________________

“Yeah, because that’s the way it is. It’s not about rating what did or didn’t happen. It’s about correcting the mistakes and improving on them, and there’s a lot of room for all of us to do that, and that’s what we’ll focus on – every player, every unit, every coach. I mean, when you look at it collectively, there are things we could have done better in every area that would have helped us, and we all need to address those and we all need to improve on them.” – Bill Belichick being asked about whether any positional group played well on Sunday against the Ravens.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

Sorting out the Patriots Issues During the Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots only held one practice during the bye week, on Wednesday, and then the players were given some needed time off to rest and recuperate. If you bet that after the loss to the Ravens on Sunday night that the coaches would keep them here all week in pads, you’d have been wrong. 

This is telling in that it says that the issues facing the team aren’t physical and Bill Belichick doesn’t feel that they need to practice doing things that they aren’t doing well so that practice makes perfect. No, this means that the coaches have done, and are still doing no doubt a healthy dose of self-scouting. The issues that the team is facing are more scheme-related than physical. Which includes the defense, and we’ll get to those. 

But first, let’s take a quick look at what we feel are two of the biggest issues facing the team after deciphering the first nine games of game film have been watched, watched again and analyzed. 

The Team Needs to Fix Their Red Zone Production:

Despite being one of the top-scoring teams (1st in points, 2nd in Points per Game) in the NFL, the Patriots have not been anywhere near as efficient as they have in years past. In fact, in the red zone, the Patriots currently rank 21st in red-zone production tied with the (gasp!) New York Jets at 50 percent. That is down from 62.18 percent from a year ago. 

Part of the reason they have struggled in the red zone is three-fold. They have struggled to run the football. Their tight end production is way down, and so is the production from their outside or “X” wide receiver.  Missing their left tackle, center, fullback James Develin and having both starting tight ends being dinged up for most of this season doesn’t help with the running game. 

Not that anyone really expected Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo to block as much as well as Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen did a year ago. Having these issues compounds the entire picture. While some will point to Sony Michel as being the issue, that is too simplistic and ignores the fact that there is often nowhere to run and he’s getting hit in the backfield.

Gronkowski was a tremendous red-zone threat in the passing game. Izzo and LaCosse? Not so much. Missing Gronkowski in the passing game was known to be a given. But their lack of production in the red area combined by their big “X” WR and TE are both show stoppers. Much more was expected out of both positions. LaCosse has three catches for 55 yards on the season and has been hurt more than anyone on the offense. Izzo, a blocking specialist, has six catches for 114 yards and a score. Ben Watson has played in the last three games and has 8 catches for 72. Put together, the tight end production is not going to cut it. 

Josh Gordon was placed on IR and then released, being picked up by the Seahawks. But in six games, he only had 20 receptions for 287 yards and just one touchdown this season. Added together, it is a weakness that opponents have taken advantage of and needs fixing. 

The problems along the offensive line have been well documented at this point and the lion’s share of the blame has been heaped on backup left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Is it correct? Look he hasn’t been great, but putting all of the blame on him is unfair and untrue. Neither Shaq Mason nor Marcus Cannon has played anything close to their level that we’ve come to expect. Although Cannon was better on Sunday night against the Ravens. 

Getting Isaiah Wynn back against Dallas will certainly help but will be no panacea for the OL as a whole. Wynn should immediately help in the running game and we’ll have to see how well he holds up in the passing game. But the offensive line as a whole needs to get healthy and perform better. Wynn will help. But Newhouse has been the convenient whipping boy but in truth, it is the group that needs to improve overall. 

At tight end, Watson will continue to see more targets as he finds a comfort level in the offense and his timing gets better with Tom Brady. What the team really needs is for either Izzo or LaCosse to step up, preferably both. But at this point, they are what they are and I’d be surprised if they got anything different than what they’ve gotten up to this point. 

They’re going to have to live with what they have for the rest of this season. Watson, although 38-years old, is much more viable than the others in the passing game. The fades and crosses that we saw him practice with Brady during side sessions in training camp need to get dusted off and used again. This is a position that the team will need to address, and address in a big way next year, either through free agency or the draft, possibly both. 

At the WR position, it seems obvious that N’Keal Harry “should” provide a big part of the answer. The Patriots invested a 1st-round draft pick in Harry and despite some of the bobos who are already asking if he’s a bust, he was supposed to be one of the best WRs coming out of the draft at getting his hands on contested passes. 

He has the frame (6’4, 225) that is ready-made for working the same part of the field that Gordon was working earlier this season. He’s big, athletic and physical. He’s not going to stretch the field vertically but those side sessions with Brady during the summer had him working fades, back-shoulder throws, and quick outs and slants. 

But he’s not going to be the focus on the red zone production. It is a lot, too much to ask of a rookie who’s been hurt and hasn’t played a down yet. He should see plenty of reps but then who will the offense lean on more in the red area? Mohamed Sanu. 

Sanu has good size (6’2, 210) and should easily fulfill the Brandon Lafell role in the Super Bowl year. Sanu had 10 catches in just his second week with the team and caught a what? Yes, a red-zone touchdown last week. He and Julian Edelman will continue to work in and out of the slot and create some mismatches. 

So getting Wynn back, adding Harry and putting more on Sanu and Watson’s plates should help to get the passing game going. In the running game, look for Rex Burkhead (if he can stay on the field) and James White to get more play in the running game in the red zone. That’s not blaming Sony Michel for the lack of production, but if they use the other two more, it gives them a more versatile look with the run/pass option where Sony is more run focused.  

Is the Run Defense Vulnerable? Don’t Sweat It Too Much: 

Oh my, after Sunday, social media had the “blueprint” to beat New England. The run defense was the Achilles Heel and the sky was definitely falling. “Can they win any of the next four games?” Take a deep breath folks and relax. 

What we saw against Cleveland and then against Baltimore was scheme-related and is easily fixable. The Patriots against the Browns were protecting the pass playing a lighter front in an attempt to take away the pass and weren’t overly worried about giving up some yardage in the running game. Obviously, the long run that was fumbled by Nick Chubb was something that they accept, but that was more of a missed tackle(s) thing than anything. 

Against the Ravens, the OL of Baltimore did and should get a ton of credit for being the more physical and dominant unit. But the coaching staff, something Bill Belichick said in his postgame comments didn’t put the defense in a good position to succeed. 

The Patriots went to their 3-4 base and their interior players mainly Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy who have both been outstanding this season were asked to two-gap against the Ravens running schemes. 

Instead of zone running schemes that they normally employ, the Ravens attacked the gaps and the passive nature of the two-gap system was a poor choice and put their big men in a difficult position to win. 

After the first couple of possessions, they switched things up and went to a four-man front and were attempting to penetrate and disrupt the running game by attacking it. That is the correct way to try to counter the powerful Ravens running game. Does it guarantee success? Of course not, but it offered a better way. 

Instead of having Jamie Collins as an outside linebacker, where he got overplaying the running game early, he was moved inside with Dont’a Hightower and was asked to be a penetrator. 

We know the NFL is a copy-cat league, the Eagles will try some of what we saw from Baltimore, and the Cowboys and Texans can definitely attempt more of the same. Something tells me that the coaches will have this figured out by next week in Philadelphia. The Eagles are running the ball a lot more lately as they take advantage of a heavier running package…we’ll have more of that next week when we do our pregame look at the matchups. 

As it appears here, the issues they had were more scheme-related than a personnel weakness. And those are easily fixable. If there is anyone who can make changes on the fly and in mid-season better than Bill Belichick, we haven’t seen him. 

That’s why they play the games…  

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 Week 9 Report Card, Defense Struggles in 37-20 Loss to Baltimore

Steve Balestrieri
November 5, 2019 at 8:26 am ET

Patriots are 8-1 at the Bye Week

The Patriots weren’t going undefeated, we’ve been saying it all year since the summer but yet people continued to predict it like it is a walk in the park. Think about this, it has only been done twice in the past 50 years and four times in 100 seasons of the NFL.

The point is they were bound to have a game where they were making too many mistakes and ran into a hot team. Earlier on Sunday, I watched Green Bay scarcely resemble the team they’ve been all year play sluggishly on the road in LA. And wondered if it was the Patriots’ time. Baltimore, rested after a bye week was the perfect storm and pretty much kicked the Patriots defense behind all game long. 

So, please stop with the over the top reactions to a single loss. Although some of them were unintentionally hilarious.  Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s game in Baltimore.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady got off to a rough start but was able to get it going in the second and third quarters when the team went to the hurry-up, up-tempo offense. Brady finished 30-46 for 285 yards with a touchdown and an interception. 

Brady put the team on his back when they were trying to dig out from the big hole they got in and targeted Edelman and Sanu almost exclusively in this one. Everyone else was an afterthought. The best throw of the night was his 30-yard completion to James White, however. 

Running Backs: C-

The running game either by design or the way the game unfolded early was relegated to the back burner on Sunday night. We said in our pregame keys that we thought they’d eschew the ground game for the most part and try to attack Baltimore through the air. 

They ran just enough to keep the defense honest and ended up with just 17 carries for 74 yards (4.2-yard average). While no one stood out as outstanding, neither did anyone stand out badly either. Going into a 17-0 hole in the first quarter will take an offense out of their game plan if indeed they did plan on running more. 

James White had the most production out of the group with 38 yards on 9 carries. He tripped and ended up just short of the goal line just before the half where the team actually had a chance to tie the game up. He later added a touchdown. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu were both featured in this one and it is easy to see that Sanu is going to fit this offense quite well. Edelman was targeted 11 times and had 10 catches for 89 yards. Sanu was targeted 14 times and had 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, his first as a Patriot. 

Sanu in just his second week on the team has already been determined to having the trust factor with Brady. In our keys, we also thought that both he and Edelman would have good games with the short quick passing game against the Ravens secondary.

Edelman’s fumble hurt. After crawling out of a 17-point deficit, the team actually had the chance to take the lead early in the 3rd quarter, the idea of which seemed ridiculous earlier in the game. It happens. Give the Ravens defense the credit there. It flipped the momentum right back into their corner. They didn’t relinquish it again.

Phillip Dorsett had just two catches. Jakobi Meyers played one snap. White, Burkhead and Michel had only four combined catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson went the distance for the Patriots at tight end and had four catches for 28 yards on five targets. Ryan Izzo was active but didn’t play a snap. Watson played pretty well but did have a drop on a contested 2nd-down catch, that set up the 3rd and 10 play where Brady was picked off deep. 

The team can’t expect Watson to play all the snaps down the stretch at 38-years old and will need somebody else to step up. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line got back Shaq Mason this week although he didn’t play particularly well in his return. Marcus Cannon did have arguably his best game of the season. After a tough start, the line did a decent job of pass protection when the team decided to spread out the defense and go up-tempo. But although they gave up just two sacks, 10 QB hits is a lot, but considering the score, it could have been worse.

The run blocking was fair enough this week, the Ravens are a tough team to run against and they didn’t really ever get the chance to establish anything considering the early deficit. But the 4.2-yard average was better. 

 Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line struggled for the first time this year against an opponent. There wasn’t anything exotic, the Ravens didn’t scheme up some things that they hadn’t seen before. They just lined up and played very physical. What did give the line problems was the option plays where Jackson stuck the ball in the hands of a back and either kept it or left it depending on the play of the defense. They never really figured that out.

Baltimore’s running game, especially Mark Ingram gashed the Patriots for 210 yards on 41 carries. Ingram had 115 yards on just 15 carries. The team also did a much poorer job of setting the edge, it is rare to see a back or QB turn the corner and see no one there. It happened more than once. 

The group was able to generate just one sack and three QB hits.  

Linebackers: C

The linebackers had their most lackluster game of the season. Dont’a Hightower’s fiery speech on the sidelines lit a fire under the group for a bit and their play improved…for a bit. He led the team with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss, something the unit had precious little of on Sunday night. Kyle Van Noy had a solid game, providing backside coverage when Lamar Jackson would cut back. 

Jamie Collins had a rough game, getting taken in on those option plays by Jackson early, he certainly wasn’t alone. Elandon Roberts struggled as well.   

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t really tested by the Ravens wide receivers, mainly out of design. They passed for only 163 yards because their running game was a difference-maker for them. When they did pass it was to the tight ends. 

Stephon Gilmore matched up with Marquise Brown who had three catches for 48 yards. Willie Snead had two grabs for 15. That was it for the wide receivers. The tight ends did the damage with Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, and Hayden Hurst combining for 9 catches for 63 yards and a score. On the surface, it doesn’t add up to much, but it seemed every catch was a key first down.  

Special Teams: B+

Nick Folk gets passing marks this week, he made both extra points and both chip shot field goal attempts. It is a strange night when Justin Tucker misses an extra point or field goal but he did although it didn’t hurt the overall scheme of things. 

Brandon Bolden did well in the kick return game and the coverage units were outstanding. Lost in the hot takes of the dynasty crumbling was the STs coverage units. This was easily their best game of the year. The Ravens averaged just 12.7 yards on kick returns and 3.5 yards on punts. They forced a fumble on a Cyrus Jones muff and recovered by newcomer Justin Bethel. 

Jake Bailey continued his stellar rookie season, averaging 46.6 yards per punt while dropping three inside the 20. 

Coaches: C

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t have the team properly prepared to handle the Ravens running game, especially those options by Jackson. As Bill Belichick said after the game, they didn’t do anything well enough to win, coaching, playing, or preparation.

The offense played in “11 personnel” all game long and it is a head-scratcher when the team has struggled all season long to find a viable red-zone target for Tom Brady and you have a big 1st-round draft pick at WR who is inactive for a tight end that you didn’t play a single snap.   

There will be plenty of self-scouting to do this week before they take off for a few days during the bye week before preparing for Philadelphia.   

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 – Ravens Week 9 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 1, 2019 at 6:45 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. This should be the marquee matchup of the week as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense has been lighting it up thus far in 2019. 

They’ll be going against the Patriots defense which has been the stingiest unit in the league. The game will be taking place in Baltimore where the crowd is always loud and where the games are always tough

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work 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 (8-0) beat the Cleveland Browns 27-13, Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Julian Edelman while the defense held the Browns to just 13 points.

The Ravens (5-2) are coming off their bye week. 

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 Ravens have had some memorable matchups in the past, and this one figures to add to that. Overall the Patriots are 8-1 against Baltimore in the regular season and 2-2 against them in the playoffs.  

One memorable Sunday night game in 2012 featured a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker that was ruled good but appeared to miss. Bill Belichick was livid over that one. 

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 Ravens Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Baltimore

This matchup clearly favors Baltimore. The Patriots running game remains stuck in neutral. Sony Michel has clearly not found the holes he enjoyed a year ago and his yards per carry average has suffered. Rex Burkhead, James White, and Brandon Bolden have all struggled to find consistent running room. 

The Ravens run defense has been outstanding thus far in 2019 allowing just 84.3 yards per game, good for third-best in the league.  The big men up front, Matthew Judon, L.J. Fort, and Josh Bynes have done a tremendous job of limiting any push from the opposing offensive line and stopping the run in its tracks.

Don’t look for Josh McDaniels to try to establish the run this week as they’ve done in other games. They’ll run enough just to keep the defense honest, but this week, they’ll look to get it done elsewhere. It would like banging your head against the wall.                  

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

The Patriots passing game is getting 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry on the field for the first time in 2019. He’ll be asked to fill the Josh Gordon “X” role outside. Mohamed Sanu will be playing in his second game and is still learning the offense. But Tom Brady’s passing game still goes through Julian Edelman and James White out of the backfield. Ben Watson is getting more comfortable in the offense as well. 

Baltimore’s pass defense is 26th in the league, their secondary was hit hard by injuries and their pass rush hasn’t been what they’re used to there and has only 12 sacks. They traded for Marcus Peters who is a boom or bust type of player but will be up for a prime time game. They have Jimmy Smith returning this week and his availability gives them good depth with Marlon Humphries and Brandon Carr also at the corner.

This will be a “spread ‘em out” type of week for the Patriots passing game. If Shaq Mason is back, the pass protection should be improved and will give Brady time to work the routes to Edelman and Sanu. Phillip Dorsett can always be counted on to hit a couple of key plays while White out of the backfield is always a matchup problem.

Next up the Ravens offense:

Ravens RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Baltimore

Baltimore has the top rushing attack in the league and it begins with QB Lamar Jackson. Although he is more than capable of scrambling, many of his runs (he leads the team in rushing) are designed runs, schemed to take advantage of his talent. Mark Ingram is another weapon in the running game, he is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Ravens are averaging 204.1 yards per game on the ground, the best in the league. 

The Patriots run defense is allowing 85.3 yards per game on the ground, fourth-best in the league, just behind Baltimore, but we’ve seen some issues prop up in recent weeks in the running game with Le’Veon Bell and Nick Chubb. This rushing attack will be a big, big test this week.

The big men inside, Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy will have to control the gaps inside to allow the linebackers to make some plays and try to limit the running game, which has averaged 35+ minutes of possession time this year. Setting the edge will take on paramount importance when Jackson takes off.

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

The Ravens passing game is middle of the road but improving.  A big key for them is if Marquise Brown is able to go this week, he’s been injured with an ankle issue and is the Ravens deep threat receiver. He’ll be matched up with Stephon Gilmore. The Ravens also use Miles Boykin and Willie Snead at wide receiver.  Jackson’s most targeted receiver, however, is Mark Andrews at tight end. 

The Patriots have been outstanding against the pass this season, allowing just 148.8 yards per game. They’ve intercepted opposing passers 19 times and have 31 sacks. Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty give New England arguably the deepest cornerback roster in the league. Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon have been excellent at safety. 

But the secondary play has been stellar this year and while Jackson is steadily improving, he still isn’t the most accurate passer in the league and the opportunity will avail itself to more turnovers this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Baltimore

The Patriots special teams signed former Raven All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel last week. He, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, and others form an excellent unit. Mike Nugent was released and kicker Nick Folk was signed. Rookie punter Jake Bailey is having an excellent rookie season. 

The Ravens have a kicker who is as automatic as there exists in Justin Tucker. There’s Tucker and then everyone else.  Sam Koch is excellent at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line. Former Patriot Cyrus Jones is the Ravens’ punt returner averaging 10.6 yards per return. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 9-0 before heading home for their bye week. Then follows games against the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. They begin the meat of their schedule right now.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Spread Them Out – Look for the Patriots offense to go more to a 4-wide look this week and attempt to get the passing game going quickly. How much can they get or expect from N’Keal Harry this week? We may not see much from him until after the bye week when he starts to find his stride. Edelman and White remain the go-to guys until Sanu too finds his comfort level in the offense. Ben Watson may see more targets this week. 

Limit The Running Game For Baltimore: The Ravens are going to get their yards on the ground, but the key is to force them to have to throw to beat you and then it plays into the strength of your defense. Jackson is a dynamic player and the type of mobile QB that used to give New England fits. But the defense is much better equipped to slow down a runner like Jackson. Can they do it? That may be the key to this game.

Keep the Turnover Machine Going: The Patriots have been ridiculous at forcing turnovers this season. They obviously want to keep that going and if they can force a couple more this Sunday, it will go a long way towards earning another victory. They’ll have to bring pressure and force Jackson into making mistakes, while not allowing him to use his legs to hurt the defense.

___________

Prediction: 

We’ve said all along that the Patriots aren’t going undefeated this season and with this five-game stretch, this may be a perfect time for the Ravens to knock them off. The Ravens are coming off of their bye week and have had two weeks to prepare.

With them getting their top draft choice just on the field and having Sanu for just the second game, the passing offense could struggle somewhat, albeit against a secondary that hasn’t been great. And we’ve already put out how effective the Baltimore ground game has been. But until someone puts a lick on this New England defense, I’m sticking with Bill Belichick finding a way to make them settle for field goals.

Brady and the offense will score just enough, with some help by the defense with a key turnover as the boys of Foxboro improve to 9-0. Patriots 24-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour hits the bye week before they head back out on the road to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on November 17.

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

 

Best Of Social Media: Week 8 Patriots vs Browns

Robert Alvarez
October 31, 2019 at 8:40 pm ET

The Patriots entered Sunday’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday seeking to become the third team under Bill Belichick to start a season 8-0.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media as it happened below.

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It’s all clicking… #LFG

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Locked in.

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The Patriots jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter courtesy of the “boogeymen” defense, a squirrel, and the Cleveland Browns beating themselves.

 

 

 

In the second quarter, the Browns cut into the Patriots lead courtesy of a Baker Mayfield touchdown pass to Demetrius Harris.

A 17-7 New England lead was taken to halftime.

The Browns opened up the second half with a field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10 as the Patriots offense struggled to pull away.

A James White 59 yard run reignited the Patriots.

Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for a second time to push the lead back up to 24-10.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1188582989409579008?s=20

 

In the fourth quarter the Patriots defense shut down the Browns the remainder of the game.

A field goal by both sides concluded the scoring as the Patriots improved to 8-0 with a 27-13 victory.

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Football guy weather ⛈ #OnToBaltimore

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Great team win ‼️ #LFG

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☔️ ☔️☔️ 8-0

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W.

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Patriots Week 8 Report Card, Defense Shines in 27-13 Win Over Cleveland

Steve Balestrieri
October 29, 2019 at 7:18 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 8-0 at the halfway mark of the season

The Patriots defense put the team on their back early in this one, forcing three Cleveland turnovers in three consecutive snaps to springboard the team out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter. They held Baker Mayfield to under 200 yards passing and frustrated the talented Browns wide receivers.

The shorthanded offense sputtered a bit but came up with a key drive in the third quarter when the Browns threatened to crawl back into the game. The Patriot played perhaps their worst game of the year, but it was more than enough to down the mistake-filled Browns.

So, while the Patriots aren’t perfect, they are certainly undefeated. Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady completed 20 of 36 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in Sunday’s win. Dealing with the absence of three starting offensive linemen, two tight ends, both fullbacks and with a WR who had been on the team just a few days, he ran the offense as well as one could expect. 

Despite having to get rid of the ball very quickly because of pass protection issues, Brady still had several nice throws. His movement in the pocket, sliding to the right and hitting Julian Edelman for a 14-yard touchdown was a nice play. He delivered a beautiful deep ball right on the money to Phillip Dorsett. And threw a dart down the seam to Ben Watson. 

Running Backs: B-

The running game continues to sputter but things got off to a good start on Sunday afternoon before grinding to a halt later in the game. Sony Michel got off to a nice start and broke a couple of nice runs, breaking tackles, giving the Patriots some early balance. Michel finished with 74 yards on 21 carries (3.5-yard average). 

But when Cleveland knew they were going to run late in the game, the running game ceased. James White and Rex Burkhead didn’t fare any better with five carries for eight yards. The issue wasn’t with the running backs but with the blocking up front.

White, however, was a big factor in the passing game catching four passes for 75 yards including a huge 59-yarder that led to a touchdown that broke the game open in the second half. Burkhead after missing the past few games had one catch for nine yards.

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and James White were the biggest targets in the passing game (no surprises there) and each came through in their normal fashion. Edelman had a game-high eight receptions for 78 yards with two touchdown catches. White, as mentioned above had four for 75. Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 43 yards. 

Newcomer Mohamed Sanu played in 37 snaps, which was over half, considering he just arrived last week, that number was surprisingly high. He chipped in with a pair of catches for 23 yards. His numbers will increase every week as he gains a better grasp of the offense. He was right with White downfield blocking on his 59-yard catch and run. That had to get the attention of the coaching staff. 

Jakobi Meyers was targeted just twice and had one catch for five yards.

Tight Ends: B-

Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson both saw considerable action with Tomlinson logging in nearly half of the offensive snaps and Watson around 70 percent. Tomlinson did a good job in the run blocking game inside, he sprang Michel for a nice run up the middle sealing the linebacker off in a play that was highlighted on the telecast.

Watson caught the only pass he was targeted with but it was a big one, a 26-yard rope from Brady down the seam that set up the team inside the 10-yard line. We can Watson’s role in the passing game expanding in the near future.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line was missing another key piece in Shaq Mason, the left guard was ruled out and James Ferentz took his place. Ferentz stepped up and played all 69 offensive snaps. However, with three of the five starters out, it is little wonder that the unit struggled in both the running game and pass protection. 

Early results were good in the running game, but they tapered off to nearly nothing late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were going to run. Trying to close out the game by running the ball once again failed and continues to be an issue. 

Pass protection wasn’t good on Sunday. The Browns sacked Brady three times and he was forced to get rid of the ball far too often. Health is the biggest factor in holding back this unit right now. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line had some issues in the running game, part of it was by design as they were being aggressive in getting after QB Baker Mayfield, but they were pushed around a bit as well. But they tightened things up when they had to. It is an issue that they’ll address in the meeting rooms to be sure. 

But they did a very good job of getting pressure on Mayfield. Lawrence Guy perfectly read the shovel pass coming to Jarvis Landry and blew up the play in the backfield intercepting the pass to boot. Adam Butler continues his high level of play with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pair of QB hits.

Linebackers: A-

Jamie Collins was the star of the group again. Seemingly everywhere on the field, Collins logged 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits. Kyle Van Noy caused the first turnover, setting the edge and as the blocker was going to the ground he kicked the ball out of his own runner’s hands. Van Noy added a sack.

Dont’a Hightower scored the first touchdown of the game on a scoop and score off a Nick Chubb fumble, caused by Van Noy. Hightower was beaten for a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first half where he took the wrong angle inside and was beaten to the pylon. 

Chase Winovich in limited snaps added a half-sack and a QB hit. Overall the Patriots sacked Mayfield five times. ***Note*** The Patriots defense in 2018 had 30 sacks for the entire season. The defense this year has 31 with the season just half gone.  

Secondary: A

The secondary continues their outstanding play of 2019 limiting the Browns to under 200 yards passing. Stephon Gilmore once again goes to the head of the class. Going against the dangerous and explosive Odell Beckham Jr., Gilmore easily won this matchup. He held Beckham to four catches for 21 yards until a late garbage time 31 yarder. The Patriots will take that all day long. 

Jonathan Jones continues his strong play in the slot and showed tremendous speed while chasing down Chubb and causing the fumble to take away a scoring opportunity from the Browns. Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson were solid.  

Pat Chung returned from injury and he, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon continue their strong play at the back end and in the box. Missed tackles were an issue for the entire defense but the weather no doubt had a hand in that. But give Chubb credit, he runs hard and is a tough guy to bring down, rain or shine.

Special Teams: C+

Mike Nugent had a block on a 29-yard field goal attempt and badly missed another. Jake Bailey had a good game with a 45.4 yard average with one punt inside the 20 and another that was a touchback. The coverage units did a very good job on a dangerous returner in Dontrelle Hilliard. The return game didn’t do much

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff were working on a short week. They wanted to get off to a quick start and they did, racing out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. That was huge in putting the Browns and their coaches behind the eight-ball. They weren’t up to the task. 

Bill Belichick got his 300th career win while Freddy Kitchens showed he has a long, long way to go. Josh McDaniels because of injuries and new personnel had to limit the playbook somewhat, and he’s still searching to find the offense its identity.   

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.

 

Undefeated but Imperfect Patriots Improve to 8-0 With Win Over Cleveland

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2019 at 10:23 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business at home on a very rainy and windy Gillette Stadium on Sunday and went to 8-0 on the season with a 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Bill Belichick joined the 300 club as today the win was the 300th of his career, the fastest any coach has ever won that many. Belichick was victorious in his 434th game as a head coach. (Hint, that is a pretty darned good winning percentage)

Tom Brady waxed poetic in his praise for Belichick. Asked about the significance of the coach’s 300th win, he had this to say.

“Three hundred wins is pretty spectacular. He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have. He’s taught me so much on and off the field, just been a great mentor for me,” Brady said.  “

Being here 20 years ago – it was his first year, it was my first year. It’s been a great journey. Just proud of him, everything he’s accomplished. Amazing to think that he coached for another place and they didn’t think he was good enough, and then he comes here and does a great job. It’s a great celebration for him and certainly hard-earned, well-deserved. And the only thing better than 300 is 301. So, we’ll be back at it this week.”

So, while the team is undefeated, they are far from perfect. But the Patriots have a way to bring out the very worst in their opponents and they used the Browns’ many miscues to put this one in the rearview mirror early. 

The Patriots defense forced turnovers on three straight offensive snaps by Cleveland to take a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and the Browns could never recover. The first turnover was created on a solid play by Kyle Van Noy and Nick Chubb’s fumble was scooped up by Dont’a Hightower and returned for a touchdown. 

The next turnover occurred when Chubb rolled for 44 yards and appeared headed for a touchdown. But Jonathan Jones ran him down and tomahawked the ball out. Devin McCourty recovered for the Patriots at the five-yard line.

The third turnover was perhaps the most bizarre of all. The Browns attempted a shovel pass to Jarvis Landry. Lawrence Guy read the play and got penetration inside and actually made contact with Landry before he was in position. Baker Mayfield should have never attempted the pass and in essence, he passed it right to Guy who had to be the most surprised player in Gillette Stadium. 

Not many teams can spot an opponent 17 points on the road and come back to win. Especially with the weather conditions the way they were and facing a defense that has been playing like the Patriots’ have thus far this year. 

Cleveland hung around, thanks to the terrific running of Chubb who settled down after his first two miscues and pounded out 131 yards on 20 carries. But the Browns never gave the impression they were seriously threatening to challenge for this game. 

Although they made things interesting with a field goal to open the third quarter to make the score 17-10, the Patriots immediately answered with Tom Brady leading the team on an 84-yard drive in seven plays putting them up 24-10 and pretty much putting this one to bed. The key play was a 59-yard pass play from Brady to James White on a 3rd and 10. Brady capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, his second touchdown reception of the game. 

Baker Mayfield completed 20 of 31 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception. While it wasn’t his worst game of the season by a long stretch, it wasn’t a great one either. Mayfield broke up a streak of 71 straight points by the Patriots when he connected with Demetrius Harris for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Harris got by Hightower who tried to play inside leverage. Harris broke for the pylon and Mayfield hit him with a nicely thrown ball. It would be the only touchdown of the game for the Browns. 

The Patriots defense held Cleveland to just 13 points and generated another three turnovers while adding five more sacks to their total while scoring another touchdown. It wasn’t perfect there either as Chubb and the ground game gained far too much yardage. But Mayfield and the passing game never got untracked. 

Stephon Gilmore and Odell Beckham Jr. were matched up and the talented wide receiver had five catches for 52 yards but 31 of them came late on a deep pass at garbage time when this one was already decided. This match goes to Gilmore. Jarvis Landry led all Browns receivers with 5 catches for 65 yards on 10 targets. 

Which brings us to the Patriots offense. The problems at the offensive line with replacements at the center, left tackle, and right guard this week are becoming a show stopper. The running game could muster only 79 yards on 27 carries, a measly 2.9-yard average. This against a team allowing 154 yards per game. 

Sony Michel had 74 yards on 21 carries but his yards per carry average suffered late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were trying to run out the clock and they stuffed him time and again. 

Brady was only sacked three times but the pressure was such that he is forced to get rid of the ball in under two seconds or he’s going to get hit more often than not. The playmakers on offense aren’t the problem. When he did have time to throw, he made nice throws to Edelman for a pair of touchdowns, a nice deep throw to Phillip Dorsett and a really nice seam pass to Ben Watson for 26 yards. The protection has to improve. And the run blocking has to vastly improve. 

Newcomer Mohamed Sanu had a pair of catches including a nice first down where he just made it to the sticks before getting popped but was able to hold on to the ball. He’ll get more involved the longer he’s here and learns more of the offense. 

In our pregame key matchups, we said that Chubb was the key for the defense and that James White and Edelman were the go-to guys on offense. Edelman had eight catches for 78 yards with two touchdowns. White had four catches for 75 yards on five targets. 

So the team moves on to Baltimore “for their first real test” of the season. They’re 8-0 at the halfway point of the season. Unbeaten but hardly perfect. They’ll be taking on a Ravens team that is on their own bye week. They’ll be rested and at home. 

So, be forewarned, the airwaves will be filled this week with ways that the Ravens can beat New England and reasons given why you should fear Baltimore.  We’ll get into that more as the week goes on. 

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.

New England Patriots News 10-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-27 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, as the Patriots take on the Browns in the later game this afternoon.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

“We’re Not in Kansas anymore Toto” – If I told you… say three or four years ago that the Patriots would have Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon and Michael Bennett on the roster in the same season, and then either cut or trade every one of them? I’d have been locked up. It just goes to show what a crazy season it has been.

Behind the Scenes – The Patriots video department was the subject of a very cool behind the scenes clip for the Patriots All-Access crew. Ever wonder what it takes for the video crew to break down the coaches’ film from games and how fast it gets to the coaching staff? Check it out here:

Mohamad Sanu – has been made to feel right at home this week. Sanu spoke about Tom Brady who spoke highly of the Patriots’ new acquisition. Sanu jokingly said that Brady even offered him the #12 jersey that Sanu wore with the Falcons. Sanu’s answer? “Nah, you got that. I’ll change to 14.” Asked as a follow-up if he offered anything to Brady for the jersey, Sanu laughed it off and said, “No, I’ll just go out there and do my job and let him be great.”

Bill Belichick, Not a fan of the Weathermen- The Patriots coach has never been a fan of the weathermen who are predicting heavy rains for the Browns game this afternoon. Asked during a press conference if the team was preparing for the deluge, Belichick scoffed at the notion.

“In the Giant game, it was supposed to be a monsoon and everything and, like usual, there was not one drop of rain and let’s say minimal wind. Although there was some wind. It was across the field, so it didn’t affect the game that much.

“We went down to Miami. We thought it was going to be hot… So predicting heat in Miami in September … maybe you and I can figure that out.

“I’ve seen the forecast. This is the exact same forecast we had for the Giants. Not one drop of rain. So we’ll see. I don’t know. I’m sure it’s hard to get it right, especially specific locations like this. Where it is 10 miles from here and where it is here makes all the difference in the world to us. That’s the world we’re in. So we’ll see.” If there is one person who Belichick believes is wrong more than the weatherman? Charley Casserly.

Trade Deadline Approaching, But Will Anyone Trade With Bill? 

After the Patriots traded for Mohamed Sanu, their cap space was down to $10K according to Miguel, aka @Patscap. Not $10 million but 10 thousand.. Yikes.  That number was increased to a little over $2.8 million with the trade of Michael Bennett to the Dallas Cowboys but still leaves the team with precious little room to maneuver.  With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, do they have enough cap space to make another deal? And will anyone make a trade with New England? 

There are still some players out there who the Patriots have been linked to but how much they are actually interested at this point remains to be seen. Or was their interest simply doing their own due diligence? Among those players are:

TE O.J. Howard: Howard is a big, athletic tight end in the Gronk mold. We’re not comparing him to Gronkowski, but he could be that kind of complete tight end. He’s 6’6, 255 and he can run. But he’s woefully underutilized in Bruce Arians’ offense in TB and has just 13 catches so far this season. The Patriots reportedly inquired and were told no…He’s not playing today, I’d try one more time.

TE Austin Hooper: The Falcons trade of Sanu made sense, their season is shot and they still have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The got a 2nd round pick for Sanu which will help with the retooling process there. But trading Hooper? That would be folly for Thomas Dimitroff.  He’s only 24 years old and is on pace for a 100 catch 1100-1200 yard season. Several teams have supposedly asked about Hooper but have been told that he’s staying. 

TE Tyler Eifert: The Cincinnati Bengals tight end has been another name that has frequently been rumored to be on the Patriots radar. Eifert is a very good tight end when he’s on the field which is very rare in the past three years. Eifert appeared in a total of 14 games in the three seasons of 2016-2018. He has appeared in all seven games this season and has 17 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Picture a more fragile Rex Burkhead…

Rumors persist about WRs A.J. Green of the Bengals and Danny Amendola returning to New England. But unless the Patriots decide that they are not going to activate rookie WR N’Keal Harry, bringing in another wide receiver just doesn’t make sense at this point.

Redskins LT Trent Williams name continues to be tossed about to the Patriots, who were reported to have offered Washington their 1st round draft pick for the veteran tackle who hasn’t played a down this year. How they could afford him now under the cap is a major mystery. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today :

With the short week due to Monday Night Football, we didn’t get to post our normal players to watch that we usually do on Friday. So, with the game in just a few hours, we still have time to share our players who we feel need to step up for a Patriots victory today. So, (Jim Lang voice) Heeeerrrree they are.

Stephon Gilmore: The best cornerback in the league is facing the most explosive, dynamic playmaker for the Browns in Odell Beckham Jr. today. This is the kind of matchup that is tailor-made for the national television audience. 

Baker Mayfield has been trying to force things to Beckham in the early going of the season. Will he do it again today in Gillette? Seeing two players of this magnitude competing against one another is always must-watch territory. 

Mohamed Sanu: The newest Patriots wide receiver has only been on the ground for a few days. We expect that he and Tom Brady will eventually forge a nice chemistry on the field. But how much can we reasonably expect this week? 

Wouldn’t it be a great storyline if Sanu can turn in a big game this afternoon? But we’ll temper expectations a bit this week …and next. After the bye week, he should be fully involved in the offense. 

Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots linebacker is off of the injury report and he’ll be needed against the Browns top running back Nick Chubb this week. Cleveland needs to move the ball on the ground and control the clock against the Patriots defense. They can’t get into 3rd and long situations. Chubb is the man who can do this. Hightower is the player the Patriots need to step up against the Browns today. 

Hightower is always at his best in big games. Against an opponent who was considered the up and coming team of the year and on national television, this is a big game. How well the Patriots defend or don’t defend Chubb will go a long way in determining this game today. 

Marshall Newhouse: The Patriots left tackle hasn’t been great thus far this season. He hasn’t been terrible, just not great. He’s facing the Browns’ best defender in Myles Garrett who leads the Browns with nine sacks. 

We don’t expect Dante Scarnecchia to put Newhouse out there all alone. I would expect the Patriots to chip Garrett with a tight end or have help with running backs to stay in and block. However, Newhouse will also be under a microscope this afternoon. 

James White: It seems like the Patriots Swiss Army Knife at running back is on here every week. With the running game sputtering for the most part and Rex Burkhead hurt again, the team has come to rely heavily on White, who is as reliable as they come. 

Look for Tom Brady to target White heavily again this week. The pass rush of the Browns is a concern, one way to minimize it is to get White involved in the short, quick passing game where he’s outstanding. 

NFL Schedule Week 8, 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: 11-3
Season: 65-40-1

TNF Minnesota over Washington 1-0

Seattle over Atlanta
Indy over Denver
Tennessee over Tampa Bay
New Orleans over Arizona
LA Rams over Cincinnati
Philadelphia over Buffalo
Chicago over LA Chargers
Detroit over NY Giants
Jacksonville over NY Jets
San Francisco over Carolina
Houston over Oakland
New England over Cleveland
SNF Green Bay over Kansas City
MNF Pittsburgh over Miami

Bye week: Dallas, Baltimore

Week 9 Thursday Night Football San Francisco over Arizona 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Still in the Market For a WR After Losing Out on Sanders:

The Buffalo Bills tried to bring in Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos to help out their passing offense but lost out on the bidding war with the San Francisco 49ers. Today the Bills are facing the suddenly desperate Philadelphia Eagles in what is a big barometer test for both teams. The Eagles were considered one of the top teams in the NFC but dropped two in a row to fall to 3-4. The Bills are 5-1, but are hearing the same lament as their neighbors in the AFC East, “They haven’t played anybody.”

Besides Sanders, who would have made the division race even better this season, the Bills are also rumored to be looking at the Jets Robby Anderson, Eagles WR Nelson Agholor, Taylor Gabriel of the Bears, as well as Miami’s DeVante Parker and A.J. Green of the Bengals.

It will be interesting to see if the Bills can land a quality WR by the trade deadline and improve the passing game. With a good running game and a very good defense, an improved passing game would put the Bills in great position down the stretch.

Dolphins Could Get Two Important Players on IR:

The Miami Dolphins season is one of rebuilding and evaluation of the players on the roster to decide whether they will remain when the team begins it long retooling in 2020. But two Dolphins players that are eligible to soon return of the PUP list are DL Robert Nkemdiche and CB Cordrea Tankersley. 

It will be interesting to see what these players can bring to the table for head coach Brian Flores who has the unenviable job of starting from scratch. Nkemdiche was a highly touted prospect who spent three forgettable years in Arizona. 

In other news, many teams have contacted Miami about RB Kenyon Drake but the Dolphins request of a 4th round pick is deemed too high. Current indications are that most teams aren’t willing to part with any more than a 6th rounder.

NY Media Turning on Jets Adam Gase Already:

This didn’t take long. A week after hyping the game with the Patriots, the media has already grown tired of New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. After being forced to play his third-string QB for about a month, Gase finally got his starter, Sam Darnold, back two weeks ago. And after an impressive win over Dallas, Darnold …and Gase were overmatched and overwhelmed at home against New England. 

But according to the NY Daily Post and noted flip-flopper, Manish Mehta, Gase is redefining  “non-competitive” one blowout loss at a time. Well, with their starter, it IS one blowout loss. Amazed? You shouldn’t be.

It seemed like yesterday, Mehta was guffawing over the Jets’ weak slate upcoming. Now the sky is falling. 

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“Smart kid picks things up well. We’ll see what we can do here. Sometimes as it accumulates – early downs, third down, red area, situational stuff. We’ll see what the load looks like, but he’s made good progress both days. Works hard. Good kid. Is really in-tune and trying very hard to pick up things quickly and get on the same page as everybody else. That’s obviously a long way to go, a lot of work to do, but he’s working hard at it, so we appreciate that.” – Bill Belichick being asked about new Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu

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“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

Patriots – Browns Week 8 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 25, 2019 at 7:29 am ET

The Patriots return home to take on the Cleveland Browns with the opportunity to close out the halfway point of the season 8-0 for the third time in team history. The Patriots defense has been playing at a historically high level and is facing a Browns’ team that can be explosive in both the running and passing games.

With a win on Sunday, Bill Belichick will join the 300 club, it will be the 300th win of his career, which he started with the Browns, earning his first victory against the Patriots.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 on Sunday, October 27 at 4:20 p.m.. 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.

The Patriots (7-0) beat the New York Jets 33-0. The defense intercepted Sam Darnold four times and collected two fumbles. Sony Michel rushed for three touchdowns.

The Browns (2-4) are coming off  their bye week. 

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 Browns are meeting for the 25th time with Cleveland holding a 13-11 overall advantage. The Patriots have won the past five matchups at home however. 

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 Browns Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

This is a matchup that the Patriots should dominate. Cleveland is allowing a whopping 154 yards a game on the ground, including 5 yards a carry. While Cleveland does a great job in getting after the QB, their run defense has been gashed. 

However the Patriots running game remains mired in mediocrity in 2019. Sony Michel did rush for three touchdowns last week, but was held to just 42 yards on 19 carries. The offensive line is not opening up nearly enough holes for him to run effectively. Hopefully, the team will get Rex Burkhead back from yet another injury. Burkhead has been the teams’ most effective back overall this season. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run in this game by hitting the running game between the tackles. But until we see signs of it improving on the field, the feeling here is that they will continue to scuffle along.                     

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

The Patriots passing game is going thru another change. The injured Josh Gordon has been placed on IR and is to be released as soon as he’s healthy. The team traded for Mohamed Sanu this week and he, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers will be the team’s WRs this week. With Ben Watson at tight end and James White and possibly Burkhead and Brandon Bolden out of the backfield, Tom Brady will have plenty of places to throw the ball.

The Browns have been excellent at getting after the quarterback this season with 19 sacks, nine of them by Miles Garrett. They’ve had injuries at cornerback but both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are expected to be back this week.

Look for the Patriots to give the struggling LT Marshall Newhouse some help this week against Garrett. Brady, as always will try to get the ball out quickly and get his chemistry going with Sanu who will work out of the slot with Edelman and outside. Protection is the key here.

Next up the Browns offense:

Browns RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

Cleveland has the explosive Nick Chubb at running back. He’s gained over 600 yards this season while averaging 5.3 yards per rush and has six touchdowns. The Browns average nearly 120 yards per game on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been very good overall allowing just 74.7 yards per game on the ground. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler have done a terrific job at stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up and make plays.

Chubb will get his yards this week, Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell had good games against the Patriots front seven as well. But will Cleveland be able to run effectively enough to control the game? The feeling here is no. 

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

The Browns have some very explosive wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry along with Chubb out of the backfield. That’s the word that we’ve heard coming out of the Patriots side of the house all week. However, Baker Mayfield has struggled with turning the ball over, throwing 11 interceptions already this year. 

The Patriots defense has garnered 25 sacks and 18 interceptions so far this season. They’ve varied the pass rush and the pressure has forced opposing QBs into making far too many mistakes. They also boast an extremely sticky cornerback group who has the ability to shut down the opposition. Beckham Jr. and Stephon Gilmore ought to be the most intriguing matchup of the game. Landry who guaranteed victory in his pregame trash talk will face either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson. 

Cleveland’s pass protection of Mayfield has been a mess this season. We’ve read that they’ve toyed with changing players in multiple positions during the bye week. We may not see as many of the “0 blitzes” this week, but with the varied pressure they can bring on the QB, I’d expect to see the defense trying to force Mayfield into making more mistakes this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots already solid special teams has just received a boost this week when they signed All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel who was released by the Ravens. He joins Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden and others in an excellent unit. Mike Nugent has solidified the kicking game while rookie Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season. 

The Browns Austin Seibert hasn’t missed a FG this year (8-8), while Jamie Gilan was the STs Player of the Month for September. Dontrelle Hilliard gives Cleveland good return ability. The Patriots at home get the nod here and look for Joe Judge to give Bethel a chance to shine this week..  

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking for the third 8-0 start in team history. Bill Belichick can earn his 300th career win with the team he earned his first head coaching win a long time ago.With a national television audience, this should be a great game to watch. 

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Continue the Turnover Machine – Look for the Patriots defense to try to force Mayfield into making mistakes. No one has thrown more interceptions than he has in the early going this season. By mixing up the pass rush and coming from all different angles, they can pressure an offensive line that has been terrible at protecting its quarterback. They’ll mix up their coverages and show the Browns something different than they’ve seen on tape. 

The Running Game is Key This Week: The Browns haven’t been good at defending the run. One way to slow down that pass rush of theirs is to run the ball effectively. If Sony Michel isn’t getting it done, then they should rotate Burkhead or Bolden in more.

On the flip side, limiting Chubb’s effectiveness, puts the onus more on Mayfield’s shoulders. He’s going to get things figured out eventually, and with the WRs they have, their offense will be very good. Just ensure it isn’t this week.

Play a Clean Game: The Patriots can’t allow the Browns to get any short fields for their offense and must protect the ball. Can the Browns generate enough offense on their own to win this game? I’d say no if you’re going by how this season has played out. 

Another area to monitor is the flags. The Patriots have been getting flagged more this season it seems than other years. The coaches need to get that cleaned up before it hurts the team in a key situation

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Prediction: 

The Patriots defense has been playing at an insanely high level this season. We look for that to continue. Mayfield hasn’t done a good job of protecting the ball and that should once again rear its ugly head in this one. Look for Brady to work the short area of the field with Edelman, White and more of Ben Watson this week. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can get Sanu into the passing offense.   

The defense will put pressure on Mayfield and do another great job of blanketing their opponent’s wide receivers. And the home team holds serve. Patriots 24-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week when the Patriots travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.

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

 

Patriots Boogeymen Bedevil, Whitewash the Jets 33-0

Steve Balestrieri
October 22, 2019 at 7:32 am ET

In the end, it wasn’t any more contested or closer than the first meeting. The Patriots’  defense flummoxed, frustrated, and dominated the Jets from the opening bell. They throttled the Jets in a 33-0 embarrassment in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.    

Just a week after Sam Darnold made a triumphant return from an illness and was the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, the Patriots had him literally “seeing ghosts” in the first half, forcing him into 5 turnovers. Darnold, who is one of the up and coming young quarterbacks in the NFL was left tonight looking silly and quite unprepared. 

But if Darnold was left seeing ghosts or Boogeymen in his sleep tonight, he didn’t have the worst game on the New York side. Head Coach Adam Gase was taken to the woodshed by Bill Belichick, his team looked completely unprepared and Gase made no adjustments that could be seen and left his young quarterback in far too long in a game that was decided in the first 30 minutes. 

The Patriots put a stamp on this one early. After receiving the opening kickoff, Tom Brady led a methodical, perfectly executed, time-consuming, soul-sucking drive that covered 14 plays and ate up nearly nine minutes of the first quarter. The much-ballyhooed return of MLB C.J. Mosley was nonexistent as Brady and the offense converted 3rd downs of 7, 10 and 5 yards before Sony Michel finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown on 3rd and 2. 

The Jets’ first possession took just two plays for the defense to force its first turnover of the night, one of six in total, five of which belonged to Darnold (four interceptions and a fumble). On 2nd and 8 from the 10-yard line, the Patriots overloaded a blitz on the right side and Darnold, under pressure lobbed the pass too high and it was easily picked off by Devin McCourty. 

What a difference a week makes. After Darnold picked apart the Cowboys, the confidence level was running high in New York. Darnold was talking about finding the weaknesses in the Patriots’ defense and exploiting them. He even added that once  TE Chris Herndon returns the Jets offense would be “unstoppable.” Not exactly bulletin board material, or overly cocky, but he and the Jets offense had no answers to what was to come. 

Gase, in another move that will be dissected for a long time to come, allowed his young quarterback to be mic’d up before the game, perhaps allowing himself the fleeting thought that after last week, this was to be the changing of the guard in the AFC East. Late in the first half, ESPN ran a clip of Darnold on the bench where he looked lost and admitted he was “seeing ghosts out there”. That clip, unfortunately, will follow him for a long time to come. 

What the Patriots did on defense was simple in its plan and yet brilliant in its execution. They blitzed the woeful Jets offensive line with the linebackers (Boogeymen) running free and forcing Darnold to throw off his back foot all game long. Or they would show the blitz and drop seven into coverage and give him nowhere to throw the ball. 

The Jets never adjusted, and never found an answer. While the Patriots only had one sack for 13-yards last night, the pass rush was the biggest factor for the defense. They had Darnold throwing off his back foot where the ball was continuously sailing on him. Darnold finished the game just 11 of 32 for 86 yards with four interceptions and a fumble. His passer rating for the game was just 3.6. He threw as many interceptions as the Jets were able to pass for first downs. They averaged just 2.7 yards per game.

Le’Veon Bell had a nice game with 15 carries for 70 yards including a couple of really nice runs where his patented patience allowed him to bust a few where it appeared he had nowhere to go. But in truth, he was a total non-factor. 

Robby Anderson, fresh off his big game against Dallas was once again relegated to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Anderson had one catch for 10 yards while being targeted eight times. Gilmore had one of the Patriots’ interceptions. Demaryius Thomas who was chirping at the Patriots and Bill Belichick last week, made it sound like a big revenge game fell flat on his face. Targeted nine times, he had just three catches for 42 yards. 

If there was one downer on the defense, it had to be that cornerback J.C. Jackson was being singled out by the referees for flags. He was whistled for three penalties on the night.

But back to the offense. For all the hand-wringing the fans and much of the media are doing, they scored 31 points, (the defense scored two on a safety), and when the game was still in doubt, put 17 points on the board in the first quarter.

Was it a well-oiled machine? Hardly. But missing two key offensive linemen including the left tackle, two fullbacks who are key to the running game, both tight ends, their “X” wide receiver (Josh Gordon) and their most productive running back (Rex Burkhead), they did what they had to do. 

The Patriots’ two tight ends hadn’t played a snap this year but despite the lack of playing time and timing, both Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson played a significant amount of snaps. Jakobi Meyers is building his trust factor with Brady more every day and was targeted five times and had five catches for 47 yards. He also drew a pass interference penalty on Trumaine Johnson that would’ve been a touchdown. Johnson bit on a double move and had to grab him or get burned. The usual suspects, Julian Edelman and James White each had seven receptions. 

Tom Brady had a so-so night number wise but ran the offense efficiently and utilized everyone at his disposal, completing passes to eight different receivers. His two best throws were a nice 28-yard back-shoulder throw to supersub Brandon Bolden and a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett who dusted Johnson in coverage.

Sony Michel had little running room, finishing with just 42 yards on 19 carries, but added three short touchdown runs. Edelman chipped in with a few jet sweeps. And linebacker Elandon Roberts, known for his downhill run-thumping style, was pressed into service as a blocking fullback for goalline and short-yardage. He did very well. 

So while the pundits will continue to decry about the Patriots opponents or lack thereof, they don’t care. They’ve enjoyed this one for a moment and are already moving on the Browns.  After that they will face the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. One at a time. Those games will ultimately define their season. But they are 4-0 in the division, including 3-0 in the division on the road, 4-0 on the road overall where they were just 3-5 last year. 

Sleep well Patriots fans, and even though Halloween is still 10 days away (nine since it is officially after midnight), but remember Boogeymen do exist. I think they’ll be haunting the dreams of Mr. Darnold for many nights to come.  

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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.