Return to the Rodeo!

The Patriots continue their quest for home-field advantage when they take on the Buffalo Bills during today’s contest. New England handily defeated the Bills in Week 13 when they met at Orchard Park. 

Here are a few things to look at before today’s game.

1. Tom Brady’s performance

TB12 has not been his usual self the last few weeks, as he has notably struggled in recent games. Brady has thrown an interception in 4 straight games, which is something he hasn’t done for quite a while. Brady has also been ailed by a shaky offensive line, which has caused him to make some ill-advised throws. However, Brady was at his best in the clutch during last week’s game in Pittsburgh, when he led the Patriots to a hard-fought 27-24 victory. Brady will have a chance to exact some revenge on a Buffalo squad that tormented him 3 weeks ago. 

Let’s hope that Brady is not distracted by the situation involving Bill Belichick and Brady’s trainer Alex Guerrero, as TB12’s interactions with the media have shown that it is a sensitive topic for the quarterback.

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(Photo by the AP)

2. Impact of injuries

At this point in the NFL season, most teams deal with a multitude of injuries suffered by their players. The Patriots are no different, as several of their players have sustained injuries that have kept them out of their recent contests. Key contributors on offense such as Chris Hogan (shoulder), Rex Burkhead (knee), and James White (ankle) are not expected to play today, which will put a heavy burden on the team’s other backs and receivers. The Pats may also play without starting left tackle Nate Solder (illness), which is an alarming sign due to the offensive line’s recent struggles. The defense could be bolstered by the return of Kyle Van Noy, who has missed the last few games with a calf injury. To be successful the Patriots will need their other players to step up in the absence of several of their chief contributors.

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(Photo by Sports Illustrated) 

3. Gronk and the Bills

Rob Gronkowski made a bone-headed decision against the Bills in Week 13, when he decided to lunge himself at Buffalo CB Tre’Davious White, when the latter was sprawled on the field. This move drew the ire of both the NFL, who chose to suspend Gronk for one game. Gronk’s actions also angered the Buffalo defense who promised retaliation. Gronk was the hero during last week’s emotional win at Pittsburgh, and he will need to retain his composure even if Buffalo’s players do decide to take cheap shots on him. 

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(Photo by Adrian Kraus/AP)

 

I expect the Patriots to pull out a hard-fought win against a motivated Buffalo team that is trying to make the playoffs. Look for Brady and Gronk to continue where they left off in Pittsburgh, as the duo will make enough plays for the Patriots to put the Bills away. 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 14

 

 

Distractions…

Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, due to his stellar resume and his ability to get the best out of all of his players. Belichick’s success can be attributed to the cold-blooded manner in which he runs the Patriots franchise, as he has been known to offload players who he feels will not benefit the team in the long-run. Examples of this can include Wes Welker, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Vince Wilfork, and countless others.

Throughout Belichick’s 17 years in New England, there has always been one exception, and that is Tom Brady…

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(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

TB12 and Belichick may not be very close off the field, but they are a dynamic duo that has haunted the NFL for nearly two decades. Brady has bought into the so-called ‘Patriot Way’, by continuing to work hard to improve, and ensuring that he gives Belichick no reason to get rid of him. 

One key aspect of a Bill Belichick coached team is the absence of off-field distractions. The Patriots have been able to maintain their unprecedented run as the NFL’s top dog, due to a lack of  issues that can divide or distract the team. If you want to understand the impact of distractions on a team, just look at the 2016-17 Steelers, when Antonio Brown broadcasted coach Mike Tomlin’s derogatory speech about the Patriots on Facebook Live. The constant media onslaught about this simple incident took the focus off of football for the Steelers, and they were consequently eliminated by the Pats the following week.

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(Photo by WTAE Pittsburgh)

Belichick has also been able to ensure that conflicts do not erupt in his locker room, due to specific players being treated differently than the rest of the team. Belichick has done his best to ensure that he treats everyone on the team the same, starting from Tom Brady to any rookie player. Teams that do not do this run the risk of alienating their players, and a prime example of this is the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots famously defeated the Seahawks in 2015’s thrilling Super Bowl XLIX, where Seattle opted to throw the ball from the one-yard line, instead of handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, and a popular theory as to why this occurred is that Pete Carroll and his staff wanted Russell Wilson to be the hero of the game. As reported by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, the Seattle defense clearly believed this theory, leading to some evident friction between them and their coaching staff (incidents have even occurred on their sidelines during games). Seattle’s ill-fated decision in Super Bowl XLIX led to a divide among the team, from which they have never fully recovered. It also doesn’t help when members of your team are taking shots at each other through interviews and social media, which is a clear sign of dysfunction.

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(Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

The examples of Pittsburgh and Seattle were used to show how the Patriots have been able to remain successful, as they have rarely faced distractions that can hinder the team’s performance. However, Belichick’s recent decision to revoke the privileges of  Tom Brady’s guru/life coach/mentor/friend Alex Guerrero may present him with the distraction that he absolutely abhors. 

Tom Brady has been close with Guerrero for almost a decade, ever since the latter helped TB12 recover from his devastating knee injury suffered in 2008. Brady credits Guerrero and his unique methods with enabling him to maintain his peak performance at the age of 40. However, even if Brady trusts Guerrero, it may be hard for others to do so, as Guerrero has tried to sell ‘veggies that can cure terminal illnesses’ and ‘an elixir that can prevent concussions’ in the past, earning him the title of a glorified snake oil salesman. Due to his close friendship with Brady, Guerrero earned several privileges within the Patriots organization, such as sideline access, flying the team’s charter plane, and even having his own office at Gillette Stadium. Guerrero’s clientele has also grown, with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and other prominent Patriots coming to the controversial trainer. Guerrero’s growing prominence within the Patriots clearly irked New England’s team of trainers (with actual medical certification, unlike Guerrero), leading to some conflict between the two parties. This growing conflict between the trainers and Guerrero most likely led Belichick to curb his influence in the team building. Guerrero can no longer come on the sidelines or the team plane, and can only treat Patriot players (not named Tom Brady) in the nearby TB12 Center. 

brady guerrero.jpg
(Photo by USA TODAY SPORTS)

Belichick’s decision to limit Alex Guerrero’s role with the Patriots does make sense , as Guerrero’s previous transgressions involving fraudulent products, and his lack of a medical license could come back to haunt the Patriots in the future. Belichick’s motivations to protect the team are clear, but it may not have been the best decision. Revoking Guerrero’s privileges runs the risk of alienating Tom Brady, as TB12 is heavily close with his beloved trainer. 

Could this be the distraction that finally divides and conquers the Patriots’ dynasty? Only time will tell… 

Stunner in Pittsburgh!: Brady and the Pats capture Round 1 against Big Ben and the Steelers

What a game!

The Patriots absolutely shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday, coming back from an 8 point deficit in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, winning the game 27-24. The final minutes of the Week 15 contest featured several jaw-dropping plays, such as Rob Gronkowski’s remarkable catch in the red zone, or JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 69-yard catch and run. However, the most controversial play of the game came with 28 seconds left, when Ben Roethlisberger appeared to have thrown the game winning touchdown to his tight end, Jesse James. The play was overturned when the referees determined that James lost control of the ball while reaching across to the end zone. The referee’s interpretation of the NFL’s puzzling catch rule was deemed to be correct by CBS’ Tony Romo, and even ESPN, but still wasn’t enough to dispel the beliefs of fans who feel that the NFL is rigged in favor of the Patriots.

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(Photo by Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s wild game.

1. Never count out Tom Brady!

Stop me if you’ve heard this before… Tom Brady and his Patriot offense had no business winning this game, but still found a way to get it done when it truly mattered. This sounds familiar right? TB12 was not very good in the first 3 quarters of the game, resembling his uneven performances from the last 2 weeks. For a change, it appeared as if Pittsburgh’s defense had his number, as they constantly got after him, and made him very uncomfortable in the pocket. Brady even threw an interception in the third quarter, when he forced an ugly throw into coverage, which resulted in a defensive lineman picking him off. As NFL teams have learnt over the last 16 years, nothing is impossible for the Patriots when Tom Brady is under center. They may be down 25 in the second half, or be outplayed for the first 55 minutes of the game, but to beat the Patriots you have to play for 60 minutes, and keep #12 off the field. For over three and a half quarters it appeared as if Pittsburgh was going to succeed in doing those two things, but they unfortunately gave Brady enough time to take the lead in the waning moments of the game. Brady was surgical on New England’s final drive, connecting with Gronk on several key plays, which allowed the Patriots to drive 77 yards in just over 70 seconds. Brady’s clutch performance helped move the Patriots to the #1 seed in the AFC, and he will need to continue to play at this level for the Patriots to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs.

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

2. You just got Gronked!

Rob Gronkowski returned from his one-game suspension and continued his dominance over Pittsburgh’s secondary. Gronk recorded 9 catches for 168 yards (a new career high), and his impact was felt throughout the second half, with 135 yards in the last 30 minutes of the game. Gronk’s main contribution to the game came during the last drive, where he corralled 3 catches for 69 yards, including a breathtaking catch in the red zone. Gronk constantly beat Sean Davis on the drive, and helped extend the Pats’ lead to 3 with a clutch catch on a fade route for a two-point conversion. With #87 in the lineup, the Patriots can flip the switch at any given moment.

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(Photo from USA TODAY SPORTS)

3. The Patriots’ defense struggled, but managed to seal the game

If you tuned into the early stages of this game, you never would have thought that the Patriots’ defense would be able to stop Pittsburgh’s high-flying offense, as the Pats could not stop the Steelers on third down. Pittsburgh went 10-for-16 on third down in the game, allowing them to extend drives and tire out the Patriots. Le’veon Bell also had his way with the Patriots, as his patient running style got him 117 yards off 24 carries. New England was clearly on the ropes, but Pittsburgh simply could not knock them out. The Patriots were able to get two stops in the fourth quarter, enabling TB12 & Co. to score twice and take a 3 point lead. When JuJu Smith-Schuster was able to take a simple crossing route 69 yards to the 10 yard line, it seemed as if the Patriots’ luck had simply run out. This belief was exemplified when Jesse James appeared to score the game-winning touchdown. Even though the Patriots were aided by the reversed call, they did not become complacent, as they had key stops on both second and third down. On second down, they were able to tackle Darrius Heyward-Bey inbounds, and their stop on third down was even more remarkable. After the Heyward-Bey catch, it appeared as if Big Ben would simply spike the ball to allow for either a last ditch effort at the end zone, or a field goal to tie the game. Instead, he did a fake spike, and tried to force a ball to Eli Rogers in the end zone, which was deflected by Eric Rowe, and intercepted by the Patriots’ closer, Duron Harmon. The Patriots were able to win yesterday, but need to work on stopping the run, and getting off the field on third down, as it will make it much easier for them to win games in the future.

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(Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Showdown in the Steel City!

Today’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably the most important game of the season for the Patriots, as the team that emerges victorious will likely secure home-field advantage in the AFC.  The Patriots need to bounce back from last week’s dud against the Miami Dolphins, as winning today will make their road to Super Bowl LII much easier.

Here are a few things to consider entering today’s game.

1. Tom Brady vs the Steelers’ defense

TB12 has had the Steelers’ number for the last 16 years, compiling a 10-2 record against them (including the playoffs). Brady has made a living carving up the Steelers’ preferred zone defense, and his mastery of Pittsburgh can be exemplified by last year’s AFC Championship, where he threw for over 340 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brady has been dreadful over the last 2 weeks, throwing only 1 touchdown, while throwing 3 interceptions. Maybe a familiar prey will be enough to get Brady out of his slump…

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(Photo from the AP)

2. Can the Patriots slow down the Killer B’s?

The Patriots’ defense faces a tall task today, as they will need to stop Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell to have any chance of leaving Heinz Field with a win. Brown has been lighting up opposing defenses recently, ensuring that his name remains in the MVP race. The Patriots’ secondary has come a long way since September, and should be encouraged by their last encounter with Brown in January, where they made him a non-factor. The Patriots will also have to do their best to stop Bell, who has been remarkable lately. Bell left January’s AFC Championship game early with an injury, and maintains that the Steelers would have won if he had stayed in the game. Today’s game will show if he was right.

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(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

3. Gronk’s return

Rob Gronkowski will be back in the lineup for the Patriots, after serving his one game suspension for a late hit during Week 13’s tilt against the Bills. Gronk’s absence was clearly felt during last week’s loss in Miami, as the Patriots’ offense lacked rhythm and explosive plays. Gronk has been a nightmare for the Steelers’ defense ever since he entered the NFL in 2010, recording 8 touchdowns in 5 career games against them. It would be foolish to assume that this trend will not continue.

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(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Associated Press)

PredictionPatriots  24, Steelers 20

Last week’s loss at Miami was likely a wakeup call for Bill Belichick and his staff, as it exposed several flaws in the Patriots. Knowing Belichick, it is obvious that he has done his best to assure that the Patriots have worked to minimize their errors. Gronk’s return should be the spark that revitalizes TB12, and allows the Patriots to carve up Pittsburgh’s defense. 

 

The slumbering Patriots falter in Miami

The Patriots were thoroughly outplayed by the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, losing their Week 14 contest 27-20. The loss snapped the Patriots’ 8 game winning streak, and their 14 game road game winning streak (which started in 2015). 

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. The Dolphins’ defense made Tom Brady look like a 40-year old quarterback

TB12 has been remarkable so far this season, making several analysts wonder if he was playing his best football at age 40. Brady’s age was evident during last night’s loss, as he was unable to get away from Miami pass rushers in the pocket, and was heavily inaccurate on several throws (two throws to Brandin Cooks resulted in his two interceptions). He was also evidently uncomfortable in the pocket. After yesterday’s game, Brady’s record in Miami stands at 7-9. Hopefully Brady will get things back on track before next week’s crucial matchup against the Steelers.

pats v dolphins tb wk14
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

2. The Patriots’ offense was absolutely dreadful

If you want an idea of how bad the Patriots played yesterday, just look at their performance in the first quarter, where they only recorded 2 yards of total offense. Miami was also able to neutralize the Patriots’ rushing attack, which had been gaining steam during the last few games, limiting the Pats to 10 carries for 25 yards. Rob Gronkowski’s absence was clearly felt, as the team was in a funk offensively. Danny Amendola was the only receiver who constantly got open, as he finished with 6 catches for 76 yards. In comparison, Brandin Cooks finished with 1 catch for 38 yards, while Chris Hogan had 1 catch for 1 yard. The Patriots offense also squandered several chances in the fourth quarter when they were down by 10 points. Scoring on at least one of those drives would have made their last-ditch effort at the end of the game much easier.

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(Photo by Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

3. The banged-up Patriots’ defense couldn’t make enough plays

The Patriots’ defense played without two of their key contributors in Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers, and their absence was clearly felt last night. The Patriots could not stop Kenyan Drake who scorched them for 114 yards on the ground and 79 yards through the air. They also had no answer for Jarvis Landry, who scored 2 touchdowns. This loss cannot be fully placed on the defense, as they did their best to stop Miami, but they were constantly let down by the offense who could not stay on the field. Yesterday’s game was definitely a setback, as the Pats hadn’t allowed more than 17 points in over 2 months, but knowing Bill Belichick and his staff, their defensive issues will be resolved soon. 

kenyan drake
(Photo by Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SPORTS)

 

To be honest, this loss couldn’t have come at a better time, as it will allow the Pats to correct their deficiencies in all phases, before they head to Pittsburgh for a matchup that will likely determine the road to Super Bowl LII.

Heading down to South Beach!

The Patriots hope to win their ninth straight game on Monday night, when they take on their rival, the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch their ninth straight AFC East title with a win on Monday night, or if the Buffalo Bills lose against the Colts today.

Here are a few things to look at entering tomorrow’s game.

1. Gronk’s absence

Rob Gronkowski will not be active against the Dolphins, as he is currently serving his one-game suspension due to his late hit on Bills’ cornerback Tre’Davious White during last week’s game. Gronk was dominant against the Dolphins in Week 12, hauling in 2 touchdowns to fuel the 18 point victory for the Pats. It will be interesting to see how Tom Brady & Co. change their game plan to account for the absence of #87. Look for Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and James White to step up in the passing game.

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(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Containing the Dolphins’ pass rush

The Patriots easily defeated the Dolphins in Week 12, but an alarming element of that game was the hits that TB12 absorbed from Miami defenders. The Patriots’ offensive line has drastically improved as the season has gone along, but they can’t continue to allow their 40-year-old quarterback to endure this kind of punishment on a week-to-week basis. It will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick opts to take out Brady in the latter stages of the game if victory is guaranteed.

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(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

3. Will the Patriots’ defense continue their dominance against the Dolphins’ offense?

The Patriots’ defense has been spectacular as of late, holding their opponents to less than 17 points during their eight game winning streak. They were able to hold Miami to 17 points in Week 12, and this was achieved by constantly getting after Matt Moore, and causing turnovers. However, Miami’s offense has changed quite a bit in the last 2 weeks. Miami easily beat the Denver Broncos 35-9, and were fueled by their newly-found rushing attack, led by Kenyan Drake. The Patriots have had trouble stopping the run recently, and will need to perform better to avoid an upset.

trey flowers vs miami
(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

 

Taking these factors into consideration, I expect the Patriots to pull out a win in Miami (which has proved to be difficult for them in recent years). This will definitely be closer than Week 12’s rout, as Miami has improved on offense. However, TB12 and Dion Lewis should make it hard for Miami to have any chance of winning.

PredictionPatriots 24, Dolphins 14

Heading up North!

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

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

1. Tom Brady’s dominance against the Bills

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

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

2. Gronk’s homecoming

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

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

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(Photo by Matt West/Boston Herald)

3. Containing the run game

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

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

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

PredictionPatriots 31, Bills 17

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

 

The Pats squish the fish!

The Patriots thoroughly dominated the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, winning their Week 12 contest 35-17. The Pats struck early on in the game, and were able to carry their momentum forward to secure a division win. This victory brings the Patriots to 9-2, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Don’t forget about Gronk!

Over the last few games, Gronk didn’t perform at his usual level of production. He was largely a non-factor during last week’s win over Oakland, where he totaled just around 30 yards. Gronk’s lack of explosive plays made many pundits wonder if #87 was truly vital for New England to be successful. Gronk silenced his doubters with an inspired performance against the hapless Dolphins, recording 5 catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Maybe Gronk was motivated to get some of TB12’s Thanksgiving biscuits…

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(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Defense!

As I’ve mentioned several times before, the Patriots’ defense has rebounded dramatically from the beginning of the season, which has helped lead the team to a seven game winning streak. The New England defense continued its dominant performance yesterday, helping to stifle the Dolphins’ offense. The Pats sacked Matt Moore seven times, and also forced 3 turnovers (2 interceptions and 1 fumble). They were also able to stop the run, limiting Miami to 67 yards off 19 carries. This is the type of performance the Patriots need to build off of, as they approach Week 15’s key matchup against Pittsburgh.

trey flowers vs miami
(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

3. The Pats need to cut down on their small mistakes

Although the Pats played a great game, they did have several key gaffes. In the second quarter, the Patriots had 2 turnovers. First, there was miscommunication on a snap, when the backup center Ted Karras snapped the ball early, leading to a fumble which Miami safety Reshad Jones returned for a touchdown. TB12 also had an interception, when he forced a ball to Danny Amendola, which resulted in Bobby McCain picking the pass off. These mistakes allowed Miami to remain in the game, and need to be cut down on for the Patriots to sustain their winning habits.

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(Photo by Steven Senne/AP)

Fins up!

Later today, the Patriots will take on their AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins. Interestingly enough, this game is only the second division game so far this year for the Pats. Tom Brady & Co. enter this game as 16-point favorites, as the Dolphins have faced a tough stretch recently.

Here are some things to look for during today’s game

1. This is the Patriots’ time to close out the division

At 8-2, the Pats currently have a 3 game lead in the AFC East. Today’s game starts an important 6 game stretch for the reigning champs, as 5 of their next 6 games come against division opponents. For sometime it appeared that the Buffalo Bills were legitimate contenders to dethrone the Pats, but several losses have them sitting at 5-5. Winning at least 3 or 4 of these games would give the Pats a great opportunity to win the division.

Brandin Cooks
(Photo by Winslow Townson/AP)

2. Can the Patriots take advantage of the ailing Dolphins?

4 straight losses has dropped Miami to 4-6, and their games have been plagued with problems on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins have been anemic on offense with Jay Cutler under center, but their backup Matt Moore hasn’t done much better. The Miami defense has also struggled recently, giving up an average of over 30 points over the last 4 games. On the flip side, both facets of the Patriots have been explosive, making this an easy matchup (on paper, of course).

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(Photo from Getty Images)

Taking all factors into consideration, I expect the Patriots to pull out a win against the Dolphins. Look for TB12 and the offense to pick on the lowly Miami defense.

Prediction: Patriots 35, Dolphins 14

¡Una victoria fácil!: The Patriots rout the Raiders in Mexico City

For the second straight week, the Patriots outclassed and outperformed their AFC West opponent. The Patriots routed the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, winning the game 33-8. New England showed the 100,000-plus fans at Estadio Azteca what the golden standard of the NFL looks like.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. Have yourself a day Brandin Cooks!

The Patriots traded for Brandin Cooks earlier this year, forfeiting a first round pick in exchange for the talented but disgruntled playmaker. Cooks has had flashes of brilliance earlier this year (for example, Week 3’s win against the Houston Texans), but at the same time he has been wildly inconsistent. It was clear at the beginning of the season that his chemistry with Tom Brady was a work in progress, as the two often weren’t on the same page. Cooks had a monstrous day against the hapless Oakland secondary, wracking up 6 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. An interesting fact to note is that Cooks continued his dominance over Oakland from last season, when he was a member of the New Orleans Saints. If Cooks can continue to be a reliable down-field threat for the Pats, it will make it very hard for opposing defenses.

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(Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

2. Stephen Gostowski was brilliant

Gostowski has been one of the most dependable kickers in the NFL for almost 10 years. However, this narrative changed in 2016, when Gostowski notably struggled kicking the football in several games (including Super Bowl LI). Gostowski has mostly rebounded so far this season, and was remarkable against Oakland. Gostowski went 4/4 yesterday, and his main highlight was a 62-yard field goal, which was the longest in franchise history.

AP MEXICO PATRIOTS RAIDERS FOOTBALL S FBN MEX
(Photo from USA Today Sports)

3. The Patriots’ defense continues to dominate

For the 6th straight week, the Patriots’ defense held their opponent under 17 points. The Pats’ secondary continues to play impassioned football, making it hard for the opposing quarterback to be successful. Oakland’s best pass catcher on the day was Michael Crabtree who corralled 5 catches for 51 yards. New England also forced 2 turnovers in the first half, which derailed successful drives for the Raiders. A key play for the Patriots was late in the second quarter, when Oakland was driving to cut their 14 point deficit. The Patriots forced a fumble inside the 5 yard line, giving TB12 and the offense possession with less than a minute left in the first half. The next Patriots drive resulted in Gostowski’s long field goal, giving the Patriots a 17-0 halftime lead. Although the Patriots defense performed remarkably (they didn’t give up any points until the fourth quarter), they need to work on stopping the run. Marshawn Lynch gashed them for 67 yards off 11 carries in the first half. Stopping the run needs to be a priority for the Pats, as they will face LeSean McCoy and Le’Veon Bell in the next few weeks.

New England Patriots v Oakland Raiders
 (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)