Poker-faced Patriots dismantle the Raiders!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

LV 3 7 0 10 20

NE

0 13 10 13 36

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

Here are some takeaways from this Week 3 contest.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Takeaways win games

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

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

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

(Adam Richin/Boston Sports Journal)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

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

Raiders

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

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

Can the new look Patriots exact revenge on Miami?

 

 

In the NFL, it’s common knowledge that you’re not entitled to anything. If you want to put your team in a good position to succeed in the playoffs, you need to show up when it matters. Unfortunately for the Patriots, they didn’t seem to get the memo last season, when they unexpectedly dropped their regular season finale to the Miami Dolphins at home. That loss prevented New England from securing a first round bye, and forced them to host Tennessee for a Wild Card game that ended up being Tom Brady’s last game as a Patriot.

A lot of things have changed since that matchup in December, from the pandemic, to the vast exodus of veterans from the Patriots roster during free agency. A win tomorrow won’t change the result from that Week 17 contest, but it would help set the tone for a wildly different season with Cam Newton under center.

With that being said, here’s what to look forward to during this Week 1 matchup.

1. What will the Patriots’ offense look like?

New England’s offensive struggles throughout the tumultuous 2019 season were well documented, as it quickly became evident that receivers other than Julian Edelman consistently struggled to get open against man coverage. Other than letting Phillip Dorsett walk & releasing Mohamed Sanu, Bill Belichick didn’t do much to overhaul the wide receiver corps, which means that the Patriots will be relying on Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers to carry the load. Personally, I’m excited to see what newcomer Damiere Byrd can bring to the table, as his pure speed could help open things up down the field. Due to the strength of Miami’s secondary, I’m pessimistic about the Patriots’ chances of winning one-on-one matchups against Dolphin defenders. However, the addition of rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene could help lighten the load for the team’s wide receivers, as they are definitely miles better than the team’s putrid tight end room from last season. Based on what we’ve heard from training camp, both Asiasi & Keene are dynamic, but the learning curve for rookie tight ends is typically steep, so it will definitely be a storyline to follow.

After a stellar rookie season, Sony Michel struggled mightily during the 2019 season, as he had a tough time getting started behind a patchwork offensive line. Luckily for Michel, starting center David Andrews is returning to action, after missing the entire 2019 season due to blood clots in his lungs. Andrews was a key anchor for the offensive line that dominated opponents during the Patriots’ last run to the Super Bowl. Michel had a leg injury that sidelined him for most of training camp, but when he returned, it was reported that he was quicker and more agile than the last time we saw him. As always, the Patriots will turn to the reliable duo of James White & Rex Burkhead to supplement Michel, with the two veterans also playing an important role in the passing game as well. The most intriguing member of the running back room has to be Damien Harris, who had a strong training camp until he suffered an untimely injury that will sideline him for at least 3 weeks.

I think it’s obvious that the biggest question mark surrounding the Patriots right now has to be the health & effectiveness of Cam Newton. Due to a lack of preseason games, we haven’t seen Newton in action for almost a year, which means that his running ability (which typically energizes an offense) is an unknown for now. Hence, we don’t know how comfortable Newton will be scrambling around the pocket and line of scrimmage tomorrow. Most importantly, it’s interesting to wonder if he’ll still initiate contact with defenders, which was a big part of his game back in Carolina. That being said, the mystery around Newton’s game could actually be a boon for Belichick and Josh McDaniels, as Miami’s head coach Brian Flores won’t know exactly what he’s dealing with. Most analysts have said that they expect McDaniels’ plan for Newton to be similar to Norv Turner’s short passing game from Newton’s stellar but injury plagued 2018 season, which actually seems to suit how the Patriots’ receivers play, as they’re definitely more effective across the middle of the field.

All in all, I’m excited to see how the post-Brady Patriots’ offense looks with a more mobile quarterback in Cam Newton, whose strengths may help cover the warts at wide receiver and other skill positions.

New England Patriots Practice
FOXBOROUGH, MA – AUGUST 26: QB Cam Newton, left, and Julian Edelman work out during a drill at the training camp. The New England Patriots hold practice training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

2. Can the defense deliver?

One of the biggest storylines of the offseason was the news that several Patriots veterans, including key leaders Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung had decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. The absence of these two important defensive contributors will undoubtedly cast a spotlight on younger players on the defense, and test Bill Belichick’s confidence in them.

It may be hard to take the Dolphins’ offense seriously with 37 year old journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but as the Patriots learned last year, he can hurt you when it matters most. Fitzpatrick’s top two weapons in Devante Parker & Mike Gesicki were key contributors during that December loss, and will likely be an important part of Miami’s game plan tomorrow. Uncharacteristically, Stephon Gilmore struggled mightily covering Parker, so I have to imagine that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is salivating at the opportunity to exact revenge by locking up Miami’s top receiver. Due to the loss of Patrick Chung, it’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots decide to match up against Gesicki, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their top pick Kyle Dugger is given the assignment due to the success he had during training camp. Having Devin McCourty in the back end will be as important as ever, due to his effectiveness as both a player and a leader. New England will also have to deal with Preston Williams & Jakeem Grant, but I’m confident that the rest of the secondary will be able to limit their effectiveness.

However, the team’s defensive line and linebacker corps are much more of an enigma. The defensive line struggled to stop the run throughout last season, with the Wild Card game being a clear example, as Derrick Henry accumulated 182 rushing yards for the Titans. Other than adding veteran DT Beau Allen, the Patriots mostly stayed pat at the position, which means that Lawrence Guy and a slew of younger players will be tasked with playing much better against the run this season. Tomorrow’s game will be a tall task, as Miami has one of the fastest running backs in the league in Matt Breida, and a bruising rusher in Jordan Howard.

Dont’a Hightower’s decision to opt out dealt a devastating blow to the team’s linebacker corps, as he was a steadying force in the middle of the field. Luckily, the Patriots went into April’s draft with the goal of improving at linebacker, due to the departures of Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, & Kyle Van Noy (the latter two players signed with Miami). This led to the team drafting Alabama LB Anfernee Jennings & Michigan LB Josh Uche, who should help add versatility to the position behind three-year veteran Ja’Whaun Bentley. New England will also rely on Chase Winovich and John Simon to set the edge, and get after Fitzpatrick.

The Patriots had one of the NFL’s best defenses last year, so it will be intriguing to see how the retooled lineup looks tomorrow against a Dolphins offense that gave them fits last season.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 08: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots runs the ball after recovering a fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Gilmore was ruled down after recovering the fumble. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Yodny Cajuste (knee) – Out
  • Gunner Olszewski (foot) – Out
  • Dalton Keene (neck) – Questionable
  • Cassh Maluia (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Chase Winovich (shoulder) – Questionable

Dolphins

  • Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral) – Doubtful

Bonus:

1. New uniforms!

Tomorrow’s game will mark the debut of the Patriots’ new uniforms, which are primarily based on the team’s popular Color Rush uniforms which were worn from 2016 to 2019. Interestingly, this will be the first time the team wears the combination in a non-prime time game.

Dev new unis 2020
(Photo via the New England Patriots)

 

2. Fans in the stands?

Due to COVID-19, the Patriots will not have fans in Gillette Stadium throughout September. New England has been provided with a recorded track of artificial crowd noise which will be filtered throughout the stadium.

 

Prediction: Patriots 23, Dolphins 14

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 1 slate (apart from Thursday’s opening game).

Jets at Bills: Bills

Packers at Vikings: Vikings

Eagles at Washington: Eagles

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Raiders at Panthers: Raiders

Bears at Lions: Bears

Seahawks at Falcons: Seahawks

Chargers at Bengals: Chargers

Cardinals at 49ers: 49ers

Buccaneers at Saints: Saints

Cowboys at Rams: Cowboys

Steelers at Giants: Steelers

Titans at Broncos: Titans

A dominant first quarter propels the Pats past the Browns!

TEAM 1 2 3 4 T
CLE 0 7 7 3 13
NE 17 0 7 3 27

Throughout the season, the Patriots have unquestionably been led by their defense, who have been able to stifle opponents and force them into making costly mistakes. Yesterday’s game against the Cleveland Browns (2-5) was no different, as a dominant start by the Pats’ defense gave the team a lead they would not relinquish, en route to a 27-13 win in sloppy conditions. This victory improved New England to 8-0 on the season, and gives them a 2.5 game cushion in the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The Pats’ defense came to play

As I mentioned in the preview for this game, the utter dominance of Bill Belichick’s defense has been questioned by many due to the supposed weakness of their opponents. This media narrative unfortunately took a hit yesterday, as the Pats were able to rattle Baker Mayfield, and neutralize Odell Beckham Jr (due to an incredible performance by Stephon Gilmore). Even though Nick Chubb was able to gash the Patriots for over 131 yards on the ground, the defense was able to force two crucial turnovers that halted any chance of Cleveland gaining momentum. The first turnover took place deep in Cleveland’s territory, when the ball was kicked out of Chubb’s hands by an offensive linemen and returned for a touchdown by Dont’a Hightower. The second turnover occurred when Chubb outmaneuvered most of the Pats’ defense and appeared to be on his way to end zone, when Jonathan Jones caught up to him and punched the ball out of his hands, forcing a fumble that was ultimately recovered by Devin McCourty. Mayfield also threw an interception, which occurred when Lawrence Guy broke through the line of scrimmage and caught a shovel pass that appeared to be intended for Jarvis Landry. Guy’s interception has to be one of the most bizarre plays of the year, and was also the first interception of his career.

https://twitter.com/FTBVids1/status/1188562515325669377

Ironically, these three turnovers happened on consecutive plays in the first quarter, which helped give the Pats a 17-0 lead.

Even though the Pats did emerge victorious, they need to work on their rushing defense, as Cleveland’s offensive line was able to effectively clear paths for Chubb to run through. If New England wants to make a deep run this year, they will need to shore up the line of scrimmage to prevent opponents from running through them, which could wear them down, and keep Tom Brady & the offense off the field for long periods of time.

nick chubb fumble w819
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Another inconsistent performance by the offense

Through 8 weeks of the season, the story for the Patriots’ offense has been upheaval and inconsistency, and yesterday’s game was more of the same. The offensive line once again struggled to protect Tom Brady effectively, which can be linked to injuries at center, left tackle, and right guard. Brady was efficient when he needed to be, but he did appear to be jittery at times, which is understandable due to the pass rushers on the Browns’ defense. Yet again, Julian Edelman (8 catches for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns) and James White (4 catches for 75 yards) were Brady’s top targets, and came through when he needed them. Edelman was the only Pats’ receiver who appeared to consistently get separation, as evidenced by his two touchdowns in the red zone. White gained most of his yardage on a 59 yard screen pass that came on a crucial third down when Cleveland had cut the lead to 7 points. White’s long catch-and-run got the Pats into the red zone and set up Edelman’s second touchdown. In his debut for the Pats, Mohamed Sanu had 2 receptions for 23 yards, which is not surprising as he has only been with the team for 5 days.

Sony Michel had an efficient day of rushing, as he totaled 74 yards off of 21 carries. Michel was able to find holes to run through, and ran hard for first downs when necessary. Michel’s performance drew criticism from prominent ‘analyst’ Skip Bayless, a frequent critic of Bill Belichick, who opined that the Pats probably regretted picking Michel after seeing what his former teammate Nick Chubb did on the same day.

I really like Sony Michel. I love his former Georgia teammate Nick Chubb, who went 35th overall to Michel’s 31st overall. It’s looking like Belichick made a mistake.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 27, 2019

People like Bayless are nothing more than talking heads who try to gain attention by saying controversial things, but all I have to say to him is that without Michel’s performance in the 2019 playoffs, there is no chance that the Pats win Super Bowl LIII.

I believe that the Pats’ offense will be fine over the next few weeks, as they’ll receive reinforcements with the return of Shaq Mason, N’Keal Harry, and Isaiah Wynn. According to NFL insiders, the front office is still looking to add playmakers, so there is always a chance that Belichick finds another offensive weapon before the trade deadline.

jules v browns w819
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

 

Bonus:

1. Belichick gets to 300 wins

With the victory over Cleveland, Bill Belichick earned his 300th win as a head coach in the NFL. Ironically, he earned his first win when he brought his Browns to play the Pats in Foxborough back in 1991.

Here is a video of team owner Robert Kraft presenting Belichick with the game ball.

2. Color Rush strikes again!

Yesterday’s win also marked the Pats’ sixth win in their Color Rush uniforms, bringing their record to 6-0 in their mono-navy alternates. The Pats will break out this combo one more time this season when they face off against the Chiefs in Week 14.

3. Odell gives TB a gift

Leading up to the game, Odell Beckham Jr. promised to give Tom Brady a pair of Nike cleats made of goat hair, due to #12’s status as the GOAT. Beckham lived up to his word, as he presented Brady with the cleats after the game, which was a gesture that New England’s QB appreciated.

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/36 for 259 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 74 yards
  • Receiving: 8 receptions for 78 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins Sr. – 13 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

Browns

  • Passing: Baker Mayfield – 20/31 for 194 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Nick Chubb – 20 carries for 131 yards
  • Receiving: Jarvis Landry – 5 receptions for 65 yards
  • Defensive: Joe Schobert – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Baltimore to take on the Ravens (5-2) and their dynamic young quarterback Lamar Jackson on Sunday Night Football.

All aboard the hype train!: Will the Pats derail Cleveland’s season?

Over the last few seasons, the most talked teams in the AFC have generally been the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. The topic of conversation shifted entering this season, due to the aggressive moves made by the Cleveland Browns (2-4) to improve their roster. Cleveland added mercurial wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. along with other stars such as Kareem Hunt, Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson to complement their young core of Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett, and Nick Chubb. Cleveland has fell short of their title expectations thus far, but their talent alone should make the Patriots worried about their matchup this Sunday.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 8 contest.

1. Can Belichick’s defense outwit Freddie Kitchen’s offense?

Despite what Bill Belichick’s defense has achieved over the past seven weeks, there are still pundits who choose to dismiss their greatness due to the perceived weakness of their opponents thus far. Hence, playing the Browns’ talented offense should provide the Pats’ defense with a chance to silence their doubters. Following a dominant second half to his rookie season, Baker Mayfield has struggled to begin this season, as he leads the NFL in interceptions through seven weeks. The Pats will need to focus in on Mayfield’s top two weapons, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who have the potential to wreck the game if given an opportunity. It will be interesting to see how Belichick opts to match up against Beckham and Landry, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the Patriots double-teaming Beckham with a cornerback and safety, while matching Stephon Gilmore against Landry.

Facing Nick Chubb might be worrisome for the Pats’ defense, as they have been ever so slightly pervious against the run this season, with Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell achieving success against them. Chubb has effective during Cleveland’s wins (such as their win in Baltimore a few weeks ago), and would help Freddie Kitchens take pressure off of Mayfield. The Pats’ defensive line and ‘Boogeymen’ linebacking corps will need to neutralize Chubb if they want to be successful.

I believe that the key to victory will be getting after Mayfield with an effective pass rush, which could force him to turn the ball over. Just this past week, the Pats intimidated a young quarterback in Sam Darnold with their pass rush and coverage, which caused him to “see ghosts” on the field. At the same time, limiting Cleveland’s weapons will put the Pats in a great position to remain undefeated.

jamie collins v browns w9p.jpg
(Ron Schwane/AP)

2. Can Brady overcome Garrett and the Browns’ defense?

On paper, Cleveland’s defense promises to be the most talented unit the Pats have played since struggling against Buffalo in Week 4. The Pats’ offensive line will have their hands full against Myles Garrett who is tied for the league lead with 9 sacks. Brady’s performance has dipped when faced with consistent pressure, which could play into Cleveland’s hands if the offensive line cannot protect #12.

The Pats’ receiving corps underwent some upheaval this week with the addition of Mohamed Sanu, and the subsequent designation of Josh Gordon to the injured reserve (with the expectation that he will be waived as soon as he’s healthy). If Sanu does play, he should be a good addition to the normal lineup of Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, with Jakobi Meyers also serving as a complementary piece. The Pats will face a good pair of cornerbacks in Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who haven’t been healthy at the same time since Week 3.

I think that it would be smart for Josh McDaniels to target Cleveland’s porous rushing defense which is amongst the NFL’s worst. If Sony Michel can get going, the Pats should be able to milk the clock and limit the number of possessions for the Browns’ offense.

Jules v browns w8p19.jpg
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Bonus: Color Rush!

The Pats will be suiting up in their popular Color Rush alternates for the second time this season when they take on Cleveland on Sunday. Hopefully they will be able to improve to 6-0 all-time while wearing these uniforms.

tb cr w619
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Out
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Shaq Mason (ankle) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable’

Browns

  • Damarious Randall (hamstring) – Out
  • Kendall Lamm (knee) – Questionable
  • Sheldrick Redwine (not listed) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 33, Browns 17

Here are my predictions for the NFL’s other Week 8 games (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 8-5

Seahawks at Falcons: Seahawks

Chargers at Bears: Bears

Giants at Lions: Lions

Jets at Jaguars: Jaguars

Bengals vs Rams: Rams

Buccaneers at Titans: Titans

Eagles at Bills: Eagles

Broncos at Colts: Colts

Cardinals at Saints: Saints

Panthers at 49ers: Panthers

Raiders at Texans: Texans

Packers at Chiefs: Packers

Dolphins at Steelers: Steelers

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

The Patriots overcome a sluggish start to crush the Redskins!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

WAS 7 0 0 0 7

NE

6 6 14 7 33

Early on in today’s game against the Washington Redskins (0-5), the Patriots found themselves behind 7-0, which was the first time they trailed in a game so far this season. The Pats responded by scoring 33 unanswered points, en route to a 33-7 victory which improved them to 5-0 on the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 5 victory.

1. The defense continues to dominate!

On Washington’s second drive, Steven Sims outran most of the Patriots’ defense on his way to a 65-yard touchdown which gave the Redskins their only lead of the game. Following that play, the Patriots were able to completely neutralize Washington’s offense, as they held Colt McCoy to 119 passing yards, and forced 2 turnovers (1 interception and 1 fumble). Other than Sims’ big run, the Redskins were held to 80 rushing yards, with Wendell Smallwood accounting for the brunt of it. The Pats were able to make McCoy uncomfortable all game long, as they sacked him 6 times, and also accumulated 8 QB hits.

Although the Redskins were definitely an inferior opponent, the dominance of the Patriots’ defense cannot be questioned, as they once again held an opponent to single digits, and gave up only 220 total yards of offense.

pats secondary v redskins w519.jpg
(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

2. Great rebound by the offense!

The Patriots’ offense was sluggish in the first half, as they were held to 9 points, with several of their drives ending with punts due to the inability of the offensive line to protect Tom Brady, who was sacked 4 times and hit an additional 9 times. As the second half started, Brady and the offense were able to dissect Washington’s defense with ease, and he ultimately finished with 348 passing yards, to go along with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Julian Edelman (8 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown) and Josh Gordon (5 receptions for 59 yards) were Brady’s top targets throughout today’s game. Unfortunately, the Pats lost Phillip Dorsett to a hamstring injury, which makes it interesting to see if Bill Belichick and the front office will consider adding another receiver to an increasingly thinning receiving corps.

Even though Brady and the passing game were remarkable, the most encouraging aspect of today’s victory was Sony Michel finally having his breakout game. Michel finished with 16 carries for 91 rushing yards and a touchdown, and was helped out by rookie fullback Jakob Johnson, who was able to effectively clear lanes for him. Michel had been struggling prior to today’s game, so any sort of success should hopefully give him confidence as the season moves along.

Even though the Redskins’ defense didn’t challenge the Patriots down the stretch, it was impressive to see the Pats overcome their anemic start and finally meet their potential on offense after two uneven performances.

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(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 28/42 for 348 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 16 carries for 91 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 110 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Dont’a Hightower – 8 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

Redskins

  • Passing: Colt McCoy – 18/27 for 119 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Steven Sims – 1 carry for 65 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Terry McLaurin – 3 receptions for 51 yards
  • Defensive: Cole Holcomb – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats have a short week as they welcome Daniel Jones and the New York Giants (2-3) to Foxborough for a matchup on Thursday Night Football.

Heading up North!: Will the Pats knock off the undefeated Bills?

It’s not too often that the Patriots are tied with another team in the AFC East after three weeks of action, which is why tomorrow’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills (3-0) is extremely intriguing, as the victorious team will take first place in the division. The Pats haven’t lost in Buffalo since the 2011 season, which ironically also occurred in Week 4, with both teams being undefeated at the time.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 4 contest.

1. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has changed dramatically over the last few weeks, due to the addition and subsequent release of Antonio Brown, and the injuries sustained by offensive linemen Marcus Cannon & Isaiah Wynn, and fullback James Develin. In addition, Week 3’s game against the Jets tested the limits and versatility of the Pats’ receiving corps, with Julian Edelman getting knocked out of the game with a chest injury. Luckily for the Pats, Edelman was able to make the trip to Buffalo, and is expected to play. As this is only Week 4, having Edelman sit out wouldn’t be the worst idea, as another injury could jeopardize the team’s chances of contending down the line. If Edelman does play, I’d still expect the Pats to be cautious with his number of snaps, which would likely expand the importance of Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett in the offense.

Another important focus for the Pats should be ensuring the success of Sony Michel and the ground game. Michel hasn’t had the greatest start to the season, and the absence of Develin wasn’t exactly helpful for him against the Jets. If the Pats are able to sustain their running game, they can take pressure off of Tom Brady, and keep the Bills off balance with a well-balanced offensive attack.

The Bills’ defense has been stingy thus far, which means the Patriots will need to have a great offensive performance to emerge victorious tomorrow.

jules v bills w4p19.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

2. Can the defense contain Josh Allen?

Josh Allen is one of the most perplexing quarterbacks in the NFL, as he has flashed brilliance with his ability to throw and run, while also displaying a great deal of recklessness with the football. Looking at Allen’s highlights so far, it’s fair to say that one of his greatest assets is his ability to run the ball, as it forces opposing defenses to keep an eye on him at all times. I believe that the Patriots’ key to victory will be bottling up the Bills’ running game, and putting the ball in Josh Allen’s hands. Allen has struggled with accuracy down the field, which plays right into the Pats’ hands, due to their excellent secondary. In addition, forcing Allen to throw a lot would enable Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to dial up the pass rush on the young quarterback. If Allen becomes rattled, he may throw some ill-advised throws, which could lead to takeaways for the defense.

Getting after Josh Allen would go a long way in ensuring another successful outing for the Patriots’ defense.

josh allen v pats d w4p.jpg
(Photo via the Democrat & Chronicle)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Michael Bennett (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (groin) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Marshall Newhouse (illness) – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Bills

  • Tyler Kraft (ankle) – Out
  • Corey Thompson (ankle) – Out
  • Maurice Alexander (knee) – Questionable
  • Jon Feliciano (neck) – Questionable
  • Robert Foster (groin) – Questionable
  • Taron Johnson (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Spencer Long (ankle) – Questionable
  • Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) – Questionable
  • Devin Singletary (hamstring) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 4 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 10-5

Redskins at Giants: Giants

Chiefs at Lions: Chiefs

Titans at Falcons: Falcons

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Raiders at Colts: Colts

Panthers at Texans: Texans

Chargers at Dolphins: Chargers

Buccaneers at Rams: Rams

Seahawks at Cardinals: Seahawks

Vikings at Bears: Bears

Jaguars at Broncos: Jaguars

Cowboys at Saints: Cowboys

Bengals at Steelers: Steelers

Miraculous Patriots dominate in Miami!

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Unlike last season’s matchup in Miami, today’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins (0-2) didn’t come down to the last play, as the Patriots cruised to a 43-0 victory, improving them to 2-0 on the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 2 contest.

1. Brady and the offense were efficient

The Patriots’ offense had another good performance today, as they had a well balanced attack which constantly caused problems for Miami. Tom Brady threw for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns, as he completed 20 passes to 7 different receivers. Today also marked the debut of Antonio Brown as a Patriot, and he made an impact from the get-go, as he caught 3 passes on the game’s opening drive. Brown ultimately finished with 4 receptions for 56 yards and 1 touchdown. Brown’s superior route-running was in full display, but it is obvious that he and Brady still need to work on their timing, due to a few instances of miscommunication between the duo. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 51 yards), Phillip Dorsett (3 catches for 39 yards), and Josh Gordon (2 catches for 19 yards) has relatively quiet performances, but came through when Brady needed them. Sony Michel (21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown) and Rex Burkhead (5 carries for 21 yards) combined to form an effective rushing duo, and Brady even added a rushing touchdown with his traditional quarterback sneak.

If the Pats continue to play like this on offense, they will put themselves in a great position to win more contests.

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(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

2. The Patriots’ defense was simply remarkable!

For the third straight game (including Super Bowl LIII), the Patriots’ defense did not give up a touchdown, as they absolutely smothered Miami’s offense. The Pats pitched their first shutout since Week 3 of the 2016 season, and were able to limit the Dolphins to 184 total yards. Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins led the way for the defense’s dominant performance, as both of them made life difficult for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Gilmore forced an interception in the third quarter, when he tipped a ball into Devin McCourty’s hands, and also had a 54 yard pick-six in the fourth quarter when he read Fitzpatrick’s eyes on a 3rd & 2 play. Collins had his own pick-six on the following Miami possession when he snagged a ball juggled by Dolphins HB Kalen Ballage with one hand en route to a 69 yard touchdown. He also picked off Rosen on the game’s final play, hence securing the shutout. The Pats hit Miami’s quarterbacks 12 times and also had 7 sacks. Kenyan Drake haunted the Patriots last year with his speed during the Miami Miracle, but he was rendered non-existent today, finishing with under 50 total yards from scrimmage.

The Patriots’ defense has proven to be the team’s superior unit over the last two weeks, and will definitely solidify themselves as one of the NFL’s best units if they continue to play like this.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Stephen Gostkowski had a dreadful performance

Stephen Gostkowski has typically been reliable for the Patriots over the years, but he was dreadful today, with 1 missed field goal and 2 missed extra points. Ironically, he missed kicks on the same day as other prominent kickers such as Adam Vinatieri, Dan Bailey, and Matt Prater.

Gostkowski’s job is clearly not in jeopardy, but he will need to turn it around for the Patriots to succeed as the season progresses. 

gostkowski w2.jpg
(Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

 

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/28 for 264 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Antonio Brown – 4 receptions for 56 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins – 5 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 touchdown

Dolphins

  • Passing: Josh Rosen: 7/18 for 97 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Kenyan Drake – 6 carries for 19 yards
  • Receiving: Preston Williams – 4 receptions for 63 yards
  • Defensive: Jerome Baker – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will host their hated rival, the New York Jets (0-1), who will be missing their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his mononucleosis diagnois. It will be interesting to see if Antonio Brown will be on the Pats’ roster next week, as the NFL will be meeting with the woman who accused him of sexual assault in the coming days, and Roger Goodell has reportedly not ruled out putting Brown on the league’s exempt list if necessary.

Super Pats stifle the Rams to win their sixth title!

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I’m not sure that most fans or casual viewers were expecting a defensive slugfest when they tuned into Super Bowl LIII, but that ‘s what we got yesterday, as the Patriots prevailed 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams (15-4) to win the Super Bowl for the sixth time in the last seventeen years. Although points were at a premium in this game, Julian Edelman capped off his impressive postseason with a performance that earned him the Super Bowl MVP Award.

Here are some takeaways from Super Bowl LIII.

1. Defense wins championships!

As most Patriots fans lament, the New England defense was the weak link the last time the team was in the Super Bowl, as they didn’t have an answer for Nick Foles or the Philadelphia Eagles who dropped 41 points on them. Following that dreadful performance, not much was expected of the defense, with most people overlooking them throughout the season and also leading up to this game, as pundits felt that the Rams had the edge against Bill Belichick’s defensive unit. That was not the case last night, as the raw physicality and ferociousness of the Pats’ defense sent the high-flying Rams crashing down to earth. Whenever Tom Brady and the offense struggled to finish off drives, the defense had their back, as they didn’t allow Jared Goff and the Rams to gain any sort of momentum.

Belichick and Brian Flores ensured that Goff would never be comfortable, as they consistently sent pressure after him which caused the young signal caller to either rush throws or absorb vicious hits. In total, the Pats sacked Goff 4 times and hit him an additional 12 times, with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy playing a huge part. The Rams were one of the NFL’s best offenses due to a steady balance between their rushing and passing attacks which allowed them to either stretch the field with play action or punish their opponent with the speed and power of Todd Gurley. Neither facet of their identity was in play yesterday, as Gurley only got 11 touches, and Goff was forced to drop-back more times than he was accustomed to. This resulted in the Rams being shut out in the first half for the first time under Sean McVay.

In the second half, the Rams had a chance to take the lead, as Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone due to a busted coverage, but a second’s hesitation by Goff resulted in a wobbly ball that allowed Jason McCourty to cover 10 yards and dislodge the ball from Cooks’ hands. Later on in the fourth quarter, with the score at 10-3 in favor of the Patriots, the Rams were driving to tie the game, and Goff lofted a perfect pass to Cooks that was knocked out by Duron Harmon to save a touchdown. On the very next play, Harmon came on a safety blitz that caused Goff to panic and float a ball in the vicinity of Cooks that was picked off by Stephon Gilmore to all but seal the victory.

The game plan constructed by Belichick and Flores was absolutely remarkable, as it befuddled the normally impervious McVay, and knocked the Rams out of rhythm. As the Pats proved last night, defense wins championships.

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(Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

2. The offense was clutch when it mattered

As the final score indicates, the Patriots’ offense left a bunch of points on the field, as Wade Phillips’ defensive unit were able to consistently make stops in order to ensure that the Rams were in contention throughout the night. Tom Brady had a nightmarish start to his night, as his first pass was intercepted (due to a bad read on his part), which wiped out a promising opening drive that appeared to be destined for points. Julian Edelman (10 catches for 141 yards) was a consistent mismatch for the Patriots, as the Rams could not cover him regardless of who was on him, with Nickell Roby-Coleman and Aqib Talib being burnt on several occasions. Edelman was Brady’s security blanket throughout the night, and was especially clutch on third down.

In the fourth quarter, the Pats got the ball back with just under 10 minutes left, and Tom Brady relied on his old friends, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, on a 5 play, 69 yard drive that helped the Patriots drive down the field. Gronk turned back the clock on this drive, as he first beat Samson Ebukam on a 18-yard catch and run, and he set up the Pats deep in the red zone with a diving 29-yard catch. On the very next play, Sony Michel pounded the ball in for the game’s only touchdown to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead that they would never relinquish.

I also feel that the penultimate possession by the Patriots was equally impressive, as they were able to use Gilmore’s interception to milk the clock. They rushed the ball from their own 4-yard line all the way to the Rams’ 24-yard line, with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead leading the way to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 41-yard field goal to make it a two possession game.

One of the headlines leading into this game was the matchup between the Rams defensive line and the Pats offensive line, who were amongst the NFL’s best at their respective positions. I think it’s fair to say that the Patriots’ offensive line performed much better than people expected, as the Rams only sacked Brady once (the first and only time he was sacked during the postseason) and hit him 4 times. The duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh were limited to 2 combined QB hits.

Brady did look erratic at times and he was hardly his best self, but it is hard to deny that #12 and the rest of the offense were absolutely clutch when it counted.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Special teams was remarkable!

Apart from Stephen Gostkowski’s missed field goal in the first quarter, the Pats’ special teams unit had an unblemished performance, with Ryan Allen constantly booting impressive punts that resulted in the Rams being pinned deep in their own territory. Matthew Slater also played a big role, as he was responsible for downing Allen’s punts and stopping punt returns before they could become deadly.

Gostkowski made up for his early miss with a late field goal that made it all but impossible for the Rams to mount a comeback.

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(Matt Rourke/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 21/35 for 262 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 18 carries for 94 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 10 catches for 141 yards
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 8 tackles (including 1 sack)

Rams

  • Passing: Jared Goff – 19/38 for 229 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Todd Gurley II – 10 carries for 35 yards
  • Receiving: Brandin Cooks – 8 catches for 120 yards
  • Defensive: Cory Littleton – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots enter the offseason as champions, but will need to quickly turn their attention to the draft and free agency, as they may end up losing key contributors to either free agency or retirement. It will be interesting to see how this team looks during the 2019-20 season.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Pats may end up hosting the Chiefs, Steelers, Cowboys, or Browns for their season opener.

Bonus: Check out this sweet Disney World promo featuring Brady and Edelman!

 

 

Duel at the ATL: Who will win Super Bowl LIII?

The Patriots have their second opportunity to seize their sixth championship this Sunday when they take on the formidable Los Angeles Rams (15-3) in Super Bowl LIII. Everything the Pats have worked for this season, from overcoming injuries and suspensions, to silencing their doubters, has led to this moment. The Pats will undoubtedly face one of their toughest tasks of the season, as the Rams are a team that can dominate on either side of the ball.

Here are some things to consider entering the Super Bowl.

1. Will the offense continue to dominate the time of possession?

One of the key strategies the Pats have employed this postseason is to control the time of possession in the game by consistently and strategically running the ball with Sony Michel, who has been remarkable this postseason. This tactic was heavily efficient against both the Chargers and the Chiefs, as it wore down their defenses, and limited the number of drives for their explosive offenses, hence enabling the Pats to dictate the pace of the game. With regards to the Rams defense, they were extremely porous against the run in the regular season with teams like the Seahawks running the ball down their throats. However, they have stiffened up in the postseason, with their most efficient performance in the Divisional Round where they held Ezekiel Elliot to under 50 rushing yards. 

Running the ball effectively with Sony Michel will be key for the Patriots if they want to have a chance of winning the game.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Can the Pats limit Donald to give Brady a chance?

All 3 of the Patriots’ Super Bowl losses with Tom Brady have featured effective pass rush down the interior, with the Giants consistently getting after Brady with their 4-man rush, and the Eagles sealing their victory with a strip sack in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Pats, they’ll be facing the NFL’s best pass rusher in Aaron Donald, who has 20.5 sacks on the season, and can change the course of a game with his unmatched prowess as a pass-rushing defensive lineman. The Pats will also have to contend with Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. who were instrumental in the Rams making the Super Bowl. So far this postseason, the Pats have absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage and protected Tom Brady who has only been hit 1 time and still has not been sacked. The offensive line led by David Andrews and Trent Brown will need to figure out how they decide to block Donald, who will likely draw multiple blockers, which would challenge the other Ram defenders to win their one-on-one matchups on the line of scrimmage. 

Giving Tom Brady enough time in the pocket will be essential for the Patriots to emerge victorious.

  (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
3. Can Brady and his weapons dice up the Rams?  

The Patriots offense has been on a tear this postseason, scoring 41 against the Chargers and 37 against the Chiefs, in contests that could be described as offensive clinics. Apart from 2 interceptions against the Chiefs, Tom Brady has been at his best during the playoffs, as he has made the most of the clean pockets provided to him by the offensive line in order to dissect the opposing defense. Brady has been historically successful against zone defenses, as he is adept enough to find the soft spots in the defense, and deliver strikes to his receivers. As I mentioned earlier, this week could prove to be a tiny bit more difficult for Brady due to the daunting test of going up against Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and the rest of the Rams’ pass rushers, who are the best interior pass rushing defense in the league. Throughout this season, Brady has struggled against interior pass rushers, who have been able to rattle him. To counteract the threat of Donald and Suh, Brady will need to get rid of the ball in under 2 to 3 seconds.

Brady will need his playmakers, such as Julian Edelman, James White, and Rob Gronkowski to be at their absolute best on Sunday, as winning their individual matchups quickly would allow Brady to get rid of the ball quickly without being overly worried about about the threat of Donald. I think that White and Rex Burkhead will be extremely vital for the passing game, because they will likely be covered by the Rams linebackers who struggled to cover Alvin Kamara in the NFC Championship Game. Using screen plays would likely challenge the Rams to counter the Patriots’ speed at running back and receiver, with effective tackling.

If the Pats want to have a chance of succeeding, they will need to have big games from their receivers and running backs in the passing game.

(Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
 
4. Can Belichick & Flores out-scheme McVay?

Ever since Sean McVay became the head coach of the Rams in 2017, the Rams have consistently been one of the NFL’s best offense, featuring innovative play-calling that challenges defenses to be disciplined and not be fooled by the flow of the offense. Under the tutelage of McVay, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have flourished, with the duo being amongst the NFL’s best at their respective positions.

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores will have their work cut out for them, as out-scheming Sean McVay is easier said than done. Various analysts have said that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Belichick dust off some of his own game plans from games such as Super Bowl XXV and Super Bowl XXXVI. In Super Bowl XXV, Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the Giants against the Bills, during which he crafted a game plan that utterly negated the devastating passing game of the Bills, while allowing Thurman Thomas to run rampant. In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick and the Pats faced off against the then-St. Louis Rams, where his defense neutralized the explosiveness of the Greatest Show on Turf, with a focus on physicality, which was not something the Rams were accustomed to.

I think that Belichick will try to use a combination of both schemes, with a primary focus on the plan from Super Bowl XXXVI, because the current Rams bear a pretty significant resemblance to the 2001 Rams, with an explosive running back, and a duo of deadly receivers who can burn defenses with their speed, alongside a young but poised quarterback. With regards to the plan from Super Bowl XXV, shutting down the passing game sounds like a good idea, but having Todd Gurley running at full speed doesn’t sound very comforting.

I think that Belichick and Flores will repeat their game plan from last week against the Chiefs, with Stephon Gilmore drawing the assignment of covering Robert Woods, and J.C. Jackson and Devin McCourty doubling ex-Patriot Brandin Cooks. This would likely result in man-to-man coverage on other Rams receivers/tight ends such as Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. One of my major concerns in the passing game will be containing Todd Gurley on screens, because he has the potential to score on almost any play. Another major part of the game plan in the Chiefs game was to constantly put pressure on Patrick Mahomes, who was rattled for most of the first half. In comparison to Mahomes, Jared Goff is not as mobile, which could make it easier to bring him down. A key component to Goff’s success this season has been the high usage of play-action passes, which have enabled him to get out of the pocket and find open receivers down the field. Shutting down this part of the Rams’ offense would make life very hard for Goff.

The Rams have had one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks in recent weeks, with CJ Anderson serving as an excellent complementary piece alongside Gurley. An example of their dominance could be from their victory over Dallas where each of them rushed for over 100 yards. Gurley’s health has been under question ever since his limited involvement in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots were effective in shutting down the Chargers’ dynamic running backs in the Divisional Round, but stopping a healthy Todd Gurley is something else altogether.

It will be interesting to see how the chess match between Belichick and McVay plays out.

(Photo via CBS Sports)


Injury Report:

  • Patriots: No players listed
  • Rams: No players listed

 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Rams 28

Here are some of my other predictions for the Super Bowl

  • X-factor on offense: James Develin
  • X-factor on defense: Trey Flowers
  • MVP: James White