Heading up North!

The Patriots start off their critical 3-week road stretch on Sunday, when they’ll take on their division rival, the Buffalo Bills. The Pats enter this game as 9-point favorites, and they hope to leave New Era Field with their 8th straight victory.

Here are a few storylines to think about entering tomorrow’s game…

1. Tom Brady’s dominance against the Bills

TB12 is the GOAT. If you want any clarification on that statement, just ask Bills’ fans. Brady is an astounding 26-3 against the Bills, and has 68 touchdowns against them (including 2 rushing touchdowns). An interesting stat to consider is that TB12 has more touchdowns against the Bills than Tyrod Taylor has scored in his career (63). #12 has been remarkable in his last 3 games at Buffalo, throwing for 11 touchdowns, with no interceptions. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that Brady’s otherworldly production in Upstate New York will continue.

tb12 v bills
(Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Gronk’s homecoming

Rob Gronkowski is a Buffalo native, which means that his annual game back home is probably very special to the game-changing tight end. Just like his quarterback, Gronk has also dominated the hapless Bills at New Era Field, recording 35 catches for 583 yards and 7 touchdowns in 6 career games up north. Last year, Gronk’s main highlight of the season occured in Buffalo, where he caught his 69th career touchdown, breaking the franchise record. 

Bonus: If you’re in the market for wings in Buffalo, Gronk recommends Amherst Ale House. What’s an article about the Patriots without a mention of Gronk and his food?

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(Photo by Matt West/Boston Herald)

3. Containing the run game

The Patriots have continued to make improvements on defense, with a particular emphasis being placed on their secondary. The Patriots have managed to stifle opposing quarterbacks, but there is still some need to be concerned with their ability to stop opposing running backs. The Patriots’ run defense did have a good game against the Dolphins, holding all of Miami’s rushers to 19 carries for 67 yards, but they face a tall task against ‘Shady’ McCoy. McCoy’s elusiveness and brute force makes it very hard for opposing defenses to bring him down. McCoy is the heart and central focus of the Bills’ offense, so the Patriots will have a great chance of winning if they can stifle #25. 

The Patriots have also had a bad history against running quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor is very athletic, and good at extending plays with his feet, which means that the Patriots’ defense will need to be alert in order to wrap him up.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
(Photo from USA TODAY SPORTS)

PredictionPatriots 31, Bills 17

Although the Bills are a desperate team fighting to make the playoffs, I still expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Buffalo. TB12, Gronk, and Brandin Cooks should make life difficult for the Bills defense, and force Tyrod Taylor & Co. to play from behind. Look for Stephon Gilmore to make some big plays against his former team.

 

The Pats squish the fish!

The Patriots thoroughly dominated the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, winning their Week 12 contest 35-17. The Pats struck early on in the game, and were able to carry their momentum forward to secure a division win. This victory brings the Patriots to 9-2, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Don’t forget about Gronk!

Over the last few games, Gronk didn’t perform at his usual level of production. He was largely a non-factor during last week’s win over Oakland, where he totaled just around 30 yards. Gronk’s lack of explosive plays made many pundits wonder if #87 was truly vital for New England to be successful. Gronk silenced his doubters with an inspired performance against the hapless Dolphins, recording 5 catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Maybe Gronk was motivated to get some of TB12’s Thanksgiving biscuits…

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(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Defense!

As I’ve mentioned several times before, the Patriots’ defense has rebounded dramatically from the beginning of the season, which has helped lead the team to a seven game winning streak. The New England defense continued its dominant performance yesterday, helping to stifle the Dolphins’ offense. The Pats sacked Matt Moore seven times, and also forced 3 turnovers (2 interceptions and 1 fumble). They were also able to stop the run, limiting Miami to 67 yards off 19 carries. This is the type of performance the Patriots need to build off of, as they approach Week 15’s key matchup against Pittsburgh.

trey flowers vs miami
(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

3. The Pats need to cut down on their small mistakes

Although the Pats played a great game, they did have several key gaffes. In the second quarter, the Patriots had 2 turnovers. First, there was miscommunication on a snap, when the backup center Ted Karras snapped the ball early, leading to a fumble which Miami safety Reshad Jones returned for a touchdown. TB12 also had an interception, when he forced a ball to Danny Amendola, which resulted in Bobby McCain picking the pass off. These mistakes allowed Miami to remain in the game, and need to be cut down on for the Patriots to sustain their winning habits.

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(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

Fins up!

Later today, the Patriots will take on their AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins. Interestingly enough, this game is only the second division game so far this year for the Pats. Tom Brady & Co. enter this game as 16-point favorites, as the Dolphins have faced a tough stretch recently.

Here are some things to look for during today’s game

1. This is the Patriots’ time to close out the division

At 8-2, the Pats currently have a 3 game lead in the AFC East. Today’s game starts an important 6 game stretch for the reigning champs, as 5 of their next 6 games come against division opponents. For sometime it appeared that the Buffalo Bills were legitimate contenders to dethrone the Pats, but several losses have them sitting at 5-5. Winning at least 3 or 4 of these games would give the Pats a great opportunity to win the division.

Brandin Cooks
(Photo by Winslow Townson/AP)

2. Can the Patriots take advantage of the ailing Dolphins?

4 straight losses has dropped Miami to 4-6, and their games have been plagued with problems on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins have been anemic on offense with Jay Cutler under center, but their backup Matt Moore hasn’t done much better. The Miami defense has also struggled recently, giving up an average of over 30 points over the last 4 games. On the flip side, both facets of the Patriots have been explosive, making this an easy matchup (on paper, of course).

dola vs miami
(Photo from Getty Images)

Taking all factors into consideration, I expect the Patriots to pull out a win against the Dolphins. Look for TB12 and the offense to pick on the lowly Miami defense.

Prediction: Patriots 35, Dolphins 14

¡Una victoria fácil!: The Patriots rout the Raiders in Mexico City

For the second straight week, the Patriots outclassed and outperformed their AFC West opponent. The Patriots routed the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, winning the game 33-8. New England showed the 100,000-plus fans at Estadio Azteca what the golden standard of the NFL looks like.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. Have yourself a day Brandin Cooks!

The Patriots traded for Brandin Cooks earlier this year, forfeiting a first round pick in exchange for the talented but disgruntled playmaker. Cooks has had flashes of brilliance earlier this year (for example, Week 3’s win against the Houston Texans), but at the same time he has been wildly inconsistent. It was clear at the beginning of the season that his chemistry with Tom Brady was a work in progress, as the two often weren’t on the same page. Cooks had a monstrous day against the hapless Oakland secondary, wracking up 6 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. An interesting fact to note is that Cooks continued his dominance over Oakland from last season, when he was a member of the New Orleans Saints. If Cooks can continue to be a reliable down-field threat for the Pats, it will make it very hard for opposing defenses.

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(Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

2. Stephen Gostowski was brilliant

Gostowski has been one of the most dependable kickers in the NFL for almost 10 years. However, this narrative changed in 2016, when Gostowski notably struggled kicking the football in several games (including Super Bowl LI). Gostowski has mostly rebounded so far this season, and was remarkable against Oakland. Gostowski went 4/4 yesterday, and his main highlight was a 62-yard field goal, which was the longest in franchise history.

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(Photo from USA Today Sports)

3. The Patriots’ defense continues to dominate

For the 6th straight week, the Patriots’ defense held their opponent under 17 points. The Pats’ secondary continues to play impassioned football, making it hard for the opposing quarterback to be successful. Oakland’s best pass catcher on the day was Michael Crabtree who corralled 5 catches for 51 yards. New England also forced 2 turnovers in the first half, which derailed successful drives for the Raiders. A key play for the Patriots was late in the second quarter, when Oakland was driving to cut their 14 point deficit. The Patriots forced a fumble inside the 5 yard line, giving TB12 and the offense possession with less than a minute left in the first half. The next Patriots drive resulted in Gostowski’s long field goal, giving the Patriots a 17-0 halftime lead. Although the Patriots defense performed remarkably (they didn’t give up any points until the fourth quarter), they need to work on stopping the run. Marshawn Lynch gashed them for 67 yards off 11 carries in the first half. Stopping the run needs to be a priority for the Pats, as they will face LeSean McCoy and Le’Veon Bell in the next few weeks.

New England Patriots v Oakland Raiders
 (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

¿Estás listo para algo de fútbol?: Previewing the Patriots’ Week 11 game against the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City

The Patriots head down south to Mexico City later today to face the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca. In the preseason, this matchup was billed as a must-watch game between 2 of the AFC’s best teams, but now it pits the 7-2 Patriots against the underperforming 4-5 Raiders. 

Here are a few things to consider leading up to today’s game

1. Tom Brady and the New England offense against Oakland’s defense

TB12 and the Brady Bunch were hitting on all cylinders during last week’s blowout win at Denver, where all facets of the offense performed well. This week they face off against a porous Oakland defense, which has serious concerns in the secondary (they rank 22nd in passing yards and last in opposing QBR). Oakland is slightly better against the run, so it will be interesting to see what combination Josh McDaniels decides to use against them. The Patriots are missing 2 starters on their offensive line (Marcus Cannon and David Andrews), but may face a favorable matchup against Oakland’s anemic pass rush.

tb12 vs oakland
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

2. The Patriots’ defense against Oakland’s offense

The Patriots’s defense has performed well over the last five games, holding their opponents to under 17 points per game. They will be facing a heavily inconsistent Oakland offense that doesn’t resemble the dynamic lineup from last year. The Patriots cannot afford to let their guard down, as Oakland is loaded on offense with several talented players such as Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, and Marshawn Lynch. Two intriguing matchups to watch during the game will be the Patriots’ front seven against Oakland’s rushing attack, and the Patriots’ secondary against Oakland’s receivers.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots
(Photo from USA Today Sports)

3. Will Mexico City’s altitude affect the game?

Mexico City has an altitude of 7,382 feet, so it is fair to question if this will have any impact on today’s game. The Patriots fresh off a game in the Mile High city of Denver opted to practice this week at Colorado’s Air Force Academy, in order to become acclimated to playing at high altitudes. Oakland took a different route, and decided to practice at home, as they thought that it would help them prepare better. Will the decision to practice at high altitudes give the Patriots an advantage?

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(Photo from the Boston Globe)

Taking these factors into consideration, I still expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Mexico City. TB12 and the offense should make life miserable for Oakland’s secondary, and the Pats’ defense will likely continue to play efficiently. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Raiders 17

The Patriots take advantage of several Denver miscues to earn a rare win in the Mile High city

The Patriots were able to take care of business against the Denver Broncos,  routing them 41-16. This game was unlike the last few matchups between the two teams, which were hard fought and much closer than 25 points. The Patriots dominated in all three facets of the game, making this their most complete victory of the season.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. The Patriots’ special teams was remarkable

When most people think of the important parts of a football game, the aspect that is usually overlooked is special teams, as it doesn’t always have a huge bearing on the outcome of the game. The opposite was true last night, as the Patriots special teams turned the tide for New England early on in the game. You have to credit the special teams for the Patriots’ early dominance, as a muffed punt gave the Patriots great field position in the opening moments of the game. Dion Lewis further added to the onslaught when he scored on a 103-yard kick return extending the lead to 14-3. Rex Burkhead also blocked a punt in the second quarter, allowing the Patriots to score once again. Denver’s special teams struggled throughout the game, but one key play must have really infuriated Vance Joseph and his staff. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos stopped the Patriots on third down, only to give them a free first down when they lined up with 12 men on the field. 

 

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/ Boston Herald)

2. Give the Patriots’ offensive line credit

The Patriots’ offensive line had a great performance last night, only giving up 4 QB hits, and one sack. This was a welcoming sight to all Patriots fans, who probably remember the 2015 AFC Championship Game, when TB12 had Von Miller draped all over him. Speaking of Von Miller, #58 managed only one QB hit, as he was handled throughout last night’s game by LaAdrian Waddle, who was filling in for the injured Marcus Cannon. The Patriots need to carry this momentum forward for future games against aggressive defenses such as Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

 

brady o line v broncos
(Photo by Jack Dempsey/AP)

3. The Patriots’ defense also continues to improve

The Patriots appeared to have a ‘bend but don’t break’ routine in place over the first few Denver drives, as the Patriots only gave up field goals after allowing Denver to move across the field. The Patriots began to clamp down on Brock Osweiler and the Broncos offense in the second half, where they only gave up 7 points. The Patriots’ secondary was aided by the return of Stephon Gilmore, who had his most efficient performance of the season, as he held Demaryius Thomas to 5 catches for 44 yards (although Thomas did score a touchdown in the second half against Gilmore). The one sore spot for the Patriots was Emmanuel Sanders who racked up 114 yards in the first half, with Malcolm Butler primarily in coverage against him. Fortunately for the Patriots, they were able to limit Sanders to 23 yards in the second half. Patrick Chung also recorded an interception in the fourth quarter, which essentially wrapped up the game.

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/ Boston Herald)

 4. The Patriots’ plethora of running backs and tight ends continue to impress

Although the Patriots may lack depth in certain aspects of their team, 2 key positions which are stockpiled with talent include their tight ends and their running backs.  The Patriots enjoyed key contributions at running back, with Dion Lewis, James White, and Rex Burkhead all having prominent roles (Burkhead and White each had 1 TD, while Lewis scored twice). It will be hard for opposing defenses to scheme against the Patriots’ offense, as the team has the depth to afford constantly revolving their starting lineup. The Patriots’ tight ends also had great performances. Rob Gronkowski continued his domination of the Broncos, recording 4 catches for 74 yards, and Dwayne Allen FINALLY caught a pass, recording a touchdown in the waning moments of the second quarter. Martellus Bennett was efficient in his return to New England, recording 3 catches for 38 yards, with his first catch going for 27 yards. 

 

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/ Boston Herald)

 

Here’s a fun fact: The Patriots won in Denver in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1964-65 and 1965-66 seasons.

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Going Mile High!

When fans of the Patriots think of Denver, bad memories usually pop up. Maybe it’s Champ Bailey and the 2005 Broncos handing TB12 his first postseason loss, or even the heartbreaking AFC Championship losses of 2013 and 2015 respectively. The Patriots will try to emerge victorious in Denver when they take on Von Miller and his Broncos team tonight on Sunday Night Football.

Here are a few things to consider going into tonight’s game.

1. Tom Brady’s history against the Broncos

Tom Brady is the GOAT. There is no way to dispute that claim, as Brady has performed remarkably for the entirety of his 18-year career.  However, a slight blemish in Brady’s legacy could be his record against the Broncos. TB12 is 7-9 against the Broncos in 16 career games, with 7 losses coming in Denver (The Broncos are the only NFL team that Brady has a losing record against). Last year, the Patriots were able to win in Denver, escaping the Mile High city, with a 16-3 victory, but that was when the Denver defense was performing well. It will be interesting to see how Brady performs against a struggling Broncos defense. 

von miller v tb12
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

2. The matchup between the Patriots’ offensive line vs Denver’s defense

The New England offensive line struggled mightily in the opening part of the season, allowing Brady to be crushed regularly. The Patriots may have been able to improve their offensive line play, but they face a tall task against Von Miller and the vaunted Denver pass rush. Denver’s defense has not played up to the mark recently, and facing an opponent who they’ve dominated in recent occasions may motivate them to play much better. The Patriot offensive line will need to keep Brady upright for them to stand any chance of winning. 

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos
 (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post)

3. How will the Patriots defense play against an anemic Broncos offense?

Just like the offensive line, the Patriots’ defense has been overcoming its shortcomings from the beginning of the season, with their statement performance coming in Week 7 against the Atlanta Falcons.  On the other hand, Denver’s offense appears to have regressed from the beginning of the season, with their head coach Vance Joseph opting to switch from Trevor Siemian to Brock Osweiler at QB. Osweiller’s first start of the year was not pretty, as the Broncos got routed by 28 points against the mighty Eagles. However, the Patriots cannot afford to overlook their opponents, as Denver still has Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on either side of the field. Another interesting fact to note is that Osweiler’s first win as a starter occurred against the Patriots during a SNF matchup in 2015. Fortunately for Patriot fans, he has struggled mightily against New England in his last two outings against them. 

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

 

Taking these factors into consideration, I still expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Denver, as I believe that TB12 can take advantage of a struggling Denver unit. Also, the Patriots improving pass defense should be able to stifle Brock Osweiler.

Prediction: Patriots 20, Broncos 10

See ya later Jimmy G!: Examining the ramifications of the trade between the Patriots and 49ers

The Patriots shocked the NFL world when they unexpectedly traded their backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 second round pick.

This trade will have drastic effects on several different parties.

1. The Patriots

The Patriots shopped around Garoppolo leading into April’s draft, but no one thought that they would actually pull the trigger on any trade involving Tom Brady’s assumed heir. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Patriots traded Garoppolo now, as they were under the impression that it would have been too hard to re-sign him during free agency. This trade all but confirms that TB12 will end his career in a Patriots uniform, as he has outlasted yet another backup quarterback. Although it is foolish to question Bill Belichick’s decision making, the Patriots may be taking a slight risk with shipping their safety net to the Bay Area, as Tom Brady is only getting older, and the team has no idea about how much longer he’ll continue to perform at a high level. The Patriots will reportedly replace Garoppolo by signing former 49ers starter Brian Hoyer, who was TB12’s backup for a few years.

jimmy garoppolo tom brady
(Photo by Winslow Townson/AP)

2. The 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers will obtain a quarterback who has only had 2 career starts, which is not that great of a sample size. Garoppolo’s talent was evident, but that was within the Patriots’ system, where he was able to throw to talented receivers such as Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. He won’t have the same comfort in the Bay Area, where he will play in a talent-starved 49ers offense. Garoppolo does have a lot of upside, so it’ll be interesting to see how he and Kyle Shanahan work together. Fortunately for the 49ers and Garoppolo, the team will likely have enough cap space this offseason to lock him up with a lucrative contract.

kyle shanahan
(Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

3. Kirk Cousins

This may seem like an odd addition to the people/organizations who will be affected by this trade, but Kirk Cousins’ future may be drastically altered based on how the trade turns out for the 49ers. Kirk Cousins has had a shaky relationship with the Redskins’ front office for years, as they have repeatedly refused to offer him a market value contract. Cousins has worked with Kyle Shanahan in the past, so many analysts were under the impression that Cousins would eventually find himself in the Bay Area. If the trade with the Patriots works out for the 49ers, Cousins may end up with a team that needs a quarterback, and has a lot of cap space (which is a description that fits many teams in the NFL).

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
(Photo by Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

 

Another important fact to note is that Garoppolo’s departure from Foxborough officially ends the ‘Wolfpack’ Era in New England. TB12, Garoppolo, and third-stringer Jacoby Brissett were known as the Wolfpack collectively, and the group has come to an end, as both Brissett and Garoppolo were traded this season (to the Colts and 49ers respectively).

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Photo from Tom Brady/Instagram

Takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 8 win over the Chargers

The Patriots were able to outlast the LA Chargers by a score of 21-13.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. The Patriots continue to struggle in the red zone

The Patriots’ woes in the red zone continued, with the team going only 1 for 4. The Pats were able to have long, time-consuming drives, but it is all going to waste if they cannot score touchdowns. The Patriots need to find a fix, as they will need to be able to put points on the board to compete with some high-flying offenses in the league. Knowing Bill Belichick and his staff, they’ll use the bye week to find a remedy.

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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The Patriots’ pass defense is steadily improving

Malcolm Butler, Johnson Bademosi, and Johnathan Jones have combined to form a highly effective ball-hawking trio for the Patriots. Bademosi and Jones have stepped into the spotlight, after becoming starters to replace Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, and continue to improve week after week. Jones was responsible for stopping the Chargers’ late comeback attempt, when he stepped in front of a throw by Phillip Rivers to seal the deal. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have also helped to cut down on the crucial mistakes which plagued the Patriots in the early part of the season. The main question for Belichick is where Gilmore and Rowe will fit in with the newly revitalized Patriots’ secondary.

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(Photo by Matt West/Boston Herald)

3. The Patriots need to work on stopping the run

The Patriots were gashed by Melvin Gordon, who ran for 132 yards off 14 attempts. This comes one week after surrendering over 100 yards against the Atlanta Falcons. One of the most alarming plays of the game occurred when Melvin Gordon took a simple toss play 87 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots clearly need to work on stopping the opposing running backs at the line of scrimmage. They will be tested in the following weeks when they face Marshawn Lynch and Le’Veon Bell.

Melvin Gordon
 ( Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP)

 

Getting Charged Up!

The Patriots will be playing the Los Angeles Chargers today.

Here are a few things to pay attention to during the game.

1. The impact of Dont’a Hightower’s injury

Star linebacker Dont’a Hightower tore his pectoral muscle during last week’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and is out for the rest of the season. This injury comes at a terrible time for the Patriots, who were finally starting to find their identity on defense. The Patriots have been shaky against the run in the last few weeks, and will face a tall task, with Melvin Gordon coming to town. Look for Kyle Van Noy and David Harris to take over Hightower’s role on defense.

New England Patriots v San Francisco 49ers
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

2. Performance of the Patriots’ offensive line

The Patriot offensive line has improved greatly over the last few weeks, with TB12 taking less fewer hits over that span. The offensive line will be tested this week, as the Chargers have 2 highly skilled pass rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa who have 8.5 and 7.5 sacks respectively. In order for the Patriots to have a chance of winning, the offensive line will need to keep Brady on his feet.

Tom Brady
 (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

3. Questions at cornerback

Stephon Gilmore was signed in the offseason to a 5 year contract worth $65 million. Gilmore hasn’t played like the number one corner he was paid to be, as he has been responsible for several defensive mishaps, and has given up several big plays. Gilmore is questionable for today’s game, but it is fair to wonder if Bill Belichick will pick Gilmore over Johnson Bademosi, who has shown that he is capable of being a starter.

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 (Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Chargers 17