Things when the offense has the ball.

  1. Gronk, Gronk, Gronk!! Now that we know that the All-World tight end is not returning this season, the offense can make the final tweaks to determine what they will be doing best going forward. Gone are the 2 tight end formations. They have been dabbling with 2 running backs and increased snaps for James Develin when the tight ends have been limited this year, so we can expect that to increase. Also Mitchell and Amendola will see their snap counts increase as there will be more 3 WR sets. And maybe Cameron Fleming will see the field more when they need extra blockers on the line. Also, I will be looking to see what else they will be incorporating into the play book.
  2. How to let loose the Black Unicorn? Without Gronk on the field, they need to make Bennett a consistent threat in the passing game. He has shown some flashes, but he has also disappeared when being the sole tight end on the field. He seems to be his most effective when racing down the sideline or finding a soft spot in a zone and moving the chains. Hopefully they can find more ways to get him open and involved in the passing game.
  3. A pet peeve of mine is when offenses forgo talent for formations. They’ll go 3 or 4 wide receivers and take a talented running back and/or tight end of the field simply because he doesn’t fit that particular play. The Patriots don’t do this as much except for one area. Generally they don’t have multiple receiving running backs in the field or a receiving back and a bigger back in the formation. For the past several weeks they have been changing this. With the return of Lewis, they have been including him, White, and Blount in multi-back sets and testing various combinations to see what is most effective. I hope this can continue as I think this is an area that stresses the defenses in ways that creates mismatches.
  4. Tom Brady has still been affected by the hard hit in his leg in the Seahawks game. The first quarter of the game last week his throws were tentative and inaccurate. This helped contribute to a slow start and it was only Ryan Allen’s leg that helped pin the Jets offense back and kept the game close till Brady got in a groove. Hopefully he can come out a little looser and healthier this week and keep the slow start to a minimum. The defense is still working out its kinks and needs the offense to put some points on the board early.
  5. With the loss of Gronk there will be touchdown passes up for grabs. Now is the time for the role players to step up and do their jobs. Edelman has been kept out of the end zone this season and Hogan’s routes have been limited. Mitchell and Lewis have been getting more involved and gaining Brady’s trust. Bennett and White have played 2nd fiddle to others on the offense for large portions of the year. Many of these players will have to take their game to another level and start putting up 6 points instead of coming up just short.

Bonus: Aaron Donald. I have loved watching #99 play since he entered the league. But as much as I love seeing him throwing guards around and sacking quarterbacks, I don’t want any of that today. With Quinn out he is one of the only dominant forces in their front seven. Double- or Triple-team him, I don’t care. Just keep Tom upright and throwing the strikes.

When the Defense is trying to score some points.

  1. I am starting to feel like a broken record in asking if this is the game that the defense puts together a dominant performance? Below average offensive line, rookie quarterback, and no true #1 wide receiver? Of they can’t do it At home against this team then I don’t know if they are going to for the rest of the year and that spells trouble for the playoffs where you don’t get easy teams. A couple of bad luck bounced and you need one of the units to make a statement. If we can’t trust the defense it will have to fall completely on the side of the ball that just lost its second best player.
  2. Todd Gurley is a special talent. He is versatile running back that you hate to take off the field. He has regressed a bit this year because of the suspect blocking of the linemen ahead of him, but he still will bring his signature skill – breaking tackles. He will make a defense look silly by providing a rare size-strength-speed combo that you have to respect. The fundamental obsessed patriots normally do a good job at the tackling basics. Hopefully that will continue, because of he gets going it could be another long game that could be a nail biter till the 4th quarter.
  3. Eric Rowe has been a kind of project for me. I have enjoyed his game since he started receiving significant snaps. He can go toe to toe with some of the bigger pass catchers and run stride for stride as well as box them out of their route. It will be interesting if they let him shadow Kenny Britt alone this game. If he can limit the big but slower wide receiver, it could go a long way towards stabilizing the secondary’s assignments going forward. Being able to take away a 2nd or 3rd option that is a physical mismatch with just one cornerback would allow for better coverages on the other options and allow for more exotic blitzes.
  4. The linebackers. It looked like Elandon Roberts bounced back after his rough outing against the Seahawks. He still appears limited in the passing game but has really excelled against the running backs. This will be a good test for him as The rookie quarterback and the very good running back will be looking for each other all game. Whether check down passes or running the ball a lot they will heavily involved. Van Noy has also made his mark when called upon to pressure the quarterback. Hopefully he can take the next step forward start helping the defense in other ways.
  5. Pressure, Pressure, Pressure!! Just do it. This is a rookie quarterback in his 3rd start and has to make a huge transition to the pro game. Just send it! Blitzes, stunts, misdirection. I want to see all of it today. Please?