Patriots Off-Season Options

Getting Things Down Pat: With the latest news from the New England Patriots regarding Wes Welker wanting to “test the waters of free agency”, and the team failing to franchise any of their free agents, one has to wonder…what will the Pats do this off-season?

The Patriots have two primary needs this off-season. 1. A solid number one or number two wide receiver (should they fail to bring back Welker) and a productive cornerback/defensive back to help with the pass defense. Here’s a rundown of who the Pats can sign/draft to fill those needs:

Slot Machine: Wes Welker has no doubt been a great offensive weapon for the New England Patriots. Welker has caught 110 or more passes for 1,100 yards or more in five of his six seasons with the Patriots. He had a career year in 2011 with 122 grabs with 1,569 yards and 9 TDS. Welker however, is aging at 31, and is likely going to use his impressive Patriots resume’ to land himself a big pay-day somewhere else.

With all that said, and the fact that Welker is willing to talk to other teams, the Pats need a plan B should re-signing Welker fall through.

Here are the top five free agent pass catchers available:

Mike Wallace- In 2012 with Pittsburgh: 64 REC, 836 YDS, 8 TDS.

Greg Jennings- In 2012 with Green Bay (in 8 games): 36 REC, 366 YDS, 4 TDS.

Danny Amendola- In 2012 with St. Louis: 63 REC, 666 YDS , 3TDS.

Austin Collie- In 2012 with Indianapolis: 1 catch for 6 yards missed the season due to injury.

Brian Hartline- In 2012 with Miami: 74 REC, 1083 YDS, 1 TD.

Granted, those numbers don’t exactly replace Welker, but the Pats won’t need to completely replace him if they can land a solid receiver like the ones listed above.

Realistically Greg Jennings and Green Bay will probably agree to re-sign and Mike Wallace will probably take his talents elsewhere for more money than he’s worth. Austin Collie, when healthy has been reliable in Indy, but I don’t see him in New England next year. Brian Hartline had a career season last year for the Dolphins, so he should stay in South Beach.

So, that leaves Danny Amendola as the Pats most realistic option, as pointed out by Chris. Amendola has been a solid slot receiver for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and would be a good pickup should Welker leave.

Side Note: The Patriots only have 5 picks in this year’s NFL Draft (one in rounds 1,2, and 3 and two picks in round 7). The Pats will pick 29th in the first round and could wind up in a position to draft highly ranked wide receivers Keenan Allen out of California, Justin Hunter of Tennessee, or Cordarrelle Patterson also Tennessee.

No Thanks, I’ll Pass: The Patriots pass defense ranked 29th overall in 2012, giving up a total of 4,342 yards for an average of 271 yards per game. New England also gave up 27 passing TDS, allowed an average quarterback rating of 86.9, and a 62 percent pass completion rate.

Given those results, the Pats may want to hire one or two of these free agent pass defenders:

Ed Reed- In 2012 with Baltimore: 58 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Dashon Goldson- In 2012 with San Francisco: 69 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions.

Antoine Cason- In 2012 with San Diego: 73 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.

Quentin Jammer- In 2012 with San Diego: 64 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions.

LaRon Landry- In 2012 with New York (Jets):  99 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie- In 2012 with Philadelphia: 51 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Given the numbers the Patriots pass defense put up last season, any one of these available DB’s are significant upgrades to the secondary. Realistically Ed Reed, Laron Landry and Dashon Goldson will likely all re-sign with their respective teams or elsewhere. That leaves Antoine Cason, Quentin Jammer, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Again, picking up any one of those guys would be a step in the right direction.

Side Note: The Patriots 29th draft pick position could also allow them to go after a few defensive players such as Kevin Minter inside linebacker out of LSU, Blidi Wreh-Wilson cornerback of UCONN, or Desmond Trufant of Washington.

Final Thoughts: The Patriots have plenty of time to consider these and many other options in the weeks to come. It will no doubt be interesting to see what New England choose to do this off-season. What do you think will happen? Will Wes Welker stay? If he goes, who should the Patriots pursue? leave a comment below.

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Playoff Predictor: Broncos vs Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVII

The 2012 NFL PLayoffs are set and with the Wild Card round starting this Saturday, here’s a breakdown of the match-ups and my Bold predictions:

 

AFC Wild Card: Houston Texans vs Cincinnati Bengals Saturday at 4:30pm

Houston (12-4) will probably feel a sense of Deja Vu as they play the Bengals (10-6) on Saturday as the two tangoed in last years playoffs. The game marked the first time the Texans had made the playoffs resulting in a 31-10 drubbing of Cincy.

Houston Playmakers RB Arian Foster, DE J.J. Watt and WR Andre Johnson were keys to victory against the Bengals last year and will be relied on again come Saturday. Also the Texans will have starter Matt Schaub this year (Schaub was injured last season late).

For Cincinnati, second year studs QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green will be the X factors for Cincy on Saturday. Also, to the Bengals credit, their defense has been solid all season finishing the year with the 7th best passing defense (212.5 yards per game) and the 12th best rushing defense (102.5 yards per game).

Prediction: I foresee a more competitive contest between these two teams in this go-around. The game will ultimately come down to turnovers. Andy Dalton threw 3 interceptions in last years wild card game. The Texans committed no turnovers. I have the Texans winning 21 to 17 over the Bengals.

Baltimore Ravens vs Indianapolis Colts Sunday at 1:00pm

The Ravens (10-6) will take on the surprising Colts (11-5) in a game that will be high with emotions on both sidelines. The Ravens were a few different play calls away from making it to the Super Bowl last year, and went on a campaign to prove themselves this year in the AFC (though they slowed down at seasons end). The Colts came into this season with little to no expectations at all. A rookie quarterback leading a team that went 2-14 the season before didn’t exactly add up to a winning season. However, Andrew Luck and Co. fought their way into the post-season game by game. Not to mention doing so while watching their head coach, Chuck Pagano, battle Leukemia .

The Ravens will be led by QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice as they’ll attempt to mix their power running game and passing attacks together to try and overwhelm Indy’s defensive schemes.

The Colts will no doubt rely heavily on the shoulders of potential Rookie Of the Year winner Andrew Luck. Luck broke Cam Newtons rookie record for passing yards in a single season finishing with 4,374 yards.

Prediction: I see the Baltimore Ravens winning this contest, but not without a fight from Indy. While the Ravens defense hasn’t been up to snuff with the loss of Ray Lewis and Co. I still believe the Ravens have the upper hand in this one. Luck and the Colts have had a phenomenal season, no doubt about it, but I believe the magic ends this Sunday as Luck cracks under the pressures of post-season play. Ravens win 28-13.

NFC Wild Card: Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings Saturday at 8:00pm

The Packers (11-5) were stunned by the New York Giants in last years NFC Divisional Round and have an opportunity in this years post-season to prove their still as good as they were when they won it all in 2011. The Minnesota Vikings were similar to the Indianapolis Colts this year in the sense that they weren’t expected to make the playoffs. With second year QB Christian Ponder at the helm, and Adrian Peterson coming back from a knee injury, Minnesota had a few questions marks to say the least. Well, Adrian “All Day” Peterson had a response…run…a lot. Led by Adrian Peterson’ stunning season, becoming only the 7th NFL rusher to reach 2,000 yards (he finished with 2,097 yards), the Vikes find themselves in the post-season.

Green Bay will no doubt be led by the likes of QB Aaron Rodgers, LB Clay Matthews, and WR Greg Jennings, etc. The Packers started shaky at 2-2 but finished strong going 10-2 to close out the season.

The Vikings will no surprise call an number 28 to once again carry the load and the team on his shoulders in this one. The Vikes could stand a chance in this one seeing as they did beat Green Bay to close out the season 37-34. This one, however, I have going to Green Bay with the Packers winning 21-7.

Seattle Seahawks vs Washington Redskins Sunday at 4:30pm

The Seahawks (11-5) and the Redskins (10-6) are nearly mirror images of one another. Both teams sport sensational rookie QB’s in Seattle’ Russell Wilson and Washington’ Robert Griffin III. Both teams are in the top 5 in the NFL for rushing yards per game, Washington leading the league with 169.3yds and Seattle in 3rd with 161.2yds. The only edge Washington has over Seattle is that the Skins made the playoffs by winning the NFC East division in a season finale this past Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite both teams having play-makers on both sides of the ball, this games outcome will be determined by the play of two men. The performances by Seattle’ Russell Wilson and Washington’ Robert Griffin III will decide who moves on and who goes home.

I predict a shootout in this one with both rookie QB’s trading punches all game long. I have Seattle edging out Washington 31-28.

Divisional Rounds and Super Bowl Pick:

The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots earned a first round bye, same for the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. Both the Broncos and Falcons earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. With the picks I made above the Broncos would play the Ravens with the Patriots playing the Texans in the AFC. In the NFC, based on my picks, the Falcons would play the Seahawks and the 49ers would play the Packers.

My Picks:

I have the divisional rounds and championship rounds going down something like this:

Patriots vs Texans: The Pats send Matt Schaub and the Texans home as they win 24-14 in style led by Tom Brady and Co.

Ravens vs Broncos: Peyton Manning and the Broncos make it look easy in Mile High Denver as they beat Baltimore 28-14.

AFC Championship Broncos vs Patriots: Peyton Manning gets the better of Tom Brady and leaves New England fans heart broken as Denver wins it at Mile High by a score of 24-21.

Falcons vs Seahawks: In an absolute shocker, I have the Seahawks upsetting the Dirty Birds as Russell Wilson and Seattle find a way to keep Matt Ryan and Atlanta at bay winning 17-14.

Packers vs 49ers: The Colin Kaepernick show continues, with help from the defense and a solid rushing performance by Frank Gore, as San Fran sends Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers packing with a final score of 28-24.

NFC Championship 49ers vs Seahawks: In an NFC West battle for the ages I have the Seattle Seahawks pulling off another upset and catapulting themselves into their first super bowl appearance since 2006. The Seahawks recently walloped the 49ers back in week 16 42-13 and split the season series 1-1 with a 13-6 loss to San Fran in week 7. It could happen.

Super Bowl XLVII Broncos vs Seahawks: Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos win the franchises first Super Bowl since 1998 (The Denver Broncos had home-field advantage in 1998 also) as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks heroics aren’t enough with Denver winning 31-21. Manning wins Super Bowl MVP.

Final Thoughts: I want to here from NFL fans and Pats fans on this one. Can the Patriots win their first Super Bowl since 2005? How do you see the playoffs panning out? Leave a comment below.