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

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

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

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

1. Can the offense deliver?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

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

Titans

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

 

Prediction: Patriots 27, Titans 23

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

Last week: 10-6

Bills at Texans: Texans

Vikings at Saints: Vikings

Seahawks at Eagles: Seahawks

The Pats’ Mighty D drowns out the Cowboys!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

DAL 0 6 0 3 9

NE

7 3 0 3 13

Yet again, the Patriots’ defense and special teams led New England to victory, as they prevailed 13-9 over the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) during a wet and cold afternoon in Foxborough.

This victory improves the Patriots to 10-1 on the season and keeps them atop the AFC through 12 weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. A defensive masterpiece

Bill Belichick’s defense came to play yesterday, as they absolutely stifled the NFL’s top offense and kept them out of the end zone. Dak Prescott entered this game with 3 straight 400 yard performances, but was held to 212 yards, without any touchdowns. The weather obviously had an impact on Prescott, as he was seen changing his gloves on several occasions, but the Patriots were able to take away his top weapon in Amari Cooper. Stephon Gilmore continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year by blanking Cooper, who was targeted only twice. Cooper’s first target resulted in a Gilmore interception that set up the Patriots’ second score.

Other than a 59-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb, the Patriots were able to limit big plays and mostly held Dallas’ secondary receivers in check. Due to the inclement weather, most analysts expected the Cowboys to utilize Ezekiel Elliot early and often, which was evident, as he averaged 4.1 yards per carry during a 86-yard performance. The Patriots will need to shore up their run defense, as rushing the ball will likely be a point of emphasis for opposing offenses.

gilly v cowboys w1219.jpg
(Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

2. The offense was efficient, if not explosive

In the eyes of many “experts”, yesterday’s game adds to the narrative that Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense are no longer elite. Of course, these people won’t mention that Brady outplayed an MVP candidate in inclement weather, and did so without two of his top targets in Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. The offensive line was fortified by the return of Isaiah Wynn, who shook off a rough start (which included a strip sack of Brady), en route to a group performance that was a far cry from the debacle in Philadelphia.

For the first time in several weeks, the team eclipsed 100 rushing yards, as Sony Michel accumulated 85 yards off of 20 carries. With the absence of Sanu and Dorsett, the Patriots got a major contribution from Jakobi Meyers, who had 4 receptions for 74 yards. Julian Edelman was his usual self, with 8 receptions for 93 yards, including a huge catch on 3rd & 20 that helped extend a drive in the second half. N’Keal Harry had his first professional touchdown on a fade route in the red zone, with his athleticism on full display. At the same time, Harry still has room to improve, as evidenced by a couple of dropped passes.

The Patriots’ offense still has a long way to go, as they cannot continue to depend on their defense and special teams to win them games as the season progresses. If Brady continues to build chemistry with Meyers and Harry, the Patriots should be able to have a solid 5 receiver rotation that helps take pressure off of Julian Edelman. In addition, Michel’s performance is something to build upon, as having a balanced attack will open up the field through play action.

jules harry w1219.jpg
(Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

 

3. Special teams was game changing once again

Throughout this season, the Patriots’ special teams unit has been able to make momentum shifting plays, and yesterday was no different. Perennial All-Pro Matthew Slater added to his stellar season with a blocked punt in the first quarter that led to Harry’s touchdown. Jake Bailey wasn’t as effective punting the ball, as he did shank some punts, but he was able to pin the Cowboys on his last attempt.

As I mentioned earlier, special teams shouldn’t have to elevate the Patriots on a weekly basis, but it is definitely appreciated by Bill Belichick and the coaching staff when it does happen.

slater block v cowboys.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 17/37 for 190 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 20 carries for 85 yards
  • Receiving; Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 93 yards
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins – 10 total tackles

Cowboys

  • Passing: Dak Prescott – 19/33 for 212 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Ezekiel Elliot – 21 carries for 86 yards
  • Receiving: Randall Cobb – 4 receptions for 86 yards
  • Defensive: Jaylon Smith – 8 total tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots head down to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Texans (7-4) on Sunday Night Football.

Blockbuster Matchup: Can the Pats knock off America’s Team?

It’s not much of an exaggeration to call tomorrow’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (6-4) the ‘Game of the Year’, as it pits the NFL’s best team against its most popular team in a nationallytelevised game.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 12 game.

1. Can the banged-up offense deliver?

The Patriots’ offense was shaky at best during their win against the Eagles, with a porous offensive line making it hard for Tom Brady to find any sort of rhythm. Tomorrow’s task won’t be any easier, as the team is likely to play without receivers Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion), which will thrust N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers into larger roles. Meyers had some clear miscommunication with Brady during the game against the Eagles, which they have hopefully been able to iron out throughout the week at practice. Dallas’ secondary has struggled in recent weeks, so it will be imperative for the Patriots’ receivers to find separation

The X-factor for this game should be the return of Isaiah Wynn to the lineup, as he replaces the struggling Marshall Newhouse as the protector of Brady’s blind side. Wynn will be tested right away, as the Cowboys have an incredibly talented defensive line, with pass rushers such as Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn. Michael Bennett will also be making his return to Foxborough after being traded to Dallas a few weeks ago, following a disagreement with the Patriots’ coaching staff. Wynn’s return should help fortify the offensive line, and help boost the offense as a whole, as his agility will be useful in run-blocking and setting up screen passes.

The team’s running backs will also be essential, as the forecast is calling for rain throughout the game. Look for Sony Michel and James White to be involved early and often as Josh McDaniels looks for ways to take pressure off of Tom Brady.

jules v cowboys w12p19.jpg
(Mike Stone/Getty Images)

2. Can the defense lockdown the NFL’s best offense?

The Cowboys’ offense has been humming lately, with Dak Prescott solidifying his place amongst the favorites for MVP, due to a handful of dominant performances. Prescott has been able to silence the narrative that he’s reliant on Ezekiel Elliot and the running game, as the passing game has carried Dallas as of late. Prescott is protected by one of the league’s best offensive lines, and has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, including Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten. The main matchup of this game may be Cooper vs Stephon Gilmore, as Cooper has been Prescott’s top target throughout the season. If Gilmore is able to lock up Cooper, it would go a long way in helping the Patriots stifle Dallas. In addition, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones will need to be able to limit Gallup and Cobb, as the two are capable of lifting Dallas when Cooper isn’t as successful.

Even though Ezekiel Elliot hasn’t been as effective this year, he is still capable of shredding the Patriots’ defense if he has lanes to run through. Due to the rainy conditions, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Dallas try to get Elliot going, either as a rusher or a pass catcher. Hence, the Patriots’ defensive line and linebackers will have to be alert if they want to slow him down.

witten v pats w12p19.jpg
(Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
  • Tom Brady (elbow) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (illness) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Phillip Dorsett (concussion) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (ankle/back) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Damien Harris (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable
  • Mohamed Sanu (ankle) – Questionable
  • John Simon (elbow) – Questionable
  • Matthew Slater (hamstring) – Questionable

Cowboys

  • Leighton Vander Esch (neck) – Out
  • Joe Thomas (illness) – Questionable
  • Donovan Wilson (illness) – Questionable
  • Connor Williams (knee) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 27, Cowboys 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 12-1

Dolphins at Browns: Browns

Lions at Redskins: Lions

Raiders at Jets: Raiders

Giants at Bears: Bears

Panthers at Saints: Saints

Seahawks at Eagles: Eagles

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

Broncos at Bills: Bills

Steelers at Bengals: Steelers

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

Packers at 49ers: Packers

Ravens at Rams: Rams

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

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

PHI 3 7 0 0 10

NE

0 9 8 0 17

Yesterday’s game between the Patriots and Eagles (5-5) was a far cry from their high-powered matchup in Super Bowl LII, as the two teams combined for just over 500 yards in a game that featured 16 punts. The Patriots prevailed 17-10, and improved to 9-1 on the season, which keeps them atop the AFC through 11 weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s victory.

1. Don’t count out the Patriots’ defense!

The Patriots’ defense didn’t get off to the greatest of starts in this game, as the very first offensive snap for Philadelphia resulted in a 49-yard pass interference penalty by Jason McCourty, which led to a field goal by Jake Elliott. The Eagles followed this up by driving 95 yards in over 9 minutes to extend their lead to 10-0 on a touchdown by Dallas Goedert (which was initially ruled an interception). The turning point of this game came shortly after, as the Eagles lost their All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson to a concussion, which enabled Bill Belichick and the defensive staff to dial up the pressure on Carson Wentz. The Patriots were able to sack Wentz 5 times (including a strip sack by Danny Shelton), and prevented him from gaining any sort of momentum.

On Philadelphia’s penultimate drive, they were able to drive the ball down the field before failing to advance past the Patriots’ 26-yard line. Wentz threw 4 straight incompletions to end the drive, including a shot to the end zone that was dropped by Nelson Agholor on fourth down. Almost fittingly, this game ended the same way as Super Bowl LII, with the losing team launching an ill-fated Hail Mary attempt that wound up incomplete.

This a great rebound for the Patriots following their debacle in Baltimore, but there is still a great deal to improve on as the season progresses.

wentz fumble w1119.jpg
(Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Offensive struggles continue

Once again, the Patriots’ offense appeared to be out of sync, and I think that much of their struggles can be attributed to the stout performance by Philadelphia’s defensive line. The Eagles feasted on a weak offensive line, and were able to consistently get after Brady, which forced him to scramble around on several occasions. The Eagles were able to sack Brady once, and hit him an additional 6 times. At the same time, Brady cannot be absolved from his poor performance, as he appeared to lack rhythm from time to time. For instance, the first double pass attempted by the Patriots could have resulted in an interception, as the throw by Brady was behind Phillip Dorsett.

With the Patriots floundering in the red zone, and trailing by a point in the opening frame of the second half, Josh McDaniels dialed up a trick play, which resulted in Julian Edelman throwing a touchdown to Dorsett. Following this, the Patriots executed a two-point conversion to give them a 17-10 lead they would not relinquish. In his first game as a pro, N’Keal Harry had 3 receptions for 18 yards, and will hopefully play a larger role in the offense as he becomes more comfortable in the system.

This was definitely an ugly performance by the Patriots’ offense, as they were able to move the ball, but struggled to maintain drives that could have put the game away. If not for spotty play-calling and execution, the Patriots easily could have won this game by double digits, due to the strong performance by their defense. As evidenced by a frustrated Brady during his press conference, the team is definitely aware that something needs to change on offense as they get closer to the postseason.

jules td v eagles w1119.jpg
(Matt Rourke/AP)

3. Special teams was otherworldly

It’s not very common for the Patriots’ offense to be the weak link during a victory, but that was definitely the case yesterday, as the team’s special teams unit was spectacular against the Eagles. Nick Folk proved that he could be the team’s answer at kicker, as he was 3/3 on field goals that kept the team in the game during the first half. In addition, Jake Bailey, Matthew Slater, and Justin Bethel combined to form a formidable punting attack, as they were able to give Philadelphia bad starting field position on several occasions.

bailey w1119.jpg
(Will Newton/Getty Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 26/47 for 216 yards
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 10 carries for 33 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 receptions for 53 yards
  • Defensive: Danny Shelton – 7 total tackles (including 1 strip sack)

Eagles

  • Passing: Carson Wentz – 20/40 for 214 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Miles Sanders – 11 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Zach Ertz – 9 receptions for 94 yards
  • Defensive: Nathan Gerry – 10 total tackles (including 1 sack)

Bonus: 

  1. Bill Belichick had fun 

During his postgame press conference, Bill Belichick mentioned that the team ‘had fun’ during the game, which some saw as a dig at Eagles tackle Lane Johnson, who opined that no-one has fun in New England after the Eagles beat them in Super Bowl LII.

 

What’s next?: The Patriots head home to take on the Dallas Cowboys (6-4). This matchup will be interesting, as it’ll be the first time they play against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and the rest of the Cowboys’ young core.

Can the Pats exact revenge in Philadelphia?

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

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

1. Can the defense rebound?

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

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

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

2. How about the offense?

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

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

tb v eagles w11p19
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

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

Eagles

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

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Eagles 20

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

Last week: 4-8

Jets at Redskins: Jets

Jaguars at Colts: Colts

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Cowboys at Lions: Cowboys

Texans at Ravens: Ravens

Falcons at Panthers: Panthers

Saints at Buccaneers: Saints

Broncos at Vikings: Vikings

Cardinals at 49ers: 49ers

Bengals at Raiders: Raiders

Bears at Rams: Rams

Chiefs vs Chargers: Chiefs

The Pats suffer their first loss of the season in Baltimore!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

BAL 10 7 7 13 37

NE

0 13 7 0 20

The Patriots’ bid for yet another undefeated season ended last night, as they were defeated 37-20 by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (6-2). The Patriots were uneven on both sides of the ball, and fell behind early, with a couple second-half turnovers putting the game out of reach. This loss drops the Pats to 8-1 on the season, and reduces their lead in the AFC to 1.5 games.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The Patriots’ defense finally had a dud

I’m not going to be a reactionary person, and say that the Patriots’ defense got “exposed” last night, because I don’t think that it gives the Ravens’ offense the credit they deserve. Bill Belichick’s unit is still an elite defense, but Baltimore’s offense was simply better last night, as they were able to out-scheme the Patriots, and win the game due to their power rushing attack. After giving up only 27 points in their last 3 games, the Patriots were gashed by Baltimore for 4 touchdowns. Mark Ingram (15 carries for 115 yards) and Lamar Jackson (16 carries for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns) combined to form a potent rushing attack that accounted for the brunt of Baltimore’s 210 rushing yards. The Ravens’ offensive line was excellent throughout the game, as they effectively cleared lanes for their rushers to run through. This performance (coupled with what Cleveland did to the Patriots in Week 8) may serve as a blueprint for opponents to attack New England down the stretch.

The Patriots’ secondary had a good performance, as they limited Jackson to 163 passing yards, and didn’t allow any receivers to eclipse 50 yards, but they could not force stops in the game’s crucial moments. Jackson is simply a superior athlete, and his agility and maneuverability were on full display last night, as he navigated the pocket with ease, with the Pats only sacking him once and hitting him thrice.

At the same time, the Pats’ defense was able to give the team a crucial spark when they forced Ingram to fumble inside Baltimore’s 20, which led to points for the Patriots’ offense. As most analysts noted, a lot of the Patriots’ struggles last night can be fixed with coaching, as they made unusual mental errors such as penalties that extended Baltimore’s drives and dampened their chances of winning.

These tweets by reporters sum up why we shouldn’t be overreacting to one bad performance by the Patriots’ defense.

This game was definitely a wake up call for the Patriots’ defense, and I am sure that Bill Belichick will be working on ways to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

lamar jackson v pats w919.jpg
(Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

2. Good offensive performance that was marred by turnovers

The Patriots’ offense started off yesterday’s game very slow, which quickly resulted in a 17-0 deficit that appeared to spell an imminent rout by Baltimore. The Ravens were ultimately able to run away with the game, but it is not fair to say that the Patriots’ offense had a bad performance. Following two recovered fumbles by special teams and the defense, Tom Brady and the offense were able to cut their deficit to 7 points. They were able to move the ball down the field with ease when they quickened their pace, which made it harder for Baltimore to get into blitz packages or make effective substitutions. It was heavily encouraging to see Mohamed Sanu get involved early and often, as he totaled 8 receptions for 81 yards, and scored a touchdown. Sanu has clearly built some chemistry with Brady, which is something the team will have to improve upon as the season progresses. Julian Edelman was his normal self, as he had 10 receptions for 89 yards, and was a matchup problem for Baltimore’s corners throughout the game.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget what Edelman and Sanu accomplished last night, due to their involvement in the two turnovers that sealed the game for the Ravens. During the opening drive of the second half, the Patriots were down 17-13, and appeared to be driving to take the lead when Edelman caught a pass from Brady, ducked a tackle and fought for more yardage, when Baltimore forced a fumble that was recovered by Marlon Humphrey for a 70 yard touchdown. The Patriots were able to score a touchdown on their next drive, which cut the lead to 4 once again. Later on in the fourth quarter, and trailing 30-20, New England attempted to mount a comeback when Brady uncorked a deep ball to Sanu that was intercepted by Earl Thomas and returned for 24 yards. Observers noted that Sanu didn’t appear to be fully committed to the route, and didn’t chase after Thomas at full speed, which enabled him to give the Ravens’ offense great field position.

Despite certain “experts” in the media claiming that this game proved why the Pats are declining, I believe that there are several positives for Josh McDaniels to build off of, as the offense becomes more whole over the next few weeks (with the imminent returns of N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn to the lineup).

jules v ravens w919.jpg
(Photo via the Boston Globe)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady- 30/46 for 285 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: James White – 9 carries for 38 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 10 receptions for 89 yards
  • Defensive: Dont’a Hightower – 13 total tackles

Ravens

  • Passing: Lamar Jackson – 17/23 for 163 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Rushing: Mark Ingram II – 15 carries for 115 yards
  • Receiving: Marquise Brown – 3 receptions for 48 yards
  • Defensive: Marcus Peters – 8 total tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots have their bye week in Week 10, which should give them plenty of time to fix the errors from this game, and plan ahead for Week 10’s bout with the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4).

Into the Raven’s Nest

The Patriots have a tough task ahead of them tomorrow night as they take on the Baltimore Ravens (5-2) for the first time in three seasons. Over the past decade, the Pats have played a plethora of tight games against the Ravens, but the main difference in this matchup will be the absence of Joe Flacco, who was replaced as Baltimore’s quarterback by Lamar Jackson.

Here are a few things to consider entering tomorrow’s game in Baltimore.

1. Can the Pats’ defense contain Jackson?

The Patriots’ defense has faced a vide variety of quarterbacks over the last nine weeks, including Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield, and been able to achieve remarkable success in shutting them down. This week’s matchup will be completely different due to Lamar Jackson’s ability as both a passer and a rusher. It will be imperative for Bill Belichick’s defense to keep Jackson in the pocket, and force him to beat them with his arm. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if the defensive staff opts to keep a spy on Jackson in order to track his movements at all times. If the Pats are able to contain Jackson’s rushing ability, it could play right into their hands, due to their dominant secondary.

The most concerning matchup for the Pats’ defense will be Baltimore’s power rushing attack, which could draw inspiration from Cleveland’s game plan that netted Nick Chubb over 100 rushing yards in Week 8. If Baltimore is able to rush the ball effectively, they will be able to dominate the time of possession, and open up the field through play action.

Having a good performance tomorrow will go a long way in preparing the Pats’ defense for the brutal backend of their schedule.

l jackson w9p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

2. Will the offense deliver?

Tom Brady and the offense have had their ups and downs over the last few weeks, which is understandable for the first half of the season, but starting tomorrow they will need to find some sort of momentum that can take pressure off of their defense.

I would expect the Patriots’ passing attack to be improved this week, as it will be Mohamed Sanu’s second game with the team, which means that he should be more acclimated with the offense’s scheme. In addition, N’Keal Harry was activated off of the injured reserve, which means that he should make his season debut tomorrow. It’s foolish to expect Harry to alleviate all of the Pats’ problems in one game, but having him out there will give Brady a weapon to stretch the field. If Sanu and Harry are able to perform to their abilities, it could make life easier for both Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett.

As is usually the case, the Pats’ offensive line will be crucial in this matchup, as their ability to protect Brady and open lanes for Sony Michel to run through will be imperative in deciding the outcome of this game. Luckily for the offensive line, Shaq Mason may be able to play, after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

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

Ravens

  • Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh) – Questionable
  • Maurice Canady (thigh) – Questionable
  • Bennett Jackson (ankle) – Questionable
  • Patrick Mekari (back) – Questionable
  • Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) – Questionable
  • Jimmy Smith (knee) – Questionable
  • Earl Thomas (knee) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 21, Ravens 17

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

Last week: 12-2

Texans vs Jaguars: Texans

Bears at Eagles: Eagles

Vikings at Chiefs: Vikings

Colts at Steelers: Colts

Jets at Dolphins: Jets

Redskins at Bills: Bills

Titans at Panthers: Panthers

Lions at Raiders: Lions

Buccaneers at Seahawks: Seahawks

Packers at Chargers: Packers

Browns at Broncos: Browns

Cowboys at Giants: Cowboys

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.

The Pats’ Boogeymen haunt Darnold and shutout the Jets!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

NYJ 0 0 0 0 0

NE

17 7 2 7 33

There were many pundits who expected yesterday’s game between the Patriots and Jets (1-5) to be competitive, due to the Pats’ injuries on offense, and the return of Sam Darnold to the Jets’ lineup. However, a dominant performance on both sides of the ball enabled the Pats to cruise to a 33-0 victory and their fourth straight season sweep of New York. This win improved the Pats to 7-0 on the season, and keeps them atop the AFC through seven weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Another defensive masterpiece!

The Pats’ defense was remarkable yet again, as they shut out the Jets on offense for the second time this season, and limited them to 154 yards of total offense. Following a dominant performance against the Cowboys that netted him the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week award, Sam Darnold was utterly neutralized by Bill Belichick’s defense, as he mustered only 86 passing yards, with a QBR of 0.7. Darnold’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Devin McCourty, and appeared to set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Pats used an effective pass rush to throw off Darnold’s timing and force turnovers. Darnold threw 4 interceptions and lost a fumble, en route to the worst performance of his professional career. Darnold’s frustration can be summed up by him mentioning how he was “seeing ghosts” on the field.

Demaryius Thomas was arguably the only efficient receiver for the Jets, as he managed to eclipse 40 yards, and drew several flags against J.C. Jackson, which enabled New York to extend multiple drives. Le’Veon Bell was effective on the ground, as he totaled 70 yards off of 15 carries, after being limited to 35 yards in Week 3’s matchup in Foxborough.

The Patriots’ defense has been the catalyst for the team’s unbeaten start to the season, and will need to continue to play at this level as the schedule begins to become more difficult.

d mac v jets w719.jpg
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

2. A good offensive rebound!

The Pats’ offense entered this matchup with several questions regarding their ability to overcome their perceived lack of depth at certain positions. Tom Brady and the offense opened the game with a drive that totaled nearly 9 minutes and culminated in a touchdown by Sony Michel. After a few weeks of uneven offensive performances, the Pats were able to sustain drives and move the ball against a physical Jets’ defense. The offensive line was much better at protecting Brady, as he wasn’t sacked, and was hit only 3 times. Due to injuries at fullback, Josh McDaniels enlisted several players to fill the void at the position, with linebacker Elandon Roberts being a notable example.

The Pats were able to spread the ball around, as Brady completed 31 passes to 9 different receivers, en route to 249 passing yards. Brady’s top weapons in this game were James White (7 receptions for 59 yards), Jakobi Meyers (5 receptions for 47 yards), and Julian Edelman (7 receptions for 47 yards), with Phillip Dorsett also pitching in with a 26-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Sony Michel didn’t have his best game of the season, but he was effective when the Pats needed him, as he was able to score 3 touchdowns (for the first time in his regular season career).

The Patriots’ offense wasn’t as effective in the second half, but another dominant performance by their defense gave them a high margin for error. The Pats should be encouraged by how they were able to push around a physical defense, but they will need to find more consistency as the season progresses. Luckily for the offense, they will likely get N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn back soon, and today’s trade for Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu should also give the passing game a boost.

sony v jets w719.jpg
(Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 31/45 for 249 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel- 19 carries for 42 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Receiving: James White – 7 receptions for 59 yards
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 6 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Sam Darnold – 11/32 for 86 yards and 4 interceptions
  • Rushing: Le’Veon Bell – 15 carries for 70 yards
  • Receiving: Demaryius Thomas – 3 receptions for 42 yards
  • Defensive: Darryl Roberts – 8 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head back to Foxborough to face Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns (2-4) for a matchup that promises to test Bill Belichick’s defense, as they face off against an offense with weapons such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

Descending in MetLife: Will the Pats continue to neutralize New York?

On Monday, the Patriots make their annual trip to the Meadowlands to play their hated rival, the New York Jets (1-4) for the second time this season. The two teams squared off in Week 3, with the Pats easily winning by 16 points, but this week’s game could look drastically different, as both teams will be starting players that missed the matchup in September.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 7 contest.

1. Can the defense continue to dominate?

The Patriots have been able to overpower their opponents with surgical and physical defensive game plans, which have been mostly successful in neutralizing what opposing offenses do best. This week, they face off against an offense that shocked the league with their ability to dice up an usually competent Dallas defense. New York’s resurgence on offense can be attributed to the return of their starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who was sidelined due to a 4 week bout with mononucleosis. Darnold clearly ignited something in Adam Gase’s much maligned offense, as he combined with Robbie Anderson and Jamison Crowder to dissect Dallas’ secondary. It wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Stephon Gilmore matched up against Anderson once again, as he has had success covering him in recent years. Another Jets’ receiver that the Pats will likely pay attention to is Demaryius Thomas, who made headlines this week for complaining about how Bill Belichick and the Pats’ front office cut and re-signed him, before shipping him to New York (due to the failed Antonio Brown experiment). Thomas will likely be motivated to prove that New England made a mistake in trading him, so the Pats should be careful to not lose him in coverage.

In order to emerge victorious, I believe that the Pats will need to neutralize Le’Veon Bell once again, and force Darnold to beat them with his arm.

pats d v darnold w7p19.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has been decimated by injuries and turmoil over the last few weeks, which has limited their effectiveness in recent games. Unfortunately for Tom Brady, he will be without yet another weapon on Monday night, as Josh Gordon will be missing the game due to knee and ankle injuries. Gordon’s absence will likely result in increased snaps for Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, who were effective in small doses in Week 6 against the Giants. Phillip Dorsett has been able to practice all week after sitting out Week 6 due to a hamstring injury, and is likely to suit up on Monday, which will help take pressure off of Brady, and Julian Edelman.

The Pats’ offensive line has struggled in recent weeks, and Monday’s matchup with the Jets won’t be any easier for them, as New York will have C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams on the field (both defenders were not active in Week 3). Hopefully re-signing Ben Watson will give the Pats a slight improvement in blocking, and help Sony Michel find some lanes to run through.

Facing a defense coached by Gregg Williams is never easy, so the battered Patriots’ offense will need to be at their absolute best to leave MetLife Stadium with a win.

tb v jets w7p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Josh Gordon (ankle/knee) – Out
  • Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Out
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (hamstring) – Questionable

Jets

  • Albert McClellan (concussion) – Out
  • Henry Anderson (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle) – Doubtful
  • Christopher Herndon (hamstring) – Doubtful
  • Neville Hewitt (neck/knee) – Doubtful
  • Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Alex Lewis (neck) – Questionable
  • Nate Hairston (knee) – Questionable
  • Ryan Kalil (shoulder) – Questionable
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Darryl Roberts (ankle) – Questionable
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder/knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 7 games (apart from Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 6-8

Raiders at Packers: Packers

Rams at Falcons: Rams

49ers at Redskins: 49ers

Texans at Colts: Texans

Vikings at Lions: Vikings

Jaguars at Bengals: Jaguars

Cardinals at Giants: Giants

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Chargers at Titans: Chargers

Ravens at Seahawks: Seahawks

Saints at Bears: Bears

Eagles at Cowboys: Cowboys