Tag Archives: Julian Edelman

Key Matchups and My Prediction for Broncos – Patriots

Patriots Broncos

by Jim Bearor

There are only three weeks left of football – maybe the best football we’ve seen all year – but still, the NFL season is almost over, and that sucks.  As excited as I am to see a new champion emerge, I am equally as scared to go about my life without football for the next several months, and I know there are thousands of fans who feel the same way.

Knowing the end is near changes how we view things.  Playoff games are already overanalyzed, and the magnifying glass only gets bigger as the weeks go by.  Here we are, the day before the AFC and NFC Championship Games, and every aspect of both games has been broken down. All positional matchups have already been covered, and I’m sure that every possible result has been predicted by one “expert” or another. This makes it awful tough for me to offer a “unique take” on it all, but I’ll give it a whack anyway.

I firmly believe that despite the high-profile quarterbacks on either end, the AFC Title game will be won at –or near – the line of scrimmage. More specifically, here are a couple positional matchups that deserve more attention.

When the Patriots have the ball

The offensive line of New England has improved a great deal as the season has gone on.  Although it is the same patchwork group that allowed Brady to be sacked 40 times in the regular season, their suddenly dominant run blocking has defined the team’s playoff run to this point.  How well they handle Denver’s defensive line on inside handoffs – primarily Terrance Knighton and Shawn Phillips – will determine what role the Broncos linebackers will play.  If the Patriots have difficulty moving the ball inside, that frees up Linebackers Trevathan and Woodyard to focus on pass coverage.

Another matchup that draws my attention is WR Danny Amendola versus Champ Bailey.  While I’m not positive that this is how Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio will play things, I’m fairly certain that CB Rodgers-Cromartie will be tasked with keeping the versatile Julian Edelman in check.  If this is how it works out, I think Amendola’s speed creates major problems for an aging Bailey.  Maybe he will get some extra safety help, which could leave DRC and Edelman 1-on-1.  Regardless of how they choose to defend the two small, speedy wideouts, the Broncos are going to have their hands full without starting Corner Chris Harris in the lineup

When the Broncos have the ball

The injuries to Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork will most likely become targets for the Denver offense, which means Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jamie Collins have a lot of slack to pick up – and in recent weeks, they’ve done exactly that.  But keeping tabs on Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball without sending too many defenders is crucial, as the Pats will need to  dedicate most of their resources to pass coverage if they have any hope of containing Thomas, Thomas, Decker, and Welker.

In my opinion, the biggest x-factor for the Broncos is TE Julius Thomas.  His size and pass-catching ability often creates drastic mismatches for opposing defenses, but the Patriots may have an answer for him.  New England met a similar threat in Week 6 when they faced Jimmy Graham and the Saints.  Graham was held without a catch by physical CB Aqib Talib, and I feel like Thomas might be handled the same way.  I could be wrong though, as Jamie Collins did a great job last week against Colby Fleener.  But Fleener isn’t quite Thomas, so the Pats must either risk that matchup or pull Talib off of Decker or the other Thomas.  Neither of these scenarios bode well for New England.

My Prediction

Belichick has always had Peyton’s number in the playoffs, but Peyton has never had so much talent around him.  Denver’s weapons in the passing game will spread New England’s defense thin, allowing Moreno and Ball to run wild. I also expect the Patriots to move the ball well, relying heavily on the run game again.  Amendola hauls in a couple long balls, and Edelman will perform at about the level that is expected from him.  However, they will not be able to match Denver’s scoring pace, leading to Tom Brady seeing more pressure as New England falls behind and is forced to abandon the ground game.

Denver wins 38-27

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New England: The Land of Misfit Wide Receivers

 Brady and Edelman

by Jim Bearor

One of my favorite football clichés is the quarterback who makes everyone around him better.  I love this because everyone eats it up and writes up great seasons by no-name receivers as just a product of the guy throwing them the ball.

Sometimes this isn’t the case, but when someone like T.Y. Hilton has a breakout year, Andrew Luck gets credit.  The biggest example of this in the league right now has to be Julian Edelman, Tom Brady’s newest small athletic white passcatcher.  Coming into the year, many thought Danny Amendola would fill that void left by Wes Welker, but apparently not.  However, in a parallel universe where Edelman doesn’t exist, I’d bet that Amendola is the guy that hauled in 100 passes this year.

What I’m trying to say is: Maybe Wes Welker isn’t as special as Belichick and Brady made him look.  Maybe any shifty little slot receiver that is smart enough to understand the offense can have success in New England.  After all, Tom Brady deserves most of the credit for all of these catches being made by his not-so-talented teammates, right?

Yeah, probably. Outside of Randy Moss for a brief time, Brady has never had one of those wide receivers that commentators and fans marvel at the second he steps on the field.

            A Patriots Christmas Story

It might be hard to visualize this because of the lifestyle he lives outside of the lines, but think of Tom Brady as the kid who never got the Xbox or laptop for Christmas.

 He’s the kid that got very little and never complained. Tom’s toys might be a set of Lincoln Logs, a ball in a cup, and maybe an old dog from the local pound if he was lucky, yet he played with them in such a way that made every kid on the block jealous. 

These toys were certainly not broken, but they weren’t as big and shiny as the holiday season’s top sellers.  For a while, people might have thought that all of these things were diamonds in the rough, toys that would look great in anybody’s hands if they knew where to look for them.  But as time passed, and Tom gave his toys to the other kids and had just as much fun with the “new” things he was picking up from the Salvation Army, everyone else realized what had been happening all along – Tom made his toys look better than they really were.

This little story – as cheesy and stupid as it is – is exactly what has been happening in New England for upwards of 10 years.  Papa Belichick never spoiled his kid, but he never needed to, because Tom Brady was raised the right way in a great home.

While Wes Welker might not be a ball-in-a-cup, and Julian Edelman would surely be upset if he heard me comparing him to a set of Lincoln Logs, it should be clear to everyone what is going on with the Patriots – Tom Brady is making the best of his surroundings, and everyone else is benefitting from this.

Lincoln Logs and Ball-in-a-Cup

On a slightly different page, let’s compare “Lincoln Logs” with “Ball-in-a-Cup.” How special is Wes Welker in everyone’s eyes now that Edelman has done a great job in his old role with New England?

            Well, Wes has shown that his career with the Patriots wasn’t a fluke – he’s having a respectable season in Denver, considering the level of talent above him on the depth chart.  He caught 73 balls for 778 yards and 10 TDs, and he is always an option out of the slot for Peyton Manning.

            Edelman though, brought in 105 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 touchdowns.  These numbers are not so dissimilar, but they show that Edelman played a bigger role in his offense.  In fact, he played a different role than Wes did when he was with the Pats.

            We all know that both of these guys have abilities that are conducive to being a slot receiver: they are small, shifty, and good at finding a zone’s soft spot.  What isn’t so commonly known is that Julian Edelman only played the slot position 49 percent of the time that he was on the field, compared to Welker’s 84 percent (Pro Football Focus). 

You might say that it would be foolish to put Welker anywhere else outside of the slot, especially when those spots are occupied by bigger, stronger wideouts with better hands like Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas – and you would be right.  But the point I’m making is if that Edelman is filling Welker’s shoes and then some, doesn’t that diminish Wes’ perceived value?

If I had to pick one of the two to be on my team right now, I would go with Edelman.   He can play outside the hashmarks, he has proven that he has a great understanding of the game – he made a great transition from college quarterback to professional wide receiver – and I have more faith in him catching a ball for my team in a big spot.

But then again, nobody bothers comparing Lincoln Logs with a Ball-in-a-Cup.  We like talking about the shiny things.