The Pats flatten Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

PIT 0 0 3 0 3

NE

7 13 10 3 33

The Patriots once again showed that they are still amongst the NFL’s elite with a 33-3 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pats were dominant on both sides of the ball, and also thoroughly out-coached the Steelers.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Gordon and Dorsett lead the way for the offense!

Entering this season, wide receiver was one of the major question marks for the Patriots, but last night dispelled those doubts, due to the brilliant performances of Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman. Gordon’s first catch of the season was a awe-inspiring 20-yard touchdown, where he broke through multiple tackles en route to the end zone. Gordon followed that up with an amazing 44-yard reception down the field where he absorbed a brutal hit while corralling the ball. Phillip Dorsett finished the night with 2 touchdowns, including a 58-yard score, where he was completely wide open down the field. Julian Edelman was his usual reliable self, as he consistently got open to serve as Tom Brady’s safety blanket. Edelman also helped provide a spark with his arm, when he perfectly executed a double pass to James White.

The Patriots have demonstrated over the years that they have no issue changing their offensive identity, and last night was no different. New England primarily depended on their passing attack, as the team’s stable of running backs combined for only 99 yards.

josh gordon w1.jpg
(Photo via SI)

2. Tom Brady was effective as per usual

Tom Brady started off the game erratic, with several misthrows that derailed the Patriots’ first drive. Following Edelman’s double throw, Brady got back into routine, as he proceeded to dissect the Steelers defense for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. A major factor for Brady’s brilliant performance was the offensive line, who only gave up one sack despite the season-long absence of center David Andrews and the injury of OT Marcus Cannon. Most importantly, LT Isaiah Wynn was spectacular at covering Brady’s blindside in his professional debut.

tom brady w1.jpg
(Photo via SI)

3. The defense absolutely suffocated Pittsburgh’s offense

Yesterday was the third straight game where the Patriots shut out their opponent in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger was never allowed to be comfortable, as the Patriots were able to apply constant pressure on him. In addition, New England’s corners clamped down on Pittsburgh’s receivers, with Stephon Gilmore winning his matchup against Juju Smith-Schuster. Donte Moncrief was targeted a team-high 10 times, but only managed 3 catches for 7 yards. The Steelers’ lone offensive highlight was a 45 yard pass to James Washington. The Patriots also completely neutralized Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, as James Connor only managed 21 yards off of 10 carries.

Continuing to perform like this will solidify the Pats defense as one of the NFL’s best units.

sg w1.png
(Photo via CBS Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady- 24/36 for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Rex Burkhead- 8 carries for 44 yards
  • Receiving: Phillip Dorsett- 4 receptions for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Defensive: Jason McCourty- 7 tackles

Steelers

  • Passing: Ben Roethlisberger- 27/47 for 276 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: James Connor- 10 carries for 21 yards
  • Receiving: Juju Smith-Schuster- 6 receptions for 78 yards
  • Defensive: Devin Bush- 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will head down to Miami for the first time since the ‘Miami Miracle’, where they’ll take on a lowly Dolphins team (0-1) that gave up 59 points in a loss to the Ravens. This game should also mark the debuts of Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas as Patriots. In addition, Kyle Van Noy will likely make his season debut, as he missed yesterday’s game due to the birth of his first child.

The Steel Curtain descends upon Foxborough!

Later today, the Patriots open their 2019-20 campaign against their longtime rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. This game will be extra special, as the Pats will be commemorating their win in Super Bowl LIII by unveiling their sixth championship banner. Last season’s matchup in December featured Pittsburgh emerging victorious in a defensive slugfest.

Here are a few things to consider entering tonight’s contest.

1. Can the Pats defense contain the run?

During last year’s matchup, Pittsburgh’s main running back, James Connor, was inactive due to injury, but the Steelers didn’t miss a beat on the ground, with then-rookie Jaylen Samuels shredding New England for 142 yards off of 19 carries. The Patriots’ defensive line was porous throughout that game, due to Pittsburgh’s offensive line dominating the line of scrimmage. Fortunately for the Pats, their defense has been much more stringent against the run since the last time these two teams played, with effective rushers such as Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley being limited during the 2019 playoffs. I believe that the Patriots’ linebacker corps, including Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins will play a big role in determining if the team will be successful in hindering the effectiveness of Pittsburgh’s rushing attack.

jaylen samuels d18
(Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Who will win the chess-match between Bill Belichick and Big Ben?

Last year’s matchup wasn’t overly successful for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing attack, as both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown failed to eclipse 50 yards. In addition, Big Ben threw two interceptions, which helped keep the Pats in the game. However, the Patriots could not come up with a stop when necessary, hence enabling Pittsburgh to finish them off. Tonight’s contest will look entirely different, as Pittsburgh no longer has Brown on their roster, which will likely result in Bill Belichick opting to use Stephon Gilmore against Smith-Schuster. The Steelers also feature James Washington and Donte Moncrief at receiver, who will likely be matched up against J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty. 

If the Patriots’ secondary is able to clamp down on Pittsburgh’s receivers, they will give themselves a great opportunity to open their season with a victory.

big ben d18.jpg
(Photo via the Boston Herald)

3. Can TB12 and the offense sustain drives against the Steelers defense?

The Patriots were utterly anemic against Pittsburgh’s stifling defense last year, with their lone highlight coming on a 63-yard touchdown pass to former Patriot Chris Hogan. Other than that, the Pats struggled to sustain drives, as they constantly squandered opportunities, and undermined their own momentum with numerous penalties. To add insult to injury, Tom Brady did not have a great performance, as he was constantly under pressure, and also made a crucial mistake late in the game when he threw an interception during an important fourth quarter drive. Despite their uninspiring performance, the Patriots had a chance to tie the game late, but Brady threw three straight incompletions to seal their loss.

This season’s offense should look quite different from the last year’s, as the Patriots have shifted towards a more run-based attack, featuring Sony Michel and James White. When it comes to the passing attack, the Pats bring back Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett, while adding ex-Texan Demaryius Thomas and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers. Having a well-balanced attack, and keeping Brady upright will give the Patriots a great chance to emerge victorious.

tb vs steelers d18.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable
  • Obi Melifonwu (ankle) – Questionable
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) – Questionable

Steelers

  • Sean Davis (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Mark Barron (Coach’s Decision) – Not listed

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Steelers 20

 

Bonus:

1. Check out the Super Bowl champions patch the Pats will be wearing tonight!

2. Ex-Steeler and newly-signed Patriot Antonio Brown will be attendance tonight.

2017-18 NFL Playoff Predictions

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

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

Wild-Card Weekend

#6 Buffalo Bills at #3 Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: Jaguars

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

 

#5 Tennessee Titans at #4 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Chiefs

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

 

#6 Atlanta Falcons at #3 Los Angeles Rams

Prediction: Rams

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

 

#5 Carolina Panthers at #4 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Saints

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

 

Divisional Round

#4 Kansas City Chiefs at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

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

 

 

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers

Prediction: Jaguars

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

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #1 Philadelphia Eagles

Prediction: Saints

saints playoffs 2.jpg
(Photo via the Saints)

 

#3 Los Angeles Rams at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

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

 

Conference Championships

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

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

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

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

 

Super Bowl LII

#2 Minnesota Vikings vs. #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

james white sb
(Photo from the Patriots)

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…

brady belichick 2
(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.

ab facebook live
(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.

sb xlix carroll.jpeg
(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… 

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…

brady steelers.jpg
(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.

malcolm vs ab.jpg
(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.

gronk v steelers.jpg
(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.