Tag Archives: Dont’a Hightower

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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New England Patriots News 01-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 12, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-12 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots out of the playoffs, it is strange without a football game to play in the divisional round. It is a reminder to how blessed we’ve been around here since Belichick and Brady took over the playoff landscape in 2001. 

There are a lot of variables in play this year and the 2020 team may look quite different. But don’t be throwing dirt on this team just yet. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB (and yes…he still is until we hear different) addressed his Instagram post from earlier this week on the Westwood One radio show with Jim Gray. Brady spoke about his comment that he still has a lot to prove in this league. 

 “Well, it’s always been proving it to myself. and being motivated internally to push myself to the limits,” Brady said. 

“And sometimes the limits push back, I’ve experienced that, but I also think I’m inspired by so many people who push the limits. You know, I watch a lot of movies, I love watching documentaries of incredible human feats, and they’re inspiring when people climb these mountains and do things… things people never thought were possible,” he added. 

“And I’m at a certain point in my career where people think what I’m doing is, to a degree, impossible. For me, it’s about continuing to prove to myself that I can lay it all on the line and we can still try to achieve the ultimate goal, which is winning Super Bowls.”

Brady added a quote about his contract status with Gray, stating, “The contract things, a week after the season, I would say these things haven’t even started to pick up. It’s really not my concern at this point,” he said.

Andy Dalton – Really? Bart Scott started this Dalton to NE narrative, with no real basis but then a few others in print and on the air…say “it is a fit” For whom? And now it is being reported as a possibility. Yeah right, and Bill may hire me as a coach on the special teams too. 

Julian Edelman – The Patriots WR needs surgery on both his shoulder and knee but we thought that a while ago. But Edelman is (not surprisingly), the Patriots 2019 recipient of the 2019 Ed Block Courage Award. The honor is bestowed annually upon a player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. Watching him play through those injuries this year, that honor is no surprise… Well deserved.

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.  

Joe Judge Takes Over the Giants: 

With every passing year, it always seems that Bill Belichick’s coaching staff is getting picked through as many of his coaches, move up and move on. The latest was STs Coordinator/WR coach Joe Judge. 

When we heard he was being interviewed for the Giants’ open head coaching position, we put him pretty low on the possibility chart of getting the nod. We were wrong. Judge dazzled the Giants owner John Mara during the interview and got the job. Having worked for both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, Judge got to learn from some of the best. 

But while he takes some of the same philosophies from his mentors, he is definitely his own man. Anyone who watched him in the spring/summer workouts would see that. And in his introductory press conference, despite what some hot takez bobos have said, he nailed it. 

“I want teachers, not presenters,” Judge said of his coaching staff. “I don’t want someone who looks fancy in front of the screen that can say it with a lot of different sales lines. I want teachers, I want old school people who can get to our players and give them the mental image of what it’s supposed to look like. I want them to demonstrate on a daily basis the work ethic of what it’s going to take to do it successfully day in and day out.”

Judge has his work cut out for him and although he retained his excellent STs coordinator Thomas McGaughey, he still needs an offensive coordinator that can work with young QB Daniel Jones and a defensive coordinator that will be aggressive. They’ve asked to speak with Dolphins’ DC Patrick Graham. But he’s off to a good start. 

McDaniels Spends Seven Hours Interviewing for Browns Job:

The Cleveland Browns vacant head coaching position is still open as of Saturday evening… but perhaps the Browns saved the best for last. Josh McDaniels was the last candidate to interview and he and his wife spent seven hours at the Browns HQs. 

The other candidates are Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski, Bills OC Brian Daboll, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Eagles DC Jim Schwartz. Cleveland is clearly taking their time and doing their due diligence and are willing to take their time. 

Whoever does get the job will have to work the analytics team of Paul DePodesta closely. They’ll have a say in coaching and personnel decisions. McDaniels is from the area and would no doubt try to bring some more New England people with him. One name being thrown about is Director of Pro Player Personnel Dave Ziegler who may become a candidate for the vacant GM job. 

McDaniels was a huge fan of Baker Mayfield when he came out in the NFL Draft and visited with him three days before the draft while urging the Patriots to move up and take the QB. It will be intriguing to see if McDaniels gets the job, who the next Offensive Coordinator of the Patriots will be. The Browns are expected to make their decision within the next few days. 

NFL Schedule Divisional 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. 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: 1-3

Divisional Round –
Saturday – San Francisco over Minnesota
Baltimore over Tennessee
Sunday –  Kansas City over Houston
Green Bay over Seattle

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Daboll A Browns Coaching Candidate:

The Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll is one of the candidates for the vacant Cleveland Browns head coaching position. While Buffalo’s offense remains very much a work in progress, it is easy to see how Daboll is changing the offense from the awful unit that it was a few years ago to one that is definitely on the upswing.

Daboll’s good work begins with QB Josh Allen, who made big strides in Year 2 and is trending upward. Buffalo’s offense still has a long way to go, but if they lose Daboll, it may set them back. 

Also on the Browns’ radar is assistant GM Joe Schoen who is one of the candidates for Cleveland’s vacant GM position.  

Dolphins DC Graham May Be the Giants Choice for DC:

The Miami Dolphins were rebuilding in 2019 but finished strong going 5-4 down the stretch. But now the New York Giants have requested to speak to Miami’s DC Patrick Graham. The Giants new coach Joe Judge would like to add Graham to his staff as the Defensive Coordinator, a lateral transfer. 

Graham coached with the Giants in 2016-17. Miami has already fired OC Chad O’Shea and if they lose Graham, they will be putting a lot of pressure on Head Coach Brian Flores to rebuild his team and start from scratch with his coordinators. 

With Flores trying to build a winning culture into the program, losing both coordinators after just one season would not be the best scenario for Flores. 

Jets Darnold Has Thumb Surgery:

The New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was banged up physically in his sophomore season, and he had some needed surgery to repair the damage the toll of the 2019 season did to him. 

Darnold underwent a surgical procedure Tuesday to repair a ligament in his left thumb. The surgery was performed by the Jets team doctors, and he should be ready to go when the Jets begin their offseason workouts.

Darnold had to deal with this thumb injury for the final two months of the season. He originally injured it in a loss to the Jaguars on Oct. 27. However, he played through it and wore a brace under a glove on his left, non-throwing hand.

________________

Honestly, look, I know it’s out there, just like there’s a lot of other things out there. We could bring up 50 questions just like that one, and I told you what my state is on that. You can ask all 50 of them and it’s going to be the same answer 50 times, Ben. We’ve been working on Tennessee, it’s 12 hours after the game, not going to talk a lot of things about the future because it’s not – I’m not prepared to talk about it.” Bill Belichick on if he’d like to have some clarity on Tom Brady’s situation. 

________________

“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-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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New England Patriots News 12-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-29 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots wrapping up their 11th straight AFC East title last week, they still have some work to do in the regular season and with a win today against Miami, they clinch the #2 seed and a bye for the first round of the playoffs. 

It has been a long series dominated by the home teams so it bodes well for a Patriots victory today. The team has stated that they’re treating it like a playoff game. So there’s that.. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tre’Davious White – The Bills talented cornerback took exception to Tom Brady block that helped spring N’Keal Harry for an 18-yard run last week. “Chill Tom, we all know if I hit you, I’ll get fined and suspended not vice versa.” Which led us to one of the bigger myths about Tom Brady, that he is protected by the refs and “gets all the calls.” 

A great tidbit this week on Twitter from Tucker Boynton that is worth passing along, not that the legion of Brady detractors will pay attention. “In 2019 there were 140 unnecessary roughness penalties, and 127 roughing the QB calls. Tom Brady didn’t receive one of those.”

Chandler Jones – The former Patriots defensive end has a shot of breaking Michael Strahan’s record for sacks today and we all here wish him the best in that pursuit. Having met him at Gillette a few years ago, Jones was personable as well as a talented pass rusher. But like everything else around here, there has been a lot of revisionist history surrounding Jones. 

The Patriots weren’t going to pay him $82.5 million, and as much as I liked Jones, the defense hasn’t missed a beat, going to three straight Super Bowls, winning two. This season, the team can win their 13th game of the season. What Jones is earning this year, the Patriots are paying five of their defenders. And his stellar play rushing the QB (notice we didn’t say setting the edge), hasn’t transformed the Cardinals defense one bit. 

And without the trade, they’d be no Joe Thuney who has been one of the best guards in football the past three years. It has been a trade that was a win-win. The Patriots got talent that took them to three straight Super Bowls, and Jones got his mammoth payday.

NFL Investigators – The league is supposedly growing frustrated with their inability to pin their investigation of the Patriots filming of Cincinnati’s sidelines from the film crew to the Patriots football operations. They’ve confiscated numerous devices and can’t find the smoking gun that links the two entities…

Frustrated? Wow, I always thought that an investigation was supposed to find the truth, not just to reinforce a theory of wrongdoing. But as we saw with Tom Brady with the asinine “more probable than not”, that never stopped Park Avenue. I would imagine this thorough “investigation” will finish sometime next week or the week after…timing is everything.

Navy Bowl Game: The Navy was stuck without a flight to their bowl game in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl. They generally fly Southwest Air to their away games but the airline had no planes available at the last minute during the Christmas holiday. Robert Kraft and the Patriots stepped up and the Midshipmen flew in style. 

Navy’s football team arriving for their bowl game in the Patriots aircraft

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.  

Farewell 2010s, A Decade of Dominance: 

With the game today, this will be the Patriots’ final game of the decade. The first playoff game will begin the 2020s decade. It will be hard for the team to match what the past decade has brought. 

The Patriots, with a win today will end up the decade with an incredible record of 126-34. The next closest team is the Steelers who currently sit at 102-56-1, far behind them. If you factor in the postseason, the Patriots in the 2010s are an amazing 142-40.

Of course, when the talk of New England comes up, we always hear about the AFC East. Well, at home against the AFC East, the Patriots are 27-2, which would lend some credence to that…right? Well, against the rest of the AFC at home, the Patriots are 28-2. Hmm, how about ‘dem apples?’ 

The best record in any decade used to belong to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s, who went 119-46. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the team have smashed that. 

NFL Top 100, Fascinating, Must Watch Television:

If you haven’t watched the NFL Network’s Top 100, then you’re really missing out. And for Patriots fans, seeing Bill Belichick talking history of the NFL is like manna from heaven. 

Tom Brady joined Belichick, Rich Eisen, and Cris Collinsworth and the back and forth with the coach was something that we’ve never had many opportunities to see. It had a little bit of everything. Brady spoke his friendship with Peyton Manning and how the two spent a few weeks during the offseason together and how he (Brady) copied some of the Colts’ play calls and how much it factored into Rob Gronkowski’s success. 

Brady and Belichick had a great moment when he said after the first Super Bowl win, the two shared a limo ride together and Belichick in perfect Bill-speak said to him,  “Tom, just wanted to let you know you had a pretty good year.”

But Belichick also added a great moment telling Eisen when he believed that Brady was going to be special, and it wasn’t in a game, but in practice before Brady had even began to play. 

Forget about the lists, like any other list, or poll, it is just an exercise to get people talking and discussing the game. People get too hung up over who is on the list and who isn’t. It is just an opinion folks. Tune in and enjoy some great football talk. 

 

Players to Watch Today:

The Patriots put a bow on the 2019 regular season today and here are our Patriots players to watch for the game. 

Sony Michel – The Pats 2nd-year running back has had a frustrating season but the last two weeks have seen him beginning to turn it on. His 96 yards last week against the Bills were a season-high. Now facing the Dolphins 27th ranked run defense, he has the opportunity to hit the playoffs on a three-week highpoint. 

 With LB/FB Elandon Roberts leading the way, we expect Michel and the running game, in general, to have a big afternoon running the ball today. 

Stephon Gillmore – The Patriots top cornerback will be going against DeVante Parker who is having a career season this year. Parker is the Dolphins’ go-to guy this year and naturally, Gilmore will be assigned to guard him closely.

This should be a great matchup to watch this afternoon. The Patriots have done a good job on Parker in the past, but every week is a new game. 

Tom Brady – Brady had arguably his best game of the season last Saturday against the Bills #3 ranked defense. Spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, completing almost 80 percent of his passes, Brady looked as good as he has all year.

Going against Miami’s 28th ranked pass defense, it should be another big game for Brady and he wants to get the offense and himself in the best possible position before the playoffs begin…Today he’ll be focused and ready to do just that.

Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower – The Boogeymen are collectively facing a team with the worst running game (72.9 yards per game) in the NFL. That means there should be plenty of opportunity to rush the QB against a team that has allowed 56 sacks in 2019. We expect that number to rise today. 

I expect the Patriots to get after Ryan Fitzpatrick early and often this afternoon and the trio of linebackers should be disruptive and active in the Dolphins backfield. 

NFL Schedule Week 17, 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: 13-3
Season:154-85-1
Cleveland over Cincinnati
New England over Miami
Minnesota over Chicago
Kansas City over LA Chargers
Buffalo over NY Jets
Green Bay over Detroit
New Orleans over Carolina
Tampa Bay over Atlanta
Philadelphia over NY Giants
Houston over Tennessee
Dallas over Washington
Baltimore over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Oakland over Denver
LA Rams over Arizona
SNF San Francisco over Seattle

Bye week: No teams

Sorry due to the Christmas holiday break, there will be no AFC East notes this week, they’ll be back soon…

________________

Yeah, I don’t think you really know a player until you spend a lot of time with him, day-in and day-out, where you really see what that player and what that person is like. We knew some things about him from Buffalo, but it’s not the same when you spend every day with a player, so we know a lot more about him now. He’s, again, very professional and impressive. He puts a lot into it, he puts a lot into his training, he puts a lot into his preparation and I think everybody has a tremendous amount of respect for him in part because of that..” Bill Belichick on the preparation of Stephon Gilmore and his work ethic since coming to New England. 

________________

“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-Dolphins Week 17, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 27, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up the 2nd seed of the 2019 AFC Playoffs with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. A win or a loss or tie by the Kansas City Chiefs will mean the Patriots are the #2 seed and earn an all-important bye during Wild Card Weekend next weekend.    

Miami is just playing out the season and is in full rebuilding mode. However, they’ve played much better in the second half of the season.  After starting 0-7, the Dolphins are 4-3 in their last seven games. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins 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 (12-3) beat the Buffalo Bills 24-17 to clinch their 11th division title in a row. Tom Brady had his best game in several weeks, while the running game got 143 yards keeping the offense balanced.

The Dolphins (4-11) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 38-35 in overtime. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 419 yards and four touchdowns.

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 Dolphins have been playing each other twice a year since 1966 when Miami entered the league. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 55-53 which includes 3 games in the postseason, where the Patriots lead 2-1. This series has been dominated by the home team. Miami is 38-17 at home while the Patriots are 35-17 in Foxboro. 

The teams split the series last season. In Week 2 in Miami, the Patriots shut them out 43-0, which happened to be the only game that Antonio Brown suited up for the Patriots this season.  

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game shined for the second week in a row, and against a much tougher defense in Buffalo running for 143 yards. Sony Michel had the most productive game of his own going for 96 yards on 21 carries. Rex Burkhead scored the game-winning touchdown, breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone.

Miami’s run defense is not good this season. The Dolphins have had equal difficulties stopping the run or the pass. Currently, the Dolphins are 27th against the run, allowing 135.4 yards per game. 

Look for the Patriots to continue to accentuate the run with Michel this week. The Dolphins linebackers have been hit hard by injury this year. Michel and Burkhead should both see a lot of work in this game. With the offensive line play improving, the Patriots should be able to dictate the pace here and open up play-action passing.          

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

The Patriots passing game looked better than they have in months against the Bills. Tom Brady completed nearly 80 percent of his passes and threw for 271 yards. He spread the ball around to nine different players. WIth better pass protection, he looked laser-sharp and just what they need heading into the playoffs.

Miami’s pass defense is 28th in the league this season, allowing over 265 yards per game. They’re missing their best corner, Xavien Howard and have a former Patriots (Jomal Wiltz, Eric Rowe) and a rookie Nik Needham in the secondary. Miami has only generated 22 sacks this season.

Look for Brady to have another solid game and continue to spread the ball around. Julian Edelman is banged up but will no doubt play. Mohamad Sanu has been disappointing but has made noise this week that says he’s feeling better and is ready to be more of a factor. James White and Burkhead out of the backfield should both factor in the passing game. 

Next up the Dolphins offense:

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

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have continued to trend upward and they both have been playing excellent football this season. The linebackers are very good at shooting the gaps and stuffing the opponent’s running game, and putting them in must-pass situations. 

Miami’s running game is dead last in the NFL averaging just 72.9 yards per game. The leading rusher for the Dolphins is their journeyman 37-year old QB Fitzpatrick. Nuff said.

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

The Miami passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a fairly good bright spot this year. As always, Fitzpatrick can get hot and absolutely tear up opposing defenses. But just as fast he can begin turning the ball over as well. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns but 13 interceptions as well. 

Turnovers are what hurts the offense. Fitzpatrick has good weapons to work with DeVante Parker is having an excellent year with 64 catches, 1065 yards, and 9 TDs. Tight end Mike Gesicki has 47 catches and is improving every week. Alan Hurns and Albert Wilson round out the receiver core. 

Stephon Gilmore should be matched up with Parker and that battle should be a good one to watch. I’m looking for the Patriots to get after Fitzpatrick, Miami has allowed 56 sacks this season to force him into being the latter of the two scenarios this week. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams give them a whitewash of the key matchups this week. The coverage units have been outstanding and they’ve blocked four punts this season. Jake Bailey is having a terrific rookie season and Nick Folk has solidified the kicking with extra points and field goals. 

Miami has Jason Sanders who has done a good job in the kicking department. Matt Hauck is the punter. Their return game should be held in check this week. Look for the Patriots to go after another punt this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed excellent success against Miami at home (In Miami is another story) and are looking to continue that trend. Bill Belichick has stated that last week and this week are essentially playoff games. They need this win to get a playoff bye. Miami has played hard all season for Brian Flores but they’re playing only for pride …and jobs next season.  

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Keep the Running Game Going – The Patriots will attempt to run the ball against a Dolphins defense that has struggled to stop it all season long. The offensive line has played much better the past two weeks and will be looking to make that trend continue. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White should all see some snaps in the running game. Also, look for N’Keal Harry to get another shot at a Jet Sweep this week. 

Brady to Spread the Ball Around – With the running game gaining momentum, this opens up play-action passing and look for them to work the middle of the field as well as the perimeters this week. Last week Brady used nine receivers in the passing game and it kept a very good Bills defense off-balance. Look for him to get everyone involved again and spread the wealth. 

Get After Fitzy And Force Some Turnovers – The defense didn’t get any turnovers against the Bills, but as we stated above, that is the big problem with Miami’s offense. On the season the Dolphins are -12 in the turnover department while the Patriots are +25. If the pass rush can get home, they can force Fitzpatrick into making a few errant throws that have been the bane of his career. 

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This is a game the Patriots should win easily. They are playing for a bye week while Miami is just playing out the string. While Flores has had the Dolphins playing hard for him all season, a fast start by the Patriots should put them in good position. I look for Brady and the offense to have another big day as New England ends up 13-3 in 2019.  Patriots 31-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour gets a week off as the Patriots get a bye week and watch the Wild Card Round resting up before a home game for the Divisional Game.

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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.  

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“The East is Not Enough” – Patriots Hold Off Bills 24-17

Steve Balestrieri
December 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm ET

Do you want a playoff atmosphere? You had it in spades today. The Patriots and Bills had a tremendous game with back and forth action and clutch plays by each team. But in the end, the Patriots made a few more plays than Buffalo did and scored 11 unanswered 4th quarter points for a come-from-behind 24-17 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

This win gives the Patriots an unprecedented 11th straight division crown. And a win next week assures them of no worse than the #2 seed and a bye in the playoffs. But it wasn’t easy or always pretty. But this is a mentally tough team and they never quit. 

Down 17-13 in the 4th quarter, they relied on Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Rex Burkhead who must love the cold weather because the past two seasons, he’s turned it up a notch in big games. Today was no exception. Down 17-16, Burkhead had a tremendous effort, breaking a tackle by Lorenzo Alexander in the backfield and keeping his feet and powered into the endzone with 5:06 remaining in the game and giving the Patriots the lead. They capped it off with a two-point conversion from Brady to Edelman to make it 24-17.

Edelman was out for a while, getting checked for a concussion. It happened on a play where Edelman got flagged for offensive pass interference that wiped out a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Ben Watson. We’re not going to get into the call or another on Watson that wiped out a huge first down by James White…

But after an impressive Bills drive got them with a first and goal with just under two minutes to go, the defense stiffened and made some huge stops when they had to. So, when the Patriots got into the locker room they had their hats and t-shirts for the division title, their 11th in a row. The message on the shirt, “The East is Not Enough”, and rightfully so. If they play like this, they can beat anyone. 

As we’ve been saying all year, this Buffalo team is tough, with a legit defense and they aren’t going away. They’ll be a tough out during the postseason. 

Some of our observations include:

The Patriots offense rolled up over 400 yards of offense against an outstanding defense of the Bills. And they had the balance they always seek with 271 yards through the air and 143 tough yards on the ground. While they struggled in the red zone again, this kind of offensive output has to be a sight for sore eyes. 

Tom Brady had his best game in quite a while. He looked spot on today and delivered the ball extremely well. Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a QB rating of 111. Maybe that sand in the hourglass isn’t quite ready to run out just yet? Hmm?

Burkhead, as we mentioned above, had a heckuva game, he carried the ball 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown and had 4 catches for 77 yards, shaking off an early fumble on the Patriots first possession. We pointed out in our keys that the way to beating the Bills defense was to get the running backs involved in the passing game. So with that…

Josh McDaniels gets a game ball. He called a tremendous game and they kept the Bills defense guessing all game long and they kept the tempo and pace in their own favor. McDaniels has had to be very creative with the offense struggling and he definitely was again today. 

Brian Daboll was equally creative for Buffalo. From the tackle eligible touchdown pass play to others, he was able to keep the Bills right on top through the 3rd quarter. This offense is going to get it together…it is easy to see it coming. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing for 96 yards on 21 carries with a 4.9-yard average. He frequently was making yardage after contact and kept his legs moving. 

The offensive line was outstanding, getting off the ball to rush for 143 yards on a very tough Bills defense and doing a much, much better job in pass protection allowing Brady to throw from a clean pocket for most of the game. 

The Patriots defense played tough when they had to, holding Josh Allen to just 176 yards net passing but gave up two big plays, a 33-yard strike from Allen to Dawson Knox just before the half, and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Allen to John Brown. 

Brown beat Stephon Gilmore with a double move but he passed him off inside to Devin McCourty. McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and under heavy pressure, Allen delivered another strike. Brown scored easily. 

Cole Beasley had another big day, catching 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot. Beasley has a habit of finding the open spots in the coverage and delivering. He’s a tough matchup and going back to the spring, I for one was hoping the Patriots would show some interest in picking him up. 

Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goal attempts including a 51-yarder that went right down the middle. It is nice to see the Patriots kicking game getting some traction. 

The defense did a great job of limiting Devin Singletary today. He averaged only 3.1 yards per rushing attempt (15 attempts, 46 yards) and just one catch for 2 yards. Meanwhile, Burkhead, White, and Michel combined for 9 catches, 106 yards. 

So the Patriots won their 12th game this season, the 12th time they’ve done so since the 1970 merger. They are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers with the most 12 win seasons since the merger. 

And the good news is, they are beginning to look playoff ready. With a win over Miami next Sunday in Foxboro, they’ll be 13-3 and getting that all-important bye week off to allow some of their banged-up players to get some much-needed rest. 

 

__________________

 

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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]

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Headlined By Stephon Gilmore, Three Patriots Selected To Pro Bowl

Robert Alvarez
December 18, 2019 at 2:50 pm ET

On Tuesday, three members of the New England Patriots were selected for the 2020 Pro Bowl.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebacker Donta Hightower and special teams captain Matthew Slater are the Patriots representatives on the AFC team.

Gilmore earns his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod after starting all 14 games at cornerback this season and is tied for the NFL lead with a career-high six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and 18 passes defensed. He has also registered 44 tackles and one fumble recovery. His career year has him in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.

For the first time since 2016, Dont’a Hightower adds his second Pro Bowl selection after logging 61 tackles, four sacks, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown through 14 games.

Lastly, special teams captain Matthew Slater was selected to his eighth career Pro Bowl, breaking a record set by Steve Tasker for most special teams Pro Bowl honors in NFL history.  Slater has led the Patriots in special teams tackles for six of his 11 seasons and has a team-leading 10 special teams tackles so far this season.

Following the news, a few other Patriots with Pro-Bowl worthy numbers voiced their reactions to being snubbed over Twitter.

Safety Terrence Brooks also voiced his thoughts on teammates he felt were deserving of a selection.

https://twitter.com/_Showtime29/status/1207122251239317505?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2F985thesportshub.com%2F2019%2F12%2F18%2Fpatriots-react-nfl-2019-pro-bowl-roster-snubs%2F

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sun., Jan. 26, 2020 at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.