Who’s next: The tight end and linebacker positions will be shorthanded Monday night (as will be the offensive line, but that’s been the case for most of the season). Rob Gronkowski’s one-game suspension leaves Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister as the only two tight ends on the active roster (fullback James Develin could also be a sneaky option as a pass-catcher), and Kyle Van Noy’s injury leaves the Patriots without their top linebacker of 2017. While Elandon Roberts and David Harris have earned more playing time over the season, they are both interior linebackers while Van Noy plays best on the outside. The Patriots will have Trevor Reilly back from the concussion protocol as well as re-signed old friend Jonathan Freeny in the fold, but New England’s “next man up” philosophy will be once again on display in Miami.
Keeping up with the Jones: Bill Belichick’s defensive focus for the first game against the Dolphins was quieting Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, a task he assigned to second-year cornerback Jonathan Jones; while Landry put up a decent stat line (8 catches for 70 yards), Jones largely limited his impact. With the early-season injury to Eric Rowe, Jones has taken over as the Patriots’ slot corner and has played very well. Whether Jones is asked to cover Landry once again or the duty is given to Malcolm Butler, two things are certain: Belichick will again look to shut down Landry, and Jones will be a key part of the defense for this week and well beyond.
I Cutle, sir:ย Matt Moore has already been declared out for the week, confirming that Jay Cutler will start for Miami. Aside from the general mockery regarding Cutler’s passing tendency to target his opponents with consistent frequency, he’s played terribly in his three games against New England. The Patriots have not forced many turnovers this season, but against a quarterback of Cutler’s caliber, there is plenty of hope that they will be opportunistic, maybe even getting a pick-six for the first time in four years (see, I found a way to mention that again); New England recorded a fumble-six in their last games against Cutler.
And now for this week’s BSJ TUMS-O-METER prediction, with a slight addendum.
Considerations: 1) With a win (or BUF loss) this becomes a hat and T-shirt game for the Pats, 2) Because the Bengals always bungle, the Pats need a win to keep up with (or possible go one game up on) PIT going into next week’s showdown, 3) Injuries and a key suspension, 4) MIA is going nowhere but the game is in MIA, 5) Cutler may start for MIA, 6) BSJ is addicted to chalk-like items. Prediction: 2.5 to 3 bottles.
Addendum: “MAC and the Baby Shower weekend”
This weekend, MAC joins BSJ in stocking up on TUMS. Considerations: 1) More in-laws and potential in-laws invade the house, 2) Meeting the baby Dad’s parents for the first time, 3) Getting tons of stuff to the shower event venue, only to lug it back four hours later, 4) Did we mention the in-law factor? Prediction: 2 cases of TUMS, 1 case of rum.