The Pats end the regular season on a high note by grounding the Jets!

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The Patriots continued their dominance over the Jets (4-12) yesterday, as they eviscerated Gang Green 38-3. The Pats performed well in all 3 phases of the game, and generally made life miserable for the Jets. This victory improved the Pats to 11-5 on the season and helped them secure the second seed in the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The offense was remarkable

The Patriots offense has had its fair share of criticism in recent weeks due to uneven performances by Tom Brady and the passing game, which led the team to rely on Sony Michel and the other running backs for production. That narrative changed yesterday, as Brady caught fire early and dissected the Jets secondary for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over the last week, there were several reports which stated that Brady had sustained a knee injury which would hamper his effectiveness. If that’s true, Brady did not appear to be any slower than usual, as demonstrated by the mobility he showed on his touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett in the second quarter. All in all, Brady was sharp (except for some errant throws and a missed read in the red zone), and he was able to distribute the ball to receivers who had struggled to make an impact in previous weeks, such as Dorsett (5 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown) and Chris Hogan (6 catches for 64 yards). Julian Edelman was his usual effective self, as he corralled 5 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski (2 catches for 24 yards) showed some of the explosiveness he had lacked in recent weeks, especially on a 30 yard catch and run that was wiped out by an offensive penalty.

The offensive line was able to produce gaping holes at the point of attack which enabled the Pats to rush for over 130 yards, with Sony Michel (14 carries for 50 yards) and James White (4 carries for 30 yards) leading the way.

Jules v jets s17.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The defense was otherworldly

Many analysts expected the Jets offense to put up a fight against the Pats, but that never happened due to the strong performance of the defense. The Jets scored a field goal on their second drive of the day, but couldn’t sustain a drive after that. The defense was extremely opportunistic, as they forced 3 fumbles, including a 46 yard scoop and score for Kyle Van Noy, which made it hard for the Jets to score points even after getting good field position. Sam Darnold was rattled early, and was forced to consistently play from behind, which didn’t help his production. The Pats had a consistent pass rush which resulted in 4 sacks and Van Noy’s touchdown. Apart from Deontay Burnett, none of the Jets receivers crossed 30 receiving yards, which speaks to the dominance of the secondary.

This performance was a confidence booster entering the playoffs, but we should monitor the condition of Devin McCourty who left the game with a head injury.

kvn v jets w17.jpg
(Charles Krupa/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 24/33 for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 14 carries for 50 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: J.C. Jackson – 7 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Sam Darnold – 16/28 for 167 yards
  • Rushing: Elijah McGuire – 18 carries for 41 yards
  • Receiving: Deontay Burnett – 5 catches for 73 yards
  • Defensive: Jamal Adams – 11 tackles

 

Bonus: 

(a) Here’s the complete playoff picture following the completion of the regular season

NFC

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
  3. Chicago Bears (12-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
  2. New England Patriots (11-5)
  3. Houston Texans (11-5)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

 

(b) I began making predictions for every NFL game during Week 3, and my final record for the games I picked is 139-71 (0.662) 

 

What’s next?: The Pats have secured a first-round bye which means that they won’t be playing until January 13th when they take on either the Texans, Ravens, or Chargers at 1:05 PM. 

The Pats end the season against the Jets!

The 2018 regular season has flown by, as Week 17 is upon us. The Patriots hope to clinch a first-round bye when they welcome the New York Jets (4-11) to Foxborough. Winning this game would guarantee the #2 seed for the Pats, but they could still gain home field advantage if the Chargers and Chiefs lose this week.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 17 contest.

1. What will be the focal point of the offense?

Over the last few weeks, the Patriots have had a run-oriented offense, which has helped in relieving pressure from Tom Brady. Sony Michel and the running backs had a brilliant game last week against Buffalo as they totaled more than 250 yards on the ground. I would expect the Pats to continue to lean on the running game, as the Jets come into this game with the 26th ranked rushing defense. Michel had over 130 yards the last time these teams met , which should be an encouraging sign for the Pats. It’ll be important for the Pats to maintain the health of Brady, Gronk, and Julian Edelman because they’ll be essential for the team to make a run in the playoffs.

sony v jets w17p.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Can the defense stifle Darnold?

In Week 12, the Jets were without their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and had veteran Josh McCown start instead. Darnold has had an up and down rookie season, as he’s shown flashes of brilliance while also leading the NFL with interceptions thrown. I would expect the Pats to try to come after Darnold with Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower, who are amongst the NFL’s leaders with pressures on the quarterback. Bill Belichick will likely challenge Darnold to beat man coverage or try to fool him with zone schemes. Dominating the line of scrimmage will be essential if the Pats want to stifle the Jets’ rushing attack and force Darnold to play from behind.

sam darnold w17p.jpg
(Anthony J. Causi/New York Post)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Out
  • Dwayne Allen (knee) – Questionable
  • Brandon King (knee) – Questionable
  • Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) – Questionable
  • LaAdrian Waddle (illness) – Questionable

Jets

  • Morris Claiborne (shoulder/ankle) – Out
  • Quincy Enunwa (ankle) – Out
  • Jermaine Kearse (achilles) – Out
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) – Out
  • Jordan Jenkins (ankle) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 17 contests.

Last week: 10-4

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Falcons at Buccaneers: Falcons

Cowboys at Giants: Cowboys

Panthers at Saints: Saints

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Lions at Packers: Packers

Eagles at Redskins: Eagles

Chargers at Broncos: Chargers

Raiders at Chiefs: Chiefs

Bears at Vikings: Vikings

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

49ers at Rams: Rams

Bengals at Steelers: Steelers

Cardinals at Seahawks: Seahawks

Colts at Titans: Colts

The Patriots vanquish the Vikings!

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The Patriots had a dominant performance today, as they beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 to improve to 9-3 on the season. The game was relatively tight until the middle of the third quarter when the Pats took the lead and never looked back. Both sides of the ball performed well which enabled the Patriots to dictate the pace of the game. Continuing to play like this will be essential for the team as they enter the last 4 games of the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 13 contest.

1. Tom Brady and the passing game challenged the Minnesota secondary early and often

Tom Brady had an efficient performance against a ferocious defense, as he threw for over 300 yards and 1 touchdown (along with a late interception). The offensive line was able to counter Minnesota’s pass rush, as Brady was constantly held upright, and was not sacked. James White (7 catches for 92 yards) and Josh Gordon (3 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown) led the way for the passing game, with Rob Gronkowski (3 catches for 26 yards) and Julian Edelman (3 catches for 25 yards) having a relatively quiet game. Cordarrelle Patterson played his former team for the first time, and he had a remarkable catch down the field, as he corralled the ball before it hit the ground. The passing attack had its way with Minnesota’s secondary, as they were able to connect on both deep passes and passes across the middle of the field. 

This was an encouraging performance for the passing game, as Brady and his arsenal of weapons were able to overcome a well-coached unit in Minnesota. 

jules v vikings w13.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

2. The committee of running backs had a fine performance

The Patriots welcomed back Rex Burkhead following a 10-week absence, and he helped in relieving pressure off of James White and Sony Michel. Burkhead may not have had the most efficient performance (7 rushes for 20 yards), but he definitely had fresh legs, which allowed Michel and White to get some much-needed rest. Michel had 17 carries for 63 yards, as he was frequently able to find space to get around Minnesota’s talented defensive linemen, while White chipped in with 6 carries for 26 yards. Fullback James Develin had 2 touchdowns on the ground, as he punched it in twice from the one-yard line.

As the weather continues to get colder, it will be essential for the committee of running backs to gain some traction in order for the Pats to control games.

Burkhead v vikings w13
(Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

3. Defense wins championships!

I’ve been pretty hard on the Patriots defense this season, as I’ve felt that they have not held up their end of the bargain, which has put the offense in tough spots. However, today was remarkable for them, as they utterly stifled the potent Vikings offense. Kirk Cousins was constantly rattled, as the Pats were able to get after him consistently, which helped result in 2 interceptions. Cousins rarely had the time to look down the field, which forced him to look for short completions instead. As a result, Cousins had over 30 completions, but only barely scraped past 200 yards. Stephon Gilmore and the McCourty twins were sensational today as they neutralized both Adam Thielen (5 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown) and Stefon Diggs (5 catches for 49 yards), and forced Cousins to look for his less-reliable targets. 

The one aspect with which the Pats struggled was stopping the run, as they couldn’t stop Dalvin Cook who ran for 84 yards off of 9 carries. As pundits remarked, Minnesota’s play-calling was suspect, as they went drives without running the ball, which was strange because Cook was clearly having success when he got the ball. 

The Patriots may have benefited from spotty play-calling, but there’s no denying that they dominated Minnesota’s offense, which is heartening as they begin to play more talented teams in the playoffs.

pats defense v vikings.png
(Travis Ellison/Minnesota Vikings)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 24/32 for 311 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 17 carries for 63 yards
  • Receiving: James White – 7 catches for 92 yards
  • Defensive: Devin McCourty – 8 tackles

Vikings

  • Passing: Kirk Cousins – 32/44 for 201 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: Dalvin Cook – 9 carries for 84 yards
  • Receiving: Stefon Diggs – 5 catches for 49 yards
  • Defensive: Eric Kendricks – 16 tackles and 1 interception

 

Bonus:

1. Brady has a record-setting day!: Tom Brady achieved a remarkable feat, as he finally crossed 1000 career rushing yards in 19 seasons as a starter. He also tied the all-time passing touchdowns record (including postseason) with 579. Brady also moved to 3rd all-time on the passing touchdowns list (regular season) as he tied Brett Favre with 508. 

Check out this humorous video produced by the Checkdown!

2. Bill Belichick had an amusing encounter with Adam Thielen: Bill Belichick and Adam Thielen had an interesting chat during today’s game, when Belichick opted to challenge a play in the fourth quarter. It’s clear that Belichick told Thielen to do something that’s not very kind…

Check out their encounter below!

 

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Miami to face the Dolphins (6-6) in a rematch of a dominant Week 3 victory for New England. The Pats have historically struggled in Miami during the Brady/Belichick era, so it will be interesting to see how they perform next week.

 

 

The Pats prepare for battle against the Vikings!

Tomorrow, the Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) to Gillette Stadium in what promises to be a clash between two of the NFL’s elite talents. The Pats enter this contest with a 8-3 record and the AFC’s #2 seed, and a win on Sunday will keep them ahead of the Texans and Steelers in the playoff race.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 13 matchup.

1. The offense is facing an aggressive defense

Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense were quite efficient during last week’s victory against the Jets, as they were able to rebound from an early deficit and dictate the pace of the game due to Sony Michel’s strong performance on the ground. The offensive line was also able to protect #12, allowing him to find targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon throughout the game.

This week’s game presents a unique matchup for the Pats, as they face off against a Vikings team they almost met in Super Bowl LII. Minnesota has had one of the NFL’s best defenses over the last few years, with a dominant pass rush leading the way. For example, the Vikings constantly got after Aaron Rodgers last week, as they limited him to 198 yards. Unfortunately for the Pats, the Vikings have been able to get after the quarterback without bringing an additional rusher, which allows them to be better prepared in pass coverage. Games such as Week 2 at Jacksonville and Week 10 at Tennessee have demonstrated what an effective pass rush can do to the Patriots.

The Pats will need to rely on their running game, in order to take pressure off of Brady and stretch the field with play action, which will give them a good chance of winning this game.

Julian Edelman, Harrison Smith
(Ann Heisenfelt/AP)

2. The defense is also facing a tall task

The Pats defense has had a long road throughout the season, as they’ve been able to rebound from early clunkers and have solid performances against good offenses. This week will test them again, as they face off against a talented group in the Vikings. Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, Minnesota has been able to frequently dissect opposing defenses and put themselves in good position to win games. A major part of Minnesota’s offense is the duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who are arguably the best combination of wide receivers in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Pats plan to cover Thielen and Diggs, as most teams have failed to neutralize the duo. My guess is that Stephon Gilmore will be shadowing Thielen, while Jason McCourty notches the assignment of covering Diggs. The Pats will need to be able to generate constant pressure and get after Cousins, to ensure that he’s not comfortable in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have looked at Minnesota’s losses against the Rams, Saints and Bears, as all 3 games have shown what an effective pass rush can do to Cousins and the offense, as they can be forced into uncharacteristic mistakes.

Another major point of emphasis will definitely be trying to stop the rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, who can shred the defense if they’re not careful.

An effective performance against a talented Vikings offense will be huge for the Patriots as they enter the home stretch of the season.

VIKINGS OFFENSE W13P.jpg
(Bruce Kluckhohn/AP)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Dwayne Allen (knee) – Out

Vikings

  • Chad Beebe (hamstring) – Out
  • David Morgan (knee) – Out
  • Stefon Diggs (knee) – Questionable
  • Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Mackenzie Alexander (knee) – Questionable
  • Brandon Zylstra (foot) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Vikings 24

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 13 contests.

Last week: 8-4

Panthers at Buccaneers: Panthers

Ravens at Falcons: Ravens

Bears at Giants: Bears

Bills at Dolphins: Dolphins

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Browns at Texans: Texans

Broncos at Bengals: Broncos

Rams at Lions: Rams

Cardinals at Packers: Packers

Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs

Jets at Titans: Titans

49ers at Seahawks: Seahawks

Chargers at Steelers: Steelers

Redskins at Eagles: Eagles

Balanced Pats fly past the Jets!

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The Patriots had a messy win today against the New York Jets (3-8), as they triumphed 27-13 over their longtime rivals to move to 8-3 on the season. Despite of a bevy of penalties, the Pats used a balanced offensive attack in order to pull away from the Jets in the second half, and improved to the #2 in the AFC with Pittsburgh’s loss in Denver. 

Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.

1. Michel and White lead the way for the offense!

Sony Michel and James White collaborated for a dynamic performance today, as they combined for over 200 yards on the ground (Michel had 133 yards off of 21 carries and a touchdown, while White had 73 yards off of 9 carries). Michel was clearly the best player on the field, as he made good use of the gaping holes provided by the offensive line and raced past hapless Jets defenders. Luckily enough for the Patriots, Michel avoided a serious injury when he was bended backwards in the third quarter during an awkward tackle, which left him writhing in pain on the field. 

If Michel and White continue to play at this level, it will be hard for opponents to stop the Patriots over the rest of the season.

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(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Strong bounce-back for the passing game!

Week 11’s loss at Tennessee was especially ugly for the passing game, as Tom Brady could not get anything going due to the constant pressure coming through the middle. Today could not have been more different, as the offensive line rebounded with a great performance and gave up zero sacks against a stout Jets defensive line. Rob Gronkowski had an efficient return from injury, as he had 3 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown), Josh Gordon (5 catches for 70 yards), and Chris Hogan (2 catches for 47 yards) also had good contributions, as they helped stretch the field for the Patriots.

This was an encouraging performance by the Pats’ passing attack, as they overcame great coverage by the Jets’ secondary to be successful throughout the game.

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(Matthew J. Lee/ Boston Globe)

3. The defense had a steady performance

The Pats’ defense bounced back from Week 11 in a big way, as they clamped down on New York, and allowed only 3 points in the second half. Trey Flowers led the way for the Patriots’ pass rush, as he constantly got after Josh McCown, with 3 hits and 1 sack. Being able to get after the quarterback made it easier for the secondary to perform with confidence, with Stephon Gilmore being the clear star in the backend of the field (he only allowed 1 catch for 17 yards off of 5 targets, and had an interception). The Pats also limited Isaiah Crowell to 30 yards off of 6 carries on the ground. 

The defense still has room to improve, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

mccown w12.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

4. Are penalties an area of concern for the Pats?

The Pats definitely had a messy performance against the Jets, as they were called for 11 penalties that resulted in 105 yards. This was out of character for the Patriots, as Bill Belichick is known for preparing his team to avoid such mistakes. Constant penalties allowed the Jets to stay in the game, as Patriot drives were halted, while New York drives were extended.

The Patriots played well enough to overcome their messy performance, but they will not be so lucky if they continue to be penalized like this.

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/31 for 283 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 133 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 4 catches for 84 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Patrick Chung – 13 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Josh McCown – 26/45 for 276 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Isaiah Crowell – 6 carries for 30 yards
  • Receiving: Quincy Enunwa – 4 catches for 73 yards
  • Avery Williamson – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) in a game that will test them, as Minnesota features a stout defense and a talented offense.

 

 

Music City Blues!: Pats get pounded by the Titans

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The Patriots’ 6-game winning streak was snapped today in Nashville, as they were routed 34-10 by the Tennessee Titans (5-4). The Pats fall to 7-3, which increases the gap between them and the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs (9-1). Tennessee was able to outplay the Patriots in all 3 phases of the game.

Here are some takeaways from today’s loss.

1. Tennessee’s defense dominated the Brady Bunch

The Titans entered this game as the NFL’s top scoring defense, and they did not disappoint, as they limited the Patriots to a season low 10 points. Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were able to craft a game plan to get after Tom Brady and constantly disrupt his mechanics and timing. Tennessee halted any momentum the Pats’ offensive line had had prior to today, as they were able to frequently penetrate through the middle and stifle the offense.

Julian Edelman was one of the sole bright spots for the offense, as he corralled 9 catches for 104 yards and was frequently a security blanket for Brady. Unfortunately, Edelman took a beating throughout the game, and left the game in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards, but a finger injury suffered last week definitely affected his ability to catch, as he dropped a key pass in the first half that halted a drive that could have allowed the Patriots to tie the game early on. The rushing game was utterly non-existent for the Pats, as Sony Michel had only 31 yards (off 11 carries) in his return from injury.

The Pats need to reevaluate their offensive game plan to ensure their success as the season progresses.

offense v titanw s10.jpg
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

2. The defense got overwhelmed

Marcus Mariota had his best game of the season as he had 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mariota and Corey Davis (7 receptions for 125 yards and 1 touchdown) combined to make life miserable for the Patriots, as they were able to efficiently stretch the field at will. Following a series of remarkable performances, Stephon Gilmore had a clunker today, as he was frequently beat by Davis, and committed a few penalties.

The defense was not much better at stopping the run, as they gave up 150 yards, with Derrick Henry (11 carries for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Dion Lewis (20 carries for 57 yards) leading the way for Tennessee.

It was disappointing to see the Pats take a step back on defense, but I have faith in their ability to bounce back from this.

pats defense v titansw10.jpg
(Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

3. Special teams was dreadful as well

Special teams was a disaster for the Patriots, as big kickoff returns and punt returns enabled the Titans to start drives with great field position. For example, the Titans opened the game with a 58-yard kickoff return on their way to a opening drive touchdown. At one point in the game, the Titans’ average starting field position was at the Pats’ 42 yard line, while the Pats started at their own 24.

Games such as the Pats’ Week 7 win at Chicago can show the impact of a great performance on special teams.

special teams w10.jpg
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

4. Inability to beat teams with familiar faces

2 of the Patriots’ losses this year have been at teams coached by ex-Patriots ( Week 3 at Detroit and today against Tennessee). Both games were similar, as Brady got constantly hounded, while the defense could not stop the pass or run. It appears as if Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel are very familiar with the chinks in the Pats’ armor.

This factor makes today’s loss less concerning, even though the Pats definitely have their work cut out for them.

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(Photo via the AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 21/41 for 254 yards
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 11 carries for 31 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 104 yards
  • Defense: Kyle Van Noy – 13 tackles

Titans

  • Passing: 16/24 for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Derrick Henry – 11 carries for 58 yards
  • Receiving: Corey Davis – 7 catches for 125 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defense: Wesley Woodyard – 10 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

 

What’s next?: The Pats head into their much needed bye week before heading to New York to face the hated Jets (3-7) on November 25th during Week 12.

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 blow past the Packers on Sunday Night Football!

TEAM

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GB 3 7 7 0 17

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7 10 0 14 31

The Patriots had a complete team effort last night, as they beat the Green Bay Packers (3-4-1) 31-17 to improve to 7-2 on the season. This performance by the Pats is heavily encouraging as they enter the second half of the season.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The offensive’s creativity led them to victory

The Patriots played last night without two of their most important offensive contributors in Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel, so Josh McDaniels had to be creative for the Patriots to have success against a tough Green Bay defense. The Patriots started out the game with a laser-quick pace as they went no-huddle on their opening drive which spanned 59 yards and resulted in a James White touchdown. Things looked dire in the second quarter when White went down with what appeared to be a knee injury, but the creativity of the Pats helped them weather through the rest of the half without their top running back. Similarly to last week’s win at Buffalo, the Pats used Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back, and Patterson did not disappoint, as he totaled 61 yards and 1 touchdown off of 11 carries. 

Tom Brady was not at his best for a majority of the game, but he did make throws when it counted. Brady finished yesterday’s game with 294 passing yards and 1 touchdown. A trick play in the fourth quarter helped the Pats gain a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish, as Brady tossed the ball to Edelman, who proceeded to loft it to White, which resulted in a 37-yard catch and run that brought the ball into the red zone and eventually gave the Pats a 24-17 lead. Josh Gordon delivered the dagger with a 55 yard touchdown that capped off his best performance as a Patriot (5 receptions for 130 yards), even though he dealt with a dislocated finger. White (6 receptions for 72 yards) and Edelman (6 receptions for 71 yards) were also important cogs in the passing game.

Continuing to play like this will be huge for the Patriots as the season progresses.

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(Mathew J. Lee/ Boston Globe)

2. The defense came to play last night

The defense had arguably their best performance of the season last night as they held Aaron Rodgers and his offense to just 17 points. The Pats were able to get after Rodgers and keep him in the pocket, as they sacked him 1 time (to go along with 6 QB hits). Rodgers did not have one of his typically remarkable performances, as he did look confused/indecisive at times (due to the Pats’ pressure and coverage schemes), and he finished with 259 yards and 2 touchdowns. Other than an outstanding performance for receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Pats were mostly able to eliminate Green Bay’s weapons, as Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham were not very involved throughout the game. Stephon Gilmore had a great game matched up against Adams, as he only allowed 2 catches for 15 yards, which continued his great stretch of performances since the Pats’ Week 3 loss at Detroit.

The play of the game arguably came during the first play of the fourth quarter when the game was tied at 17 and it appeared as if Green Bay was going to take the lead. Lawrence Guy forced Aaron Jones to fumble and the Pats recovered, which resulted in them scoring a touchdown. On the next Green Bay drive, the Pats forced the Packers to turnover on downs, and essentially sealed the deal.

Giving up only 17 points to a potent offense and coming up clutch in the fourth quarter is huge for the Pats’ defense as they enter the latter half of the season.

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(Nancy Lane/ Boston Herald)

Statistical Leaders

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 22/35 for 294 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Cordarrelle Patterson – 11 carries for 61 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Josh Gordon – 5 catches for 130 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 9 tackles

Packers

  • Passing: Aaron Rodgers – 24/43 for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Aaron Jones – 14 carries for 76 yards
  • Receiving: Marquez Valdes-Scantling – 3 catches for 101 yards
  • Defensive: Antonio Morrison – 8 tackles

Bonus: The Pats wore their gorgeous Color Rush alternates for the second and final time this season.

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(Charles Krupa/ AP)

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans (3-4) in a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff game won by the Patriots. Tennessee features ex-Patriots such as Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, and Logan Ryan.

 

 

 

 

The Pats overcome sluggish start to stomp the Bills!

TEAM

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BUF 0 3 3 0 6

NE

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The Patriots overcame a defensive slugfest last night, and emerged victorious in Orchard Park, as they bested the Buffalo Bills (2-6) 25-6. The Pats offense struggled for a majority of the game, as the defense and special teams led the way to another triumph over their divisional rivals.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The Patriots offense struggled to gain momentum against Buffalo

The Patriots were able to drive the ball down the field at will, but they struggled to finish off drives, as they settled for 4 field goals, before scoring their first touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady had an efficient game as he had 324 passing yards (without any touchdowns or interceptions) along with 8 rushing yards (only 3 short of 1000 career rushing yards!). Buffalo was able to constantly get after Brady, with Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes leading the way for the Bills’ pass rush. Following the injury to Sony Michel during last week’s win at Chicago, the Patriots tried to be creative with their rushing game, as they featured Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield on several plays, with #84 rushing for 38 yards off of 10 carries. 

Julian Edelman ( 9 catches for 104 yards) and James White (10 catches for 79 yards) led the way for the passing attack, as they consistently got open whenever Brady was in trouble. The Pats also had solid contributions from Chris Hogan (2 catches for 49 yards) and Josh Gordon (4 catches for 42 yards). Rob Gronkowski had 3 catches for 43 yards, and it definitely appeared as if he was still hampered by injuries he has suffered recently.

The Patriots will definitely need to have a better outing on offense next week as they welcome the Packers, who gave the high-powered Rams fits on offense.

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(Adrian Kraus/AP)

2. The defense had a solid outing

Throughout the season, the Pats defense had been described as the team’s weak link due to their inconsistent showings over the last few weeks. That narrative changed last night, as the defense carried the Pats to a win on a night when Tom Brady & Co. were not at their best. The Bills tried to attack the Pats by using the Wildcat formation on several occasions, which was mostly unsuccessful for Buffalo. The Patriots were able to limit the effectiveness of LeSean McCoy, who was limited to 13 yards off of 12 carries. The Patriots also finally won the turnover battle, as they were able to force 2 turnovers that were crucial in breaking the game open for them. Firstly, Pat Chung recovered a Derek Anderson in the third quarter that resulted in a field goal that increased the lead to 12-6. In the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty delivered the dagger, as he picked off Anderson and returned it for a 84 yard touchdown that put the game out of reach. 

If the Patriots’ defense continues to play like this, they will be hard to beat.

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(Photo via NBC Sports)

Statistical Leaders

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 29/45 for 324 yards
  • Rushing: Cordarrelle Patterson – 10 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 104 yards
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 8 tackles (including 2 sacks)

Bills

  • Passing: Derek Anderson – 22/39 for 290 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Chris Ivory – 6 carries for 34 yards
  • Receiving: LeSean McCoy – 6 catches for 82 yards
  • Defensive: Phillip Gaines – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) for a Sunday Night matchup. Ironically, this is only the second matchup between Brady and Rodgers.

Monday Night in Buffalo!

The Pats travel to Buffalo this week to take on their rival, the Buffalo Bills (2-5) on Monday Night Football, with hopes of improving to 6-2 on the season. The rivalry has been rather lopsided in favor of the Pats over the last two decades… Will Monday Night be more of the same?

Here are a few things to consider entering this Week 8 matchup.

1. Will the offense continue to shine?

 The Patriots offense has been otherworldly over the last 4 weeks, as they have averaged nearly 40 points per game, while moving the ball down the field with ease. They face a perplexing opponent in the Buffalo defense, which has had its moments throughout the season. For example, they were able to shut down the potent Vikings offense, along with the brash Titans running game, while being dissected by teams like the Colts and Chargers. The Pats will be without standout rookie RB Sony Michel who suffered a knee injury during last week’s win at Chicago, and may or may not have Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, due to ankle and knee injuries. 

If Gronk sits this week, expect the Pats to rely on what worked last week in Chicago, which was using James White and Julian Edelman across the middle, while stretching the field with Josh Gordon and Chris Hogan. They probably won’t be in a shootout this week due to injuries in Buffalo’s offense, but expect the Pats to put up a lot of points.

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(Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

 

2. Will the defense finally have a consistent outing?

 The Pats defense’s struggles over the last few weeks has been well-documented, as they have not been consistent in stopping either the run or the pass. They have been able to create turnovers (6 interceptions in the last 3 games), but at the same time, it’s hard to deny that they are extremely porous in the secondary, which makes them heavily susceptible to big plays down the field. They also suffer from an inability to stop the run consistently, as evidenced by Mitch Trubisky’s 81 rushing yards last week. 

Luckily enough for the Pats, they’re facing a Bills team that is without their top quarterback and running back (Josh Allen and LeSean McCoy, respectively), which may make it easier for them to earn a victory. The usually inept Colts defense was able to hold the Bills to 5 points last week with Derek Anderson at QB, which is an encouraging sign for the Pats defense. 

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(Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Sony Michel (knee) – Out
  • Eric Rowe (groin) – Doubtful
  • Brian Schwenke (foot) – Doubtful
  • Trent Brown (ankle) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (concussion) – Questionable
  • Josh Gordon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Geneo Grissom (ankle) – Questionable
  • Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back) – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (knee) – Questionable
  • Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Questionable
  • John Simon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Deatrich Wise (ankle/knee) – Questionable

Bills

  • Josh Allen (elbow) – Out
  • Taiwan Jones (neck) – Doubtful
  • Trent Murphy (knee) – Doubtful
  • LeSean McCoy (concussion) – Doubtful
  • Derek Anderson (back/calf) – Questionable
  • Chris Ivory (hamstring) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Bills 10

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 8 contests.

Last week: 12-2

Dolphins at Texans: Texans

Eagles at Jaguars: Eagles

Broncos at Chiefs: Chiefs

Browns at Steelers: Steelers

Redskins at Giants: Redskins

Seahawks at Lions: Lions

Buccaneers at Bengals: Bengals

Jets at Bears: Bears

Ravens at Panthers: Panthers

Colts at Raiders: Colts

49ers at Cardinals: Cardinals

Packers at Rams: Rams

Saints at Vikings: Vikings