Tag Archives: New York Jets

New England Patriots News 1-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 21, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 1-21, & AFC East Notes.

Another week, another crazy news week as Tom Brady’s hand injury has dominated the talk all week. We know that he indeed injured his hand during practice this week during a collision with a running back. And thankfully the X-Rays were negative. But the amount of speculation on what exactly the injury is, especially by trying to diagnose it from a picture at practice while his hand was covered with a glove? Over the top.

We’ll see how badly (or not) his hand is injured today just after 3 p.m. today.

Gronkowski’s Postseason Numbers are Impressive: One other quick tidbit for today’s game. In his last six postseason games, Rob Gronkowski has totaled 37 catches for 512 yards and seven touchdowns. And the big man is healthy this year and anxious to play.

It will be interesting to see how well the Jaguars cover him today and how they go about it. If they can cover him with single coverage, it will go a long way in being a great day for their defense. If they are forced to double him, it pulls coverage away from someone else. We’ll be looking for them to rotate different looks at him.  

Belichick Skews the Parity Numbers of the NFL:
In a league that is supposed to be obsessed with the idea of parity, the Patriots under Bill Belichick have thumbed their collective noses at that suggestion once again. Today will mark the Patriots seventh straight conference championship appearance another record and a feather in the cap for Belichick who remains without peer as an NFL coach. The amazing thing is he does it year after year and is never even one of the top names for coach of the year. Head shaking to say the least.

Speaking of Belichick, Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated penned a fantastic piece this week of Bill and his long-time friendship with Nick Saban, the six-time National Championship winning coach at Alabama. Belichick recalled that his father Steve, working with Saban as a young secondary coach at Navy in 1982, called him “one of the best coaches I worked with.”

The two coaches, vastly different in their approaches but exactly the same in the burning desire to learn all of the answers, aren’t the type to feel like they know everything. Instead, what makes them both so great is their continued desire to learn.

Harrison Signing Looking Better and Better:
When the Patriots signed James Harrison after he was released by the Steelers, many, too many believed it was simply a ploy to learn the Steelers playbook by Bill Belichick. It was a short-sighted take at best.

Harrison has been a valuable contributor to the Patriots defense and in the regular season finale as well as the playoff game against the Titans, he’s played well while learning the New England defense on the fly. Harrison has played in over 45 percent of the defensive snaps and has been very good at setting the edge in the running game.

Bill Belichick spoke about his work on a conference call after the Tennessee game.  “He’s been good to work with,” Belichick said. “He’s a very experienced player. Some of our terminology is different, but he understands basic football concepts very well, and what his responsibility is, and how to play that responsibility.”

“He’s been good. He’s been very dependable. You can count on him, and that’s a good thing. It allows everybody to play aggressively. He’s an aggressive player and he’s been productive. He’s very professional. He wants to do well. He studies. He asks questions. I’ve enjoyed working with him.”

With the big, physical Leonard Fournette in the backfield for the Jaguars, Harrison could see an added workload this week. With a Patriots victory this afternoon, Harrison could be suiting up for New England in the Super Bowl. That won’t play out well in Pittsburgh.

By the Numbers:
Leading into today’s AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, here are some interesting numbers that may be of interest:
2: Number of field goals Stephen Gostkowski needs to become the #3 kicker in postseason field goals made behind Adam Vinatieri and David Akers.
2: Number of Special Teams tackles that Matthew Slater needs to become the Patriots all-time postseason leader.
5: Number of defensive tackles that Devin McCourty needs to pass both Rodney Harrison and Vince Wilfork to become the #4 leading tackler in team postseason history.
6: Number of Red Zone takeaways by the Patriots defense in 2017, most in the NFL.
7: Amount of catches needed by Rob Gronkowski to pass Dallas Clark and become the NFL’s All-Time leading TE in postseason receptions.
7: The amount of 13-win seasons by Bill Belichick, the most in NFL history. George Seifert is second with 4.
11: The number of times the Patriots scored in the final minute of the first half in 2017.
12: Today will mark the 12th conference championship that Tom Brady will play in. He already owns the record at 11. Gene Upshaw and George Blanda (10) are in 2nd.
12: The number of seasons the Patriots defense has held opponents to 20 points or less since 2001. In 2017, 18.5 points allowed per game, 5th in the NFL.
13: Number of yards receiving that Rob Gronkowski needs to become the all-time playoff leader at tight end.
13: With his 337 yard passing performance last week, Tom Brady has 13, 300-yard passing games in the playoffs, the most in NFL history.
18: Home playoff wins by Tom Brady with a home record of 18-3 in the postseason.
40: Number of 25+ yard passes by Tom Brady, most by a QB in the NFL in 2017.
53: Amount of 4th Quarter comebacks by Tom Brady with the score tied or behind.
76: Touchdown receptions by Rob Gronkowski since 2010, most in the NFL
88: Most wins by a team since the 2012 season, next closest team is Green Bay (73)

Mitchell, Jones Go to IR,  the Injury Bug Continues:
The Patriots did not activate WR Malcolm Mitchell off of IR and the Patriots talented second-year player will have lost the entire season due to injury. There was the slim hope that he could be activated during the playoffs and possibly contribute in the conference title game or the Super Bowl if the team moves on.

Mitchell, a rookie in 2016 had a strong second half of the regular season and had a solid Super Bowl performance that had many predicting a nice jump in production this season. But an injury in training camp landed him on IR and he never recovered

Jonathan Jones, a key special teams performer as well as the team’s valuable nickel back contributor was injured in the Titans game and was also placed on season-ending IR this week. His place on the STs unit will be taken by Jonathan Bademosi.

Patriots Rookies, Ignore the Wall, Play Key Roles on Defense:
When one talks about the rookies who play in their first NFL season, the talk usually gets to the “Rookie Wall” in their first year in the league. The season is much longer than in college, then factor in preseason and playoffs and many times, the rookies, who’ve never played this long in a season, wear down.

But the Patriots have been fortunate that two of their rookies Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler have continued to play well and be key role players in the team’s front seven thru the end of the regular season and into the playoffs which continue today.

Wise, a 4th round draft pick from Arkansas impressed observers since the beginning of training camp. He carried himself like a seasoned pro and has had a solid 2017 rookie season with 5 sacks and 26 tackles playing in about half of the team’s defensive snaps.

Butler was an undrafted rookie free agent from Vanderbilt who no one gave a shot at making the 53-man roster in training camp. So he ended up on the roster the old-fashioned way…he earned it. Butler played in just under half the defensive snaps and has grown into his role, improving from week-to-week. Both young players will have to continue to step if the Patriots are to win today and continue on to Minnesota.  

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Divisional Weekend:
Divisional Weekend Last week 1-3 mark.

Conference Championship Weekend Picks
New England over Jacksonville
Minnesota over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down – AFC East Notes:

Bills Get a Coup, Sign Daboll as Offensive Coordinator:
The Buffalo Bills started their offseason off with a bang, signing former Alabama OC Brian Daboll to run the Bills offense in 2018. Daboll brings a loaded resume with him to Orchard Park and the Buffalo offense will definitely look different next season.

Daboll has a National Championship in his only season on Nick Saban’s staff along with two Super Bowl wins as part of Bill Belichick’s crew in New England. Now Daboll and Head Coach Sean McDermott will have to decide what direction they’re going to go at the QB position. Will they stick with either Tyrod Taylor or Nathan Peterman or look to the Free Agents/NFL Draft to find their franchise QB. Most people believe Daboll would prefer a pure passer. This spring should be quite interesting for Bills fans.

Baker Mayfield Ignites Twitter with “Get Me to Miami” Post:
Oklahoma QB and Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield lit Twitter on fire with his comments on the social media page when he posted “#Get me to Miami” on his Instagram account this week.

Social media, being what it is at times exploded with hot takes with Mayfield supposedly taking the track that he only wanted to play for Miami.

The truth, is it so often is, was much more benign. Mayfield explained that he was just sending a message to former Oklahoma wide receiver standout and Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills. Mayfield’s post caused him to have to remark, “Just so everybody knows. … I commented about playing for Miami because I was talking to a former Sooner in Kenny Stills,” Mayfield said.

“Everybody can relax, I will play anywhere that gives me a chance. I’m not picky, I will go anywhere and strive to uplift a franchise and win ball games.”

Robby Anderson Gets Arrested and Threatens Cop: The Jets’ offseason didn’t get off swimmingly. NY wide receiver Robby Anderson was arrested by police in Sunrise, FL for going 105mph in a 45 mph zone. The police officer who arrested Anderson stated that he couldn’t maintain his lane and was “all over the roadway.”

Worse still was the fact that Anderson then threatened the police officer’s wife,  stating allegedly “I’m going to  f**k her and nut in her eye.” He’s facing nine charges and was arrested last spring at a music festival after refusing to sit on the ground and pushing a police officer.

Anderson totaled 63 catches for 941 yards and 7 touchdowns during the 2017 regular season.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 1-7, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 1-7, & AFC East Notes.

We hope everyone made it thru the first big winter storm that rolled thru the area this week. If you lived on the coast, some areas were hit really hard with some awful flooding. That’s mother nature’s way of reminding us that she can really pack a wallop. Let’s hope everyone is ok and back in their homes soon.

It Has to be Playoff Time When You See…:
Unless you’ve been on a winter trip in the Amazon, by now you’ve heard about the story in ESPN about the Patriots coming apart at the seams and the feuding going on between Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

It never ceases to amaze that the network always “breaks” these stories around the time the playoffs are going on…coincidence? A few of the items in the story just jump out, so our two cents on these, in no particular order:

-Trade Demanded by #12:  If you believe that Tom Brady forced Robert Kraft to force Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, you just haven’t paid any attention to what’s been going on around these parts for the past 17 years. Brady lives for competition, it drives him and it has been why he’s so successful.

How many times have we talked about and remarked how competitive he is…in practice? Brady regularly treats practice in training camp like a playoff game. If the Patriots’ coaches told him that Garoppolo is soon to take over, it’s going to light a fire under his butt, not drive him to run to Kraft demanding Jimmy G. gets traded.

Brady has always adopted an almost warrior-type bushido in his professional career. The average man looks at events that occur in his life as a blessing or a curse. The warrior looks upon those same events as a challenge.

-Garoppolo Turned Down $17-18 Million Dollar Extension: This one got into specifics and was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire piece. Supposed, the Patriots went to Garoppolo and Don Yee, his manager, who also reps Brady and offered him a nice extension but were turned down. Two Patriots insiders Tom E. Curran, and Mark Daniels have their own sources and stated that this never happened. As for Garoppolo being locked out of the TB12 clinic next door? Please. This fall, I walked into the front door of the place, looking for alternatives to gel injections for arthritic knees and waltzed right in. That’s one of the more ridiculous mentions. And as for Garoppolo claiming that Brady refused to help him? Well, a month ago Brady said that the two still talk regularly and have a great relationship. Garoppolo gave Brady credit for helping him in a presser for the Niners…hmm.

-Brady and Belichick Are Feuding Over Guerrero: While there may be a slight lingering of hurt feelings over Guerrero, I wrote here two weeks ago that even those I believe to be overblown. Belichick needs one voice in the locker room and on the field and that is the team’s. Many of the beat writers have said that the relationship between the coach and QB has never been a close personal one but a close professional one.

And you’re dealing with big egos here. Are there going to be disagreements and even arguments? After a 17-year marriage? Are you kidding me? When you put two Type-A personalities in the same room, of course, there will be plenty of those…it comes with the territory. I can speak from personal experience. As the Commander of a Special Forces A-Team, it was never-ending. Put 12 Green Berets in a room to plan an operation, get your popcorn and watch the show. We used to joke that the only difference between God and a Green Beret was that God didn’t think he was a Green Beret… So the fact that Belichick and Brady have huge egos isn’t either news or a surprise.

A few of the other tidbits, that the young players call Brady “sir”…that is laughable. And if they did, shame on them. Many of the players, especially Brissett and Garoppolo when they were here cracked on Brady because of his age. And Brady bristling about not getting “Patriots Player of the Week” is pretty bizarre. He’s never been about individual awards but about team accomplishments. See the first paragraph.

But perhaps the most intriguing thing about this entire piece was the fact that the author got so many juicy quotes from team staffers. The beat guys work for years to build up relationships that open up a crack in an organization that is more locked down than Langley. And yet a guy, who rarely, if ever comes here, blows into town for a few weeks and gets over a dozen people to open up to him and give these incredible quotes which were the true meat of the story.

In the words of the Wells Report…”it is more probable than not” that there was just maybe a little bit of exaggeration there. Either that or the author missed his calling and belongs in the above-mentioned cubicles of Langley since it would qualify as a tremendous amount of elicitation in a record amount of time.

“We Stand United”, Patriots Big Three Answer:
Again, you know it is playoff time when the Patriots have to answer questions about ridiculous scandals that never show up until January. The timing of the ESPN piece was not a coincidence since it was posted just hours after the team was released for a few days during the bye week before the Divisional Playoff prep.

But respond they did, the Patriots released what they characterized as a joint statement from Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to address the latest round of hoopla. The team minced no words on calling some parts of the article “highly exaggerated” or “flat-out inaccurate.”

Perhaps the most intriguing of the team’s response was the one line that could mean nothing or perhaps is telling where they addressed the future. “We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future.” Stay tuned. So, back to football

Patricia’s Defense Ends up Top 5 In Points Allowed:
For all the criticism about the Patriots defense in 2017 and much of it deserved, especially early in the season, Matt Patricia’s unit excelled in the one area that is most important. Points allowed.

The Patriots defense finished 5th in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 18.5 points per game. During the first four games of the season the unit allowed 128 points (32 points per game), however during the last 12 games, the defense allowed just 168 points (14 points per game). That speaks to the way that Patricia coached them to tighten up in the red zone. The Patriots defense was 4th in the NFL in the number of red zone TDs allowed and 1st in the league in the scoring percentage allowed in Red-Zone possessions.

That’s not to say that the Patriots defense is a Top 5 unit, but are they good enough to get them to Minnesota and win in the Super Bowl? The short answer is yes. And Patricia who already has interviewed with the Giants and Lions for head coaching opportunities has a lot to do with their success.

Who Takes Over as Coordinators if Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia Leave:
Just as the usual stories arise to distract the team every playoff season, the Black Monday coaches purges always bring many of the Belichick assistants into the limelight.

McDaniels is rumored to be on the Giants radar as a frontrunner while Patricia is also rumored as the top choice for the Detroit Lions. So, if these two excellent coordinators do indeed leave this offseason, who takes over and is will there be an appreciable drop in the collective performances in each unit?

The first part is easy, the second will have to wait. Chad O’Shea would be the front-runner to replace McDaniels as the Offensive Coordinator, although the rumor mill has the Pats going after former coach Brian Daboll who is now the OC for the Alabama Crimson Tide who are preparing for the National Title Game against Georgia. O’Shea has been with the team since 2009 and is currently the team’s Wide Receivers Coach.

The favorite on Defense is Linebackers Coach Brian Flores. Flores coincidentally is also in the interviewing process for the Arizona Cardinals as their next head coach as Bruce Arians retired. Flores is on the Cards radar for a reason, despite not having any coordinator experience, he’s just about done it all with the Patriots. After graduating from BC, he joined the Pats as a scouting assistant. After two years, he became a full-time scout. Then after two years, he became a coaching assistant with the Special Teams. He’s served as a defensive and offensive assistant, then became the safeties coach before moving over to the linebackers in 2016.

Flores may be a year or two early for a head coaching job but he’s an extremely well-rounded coach who garners great respect from his players. He has been being groomed for the DC job. He’s called the defensive signals for both the 2016-17 preseason finales where Belichick begins the grooming for assistants. O’Shea called the signals for the offense this season in the finale against the Giants as Patricia and McDaniels both got the night off.

Will they succeed? Time will tell, but the way Belichick grills his assistants early and then grooms them for bigger and better responsibilities has always seemed to bear fruit. I would expect both to do well if indeed Patricia and McDaniels move on.

Harrison Signing Was a Potential Big Return on Small Investment:
Once James Harrison was released by the Steelers, the Patriots invited him to Foxboro and signed him for the remainder of the season. Which, cost them about $57K. After what we saw against the Jets, it was a bargain.

After the normal drivel of “they signed him to get the Pittsburgh playbook” nonsense, Bill Belichick put those thoughts to rest. After just about 4-5 days of prep time, Harrison played quite a bit against the Jets and played well. Regardless of his age, (39), Harrison keeps himself in excellent condition and has fresh legs, having played a total of 40 snaps for the Steelers all season. Harrison made a couple of nice plays, burying Robby Anderson with a big hit short of the sticks on a third down as well as a couple of sacks, including a strip sack of Bryce Petty.

Harrison admitted to being a bit nervous about his first action with the team. Equating himself to a rookie stating, “it is like starting your rookie season. New game plan, you got to pick things up.” He even sounded a bit like Belichick when he talked about “just doing my job” and gave credit to his teammates. “I was getting a lot of help from the guys around me.  

If Harrison can give the Patriots 25-30 plays like that in the next few weeks, it will be a boost for the defense. Don’t forget, he had big plays against Eric Fisher and the Chiefs both last year in the playoffs and this season in the regular season.

Brady, Gronkowski Named First Team All-Pro:
The Patriots dynamic duo were the only two members of the team named as first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. It was Gronkowski’s fourth time on the list while surprisingly it was just Brady’s third selection.

Brady easily distanced Eagles QB Carson Wentz after the Eagles signal caller went down with an injury forcing him on IR a few weeks.  Brady is expected to be named as the league’s MVP. He also won the MVP in both 2007 and in 2010. Gronkowski, also, easily distanced himself from Chiefs Travis Kelce at tight end.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Wildcard Weekend:
Last week 13-3 mark. Regular Season Total: 170-86.

Saturday: Titans at Chiefs – Kansas City
Falcons at Rams – Atlanta

Sunday: Bills at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Panthers at Saints – New Orleans

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to be Creative Against the Jaguars:

The Buffalo Bills have the 31st ranked passing attack in the NFL. Tyrod Taylor is the lowest ranked QB in the playoffs. They’re on the road facing the #1 pass defense in the NFL that allows just 169 yards per game. Their work is cut out for them in the Wildcard Game. Is it season over for the BIlls? Not so fast.

Buffalo can’t go in with the mindset that they’ve had all season by trying to be conservative and win by running the ball. If they do that, it will be a long quiet plane ride home. They’re going to have to be creative and take shots in the passing game.

Play action passes on first down, be willing to take risks, something Taylor is loathe to do will be the only way they score enough to win. Empty the playbook, get Kelvin Benjamin involved and let Taylor run.

On defense, the Bills rush defense will be up against it with Jax’s Leonard Fournette, but again, with an approach of loading the box and daring Blake Bortles to beat them may work. The Bills secondary can hold their own but a conservative approach won’t win them the game. Sean McDermott is on the clock. How will they proceed?

 

Landry fined $48K, Dolphins Fans Rejoice “Patriots Downfall”:

The Miami Dolphins were assessed three fines for the finale against the Buffalo Bills. Worst hit was WR Jarvis Landry who assessed a $48,620 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct and abuse of an official. Kenyan Drake was fined $12,154. Landry was considered a repeat offender by the league and this was why he was tagged for more.

But a couple of Dolphins’ fan websites were more interested in the “meltdown in Foxboro” as an omen that bodes well for Miami, more so than worrying about improving their own team. Word to the wise, believe about half what you read and when the season opens next year, prepare to see both Belichick and Brady across the field from you, and get Ryan Tannehill back and healthy.  

Will the Jets Go After FA QB or Look to the Draft:

The New York Jets over-achieved for Head Coach Todd Bowles in 2017, winning five games when many expected the Jets to finish similar to the Browns, winless this season. Much of their early-season success, when they went 3-2 was due to Josh McCown. If they were to pursue a FA QB like Kurt Cousins, then, of course, McCown would be gone, but if the Jets were to draft one of the big name QBs in the draft at #6, then McCown could and should be kept around as a bridge.

Who could the team then approach the draft in a different light? Picking at #6, who could the Jets target?

Rich Cimini of ESPN had an interesting take in his column. He made the case for taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. While running backs aren’t normally taken that high much anymore, Barkley would be an intriguing addition to the Jets offense, especially with Bilal Powell turning 30.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots  Week 17  Report Card, Patriots Down Jets 26-6

Steve Balestrieri
January 2, 2018 at 8:56 am ET

The Patriots took care of business, downing the Jets 26-6 as they should have and enter the playoffs as the #1 seed. Which means that as long as they keep winning, the AFC path to the Super Bowl goes thru Foxboro. Just as importantly, the Patriots appeared to come out of the game relatively unscathed physically, something that really important as their injury list looks like a starting lineup most weeks.

But the win wasn’t your garden variety Patriots victory, the team didn’t execute exceptionally well offensively and looked sluggish for most of the game. Of course, the number of missing players and the cold would have had plenty to do with that.

While it isn’t worthy of sounding the alarm bells, they’ll be the first to say, this isn’t the way they wanted to head into the bye week. Defensively, the team allowed just two field goals and as we all know, the Patriots won’t lose many games allowing just six points.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady didn’t have a sharp game completing just 18 of 37 for just 190 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. His game was off and the communication with the wide receivers was off as well. He identified a mismatch and launched a ball where Brandin Cooks should have had an easy touchdown. But Cooks inexplicably stopped running. In the red zone, Brady threw to the corner and no one ran there and was flagged for intentional grounding.

Several of his passes were off the mark. He threw badly behind Danny Amendola and was nearly picked off on another. He had Cooks on a deep cross but overthrew it on what appeared to be a touchdown.

But his receivers dropped several passes as well, Brady was going to attempt to throw a block on a Jet Sweep and at the last moment, thought better or it and to be gracious, he at least got in the way.

Running Backs: A-

Once again there was no James White, no Rex Burkhead, and no Mike Gillislee. No problem. Dion Lewis, the little big man was the team’s workhorse logging 32 touches as he was the star of the game offensively getting 93 yards on the ground and another 40 thru the air. Lewis scored twice, one rushing, one receiving and continuously made yards after contact.

Lewis channeled his inner Le’Veon Bell on Sunday with several stops behind the line of scrimmage to allow his blockers to gain an edge. That’s someone who’s seeing the field well and his patience paid off.

Brandon Bolden had nine carries and averaged better than five yards per rush but was not good in pass protection, getting pushed back time and again. James Develin was his usual solid self, although Brady overthrew him badly on the first series of the game.

Wide Receivers: C
The wide receivers were targeted 25 times on Sunday and they were not great overall. But they made up by constantly drawing third-down penalties on the Jets secondary. We mentioned above, Cooks stopped on what would have been a deep post-touchdown route. He also dropped an easy quick screen. But he finished with 5 catches for 79 yards which included a nice 37-yard sluggo route where he and Brady hooked up nicely and drew a couple of defensive penalties including a 40+ yarder which would have been another touchdown. He caught a five-yard touchdown pass.

Danny Amendola was the cause for Cooks TD being so wide open. He ran a shallow cross and dragged his defender with him, causing two Jets (the other covering Cooks) to collide, leaving Cooks all alone in the end zone. But he too made an uncharacteristic mistake, misreading a hot route where Brady threw to air on the sideline and Amendola went out and up. But his quick pass on a Jets blitz was a classic Amendola nice catch and run for 12 yards and a first down.

Phillip Dorsett was wide open on a deep crossing pattern and misjudged the ball, diving for it when it wasn’t necessary and dropped it. But he made a nice sliding/diving catch across the middle.

Tight Ends: Incomplete

Rob Gronkowski officially played in this game but wasn’t targeted once in the passing game. Now the alarmists are hitting the panic buttons all over New England, “Oh my gawd, if the farkin’ Jets can take away Gronk, we’re one and done in the playoffs!” To quote Aaron Rodgers… R-E-L-A-X.

Not taking anything away from the Jets game plan, where they planned on doubling him all game, but Gronks absence in the passing game was completely by design…by the Patriots coaches. Brady didn’t look to him once…not once. They let him go out there and block a bit in the running game and he ran some routes to stay sharp, but they essentially bubble-wrapped him for the playoffs.

Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister each had one target in the passing game. “O” stands for zero

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line’s play was a notch down from last week. They were only okay in the run blocking scheme this week. Lewis was hit too much at or behind the line of scrimmage, the Jets did a pretty good job of slowing things at the point of attack. Lewis by virtue of his elusiveness made more on his own than he should have.

The pass blocking wasn’t as crisp either. While we mentioned Bolden whiffing a few times on A-gap blitzes, it wasn’t all on him. The Jets for a team that struggled to get consistent pressure all season, had more than they should have against Brady.

Nate Solder and Cam Fleming didn’t have great days at tackle, allowing too many pressures coming off the edge.

Defensive Line: A-

It was a very good day for the Patriots defensive line. When was the last time that they stuffed Bilal Powell, who usually tortures them? Powell had 13 carries for 46 yards but 24 of them came on one play where Eric Lee got washed inside and Elandon Roberts took a bad angle. After that, Powell had 12 carries for 22 yards. Overall, the Jets carried 19 times for 40 yards which averages out to 2.1 yards per carry.

Malcom Brown had another very solid day inside, stuffing a few plays and being stout at the point of attack. Ditto for Lawrence Guy who has had a quietly solid season. Guy does the dirty work between the tackles and had a couple of run stuffs as well.

Eric Lee had a so-so day but got Bryce Petty for a sack and a safety in the fourth quarter.

Linebackers: B

Marquis Flowers was the main guy on the edge as although Kyle Van Noy returned to action, they only played him about 15 snaps, just to get the rust off. Flowers and Roberts were okay for the most part, but they both blew the coverage allowing a big gain to the tight end Sterling.

James Harrison made his debut and played between 25-30 snaps and looks far from done initially. He does a very good job of setting the edge and reacted well to a third-down pass underneath by tattooing Robby Anderson with a thunderous hit short of the sticks. That one fired up the other defensive players.

Late in the game, Matt Patricia let him get after Petty, early in the game he was on the field mainly in run support as he only had a few days of practice in which to acclimate to the Patriots defense. Once he did rush, he was impressive, getting two sacks and forcing a fumble. On his one sack, he showed a rip move that was pure power. A nice start for Harrison. If he can give them 25 or so plays like that every week, the coaches will be very happy.  

Secondary: B

Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore had kind of a bounce-back week. Kind of? Well, they were rarely targeted, as the Jets don’t have a prolific pass receiving core. They were most often seen in run support. But when your opponent, even if it is the Jets go 0-12 on third down, you’re doing well.

New York was targeting Jonathan Jones, who was beaten by ArDarius Stewart for a 46-yard bomb that was perfectly thrown by Petty. Devin McCourty was good but uncharacteristically missed an open field tackle. While Petty threw for 242 yards, the Jets scored six points and were (again) 0-12 on third down.

Special Teams: A+

Ryan Allen had easily his best game of the year. He put five punts inside the 20 and in the second half, he dropped three inside the five. Matthew Slater downed two of them. It was a fantastic day for him. The coverage units were fantastic as usual although the return game was only so-so.

Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs are something we regularly laud here and once again he was spot on. They were constantly pinning the Jets deep. The only downer was when Belichick (perhaps wisely) decided to punt rather than try a 52-yard field goal. Why? Because had he made it, Gostkowski would have led the league in scoring for the sixth time in his career. Currently, he’s in a three-way tie with five, the most ever

Coaches: B+

Bill Belichick was playing some Jedi mind tricks on the Jets psyche by placing some big thermometers right outside the Jets locker room to remind them how cold it was. While he was sending a subtle message to his team to ignore the elements by doing his normal walk-thru before the game in a t-shirt and shorts.

Belichick went against his normal self by winning the toss and taking the ball to start the game which proved smart. They went right down the field and scored before settling into the deep freeze for the majority of the game.

Josh McDaniels got creative with an offense missing several key players by calling a multitude of different things and they did enough to win.

Matt Patricia’s defense has made a remarkable turnaround despite also missing some key players for most of the season. Remember when fans were calling for his head after the first four games where the defense was being gashed? Now he’s being interviewed by numerous teams to be their head coach.

The Patriots allowed 128 points in their first four games. In their last 12, they’ve allowed 168. Think about that one…

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 Earn Homefield Advantage In 26-6 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
December 31, 2017 at 8:42 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business on Sunday and will be at home in the playoffs as long as they keep winning. But stifling the Jets on Sunday 26-6 in a frigid Gillette Stadium, they earned home-field advantage for the entire AFC playoffs. So the AFC’s road to the Super Bowl goes thru Gillette.

This is the seventh time that they’ve had home-field advantage in the Belichick era. In the previous six, they’ve made the Super Bowl five of those times. So there is plenty of room for optimism there.

On Sunday the offense was missing several of their players and Rob Gronkowski was nothing more than a big decoy. The Patriots didn’t target Gronk once in the game and finished the season with a Gronkowski smile-inducing 69 catches. Dion Lewis was not only the star of the game but the Patriots workhorse gaining 93 yards on the ground and another 40 thru the air.

This one won’t get many style points by the players and the coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But defensively they gave up a pair of field goals and that was it, although Bryce Petty had a few good moments. Our other observations include:

It Was Not a Day To Be Outdoors: The field conditions for both teams was borderline miserable, the temps on the field were hovering between 10-12 with the wind chill making it below zero. Ball security was not a big issue for either team which was a plus for both teams.

It was the second coldest home game for the Patriots in the divisional playoff game with the Titans being the coldest. But it was the coldest regular season game ever at Gillette. So put the kettle on, it is a hot tea, cocoa, coffee kind of night.

Lewis Continues to Be the Focal Point: What a turn around since the midseason for Dion Lewis. The small in stature but big in moving the pile back had another really big game as he had a career-high 32 touches for the offense.

Lewis was doing his best Le’Veon Bell imitation as he was stopping behind the line of scrimmage and then bursting thru minuscule gaps to garner nice yardage after contact. Lewis’ confidence level has to be sky-high entering the playoffs and rightfully so.

Defense Held the Jets to 40 Yards Rushing: This was one of the better days for the Patriots run defense. Bilal Powell, fresh off a big day against the Chargers last week, had just 46 yards on 13 carries. Other Jets runners had six carries for minus six yards. The Jets running game averaged just 2.1 yards per carry.

Other than that one 24-yard run, the Jets running game had a grand total of 18 carries for 16 yards. Regardless of who you are playing, that is some pretty good run defense there.

Secondary Had a Decent Game As Well: Entering the game, a little-known fact was that the Patriots’ third-down defense had the fifth best opposing QB rating at just 80.3. (thanks to Remarkable for that). That number will surely get better as the Jets went 0-12 on third down Sunday.

Bryce Petty had some nice moments. His 46-yard bomb to ArDarius Stewart was a beauty, throwing perfectly in stride and gave Jonathan Jones in coverage no chance to make a play. He and reserve TE Neal Sterling had some good chemistry with Sterling had five catches for 74 yards.

Petty though, showed poor touch on several short throws. He finished 19-36 for 224 yards with no scores and no interceptions.

Belichick Breaks Trend wins Toss Elects to Receive: For the first time in quite a long time, the Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive. It worked out well for the Patriots as they took the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 13 plays for a 7-0 lead. That drive was their best of the game.

With a chance to put the Jets in a 14-0 hole on their second drive of the game, Brady had Brandin Cooks deep and he had a step in the coverage. But thinking the ball wasn’t going to him, he stopped running and the pass fell incomplete. It was that kind of day for the offense.  Cooks also had a drop but he hauled in five catches for 79 yards as well as drawing a 42-yard pass interference penalty. The Jets defense killed themselves with third-down penalties.

I understand the coach’s decision to not risk Gronkowski to injury but why have him out there at all if you’re not going to throw him the ball. Already missing a slew of skill position players, it put the offense behind the eight-ball further.

Brady Had Pedestrian Numbers on a So-So Day: Missing a plethora of weapons, and having Rob Gronkowski as only a decoy wasn’t conducive to Tom Brady having a big statistical day. But the offense overall had some communication breakdowns and a few bad throws. Brady ended the day with 18 completions on 37 attempts for just 190 yards with two touchdown passes.

This kind of regular-season finale will no doubt light a fire under Brady as they head off to a bye week and self-scouting. But getting Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead and James White back as well as having Gronkowski a target again will no doubt help the matter.

Welcome to New England James Harrison: Early in the game, it looked like Belichick and Matt Patricia were using Harrison, who has only been in town a week in running situations as an outside linebacker as he’s not had much time to learn the defense.

But he played about 25 snaps and at the end of the game got to show what he can do in the pass rush department. Harrison notched two sacks and forced a fumble in what I’m sure the coaches hope of things to come.Especially if the Chiefs end up coming to town again.

Harrison had a couple of big hits on the field and didn’t look lost out there at all considering he only had a few practices this week. Early returns are promising, the next time they take the field, they’ll need that kind of performance.

Special Teams, Allen Standout: The coverage units, notably the punt coverage team had a fantastic day. Ryan Allen pinned the Jets inside the five-yard line three times, all in the second half, making Petty go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed an opportunity to take the league lead in points for record sixth time. The Patriots lined up for a 52-yard field goal which if successful would have given him the record. But they took a timeout, and then punted.

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

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

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

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2017 at 10:28 am ET

The New England Patriots finish off the 2017 regular season by taking on the New York Jets in Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium.

The teams have moved in different directions since the last time the teams met in Week 6. Both entered that game at 3-2 and since, the Patriots are 9-1 and are in line for the AFC’s top seed. The Jets are 2-8 since that matchup and are left looking for answers.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 31 at 1:00 p.m. ET 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 (12-3) took care of business last week by defeating the Buffalo Bills 37-16. Dion Lewis rushed for a career-high 129 yards as the Patriots ground out nearly 200 yards on the ground. The defense held the Bills to just three field goals.

The Jets (5-10) lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 14-7 as they limp to the season’s finish line but still are playing hard for coach Todd Bowles. They’ve been in all of their games this season and looking to the future.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets are meeting for the 118th time. The Patriots hold a 62-54-1 edge overall. The Patriots are 33-25-1 all-time at home against the Jets. The Patriots have won the last three matchups and the past two wins by Gang Green have been in overtime. One of which was in 2015 with the famous “pushing rule” game which cost the Patriots home field advantage in the playoffs but wait, the Pats get all the calls right?

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been steadily getting better as the season goes along and Dion Lewis has emerged as the Pats go-to back. Last week against the Bills, they were missing Rex Burkhead and James White, but Lewis and Mike Gillislee gashed the Buffalo defense for nearly 200 yards.

The Jets, like the Patriots, have had issues stopping the run and have allowed 116 yards per game. In the first matchup this season, New England ran for 125 yards. The key matchups will be how effective the Pats offensive line is at getting to the second level against a good linebacking core.

Lewis will be the main back again, however, with Burkhead on the shelf, Gillislee has missed practice time with a knee injury. If he’s unable to go, we may see more of Brandon Bolden this week.

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

The Patriots passing game is still missing a ton of key players with Chris Hogan, White, and Burkhead out. But the good news is Malcolm Mitchell is back and is slated to play some this weekend. He’ll no doubt have some rust issues but his return is very good news for the passing offense. Matching up with Rob Gronkowski has to be the Jets priority on Sunday. I’d expect to see him doubled this week.

The Jets have done a good job of defending the pass this year allowing just 237 yards per game. They’ve only had two teams pass for 300 yards or more against them this year. Their improved secondary begins with the two rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who have come in and played much better than anyone could have hoped this early in their careers.Their biggest weakness remains, rushing the QB and if they give Brady time, he should have a big day.

Gronkowski had a big game with two touchdowns in the last matchup and the Jets will have to find a way to slow down the big man. It will be up to the other players on the offense to make them pay if they decide to double Gronk. Brandin Cooks will have to step up this week and make the Jets force coverage toward him.

Next up the Jets offense:

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

The Jets have a very good running back in Bilal Powell and he is coming off a big game last week (145 yards) against the Chargers. Look for the Jets to test the edge of the Patriots defense which has been leaky for much of the season. Powell missed the first game and has usually played well against the Patriots.

The Patriots run defense has had major issues this season defending the run especially on the edge and they’ll be short inside with Alan Branch still out injured. But there are a couple of silver linings this week. Malcom Brown played arguably his best game of the season last week against the Bills and the Patriots just picked up James Harrison. The Steelers all-time sack leader is closer to the end of the road than the beginning but I think he’ll be looked to primarily help with setting the edge here. If he can do that, then his time here regardless of his pass rush ability, will be a success.
We don’t know how much he’ll play this week, but they’ll be a lot of eyes on him and we’ll be focusing on the running game first.  

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

Josh McCown is out for the season and the Jets now have Bryce Petty under center. He has some good weapons in the passing game, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse outside, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Powell out of the backfield. The problem has been protection this season. Jets QBs have been sacked 43 times in 2017.

The Patriots pass defense has been light years better since the first Jets matchup where McCown threw for 350+ yards. The secondary didn’t have a good week against Buffalo last week and will be looking to enter the postseason on a high note.

Look for Matt Patricia to be a bit more aggressive this week with Petty under center than McCown. We’ll see some safety or corner blitzes and some A-Gap pressure as well.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams are among the best in the NFL, they excel in punt and kick coverage and continuously turn in big plays.

The Jets STs units are a step below the Patriots and don’t have the edge anywhere here. But they showed last week that they’ll be aggressive, starting off the Chargers game with a successful onside kick. Expect them to empty the tank this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This key here from a Patriots perspective is getting off to a fast start. Game time temps are slated to be 10-15 degrees with a wind chill below zero. The Jets, although they’ve played hard all year are playing for nothing but pride. If New England gets off to a quick start, they may just want to fold up tents and get home to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

Turnovers are key here as well. The Jets don’t have a prolific scoring offense so ball control and not turning it over is key here.They can’t give the Jets any short fields and any momentum to pull off the upset.

Look for the Brady and the offense to keep it varied, mixing in the pass and run equally and the defense to get a couple of sacks as well as a turnover of their own…or two.  Pats finish the regular season 13-3. Patriots 34-13

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

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

Podcast: James Harrison Signs And Jets Preview

Russ Goldman
December 28, 2017 at 10:17 am ET

In this episode, we discussed the victory against the Bills, and later on previewed the upcoming game against the Jets. However, we started the show by discussing the signing of James Harrison.

Up Next: Jets Likely Looking For Redemption After Previous Tough Loss to Patriots

Ian Logue
December 25, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

With the Bills now in the rearview, the Patriots find themselves set for a rematch against the New York Jets to close out the season for their final regular season home game next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Their original meeting down in New York wasn’t exactly easy, with New England walking away with a 24-17 at MetLife Stadium back on October 15th. In that game, Jets quarterback Josh McCown had a pretty good performance, finishing 31-of-47 for 354 yards and two touchdowns. However, the big difference in the game ultimately came down to turnovers, with McCown throwing two interceptions, one to both Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler, both of which amounted to a total of 10 points for the Patriots.

The game had a similar feeling to the Pittsburgh game after the Patriots caught a break thanks to the rule that saw Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ would-be fourth quarter touchdown get called back as a fumble that went out of bounds. That call was crucial because it would have pulled the Jets back to within 3 points and kept the pressure on New England. Instead, it was called a touchback and the ball went back to the Patriots, which killed New York’s momentum and ended up being one of the big keys in the loss.

“It’s difficult to take the loss,” said Jets head coach Todd Bowles after the game. “It’s not the just the one play. We lost the ball game. They made more plays that us. You have to give them credit. They’re great for a reason. We’ll go back to the drawing board and play better.”

Some numbers that stand out from that game with McCown was the fact he had a terrific second quarter, completing 8-of-11 (73%) for 86 yards and a touchdown, but did commit a crucial turnover. His interception came just as he had guided his team to midfield with an opportunity to take a 21-7 lead, but Malcolm Butler picked him off and set up a 6-play, 63-yard touchdown drive by Tom Brady and the Patriots to knot the game at 14-14.


McCourty and the Patriots defense were the difference back in October. (USA TODAY Images)

McCown was also 9-of-10 on third down that day with six passing first downs, including a touchdown. McCown’s season may be over thanks to a broken hand he suffered against Denver, but it doesn’t change the fact the Patriots defense will still need to be better this time around in that area.

Unfortunately for the Jets, a lot has changed since their last meeting. At the time, the Jets were still in the hunt for both the division and the playoffs and now, they’re below .500 and their season is all but finished. For New England, playing a team with nothing to lose is always a concern, especially since many of those opposing players would probably like nothing more than to play spoiler for a Patriots team that is heading to the postseason.

Bowles said after their last meeting that the loss certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort and credited the Patriots for simply doing what they needed to in order to come away with the win.

“We played hard. They played hard,” said Bowles. “They made more plays than us. They won the ball game.”

Hopefully the Patriots will make it a clean sweep this weekend.

New England Patriots News 12-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 12-24, & AFC East Notes.

RIP to Dick Enberg, one of the best announcers we’ve had the pleasure of listening to. He had a style all of his own and was universally lauded as one of the great guys in the game. We miss his signature “Oh My!” during the games.

The Patriots and Bills are playing in a playoff game today. The Pats need this game to keep their hold on the #1 seed for the AFC. The Bills are trying to hold off Baltimore et al that are chasing them for the 6th and final playoff spot. A Buffalo win could … conceivably set up a third meeting of these two teams down the road in a few weeks.

However, one thing to keep in mind today is that Buffalo has only defeated Brady once in Foxboro. That was in the season finale of 2014. The Patriots rested most of their starters and Brady, whose primary target that day was Brian Tyms, played only the first half of the game.

Brady, Belichick, and Guerrero Aren’t (IMHO) The Big Story It is Being Portrayed:
We got a few messages this week and asking why we haven’t had more about the ongoing saga which we feel is way overblown on the Alex Guerrero story. Look, I don’t blame the bigger site Pats beat writers, they have editors and they’re being told to ask the questions, and that’s what they get paid for. But to us… there isn’t enough information to accurately come up with enough of a narrative to publish anything that isn’t all conjecture. And for me personally, it isn’t that big of a story. But it won’t go away so, here’s our two cents.

We do know that Tom Brady swears by Alex Guerrero and his training methods and says publicly that Guerrero is the reason that his career has stayed so productive at an age where he should be retired. Now Rob Gronkowski and several other players are going to Guerrero as well. No harm, no foul there.

Here’s the one issue. Guerrero’s methods differ from the Patriots training staff, there was a blurb last week where the team’s training staff told a player to do squats and while meeting with Guerrero he advised against it. The player refused to do them. Now, the training staff is hired by the team and there certainly has to be a bit of jealousy there. And… they are being evaluated for their own jobs on how they produce with the players. Something has to give. Belichick can’t allow Guerrero on the sidelines because it opens the door for other players to want “their guy” on the sidelines as well. For Belichick, there can be only one voice on the sideline, the team’s and so he nipped it in the bud.

Players aren’t forbidden to see Guerrero or seek his advice right next door at the TB12 Clinic in Patriots Place. But while they are in the building, they’ll take their direction, all of it from the team. End of story.

I wasn’t in the room on Friday but watched it live on the Pats’ website, while I wouldn’t characterize Brady’s reaction as testy, I bow to the guys who were. I took it as being a bit frustrated. Testy was the Deflategate BS.

My concern with this… not someone per se in the Boston media but we all know that other media markets (a few hours south of here) will try to take this in a different direction. And if the Patriots are successful in the next four weeks, seeing a story come out say January 21 around 9 p.m. that Guerrero’s secret with Brady and Gronkowski is centered around PEDs. It isn’t a stretch to foresee that happening.

That’s why T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s take on Colin Cowherd’s show was so important. Houshmandzadeh stated he went to Guerrero while a very young player in college when his trainers couldn’t figure out what his muscle problems were. He spent about four sessions with Guerrero and poof, issues gone. Cowherd right away asked if it was anything pill or medicine related and he said no. Guerrero’s method was strictly working directly on the muscles with stretching etc.

You can see the entire clip here:

But to finish this off, [it is already too long] all of these national pundits writing about how this “rift” between Belichick and Brady could affect him in the games or already has? Please. This is the same guy who has the stones of iron and brought his team back from 25 in the Super Bowl and he’s going to wilt because Alex isn’t there to prop him up? Really? Are we really going to use that as the “hot take” of the week?

Tom Brady Gets Kurt Warner’s Son’s Vote for the G.O.A.T.:
Tom Brady got some love for being the Greatest QB of all time from some different households this week including one from a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Kurt Warner told a funny story this week of walking in on his son doing a homework project and had a story of Brady up on his computer.

Warner asked, “You doing a story on Brady? His son replied, “No, I’m doing one on the Greatest QB of All-Time.” Warner got some great responses on social media when he posted these Tweets up about the humorous episode.

Pittsburgh Sideline Wilts During Review:
One of the more intriguing parts of the aftermath of the win over the Steelers was watching the Pittsburgh sideline during the Jesse James TD/Drop Review. There was obviously a difference of opinions on how they should proceed but they didn’t take the time that was afforded during the review to come up with a probable course of action if the play was reversed. Instead it looked like a Chinese Fire Drill. That isn’t an indictment of the players, but the coaching staff. Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley looked lost out there when they had plenty of time to call two plays in case the play was reversed, which it was. Tomlin, who was calling for this matchup for nine months looked out in left field.

Ben Roethlisberger compounded things by promptly throwing his coaches under the bus. If the play wasn’t there [it wasn’t there were four Patriots defenders in the area], throw the ball away, kick the field goal and go to overtime. For a guy who’ll reside in Canton one day, it’s a bad look to not take responsibility for his own actions.

Those situational football scenarios are why the Patriots always seem to win these type of games and their opponents do not. We always here about the “luck” of New England. That luck is forged on the practice fields by constant drilling starting back in July. It is unfathomable to think Josh McDaniels and Brady wouldn’t have a plan in place given that much time.

And on the subject of the other “The NFL Favors NE Nonsense”, watch Week 1 against KC. Gronk hauls in a pass in the end zone against the Chiefs that would make the score 14-0. It is overturned on the same going to the ground rule. Gillislee is stuffed on 4th and 1. You think that game might have turned out differently? Where was the “catch rule needs to be changed”  then? Reminiscent of the Tuck Rule, the Patriots were hurt by it before they benefited from it.

Tomlin, said after the game the league, “needs to look at the rule” after the season. They did in 2015, he should know. He was on the Rules Committee and voted in favor of keeping the current one in place. File it under Sour Grapes.

James Develin Takes An Unlikely Path to the Pro Bowl:
Kudos to Patriots fullback James Develin who was named to his first Pro Bowl as the lone fullback named to the AFC roster this season. It is a great story in that Develin took a roundabout path to be acknowledged around the league but he’s had great respect of his coaches and teammates as he makes the running game go with his tremendous blocking skills in the Patriots “21 Personnel” package.

Develin played defensive line in college at Brown and went undrafted. He switched to fullback and played in the Arena Football League before landing on the Bengals practice squad in 2010. The Patriots picked him up in 2012 and Develin has never looked back.

He was really missed in the running game when he broke his leg in preseason in 2015 and was lost for the season. Now, he’s being acknowledged around the league but told the media, he’d just as soon skip the Pro Bowl if New England is gainfully employed during the SB this year.

Kenny Britt Likens the Patriots to Rutgers:
It is still very early in Kenny Britt’s tenure with the Patriots, but so far, he’s all smiles and seems to be truly happy to be in New England. What a difference a week makes, he was cut loose from the winless Cleveland Browns and now he’s a member of the AFC’s #1 seed entering Week 16.

It wasn’t lost on Britt who has almost ended up in New England before but said financial decisions kept him away. Now he’s here for a football decision and couldn’t be happier. “I always had my sights on here and playing with the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. And a head coach we have, and how they run the organization.”

Britt had some off-field issues early in his career but he chalks that up to youth and inexperience. Now he’s focusing on learning the playbook as quickly as he can and become a member of Tom Brady’s “Circle of Trust” in the passing game. With his size, 6’3, 225-pounds, he could become a big red zone target with Rob Gronkowski.

Matthew Slater a HOF Bid? It Could Happen:
Among the other Patriots selected to the Pro Bowl this week was Special Teams standout Matthew Slater, who made a very nice play in Pittsburgh downing the ball inside the five-yard line on a Ryan Allen punt.

Former Patriots ST standout Matt Chatham made the point and case for Slater to be considered for Canton and the NFL Hall of Fame this week and it deserves to be mentioned. While he probably won’t be a first-ballot guy, and we know special teams guys just don’t get the love that they should by the voters in Canton, Slater has really stood out among his peers both on and off the field. So, how do we feel about Matthew Slater going to the NFL Hall of Fame?

<blockquote class=”twitter-video” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>&quot;How do we feel about being 10-2?&quot;<br><br>A look inside the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Patriots?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Patriots</a> locker room after Sunday&#39;s victory in Buffalo: <a href=”https://t.co/t6moHl2zub”>pic.twitter.com/t6moHl2zub</a></p>&mdash; New England Patriots (@Patriots) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/938153024089817088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>December 5, 2017</a></blockquote>

<script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 14:
Last week 14-2 mark. Season Total: 157-77.

This week’s Saturday games I went with Baltimore over Indy. And the Vikings over Green Bay.  Now for the rest of the slate:
Rams at Titans – Los Angeles
Bills at Patriots – New England
Browns at Bears – Cleveland (gotta win one)
Falcons at Saints – New Orleans
Lions at Bengals – Detroit
Buccaneers at Panthers – Carolina
Dolphins at Chiefs – KC
Broncos at Redskins – Washington
Chargers at Jets – Los Angeles
Jaguars at 49ers – Jacksonville
Seahawks at Cowboys – Dallas
Giants at Cardinals – Arizona
Christmas Day Steelers at Texans – Pittsburgh
MNF Raiders at Eagles – Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Incognito Goes Against the Grain with the Bills “Retribution at Gronk” Talk:
The Buffalo Bills Richie Incognito is no stranger to talk about dirty play. He’s been known and voted on, by his peers as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. So when he talks about players getting even on Rob Gronkowski after his cheap shot in the last Bills – Patriots game, people will listen.

“Gronkowski took his shot,” Incognito said. “Now it’s our defense’s chance to take their shots on him.

“When you do dumb stuff like he did, you open the door. The referees are a little more lenient because they know you got it coming. You’ve just got to be prepared to take it.”

However, Incognito was quick to point out, he likes Gronkowski and doesn’t believe him to be a dirty player.

“Gronk’s a good kid. I know Rob. I’ve hung with him. I’ve partied with him,” Incognito said. “He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s not mean-spirited.

“You can’t judge a man by that one action. You’ve got to look at Rob over his whole career. This is out of character for him.” So we’ll see how this plays out. Gronkowski on Friday said that he expects to prepare for a hard-nosed football game and downplayed any talk of revenge.
Cutler Returns to Form in Ugly Dolphins Loss in Buffalo:
The Miami Dolphins made a $10-million dollar investment in Jay Cutler this summer after Ryan Tannehill went down and … they’ve gotten exactly what they bargained for. Cutler has always had the reputation, a well-deserved one that he’s great one week and awful the next. Despite an incredible arm that can make any of the throws, he’s always been a guy with sloppy footwork and makes bad decisions. His career numbers play that out and why no one was beating down his door to sign him this summer.

Last week was a prime example. On Monday Night Football he torched the Patriots for three TDs and no interceptions as the Dolphins won 27-20 and South Beach fans and players were celebrating like it was 1972 again.

But the awful Jay Cutler quickly reappeared on the scene in Buffalo on Sunday as he had a brutal game throwing three interceptions and fumbling the ball four times as Miami’s hopes for a playoff spot took a left-hook to the jaw. What a difference six days makes. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. That’s Jay Cutler. Today in KC, I’m expecting the Buffalo version of Cutler to play with a vengeance. Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) Miami.  

How Will the Jets, Spend More Than $90 Million In Cap Space? Start with a QB:
The New York Jets will enter the offseason with about $81 million dollars in cap space. They are sure to cut loose DL Muhammad Wilkerson which will add about $11 million more to the Jets coffers. So how should they spend their money?

Start at QB, a couple of guys are going to be available this spring and rather than take a chance on an untested rookie, the Jets could entice a guy like Kurt Cousins or possibly an Alex Smith to New York. They could sweeten the pie by enticing a high priced free agent WR to boot.

The Jets also have needs along the offensive line and secondary at corner but may opt to build those from the draft. But they’ll have plenty of cash to be players in the free agency market. But until they find an answer at quarterback, they aren’t going anywhere. A big free-agent signing at QB would certainly set tongues wagging around the fan base and the AFC East.

Merry Christmas!

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

John Morgan
December 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds were posted a day after the Week 15 games finished. Keep in mind these odds were listed prior to any of this week’s injury reports, as well as any of the Week 16 games. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away from being played. Early lines offer a short opportunity to get a jump on odds that could become less favorable after Sunday’s games.

Handicapping games in the final week of the regular season can be a tricky proposition. Motivation could be difficult for a team that has played for the goal of making the playoffs for months, and suddenly finds themselves eliminated. A bad team might play loose and try things they normally wouldn’t, catching an opponent off guard. Good teams locked into a specific playoff slot may opt to rest players who would have otherwise started. The line in the Eagles-Cowboys game reflects that concept.

In Week 16 ten road teams are favored to win. That number falls back to a more typical number in Week 17, with five home dogs. The Saints are the biggest road favorite, minus 8½ points at Tampa Bay. The largest spread of the week is in Foxboro, where the Patriots are favored by 16 versus the Jets. That game is one of four double-digit spreads. The narrowest odds are with Houston as a one-point underdog at Indianapolis.

The most important games of Week 17 loom to be Carolina at Atlanta (-3½) in the NFC, and Jacksonville (-3½) at Tennessee in the AFC.

All games will be played on Sunday, December 31. There are no night games.
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on CBS

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-16)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3½) at Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-15)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-11)
Buffalo Bills (-2½) at Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1)
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on Fox

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3½)
New Orleans Saints (-8½) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-12)
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-9)
Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Late Games

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7), CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7), Fox
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-2½), CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-7), Fox

 

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

John Morgan
December 22, 2017 at 8:01 pm ET

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

Week 16 is unique, with neither Thursday nor Sunday night football – but with two games on Monday. Five teams have clinched a playoff spot and 14 others are still in contention for the post-season. There are plenty of intriguing games worth watching this weekend and next before the playoffs commence. The theory of home field advantage will be put to a test during these three days. Road teams are favored in ten of the sixteen games this week.

There is another oddity about this week’s schedule. Of the four games between teams with winning records, none are on in primetime – and three are broadcast in the early time slot. Fox has always had an affinity for NFC East teams due to their large market sizes. But if the network is not going to make the best game of the week (Falcons at Saints) their showcase game, then give it up to be flexed to Saturday night. Net result is that the two best games (NO-Atl and Patriots-Bills) are on at the same time. Those two back-to-back would have made for superior programming.

To see what games are being broadcast in your area, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

 

National Broadcasts

3-11 Indianapolis Colts at 8-6 Baltimore Ravens
4:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NFLN; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Ravens favored by 13½; over/under 41 points; money line -1000, +675

Baltimore has averaged 31 points over their last five games, in large part to an NFL-best plus-17 turnover differential. The Raven defense ranks 4th with 18.3 points per game and has a league best 33 takeaways. I don’t see how the Indy offense (16.1 ppg, 31st) can keep this game close.

Pick: Ravens 31, Colts 13
Ravens -13½, over 41

 

11-3 Minnesota Vikings at 7-7 Green Bay Packers
8:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Vikings favored by 9; over/under 41 points; money line -430, +340

The Vikings are playing for at minimum a first round bye, while Green Bay is eliminated. Minnesota’s defense will dominate a team that may be giving second stringers playing time with an eye on 2018.

Pick: Vikings 27, Packers 13
Vikings -9, under 41

 

11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-10 Houston Texans
4:30 pm ET, Monday 12/25 on NBC/NFLN; Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner
Steelers favored by 9½; over/under 45 points; money line -450, +350

I’m interested to see if Pittsburgh comes out with their hair on fire after last week’s last second loss. Or will the Steelers play down to their opponent’s level, as they often do. Pittsburgh is notorious for not playing well on the road either, and no Antonio Brown does not help matters. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pittsburgh comes out flat, but Houston has lost too many key players over the course of their season.

Pick: Steelers 24, Texans 20
Texans +9½, under 45

 

6-8 Oakland Raiders at 12-2 Philadelphia Eagles
8:30 pm ET Monday 12/25 on ESPN; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
Eagles favored by 9; over/under 47½ points; money line -400, +330

Oakland is all but mathematically eliminated, and traveling cross country for a meaningless game. Philly wants to clinch the number one seed in the NFC and Nick Foles (4 TDs last week) showed the 31.3 ppg offense is still in capable hands. The Eagle defense should be able to handle Oakland and control this game.

Pick: Eagles 34, Raiders 17
Eagles -9, over 47½

 

Early CBS Games

8-6 Buffalo Bills at 11-3 New England Patriots
Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Patriots favored by 12; over/under 47½ points; money line -750, +525

This should be a great game, as both teams have plenty to play for. The Patriots need two wins to insure home field throughout the playoffs. Buffalo needs a victory (and help) to make the playoffs. To add to the drama this is a revenge game for the Bills after the hit three weeks ago that resulted in Rob Gronkowski’s suspension. Sean McDermott came up with a great defensive game plan for Buffalo in the last meeting; it will be interesting to see what he has in store Sunday.

Pick: Patriots 27, Bills 20
Bills +12, under 47½

 

7-7 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-9 New York Jets
Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Chargers favored by 7; over/under 42½ points; money line -300, +250

After a surprisingly good start, the Jets are 2-7 in their last nine games. As the season has progressed their lack of quality depth has become apparent. The Chargers are in a must-win spot here; the Jets can go back to their original plan of tanking the 2017 season.

Pick: Chargers 27, Jets 17
Chargers -7, over 42½

 

6-8 Miami Dolphins at 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs
Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Chiefs favored by 10½; over/under 43½ points; money line -550, +425

Dolphins on the road outdoors in cold weather equals a Miami loss. Kansas City has finally righted their mid-season swoon with home victories over the Raiders and Chargers. Make it three in a row for the Chiefs.

Pick: Chiefs 27, Dolphins 14
Chiefs -10½, under 43½

 

5-9 Denver Broncos at 6-8 Washington Redskins
Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Redskins favored by 3½; over/under 40½ points; money line -180, +160

Washington is again in a difficult position due to injuries on their offensive line. Denver has finally got it together the last couple of weeks, just in time to win enough games to miss out on a top-5 draft pick.

Pick: Broncos 20, Redskins 17
Broncos +3½, under 40½

 

0-14 Cleveland Browns at 4-10 Chicago Bears
Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein
Bears favored by 6½; over/under 38 points; money line -280, +240

Chicago has played well at home this year, beating the Steelers and Panthers. Their home losses have all been close (an average of 5 points), and mostly to good teams (Falcons, Vikings, Packers). Cleveland’s 0-16 parade plans remain intact.

Pick: Bears 24, Browns 13
Bears -6½, under 38

 

Early Games on Fox

9-5 Atlanta Falcons at 10-4 New Orleans Saints
Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Saints favored by 5½; over/under 52½ points; money line -240, +200

Set your DVR so you can record and watch this game after the Patriots-Bills ends. Two weeks ago the Falcons beat the Saints 20-17 in Atlanta. It is really difficult to sweep a good division rival. The Falcons should be able to keep it close, especially now that RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) has been cleared to play.

Pick: Saints 27, Falcons 24
Falcons +5½, under 51½

 

10-4 Los Angeles Rams at 8-6 Tennessee Titans
Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Rams favored by 6½; over/under 47½ points; money line -290, +240

On one hand you have a west coast team having to travel 2000 miles and play a game three hours earlier than usual. On the other hand the Rams are a far superior team than the Titans. LA is back in sync now that Robert Woods is back on the playing field.

Pick: Rams 24, Titans 20
Titans +6½, under 47½

 

8-6 Detroit Lions at 5-9 Cincinnati Bengals
Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Lions favored by 4; over/under 44 points; money line -210, +180

This will be the final home game for Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis. Maybe he and Jeff Fisher can form a speaking tour and teach people how to retain a job much longer than they deserve.

Pick: Lions 24, Bengals 17
Lions -4, under 44

 

4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 10-4 Carolina Panthers
Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber
Panthers favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -475, +375

Can somebody please explain to me why Carolina LB Thomas Davis was originally suspended for two games, rather than one? I think Roger Goodell uses one of those magic eight-balls from the sixties when deciding his punishments.

Pick: Panthers 34, Bucs 17
Panthers -10, over 46½

 

Late Games

10-4 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-10 San Francisco 49ers
Andrew Catalon, James Lofton (CBS)
Jaguars favored by 4; over/under 42 points; money line -210, +175

When Jimmy Garoppolo was traded, Pats fans wished him well. Now Patriot Nation is full of hand wringing seller’s remorse. The Niners have won three in a row since inserting Jimmy G as their starting quarterback, after a 1-10 start. Jacksonville could be in for a battle on the road here, especially if the Jags have to count on Blake Bortles at critical junctures.

Jaguars 23, Forty Niners 20
Niners +4, over 42

 

8-6 Seattle Seahawks at 8-6 Dallas Cowboys
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman (Fox)
Cowboys favored by 5; over/under 47½ points; money line -240, +200

Dallas has won three straight and have RB Ezekiel Elliott for this game. His presence completely changes the Cowboy offense. Seattle’s defense is just a shell of its former self to injuries. Is it time to replace Pete Carroll?

Pick: Cowboys 27, Seahawks 17
Cowboys +5, under 47½

 

2-12 New York Giants at 6-8 Arizona Cardinals
Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth (Fox)
Cardinals favored by 3½; over/under 40 points; money line -185, +165

Ho hum, a battle of two under achieving teams. Giants are the bigger mess right now and on the road.

Pick: Cardinals 24, Giants 13
Cardinals +3½, under 40