Tag Archives: Tampa Bay Bucs

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Signed, Increases Depth at TE

Steve Balestrieri
April 11, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots on Wednesday signed veteran tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to a very team-friendly one-year contract that increases their depth at the tight end position. The news was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN.

Jenkins has very good size at 6’6, 262 and is only 26 years old. However, he’s had trouble staying on the field. In 2018, he played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and played in only five games before a pair of hernias ended his season early. In 2017, he caught 50 passes with the Jets. A

The deal with the Patriots is a very low risk and a possible very high return. Seferian-Jenkins signed for the veteran minimum andincludes a $50,000 signing bonus, with an additional $40,000 in future bonuses.

Seferian-Jenkins was considered an athletic freak when he entered the NFL but has been unable to stay healthy. But with a minimum contract and little in bonus money, he is betting on himself to have a good year working with Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels and can cash in next season at the age of 27.

While he doesn’t possess the kind of speed to threaten the seams like Rob Gronkowski, he can (when healthy) find open spots on the field and find a way to get open. He’s not a replacement for Gronk, that just isn’t fair to Seferian-Jenkins to even suggest it. Nobody is. He can, however, become a productive member of the Patriots passing game.

Something to keep in mind when talking about Jenkins is that he hasn’t exactly played with an elite quarterback. Take a look at the QBs he’s caught passes from… Blake Bortles, Josh McCown, and Jameis Winston. There is no reason to not believe that he should be much more productive working with Tom Brady.

But is he going to be the Patriots #1 tight end? No, but the Patriots just picked up a possibly very productive #2 with several other players vying for the #3 spot on the roster. The #1 tight end for the team is still to come via the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.

He just increased the depth at the position and will be given every chance to carve out a very big role in this offense. The risk/reward pendulum, due to his contract is tilted firmly in the Patriots side.

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

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NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

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

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

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

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

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

 

National Broadcasts

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Early CBS Games

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Early Games on Fox

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Late Games

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

NFL Week 12 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 26, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

More than half of the remaining NFL Week 12 games have odds of seven or more points. On paper there are few competitive games, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Last week the Chiefs were double-digit favorites but lost to a one-win Giants club in disarray. Washington was an injury riddled 7½ point road dog up against a hot team on a seven game winning streak. The 4-5 Skins were up by 15 with less than two minutes to play and nearly upset the Saints before losing in overtime in one of the season’s most exciting games. On the other hand there are the Patriots, who have not lost since October 1st – and have covered the spread four weeks in a row.

Should the Patriots-Dolphins game turn into a blowout, there may be some competitive games in the early time slot. Buffalo is at KC in a battle between two fading teams. Tampa Bay at Atlanta could be interesting should the Falcons have a letdown after winning at Seattle. In the late time slot the Saints at Rams should be a great game. The night games are nothing special. Green Bay at Pittsburgh would have been a good game if Aaron Rodgers was the QB rather than Brett Hundley. Monday night it is Houston at Baltimore. The only reason to watch that is to witness a potential John Harbaugh meltdown and another Baltimore loss.

Unfortunately New England fans are once again saddled with Ian Eagle and the incompetent Dan Fouts as the broadcast crew for Sunday’s game. It boggles my mind that somebody at CBS considers this pair to be their second best set of announcers. How can anyone possibly consider those two to be better than Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, or Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon?

For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

Early Games on CBS

4-6 Miami Dolphins at 8-2 New England Patriots
Patriots favored by 16½; over/under 47½ points; money line -1900, +1000

The Patriots have often struggled against quarterbacks that they have little film to review for tendencies and weaknesses. Does that mean that Matt Moore will lead the Dolphins to an upset? Of course not. The offense is clicking despite several injuries, and the defense has made a 180 turn from the first month of the season.

Pick: Patriots 38, Dolphins 17
New England +16½, over 47½

 

0-10 Cleveland Browns at 4-6 Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals favored by 8; over/under 38 points; money line -410, +340

DeShone Kizer has thrown 14 interceptions, most in the NFL. Cleveland’s defense has been decent, but having to overcome all those turnovers is too much to ask for.

Pick: Bengals 24, Browns 13
Cincinnati -8, under 38

 

5-5 Buffalo Bills at 6-4 Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -500, +400

Buffalo HC Sean McDermott may be in over his head. With a 5-4 record and the Bills holding onto a wild card spot, he inexplicably benched QB Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is not an elite quarterback by any means, but the replacement was a 5th round rookie going on the road to make his first NFL start. Nathan Peterman proceeded to throw an interception on four of the first five drives, and was mercifully yanked after his fifth pick. McDermott’s reasoning was that he wanted to see what Peterman had and how he could do. Isn’t that what a blowout game in the fourth quarter is for? Or preseason? Or games in December after you have been eliminated from the playoffs, as opposed to a midseason game when you have a winning record?

Pick: Chiefs 31, Bills 20
Kansas City -10, over 46½

 

Early Games on Fox

3-7 Chicago Bears at 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles favored by 14; over/under 44½ points; money line -1100, +700

Philly has won eight in a row and is coming off a huge win over division rival Dallas. The Eagles will be on the road for the next three games, playing the Rams, Seahawks and Giants. The Bears have already taken advantage of superior opponents in trap games twice, defeating the Steelers and Panthers. While an upset would be shocking, A close game would not be a surprise.

Pick: Eagles 24, Bears 20
Chicago +14, under 44½

 

4-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6-4 Atlanta Falcons
Falcons favored by 9½; over/under 48½ points; money line -475, +375

In their victory last week at Miami the Bucs allowed three pass plays of over 40 yards. That kind of pass defense is going to be in a world of hurt against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta offense.

Pick: Falcons 30, Bucs 21
Tampa Bay +9½, over 48½

 

7-3 Carolina Panthers at 4-6 New York Jets
Panthers favored by 5½; over/under 40 points; money line -250, +210

Will Carolina be well rested or rusty coming off the bye? If the Panthers are looking ahead to next week’s game at New Orleans, the fundamentally sound Jet defense could cause enough problems to pull off an upset.

Pick: Panthers 20, Jets 17
New York Jets +5½, under 40

 

6-4 Tennessee Titans at 3-7 Indianapolis Colts
Titans favored by 3; over/under 45½ points; money line -165, +145

The Titans bounce back from last Thursday’s loss to Pittsburgh by feasting on an inferior opponent.

Pick: Titans 24, Colts 17
Tennessee -3, under 45½

 

Late Afternoon Games

6-4 Seattle Seahawks at 1-9 San Francisco 49ers
4:05 ET on Fox
Seahawks favored by 6½; over/under 45½ points; money line -300, +250

The 49ers may be able to keep it close thanks to all the injuries on Seattle’s defense. The Niners just don’t have enough talent to beat the Seahawks though.

Pick: Seahawks 27, Niners 20
Seattle -6½, over 45½

 

8-2 New Orleans Saints at 7-3 Los Angeles Rams
4:25 ET on CBS
Rams favored by 2½; over/under 53½ points; money line -145, +125

By far the best game of the week. The Rams have beaten only one good team all season (Jacksonville), and were a bit disappointing in last week’s loss at Minnesota. I’m expecting them to bounce back at home against New Orleans. The Saints defense has been opportunistic (ten interceptions, 13 takeaways) but could be overpowered here. New Orleans gave up 31 points at home to the injury riddled Redskins last week, and haven’t faced an offense this good since their week two loss to the Patriots.

Pick: Rams 31, Saints 27
LA Rams -2½, over 53½

 

7-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-6 Arizona Cardinals
4:25 ET on CBS
Jaguars favored by 5½; over/under 38 points; money line -240, +200

The Jaguar defense is allowing just 14.1 points per game, by far the lowest in the NFL. Jacksonville should be able to feast on Blaine Gabbert and an anemic Arizona offense that has scored more than 21 points just twice all year.

Pick: Jaguars 20, Cardinals 13
Jacksonville -5½, under 38

 

3-7 Denver Broncos at 4-6 Oakland Raiders
4:25 ET on CBS
Raiders favored by 5; over/under 43 points; money line -240, +200

Remember when the experts declared the AFC West to be the best division in the NFL before the 2017 season began? Not much of that talk now, thanks to these two disappointing teams that failed to live up to the hype. Denver has lost six in a row, their worst losing streak since 1990. They could actually benefit from Tim Tebow at this point.

Pick: Raiders 24, Broncos 21
Denver +5, over 43

 

Prime Time Games

5-5 Green Bay Packers at 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday night at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Steelers favored by 14; over/under 43½ points; money line -1000, +600

Last week Pittsburgh was able to stop Tennessee’s running game, force the Titans into predictable pass plays, and take advantage of poor down-and distance situations. That resulted in four Marcus Mariotta interceptions and a 40-17 victory. The same formula worked for Baltimore last week in their 23-0 rout over the Packers as Green Bay turned the ball over five times. No reason to believe this game won’t be more of the same.

Pick: Steelers 31, Packers 10
Pittsburgh -14, under 43½

 

4-6 Houston Texans at 5-5 Baltimore Ravens
Monday night at 8:30 pm ET on espn
Ravens favored by 7; over/under 38 points; money line -320, +260

Tom Savage has ten turnovers (3 picks, 7 fumbles) in just 125 pass attempts. He has been sacked 13 times and is averaging a league-worst 4.54 yards per dropback. This all plays right into the strength of Baltimore’s defense, to force turnovers (an NFL-best 23).

Pick: Ravens 24, Texans 13
Ravens -7, under 37

 

NFL Week 11 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 19, 2017 at 11:00 am ET

The Patriots versus Raiders in Mexico City highlights a decent slate of pro football games in Week 11. Four games in particular stand out, conveniently with one in each time slot.

The day kicks off with a matchup of division leaders, a rarity in the early time slot. The 7-2 Rams have won four straight and bring their top ranked offense (32.9 ppg) to Minnesota. The 7-2 Vikings have won five in a row and are allowing just 18.3 points per game. Minnesota is listed as a 2½ point favorite.

The Patriots and Raiders renew their decades long rivalry in the late afternoon time slot. New England puts a five game winning streak on the line in their second consecutive game on the road at high altitude. The Patriots need a win to keep pace with Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC, and to maintain their two game lead in the AFC East. 4-5 Oakland has been inconsistent this year but still possess plenty of talent on offense. The Raiders need a victory to keep hopes of winning the AFC West alive.

Sunday night has a good game with Philadelphia at Dallas. The Eagles own the NFL’s best record at 8-1, and have a league-high seven game winning streak. The 5-4 Cowboys need a win to stay in contention for a wild card spot, as nine other NFC teams have at least five wins. With all that has been happening off the field for Jerry Jones, a victory would be sweet. The Jerrah now knows first hand with what it is like to be on the wrong side of Roger Goodell’s erratic system of lies punishment.

Week 11 wraps up with a good game on Monday Night. 5-4 Atlanta travels to Seattle to play the 6-3 Seahawks. The defending NFC champs are in third place, two games behind New Orleans. The Falcons need a win here to not only stay close in the NFC South, but to just keep up as a wild card contender. Seattle is only one game behind the Rams in the NFC West but they have bigger issues. The Seahawks will be without Pro Bowl CB Richard Sherman (ruptured Achilles’ tendon) and Pro Bowl SS Kam Chancellor (neck stinger).

For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

Early Games on Fox

5-4 Detroit Lions at 3-6 Chicago Bears
Lions favored by 3; over/under 41 points; money line -150, +130

The Bears continue to find a way to lose close games. Mitch Trubisky has a bright future but right now he’s going through the growing pains of being a rookie quarterback on a bad football team.

Pick: Lions 21, Bears 17
Detroit -3, under 41

 

3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4-5 Miami Dolphins
Pick’em; over/under 41½ points; money line -110, -110

How much of a distraction will the Uber allegations against Jameis Winston be for the Bucs? This game comes down to which CB gets burnt more badly, Miami’s Xavien Howard or Tampa’s nickel duo of Javien Elliott and Robert McClain.

Pick: Buccaneers 20, Dolphins 17
Tampa Bay -0, under 41½

 

7-2 Los Angeles Rams at 7-2 Minnesota Vikings
Vikings favored by 2½; over/under 45½ points; money line -135, +115

Most of the talk has been about Jared Goff and the #1 LA offense against a tough Viking defense. The Rams are well balanced, with Aaron Donald leading the way in Wade Phillips’ defense. LA is allowing just 18.0 points per game and has forced 19 turnovers. Keep an eye on Viking WR Adam Thielen. The D-2 receiver has five games with at least 90 yards receiving, and at least five receptions in all nine games.

Pick: Rams 24, Vikings 20
Los Angeles +2½, under 45½

 

4-5 Washington Redskins at 7-2 New Orleans Saints
Saints favored by 7½; over/under 51½ points; money line -380, +310

The Saints are playing well in all three phases of the game. The offense is far more productive with more emphasis on the running game, keeping opposing defenses off balance. Net result is a 7-game winning streak, tied with Philadelphia for the longest in the NFL this season. Make that eight straight over the injury depleted Skins.

Pick: Saints 31, Redskins 21
New Orleans -7½, over 51½

 

4-5 Arizona Cardinals at 3-6 Houston Texans
Texans favored by 1½; over/under 37½ points; money line -125, +105

You want to know why ratings are down? Games where the starting quarterbacks are Tom Savage and Drew Stanton may have something to do with that.

Pick: Cardinals 19, Texans 16
Arizona +1½, under 37½

 

Early Games on CBS

6-3 Kansas City Chiefs at 1-8 New York Giants
Chiefs favored by 10; over/under 46 points; money line -500, +400

Remember when preseason prognosticators were predicting that the Giants would win the division and contend for the Super Bowl? Now Big Blue is a double-digit underdog at home and instead in contention for the number one pick in the 2018 draft.

Pick: Chiefs 34, Giants 10
Kansas City -10, under 46

 

4-5 Baltimore Ravens at 5-4 Green Bay Packers
Ravens favored by 2; over/under 38 points; money line -130, +110

Brett Hundley looked awful in his first two games, but was improved last week. Packer RB Jamaal will need a productive day to counter Baltimore’s blitz-heavy defense on a cold (33) and windy (12-25) day.

Pick: Packers 20, Ravens 17
Green Bay +2, under 38

 

6-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 0-9 Cleveland Browns
Jaguars favored by 7½; over/under 37 points; money line -380, +310

Jacksonville may be without their top four receivers, so it will be imperative that the Jags get their running game in gear. Jacksonville’s offensive line has performed well this year, with the Jaguars averaging an NFL best 163 yards rushing per game. Cleveland’s run defense has been their lone bright spot. The Browns are allowing an NFL-low 3.1 yards per carry and just 86 yards rushing per game.

Pick: Browns 20, Jaguars 16
Cleveland +7½, under 37

 

Late Afternoon Games

5-4 Buffalo Bills at 3-6 Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 ET on Fox
Chargers favored by 5½; over/under 41½ points; money line -250, +210

Nathan Peterman gets the start at quarterback over benched Tyrod Taylor. Expecting a rookie QB to win on the road in his first NFL start is a tall order, even though the Chargers have virtually no home field advantage.

Pick: Chargers 27, Bills 16
Los Angeles -5½, over 41½

 

3-6 Cincinnati Bengals at 3-6 Denver Broncos, 4:25 ET on CBS
Broncos favored by 2½; over/under 38½ points; money line -145, +125

Denver has lost five straight and Bronco fans are pointing their fingers at everybody, including John Elway. If the Bengal secondary could not cover Tennessee receivers last week, what will they do at Mile High against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders?

Pick: Broncos 23, Bengals 20
Denver -2½, over 38½

 

7-2 New England Patriots vs 4-5 Oakland Raiders
4:25 pm ET on CBS, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City
Patriots favored by 7; over/under 54½ points; money line -320, +270

Jack Tatum. Daryl Stingley. Russ Francis. George Atkinson. Phil Villapiano. Ray Hamilton. Ben Dreith. Stop whining about the Tuck Rule, Raider fans. You scored six points on your final ten possessions of that game, and failed to stop the Patriots on three of their last four possessions.Pats improve to 19-15-1 all time in this series.

Pick: Patriots 31, Raiders 17
New England -7, under 54½

 

Prime Time Games

8-1 Philadelphia Eagles at 5-4 Dallas Cowboys
Sunday night at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Eagles favored by 5½; over/under 48 points; money line -240, +200

Carson Wentz has thrown 17 touchdown passes against three interceptions in the last five games. Dallas has not been able to contain good quarterbacks and high scoring offenses this year. The Cowboys gave up 35 points in home losses to the Packers and Rams, and 27 points at Atlanta last week.

Pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 20
Philadelphia -5½, over 48

 

5-4 Atlanta Falcons at 6-3 Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks favored by 3; over/under 45 points; money line -150, +130
Monday night at 8:30 pm ET on espn

The Seahawks are in a difficult situation, playing without CB Richard Sherman and SS Kam Chancellor. Seattle does benefit with the return of FS Earl Thomas, and Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) is out. This could easily go either way; it’s tough to pick against Seattle at home. Former Patriot Justin Coleman gets the start at corner in place of Sherman.

Pick: Seahawks 24, Falcons 20
Seattle -3, under 45

 

Bye Week:
7-3 Carolina Panthers
3-7 Indianapolis Colts
4-6 New York Jets
1-9 San Francisco 49ers

 

For a sneak peak at next week’s games, check out NFL Week 12 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead Lines: Pats favored by 14.5 vs Miami.

 

NFL Week 10 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 12, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

NFL Week 10 has plenty of interesting story lines. On Sunday night the Patriots travel to their house of horrors, Denver’s Mile High Stadium. The Pats are 2-6 since 2005 in Colorado, and 4-18 in the Rockies since 1969. Despite that alarming trend the Patriots are 7½ point favorites as of Saturday night.

Since their week five bye the Broncos have been in a free fall with no end in sight. First there was a 13-point loss to the Giants, giving Big Blue their only win of 2017. That was followed by a shutout loss to the Chargers, then a five-turnover debacle against KC. Last week the one strong point for Denver, their defense, allowed 51 points. It was the most points allowed by the Broncos since 2010. On top of that the 28 point differential was the worst for Denver since the 2011 season of Tim Tebow.

There are plenty of other games worth watching as well. In the early time slot Minnesota is at Washington, and the Saints travel to Buffalo on a six-game winning streak. Then in the late afternoon time slot Dallas travels to Atlanta without Ezekiel Elliott. Roger Goodell wanted the NFL to have 12-month headlines, but these questionable suspensions and subsequent court cases are crushing the popularity of the sport. The week wraps up with Miami at Carolina on Monday night.

Most of the country will get Pittsburgh at Indy early on CBS. Fox has the early time slot split between the Saints-Bills in the east, and Minnesota-Washington in the west. The Pats-Broncos game is available most everywhere, though Hartford is stubbornly (and stupidly) opting to air the Giants game instead. smh…. For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

 

Early Games on Fox

6-2 Minnesota Vikings at 4-4 Washington Redskins
Vikings favored by 1½; over/under 41 points; money line -125, +105

Washington has had injuries throughout their entire offensive line this season. They get three starters (LG Shawn Lauvo, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff) back this week. That should significantly help matters, but LT is still a sore spot. Minnesota Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen already has ten sacks, and will make LT TJ Clemmings look incompetent.

Pick: Vikings 23, Redskins 17
Minnesota -1½, under 41

 

4-4 Green Bay Packers at 3-5 Chicago Bears
Bears favored by 5½; over/under 37½ points; money line -250, +210

It would be no surprise whatsoever if the Pack finishes the season in last place in the NFC North. Perhaps then they can use their early draft picks to shore up that Swiss cheese offensive line. Here’s a question: will Brett Hundley be able to make the roster on a CFL or Arena league team in 2018?

Pick: Bears 20, Packers 17
Packers +5½, under 37½

 

3-5 Cincinnati Bengals at 5-3 Tennessee Titans
Titans favored by 4½; over/under 40½ points; money line -220, +180

Cincinnati has given up 25 ppg over the last three weeks, losing two of three since their bye. Two of those games were against Jacksonville and Indianapolis, neither of which are offensive juggernauts. More alarming was the Bengals regression on offense last week, with a mere eight first downs and seven points scored.

Pick: Titans 20, Bengals 17
Cincinnati +4½, under 40½

 

6-2 New Orleans Saints at 5-3 Buffalo Bills
Saints favored by 3; over/under 47½ points; money line -145, +125

The Saints are overdue for a letdown loss, but will it come now? Here is dome team playing outside up north in the last half of the season against a team coming off an embarrassing loss. I just don’t think that the Bills can keep up with the New Orleans offense though. The Saints have a balanced attack and are playing complimentary football. That is something they have lacked since winning the Super Bowl eight years ago. Logically the Saints win, but I’m taking the Bills to bounce back in a slight upset. Buffalo wins their fifth straight home game.

Pick: Bills 24, Saints 20
Buffalo +3, under 47½

 

Early Games on CBS

6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 3-6 Indianapolis Colts
Steelers favored by 10; over/under 45 points; money line -500, +400

Pittsburgh has a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents on the road. That doesn’t mean the Colts will pull off the upset though; they are still awful. Indy has an atrocious minus-98 point differential already. To place that in perspective that is worse than even the one-win Giants, or the winless Browns and Niners.

Pick: Steelers 27, Colts 20
Indianapolis +10, over 45

 

3-5 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars favored by 4½; over/under 41 points; money line -210, +180

RB Leonard Fournette will have fresh legs after three weeks off. He faces a Charger run defense that is allowing 4.6 yards per carry (28th) and 135 yards per game (31st). The Jacksonville defense is for real, allowing an NFL-best 14.6 points per game.

Pick: Jaguars 24, Chargers 13
Jacksonville -4½, under 41

 

4-5 New York Jets at 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jets favored by 2½; over/under 43½ points; money line -140, +120

Tampa Bay’s defense has been a sore spot all season. The Buccaneer defense generates no pass rush, with a league-worst eight sacks on the season. That has resulted in 7.9 yards per pass attempt (28th) and 24.8 points per game (26th). Give journeyman QB Josh McCown enough time and he will avoid critical mistakes and do just enough to win.

Pick: Jets 24, Bucs 20
Gang Green -2½, over 43½

 

0-8 Cleveland Browns at 4-4 Detroit Lions
Lions favored by 11; over/under 43½ points; money line -625, +450

The Cleveland defense has actually played well this year. The Browns are allowing only 2.9 yards per rush (1st) and 4.9 yards per play (8th). The offense though ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every statistical category. Detroit may be inconsistent, but they have far more talent and should win easily.

Pick: Lions 31, Browns 13
Detroit -11, over 43½

 

Late Afternoon Games

3-5 Houston Texans at 6-2 Los Angeles Rams
Rams favored by 11½; over/under 45½ points; money line -675, +475

This would have been a really great game to watch. Unfortunately it’s Tom Savage at QB rather than DeShaun Watson, and JJ Watt and Whitney Houston are sidelined as well. The Rams put up 51 points last week and now have to be considered a genuine contender to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. QB Jared Goff’s numbers through eight games: 2,030 yards passing with 13 TD against only 4 INT. Goff also leads the NFL with 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 13.8 yards per completion.

Pick: Rams 27, Texans 13
Los Angeles -11½, under 45½

 

5-3 Dallas Cowboys at 4-4 Atlanta Falcons
Falcons favored by 3; over/under 48½ points; money line -150, +130

The Dallas offense has been clicking, and the Atlanta defense has been missing. The Cowboys will be without RB Ezekiel Elliott however. Perhaps more importantly all-pro LT Tyron Smith will also be inactive due to a groin injury. Atlanta needs to get their offense back in gear to keep their playoff hopes reasonably alive.

Pick: Falcons 28, Cowboys 27
Dallas +3, over 48½

 

1-7 New York Giants at 0-9 San Francisco 49ers
Giants favored by 2½; over/under 42 points; money line -145, +125

Week after week I keep picking Santa Clara to win a game. Week after week the Miners find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now they host Team Turmoil, traveling three time zones. The G-men have given up on their season and their coach is Dead Man Walking. The legend of Jimmy Garoppolo in the City by the Bay commences. Only masochists would tune in to watch a game between two teams with a combined 1-16 record.

Pick: Niners 3, Giants 2
Niners +2½, under 42

 

Prime Time Games

6-2 New England Patriots at 3-5 Denver Broncos
Patriot favored by 7½; over/under 44½ points; money line -320, +260

New England fans are rightfully going to temper their expectations based on the Patriots history in Denver. The Broncos have not looked good since their week five bye. Denver has lost four straight, turning the ball over 13 times in that span. To win they will need their defense to come through against a Patriot offense that is without WR Chris Hogan (shoulder). Danny Amendola has been playing through a knee injury, so the Pats could rely more on James White in the passing game. The Broncos can’t focus on stopping both Rob Gronkowski and the Patriot running backs at the same time. Brock Osweiler and the Denver offense will make a critical gaffe or two against Matt Patricia’s defense.

Pick: Patriots 31, Broncos 17
New England -7½, over 44½

 

4-4 Miami Dolphins at 6-3 Carolina Panthers
Panthers favored by 9; over/under 38½ points; money line -450, +350

Continuity on offensive lines is a key to productivity. Miami will make two changes to their OL this week, adding LG Ted Larsen but losing RT Ja’Wuan James. That could be problematic against a Carolina defense that is allowing only 17.7 ppg.

Pick: Panthers 24, Dolphins 17
Miami +9, over 38½

 

Bye Week:
4-5 Baltimore Ravens
6-3 Kansas City Chiefs
4-5 Oakland Raiders
8-1 Philadelphia Eagles

 

For a sneak peak at next week’s games, check out NFL Week 11 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead Lines: Patriots favored by 6 vs Raiders in Mexico City.

 

NFL Week 7 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
October 22, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

NFL Week 7 is highlighted by the most hyped and anticipated game of the 2017 season. The Atlanta Falcons travel to Foxborough for only the second time this millennium, in a rematch of the greatest Super Bowl in NFL history. The Patriots lead the all-time series 8-6 and are 5-0 in the Belichick-Brady era. New England was listed as a 3½ point favorite for most of the week, with that number dropping to three late Friday. As of Saturday night 63% of the money bet on the spread is taking the Falcons to cover, 74% of the money line is on Atlanta, and 77% is on the point total going over 56½ points.

Ironically the Pats-Falcons game will end up being no more than the second most exciting game of the week. In a departure from the usual Thursday night fare, NFL fans were treated to a wild and stunning ending to the week’s first game. If seven lead changes weren’t enough, consider the final half minute of the Raiders closing drive to beat Kansas City.

  • Completion on 4th and 11 for a first down.
  • Two incomplete passes.
  • Touchdown pass to tie the game.
  • Scoring play reviewed; call reversed, out of bounds inside the one yard line.
  • Ten second runoff; game clock down to 0:03 seconds.
  • Pass completed for touchdown.
  • Penalty, offensive pass interference; TD nullified, ten yard penalty.
  • Pass incomplete, clock at 0:00.
  • Penalty on defense; Raiders get an untimed down.
  • Pass again incomplete.
  • Another penalty on KC, another untimed play for Oakland.
  • Pass complete for touchdown to tie the game.
  • Extra point good to win the game.

As a whole the public tends to place more money on the favorite than on the underdog. Those that bet the chalk in week six lost their shirt. Favorites covered the spread in a mere three games last week, and underdogs won nine of those 14 games straight up. Both home teams favored by 13½ lost (Atlanta to Miami and Denver to the Giants). In addition Minnesota knocked out Green Bay, Pittsburgh handed Kansas City their first loss, and the Chargers (at Oakland) and Bears (at Baltimore) pulled off road upsets. The 2017 has provided plenty of inconsistency, with teams looking strong one week and bad the next.

Week 7 is full of games that are close matchups, at least on paper. While week six had what appeared to be plenty of blowouts (and we saw how that turned out), there are zero games with a spread of more than six points this week. Road teams are favored nearly as often as home team, accounting for many of those low odds. New Orleans at Green Bay and Tampa Bay at Buffalo appear to be the most watchable of the eight games in the early time slot. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh was flexed to a later kickoff to help improve the quality of the late afternoon games. Another good option as a prelude to the Pats-Falcons game is Denver at the Chargers. Atlanta at New England is of course the must-watch game on Sunday night. Monday night features Carson Wentz and Philadelphia hosting Washington. The Eagles went on the road to defeat Carolina last week, and now own the NFL’s best record at 5-1.

 

Early Games on CBS

3-3 Tennessee Titans at 0-6 Cleveland Browns
Titans favored by 6; over/under 45½; money line -250, +210

The Titans have displayed an annoying penchant for playing down to the level of their opponents. However, this is the Browns we are talking about. Even if Tennessee starts slow – as they often do – the Titans should still be able to win this game with less than 100% productivity.

Pick: Titans 24, Browns 20; Cleveland +6

 

3-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 2-4 Indianapolis Colts
Jaguars favored by 3; over/under 43½; money line -165, +145

The Colts are unable to finish games, a sign of substandard coaching. Jacksonville failed to live up to lofty expectations in 2016, but this season their defense (18.3 ppg, 312 ypg) is carrying the Jags to playoff contention.

Pick: Jaguars 27, Colts 17; Jacksonville -3.

 

3-3 Baltimore Ravens at 4-2 Minnesota Vikings
Vikings favored by 5½; over/under 38½; money line -250, +210

Don’t be fooled by Baltimore’s record. Their wins were against the Raiders without Derek Carr, the Browns, and a Bengal team still in preseason form in week one. The Ravens home loss last week to the lowly Bears was not an anomaly.

Pick: Vikings 24, Ravens 13; Minnesota -5½

 

4-2 Carolina Panthers at 2-4 Chicago Bears
Panthers favored by 3; over/under 41; money line -170, +150

So when the dust all settled this game was cross flexed from Fox to CBS and the Miami-Jets game went from CBS to Fox. Why bother? Is anybody outside of those four fan bases going to watch either game? Mitch Trubisky looks like he will become a good NFL quarterback. But for this game the Bears are facing a well rested Panther team wanting to rid themselves of the taste of last week’s defeat. Beating the Ravens doesn’t really count for much; the Bears still have a long ways to go before becoming a contender.

Pick: Panthers 24, Bears 17; Panthers -3

 

Early Games on Fox

3-3 New York Jets at 3-2 Miami Dolphins
Dolphins favored by 3; over/under 38; money line -175, +155

Adam Gase finally figured out that Jay Cutler (an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per pass attempt) was not going to lead the Dolphins to many victories. Miami made no pretense what their plan was, lining up in two or three tight end formations, and was able run the ball effectively in last week’s win at Atlanta. Expect more of the same in this game. Woody Hayes would love this game.

Pick: Dolphins 17, Jets 16; Jets +3, under 38

 

2-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3-2 Buffalo Bills
Bills favored by 3; over/under 45; money line -150, +130

Jameis Winston will get the start for the Bucs, despite his bum shoulder. Tampa Bay’s defense has underachieved this season, but they finally get the heart of their D – linebackers LaVonte David and Kwon Alexander – healthy and on the field together. Their productivity is key, as Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy has bounced back from a couple of sub-par games with 98 yards from scrimmage in the win at Atlanta, and 99 yards at Cincinnati.

Pick: Bucs 20, Bills 16; Tampa Bay +3; under 45

 

3-2 New Orleans Saints at 4-2 Green Bay Packers
Saints favored by 4; over/under 47½; money line -210 +180

The Saints look for their fourth straight win while Green Bay QB Brent Hundley gets his first NFL start. Unfortunately for him the New Orleans defense has risen from the dead, forcing nine takeaways this season. On the other side of the ball the Saints have discovered a running game – ironically, with incumbent Mark Ingram rather than Adrian Peterson.

Pick: Saints 31-17; New Orleans -4

 

3-3 Arizona Cardinals ‘at’ 4-2 Los Angeles Rams, in London
Rams favored by 3; over/under 45½; money line -160, +140

Adrian Peterson had a big game in his debut last week, but don’t expect a repeat performance. The Arizona offensive line is still awful, and the Ram defense is much better than Tampa Bay’s injury riddled D. Jared Goff and the LA offense (a league-best 29.8 points per game) should give European NFL fans plenty of scoring to cheer for. Arizona’s defense (26.3 ppg) is nowhere near as formidable as they had been the previous four years.

Pick: Rams 31, Cardinals 24; Los Angeles -3

 

Late Afternoon Games

2-3 Dallas at 0-6 San Francisco 49ers, 4:00 ET on Fox
Cowboys favored by 6; over/under 48½; money line -265, +225

The Cowboys have not lived up to pre-season expectations, despite being able to play Ezekiel Elliott. After losing five straight games by a field goal or less, the Niners finally get their first W.

Pick: 49ers 24-21; San Fran +6

 

4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 2-3 Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30 ET on CBS
Steelers favored by 5½; over/under 40½; money line -250, +210

It is amazing to consider the possibility that Cincinnati, who looked awful in their first two games, could be in first place in the AFC North with a victory. Steeler WR Martavis Bryant, who asked to be traded due to his role in the offense, could have a big game here. In five games against the Bengals Bryant has three touchdowns, catching 21 out of 32 passes thrown his way for 257 yards.

Pick: Steelers 24-20; Cincinnati +5½

 

3-2 Seattle Seahawks at 1-5 New York Giants, 4:30 ET on CBS
Seahawks favored by 4; over/under 39½; money line -210, +180

Seattle’s offensive line has caused problems for their offense. Their defense is still a force, which is bad news for an injury ravaged Giants squad.

Pick: Seahawks 24-13; Seattle -4

 

3-2 Denver Broncos at 2-4 Los Angeles Chargers, 4:30 ET on CBS
Even odds (pick’em); over/under 40½; money line -110, -110

The threat of Demaryius Thomas (10 catches, 133 yards last week) will enable CJ Anderson to run the ball. The Chargers will do what they do best: lose a close game.

Pick: Broncos 24-20; Denver (pk)

 

Prime Time Games

3-2 Atlanta Falcons at 4-2 New England Patriots, Sunday 8:30 ET on NBC
Patriots favored by 3; over/under 56½; money line -160, +140

Atlanta’s offense presents difficult matchups for the Patriot defense. The Falcons get a very tiny bit of revenge, but the Super Bowl LI legacy will live long after this game is forgotten.

Pick: Falcons 31, Patriots 27; Atlanta +3

 

3-2 Washington Redskins at 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles, Monday 8:30 pm ET on espn
Eagles favored by 4½; over/under 49; money line -225, +185

Philly is clicking on all cylinders right now. Washington on the other hand is banged up, with injuries to both corners.

Pick: Eagles 30-20; Philadelphia -4½

 

Best Bets:
Jaguars -3
Saints -4
49ers +6
Seahawks -4
Bucs-Bills under 45
Eagles -4½
Jets-Dolphins under 38

 

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

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

Defense Rebounds a Bit in Florida

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

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

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

Quarterback: B

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

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

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

Running Backs: B

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

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

Wide Receivers: B+

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

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

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

Tight Ends: INC

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

Offensive Line: C

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

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

Defensive Line: C

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

Linebackers: B

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

Secondary: B-

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

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

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

Special Teams: B-

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

Coaches: A-

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

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

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

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

NFL Week 5 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

John Morgan
October 8, 2017 at 9:30 am ET

NFL Week 5 kicked off with the unusual occurrence of a decent Thursday night game. The Patriots overcame two turnovers, twelve penalties and an inability to finish (1-3 in red zone, settling for four field goals) to defeat the Bucs 19-14 in Tampa. Nick Folk’s three missed field goals were the bulls eye for the wrath of Buc fans, but there was more to their loss than that. Tampa Bay was unable to capitalize on either turnover, and the play calling deserved scrutiny as well. Doug Martin gashed the Patriot defense to the tune of 5.7 yards per carry, but he was not utilized at all on the final three possessions. Both teams are on the road next week: the Patriots at the Jets, and Tampa Bay at Arizona.

Pittsburgh (-8) is the only team favored by more than a touchdown this week. Tennessee (at Miami), Kansas City (at Houston) and Minnesota (at Chicago) join New England at Tampa as the Week 5 road favorites. The Patriots had spent most of the week at -5½ but Rob Gronkowski’s status spurred late money on the Bucs, bringing the final line to four points in most venues, and even 3½ at some parlors.

Some interesting Money Lines to consider this week include the underdog Chargers +150 at the Giants and Buffalo +150 at Cincinnati. On the other side favorites Tennessee -145 at Miami, Kansas City -120 at Houston, and Minnesota -145 at Chicago are worth a look. The largest point totals are Green Bay at Dallas (52½) and Seahawks at Rams (47½). On the other end of the scale Baltimore at Oakland and the Bills at Bengals both have over/unders of 39½.

To see what games are being broadcast in your neck of the woods, check out 506 Sports NFL Maps.

 

NFL Week 5 Early Games

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants (-3½), o/u 45

The Chargers fired head coach Mike McCoy after losing so many winnable games a year ago. Fast forward to the 2017 season and it’s déjà vu. Under Anthony Lynn the Chargers are 0-4 with three losses by three points or less. The crowd could turn on the Giants should they fall behind, and they have never had much of a home field advantage over the years in East Rutherford.

Pick: Chargers 24, Giants 20
Chargers +3½ (two units)

 

Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (-3), 39½

The Buffalo defense is allowing an NFL best 13.5 point per game. Cincinnati’s offense struggled mightily the first two games of the year, but has scored 55 points the last two weeks. Flying under the radar is the Bengal defense. Cincy’s D is giving up just 16.8 points per game and 4.4 yards per play, both third best in the league. The Bills are attempting to win consecutive road games, and face the challenge of playing three away games in four weeks.

Pick: Bengals 17, Bills 13
Bengals -3
Under 39½

 

New York Jets at Cleveland Browns (pick), 40

Both teams are devoid of talent and looking ahead to the 2018 draft. The Jets have taken a page from the movie Major League and are sabotaging management’s plans to tank. Todd Bowles has Gang Green playing solid fundamental football on defense, forcing opponents to go on long drives while waiting to exploit a mistake. Cleveland’s defense has played well against the run but the Browns are allowing 8.3 yards per pass attempt.

Pick: Jets 20, Browns 17
Jets +0

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-9), 42½

The Steelers beat arch rival Baltimore last week, and face the undefeated Chiefs a week ago. This is the perfect setup for a letdown, and the Jaguar defense is capable of keeping this game close.

Pick: Steelers 24, Jaguars 17
Jaguars +9

 

Tennessee Titans (-2½) at Miami Dolphins, 43

Matt Cassel is expected to get the start for Tennessee due to Marcus Mariota’s hamstring injury. Since 2012 Cassel is 8-18 with 27 TD and 36 picks. Despite Miami’s offensive impotence (last in the NFL with 8.3 points per game), it is really difficult to picture the Titans going on the road for a win Sunday.

Pick: Dolphins 16, Titans 13
Dolphins +2½
Under 43

 

San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts (-1½), 44½

There is no justification to take the Niners on the road straight up, and this point spread is so low that is essentially what one would be doing. Indy plays well in spurts but then looks awful the next quarter. The Colt defense is dead last at 34.0 points per game and is allowing 6.1 yards per play (29th). San Fran’s offense has been equally inefficient, so something has to give there. The Niners rank 26th in scoring (16.5 ppg), 26th in yards per play (4.7), 28th in the red zone (38.5%) and 30th on third down (30%).

Pick: Colts 24, Niners 20
Colts -1½

 

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles (-6½), 45

The Cardinals have been unable to do anything at all on the ground since losing RB David Johnson in week one. That puts more pressure on Carson Palmer to carry the team. Problem is that the Cardinal offensive line is a sieve. Once the Eagles take a lead they can tee it up against that OL. Palmer has already been sacked a league high 17 times and that number may reach 20 – by halftime.

Pick: Eagles 24, Cardinals 13
Eagles -6½

 

Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions (-2½), 42½

Detroit leads the league with 11 takeaways, while Carolina has none in the last three games and is 31st with a -5 turnover differential. The Lion defense Carolina’s signature win last week was more about what the Patriot defense did not do than what the Panthers did do. Carolina is scoring 19.5 points per game despite having played against three bad defenses. Last week Cam Newton wasn’t able to handle success very well; how will he handle a loss with all eyes upon him Sunday? It’s really difficult to win back-to-back road games in the NFL.

Pick: Lions 20, Panthers 16
Lions -2½

 

NFL Week 5 Late Games

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-1½), 47½

What, the Rams are favored to beat Seattle?! The Seahawk defense has struggled against opposing running backs in both the running game (5.0 yards per carry) and catching passes out of the backfield (8 yards per pass attempt). Todd Gurley presents a matchup problem for the Seattle defense that will not have the benefit of their 12th man home crowd. On the other side of the ball the Ram defense has struggled (4.9 yards per carry, 26.3 points per game), but still should be able to take advantage of a porous Seattle offensive line.

Pick: Rams 23, Seahawks 20
Rams -1½
Under 47½

 

Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders (-3), 39½

Joe Flacco has now thrown an interception in ten straight games. The Raven QB has a league worst 5.0 yards per pass attempt and 31st ranked passer rating of 65.0. The Raven defense has struggled against the run, which plays right into Oakland’s game plan. With Derek Carr (back injury) out, EJ Manuel will be under center for the Raiders. That means plenty of carries for Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard.

Pick: Raiders 24, Ravens 17
Raiders -3

 

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-3), 52½

Dallas plays much better at home, where Dak Prescott has a 109.6 passer rating in his last seven games. The Cowboy offensive line has not performed as well as they did last year, but should be able to easily handle a mediocre Green Bay defense. That means a big day for Ezekiel Elliott, who has underwhelmed to the tune of 3.6 yards per carry this year. The Packers will be able to score enough to make this game close, aided by the lack of Sean Lee on defense for Dallas. Cowboys get a small bit of revenge for last year’s playoff loss to Green Bay.

Pick: Cowboys 34, Packers 30
Cowboys -3
over 52½

 

NFL Week 5 Prime Time Games

Kansas City Chiefs (-1) at Houston Texans, 45 (Sunday night)

Houston obliterated Tennessee last week with an aggressive defense that limited the Titans to two third down conversions and nine first downs, while amassing five turnovers. DeShaun Watson broke through for five touchdowns last week and appears to be the franchise quarterback the Texans have been lacking since their inception. Kansas City finally has a good offense to compliment their defense for the first time since Dick Vermeil was the KC head coach. The Chiefs are averaging an NFL-best 6.8 yards per play, spreading the ball around to Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. KC is in a bit of a tough spot, going on the road after a hard fought Monday night game. In case you missed it the ‘meaningless’ final play of the game left gamblers in either ecstasy or agony.

Pick: Texans 24, Chiefs 20
Texans +1

 

Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Chicago Bears, 40 (Monday night)

The Chicago defense is allowing 26.0 point per game (27th) and a 47% third down conversion rate (31st). Offensively they 29th in scoring (15.2 ppg) and 23rd in yards per play (4.9). It does not matter who the quarterback is for either team or where the game is played. Minnesota (and about 90% of the NFL) is more than a field goal better than Chicago.

Pick: Vikings 27, Bears 17
Vikings -3 (two units)

 

NFL Week 5 Byes

Atlanta Falcons

Denver Broncos

New Orleans Saints

Washington Redskins

 

Patriots Win Ugly on the Road in Tampa Bay 19-14

Steve Balestrieri
October 6, 2017 at 9:48 am ET

In the end, the best thing to say about this game is the Patriots came away with a win…barely but it was a win and now they have 10 days to prepare for the Jets.

The game on Thursday night was a prototypical Thursday Night Football contest, ugly, ill-disciplined, sloppy played affair, punctuated with those hideous uniforms the NFL insists making the players wear. But perhaps it is a good move, for the players and the game scarcely resemble an NFL product at times during these Thursday contests.

In the end, the Patriots escaped Tampa with a 19-14 victory and are back in the win column. But this one won’t be highlighted as one of those quintessential New England wins since they seemed for much of the game to be trying to keep the Bucs around long enough to give it away at the end, which they almost did. Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 4-4 on his field goal attempts while Nick Folk of the Bucs?…. Not so much.

But some quick observations from tonight’s game while they are still fresh in the mind before calling it a night:

Secondary Played Much Better: In the end, Jameis Winston threw for another 300 yard game against the defense, so there remains much work to be done. But thru three-quarters Winston had just 110 yards passing and the unit scarcely resembled the one who couldn’t get out of its own way for the first month of the season.

The coaches did what they needed to do and put Don’ta Hightower back in the middle for much of the game, and allowed cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore to do what they do best, play man coverage on Tampa’s two top WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. The results were much better. They both competed hard and Gilmore had his best day in a Patriots uniform holding Evans, who was a non-factor for the vast majority of the game to just five catches for 49 yards.

Baby steps….to be sure but a positive one for the defense.

Brady was Sharp But Missed Gronkowski: Tom Brady was his usual very efficient self, completing 30-40 for 303 yards with one TD and one interception, his first of the season. Brady was especially sharp in the second quarter where he constantly moved up and down the field and completed all 10 of his throws and added a touchdown.

With Tampa’s defense missing some key personnel in the middle of the field, Brady and Josh McDaniels consisted isolated mismatches on the linebackers and made the Bucs pay. But once they got close, the offense couldn’t finish and ended up with just a single touchdown on the day. It was here that the offense, already without Julian Edelman for the year, missed Rob Gronkowski as they moved easily into scoring range and then seemed to be operating in the mud. Having no production from the tight ends was an issue that kept Tampa in the game.

Brady could be seen taking rookie tight end Jacob Hollister to task after a red zone stall. Obviously, there was a disconnect there that needed to be worked out.

Offensive Line Woes Continue: Brady was hit hard several more times and was obviously in a lot of discomfort after several plays tonight. Tampa scarcely resembled the team that couldn’t generate any pass rush and had just one sack entering the game. They had three on the night and frequently flushed Brady from the pocket or knocked him down. After being sacked just 15 times in 2016, he’s already been sacked 16 times in five games. This is a trend that needs to stop.

Brady will use this 10-day break for some much-needed rest and recuperation. He’s taken far too many big shots this season and despite his fourth straight 300-yard game, he’s under duress far too often. Avocado ice cream on the menu for this weekend.

The OL did do a better job at times in the running game. The team rushed for 113 yards against a team that had been allowing just 72.5 yards per game. Again it wasn’t great but it can be used as a building block to build upon down the road.

Dion Lewis Steps Up: In a short week, the team will have to rely on different players to pitch in and take on expanded roles. One of those players was Dion Lewis, who has been conspicuously absent in much of the offense’s game planning through the first four games. But as we pointed out in our pre-game key matchups earlier today, Lewis could give the offense a boost in the running game and did just that.

Lewis saw the most action he’s seen this season and had a very solid game running the ball. He looked a lot like the 2015 version of himself, at times giving an eel-like ability to slip tackles and get yards after contact. He rushed seven times for 53 yards and added two receptions in the passing game.

Coupled with Mike Gillislee’s 12-carry, 52-yard night, the two gave the Patriots a nice building block in the running game. Was it perfect? Nope, but it does add some intriguing possibilities down the road as the team will try to find that better balance between the passing and running games.

Who Are You Guys And What Did You Do with the Patriots: Once again, the Patriots were guilty of some extremely stupid gaffes resulting in penalties that cost the team. One of the hallmarks of a Bill Belichick team is excelling at situational football. Taking dumb penalties when your defense stops an opponent on a 3rd and 20 that results in a touchdown is inexcusable. Taking not one but two roughing the passer calls in the final minute of the first half and allowing Tampa to attempt a field goal was also unconscionable.

Had the Bucs made the field goal there and scored on their first possession of the second half, this game may have had an entirely different outcome. It didn’t but these are the kind of dumb mistakes that we’re used to seeing opponents make against New England. To put it another way, these are the dumb mistakes that losing teams make. And it needs to get nipped in the bud.

Yardage Total Shouldn’t be the Driving Factor Tomorrow: As I sit here minutes after the game, I think that while the Patriots defense wasn’t perfect, it was much better. But I have a feeling that the narrative will be driven by Winston’s yardage total rather than the end result. And that is wrong.

Once again there was a mistake made, a correctable one where Duron Harmon took a poor angle on DeSean Jackson’s quick slant and it resulted in his busting a 42-yard play. And part of the issue in the 4th quarter was the coach’s decision to lay back farther and trade space for time. Up until that point, the secondary had been very, very good for the majority of the game. Granted, they almost got burned by that strategy late but the yardage shouldn’t drive the train on Friday.

Mike Evans was a non-factor and Stephon Gilmore deserves a lot of credit for playing a very solid game. Likewise, Malcolm Butler on Jackson also did a solid job in coverage. Pat Chung had his best game of the season.

Moving Hightower back to the middle (another one of our keys) worked much better. Doug Martin had 74 yards rushing but 48 of them were on the one scoring drive in the first half. After that, the run defense tightened up.

The defense still has a long way to go, but on a short week, after the Sunday debacle, this was good enough…

Wide Receivers Have Big Games: Despite Tom Brady being under pressure all game long, the Patriots wide receivers had a very solid game. Chris Hogan had 8 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown and was wide open in the second half running down the sideline for what would have been an easy touchdown. But the pressure got to Brady and the pass sailed high into the sidelines. He’s become a scoring machine this season, notching his fifth touchdown of the season.

Danny Amendola made several tough catches in traffic in the highly contested areas and also had 8 catches for 77 yards. His best catch (one of three) was wiped out by a penalty. He made a leaping one-handed grab down the sideline  He also busted a big punt return (yes we called that in our keys too) to set the Patriots up with excellent field position.

Brandin Cooks chipped in with five catches for a team-high 85 yards and James White, operating out of the backfield kept the chains moving with 7 catches for 53 yards.

Thursday Night Football Stinks: I’ve never been a fan of this (can you say player safety Roger?) as it consistently fields an inferior product. Tonight’s game was no exception. Teams are beat up from Sunday and play sloppy.

Example? There were 21 accepted penalties in this game, 12 by the Patriots. Unfortunately, they are here to stay, it is a money-maker for the league who owns Sundays and Monday nights and now Thursday’s as well. Off the soapbox…

We’re on to the Jets.

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

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

Patriots – Buccaneers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 5, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots head back out on the road to meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a short week after Sunday’s games.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Thursday, October 5 at 8:25 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feely will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (2-2) came back from a late 4th quarter two-touchdown deficit to tie the score at 30 behind a tremendous performance by Tom Brady,  only to have the Panthers drive down the field and win the game on a last second 48-yard field goal.

The Buccaneers (2-1) beat the New York Giants 25-23 as Jameis Winston threw for 332 yards including a 58-yard touchdown to tight end O.J. Howard. The team also gets back Doug Martin from suspension this week.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Buccaneers are meeting for the ninth time. The Patriots hold a 6-2 overall advantage and a 3-1 edge in games played at each home stadium. Although the 2009 Bucs “home” game was played in London. The teams haven’t met since 2013 when the Patriots beat Tampa Bay 23-3 in Foxboro.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Buccaneers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tampa Bay

The Patriots running game is still mired in neutral averaging just 95.5 yards per game. The offensive line hasn’t been opening enough holes for the running backs to get anything going. Mike Gillislee had a pretty decent game last week but due to New England being down by two scores, they didn’t run the ball as much.

It seems like the team is limiting the carries of Dion Lewis as they really need him to be the kickoff return man. But maybe on a short week he could see some extra work. Rex Burkhead’s status is probably doubtful to play in this week, they could use him in this one.

The Bucs are doing an excellent job against the run, allowing only 72.5 yards per game. They have a stout front seven anchored by Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers, and rookie linebacker Kendall Beckwith. However with LB Kwon Alexander out and LB Lavonte David, and safeties T.J. Ward and Keith Tandy questionable with injuries that could change things a bit.

This would be an excellent time for the Patriots to get the ground game untracked. Giving Tom Brady and the passing game more than just a semblance of a running game would make the passing attack that much more effective. But this looks to be another week where they’ll have to pass the ball to run effectively.

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

The Patriots passing game, despite Tom Brady being sacked and hit far too much, is off to a tremendous start of the season. Brady is spreading the ball around to a plethora of receivers including Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Phillip Dorsett on the outside, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield. Brady is completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 1399 yards with ten touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The Bucs, like New England, are allowing a lot of yardage passing. Noah Spence with their pass rush has just a single sack thus far on the season. They have a pair of good corners in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves who will try to take away the short, intermediate throws and force Brady into going deep. McCoy will be the guy to watch inside, creates outstanding pressure up the middle and that more than anything can get Brady off of his spot and prevent him from stepping into his throws.

Depending on the health of Rob Gronkowski, this looks to be a big week for him. I look for Brady to try to establish mismatches with Gronk both down the seams and split outside if the Bucs are in single coverage. Look for the backs, James White and Dion Lewis to be involved in the passing game a lot this week.

Next up the Tampa Bay offense:

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

Tampa’s running game has really missed Doug Martin as they’ve rushed for just 71.5 yards per game. The main man has been Jacquizz Rodgers but he’s more of a third-down back. It isn’t known how much if at all Martin will play. The Patriots will assume he’s going to play and prepare according. They’ll mix their formations a lot but I think we’ll see quite a bit of “12” personnel, with 2 WRs, 2TEs, and an RB.

The Patriots run defense has been poor allowing nearly 133 yards per game. They really need to move Dont’a Hightower back inside at the middle/inside linebacker role. It will accomplish two things. It will solidify the run defense and get the communication right down low. Alan Branch has been MIA for several weeks. In trying to stop the run and make the Bucs one-dimensional, he could be a bigger factor this week.

Buccaneers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Tampa Bay

Winston has made tremendous strides this season, going from a middle of the pack QB in terms of numbers to a top 10 starter this season. He’s completing 63 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three picks with a passer rating of 94.8. He’s averaging 277 passing yards per game this season. The addition of DeSean Jackson, though he hasn’t really clicked…yet, has allowed the big Mike Evans to get off to a great start. Evans, 6’5, is open even when he is blanket covered as Winston can just throw it up there for him. Eric Rowe is out for this one, (not surprising) after retweaking his groin injury on Sunday.

Tampa has two good tight ends in Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. Brate is more of a receiving threat and has been productive with 10 TDs since last season. Howard had a 58-yard touchdown reception against the Giants. Rodgers is a good third down back out of the backfield.

The Patriots pass defense has been nightmarishly bad this season. The communication has been terrible, the blown coverages and terrible mental mistakes have been inexcusable. What was supposed to be the strength of the defense is approaching historically bad numbers. The pass rush has been inconsistent, however, it isn’t the reason for this unit to play this poorly.

Winston has shown the ability to escape the rush and will be looking to make the big plays (see Jackson) that have plagued the team all year. The two tight ends will be a load to cover. Look for Matt Patricia to simplify things, even more, this week. If I am Tampa, I’d run bunch formations all night long until they show the ability to not allow anyone to run free.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski had a big day kicking three field goals including a career long 58-yarder on Sunday. His pooch kickoffs have given the coverage units time to get down the field and stop opponents from reaching the 25 and many times the 20 yard line. Ryan Allen hasn’t been his usual self yet this season although he’s been good at directional punting. The coverage units have been very solid.

Tampa has a solid kicker in Nick Folk and in punter Bryan Anger. They too have had good solid coverage. They have the diminutive but explosive return man in Bernard Reedy. But this is the week I believe that the Patriots are going to get a big return from either Dion Lewis or Danny Amendola.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one has the makings to be a shootout. Neither pass defense has been standout yet this season and with two good QBs and talented wide receiver cores, the score could go into the high thirties. Since Sunday I’ve had this one chalked up as a loss. Losing on the last play of the game after playing poorly…at home no less. The signs are there for the Patriots to fall below .500. This was one of the games I had circled for a possible loss when the schedule came out.

However, we’ve seen this before. Whenever the chips get low and things are looking down, is when Tom Brady elevates his game the most. The Patriots offense is capable of exploding as much as anyone. And we’ve really yet to see that yet for a 60-minute game. A shootout may actually benefit New England. Winston is still a young QB and is still prone to the occasional interception. When he’s forced to throw a lot is when his pick ratio increases. But the secondary isn’t going to be able to let receivers run free.

The Patriots will have to weather the storm. Tampa is a quick starting team. If they can hang with them through the first quarter, things should go their way as the Bucs have been outscored in every quarter but the first.

Brady wills the Pats to a big win on Thursday night with another epic performance as he and Wintson light it up.  Patriots 38-35

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