September 28, 2016

Patriots/Colts 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 heavy favorite winning 94% of simulations over the Indianapolis Colts. Tom Brady is averaging 299 passing yards and 2.7 TDs per simulation and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is projected for 74 rushing yards and a 55% chance of having at least 1 rushing TD. In the 6% of simulations where Indianapolis Colts wins, Dan Orlovsky averages 1.65 TD passes vs 0.47 interceptions, while in losses he has a ratio of 0.97 TDs to 0.94 interceptions. Joseph Addai averages 41 rushing yards and 0.36 rushing TDs when Indianapolis Colts wins and 26 yards and 0.15 TDs in losses. New England Patriots has a 64% chance of forcing more turnovers than they commit. Positive turnover margin helps them win 97% of the time. SPREADS / TOTALS: Current Point Spread is NE -21 — Over/Under line is 49.5

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

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS ATS RECORD NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ATS RECORD ATS EDGE
All Games 2-9-0 All Games 7-4-0 New England Patriots
Road Games 1-4-0 Home Games 3-2-0 New England Patriots
When Underdog 2-8-0 When Favored 6-4-0 New England Patriots
Non-Division Opp 2-6-0 Non-Division Opp 4-3-0 New England Patriots
Opp .500+ Record 2-4-0 Opp Under .500 2-0-0 New England Patriots

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

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS ATS RECORD NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ATS RECORD ATS EDGE
All Games 8-8-1 All Games 11-6-0 New England Patriots
Road Games 4-3-1 Home Games 5-4-0 Indianapolis Colts
When Underdog 2-0-0 When Favored 8-6-0 Indianapolis Colts
Non-Division Opp 6-4-1 Non-Division Opp 7-3-0 New England Patriots
Opp .500+ Record 7-1-1 Opp .500+ Record 5-2-0 Indianapolis Colts

OVER-UNDER TRENDS

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS O-U-P RECORD NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS O-U-P RECORD O-U EDGE
All Totals (O-U-P) 6-5-0 All Totals (O-U-P) 6-5-0 OVER
On Road 3-2-0 At Home 2-3-0 No Edge
All Totals Last Season 10-7-0 All Totals Last Season 14-3-0 OVER
On Road Last Season 7-1-0 At Home Last Season 8-1-0 OVER

AFC Playoff Picture

The Raiders have taken over the lead in the AFC West at 7-4 after winning 3 in a row.  They are 75.2 percent likely to win the division and currently hold a one game lead over the Broncos.  Tim Tebow has led Denver to wins in 4 of the last 5 games, making his team the biggest gainer in the projected standings this week.  The Broncos are 20.1 percent likely to win the division.  San Diego has fallen off a cliff losing six games in a row, and now, the Chargers only have a 4.6 percent chance at making the playoffs.  The Chiefs are going nowhere fast with Tyler Palko and are almost eliminated from the playoff chase.

Three AFC North teams are again projected as playoff teams this week.  Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both better than 96 percent likely to reach the postseason.  The Ravens, though, have the inside track at the division at 51.5 percent followed by the Steelers at 42.6 percent.  Cincinnati is the leader for the final Wild Card spot making the playoffs 57.5 percent of the time.  Cleveland has actually played some decent football of late, but the Browns reached 0.0 percent in playoff probability this week.

Houston is down to its third string quarterback, but still leads the AFC South by two games and is the overwhelming favorite to win the division.  The Texans did lose 5.2 percentage points in playoff probability this week, but they are still 89.6 percent likely to reach the postseason.  Tennessee still has a chance of catching the Texans, gaining 6.9 percentage points in this week’s projections.  Jacksonville fell to 0.0 percent probability after another loss.  Indianapolis has an 18.5 percent chance of finishing the season winless.

New England is getting closer to lock status for the playoffs at 99.6 percent probability.  The Jets survived a battle with division rival Buffalo to stay in the hunt for a Wild Card spot.  New York is still in a precarious position, but reaches the playoffs in 21.6 percent of simulations.  Buffalo was effectively eliminated with the loss, losing 9.5 percentage points this week.  Miami came close to winning its fourth in a row; but instead, the Dolphins were eliminated completely from playoff contention according to AccuScore simulations.

AFC WEEK 12 REVIEW PLAYOFF % CHANCE
TEAM WK 12 WK 13 % DIFF WIN DIV
DENVER BRONCOS 20.3% 29.7% 9.4% 20.1%
CINCINNATI BENGALS 49.0% 57.5% 8.5% 5.9%
TENNESSEE TITANS 16.3% 23.1% 6.9% 13.0%
OAKLAND RAIDERS 75.1% 78.9% 3.8% 75.2%
BALTIMORE RAVENS 92.9% 96.3% 3.4% 51.5%
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 98.8% 99.6% 0.8% 99.4%
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 0.9% 0.9% -0.1% 0.8%
MIAMI DOLPHINS 0.1% 0.0% -0.1% 0.0%
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 0.2% 0.0% -0.2% 0.0%
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 97.3% 96.9% -0.4% 42.6%
CLEVELAND BROWNS 0.7% 0.0% -0.7% 0.0%
NEW YORK JETS 23.2% 21.6% -1.6% 0.4%
HOUSTON TEXANS 94.8% 89.6% -5.2% 87.0%
BUFFALO BILLS 10.5% 1.5% -9.0% 0.2%
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20.0% 4.6% -15.4% 3.9%

Making The Grades – Patriots at Eagles

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

Doesn’t it seem like ages ago when all the haters out there were standing tall, beating their chests and harping on the completely hackneyed idea that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is finished? Three weeks by unofficial count. Over the course of that stretch, the Pats have embarked on a three-game winning streak during which they’ve rolled up an aggregate 109-39 margin of victory. That’s an average of about 36- 13. Washed up? Hardly.

The latest example of the Pats rise from some mid-October ashes came on Sunday in Philadelphia where they beat the miserably coached disappointments of the season also known as the Eagles. After falling behind 10-0 early thanks to a couple of deep passes hit by Philly backup QB Vince Young, the Pats regrouped, adjusted to what the Eagles came out showing them and blew the doors, scoring 38 of the next 48 points en route to a 38-20 victory that wasn’t remotely that close. The Pats continued to click on offense while getting just enough out of their undermanned, no-name defense and took great advantage of the horrible, misguided coaching of the Eagles, a team that will never, ever win anything as long as its current head coach and staff is in charge. But perhaps most impressive of all, the Pats continued to display their team wide toughness and resiliency. Playing undermanned yet again, on the road, against a desperate team and falling behind early, they simply got up, dusted themselves off and took the game over, dominating from the 8:19 mark of the first quarter and well beyond the 8:35 mark of the fourth, the time of their final TD, when the miserable Eagles fans left Lincoln Financial Field en masse while calling for the head of coach Andy Reid. With five games left, all against mediocre competition, there’s no reason to think this team won’t finish 13-3 and given the lack of any real dominant team in the AFC, there’s also little reason to believe that despite the post-season failures of the past couple years, that they can’t make a playoff run. But those are conversations for down the road. For now, let’s get to this week’s report card.

OFFENSE: B+
Quarterbacks: A
Early on, it looked like another week of waiting for Tom Brady to get his tennis elbow loosened up before the Pats offense could really get moving. But as opposed to the past few games, this week’s wait lasted one drive. The second time they had the ball, the Pats went 80 yards in 12 plays over 6:52 of clock time and it was off to the races. Brady completed passes to just four receivers but who cares? He was surgical in doing so, looking vintage in picking apart the Eagles woeful pass defense, which chose to sit back in a soft zone all day while Brady found one wide open man after another. He finished the day 24-of-34 for 361 yards and three TDs and even though he got hit a couple times early, his uniform was virtually spotless when Brian Hoyer took over with seven minutes left to play (even after running the ball five times for 28 whole yards and looking slower than a walrus in the process). Brady was on the same page as all of his intended targets all day, looking otherworldly in completing long catch-and-runs to Deion Branch, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. He and Branch looked like their 2004 selves in recognizing one of the many dead spots in the Philly D and turning a 10-yard comeback route into a 63-yard sprint while he communicated telepathically with Welker on a 41-yard TD pass, the first of two to Welker on the day. Brady has always been a master of taking what the defense gives him. On Sunday, the Eagles gave him whatever he wanted and he responded just like the Hall-of-Famer he is.

Running Backs: B
It took 36 carries for the Pats to gain 104 yards on the ground (and Brady had the highest YPA with 5.6). But when BenJarvus Green-Ellis got rolling early, it set the stage for the play-action pass, which in turn softened up the Eagles defense even more, enabling Brady to do whatever he damn well pleased. BJGE finished with a modest 44 yards on just 14 carries, but he scored two TDs (the Pats first two of the game), his first time reaching the end zone since Week 5. Elsewhere, it was a mixed bag. No one else carried the ball more than seven times (Shane Vereen, who gained 18 yards again all in garbage time, but showed some more impressive credentials in doing so). Danny Woodhead continued to deliver when called upon, picking up 20 hard earned yards on just four attempts. About the only place to find anything to complain about was yet another no-show for Stevan Ridley (four carries, four yards), who has completely fallen off the map since his breakouts of Weeks 3 and 4. It would be nice to see the Pats commit a little bit more to the run; there were 36 runs against 34 pass attempts but several of the rushes came after the game was well in hand and while it’s nice to see the coaching staff try to keep everyone involved, shortening the rotation a bit, especially given Ridley’s struggles, might be a good idea. But these are minor problems at most. The paltry YPA notwithstanding, Sunday was a successful day for the running game.

Wide Receivers: A-
Boy were Welker and Branch awesome on Sunday. The duo combined for 240 yards and two TDs on 14 catches and both were so zeroed in with Brady, it was a sight to behold. Welker, who now has 82 catches for 1,143 yards and eight TDs on the season, looked as tough and powerful on his second TD as he did instinctive and smart on his first. It was another one of those option routes on which he can decide midway through whether or not he’s coming in or going out and on this one, he stayed inside, picked the ball out of the air and raced to the pylon, reaching for the score with a dive and just sneaking it in. And Branch, who was lauded over and over again by Belichick after the game (at one point, the coach said that, “we could all learn a lot from spending time around a guy like Deion”) had his best game since Week 2, a major development given how little there is at the wideout position after you get past him and Welker. The Eagles and their awful defensive scheme played right into the hands of a receiver like Branch; in-cuts, hitch and comeback routes within 10-12 yards of the line of scrimmage, open on nearly all of them. It was a banner day for these two, so much so that Tiquan Underwood (yes Tiquan Underwood, signed this week to replace Chad Ochocinco, as if anyone would have missed him) dropping a sure TD pass right on his hands in the second quarter was completely forgettable. About the only curiosity here was the absence once again of Taylor Price, who was dressed but didn’t play a single snap. The guy has been here almost two years and some practice squad scrub (Underwood) jumped him on the depth chart despite being signed to the active roster about 15 minutes ago. If things weren’t going so well right now, this could be cause for alarm. As is, it’s merely a head-scratcher.

Tight Ends: A
Rob Gronkowski, cyborg extraordinaire, took a huge hit early on and seemed to take a while to get on track after that (he even had to come off the field for a play). But in his stead, Hernandez stepped up and provided his usual steady as she goes performance. A-Herb caught six passes for 62 yards and it seemed like something cool happened on all of them. One was a one-hander snared right at his waist in traffic. Another was a simple slip screen on which he showed some of his wide receiver-like skills in eluding a couple would-be tacklers and outrunning a couple others. A-Herb has taken a back seat to the Gronk Show the past few weeks but make no mistake, he’s so so good and if he stays healthy and in everyone’s good graces, he may wind up just as valuable as Gronk somewhere down the line. As for Gronk, his numbers were down a bit this week but naturally, he scored a TD on a 24-yard strike from Brady, the TD that completed the scoring for the Pats on the day. Even on his quieter days, the T-One Million still provieds plenty of positives.

Offensive Line: B
More injuries to this group; Sebastian Vollmer, who has been off all year, mostly because of being hurt early in the season, suffered a foot injury and missed the second half. Before that, he was blown away on the only sack allowed by this group all day. Vollmer was so good last year that his shortcomings this season have been far more glaring. It will be interesting to see how well he functions when fully healthy, even if that doesn’t happen this year. Brian Waters gave up a couple holds late in the game but otherwise was his usual dependable self, looking back at Brady before every shotgun snap then passing information along to third-string center Ryan Wendell as well as helping shore up that part of the line in addition to handling his own responsibilities. Waters has been an unsung hero this year; he’s easily the most important free agent acquisition along with Andre Carter and his presence has been invaluable. Matt Light shook off last week’s ankle roll and played very well and Logan Mankins somehow avoided a penalty. Imagine that. The Eagles strong suit on defense coming in was their pass rush but they only registered the one sack and even though they were buzzing around Brady a fair amount in the first quarter, only two hits on the Pats QB were recorded. Not too flashy, but very nice work by the boys up front.

DEFENSE: B
Defensive Line: B
Not too much from this group in the way of individual efforts but that’s OK. It’s not their fault that Reid predictably chose to ignore the fact that he has the NFL’s leading rusher and rushing offense and that the Pats allow over four yards per attempt by giving all-world back LeSean McCoy 14 touches for the entire game. A real coach who knew what he was doing and wasn’t stubbornly married to the same philosophy regardless of personnel that has never really worked for him in 12-plus years would have recognized that McCoy should have carried the ball at least 25 times. But that’s a digression; what’s important is that while the Pats didn’t get the pressure from up front that they’ve been used to the past few weeks (Carter and Mark Anderson had relatively quiet afternoons), they got enough and were able to stifle what there was of a running game. The Eagles leading rusher was Young and it’s a safe bet that Belichick and his staff prayed for such a circumstance while getting ready for this game. The biggest game from this group came from Kyle Love, who stuffed some run while also getting to Young a couple times. Everyone else, even Shaun Ellis and Jermaine Cunningham, who combined for seven whole snaps, was solid.

Linebackers: B+
In the absence of Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich continues to have the most impact among this group. Ninkovich, who spent a fair amount of time lined up down with the big guys, rang up another sack while also contributing two tackles for negative yards and another hit on Young. Ninkovich seems to play like this in spurts; he’s been great the past three weeks but had been near invisible for a stretch right before that. Here’s hoping if he goes to sleep at any point in the near future, he wakes up by the time the playoffs roll around. Jerod Mayo had three tackles but one was for a loss as opposed to after 12 or more yards and he’s presided over this defensive renaissance so more power to him. And Tracy White has mercifully, officially supplanted Gary Guyton as the third backer without Spikes available, playing 64 of 73 snaps (as opposed to 11 for Guyton) in addition to all of his special teams duties. He had four tackles and covered pretty well too, giving up one significant pass on a play where he was in the right place, just a little but slow to react. White has been better than Guyton consistently since starting to get run with the regular defense a few weeks ago and he most definitely deserves to keep getting playing time when Spikes returns. Another fine day for the linebackers.

Defensive Backs: C+
A good chunk of Young’s 400 yards passing came late, when the game was out of reach. But 400 yards passing still doesn’t cut it. Credit should be given to Antwuan Molden, who had his best game as a Patriot by far and registered his first career INT. BUt after that, you have to go down the line to find another good performance and when you do find it, you may be surprised to know who it belongs to. Yep, it’s Julian Edelman, who after Sunday, can legitimately lay claim to being the Pats second best corner with the secondary as presently constituted. Edelman is instinctive and smart on defense and boy, can he tackle. He couldn’t have made a better play on a scrambling Young to prevent what would have been a huge first down inside the Pats 5 in the third quarter, lining up the Philly QB, keeping his eyes centered, holding his ground, making a big stick and wrapping Young up before flinging himself and Young to the ground. There were a couple of other plays he woulda/shoulda/coulda made if not for getting screened out of blocked; the point is, he knows how to play the position and he’s been playing it at a fairly high level for three weeks now. When Devin McCourty comes back (likely this week against the Colts), Edelman may get fewer snaps back there but it stands to reason the way he’s played that he should be covering the slot at least instead of Phillip Adams. It’s true. Julian Edelman is currently the New England Patriots second best corner, trailing only Kyle Arrington, and the New England Patriots are currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Unbelievable.

Special Teams: B-
Seeing Stephen Gostkowski miss another very makeable field goal (39 yards) was disheartening though he redeemed himself later on with a 45-yarder. And there was actually a kick return that went past the 20 when Woodhead ran one back 34 yards. And once again, the majority of the praise has to go to our man Zoltan, who is making a real case for being the best punter in the AFC. He averaged over 48 yards on three boomers and put two of em inside the 20. Eagles return man/receiver/knucklehead DeSean Jackson is one of the most dangerous punt returners in the league and he had exactly none on the day. Good work, Zoltan. And of course, we have to mention Edelman, whom I’m terribly sorry I questioned a few weeks ago, again. In addition to playing offense and defense, he returned a couple punts and made a tackle on kick coverage too. James Ihedigbo is calling him Slash. A perfect moniker.

Coaching: A-
Another slow start though that seems to be OK with Belichick and staff. It’s like they rope-a-dope their opponents for a few minutes, trying to draw them out, see what they’re thinking, before turning around, dodging what’s being thrown at them and exploding. On offense, the coaches saw that the Eagles could be run on early and that would soften them up underneath, so they pounced. And on D, they knew early on that the Eagles wouldn’t dream of running so they played pass and even though there were a ton more yards allowed, they held firm with their standing as 10th in the league in points allowed, a number far more important that yardage totals. Along with the excellent in-game moves, the work done during the week must be mentioned; given everything stacked against the Pats coming in, the fact that they were so ready to play and so well prepared, in addition to the players toughness and fortitude mentioned earlier, spoke volumes. Of course, when a guy like Belichick goes up against a guy like Reid (who, in addition to everything else, now has to deal with a couple of his assistants getting into it on the sideline during the game), it’s almost always going to be a mismatch and if you don’t believe that, just look at the adjustments made by both teams during the game. Oh wait, you can’t. Because the Eagles didn’t make any. They didn’t recognize that the Pats were on to them early so they didn’t change a thing and thus, are now done. It never helps when guys like Jackson drop multiple perfectly thrown TD passes or when Young, playing in place of Michael Vick, who to be fair is having a lousy season, makes some of the decisions he made regardless of the 400 yards passing. But when the opponent’s coach is as outclassed and overmatched as was the case with Reid on Sunday, not only does it make life easier for the Pats, it magnifies just how good Belichick is and just how good a job he and his staff are doing. The Eagles have supposed All-Pros up and down their roster and they’re 4-7, losers of five out of six at home. The Pats start Sterling Moore at safety and have their No. 4 receiver making plays at cornerback. And not much more need be said.

The Trap Of Finishing 13-3

By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

It is amusing to hear all the ‘are the Patriots going to go 13-3?’ talk after Monday night’s pounding of the lowly Chiefs considering how dire the situation looked just a few weeks ago.

Don’t get me wrong, achieving a 13-3 or a 12-4 record is an amazing feat regardless of how it is achieved and it would be hypocritical to say otherwise. However, after being burned in recent years by a 16-0 and a 14-2 season, fans have been quite loudly yearning for playoff victories and getting their hands one more time on a Lombardi trophy before Belichick and Brady’s glorious careers finally sunset.

So with this in mind, can the cupcake schedule of facing Colts, Broncos, Redskins, Dolphins and the imploding Bills really prepare the Patriots for a playoff run?

Everyone is well aware of how beat-up the Patriots defense is and how they rank dead last in yards allowed, but fewer people are openly discussing the Patriots offensive woes. The Tom Brady-led high-powered machine, surgically cuts up opposing teams and usually has to wave off claims of whether running up the score is unsportsmanlike or not.

However the game plan to stop New England is pretty straight-forward:

  • Create pressure on the quarterback with just a four-man rush
  • Doubleteam Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski
  • Win time of possession battle by continuously converting third downs.

Tom Brady, like every other mortal, is much less accurate when he doesn’t get a chance to set his feet. The pressure also disrupts an already average rushing attack, forcing Brady to make the perfect pass every time. Obviously, this is much easier said than done, and can only really be accomplished with an amazing defensive line. However, some of the teams that the Patriots will have to face in the playoffs can execute the above stated game plan.New Englandwas bounce three times in recent history with just such a game plan. This year the losses to the Steelers and Giants were eerily reminiscent of the Patriots past January woes.

So how is playing some of the worst teams in football going to help the Patriots get ready for the post-season? Sure, they will be able to get healthy without losing ground in the standings, and their confidence and momentum will be high, which shouldn’t be understated. However, achieving a 13-3 or 12-4 record without facing a playoff team after Thanksgiving should give pundits and fans pause.

Therefore, we should not overlook the Eagles just because they are 4-6. They just beat a good Giants team and have a great defense when they’re not shooting themselves in the foot. For the Patriots sake, I hope that the Eagles don’t implode and are able to give the Patriots their last real test before the playoffs start.

Patriots Buffet Table – Patriots at Eagles

By Chef

Is it not enough that the Pats had to play one of the horrible football franchises from this state? They had to play both in one year?

Sure they may have had some success but at what cost? A hearty tsk tsk and what about the children to both of them.

Oh well, not everything from Pennsylvania is bad, just their evil football teams and Arlen Spector. The food and beer is good.

What to eat

We already made Philly Cheese Steak in the past  (check it out, it’s good!) so let’s make some soft pretzels.

Pennsylvania produces 80% of the country’s pretzels. See! I told you not to judge PA by it’s football teams.

We’re going to make our own. Why? Because it’s easy but seems hard. Also you can make stuffed pretzels, and nothing is better than a stuffed pretzel. Unless it’s beating a team from Pennsylvania and then eating their pretzels.

Soft Pretzels

1.5 cups warm water, should feel slightly warm to the touch 105-110 degrees
1 tbs sugar
2 tsp table salt
1 pack active dry yeast
22 oz all-purpose flour, about 4.5 cups
2 oz butter
Vegetable oil
1 cup baking soda
Pretzel salt, this can be hard to find and kosher can sub

This is baking, so it is important to be precise in your measurements, especially the flour.

You can do this by hand, but it’s much easier with a stand mixer and dough attachment. A hand mixer will not do the job. If you don’t have a stand mixer you’ll have to knead the dough.

Combine the water, sugar, yeast and table salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it sit until the mixture begins to foam, 5-10 minutes. Melt the butter and add it and the flour mix on low speed until well combined.

Change to medium speed and mix until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover the dough with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for an hour, the dough will double in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Fill a pot with a gallon of water, add the baking soda and bring to a boil.

Put the dough on a slightly oiled surface. Split into 8 pieces. Like a kid working with playdoh, roll out each piece of dough into a 2 foot rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the sheet pan.

One at a time place the pretzels into the boiling water for 45 seconds. A large spatula is useful for holding them under the water and removing.

As you remove each, return to the sheet pan and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Again if you can’t get pretzel salt then kosher salt works

Bake to a dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I know you are all thinking… Excuse me, but you mentioned stuffed pretzels?

Yup, the only change happens at that “Split into 8 pieces” step. Cut each piece in two. So you have 16 foot long ropes.

Take each piece and roll out with a rolling pin. You’ll get them to about 1 feet by 6 inches wide. Spread a topping in the middle, leaving half an inch around all 4 sides.

Roll up the dough into a cigar shape and pinch down the ends and side. Crimp well as you’ll still be boiling them for 30 seconds.

Cook for about 4 minutes longer than above.

What sorts of toppings?
Shredded cheddar
Chocolate
Shredded mozzarella, pizza sauce, pepperoni
Honey mustard
Cinnamon Sugar
Maple Syrup
Honey
Peanut Butter

Anything you want really that won’t soak through. Make 16 different ones and eat them all yourself as the others cry.

The pretzels will last a few days, whether they have to be refrigerated or not depends on what you stuff them with.

What to drink

Penn Brewery finally started distributing to New England this year. Sure we already have tons of great beer, but Penn is a German style brewery as opposed to most craft brewers that follow Americanized versions of
English and Belgian traditions.

My favorite is the Penn Dark. A 5% ABV Munich Dunkel, this dark lager is a bit fuller in body than many lighter lagers. Some roast, toffee and earthy/herbal flavors.

Speaking of Octoberfest, Penn has two.The flagship is the oddly named Penn Pilsner. Odd because this is a Vienna Lager, a fairly rare style related to the Octoberfest. 5% ABV, malty with some caramel, a great food beer.

The seasonal Penn Octoberfest is mainly in the style of the modern German Fest beer, really just a larger Munich Helles than an Octoberfest. At 6% ABV this golden beer is stronger than the German examples however. I believe it’s strong enough to qualify as a stark (strong) beer instead of a Voll (full) beer which is the category Fest beers fall in Germany.

The better of their Octoberfests is the late Winter and Spring seasonal Marzen. 6% ABV like the Octoberfest, but this Amber beeris more like a bigger version of the Penn Pilsner. Far superior to their Octoberfest. This one will
show up in about a month.

Hopefully we’ll be getting the winter seasonal St Nikolaus Bock. Not much stronger than the two listed above at 6.5% ABV, but this Bock beer is much darker. Flavors of bread crusts and chocolate highlight this rich, chewy beer. No spices unlike too many other winter seasonals, just malty goodness.

On the lighter side Penn does make a German Pilsner called Kaiser Pils.

Light in body and color, very dry and hoppy.I don’t know if they stopped sending this one up here, I haven’t seen it after the first time their beers showed up.

Penn Gold is their lightest beer. 4% in the Munich Helles style. Helles meaning clear or bright. If you haven’t had a Helles, they’re comparable to a softer, less hoppy Pilsner.

Penn Weizen is a year round beer but hasn’t shown up yet. I’m holding out hope it will be a summer seasonal for this market. The 5% ABV Hefeweizen is the best I’ve had from a US brewery. Not my favorite style, but if Penn Weizen was around the style would start climbing for me.

Around The League – Week 11

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
The Patriots play the Eagles this week and while some of this space has always been reserved for critiques of the Philadelphia coach, there hasn’t been too much time spent on the actual team. So why not start now?
At 4-6, there are few teams in the league as disappointing as the Eagles. When the lockout ended, Philly went nuts, throwing big money and huge contracts at one name free agent after another. The Eagles brought in the top two corners on the market (Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), top-flight pass rusher (Jason Babin), one of their arch rivals biggest weapons (Steve Smith) and a couple former top-five picks (Vince Young, Ronnie Brown) while also lavishing QB MIchael Vick with the second $100 million contract of his career.Young, always thinking, referred to them as the “Dream Team.” Breathless experts picked them to win the Super Bowl. And then, the games started. Philly lost four in a row after winning in Week 1 then pissed away a modest, two-game winning streak with a couple more losses. There have been breakdowns in every area; the offense, the defense, the special teams, even the locker room atmosphere have all been compromised in one way or another. Four losses have come in games they led in the fourth quarter. The Eagles feel like a fantasy team trying to play real football. There doesn’t seem to be much common ground on this team. And, their head coach being Andy Reid and all, they are wilting under the pressure of their gigantic expectations.

Philly isn’t quite buried yet. After beating the Giants last week, the Eagles are 4-6 but are 3-1 in the NFC East. Getting to five wins in the division would be huge but first and foremost, they have to win every week to keep pace with the Cowboys, now atop the standings and who they will play in Dallas on Christmas Eve. To put it bluntly, they are desperate and already in playoff mode. Add that to the fact that they are oozing with talent on offense, with the league’s No. 1 rusher LeSean McCoy leading the way, and they are also dangerous. If they beat the Pats, the Eagles have a couple of winnable games (Seattle, Miami) on tap and could be back over .500 just like that. And given both the Cowboys and Giants propensity to puke on their shoes when it matters most, they could sneak into a wild card spot with a few breaks.

Or they may lose again on Sunday, finish 6-10 and finally, finally make a coaching change. That’s the more likely scenario.

This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. Green Bay: Surprise! The Packers blew out the Lions on Turkey Day, are now 11-0 for the first time in franchise history and have won 17 straight games going back to last season. Also, just read that through 11 games, Aaron Rodgers passer rating is 128.0. In 2007, when the Patriots were 11-0, Tom Brady’s passer rating was 127.9. Unreal stuff.
2. New Orleans: This is almost a default pick, as the Saints were on a bye last week. But their experience, super powers on offense and fantastic QB/coach combo give them the edge over a host of excellent, just not Green Bay, NFC contenders.
3. (tie) Baltimore/Pittsburgh: Fitting that these two teams are so so close together this year. What separates them are the Ravens two head-to-head wins but it’s hard to think of two rivals who are as similar in so many ways as these AFC North foes. Baltimore took on the super tough, physical 49ers last night and beat the snot out of them in winning a game that felt a lot like most of their games against the Steelers. Some day, the Ravens will figure out how to avoid playing down to lousy competition. But as constituted, they are a tough, tough team and their defense looks like it’s rounding into form. Oh and by the way, Pittsburgh fans: After the win over San Francisco, Ray Rice called the Niners, “the best team we’ve played all year.” Just so you know.
4. San Francisco: Give the Niners a lot of credit for hanging in with the Ravens as long as they did. Their limited offense was exposed somewhat in the 16-6 loss, which snapped an 8-game winning streak; their line couldn’t protect QB Alex Smith to the tune of nine sacks and they gained just 170 total yards (only 96 passing, an astonishing stat). The circumstances of the game did them no favors either (see below). But this is a powerful team. The Niners defense is awesome; anyone who goes toe-to-toe with their front seven is in deep shit. But if they meet a defense playing anywhere near the caliber of Baltimore’s in the playoffs, it may be a quick exit.
5. Dallas: Can you believe it? The Cowboys have won three in a row and the last two were of the close, late-game drive variety, situations in which they usually fail miserably. At 7-4 following their Thanksgiving win over Miami, the ‘Boys lead the NFC East outright but have another game against the Eagles and two against the Giants in their last five. Let’s see how Tony Romo and Jason Garrett do in December in all those division games when the lights are really bright. And then, let’s see what Coach Jones says.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. Indianapolis: The Colts didn’t play last week but that didn’t get them any closer to vacating their spot at the head of the crap class. Food for Thanksgiving thought: Indy is last, second to last or third to last in seven of the eight major stat categories on offense and defense.
2. St. Louis: If the Rams were ever going to get anything going, it was last week at home against division rival Seattle, a team almost as bad as they are. Instead, they were blown out, not managing a single drive of more than 42 yards, gaining just 185 total yards and gaining less than three yards per play.
3. Carolina: Cam Newton is practically a shoo-in for Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Panthers have a handful of other very good players on that side of the ball. But their defense, which blew a 24-7 lead against Detroit en route to a 49-35 loss, is atrocious. They play the Colts this week which should be a win. But if Carolina can’t even slow down the woeful Indy offense, that will be the most telling sign of all.
4. Jacksonville: After a bevy brainless play calls in the waning seconds of last week’s 14-10 loss at Cleveland, a game which the Browns were practically trying to give away, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said, “Our offensive coordinator calls the plays. I can’t get to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him.” Del Rio, one of the biggest assholes in the league, did nothing to dispel that notion with such patently absurd comments. So I guess he wasn’t informed of those play calls by his offensive coordinator (whose name is Dirk Koetter, by the way) even though he’s the head coach, was wearing a headset that allows him to hear whatever is being said or called by his coaching staff and has final say on everything. The NFL will be a better place when Del Rio isn’t one of its coaches anymore following this season.
5. (tie) Minnesota/Arizona: The Vikings fought valiantly against the Raiders, nearly making up a 27-7 deficit, but were undone by five turnovers and the loss of Adrian Peterson, only their best player by far, to an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the Cards, who’d shown signs of life under backup John Skelton in winning two in a row, crashed hard back to the surface with a 23-7 loss to the 49ers in which Skelton was 6-of-19 for 99 yards, three picks, a fumble, a less-than-robust 10.5 passer rating and a merciful benching.

What’s Trendy
Carson Palmer, Raiders: Since coming out of “retirement” following his trade from Cincinnati to Oakland, Palmer has led the Raiders to a couple of wins in three starts and thrown six TDs while completing over 70 percent of his passes in the two wins. The Raiders are decent this year for the first time in eons and in the crappy AFC West, they’re likely to make the playoffs unless something crazy happens. Palmer, who is looking as good as he has in years and is the best QB Oakland has had since Rich Gannon, may be just the right guy to lead this franchise even further.
The Broncos Defense: Perhaps lost in the whirlwind of Tebowmania is the Denver D, which has been outstanding during a three-game winning streak. Over that stretch, this group has allowed an average of just 15.7 points per game, picked off four passes and gotten otherworldly efforts from pass rushing demons Elvis Dumervil and rookie, second overall draft pick Von Miller. Miller has 9.5 sacks on the year, 3.5 in the last three games while Dumervil has registered four during the same time frame. Given how spotty the offense has been (even though they’ve been winning with Tebow), the Broncos have to be thrilled their D has come together and kept them in games.
Matt Ryan, Falcons: Finally, after weeks of mediocrity, Matty Ice has seemed to find his groove. Atlanta has won four of five and over the course of that run, Ryan has thrown eight TDs against just two picks, with at least 275 yards passing in each of the last three. With the Vikings on tap this week, look for another strong game out of the former BC star.

What’s Not
Ndamukong Suh, Lions: Already saddled with a reputation as a dirty player, Suh, Detroit’s star defensive tackle, did himself no favors by slamming a Green Bay O-lineman’s head to the turf three times then standing up and kicking the same guy in the arm, earning himself an ejection. Not only that, Suh’s thoughtless actions came after his defense had actually stopped the Packers on third down which gave Green Bay another shot. Predictably, the Pack scored a TD two plays later. Suh is a truly great player, a real difference-maker as a pass rusher and a run stuffer. But he is also a terrible knucklehead and his misbehavior seems to happen with regularity. If Suh wants to be a truly special player, he’ll grow up. Fast.
Mark Sanchez, Jets: Now in the home stretch of his third year in the league, Sanchez doesn’t look too much better than he did as a rookie. He rarely plays like shit, but he never seems to be able to engineer the Jets offense to rally or come from behind and always seems to make at least a couple massive mistakes which usually cost his team dearly, like his inexcusable pick-6 against the Broncos last Thursday night. It wasn’t his fault that the Jets supposedly great defense rolled over for Tebow in the waning minutes of that game. But if the Jets, now 5-5, truly are contenders, as coach Rex Ryan continually guarantees they are, it’s getting very close to referendum time on whether Sanchez is really the man.
The Bills: I hate to include teams multiple weeks in a row on this list but poor Buffalo looks as cooked as my turkey from earlier. After getting run off the field in Miami to the tune of a 35-8 final score, giving them three straight losses by a total margin of 106-26, the Bills discovered that running back Fred Jackson, only their best player by a mile, would miss the rest of the season with a broken fibula. This is the second time in four years the Bills have played like a playoff team through September and October only to completely fall off the map by Thanksgiving. The enxt time it happens, sadly, it won’t be that much of a surprise.

And finally…
What’s with the schedule makers anyway? Why did the 49ers have to travel East to play Baltimore on a short week, their fifth trip to this time zone of the year, and resulted in a 16-6 loss? Sure Baltimore was on their schedule. And the two teams’ head coaches being brothers is a storyline made for primetime. But then why couldn’t the game be played on Sunday or Monday night? Home field advantage is bigger in football than in any other sport. When a team has to travel 3,000 miles to play during a regular week, it’s usually even bigger big. So in a four-day week? Yikes. There are scheduling quirks that make little sense every year. Teams often have to play three road games in a row (like the Jets, who played at Oakland, at Baltimore and at the Pats in consecutive weeks earlier this season and lost all three times) and that in itself doesn’t seem very fair. We all know this is a business and the TV contracts rule. But why put any team at a further competitive disadvantage just for sake of a good story?  Bad NFL, bad.

Pats Pregame Points: Game 11 at Eagles

By Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

You ever wrestle with your big brother? You know when he pins you and somehow dangles saliva inches over your forehead before sucking it back up? Well, that’s what the first half of the Kansas City game felt like: 30 minutes of tense, dreadful saliva-dangling.

Today, all Pats fans feel thankful for myriad reasons, one of them being that the final 30 minutes went much more according to plan.

Some points to ponder as we prep for Sunday’s tilt at Philadelphia…

Just Offensive: A lame display by the New England offense in the first half, as receivers missed assignments, quarterback Tom Brady missed targets, and the offensive line appeared to have missed the bus. Brady had to run for his life and forgot the ball along the way.

All was not lost however…

Up Tight: How ’bout that Rob Gronkowski? You know, at the beginning of the year, a certain someone wrote a certain something about Gronk being the best all-around tight end in Foxboro since Ben Coates. After his two touchdowns and nearly 100 yards receiving Monday night, I hate to say I told you so, but, um.

(Actually, saying “I told you so” is totally satisfying. I apologize.)

Where The Faulk? Nothing against Danny Woodhead, but it seemed that the Pats could have used Faulk’s knack for receiving and more decisive pass blocking in the first half. (It should also be noted that the precision required in hitting a tiny target like Woodhead is akin to scrimshawing a team photo onto a grain of rice.)

To their credit, Woodhead began to click in the second half, as did BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Plus, we got a look at the rookie –

Shane On Us: We questioned Coach Bill Belichick’s decision to draft running back Shane Vereen in the second round, thinking it a reach. After showing off his abilities late – against a defense looking to stop the run – we got a better glimpse of Vereen’s potential. Lots of speed and strength in a small yet stout frame. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

Random Thought For The Week: If actor Keith David were introduced to actor David Keith, it would sound like, “Keith, David. David, Keith.” And that’s not even using their full names.

Something to think about this weekend. Or, not.

In Nate Ability: Looks like the Pats have found their third tight end in tackle Nate Solder. The 6-foot-8, 315-pound offensive tackle not only lined up to block, he also went in motion and ran a pass route (during Gronkowski’s second touchdown, no less).

We can’t wait to see Solder catch a pass.

Special Edelman: Oh, a Julian Edelman 72-yard punt return to ice the game in the third quarter? Yes, please!

Edelman literally ran a circle around one defender and shot up the gap like a geyser. Once he made the punter look silly, he had a clear sprint to the goal line. Who knew the running QB out of Kent State would become New England’s best punt returner ever?

Oh, come on. You know you didn’t.

Opponents Erring A Ton Near Arrington: Defensive back Kyle Arrington has some serious ball awareness, intercepting two tipped passes on Monday night. Arrington now leads the league with seven INTs for the season, not exactly the stat we predicted after 10 games.

Stunting Growth: Good for the defensive linemen and their schemes these recent weeks, as it looks as though they are stunting and looping more than in the past, to solid results. The more Mark Anderson and Andre Carter can charge up the middle and rattle opposing quarterbacks, the better.

Brand New Tyler: Chiefs QB Tyler Palko had only slightly more experience playing in the NFL than Queen Elizabeth, so his missteps shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Still, it might bode well that, once the Pats settled down, they were able to take advantage of his mistakes.

Will Philly’s QB – Vince Young or Michael Vick – make similar gaffes? Tough to say.

On this day, we are thankful for so much. I’m thankful for my wife, who didn’t let her playing of Kansas City running back Jackie Battle for fantasy football blur her allegiance to New England; I’m thankful for my daughter, who once again spat up on me this morning with the force and volume of a fire extinguisher (which makes me laugh every time).

And the Pats are 7-3, tied for first in the AFC. Not too shabby.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Making The Grades – Chiefs at Patriots

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
There’s a modicum of stress that goes in to watching every Pats game but the level has been ratcheted up this season. Whether it was the uninspiring play of the defense, the struggles of the offense a few weeks ago or the rash of injuries and personnel mistakes that have seemed to dominate the general conversation regarding the team pretty much since the third or fourth week of the year, the worry-wart meter feels like it’s been at least a little bit beyond what might be considered comfortable. That’s why a game like Monday night’s 34-3 waxing of the Kansas City Chiefs was comes as such a relief. Outside of a few tense moments in the first quarter (and into the second) during which the Pats offense was overcoming its now seemingly weekly sluggish start and figuring out what wrinkles former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, now in the same position for the Chiefs, was showing them, the game was breezy, fun and mostly stress free if not a little bit artistically uninspiring. But who cares about art when you get points on six of your last seven possessions while simultaneously getting another stifling performance out of your mostly anonymous defense, again featuring a secondary comprised of undrafted free agents, cast-offs and wild-eyed wide receivers? The Chiefs certainly aren’t a good team and they came in without a handful of their top talent and had to play a journeyman, backup quarterback making his first career start. But the Pats got big time plays out of every area, even the special teams, which broke free of its shackles and got an electrifying, 72-yard punt return for a TD out of the previously useless Julian Edelman (yep, the same Julian Edelman who was also referenced earlier as that wild-eyed wide receiver playing on defense). A very satisfying win paving the way for the most satisfying of holidays, what with Thanksgiving just hours away and the easier part of the schedule on the very near horizon. So with that, let’s get to this week’s report card, featuring ample amounts of both white and dark meat.

OFFENSE: B
Quarterbacks: B
Brady hasn’t looked so hot in the early stages of games lately and Monday night was no exception. The Pats had 40 yards to show for their first 14 plays from scrimmage and Brady looked lost in the face of the Chiefs constantly changing looks and blitz packages (it goes without saying that so did the offensive line, but we’ll get to them). Finally, trailing 3-0 and in the midst of what felt like the first real threat of the night, Brady was blitzed, sacked and fumbled and that stress-o-meter started to shoot skyward again. But that turnover was the last time all night the Pats would look anything less than superb on offense. Suddenly, the line started picking things up, the running game throttled to life and Brady started being Brady, utilizing his tight ends and the short passing game of which he’s become the ultimate master, to near perfection. Now with time to throw, Brady just started taking what the defense was giving him and that, after some initial double teams, was Rob Gronkowski running free in the middle of the field, making a catch in stride and doing the rest himself en route to a 52-yard TD. Brady would find Gronk for another TD and finish with a rather modest line of 15-of-27 for 234 yards and the two scores. He was plagued early on by protection issues and inconsistency. And the Chiefs completely taking away Wes Welker (two catches, 23 yards, all late in the fourth quarter) didn’t help, especially considering how little Brady has to work with elsewhere in the receiving corps. But the combination of adjustments to the Chiefs varying looks, the running game starting to roll and the mere fact that even when he’s not at his best, like all the greats, Brady can still find the way to make plays and carried the offense for as long as was needed. Those 400-plus yards games of the season’s first month are long past but that’s OK. Brady still gets it done.

Running Backs: B+
There’s not been much to cheer about regarding the Pats running game over the past few weeks so when things started out pretty much in neutral again on Monday night, it wasn’t terribly surprising. But just like the passing game, things started to get on track right around the midpoint of the second quarter. It started with Danny Woodhead, who was a factor for the second straight week and is finally starting to resemble the difference maker he was all of last season. Woodhead carried five times for 27 yards, all out of passing formations and also caught a couple of balls for 28 more yards. I’m sure the Pats will take nearly eight yards every time Woodhead touches the ball. And then, there was the Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, stuck in Nowheres-ville for going on a month now, getting back to his decisive, power-running roots. BJGE started looking to take guys on again; he looked healthy and powerful on Monday night, getting over some early Maroney-esque dancing and stutter-stepping to find holes, hit them hard and with authority and even drag a few unsuspecting Chiefs along with him for extra yards on a few occasions. The coaches gave BJGE a couple chances to get back into the end zone for the first time sine Week 5 against the Jets but even though he couldn’t quite get there, his game was most encouraging, especially headed into the last month of the year and the requisite frigid weather. And lastly, on a very pleasant note, the second of the Pats two rookie runners, Cal-Berkeley’s Shane Vereen, saw his first real action in the fourth quarter/garbage time and really delivered, gaining 39 yards on just eight carries, ripping off a 19-yard scamper and chalking up his first career TD to close out the scoring. Vereen, a smallish, bowling ball-looking dude (reminded me of a slightly smaller Maurice Jones-Drew) looked like someone who can help going forward (though we also said that about fellow rookie Stevan Ridley a few weeks ago and he didn’t play a single snap on Monday night) and you can never have too many weapons on offense. Really good, really welcome stuff (35 carries, 157 yards, 4.5 YPA) from the backs in this one.

Wide Receivers: C-
Hey, you can’t really fault Welker. Crennel, of course given how often he and Belichick used to do it here, is a big believer of taking away an opponent’s best weapon so that basically eliminated Welker from the proceedings. The league’s leading receiver didn’t catch his first pass until there were less than six minutes left to play in the game and while it was nice to see the Pats able to not only function without Welker for much of the night but even flourish from time to time, the fact that the receivers as a group had just four catches for 41 yards on the night is a bit alarming. As nice a player as Deion Branch is and as much as we love him around here for what he accomplished during his first Pats incarnation, he isn’t what he used to be, isn’t remotely a threat further than 10-12 yards down the field and is pretty inconsistent to boot. After that, what is there? Chad Ochocinco, who some thought may have busted out after his maximum two catches against the Jets netted 60-something yards as opposed to 20-something, returned to invisible status, playing just 11 snaps, making zero catches and not having a single ball thrown his way. Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien again went out of their way to talk about how hard Chad works, how Chad was open a number of times, how important Chad is. But it’s in one ear and out the other at this point. The next time Chad does anything of import while wearing a Pats uniform will be the first. Sorry to fuck up the good vibes with yet another negative bunch of sentences on Chad. Maybe I’ll just ignore him from here on out. Brady, when he’s not talking him up post-game, sure seems to.

Tight Ends: A
Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. Gronk is a cyborg. He’s the T-1 million. There’s some sort of super metal exoskeleton thing going on underneath that No. 87 jersey and pads. His eyes may as well be glowing red spheres. Slow him down and you may see a small control panel door on the back of his giant dome. Open it up, punch in a couple of codes and simply step aside while he goes out, annihilates would-be pass rushers and run stuffers, outruns coverages, beats defenders quicker and faster than him, watches wannabe tacklers bounce right off him even when they do the right thing and go for his legs, delicately balances himself along the sideline like a goddamn ballerina, flips 10 feet in the air and lands on his head, gets up, staggers around a little bit while the computer wiring straightens itself out then unleashes a monstrous spike that likely puts a dent in the Gillette Stadium Astro-turf (Bill Belichick called one of Gronk’s spikes, “drilling for oil,” and admitted he’d never coached a player who spikes the ball harder). Gronk, aka the best tight end in football, caught four passes for 96 yards and scored two more TDs, giving him 20 for his one-year plus 10-game career. That’s the fastest any tight end has gotten to 20 scores in NFL history. Cyborg Gronk, coming soon to a stadium near you. It almost makes you feel bad for Aaron Hernandez, himself an outstanding, young tight end, who also caught four passes on Monday night but is nowhere near Gronk in either the folk hero category or the cyborg category. Oh well, that’s OK. We love you too, A-Herb. If you can get yourself converted to one of those liquid metal models, maybe you’ll even catch up to Gronk.

Offensive Line: C+
Things were really ugly up front for a stretch. One of the variety of looks featured by Crennel and the Chiefs defense was a simple, three-man rush and at times, particularly when pressure came up the middle, the Pats couldn’t handle it. Dan Connolly, so good as the fill-in center earlier in the year, has taken a step back and is now basically sharing time with Ryan Wendell. Neither of them is Dan Koppen and while that’s obvious, it also hurts from time to time, particularly when Logan Mankins isn’t available to help in the middle. And Sebastian Vollmer, who is probably still a little bit behind thanks to his back injury from earlier in the season, had a hell of a time with Chiefs pass rushing end/demon Tamba Hali. The two were locked up for most of the evening and while things got better for Vollmer as the game wore on (Brady was hardly touched from that midpoint in the second quarter), he clearly was a step slow early on. And Mankins, once again, as he does every week, didn’t miss a chance to get either his weekly false start penalty or his weekly holding or unnecessary roughness call either. Mankins is great – the fact that he’s the highest paid interior lineman in the league is a richly deserved honor. But wouldn’t it be nice to get through one game without having to hear his number called after a couple flags were thrown? Other than that, things were OK, even good, after the Pats first few drives. Matt Light got his ankle rolled up on late in the game and left the stadium in a boot but it doesn’t seem to be serious. If he misses a game, look for Vollmer to move over to the left and rookie Nate Solder, again hugely successful as a tight end on Monday night, getting 20 snaps and playing the majority of them on all three of the Pats scoring marches, will play on the right. Monday night showcased both the best and worst of the Pats O-line. When they struggled as a group, the Pats were helpless on offense. When they adjusted and controlled the line of scrimmage both in the running and passing games, the Pats blew the doors off. Brady, Welker and Gronk are clearly the catalysts of the Pats offense. But if the line doesn’t play well, none of them will have a chance to make plays. Let’s hope going forward that the team gets more performances like the second half of Monday night’s game than the first.

DEFENSE: B+
Defensive Line: A-
The primary reason for the Pats D looking so much better over the past two weeks (and for a good portion of the Giants game the week before that) has been the line and Monday night was no exception. Now that Albert Haynesworth is gone, youngsters Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick are healthy, veteran bust Shaun Ellis has basically been put out to pasture and Andre Carter and Mark Anderson have been turned loose, the D-line has a real identity complete with defined roles and clear priorities. Gone are the three-man rushes in front of eight man deep zones, a surefire recipe for one 20-plus yard completion after another. Now, with Carter and Anderson rushing from the edges, Vince Wilfork moving all over the line regardless of the situation to contain the run and offer some occasional pressure on the quarterback, and either Deaderick, Brace, Kyle Love (who made one of the most bone-crushing hits of the year while blocking on an interception return in the third quarter) or Gerard Warren providing depth and support, the Pats have rolled up eight whole sacks in two games, a stat that has allowed the makeshift secondary more room to grow with less onus put on it. Carter and Anderson continued their torrid pace, combining for 11 tackles, three for a loss, three sacks and five more hits on overmatched KC quarterback Tyler Palko. And everyone else fell into line. The Chiefs have a pretty good offensive line and a decent running game; in fact in the early stages, their three-pronged running attack (Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle) all were finding creases with Jones, the long-time veteran ripping off six yards per carry. But once the Pats got ahead and Palko had to throw more, that was pretty much it and the Chiefs managed just 32 rushing yards in the second half. These guys are the key going forward, particularly Carter, who has emerged as the best player on the defense. The way he’s being used reminds somewhat of Willie McGinest. He’s standing up and rushing or falling into coverage from the outside sometimes and staying down in others and it all seems to be working. He played every snap Monday night and why not? He’s been the catalyst for this defensive revival. He can’t be out there enough.

Linebackers: B
Not too much to say either good or bad about these guys; they were just fine. Without Brandon Spikes again and with newbie Jeff Tarpinian out sick, Gary Guyton made his not-so-triumphant return and acquitted himself decently by not doing anything too stupid or getting burned too badly. Guyton played in most of the Pats base formations; when the subs came in, Tracy White took his place and for the second straight week looked like a lot more than just a special teamer. He had six tackles in under 20 snaps, one of which featured him throwing down a ball carrier with one hand and it looked like a flick of the wrist. White won’t play as much when Spikes comes back but maybe he should. He inspires more confidence than Guyton. Elsewhere, Rob Ninkovich didn’t quite reach the heights of his career game against the Jets last week but he was soild and them some once again. Along with his six tackles, he had another sack and blasted Palko right as he let go of the ball on that same INT that featured Love’s monstrous hit. Ninkovich represents everything that’s right about the Pats fancying the hard-working, lift-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, anonymous guys. He’s one of them and he’s one of the best. And finally, cheers to Jerod Mayo, who presided over this blowout and actually made an impact play while he was at it, stuffing Battle on a third and-1 from the Pats 36 on the Chiefs second drive of the game, forcing a punt. Baby steps, Jerod.

Defensive Backs: B+
Antuwan Molden played every defensive snap in the game. That’s all of them. Kyle Arrington had two more picks and now not only leads the league with seven, he has more by himself than a handful of entire teams. Sterling Moore started at safety again and not only held his own in nearly playing the whole game, his highlight reel hit this week was actually laid on an opponent and not a teammate. Phillip Adams had his first career pick. James Ihedigbo was shaken up early and it felt like a major blow. And Edelman played another 13 snaps at dime corner, made another sick, perfectly executed tackle for a short gain and looked instinctive and proficient in doing it. Yep, this is the Pats secondary, with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung on the sideline. Granted, Palko is a 28-year old backup who was making his first career start. He threw three picks, each one worse than the last, and finished with a passer rating under 50. But the Pats still had to run some guys out there to cover, play back and make things happen and for the second week in a row, this group of castoffs and scrubs and unwanteds did just that. There is not another passing game on the Pats schedule that invokes goosebumps except maybe Buffalo’s, but the Bills are in total freefall. This bunch, which will eventually be fortified with McCourty and Chung, looks up to the challenge. And that, more than anything else, could be the stunner of the year.

Special Teams: A
Gotta love Edelman. The guy has looked so helpless on punt returns all year, some know-it-alls have even wondered aloud why he’s even on the team (hello!). So naturally, he goes out Monday night and not only runs one back, he looks like an All-Pro in doing it. Edelman fielded the ball, dodged one man, cut it back, broke a tackle and was gone, just like that. It was by far the best special teams play of the year for the Pats and it completely turned the game in the Pats favor, effectively ending the night with a full quarter left to play. He may not do anything near it again all year but at least he did it Monday night, if for no other reason than we’ve now been reminded that he’s capable of it. Just a great, great showing for No. 11. The kick return game wasn’t as successful although, in the interest of full disclosure, the Pats only had one kickoff to run out to their own 17. Stephen Gostkowski booted a couple chippies. And our man Zoltan had another week for the ages, averaging 51 yards on his four punts. What a relief to finally see the special teams make a big impact on a game. One of the best, most fun A’s to dole out all year.

Coaching: B+
It took a little too long for the Pats to adjust to what the Chiefs were chucking at them on both sides of the ball. And the fact that this was the fifth straight game with such a sluggish start is a bit alarming. But again, the most important thing is that they won and they did it again with more nobodys than somebodys. Belichick’s secondary was even thinner than against the Jets thanks to McCourty’s absence but you could make a case that this group was even better than last week. That, once again, is coaching. And even though it took a quarter plus a few minutes, the Pats did not suffer from potentially looking past an opponent, even one as riddled with injuries and problems as Kansas City. Despite all of their flaws and inconsistencies, the Pats are on a roll again. At 7-3, they have a two game lead in the division and if the season ended today, would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That’s right, with this roster, the Pats are on course for the top seed in their conference. That’s coaching. Belichick may not be so great at shopping for the groceries these days. But he sure as hell can still cook the meal.

First Impressions – Kansas City Chiefs

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

The Kansas City Chiefs travel to Foxboro Monday Night for the their first appearance here since 2008 when they ended Tom Brady’s season that year in the opener blowing out his knee on an attempted tackle. That lead to the Matt Cassel season in Foxboro and, ironically, Cassel was then traded after the season to the Chiefs. There will be no homecoming, however, as Cassel is out for the game and possibly the season. There are plenty of Patriots connections to this game such as former Patriots Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli is the Chiefs’ Team President. Romeo Crennel is the Chiefs defensive coordinator, the same position he held with the Patriots during their Super Bowl winning years.

Nobody is giving the Chiefs much a chance. The Patriots definitely could take a huge step towards securing their division with a win here and the Jets and Bill struggling. So, they can’t afford to take this game lightly. Lets take a look at some key Chiefs:

Tyler Palko, #4, Quarterback: Palko is a 28 year old quarterback who’ll be starting his first NFL game this Monday night versus the Patriots. A former Panther from the University of Pittsburgh, Palko beat out Joe Flacco at Pitt and Flacco ended up transferring to Delaware. Palko, who is left-handed, went on to have an excellent college career, and came within 254 yards of tying Dan Marino’s record for yardage at Pitt. After leaving Pitt, Palko has bounced around. He originally spent some years at New Orleans off and on their roster and practice squad. After being waived by Arizona prior to the 2009 season, Palko signed on with the California Redwoods of the UFL, who also waived him out of their camp. So, the Patriots will be facing a guy making his first NFL start Monday who once couldn’t make a UFL team.

Palko is a bit mobile. He was a gutty player at Pitt. But he isn’t real talented and it’ll be a challenge for him Monday. He is perhaps best remembered for saying “I’m so f***ing proud of this team” live on NBC after Pitt beat Notre Dame his senior season. If he can pull off a remarkable cut by the UFL to victory on Monday Night Football in 2 years, he’ll have another reason to be f***ing proud in a few days.

Jonathan Baldwin, #89, Wide Receiver: Baldwin was the Chiefs first round pick this year and he also hails from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a very talented, tall, big receiver who can run and has displayed excellent hands. Injured early in the year, he’s only played in four games so far this season but his playing time is picking up and he’s made some highlight reel type catches already. Baldwin grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania which is a football factory of sorts, producing numerous excellent NFL players such as Ty Law, Tony Dorsett and Darrelle Revis.

Amon Gordon #99, Defensive Tackle: Gordon is a reserve defensive tackle who is seeing his first extensive playing time this year. He was actually with the Patriots for a time in 2010. Gordon, who went to Stanford, has bounced around a bit similarly to Palko. Since 2004, there are three full seasons he wasn’t in the NFL at all. He had never played more than 6 games in any one season since he was drafted and that came in his rookie season of 2004. This year, however, he has played in all 9 of the Chief’s games and averages 15-20 snaps a game. He has played well, finally getting an extended chance at age 30. Its always nice to see a guy who stuck with it for this long, without much success, and finally finds a niche in the league.

Derrick Johnson, #56, Linebacker: Johnson was the 15th pick overall back in 2005 and played decently, though not quite about to his draft status, thru the 2009 season. But when former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel took over the Chiefs defense in 2010, Johnson really seemed to take to it and his played jumped. He had over 120 tackles last season as the Chiefs won their division and he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level this year, taking it up even another notch. Johnson has an ability to make big plays, sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and if the Chiefs are going to pull an upset turnovers are probably the key. Johnson could be a game changer if he is able to disrupt the Pats offense and cause some of those big plays he has a knack for.

Chiefs Fans:Having attended a Chiefs-Patriots game in 2005 in Kansas City, I can attest Chiefs fans are some of the nicest opposing fans I have met. They know how to have a good time, they tailgate with the best in the NFL, they’re loud and they love the Chiefs. Lets check a popular Chiefs message board Arrowhead Club, to see what they think of their chances in this game:

busterdiggs2000 thinks the Chiefs will struggle with their backup QB:

It’s likely going to be a long long day for Palko and the Chiefs. But i’m interested to see what Palko does that’s good or bad, he’s probably going to have a bad game, probably will get murdered. BUT, does he know how to read a blitz? Can he lead his wr’s so they can make a play and get yac ? I’m more interested in the small things.

RIChief3 is also feeling very pessimistic:

I say 40 – 14 Patriots. Only 40 as Brady sits out the 4th. This game has disaster written all over it. No handshakes after the game.

That seems to be a habit with Todd Haley, doesn’t it? I’m sure the Boston media would blame Bill Belichick’s “arrogance” though.

FOBLCrow similarly doesn’t see much hope for his Chiefs:

Final Score: New England wins 33-3

Chiefs D will give up over 475 yards
Chiefs O will gain less than 200 yards

Chiefs will have another season ending injury

Haley shaves at halftime

Prediction: I tend to agree with the Chiefs fans here, though I don’t think it’ll be a complete blowout. Romeo Crennel will find a way to hold the Patriots offense down at least a little. And the lack of film on and mobility of Tyler Palko could give the Patriots at least some problems. I’ll say it’s competitive through three quarters and the Patriots pull away in the fourth for a 30-13 Patriots win.

Take A Deep Breath, Everyone

By Dan Zeigarnik. Patriots Daily Staff

What a whirlwind the last 3 weeks have been. I know that everyone talks about the ups and downs of an NFL season, but I don’t quite think that having our fans yo-yoing like an ADHD sugar-laden kid is what we had in mind.

"It is what it is."

Just a week ago all the focus was on the atrocious losses to Pittsburgh and Giants. The Patriots were gutted by the Steelers, who seemed to have broken historic ground by discovering that they could send a tight end right down the middle of the field and that the opposing defense, having never seen this kind of play before, would have no choice but to clear out. This was followed up by an eerie Eli Manning game winning drive that was topped off by yet another number 85’s gut-wrenching catch. Despite all this, I am here to say, ‘do not lose all hope, oh ye of lil’ faith.’

Since when have Patriots fans taken on the Yankee fan-like attitude towards local sports teams? Red Sox fans circa 2003 remember how much the New York’s championship-or-bust attitude was loathed. The most grating of which was the fact that they expected to be the predominant favorite going into spring training and then again at the All-Star break. Any kind of deviation from their inevitable juggernaut machine was met with panic, firings, and frantic over-purchasing of players. Red Sox fans, besides the obvious disdain, felt a kind of pity, because they understood that a true fan enjoys the ups and downs and isn’t just a auditioning for Extreme Hoarding- Championship Ring Edition. I hope that Patriot fans are better then that.

Then from the pits of this despair, a much needed win came against the Jets, an inconsistent team, headed by an inconsistent quarterback. For some inexplicable reason all is cured in Patriots land. Just a few weeks ago, 98.5 the SportsHub turned itself into a Center-For-Ridicule: a place to unload all of your anger and frustration. The hosts were insulting members of the coaching staff for the fact that some of them were at one time graduate coaching assistants in the NCAA’s. Fans were even calling into the station and demanding Belichick’s head.

Now, after sweeping the Jets in an incredibly satisfying fashion, the Patriots ‘have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL’ and therefore it is a given that they will have homefield advantage in the playoffs. Everyone remembers slaughtering the Jets in Week 13 of 2010 by a score of 45-3 and how seamlessly that translated into the beat-down the Pats laid on them once again in the playoffs. Whoops.

It’s true that the Patriots remaining 2011 opponents (Chiefs, Eagles, Colts, Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins and Bills) aren’t exactly a murderers row. However, if the Patriots had lost to the Jets, would that schedule somehow gotten harder? Does beating the Jets somehow prove that the 2011 Patriots are for real? Does it eliminate the fact that New England has no deep passing threat, an inconsistent running game and an incredibly porous pass defense?

No it doesn’t. The 2011 Patriots are not an amazing team and that should be OK. They are 6-3 with an inside track of winning the AFC East which is laudable. They have swept the Jets and they did it without Spikes, Chung, and McCourty on defense. The rest of the regular season should be focused on getting healthy and hitting a hot streak in the playoffs.

Pats fans need to stop comparing their team to the ideal and start comparing the Patriots to the rest of the AFC Elite: Houston has lost Schaub for the season. Pittsburgh, despite crushing the Patriots, lost to Houston, got embarrassed by Baltimore, and barely beat Jacksonville and the Colts.

As far as the Bengals go, four of their wins were against basement dwellers Seattle, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis, so it won’t come as much of a surprise that they lost to Denver…..Sorry I just took a knee to pray for a second because the Bengals have two games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore still left on the schedule

Ravens looked like a beast against Pittsburgh, but lost to Jacksonville and Tennessee and needed a 21 point comeback against the lowly Cardinals. Their running game and defense is stellar but their quarterback leaves much to be desired.

Nobody is arguing that being the predominant favorites going into the playoffs isn’t a great thing. But let’s not turn into Yankees fans and throw hissy fits every time the Patriots lose its first regular season home game in 4 years or back-to-back games against two of the league’s better teams.

Just try to keep in mind that the 2010 Packers, 2007 Giants, and 2005 Steelers won the Superbowl as wild card teams. That’s 3 in the last 6 Super Bowls! So it’s all about making it to the playoffs and getting hot, and not because Eli Manning had a game-winning drive in Week 9 or whether the Patriots can clobber Mark Sanchez in Week 10.

Let us enjoy each week for what it is and not extrapolate too much from each win or loss. Otherwise we too might need a ritalin prescription.

Patriots Buffet Table – Chiefs at Patriots

by Patriots Daily Kitchen Staff

Chiefs coach Todd Haley is incredibly superstitious. He has the second largest rabbit foot collection in the NFL (behind Rex Ryan duh). He also scored the lowest in “Plays well with others” in each of his four years in kindergarten.

What to eat?

Ol’ friend Miz is preparing Korean BBQ beef this week, or Bulgogi.

Todd Haley also happens to be the Dear Leader’s favorite football coach. After Dear Leader himself that is, he did lead the People’s Korea team to 43 straight Super Bowl wins.

Miz’s Bulgogi

1.5 lbs. thinly sliced ribeye steak purchased from a Korean market. You can slice your own ribeye across the grain in thin slices. Freezing the beef for about an hour helps to cut clean slices.
1/2 cup of soy sauce
3 Tbl white sugar
1 Tbl sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
2 green onions including the white parts, finely sliced into small pieces
2 Tbl toasted sesame seeds
1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp grated ginger
black pepper, note no salt because of the soy sauce

Combine all ingredients except beef and onions in a bowl. When the sugar has dissolved, add beef and onion slices and stir to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. As the beef is cut so thinly this does not need multiple hours or overnight to marinade.

Cook directly over high heat, keep an eye on it as it will cook very quickly.

You can also find presliced, already marinaded Bulgogi at Trader Joes. Todd Haley can’t go there though he thinks Hawaiian shirts are unlucky. Silly Todd it’s the tiki idols that have bad juju.

What to drink?

Within the past few months Boulevard Brewing out of Kansas City has started to distribute to New England. As you can see on their site they make over a dozen different beers. However they’re only shipping their Smokestack series here.

It’s becoming a common theme, where a brewery will enter new markets only with their bigger more limited beers. I guess the idea is the market already has enough IPAs, Stouts and Wheat beers, but the big versions travel well, can stand sitting on shelves a little longer if necessary.

Boulevard is sending five on a year round basis. These can be found in either 4 packs of 12 ounce bottles for $11-$12. Or 750ml bottles for about $10. The 4 packs are the better value.

Double Wide IPA, a double IPA 8.5% ABV and pretty full in body for a double IPA. This one pushes the line between Double IPA and a light American Barleywine. Hoppy in a floral way, with a lot of caramel flavor.

Long Strange Triple, only available in the 750 ml bottles. 9% ABV and holds it’s own against imported Tripels. Highly carbonated.

Sixth Glass, a 10.5% Belgian style Quadruple. Quads are sort of a hybrid between a Triple and a Belgian Strong Dark, but bigger than most Strong Darks and all Tripels. Like most this one is made with Belgian Candi Syrup which gives distinct plummy dark fruit flavors. Highly carbonated.

Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale a strong Saison at 8%. This one could just as easily be considered a Belgian IPA. The hops are strong enough in flavor if not bitterness. Probably the most drinkable of all the Boulevard beers shipped to New England. This is the one I’d drink more than one of in a sitting.

Dark Truth Stout a 9.7% Imperial Stout. A big, dark beer full of coffee and chocolate flavors. Uses rye, wheat and oats in addition to barley. Not as hoppy as some Imperial Stouts.

They’re also sending seasonals. I’ve seen two so far, and only in the 750ml bottles.

Nommo Double, 8% ABV Dubbel. Contrasted to the Long Strange Triple, Nommo is slightly lower in alcohol, but has a fuller body and spicier taste. It also has some dark fruit flavors but not as much as in the Sixth Glass. It is the Fall seasonal, but you’ll probably see it in stores after most of the Octoberfests and Bartles & James Pumpkin Coolers are gone.

Harvest Dance Wheat Wine, in simple terms a Barleywine made with wheat. This Winter seasonal comes in at 9.1% ABV. The oak contributes vanilla and even a touch of coconut. Wheat can have a tart flavor, I think as of a result of it seeming less sweet than a barley beer. Highly carbonated. Smuttynose brewed the first beer of this style and were the ones to get the Federal regulations changed to allow the “Wheat Wine” name. Others have followed. Technically I believe the name is “Wheat Wine style Ale”, so people can’t be “mislead” into thinking it’s Wine instead of Beer. Yayyy regulation.

Another good way to try a few is through the gift pack. 4 12 ounce bottles one each of Double Wide IPA, Dark Truth , Sixth Glass and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale as well as a glass. Sells for about $18. These stronger beers aren’t for everyone, so it’s nice to have a way to buy singles. Great thing to buy for presents too, but more on that later.

Around The League – Week 10

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
It’s a total crapshoot in the AFC.The two teams with the best records are Pittsburgh and Houston and both have some big chips stacked against them. The Ravens and Patriots are severely flawed. The Bengals, while a nice story, are probably not there yet. The Titans, after a good start, are swimming in inconsistency and mediocrity. And anyone who truly believes in a single AFC West team might well not be playing with a full deck.

Let’s start with the Texans. They are 7-3 and seemed poised to make their first ever postseason appearance. They still may well, but will have to do it without QB Matt Schaub, who broke his foot in last week’s win over Tampa and is out for the year. Houston has won games without its two best offensive players not named Schaub, running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson, as well as it’s best defensive player, Mario Williams. But without their QB? And with career disappointment Matt Leinart taking over? We’ll see.

The Pats obviously have major issues on defense, regardless of last week’s monster effort against the Jets. Baltimore beats good teams (Houston, Pittsburgh twice) but follows up wins like that with inexplicable duds against the likes of Jacksonville and Seattle (last week, on the heels of a huge, comeback win over the Steelers, the Ravens chose to give star back Ray Rice five carries while letting massively inconsistent QB Joe Flacco throw 52 passes against the Seahawks. Um, what?). The Jets (5-5) are no more than trick-or-treaters and if their 21-point home loss to the Pats didn’t tell you that, their hideous loss to the Broncos last night should. And the West is a carousel of confusion, with division leading Oakland following up a blowout loss at home to Denver with a blowout win on the road against the perpetually disappointing Chargers just four days later.

At the end of the day, there will be six playoff teams from the AFC (likely Pittsburgh, the Pats, Houston, Oakland, Baltimore and either the Jets or Bengals, in that order), just like in every other year. And naturally, one of those six teams will go to the Super Bowl. But given the way the first 10 weeks of this season have played out, it’s hard to have much faith in any of them.

This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. Green Bay: Granted, the competition was weak (Minnesota), but the Packers made their 45-7 win on Monday night look so easy, it was borderline effortless. The production on offense, which comes from everywhere, continues to amaze. This is the best team in the NFL since the 2007 Patriots.
2. San Francisco: The most impressive aspect of the Niners 27-20 win over the Giants? The fact that stud running back Frank Gore carried six times for zero yards yet QB Alex Smith still managed to lead the offense to over 300 total yards and the victory. San Francisco keeps passing every test it takes and after Thanksgiving night at Baltimore, has just one more game on the schedule against a team with a winning record.
3. Pittsburgh: The Steelers bounced back from their brutal loss to the Ravens with a gutty, division win on the road over the upstart Bengals. Now they can enjoy a much needed bye week, which will give Ben Roethlisberger’s bad thumb a little extra time to heal.
4. New Orleans: The Saints hit the bye on a good note, having beaten the Falcons despite a blown, late lead thanks to Atlanta coach Mike Smith failed gamble on fourth-and-1 from his own 30 in overtime. Their next two games after the week off will be very tough (Giants, Lions) but they get em both at the Superdome.
5. (tie) Giants/Bears: The G-men were nine yards from another rousing, late-game comeback at San Francisco while the Bears annihilated the Lions at home and are looking as good as if not better than they did at any point during their NFC Championship game run from last season. Both of these teams will make the playoffs and both will likely be factors.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. Indianapolis: 0-10 and more lunatic statements from team president Bill Polian (this week, he said that coach Jim Caldwell is doing a better job this season than at any other point during his tenure, a stretch that includes a Super Bowl trip two years ago) but at least their fans don’t have to watch them play this week. The Colts have been outscored 137-27 in their last four games.
2. Minnesota: There are a host of teams at 2-7 but the Vikings probably have the most talent of any of them. They were vaporized in Green Bay on Monday night in a game that was over eight minutes into the first quarter. At one point, ESPN broadcaster Mike Tirico noted that coach Leslie Frazier had the job because of how well he handled various controversies last season after being named interim head man. Because who cares if he can actually, you know, coach.
3. Carolina: The Panthers had the look of a team that was on the cusp but were just too young and inexperienced to make that leap yet for weeks. Then they got absolutely rolled by Tennessee, a team that pretty much defines mediocrity. There’s a bright future for Carolina but it’s nowhere near coming to fruition.
4. Cleveland: Folks have been writing/saying the the Denver Broncos offense is setting pro football back by decades. What about the Browns? They have no chance to score. As a team, they’ve scored one TD in their last four games. Yuck.
5. (tie) St. Louis/Washington: The Rams were the beneficiary of Cleveland’s ineptitude on offense last week, riding out a dull 13-12 win to move to 2-7. As for the Redskins, they put Rex Grossman back in at QB in their most recent loss and surprise! They had two more turnovers, gave up three more sacks and failed to score more than 13 points for the fourth time in five games. Washington has now lost five in a row and looking at its schedule, one more win this year would be a stunner. Which will probably earn “genius,” “elite,” “offensive mastermind” coach Mike Shanahan a contract extension.

What’s Trendy
Tim Tebow, Broncos: Speaking of the Broncos, who cares if Tebow completes just two passes in a game (out of just eight attempts) like last week at Kansas City? Or that they are the only team in 20 years to win a game when its QB completes so few? Tebow’s a winner, for god’s sake. Look what he did against the Jets last night. 12 plays in 95 yards in the last three minutes (five Tebow runs, three complete Tebow passes, a game-winning, 20-yard TD jaunt). The modern game be damned! And if you’re offended that the Broncos have now won four of five and are firmly entrenched in the muddled AFC playoff picture even though it’s been done basically running a college offense? Get over yourself. Wins are what matters, not aesthetics. Tebow for life!
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: In Seattle’s last two games, Lynch has run the ball 55 times for 244 yards and two TDs. For a team as limited at quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson?!?!) as the Seahawks, that’s pretty important.
John Skelton, Cardinals: The Cards traded for Kevin Kolb to fix their unsettled QB situation but it looks like the possible answer was right under their noses. Kolb went 1-6 before getting hurt and Skelton is 2-0 since, including a massive, road win over the Eagles last week. Kolb is still not healthy enough to play but if Skelton can engineer another victory this week – on the road against the Niners – he has to keep the job.

What’s Not
The Bucs: This season was supposed to be the next step for Tampa, which won 10 games last year and looked like one of the league’s best up-and-comers. But there’s been a major step back as they’ve now lost four of five, including a 37-9 shellacking at home to the Texans last week. NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi wrote this week that, “there’s nothing the Bucs do well.” Ouch.
The Bills: Another great start looks to going down in flames for the star-crossed, Western New York franchise. Buffalo was 3-0 and 4-1 but is now 5-4 and have road games against the Jets and Patriots still on the docket. Bills fans deserve something better than just a good Septmeber. It looks like they may have to wait another year for it.
The Eagles: Another loss, again at home and again with a fourth quarter lead against a team with nowhere near the talent level they have. It’s the same old song for poor Eagles fans, who must be thrilled that owner Jeff Lurie has once again given them the metaphorical finger but continuing to back woeful head coach Andy Reid. The culture in Philly, as has been mentioned here ad nauseum, is to collect players, have Reid completely mismanage them and do just enough to never, ever win anything of note with zero repercussions. Even if the Eagles bounce back from this most recent mess they find themselves in and go from 3-6 to something like 8-8, Reid has got to go. At what point does underachieving every single year become grounds for some kind of negative consequences? It would seem in Philly that the answer is never.

And finally…
In the interest of giving every team (even the shitty ones) a fair shake here at PD, let’s take a quick look at the upstart Miami Dolphins, who have gone from being a laughingstock on the level of the Colts to a legitimate threat on the in the span of four games. Sure, they’re just 2-7 and they not only have no chance of making the playoffs but their coach, Tony Sparano, will surely be fired after the season even if they run the table (note: they won’t). But during their two-game win streak, they’ve outscored their opponents (Kansas City and Washington) 51-12. And in their previous two games, both losses, they fell by a combined six points and led each game into the fourth quarter. This week, they get the reeling Buffalo Bills at home, where they just won their first game since late in the 2009 season. And after that, they play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and anyone who’s watched a football game over the past 15 years knows that Dallas is fully capable of losing to anyone at any time. At 0-7, the Dolphins could have packed it in and staggered to the finish line in the hopes of getting the first pick in the 2012 Draft and selecting Stanford star QB Andrew Luck. But they kept working, kept fighting and now, although they are more than likely out of the Luck sweepstakes, at least have a modicum of self-respect. It’s an impressive feat. Miami is the best lousy team in the NFL.

Pats Pregame Points: Game 10 vs. Chiefs

By Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Have you ever been kissed by a rainbow? Nuzzled with a unicorn? Felt the sweet breeze of an angel’s wing?

Any one of those comes in second to beating the Jets in the Meadowlands.

New England defied the odds Sunday, defeating Gang Green to sweep their season series and leap ahead in the AFC East Division standings. Pretty awesome stuff.

On to the Chiefs, who bring their 4-5 record and shaky quarterback situation to Gillette Stadium next Monday night.

KC Jones: New England’s recent schedule has included Dallas, Pittsburgh and both New York franchises. Frankly, it’s about time they played a team under .500, and Kansas City is merely the first of many such squads.

The downside, of course, is that the Pats must stay wary of each team despite appearances. New England’s defense can stink like my daughter’s diapers; it’s not like they’re going to suddenly become stoppers.

Romeo Void: Speaking of defense, Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel knows a few things about his former team. Interesting to see if he’s got any riddles for quarterback Tom Brady to solve Monday night.

Everybody, Pat Chung Tonight: Despite a lineup of safeties about as familiar to New Englanders as gila monsters, the Patriots managed to keep the Jets at bay. Patrick Chung might still be hurt. Rookie Sterling Moore delivered the hit of the night, albeit on teammate Devin McCourty. James Ihedigbo has an interesting name.

It’s just that there’s not a lot to put one’s faith in, is all we’re saying.

Put Your Records Andre: With a pass-rushing crew so anemic it gets its blood checked on a regular basis, call us surprised at the success of Andre Carter rushing the QB. Specifically, his four sacks of Mark Sanchez tied a franchise record last week.

A fluke night, or a sign of better things to come? We shall see.

They Wuz Robbed: Too much Rob Gronkowski and Rob Ninkovich for the Jets. Brobdingnagian tight end Gronk caught two touchdown passes and towered over New York’s secondary, while Ninkovich snared two interceptions, one for a game-clinching pick-six in the fourth quarter.

Gronkowski has remained as solid as a wad of taffy on the North Pole, but the Patriots have lacked individual playmakers on defense. A couple of turnovers against the Chiefs and Pats fans will be going to bed happy.

Me, And My Chad, Oh: Pats Daily fave receiver (nope, not true at all) Chad Ochocinco had the longest pass of the game at New York, yet for the most part looked more nervous than a high school kid asking his crush to the prom. Call us when he can stay on the field in the hurry-up offense.

Still, a couple of first-down passes per game wouldn’t hurt. Chad? Would you be our date?

The Line In Winter: Looks like the offensive line has deteriorated as the season has progressed. Guys like Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder have played hurt, while Logan Mankins has had one of his lesser years in Foxboro. New England had a lousy day rushing the football and must do better.

Shane On You: And what about that rookie running back, the Shane Vereen kid? Is he okay? Would it kill the coaches to give him a few plays?

Cannon Fired Up: He’s been keeping it low key for the press, but we bet rookie lineman/small planet Marcus Cannon (6-5, 348) has been aching to play after missing time recovering from cancer (diagnosed during the NFL combine, of all things). Not sure if we’ll see him this week, but happy to have him on the roster.

Turn To The White: The Patriots’ linebacking crew lacked Brandon Spikes, but core special teamers Tracy White and Jeff Tarpinian picked up much of the slack. The smaller, speedier linebackers did well in mid-level coverage (credit White with knocking tight end Dustin Keller to the ground to aid Ninkovich’s second interception) and held up surprising well vs. the run.

Revis And Butthead: Though Darrelle Revis covered him like a tarp for much of the game, receiver Wes Welker was just stubborn enough to help out in a couple of clutch situations, including a big third-down conversion.

The good news? The Chiefs don’t have Revis on their team.

Have Fun Storming The Cassel: Will New England be able to pressure Chiefs QB Matt Cassel?

Wait, what? Cassel won’t play this week? It’s backup Tyler Palko?

Ooh, hold on a sec…

Tyler Parries, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself”: We hope so, Tyler. We certainly hope so.

Much to discover Monday night in Foxboro. We can’t expect a possible win over the Chiefs to give us the satisfaction of overtaking the Jets, but at this point we’ll take all the victories New England can get.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]