New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 3 vs. Oakland Raiders

The Patriots finally have their home opener Sunday against the 0-2 Raiders! While on paper this might look to be a Pats’ blowout, we’ve seen far too many ugly early-season losses to write in a “W” just yet. Let’s remember this is a Patriots team that lost to the Cardinals at home in 2012. The Cardinals wouldn’t win another road game all year. Figure that one out.

The Pats have been saying all the right things this week — what a legend Charles Woodson is, how good Oakland’s pass defense is, that Derek Carr can make every throw. You know the drill.

But who the opponent is doesn’t really matter, it’s all about focusing on the Patriots and improving. The team has shown glimpses on both sides of the ball, but the consistency has been lacking especially on offense. 

Here’s my strategy and points of emphasis that will hopefully get the Pats to 2-1.

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New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 2 at Minnesota Vikings

We’re finally on to Week 2, putting the ugly season-opening loss to Miami behind us! The Minnesota Vikings provide just the right kind of tough challenges the Patriots need to face to prove they’re not the team that laid a major egg on the road in Miami last week.

Here’s our game plan!

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New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 1 at Miami

The New England Patriots open their 2014 season on the road in Miami against the Dolphins, and as all divisional matchups in Week 1 go, this one will be down to the wire.

Season openers are always filled with mistakes, turnovers and general sloppiness. Teams don’t know exactly what to expect, they haven’t been tackling much, and with gameplans that have been in incubation since April, there are always some surprises.

Offensive Strategy: Picking a method of attack is even tougher this season because the Patriots have a great “inventory” (as Brady puts it) of offensive firepower… at least here in Week 1 it looks that way. 

I’m going with what I think will be the bread-and-butter of 2014, 11 personnel as the primary package. Edelman is a constant but the surprise could be a combination of using both LaFell and Dobson on the outside, with Vereen in the backfield. Hooman should be the primary tight end until the red zone, when Gronk (assuming he plays) enters the game.

The key — attacking their undersized corners with the Pats’ big weapons, including Wright. Their linebackers are fast and need to be worn down using the third tackle-as-tight end package.

I’m not worried about pushing the pace of the offense at this point in the season, though I’m sure they’ll hurry up at select moments. But it’s more about execution, especially being on the road and in physically-demanding conditions. 

Defensive Strategy: Expecting a hybrid 34/43 with Wilfork/Vellano in the middle and Ninkovich/Chandler on the edges. Collins/Hightower are the OLBs and should be tasked with Charles Clay, Collins especially. With Mayo in the middle he’ll have an eye on Tannehill.

Man-to-man defense is the easiest coverage to run when there might be some unexpected wrinkles from the Dolphins offense, so let’s put Revis on Wallace, Dennard on Hartline and Arrington on Gibson. Though they’ll rotate, I’d bet Harmon plays more snaps than Chung.

Miami will definitely push the pace so it will be important to keep substitutions to a minimum. Easing Siliga/Easley will be an important rotation on the DL, as will Buchanan/Moore at DE.

Rotating players to stay fresh in the heat might be challenging.

If Revis can neutralize Wallace, the Pats have a numbers advantage against Hartline, Gibson and Clay. That’s what Revis Island brings to the party.

The Dolphins should test the Patriots run defense. I would. No more Brandon Spikes, Hightower likely on the edge and Wilfork coming off an injury should tempt the Dolphins to  really attack the middle of the defense with their ground game. 

Keep Brady off the field. Chew clock. Hang on to the ball. It’s a good game plan vs. 12 if you can do it the entire game. 

Points of Emphasis

1. Clean Football - In a tight game, the mistakes often make the difference and a season opener in tough conditions is prime territory for a sloppy game. We all know the Patriots’ reliance on winning the turnover battle — with a better defense that could change this year — but this week it doesn’t. Playing safe with the ball and being aware of the situation are paramount in a game like this.

2. Attack the Middle of the OL - The Pats finally have the makings of a team whose pass rush must be respected and this is their debut. Expect a rotating number of faces lining up and down the defensive line to attack the interior of the Phins’ OL. Dominique Easley is expected to play and could have an impressive debut even in limited action.

3. Keep Their Heads Spinning on Defense - Tom Brady has a number of unique weapons at his disposal and it will be important to never let Miami get a bead on what they’re trying to do. This will be done by a constantly rotating set of personnel at receiver, tight end and running back. Imagine the difficulty of covering Edelman one snap, Tim Wright the next, then Kenbrell Thompkins the next.

4. Hold the (middle of the) Fort - Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will have to be at their best against Miami’s talented edge rushers, but they should be up to the task. There have been plenty of questions surrounding the interior of the Pats’ line this offseason and there are even more now after Logan Mankins was dealt. Now is the time for Josh Kline, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly (and whoever else) to answer those questions.

And can the defense get back to stopping the run like they did before last year? Mayo moving back to middle linebacker is something to watch. 

5. Win - Getting the W is all that matters, no matter how ugly, you’ll take them however you can get them at this time of year. This could be the toughest divisional game of the season and if the Pats can come out of it 1-0 it would a great (and record-tying) start to the season.

Good stuff from Alen Dumonjic, looking back at BB’s game plan against the K-gun in 1991. Very curious to see if there are any defensive twists this weekend against Manning. Most wouldn’t be surprised if BB did the same thing he did the first time around, especially with a better-run stopper in the middle.

Patriots defensive gameplan vs. Broncos

Good tweet from Matt Chatham showing how the Pats sold out against the pass and let the Broncos take what they could on the ground. Forcing continued execution and not allowing any big plays is “bend, don’t break” at its finest.

Wish we had Dennard for this very purpose…

The Colts contained the Broncos by employing some type of press coverage on around 40 plays. Only once did they use a zone coverage. With the corners jamming Manning’s receivers, he was forced to throw deep, where he’s 21-of-51 this season on passes that travel 20 or more yards through the air. He was 5-of-13 on such passes against the Colts. Injuries in the Colts’ secondary late in the game nearly ended Indianapolis’ hope of upsetting the Broncos as Manning furiously fought back. But even with the late letdown, they showed Denver could be contained. Now the question is whether or not the Patriots defense will be healthy enough to take some elements of Indianapolis’ blueprint and do the same. If Dennard were playing, the answer would likely be yes.

A very smart general manager once told me that he wished his team played the Patriots early in the season, then he’d know exactly where his team’s holes were because no one is better at targeting weaknesses than Bill Belichick. We all know the Panthers’ front seven is terrific, and that their secondary has issues. This feels like a game in which the Patriots will spread the field and, coming off their bye week, run the fast version of their no-huddle offense. The Panthers had trouble with that rapid pace in their Week 2 loss to the Bills; the Patriots are much better in this regard. Belichick knows that the Panthers’ defensive line has an advantage with their power against New England’s scuffling offensive line. Carolina has one of the heavier lines in the league across the board, so why not run the no-huddle to take some of the power out of their legs? The Patriots run most effectively out of their hurry-up offense as well. So I like the Patriots’ offense in this matchup, even though Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the best cover linebackers in the game and can slow down tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Detroit Lions’ defense the key to capturing NFC North crown | The MMQB with Peter King

When my game plan thoughts line up with Bedard’s it makes me feel like I might kinda know what I’m talking about. At least this one time…

Football Gameplan’s 2013 NFL Week 11 Preview - Patriots vs Panthers (by FootballGameplan)

On any typical non-pressure, man-to-man defense, it’s a simple math proposition: there are five eligible pass catchers on the field and seven pass defenders (assuming a typical four-man rush), meaning you have two “help” chess pieces available. You can use the two extra defenders as zone players in the deep halves of the secondary; everyone else plays man-to-man with no low help. Another option is using one deep, middle-of-the-field safety, affording the defense one underneath coverage “help” zone player (the “rat”). Alternatively, the help player can be used to specifically double one receiver, while still keeping a deep middle of the field safety — but then the zone helper is gone.