Clashing with the Titans!

This Sunday, the Patriots head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans (4-4) in a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional round game. The Pats enter this contest at 7-2, with hopes of keeping pace with the conference-leading Chiefs.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 10 matchup.

1. The offense faces a tough matchup in Tennessee

The Patriots’ offense has really found its rhythm in recent weeks, as they’ve figured out a way to shuffle their personnel in order to make up for injuries (specifically Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel). Tom Brady has been able to rely on the duo of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon to move the ball down the field and the running back combination of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be extremely potent for the team.

This week’s matchup will be challenging as they take on the NFL’s top scoring defense in the Titans, who have a swarming defensive line and a great group of linebackers. For the Pats to be successful, they will need to target the Titans’ susceptible secondary.

pats titans preview
(Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

2. Will the Pats’ defense continue to succeed?

The Patriots’ defense appeared to turn a corner during last week’s victory against the Packers, as they got after Aaron Rodgers and limited Green Bay to 17 points. One of the key factors in the victory was the pass rush’s ability to keep Rodgers in the pocket, with Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn leading the way. That will be essential to replicate this week as they face off with the mobile Marcus Mariota, who is coming off a performance in Dallas where he was able to dissect the Cowboys’ defense with his ability to run for first downs. The Pats will also need to fortify the line of scrimmage to combat the efficient combination of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.

Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty have also been essential cogs in the secondary’s revitalization over the last few weeks, and if they continue to play well on Sunday, the Pats will have a good chance of emerging victorious in Nashville.

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(Adam Richins/ Boston Sports Journal)

3. Facing off against ex-Patriots

The Pats will be taking on familiar faces this Sunday when they head to Tennessee. As mentioned earlier, Dion Lewis has become an essential part of the Titans’ offense, after 3 seasons with the Patriots. Lewis is not missed in New England, because James White has emerged into a true #1 back for Josh McDaniels’ offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans feature 2 ex-Patriot cornerbacks in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Ryan left the Patriots following their victory in Super Bowl LI, while Butler left following the loss in Super Bowl LII. Ryan was a great contributor for the Pats, but was replaced during the 2017 off-season with the signing of Stephon Gilmore. Butler’s departure from New England was much more controversial due to him being benched during Super Bowl LII, which made several pundits question how the Pats’ secondary function without him. Bill Belichick’s decision to move on from Butler has appeared to be wise so far, as Butler has given up 7 touchdowns in 8 games.

The Titans are coached by Mike Vrabel who was a linebacker on the Patriots for 8 seasons, and won 3 Super Bowls with the team. This will be the first time Bill Belichick coaches against a former player.

butler lewis .jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Trent Brown (illness) – Questionable
  • *Rob Gronkowski (ankle/knee) – Out
  • Dont’a Hightower (knee) – Questionable
  • Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Shaq Mason (calf) – Questionable
  • **Sony Michel (knee) – Will play

Titans

  • Jack Conklin (concussion) – Out
  • Dane Cruikshank (knee) – Questionable
  • Taywan Taylor (foot) – Questionable
  • Derrick Morgan (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Tajae Sharpe (ankle) – Questionable
  • Bennie Logan (knee) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 28, Titans 17

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 10 contests (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 8-4

Saints at Bengals: Saints

Falcons at Browns: Falcons

Lions at Bears: Bears

Cardinals at Chiefs: Chiefs

Redskins at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Bills at Jets: Jets

Jaguars at Colts: Colts

Chargers at Raiders: Chargers

Seahawks at Rams: Rams

Dolphins at Packers: Packers

Cowboys at Eagles: Eagles

Giants at 49ers: 49ers

* and ** – Updated on game day based on information released by the Patriots

The Pats outlast the high-octane Chiefs in Sunday Night thriller!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

KC 6 3 17 14 40

NE

10 14 3 16 43

What a game!

Last night’s Week 6 contest between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) definitely lived up to the hype, as the two teams flexed their offensive might in a game that had 83 combined points. The Pats eventually prevailed on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that gave them the 43-40 win. 

Here are some takeaways from last night’s game.

1. The Pats offense was sensational!

A mere three weeks after looking absolutely inept on the offensive side of the ball against the Detroit Lions during a Week 3 clunker, the Patriots went toe to toe with one of the NFL’s best offenses with Tom Brady and Sony Michel leading the way. Brady was pretty unflappable throughout the game, as he had 340 passing yards and 1 passing touchdown, along with a jaw-dropping 4 yard touchdown run (only 15 yards away from 1,000 career rushing yards!). Sony Michel continued his stretch of dominance as he gashed the porous Chiefs defense for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns off of 24 carries. Michel demonstrated the quickness and agility he had at Georgia, as he was able to find his way through holes and pick up huge chunks of yardage. The Pats also enjoyed solid contributions from Julian Edelman ( 4 catches for 54 yards and 1 touchdown), Chris Hogan (4 catches for 78 yards), Josh Gordon ( 5 catches for 42 yards), and James White (6 rushes for 39 yards, and 5 catches for 53 yards). Rob Gronkowski was quiet for most of the game, but he came up clutch when the Patriots needed big plays to seal the deal. For instance, he had a huge 42-yard gain on the drive that increased their lead to 7 (which was aided by an impressive stiff arm!). On the game-winning drive, Gronk also had a 39 yard catch which put the Patriots in range to finish off the Chiefs. #87 finished with 3 catches for 97 yards).

More than anything, I would say that this game showed the mental toughness of the Patriots’ offense, as they were able to shake off losing their 15 point halftime lead, and miscues (such as Tom Brady’s fumble) and still have the ability to drive down the field at will. The Pats were able to win this game because their playmakers came up big when they were required to do so. 

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(Photo by Stephen Senne/AP)

2. The defense had its moments…

It’s hard to fault the Patriots’ defense for giving up 40 points, due to the explosiveness of their opponent, but the Pats were absolutely dissected by Patrick Mahomes and his assortment of weapons.

The first half was very efficient for the Pats defense, as they were able to get after Mahomes, and force him into 2 interceptions. The pressure in his face also forced him to miss wide-open receivers on what would have been sure-fire touchdowns. Limiting the Chiefs to 9 points in the first half was definitely a victory for the Patriots.

The second half was a completely different story for Mahomes and his offense, as evidenced by their opening drive, when Kareem Hunt torched the secondary for a 67-yard touchdown. To be fair to the Patriots’ defense, the next two touchdowns they gave up were not completely on them. The first one was due to a Tom Brady fumble deep in Pats’ territory, while the second one was due to a brilliant kickoff return that set them up mere yards away from the end zone. At the same time, the Pats’ secondary (especially the McCourty twins) could not seem to stop the blazing fast Tyreek Hill who burned them for 7 catches for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns. The secondary’s performance could be epitomized by Hill’s final touchdown, when he was open down the field and outran everyone in the secondary to tie the game at 40. Luckily enough for the Pats’ defense, the Pats’ offense had their back, as they used up the rest of the clock en route to a game-winning field goal.

The Pats defense should not be demoralized, but they can’t depend on the offense to score more than 40 points and bail them out every time they fail to stop their opponent. An example of this could be Super Bowl LII where both defenses struggled, with Philadelphia winning the game due to a strip-sack of Brady on what could have been a game-winning drive. 

mahomes v pats w6.jpg
(Photo via SI)

3. Playoff implications?

It’s never too early to talk about playoff implications in the NFL…

With a win last night, the Chiefs would have given themselves a great opportunity to eventually seize home-field advantage in the AFC. due to victories over the Jaguars, Steelers and the Patriots. However, due to the fact that the Patriots won last night, they will gain a head-to-head edge over the Chiefs, which will definitely come in handy if the two teams finish with the same record. 

Regardless of who finishes with the better record, it would be very entertaining to see these teams battle once more in January.

tb v chiefs w6.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

Passing: Tom Brady – 24/35 for 340 yards and 1 touchdown

Rushing: Sony Michel – 24 carries for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Rob Gronkowski – 3 catches for 97 yards

Defensive: Trey Flowers and Elandon Roberts with 7 tackles each

Chiefs

Passing: Patrick Mahomes – 23/36 for 352 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions

Rushing: Kareem Hunt – 10 carries for 80 yards

Receiving: Tyreek Hill – 7 catches for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns

Defensive: Anthony Hitchens – 14 tackles

 

What’s next: The Pats head to the Windy City to take on Khalil Mack and the fearsome Chicago Bears (3-2)

 

Showtime vs the GOAT!

On Sunday Night Football, the Patriots take on the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) in a contest that may help to determine the flow of the 2019 AFC Playoffs. Coming off of a dominant 2-game winning streak, the Patriots will have their hands full against second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his assortment of weapons…

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

1. More of the same?

The last two times the Patriots have faced the Chiefs in the regular season, it has been rather lopsided in favor of Kansas City, as Andy Reid’s team has outscored the Pats 83-44, which may not sound encouraging for most Pats fans. Both games (in 2014 & 2017, respectively) featured an absolutely porous New England defense, along with Tom Brady running for his life, due to the inability of the offensive line to protect him. Most analysts project this game to be a shootout (which doesn’t bode well for the Pats defense), but Brady should be much more well-protected, as his offensive line is now amongst the top ten offensive lines in the league.

james white v chiefs 17.jpg
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Gronk vs Kelce

Rob Gronkowski has been one of the most dominant tight ends in NFL history, ever since his entry to the league in 2010. Gronk’s position as the NFL’s top tight end has not really been questioned until now, as there are several analysts who now believe that Kansas City’s tight end, Travis Kelce, has surpassed Gronk. Reporters took advantage of this week’s matchup to question Gronk on his feelings about Kelce. Naturally, Gronk complimented Kelce’s ability as a pass-catcher and made a point of mentioning that this week’s game was between the Patriots and the Chiefs, not Gronk and Kelce. Putting my bias aside, I truly believe that Gronk is the superior tight end, as he is both a dynamic pass-catcher and a hell of a blocker for the running game. In comparison, Kelce is a great pass-catcher who benefits from having dynamic talents around him, and at the same time, he cannot block well at all.

gronk kelce.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports)

3. Slowing down Mahomes & Co.

Patrick Mahomes has been seen as a legitimate MVP candidate due to his performance over the last 5 weeks, as he has thrown for over 1500 yards and 14 touchdowns. Mahomes has demonstrated an ability to get away from pressure and dissect defenses down the field with his impressive throwing arm. Unfortunately for the Pats, they’ll also have to deal with running back Kareem Hunt, who had his coming out party against them in last year’s opener, with over 250 total yards from scrimmage. Add in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to the mix, and it’s going to be hard for the Patriots to shut down all of Kansas City’s weapons. Luckily enough for Bill Belichick, he and his staff have had over 10 days to prepare for the Chiefs, so expect the Pats to have some tricks up their sleeves.

mahomes 1.jpg
(Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP)

4. Can the Brady Bunch keep pace with KC?

Last week’s game against the Colts was a good omen for the Pats offense, as they welcomed back Julian Edelman back from suspension, and received valuable contributions from other playmakers including Josh Gordon, Sony Michel, and James White. At the same time, the offense was slightly sloppy in the second half, which made the game too close for comfort. The Pats will need to be on their A-game on Sunday if they hope to keep up with Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Pats should be in for a shootout, as Kansas City’s defense currently ranks as the NFL’s worst defense in terms of yards allowed and they may be playing without two of their most important defenders in Eric Berry and Justin Houston, respectively. If the Pats can play at their highest potential, they will have a good chance of knocking off the undefeated Chiefs.

brady td v chiefs 16.jpg
(Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

Injury Report

Patriots

  • Malcom Brown (knee) – Questionable
  • Josh Gordon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Geneo Grissom (ankle) – Questionable
  • Rob Gronkowski (ankle) – Questionable
  • Chris Hogan (thigh) – Questionable
  • Sony Michel (knee) – Questionable
  • Eric Rowe (groin) – Questionable
  • Danny Shelton (elbow) – Questionable
  • John Simon (shoulder) – Questionable

Chiefs

  • Eric Berry (heel) – Doubtful
  • Justin Houston (hamstring) – Doubtful
  • Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) – Questionable
  • Eric Murray (ankle) – Out
  • De’Anthony Thomas (tibia) – Out

Prediction: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 6 contests

Last week: 8-6

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

Panthers at Redskins: Panthers

Seahawks at Raiders: Seahawks

Colts at Jets: Colts

Cardinals at Vikings: Vikings

Steelers at Bengals: Bengals

Chargers at Browns: Chargers

Bills at Texans: Texans

Bears at Dolphins: Bears

Rams at Broncos: Rams

Ravens at Titans: Ravens

Jaguars at Cowboys: Jaguars

49ers at Packers: Packers

Clash with the Titans

The Blitz for Six continues today when the Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans in their Divisional Round matchup. Fresh off their first-round bye, the Pats hope to advance to the AFC Championship Game with a win against Tennessee.

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

1. Does experience really matter in the playoffs?

Most of the players on the Patriots are experienced in the playoffs, and were a part of the last 2 Super Bowl runs. On the other hand, the Titans have very few players with actual playoff experience, and are heavy underdogs in Foxborough. However, anything can happen in the playoffs, and the Patriots should be careful to avoid overlooking the pesky Titans.

tb sb51 dr.jpg
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

2. Stopping the run

The Patriots have struggled stopping the run throughout the season, and have been gashed by prominent rushers such as Le’veon Bell and Kareem Hunt. Today’s task won’t be much easier, with the behemoth Derrick Henry coming to town. Henry pounded through the Kansas City Chiefs last week, totaling over 156 yards on the ground. Henry’s imposing physique allows him to wear down defenses, as shown by the fact that he leads the NFL in fourth quarter rushing. The Pats will also have to contend with the threat that Marcus Mariota presents due to his ability to scramble outside of the pocket. Preventing Mariota from making plays with his feet will make it much easier for the Pats to win the game.

derrick henry.jpg
(Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

3. Gronk vs the Tennessee defense

Rob Gronkowski was absolutely brilliant for the Patriots in the last half of the regular season (apart from the season finale against the Jets), as he tore apart opposing defenses. Gronk may be happy with this week’s matchup, after watching Kansas City’s Travis Kelce have his way with the Tennessee defense. Kelce only played for half of his team’s loss against the Titans, but was able to wrack up over 60 receiving yards and a touchdown. Gronk should be able to have a field day if Tennessee gives him room across the field.

brady gronk dr.jpeg
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

PredictionPatriots 34, Titans 18

2017-18 NFL Playoff Predictions

In lieu of my weekly Patriots game previews (due to the Pats’ first-round bye), here is my complete playoff predictions, from the Wild Card Weekend to Super Bowl LII.

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

Wild-Card Weekend

#6 Buffalo Bills at #3 Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: Jaguars

jags playoffs.JPG
(Photo by Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

 

#5 Tennessee Titans at #4 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Chiefs

chiefs playoffs.jpg
(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

 

#6 Atlanta Falcons at #3 Los Angeles Rams

Prediction: Rams

rams playoffs.jpg
(Photo by Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

 

#5 Carolina Panthers at #4 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Saints

saints playoffs.jpg
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

 

Divisional Round

#4 Kansas City Chiefs at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

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(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

 

 

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers

Prediction: Jaguars

jaguars playoofs 2.jpg
(Photo by Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports)

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #1 Philadelphia Eagles

Prediction: Saints

saints playoffs 2.jpg
(Photo via the Saints)

 

#3 Los Angeles Rams at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

vikings playoffs 1.jpg
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

 

Conference Championships

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
 (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

vikings playoffs 2.jpg
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

 

Super Bowl LII

#2 Minnesota Vikings vs. #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

james white sb
(Photo from the Patriots)

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

 

 

Stunner in Pittsburgh!: Brady and the Pats capture Round 1 against Big Ben and the Steelers

What a game!

The Patriots absolutely shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday, coming back from an 8 point deficit in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, winning the game 27-24. The final minutes of the Week 15 contest featured several jaw-dropping plays, such as Rob Gronkowski’s remarkable catch in the red zone, or JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 69-yard catch and run. However, the most controversial play of the game came with 28 seconds left, when Ben Roethlisberger appeared to have thrown the game winning touchdown to his tight end, Jesse James. The play was overturned when the referees determined that James lost control of the ball while reaching across to the end zone. The referee’s interpretation of the NFL’s puzzling catch rule was deemed to be correct by CBS’ Tony Romo, and even ESPN, but still wasn’t enough to dispel the beliefs of fans who feel that the NFL is rigged in favor of the Patriots.

jesse james .jpg
(Photo by Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s wild game.

1. Never count out Tom Brady!

Stop me if you’ve heard this before… Tom Brady and his Patriot offense had no business winning this game, but still found a way to get it done when it truly mattered. This sounds familiar right? TB12 was not very good in the first 3 quarters of the game, resembling his uneven performances from the last 2 weeks. For a change, it appeared as if Pittsburgh’s defense had his number, as they constantly got after him, and made him very uncomfortable in the pocket. Brady even threw an interception in the third quarter, when he forced an ugly throw into coverage, which resulted in a defensive lineman picking him off. As NFL teams have learnt over the last 16 years, nothing is impossible for the Patriots when Tom Brady is under center. They may be down 25 in the second half, or be outplayed for the first 55 minutes of the game, but to beat the Patriots you have to play for 60 minutes, and keep #12 off the field. For over three and a half quarters it appeared as if Pittsburgh was going to succeed in doing those two things, but they unfortunately gave Brady enough time to take the lead in the waning moments of the game. Brady was surgical on New England’s final drive, connecting with Gronk on several key plays, which allowed the Patriots to drive 77 yards in just over 70 seconds. Brady’s clutch performance helped move the Patriots to the #1 seed in the AFC, and he will need to continue to play at this level for the Patriots to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs.

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

2. You just got Gronked!

Rob Gronkowski returned from his one-game suspension and continued his dominance over Pittsburgh’s secondary. Gronk recorded 9 catches for 168 yards (a new career high), and his impact was felt throughout the second half, with 135 yards in the last 30 minutes of the game. Gronk’s main contribution to the game came during the last drive, where he corralled 3 catches for 69 yards, including a breathtaking catch in the red zone. Gronk constantly beat Sean Davis on the drive, and helped extend the Pats’ lead to 3 with a clutch catch on a fade route for a two-point conversion. With #87 in the lineup, the Patriots can flip the switch at any given moment.

gronk w15.jpg
(Photo from USA TODAY SPORTS)

3. The Patriots’ defense struggled, but managed to seal the game

If you tuned into the early stages of this game, you never would have thought that the Patriots’ defense would be able to stop Pittsburgh’s high-flying offense, as the Pats could not stop the Steelers on third down. Pittsburgh went 10-for-16 on third down in the game, allowing them to extend drives and tire out the Patriots. Le’veon Bell also had his way with the Patriots, as his patient running style got him 117 yards off 24 carries. New England was clearly on the ropes, but Pittsburgh simply could not knock them out. The Patriots were able to get two stops in the fourth quarter, enabling TB12 & Co. to score twice and take a 3 point lead. When JuJu Smith-Schuster was able to take a simple crossing route 69 yards to the 10 yard line, it seemed as if the Patriots’ luck had simply run out. This belief was exemplified when Jesse James appeared to score the game-winning touchdown. Even though the Patriots were aided by the reversed call, they did not become complacent, as they had key stops on both second and third down. On second down, they were able to tackle Darrius Heyward-Bey inbounds, and their stop on third down was even more remarkable. After the Heyward-Bey catch, it appeared as if Big Ben would simply spike the ball to allow for either a last ditch effort at the end zone, or a field goal to tie the game. Instead, he did a fake spike, and tried to force a ball to Eli Rogers in the end zone, which was deflected by Eric Rowe, and intercepted by the Patriots’ closer, Duron Harmon. The Patriots were able to win yesterday, but need to work on stopping the run, and getting off the field on third down, as it will make it much easier for them to win games in the future.

LEV bell w15
(Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Showdown in the Steel City!

Today’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably the most important game of the season for the Patriots, as the team that emerges victorious will likely secure home-field advantage in the AFC.  The Patriots need to bounce back from last week’s dud against the Miami Dolphins, as winning today will make their road to Super Bowl LII much easier.

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

1. Tom Brady vs the Steelers’ defense

TB12 has had the Steelers’ number for the last 16 years, compiling a 10-2 record against them (including the playoffs). Brady has made a living carving up the Steelers’ preferred zone defense, and his mastery of Pittsburgh can be exemplified by last year’s AFC Championship, where he threw for over 340 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brady has been dreadful over the last 2 weeks, throwing only 1 touchdown, while throwing 3 interceptions. Maybe a familiar prey will be enough to get Brady out of his slump…

brady steelers.jpg
(Photo from the AP)

2. Can the Patriots slow down the Killer B’s?

The Patriots’ defense faces a tall task today, as they will need to stop Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell to have any chance of leaving Heinz Field with a win. Brown has been lighting up opposing defenses recently, ensuring that his name remains in the MVP race. The Patriots’ secondary has come a long way since September, and should be encouraged by their last encounter with Brown in January, where they made him a non-factor. The Patriots will also have to do their best to stop Bell, who has been remarkable lately. Bell left January’s AFC Championship game early with an injury, and maintains that the Steelers would have won if he had stayed in the game. Today’s game will show if he was right.

malcolm vs ab.jpg
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

3. Gronk’s return

Rob Gronkowski will be back in the lineup for the Patriots, after serving his one game suspension for a late hit during Week 13’s tilt against the Bills. Gronk’s absence was clearly felt during last week’s loss in Miami, as the Patriots’ offense lacked rhythm and explosive plays. Gronk has been a nightmare for the Steelers’ defense ever since he entered the NFL in 2010, recording 8 touchdowns in 5 career games against them. It would be foolish to assume that this trend will not continue.

gronk v steelers.jpg
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Associated Press)

PredictionPatriots  24, Steelers 20

Last week’s loss at Miami was likely a wakeup call for Bill Belichick and his staff, as it exposed several flaws in the Patriots. Knowing Belichick, it is obvious that he has done his best to assure that the Patriots have worked to minimize their errors. Gronk’s return should be the spark that revitalizes TB12, and allows the Patriots to carve up Pittsburgh’s defense. 

 

The Pats squish the fish!

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

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Don’t forget about Gronk!

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

gronk spike w12
(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Defense!

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

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

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

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

w12 fumble
(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Patriots’ defense against Oakland’s offense

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

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

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

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

pats afa
(Photo from the Boston Globe)

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

Prediction: Patriots 31, Raiders 17