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 take away Danny’s Dimes en route to a win against the Giants!

TEAM

1

2

3

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NYG 0 14 0 0 14

NE

7 14 0 14 35

Even though the Patriots were able to defeat the Giants (2-4) by 21 points, yesterday’s game was much tighter than the scoreboard may indicate. The 35-14 victory improved the Pats to 6-0 on the season, and has them on top of the AFC, as the conference’s only undefeated team.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 6 contest.

1. The Pats’ defense was great once again!

Facing a short-handed Giants offense definitely played into the Pats’ hands, as they were able to stifle New York for most of the game. Stephon Gilmore arguably had his most active game of the year, as Daniel Jones opted to target him 6 times, which resulted in only 1 completion for 8 yards. The other 5 passes turned out to be an interception by Gilmore, a deflected pass that was picked off by John Simon, and 3 incompletions. Duron Harmon caught the second of Jones’ three interceptions, after an effective pass rush by Danny Shelton forced an errant throw. The Pats were able to confuse Jones with their coverage, and they sacked him 1 time, along with 8 QB hits. Jones is known for being mobile, but he was limited to 8 rushing yards off of 2 carries. However, the Pats were beaten by Jones on one play, when he lofted a perfect ball to Golden Tate that resulted in a 64-yard touchdown (and the first passing touchdown for a Pats’ opponent all year). Obviously, Bill Belichick won’t be happy seeing that play on film, but there was nothing that Jonathan Jones could do on that play, as Daniel Jones beat his perfect coverage with perfect ball placement. 

The Pats’ vaunted ‘Boogeymen’ linebackers struck again yesterday, as Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy combined for a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. This score was initially ruled out of bounds, but overturned after the referees took a second look at it. Van Noy’s touchdown came at a crucial point in the game when the Pats were only up by a touchdown, and ensured that New York wouldn’t be able to mount a comeback.

The Pats’ defense continues to play at a high level, and will need to be at their absolute best as the schedule ahead begins to get more difficult.

pats d v giants w619.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Another inconsistent outing for the offense

The Pats’ offense once again looked anemic for most of yesterday’s game, as it took them six drives to score a touchdown. In addition, Tom Brady had 2 uncharacteristic turnovers, with his first one being an errant throw that missed a wide-open Julian Edelman and was caught by Giants’ CB Janoris Jenkins, and the second one being a strip sack that was caused by Brady holding the ball for far too much time. That strip sack resulted in a Giants touchdown (which tied the game at 14 apiece), but was almost far more costly for the Pats’ offense, as Josh Gordon’s knee bent awkwardly when he went to tackle Markus Golden. Fortunately for New England, Gordon avoided a serious injury (although he didn’t return to the game), but the injury scare only seems to highlight the sudden need for another dynamic target at wide receiver. Edelman was his normal self yesterday, as he had 9 receptions for 113 yards, with his main highlight being a marvelous 36-yard catch, where #11 dove to get the ball. In the words of Rob Gronkowski: The furry Edelman fought to get his nut once again! 

Due to Gordon’s absence, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were thrust into the limelight, and performed adequately when called upon. After the game, both Belichick and Brady mentioned that the sudden lack of players at wide receiver forced the Pats to stick with one personnel grouping throughout the game. It was another subpar outing for the Pats’ rushing attack, as Sony Michel only mustered 86 yards off of 22 carries, with a good chunk of it coming from a 26-yard run during garbage time. It’s hard to deny that New England’s most successful running back last night was a player by the name of Tom Brady who had 7 carries for 6 yards, along with 2 touchdowns, which both came off of QB sneaks at the goal-line. 

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, any sort of success for the Patriots’ offense would be predicated on the success of the offensive line to protect Brady and help out Michel. Unfortunately, the offensive line was not at its best yesterday, as Brady was sacked 3 times, and was hit an additional 6 times. Throughout the game, he did not have enough time to effectively survey the field, which killed a few drives in the process. 

All in all, the Patriots need to find an answer on offense, as riding the coattails of their defense and special teams will not be a recipe for success during the tail end of their schedule.

jules catch v nyg w619.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

3. Yet another mixed bag for special teams

One of the major talking points entering yesterday’s game was the potential impact of the gusting winds in Foxborough, and the wind did not disappoint! On a number of drives in Giants’ territory, Bill Belichick opted to go for it on fourth down, instead of attempting field goals, due to the obstacle presented by the wind in the stadium. Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal which hit the upright, but was able to convert on 5 extra points.

Special teams was responsible for the Pats’ first touchdown of the game, as a punt by Riley Dixon in the first quarter bounced off of his teammate’s helmet, and landed in the hands of Chase Winovich, who proceeded to run into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

Hopefully Nugent will be able to rebound over the next few weeks, and having touchdowns via special teams will continue to help the Pats win games!

wino td v giants s619.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

Bonus:

1. TB12 passes Peyton Manning for the second-most passing yards in NFL history!

Here’s the pass that broke the record:

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1182455343466602499

Here’s the team congratulating him in the locker room after the game:

2. Gronk makes his Fox Sports debut!

Yesterday’s game also marked Rob Gronkowski’s debut as a member of the Fox Sports, which featured some classic Gronk moments, such as this breakdown of Julian Edelman and Tom Brady.

3. Color Rush!

It’s always a sight to behold when the Pats wear their Color Rush uniforms, and last night’s victory improved them to 5-0 in their alternates.

tb cr w619.png
(Photo via Getty Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 31/41 for 334 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 22 carries for 86 yards
  • Passing: Julian Edelman – 9 receptions for 113 yards
  • Defensive: Jason McCourty & Jonathan Jones – 4 tackles each

Giants

  • Passing: Daniel Jones – 15/31 for 161 yards, 1 touchdown & 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Jonathan Hilliman – 11 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Golden Tate – 6 receptions for 102 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: David Mayo – 13 tackles (including 0.5 sacks)

 

What’s next?: The Pats head over to Metlife Stadium to play New York’s other team, the Jets (0-4), for the second time this season, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. Unlike Week 3’s matchup, Sam Darnold will likely be playing for New York. 

 

Giant Encounter: Will the Pats vanquish their old nemesis on TNF?

Over the past decade, the matchups between the Patriots and Giants (2-3) have been must-watch football, due to the intensity at which these games have been played. Despite the dominance of the Pats during the Brady-Belichick era, the Giants have constantly been a thorn in their side, as evidenced by their ability to knock off New England in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI. Thankfully for Patriots’ fans, their eternal tormenter Eli Manning will not be starting for the Giants, as his ineffective start to the season paved the way for rookie phenom Daniel Jones to take over the starting job.

Here are some things to consider entering this matchup on Thursday Night Football.

1. Can TB and the offense maintain their momentum?

 The Patriots’ offense rebounded spectacularly against the hapless Redskins defense in Week 5, with Sony Michel and the revitalized rushing attack fueling a second half explosion that put the game away. Tom Brady and the offense should have another successful outing against a struggling Giants’ defense that gave up almost 500 yards of total offense to the Vikings in Week 5.

I think that the key to victory for the Pats will be to establish the rushing game, which will allow their banged up receiving corps to get some rest throughout the game . In addition, with the forecast calling for rain and wind in Foxborough, rushing the ball with ferocious intent may allow the Pats to wear down New York’s defense.

As always, any sort of offensive success will be predicated on the offensive line’s ability to protect Brady and provide ample running room for Michel.

flash v nyg w6p19.jpg
(Photo via NESN)

2. Are all the signs pointing towards another defensive masterpiece?

Although Daniel Jones has had a good start to his NFL career, he faces a tall task against the Pats’ defense, which leads the NFL in several categories. Even more concerning for Jones is the fact that he will be missing several of his key position players, including Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram.

Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo may opt to dial up the pressure on Jones, who has been sloppy with the football at times. Having an effective pass rush, coupled with a wet environment, could lead to fumbles if the Patriots are aggressive enough.

If the Patriots continue to play their brand of defense, they should be able to shut down New York’s offense.

daniel jones v pats w6p19.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Out
  • Shilique Calhoun (ankle) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (groin) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Josh Gordon (knee) – Questionable

Giants

  • Saquon Barkley (ankle) – Out
  • Wayne Gallman (concussion) – Out
  • Sterling Shepard (concussion) – Out
  • Evan Engram (knee) – Out
  • Lorenzo Carter (neck) – Questionable

 

Bonus:

1. Can TB12 knock off Peyton Manning?

As of right now, Tom Brady has 71,923 career passing yards, which is the third-most by any quarterback. Brady needs a mere 18 yards to pass Peyton Manning (71,940 yards) and move into second place behind Drew Brees, who has 78,845 yards.

tb passing yards w6.jpg
(David Tulis/UPI)

2. Color Rush!

Tonight’s game is the first of three games where the Pats will be wearing their fabulous Color Rush uniforms. Hopefully, they’ll be able to improve to 5-0 while wearing their alternates.

jules color rush .jpg
(Photo via NESN)

 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Giants 13

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

Last week: 7-7

Panthers vs Buccaneers: Panthers

Redskins at Dolphins: Redskins

Saints at Jaguars: Jaguars

Bengals at Ravens: Ravens

Seahawks at Browns: Seahawks

Eagles at Vikings: Eagles

Texans at Chiefs: Chiefs

Falcons at Cardinals: Falcons

49ers at Rams: Rams

Titans at Broncos: Titans

Cowboys at Jets: Cowboys

Steelers at Chargers: Chargers

Lions at Packers: Packers

Capital Matchup: Will the Pats add to Washington’s misery?

Week 5 presents an unusual matchup for the Patriots, as they head down to Washington D.C. to play the winless Washington Redskins (0-4) for the first time in four years.

Here are some things to consider entering this game.

1. Will the defense continue to dominate?

The Patriots’ defense has been on a tear over the last four weeks, as they’ve only given up 13 points, and lead the NFL in both sacks and interceptions. Tomorrow’s game looks to be an easier assignment for the Pats, as Washington was inept on offense against a mediocre Giants defense during their Week 4 loss in the Meadowlands. In addition, head coach Jay Gruden has opted to go with Colt McCoy at quarterback (instead of Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins), who will be seeing his first action since breaking his leg last season. It’s reasonable to expect McCoy to have some rust, which could lead to turnovers as a result of errant throws. The Redskins will be playing without two of their top weapons in Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed, while their top receiver, Terry McLaurin is listed as questionable. Washington’s rushing attack is also banged up, as Derrius Guice is still recovering from a knee injury, which will likely thrust the ageless Adrian Peterson into the starting role once again.

The Pats will be without Patrick Chung in the secondary, but if they continue to play their brand of defense, it won’t be too hard for them to overwhelm Washington’s offense.

NFL: Washington Redskins at New England Patriots
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Can the offense rebound from last week?

As most people know, last week featured an atrocious offensive performance for the Patriots, as they were neutralized by a physical Buffalo defense. Luckily for Tom Brady & Co., this week may serve as an antidote to help solve their problems, as Washington currently has one of the NFL’s worst defenses. The Redskins rank fifth-worst in yards allowed, second-worst in points allowed, and fourth-worst in stopping the run. These stats indicate that the Patriots should blowout Washington, but I believe that fortifying the offensive line will be the catalyst for any sort of success on offense. Having a strong offensive line will provide Brady with time to survey the field, and also enable Sony Michel to run the ball effectively.

The Patriots have dealt with a lot of upheaval on the offense over the last few weeks, but dominating a downtrodden team like the Redskins will prove to the rest of the league that they’re still capable of being an elite offensive unit.

jules vs redskins w5p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

3. What will the kicking game look like?

One of the major headlines for the team over the last week was Stephen Gostkowski being added to the injured reserve due to a season-ending hip injury. After working out a few kickers, the Patriots signed veteran Mike Nugent to the active roster, while also adding Younghoe Koo to the practice squad. The Pats have generally had consistency at this position over the last twenty years due to the presence of Gostkowski and his predecessor Adam Vinatieri, which makes an abrupt change alarming for fans. It will be interesting to see how much faith Bill Belichick and the coaching staff have in Nugent, due to the presence of Koo on the practice squad. In addition, if Nugent struggles, would the Pats opt to go for two after scoring touchdowns?

The loss of Stephen Gostkowski will make kicker a position to watch as the season goes along.

pats new kickers.jpeg
(Nick O’Malley/MassLive)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Out
  • Patrick Chung (heel) – Out
  • Nate Ebner (groin) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) – Questionable

Redskins

  • Vernon Davis (concussion) – Out
  • Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring) – Out
  • Jordan Reed (concussion) – Out
  • Brandon Scherff (ankle) – Out
  • Case Keenum (foot) – Questionable
  • Terry McLaurin (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Josh Norman (knee) – Questionable
  • Chase Roullier (not listed) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 30, Redskins 13

Here are my picks for the NFL’s other Week 5 games (except for Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 8-6

Jets at Eagles: Eagles

Jaguars at Panthers: Jaguars

Vikings at Giants: Vikings

Falcons at Texans: Texans

Buccaneers at Saints: Saints

Bills at Titans: Titans

Cardinals at Bengals: Cardinals

Ravens at Steelers: Ravens

Bears at Raiders: Bears

Broncos at Chargers: Chargers

Packers at Cowboys: Cowboys

Colts at Chiefs: Chiefs

Browns at 49ers: Browns

The Patriots vanquish the Vikings!

TEAM

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3

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MIN 0 7 3 0 10

NE

7 3 7 7 24

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

The Pats blow past the Packers on Sunday Night Football!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

GB 3 7 7 0 17

NE

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.

tb v pack w9.jpg
(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.

aaron jones fumble.jpg
(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.

tb arod.jpg
(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.

 

 

 

 

Battle of the 12’s!

This Sunday night will feature one of the premier matchups the NFL has to offer, as Tom Brady and the Patriots welcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) to Foxborough. This will be only the second time Brady and Rodgers have faced off, with Rodgers emerging victorious in 2014.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 9 contest.

1. How will the offense rebound?

The Patriots may have won last week’s game at Buffalo, but Tom Brady and the offense were highly inefficient for the majority of the game, as they were constantly stopped on third down by the determined Buffalo defense (until a crucial drive in the fourth quarter). Unfortunately for the Pats, they will be facing a Green Bay defense that gave the high powered Los Angeles Rams all they could handle. The Pats will likely still be without Sony Michel, who is still nursing a knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago. Relying on the trio of James White, Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon should give the Pats a good chance to succeed against a Packers secondary that recently traded away a talented defensive back in Haha Clinton-Dix. Rob Gronkowski has been hampered in recent games, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs against Green Bay.

gronk v pack 14.jpg
(Photo via Reuters)

2. Can the defense handle Aaron Rodgers?

As I’ve frequently mentioned in my last few posts, the Patriots defense has been heavily inconsistent throughout this season, as they’ve had both good and bad performances so far. Stopping Aaron Rodgers and his offense will not be an easy task for Bill Belichick’s defense, as his ability to throw the deep ball and extend plays outside of the pocket make him a threat to be reckoned with. On the bright side, the Pats may finally be able to have a good game against their opponent’s tight end, as they have been solid against Jimmy Graham in the past. To have a good chance of winning, the Patriots will need to be able to get after Rodgers (and contain him outside of the pocket) and shut down Green Bay’s rushing attack.

rodgers v pats presea.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Injury Report

Patriots

  • Trent Brown (ankle) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (concussion) – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (knee) – Questionable
  • John Simon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Sony Michel (knee) – Questionable
  • Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back) – Questionable
  • Josh Gordon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (Ankle) – Questionable
  • Cordarrelle Patterson (neck) – Questionable
  • Shaq Mason (calf) – Out

Packers

  • Geronimo Allison (groin/hamstring) – Doubtful
  • Randall Cobb (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Nick Perry (ankle) – Questionable
  • Jermaine Whitehead (back) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 34, Packers 28

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 9 games (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 12-2

Bears at Bills: Bears

Buccaneers at Panthers: Panthers

Chiefs at Browns: Chiefs

Jets at Dolphins: Dolphins

Steelers at Ravens: Ravens

Lions at Vikings: Vikings

Falcons at Redskins: Redskins

Texans at Broncos: Texans

Chargers at Seahawks: Chargers

Rams at Saints: Rams

Titans at Cowboys: Cowboys

 

2017-18 NFL Playoff Predictions

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

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

Wild-Card Weekend

#6 Buffalo Bills at #3 Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: Jaguars

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

 

#5 Tennessee Titans at #4 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Chiefs

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

 

#6 Atlanta Falcons at #3 Los Angeles Rams

Prediction: Rams

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

 

#5 Carolina Panthers at #4 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Saints

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

 

Divisional Round

#4 Kansas City Chiefs at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

DSC_1974.JPG
(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

 

 

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers

Prediction: Jaguars

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

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #1 Philadelphia Eagles

Prediction: Saints

saints playoffs 2.jpg
(Photo via the Saints)

 

#3 Los Angeles Rams at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

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

 

Conference Championships

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

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

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

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

 

Super Bowl LII

#2 Minnesota Vikings vs. #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

james white sb
(Photo from the Patriots)