Tag Archives: Lamar Jackson

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

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

Patriots are 8-1 at the Bye Week

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

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

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

Quarterback: B-

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

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

Running Backs: C-

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

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

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

Wide Receivers: B

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

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

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

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

Tight Ends: C

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

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

Offensive Line: C

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

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

 Defensive Line: C-

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

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

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

Linebackers: C

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

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

Secondary: B

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

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

Special Teams: B+

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

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

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

Coaches: C

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ravens Run Roughshod 37-20 Over the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2019 at 7:16 am ET

The Baltimore Ravens had their bye week to prepare to face the Patriots and it was obvious from the opening moments that they used their time wisely. And the Patriots now enter their own bye week with some work to do. 

Baltimore’s running game was simple in its inception and executed wonderfully as they bludgeoned the Patriots defense to the tune of 214 yards and waltzed away with a 37-20 beatdown of the previously unbeaten Pats on Sunday night in Baltimore. 

The Ravens completely dominated the first quarter of the game outscoring the Patriots 17-0 and did it by running the ball right down their throats. The Ravens said they wanted to punch New England in the mouth with their running game and they did just that.

The Patriots did a poor job of setting the edge, there were uncharacteristic huge swaths of open space for the runners to exploit and the Baltimore offensive line was clearly the winner of the trenches on Sunday night. The Patriots had never faced Lamar Jackson and it was clear, his speed was very much an issue for them all night long.

Baltimore dominated that first-quarter very much like the Patriots had dominated nearly every first quarter this year. It was ultimately too big a hole to fight out of. Baltimore ran for 142 yards in the first quarter, almost double what the Patriots had been allowing in a game. 

As a result, it was New England who was making the mistakes that we normally see the opposition do. Shalique Calhoun jumping offside on the initial field goal attempt, giving the Ravens a first and goal was a harbinger of things to come. 

And when the Patriots clawed back in the game at 17-13 and actually appeared to be ready to take the lead early in the third quarter, the Julian Edelman fumble and scoop for a 70-yard touchdown going the other way drove home that this wasn’t their night. Although the Patriots answered with a touchdown drive to close again to four at 24-20, one could sense the feeling that the Ravens weren’t going to bend anymore. 

The Ravens dominated time of possession from there on going on two long, time-consuming touchdown drives to blow the game wide open. They converted several key third and fourth downs to keep the chains, and the clock moving in their favor.

The Patriots offense changed things up offensively tonight and eschewed the running formations that haven’t been bearing fruit this season and opted to spread Baltimore out with the receivers out wide, allowing Tom Brady to see the defense and adjust the protection and then hit the open man with a quick, short passing game. They went to a hurry-up offense, with the hope that it would gas the Ravens pass rushers and allow them to run the ball later in the game. 

It was working for a bit, the Ravens defense appeared totally gassed at the end of the touchdown drive that cut the score to 24-20. The problem was that they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole to make it work. And the fact that because two wide receivers were inactive (N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski), the wide receivers were as gassed as the defense was. *Note* watch Julian Edelman on his fumble play. But it was all rendered moot when Baltimore answered with an eight-minute scoring drive that gave their defense the rest they needed. 

On a bright note, Mohamed Sanu appears to be a great pickup for the offense. In just his second week with the Patriots, he caught 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Edelman caught 10 passes for 89.   The pair are going to be a handful for opponents to cover down the stretch. 

The issue, however, continues to be the red zone and especially once the team gets inside the 10-yard line. They don’t have a go-to guy or a big target they trust enough to attack opponents once they get down close. And if we want to be nitpicky here, the team drafted a 6’4, 225-pound wide receiver in the 1st round who was inactive on Sunday night because he wasn’t conceivably “ready” but activated a tight end (Ryan Izzo) for the game who didn’t play a snap on offense? 

So, the Patriots enter their bye week at 8-1 and the #1 seed in the AFC and yet to log onto social media tonight, one would think they are in dire straits at 1-8. They have some self-scouting to do and now have two weeks to prepare for the Eagles in Philadelphia who coincidentally are also on a bye week this week. 

They’ll file away what they learned in what doesn’t work against the Ravens but this isn’t the time to dwell on rematches that won’t happen, if at all for two months. It is time to get back on track and move on to Philadelphia. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (8-0) beat the Cleveland Browns 27-13, Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Julian Edelman while the defense held the Browns to just 13 points.

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

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

Series History:

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

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

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up the Ravens offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Baltimore

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

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

Next up, who wins and why…

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

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

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

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

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

___________

Prediction: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New England Patriots News 01-06, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 6, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-06, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

No…This IS 41: Last week in the aftermath of the Jets game, another hot-take artist of Fox Sports radio with an ax to grind, first complained that the league conspired to get the Patriots the bye because of what he called a terrible call of roughing the passer by the Jets against Brady. “NFL badly needed the Patriots to get that #2 seed. This call is total garbage. Patriots eventually score, up 21-3.”

Then he cherry-picked a missed throw by Brady to Hogan in the end zone to claim, “This is 41.” The funny part was the next day, he called out another writer for having a “garbage take” on the Antonio Brown saga. Glass houses, especially when in the game against the Jets, Brady completed over 70 percent of his throws, threw 4 TDs and had a passer rating of 133.8.

But we can cherry pick too, so…here’s your “This is 41”

Did you Know? Since 2001, the Patriots have had 13 byes, the most in the NFL. The next closest teams are the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers with 5. This is the ninth consecutive year earning a bye, the most prior to this Patriots run has been four. . Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995 and Denver had four straight from 2012 through 2015.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The only NFL team to win a championship and is no longer in the league was from New England. The Providence Steamroller was part of the league from 1925 -1931 and won the NFL Championship in 1928. Besides being one of two teams (Chicago Cardinals) to be the first to play a night game in 1929, Providence, due to a scheduling snafu and bad weather played four games in a six-day stretch which the night game, attended by 6000 fans was the second game of the stretch.

Patriots Unveil 2018 Playoff Motto: The Patriots, as part of their M.O., have unveiled a motto for the playoffs this year, “Everything We Got.” They unveiled a short video that showed many of the national pundits calling for the demise of the Pats dynastic run.

Then the video shows the team in a quick series of vignettes and then the narrator says:
To get everything,
It’s going to take everything.
So we’re going to give everything.
EVERYTHING WE GOT.

Is it as good as “Do Your Job”? Nope. But it is a step up from “One More” in our opinion. Enjoy the Wildcard Weekend’s slate of the games. There were 12 good teams entering the playoffs this weekend, 11 of them will lose their last game of the year. That’s why our motto, which we’d steal from Hollywood, would be. “There Can Be Only One!”

With McDaniels and Flores Being Courted, Focus on O’Shea, Bielema:

Like clockwork, the staff of Bill Belichick is being raided again as multiple teams have requested interviews with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores. McDaniels is rumored to be the top choice for the Green Bay Packers and is very much in the mix for Cleveland, he turned down a request to interview with Cincinnati. It might sound strange but the better job overall and probably better for McDaniels may be Cleveland.

The Packers have a 36-year old QB who got his last coach fired. The offense runs through Rodgers, it is doubtful, he’s going to want to learn a new system at this stage of his career. Cleveland has a good young defense, an exciting rookie QB that knows how to win and is a team trending up.

But we digress… If one, or both leave who will take over the reins as the coordinators for the Patriots in 2019? On offense, it seems like a no-brainer in that Chad O’Shea will take over the play calling there. He’s been being groomed for that spot for some time now. O’Shea has been with the team for 10 years and called the plays during the preseason last summer. That one seems like a slam-dunk. However, O’Shea’s name is being floated around as a possible Offensive Coordinator for Matt Patricia in Detroit. We’ll have to monitor that situation.

Defensively, the situation will be difficult as they have no clear-cut coach lined up to take the reins. In reality, Flores isn’t even a “true” defensive coordinator, as he’s not been even given the title of it yet… why, is a story for another time.

Bill Belichick would probably take most of the onus on himself as the defensive coordinator for 2019, however, there isn’t a clear-cut successor ready yet. The best choice? Bret Bielema who was a head coach at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Brendan Daly, who coaches the Defensive Line, may become a candidate in a year or two, but right now, the odds would be against him.

AB to the Pats? Not Happening:

When the news broke about the deteriorating situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, it was amazing how dysfunctional that team truly is. Mike Tomlin has always run a loose ship and that has come home to roost. But as soon as the story broke about Brown requesting a trade, Patriots fans jumped all over the story, wanting Belichick to swing a deal for Brown.

But there is no way that’s happening. For one, the Steelers would still be on the hook for Brown’s huge 2019 cap hit. They’ll probably try to mend the relationship between Brown, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Tomlin. Barring that, if they do decide to trade him, one place they never would trade Brown to would be New England.

And as ridiculously talented Brown is, I can’t imagine that there would be a mutual interest in bringing him here. Can you imagine Brown’s Facebook Live video going on while Belichick is addressing the team in a post-game setting? And Brown, although in the midst of a terrific season, was mad because Roethlisberger was making JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had an even better 2018, the focal point. I can’t see Brown accepting a role where he’s not “the guy” that the offense runs thru.

After last season and the tabloid-like story on the divorce of Brady/Belichick, while the team was going 13-3 and on their way to another Super Bowl, is there going to be a big breaking piece on the disintegration of the Steelers’ locker room? Their two most talented offensive players quit on their team this season…but we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Young QBs Have Fans Excited in Several Markets:

The NFL had an influx of young QBs this year and many of them played big roles for their teams right off the bat. And it is a great thing for several NFL franchises that have been downtrodden for a number of years as these young QBs generate hope and excitement for the next generation.

The league has their established stars in QBs like Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers but the story this season really wasn’t about any of them but Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, while technically not a rookie lit the league on fire this fall. While perennial bottom feeders in Cleveland now have an exciting young QB, Baker Mayfield who has instantly brought hope and respectability to the franchise. Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have had different levels of success but at least have their fans tuning in.

No one knows if any of these young studs can keep up the long-term success that they’ve found in their first year of playing.  There are no guarantees, injuries occur as well as other issues that can arise, but right now, the 2019 season looks to be, on paper one to really look forward to.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions:

Last week: 12-4 Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:

Saturday – Houston over Indy,
                 Seattle over Dallas
Sunday –   Baltimore over LA Chargers (tough start time for West Coast teams)
                Chicago over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have Their Man in Josh Allen, Now Need a Surrounding Cast:

The Buffalo Bills picked their guy in the QB Class of 2018 in the person of Allen, the big, strong-armed youngster from Wyoming who had a very up-and-down year, which isn’t a rarity for rookie QBs.

Allen has some obvious flaws in his game. He can be woefully inaccurate at times, but those are mechanical issues that can be solved thru coaching. But for a big guy (6’5, 237) he runs deceptively fast from the pocket.

The Bills need to surround Allen with better weapons next year. Although they have Zay Jones and Robert Foster, they could use another WR, RB, TE and a heckuva lot better support along the offensive line.

Allen ended the season in dramatic fashion, throwing for three TDs and running for two more, the first Bills QB to account for five TDs in a game since Jim Kelly. That left fans in Western NY, itching for a winner, looking forward to 2019. That may even stop them from throwing sex toys on the field during games… Maybe not.

Dolphins Search For the Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins, in a mild surprise, fired head coach Adam Gase after the season was over, but the way the team finished their final quarter of the season, it shouldn’t have been. After an improbable, last-second fluke win over the Patriots, Miami was blown out in Minnesota, lost by 10 to Jacksonville and by 25 to Buffalo.

The Dolphins are busy trying to find their next head coach. GM Chris Grier has interviewed the Patriots’ Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and now are set to interview Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. For Bieniemy, this season was just his first as a coordinator but it was his fourth interview this week. He also met with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other names included in the search include Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Dolphins’ Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi.

Jets May Have Interest in Baylor HC Matt Ruhle :

The New York Jets are in Texas this weekend, interviewing Cowboys’ assistant coach Kris Richard but multiple sources are reporting that the Jets may also have a lot of interest in Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle.

Ruhle would be an interesting choice as he’s been instrumental in turning around a couple of college programs. Ruhle was born in New York City and spent a year on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an assistant offensive line coach.

He was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Temple before becoming the head coach for four seasons. His last two in Temple, the team won 10 games, the only time in the program’s history that they accomplished that.  He then moved to Baylor to a program that had been rocked by a sexual assault scandal. In 2017, his team went 1-11. This season, they went 7-6. Ruhle got some interest from the Colts last year in their coaching search. He’d be a good coach it is believed to work with Sam Darnold.

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.

ICYMI: Tom Brady Praises Lamar Jackson With Instagram Comment

Robert Alvarez
April 13, 2018 at 10:00 am ET

Since its 2018, whenever quarterback Tom Brady makes comments or posts on social media, it garners attention.

It happened again on Wednesday when the quarterback commented on a posting about Louisville quarterback and former Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson as a potential draft target by the New England Patriots.

https://twitter.com/ByKevinDillon/status/984271350725533696?tfw_creator=NESN&tfw_site=nesn&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fnesn.com%2F2018%2F04%2Fdid-tom-brady-endorse-lamar-jackson-as-eventual-successor-on-patriots%2F

“He’s a beast” Brady said in response to a comment made by Deion Sanders.

Is this an official Brady endorsement for his future replacement? Or is he just being a nice, truthful guy?

Whatever it may be, its apparent Brady likes what Jackson could offer the Patriots heading into the future should he be available. Currently Jackson is projected by many to be drafted late in the first round, where the Patriots currently sit at 23 overall.

Jackson took note to Brady’s response a short time later.

https://twitter.com/Lj_era8/status/984280699380346880?tfw_creator=NESN&tfw_site=nesn&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fnesn.com%2F2018%2F04%2Fdid-tom-brady-endorse-lamar-jackson-as-eventual-successor-on-patriots%2F

What Should the Patriots Do With All of This Draft Capital?

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2018 at 9:23 am ET

Well, things certainly have changed in a hurry around the New England Patriots. Suddenly the talk has ceased about “how deep is the rift between Bill Belichick and his players” and centered on what is happening now with the upcoming NFL Draft.

The surprising trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams has netted the Patriots the Rams 1st Round draft pick #23 later this month. The teams also swapped fourth and sixth round picks. But now the Patriots have jumped into the realm of being a major player later this month with four picks in the first 63 selections of the draft.

The team has options. So, for you older folks who remember classic television shows, we’ll play a version of “Let’s Make A Deal” with the draft.

Behind Door #1:

The team could package both first round picks and ship them to the New York Giants for the very talented and equally mercurial wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. That’s what the Giants are asking for him and although they won’t get that, it is where any talks would begin.

This would make a large segment of the fan base ecstatic as the quest for the “name player” never ends. And if you’re playing Madden NFL, the idea of Brady, Gronkowski, Beckham Jr. and Edelman would certainly be a fun way to play a video game.

This won’t work for a couple of reasons. First, the NFL isn’t a video game nor fantasy football.  The Patriots aren’t going to pay Beckham anywhere close to what he’ll want and you’d have him under your control for one season. At which time, he would most certainly be gone. Two first round picks for a one-year rental?  That was a large part of the reason to trade Cooks in the first place.

The team already has nine wide receivers on the roster with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister and Matthew Slater.

While Beckham is a special player, wide receiver isn’t a glaring need and those first-round picks could be much better served in filling other needs.

So, what’s behind, Door #2?

The Patriots could package those picks (23,31) and move up into the Top 15 to snag a quarterback of the future, like a Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield, if they fell down the board for any reason.

Jackson is a popular pick for New England lately, he played in the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system that the Patriots use. That alone will make the learning curve much simpler for him to become in-tune with the offense.

The issue here is, will any of those players still be on the board then? Most mocks have those QBs all gone by #12. Would the top two picks the Patriots now possess (23,31) be enough capital to jump that high? Probably not, so they’d have to sweeten the pie quite a bit to jump in.

And of course, the team would have to be all-in on the quarterback that they select. And by all-in, that would have to include Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. For if the succession plan is indeed in effect, then the QB taken will have to be someone he believes in. And it may not necessarily be the pocket passer they currently have with Brady. Jackson could easily be the guy they see as their next franchise QB. McDaniels, remember drafted a guy named Tim Tebow in Denver. So it could be a kind of QB that necessarily isn’t a clone of the Brady-type.

A lot would have to fall perfectly for the Patriots to get that type of move and the trade probably wouldn’t happen until the night of the draft. They’d see the board playing out in a certain way that they could make a move and then do it and swoop in for the next QB of the future.

And then there is finally Door #3:

In this scenario, the Patriots keep one or both picks and trade back for other draft capital. They have needs at Linebacker, on the edge, at OT, TE, RB and of course QB for the long-term.

There are plenty of good prospects that may be available to them at #23 that wouldn’t at #31, especially at linebacker, Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch have been widely thought to go between #25 and #28 with the Titans and Steelers, if not earlier.

They could then look for a QB in the 2nd or 3rd rounds (Luke Falk, Kyle Lauletta, Mason Rudolph) who they can develop over the next two or so seasons behind Brady.

This falls in line with the traditional M.O. of Bill Belichick who has said that the draft is an inexact science and the more chances you have at taking players, the better chance you do of hitting on those picks.

The Patriots draft board consistently only has about 15-20 players that Belichick believes are immediate starters, so they’re much more willing to trade back than to reach for a higher draft pick on a player that they don’t have rated that high. And finally, the Patriots are about building a 53-man roster, they’re not building a fantasy football team.

Belichick has made plenty of deals during the draft, and right now, they don’t have a 4th or 5th round draft pick after the deal with the Rams for Cooks. Expect that to change.

While the possibility for Door #2 most definitely does exist, look for the Patriots to go for Door #3. It fits with their traditional M.O. and will better serve their overall needs while still giving them a shot at a franchise QB later.

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.

PODCAST: Brandin Cooks Trade Reaction and Discussion

Russ Goldman
April 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm ET

In this episode, we spent a good amount of it discussing the Brandin Cooks trade in three different ways. Later on in the Patriots Fourth And Two Roundtable, we talked about our three positional needs heading into the Draft. After that, we debated if the Patriots issues on defense are scheme related, or about the personnel. We finished the show with a lively discussion on Rob Gronkowski.