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Ho hum – another year, another undefeated start.

Someday, the New England Patriots are not going to be watch-settingly excellent every season. Someday, fans of the team will be left to wonder whether their beloved squad will have what it takes to make it to the postseason. Someday, the regular season outcome will be in doubt.

Today is not that day.

Tom Brady and company have once again started the season by winning their first four games. This initial quarter of the season could not have gone any better, with a trio of dominant performances followed by a hard-fought victory against a Buffalo team that is going to be considerably better than anyone really expected (on the defensive side, especially).

In basic terms, the fundamental goal in football is to score as many points as you can while giving up as few as you can. Simple. And after four games, there’s not one team in the NFL that can say they’re better at those two things together than the Patriots. As good? Maybe. But better? Not a chance.

Welcome back to the Progress Report.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:18

Some brand-new New England Patriots

Another big chapter of the National Football League’s future unfolded this past weekend in Nashville.

The 32 NFL franchises landed in Music City for the 2019 NFL Draft, where over the course of three days, teams selected the players they hope will lead their respective organizations into the future. Team presidents, general managers, coaches and owners pored over stat sheets and tapes, looking to separate the cream of the collegiate crop from the chaff, all in an effort to put themselves in the best possible position to move forward toward a championship.

The draft isn’t always as exciting in New England as it is in other places – two decades of Patriots success has led to less-than-optimal selection slots as a rule, although that hasn’t stopped them from making some solid picks.

That said, the early consensus is that this has a chance to be one of the better draft hauls of the Belichick era (for whatever that’s worth – see the caveat a few paragraphs down). Rather than go with their usual tactic of trading down and stockpiling, the Pats apparently liked what they saw in the Class of 2019, selecting 10 players in all. And it’s a far-from-typical group to boot, but really, when have the Patriots ever been conventional?

Will all of these players succeed? Of course not. Hell, a good chunk of them may not even make the team at all. But hey – we’re talking about the reigning Super Bowl champions here. They don’t need to hit on every pick. Still, expect at least a couple of these additions to make a splash.

Let’s meet the new guys.

(Obligatory annual caveat: This is not an effort to grade the Patriots draft class. Literally nothing has changed about any of these players except that they have been given an opportunity to potentially make an NFL roster. As to whether any or all of them cash in on that opportunity, well … I can’t say. And neither can anyone else, no matter how authoritative they sound on TV or on the internet. Grading a draft that just happened is nonsense; a worthless exercise. This is just an introduction.)

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 27 March 2019 14:33

A Gronking to remember

A New England Patriots legend has decided to hang it up.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced that he will be retiring from football after nine seasons in the NFL. He made his decision public via Instagram on March 24.

Despite a playing career that lasted less than a decade and featured numerous extended periods of injury, Gronk’s legacy is undoubtedly secure. He will take his place among the best to ever play the game, with numbers that ensure a Hall of Fame jacket despite his truncated time in the league.

Published in Sports

Back in September, 32 NFL teams began a journey that they hoped would end with a trip to Atlanta and an opportunity to lift the Lombardi Trophy as the victors in Super Bowl LIII.

After 16 games in the regular season and some hard-fought contests in January, the field has been whittled down to just two. The New England Patriots – back for the third year in a row and for the ninth time in the 21st century – are set to face off against the Los Angeles Rams, who haven’t been to the big game since they lost to these same Patriots back in 2002.

This rematch is to be played 17 years to the day after that one, a New England victory that would prove to be the first championship of the team’s dynastic run.

Obviously, these aren’t the same teams that faced off on February 3, 2002. However, two very important figures from that long-ago Patriots squad remain. Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are still here, continuing to build on the astonishing legacy (nine Super Bowls, eight straight AFC Championship appearances and 13 total) that they’ve spent the past two decades burnishing.

On the other side, we have the Rams, representing the new guard in the NFL. Head coach Sean McVay is just 33 years old – half the age of his opponent. Quarterback Jared Goff is 24 years old and in his third season; he was just six years old when Tom Brady entered the NFL. They’re a young and hungry group predicted by some to be the successors to the Patriots atop the football world, but they haven’t won anything yet.

So what’s going to happen?

While I’m not one to give too much credence to the necessity of experience, the reality is that this Patriots team has been in this spot A LOT. Meanwhile, just about everybody on the Rams sideline is new to this kind of big game pressure. Will that make a difference? Almost certainly. The amount of difference will likely determine who ultimately comes out on top here.

Still, it’s all about the matchups on the field. Let’s have a look.

Published in Cover Story
Wednesday, 05 December 2018 15:13

Patriots Progress Report 2018 - Third Quarter

No one who has been a fan of the New England Patriots for any length of time would view this incarnation of the team as a particularly exceptional one. And yet … they’re 9-3 with an AFC playoff spot well in hand.

This last quarter of the season hasn’t been all that impressive, but the Pats still won three of four games. Sure, the competition wasn’t necessarily top-tier; they beat the Packers, the Jets and the Vikings while losing to the Titans of all teams. It wasn’t exciting football – all four games were won by multiple scores.

But hey – wins are wins.

This team might not be the powerhouse squad to which fans have grown accustomed over the years, but nine wins put New England in the mix for a first-round playoff bye; they even have the edge in potential tiebreakers for the top seed. The ongoing run of excellence continues.

On to the Progress Report.

Published in Sports

It’s safe to say that the second quarter of the Patriots season was a heck of a lot better than the first quarter. After a rough start to the season, New England has cruised to victory in each of the last four games.

They haven’t all been easy. And a couple of them have been quite a bit closer than fans might like. There has been an uncomfortable amount of doing just enough to win – one-score victories over the Chiefs and the Bears left us sweating it out until the end.

But in the end, a win is a win. And four wins is four wins.

The offense definitely picked up steam and the defense held up its end of the bargain (albeit just barely at times). It’s the sort of strong stretch of play against some good teams that instills confidence in the team’s viability going forward.

The .500 team from the first quarter is gone. This is the New England Patriots squad we expected to see – one that appears poised to march to yet another AFC East title and a deep postseason run.

On to the Progress Report.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 03 October 2018 12:26

Patriots Progress Report 2018 – First Quarter

It seems like just yesterday that the Patriots were utterly failing to stop the Philadelphia Eagles offense in the Super Bowl. And yet here we are, already a quarter of the way through the new season.

It has been a rocky road for the Pats thus far – and that’s putting it in far gentler terms than some of the team’s more hardcore supporters might. It hasn’t been an outright dreadful start, but considering the expectations, 2-2 isn’t exactly great.

New England has only looked really good once so far, and that was against a suspect Miami team. They were OK at best against the Texans and worse than that against the Jags. And of course, they were awful against the Lions.

Add it all up and it starts to look like maybe this season won’t be the cakewalk to the playoffs that many of us anticipated. Still, what’s done is done – let’s look back at how we got here.

And now, ladies and gentlemen - the Progress Report.

Published in Sports

The 2018 National Football League season is upon us. We’re just days away from kickoff for the first game of the season – this year’s first matchup sees the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 6.

As always, there's plenty to anticipate. Lots that we know, lots that we don't know - and a whole lot that we think we might know but don't actually really know. Anybody who has read one of these previews in the past know that I live my life in that last category.

And so once again, I will be attempting to anticipate how the season will play out. Once again, I will do my best impression of a monkey with a dartboard in an effort to make some sort of sense out of the whole mess. I’m even going to try to predict the 2018 regular season records of each team – a fool’s errand inside a fool’s errand.

(For those interested, I will also be continuing our popular “Kibbles and Picks” online-only feature, wherein I attempt to pick the winners in each week's schedule of NFL games and try to achieve a greater rate of success than that reached by my dog Stella (who has defeated me handily the last three years in a row and in four of five seasons overall, by the way). Check our website at www.themaineedge.com every Thursday or find Kibbles and Picks on Facebook to see if man can even the score against beast; it's possible, but I wouldn't count on it. She’s far better at this than I am.)

And so here it is - your almost-certain-to-be-way-off 2018 Maine Edge NFL Preview.

(y = division winner; x = wild card)

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 01 May 2018 16:35

Your newest New England Patriots

This past weekend, the future of the NFL was unfolding in Dallas.

The NFL Draft took place over the course of three days as representatives from all 32 teams selected players from among the cream of the collegiate crop in an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff and hopefully land the next NFL superstars.

The Patriots haven’t been major players early in the draft for some time, but this year saw New England pick in the first round for the first time since 2015 – and they did it TWICE.

Don’t worry: Bill Belichick and company did plenty of wheeling and dealing in the middle rounds, moving up and down, stockpiling future picks (and landing offensive lineman Trent Brown) along the way.

Still, there’s something exciting about New England actually adding first-rounders to a team that made it to the Super Bowl last season. And they actually used more draft picks than usual; their haul of nine picks more than doubles the total of four they selected in 2017. New doesn’t always equal better, but it’ll be exciting to see how this all plays out.

Let’s meet the new guys.

(Obligatory annual caveat: This is not an effort to grade the Patriots draft class. Literally nothing has changed about any of these players except that they have been given an opportunity to potentially make an NFL roster. As to whether any or all of them cash in on that opportunity, well … I can’t say. And neither can anyone else, no matter how authoritative the sound on TV or on the internet. Grading a draft that just happened is nonsense; a worthless exercise. This is just an introduction.)

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:44

An exodus from New England

Patriots say so long to some free agent talents

Published in Sports
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