Pats finalize preseason schedule

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Pats finalize preseason schedule

The lockout is (at least temporarily) lifted, the Patriots are making (err, trading) picks, and the preseason schedule has been finalized. Yes, football seems to be right around the corner.

The Patriots have been a hot ticket for years now, and with just eight regular season games, it's the hardest sports ticket to come by.

Regular season a bit too pricey? Weather too cold? Just looking to tailgate? Maybe you want to be there for Patriots first round pick Nate Solder's first NFL play?

No worries, the preseason was meant just for you!

And with that, the finalized preseason schedule:

The Patriots kick off the preseason with a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m., perhaps quarterbacked by first round draft pick Blaine Gabbert, picked 10th overall by the Jaguars this year.

Hopefully they fare better against this rookie QB than they did when the Rams' Sam Bradford threw all over them last preseason.

The next week, Thursday, August 18 at 7:30 p.m., the Pats will travel to Tampa Bay, followed by another road game the week after in Detroit on Saturday, August 27, scheduled for 8:00 p.m. The Pats will see their fair share of the Lions' Ndamukong Suh and 2011 first round pick Nick Fairley.

The third week of preseason usually sees teams use their starters for a good half or so of the game, but Pats fans won't be upset if Tom Brady sits out the majority of it with those two players lining up on the opposite side of him.

The Pats wrap up the preseason on Thursday, September 1, at 7:30 p.m. against the New York Giants. This is the seventh straight year the two teams have met in the preseason. Perhaps another preseason victory over the Giants will make Pats fans forget about . . .

Never mind.

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.

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Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.