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

Poker-faced Patriots dismantle the Raiders!

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Following an “encouraging” loss in Week 2, the Patriots bounced back against the Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) with a 36-20 victory that featured contributions from all three phases of the team. This win moved the Patriots to 2-1 on the season and second place in the AFC East, behind the Buffalo Bills (3-0).

Here are some takeaways from this Week 3 contest.

1. The Pats’ offense rode their ground game to victory

The Patriots’ offense has constantly demonstrated their ability to morph from week to week, and yesterday was no exception, as they focused on establishing the run to attack a weak Raiders’ defensive line. Even though Cam Newton was shaky early, New England was able to score points by leaning on Rex Burkhead (who had a career day with three total touchdowns) & JJ Taylor. The best sign from yesterday was the fact that Sony Michel appeared to finally turn a corner after a mediocre start to the season, as a lack of snaps appeared to light a spark for him. Michel entered this game without any career rushes for more than 35 yards, but against Las Vegas, he had two of them on a day where he rushed for 117 yards off 9 carries. If Michel can continue to play like this, the Patriots could have a solid 5-man rotation at running back when James White & Damien Harris return.

One of the biggest factors for the revival of the rushing attack was the shuffled offensive line, which featured star guard Joe Thuney at center (due to David Andrews’ injury) and rookie Michael Onwenu at guard. The Patriots were able to dominate the line of scrimmage throughout the game, and only gave up two sacks. Cam Newton had an ugly interception in the first quarter, but he mostly rebounded, with a smart & decisive performance in the second half. Unlike the game in Seattle, Newton didn’t have to put the team on his shoulders, and he thrived as a complementary piece to the dominant rushing attack. However, Newton did flash his rushing ability once again, with a 21-yard run that helped put the game away in the fourth quarter. After an impactful Week 2, the receiving corps was quiet against Las Vegas, but Josh McDaniels probably won’t complain due to the 250 rushing yards they picked up.

It’s always great for the Patriots to easily win a game when their star quarterback isn’t asked to do a lot, but Cam Newton will definitely have to be his usual self if the team wants to win going forward.

cam rex v raiders w320
(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

2. Takeaways win games

The Patriotsdefense wasn’t very sharp during certain stretches of yesterday’s game, but their saving grace was their ability to force turnovers. For instance, on Las Vegas’ first big drive of the game, the defense was able to force a fumble from star running back Josh Jacobs. Later on, Chase Winovich got to Raiders QB Derek Carr and stripped him, giving the Patriots the ball at midfield. Despite these smart plays, the Patriots’ secondary was uncharacteristically sloppy towards the end of the first half, as they allowed Las Vegas to drive 75 yards in 38 seconds to cut their lead to 13-10. Despite being two of the best Patriots’ defenders, Jonathan Jones & Stephon Gilmore struggled heavily on that drive, as they gave up a deep pass and penalty, respectively.

In the second half, the Patriots stiffened up, as they gave up 10 points in garbage time, and prevented the Raiders from maintaining the momentum they gained at the end of the second quarter. The only “low” point of the second half was when the Raiderstop weapon Darren Waller caught his lone reception of the game in the fourth quarter after being blanked for more than three quarters. The defense sealed the game with five minutes to go, when Deatrice Wise Jr. recovered a fumble by Carr in the end zone to give New England a 36-13 lead. The referees initially ruled the play as a safety, but after a review, it was clear that Carr lost the football before his knee hit the ground.

All in all, the defense had a good performance, but mental errors once again marred their overall efficiency. Most importantly, Bill Belichick had to use all three of his second half timeouts by the beginning of the fourth quarter, just to make sure that his defense was correctly aligned. I’m willing to bet that the film sessions for the defense won’t be fun when Belichick begins to point out all of their mistakes from yesterday’s game.

(Adam Richin/Boston Sports Journal)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 17/28 for 162 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 9 carries for 117 yards
  • Receiving: Rex Burkhead7 receptions for 49 yards, & 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 8 total tackles

Raiders

  • Passing: Derek Carr – 24/32 for 261 yards & 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Josh Jacobs – 16 carries for 71 yards
  • Receiving: Hunter Renfrow – 6 receptions for 84 yards & 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Nicholas Morrow – 9 total tackles

What’s next?: The Pats head to Kansas City to take on Patrick Mahomes & the Chiefs (2-0) in a matchup of the last 2 Super Bowl winners.

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

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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.

Showdown in Seattle!

The Patriots will face a stiff test in Week 2, as they head to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (1-0) on Sunday Night Football. This game will help serve as a barometer of how good the Patriots truly are, as the Seahawks are considered to be one of the best teams in the NFC.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 2 contest.

1. Can the Pats stop Russ from cooking?

Let Russ cook” has been a enduring phrase amongst Seahawks’ fans on Twitter who believed that the team had hamstrung their star quarterback by overly relying on their rushing game in certain situations. Pete Carroll appeared to listen last week, as Russell Wilson dissected the Falcons for 4 touchdowns on a day where he completed 31 of 35 passes. The Patriots had some success causing problems for Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, as they forced 3 interceptions, but Wilson will be much more difficult to defend. He remains one of the NFL’s best deep ball throwers, and it’s impossible to understate his ability to extend plays with his legs. Luckily, New England fields one of the NFL’s best secondaries, so it’ll be interesting to see how they match up against a talented receiving corps, that includes Tyler Lockett & DK Metcalf. I’d expect Stephon Gilmore to be matched up one-on-one with Metcalf, with a combination of Jonathan Jones and a safety on Lockett (due to his immense speed).

In addition to Wilson & their receivers, Seattle also has two good running backs in Chris Carson & Carlos Hyde. Due to the Patriots’ inability to stop the run in recent years, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the Seahawks choose to punish them on the ground. Wilson is also a threat as a runner, which may necessitate the usage of a QB spy to monitor him at the line of scrimmage.

All in all, this game will show us how cohesive Bill Belichick’s defense is, as they will have little margin for error against such a talented offense.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

2. What will Cam & the offense look like?

Last week’s win against Miami was a masterpiece on the ground, as the Patriots compiled 217 rushing yards, due to a game plan that seemed to be designed to take advantage of the Dolphins’ lack of depth at linebacker. This week might look a bit different, as the Seahawks have the NFL’s top middle linebacker in Bobby Wagner, who forms a formidable duo with fellow linebacker KJ Wright. Seattle also features one of the NFL’s best safeties in Jamal Adams, who is very familiar to the Patriots, due to his years with the New York Jets. I’d expect Josh McDaniels to design a run-first game plan once again, but it remains to be seen if Sony Michel & the other running backs will be successful.

One would think that Cam Newton will need to use his arm more tomorrow, as we can’t expect him to rush the ball 15 times on a weekly basis. Newton did look sharp throwing the ball against Miami, but he’ll definitely need to be better this week, as the Patriots cannot afford to play from behind. The Seahawks primarily play zone coverage, which may open up opportunities for receivers such as Julian Edelman to find holes in certain areas of the zone. New England will still likely have issues getting the ball down the field, but they’ll need their young receiving corps to step up and give Newton a chance. I’m still intrigued by the speedster Damiere Byrd, who led the receivers in snaps last week, and appeared to be open down the field on more than one occasion (which is notable due to the strength of the Dolphins’ secondary). If Newton could connect with his former Carolina teammate over the top, it would help add a new level to the Patriots’ offense.

I think that the Patriots will look different than they did last week, but with this being Cam Newton’s second game under center, it’s quite hard to forecast how Josh McDaniels will decide to attack Seattle.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Adam Butler (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Brandon Copeland (knee) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Dalton Keene (neck) – Questionable
  • Matthew Slater (knee) – Questionable
  • Josh Uche (ankle) – Out

Seahawks

  • Phillip Dorsett (foot) – Questionable
  • Cedric Ogbuehi (pectoral) – Doubtful
  • Rasheem Green (neck) – Doubtful

Bonus:

1. RIP Jeannette Belichick

Bill Belichick’s mother, Jeannette, passed away this past week at the age of 98. At a press conference on Wednesday, Belichick mentioned that he spent a lot of time watching football with her as a child, and that she was able to speak 7 languages. Hopefully the Patriots canget a win in her memory!

2. Shades of XLIX?

This game is being billed as a rematch of 2015’s legendary Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, but these teams have changed a great deal over the past six years. Prominent figures from that game such as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler, Richard Sherman, & Earl Thomas have all changed teams, with others such as Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor, and Darrelle Revis having retired as well.

Other than their head coaches, here are the players that remain from that eventful game.

Patriots

  • Julian Edelman
  • Matthew Slater
  • Devin McCourty
  • James White

Seahawks

  • Russell Wilson
  • Bobby Wagner
  • KJ Wright
  • Luke Willson
  • Bruce Irvin

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 17

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 2 contests.

Last week: 10-5

Giants at Bears: Giants

Rams at Eagles: Rams

Falcons at Cowboys: Cowboys

Panthers at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

49ers at Jets: 49ers

Broncos at Steelers: Steelers

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

Lions at Packers: Packers

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Vikings at Colts: Vikings

Washington at Cardinals: Cardinals

Ravens at Texans: Ravens

Chiefs at Chargers: Chiefs

Saints at Raiders: Saints

Cam & the Pats rush past Miami!

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The Patriots started off the post-Brady era with a win, as they knocked off the Miami Dolphins (0-1) with a 21-11 victory in an empty Gillette Stadium. Cam Newton made his heavily anticipated debut as the team’s quarterback, and was efficient as both a rusher and a passer. In addition, Bill Belichick’s defense came to play, as they were able to mostly shut down Miami’s offense throughout the game.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 1 contest.

1. Cam and the offense had their way

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, the biggest question mark for the Patriots was definitely Cam Newton’s health and effectiveness, as we hadn’t seen him in action for almost a year. Newton didn’t disappoint, as he had 230 total yards, including 2 rushing touchdowns. He was a decisive rusher, and most surprisingly, he didn’t shy away from contact, with a clear highlight being his second touchdown, where he got hit hard by a Dolphins’ defender as he crossed the goal line. After two decades with a immobile quarterback, it was fascinating to see the designed runs cooked up by Josh McDaniels, which varied from option runs to simple draws.

Furthermore, Newton’s passing was crisp, and apart from a couple of drops and pass breakups, he was accurate with the football. It was encouraging to see him build a rapport with Julian Edelman (5 receptions for 57 yards), N’Keal Harry (5 receptions for 39 yards), and James White (3 receptions for 30 yards). The trio will need to step up throughout the season for the team to have success getting the ball down the field. Unfortunately for Harry, he had a crucial fumble into the end zone which ended a great drive in second half, and breathed new life into Miami’s comeback attempt. More than anything else, Bill Belichick values protecting the football, so I’m sure that he let the second-year receiver know that mistakes like that won’t be tolerated in the future.

I believe that the offensive line had a great game, as they were able to protect Newton (he was only sacked 2 times), and clear lanes for the team’s running backs. It was encouraging to see David Andrews return to action after missing last season, and it was clear that having him back helped anchor the offensive line. The team’s running backs (along with Newton) collaborated for 217 yards on the ground, setting a record for a Patriots’ season opener. After struggling for most of last season, Sony Michel showed some burst, although he only netted 37 yards, to go along with a touchdown. The biggest surprise from the running back room had to be undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor, who showed his ability to be a power runner despite his shorter stature, as he totaled 28 yards off of 4 carries.

All in all, having a versatile quarterback such as Newton helped change the pace of the Patriots offense, as they’re definitely more versatile than they’ve been in the past. However, it’s important to note that they will probably switch things up as they get through the season, as it’s not sustainable to have Newton rush 15 times per game.

cam & pats w120
(Steven Senne/AP)

 

2. The secondary led the defense once again

The last time these two teams met, Miami had their way against the previously impervious Patriots’ secondary, as they were able to drive down the field at will to win the game. Yesterday was a different story, as the Patriots were able to force Ryan Fitzpatrick into throwing three interceptions, with Stephon Gilmore, Adrian Phillips, and JC Jackson responsible for the turnovers. Apart from some mental errors that extended drives due to penalties in the second half, it’s hard to be mad at how the Patriots’ secondary played yesterday. However, they’ll have to be better as their competition becomes tougher.

The Patriots’ defense was much better against the run, as they held Miami to 87 yards as a team, with crafty veterans Matt Breida (5 carries for 22 yards) & Jordan Howard (8 yards for 7 yards) accounting for less than 30 yards combined. My only complaint is that that they struggled to contain Fitzpatrick coming out of the pocket, as he picked up a few first downs, and even scored on a two-point conversion.

To sum up their defensive performance, I was impressed by the way they locked up a sneaky good Miami offense, but there are definitely kinks to be worked up as the season progresses.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams (18) runs the ball against New England Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings (58) and defensive back Jonathan Jones (31) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

 

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 15/19 for 155 yards
  • Rushing: Cam Newton – 15 carries for 75 yards, & 2 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 receptions for 57 yards
  • Defensive: Adrian Phillips – 9 total tackles

Dolphins

  • Passing: Ryan Fitzpatrick – 20/30 for 191 yards, & 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Myles Gaskin – 9 carries for 40 yards
  • Receiving: Devante Parker – 4 receptions for 47 yards
  • Defensive: Jerome Baker – 16 total tackles (including 1 sack)

Bonus:

1. New uniforms!

It was great seeing the Patriots debut their new uniforms, which looked great under the September sun, although it wouldn’t be a bad idea to introduce silver or white pants.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs with the ball during the second half of a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

2. Artificial crowd

The artificial crowd noise concocted by the NFL left a bit to be desired, as it definitely didn’t sound like a real crowd was in attendance, but I’m guessing that it will be improved as the season goes on. 

3. Post game tussle

Cam Newton and some Miami defenders got into it after the game ended, with Newton insisting that they tried to yank one of the chains around his neck. Newton mocked them after the game on his Instagram, although two Dolphins chimed in to say that they didn’t want his “weak” chain.

What’s next?: The Patriots head out west to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson & the Seahawks (1-0) on Sunday Night Football.

The Pats’ Mighty D drowns out the Cowboys!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

DAL 0 6 0 3 9

NE

7 3 0 3 13

Yet again, the Patriots’ defense and special teams led New England to victory, as they prevailed 13-9 over the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) during a wet and cold afternoon in Foxborough.

This victory improves the Patriots to 10-1 on the season and keeps them atop the AFC through 12 weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. A defensive masterpiece

Bill Belichick’s defense came to play yesterday, as they absolutely stifled the NFL’s top offense and kept them out of the end zone. Dak Prescott entered this game with 3 straight 400 yard performances, but was held to 212 yards, without any touchdowns. The weather obviously had an impact on Prescott, as he was seen changing his gloves on several occasions, but the Patriots were able to take away his top weapon in Amari Cooper. Stephon Gilmore continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year by blanking Cooper, who was targeted only twice. Cooper’s first target resulted in a Gilmore interception that set up the Patriots’ second score.

Other than a 59-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb, the Patriots were able to limit big plays and mostly held Dallas’ secondary receivers in check. Due to the inclement weather, most analysts expected the Cowboys to utilize Ezekiel Elliot early and often, which was evident, as he averaged 4.1 yards per carry during a 86-yard performance. The Patriots will need to shore up their run defense, as rushing the ball will likely be a point of emphasis for opposing offenses.

gilly v cowboys w1219.jpg
(Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

2. The offense was efficient, if not explosive

In the eyes of many “experts”, yesterday’s game adds to the narrative that Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense are no longer elite. Of course, these people won’t mention that Brady outplayed an MVP candidate in inclement weather, and did so without two of his top targets in Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. The offensive line was fortified by the return of Isaiah Wynn, who shook off a rough start (which included a strip sack of Brady), en route to a group performance that was a far cry from the debacle in Philadelphia.

For the first time in several weeks, the team eclipsed 100 rushing yards, as Sony Michel accumulated 85 yards off of 20 carries. With the absence of Sanu and Dorsett, the Patriots got a major contribution from Jakobi Meyers, who had 4 receptions for 74 yards. Julian Edelman was his usual self, with 8 receptions for 93 yards, including a huge catch on 3rd & 20 that helped extend a drive in the second half. N’Keal Harry had his first professional touchdown on a fade route in the red zone, with his athleticism on full display. At the same time, Harry still has room to improve, as evidenced by a couple of dropped passes.

The Patriots’ offense still has a long way to go, as they cannot continue to depend on their defense and special teams to win them games as the season progresses. If Brady continues to build chemistry with Meyers and Harry, the Patriots should be able to have a solid 5 receiver rotation that helps take pressure off of Julian Edelman. In addition, Michel’s performance is something to build upon, as having a balanced attack will open up the field through play action.

jules harry w1219.jpg
(Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

 

3. Special teams was game changing once again

Throughout this season, the Patriots’ special teams unit has been able to make momentum shifting plays, and yesterday was no different. Perennial All-Pro Matthew Slater added to his stellar season with a blocked punt in the first quarter that led to Harry’s touchdown. Jake Bailey wasn’t as effective punting the ball, as he did shank some punts, but he was able to pin the Cowboys on his last attempt.

As I mentioned earlier, special teams shouldn’t have to elevate the Patriots on a weekly basis, but it is definitely appreciated by Bill Belichick and the coaching staff when it does happen.

slater block v cowboys.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 17/37 for 190 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 20 carries for 85 yards
  • Receiving; Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 93 yards
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins – 10 total tackles

Cowboys

  • Passing: Dak Prescott – 19/33 for 212 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Ezekiel Elliot – 21 carries for 86 yards
  • Receiving: Randall Cobb – 4 receptions for 86 yards
  • Defensive: Jaylon Smith – 8 total tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots head down to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Texans (7-4) on Sunday Night Football.

Blockbuster Matchup: Can the Pats knock off America’s Team?

It’s not much of an exaggeration to call tomorrow’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (6-4) the ‘Game of the Year’, as it pits the NFL’s best team against its most popular team in a nationallytelevised game.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 12 game.

1. Can the banged-up offense deliver?

The Patriots’ offense was shaky at best during their win against the Eagles, with a porous offensive line making it hard for Tom Brady to find any sort of rhythm. Tomorrow’s task won’t be any easier, as the team is likely to play without receivers Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion), which will thrust N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers into larger roles. Meyers had some clear miscommunication with Brady during the game against the Eagles, which they have hopefully been able to iron out throughout the week at practice. Dallas’ secondary has struggled in recent weeks, so it will be imperative for the Patriots’ receivers to find separation

The X-factor for this game should be the return of Isaiah Wynn to the lineup, as he replaces the struggling Marshall Newhouse as the protector of Brady’s blind side. Wynn will be tested right away, as the Cowboys have an incredibly talented defensive line, with pass rushers such as Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn. Michael Bennett will also be making his return to Foxborough after being traded to Dallas a few weeks ago, following a disagreement with the Patriots’ coaching staff. Wynn’s return should help fortify the offensive line, and help boost the offense as a whole, as his agility will be useful in run-blocking and setting up screen passes.

The team’s running backs will also be essential, as the forecast is calling for rain throughout the game. Look for Sony Michel and James White to be involved early and often as Josh McDaniels looks for ways to take pressure off of Tom Brady.

jules v cowboys w12p19.jpg
(Mike Stone/Getty Images)

2. Can the defense lockdown the NFL’s best offense?

The Cowboys’ offense has been humming lately, with Dak Prescott solidifying his place amongst the favorites for MVP, due to a handful of dominant performances. Prescott has been able to silence the narrative that he’s reliant on Ezekiel Elliot and the running game, as the passing game has carried Dallas as of late. Prescott is protected by one of the league’s best offensive lines, and has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, including Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten. The main matchup of this game may be Cooper vs Stephon Gilmore, as Cooper has been Prescott’s top target throughout the season. If Gilmore is able to lock up Cooper, it would go a long way in helping the Patriots stifle Dallas. In addition, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones will need to be able to limit Gallup and Cobb, as the two are capable of lifting Dallas when Cooper isn’t as successful.

Even though Ezekiel Elliot hasn’t been as effective this year, he is still capable of shredding the Patriots’ defense if he has lanes to run through. Due to the rainy conditions, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Dallas try to get Elliot going, either as a rusher or a pass catcher. Hence, the Patriots’ defensive line and linebackers will have to be alert if they want to slow him down.

witten v pats w12p19.jpg
(Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
  • Tom Brady (elbow) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (illness) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Phillip Dorsett (concussion) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (ankle/back) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Damien Harris (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable
  • Mohamed Sanu (ankle) – Questionable
  • John Simon (elbow) – Questionable
  • Matthew Slater (hamstring) – Questionable

Cowboys

  • Leighton Vander Esch (neck) – Out
  • Joe Thomas (illness) – Questionable
  • Donovan Wilson (illness) – Questionable
  • Connor Williams (knee) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 27, Cowboys 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 12-1

Dolphins at Browns: Browns

Lions at Redskins: Lions

Raiders at Jets: Raiders

Giants at Bears: Bears

Panthers at Saints: Saints

Seahawks at Eagles: Eagles

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

Broncos at Bills: Bills

Steelers at Bengals: Steelers

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

Packers at 49ers: Packers

Ravens at Rams: Rams

A defensive rebound propels the Pats to a special win in Philly!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

PHI 3 7 0 0 10

NE

0 9 8 0 17

Yesterday’s game between the Patriots and Eagles (5-5) was a far cry from their high-powered matchup in Super Bowl LII, as the two teams combined for just over 500 yards in a game that featured 16 punts. The Patriots prevailed 17-10, and improved to 9-1 on the season, which keeps them atop the AFC through 11 weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s victory.

1. Don’t count out the Patriots’ defense!

The Patriots’ defense didn’t get off to the greatest of starts in this game, as the very first offensive snap for Philadelphia resulted in a 49-yard pass interference penalty by Jason McCourty, which led to a field goal by Jake Elliott. The Eagles followed this up by driving 95 yards in over 9 minutes to extend their lead to 10-0 on a touchdown by Dallas Goedert (which was initially ruled an interception). The turning point of this game came shortly after, as the Eagles lost their All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson to a concussion, which enabled Bill Belichick and the defensive staff to dial up the pressure on Carson Wentz. The Patriots were able to sack Wentz 5 times (including a strip sack by Danny Shelton), and prevented him from gaining any sort of momentum.

On Philadelphia’s penultimate drive, they were able to drive the ball down the field before failing to advance past the Patriots’ 26-yard line. Wentz threw 4 straight incompletions to end the drive, including a shot to the end zone that was dropped by Nelson Agholor on fourth down. Almost fittingly, this game ended the same way as Super Bowl LII, with the losing team launching an ill-fated Hail Mary attempt that wound up incomplete.

This a great rebound for the Patriots following their debacle in Baltimore, but there is still a great deal to improve on as the season progresses.

wentz fumble w1119.jpg
(Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Offensive struggles continue

Once again, the Patriots’ offense appeared to be out of sync, and I think that much of their struggles can be attributed to the stout performance by Philadelphia’s defensive line. The Eagles feasted on a weak offensive line, and were able to consistently get after Brady, which forced him to scramble around on several occasions. The Eagles were able to sack Brady once, and hit him an additional 6 times. At the same time, Brady cannot be absolved from his poor performance, as he appeared to lack rhythm from time to time. For instance, the first double pass attempted by the Patriots could have resulted in an interception, as the throw by Brady was behind Phillip Dorsett.

With the Patriots floundering in the red zone, and trailing by a point in the opening frame of the second half, Josh McDaniels dialed up a trick play, which resulted in Julian Edelman throwing a touchdown to Dorsett. Following this, the Patriots executed a two-point conversion to give them a 17-10 lead they would not relinquish. In his first game as a pro, N’Keal Harry had 3 receptions for 18 yards, and will hopefully play a larger role in the offense as he becomes more comfortable in the system.

This was definitely an ugly performance by the Patriots’ offense, as they were able to move the ball, but struggled to maintain drives that could have put the game away. If not for spotty play-calling and execution, the Patriots easily could have won this game by double digits, due to the strong performance by their defense. As evidenced by a frustrated Brady during his press conference, the team is definitely aware that something needs to change on offense as they get closer to the postseason.

jules td v eagles w1119.jpg
(Matt Rourke/AP)

3. Special teams was otherworldly

It’s not very common for the Patriots’ offense to be the weak link during a victory, but that was definitely the case yesterday, as the team’s special teams unit was spectacular against the Eagles. Nick Folk proved that he could be the team’s answer at kicker, as he was 3/3 on field goals that kept the team in the game during the first half. In addition, Jake Bailey, Matthew Slater, and Justin Bethel combined to form a formidable punting attack, as they were able to give Philadelphia bad starting field position on several occasions.

bailey w1119.jpg
(Will Newton/Getty Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 26/47 for 216 yards
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 10 carries for 33 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 receptions for 53 yards
  • Defensive: Danny Shelton – 7 total tackles (including 1 strip sack)

Eagles

  • Passing: Carson Wentz – 20/40 for 214 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Miles Sanders – 11 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Zach Ertz – 9 receptions for 94 yards
  • Defensive: Nathan Gerry – 10 total tackles (including 1 sack)

Bonus: 

  1. Bill Belichick had fun 

During his postgame press conference, Bill Belichick mentioned that the team ‘had fun’ during the game, which some saw as a dig at Eagles tackle Lane Johnson, who opined that no-one has fun in New England after the Eagles beat them in Super Bowl LII.

 

What’s next?: The Patriots head home to take on the Dallas Cowboys (6-4). This matchup will be interesting, as it’ll be the first time they play against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and the rest of the Cowboys’ young core.

The Pats suffer their first loss of the season in Baltimore!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

BAL 10 7 7 13 37

NE

0 13 7 0 20

The Patriots’ bid for yet another undefeated season ended last night, as they were defeated 37-20 by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (6-2). The Patriots were uneven on both sides of the ball, and fell behind early, with a couple second-half turnovers putting the game out of reach. This loss drops the Pats to 8-1 on the season, and reduces their lead in the AFC to 1.5 games.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The Patriots’ defense finally had a dud

I’m not going to be a reactionary person, and say that the Patriots’ defense got “exposed” last night, because I don’t think that it gives the Ravens’ offense the credit they deserve. Bill Belichick’s unit is still an elite defense, but Baltimore’s offense was simply better last night, as they were able to out-scheme the Patriots, and win the game due to their power rushing attack. After giving up only 27 points in their last 3 games, the Patriots were gashed by Baltimore for 4 touchdowns. Mark Ingram (15 carries for 115 yards) and Lamar Jackson (16 carries for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns) combined to form a potent rushing attack that accounted for the brunt of Baltimore’s 210 rushing yards. The Ravens’ offensive line was excellent throughout the game, as they effectively cleared lanes for their rushers to run through. This performance (coupled with what Cleveland did to the Patriots in Week 8) may serve as a blueprint for opponents to attack New England down the stretch.

The Patriots’ secondary had a good performance, as they limited Jackson to 163 passing yards, and didn’t allow any receivers to eclipse 50 yards, but they could not force stops in the game’s crucial moments. Jackson is simply a superior athlete, and his agility and maneuverability were on full display last night, as he navigated the pocket with ease, with the Pats only sacking him once and hitting him thrice.

At the same time, the Pats’ defense was able to give the team a crucial spark when they forced Ingram to fumble inside Baltimore’s 20, which led to points for the Patriots’ offense. As most analysts noted, a lot of the Patriots’ struggles last night can be fixed with coaching, as they made unusual mental errors such as penalties that extended Baltimore’s drives and dampened their chances of winning.

These tweets by reporters sum up why we shouldn’t be overreacting to one bad performance by the Patriots’ defense.

This game was definitely a wake up call for the Patriots’ defense, and I am sure that Bill Belichick will be working on ways to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

lamar jackson v pats w919.jpg
(Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

2. Good offensive performance that was marred by turnovers

The Patriots’ offense started off yesterday’s game very slow, which quickly resulted in a 17-0 deficit that appeared to spell an imminent rout by Baltimore. The Ravens were ultimately able to run away with the game, but it is not fair to say that the Patriots’ offense had a bad performance. Following two recovered fumbles by special teams and the defense, Tom Brady and the offense were able to cut their deficit to 7 points. They were able to move the ball down the field with ease when they quickened their pace, which made it harder for Baltimore to get into blitz packages or make effective substitutions. It was heavily encouraging to see Mohamed Sanu get involved early and often, as he totaled 8 receptions for 81 yards, and scored a touchdown. Sanu has clearly built some chemistry with Brady, which is something the team will have to improve upon as the season progresses. Julian Edelman was his normal self, as he had 10 receptions for 89 yards, and was a matchup problem for Baltimore’s corners throughout the game.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget what Edelman and Sanu accomplished last night, due to their involvement in the two turnovers that sealed the game for the Ravens. During the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots were down 17-13, and appeared to be driving to take the lead when Edelman caught a pass from Brady, ducked a tackle and fought for more yardage, when Baltimore forced a fumble that was recovered by Marlon Humphrey for a 70 yard touchdown. The Patriots were able to score a touchdown on their next drive, which cut the lead to 4 once again. Later on in the fourth quarter, and trailing 30-20, New England attempted to mount a comeback when Brady uncorked a deep ball to Sanu that was intercepted by Earl Thomas and returned for 24 yards. Observers noted that Sanu didn’t appear to be fully committed to the route, and didn’t chase after Thomas at full speed, which enabled him to give the Ravens’ offense great field position.

Despite certain “experts” in the media claiming that this game proved why the Pats are declining, I believe that there are several positives for Josh McDaniels to build off of, as the offense becomes more whole over the next few weeks (with the imminent returns of N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn to the lineup).

jules v ravens w919.jpg
(Photo via the Boston Globe)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady- 30/46 for 285 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: James White – 9 carries for 38 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 10 receptions for 89 yards
  • Defensive: Dont’a Hightower – 13 total tackles

Ravens

  • Passing: Lamar Jackson – 17/23 for 163 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Mark Ingram II – 15 carries for 115 yards
  • Receiving: Marquise Brown – 3 receptions for 48 yards
  • Defensive: Marcus Peters – 8 total tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots have their bye week in Week 10, which should give them plenty of time to fix the errors from this game, and plan ahead for Week 10’s bout with the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4).