FOXBORO -- The Patriots know what's coming from the Jets defense Sunday night. Cornerbacks up in the faces of New England's wide receivers, one safety playing centerfield and an intense effort to mess up the timing of every single pass play. Meet the press (coverage). "We been playing them for a long (time)," said Deion Branch. "We know exactly what they're gonna do. That's the game. They play Cover-1 (one deep safety), that's what they do, that's where we gotta be." As the season's worn on and opposing defenses have seen the nature of the Patriots' offensive leanings -- bang it to Welker and Branch on underneath and routes in the flat and hit tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the seam -- the counter has been to apply more pressure. The Patriots haven't shown an ability yet to have a receiver beat the press and run past that one deep safety to make defenses pay. So the press coverage continues. But Branch bristles at the suggestion the New England offense is struggling the past few weeks. "I'm trying to understand what you mean (about struggling the past few weeks)," he said in response to a reporter's question about diminishing passing yards. "Where are we ranked? Our offense? What do we rank? Our job is to go out and execute our plays. Somebody pressing, that don't make any difference. Everybody press. Every game. That's what it is."For the record, the Pariots are second in total offense, averaging 437.3 yards per game.They have the most productivepassing attack by yards per game (325.6). But the Jets are going to be a tough matchup. They've won three straight since the Patriots beat them a month ago. They harassed the face off of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, forcing him into a 15 for 31 day with 191 yards and two picks. The key is corner Darrelle Revis who will probably be asked to mark Welker frequently. "He's a great player," said Welker."Fast, patient, strong. He does a lot of good things and he's a smart football player. You have to come up with creative ways to attack him."Jets corner Antonio Cromartie pointed out this week that thekey to slowing the Patriots is knocking Welker around. Every team is starting to notice that if you bang him around, their timing is knocked off, Cromartie said."It's a physical game," Welker said Friday. "That's the way it's supposed to be played. You just gotta be ready for it and make sure you're being physical out there and playing the way you need to."Welker says there's an art to breaking free of jams. "A lot of the routes are won at the line of scrimmage so you're always trying to find little things about a guy that he does and really be on top of it and that you're attacking what he's trying to do to you," said Welker. The Patriots wideout studies both the corners and what other wideouts do. There's a lot to process. "You just watch film on different guys and pick up different stuff and see things," said Welker. "You try it, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Inside releases, outside releases, inside leverage, outside leverage. (You need to combine all the factors). You're not going to be 100 percent (in beating it)."Said Brady, "The Jets have done this for years against every team so it's probably the thing they do best. Get up to the line of scrimmage and force your guys to get off the line of scrimmage and into their route. It's important this week, it's important every week they decide to do it and if they do, you gotta make them pay."We'll see what the cost ends up being on Sunday night.
Phil Perry has been running a series on the 2007 Patriots vs. the 2017 Patriots. He breaks everything down position-by-position and compares what should go down as two of the best teams in franchise history. It’s really good stuff.
Also, a lot of people are idiots.
For some reason -- and it’s either because they’re rightfully excited for the upcoming team or because they’re still shell-shocked by 18-1 -- the 2007 Patriots have been shown a remarkable lack of love when it’s come to the reader votes. It’s insane.
2007 PATRIOTS vs. 2017 PATRIOTS:
And before you start with the “This is Boston and it only counts if you win” nonsense, remember that the 2017 team hasn’t done a thing yet, so by saying the 2017 Pats are better than the 2007 Pats, you’re saying the then-greatest offense of all time is worse than a current work in progress.
As if anyone should need the reminder, the 2007 Patriots rank as the No. 2 scoring team ever, and at the time they were No. 1. Their 36.8 points a game was dwarfed only by the 2013 Broncos, who averaged 37.9. Then again, the Patriots have four of the top 12 scoring teams ever, so there’s no reason to rule out what should be a loaded 2017 group registering high on that list as well.
But back to the ’07 team for a second. At the time of this writing, a poll of over 3,300 readers had 67 percent finding the 2017 receivers and tight ends being better than the group from 2007. If ever there were a poll that should be split 50-50, it’s that. In fact, I would take the 2007 group over the 2017, but that’s only because I saw Randy Moss play in every game and am not sure I will see Rob Gronkowski do the same.
Think about the options after the top guys in both groups. Donte’ Stallworth was a get in free agency -- a 27-year-old first-round pick with all the talent in the world and a few damn good seasons in New Orleans under his belt -- and the guy didn’t even have 50 catches for that 2007 team. No, it wasn’t because he wasn’t any good; it was because Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were so busy putting up a combined 31 touchdowns together that there was barely time for anyone else.
Laurence Maroney was the ’07 team’s lead back, but given how much the team threw and the fact that he missed three games, his 835-yard season with an average of 4.5 yards a pop was a lot better than has been remembered.
The only thing you can give the 2017 team over the 2007 one is that they figure to be well-rounded. The Patriots’ defense should be better than that ’07 group, even though the 2007 Pats gave up the fourth-fewest points in the league. Damn, the 2007 Patriots were so good.
Yes, that ’07 team lost, but it was still the best team in the league by a mile that season. Bad Super Bowl game plan, bad execution, obviously. But overall? There wasn’t a team close to as good as them that season.
The expectation is that something similar could play out this season. The Pats are so much better than everyone else that you’d be nuts to rule out 19-0 talk. Yet that hasn’t happened yet, and for now, the most explosive offense the Pats have ever seen — and very well may ever see — will be that 2007 one. They aren’t held in the same regard as the five championships, and for good reason, but to slight that offense — or really that team at all — is foolish.
Five-time Super Bowl champions. Seven-time AFC champs. Fourteen-time AFC East champs. Now, Bill Belichick's Patriots have another title.
NFL's most "badass" team.
The Tampa Bay Times polled a panel of 43 NFL writers and asked them for the top three most "badass" teams and players in the NFL.
- Scout on Garappolo: "Bill thinks he has the next great one"
- To Tony Dungy, Brady's the sixth-best all-time QB
- 2007 vs. 2017: The offensive line
- 2007 vs. 2017: The receivers
- 2007 vs. 2017: The front seven
The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots came out on top with 29 top-three votes.
Here's a sampling of the panelists' comments:
"They keep winning in a league designed to discourage dynasties." -Terez A. Paylor, Kansas City Star
"Hands down. They take a three-touchdown lead and keep throwing, and throwing, and don't give a damn what anybody thinks." -Tyler Dunne, Bleacher Report
"For a decade they've been toying with and laughing at the rest of the league. The biggest bullies on the block." — Ralph Vacchiano, SNY
"Behind the glitz and glamour of having the game's greatest quarterback, the Patriots ranked among the league's top 10 scoring defenses each of the past five seasons, including No. 1 in 2016." — Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press-Gazette
The most badass player? Veteran Steelers linebacker James Harrison. The highest-ranked Patriot on the list? Tom Brady at No. 6. Rob Gronkowski was tied with Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 8. Julian Edelman was among the others receiving votes.
Here are the full rankings:
MOST BADASS TEAM
1. Patriots (29 votes)
2. Seahawks (27)
3. Steelers (18)
4. Raiders (9)
5. Ravens (8)
6t. Broncos (6)
6t. Cowboys (6)
8. Bengals (4)
9t. Cardinals (2)
9t. Packers (2)
9t. Panthers (2)
9t. Texans (2)
Also receiving votes: Chiefs, Falcons, Rams, Titans (1 each)
MOST BADASS PLAYER
1. James Harrison, Steelers LB (14 votes)
2t. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders RB (10)
2t. J.J. Watt, Texans DE (10)
4t. Kam Chancellor, Seahawks S (8)
4t. Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins DT (8)
6. Tom Brady, Patriots QB (7)
7. Von Miller, Broncos LB (6)
8t. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE (5)
8t. Khalil Mack, Raiders LB (5)
10. Aaron Donald, Rams DT (4)