The Patriots just may get a late Christmas present in James Harrison. The former Steelers linebacker is visiting the Patriots on Tuesday after being released on Saturday. Of all the places he could have visited, I’m pretty sure New England fans were pleasantly shocked when he came knocking at our door.
Lacking Depth at Linebacker
It’s no secret the Patriots are a bit thin in the linebacker department. Donta Hightower went down with a season-ending injury in early November, leaving all of us wondering what the defense would look like. But the Pats have this ‘next man up’ mentality, so the wondering was short-lived. Kyle Van Noy has been an unsung hero for the Pats and his absence was felt when he missed the last few games. They’ve got different combinations of guys who continue to make big plays when needed, but it would be nice to have a solid veteran to anchor the defense.
Tossed to the Curb
Harrison’s role with the Steelers was cut dramatically with the transition to more pass-coverage for OLBs Dupree and Watt. He went from playing 587 snaps last season to a miserable 40. It’s as if his 80.5 sacks for them didn’t mean a thing. So did his age also play a role when the Steelers made the decision to let him go? Pittsburgh has gotten flack in the past for their defense looking old and tired in comparison to what I like to call the Polamalu years. I guess they’ve decided it’s time to focus on building a defense that’s a bit younger, faster and stronger. But even though Harrison is 39, he very much seems to be all three of those things. The man can bench a whopping 400+ lbs. and in 2015 showed us he could handle 500 lbs.! Harrison continues to remind us on his Instagram that age is nothing but a number.
The Patriots will no doubt have to face the Steelers again in the playoffs, and having Harrison would be a huge help. The Pats have had some trouble rushing the passer and stopping the run. These are two areas that Harrison performs VERY well in, so having him in our ranks would definitely allow us all to breathe a bit easier. I know the Pats want to feel more solid on the defensive side of the ball, especially with the playoffs fast approaching. Harrison may definitely be the piece of the puzzle we’ve needed all season. Perhaps everyone will get a ring out of the deal.
The New England Patriots come off of a bye week to face the Denver Broncos in week 10 of NFL action. The Pats had two uncharacteristic losses occur at home in week 1 against the Chiefs and week 4 against Carolina. But they bounced back after the Carolina loss and won four straight. They are now 6-2 and sit atop the AFC East.
At 40 years old, Tom Brady is proving to us that he’s still got it. Before last night’s Seattle vs. Cardinals game, Brady led the league in passing yards with 2, 541 (R. Wilson now leads by just 2) and continues to lead this team to wins. Although he only has 16 passing TD this season, he has still found a way to bail out the defense when necessary, especially early on in the season. After nearly escaping with a 24-17 win against the Jets in week 6 (due to a controversial overturning of a TD), the defense did a complete 180 in week 7 when they shutout the Falcons for three straight quarters. In the next game against the Chargers, they were able to hold Philip Rivers to just 212 yards. That’s pretty good considering every quarterback they faced in weeks 1-6 threw for over 300 yards.
The Pats should be feeling pretty good about themselves heading into Denver. Although Chris Hogan didn’t practice yesterday (or at all this week for due to his shoulder), they were able to add a familiar face to the roster this week. Martellus Bennet was picked up on waivers after being released by the Packers for not disclosing an injury. It seems he has a torn rotator cuff, but he plans to play through it (I would too if I was reunited with the defending champs).
Denver on the other hand, has been struggling. They lost to the Eagles 51-23 and at one point the Eagles put in their back up QB Foles; that’s how embarrassing the loss was (as if the score wasn’t bad enough). They have lost four straight games and were shutout in one of them. But they have the upper hand against the Pats, who are just 10-21 overall when they have to play in Denver. Brady himself is just 6-6 against Denver while Belichick is 9-13 overall (9-9 with NE).
Oh, but wait! The Patriots are 27-18 when they have to play on Sunday night, with Brady personally owning an 18-10 record. Brock Osweiler will be starting for the Broncos after throwing 2 INTs against Philly. The Pats defense will have to step up with the loss of Hightower, and Dorsett will have to do the same since it’s likely Hogan won’t play Sunday. Osweiler and Denver will continue to struggle while Tom Brady and the Pats will add one to their win column on Sunday.
(Shoutout to the Patriots App for the solid series (Denver/Pats) info!)