September 19, 2014

Ticket Watch – Patriots at Dolphins

Heading to Miami?

If you click through the below graphic to the buying page, you’ll see there are plenty of tickets still available for the Monday night game. Over 10,000 in fact, as of this writing.

We’ll continue to bring you ticket updates for many of the road games this season, if only as a means of comparison to what the market here locally is like. I’m especially interested in San Diego, where they’ve already had a game blacked out because they couldn’t get a sellout there.

Worry Wart – Game Four At Dolphins

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

New England got a victory against Buffalo last week, but excuse us if our celebration seems tame. They didn’t beat the Bills as much as they outlasted them. Getting into a scoring battle against the worst offense in the league is a little like having a shootout with a caveman: you start off thinking it should be easy and end up wondering where he got the Glock .09.

The Patriots travel to Miami this week for a Monday night tilt that we can only hope lives up to the hype. Facing an AFC East opponent on their home turf? Sooo much to worry about…

Can The Patriots Get To Chad Henne?

Henne: Can He? Some Pats fans may say the sky is falling. If Dolphins QB Chad Henne has his way, New England will be 2-2 with two losses in the division. While never great, Henne has been efficient enough to make Miami a contender for the title.

Not-So-Merry Meriweather: Pats safety Brandon Meriweather took such terrible angles to the ball on Sunday that we’d swear he was protesting basic theories of geometry. Yes, he got an interception, thanks to an overthrow by Ryan “Oh, I just went to a small liberal arts school in Cambridge” Fitzpatrick. But seeing Meriweather cut inside while C. J. Spiller ran to the outside felt like watching a toddler with a fork head toward an electric socket. At least in the latter situation, yelling and screaming might actually accomplish something.

Speaking of the secondary…

Saving Primate Ryan: Fitzpatrick showed off his opposable thumbs (I know, it’s a reach, but I’ll do anything for a pun) by matching Tom Brady throughout the day (see their comparable stats here). The Bills came into the game scoring 8.5 points per contest, and we can’t put all the blame on their former QB Trent Edwards. Buffalo converted a third and 18, for Pete’s sake. New England’s secondary missed more assignments than a narcoleptic at night school.

A Slice Of Line: The secondary failed to get much help, however, as the Patriot defense gave up almost six yards per carry. If it wasn’t Spiller sprinting around the end, it was Marshawn Lynch bursting up the middle or Fitzpatrick (augh!) scrambling for big chunks of yardage. While linemen Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren and Ron Brace seem to be playing well overall, something just ain’t right.

Wild Thing, I Think I Fear You: Miami runs the Wildcat as well as anyone in the league, and they should, because they dusted off the old-school, running-back-as-QB formation specifically to beat the Patriots in 2008. This bodes poorly for a defense that has trouble taking on an average amount of blockers, much less the extra ones a Wildcat formation affords the offense.

Do I seem especially negative this week? I do, don’t I? I think I’m having problems making the mental transition from knowing your team’s defense is going to make a stop to hoping like hell your offense has the ball at the end of the game.

Still Not Giving A Faulk: Speaking of the offense, New England survived because Buffalo got no pressure on Brady and failed to stop the ground game. Great work running by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and lil’ Danny Woodhead along with stellar blocking by the O-line and tight ends made Kevin Faulk seem less important. Down in Miami, with their various blitz packages and the Pats’ need for a great receiving/blocking back, Faulk could be sorely missed.

Dolphin Unsafe: Something about that team. They haven’t won anything since President Ford fell down a flight of stairs, yet they always seem to grab a victory from New England every year. If the Pats want to prevent that, they need to improve. Now.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Making The Grades – Game Three vs Bills

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

Like sands through the hourglass, these are the Days of Our Patriots Lives. Coming off the disaster that was last weekend in the new Meadowlands, the Pats returned home for a supposed cakewalk against the divisional doormat that hadn’t beaten them in eight years and had never won at Gillette Stadium. Instead, they played out a soap opera of highs and lows, wild emotional swings and near death experiences. OK, it wasn’t that melodramatic, but it was a roller coaster ride that really didn’t teach us anything beyond the fact that the game itself may be be extrapolated out to represent the entire season as a whole. The Patriots have a powerful, diverse, versatile offense capable of scoring a multitude of points in a variety of ways. The Patriots also have a weak, young, inexperienced defense loaded with players who are incapable of consistently doing the most rudimentary of football acts. It was all on display on Sunday, when the Pats, led by a vintage Tom Brady, kept seemingly putting the game out of reach only to have the defense and its band of mediocre, merry men do everything in its power to let the Bills and their previously 32nd-ranked offense post 374 total yards and stay in the game. Luckily, the Bills’ overall mediocrity got the best of them, with two brutal fourth quarter turnovers when the outcome was still in doubt saving the day for the Pats. But going forward, most of the Pats opponents won’t be as prone to beating themselves as the Bills were/are. Still, a win is a win, especially in the division and in the end, that matters a lot more than how the job was eventually done. So with that, let’s get into this week’s report card, which may appear a bit offensive.

OFFENSE: Overall Grade: A-

Tate's Fumble Marred An Otherwise Perfect Day For The Offense

Would have been a straight A if not for Brandon Tate’s terrible, open-field fumble and a late three-and-out that put the defense back on the field in a one possession game. Every lesson that one hoped would be learned from last week in the Jersey swamplands seemed to be just that, with the Pats cheerfully spreading the wealth on offense to the tune of 245 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. Everyone contributed, from Brady and Randy Moss to the two stud rookie tight ends to “who???” new guy Danny Woodhead, doing a solid Kevin Faulk impression. Better still, the Pats didn’t let up after halftime, scoring 21 of their 38 points in the third and fourth quarters. It was the kind of beginning-to-end performance that we’ve been expecting all along, and boy did they need each and every iota of it.

Quarterbacks: A

Brady had to have been sickened by his play last week against the Jets, with all the forced deep throws while moving away from keeping the offense balanced and utilizing all of its many weapons. His performance on Sunday couldn’t have been any different or any better. He was 21-of-27 for 252 yards (9.2 yards per attempt) with three TDs, no picks and a whopping passer rating of 142.6. Brady didn’t make a bad throw all game long and even when it looked like he may have made a bad decision, as on his second TD pass to Moss when he rifled the ball 35 yards over the middle into traffic, the throw was so good that it didn’t matter. His first TD pass, which was also to Moss, was textbook play-action, freezing the middle of the Bills defense just long enough to allow Moss to slant in and catch the ball in stride from seven yards out. The last of the three, a five-yarder to tight end Rob Gronkowski, was a perfect fade which followed an expert-like recognition of a mismatch at the line of scrimmage. In addition to making all the throws, Brady managed the clock with ease, moving the offense 42 yards in just three plays and 24 seconds right before the half, then exploding 74 yards in just five plays and less than two minutes to score a TD on the first drive of the second half, then engineering two, clock-eating, 13-play touchdown drives later on in the third and fourth quarters. Brady hadn’t looked himself since the first half of Week 1’s game against the Bengals. He was back with a vengeance on Sunday and not a moment too soon. The Pats needed him to be as close to perfect as can be, and he was.

Running Backs: A-

It’s necessary to mention Fred Taylor’s six carries for just 16 yards before he left with his weekly injury but that’s about all that keeps the backs from posting a perfect score. With the exception of the brittle as ever Taylor, the first week of post-Faulk action was a smashing success., good for 200 yards and 5.3 yards per attempt. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the primary beneficiary, racking up 98 yards on 16 carries (6.1 YPA) and a TD. Law firm, as he’s known to his teammates, was a true bruiser, taking on defenders and looking to hit guys all day and the Bills had no answer for him. Elsewhere, the little engine that could, newcomer Danny Woodhead, achieved folk hero status in just seven snaps. Signed after the Jets waived him prior to last week’s game, Woodhead took Laurence Maroney’s jersey, played the Faulk role a few times and shocked Pats fans everywhere with his gorgeous, 22-yard TD run off a misdirection draw play. My phone buzzed with multiple texts wondering who in the hell this little dude was after that score. He’s a two-time winner of the Harlon Hill trophy winner, given to the best player in Division II college football, that’s who. More Woodhead action!

Wide Receivers: B+

Moss caught two passes for 42 yards. They were both TDs. Can’t put up a much better success rate than that, right? It would have been nice to see him come up with Tate’s fumble, which he got a hand on, but that’s splitting hairs. Great game for him. Wes Welker had a couple of drops, very uncharacteristic of him, but still rolled up 45 yards on four catches while typically converting a couple of big third downs. Tate atoned for not putting the ball away while running in space with an stunning, acrobatic catch that went for 29 yards on the Pats quick, field goal drive at the end of the first half. Despite the supposed strength of the Bills defense being their defensive backs, Pats receivers didn’t have trouble with them at all at any point in the game.

Tight Ends: A

Man, are Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez good. Hernandez sparked up his second straight six-catch game and also rolled for 13 yards on a sick tight end reverse in the first quarter. He was quiet in the second half, likely because the Bills had a linebacker on him in the first half before switching to a safety later on, but he still made his presence felt in a big way for the third week in a row. Gronkowski, who will be known simply as “Gronk” from here on out, had already proven himself as a huge weapon in the red zone before his five-yard TD reception in the third quarter. But he also made a leaping, twisting catch while simultaneously roasting Bills safety Donte Whitner on the Pats second quarter scoring drive that netted 21 yards. Alge Crumpler pitched in yet again with his estimable blocking prowess, which was a big factor in the rushing statistics. Hard to do more than this group did on Sunday.

Offensive Line: A-

Sebastian Vollmer gave up a sack and Dan Koppen got whistled for his semi-regular false start but other than that, how could anyone quibble with these guys? For the third straight week, the O-line ripped off huge chunks of a game completely and totally dominating the line of scrimmage. As well as Green-Ellis, Woodhead and Sammy Morris played, none of them would have gotten anywhere without the O-Line, which opened up huge hole after huge hole all day. Woodhead’s TD run went through a opening about the same size as a four lane highway courtesy of Vollmer and Stephen Neal. Dan Connolly continued his uncanny Logan Mankins impression, easily holding his ground and making a couple of plays in which he pulled to the right look routine. Even when Vollmer was briefly out with a leg injury in the second half, the Pats were still able to run to the right behind Crumpler, who is such a good blocker, he seems like an extra lineman, and backup Mark Levoir. Oh yeah, and the sack was only the second one this group has given up all year. There doesn’t seem to be much these guys can’t do right now. Impressive stuff all around.

DEFENSE: Overall Grade: D

The Patriots beat the Bills on Sunday in spite of their defense. Would anyone like to argue? If Bills kicker Rian Lindell doesn’t miss a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t air mail a pass to a wide open receiver in the red zone in the fourth, the Pats probably lose the game. They forced just one Buffalo punt. They allowed 374 total yards against a team that had totaled 352 in its first two games combined, with quarterback Fitzpatrick, whose biggest games came at Harvard Stadium, had a career day (after last week’s Mark Sanchez masterpiece, you’re forgiven if you think this is a recording). Patrick Chung made a couple of nice plays, including the first of the Pats two picks, Ron Brace continued to look like he’s figuring it all out and Jerod Mayo showed a few flashes of his ‘08 Rookie of the Year self but other than that, it was one blown coverage/missed tackle/guy running around in circles like a chicken without a head after another. It’s astonishing that guys like Brandon Meriweather and Jonathan Wilhite, who’ve been here four and three years, respectively, still look so utterly clueless and incapable of even seeming like they know what they’re doing so much of the time. And Darius Butler, who lost his starting job to an undrafted free agent (Kyle Arrington), still managed to look atrocious in getting burned twice, first on a pass play and then on a running play, before mercifully being put out of his misery. Rookies like Devin McCourty, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes, each of whom was made to look foolish on more than one occasion, at least have the excuse that they’re all in their first year to fall back on. The rest of these guys, many of whom I’m very tempted to call scrubs, have no such luxury.

Defensive Line: D

Yes, Brace looked pretty good on his one tackle, splitting a double team to turn a running play into a loss. But what else was there? Nothing. The Bills ran for 134 yards at 5.6 yards a pop after managing 174 combined rushing yards in Weeks 1 and 2 combined. Gerard Warren, who was a factor against the Jets last week, was invisible. Even Big Vince Wilfork, the unquestioned leader both of the D-line and the defense as a whole, pulled a complete no show. The Bills do have three backs all of whom have either put up big numbers in the past or were high draft picks or both. Give them credit for getting their running game on track. But don’t give the Patriots any credit for stopping them at any point.

Linebackers: C-

Props to Mayo for his circa 2008 performance, but let’s not get too crazy about it. Most of his damage was done over the course of two Bills drives in the second quarter; in the second half when the game needed to be salted away, he seemed to be in the parking lot with the rest of the hoity-toity Gillette crowd. Cunningham and Spikes each showed flashes of competence with Cunningham getting to Fitzpatrick just a split second late on one play, but nothing more. And Gary Guyton, by my unofficial count, had just two fewer missed tackles (three) than he did actual tackles (five). Other than Mayo, only Rob Ninkovich seemed to consistently know what he was supposed to be doing. Gone are the days of Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest patrolling the middle of the field. Long, long gone.

Defensive Backs: D

I know, there were two picks which together were probably the difference in the game. But that’s why this grade isn’t an F. The Pats are as lucky as it gets that Chung was playing center field and Fitzpatrick overshot his man by 10 feet on the first one. The intended receiver was running alone in the middle of the field inside the 15 with the closest pursuer being poor Ninkovich. There was no one else within 15 yards of him. Just one of about 74 blown coverages. And even though Chung made that pick and also forced the missed field goal by stopping another wide open pass play three yards short of a first down on third and long, he was about five steps too late on helping a roasted Devin McCourty over the top on Fitzpatrick’s late game, 37-yard scoring toss to Steve Johnson. Meriweather’s pick sealed the game (and if you don’t believe it, watch a replay of his ridiculous, look at me celebration dance afterward). But it’s worth noting that the intended receiver was bracketed by two guys while Meriweather stood right behind him and the ball was overthrown (in other words, you could have made the play). It’s also worth noting that on the bubble screen pass to C.J. Spiller that resulted in a second quarter TD, Meriweather, who was in position to make a tackle, ran himself out of the play even though he was unblocked. It’s also worth noting that Wilfork of all people said on the radio yesterday morning something to the effect that Meriweather should be too far along to be making the kind of mistakes he still routinely makes. Kyle Arrington was less woeful than Butler has been which on this defense is high praise (he even broke up a TD pass with nice technique on a fade route throw to Bills veteran Lee Evans). Butler was beaten by five yards by Johnson on one of the handful of snaps he played and overpursued an eventual 19-yard run when all he had to do was stay home and contain, which most defensive players learn in high school if not sooner. If this guy ever had any confidence, I shudder to think where it is now. But my favorite part of the defense’s haplessness came when one the folks I watched the game with exclaimed, “Look at that guy, he’s running in circles!” when Wilhite was seen twisting himself into knots while simultaneously being nowhere near the receiver he was supposed to be covering on a fourth quarter pass play. It’s reached the point with some of these guys that I’m afraid they may be too stupid to get any better. In the case of guys like Meriweather and Wilhite, I got nothing else. Remember, this was Ryan Fitzpatrick going 20-of-28 for 247 yards and two TDs. Phew. Thank god I’m done with this section.

Special Teams: D

The good news is that Stephen Gostkowski finally made a field goal, a 43-yarder that would have been good from 53. The bad news is everything else. Zoltan Mesko, my boy, had an awful day, averaging just 38 yards on three punts and shanking two of them. And the kicking team gave the Pats roughly 17 seconds to celebrate the offense’s quick strike scoring drive to open the second half before allowing Spiller to run back the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score, a play on which Guyton contributed perhaps the worst of his missed tackles (to be fair, replays showed that the Bills got away with a blocking in the back penalty on the play). With the defense as weak as it is, the last thing the Pats need is for their special teams to hurt them too.

Coaching: B-

Hard to pinpoint this one. Obviously, Bill Belichick and company realized that the offensive game plan needed to be made more diverse and varied after last week’s disaster and so it was, and then some. And again, there was no let up in the second half; if anything, the Pats looked even more dynamic offensively after the break than before it and they stuck to what was working early on. But there has to be some blame laid on the coaching staff for the hideousness of the defense, right? 82 points allowed in the first three games, the most over that stretch in the 11-year Belichick era, falls at the feet not just of the players but the coaches too, doesn’t it? Maybe things need to be simplified more so that the guys on defense can pick it all up more easily. Maybe they need to blitz more – it looked like the few times they did blitz on Sunday, Fitzpatrick looked rattled and made some bad throws. Who knows? It may just be a case of Belichick the GM failing Belichick the coach, evidenced by the alarmingly high number of draft picks from the past few years playing so poorly so consistently. Whatever is happening on defense, the players cannot be fired. They are pretty much all going to be here, for better or worse. Belichick made his name in the NFL as a defensive genius. If he can figure out how to get something, anything, out of this group, that moniker will certainly be reinforced.

We’ll Take It

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

It wasn’t pretty, and it probably created more questions than it answered, but a win is a win, especially in the AFC East.

Brady Was Fired Up After Running For A First Down

The defense once again showed that it has a long ways to go, but contrary to media reports that there has been NO improvement by this young unit, there actually were a few encouraging signs yesterday.

The biggest for me, on the defensive side of the ball, was the semblance of a pass rush actually appearing at times. While many in the media have been quick to dismiss the two Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions as “poorly thrown passes,” there is a reason they were poorly thrown. He actually felt some pressure.

There was a Jerod Mayo sighting yesterday, who led the team in tackles, had a sack, and a tackle for a loss. Ron Brace looked like an NFL defensive lineman out there, and in contrast to the last time the Patriots played the Bills and Brace was playing nose tackle and getting pushed around like he was on roller skates, yesterday he held his ground pretty well.

The defense actually only gave up two touchdowns, one in each half, holding the Bills to field goal attempts four other times…bend don’t break.

There are signs of improvement, even if the total yardage and points allowed don’t scream it. Yes, there were flat out inexcusable lapses on defense, and those need to be eliminated…but it’s not going to happen overnight.

If you’re a fan of offense, you had to have loved the diversity and creativity of the game plan yesterday. Where was this stuff last week, you’re probably asking, when Tom Brady seemed locked onto Randy Moss the entire second half. Good question.

Has the loss of Kevin Faulk force them to be more creative? Was Faulk a safety net for them, where they felt that they could take chances on the 1st and 2nd down because Faulk could bail them out on 3rd down?

Aaron Hernandez. That first drive belonged to him, showcasing his entire skill set. How big of a weapon can this kid be if they can keep him on the straight-and-narrow? Brady has never had a guy like this on his offense. The kid even took an end-around and made good yardage. Think of that. A tight end, on an end-around.

While the score was never entirely comfortable, I never had the feeling throughout the afternoon that the team was actually in danger of losing the game. Maybe that’s a false expectation based on what this team has been in the past, but nonetheless, I was never worried about the outcome.

This week brings another road challenge, and it’s a big one – Monday Night Football in Miami -a place in which the Patriots have always had trouble winning.

Trading Places – Chatting With BuffaloSportsNow.com

A regular feature that we had last season returns for this week (at least) with a chat with Sydney Hunte of BuffaloSportsNow.com.

1) What are your thoughts on Chan Gailey thus far? Better than the last few Bills coaches?

The jury’s still out on Chan Gailey.  Message boards around here are buzzing that he’s the worst coach in team history and that he was a cheap hire–but I think that was just anger talking through fans at that point after watching this club struggle to an 0-2 start.  I think that the picture will be clearer at the end of the year how much impact Gailey has had on this franchise.  Of course, he hasn’t really had the talent to build off of so we’ll probably have to wait a couple more years down the road to know for sure.  One thing is certain: if he doesn’t get this ship turned around, fans will be calling for his head.

2009 First Round Pick Aaron Maybin Needs To Emerge For The Bills.

2) What will Ryan Fitzpatrick bring that Trent Edwards didnt?

I see Fitzpatrick as more of a “risktaker” than Edwards.  While Edwards would check down to receivers when he ran out of time in the pocket, Fitzpatrick is more liable to take more shots down the field to look for big plays.  Unfortunately, his accuracy is poor at this point, but he has done a somewhat serviceable job in his performances with the Bills.  I think at this point fans are glad to see him because he’s not Edwards and the fact that he is starting right now gives the impression that Edwards’ time with this franchise is drawing to a close.  Since Jim Kelly retired, this team has not been able to find a franchise quarterback; I’m not sure Fitzpatrick is that, though.

3) In the past, Bill Belichick has always raved about the Bills special teams, is that unit still a strength of the Bills?

Bobby April was a genius with this special teams unit in his tenure in Buffalo; however, he was ousted along with the rest of Dick Jauron’s staff during the coaching change in the offseason.  Bruce DeHaven, who was the special teams coach for a number of years during the Bills’ Super Bowl years before losing his job due to the infamous Music City Miracle in the 2000 AFC Wild Card game, was brought back to continue to build off of what April built.  This unit was startlingly bad during the preseason, but seems to have nailed it down a bit so far this year.  I think this is one of those “too early to tell” things since it’s still in a transition period from April to DeHaven.

4) Who on the defense is going to be getting to Tom Brady on Sunday?

It has to be Aaron Maybin.  He has not performed up to his abilities at all in his career and is being called a “bust”.  The pressure’s definitely on him to get himself together and earn his keep or he’ll be out of Buffalo before he knows it.  Chris Kelsay, a veteran, is also one who needs to step things up; he had 5 sacks last year but had a rough performance last week.  A good game by those two could put them back in favor with Bills fans.

5) Lynch, Jackson, or Spiller?

As far as the future of this franchise at running back, I think Spiller has the tools to carry this team.  If Buffalo is to keep all three, however, they need to find a way to utilize the three of them in the offense; if they can do that, the dynamic of this club will change.  I’ve always envisioned Lynch and Jackson splitting carries a la DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, with Spiller as an all-purpose receiving/rushing/returning option.  Unfortunately, that has not been the case so far.  Chan Gailey has to find a way to get C.J. Spiller the ball and get him more involved with this team.  He can really be a special talent in my opinion.

We also answered five questions for them. Check it out here:

Scouting the Patriots: Five Questions for Patriots Daily


College Scout – Tight Ends

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

The Patriots were fortunate to select two tight ends who could play and play very well last year in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski because this year’s draft looks exceedingly weak. And that is even assuming the best player, Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame, comes out after his Junior year. If he doesn’t, the class of tight ends gets even weaker. There are some decent players here, but a lot of second or third tight end types make the bottom of the top 10 list. Some are developmental projections, in other words they have been okay players so far but have talent to get better. The Patriots could be interested in a late round pick who is a project to develop as a third tight end, but that is likely all they’ll be looking for at this position. Lets look at my top 10 list.

Notre Dame Junior Kyle Rudolph

1.) Kyle Rudolph (#9), Notre Dame: If you watched the exciting Notre Dame-Michigan game earlier this year, you saw Notre Dame complete a great comeback on a long pass to Rudolph down the seam (only to subsequently lose the lead again and the game in the final seconds). And that play typifies Rudolph, the most complete tight end in college football right now. Only a junior, its uncertain he’ll come out. But its clear the transition from Charlie Weis’ offense to Brian Kelly’s hasn’t hurt Rudolph as he is still putting up excellent receiving numbers. A big guy at 6’6″ 265, Rudolph is also fast and has soft hands. Weis made him a starter from the moment he showed up in South Bend as a freshman. Rudolph would surely be a first round pick if he came out and has already proven himself in college. With him going so high, its unlikely the Patriots will be involved. But you can watch his excellent all-around game tonight on NBC versus Stanford on NBC at 3:30 PM EST.

2.) Luke Stocker (#88), Tennessee: Stocker is an excellent tight end in his own right, but just a slender notch below Rudolph. While good in the passing game, he is probably a step slower and not as natural a catcher. But he is still very good in that aspect of the game and a plus blocker as well. A possible first round pick, Stocker will be a long-time NFL starter and perhaps one of the top ones in the league in time. Watch him do his thing next week, October 2nd, when Tennessee and Stocker visit LSU in Baton Rouge at 3:30 PM EST on CBS.

3.) Lance Kendricks (#84), Wisconsin: Kendricks is a smaller tight end who is an excellent receiver. He is coming off a huge week in which he nabbed 7 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s 20-19 win versus Arizona State last Saturday. Kendricks is 6’4″ 241 and while not overly fast, he is quick, runs good routes and has superior hands. Kendricks should be a 2nd or 3rd round choice who is a good move tight end and can catch passes. With the drafting of Aaron Hernandez, its unlikely the Patriots will be looking for this.

4.) Weslye Saunders (#88), South Carolina (kicked off team): Saunders is an interesting case who could end up being a steal in next year’s draft due to the classic “character questions” issue. On the field, Saunders is a massive 6’5″ 270 blocker who rivals an extra tackle on the field. While not a speedster, in the passing game he displays good hands, physicality and is a real chore to bring down with the ball. He is good around the end zone. Last year he caught 32 passes for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, this year various questions arose regarding Saunders that led them to first suspend him, then remove him from the team altogether in recent weeks. The allegations include inappropriate dealings with a sports agent, improper receipt of benefits and attendance at parties outside of team rules. While nothing too serious seems to be included, the end result leaves one with the question whether Saunders cares more about himself than following rules and his team. Assuming he doesn’t transfer and play a final year elsewhere, he’ll face important questions in the interview segment of the Combine. He could slip below where he is warranted to go in the draft and as a similar player to the Patriots Alge Crumpler (who is aging), its possible they see him as too much value further down the draft and have interest.

5.) Schuyler Oordt (#87), Northern Iowa: Oordt is a small school tight end with excellent size (6’7″ 250) who has displayed great athleticism, hands and blocking combination versus a lower level of competition. This is a projection pick as he shows the ability to be an all-around tight end who can play in-line and one the move and who helps in both the passing and running game. When he gets the ball, he shows good power, speed, acceleration quickness and ball protection. He’ll get a chance to play against better competition in post-season all-star games, but also at the combine and that could send him soaring up the draft charts.

6.) Charlie Gantt (#83), Michigan State: Gantt is a big tight end who caught the winning touchdown last week versus Notre Dame in overtime. He has shown excellent ball skills and has the size to be an effective blocker. He is not a great athlete, but knows how to produce at the college level. He is not particularly fast and will be unlikely to be the pass catcher in the NFL that he is in college, but he is a solid player who’ll find a role as a tight end who can do multiple things in solid, if not spectacular fashion. Watch Gantt dominate the college level when Michigan State faces off versus Northwestern on October 23 at Noon on ESPN or ESPN2.

7.) D.J. Williams (#45), Arkansas: Some observers have Williams rated higher. To be sure, he puts up excellent receiving numbers for a tight end. But there are a couple issues I have with him. First, he plays in a bit of a funky offense. They feature him a lot, but there isn’t currently a real similar offense in the NFL. He’s a bit short and his speed is not terrific. His blocking average. What he has are great hands and a solid ability to haul the ball in on the move. Obviously he’s been productive in the NFL. I think he can play as a move tight end and pass catcher, h-back type. But I don’t see him as an all-around in-line tight end who can help in the running game. Watch Williams today against excellent competition as Arkansas takes on Alabama on CBS at

8.) Konrad Reuland (#88), Stanford: Reuland is a talented guy just getting regular reps this year as the main tight end with Stanford. So far, so good. He’s been productive this year. He has the tools and frame at 6’6″ 257. Last year he averaged 23.7 yards on 6 catches. This year he’s starting and catching more balls. This is somewhat of a projection pick, but Reuland is talented and could be a good all-around tight end. He may be the type the Patriots like, smart, still evolving, big and talented and good in lots of areas as a late round project. Reuland originally started out with Notre Dame under Charlie Weis but transferred to Stanford. So he has experience in the Patriots offense. You can do a little tight end scouting by watching Rudolph and Reuland today at 3:30 on NBC as Stanford takes on Notre Dame.

9.) Joe Torchia (#83), Virginia: Torchia is another big tight end at 6’6″ 260 who is an excellent blocker and a hard-working, blue collar type player. He became a starter as a Junior and caught 15 balls. He is looking to become more involved in the passing game this year, but is already a very good blocker. Late round type who will help any team with hard work, solid play as an extra tight end and some special teams ability.

10.) Zack Pianalto (#17), North Carolina: A averaged sized tight end who makes good plays in the passing game, albeit rarely downfield. He doesn’t have the speed to stretch a defense, but has good hands and can position himself to make short catches, particularly near the endzone. Hard worker and leader type who gives it his all as a blocker. Not particularly talented or athletic, but works at it and can make a 53-man roster or perhaps even be a decent 2nd tight end with further work. Does everything decently, nothing great, other than work hard. Perhaps could bulk up a bit more. Second day draft pick type. Watch him in action today versus Rutgers at 3:30 PM EST on ESPNU.

Tonight On Patriots All Access

Patriots All Access airs tonight at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV in Boston and immediately afterward on www.Patriots.com.

  • Dan Roche examines what the loss of Kevin Faulk means for the Patriots
  • Mike Reiss sits down with Bill Belichick to get his thoughts on Faulk.
  • Belichick analyzes the Bills on the Belestrator.
  • All Access travels to NY with Patriots Guard Dan Connolly to meets up with his brother, Patrick, an Executive Chef in New York. The two discuss how cooking is something they have in common.
  • Steve Burton goes one-on-one with Wes Welker.
  • Christian Fauria and Scott Zolak how the Patriots will offset the loss of Faulk in the TURF segment.
  • Randy Moss’ high school coach Jim Fout explain’s the wide receiver’s Path to the NFL
  • Preview of tonight’s episode:

Patriots Buffet Table – Buffalo Bills

by Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff

This week we have a meeting between the unanimous media picks for the 3rd and 4th best teams in the AFC East.

Buffalo and New England are the poor sisters of the division according to the national and local media. It looks like they’re still going to bother playing the game, so we may as well have some food and drink to go with it.

What to Eat?

Octoberfest started on Sept 18th this year and runs to October 4th. It’s a day longer than usual because it is the 200th anniversary of the original octoberfest.

In honor of Octoberfest we’ll be making wurst, or German sausages. Because this game features two of the lesser teams in the AFC East, we’ll go with two of the lesser known sausages.

First, Knackwurst. Knackwurst are sized like fat hot dogs. Meant to be eaten as a finger food, but usually served plated or on buns outside Germany. Their pork and beef mixture is well seasoned with garlic. The casing is thick and some people prefer to remove it before cooking. The thick casing is what gives it the “crack” or “Knack” in it’s name.

Like hotdogs, because of the smoking knackwurst is usually partially to cooked and only needs to be finished or reheated. This isn’t 100% the case in the US, so you will have to check the packaging.

Weisswurst is “white” sausage”. This is a blend of veal and pork. Unsmoked, it is traditionally a breakfast or midmorning food. Before refrigeration the lack of smoking meant it would spoil quicker than other wursts.

It is one of the lightest and smallest wursts. The seasoning will usually consist of lemon, cardamom, onion and parsley. Weisswurst are always cooked in their casing, but the casing is removed before eating. Or the wurst is sliced down the middle and the meat is eaten with a fork leaving the casing behind. But we’re not in Bavaria, it’s just fine served on a bun.

Weisswurst is always raw, and so it always has to be fully cooked before eating.

Weisswurst is usually only available at specialty grocers. Knackwurst should be available at grocery stores that don’t suck.

Both Weisswurst and Knackwurst can be boiled before grilling. This will help heat the Knackwurst through, and will cook the weisswurst. 20 minutes at a simmer, not a full rolling boil, will do it.

Weisswurst are meant to be white, so they wouldn’t be grilled in Germany. I like things grilled, so I grill both Weisswurst and Knackwurst after I boil them.

A lot of people like to boil in beer with sliced onions. Doing so doesn’t add anything to the wurst, they’re in casings.

If you want to boil the wursts in beer and onions. And then boil down the beer and onions, into caramelized beer onions. Well that is another story. Just don’t expect it to flavor the wursts very much.

If you’re going that route, do not use a hoppy beer. The concentration of the beer will concentrate the bitterness. Use a nice octoberfest like Narragansett Fest (see below).

That’s all there is to it. No list of ingredients needed this week.

OK, if you insist:

  • 1-2 Weisswurst per person
  • 1-2 Knackwurst per person
  • 2-4 buns, sized to the wurst per person
  • mustard
  • German style potato salad (vinegar based)
  • 1-2 onions if desired.

Heat wursts in simmering water for 20 minutes.
If desired, sub in a beer for some of the water and add 1-2 peeled sliced onions.
Remove wursts from liquid, bring the liquid up to a full boil. Peel casings off the wursts. Grill wursts for a couple of minutes per side, just long enough to get some nice grill marks.

Top with mustard. Traditional Bavarian mustard is sweet, I prefer spicier mustards like Dusseldorf style horseradish or plain brown mustard.
Add your onions if you made them.
Serve with pretzels, beer, and German potato salad.

What to drink?

It is mid September, and that means one thing as already given away by the food – it is time for the annual Patriots Daily Buffet Table Octoberfest review.

This is the fourth year we’ve covered Octoberfests, so we’re also going to cover new Fall seasonals and the odd beer called Imperial Octoberfest as well. Most of the other Octoberfests out there have already been covered in 2008 and 2009.

Narragansett Fest

On the new octoberfest front, Narragansett has added Narragansett Fest. It is packed in nice 16 ounce cans, and it pretty cheap at about $8 for a 6 pack of pounders. Look for the orange cans with the king drinking beer on it (right).

That is Gambrinus, real name Jan Primus, a knight who invaded Cologne to depose the archbishop and free the brewers from his rule. This dispute over taxes lead to a decrease in the church’s civil power and the rise of civil authority.

As usual, every historical event started because some people wanted some beer.

Narragansett is mostly known for their namesake lager. In my opinion it is one of the best beers made in it’s style. Still, the American Lager style is a very light beer, and people expecting the Fest to be more of the same are in for a surprise. In a blind test I believe it would fool a lot of people, who would be convinced it came from one of the major German or American craft breweries.

5.5% alcohol by volume, and brewed with a range of malts traditionally found in German beers – Pilsner, Vienna, Munich and Dark Munich.

It is a malty beer, as octoberfest should be, but there is hop balance as well. At 22 bittering units it’s almost twice as bitter as the standard Narragansett Lager, and close to 3 times the bitterness you’d find in a Bud or Coors light.

Narragansett is a Rhode Island brand, so what does it have to do with Buffalo? The beer is actually brewed and packaged in Western NY at the Genessee/High Falls/North American Breweries brewery.

Genessee just installed a 24 ounce canning line, so maybe next year Narragansett Fest will be in even awesomer 24 ouncers.

An Octoberfest from Germany that we’ve never featured is Ayinger Octoberfest-Marzen. It is amoung the best Octoberfests made in Germany, however you’ll only find it in single half liter bottles. No 6 packs, no cases. And it will cost from $3-4 dollars a bottle.

It is a good beer, but to me it’s too sweet. Still worth trying, but hard to recommend as a go to beer, or a beer you’d buy in quantity for a party/tailgate/or other gathering because of the price.

Have one of those Ayingers and then switch to those cheap and good Narragansett Fest cans.

Now for the “Imperial Octoberfests”. We’ve written about the “Imperial” trend before, basically it’s taking a beer style and making it bigger. Traditionally this was done with Russian Imperial Stout, a big version of stout brewed in England to export to the Imperial court of Russia. Hence the use of “Imperial” whenever someone gets the idea to try this again.

An “Imperial” version will always have higher alcohol. It will sometimes be darker, and it will usually be hoppier than the normal style.

It should retain enough of the original beer style so it’s a recognizable scaling up.

In some ways the scaling can be done for Octoberfest. They’re already fairly big beers for traditional lagers and being balanced toward malt they can be scaled up without becoming too bitter.

The central point of Octoberfest however, is being a beer that can be drunk by the liter, in giant steins, all day long. By “imperializing” the style that ability is lost. An Imperial Octoberfest is a nightcap, drunk once the Octoberfest or the daylight is gone.

The first is The Kaiser by Avery Brewing. 9.3% ABV and 24 IBUs. A malty, sweet, strong beer. A Doppelbock version of an Octoberfest. The Kaiser was the only example of an Imperial Octoberfest that I knew of, until Heavy Seas brewing introduced their new one.

Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Prosit! Imperial Octoberfest Lager it’s a long name. One you’ll have trouble saying after drinking a Prosit!. Maybe that is a built in selfdefense mechanism. The website is a bit out of date as the finished beer ended up at 9% ABV, right in the ballpark of The Kaiser.

A warning about Prosit! The alcohol is hardly noticeable, it would be easy to drink a few of these thinking it’s just a normal beer.

Prosit! brings us to a change in one of the Buffet Table’s favorite Octoberfests. In the past we sang the praises of Clipper City BaltoMarzhon. This beer is no longer made.

Clipper City restructured their beers into different “fleets” based on alcohol strength.

Prosit! is in the “Mutiny Fleet”. BaltoMarzhon has been dropped a bit in alcohol to 5.75% from 6%. It has been renamed to Marzen and is part of the “Clipper Fleet” beers under 6% ABV.

That does it for the Octoberfest year in review. Now for the new Fall seasonals.

It seems like the trend this Fall is either Dark and lightly smoked, Americanized Extra Special Bitters or Pumpkin.

Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest replaces the previous Fall Seasonal Roxy Rolles. Magic Hat can be hit or miss, and it seems like whenever they hit upon a good new recipe they are determined to drop it as possible. Hex is a winner. Instead of overly spiced it has a pie or baked good type aroma and flavor. Possibly from the use of darker malts, including a small portion of Cherry wood smoked malt. 5.4% ABV.

Sierra Nevada goes slighty smoked as well with their new Tumbler Autumn brown ale It is a little rough edged due to the use of freshly roasted malt, in general malt is aged after kilning to allow for mellowing. I’m not sure how much I like this one, not to say I dislike it either. I bought a 12 pack and it was eventually all drank. 5.5% ABV.

From Plymouth, MA, Mayflower Brewing’s new Fall seasonal is Autumn Wheat. This one isn’t to be confused with the ubiquitous light wheat ales everyone and their brother puts out during the summer. It’s a dark wheat beer. Somewhere between the Dunkleweizen and Brown Ale styles. Smells and tastes like breadcrust. The ABV isn’t given on the bottle, but it seems to be in the 5 to 6% range. Very similar to the Sierra Nevada Tumbler despite being wheat based.

For the new Fall ESBs:

Southern Tier Harvest ESB tastes stronger than it is at 6.7%. Making it a tweener between session beers and bigger beers. It is another NY state beer.

Goose Island Harvest is another “American” ESB or Extra Special Bitter. 5.7% ABV and 35 IBUs from Cascade hops. One of the best things about “Americanized” ESBs is that they really annoy pedantic British beer fans who will whine that they’re not real ESBs.

That leaves us with what is new in the world of pumpkin beers.

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin is only available in the Harvest mixed 12 pack, no problem as the other beers are good as well. This one doesn’t scream pumpkin pie spice, it seems like more of an apple pie beer. It tastes like Fall baked goods. 5.7% ABV

Southampton Pumpkin from Southampton Ale House in New York is, well a pumpkin beer. Tastes like spices and is in between a pale ale and an amber ale. 5.5% ABV.

Blue Point from Long Island has also released a Pumpkin Ale. I haven’t had this one. I’m sure it tastes like Pumpkin and Spice.

If you’re heading to Gillette, there is one other new seasonal. The Patriot Homebrew Competition beer available this year is a Rauchbier, or smoked beer (lager). These are brewed with a high proportion of smoked malt, so if you like bacon in your beer try this one.

Around The League – Week Two Recap

By Jeremy Gottlieb Patriots Daily Staff

In the off-season, Eagles coach Andy Reid said that Donovan McNabb would be the team’s starting quarterback this year. Then he traded McNabb to the Redskins. After McNabb’s replacement, Kevin Kolb, was knocked out of Week 1’s game against Green Bay with a concussion and Kolb’s replacement, Michael Vick, played great, Reid said Kolb would still be the team’s starter as soon as he was healthy enough to do so. Then, after Vick played one of the best games of his career last week against Detroit, Reid said Kolb would still be the team’s starter and that he’d be back under center this week at Jacksonville.

Has Andy Reid Done It Again?

Then, the next day, Reid named Vick the team’s starting quarterback.

Anyone who follows this space knows that I’m not a particularly big fan of Reid. He has a habit of always doing just enough on the sidelines to kill his team’s chances in big games, as his 1-5 career record in NFC Championship games will attest (that one year his group did win the NFC title, they then lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots in the McNabb Puking in the Huddle Game). The guy has never won anything in 12 years at the helm, yet skates every year and is for whatever reason regularly spoken of as one of the league’s top coaches. All of this is why it is such a surprise to me, even a shock, that he’s made the right decision here, even if it cost him his credibility with not just Kolb, but every single media member he will ever have to deal with as coach of the Eagles or anyone else.

Vick may still not be a good quarterback – he wasn’t really when he played for Atlanta, he was just described as such because he routinely made wildly athletic plays and could throw the ball 80 yards in the air (and really, who cares about winning as long as you can do that sort of stuff, right?). But he’s the best quarterback for the Eagles right now. The team has responded to him and his leadership. He has played outstanding in the one and a half games since Kolb’s injury. And Kolb, despite being given the keys to the car and a fat contract extension, still has little to no experience. Reid knows that it’s more important to the Eagles organization and to his own career prospects for the team to win sooner rather than later. If Vick plays and they win, Reid’s a genius. If Vick plays and he sucks, just throw Kolb back in there (though that will be much easier said than done given the fact that Kolb probably wouldn’t trust Reid to tell him it’s raining while standing in the middle of a downpour after all this). But if Kolb goes back in now and the team sucks, Reid looks really bad and has also run the risk of losing Vick.

Listening to Reid talk about how Kolb is totally on board with the decision and how he will still be a great quarterback who will win championships for the Eagles made me laugh (first off, if Vick plays well, Kolb will never play for the Eagles again and second, what the hell does Reid know about winning championships?). But he deserves credit here for making the right call even if he lied through his teeth about a hundred times to about a hundred people in doing so.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. New Orleans: Another fast start gave way to another nail-biter on Monday night against the hungry 49ers, who made up a nine-point deficit and an eight-point deficit before Drew Brees and the Super Bowl champs turned in a textbook, two-minute drill and won 25-22 on a field goal at the buzzer.

2. Green Bay: The majority of the attention paid to the Packers revolves around their explosive, weapon-heavy offense. Well, their defense is dirty, too. Linebacker Clay Matthews had his second straight, three-sack day in the Pack’s 34-7 blowout of the Bills.

3. Pittsburgh: Who needs a quarterback when you have a defense like the Steelers? Led by linebackers James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers forced the Titans into seven turnovers (three picks, four fumbles), held star back Chris Johnson to 34 yards on 16 carries, scored the team’s only TD and overcame just seven first downs and 127 total yards by the offense in a 19-11 win.

4. Houston: It looked like a classic letdown scenario for the Texans after their huge win over the Colts last week when they trailed the Redskins 27-10 with three minutes left in the third quarter. But then Matt Schaub, who passed for 497 yards and three TDs on an astounding 38-of-52 passing, took over. Schaub found favorite target Andre Johnson for the tying score on fourth-and-10 with 2:10 left, leading to Houston’s first overtime win in franchise history.

5. Miami: The Dolphins also did it with D, picking interception machine BrettFavre three times and adding a forced fumble while throwing in a goal line stand against Adrian Peterson in a 14-10 win in Minnesota. No one’s said much about Miami thanks to all the hype surrounding the Jets , but don’t be surprised to see the Dolphins right there all season in the fight for the AFC East.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Cleveland: Two quarterbacks, two just as lousy seeming opponents (Tampa, Kansas City), two losses, two more weeks closer to Eric Mangini finally being unemployed as an NFL head coach.

2. Buffalo: Looking for a “spark,” the woebegone Bills and their 17 points in eight quarters benched fourth-year bust Trent Edwards in favor of another go-around with Harvard alum Ryan Fitzpatrick, just in time for a trip to Foxboro and a date with the furious, out-for-blood Patriots.

3. Carolina: Utterly hornswaggled by the fraud that is Matt Moore (41 percent completions, four picks, eight sacks taken and a 41.8 passer rating after finishing last season winning four out of five games), the Panthers turn to rookie Jimmy Clausen as they move one step closer to bidding coach John Fox adieu. Who wants to take bets on whether or not Fox wishes he just left after last season?

4. St. Louis: The Rams looked more like their normal selves in an ugly, 16-14 loss to Oakland that wasn’t that close. No. 1 pick Sam Bradford has looked OK at quarterback but 210 total yards on offense along with allowing the Raiders to roll up 404 yards of their own just won’t do.

5. Dallas: Wow, the Cowboys look terrible and aren’t remotely living up to their ridiculously high expectations for a change. How shocking. Watching and reading about the Dallas hand-wringing following last week’s loss to the Bears has been comical as was owner/carnival barker Jerry Jones saying, “The best thing I can do right now is not knee-jerk. But I’m mad, I’m upset, I’m very frustrated and extremely disappointed.” This after two whole games. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the reason the Cowboys haven’t won anything in going on 15 years now is because of Jones himself and his inability to help himself from spouting nonsense like that. The day Jones steps back, gets out of the way, eliminates himself from the story, stops thinking he’s a coach and stays off the stupid sideline during every game and just generally lets the players play and the coaches coach without his larger than life specter looming over everything, the Cowboys may have a chance.

What’s Trendy

- Jahvid Best, Lions: Detroit is still a lost cause but rookie running back Best went absolutely off in a 35-32 loss to the Eagles, carrying the ball 17 times for 78 yards and two TDs while catching nine passes for a whopping 154 yards and another score. It seems odd to say given that the Lions have won just three of their last 42 games, but there may be some positive stuff going on at Ford Field.

- The Chiefs defense: In starting the year at a surprising 2-0, Kansas City has allowed just 28 points in two games and got an interception return for a TD from second-year corner Brandon Flowers in their 16-14 win at Cleveland last week. Hopefully the Chiefs, who were 30th in total defense last season, gave a game ball to new coordinator Romeo Crennel. Why don’t the Patriots get guys like that?

- LeSean McCoy, Eagles: It was against the Lions and their atrocious defense, but McCoy, in his second game as the heir to Eagles legend Brian Westbrook, rolled up 120 yards and three TDs on just 16 carries in Philly’s road win. With more performances like that, it won’t matter whether it’s Kolb, Vick or Reid himself playing QB.

What’s Not

- A.J. Smith, Chargers: San Diego’s GM won’t give star receiver Vincent Jackson a contract extension, got called by several teams who will and wanted to trade for him, wouldn’t back off his demand for a second and a third-round draft pick (an absolutely asinine asking price for a receiver in the final year of his contract) and wound up with nothing but a completely disgruntled player who they chose to not to have available until after Week 6 due to a rule in the collective bargaining agreement given that he refused their rather meager one-year offer. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that Jackson’s agent said Smith basically pissed all over every single offer that would have solved the problem for both Jackson and the team, then said, “no wonder most of the other GMs we dealt with referred to A.J. as ‘the lord of no rings.’” From what I’ve read, this isn’t unusual for Smith, who is apparently universally hated throughout the league by not just players and agents but other team executives, too. Surely, prospective NFL free agents are chomping at the bit to sign in San Diego now.

- BrettFavre, Vikings: Not only are the Vikings 0-2 with BrettFavre’s TD/INT ratio at 1/4 and BrettFavre’s passer rating at 56.1, but even ESPN, his house network, seems down on him. The jaws hit the floor the other night when Tom Jackson, one his most notorious shills (remember how brave he found BrettFavre for throwing the pick that cost the Vikings the Super Bowl last year?) examined his body language headed into the Metrodome last week before Minnesota’s game against Miami and declared BrettFavre to appear dour, disinterested and disappointing. Damn…

- Brandon Meriweather, Patriots: Meriweather, who played pretty much every down last year at free safety and (fraudulently) made the Pro Bowl, was benched for the second straight week against the Jets, then went on the radio on Monday and said he’s been struggling because “he tried a lot of new things,” in training camp and when the coaches to cease and desist and to just play, “instead of me stopping trying them and doing exactly what I was coached, I kept trying them.” He went on to blame himself for his demotion which was refreshing. But really? He was “trying new things,” then just kept on doing what he wasn’t supposed to do even after he was instructed specifically not to? I’ve never particularly liked Meriweather mostly because I’ve been under the impression that he’s a knucklehead. Now, I’m not under that impression, I’m absolutely certain of it.

And finally…

Hey, you hear the one about the Jets wide receiver who blew twice the legal limit behind the wheel of his Range Rover at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning? Would you believe it was Braylon Edwards, the same Braylon Edwards who was arrested for assaulting a 130-pound dude outside a Cleveland club last season? The same Braylon Edwards who after picking a cherry off the top of Pats corner Darius Butler’s head for a TD last week got his team penalized 15 yards for taunting? I hope you’d believe it, because it’s true. One of the league’s most dependable idiots racked up another few points on the Idiot-o-Meter over the past week. But he didn’t even stop there. It wasn’t enough for Braylon to do all of this. Nor was enough for him to ignore the program set up by his own team to provide rides to shitfaced players in the middle of the night just like him, and get behind the wheel of his SUV anyway. Nor was it enough for him to remember that he was partying with former Pats receiver Donte Stallworth the night Stallworth drunk drove right into a pedestrian in a crosswalk down in Miami, killing the pedestrian and costing Stallworth jail time and a full season of his career. Nope, not our Braylon. The capper came on Wednesday in the Jets locker room when Braylon, taking questions about the incident and answering all of them without actually taking responsibility for the crime he committed, said, “I don’t really see how this is a black eye on the organization.”

Now I could take this in a couple of different directions. I could discuss the Jets plans to let Braylon play this week in a big division game against the Dolphins instead of suspending him (which is their right under the collective bargaining agreement of the league and was a decision that was as predictable as the sun rising in the east). Or I could rail against the league and the players union and demand that when they sit down to bang out their next CBA, they find a better way to allow the league to drop the hammer on guys like Braylon for his continuous, despicable behavior. But instead, I’ll just let the above paragraph speak for itself. All eight of you who read this column are intelligent, intuitive folks, I’m guessing. You don’t need me to tell you what a disgrace Braylon is. He can do that all by himself. I’m just grateful that in a week that the Jets forced the Patriots and all their fans to run home with their tails between their legs, they still managed to humiliate themselves in front of the entire football world once again. Our favorite loud mouth, the one and only Rex Ryan, said earlier in the week that all these off-field shenanigans need to stop and that he doesn’t want the Jets to be seen, thought of or talked about as “that team.”

Too late, Rex.

Matchups Of The Week – Patriots vs. Bills

By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

Wow,what a difference a week makes!

Last week, the offense was unstoppable as a result of the new Tight Ends, a healthy Tom Brady, and a more confident Coach Bill O’Brien.

Last week, our young defense was ferocious and our anemic pass rush somehow confused a game Bengals offense.

Last week, the Jets were a walking caricature of everything that Patriots hate about the trash talking boasters who have yet to accomplish anything this side of a half-century.

Gostkowski vs the Goalposts is a Matchup Worth Watching

Last week, the Jets coach’s profanity-laden, snack-eating personality was all but discredited as a coaching style.

This Patriot-centric world view came to a crashing halt soon after a spectacular Randy Moss one-handed catch and in the long-run I’m glad it happened. For far too long Patriot victories have come too easily, and it has made the fanbase complacent with success. If Patriot fans should ever reach the pinnacle of fandom that the Packers and Eagles enjoy, we need to have a rich history that includes both the good and the bad.

Now, the Patriots need to get back on their proverbial horse and take on the Bills:

1. Patriot Third Downs vs. Bills Defense

With Kevin Faulk out for the season and Laurence Maroney traded for a case of Michelob light to Denver, the Patriots seem awfully thin at running back. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots respond to such a drastic turn of events.

2. Patriots Second Half Adjustments vs. Bills Offense

It has been pointed out repeatedly, that the Patriots have been vastly outscored in second half of games. Now is this a result of Patriots being ahead at half and playing not-to-lose instead of to win, or is it because opposing teams are making adjustments that Patriots can keep up with?

3. Patriots Secondary vs. Bills Receivers

The confidence of the young secondary clearly took a hit after the Jets loss. It is an important part of maturing for players to be able to put things behind them, good and bad, and stay in the moment. If the corners can bounce back against an easier foe, it will bode will for their development.

4. Hernandez and Gronkowski vs. Bills Safeties

Patriot fans cannot get enough of these two exciting young tight ends. As one of the real bright spots for the Patriots, it would be really nice to see them continue on their hot streak.

5. Gostkowski vs. the Goalposts

Get it in through the damn uprights! Geez, you’re one of the best kickers in the league, and the Patriots need you to return back to your stellar self.

Worry Wart – Game Three vs. Bills

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Two different games, two different outcomes generating opposite emotions. Welcome to New England 2010.

We knew the Patriots would experience growing pains, we just didn’t think that awkward stage would happen all at once Sunday at the Jets. They return to friendly Foxboro this week to face the 0-2 Bills, two facts that make us less worried.

Still plenty to fret about, however…

With Faulk Out, Who Will Field Punts Against Buffalo?

Oh, Faulk: The wait for finely-aged running back Kevin Faulk to finally slow down has ended, as the perennial contributor was diagnosed with a torn ACL. This, of course, makes New England’s third-down offense about as dangerous as a hypoallergenic pillow.

The good news? Well, none. (Seriously: how can this be good news?) But former Jet and fresh-faced Pat Danny Woodhead brings speed and agility as a potential receiving back (check out his pro day numbers at the bottom of this link). Better to have him than not. Which reminds us…

To Half And Half Not: As Mike Reiss pointed out in his blog, the Patriots have been weak in the second half of away games going back to 2009. Though at Gillette this week, the Pats need to demonstrate they can not only hold onto a lead but add to it in the third and fourth quarters. For a change.

Do I sound bitter and tense? Deep green forest, cool blue lake. Okay. Onward!

Welker, Texas Stranger: Whither Wes Welker in the second half in the Meadowlands? Did the helmet-to-helmet hit knock him out of contention, or did the Jets’ coverage prevent him from contributing? If it’s the former, how will that affect him Sunday? And why am I doing nothing but asking questions?

Not Feeling Randy: This team needs Randy Moss, but they need THE Randy Moss, not the guy who knocks footballs in the air or stops running full speed. Tom Brady trusts Moss like no other and throws to him when he’s not open. Moss used to make plays on those passes with the ease of a horsetail shooing flies (see: Pats at Miami, 2007), but no more.

Sure, yes, Moss made a great one-handed catch on his TD at the Jets, but was using one hand necessary?It shows up on highlight reels as a spectacular catch, but would have looked routine if he’d gone about it in a more conventional way.

In other words, Randy? You’ve got two hands. Use ’em when you can.

Regretting The Passed: Why on earth can’t Patriots defensive backs seem to make plays on the football? Darius Butler clutches at receivers like a drowning man reaching for a life raft. Meanwhile, passes whiz by Devin McCourty’s half-turned body. The young New England DBs had opportunities to shut down drives but failed to do so. They helped make Mark Sanchez look less like the goofy kid from “Hard Knocks” and more like the second coming of Joe “Somehow Still Relevant” Namath.

Change For A Bill? Buffalo is making a switch from QB Trent Edwards hoping to improve on last place in points (8.5 per game) total yards (176 pg) and passing yards (89 pg). In his stead comes Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started eight games last year (nine TDs, 10 INTs). Call it a “rags to slightly nicer rags” story.

If the Pats lose this thing at home, “Worry Wart” will just be renamed “I Give Up” or even “Eff It,” depending on how many deep breaths get taken before the next column.

Deep green forest, cool blue lake. Ah.

All About Steve: One for four? Okay, Stephen Gostkowski’s kicking is officially a concern. If Sunday’s game comes down to a field goal, then we’ve got a lot of other issues to deal with (see previous paragraph), but for reasons still unexplained we’ve got an all-star kicker who has failed to perform like one. A nice 40-yarder to wrap-up the waning seconds of the first half would be a thrill for all involved.

I mean, really: a solid effort all around and a well-executed second half. Are we asking too much here? Let’s hope not.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

From The506.com – Where Patriots-Bills Will Be Shown

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

While the first two games of the season had the Patriots getting CBS’ top announcing crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, this week against Buffalo brings the “D” team into town, as Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots will call the action starting at 1:00 PM.

As you can see on the map below, it is a very limited area of the country that will be shown this game, with the vast majority of the country getting Giants/Titans as the CBS early game. The 4:15pm CBS game for most of the country is Colts at Broncos, with Nantz and Simms calling the action.