Patriots-Giants: What to look for

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Patriots-Giants: What to look for

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Last Saturday in Detroit, the Patriots put up an end-to-end stinker. Thursday night, they have a chance to get that taste of ineffectiveness out of their collective mouth in the team's final preseason game against the Giants. Some things to watch for as New England hosts a Giants team that played just three nights ago against the Jets. END ALL BE ALLThe Patriots have rotated their defensive ends and edge rushers to get a look at the personnel there. Andre Carter appears to have locked down a roster spot. That leaves Mark Anderson and Eric Moore trying to make a play for the other rush-end spot. Both may certainly make it, but Anderson wasn't too solid last week against Detroit. He may need a substantial night to make the team. Jermaine Cunningham, a second-round pick in 2010, is in this mix as well. He hasn't shown much in limited preseason action. SPIKES HIGHLinebacker Brandon Spikes missed the final four games of the 2010 regular season after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancer. He's missed the past two preseason games as well. Given he projects as a starter at one of the linebacker spots, it's vital for him to show he's on point and in shape in this game. RIGHT GUARD ISSUESDan Connolly has missed practice this week with a leg injury suffered against Detroit. After he went down, backup Rich Ohrnberger struggled to hold off Ndamukong Suh. If Connolly, who was limping badly as he left the locker room last Saturday, is going to be down for an extended period, Ohrnberger has to perform much better in front of Tom Brady. START 'EM UP?The Patriots starters played most of the first quarter in last year's preseason finale. With the opener against Miami 11 days away and last week's ineffectiveness still fresh, there's a very good chance Bill Belichick will wheel the starters out on both sides of the ball Thursday night against New York. GOING OUTSIDE?The Patriots' outside receivers - Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate - have seen few balls this preseason. Branch, in fact, hasn't caught any. The Patriots intended to work the ball to the outside last week but the Lions pass rush ruined that plan. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots again try to go outside again this week. SAFETY CHANCEIt appears Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung will be your starting safeties. But what about the rest of the rotation now that James Sanders has been released. At first glance, James Ihedigbo playing back there made you realize how solid he must be as a special teamer. Josh Barrett is a player who hasn't really established his role. Sergio Brown has been solid enough to make the release of Sanders possible. We'll see if it's a three-man rotation back there with Chung, Meriweather and Brown or if the Patriots go a little deeper. LEARNING FROM WHO DOESN'T DRESSSometimes, the guys who don't play are the safest ones. The coaching staff doesn't need to see any more from them. That's why we'll be looking at the sidelines and substitutions to see who's on ice for the night. RETURN GAMESCan Julian Edelman supplant Brandon Tate as the top kickoff return guy? Edelman needs more touches. Tate hasn't done much with his chances. Being the primary kickoff and punt return guy - which Edelman may be headed toward - is a significant workload. We'll see what special teams coach Scott O'Brien does for indications of which way he might be leaning.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Tom Brady explains why he thinks Bill Belichick is the best of all time

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Tom Brady explains why he thinks Bill Belichick is the best of all time

Tom Brady may be biased, but he believes that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the best to ever walk a sideline. 

That's what Brady told Westwood One's Jim Gray in an interview before the radio broadcast of Monday night's game between the Falcons and Saints. After Belichick helped cook up a game plan for the Patriots to beat the Texans on short rest with rookie third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett behind center, Brady may not have many people argue with him. 

"I definitely think so," Brady answered when he was asked if Belichick was "the best coach to have ever done this."

"I think whatever hand he's been dealt, he finds a way to win. That's the mark of a great coach. Sitting in those meetings for the last 16 years and watching him prepare the team, there's no [other] coach I'd ever want to play for. He's just remarkable in every aspect. It's a privilege to play for him. I look forward to going back out there and, you know, getting yelled at by him. He's tough on the players and he expects the very best out of each of us every day. That ends up getting the best out of players. He's so consistent with his approach, and it's paid of for our team for a long time."

Brady said it's that consistency that stands out to him and separates Belichick from any of his peers.

"I think his consistency is just what's remarkable," Brady explained. "It's so much of what you don't see on these Sunday afternoons. But it's the way the offseason program is run in April. It's his urgency and enthusiasm at that time of year when no one's watching. His OTA schedule and his emphasis over the course of those practices in May and June when no one's really watching. There's no scoreboard to compete against. But we always feel like we're in competing against the other teams, even when there is no scoreboard.

"You go to training camp, and you can't waste days in training camp because you don't get those days back. Those days in training camp are going to prepare you for what's going to happen in Septmeber. There's urgency throughout the entire offseason to get us to the month of September, and then once September comes it's all about winning games and making improvements towards October.

"Then once you make improvements toward October, you can be in a really good position to really capitalize come November. That's when the playoff races start to shape up and you really see where you're at and there's a lot of scouting done at that point. That's whenn you really see the team develop and how the depth of the team really takes place. Coach Belichick is always understanding where the roster needs to be at and which positions we may need a little more depth at based on injuries over the course of the season.

"Then comes December when it's the last stretch of the season when you need to be at your best. He prepares us all the way throughout the season. His consistency has been remarkable. It's been fun to see from this point obvously for the last four weeks, but I've experienced that every day. That part of it doesn't really surprise me, but to see the way that my teammates have come out and played and performed under pressure on a Sunday night game, and the first home game, and a Thursday national TV game, it's just been so much fun to watch."

Rex and the Bills can’t afford to go belly-up vs. Patriots

Rex and the Bills can’t afford to go belly-up vs. Patriots

An unexpected – and convincing – win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday put some bounce back into the step of Rex Ryan.

Now, instead of gazing at his cavernous navel, wallowing in an 0-3 start and ticking off the reasons it isn’t really his fault, he’s buoyant.

After opening his press conference by mocking Bill Belichick’s deadpan approach to injuries, Ryan was asked what a win over the Patriots would do.

“It would mean a lot to our football team,” he said. “I think when you look at it, they’ve been the standard of this league. Not just in our conference or division or whatever. They’ve been the standard of the league. So you want to put yourself up against the best. I think everybody saw what happened when everybody’s: “No Tom Brady, this team is going to be a disaster.” Well they’re 3-0 last time I checked and beat some pretty good football teams. So, yeah, it’ll mean a lot. We need a win in the worst way. But, as far as the Patriots, I think, my admiration is really for Belichick more than anything. As a coach, that’s the guy, that’s the best. He’ll go down as probably the best in the history of the game. So, I like poking fun at him and all that stuff but there’s no coach I respect more than him.”

We are now in Year Seven of having Rex as an AFC East foil for Belichick. Given the start in Buffalo and the way things ended last year, we may not see a Year Eight. So the candor – even if it’s nonsense – will be missed when it’s gone.

With Tom Brady down for one more week, Jimmy Garoppolo likely being a close call with his AC joint separation and Jacoby Brissett having injured his thumb, there is uncertainty for Ryan to deal with. And he knows it will drag.

“I expect them immediately to tell us,” Ryan responded when asked when he thought he’d find out who the Bills would be defending. "As soon as they tell us, we’ll be like, 'yeah, ok.' Nobody would believe it anyway, Nah, I don’t know. We’re not going to find out until kickoff…

“We’ll we’ll be prepared for them,” he added. “We’re looking at all their talents and all that. The Patriots are a little different. They may take an entire game plan, and throw that away and look at you differently then they look at other teams. So, I’m watching them play Miami, and they’re chipping their defensive ends. Will they do that to us? I don’t know. Looks like to us, they do a lot of empty. So, we’ll see how they decide to play us, we’ll be ready for everything.”

Ryan gave due credit to the Patriots for their 3-0 start, saying, “Brady’s probably the best player in the league. So, it’s hard to replace guys like that. But, they are a team. They’ve always been built as a team anyway. But it has been impressive. …They have an excellent football team. They do a great job, guys, they know their roles. They have a lot of veteran players that have been in systems for a long time. You take Julian Edelman, he replaces a [Wes] Welker. They just keep rolling on. So they draft and they get players to fit their system and they do a phenomenal job of it.”

Sunday's win over Arizona probably afforded Ryan only a little bit of time. If the Bills go belly-up in Foxboro against a third-string rookie, he'll be back on the clock.