State of the Patriots 12/24/19 – Just Getting Loose?!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other Holiday you may celebrate! I am optimistically looking forward to 2020 and I hope you are too!

Pats are 12-3 heading into week 17

The Patriots won the AFC East for the 11th year in a row this past weekend, a truly remarkable feat in a league designed for constant parity and turnover. Baring another “Miami Miracle” this weekend, we’ll finish the season with an impressive 13 wins.

Positives from the Bills game

I thought last week’s game against the Bills was one of the most exciting games of the year. Two evenly matched teams played hard nose football the whole game, and it came down to the last possession. That being said, I thought the Pats got back to playing ‘Patriots football’ and pretty much controlled the game throughout.

Positive #1

The big guys up front on both sides of the ball were outstanding. Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, and Shaq Mason have really led the way for a surging position group. Mason in particular has been really good down the stretch this year after a shaky start to the season. He’s had 85 grade or above from Pro-Football Focus in four of his last seven games. I was critical of him earlier in the year, but I think he’s starting to show why he’s worth the money we paid him. Joe Thuney has been outstanding and has really anchored the O-line all year. He’s got a PFF grade of 78.5, which is pretty solid and I hope the Pats give him a new contract after this season. Marcus Cannon went down after getting the back of his ankle rolled up on during a run play. According to sources, he was at practice today so that is a good sign going forward.

Positive #2

This was the first game where I felt confident in our receiver’s abilities to get open for Tom. The ball was really spread around against the Bills as Edelman, White, Harry, Burkhead, Meyers, Sanu, Watson, and LaCosse all played important parts in the passing game.

The two most exciting components to me were the emergence of Rex Burkhead both running and catching balls out of the backfield, and the continued development and usage of N’Keal Harry.

Based on the last two games, I think Burkhead has been criminally underused this season. He’s great catching balls out of the backfield, and he can make people miss in the open field. Plus, he showed he’s tough to tackle straight up, as he bounced right off a Bills linebacker for the go ahead touchdown.

N’Keal Harry also continues to show toughness and versatility both running and catching the ball. Two weeks in a row now, the Pats have called end around runs with him and aside from a missed block from Sanu, each one has gone for 10+ yards. The hand-off to Harry on the 4th and 1 where he was stopped short was really disappointing. Sanu totally whiffed on his block, and seemed to barely make any effort at all. Harry didn’t back down from his match-up with top Bills corner, Tre’Davious White. Harry blocked against him hard, much to the chagrin of White. I still think Harry’s got a long way to go to be top option passing wise, but he works hard, blocks hard, and is super athletic. This guy has all the tools to be a monster weapon and I’m rooting for him.

Positive #3

Special teams and defense continues to get it done.

DPOY candidate Stephon Gilmore and Pro-Bowl snub JC Jackson played outstanding yet again. I was also really impressed with Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, two under the radar defensive lineman who have played outstanding for the Pats in the last two years. Guy in particular is highly rated for not missing tackles (he’s only missed one all year).

The defense did a great job of putting pressure on Josh Allen when it mattered the most. During the last drive of the game, the Bills made it all the way down to the 25ish yard line and had three shots to the end zone. On the first one, Allen missed his tight end in the back corner for a potentially game tying touchdown. On the second Allen was sacked, and on the third, the Pats blitzed hard, and Allen had no time other than to run back ten yards and chuck it up. JC Jackson subsequently knocked the pass down.

Another thing we can’t take for granted is the kicking game. Nick Folk nailed three field goals, including a 51 yard attempt and one extra point. Good kicking has been a rare commodity in the NFL this year, and if the Pats can rely on Folk to be confident down the stretch, it’ll be a huge luxury.

A look ahead

The Pats are hosting the Dolphins at home this week. Obviously, the Dolphins don’t really have much to play for and aren’t a top team, but I expect them to compete nonetheless. It’ll be interesting to see the dynamics of Brian Flores’ and all the former Pats coaches and players coming back to Foxborough for the first time. It’s been no secret that Flores brought a large contingent of Patriots from last year’s team with him down to South Beach. This past week, he claimed two players from the Pats practice squad. I wonder if that has ruffled anybody’s feathers in the building.

The Pats need to win this game. If they win, a first round bye, and home field in the Divisional game is ours. If not, the Chiefs will get home field and the bye (assuming they win). By all accounts, the Pats are taking this one super seriously. In the locker room after the Bills game, Belichick called the game a playoff game and the upcoming game against the Dolphins a playoff game as well. Nobody’s taking this one lightly, and I would expect nothing less. I’m expecting this team to rally around the now famous quote from Elandon Roberts for the rest of the season, “I’ll run through a M*****f***** face, offense, defense, special teams, it don’t matter.”

Onto Miami. Go Pats.

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