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

The Pats take away Danny’s Dimes en route to a win against the Giants!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

NYG 0 14 0 0 14

NE

7 14 0 14 35

Even though the Patriots were able to defeat the Giants (2-4) by 21 points, yesterday’s game was much tighter than the scoreboard may indicate. The 35-14 victory improved the Pats to 6-0 on the season, and has them on top of the AFC, as the conference’s only undefeated team.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 6 contest.

1. The Pats’ defense was great once again!

Facing a short-handed Giants offense definitely played into the Pats’ hands, as they were able to stifle New York for most of the game. Stephon Gilmore arguably had his most active game of the year, as Daniel Jones opted to target him 6 times, which resulted in only 1 completion for 8 yards. The other 5 passes turned out to be an interception by Gilmore, a deflected pass that was picked off by John Simon, and 3 incompletions. Duron Harmon caught the second of Jones’ three interceptions, after an effective pass rush by Danny Shelton forced an errant throw. The Pats were able to confuse Jones with their coverage, and they sacked him 1 time, along with 8 QB hits. Jones is known for being mobile, but he was limited to 8 rushing yards off of 2 carries. However, the Pats were beaten by Jones on one play, when he lofted a perfect ball to Golden Tate that resulted in a 64-yard touchdown (and the first passing touchdown for a Pats’ opponent all year). Obviously, Bill Belichick won’t be happy seeing that play on film, but there was nothing that Jonathan Jones could do on that play, as Daniel Jones beat his perfect coverage with perfect ball placement. 

The Pats’ vaunted ‘Boogeymen’ linebackers struck again yesterday, as Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy combined for a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. This score was initially ruled out of bounds, but overturned after the referees took a second look at it. Van Noy’s touchdown came at a crucial point in the game when the Pats were only up by a touchdown, and ensured that New York wouldn’t be able to mount a comeback.

The Pats’ defense continues to play at a high level, and will need to be at their absolute best as the schedule ahead begins to get more difficult.

pats d v giants w619.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Another inconsistent outing for the offense

The Pats’ offense once again looked anemic for most of yesterday’s game, as it took them six drives to score a touchdown. In addition, Tom Brady had 2 uncharacteristic turnovers, with his first one being an errant throw that missed a wide-open Julian Edelman and was caught by Giants’ CB Janoris Jenkins, and the second one being a strip sack that was caused by Brady holding the ball for far too much time. That strip sack resulted in a Giants touchdown (which tied the game at 14 apiece), but was almost far more costly for the Pats’ offense, as Josh Gordon’s knee bent awkwardly when he went to tackle Markus Golden. Fortunately for New England, Gordon avoided a serious injury (although he didn’t return to the game), but the injury scare only seems to highlight the sudden need for another dynamic target at wide receiver. Edelman was his normal self yesterday, as he had 9 receptions for 113 yards, with his main highlight being a marvelous 36-yard catch, where #11 dove to get the ball. In the words of Rob Gronkowski: The furry Edelman fought to get his nut once again! 

Due to Gordon’s absence, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were thrust into the limelight, and performed adequately when called upon. After the game, both Belichick and Brady mentioned that the sudden lack of players at wide receiver forced the Pats to stick with one personnel grouping throughout the game. It was another subpar outing for the Pats’ rushing attack, as Sony Michel only mustered 86 yards off of 22 carries, with a good chunk of it coming from a 26-yard run during garbage time. It’s hard to deny that New England’s most successful running back last night was a player by the name of Tom Brady who had 7 carries for 6 yards, along with 2 touchdowns, which both came off of QB sneaks at the goal-line. 

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, any sort of success for the Patriots’ offense would be predicated on the success of the offensive line to protect Brady and help out Michel. Unfortunately, the offensive line was not at its best yesterday, as Brady was sacked 3 times, and was hit an additional 6 times. Throughout the game, he did not have enough time to effectively survey the field, which killed a few drives in the process. 

All in all, the Patriots need to find an answer on offense, as riding the coattails of their defense and special teams will not be a recipe for success during the tail end of their schedule.

jules catch v nyg w619.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

3. Yet another mixed bag for special teams

One of the major talking points entering yesterday’s game was the potential impact of the gusting winds in Foxborough, and the wind did not disappoint! On a number of drives in Giants’ territory, Bill Belichick opted to go for it on fourth down, instead of attempting field goals, due to the obstacle presented by the wind in the stadium. Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal which hit the upright, but was able to convert on 5 extra points.

Special teams was responsible for the Pats’ first touchdown of the game, as a punt by Riley Dixon in the first quarter bounced off of his teammate’s helmet, and landed in the hands of Chase Winovich, who proceeded to run into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

Hopefully Nugent will be able to rebound over the next few weeks, and having touchdowns via special teams will continue to help the Pats win games!

wino td v giants s619.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

Bonus:

1. TB12 passes Peyton Manning for the second-most passing yards in NFL history!

Here’s the pass that broke the record:

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1182455343466602499

Here’s the team congratulating him in the locker room after the game:

2. Gronk makes his Fox Sports debut!

Yesterday’s game also marked Rob Gronkowski’s debut as a member of the Fox Sports, which featured some classic Gronk moments, such as this breakdown of Julian Edelman and Tom Brady.

3. Color Rush!

It’s always a sight to behold when the Pats wear their Color Rush uniforms, and last night’s victory improved them to 5-0 in their alternates.

tb cr w619.png
(Photo via Getty Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 31/41 for 334 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 22 carries for 86 yards
  • Passing: Julian Edelman – 9 receptions for 113 yards
  • Defensive: Jason McCourty & Jonathan Jones – 4 tackles each

Giants

  • Passing: Daniel Jones – 15/31 for 161 yards, 1 touchdown & 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Jonathan Hilliman – 11 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Golden Tate – 6 receptions for 102 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: David Mayo – 13 tackles (including 0.5 sacks)

 

What’s next?: The Pats head over to Metlife Stadium to play New York’s other team, the Jets (0-4), for the second time this season, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. Unlike Week 3’s matchup, Sam Darnold will likely be playing for New York. 

 

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.

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(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.

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(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.

The Pats flatten Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

PIT 0 0 3 0 3

NE

7 13 10 3 33

The Patriots once again showed that they are still amongst the NFL’s elite with a 33-3 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pats were dominant on both sides of the ball, and also thoroughly out-coached the Steelers.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Gordon and Dorsett lead the way for the offense!

Entering this season, wide receiver was one of the major question marks for the Patriots, but last night dispelled those doubts, due to the brilliant performances of Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman. Gordon’s first catch of the season was a awe-inspiring 20-yard touchdown, where he broke through multiple tackles en route to the end zone. Gordon followed that up with an amazing 44-yard reception down the field where he absorbed a brutal hit while corralling the ball. Phillip Dorsett finished the night with 2 touchdowns, including a 58-yard score, where he was completely wide open down the field. Julian Edelman was his usual reliable self, as he consistently got open to serve as Tom Brady’s safety blanket. Edelman also helped provide a spark with his arm, when he perfectly executed a double pass to James White.

The Patriots have demonstrated over the years that they have no issue changing their offensive identity, and last night was no different. New England primarily depended on their passing attack, as the team’s stable of running backs combined for only 99 yards.

josh gordon w1.jpg
(Photo via SI)

2. Tom Brady was effective as per usual

Tom Brady started off the game erratic, with several misthrows that derailed the Patriots’ first drive. Following Edelman’s double throw, Brady got back into routine, as he proceeded to dissect the Steelers defense for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. A major factor for Brady’s brilliant performance was the offensive line, who only gave up one sack despite the season-long absence of center David Andrews and the injury of OT Marcus Cannon. Most importantly, LT Isaiah Wynn was spectacular at covering Brady’s blindside in his professional debut.

tom brady w1.jpg
(Photo via SI)

3. The defense absolutely suffocated Pittsburgh’s offense

Yesterday was the third straight game where the Patriots shut out their opponent in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger was never allowed to be comfortable, as the Patriots were able to apply constant pressure on him. In addition, New England’s corners clamped down on Pittsburgh’s receivers, with Stephon Gilmore winning his matchup against Juju Smith-Schuster. Donte Moncrief was targeted a team-high 10 times, but only managed 3 catches for 7 yards. The Steelers’ lone offensive highlight was a 45 yard pass to James Washington. The Patriots also completely neutralized Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, as James Connor only managed 21 yards off of 10 carries.

Continuing to perform like this will solidify the Pats defense as one of the NFL’s best units.

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(Photo via CBS Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady- 24/36 for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Rex Burkhead- 8 carries for 44 yards
  • Receiving: Phillip Dorsett- 4 receptions for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Defensive: Jason McCourty- 7 tackles

Steelers

  • Passing: Ben Roethlisberger- 27/47 for 276 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: James Connor- 10 carries for 21 yards
  • Receiving: Juju Smith-Schuster- 6 receptions for 78 yards
  • Defensive: Devin Bush- 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will head down to Miami for the first time since the ‘Miami Miracle’, where they’ll take on a lowly Dolphins team (0-1) that gave up 59 points in a loss to the Ravens. This game should also mark the debuts of Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas as Patriots. In addition, Kyle Van Noy will likely make his season debut, as he missed yesterday’s game due to the birth of his first child.

Balanced Pats bolt past the Chargers!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

LAC 7 0 7 14 28

NE

14 21 3 3 41

Contrary to popular belief, the New England Patriots are not dead, as they decisively routed the Los Angeles Chargers (13-5) 41-28 in a Divisional Round game that was not as close as the final score indicates. The Pats took control early by scoring on their first 4 drives and never gave the Chargers a chance of coming back in the second half. This victory improved the Pats to 12-5 on the season and set up a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.

1. Michel leads the way!

Sony Michel ended his collegiate career with the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoffs, where he dominated Oklahoma to set up an appearance in the National Championship Game. Michel didn’t disappoint in his playoff debut with the Pats as he shredded the Chargers for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns off of 24 carries. A week after shutting down Baltimore’s vaunted rushing attack, the Chargers had no answer for the dominant Pats’ offensive line, who were able to consistently open holes for Michel to run through. Rob Gronkowski and James Develin were also essential parts of the rushing attack, as they assisted in pushing back the Chargers.

If the Patriots want to advance further, they’ll need Michel to continue playing like this.

Sony Michel, Kyle Emanuel
(Elise Amendola/AP)

2. Don’t doubt the GOAT and his weapons!

Most pundits entered this game wondering if Tom Brady and his receivers stood much of a chance against the Chargers who featured elite defenders in their defensive line and their secondary. Let’s just say that they were wrong, because the Brady Bunch dissected the Chargers defense early and often. The lethal duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were neutralized, as they combined for 1 hit on TB12. All in all, the Chargers never sacked Brady and only hit him once, due to the remarkable job done by the offensive line. Julian Edelman had one of his best performances in recent memory, as he corralled 9 receptions for 151 yards. Edelman was consistently a mismatch for the Chargers’ secondary, and was even harder to bring down as demonstrated by an epic conversion on 2nd & 13 when he broke free of a sure tackle to dive for a first down. Edelman’s 9 receptions helped him pass Reggie Wayne for second place in career postseason receptions. James White (15 catches for 97 yards) was a constant problem for the Chargers as he used his speed and agility to get past defenders. White’s 15 catches helped tie a record for receptions in a postseason game, and exceeded the 14 catches he had during Super Bowl LI. Phillip Dorsett (4 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown) and Chris Hogan (3 catches for 13 yards) also pitched in for the passing game. Gronk had 1 catch for 25 yards, but his impact was felt due to his effective blocking and the penalty he drew on the opening drive.

There was no denying that Tom Brady was surgical today, and he will need to be at his absolute best for the Patriots to be successful next week.

 BRADY V CHARGERS DP19.jpg
(Charles Krupa/AP)

3. The defense stifled Rivers & company!

The Pats defense was otherworldly today as they consistently stopped the Chargers and enabled the offense to lengthen their lead. The Chargers had one of the NFL’s best running backs in Melvin Gordon, but the Pats never let him get him settled as they limited him to 15 yards and a touchdown off of 9 carries. Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower and the rest of the pass rushers made life miserable for Philip Rivers, as they hit him 7 times and sacked him 2 times. Rivers became increasingly frustrated and emotional throughout the game due to the constant hits he endured. He finished with 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception, with most of his production coming in garbage time.

Stephon Gilmore continued his impressive season, as he rebounded from an early error (which resulted in a 43-yard touchdown by Keenan Allen) by not allowing another completion and also picking off Rivers in the fourth quarter.

The Pats were exceptional in shutting down one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, and they’ll need to be even better to stand a chance next week.

RIVERS V PATS DP19.jpg
(Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 34/44 for 341 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 24 carries for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 151 yards
  • Defensive: Devin McCourty – 7 tackles

Chargers

  • Passing: Philip Rivers – 25/51 for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Melvin Gordon – 9 carries for 15 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Tyrell Williams – 5 catches for 94 yards
  • Defensive: Jahleel Addae – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Kansas City to take on the red hot Chiefs (13-4) for the AFC Championship Game. This is a rematch of the wild Week 6 contest that ended with a 43-40 victory for that Pats at Gillette Stadium. It will be interesting to see how the game differs during a cold night at Arrowhead Stadium.

Brady vs Rivers: Is the eighth time the charm for #17?

This Sunday, the Patriots welcome the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Chargers (13-4) to Gillette Stadium for their AFC Divisional Round matchup. There’s no doubt that the Chargers will be a formidable opponent for the Pats, and in order for New England to reach their 8th straight AFC Championship Game, they’ll have to be at their best.

Here are some things to consider entering this playoff game.

1. Will history repeat itself?

As the title of this article suggests, Philip Rivers has never defeated Tom Brady, with Brady and the Pats emerging victorious during all 7 of their matchups (including 2 postseason games in 2007 and 2008). The last time these two teams faced off was last year in Week 8 when the Pats fended off the Chargers for a hard-fought 21-13 victory.

Let’s hope that history is on Brady’s side this week.

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(Matt West/Boston Herald)

2. Road warriors vs Dominant hosts

The Chargers have been one of the NFL’s best road teams throughout the season, as they’ve gone 8-1 away from the Dignity Health Sports Center, with their only road loss coming against their brethren, the LA Rams. Hence, the Chargers have been undefeated outside of Los Angeles, with victories at historically tough venues such as Arrowhead Stadium, Heinz Field, and CenturyLink Field. The Chargers’ dominance outside of LA can be matched by the Pats’ record at home, as they went 8-0 this season at Gillette Stadium.

It’s going to be interesting to see which team triumphs and extends their respective record.

gillete dp.jpg
(Photo via the Kraft Group)

3. How will the Pats account for Ingram and Bosa?

The Chargers had a masterful defensive performance during their Wild Card Weekend victory against the Baltimore Ravens, with Melvin Ingram leading the way in clamping down on rookie phenom Lamar Jackson. The Chargers had 7 total sacks in the game, and forced 3 total turnovers (2 fumbles and 1 interception). Los Angeles was able to throw the Ravens off course by stifling their time-consuming rushing attack. Luckily for the Pats, they are not as dependent on one particular phase of the offense, which will make it tougher for the Chargers to catch them off-guard if they are able to have success on defense. If the Pats do want to have success on offense, it will be absolutely imperative for them to account for the duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa at all times, because they will make life hard for Tom Brady if they’re able to get after him. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and the rest of the receivers/tight ends are going to have tough individual matchups this week, as they go up against the vaunted Chargers secondary, which includes some of the NFL’s best defensive backs in Derwin James, Desmond King, and Casey Hayward. Based on last year’s matchup between these two teams, I believe that the Pats will have to channel the crux of their offense through their stable of running backs (whether it be through rushes or passes), as they can win matchups against the Chargers’ linebackers due to their speed and agility.

If the Pats want to advance, the offense will need to be a well-oiled machine on Sunday.

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(Photo via NBC Sports Boston)

4. Will the Pats slow down Rivers and company?

The Pats defense is going to face one of its toughest tests of the season this week, as the Chargers possess one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Throughout the season, the Pats have struggled to stop the run, which does not bode well for Sunday, as the Chargers have a great stable of running backs in Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, and Justin Jackson. One of the highlights of last year’s meeting between these two teams was a 87-yard rushing touchdown for Gordon, where he simply outran every Patriot defender in sight. Fortifying the line of scrimmage will be important, as it will allow the Pats to rely on the strong half of their defense, which is definitely their secondary. I would expect Stephon Gilmore to have the assignment of shadowing Keenan Allen, with J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty being the ones guarding Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, respectively. The Pats will also have to account for the veteran tight end Antonio Gates, who continues to have an impact at the age of 38. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers’ other tight end, Hunter Henry is active tomorrow, because he could pose a problem for the Pats’ safeties, who have struggled to cover tight ends effectively. Getting after Rivers also has to be a priority, because giving him a comfortable pocket is not a strategy for success.

The Pats’ defense needs to be at its best tomorrow to have a good chance of winning this game.

rivers v pats dpp.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Deatrich Wise (knee) – Questionable

Chargers

  • Brandon Facyson (concussion) – Questionable
  • Derek Watt (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Kyle Wilson (concussion) – Questionable
  • Hunter Henry (knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 30, Chargers 28

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Divisional Round games.

Last week: 2-2

Colts at Chiefs: Chiefs

Cowboys at Rams: Cowboys

Eagles at Saints: Saints