Buckle up!: The Pats take on Denver

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

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

1. Can Cam & the offense regain their rhythm?

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

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

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

cam w6p20
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

Injury Report:

Patriots:

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

Broncos

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

What’re they wearing?:

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

Prediction: Patriots 27, Broncos 14

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

Last week: 8-5

Texans at Titans: Titans

Ravens at Eagles: Ravens

Falcons at Vikings: Vikings

Browns at Steelers: Steelers

Bengals at Colts: Colts

Lions at Jaguars: Lions

Bears at Panthers: Bears

Washington at Giants: Giants

Jets at Dolphins: Dolphins

Packers at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Rams at 49ers: Rams

Chiefs at Bills: Chiefs

Cardinals at Cowboys: Cardinals

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

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

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

1. Can Cam & the offense maintain their momentum?

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

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

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

2. Will the defense rebound?

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

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

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

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

Injury Report:

Patriots

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

Raiders

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

What’re they wearing?:

(Photo courtesy of the Gridiron Uniform Database)

Prediction: Patriots 28, Raiders 20

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

Last week: 12-3

49ers at Giants: 49ers

Washington at Browns: Browns

Bengals at Eagles: Eagles

Bears at Falcons: Falcons

Rams at Bills: Rams

Texans at Steelers: Steelers

Titans at Vikings: Titans

Panthers at Chargers: Chargers

Jets at Colts: Colts

Cowboys at Seahawks: Seahawks

Lions at Cardinals: Cardinals

Buccaneers at Broncos: Buccaneers

Packers at Saints: Packers

Chiefs at Ravens: Ravens

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

A SUPER Move?: Cam Newton signs with the Patriots!

2020 has been a strange year to say the least, with the NFL being no exception. Tom Brady’s decision to leave the Patriots back in March (with Rob Gronkowski joining him soon after) was surreal, and so was Cam Newton’s departure from Carolina, after 9 seasons with the Panthers. After being linked to the former MVP for over 3 months, the Patriots finally pulled the trigger on signing Newton, as they locked him up on a one year incentive-laden deal.

Here’s what the signing means for the different parties involved.

1. The Patriots

Losing the GOAT was always going to be a challenge for the Patriots, as it’s hard to replace 20 years of sustained excellence. Due to the fact that the Pats opted to pass on free agents such as Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, many believed that the team was comfortable with the idea of moving forward with second year QB Jarrett Stidham, but certain outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report refused to allow the possibility of Cam Newton fade away, due to their constant discussions on why he would be a good fit for the team.

Signing Newton gives the Patriots a dynamic athlete at quarterback, which is a sharp contrast to their previous starter, and also puts them in a win-win situation. If Newton plays well and exceeds his minimum contract, the Patriots got a bargain at the game’s most important position, and if he performs poorly (or gets hurt), they can move on from him without any financial burdens. At the end of the day, this shouldn’t be viewed as an indictment against Stidham, as the Patriots would have been foolish to pass on a former MVP at such a cheap price. As several people in the league have mentioned, you can never have too much talent on your team.

josh-mcdaniels-bill-belichick
(Photo via NESN)

2. Cam Newton

For better or worse, Cam Newton has been one of the most polarizing players in the NFL over the past 9 years, due to constant controversy surrounding his larger than life image and on-field demeanor. As someone who’s watched him with a neutral eye during this period, I’ve always felt like the negativity associated with him was unfair, as he has never done anything to indicate that he’s a bad locker room presence or an unmanageable diva. In addition, it’s hard to look past his great work with the community in Charlotte, with a particular emphasis on the children in the area.

Getting back to Cam Newton the football player, he’s been fantastic when healthy, with his 2015 season standing out as pure dominance. Due to Newton’s enormous stature and status as a dual-threat QB, he’s accumulated a great deal of injuries over the years, with a devastating shoulder injury in 2018, and a Lisfranc (midfoot) injury in 2019. The latter injury forced him to sit out 14 of 16 games last season, and led to his release in Carolina. Newton’s injury history resulted in a lack of interest around the league, and led to him being willing to take such a steep discount to play for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Cam Newton has a great chance to reestablish his value in the league, with a strong 2020 season giving him the opportunity to cash-in prior to 2021.

cam v pats 18
(John Cetrino/EPA)

The potential success of this signing is contingent on Newton’s health, as a healthy Newton should run away with any sort of QB competition in training camp. If he’s able to learn the team’s playbook and return to his 2018 form, the Patriots should be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. Personally, I’m interested to see how the offense will adapt with Newton at the helm, as Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels love to be malleable, and having a lethal option at QB would give them an opportunity to overhaul the offensive game plan if they choose to do so. 

 

 

 

“New” Threads for a New Era

For the first time in 20 years, the Patriots will have a quarterback not named Tom Brady under center. However, that’s not the only big change for the team in 2020, as they recently debuted their “new” uniforms for the upcoming season. Other than the addition of alternate/throwback uniforms in the mid-2000’s and 2010’s, this is the first major tweak for the team since the turn of the millennium.

What’s different?

These uniforms are based on the Pats’ popular Color Rush alternates, which were introduced in 2016, as part of a league-wide initiative for Thursday Night Football. The Color Rush program was ultimately mothballed prior to the 2018 season, but teams such as the Patriots have continued to wear them as an additional alternative uniform. New England essentially took the monochromatic blue uniform, with thick red and white stripes on the shoulders (a nod to their popular Pat Patriot uniforms) and pants, and only changed the numeric font. In order to match their new home uniform, the team created a white counterpart (similar to their AFL away uniform), which features an inverted stripe pattern (with red and blue) and paired it with the same blue pants. Both jerseys feature slight silver accents on the numbers, and are paired with the team’s traditional silver helmet with a red facemask. The Pats also introduced new socks, which feature a color-blocked scheme of red, white, and blue.

new-patriots-uniforms
(Photo via the New England Patriots)

Although there are people who think that the team came up with the idea of new uniforms as soon as Tom Brady announced his decision to leave, this change has been in the works since 2018, in cooperation with the NFL’s rules on uniform changes (which requires at least 2 years advance notice from teams to the league office). This means that Tom Brady would have worn these uniforms if he had chosen to stay in New England.

How have Patriots fans reacted?

As most NFL teams (other than the Chargers) have realized this year, it is impossible to please your fans when it comes to changing your uniforms. Even though ESPN’s Mike Reiss mentioned in March that these changes would be “subtle”, most Pats fans imagined unrealistic possibilities ranging from re-adopting the Pat Patriot uniforms to making a modernized version of the polarizing 1990’s uniforms. Hence, fan reaction to this change has been mixed at best, as evidenced by several heated reactions on the team’s Twitter feed.

The negative reactions on social media can also be attributed to several blunders on the team’s part. For instance, the uniforms looked clunky on the models they chose, and they even advertised the wrong pants. The studio models were wearing last season’s Color Rush pants, with thick white stripes, while the uniforms sent to player such as Stephon Gilmore and James White featured pants with thick red stripes, which matches up with the stripes on the blue jersey.

What do I think?

Personally, I love the changes the team instituted, as I have been a big fan of the Color Rush alternates from the day they were introduced. Compared to the “Brady era” uniforms, these uniforms are much less cluttered, without unnecessary piping and side panels. There’s no doubt that the team’s previous uniforms are iconic and synonymous with success, due to the team’s unprecedented six Super Bowl victories while wearing that set, but it’s hard to ignore how dated the uniform got as time went on. This became evident when the league switched from Reebok to Nike for their uniforms, as Nike’s materials made the home silver pants look drab and boring, as compared to Reebok’s materials, which had made them look shiny and appealing.

slate old unis
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In addition, as Nike’s uniform templates got more advanced, the Pats’ early 2000’s design looked more out of place, as form-fitting uniforms made the team’s piping and side panels look increasingly unappealing.

Patriots Rams Super Bowl Football
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

Going back to the new uniforms, I love the red and white stripes on the home jersey, as they really give a pop of color against the blue base. The white jersey looks sleek, although I do agree with the people on Twitter who feel as though the team would be better off switching the red and blue in the striping pattern, as it is more pleasant to look at. My main gripe with the uniform set is that the team opted not to include white pants (for now), which would have perfectly complemented the current rotation. The all-blue home uniform is attractive, but pairing it with white pants could take it to another level.

cr promo
(PeterBretter/Reddit)

At the same time, having white pants would enable the team to also wear all-white on the road, which would be a heavily appealing option. The Pats wore all-white in 2017 against the Buccaneers in their old uniforms, which showed how sleek the combination could be. Hopefully the team chooses to bring them back!

Patriots Buccaneers Football, Tampa, USA - 05 Oct 2017
(Photo via Shutterstock)

 

A sign for the future?

Many fans wanted the Pats to bring back white helmets, which would have simplified the team’s color scheme, and enabled them to bring back the popular Pat Patriot throwbacks, which they have not worn since 2012 (due to the NFL’s controversial one-shell rule, which prevents teams from using more than one helmet). Fortunately, comments from the Patriots indicate that there may be changes in the works for the 2021 season, as the press release for these uniforms specifically mentioned the possibility of bringing back the red throwbacks if the league’s rule on helmets is nixed.

dev throwbacks
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

 

Ranking the other new NFL uniforms

The Patriots were one of seven teams to announce uniform changes, with the Rams being the only team to not introduce their new uniforms as of yet.

Here’s a ranking of the uniforms introduced so far (excluding the Patriots)

1. Chargers

chargers new unis
(Photo via the Los Angeles Chargers)

2. Browns

browns new uniforms
(Photo via the Cleveland Browns)

3. Buccaneers

buccaneers new unis
(Photo via the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

4. Colts

colts new unis
(Photo via the Indianapolis Colts)

5. Falcons

falcons new unis
(Photo via the Atlanta Falcons)

 

Wild-Card Matchup: Can the Pats stay alive against Tennessee?

For the first time in a decade, the Patriots will be playing on Wild Card Weekend, as they welcome the Tennessee Titans (9-7) for a Saturday night matchup in Gillette Stadium.

Even though New England is favored to win by 5 points, there are many pundits and analysts who believe that the Patriots Dynasty will come to an end tomorrow night.

Here are some things to consider entering this Wild Card matchup.

1. Can the offense deliver?

The Patriots’ offense has been inconsistent at best over the last few weeks, with a solid outing against the stout Bills defense in Week 16, before digging an early hole during a surprising loss to the Dolphins in Week 17. Tom Brady is likely itching to get out and play, due to the constant talk about his future in New England, and the surprising thought that he ranks last amongst all the quarterbacks in the playoffs. Unfortunately for #12, he is facing off against a team that features coaches who are very familiar with how he operates, as Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were both part of the Patriots in the early 2000s. Brady will need all the help he can get if the Patriots hope to emerge victorious tomorrow.

Tennessee features a dynamic defensive line, which gave the Patriots massive problems during a dominant 34-10 Titans victory in 2018. The Patriots offensive line will need to be at the top of their game if they want to keep Brady upright. In addition, the Patriots’ receiving corps (mainly N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu) has to get separation and make plays down the field in order to help out Brady and Julian Edelman.

The Patriots will also have to focus on producing a solid rushing attack, as the forecast calls for precipitation throughout tomorrow’s game (which may make it tougher to throw the ball down the field). I believe that Josh McDaniels and his staff have to focus on getting Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead involved from the get-go, as it will help take pressure off of Brady and the passing game, and punish Tennessee if they opt to send blitz packages.

If the Patriots want to have the chance to defend their Super Bowl title, they will need to have a great outing by their offense.

tb vs titans pwc19
(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Will the defense rebound from last week’s debacle?

The most shocking aspect of last week’s loss to Miami was the fact that the seemingly stout Patriots’ defense fell apart against an offensive attack led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, with Stephon Gilmore getting absolutely bullied by DeVante Parker throughout the game. For the first time all season, the Patriots’ defense let down the offense, as they were unable to hold their late lead, which resulted in the team losing their first round bye.

New England has a quick turnaround, as they face a talented Titans’ offense that features playmakers such as Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Henry led the NFL in rushing yards, and is a downhill runner that will likely give the Patriots problems (as evidenced by their struggles against Baltimore, Cleveland, and Cincinnati). Due to the forecast, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tennessee opts to feed Henry early and often, which could wear out the Patriots’ defense and keep Tom Brady on the sideline.

One of the most surprising stories of this season was the reemergence of Ryan Tannehill as a viable starting quarterback, as he led the Titans to 7 wins after replacing Marcus Mariota as the team’s starter. Similarly to his head coach, Tannehill is familiar with playing in Gillette Stadium, due to his years in Miami, which could indicate that he won’t be as intimidated as your typical quarterback making their first career start in the postseason.

Stopping AJ Brown will need to be of the utmost importance, as the rookie receiver has flashed his big play potential all throughout this season. Stephon Gilmore and the other cornerbacks will need to bounce back with a vengeance to stifle Brown, Corey Davis and the rest of Tennessee’s receivers.

The Patriots’ strength has been their defense, and they will need to find their rhythm once again if they hope to advance to the next round.

derrick henry vs pats pwc19
(Photo via the Tennessee Titans)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
  • Terrence Brooks (groin) – Questionable
  • Jamie Collins Sr. (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) – Questionable
  • Jonathan Jones (groin) – Questionable
  • Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable

Titans

  • Adam Humphries (ankle) – Out
  • Kalif Raymond (concussion) – Doubtful
  • Cody Hollister (ankle) – Questionable
  • Dane Cruikshank (illness) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Titans 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the Wild Card Weekend.

Last week: 10-6

Bills at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Saints: Vikings

Seahawks at Eagles: Seahawks

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.

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

TEAM

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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.

Can the Pats exact revenge in Philadelphia?

The last matchup between the Patriots and Eagles (5-4) ended in heartbreak for New England, as they lost 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. Fortunately, Bill Belichick’s team was able to rebound from the loss by winning Super Bowl LIII, but there’s no doubt that a win in Philadelphia would mean a lot to them.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 11 matchup.

1. Can the defense rebound?

The Patriots’ defense has had 2 weeks to digest their disappointing performance against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, where they gave up 30 points and over 200 rushing yards. This week’s game should be intriguing, as they’ll face off against a dynamic young quarterback in Carson Wentz who is protected by a formidable offensive line. The Patriots should be able to clamp down on Philadelphia’s banged-up passing attack which will be without key weapons in DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Hence, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Belichick place Stephon Gilmore on Zach Ertz, in an attempt to neutralize Wentz’s favorite weapon.

In consecutive weeks, the Browns and Ravens proved that the Patriots can be vulnerable against a power rushing attack, which may not bode well for New England in tomorrow’s game, as Doug Pederson has proven to be a coach that is committed to establishing the run. With the Eagles having a strong offensive line, and a speedy rusher in Miles Sanders, the Patriots will need to dominate the line of scrimmage if they want to limit Philadelphia’s success.

eagles o v pats w11p19.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports)

2. How about the offense?

The loss to the Ravens proved that the Patriots’ offense cannot afford to get off to slow starts, as early deficits can put a great amount of pressure on the team to deliver in the second half. I believe that this is the game where the Patriots’ passing attack will explode, due to Philadelphia’s subpar secondary. In addition, the bye week should have given Josh McDaniels additional time to draw up plays to utilize Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry (if the rookie receiver is active). Either way, I’d expect Julian Edelman to have a huge game in the middle of the field.

On the other hand, the Patriots may have some difficulty running the football, as the Eagles boast the NFL’s fourth best rushing defense. I’d like to see the Patriots attempt to establish their running game, as it would help protect Brady from the likes of Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox.

tb v eagles w11p19
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Out
  • Damien Harris (hamstring) – Out
  • Nate Ebner (ankle/back) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable
  • Danny Shelton (ankle) – Questionable
  • John Simon (elbow) – Questionable

Eagles

  • Nigel Bradham (ankle) – Out
  • Alshon Jeffery (ankle) – Out
  • Darren Sproles (quadriceps) – Out
  • Jordan Howard (shoulder) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Eagles 20

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 11 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 4-8

Jets at Redskins: Jets

Jaguars at Colts: Colts

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Cowboys at Lions: Cowboys

Texans at Ravens: Ravens

Falcons at Panthers: Panthers

Saints at Buccaneers: Saints

Broncos at Vikings: Vikings

Cardinals at 49ers: 49ers

Bengals at Raiders: Raiders

Bears at Rams: Rams

Chiefs vs Chargers: Chiefs

NFL Week 10 picks!

With the Patriots on their much-needed bye week, here are my picks for the NFL’s Week 10 slate (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 6-7

Lions at BearsLions

Ravens at BengalsRavens

Bills at BrownsBills

Chiefs at TitansChiefs

Falcons at SaintsSaints

Giants at JetsGiants

Cardinals at BuccaneersBuccaneers

Dolphins at ColtsColts

Panthers at PackersPackers

Rams at SteelersRams

Vikings at CowboysVikings

Seahawks at 49ers49ers