The Oakland Raiders need this win more than anything. They are tied with Kansas City in the AFC South, and they MUST win this game if they want to have a chance to make the playoffs. Detroit is 4th in their division, so they aren’t really playing for anything, except the win. While the game is in Detroit, the Raiders have more pressure to win the game, and more heart. I believe the Oakland Raiders will win the game.
FALCONS (-6) over Colts
This is a MUST win for both teams. The game is in Atlanta, so the Falcons will have home field advantage. I had a hard time making this pick, however I do believe the Atlanta Falcons will come out with the win. First off, Andrew Luck is not expected to play, which will make it much harder for the Colts to win. Second, I just don’t see the Colts defense stopping the Atlanta offense. It will be very hard to stop Devonta Freeman, who is playing at his best this year.
EAGLES (-7) over Bucs
This is also another MUST win for both teams if they want to have a shot at making the playoffs. However, I am picking the Eagles to win this game. While the Eagles have their issues which I’ll explain in a bit, I just don’t see a Jameis Winston led team being able to pull out the win. Part of the issue is Tampa Bay’s defense which is not great at all. The Eagles biggest issue is, Mark Sanchez. There are obviously more factors, but last week the Eagles played a great first half, then Sam Bradford got hurt of course, and Mark Sanchez subbed in. Then, in the fourth quarter, when you have to be clutch, Mark Sanchez could not finish the game. I think this will be a very close game, but the Eagles will be able to pull out the win. Mark Sanchez will throw at least one interception, and I think the reason why the Eagles will win this game is because of their running game, especially with DeMarco Murray in the backfield.
BEARS (0) over Broncos
With the Bears coming off a HUGE road win against the Rams last week, they will be ready to come out and battle the Broncos at home on Sunday. It will be a lot harder for the Broncos to win without Peyton Manning, as Brock Osweiler will be the starting quarterback for the Broncos. However, I am picking the Denver Broncos to win the football game. Many may disagree, however, in my opinion, I think the Saint Louis Rams made some mistakes which caused the Bears to win the football game. The Chicago Bears will lose this week to the Broncos as reality will set in.
Rams (+2.5) over RAVENS
This may be a difficult game to pick based on the stat sheet, but it is quite easy for me. I am picking the Rams to win the game. The Rams are 2nd in their division and need to come out with the win if they want to have a chance at making the playoffs. As for the 2-7 Ravens, it would be a good win, but it wouldn’t do much as they have very little chance of making the playoffs.
DOLPHINS (0) over Cowboys
I think the Dallas Cowboys are not mentally tough enough to beat the Dolphins. Each week the players are getting in fights with the media, firing snarky comments at their opponents, and they just lose. They are currently on a seven game losing streak. To make matters worse, they are playing on the road against the Miami Dolphins who are not consistent, but are a much better football team in my opinion. This is an easy pick. I pick the Miami Dolphins to win the game.
Redskins (+8.5) over PANTHERS
The Panthers will come out with the win this week. They are the better football team overall, and Carolina is the home team. Washington is 0-4 on the road so far this season, so I don’t think they can just come into Carolina and win. I am picking the Carolina Panthers to win the game.
Chiefs (-3) over CHARGERS
While the Chargers are the home team in this game, I still believe the Chiefs will win. This is a division game, so lots of things can happen, but the Chiefs NEED to win this game if they have any chance at making the playoffs. I don’t think it will be a blowout, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers just are not playing well at all this year. I am picking the Kansas City Chiefs to win this game.
VIKINGS (0) over Packers
The Packers NEED to win this game, and so do the Vikings, but the Vikings are the home team, and Green Bay is 2-2 on the road this season. Things in Green Bay just haven’t been clicking these last 3 games, and it is time for them to turn it around. I think it will be a close game, but in the end Aaron Rodgers will have a great performance, and the Packers will get their much needed win. This is a very hard pick to make, but in the end I am picking the Green Bay Packers to win the game.
49ers (+13.5) over SEAHAWKS
For this game, Seattle is the home team. The 49ers are 0-4 on the road this season, and Century Link Field is a very hard stadium to play at. I believe the Seahawks will pull off the win, especially because Colin Kaepernick has been placed on season ending IR, which will make it very tough for the 49ers. Seattle’s defense will play a great game, and Seattle’s offense will put up just enough points to pull out the win. However, it should be close. I am picking the Seattle Seahawks to win the game.
Jets (-2.5) over TEXANS
While the Texans are the home team, and it will be tough for the Jets to win the game, but they will come through. The Houston Texans just haven’t shown me enough this year. They are pretty inconsistent to say the least. And this isn’t the Rex Ryan coached Jets, this is the 2015 Jets, who have proven to be much better than last year’s squad. I am picking the New York Jets to win the game.
Bengals (+5) over CARDINALS
This is going to be a tough game. The Bengals lost to the Texans last week, and now they are going on the road to play the Cardinals. While the Bengals are a great road team, I just don’t see their defense playing well. Obviously Arizona has a great defense, with Patrick Peterson at the DB and Tyrann Mathieu at safety. So, I think Cardinals’ defense will make it tough for the Bengals to score points, and it will be easier for the Cardinals to score on the Bengals defense. I am picking the Arizona Cardinals to win the game.
PATRIOTS (-8.5) over Bills
Rex Ryan is all hyped up about that win over his former team, the New York Jets. While the Bills did play a good game and got a good win, Rex Ryan gets all cocky when he wins games. In week one, after Rex Ryan and the Bills got a good win against the Colts, he started talking smack about the Patriots and how he was going to beat them. Once again, the Bills won the previous week and Rex Ryan is getting all cocky again. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will shut him up, as they did week 2 on the road in Buffalo. If that isn’t enough, the Patriots are also the home team. I do think this will be a close game, but in the end, I am picking the New England Patriots to win the game.
History tells us that Missouri is the “Show Me” state. The original phrase is widely credited to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver in 1899 when, in a speech he said, “I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
So, “Show Me” New England
How many times do the New England Patriots have to prove themselves to their own fans? New England has now become the “Show Me” area. Each week the “show me” statements are repeated by fans of the Super Bowls champs. Need a few examples? How about this for starters:
At the start of the 2015 season fans were in full “show me” mode when the Patriots lost some key players. In particular Shane Vereen, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Add in the injury to last year’s surprise, Brandon LaFell, Tom Brady’s aging body and – drum roll – it was time for the Patriots to step up and show the doubters (don’t kid yourself, there were many) once again that they could compete with the upper tier in the NFL
On top of that, the Buffalo Bills were reported to have the best defense in the NFL, the NY Jets had a new Head Coach and a world of talent on defense (Mr. Revis had turned traitor and moved his island to where the money was) and Miami…my God, they had signed Greg Jennings (Pats fans wanted him in New England), the world’s greatest pass rusher Ndamukong Suh, CB Brice McCain and a host of 2nd tier players.
Was it possible that all three teams had pumped up their game while the Patriots, on paper, had deflated theirs? (I’m sorry, but the devil made me say that)
1. The first test was the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown to challenge a secondary that, at best, was suspect. With Brady freed from his four game suspension the question was, can he overcome his off season distraction? The Patriots, playing at Gillette Stadium, were a 7 point favorite going into the game, but everyone was concerned…c’mon team, time to “Show Me.” Final Score: Patriots 28 Steelers 21…and the game wasn’t that close.
2. …But wait, that win was nice, but now the Patriots had to travel to Buffalo with Rex Ryan churning the upstate New York fans into a frenzy (what’s new) because he had the best defense in the NFL and the team was just plain mean! A road game
against a rabid fan base chomping at the bit to chew up and spit out the team with the Elvis logo. Buffalo players had spittle drooling from the corner of their mouth as the two teams took the field. New England fans didn’t want to admit it…but they were worried. It was “Show Me” time again, as Brady’s offensive line was in a shambles and the Bills pass rush was unstoppable. Final Score: Patriots 40 Bills 32…and once again the score was deceptive as New England rolled to win #2.
3. After dismantling the Jaguars and Cowboys and going 4-0 it was time for the game fans had been waiting a year for. The ol’ tattle-tale, whiny Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck returned after missing two games with an injured right shoulder, but everyone was predicting a blowout and Brady taking revenge on the team that caused his worst off-season in 16 years in the NFL. It wasn’t to be. At halftime the Pats trailed 21-20 and things weren’t going as expected.
In the second half New England pulled the game out…but not without some help from the Colt’s coaching staff calling the worst play in NFL history (yes, even worse than Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl disaster). Result: Patriots 34 Colts 27. Once again, fans showed some concern and the time had come for a true test.
4. The NY Jets, the new darlings of the NFL, were coming to Foxborough. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard this before, the NFL’s top ranked defense. A Jets win and the two teams would be sharing first place in the AFC East. Man, what could the Patriots do with a battered OL and just 18 players dressed on offense? Time for Superman, Tom Brady, to step up and “show me” he could carry the team to win #6. The Jets sacked Brady three times and otherwise made him uncomfortable in the pocket to take a 13-10 halftime lead.
The Patriots were passing on nearly every down and being questioned about their play calling as the second half began. Time for Mr. Brady to “show me” why he is the greatest QB in the history of the NFL…and he did. Against this supposedly great defense he completed 34 passes for 355 yards, threw for 2 TDs and ran for another while the defense stopped the feared Jets running game (Chris Ivory, who entered as the AFC’s leading rusher, was held to 41 yards on 17 carries) on the way a 30-23 win.
5. You would think the Jets win would calm the waters, but it wasn’t so. Suddenly the Miami Dolphins were playing up to expectations after firing their Head Coach, Joe (Tiger) Philben, and putting Tight End Coach Dan (Gung-ho) Campbell in charge. He was an emotional guy and the players loved the fact Campbell was giving them a free hand to play the way they wanted to. In his first two games as Head Coach the ‘Fins destroyed Tennessee and Houston (two NFL powers!), running up 82 points and the combination of Suh and Cameron Wake were suddenly sacking everything but the groceries. After wiping the field with Miami, 36-7, the Patriots ran their record to 7-0.
Show Me More
Common sense says, after going 7-0 with no real challenge, New England fans would be ready to relax a bit. No need to get worried about the future. Well, that’s just not the way we New Englanders react. We’re not happy unless we have something to worry about. After Denver slaughtered Green Bay Sunday night, holding Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards, and now trading for TE Vernon Davis, the “show me”ites are back.
Problem is, there are still 3 games to go before the Patriots travel to the mile high city (Nov. 29) for their Sunday Night battle. So, before that happens Washington, NY (Giants) and Buffalo have to “show me” they are up to the task of staying on the field with the current Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
This weeks worry is that the Skins is a trap game…so once again it’s time for the best team in the NFL to show everyone that there is no such thing as a trap when Bill Belichick is your coach.
We’ve now reached the halfway point in the pre-season (1-1) after the Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints 26-24 Saturday night behind Jimmy Garoppolo…and few of the Patriots questions have been answered. Let’s take a quick look at where the team stands as regular season quickly (yes, I’m smiling) approaches.
Patriot fans need to take a step away from the immediacy of the team need (re: Brady possible suspension) and realize this is just his second year in the NFL. Very few QBs are instant successes and the growing pains can be frustrating for both the player and the rabid team followers.
“Last week the pressure got to me a little bit, and it’s never good to get sacked or hit that many times,”
The only things that seem certain at this stage are:
All the worry when the Patriots lost Revis Island, Kyle Arrington and Brandon Browner was justified
Malcolm Butler still seems like the real thing. His limited play in the pre-season games is an indication Head Coach Bill Belichick has seen enough of him in practice to feel confident in him and needs to look at others in game situations. How things have changed for Butler since “the play”, going from a question mark that others gave up on to the Patriots best corner!
CB Tarell Brown made his Patriots debut after missing the first preseason game against Green Bay with mixed results
Devin McCourty, an above average safety, is a below average CB. He has acknowledged he isn’t comfortable at his old position.
Commenting on his play Saturday night in New Orleans he was honest (tsk, tsk, a Patriot player actually saying something) when he said “It didn’t feel great and I don’t think it looked great.” He also acknowledged he doesn’t have much say in where he plays “You can’t control where you play. Everyone’s playing a position for the team, and overall, what’s best for the team. I don’t think what you think or feel matters.”
Like last season at this time, the offensive line is still a work in progress. The return of Sebastion Volmer and Nate Solder to game shape will give rookies Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson a chance to breathe as they adapt to the speed of the NFL. Neither Mason nor Jackson has yet made that step-up expected of them, but give them time as both show promise and are still learning the game at a whole new level. The hope is that the unit jells as the season progresses, as they did in 2014.
Saturday night rookie free agent David Andrews made his second straight start at center
With wide receivers dropping like flies my early optimism for this year is quickly getting clouded with question marks. Brandon LaFell still hasn’t played a down, Brian Tyms may be out for the season with a foot injury, Aaron Dobson’s return to health was an illusion, Josh Boyce continues to shine in practice and disappear at game time. Key players (Julian Edelman-injury/Rob Gronkowski/Scott Chandler-injury) continue to watch from the sidelines, so it is hard to have a true evaluation of just how strong/weak the Pats are, but rookie Chris Harper has taken the ball and run with it in their absence. Seven year veteran Brandon Gibsonhas looked good, but also was injured late in the game.
There’s more, but that’s enough for now to keep fans thinking. No panic, but concern, is in the air. Just keep thinking, Bill Belichick is the best Head Coach in the NFL and he finds ways to win. That’s a fact that can’t be denied.
Every New England Patriots fan can still remember THAT catch from Super Bowl 49.
I’m not talking about Malcolm Butler, I am referring to Jermaine Kearse. The Kearse catch took an improbable comeback story and nearly squashed it in the flukiest way possible. Why address a travesty that almost was? That Kearse catch is a perfect metaphor for every Pats fan’s 2015 offseason.
Jermaine Kearse caught a ball from Russell Wilson long after the Patriots assumed the play dead. It bobbled in the air, bounced off some limbs and seemed to place the Patriots in the losers column. After coming so close to sewing Super Bowl 49 up, New England now had to deal with this new unlikely circumstance.
Since 2007, all Patriots fans have heard from just about any fan of any NFL team was that the Patriots cheated, and that they were fans of “the Cheatriots.” The most commonly asked question seemed to be “Why haven’t you won since Spygate?” which bellowed from everyone who was quick to point out how the Patriots couldn’t get it done without cheating. The 2014-15 New England Patriots finally had an offense and defense that looked like it could get the job done. Despite a lackluster two and two start, the Pats abused the Bengals in week five and never looked back. The Patriots played exceptional football and gave hope to many that finally, the Patriots we’re ready to get their fourth ring.
After winning the AFC Championship, the Patriots were ready to squash their doubters and regain the respect of the league, then came the “Kearse catch” known as Deflategate. Suddenly, New England, who had spent the entire season showing everyone that Brady still had “it” and that they were ready to move forward from the tarnish of Spygate, had a new enemy. This enemy robbed New England fans of the offseason glory they dreamed about since their team had been flummoxed long ago with camera themed controversy.
To compound the lunacy of Deflategate, free agency was about to land a huge left hook to Patriots nation. Patriots fans were treated to the loss of their entire cornerback squad. The once lauded Darrelle Revis returned to the New York Jets, leaving Bellichick and company to quickly jettison Brandon Browner and not too long after Kyle Arrington. The loss of Revis cannot be understated as he is an exceptional athlete and possibly the best defensive back in the NFL. Browner and Arrington were complimentary pieces that no longer seemed to fit.
Things did not get better for Pats fans. Soon the Wells report was released, and it was followed by the most outrageous penalty in NFL history. In one fell swoop, the Patriots lost their 2016 first round draft pick, their 2017 fourth round draft pick, $1,000,000 and 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady, for the first four games of the season.
As the new NFL season finally approaches, Pats fans are left with the same gnawing, aching feeling of thievery they received after Kearse made that clumsy catch. Patriots nation was so very close to the end of Spygate and all the negativity that came with it, only to have Deflategate bobble its way into the collective consciousness of the other 31 teams and their fan bases. Respect is bigger than any Super Bowl or any championship, it’s something that every team wants and every fan needs. The big question is, will the 2015-2016 season bring to Patriot fans the “Malcolm Butler interception” that they all crave?
Well by now we all know that the Patriots secondary from 2014 has been picked clean. Darrelle Revis was lured back home to the Jets by tampering from owner Woody Johnson (cheaters: 100 k fine).
Brandon Browner was allowed to test the waters of free agency, so he decided the money (and the grass) was greener in New Orleans.
Kyle Arrington was released by the Patriots and promptly signed with the Baltimore Ravens (remember the team that whined so much about ineligible recievers so much that the NFL had to change yet another rule because Belichick is a genius?) Yeah, them so he could play slot corner for Harbaugh. (I wonder if the Ravens fans will scream at their televisions as much as I did?)
Anyhow the reason your here is to do our poll, so without further adioux, you can make your choice below.
For all of Patriots Nation right now, the cornerback position on their team is a touchy and sensitive subject. With the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, and Alfonzo Dennard this past offseason, Bill Belichick is left with veteran cast-offs and unproven young players to work with this summer.
It is a scary thought for all fans that support the red, blue, and silver with cornerback arguably being the second most important position in the game. With the Patriots having so little experience in their defense with their corners, players such as Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan who have experience will be essential pieces in the secondary rebuild process. The only question now will be which player will take over the number one cornerback spot, Butler or Ryan?
Before February 1st, 2015 the casual fan had never heard of the name Malcolm Butler. Now he is making every social appearance he can to soak up his fifteen minutes of fame after his Super Bowl heroics. Nevertheless, Super Bowl XLIX is in the past and it is time to focus on how the Patriots can repeat, and Butler could be a key piece.
During the 2014 regular season, Malcolm Butler showed that he belongs in the National Football League. He was the surprise of training camp, and Bill Belichick was not afraid to put him in key veteran like situations.
For example, in week nine he spent significant time covering both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos. Furthermore, he matched up against Mike Wallace in both contests against Miami. Every time he held his own ground, showing that pitbull like nastiness that earned himself a spot on the roster.
This year, the microscope will be focused in on Butler. The margin for error will be so small any little mistake will be criticized by Patriots fans and most importantly his head coach. However, based off what we’ve seen from Butler in his very short career, he will be ready to take on the challenge.
Logan Ryan has been the opposite of Malcolm Butler, a disappointment. In his rookie season he flashed at times intercepting five passes. However, the interceptions masked the fact that he was consistently getting beat by his receivers.
In his sophomore campaign, Ryan only digressed. Whenever he was on the field in 2014, the opposing quarterback attacked him and instantly and picked him apart. Most notably in week thirteen against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
So far this season, Ryan has received the most amount of reps due to Malcolm Butler’s absence from OTA’s. Players are in only shorts and t-shirts at OTA’s, but based off reports he impressed the most out of any of the cornerbacks.
Ryan has shown nothing yet that proves he can be a number one cornerback on a elite team. Although, he is the most experienced cornerback in the Patriots system so the job may be his for the taking. That should scare Patriots fans big time.
In the end, the battle for the number one cornerback spot on the Patriots roster this summer will most likely be won by Malcolm Butler.
He is far from a proven cornerback in the National Football League, but his ceiling seems to be higher than any of the players on the depth chart. Logan Ryan has only decreased as his career has gone on, leaving me with little hope that he can be an every down starting corner.
Before last year with Darrelle Revis and the early 2000s with Ty Law the Patriots pass defense has tended to struggle and lacked a true shutdown corner. With Revis leaving New England and returning to the New York Jets the Patriots may again go into the 2015 season without a shutdown corner. Last season, New England ranked 17th in pass defense but the numbers didn’t really show how good and effective the Patriots secondary and defense as a whole was in 2015, with the Patriots often leading early in games and by a good margin teams were forced to throw the ball the whole game. Lets take a look at the Patriots pass defense throughout the Belichick era both with and without a shutdown corner and what we could expect to see out of this years defense.
In Belichick’s first year as coach the team ranked 21st in pass defense allowing 220 passing yards per game. The league wasn’t as big of a passing league at the time compared to how it is now. The secondary was lead by cornerback Ty Law and safety Lawyer Milloy who each led the team in interceptions with two a piece during the teams disappointing 5-11 season. The team also ranked 21st in rush defense, which is a compelling reason why the team finished at 5-11 with a poor pass and rush defense.
The following season is one all pats fans will remember, the year the franchise won its first Super Bowl championship, the year our franchise quarterback took the realms and the dynasty in New England started. That year the Patriots ranked 24th in pass defense but allowed less yards per game than it did the year before allowing 218 yards per game. Again, the league was more run oriented compared to the way the NFL is today. The team was again lead in the secondary by Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy and despite the low ranking in pass defense allowed less yards than the year before and had 22 interceptions as a team, returning 5 for touchdowns. The high interception total showed how with a top safety and corner the team was able to be more aggressive in play making.
The Patriots suffered a Super Bowl hangover in the 2002 season missing the playoffs for one of the three times in the Belichick era. Despite not making the playoffs the teams pass defense increased tremendously improving to the 11th ranked pass defense in the league allowing 198 yards per game. Where the Patriots increased in pass defense they decreased in rush defense ranking 31st in the league allowing 137 yards per game.
The Patriots secondary had a new look to it in the 2003 season compared to the seasons before. Veteran safety Rodney Harrison and cornerback Tyrone Poole both signed with the team in the offseason, drafting safety Eugene Wilson in the second round, cornerback Asante Samuel in the 4th round and releasing veteran safety Lawyer Milloy prior to the start of the season. Milloy signed with division rival Buffalo Bills and started off the year by beating the Patriots 31-0, which I’m sure made the Patriots question their decision to release Milloy. The team ended up ranking 15th in pass defense at the end of the year allowing 202 yards per game. The teams run defense had a huge improvement from the year ranking 4th in rushing yards allowing only 86 yards per game. Behind the teams strong defense the team went on to win their second Super Bowl in three years.
2004 was a tough season for the Patriots secondary suffering many injuries, which forced wide receiver Troy Brown to the defensive side of the ball to play corner. Brown played well and better than I and I’m sure most people expected and was the model of the “Patriot Way”, doing anything you can to win. Brown ended up finishing tied second on the team in interceptions with 3, with his first coming against former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The only member of the secondary to play in all 16 regular season games was safety Rodney Harrison. The team ranked 17th in pass defense allowing 212 yards per game despite all the injuries and went on to win their third Super Bowl ring in four years and started the Patriots dynasty.
Veteran cornerback Ty Law left the team in free agency, which made the Patriots bolster a new look secondary for the 2005 season without Law. Without Law the teams secondary struggled ranking 31st in the league in pass defense allowing 231 yards per game. The teams rush defense also struggled in 2005 ranking 25th in run defense. With Law leaving in free agency the Patriots struggled with not having a true shutdown corner despite Asante Samuel playing well and molding into a future number one corner.
After the defensive struggle in 2005, the team improved in both pass and rush defense ranking 12th in pass defense and 5th in run defense in 2006. The defense was led by corner Asante Samuel who had 10 interceptions on the year and became a dangerous threat for opposing quarterbacks to throw at and taking away one side of the field. Injuries again hit the Patriots secondary in the 2006 season with a variety of injuries to multiple members of the defense.
The Patriots had their famous 16-0 Regular Season and rewriting the whole record book while doing so. With Tom Brady and the offense setting new records every week and gaining the majority of the attention, the Patriots defense had one of if not their best defense statistically in the Belichick era. The team ranked 6th in passing allowing 190 yards per game and the run defense ranking 10th allowing 98 yards per game. Harrison and Samuel were again leaders of the New England secondary. Sadly what this team will be remembered for will be for falling just short of the perfect season with their only loss coming against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. As well as the defense played all year they struggled in the Super Bowl against the Giants. The defense as a whole struggled and the offense didn’t play as well as they did all year long. If it also wasn’t for a miracle helmet catch by Giants receiver David Tyree the Patriots may have ended up winning the Super Bowl and completing the “perfect season”.
Coming off a devastating loss in the Super Bowl the Patriots were looking to return and were the early season favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2008. Then quarterback Tom Brady went down in the first quarter of week 1 with a torn ACL and MCL. The offense was now set to look different without their MVP quarterback. In free agency that year cornerback Asante Samuel left New England to join the Philadelphia Eagles. Safety Rodney Harrison only played in 6 games before being injured and out for the year. The defense was now led by rookie linebacker Jerod Mayo and 2nd year safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerbacks Deltha O’Neil (who was terrible at this point in his career), the inconsistent Ellis Hobbs and Jonathan Wilhite. With all the injuries and lack of a true number one corner the Patriots defense was better than ultimately expected. The defense ranked 11th in passing allowing 201 yards per game and 15th in defense allowing 107 yards per game. Even with the multitude of injuries on both side of the ball the team still finished at 10-6 but missed the playoffs after the Jets lost in week 17 to the Dolphins, which sent Miami to the playoffs. This helped show how great of a coach Bill Belichick is, doing as good as he did with the amount of injuries the team had and after losing arguably its best defensive player in free agency and still play well.
Veterans Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired prior to the 2009 season, which left New England with a loss of leadership and two key members of the teams defense, as well as trading star defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders. The team was also playing with Leigh Bodden, Jonathan Wilhite and Shawn Springs at cornerback, which is not very good to say the least. Wilhite struggled since the time he was drafted and Springs and Bodden were older veterans that were past their prime and weren’t nearly as productive as the team was hoping they would be when signed in free agency. Despite the lack of star power, especially in the secondary the team wasn’t too bad as a whole on defense ranking 12th in passing allowing 210 yards per game and ranking 13th in run defense allowing 110 yards per game. Again this showed that Belichick doesn’t need a “star” corner to lead his team.
The Patriots 2010 defense was ugly to say the least. The team ranked 30th in pass defense allowing 259 yards per game. One bright spot was rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who had 7 interceptions on the year and looked like he could be the shut down corner New England was missing the past few seasons. Despite the terrible pass defense the team played fairly well against the run ranking 11th in the league allowing 108 yards per game.
New year, same problems, the 2011 Patriots were again TERRIBLE against the pass ranking 31st in the league allowing 293 yards per game. It was ugly to watch, I remember watching the game against the Peyton Manningless Indianapolis Colts and Dan Orloksky was at quarterback and they just kept driving up the field and scoring. I remember my dad and I yelling at the TV and asking each other “are we really going to lose to the f***ing Colts?” before he threw the TV remote at the ground and broke it out of anger. The lone bright spot from the year before, Devin McCourty had a huge sophomore slump and couldn’t have covered me if I was out on the field. The defense was so bad andlacked depth that wide receivers Julian Edelman and matthew Slater were both playing in the secondary, and were playing better than just about all the other members of the secondary. New England played in way too many shoot-outs and close games this season. The offense would get up big to start the game and then the defense would play a prevent zone and just couldn’t stop anybody, it was painful to watch. Despite the terrible defense the Patriots still made it to the Super Bowl after a heroic pass deflection by Sterling Moore and a shanked Billy Cundiff field goal in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. New England again went onto lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl after a Wes Welker drop that would have sealed the victory for New England and another lucky pass by Eli Manning where his receiver again made an amazing catch bailing out Manning.
Yet again New England’s secondary struggled against the pass in 2012. Devin McCourty continued to struggle at cornerback, which prompted the team to move him to safety, where he has played great since, and make a mid-season trade for cornerback Aqib Talib. Adding Talib was huge for New England giving them a true number one cornerback and someone who could take away an opposing teams top receiver. Despite the acquisition of Talib the Patriots still ranked 29th in pass defense allowing 271 yards per game. If Talib was never acquired the rankings surely would have been lower. Talib was good during his time in New England besides constantly being banged up, especially in the big games. The Patriots ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship after a Talib injury sidelined him and forced Devin McCourty back to corner halfway through the game and forcing Kyle Arrington, a slot corner, to cover wide receiver Torrey Smith, a speedy deep threat.
With having a full season of Aqib Talib the Patriots pass defense improved drastically ranking 18th in the league allowing 239 yards per game. With Talib at corner allowed McCourty to play the center fielder role and roam around the secondary. Talib played like the top corner in the NFL for most of the 2013 season. Another bright spot for New England’s defense was rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. Ryan led the team with 5 interceptions and showed a lot of promise for the future as a playmaker and potentially improving into a number one corner for the Patriots. Talib was again injured during the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos and the Patriots went on to lose to the Broncos and be eliminated from the playoffs.
And lastly we have last years 2014 pass defense. Last years pass defense was great and the best that I have seen and can remember the Patriots having. Darrelle Revis was, well Darrelle Revis, he shut down any receiver he was matched up against. Brandon Browner provided the physicality and swagger that the defense needed, always giving big hits and being physical with the receiver he was matched up against even if it would draw the occasional pass interference call. Kyle Arrington played a key role as the teams slot corner and did it very well most of the year. Second year rookie Logan Ryan, like Devin McCourty, had a sophomore slump and didn’t play nearly as well as he did during his rookie year. He was constantly getting beat by receivers and didn’t play the ball as well as he did the year before. Then there was Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler who played well when he was on the field and was a good depth player. Butler is now most popular for his Super Bowl interception, throughout the year Butler was impressive in limited action and showed very good man coverage skills. And with this secondary with the shut down corner in Revis and great complimentary number two corner in Browner the Patriots went on to win their 4th Super Bowl.
Based on the past teams during the Belichick era the team has won their Super Bowls with a top, shutdown corner. After losing Revis, Browner, and Arrington in free agency the secondary is set to look a lot different than it did in 2014. The current cornerbacks on the Patriots roster who are expected to make the roster and potentially play key roles for New England’s defense this upcoming year are Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, free agent signee Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain and Derek Cox, as well as safety Devin McCourty who some have suspected could make the switch back to corner with the current cornerback depth.
Ryan and Butler have spent time in New England and are expected to be the team’s two starting cornerbacks to start the 2015 season. Ryan is looking to bounce back after struggling last year and go back to the form he showed as a promising rookie in 2013 when he recorded 5 interceptions and played a big part of the teams defense. Butler will look to continue to shine after his game-winning interception in the Super Bowl. Butler already has high expectations heading into the 2015 season and time will tell if he will live up to the hype that has surrounded him since the Super Bowl.
Bradley Fletcher spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles after spending his first 4 seasons in the league with the St. Louis Rams. Fletcher was inconsistent last season with the Eagles, with not much safety help over the top and would occasionally be beat on the deep ball with a lack of safety help. With safety Devin McCourty giving hep over the top to corners Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib the past few seasons, McCourty could also look to help Fletcher and transition Fletcher to potentially be a number one corner for New England. The Patriots are hoping that with the help of McCourty he could transition into that and not be the corner who was beat repeatedly by Dez Bryant and was seen crying on the sidelines at one point after constantly being targeted by Romo and beat by Bryant.
Robert McClain is a smaller corner at 5’9 and has primarily been a special teamer throughout his career. He played more defensively last year after injuries to Falcons corners. McClain could be used as a slot corner to replace Kyle Arrington, who was released by the Patriots this offseason and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. With McClain’s experience at both corner and special teams gives him a better chance to make the Patriots roster with Bill Belichick’s love for versatile players.
Derek Cox has been a journeyman throughout his NFL career playing for the Jaguars, Chargers and brief stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens. Cox was a member of the Ravens briefly last year and didn’t see the field before being released by the time. Cox is a bigger corner like Fletcher (Cox 6’1, Fletcher 6’0) and has been inconsistent throughout his career, like Fletcher. Cox is said to be more of a zone coverage defender than a man defender off the line of scrimmage. Cox role in New England is still unknown and isn’t a roster lock by any means but could provide nice veteran depth to the Patriots secondary.
Without a true number one corner to start the year the Patriots defense will look to rely more on their pass rush then the team has the past few seasons. The team is also expected by many people to switch to a zone defensive scheme rather than a man scheme like they have the past few seasons when they had a top corner.
Looking over the eight divisions in the NFL, the AFC East division has had a great deal of success over the past 15 years. Don’t remind any Bills, Jets and Dolphins fans about this though, for all twelve division titles, six Conference Championships and four Super Bowls won over this time belong to just one team – the New England Patriots.
But the reigning Super Bowl champs have had an offseason that has casted some reasonable doubt for fans ahead of the upcoming season. With the anchor to their defense and their two starting cornerbacks gone and an impending ruling yet to be handed down by the Ginger Hammer (#exonerateBrady), the rest of the AFC East has made moves to improve their teams with some key acquisitions. Is that enough to sink the tight ship run by Bill Belichick and Co.? Let’s take a look at how the three other teams stack up against the Kings of the AFC East:
Jets – Aside from the big (*cough* robbery *cough*) free agency signing of Darrelle Revis, the Jets also brought back Antonio Cromartie to the secondary to beef up an already tough and talented defense who will have Sheldon Richardson back by the time they face the Patriots in their Week 7 showdown. To complement the defense, the Jets improved their receiving corps by acquiring Brandon Marshall in free agency and drafting Devin Smith in this year’s draft. The bad news? The Jets may be in a better position to expose a weaker Patriots secondary by forcing them to put more cornerbacks on the field against a stronger set of wide receivers. The good news? The Jets don’t have Rex Ryan. Or a QB that can lead them to a division title. And while the Jets will have Sheldon Richardson back, the Patriots will have Tom Brady ready to go too, so I’ll be placing my bets on the Brady Bunch.
Dolphins – Ndamukong Suh decided to bring his talents to South Beach and that is huge for a franchise whose fans have been left with a sour taste in their mouths from watching teams full of hope and promise disintegrate the past two seasons. Having Suh join Earl Mitchell in the interior while Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon rush the edges will be the cause of many headaches for offensive coordinators in the division and across the league. The Dolphins also did a pretty good job of getting quarterback Ryan Tannehill (a massive contract and) some new weapons by signing Greg Jennings and drafting DeVante Parker with the 14th pick of the draft to join a balanced run game for the offense. But are these improvements enough to overcome the major holes this team has at guard, linebacker and at the cornerback position? Or will Dolphins fans face another tumultuous season that will end in more heartbreak for their fans? Too soon to tell. One thing that is certain – Bill Belichick’s bread and butter is taking away what every team does best and making them beat his team without their strengths. If the offensive line for the Dolphins struggle to create openings for their running backs and keep Ryan Tannehill upright, their secondary won’t be able to save them from the Patriots’ elusive passing attack.
Bills – No other team in this division (or in the league for that matter) had quite the offseason the Bills had. No other team in this division will have the pleasure of potentially facing a Brady-less Patriots offense (*knocks on wood*) this season and that is quite the advantage to have on your side, especially with an elite defense led by Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. These three ended the season with double-digit sacks on a team that racked up 54 sacks in 2014. It only gets better for this team because guess who’s at the helm for this Bills this year? Rex Ryan, defensive mastermind. But, said defensive mastermind is no offensive mastermind, and he’s going from one quarterback debacle with Geno Smith and the Jets to another with E.J. Manuel and the Bills. His other options at quarterback (Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel) don’t seem to represent the long term answer to lead a good running combo in Fred Jackson and LeSean McCoy and a good wide receiving corps that includes Sammy Watkins, who is coming off a stellar rookie season. It’ll be quite the chess match when these two teams meet up in Week 2 and in primetime on Week 11. Rex will focus on disguising his defense with intricate blitzing schemes to faze the Patriots quarterback while Bill will squash the running game and force the Bills quarterback to beat the defense with his arm. There is no doubt that the Bills have the biggest chance to dethrone the Patriots for the AFC East throne, but their biggest hole is at the most important position on the team. With that said, I will give Bill Belichick and Co. the benefit of the doubt and another division title for the 2015-16 NFL season.
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