Rubber Match!: Previewing the Wild Card Matchup between the Patriots and Bills

After 18 wild weeks of football, it is finally time for the NFL playoffs to begin! The Patriots will make their return to the postseason after last year’s 7-9 finish, and will open against the hated Buffalo Bills (11-6) on Saturday. Interestingly, this will be the third matchup between the two teams in the last 40 days. After splitting the season series, it is time for the rubber match!

Here’s what to expect during this Wild Card matchup.

1. Can the Patriots protect Mac Jones?

The two regular season matchups against Buffalo were wildly different experiences for Mac Jones. In the first matchup, he was only asked to throw the ball 3 times, and he competed 2 of them during the 14-10 victory. In the second matchup, Buffalo got after him early and often, as the rookie struggled during the 33-21 loss. The Bills have a stingy and savvy defense, led by stalwarts such as Matt Milano, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde, who can make life incredibly difficult for a quarterback. If the Patriots want to have any semblance of success, they need to be able to give Jones a clean pocket, and hope that their pass-catchers can get separation downfield. Hence, it is imperative that they attempt to establish the run, which they were able to do during the two earlier matchups. Doing so can help with play-action, and could result in lighter coverages in the secondary. If Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson can get going, it would definitely serve as a catalyst to the rest of the offense. In that vein, the Patriots need to hope that the return of Nelson Agholor will help boost their vertical passing game, as opposing defensive backs will need to respect his speed down the field. Agholor missed the second matchup against Buffalo, when the Patriots clearly struggled to gain downfield separation. All in all, establishing the run could boost New England’s passing game, and also help keep Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense on the sideline.

Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

2. Can the defense contain Josh Allen?

Just like Mac Jones, Josh Allen had two different experiences when these teams squared off. He missed a few key throws during Buffalo’s loss, but dominated the Patriots in Foxborough a couple weeks later. Allen’s dynamic abilities were on full display in Week 16, as he diced the Patriots up using his arm and legs. It is imperative that the Patriots keep Allen in the pocket if they want to ensure success. If he is able to break contain, that could prove fatal for New England, as it would enable his receivers to get open down the field. Buffalo does not have the most physically-imposing run game, but Allen’s presence means that a mere scramble could result in a 25-yard carry. Stefon Diggs has had his fair share of success against the Patriots in recent memory, and will likely draw the attention of JC Jackson throughout the game. Even if Diggs does not break free, the Patriots should be wary, as proven by Isaiah McKenzie’s brilliant performance in Week 16. With Cole Beasley back in the lineup, along with Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots defense will likely have its hands full on Saturday.

The Patriots will need to ensure that the Bills do not get off to a hot start, as a comeback victory is likely not feasible with their style of offense.

Omar Rawlings / Getty Images

3. Injury Report

Patriots

  • Jamie Collins (ankle) – Questionable
  • Cody Davis, Wrist – Questionable
  • Kyle Dugger, Hand – Questionable
  • Nick Folk, Left Knee – Questionable
  • Lawrence Guy, Shoulder – Questionable
  • Damien Harris, Hamstring – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower, Knee – Questionable
  • Brandon King, Toe – Questionable
  • Jakobi Meyers, Thigh – Questionable
  • Adrian Phillips, Knee – Questionable
  • Christian Barmore, Knee – Questionable
  • Isaiah Wynn, Hip/Ankle – Questionable
  • David Andrews, Shoulder – Questionable

Bills

  • No players listed

4. What’re they wearing?

Courtesy of the Gridiron Uniform Database

5. Prediction

The Patriots have matched up well against Buffalo this season, but this trip may feature too much for them to handle against a very talented Bills team.

Bills 28, Patriots 17

(Top photo: Courtesy of the New England Patriots)

Cam & the Pats rush past Miami!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

MIA 0 3 0 8 11

NE

0 7 7 7 21

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.

cam & pats w120
(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.

Dev new unis 2020
(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

The Pats’ Boogeymen haunt Darnold and shutout the Jets!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

NYJ 0 0 0 0 0

NE

17 7 2 7 33

There were many pundits who expected yesterday’s game between the Patriots and Jets (1-5) to be competitive, due to the Pats’ injuries on offense, and the return of Sam Darnold to the Jets’ lineup. However, a dominant performance on both sides of the ball enabled the Pats to cruise to a 33-0 victory and their fourth straight season sweep of New York. This win improved the Pats to 7-0 on the season, and keeps them atop the AFC through seven weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Another defensive masterpiece!

The Pats’ defense was remarkable yet again, as they shut out the Jets on offense for the second time this season, and limited them to 154 yards of total offense. Following a dominant performance against the Cowboys that netted him the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week award, Sam Darnold was utterly neutralized by Bill Belichick’s defense, as he mustered only 86 passing yards, with a QBR of 0.7. Darnold’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Devin McCourty, and appeared to set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Pats used an effective pass rush to throw off Darnold’s timing and force turnovers. Darnold threw 4 interceptions and lost a fumble, en route to the worst performance of his professional career. Darnold’s frustration can be summed up by him mentioning how he was “seeing ghosts” on the field.

Demaryius Thomas was arguably the only efficient receiver for the Jets, as he managed to eclipse 40 yards, and drew several flags against J.C. Jackson, which enabled New York to extend multiple drives. Le’Veon Bell was effective on the ground, as he totaled 70 yards off of 15 carries, after being limited to 35 yards in Week 3’s matchup in Foxborough.

The Patriots’ defense has been the catalyst for the team’s unbeaten start to the season, and will need to continue to play at this level as the schedule begins to become more difficult.

d mac v jets w719.jpg
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

2. A good offensive rebound!

The Pats’ offense entered this matchup with several questions regarding their ability to overcome their perceived lack of depth at certain positions. Tom Brady and the offense opened the game with a drive that totaled nearly 9 minutes and culminated in a touchdown by Sony Michel. After a few weeks of uneven offensive performances, the Pats were able to sustain drives and move the ball against a physical Jets’ defense. The offensive line was much better at protecting Brady, as he wasn’t sacked, and was hit only 3 times. Due to injuries at fullback, Josh McDaniels enlisted several players to fill the void at the position, with linebacker Elandon Roberts being a notable example.

The Pats were able to spread the ball around, as Brady completed 31 passes to 9 different receivers, en route to 249 passing yards. Brady’s top weapons in this game were James White (7 receptions for 59 yards), Jakobi Meyers (5 receptions for 47 yards), and Julian Edelman (7 receptions for 47 yards), with Phillip Dorsett also pitching in with a 26-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Sony Michel didn’t have his best game of the season, but he was effective when the Pats needed him, as he was able to score 3 touchdowns (for the first time in his regular season career).

The Patriots’ offense wasn’t as effective in the second half, but another dominant performance by their defense gave them a high margin for error. The Pats should be encouraged by how they were able to push around a physical defense, but they will need to find more consistency as the season progresses. Luckily for the offense, they will likely get N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn back soon, and today’s trade for Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu should also give the passing game a boost.

sony v jets w719.jpg
(Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 31/45 for 249 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel- 19 carries for 42 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Receiving: James White – 7 receptions for 59 yards
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 6 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Sam Darnold – 11/32 for 86 yards and 4 interceptions
  • Rushing: Le’Veon Bell – 15 carries for 70 yards
  • Receiving: Demaryius Thomas – 3 receptions for 42 yards
  • Defensive: Darryl Roberts – 8 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head back to Foxborough to face Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns (2-4) for a matchup that promises to test Bill Belichick’s defense, as they face off against an offense with weapons such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

Descending in MetLife: Will the Pats continue to neutralize New York?

On Monday, the Patriots make their annual trip to the Meadowlands to play their hated rival, the New York Jets (1-4) for the second time this season. The two teams squared off in Week 3, with the Pats easily winning by 16 points, but this week’s game could look drastically different, as both teams will be starting players that missed the matchup in September.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 7 contest.

1. Can the defense continue to dominate?

The Patriots have been able to overpower their opponents with surgical and physical defensive game plans, which have been mostly successful in neutralizing what opposing offenses do best. This week, they face off against an offense that shocked the league with their ability to dice up an usually competent Dallas defense. New York’s resurgence on offense can be attributed to the return of their starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who was sidelined due to a 4 week bout with mononucleosis. Darnold clearly ignited something in Adam Gase’s much maligned offense, as he combined with Robbie Anderson and Jamison Crowder to dissect Dallas’ secondary. It wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Stephon Gilmore matched up against Anderson once again, as he has had success covering him in recent years. Another Jets’ receiver that the Pats will likely pay attention to is Demaryius Thomas, who made headlines this week for complaining about how Bill Belichick and the Pats’ front office cut and re-signed him, before shipping him to New York (due to the failed Antonio Brown experiment). Thomas will likely be motivated to prove that New England made a mistake in trading him, so the Pats should be careful to not lose him in coverage.

In order to emerge victorious, I believe that the Pats will need to neutralize Le’Veon Bell once again, and force Darnold to beat them with his arm.

pats d v darnold w7p19.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has been decimated by injuries and turmoil over the last few weeks, which has limited their effectiveness in recent games. Unfortunately for Tom Brady, he will be without yet another weapon on Monday night, as Josh Gordon will be missing the game due to knee and ankle injuries. Gordon’s absence will likely result in increased snaps for Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, who were effective in small doses in Week 6 against the Giants. Phillip Dorsett has been able to practice all week after sitting out Week 6 due to a hamstring injury, and is likely to suit up on Monday, which will help take pressure off of Brady, and Julian Edelman.

The Pats’ offensive line has struggled in recent weeks, and Monday’s matchup with the Jets won’t be any easier for them, as New York will have C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams on the field (both defenders were not active in Week 3). Hopefully re-signing Ben Watson will give the Pats a slight improvement in blocking, and help Sony Michel find some lanes to run through.

Facing a defense coached by Gregg Williams is never easy, so the battered Patriots’ offense will need to be at their absolute best to leave MetLife Stadium with a win.

tb v jets w7p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Josh Gordon (ankle/knee) – Out
  • Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Out
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (hamstring) – Questionable

Jets

  • Albert McClellan (concussion) – Out
  • Henry Anderson (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle) – Doubtful
  • Christopher Herndon (hamstring) – Doubtful
  • Neville Hewitt (neck/knee) – Doubtful
  • Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Alex Lewis (neck) – Questionable
  • Nate Hairston (knee) – Questionable
  • Ryan Kalil (shoulder) – Questionable
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Darryl Roberts (ankle) – Questionable
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder/knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 7 games (apart from Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 6-8

Raiders at Packers: Packers

Rams at Falcons: Rams

49ers at Redskins: 49ers

Texans at Colts: Texans

Vikings at Lions: Vikings

Jaguars at Bengals: Jaguars

Cardinals at Giants: Giants

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Chargers at Titans: Chargers

Ravens at Seahawks: Seahawks

Saints at Bears: Bears

Eagles at Cowboys: Cowboys

Pats’ D overcomes sloppy offensive performance to put away the Bills!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

BUF 0 3 7 0 10

NE

13 0 3 0 16

The Patriots’ defense came to play yesterday, as they were able to shake off a dreadful day by Tom Brady and the offense, en route to a 16-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills (3-1). This victory improved the Pats to 4-0 on the season, and moved them into first place in the AFC East.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s victory.

1. Another defensive masterpiece!

Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo have delivered a consistently dominant defense over the last month, and yesterday was no different, as the Pats limited Buffalo to 10 points, and had 4 interceptions (along with 2 forced fumbles). Even though the defense gave up their first touchdown of the season, they constantly befuddled second-year quarterback Josh Allen with their coverage, and forced him into throwing 2 interceptions in the first quarter. Allen eventually got settled in during the third quarter, as he led Buffalo down the field for a touchdown. But the Pats were able to dissipate his confidence when they intercepted him on another deep ball. Allen ultimately finished the game with 153 passing yards and 3 interceptions, and was neutralized as a rushing threat, as he mustered a mere 26 yards. However, Allen’s last play in the game was draped with controversy, as he got knocked in the head by Jonathan Jones while trying to break free from Duron Harmon. There’s no disputing the fact that it was a helmet-to-helmet hit, but Jones didn’t have any malicious intent, and replays even showed that Allen led with his head, which initiated the contact. At the end of the day, the NFL does need to protect its players, so Jones will likely receive a hefty fine, but his actions did not mandate an ejection, even though Buffalo’s players and coaches insisted that it did.

Here is an explanation of the ruling from the NFL’s VP of Officiating, Al Riveron.

After Allen’s exit, Matt Barkley took over for the Bills, and it appeared as if he could lead the Bills to victory, but the Pats defense had a crucial stop on the goal-line on one of Buffalo’s final drives, and forced him into a game-sealing interception with under 2 minutes to play.

Even though the defense was spectacular (with JC Jackson, Devin McCourty, and Kyle Van Noy especially shining), they do have some kinks to iron out, as they gave up over 100 rushing yards, and had several penalties in the second half which allowed Buffalo to extend drives.

dmac w419.jpg
(Adrian Kraus/AP)

2. The offense was absolutely dreadful

The Pats’ offense was very lucky to escape with a win yesterday, as they struggled to put together drives throughout the game. Other than their touchdown drive in the first quarter, Tom Brady was uncharacteristically off-rhythm, and struggled to connect with his receivers. Some of Brady’s struggles can be attributed to a putrid performance by the offensive line, which struggled to give Brady time to survey the field and find open receivers. Brady’s lack of mobility was evident yesterday, as his attempts to scramble out of the pocket did more harm than good, with his head-scratching interception at the goal line in the second quarter being a prime example. If not for James White, the Pats’s offense probably could have been held out of the end zone, as his 26-yard wheel route in the first quarter sparked their lone touchdown. White was Brady’s security blanket, and caught 8 of his 10 targets for 57 yards. Following three energizing performances, Phillip Dorsett struggled mightily, as he caught 2 of his 9 targets for 10 yards. Josh Gordon (3 receptions for 46 yards) and Julian Edelman (4 receptions for 30 yards) were clearly gimpy, and struggled to separate from Buffalo’s defenders.

The Pats’ ground game was slightly more effective, as they were able to gain 74 yards off of 23 carries, but the absence of James Develin clearly appears to be affecting the explosiveness of Sony Michel, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry.

The Pats’ offense should be eternally grateful for the dominance of their defense, as they were able to win despite the fact that Buffalo out-gained them by 150 yards and had 12 more first downs. Granted, their struggles can be attributed to the terrific game-plan by Sean McDermott and the Bills, but continuing to play like this will doom them against better opponents.

tb v bills w419.jpg
(Photo via NESN)

3. Another mixed bag for special teams

Stephen Gostkowski missed yet another extra point yesterday, bringing his total to 4 after four weeks of action. Gostkowksi’s job doesn’t appear to be in danger, but the team has to hope that he overcomes his slump soon, as they cannot afford a missed kick or two during an important game down the line (as evidenced by their loss during the 2016 AFC Championship Game in Denver).

On the other hand, Matthew Slater scored his first career touchdown, following a blocked punt by JC Jackson, which gave the Pats a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.

slater w419.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 18/39 for 150 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 17 carries for 63 yards
  • Receiving: James White – 8 receptions for 57 yards
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 8 tackles (including 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles)

Bills

  • Passing: Josh Allen – 13/28 for 153 passing yards, and 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Frank Gore – 17 carries for 109 yards
  • Receiving: Cole Beasley – 7 receptions for 75 yards
  • Defensive: Tremaine Edmunds – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Washington D.C. to take on the winless Redskins (0-4), who still haven’t named their starting quarterback for the game (they could be led by Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, or their first round pick, Dwayne Haskins).

Heading up North!: Will the Pats knock off the undefeated Bills?

It’s not too often that the Patriots are tied with another team in the AFC East after three weeks of action, which is why tomorrow’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills (3-0) is extremely intriguing, as the victorious team will take first place in the division. The Pats haven’t lost in Buffalo since the 2011 season, which ironically also occurred in Week 4, with both teams being undefeated at the time.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 4 contest.

1. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has changed dramatically over the last few weeks, due to the addition and subsequent release of Antonio Brown, and the injuries sustained by offensive linemen Marcus Cannon & Isaiah Wynn, and fullback James Develin. In addition, Week 3’s game against the Jets tested the limits and versatility of the Pats’ receiving corps, with Julian Edelman getting knocked out of the game with a chest injury. Luckily for the Pats, Edelman was able to make the trip to Buffalo, and is expected to play. As this is only Week 4, having Edelman sit out wouldn’t be the worst idea, as another injury could jeopardize the team’s chances of contending down the line. If Edelman does play, I’d still expect the Pats to be cautious with his number of snaps, which would likely expand the importance of Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett in the offense.

Another important focus for the Pats should be ensuring the success of Sony Michel and the ground game. Michel hasn’t had the greatest start to the season, and the absence of Develin wasn’t exactly helpful for him against the Jets. If the Pats are able to sustain their running game, they can take pressure off of Tom Brady, and keep the Bills off balance with a well-balanced offensive attack.

The Bills’ defense has been stingy thus far, which means the Patriots will need to have a great offensive performance to emerge victorious tomorrow.

jules v bills w4p19.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

2. Can the defense contain Josh Allen?

Josh Allen is one of the most perplexing quarterbacks in the NFL, as he has flashed brilliance with his ability to throw and run, while also displaying a great deal of recklessness with the football. Looking at Allen’s highlights so far, it’s fair to say that one of his greatest assets is his ability to run the ball, as it forces opposing defenses to keep an eye on him at all times. I believe that the Patriots’ key to victory will be bottling up the Bills’ running game, and putting the ball in Josh Allen’s hands. Allen has struggled with accuracy down the field, which plays right into the Pats’ hands, due to their excellent secondary. In addition, forcing Allen to throw a lot would enable Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to dial up the pass rush on the young quarterback. If Allen becomes rattled, he may throw some ill-advised throws, which could lead to takeaways for the defense.

Getting after Josh Allen would go a long way in ensuring another successful outing for the Patriots’ defense.

josh allen v pats d w4p.jpg
(Photo via the Democrat & Chronicle)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Michael Bennett (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (groin) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Marshall Newhouse (illness) – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Bills

  • Tyler Kraft (ankle) – Out
  • Corey Thompson (ankle) – Out
  • Maurice Alexander (knee) – Questionable
  • Jon Feliciano (neck) – Questionable
  • Robert Foster (groin) – Questionable
  • Taron Johnson (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Spencer Long (ankle) – Questionable
  • Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) – Questionable
  • Devin Singletary (hamstring) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 4 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 10-5

Redskins at Giants: Giants

Chiefs at Lions: Chiefs

Titans at Falcons: Falcons

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Raiders at Colts: Colts

Panthers at Texans: Texans

Chargers at Dolphins: Chargers

Buccaneers at Rams: Rams

Seahawks at Cardinals: Seahawks

Vikings at Bears: Bears

Jaguars at Broncos: Jaguars

Cowboys at Saints: Cowboys

Bengals at Steelers: Steelers

Once again, the Jets are grounded in Foxborough!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

NYJ 0 0 7 7 14

NE

13 7 10 0 30

Today’s game was more of the same for the Patriots against the Jets (0-3) in Foxborough, as their dominant defense led them to a 30-14 victory. This win improves them to 3-0 on the season, with 2 of those wins coming against division opponents.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 3 victory.

1. Brady and the offense need to work on their rhythm 

Tom Brady and the Pats’ offense started off hot, as they scored on their first three drives to take an early 20-0 lead, with #12 throwing touchdowns to Philip Dorsett and Julian Edelman. However, the offense began to sputter in the second quarter as their next four drives ended with punts. The Patriots also had their depth at wide receiver tested, due to injuries sustained by Edelman (chest/ribs) and Josh Gordon (hand), which gave Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski more snaps than they’re accustomed to. Edelman ultimately left the game, but early signs indicate that he didn’t suffer a serious injury.

On the other hand, Gordon only missed a few snaps, and was able to make two jaw-dropping catches that helped the Pats move down the field. The Pats struggled to run the ball without James Develin in the backfield, and finished with a measly 68 yards off of 27 carries. Ironically, the Patriots’ offense gave up more points than their stingy defense, as backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw a pick-six to Jets safety Jamal Adams. Most viewers expected Brady’s day to be over when Stidham entered the game, but following the pick-six, Brady re-entered the game to finish it off. 

The Pats’ offense was able to use their quick start to emerge victorious, but they will need to patch things up to be successful down the line.

jg w3.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

2. The Pats’ defense was unbelievably good!

The Patriots’ defense turned in another efficient performance, as they limited New York’s offense to 105 total yards and 0 points. They were able to shutout their opponent in the first half for the fifth straight game (including the 2019 playoffs). Third-string quarterback Luke Falk was never allowed to be comfortable during his first career start, as the Pats constantly got after him, and registered 5 sacks and 10 QB hits. Falk finished with a mere 98 passing yards, and threw an interception to Devin McCourty (where the closest Jet was 12 yards away). Dynamic running back Le’Veon Bell was utterly stifled, as he registered 18 carries for 35 yards. New York’s leading receiver was ex-Patriot Braxton Berrios who had 2 receptions for 29 yards. Jamie Collins was arguably the best player on defense today, as he pressured Falk and was effective against the run.

The Pats’ defense has given up only 3 points through 3 games, and will undoubtedly be tested as the schedule begins to become more difficult over the next few weeks.

dev w3.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Special teams had costly miscues, and an amazing highlight!

Stephen Gostkowski missed another extra point today, with his miss coming following the Pats’ first score. He has missed 3 extra points on the season, which matches his previous career high. Gunner Olszewski was responsible for breaking the Jets’ touchdown drought in Foxborough, as he muffed a punt that was recovered for a touchdown in the third quarter. 

On the other hand, Matthew Slater reminded the NFL why he’s still the premier special teams player in the league with a remarkable effort on a punt which pinned the Jets at the one-yard line.

Special teams will need to improve its performance for the Pats to continue winning, as they cannot afford to leave points on the field.

gunner o fumble w3.jpg
(Stephen Senne/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 28/42 for 306 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Rex Burkhead – 11 carries for 47 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Josh Gordon – 6 receptions for 83 yards
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins Sr. – 7 tackles (including 2 sacks)

Jets

  • Passing: Luke Falk – 12/22 for 98 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Le’Veon Bell – 18 carries for 35 yards
  • Receiving: Braxton Berrios – 2 receptions for 29 yards
  • Defensive: Brian Poole – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Buffalo, where they will take on the Bills (3-0), who are the only other undefeated team in the AFC East. Buffalo has won gritty games, with their young QB Josh Allen clearly taking a step forward over the last few weeks.

Will the Pats continue to be a source of turbulence for the Jets in Foxborough?

It has been nearly 10 years since the last time the New York Jets (0-2) won a game in Foxborough, as the Patriots have utterly dominated their long-time rival during their recent matchups in Gillette Stadium. Week 3 won’t be any easier for New York, as they bring an injury-riddled roster to the home of the champs.

Here are some things to consider entering this game.

1. What will the offense look like without AB?

Much of the conversation surrounding the Patriots’ offense in recent weeks was about the addition of mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown who made his debut for the team during last week’s blowout victory against the Dolphins. However, due to Brown’s decision to send intimidating text messages to a woman accusing him of sexual misconduct, the Patriots opted to part ways with him on Friday.

Brown getting released just 2 days prior to the game likely throws a wrench into Josh McDaniels’ offensive game plan, as he’ll have to adjust the formations and sets he would’ve called if Brown was on the field. I’d expect McDaniels to focus on three receiver sets using Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon. The Pats’ rushing attack will likely be less effective on Sunday, as they’ll be missing their lead blocker, fullback James Develin who won’t be playing due to a neck injury. Another key issue will be depth on the offensive line, due to injuries sustained to Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon.

If the offensive line is able to keep Tom Brady upright, they’ll give the Pats a great chance to win this game.

pats receivers pw3.jpeg
(Photo via the New England Patriots)

2. Will the defense finally give up a touchdown?

The Patriots’ defense has been on a remarkable stretch over their last 3 games, as they haven’t given up a touchdown since the AFC Championship Game against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Remarkably, they also haven’t given up a touchdown to the Jets in Gillette Stadium since October 2015. The Jets will be playing without their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his bout with mononucleosis. Instead, they’ll be going up against third-stringer Luke Falk who will be making his first career start. The Pats are definitely aware of the danger Le’Veon Bell presents as a rusher and a pass-catcher, which means that their linebacking corps will likely be tasked with covering/shadowing him. Stephon Gilmore and the secondary will need to neutralise Jameson Crowder, Robby Anderson, and the rest of New York’s receivers.

Bottling up Bell, clamping down on the receivers, and pressuring Falk will put the Pats in a great position to emerge victorious.

pats defense pw3.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • James Develin (neck) – Out
  • Shilique Calhoun (not injury related) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Ryan Izzo (calf) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Jets

  • Sam Darnold (illness) – Out
  • Jordan Jenkins (calf) – Out
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Doubtful
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee) – Doubtful
  • Quinnen Williams (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Questionable
  • Josh Belamy (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Trenton Cannon (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hip) – Questionable
  • Rontez Miles (hip) – Questionable
  • Ty Montgomery (not injury related) – Questionable
  • Kelechi Osemele (knee) – Questionable
  • Brian Poole (groin) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 35, Jets 9

Here are my picks for the NFL’s other Week 3 contests.

Last week: 9-6

Dolphins at Cowboys: Cowboys

Bengals at Bills: Bengals

Lions at Eagles: Eagles

Falcons at Colts: Falcons

Raiders at Vikings: Vikings

Ravens at Chiefs: Chiefs

Broncos at Packers: Packers

Panthers at Cardinals: Panthers

Giants at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Saints at Seahawks: Seahawks

Texans at Chargers: Texans

Steelers at 49ers: 49ers

Rams at Browns: Rams

Bears at Redskins: Bears

Miraculous Patriots dominate in Miami!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

MIA 0 0 0 0 0

NE

7 6 10 20 43

Unlike last season’s matchup in Miami, today’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins (0-2) didn’t come down to the last play, as the Patriots cruised to a 43-0 victory, improving them to 2-0 on the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 2 contest.

1. Brady and the offense were efficient

The Patriots’ offense had another good performance today, as they had a well balanced attack which constantly caused problems for Miami. Tom Brady threw for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns, as he completed 20 passes to 7 different receivers. Today also marked the debut of Antonio Brown as a Patriot, and he made an impact from the get-go, as he caught 3 passes on the game’s opening drive. Brown ultimately finished with 4 receptions for 56 yards and 1 touchdown. Brown’s superior route-running was in full display, but it is obvious that he and Brady still need to work on their timing, due to a few instances of miscommunication between the duo. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 51 yards), Phillip Dorsett (3 catches for 39 yards), and Josh Gordon (2 catches for 19 yards) has relatively quiet performances, but came through when Brady needed them. Sony Michel (21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown) and Rex Burkhead (5 carries for 21 yards) combined to form an effective rushing duo, and Brady even added a rushing touchdown with his traditional quarterback sneak.

If the Pats continue to play like this on offense, they will put themselves in a great position to win more contests.

ab tb w2.jpg
(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

2. The Patriots’ defense was simply remarkable!

For the third straight game (including Super Bowl LIII), the Patriots’ defense did not give up a touchdown, as they absolutely smothered Miami’s offense. The Pats pitched their first shutout since Week 3 of the 2016 season, and were able to limit the Dolphins to 184 total yards. Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins led the way for the defense’s dominant performance, as both of them made life difficult for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Gilmore forced an interception in the third quarter, when he tipped a ball into Devin McCourty’s hands, and also had a 54 yard pick-six in the fourth quarter when he read Fitzpatrick’s eyes on a 3rd & 2 play. Collins had his own pick-six on the following Miami possession when he snagged a ball juggled by Dolphins HB Kalen Ballage with one hand en route to a 69 yard touchdown. He also picked off Rosen on the game’s final play, hence securing the shutout. The Pats hit Miami’s quarterbacks 12 times and also had 7 sacks. Kenyan Drake haunted the Patriots last year with his speed during the Miami Miracle, but he was rendered non-existent today, finishing with under 50 total yards from scrimmage.

The Patriots’ defense has proven to be the team’s superior unit over the last two weeks, and will definitely solidify themselves as one of the NFL’s best units if they continue to play like this.

jamie collins w2.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Stephen Gostkowski had a dreadful performance

Stephen Gostkowski has typically been reliable for the Patriots over the years, but he was dreadful today, with 1 missed field goal and 2 missed extra points. Ironically, he missed kicks on the same day as other prominent kickers such as Adam Vinatieri, Dan Bailey, and Matt Prater.

Gostkowski’s job is clearly not in jeopardy, but he will need to turn it around for the Patriots to succeed as the season progresses. 

gostkowski w2.jpg
(Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

 

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/28 for 264 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Antonio Brown – 4 receptions for 56 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins – 5 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 touchdown

Dolphins

  • Passing: Josh Rosen: 7/18 for 97 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Kenyan Drake – 6 carries for 19 yards
  • Receiving: Preston Williams – 4 receptions for 63 yards
  • Defensive: Jerome Baker – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will host their hated rival, the New York Jets (0-1), who will be missing their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his mononucleosis diagnois. It will be interesting to see if Antonio Brown will be on the Pats’ roster next week, as the NFL will be meeting with the woman who accused him of sexual assault in the coming days, and Roger Goodell has reportedly not ruled out putting Brown on the league’s exempt list if necessary.