AFC's murky QB situation a major plus for Patriots

AFC's murky QB situation a major plus for Patriots

The NFL postseason is where quarterbacks’ legacies are built. Though those reputations often become overstated, once you’ve solidified yourself as a “winner” or “loser,” those tags are hard to shake.

By the looks of it, this postseason might see a few guys trying to build their playoff names from scratch, and those guys might have to do it in Foxboro. 

This has been a weird year for quarterbacks. Between the six playoff teams in the AFC, 13 different starting QBs will have been used by the time Oakland’s Matt McGloin starts Week 17 for the injured Derek Carr. Surprisingly, that’s actually as many as were used between last season’s AFC playoff teams. 

None of the AFC playoff teams have had the same quarterback start every game. The Patriots have led the way with three, though that’s partially due to suspension. 

Depending on whether Ryan Tannehill (sprained ACL) is good to go next week for the Dolphins, the AFC’s starting quarterbacks in the postseason could be the following: Tom Brady, Matt Moore, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Savage, Matt McGloin and Alex Smith. Half of those guys have postseason experience. The other three don’t. 

Even if Tannehill does play for the Dolphins, and even if the recently supplanted Brock Osweiler does reclaim his job in Houston, neither of those guys have taken a playoff snap either. If experience under center is as important in the playoffs as everyone makes it out to be, the Patriots, presuming they take the No. 1 seed, could get a crack or two at toying with inexperienced postseason quarterbacks on their home field. 

It’s not like green postseason quarterbacks can’t get far. Tom Brady, Jake Delhomme and Ben Roethlisberger are at least semi-recent examples that they can go to a conference championship (Roethlisberger), the Super Bowl (Jake Delhomme) or even win it all (Brady). 

This might not surprise you, but the Patriots have never lost to a quarterback playing in his first postseason. They’ve played six of them, beaten them all and only allowed a passing touchdown to half of them. 

Here’s a quick run-through: 

  • 2012, Matt Schaub: The Pats may have been more worried about Arian Foster, but Schaub wasn’t bad in his second-career postseason start. He completed 34 of 51 passes for 343 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. The Pats sacked him once. 
  • 2011, Tim Tebow: The divisional round saw the Patriots sack Tebow five times and hold him to 136 yards on 9-of-26 passing with no touchdowns or picks in his second and final postseason game. He’ll always have the previous week’s OT winner against Pittsburgh. 
  • 2006, Philip Rivers: The Patriots went into San Diego and upset the No. 1 seed (and 14-2) Chargers in Rivers’ first career postseason start. Rivers, who was sacked three times, was 14-of-32 for 230 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He may have yelled a bit about Ellis Hobbs after the game. 
  • 2005, Byron Leftwich: In the lone postseason start of Leftwich’s career, the Patriots sacked the Marshall product four times and held him to 18-of-31 passing for 179 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He did have an 18-yard run, though. Man, Byron Leftwich ruled. 
  • 2004, Ben Roethlisberger: Then a rookie, Roethlisberger had the pleasure of the AFC championship being his second career playoff game. Unfortunately for him, it was against a powerhouse Patriots team and he got picked three times. He also threw a pair of touchdowns on 14-of-24 passing for 226 yards. 
  • 2003, Jake Delhomme: The Pats had their way with most of these other guys, but Jake Delhomme was damn good for the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII, throwing for 323 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. This Panthers loss certainly wasn’t on the quarterback (*cough John Kasay cough*). 

Given the landscape of the AFC, it should be smooth sailing for the Patriots as they aim to reach their seventh Super Bowl under Bill Belichick. History says these inexperienced playoff quarterbacks some of their opponents might throw out there won’t make big names for themselves against the Pats. 

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.