One oddsmaker now says Tom Brady is third in race for NFL MVP honors.

One oddsmaker now says Tom Brady is third in race for NFL MVP honors.

Bovada announced Wednesday that Brady — who had led the pack for the last couple of weeks — currently has the third-best odds to win MVP. He trails Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott (3/1) and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan (7/2). Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott (6/1) and Oakland quarterback Derek Carr (8/1) round out the top five.

Bovada is a little kinder to the Patriots as a whole, as they still have New England with the best odds to win the Super Bowl at 12/5. (Good odds, but off a little from last week, when New England was at 9/4.) The Cowboys (4/1), Seahawks (15/2), Raiders (10/1) and Steelers (12/1) round out top five.

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Christopher Price

FOXBORO — Marcus Cannon said Wednesday he feels “blessed” to have received a contract extension from the Patriots.

Right tackle Marcus Cannon landed a new deal from the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Right tackle Marcus Cannon landed a new deal from the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Marcus Cannon said Wednesday he feels “blessed” to have received a contract extension from the Patriots.

“It doesn’t validate anything,” the right tackle said of the new five-year deal he agreed to earlier in the week, a contract that could keep him in New England for the rest of his career. “I still have to come out here and do things better. There are still things I need to work on.

“But like I was saying, I’m very thankful of the opportunity they’ve given me. I’m very blessed.”

The 6-foot-5, 363-pound Cannon is in his sixth season with the Patriots, and while he struggled at times over the course of his career in New England, it appears that the stability that comes with only playing right tackle has agreed with him. The 28-year-old, who has bounced up and down the offensive line over the course of his career, has been the right tackle since the start of the season, and has done well.

“Marcus is having a good season. He’s been a good player for us,” said Bill Belichick. “Marcus has always done a solid job for us whenever he’s played. I’m glad we have him going forward. He works hard. A quiet kid but he’s very dependable, team oriented. He’s done a good job for us in the running game and the passing game. He’s been a good player.”

There are two other possible reasons behind his improvement: one, he was reunited with Dante Scarnecchia, who returned to work as the offensive line coach this past season. And two, it looks like he dropped some weight, and is lighter on his feet. That helps out when it comes to footwork and technique, especially when it comes to defeating pass rushers off the edge.

“Just changed some stuff here and there,” Cannon said when asked about his weight loss. “We have a great strength and conditioning coach; he helped a lot. Just put some good people in my corner. He helped me be the best I can be.”

When it comes to Scarnecchia, he said the return of the veteran coach has been “great” when it comes to his professional development.

“Just doing everything that he tells us to do as an offensive line and trying to get better every day,” he said. “I just love playing with the guys in this unit. Come in every day, work together. We leave together. We’re a tight-knit group.”

In the end, Cannon said the contract doesn’t necessarily provide validation for he level of work he’s put in over the last few years. But he won’t deny that there’s a sense of comfort that comes with the possibility of him being able to finish his career in New England.

“I’m always trying to get better. There are things I have to work on still. Small things, big things. I’m never just happy with where I’m at,” he said. “[But] I’m thankful they’ve given me this opportunity, and they trust me enough to re-sign me.”

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Christopher Price

FOXBORO — When the opposing punter is their best player do the Patriots really have anything to fear this Sunday against the Rams? Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable preview from inside Gillette Stadium.

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FOXBORO — Jerome Boger will work as referee for Sunday’s Rams-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.

Jerome Boger will work as the referee Sunday. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Jerome Boger will work as the referee Sunday. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Jerome Boger will work as referee for Sunday’s Rams-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.

Boger, who has worked as an NFL referee since 2006, has gained a measure of notoriety for the fact that his crew been one of the most flag-happy groups in the league this season.

He does have a background with the Patriots: In 2013, he was the lead official for the Oct. 13 game between New England and Jets at MetLife Stadium. That game will be remember for a disputed ending, one where Boger and his crew flagged New England defensive lineman Chris Jones for unsportsmanlike conduct when, according to Boger, Jones pushed a teammate into the formation on a late field-goal attempt by the Jets. The field goal was off the mark, but the penalty gave New York another chance, and the Jets converted later in the extra session.

Boger’s last New England game was in 2014 when he worked the “On To Cincinnati” contest in Foxboro against the Bengals.

Here’s a look at who has worked as the referee for each Patriots’ regular-season game this year and the corresponding penalties for each game, not counting the flags that were offset or declined:

Sept. 11 at Arizona: Tony Corrente — 8 penalties, 69 yards (Cardinals — 6 penalties, 58 yards)
Sept. 18 vs. Miami: Craig Wrolstad — 7 penalties, 65 yards (Dolphins — 5 penalties, 49 yards)
Sept. 22 vs. Houston: Walt Coleman — 3 penalties, 15 yards (Texans — 6 penalties, 43 yards)
Oct. 2 vs. Buffalo: Pete Morelli — 9 penalties, 74 yards (Bills — 6 penalties, 60 yards)
Oct. 9 at Cleveland: Bill Vinovich — 5 penalties, 61 yards (Browns — 5 penalties, 35 yards)
Oct. 16 vs. Cincinnati: Ronald Torbert — 6 penalties, 55 yards (Bengals — 7 penalties, 46 yards)
Oct. 23 at Pittsburgh: Craig Wrolstad — 4 penalties, 40 yards (Steelers — 10 penalties, 85 yards)
Oct. 30 at Buffalo: John Parry — 10 penalties, 116 yards (Bills — 12 penalties, 84 yards)
Nov. 13 vs. Seattle: Gene Steratore — 7 penalties, 61 yards (Seahawks — 8 penalties, 60 yards)
Nov. 20 at San Francisco: Jeff Triplette — 5 penalties, 40 yards (Niners — 10 penalties, 68 yards)
Nov. 27 at New York Jets: Brad Allen — 2 penalties, 15 yards (Jets — 6 penalties, 66 yards)

For more on Boger’s work as a referee, check out his page at Pro Football Reference.

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Christopher Price
Oct 2, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker (6) punts the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Hekker has established himself as one of the best punters in football. (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Bill Parcells famously once said about Curtis Martin, “Let’s not put him in Canton yet.”

Bill Belichick spoke Wednesday like a man throwing that caution to the wind when it comes to Rams punter Johnny Hekker.

In the ultimate pumping of the tires of an opposing player, Belichick spoke in glowing terms about the punter out of Oregon State, who once beat out Patriots punter Ryan Allen, forcing Allen to transfer to Louisiana Tech.

“Start with the kicking game, Hekker is a tremendous weapon,” Belichick beamed. “This guy looks like as good a player as I’ve seen at that position. He’s tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fake, can throw, can run, very athletic.”

The numbers support Belichick’s respect. Hekker is second in the NFL in average net yards (44.9), punts inside the 20 (35), fair catches (27) and fewest touchbacks (1). In five years in the league, he has averaged 46.3 yards per punt and a net average of 43.0 yards.

Those numbers over his first five years have put him in the highest regard by Belichick and every other coach who values special teams. Belichick thinks Hekker, because of his athletic ability, is much more than just a punter.

“But you’re talking about an athlete with Hekker,” Belichick continued. “He’s a little more athletic than [Sean] Landetta, just to pick a name. Ray Guy, Ray kicked for great average.”

“Look, these guys lead the league in punt coverage. They lead the league in gross punting, lead the league in net punting, lead the league in inside-the-20 and lead the league in punt coverage. If you’re in front in one of those categories, it’s very good. Last year, they led the league in all three. They’re right up there this year. Plus, he’s a threat on fakes and stuff like that.”

Obviously, the hope is that the Patriots see Hekker a lot on Sunday.

“Yeah. Right. We’ve just got to make sure we get the ball, that’s all,” Belichick said. “Another part of the problem is just catching the ball. We’ve seen multiple guys because he kicks it so far and he makes the returner move for it, they run over there and they mishandle it or it hits the ground and rolls for another 20 yards. It’s a tough ball to catch because you’re not just shagging flies out there. He’s making you run and he’s kicking it over your head.

“The ball-handling is tough for the returners, too. Very tough. The Jets had a lot of trouble with it, Carolina. He’s had several punts this year where they can’t get to the ball and then it rolls 20 yards. Fifty becomes 70 or 45 becomes 65. It just changes field position with one play. You think you’re going to get the ball with good field position and then you’re on your 15-yard line. Got to do a good job there. Hope he gets a good workout, yeah.”

Belichick has coached some great punters and seen some others. Belichick recalled the 1981 season finale game with the Giants when New York beat Dallas, 13-10, in overtime to clinch the final playoff berth. His punter Dave Jennings came up with a big punt to flip the field late in the game.

“Dave could throw. He had very good directional placement on the ball, was a clutch punter, when you needed one,” Belichick said. “I still remember in the Dallas game, being backed up inside our 10-yard line and hit a 55-yarder out of the end zone that eventually got us into the playoffs. It’s not just [punt yards] average. It’s like golf. It’s not can you make a putt, it’s making when you’ve got to make them. Same thing with kickers. Definitely put Jennings in there.”

Ray Guy, Sean Landetta, Jennings and current-day punter Thomas Morstead of the Saints are all in a special class to Belichick. Hekker might be the best of all of them.

“Those guys are all in that discussion. And they’re all great players,” Belichick said. “I’m not taking anything away from any of them. Landetta, I have a lot of personal interaction with Sean. This guy, this guy’s a weapon. He’s not a good player, he’s a weapon,” Belichick said.

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Mike Petraglia

Former NFL executive Joe Browne recently retired after 50 years in the league office, but the Patriots are keeping their eyes on him.

On Tuesday, Brown tweeted — and then deleted — about the deadly plane crash that virtually wiped out Chapecoense, an inspirational Brazilian soccer team.

Jared Goff will make his first career start against the Patriots Sunday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Jared Goff will make his first career start against the Patriots Sunday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Jared Goff is facing an uphill battle this weekend against the Patriots.

Since 2001, no rookie quarterback in his first or second start against the Patriots has beaten Bill Belichick in New England. Overall — both home and away — Belichick has faced 22 quarterbacks in that time, and he’s 17-5 against them.

Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, will be making the third start of his career. In his first two starts — both losses — he’s gone 37-for-63 (59 percent) for 348 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 83.3. Belichick said Wednesday he’s been impressed with Goff’s development to this point in his career.

“He’s very talented,” Belichick said. “He’s athletic. There were times where New Orleans had guys coming free, he was able to escape them in the pocket and get outside and buy extra time on the play. He’s athletic, has a good arm [and] can make the throws. [He] threw a post down there that they just missed on, but it was a good throw, 50, 55 yards. I don’t think talent is the issue here. I’m sure he’s going to get better each week, like most young players do.”

When it comes to knocking off the Patriots, Goff would be wise to consider some of the best performances by rookie quarterbacks against Belichick over the last dozen-plus years. The rookies who had the most success against the Patriots? Geno Smith was the last first-year signal-caller to beat Belichick and New England, with that victory coming in 2013 at MetLife. Russell Wilson did the same in 2012 with the Seahawks in Seattle, while Colt McCoy (2010) and Mark Sanchez (2009) also pulled off early wins over New England.

But the most impressive was probably in 2004, when Ben Roethlisberger, in his first start against the Patriots as a rookie, went 18-for-24 with 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That contest, a 34-20 win over New England, also halted the Patriots’ 21-game win streak.

Here’s the complete list of rookie quarterbacks against Belichick and the Patriots since 2001:

2016: Cody Kessler*** (L): 5-for-8, 62 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

2015: Marcus Mariota**** (L): 3-for-6, 32 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, sacked three times

2014: David Carr (L): 21-for-34, 174 yards, 0 INT, 1 INT

2013: EJ Manuel (L): 18-for-27, 150 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Geno Smith (L): 15-for-35, 214 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, sacked four times
Geno Smith (W): 17-for-33, 233 yards, 1 passing TD, 1 rushing TD, 1 INT, sacked four times

2012: Russell Wilson (W): 16-for-27, 293 yards, 3 TD, sacked twice
Andrew Luck (L): 27-for-50, 334 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, sacked once
Ryan Tannehill (L): 13-for-29, 186 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, sacked three times
Ryan Tannehill (L): 20-for-35, 235 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, sacked seven times

2011: None

2010: Colt McCoy (W): 14-for-19, 174 yards, TD

2009: Mark Sanchez (W): 14-for-22, 163 yards, TD
Mark Sanchez (L): 8-for-21, 136 yards, TD, 4 INT, sacked two times
Josh Freeman* (L): 2-for-4, 16 yards, sacked two times

2008: None

2007: Trent Edwards** (L): 10-for-20, 97 yards, INT, sacked once

2006: Vince Young (L): 15-for-36, 227, 2 INT, sacked five times, two rush, 29 yards, TD

2005: None

2004: Ben Roethlisberger (W): 18-for-24, 196 yards, 2 TD
Ben Roethlisberger (L): 14-for-24, 226 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT
Luke McCown (L): 20-for-34, 277 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

2003: Byron Leftwich (L): 21-for-40, 288 yards, TD, 2 INT

2002: Joey Harrington (L): 22-for-44, 210 yards, 3 INT

2001: Chris Weinke (L): 15-for-36, 144 yards, 3 INT

* Freeman replaced ineffective Josh Johnson midway through fourth quarter

** Edwards replaced J.P. Losman after Losman injured on first series

***Kessler was knocked out of the game in the first half and replaced by Charlie Whitehurst

****Mariota was knocked out of the game in the second quarter and replaced by Zach Mettenberger

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price