Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) makes an adjustment at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With great game planning, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett was in total command Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Sometimes one play can reveal a lot about a team’s preparation on a short week.

After Thursday’s 27-0 blanking of the Texans, Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of the coaching staff and players to get ready and execute at a high level. Belichick knows it’s hard enough on a regular week. But when the week is compressed, every detail becomes critical.

No play reflected the Patriots’ preparation better than the 27-yard bootleg run from Jacoby Brissett, a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start.

In order to make Brissett comfortable against a defense led by J.J. Watt, Belichick and his coaching staff of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and running backs coach Ivan Fears got their heads together to scheme against former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Texans defensive guru Romeo Crennel.

On the designed bootleg at the end of the first quarter, several factors were involved. Watt lined up over left guard Joe Thuney. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney came down on the line of scrimmage to set the edge on the other side. Watt blew through but there was nothing for Watt to get at. The reason? The play was designed to run on the other side, with right guard Shaq Mason executing the key block on McKinney to spring Brissett.

“I didn’t think J.J. Watt really had anything to do with the play,” Belichick said Friday in his conference call with reporters. “He was on the other side of the line. I don’t think he would’ve had any chance at all. Jacoby just took the ball, kind of took one step back, gave a quick ball fake to LeGarrette [Blount] and just went to the edge and it was timed out well with Shaq, who cut McKinney on the line of scrimmage and got him down, kind of knocked him off balance. By that time, Jacoby is already outside. Once Jacoby got to the corner, it was really a run all the way.”

Brissett made free safety Andre Hal miss at the 5 and used a block from Malcolm Mitchell on Johnathan Joseph to dive into the end zone.

“There was no pass option on it,” Belichick said. “Once Jacoby got to the corner, Joseph was tied up with Mitchell and then Hal, free safety, came over and missed the tackle and Jacoby cut back on him for the score. I didn’t think Watt had any shot at all on that play. It was on the other side of the ball.

“Josh and Dante and Ivan did a good job game planning for the Texans defense. But there’s no coaches blocking Watt. Players have got to do that. And they did a good job of it. We did a good job of staying in front of him, blocking him with the proper technique. He’s very quick and long and can get around blocks in a hurry so you have to be on balance and [avoid] getting over-aggressive or over-extended on him or he’ll just slip right by you. I thought our players blocked with good technique. They played hard and blocked him well.”

Belichick used the short week to introduce a play in walkthrough that he trusted his players could pull off at game speed and intensity. They didn’t let him down.

“That would be an example of one of those plays,” Belichick said. “We felt we could get what we ended up getting. We felt we could get outside and there really wasn’t anybody left out there except the corner who was in man coverage. Once we got outside, then it was just a question of when the free safety would get there or if an inside linebacker would be able to get there quick enough. But because LeGarrette flowed across the formation, that dragged the linebackers with him and so there was nobody left. The timing of the play between Jacoby and Shaq was really perfect, which is remarkable considering the fact we’ve never run the play other than just the walkthrough.

“Shaq cut McKinney in perfect time as Jacoby was getting outside of him. McKinney just really didn’t have a chance to recover. That was an example. There were some other plays as well. That was more of just getting a good look in the walkthrough from the defense in this case. Get a good look from the defense and explaining the play and just hoping the players can understand the explanation and do it the right way and they did. So a couple of those plays really helped us in the game.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

rotobahn-logoGood morning, Patriots fans. Feeling good? Thought so. It’s Friday, so it’s time for some starts and sits as you enjoy the afterglow of a big win. As usual, I have done my best to try to find some worthwhile recommendations. And if you need some advice on players not listed in this space, check out my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn. It’s also a good idea to cross-reference these recommendations against my full lineup rankings that are up at Rotobahn and will be fully updated by Saturday evening.

Don’t forget to tune in to the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday at 8 a.m. when Jim Hackett and I will discuss trending Week 3 topics and crucial game day information.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Matt Ryan, Falcons at Saints, $7,400

I will gladly pay that price to get him in my DraftKings lineup, but I need to know that Julio Jones is playing. Ryan, armed with a healthy Jones, is a great play against a weak Saints defense. It’s also a plus that the Saints probably will score a lot of points. Vegas has this game scoring more points (53.5 over/under) than any other Week 3 tilt.

Derek Carr, Raiders at Titans, $6,900

Carr has looked even better than he did in 2015. He’s cool in the pocket and can extend plays with his feet when necessary. This is good because he’s got quality receivers who work the various levels of the field well. He’s got Michael Crabtree working the intermediate routes, but he’s also got Amari Cooper, who can stretch the field and cause havoc for defenses. He’s also got a good young tight end and a deep backfield. Carr should give you solid numbers this weekend at the Titans. He’s startable in all leagues and very playable in tournaments on DraftKings. I’m looking to stack him with Cooper.

Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Ravens, $6,500

He’s struggled so far, but only in real football terms. The fantasy digits have been there because Bortles is surrounded by high-end playmakers. Garbage time is almost always productive for the Jaguars and it allows Bortles to backfill his game stats for his fantasy owners. He should end up with respectable to strong numbers this week as the Ravens are not that good on the back end. I’d be stacking Bortles with either Allen Robinson or Julius Thomas on DraftKings — depending on what my budget looks like.

Carson Wentz, Eagles vs. Steelers, $5,500

The price is nice. Wentz has not played like a rookie so far, and you throw to beat the Steelers. Pittsburgh plays the run well and has a leaky secondary. Meanwhile, Wentz has underrated playmakers and he can augment his passing numbers with his feet a la Jacoby Brissett. He’s a compelling play at such a low price. I’d stack him with Jordan Matthews in tournaments, but he is too risky for cash games at this point.

Sit

Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Broncos, $5,700

He’s priced correctly, and that’s not good. Dalton has a big weapon in A.J. Green, but Denver gets to the passer very well and has a pair of great corners. Dalton is in for a long day, and he’s battling a sore hip. None for me, thanks. I’ll wait for a better matchup before I use him.

RUNNING BACKS

Start

Charles Sims, Buccaneers vs. Rams, $4,900

Doug Martin is out this week, and probably for two more. Sims will take over lead back duties and should be in for a substantial workload as he will be the early down back and the passing down back. The matchup may be tough, but game flow will not take Sims out of this game, so he should end up somewhere between solid output and a big day. That’s a good proposition on DraftKings at a sub 5K price. I’d get involved.

Theo Riddick, Lions at Packers, $4,900

Riddick, like Sims, is a passing down back who will be taking over lead back duties. He’s going to rack up receptions like always, but he should also be good for 50 yards rushing and perhaps multiple scores if they have red zone success. One thing Riddick won’t get is goal-line carries. That should be rookie Dwayne Washington’s responsibility. Still, I am loving Riddick at 4,900 units on Draftkings thanks to the full PPR scoring.

Jerick McKinnon, Vikings at Panthers, $3,800

Are you seeing a pattern here? With Adrian Peterson out, potentially for the season, McKinnon’s time has come. He’s been nursing a sore foot, so his reps may be monitored this week, but he’s a tremendous buy in DraftKings tournaments — even in a very tough matchup. You don’t get that kind of upside at 3,800 units very often.

Tevin Coleman, Falcons at Saints, $4,500

He’s in a near even split with Devonta Freeman, and what’s key is that the split includes passing downs, which is surprising given Freeman’s acumen in those situations. Freeman is a great receiver and pass blocker and obviously can run it. The fact that they are wedging Coleman in there shows how much they want him to happen. They want his explosive traits on the field. This week, against the Saints on their fast track, Coleman has big upside at 4,500 units. There’s some risk to be sure, but a few long scores is definitely in play if you can stomach the risk.

Sit

Jeremy Langford, Bears at Cowboys, $5,200

I’m not paying that price, and I am not expecting anything more than flex value out of him in 12-team leagues. He’s the second-best back on the team, and the more work that rookie Jordan Howard gets, the more obvious this will become to all involved. I’m fading Langford, even in this plus matchup.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Start

Marvin Jones, Lions at Packers, $6,200

He has looked outstanding so far and posted 118 receiving yards in Week 2. He should be the lead weapon in the passing game this weekend and he’ll see plenty of single coverage because the Lions are balanced on offense with Anquan Boldin and Eric Ebron working the inside. Jones is a good buy at 6,200 units and he’s a strong WR3 option in all formats.

Travis Benjamin, Chargers at Colts, $5,200

I hope you all started him last week. If you didn’t, you have another chance. Benjamin should see plenty of good matchups. He’ll have some tough times when he’s locked up with Vontae Davis, but Davis could have troubles with Benjamin’s speed just as easily as Benjamin could struggle with Davis’ physicality. There’s also some question as to how healthy Davis is. Lastly, I doubt Davis shadows Benjamin. He may be needed to deal with Tyrell Williams, who brings a rare size/speed combination to the field.

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks vs. 49ers, $4,200

It’s not an easy matchup because the 49ers have solid cornerbacks, but the price is nice and Lockett showed off his true game in Week 2 — running outstanding routes and making the tough catches we’ve come to expect from him. He’s got plenty of ceiling in a game like this one and with Doug Baldwin nursing a sore knee. Targets should be plentiful.

Mike Wallace, Ravens at Jaguars, $5,000

He’s been great so far and his targets could rise going forward. Wallace is an imperfect player, but he’s found a friend in Joe Flacco, who has the kind of deep passing skills that Wallace’s recent quarterbacks have lacked. He could score twice this week if things break right, and he’s a nice risk to take on at DraftKings at 5,000 units.

Sit

Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos at Bengals, $6,000

It’s a tough matchup and I expect Denver to run the ball early and often. Sanders looks like a weak WR3 to me and I am not inclined to meet his $6,000 price on DraftKings.

TIGHT ENDS

Start

Dennis Pitta, Ravens at Jaguars, $3,400

Pitta is back, folks. He’s been reunited with his old pal, Joe Flacco, and there’s no reason to doubt him right now as long as he stays healthy. Start him this week and continue to ride the wave. He’s a good value on DraftKings and fits the full PPR format well. He’s a good option in tournaments because he gives you some upside at a low price.

Dwayne Allen, Colts vs. Chargers, $3,800

With Donte Moncrief out, there will be more targets to go around. The Chargers have a shutdown caliber corner in Jason Verrett, so Allen could see more action outside the red zone. A big week is possible here, and it’ll only cost you 3,800 units on DraftKings.

Clive Walford, Raiders at Titans, $2,800

If you can’t afford Pitta or Allen, Walford can be bought near the price floor, but you get the kind of upside you might find at the 4K level and above, so he’s a nice option in tournaments or if you want a cheap stack option for Derek Carr. Walford looked good in Week 2 and his percentage of the offensive snaps rose to over 60 percent.

Coby Fleener, Saints vs. Falcons, $3,300

Yes, I know. This one is for the masochists. Fleener’s woes go beyond being unproductive. He’s looked bad in the process. Late head turns and balls bouncing off his hands and helmet. It’s been a rough introduction to New Orleans for Andrew Luck’s old roommate. Still, things will get better and the Falcons are a get-well matchup to be sure. If you aren’t loaded with a better option, Fleener could get it done for you this week. If he flops, then it’s officially time to look elsewhere.

Sit

Jimmy Graham, Seahawks vs. 49ers, $3,000

I’m not quite ready to play him, but he’s close now. He played 82 percent of the snaps last week and that number should continue to rise in the coming weeks. Graham is playable in seasonal leagues if you need him, but he’s not near his top level yet. Keep him on the pine another week and see what happens.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson
Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA;  New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney (62) lifts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) into the air after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.  The New England Patriots won 27-0.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick wasn’t going nuts Friday over the all-blue uniforms. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick won’t be rushing to the Patriots Pro Shop to get his color rush uniform from Thursday night.

The Patriots coach, in a classic sarcastic response to being questioned about the all-blue “Captain America” look Thursday night, said he’s not really into different uniforms and how sweet they may look on the field.

“Yeah, I wish that was all there was to it. Just put on a new pair of socks and change uniforms or something like that. There’s a lot more to it than that,” Belichick said in his best deadpan. “I can’t even tell you how excited I was about the uniforms last night. It was really incredible.”

The NFL and Nike came up with the marketing idea to make Thursday night football games stick out – and of course, sell more jerseys, something Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft acknowledged before Thursday’s game.

Kraft said the team ordered a huge shipment of what they thought would be a season’s worth of uniforms for the Pro Shop. Kraft said they’re two-thirds through it.

While the Patriots easily beat the Texans, 27-0, in the unis Thursday, Belichick recalled a not-so pleasant experience in 2002, when Lawyer Milloy went into Belichick’s office asking that the team wear blue-on-blue.

The Patriots lost both games, to the Packers and the Bills in consecutive weeks, as part of a four-game skid that would factor heavily in the Patriots missing the playoffs at 9-7, the last time a Belichick team didn’t win double figures in a season.

“Yeah,” Belichick said. “That was brutal.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Jacoby Brissett averaged 2.25 seconds from snap-to-throw against the Texans. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Jacoby Brissett averaged 2.25 seconds from snap-to-throw against the Texans. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Although Jacoby Brissett’s release time wasn’t as quick as most Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo games, it was enough to get the job done.

Brissett went 10-for-19 passing with 193 yards in the Patriots’ 27-0 win over the Texans. The passing game plan was kept pretty simple as of his 19 passes, 10 traveled 10 yards or less.

By our count, Brissett averaged 2.25 seconds from snap-to-throw. There was a big difference between the first and second half as in the first half he averaged 1.89 seconds, but 2.51 seconds in the second half.

This was more of the Texans defense taking away the quick passes. It seemed to have an impact on him as Brissett went 5-for-11 in the second half after going 5-for-8 in the first half.

For a comparison, in Week 1 Jimmy Garoppolo averaged 2.03 seconds from snap-to-throw and Week 2 2.24 seconds from snap-to-throw.

“He played very well,” tight end Martellus Bennett said. “We have confidence in all of our Quarterbacks and in the way we prepare and the coaches do a great job preparing these guys. You know, every day Jacoby comes to work just like he’s a starter and he just prepares and he plays. Whatever his responsibility is that week, he goes out there and does it to the best of his ability. We’re never really worried about that. We all just try to do our job to make his job easier.”

Brissett went 4-for-6 on passes taking less than two seconds from snap-to-throw, which is significantly fewer thrown than in a typical game for a Patriots quarterback. This shows how much the game plan was designed for Brissett, specifically with his athleticsm.

The Patriots just didn’t pass as much as they have over the years. As a starter, Tom Brady has had just seven games where he’s thrown 19 or passes or less and in five of those games he didn’t complete the game either due to injury or it being the last game in the regular season.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

NFL analyst Mike Lombardi made his weekly appearance with Kirk & Callahan on Friday morning, following the Patriots’ impressive 27-0 victory over the Texans, and defended his former boss Bill Belichick against accusations that he was pressuring Jimmy Garropolo to play in Thursday’s game.

Michael Lombardi

Michael Lombardi

NFL analyst Mike Lombardi made his weekly appearance with Kirk & Callahan on Friday morning, following the Patriots’ impressive 27-0 victory over the Texans, and defended his former boss Bill Belichick against accusations that he was pressuring Jimmy Garropolo to play in Thursday’s game. To hear the interview, go to the Kirk & Callahan audio on demand page.

Lombardi dismissed a report that Belichick was questioning Garropolo’s toughness because he was not able to play with a sprained AC joint he suffered in Sunday’s win over the Dolphins.

“Not even remotely close, OK?” said Lombardi, who was an assistant to the Patriots coaching staff last season and was an executive with the Browns alongside Belichick in the early 1990s. “First of all, I’ve known Bill since 1991, and his philosophy — as is mine — if a player’s not a hundred percent, if he’s 80 percent and you put him out there, you’re better off playing a backup.

“How can you make that statement when your whole emphasis is team? If you believe in team and you believe in the next man up, why would you ever pressure a guy? Why would you ever believe that? It goes counterintuitive to what your whole emphasis of the program is? It’s team. That’s what won last night. Team won last night. Culture won last night. Chemistry won last night. That’s what won.”

Lombardi wasn’t surprised the Patriots stuck with rookie Jacoby Brissett at quarterback rather than signing a free agent during the week, because adding a player on such short notice would be “wasting a roster spot.” The Patriots kept things relatively simple for the third-round draft pick because, “He just doesn’t have enough reps yet. So they’ve got to manage him and they’ve got to manage the game. Those are the challenges that come across,” Lombardi said.

On the other side of the field, former Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien’s Texans struggled to find a way to solve the New England defense.

“I think what Billy was trying to do — and I think it was a smart play — he was trying to avoid losing. Only, that’s when he started to lose,” Lombardi said. “The calls, conservatively in the first half, I think he went into the game thinking, ‘Look, I don’t turn this thing over, they’re not going to score a lot of points, I’ve got to choose my time.’ He used [Belichick’s] plan, which was to avoid losing first, before you can win. That’s when things started to fall apart — the fumbles on the kickoff, and those things, sometimes it just slips away from you.

“I didn’t think Billy did a poor job. I think that was Billy’s plan. I think Billy felt like the only way he was going to lose the game was if he came out and he tried to put [Brock] Osweiler in some situations that weren’t really conducive for him. And then when the Patriots came out playing a lot of cover-2, it probably wasn’t something they thought was going to happen. And therefore they wanted to regroup and kind of change their program.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

FOXBORO — Martellus Bennett made a bold statement after Thursday night’s game.

Martellus Bennett speaks with the media after Thursday's game. (WEEI.com photo)

Martellus Bennett speaks with the media after Thursday’s game. (WEEI.com photo)

FOXBORO — Martellus Bennett made a bold statement after Thursday night’s game.

The occasionally quirky tight end, in his first year with the Patriots, proclaimed himself to be the “leader of fun” on the New England roster. On a team that has Rob “Yo Soy Fiesta” Gronkowski just across the locker room — a guy with a well-known track record when it comes to enjoying a good time — he’s thrown down the gauntlet.

“I’m kind of like the leader of fun of the team,” Bennett said after Thursday’s 27-0 win over the Texans. “You know, there are a bunch of dudes that do different stuff on the team, I’m like the leader of fun. So my job is to make sure we’re having a good time and keeping the energy up.”

At the very least, with Gronkowski on the sidelines for a sizable portion of the first three games (he barely broke double digits in snaps against the Texans), Bennett represents someone who can inject some levity into things while his fellow tight end works his way back to full strength after dealing with a balky hamstring. To that point, Bennett was seen on the sidelines late in the blowout against the Texans dancing and celebrating when “Jump Around” came on the Gillette Stadium sound system.

“I love that song,” he said with a smile.

“It’s very fun; me and Gronk have a great relationship,” he added when asked about his fellow tight end. “You know, we have a lot of fun together off the field and on the field, so it was good to have my partner and crime out there [Thursday].”

Bennett, who has 10 catches for 138 yards (both good for second on the team behind Julian Edelman) and a touchdown through the first three games, is clearly having a good time and working with youngster Jacoby Brissett has been a highlight. The two spent some time carpooling together earlier in the season, and earlier in the week, Bennett gave Brissett a hard time for “looking like a starting quarterback” in the days before he got the call against the Texans. It was an act, according to Bennett, that included Brissett crossing his legs and drinking coffee while in meetings.

But it’s all good between the two.

“He played very well,” Bennett said of Brissett, who delivered two passes for 10 yards to Bennett on the evening. “We have confidence in all of our quarterbacks and in the way we prepare and the coaches do a great job preparing these guys.

“You know, every day Jacoby comes to work just like he’s a starter and he just prepares and he plays. Whatever his responsibility is that week, he goes out there and does it to the best of his ability. We’re never really worried about that. We all just try to do our job to make his job easier.”

Bennett said that Brissett was just one player who responded well to the mental challenge of playing well on a short week.

“Everybody was just trying to focus on ‘What’s my responsibility?’” he said. “Thursday games are really about getting your body right and just playing football. You know, we’re going to put the game plan together, but it’s really just about going out there and having fun and just playing old-school football. Getting with the guys and kind of know what you’re doing and trying to execute to the best of your ability.”

Bennett and the rest of the team will now get a few days off to rest before getting back to the business of football and preparing for next Sunday’s game against the Bills. For Bennett, that means a possible trip to the movies with his family, some time drawing and coloring, designing a new logo for Gronkowski, as well as working on a new app.

One thing he won’t be focused on is getting too complacent about New England’s accomplishments to this point in the season. Even with what they’ve been able to do to this point in the season, there’s no need to look backward.

“When you look in the rearview mirror, you’re more likely to crash,” Bennett said. “Just keep [our] eyes on the road and keep moving forward.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

It has been a very good start to the 2016 season for Bill Belichick. (Steven M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)FOXBORO -- Close the polls. No more calls. We have a winner.



With games like the first three this year, Josh McDaniels might not be around much longer. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)FOXBORO -- Sometimes the head coach can't do it all.