It was a tough week for Pats Nation. No need to revisit it. It’s been sufficiently covered and re-covered by every news outlet you can think of. Gronk is out and he’s not walking through those doors anytime soon. It’s horrible news. For him. For his family. For the Patriots. For us. For football. But this isn’t the time to dwell and mope. Two numbers should be on everyone’s mind this Sunday, and one is not 87. The first number? 10. 10 because team stats come above all else, and our Pats need to clinch another double digit win season in Foxboro this Sunday. The next number? 201. With a win, Tom Brady becomes the winningest quarterback of all time. Only fitting, really, for the best who has ever done it. Next man up. Do your job. Winter is coming.
It’s a big one this weekend. Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS Staff thinks…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 310 yards passing?
Niko: I’m really not focused on yards for Tommy this weekend. I’m focused on the way he walks. Clearly affected by his bum knee last week, TB wasn’t quite his surgical self until the waning minutes of the game when needed most. He hasn’t hit this mark in a couple weeks now, and it’ll take some time re-adjusting to life without Gronk. He’ll be brilliant, per usual, and right in the neighborhood, but I’m going to go with just UNDER here.
Pete: If the Patriots are smart, they will keep Brady UNDER this mark. TB12 is nursing that knee injury and does not need to sling the ball all over the field to beat this Rams team. I would love to see Brady throw for 75%, 250 yards and two TDs in an extremely efficient game. Maybe even see some Jimmy G at the end of this thing if everyone goes according to plan?
Jordan: I think the effect of not having Gronk will hinder TB12's production a little bit. Also, like Pete mentioned, the Patriots should be smart and try and keep Brady from having to throw too much while he's still nursing that knee. UNDER, but a very efficient game for Brady.
Will: UNDER. The offense should mirror their Pittsburgh game plan: keeping the ball on the ground and Brady on his feet. The Rams have the 20th-ranked run defense, and the 7th-ranked passing defense. The last thing they need is Aaron Donald driving a hobbled Brady into the ground several times, and the Bennett/Edelman injuries only increase the need for a run-heavy gameplan. I see Brady focusing on short, sure completions (17-for-22 passing), with 230 yards and 2 TDs.
LeGarrette Blount: Over/Under 67 yards rushing?
Niko: Going to roll with OVER here for LGB. I expect to see a balanced offensive attack, and would think we’d see clock-kill mode in the fourth. Winter is coming; Blount Force Trauma has to come with it for this team to play into February.
Pete: OVER for me as well. I think we will see a steady dose of Blount this week, especially with Brady's injur and in garbage time. If Blount isn't owned in your fantasy league, now would be the game to pick him up.
Jordan: OVER. Partially due to Brady's knee, partially due to Gronk's absence, but the majority of the reason being Blount has been REALLY effective this year. I expect Blount to explode for a couple big plays, much like he did against the 49ers.
Will: OVER. I'd even go so far as to say he'll have this mark well before half-time; he should rip off a run of 30-plus yards early on to get things going. My guess is 22 carries for 117 yards and 2 TDs.
James White: Over/Under 44.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: Even with the return of Lewis, White’s volume has remained high in the receiving game (15 targets total in last 2 weeks). He’ll be right around this mark again on Sunday, but as a non-factor in the running game, I’m leaning slightly UNDER for my man.
Pete: UNDER, but like Niko said, White has had the opportunity to hit his marks every week. He is seeing his targets remain the same, even with the return of Dion Lewis, but he simply is not elusive enough to break that first tackle.
Jordan: Wait, you mean the Pats don't still have Danny Woodhead? Wuuuut? Anywho, I'll go UNDER here on James White due to Dion Lewis getting more involved each week.
Will: Lewis's return has been good for the offense, but not so good for White's touches. Even so, he should be good for a big gain off a screen at some point; he could very well break 45 yards on that one play alone. I'll go OVER here; 3 catches for 57 yards total.
Dion Lewis: Over/Under 44.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: OVER. It’s Dion time. From 8 touches vs. SF, to 10 vs. NY, expect right around a dozen in this one. He’s too shifty and explosive not to capitalize on that amount of chances.
Pete: OVER. Lewis is slowly but surely getting involved in the passing and receiving game. Sidenote, but I love the way the Patriots have brought back Lewis and how he has looked in his limited amount of snaps. There is no reason to throw Lewis into the lion's den and have him rush 30 times a game, so the Patriots have used him on a limited basis and he has looked phenomenal on his cuts in that role.
Jordan: OVER. Dion is back and is starting to make plays that are giving us flashbacks of what he did last year. He's been slowly improving both physically and in his performance. Happy to have Dion back.
Will: OVER. Given my White prediction, it's tough to imagine BOTH backs going off. The only exception would be if the Rams dial up too many blitzes and force Brady to check the ball down to his elusive backs. But even Fisher isn't that stupid...right? On second thought, Lewis should be good for 5 catches, 63 yards and a TD.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 72 receiving yards?
Niko: With 28 targets over the last two games (16 for catches), Jules is back to being Brady’s favorite receiver. In the absence of Gronk, expect Tommy B to lean on Edelman to move the sticks and get the offense going. OVER on both.
Pete: OVER on both. Brady has, unfortunately, been reverted back to his old ways and has upped the workload for JE11. I don't see that changing much this week, especially in the absence of Gronk.
Jordan: I'll go OVER on both. Brady, like Pete said, has started to go back to Edelman a lot, especially with Gronk either out or limited. Jules is TB12's scapegoat on almost all 3rd down situations, and I could see him getting abused early. But look for more Amendola if it gets ugly.
Will: Three weeks ago, this would be an easy 'over'. But with the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell, and Edelman's foot becoming all the more crucial to the Pats' success, I'm not so sure. The run-heavy offense will eat into Brady's passing attempts. I'll go with the UNDER on receptions, but the OVER on receiving yards. There's going to be at least one play with busted coverage by the Rams, and Brady will capitalize for a long pass to his favorite receiver. 5 receptions, 86 yards for Edelman.
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 59 yards receiving?
Niko: As much as we’ve wanted to see Marty step up in the stat sheet with Gronkout/limited, it just hasn’t happened over the last few weeks. He’s only hit this yardagemark once since Week 5, which was almost two months ago. He’s not exactly healthy himself, struggling to finish games and limited in practice during the weeks. That being said, now is the time for him to answer the call. Gronk is not walking through those doors. I’ll go UNDER on catches, OVER on yards. He’ll hit on a big one.
Pete: I love everything about Martellus Bennett, at least in his first act in New England. Things may go south at some point, especially if the Pats sign him to a long-term deal, but it has been smooth sailing so far in his first season in Foxboro. Unfortunately, Bennett has been hurt since week five, which has attributed to his lack of production. Nevertheless, Bennett has toughed it out and will be relied upon heavily in the absence of Gronk. I will go OVER on receptions, as Brady looks to involve him more in the passig game, but UNDER on yards, as I don't see Bennett being able to shed tacklers and hit the open field.
Jordan: OVER on receptions, UNDER on yards. It just wouldn't be Tom Brady if he didn't at least throw to his TEs. The issue with Marty is, he hasn't been himself due to various lower-body injuries (thanks, Burfict).
Will: UNDER on both, but only due to his health. Belichick knows that he simply cannot afford to lose both of his Pro Bowl TEs, and will limit Bennett's playing time accordingly. Look for Matt Lengel to take over Bennett's in-line blocking duties for most of the game. 3 catches, 27 yards for Bennett.
Jared Goff: Over/Under 199 yards passing?
Niko: Goff’s first two career NFL stats? Meh, underwhelming. He’ll be down in this one though, so he should get his opportunities to chuck it. It won’t be pretty, or particularly efficient, but I’ll go with OVER here.
Pete: UNDER. A rookie quarterback has never come into Gillette Stadium and beat the Patriots. Use that on your trivia night. I think Belichick and Patricia are going to mix up the schemes and confuse Goff, who looks to be fooled easily...
Jordan: OVER. Not saying Goff is going to shine, I just think 199 yards is too low for a defense that has the tendency to give up yards. Goff won't be good, but he should still finish over.
Will: OVER, but it's virtually meaningless. He'll have plenty of opportunities to throw, and will make several big mistakes. In the end, his 256 passing yards will be overshadowed by his 2 interceptions.
Like Todd Gurley: Over/Under 82 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: The Patriots defense tries to take away what the other team does best, or at least take away the offense’s most talented player. Gurley qualifies for this title. The Pats will allocate plenty of resources his way and make it a point to stop the run. TG may hit this mark with some catches out of the field/check downs, but I’ll roll with UNDER.
Pete: Through all of the Patriots' struggles on defense this season, they have been relatively decent against the run, especially as of late. Like Niko mentioned, the Patiots will take away the Rams' best option, and that appears to be Mr. Gurley. UNDER.
Jordan: The Pats have actually looked really good on defense against the run this season. I actually am pretty confident in their front seven, especially lineman Trey Flowers, and linebacker Elandon Roberts.
Will: Even aside from my strong UGA bias, I can confidently say OVER, because of his receiving abilities. I'll go with 94 total yards; 53 rushing, 41 receiving.
Kenny Britt: Over/Under 5.5 receptions, 70 receiving yards?
Niko: Britt has had a monster year for LA, and has really been one of the lone bright spots for the club offensively. He’s had 5 games of 75+ yards and at 6’3, 225 poses a matchup threat to the Patriots’ secondary. That being said, with Goff now at the helm, LA calls for safer, higher percentage plays, rarely down the field. Britt’s average yards per reception in the two Goff games? 10.4 and 8.6 respectively, moving his season average down to 14.6 in the process. UNDER on both, but he’ll be involved.
Pete: I am going to go UNDER for the reasons mentioned by Niko, but I think he will be involved as well. This is Malcolm Butler's time to shine against a bigger and probably better player. Very interested to see how the young Malcolm reacts.
Jordan: Goff has to throw to somebody. But for the Rams offense to sustain any sort of success against the Pats, it has to be a balanced attack. You're not going to win if you only abuse one guy against the Pats. Even go back to the Seahakws game: Baldwin caught all the TDs, but guys like Jermaine Kearse stepped up and played a significant role. UNDER on both.
Will: UNDER. With Tavon Austin likely out and Gurley's rushing abilities limited by a suspect Rams OL, Britt seems like a sure thing. But I'm far more concerned about Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick for that very reason. The secondary will zero in on Britt and shut him down. 3 catches, 22 yards.
Brian Quick: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 45 receiving yards?
Niko: Originally had speedster Tavon Austin here, but he’s very questionable to play following a chest injury last week. Similar to Kenny Britt, Quick’s production has tailed off since Goff took the rains, with a combined 4 catches, 24 yards over the last two weeks. I’ll go slightly UNDER on both here.
Pete: OVER on both, just because I think someone has to get the receptions. With Logan Ryan likely getting the call, I think Quick could have a decent day.
Jordan: OVER on receptions, UNDER on yards. I could see Brian Quick getting enough targets to get the receptions mark. However, Logan Ryan has been pretty good in the past couple of weeks, I don't think Quick will have a significantly big play.
Will: OVER for both. Quick reminds me of Quincy Enunwa from last week; that "who the hell is he?" receiver who makes a few big plays early before the defense finally catches on. 7 catches, 71 yards.
Lance Kendricks: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 39 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER on both. Someone has to pick up production, right? Kendricks is having a career year since being drafted in the 2nd round (2011) out of Wisconsin. Goff will lean on his tight end.
Pete: OVER on both. These are some pretty low numbers an I dont see a reason to think why he would have a shitty day, as the Patriots are having some serious issues in the secondary after Ryan.
Jordan: I'll go OVER on both. Tight ends have been able to have some success against the Pats in recent weeks. The Jets actually threw to their tight ends quite a bit. Kendricks is a better tight end than Austin Sefarian-Jenkins though. And with the matchup still in question as for who's covering him, I could see him having a pretty decent day with the low marks.
Will: OVER for both. Like Jordan noted, tight ends have played well against the Pats as of late, and Kendricks will continue that trend. He'll also have the only Rams' TD of the game. 6 catches, 42 yards, TD.
Niko: If there’s one guy that can blow up an entire offensive game plan, it’s Rams’ D-tackle Aaron Donald. He’s that good. Only 6’1, 290 pounds, Donald compensates for his lack of size with an insane first step and shocking amounts of power. The Pats’ interior offensive line has their hands full with this guy. If they can keep him at bay (good luck), there’s no slowing down this offense whatsoever.
Pete: The Patriots defense vs. themselves. The Patriots should walk all over this team. There is not one matchup that has me shaking in my boots. If the Pats are prepared, they should be able to win by 20 points.
Jordan: This all kind of depends on if Tavon Austin plays. With his elite speed, the only guy who can really match up against him in man-to-man coverage is Malcolm Butler. So that will cause Logan Ryan to go against Kenny Britt, who has some size. Ryan has played well in recent weeks, so it would be a great test to see if he can cover a guy like Britt. Britt is going to get abused, so you have to contain him as much as possible, or it could be an uncomfortably close game against the worst offense in football.
Will: New England's pass rushers against the Rams' OL. The secondary is not the Pats greatest concern; it's their pass rush. The lack of turnovers stems from a pathetic lack of continuous pressure, but last week's Jets game could be a step in the right direction. Malcom Brown, Chris Long and Trey Flowers are the guys to watch here.
Niko: After spending a week+ in Belichick’s doghouse, Jabaal Sheard was back on the field against New York, and played pretty well. He was also apart of the 4-man D-line during the last drive of the game, which shows how Belichick views him (rightfully so)as an upper echelon rusher on the team. I’ll say Sheard gets back into the stat book this weekend with a sack and half against a suspect LA O-line.
Pete: Big day for the Patriots defense. I say they pitch a shutout. Pretty bold, but the Rams offense is truly putrid.
Jordan: Well since Pete said Pats D pitches a shutout, I'll change mine. But I will keep it Pats defense related. The Pats were able to force a couple of key turnovers last week at the Meadowlands. I say the Pats force 4 against the worst offense in the league. 2 picks (1 for 6) and 2 fumbles.
Will: The pass rush in general reemerges as their 2015 selves, a time when they were 2nd in the league in sacks (only 3 behind a historically great Broncos defense). They'll notch 4 sacks (1.5 by Malcom Brown) and a forced fumble.
Game Total: Over/Under 44.5?
Niko: Going to go with slightly OVER here. LA’s defense has given up touchdowns in 9 of their last 15 drives. Not 100% sure, but I think that’s pretty bad...Brady’s bunch should get to 30+, and the Rams are (maybe) talented enough offensively to scrape up a couple of (garbage time?) scores on the board.
Pete: UNDER, but just because I don't think the Pats can put up 45 on their own.
Jordan: UNDER. The Pats are good for 30 any given week, but let's face it, the Rams are bad enough to score less than 15 against a poor Pats defense.
Will: UNDER. Rams won't get shut out, but the Pats aren't going to play like an offensive juggernaut this week. They'll dominate, run the clock down, then it's On To Baltimore.
Final Prediction (Patriots -13.5):
Niko: I’ll roll with 38-16 Pats. LA couldn’t be coming at a better time. On field therapy. I do not see this going anything like the Eagles game last year, which it could theoretically be compared to (late in the season, underachieving team, talented defense).
Jeff may also have to re-write his entire coaching philosophy as well. Been a tough season for the Hard Knocks star.
Pete: 31-0 Patriots. May even see some Jimmy G in the fourth quarter.
Jordan: I'll go 31-10 Pats. I just haven's seen this defense play well enough, as currently constructed, to think they can pitch a shutout.
Will: 28-10 Pats. No shutout, but it's not necessary. Just an all-around team win for the 10-2 Patriots.