Key non-divisional match-ups for the New England Patriots in 2014

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Football, New entries
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Aside from key divisional match-ups (Miami and N.Y. Jets) and the occasional trap game (Detroit, San Diego) New England has five regular season games to establish their 2014 “clout” among the other heavyweights of the NFL. Fortunately for New England three of these games are home in “friendly” Foxboro Stadium.

Week 5: 10/5 vs. Cincinnati Bengals – New England gets CB Brandon Browner back from suspension just in time for their week five contest against Cincinnati. Hopefully Browner will be ready to jump right in and and put the brakes on one of Cincinnati’s first round tight ends or end-zone threat Marvin Jones. Andy Dalton’s quarterback woes have been well documented and New England’s suddenly strong secondary matches up well with Cincinnati’s one-man (A.J. Green and friends) show in the passing game. New England’s greatest struggle may be containing running backs shifty Giovani Bernard and bruising Jeremy Hill. Cincinnati has a top offensive line (according to profootballfocus.com) and will put the Patriots front seven to the test.

Week 8: 10/26 vs. Chicago Bears – Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner will have an exciting match up against the top wide receiving duo in the NFL. Chicago’s defense looks to improve on their dreadful performance from 2013, Chicago’s one Achilles’ Heel are the safeties which Brady will look to expose with Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Chicago may be choosing between 2013 underperformers Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings (a Green Bay castoff) and Brock Vereen a rookie to start at safety. New England will also need to contain ageless wonder Jared Allen from putting pressure on a 37 year old Tom Brady. The health of Rob Gronkowski will make a huge difference for New England’s ability to move the chains against Chicago’s improved defense.

Week 9: 11/2 vs. Denver Broncos – A rematch from 2013, New England got lucky waiting for Denver to make a special teams gaffe that cost them the game. New England ended up winning in classic New England fashion, by kicking their opponent to death at the very last second. A (presumably) healthy Revis and Browner should put up more of a fight than Aqib Talib was able to. Obviously pressuring Manning and taking away his favorite targets will be key to New England’s victory. On offense the Patriots will need to establish the run game against a fierce group of pass rushers and defensive backs (Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and rookie Bradley Roby). New England’s receiving corps won’t scare anybody unless one of their young talents can step in in year two (and if they can force Denver to honor their running game).

Week 11: 11/16 @ Indianapolis Colts – New England pummeled Indianapolis in the playoffs with battering ram LeGarrette Blount. New England will have to choose between fumble-ridden Stevan Ridley and inexperienced fullback James Develin to start a runner that weighs more than 205 lbs. Indianapolis has been inconsistent in the past but can hang with the best of the NFL when playing at the top of their game. Picking on a first time starter at SS for Indianapolis and looking for the screen pass to take advantage of an overly-aggressive pass rush may be New England’s best strategy in Indianapolis. Indy may not be so exposed against the run as they were last season with the addition of former Brown ILB D’Qwell Jackson.

On defense New England will need to contain an underrated group of wideouts in Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, and rookie Donte Moncrief. Indianapolis also has a pair of young tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) and basketball standout Erik Swoope who could provide coverage mismatches for New England’s defense. Brandon Browner and the rest of the NE secondary will have their hands full trying to contain the group of tall athletes.

Week 13: 11/30 @ Green Bay Packers – Green Bay routinely puts a quality product on the field and 2014 looks to be no different. Green Bay has a host of young rookies who could develop quickly into downfield receiving threats. Davante Adams had video game receiving numbers at Fresno State with over twenty receiving touchdowns in 2013. Sure-handed Jared Abbrederis’s received praise for his finesse in route running and 6’4″ Jeff Janis could prove troublesome to cover. And then there’s Cal TE Richard Rodgers who could become Green Bay’s replacement for the oft-injured Jermichael Finley. New England has depth enough at secondary and has a fighting chance against a strong and dynamic Green Bay roster if they can (again) take advantage of a rookie safety in Ha Ha Clinton Dix and establish a running offense with Ridley and the gang.

 

New England’s chances of returning to the postseason (as usual) rely on their ability to stay healthy and for their young talent to make strides in the passing game. New England’s window of opportunity to hoist another Lombardi trophy is closing and Bill Belichick will have to devise his best schemes yet to stay ahead of the competition.

 

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