Branch: Monday night doesn't guarantee division

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Branch: Monday night doesn't guarantee division

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Everyone knows what's at stake on Monday night. Both the Patriots and the Jets realize that each team is 9-2, atop the AFC East.

The Patriots, especially, understand the realization that they've already lost once to the Jets this season. So another loss on Monday night would not only give New York a better overall record, but it would give the Jets an advantage in a head-to-head tiebreaker should the teams finish the regular season with the same record.

So home-field advantage in the playoffs is what's at stake. That's what's on the line on Monday night.

Right?

"But what's on the line, though?" asked Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, responding to a reporter's question on Tuesday.

Branch agrees that home-field advantage in the playoffs is one of his team's goals. He just doesn't think it guarantees a Super Bowl. He doesn't even agree that a win on Monday night guarantees the division, with each team having to play four more regular-season games afterwards.

"Right now we're both 9-2," said Branch. "Who's to say what could happen after this game? There'll be four games left. The best thing for us, is to just take what's in front of us now, and try not to look at the next four games . . . There's going to be a lot of stuff at stake after this game, however the outcome turns out.

"With all the pluses that's behind it, the season's still not over," said Branch. "We want to go out and make sure we execute and win this game. That's the goal.

"There's going to be a lot of talk about this game, and who clinches the division. But that's not rightfully true. There's a lot at stake. Yeah, yeah, we want to win this game, but it doesn't mean the season's over or the division is locked up."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

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.