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New England Patriots: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8

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New England Patriots: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

It will be remembered for a push on a field goal, but the New England Patriots' 30-27 loss to the upstart New York Jets should be remembered for the good play of one quarterback and the poor play of another.

Geno Smith had a bad mistake, giving up an early pick-six to Logan Ryan, but he made more plays—with his feet and with his arm—down the stretch than Tom Brady.

Here is what you need to know going in to Week 8. 

 

AFC East Results

AFC East Standings
Team Record Percentage Streak
New England Patriots 5-2 .714 Lost 1
New York Jets 4-3 .571 Won 1
Miami Dolphins 3-3 .500 Lost 3
Buffalo Bills 3-4 .428 Won 1

 

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Recap

The Bills squeaked out a win over the Dolphins, with former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter nailing a 31-yard field goal with just 33 seconds remaining.

Ryan Tannehill was battered and bruised by the Bills' defensive line. Bills defenders hit Tannehill nine times—including two sacks—and picked him off twice. Offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Jonathan Martin were mostly to blame.

Who will win the AFC East?

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At 3-4 and 3-3 respectively, the Bills and Dolphins have an uphill climb to catch the New England Patriots. The Dolphins face off against the Patriots next week.

 

Analysis

With a 15-12 combined record and only two games separating first from last, the AFC East is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.

The Patriots blew a chance to blow the division wide open and now hold only a one-game lead over the New York Jets. 

 

Injury Report 

Patriots Injury Situation
Player Injury Time-frame
Vince Wilfork Ankle Injured Reserve
Jerod Mayo Pectoral Injured Reserve
Shane Vereen Wrist Short-Term IR
Tommy Kelly Ankle Unknown
Aqib Talib Hip Unknown
Danny Amendola Head Unknown

Via Patriots.com

 

Analysis

The Patriots dodged the injury bug against the Jets, with no major issues cropping up after the game. Tommy Kelly and Aqib Talib were certainly missed on the defensive side of the ball and would be nice additions when trying to defend Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace next week.

Should the Patriots rest Danny Amendola until the bye week?

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No new information has been released about Danny Amendola's concussion. It might be wise for the Patriots to rest Amendola until after the bye week so he can heal both his groin and his head.

 

Story To Watch

Chandler Jones had to be salivating to play against Miami's left tackle Jonathan Martin, who has been a turnstile since joining the Dolphins out of Stanford.

Jones might not get the chance, however. The Dolphins have acquired Bryant McKinnie from the Baltimore Ravens according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel had this to say.

So far this season McKinnie has allowed one sack, four quarterback hits and 15 hurries. However, he's been a liability from the run blocking standpoint.

The Dolphins explored signing McKinnie as a free agent this offseason, but opted to go another avenue, signing Tyson Clabo and Lance Louis in free agency, and drafting Dallas Thomas in the third-round of the 2013 draft.

None of those players have panned out, which explains why the Dolphins are ranked 31st in sacks allowed per pass play.

At this point it is uncertain if Miami will use McKinnie at right or left tackle. Jonathan Martin, the team's 2012 second-round pick, is presently manning the left tackle spot. However, Martin played right tackle for the first 12 games of the 2012 season.

Even if McKinnie is able to suit up right away for Miami, look for the Patriots' pass-rushers to have a big impact on Sunday's game.

 

What Needs to Improve

1. Tom Brady's Accuracy

In the first game against the Jets this year, Tom Brady was victimized by poor receiver play and miscommunication. This time, however, most of the blame lies with Brady.

Here is what Doug Kyed of NESN.com had to say about Brady's struggles.

Brady had 11 bad passes, though, that went for incompletions — and one interception — mostly because of inaccuracy. That’s slightly concerning to see out of a quarterback who, for so long, delivered bullet after bullet to his intended targets. After games, it’s easy to find Patriots fans and analysts blasting the team’s receivers. And while they did appear to have trouble gaining separation for much of the game, they’re not forcing Brady to the throw the ball into the dirt or over their heads in the sidelines. Brady’s struggles are very real.

If Brady doesn't regain his pinpoint accuracy for the stretch run, the Patriots will have a hard time advancing in the playoffs.

 

2. Pass Protection

The Jets were able to get pressure on Brady without bringing exotic blitzes—a four-man rush was the norm—allowing for a full complement of defenders to drop into coverage. Nate Solder gave up two sacks, while Ryan Wendell was bullied by mammoth defensive tackle Damon Harrison.

Until Brady's accuracy issues are corrected, he needs all the time he can get in the pocket.

 

3. Linebacker Coverage

The defense took a big hit when Jerod Mayo was placed on injured reserve last week. Dont'a Hightower filled in admirably, but at 270 pounds, he is going to be hard-pressed to duplicate the range that Mayo had in coverage.

Look for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to try and scheme a way to keep Hightower out of tough situations in coverage. 

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

 

4. Middle Defense Health

Every team in the NFL would like to be more healthy at this point in the year, but when you get a string of injuries at similar positions—defensive tackle and middle linebacker, for example—bad things happen. The Patriots need Tommy Kelly to get healthy soon so Chris Jones—a solid option on passing downs—doesn't have to play as much in run situations. 

All stats courtesy of NFL.com and the Patriots' official media site.

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