Week 7 @Patriots Pre-Cap– Pats v Steelers by @ThomasFaiella

Week 7 @Patriots Pre-Cap– Pats v Steelers by @ThomasFaiella

If you’re like me, you had this game circled on your calendar since the schedule got released. With a lack of “elite” quarterback matchups so far this year, it would have been great to get to see Big Ben and Brady in a shoot-out. However, yet again, Rothlesberger is out with yet another leg injury. So it turns out that we are stuck with watching Landry Jones, who has fewer passing yards in his career than Brady’s had in the last 2 games.

To be fair, the Steelers still have more high-powered skill position players than almost anyone else in the NFL. And when you’re talking the Steelers, you have to start by talking about Bell. Despite what feels like a slow start, he’s had more than 100 all-purpose yards in every start so far this season. Belichick thinks he’s one of the best players in the NFL, and for good reason. He’s regularly considered to be in the top 5 weapons in the league, and in his only game against the Patriots, he put up 140 all-purpose yards on only 20 touches — he’s really really good.

I think he broke more tackles than there are Browns on that play.

Obviously, Bell’s not the only weapon on the Steelers. Even without their Randy-Moss-clone Martavis Bryant (who’s suspended for the year), they still have a fearsome wide receiver corp, headed by Antonio Brown and his dance moves.

Life imitating art.

The Steelers have put up the most receiving TD’s in the league so far this year, and the Patriots have only shown a middle-of-the-road pass defense so far. Butler, Chung, and the rest of the secondary will have to be on their A-game to stop the Steelers from getting open down-field.

A big advantage the Patriots should have this week is…

Pass Rush

According to the most recent news, the Patriots pass-rushers should all be healthy this week (Jamie Collins is active), and with Belichick knowing that he was scheming against an inexperienced QB, should give New England a chance to disrupt the Steelers at the point of attack. If they can get off to an early start, and force Landry to throw, they can pin their ears back and try to get significant pressure on him.

And I think they’ll have a great chance to get off to a quick lead because of one often underrated factor:

Mr. White

James White’s been looking increasingly potent in the offense with Brady back — he’s been more than just a safety valve, but a valid offense threat, especially when working in tandem with Gronk to create mismatches with linebackers.

The Steelers are a great matchup for him — they’re one of the worst teams in the NFL against pass-catching RBs, to the tune of 65 receiving yards/game.   Look for the Pats to go to him early and often this week.

But he’ll have some help from…

He’s the (Edel)man

Look for Edelman to have a break out day. The Steelers have allowed the 9th-most receiving yards to wide-receivers this year, and the 2nd-most receptions so far this year (just behind the dead-last-in-most-pass-defense-categories LA Rams). Edelman’s had a couple of drops that have hurt him so far this year, and he’s been off to an overall slow start. But I think he’ll get back on track against the Steelers defense, which he roasted for over 100 all-purpose yards last year.

Summary

If the Patriots can get up early, they will make Landry Jones’ life miserable and could cause the Steelers’ offense to fizzle. They’ll need good performances from their LB’s to slow down Bell, and their secondary to stop Brown from getting free deep. But at the end of the day, I think the lack of Big Ben will slow them down, and the Brady revenge tour will continue.

Prediction:

Patriots 31

Steelers 23

 

Enjoy the game!

Welcome Back, Tom @nepatsgirl87

Welcome Back, Tom @nepatsgirl87

By: Kristen Parker @nepatsgirl87

Tom Brady returned from his four-game suspension on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. After weeks of speculation of how Tom Brady would play, it looked like he was never gone.

On the opening drive, Brady was 4 out of 5 for 65 yards and capped the drive with a touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. With the Patriots’ second possession, Brady passed to Martellus Bennett, who walked right into the end zone for the touchdown. Next drive, Brady hit a deep pass to Chris Hogan for 43 yards, which set up another touchdown to Martellus Bennett. For Bennett’s third touchdown of the day, Brady threw 37 yards to the open tight end. Brady finished off the day completing 28 of 40 passes, racking up 406 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 127.7.

The Patriots fans showed up for their favorite quarterback’s return. They chanted “Brady! Brady! Brady!” from pre-game through the end of the game. The cheers did not go unnoticed by the quarterback, “I’ve got amazing fans and so much support for along time. We’ve been at rallies where there’s millions of people, and training camp where there’s 27,000 people at practice. I think we’ve got the best fans in the world. They showed up (Sunday), and it was great to hear them. Hopefully that’s the way it’ll be for the rest of the year.”

Brady’s teammates were also happy to have him back. According to receiver, Chris Hogan, “he didn’t look rusty to me.” Gronk made up a new word to describe his feelings, “Tom always brings the ampness.” Edelman was thrilled, too, “It’s exciting. He hasn’t been here in four weeks, so any time you get back one of your teammates that you train with, go to training camp with, play with for a number of years, it’s exciting.”

As vintage as Brady was on the field, was as typical as he was after the game. He felt like “the team played really well. It was fun to be a part of it.” Brady went on to say that he “think[s] there as plenty of rust out there. I can do better in a lot of areas.” If Brady can get better than he played Sunday against the Browns, then watch out NFL because you are going to be in a for a long, rough season. 

Photo credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Pats vs. Browns Matchup @nepatsgirl87

Pats vs. Browns Matchup @nepatsgirl87

By: Kristen Parker @nepatsgirl87

The New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns have only met 23 times in the regular season. The Browns are actually up on the Pats 13-10 all-time. Coach Belichick has been on both sides as the winner.

The last time these two teams played was 2013 in Foxboro. It was a close game, with the Patriots winning 27 to 26. The Browns have lost the last 5 out of 6 meetings with the Pats.

The Browns are struggling this year as the only winless team left in the NFL. The Patriots are coming off a shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills, but are still sitting on top of the AFC East at 3-1.

Who to Watch For

This week is anybody’s guess as to how McDaniels runs the offense. The heavier run game, has worked more or less over the last three weeks. However, with Tom Brady back in the game, the passing game might pick up momentum.

It looks like rookie quarterback, Cody Kessler gets the start against the Patriots. He has started in Cleveland’s last two losses against Miami and Washington. Kessler is not a mobile quarterback, so keeping him in the pocket should be easy enough for the Pats defense. He averages just over 230 yards passing, 6 yards per pass and a touchdown.

Browns’ wide receiver, Terrelle Pryor is the guy to watch downfield versus Malcolm Butler. So far this year, Pryor has had just one game over 100 yards and one touchdown, but he does average over 15 yards per catch. He can catch, run and throw the ball, so it will be important to keep defenders close by. Belichick said that Pryor “[has] been really impressive. He has shown the ability to really do everything that you could ask of a receiver really, or a football player….He’s a dynamic player for the Browns and has a lot of different skills.” Kessler does not usually throw deep, but Pryor has a height advantage on Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. Kessler might want to test the Pats defense.

Isaiah Crowell is the guy on the round that the Patriots need to keep contained. Crowell is in his third year with Cleveland. He is the Browns’ leading rusher with nearly 400 yards and 3 touchdowns this year. The Patriots sit in the middle of the pack in the NFL at 15th against the run. It is important they do a better job than last week at holding Crowell to short yards and no first downs.

Browns Cornerback, Joe Haden discussed the problems defending Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. He said they are “very, very good receiving tight ends and both of them are big dudes that can block so they are Tom Brady’s main targets. You just have to make sure you stay on top of them.” Haden will have his hands full with either of these tight ends because of their height advantage on him. Haden does have two interceptions in the last two games, so Brady will have to keep an eye on him.

Prediction

I said it last week and I will repeat it this week. Tom Brady is a master at picking apart defenses. He can usually find the weak spot and make plays to take advantage of that weak spot. This week, the Patriots do have the luxury of Tom Brady back at center.

The Patriots have Tom Brady back. He has a chip on his shoulder. The rest of the team has a chip on their shoulder. I say Patriots 35, Browns 10. 

Photo credit: www.bdcwire.com

The Gronk & Marty Show via @iAMmarkSaberJr

The Gronk & Marty Show via @iAMmarkSaberJr

By: Mark Saber Jr.

FOXBOROUGH- Oh how easy it is to reminisce of 2011 when it was Gronk and Hernandez who dominated the NFL with the two Tight End formula. But since then, Hernandez became injury prone, and most of all, became a criminal. Gronk also struggled throughout times with injuries and you can see it in Brady’s stats. But since the Patriots traded for Bennett, it has pumped much more life into the offense.

I say this because teams can no longer prep for the usual, double or triple team Gronk and do your best to stuff Edelman at the line of scrimmage. Now with Bennett, you can’t use those basic formulas and pray for the best. Now it is pick your poison between Gronk, Bennett, Edelman, Hogan, and Amendola. Especially once Brady gets in his rhythm, and his throws are coming out in less than 3 seconds. Once he starts doing that, forget about trying to keep up because the Patriots are going to put up 28+ points. Also you are going to enter a track race not many people can win.

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In 2011 Gronk and Hernandez combined for whopping totals of, 169 catches, 2,237 yards receiving, 25 Touchdowns, 147.9 yards per game, and 34 catches of 20+ yards. Those are goliath type stats, but I think Gronk + Bennett can put up goliath stats like that. I say this because Bennett is more driven than Hernandez and he does not have a poor rap sheet of injuries. Hernandez only had that one monster season, other than that he struggled mightily with injuries.

Gronkowski and Bennett should be able to put up some lights out statistics now that the commander and chief of the offense, Tom Brady is back. I expect big things from them two this year as a duo. I know Gronk will do his usual, 80+ catches, 1100+ yards, and 11+ Touchdowns. This is Bennett’s first year in a high powered offense such as the Patriots and I expect him to punch in big stats. I figure by the time this season is finished up, he will have 78 catches, 1,088 yards, and 10 touchdowns which are totally doable because Marty B is already having a solid season.

When #’s 87+88 are on the field at the same time with #12, I picture 2007 and 2011 type season for stats, I expect the Patriots to have a top 3 offense again. But as the opposing team going up against the Patriots, you have to be stressing about their two tight end system. I mean if the stats I laid out for you from 2011 did not make your hair stand up then you simply do not appreciate greatness. Teams going forward against NE must be stressing deeply, a highly motivated Tom Brady, throw in two goliath TE’s and their slot receivers. Those combinations are recipes for blow outs each and every game and fear in the defensive coordinators heart.

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I understand Tom, Gronk, and Marty are yet to line up on the field together all at once this season but when they do I expect big things. Yes I understand that the Patriots have a long season ahead of them and as Bill does it, one day at a time. But if you’re apart of Patriots Nation then you’re mesmerized over this potential.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at, @BostonSportsPub, @patriotsextra, and @iAMmarkSaberJr for the hottest topics and latest news for the Patriots.

Patriots Fumbles Not DeflateGate Evidence @yourpatriots

Patriots Fumbles Not DeflateGate Evidence @yourpatriots

Almost 21 months after the 2014 AFC Championship Game, some NFL fans just can’t let go of DeflateGate. The science has been debunked, there were multiple reports that Roger Goodell was re-punishing the Patriots for videotaping transgressions in 2007, and NFL players are loath to trust the Commissioner’s Office based on its shabby treatment of Tom Brady. Hell, even the NFLPA has finally let go of their legal appeals.

But if you thought that would be the end of it, think again. Not only will there be loud jeers and some semi-creative signs about Brady this weekend in Cleveland, but a few stat geeks just can’t get past something of an anomaly: the Patriots fumble statistics.

That’s right, the misinformed among us actually believe rising numbers of fumbles prove the Patriots were guilty of deflating the footballs. Their logic is that an underinflated football is easier to grip and thus less likely to be fumbled. And New England was such an outlier, they say, that there must be causation, rather than just correlation.

The statistics cited from 2015 back have been thoroughly debunked. They contained huge mathematical errors, compared the Patriots to the league average instead of those teams best at protecting the ball, and even included fumbles on kicking plays some years and not others.

However, the cries are starting anew in 2016 because New England is dead last in the NFL, averaging an un-Patriot-like 3.0 fumbles per game. The Pats have 12 fumbles for the season, slightly more than their opponent this weekend, the second-worst Browns have 11 on the year.

They have only lost four of those fumbles; but it is a concern that they’ve been so loose with the ball. Here are a few factors that play into that statistical oddity.

JimmyGaroppolo_2014_0

Young Players

Rookies Jacoby Brissett (3), Cyrus Jones (2), and first-time starter Jimmy Garoppolo (2) have over half the fumbles on the team between them. Rookies and young players make mistakes. Patriots veteran Kevin Faulk had fumble problems early in his career; but it was his ability to improve that situation that made him a reliable third-down option through three Super Bowls.

Head coach Bill Belichick has never been shy about benching or cutting players who put the ball on the ground. But he couldn’t do that at this point in the year; or it would have meant benching or cutting his two quarterbacks. Not a good idea if you want to go 3-1 during Brady’s absence.

New-England-Patriots-Julian-Edelman-still-undefeated-this-season

Game Plans

Julian Edelman’s lone fumble came from the Wildcat formation. And this is the first year the Patriots have ever employed that offensive scheme.

The reason we saw the Wildcat for the first time is the offensive limitations imposed by the absence of Brady. With their regular quarterback out, the Patriots have resorted to more misdirection running plays, riskier moves in the return game, and even the Wildcat — all of which make fumbles more likely.

Close scores

One of the reasons the Patriots have historically had fewer fumbles is that they led many games comfortably. In those situations, ball security is paramount and that is drilled into the heads of the players. Additionally, having big leads produces more kneel-down plays, which count toward the number of plays-per-fumble.

This season, the only game they led comfortably was the 27-0 beatdown of the Texans. And their only fumble in that game was by Cyrus Jones on a punt return, which Jones recovered himself.

The other games were either close or the Patriots were trying to come back, and those games accounted for 11 of their 12 fumbles on the year.

brady first press conference 16

QB 12

As mentioned before, the Patriots quarterbacks coughed up the ball five times already this year. Well, it’s no wonder the fumble numbers are up; Brady fumbled only six times last year. And six times the entire 2014 season, too.

Young players lack the experience to protect the ball. It’s something even Brady himself had to learn. Tom Terrific had 65 fumbles his first 7 years as a starter — but only 36 his last 7 seasons.

Not only do young quarterbacks fumble more often, veterans like Brady fumble very rarely. So the difference without Brady is that much more stark because he was replaced by two first-time starters.

Conclusion

DeflateHaters need to give it up. They might be happy the Patriots got whacked by Goodell, but there simply is no basis in fact, in science, or in the statistics to show there was any violation of the rules.

As for the fumbles; they should drop once Brady returns and the team gets back to building bigger leads in games. It’s never a good idea to conclude something on a small sample size. And one-quarter of the way through the season, the fumbles are about to take a dramatic dip.

Gronk at the Grocery Store @nepatsgirl87

Gronk at the Grocery Store @nepatsgirl87

By: Kristen Parker @nepatsgirl87

Gronk took the podium this week at the Wednesday press conference to talk football, injuries and groceries. Groceries? We will get to that.

At the beginning of the season, Rob Gronkowski topped the list of tight end picks in fantasy football. He was even slated to go in the first round. In ESPN Fantasy Sports, he is 99.9% owned and was likely taken Round 1 in most leagues. Unfortunately, he has not been very productive, yet. We are heading into Week 5 and Gronk missed the first two games, was not targeted in the game against Houston and was 1 for 2 for 11 yards and 0 touchdowns last week against Buffalo.

This is certainly disheartening for fantasy owners who were sure they picked up the cream of the crop, the top dog, the guy who was going to put up big points game after game after game. Sadly, Gronk has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury since training camp. With Brady back in the lineup, hopefully, Gronk will see more passes thrown his way and fans will see more spikes in the end zone. However, if his job remains a blocker, it might be time to worry that his injury may be a bigger deal.

Now, back to the groceries. During Wednesday’s press conference, Gronk told the media that, “[he] can’t even go to the grocery store without getting yelled at [by fantasy owners].” Gronk’s response to these agitated owners, “Why did you draft me then, baby?” He continues, “Oh man, I mean, it’s real football. That’s what I’m really only worried about is going out there and getting the W. If we get the W and I have no catches, I’m satisfied, man, no matter what.” Gronk, I like the way you think!

Photo credit: Steven Senne/AP

Who is leading the Browns? By @alykins32

Who is leading the Browns? By @alykins32

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, Art of War

 

In the battle for gridiron supremacy, there is no truer phrase then that written by the ancient master of warfare as he battled army after army for dominance of China. When assessing a football team’s chance in the weekly Sunday conflict, (or Monday, or Thursday) you can compare superstars, scoring opportunities, and 3rd down conversion rates. These may help you determine who may emerge victorious in the contest of athletic championship. However, to truly gain a competitive edge you need to understand the leadership of the opposition. When the Patriots engage the Cleveland Brown in between the white lines on Sunday, they will be fighting against both the players on the field and the coaches wearing the headphones. The Cleveland Browns maybe seeking their first win, but they do have some star power among its players. They have emerging young stars that are hungry to avenge their losses and begin on the path to a winning tradition. Running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are ready to shoulder the load. Receiver and gadget man Terrelle Pryor has proven effective when called upon. Stalwarts Joe Haden and Joe Thomas are the veteran leadership that any team would value. But the men calling the plays and crafting the plans are the behind the scenes leaders. The general of this squad is Hue Jackson and his captains are Pep Hamilton and Ray Horton. These are the people the Patriots must know in order to defeat their enemy on Sunday.

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Bleacherreport.com
If there is any coach that can be said to exhibit the necessary traits of leadership that is coaching on sunday, Hue Jackson is one of them. He checks off all the requirements for a good successful head coach. Previous head coaching stint: Check. Fired from the Oakland Raiders (who hasn’t been) after 1 season. Bounced around the league as many position coaches: Check. Running back coach for the Redskins, coaching the wide receivers in Cincinnati, and the Quarterbacks coach with the Baltimore Ravens. Worked under well-known and good head coaches: Check. Steve Spurrier, John Harbaugh and Marvin Lewis all guide him in his NFL career. Dabbled as a coach on different sides of the ball: Check. Worked as an assistant defensive backs coach and special teams with the Bengals before replacing Jay Gruden. Coached some of the biggest names to some of their best seasons: Check. Carson Palmer at USC, Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh with the Bengals. Darren McFadden with the raiders, Joe Flacco as a QB coach and the Offensive Coordinator for Andy Dalton’s last 2 NFL seasons. Aside from understanding the rigors of the NFL coach’s life, Hue has gained a reputation as a strong leader and teacher of football players. He would seem to favor a balanced attack that had powerful running backs and good perimeter wide receivers. His play calling has not always reflected this and during some games in Cincinnati he inexplicably would abandon the run. He will have to draw upon every ounce of his experience and get his players to pay everything on the line in order to beat the Patriots.

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Cleavelandbrowns.com
Not too long ago there was a young protege that was at the forefront of NFL offensive philosophy. But that star can quickly dim if the results don’t match expectations in the hyper-competitive football world. Pep Hamilton had everything he could ever want. One of the best quarterback prospects to enter the league in a decade to work with in Andrew Luck and dynamic receivers in TY Hilton and Coby Fleener. This was a quarterback the Pep knew well. He coached him to Heisman runner up seasons two years in a row. But some things are not meant to be and he was fired in November of 2015 after a horrific season. It saw his star quarterback battered and bruised and eventually shelved. The offense never recovered and the offensive coordinator bore the consequences. Cleveland has been about second chances, albeit quick ones. Many coaches take jobs here in order to rehabilitate their image and gain prestige for the next promotion. They soon find that it’s more infuriating than a Chinese finger trap. Still, he has some pieces to work with. He too favors the quick strike down the field and a heavy dose of big running backs up the middle. He has a better offensive line to work with in Cleveland. Each of the quarterbacks that will take snaps exhibit traits that he prefers. Quick-armed and accurate, Cody Kessler will make intelligent decisions. Mobile Terrelle Pryor can avoid pass rush and deliver strikes down the field. Hamilton’s offense is getting better and they have to be encouraged by the Buffalo Bills unlikely victory against the Patriots. The only question is whether he can come up with a plan that can lead the Browns to victory.

horton
Neosportsinsider.com
If a member of this coaching triumvirate can be said to be the grizzled veteran, it’s Ray Horton. An NFL lifer from the day he was drafted out of University of Washington as a defensive back by the Bengals in 1983. As a ten year player, he went to two Super Bowls with two teams, recorded 19 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and 5 touchdowns on defense. His coaching style has been an aggressive mix of pressure from the defensive line, unique blitzes and excellent coverage plays. In his first stint with the Cleveland Browns under Rob Chudzinski, he helped Joe Haden go to his second pro bowl and was named to his first All Pro team. Even though he was only there for one year Horton left his mark. As was his coaching stint with the Arizona Cardinals, where he worked with Ken Whisenhunt, eventually leaving after being passed over for the head coaching job in favor of Bruce Arians.

There is no doubt that these three men and their assistants have been feverishly working on their plans and preparing their players to meet the Patriots. Despite the winless record, they have been in a position to win in all but the first game. Even unable to break a tie with a missed field goal and losing in overtime is not enough to get this team discouraged. They will be ready, and they will fight to beat the Patriots for all 60 minutes.