Tag Archives: Rex Ryan

New England Patriots News 7-9, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 9, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 7-9, & AFC East Notes.

We hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July, Independence Day holiday but did you know (courtesy of my desk calendar) that on July 4, 1960, the Patriots opened their first training camp at the UMass campus and had 350 players attend? And we think that 90 is a lot to follow when camp opens.

It has been a week without any big breaking Patriots news… after this off-season, I keep watching the NFL transaction wire to see if they’ve made any new moves.

Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola have used the down time before training camp to work on their chemistry even harder than normal. The three were seen on social media at Brady’s Montana residence catching passes and working on their timing. They were also seen mountain biking with a group of other men, which were impossible to identify since they all wore biking helmets with face shields.

Josh McDaniels will drive the official Toyota Camry pace car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16, leading the drivers to the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton’s 301.

Sorry to hear that Kerry Byrne’s long relationship with the Boston Herald is coming to a close after 19 years. Byrne penned a weekly food and beer column for the Herald at a time when beer was considered something only for knuckle-draggers in culinary circles. My how times have changed. He also is the owner of the outstanding Cold, Hard, Football Facts website.

Kerry’s food columns were especially perfect during football season as nothing goes better with football than food and beer. I’ve known him for several years, and have been a guest on his podcast on Patriots.com and co-hosted a Mikey Adams Show at WEEI with him. And he’s one of the truly nice guys in the business. All the best Kerry. Something tells me though, that he won’t be a free agent for very long.

Brady Coming Out With a Book in September…on How to Be Like #12:
Tom Brady has had a busy offseason, besides the normal appearance with Aaron Rodgers and others at the Kentucky Derby and his Best Buddies Football Game, he was off to China, throwing footballs to his son at the Great Wall and to Japan matching up with a Sumo wrestler. Now he’s penning a book that will be released in September.

The book, released by Simon and Schuster will be called “The TB12 Method: How To Achieve A Lifetime Of Sustained Peak Performance.” This offering from Brady according to his publishers will be “a gorgeously illustrated and deeply practical ‘athlete’s Bible’ that reveals Brady’s revolutionary approach to sustained peak performance for athletes of all kinds and of all ages.”

The hardcover version will cost fans $29.99, while an e-book will cost $14.99. Now you know what to buy every hardcore Patriots’ fan for Christmas or for a birthday.

Brady also posed with the Stanley Cup and the resulting outcry of protest from Western PA was hysterical. Brady and the Patriots are firmly in the heads of Pittsburgh fans and the comments are typical of what one would expect.

Ndamukong Suh, the Gift That Keeps Giving:
Someone in Miami’s front office needs to muzzle Suh when it comes to talking about the Patriots. And while his comments when taken as a whole are pretty innocuous, he once again had to know what writers around the country were going to focus on. Suh on Monday stated the Patriots “they’re definitely beatable as everybody is in the league.”

This was a few weeks after his “Miami will never be scared of the Patriots” speech. We get that confidence is high in Miami after a 10-6 season and a playoff berth. But when the other team has won the division 14 times in the last 16 years and has beaten you 11 of the last 14 times you’ve faced, then take a page out their book and defer any comments about that team (New England) and talk about yours….

David Harris Contract Details:
Our buddy Miguel (@Patscap) who is the PatsFans.com resident expert on all things Salary Cap-related when it comes to the Patriots has posted a piece that breaks down the contract details of LB David Harris’ deal with New England. Harris’ deal for the 2017 season breaks down as follows:

Signing bonus: $1,250,000 (prorated over 2 years $625,000 in 2017)
2017 base salary: $1,000,000.
2017 roster bonus: $500,000 (46-man active roster bonus – $31,250 per game).
Since Harris was active for 15 games this bonus counts $468,750 against the 2017 cap or $31,250 times 15 games.
2017 LTBE playing-time incentives – $750,000. Please note that LTBE is short for likely to be earned.

Manning Revelations Mean Little at This Point:
Former Colts OL Tarik Glenn dropped a bit of a bombshell this Tuesday when he stated that the Colts were using illegal hearing aids during Peyton Manning’s rookie season to help him deal with crowd noise.

“We were playing on the road, it might have been Peyton’s rookie year, and it was really loud,” Glenn told the Indy Star. “Peyton [Manning] hadn’t mastered the silent count, so [former OL Coach] Howard Mudd had us wearing these hearing aids that were supposed to muffle the crowd while projecting the quarterback’s voice.”

While Patriots fans on social media were demanding their pound of flesh this week, nothing is going to get done about that now. That was 19 years ago and what exactly could the league do about it now?

Another story making the rounds was Manning begging out of a blowout loss to the Patriots when he was still a very young QB. According to former QB Coach and now HC of the Arizona Cardinals Bruce Arians, Manning asked to be taken out late in the 4th quarter of an obvious loss. Arians described the moment in a new book, “The Quarterback Whisperer” hitting the bookstores on July 11.

“Midway through the fourth quarter of the game, with the outcome already decided, Peyton was so frustrated that he asked for mercy. He wanted to be pulled from the game.”

“‘F–k no, get back in there,’ I told him. ‘We’ll go no-huddle and maybe you’ll learn something. You can never ask to come out. You’re our leader. Act like it.'”

I’m sure plenty of young QBs and great ones have gone thru that sort of thing in their younger days. But you’ll never see one guy asking to come out, win or lose, rain or shine. Even in practice. Enjoy the era folks.

Did you get a chance to check out our Early Patriots 53-man Roster Projection from last week? There will be some tough decisions to make for the coaches this summer. Two of the UDFA players I have making the roster so far are Harvey Langi and David Jones but there is a long way to go.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Building Themselves in McDermott’s Image and Positions to Watch in TC:
The Buffalo Bills jettisoned Rex Ryan after the season and hired Sean McDermott as their new head coach. And while much of their philosophies are close, (active, aggressive defense, power running game), McDermott is quickly putting his own personal stamp on this team.

Buffalo has had a massive turnover in personnel this spring, the third most in the NFL. Sometimes these things take time, Bill Belichick said it took him two years to get the players he wanted on the team and that would have been the 2001 season. And we all remember how that team turned out.

The Bills have some interesting positional battles that will take place at training camp later this month. Among them is at linebacker; although all three starters (Ramon Humber, Preston Brown, and Lorenzo Alexander) return, the team added Reggie Ragland from Alabama in this year’s draft. They also signed free agent Gerald Hodges who is athletic and very good in coverage.

Big Season Loom for the Dolphins and Tannehill:
The Miami Dolphins have stuck with QB Ryan Tannehill thru thick and thin for five full seasons. He played and started all 16 games in his first four years before getting injured and missing three games in 2016. He’s entering his sixth season and the Dolphins are committed to him thru 2017.

He is under contract for the next four years for a modest $73 million against the salary cap which will look better as the cap increases. Is he the answer as a franchise QB? The 2017 season will have a lot to say about that. He’s shown flashes of very good play in his career but has not shown that he can be the guy to lead a team deep into the playoffs and carry a team on his back. With the roster they have surrounding him, if he’s going to jettison that image this will be the year.

Having a second season to work with Adam Gase will also answer a lot of questions when it comes to his long-term viability. One thing is for certain, he’s not going anywhere and he shouldn’t be in 2017.

Jets’ Hackenberg Will be Under Scrutiny in 2017:
The New York Jets have been searching for a franchise QB for a long time and the rumors that they may “Suck for Sam” as in USC QB Sam Darnold may have hit a snag this week. It was rumored in various publications that the Trojans’ QB may opt to spend both eligible seasons playing in college rather than coming out early.

If that is the case then they’ll need to see what they have rather quickly in QB Christian Hackenberg. Gang Green knows first-hand what it is like to be rejected by the league’s overall #1 pick. In 1997, they held the first pick and Tennessee QB Peyton Manning opted to return to college for his final season. He was taken by the Colts with the #1 pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

With 38-year old Josh McCown as the veteran in the wings, the Jets can afford to let Hackenberg play his way either into or out of the job in 2017. Time will tell.

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

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

New England Patriots News 1-1, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 1-1, and AFC East Notes for this week.

From all of us here at PatsFans.com, we wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year. So, if the results of your New Year’s Eve has your head a bit fuzzy this morning, here are some football tidbits to have with the morning coffee. And while we don’t get paid to advertise with them, if you prefer your coffee dark and strong, try Black Rifle Coffee, a veteran owned and operated company. It is among the best I’ve ever had…

Another Brady Milestone This Week?
Tom Brady needs just 56 yards passing today to pass Dan Marino to become the 4th all-time leading passer in NFL history. Marino is currently in 4th place with 61,356 yards passing. Brady sits at 61,306.

So, in front of a partisan fan base in Miami, Brady should pass Dan the Man in the first half of today’s game. While Brady never makes a big fuss over his individual accomplishments, it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins acknowledge this milestone.

Questions Once Amendola Returns:
The Patriots may get Danny Amendola back for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, although he hasn’t been seen on the practice field since injuring his ankle. His injury was the main reason they sought the depth of Michael Floyd from the Cardinals.

Floyd played a few snaps against the Jets and should see more against the Dolphins with Malcolm Mitchell doubtful this week with a knee injury. But it begs the question, if and it is still an if right now, Amendola returns and is healthy for the playoffs, will the Patriots opt to keep an extra wide receiver active or will Floyd be a healthy scratch?

It will be an interesting dilemma and frankly, it is a good problem to have. But how would Floyd, a proud and established veteran handle being a healthy scratch come playoff time? Mitchell and Chris Hogan are established in the offense, and if they do decide to keep them all active, someone else will have to be scratched. It will bear watching.

Jamie Collins Comments a Possible Indicator Why He was Traded:
As comments go, this one was pretty telling. Jamie Collins, traded two months ago by the Patriots to the Cleveland Browns was speaking with the media on Friday about his upcoming free agency and was asked if he’d be returning to the Browns.

“Losing is a deterrent but at the same time, money comes into play around that time,” Collins said. “If the money is right then I could stay here. Obviously, I’m not going to turn it down.”

On the surface, the comments seem very selfish but who can argue with a player that wants to get paid? Well, the Patriots are sometimes that “who”. When players’ wants and possible worth conflict with what the team believes is the best value, then those players either walk in free agency or get traded as what happened to Collins.

Speaking of playing in Cleveland, Collins had this to say.

“It’s been pretty good,” he said. “I have zero complaints. Obviously, the win-loss column, but you can’t control everything. You’ve just got to use it and take advantage of the downfalls you get as stepping-stones. I have no doubt about me staying here if that was the case. I would like to be here. But it’s not just me wanting to be here.”

The Patriots defense has been much better since the trade of Collins; however, it should be noted that the team faced a lot of less than prolific offenses down the stretch. The final measuring stick will the playoffs. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, then the pundits will look upon this as a good trade, if they falter, then the finger pointing will begin, regardless of whether the defense was at fault.

Top 6 Red Zone Offenses Out of the Playoffs:
In a curious twist of fate, the top six teams in terms of Red Zone offenses are out of the playoffs after Week 16. Tennessee, New Orleans, San Francisco, Buffalo, Arizona, and Indy are all eliminated from the playoffs despite being very efficient in the red area on offense. Coincidentally the teams at #7 and #8 are Dallas and New England, the top two seeds of each conference.

Indianapolis is also a Top 5 team in Red Zone defense but despite playing in the AFC South, will miss the playoffs this season. A note to Patriots fans that love these “curse” stories, the top red zone defense belongs to the New York Giants, who beat Dallas twice this season.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 8-7 putting me at 146-91-2 for the season.

The last week of the season is almost as difficult in picking as the first. Some teams have checked out, others are resting starters for the playoff push. This week, I’m going with Atlanta, Baltimore, NYG, Houston, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Indy, NE, Minnesota, Buffalo, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Denver, KC and Seattle.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Ryan Fired, Where Do the Bills Go Now?
The Buffalo Bills let go of 2nd-year coach Rex Ryan along with his brother Rob this week. Regardless of whether it was too soon or not, depending on your point of view, it was done. But that wasn’t all that transpired. Apparently, the Bills are going to cut ties with QB Tyrod Taylor this season as well. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports is reporting Taylor is out as well after the season.

Taylor injured his groin more than a month ago, so the team is sitting him down this week and starting E.J. Manuel. If Taylor were to play and be more seriously injured, the Bills would be on the hook for over $30 million.

So the Bills must not only replace their head coach but their starting QB as well. Former Bills great, Marv Levy said he would consider it if the Bills come calling.

“[If] they offered, I might do it. It was one of those things where after 47 years of coaching I really needed to get that deep breath to step aside but after a couple of years passed I very much would have liked to come back … But I’d do it but I’m not deluding myself to think that the offer would come. If the offer did come I sure would consider it. Sure.” But Levy is 91 years old and he needs to enjoy retirement.

Tom Coughlin’s name was bandied about a bit during the season, and he would immediately ramp up the rivalry between the Bills and the Patriots. Coughlin, however, sat down with the Jaguars this week, where he coached before and still owns property in the area. The offseason will be a very important one for Buffalo. Stay tuned.

Resilient Dolphins Overcome Slow Start and Injuries to Make Playoffs:
The Miami Dolphins are in the postseason for the first time since 2008. New head coach Adam Gase has done a tremendous job of getting all of the players to buy in and they did it despite a slow 1-4 start but more importantly by overcoming a slew of injuries.

In the past, if a Dolphins team had either started slow or got hit by the injury bug, it would have been…season over, see-ya next year. But not in 2016.

Miami will likely be down four starters from their Week 1 offense and five starters from the defense. Despite this, Miami has adopted a “next man up” mantra under Gase which has served them well.

Revis Wants to be Treated With Class by the Jets:
The New York Jets always seem to be a lightning rod for controversy but the latest involving CB Darrelle Revis is perhaps the most intriguing.

Revis’ future is very much in question at this point. His play has fallen off to the point where opponents no long fear to tread on “Revis Island”, but in fact seek it out. But according to Revis, it will come down to whether or not the Jets treat him “with class.”

“Would I love to be here? Yes,” Revis said to the New York Post. “Will I be back? That’s a great question. My thing would be this: Do the New York Jets want to treat my situation with class or no class? With me being one of the best players in the history of this franchise, do they want me to retire here or not retire here?

“Obviously, everybody’s a little bit concerned because that’s not what I’m displaying anymore. I can’t stay 24 (years old) forever. Every player ages in this game. You’ve got to understand that. Now, can I still play? Yes, I can still play. This game is a love for me. It’s like a girlfriend. And we’ve been dating for a long time — many years. She’s been great to me and I appreciate it. I love my girlfriend.”

Revis has always been a great negotiator and reaped great financial gain by his leverage. But a 31-year old corner with fading skills being paid $15 million in 2017? I’ve always been a great admirer of his, but that takes “class” to another level.

The Jets, like the Bills, have some serious decisions to make this offseason.

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

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

New England Patriots News 12-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 18, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 12-18, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Ever Wonder What It is Like to be a Part of the End Zone Militia?
Everyone who has ever been to or watched a Patriots game on television knows who the Patriots End Zone Militia is. Every time LeGarrette Blount scores a touchdown at home, he rushes to take a photo with the group. They are instantly recognizable in their Colonial garb but much of the background information on them is still cloaked in the shadows.

We were able to sit down with one of the senior members of the militia, Bob Elliott this week. Bob and his wife Katherine are a wonderful couple who are actively involved in Millbury’s Asa Waters Mansion. Not surprisingly, it is a Colonial-era mansion that maintains the look and feel of that era. Katherine, until recently was the Executive Director there until retiring. Bob and members of the militia have appeared at events there as well.

I asked Bob how the militia got started and was surprised to learn it wasn’t with the Pats. “No, it wasn’t,” he said. “The group originally got started with the New England Revolution (soccer team). It wasn’t until later the group starting attending Patriots games in the old stadium.”

Bob has been with the group since 1998 and has seen plenty of Patriots games with the best standing spot (they don’t sit) in the stadium. So…I asked, ‘How does one become a member of the Militia?’ Bob laughed, “it is a question we get asked a lot,” he said. “You have to be a regular Revolutionary War reenactor for about 5-years, and have to own all of your own gear.”

“And if there is an opening, we’ll bring someone on board.”  But don’t hold your breath. Bob has seen only about 3-4 additions in his 18 years there as some members move away or retire. There are 37 members of the End Zone Militia but only 20 work each game, 10 in each end zone. When members have family or other commitments, they’ll pass off a certain game to the backups. The senior members, like Elliott, get to pick which games they can work.

They were strictly unpaid volunteers until the 2012 season. “The NFL was cracking down on the number of volunteers on the field, so Mr. Kraft immediately put us on the payroll.” Is it a lot I asked? He laughed again, “no it isn’t a Tom Brady type contract. But it does cover the cost of our black powder but not much else.” But to a man or woman, that isn’t why they are here.

What was the most magical or special moment in your 18 years here I asked him? He didn’t hesitate. “The final game in the old stadium, the Snow-Bowl, Tuck Rule Game. It was really special. The near blizzard conditions, fans throwing snow in the air, I will never forget that night,” he said.

“It was so dramatic and then we fired a shot after the Patriots won and a few days later a friend of mine called my wife and said, ‘did you know that your husband is in Sports Illustrated?’ What a great time that was.”

Finally, I asked him if the End Zone Militia would travel to Houston this year if the Patriots make the trip. “We’ve never been asked,” he said. “But we’d all go in a heartbeat.” You get that Mr. Kraft?

Patriots End Zone Militia, Bob Elliott, third from the left. (Bob Elliott Facebook page)

Goodell and the NFL Show Their Bias with the Deflategate II and Walkie-Talkie Issue with the Giants:
Just when you thought that the Deflategate sorry saga was finally over and done with, it raises its ugly head and more questions about the NFL and Roger Goodell. Jay Glazer broke this story on Fox’s pregame show last week.

Two weeks ago, the Giants were playing the Steelers and intercepted two of Ben Roethlisberger’s passes. When the footballs were on the sidelines, the Giants thought that the footballs were feeling soft and measured them on the sidelines. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that the two footballs in question measured 11.4 and 11.8 PSI which is below the league mandated 12.5 PSI. The Giants alerted league officials about it but did not make a formal complaint. Ben McAdoo the Giants coach admitted, that this is how they found out about the air pressure. There were two things that needed to be addressed about this incident by the league.

First, why were the Giants in possession of a gauge or measuring device on the sideline when those are expressly forbidden by the NFL? Second, where was the leaks of this information by the league office to selected media members. Where was Mike Kensil rushing to the Pittsburgh sideline and yelling at the Steelers’ coaches that “you’re in big f**king trouble.” Where was Ted Wells hiring a junk science firm that will say whatever you want them to, so long as you’re the one footing the bill?

After all, this Commissioner stated that air deflated from a football was akin to performance enhancing drugs. And the rules would be applied EVENLY and enforced as such across the board. And where the hell was that dreaded word that Goodell shoved down New England’s collective throats for 15 months? What about the “Integrity of the Game” Roger?

The league would have never mentioned it, had not Glazer done so in the pregame of last week’s games. But did the NFL leak out erroneous BS data to media members to enrage the populace? Nope…silence. For a week. And then about an hour after Glazer’s report, they released a statement that effectively ended any further discussion.

“The officiating game ball procedures were followed and there was no chain of command (sic… custody) issues,” the league’s statement read. “All footballs were in compliance and no formal complaint was filed by the Giants with our office.” No, they weren’t because no one is supposed to have a gauge on the sideline. But Goodell pooh-poohed that off as well, “You have to go by the league’s gauges? Really?

What does this tell you? That the league’s little data collection exercise of 2015 with the air pressure in the footballs showed what any smart sixth grader already knew. That the Ideal Gas Law, which the blowhards on Park Avenue never heard of before the 2014 AFC Championship, showed that air pressure will drop in footballs in cold weather.

Did we want Ben Roethlisberger punished with a suspension and the Steelers to lose a million bucks and multiple draft picks? No, because the air deflation happens naturally in every football in cold weather.

Except if your name is Tom Brady and you play for the Patriots. It shows that this was a set-up from the jump and Goodell caved to teams and owners that were sick of seeing the Patriots win too consistently. Not even the most die-hard fan would expect to ever see the league recompense the Pats the draft picks, but this latest NFL fiasco should clear the Patriots name in this bogus generated mess. Not that they’d ever say so.

But one has to consider this… if the Giants were playing New England two weeks ago, would the Mara Family, the owners of the Giants have made a complaint?

The second issue also had to do with McAdoo and the Giants. During Sunday night’s game in the Meadowlands against Dallas, Eli Manning was having consistent problems hearing the play call from the sidelines. During the 4th quarter, it stopped completely.

But in plain view of the television audience, McAdoo was calling the plays to Manning on a walkie-talkie which is expressly verboten by the league as well. As I watched this unfold, I grabbed my phone and was monitoring Twitter as I assumed (you know what happens there) that the national media would be screaming for a pound of flesh from the Giants. Nada, nicht, nothing.

Peter King in his MMQB, didn’t even mention it although he talked about the game at length. From the league? Deafening silence. On Friday, the NFL issued a statement that they were “looking into the Giants use of a walkie talkie,” McAdoo mentioned in his Friday presser that he and the team were cooperating with the league’s investigation. The Cowboys, it has been reported had NOT made a formal complaint. Now imagine this was Belichick. Would the media be so quiet? Would the Jones? Or the league?

Floyd Signing Draws the Ire of Two Former Colts:
After a disappointing season with rumors of a work ethic problem, the Arizona Cardinals released wide receiver Michael Floyd after being arrested for DUI on Monday morning. After passing thru waivers, the Patriots claimed him on Thursday.

He practiced on Friday and traveled with the team to Denver although it is unsure whether he’ll be active. It was a low-cost, possible high reward move as the Pats are only on the hook for Floyd’s remaining salary, about $1.2 million dollars.

But two former members of the Colts organization, General Manager Bill Polian, and C Jeff Saturday, lambasted the move. Polian, stated that Colts fans would never approve of such a move and Saturday, went even further stating, “What is this? A win at all costs mentality?

I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of this signing either, but for different reasons and these two ring of sour grapes. Please don’t throw stones at a guy who, no doubt was driving intoxicated but you were strangely silent when the owner of the Colts was arrested with cocaine and a load of cash in the trunk.

Nobody from the Colts talked about winning at all costs when WR Marvin Harrison shot a man in 2010. And the same man was later found shot to death just blocks from a bar Harrison owned. The only surveillance video of the shooting death was ironically from Harrison’s own bar, but….had three minutes of video erased when the shooter approached the man’s car and could have been identified.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 8-8 putting me at 112-84-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Seattle (Thursday Night Football picked last Sunday), Miami on Saturday night and for the games today, GB, Buffalo, Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, NYG, Minnesota, Houston, Arizona, Atlanta, Oakland, NE, Dallas, and Washington.

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, NYG over the Philly. Saturday’s Christmas Eve slate …Buffalo, NE, Tenn, GB, Cleveland, Washington, Atlanta, Oakland, TB, Seattle, LA, and the Texans.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Offer $10 an hour and a free ticket for shoveling snow:
The Buffalo Bills’ playoff hopes are barely hanging on but today, they face the Cleveland Browns and a chance to get untracked, both offensively and defensively. With the snow that fell over the stadium this weekend, the Bills were making an attractive offer to those who would help with the snow removal.

Bills management made an offer of $10 and hour to anyone 18-years old or older who agreed to shovel snow out of the stadium, but there were perks. If you shoveled for four hours or more, you got a free ticket to the game. Or if you couldn’t make four hours, you could purchase a ticket to the game for just $8.

Granted the Browns are winless but the Bills are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. That is a pretty cheap ticket. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the temps are scheduled to be around 30 degrees with scattered snow showers.

Moore, Maxwell Are the Focus Players for Saturday Night Game:
The Miami Dolphins will have completed their Saturday night game against the Jets when this hits the airwaves. But the story of the game going into the Meadowlands this week center around QB Matt Moore and CB Byron Maxwell.

Moore is getting the start, his first in five years and will have to play well if the Dolphins want to keep their playoff hopes alive with Ryan Tannehill out with a knee injury. How will the perennial backup fare against their hated rivals? Fair or not, he’ll be judged by how well the offense played in a cold, stadium, something that they’re not accustomed to.

Maxwell is a great story himself, after a disastrous campaign in Philly in 2015, he ended up with Miami and his season didn’t exactly light the world on fire. He was benched briefly but since returning to the starting lineup, he’s performed excellently and now is one of the bright spots for the Miami defense.

In a hidden chess match of this game, Jets WR Brandon Marshall has been involved in a war of words with Maxwell all season, prior to the November meeting, he claimed that Maxwell held on every play, back in 2015 and this week said he was bringing his own flag to the game …ostensibly to help the referees out.

Are Petty and Hackenberg the Future for the Jets? They Better Be:
The New York Jets have had a nightmarish 2016 after Coach Todd Bowles first year had them filled with such hope. Injuries, poor play, and some questionable decisions have derailed the year that the team hoped would result in a playoff spot. But the most glaring position this year was one, they’d hoped they were prepared for. The quarterback position.

The team went out and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a big one-year deal with options and the hope was that Fitzy could recreate more of the magic from 2015 where he led the Jets to an improbable 10-6 record. But that hasn’t materialized. Fitzpatrick has been a turnover machine throwing14 interceptions against just 10 touchdowns this season. He was benched for Bryce Petty.

Petty was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and in a perfect world, would become the Jets backup quarterback. The team may let him finish out this season to see what they have in him but here lies the crux of the matter. Many Jets fans and some media think the team will jump into the 2017 NFL Draft for the fifth straight season looking for a franchise quarterback. That would be a big mistake.

The Jets spent a 2nd round pick this season on Christian Hackenberg. He hasn’t even taken the field yet. Washing your hands from this young QB this soon would be disastrous for Gang Green. But we’ve seen this before and there are some who are clamoring for the Jets to draft either DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame or DeShaun Watson from Clemson.

Will they do it again and go high for another young QB? Smart money says no because none of the QBs in this draft stand out so far. But time will tell.

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

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

New England Patriots News 12-4, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 4, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 12-4, and AFC East Notes for this week.

So sad to hear the news about former Jet RB Joe McKnight who was shot to death in a needless road rage incident this week in New Orleans. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family

Martellus Bennett Sums Up Patriots Success:
While you won’t hear many sound clips of his answer after he was asked how he equated the Patriots success, it was spot on. He made a succinct, perfect answer when asked after the Pats win over the Jets on Sunday.

“That’s the only way to look at it — you just expect to move the ball,” the entertaining Bennett said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s hope.’ We don’t hope to move the ball. We expect to move the ball. Hope don’t get you anywhere.”

After the offense struggled for much of the first half, Bennett was asked why the Patriots expect to have success. Said Bennett, “Because we work (expletive) hard every (expletive) day,” Bennett said. “We work hard at this (expletive). Those moments, we work in those moments. They get paid millions of dollars to stop us, but we get paid millions of dollars to make plays, and we’re going to make them.”

There you go, it doesn’t get any simpler than that. Somebody pay the man.

Bennett will become the go-to tight end now:
With Rob Gronkowski’s back injury, Bennett will once again become the go-to target at tight end for Tom Brady. He’s was brought to New England to be a dual tight end with Gronkowski but with #87 shelved with back surgery, he’ll be the sole receiving threat out there at the position and he’ll handle it just fine.

“I’ve been in the league for a long time. It’s Year 9 for me. I’ve started, and me and (Gronkowski), we’re interchangeable,” Bennett said. “We do a lot of things differently, but at the end of the day, I always come in, and everyone treats me like a starter.”

“They respect me, and nothing changes in the game plan or anything if I’m in or Gronk’s out or anything like that. We just run our offense.”

Expect to see much more of the three or four wide receiver sets now, if the Pats do go two tight end formation for the running game, they have Cameron Fleming and Matt Lengel mainly as blockers.

Marcus Cannon Gets Paid:
The Patriots right tackle has been a lightning rod for criticism (including here) in the past, but in 2016 it has been a completely different story. Now healthy after battling thru foot injuries in 2015 and with Offensive Line coach Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold, Cannon has had the best season of his career. And he’s parlayed that into a big contract extension.

The Patriots signed Cannon to a 5-year extension this week worth $32.5 million dollars with $14.5 million fully guaranteed. The first three years of his new extension will pay Cannon a total of $19.8 million dollars.

With Sebastian Vollmer out all season with a hip injury, Cannon has been the starter since Day 1. He’s been especially effective in the running game where he uses his 6’5, 335-pound size to great advantage. Scarnecchia has worked with Cannon on his pass protection technique which he credits to his resurgence this season.

Vollmer, a free agent in 2017 is likely done in New England. But with Cannon, the Patriots now have the right tackle position locked up for at least the next three years. He’s already come back from cancer in his senior season in college which led to his drop in the 2011NFL Draft, now he’s making a second comeback and played it into a big payday.

Former NFL PR Exec Gets Blasted by Pats:
One can imagine that there is no love lost between the Patriots front office and the NFL these days after the long-drawn out affair between the team and the league over Deflategate. So, it wasn’t a shocker when the Patriots jumped all over an insensitive tweet by former NFL PR Exec Joe Browne when he tweeted about the recent plane crash in Colombia of a football team from Brazil.

Browne, in a now-deleted tweet, was trying to complement the NFL on its forward thinking if a tragedy like this struck, but it came out all wrong. “NFL club partnership so strong that if there were tragedy similar to Brazilian soccer crash other NFL clubs would restock affected team,” Browne tweeted out on Tuesday.

The Patriots from their own Twitter account blasted Browne stating “ Poor choice of words & disrespectful to all who lost lives. Players are not stock; they’re the most important people in NFL.”

joe-browne-tweet-brazil

Browne deleted the tweet and apologized stating “Thought I was being informative today re: terrible Brazil soccer tragedy but the tweet was ill-timed and poorly worded. I’ve deleted it.”

If the Patriots snarky comment is surprising, it shouldn’t be. Browne was/is a long-time hater of the Pats and while Robert Kraft may play nice with Roger Goodell, there are some in the ownership group who have long memories and this was a small bit of payback.

Bledsoe Speaks to High School Football Players Tuesday:
It was great to see former Patriot great Drew Bledsoe this week. He was the featured guest speaker at the MIAA Championship Breakfast. Bledsoe reminded all of the players that just being in the state championship games is a tremendous feat in itself.

“Nobody gets to play in a state championship game by accident,” Bledsoe said. “Most of you have been working hard at this game, been working hard in the room, been putting in all of those hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears into this game. That work ethic that you have to have in order to be successful at the game of football is really, really important.”

Bledsoe then spoke about his father and the relationship he had with his athletes and how now he is coaching high school football and how important it is to building character and relationships.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 12-4 putting me at 105-69-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Dallas (Thursday Night Football picked last Sunday), and for the games today, KC, NO, NE, Denver, GB, Philadelphia, Baltimore, SF, Oakland, NYG, Washington, SD, Seattle, NYJ. Early pick for Thursday Night: Oakland over KC

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Watkins Differs on What Bills OC Says About Injured Foot:
The Buffalo Bills listed WR Sammy Watkins as questionable with his recurring foot injury for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. But according to Rex Ryan, Watkins is good to go. When asked, Ryan told the media that Watkins was “gonna play” today.

Bills OC Anthony Lynn said that Watkins’ left foot is still broken despite his returning to play last Sunday. “The guy has a broken bone in his foot,” Lynn said. “I don’t know if he’s gonna play one play or 20 plays. So, we’ll just see how big his role is. I’d like to keep him in there the whole time, but I can’t say. He’s tough. He’s very determined to stay on the football field and help us win games, but he has a broken bone in his foot.”

When asked about Lynn’s comments that his foot is still broken, Watkins denied it…sort of. “Not necessarily,” Watkins said. “You hear a lot of things. Right now, my focus is the Raiders and trying to go get the win.”

Tannehill Riding Hot Hand During Fins 6-game Winning Streak:
One big reason that the Dolphins have won six games in a row is the play of the much-maligned QB Ryan Tannehill. During the six-game streak, Tannehill has tossed nine touchdowns and just one interception.

Under the tutelage of the “QB Whisperer” Adam Gates, Tannehill is having an outstanding second half of the season. Gates helped Jay Cutler to a very solid 2015 and now he’s having a similar reaction with Tannehill. He’s shown much better patience in the pocket and he’s become much more adept at moving the deep safeties with his eyes.

His comfort within Gase’s offensive system is clear and after a slow start, he and the rest of the offense have really picked up recently.

Jets Sticking With Fitzpatrick…for Now:
The New York Jets, much to the chagrin of their fan base are sticking with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least one more week. Fitzpatrick threw for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 22-17 losing effort against the Patriots last week.

When pressed by the media on why he’s sticking with Fitzpatrick over Bryce Petty, coach Todd Bowles says he’s not being swayed by what happens in the future.

“We’re all trying to win every game, whether we’re trying to get to 8-8 or whether we’re trying to be 16-0,” Bowles said. “It’s not about Bryce and it’s not about Fitz. It’s about our team trying to win ballgames. Right now, Fitz is our starter.”

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

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

New England Patriots News 11-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 27, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-27, and AFC East Notes for this week.

From all of us here at PatsFans.com, we hope that everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day with their families. That’s what it is all about.

Tom Brady Has a Couple of Career Milestones on Tap Today:
It is amazing that Brady continues to play at such a high level at the ripe old age of 39 but he has and today a couple of career marks can be made.

With a win today, Brady will tie Peyton Manning’s career mark for wins by a QB (200), regular season and playoffs. And with just 57 yards passing, Brady will pass the 60,000-yard plateau for his career. Although he missed two days of practice and was slightly coy about his availability on Friday, it would be a shock if he doesn’t play today.

Salguero’s Powerful Piece on Kaepernick Worth Reading:
Take some time and read Armando Salguero’s piece on Colin Kaepernick. Salguero penned this early on Friday before the news of Fidel Castro’s passing and during a conference call with the Miami press, Salguero called out Kaepernick’s wearing of t-shirt with Castro on it.

Salguero was born in Cuba and left with his mother, but his father was detained under the Castro regime. He now writes for the Miami Herald and is one of the best Dolphins beat writers. He took great umbrage with Kap comparing families being broken up by a Communist dictator and those in the United States with people being put in prison.

It is a pretty powerful piece and written by someone with first-hand knowledge of the situation in Cuba. **Update** Salguero was on CNN Saturday night and when he disagreed with the CNN message that people in Miami were split on Castro’s death, he was taken off the air pretty quickly.

Clock Strikes Midnight for Vollmer, Tre’ Jackson:
The Patriots announced that guard Tre’ Jackson and tackle Sebastian Vollmer won’t play for the team in 2016 after starting the year on PUP and now being reverted to IR.

Both players had until Tuesday, November 22 to begin practicing with the team but never did. Mike Reiss of ESPN reported that Jackson had been regularly taking part in conditioning drills with the team prior to practice recently, so that is a bit of a surprise. It’s possible that he suffered a setback of some kind which necessitated his not being activated.

Vollmer was less of a surprise as he seemed a long shot to play at all this season. And with that, he’s probably played his last snap in New England. He’s due for a new contract in 2017, and probably won’t be brought back. His replacement, Marcus Cannon has far exceeded expectations this season with Dante Scarnecchia back in the fold.

White/Lewis Present More Matchup Problems for Defenses:
With the return of Dion Lewis last week in San Francisco, the Patriots now have a good problem to have, what to do with two backs who thrive on third downs? Well one solution is, they may begin to use more formations where the two of them are on the field together. They ran the two “Pony” back formation a few times last week and it was successful.

Bill Belichick spoke at his presser today (Friday) about having the two on the field and offered this analysis. “It presents a couple of different options to a defense. If you have a tight end and a back in there then I think they’re pretty sure the tight end isn’t going to handle the ball in the running game,” Belichick said. “When you have two backs in there then that’s a little bit of a different story. The tight end routes and the back routes are a little bit different, so tight ends have certain advantages, certainly in our case size, length.

“There’s a little bit of diversity with a back relative to a tight end so certainly a tight end is a better on-the-line blocker. Both [are] skill players, both can do things. They’re different. It’s not a tight end and a back,” he added. “It’s now two backs and how do you treat them and so forth. It’s another way to use those guys and put another log on the fire for the defense that they’ve got to make some kind of adjustment to.”

Will Belichick’s Sitting of Sheard in SF, light a Fire Under him?
In another surprising move for the defense in 2016, the Patriots made Jabaal Sheard a healthy scratch for the first time in his career for the game in San Francisco. Sheard was expected to be a key contributor this season after the Pats traded Chandler Jones to the Cardinals.

He was a starter at the start of the season but his performance has tailed off in recent weeks which led to his being left back in Foxboro in what Sheard described as a “coach’s decision: while the team traveled to SF. But if people were expecting to hear some complaining, they’d be disappointed, as he’s kept a positive mental outlook.

“I’m positive, man. There is great energy around here,” Sheard said. “There are things I have to work on to get better on the field and go out there and work, and hopefully that will make me active.”

When pressed on what he can do better this week, Sheard said, “Just do my job, I think,” he said. “Everything else, leave it up to coach. Practice hard, and when I get the opportunity, play hard.”

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 12-2 putting me at 93-65-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas (Thanksgiving games picked last Sunday), and for the games today, Tennessee, Buffalo, Baltimore, Atlanta, NYG, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, Seattle, New England, Oakland, Denver, Philadelphia.

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Hopes to Have Watkins Back Today:
The Buffalo Bills are hoping to have a key part of their offense back today against Jacksonville. They’re making the decision on whether to activate WR Sammy Watkins from IR after he missed eight weeks after issues with his surgically repaired foot cropped up early in the season.

Watkins practiced all week and had no setbacks in his recovery which is a big sign for the Bills best WR. “I think he’s good to go,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said immediately after Friday’s walkthrough.

Dolphins’ Defense Big Reason For Turnaround :
Don’t look now but the Miami Dolphins have won five games in a row, are now 6-4 and with a win today against the 1-9 San Francisco 49ers would make the talk of the playoffs real. Not to mention, the Fins are still just two games back of the Patriots in the AFC East.

It is looking increasingly like the Week 17 game against Miami in South Florida may mean something for a change this season, possibly even a divisional title? We’ll see.

But the Dolphins have bought into Adam Gase’s system and their play especially on defense has them on a roll right now. One bright spot has been safety Bacari Rambo who was brought in after Rashad Jones went down for the season. Rambo and Isa Abdul-Quddus have filled in admirably in lieu of Jones and will be looked at to provide quality play for the Miami secondary down the stretch.

Jets Still Have a “Win-Now” Approach With Bowles:
Todd Bowles won’t address the 2017 season and is sticking with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to be his starting QB this week as he believes that the veteran gives Gang Green a better chance to win, especially with the Patriots coming to town.

We said last week in this column that we expected Fitzpatrick to play against New England and he does them a better chance to upset the Patriots. Fitz’s biggest issues this season has been the giveaways, he leads the league in interceptions. He’ll be facing a Patriots defense that hasn’t had one in a month.

I’m expecting Fitzpatrick to play well this afternoon, but if he doesn’t start off hot, expect to hear the fans. Most fans want Bryce Petty at QB, and will voice their displeasure with the coach’s decision to start Fitzy over the young signal caller.

It should be an interesting game today.

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

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

New England Patriots News 11-20, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 20, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-20, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Congratulations to Ty Law for being a semi-finalist for the 2017 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Law may not make the cut this year but he certainly belongs. His numbers speak for themselves. His 53 career interceptions are tied with Deion Sanders. Durable, tough and a key cog on three Super Bowl winning teams. He was a big reason that Bill Polian lobbied the rules committee [of which he was a member] to have the PI rules changed after Law, beat up on the Colts WRs and picked off Peyton Manning three times in the playoffs.

Classy move by Tony Romo this week. How tough was that to admit, that you don’t deserve to be the starting QB for the Cowboys down the stretch. He’ll probably wear orange next season….just a guess but we’ve seen that before.

Bennett Trade Proves Smart with Gronkowski Injury:
The news that TE Rob Gronkowski wasn’t going to travel this week and therefore not play in today’s game against the 49ers wasn’t a shock. Gronk took a thunderous, but legal hit from safety Earl Thomas in last week’s loss to the Seahawks and had a chest injury, some called a perforated lung. Whatever it was/is, he didn’t practice this week.

But the trade that brought Martellus Bennett to the Pats is proving to be a valuable one. Bennett filled in nicely during the first four games of the season when Gronk missed the first two and was slow to work his way back in the next pair.

Now he’ll be asked to be the primary tight end in the passing game and with Chris Hogan also out this week [back], his importance in the game plan will become even more pronounced.

Belichick Isn’t a fan of Advanced Metrics:
In one of the more colorful press conferences this fall, Bill Belichick made his feelings known about advanced metrics. Asked on Friday if a quarterback’s quick release had always been a focal point of his offense, or whether it became more important after the rise of advanced metrics websites, Belichick unloaded.

“What the hell is that?” Belichick said. “You can take those advanced websites and metric them wherever you want. I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve never looked at one. I wouldn’t even care to look at one. I don’t even care what they say.”

But he wasn’t done there, he broke it down into the simplest terms and preached a team concept on an effective quarterback and offensive play. Remember this is the coach who loudly preached in 2009 that, “Stats are for losers.”

“It’s timing, decision making, execution by the entire offensive team, that’s what the passing game is,” Belichick said. “Receiver’s got to get open and catch the ball. The quarterback has to read the coverage, make the right decision, make an accurate throw.

“All the metric pages and all that, I have no idea. You’d have to ask that to a smarter coach than me. I’m sorry.” While typically Belichick-ian in his response, essentially Bill said the same thing while kinda thumbing his nose at the guys from PFF.

More Intrigue with the Defense, Did Sheard Stay in NE?
While the Patriots were over the skies en route to San Francisco, Jabaal Sheard [or someone using his account], sent an Instagram post from the Celtics game on Friday night. Sheard wasn’t listed on the injury report this week. So, if he indeed stayed home then one would have to assume that he’s going to be a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.

Such a move would show a definitive dissatisfaction with the big man’s play. Big things were expected this season from Sheard, who moved into the starting lineup with the trade of Chandler Jones. But his play this season hasn’t matched up to that from last year where he had 8.5 sacks as a sub-package plugin. He played a season-low 16 snaps against Seattle last week, giving way to Trey Flowers on the depth chart.

As we write this [Friday evening], we’ll watch for updates and confirmation from SF to find out if he indeed stayed home this weekend.  If so, then that won’t bode well for the 27-year old who is in a contract year.

***UPDATE*** Sheard was indeed left in New England and won’t play for performance reasons this week. If that is the case, the chances of them bringing him back next season are about nil now. The team will definitely be in the market for an edge rusher.

Patriots May Ease Dion Lewis Back into the Mix Today:
In a bit of good news this week, Patriots running back Dion Lewis made the team’s flight out to San Francisco and could make his season debut against the Niners today. Lewis was dynamic a year ago out of the backfield for the Patriots before tearing his ACL on a non-contact play against the Redskins.

Lewis activated from the PUP to the active roster last week but was inactive against the Seahawks. Could he see his first action this week? It would appear so. The Patriots have wisely taken a cautious approach with Lewis, allowing him to work his way back from the serious leg injury.

And with good reason, James White has had a very good 2016 season thus far and has become a valued, trusted member of the offense. Both are equally good at catching the ball out of the backfield. Lewis had the innate ability to make people miss and is the most elusive of the two. How will they ease him into the mix and how will he be used more down the stretch?

Look for Brady to put him in motion and flex him outside creating mismatches on linebackers. It was an area where they created quite a bit of production last season and something they haven’t done much with White this year.

Good Acting? Or Was Brady Sending a Message?
The recently released and quickly gone viral video for Footlocker that Tom Brady did this week was a hilarious view on Deflategate by the Patriots QB.

The never-mentioned but thinly veiled shot at Roger Goodell and the NFL over Brady’s suspension over ignoring of the Ideal Gas Law quickly struck a chord with Patriots fans. But now it begs the question…. Was it good acting or was Brady venting his true feelings after nearly two years? Watch it one more time and you be the judge.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 7-7 putting me at 81-63-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Carolina from TNF (picked last Sunday) Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, Tennessee, Cincinnati, KC, NYG, Minnesota, Miami, NE, Seattle, Washington, Oakland

Early pick for Thanksgiving Day/Night Football, (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Secondary Looking for Better Results vs Cincinnati:
The Buffalo Bills are coming off their bye week and although the lead the league with 30 sacks in 2016, they’ve given up an alarming amount of big plays and this area is one where both the coaches and players are looking to correct.

Buffalo has allowed a league-high seven plays of 50+ yards in the passing game this season and coach Rex Ryan isn’t pleased. Ryan said this week that Bills opponents don’t fear to attack Buffalo’s secondary vertically and that is a prime reason for the Bills 4-5 record at the break.

CB Stephon Gillmore fired back stating that a team that plays as much man coverage as the Bills will have the occasional big play allowed.

“We probably play the most man in the league,” he said. “You can’t name a team that plays more man than we play, so you’ve got to stop everything. You can’t just play the vertical passing game. You’ve got to stop every route.”

Ryan made some moves this week, releasing safety Duke Williams and replacing him with veteran James Ighedibo and stating that he may go with corners Corey White and rookie Kevon Seymour and sit Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey-Coleman.

These moves, if they are indeed done, will bear watching against the struggling Bengals.

Dolphins Want Parker Involved More in the Offense:
The Miami Dolphins won their fourth game in a row with a four interception fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers last week. A win this week against the Rams starting a rookie QB, Jared Goff, would put Miami at 6-4 and open the talk for a possible playoff scenario.

But Miami wants to get WR DeVante Parker more involved in the offense. They believe that for them to make the jump, that they’ll need for the talented but inconsistent wide receiver to take it to the next level.

“We think he can be one of the top guys in the league,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said to the media this week. “We see it every day, a big catch here and a big catch there. A big thing is his health, and keeping him healthy… We need a consistent DeVante Parker, where it’s week-in, and week-out where people fear him. He took over the game in his way last week and gave us a huge lift.

“I think he is really key to us going from solid to good on offense. I think he’s the guy, his big plays. Those are the plays that take you to whatever that next level is, one notch better. And minus those big plays makes it harder.

Parker had five catches for 103 yards last week but has only 403 yards and one touchdown on the season. Those are numbers far below what Miami believes him capable of producing.

Jets Bye Week, Fitz or Petty against the Patriots?
With the Jets surprisingly at 3-7 during their bye week, not many people expected them to be in this position after 10 games. With a shot at the playoffs becoming a distant memory now they must balance the present with the future.

GM Mike Maccagnan has stated that head coach Todd Bowles has the final say in who will be the quarterback when the Jets host the Patriots next week in the Meadowlands. Bryce Petty played last week in the Jets 9-6 loss to the Rams but did lead the team on a 99-yard drive that resulted in their only points of the day. Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched to let them see what they have in Petty, the second-year QB from Baylor

Bowles has stated that he’ll go with the best choice that will give their team a chance to win. That would be Fitzpatrick. But Bowles has also stated that he’s worried that his players will check out if Petty is named the starter. Fitzy isn’t in the future plans for the Jets. Will Petty be? One game won’t be enough to judge him on.

It is going to be a complicated decision but I’d bet Fitzpatrick is under center next week when the Patriots come to town.

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

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

New England Patriots News 11-13, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 13, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-13, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Who Really Cares Who Belichick/Brady Voted For?
The feeding frenzy unleashed by Donald Trump when he read a letter penned by Bill Belichick in support of the President-elect, the night before the election was almost comical in Foxboro this week. While I understand that editors may want their writers to ask about it and heaven knows that many fans were outspoken about it, who really cares who Brady and Belichick voted for?

Does their support for or against a certain candidate influence your decision on who to vote for? If so, then perhaps you aren’t “DOING YOUR JOB!”

Many Hollywood celebrities come out for every election and stump for the candidate of their choice, and that’s fine. But just because I may love your films, show or music doesn’t mean that I am going to flip my vote for Candidate A over B because you’re for this one or that one. And neither should yours.

It just comes down to putting in the time on your own and using your own mind. On election night, I was asked to co-host a local television program where four panelists discussed the four Massachusetts ballot questions, the state elections and of course the Presidential election.

We had a phone call from someone (thanks for the plug!) of this column and asked if Belichick’s support influenced my vote and I answered it this way. “If I was looking to break down film on a football opponent, there is no one I’d listen to more than Bill. And yes, that would influence my decision. But if we’re discussing …say whether we should be supporting and training the rebels in Syria, then based on my experience, perhaps Bill should seek out my opinion.”

I don’t and never have gotten the draw of celebrity endorsements in an election other than if you are really a fan of one, maybe you get to press the flesh of one at an event. But to change my vote in an election….Not happening.

Cardona Great Choice to Represent Pats in NFL’s Salute to Service Award:
In a true no-brainer, the Patriots selected LS Joe Cardona to represent the Patriots as the team’s nominee for the league’s Salute to Service award.

Since 2011, the NFL’s Salute to Service Award honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. Finalists for the award will be announced in January, with the recipient being recognized at the NFL Honors awards show in Houston on the night before Super Bowl LI.

Being a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and a serving Naval officer in the US Navy Reserve gives Cardona high points for both anyone in the league and obviously with Bill Belichick who spent his formative years at the Naval Academy where his father Steve was a scout and an assistant football coach. Cardona as a rookie had to split his duties with the Patriots and those with the Navy being assigned at the Naval Preparatory School in Newport, RI.

Since then, the Navy has allowed Cardona to pursue his football career full-time and transferred him to the Naval Reserve, where he can fulfill his service obligation during the offseason.

NFL Consistency Takes Another Hit with Flowers Non-Discipline:
Surprising? Not at all, but once again when it comes to discipline of players, the NFL has decided not to pursue the discipline of a player when it seemed like it was a clear case of assault. And once again the player in question was a member of the New York Giants. Things that make you go hmmm.

The Giants will dodge another bullet given that the NFL’s has decided not to discipline tackle Ereck Flowers for shoving ESPN reporter Jordan Ranaan. Why do you ask? Good question.

The league’s own Personal Conduct Policy states: “Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity [emphasis mine] of and public confidence in’ the NFL. . . . Conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL.

“We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character; we must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL.”

Wait. So, the dreaded integrity of the game has been violated? Don’t make me laugh. The crew at 345 Park Avenue don’t care about the integrity of the game until it suits them. This is the same bunch of folks that fined Travis Kelce $24,309 for throwing a towel in the direction of a referee while complaining about a penalty flag. But somehow Flowers shoving a reporter gets nothing? Showing favoritism of a team reeks of anti-integrity but it is totally lost there. Uglier by the day the National Integrity League is becoming…no?

Patriots Lose DL Anthony Johnson to the Jets, Workout Jarvis Jenkins:
In a bit of tit-for-tat, the New York Jets signed DL Anthony Johnson off the Patriots practice squad this week, only to have New England bring in DL Jarvis Jenkins in for a workout right after the Jets released him to make room for Johnson.

Johnson had a very strong spring and summer, and in limited reps, produced enough to make the initial 53-man roster. He couldn’t stick however and the Patriots cut him after the Buffalo game in Week 4 and signed him back to the practice squad.

Jenkins was a 2nd round draft pick out of Clemson in 2011 by the Redskins. The defensive end signed a two-year deal with the New York Jets this offseason, but the team released him earlier this week. He only started once for New York and recorded nine tackles in 2016.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 8-5 putting me at 74-56-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Baltimore from TNF (picked last Sunday) Houston, Denver, NYJ, Atlanta, Carolina, TB, Washington, GB, SD, AZ, Pittsburgh, NE and the NYG on Monday Night Football. Early pick for Thursday Night Football, (Carolina over NO).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills at the Bye Face a Myriad of Questions for 2017:
The Buffalo Bills are on a bye week this Sunday and sit at a disappointing 4-5 after dropping three in a row. Confidence was high after a four-game winning streak, but losses to Baltimore and Seattle sandwiched around a blowout loss to the Patriots leaves them reeling.

The team will have a lot of questions for 2017 and it begins with their coach Rex Ryan.  Do the Bills keep the “winner of the offseason” or move in another direction? They still have a chance at the post-season but should they fail, Ryan may face the ax.

But even more importantly, 29 of their 53 players on the roster are free agents in 2017. Included in the 29 players currently in the last year of their deals are cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebackers IK Enemkpali, Zach Brown, Brandon Spikes and Lorenzo Alexander, running back Mike Gillislee, wide receivers Justin Hunter, Marquise Goodwin, and Robert Woods, as well as starting right tackle Jordan Mills.

With the uncertainty of the head coach at this point, that will make their job of keeping their free agents even more difficult.

Dolphins Playing San Diego, But Need Help Stopping the Run:
The Miami Dolphins completed a solid 3-1 homestand but now go back on the road where they are 0-3 to face the San Diego Chargers. The good news is that the Dolphins have a running identity with Jay Ajayi but the bad news is they face arguably the hottest back in the NFL in Melvin Gordon.

The Dolphins are currently 30th in the NFL against the run allowing an average of 122.1 yards per game and 4.6 yards per rush. After revamping the linebacking core this summer, the Fins are better against the pass but their linebackers banged up right now haven’t been good against the run.

Some help will arrive this week, with the return of DL Earl Mitchell who is a big run stuffer inside. Miami’s front line hasn’t been consistent against the run either and has to step up their game this week against a very potent offense.

Jets Should See What Petty Can Do and Play Accordingly:
In an unsurprising but still fruitless decision, the Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles is still holding out slim hope for the 3-6 New York Jets to make the playoffs. So, the call on whether to play Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB will be a game-time decision. Bowles can either stick with Fitz or go with Bryce Petty to see what he can do with some valuable reps.

At this point, the Jets would have to run the table and win their final seven games to finish 10-6 and have a good shot of earning a playoff spot. Even a 6-1 finish would only bring them to 9-7 and that isn’t a guarantee that earns a playoff spot as remote as that kind of record seems right now.

The Jets would be best served with seeing what Petty can do now, it is doubtful that Fitzpatrick will be brought back next year so, why not see what you have in Petty and allow him to get some valuable experience. The worst possible scenario for Gang Green isn’t going 6-10, but around 8-8 or 7-9 which will sufficiently skewer their draft position for 2017.

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

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Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of Seattle

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2016 at 7:43 am ET

Seahawks Need Wilson and Graham to Be Healthy

The Patriots return home this week for a primetime matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. This week’s game rekindles the 2014 Super Bowl rivals as they enter the second half of the season. It also could be a preview of a possible February matchup between two of the more talented NFL teams.

The Patriots (7-1), are just getting off their bye week. It came smack in the middle of the season and finds the Patriots on a four-game winning streak and in good shape health wise. The have a three-game lead in the division over Miami, four games on the Bills in the loss column and five on the Jets.

The Seahawks (5-2-1) defeated the Bills on Monday Night Football 31-25. The biggest issue with Seattle has been inconsistency and much of that has to do with their health. Seattle has been banged up physically on both sides of the ball. The defense hasn’t been as stout and the offense has struggled to run the ball.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Seahawks:

No Beast Mode in the Running Game: The Seahawks running game has been mired in neutral for much of this season. Seattle is averaging only 82.1 yards per game entering their MNF game with Buffalo, and added just 33 yards on 12 attempts.

Christine Michael was ineffective against the Bills and had just one yard on five carries. He was replaced in the third quarter by rookie running back C.J. Prosise. The big, (6’1, 220-pound) rookie may see some extended looks this week as they search for a spark in the running game. But the two backs combined for just 10 yards on eight carries. They’ll need more from these two moving forward.

They miss RB Thomas Rawls who has been injured and isn’t expected back until November 20. Of course, the most dangerous runner may end up being the elusive and talented Wilson. When he’s healthy he can make plays with his feet and pressure the defense.

Wilson and Graham are a Potent Duo: The Seahawks got a healthy Jimmy Graham back this season and he’s heating up. Monday night against the Bills, Graham caught 8 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. That is his third 100-yard game of the season, which is two more than he had in 2014 and 2015 combined. Both of his scores were of the incredible variety, one-handed grabs (17 and 18 yards), in the end zone. He’ll provide a very tough matchup for the Patriots defense.

Wilson is probably healthier than he’s been all season and on Monday night, it showed. Coach Pete Carroll stated earlier that with Wilson rounding back into the form that they’d allow Wilson to open things up more offensively.

He was the key in the 28-point first half, running for a three-yard score, his first of the year and completing 14 of 17 passes for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Graham. His passer rating for the first half was a near perfect 158.0. He finished with good numbers, 20-26 for 282 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 137. The Patriots are aware of how difficult he is to defend when he’s able to move around and break containment. That will be a primary focus this week.

Seattle’s Defensive Dominance Continues: Granted the Seahawks defense is a bit banged up right now with the absence of Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor, but this unit has been the gold standard for the past several years.

Since 2012, Seattle is head and shoulders above everyone else in the most important defensive metric….points allowed. The Hawks defense has allowed just 15.6 points per game and is far ahead of their closest competitor, the Patriots at 19.8. The NFL average is 22.9 points per game.

They’re fantastic at generating turnovers and since 2012 are second in the league with a +51 in the turnover ratio department. The Patriots are the top team with a +56 margin. The next closest team? The Cardinals at +27.

Seattle has been the top team the past several years in pass yards allowed and have the second highest QB pressure percentage. And they do so without having to blitz much. The Seahawks blitz on just 25 percent of opponents drop backs, but when they do, they’re very effective. Seattle gets pressure on 38.7 percent of their blitzes, tops in the NFL.

Seattle Getting Healthier for Second Half Push: The Seahawks have been a banged-up unit this season. We mentioned above how Wilson is just starting to round into form after suffering from a couple of different injuries. But he isn’t the only one who is getting healthy.

Chancellor, the Seahawks starting safety and emotional fireplug has missed four games with a groin injury but is expected back this week against the Pats. There’s no doubt that they missed his veteran presence as well as his physicality in the secondary.

Rawls is expected back in the Hawks November 20 game against the Eagles and Bennett and tight end Luke Wilson are expected to return to practice this week. Their availability for the Pats is still up in the air, however.

Tyler Lockett who got hurt in the Rams game back in Week 2, seems fully healthy for the first time since. He was a big factor against Buffalo, notching a 13-yard end around, a 43-yard kickoff, a 22-yard punt return, and a 17-yard reception.

Sherman Front and Center for Two Critical Plays: Not surprisingly, whenever the Seahawks play, CB Richard Sherman always plays a critical role for the Seahawks. He has against the Patriots in the past and no doubt will again this week. Last night at home against the Bills, he was involved in two plays that drew the ire of many people during the action.

During the Bills’ final play on offense, Sherman flattened Bills receiver Walt Powell in the end zone. Deadspin tweeted a picture of it out and ask “Wonder why this guy wasn’t open?” But looking at the play again on the tape, once QB Tyrod Taylor scrambles out of the pocket, that play was legal, so long as the ball wasn’t in the air. Sherman did the smart move and didn’t allow the receiver to get open.

He took a page out of Tom Brady’s book and quickly tweeted to Deadspin to “check the rule book.” And he was right.

He was also in the center of a bizarre sequence at the end of the first half. The Bills lined up for a field goal. Sherman, attempting to block it, rushed offside. He dove at the ball and took out Bills kicker Dan Carpenter as he skidded down on the field.

In retrospect, he should have been flagged twice, for the offside and the roughing the kicker penalty which would have set the Bills up for a very makeable kick at the end of the half. The officials compounded the problem with a serious screw up of not resetting the game clock after a spike which cost Buffalo five yards. Rex Ryan was justifiably furious after the game. One thing is for certain, Seattle is always the home of some crazy plays either at the end of halves or the game.

Sherman defended his actions after the game, stating, “I went straight for the ball. I didn’t go for the kicker. I slid for the ball,” Sherman said. “He should not have kicked it. Maybe he wanted to. I went for the ball. That’s where I went. So, if the ball gets tipped on the play, the rule is if it’s tipped there’s no flag.”

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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

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

New England Patriots News 11-6, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 6, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-6, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Mid-Season Awards:
We already did our report cards this week by positions but who gets the individual awards at the halfway point of the season? Who were the guys who stood out both positively and negatively?

Offensive MVP: LeGarrette Blount
I was definitely leaning towards Brady who has been absolutely lighting it up since his return [more to that below], but the much-maligned big man really stepped up this year, and when they needed him the most, during Brady’s suspension.

Blount has 609 rushing yards and an already career-high nine touchdowns. Raise your hand if you saw this coming…. That’s the good news. The better news is with Brady back, and the passing game coming around, there’s no reason to believe Blount won’t be any less effective once the weather turns ugly around here.

Honorable Mention: Martellus Bennett. With Rob Gronkowski out and then limited the first four games, Bennett more than stepped up and played fantastically.

Defensive MVP: Dont’a Hightower
Much is expected with the Patriots captain; he was given the spot in the locker room where players like Willie McGinest and Jerod Mayo reigned over the goings on among the players. It isn’t given lightly. And Hightower has delivered.

He’s logged 33 tackles…and when he hits people they’re tackled, 1.5 sacks and two safeties. His tackle of Andy Dalton for two points was the turning point of the game.

Top Rookie: Joe Thuney
No brainer here. Thuney has shined from Day 1 and has not only been an immediate starter but has thrived on the left side. He and Nate Solder have played very well together, and not surprisingly, those are the guys they look to run behind when closing out games.

Thuney has shown that he may be a fixture at the left guard position for years to come as this under-the-radar draft pick was a steal for the Patriots.

Biggest Surprise: Marcus Cannon
At the start of the season, there were very few people happy with the fact that Cannon was the starting right tackle in place of Sebastian Vollmer [PUP]. Well with improved health and much better technique [thanks to Dante Scarnecchia], Cannon has been very solid thru the first half, especially in the running game.

His pass protection has been improving in recent weeks as well, which Scarnecchia says has a lot to do with much better technique at using his arms and keeping opponents away from him. Happy to have been wrong on this one.

Biggest Disappointment: Cyrus Jones
The easier choice would have been to go with Collins since the Patriots felt their defense was better without the All-Pro and shipped him off to Cleveland for a song. But like the Cannon situation, this is one that no one saw coming, except in not a good way.

Jones was a highly regarded cornerback from a big school [Alabama] that plays in high-pressure situations. We thought he’d be pushing for starting reps by now. Instead, he’s been a healthy scratch for three games. And when he has been on the field, he’s been picked on by the opposition. A dynamic punt returner in college, this was a role that he was supposed to step into on Day 1. He’s shown a problem hanging onto the ball and has been replaced by Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

Best Offseason Addition: tie Martellus Bennett/Chris Hogan
Again I feel like I’m would not be giving Bennett his due here if he isn’t the choice. Second on the team with 31 receptions for 402 yards and four touchdowns, he put the work in with Brady this offseason and he’s earned his way into that circle of trust that Brady demands to have with his receivers. And Bennett’s blocking has been superb in the both the running game and in pass protection.

But what about Hogan? Little fanfare was present when he signed [except here], after all, he was a guy that couldn’t break through with the Bills offense. Well, the guy nicknamed 7-11 because he’s always open has made the most of his opportunities. He has 19 catches for 391 yards [20.6 average], including 4 of 35 yards or more. Is he a #1 WR? No. But he doesn’t have to be in this offense. Bet Buffalo regrets letting him walk?

Top Offensive Play: Brady 53-Yard Touchdown Against Buffalo
Facing a third and 13 from the Patriots 47-yard line, Brady threw a perfect rainbow to Hogan who streaked past Stephon Gillmore down the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown strike.

Not only was it a big touchdown in terms of the game, putting the Pats up 14-3, but for Hogan who was let to walk away this year by the Bills and Rex Ryan. We see Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo practice this play every day during training camp at the end of each session. They try to drop a deep pass into a trash can. Brady’s pass went dead center to Hogan in stride.

Top Defensive Play: Hightower’s safety of Dalton in the Cincinnati game
Hightower’s safety was the turning point of the game against the Bengals. Dalton had been having his way with the Patriots defense. But a penalty set them back and then on the next snap Hightower launched thru the line on a blitz and was able to wrestle Dalton to the turf for a safety.

Soon after the Patriots would take the lead and never look back. These are the type of impact plays that the team looks for from the leader of their defense.

Jamie Collins Trade Shows Why Belichick Isn’t Afraid to Make Tough Choices:
The trade of the talented Collins has been hashed about all week on social media as well as sports talk radio and we’re not going to rehash it again here.

But the thing that people should keep in mind is this; Belichick has made these difficult decisions before and he’s not worried about what the media believes, how the fans will react and could care less what the rest of the league thinks.

His only focus is doing what is best for the football team. Mike Lombardi who worked in the front office with Belichick until this summer had this to say on Fox Sports about his call to trade Collins.

And Jamie, for all the rhetoric that has gone around, when you really study what was going on, on the field, they were not producing.”

Does it mean that Belichick is infallible? No. One can easily question this decision and will. If the Pats fail this post season, this decision will surely pop up as a sticking point. But Belichick has the track record where he should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. And he isn’t afraid to make those decisions.

Tom Brady Player of the Month for October:
Since coming back from his suspension, Tom Brady has been lighting up the NFL like he’s playing the Madden video game. He’s always been sharp in the month of October and has more wins (49) than any QB in the history of the NFL, but this month was even more special.

He’s completed 98 of 134 passes, 73.1 percent for 1319 yards, 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. His passer rating is 133.9 and leads the league along with his completion percentage, as well as yards per attempt, 9.84 which would all be career highs.

In winning the Offensive Player of the Month, Brady now owns that record as this award was his ninth. He passed Peyton Manning (8) to take over sole possession. Rust? Not so much. Speaking of Brady…

Reggie Wayne Says Brady’s “Cheating” Should Disqualify Him for MVP:
Nope, this isn’t a typo.  For some of the Colts, or even former Colts, Brady’s four-game suspension wasn’t enough for the beating he put on them in the AFC Championship Game two years ago, they still want their pound of flesh.

Reggie Wayne, the former Colt, and Patriot (for a cup of coffee), WR believes that Brady’s Deflategate punishment should extend over this season as well.

“There is no way Tom Brady can win MVP because he was caught cheating this year,” Wayne said on the NFL Channel’s, All Access show.

News Flash Reg… the kangaroo court of Goodell never proved there was ever any cheating going on, however, he was indeed suspended for actions that happened two years ago. Not last year, and certainly not this year.  Wayne’s last game happened to be the AFCCG in which the Deflategate issue reared its ugly head. Hmm.

Wayne signed with the Pats and asked for his release a short while later stressing that the Pats worked too hard and it was “not fun”. There’s the reason for their success … But Wayne after being lambasted by Patriots fans this week, took to Twitter to rebut the “too hard, not fun” story, 14 months later.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 6-6-1 putting me at 66-51-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Atlanta from TNF (picked last Sunday) Minn, NYG, NYJ, KC, Dallas, Pittsburgh, NO, Carolina, GB, SD, Denver, and Seattle on Monday Night Football

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, (Baltimore over Cleveland).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Hopeful McCoy can Play on MNF, Gillmore Lashes Out at Fans:
The Buffalo Bills face the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football and hope to have their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy back on the field. Rex Ryan sounded very optimistic that he’ll play.

“I feel like he’s really close,” Ryan said. “Hopefully … I’m thinking he’s going.”

Cornerback Stephon Gillmore has been taking a ton of flak from fans and media members on social media for his poor play this week, especially for the 53-yard touchdown pass where Chris Hogan blew by him for an easy score. On the play, Gillmore began berating a teammate before Hogan even reached the end zone. Well, Gillmore didn’t mince words when asked about it.

“I’ve had it worse,” Gilmore said. “Playing corner, everybody wants to play from the stands and from the internet and don’t know nothing about football.”

Dolphins Going with “Safety By Committee” after losing Jones:
Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph admits the Miami defense hasn’t played well enough yet this season but has hope that the unit is turning things around. One of the reasons for the struggles… the loss of Reshad Jones.

So, the Dolphins will be using Isa Abdul-Quddus, Michael Thomas, and Bacarri Rambo in different places and situations to try to duplicate the production of the talented Jones. Miami is also happy keeping Mario Williams’ workload down to a minimum because, at his age, he’s much more effective when playing fewer snaps.

“So I think Mario understands now that playing 30 plays at 100 percent he helps us win versus 55 plays at 50 percent,” Joseph said. “So Mario playing less but playing harder helps us win. Sometimes you can’t play that hard for 50 plays at a certain stage of your career.”

Jets Want to Run the Ball at the Dolphins:
In an important matchup for both teams, the Jets are facing the Dolphins today and want to run the ball against the Fins 30th ranked run defense.

“It helps us to run the football,’’ Jets head coach Todd Bowles told the media on Friday. “We don’t want to be one-dimensional. If you can run the football and throw when you want to, that opens up a lot of things, so the last two games, we’ve been able to get that going. So that helps all around.’’

Not surprisingly, with Matt Forte carrying a heavy load the past two games, 55 carries for 182 yards, the Jets were victorious in both, beating both Baltimore and Cleveland. Now they want to do the same when they face Miami.

But the problem for Gang Green is the health of their offensive line. Center Nick Mangold will miss this one with a bad ankle and both Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini are questionable with shoulder injuries.

Despite the banged up OL, look for Forte and Bilal Powell to have good games running the ball today.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bills turn in a dumb, dreary, depressing performance

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

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

The Pats’ superiority was evident almost from the start.

 

With Brady, gap between Bills and Patriots only gets wider

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Buffalo Bills are stuck in neutral.

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

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

 

Same old Bills, dumb and defeated by the Pats

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

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

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

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

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

 

Report Card: Brady Scores in Bunches and Lights Up Bills

Overall Grade: D

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

 

The gap between Bills-Patriots is wide as ever

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Flagging Bills for not giving Gronk his just due

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

The call? Sour grapes.

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