Tag Archives: Patriots opponents

NFL Week 2 Odds, TV Info and Predictions

John Morgan
September 17, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

After an insipid Thursday night abomination, the rest of NFL week two gets underway on Sunday. The Patriots at New Orleans highlights the early games, in a matchup featuring a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Dallas at Denver is the best late afternoon game, unless you enjoy watching the Jets getting pounded at Oakland. The best game of the week comes on Sunday night with Green Bay at Atlanta in a rematch of last season’s NFC championship. Week two wraps up with Detroit at the Giants on Monday night.

For specific information on what games are being broadcast in your locale, please check out 506 Sports NFL Maps.

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Broadcast in Tennessee, northern Florida and southern Georgia.
Titans favored by 1; point total 41½

Let’s pump the brakes a bit on the Jaguars bandwagon. Their defense was superb last week, but that Houston offensive line was a sieve. Tennessee has a better QB, offensive line and running game than Jacksonville. Tough call here but I’ll give a slight lean to the Titans as the jags fall back to earth.
Titans 20, Jaguars 17

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Broadcast in DC, Maryland, central PA, West Virginia, Ohio and eastern Kentucky.
Ravens -8½; o/u 39

Baltimore collected five turnovers last week, but that was against a Bengal offense that has not scored a touchdown after 120 minutes of football. On the other hand the Browns may have a bit of a letdown after gearing up all offseason for the Steelers in week one. While I am not sold on the Ravens, I don’t know if I can trust the Browns to be competitive in consecutive weeks.
Ravens 24, Browns 17

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers
Broadcast in western New York, Virginia and the Carolinas.
Panthers -7; o/u 43

Buffalo beat the pitiful Jets at home last week, but did so in less than convincing fashion. Carolina’s defense should shut down the Bills, The Panthers roll in their home opener as they try to revert to their 2015 form.
Panthers 24, Bills 13

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints
Available in most markets that don’t have a local team playing at the same time.
Patriots -6½; o/u 57

The idiotic talk of a 19-0 season thankfully dissipated quickly in New England. The Patriots are already a patchwork team due to injuries, but the New Orleans defense is just what the doctor ordered for the Pats. Now that the spread is below seven points I like New England here, despite the lack of options at WR.
Patriots 34, Saints 27

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on Fox; Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts
Broadcast in Arizona and Indiana.
Cardinals -7; o/u 44
Carson Palmer is toast, and RB David Johnson is out for two months. Despite his short time with the Colts, former third string QB Jacoby Brissett is a huge upgrade over Scott Tolzein. Despite all of that the Cardinal defense should dominate and Arizona wins easily.
Cardinals 27, Colts 16

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on Fox; Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs
Broadcast in eastern NY, eastern PA, and most states west of the Mississippi.
Chiefs -5½; o/u 47½

With extra time to prepare and this being their home opener, KC should have no letdown after last week’s win in Foxboro. The Chiefs defense should be able to contain Carson Wentz while Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill prove to be too much for a pretty good Philly defense.
Chiefs 27, Eagles 17

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on Fox; Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers
Broadcast in most of New England, the Rust Belt, and the Northern Plains.
Steelers -6½; o/u 44½

The Steelers are a much better team at home than on the road, so disregard last week’s narrow victory. Even if Sam Bradford (knees) can play, I’ll take the combination of Big Ben, Bell and Brown in a home opener over the Vikes.
Steelers 27, Vikings 17

 

Sunday Sept 17, 1:00 pm ET on Fox; Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Broadcast in most of the southeast, and northern Illinois.
Bucs -6½; o/u 43½

While Mike Glennon would love to return to Tampa and defeat his former team, the problem is that he’s more suited to being a backup QB – and the Bucs know his tendencies inside and out. Jameis Winston now has DeSean Jackson as an option if Mike Evans is double covered, a problem the Chicago defense has no answer for.
Buccaneers 31, Bears 14

 

Sunday Sept 17, 4:05 pm ET on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers
Broadcast in south and central Florida, southern California and Fargo.
Chargers -3½; o/u 45½

With this being their first game of the year, the west coast travel should not be an issue for Miami. I’m not yet ready to buy in to the hype that the Chargers will win the division. The big question will be how many empty seats there will be in the 27,000 seat soccer stadium the Chargers now call home.
Dolphins 24, Chargers 21

 

Sunday Sept 17, 4:05 pm ET on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders
Broadcast in eastern NY, eastern PA, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Chicago, KC, Minnesota, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, northern California and southern Oregon.
Raiders -13½; 43½

Let’s see, on one hand we have one of the best offenses in the league. On the other side there is the dumpster fire known as the Jets, attempting to tank their way to the number one pick of the 2018 draft.
Raiders 34, Jets 13

 

Sunday Sept 17, 4:25 pm ET on Fox; Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams
Broadcast in southern California, Virginia, Maryland and DC.
Rams -2½; o/u 45½

Similar to Jacksonville, I want to see if the Ram defense can keep it going in week two – this time against a better offense. If this was still Jeff Fisher running the show then I’d be confident in a bounce back game for Kirk Cousins. With Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator, perhaps I may need to start believing in this team.
Rams 20, Skins 17

 

Sunday Sept 17, 4:25 pm ET on Fox; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos
Broadcast in most markets (see Wash-Rams and Niners-Seahawks).
Cowboys -2½; o/u 43

Denver’s defense is not quite as good as it was in recent seasons. The Dallas offensive line should control this game, and the Broncos don’t have an offense that can keep up with a decent team.
Cowboys 23, Broncos 16

 

Sunday Sept 17, 4:25 pm ET on Fox; Sam Rosen, David Diehl
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Broadcast in northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Reno NV.
Seahawks -14; o/u 42

Seattle gets their aggression out after losing a game they should have won at Green Bay due to dumb penalties and questionable flags.
Seahawks 27, Niners 13

 

Sunday Sept 17, 8:30 pm ET on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collisworth
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
Broadcast in all markets.
Falcons -3; 56

This is not only the best game of the week, it could have been one of the best entire year had it been scheduled for later in the season. The Packers were fortunate to win last week against Seattle; they will be playing against a far superior offense on Sunday night.
Falcons 30, Packers 24

 

Monday Sept 18, 8:30 pm ET on espn; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
Detroit Lions at New York Giants
Broadcast in all markets.
Giants -3; o/u 42½

Tough call here, but I’ll take the Giants to rebound while Detroit – playing outside of their dome – is slowed down against a good NYG defense.
Giants 24, Lions 20

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.

 

NFL Week 2 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats 6.5 point favorites at Saints

John Morgan
September 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm ET

On Tuesday the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published their NFL Regular Season Week 2 Advanced Betting Lines. Also known as Look-Ahead or Early Lines, these odds are released prior to any of the previous games – including Thursday night’s game between the Patriots and Chiefs. These Early Advanced Lines can and will differ substantially from odds posted by Vegas and offshore accounts by the time these games kick off next week. It will be interesting to see how the professional handicappers that set these lines react to the Pats loss to KC when the Week Two odds are initially set next week.

 

The Patriots at New Orleans looms to be the most analyzed game in the NFL heading into week two. It features two potent offenses led by a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. The Pats loss to the Chiefs will result in even more scrutiny, as New England strives to avoid an 0-2 start to the 2017 season. Last time these two met it was an incredible game. The Saints were up 27-23 with just over a minute to go, and the Patriots were out of timeouts. Brady led the Patriots on a 70-yard scoring drive, converting on 4th down and then connecting on a 17-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with only five seconds remaining.

 

 

The last time these two met in The Big Easy it was a different story. New Orleans dominated both sides of the ball on a Monday night game and crushed New England, 38-17. With that victory the Saints improved to 11-0; they would go on to defeat the Colts in Super Bowl 44 that post-season.

 

Another game well worth watching will be played on Sunday night, with Green Bay at Atlanta. This is a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game, featuring a marketing executive’s dream: Matt Ryan an Aaron Rodgers. The two clubs are among the favorites (along with Seattle) to represent the NFC in next February’s Super Bowl. Clear your calendar; this should be one of, if not the best game of the 2017 season.

Thursday Sept 14 at 8:25 pm ET on NFLN
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)

Sunday Sept 17 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7)
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (-8)
Tennessee Titans (-2½) at Jacksonville Jaguars
New England Patriots (-6½) at New Orleans Saints

Sunday Sept 17 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
Arizona Cardinals (-3½) at Indianapolis Colts
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (-4)
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (-4)
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (-15½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 4:25 pm ET on Fox
Dallas Cowboys (-1½) at Denver Broncos
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams (PK)
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-11½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-3)

Monday Sept 18 at 8:30 pm ET on espn
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-6)

 

Early Week 2 Best Bets:
Bucs (-6½) vs Bears
Skins (pk) at Rams
Texans (+3) at Bengals
Seahawks (-11½) vs Niners

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

 

Reactions from Denver to Patriots’ 16-3 Victory vs Broncos

John Morgan
December 18, 2016 at 10:38 pm ET

New England is celebrating after the Patriots’ 16-3 victory over the Broncos. The Pats broke a four-decade old NFL record with their eighth consecutive division title. Considering the double edged sword of free agency and the salary cap, that is a milestone that is likely to never be surpassed.

On the other hand the mood in Denver is somber, as would be expected. As is the norm in every city, fans and writers focus blame on the home team for losing while neglecting to credit the opponent for a job well done. Here are a few reactions from both Denver and some national media sites in the aftermath of the Patriot defense shutting down Denver en route to their 12th win of the season.

 

Sports Illustrated: Patriots showcase too much depth for one-dimensional Broncos to contain

The last two weeks have emphasized why the New England Patriots are as difficult to prepare for as any team in the league. Last Monday, facing a Ravens’ defense that thrives against the run, the Patriots turned to the power-run work of LeGarrette Blount and attacked toward the perimeter—a touchdown for Malcolm Mitchell, 129 yards and a TD for Chris Hogan, etc.

Sunday, pitted against a Denver unit that can dominate at cornerback and off the edges on defense, New England took a page from the book Atlanta used in a Week 5 win at Mile High. It wasn’t so much Blount vs. the Broncos as scat back Dion Lewis and the versatile James White.

That ability to adjust week to week based on matchups is part of why the Patriots have been so good for so long. And Sunday, it also helped emphasize what a one-dimensional mess Denver’s offense has become in 2016.

The Patriots did not score many points vs. Denver’s excellent defense, but they still coasted to the finish line in a 16-3 win.

 

USA Today: Patriots crack Broncos to clinch AFC East, first-round bye

The Patriots also showed why they might be the most dangerous team in the postseason field. They have discovered a powerful running game, using a combination of smaller backs Dion Lewis and James White along with bruiser LeGarrette Blount, to neutralize Denver’s pass rush. Brady rarely tried to test the Broncos deep, preferring to hand the ball off inside or quickly dump off a short pass to Lewis, White or Edelman, who had six catches for 75 yards.

That game plan, plus vastly improved pass protection for Brady, who was sacked just twice, shows just how many different ways the Patriots can win.

“Our offensive line took a lot of pride this week in their preparation for this game. They’ve been working their tails off all year,” Edelman said. “You can say they’re young, you can say this or that, but they’ve been playing solid football. We were able to run the ball pretty decently when we had to, and when we can protect, it makes things easier.”

But the biggest revelation might be the Patriots’ defense, which has held each of the last five opponents to 23 points or fewer.

On Sunday, Ryan intercepted Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian on Denver’s only trip into the red zone. Denver failed to record a first down on five consecutive possessions to start the second half. The Patriots sacked Siemian four times while holding Denver to just 58 rushing yards, 13 of which came on Justin Forsett’s first carry of the game.

“I thought we deserved to win,” Belichick said.

 

CBS Denver: Broncos Offense Unimpressive In Mistake-Prone Loss To Patriots

Brady finished 16 of 32 for 188 yards and it was enough for New England (12-2) to retain its hold on the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed with two games left in the regular season. It was a rare win in Denver for Brady, who improved to 3-7 lifetime in the Mile High City.

New England set an NFL record with the eighth consecutive division title.

The mistake-prone Broncos (8-6) lost their hold on the sixth and final wild-card berth. They need help and in all likelihood wins in their final two games, against AFC West rivals Kansas City and Oakland, to reclaim a postseason berth and the chance to defend last season’s Super Bowl title.

Siemian finished 25 of 40 for 282 yards, hamstrung by an ineffective rushing attack and failing to get his offense untracked against the Patriots. He also had a costly interception.

 

Fox 31 Denver: Offense struggles as the Patriots beat the Broncos, 16-3, at Mile High

The Broncos were in the red-zone to start the second quarter, but an interception by quarterback Trevor Siemian would give the Patriots the ball back.

The interception proved costly as Brady made-up for the lack of completions in the first quarter and drove the Patriots down the field for a touchdown to make it 10-3.

Fans at the stadium were left shocked as the Broncos elected to end the half trailing 10-3 after getting the ball back with over a minute left and all three timeouts.

Coach Gary Kubiak later defended that decision saying that field position and the Patriots timeouts played a factor in the decision.

The Broncos would go three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. And that set the tone for most of second half for the Broncos offense.

 

Denver Post: Broncos’ offense goes cold, playoff hopes dwindle with loss to Patriots

But the hope was misleading. The offensive momentum early resulted in just three points.

An interception of a Trevor Siemian pass by cornerback Logan Ryan at the Patriots’ 8-yard line turned the tide early in the second quarter. All the Broncos’ season-long struggles on offense returned soon after. New England turned the turnover into a touchdown drive, making it 10-3, and its defense dominated from that point.

“Yeah, I can’t make that mistake. It just hurts us,” Siemian said, adding that the offense’s performance was “frustrating, no doubt. Especially earlier on when we were moving the ball really well and have no points to show for it. A lot of that’s on me. Missed a couple opportunities to get us points early on, and that comes back to haunt you.”

The Broncos’ defense, while depleted, kept them in the game and ensured Tom Brady’s latest trip to Denver would be trying but not insurmountable. Brady finished 16-of-32 for only 188 yards and a 68.2 passer rating.

Siemian, meanwhile, was 25-of-40 for 282 yards, but a big chunk of those yards came late when New England backed off protecting its 13-point lead.

 

DenverBroncos.com: Three Keys Unlocked: Patriots 16, Broncos 3

Despite a muffed Jordan Norwood punt that the Patriots recovered, leading to a game-opening field goal, the Broncos had momentum early until Logan Ryan intercepted Trevor Siemian on the first play of the second quarter, setting the Patriots up inside Denver territory after a 46-yard return. New England scored its only touchdown on a LeGarrette Blount 1-yard plunge seven plays later and led the rest of the way.

“That’s a 14-point swing in a lot of ways,” Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.

The Broncos’ promising first quarter — in which they rolled up 146 yards and gained seven first downs while forging a 3-3 tie — evaporated into a mid-game slump that saw them go six consecutive possessions without a first down.

 

Mile High Report: Broncos Patriots recap: Another wasted defensive effort from Denver in 16-3 loss

The Denver Broncos needed a win in the worst way this week against their AFC rival New England Patriots. In the frigid cold sub-18 degree weather, the game figured to be one conducting business as usual and the other desperate for a win.

On defense, the Broncos reminded Tom Brady that he doesn’t have good games in Denver for a reason. All game long, the defense did their job. Unfortunately, Trevor Siemian and the offense derp’d their way to a red zone turnover and complete ineptitude everywhere else.

This 16-3 blowout is entirely on the players on offense and now the playoffs are highly unlikely for the reigning Super Bowl champions.

 

Tom Brady’s TB Times: “Ravens Nevermore” with QB as Edgar Allen Poe

John Morgan
December 13, 2016 at 5:45 pm ET

As is standard operating procedure, Tom Brady – or more likely a trusted assistant – published another edition of the faux newspaper, TB Times.

In the latest incarnation Brady appears as Baltimore’s most famous writer, Edgar Allen Poe. Rather than penning poems or dark stories, the character in this headline is diagramming football plays.

 

Tom Brady passes for 406 yards; Patriots 30, Ravens 23

 

The Week 14 schedule presents the Patriots with a double whammy. The Pats not only have to heal and prepare on a short week, they also have to travel nearly 2,000 miles for next Sunday’s game. To make that contest even more challenging it will be played in the thin air at Mile High against a Denver team fighting for a playoff spot.

Reactions from Buffalo to New England Patriots 41-25 victory over Bills

John Morgan
October 31, 2016 at 9:00 pm ET

As one would expect, there was not much of any positive takeaways from Buffalo writers or fans in the aftermath of the Bills loss to the Patriots on Sunday. Optimism was high in western New York after a four-game winning streak. After losses to the Dolphins and Pats and a game at Seattle on tap next week the mood their has taken a 180-degree turn.

 

Bills turn in a dumb, dreary, depressing performance

The word that best describes the Patriots on Sunday was “surgical.” The words that spring immediately to mind for Rex Ryan’s Bills were “comical” and “dumb.”

The Bills, who had played with intelligence, poise and purpose during a four-game winning streak, turned in a sloppy and abysmal performance at New Era Field, losing to their longtime AFC nemesis, 41-25, at New Era Field.

The Pats’ superiority was evident almost from the start.

 

With Brady, gap between Bills and Patriots only gets wider

Every season, the Buffalo Bills try to scale this mountain.

Every season, they slip and fall, making the mountain seem that much higher.

With Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are far and away the best team in the NFL. With key injuries on offense, the Buffalo Bills are hard-pressed to even qualify as a wild-card-playoff contender.

And when the Bills’ defense reverts to its confused, miscommunicating ways of last season, it doesn’t even have a fighting chance against Brady and the rest of the Patriots’ offensive machine.

 

Three up, three down following Bills’ Week Eight loss to New England

The Buffalo Bills are stuck in neutral.

A year after going 8-8, the team is on the exact same pace through the first half of 2016. Sunday’s 41-25 loss to the New England Patriots at New Era Field was shockingly easy to predict — which makes it so troubling. Forget beating the Patriots — that’s not happening until Tom Brady finally retires — the Bills don’t appear any closer at all to ending a 16-year playoff drought.

They are an average team, with an average record, average coach and average players.

 

Same old Bills, dumb and defeated by the Pats

The problem with following the Bills through the long, painful playoff drought – and I’m sure Bills fans can understand – is that you start to feel like you’ve seen every game before.

Sunday’s 41-25 loss to the Patriots was a classic example of Drought Deja Vu. The score, the flow of the game, the familiar sight of Tom Brady torching the Buffalo secondary – it was all sadly reminiscent of last season’s 40-32 loss to the Pats here.

The only major difference was that it occurred in New Era Field this year, instead of what we used to know fondly as Ralph Wilson Stadium. But as far as the Bills-Patriots “rivalry” is concerned, we’re still a very long way from a new era.

But injuries aside, the distressing thing was that the Bills played the same dumb, boneheaded football they had played against the Pats here a year ago. They didn’t lose their cool this time, but they made just about every mistake imaginable in one 60-minute football game.

When it came to dumb and stupid, the Bills were the team that kept on giving Sunday.

 

Report Card: Brady Scores in Bunches and Lights Up Bills

Overall Grade: D

That wasn’t Jacoby Brissett out there Sunday afternoon, that was a guy you might have heard of, name of Tom Brady, playing quarterback for the Patriots. And that wasn’t Rob Gronkowski playing on one healthy hamstring like he did the last time these teams played, it was full-blown Gronk, the baddest man on the planet. This was the real Patriots, the dynastic Patriots, and the gap between Buffalo and New England has rarely been wider. There’s no end in sight to the Bills’ misery. Until No. 12 retires, and takes Bill Belichick with him, the Bills basically have no chance when the Patriots play their A-team.

 

The gap between Bills-Patriots is wide as ever

The chasm between the Bills and Patriots is as wide as ever, and that was once again so plainly obvious to see during New England’s barely-break-a-sweat 41-25 victory at New Era Field Sunday.

They’re here (I’m looking at the sky) and the Bills are down there (I’m looking at the ground) and it just never seems like it will ever change, at least not while Tom Brady is flinging footballs all over the place.

 

Tom Brady is back, and if possible he’s better than ever

There is no other way to describe Brady other than to say he’s incredible. While it’s hard to compare quarterbacks from different eras — how would Johnny Unitas or Otto Graham or Dan Marino or Joe Montana fare in today’s game? — it’s not hard to make the leap that no one has ever been better than Brady.

And what’s simply beyond explanation is that even at the age of 39, Brady remains at the very top of his game.

 

Flagging Bills for not giving Gronk his just due

The Buffalo Bills were flagged for a season-high 12 penalties in Sunday’s loss to New England, but we’re throwing a 13th hankie today.

The call? Sour grapes.

After watching Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski make five catches for 109 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown, Bills linebacker Zach Brown gave all the credit to quarterback Tom Brady, not the fact “Gronk’’ is the most difficult personnel matchup in the NFL.

 

 

Pittsburgh Dad Reacts to Steelers loss to Patriots

John Morgan
October 24, 2016 at 6:30 pm ET

Patriot Super Fan Paul ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald has not yet released a Steelers post-game video, but he did provide a link to his (wannabe) counterpart in Pittsburgh. The Braintree Massachusetts native formerly known as Nick Stevens nailed his FitzyGFY parody of the Boston sports fan long ago. Here his western Pennsylvania counterpart known as ‘Pittsburgh Dad‘ attempts to do the same as a Yinzer after the Steelers’ 27-16 home loss to the Patriots.

 

 

Patriots need to improve third down defense against Broncos

John Morgan
January 24, 2016 at 10:00 am ET

For most of the season the topic of conversation in regards to the New England Patriots has centered on the performance of the offensive line. While that unit has at times deserved scrutiny, the return of Sebastian Vollmer has seemed to have stabilized the group. Overlooked has been what may be the real Achilles heel for this squad as they battle the Denver Broncos on Sunday: the team’s third down defense.

 

Last week the Chiefs converted on an astounding 12 out of 20 third down attempts. Add in a fourth down conversion, and Kansas City was able to stay on the field 65% of the time on third down against the Pats. To put that in perspective the New York Giants, with an atrocious pass defense that led to the exit of Tom Coughlin, had the NFL’s worst third down defense in 2015 – and opponents converted on only 47% of their third down opportunities. Logan Ryan in particular had a rough day, with opposing players catching eight out of ten passes thrown his way, plus committing a penalty that resulted in a first down and led to a touchdown on the next play.

 

To be fair we are comparing the small sample size of one game (against a playoff caliber team) versus a defense’s entire season, but every New England fan watching last week’s game had to be very frustrated watching KC convert over and over, after the Patriot defense won first and second down to set up third and long. Considering the opponent, some of that should not have been totally unexpected also. The Patriots’ defensive game plan was to contain Alex Smith and force him to beat the Pats through while limiting his runs. Smith averaged 5.9 yards per carry and quietly rushed for 498 yards and 30 first downs in 2015. Rather than bringing an aggressive pass rush, Matt Patricia’s group focused on gap integrity and setting the edge to contain Smith.

 

In addition the secondary was in zone coverage more often than usual; that should change Sunday. Peyton Manning simply cannot get the ball downfield with any velocity at this point in his career. Pittsburgh made a critical defense with their game plan last week, positioning their defenders as if Manning could still throw the football like he did five or ten years ago. Although Bill Belichick stated that he would never underestimate Manning, I am sure that he saw the same thing I did. Belichick game plans to take away an opponent’s strength and dares them to beat his team with a weaker asset – in this case, that is Manning having to throw the ball deep or outside the numbers.

 

The good news for the Patriots is that Denver’s offense struggled mightily against a Steeler defense that is not nearly as proficient as New England’s. The Broncos were a woeful 2-12 on third down last week, and also failed to convert on two fourth downs. Some of that can be attributed to Pittsburgh’s defense being much better against the run (3.8 yards per carry, 6th in 2015; 91 yards per game, 6th) than they are in pass defense (7.5 yards per pass attempt, 18th; 64.3% completion rate, 22nd; 272 yards per game, 30th). Gary Kubiak wanted to run the ball (33 rushing attempts in the game) even if that was playing to Pittsburgh’s strength. The Denver head coach counted on his team’s defense being able to contain Pittsburgh without Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. It was a smart game plan, figuring that the Steelers’ best chance to pull off an upset was if Manning threw a couple of wounded ducks that ended up as pick-sixes. Facing Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman this week, he won’t have that luxury.

 

In regards to the previous meeting between the Patriots and Broncos this season, I believe the most important factor that many (especially in Denver) are overlooking is that Jamie Collins did not play, and Dont’a Hightower left early with an injury. The game took a huge change when Hightower went out; once that happened the Broncos were suddenly able to run the ball. The absence of Jerod Mayo is relatively minor; he was on the field for just 36.1% of the defense’s snaps, and many of those came when Collins and Hightower missed time earlier this season. As for Denver fans that counter that the Broncos were equally distressed by having to start Brock Osweiler at quarterback, that argument does not hold water. The reality is that based on how he was performing, the removal of Manning was an improvement, not a downgrade.

 

Kansas City Chiefs Offensive 3rd Downs vs New England Patriots

Drive #1 – with score Patriots 7, Chiefs 0
17 plays, 64 yards in 8:31
3rd and 7 at KC 33 (8:14 – 1st)
Alex Smith pass to short middle to Jeremy Maclin to KC 44 for 11 yards (Logan Ryan)
First Down

3rd and 3 at NE 49 (6:15 – 1st)
Alex Smith pass to short middle to Travis Kelce to NE 44 for 5 yards (Rob Ninkovich)
First Down

3rd and 13 at NE 47 (4:52 – 1st)
Alex Smith scrambles off left tackle to NE 32 for 15 yards (Jabaal Sheard)
First Down

3rd and 4 at NE 26 (3:27 – 1st)
Charcandrick West off left end to NE 20 for 6 yards (Justin Coleman)
First Down

3rd and 6 at NE 16 (2:03 – 1st)
Alex Smith pass incomplete, thrown away from outside the pocket to short left [Jamie Collins]
Stop forces KC to settle for a field goal

Drive #2 – with score Patriots 7, Chiefs 3
7 plays, 25 yards in 3:22
3rd and 2 at NE 48 (13:39 – 2nd)
Charcandrick West up the middle to NE 45 for 3 yards (Alan Branch)
First Down

3rd and 7 at NE 42 (11:40 – 2nd)
Alex Smith pass incomplete to short middle to Travis Kelce
Penalty on KC, Illegal Use of Hands; declined
Stop forces KC to punt

Drive #3 – with score Patriots 7, Chiefs 3
3 plays, minus-1 yard, 1:38
3rd and 12 at NE 38 (9:51 – 2nd)
Alex Smith pass to short right to Travis Kelce to NE 37 for 1 yard (Patrick Chung; Dont’a Hightower)
Stop forces KC to punt

Drive #4 – with score Patriots 14, Chiefs 3
11 plays, 52 yards in 3:11
3rd and 7 at NE 46 (2:00 – 2nd)
Alex Smith pass to deep right to Jason Avant to NE 20 for 26 yards (Devin McCourty)
First Down

3rd and Goal at NE 9 (0:21 – 2nd)
Penalty on KC – Alex Smith, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at NE 9
No Play

3rd and Goal at NE 14 (0:21 – 2nd)
Alex Smith pass incomplete to short left to Chris Conley
Stop forces KC to settle for field goal

Drive #5 – with score Patriots 14, Chiefs 6
8 plays, 44 yards in 4:29
3rd and 10 at KC 25 (14:13 – 3rd)
Alex Smith pass to short right to Jeremy Maclin, ran out of bounds at KC 37 for 12 yards
First Down
Drive ended when the Patriots recovered a fumble.

Drive #6 – with score Patriots 21, Chiefs 6
12 plays, 80 yards in 6:12
3rd and 7 at KC 23 (7:39 – 3rd)
Alex Smith pass to deep left to Jason Avant to KC 49 for 26 yards (Logan Ryan)
First Down

3rd and 3 at NE 29 (4:51 – 3rd)
Alex Smith scrambles off right end, ran out of bounds at NE 22 for 7 yards
First Down

3rd and 3 at NE 15 (2:50 – 3rd)
Alex Smith pass incomplete to short left to Chris Conley (Justin Coleman)

4th and 3 at NE 15 (2:45 – 3rd)
Alex Smith pass short to left to Jason Avant to NE 11 for 4 yards (Logan Ryan)
Penalty on NE (Akiem Hicks), Illegal Use of Hands, 5 yards, enforced at NE 15
First Down
Result of drive: touchdown

Drive #7 – with score Patriots 24, Chiefs 13
3 plays, minus-8 yards in 2:20
3rd and 10 at KC 20 (13:24 – 4th)
Alex Smith sacked at KC 17 for -3 yards (Chandler Jones)
Stop forces KC to punt

Drive #8 – with score Patriots 27, Chiefs 13
8 plays, 29 yards in 2:52
3rd and 1 at KC 29 (9:16 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass to short right to Albert Wilson to KC 37 for 8 yards (Malcolm Butler)
First Down

3rd and 10 at KC 49 (7:45 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass incomplete to deep left to Chris Conley (Devin McCourty)

4th and 10 at KC 49 (7:28 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass to deep right intended for Albert Wilson: intercepted by Duron Harmon at NE 23.
The Replay Official reviewed the pass completion ruling, and the play was reversed.
Alex Smith pass incomplete to deep right to Albert Wilson (Duron Harmon)
Stop forces ball to be turned over on downs.

Drive #9 – with score Patriots 27, Chiefs 13
16 plays, 80 yards in 5:16
3rd and 8 at KC 22 (5:52 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass to short left to Chris Conley to KC 38 for 16 yards (Justin Coleman)
First Down

3rd and 8 at KC 40 (4:51 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass incomplete to short left to Knile Davis

4th and 8 at KC 40 (4:42 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass to short middle to Jason Avant to NE 47 for 13 yards (Logan Ryan)
First Down

3rd and Goal at NE 3 (1:22 – 4th)
Alex Smith pass incomplete to short right to Jason Avant.
Penalty on NE (Logan Ryan), Defensive Pass Interference, 2 yards, enforced at NE 3
First Down
Drive results in a touchdown.

 

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2015 at 6:12 am ET

The Patriots make a quick turnaround from their tough 30-23 win over the Jets on Sunday to play a Thursday Night Football matchup with a second division rival against the Miami Dolphins.

The Patriots ran their record to 6-0 with their come-from-behind win over the Jets which opened up a two game lead in the division. Tom Brady accounted for all but one of the Patriots yards on offense, throwing for 355 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 15 more including a one-yard touchdown.

The Dolphins improved their record to 3-3 with a 44-26 blowout win over the Houston Texans that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate. Miami raced out to a 41-0 halftime lead and was in cruise control the rest of the way. It was their second blowout win in a row under interim head coach Dan Campbell. They beat Tennessee 38-10 the week before.

The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and will be televised by the NFL Network and will have CBS’ top announcing crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

Here are our five first impressions of the Dolphins:

Campbell Building a Tougher, Physical Team:  The time was right for former coach Joe Philbin to go after a disastrous 1-3 start that culminated with back-to-back blowout losses at the hands of the Buffalo Bills and by the New York Jets in London.

Dan Campbell was the Dolphins tight ends coach under Philbin, after an 11-year career playing the position and has brought that tough attitude with him as the Fins new coach. We read that he immediately began his tenure by putting the team thru Oklahoma drills, something that would probably be reserved for training camp, but he was erasing the bad memories of the low-key Philbin and so far it has worked.

Campbell is using a lot of a the two tight end sets and they’re trying to get back to being a balanced team on offense, by having QB Ryan Tannehill roll out more and cutting down on his reads which has simplified things for him.

Campbell has re-energized a team that was supposed to compete for a playoff spot after spending a ton of cash in the off-season and was under-achieving on a large scale under Philbin. Two big wins in a row, albeit against lesser competition has them looking up again. Now on a short week they have to travel to New England and then up to Buffalo where they’ll look to avenge an early season blowout.

Teams didn’t know how to prepare for a Dan Campbell team as he had never coached before, now there are at least two games of tape on his Dolphins so things should get a bit harder for him.

Simplified Defense Has Awakened Pass Rush: Through the first four weeks of the season, the Dolphins defense, specifically the defensive line slept walked through the games with little to show for the money spent there with only one sack.

But new Miami defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has simplified things, and the Dolphins have gone back to being an attacking, aggressive defense, something the players were screaming for. After notching just a single sack in their first four games, Miami has gotten ten in the last two. Cameron Wake had four sacks a week ago against Tennessee and added two more against Houston. Ndamukong Suh got his first two sacks of the season last week and chipped in with six tackles.

Bill Belichick remarked in his Monday presser that the simplifying of things for the defense has helped the defense, specifically Suh. That has vaulted Miami’s defense from 30th at the time of the coaching change, all the way to 15th place now. They’ll be looking to tee off against Tom Brady on Thursday night against an offensive line that will still probably be missing two of its top three offensive tackles.

Running Game With Miller Has Exploded: Miami running back Lamar Miller wasn’t getting many touches under Philbin as the Dolphins were trying to throw the ball much more than they are now. Under Campbell, they are getting to be a more physical, running team and no one has responded better than Miller.

After carrying 19 times for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, he carried it 14 times for 185 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown run against the Texans. His added touches have ignited both his game and the offense, as he also caught three passes out of the backfield last week for 61 yards including a 54-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill.

“I wasn’t getting the ball that much. So every time I got it I was trying to make a big play, and I wasn’t reading my keys,” Miller told the Miami Herald. “Now, I’m trusting my offensive line more. They’ve been getting a lot of movement. I’m being patient and decisive.”

Tannehill Completes 25 passes in a row: Talk about a hot hand, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill finished off the Tennessee game completing his last seven passes. He started off against Houston hitting his first 18 in a row, setting a new NFL record in the process by hitting 25 passes in a row. He finished the game against the Texans going 18-19 for 282 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

His only incompletion was a drop by tight end Dion Sims on his last throw of the day.

Tannehill is finally playing like the man that Miami rewarded with a big contract during the off-season. Like many of the players on the team, he started slowly but has taken off during the last two weeks. His four touchdown passes on Sunday included three of 50 yards or more which is a great sign for the offensive to put points on the board quickly.

If the offense and Tannehill can keep up this kind of production during their last ten games, the Dolphins with a rejuvenated defense can make some noise in the AFC.

Young, Explosive WRs A Big Test for NE Secondary: The Patriots will be facing a team that has some nice weapons for Tannehill to and stretch the field. They brought in Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints in the off-season, but he hasn’t clicked yet catching only 10 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. He’s been slowed by a back injury. The team brought in veteran Greg Jennings and used their first round draft pick on DeVante Parker.

But it has been Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews who have been the biggest recipients of Tannehill’s passes thus far. Landry leads the team in receptions with 36 and also is a dangerous return threat either via punt returns or kickoffs. He scored on a 50-yard touchdown against Houston on Sunday when it seemed he weaved through the entire Texans’ team.

Matthews is emerging as the Dolphins deep threat this season. Matthews has caught 26 passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns. For a guy that was supposed to be the odd man out during training camp, the 6’0, 217 pound Texas alum has carved out a nice role for himself.

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

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