The New Look New England Patriots

As you all have heard by now, the 2013 New England Patriots will look nothing like the 2012 version of New England’s favorite football team.  Tom Brady’s top 5 receivers, and 6 of the top 8, from 2012 are either gone (Welker, Lloyd, Hernandez, Woodhead, Branch) or will likely start the season on the PUP (Gronkowski).  The new infusion of receivers is led by Danny Amendola, and consists of several rookies that were productive in college, but as we all know, that is not a barometer of success in the NFL.  If you listen to sports talk radio, read the local newspaper, and have Patriot-based conversations with your buddies, you are sure to have heard about how tough of a transition that 2013 will be for Tom Brady, how much the Pats will have to rely on the run game, and how the Miami Dolphins might challenge the Pats for the AFC East.  Well, never fear, Mattyoshow is here is dispel these ridiculous notions and assure you why the 2013 version of the New England Patriots will contend for yet another Super Bowl.

Offensively, the Patriots are expected to have some difficulty.  As I previously mentioned, there has been a lot of turnover at both wide receiver and tight end.  However, unlike most, the turnover doesn’t worry me.  Let’s start with what we know to be fact.  Stevan Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards in 2012.  Ridley ran for all of those yards while Tom Brady was completing 401 passes for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns.  Ridley ran for all of those yards while only taking 55% of the teams carries (290 of 523 total carries).  Stevan Ridley ran for all of those yards behind an offensive line that was able to dominate the line of scrimmage at various points in games.  That is the same offensive line that is returning all 5 starters for the 2013 season, while also grooming dominant run blocker Marcus Cannon to be their new starting right guard.  Aside from Ridley, the Patriots backfield will contain an improved and more experienced Shane Vereen, two short-yardage specialists in LaGarette Blount and Brandon Bolden, and a proven change-of-pace back and return specialist in Leon Washington.  I expect the New England Patriots’ run game to be a force in 2013, and will help take some of the load off of Tom Brady.

While many are predicting a near-apocalypse for the Patriots‚Äô receiving corps, I think that they will produce well.¬† If we begin to consider pure talent, the 2013 New England Patriots might boast their most talented group of receivers since 2007, when the Pats had Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelly Washington (and I wouldn‚Äôt be ready to induct that group into the Hall of Fame).¬† Amendola has proven that he can produce when he stays on the field.¬† Even with that said, I‚Äôm not as concerned with Amendola‚Äôs health as almost everyone else is.¬† Amendola tallied 14 games in 2009 and 16 in 2010 with the Rams.¬† In 2011 he suffered a rare elbow dislocation that cost him all but 1 game, and in 2012 he fell victim to a freak clavicle dislocation (which was millimeters from killing him), where he only missed 5 games.¬† Julian Edelman has produced in the Patriots‚Äô system before, and will have to take a step forward in 2013.¬† Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are rookies, but all reports from training camp have portrayed them as being very studious, picking up the offense quickly, and making an impact in practice.¬† The Patriots tallest receiver in 2012 was Brandon Lloyd at 6‚Äô0‚ÄĚ.¬† Aaron Dobson is 6‚Äô3‚ÄĚ.¬† Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins has been receiving high praise from the coaching staff and defensive players.¬† Kenbrell Thompkins is 6‚Äô1‚ÄĚ.¬† Aqib Talib is on record speaking about Dobson and Thompkins saying, ‚Äú[Dobson’s] got good releases off the line, that‚Äôs what I think he does real good. Him, KT [Thompkins], they‚Äôre both pretty good at releasing off the line.¬† I don‚Äôt know what it is, speed, quickness, strength. You either got it or you don‚Äôt. They got it.‚Ä̬† That‚Äôs pretty high praise for a top-notch NFL corner.¬† Will there be some learning curve associated with plugging in this many new pieces?¬† Yes, absolutely.¬† Will Tom Brady still be Tom Brady in 2013?¬† Yes, absolutely.¬† Will the 2013 version of the Patriots‚Äô receiving corps be able to produce similar numbers to the 2012 version?¬† Yes, absolutely.

Arguably the biggest reason in my mind that the 2013 New England Patriots will once again contend for a Super Bowl is because of one thing, defense.  The defense for the New England Patriots will dominate in 2013.  After years of gathering talent, this is a group that is ready to impress.  Reports from training camp indicate that Devin McCourty has been splitting time between corner and free safety.  This off-season, they resigned Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington.  Pending an unforeseen result from his August DUI hearing, Alfonzo Dennard will be looking to retain his spot as the starting corner opposite of Talib.  Don’t forget about Ras-I Dowling as well, who has a ton of talent (if he can ever stay on the field).  Aside from those veterans, the Patriots also have brought in some young talent at corner in 3rd round draft pick Logan Ryan and undrafted free agent Brandon Jones.  The Patriots are also loaded at safety, with Adrian Wilson taking most of the 1st team reps at SS.  He has been spelled by Steven Gregory and Tavon Wilson.  The Patriots also have young safeties Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner getting reps as well.

Even with the depth in the secondary, the strength of the Patriots‚Äô defense is in the front seven.¬† No matter the front (whether 4-3 or 3-4), the Patriots are loaded up front.¬† The linebacking core will consist primarily of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Don’t‚Äôa Hightower.¬† In the 3-4 front, Rob Ninkovich will kick outside to be their 3-4 OLB opposite of Hightower.¬† Up front, Chandler Jones and Nonkovich will start at defensive end, with Wilfork and newcomer Tommy Kelly plugging up the middle.¬† There is a ton of talent in the group that I just mentioned, but the depth of this Patriots team is what will make them excel.¬† In passing situations, the Pats will be able to substitute in Armond Armstead, who is a pass rushing defensive tackle, to pair with Wilfork/Kelly on the inside.¬† In 3rd and long situations, the Pats can bring in rookie linebacker Jamie Collins, whose athleticism makes him a scary defender for lineman to block, to group with Hightower, Jones, and Jermaine Cunningham to create an awesome pass-rushing package.¬† Do not forget about Justin Francis, an undrafted free agent in 2012 that showed he has the skill to rush the passer in the NFL (10 tackles, 3 sacks in 2012), and 2012 3rd round pick Jake BeQuette that will look to contribute in 2013.¬† As you can see, the Pats are absolutely loaded up front, which should correlate to a much-improved defense in 2013.

Keep tuning into your favorite sports radio station.¬† Keep reading your morning newspaper.¬† Keep having Patriot-based conversations with your buddies.¬† By all means, formulate your own opinions and stick with them throughout the season.¬† However, when it‚Äôs the end of December and we are looking at a New England Patriots team that is 12-4, won the AFC East by 4 games, and boasts a top-5 offense and defense in the NFL, don‚Äôt say you didn’t see it coming.¬† Just remember, when the Pats are fighting for another shot at a Super Bowl, Mattyoshow tried to tell you that this was going to happen it August.

Even if 2013 is a miserable season for the Patriots, God is on our side…because we’ve got TEBOW!!

Advertisements

Farley’s Forecast- AFC East

Good to be back here on NTCF. I’ve been reading all of the great content however I haven’t done much to contribute. I want to get back into the mix here so i am introducing my first edition of Farley’s Forecast where the slogan i just made up is, I’m right more than your local weatherman (person for you sensitive types).

Its a very boring period in the NFL season (there is no off-season), OTA’s mean very little because its played in short and t shirts.¬†Pay no mind to local reports of who has impressed in OTA’s or minicamps. The main goal for coaches during this period is to get the rookies and newly acquired free agents acclimated to how practices will be run and what to expect from the coaching staff.

Allow me to delve into the AFC East and forecast how I see it playing out this season. Shocker here, New England wins the division. I’ll get to them later, though. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.

New York Jets

Image

 

Now, when the most newsworthy story for your team is that the butt fumble has been #1 on the not top ten for half of the year, there are some problems with your franchise.¬† The New York Jets are in a world of trouble folks. They just traded away the best player on their already talent-starved roster, and while Revis may never reurn to form its still isn’t a smart football decision. Which, if you’re keeping track at home occurs¬†about as often as Rex Ryan opting for a salad.¬†I can assure you that Dee Millner is not the second coming and what was a strength for them has become yet another problem area. The best quarterback¬†on that roster just retired due to injury and¬†the battle of Sanchez and Smith should be, well, irrelevant. Smith just doesn’t project as a solid NFL starter in my opinion and he had more weapons in West Virginia. I expect Sanchez to win the job is Rex has say, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m calling a 32nd ranked offense this season. Listen, if you think I’m bashing the Jets you’re right, but am I wrong?¬†With ¬†Rex in seemingly a lame duck period as the coach of this team and a questionable lockeroom to be kind, can you honestly see this team competing in this division? This team should come¬†apart by the halfway mark with all the great character in the locker room and the only thing to look forward to from them is the occaisonal meltdown in front of a microphone.

Win range- 2-6

Buffalo is a team that will be interesting to monitor leading¬†up to September. Did they draft EJ Manuel too high?¬†Of course they did, but I think he was the¬†most NFL ready quarterback in the draft and I’m not sure he will win the job right away. Say what you want about Kevin Kolb but the offensive line in Arizona will make every quarterback in the NFL¬†struggle. I think Kolb will be much improved in this new system and the change of scenery should serve him well. CJ Spiller will have a breakout year because he finally has a coach who believes in him being an every down back.¬†I think Buffalo’s offense will be exciting to watch this season and they will need to be to keep the Bills in the hunt this season. The best defensive addiiton the Bills made was reatining star safety Jaruis Byrd. Byrd will need more help this season and it starts in run support. The Bills allowed 5 yards per carry last season, thats just terrible. If they can make improvements in stopping the run they’ll be able to pin their ears back and maybe get something from their investment in Mario Williams. I can see the Bills having a similair season to years past where they show flashes of brilliance but ultimately fail to compete for a full 16 games.With a rookie head coach and too many holes to fill in one year i see them finishing third in the division this year.

Win Range- 4-9

Miami wins the Dan Snyder award for over-spending in the offseason. General Manager Jeff Ireland saw the writing on the wall and spared no expense revamping the mediocre roster he created in a final attempt to save his job. Alot of the moves Miami made make sense on paper but for now all they seem to be doing is blowing hot air down in south beach. The seventh ranked scoring defense seems to be improved¬† from last season. Miami¬†struggled to create turnovers in 2012¬†and that was the point of emphasis from the coaching staff when discussing the new look roster. Drafting Dion Jordan¬†should¬†help Cameron Wake on the opposite side of the line in passing situations however I don’t see him as an every down end just yet. He will have time to develop and fill out his thin frame while serving as a rush specialist early in his career similair to Bruce Irvin in Seattle. The secondary is still the biggest weakness for this team and when you play Tom Brady twice a year thats a problem. The offense also added alot of pieces but I would like to talk about one that was on the roster last season. Lamar Miller is set to take over for Reggie Bush and I love his potential. The offensive line needs to create more holes but if they do Miller can be a big surprise this season.Miami has made alot of moves but they won’t mean a thing if Ryan Tannehill doens’t take a significant step forward this year. He showed flashes and you one could point to the lack of¬†weapons, but that is no longer the case. The Miami Dolphins will go as Ryan Tannehill goes this season and that will determine where they end up this season.

Win Range- 6-10

New England will win this division, but when you’re the Patriots, (at least in the last decade) winning the conference is the goal. The division shouldn’t be a struggle but the AFC looks to be tougher than in years past. The storyline with New England lately is how do they get back to the Super Bowl? Time and again they seem to have a let down in the playoffs and this post-postseason saw alot of players leave. Welker is the most noteworthy departure however as long as Amendola stays healthy (huge if) they will get more explosive plays from the slot this season. While the Gronk surgeries should cause some concern it won’t jeopordize training camp let alone the seaosn opener. While we are on the subject Gronk could miss the entire regular season and the offense would still be top ten. What New England needs is him to be healthy in the playoffs. The offense will always be in good hands so long as Tommy ballgame is under center. The defense needs to either get to the quarterback at a record pace, or change something up on the back end.¬†The Pats were middle of the road in the sack department tying for 15th in the league. The secondary however finished 29th in the league and therein lies the problem. Bill Belichick needs a new perspective for his schemes in the secondary. You can point to his super bowl trophies and say how completely ridiculous that statement is but after you settle down think back to those super bowls. When New England was winning super bowls they had at least one pro bowl corner on one side of the field.

2013 New England Patriots Roster Breakdown – May Edition

In this post, I’m going to take a look at the potential 53 man roster for the New England Patriots for the upcoming 2013 season.  Obviously, it is May so many things will change between now and the beginning of the season.  However, if the season were to start today, this is how I see the roster shaking out.  For each position, I will list the players in order from starter to backup (i.e. 1) starter, 2) backup, etc.).  Let’s do it…

QUARTERBACK: 2 (2)

1)    Tom Brady

2)    Ryan Mallett

Analysis: This one is a no brainer. ¬†Brady is the man, and no one in the league could compete for his position. ¬†The thing to watch at quarterback for the Pats this offseason is the ¬†performance of Ryan Mallett. ¬†While some believe Mallett was drafted to be groomed as Brady’s potential replacement, I think Mallett was brought in 1) Because they saw great value when they selected him in the 3rd round in 2011 and 2) They saw him as a potential trade chip for a higher draft pick than he was originally selected. ¬†If Mallett performs this preseason, he could get dealt to a team that has a big need at QB.

RUNNING BACK: 4 (4)

1)    Stevan Ridley

2)    Shane Vereen

3)    LeGarrette Blount

4)    Leon Washington

Analysis: Ridley earned the starting spot after his performance throughout the 2012 season, however some late season fumbling issues forced the Pats to bring in some insurance at the running back position (Blount) to at least compete with Ridley for the top spot. ¬†Shane Vereen will pick up where Danny Woodhead left off, and will produce at a higher level than Woodhead did. ¬†Ridley’s biggest area of improvement needs to be in pass protection, where Woodhead excelled. ¬†Leon Washington is kept on as a return specialist/emergency/change of pace back. ¬†Blount beats out Brandon Bolden for a spot on the roster and will look to be used in short yardage and goal line situations.

WIDE RECEIVER: 6 (5)

1) Aaron Dobson [outside]

1) Josh Boyce [outside]

1) Danny Amendola [slot]

2) Julian Edelman

2) Donald Jones

3) Matthew Slater

Analysis: This is by far the toughest position to predict the roster breakdown for on the 2013 Patriots. ¬†With so much change that has occurred at the position, determining the direction that Pats will go is tough. ¬†In my opinion, this is how the depth chart will stack up in September. ¬†I think that Dobson and Boyce will both make a smooth transition and earn starting spots on the outside, while Amendola is already penciled in as the starting slot receiver. ¬†Julian Edelman makes the team for two reasons: 1) Familiarity with the system and 2) Depth in the slot (although Boyce can play the slot as well. ¬†The position battle to watch here will be between Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins, and newly signed Lavelle Hawkins. ¬†I think Jenkins’ skill set has diminished to a point where he won’t produce on this team. ¬†Hawkins had some issues with coachability and offensive knowledge in Tennessee, which is the recipe for being cut here in New England. ¬†That leaves Jones, who has proven he can produce in the division and has good speed and size. ¬†Slater isn’t going anywhere. ¬†He is a lifer with the Pats.

TIGHT END: 4 (4)

1) Rob Gronkowski

1) Aaron Hernandez

2) Jake Ballard

3) Michael Hoomanawanui

Analysis: The top two spots here are set in stone for the next 5-6 years. ¬†Gronkowski is still dealing with forearm issues, which now has me concerned that he will not be ready for the start of the season. ¬†Here’s my prediction: Gronkowski starts the season on the PUP list in an effort to get that forearm back to 100% (and because they know they can afford to miss Gronk for 6 weeks). ¬†With that said, the Pats are utilizing the two tight-end set more than any team in the NFL, so they are forced to carry 4 (at least) on their roster. ¬†After Gronk and Hernandez, the next two spots are up for grabs. ¬†The Pats made a great move and grabbed an injured Jake Ballard off of waivers from the Giants, and the greatness of that move will be realized this year. ¬†Ballard is a mammoth of a human (6’6″, 275 lbs), but is as a good receiver (2011: 38 rec, 604 yards, 4 TDs) as he is blocker. ¬†The Pats re-signed Hoomanawanui to a one-year, $1.323 million contract this offseason, so I think that gives him a leg up over Daniel Fells for the 4th tight end spot.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: 4 (4)

1) Nate Solder [LT]

1) Sebastian Vollmer [RT]

2) Will Svitek

2) Marcus Cannon

Analysis: The top two spots here are filled by returning players in Solder and Vollmer.  After that, I see Svitek as a near lock to make the roster considering he is guaranteed to make at least $500,000 this season even if he is cut.  Svitek has the versatility to play both tackle positions and has been a good back-up for several years in the NFL, while also having started 16 games throughout his career.  Marcus Cannon will be the other backup tackle.  Cannon played decently in limited action last year, and should continue to develop this offseason.  Some believe the Pats will look to move Cannon inside to guard, which could shift the depth chart at tackle a bit.

OFFENSIVE GUARD: 3 (4)

1) Logan Mankins [LG]

1) Dan Connolly [RG]

2) Nick McDonald

Analysis: I see the Patriots only needing to keep 3 guards on the active roster for a couple of reasons: 1) McDonald has the versatility to play both guard positions and 2) Cannon can bump inside and play guard as well. ¬†Mankins and Connolly are locks at both starting guard positions, while McDonald has been a good, versatile backup over the last couple of seasons. ¬†Over his career, McDonald has lined up at all 5 offensive line spots, and worked a lot on playing center last offseason. ¬†This is a great advantage for the Pats, considering that they usually only keep one center on the active roster (Connolly has also played center in the past). ¬†Nick’s brother Chris will push him for a spot on the 53-man roster, however I think Chris makes his way onto the practice squad.

CENTER: 1 (1)

1) Ryan Wendell

Analysis: Not much analysis required here.  As mentioned previously, McDonald and Connolly have both played center in the past, so if Wendell happens to go down, the Pats have options.

DEFENSIVE END: 5 (6)

1) Chandler Jones [Right DE]

1) Rob Ninkovich [Left DE]

2) Jermaine Cunningham

2) Justin Francis

3) Jake Bequette

Analysis: For consistency purposes, I am creating this depth chart based on the assumption that the Pats will primarily play a 4-3 defense in 2013. ¬†Obviously, they often switch between defenses, however, I’m projecting all players as they fit into a 4-3. ¬†At defensive end, Jones and Ninkovich get the starting nod, just as they did in 2012. ¬†The battle at defensive end starts with the second string guys. ¬†Unlike some other positions where the second stringers don’t see the field much, back-up defensive lineman are becoming much more important in the NFL. ¬†High-powered passing attacks are forcing defenses to rotate lineman to keep fresh bodies on the field that can get to the quarterback. ¬†For the Pats, pressuring the quarterback is a top priority in 2013. ¬†There will be a battle for the back-up spots at defensive end this off-season. ¬†Jermaine Cunningham showed flashes of the player expected when he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft. ¬†A 4-game suspension derailed some of that success, however I think his performance last season warrants him making the team in 2013. ¬†Justin Francis went from being an undrafted free agent signing to top back-up performer for the Pats in 2012 (10 tackles, 3 sacks). ¬†Jake Bequette only played in 3 games last year, however he was awarded practice player of the month in October of last season and is expected to make a bigger impact in 2013. ¬†A prospect to watch here is 7th round pick Michael Buchanon. ¬†Buchanon has the athleticism to rush the passer in the NFL, however he needs to ass some bulk in order to hold up in the run game.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 4 (4)

1) Vince Wilfork

1) Kyle Love

2) Tommy Kelly

2) Armond Armstead

Analysis: The surprising release of Brandon Deaderick a couple of days ago makes me think that the Patriots have something in one of their young defensive tackles that we don’t know about yet. ¬†Vince Wilfork is considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, and will remain a staple on the New England defensive line for years to come. ¬†I believe that Kyle Love has earned a starting spot on this team. ¬†Love has a Wilfork-like build (6’1″, 320 lbs) and is in the game on 1st and 2nd down to simple take up blockers. ¬†On third down is where Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead come in. ¬†Kelly is a formidable pass rusher from the defensive tackle position (14.5 combined sacks between 2010-2011) and will hopefully fill a Gerard Warren-like role for the 2013 Pats. ¬†Armstead comes from the CFL through USC. ¬†Armstead had a heart attack as a senior at USC and was never cleared to play college football again. ¬†Therefore, he had to go through the CFL to make his way to the NFL. ¬†Armstead had 44 tackles and 6 sacks in the CFL last year.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: 3 (3)

1) Jerod Mayo

1) Dont’a Hightower

2) Jamie Collins

Analysis: Jerod Mayo, one of the NFL’s best inside linebackers, make the transition to the outside in the Pats 4-3 defense in 2012, and seemed to not miss a beat. ¬†Mayo amassed 147 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 interception. ¬†Opposite Mayo, 2012 1st round pick Dont’a Hightower had a good first season in New England, ending with 60 tackles and 4 sacks. ¬†I expect Hightower to become a more efficient pass rusher in 2013 and be most effective on first and second down. ¬†Then there is 2013 2nd round pick Jamie Collins. ¬†As mentioned in a previous post, I think Collins can contribute most on 3rd down as a rookie. ¬†As a former safety, Collins has fluid hips as an outside linebacker and should be able to cover backs, tight ends, and slot receivers more effectively than the bigger Hightower (Collins: 6’3″, 250 lbs; Hightower: 6’2″, 270 lbs). ¬†Niko Koutouvides and Jeff Tarpinian, former contributors for the Pats, will be competing primarily with inside linebackers for a roster spot as none of the aforementioned outside linebackers will be released.

INSIDE LINEBACKER: 3 (3)

1) Brandon Spikes

2) Dane Fletcher

3) Mike Rivera

Analysis: 2013 is a huge year for Brandon Spikes. ¬†Spikes is in the 4th year of his rookie contract, and needs to prove he is worth the next contract he will get from either the Patriots of another team. ¬†Spikes has already displayed great run-stopping ability in the NFL. ¬†The problem is that Spikes is considered by some to be a 2-down linebacker. ¬†2-down linebackers don’t usually get big-time money in the NFL. ¬†Dane Fletcher was cementing himself as a good backup and possible future starter for the Patriots before he tore his ACL last season. ¬†The Pats thought highly enough of Fletcher to re-sign him (he was a restricted free agent) this off-season. ¬†Mike Rivera his filled in well for the Pats over the last couple of seasons and will be competing with rookie 7th round pick Steve Beauharnais for the 3rd spot on the depth chart.

CORNERBACK: 6 (7)

1) Aqib Talib

1) Alfonzo Dennard

2) Kyle Arrington [Nickel Corner]

2) Ras-I Dowling

3) Logan Ryan

3) Marquice Cole

Analysis: Unlike 2012, I’m projecting that the Pats only carry 6 cornerbacks in 2013 simply because they are overloaded at safety (and I believe a couple of their safeties could play on the inside at corner). ¬†The Patriots got lucky this off-season when Alfonzo Dennard got sentenced to only 30 days in prison (starting in March 2014). ¬†Dennard will look to build on a successful rookie campaign and start opposite of the $5 million man (Talib) in 2013. ¬†Newly resigned Kyle Arrington played well enough over the past few seasons to earn 4-year $16 million deal this off-season. ¬†Arrington will play, and is most effective in the nickel. ¬†After than, the battle begins. ¬†Logan Ryan is essentially a lock simply because of the position that he was drafted this season. ¬†2013 is a make or break season for Ras-I Dowling. ¬†If he is able to stay healthy and contribute, we may begin to realize some of his talent. ¬†However, another injury may lead to Dowling’s release. ¬†Marquice Cole gets the nod as the 6th corner because of his special teams prowess. ¬†Rookie free-agent Brandon Jones could push for Cole’s roster spot if he proves that he can perform on special teams.

SAFETY: 5 (4)

1) Devin McCourty [FS]

1) Adrian Wilson [SS]

2) Tavon Wilson

2) Duron Harmon

3) Nate Ebner

Analysis: As I mentioned earlier, the Pats have an overload of safeties on their roster. ¬†I project that 5 safeties will make the final 2013 roster, which is one more than last season. ¬†I believe it is time that Devin McCourty makes the official switch to safety. ¬†McCourty has performed well as a part-time safety over the last couple of seasons (although he was basically full-time last year), and it looks like the Pats think he may be a long-term solution at free safety. ¬†I still think McCourty could be a good corner in the NFL, however I don’t get paid to make those decisions. ¬†Adrian Wilson will get the start opposite of McCourty and will provide a physical presence that the Pats have lacked since the Rodney Harrison days. ¬†At 6’3″, 230 lbs, Wilson has lost a step over his career, but McCourty’s responsibility will be to cover, Wilson will be asked to hit. ¬†Behind those two, 2012 second round pick Tavon Wilson earns a roster spot after showing some promise in his rookie campaign (41 tackles, 4 interceptions). ¬†Wilson also has the ability to drop down and play over the slot receiver, which will be useful as the Pats are only keeping 6 corners. ¬†2013 3rd round pick Duron Harmon makes the roster over 2012 starter Steve Gregory. ¬†Gregory was serviceable in 2012, although I think the Pats will decide to move in a new direction in 2013. ¬†Special teams standout Nate Ebner gets the nod as the 3rd string safety due to his special teams ability (him and Slater are essentially the new Larry Izzos).

SPECIALISTS: 3 (3)

PK) Stephen Gostkowski

P) Zoltan Mesko

LS) Danny Aiken

Analysis: No change here from 2012. ¬†The Patriots have brought in 2012 Ray Guy Award winner Ryan Allen to compete with Zoltan Mesko, however I expect Mesko to win that battle. ¬†Some believe Allen may make the practice squad, which speaks to his talent as punters don’t often take up a spot on the 7-man practice squad.

PRACTICE SQUAD: 7 (7)

1)    Michael Buchanon, DE

2)    Matt Stankiewitch, C

3)    Chris McDonald, OG

4)    Brandon Jones, CB

5)    Steve Beauharnais, LB

6)    Jason Vega, DE

7)    TJ Moe, WR

Analysis: At this point in time, practice squad predictions are nearly impossible considering that training camp hasn’t even started yet. ¬†However, in true Mattyoshow fashion, I’m giving it a shot. ¬†Michael Buchanon is a raw talent out of Illinois that needs time in the weight room to bulk up. ¬†I truly think Buchanon will push Jake Bequette for a roster spot at defensive end, but will wind up on the practice squad. ¬†Matt Stankiewitch was a 25-game starter at Penn State at center, and certainly benefitted from Bill O’Brien’s tutelage during his last year at Penn State. ¬†Stankiewitch is determined to learn to play guard in the NFL to improve his versatility and subsequently his odds of making the active roster. ¬†Chris McDonald, younger brother of the aforementioned Nick McDonald, was a 39 game starter for the Michigan St. Spartans and will look to carve a position out at guard in the NFL. ¬†Brandon Jones, yet another Rutgers product, will compete for an active roster spot this season, but will most likely end up on the practice squad. ¬†Steve Beauharnais is an instinctual linebacker that ha a nose for the football. ¬†Beauharnais doesn’t project as a 3-down linebacker, but a year in the weight room could lead to him competing for a roster spot in 2014. ¬†Jason Vega is another CFL product signed this offseason. ¬†Vega is a former Northeastern product (via Brockton) that amassed 66 tackles and 12 sacks in the CFL in 2012. ¬†Missouri product TJ Moe draws comparisons to Welker simply based on his skill set and skin color. ¬†Moe is bigger than Welker (6’0″, 200 lbs), stronger (26 reps at the combine), and maybe even more agile (Combine best 6.53 3-cone drill). ¬†Moe could use a year of seasoning on the practice squad, however in 2013 he could look to replace Julian Edelman on the roster.

Week 15 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-As I was listening to the radio yesterday as I was driving back down to ‚ÄėGansett before the Pats game, one of the more rational anchors of the show made a very good point.¬† He explained that even after one game of ‚Äúspot duty,‚ÄĚ we as fans knew relatively little about Matt Flynn.¬† The only people that truly knew what Matt Flynn was made of were the coaches of the Green Bay Packers.¬† For all we know, Matt Flynn could very well be the next Tom Brady, or he could be the next Max Hall‚Ķyour guess would have been as good as mine.¬† Although the sample size is very small, Matt Flynn took a great leap in gaining my respect on Sunday night.¬† Against a pass defense that looked to be improving by the snap, Flynn completed 24 of his 37 pass attempts for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns and only one interception.¬† I would have been willing to bet nearly all of the money in my bank account that Tom Brady would have outplayed Matt Flynn on Sunday night, but thankfully I didn‚Äôt because I would be a very broke dude.

-Speaking of the pass defense, even with Flynn’s numbers being pretty good I did not think that the Patriots pass defense played poorly.  In my opinion, it looked like the game plan coming into Sunday night was to play primarily defensive-back-heavy packages, let the Packers catch the ball underneath, and tackle them before they broke plays for big yardage.  In that sense, the defense was quite effective.  The Patriots dressed nine defensive backs for the game (four corners and five safeties), so you knew that they would be in nickel and dime coverage for most of the contest.  Only one pass play for the Packers went for over 20 yards, and that was the deep ball thrown to James Jones where Brandon Meriweather decided to light up Devin McCourty rather than Jones.  The Pats’ pass defense contained the Packers top two wideouts in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, limiting them to a combined 7 receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.  The Patriots knew that the Pack’ were going to line up and sling the ball all around the field, and in my opinion they did a good job of containing it.

-Defensively for the Patriots, three players deserve mention above the rest.  Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Devin McCourty all played spectacular games and were integral in the Patriots ability to pull out a win on Sunday.  Mayo continued on his campaign to lead the NFL in tackles, and possibly get some consideration for defensive player of the year, amassing 16 total tackles (10 solo).  Mayo again was all over the field, filling run lanes whenever possible and making plays on underneath passes.  I’m amazed with how much progress he has made in only three years in the NFL.  Mayo and Spikes will be one of the more formidable inside linebacker tandems for years to come in the NFL.  Devin McCourty improves every single game.  Aside from being burned on the deep James Jones pass mentioned earlier, McCourty had tight coverage on every other ball thrown his way.  You can’t ask much more from a corner when he finished a game with 10 tackles (7 solo), one sack, two tackles for loss, and one pass defended.  This kid is making a serious run at defensive rookie of the year.  What more can you say about Vince Wilfork?  Wilfork made a name for himself as one of, if not the premier nose tackle in the NFL, and now has essentially made a semi-transition to defensive end, and continues to be a game changer along the defensive line.  Wilfork’s impact on a game rarely shows up in the stat line, but if you study him for a consecutive string of plays, it is amazing how often he diverts run plays, stuffs the running lanes, push the pocket, and just cause complete havoc.  The Patriots are lucky to have a guy like Wilfork up front, and him being a leader of this young defense is just icing on top of the cake.

-Offensively, the Patriots weren’t great, but they did what needed to be done.  The Patriots how now scored 30+ points in six consecutive games, but this was the toughest thirty of that entire stretch.  Dom Capers (former Patriots secondary coach and special assistant and current Green Bay defensive quarterback) had the best defensive game plan against the Pats that I have seen since the Cleveland game.  Capers used various stunts and blitzes along the defensive line, allowing his players to sack Brady three times.  Their pressure disrupted the Patriots offensive rhythm, limiting their effectiveness in the passing game (leading receiver: Wes Welker, 3 receptions, 42 yards).  The run game never really got a chance to get started as the Patriots fell behind early in the second quarter and were not able to regain the lead until mid-way through the fourth.  That all being said, the offensive did enough to pick up a victory, and in the end that is all that matters.  Oh and by the way, welcome back Aaron Hernandez.

NEXT WEEK‚ÄôS PREDICTION ‚Äď Patriots 35 ‚Äď Buffalo 21

What to Look For…

Sunday night’s match-up between the Patriots and the Packers was looking to be one of the biggest games of the 2010 NFL season…and then Aaron Rodgers sustained a concussion.  Even without their star quarterback, the Green Bay Packers are a dangerous team.  Here is what to look for tomorrow at Gillette…

-As you all probably know by now, Aaron Rodgers is out for Sunday’s game.  This means that third year quarterback Matt Flynn will be attempting to lead the Pack’ into Gillette and steal a win from the Patriots.  Last week, in relief of Rodgers, Flynn went 15 for 26, threw for 177 yards and an interception.  Although his numbers weren’t very good against the Lions, I thought that Flynn played even worse than the numbers show.  He was indecisive and anxious in the pocket.  Flynn is now afforded the opportunity to practice for an entire week with the first team offense, so we will see if any improvements were made.  What to look for: How Matt Flynn performs in his first full game as a starting quarterback.

-The Green Bay Packers defense is ninth in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (314.1), third in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (196.8), fifth for sacks (37), first in scoring defense (14.5 points per game allowed), and tied for third in interceptions (18).  As you can see, the Packers defense is pretty damn good.  The way the Patriots offense has been playing, many of us have fallen under the impression that no defense can slow the Pats down.  That may very well be true, but one thing that is the Achilles heel of a great offense is a defense’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback.  Right now, there may be nobody in the NFL better at that than Clay Matthews.  What to look for: How effective the Patriots are in limiting Clay Matthews’ impact on the game.

-The Patriots defense has improved on nearly a weekly basis.  As their younger players get more familiar and comfortable in the Pats’ defensive scheme, their play has improved, as expected.  But, the injury bug has finally started to catch up to some of the young players, and that may have an impact on the continued development of this defense as a whole.  Many were fearful that Devin McCourty would be forced to miss some game action because of a rub injury, but all signs are pointing to him starting on Sunday.  We all know about Spikes’ suspension, and Gary Guyton did a good job filling in for Spikes last week, but I’m interested to see if that continues.  Kyle Arrington is dealing with an elbow injury and Ron Brace has sustained a concussion and it is unknown whether or not he will play.  Although many of these players will still suit up on Sunday, the impact that they have may be limited.  What to look for: How the abundance of injuries (and a suspension) will hinder the defense, if at all, on Sunday.

-THIS WEEK‚ÄôS PREDICTION: Patriots 31 ‚Äď Packers 10

Week 14 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-Not to boast, but for the majority of the season my ‚ÄúWhat to Look For‚Ķ‚ÄĚ segment has provided some pretty good insight into the Patriots games, and the issues touched upon are usually very relevant to what actually occurs.¬† This past week, I was not even close.¬† With the predicted weather conditions, I though that this game would turn into an uglier version of a Ravens-Steelers game.¬† Run after run, relentless defense, turnovers happening all over the place‚Ķbut no.¬† The Patriots came out and in nine degree weather, snow falling, and wind gusts up to 40 mph, they lined up in their five-wide formation on the first play of the game and threw a pass.¬† Brady accumulated 369 yards on 27-40 passing for two touchdowns.¬† Both Deion Branch and Wes Welker went over 100 yards receiving.¬† I feel like I have never been more wrong in my entire life‚Ķand yet don‚Äôt really mind because they pulled out a win.

-I thought that the loss of Brandon Spikes would be more evident than it was on Sunday.¬† Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher filled in at inside linebacker, and did a great job throughout the whole game.¬† Their statistics may not reflect how well that they played (Guyton 2 tackles, one assist ‚Äď Fletcher 0 tackles), but when your leading tackler only has four stops, stats may not be the best measure of performance.¬† The Patriots allowed only 46 total yards on the ground, and never really let the Bears run game get into sync.¬† Granted, being down 21 points in the middle of the second quarter doesn‚Äôt really help your run production, but the job that Guyton and Fletcher did in the middle still needs to be recognized.

-Devin McCourty strikes again.¬† This kid is truly amazing.¬† He leads the team with six interceptions and, as a rookie in one of the league‚Äôs most complex schemes (although I think that coach Belichick has ‚Äúdumbed it down‚ÄĚ a bit to accommodate all of the young guys), that is an impressive feat.¬† Even when McCourty isn‚Äôt picking off passes he‚Äôs making plays that have huge impacts on the game.¬† The fumble that McCourty forced in the second quarter yesterday that was subsequently returned for a touchdown by the aforementioned Gary Guyton, was essentially the nail in the Bears‚Äô coffin.¬† I know, proclaiming that a game is over in the second quarter may be a bit unrealistic, but the anemia that was infused in Chicago‚Äôs offense yesterday left little doubt in my mind that 21 points would win the game.¬† McCourty did leave the game in the second quarter with a rib injury, but told reporters while leaving the locker room yesterday that he was ‚ÄúOk.‚ÄĚ

-I‚Äôm not big on worrying about who the best team in the NFL is on a week to week basis, simply because it doesn‚Äôt really matter and it actually changes from week to week.¬† Whether Trent Dilfer thinks that the Patriots, Falcons, Eagles, Ravens, Steelers or whoever is the best team does not matter to me, or should it to you, in the least bit.¬† What does matter is how this team is playing football.¬† I was not as high on the Bears as other people may have been, but you can‚Äôt really scoff at a 9-4 record.¬† I was actually very high on the Jets, even considering them to be better than the Pats until last week, and at 9-4 they seem to be a formidable team too.¬† The same story goes for the Steelers and the Ravens.¬† My point here is that the Patriots are currently playing some of the best football that I have seen this year, and maybe over the past few years.¬† This offense, even without the big name guys (specifically Mr. Moss), is performing at an equal efficiency to the 2007 version that set all kinds of offensive records.¬† The run game is finally a continued factor, and the defense becomes more impressive on a weekly basis.¬† It is time to realize that the New England Patriots are currently a group of 61 players (53 active, 8 practice squad) that have completely bought in to the ‚ÄúBelichickian‚ÄĚ way.¬† If their play continues at this level, there is no limit to the amount of success that can be experienced.¬† It is important for us all to realize how lucky we are to see such a great product on a weekly basis.¬† It is important for us to realize how truly amazing of a player Tom Brady is (like top 5 quarterbacks of all-time amazing).¬† It is important for us realize that we have the greatest coach in NFL history patrolling the sidelines for our favorite team.¬† You may think I‚Äôm being dramatic and over-reactant, but I‚Äôm simply expressing to you all what will be realized in twenty years when Belichick and Brady are old, grayer, and reflection of their greatness finally is underway.¬† Appreciate what is brought to you every Sunday, or the occasional Monday, and understand how great the New England Patriots truly are.

-NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION (assuming Aaron Rodgers is out) – Patriots 31 – Packers 10

Week 12 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-The New England Patriots got off to a slow start in Thursday Thanksgiving Day battle in Detroit, finding themselves in a 17-10 hole going into halftime.  But, a reestablished focus combined with a fiery halftime speech from Tom Brady amounted to a 35 point second half and a blowout of the Detroit Lions.  Much has been made this season of the Patriots young defense not being able to stop the bleeding when teams began piling on points.  Well, on Thursday their defense did just that.  After allowing 17 first half points, the defense tightened up, essentially shutting down Calvin Johnson, and subsequently allowing only 7 Detroit points in the second half.

-It seems that in every edition of the Mattyoshow Review, I can not mention the defense without bringing up two names, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty.¬† Jerod Mayo had yet another game where his effectiveness can not be measured in terms of stats.¬† Although he posted a good stat line (8 tackles, 4 assists), Mayo was seemingly in on nearly every play.¬† Detroit’s run game was surprisingly effective early in the game, but once the defensive line settled down and started plugging holes, Mayo began to shine.¬† He stuffed a few runs at the line of scrimmage, and then when the Lions began to abandon the run game, Mayo made nearly every play on the underneath passing routes that the Lions ran.¬† Countless times Mayo and teammates would crush Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew on catches that they made over the middle.¬† That’s what is needed and expected from a middle linebacker, and Jerod Mayo continues to deliver.¬† This guy deserves serious consideration for defensive MVP.¬† As far as I know, Devin McCourty has missed only one defensive snap the entire season.¬† It is for a good reason because McCourty is one heck of a football player.¬† As the season progresses and McCourty becomes more comfortable in the Patriots’ defensive scheme, his personal statistics are beginning to pile up.¬† McCourty recorded two interceptions against the Lions, which gives him 5 interceptions in his last six games.¬† The more I am afforded the opportunity to watch McCourty play, the more I see a shutdown corner in the making.¬† This kid is a special football player, and defensive rookie of the year might be one of many awards McCourty will win in his career.

-Prior to Thursday’s game, Tom Brady had thrown for over 300 yards only one time this season (week 10 @ Pittsburgh).¬† But, on Thursday Brady looked like the 2007 version of himself as he surgically picked apart the Lions defense en route to a 21 of 27 effort for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns, not to mention compiling a perfect passer rating.¬† Brady did a great job spreading the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers.¬† What may have been more impressive than that was his reliance on his two top receivers, Deion Branch (3 catches, 113 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns).¬† There has yet to be a game that both Branch and Welker had very good numbers, but Thursday proved to be the day.¬† Brandon Tate dropped a couple of key passes, which hurt the success of some drives, but Branch and Welker stepped up to pick up the slack.¬† Hopefully, their joint production will continue throughout the remainder of the season.

-Fred Taylor was active for Thursday’s game, but didn’t see any time on the field.¬† Thankfully, the Patriots didn’t need him.¬† BenJarvus Green-Ellis capitalized on the few carries that he got (12 carries, 59 yards, two touchdowns), finding his way into the end-zone twice.¬† I was wary of how much work BJGE would get with Taylor returning, and in the first half he very rarely saw the football (mainly because the Pats were forced to pass as they were down), but in the second half when he was called upon to ice the game and punch the ball into the end-zone, Green-Ellis delivered.¬† Looking ahead, a backfield consisting of BJGE, Danny Woodhead, Fred Taylor, and the occasional Sammy Morris sighting could be very effective complimenting Tom Brady and the passing attack.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 20 – Jets 10