Another Classic!: Seattle edges the Pats on SNF

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Seattle. New England. Sunday Night Football.

When you put these words together, you’re bound to get one hell of a football game, and yesterday was no exception. For the third straight matchup between these teams, the game came down to a goal line stand by the victorious team, with Seattle securing a 35-30 victory. This loss drops the Patriots to 1-1 and second place in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills.

Here are my takeaways from this Week 2 game.

1. Cam & Jules came to play!
After lighting up the Dolphins on the ground in Week 1, many people wondered how Cam Newton & the Patriots would look when #1 was tasked with beating defenses with his arm. Newton delivered yesterday, as he threw for 397 yards, and almost led the Patriots to a dramatic fourth quarter comeback. Newton primarily connected with Julian Edelman, who totaled 179 receiving yards on a career night. For the first time in multiple seasons, Edelman was a deep threat, with several clutch catches against star safety Jamal Adams, including a 49 yard reception to spark a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. However, Edelman was visibly exhausted and dinged up near the end of the game, which is a situation worth monitoring as the season progresses. Other than Edelman, Damiere Byrd & N’Keal Harry both stepped up, as they both recorded 72 receiving yards. It was great to see Byrd step up after being held without a catch in Week 1, but Harry’s game was even more encouraging, as he made some tough contested catches, including a 4th down play in the first quarter, when he got hit illegally by a Seattle defender. Cam Newton has expressed confidence in Harry, and performances like this will only help expand his role in the offense.

The Patriots’ rushing attack was primarily run through Newton, as both Sony Michel & Rex Burkhead struggled to gain any traction. Newton recorded 2 rushing touchdowns on his now-signature goal line draw play, but it’s starting to look like that play may be becoming predictable for opposing defenses. This was evident on a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, when Jamal Adams dispatched him through a gap in the offensive line. In addition, on the game’s last play, the Patriots opted to use that play again, which resulted in Newton getting knocked down a few yards short of the goal line. I’m not going to question Josh McDaniels’ decision making, as the play could have worked with better blocking, but an option play, or play-action pass in that situation could have helped the Patriots win the game.

To sum up New England’s offensive performance, it’s safe to say that Cam Newton was otherworldly (apart from a bad interception in the third quarter), as his dynamic playmaking made the offense look explosive for the first time in a long time. Almost beating one of the NFL’s best teams in a shootout on the road is an encouraging sign for the second showing of an evolving offense. As Newton & the skill players continue to become more comfortable with each other, the offense will only continue to get better.

Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams (33) closes in on a sack of New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

2. Russ & the Seahawks’ offense cooked the Pats

The Patriots’ secondary was thought to be the team’s strongest position group, but they got absolutely annihilated by one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, who threw for 5 touchdowns. Wilson only had 1 mistake the whole game, when a pass went through Greg Olsen’s hands, and was caught by Devin McCourty, who returned it for a 43 yard touchdown. Things went downhill from there, as Wilson targeted key members of the secondary, including Jonathan Jones & Stephon Gilmore, with both players giving up touchdowns. Typically, the Patriots stick to tight man-to-man coverage, but with Wilson’s elusiveness out of the pocket, they chose to use zone coverage, which didn’t really work out in their favor. The Patriots were able to sack Wilson twice, but they struggled to keep up with him, as he also gained 39 yards on the ground.

Seattle also had great success running the ball, with Chris Carson accounting for 72 of the team’s 154 rushing yards. The Patriots struggled to win at the line of scrimmage, which should be an area of emphasis for Bill Belichick as the season progresses. Luckily for them, Seattle opted to pass the ball on a crucial 3rd & 1 near the end of the game, which ended up with an incompletion, and gave the Patriots a chance to win the game.

Bill Belichick will likely be ruthless in his evaluation of this game, as his defense was routinely beaten by a blistering air attack, which is something that cannot continue as New England begins to play teams with high-flying offenses.

russ v pats w220
(Photo via the Seattle Seahawks)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 30/44 for 397 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Cam Newton – 11 carries for 47 yards & 2 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 179 yards
  • Defensive: John Simon – 8 total tackles

Seahawks

  • Passing: Russell Wilson – 21/28 for 288 yards, 5 touchdowns & 1 interception
  • Rushing: 17 carries for 72 yards
  • Receiving: DK Metcalf – 4 receptions for 92 yards
  • Defensive: Jamal Adams – 10 total tackles, including 1 sack

Bonus:

1. RIP Tyrone White

James White was inactive last night, due to the tragic death of his father, who perished in a car accident. White’s mother is also in critical condition.

Tributes for White poured into social media, and Devin McCourty chose to shout out his teammate after his pick-six in the first quarter.

2. New away uniforms

Yesterday’s game marked the debut of the Patriots’ new away uniforms, which are a marked improvement over the previous set. Hopefully they’ll be more lucky the next time they wear them!

jules v w220
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images

What’s next?: The Patriots return home to host the Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) for their first matchup since the 2017 season.

Showdown in Seattle!

The Patriots will face a stiff test in Week 2, as they head to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (1-0) on Sunday Night Football. This game will help serve as a barometer of how good the Patriots truly are, as the Seahawks are considered to be one of the best teams in the NFC.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 2 contest.

1. Can the Pats stop Russ from cooking?

Let Russ cook” has been a enduring phrase amongst Seahawks’ fans on Twitter who believed that the team had hamstrung their star quarterback by overly relying on their rushing game in certain situations. Pete Carroll appeared to listen last week, as Russell Wilson dissected the Falcons for 4 touchdowns on a day where he completed 31 of 35 passes. The Patriots had some success causing problems for Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, as they forced 3 interceptions, but Wilson will be much more difficult to defend. He remains one of the NFL’s best deep ball throwers, and it’s impossible to understate his ability to extend plays with his legs. Luckily, New England fields one of the NFL’s best secondaries, so it’ll be interesting to see how they match up against a talented receiving corps, that includes Tyler Lockett & DK Metcalf. I’d expect Stephon Gilmore to be matched up one-on-one with Metcalf, with a combination of Jonathan Jones and a safety on Lockett (due to his immense speed).

In addition to Wilson & their receivers, Seattle also has two good running backs in Chris Carson & Carlos Hyde. Due to the Patriots’ inability to stop the run in recent years, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the Seahawks choose to punish them on the ground. Wilson is also a threat as a runner, which may necessitate the usage of a QB spy to monitor him at the line of scrimmage.

All in all, this game will show us how cohesive Bill Belichick’s defense is, as they will have little margin for error against such a talented offense.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

2. What will Cam & the offense look like?

Last week’s win against Miami was a masterpiece on the ground, as the Patriots compiled 217 rushing yards, due to a game plan that seemed to be designed to take advantage of the Dolphins’ lack of depth at linebacker. This week might look a bit different, as the Seahawks have the NFL’s top middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner, who forms a formidable duo with fellow linebacker KJ Wright. Seattle also features one of the NFL’s best safeties in Jamal Adams, who is very familiar to the Patriots, due to his years with the New York Jets. I’d expect Josh McDaniels to design a run-first game plan once again, but it remains to be seen if Sony Michel & the other running backs will be successful.

One would think that Cam Newton will need to use his arm more tomorrow, as we can’t expect him to rush the ball 15 times on a weekly basis. Newton did look sharp throwing the ball against Miami, but he’ll definitely need to be better this week, as the Patriots cannot afford to play from behind. The Seahawks primarily play zone coverage, which may open up opportunities for receivers such as Julian Edelman to find holes in certain areas of the zone. New England will still likely have issues getting the ball down the field, but they’ll need their young receiving corps to step up and give Newton a chance. I’m still intrigued by the speedster Damiere Byrd, who led the receivers in snaps last week, and appeared to be open down the field on more than one occasion (which is notable due to the strength of the Dolphins’ secondary). If Newton could connect with his former Carolina teammate over the top, it would help add a new level to the Patriots’ offense.

I think that the Patriots will look different than they did last week, but with this being Cam Newton’s second game under center, it’s quite hard to forecast how Josh McDaniels will decide to attack Seattle.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Adam Butler (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Brandon Copeland (knee) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Dalton Keene (neck) – Questionable
  • Matthew Slater (knee) – Questionable
  • Josh Uche (ankle) – Out

Seahawks

  • Phillip Dorsett (foot) – Questionable
  • Cedric Ogbuehi (pectoral) – Doubtful
  • Rasheem Green (neck) – Doubtful

Bonus:

1. RIP Jeannette Belichick

Bill Belichick’s mother, Jeannette, passed away this past week at the age of 98. At a press conference on Wednesday, Belichick mentioned that he spent a lot of time watching football with her as a child, and that she was able to speak 7 languages. Hopefully the Patriots canget a win in her memory!

2. Shades of XLIX?

This game is being billed as a rematch of 2015’s legendary Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, but these teams have changed a great deal over the past six years. Prominent figures from that game such as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler, Richard Sherman, & Earl Thomas have all changed teams, with others such as Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor, and Darrelle Revis having retired as well.

Other than their head coaches, here are the players that remain from that eventful game.

Patriots

  • Julian Edelman
  • Matthew Slater
  • Devin McCourty
  • James White

Seahawks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Bobby Wagner
  • KJ Wright
  • Luke Willson
  • Bruce Irvin

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 17

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 2 contests.

Last week: 10-5

Giants at Bears: Giants

Rams at Eagles: Rams

Falcons at Cowboys: Cowboys

Panthers at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

49ers at Jets: 49ers

Broncos at Steelers: Steelers

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

Lions at Packers: Packers

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Vikings at Colts: Vikings

Washington at Cardinals: Cardinals

Ravens at Texans: Ravens

Chiefs at Chargers: Chiefs

Saints at Raiders: Saints

Cam & the Pats rush past Miami!

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The Patriots started off the post-Brady era with a win, as they knocked off the Miami Dolphins (0-1) with a 21-11 victory in an empty Gillette Stadium. Cam Newton made his heavily anticipated debut as the team’s quarterback, and was efficient as both a rusher and a passer. In addition, Bill Belichick’s defense came to play, as they were able to mostly shut down Miami’s offense throughout the game.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 1 contest.

1. Cam and the offense had their way

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, the biggest question mark for the Patriots was definitely Cam Newton’s health and effectiveness, as we hadn’t seen him in action for almost a year. Newton didn’t disappoint, as he had 230 total yards, including 2 rushing touchdowns. He was a decisive rusher, and most surprisingly, he didn’t shy away from contact, with a clear highlight being his second touchdown, where he got hit hard by a Dolphins’ defender as he crossed the goal line. After two decades with a immobile quarterback, it was fascinating to see the designed runs cooked up by Josh McDaniels, which varied from option runs to simple draws.

Furthermore, Newton’s passing was crisp, and apart from a couple of drops and pass breakups, he was accurate with the football. It was encouraging to see him build a rapport with Julian Edelman (5 receptions for 57 yards), N’Keal Harry (5 receptions for 39 yards), and James White (3 receptions for 30 yards). The trio will need to step up throughout the season for the team to have success getting the ball down the field. Unfortunately for Harry, he had a crucial fumble into the end zone which ended a great drive in second half, and breathed new life into Miami’s comeback attempt. More than anything else, Bill Belichick values protecting the football, so I’m sure that he let the second-year receiver know that mistakes like that won’t be tolerated in the future.

I believe that the offensive line had a great game, as they were able to protect Newton (he was only sacked 2 times), and clear lanes for the team’s running backs. It was encouraging to see David Andrews return to action after missing last season, and it was clear that having him back helped anchor the offensive line. The team’s running backs (along with Newton) collaborated for 217 yards on the ground, setting a record for a Patriots’ season opener. After struggling for most of last season, Sony Michel showed some burst, although he only netted 37 yards, to go along with a touchdown. The biggest surprise from the running back room had to be undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor, who showed his ability to be a power runner despite his shorter stature, as he totaled 28 yards off of 4 carries.

All in all, having a versatile quarterback such as Newton helped change the pace of the Patriots offense, as they’re definitely more versatile than they’ve been in the past. However, it’s important to note that they will probably switch things up as they get through the season, as it’s not sustainable to have Newton rush 15 times per game.

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(Steven Senne/AP)

 

2. The secondary led the defense once again

The last time these two teams met, Miami had their way against the previously impervious Patriots’ secondary, as they were able to drive down the field at will to win the game. Yesterday was a different story, as the Patriots were able to force Ryan Fitzpatrick into throwing three interceptions, with Stephon Gilmore, Adrian Phillips, and JC Jackson responsible for the turnovers. Apart from some mental errors that extended drives due to penalties in the second half, it’s hard to be mad at how the Patriots’ secondary played yesterday. However, they’ll have to be better as their competition becomes tougher.

The Patriots’ defense was much better against the run, as they held Miami to 87 yards as a team, with crafty veterans Matt Breida (5 carries for 22 yards) & Jordan Howard (8 yards for 7 yards) accounting for less than 30 yards combined. My only complaint is that that they struggled to contain Fitzpatrick coming out of the pocket, as he picked up a few first downs, and even scored on a two-point conversion.

To sum up their defensive performance, I was impressed by the way they locked up a sneaky good Miami offense, but there are definitely kinks to be worked up as the season progresses.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams (18) runs the ball against New England Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings (58) and defensive back Jonathan Jones (31) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

 

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 15/19 for 155 yards
  • Rushing: Cam Newton – 15 carries for 75 yards, & 2 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 receptions for 57 yards
  • Defensive: Adrian Phillips – 9 total tackles

Dolphins

  • Passing: Ryan Fitzpatrick – 20/30 for 191 yards, & 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Myles Gaskin – 9 carries for 40 yards
  • Receiving: Devante Parker – 4 receptions for 47 yards
  • Defensive: Jerome Baker – 16 total tackles (including 1 sack)

Bonus:

1. New uniforms!

It was great seeing the Patriots debut their new uniforms, which looked great under the September sun, although it wouldn’t be a bad idea to introduce silver or white pants.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs with the ball during the second half of a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

2. Artificial crowd

The artificial crowd noise concocted by the NFL left a bit to be desired, as it definitely didn’t sound like a real crowd was in attendance, but I’m guessing that it will be improved as the season goes on. 

3. Post game tussle

Cam Newton and some Miami defenders got into it after the game ended, with Newton insisting that they tried to yank one of the chains around his neck. Newton mocked them after the game on his Instagram, although two Dolphins chimed in to say that they didn’t want his “weak” chain.

What’s next?: The Patriots head out west to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson & the Seahawks (1-0) on Sunday Night Football.

Can the new look Patriots exact revenge on Miami?

 

 

In the NFL, it’s common knowledge that you’re not entitled to anything. If you want to put your team in a good position to succeed in the playoffs, you need to show up when it matters. Unfortunately for the Patriots, they didn’t seem to get the memo last season, when they unexpectedly dropped their regular season finale to the Miami Dolphins at home. That loss prevented New England from securing a first round bye, and forced them to host Tennessee for a Wild Card game that ended up being Tom Brady’s last game as a Patriot.

A lot of things have changed since that matchup in December, from the pandemic, to the vast exodus of veterans from the Patriots roster during free agency. A win tomorrow won’t change the result from that Week 17 contest, but it would help set the tone for a wildly different season with Cam Newton under center.

With that being said, here’s what to look forward to during this Week 1 matchup.

1. What will the Patriots’ offense look like?

New England’s offensive struggles throughout the tumultuous 2019 season were well documented, as it quickly became evident that receivers other than Julian Edelman consistently struggled to get open against man coverage. Other than letting Phillip Dorsett walk & releasing Mohamed Sanu, Bill Belichick didn’t do much to overhaul the wide receiver corps, which means that the Patriots will be relying on Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers to carry the load. Personally, I’m excited to see what newcomer Damiere Byrd can bring to the table, as his pure speed could help open things up down the field. Due to the strength of Miami’s secondary, I’m pessimistic about the Patriots’ chances of winning one-on-one matchups against Dolphin defenders. However, the addition of rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene could help lighten the load for the team’s wide receivers, as they are definitely miles better than the team’s putrid tight end room from last season. Based on what we’ve heard from training camp, both Asiasi & Keene are dynamic, but the learning curve for rookie tight ends is typically steep, so it will definitely be a storyline to follow.

After a stellar rookie season, Sony Michel struggled mightily during the 2019 season, as he had a tough time getting started behind a patchwork offensive line. Luckily for Michel, starting center David Andrews is returning to action, after missing the entire 2019 season due to blood clots in his lungs. Andrews was a key anchor for the offensive line that dominated opponents during the Patriots’ last run to the Super Bowl. Michel had a leg injury that sidelined him for most of training camp, but when he returned, it was reported that he was quicker and more agile than the last time we saw him. As always, the Patriots will turn to the reliable duo of James White & Rex Burkhead to supplement Michel, with the two veterans also playing an important role in the passing game as well. The most intriguing member of the running back room has to be Damien Harris, who had a strong training camp until he suffered an untimely injury that will sideline him for at least 3 weeks.

I think it’s obvious that the biggest question mark surrounding the Patriots right now has to be the health & effectiveness of Cam Newton. Due to a lack of preseason games, we haven’t seen Newton in action for almost a year, which means that his running ability (which typically energizes an offense) is an unknown for now. Hence, we don’t know how comfortable Newton will be scrambling around the pocket and line of scrimmage tomorrow. Most importantly, it’s interesting to wonder if he’ll still initiate contact with defenders, which was a big part of his game back in Carolina. That being said, the mystery around Newton’s game could actually be a boon for Belichick and Josh McDaniels, as Miami’s head coach Brian Flores won’t know exactly what he’s dealing with. Most analysts have said that they expect McDaniels’ plan for Newton to be similar to Norv Turner’s short passing game from Newton’s stellar but injury plagued 2018 season, which actually seems to suit how the Patriots’ receivers play, as they’re definitely more effective across the middle of the field.

All in all, I’m excited to see how the post-Brady Patriots’ offense looks with a more mobile quarterback in Cam Newton, whose strengths may help cover the warts at wide receiver and other skill positions.

New England Patriots Practice
FOXBOROUGH, MA – AUGUST 26: QB Cam Newton, left, and Julian Edelman work out during a drill at the training camp. The New England Patriots hold practice training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

2. Can the defense deliver?

One of the biggest storylines of the offseason was the news that several Patriots veterans, including key leaders Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung had decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. The absence of these two important defensive contributors will undoubtedly cast a spotlight on younger players on the defense, and test Bill Belichick’s confidence in them.

It may be hard to take the Dolphins’ offense seriously with 37 year old journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but as the Patriots learned last year, he can hurt you when it matters most. Fitzpatrick’s top two weapons in Devante Parker & Mike Gesicki were key contributors during that December loss, and will likely be an important part of Miami’s game plan tomorrow. Uncharacteristically, Stephon Gilmore struggled mightily covering Parker, so I have to imagine that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is salivating at the opportunity to exact revenge by locking up Miami’s top receiver. Due to the loss of Patrick Chung, it’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots decide to match up against Gesicki, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their top pick Kyle Dugger is given the assignment due to the success he had during training camp. Having Devin McCourty in the back end will be as important as ever, due to his effectiveness as both a player and a leader. New England will also have to deal with Preston Williams & Jakeem Grant, but I’m confident that the rest of the secondary will be able to limit their effectiveness.

However, the team’s defensive line and linebacker corps are much more of an enigma. The defensive line struggled to stop the run throughout last season, with the Wild Card game being a clear example, as Derrick Henry accumulated 182 rushing yards for the Titans. Other than adding veteran DT Beau Allen, the Patriots mostly stayed pat at the position, which means that Lawrence Guy and a slew of younger players will be tasked with playing much better against the run this season. Tomorrow’s game will be a tall task, as Miami has one of the fastest running backs in the league in Matt Breida, and a bruising rusher in Jordan Howard.

Dont’a Hightower’s decision to opt out dealt a devastating blow to the team’s linebacker corps, as he was a steadying force in the middle of the field. Luckily, the Patriots went into April’s draft with the goal of improving at linebacker, due to the departures of Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, & Kyle Van Noy (the latter two players signed with Miami). This led to the team drafting Alabama LB Anfernee Jennings & Michigan LB Josh Uche, who should help add versatility to the position behind three-year veteran Ja’Whaun Bentley. New England will also rely on Chase Winovich and John Simon to set the edge, and get after Fitzpatrick.

The Patriots had one of the NFL’s best defenses last year, so it will be intriguing to see how the retooled lineup looks tomorrow against a Dolphins offense that gave them fits last season.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 08: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots runs the ball after recovering a fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Gilmore was ruled down after recovering the fumble. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Yodny Cajuste (knee) – Out
  • Gunner Olszewski (foot) – Out
  • Dalton Keene (neck) – Questionable
  • Cassh Maluia (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Chase Winovich (shoulder) – Questionable

Dolphins

  • Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral) – Doubtful

Bonus:

1. New uniforms!

Tomorrow’s game will mark the debut of the Patriots’ new uniforms, which are primarily based on the team’s popular Color Rush uniforms which were worn from 2016 to 2019. Interestingly, this will be the first time the team wears the combination in a non-prime time game.

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(Photo via the New England Patriots)

 

2. Fans in the stands?

Due to COVID-19, the Patriots will not have fans in Gillette Stadium throughout September. New England has been provided with a recorded track of artificial crowd noise which will be filtered throughout the stadium.

 

Prediction: Patriots 23, Dolphins 14

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 1 slate (apart from Thursday’s opening game).

Jets at Bills: Bills

Packers at Vikings: Vikings

Eagles at Washington: Eagles

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Raiders at Panthers: Raiders

Bears at Lions: Bears

Seahawks at Falcons: Seahawks

Chargers at Bengals: Chargers

Cardinals at 49ers: 49ers

Buccaneers at Saints: Saints

Cowboys at Rams: Cowboys

Steelers at Giants: Steelers

Titans at Broncos: Titans

A SUPER Move?: Cam Newton signs with the Patriots!

2020 has been a strange year to say the least, with the NFL being no exception. Tom Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots back in March (with Rob Gronkowski joining him soon after) was surreal, and so was Cam Newton’s departure from Carolina, after 9 seasons with the Panthers. After being linked to the former MVP for over 3 months, the Patriots finally pulled the trigger on signing Newton, as they locked him up on a one year incentive-laden deal.

Here’s what the signing means for the different parties involved.

1. The Patriots

Losing the GOAT was always going to be a challenge for the Patriots, as it’s hard to replace 20 years of sustained excellence. Due to the fact that the Pats opted to pass on free agents such as Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, many believed that the team was comfortable with the idea of moving forward with second year QB Jarrett Stidham, but certain outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report refused to allow the possibility of Cam Newton fade away, due to their constant discussions on why he would be a good fit for the team.

Signing Newton gives the Patriots a dynamic athlete at quarterback, which is a sharp contrast to their previous starter, and also puts them in a win-win situation. If Newton plays well and exceeds his minimum contract, the Patriots got a bargain at the game’s most important position, and if he performs poorly (or gets hurt), they can move on from him without any financial burdens. At the end of the day, this shouldn’t be viewed as an indictment against Stidham, as the Patriots would have been foolish to pass on a former MVP at such a cheap price. As several people in the league have mentioned, you can never have too much talent on your team.

josh-mcdaniels-bill-belichick
(Photo via NESN)

2. Cam Newton

For better or worse, Cam Newton has been one of the most polarizing players in the NFL over the past 9 years, due to constant controversy surrounding his larger than life image and on-field demeanor. As someone who’s watched him with a neutral eye during this period, I’ve always felt like the negativity associated with him was unfair, as he has never done anything to indicate that he’s a bad locker room presence or an unmanageable diva. In addition, it’s hard to look past his great work with the community in Charlotte, with a particular emphasis on the children in the area.

Getting back to Cam Newton the football player, he’s been fantastic when healthy, with his 2015 season standing out as pure dominance. Due to Newton’s enormous stature and status as a dual-threat QB, he’s accumulated a great deal of injuries over the years, with a devastating shoulder injury in 2018, and a Lisfranc (midfoot) injury in 2019. The latter injury forced him to sit out 14 of 16 games last season, and led to his release in Carolina. Newton’s injury history resulted in a lack of interest around the league, and led to him being willing to take such a steep discount to play for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Cam Newton has a great chance to reestablish his value in the league, with a strong 2020 season giving him the opportunity to cash-in prior to 2021.

cam v pats 18
(John Cetrino/EPA)

The potential success of this signing is contingent on Newton’s health, as a healthy Newton should run away with any sort of QB competition in training camp. If he’s able to learn the team’s playbook and return to his 2018 form, the Patriots should be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. Personally, I’m interested to see how the offense will adapt with Newton at the helm, as Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels love to be malleable, and having a lethal option at QB would give them an opportunity to overhaul the offensive game plan if they choose to do so. 

 

 

 

“New” Threads for a New Era

For the first time in 20 years, the Patriots will have a quarterback not named Tom Brady under center. However, that’s not the only big change for the team in 2020, as they recently debuted their “new” uniforms for the upcoming season. Other than the addition of alternate/throwback uniforms in the mid-2000’s and 2010’s, this is the first major tweak for the team since the turn of the millennium.

What’s different?

These uniforms are based on the Pats’ popular Color Rush alternates, which were introduced in 2016, as part of a league-wide initiative for Thursday Night Football. The Color Rush program was ultimately mothballed prior to the 2018 season, but teams such as the Patriots have continued to wear them as an additional alternative uniform. New England essentially took the monochromatic blue uniform, with thick red and white stripes on the shoulders (a nod to their popular Pat Patriot uniforms) and pants, and only changed the numeric font. In order to match their new home uniform, the team created a white counterpart (similar to their AFL away uniform), which features an inverted stripe pattern (with red and blue) and paired it with the same blue pants. Both jerseys feature slight silver accents on the numbers, and are paired with the team’s traditional silver helmet with a red facemask. The Pats also introduced new socks, which feature a color-blocked scheme of red, white, and blue.

new-patriots-uniforms
(Photo via the New England Patriots)

Although there are people who think that the team came up with the idea of new uniforms as soon as Tom Brady announced his decision to leave, this change has been in the works since 2018, in cooperation with the NFL’s rules on uniform changes (which requires at least 2 years advance notice from teams to the league office). This means that Tom Brady would have worn these uniforms if he had chosen to stay in New England.

How have Patriots fans reacted?

As most NFL teams (other than the Chargers) have realized this year, it is impossible to please your fans when it comes to changing your uniforms. Even though ESPN’s Mike Reiss mentioned in March that these changes would be “subtle”, most Pats fans imagined unrealistic possibilities ranging from re-adopting the Pat Patriot uniforms to making a modernized version of the polarizing 1990’s uniforms. Hence, fan reaction to this change has been mixed at best, as evidenced by several heated reactions on the team’s Twitter feed.

The negative reactions on social media can also be attributed to several blunders on the team’s part. For instance, the uniforms looked clunky on the models they chose, and they even advertised the wrong pants. The studio models were wearing last season’s Color Rush pants, with thick white stripes, while the uniforms sent to player such as Stephon Gilmore and James White featured pants with thick red stripes, which matches up with the stripes on the blue jersey.

What do I think?

Personally, I love the changes the team instituted, as I have been a big fan of the Color Rush alternates from the day they were introduced. Compared to the “Brady era” uniforms, these uniforms are much less cluttered, without unnecessary piping and side panels. There’s no doubt that the team’s previous uniforms are iconic and synonymous with success, due to the team’s unprecedented six Super Bowl victories while wearing that set, but it’s hard to ignore how dated the uniform got as time went on. This became evident when the league switched from Reebok to Nike for their uniforms, as Nike’s materials made the home silver pants look drab and boring, as compared to Reebok’s materials, which had made them look shiny and appealing.

slate old unis
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In addition, as Nike’s uniform templates got more advanced, the Pats’ early 2000’s design looked more out of place, as form-fitting uniforms made the team’s piping and side panels look increasingly unappealing.

Patriots Rams Super Bowl Football
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

Going back to the new uniforms, I love the red and white stripes on the home jersey, as they really give a pop of color against the blue base. The white jersey looks sleek, although I do agree with the people on Twitter who feel as though the team would be better off switching the red and blue in the striping pattern, as it is more pleasant to look at. My main gripe with the uniform set is that the team opted not to include white pants (for now), which would have perfectly complemented the current rotation. The all-blue home uniform is attractive, but pairing it with white pants could take it to another level.

cr promo
(PeterBretter/Reddit)

At the same time, having white pants would enable the team to also wear all-white on the road, which would be a heavily appealing option. The Pats wore all-white in 2017 against the Buccaneers in their old uniforms, which showed how sleek the combination could be. Hopefully the team chooses to bring them back!

Patriots Buccaneers Football, Tampa, USA - 05 Oct 2017
(Photo via Shutterstock)

 

A sign for the future?

Many fans wanted the Pats to bring back white helmets, which would have simplified the team’s color scheme, and enabled them to bring back the popular Pat Patriot throwbacks, which they have not worn since 2012 (due to the NFL’s controversial one-shell rule, which prevents teams from using more than one helmet). Fortunately, comments from the Patriots indicate that there may be changes in the works for the 2021 season, as the press release for these uniforms specifically mentioned the possibility of bringing back the red throwbacks if the league’s rule on helmets is nixed.

dev throwbacks
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

 

Ranking the other new NFL uniforms

The Patriots were one of seven teams to announce uniform changes, with the Rams being the only team to not introduce their new uniforms as of yet.

Here’s a ranking of the uniforms introduced so far (excluding the Patriots)

1. Chargers

chargers new unis
(Photo via the Los Angeles Chargers)

2. Browns

browns new uniforms
(Photo via the Cleveland Browns)

3. Buccaneers

buccaneers new unis
(Photo via the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

4. Colts

colts new unis
(Photo via the Indianapolis Colts)

5. Falcons

falcons new unis
(Photo via the Atlanta Falcons)

 

2019-20 NFL Playoff Predictions

Here are my complete playoff predictions, from the Wild Card Weekend to Super Bowl LIV.

(Note that AFC predictions are in red, while NFC predictions are in blue)

Wild Card Weekend

#6 Tennessee Titans at #3 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

Kyle Van Noy, Daniel Jones
(Elise Amendola/AP)

 

#5 Buffalo Bills at #4 Houston Texans

Prediction: Texans

deshaun watson playoffs 19
(Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle)

#6 Minnesota Vikings at #3 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Vikings

stefon diggs playoffs 19.jpg
(Jack Rodgers / Pioneer Press)

#5 Seattle Seahawks at #4 Philadelphia Eagles

Prediction: Seahawks

russell wilson p19.jpg
(Alika Jenner/AFP)

Divisional Round

#4 Houston Texans at #1 Baltimore Ravens

Prediction: Ravens

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

#3 New England Patriots at #2 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Patriots

jules v browns w819
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

#6 Minnesota Vikings at #1 San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: 49ers

emmanue, sanders pl19.jpg
(Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

#5 Seattle Seahawks at #2 Green Bay Packers

Prediction: Packers

aaron rodgers pl19.jpg
(Photo via ESPN)

Conference Championships

#3 New England Patriots at #1 Baltimore Ravens

Prediction: Patriots

tb vs ravens w9p19
(Photo via Getty Images)

#2 Green Bay Packers at #1 San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: 49ers

nick bosa pl19.jpeg
(Tony Avelar/AP)

Super Bowl LIV

#3 New England Patriots vs #1 San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: Patriots

tb pl19.jpg
(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Wild-Card Matchup: Can the Pats stay alive against Tennessee?

For the first time in a decade, the Patriots will be playing on Wild Card Weekend, as they welcome the Tennessee Titans (9-7) for a Saturday night matchup in Gillette Stadium.

Even though New England is favored to win by 5 points, there are many pundits and analysts who believe that the Patriots Dynasty will come to an end tomorrow night.

Here are some things to consider entering this Wild Card matchup.

1. Can the offense deliver?

The Patriots’ offense has been inconsistent at best over the last few weeks, with a solid outing against the stout Bills defense in Week 16, before digging an early hole during a surprising loss to the Dolphins in Week 17. Tom Brady is likely itching to get out and play, due to the constant talk about his future in New England, and the surprising thought that he ranks last amongst all the quarterbacks in the playoffs. Unfortunately for #12, he is facing off against a team that features coaches who are very familiar with how he operates, as Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were both part of the Patriots in the early 2000s. Brady will need all the help he can get if the Patriots hope to emerge victorious tomorrow.

Tennessee features a dynamic defensive line, which gave the Patriots massive problems during a dominant 34-10 Titans victory in 2018. The Patriots offensive line will need to be at the top of their game if they want to keep Brady upright. In addition, the Patriots’ receiving corps (mainly N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu) has to get separation and make plays down the field in order to help out Brady and Julian Edelman.

The Patriots will also have to focus on producing a solid rushing attack, as the forecast calls for precipitation throughout tomorrow’s game (which may make it tougher to throw the ball down the field). I believe that Josh McDaniels and his staff have to focus on getting Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead involved from the get-go, as it will help take pressure off of Brady and the passing game, and punish Tennessee if they opt to send blitz packages.

If the Patriots want to have the chance to defend their Super Bowl title, they will need to have a great outing by their offense.

tb vs titans pwc19
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Will the defense rebound from last week’s debacle?

The most shocking aspect of last week’s loss to Miami was the fact that the seemingly stout Patriots’ defense fell apart against an offensive attack led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, with Stephon Gilmore getting absolutely bullied by DeVante Parker throughout the game. For the first time all season, the Patriots’ defense let down the offense, as they were unable to hold their late lead, which resulted in the team losing their first round bye.

New England has a quick turnaround, as they face a talented Titans’ offense that features playmakers such as Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Henry led the NFL in rushing yards, and is a downhill runner that will likely give the Patriots problems (as evidenced by their struggles against Baltimore, Cleveland, and Cincinnati). Due to the forecast, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tennessee opts to feed Henry early and often, which could wear out the Patriots’ defense and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.

One of the most surprising stories of this season was the reemergence of Ryan Tannehill as a viable starting quarterback, as he led the Titans to 7 wins after replacing Marcus Mariota as the team’s starter. Similarly to his head coach, Tannehill is familiar with playing in Gillette Stadium, due to his years in Miami, which could indicate that he won’t be as intimidated as your typical quarterback making their first career start in the postseason.

Stopping AJ Brown will need to be of the utmost importance, as the rookie receiver has flashed his big play potential all throughout this season. Stephon Gilmore and the other cornerbacks will need to bounce back with a vengeance to stifle Brown, Corey Davis and the rest of Tennessee’s receivers.

The Patriots’ strength has been their defense, and they will need to find their rhythm once again if they hope to advance to the next round.

derrick henry vs pats pwc19
(Photo via the Tennessee Titans)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
  • Terrence Brooks (groin) – Questionable
  • Jamie Collins Sr. (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) – Questionable
  • Jonathan Jones (groin) – Questionable
  • Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable

Titans

  • Adam Humphries (ankle) – Out
  • Kalif Raymond (concussion) – Doubtful
  • Cody Hollister (ankle) – Questionable
  • Dane Cruikshank (illness) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Titans 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the Wild Card Weekend.

Last week: 10-6

Bills at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Saints: Vikings

Seahawks at Eagles: Seahawks

NFL Week 17 Picks

Last week: 11-5

Dolphins at Patriots: Patriots

Packers at Lions: Packers

Jets at Bills: Bills

Bears at Vikings: Vikings

Chargers at Chiefs: Chiefs

Browns at Bengals: Browns

Saints at Panthers: Saints

Falcons at Buccaneers: Falcons

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Eagles at Giants: Eagles

Cardinals at Rams: Rams

Steelers at Ravens: Ravens

Titans at Texans: Titans

Raiders at Broncos: Raiders

Redskins at Cowboys: Cowboys

49ers at Seahawks: 49ers

NFL Week 16 Picks

Here are my picks for the NFL’s Week 16 slate of games.

Last week: 8-7

Bills at Patriots: Patriots

Texans at Buccaneers: Texans

Rams at 49ers: 49ers

Steelers at Jets: Steelers

Saints at Titans: Saints

Panthers at Colts: Colts

Bengals at Dolphins: Dolphins

Ravens at Browns: Ravens

Jaguars at Falcons: Falcons

Giants at Redskins: Redskins

Lions at Broncos: Broncos

Raiders at Chargers: Raiders

Cardinals at Seahawks: Seahawks

Cowboys at Eagles: Cowboys

Chiefs at Bears: Chiefs

Packers at Vikings: Vikings