The Pats vanquish the Titans to advance to the AFC Title Game

 

Team 1 2 3 4 T
TEN 7 0 0 7 14
NE 0 21 7 7 35

The Patriots thoroughly dominated the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night, easily winning the divisional round contest 35-14. The Pats fell behind early, but rattled off 35 straight points to help them secure their seventh straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Brady is back!

Brady had a shaky end to the 2017 regular season, as he had several uneven performances which featured uncharacteristic mistakes by #12. Brady erupted against the hapless Titans secondary, throwing for over 300 yards and three scores. TB12 looked comfortable in the pocket, and was not sacked by Tennessee. Many pundits in the media wondered how Brady and the Pats would respond to the outside noise regarding the alleged rift between TB12 and Bill Belichick, and the 40-year-old quarterback was able to silence his doubters with a vintage performance. If Brady continues to play at this level, it will be very hard for opposing defenses to stop the Patriots.

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(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

2. The Super Bowl LI heroes strike again!

Back in last February’s Super Bowl LI, the Patriots completed a monster comeback with the help of playmakers such as Danny Amendola and James White, who scored all of the team’s points (other than 2 field goals). Both of them were back at it today, with Amendola corralling 11 catches for 112 yards, and White scoring on both a rushing and a passing touchdown. White was inactive down the stretch for the Patriots during the regular season, and his presence clearly helped the Patriots last night.

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(Photo by the AP)

3. Don’t count out the Patriots defense

Similarly to last year’s Super Bowl squad, the 2017-18 Pats’ defense has been unheralded all season, with most skeptics believing that their supposed inability to stop the run and get after the quarterback would doom them in the playoffs. The Patriots’ defense was dominant throughout last night’s game, as they sacked Marcus Mariota 8 times, and held Derrick Henry to 12 carries for 28 yards. After giving up a touchdown in the first quarter, the Pats didn’t give up a point until garbage time in the fourth quarter. If the Patriots’ defense continues to play like this, they will have a good chance of defending their title.

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(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

What’s next: The Pats will play the winner of today’s bout between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Pats ground the Jets

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

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.

1. Dion Lewis continues to lead the offense

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

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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The Pats’ defense had a great game

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

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(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

3. Looking ahead to the playoffs

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

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Photo from the Patriots

D-Lew and the Pats run through the Bills

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

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.

1. Dion Lewis is downright scary for opposing defenses

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

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

2. Gronk continues to dominate the Bills

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

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(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

3. What’s wrong with TB12?

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

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

4. The defense still has areas to work on

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

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(Photo by Getty Images)

The Patriots tame the Bills!

The Patriots ran over the Bills on Sunday, leaving Orchard Park with a 23-3 win. This victory was the eight straight win for New England, and moves them up to first place in the AFC (for now), with an 10-2 record.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Rex and D-Lew lead the way!

The Patriots won in an unexpected fashion yesterday, with Tom Brady and his receivers not being the main factor in the offense. Rather, it was the Pats’ rushing attack, spearheaded by Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, who revitalized the anemic offense, and also helped to put away Buffalo. Lewis totaled 92 yards off 15 carries, while Burkhead had 12 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis and Burkhead continue to improve week by week, ensuring that the two dynamos will be the featured rushers for the rest of the season. 

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(Photo by Adrian Kraus/AP)

2. Have yourself a game, Gronk!

Rob Gronkowski was the standout pass-catcher for the Patriots, as he corralled 9 catches for 147 yards in yet another domination of his hometown Buffalo Bills. On a day when the Patriots’ dynamic offense appeared to be stifled by the stingy Bills, Gronk and TB12 took over in the second half, connecting on several throws that extended long drives.

Unfortunately, Gronk’s monster game has been overshadowed by a reckless decision he made in the waning moments of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Brady dropped back to loft a ball to #87, but it was intercepted by Tre’Davious White, who appeared to have interfered with Gronk on the play. While White laid motionless on the field, Gronk lunged at him, with his elbow connecting with the back of White’s head. This is definitely out of character for the big tight end, and it is quite disappointing to see, as he let his team down, and also threatened the livelihood of a fellow player. Gronk did apologize to White, and attributed his actions to frustration, but will likely receive a hefty fine from the NFL, along with a possible suspension. 

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(Photo by  Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

3. Who’s that Eric Lee guy?

The Patriots’ defense was aided by a dominant linebacker who was involved in several key plays. No, I’m not talking about Kyle Van Noy, or Elandon Roberts, I’m talking about Eric Lee. Sunday’s hero was signed off the Bills’ practice squad 10 days ago, and singlehandedly impacted many of Buffalo’s drives. For instance, on the first drive, Buffalo easily drove down the field, and found themselves in the red zone. Lee ended their drive when he picked off an errant pass by Tyrod Taylor. Lee finished the game with four tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, two pass deflections, three quarterback hits and an interception. As Tony Romo hilariously stated during the CBS broadcast, Lee has to be the most efficient player in the NFL so far this year.

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(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

4. The Pats’ defense continues to thrive

The Patriots continued their defensive dominance yesterday, as they limited Buffalo to 3 points, and 85 passing yards (for two quarterbacks). They also had four sacks, nine quarterback hits and eight pass deflections. Similarly to the last few weeks, the Patriots played a bend-but-don’t-break form of defense, as they allowed Buffalo to drive at times, but were able to stop them when necessary. As mentioned earlier, Eric Lee was one of the most dominant Patriot defenders, but another key contributor was Stephon Gilmore, who had a great performance against his former team. Gilmore was mostly able to shut down the receivers he covered in the beginning of the game, and had several key plays late in the fourth quarter. He had 3 pass deflections during one of Buffalo’s last drives, preventing the Bills from putting any points on the board.

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(Photo by Adrian Kraus/AP)

 

Heading up North!

The Patriots start off their critical 3-week road stretch on Sunday, when they’ll take on their division rival, the Buffalo Bills. The Pats enter this game as 9-point favorites, and they hope to leave New Era Field with their 8th straight victory.

Here are a few storylines to think about entering tomorrow’s game…

1. Tom Brady’s dominance against the Bills

TB12 is the GOAT. If you want any clarification on that statement, just ask Bills’ fans. Brady is an astounding 26-3 against the Bills, and has 68 touchdowns against them (including 2 rushing touchdowns). An interesting stat to consider is that TB12 has more touchdowns against the Bills than Tyrod Taylor has scored in his career (63). #12 has been remarkable in his last 3 games at Buffalo, throwing for 11 touchdowns, with no interceptions. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that Brady’s otherworldly production in Upstate New York will continue.

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(Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Gronk’s homecoming

Rob Gronkowski is a Buffalo native, which means that his annual game back home is probably very special to the game-changing tight end. Just like his quarterback, Gronk has also dominated the hapless Bills at New Era Field, recording 35 catches for 583 yards and 7 touchdowns in 6 career games up north. Last year, Gronk’s main highlight of the season occured in Buffalo, where he caught his 69th career touchdown, breaking the franchise record. 

Bonus: If you’re in the market for wings in Buffalo, Gronk recommends Amherst Ale House. What’s an article about the Patriots without a mention of Gronk and his food?

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(Photo by Matt West/Boston Herald)

3. Containing the run game

The Patriots have continued to make improvements on defense, with a particular emphasis being placed on their secondary. The Patriots have managed to stifle opposing quarterbacks, but there is still some need to be concerned with their ability to stop opposing running backs. The Patriots’ run defense did have a good game against the Dolphins, holding all of Miami’s rushers to 19 carries for 67 yards, but they face a tall task against ‘Shady’ McCoy. McCoy’s elusiveness and brute force makes it very hard for opposing defenses to bring him down. McCoy is the heart and central focus of the Bills’ offense, so the Patriots will have a great chance of winning if they can stifle #25. 

The Patriots have also had a bad history against running quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor is very athletic, and good at extending plays with his feet, which means that the Patriots’ defense will need to be alert in order to wrap him up.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
(Photo from USA TODAY SPORTS)

PredictionPatriots 31, Bills 17

Although the Bills are a desperate team fighting to make the playoffs, I still expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Buffalo. TB12, Gronk, and Brandin Cooks should make life difficult for the Bills defense, and force Tyrod Taylor & Co. to play from behind. Look for Stephon Gilmore to make some big plays against his former team.