Tag Archives: Los Angeles Chargers

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Patriots Beatdown Of The Chargers And AFC Championship Game Preview

Russ Goldman
January 16, 2019 at 12:11 pm ET

In this episode, we first dicsused our “five reasons” why the Patriots beat the Chargers. In the second half of the show, we gave our comprehensive preview of the AFC Championship Game, and the show ended with our predictions.

Patriots Report Card In Blowout Win Over the Chargers

Steve Balestrieri
January 15, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Blowout Win Over the Chargers

We said they needed to start fast and boy did the Patriots ever do that. When was the last time you saw domination like that in the playoffs? Answer… Never. No Patriots team has ever begun a playoff game with four touchdowns on their first four possessions.

This one was truly over at halftime but we’ll grade the team for the entire 60 minutes and it was something to see. This is the team that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing and unfortunately haven’t seen this year… until now.

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

Quarterback: A

This week Tom Brady heard the noise, many national types were saying this week against the Chargers was the end of the Patriots dynasty, the end of Brady-Belichick. The Bolts were going to put he and Rob Gronkowski into retirement mode.

Brady was fired up but more than that, he was on top of his game all day long. He saw that the Chargers were sticking with their soft zone Cover 3 look, a defense he’s shredded for his entire career and once again he gralloched it with ease.

He completed 34-44 for 343 yards and a touchdown and looked as sharp as he’s been all year. His best pass was in the fourth quarter. Derwin James had tight coverage on Julian Edelman and Brady lasered a BB down the field that Edelman turned into a 35-yard gain. His arm strength going? Watch that throw again. And again.

Don’t try to fight a lion if you’re not one yourself.

Running Backs: A

As we mentioned above, Brady and the Patriots have played this Gus Bradley Cover 3 zone defense in the past. Shane Vereen had a big day catching the ball in the Seattle Super Bowl, 11 catches 64 yards on 12 targets. The Atlanta Super Bowl, James White roasted them, 14-110 and a TD on 16 targets. Last year more of the same 14-15 for 163 yards. White was targeted 17 times on Sunday, he caught 15 passes for 97 yards.

Sony Michel gashed the Chargers run defense for 129 yards and 3 TDs on 24 carries. He had his longest run of the season a 40-yard scamper to boot. Rex Burkhead chipped in with a 6-yard touchdown run of his own. The running backs ran for 155 yards on the ground and were targeted 19 times in the game with 17 receptions for 113 yards.

When the Patriots ran out of their “21” personnel, they averaged nearly 7.0 yards per carry on Sunday. The Chargers linebackers were banged up and they were going with a light package and had no answer.

Wide Receivers: A

Julian Edelman was arguably the player of the game for the Patriots. Something to keep in mind, Edelman hasn’t played in a playoff game since the Super Bowl against Atlanta. And yes there were even whispers that he’s lost a step.

He cranked his game up a notch…actually two, and was fantastic. He had nine catches for 151 yards and he set the tone early in the game. On a third and short. Edelman caught the pass from Brady and appeared that he’d be tackled short of the sticks. But he broke the tackle and kept driving and picked up the first down. Soon after, the Patriots were in the end zone.  

During the game, Edelman moved into the #2 spot all-time for playoff receptions behind only Jerry Rice. He also moved into the top 10 all-time in receiving yardage in the postseason. And people still try to belittle his accomplishments by calling him a “slot receiver”… Oy vey. Not bad for an undersized option quarterback.

Tight Ends: B+

Rob Gronkowski dominated in the running game. With the Patriots trying to run the ball, Gronk showed why he’s a complete tight end and he was blowing people off the ball. He helped Cannon put Melvin Ingram on roller skates on Michel’s 40-yard run and for good measure drove Hayes Pullard to the sideline.

He caught one pass for 25-yards that was classic Gronkowski. He took the pass in, broke the initial tackle attempt and then ran over the next man. He drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone and helped clear out a ton of real estate for Phillip Dorsett, who was wide open for a touchdown.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line had arguably their best game of the season and maybe of the past two seasons. The Chargers defense was no “tomato can”, they are a top 10 unit against the run and the pass. And the Patriots offensive line absolutely dominated the point of attack all day long.

Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon absolutely dominated the matchup against Ingram and Joey Bosa, they made life hell for Lamar Jackson a week ago. On Sunday, Brady had a clean pocket all game long and was only hit a couple of times.

In the running game, not only did they fire off the ball and get a great push, but the blocking downfield was outstanding. When your offense rolls up 500 yards against a Top 10 defense, it usually means one thing for the offensive line. Total domination.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line had another outstanding effort in Sunday’s game. They held Melvin Gordon and the Chargers backs to just 19 yards on 10 carries. And once they stuffed the run, they had Philip Rivers forced into passing situations.

In the pivotal first half, Rivers was pressured on 70 percent of his throws. Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn (who had his best game as a Patriot) each had a sack. Flowers had another taken away on a ticky-tack penalty where he was blocked into the ground and thus hit Rivers low.

Adam Butler had some good quality snaps and provided good pressure on Rivers as he saw quite a bit of work with the running game shut down.  

Linebackers: A-

The Linebacking corps was also outstanding on Sunday. They were terrific in run support, the hardest hit of the day was Elandon Roberts down by the goal line where he had a tremendous collision with Gordon that sent the running back flying backward.

Kyle Van Noy was once again all over the field and he and Dont’a Hightower were constantly moving around in the “amoeba defense” which kept the Chargers guessing to where they were coming. Hightower was used in a pass rush mode often and created great pressure all game long.

John Simon saw quite a few snaps and was impressive, getting pressure on Rivers and stuffing Gordon for a loss.

Secondary: B+

Stephon Gilmore got fooled badly on the Bolts first possession where Rivers looked him into the middle of the field and Keenan Allen blew right by him for a 43-yard touchdown. But after that, he blanketed Allen and shut him down. Allen would catch only two passes, the other with Jason McCourty covering. Gilmore picked off Rivers with a very nice play in the second half where he got body position and went up and high pointed the ball.

Rookie J.C, Jackson had a very competitive game against the impressive Mike Williams who made some terrific catches with tight coverage. Jason McCourty had a bit of a rough day and gave up several long completions to the Williamses and a 30-yarder to Allen who caught it and went down at the one-yard line.

Pat Chung and Devin McCourty were very solid all game long. Rivers padded his stats with a lot of garbage time yardage and a pair of scores, but the defense was playing much different by then.

Special Teams: A-

The only blip on the special team’s radar was the opening play of the game. James Develin flubbed the kickoff out of bounds shy of the 17-yard line, where if he let it go, it goes out of bounds and the Pats get it at the 40-yard line.

The coverage units did a pretty good job on holding Desmond King in check and Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 7-7 on his kicks.

Albert McClellan recovered a fumble that quickly turned the game into a blowout. He’s been outstanding since coming here in mid-season. Isn’t there a dweeb on sports radio that constantly pooh-poohs Belichick signing STs guys? That’s why you sign them.

Coaching: A+

Josh McDaniels called a heck of a game. The Chargers defense was kept guessing all day long and he knew exactly how to attack it and exploit the matchups. Bill Belichick had the players ready to go and they fired out of the gate better than they’ve played all season.

And please…stop with the “what happened in the second half?” nonsense. This game was over and Bill Belichick and McDaniels weren’t going to give Andy Reid and the Chiefs any other film to watch. They put it on cruise control and put the six-guns in the holsters and milked the clock.

Belichick and Brian Flores weren’t shy about challenging the talented Chargers and bringing the heat on Rivers. It was a tremendous game plan and flawlessly executed.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots Thrash Chargers, Move On To Kansas City

Steve Balestrieri
January 13, 2019 at 10:02 pm ET

Patriots Will Go to 8th Straight Conference Championship

All season long the doubters have circled the 2018 Patriots team like vultures over carrion, searching for any cracks in the armor, off-field drama, whether real or imagined, and any vulnerability. Indeed, many of these national pundits, perhaps more out of wishful thinking than actual forethought, proclaimed that today, the Chargers would end the Patriots dynasty.

Well, don’t throw dirt on the corpse of the Patriots just yet. And perhaps Tom Brady isn’t quite at the edge of the precipice as many thought (or in the case of a few national dimwits, outwardly call for). The Patriots dominated the Chargers in every phase of the game and walked away with a 41-28 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate.

With a bye week to heal up the assorted injuries and prepare for the Chargers, the Patriots wanted to start quickly. They showed that by winning the toss and opting to receive the kickoff when they normally defer to the second half.

The Patriots came out loaded for bear, and the offense looked more dominant than they have in quite some time. Easily better than they’ve looked at any time this year. The Chargers zone defense was eviscerated by Brady and the running game in the first half. It was total domination for the first 30 minutes. Sony Michel ran 16 times for 105 yards, as the Pats offense rolled up 35 points, 347 yards, and 24 first downs, numbers that usually add up to a good game by halftime.

The Patriots in the first half were 5-6 on third down and 5-5 in the red zone. Remember this LA defense was Top 10 in both rushing (9th) and passing (9th), they boasted a pair of edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and an athletic group who totally shut down the Ravens a week ago. They were not “tomato cans” or terrible posers. This team was undefeated outside of LA all year. But they were shredded like wilted lettuce.

So focused was Brady, even as the half wore down, he was screaming at the officials for ruling that WR Phillip Dorsett got out of bounds and that the team should have been allowed to go for a last-second field goal.

This game was over by halftime, the Patriots had a commanding 35-7 lead, and at home in Foxboro, they aren’t going to blow that. The Chargers answered the Patriots opening touchdown when Stephon Gilmore who has been so good all season, got totally fooled by Rivers looking inside that he allowed Keenan Allen to zip past him and Rivers hit him for a too-easy 43-yard touchdown pass. The Chargers wouldn’t score again until the game was way out of reach.

The QB pressure on Rivers was immense all day. Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower, and Adrian Clayborn were outstanding all day and they harassed, hit and flustered Rivers from start to finish. He finished 25-51 for 331 yards with 3 TDs and an interception. But much of his yardage was 4th quarter garbage time. He padded his stats a bit, but don’t look at the score sheet. This was a butt kicking. The Chargers run game netted 19 yards total. Melvin Gordon was never a factor because the Patriots offense was scoring at will.

Sony Michel ended up with 129 yards rushing on 24 carries (5.1 average) and three touchdowns. Julian Edelman was unstoppable out of the slot making nine catches for 151 yards.  James White caught 15 passes for 97 yards. Dorsett had four catches for 41 and a touchdown.

Gilmore settled down after that one gaffe and was excellent the rest of the game and got an interception off Rivers later in the game. Rookie J.C. Jackson was put on the dangerous Mike Williams, who was targeted 11 times. Williams made five catches for 68 yards.

And Brady, the guy who is done, going over the cliff, and getting ready to be pushed into retirement by the Chargers pass rush? He finished 34-44 for 343 yards with a TD and 0 INTs. The play calling of Josh McDaniels on Sunday was outstanding, he kept the Chargers off-balanced all game long and their pass rush was rendered to a milk carton by a dominating performance by the Patriots offensive line who dominated the point of attack.

Brady summed it up best by stating what everyone from the Patriots was thinking when he told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson after the game, “everyone thinks we suck and can’t win games.” Indeed, ESPN’s Power Poll lists New England as just having a 15 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, the lowest of the four teams remaining.

Well, as they showed Sunday, you can doubt them all you want, but they’ve been counted out countless times before and if they play like they did today, they are capable of beating anyone.

And now they’re on their way to play in their 8th consecutive AFC Championship Game. Think about that for a second. How will that turn out? Nobody knows, but…

We’re on to Kansas City.

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 1-13, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-13, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Ignore the Noise: After Chargers beat the Ravens, as expected many of the national pundits raced to tell you why LA was going to win this matchup on the road against New England. The Chargers offense was more explosive, their defense much more stifling, they have playmakers all over the field…did we miss any?

But the numbers don’t really play that out. The explosive Chargers offense? They averaged 26.8 points this year. That scuffling Patriots offense averaged 27.2.  The Chargers defense allowed an average of 20.6 points per game. New England’s much-maligned defense allowed just 20.3 points.

The Bolts are a very good team in 2018 and do have a very good chance of pulling off the win today. But they’ll have to play better than they did a week ago. The Patriots don’t have Lamar Jackson under center. And the Pats are at home. Whoever plays better today will advance, but I wouldn’t buy into the hype that this is it for New England’s dynasty. That’s more wishful thinking than anything else.

Brady’s Cliff Has Different Parameters: Speaking of wishful thinking, several very biased hot take artists have been falling all over themselves to proclaim that Brady’s end is near and that he just doesn’t have it anymore. While issues with his supporting cast this season had as much to do with his numbers falling off as much as anything, but a closer look at those numbers reveal that there is a standard for Brady “falling off” and one for everyone else.

Look at Brady’s biggest rival, Peyton Manning in 2008. Manning completed 371 of 555 passes (66.8%) for 4002 yards, 27 TDs and 12 INTs with a passer rating of 95.0. Now with Brady’s #s in 2018,  375 of 570 (65.8%) for 4355 yards, 29 TDs and 11 INTs with a passer rating of 97.7. One is an MVP year and the other is falling off a cliff? Whose numbers were better?

Why did we bring up 2008? Because Manning’s numbers won him an MVP that year.

Did you Know? With a win today, the Patriots will move on to their eighth straight conference championship game and the 13th of Bill Belichick’s career. The only coach with 10 conference championship games since the 1970 merger is Tom Landry.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The Patriots with a win today will mark a record for Tom Brady in the divisional round at 13-2 in his career, including 12-1 in Foxboro.

Edelman Close to a Personal Milestone: Julian Edelman needs just five catches today to move past Reggie Wayne for second place all-time in playoff receptions. Wayne has 93 and Edelman enters today’s game with 89 career playoff receptions. Not bad for a college QB.

In case you’re wondering, Jerry Rice is far ahead of everyone with 151 catches in the postseason. With 39 receiving yards, Edelman will also move into the Top 10 in playoff receiving yards.

McDaniels Staying Put, At Least Thru 2019:

With the news that he didn’t get the Green Bay head coaching job, Josh McDaniels has announced that he’s off the table in manners of searching for the next head coaching position.

During a conference call with the media, McDaniels didn’t mince words. “The book is closed,” McDaniels said leaving no doubt for anyone to speculate.  “It’s always a humbling experience to have an opportunity to interview with anybody for that position.

“I was thankful for the opportunity to meet with Green Bay; it always gives you greater insight into another organization of how they do things. It’s been very educational for me every time I’ve gone through it and I’ve appreciated every single one of them.”

“I’m completely focused on the Chargers and our season and finishing it strong. And I’ll be here moving forward.”

Kraft Wins Genesis Prize in Israel, the “Jewish Nobel”:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being honored for his philanthropy work in Israel and is being awarded the $1 million dollar Genesis Prize, which is often equated as the “Jewish Nobel.” He will be awarded the honor at a gala in Jerusalem in June.

According to a statement released by the Kraft Group, he will be giving the money “to initiatives combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice as well as attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel.”

Kraft has given more than half a billion dollars to causes including health care, education, the Jewish community, Christian organizations, and local needs.

Genesis Prize chairman Stan Polovets called the Kraft “one of the world’s most generous philanthropists whose charitable giving reflects the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world.”

Patriots Versatility At RB May Serve Them Well This Week:

The Patriots have a versatile group of running backs heading into the postseason with rookie Sony Michel who had 931 yards rushing and six touchdowns is the primary running back in the ground game while James White with 87 receptions was the leading pass receiver of the group. Rex Burkhead who missed all but seven games is the guy who does a little bit of both. James Develin is the blocking fullback who can catch the odd pass. Their versatility helps keep each other fresh and opponents guessing.

This versatility will be needed today, now that the playoffs have arrived. If teams try to stack the box, Brady can put the backs in motion and split them out wide to create matchup problems. If they flood the secondary with defensive backs to stop the pass, they can run the ball and keep the sticks moving.

If the Patriots are going to move on the conference championship, they’ll need big games from their running backs, in both the running and passing games. In last year’s game against the Chargers, Brady completed 14-15 passes for 163 yards to the running backs. Look for them to try to replicate that success again today. And for the Chargers to try to stop that as well.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Divisional Weekend Predictions:

Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend: 0-4 (yikes)

Saturday – Kansas City over Indy
                 LA Rams over Dallas

Sunday –   New England over LA Chargers
                 New Orleans over Philly

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Big Decision Looming on Shady McCoy:

The Buffalo Bills finally have some long-term stability at quarterback.and now they have to decide on whether or not they move on from running back LeSean McCoy.

McCoy, the 30-year old running back has a lot of treads worn off on his tires after being a workhorse for his entire 10-year career. In 2018, he posted career lows of just 514 yards rushing, a paltry 3.2 yards per rush average and just three touchdowns.

Not all of the fault lies with McCoy, the Bills offensive line was a particular area of weakness this season and a place they’ll be looking to improve upon in 2019. Their passing game was also non-existent at times and teams loaded up the box to stop the run.

With a salary cap hit of $9.05 million dollars in 2019, the Bills will be looking to at least adjust his cap number but they may be looking to start fresh with younger players. One area that points to his decline, however, is in the passing game. McCoy caught 59 passes in 2017, this season they dropped to just 34. His touchdown totals in the past three seasons have fallen from 14 in 2016, to 8 a year ago, to just 3 this season.

Dolphins Expected to Hire Flores As The Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins are bucking the trend with going for the next offensive whiz-kid coach (read next Sean McVay), and are rumored to be hiring Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores as their next head coach. Miami was targeting defensive coaches and interviewed Saints DC Dennis Allen and Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richards among their candidates.

It is going to be a tough job for Flores who will have to go thru a bit of rebuild in South Beach before the Dolphins are ready to challenge in the AFC East. For the first time, he’ll have to go thru the process of hiring assistants, running the day-to-day operation of a team and have to deal with offensive personnel, something he’s had no experience with. Flores worked his way from the bottom with the Patriots from a scouting assistant, to a positional coach, STs assistant to the defensive coordinator.

But he has a great reputation as a commanding presence in the meeting room while maintaining a very good relationship with his players. He’ll be the second defensive coordinator in the past two seasons to bolt for a head coaching job.

Jets Hire Adam Gase and Bypass McCarthy:

The New York Jets have hired recently fired Miami coach Adam Gase as their new head coach after the fired Todd Bowles after the regular season. Many believed that former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy was the front-runner for the job, but they turned to Gase, who also has a track record of working with QBs, having worked with Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and had some success working with Ryan Tannehill.

And while many fans, especially those who listen to WFAN were unhappy with the news, Jets’ ownership is quite happy with the hiring. “At the onset of the interview process, I wanted to hire a head coach who was the right person and the right fit for our organization,” Johnson released in a statement. “We talked to a number of excellent candidates and it became clear to me that Adam was the person who will help us establish a winning program and a winning culture.”

“Adam is a young, creative mind, but he also has 22 years of coaching experience,” Johnson said. “He is an innovator whose path saw him succeed at both the college and the NFL levels. He has helped a number of different quarterbacks, at various stages of their careers, reach new heights. We think Sam [Darnold] will continue to develop under his tutelage, but we made the decision because of Adam’s vision for the entire football team.”

Meanwhile, on the “Benigno & Roberts” WFAN show, the duo was lambasting Jets ownership for not hiring McCarthy, which played well to some of the fans on social media. Roberts called Gase this week, “Peyton Manning’s coffee boy.”

Ouch. Welcome to New York Adam Gase.

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.

Patriots-Chargers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
January 11, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

Patriots-Chargers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

The New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon as they play in the Divisional Round of the 2018 playoffs.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (11-5) beat the Jets two weeks ago but as the #2 seed were idle during the bye week. They are hoping to win on Sunday and move on to their 8th straight AFC Championship Game.

The Chargers (13-4) beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 on Sunday in Baltimore. The Chargers dominated the game and were comfortably ahead 23-3 when the Ravens scored two late touchdowns to make it interesting.

Series History:

The Patriots and Chargers have a history back to the beginnings of the AFL and will meet for the 42nd time in their shared history. The Chargers beat the Boston Patriots in the 1964 AFL Championship Game and the two teams met two more times in the playoffs following the 2006 and 2007 seasons. New England holds the overall lead in the series 24-15-2 including the playoffs.

The teams last met last year which was a Patriots 21-13 win in Gillette Stadium. Since opening Gillette Stadium, the Patriots are 11-1 against the Chargers at home.

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 Chargers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game (127.3 yards per game, 5th NFL) is now a three-headed committee with Sony Michel getting the lion’s share on the ground with Rex Burkhead and James White also getting in some work. But a large portion of what makes the ground game go is the use of wide receivers in Jet Sweeps with Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman.

The Chargers have a good run defense are were the 9th best unit against the run in 2018 allowing just 105.8 yards per game. They stuffed the powerful Ravens running game by utilizing a smaller defense consisting of seven defensive backs. This week they get back a big, big piece of their interior defensive line with Brandon Mebane who missed last week due to the tragic death of his daughter.

I think the Patriots will be able to run some at this defense by mixing things up. Look for the Patriots to run the pony formation with two backs on either side of Brady. I think the Jet sweeps would be of particular use when the Chargers line up in their Wide 9 look with some cutback lanes that they’ll try to exploit.

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

The Patriots passing game (266.1 yards per game, 8th NFL) will miss the speed, size and sure hands of Josh Gordon in the playoffs now that the pretenders have been wiped away from the schedule. While Patterson has the size and speed, he’s nowhere near the accomplished route runner or receiver that Gordon is. They still have a good, but not great group with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett out wide with Rob Gronkowski at tight end and White and Burkhead out of the backfield. The key for them is to utilize everyone, which makes them much harder to stop, something they’ve haven’t always done this season.

The  Chargers have also the 9th best unit against the pass this season, allowing just 227.9 yards per game thru the air. It starts up front with the pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Those two can disrupt the passing game of anyone. They frequently slide Ingram inside and line him up on a guard which can be a mismatch, and overload one side with both on one side, which frees up rushers on the opposite side to make plays.

Derwin James the rookie out of Florida State has been huge for the defense leading the team with 105 tackles with 13 passes defensed, 3.5 sacks, and 6 QB hits. Expect him to be lined up with Gronkowski and I like James to win that matchup.

Look for Brady to get the ball out quickly and target the Chargers LBs in the passing game. If they have a weakness it is there. Last year, Brady completed 14-15 for 163 yards against the Chargers when targeting his running backs. Protection will be key here. Look for Josh McDaniels to use uptempo too to keep the Chargers from substituting personnel. It won’t be an easy game on either part of the Patriots offense against this group, but if they play the way they have all season at home, they should find some success.

Next up the Chargers offense:

Chargers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Chargers running game is 8th in the league averaging 117.1 yards per game. They lean heavily on Melvin Gordon who gained 885 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per rush and had 10 touchdowns in 2018. They have Austin Ekeler as their secondary back and he too averaged a very good 5.2 yards per rush and had 552 yards with three scores. Patriots fans will long remember the 87-yard run he made in Gillette during the first quarter of the game last year, when they didn’t properly set the edge.

The Patriots run defense is ranked 11th in the league allowing 112.7 yards per game, but it has been very inconsistent. At times this season, they were gashed badly up the middle between the tackles. However, the last two regular season games they were much better, albeit against the Bills and Jets. Setting the edge will be a big factor in this one. As well as doing a good job of clogging the middle of the field at the point of attack.

I’m still not sold on this run defense between the tackles and believe Gordon and Ekeler will have some success running inside. Look for Brian Flores to roll the dice a bit and try to send ILB Elandon Roberts on some run blitzes to try to hit Gordon at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Chargers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

Philip Rivers had an outstanding season, passing for 4300+ yards, 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions for a 105.5 passer rating. He has plenty of weapons to throw to with Keenan Allen, 96 catches, 1196 yards, and six TDs, Mike and Tyrell Williams who each had about 650 yards receiving and Gordon and Ekeler out of the backfield. The venerable Antonio Gates is still a third-down target and they’ve activated Hunter Henry this week, he tore an ACL this spring and is ready to go.

The Patriots gave up an average of 246.7 yards thru the air this year but the secondary, particularly the corners are a position of strength. Stephon Gilmore is now one of the top corners in the league and with rookie J.C. Jackson playing very well, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones, the team is in good shape there. Pat Chung and Devin McCourty anchor the safety position with Duron Harmon.

The key for the Patriots is to get pressure on Rivers and force the Chargers to keep their running backs in for pass protection. If Gordon has a weakness it is his pass blocking. Both he and Ekeler are very good receivers and would present mismatches to the Patriots linebackers in the passing game. Look for the Pats to try to condense the inside and rushing the A-gap and try to cut down on Rivers’ time to throw downfield.

It will be the backs and tight ends that will either win or lose this matchup for New England. They have the corners to match up and be very competitive with the Chargers WRs. But if Antonio Gates, Gordon, Ekeler and Hunter Henry, who no one knows how effective he’ll be, have big days then it will be a long afternoon for the NE defense.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have a very reliable tandem in the kicking game in Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen. The Chargers Michael Badgley had a tremendous game last week against the Ravens and was the difference in the game. But Donnie Jones had a punt blocked in Baltimore and that could be an issue against the Pats who’ve blocked a few down the stretch.

Both teams have big-play returners in the kicking game. Desmond King had a 72-yarder last week. The Pats answer with Patterson and Edelman. Look for NE to come after a punt early in this one.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be the best game of the weekend. The Charger provide a very capable opponent on both sides of the ball. They don’t have blazing speed on offense, like New England but have a plethora of playmakers that can keep a defense on their heels.

The Keys from a Patriots perspective are:

Stay Balanced on Offense:

The Patriots will have to run the ball effectively enough to keep those pass rushers on their toes and Brady, in particular, will have to spread the ball around to all of his receivers. That means running out of 11 personnel and passing out 21 personnel.

Keep the Pressure on Rivers and Keep the Backs In:

The Patriots front seven will have to mix things up and bring pressure on Rivers while forcing the RBs to remain in for pass protection. If they can do that and keep them out of the stat sheet in the passing game, it should go a long way.

Win the STs Battle:

There will be some points to be had in STs this week. Ryan Allen and Gostkowski are good at keeping the ball away from opponent’s return men. On the other hand they’ll have to get some production out of their own returners. And attack the punting game and get after a kick. They’ve blocked three kicks down the stretch, and could use another one this week.

This one will go down to the wire. If this game were in LA, I’d easily reverse this score, but the Pats have proven to be a much better team at home this season. Brady and Co. get it done and move on their 8th straight AFC Championship Game.  Patriots 27-24

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 Fourth And Two Podcast: Divisional Round Preview – Chargers vs. Patriots Breakdown

Russ Goldman
January 9, 2019 at 12:11 pm ET

In this episode, we looked back at the games on Wild Card Weekend to begin the show. However, the majority of this episode is breaking down the upcoming Divisional Round Playoff Game for the Patriots against the Chargers. This is an in depth super sized preview of the upcoming game.

Chargers Beat Baltimore, Sets Up Great Matchup With New England

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2019 at 8:49 am ET

The AFC Divisional Matchups are set with the Colts heading to Kansas City after dispatching the Texans on the road and the Los Angeles Chargers (I keep wanting to say San Diego) travel to New England to take on the Patriots.

We’ll get into some individual matchups with our Razor’s Edge piece later this week but here are a few quick things to know about the San…er LA Chargers before they head to Foxboro next week.

These Aren’t Your Dad’s Bolts:

Okay, that may be a stretch, but while you’re guaranteed to hear ad nauseam all week about how either A. Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady (0-7) or B. This year’s Patriots team is very beatable, you can throw out all that hoopla.

Everybody is beatable, it comes down to having a good game plan and then being able to execute it. Bolts DC Gus Bradley had a great game plan for the Ravens and they worked it to perfection for 49 minutes but then allowed Baltimore to nearly snatching away a game they had no business winning. But the Patriots wins over the Chargers and Rivers were in 2006-2007. Those were over a decade ago and the only remaining links from either team are Brady and Belichick and Rivers and Antonio Gates.

This Chargers team seems much mentally tougher than those teams, who always it seemed to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Anthony Lynn has done a great job and is a viable candidate for Coach of the Year. Need proof? The Bolts came back from 16 points down on the road in Pittsburgh and 14 points down on the road in Kansas City to win both games…

Strength Against Strength This Week:

The Patriots were the league’s only undefeated team at home this year with a perfect 8-0 record. The Chargers were the league’s best road team this season with a 7-1 record. And that is even kind of misleading because the Chargers, in reality, played 16 road games this season.

They have no permanent home and are operating out of an abandoned office park in Costa Mesa, California while their new facility is being built. They hold training camp at a high school and play their “home” games in a tiny 30,000 seat soccer stadium where the opposing fans frequently outnumber their own.

The Patriots home field advantage is well deserved, they rarely if ever beat themselves at home and play much better in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium. We could regurgitate all of the stats about their home record, which you’ve heard (and will hear all week) but you know all of that. You can’t have an 18-year run of excellence like the Pats have had and not take care of business at home.

With a win on Sunday, the Patriots would advance to their eighth straight AFC Championship Game against the winner of KC-Indy. That is ridiculous and attainable if they play their game.

Rivers Is Having Arguably His Best Season:

Philip Rivers is still making the commute to LA from SD every day and still lighting it up this season. Rivers completed 68.3 percent of his passes in 2018 for 4308 yards with 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions with a passer rating of 105.5.

Against the Ravens on Sunday, while far from his best game, he did what he had to do to get the win. The Ravens pass rush harried him all game and he completed 22 of 32 for 160 yards with 0 TDs and more importantly 0 INTs against the offensively challenged Ravens.

But at 37, Rivers has lost none of his competitive fire. He played the 2007 AFCG with a torn ACL, that is toughness. He’s also always been a huge trash talker during the game and on Sunday after taking a big hit from Matthew Judon after releasing the ball, Rivers thought it was a late hit. When Judon himself got up slowly, Rivers gave it to him yelling an audible “That’s what you get!” You can expect that type of fight for four quarters on Sunday.

Excellent Balance Offensively/Defensively:

The Chargers road record reflects that this team can win with their running game with Melvin Gordon or thru the air with Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates et al. When the offensive unit struggles, their defense is more than capable of taking over a game. Yesterday’s win over the Ravens was a prime example.

With all the talk of the Ravens defense, it was the Chargers defense who carried the game. The pass rush of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram dominated up front where Lamar Jackson had zero time to throw or to make plays. The secondary is solid and the rush defense is very good allowing just 104.8 yards per game.

The Chargers boast a Top 10 scoring offense as well as a Top 10 scoring defense. There are no glaring weaknesses on this team. The offense averages 26.5 points per game (6th) while the defense allows 20.6 per contest. The Patriots are nearly mirror images on both sides of the ball with 27.2 offensively and 20.3 defensively.

Chargers Are a Little Banged Up:

Playing against the Ravens is always a physical game and that is always a consideration when having to travel back and forth across the coasts twice again. They were already dealing with some injuries before the game. Brandon Mebane was out, and Austin Ekeler, Jaheel Addae, and Dan Feeney were all dealing with injuries.

During the game, Melvin Gordon left for a bit with a knee injury that was unrelated to his other knee injury but did return and finished the game. We’ll see how he feels during the week and if it cuts into his practice time.

Hunter Henry could be the “X-Factor” in this week’s game. He’s been out since the spring with an ACL injury but has been practicing and could be activated for this week’s game and could bring a huge lift to the Chargers’ passing attack.

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.

New England Patriots News 11-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-18, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

Not a SB Team?  Former Patriot front office assistant to Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi stated he has serious doubts that this Patriot team has what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl this year. On a podcast, he was direct in his belief.

“To me, this is not a good Patriots team. I have been saying it all year,” Lombardi said.

“They struggle to make explosive plays. Whether they have Gronk or don’t have Gronk, I think it is really problematic for them. When they are on the road — they didn’t have Shaq Mason at right guard, Ted Karras had to play in there — I thought the Titans did a great job. And Corey Davis here is a guy who has had one play over 25 yards all season. He had a 23-yard against the Eagles and a 55-yarder. The guy really makes plays down the field and he had seven (catches) for 125 (yards) in the game. That is not good.”

Did you Know? That yesterday November 17 was the 50th anniversary of the famous “Heidi” game. In 1968, the Jets and Raiders were locked in an epic shootout and the network cut away from the game to broadcast the film “Heidi” in their 4 p.m. time slot. The Raiders scored twice in the last minute to win 43-32, but the only people in America that got to see that were the fans in the stadium.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With 147 yards passing next week against the Jets, Tom Brady will become the NFL leader in passing yardage, regular and post-season combined.
Peyton Manning ……………………….79,279
Tom Brady …………………………….   79,133
Brett Favre………………………………. 77,693
Drew Brees ………………………………77,255

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2003, the Patriots are 46-7 (.868 win percentage) following a loss. That doesn’t bode extremely well for a Jets upset next week in the Meadowlands, but that is why they play the games.

Did you Know Pt. 4: Things that make you go hmm. There was a stat on social media, the other day, and I truly can’t remember who posted it to give proper credit, but here is a good one, especially for the “Belichick can’t draft” crowd.

Teams with the most draft picks that are still in the NFL:
Bengals     61
Ravens      54
Seahawks 54
49ers         53
Patriots     52

Now factor in WHERE the Patriots draft in relation to those other teams as well as everyone else, and presto!, their ratio isn’t so bad now, is it?

James White set a new personal best with 66 catches and is only 11 away from a new Patriots record. Tony Collins set the team record with 77 catches in 1986. White is also right on pace with some of the best #s of catches by a running back after 10 games.
Reggie Bush     2007  New Orleans  67
Larry Centers   1996  Arizona           67
Matt Forte        2014  Chicago           67
James White    2018  New England  66

Kaepernick to the Patriots Rumors:  The Patriots were rumored in September to be in talks with QB Colin Kaepernick to bring him to New England to back up Tom Brady. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, kind of dismissed that idea, not really confirming or denying it was true. However, in an interview with Devin Gordon of the NY Times, Kraft had this interesting tidbit about Kaepernick. “Let me say this: I would very much like to see him in the league,” Kraft said. That should stoke the Kaepernick to NE rumors again.

Heating Up in the Colder (Snowy?) Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along. Let’s see how this starts out in 2018 next week against the Jets.

Now Things Get Interesting, Pats Down the Stretch:

Last week we wrote that the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Chiefs who are 9-1 and now two games ahead of the Patriots in the AFC. The loss dropped New England out of the top two as Pittsburgh only has two losses (6-2-1). But the Patriots are far from out of the running for a bye once the playoffs roll around. Why? Take a look at the schedules of the teams involved.

The Chiefs (9-1) have an upcoming game this week against the Rams, and also have games upcoming against the Chargers, the Seahawks (in Seattle) and a possible trap game against the Ravens who have a tough defense.

The LA Chargers (7-2), I still have a hard time NOT saying San Diego, have games coming up against the Steelers, Chiefs and possible trap games against the Ravens and Bengals.

The Steelers (6-2-1) have the Chargers and then the Patriots and Saints in back-to-back games and also play the Jaguars today, the team who beat them twice in Pittsburgh last season.

The Patriots (7-3) have games with Minnesota, Miami (on the road where they always seem to play like poo-poo) and the Steelers

Everybody can’t win out, they all play each other. And think about this, the Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the loss column, that division is far from locked up. So, the Patriots are in a position where, if they play well down the stretch, should be in a great position to lock up a first-round bye for the playoffs. The games will get very intriguing from here on out.

Areas That Need Improving Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots off this week, they always do their own self-scouting and look to where the team feels it needs improving to finish the season strong. We’re going to post our own analysis on where we feel the team needs to improve to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and possibly parlay that into another game for NE in February.

Improve Special Teams- Specifically the coverage units. Very uncharacteristically for a Bill Belichick team, the Patriots have been bad in kick coverage this year. They currently rank 29th and 31st correspondingly in Punt and Kick coverage.

That is not good, especially with a defense that has had its struggles this year. The team seems to have already addressed those issues. They brought in STs/LBs Albert McClellan, formerly of the Ravens last week and just signed Ramon Humber who has spent time with the team in the past.

The return units are actually rounding into form quite well. The Patriots rank 2nd in the league in kickoff return yardage and 2nd in punt return average.

Get a Healthy Gronk and Burkhead Back for the Offense- The Patriots offense, while scoring at the 8th best mark in the league, can actually be much, much better. They’ve been very inconsistent and need to get their key skill position players healthy as well as their offensive line for a late-season push.

Gronkowski has missed several games and has been hobbled for much of the season beyond that. Besides being the best overall tight end in the game when he’s healthy, he provides matchup nightmares for defensive coordinators. If opponents double him, they leave someone else open. He’s a devastating blocker in the running game as well. Jacob Hollister has also been hurt most of the year, so it has left the tight end position with very little production. Dwayne Allen has two catches on the year.

Burkhead is a very valuable piece as he can spell both Sony Michel in the running game and James White in the passing game. While he’s the equal of neither in their respective strengths, his versatility makes him keep opposing defenses honest. Getting both Gronkowski and Burkhead back and healthy for a stretch run will do wonders for the Patriots offense.

Where’s The Beef (Pass Rush)- Thru the first 10 games the Patriots have just 15 sacks. That is 30th in the NFL and isn’t going to get it done. While they have gotten decent enough pressure on opposing QBs, the pass rush has to get home with much more regularity. It is a big difference between an incomplete pass on 2nd and 4 because of pressure and facing a 3rd and 12 or 13.

Trey Flowers has been outstanding and does so many things well, but the other players need to step up their games more. Although even Flowers would be best served with a bit more production as well.

They’ve been creating some extra pressure by using corner and linebacker blitzes. But as we’ve seen before, the best teams will pick up on those and it can be a dangerous situation if they do.

Brady Needs to Spread the Wealth Around- One of the things that has reared its ugly head last week in the loss to the Titans was the fact that Brady was locking into his primary receivers (Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White) and has pretty much ignored his secondary WRs (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett).

That’s always been a sure sign that Brady is struggling and that needs to change. Brady had Hogan wide open with what appeared to be a touchdown last week, instead, forcing the ball to Edelman on 4th down.

This plays into what we mentioned above and getting everyone back and healthy but he needs to do a bit better job overall and certainly to use all of his weapons. He said as much this week.

Brady and the Cliff…Keep Praying Boys, It May Come True Someday:

Our buddy Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda wrote a very intriguing piece the other day where he said there is a very real number of national football writers and NFL fans that can’t wait for the demise of Tom Brady. Mike hit it right on the head and I would encourage everyone here to check it out. And it is true.

Many of the hot take artists are really just jock sniffers wrapped up in a suit on national television. Brady has never fit the narrative because he was never supposed to be “the guy”. A 6th round draft pick #199 taken behind some of the quarterbacks that went before him in the draft that were underachievers…would be a politically correct term. He was supposed to be an asterisk on the minds of all. “Remember Tom Brady?” “Oh yeah, that unathletic kid from Michigan that won a bowl game…he wasn’t going to ever make it in the NFL.”

Remember 2001, that was a great story…9/11, We are all Patriots…yeah he had his moment but to the hot take crowd that was his 15 seconds. Now move over kid, the great one “Manning the #1 pick in the draft, he is the ONE.”

But 2003 happened and the kid showed it wasn’t a flash in the pan and he led another final Super Bowl drive to give his team another win and the hot take crowd wasn’t happy. By 2004, the great story had turned to an open hatred of him, his unquotable coach and the team that won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls.

After leaving Manning in the dust with eight Super Bowl appearances and five wins, now the cretin, ultracrepidarians can’t wait for him to fail. Which is why after every Patriot loss, they rush to the microphone to spew their latest drivel about the “cliff’ or whatever else they do. Don’t bother. One of those loudly proclaimed after the 2011 Super Bowl loss to the Giants that “Tom Brady will never see another Super Bowl” Three SBs and two wins later, now this buffoon rushes to the microphone to say…”All of those don’t really count”. Okay.

The two real questions are #1. Who would hire someone who is more wrong than the worst weatherman in the U.S.? And #2, Are your lives so pathetic, the hate for all things NE so bad, that you rush to listen to this after every NE loss? I wonder how bad the cheering will be against Brady this February when NE and NO have the Super Bowl QB AARP game of the ages?  Don’t bet against it. I called it before Week 1 and I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise. Fast forward to the 37:15 mark and there it is.

“Let the hate flow thru you…”

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 7-7 Season 96-50-2 Bye Week: NE, Buf, Mia, NYJ, Browns, 49ers

Thursday night’s pick  Seahawks over Packers 1-0

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ravens
Dallas at Atlanta: Falcons
Tampa Bay at NY Giants: G-men
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Houston at Washington: Texans
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Colts (SB Hangover)
Carolina at Detroit: Panthers
Denver at LA Chargers: Bolts
Oakland at Arizona: Raiders
Philadelphia at New Orleans: Saints (are we having fun yet?)
Minnesota at Chicago SNF: Vikings
Kansas City at LA Rams MNF: Rams

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

No AFC East Notes this week as everyone is on the bye week. We’ll have those back next 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.

NFL Playoff Picture for Week 17

John Morgan
December 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET

The 2017 NFL regular season wraps up on Sunday afternoon. There is not as much drama this year compared to the week 17 of many previous seasons. The 2017 NFL playoff picture is relatively settled. In the AFC there are four teams battling for two wild card spots. The NFC still has one division title up for grabs, but has just two teams competing for one final playoff slot.

For the sake of clarity and sanity, ties have been omitted from the scenarios below.

 

AFC Playoff Picture for Week 17

12-3 New England Patriots
15½ point home favorites vs Jets.
Have clinched AFC East and a first round bye.
Clinch the #1 seed with either a win, or a Pittsburgh loss.

12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers
7 point home favorites vs Browns.
Have clinched AFC North and a first round bye.
Need a win plus a Patriots loss for #1 seed.
Are the #2 seed in any other scenario.

10-5 Jacksonville Jaguars
3 point underdogs at Tennessee.
Have clinched AFC South and #3 seed.
Locked into the #3 slot.

9-6 Kansas City Chiefs
3½ point underdogs at Denver.
Have clinched AFC West and #4 seed.
Locked into the #4 slot.

9-6 Baltimore Ravens
9½ point home favorites vs Cincinnati.
Become #5 seed with either a win, or losses by both Buffalo and Tennessee.
Become #6 spot with loss, and either Buffalo or Tennessee loses.
Miss playoffs with a loss, plus both Buffalo and Tennessee win.

8-7 Tennessee Titans
3 point home favorites vs Jacksonville.
Become #5 seed with a win, plus Baltimore loses.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus Baltimore wins.
Can still become #6 seed despite a loss if both Bills and Chargers lose.
Eliminated with a loss, plus a win by either the Bills or Chargers.

8-7 Los Angeles Chargers
8 point home favorites vs Oakland.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both Tennessee and Buffalo lose.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both Tennessee and Baltimore lose.
Chargers are eliminated with a loss, or if Tennessee wins, or if Buffalo wins and Baltimore loses.

8-7 Buffalo Bills
2½ point favorites at Miami.
Clinch #5 seed with a win, plus losses by both Baltimore and Tennessee.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus Baltimore loses.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both the Titans and the Chargers lose.
Eliminated with either a loss, or if the Titans and Ravens both win, or if the Chargers and Ravens both win.

 

NFC Playoff Picture for Week 17

13-2 Philadelphia Eagles
3 point home underdogs vs Dallas.
Have already clinched NFC East and #1 seed.

12-3 Minnesota Vikings
12 point home favorites vs Chicago.
Will be the #2 seed unless they lose, Carolina wins, plus the Saints and Rams both lose.

11-4 Los Angeles Rams
3½ point home underdogs vs San Francisco.
Clinch the #3 seed with a win, or with losses by both Carolina and New Orleans.
Drop to #4 seed with a loss, plus a win by either Carolina or New Orleans.

11-4 New Orleans Saints
7 point favorites at Tampa Bay.
Become #3 seed with a win, plus loss by Rams.
Win NFC South and #4 seed with either a win, or Carolina loss.
Become #5 seed with a loss, plus a Carolina win.

11-4 Carolina Panthers
3½ point underdogs at Atlanta.
Clinch #2 seed and first round bye with a win, plus losses by the Vikings, Saints and Rams.
Win NFC South and #3 seed with a win, plus losses by both the Saints and Rams.
Win NFC South and #4 seed with a win, plus loss by Saints.
Become #5 seed with either a loss, or a New Orleans win.

9-6 Atlanta Falcons
3½ point home favorites vs Carolina.
Make the playoffs as #6 seed with either a win, or a Seattle loss.
Miss the playoffs with a loss, plus Seattle wins.

9-6 Seattle Seahawks
9½ point home favorites vs Arizona.
Make the playoffs as #6 seed with both a win, plus Atlanta loss.
Miss the playoffs with either a loss, or an Atlanta win.

 

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16

John Morgan
December 23, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET

Entering Week 16 five teams have clinched a playoff spot. The Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Eagles and Vikings have all punched a ticket for the post season. Philadelphia is the only team thus far to earn a first round bye.

In the AFC six teams have been eliminated: the Browns, Colts, Texans, Broncos, Bengals and Jets. The Dolphins and Raiders are technically alive, but comatose and on life support. The Chargers are not in much better shape, even though they are only one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Most likely it is Ravens, Titans and Bills battling for two wild card spots.

The Giants, Bears, Forty Niners, Bucs, Cardinals, Skins and Packers are all officially eliminated. Dallas, Seattle and Detroit face tall odds to get in. Philadelphia and Minnesota have won their divisions and will host at least one playoff game. The only way the Rams don’t win the NFC West is to lose twice while Seattle wins twice. The NFC South is probably going to send three teams to the playoffs. Games involving the Saints, Panthers and Falcons are the most intriguing over the next two weeks. Atlanta is at New Orleans this week, and then the Falcons host Carolina next week.

For the sake of clarity (and sanity), I will not consider ties in the following playoff scenarios. Yes, I know they can happen: just ask Donovan McNabb.

 

AFC Playoff Picture

#1 (11-3) New England Patriots
Home vs 8-6 Bills, home vs 5-9 Jets.
Have clinched AFC East and at least #3 seed.
Clinch #2 seed with win, plus a loss by either Jacksonville or Pittsburgh.
Clinch #1 seed with win, plus losses by both Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.
Clinch #1 seed with two wins regardless of what else happens.

#2 (11-3) Pittsburgh Steelers
At 4-10 Texans, home vs 0-14 Browns.
Have clinched AFC North and at least #3 seed.
Clinch #2 seed with win, plus Jacksonville loss.

#3 (10-4) Jacksonville Jaguars
At 4-10 49ers, at 8-6 Titans.
Clinch AFC South and #3 seed with either a win, or a Tennessee loss.

#4 (8-6) Kansas City Chiefs
Home vs 6-8 Dolphins, at 5-9 Broncos.
Clinch AFC West and #4 seed with a win, plus a Chargers loss.

#5 (8-6) Tennessee Titans
Home vs 10-4 Rams, home vs 10-4 Jaguars.
Clinch playoff spot with a win, plus losses by both the Bills and Ravens.

#6 (8-6) Baltimore Ravens
Home vs 3-11 Colts, home vs 5-9 Bengals.
Clinch playoff spot with two wins.

#7 (8-6) Buffalo Bills
At 11-3 Patriots, at 6-8 Dolphins.

#8 (7-7) Los Angeles Chargers
At 5-9 Jets, home vs 6-8 Raiders.
Eliminated with a loss.
Can win AFC West and #4 seed with two wins, plus two losses by Kansas City.
Scenario #1 as a wild card: win twice, Titans lose twice, Ravens win or lose out (don’t go 1-1), and Bills lose at least once.
Scenario #2 as a wild card: win twice, Ravens lose twice Titans win or lose out (don’t go 1-1), and Bills lose at least once.

#9 (6-8) Oakland Raiders
At 12-2 Eagles, at 7-7 Chargers.
Can only be a #6 seed, or miss playoffs.
Eliminated with a loss.
To make the playoffs the Raiders need to win twice while Buffalo and Tennessee both lose twice, Miami wins twice, and Baltimore wins at least once.

#10 (6-8) Miami Dolphins
At 8-6 Chiefs, home vs 8-6 Bills.
Eliminated with a loss.
Scenario #1 as a wild card: win twice, Titans lose twice, Bills lose to Pats, Chiefs lose to Broncos, and Raiders lose at least once.
Scenario #2 as a wild card: win twice, Ravens lose twice, Bills lose to Pats, Chiefs lose to Broncos, and Raiders lose to Chargers.

 

NFC Playoff Picture

#1 (12-2) Philadelphia Eagles
Home vs 6-8 Raiders, home vs 8-6 Cowboys.
Have clinched NFC East and at least #2 seed.
Clinch #1 seed with either a win, or a Vikings loss.

#2 (11-3) Minnesota Vikings
At 7-7 Packers, home vs 4-10 Bears.
Have clinched NFC North.
Clinch #3 seed with either a win, or a Rams loss.
Clinch #2 seed with both a win, plus a Panthers loss.

#3 (10-4) Los Angeles Rams
At 8-6 Titans, home vs 4-10 49ers.
Clinch a playoff spot with losses by the Falcons, Panthers and Lions.
Clinch the NFC West and #3 seed with either a win, or a Seahawks loss.

#4 (10-4) New Orleans Saints
Home vs 9-5 Falcons, at 4-10 Bucs.
Clinch at least #5 seed with a win over Atlanta.
Clinch NFC West and at least #4 seed with win over Falcons, plus Panthers loss.

#5 (10-4) Carolina Panthers
Home vs 4-10 Bucs, at 9-5 Falcons.
Clinch playoff spot with a win.
Clinch at least #5 seed with a win, plus Saints loss to Falcons.

#6 (9-5) Atlanta Falcons
At 10-4 Saints, home vs 10-4 Panthers.
Clinch playoff spot with a win.

#7 (8-6) Detroit Lions
At 5-9 Bengals, home vs 7-7 Packers.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice while Falcons lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, and either Saints or Panthers lose twice, and either Seahawks or Cowboys win twice.

#8 (8-6) Seattle Seahawks
At 8-6 Cowboys, home vs 6-8 Cardinals.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Must win twice plus Rams lose twice to win NFC West and #4 seed.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice, Panthers lose twice, and Saints lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, Lions lose at least once, and one of Panthers, Saints or Falcons lose twice.

#9 (8-6) Dallas Cowboys
Home vs 8-6 Cowboys, at 12-2 Eagles.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice, Panthers lose twice, and Saints lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, Lions lose at least once, and of Panthers, Saints or Falcons lose twice.

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread