Curran: Pats-Bills engaged in old school shootout

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Curran: Pats-Bills engaged in old school shootout

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
ORCHARD PARK, New York -- Another week, another old AFL shootout underway. The Patriots and Bills combined for 528 yards of first-half offense in this semi-showdown in the AFC East between 2-0 teams. Nothing much has changed for the Patriots on Sunday from the first two weeks. Offensively, they stayed as absurdly efficient early in the game as they have been. Tom Brady went 7-for-7 on the Patriots' opening drive and New England went 80 yards to go up 7-0 on a 14-yard throw to Wes Welker who took a thrown in the left flat and motored in. On the Bills' second play from scrimmage, Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass ricocheted off an intended receiver and was picked by Kyle Arrington (who had two first-half picks). Brady this time hit tight end Rob Gronkowski with a 1-yard pass that was perfectly placed. The Bills' second drive ended with another Arrington pick on a fourth-and-14 from the Patriots 35. New England did nothing with that or its next possession. But with 7:33 left in the half, a 5-play drive covering 65 yards took just 1:33 before Gronkowski again was on the receiving end of a terrific throw by Brady from 26 yards out. Gronkowski (5 catches for 71 yards in the first half) more than made up for the absent Aaron Hernandez' absence, splitting out in a flex position like Hernandez as opposed to being an on-the-line tight end. The Bills finally got going just before half. After being backed up to their 4 yard line by penalty, the combo of Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and Fred Jackson plowed downfield. With the Patriots continuing to play mostly man-to-man in the secondary and getting limited pass rush up front, corner Devin McCourty's life remained difficult. He got beat by Johnson for an 11-yard score with two minutes left on a fade to the right when he appeared to fail in jamming the Bills wideout. That touchdown made it 21-7 Patriots. A penalty-aided drive took the Patriots into the Bills' red zone with 1:09 left in the half, but a throw to Danny Woodhead in the right flat, bounced off Woodhead's hands and Bills DB Bryan Scott came up with the pick. The Bills turned that into three points just before the half on a 42-yard Rian Lindell field goal. Brady finished the half 16 for 22 for 222 yards and three touchdowns; Fitzpatrick was 20 for 29 for 224. The Patriots didn't get any pressure on Fitzpatrick with their front-seven. Were it not for the Bills committing seven penalties for 67 yards things may have been different.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.