In recent weeks I have been saying that I feel like the New England Patriots have enough pieces on offense to make the whole thing work. That they were still trying to integrate guys like Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry into the mix. That they still had Julian Edelman and James White. That the running backs have enough talent to be better. That the tight ends are decent enough. Etc.
But…I may have been wrong. And I could be finally ready to admit it.
Now, I don’t have access to the coach’s film like some people that cover the team. And some of them saw progress against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.
I didn’t see it from my angle.
The Pats should have pummeled these pathetic Bengals, similar to how they pummeled all those bad teams at the beginning of the year. Especially with the 5 turnovers. Especially when they had some tape of the Bengals’ sideline to work with…oops…sorry, was that out loud?!
But they found themselves down by the end of the first quarter and barely up at the half. And looked fairly brutal for most of the game.
Tom Brady missed open guys. Receivers were dropping passes. A bunch of punts. All that.
Never really looked good to me.
Of course, it appears that Edelman is extremely banged up. And Brady may have a bum elbow to boot. Factors that have to be considered for sure.
To that I say, if Jules can’t go, that’s a wrap. Even if Brady ends up being completely healthy.
It would be hard for me to believe the offense could move the ball at all without a somewhat healthy Edelman. Since James White apparently has been defended more by someone in the defensive secondary instead of a plodding linebacker and isn’t as open as he used to be, Jules has been really been Brady’s only reliable target. Even if, with all the drops this year, he hasn’t been as reliable as he usually is.
I just don’t think we can really count on the rest of the corps right now. For a variety of reasons that we have been through before. I just wasn’t ready to face those facts. I am kind of ready to now.
UNLESS they get the running game going. But I’m not counting on that with this offensive line. Sure, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead looked pretty good Sunday. But…the Bengals.
Big test this week against a top defense in the Buffalo Bills. Being at Foxborough should definitely help. And I do expect the Pats to win the game. But I am also not counting on any offensive fireworks, that’s for sure. Hope I am wrong.
Speaking of Edelman, despite the drops, we were really hoping he would make the Pro Bowl this year.
PRO BOWL?!! WHO CARES??!
True. Normally I don’t care. Especially since we know it’s a popularity contest. Same guys go every year it seems. Not to mention we hope that no Patriots CAN even go, meaning they would be in the Super Bowl again. Not to mention that like a quarter of the team usually backs out, so Jules may still get there if the Pats lose early in the playoffs.
My only thing with Edelman is that somehow he has never made one. People actually put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame conversation. And he hasn’t even made one single Pro Bowl?
Just would have been nice to see, that’s all.
But we know the Pats don’t care, so why should we?
So the Thursday Night Football slate is done for the season. The feeling here was that the picks were brutal on this night over the course of the season. But they weren’t as bad as I thought. 9-8 against the spread and 11-6 straight up. Not too bad!!
We will separate the Saturday games out from the rest in this case. Actually, let’s just do them all…
Houston (-3.5) at Tampa Bay
Big win at Tennessee last week put the Texans in the driver’s seat for the AFC South. Another matchup with the Titans next week to end the regular season and that is sure to be a big one too. Let down for Houston this week? Well, we saw it against the Broncos the previous Sunday. But I’m betting it doesn’t happen again.
Houston 30, Tampa Bay 24.
Buffalo at New England (-6.5)
The Bills are trying to prove they are ready for Prime Time. But…Josh Allen still stinks. There is just no way to sugarcoat this.
New England 20, Buffalo 17.
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco (-6.5)
What a bad loss for the Niners last week. The Falcons. The way it went down. They would have been better off getting smoked like the Rams did. Guess LA was not back on track.
San Francisco 38, Los Angeles Rams 23.
Carolina at Indianapolis (-6.5)
The Colts were brutal on Monday Night Football. But the Panthers are down to their third string QB.
Indianapolis 27, Carolina 16.
New York Giants at Washington (-2.5)
Wake me up when this one is over.
Washington 17, New York Giants 13.
New Orleans (-3.5) at Tennessee
Good for Drew Brees last week. But have a gut feeling the Titans show up this week.
Tennessee 31, New Orleans 27.
Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland
The Browns beat the Ravens in Week 4, Baltimore’s last loss. Can’t see that happening again. Lamar Jackson and company can wrap up home field advantage with a win. Give some players Week 17 off in the process. Even though some of the Browns players are denying they want out, where there is smoke, there is fire.
Baltimore 35, Cleveland 17.
Pittsburgh (-2.5) at New York Jets
Duck Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Dennis Dixon, Mike Tomczak, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Bubby Brister…does it matter? And yes…I am saying this when they are playing the J-E-T-S!
New York Jets 24, Pittsburgh 20.
Cincinnati at Miami (-1.5)
Miami 17, Cincinnati 14.
Jacksonville at Atlanta (-7.5)
Tom Coughlin just got fired. Imagine that.
Atlanta 31, Jacksonville 17.
Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)
Horrid loss for the Raiders last week. Same for the Chargers. When am I getting to a game that matters on this list?
Oakland 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24.
Detroit at Denver (-6.5)
Nope, this one doesn’t matter either. Glad to see Matty Patricia getting another shot next year. Not sold on Patricia. But I can’t imagine you can win many games with Jeff Driskel and David Blough.
Denver 34, Detroit 23. Lock of the week (yup!).
Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia
Here’s one that matters!! I imagine the winner of this one will win the NFC East. Though it wouldn’t shock me if either lost their Week 17 game against the Redskins or the Giants, respectively. Dak Prescott has been limited in practice, but I would doubt he sits this one out. The ‘Boys have a more talented team. The Eagles have been hammered by injury. But your guess is as good as mine on this one either way.
Dallas 34, Philadelphia 31.
Arizona at Seattle (-9.5)
The Seahawks should roll. But they always seem to play close games. 9.5 is a lot of points. Sorry to hear about Josh Gordon. Looks like his last chance in the NFL. Maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t. But still a sad story.
Seattle 33, Arizona 24.
Kansas City (-4.5) at Chicago
Here’s hoping the Pats beat the Bills and the Bears win here so the Pats that are banged up can take Week 17 off after wrapping up the second seed and therefore a first round bye. Wishful thinking on the second half of that though.
Kansas City 34, Chicago 17.
Green Bay at Minnesota (-4.5)
The final Monday Night Football game of the year should be a doozy. The Vikings may have clinched a playoff spot by this time and they still may not win the tiebreaker for the division in the end, even with a win here. And the Pack have seemed to sleepwalk through their last couple of games so maybe they awaken as well. Sticking with the home team regardless.
Minnesota 30, Green Bay 24.
Week (against the spread): 9-7
Week (straight up): 10-6
Lock Of The Week (season, ATS): 8-7
Season (against the spread): 112-112
Season (straight up): 144-80
Welp, that’s what everyone wants to do of course.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: You simply could not pay me enough to be an official in any sport. Any place on the field. At any time. Etc.
These guys all have to make a split second decision on just about every play. While we as fans get to see roughly 8,000 angles in instant replay in…well, an instant.
Most of the time, these guys actually do a pretty good job. I often find myself amazed that they are able to see as many things as they are able to see.
I will say, some of these officials look like they are older than Jesus himself. So maybe it is time for them to retire. Some of the baseball umpires look like they can’t fit through many regular-sized doors either. So maybe it’s time to introduce them to a treadmill, at the very least.
But they normally do a better job than we give them credit for.
Now, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium was not one of those days.
But were they really to blame for the New England Patriots’ loss?
Sure, there were some horrible calls against the Pats: The N’Keal Harry non-TD. The Stephon Gilmore non-scoop and score. The non-defensive pass interference on Phillip Dorsett. Something coming out of the Gilmore/Sammy Watkins “scuffle”. The failed first challenge where even if the Chiefs were determined to get the first down, the spot was still a yard further down the field than it should have been. The 5 yard penalty mark off instead of 10.
But we’ve already heard about all of those ad nauseam.
The Chiefs had some bogus calls too. But we don’t hear the specifics about them. Especially around here.
There were also several flags dropped and then picked up. The one I remember most clearly is when Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was dropped after the pass by Pats DE Chase Winovich. First, it was going to be roughing the passer. But the zebras decided to pick the flag up because “the defensive player went off to the side…” Or something like that. Then TV showed the replay and it showed Winovich landing right on top of Mahomes.
Yada, yada, yada as someone in Seinfeld would say.
The refs simply did not cost anyone the game, however horrible they were.
Was Gilmore truly going to score on that fumble pickup? How do we know that? Furthermore, that same drive was the Harry play. Two plays after that missed call, Jakobi Meyers dropped a touchdown pass.
So they still should have gotten the seven either way. If Meyers makes that catch.
They lost some time, sure. But only 4 points (since they kicked a field goal). Not 14, like some people want to think. That’s how I’ve been hearing it anyway.
And for the people that are encouraged about the defensive play in the second half…we may have to pump the brakes on that as well. We all could see Mahomes did something to his hand in the first half. Apparently, it was causing him problems as the game went on. So that tempers things a bit, I would say.
This all comes back to the offense…and in large part, the offensive line…again. A week after giving Tom Brady seemingly plenty of time to throw against Houston, the same could not be said against KC.
Don’t get me wrong, Brady was not great in this game. But the OL was atrocious. The receivers other than Julian Edelman apparently could not get open. When Meyers was open, he dropped a slew of passes. Where is Mohamed Sanu, by the way? The Dorsett early season hype train has jumped the tracks. Harry played 2 plays. Sony Michel was abysmal and would have been with or without a good line performance. KC penalties and 2 trick plays helped the NE offense move the ball. Not ideal.
You know who else we can blame even more than the offense? COACHING!
Not one of Bill Belichick’s best games. Or Josh McDaniels’ either. Or whoever calls the defensive plays.
*Questionable challenging the aforementioned spot. Or offensive pass interference on that same play. The odds of those getting overturned are low. Not to mention it cost them when they didn’t have a challenge left on the Harry “TD”. I know it’s hard to predict the future, but…
*Eschewing a 45 yard field goal on 4th and 7, presumably because kicker Nick Folk had his previous attempt blocked. The 4th down play was unsuccessful.
*Going for a two-point conversion earlier than they needed to. The try was unsuccessful.
*Attempting a punt block early in the fourth quarter and leaving no one back to return the punt. The punt was not blocked and it ended up becoming like a 57 yard punt because it rolled quite a bit.
*Someone not telling Harry to get back on the field after the non-TD call. We all could see Brady gesturing for him to get back on the field. The next play was rushed and was a 5 yard loss on a run by James White. Sure, the play we believe was also rushed because the officials apparently never reset the play clock after everyone ran off the field thinking it was a TD. Maybe Brady was gesturing wildly for a play to be called. Either way…
*Couple of conversions by the Chiefs on 2nd and 3rd and really long.
That’s more second guessing of Bill and his boys than I can ever remember doing. Well, other than why didn’t Malcolm Butler play against the Eagles in the Super Bowl. But at least that was only one move.
There were many reasons why the Patriots lost to the Chiefs. The officials were just one of those reasons.
Some other brief thoughts on the game…and future:
*Part of me thinks Brady could have scored on his late run. Now, there was a guy lined up to hit him for sure. But it looked to me like he was laying up a bit. And I didn’t see any other Chief defender in the picture. I could be 100% wrong on both. But I can dream, right?
*Time to give up on Michel? Looks like he needs a better than average line and perhaps a better fullback than linebacker Elandon Roberts to do ANYTHING. Everyone agrees he looked completely soft Sunday. Playing Rex Burkhead more I would love. But then he would just hurt sooner. Can we finally get a real look at Damien Harris please?
*I’ve supported Meyers all year and I do believe there is something there. And just last week, I said maybe it’s time to put Harry on ice. This week, I’m thinking to scale back Meyers. And force feed Harry against the next three opponents to see if he can be anything in the playoffs. The Bengals, Bills and Dolphins should provide ample opportunity for that. And maybe his confidence (and Brady’s in him) can skyrocket.
*I’m almost at the point where I want replay gone in all sports. It seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. But on the Gilmore and Harry plays, it is inexplicable that the refs did not let replay make their decision for them. Heard something yesterday where the NFL is “going to look into things in the offseason”. That kind of scares me a little bit though.
*Video scandal. Here we go again. I am not sure I have much to say until more stuff comes out. But it would be extremely hard for me to believe that Belichick and anyone running “the project” would allow themselves to be put into this position after what they went through during Spygate. It’s just inconceivable. Belichick thinks he is smarter than everyone else and he very well may be. But to act this smug. Right in plain sight? Taping the 1-12 Bungles? I just don’t see it. But the rest of the nation most assuredly has already made their judgment. Let’s see what happens when all the info comes out. But it’s not a good look, I will allow for that.
*One thing that can maybe help bury this video thing is if the team re-signed receiver Antonio Brown, like, right now. Just think about how fast at least the local press will turn. Perhaps the national press too. Perfect timing, no? Actually, I lifted this particular note from a comment I heard yesterday afternoon. I never even considered it and even if I don’t really want Brown back on the team, it would be a typical shady move by a professional team. Do it in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping or something. Anyway, thanks for putting this thought in my head Craig F!!
On to the Thursday game:
New York Jets at Baltimore (-14.5)
The Buffalo Bills gave the Ravens a game last week. Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson apparently has a quad injury. Short week, anything can happen. Especially if Le’Veon Bell plays, instead of going bowling like he did the night before he skipped last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with the flu. But hey, he bowled a 251, so the weekend was not all lost. That all being said, I don’t expect “anything can happen” to happen here. Although the Pats loss to KC may allow Baltimore to ease off the pedal a smidge in the race for the #1 seed, I doubt the Ravens will overlook the Jets with two potentially competitive divisional games next on the schedule. Jackson may get some rest late, but that will be because the game will be well out of hand by then.
Baltimore 38, New York Jets 17.
Week (against the spread): 9-7
Week (straight up): 11-5
Lock Of The Week (season, ATS): 7-7
Season (against the spread): 103-105
Season (straight up): 134-74
…and is it not the New England Patriots’ year either?
But…let’s hold off a second on that.
I mean, who cares about my picks? I hope no one is actually placing real bets based on them. Even in my “good” years, I think with the vig, the Blowhard would still have lost money in the end. “I think” because I know nothing about gambling. That’s why we don’t do it in real life.
Then again, if we were placing real bets, we wouldn’t force ourselves to pick all 16 games each week.
So there’s that…but I digress. Let’s just say if one was to take gambling advice from these columns, we hope that the best games are cherrypicked and therefore money has been made.
As far as it not being the Pats’ year though, this year is starting to feel a little like 2015. They started 10-0, everyone was handing them the Super Bowl trophy and then they finished 12-4 and eventually lost in the AFC Championship.
Remember Nate Ebners’ mortar kick against the Eagles and a whole lot of Stephen Jackson in the finale against the Dolphins?
Ugh, sorry I had to remind you.
This season has that sort of a feel, no?
BUT…the reason I say “let’s hold off a second on that” is because of last year. Do we already forget?
The Pats had dropped to 9-5 after an ugly loss to the Steelers in mid-December, which of course followed the “Miami Miracle” (no need to revisit those specifics, I am sure).
Then they went on to win the Super Bowl, which included a visit to Arrowhead Stadium, and a victory over a seemingly unbeatable Kansas City Chiefs team.
Who saw that coming? No one.
Can that happen again? Sure can, as invincible as Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens look thus far this season. And I’m not ruling out the Chiefs this season either.
I’m not counting on it. But it can happen.
Listen, the Houston loss was probably a long time coming. First time the Texans beat the Pats in a decade. Many Patriot players had the flu, blah, blah, blah. May have just been the Texans time.
And I’m not excited about how the team defended Deshaun Watson. The Pats have always had problems with running quarterbacks and this season is no different.
Even though the offense is, of course, having serious problems, I feel like they can still turn it around. No idea why. But I still feel it.
Julian Edelman is still Julian Edelman. James White resurfaced against the Texans, though a lot of garbage yards, I admit. Mohamed Sanu should get healthier and play more. Jakobi Meyers seems to be gaining more of Tom Brady’s trust…even if he still makes a ton of mistakes. Maybe they can get a little something from Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse as well.
Not sure why Rex Burkhead played so little. And N’Keal Harry seems to be a lost cause…though that may be a little unfair. But a redshirt year shouldn’t be out of the question at this point.
Sony Michel has looked better. And that brings me to…why did they go away from him early?
I thought coaching and play calling left a lot to be desired in this game. A lot of head-scratchers by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Sure, the receivers still had some issues. Tom Brady missed some open guys. The defense wasn’t as stout. But Brady had more time to throw in this game than I can remember. Since sometime last season probably. And that was done partly with journeyman James Ferentz taking over for Ted Karras at center after Karras’ injury.
Because of this, I feel like maybe they can finally figure it out still. 4 games to go, starting with a tough one against the aforementioned Chiefs. There is time.
“Because of this”? Yes. Because I feel like the crux of the problem has been with the offensive line all season. And if they start giving Brady time to throw, I am feeling that all bets are off.
But maybe I’m just an idiot.
Dallas (-2.5) at Chicago
Two mediocre, underachieving, 6-6 teams that I don’t really feel like talking about much. We know what I think is not really going to matter anyway. But I think the Cowboys have more talent. We will see if that actually means anything this Thursday night.
Dallas 27, Chicago 20.
Week (against the spread): 7-9
Week (straight up): 9-7
Lock Of The Week (season, ATS): 6-7
Season (against the spread): 94-98
Season (straight up): 123-69