Tag Archives: Rex Burkhead

Patriots – Giants Week 6 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 10, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots return home on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The team has the opportunity to begin the season 6-0 and will have 11 days off before facing the Jets next week on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 10 at 8:20 p.m. and can be seen locally on WFXT Fox  25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (5-0) beat the Washington Redskins 33-7 with the defense getting six sacks and an interception while Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three TDs.

The Giants (2-3) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 28-10. Daniel Jones threw a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass but missed too many open receivers. The Giants run defense was gashed on the day to the tune of 211 yards.  

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Giants have met 29 times in the preseason including 15 years in a row. But they are meeting for just the 11th time in the regular season. The Patriots lead the overall series 6-4, but the G-men can lay claim to two Super Bowl victories over Brady, Belichick and the Patriots after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.  

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game finally showed some signs of getting itself untracked against an albeit awful Redskins run defense which entered the game allowing 147.5 yards per game. Sony Michel churned out 91 yards, most of which in the second half as the run blocking got much better after halftime.

The Giants got chewed up last week and are allowing an average of 130 yards per game. The big men up front led by rookie Dexter Lawrence are playing well, but they were victimized by zone running plays that tested their speed and athleticism. They should get linebackers Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis back this week, which should help the run defense. 

With the quick week coupled with the travel, and the weather where it is expected to have heavy rains and winds over 20 mph, the Patriots may opt to further wear down a run defense that took a beating on Sunday. Look for plenty of Michel and Rex Burkhead, if he’s able to go tonight.           

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

The Patriots passing game ended up having a very solid Sunday as Brady passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns after getting sacked three times in the first half. Julian Edelman was nearly uncoverable where Washington had no one that could stick with him. The running backs out of the backfield made big contributions with James White doing his normal solid work and Brandon Bolden hauling in a 29-yard touchdown. 

The Giants pass defense has been bad, allowing over 280 yards per game and allowing opposing QBs to post a 106.8 passer rating. Rewatching the tape of the Vikings game showed the play-action passing and crossing routes were giving them fits. However, the way to beat Brady and the Patriots offense is to bring pressure up the middle. That’s where Lawrence comes in. He has the ability to throw a monkey wrench into the Patriots plans. 

Look for the Patriots to utilize Edelman on those shallow crossers as he’ll take on Grant Haley in the slot. There will be no Phillip Dorsett, so Josh Gordon will be working against Janoris Jenkins. Look for the Patriots to run a lot of those two-back “Pony” sets with James White and Burkhead. Play action passing will be huge here to slow the pass rush and get the open man quickly.

Next up the Giants offense:

Giants RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Giants are missing the outstanding Saquon Barkley and his backup Wayne Gallman this week. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain and is week-to-week and Gallman suffered a concussion against the Vikings. Now they’ll go with former practice squadders Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Perry.  Perry is an intriguing player, tough physical, can carry the ball a bit and make the occasional catch. 

The Patriots front seven has been very good against the run. Last week, they had a single breakdown of a 65-yard jet sweep where the secondary missed tackles but other than that, they shut down the Redskins ground game. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been excellent at slowing things at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. Unlike previous years, the Patriots are doing a much better job of setting the edge with John Simon and Jamie Collins doing a tremendous job. 

The much anticipated matchup with Barkley won’t happen this time around and with the G-Men on their third and fourth options, I don’t see them running a consistent rushing attack against a unit allowing 78 yards per game. 

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

The Giants passing game has shown definite signs of life with Daniel Jones, who was impressive here in August for the fourth preseason game. But he’s missing his top WR in Sterling Shepard as well as his top tight end Evan Engram who are hurt. He still has the talented Golden Tate and Darius Slayton but will that be enough? 

The Patriots pass defense has been on an absolute roll this year. With a deep and talented secondary with 11 interceptions, an excellent group of linebackers and a pass rush that has already generated 24 sacks, they are playing outstanding football. They are tops in the league allowing just 160.4 yards per game through the air and just 6.8 points per game. Despite the short week, the Patriots defense will have a slightly easier time to prepare for the Giants passing offense as it bears many of the same looks as Washington’s. 

Jones has mobility but look for the Patriots to continue to be aggressive and attack the Giants offensive line while rolling their coverages to try to confuse the rookie QB. Jamie Collins may be a spy on Jones if he starts to hurt the defense with his legs. But with a depleted pass receiving core, this matchup should easily favor New England.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York

The Patriots Mike Nugent missed his first extra point attempt but then was perfect on his next three while hitting two chip shot field goals. Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding. While the return game has been hit or miss with rookie Gunner Olszewski. 

Meanwhile the Giants Aldrick Rosas hasn’t missed an extra point and has only one field goal miss although his long is only 36 yards. Punter Riley Dixon has been excellent and is averaging 47.5 yards per punt. Corey Ballentine has done a good job on kick returns, while Golden Tate and T.J. Jones handle punt returns. 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are playing on a short week, but get this one at home, which always helps on Thursday Night Football. The Giants are beat up physically and missing several key skill position players on offense. Their defense has been allowing over 400 yards and over 25 points per game.  

Bill Belichick has been kryptonite for rookie QBs when facing them for the first time and Tom Brady has an 11-1 record in Thursday games. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Center Stage – Look for the Patriots once again to try to establish the run against a team that is struggling to stop it. Sony Michel should see plenty of work along with Burkhead [if he is active], James White with some Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

Getting in good position on early downs will open up the entire offense. On the flip side, with no Barkley and Gallman, the Patriots should be able to shut down the run. 

Do a Better Job on Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled again on third down going just 5-15 last week in Washington. That stat has to improve. With a strong running game, it will open up play action especially in third and short situations. The running backs in the passing game along with Edelman will be third down keys. 

The Patriots defense has been outstanding on third down and held Washington to just 1-11 last week. They will look to continue that as well as limit big plays by the Giants offense. They should be able to stifle them from making the long ball-control type of drives, so the Giants may have to hit some big chunk plays to keep pace. 

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers – The Patriots have been crazy good at creating turnovers defensively with 11 interceptions and one fumble recovery. Look for them to try to keep creating a favorable field position for the offense. With a young, rookie QB, they may be able to bait him into making a mistake or two.

Brady has made two red-zone interceptions in the past two games, both of which were poor decisions. Those have to be cut out as well as maintaining good ball control on a night where the weather conditions are predicted to be bad. 

___________

This should be a game, [on paper] where the Patriots should roll easily. The Giants offense is missing their top two rushers and their top two pass receivers. Going against a defense that has been playing as well as New England’s while facing a rookie QB, it has the potential to get away from the away team quickly. That’s why they play the games. 

It will be interesting to see Josh McDaniels’ approach for the offense in this one. But with Sony Michel and the running backs in the passing game, along with Edelman and Gordon, Brady should have plenty of targets to go after a suspect Giants defense. Patriots 27-6

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads to New Jersey and a Monday Night Football matchup with the New York Jets next week. 

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

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

 

Patriots – Redskins Week 5 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 3, 2019 at 8:52 am ET

The Patriots are back on the road in Week 5, as they head to our nation’s capital to take on the Washington Redskins. With a win on Sunday, the Patriots will improve to 5-0 on the season and go 3-0 on the road, where they won only three games away from home in 2018.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 6 at 1:00 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (4-0) beat the Buffalo Bills 16-10 behind another outstanding defensive effort. New England had four interceptions and sacked Bills QBs five times

The Redskins (0-4) lost to the Giants 24-3. QB Case Keenum was replaced early in the second quarter for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. .  

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Redskins, although frequent preseason opponents, have met on 10 times in the regular season. Although Washington holds a 6-4 advantage overall in the all-time series, the Patriots have won the last three meetings including a 27-10 win over the Skins in Gillette Stadium back in the 2015 season. 

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game has been mired in mediocrity at the quarter pole of the season. As a team, they are averaging just 91.3 yards per game [24th in the NFL] and a measly 3.2 yards per attempt in 2019. Injuries all along the offensive line have certainly played a part and running back Sony Michel has had precious little room to operate. However, he could hit the hole a tad quicker to help things a bit. 

Fullback James Develin was placed in IR but Jakob Johnson showed some promise in the Bills game. Rex Burkhead was nursing an injured foot last week and had only a single touch against Buffalo after being the go-to guy in the first three games. James White and Brandon Bolden will chip in as well. 

Washington has been really struggling against the run so far this season and is allowing a whopping 147.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.7 yards per rush. Washington plays a base 3-4 front and they are getting pushed around. Although NT Daron Payne is having a solid season. He’s been the bright spot for a defense reeling. Last week Washington gave up 164 yards on the ground to a Giants team without Saquon Barkley.

This will be a good week to get the running game untracked a bit and have Michel getting some positive yardage against a porous run defense. Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Bolden continue to get some play in the mix while Burkhead nurses his foot back to health.               

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

The Patriots passing game had a rough afternoon in Buffalo last week, Tom Brady had the worst statistical game since 2006. The Bills secondary effectively shut down the wide receivers. With Julian Edelman banged up [ribs] and now Josh Gordon limited with a knee issue, the passing game will be a key area to watch on Sunday. 

But Ben Watson should be back in the fold on Sunday, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Patriots tight ends have been largely invisible for the first quarter of the season. It is pretty telling that safety Devin McCourty has caught as many passes [4 interceptions] as the TE group has caught overall. Look for Watson to attack the seams and open things up underneath. Burkhead and White out of the backfield should see plenty of passes coming their way. 

Washington’s pass defense is middle of the road [251 yards per game, 18th in the NFL] but that is a bit of a smoke and mirror stat since teams have been running the ball on them at will. Without the benefit of a good pass rush other than Ryan Kerrigan, teams are completing 77.8 percent of the passes their attempting. Their third-down defense is allowing a whopping 63 percent of conversions. Of their top four cornerbacks, only Quinton Dunbar is performing well. Opposing QBs have a 29.9 QB rating when targeting him. The others including Josh Norman 121.7, Jimmy Moreland, 131.5, and Fabian Moreau, 112.0 are not getting it done. 

Look for Brady to isolate White and Burkhead on the linebackers frequently and pick his spots with the WRs outside. We look for Jakobi Meyers to perhaps get some looks in the game this week. 

Next up the Redskins offense:

Redskins RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run allowing just 61.3 yards per game [2nd overall]. And despite the big game from the ageless Frank Gore a week ago, most of his production came on two carries where the defense made correctable mistakes, mistakes that no doubt was played in the film room this week. Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy have been terrific at slowing the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. 

Washington has struggled to run the ball averaging just 49.7 yards per game, and 2.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2019. Like New England, injuries to the OL have crippled them. Left tackle Trent Williams has been a holdout, center Chase Roullier and right guard Brandon Scherf are banged up. Adrian Peterson has had nowhere to run and is averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt. 

With their QB position in total flux right now, the Redskins are going to have to try to run the ball to take the pressure off whoever gets the start, [my money is on Colt McCoy this week].  With the way the Patriots front seven has been defending the run, I expect New England to win this matchup easily. 

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

The Redskins passing game has been middle of the road [246 yards per game, 16th] but with Case Keenum being benched and questionable for this one due to an injury, the question is who plays on Sunday? Jay Gruden, in a bit of gamesmanship, was asked about their QB plan for Sunday and replied that they didn’t have one. Haskins showed a week ago that he’s not ready. So I believe they’ll go with Colt McCoy.

The Redskins have two speedsters on the outside, rookie Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson. McLaurin missed the game against the Giants due to a hamstring problem and is questionable for this one. But he’s been outstanding. Washington QBs targeting him thus far have a 141.8 QB rating. Chris Thompson has been a reliable target out of the backfield and has 20 catches for 251 yards. Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both banged up and may each miss this week.

The Patriots pass defense has been excellent thus far in 2019 allowing 181.8 yards per game [2nd in the NFL] and has racked up 18 sacks and 10 interceptions. Look for the Patriots to unleash the hounds on Sunday. With a running game that can’t get untracked, the Redskins should be in obvious passing situations most of the game. That is a recipe for the defense to attack.  

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Washington

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski was placed on IR [hip surgery] on Wednesday and as of this posting, the Patriots don’t even have a kicker on the roster. They’re holding tryouts 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are facing a team that is beaten up physically and reeling mentally. And yet, many fans and media members chuckle at Bill Belichick as he sings the praises of the Redskins as if they are 4-0 instead of the opposite. That’s why the team’s winning percentage is, and continues to be far above the rest of the league for the past 19 years. They rarely, if ever, play down to the level of their competition. In this sense, Belichick is the anti-Tomlin, and the team is much better for it. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Takes Over – Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run early in this game and set the tone for the afternoon. With a strong showing in the running game, it will open up play action passing and should help Tom Brady have a big day throwing the ball. 

On the flip side of the coin, controlling the Washington running game will force the game into the hands of whoever is the QB this week. With the way the secondary has been playing, coupled with the pressure the front seven has been getting, it is a recipe for success. Look for the defense to continue its very aggressive approach. 

Win Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled last week against an overall excellent Buffalo defense [5-18]. That should change this week. Washington’s defense is allowing an average of 63 percent of third downs to be converted. Even worse, opposing QBs are completing  87percent of passes attempted on third down. If the running game gets untracked, like we envision, that trend will continue. 

The Redskins have struggled on 3rd down offensively converting only 12 of 42 attempts [28.5 percent]. Their inability to run the ball has forced them into too many third and long attempts. Look for the Patriots to dominate 3rd down defensively again. 

***Insane Stat Time*** – The Patriots defense has more turnovers [10] than 3rd down conversions they’ve allowed, [7]. Overall, the Patriots defense has been outstanding on 3rd down [7-52, 13 percent]. 

Keep Creating Turnovers – The Patriots are +6 in the turnover department, while the Redskins are -3. See above insane stat line, the only way Washington can hope to pull an upset is to protect the ball, which is something they haven’t done, and force the  Patriots into some turnovers. 

The way the defense has been playing very opportunistic football, we expect this trend to continue on Sunday as Bill Belichick knows that this team they’re facing is ripe for packing it in, if they get up to a nice lead early. 

___________

This should be a game where the Patriots should take care of business early and win easily. Jay Gruden is definitely on the hot seat in Washington, but with the interference of owner Daniel Snyder, the once prime Redskins job is now one, that won’t be highly sought after. The front office is no doubt pushing Gruden to start Haskins in this one, although he showed last week [and Gruden knew] that he wasn’t ready. Gruden will try to go with Colt McCoy in our opinion but his hand may be forced here. 

Don’t expect a lot of fireworks in this one. I expect a methodical, workman-like approach for the Patriots on offense, as they eat the clock and keep grinding the ball down the field. Look for James White/Rex Burkhead to have a big game catching the ball as the Patriots roll and move to 5-0. Patriots 35-7

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads home to Gillette Stadium on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football.

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

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

 

Patriots – Bills Week 4 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 26, 2019 at 8:44 am ET

The Patriots head out to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in the team’s third division game in a row. With both teams coming in undefeated, the optimism is sky-high in Buffalo for Sean McDermott’s team to take the next step.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 29 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (3-0) beat the New York Jets 30-14. Tom Brady passed for 306 yards and two scores while the defense held the Jets to just 105 total yards.

The Bills (3-0) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 21-17, Frank Gore powered in from the one-yard line with just three minutes left to give them the win.  

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Bills have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 119th time the two teams have faced each other. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won five in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 74-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 33-5 against the Bills.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game has been mediocre in the first three games of the season, the offensive line hasn’t been able to get any kind of push against their opponents. Last week against the Jets, they were getting pushed backward especially in short-yardage situations.  And that isn’t just the new tackles but the interior guys including Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney. 

Sony Michel has been struggling to get past the line of scrimmage and is averaging only 2.4 yards per rushing attempt so far. Rex Burkhead has outgained Michel [112-105] and is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, so we may see more of Burkhead, who has shown some nice cutback ability so far. James White will return this week after missing the Jets game when his wife gave birth to a son. James Develin is on IR so, Jakob Johnson is now the fullback. 

The Bills rush defense has been solid thus far allowing just 88 yards per game, good for eighth in the league, although they allow a 4.4-yard average on rushing attempts. Like New England, they use the big men up front, Star Lotulelei and rookie Ed Oliver to slow up the offensive line which allows linebackers Tremaine Edwards and Matt Milano to clean up. Kyle Peko was elevated to the 53-man roster after Harrison Phillips was placed on IR [ACL tear].  

The Patriots have to find a way to get the running game going as thus far they’ve played poorer teams that haven’t put any pressure on them as the games were all lopsided wins. That may prove to be tough this week. Don’t be surprised if Josh McDaniels decides to ride the hot hand and get Rex Burkhead the bulk of the work this week. But the Bills front seven will make the going tough this week.               

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

The Patriots passing game gets the edge here with the caveat that Julian Edelman is able to play this week. Edelman has traditionally been a thorn to the Bills defense, especially in Buffalo as they’ve had a tough time matching his quickness off the line. Last season in Buffalo on Monday Night Football, Edelman had nine catches for 104 yards. Tom Brady will look to Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett outside with Jakobi Meyers sprinkled in a bit. With James White and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield. Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo haven’t had a lot of production at tight end.

The Bills boast an outstanding pass defense that has allowed just 211.7 yards per game through the air, but as wet blankets have said about New England, they haven’t played anyone yet. But that defense was solid a year ago and will be again. Tre’Davious White is an under the radar corner who is one of the better ones in the league. The Bills safety tandem of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde is terrific. The Bills pass rush has produced seven sacks thus far and will be looking to test the new look Patriots offensive line.

** Interesting Stat** Buffalo’s front seven has 15 passes defensed this year, they are knocking down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage. This could be a factor on Sunday.

Edelman is the big question mark this week, and the Patriots are hoping that he can play. He’ll test the Bills down low, but regardless, this may be a big James White kind of day. In Buffalo last year, Brady targeted White 13 times, connecting on 10 for 79 yards. He and Burkhead may see a lot of passes directed their way. Dorsett and Gordon will have to produce and keep the Bills perimeter busy or it will be a tough day for the offense. 

Next up the Bills offense:

Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run thus far this season allowing just 36.7 yards per game, best in the NFL. That will get tested this week as this game should be much closer which means the Bills won’t have to abandon the run as the previous three opponents have had to do. But the big men in the middle Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been terrific. They’ve stuffed opponents at or behind the line of scrimmage and allowed the linebackers to make plays. 

The Bills running game has the ageless Frank Gore, who has definitely given them a boost and exciting rookie Devin Singletary who is averaging 12.7 yards per rush. The Bills have rushed for an average of 151.3 yards per game, fifth-best in the league. The offensive line play has improved in 2019. And of course, Josh Allen is always a threat to scramble out of the pocket. 

With right guard Jon Feliciano held out of practice with a neck injury, sustained last week and Singletary nursing a balky hamstring, both could miss this game, which would be a blow to the Bills running game. If he can’t go, they may look to use T.J. Yeldon more in this one, he had a big day against New England a year ago. Look for the Patriots linebackers to limit Gore’s yards in this one as the Patriots are able to slow down the Bills’ rushing attack.

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

The Bills passing game with Josh Allen has greatly improved this season as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has utilized Cole Beasley in much the same way the Patriots use Julian Edelman. Beasley has 17 catches for 171 yards as they now are employing a shorter, quicker passing game than the past. Allen’s completion percentage is now 64.2 compared to about 52 percent last year. John Brown has been excellent and has 18 catches for 246 yards. Zay Jones and TE Dawson Knox are also very much in the mix.

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this season, Stephon Gilmore has continued his All-Pro play and will be the matchup for Brown. While Jason McCourty will draw Zay Jones. But the biggest matchup to watch Sunday will be Beasley going against Jonathan Jones who has been excellent through the first three games. The Patriots pass rush already has 13 sacks this season, they’ll be looking to create pressure and force Allen into making a mistake. 

Third downs will be key here, as the Patriots defense is allowing opponents to convert on only 13 percent of third downs this season. They’ll be looking to pressure Allen while keeping him in the pocket and prevent his scrambling for first downs. This should be a great matchup to watch.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski continues to struggle as he missed his first extra-point attempt on Sunday. He then hit his last three and a field goal to end the game on a higher note but this issue needs to be resolved. Jake Bailey was the AFC’s Special Teams’ player of the week after his big game against the Jets. The return game has been so-so and Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt against the Jets giving them a touchdown. The coverage units have been solid. 

The Bills Stephen Hauschka has been solid, his only miss was a 62-yard field goal against the Bengals. Former Patriot punter Corey Bojorquez has been good with a 41.9 average with five punts downed inside the 20. They also boast the dangerous return man Andre Roberts who is now healthy. Their coverage units are excellent.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills [30-3] and since Brady became the starter in 2001, he has more wins in Buffalo during his time in the league than any Bills QB during the same time frame. Let that one sink in for a second. Sean McDermott is still looking for his first win against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but they believe they have the team to compete…and win against New England now. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Eliminate Big Plays – Look for the Patriots to try to force Allen into moving the ball down the field a small chunk at a time. Despite his much better play this season, he’s still prone to making mistakes, he had a pick last week that nearly cost them the game against Cincinnati. But he turned it around and led a nice game-winning drive. Will he stay patient all game long? The Patriots are hoping to force him into bucking that trend.

Third Downs Key – With both defenses playing excellent thus far this season, this one may come down to who converts more on third down. Daboll has tried to make things easier for Allen by providing him with a much better third and manageable range. With Gore converting many of those third and short runs, look for the Bills to try to catch the Patriots cheating up and hitting one of their signature plays. Watching the tape so far this season, the Bills like to play action pass and hit Brown with a quick slant, usually to Allen’s right side. 

For the Patriots, Edelman [if he’s available] and White are going to loom large on converting those third-down attempts. They have to keep the sticks moving and keep the Bills defense guessing. The Patriots’ third-down defense [13.6 percent] and the Bills [32.5 percent] are #1 and #8 in the league. 

Continue the Script – What does this mean, you ask? Well in the past five games dating back to last season’s playoffs the Patriots have shut out opponents and put them behind the eight ball. The defense has 13 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 27 hurries so far. If they can continue that type of play and trend, it will put the Bills offense in a mode where Allen, as he has shown on occasion, will try to do too much. 

Offensively, the Patriots need to be patient and mix the run and pass up to keep the Bills coaches guessing. And nobody is better at that than Brady. Both teams want ball control drives and this has been a hallmark of the Brady-Belichick era. The Bills have scored all eight touchdowns this year on drives of at least 70 yards.

___________

This should be a tough, physical contest… and a low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo, as always will be a raucous place as the fans are excited that both teams come in 3-0 and will be playing for control of the division. 

Brady and Co. have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and stops and they win a tough road game.  Patriots 23-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week as they travel to the nation’s capital, well Landover, Maryland, to take on the Washington Redskins next Sunday.

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

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

Patriots Week 3 Report Card, 30-14 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
September 24, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

 The Patriots returned home and had the most one-sided 30-14 win over the Jets on Sunday that you will probably ever see. The Pats led 30-0 and gave up two late scores, one on a muffed punt and the other on a pick-six by the Jets defense of rookie Jarrett Stidham. 

The offense started fast and scored 20 points before the Jets had time to catch their breath. After that, the Jets made adjustments and the going got much tougher. They held the Patriots to just 10 second-half points. 

Defensively, the Patriots held Gang Green to just 105 total yards with just 69 net yards passing. The Jets never came close to threatening to score offensively in this one. The defense held Le’Veon Bell to under 2 yards per carry and the Jets overall to just 36 yards rushing.  

The Patriots are the first team since the 1937  Bears to not allow a defensive touchdown in their first three games. They are the first team in the Super Bowl era to do so, however. 

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

Quarterback: B+

Tom Brady finished the day 28-42 for 306 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 103.4. New England fans are rushing out to buy customized Patriots #12 jerseys with Cliff on the back. Because if this is the cliff that we’ve heard so much about, let’s hope he continues for another 2-3 years falling like this. 

Brady protects his receivers from big hits by throwing those low passes over the middle that his guys can get to without being lit up. When they’re wide open, he adjusts his trajectory, as we saw with Phillip Dorsett and he went for an easy 25-yard touchdown. The little things… He wasn’t great on Sunday but he was very good

Running Backs: B-

The Patriots were minus James White (birth of his son), so they went with mainly Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, with a little bit of Brandon Bolden mixed in early in the game. Jakob Johnson got in for the final kneel down at the end of the game. 

First the good, Burkhead had another very impressive game. He rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries (4.7 y.p.c.) and a touchdown. He was once again master of cutting against the grain and getting good yardage. He added 6 catches for 22 yards. 

Sony Michel continues to struggle to find any running room, he’s not making people miss but the bigger issue is that he’s consistently getting hit in the backfield. He had 9 carries for only 11 yards, one of which was a five-yard touchdown. 

Bolden got the start… and Brady went to him right away, catching the Jets off guard… as well as the fans too. .

Wide Receivers: A-

Phillip Dorsett was the recipient of many more snaps with AB out of the picture. And he made the most of them. He had six catches for 53 yards including the 25-yard TD. The one incompletion thrown in his direction looked like a catch from the cheap seats. 

Josh Gordon had 6 catches for 83 yards including two highlight-reel plays. Facing a 3rd and 22, Brady uncorked a beautiful back-shoulder throw that Gordon high pointed and brought it down before tumbling out of bounds. Later he caught a deep seam pass where he used his height to haul it in. 

Julian Edelman had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an injury in the second quarter. Jakobi Meyers had two catches for 38. Brady’s top three targets had 19 catches for 198 yards on the day. Good day.

Tight Ends: C+

Matt LaCosse was inactive and Ryan Izzo had one big catch for 41 yards. His blocking looks okay in the run game but could be a lot better.  He was getting pushed around at times and his strong suit is blocking. Jakob Johnson lined up as a blocker for the final snap of the game. 

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line got Marcus Cannon back at right tackle. That was a big bonus, especially with the big game against the undefeated Bills looming next week.  Their protection of Brady was very good, for the most part he had plenty of time to throw and Stidham, not Brady was sacked only once. 

The run blocking was not great, however, and while the Jets are a very good team at defending the run, the Patriots could only muster 68 yards rushing. That stat must improve down the line. After rewatching the game tape there were too many times during the game that the Jets were pushing the New England offensive line back 1-2 yards off the ball. And not just at tackle but the interior guys as well. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were included in that. 

Marshall Newhouse is still finding his feet here in Foxboro. Dante Scarnecchia will work on his fundamentals in the coming weeks. Overall he was okay but tends to lunge a bit, that comes from not having his hands and feet in sync. Coach Scar will fix that. 

Defensive Line: A

The defensive line was once again outstanding. Coming into this game, we knew that because the Jets offense was short-handed, that they’d lean on the outstanding Le’Veon Bell. And of course, the Patriots knew that too. The defensive line was great at standing up the Jets offensive line and allowing the linebackers to clean up.

Danny Shelton was excellent continuing his very solid start to the season. The Jets could only manage 36 yards on the ground on 20 carries. The front seven brought excellent pressure on QB Luke Falk sacking him five times, with 10 QB hits and 10 tackles for a loss. Michael Bennett, Chase Winovich and Adam Butler were all very solid. The very underrated John Simon added 1.5 sacks. 

Linebackers: A+

The Patriots linebackers are off to an amazing start this season. They are flying all over the field, never out of position [Belichick may disagree], and making plays everywhere. No one is a better example of that than Jamie Collins.   

Collins had seven tackles including 3.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits and a pass defensed. He was the Jets biggest pain in the backside as he was seemingly everywhere. Dont’a Hightower prior to injuring his shoulder was solid. He and Elandon Roberts each had .5 sack. 

The Patriots brought pressure on Falk early using what they call the “Casino” blitz, rushing six and then later showing it and dropping eight into coverage. It was too much for a young QB to decipher in his first game.

Kyle Van Noy, who after the game credited the defense as a whole for having great communication, had 1.5 sacks. See the trend here? There is no one “sack master”, it is a group effort. And this group is playing lights out.

Secondary: A

The secondary bottled up the Jets WRs and shut them down. Stephon Gilmore wrapped himself around Robby Anderson and basically put him on a milk carton. Ditto for Jonathan Jones covering Jamison Crowder. The Jets two top WRs had five receptions for 36 yards combined… ouch. Jason McCourty is off to a great start for 2019. 

Pat Chung and Devin McCourty are playing some of the best football of their respective careers. Bell had four catches for 28 yards in the passing game. The Jets were 0-12 on third down and had just 98 yards [69 net] passing. Incredible start in the first three games for the defense. 

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski had another rough start missing his first extra point. After that, he hit three in a row and a field goal. Gunner Olszewski.muffed a punt which resulted in a Jets TD. That, as he pointed out after the game is unacceptable. But he came right back out, fielded the next one cleanly and returned it for 11 yards.  

Jake Bailey punted seven times for a 44.3-yard average, placing five inside the 20-yard line. Matthew Slater had an outstanding play where he chased down a punt that seemed destined for the end zone and knocked it back where it was downed on the one-yard line. 

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching clearly were two steps ahead of Adam Gase and his staff on Sunday. By the time Gase and his defensive coordinator adjusted, the Patriots were up by three touchdowns and this one was “ovah Mike!”

Bill Belichick will pick the team apart during their Monday film session as several players noted on Sunday, but they were much better prepared than the Jets and totally dominated this one from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

We’re on to Buffalo. The “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 2019 tour continues. 

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.

Patriots Defense Shines Again in 30-14 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
September 22, 2019 at 9:06 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business on Sunday after behind another stellar defensive effort and beat the New York Jets 30-14 at Gillette Stadium. One may look at the scoreboard and think the Jets hung in there and made it competitive but there was never a doubt about this one. 

The Patriots dominated the early going racing out to a 20-0 lead and then letting the defense clamp down for another dominating performance, albeit against a very depleted Jets team. 

However, 3-0 is still 3-0 and they head off to Buffalo to face off with the undefeated Bills next Sunday. Our observations follow: 

The Patriots defense made life really tough on Luke Falk in his first NFL start. With a so-so offensive line and a bunch of banged receivers, Falk frequently had nowhere to throw because of the coverage of the Patriots secondary.  Falk is the Jets’ 3rd QB, but the loss here can hardly be placed at his feet. He was placed in an untenable position from the first snap. 

Falk was 12-22 for 98 yards with an interception. He was sacked five times for 29 yards and the Jets ended up with just 69 yards net passing (Rob Gronkowski approves). They leaned heavily on Le’Veon Bell but the Patriots knew Bell would be the focal point and bottled him up. He finished with 18 carries for just 35 yards and added 28 yards receiving on four catches. 

The Patriots held the Jets to just 105 yards of total offense and 0-12 on third down. Regardless of the competition, that is domination and should not be discounted. 

Jamie Collins was sensational again today for the Patriots defense. Collins had seven tackles, including three for a loss, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and a pass defensed. Collins was seemingly everywhere.                                                                       

Offensively the Patriots started off red hot scoring the first three times they had the ball. Brady at that point was 14 -17 for 189 yards, with two touchdowns. Brady finished 28-42 for 306 yards with touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Sony Michel started the scoring off with a 5-yard touchdown run, making a nice cutback against the grain. Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point and it was 6-0 Patriots. That drive was highlighted with a 41-yard reception by TE Ryan Izzo.

Brady connected with Phillip Dorsett on a 25-yard touchdown pass to put the Pats up 13-0. Dorsett came all the way across the field and was all alone as Brady hit him in stride deep down the field and the offense was looking unstoppable. 

Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 20-0. Edelman had a big catch on 3rd and 9 for 15 yards, then a 14-yarder down to the Jets 28. Jakobi Meyers chipped in with his first of two catches, an 18-yarder that put the team at the Jets 10. 

Jarrett Stidham played a few snaps and completed 2-3 for 14 yards but he badly overthrew Brandon Bolden in the flat and it was returned 61 yards by Jamal Adams for a pick-six. Adams then celebrated like it was a playoff win, despite his team still being down by multiple scores.

Rex Burkhead had another impressive game out of the Patriots backfield. With James White inactive due to the birth of his son, Burkhead again stepped up his game. He led all rushers with 47 yards on 11 carries with a two-yard touchdown. He added six catches for 22 yards. 

Sony Michel had another disappointing day garnering just 11 yards on 9 carries. Other his five-yard touchdown run, he had nowhere to go, the Jets were getting penetration and keying on the run whenever he’s in the game. Overall, the Jets did a fantastic job of bottling up the Patriots running game, holding them to just 68 yards on 27 carries [2.5 yards average per rush]. 

Edelman was hurt and left the game in the second quarter, losing their chain moving threat. And the offense sputtered without him It was listed as a chest injury but thankfully the X-rays came back negative. Edelman had 7 catches for 62 yards and a score in the first half. 

Josh Gordon struggled early and hurt his finger when it appeared to get dislocated while blocking,  but he returned and made two outstanding catches where he used his size to highpoint the ball and come down with it. The first was when the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 17. Gordon made a beautiful leaping catch, just staying in bounds for a 28-yard gain. Later he made another highlight reel, leaping 22-yard grab in traffic. He finished with six catches for 83 yards. 

Gunner Olszewski booted a fair catch that resulted in the first touchdown allowed by the Patriots this season. He didn’t duck and hide over it and faced the music after the game. He knew that plays like that aren’t tolerated. The coaches did put him right back out there and he responded with a clean catch and return for 11 yards. 

Speaking of Special Teams, the ageless Matthew Slater turned in a fantastic play. Jake Bailey’s punt bounced and looked like it bound into the endzone. Slater was able to get his hands on the ball and shoveled it backward where it was downed on the 1-yard line. It was fantastic, a heads up, really impressive play by the STs.                                                                                                                                                 

Edelman, Gordon and Hightower’s injuries will have to be monitored with the Bills’ game upcoming this week.

So, we’re officially on to the Buffalo Bills. The hype and the mood in Western NY has to be officially sky-high before the meeting of the two unbeaten teams. We’ll have more on this one later this week. 

_________

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

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

Patriots – Jets Week 3 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 19, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots return home this Sunday to take on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. This is the first of two meetings between the two teams, and the rivals will play again in the Meadowlands on Oct. 21 on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 22 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Dana Jacobson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (2-0) trounced the Miami Dolphins 43-0 where the defense forced four interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns. Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

The Jets (0-2) lost at home 23-3 to the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. With QB Sam Darnold, already sidelined for at least a month with an illness, backup QB Trevor Siemian got the start before he too was injured and lost for the year. Luke Falk finished up the game and will get the start this week. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets have been rivals since the earliest days of the old AFL. The Patriots lead the all-time series 65-54-1 including a 35-25-1 record at home against the Jets. The two teams have met three times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 2-1 edge there. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past three years. Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, the Patriots are 14-3 against the Jets at home.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game still hasn’t gotten untracked yet, which definitely has something to do with the injuries along the offensive line. With the starting center on IR and both tackles out last week, they still managed to run for 126 yards. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White are an impressive trio, especially with James Develin opening holes for them. But the offensive line’s play in the running game has been inconsistent. 

The Jets are stout upfront with nose tackle Steve McLendon and interior linemen Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson. Rookie first-rounder Quinnen Williams has been banged up but may be back for this one. Ditto for LBs Jordan Jenkins and C.J. Mosley. 

During MNF the Jets defense stifled the Browns running game holding them to just 70 yards on the ground. They are allowing only 99 yards per game so far in 2019.

With several new faces on the Patriots offensive line, the slogging may find itself to be tough for the Patriots backs to find traction early. However, if the Jets offense continues to struggle and leave their defense on the field for a large portion of the game, then this could change. But this is one time when the Jets front seven handles the Patriots running game and wins the matchup                     

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

The Patriots passing game got a boost with the addition of Antonio Brown last week and his production after only three days of practice was good, 4 receptions 56 yards and a touchdown. Brown along with Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, as well as backs White and Burkhead out of the backfield gives Tom Brady a plethora of weapons.

The only thing that can hold back this unit is the offensive line. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on IR with turf toe, while right tackle Marcus Cannon missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. So will it be Marshall Newhouse and Korey Cunningham at tackle or will they move Joe Thuney to tackle then after fill in another new body at the guard position? Dante Scarnecchia will have the boys working overtime this week.

The Jets, when everyone is healthy, have a very good front seven. They have Leonard and Quinnen Williams inside and can push the pocket. But the secondary, especially the corners are not going to shut anyone down for long. Former Patriot Darryl Roberts mans one side while Trumaine Johnson who was paid a big-money contract just a year ago was manning the other. Johnson was benched for poor play and in his stead came Nate Hairston and Brian Poole. 

Those corners are no match for the Patriots receivers, but the Jets and DC Gregg Williams may try to take advantage of the offensive line flux of the Patriots by bringing overload blitzes and stunts to test their communication. Look for Brady to use the quick passing game first and the backs if the Jets come after him. If he gets good protection, they should shred the secondary. After his flurry of outrage earlier this week, it will be interesting to see how Jamal Adams plays and is used this week.

Next up the Jets offense:

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

The Jets picked up Le’Veon Bell this offseason from the Steelers and he’s one of the most talented backs in the league. Despite having a sore shoulder that required an MRI this week, Bell had 31 touches on MNF [21 rushes and 10 receptions]. But the Jets offensive line has struggled to get him into areas where he can break free. They also have Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell in the backfield.

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run allowing just 37 yards per game. The defensive line led by Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett has stuffed the opposition at the point of attack, allowing the deep and versatile linebacking crew to clean up and attack. 

Look for the Jets to try to get creative here to get Bell going. If the Jets have any chance of pulling an upset, they have to win this matchup and have Bell being a difference-maker and keep the defense honest. If not, it will be a long afternoon for Gang Green. 

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

The Jets brought Luke Falk off the practice squad for Monday Night’s game after Trevor Siemian [ankle] and Sam Darnold [illness] were knocked out of the starting lineup. Falk performed as well as could be expected, coming in cold after Siemian was hurt. But his issue is having enough weapons in the passing game. 

Quincy Enunwa is on IR with a neck injury. Newcomer Demaryius Thomas reaggravated the hamstring injury he had with the Patriots. That leaves Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, tight end Ryan Griffin, and Bell out of the backfield.

The Patriots’ secondary has been outstanding in the passing game. And the pass rush sacked Dolphins’ QBs seven times last week. They’ll attempt to test a Jets OL that has struggled so far in 2019. 

Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones should matchup with the Jets two big targets outside, while Pat Chung will draw Griffin. It comes back to Bell against the host of New England’s linebackers. On paper, it appears Falk will have a long, frustrating afternoon. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a singularly awful day in Miami with 2 missed extra points and a missed field goal. The good news is he returns to Gillette where he’s been solid. Jake Bailey has done well with his first punting action although he has struggled it seems with the holding for FGs and extra points. The return game has been so-so but the coverage units have been solid.

The Jets have had struggles of their own and have Sam Ficken as their placekicker. Lachlan Edwards has done a solid job of punting but Braxton Berrios and Trenton Cannon haven’t provided much in the return game.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

So, do the Patriots improve to 3-0 or do the Jets pull a huge upset in Gillette being three-touchdown underdogs?  The signs point to the former rather than the latter. This is a game even without the myriad of injuries the Jets have suffered, is one the Patriots, on paper should win. That’s why they play the games.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Stay Aggressive and Get After Falk – Look for the Patriots defense to remain aggressive and challenge the Jets receivers. They’ll feel like the Jets WRs can’t beat them deep, so they’ll challenge the short to intermediate routes and give Falk nothing to find open. Falk was actually processing the plays too quickly early on Monday and got rid of the ball before the play developed. Later in the second half, he was holding the ball too long. If the Patriots can force him to do that again on Sunday, they’ll be successful and may force some turnovers.

They’ll show different fronts and packages [show man, play zone] to try to confuse Falk, who is a smart kid but doesn’t possess great arm strength. With a pass rush that doesn’t have any single “dedicated pass rusher”, the Patriots should utilize bringing pressure from all different areas. 

Make the Jets win while passing the ball is what they’re going to try to do this week. With a banged-up and depleted WR core and the third QB under center, the key is to make Luke Falk beat them.

Short, Quick Passing Game To Move the Ball: The Patriots passing game and Tom Brady’s protection will be put to the test early in this one as I believe Gregg Williams, who is always aggressive, will try to overwhelm the new faces on the offensive line. The Patriots counter the Jets blitzes by using their quickness off the line, Julian Edelman and Antonio Brown are two of the best at this and are nearly uncoverable out of the slot. 

James White and Rex Burkhead are also the great equalizers in both blitz pickup and getting out of the backfield and getting open. It will be a great part of the chess match to see when and where Williams decides to send his blitzes. Josh Gordon can work the short areas as well with slants while Phillip Dorsett along with Gordon will attack the intermediate areas of the field. 

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots, especially right now are much deeper than the Jets and have the superior team. The Jets offense has struggled to move the ball and to score points. They can’t afford to get into a situation where they have to match Brady and Co. score for score. They have to shorten the game, keep the NE offense on the bench and help out their young QB by giving him some short fields to work with. That’s why turnovers are so important this week. 

If you’re the Patriots, if you win the turnover battle this week, this should be a runaway.  By being aggressive and forcing the issue, the Patriots should be in a good position to do just that.

___________

Never underestimate divisional games and how tough they can be, despite the apparent lopsidedness of the Vegas odds.  The Patriots and Jets’ games are always hard-hitting and physical contests. This one should be no different. The two teams by virtue of playing twice a year, know each other well and will look to use that knowledge against one another. 

The Patriots are the better team and that will play out as the game unfolds. It may be close for a half, but Brady and Co. find holes in the Jets secondary and the defense once again rises to the occasion.  Patriots 30-6

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week as the Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills.

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

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

Best Of Social Media: Week 2 Patriots vs Dolphins

Robert Alvarez
September 18, 2019 at 8:26 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered their Week 2 match up with the Miami Dolphins seeking to improve upon their recent struggles at Hard Rock Stadium over the past decade.

In their last six games in Miami Gardens, Florida, the Patriots had lost five including last years stunning “Miami Miracle” defeat.

The Patriots found themselves as heavy 18.5 point favorites, the largest spread in any NFL game since 2007.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media before, during, and after the game below.

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In the first quarter the Patriots stuck first on a Sony Michel run.

7-0 New England after one.

7-0 NE After One

In the second quarter, the Patriots sought some separation from the Dolphins.

A third and long reception by Phillip Dorsett helped set up their second touchdown of the game.

In his first game in a Patriots uniform, Antonio Brown wasted no time hauling in his first touchdown reception from Tom Brady.

The Patriots went into the half with a 13-0 lead that felt much larger due to the continued success of the defense.

In the third quarter, the Patriots began to pull away from the Dolphins.

A Stephen Gostkowski 28 yard field goal and a Tom Brady rushing touchdown broke the game open for good.

23-0 New England after three quarters.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Patriots defense got in on the scoring action to turn the game into a laugher.

A Stephon Gilmore 54 yard pick six and Jamie Collins 69 yard interception return slammed the door shut on week 2.

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With the Patriots up by 37 and under 5 to play in the game, Tom Brady stayed on the field until the very end.

A James White touchdown pass from Tom Brady finished off the rout.

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The Patriots wrapped up week 2 with a dominating 43-0 victory in Miami that saw both sides of the ball dominate for the second week in a row.

43-0 NE FINAL

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W.

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McCourty x McCourty!

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Whitewash in Miami, Patriots Defense Rocks in 43-0 Blowout

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2019 at 8:49 pm ET

No miracle finish this time, and for the Miami Dolphins, the only thing close to a miracle was that the Patriots were missing both of their offensive tackles or else this one could have been much, much worse.

The Patriots dominated this one from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Miami managed only 184 yards of total offense, with the vast majority of those coming well after this game was over.  In the first two games of the 2019 season, the Patriots have allowed just three points. 

The only big downside to the blowout win was the loss of left tackle Isaiah Wynn to a foot injury at the end of the first quarter. He didn’t return. With right tackle Marcus Cannon missing this one with a shoulder injury, it definitely affected the play of the offensive line overall. Marshall Newhouse, the 11-year veteran had been on the team for all of three days, stepped in to play left tackle. This situation will bear close watching. 

Here are some of our observations from the blowout win. While it won’t exorcise all of the demons of playing in Miami, it has to feel pretty good for the team as they improve to 2-0 on the season.

  • The Patriots sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen seven times and intercepted four passes, returning two of those for touchdowns.
  • Stephon Gilmore had the first pick-six of his career. As Fitzpatrick rolled to his right, he tried to force a short pass to DeVante Parker. Gilmore stepped in front of him and picked it off and sauntered into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. 
  • Gilmore also caused the first interception of the day. On a deep pass down the right sideline, he went up and deflected the ball which went straight to Devin McCourty.
  • Jamie Collins had a monster game. He made five tackles, [one for a loss], had a sack and then had an interception that he returned 74 yards for a touchdown. On the last play of the game, Collins intercepted Rosen and then took the ball straight into the Patriots locker room. 
  • Rookie Chase Winovich made two tackles, one for a loss and had 1.5 sacks
  • Antonio Brown did play and scored a 20-yard touchdown on a nice back-shoulder throw from Tom Brady to him in the end zone. Brady was impressed with Brown’s quick grasp of the offense and said after the game that he had “good snap” off the line early in this one. Brown finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards and the score.
  • Brady finished 20-28 for 264 yards with two touchdowns passing and one rushing. 
  • Sony Michel had 85 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. He also had a fumble lost later in the 4th Quarter. Rex Burkhead was once again impressive as he had 68 yards combined rushing and receiving on just seven touches. 
  • Julian Edelman had four catches for 51 yards. Josh Gordon had two catches for 19 while Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 39. His catch on third and 18 was a beauty, however. He went right to the sticks and dove for the hard pass from Brady.
  • James White didn’t get a ton of touches in this one [3 rushes for 10 yards, 3 catches for 19 more] but had a too easy touchdown late in the game. Miami sent a blitz at Brady and the screen pass had three offensive linemen with no one to block as White sauntered into the end zone. 
  • Miami has saddled former Patriot DC Brian Flores, their new head coach with a truly awful football team and their performance in their first two games have played that out. They have been embarrassed on their home turf for two weeks in a row. First by the Ravens and then again 43-0 against the Patriots, the first time in their history that Miami has been shut out at home by New England. 
  • Stephen Gostkowski had a rough, rough day, missing a field goal and two extra points. But for all of Patriots fans calling for him to be immediately cut, we’ll ask this. Replace him with who? While it certainly is a concern moving forward, it is not going to cause him to be jettisoned that fast. Bill Belichick will work with him this week and they’ll try to get him back on track. Calm your jets folks…

Miami gained only 42 yards on the ground on 15 carries which worked out to just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. In two games the Patriots have allowed 74 yards on the ground an average of 37 per game. Fitzpatrick completed just 11 of 21 passes for just 89 yards with three interceptions. His passer rating was just 23.8. Rosen came in with just over eight minutes remaining in the game and completed 7-18 for 97 yards with an interception. His passer rating was just 33.8.

Overall, the Dolphins QBs were 18-39 for 142 yards with 0 TDs and 4 INTs with seven sacks for 44 yards. Fitzpatrick was under duress all game long with nowhere to throw the ball due to the blanket coverage. 

Offensively, with both tackles out, it made both running and passing the ball more difficult but the team still rolled up 381 yards of offense, 126 on the ground and 255 more thru the air. Brown only had a handful of practices this week, but he has already shown how effective he can be once he gets on the same sheet of music with Brady. 

As always I find it amusing that national writers accuse Belichick of running it up but last week, after scoring 42 points in the first half, the Ravens ran a fake punt…crickets. And as to why Brady and Co. were still in the game late into the 4th quarter. Brady said, Belichick’s message all week was to play solid for 60 minutes. In Bill’s mind, football players play football so, while some a few people were lamenting seeing the starters in there, the coach wants to see them continue to work to get ready for the long season ahead.

For now, the team is 2-0 and rolling very impressively defensively. Next week they return home to take on the New York Jets who play Cleveland on Monday Night Football this week.  

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

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

New England Patriots News 9-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, and a return to football… hopefully, this afternoon. This past week has been a ridiculously, needless testament to what the news has become in this country. The Antonio Brown saga has been in full-blown TMZ mode all week to where the Patriots opening season big win over the Steelers and the upcoming game at Miami were swept aside like unnecessary backdrops. 

“Should Belichick Release Him?”, “When did the Patriots know?” “Why Didn’t the Patriots Know?” “What Number/Helmet/cleats is AB wearing?” Non-stop since Tuesday.

You know it has gotten ridiculous when CNN fixes a GPS map finder to someone’s car so that he can find Gillette Stadium and then attempt to harangue Bill Belichick with the same question three times like they would third rate politicians as if that is really going to make him answer. 

*Hint for today* – When the team releases a statement stating they are aware of an investigation and will not comment further until there is a resolution…and you ask once, you are doing your job. Ask the same thing twice and you’re getting into rude territory. Push it a third time by talking over the coach saying “you didn’t answer it”, then you’re just a jerk who is making this about yourself…but they have a penchant for that. 

The only thing missing was for Harvey Levin to have one of his dweebs outside the stadium with a video camera. “We got Belichick coming out at 2 a.m. after meetings and film study. ‘So Bill, do you really like football?’” 

So, for a few hours, we can watch the game(s) and not have to be subjected to the same “All Antonio, All the Time” drivel non-stop. Unless Brown does play and has a big game…

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Malcolm Mitchell – opened up to NBC in an interview on how difficult it is to move on to life after football. His career ended prematurely due to numerous injuries and it was derailed just as it should have been taking off. 

“I guess I knew I would have this breakup with football, someday. I just didn’t know how bad it would be on my mental health. It’s like I’ve been reincarnated, as somebody else. And I don’t want to be anybody else,” Mitchell said. 

“I have to move on,” he added. “I know that. I have to come out of this grieving phase, and I’m working on that. I can’t stay here, because if I do, I’m as good as dead.”

Patriots Baby Boom  – Last week Kyle Van Noy was inactive for the Steelers game due to his wife going into labor and then welcoming his son into the world. On Friday it was reported that James White wouldn’t travel as his wife was giving birth as well. But on Saturday it was reported that he indeed did travel to Miami. However, it seems like there may have been a slight boom during the post-regular season time frame. Perhaps, it was across the region as well. 

Rob Gronkowski – The big man remains in the news as he’s been doing interviews and promoting his new business [CBD Oil] which he claims has healed him. Gronk told an interviewer this week, that despite nine surgeries, he had at least 20 concussions of which five were “total blackouts”. He did add that although not yet a father, he would allow his son to play football as long as he was made aware of the risks involved.

Obi Melifonwu – After being let go with the addition of Antonio Brown, the big safety from Grafton cleared waivers and the Patriots brought him back onto the practice squad. And the team did him a big solid. While the bottom line for pay for practice squad players is $8000 a week, the Patriots frequently pay more and in Melifonwu’s case, much more. The team brought him back at his regular salary of $645,000 or in this case $37,941 a week. When people talk about “how cheap” the Patriots are…remind them of this little tidbit. Melifonwu may still fit in the team’s long-term plans with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty possibly retiring soon. 

Week 1 Overreaction? Say it ain’t so – After the Patriots dismantled the Steelers on opening night, optimism was running very high in New England, and why not? Despite some uneven play at times, they dominated from start to finish, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. First, it is one game, and we all remember the horrific opener against the Chiefs a few years ago, right? And second, despite the optimism emanating from Western PA, the Patriots have owned the Steelers in Foxboro. 

That said, the defense played as advertised and the offense despite going 0-3 in the red zone looked much better than advertised. It is a good, no, very good start. But remember, today is another day and let’s wait to see how they play in Miami, where they traditionally lay an egg. FWIW, I still believe Pittsburgh wins their division.

The Patriots Passing Game Now a Position of Strength? You Bet:

The strong showing by Tom Brady and company on Sunday night, plus the addition of the aforementioned Antonio Brown definitely played a hand in the trade of WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets. We’ll get to more of that below. But as of right now, the passing attack is, at least for one week, much farther along than we would have believed just a few short weeks ago.

With Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver and James White along with Rex Burkhead out of the backfield, the offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to utilize. This is before even adding Brown, running back Damien Harris, rookie WR N’Keal Harry (IR) and veteran WR Cameron Meredith (PUP) to the mix for depth purposes later in the year. Now the possibilities are very optimistic. 

So even though the situation at tight end is far from perfect with Matt LaCosse banged up and Ryan Izzo more of a blocker, there are still plenty of options for Brady to target. Ben Watson can return after the Bills game and he should help there. 

But in Thomas’ case, I received a DM on Twitter asking, “if the Patriots had known about the AB claims, would they still have traded Thomas?” It is a good question, but my answer is yes. The passing game was clicking and even without considering Brown, they still have Harris, Harry, and Meredith. So, they really didn’t need him, and were able to unload his contract so there is no dead money involved. 

But their choice of trading partners was really intriguing. I was also asked what I thought of the choice of the Jets for his landing spot. Bill Belichick has traded with 30 other NFL teams since taking over the Patriots. Until this week, the only team he hadn’t traded with was the Jets. 

My feeling is, and this is strictly just an opinion, that they didn’t feel that Thomas was ever going to recapture enough of his game to be a viable receiver once again. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have traded him to the Jets…we’ll see next week. 

Time to Get Michel More Involved in the Passing Game:

The Patriots will be looking to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game today and get him untracked but they can help in that regard by getting him more involved in the passing game. Last week the Steelers keyed off of Michel’s being on the field by crowding the box and playing the run. And in that, they were very successful as Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries.

According to my feeble math skills, with Michel on the field, the Patriots ran the ball nearly 75 percent of the time. Pittsburgh, having watched the postseason tape of the Patriots played run-heavy and was able to stuff it time and again. After rewatching the game tape, when the Patriots passed with Michel on the field, they were very successful. Now I get it, it is a minuscule sample size, but they averaged about 15 yards per play. 

Getting Michel more involved in the passing game just removes some of the predictability that other teams will have noticed and make this offense that much harder to stop. Today would be a perfect time to start giving opposing defensive coordinators even more to consider. 

Bulked Up Josh Gordon “In the Best Shape of My Career”:

Josh Gordon is playing at nearly 240 pounds this season as he may be in line for some of Rob Gronkowski’s work in the slot. Gordon’s bulked up presence may have been by design to take on the extra workload of Gronk’s absence. He played only about 10 percent out of the slot in 2018. On Sunday it was around 35 percent.

Gordon spoke about his workload and how he feels physically this week and he’s very optimistic of his long-term outlook. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi asked him if he’s in the best shape of his career and Gordon was quick to agree.

“Oh yeah, by far. By far,” Gordon told Giardi. “I don’t have any injuries this year, fortunately. Me and [strength and conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera have been in the training room every morning getting after it and continue to grow. It’s only Week 2. I’m excited, we’re all excited to see what happens halfways toward the end of the season. I think it’s going to be a huge upside at that point.”

Gordon’s upbeat attitude is definitely a plus and we can expect him to get even more looks in the passing game as the season winds on today.

NFL Schedule Week 2, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-4-1

TNF Carolina over Tampa Bay 0-1 

Dallas over Washington
Tennessee over Indy
Pittsburgh over Seattle
Buffalo over NY Giants
Patriots over Miami
Houston over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Minnesota
LA Chargers over Detroit
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Baltimore over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Chicago over Denver
LA Rams over New Orleans – Rematch of the NFC Championship
SNF Philly over Atlanta
MNF Cleveland over NY Jets

Early Thursday Night Football pick Tennessee over Jacksonville

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to Slow Down Saquon Barkley Today:

The Buffalo Bills can go to 2-0 by winning in the same stadium on the road, two weeks in a row. The Bills scored 17 straight points by beating the Jets in MetLife Stadium last week and take on the Giants today. But they face a very talented back in Saquon Barkley and he’ll be a big difference in who wins or loses.

The Bills pass defense is the strength of their team and they’ve allowed 217 yards or less for nine straight weeks, heading back to last season. And the Giants are banged up at WR. So, it stands to reason that the Giants may opt to feed one of the best RBs in the business in Barkley.

Barkley averaged 10.9 yards per rushing attempt last week in Dallas garnering 120 yards on just 11 carries. Which begs the question, why didn’t they use him more? On the flip side, watch for Bills rookie Devin Singletary to get more work today. The rookie RB had 70 yards on just four carries and added 28 more on five receptions. He was fun to watch. 

Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick Possibly Going to Dallas:

The Miami Dolphins agreed this week to allow safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to seek a trade partner.  And while there will no doubt be several teams interested, one team, the Dallas Cowboys have already publicly expressed interest. 

Fitzpatrick was a first-round draft pick just a year ago, but he’s unhappy with the way he’s being used by the new coaching staff and wants out. Dallas has been trying to upgrade the safety position all year. They courted the idea of bringing in Earl Thomas and Eric Berry but signed neither. They signed George Iloka. But the veteran was released, beaten out by veteran Jeff Heath and rookie Donovan Wilson. Fitzpatrick is a big upgrade over either of those two. So, this will bear watching.

What would be the asking price? Some circles are pointing to DL Taco Charlton who isn’t playing much because of a deep Dallas front seven. This development may have some bearing on how much Fitzpatrick plays today.

Jets Are Banged Up and Now Lose Darnold to Mono:

The New York Jets have already suffered a rash of injuries this season, Quincy Enunwa is out for the year with a neck injury. C.J. Moseley was forced to leave last week’s opener with a groin injury. RB Le’Veon Bell hurt his shoulder and had an MRI on it. But now they’ve lost QB Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, which is expected to keep him shelved indefinitely. And the schedule isn’t doing them any favors.

Trevor Siemian takes over for Darnold and faces a daunting schedule. The Jets play a Cleveland Browns team that was embarrassed last week on Monday Night Football, then head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots, followed by games against the Eagles, Cowboys, and then the Patriots again. That is a tough five-game stretch even if Darnold was in the lineup.

The Jets offensive line will also have to deal with a very less mobile QB than Darnold as Siemian can’t make plays outside the pocket as Darnold can. 

________________

“Yeah, Troy’s done a good job. You know, we have three rookie receivers, and Troy was in the same type of situation when he came. Obviously, that was in a different system, but he’s seen a lot of guys come through that. He did it himself, and I think he can help everybody – from the rookies, the guys who have never played before, to new players, to players who have played here a long time like Julian.” – Bill Belichick on the difference former Patriot Troy Brown has made helping coach the WRs.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots-Dolphins Week 2 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 12, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

The Patriots head out on the road for the first time in 2019 as they travel to South Florida, to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are looking to get off to a 2-0 start and put behind them the slow starts that have earmarked earlier seasons.

Miami has a new coaching staff in place with Brian Flores, the former de facto Defensive Coordinator for New England serving as their new head coach. He has taken several former New England assistants with him, including Chad O’Shea who is the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines.. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (1-0) are coming off a convincing 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

The Dolphins (0-1) were shellacked 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens where Miami’s defense was gashed for 623 yards [265 on the ground, 378 in the air]. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins have been playing each other since 1966. Miami holds the overall edge 55-52 with each team holding a huge edge in home games. Miami is 38-16 at home against New England while the Patriots are 36-17 all-time at home against the Dolphins. Bill Belichick’s record versus Miami with the Patriots is 24-14. In games in Miami, Tom Brady is 7-10, and the team is just 1-5 in their last six games there. 

The teams split last year’s contests with the Patriots blowing out Miami 38-7 at home and then losing 34-33 in December in the “Miracle in Miami” game.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game didn’t have a great game last week, but it wasn’t all bad either. The team ended up with 99 yards on the ground against a very good Pittsburgh front seven. They’ll be looking to get Sony Michel untracked this week as he was bottled up against the Steelers last week. 

Miami was gashed badly by the Ravens in the opener to the tune of 265 yards and 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. They were overwhelmed at the point of attack and will be looking to do a much better job. They’ll need their big men up front, nose tackle Davon Godchaux, and ends John Jenkins and Christian Wilkins to be much better. If the Patriots big men in the middle, Ted Karras, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason can get a push to the second level, the ground game will be successful. 

Look for plenty of the two-back sets with Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White rotating in with James Develin leading the way. It will be interesting to see if the team activates Damien Harris this week, as he was removed from the injury report and having Brandon Bolden limited with a hamstring issue.

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

The Patriots passing game looked really good passing for 374 yards in the opener against the Steelers. Tom Brady was sharp and was getting everyone involved in the passing game. The pass protection against the top team in sacks from 2018 held up quite well. Isaiah Wynn shined in his first game but the team lost Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in the second half. His absence will be a place to watch this week. The team did sign veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse this week. 

The Dolphins pass defense was arguably more miserable than their run defense was last week. Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating and threw five touchdowns along with 324 yards passing. His backup RG III came in and was 6-6 for 55 yards with a touchdown. Ravens’ QBs were 23-26 for 378 yards with six TDs. The secondary has some good pieces there with Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Bobby McCain with a bunch of ex-Patriots, Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, Jomal Wilz, and Ken Webster. 

The Patriots running game should open up play-action passing in this one. Seeing how the Dolphins choose to match up with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman with White and Burkhead out of the backfield will be an interesting part of the chess match. Flores knows the Patriots weapons well and he’ll be trying to counter their moves. The pass rush for Miami is key here. If Brady has time to throw, he should light them up again. It is unknown right now whether Antonio Brown [on Wednesday evening] will play. It may depend on how much of the offense he can learn in practice this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

Dolphins RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Dolphins rushing attack was put on the backburner early last week when they fell behind so far, so early. They have Kenyon Drake and Kalen Ballage toting the rock behind an offensive line with new pieces everywhere. 

Jesse Davis was moved to left tackle from the right side. Michael Dieter and Daniel Kilgore at LG and C respectively are the only carryovers. Right guard Danny Isadora and right tackle Julien Davenport are both new and started last week after coming to Miami after the initial 53-man cutdown. 

The Patriots front seven stuffed the Steelers rushing attack last week holding them to just 32 total yards. James Conner only gained 21 yards on 10 carries. The big men up front Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett held firm and allowed the linebackers to clean up. 

Although Drake has had success against the Patriots in the past, with this patchwork offensive line, it is tough to see Miami getting much going on the ground without them getting really creative here.  

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

Miami has surprisingly gone with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the early going after they brought in second-year QB Josh Rosen earlier this year. Fitzpatrick has the capability to get really hot for a few games, as we’ve seen in the past, but overall he’s 2-9 in his career with the Bills and Jets against the Patriots. 

The skill players are good with DeVante Parker as their possession guy with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant as their outside guys with speed to burn. Tight Mike Gesicki will be someone to watch. But this offensive line will decide this matchup. Can they hold up? 

The Patriots defense was outstanding against the Steelers, with the secondary of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty taking away the outside threats. Look for Pat Chung to cover Gesicki and that will be a great matchup to watch. 

I look for the Patriots left side to attack Miami’s right side of the OL. Davenport who came over from the Texans in the Laremy Tunsil deal gave up 12 sacks, 65 QB pressures and committed 16 penalties last year. Look for the Patriots to bring their pressure attacking the right side. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a really solid game after an uneven preseason. He hit on all three extra points and all four field goal attempts. Jake Bailey hit one boomer and one dud last week. But his holds on the field goals were spot on, something they struggled with a bit in preseason. The coverage units were solid and Gunner Olszewski had a nice debut with punt returns of 20 and 15 yards. 

Miami’s Jason Sanders booted a 54-yard field goal last week in one of the few bright spots of that game. Punter Matt Haack averaged 53.7 yards per punt. Their return game didn’t net much on the day.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Another year heading to the Patriots House of Horrors? New England is just 1-5 in their last six games in South Florida, including the past two. They always seem to save some of their worst football for games in South Florida. Can they turn that around and start the year off 2-0 and avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in recent years?

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Be Aggressive and Get After Fitzpatrick – Look for the Patriots defense to be aggressive and attack the Miami offensive line here, while they try to set the tone of this one from the outset. Fitzpatrick isn’t the most mobile of QBs and the OL hasn’t played together for very long. Show them different fronts [Amoeba look with one down lineman] bring pressure and try to generate some turnovers. 

Jamie Collins, Michael Bennett, and rookie Chase Winovich are the players to watch here. They don’t want to lay back and allow Fitzpatrick to get into a rhythm. This secondary has shown it can play blanket coverage across the field, take advantage of it and force the issue. 

Run the Ball to Open up Play Action: The Patriots running game is looking to get untracked this week and this is a perfect time and place to do so. Miami hasn’t sorted things out yet and the ground game can set the tone for this one early. Michel, Burkhead, and White should give them plenty of yardage to open things up in the passing game. With play-action, Brady will have more open room across the middle and allow him more time to hit Gordon and Dorsett on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see if they give rookie Jakobi Meyers more snaps this week. We’re not counting on Antonio Brown playing in this one, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. 

Put Them Down Early: The Patriots have had a bad habit of letting the Dolphins hang around in games down in Miami and those have come back to haunt them. Sunday, they need to come out firing and put the Dolphins in the rearview mirror early. The confidence can’t be high there right now after last week’s debacle. 

Bill Belichick needs to get the team coming out fired up like this is a playoff game and approach it in that way. A couple of quick scores early and have the Dolphins on their heels. They have done that at home against the Dolphins seemingly every game, it is time to do so down there.  

___________

So, a lot of Patriots fans and some media have been playing up the familiarity idea that the Dolphins’ coaches know the Patriots and their system and know exactly how to attack them. And they point, successfully at the Lions and Titans games from a year ago. And it is a valid point…to a degree. 

But this New England team is a better one than took the field last year, and this Dolphins team is frankly, one that is going to struggle to win 3-4 games in 2019. The only thing holding the Patriots back this week is themselves. They should establish dominance early in this one. There won’t be any miracles this time.  Patriots 42-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour moves back to New England next week to take on the Jets.

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

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