Tag Archives: Patriots

Patriots  Week 6 Report Card, 24-17 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 17, 2017 at 9:16 am ET

The Patriots are in sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time this season after their win over the Jets. That is the good news, the fact that it took until Week 6 of the season speaks on what a totally crazy NFL season 2017 has been thus far. The only constant this season across the board is that there haven’t been many constants as it has been a wild ride with little continuity.

The Patriots had ten days to prepare for this one but they started this one like they were wearing cement overshoes. Down 14-0 on the road against a divisional opponent after the first quarter is not the way you care to draw it up. But give the players and coaches credit. There was no panic. They regrouped and came back to score 24 straight points. And while we can point to a lot of different scenarios including the controversial fumble call in the fourth quarter, the bottom line is the defense, despite giving up far too many yards again, allowed just three points over the final three quarters.

But six games in, this team is still far from a well-oiled machine, as Bill Belichick pointed out in his Monday conference call with the media. But really at this point of the season, nearly every team is facing the same challenges. They have 10 more weeks to get the kinks worked out and possibly bring some needed help in. Until then, they plug along.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady was far from his normal sharp self on Sunday. Was it the injuries taking hold, the Jets playing him tough, as they always seem to do or just Brady having a bit of an off day? Probably a combination of the three. Brady made some uncharacteristic mistakes on Sunday, especially mental errors which we aren’t used to seeing.

He telegraphed a pass for Rob Gronkowski that should have been picked off by Buster Skrine on the sideline. It was one of those throws that should not have been made. Like his two deep throws into double coverage down the field, the second of which was picked off.

But Brady fired up the troops and they came back, the drives at the end of the first half and the first drive of the third quarter were vintage Brady and the Patriots offense. All of a sudden they’re up by seven in what seemed a blink of an eye. His throw to Cooks on the 42-yard bomb just before the half was a beauty. He dropped it right into the bucket perfectly.

Running Backs: B+

The running backs had productive games on the ground on Sunday afternoon. Dion Lewis had 52 yards on 11 carries and Mike Gillislee added 44 more on 10 carries. The only complaint, which isn’t on them is why didn’t the get the ball more? Gillislee had a fumble which nixed a nice drive that may have resulted in points and as a result saw the end of the bench for quite a while as a result. But Lewis appears to be the water bug that he was in 2015 before his ACL injury and he and Gillislee appear to be making a nice 1-2 punch in the running game. James White didn’t get a lot of work in the passing game this week, which I thought we’d see more of with Gronkowski drawing so much attention. James Develin was solid in leading the way with his blocking, as always.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers led by Brandin Cooks were good on Sunday. Cooks had a concentration drop early in the game where he began to run before fully securing the ball. But his 42-yarder (see above) from Brady was a beauty by both players. Once again, Cooks nearly broke a short slant to the house, a shoestring tackle was all that stopped him from going the distance. It is an area that looks like it could be exploited more in the future. It is simply a matter of time before these start falling. Cooks is on pace for 64 catch, 1259-yard season which is impressive considering he and Brady still haven’t fully clicked yet.

Chris Hogan had one catch for 19 yards and took a nasty but clean shot to the ribs. Danny Amendola was okay but didn’t have the production ( 3 catches for 40 yards) we envisioned in our matchups.

The Pats wide receivers do a bad job of selling these pick/rub routes that everyone uses and no one else gets called on. Obviously, the league’s officials are going to watch them closely on these and they have to do a better job of selling that they are getting out of the way of the opponents.

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski returned and was his dominant self. The Jets drafted two safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye to specifically handle the big man and they learned in their first outing what a daunting task that can be. Chalk it up as a learning experience for the young players. Gronk had six catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. He was also interfered with horribly in the end zone despite not getting the call. He also drew one 24-yard PI call and was his normal tremendous self as a blocker in the running game. His 33-yard touchdown was classic Gronkowski where he beat one tackler (Adams) and then high-stepped his way past Maye en route to the end zone.

Dwayne Allen (six snaps), and Jacob Hollister (one), barely saw the field and were non-factors. For Allen, that isn’t a good sign.

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line was much better in pass protection not allowing a sack for the first time this season. There were some pressures allowed and Brady did take a few hits but some of those were on the Jets blitzes. Overall this was easily their best performance, pass blocking of the season.

It was also their best run-blocking performance of the year, the team rushed for 118 yards and it definitely looked like there were more out there for them to utilize.

This was a good building block game for the offensive line and hopefully, this will signal a trend upward for the group.

Defensive Line: B+

The Patriots defensive line was much, much better against the run, Jets running backs averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Malcom Brown had a couple of run stuffs for losses to go along with a sack. Alan Branch played 22 snaps and looked the 2016 version of himself inside.

Trey Flowers had another solid game as did Deatrich Wise with pressuring Josh McCown. The pass rush is still overall still too inconsistent but in this one, the line’s job was to stop the run (they did) first and force the game into McCown’s hands.

Weird calls on both Brown and Branch on the same series, getting flagged for holding, on running plays. Nothing comes as a total surprise in terms of officials, however.

Linebackers: B-

Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy both had productive games this week. Van Noy had a pair of sacks, a couple more QB hits and a tackle for a loss, while Hightower had a sack, and a QB hit while providing the leadership on the field he’s best at.

The team used Jordan Richards (gulp) as a dime linebacker for the first time since the opener. He made a few nice plays in run support. Elandon Roberts got fooled by McCown on a play-action fake for an easy touchdown by Austin Serferian-Jenkins. McCown used Roberts aggressiveness against him.

The good news is that Shea McClellin can begin practicing this week. Hopefully, we’ll see him back on the field in just a few weeks.

Secondary: B-

With Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore out this week, the Patriots were missing two of their top three corners. So, the really curious part of the Jets game plan was that they decided to attack Malcolm Butler instead of Johnson Bademosi who played pretty well in his first extended action on defense this season.

Butler had a very solid game, he did allow a touchdown pass but not much else. He picked off McCown, jumping a route on the sidelines before halftime and jarred the ball loose on Jenkins on the controversial fumble play. So why target Butler? A Very curious decision by the Jets.

The safeties, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Pat Chung were solid. But what happened with the breakdowns ..once again that allowed the Jets to hit a couple of big plays where the coverage busted? You can’t blame Gilmore for these. The 44-yarder to Jermaine Kearse had no one in the zip code and the 32-yard pass to Robby Anderson down the middle on the final drive also had no one close. Too many busts.

Special Teams: A-

Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal of the season on a bad hit knuckler, it seemed like the snap and hold were good, but it is rare to see him hit one that poorly. Ryan Allen was okay with his punting but the coverage units were outstanding. The Jets had minus yardage on their punt returns and the kick coverage likewise was solid, twice bringing down Jets kick returners inside the 15-yard line. Sunday was a much better day for Joe Judge’s men.

Coaches: B-

Bill Belichick likes his teams to show that they can play thru adversity and they certainly did that on Sunday, showing great mental toughness coming down from 14 points on the road. But with 10 days to prepare, for the team to come out that flat against a divisional opponent? What was up with that?

Josh McDaniels got too impatient a few times that may have cost the team some points. I don’t feel like he has total trust in the running game many times. But once the team got into a groove they were moving the ball well.

Matt Patricia got Bademosi ready to play and he acquitted himself well, but the secondary continues to have communications issues six weeks into the season, allowing receivers to run free down the field. But overall, it was a win, on the road, against a divisional opponent. They’ll take it.

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.

NFL Week 6 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
October 15, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

NFL Week 6 kicked off with an oddity. Lo and behold, we had a quality Thursday night game between a pair of teams with winning (both 4-1) records. Philadelphia went on the road and defeated Carolina in Charlotte 28-23. Carson Wentz overcame a slow start and threw three touchdowns – and more importantly, no interceptions. The Eagle defensive front seven won the line of scrimmage against the Carolina offensive line. Cam Newton had thrown for 671 yards and six touchdowns over his last two games, but the Philly defense harassed him all night. With a 5-1 record and possessing an impressive road victory, the Eagles are a legitimate candidate to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 52. Meanwhile, one high strung idiot has given Panther fans an embarrassing reputation.

 

★★★★★ — Game of the Week

3-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs
4:25 pm ET on CBS; Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Broadcast in all markets except Arizona, California, Nevada and southern Oregon.
Chiefs favored by 4; over/under 47; Money Line KC -205, Pitt +175

Right now Alex Smith is the NFL MVP for 2017. The previously maligned quarterback is leading the league in completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and passer rating. The additions of Tyreek Hill in 2016 and rookie Kareem Hunt this year certainly help as well. The Pittsburgh defensive front seven is nothing special and won’t be able to handle that duo. Whispers about the demise of 35 year old Ben Roethlisberger (6 TD, 7 INT) will gain momentum this week in Iron City.

Prediction: Chiefs 27, Steelers 20
Chiefs -4

 

★★★★ — Good Games

3-2 New England Patriots at 3-2 New York Jets
1:00 pm ET on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Broadcast in all markets except those airing the Browns-Texans and Dolphins-Falcons games. Also not broadcast in DC, Baltimore, Minneapolis and New Orleans due to NFL blackout rules.
Patriots favored by 9½; over/under 47½; Money Line NWE -475, NYJ +375

The Jets have thrived when they don’t have to rely on Josh McCown and the league’s worst group of receivers. On the other hand the Patriot pass defense has been suspect, to put it mildly. On top of that the Pats will be without starting corners Stephon Gilmore (concussion) and Eric Rowe (groin). It will be interesting to see what Matt Patricia game plans Sunday. Nickel situations would presumably call for safety Duron Harmon. After Malcolm Butler and Jonathan Jones the only other corner is Johnson Bademosi, who has yet to play a defensive snap this season.

Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 24
Jets +9½

 

4-1 Green Bay Packers at 3-2 Minnesota Vikings
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman
Broadcast in most of the US; see the five other games on Fox for exceptions.
Packers favored by 3; over/under 45; Money Line GB -175, Min +155

This would be a great game if the two teams were at full strength, but that is not the case. QB Case Keenum has filled in admirably for Sam Bradford, but the Vikes could really use Dalvin Cook against this Green Bay defense. WR Adam Thielen has played well, but with Stefon Diggs out the Packer defense can double team him all day.

Prediction: Packers 31, Vikings 21
Packers -3 (two units)

 

3-2 Los Angeles Rams at 3-2 Jacksonville Jaguars
4:05 pm ET on Fox; Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth
Broadcast in Boston, southern California, Jacksonville, Houston, Miami, New York City, Ohio (except Cincinnati) and West Palm Beach.
Jaguars favored by 2½; over/under 42½; Money Line Jax -145, Rams +125

Here we are in mid-October, and both the Rams and Jags have winning records. Jacksonville is a complete enigma. They rank first in both sacks and interceptions, second in passes defensed, third in passing yards allowed, and sixth in quarterback hits. The Jaguars looked unbeatable in wins over the Texans, Ravens and Steelers. Problem is that each victory was followed by a poor game (Titans, Jets). Following that pattern the Jags are due for another dud. Rams QB Jared Goff has made remarkable progress in his second season, and doesn’t make the mistakes that Blake Bortles does. Jacksonville is playing at home and with a better defense though, and finally wins consecutive games.

Prediction: Jaguars 24, Rams 17
Jaguars -2½</span

 

★★★ — Decent Games

3-2 Detroit Lions at 2-2 New Orleans Saints
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Dan Hellie, Chris Spielman
Broadcast in Louisiana, Michigan and Mississippi.
Saints favored by 5; over/under 50; Money Line NOR -215, Det +185

QB Matthew Stafford is dealing with a bum ankle, which is good news for Saints DE Cameron Jordan. Detroit will attempt to get RB Ameer Abdullah rolling against a New Orleans defense that is allowing 4.5 yards per carry. The Lions will also miss be without DT Haloti Ngata for the rest of the season, which certainly does not help when facing Drew Brees.

Prediction: Saints 27, Lions 24
Lions +5

 

1-4 Los Angeles Chargers at 2-3 Oakland Raiders
4:25 pm ET on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Broadcast in Arizona, California, Nevada and southern Oregon.
Raiders favored by 3; over/under 50½; Money Line Oak -175, LAC +155

Derek Carr may be less than 100%, but that’s still great news for the Raiders. EJ Manuel’s passes were late and slow, leaving Oakland receivers in peril last week. The LAC run defense is non existent, allowing 5.0 yards per carry and a league worst 161 yards per game. In 2016 the Chargers lost too many winnable games, so they changed head coaches. Nothing has changed so far this year. The Bolts were fortunate to finally win a game they tried to give away last week, escaping with a narrow victory against the depleted Giants. Sunday they return to their standard format of losing a close game. Note: the line has dropped from 5½-6 points on Friday to 3-3½ point on Saturday. I liked the Chargers when the number was at that high point, but at just three I would go with the Raiders.

Prediction: Raiders 28, Chargers 24
Raiders -3

 

2-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 2-3 Arizona Cardinals
4:05 pm ET on Fox; Kenny Albert, Charles Davis
Broadcast in Arizona, Atlanta and Florida (except Jacksonville, Miami and West Palm Beach).
Bucs favored by 1½; over/under 45½; Money Line Bucs -125, Ariz +105

Adrian Peterson talked his way out of New Orleans, where he was a bad fit. While he is an upgrade over Chris Johnson, Arizona still has no running game due to their porous offensive line. The Cardinals best bet is to just use him as a decoy on play action passes. Just throw the ball to whomever is being covered by Buccaneer CB Vernon Hargreaves, who gives the opposition a 12 yard cushion yet still manages to get beat deep. Cardinal CB Patrick Peterson versus Buc WR Mike Evans makes this game watchable. If Tampa Bay can make some field goals for a change they could win this game.

Prediction: Cardinals 23, Buccaneers 20
Cardinals +1½

 

★★ — Meh Games

0-5 Cleveland Browns at 2-3 Houston Texans
1:00 pm ET on CBS; Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Broadcast in Ohio, eastern Kentucky, Tennessee (except Memphis), Texas, Jacksonville and Shreveport.
Texans favored by 9; over/under 47; Money Line Hou -450, Cle +350

The Texans are now without both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. There is still Jadeveon Clowney, but Joe Thomas should be able to neutralize his production. Houston QB DeShaun Watson has been outstanding, and should be able to beat Cleveland LB Jamie Collins when he decides to run. Despite the losses of defensive playmakers, I’ll take the team with Watson at quarterback over the one with Kevin Hogan.

Prediction: Texans 31, Browns 21
Texans -9

 

2-2 Miami Dolphins at 3-1 Atlanta Falcons
1:00 pm ET on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Broadcast in most of the southeast: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana (except Shreveport and New Orleans) and Florida (except Jacksonville).
Falcons favored by 13; over/under 45½; Money Line Atl -900, Mia +600

Atlanta was aided by questionable officiating in a pair of early season victories; now they are helped out by their schedule. Injuries are never a good thing, but their bye last week came at the best possible time. The Falcons should get WR Julio Jones and OLB Vic Beasley back for Sunday’s game, though WR Mohammed Sanu is out. Regardless of who suits up, it is difficult to envision a scenario where Miami wins. The Dolphins are averaging an NFL-worst 10.3 points per game; how can they keep pace with the Falcons? On top of that the Fins are dealing with the aftermath of a scandal involving a coach, and are on the verge of a quarterback controversy.

Prediction: Falcons 27, Dolphins 10
Falcons -13

 

1-4 Chicago Bears at 3-2 Baltimore Ravens
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber
Broadcast in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and western Pennsylvania.
Ravens favored by 6½; over/under 39½; Money Line Bal -300, Chi +250

Another week, another pushover for the Ravens. Baltimore has victories over Cincinnati (before the Bengals fired their OC), Cleveland and Oakland (with EJ Manuel at QB). In their two other games the Ravens were outscored 70-16. Baltimore will be in first place in the AFC North on Sunday night, but it’s a façade. Perhaps Jordan Richard can run the ball effectively to keep the game close. Chicago rookie QB Mitch Trubisky has no receivers who can catch the ball.

Prediction: Ravens 24, Bears 17
Ravens -6½

 

0-5 San Francisco 49ers at 2-2 Washington Redskins
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in northern California, DC, North Carolina, eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia and Reno NV.
Redskins favored by 11; over/under 46½; Money Line Wash -600, SF +450

In my opinion three consecutive road games should be abolished in the NFL. It simply puts to much of a burden on that team’s ability to prepare, and inevitably results in a sloppy game. Here we are with SF, an already talented-deficient team, having to overcome that obstacle against a rested club. The Washington defense has performed better than anticipated this year, while the Niners are managing to score just 17.8 points per game (25th). Throw in possible dissension over the release of Navorro Bowman, and we have the recipe for an ugly blowout. The Niners have been competitive; each of their last four games has been decided by a field goal or less. Consecutive overtime losses have to be incredibly frustrating though.

Prediction: Redskins 31, Niners 13
Redskins -11

 

0-5 New York Giants at 3-1 Denver Broncos
8:30 pm ET Sunday on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Broncos favored by 12; over/under 39; Money Line Den -700, NYG +500

Let’s see, the Giants can’t stop the run or the pass. They are down four receivers. Their offensive line stinks. In the span of five weeks they have gone from a supposed Super Bowl contender to a team planning on the 2018 draft. Now they have to travel 1800 miles and play 5280 feet above sea level. Against a well rested team that ranks first in the NFL in defense (261 yards per game).

Considering what a hypocrite Giant owner John Mara is, I shed no tears. The puppet master pulling Roger Goodell’s strings for his own betterment thought he was all set when he had the commissioner suspend Ezekiel Elliot. Watching his team fail so miserably should bring a smile to every football fan’s face.

Prediction: Broncos 34, Giants 10
Broncos -12 (two units)

 

— Bottom of the Barrel

2-3 Indianapolis Colts at 2-3 Tennessee Titans
8:30 pm ET Monday on espn; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
No lines at this point in time due to uncertainty on status of Marcus Mariota.

If Mariota plays: Titans 24, Colts 20
If Cassel plays: Colts 24, Titans 17

 

Teaser (three units):
Broncos -6
Redskins -5

 

New England Patriots News 10-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 10-15, & AFC East Notes.

**Langi, Wife Involved in Serious Car Crash: **

Reports have been coming in all day on Saturday about a serious car crash that Patriots LB Harvey Langi and his wife were involved in Friday night about 9:30 in Foxborough. Early reports state that Langi and his wife were stopped at a red light when they were rear-ended in a three-car crash. Firefighters were forced to use the Jaws of Life to free some of the injured. The injuries suffered by Langi were considered serious but not life-threatening.The Patriots released a statement on the accident:

“We are aware of the traffic accident involving Harvey Langi and a passenger last night in Foxborough. The two were stopped at a traffic light when they were rear-ended by another vehicle,” the Patriots said. “They were both transported to a local hospital with injuries and are receiving medical attention. Our thoughts are with Harvey, the Langi family and those who sustained injuries in last night’s accident.”

Just a quick question to everyone… is there anyone out there, anyone who DOESN’T know that Tom Brady is 40 years old? Anyone? Bueller? Does every piece on Brady have to have in the first paragraph, “New England’s 40-year old QB” or a reasonable facsimile thereof? Between that and the talk of him approaching the cliff is old folks.

Let’s Hear it for the Rivalry: The Patriots and Jets renew unpleasantries for the 117th time on Sunday. There are rivalry games and there are rivalry games. And there is the Jets. The two teams have always had a healthy disdain for one another. I remember speaking with Steve Nelson, former Patriot team HOF-Linebacker and he said from the moment he was drafted, and he walked into the locker room for the first time, there was that palatable hate for the Jets, which exists the same down in NJ. Here’s to the next chapter in that rivalry.

Besides the rivalry and first place in the division which is online today, another streak that the Patriots have going since last season is their road record. The Pats have won their last 10 road games dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season.

Brady Can Set Another Record With a Win:
Tom Brady already owns the most wins in NFL history for a QB in both regular and postseason combined but for regular season wins only he’s tied with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning at 186. A win by the Patriots today in Brady’s start will put him over the top at 187 career regular season wins and add another career milestone for #12.

It is interesting to note that Sunday will be Brady’s 241st start. Manning had 266 and Favre 298. It shows the level of success that the Patriots have had with Brady under center with him having essentially almost 2 seasons less than Manning and nearly four less than Favre to reach this milestone.

Brady would like nothing more than to set the new career regular season record against the Jets. BTW Brady is 23-6 against the Jets during the regular season. Just in case anyone was wondering.

Goodell: No Policy Change on the National Anthem:
The NFL Commissioner has weighed in on the kneeling, standing, sitting, stretching, eating a banana issue on the National Anthem. In a joint statement with the NFLPA, they stated: “There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.”

Goodell added, “What we want to do is get back to focusing on the actions that we want to take to really improve our communities and support our players to get things done,” Goodell said. “We want to get to from our current situation to where we are really making a difference in the community and get involved in action that is going to have a positive outcome for our law enforcement, for our communities, and for our country overall.”

And in a non-story hot take for the week centered around Roger Goodell’s wife who used an anonymous Twitter account to defend her husband. The Twitter account that has since been taken down, didn’t do anything that could be remotely considered controversial, she just defended her husband. Isn’t that what any good wife would do?

We’ve been super critical of Goodell and his policies on these pages but making a big deal out of an anonymous tweet that says “Roger is doing his job?” Nope. Hey, at least he has one loyal follower on his side. You go, Jane.    

NaVorro Bowman Could Be a Fit in New England:
I’ll be the first to say that I’m the first person to pooh-pooh the idea that every time a veteran player is released, Patriots nation clamors for him, regardless of fit or level of play. Due to listening to certain talking heads on the air, “they gotta have the name.”

But in this case, Bowman could be a nice addition to the Patriots defense. He was one of the best inside linebackers in the game, but injuries in 2014 and last season have taken their toll on Bowman. Despite still being the leading tackler on the Niners, the team is moving away from him and tried to find a trade partner, and barring that gave him his release. That part wasn’t surprising since the Niners are on the hook for his remaining salary the rest of the season.

Now any team, including New England could sign him as early as Monday according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus when he’ll choose his next team. They can reasonably sign him for the league minimum for veterans and Bowman can sign anywhere and not lose any cash this season.

In terms of fit, while he’s lost a step in coverage, he’s still a very effective run stopper on early downs and has the type of veteran savvy that David Harris possesses. Why would Bowman be a fit over Harris? Well, the Patriots haven’t used him at all this season. He’s played seven snaps in five games. Harvey Langi appears to be in a red-shirt type situation and the team is still weeks away from being able to activate Shea McClellin from IR. It will be something to monitor, especially today to see if Harris plays against his old team.   

Belichick Believes Run Game Will Open Up…We do too:
Bill Belichick in his weekly “Belestrator” break down of the Tampa game, he played Dion Lewis’ 31-yard scamper and spoke about Mike Gillislee’s body of work so far this season. Belichick believes that we’ll see Gillislee break out sooner rather than later and mentioned that the backs are running hard and playing better than their numbers may indicate this season.

We agree. While fans are clamoring for the return of LeGarrette Blount, the running game’s struggles would be the same…or worse with him back here. It is an offensive line issue as to why the backs have been struggling thus far to get untracked.

Today’s game may be a perfect time to get things untracked. With Muhammad Wilkerson either limited physically or out with an injury, the Patriots could make a concerted effort to run the ball. The Jets are allowing 143 yards per game and 4.6 yards per rush. With a unit that is trying to limit the hits on Tom Brady, having an effective ground game goes a long way in alleviating that. Opponents can’t pin back their ears as much and make play-action passing even more effective.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 6:
Last week there were a few surprises and I picked a couple of upsets that didn’t pan out so I finished with a 9-5 mark. Season Total: 50-27.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with the Philadelphia over Carolina. Now for the rest (14 games now with bye weeks) of the slate:
Bears at Ravens – Baltimore

Packers at Vikings – Green Bay

Redskins- Washington

Lions at Saints – Detroit

Dolphins at Falcons – Atlanta

Browns at Texans – Houston

Patriots at Jets – New England

Buccaneers at Cardinals – Arizona

Rams at Jaguars – Los Angeles

Chargers at Raiders – Oakland

Steelers at Chiefs – Kansas City

Giants at Broncos – Denver

MNF Colts at Titans – Tennessee

Bye week: Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Seahawks

Next Thursday Night Oakland over Kansas City

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills On the Bye, Is Taylor the Man Moving Forward:
The Buffalo Bills are on a bye this week and will certainly be watching the Jets-Patriots game with more than just a passing interest. But the majority of the talk centered around the Bills this week and new coach Sean McDermott continues to be QB Tyrod Taylor.

The subject still hasn’t changed from when he took over in the 2015 season. Can Taylor lead the Bills to the playoffs? The long and short answer is both yes and no.

Now in his third season, Taylor can be a placeholder for Buffalo as long as the running game is going well and the defense plays to the level that they are playing at right now. But can Taylor put a team on his back like a franchise QB and lead them to a playoff spot and possibly playoff wins? No. What you see is what you get. There is a reason the Bills have the 29th passing offense in the league, averaging about 165 yards per game. And it starts behind the center.

Taylor hasn’t shown in three years that he’s capable of more than what he is. He can make things happen with his feet to extend the play and reach downfield, as long as the running game is getting big chunks of yardage. Look back over three seasons and see where the Bills running game has struggled and look at how the passing game responded. However, the team’s best chance for success…right now rests with Taylor. As long as Shady McCoy stays healthy and the defense holds up, the Bills will compete every week and have a good shot at making the playoffs. But he isn’t the answer, and the Bills already know that.

Dolphins Fans Chants for Moore at QB “Embarrassing”:
The Miami Dolphins, even more so than the Bills have struggled to throw the ball this season. Miami currently has the 32nd passing attack in the NFL, averaging just 156.5 yards per game. Jay Cutler who was signed to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill is completing 62 percent of his throws and averaging paltry 5.4 yards per attempt. Worse, he’s thrown for just three touchdowns against three interceptions and his passer rating thru four games is a career-worst 74.8.

When Dolphins fans began chanting for Matt Moore during last week’s 16-10 win over Tennessee, Miami WR Jarvis Landry called it embarrassing. From the Miami Herald, Landry said, “If they want to change the players, we can’t buy into all that. I believe it’s disrespectful. A man that comes out here and works his [expletive] off and for people to not really understand what’s really going on. Or to not even have touched the field before, to say we want somebody else to be playing, they don’t understand the situation or know what’s going on. They just want to be on Twitter. They just want to start a [expletive] chant and it’s embarrassing, as a player to have fans like that.”

Miami coach Adam Gase pretty much reiterated what Landry said, but with the weapons that Miami put around Tannehill this summer prior to his injury, the talk was that anything less than a big step up would mean the end of his tenure in Miami. Cutler has done very little in the first quarter of the season and a playoff team from 2016, the Dolphins can’t wait much longer. They face a very good Atlanta team on the road this week.

Jets’ Ealy Looking Forward to This Week’s Game:
The New York Jets, have a chance to take over first place in the AFC East this week and according to a piece on ESPN by Lenn Robbins, Kony Ealy is itching to play the team he spent training camp with.

Robbins wrote:
But for Ealy, this is personal. The Pats traded for him in the offseason. He was expected to be one of their two key free-agent acquisitions on defense along with cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

It became clear early on that Ealy and Belichick weren’t going to find common ground. Ealy was released. The Jets signed him.

Less than two months later, Ealy and Belichick will stand on opposite sidelines, each keenly aware of how this game could play out.

He did get one part of this piece wrong, after stating that the Patriots haven’t protected Brady well, (they haven’t), he wrote the Jets have 15 sacks. They don’t. They have gotten seven so far this season and have allowed 15. Ealy is still looking for his first however and that will be an area to watch.

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 6 Odds, Announcers & TV Broadcast Distribution

John Morgan
October 14, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

In a network decision nobody anticipated before the 2017 NFL season began, a Sunday afternoon Jets game will be broadcast to most of the nation. Three games dominate the NFL Week 6 afternoon broadcast distribution. Most of the nation will be fed the following games Sunday afternoon. In the early time slot CBS will air the New England Patriots at New York Jets for the lead in the AFC East. Pittsburgh at Kansas City will follow as the marquee game on CBS in the late afternoon. Fox has the single game this week, with Green Bay at Minnesota being broadcast by the majority of their affiliates. The prime time games are nothing to stay up for this week. The winless Giants are at Denver on Sunday night in what should be a blowout. Week 6 wraps up with the Colts at Tennessee on Monday night.

Odds listed are as of Friday the 13th. Lines have already changed during the week, and are many are likely to do so again before kickoff.

 

Early Games on CBS

0-5 Cleveland Browns at 2-3 Houston Texans
1:00 pm ET on CBS; Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Broadcast in Ohio, eastern Kentucky, Tennessee (except Memphis), Texas, Jacksonville and Shreveport.
Texans favored by 9½; over/under 46½; Money Line Hou -475, Cle +375

3-2 New England Patriots at 3-2 New York Jets
1:00 pm ET on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Broadcast in all markets except those airing the Browns-Texans and Dolphins-Falcons games. Also not broadcast in DC, Baltimore, Minneapolis and New Orleans due to NFL blackout rules.
Patriots favored by 9½; over/under 47½; Money Line NWE -475, NYJ +375

2-2 Miami Dolphins at 3-1 Atlanta Falcons
1:00 pm ET on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Broadcast in most of the southeast: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana (except Shreveport and New Orleans) and Florida (except Jacksonville).
Falcons favored by 12½; over/under 46½; Money Line Atl -850, Mia +575

 

Early Fox Games

3-2 Detroit Lions at 2-2 New Orleans Saints
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Dan Hellie, Chris Spielman
Broadcast in Louisiana, Michigan and Mississippi.
Saints favored by 4; over/under 50; Money Line NOR -210, Det +180

4-1 Green Bay Packers at 3-2 Minnesota Vikings
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman
Broadcast in most of the US; see the five other games on Fox for exceptions.
Packers favored by 3; over/under 46; Money Line GB -175, Min +155

1-4 Chicago Bears at 3-2 Baltimore Ravens
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber
Broadcast in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland and western Pennsylvania.
Ravens favored by 6½; over/under 39½; Money Line Bal -300, Chi +250

0-5 San Francisco 49ers at 2-2 Washington Redskins
1:00 pm ET on Fox; Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in northern California, DC, North Carolina, eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia and Reno NV.
Redskins favored by 11; over/under 46½; Money Line Wash -600, SF +450

 

Late Games on Fox

3-2 Los Angeles Rams at 3-2 Jacksonville Jaguars
4:05 pm ET on Fox; Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth
Broadcast in Boston, southern California, Jacksonville, Houston, Miami, New York City, Ohio (except Cincinnati) and West Palm Beach.
Jaguars favored by 2½; over/under 42½; Money Line Jax -145, Rams +125

2-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 2-3 Arizona Cardinals
4:05 pm ET on Fox; Kenny Albert, Charles Davis
Broadcast in Arizona, Atlanta and Florida (except Jacksonville, Miami and West Palm Beach).
Bucs favored by 1½; over/under 45½; Money Line Bucs -125, Ariz +105

 

Late Games on CBS

3-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs
4:25 pm ET on CBS; Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Broadcast in all markets except Arizona, California, Nevada and southern Oregon.
Chiefs favored by 4½; over/under 47; Money Line KC -215, Pitt +185

1-4 Los Angeles Chargers at 2-3 Oakland Raiders
4:25 pm ET on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Broadcast in Arizona, California, Nevada and southern Oregon.
Raiders favored by 5½; over/under 51½; Money Line Oak -250, LAC +210

 

Prime Time Games

0-5 New York Giants at 3-1 Denver Broncos
8:30 pm ET Sunday on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Broncos favored by 12; over/under 39; Money Line Den -700, NYG +500

2-3 Indianapolis Colts at 2-3 Tennessee Titans
8:30 pm ET Monday on espn; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
No lines at this point in time.

Thursday Night: Philadelphia Eagles 28 (at) Carolina Panthers 23
Panthers: -3, -150
Eagles: +3, +130
over/under: 44

 

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 7 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 4 vs Falcons

John Morgan
October 12, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds are posted prior to the following week’s games, including the Thursday Night Football game. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away. If you are in Vegas and have a good feeling about a matchup further down the road, the Westgate offers an opportunity to get a jump on odds that could be less favorable after Sunday’s games.

Week 7 is highlighted by a rematch of what was possibly the greatest championship game in pro sports history. The Atlanta Falcons will travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots a week from Sunday night. The professional handicappers at the Westgate have listed the defending champs as four point favorites for the moment.

Since home field accounts for about a three point advantage on NFL betting lines, that means the Pats would be considered to be slightly (one point) better than Atlanta on a neutral field. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those who have witnessed the performance of New England’s defense this season. On the other hand the Falcons had issues to deal with as well after losing to Buffalo. In spite of extra time to recuperate after last week’s bye, Atlanta still had nine players on this week’s initial injury report. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (hamstring), defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee), wide receiver Justin Hardy (illness) and kicker Matt Bryant (back) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) was limited, as was outside linebacker Vic Beasley. Atlanta’s premier pass rusher has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain/tear.

Aside from the Sunday night showdown, NFL week 7 does have other games of note. Kansas City is at Oakland for one of those rare Thursday night games worth watching. New Orleans travels to Green Bay in the early Sunday time slot, and the Broncos play the Chargers late Sunday afternoon. The week wraps up with the Eagles hosting Washington for what should be a good Monday night game.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati has been flexed from a 1:00 pm kickoff to 4:25. That may have been done to mask what was supposed to be a good game in that late afternoon time slot. The 0-5 Giants, now depleted of most of their wide receivers, are the week’s biggest underdogs at 7½ points – despite playing at home. Fortunately for Seattle fans that Seahawks-Giants game – which was originally slated to be the premier game for CBS – will remain in the late time slot. In other programming notes Carolina at Chicago moves from Fox to CBS; the Jets-Dolphins game will be found on Fox rather than CBS.

NFL Week 7 Early Odds

Thursday Oct 19 at 8:30 pm ET on CBS
Kansas City Chiefs (-2½) at Oakland Raiders

Sunday Oct 22 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Tennessee Titans (off) at Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings (-3)
Carolina Panthers (-4½) at Chicago Bears

Sunday Oct 22 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-4½)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills (-2)
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-6½)
Arizona Cardinals ‘at’ Los Angeles Rams (-3) in London

Sunday Oct 22 late afternoon games
Dallas Cowboys (-4½) at San Francisco 49ers, 4:00 pm ET on Fox
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7), 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Seattle Seahawks (-7½) at New York Giants, 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Denver Broncos (-2½) at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:30 pm ET on CBS

Prime Time Games, 8:30 pm ET
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots (-4), Sun Oct 22 on NBC
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-6½), Mon Oct 23 on espn

Week 7 Byes
Detroit Lions
Houston Texans

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patriots  Week 5 Report Card, Team Rebounds on a Short Week

Steve Balestrieri
October 9, 2017 at 10:30 am ET

Defense Rebounds a Bit in Florida

The Patriots seemed to have this one easily in control on Thursday night before Jameis Winston almost pulled off a huge come-from-behind win. The game itself was typical of Thursday night affairs. Neither team was especially sharp with each missing the opportunity for big plays and penalties (especially on the Patriots side) being numerous.

The best news you look for on Thursdays is to come out with a win (they did) and to come out of the game as healthy as you can.  And yes, the Patriots seem to have come out of this relatively unscathed.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady was not quite as sharp as he had been in the previous three weeks (thank you Thursday), and for the first time this season, it seemed the constant hits and sacks were affecting his game. And yet he still completed a ridiculous 15 in a row at one point. The Bucs were getting good pressure with their front four but every time they blitzed, Brady would recognize where it came from and make them pay, usually with Danny Amendola isolated on a linebacker

His best drive, not coincidentally was the Patriots only touchdown drive of the night where he was a perfect 7-7 for 84 yards with a nice throw to Chris Hogan just over the line and into the end zone. His best throw of the night was a deep one to Brandin Cooks where Brady performed the “bucket drill” to perfection, dropping the ball perfectly in his hands for a big gain. He made another just like that to James White who ran a wheel route and was open down the right sideline.  His worst throw happened to come on the Pats opening drive where he was late and way behind Hogan and got picked off for his first interception of the season.

Perhaps we’re being a bit harder on the grades here, after all, Brady completed about 75 percent of his throws for 300 yards in the win while missing his top two receivers, one of which was a game-time decision.

Running Backs: B

The backs were good on Thursday night. We pointed out in our pre-game matchups that the team could boost Dion Lewis’ reps and perhaps give the running game a shot in the arm and that is exactly what they did. Lewis looked really sharp and he showed his elusiveness on several runs. He had a nice 31-yard scamper where he used his eel-like ability to evade tacklers and break into the secondary.

Mike Gillislee likewise had a good night running the ball and had 52 tough yards on 12 carries. White had another stellar night out of the backfield catching the ball and keeping the sticks moving. James Develin was solid as a blocker all night but ran a wrong route and nearly cost Brady an interception.

Wide Receivers: B+

The wide receivers took advantage of what they were given and did exactly what they needed to do. The Bucs were laying back in a two-safety deep zone to take away the deep passing game so Brady and the wide receivers worked the short and intermediate game work and were very effective.  Danny Amendola was targeted eight times and had eight catches for 77 yards. He had some really nice conversions on third down where he did exactly what he needed to do to move the chains.His best catch was reversed on a push off but he made a highlight reel one-handed catch.  

Hogan had a solid night with eight catches for 74 yards and the team’s only touchdown. He was also wide open going down the left sideline late in the game but Brady got hit and the throw sailed out of bounds.

Cooks had five catches for 85 yards including the nice bucket drill catch as well as a sweet 18-yard comeback route where he was given a ridiculous cushion in a testament to the respect the Bucs have (they played him twice a year in NO) for his speed.

Tight Ends: INC

Rob Gronkowski was a late scratch and the production from the tight end position in the passing game was zero. Jacob Hollister was targeted once and later drew a holding penalty. He also got chewed out by Brady for a missed route in the end zone. Dwayne Allen is still searching for that elusive first catch as a Patriot. His blocking was subpar on Thursday, he got taken to school by Noah Spence where Brady was sacked. The Patriots will need much better production from these guys down the road, especially if Gronkowski misses any further time.

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line did a better job in the running game as the team was able to put together a decent night running the ball but for a team that entered the game with one sack and who was having trouble getting pressure on the QB, the Bucs certainly didn’t appear like that team.

Most of the pressure was coming from the left side where Nate Solder has been playing hurt and several times he showed that he can’t step out to the edge fast enough to contain the edge rusher. But it was coming from everywhere. This unit has allowed Brady to be sacked 16 times in five games after allowing just 15 in 12 games a year ago. That isn’t good. Taking a look at the upcoming schedule, it is an issue that needs to get fixed pretty quickly.

Defensive Line: C

The Patriots defensive line did a better job on gap control in the running game other than the Bucs first touchdown drive. Doug Martin who finished with 74 yards, had 49 on that one  The rest of the game he had eight carries for 25 yards. While not great, it was better than they had done the previous two weeks. The pass rush was pretty inconsistent again although Winston is a tough guy to bring down. Deatrich Wise and Cassius Marsh took back to back roughing the passer calls at the end of the first half to give the Bucs a chance at a long field goal and that sequence can’t be happening. But Marsh shows a pretty good burst off the line.

Linebackers: B

Dont’a Hightower moved back to the inside on running downs and only lined up on the edge in what seems like obvious passing downs. And guess what? No breakdowns, no communication issues and overall much better play. He filled the correct holes where he needed to and the defense was looking much better because of it.  Elandon Roberts made a nice run stuff on third down and nearly got a safety on Winston, blitzing up the A-gap (where has that been?). Probably should have been called an intentional grounding call there, but maybe we’re being picky. Van Noy had an up and down night, getting beat in coverage but got a half-sack. Much better.

Secondary: B-

Much, much better by this group. Why? Because for three quarters Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore were given very simple tasks. Stick with a wide receiver no matter where he goes. Gilmore locked up with Mike Evans and for the majority of the night put him on a milk carton. Butler had the speedy Desean Jackson and likewise did a good job. Thru three-quarters Winston had 110 yards passing.

In the fourth, Matt Patricia went back to more zone and Winston and the Bucs were finding seams to exploit.

Devin McCourty and Pat Chung had good days in coverage, for Chung it was his best game of the season. He had the good receiving tight end Cameron Brate and provided solid coverage all night long. No breakdowns or blown coverages…so it was a good night overall. A long way to go but a positive first step.

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski made four field goals and was money on those and his kickoffs. Danny Amendola had a really nice 40-yard punt return that set the team up in great field position. Kickoff coverage was good. Punt return coverage was good. Ryan Allen was okay but not great. But what killed them was penalties. Four ST penalties aren’t going to cut it. Brandon Bolden jumping offside on a 4th and 3 is inexcusable for a veteran such as himself.

Coaches: A-

Bill Belichick righted the ship in a short week with just really two days to prepare after a debacle on Sunday. The best moves were putting Butler and Gilmore on the Bucs top WRs and let them do what they do best, provide close man coverage. And moving Hightower back inside. The defense looked completely different on Thursday so there is the hope that this is a trend in the right direction.

Josh McDaniels had to switch the game plan without Rob Gronkowski to a more 3-4 WR set and although the team struggled to finish drives, they moved the ball well all night. This was a gut-check type of game and the team won. That’s all you want from Thursday night.

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.

What Lies Ahead: After Tough Start, Hard to Bury This Patriots Team Just Yet

Ian Logue
at 6:24 am ET

It’s safe to say that five games shouldn’t define a season, but given the trouble this Patriots team has had over that span, they’ve made some progress but obviously still have their work cut out for them.

One of the biggest bright spots is the fact that despite the bad place they’ve been in defensively, the one saving grace is the fact that Tom Brady and the offense haven’t been participating in those woes.  New England’s offense currently leads the NFL by a considerable margin in yards per game, averaging 419.4 and are third in points per game behind the (this isn’t a misprint) Rams, as well as the Chiefs.

The latter stat in the above paragraph is a reminder of how strange this year has been so far in the NFL. It’s also a reminder of how wide open things still are despite the 3-2 record this team is currently saddled with.  All things considered, they’ve surprisingly lost to two teams that will be contenders in their respective Conferences and are currently sitting at 5-0 (Kansas City) and 4-1 (Carolina).

But this year’s version of the NFL appears poised for some surprises, and it’s definitely a little early to write off a team that is among the best in the league on the offensive side of the football.  That being said, let’s take a quick rundown over the final 11 weeks to talk about where some of those teams are at this point in the year, and predict week-by-week how things might shake out, including this week’s first AFC Division battle against the Jets.

Oct 15th – at NY Jets – The Jets took the Browns to the wire Sunday and pulled off the win, moving them to 3-2 on the year, matching the same record as both Buffalo and New England in the AFC East.  After starting out 0-2, the Jets have surprisingly won three in a row and have the opportunity to make it four when the Patriots visit this weekend. With 10 days to prepare, it’s hard not to feel like Bill Belichick will have his team ready to go in what will certainly be an important meeting as they try and make a push to get back on top of the AFC East. Rob Gronkowski’s return this weekend, which Adam Schefter reported should be a strong possibility and if that’s the case, it’s tough not to like their chances. – Prediction: Win – 4-2


Tom Brady already got the best of Matt Ryan in February.

Oct 22nd – vs Atlanta – After two straight road games, the Patriots will at least get to come home for two weeks and will face the Falcons in a Sunday night game at Gillette Stadium.  Atlanta is currently on a bye at 3-1 after having lost their first game of the season last Sunday against the surprising Buffalo Bills.  It’s possible Atlanta took them lightly as Buffalo has been the surprise so far after starting out 3-1 before their 20-16 loss to the Bengals put them at 3-2.  However, against New England, I’m sure Atlanta will be looking for a little vengeance and one can only hope that the Patriots will still be trending in the right direction defensively by the time this one is played.  The bigger question is the health of Julio Jones and the offense.  If the Falcons are healthy, this one could be tough, especially if New England’s defense is still allowing big plays. With this one being at home, I do think Brady will have some success against Atlanta’s defense. The bad news is, I still worry about New England’s ability to keep Atlanta from scoring, which could see this club drop another tough one at home. Fortunately, the Patriots won the one that mattered back in February, so if it does play out that way, the Falcons can at least feel good about themselves for one game. – Prediction: Loss – 4-3

Oct 29th – vs LA Chargers – The Chargers look pretty woeful right now, having opened the season 1-4 with little seemingly going right for this team.  Playing in an empty stadium has got to be quite disheartening, with each game likely feeling like a road game due to all the transplants on the West Coast flooding the stadium thanks to all the available tickets.  They lucked out with some significant mistakes and injuries in New York where the 0-5 Giants fell apart during the Chargers’ 27-22 win. Maybe they’ll play better away from home, but it’s doubtful given that they look like a team that’s simply going through the motions. – Prediction: Win – 5-3

Nov 12th – at Denver – This one should scare most fans given that the Broncos’ defense is back on top of the NFL leader board and they’ve had a history of making Brady miserable in the Mile High City.  This one will play out in a Sunday night match-up and may actually end up being a barometer of whatever turnaround they may have made at this point, especially given that the Broncos are currently 4th in the league in time of possession.   While their offense might not be lighting things up (they’re 11th in the league in points per game while averaging 24.5), they could still be a problem if New England’s defense is in a position where they can’t get them off the field.  Plus it’s in Denver, where wins are rare for Belichick’s club.  That being said, the Patriots still have Brady, so anything can happen. The only issue making this prediction now is the fact it’s a little early to be that optimistic until we continue to see them make big stops in key moments. Otherwise, I hate this match-up and I’ll probably hate the outcome more. – Prediction: Loss 5-4

Nov 19th – at Oakland – For anyone hoping for a tough battle, a back injury to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has thrown a wrench into Oakland’s season and will now be the story to follow leading into this much anticipated match-up.  However, some reports say he could be back as soon as this week, which is surprising given the severity of his injury. Either way, it’s hard to make too many evaluations of how this one might go, aside from the fact EJ Manuel is his back-up.  If it’s Manuel, and not Carr, on the field for this one, the Patriots will have obviously caught a break. If Carr isn’t 100%, that could be another reason to like their chances. – Prediction: Win – 6-4

Nov 26th – vs Miami – The Dolphins are a mess this season and it appears that the loss of Ryan Tannehill and the addition of Jay Cutler isn’t working out too well.  They’re 2-2 at this point and things appear to be getting ugly down in South Florida.  While some thought the Dolphins might build off of last season and contend for the Division, one win over the Titans isn’t enough to make anyone believe that the Dolphins will be a threat to New England this year. They’ve got plenty of problems, with the most recent one being the fact one of their coaches was recently exposed for cocaine use. I doubt Brady will have an issue outplaying Cutler and expect the Patriots to hopefully get this one at Gillette Stadium. – Prediction: Win – 7-4


Brady still somehow has the Patriots offense at the top of the NFL.

Dec 3rd – at Buffalo – This might end up being one of the most interesting games of the year depending on where these two teams are heading into the final month of the season.  If the Bills are still fighting for the top of the AFC East and playing well, it could end up being one of the more intense battles we see this season.  We’re only five games in and the Bills’ new coaching staff and personnel moves have seemingly righted the ship, and their defense has been a big part of that.  Buffalo’s secondary has been forcing turnovers, with the Bills currently third in interceptions with eight.  Let’s hope that by December New England’s own defense will have finally worked out the kinks.  If they have, Brady and the offense should be able to score enough points to remind Buffalo that they’re not done yet. – Prediction: Win – 8-4

Dec 11th – at Miami – Thankfully the NFL’s schedule-makers put New England’s trip to Miami in December and on Monday night for that matter.  Hot afternoons in Miami have spelled trouble for the Patriots in past seasons, but with an evening battle on tap, this one should be a little more manageable for New England on both sides of the football.  Having played this team two weeks ago at this point, it will be interesting to see how the second match-up shakes out. Hopefully it will be a game where the Patriots take advantage of the last potentially comfortable weather they’ll see for a while as they start their playoff push, and one would have to believe they’ll be able to get this one. – Prediction: Win – 9-4

Dec 17th – at Pittsburgh – One thing working against New England in this one is obviously the fact this one’s on the road, with the Patriots set to face a Steelers team that really could be heading one of two ways by this time. Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville saw Ben Roethlisberger throwing a staggering five interceptions, leaving the veteran questioning his future.  “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” Roethlisberger told reporters after the game, with the quarterback also acknowledging that “I’m not playing well enough.” The biggest question heading into this game may be the health of everyone on the offensive side of the football for the Patriots at this point in the season.  If Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, James White and Chris Hogan have survived this far, it’s hard not to like their chances against a Pittsburgh defense that always seems to struggle with coming up with ways to stop Brady.  Either way, this is another game where the odds are probably in their favor. – Prediction: Win – 10-4


Belichick will likely have his team much-improved by December.

December 24th – vs Buffalo – This one will probably have significant playoff implications at this point, making it another big game for Belichick’s team.  With just two games left in the season, a loss here or there may make this a key contest for New England if they’re still contending for a top playoff seed, which could make this one a nail-biter.  However, Brady and the offense are home where they tend to move the ball fairly well and it’s hard not to give Brady the edge if this one turns into a shootout. – Prediction: Win – 11-4

December 31st – vs NY Jets – With the Jets coming to Foxboro during the final week of the season, it’s going to be interesting to see what’s at stake for both teams at this point in the year.  The Jets have a tough final five weeks before this match-up, with battles against Carolina, Kansas City, Denver, New Orleans, and the LA Chargers on tap before they come to New England. By then, they may be out of the AFC East race and probably out of the playoffs, making this a dangerous match-up given that they’ll have nothing to lose.  However, unlike their first meeting, they’re at Gillette and I feel like they’ll have it together by then. – Prediction: Win – 12-4

Final Record Prediction: 12-4 – The big question will ultimately be where they finish from a playoff seeding standpoint, but barring injuries or unforeseen issues in Kansas City, the top seed in the Conference may be a little more elusive this year. Injuries will be the other big concern as they’re probably also going to need a little luck for things to play out this way.

Who knows? Anything is certainly possible and Thursday night’s win was still certainly encouraging given the forward progress we saw defensively.  But as we’ve already seen, there’s been some crazy things that have happened already around the league and it goes without saying that the Patriots have already played their part in that.  While previous seasons have no bearing on what happens this year, history has shown that Belichick will do whatever is necessary to have his team playing better in December and even more so if they’re in the mix in January. We’ve seen enough evidence to believe they’ll work through this and if they do, depending on a potential trade deadline acquisition and who’s healthy by the end of the year, the team we see now will probably look a little different in two months.

Needless to say, expect the unexpected, but don’t count them out just yet.

NFL Week 6 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 9.5 at Jets

John Morgan
October 7, 2017 at 9:30 pm ET

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds are posted prior to the following week’s games, including the Thursday Night Football game. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away. If you are in Vegas and have a good feeling about a matchup further down the road, the Westgate offers an opportunity to get a jump on odds that could be less favorable after Sunday’s games.

The two Super Bowl LI contestants are the biggest initial Week 6 favorites. Atlanta is a 9½ point home favorite, and New England is favored by the same amount on the road. The Falcons face a Miami team that has scored a mere six points in their last two games and are averaging just 8.3 points per game on the season. The defending Super Bowl champions travel to New Jersey to take on their arch rivals for the biannual encounter. The Jets have ruined management tanking plans and could enter on a three game winning streak should they defeat the Browns on Sunday.

Next week’s marquee game kicks off in the late afternoon slot on CBS. The 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs travel to Pittsburgh to face the 3-1 Steelers at Heinz Field. The Chiefs are averaging 30.5 points per game while Pittsburgh is allowing only 14.8 ppg; both numbers rank second best in the NFL. Aside from potential playoff implications, this should be a great game for all football fans to watch.

NFL Week 6 Early Odds

Thursday Oct 12 at 8:30 pm ET on CBS
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers (-3)

Sunday Oct 15 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons (-9½)
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans (-8½)
New England Patriots (-9½) at New York Jets

Sunday Oct 15 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens (-6)
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (off)
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (-3)
San Francisco Forty Niners at Washington Redskins (-7)

Sunday Oct 15 late afternoon games
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (-2½), 4:00 pm ET on Fox
Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars (pick), 4:00 pm ET on Fox
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders (off), 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2½), 4:30 pm ET on CBS

Prime Time Games, 8:30 pm ET
New York Giants at Denver Broncos (-6), Sunday October 9 on NBC
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (off), Monday October 10 on espn

Bye Week
Buffalo Bills
Cincinnati Bengals
Dallas Cowboys
Seattle Seahawks