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Patriots Expectations Need To Pump The Breaks

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Patriots Expectations Need To Pump The Breaks

Look, the New England Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champions. And this upcoming season they are once again the rightful favorites to win it all once more.

Did they get better this off season? On paper, yes. In reality, it is unclear. Of course, we have all season the training camp propaganda of Brandin Cooks reeling in crazy catches. But with the New England Patriots, you need to click with Tom Brady. And that only comes in a live NFL regular season game.

While I think this team will be good, it is important to keep expectations low. The NFL around them looks weak, but there are several teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that look poised to come at the Brady-Belichick throne.

Every year there seems to be an NFL team that takes a great leap forward, last season it was the Atlanta Falcons, and the year prior it was the Carolina Panthers. New England should win the AFC East no problem. But at this point looking at that or even further is foolish.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] But what I will sell you on is Brady having a lesser year than he did in the previous. [/perfectpullquote]

I am not going to sell you on Brady’s velocity falling and the fact that outside of the Super Bowl comeback he was mediocre in the playoffs. But what I will sell you on is Brady having a lesser year than he did in the previous. With him, I don’t think he will hit a cliff, but a slow decline? Yes, that is in the Tom Brady cards.

The future hall of famer had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 28-2 last season. Will he repeat this type of percentage? Highly unlikely.

New England’s offensive line will be fine under the watchful eye of Dante Scarnaicia, but even with an addition to the receiving core and the running back group. One can still question what you will see this season from Brady. He is now 40-years-old, an age that is relatively uncharted amongst quarterbacks. The sample size for NFL QB’s is small, you have the likes of Brett Favre and Warren Moon in that category, outside of them, there isn’t much else to look at.

Tom Brady

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 05: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots attempts to tackle Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons after an interception in the second quarter during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Brady Won’t Be This Team’s Problem, The Defense And High Expectations Will Be

Farve had a successful post-40 season, but his o-line in Minnesota fell apart in front of him. This isn’t something that I envision in New England with Brady. For that reason, I do not believe Brady would be part of any struggles this years team will face. He will find a way to work with the weapons he has, he is still a number 1 or 2 QB in the entire league.

One thing that has already plagued this team has been a lack of training camp intensity according to reports. This issue has gotten under Brady’s skin down at Patriots camp.

“I’m always pretty frustrated throughout the day in practices,” he said. “You’re just trying to create some urgency. I ask guys to dig a little deeper. It goes like that. Sometimes things don’t go great in the first quarter of games, sometimes they don’t go great in the first half, sometimes they don’t go great for the first three quarters, but you’ve got to keep grinding. You’ve got to keep digging deeper. A lot of times football is a lot about momentum. Things don’t go well early and then you find a little rhythm, start making some plays, scoring some points and then you can rattle off 28 points. That’s football.

“I think what you realize with this team is they’re not going to make it easy on you. There is no easy play, there is no easy throw, there is no easy run. They’ve got good players, they’ve got a good scheme, so it’s really challenging and has forced us to raise our game.”

The later part of the quote from Training Camp is Brady talking about the Houston Texans, a team they are sparring with in camp. I’m not sure why the Patriots are requiring a kick from Tom, but one can wonder if the 19-0 and repeat talk has gotten around the locker room at One Patriots Place. While I do not think this will be an issue in a Bill Belichick locker room, I do believe it will take a little bit of effort on him and the coaching staff to manage.

Defense Can Be An Issue

This year’s defense is without Rob Ninkovich and others who have either changed teams or walked away from the game. You could see it in week 1 of the preseason, the bend not break defense was not anywhere close to championship winning levels.

Not a big deal from a week 1 preseason game, but it shows how far this team will have to come on the defensive side of the ball. In years past this kind of stuff has lingered into the regular season. For that reason, I believe the best football out of the team will come in the back half of the year. For that reason, I believe they could lose a few games in the front half of the schedule.

Don’t get me wrong, this year’s team will be good. I have questions on defense, and I also question if Josh McDaniels will try and throw too much with Brady. I believe they should start the year with the ground and pound like last season. Set the running game early so teams have to respect it when you are throwing down the field later in the season.

If you haven’t heard or seen my season win-loss prediction for the New England Patriots, it is 12-4. They could certainly overachieve, but factoring in the defensive issues, strength of schedule, and Super Bowl hangover, I can envision a less than stellar regular season.

 

Tanner founded Trifecta Network in Spring of 2016 and has been the Chief of Content for the Network since that time. Currently Tanner covers all the sports teams in Boston and has contacts in many of the teams in the city. Before starting Trifecta, Tanner was a Site Expert for the FanSided site Chowder and Champions before leaving to cover Boston teams on the ground as a member of the media for Trifecta.

New England Patriots

Patriots Talk: What To Expect For Week 3

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With the Patriots made a great bounce back after the season opener. However, there is still much that the team needs to do going into Week 3. The Patriots will be essentially repeating last season, a Sunday game against the Houston Texans. The thing about the Texans is that their staff is full of ex-Patriots but their team is completely the opposite of the Patriots. The Texans rely much more on their defense than their offense.

Bill Belichick has managed a consist record against O’Brien’s Texans with their last encounters in three years (with Jacoby Brissett being the starting QB for one of them). Two of the games were in the regular season and one in the postseason.

  • 2015: 27-6
  • 2016: 27-0
  • 2017: 34-16

If we are basing the scores from across both teams’ history, the Texans are completely lopsided in this case as well. Since the team first came into existence in 2002 (that means the Houston Texans are only 16 years old, to put that into even further perspective, Bill Belichick has been the Head Coach of the New England Patriots since 2000, 2 years longer than the Texans have been a football team), the Patriots have been 8-1 against the Texans all-time. In terms of overall scores, the Patriots have never scored lower than 23 points against the Texans.

However, the Patriots shouldn’t just push the Texans aside. This is a football team that has never had a fully healthy JJ Watt to face against especially with a defense that has Jadeveon Clowney or Whitney Mercilus. This is a team that can give the Patriots offense problems. In their last meeting, Brady was only able to make 18 completions on 38 passing attempts with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The only reason the Patriots won that last game was due to the team having massive headaches at the QB positions and just simple special team mistakes that resulted in two different turnovers.

In addition, the Patriots best weapon, Rob Gronkowski, is currently dealing with a  groin injury and while reports seem positive, that can all change on game day and that simple injury could turn into something much worse (Remember Gronk’s arm brace being a bit massive? It is because they need him to wear that for the rest of his career to prevent further infection or else Gronk would likely have been permanently crippled). It’s still early in the week and things will change as we get closer to game day but its always better to be cautious.

The Patriots will be playing against the Houston Texans on Sunday, September 24th, at 1:00 PM EST at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.  The game will be broadcast on CBS, and both teams are currently 1-1 to start the regular NFL season into Week 3.

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Patriots Have A Two-Headed Monster In BackField

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Following an embarrassing week 1 loss, the Patriots returned to the field seeking redemption. They trounced the New Orleans Saints 36-20, this past Sunday. Ah, sweet misplaced aggression. From Bill Belichick’s offense, we saw a multi-faceted passing attack that was redolent of the good ol’ days.

Tom Brady stood immovably strong in the pocket, going through his progressions with laser-like precision. We saw him make crafty check-downs to receivers manifold. An unleashed Rob Gronkowski ran crossing routes like a human-boulder, tearing the Saints secondary to shreds. It all made for a beautiful sight to see.

As prolifically as Tom Brady threw the football, it was the effectiveness of our running backs that was most surprising. In this department, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hit the Saints with a dual-pronged weapon. Power runner Mike Gillislee scored his 4th rushing TD of the season, while finesse halfback James White pulled in 8 receptions for 85 yards. In tandem, they were absolutely dynamic. And with all our injuries, we’re going to need them to be just that going forwards.

The continued performance of this two-headed monster will arguably be the most critical thing to the Patriots’ success this year. White and Gillislee, early on, have mirrored each other in a productive manner. But beware: The utilization of this duo could become rather calculable. Our one-two punch is going to have to learn to play outside of their respective comfort-zones.

A Tale of Two Tailbacks

When appraising the Patriots backfield, Mike Gillislee and James White should be viewed as a single entity. There’s a mutually beneficial marriage between these two players. They are polar-opposites, who collaborate to produce a formidable rushing attack.

Disclaimer: Some may say that I am negligent to not mention the contributions from Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. But if this backfield was a cheeseburger, Lewis and Burkhead would merely be the condiments that make it taste just a tad better. There’s no doubt that Gillislee and White are the featured athletes here.

As many Patriots fans would admit, calling James White a “running back” is sort of inappropriate. This is his formal title, yes, but it’s a misnomer of a title. Go back and watch last year’s Super Bowl. White should just be listed as a wide receiver on the depth chart. That’s what we’ve always used him as. In the absence of Julian Edelman, he may be our most dependable option on passing 3rd-downs.

This year, White is on track to haul in 88 receptions for 920 yards, while racking up an additional 392 rushing yards. That type of production would be invaluable. His hands are immeasurably better than any other RB’s on this Patriots team. Opposing defenses cannot commit to defending one facet of his game or the other, at least so far. But on Sunday afternoon, we saw a pattern being established.

Chances are, if White’s on the field, Tom Brady is going to be throwing the football. It’s no secret. James White has only 12 rushing attempts, this season. Here is where Mike Gillislee comes in. He’s the jelly to White’s peanut butter; the ying to his yang.

Gillislee is off to a fast start, with his new team. He is a virtual inversion of James White. Gillislee is a durable smashmouth back, who acts as a battering ram on the goal line and on rushing downs. Currently, he’s on track for 912 rushing yards and 32 rushing TD’s.

But again there is an appreciable formula, in regards to how Mike Gillislee is leveraged. This is something that will not be overlooked by our future opponents. Since the start of last year, Gillislee has 0 receptions. That’s right, a big fat goose egg. When Gillislee is on the field, 99% of the time he’s going to be hitting his holes as the running play is designed.

Variety is the Spice of Life

It’s odd that both White and Gillislee play such singular roles, because they are physically comparable. James White is slightly more compact, at 5’9” 204 lbs. Mike Gillislee is a rugged 5’11” 208 lbs. But concerning their speed, they’re almost interchangeable. Just look at their 40-yard dash times. White runs a 4.57, while Gillislee runs a 4.55. This is encouraging: They should be able to learn how to imitate each other.

Bill Belichick doesn’t allow any of his players to become complacent. Such comfort could compromise the Patriots playbook. In the coming weeks, look for Mike Gillislee to be a part of more passing formations, and for James White to run the ball more frequently. The Pats have to keep their opponents honest and unprepared.

A live-action attrition has been induced in the Patriots’ leading receivers. Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Rob Gronkowski are currently banged-up. Whether these guys are sidelined or active, the Patriots will be using them minimally. Hence the importance of the running game. Our backfield, with James White and Mike Gillislee at the helm, will certainly be carrying more of the load than anyone expected.

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Who Is New England’s NFC Rival?

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New England hasn’t started off the greatest thus far this year. That comes as no surprise, however. The Patriots have had multiple rough starts in past years and still went to the big show and won it all. So, even though New England isn’t going to go undefeated, as many hoped, Tom Brady and company are still likely to be in yet another Super Bowl this year. But who will they play? What NFC team this year has what it takes to give the Pats a rival in this year’s Super Bowl?

How about the Detroit Lions? With the highest paid NFL player on the roster, quarterback Matthew Stafford has led his team to two victories so far and the Lions remain the only team in the NFC North to be undefeated. Detroit looks to be a contender all year-long. They upset the New York Giants on Monday Night with the win on the road. The biggest challenge for Detroit, however, will come Sunday when the Lions face last year’s Super Bowl losers, the Atlanta Falcons.

Are the Falcons tough enough to return to the big game? Matt Ryan is healthy as ever and Atlanta and their explosive offense are getting the job done. They also are undefeated going into week three. Devonte Freeman and Julias Jones are on top of their game. With the way they toppled the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Falcons have a good start to returning to the Super Bowl again this year.

The Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons play this Sunday. Could this be a preview of this year’s NFC Championship Game? Is one of these two teams going to be a rival for the New England Patriots in this year’s Superbowl? Granted, this is only week two and there is a lot more weeks of football left to play out. I believe that either the Lions or the Falcons could be the team to give us a good show and a close game against the New England Patriots in a great Super Bowl.

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