September 30, 2016

Patriots Buffet Table – Patriots at Raiders

by Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff

Just lose to help the Pats draft position baby! Yup, the Pats again own an Oakland draft pick. This year it’s their 2nd rounder.

Oakland got the only win they really needed last week, so here’s hoping they go 0-13 the rest of the way.

What To Eat.

Schwenkbraten is a German grilled pork. Usually cooked over a beechwood fire, if you have a smoker go for it, it’s still great when cooked on a gas grill.

It isn’t Raiders related, but it’s a favorite (favorite enough to be repeated from previous seasons) and will go great with the featured beers this week.

Ingredients:
Schwenkbraten – German grilled pork
serves 4
4 onions
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup (2 nip bottles) gin
1 tablespoon mustard (german stoneground will be best, but brown will do)
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt (kosher will be best)
2 pound pork loin, you can use boneless pork chops, but the loin is more tender
8 bulkie or kaiser rolls

Prep:

Almost all of the work for this recipe occurs a day before. Slice the onions and put the rings into a large ziplock bag, add everything but the pork and salt, mix it all together. Cut the loin into 16 chops, cutting on the diagonal will give you thinner chops with more surface area. They’ll soak up more marinade and grill faster, both good things. Sprinkle the salt over your cut chops. After 15 minutes, put the chops into the ziplock, mix it up, push the air out of the bag and close. By adding the salt and allowing the meat to sit salted we drew some of the moisture out of the pork, that will allow the marinade to soak in faster. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Cooking:

Take the chops out of the ziplock. Pour the onion and marinade mixture into a large aluminum foil pouch. Put the pouch on your grill, after 10 minutes put your chops onto the grill. The oil used in the marinade may flame up, so be careful when you put them on. 4 minutes later flip the chops, and after another 3 minutes check to make sure the pork is no  longer pink and the juices run clear and you’re done. If you cut the chops thick you will need to cook them longer.

Layer the chops and onions onto the rolls, 2 chops per roll. You could use some more German mustard if desired, but you won’t need it. Mix some cayenne pepper into brown mustard and you’re pretty close to the secret recipe stadium mustard served in Cleveland.

What to drink

Octoberfest has appeared in every season of the Buffet Table, so we’re switching it up and instead of featuring beer from the opponents territory we’re going with the Top 10 Octoberfests.

The first Octoberfest was a wedding celebration, so buy enough so that you can have some left over for next week when those incurable romantics Mr. & Mrs. Ryan come to town.

Top 6 Pack of US Octoberfests in no particular order

  • Heavy Seas Marzen, – formerly Clipper City Balto’marzhon Quality remains though the name changes
  • Sam Octoberfest – By pure ubiquity, it isn’t as good as it used to be, similar to how the winter lager has been slowly weakened over time. Still a good beer. And you can find it anywhere.
  • Jack’s Abby Copper Legend – Newcomer specializes in German style lagers, and their Octoberfest is as good as you’d expect with that pedigree.

2 from Germany

There are obviously many good German examples, but manyare becoming more like strong Helles and less true Octoberfests. The newer versions should be marked as Wiesn and the traditional types should have wording like “Marzen” or “urtyp.”

Paulaner for example has an Octoberfest-Marzen and also an Octoberfest-Wiesn. The Wiesn is a far ligther beer in the new style.

Stick with the originals from:

  • Hacker-Pschorr – Also 5.8% and produced by the same brewery, they’re pretty interchangeable.

Many people prefer Ayinger but it is too sweet for me.

We need 2 more to round out a top 10, so we’re picking 1 each from untraditional styles. First a higher ABV or Imperialized Octoberfest. Second an ale that fills the Octoberfest niche.

Heavy Seas shows up again with their Prosit! ImperialOctoberfest Lager. This fills out the amped up Octoberfest slot. It’s an octoberfest taken to 8% ABV.

Since many Craft brewers are ale breweries they can have issues when trying to brew lagers and many just try to make an Octoberfest like ale.

Magic Hat however gets into the spirit of the thing with their Ourtoberfest Hex. It uses a portion of cherrywood smoked and rye malt.

A good Fall beer that isn’t just a poor imitation of a real Octoberfest. So they’ll probably discontinue it as that is what Magic Hat does with all of their good seasonals.

A note on glassware. If there is ever a time to break out special glasses it’s for Octoberfest.

The big mugs you see in pictures are Maßkrug. ß when seen in a German word is standing in for “ss”, often causing confusion to tourists as the word for street pronounced “Strasse” is written “Straße”. Maßkrug pronounced “moss kroog” hold 1 liter of beer to the line right above the handle. The glass extends another couple of inches. They weigh over 4 pounds when full.

The boot shaped glass is Der Stiefel, although it is fun to call them Das Boot. Commonly found in 1/2, 1 and even 2 liter sizes. Drink with the toe facing down.

Around The League – Week 3

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

They’re 2-1 and in a familiar position right atop the AFC North standings. But something feels a little bit off with the Pittsburgh Steelers thus far. They followed up their embarrassing, Week 1 blowout at Baltimore admirably with a 24-0, home opening win over Seattle. But in needing to hang on just to upend the Peyton Manning-less Colts last Sunday night, there seemed a sense that some issues may still need to be addressed.

For starters, the Steelers have some serious problems up front. Three of their offensive linemen had to leave the game at Indy and as of right now, guard Doug Legursky and left tackle Jonathan Scott have not practiced yet this week. Tackle Marcus Gilbert has practiced but was the third of the trio of O-line guys to go down against the Colts and guard Chris Kemoeatu, one of the mainstays of a front that has gone to three of the last six Super Bowls, missed the Seattle game and is playing on a tender knee. And none of this has anything to do with veteran tackle Willie Colon, who tore his triceps in Week 1 and is out for the year.

The guy they protect, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, had three turnovers against the Colts and in three games has thrown four picks, lost four fumbles and been sacked nine times. And on defense, there are whispers that seem to keep getting louder (except by NFL Network dummy Warren Sapp, who’s been screaming it all along) that as a group, age is setting in and slowing them down. For a team that has relied so much on such a fearsome D, if this is true, it’s not good.

The Steelers are in a strange position. They lost the Super Bowl last year which makes them eligible to join the list of so many runners-up that have failed to reach the playoffs tin the following season. But they make the postseason seemingly every year and are routinely among the league’s top teams, making them seem a long shot to suffer that post-Super Bowl hangover (strangely, the last time Pittsburgh missed the playoffs came the year after they won Super Bowl XL). After traveling to Houston to take on the upstart Texans this week, they have three very winnable games in a row on their schedule (vs. Tennessee, vs. Jacksonville, at Arizona) before hosting the Patriots, who have had their number of late for the most part, in a Week 8, Halloween weekend showdown. They should be at least 5-2 by then, perhaps even better. These next four weeks leading up to that game against New England should tell us a great deal about what kind of season the Steelers will ultimately have.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. Green Bay: The Pack returned to the scene of their NFC championship from last year and took advantage of yet another sloppy, stubborn performance by the Bears (just 12 rushes after only 11 in Week 2) to move to 3-0. Tight end Jermichael Finley, predicted by ESPN moron Tom Jackson to struggle mightily with the Chicago D, caught three TD passes and may well be the most dangerous of Green Bay’s many weapons.

2. New Orleans: The Saints, a questionable call at the tail end of Week 1 from being 3-0, came back from a nine-point, fourth quarter deficit to beat Houston 40-33. Most impressive was the play of the offense, particularly Drew Brees, in that final quarter. Brees was 13-of-19 for 163 yards and two TDs in the fourth, part a 23-point barrage.

3. Detroit: The earth may well spin off its axis. The Lions are indeed 3-0 and this past week, they came back from a 20-0 halftime deficit in a place the haven’t won in 14 years (the Metrodome) to do it. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who actually hasn’t gotten hurt yet, was 32-of-46 for 378 yards and two TDs and is looking like he finally may live up to being taken No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft.

4. Buffalo: If you don’t believe the earth is spinning off its axis because Detroit is 3-0, let me present to you the Buffalo Bills. For the second straight week, they came back from a big deficit (21-3 in Week 2, 21-0 in Week 3) to win, shredding the Patriots hideous defense for nearly 500 total yards and 34 points in just over two full quarters. It was their first win over the Pats in eight years and with the Bengals and injury depleted Eagles on deck the next two weeks, 5-0 isn’t out of the question.

5. (tie) New England/Baltimore: The Pats back into this spot mostly because even though they have the worst defense in the NFL and Tom Brady threw four picks against the Bills, they still very nearly escaped with the win. As for the Ravens, they seem to go as QB Joe Flacco does and Flacco was immense (27-of-48, 389 yards, three TDs) in a blowout win at the Rams.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Kansas City: It took the Chiefs a full half to even make a first down against San Diego but then, they showed some life for the first time all season, pulling to within three points and having the ball late before a Matt Cassel INT doomed them. There still isn’t a worst team in the NFL than this one but give them credit for losing three of their best players for the season over the first two weeks yet still managing to be competitive.

2. Miami: After falling to 0-3 with a fall-from-ahead loss to the Browns, Dolphins defensive lineman Kendall Langford said, “We should have blown their asses out. They were not a good team.” Hey Kendall, they beat you and are 2-1. You’re 0-3. Yours is the one that’s not a good team.

3. St. Louis: Picked by many to win the gross NFC West, the Rams are now 0-3 and have been outscored 96-36 combined after getting blasted at home by the Ravens, 37-7. There have been a lot of injuries but that doesn’t excuse the defense (supposedly this team’s strength) allowing some guy named Torrey Smith to catch three TD passes totaling 133 yards in the first quarter. Also, look at the Rams schedule – they are staring down 0-7 before their first division game in Week 9 at Arizona.

4. Minnesota: 17-7, 17-0 and 20-0. All halftime leads for the Vikes through the season’s first three weeks. And all eventual losses. This past week, overmatched coach Leslie Frazier looked at his weekly big, halftime advantage and decided to then give Adrian Peterson, only the best running back in the NFL, five carries in the entire second half. Not even Frazier’s predecessor Brad Childress, pariah extraordinaire, was that misguided.

5. Indianapolis: The Colts showed some heart for the first time this season, coming back twice on the Steelers before falling late, 23-20. It’s only been three weeks, but it’s officially time to start the clock on Manning being put on injured reserve. What would possibly be the point of bringing him back in November if the team is 1-9 or something. Sorry, Colts fans – it’s Curtis Painter or bust.

What’s Trendy

- The Raiders: Oakland, which could well be 3-0 if not for a “whoever has the ball last wins,” game at Buffalo in Week 2, started slow then roared back to smoke the Jets, 34-24. In doing so, the Raiders did something no one does against Rex Ryan coached defenses and that’s run the ball down their throat. Led by Darren McFadden’s 171 yards and two TDs, the Raiders piled it on, with 234 yards on the ground, 7.2 per rush. Could this team actually be a postseason threat? Will Al Davis disintegrate into a pile of dust before figuring out how to screw it all up? Stay tuned…

- The Bucs Defense: Josh Freeman has just two TD passes against four picks through his first three games but the Bucs are still 2-1 thanks in large part to their D. Tampa held Atlanta to 30 yards rushing, forced three turnovers and had four sacks in a tough, 16-13 division win.

- Victor Cruz, Giants: Cruz exploded in the 2010 preseason then was buried for the bulk of the regular year. But this season, thanks to injuries to the G-men’s top two targets Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, he’s stepped it up, catching 3 balls for 110 yards and two TDs, one of which was a sick, 74-yarder that may well wind up one of the plays of they year in a 29-16 win over the host Eagles.

What’s Not

- The Falcons: In that same game against the Bucs, Atlanta’s D got to a fourth-and-1 with 1:46 left down by three points. Then, someone jumped offsides, Tampa got an automatic first down, the game was over and the Falcons were 1-2, one decent fourth quarter against the Eagles in Week 2 from being 0-3. Since getting blown out of their own dome by the Packers in the playoffs last year, the Falcons have looked lost; their QB is the most sacked in the league, their star back managed just 20 yards on 11 carries against the Bucs and their defense still can’t come up with the big play when it needs to. Early candidate for most disappointing team here.

- The Eagles: Never mind that the Eagles are still coached by Andy Reid, who screwed them for the 753rd time by not having the slightest idea how to manage the clock properly against the Giants last week. Or that Michael Vick can’t seem to play a game without getting hurt and then bitches about being unfairly treated by the officials afterward. Or that the backup QB is someone named Mike Kafka and has supplanted eternal bum Vince Young on the depth chart. Or that the defense is in disarray, having to shuffle linebackers on a weekly basis. Or that they gave up 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against Philly. Actually yeah, mind those things. Right now the “dream team” looks more like a nightmare.

- The Chargers: Do you think Chargers fans know that regardless of how much talent their team stockpiles on both sides of the ball, they will never, ever win anything as long as Norv Turner continues to be their head coach? No one plays down to their competition quite like San Diego, which barely hung on to beat the outrageously awful Chiefs last week, and at home no less. This week’s edition of  “Why Norv Sucks,” takes us to the later stages of the fourth quarter of that very game. The Chargers had seen a 17-0 halftime edge whittled down to 20-17 and faced a fourth-and-1 from the KC 34-yard line with 1:26 left. Instead of a pooch punt that would have forced the Chiefs to either drive the length of the field to tie or win (or at least start at their own 20, 14 crucial extra yards of field position), good ol’ Norv went for it. Naturally, the Chargers didn’t make the first down and had to sweat out the final moments. Norv’ll tell you he was aggressively trying to end the game right there. Anyone else will tell you he’s out of his mind and is conceivably the most overmatched coach in the NFL.

And finally…

It may only have been three weeks but were we a little too quick to coronate the Houston Texans? Last week, facing their first real test of the season, particularly for their new-look defense, they led 26-17 headed into the fourth quarter at New Orleans and proceeded to get outscored 23-7 over the final 15 minutes en route to a heartbreaking loss. With the money on the table, the defense, so solid through the season’s first two weeks, crumbled under the weight of the great Saints offense. And the offense, stacked with studs right down the line, settled for field goals on four out of five trips inside the New Orleans 20, not a good scenario when facing an attack as high-powered as the Saints (or a defense as suspect for that matter).

Houston has plenty of time to get well and a win this week at home against the Steelers will go a long way toward getting back some of the good will engendered by the 2-0 start. With the Colts where they are and the Jaguars looking weak and without a quarterback, the division is ripe for the Texans to finally get over the hump, exorcise a few demons and make their first ever playoff appearance. Hopefully for their sake, they have short memories. Given their dark, albeit short, history, a loss like last week’s could linger.

 

Patriots/Raiders Preview From Accuscore

PD has partnered with AccuScore this season to bring you data-driven content on the Patriots and their opponents throughout the year. AccuScore Advisor offers professional grade football betting systems that help build sustainable success while betting on NFL football.

The New England Patriots are a solid favorite with a 60% chance to beat the Oakland Raiders. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is projected for 46 rushing yards and a 33% chance of having at least 1 rushing TD. In the 39% of simulations where Oakland Raiders wins, Jason Campbell averages 1.33 TD passes vs 0.54 interceptions, while in losses he has a ratio of 1.1 TDs to 1.07 interceptions. Darren McFadden averages 101 rushing yards and 0.83 rushing TDs when Oakland Raiders wins and 68 yards and 0.43 TDs in losses. The New England Patriots has a 27% chance of forcing more turnovers than they commit. Positive turnover margin helps them win 86% of the time. SPREADS / TOTALS: Current Point Spread is OAK +4.5 — Over/Under line is 53.5

‘CURRENT SEASON: We advise relying on these trends after the first 3 weeks of the season.

New England Patriots ATS RECORD Oakland Raiders ATS RECORD ATS EDGE
All Games 2-1-0 All Games 3-0-0 Oakland Raiders
Road Games 1-1-0 Home Games 1-0-0 Oakland Raiders
When Favored 2-1-0 When Underdog 3-0-0 Oakland Raiders
Non-Division Opp 1-0-0 Non-Division Opp 2-0-0 No Edge
Opp .500+ Record 0-0-0 Opp .500+ Record 0-0-0 Oakland Raiders

LAST SEASON: We advise factoring for these trends for the first 3 to 6 weeks of the Current Season.

New England Patriots ATS RECORD Oakland Raiders ATS RECORD ATS EDGE
All Games 11-6-0 All Games 8-8-0 New England Patriots
Road Games 6-2-0 Home Games 4-4-0 New England Patriots
When Favored 8-6-0 When Underdog 6-6-0 New England Patriots
Non-Division Opp 7-3-0 Non-Division Opp 2-8-0 New England Patriots
Opp .500+ Record 5-2-0 Opp .500+ Record 5-4-0 New England Patriots

OVER-UNDER TRENDS

New England Patriots O-U-P RECORD Oakland Raiders O-U-P RECORD O-U EDGE
All Totals (O-U-P) 3-0-0 All Totals (O-U-P) 3-0-0 OVER
On Road 2-0-0 At Home 1-0-0 OVER
All Totals Last Season 14-3-0 All Totals Last Season 10-6-0 OVER
On Road Last Season 6-2-0 At Home Last Season 6-2-0 OVER

Pats Pregame Points: Game Four At Raiders

Wes Welker vs. Oakland

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

All we’ll say about last week’s 34-31 upset to Buffalo is that a 21-0 lead – and 31 points overall – should be good enough to win.

The fact that is wasn’t? Well, that has us concerned about next week’s trip to Oakland.

All Creatures Great And Small: That summarizes Tom Brady’s two-man receiving crew, from the mighty Rob Gronkowski to the diminutive Wes Welker. Deion Branch has trouble breaking free from man-to-man coverage, Aaron Hernandez is hurt, and no other pass-catcher has distinguished himself for New England.

If Oakland plays solid pass defense against those two, Brady just doesn’t have a lot of other targets.

Ochocinco Over-thinko: Speaking of pass-catchers, New England could have used one on that long throw to Chad Ochocinco. We’re beginning to wonder if he’ll ever figure out the offense. On the “JG” scale, Ochocinco’s much closer to Joey Galloway (never got it) than Jabar Gaffney (took him a month). We can’t think of an in-between example of a receiver who learned the offense after several weeks.

Maybe Ochocinco will be the first. Any maybe scientists will discover that pumpkin lattes help you lose weight. One can only dream.

Darren To Run: Last week, the Pats faced running back Fred Jackson. This week, it’s Darren McFadden, who ran over the Jets like they were lines on a parking lot. Maybe Albert Haynesworth will return, but the Patriots can’t depend on the big man to improve their defense – they have to do that without him.

Everybody Hurts: Haynesworth, Hernandez and safety Patrick Chung missed the Buffalo game with injuries. Considering that New England’s safeties looked about as lost as Hansel and Gretel, Chung’s absence may prove the most costly.

Between Devin And Hell: Whatever happened to Devin McCourty, rookie Pro Bowl cornerback? Remember him? He was the guy you put on the opposing team’s best receiver for solid, consistent coverage. Last year he was Superman doing his job; this year he’s the Human Torch getting lit up all over the field. Both McCourty and Leigh Bodden, dependable starters from the past, have looked lost and overmatched.

Lest we blame only the defensive backfield…

Sackless: If you’re feeling too good about the world right now, take a gander at the list of defensive stats for sacks vs. Buffalo. We’ll save you the trouble, as it’s just a tall column of zeroes. Switching to the 4-3 and getting two platoons of so-called pass-rushers was supposed to improve the Patriots’ ability to get to the opposing QB. The Raiders aren’t known as a great passing team, but with time to lounge around the pocket, even Jason Campbell can become a threat.

Defenses Have No Answer To This Ridley: On the positive side (and we need a positive side), rookie running back Stevan Ridley showed some promise. Maybe he’ll get the call for more carries at Oakland. Shouldn’t hurt.

Home Boy: Brady’s traveling back to his home state, where he should get back to playing more like his old self. If not, it’s another chance for the defense to demonstrate some form of improvement.

Oh, for the days where a 21-0 lead meant the outcome had little doubt.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Defenseless: Bill Belichick Has Only Himself To Blame For This Mess On Defense

By George Cain, Guest Author

I don’t know when Bill Belichick lost his fastball on defense.

Maybe it was in 2008 at about the same time Josh Beckett lost his. After another pathetic performance by the Patriots defense this past Sunday against the Bills, I am left wondering when and if he is going to get it back.

I mean this is Bill Belichick, who was canonized this month by NFL Films in “A Football Life.”  He is the defensive guru with five Super Bowl rings, two coming as a DEFENSIVE coordinator. He has been a successful defensive coach wherever he has been.  But he has FAILED to field a championship defense since he shipped Richard Seymour out of town three seasons ago.

So let’s just stick to facts.  The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years; they were the undisputed “Team of Decade.”  It has been seven years since their last Super Bowl Championship, and three seasons and counting since they got out of the first round of the playoffs. The bar is high for this team, but that’s what comes with greatness.

  • Fact: Bill Belichick has won three Super Bowl titles as a Head Coach and two titles as a Defensive Coordinator.
  • Fact: The Patriots are going to have their 11th winning season in row.  They have already won eight AFC East titles under Belichick.
  • Fact: Bill Belichick is going to the Hall of Fame.
  • Fact: Since the night we never want to talk about in Glendale, Arizona this pass defense has gotten progressively worse.
  • Fact: The Patriots have not been to the Super Bowl since 2007 because their defense is not championship caliber.
  • Opinion:  You could give Tom Brady about 20 other team’s defense and he could win the Super Bowl THIS year.  But, Bill cannot even field a top 20 defense right now.

Here are three reasons why:

#1 – Good Players Out, Bad Players In
It was inevitable that Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi were going to get old and retire.  They were all Pro Bowl players who made significant contributions to the three Super Bowl titles, and are not easily replaceable. But, the Patriots also let go of Asante Samuel and Richard Seymour.  They were two All-Pro players under the age of 30, and the Patriots had no one to fill the void. Seymour was the Patriots last pure pass rusher and their best defensive player of the last 10 years.  He commanded a double team and could create his own rush from a four man front. They let him go for a draft pick 2 years later, who turned out to be Nate Solder.  The Pats could have found another tackle; a pass rusher is a little more difficult.

With both these players the spin was that the Patriots couldn’t afford them under the cap. Well, I subscribe fully to the Michael Felger “Cap is Crap” mantra.  Somehow the Steelers are able to pay Big Ben, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Casey Hampton and James Farrior. If you’re creative you can make it happen. The Patriots spent just spent 25 million guaranteed, on big Vince Wilfolk.  Vince is an All-Pro and one of the top nose tackles in the league and yet the Patriots defense still is horrible.  So, if we are going to buy into the salary cap argument maybe 25 million on a nose tackle wasn’t the wisest allocation.  But if you still believe that the Patriots couldn’t afford EITHER player then explain to me, what was the backup plan?  This segues into my next point, horrible drafting on defense.

#2 – Horrible Drafting on Defense
When it comes to drafting, there is luck, chance, and a thousand other variables involved.  But the 2011 Patriots just don’t seem to be very talented despite spending a tremendous amount of draft currency to improve the

team.  I wanted to highlight just a few obvious misses in the last four drafts.

2007 – Brandon Meriweather, made a couple of Pro Bowls, but never lived up to his potential and never made it through his rookie contract. The thing is though, he might be better than what they are starting right now.

2008 – Jerod Mayo has been a very good player, but so far he isn’t the play maker that Tedy Bruschi was. He has been worthy of his #10 overall draft selection, but needs to be more than just a tackler. The rest of the defensive players drafted that year -Terrence Wheatley (bust) Shawn Crable (bust), Jonathan Wilhite (bust), are all no longer with the team.

2009 – I unlike some, give them a pass on Clay Matthews.  There were steroid concerns with him that I think deserved attention. But this draft had plenty of impact defensive players in the first two rounds -Vontae Davis, Ziggy Hood, James Laurinaitis, Conor Barwin, the Patriots didn’t draft any of them. They instead spent their four second round picks on Pat Chung, Ron Brace, Sebastian Vollmer and Darius Butler.

Chung has been solid, not great but solid.  Brace has been out of shape, hurt and basically a non-factor.  If you watched any Boston College football games you might have noticed a lot of Brace’s success was based on the fact he played next to All-American BJ Raji, now with the Super Bowl Champion Packers. Darius Butler, was a great athlete, but not an instinctual defensive back and after showing glimpses, faded and was cut.

Is Jermaine Cunningham The Latest Draft Bust?

Is Jermaine Cunningham The Latest Draft Bust?

2010 – This was a great draft, with a big miss. McCourty was spectacular last year, and although he’s exhibited somewhat of a sophomore slump, you still have to be confident he’ll turn it around. The offensive players drafted in 2010 have been phenomenal, but it’s the Jermaine Cunningham selection that should have Patriot fans seething. Remember, Bill spent a lot of time scouting Jermaine while he was at Florida playing for Bill’s buddy Urban Meyer. During that time Bill should have noticed Cunningham’s teammate, All-American Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap had 9 ½ sacks in 7 games last year with Cincinnati.  He’s off to a somewhat slow start this year while battling a knee injury but was in Alex Smith’s face several times Sunday despite not figuring heavily on the stat sheet. Dunlap did have off the field issues but with Albert Haynesworth on the team you can’t really use that as an excuse anymore.  So if you’re keeping track that’s a miss on Matthews (pass) and a miss on Dunlap. Please don’t give me this scheme crap -if you can rush the passer you can rush the passer. If it is about the “reading and reacting” then Jermaine Cunningham doesn’t do that either.

2011 – I think Bill walked away from the Jets loss with a different view than most.  He saw a Patriot team that needed tweaks on offense to beat the Jets.  He saw his offensive line getting pushed around in another playoff game.  So I agree they needed depth on the offensive line.

But I also saw a team that couldn’t make stops on defense when the team needed it. Bill called the 2011 draft one of the deepest defensive line drafts in recent memory.  He then decided not to draft a defensive lineman or linebacker till the 6th round.  Their depth chart at the end of last season was Ty Warren, who was on IR, Vince Wilfolk and Mike Wright coming off a concussion that knocked him out the second half of the season.  The Pats had the currency to trade up and get an impact rusher.

Ryan Kerrigan was there at 16, the Pats were at 17.   They decided to sit tight, draft Solder and then for some ridiculous reason, trade their second number one pick to the Saints for a pick next year.  The Redskins traded up offering Jacksonville a second round pick, got Kerrigan and he looks like Clay Matthews redux. Shane Vereen, who the Patriots drafted with their other second round pick, has been in street clothes every week. Solder is going to be a solid offensive lineman but they could have drafted Gabe Carimi with that second first round pick to fill the Solder role, and still had Kerrigan.

Also, in the second round, Bill decided to draft Ras-I-Dowling, and passed on Jabaal Sheard a DL who looks very good for the Browns. Dowling has size, speed and the physical tools to be a shutdown corner.  But he played in only 5 games his Senior year in college and has injury history going back to high school.  Football is one sport where oft-injured players seldom shake that history. Predictably, Dowling has missed most of training camp and got injured in game two.

#3 Bad Free Agents Signings and Bill’s Arrogance – Maybe it was that great 2004 team winning it all with a secondary that consisted of a rookie, Asante Samuel at one corner.  Another undrafted rookie, Randall Gay at the other corner and a journeymen like Earthwind Moreland in the dime package. Did it give Bill a false sense that it’s all scheme and talent is less of a factor?

After the 2006 loss to the Colts they spent big money on free agent Adalius Thomas. It was a massive failure and seemed to scare Bill off big time free agent acquisitions. Free agency is a risk, but if you’re not going to draft pass rushers, then don’t you need to make a play for guys like Julius Peppers, Justin Babin, or Cullen Jenkins. This offense is so superior; the Patriots just need ONE, ONE guy on the line that can strike fear into an opposing quarterback. But this is what you got instead:

  • Shaun Ellis – 13 year veteran cut by the Jets, mostly unproductive through the first 3 games.
  • Vince Wilfolk – Let’s be honest, he’s been quiet, and he is not a pass rusher, and that is the MAIN problem right now.
  • Albert Haynesworth – He’s come as advertised, out of shape, unmotivated, injury prone and a waste of time.
  • Andre Carter – Looked good in a preseason game but maybe now we know why he was cut loose.
  • Mark Andersen – His last good season was 2006.
  • Mike Wright – Always a good role player, now unfortunately because of concussions, a weekly scratch.
  • Brandon Spikes – Good against the run, but horrible against the pass, and hasn’t had a huge impact on this defense.
  • Rob Ninkovich – He’s a JAG.  He works hard, but just isn’t strong enough or fast enough to get to the QB from the outside.
  • Devin McCourty – really struggling, but he is their best pass defender.
  • Ras-I Dowling – Has never shown an ability to stay healthy.
  • Leigh Bodden – Hasn’t been the player he was in 2009 after missing last season.
  • The Patriots Safeties – I group them together. Pat Chung is their best player, but he’s hurt.  They cut Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders in favor of Sergio Brown and Josh Barrett. Brown and Barrett thus far have been major downgrades from Meriweather, Sanders and Jarrad Page.  All three, started for other teams Sunday.

So don’t give me complexity of the defense or any of that other baloney for those of you still chanting “In Bill We Trust.”  This offense is Super Bowl caliber.  The Patriots have Tom Brady, he is once in a lifetime player, and they are letting his prime slip away. This defense is not average, it’s not middle of the road, it’s just plain bad. Bill Belichick is supposed to be a “defensive genius” but yet we are going on four years that this defense hasn’t been Super Bowl caliber. Rex Ryan, was a defensive coach with the Ravens. He came to the Jets and immediately the Jets defense became top tier in the league.  The Steelers and Ravens consistently have top-notch defenses and Don Capers (a Patriot assistant in 2008) has done a superb job in Green Bay. All three teams get after the quarterback. Isn’t that what we should expect from Bill?

You get what you pay for and right now they are PAYING for lack of talent on defense. I think this team wins 11 to 12 games behind the greatness of #12, but right now I doubt they play in the Super Bowl. If Bill wants to reinforce his genius status he’ll get this band of average players to be able to play “some” defense. Otherwise, from the Kool-Aid drinkers you’ll hear the same excuses. There were injuries, they are still young, the scheme is too complicated, Brady’s made some mistakes etc.

And it will be another year that the Patriots failed to win a Super Bowl despite having the best player in the league.

First Impressions – Oakland Raiders

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

The 2-1 Patriots, off a loss to Buffalo, travel to Oakland to take on the revitalized, 2-1 Raiders who’ll be playing their third consecutive AFC East opponent. The Raiders are more confident than they’ve been in years after knocking off the Jets last week. The Patriots are very banged up with injuries and reeling a bit with a poor performance that featured very, very sloppy and uncharacteristic play by them in Buffalo. So lets take a look at some of the players and stories surrounding this matchup.

Jason Campbell, #8, Quarterback: Campbell was drafted #25 overall out of Auburn by the Washington Redskins back in 2005. He hasn’t been horrible, but certainly has been a disappointment. At times, he is a decent game manager and has played that role adequately for the Raiders so far this year. He hasn’t made major mistakes, throwing only 1 interception and taking 2 sacks thru 3 games. But still, with a career starting record as a quarterback of 29-38, he has to be considered somewhat of a first round bust. The Raiders remain a bit one-dimensional. There is a way the Patriots can pretty much guarantee a victory in this game. And that is by getting an early lead, which their offense is certainly capable of doing to a lot of teams including the Raiders. If they do that, Campbell simply can not match scores or throw effectively from behind. If the Raiders can run the ball and get some stops on defense, sure Campbell can make a few plays here and there. Get behind and it’ll be a long day for the Raiders Sunday.

Darren McFadden, #20, Running Back: Of course the number one way the Raiders can stay in this game is to get McFadden going early and effectively. If they can establish their power running game, they can avoid falling multiple scores behind and can keep the Patriots fast-paced offense from establishing too much of a rhythm. Drafted at age 20, McFadden struggled his first two years in the league. However, last year, he began to blossom and ran for over 1,100 yards, averaging 5.2 per carry. He also caught passes for over 500 yards. His play has gotten even better this year as he has nearly 400 rushing yards already, including a monster 190 yard game versus the Jets last week. He is averaging 6.4 per carry this year. The Patriots have their hands full, but focusing on stopping McFadden will be their number one priority this week as they try to force Campbell to beat them.

Patriots – Raiders History: The Patriots have had a colorful, and on one occasion tragic, history with the Raiders. All the way back to 1976 a young, improving, Chuck Fairbanks coached Patriots team dominated the 1976 Raiders in Foxboro during the regular season, winning in a rout 48-17. It would be the only regular season blemish for the ‘76 John Madden coach Raiders. In the playoffs, the 11-3 Patriots met the Raiders again, this time in Oakland. The Patriots lead 21-10 late only to see the Raiders come back on the strength of several questionable referee’s calls, including the infamous late hit call on Sugar Bear Hamilton by referee Ben Dreith to keep the winning drive alive  (The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl.)

In 1978, during an exhibition game, the despicable Jack Tatum paralyzed for life Patriots wide receiver Darrell Stingley.  Tatum never apologized for the hit and never saw or spoke to Stingley afterwards. Instead, he wrote a book called “They Call Me Assassin” and tried to profit off it. In 2010, suffering from chronic diabetes and having lost a leg of his own, Tatum died three years after Stingley had succumbed due to complications from his paraplegia.

And of course every Patriots fan remembers The Tuck Rule Game. Now a decade later, tin-foil hat wearing Raiders fan ramble almost as incoherently as their senile owner, Al Davis, that the NFL is out to get them and the play is proof. What gets lost on forever stuck in adolescence Raiders fans, in between dressing up as Darth Vader, is the play was properly called. You can disagree with the rule, but there was nothing really controversial about the call. Just a lot of confusion initially propagated by the media that a. didn’t know the rule and b. didn’t care to know it, really, because controversy is good for them. But that’s all ancient history anyway. The Patriots were a better team than the Raiders that year and the better team won. The Patriots then, like the Raiders in ‘76, went on to win the Super Bowl. There are some present day connections to the game. Tom Brady is still quarterbacking the Patriots and Bill Belichick is still coaching them. Richard Seymour, then a rookie with a Patriots, is still playing defensive line but now for the Raiders. And finally, Greg Biekert, who “recovered” the incomplete pass, is now coaching linebackers for the Raiders.

Pre-Game Chatter: In an interview with the Contra Costa Time, Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain stated the Patriots were “just a finesse team.” That undoubtedly will be repeated loudly and often behind the walls of Gillette Stadium this week. But the bottom line is, at times the Patriots have been that in recent seasons. Not always. There were certainly times when they were very physical and could play with physical and mental toughness on the level of any NFL team. But there have been other times they haven’t. Definitely not in the way the Patriots did in the Super Bowl winning years. Its not just the offensive or defensive philosophy either. At times its the players. Some of it is youth and inexperience. Not being big game tested plays into it. But perhaps the words of McClain will ring true and the anger will be used productively. The Patriots need to be tougher than the team that lost in the first round of the playoffs to more physical opponents the last two years. Take McClain’s words to heart. Prove him wrong. But then after they do, they need to keep remembering it all season long right into January.

Running Back McFadden has hit on the physical theme recently too. “Coach Hue always tells us we’re building a bully,” McFadden said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. That’s what we’re trying to do bully them”

Former Patriot Richard Seymour feels the same way “Because we’re pretty physical up front on the offensive and defensive lines. Any time a team wants to come in and play that type of game with us, I like our chances all the time.”

Raiders Fans: Raider fans don’t exactly have a stellar reputation. They even shot a 49er fan during an exhibition game between the two teams this year. Generally, they’re buffoons in their costumes, hyping a team that won two championships in their city over 30 years ago as if they’re one of the great franchises in sports. They’re not. Not even close. A full quarter of NFL franchises have more Super Bowls than the Oakland Raiders two. And that isn’t even bringing up other sports and the many other far more successful franchises than the Raiders. Heck, they got a 2-1 team and haven’t even sold out this game yet. But delusion is Raider fans specialty. Well after costumes, black leather and makeup I suppose. Lets take a look at “Raider Nation” thoughts on the game thru the popular Raider message board Raiderfans.net:

One cthomp5753 sees ties in to 9/11, government conspiracies and global injustice 10 years later when talking about The Tuck Rule Game:

The NFL is a huge multi billion dollar enterprise almost on par with a lot of countries governments. Like our government they know how to manipulate the masses. The stupid Tuck had nothing to do with this, they just knew they had to throw a buzzword out there for the people. The issue was, that ” YOU F/?KING NEED 100% INCONTROVERTIBLE F/?KING EVIDENCE TO OVERTURN THE F/?KING CALL MADE ON THE F/?KING FIELD . You cannot ever tell me they had this evidence. Plain and simple, and I do believe it was a conspiracy to get the PATRIOTS to the SB after 9/11

NossieRaider has actually caught up to the present day and sees an easy Raider victory:

the Pats secondary is HORRIFIC. Just…disgustingly bad.

This isn’t the same Pats’ defense that dominated over the past few years.

I highly suspect McFadden will have a highlight-filled game, and for Campbell to throw the ball very well, too.

Raiders will win and I feel confident in that statement based on what I witnessed today. The Pats are not winning the division.

mranquales says conspiracies are still plaguing the Raiders to this day, victims of flukes and phantoms, but that shouldn’t stop an easy Oakland victory Sunday:

Patriots have no “weapons”. All you have is Tom Brady, an undersized Wes Welker and your offensive line (that’s not healthy). The Raiders have a very good chance at winning this game. We won’t get the turnovers that the Bills did but we can stop the Pats defensively better than most in the league. Our defense is better than people give it credit for, the Bills barely beat us with phantom touchdowns and flukes AND our D was tired. If the Jets couldn’t stop us from running the ball– the Pat’s won’t either, with or without Haynesworth.

Although a quick perusal of Raiders Fans shows confidence is running at remarkably high levels, there is still a few who suggest some potential downside to this matchup, like toobs cruiser:

I doubt our defense will be much help. Gonna have to keep pace point for point and hope for some turnovers.

Prediction: We’re 3-0 so far calling these things in this space and the pressure is on to keep that streak going. So, what will happen? Well, the Raiders are much improved. And like their coach, players and fans say, they can be a very physical team. Darren McFadden is on the verge of becoming a true NFL superstar.

But this is a very bad matchup for them. Their offense is designed to slug it out with teams and run the ball. Campbell is a game manager, but can’t win games if he has to. Their defense, particularly in the secondary isn’t good enough to stop the Patriots from scoring a lot. Forced into a passing game to catch up, the Raiders would be thrown out of their strengths. This is just a very bad opponent for their style and the way they want to try to win and the Patriots should expose them easily.

Patriots 38 Raiders 16

Dan Zeigarnik’s Guide To Watching Football

By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

Sundays are Holy days, with their special rituals that are not to be broken unless you are under extreme duress.

Naturally, I’m talking about NFL football devotees, embracing all denominations. (What did you think I meant?)

All fans have their well-rehearsed traditions of how they spend their fall Sunday afternoons. Some spend it battling their significant others for remote control access. Those of you in that predicament, I send my condolences to you.

Some of the more fortunate ones get to actually attend the games with all the pregame and tailgate festivities, and to them, I tip my hat, or rather offer a wool ski hat for those frosty December games.

The rest of us should treat the games like mini Super Bowls. There is no reason why these Sunday afternoon games cannot be a time for delicious food, great booze and sizzling conversation. Since you’re planning on spending the day on a couch anyway, why not combine your efforts and make it over to your friend’s or parent’s house?

Personally, I get to my Football Watching Station around 12-12:30 and start ordering or cooking food while catching up. The only rules are that the TV has to be large and High Definition and that everyone watching the game must be a football fan or be willing to shut up for the whole duration of the game. Is there anything more annoying then somebody discussing their list of chores (which should have done on Saturday) while you are concentrating on a key Patriots drive?

Finally, you need to banish the ‘football purists’ and the ‘traditionalists’, you know the ones:  They need to start the game on time and they hate you re-watching a play because they believe that the game was intended to be watched live. While I respect these people’s points of view, I can’t help but think that they have been suckered into the corporatization of sports.

The only reason why there are breaks in the action is so that TV stations and the organizations can stuff their advertising down your throats. There is no reason why you have to sit through a timeout, commercial, touchdown, commercial, kick-off, commercial. That’s 12 minutes of commercials for 2 plays of football. The only reason why one might think that it’s the right way to watch is because they had no options before and were forced to watch it that way and so it’s become a habit. Well it’s a bad habit and one that needs to be kicked. Maybe if enough people start DVRing their games and forgoing the commercials, the game itself will adjust and get revenue some other way that doesn’t involve football players just standing around on the field waiting for the TV timeout to end.

So start the game at about 1:30-1:35 pm. There is no reason for a die-hard fan to listen to Jim Nantz tell you at the start of the game for the 50th time that “Nobody believed in Wes Welker, as this undrafted free agents has really made a name for himself…..That Tom Brady sure is something isn’t he? Back to you Michelle Tafoya.” That gibberish lasts about 10 minutes before the kick-off anyway.

If you think about how many commercials there are in a half. 1 scheduled TV timeout per quarter, the 2 minute warning, the end of the first quarter and if the two teams combined for 4 scores, then that adds 8 more time outs, 4 for the scores and 4 for the kickoffs. That’s about 11 timeouts at about 3-4 minutes a timeout. So if you start the game 30-35 minutes late and re-watch some of the key plays so that you can see Logan Mankins earhole a corner back on a seal running play in slow motion, you can fast forward through all the commercials and the halftime show, and be live mid-way through the 3rd quarter.

This way you still get to build up the tension that end of the game commercials tend to build in close games, while boycotting the corporatization of sports and spending time with your family and friends. It’s a win-win and anyone who argues otherwise needs to try it out a few times.

Lastly, for all of you who have a compulsive need to check your fantasy line-up, you know that Patriots always come first, and that you can way until midway through the 3rd quarter to check and see if McFadden got you the 20 points you need him for or not. I have 4 teams and lots of money and bragging rights at stake, and if I can do it so can you. So enjoy the game, the food and the company and not the commercials.

Making The Grades – Patriots at Bills

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

In the midst of a 2-0 start to the Patriots season, one persistent question remained prevalent. What happens when Tom Brady doesn’t play like some strange mutation of Joe Montana, Sammy Baugh and Johnny Unitas? We got our answer on Sunday, when the Pats fell to the Buffalo Bills, 34-31, in Orchard Park, NY. Brady, who played the first quarter and a half pretty much exactly how he played his first two games, which is to say, otherworldly, stalled out with a 21-0 lead and wound up throwing four interceptions, his most in a game since a November, 2006, matchup with the Colts, as well as the same amount as he threw in the entirety of last year. It was a head-scratching performance by the best QB in the NFL, but regardless, Brady’s mishaps gave the Pats defense an opportunity to step up and take the reins of winning a game. Brady has been picking up the D with regularity for the past three years; Sunday in Buffalo was the D’s chance to return the favor.

Instead, it rolled over and died like one gasping, wheezing, wounded dog.

The Pats proved in this one that they have the worst defense in the NFL and if you don’t believe it, I dare you to name three that are worse. After holding Buffalo to a quiet first quarter in which they averaged barely 4.5 yards per play and turned the ball over twice, the Pats and their cadre of scrubs remembered that they are just that, a cadre of scrubs. The Bills rolled up 445 more yards of offense, 369 through the air. They completed a whopping nine passes for 20 or more yards and ran 11 plays from scrimmage that netted at least 16 yards. They scored all 34 of their points in the last three quarters. And the Pats, who once again got zero pressure on an opposing quarterback (no sacks, two hits in 40 dropbacks – this is a recording), stood and watched when they weren’t flailing, chasing or running into each other. The revamped defense we heard so much about in training camp is just as bad, if not worse, than the old, not revamped defense of 2009 and 2010. Some of the names may be different but the results are not. Not to absolve Brady, the lack of a consistent running game, any pass catchers not named Welker (who had a record-setting day) or Gronkowski doing nothing or some coaching decisions that ran the gamut from questionable to hare-brained. All conspired in this loss. But the defense gets the lion’s share of the blame, if for no other reason than that it has been abominable for two-plus seasons now and is getting worse, not better. So with that, let’s get to this week’s report card, with apologies if it’s at all defensive. Hell, something has to be.

OFFENSE: C

Quarterbacks: C

Brady looked so unstoppable from the Pats first possession through their third TD at the 6:02 mark of the second quarter, it seemed beyond impossible to imagine what was to follow. The Pats took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards in nine plays with Brady alternating between completing perfect passes to Welker and Rob Gronkowski, the last of which was a 14-yard TD pass on which he timed his throw to Welker on an option route about as well as it could have been timed. Less than three minutes later, on the heels of a Kyle Arrington interception, Brady threaded his second TD needle on a brilliant play fake to Gronk from the 1. Yet despite the 14-point cushion, a pattern was emerging and it would come back to haunt Brady and the offense. Without Aaron Hernandez, out with a knee injury, the Pats went mostly to a three-wide attack. But it seemed like every throw was going in the direction of either Welker or Gronk. Brady did try to spread it around a little bit; Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman had a handful of balls thrown their way, as did Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco (more on them later). But with Welker and Gronkowski clearly being the weapons of choice for Brady in the passing game, the Bills defense picked itself up off the mat and began to key on them both. This seemed to unnerve Brady, who would go on to throw all four of his picks from the 1:56 mark of the second quarter on. The first, which was a wide throw tipped by Woodhead inside the Bills 10, led to a Buffalo field goal and sent the two teams into halftime at 21-10 as opposed to 28-7. The second, on the Pats first play from scrimmage in the second half (and on the heels of the defense actually holding the Bills to a three-and-out), was an in route throw to Ochocinco undercut by the defender (whether or not Ochocinco warrants the blame for running a soft pattern is open to interpretation). The third, Brady’s worst of the day by far, was a forced attempt at the same seam route throw to Gronk that had worked so well up to that point. The Bills sent a double team but Brady’s throw was flat and picked off by Buffalo’s George Wilson, who got underneath Gronk. A loftier, higher pass, like the one Brady hit to Gronk on the tight end’s second TD, would have negated the turnover. And the fourth was just bad luck; a low throw that doinked off a lineman’s helmet and run back for a score (oh, and it also came on the first play after the Bills had tied the game at 24, giving them their first lead). Brady wound up 30-of-45 for 387 yards and four TDs, stellar numbers to be sure. And his leading of the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter was vintage Brady. But the four picks killed the offense and as we now know, more clearly than ever, when Brady is less than perfect, the Pats are screwed.

Running Backs: C

First, credit to rookie Stevan Ridley, who saw his first extended playing time of the season and responded with 44 yards on seven carries (6.3 yards per attempt). Ridley was decisive, quick and showed a string burst at the line of scrimmage when he hit the hole. He should most definitely be in line for more snaps in the coming weeks. After that, it was a whole lot of nothing. The Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis never got going, running for 10 yards on his first five carries before finding the bench well into the second half. When he did resurface, he got two tries from his favorite place, the goal line, but was stuffed on each of them. He finished with 16 yards on nine attempts and those numbers along with the inability to get into the end zone on consecutive tries from the 1 combined with Ridley’s performance may spell fewer snap for BJGE going forward. And Danny Woodhead, also in limited time (24 of 75 offensive snaps), had a rather mundane game (six rushes for 21 yards, three catches for 20 yards), his biggest moment coming on the pass he tipped that turned into Brady’s first INT. The workload was split mostly evenly (BJGE played 28 snaps) between the two primary backs with Ridley seeing spot duty. Still, even though the Pats finished with 108 yards on 26 attempts (4.2 YPA), none of it was all that distinguished.

Wide Receivers: B

No more words may be typed before we single out Wes Welker, the best player on the Patriots not named Brady. Welker had the game of his life on Sunday, catching an astonishing 16 passes for a franchise record 217 yards and two TDs. He was a first down machine, moving the chains all day and making catch after catch after catch, well after it became clear he was the only guy to whom Brady was throwing the ball. His two TDs were each exceptional, the first one that option route on which he went inside, cut hard back to the numbers and left his man in the dust and the second, a beautiful piece of improvisation on which he found his way back to Brady after running a short curl to tie the game on fourth down late in the final quarter. It’s a real shame that the Pats let this game get away; Welker should have been the top story at every media outlet after his outstanding performance. He was that good and his incredible value to this team has rarely been higher. Sadly, he was a one-man show on Sunday. Branch played all but six snaps yet only had three passes thrown his way and caught none of them. After Branch’s first two games of the season and particularly with the Pats unable to use two tight ends at any point, this development was one of the more confusing aspects of the afternoon. And then there’s Ochocinco. Chad played twice as many snaps as he did in either of his first two games but wasn’t any better. He caught two passes for 28 yards, dropped a wide open deep ball down the far sideline that was a sure TD in the fourth quarter (one of the more horrific drops seen in these parts in a long time, by the way; Brady couldn’t have placed the ball any better if he’d walked up to Ochocinco and handed it to him) and was as responsible for one of Brady’s INT as the QB thanks to his lazy route running. We may well have another Joey Galloway on our hands with this guy and while he’s unlikely to be shown the door before the halfway point of the season like Galloway was, he may well have a hard time finding his way into Brady’s circle of trust after his first three games here.

Tight Ends: B

This section should actually be headed Tight End, as Gronk was the only one active thanks to A-Herb’s injury and the jettisoning of his brother Dan (a.k.a. Gronk 2). Gronk set a couple of career highs himself, catching seven passes for 109 yards and two scores while continuing to show remarkable athleticism, agility and quickness in doing so (his second TD, a 26-yarder on a seam route, was a phenomenal catch). Gronk played every snap of the game but one and while he did have another false start penalty, he was excellent and dependable as always. Still, getting A-Herb back will help him and the offense immensely.

Offensive Line: B

Brady had time to throw all day. He wasn’t sacked once and even though Matt Light got beat by Shawne Merriman on one occasion (the first time Merriman has gotten around anyone in four years), the protection was first-rate once again. The Pats have shown no ill effects of being without Dan Koppen and for the most part, Sebastian Vollmer, in this regard. But there were some key penalties that could not have been more poorly timed. Nate Solder played well at right tackle but had a hands to the face infraction that wiped out a 35-yard pass to Gronk. Logan Mankins was called for holding on what would have been an important first down run by BJGE late in third quarter, then got nabbed for a huge false start at the Bills 2-yard line on the Pats tying drive in the fourth quarter, a penalty that was precipitated by Dan Connolly not being aware of the play clock. The Pats would score two plays later, absolving Mankins and Connolly somewhat, but those penalties could have been deadly. And the lack of push from this group on both of those no-gains by BJGE from the Bills 1 wasn’t pretty. The O-line has had far worse days. But it’s had far better ones too.

DEFENSE: F

Defensive Line: F

Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Time For a Cup of Tea Before He Passes The Ball

If memory serves, the cornerstone of the Pats revamping their defense revolved around importing Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, all defensive linemen, to improve a woeful pass rush in an attempt to take some pressure off a young, inexperienced secondary. The Pats have always been a 3-4 alignment defense in the Bill Belichick era but with all these new, big name pass rushers joining Vince Wilfork up front, the scheme changed, with the team now operating out of a 4-3 base. And guess what? It hasn’t made one iota of a difference. Haynesworth has barely played and made little to no impact when he has. Ellis has been so invisible, I forgot he was even active until I saw him standing over a pileup in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Carter has made a couple of plays but his biggest moment thus far was a phantom roughing the passer penalty against San Diego last week. Only Anderson, in very spotted duty, has done anything remotely impactful, none of which came on Sunday, when he played but two snaps after halftime. About the only thing you might be able to give this group any credit for against the Bills was holding Fred Jackson, the league’s leading rusher, under 100 yards for the first time this season (but try to forget the fact that he still managed to pick up over six yards per carry). The idea of getting stronger, faster and better on the defensive line was a good one. If none of the players brought in to carry it out are actually any good, though, then it doesn’t matter in the slightest.

Linebackers: F

One time, that’s one time in the entire game did a Patriots linebacker make a play that mattered. In the second quarter, Gary Guyton made a nice read of a delayed screen pass and followed up Anderson’s run at Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick by holding up Jackson and stopping him for a short gain. It was Guyton’s only tackle of the game. And that’s about it. Jerod Mayo had his second totally invisible game out of three this season and it’s starting to get very tiresome listening to/reading about him being an impact player. Brandon Spikes looks like a bust; he wiped out his own man on a third quarter Fitzpatrick TD pass to tight end Scott Chandler, a play on which Chandler stood alone in the end zone with no Patriot with 20 yards of him. Spikes played a lot more in nickel packages than he normally does and pretty much validated why he usually heads to the sideline in such situations, as he can’t cover or stay with a paper bag. Rob Ninkovich, one of the better members of this group, did nothing but get called for roughing the passer. And Jermaine Cunningham, yet another recent second-round draft choice who has not been able to make any kind of impact, was once again relegated to goal line duty and couldn’t be more buried unless he was on the scout team. He showed promise as a rookie but looks like he’s regressed as much as anyone on the team. This is a sorry lot the Patriots are stuck with. None of them are playmakers, most of them are so limited, they can’t play on every down and all of them are disappointments to say the least, especially on Sunday.

Defensive Backs: F

The cherry on top of the shit sundae, the Patriots secondary did the unthinkable by reaching new lows in Buffalo. Again, the Bills ran nine pass plays that went for 20 yards or more, starting with a 33-yard bomb to Steve Johnson on their first play of the game. They would successfully do this pretty much every time they tried it as the fall of Devin McCourty and incompetence of Leigh Bodden continued. Left to play man-to-man all day, neither McCourty or Bodden got any jam or pressure on any receivers off the line of scrimmage and each was beaten by multiple steps on multiple occasions. Bodden, who was very good in 2009 before missing last season with an injury, even got beat by almost two full yards on a play on which he was called for holding, that’s how bad he was. McCourty has gone from being an All-Pro type to virtually helpless; he hasn’t been able to stay with anybody one-on-one through three games and is clearly not the same player he was last year. It’s amazing how far each of these two has fallen. Behind them, with Patrick Chung and Ras-I Dowling out, both Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown played every down and each looked pathetic. Brown missed several tackles and was called for the costliest penalty of the day, a pass interference in the end zone that negated an INT on the worst throw Fitzpatrick made in the game. And Barrett made Brandon Meriweather look like an Hall-of-Famer, failing to help over the top in a timely fashion all day, missing tackles (including missing Jackson on a 38-yard catch and run right before the Bills kicked the winning field goal so badly, he fell down without even touching him) and just looking lost. It was so hideous, Belichick actually praised McCourty for chasing down Jackson on that very play to keep him out of the end zone (even though had Jackson scored, the Pats would have gotten the ball back). Only Kyle Arrington, who had two first half picks, escapes scorn here, although in the second half , he was out there for most of the carnage with all the rest of the stiffs. The Patriots have now allowed Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 415 and 369 yards, respectively. They are allowing 26.3 points and 487 yards per game. 370 of those are through the air. And there’s nothing else to say.

Special Teams: B

Not a bad day here. Stephen Gostkowski made his only field goal attempt and boomed several kickoffs through the end zone. Our man Zoltan was no worse for the wear from the knee injury he suffered against the Chargers and had a great game with two boomers and one perfectly placed poocher inside the Bills 10. Julian Edelman had a decent day in the return game and the kick coverage units, led by the recently re-signed Ross Ventrone, were solid.

Coaching: D

Never mind the strange timeout called by Belichick after the replay review of Jackson’s long play leading up to the winning field goal. Instead, focus on the timeout he was forced to use on third-and-goal from the 1 on the Pats game-tying drive with the play clock running out. Or the fact that coming out of that timeout, the play clock nearly ran out again and Mankins got called for that false start. Or the fact that even though McCourty and Bodden were getting burned by multiple yards all day, the Pats stayed in man coverage on the outside throughout. Or the fact that on 31 of 40 Buffalo pass attempts, the Pats, desperate for any semblance of a pass rush for going on three years now, rushed four men or less. Or the fact that with a 21-0 lead, there was little or no attempt to use the clock to their advantage, with the offense continuing to run a track meet (though in Belichick’s defense on this one, he may have known that even a three-TD lead wasn’t enough and thus felt the need to keep scoring). Look at all of these aspects of the loss. Then look at the bigger picture, which is that despite devoting one high draft pick after another to the defensive side of the ball going all the way back to 2007, the Pats still can’t stop anyone, have zero playmakers and can’t get off the field when they need to. Belichick really has his work cut out for him. He’s known as a defensive genius and rightly so. But that reputation fades a little bit more every week that this sorry unit goes out there to get carved up by journeymen like Fitzpatrick and Henne. He and his staff had better figure something out soon or yet another year will end in bitter disappointment.

AFC East Roundup – Week Three

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff.

A big week in the AFC East as two unbeatens are taken down, and a new team is at the top of the division…

Buffalo Bills (3-0, 1-0 in AFCE)

The Bills scored their biggest win since (fill in the blank). The Bills stormed back to beat the Patriots 34-31 at Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday afternoon. It was a win that prompted cheering in the press box from the Buffalo media, and apparently even a little trash talk aimed at their New England colleagues. Buffalo Rumblings credits the Bills’ secondary with a huge bounce-back from last week and gives Fred Jackson the game ball for the week.The win vaults the Bills to first place in the AFC East, and they are now the only unbeaten team in the entire conference.

The Bills look to move to 4-0 next week as they travel to Cincinnati to take on the 1-2 Bengals.

New York Jets (2-1, 0-0 in AFCE)

Jets officials celebrated the Patriots loss to the Bills, but then saw their own team get shredded by Darren McFadden and the Oakland Raiders in a 34-24 road loss. The Jets Blog found this one painful to recap. It was a painful game on the field for the Jets as well, as they’re concerned about a couple of injuries following the game. TJB realizes that this loss is not the end of world, as they still are tied with the Patriots. (Apparently the Bills aren’t worthy of fear/respect just yet.)

The Jets have another test this week as they travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens on Sunday Night Football.

New England Patriots (2-1, 1-1 in AFCE)

Is the Patriots defense as bad as it looks? After three weeks, you’ll find them at the bottom of most league categories. Can they improve? At this point, it doesn’t appear there is anywhere to go but up. Injuries have been a factor, but certainly not an excuse. Would things have been different yesterday with a full squad? That’s hard to say. Of course the Suzy Sunshines of the world (that would be me) will point out that it’s how you play in December and January, not September that counts. If the defense is still surrendering 400+ yards and 30 points a game in weeks 12-16, we’ll panic then.

The Patriots travel out to Oakland to take on those same Raiders next week, with a chance to pick up a “common opponent” game on the Jets.

Miami Dolphins (0-3, 0-1 in AFCE)

Things are not looking good for the Tony Sparano era in Miami. Rumors had the coach needing to win either yesterday or this coming week in order to keep his job, and yesterday resulted in a 17-16 loss on the road to the Cleveland Browns. The Phinsider says that the Dolphins had every chance to win this game. The defense played OK, but then let Colt McCoy have his way on the final Browns drive. The Dolphins rough start has the fandom apparently dealing with an issue that we’ve seen once or twice here in Boston as well – You don’t have the right to tell me, or anybody else, how to be a fan.

It does not get easier for the Dolphins this week as they head out San Diego for a meeting with the Chargers, with Miami still looking for that first win of the season, and to possibly save Sparano’s job.

This Week On Patriots All Access

Patriots All Access airs tonight on WBZ-TV at 7 p.m. and immediately following on Patriots.com.

Among the highlights…

  • Part two of Scott Zolak’s conversation with his former teammate, Drew Bledsoe, as the two discuss the emotional roller coaster that was Bledsoe’s final season with the Patriots.
  • Steve Burton sits down with Vince Wilfork to dissect the nose tackle’s first career interception.
  • Zolak discusses the win over the Chargers with Coach Belichick, who later previews Fred Jackson and the Bills on The Belestrator.
  • Sights and sounds from an explosive offensive performance in the home opener versus the Chargers.
  • Dan Roche looks at how depth is an issue heading into Week 3.
  • All Access follows Mike Wright’s “Path to the NFL.”
  • Patriots Football Weekly’s Paul Perillo and ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss share their opinion and analysis of the Bills matchup.

Preview:

Around The League – Week 2

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

It’s sort of hard to believe, but the Washington Redskins are off to a great start and in the midst of it, the consensus first pick in any all-time, most overrated coach fantasy draft Mike Shanahan deserves most of the credit.

The ‘Skins are 2-0 and have come from behind in both wins. In Week 1, Washington took the Giants best shot early, got a defensive TD (a huge development given how bad its defense was last year) and wound up running away from their division rivals in winning 28-14. Then last week against the Cardinals, the Redskins trailed 21-13 in the fourth quarter only to get nine points in the last 5:17 win and take it 22-21, getting 172 rushing yards from Tim Hightower and Roy Helu in the process.

But the key to Washington’s success thus far lies in Shanahan’s call just before the season began to give the starting quarterback job to none other than Rex Grossman. Grossman, who for some reason has been a laughingstock in NFL circles for most of his career despite leading the Bears to Super Bowl XLI, has been a revelation in his first regular starting gig since the Bears tossed him overboard not even a year removed from that Super Bowl berth. In the two wins, Grossman has completed 60 percent of his passes at almost eight yards per attempt and thrown four TD passes, including an 18-yarder to Santana Moss to cut Arizona’s lead to two late in last week’s game.

Shanahan hasn’t made too many good choices since John Elway retired after the 1998 season. But giving the Washington job to Grossman, who is remembered more for a handful of lousy games in Chicago than that Super Bowl run, was absolutely the right move. Apparently, he has cleared the locker room of the stench brought in by Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth last season and the Redskins are buying into his system (of course, that same system has produced one playoff win and just three postseason appearances in the past 12 years, but we’re trying to be nice here). With the Giants an injury-riddled mess and the Cowboys saddled with a faulty foundation thanks to owner Jerry Jones, don’t be surprised if the Redskins wind up having the best shot at giving the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. Green Bay: The Pack overcame a quick start by Cam Newton and the Panthers, erasing a 13-0 deficit to win 30-23 and move to 2-0. Aaron Rodgers stayed smoking hot with 308 more yards and two more scores and the defense (led by Charles Woodson’s two picks, two passes defensed, fumble recovery and five tackles), despite allowing another 400-yard day by Newton, again made enough plays to win. Green Bay moves into the division this week with an NFC Championship rematch against the Bears, and lost safety Nick Collins for the year to a neck injury. But the defending champs are still the team to beat.

2. New England: Wouldn’t it be great if the Pats could figure out how to play an entire game without having to send the defense onto the field? Their offense is so good right now, it makes up for the seemingly endless shortcomings of the D, but that’s not going to be the case every week. Still, even more props to the best QB there is, Tom Brady, for putting up 423 more yards and three more scores in a 35-21 wi over San Diego last week. Brady is now on pace to throw for over 7,500 yards this season. He’ll probably do it.

3. New Orleans: Drew Brees put up his second straight stellar game (26-of-37, 270 yards, three TDS, 118.1 passer rating) in beating the Bears for the first time in four tries. The Saints D, stomped on in Week 1 against the Packers, also stepped up with six sacks and a turnover while holding Chicago to just 246 total yards.

4. New York Jets: Week 1’s slog against the Cowboys was long since forgotten when the Jaguars hit the Meadowlands to meet the Jets and left without their dignity or a legit starting quarterback after a 32-3 loss. The Jets D held Jacksonville to 91 yards passing at only 3.6 yards per attempt, picked off four passes and had a safety, overcoming yet another mediocre day by quarterback Mark Sanchez.

5. (tie) Detroit/Houston: Two of the league’s most dysfunctional and/or disappointing teams crack the Top 5 for the first time ever by virtue of a couple impressive 2-0 starts. The Lions posted their most lopsided win in franchise history with their 48-3 pasting of Kansas City while the Texans shook off Arian Foster’s third hamstring tweak since training camp began and beat the Dolphins in Miami. Keep an eye on Houston running back Ben Tate, Foster’s rookie replacement, who has put up over 100 yards and a TD in each of his team’s first two games.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Kansas City: Where to start with the Chiefs? They’ve been outscored 89-10 in their first two games. Super back Jamaal Charles blew out his knee on the second play of their game against the Lions and joined fellow stars Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki on injured reserve. Matt Cassel suddenly can’t play; his 15-of-22, 133 yard, three INT performance against Detroit was only slightly better than his performance in Week 1. And now, apparently coach Todd Haley, who seems to be the most hated man in the NFL, is not getting along with GM Scott Pioli. It’s going to be a long year in KC.

2. Seattle: The Steelers got well on the lowly Seahawks, who had 164 total yards in their 24-0 loss in Pittsburgh. Seattle ran the ball just 13 times for 31 yards in the game, a bad sign when your quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson, who the Petesy Carroll chose over Matt Hasselbeck to lead his team straight into last place.

3. Indianapolis: The Colts actually led 9-7 in the first half last week. Then they got outscored 20-10 in ultimately losing to Cleveland in their home opener. It was Indy’s first loss to the Browns since 1994 and they didn’t score a touchdown until there were just 24 seconds left in the game while failing to even make a first down from the start of the third quarter until that final drive. It’s kind of cool seeing the Colts of all teams flail about like this, no?

4. Miami: The Dolphins, now losers of 11 out of 12 at home following last week’s 23-13 defeat to the Texans, got a 12-of-30, 170-yard game out of quarterback Chad Henne while newly acquired, “feature back” Reggie Bush rolled up a whopping 18 yards on just six carries and caught one whole pass for three yards. After the game, coach Tony Sparano confessed that he, “has no answers.” Sparano will not last the entire season and you can mark it, dude.

5. Minnesota: After pissing away a 17-7 halftime lead in their Week 1 loss, the Vikings pissed away a 17-0 halftime lead in their Week 2 loss, a brutal 24-20 defeat at the hands of the Bucs. Coach Leslie Frazier is now 3-5 as a head coach and proved his incompetence by having star receiver Percy Harvin sit for more than half his team’s offensive snaps despite catching seven passes for 76 yards.

What’s Trendy

- Josh Freeman, Bucs: Now through 26 NFL games, Freeman can boast a fourth quarter comeback in eight of them after last week’s win over Minnesota. Tampa was outgained 284-62 in the first half of that game, but Freeman finished up going 15-of-20 for 191 yards and a TD after halftime.

- Andy Dalton, Bengals: Cincinnati may not need Carson Palmer back now that it has Dalton, a rookie out of TCU. In his second career start, Dalton was 27-of-41 for 332 yards and two TDs with a 107 passer rating in close loss at Denver. What they do need, yet again, is the number of a good lawyer after receiver Jerome Simpson was detained and suspected of housing a pot distribution ring when 8.5 pounds of weed found to be delivered to his home.

- The Titans: After nearly pulling out a road win over Jacksonville in Week 1, Tennessee overpowered the Ravens 26-13 behind Hasselbeck’s best game in ages (30-of-42, 358 yards, one TD). The real story for the Titans, though, is receiver Kenny Britt, who had nine catches for 135 yards and a score against Baltimore, and has 14 catches for 271 yards and three scores through his first two games.

What’s Not

- Dunta Robinson, Falcons: Last season, Robinson became a poster boy for the league’s new safety rules for receivers after launching himself head first and spearing Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, causing one of the more scary looking injuries of the year. Robinson was fined $50,000 for that hit, so he followed it up in his next game against the Eagles, this past Sunday night, by doing virtually the same thing to another Philly receiver, Jeremy Maclin. After the game, Robinson, knucklehead that he is, complained about being called for a penalty  on the play, saying he though the hit was legal, even though he clearly led with the crown of his helmet and had his arms at his side the whole time, just like when he hit Jackson. We don’t really curse that much here at Patriots Daily, but in this case, who cares? Dunta Robinson is an asshole.

- Mike Martz, Bears: In their 30-13 loss to New Orleans, the Bears called 52 pass plays against 11 run plays. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked six times and hit or knocked down 16 more. Martz, notorious for years for calling such lopsided games as offensive coordinator and head coach of the Rams as well as OC of San Francisco, Detroit and now Chicago, at least took responsibility, saying, “If you’re looking for blame, blame me. I did a poor job of coaching and we just didn’t play very well.” Someone should remind Martz that Bears have a lousy offensive line but do have an All-Pro running back in Matt Forte. Otherwise Cutler may not last another month let alone the season.

- Philip Rivers, Chargers: Rivers isn’t here for his overall acumen; he’s an excellent quarterback and he put up big numbers in last week’s loss to the Pats. He’s here because of his record against New England, now 1-5, the win coming against Cassel in 2008, not Brady. And while we’re here, the Boston Herald’s assertion last Sunday that with Peyton Manning down, Rivers is the new big-name QB rival of Brady, was so stupid, so ill-informed and so poorly conceived that it was borderline irresponsible. When Rivers actually wins a game against the Pats when Brady plays or loses without being behind multiple boneheaded, horribly timed turnovers, or oh I don’t know, wins more than two playoff games in six years, perhaps we can revive the topic.

And finally…

The Patriots are in Buffalo to play the Bills this week and it’s not going to be the walkover you might expect. Bill Belichick owns a 20-2 record in his Pats coaching career against Buffalo and the only games I can remember even being close were the 31-0 thrashing in Week 1 of 2003 (aka the Lawyer Milloy game) and Week 1 two years ago when the Pats scored twice in the last two minutes to eke out a one-point win on Monday Night Football. But this Bills team is different. Or at least it looks different through the season’s first two weeks.

Buffalo is 2-0 and has scored 79 points combined in those two wins. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard alum, has completed more than 63 percent of his passes and seven TDs against just one pick. Running back Fred Jackson has 229 yards and is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt. And in last week’s roller coaster, 38-35 win over Oakland, the Bills, who scored a TD on every second half possession (a first for any team since 2007), they came back from a 21-3 halftime deficit to post the victory. Given the issues the Pats have had on defense not just this season but over the past three, this explosion of points and yards by Buffalo could well prove deadly.

It’s only been two weeks, but Buffalo is atop the AFC East standings along with the Pats and Jets. Not to take anything away from the Bills but their opponents up to this point (the Chiefs and Raiders) don’t scare too many people. A win this week would force the NFL to start taking them seriously for the first time in years. Right now, the line on this game has the Pats as nine-point favorites. Take the Bills and the points.

First Impressions – Buffalo Bills

The 2-0 Patriots travel to the 2-0 Bills up in Orchard Park, New York for a division game that features two prolific offenses. This is going to be one of the better Bills teams the Patriots have seen in years. And we homers here at Patriots Daily have a surprising prediction for this usually one-sided matchup. The Bills are good. The Patriots are good. In the end, the Patriots are probably better and should have a better season. But this Sunday, it just may well be the timing is perfect for the Bills pulling off a win against division bully New England for the first time since 2003.

One-Sided Rivalry: Last week the Patriots honored their former Quarterback Drew Bledsoe as he was elected to the team Hall of Fame. Its amazing to think Bledsoe has been retired now from the NFL for 5 seasons. And he is 8 seasons removed from beating the Patriots 31-0 as the starting Bills quarterback in a game that opened the 2003 NFL season. Its really is crazy to consider that the last QB for the Bills to beat the Patriots was last week standing on the field retired in a red blazer and has been out of the league for half a decade. But its true. Since that time, the Patriots have gone 15-0 against their division rivals to the north. Of those 15 wins, eleven have been by double digits or more. Nearly half, seven games, have been by three touchdowns or more. Only twice have the Bills even cracked twenty points in any of the 15 games. The aggregate points for the last 15 matchups favors the Patriots 435 to 163, which means the average game has been 29 to 10.8. That is as dominant a stretch you’ll ever see in the NFL by one team over another, particularly a division rival.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, #14, Quarterback: The Harvard grad has played so well most of last year and early this year (Throwing 7 Touchdowns to only 1 Interception) the Bills are in serious talks with him about a high paying contract extension.. Fitzpatrick is a wicked smahhhhht, as we say here in Boston allegedly, quarterback with a very strong arm and his accuracy has improved. He seems to work well in Head Coach Chan Gailey’s offense. Gailey himself is an excellent offensive mind and that has no doubt helped Fitzpatrick improve greatly. One thing Fitzpatrick can do is scramble a bit and can even throw on the run, so that is something the Patriots will have to look out for. The Patriots have usually contained Fitzpatrick pretty well. He had a big game early last year, but in the rematch in Buffalo, the Bills’ offense was held to 3 points and Fitzpatrick committed some of his worst turnovers of the year. We’ll see if the Pats had figured something out or it was just a bad game Sunday.

Fred Jackson, #22, Running Back: Jackson bounced around for years playing in the United Indoor Football League and NFL Europe before finally establishing himself with the Bills a few years back. He’s become one of the more respected players on the Bills. The Patriots players and coaches in particular have always been complimentary of Jackson, who obviously gives a good, tough, physical effort when he is in the game. This year Jackson merely leads the NFL in rushing thru two weeks, putting up 100 yard games both outings. He as much as anything makes the Bills offense, and Fitzpatrick, better by creating a difficult to defend balance. The Patriots seem more committed to a pressure attack and less about stopping the run when they really want to. That could be the formula the Bills need to try to score with the Patriots and beat them for the first time since 2003.

Injuries: The Patriots are coping with a lot of injuries, but the Bills have some of their own. Wide receiver and kick returner Roscoe Parrish was placed on injured reserve this week and will miss the rest of the year. He was one of the few Bills whose played well at times in recent years versus the Patriots. They’ve also lost for the season other guys that figured in their plans such as wide receiver Marcus Easley and linebacker Reggie Torbor. Another important player Stevie Johnson, their best receiver, is questionable and did not practice on Wednesday with a groin injury. He insisted he’d play, however. Cornerback Terrence McGee and linebacker Kirk Morrison also sat out practice on Wednesday. Both teams could have their depth tested as they’ve been dealing with a run of injuries recently.

Bills Fans: Bills fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years in this series, or in general for that matter. I suppose they’re lucky they even still have a team, though it remains to be seen how long that will be true. Nevertheless, they seem enthusiastic, even confident, about their 2-0 Bills chances. Lets take a look at the popular Bills message board “Two Bills Drive

DrDareustein says:If we sack Brady and they call a weak Roughing the Passer call, then I hope on the next play Merriman/Dareus purposely knock him out of the game and take another 15 yards.

If we’re going to get penalized for hitting him, make it count. Take him out.”

Sage football minds like The Big Cat question how good Tom Brady really is:

I’m with you Clippers. Brady walks around the field like he owns the place, but he’s the classic little guy chirping while the big, scary army stands behind him.

I’ve said it once, I’ve said 1,000 times since, without that line in front of him, he’s a worthless, ineffective garbage quarterback.”

Intriguing insights, TBC. So, should the Bills reconsider that “take him out” thing then?

There are a few Bills fans, however, who seems a bit shell-shocked and lacking in confidence after fifteen straight beatings at the hands of the Patriots:

Clippers of NFL says the way for Buffalo to win is simple:

pay them under the table to throw the game

Prediction: It has to end sometime. It just does. Fifteen games of one team winning against another is like a millennium in the NFL. And this year, the Bills have a good offense, good schemes, good coaches and are playing at home. With the Patriots missing big weapon Aaron Hernandez and banged up in the secondary, this is the weekend the Bills end eight years of frustration. Bills 30 Patriots 27