Buckle up!: The Pats take on Denver

It seems like a lifetime ago when the Cam Newton-led Patriots ran all over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3, en route to a 36-20 victory. Unfortunately for the team, Newton tested positive for COVID-19 the ensuing Saturday, right before their Week 4 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. That game was delayed and played on Monday night, with Brian Hoyer & Jarrett Stidham at quarterback during the 26-10 loss. The Patriots were meant to play the Denver Broncos (1-3) in Week 5, but Stephon Gilmore’s positive COVID-19 test led to this game being delayed to Week 6.

Here’s what to expect entering this Week 6 contest.

1. Can Cam & the offense regain their rhythm?

As I mentioned earlier, this game will be three weeks since the last time Cam Newton took the field for the Patriots, which makes this game important for New England’s offense to regain its footing as the season becomes increasingly difficult. Denver’s rushing defense ranks amongst the top half in the league, but I’d still expect Josh McDaniels to focus on establishing the run throughout the game. Having a strong rushing attack with Damien Harris, James White, & Rex Burkhead will help take pressure off of Newton in his first game back, and also open up play-action passes down the field. As Sony Michel is still on IR, and has also tested positive for COVID-19, it wouldn’t be surprising to see JJ Taylor back in the lineup as the fourth running back.

Hopefully the extended break helped Julian Edelman heal from his knee ailment that has bothered him for the past few weeks. More than anything else, I’m sure that he can’t wait to get back out there to make up for his crucial drop against the Chiefs. The Patriots need continuous production from N’Keal Harry & Damiere Byrd, as they have been able to establish some chemistry with Newton. I’m intrigued to see what practice squad receiver Isaiah Zuber can do, as his brief appearance in the Chiefs’ game was intriguing, due to his speed. It’s also been disappointing to see the lack of production from the tight end position, even though the team has been hyping up their production at practice.

If the Patriots can protect Newton from Denver’s pass rush, I would expect the offense to have a good performance tomorrow.

cam w6p20
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Can the Pats’ D contain the banged up Denver offense?

After a hard fought bout against a high-powered Kansas City offense, the Patriots’ defense will be facing an offense that is missing several key playmakers. Despite the return of second-year quarterback Drew Lock after a several week absence, Denver will be playing without their top running back, wide receiver, & tight end. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Denver try to establish their running game, due to the strength of the Patriots’ secondary & the relative inexperience of Lock. Limiting the effectiveness of Phillip Lindsey will be heavily important if the Patriots’ defense wants to ensure success.

I’d expect Bill Belichick’s defense to focus in on rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy, as he will clearly be Denver’s top threat down the field, with Stephon Gilmore likely drawing the assignment. In addition, I think that Belichick will test Drew Lock with heavy pressure, hence challenging the young quarterback to beat the Patriots’ secondary with his arm.

I would be surprised if the Patriots’ defense has a down game tomorrow, but anything is possible in the NFL!

drew lock w620p
(Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Injury Report:

Patriots:

  • Adam Butler (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee) – Questionable
  • Isaiah Wynn (calf) – Questionable

Broncos

  • Drew Lock (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Mike Purcell (knee) – Questionable
  • Jeremiah Attaochu (quadriceps) – Out
  • Melvin Gordon III (illness) – Out
  • KJ Hamler (hamstring) – Out
  • Noah Fant (ankle) – Out

What’re they wearing?:

Pats v Broncos 20w6 uni matchup
(Photo courtesy of the Gridiron Uniform Database)

Prediction: Patriots 27, Broncos 14

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

Last week: 8-5

Texans at Titans: Titans

Ravens at Eagles: Ravens

Falcons at Vikings: Vikings

Browns at Steelers: Steelers

Bengals at Colts: Colts

Lions at Jaguars: Lions

Bears at Panthers: Bears

Washington at Giants: Giants

Jets at Dolphins: Dolphins

Packers at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Rams at 49ers: Rams

Chiefs at Bills: Chiefs

Cardinals at Cowboys: Cardinals

The Pats welcome Las Vegas for a high stakes contest in Foxborough!

Tomorrow, the Patriots will take on the newly-minted Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) for the first time in 3 seasons, in a matchup that will make or break New England’s season due to the mounting difficulty of their season.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 3 contest.

1. Can Cam & the offense maintain their momentum?

During last week’s loss in Seattle, the Patriots’ offense came alive, with Cam Newton passing for almost 400 yards, along with Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd having big performances as well. However, as the team has stated all week, you can’t take moral victories from a defeat, which means that the offense will have to show up once again to prove that Week 2 wasn’t an aberration. They may have a golden opportunity against a Raiders’ defense that ranks amongst the NFL’s worst. They have young players throughout their defense, such as Maxx Crosby & Johnathan Abram, to go along with veterans such as Lamarcus Joyner & Cory Littleton. Due to the Raiders’ relatively weak defensive line, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Josh McDaniels decide to emphasize running the football, with either Newton or the team’s running backs. As always, having success on the ground could open up the run-pass option or play action, which could help keep the defense off guard.

Either way, the Patriots will have to adjust to the absence of David Andrews, who broke his thumb against the Seahawks, and will miss at least three games. Andrews has been crucial blocker for both aspects of the offense, which will put a lot of pressure on his replacement. When it comes to the passing game, I’d expect New England to have a similar game plan to last week, with a greater deal of short to intermediate passes, along with deep passes when the opportunity presents itself. If N’Keal Harry & Damiere Byrd can deliver once again and complement the ever-reliable Julian Edelman, it may be hard to stop Cam Newton & the Patriots’ offense this week.

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

2. Will the defense rebound?

Last week, the Patriots’ defense got dissected by Russell Wilson, who had 5 passing touchdowns, which was more than they gave up during all of the 2019 season. They will face a much more conservative quarterback in Derek Carr, who is definitely more effective when he throws shorter throws. Regardless of his supposed shortcomings, Carr was efficient against the Saints last week, as he found his top weapon Darren Waller 12 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Waller is best described as a big receiver even though he’s listed as a tight end, as his speed cannot be understated. As Las Vegas’ top speedster in Henry Ruggs is missing this game with an injury, I’d expect Bill Belichick’s defense to double Waller with Stephon Gilmore or Joejuan Williams, along with a safety. This would leave the rest of the team’s secondary with the task of covering Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, & Nelson Agholor.

On the other hand, the Raiders are much more deadly running the football, due to the ever-brilliant play of Josh Jacobs. Despite some injuries, Jacobs had a strong game against the Saints, as he totaled nearly 90 yards on the ground, and helped to put the game away. If Jacobs is at full health, it may be a long day for the Patriots’ defense, as they have struggled stopping the run lately (with the game against Seattle being a prime example). It wouldn’t be surprising if Jon Gruden & Las Vegas coaching staff decide to primarily focus on their rushing attack, which could tire down the defense, and keep Cam Newton off the field.

If the Patriots want to avoid a tough game, they will need their defense to bounce back with a vengeance, and shut down a potentially potent Raiders offense. More than anything else, the defensive line & linebacking corps will need to step up & stop the run.

derek carr v patriots w3p20
(Photo via NBC Sports Boston)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • David Andrews (hand) – Out
  • Josh Uche (foot) – Out
  • Adam Butler (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Brandon Copeland (knee) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (ankle) – Questionable
  • Isaiah Wynn (calf) – Questionable

Raiders

  • Trent Brown (calf) – Out
  • Henry Ruggs (knee) – Out
  • Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) – Out
  • Denzelle Good (thumb/illness) – Questionable
  • Josh Jacobs (hip) – Questionable
  • Darren Waller (knee) – Questionable
  • Sam Young (groin) – Questionable

What’re they wearing?:

(Photo courtesy of the Gridiron Uniform Database)

Prediction: Patriots 28, Raiders 20

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 3 games.

Last week: 12-3

49ers at Giants: 49ers

Washington at Browns: Browns

Bengals at Eagles: Eagles

Bears at Falcons: Falcons

Rams at Bills: Rams

Texans at Steelers: Steelers

Titans at Vikings: Titans

Panthers at Chargers: Chargers

Jets at Colts: Colts

Cowboys at Seahawks: Seahawks

Lions at Cardinals: Cardinals

Buccaneers at Broncos: Buccaneers

Packers at Saints: Packers

Chiefs at Ravens: Ravens

Another Classic!: Seattle edges the Pats on SNF

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

SEA 7 7 3 13 35

NE

7 7 14 7 30

Seattle. New England. Sunday Night Football.

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

Here are my takeaways from this Week 2 game.

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

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

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

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

2. Russ & the Seahawks’ offense cooked the Pats

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

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

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

russ v pats w220
(Photo via the Seattle Seahawks)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

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

Seahawks

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

Bonus:

1. RIP Tyrone White

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

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

2. New away uniforms

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

jules v w220
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images

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