Ugly wins count just the same as the pretty ones. 2-0!no comments
Ugly wins count just the same as the pretty ones. 2-0!no comments
As the New England Patriots prepare for their Thursday night game against the division rival New York Jets, the story surrounding the team in Foxboro is who isn't going to be playing in the home opener. Tom Brady will be leading a offense that will be without running back Shane Vereen (on IR with broken wrist), wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin), and tight end Rob Gronkowski (back). The Patriots' offense showed a ton of growing pains in Week 1 up in Buffalo as they needed a last second field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to win the game 23-21. They were able to contain Buffalo QB E.J Manuel, but can head coach Bill Belichick defeat a rookie quarterback for the second straight game?
The New York Jets also had some last second drama in their first game as a penalty by Lavonte David helped New York move into field goal range to win the game over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a last second field goal. That being said, Geno Smith still performed well in his NFL debut, throwing for 256 yards and 1 touchdown while also leading the team in rushing. Yes, that means Mark Sanchez won't be around for any butt fumbles this time around. Of course, the strength of the Jets is their defense that head coach Rex Ryan loves to boast about, even without defensive back Darrelle Revis, who is now in Tampa. That being said, this rivalry has seen its fair share of good moments. Will we get another moment to remember Thursday night?
Here are my keys to tonight's home opener in Foxboro:
Big East, Big Sacks?: Even though college football's geographic landscape has shuffled because of realignment, two players in this football game have a good familiarity with each other that could determine the outcome of this game. Jets' quarterback Geno Smih went to West Virginia last year and Patriots' defensive end Chandler Jones graduated from Syracuse, who was in the Big East at that time. Coming into the season, fans have been looking for Jones to improve a Patriots' pass rush that has struggled in recent seasons. Well, in college, four of Jones' ten career sacks came against Smith. The Patriots did a good job last week of keeping E.J Manuel in the pocket and preventing him from running, but had zero sacks last week. Can the Patriots follow this scheme against a Jets' offense that will be without wide receiver Jeremy Kerley due to a concussion? If Geno can't get out of the pocket, you can take his running out of the game since he led the Jets in rushing last week, but pressure has to be a priority Thursday night!
The Pass Rusher Muhammad: Last week, the Patriots' offensive line showed a little bit of vulnerability against Mike Pettine's defensive scheme. Pettine branches off of the Rex Ryan tree, who is one of the defensive coaches who know the gameplan on how to contain Brady's production: pressure, pressure, and more pressure. The Bills had two sacks and forced Brady to get rid of the ball early. The Jets have a pass rush that can frustrate the Pats' quarterback should the new receivers not get open quick enough. Third year pass rusher Muhammad Wilkerson had one sack last week as the team had a total of five sacks against Josh Freeman. Rex will be looking for Wilkerson to be the primary pass rusher on the defensive line. Rex will throw the kitchen sink at the Patriots, but can Brady get rid of the ball quick enough to exploit the open spots on the field?
A Ridley Wrapped In An Enigma: With the latest injury to Shane Vereen, the Patriots' running attack is now mainly on Stevan Ridley. Ridley was benched last week and put in Belichick's doghouse after two fumbles, including one that was brought back for the touchdown. The Patriots came into the season with depth at running back and now that depth with players like LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington will have to produce more than expected. Ridley is a top running back, but the fumbles can't happen with the growing pains the pasing attack is going through right now. Keep an eye on Washington for third downs because he is a veteran running back that can catch passes out of the backfield, even though he isn't Shane Vereen.
The easy prediction to make for this game is that Tom Brady is going to continue to show impatience on the sideline with yelling at rookies who make mistakes on the field. The Patriots are likely going to see Aaron Dobson make his NFL debut at wide receiver, which will help the offense out. The key player is still Julian Edelman who will be Brady's target in the red zone when the team is looking for touchdowns, not field goals. That being said, this is a game where the defense will have to win just like last week.
This matchup will be low-scoring and I expect Geno Smith to make a couple of mistakes to either Kyle Arrington (forced fumbles) or a key interception from Rob Ninkovich. The Jets' inept offense may be the only reason why New York doesn't pull the upset. I wouldn't be surprised if the Jets won in Foxboro, since it's happened before, with Sanchez winning in his second game against Brady, but New England will hang on late and improve to 2-0.
PATRIOTS 24 JETS 17
With Week 1 in the books, there was only a mild shaking up of the Top 12. The Bears vaulted up, the Falcons vaulted down, and Washington and Dallas were replaced by New Orleans and Philadelphia. With only one big Top 12 matchup (San Fran @ Seattle) on tap in Week 2, it will be interesting to see how things pan out after this weekend.
#1 - San Francisco 49ers
By coming away with a victory over the Packers, the Niners wrapped up a repeat in the top spot this week. Hard to argue against them.
Last Week: 1 Change: N/A Record: 1-0 Next Game: @ Seahawks
#2 - Denver Broncos
While it may have come down to altitude and conditioning, there's no denying that the Broncos looked impressive thrashing the defending champs.
Last Week: 4 Change: +2 Record: 1-0 Next Game: @ Giants
#3 - Chicago Bears
And here I thought the Bears would be mired around the 10 spot all season. That was a quality win against a quality team last week. Few teams had as good of a win over a tough team, which catapults Chicago up the board.
Last Week: 10 Change: +7 Record: 1-0 Next Game: vs. Vikings
#4 - New England Patriots
The Pats didn't win pretty but they won. They also showed flashes of being a tough opponent once everyone gets healthy and on the same page. Until then, it's time to tread water..
Last Week: 2 Change: -2 Record: 1-0 Next Game: vs. Jets
The Patriots opened as 12-point favorites as they host the New York Jets in Week 2.
Last week was a mess for the Pats, and it makes predicting this week’s result a bit tougher. Oddly, the New England offense didn’t look much different from last year’s unit despite some pretty significant differences in personnel. If the goal was simply to escape with an ugly win without putting too much of substance on tape for other teams, then mission accomplished. Still, when you stop to consider the quality of the opposition, escaping with a last-second FG is not an impressive result. Injuries to Vereen and Amendola won’t help matters much either.
Speaking of things that are unimpressive, there’s the Jets. They won last week, but it was more a case of the other team giving away an easy win. In addition to the boneheaded penalty that resulted in their winning field goal, New York got four other first downs via penalty. Smith absorbed five sacks and turned the ball over twice. They can’t run well, they can’t pass well, and their defense is an average unit on a good day.
A New England win should be a foregone conclusion. Covering the spread is another animal entirely. The Pats often get few extra points in a line simply because they’re the Pats. Over the past year or so, the Jets have been gifted a few points in most lines simply because their team is a joke and their blowhard head coach is the punch line. The Jets can’t win this game, but I have little confidence in New England’s ability to blow anyone out with the current roster.
I’m taking the Jets to cover. And then I’m taking a shower.
Other Lines I Like
49ers (+2.5) @ Seahawks
Most power rankings say that the Seahawks are among the league’s elite teams. While they are undoubtedly a dangerous team, I still don’t think they rise to San Francisco’s level. Russell Wilson is going to look funny without an eyebrow.
Jaguars (+6) @ Raiders
I’m taking the Jags simply because the Raiders are getting six points. Stop and try to wrap your head around that -- the Raiders … yes, the team from Oakland … getting … six … points. I’m not convinced that either team will score, so I’ll take the points here.
Record ATS: 1-1-1
Record ATS since 2010: 108-100-5no comments
Danny Amendola (WR) - Without question, Amendola was the star of the game. He followed up an off-season of swirling doubt with a gutsy game for the ages. One game may not be enough to quell all of the doubts surrounding Welker 2.0, but there's not a fan in Patriots nation who didn't like Amendola's first impression.
Julian Edelman (WR) - Brady's "veteran" wide reciever came through big time, hauling in the game's two touchdown passes. As someone who was constantly in Welker's shadow, Edelman took his opportunity to shine yesterday in the red zone.
Shane Vereen (RB) - Vereen had a monster game, taking the bulk of what would have been Danny Woodhead's snaps and churning up the field for some big yardage plays on a day when the Patriots' attacked lacked a vertical threat.
Stephen Gostkowski (K) - I had vision's of last season's Week 2 loss to the Cardinals in my head when Gostkowski lined up for the game winner. This time his kick was true and straight for the win.
Kyle Arrington (DB) - While not always one of my personal favorite corners, Arrington was a disruptive force on Sunday, creating chaos and forcing turnovers.
Patriots Defense - As a whole, the unit only gave up one sustained scoring drive to Buffalo and forced two turnovers. Their three-and-out stop late in the game was crucial to the Patriots' eventual comeback.
Stevan Ridley (RB) - Ball control continues to be an issue for Ridley, with his 2nd quarter fumble leading to a 74-yard Buffalo score being the most costly play of the day for New England.
Kenbrell Thompkins (WR) - After a much heralded preseason, Thompkins looked very much like a rookie, failing to truly capitalize on his 14 targets on Sunday. At times he seemed out of sync with Brady and failed to keep two feet in on a crucial catch.
Offensive Line - Brady was constantly hurried and being hit all day on Sunday. This had the typical look of a Patriots loss with Brady coming under heavy fire. Thankfully, the Pats were able to pull out the game in the end.
Ryan Allen (P) - The rookie in his debut failed to look Mesko-esque, pulling a 19-yard punt on one occasion. He also failed to display Mesko's trademark boot when the Pats were pinned deep in their own territory.
We've spent an entire summer heaving over and over about how fragile Danny Amendola is. We've heard ad nauseum that there was no way he could possibly hope to replace Wes Welker.
In sixty minutes, Danny Amendola silenced all those drive-time football "experts" once and for all.
There wasn't too much to get excited about from today's lackluster game in Buffalo, but Amendola's performance was certainly one that will go down in Patriots' lore. If you had changed the zero on a jersey to a three, everyone would have assumed it was Wes Welker hauling in those clutch passes from Tom Brady in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Ten catches, 104 yards, and nine first downs later, there's not a member of Patriots' nation who is left doubting whether Amendola is capable of filling Welker's shoes. And if the stats and the gutsiness displayed weren't enough, Danny managed to fake us all out by pulling up limp with a groin injury late in the 2nd quarter. With countless "I told you so's" raining down, it was Amendola who ended the day by letting his play do all the talking.
Certainly one game can't begin to compare to what Wes Welker meant to the Patriots during his six seasons with the team. The man was the definition of dependability and no Patriot has caught more passes than he has. However, after all the negativity that's been thrown upon the newcomer this off-season, Danny Amendola came out and was just as dependable as Welker, just as clutch, and displayed as much heart as Wes Welker ever has.
Yes, it was only one game. But during this one game, I didn't miss Wes Welker one bit. I may as well have been staring right at him.no comments
Good evening, everyone! I hope everyone had a terrific summer and are glad that football is back. We got a little taste of football being back last Thursday, but we finally got to see our New England Patriots on the field. Though it was against the Buffalo Bills on the road, I was just glad that Pats football was back after over half a year. Though it wasn’t a pretty game, New England still managed to escape with a victory.
The first quarter was an interesting one. I was anticipating the Patriots’ rookies to make an impact early. They did not and it seemed like the Pats were preferring the run game. Stevan Ridley didn’t get off to a great start as he fumbled the ball very early in the quarter. Luckily, New England recovered the ball. The Pats didn’t score on that drive but on Buffalo’s ensuing possession, they fumbled the ball inside their redzone. This time, the Patriots took advantage of the opportunity, with Tom Brady throwing a 9-yd touchdown pass to Julian Edelman.
Things started to turn the Bills’ way in the 2nd quarter. And for the most part, it stayed that way for the majority of the match. While the Patriots’ defense was alright, the offensive line had some serious issues. New England was forced to punt several times due to the offensive line’s inability to give Brady more time to throw the ball. But hey, if passing doesn’t work, why not run the ball? So they did, and Ridley fumbled the ball AGAIN. The only difference was now the Bills’ Da’Norris Searcy picked up the ball and ran it all the way down for a touchdown. Even though Brady threw another touchdown pass to Edelman 7 minutes later, the Bills were really controlling the tempo. In the last minute of the second quarter, rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld deflected a pass from Brady right into the hands of a Bills player. And they took full advantage of that, with EJ Manuel throwing an 18-yd touchdown to Robert Woods. New England had the 17-14 lead at the half, but the momentum clearly belonged to Buffalo.
Since the Patriots got the ball first in the 1st half, the Bills would get the ball in the 2nd half. And they capitalized on their first possession, with Manuel throwing a touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson (also 18 yards). I honestly could not believe what I was seeing. I knew there was still a lot of time left but were the Patriots seriously going to give this game up…to the Bills? It looked like that as a really promising drive for the Pats ended as Brady fumbled the ball at Buffalo’s 1-yd line on 4th and goal. In addition, the Patriots were pinned inside their 10 and didn’t do squat to get out of there. At that point, maybe I thought that the Patriots’ chances of losing was more likely.
This was it, the fourth quarter. The Patriots had to do something, right? But it seemed like they just couldn’t find a way to get touchdowns. Stephen Gostkowski did tack on a 33-yd field goal, but New England was still trailing 21-20. The possessions went back-and-forth after that. The Patriots couldn’t score because no one could catch, and the Bills couldn’t score because the Patriots defense decided to step up. The Patriots were awarded one final possession and took the ball inside Buffalo territory. With excellent clock management, the Patriots (at the Bills’ 17-yd line) called a timeout with 9 seconds left. On came Gostkowski and he drilled the 35-yd field goal to give the Patriots a 23-21. This was actually funny to me because he’s missed from that distance and closer several times over the past two seasons. Nonetheless, I could breathe once again and the Patriots held on to win the game by a final score of 23-21.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how you win games. What matters is that you win them. That’s what the New England Patriots did today. They beat the Buffalo Bills and are now 1-0 on the season and not 0-1. Although, it definitely could’ve been prettier. I’d like to point out that this game really told a lot about the Patriots offense. While I’m really glad guys like Danny Amendola (extra clutch) and Julian Edelman stepped up, what about the rookies? These two can’t carry the Patriots passing game on their backs every week. The rookies have to step up as well. Aaron Dobson wasn’t playing today but if he comes back against the New York Jets this Thursday, he and the other rookie receivers (Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld) have to give it their all. Even though it’s a short week, they have to be prepared. It would be a shame to see the same performance against the Jets at home. Still, in the end, In Bill We Trust. Have a great week, everybody! Let’s go Patriots!no comments
Which AFC opponent poses the biggest threat to the Patriots in their quest to return to the Super Bowl?
Derek: I want to be creative here, but I have to go with the vanilla answer and say the Broncos are the Patriots top competition in the AFC. It's a QB-driven league and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Houston's Matt Schaub just don't scare me. Joe Flacco certainly made the Patriots pay last season, but his supporting cast appears to have taken a major step back. I can't say the Steelers, Dolphins, or Chiefs with a staight face. That leaves Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
I think the Pats have Denver's number, but maintaining home field could be extremely important come January. Just like last season, I'm nervous about our defense at altitude. It certainly took its toll on the Ravens in the second half on Thursday night. The Pats simply cannot afford to drop games to inferior teams this year. If Peyton's coming to Foxboro in the post-season, then I definitely like our chances.
Raj: To be honest, I believe most, if not every, Patriots fan will tell you the Denver Broncos pose as the biggest threat to the Patriots. However, I'm certain that New England has them figured out. Welker going to Denver makes the Broncos a better team no doubt, but the Broncos haven't beaten the Patriots in a playoff game in 8 years. So while they're a dangerous team, they don't pose the biggest threat. My real worry right now is if the Patriots play the Houston Texans. Yes, the Pats demolished them last season and beat them in the playoffs. However, I really think the Texans will surprise a lot of teams this season. They've already got one of the AFC's best offenses, and their defense got better during the offseason. At home, they're almost impossible to beat, and the Pats have to play them in Houston this season. That only enforces the fact that Houston will be a big threat to New England this year. Still, In Belichick we Trust.
With the Patriots opener at Buffalo fast-approaching, I took some time to lob questions back and forth with Bloguin's resident Bills blogger, Joe Pinzone. Joe runs a great Bills and Sabres site, Buffalo Wins. Below is his take on Sunday's game from the opposite side of the field.
#1 - What is the pulse of the Buffalo fanbase at the start of the Doug Marrone era?
Bills fans have always eaten up any sort of carrot that is dangled in front of them in terms of hope. That's why our slogan is Billllieve. Get it? That's what happens when you have been losing for 13 years straight and are desperate for change. I've lived through the hype of Bledsoe, T.O. and Mario to know that you have to be cautious with this stuff. However, people are excited about Marrone because it feels like a different hire than years past. The Bills last two coaches were retreads (Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey) who were lucky to get head coaching jobs at any level. No, that's not hyperbole. Them are the facts. Marrone is a guy who a few NFL teams wanted last year as he helped turn around Syracuse after being a national laughing stock for almost a decade. So, while there is always trepidation with fans believing in the Bills, this does have potential or a sexy unknown to it.
#2 - Is E.J. Manuel the real deal or likely to be yet another disappointing QB for the Bills?
That is the 2-million dollar question and I have zero idea. EJ had a decent preseason, but he only played in two games and most of his nice play occurred against 2nd teammers, so, it could be considered a wash with what he achieved during the fake preseason. Now, EJ does feel different than QBs from the past. Mainly because it took the Bills almost 30 years to use their first pick in the draft on a QB. They tried doing the QB thing ass backwards by drafting guys in the 3rd round or giving Fitzpatrick a crazy extension or getting damaged goods in Bledsoe. I think it is going to take some time for EJ. I wouldn't hold my breath in thinking he'll be like some of the rookie QBs from last year. From 2003-2010, no rookie QB had over 20tds. Just try and get 15-17TDs and be better by the end of the year is my goal.
#3 - What do the Bills need to do on Sunday to pull off the upset?
An act of God...Oh, you want some observations, right? Well, since the Bills beat the Pats in 2003, when the game is in Buffalo the average score is 33-13. You can guess who the winners are on that end? I think the Bills have to get a bunch of turnovers and play exceptionally well on special teams. We got great returners in McKelvin and rookie Marquise Goodwin. On offense, I think we can move the ball, but the Pats always seem to cause a ton of turnovers. In the last six games against NE the Bills have turned the ball over 24 times...YES, 24 TIMES?!?!?
Defensively...eh. The Bills CB situation is in direr straights right now. Leodis McKelvin is our #1 CB and while he's awesome on special teams, the guy was regulated to the 4th CB a year ago at this time. To put it mildly...He will be Tom's bitch on Sunday. The Bills defense is suppose to be an attacking style under Mike Pettine (Jets former DC), but with them being terrible at CB, how on earth can you blitz Brady and leave their DBs on 1-on-1 islands with your WRs? I don't care if it is Troy Brown in his 50s out there, Brady will eat the Bills' defense alive if that happens.
#4 - Does New England have anyone who can stop Stevie Johnson?
It will be interesting to see what sort of chemistry Stevie has with EJ. Problem is that the two of them didn't play together at all in the preseason due to injuries. So, they only had like maybe a one or two weeks worth of practices together. Stevie has been sharp against you guys, catching 29 passes for 329 yards and 3TDs in the his last 6 games. Those numbers are the 2nd most he's had against any NFL team. I think the key to stopping Stevie is Jamming him at the line of scrimmage and disrupting his routes. Most of his pass patterns happen to be 5-7 yard slants. He won't kill you with speed, but he will kill you on those Wes Welker like patterns.
#5 - What is your prediction for the Bills this season?
4 wins. Yes, this is a pretty crappy number, but realistically this isn't a good football team. I just think they have too many new parts to their game with a rookie QB, coach and offensive coordinator. Factor in their secondary being a tire fire and how the team has so many unproven parts, and you have a recipe for a disaster. The Bills are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and when Stevie Johnson is your 4th longest tenured player, it should tell you something about how much transition is going on here. I've said this before, if EJ Manuel shows flashes of being legit, that's what you have to take in order for a 4-12 season to be a success. Pretty much what Carolina did during Cam Newton's rookie year would suffice.no comments