Thanks to the Steelers win over the Bengals last night, the Patriots will host the Chiefs on Saturday at 4:30 pm in their Divisional playoff game. The chiefs defeated the Texans 30-0 earlier yesterday. The meeting will be the first time the two teams have faced each other since Kansas City blew out New England in week four of 2014. Since that game, the Patriots have lost a total of six games and won Super Bowl XLIX.

The Chiefs come into the game as the hottest team in the NFL, winners of 11 straight games. They are led by pass rush extraordinaires Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Their defense also features Eric Berry at safety, Derrick Johnson at linebacker and a star rookie at corner in Marcus Peters.

Alex Smith has led the Chiefs offense that has come into its own this season, using a stable of running backs to move the ball. Travis Kelce is a solid tight end who gave the Patriots problems last season and if healthy Jeremy Maclin is a big playmaker for Kansas City. Andy Reid is no stranger to facing Bill Belichick, the two have squared off five times including  Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Chiefs are a physical team that will come into Foxboro not fearing the Patriots. The quality of opponent they faced in the Wild Card round was low, but they are team that can force turnovers and slow the Patriots offense down. The key for New England will be staying out of any second or third and long situations in order to avoid having to deal with Hali and Houston in an obvious passing situation. The Patriots should win this game, but the Chiefs present a solid test and will take advantage of any Patriots mistakes.

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Julian Edelman Likely Out Sunday

December 31, 2015 at 12:06pm in Featured, NFL, Patriots, Top Story
New England Patriots' Julian Edelman (11) returns a punt as Buffalo Bills' Marcus Dowtin (54) attempts to tackle him during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Orchard Park. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Tom E. Curran of CSNNE tweet that the chances of Julian Edelman returning to action on Sunday are “real long.” Edelman has been out since he broke a bone in his foot during the first half of the Patriots win over the Giants in November.  The timetable for Edelman’s recovery could open the possibility for him to play this week and he has been practicing over the last several weeks. However, the Patriots can likely defeat the Dolphins and lock up the number one seed without him and the team has had little injury luck this season.

Prior to his injury, Edelman had amassed 61 catches for 692 yards and seven touchdowns in just under eight and a half games. He was also a major reason why the Patriots’ poor offensive line play did not show up as he was able to get open quickly and allow Tom Brady to throw faster than pass rushers could get to him.

This is an important function of Edelman, as well as Danny Amendola, and they will be counted on when they return. Because the team already has a first round bye, sitting Edelman out this weekend would give him an additional two weeks of rest before returning to action.

It likely won’t be clear until tomorrow or Saturday if Edelman is playing, but it would not be surprising for the team to hold him and out and play things on the safe side.

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The Patriots announced prior to today’s game that Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Josh Kline and Danny Amendola will all be inactive today. Julian Edelman is also still out as he rehabs his leg. Given that the Patriots will be facing  a Jets team that is fighting for a playoff spot, these players missing will make this game a tall order for the Patriots. Dont’a Hightower will play but will also be limited as he still works his way back from injury.

Two rookies, Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason, will be the starting guards against one of the best defensive lines in football. Tom Brady is going to have to get rid of the ball quickly and James White could also be  a major contributor. White has gotten better every week and he will need to gain yards after the catch when Brady uses him as an outlet to avoid the pass rush.

Having McCourty and Chung out is a major blow for the Patriots secondary that will start Duron Harmon and rookie Jordan Richards at the two safety spots.  McCourty is one of the better free safeties in the NFL and Chung is having his best season as a pro. Chung is also an excellent run defender and the Jets are a team that likes to run the ball.

The inactives for the Patriots don’t make the game insurmountable, but their margin for error is next to zero. The Jets need this game and the Patriots are more focused on health at this point with a first round bye already clinched. Although the team does not have the number one seed locked up, they don’t have to win this game to make that happen. New England should still be the favorite to win, but today is shaping up to be a razor thin game.

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With their 33-16 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday couple with a Denver Broncos loss at Pittsburgh, the Patriots clinched a first round bye for the playoffs. They are also in position to clinch the top overall seed next weekend if they can defeated the Jets and the Broncos beat the Bengals.

The bye is critically important for the Patriots from both a health and Super Bowl standpoint. It is no secret that New England is banged up, so getting an extra week to rest will give several players extra time to heal and come back fresh for the Divisional Playoff round. These players include Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Dont’a Hightower, and Devin McCourty, all of whom are central to the Patriots Super Bowl hopes. If the Patriots clinch the top seed next week it will provide even more time for these players to rest and get healthy. In an AFC field that includes Denver, Cincinnati and a surging Pittsburgh, the Patriots will need to be as healthy as possible if they hope to defend their title.

The second aspect of the bye being important is the extra practice and chance to gameplan it will provide the Patriots. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach the Patriots have been to six Super Bowls. They had a first round bye every single time and were the number one seed four of the six years. The extra practice time will give the team a chance to clean up any areas of concern before beginning playoff action.

Having to play in the Wild Card round would not have been an insurmountable task for the Patriots, but having that weekend off helps the team in several ways. The extra rest and practice will help set the Patriots up strong going into postseason play. The healthiest team in January generally has the best shot at playing in February and things are no different for this Patriots team.

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Dominique Easley #99 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Patriots received more bad news on the injury front on Tuesday with Dominique Easley being placed on season ending injured reserve and LeGarrette Blount potentially missing the rest of the season also. Easley is the 13th Patriot placed on injured reserve this season and if Blount is put on the list he would be the 14th.

Easley is being placed on injured reserve for the second straight season, this time due to a thigh injury. He had two sacks and 15 tackles this season as well as flashing potential pass rush dominance on several other plays in which he was not able to get to the quarterback. The positive news for New England is that this injury is unrelated to the two previous torn ACL injuries Easley had. He should be ready to go for next season and could have a breakout year if he can stay healthy.

Blount is a proven late season and playoff performer for the Patriots and leaves the team without a large “hammer” type running back. Already without Dion Lewis, the Patriots will have to rely on James White and Brandon Bolden to shoulder the load the rest of the way. The team did bring in Montee Ball yesterday on a practice quad contract, but his impact will likely be minimal unless he can quickly master the Patriots offense.

It has not been an easy season for the Patriots health wise and they have lost two more contributors this week. These losses are survivable, but it will make things that harder for New England going forward.

Julian Edelman Returns to Practice

December 11, 2015 at 12:29pm in Featured, NFL, Patriots

In a somewhat surprising development, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to practice on Friday for the first time since injuring his ankle against the Giants. His return comes one day after Rob Gronkowski also returned to the practice field.

The Patriots offense had not been its usual dominant self without these players in the lineup and their ability to practice shows they are both getting closer to returning. It is unlikely that either one with play on Sunday night in Houston, but the Patriots have a chance of getting them both back for the end of the regular season.

The key of course for New England is the playoffs and the team will have an eye  toward the postseason when making decisions regarding their returns. Being part of jogging and stretching and light practice work is a lot different from game action, and until Gronkowksi and Edelman begin participating in full pads workouts neither will be returning.

Overall, the return of Gronkowski and Edelman is a great sign for the Patriots. With both of these players fully healthy the Patriots offense was virtually unstoppable. If New England can get through this weekend with a win, they will have reinforcements on the way to make things easier in the coming weeks.


Football fans will not be treated to another installment of Brady vs Manning on Sunday as the Broncos quarterback is still out with an injury. They will, however, be treated to one of the most captivating battles of the entire football season: the Patriots offense vs the Broncos defense. Each unit is the best at what it does. The Patriots offense has scored at least 20 points in every game despite several key injuries and the Broncos defense has been absolutely suffocating with just 284 yards per game allowed and 18.3 points per game given up.
When two units that do so many things well meet on the field, things generally come down to a handful of individual matchups and this game is no different. The two things that will most determine who wins this clash are how the Broncos will cover Rob Gronkowski and how the Patriots will block Von Miller.

Aqib Talib could be asked to cover Rob Gronkowski, similar to when he covered Jimmy Graham as a member of the Patriots. Talib held Graham to zero catches in that game and did a masterful job sticking with the tight end throughout. Still, Gronkowski is better than Graham and Talib will have his hands full if asked to stay with the mammoth Patriots tight end. The Buffalo Bills played a lot of zone on Monday night and blitzed Tom Brady often, both which resulted in Gronkowski having one of his lowest outputs of the year. The Broncos have another option in Danny Trevathan, who is a nimble linebacker that does well in coverage. Trevathan is 6’1” and 230 pounds, not tall enough to challenge Gronkowski for jump balls but physical enough the jam him at the line.

This is where the rash of injuries the Patriots have suffered come into play. Without Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, or Danny Amendola the Patriots will have to rely heavily on Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell. If no other players step up and the Patriots fail to run the ball well, Denver will be able to divert extra resources, perhaps a mix of Talib and Trevathan, to stopping the Patriots All-Pro. Normally when articles are written about how a team can slow Gronkowski down, he answers them with monster performances. This week could be one of the few times were a team is expected to and actually does slow him down.

One thing that the Bills did an excellent job of against the Patriots was confusing the protection up front. They blitzed effectively but were also able to get pressure on Brady with less than five rushers because of how well they disguised what they were going to do. With a defensive coordinator who is as adept as Wade Phillips, the Broncos have a realistic chance of doing the same.

There is no doubt that Miller is licking his chops after watching the Patriots offensive line struggle on Monday night. Miller is one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL and he has been a key piece of the dominant Denver defense. The Broncos can line him up in several different spots but it is likely they will target Patriots offensive tackle Marcus Cannon. Cannon is a backup who has been pressed into service due to Nate Solder’s injury and his performance has been spotty. He played well against the Colts before being injured and missing several weeks. His first game back was Monday night and he played poorly. He accounted for two penalties and was beaten off the ball consistently. Against a player like Miller, the odds are heavily stacked against Cannon. Earlier this season when the Patriots went against strong pass rushes, they made a point of having Brady get rid of the ball in less than two and a half seconds therefore negating the rush. With Edelman, Amendola and Lewis out they will have a tougher time of doing that and more pressure is put on the offensive line.

Going against a prodigious pass rusher like Miller is not the only concern of Cannon’s. As the Patriots left tackle, he will need to block Miller to the outside on many of the inside runs that the Patriots deploy. Much is made of Miller as a quarterback attacker, but he also needs to be accounted for in the run game. New England will surely give Cannon help from a running back or tight end, but he will have several plays in which he needs to defeat Miller on his own. If he cannot do that, it will be a long night for the Patriots offense. If he can, the Patriots will have a better chance at attacking Denver’s excellent secondary.

In both of these match-ups, the early advantage has to go to Denver. Gronkowski might be the best tight end ever to play football, but even he will need players around him to elevate their game in order to attack an opponent as qualified as Denver. Miller is a potential Hall of Famer in his own right and going against a backup tackle is almost not fair. This is not a death sentence on the Patriots undefeated season. They can go to Denver and win, but they will need to have success in both of these matchups more than 50% of the time. This shapes up to be a rock fight type of game that will be physical and punishing. It may not be Brady-Manning, but it will be must see TV.

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