Tag Archives: Josh McCown

New England Patriots News 6-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 23, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-23 and AFC East notes this week.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick – and his long-time girlfriend Linda Holliday took advantage of the downtime before training camp and vacationed on one of the islands of Greece. Ms.Holiday posted some pics on her Instagram account.

Kenjon Barner – a reserve running back had three different stints with the Patriots last season before being released by the team for good in November. So, Barner was surprised when a note from Robert Kraft arrived with his Super Bowl ring.

Barner was shocked, and on his Instagram account posted this: “Just want to send out a huge thank you to everyone at the Patriots organization again for the opportunity that was given!” Barner wrote on Instagram. “Wasn’t expecting this when I got the call and still wasn’t expecting it when the ring was in my hands! Thank you, thank you, thank you, God is good!” #BacktoBack #2X

Tom Brady – and Josh Gordon took the social media pages by storm last week when the two were photographed tossing a football around at Brady’s home. With Gordon still suspended by the league, this led many to question if this was allowable under the league rules…More on these two will follow below.

Brady was also #1 in NFL royalty cash as his NFL merchandise was the top seller across the league. Not bad for a soon-to-be 42-year old “dink and dunk” QB.

Eagles – will open only one training camp practice to the public this season. They’ve been trending down the past few years and this summer will only allow fans in to see one session. Personally, I see that as a bad move. When the two teams met at Gillette for joint practices a few years ago, the place was packed and thousands of Eagles fans made the trip up for those. With the NFL pricing itself out of the range for many fans, training camp is the only time many of the fans get to see their teams up close and in person.

Bills-Patriots – Game in Buffalo this year will be the scene of a wedding. The Bills are going to host a wedding for a couple of their fans to take place at halftime when the Pats visit. That is a good move and will be a memorable way for a pair of Bills’ fans to tie the knot.

Caserio Story Takes On a Life of its Own:

The on-going saga of whether or not Nick Caserio, the Patriots Director of Player Personnel, would leave this season, seems to be over. The Houston Texans have been courting Caserio to take their GM position for some time now. But the story refuses to die and in fact has grown more legs.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote a piece titled, “The Real Story in the Patriots-Texans Clash, Nick Caserio Wants Out” which spelled out the reasons Volin believed everything pointed to Caserio wanting out of New England.

As is typical for this and most stories today, a ton of people, fans and media began to comment on the story without ever reading it. Nowhere in it did Volin quote Caserio, his agent or any sources close to Caserio or the situation. He wrote it and came to his conclusions by going over the facts as he knew them and made his own analysis.

Part of the confusion was in Volin himself. His lede for the story didn’t sound like an opinion piece but rather a statement of fact. When Volin went on Houston radio the next day, he stated that it was his opinion and not a report. A firestorm erupted on social media and Volin, who is a favorite target for Patriots’ fans wrath, was being roasted.

This caused him to do a 180 and appear on WEEI on Wednesday and reverse course, stating that his piece wasn’t an opinion but in fact a report.

“Absolutely. I stand by everything that is written there. It’s all, I think, 100 percent true. Yes,” Volin said. “There’s no other way to interpret this story. The facts speak for themselves. And I know things on background. I know things about the relationship among the guys in the front office. I don’t think this will affect Nick Caserio’s job performance this year. I think he’s good at his job and doesn’t want to affect his reputation and things of that nature. But he looks around the league and he sees all these guys who are less accomplished than him getting general manager jobs, probably making more money than him. He’s been here 19 years, he’s restless. He wants to go be a general manager. And the Houston job, while I do think it’s a lateral move, is obviously a good setup for him.”

The bottom line is Volin is free to believe and write whatever he wants. No one knows more than he does, that whatever he does write will be faced with a healthy dose of skepticism by the fanbase.

But the question now is, “does Caserio truly want out?” Most people tend to believe that the answer is yes. Houston is going to carry on the 2019 season (at least for now), with no general manager, ostensibly waiting for Caserio’s contract to be over with New England in 2020.

One local radio host was so incensed at Volin’s remarks on a Houston talk show that he lambasted him for printing opinion but then decided that they would take it at face value as the “real truth” and openly called for the Patriots to trade Caserio’s rights to Houston.

And yet we still haven’t heard yet from Caserio, (the Patriots probably won’t make him available for a while) nor Caserio’s agent stating that his intent was to sign with Houston. Or that he was planning on remaining in New England. It is very surprising that neither Volin nor anyone else reached out to either the man or his agent while preparing their stories.

This much is for sure, this story, like the in-fighting supposedly between Belichick and Brady won’t die. And it will probably continue until we see either the Patriots to lock up Caserio long-term or he does indeed walk next year.

Touchdown in Israel Trip:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has taken several more players, this year all Patriots either current or former ones on another trip to Israel. It is a unique opportunity for the players who are religious or just lovers of history, maybe both to experience all that the Holy Land has to offer.

From someone who has been there (several times), it is a beautiful and magical place. The players visited all of the well-known sites, and for the 15 players and their wives, it will no doubt be an experience they won’t soon forget.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and players present a signed Patriots helmet to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel

On Thursday evening, Kraft was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem. It is known as the “Jewish Nobel” and was given to Kraft for his philanthropy and commitment to combatting anti-Semitism. Along with the award, Kraft was also awarded $1,000,000 which he further pledged to fight anti-semitism.

The players also got to see youth football up close at the fields that Kraft built in conjunction with the football officials in Israel.

Brady-Gordon Dynamic Is More About the People, Not the Players:

The pictures and a short video of Tom Brady and Josh Gordon tossing a football around last week in Brookline set social media afire for awhile. And then the story by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington which came out about the levels that Brady went to last year to help Gordon get acclimated and feel part of the team was, while intriguing, not unexpected.

The quick clip can be found here:

Darlington on the network’s NFL Live show spoke about the commitment by Brady to help Gordon not just on the field but off of it as well.

“He recognized that Josh Gordon made the team better and recognized that he was going to need some attention,” Darlington said. “Josh Gordon was going out to dinner with Tom Brady and Gisele at times because Tom recognized that he needs to bring this guy in, foster him, make him feel like he is at home, recognizing some of the issues that Josh Gordon goes through.”

“While that is, in part, a guy just trying to get better, it’s also Tom Brady being a really good person, continuing to try to help out and manifest Josh Gordon …Tom Brady, to this day, really respects Josh Gordon and would love to see him live a better life,” Darlington added.

Recently retired QB Josh McCown echoed similar thoughts on Gordon later this week.

“I like Josh, quiet, great… guys like him,” McCown said. “Guys like to be around him, fun guy to be around. Obviously, he’s had his battles. But obviously, when you get to know him… like you’re saying Tom gets to know him… you go, ‘This is a worthy investment.’ He’s a good guy. He just has a fight that he’s fighting. I think the league and New England, they’re trying to rally around to give him the right support.”

While Gordon remains suspended by the league and there is no timetable for his reinstatement, the Patriots offered Gordon a restricted free agent tender this spring and he remains a possibility for the team to add once again this season. If the league reinstates him and he serves any penalties that they hand down.

But what this week’s story really shows that despite the fact that the player being suspended and the very real possibility that he may not play at all in 2019, the Patriots …and Brady are investing in the person. Gordon’s long-term health and well-being outweigh everything else. And that is cause for optimism.

Simms’ Ignites Social Media Over Clickbait QB Piece:

We’d be remiss without mentioning Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms who penned his annual Top 40 QBs of the NFL. And Simms who’s made a habit out of dismissing Tom Brady out of his Top 5 NFL QBs, this year added to his annual Brady dismissal by dropping #12 all the way to #9 and with Drew Brees at #10.

And while fans went haywire, (shocked face), even Kurt Warner, a former rival, took exception to this latest drivel with “ Are u kidding me???”

Simms of course, rushed to Twitter to proclaim that this wasn’t clickbait….Um, “child please.”

So, in trying to track down all of the Simms past QB lists, I came across Mike Dussault’s column (aka @PatsPropaganda) who cataloged several of these. (Thanks Mike!)

  • November 2014: Tom Brady is not a Top-5 Quarterback
    “Tom Brady’s not in my top five. I mean, he’s still really good, but I like other guys better. I’d go Aaron Rodgers one, Andrew Luck two, Ben Roethlisberger three, Russell Wilson four and Peyton five.”

Simms went on Boston radio to explain and became the unintentionally funniest Tweet of 2014: “If Andrew Luck doesn’t throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, they can’t win a game. He doesn’t have Jonas Gray (emphasis mine) and the offensive line the New England Patriots do where they can run for 250 yards in a game. … I don’t think anybody bears the weight of the organization on their shoulders week in and week out more than Andrew Luck.”

  • March 2015: Brady shouldn’t have won the Super Bowl MVP

“I don’t think he should have won the MVP, either. That’s just the way I think about it. He had a really good game against a really good defense, but he threw like 35 five-yard passes the whole game. I think in my estimation, (Julian) Edelman should have been the MVP.”

  • 2015? Nope. Simms claimed that ever since his knee injury of 2008 his mechanics had changed and couldn’t throw deep…SMH
  • 2016? Nope. “To say that Tom Brady is still one of the five best quarterbacks at 39 years old is a little crazy.”And this…“I do think as a sports fan, communities, all of us, people have a hard time putting these fairy tale endings to bed. Mickey Mouse isn’t real.”

So, word of advice to PatsFans out there…Ignore the noise, every year when this comes out I get a chuckle out of it, when reading the reactions on social media. Clicking on it? Nope, Simms isn’t on my list of Top 40 sportswriters/commentators to read.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Daboll/Beasley Key to the Success of Bills/Allen in 2019:

When the Buffalo Bills signed WR Cole Beasley this spring, I immediately thought of how Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll would try to utilize him. The Bills are looking for much better things with both their offense as a whole and with QB Josh Allen in 2019. And the key to a big, big part of it, will probably rest with how successful and how Daboll decides to use the former Cowboys’ slot receiver.

Daboll saw firsthand how the Patriots used Julian Edelman and how Tom Brady continues to get his presnap reads with Edelman. Look for Allen to put Beasley in motion a lot this season. This will accomplish two things.

First, it will help Allen to recognize the defensive alignment. This will make his reads easier and get the ball out of his hands faster. The second thing it will do is to get Beasley a freer release, where he can become a focal point of the Bills offense, much like Edelman is here.

If Allen and Beasley can develop their chemistry and timing, much like Brady/Edelman, the Bills offense will be able to utilize the quick passing game that works the underside and middle areas of the field. I think Beasley is poised to have a really good year.

________________

If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards. Bear Bryant

“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.

VIDEO: Check Out Newly Retired Quarterback Josh McCown Catch Passes Vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
June 19, 2019 at 5:18 pm ET

Earlier this week, journeyman quarterback Josh McCown announced his retirement from the NFL after 17 seasons.

Although he spent the entirety of his career under center, one of his most memorable moments came at wide receiver against the New England Patriots.

In 2006 with the Detroit Lions, McCown lined up as the third wideout and caught two passes for 15 yards.

McCown’s best catch in this game was for 31 yards, but it would be called back for offensive pass interference.

“It was a surreal moment and it changed my whole perception and respect for receivers,” McCown said afterwards.

McCown walks away from the NFL with 98 touchdowns to 82 interceptions with 17,707 passing yards over ten teams.

The McCourty twins lent their congratulations to McCown over Twitter, he replied with a funny statistic.

Patriots Week 12 Report Card, Pats Down Jets 27-13

Steve Balestrieri
November 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm ET

The Patriots came off the bye and despite a very uneven first half where they should have been up by two scores but were tied at 10, dominated the second half for the win. And while they let the Jets, losers of four in a row hang around for the first half, they leaned on the running game and outscored Gang Green 17-3 after halftime to secure a 27-13 victory and move into the #2 seed for the time being in the AFC a game behind Kansas City.

The defense also played much better and more aggressively in the second half holding the Jets to just a field goal. Ryan Allen on Special Teams was outstanding, never allowing dangerous return man Andre Roberts a clear path to return the ball.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady, it should be noted was not spectacular but he was very good, attacking downfield, spreading the ball around and was extremely efficient, averaging 9.1 yards per pass play. Brady finished 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions for a QB rating of 115.4. Which were all of the things he didn’t do well in Tennessee two weeks ago.

Eight different Patriots receivers caught passes as the offense rolled up nearly 500 yards with a great amount of balance between the passing and running games.

He had a few bad throws in the first half, but he also had some really nice heaves downfield. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski was a beautiful arc and put it right in the bucket. But his best was arguably on the Pats final scoring drive. Facing a 3rd and 10 at the Jets 47, Brady lasered a deep out pattern to where only Josh Gordon could catch it for a gain of 17 yards.

Brady targeted his top five receivers on the day 21 times and completed 16  passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. That is very economical and again…efficient.

Running Backs: A

Sunday was the Sony Michel show, Michel had 133 yards on 21 carries and lost about 45-50 more because of penalties behind the play. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored on a one-yard touchdown. He also caught two passes for 12 yards. He displayed excellent vision and ran behind his blockers but knowing when to cut back against the grain and a very nice burst once he got into the open field.

James White added in 72 yards on 9 carries on the ground on a day where he caught just one pass. Normally he and Brady are in lockstep but Sunday, in the passing game they were out of sorts a bit. Brady targeted White 5 times but they connected only once for just five yards. Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in when Michel was shaken up for a bit and added a couple of key first downs.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers were all involved efficient, and productive on Sunday. Julian Edelman was the most productive catching four passes for 84 yards. He jumped started the offense on the Pats opening drive beating Morris Claiborne at the line and catching a 36-yard pass. He was outstanding. His 3rd down reception in the second half was a terrific play worked perfectly in sync with Brady.

Josh Gordon had five catches for 70 yards and while it may not have been a huge numbers day for him, his game, like everyone else’s was very efficient. The communication with he and Brady is improving every week and Sunday was more proof of that.

Chris Hogan was targeted twice and had two catches for 47 yards. Phillip Dorsett chipped in with a pair of catches.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was back in the fold and was looking like his normal self in the passing game as well as in the running game where the big man is like a road grader. He caught just three passes for 56 yards but one of them was a 34-yard score in the first quarter for the team’s first touchdown.

He and Brady didn’t connect later on several red-zone attempts but as we’ve said here many times, there are rules for covering receivers downfield in the NFL and then a set for Gronkowski. He’s been tugged, held and been the victim of helmet-to-helmet contact and not given a flag more than any other player we know.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line was outstanding on Sunday, as they had the entire group back in the fold and it was obvious, especially in the running game. While Brady was never sacked, the Jets had some pressure in the first half but they solved those issues with some halftime adjustments. The biggest, however, was the commitment to the running game. The team made a concerted effort to run the ball in the second half and they did just that.

When your team rushes for over 200 yards and your backs average over six yards per pop, your offensive linemen are a happy group because it means that they’re being physical and aggressive up front.  

The only issue it seemed, and it was team-wide was penalties. Shawn Hochuli’s crew is known as a flag-happy bunch and the Pats OL had four that we saw, Trent Brown twice, Joe Thuney and David Andrews.

Defensive Line: C+

The defensive line had a kind of Jekyll and Hyde day. In the first half, they stuffed the Jets running backs, allowing just 16 yards. But the pass rush was non-existent and Josh McCown had all day to throw the ball.

In the second half, the defense picked up with the pass rush but the Jets ran the ball much more effectively and ended up rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries. The yardage is nothing to worry about but the 4.9-yard average is a bit concerning. While a chunk of that was McCown scrambling, it also leads to containment issues.

Trey Flowers stood out once again with a sack and four QB hits. Deatrich Wise also had a sack and 3 QB hits. But consistent pressure is and has been an issue for this team all season.

Linebackers: B-

The Patriots linebackers had a solid game with Kyle Van Noy being the standout player from the group. He did a terrific job setting the edge and stuffing a runner for a loss and when he blitzed he knocked down one pass and on another crunched McCown with a thunderous hit.

Dont’a Hightower was solid in the running game but got caught in pass coverage and was in chase mode and appeared to be plodding.

Elandon Roberts had his usual mixed bag. He made a couple of nice run stuffs and like every week, a play where he totally whiffed. He overran Isiah Crowell on a screen dump off and it turned into a 19-yard pass play. Overall, the play of the linebackers was solid and they helped hold the Jets offense to just three points after the break.

Secondary: B-

The secondary had a rough start but in the end, McCown averaged just 6.1 yards per pass attempt and scored just 13 points. He finished with a QB rating of just 73.9 which they’ll take every time. Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty each had big bounce-back games. Gilmore was back to his being his shutdown self on Sunday. He had two passes defensed and a nice interception where he got body position and hauled in a deep pass from McCown at the Patriots two-yard line.

Jonathan Jones was getting picked on underneath in the slot and was burned once too often and was benched for J.C. Jackson. Jason McCourty got torched by Jermaine Kearse for 41-yards but Gilmore intercepted the next play. McCourty got a bit of revenge, however, knocking away a 4th down pass in the end zone on the Jets’ garbage time drive with a minute to go.

McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, and Obi Melifonwu (in a limited role) were part of the reason the Jets scored just 13 points. But covering tight ends remains an issue for this team. Although most of the passes were in front of them, it is something that needs tightening up.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had a nice game and was led by Ryan Allen who was simply outstanding in this one. Allen averaged 46.0 yards per punt but he angled them to the sideline where they either bounced harmlessly out of bounds or gave the dangerous Andre Roberts nowhere to run. He had one punt return for one yard. That was an area that we wrote we were concerned about and Allen was terrific.

Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on his three extra points and two field goals. The coverage units allowed one big return to Roberts for 35 yards but held the other one to just 17 on kickoffs. The return game netted zero on the day as the Jets boomed the ball out of the end zone to Patterson and had solid coverage on Edelman.

Coaches: B+

The Patriots coaching staff had a very good game plan coming into this one, and although the performance was sloppy in the first half, they made very good adjustments at halftime and dominated the final 30 minutes, outscoring the Jets 17-3.

The playcalling of Josh McDaniels remains confusing at times, especially in the red zone. They are intent on targeting James White and Gronk inside the 20, so maybe it is time to mix things up some by calling other players’ numbers to give opposing defenses something else to think about. But on a day where the offense rolls up nearly 500 yards? You can’t fault them too much.

Defensively, Brian Flores saw that things weren’t working in the first half and got more aggressive in the final two quarters. They really brought some pressure finally on McCown and the results spoke for themselves. While we’re not going to get too excited because they’re the Jets offense, like Bill Belichick said, the Jets always play them tough, especially in the Meadowlands.

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

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

New England Patriots News 11-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, we hope that everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving and that you were surrounded by the Four “F”s, friends, family, food and football on this very American holiday. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-25, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

No Brady? Don’t Count on That:  Friday, was a very rare occurrence where Tom Brady missed the practice and was listed as Questionable for today’s game against the Jets. He popped up on the injury report with a knee injury from the Titans game. Other than his 2008 ACL tear in Week 1, Brady hasn’t missed any games due to injury. He did miss 4 games in 2015 due to the Patriots playing in cold weather.

Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans passed away on Friday at the age of 81. He was the driving force to bring the NFL back to Houston after the Oilers left for Tennessee in 1996. The team didn’t announce the cause of death, but McNair had dealt with several various forms of cancer in the past.

Did you Know? That with 252 yards passing today, Brady will have surpassed 3000 yards passing for the 16th time in his career. He will tie Drew Brees and Peyton Manning for the second most seasons. Brett Favre had 18.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With three touchdown passes, Brady will tie Favre for the second-most TD passes in the regular season with 508, (Manning has 539), and he’d tie Manning for the most TD passes for both the regular and postseason combined with 579.

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2015, James White is second in NFL running backs with receptions with 222, Theo Riddick leads the NFL with 227 (and added 7 more on Thanksgiving Day).

“Friends” Thanksgiving Video: The Patriots took a step back in the nostalgia machine by compiling a Thanksgiving montage of the show Friends best Thanksgiving moments and superimposing Patriots’ heads on them… a bit corny but well done.

New England continues to live rent-free in Lane Johnson’s head. After winning a SB with Philly last year, he talked about NE incessantly during the offseason and now with the champs at 4-6 continues to talk about the Patriots…file under: fix your priorities.

Gordon Still Has a Lot More to Contribute:

Pats WR Josh Gordon has helped stretch defenses out since signing here and is averaging a big 18.3 yards per reception with 26 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns in 7 games. That projects out to a 60-catch, 1100-yard season over 16 games which isn’t bad considering he’s essentially missed nearly three years.

Gordon, however, told MassLive.com that he’s capable of much more and is hoping to show that down the stretch. Granted he was learning a new offense on the fly and was dealing with a balky hamstring during most of that time. Now both of those issues should be fixed although his chemistry with Brady is still a bit of a work in progress.

Will he ever again be that burner that people used to sit back and marvel at? That is still up in the air, he possesses very good speed but it has been quite a bit off of what we saw back in 2013. And his catch percentage of 53.1 percent could use improving but it is about where it has been his entire career.

The Patriots could use a productive Gordon down the stretch and the wide receiver is anxious to play meaningful games for the first time in his professional career in December and January.

 “It’s different, that’s for sure. It’s exciting, though,” Gordon said to MassLive. “It’s motivational for me, for everybody. I’ve never really had the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now. It’s a blessing.”

Pats Hoping For Vintage Gronk Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots offense scuffling in Tennessee, the bye week came at a perfect time to let Rob Gronkowski have some extra time to heal up from the back woes that have sidelined him for three of the past four games.

Gronkowski is expected to suit up today and play and at his press conference on Friday was proclaiming himself ready to go. In just 7 games this season, Gronkowski has just 29 catches for 448 yards and one touchdown, numbers far less than his normally stellar production.

He made the trip down to Nashville, but the team held him out, probably to give him an extra two weeks to get ready with the bye week last Sunday. A healthy Gronkowski means the rest of the offense operates at close to peak performance. Tom Brady is happy to hear that the big man is returning soon.

“Absolutely. I’ve played a lot of football with him, and I think I have a lot of trust and confidence in a lot of the things that have happened over the years,” Brady said. “When he’s not there, there’s a different level with other players. Sometimes we don’t try things because Gronk isn’t in there. Sometimes we do.

“Obviously, the more dependable, consistent players you have on the field, the more productive and efficient you’ll be, which leads to more points, which leads to better opportunities to win the game, which is ultimately the reason we’re all here.”

Burkhead Return Should Be a Great Help to the Offense:

Much like Rob Gronkowski, getting Rex Burkhead back for the Minnesota game should be a significant boost to the offense. Burkhead went on IR after the Lions game due to concussions but now he’s been back at practice and we haven’t heard about any setbacks in his rehab, so things are looking up.

Burkhead has been (when healthy) a valuable, versatile part of the team’s offense. While he doesn’t run as well as Sony Michel, nor catch the ball as well as James White, he does both of those things quite well, so when he’s on the field, the opposition doesn’t have a clue as to what the Patriots will do.

If he continues on with his rehab and is ready for a stretch run for the Pats, along with  Gronkowski, the offense will be much harder to stop. The team hasn’t had a full offensive roster at any time this season.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 8-5 Season 104-55-2 Bye Week: Chiefs, Rams

Thursday night’s picks  Bears, Cowboys, Saints 3-0

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Bengals
San Francisco at Tampa Bay: 49ers
Jacksonville at Buffalo: Jaguars
Oakland at Baltimore: Ravens
Seattle at Carolina: Panthers
New England at NY Jets: Patriots
NY Giants at Philadelphia: Eagles
Arizona at LA Chargers: Bolts
Miami at Indianapolis: Colts
Pittsburgh at Denver: Steelers
Green Bay at Minnesota (SNF): Vikings
Tennessee at Houston (MNF): Texans

Thursday Early Pick: Saints over Cowboys

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen Returns for the Bills Against Trash-talking Ramsey:

The Buffalo Bills take on the Jacksonville Jaguars today at New Era Field, the first time the teams have met since the Wildcard game of 2017 where the Jags held off Buffalo in a very ugly 10-3 win. But both teams learned that being the hunted is not so easy. The Jags started off 2-0 but have since gone 1-7. The Bills are also 3-7 and seasons of high hopes for both teams have gone up in smoke.

Now Josh Allen returns from an injury and his job is to the get the Buffalo offense going. And he is going to have the luxury of working thru much rust after missing a month. Allen was not very accurate before his elbow injury and facing one of the better pass defenses in the league will be a daunting task.

The Bills and OC Brian Daboll kept things simple for Allen in the early going and it will be interesting to see if he takes the training wheels off for the rookie this week. After Jalen Ramsey called Allen “trash” and a “stupid pick”, you think the Bills coaches wouldn’t love to see their top draft pick light up the Jags secondary (and Ramsey) with a big game today?

All About the QBs Today for the Dolphins/Colts:

The Miami Dolphins hit the road for Indy today and face the much-improved Colts in a big game for both teams. Today it is all about the signal callers for both teams and how well (or not) each plays which will determine who walks away with a win.

The Dolphins defense has to find a way to slow down Andrew Luck, who has been on a roll lately for the Colts. Luck knows his go-to guy, T.Y. Hilton will be locked up with Xavien Howard all day and that will be a battle to watch. But while other teams do that, Luck has leaned heavily on TE Eric Ebron who is leading the Colts in receptions, touchdowns, and targets. Covering him will be safety, big nickel LB, Minkah Fitzpatrick. The rookie will have his hands full today.

Ryan Tannehill has missed a month and the Dolphins offense without him has looked…at times, awful. Like Allen, Tannehill will have no time to work thru the rust factor. The Fins are 4-6 and have zero wiggle room left if they want to make a playoff run this year. The time is now or never for Tannehill, and the pressure is on him to produce. Not next year, or next month, or even next week. For Tannehill, the playoffs start today.

Jets Look to Follow the Blueprint to Beat New England:

The New York Jets have seen the Jaguars, Lions, and Titans blast the Patriots this season, and they know the key is getting off to a fast start as the Patriots have struggled in the first quarter of the road games they’ve lost this year. And getting their 29th ranked offense and 32nd ranked 3rd down offense off and running quickly. Just like the Titans did two weeks ago.

Sam Darnold won’t play but the wily veteran Josh McCown, played a very solid game in the Meadowlands last year where they Jets converted 9 of 17 third downs. Tennessee scored 17 points in the first 10 minutes, more than they were averaging over 60 minutes and the Jets know that starting fast is imperative.

They also will be getting Gronkowski back against them this week. Gronk has traditionally been a thorn in the Jets backside. In 13 games against Gang Green, Gronkowski has 60 catches for 738 yards and 8 touchdowns. Plus, he’s a very good blocker in the running game. They will look to put a lid on Gronkowski and force Brady to look elsewhere in the passing game.

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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.

Quincy Enunwa: The Patriots Are Vulnerable This Year

Steve Balestrieri
May 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm ET

Is it 2010 or 2018? Raise your hand if you’ve heard this every spring for the last decade. “The Patriots are vulnerable this year, and this MAY be the year Team “X” dethrones them.”

Yawn, Rinse, Repeat. Yes, both the Jets and the Bills picked up what they are finally hoping are franchise quarterbacks this season and for teams that have been looking up in the standings for the past two decades in the AFC East, the spring is always one of hope.

In an interview on CBS Radio Friday, Quincy Enunwa told Brandon Tierney and Tiki Barber, the hosts of the show, that he believes the Patriots are “vulnerable” heading into next season. The Jets receiver later doubled down on SiriusXM NFL Radio. First Enunwa stated that he was merely responding to a question in that interview, but then couldn’t help himself and added that he sees no reason why New York can’t win the AFC East.

“Obviously, I just wanted to agree,” Enunwa said. “I think they may be. But I also think that we’re capable of finally dethroning them. I think that we’ve always been. It’s just about getting over that hump of finishing games. Not to add more bulletin board material for them, but I think for us, we’re hyper-confident and believe that we can do that.”

Hope is running high in New York, both in the city and in Buffalo where the Jets landed Sam Darnold as their quarterback of the future while the Bills drafted gunslinger Josh Allen from Wyoming as their own.

The Jets have really been searching for a franchise quarterback since the days of Joe Namath…yes that long. Darnold was expected to be the first player off the board during the 2018 NFL Draft but in a surprise move, the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield as their choice. Mayfield was the odds-on favorite to go to the Jets but instead, Gang Green had Darnold fall into their lap, with many considering him the top QB in the draft.

Will Darnold start this season? Not if the Jets are smart. They have an experienced bridge in place in the ageless Josh McCown. While McCown isn’t going to light the world on fire, he’s solid, will not give games away and can serve as a good mentor to Darnold. They would be best served to let Darnold learn the team’s offense and let him find his way into the NFL for his rookie season and not throw him straight out there.

Of course, if the Jets were smart, they wouldn’t be making statements like this, that we’ve heard every year it seems. Darnold may very well be the real deal and be a top quarterback for several years to come. But will he come into the league and light it on fire from Day 1? The chances of that are doubtful.

But he will have Enunwa who missed the 2017 season because of neck surgery. But the Jets wide receivers aren’t going to scare a lot of opposing team’s defensive coordinators.

Part of Enunwa’s confidence springs from the fact that it is widely reported that the supposed “rift” between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has grown wider and that the relationship between the two is the worst that it has ever been.

The last game Brady played in? Without top wide receiver Julian Edelman who missed all of 2017, he passed for 505 yards against a very good Philadelphia Eagles defense. Edelman is back and they’ve added some other key pieces to the mix.

The Patriots aren’t going anywhere this season. They’ve won the division for the past nine years in a row in 15 of the past 17. Their consistency has been the hallmark of Belichick coached teams where it seems you can pencil them in for 12 wins a year. You want to knock them off, then step up to the table.

Hope springs eternal, especially this time of year. We get it. The Jets are excited, they have a new quarterback and the confidence to rise up and make people take notice. But do it on the field, not in the media. But after the Patriots bye week, the Jets will get their chance on November 25, the teams will meet for the first time in 2018.

Maybe Darnold will already be under center for the Jets. Then do your talking.

Ugly Start, Uglier Finish, But the Patriots Win 24-17 Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2017 at 8:03 pm ET

The Jets were given a Bronx cheer by the replay officials in New York just across the river and it played a key point why the Jets weren’t going to overtime. But in the end, the Patriots were able to hold on again 24-17 as Tom Brady became the NFL’s all-time winningest quarterback in regular season history with his 187th win breaking a tie with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. He’s already the NFL’s all-time leader in wins with both regular season and playoffs combined.

But back to the controversy. Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass at the four-yard line and rolled to the end zone, where just at the pylon, Malcolm Butler tried to and for the briefest of moments jarred the ball free. But Jenkins never really lost control and rolled out of bounds in the end zone in what appeared to 77,562 people in the stands and thousands on television as a touchdown. But NY overturned the call on the field and ruled it a touchback and New England’s ball on the twenty. A huge gift and swing of momentum.

And before my timeline fills up with Patriots Nation telling me it was the right call, switch the teams around and picture Rob Gronkowski rumbling to the end zone and the same play happens….is it a fumble then? It was the worst call in a generally terribly officiated game.

After having 10 days to prepare for the Jets, the Patriots took the first 15 minutes to figure out if the game was at 1:05 not 1:45. The defense was gashed badly on the Jets first drive as Josh McCown looked like a guy QBing a well-oiled machine instead of an offense averaging 156 yards per game. The Jets went 88-yards going 4-4 on third down and immediately thoughts were …”Here we go again.”

The Patriots were gashed on defense and turned the ball over on offense and it was 14-0 Jets before the Pats finally decided to kick it in gear. The lights then came on for Belichick’s crew and they rallied for 24 straight points and seemed poised for taking total control of the game over. But some sloppy play and indifferent defensive play struck again and the team had to hold on for another seat-of-your-pants type of win.

The Patriots recovered from a bad sequence at the end of the half to get a turnover and then went down the field in just 26 seconds to score a game-tying touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. Gronk who was interfered with horribly on an earlier non-call where Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal when it seemed the team would go into the half trailing 14-7 or worse.

The Jets were moving but McCown made a mistake when he got greedy. He made a bad decision to throw on the sideline where Malcolm Butler was in great position to jump the route and he did intercepting the ball. Brady then hit a beautiful rainbow play to Brandin Cooks to set the Patriots up at the two where Gronkowski outmuscled rookie Jamal Adams for the tying score.

Receiving the ball for the second half kickoff, Brady marched them down the field where Gronkowski scored his second touchdown of the game getting behind the secondary for a 33-yard touchdown and suddenly New England is up 21-14. It was their best sequence of the day and at that time, they looked poised to put the Jets far in the rear-view mirror. But it was not to be and the team allowed McCown, to march up and down the field in the fourth quarter like they were facing Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, who coincidentally comes to Foxboro next week.

Other observations include:

  • The Patriots Run Defense was actually quite good today, holding the Jets to 74 yards overall and Jets running backs were held to 20 carries for 47 yards.  Alan Branch seemed like the Alan Branch of old and was doing a great job of stuffing the interior. Malcom Brown had two run stuffs for negative yardage.
  • The Pass Rush isn’t getting it done. Can’t blame Matt Patricia for being too conservative in this one. The Patriots rushed five many times and used the corner blitz often in an attempt to influence the play. It didn’t do it enough. Often McCown had tons of time and of the four sacks, the Patriots got, thank the coverage on most of those.
  • Brady was noticeably off with his accuracy for much of the day. He completed only 20-38 for 257 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw deep into double coverage a couple of times and the second time was picked off by Buster Skrine. But in the middle of the game when the team found their rhythm, he was hitting some big third and long completions. His deep ball to Cooks was his best throw by far, 42 yards which set up the tying touchdown, right in the bucket.
  • Cooks and Gronkowski had very productive days, Cooks caught 6 passes for 93 yards and Gronk had six for 83 with a pair of touchdowns. But Chris Hogan had a quiet day, catching just one pass for 19. Danny Amendola and James White also had only so-so production with 3 catches for 40, and 4 for 22 respectively.
  • Kyle Van Noy had a productive day with a pair of sacks, and three quarterback hits and seven tackles. Dont’a Hightower and Malcom Brown were credited with the other sacks.
  • Dion Lewis had another good day running the football, with 11 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. He had a long run of just 11 but once again, he appeared close on a few occasions of breaking on. Mike Gillislee had a costly fumble but also ran well, gaining 44 yards on ten carries.
  • Josh McDaniels had an up and down afternoon. The Patriots didn’t get anything going until the second quarter. And he got too impatient before the half where with a minute and a half to go, the Patriots were on the Jets 30 and tried the deep ball twice in a row without success where Gostkowski missed a field goal.  In the fourth quarter facing a 2nd and 5 from the Jets 6, he called a crossing route where a run would have had a much greater chance of success.
  • With both Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe out, Johnson Bademosi got the start with Jonathan Jones in the slot. Surprisingly, the Jets went after Malcolm Butler and not Bademosi. He didn’t play badly but played as better than what can be expected. However, the overall pass defense once again was very leaky.

There were positives to report, such as the Patriots not panicking once they got down by 14 points. They raised their level of play on both sides of the ball and showed a ton of resiliency against a division opponent on the road in a loud stadium. On a day where they weren’t playing their best. They rebounded and climbed out of a big deficit.

While they didn’t start or end the game particularly well, the Patriots showed the mental toughness that champions must have.

But there is no sugar-coating the play of the defense where although they ‘officially’ allowed only 17 points, their level of play early and late in the game just isn’t going to get it done.

And now Matt Ryan and the Falcons are coming to town next week, fresh off of blowing a seventeen point lead at home against the Dolphins. One other footnote for the game is to call attention to all of the people who constantly rail about the Patriots making the playoffs because of how weak the AFC East is. Well the AFC “Least” has more wins in Atlanta this season, than the Falcons do.

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

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

Patriots – Jets Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 13, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road to meet their old familiar rival, the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 15 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn 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 (3-2) got back on the winning track by downing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday night 19-14.Stephen Gostkowski booted four field goals and Tom Brady threw the only touchdown of the game for the Pats to Chris Hogan.

The Jets (3-2) beat the Cleveland Browns 17-14 for their third win in a row. Many people were thinking this Jets team wouldn’t  win one game and now in Week 6, they are playing at home with a chance to take over the division lead.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 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 Jets are meeting for the 117th time. The Patriots hold a 61-54-1 edge overall. The Patriots are 28-29 all-time on the road against the Jets, including 4-3 at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots swept the season series a year ago and in the last meeting at the end of the season, the Patriots blasted the Jets 41-3 at Gillette Stadium.The Patriots have also won their last ten road games dating back to last 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 Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been disappointing so far this season. Whether it is the offensive line or the running backs that are underperforming, perhaps a combination of both, they aren’t helping the passing offense. The Patriots average just 99 yards per game. Mike Gillislee leads the team with 246 yards and four touchdowns but his yards per carry (3.6) like that of the team (3.87) is not where the team needs it to be.

The Jets run defense has struggled mightily so far this season. Gang Green has allowed an average of 143 yards per game. The Jets are the 29th ranked team against the run in terms of yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per attempt.

This may be a time for the Patriots to establish something of a consistent running game. They gave Dion Lewis some more reps last week and he responded with a solid game. Gillislee also had a decent game as well last week. The Jets may go to a lighter defense to stop the Patriots passing game and this would be the time to assert the push up front and get the running game going, not to mention not allow an opponent to pin their ears back and coming after the quarterback.

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

The Patriots passing game has been clicking despite the amount of pressure that Tom Brady has been under and the number of times he’s been hit and sacked. It is capable of being even more explosive if Brady gets decent time to throw the ball. Having the running game improve would be a big boost. Brady has plenty of productive targets in the passing game, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski should return this week as well as Phillip Dorsett, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield.

The Jets revamped their secondary this season and started it with two rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who have come in as rookies and played much better than anyone could have hoped this early in their careers. They have two good corners in Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but they’ll face a much more potent passing game than they’ve seen thus far. One issue has been the lack of sacks, the team has just seven so far in 2017. Neither Leonard Williams or Muhammad Wilkerson have a sack yet this season.

Gronkowski will present the rookies in the middle with a big matchup to watch on Sunday. But the Patriots have enough other weapons to force the issue with the Jets defense. With time Brady has proven he can pick apart anyone, even without a ton of time this season he’s lighting it up. Look for him to have another big day.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York

The Jets have good running backs in Bilal Powell and Matt Forte but both of them are banged up and it isn’t known if they’ll play or how much on Sunday. But if they can’t go, the onus will fall to youngster Elijah McGuire who is a capable backup. The Jets running game looked excellent a few weeks ago against Jacksonville running for over 250 yards but then fizzled last week against the Browns, gaining only 39 yards on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been porous at times this season. With Alan Branch underperforming and riding the pine, they’ve been susceptible to runs up the middle. Ditto for having Dont’a Hightower missing time and then playing on the edge. They seemed to make some adjustments last week against Tampa Bay. They moved Hightower back in the middle on early downs and it helped. Now if they can get Branch back on the field and performing, it would be a bonus. Paging David Harris?

The Patriots game plan will probably be to slow or stop the run and force the ball into McCown’s hands since he doesn’t have a deep group of playmakers. How well they do that slowing of the run will be an intriguing part of the game.

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

Josh McCown is playing better than anyone expected this season. He’s completing about 71 percent of his passes although for just 1020 yards with five scores and four interceptions. Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Kerley, and Robbie Anderson are the wideouts with Austin Seferian Jenkins is the tight end and he’s having a good season thus far. Like the Patriots, the Jets have given up a lot of pressure, McCown has been sacked 15 times on the season.

The Patriots pass defense may have turned the corner a bit last week. Through three quarters playing strictly man coverage, they allowed just 110 yards. Look for more man coverage with Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore this week. Jenkins will be McCown’s safety valve and a tough matchup. He’s already got the production that the Jets tight ends got all of last year. Kearse has seamlessly integrated into the offense and came up big with a 24-yard touchdown to seal the win against the Browns. We’ll see if the Patriots pass rush can get home more this week. The consistency hasn’t been there and this may be a good time to get it going.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski made all four field goal attempts last week and is 12-12 on the season. I never worry about him on field goal attempts only with extra points…is that strange? Ryan Allen hasn’t been the same this season. He’s been inconsistent and needs to re-find his comfort level out there. Danny Amendola gave the return unit with a shot in the arm with a big 40-yard return. But the STs units committed four penalties in the game. Not good.

The Jets counter with Chandler Catanzaro at kicker, who booted a 57-yarder last week and Lac Edwards at punter. But overall the Jets have been inconsistent on special teams this season.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will pit old rivals who get renew unpleasantries with one another. There is never any love lost between the two teams or the franchises. Here is where we normally throw in the caveat that you can throw out their records since it is a divisional matchup but both teams come in with identical 3-2 records.

I think it is imperative for the Patriots to get off to a good start this week. The crowd at MetLife Stadium will be loud at the start of this one. No one expected the Jets to be where they are right now. So, they’ll be loose and fired up. They’re basically playing with house money. The best way for the Pats to quiet the crowd is to get some distance quickly and get the crowd to sit on their hands. Turnovers will be key also. The Jets offense hasn’t been especially prolific so to make them match the New England offense score for score will be a difficult proposition. Not giving them any momentum or short fields with turnovers is important. On the flip side getting a turnover or two would be a big boost to a Patriots offense that has been moving the ball and scoring very well but hasn’t reached its optimum peak yet.

This one will be close for awhile but the New England offense will put pressure on the Jets to keep up. A second-half turnover will open the door for Brady and the offense to break it open late. Brady and Gronkowski lead the way to a road win.  Patriots 34-13

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

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

Who Are Those Jets Tied With the Patriots?, 5 Initial Impressions of Gang Green

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2017 at 9:37 am ET

Raise your hand if you saw that coming this summer. Don’t look now but the Jets are in first place. Yes they are, the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, have overachieved this season thru the first five weeks as Todd Bowles crew has bought into his system and his message.

Many people believed that the Jets wouldn’t win one game in 2017, never mind three in a row as the players have ignored the noise and are gutting out wins. Bowles was saddled with a team gutted by the front office in a total purge of big salaries and most of the NFL pundits believed that they were tanking in hopes of getting the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to get the franchise quarterback that has eluded them. But Bowles, who is coaching for his job, not the #1 pick has the team playing hard every week. While their wins, especially last week against Cleveland wasn’t a pretty one, no one cares at the end of the season how many style points you have, wins and losses is the measuring stick.

The surprising Jets are 3-2 and tied with the Bills and Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East, the Dolphins are a half-game back at 2-2. No one would have thought that they would be playing the Patriots in Week 6 with the top spot in the AFC East on the line. They’re playing with house money right now. I’d expect them to come out loose and ready to empty the tank in front of the home crowd in an attempt to steal a win away.

Here are our five initial impressions of the Jets heading into this week:

Sacks Have Been Hard to Come By …For Now:
The Jets have two of the better interior defensive linemen in the league with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. And while the two have been solid thus far, the one thing that has been missing so far is the sacks. Neither one has been able to notch a sack this season.

That has been especially frustrating for Williams, a 2016 Pro-Bowl lineman who listed as one of his goals this season was to notch a sack a game. Bowles, for one, isn’t worried about the sack totals per se, “They’re playing hard. I don’t worry about their sacks,” Bowles said on his Monday conference call. “Their sacks will come, but they’re playing hard. They’re taking a lot of doubles up for everybody else, but there are certain schemes that require different things, and they are doing those different things. They are great team players and great individual players, so the sacks will come.”

This week they’re going against a New England offensive line that is giving up far too much pressure and sacks on quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback has been sacked more in the first five games (16) than he was in all 12 games of 2016. So, this may be the week where those two look to get off the schneid.

Jets Offense Hasn’t Been Bad in the Early Going:
After releasing so many of their skill position players in the spring and suffering injuries this summer, the outlook for them was really not looking good this season. And while the team is still #26 in terms of yardage in the NFL, they haven’t been as bad as advertised.

The running game with Bilal Powell is in the middle of the pack, 13th in the NFL averaging 111.4 yards per game. The passing game is currently 25th averaging just 189 yards per game. They are scoring an average of 18.4 points per game which is good for 23rd in the league.

Josh McCown, the journeyman QB in his 15th season has played well. He’s completing 71.4 percent of his passes but for only 1020 yards thus far. Translation, he’s doing the things he needs to do and throwing the safe passes underneath for the most part.

But his most impressive drive this year? Last week against the Browns, they stopped Cleveland on their three-yard line and McCown took them on a 97-yard touchdown drive that put the game away. While they’ve struggled at times, they’ve also had some good moments as well. But for the game, they managed only 212 yards and 34 on the ground.

Running Backs Hurting:
As of Tuesday evening, we don’t know if the Jets will be without running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Forte has missed the last two games with a turf-toe injury and Powell is dealing with a calf strain. He exited the game on Sunday with the Browns just before halftime. He’s listed as day-to-day.

If those two aren’t able to go that would leave the job to rookie Elijah McGuire as the feature back and Travaris Cadet as their third down specialist. McGuire is a 5’11, 214-pound rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s run well thus far in 2017 carrying the ball 34 times for 176 yards, good for a 5.2-yard average, including a big, 69-yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s an athletic, good runner with good ball security and shows good acceleration in getting to the hole. He has deceptive speed in getting to the edge. He’s also a decent pass receiver out of the backfield and has caught five passes thus far this year.

The Patriots will no doubt attempt to stop the run and force the Jets to beat them via the pass. So, we can expect that the play in the trenches will be key here. As of right now, Bowles told the press that the team doesn’t expect to sign another running back in the interim.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Should Be a Big Target:
The Jets big tight end should see a lot of action going his way in the passing game this week. With the Patriots primed to slow or stop the run, play action passing from McCown will have to be spot on this week and the Jenkins may be the guy he turns to first.

Jenkins was one of the bright spots on an offense that didn’t have a great day against the Browns a week ago. He was targeted eight times in the game and hauled in six passes. While he gained just 29 yards, many of his receptions were just enough to keep the chains moving including a touchdown that gave the Jets the lead in the third quarter.

Jenkins will get matched up with either a safety (Pat Chung) or one of the linebackers and this will be a big matchup to watch this week. Despite playing in just three games this season, the big tight end has caught 15 passes for 106 yards and a score. Jets tight ends in 2016 caught a combined 18 passes in 2016. The Jets asked him to drop some weight this offseason and he did. He lost 30 pounds and moves much quicker and has shown better hands thus far than he has in the past.

Two Rookie Safeties Helping Turn the Defense Around:
Last season, the Jets defense was a mess and a lot of the struggles centered around weak play from the safety position. So they replaced Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor this spring by using a first and second-round draft picks to draft Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye respectively this April.

To be fair, Gilchrist and Pryor were far from the only problems on the Jets back end last year. But the team felt they needed a big upgrade there and so far it has worked very well. Adams and Maye became the first rookie starting safety tandem in the league since the AFL/NFL merger. The two rookies have impressed from Day 1 and won their starting jobs this summer and have not looked back.

Last year the Jets surrendered 13 plays of at least 40 yards in the passing game. Thus far in 2017, they’ve allowed one. This week, they’ll face a tough test in the form of Rob Gronkowski who Adams admits was one of the first people he thought of when he was drafted. Adams, in particular, has been very versatile. He’s lined up as a strong safety, free safety, nickel linebacker, slot corner, even splitting out wide as an edge corner a few times. The Jets took some heat drafting two safeties back to back but so far, they are performing even better than they could have hoped for and now offer positional stability for years to come.

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

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

AFC North Notes after NFL Week 3 – Big Ben injured; Bengals remain undefeated while Ravens drop to 0-3

John Morgan
September 29, 2015 at 8:52 am ET

Another week and another marquee NFL player is sidelined with a serious injury. Ben Roethlisberger was off to a fantastic start of the 2015 NFL season but  will reportedly be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a medial collateral ligament sprain and bone bruise from a low hit in the pocket by St. Louis safety Mark Barron in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers12-6 victory over the Rams on Sunday. Big Ben had completed over 75% of his passes this season and was leading the league with 10.2 pass attempts; in the first two games of the year Roethlisberger threw for a whopping 720 yards, and was picking the St. Louis defense apart, completing 20 of 24 passes before the unfortunate hit. Just over a month ago it looked like 35-year old Michael Vick‘s NFL career was over, before the Steelers signed him on August 25th. The first overall pick of the 2001 draft will take over an offense with plenty of weapons, featuring Antonio Brown (29 receptions for 436 yards and two touchdowns through three games) at wide receiver and Le’Veon Bell (2,215 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 2014) at running back. Head coach Mike Tomlin will have a short time to prepare Vick: the 2-1 Steelers host division rival Baltimore on Thursday night in what should be a very interesting game.

 

In what has to be a bit of schadenfreude and poetic justice for Pats Fans, the 0-3 Baltimore Ravens still have yet to win a game since whining about New England’s legal formations in last season’s playoffs and then collaborating with the Colts to set up an ill-advised and bungled sting operation. Baltimore could easily be 3-0 instead, but continues to find ways to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.  Patriots president Jonathan Kraft could not resist the opportunity to take a jab at the Ravens when asked about their start, sarcastically calling Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh a “sweetheart” and commenting on their early struggles that “it’s too bad, isn’t it?” The Baltimore secondary has been extremely ineffective, and the Ravens keep shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. The Ravens were penalized 13 times for 116 yards against the Bengals, and now have been penalized for 240 yards (fifth worst in the NFL). Even though only five teams in NFL history have begun the season 0-3 and then gone on to make the playoffs, it is still far too early to write the Ravens off – but certain folks predicting that Baltimore would win the Super Bowl are hoping nobody remembers their prognostications.

 

The Cincinnati Bengals advanced to 3-0 with their win at Baltimore Sunday and for the moment control the AFC North. Cincy’s run defense was stellar, stuffing Justin Forsett to just 29 yards on 14 touches while holding Baltimore to a paltry 36 yards on 18 carries overall; DT Geno Atkins in particular appeared to have a very good game. The pass defense was another matter though; Steve Smith toasted the Bengals to the tune of 13 receptions (on 17 targets) for 186 yards and two touchdowns.  Cincinnati has been a good defense/average offense in recent years, but that appears to have changed. Andy Dalton threw for 383 yards, three touchdowns and averaged an incredible 12 yards per pass attempt. Nobody seems to have an answer for WR A.J. Green, who was unstoppable with ten receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns – including the game-winner with 2:10 remaining. Green is averaging 18.6 yards per reception on the season and is fourth in the NFL with 335 yards receiving. The next four games will tell us a lot more about this team, as they face some pretty good defenses: next up are home games against the Chiefs and Seahawks, followed by games at Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

 

The Cleveland Browns displayed a hallmark of bad teams on Sunday, as they were unable to handle success – in their case a single victory the previous week – and lost at home against a west coast team that had not won an eastern time zone early game in their last 14 tries. The Browns inexplicably signed WR Dwayne Bowe to a two-year contract with $9,000,000 guaranteed – despite the fact he has not caught a touchdown pass since 2013. Bowe was inactive Sunday and has been on the field for just eight snaps this season. The Browns have given up an NFL-worst 475 yards rushing through three games with poor fundamentals – they missed 14 tackles in the loss to the Raiders – and for whatever reason stick with 36-year old journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback rather than seeing what Johnny Manziel can do, and assess his future with the team. Things don’t get any easier for the Browns in the foreseeable future; after a two-game road trip at San Diego and Baltimore they host Denver, followed by a game at St. Louis, home against Arizona, and then two more road games at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.