New England Patriots: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17

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New England Patriots: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Chandler Jones helped the Patriots vanquish his brother—and the Ravens—on Sunday.

The New England Patriots might have won 41-7 over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but the final score couldn't have been more misleading. 

The Patriots certainly weren't relaxing during the game. Joe Flacco explained after the game how close the game was, per Patriots.com:

Yeah, you know we've been in it before. Even last year when we won here against those guys, we were in a hole. We went down 13-0 in that game. We never lost confidence in getting ourselves back in the game. Even at the end there, we put seven on the board and it's 20-7, and we're driving back down.

The Patriots broke things open with a  LeGarrette Blount touchdown run to make it 27-7 with just over two minutes remaining and followed that up with two defensive touchdowns in the waning moments.

It wasn't a perfect game by New England, but Julian Edelman certainly wasn't complaining following the win:

We executed the assignments. We played complementary football – offense, defense, and special teams. We were able to run the ball and convert on crucial situations. There are some things we have to fine-tune over the next few weeks, but we're going to enjoy this win tonight.

Here is what you need to know going into Week 17.

 

Story To Watch

As impressive as Jamie Collins, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have been at times this year, cornerback Logan Ryan has been the best rookie on either side of the ball this season for New England.

Doug Kyed from NESN.com mentioned Ryan as one of the stars of the game against Baltimore:

The rookie cornerback did not let up too many yards through the air and came away with two interceptions. He has played well all season and has a knack for big plays.

Ryan now has five interceptions on the season. He has earned the nickname 'Instant Offense' by his teammates. Ryan drew the start over Alfonzo Dennard. He could earn starting snaps as the season goes along. He’s been a ball hawk.

Who has been the most impressive rookie this year?

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Ryan—picked in the the third round of the NFL draft this past April—has a chance to develop into the best cornerback selected by the Patriots since Asante Samuel was drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft.

 

What Went Well

1. Youth in Coverage

The first- and second-year players of New England's back seven played a key part in holding down Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.

Linebackers Jamie Collins—a rookie—and Dont'a Hightower—in his second year—got good depth on their drops and were able to deflect passes thrown their way.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan and sophomore safety Tavon Wilson snagged a combined three interceptions on the day.

Wilson—who returned an interception for a touchdown late in the game—talked about the focus on creating turnovers, via Patriots.com:

We've been working on that all week. They gave us some opportunities, and we took advantage of them. Our coaches do a great job preparing us every week. We do a great job preparing ourselves. I've got great teammates and great coaches, and I'll do whatever I'm asked to do to help.

Look for the young Patriots to get their hands on some more footballs next week against the Buffalo Bills.

 

2. Smart, Decisive Running

The Patriots offensive line was short on players. They were on the road facing a tough defense. They needed positive yardage on every play. It nearly came to pass.

Stevan Ridley and Blount made quick decisions behind the line of scrimmage and didn't try to do anything fancy. They ran behind their pads, kept their feet moving and stayed square to the line.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The signature drive of the Patriots featured Ridley and Blount running the ball nine times when the Ravens knew exactly what they were going to do. They gained 40 yards—capped by a Blount touchdown—and took four minutes and 32 seconds off the clock, effectively ending the game.

 

3. Physical Play by the Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line battered a stout Ravens defensive line, racking up 142 rushing yards on 34 carries. They were able to salt the game away late in the fourth quarter, blocking for Ridley and Blount as they made first down after first down. 

Logan Mankins explained what he thought about the perception that New England's line wasn't physical: "The experts I know always have all the answers, and they really had them when they picked the winner of this game. So when they don't mention us being physical, I always say, ‘Ask the guy that lines up across from me if we're physical.'"

 

AFC East Recap

AFC East Standings
Team Record Percentage Streak
Patriots 11-4 .733 W1
Dolphins 8-7 .533 L1
Jets 7-8 .467 W1
Bills 6-9 .400 W2

 

Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets 

Geno Smith accounted for three touchdowns—two through the air—as the Jets overcame a 10-0 deficit to beat the Browns 24-13.

Chris Ivory ran for 109 on 20 carries, while Smith added 48 more on the ground.

The Jets (7-8) finish their season by trying to prevent the Miami Dolphins from reaching the playoffs.

 

Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills

The Bills embarrassed the Dolphins, blanking them 19-0 in a game that featured just six first downs for Miami. Brandon Fields punted 10 times on the day.

Buffalo was able to move the ball on the backs of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who combined for 188 yards on 39 carries.

Ryan Tannehill—who missed part of the game due to a knee injury—was sacked seven times.

The Bills (6-9) have an important game against the AFC East champion Patriots in Week 17. The Dolphins (8-7) need a win against the Jets to keep their playoff hopes alive.

 

Analysis

The Patriots clinched the AFC East after Miami's loss to the Bills. They now hold the inside track on the second seed in the AFC playoff picture, although they could finish anywhere from the first to fourth position.

What seed in the playoffs will the Patriots earn?

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If the Patriots win next week against Buffalo, they are assured of the No. 2 seed—and a precious bye—and can even get the No. 1 seed if the Denver Broncos falter against the Oakland Raiders.

However, the Patriots can lose their bye with a loss. If the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts both win next Sunday, the Patriots would drop to the No. 4 seed and a first-round matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. If only one of the two win, the Patriots would be the No. 3 seed against an undetermined team.

If the Bengals and Colts both lose, the Patriots are assured of the No. 2 seed, regardless of if they win against Buffalo.

While the Jets and Bills have been eliminated from the playoffs, the Dolphins still have hope. Miami needs to win against the Jets and have either the San Diego Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs or the Bengals beat the Ravens.

 

Injury Report

Patriots Injury Situation
Player Injury Time Frame
Josh Boyce Knee  Unknown
Devin McCourty Head Unknown
Kenbrell Thompkins Hip Unknown
Shane Vereen Groin Unknown
Dane Fletcher Groin Unknown
Nate Solder Head Unknown

Patriots.com

 

Analysis

The Patriots seem to lose key players on offense and defense each week. That said, it just doesn't seem to matter.

Bill Belichick has paid attention to the entirety of the 53-man roster and has had to use them all. The Patriots are often vilified for valuing versatility over pure talent, but it has paid off this year.

 

All standings and statistics are courtesy of the Patriots Media Relations Department.

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