Will the Patriots finally overcome their struggles in South Beach?

Even though the Patriots were dominant during their Week 1 rout of Pittsburgh, they should be extremely cautious entering tomorrow’s divisional matchup against the lowly Miami Dolphins (0-1), due to their historic struggles in Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots have lost 5 of their last 6 games in Miami, with their last win coming in 2016.

Here are some things to consider entering tomorrow’s game.

1. Who will win the matchup between Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores?

The Dolphins defense was dreadful against Baltimore in Week 1, as they surrendered 59 points to the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens. Most surprisingly, Jackson threw for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns, and was able to silence his critics who felt that he would never succeed as a passer in the NFL. Due to Baltimore’s performance, most pundits expect the Patriots to light up the scoreboard in Miami, which is a claim I am skeptical of. Don’t get me wrong, adding Antonio Brown to the offense that scored 33 points against the Steelers should make Patriots fans excited about playing a dreadful Dolphins defense, but there is one key factor that cannot be ignored. Miami’s new head coach is Brian Flores, who was a member of the Pats’ staff from 2004 to 2018, including one season as the team’s primary defensive play-caller. Flores was the architect (along with Bill Belichick) of the game plan that limited the Rams to 3 points in Super Bowl LIII, and clearly has a great understanding of the way Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady, and the offense operate. Belichick and the Patriots have always struggled against his ex-pupils, which makes this matchup even more intriguing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Brady and the offense have a great performance, but the presence of Brian Flores on the other sideline may make this matchup tighter than people expect it to be.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

2. Can the Pats’ defense shut down Miami’s offense?

It wasn’t pretty the last time the Patriots’ defense took the field in Miami, as they gave up a 69-yard multi-lateral touchdown to Miami on the last play of the game now known as the ”Miracle in Miami”. The defense has clearly improved since that fateful day in December, becoming more stout against both the run and the pass. On the other hand, Miami’s offense had a terrible outing in Week 1, as they only mustered 10 points against the dominant Ravens defense. Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen struggled at quarterback, with the Dolphins rushing attack also being rendered non-existent. Once again, the Patriots’ effective performance against Pittsburgh doesn’t necessarily guarantee an easy win against Miami, due to the fact that their former wide receiver’s coach, Chad O’Shea, is now the Dolphins’ offense coordinator. O’Shea’s familiarity with the Patriots’ system may enable him to find some chinks in their armor, which is something Belichick and Jerod Mayo will need to be cognizant about.

At the same time, I feel like the Patriots’ defense will have the ability to dominate this game if they continue to smother the opposing offense’s weapons, while applying effective pressure on the quarterback.

pats d vs miami 17.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Marcus Cannon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable
  • Brandon Bolden (hamstring) – Out

Dolphins

  • Charles Harris (wrist) – Questionable
  • Trent Harris (foot) – Questionable
  • Bobby McCain (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Daniel Kilgore (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Reshad Jones (ankle) – Out
  • Albert Wilson (hip/calf) – Out
  • Walt Aikens (shoulder) – Not listed

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 14

Here are my picks for the NFL’s other Week 2 games (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Cardinals at Ravens: Ravens

Chargers at Lions: Chargers

Colts at Titans: Titans

49ers at Bengals: Bengals

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Packers: Vikings

Cowboys at Redskins: Cowboys

Seahawks at Steelers: Steelers

Bills at Giants: Bills

Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs

Saints at Rams: Rams

Bears at Broncos: Bears

Eagles at Falcons: Eagles

Browns at Jets: Browns

The Pats end the regular season on a high note by grounding the Jets!

TEAM

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NYJ 3 0 0 0 3

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7 14 7 10 38

The Patriots continued their dominance over the Jets (4-12) yesterday, as they eviscerated Gang Green 38-3. The Pats performed well in all 3 phases of the game, and generally made life miserable for the Jets. This victory improved the Pats to 11-5 on the season and helped them secure the second seed in the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The offense was remarkable

The Patriots offense has had its fair share of criticism in recent weeks due to uneven performances by Tom Brady and the passing game, which led the team to rely on Sony Michel and the other running backs for production. That narrative changed yesterday, as Brady caught fire early and dissected the Jets secondary for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over the last week, there were several reports which stated that Brady had sustained a knee injury which would hamper his effectiveness. If that’s true, Brady did not appear to be any slower than usual, as demonstrated by the mobility he showed on his touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett in the second quarter. All in all, Brady was sharp (except for some errant throws and a missed read in the red zone), and he was able to distribute the ball to receivers who had struggled to make an impact in previous weeks, such as Dorsett (5 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown) and Chris Hogan (6 catches for 64 yards). Julian Edelman was his usual effective self, as he corralled 5 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski (2 catches for 24 yards) showed some of the explosiveness he had lacked in recent weeks, especially on a 30 yard catch and run that was wiped out by an offensive penalty.

The offensive line was able to produce gaping holes at the point of attack which enabled the Pats to rush for over 130 yards, with Sony Michel (14 carries for 50 yards) and James White (4 carries for 30 yards) leading the way.

Jules v jets s17.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The defense was otherworldly

Many analysts expected the Jets offense to put up a fight against the Pats, but that never happened due to the strong performance of the defense. The Jets scored a field goal on their second drive of the day, but couldn’t sustain a drive after that. The defense was extremely opportunistic, as they forced 3 fumbles, including a 46 yard scoop and score for Kyle Van Noy, which made it hard for the Jets to score points even after getting good field position. Sam Darnold was rattled early, and was forced to consistently play from behind, which didn’t help his production. The Pats had a consistent pass rush which resulted in 4 sacks and Van Noy’s touchdown. Apart from Deontay Burnett, none of the Jets receivers crossed 30 receiving yards, which speaks to the dominance of the secondary.

This performance was a confidence booster entering the playoffs, but we should monitor the condition of Devin McCourty who left the game with a head injury.

kvn v jets w17.jpg
(Charles Krupa/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 24/33 for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 14 carries for 50 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: J.C. Jackson – 7 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Sam Darnold – 16/28 for 167 yards
  • Rushing: Elijah McGuire – 18 carries for 41 yards
  • Receiving: Deontay Burnett – 5 catches for 73 yards
  • Defensive: Jamal Adams – 11 tackles

 

Bonus: 

(a) Here’s the complete playoff picture following the completion of the regular season

NFC

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
  3. Chicago Bears (12-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
  2. New England Patriots (11-5)
  3. Houston Texans (11-5)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

 

(b) I began making predictions for every NFL game during Week 3, and my final record for the games I picked is 139-71 (0.662) 

 

What’s next?: The Pats have secured a first-round bye which means that they won’t be playing until January 13th when they take on either the Texans, Ravens, or Chargers at 1:05 PM. 

The Pats end the season against the Jets!

The 2018 regular season has flown by, as Week 17 is upon us. The Patriots hope to clinch a first-round bye when they welcome the New York Jets (4-11) to Foxborough. Winning this game would guarantee the #2 seed for the Pats, but they could still gain home field advantage if the Chargers and Chiefs lose this week.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 17 contest.

1. What will be the focal point of the offense?

Over the last few weeks, the Patriots have had a run-oriented offense, which has helped in relieving pressure from Tom Brady. Sony Michel and the running backs had a brilliant game last week against Buffalo as they totaled more than 250 yards on the ground. I would expect the Pats to continue to lean on the running game, as the Jets come into this game with the 26th ranked rushing defense. Michel had over 130 yards the last time these teams met , which should be an encouraging sign for the Pats. It’ll be important for the Pats to maintain the health of Brady, Gronk, and Julian Edelman because they’ll be essential for the team to make a run in the playoffs.

sony v jets w17p.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Can the defense stifle Darnold?

In Week 12, the Jets were without their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and had veteran Josh McCown start instead. Darnold has had an up and down rookie season, as he’s shown flashes of brilliance while also leading the NFL with interceptions thrown. I would expect the Pats to try to come after Darnold with Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower, who are amongst the NFL’s leaders with pressures on the quarterback. Bill Belichick will likely challenge Darnold to beat man coverage or try to fool him with zone schemes. Dominating the line of scrimmage will be essential if the Pats want to stifle the Jets’ rushing attack and force Darnold to play from behind.

sam darnold w17p.jpg
(Anthony J. Causi/New York Post)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Out
  • Dwayne Allen (knee) – Questionable
  • Brandon King (knee) – Questionable
  • Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) – Questionable
  • LaAdrian Waddle (illness) – Questionable

Jets

  • Morris Claiborne (shoulder/ankle) – Out
  • Quincy Enunwa (ankle) – Out
  • Jermaine Kearse (achilles) – Out
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) – Out
  • Jordan Jenkins (ankle) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 17 contests.

Last week: 10-4

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Falcons at Buccaneers: Falcons

Cowboys at Giants: Cowboys

Panthers at Saints: Saints

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Lions at Packers: Packers

Eagles at Redskins: Eagles

Chargers at Broncos: Chargers

Raiders at Chiefs: Chiefs

Bears at Vikings: Vikings

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

49ers at Rams: Rams

Bengals at Steelers: Steelers

Cardinals at Seahawks: Seahawks

Colts at Titans: Colts

Balanced Pats fly past the Jets!

TEAM

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NYJ 7 3 3 0 13

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7 3 10 7 27

The Patriots had a messy win today against the New York Jets (3-8), as they triumphed 27-13 over their longtime rivals to move to 8-3 on the season. Despite of a bevy of penalties, the Pats used a balanced offensive attack in order to pull away from the Jets in the second half, and improved to the #2 in the AFC with Pittsburgh’s loss in Denver. 

Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.

1. Michel and White lead the way for the offense!

Sony Michel and James White collaborated for a dynamic performance today, as they combined for over 200 yards on the ground (Michel had 133 yards off of 21 carries and a touchdown, while White had 73 yards off of 9 carries). Michel was clearly the best player on the field, as he made good use of the gaping holes provided by the offensive line and raced past hapless Jets defenders. Luckily enough for the Patriots, Michel avoided a serious injury when he was bended backwards in the third quarter during an awkward tackle, which left him writhing in pain on the field. 

If Michel and White continue to play at this level, it will be hard for opponents to stop the Patriots over the rest of the season.

micel v jets w12.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Strong bounce-back for the passing game!

Week 11’s loss at Tennessee was especially ugly for the passing game, as Tom Brady could not get anything going due to the constant pressure coming through the middle. Today could not have been more different, as the offensive line rebounded with a great performance and gave up zero sacks against a stout Jets defensive line. Rob Gronkowski had an efficient return from injury, as he had 3 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown), Josh Gordon (5 catches for 70 yards), and Chris Hogan (2 catches for 47 yards) also had good contributions, as they helped stretch the field for the Patriots.

This was an encouraging performance by the Pats’ passing attack, as they overcame great coverage by the Jets’ secondary to be successful throughout the game.

brady v jets w12.jpg
(Matthew J. Lee/ Boston Globe)

3. The defense had a steady performance

The Pats’ defense bounced back from Week 11 in a big way, as they clamped down on New York, and allowed only 3 points in the second half. Trey Flowers led the way for the Patriots’ pass rush, as he constantly got after Josh McCown, with 3 hits and 1 sack. Being able to get after the quarterback made it easier for the secondary to perform with confidence, with Stephon Gilmore being the clear star in the backend of the field (he only allowed 1 catch for 17 yards off of 5 targets, and had an interception). The Pats also limited Isaiah Crowell to 30 yards off of 6 carries on the ground. 

The defense still has room to improve, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

mccown w12.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

4. Are penalties an area of concern for the Pats?

The Pats definitely had a messy performance against the Jets, as they were called for 11 penalties that resulted in 105 yards. This was out of character for the Patriots, as Bill Belichick is known for preparing his team to avoid such mistakes. Constant penalties allowed the Jets to stay in the game, as Patriot drives were halted, while New York drives were extended.

The Patriots played well enough to overcome their messy performance, but they will not be so lucky if they continue to be penalized like this.

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/31 for 283 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 133 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 4 catches for 84 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Patrick Chung – 13 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Josh McCown – 26/45 for 276 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Isaiah Crowell – 6 carries for 30 yards
  • Receiving: Quincy Enunwa – 4 catches for 73 yards
  • Avery Williamson – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) in a game that will test them, as Minnesota features a stout defense and a talented offense.

 

 

The Patriots are Big Apple bound!

Following their Week 11 bye, the Patriots head to New Jersey to take on their hated rival, the New York Jets (3-7). The Pats hope to regain their momentum and keep pace with the Chiefs and Steelers with a win tomorrow.

Here are a few things to consider entering tomorrow’s game.

 1. The offense needs a pick-me-up performance

Tom Brady and the offense did not have a great performance during their last outing, as they were utterly stifled by the intense pass rush of the Tennessee Titans, which resulted in a mere 10 points. In order to be successful against the Jets, the Pats will need to rely on a steady balance between their passing and rushing attacks, in order to ensure that an already banged-up Brady is able to stay up right and have a great performance (the return of Shaq Mason should help in this regard). Getting Rob Gronkowski back after 2 games (and the bye week) will help elevate the passing game, as it will allow weapons such as Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon to have more separation. Rex Burkhead will also be returning (he has been on the injured reserve since Week 1), which will definitely boost the offense and reduce the burden on the primary duo of James White and Sony Michel. 

Having a good performance against the Jets will be helpful in helping the Patriots turn the corner as the season comes to an end.

pats o line
(Keith Nordstrom/AP)

2. Defensive rebound?

Just like the offense, the Pats’ defense was miserable against Tennessee, as they gave up 34 points, and could not come up with a crucial stop when it mattered. Luckily enough for them, the Jets will be playing without their rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold, and will have Josh McCown under center. The Pats will need a constant and reliable performance from their defensive line in order to ensure that they can dictate the pace of the game and force New York to play from behind. The secondary should be elevated by the debuts of rookie cornerback Duke Dawson Jr. (drafted in the second round out of Florida) and recently-signed safety Obi Melifonwu, who will help to provide some much-needed youth and speed in the backend of the field.

With games against the likes of Minnesota and Pittsburgh coming up, the Patriots’ defense needs to drastically improve to give the team a good chance of winning.

pats defense v jets w12 pre.jpg
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Dwayne Allen (knee) – Out
  • Tom Brady (knee/illness) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (knee) – Questionable
  • Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back) – Questionable
  • Shaq Mason (calf) – Questionable
  • Sony Michel (knee) – Questionable

Jets

  • Sam Darnold (foot) – Out
  • Marcus Maye (shoulder/thumb) – Doubtful
  • James Carpenter (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Brandon Copeland (elbow) – Questionable
  • Robby Anderson (ankle) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 contests (excluding their slate of games on Thanksgiving)

Last week: 9-3

Browns at BengalsBengals

49ers at BuccaneersBuccaneers

Jaguars at BillsJaguars

Raiders at RavensRavens

Seahawks at PanthersPanthers

Giants at EaglesEagles

Cardinals at ChargersChargers

Dolphins at ColtsColts

Steelers at BroncosSteelers

Packers at VikingsVikings

Titans at TexansTexans

 

 

 

The Pats overcome sluggish start to stomp the Bills!

TEAM

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BUF 0 3 3 0 6

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The Patriots overcame a defensive slugfest last night, and emerged victorious in Orchard Park, as they bested the Buffalo Bills (2-6) 25-6. The Pats offense struggled for a majority of the game, as the defense and special teams led the way to another triumph over their divisional rivals.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The Patriots offense struggled to gain momentum against Buffalo

The Patriots were able to drive the ball down the field at will, but they struggled to finish off drives, as they settled for 4 field goals, before scoring their first touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady had an efficient game as he had 324 passing yards (without any touchdowns or interceptions) along with 8 rushing yards (only 3 short of 1000 career rushing yards!). Buffalo was able to constantly get after Brady, with Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes leading the way for the Bills’ pass rush. Following the injury to Sony Michel during last week’s win at Chicago, the Patriots tried to be creative with their rushing game, as they featured Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield on several plays, with #84 rushing for 38 yards off of 10 carries. 

Julian Edelman ( 9 catches for 104 yards) and James White (10 catches for 79 yards) led the way for the passing attack, as they consistently got open whenever Brady was in trouble. The Pats also had solid contributions from Chris Hogan (2 catches for 49 yards) and Josh Gordon (4 catches for 42 yards). Rob Gronkowski had 3 catches for 43 yards, and it definitely appeared as if he was still hampered by injuries he has suffered recently.

The Patriots will definitely need to have a better outing on offense next week as they welcome the Packers, who gave the high-powered Rams fits on offense.

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(Adrian Kraus/AP)

2. The defense had a solid outing

Throughout the season, the Pats defense had been described as the team’s weak link due to their inconsistent showings over the last few weeks. That narrative changed last night, as the defense carried the Pats to a win on a night when Tom Brady & Co. were not at their best. The Bills tried to attack the Pats by using the Wildcat formation on several occasions, which was mostly unsuccessful for Buffalo. The Patriots were able to limit the effectiveness of LeSean McCoy, who was limited to 13 yards off of 12 carries. The Patriots also finally won the turnover battle, as they were able to force 2 turnovers that were crucial in breaking the game open for them. Firstly, Pat Chung recovered a Derek Anderson in the third quarter that resulted in a field goal that increased the lead to 12-6. In the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty delivered the dagger, as he picked off Anderson and returned it for a 84 yard touchdown that put the game out of reach. 

If the Patriots’ defense continues to play like this, they will be hard to beat.

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(Photo via NBC Sports)

Statistical Leaders

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 29/45 for 324 yards
  • Rushing: Cordarrelle Patterson – 10 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 104 yards
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 8 tackles (including 2 sacks)

Bills

  • Passing: Derek Anderson – 22/39 for 290 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Chris Ivory – 6 carries for 34 yards
  • Receiving: LeSean McCoy – 6 catches for 82 yards
  • Defensive: Phillip Gaines – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) for a Sunday Night matchup. Ironically, this is only the second matchup between Brady and Rodgers.

The Pats ground the Jets

The Patriots wrapped up home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs during Sunday’s bone-chilling contest against the hated New York Jets. The 26-6 victory gave the Patriots a 13-3 record for the season, and wrapped up the 2017 regular season on a high note.

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.

1. Dion Lewis continues to lead the offense

D-Lew had another brilliant game, with 93 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown, to go along with 6 catches for 40 yards and a receiving touchdown. Lewis has been absolutely dominant over the last month for the Patriots, providing the spark that the offense has needed when TB12 has been less than stellar. Lewis’ ankle-breaking moves, and tackle-breaking ferocity will definitely help propel the Pats to another Super Bowl run. 

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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The Pats’ defense had a great game

The Patriots defense carried forward its’ momentum from last week’s win over the Buffalo Bills, and didn’t give up an offensive touchdown for the second straight game. They only gave up 40 rushing yards (to 4 different rushers), and got after Bryce Petty throughout the game. Sunday also marked the debut of the former Steeler, James Harrison who had 5 tackles, 2 sacks (which occurred on the game’s final two plays), and a forced fumble which was recovered by New York. Hopefully Harrison will help ignite New England’s pass rush in the playoffs.

james harrison vs jets.jpg
(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

3. Looking ahead to the playoffs

As many pundits have noted, the Patriots have won their last 2 games in convincing fashion without looking very dominant on either side of the ball. This can be attributed to the injuries suffered by several of their key players. For example, the Patriots have been without Rex Burkhead (knee), Chris Hogan (shoulder), and James White (ankle), who are all important cogs in the offense. The defense has also been playing without Kyle Van Noy, and Alan Branch. Having a first-round bye will give all the injured Patriots more time to heal, and get back on the field by January 13th for the divisional round. The Patriots may also activate wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell who has been on the IR all season due to a knee injury. Mitchell was a key contributor during last season’s Super Bowl, and may help to make the Patriots’ offense more explosive. 

james white sb
Photo from the Patriots

New Year’s Eve Flight

The Patriots hope to wrap up home-field advantage for the playoffs when they take on the New York Jets later on today. The Pats defeated the Jets back in Week 6, and they will need to do so again to lock up the AFC’s top seed.

Here are a few things to consider entering today’s game.

1. How do the Patriots match up with the Jets?

In Week 6, the contest between the Patriots and Jets was heavily competitive, as both sides matched each other stride for stride until the end. However, both teams have drastically changed since that game in October. The Patriots have improved their offensive line and secondary, but are banged-up at certain positions. The Jets were led by Josh McCown, who has since been replaced by Bruce Petty due to a hand injury suffered by the former. It will be interesting to see how the changed lineups impact the outcome fo the game.

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(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

2. The Patriots cannot repeat their mistake from 2015’s season finale

Back in 2015, the Patriots had a 12-3 record entering their Week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins, and had a 1 game lead over the Denver Broncos for the AFC’s top seed. The Patriots opted to adopt a conservative game-plan for that game in Miami, which resulted in a 20-10 loss that robbed them of the #1 seed (as Denver won on the same day). Due to this loss, the Patriots had to travel to Denver for the AFC Championship that year, where they ultimately lost 20-18. It is fair to assume that they would have won had the game been in Foxborough. This year’s Patriots are also 12-3 entering Week 17, and need to keep their feet on the pedal to assure that they will play all of their playoff games at Gillette Stadium. Ensuring that they play to win could save them from a tough trip to Pittsburgh in January…

brady afcc 2015
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

3. TB12 needs to remain consistent

TB12 has not performed very well as of late, even though the Patriots have been able to continue winning. There isn’t a single root cause for his inconsistent performance, but you can blame inadequate pass protection and poor decision-making. This is the time of year where Brady needs to be spot on for the Patriots to have any chance of making another run to the Super Bowl. Hopefully playing a division rival will present an opportunity for Brady to get back to form.

brady vs jets w17.jpg
(Photo by Elise Amendola/STF)

Prediction: Patriots 28, Jets 13

TB12 & Co. should be able to take advantage of the Jets’ defense, and make it difficult for Bryce Petty and the Jets’ offense to keep up. Look for the Patriots defense to harass Petty, and force a few turnovers.

D-Lew and the Pats run through the Bills

It wasn’t easy early on, but the Patriots eventually found their rhythm, en route to a 37-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The win secured a first-round bye for the Pats, and keeps them in pursuit of home-field advantage for the playoffs. 

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.

1. Dion Lewis is downright scary for opposing defenses

The Patriots entered Sunday with several injuries at the running back position, and Dion Lewis answered the call when the Patriots desperately needed him to. Lewis finished the game with 24 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 5 catches for 24 yards and a receiving touchdown. Despite his smaller stature, Lewis made life absolutely miserable for the Bills, by breaking tackles and leaving broken ankles in his wake. Lewis was the spark that propelled the Patriots to outscore the Bills 24-3 in the second half. If Lewis continues to play like this, it’s easy to imagine the Patriots advancing in the playoffs.

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

2. Gronk continues to dominate the Bills

Rob Gronkowski has constantly burnt his hometown Bills over the last few seasons, and Sunday was no exception. Gronk finished the game with 5 receptions for 67 yards, and a jaw-dropping one-handed touchdown grab over Micah Hyde in the second quarter. As always, Gronk was a steady safety blanket for Tom Brady, and also made his presence felt in the running game, as he was responsible for several key blocks. The Patriots will need to lean on Gronk to continue to play well down the stretch.

gronk td w16.jpg
(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

3. What’s wrong with TB12?

Tom Brady had an uneven performance against the Bills, as he had several instances where he made questionable decisions and inaccurate throws. Brady missed several open receivers, and also threw a pick-six when Bills safety Jordan Poyer jumped a route and ran 18 yards for a touchdown. This was Brady’s fifth straight game with an interception, which hasn’t happened since the 2002-03 season. Ironically, Brady followed the interception with a long touchdown drive which leveled the score at 10-10. Brady was bailed out by a dominant rushing attack led by Dion Lewis, but he won’t be so lucky in every game. For the Patriots to continue to win against dominant opponents, TB12 will need to be at his absolute best.

tb12 vs bills w16.jpg
(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

4. The defense still has areas to work on

The Patriots defense had an up-and-down performance against the Bills, with Buffalo easily advancing the ball down the field on several drives (although the Patriots did continue their bend-but-don’t-break strategy). The Patriots’ cornerback duo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore got beaten on several long balls, allowing Buffalo to continue their drives. Also, the Patriots continued to struggle getting off the field on third down, enabling Buffalo to keep TB12 on the bench for long stretches. However, the Patriots did have several bright spots in the game. For example, the Bills did not score an offensive touchdown, and they limited LeSean McCoy to 71 yards. They also got after Tyrod Taylor and sacked him 6 times. Malcolm Brown was an unsung hero for the Patriots, recording 6 tackles (including 1 sack), and eating up blocks. 

butler v bills.jpg
(Photo by Getty Images)

Return to the Rodeo!

The Patriots continue their quest for home-field advantage when they take on the Buffalo Bills during today’s contest. New England handily defeated the Bills in Week 13 when they met at Orchard Park. 

Here are a few things to look at before today’s game.

1. Tom Brady’s performance

TB12 has not been his usual self the last few weeks, as he has notably struggled in recent games. Brady has thrown an interception in 4 straight games, which is something he hasn’t done for quite a while. Brady has also been ailed by a shaky offensive line, which has caused him to make some ill-advised throws. However, Brady was at his best in the clutch during last week’s game in Pittsburgh, when he led the Patriots to a hard-fought 27-24 victory. Brady will have a chance to exact some revenge on a Buffalo squad that tormented him 3 weeks ago. 

Let’s hope that Brady is not distracted by the situation involving Bill Belichick and Brady’s trainer Alex Guerrero, as TB12’s interactions with the media have shown that it is a sensitive topic for the quarterback.

tb vs bills w16.jpg
(Photo by the AP)

2. Impact of injuries

At this point in the NFL season, most teams deal with a multitude of injuries suffered by their players. The Patriots are no different, as several of their players have sustained injuries that have kept them out of their recent contests. Key contributors on offense such as Chris Hogan (shoulder), Rex Burkhead (knee), and James White (ankle) are not expected to play today, which will put a heavy burden on the team’s other backs and receivers. The Pats may also play without starting left tackle Nate Solder (illness), which is an alarming sign due to the offensive line’s recent struggles. The defense could be bolstered by the return of Kyle Van Noy, who has missed the last few games with a calf injury. To be successful the Patriots will need their other players to step up in the absence of several of their chief contributors.

hogan injury
(Photo by Sports Illustrated) 

3. Gronk and the Bills

Rob Gronkowski made a bone-headed decision against the Bills in Week 13, when he decided to lunge himself at Buffalo CB Tre’Davious White, when the latter was sprawled on the field. This move drew the ire of both the NFL, who chose to suspend Gronk for one game. Gronk’s actions also angered the Buffalo defense who promised retaliation. Gronk was the hero during last week’s emotional win at Pittsburgh, and he will need to retain his composure even if Buffalo’s players do decide to take cheap shots on him. 

gronk angry bills.jpg
(Photo by Adrian Kraus/AP)

 

I expect the Patriots to pull out a hard-fought win against a motivated Buffalo team that is trying to make the playoffs. Look for Brady and Gronk to continue where they left off in Pittsburgh, as the duo will make enough plays for the Patriots to put the Bills away. 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 14