Lambs to the Slaughter: Week 1 Grades.

By Dino Scapelli

Summer arrives and, like sheep, we’re nearly all bleating the same baa: Another season, another championship; ho-hum. The only question is whether this 2017 Patriots team is actually better than the one that went undefeated through 18 games in 2007. (We won’t speak of the 19th.) This year’s on-field competition can’t be as tough as the decade-old ghost of that historic juggernaut. It’s 19-0 or get the flock outta here!

So much for 19-0.

How could this be? I mean, Brandin Cooks, ferchrissakes! Better depth at Wide Receiver and Running Back, Gronk’s healthy again, Brady’s better than ever, and those Defensive Backs with Stephon Gilmore, no one could catch a pass against them!

Except anyone and everyone wearing a Kansas City Chiefs uniform on Thursday night.

But …Alex Smith …game manager …can’t throw deep …15 TDs all last year….

Uh-huh.

You can’t expect much from a preseason game in which all the new players are just trying to find their way in Bill Belichick’s complex system, and preseason football is what we saw in the Patriots Week 1 performance. Synergy takes time to develop, and Cooks, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Gilmore, Cassius Marsh, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise, Marquis Flowers, and David Harris have no real game experience in this system. It showed.

What also showed was the cost of losing continuity in the roster in such an esoteric rendition of NFL football. There has been a lot of turnover of personnel in key positions from last season to this, and that clearly led to communication and execution problems in this game. This simply did not look like a Belichick team, and that may ironically be Belichick’s own fault for letting some important contributors from last year’s championship roster move on to other teams without integrated younger players in place to replace them. Add the retirement of Rob Ninkovich and the in-game losses of two of the most experienced players in Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola, and the Patriots may simply not be ready for prime time so early in the process.

Reasons to worry? Yes. Reasons to lose faith? Not yet.

Wolf #1: How good a sheepdog was the Offensive Line?
Every flock needs a brave and stout escort to chase away the wolves, and this one has a reliable one in its defensive wall protecting Brady. They kept a tough pass rush mostly at bay, one major Marcus Cannon whiff notwithstanding, but provided few avenues for the RBs to make some yards on the ground, and also failed to move the line of scrimmage on four short-yardage opportunities. They may have been the most effective group on the entire offense, but they deserve no more than a dogged C.

Wolf #2: How was the lead ram Quarterback?
Make no mistake, Tom Brady is a great QB with a weakness: He needs his binkie. His binkie tore his ACL a couple weeks ago, and it clearly threw Brady’s timing and confidence off. Familiarity is crucial to maximum cool, and when Amendola went down, Brady was left with his third and later favorite targets at WR, and a TE who was being manhandled all night. The new guys weren’t always where they should have been, or was that just Tom being jittery? It will come around, but opening night saw the GOAT clearly out-cooled by his opposite number in a nervous C-.

Wolf #3: Were the Running Backs able to outrun the red wolves?
Only a few times. The Chiefs put up a brilliant defensive performance, holding our RBs to only 3.56 yards per carry, and limiting them to only 4 catches on 8 targets. New bell sheep Gillislee scored thrice, but failed to convert first downs on short yardage twice, and gained more than 3 yards only five times on 15 carries, three of those at 4 yards. As a group, they ran into a wooly C-.

Wolf #4: Did the new Wide Receivers stretch the pasture?
There were flashes of speed we don’t usually see from Patriots receivers, but besides short-timer Amendola, there wasn’t much separation apparent, and very little gain: Excluding one 54-yard grab by Cooks, the total for the WRs was 142 yards, 100 of those from #80. Amendola caught 6 of his 7 targets before being concussed out of the game, but the other wideouts hauled in only 4 of their 12 targets. The best thing they produced was drawing two pass interference calls and four defensive holding calls. They will get it eventually, I trust, but this time out, they earned only a Danny-dependent C

Wolf #5: Did the return of Gronk make the Tight Ends prize winners?
The big ram caught only 2 passes in 6 targets, while his new teammate came up empty on his 2 attempts. Both were required to do a lot of blocking duty against the vicious KC pass pressure, but they were non-factors in the game. Give them a lam[b]e D.

Wolf #6: How did the Defensive Line fare?
Horribly. Even the big guys in the middle got pushed around like fluffy little baby lambs. No one stopped the run or penetrated the pass blocking all night long. The one strength in the defensive front was weak, and the edge was essentially unmanned all night against the run, and the pass rush was feeble. This is the front line of the defense, and something must be done to shore it up at its edges. Fast! They deserve a Shear[e]d F.

Wolf #7: Linebackers? What Linebackers?
We were all surprised last season when Belichick dumped athletic LB Jamie Collins, counting on tweeters and role players like Shea McClellin and Barkevious Mingo to replace him. Kyle Van Noy is a decent player in a limited role. This year, McClellin is on IR, Mingo is gone, youngster Elandon Roberts is a two-down LB at best, and Dont’a Hightower is a good player who was out of position at DE until he got hurt …again. This was a glaring position of need in the offseason that went largely unaddressed, and it was a major part of the problem in Thursday’s game. They had reserve Safeties and newcomer DEs playing OLB against a very efficient offense, and the whole unit looked confused throughout. It’s hard to blame Just Guys for being overmatched on the field of play, but they were put out there to do a job, and came up short. Their score is a big bad F.

Wolf #8: Yeah, but those Defensive Backs make it impossible to score against the Pats, right?
Wrong. Without some kind of front seven play, DBs can’t cover prevent opposition scoring. This group did OK most of the night, but there were predictable breakdowns in communication that led to big plays against them. Yes, they are a solid group, maybe one of the best in the league, but they were all alone out there. Give them a checkered C+.

Wolf #9: And the Special Teams?
Steven Gostkowski did his job cleanly, and Punter Ryan Allen was steady. Kickoff returners did as well as we have become accustomed to seeing, which isn’t much, and punt return stalwart Amendola played it safe with the ball, but was hit on the noggin twice and had to enter the concussion protocol. Kick coverage was good. Overall, the group gets an silver lining B

Wolf #10: Was the coaching good enough to fashion fine woolens from a pile of newly-shorn hair?
It is always hard to tell whether a bad performance is purely the players’ fault or if much of the blame can be laid at the coaches feet. The last-second scrambling of the defensive front appears to have been a costly mistake, allowing an average offense to win the game easily in the second half. The insistence on throwing long passes failed to take advantage of the talents of the Patriots’ RBs and TEs. Of course, new additions take time to assimilate and communicate. Still, the ill-fitting offensive game plan and the obvious lack of preparedness behind the defensive line of scrimmage cost them the game. The coaches deserve no better than a slaughtered F.

An actual football team is not an assemblage of statistical results the way a fantasy football team is. It is a living organism that needs healthy organs and complete nutrition, and someone to keep the slavering wolves at bay. This edition of the Patriots is the product of Bill Belichick’s ability to be Dr. Frankenstein and produce a smooth rendition of Puttin’ On the Ritz. So far, we have seen more Peter Boyle than Fred Astaire. Nothing is over until Bill says it is over; certainly not a roster. But the monster he has created for 2017 has some missing parts and some bolts loose. Let’s hope he can perform some transplants before the mob comes to the gates with torches and pitchforks.

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DNOMN8R314
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NEW POST
—>Report

bring
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AZ needs a RB – anyone know a team that can afford to trade one?Report

DNOMN8R314
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Seen the name of Dion Lewis thrown out there a few times.Report

DNOMN8R314
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I’ll be at the Pats-Texans game, so I can let you know how the field looks. (From a distance, though. I won’t get to stand on it.)Report

rondo723
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Kevin White – 3 seasons, 3 IRs. Reminiscent of Charles Rogers for the Lions a decade ago. Has to be tough to stay positive and motivated after these bad breaks.Report

MrLucky
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Losing on Thursday friggin sucks. 10 days to dwell on it.Report

JLStokes
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Pats needed a palette cleanser. 28-3 is now FAR off in the distance.

I think this will be a bigger help than if the team were to scrap by with an ugly win. Now their flaws have been shown and competitive fire has been questioned. Easy to fix the problems now that they are known than when they show up down the line.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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But 10 days for the Pats to get things straightened out.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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RB David Johnson may need surgery on his wrist- decision in 24-48 hours.Report

MrLucky
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Damn. Feel bad I put the fantasy curse on him. Should have drafted Elliott or someone who I want to fail.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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who is ready for POWER RANKINGSReport

Neil X
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I’d love to see Hugo’s Power Rankings. ESPN’s, not so much.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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I’d rather see them in October.Report

Neil X
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Well, that would mean it’s October and and a quarter of the season is over.Report

Neil X
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Neil X.’s Eight Biggest NFL Surprises so far: 1) New England offense and defense looking ineffective and lethargic in what should have been an emotional game 1. 2) The LA Rams and Goff looking sharp and like a real NFL team and QB. 3) Jacksonville embarrassing the Texans at home, in another game that the home team had a lot of motivation to be up for. 4) Chicago playing Atlanta close enough that if it weren’t for one pass dropped in the last seconds of the game, the Bears would have gotten the upset win. 5) Bell ineffective as the… Read more »
hugowasmyhomeboy
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the league as a whole looked awfully mediocre in week 1Report

Neil X
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Very true.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Jerry Jones really needs to shut his trap- now saying that TB was even more guilty than Elliott.————————————————————>Report

bring
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he said brady didn’t cooperate with the nfl and elliott didReport

hugowasmyhomeboy
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It’s not just the coaching staff that are willing to move on from a mistake early.
@Trags Per @MikeReiss Gillette Stadium replacing @FieldTurf after just 4 months. Edelman (Detroit), Cy Jones (Gillette) ACL tears non-contact.Report

bring
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wowReport

DKINGG
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interesting, also the Eric Berry injuryReport

DKINGG
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Give the Chiefs Credit they played great D and limited the short throws to stop the Pats. Pats have to get better and figure alot of things out because its a formula only a few teams can use.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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What you think of that distinction is another matter, but they were one of the NFL’s best teams last year and it appears this year will be no different.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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The Chiefs are goodReport

DKINGG
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Yes they areReport

DKINGG
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Separation was a problem vs the Chiefs and you gotta give them credit the bump and run worked. They also have the D to contend with the Pats but the Patriots could have found ways to beat the bump and run man to man coverage. Because we are going to see defenses throughout the season try to do that to us.Report

JLStokes
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“Bump and run…and hold”.Report

DKINGG
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Yea they were holding alot and got away with it tooReport

JLStokes
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There were multiple instances of Pats receivers doing enough to get separation, but the defender was able to tug their jersey or flat out hold their arm to prevent a completion.

I can think of 3-4 of the top of my head.Report

DKINGG
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@PP_Rich_Hill
Danny Amendola was the only Patriots receiver to create any type of separation against the ChiefsReport

DKINGG
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Cooks mainly Played to one side of the field Thursday I noticed. BB said he anticipates several receivers will eventually have the ability to play mutliple spots in the offense. I agree they have to move them aroundReport

itsBradyBaby
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Still blame the offense more for the lost , not saying D was good , but they give the offense enough chances, I’m not in the sky is falling group though, someone told me here the other day the run stopped working that’s why we started throwing more, go watch again , Josh got over his head again and felt wr had to match our run production through the air , I think the talent is there just got to balance it , the run game could be key , think our line men love to pound it .Report
zoocore
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Most points a Belichick team has ever given up. Case closed. We’re on to New Orleans.Report

Neil X
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The Patriots aren’t going to win many games if the O has to score 43 points to win the game. Blame belongs squarely on the D. 27 points ought to be enough to beat most teams.Report

JLStokes
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Offense wasn’t out there allowing 41 points with multiple big/broken plays.Report

bring
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I blame the defense. When the Pats score 27, you expect them to win. The D gave up as many big plays in one game as they usually give up in a season.Report

jdlboot14
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A lot will be determined on how quickly and how thoroughly Dorsett can catch on. He could end up being a big part in filling the JE (and maybe DA) void. But it’s just unrealistic to expect Brady to trust him in those big/clutch moments.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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The only one TB trusts at this point is White.Report

bring
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He trusts Gronk and Hogan – they just weren’t openReport

JLStokes
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He definitely trust Cooks if he was willing to throw those deep passes.

Tom doesn’t do that lightly (last Thursday notwithstanding).Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Lions punter with an ACL/MCL tear———————————————>Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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Reminds me of the dude who got hurt because of “keep chopping wood”Report

HunterCenter
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oh just rub some dirt on it. jeesh, punters are such wusses.Report

Neil X
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So I guess the “Is Flacco elite?” question has been pretty thoroughly answered at this point.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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My strange soft spot for Flacco will never dieReport

Saturn III
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That is a strange soft spot lol.Report

HunterCenter
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must be the charming Delaware accent and the unibrowReport

Neil X
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He’s gotta be the only Blue Hen starting in the NFL.Report

HunterCenter
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I would thinkReport

JLStokes
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I thought that question died a quick death years ago.Report

HunterCenter
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8-ball says “Maybe”?Report

jdlboot14
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Since 1990 teams that lose opener are 26% to make playoffs.
This year, I see at least 4 of the 13 teams who lost week one, will be in the playoffs. NE, TEN, NYG, SEAReport

HunterCenter
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not sure about the Giants. that offense looks baaaaaad. we’ll see.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Have to see when OBJ gets back if that offense looks better.Report

TS13
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May as well put Burkhead in the slot and paint “11” on his jersey.Report

Panic Time
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That’s genius. Would the NFL allow 10 players with #11 on their back?Report

HunterCenter
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11gateReport

JLStokes
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I think we’ll see more of James White and Dion Lewis taking some of those “Edelman-esque” passes underneath.Report

HunterCenter
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hope so. I’m thinking 2RB sets should be the current answer for this offenseReport

JLStokes
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It might not even be two-RB sets. It might just be Tom taking what the defense gives him. If they cover everything up deep, he’ll swing the pass to the RB.

It’s basically how they won the last 2 SBs. Not sure why they got away from it Thursday.Report

TS13
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They were busy practicing “end arounds.”Report

HunterCenter
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I know why: McDanielsReport

JLStokes
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It was a weird game plan. Though, if history is any indication, they’ll probably go traditional against the Saints.

Seems like Bill has to rein in McD every now and again.Report

MrLucky
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Giants offense looked real good.Report

Neil X
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You can’t spell “elite” without Eli!Report

jdlboot14
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So is Chung our go-to PR now? If DA is back (and I pray he is), I hope the coaches realize what we’ve all said since Cyrus went down… CANNOT risk DA back there for injury.Report

JLStokes
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He should be and he should fair catch every damn one.Report

HunterCenter
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or activate Foster and make him the return specialist.Report

JLStokes
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I’ve never seen him catch a punt.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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He does at camp. He did when I was there a bit, but they also tried him as a vice iirc. Finding ways to get him on the roster in other words. Also returned punts in camp last year iirc.Report

HunterCenter
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nor have I, but apparently he was practicing it all offseason, camp, etc.Report

JLStokes
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@ZackCoxNESN
In the three drives after Danny Amendola left the game for good last Thursday, Tom Brady went 0-for-6 passing and was sacked three times.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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He needs to find a new binky.Report

jdlboot14
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He had options, the issue is when Brady gets frustrated or rattled, he gets even more zoned in on his 1 option. When the situation required him to look at Burkhead alone on half a field, he tried to force it to Cooks or Gronk… He can’t switch mid-game. But, he will with 10 days off… he’s forced to.Report

RedXabi
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James White?Report

JLStokes
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I can’t imagine Brady not re-watching the footage from that game and not saying to himself “I gotta throw the ball to the RBs more. They are WIDE open”.Report

JLStokes
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@mlombardiNFL
Remember last year in Week 1, the 49ers shut out the Rams 28-0 and the Bucs beat the Falcons, 31-24.. don’t overreact.Report

JLStokes
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My guess, we’ll see alot more pass to running backs next game. Also, if he plays, Hightower will be back at his ILB spot with Wise manning the DE spot.Report

HunterCenter
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lol Chuck Pagano said in the post game presser that his team got their “asses kicked by the 49ers.”

They played the Rams.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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I saw that- maybe he got a concussion from banging his head up against a wall??Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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There’s also a bit of double entendre in the colts getting their “asses kicked”Report

JLStokes
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Anyone here actually want to trade Dion Lewis?Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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It would take a skill player-for-skill player offer to entertain it. And you’re not getting an equivalent TE or WR for a RB. So no.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Not really- but if it means they could get a decent LB or DE- maybe.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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No one’s trading a starting-caliber player at those spots for a committee back.
With Edelman done for the year, whatever “problem” there was of having too many running backs has fixed itself. You’re going to be featuring rbs as pass catchers the rest of the way.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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If only McD had stuck to that principle Thusday night.Report

HunterCenter
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Still have power, so farReport

Neil X
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It’s not even a hurricane anymore, it’s a tropical storm.Report

HunterCenter
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60mph winds still bring down treesReport

Neil X
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Drama queen!Report

HunterCenter
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hey I lived through 5 hurricanes in Miami. the struggle is real.Report

Neil X
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I have good friends in Miami and Gulfport. Gulfport took a direct hit when it was a category 4. Those folks have it bad, no doubt.Report

HunterCenter
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being in the tree care business, my life is going to be fairly chaotic for the next few weeksReport

hugowasmyhomeboy
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Hope that’s a good kind of chaotic. And if not, that you’ve got some trees of your own…Report

HunterCenter
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nah, it’s bad chaos. We already had an 8-week backlog. Now we’ll just be pissing off clients by not being able to get to their regular work. We get a little bit of a revenue bump since we can charge emergency rates, but in the end we really don’t come out ahead, bigger picture.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Stay safe Hunter.Report

Neil X
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FDA here for a five day audit before they license our new product. Brutal.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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Congrats on the new product thoughReport

Neil X
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It is exciting for the company. And FDA has directly told us this morning that they want the product available, as they firmly believe it will make the blood supply safer.Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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Getting beat down by the Jags 29-7 is alarming, but even if they didn’t, the Texans QB options are Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson. How good of a season could they possibly have?Report

jdlboot14
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Colts looked atrocious too. Brissett should be starting next week though. Luck could go from being the most assured franchise QB ever drafted to an early retirement forgotten man.Report

Neil X
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I didn’t see Watson play in preseason. Is he clearly not ready/unable to start now?Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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Yep, the Colts are necessary badness phase at the moment. Needed to reset their roster.
Lots of lousy football teams in the NFL right now. The Colts, 49ers, Jets, and Browns are sooooo bad. Week 1 showing notwithstanding the Rams might be right there with them. And what about the Bears?Report

Panic Time
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It seems like Brissett will start but what a bad situation for him. No win.Report

JLStokes
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…who let Dino write an article?Report

hugowasmyhomeboy
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Dino does his grades every game.Report

RedXabi
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So how doomed are we in 2017? Are we back to worst team ever to be 0-1?Report

jdlboot14
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we’ll have to wait and see if HT is okay, and if DA can clear concussion protocol by Sunday. We’re going to need those 2 for a full season.Report

RedXabi
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We gave up big plays on D all through the pre-season and it has carried over. That is biggest worry for me!Report

jdlboot14
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Must be that Logan Ryan was the key to this defense!!Report

jdlboot14
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Coaches that will be fired during this season.
Pagano. O’Brien. Got to go.Report

NewEnglandBlight
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Also, just a thought.. if NFL players knew they’d have to serve a suspension, but were required to do it NEXT season, would they be less likely to fight it in court?Report

NewEnglandBlight
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Hoping this fish smokes quickly.. don’t want to be up til two in the morning.Report

DKINGG
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Boring watching Sunday Football without the Pats.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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It was a boring game.Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Weather Channel is showing the winds in Tampa- incredible.Report

Saturn III
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Peyton is getting loaded in the skybox lolReport

Calipatsfan3473
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Giants offense does not look good.Report

zoocore
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Eli is continuing his decline. Which started in 2012.Report

zoocore
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NYG and Seattle have the worst OL I’ve seen so far.Report

DNOMN8R314
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That seemed persnickety. Bad flag.Report

DNOMN8R314
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Think I’m going to bed at the half. This is boring.Report

DKINGG
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I sure hope Hope Gronk plays better next game.Report

TS13
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With Cooks, Hogan, Gronk, Allen, Dorcette and Dola I am sure we are going to see them light it up. Tom is just going to have to adapt to being binkyless. And then there are the RBs. Can’t wait for the next game.Report

LaFeteMattDog
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He’s Gronk. you can’t keep him down.Report

zoocore
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GO COWBOYS!!!!!! PATRIOTS SUCK!!!!!111Report

TS13
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Is it still preseason?Report

LaFeteMattDog
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The real season doesn’t star until after Thanksgiving.Report

TS13
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I suspect we are going to see a little better game from the Pats next Sunday.Report

TS13
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I think the will figure some things out but I know they have a long way to go.Report

LaFeteMattDog
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Is there still room on the KC bandwagon???Report

LaFeteMattDog
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“Ummmmm, ZEKE????” -FF owners of Zeke everywhereReport

Calipatsfan3473
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DAL 3 NYG 0Report

Calipatsfan3473
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Not a catch.Report

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