New England hit their 8th win in a row on Sunday, advancing to 10-2 against the once playoff-bound Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have regressed to 6-6 on the year, and unless there is a late-season surge coming it is safe to say their season has ended. With the benching and then re-starting of Tyrod Taylor after he threw for just 85 yards against the Saints, the Bills have created their fair share of problems.
This didn’t change on Sunday with a typical routing by New England and a final score of 23-3. Although the score wasn’t too crazy, it very much felt like this game was a no-contest game after the first drive when New England picked off a very ugly lobbed pass from Taylor in the end zone. The Patriots offense struggled quite a bit, but they did just enough to make sure this game was out of reach.
Tom Brady threw for 258 yards and an interception with no touchdowns, a rare performance. It felt like the interception would be called back doing to a defensive interference call when rookie Tre’Davious White manhandled Rob Gronkowski before picking off the pass. This may have been the case, but then Gronkowski threw his entire weight onto the head and shoulders of a downed-White, who was out of bounds, after the play had ended. This was an out-of-character dirty move for Gronk and the Patriots, and it resulted him a one game suspension for this coming Monday night game against Miami.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say that this suspension is a good thing for Gronkowski and New England. For one, it brings in an immediate change of behavior to Gronk and I’m sure we won’t see this type of action on the field again because not only will he be suspended a game, but Bill Belichick will eat him alive for the move and subsequent suspension.
The other reason I like this suspension is for the health of Gronkowski. If you’ve ever watched a season of Patriots football (and even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard), you know that a season-ending Gronkowski injury is as predictable as the sun coming up each day. What this suspension acts as, in a twisted sort of way, is an opportunity for Gronk to catch up on his health during the back end of a grueling regular season. With this being said, the suspension is taking place against Miami, who the Patriots tacked on 35 points against two weeks ago. This game is expected to be a win with or without Gronk playing. Lastly, it keeps the star tight end healthy and ready-to-go against the current 2 seed of the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Patriots play the following week.
The Patriots-Steelers game is largely considered to be a foreshadowing of the AFC Championship game that will take place in January, and it serves as a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship as well. Pittsburgh had an ugly night on Monday, cooking up only 10 points in rough game that brought a lot of injuries to the roster. Most importantly, Steelers’ stud linebacker Ryan Shazier lost all feeling in his lower extremities Monday night after a headfirst tackle. There are many who fear he may not be able to walk again, let alone play football.
The Pats will need to take care of business in Miami before they can play the Steelers, and although Miami has slumped to 5-7 and are largely considered the worst team in the division this year, they always have a way of playing tough at home against New England. Keep in mind that although the Pats put up 35 last matchup, Miami was able to score 17 points and also had success getting to Brady.
This time around Jay Cutler should be slinging the ball for Miami instead of Matt Moore. To start the season Cutler signed a 1 year, 10 million-dollar contract with Miami after their starting QB Ryan Tanehill went down in preseason. A lot of people find Cutler to be notoriously bad and lazy. Although he’s had his fair share of poor judgement on the field and has made lazy remarks, I believe that the lack of success this year for Miami is based more on scheme then it is Cutler’s magical ability to be all things bad.
If Cutler is as bad as the memes say he is, he wouldn’t be making 10 million dollars. You can say the Dolphins are stupid, and while they’re not the savviest NFL team they are still an NFL team. Cutler isn’t a bad QB when he’s in the right situation. A few years back he had his highest QBR season with a one Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator, the gentleman who now is head coach of the ‘Phins. It makes sense that Gase wanted to go through the season with someone he knows if his starter is going to be out all year. The issue is that the Dolphins offense isn’t built for Cutlers playstyle, because it is built for Tannehill’s. A smart coach would redesign the offense for their QB (like Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels did last year for Jimmy Garrapolo and again for Jacoby Brissett). Instead, the passing game revolves around quick inside routes from Jarvis Landry, who’s better running horizontal than he is vertical. If Cutler had an offense he could take the top off with, they’d probably be doing better.
Regardless of the Dolphins issues on offense, it is likely that New England walks out of Miami with a win. After that, it is business time with the Steelers.