In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots victory against the Colts. We ended the show by previewing the upcoming game against the Chiefs.
The Patriots were facing a short week and a familiar nemesis or perhaps that is a harsh term, foe may be a better description. Other than the ones who began the entire Deflategate fiasco with the league, the Patriots have owned the Colts for the previous seven games winning by an average of about 20 points.
Thursday night began much the same way, the Pats were up by 21 at the half and it looked like they may hang a 50 burger on a very shorthanded Colts team. And by all accounts, they should have. But sloppy ball control in the second half cost them and due to the outstanding effort of Andrew Luck, the Colts narrowed the score to 24-17 and it was a game.
The Patriots quickly responded and put two more scores up to put it back up by 21 before Luck led a late drive to make it seem respectable at 38-24. This was Thursday Night Football in a microcosm. Dropped passes on both sides, five turnovers, players getting hurt. Not to mention those god-awful all blue monstrosities that pass for uniforms. Hell Indianapolis couldn’t even field an entire 46-man team last night. But hey Commish, tell us again how the players’ safety is #1 in your book.
So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win.
Tom Brady was totally in control last night and was meticulously picking the Colts zone defense apart from start to finish. He started the first drive of the game by going 9-9 and throwing a touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Of his first 13 passes, the only incompletion was a drop by Julian Edelman.
He did miss a few throws to Josh Gordon, but we chalk those up to be still working on their chemistry and timing together. But last night one got the feeling that the Colts defense wasn’t going to stop them, and it was correct. He threw for 341 yards and three TDs while completing 34-44, and it could have been even more.
His two picks were not only preventable but right in the hands of his receivers, one of which looked more fumble than interception…but whatever. Brady passed two big milestones becoming the 3rd member of the 500 TD club and the only one to do it with one team. He also set a new record by passing a TD to 71 different receivers, more than anyone else.
Running Backs: A-
The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel just missed a second 100-yard outing getting 98 yards on 18 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run was stuff we saw from him in college. In the past five days, Michel has gained 223 yards on the ground. And he’s getting better every day.
James White was a guy we highlighted to have a big game and we were spot on there. White caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and is so valuable in the Patriots passing game.
Michel needs to get better, and will, in the short-yardage running game, but that isn’t really his strength. James Develin continues to amaze as a blocker in the running game.
Wide Receivers: B
The wide receivers are now finally all in place, and you know what, you can stop lining up at the Tobin because “Bill doesn’t give Tawmmy enuff weaponz”. This group looked very dangerous and they’re just scratching the surface of their potential.
Julian Edelman is back and answered the questions as to whether he’d still have the quickness that we’re accustomed to seeing. He made his mark on the game right off the bat, catching three passes on the opening drive.
Gordon is still learning the offense and was only targeted a few times but had two big catches including the highlight reel 34-yard touchdown pass from Brady. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Patterson are now the complementary guys and as such their production was just fine, 8 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown. Hogan had the one brutal drop for a pick.
Tight Ends: B
Rob Gronkowski was obviously hobbled and in pain last night, one could see him limping several times after the play. But Brady and offense didn’t go thru Gronk and his numbers were OK, 6 catches for 75 yards. On the dropped/interception/ fumble, which we thought was a fumble, had it stood up he would have ended with 7-90, and yes we would gladly take that on a bad ankle.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line was once again outstanding last night. The Colts entered the game with 17 sacks in the first four games and Brady’s pass protection was, for the vast majority of the game terrific. They had just 4 QB hits and 0 sacks.
Michel had room to run again and the boys up front did a fantastic job. Rewatch Brady’s 500th TD to Gordon, and he had an unreal amount of time to throw the football.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line did an okay job of stuffing the sputtering running game against the Colts. They had a big run at the end of the first half and some yards late in the game, but overall, it was good enough to force Luck to have to pass 60 times.
The team only had one sack, a nice play by Trey Flowers in the first quarter. Adam Butler made a nice play of recognizing a screen pass and stuffing it for a loss. Adrian Clayborn had his best game of the season and was getting a lot of pressure on Luck. His pressure caused the Chung interception.
This wasn’t the fantastic day they had on Sunday but it was good enough. The linebackers were tasked with covering the running backs and they did a decent job of it. Nyheim Hines led the Colts with 22 receptions and he made 7 last night but for just 45 yards, which while solid enough numbers, wasn’t what the Colts needed with an injury-depleted roster.
Hightower got beat by Eric Ebron on their final touchdown with a minute and a half to go when he bit hard on a run fake.
The secondary wasn’t quite as bad as some were pointing out last night. Luck put on a nice show and threw for 365 yards and was dropping some really nice throws that was belying the hot take that his arm strength was suspect.
He also threw 60 passes so he was averaging less than six yards per pass. His passer rating was around 84 so that wasn’t great either. Jason McCourty had another strong game and is quickly becoming a very solid as the second corner. Stephon Gilmore was solid all game long, he was burned on one deep route but the receiver dropped the ball.
Jonathan Jones had a rough night and Luck was picking on him. Luck’s best target was TE Eric Ebron who gave Devin McCourty fits. Pat Chung also shared coverage responsibilities with Ebron. The two safeties got low marks for that, however, Chung was making plays all over the field and had 11 tackles, an interception, and a QB hit. McCourty forced a turnover too, so again, it wasn’t as bad as Twitter would have you believe.
Special Teams: B
Stephen Gostkowski was 5-5 on extra points and nailed his only field goal attempt. Ryan Allen averaged 48.3 yards per punt but did outkick his coverage on one and it allowed the Colts to return it 32 yards. Julian Edelman was returning punts and looked very good. The Colts weren’t allowing Patterson to return any kickoffs and boomed them away.
Faced with a short week, was there any doubt which team was the most prepared to go on Thursday Night Football? Bill Belichick had the team ready to go and they had a good gameplan and the offense looked like a house on fire racing out to a 24-3 halftime lead.
After Luck and the Colts narrowed it down the one score early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots put them away with two big scoring drives.
Is the rivalry back on? For the first half of tonight’s game, it certainly didn’t seem so as the Patriots throttled the Colts to a 24-3 advantage at the break. But the team played a very sloppy third quarter and the Colts narrowed the lead down to a single score before the Patriots behind a strong game from Tom Brady pulled away to win 38-24 in front of a packed house in Gillette Stadium.
The Colts, however, were equally as sloppy and the game was mired with five turnovers and after being treated to several good Thursday Night Football contests, fans were given more of what we’ve come to expect from these mid-week games.
Julian Edelman returned to his first game action since the Super Bowl against the Falcons and didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Patriots made sure he was immediately targeted on the first play from scrimmage. Edelman had three catches on the first drive where Brady went 9-9 and finished it off with a TD pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.
Edelman finished the game with seven receptions for 57 yards and was back returning punts as well. On the Patriots second drive, as they were again moving, Brady hit him wide open down the sideline and he dropped it. It was a scenario that would return…for both teams.
Brady had a record-setting night and broke two milestones with just one pass. In the fourth quarter after the Colts had pulled within seven at 24-17, Brady led the Pats on a very nice drive and at the Colts 34, with seemingly all night to throw, he aired it out to Josh Gordon for a 34-yard touchdown. It was both the 500th of Brady’s career making him just the 3rd player to do so, but it also broke another record. Gordon’s TD reception made him the 71st player to catch a TD from Brady, breaking the record he shared with Vinny Testaverde. He finished 34-44 for 341 yards with three TDs and 2 INTs.
The Colts were a banged up team on Thursday and couldn’t even field a full team of 46 active players, they could only dress 44. Please remind us NFL about how important player safety is again. And while the Colts defense is much better, and yes they were missing several players, the Patriots could have easily, should have easily dropped 50 on them.
The Edelman drop certainly cost them points and Brady’s two interceptions were both in the hands of Patriots receivers who dropped them. Chris Hogan had a Brady pass right in his hands at the 23-yard line and into Mathias Farley’s hands ending another scoring drive. On the ensuing drive, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski down the seam that would have given the Pats a 1st and goal at the five. Instead, the ball was ripped out, (seemed more like a fumble) and Najeh Goode returned it to the 20.
However, also on the plus side was the solid game by Sony Miche who racked up 98 more yards on 18 carries and he’s getting better and better. His 34-yard touchdown was a nice one where he got free on good blocking and then burst down the sideline untouched for the score.
Andrew Luck seems all the way back from his injury and his arm strength which some were questioning before the game, seems fine, thank you very much. He dropped some dimes all over the field and lasered a few passes into tight window coverage as well. Luck finished with 365 yards passing with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, but after throwing 62 passes on Sunday, he threw 59 more last night and they desperately need a running game or he’s going to get killed out there.
Eric Ebron had a huge game for the Colts and had his way all night long, despite being a bit gimpy himself at times. He finished with 9 catches for 105 yards and 2 TDs. Nyheim Hines had a solid game for Indy, he got 45 yards on the ground on 15 carries and added 45 more thru the air on seven catches.
The Patriots defense had a solid first half and was gashed pretty well by Luck in the final 30 minutes. The Colts short passing game kept the chains moving as Indy rolled up 439 yards of offense. These are some troubling developments and much will have to be cleaned up considering their next opponent. The defense has 10 days to prepare for Kansas City’s passing game, and they have a lot of work to do.
So who was up and down tonight?
Tom Brady – The Patriots QB was his normal, unflappable self against the Colts, and he seemed to be able to carve them up at will. The Colts were only able to stop the Patriots passing game on the drops/interceptions in the second half.
And to break two big milestones on one pass was pretty special. His touchdown pass to Gordon was reminiscent of a TD that he threw in 2007 to Randy Moss against Miami. That broke the record he shared with Testaverde. And it was also his 500th, making him just the third player (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning) to do so. Drew Brees is next on the list with 496. Brady as always gave the credit to his teammates.
“Things like that, milestones and so forth, there are so many people who contribute,” Brady said. “I just think of all the people who have really worked hard. A quarterback doesn’t throw them to himself. He needs people to catch, and block, and the defense to make plays, and coaches to coach. These are all great team awards. Pretty cool.”
Sony Michel/James White – The Patriots 1-2 punch at the running back position was huge again for the team. Michel gave them 98 yards on the ground, including the 34-yard touchdown and one catch for 12 yards. White, on the other hand, was a thorn in the side of Indy’s defense catching 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He just two carries 0 yards, but one of those was a key 3rd and 1 conversion on the Patriots first drive of the game.
The duo was fantastic and they each bring something to each element of the offense. Michel will eventually become a bigger factor in the passing game and we know White is able to contribute in the running game.
We wrote earlier this week that with Edelman back and teaming him with Gronk and Josh Gordon would open up some room for White underneath. Tonight’s game was a testament to that.
Jason McCourty – The Patriots cornerback has continued his strong play this season and he was very solid again tonight. He made two excellent plays, back-to-back breaking up passes including one in the end zone to Zack Pascal.
J-Mac also had a nice play where he knocked the ball out from Pascal again and Jonathan Jones intercepted it to seal the game. The very next play, Michel rolled in from 34 yards to put the Pats back up by 21.
Considering the way, the summer started, it looked like J-Mac was on the bubble. Now, that thought seems a bit ludicrous.
Devin McCourty/Pat Chung – The Pats safety had an up and down night, he made a couple of big plays that helped turn the ball over to the Pats. He broke up a pass intended for Hines on a key third down stop and stripped the ball from Jordan Wilkins after a short gain and took the sting out of the Hogan drop/pick
And yes, he was given fits all night by Ebron who had the biggest game of his career and was constantly in trail. But the touchdown that Ebron scored against him was scheme driven. He was playing inside leverage and Ebron broke outside….oops. Great play call by Indy.
However, it wasn’t D-Mac’s greatest game but it wasn’t the worst as some fans would think. Chung struggled to contain Ebron as well. Tip your hat to him and get back to work on the KC gameplan I guess. Chung otherwise was strong with 11 tackles, a pick, and a QB hit.
Jonathan Jones- The Pats nickel corner had a pretty rough night. He seemed a tad slow off the snap all night long and was getting beat consistently and was resorting to a lot of grabby work which can result in a flag fest. Something that was mentioned in the broadcast.
The Colts picked on him pretty consistently all night. We’ll have to rewatch the tape later today but it didn’t look like Jones’ best night either. But as with McCourty, Jones did get the pick on the interception.
“The Rivalry is Back!” TNF
The New England Patriots played a much better game than we’ve seen all season last week at home against Miami. The Pats dominated the Dolphins at the line of scrimmage on both the offensive and defensive sides, cruising to a 38-7 blowout.
The defense seemed to play much more physical and they stuffed the running game as well as covered in the secondary much better than they have in quite some time. The offense seemed to get untracked with the running game pounding the Dolphins for 175 yards while the passing game seemed to finally get untracked.
The Colts enter the game 1-3 but could easily be 3-1. They lost an overtime game last week against division rival Houston when head coach Frank Reich went for a 4th and 6 at midfield with time running out in the OT session and they were stopped.
Indy is really banged up right now with several players out for tonight’s game including leading receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle and starting corner Kenny Moore. The team played over 80 snaps on each side of the ball on Sunday and with the travel factored in, fatigue may become a factor in the second half.
The Patriots have a chance to put two wins together and move over the .500 mark and start building some momentum. They’d love to get a win and then have 10 days to prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs.
So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:
The Patriots got back Edelman from his four-game suspension on Monday and immediately the other players were talking about the energy that he brings to the field, the locker room and how it has a carry-over effect to the other players.
But the reality is, despite Edelman appearing like his normal self all through training camp, he is coming off of ACL surgery where he missed all of the 2017 season. By Edelman’s own admission, he didn’t have his legs under him yet this summer, perhaps this month will have helped him get the rust out and have him ready to go.
It will be interesting to see how the coaches and Brady use him tonight. I’d expect that they will go to him very early to get the jitters over with but limit his snaps a bit until he gets some game action under his belt.
But with having him back and the addition of Josh Gordon last week, it has a snowball effect on the other Patriots receivers. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are more complementary WRs than a 1-2 combination, so now with Edelman and Gordon, drawing the top corners of the opposition, they’ll draw lesser competition and their production should increase.
The Patriots very versatile and very important cog in the defense will be looked to a great deal tonight. Chung is so versatile and can do so many things, he often is overlooked at how valuable his presence is. He can play in the box in run support and is a very sure tackler. He can cover tight ends and is usually very solid in doing so. And at times he can even cover in the slot.
Tonight with Andrew Luck missing a couple of his key weapons, look for him to try to get Eric Ebron heavily involved in the offense. Chung will no doubt see a lot of action against Ebron and it should be an intriguing matchup to watch.
It was no coincidence that the turnaround for the defense had something to do with the return of Chung and Trey Flowers last week after they missed the Detroit game. The fact that he’s a captain this year speaks volumes of how not only the coaches but his teammates view him. He’s always a big part of the defensive game plan but should be an even bigger piece this week.
The Patriots pass-catching running back had a big game on Sunday against the Dolphins. This was probably not a coincidence after Tom Brady had said the week before that they needed to get him more involved in the offense. White had a 22-yard touchdown and a highlight reel touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
White is so versatile in the Patriots offense, he can run, pass block and is a terrific receiver out of the backfield. Brady will often put him in motion to get pre-snap reads of the defense and then try to create a mismatch with a linebacker.
With a Colts pass rush that is getting a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, White may be an answer for some of that tonight. One way of keeping defenses from constantly pinning their ears back is to use the screen game and White is outstanding in that aspect. He should see a lot of touches in the game tonight.
Last week, it seemed like the Patriots passing game was finally starting to click. Despite that, QB Tom Brady made some uncharacteristic mistakes and threw a couple of interceptions. Brady holds himself to a ridiculously high standard and will be looking to cut down on those this week against the Colts.
Indianapolis has been outstanding at rushing the passer this season and has 17 sacks in just four games this season. So Brady will have to be spot on and be ready to get the ball out quickly this week.
After struggling badly thru the first three games of the season in the air, the addition of Josh Gordon seemed to help loosen up the coverage for the other WRs. Now Brady gets back not only his most productive receiver but his slot guy, an area that they’ve really struggled with in his absence. And also the player that Brady is closest to on the team. Edelman’s return should do wonders for Brady’s confidence.
Kyle Van Noy:
The Patriots linebacker had a very solid game on Sunday playing a part in keeping the dangerous Kenyan Drake from becoming a key part of the opposing offense. Van Noy is another one of the more unsung Patriots defensive members and he’s versatile and can do a lot in stopping the run, rushing the passer and covering backs out of the backfield.
The Patriots lost Ja’Whaun Bentley in Detroit and their depth took another hit when Elandon Roberts was banged up late in the game on Sunday. Which means that more will be expected of Van Noy and Hightower. The Colts are also missing some key members of their offense this week, so they may lean heavily on running back Nyheim Hines.
Hines leads all Indy receivers with 22 catches and is tied for second on the team with two TD receptions. He will be a key player to watch on the Indy side, therefore, stopping him and Ebron become very important. The Colts are converting third downs this season at a ridiculous 51.6 percent thru the quarter mark of the season. Part of the reason is the play of Hines, Van Noy may see a lot of action covering him tonight.
The New England Patriots host a Thursday Night Football game for the first time this season against the Indianapolis Colts. It is an important game for both teams as the Patriots are trying to stay on the winning track after dropping two in a row. The Colts are trying to get back on the winning track after dropping two close games to the Eagles and Texans.
This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 4 at 8:20 PM ET and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink 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 (2-2) defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-7 to even their record at .500. The Patriots dominated on both sides of the ball, holding Ryan Tannehill to just 100 yards passing. Sony Michel had 112 yards rushing, Tom Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. James White had a touchdown rushing and receiving.
The Colts (1-3) dropped a heart-breaking 37-34 overtime loss to the Houston Texans. Andrew Luck threw for 464 yards and 4 TDs, completing 40 of 62 passes. Luck completed passes to eight different receivers and the Colts had five receivers with 50 yards or more.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.
The Patriots and the Colts are playing for the 81st time in a series dominated by the Patriots. New England holds a 51-29 overall lead in the all-time series lead including a 4-1 advantage in the postseason. At home, the Patriots hold an all-time 29-12 lead. They have won the last seven matchups and are 5-0 against Andrew Luck including two playoff victories.
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 Colts Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots running game showed some definite signs of life last week with the team racking up 175 yards against the Dolphins. Sony Michel led the way with 112 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. James White added 44 more including a 22-yard touchdown run. The coaches have made a concerted effort to remain balanced this year and this game with a short prep week, look for more of the same.
The Colts aren’t the team that the Patriots routinely gashed left and right a few years ago. They’re bigger and built much better to stop the run than those sieve-like teams. They have a good size front four with former Patriot Jabaal Sheard at one end and big Margus Hunt at the other with Al Woods and Denico Autry inside.
Look for the Patriots to continue to their balanced attack and keep mixing things up against the Colts defense. The defense played nearly a 5-quarter game on Sunday and was on the field for 83 snaps. That may begin to take a toll on the road team in the fourth quarter. Especially if the Patriots can get ahead early and keep the pressure on them.
Patriots WRs vs Colts Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game looked much better with the addition of Josh Gordon last week. This week they add Julian Edelman back into the mix. That is a good sign for New England. With Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan more complementary type of receivers, they will be placed in a much better position to succeed. With James White and Michel out of the backfield and Cordarelle Patterson as a small package type of player, all of a sudden, Brady has plenty of weapons to work with. The only question is whether Rob Gronkowski’s ankle will allow him to play.
The Colts are allowing about 268 yards per game thru the air. If Gronkowski is able to go this week, it will put them in a very difficult position to win many matchups. However, they did get seven sacks against Houston last week, two of which came from Autry inside. They’ll need that kind of push this week.
Look for Brady to test the Colts corners (Kenny Moore and Nate Hairston) with Gordon and Edelman. White is the X-Factor in the offense, as with his full complement of receivers this week, Brady may be able to find mismatches for his talented running back. Their linebackers are young and inexperienced but have been playing really well. If Gronkowski is available to play (I’d lean toward no right now), then his matchup will be the key one to watch.
Next up the Indianapolis offense:
Indy RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Colts haven’t replaced Frank Gore yet although two rookies (Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines) look to eventually have the team in good shape. The Colts are having trouble running the football this year, averaging just 72 yards per game.
The Patriots had been getting gashed via the run until last week’s game against the Dolphins. They did a much better job against Miami holding them to just 56 yards on the ground. However, in the pivotal first half, Miami had six carries for seven yards. Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton were much better last week as was the play of the linebackers.
Look for Luck to pass to run. They’d love to get their backs going and get in favorable positions in terms of downs and yardage, but the Patriots should be able to slow them down enough to force Luck and the Colts into having to throw the ball. Elandon Roberts, who had a big game on Sunday left early with an injury, we’ll see what his availability is this week.
Colts WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Indy passing game has been limited thus far to the no-huddle, up-tempo short yardage game as they’ve wanted to ease Luck back into things and not do too much right away. That has led some to believe that his arm strength is gone. While it probably isn’t where it was a few years ago, it will grow stronger as the season wears on.
Luck’s most dangerous weapon, T.Y. Hilton is injured with a hamstring problem right now and may not play this week. That would really limit the stretching of the field that the Colts enjoy with him. He’ll lean heavily on Hines, out of the backfield who is the team’s leading receiver with 22 catches and Ryan Grant along tight end Eric Ebron. Jack Doyle is also injured with a bad hip.
The Patriots played much better coverage last week, getting aggressive and physical with the wide receivers off the line. The cornerbacks easily had their best game of the year and if the Colts are minus their best WR it is a plus for NE. Look for the Patriots to get more aggressive and try to put more pressure on Luck this week to generate some extra pass rush. Newcomer John Simon may see some extra work against his former team this week.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push
The Patriots and Colts Special Teams both have very reliable kickers and punters. Adam Vinatieri was called the best kicker in NFL history by Bill Belichick this week, and unlike other times where he pumps the opponent’s tires, he isn’t stretching much there. The ageless Vinatieri is still money on FGs and EPs. The Colts have an excellent punter in Rigoberto Sanchez. The Patriots tandem of Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski are an excellent tandem of their own. Except for the year Gostkowski was injured, the Patriots have had only two kickers (Vinatieri or Gostkowski) for the past 23 years.
Both teams have solid coverage units. The Colts return game is stuck in neutral while the Patriots return men Cordarrelle Patterson and Cyrus Jones are just starting to show some life.
Next up, who wins and why…
Thursday Night Games are always difficult to get a good feel for. With a very short week to prepare, you never know what you’re going to get. The Patriots have always traditionally prepared well for the short-week Thursday night contests.
We’re going to stick with what has been working and that is the Patriots will continue their winning streak against the Colts, especially at home until they show that they can win one here.
You have to factor in the Colts defense played 83 snaps on Sunday afternoon and they could still have some residual effect from that overtime contest. Factor in they may be missing their best wide receiver in Hilton and it adds to balance sheet for New England.
Brady will have Julian Edelman back this week for the first real game since the Super Bowl against Atlanta, so expect that they’ll try to get him involved early, but then limit his usage until he gets his game legs under him. I’d look for Indy to line up Hairston their bigger corner on Gordon which should be a good matchup to watch.
The Patriots and Brady have had Luck and the Colts number at home for some time now. Look for that to continue this week to kick off Week 5. Patriots 34-17
In this episode, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots victory against the Dolphins. We then ended the show by previewing the upcoming game against the Colts.
The Indianapolis Colts may not have gotten their man with Josh McDaniels, but it appears they’ve been successful in poaching a New England coach to fill one of their coaching vacancies.
According to the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez, Patriots assistant special teams coach Ray “Bubba” Ventrone is heading to Indianapolis to coach the Colts’ special teams. It’s an interesting turn of events given that current special teams coach Joe Judge was initially going to handle that role had McDaniels accepted the head coaching job. Instead, McDaniels had a change of heart and remained in New England, with Judge opting to stay with the Patriots after the offensive coordinator changed course.
Ventrone will join new head coach Frank Reich’s staff, with Indianapolis hiring the former Bills quarterback following McDaniels decision to walk away from the position.
Colts fans should definitely be happy about the move, as Ventrone is a smart coach, which hopefully means they’ll no longer have to worry about having to be subjected to plays like this:
The silver lining from the Patriots Super Bowl loss on Sunday night, while painful has a good…no a great bit of news. Josh McDaniels has spurned the Indianapolis Colts offer to be their next head coach and is staying in New England as the Offensive Coordinator.
McDaniels reportedly had dinner with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the deal was struck to keep him in place and then? The succession to the throne had to be addressed. Bill Belichick has made it clear that he wasn’t planning on coaching into his 70s and he wanted to establish his son’s coaching careers before moving on.
McDaniels had plenty of reasons to stay. And not the least of which is his family. His wife is from the area and his kids go to an exclusive private school in Walpole. His family has roots here and he doesn’t want to leave. His wife and kids most definitely don’t want to go to the mid-West. Never underestimate the family side of the equation.
Now McDaniels will remain and the Patriots get to keep not one but two coordinators. Joe Judge, the Special Teams coordinator was slated to go to Indianapolis with McDaniels and now he’ll more than likely remain as well.
And the bigger piece of the puzzle that no one is mentioning is Nick Caserio. He will remain after getting some feelers once again for GM positions in the offseason. Caserio will remain in his position as the Director of Player Personnel but he does much more. He’s the guy doing all the leg work for the draft, works with the players in practices and serves as the de facto GM. Which means when Bill Belichick decides to step down possibly in a year or two, the next coach and GM are already in place.
With all of the flak coming at Kraft and McDaniels since yesterday, one has to wonder, aren’t the same people who are complaining that there was no succession plan in place with Tom Brady, now giving the Patriots the business for addressing life after Belichick? Isn’t it the exact same thing?
What will the staff look like in 2018? McDaniels will remain as the Offensive Coordinator. Judge will remain as the STs coach. Chad O’Shea is put on hold as the OC in waiting, once McDaniels takes the reins. Greg Schiano’s name keeps coming up as the Defensive Coordinator, which may mean that Brian Flores is still getting consideration elsewhere.
I’d look for Stephen Belichick who has been the safeties coach to move this season to another position. Brian Belichick may be a positional coach this year as Bill tries to groom his sons for bigger and better things once he retires.
The offense now, won’t miss a beat. Brady and McDaniels have a long relationship and they have the mutual trust and respect to get the job done. There will have to be decisions made on several players who are free agents but this is a team when it has all of its weapons that is loaded.
McDaniels has grown from the coach who failed in Denver. He learned from his mistakes and has a much better feel for the game and his personnel than he did a few back. The young coach who was too stubborn to adjust in Super Bowl XLII ten years later faced an even better defense under Jim Schwartz and took them to the woodshed.
Now he, Belichick and Caserio have to find a young QB for them to groom to take over the reins for Brady when he too rides off into the sunset. The Patriots can be many things…boring is never one of them.
NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds were posted a day after the Week 15 games finished. Keep in mind these odds were listed prior to any of this week’s injury reports, as well as any of the Week 16 games. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away from being played. Early lines offer a short opportunity to get a jump on odds that could become less favorable after Sunday’s games.
Handicapping games in the final week of the regular season can be a tricky proposition. Motivation could be difficult for a team that has played for the goal of making the playoffs for months, and suddenly finds themselves eliminated. A bad team might play loose and try things they normally wouldn’t, catching an opponent off guard. Good teams locked into a specific playoff slot may opt to rest players who would have otherwise started. The line in the Eagles-Cowboys game reflects that concept.
In Week 16 ten road teams are favored to win. That number falls back to a more typical number in Week 17, with five home dogs. The Saints are the biggest road favorite, minus 8½ points at Tampa Bay. The largest spread of the week is in Foxboro, where the Patriots are favored by 16 versus the Jets. That game is one of four double-digit spreads. The narrowest odds are with Houston as a one-point underdog at Indianapolis.
The most important games of Week 17 loom to be Carolina at Atlanta (-3½) in the NFC, and Jacksonville (-3½) at Tennessee in the AFC.
All games will be played on Sunday, December 31. There are no night games.
NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on CBS
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-16)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3½) at Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-15)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-11)
Buffalo Bills (-2½) at Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1)
NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on Fox
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3½)
New Orleans Saints (-8½) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-12)
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-9)
Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants
NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Late Games
Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7), CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7), Fox
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-2½), CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-7), Fox
NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread
Week 16 is unique, with neither Thursday nor Sunday night football – but with two games on Monday. Five teams have clinched a playoff spot and 14 others are still in contention for the post-season. There are plenty of intriguing games worth watching this weekend and next before the playoffs commence. The theory of home field advantage will be put to a test during these three days. Road teams are favored in ten of the sixteen games this week.
There is another oddity about this week’s schedule. Of the four games between teams with winning records, none are on in primetime – and three are broadcast in the early time slot. Fox has always had an affinity for NFC East teams due to their large market sizes. But if the network is not going to make the best game of the week (Falcons at Saints) their showcase game, then give it up to be flexed to Saturday night. Net result is that the two best games (NO-Atl and Patriots-Bills) are on at the same time. Those two back-to-back would have made for superior programming.
To see what games are being broadcast in your area, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.
3-11 Indianapolis Colts at 8-6 Baltimore Ravens
4:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NFLN; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Ravens favored by 13½; over/under 41 points; money line -1000, +675
Baltimore has averaged 31 points over their last five games, in large part to an NFL-best plus-17 turnover differential. The Raven defense ranks 4th with 18.3 points per game and has a league best 33 takeaways. I don’t see how the Indy offense (16.1 ppg, 31st) can keep this game close.
Pick: Ravens 31, Colts 13
Ravens -13½, over 41
11-3 Minnesota Vikings at 7-7 Green Bay Packers
8:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Vikings favored by 9; over/under 41 points; money line -430, +340
The Vikings are playing for at minimum a first round bye, while Green Bay is eliminated. Minnesota’s defense will dominate a team that may be giving second stringers playing time with an eye on 2018.
Pick: Vikings 27, Packers 13
Vikings -9, under 41
11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-10 Houston Texans
4:30 pm ET, Monday 12/25 on NBC/NFLN; Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner
Steelers favored by 9½; over/under 45 points; money line -450, +350
I’m interested to see if Pittsburgh comes out with their hair on fire after last week’s last second loss. Or will the Steelers play down to their opponent’s level, as they often do. Pittsburgh is notorious for not playing well on the road either, and no Antonio Brown does not help matters. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pittsburgh comes out flat, but Houston has lost too many key players over the course of their season.
Pick: Steelers 24, Texans 20
Texans +9½, under 45
6-8 Oakland Raiders at 12-2 Philadelphia Eagles
8:30 pm ET Monday 12/25 on ESPN; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
Eagles favored by 9; over/under 47½ points; money line -400, +330
Oakland is all but mathematically eliminated, and traveling cross country for a meaningless game. Philly wants to clinch the number one seed in the NFC and Nick Foles (4 TDs last week) showed the 31.3 ppg offense is still in capable hands. The Eagle defense should be able to handle Oakland and control this game.
Pick: Eagles 34, Raiders 17
Eagles -9, over 47½
Early CBS Games
8-6 Buffalo Bills at 11-3 New England Patriots
Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Patriots favored by 12; over/under 47½ points; money line -750, +525
This should be a great game, as both teams have plenty to play for. The Patriots need two wins to insure home field throughout the playoffs. Buffalo needs a victory (and help) to make the playoffs. To add to the drama this is a revenge game for the Bills after the hit three weeks ago that resulted in Rob Gronkowski’s suspension. Sean McDermott came up with a great defensive game plan for Buffalo in the last meeting; it will be interesting to see what he has in store Sunday.
Pick: Patriots 27, Bills 20
Bills +12, under 47½
7-7 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-9 New York Jets
Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Chargers favored by 7; over/under 42½ points; money line -300, +250
After a surprisingly good start, the Jets are 2-7 in their last nine games. As the season has progressed their lack of quality depth has become apparent. The Chargers are in a must-win spot here; the Jets can go back to their original plan of tanking the 2017 season.
Pick: Chargers 27, Jets 17
Chargers -7, over 42½
6-8 Miami Dolphins at 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs
Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Chiefs favored by 10½; over/under 43½ points; money line -550, +425
Dolphins on the road outdoors in cold weather equals a Miami loss. Kansas City has finally righted their mid-season swoon with home victories over the Raiders and Chargers. Make it three in a row for the Chiefs.
Pick: Chiefs 27, Dolphins 14
Chiefs -10½, under 43½
5-9 Denver Broncos at 6-8 Washington Redskins
Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Redskins favored by 3½; over/under 40½ points; money line -180, +160
Washington is again in a difficult position due to injuries on their offensive line. Denver has finally got it together the last couple of weeks, just in time to win enough games to miss out on a top-5 draft pick.
Pick: Broncos 20, Redskins 17
Broncos +3½, under 40½
0-14 Cleveland Browns at 4-10 Chicago Bears
Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein
Bears favored by 6½; over/under 38 points; money line -280, +240
Chicago has played well at home this year, beating the Steelers and Panthers. Their home losses have all been close (an average of 5 points), and mostly to good teams (Falcons, Vikings, Packers). Cleveland’s 0-16 parade plans remain intact.
Pick: Bears 24, Browns 13
Bears -6½, under 38
Early Games on Fox
9-5 Atlanta Falcons at 10-4 New Orleans Saints
Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Saints favored by 5½; over/under 52½ points; money line -240, +200
Set your DVR so you can record and watch this game after the Patriots-Bills ends. Two weeks ago the Falcons beat the Saints 20-17 in Atlanta. It is really difficult to sweep a good division rival. The Falcons should be able to keep it close, especially now that RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) has been cleared to play.
Pick: Saints 27, Falcons 24
Falcons +5½, under 51½
10-4 Los Angeles Rams at 8-6 Tennessee Titans
Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Rams favored by 6½; over/under 47½ points; money line -290, +240
On one hand you have a west coast team having to travel 2000 miles and play a game three hours earlier than usual. On the other hand the Rams are a far superior team than the Titans. LA is back in sync now that Robert Woods is back on the playing field.
Pick: Rams 24, Titans 20
Titans +6½, under 47½
8-6 Detroit Lions at 5-9 Cincinnati Bengals
Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Lions favored by 4; over/under 44 points; money line -210, +180
This will be the final home game for Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis. Maybe he and Jeff Fisher can form a speaking tour and teach people how to retain a job much longer than they deserve.
Pick: Lions 24, Bengals 17
Lions -4, under 44
4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 10-4 Carolina Panthers
Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber
Panthers favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -475, +375
Can somebody please explain to me why Carolina LB Thomas Davis was originally suspended for two games, rather than one? I think Roger Goodell uses one of those magic eight-balls from the sixties when deciding his punishments.
Pick: Panthers 34, Bucs 17
Panthers -10, over 46½
10-4 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-10 San Francisco 49ers
Andrew Catalon, James Lofton (CBS)
Jaguars favored by 4; over/under 42 points; money line -210, +175
When Jimmy Garoppolo was traded, Pats fans wished him well. Now Patriot Nation is full of hand wringing seller’s remorse. The Niners have won three in a row since inserting Jimmy G as their starting quarterback, after a 1-10 start. Jacksonville could be in for a battle on the road here, especially if the Jags have to count on Blake Bortles at critical junctures.
Jaguars 23, Forty Niners 20
Niners +4, over 42
8-6 Seattle Seahawks at 8-6 Dallas Cowboys
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman (Fox)
Cowboys favored by 5; over/under 47½ points; money line -240, +200
Dallas has won three straight and have RB Ezekiel Elliott for this game. His presence completely changes the Cowboy offense. Seattle’s defense is just a shell of its former self to injuries. Is it time to replace Pete Carroll?
Pick: Cowboys 27, Seahawks 17
Cowboys +5, under 47½
2-12 New York Giants at 6-8 Arizona Cardinals
Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth (Fox)
Cardinals favored by 3½; over/under 40 points; money line -185, +165
Ho hum, a battle of two under achieving teams. Giants are the bigger mess right now and on the road.
Pick: Cardinals 24, Giants 13
Cardinals +3½, under 40