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Disaster?

A few weeks ago, subsequent to their close win over the Chicago Bears, we had written about where the New England Patriots are heading this season.  We focused primarily on the defense.  Now…after the recent debacle against Tennessee…we need to talk about the offense.  Whoda thunk it?  Ten weeks in and the Patriots are having all kinds of issues on offense?  Inconceivable.

But man, things seem more than a little disjointed, no?

What it pretty much comes down to for me is that Tom Brady simply hasn’t looked the same this year.  I know, BLASPHEMY!!

Sure, Gronk has missed some time.  Julian Edelman was suspended the first four games.  When Sony Michel is playing, they are trying to force feed him the ball…and not through the air.  Rex Burkhead hasn’t played much.  And all that.

But does that explain Brady almost refusing to throw to Chris Hogan?  When on the field in his first two years, Hogan produced well enough.  As long as he’s no more than the third or even fourth option, Hogan adds some value.  When he was the teams’ number one receiver to start the year, that certainly miscast him.  In any event, according to people who watch film, Hogan has often been running around wide open this year.  And Brady doesn’t throw to him anymore.  Why?

Part of the reason is they are apparently trying to force feed Josh Gordon too.  And so far Gordon really hasn’t made the most of his targets.  Lot of drops.  He also apparently doesn’t run the right routes all the time, but that’s to be expected from someone signed in-season in this “probably too complicated offense for new receivers” that the Pats have run for years.  That’s a story for another day though.

Is it the offensive line?  Brady seems to be ducking a lot like there is someone in his face…and there isn’t.  But the line is virtually the same as it always has been.  Trent Brown replaced Nate Solder.  Brown has seemed to be decent enough.  Which is what Solder was in reality, despite all the hype that always seemed to surround him.  The other guys are pretty much the same.  You can say Marcus Cannon has been in and out of the lineup.  But you can say that about him every single year pretty much.

Many people point to the fact that Brady didn’t show up this offseason.  I honestly wish he would have, but I think we have to trust he knows how to get ready for a season after playing the sport for almost 20 years.  On top of that, sure, he could have worked on connections with new receivers such as Cordarrelle Patterson and other receivers who he didn’t really work much with last year, such as Phillip Dorsett.  But the fact of the matter is that Brady has a rapport already with most of the guys that actually get playing time…Jules, Gronk, James White, Hogan.  The only guy that is getting plenty of time that Brady doesn’t have experience with is Gordon.  But Josh wasn’t here in the offseason, so in this case, Brady not showing up in the summer is irrelevant.

Is it age?  Can’t ever rule that out.

Is it an injury that he is playing through?  Can’t rule that out either.

Personally, I think it is probably a combination of all of the above.  Plus some coaching/play calling decisions.  Plus…

…doesn’t every team hate the Patriots, so there is actually extra motivation on a weekly basis to beat them?

Ask Dion Lewis.  His postgame comments were blunt.  And most former Pats and most opponents probably feel the same way, they just keep it all under wraps.  Speaking of Lewis, he should be kissing Belichick’s and the Patriots’ arse every day.  This is a dude that was injury prone and a deep bench guy his first two years in the league.  Then was completely out of the league for about two years before the Pats came calling.  They gave him an opportunity in 2015…then he got hurt again.  Of course, the Pats gave him another year on his contract that year when they didn’t have to…and in his first two seasons with the Pats, he missed more than half of each season.  Had a pretty good year last year (his third with the team), even though he didn’t play much early on.  Then he bitched about not getting the ball enough in the Super Bowl, even though the offense lit it up there.  Dion forgot about how the Pats helped his career immensely and allowed him to get a nice shiny contract last offseason.  What a quality guy.  He should just count his money and shut the F up.

Malcolm Butler has a little bit of a bone to pick with the Pats and he’s taken nothing but the high road since he left.  Logan Ryan had nothing to say this past week.  He must know that, even though he sucked in New England for most of his career, a strong showing at the end allowed him to get paid too.  The Pats gave him opportunity.  He seems to get it.  For the record, we never heard anything from Josh Kline either!  But once again, shut up Dion.

So you’ve heard it a lot this week…ten weeks in, the Pats usually have it all figured out by now.  This year has always felt different, but I am telling you it is far from over.  There is time.

The team has one of the easiest schedules from here on in.  They will cruise to another division title.  Gronk and Burkhead are coming back.  Michel and Jules will get stronger from what is ailing them.  Brady hopefully will once again find Hogan.  Gordon will presumably keep getting integrated.  Etc.  I am not worried about the offense.

Brady must absolutely get better, sorry to say.  I’m thinking he will…though that could just be my homerism taking over.

Ultimately though…we still do have to worry about that defense…their Super Bowl chances simply rely on that unit at least being competent…

Green Bay at Seattle (-2.5)  

Still don’t know what to make of both of these teams.  Seems like they both should be better than the .500 they are hovering around.  The Pack is 0-4 on the road.  Not ideal.  With Aaron Rodgers leading that team, that kind of record should not happen, regardless of the quality of opponents.  So yeah, they should be better.  The “formerly unbeatable at home” ‘hawks are 1-2 in their friendly confines.  Their 5 losses are by a combined 25 points, none more than eight.  So yeah, they should be better too.  There’s a lot of contenders in the NFC with time running out.  We imagine this may be a good one, especially if these teams do show up with some urgency.

Seattle 30, Green Bay 27.

Week (against the spread):  8-6

Week (straight up):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  79-69

Season (straight up):  94-54

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Week Ten…

Vegas got killed last week.  Will it happen again?  I wouldn’t bet on it…

Buffalo at New York Jets (-7.5) 

I can’t imagine anyone cares about this game.  The Bills can’t score and the Jets are at home.  Josh McCown may be a better QB right now than Sam Darnold.  Oh yeah, and…Nathan Peterman.  Everything probably points to the Jets this week.  But let’s remember, the Jets stink still too.

New York Jets 7, Buffalo 3.

Detroit at Chicago (-6.5)

The spread seems a little high for a divisional tilt.  Chicago isn’t exactly proven either.  But again…

Chicago 27, Detroit 20.

Washington at Tampa Bay (-2.5)  

Tampa can score some points.  But they give up a ton as well.  The ‘Skins don’t score a ton, but they don’t give up a ton either.  Which one gives?

Washington 31, Tampa Bay 24.

Arizona at Kansas City (-16.5) 

Both of Cardinals’ wins are against the 2-7 49ers.  Unfortunately, they play the 8-1 Chiefs this week.

Kansas City 38, Arizona 13.

New England (-7.5) at Tennessee

Big Monday night win for the Titans.  But it was against Dallas.  I love Mike Vrabel, but not this week.  Does Tom Brady victimize Malcolm Butler this week?  Perhaps.  Butler has given up some big plays this year.  The Pats are also coming off a big win against the Packers, will there be a letdown this week, right before their bye?  It’s possible but unlikely.  We think they finish strong here.  And we don’t believe the Titans are that good.  Dion Lewis may be able to run on the Pats.  But who cares if they run the ball all game?

New England 27, Tennessee 17.

New Orleans (-4.5) at Cincinnati

The Saints outlasted the Rams last week.  Great offensive battle.  Saints are 4-0 on the road, believe it or not.  The Bengals are the Bengals.  And it appears A.J. Green won’t play.  All signs point to the Saints.  But…maybe a let down here.  Just a gut feeling.

Cincinnati 33, New Orleans 30.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-3.5) 

Did the Jaguars figure anything out during their bye week?  Didn’t they have to?

Jacksonville 31, Indianapolis 17.

Miami at Green Bay (-9.5)

Some say Aaron Rodgers kind of mailed it in late last week in the Packers game against the Patriots.  That he has no confidence in his team and/or coaches.  That may be a little strong.  Either way, you know how you fix that?  A home game against the Dolphins.

Green Bay 37, Miami 18.

Atlanta (-4.5) at Cleveland

The Falcons have been on a little bit of a roll.  The Browns have not.

Atlanta 41, Cleveland 27.

Los Angeles Chargers (-9.5) at Oakland

We said last week, the Raiders have quit.  Well, I think Jon Gruden may have anyway.  Seemingly aiming for the worst record in the league, having three first round picks next year and already saying that “there are a ton of players that want to play for the Raiders in 2019”.  I think we know where this is headed.

Los Angeles Chargers 45, Oakland 16.  

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams (-10.5) 

The Rams finally lost last week.  Do they rebound this week?  Probably.  Another gut feeling that the Seahawks keep it close though…even on the road.

Los Angeles Rams 37, Seattle 31.

Dallas at Philadelphia (-6.5)  

The Cowboys had a clunker just 6 days before this game will be played.  The Eagles are coming off a bye.  Seems like an easy one here.

Philadelphia 30, Dallas 17.

New York Giants at San Francisco (-3.5)  

This is the Monday Nighter this week?!  Sigh…

San Francisco 23, New York Giants 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  72-63

Season (straight up):  88-47

Shut Up Whiners…And…

…New England Patriot NFL draft coverage of course!

Yeah, I know…the Boston Bruins just won their first-round NHL playoff series and the Boston Celtics will try to do the same tonight.  We will get to them soon and catch up on all that, I promise.

But I have a hair across my arse first…

Why?

All of this nonsense going down with the players in Foxborough…as well as with the players that have departed Foxborough.

Listen, all us Patriot fans know Coach Bill Belichick is generally an arsehole.  In public for sure, and presumably inside the locker room as well, based on what we hear…and have heard for his entire tenure here.  I’ll never understand why he has to be a total jerk to reporters just trying to do their job.  But the way I see it is, as long as he wins like 13 games a year, goes to the AFC Championship every year and a Super Bowl roughly every other year, I can live with the stupid personality he shows us.

You would think that with all that success and that kind of cachet, the players would just deal with it as well.

Not this year.  And that’s foolish.

The two biggest stars on the team now have been not so subtly hinting about their dissatisfaction this offseason.  And most of the guys that have left have had something to say as well.

Tom Brady is likely pissed because Bill won’t let his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, travel with the team and come into the building and all that.  That’s what we assume it all comes down to.  Brady also apparently is a more positive person these days and Bill’s negative methods wear on him now.  And Tommy did not like Jimmy Garoppolo around either, we know that much.  Rob Gronkowski isn’t having fun anymore.  And the Guerrero issue may affect him as well.  Waaaaaah…waaaaah…waaaah.

I’m not stupid enough to say that Belichick is responsible for the success that both of these guys have had in their respective careers.  But he sure played a pretty big hand in both, no?

Bill kept Brady as the fourth QB his rookie year, then handed him the job even when the $100 million man Drew Bledsoe was recovered from his injury.  Bill protected Tom with a running game and defense early in his career, as Brady developed.  Then opened things up when Brady proved completely more than capable.  Bill drafted Gronk when other teams were scared away by his back issues and has dealt with all of his injury issues throughout his career.

Please do not misinterpret this last thought.  Brady and Gronk are legends of the game.  They worked hard to become the players they have become.  Take nothing away from them for that.  But Bill also had to play a huge role for them to become what they are now as well.  This much cannot be denied.

Anyway, if Bill lets everyone do their own thing as far as training goes, why have any trainers on the Patriot staff?  He really has to have his own program (which also has seemingly worked here) and if players want to supplement with their own things, they can do that on their own time.  I know, because these two guys are legends, maybe exceptions can be made in their cases.  I get it.  But still…Bill can’t have 53 players doing 53 different things.  He needs his program and his staff to oversee things and make sure everyone stays on track.  That’s what I think.

The departing players may be even worse.  God love Danny Amendola.  Clutch.  Money.  Use any word you want.  I also don’t blame him for taking guaranteed money, also seeing that he took pay cuts every year here to stay.  That all being said, he remains brittle and needs to be babied somewhat.  And if everyone is healthy, where is he on the WR depth chart?  Anyway, he said some stuff when he left town…although it wasn’t completely inflammatory, it still bugged me anyway.

Danny mainly questioned Malcolm Butler not playing in the Super Bowl.  We all have.  We don’t know if playing Butler in the big game would’ve made a difference.  People think that the Pats automatically win the game if he does.  I don’t necessarily buy that, though of course, it shouldn’t have hurt them.  But let’s all please let that go.  We don’t really know if Butler would have made a difference.  Bill is never going to tell us why he did it.  We’ve all been bitter about it since that day.  But now it’s time to move on.  The players should too.

Butler was actually complementary when he left.  Good for him.  He got his dough too.  As Jeremy Roenick would say, “that’s great for him, twice-fold”.  Most of the departing players you know wanted to say more and likely bash Bill some more than they hinted at, but kind of toned things down in the end.  One guy that should have taken the high road like Bulter is Dion Lewis.  Here’s a guy who’s injury-prone to start with, is a bit player the first two years of his career, out of football the following two, then picked up off the scrap heap by Belichick in 2015.  Then Bill gives him a 2-year extension after Dion got off to a flying start, then he gets hurt again.  Plays half seasons in 2015 and 2016.  The organization babies him early in 2017 and he has a huge second half.  Then we hear that he was upset about his lack of early season usage and then about his lack of usage in the Super Bowl.  And took some other thinly veiled shots on his way out the door too.

Good riddance Dion.  Bill saved your career and then made you a ton of money.  Glad you enjoyed it here.  Whatever.  Running backs are fungible here in New England.

Maybe there is a compromise with Guerrero to make everyone happy this coming season.  Maybe Bill also tones the act down a bit for the current crop of players, I don’t know.  But the way I see it, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Keep doing what you are doing Bill…keep winning those games and most of us could care less about these whiny ballplayers…

Welp, I was going to talk a bit about the draft here but got a little carried away.  I’ll add some thoughts on this in another piece…

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