The Patriots have re-signed 26-year old QB Brian Hoyer to a 1-year, .92 million dollar deal. Hoyer played in 3 games for the Patriots last year and he completed his only pass attempt, which was good for 22 yards. He also carried the ball 4 times for -3 yards (-0.8 ypc) last year. Hoyer has now played in 13 games (0 starts) in his career with the Patriots and he has completed 27 of 43 passes (62.8%) for 286 yards with 1 TD pass and 1 INT (80.2 QB Rating). He also has carried the ball 24 times for 14 yards (0.6 ypc) with 1 TD carry. Hoyer will be the Patriots’ #2 QB once again in 2012.
The Patriots have re-signed 29-year old center Dan Connolly. Connolly played in 13 games (11 starts) for the Patriots last year. He has now played in 42 games (28 starts) in his first four years in the NFL. Connolly appears to be a late bloomer and the Patriots were smart to bring him back to help protect Tom Brady in 2012.
This could be an epic game just like the last time these two teams played in the Super Bowl, when the Giants ruined the Patriots’ bid at a perfect season by beating them 17-14. The Giants are coming into this game red hot as they have played really well in the playoffs. But, both teams needed a little luck to win in the Conference Championship Games, so I expect this to be a hard fought, outstanding game. Here is a look at the matchups in this game:
When the Patriots have the ball: The Patriots might just run the ball more than usual as the Giants have had issues stopping the running game this year. If the Patriots can get BenJarvus Green-Ellis going early in the game, it will make the Giants pay for overplaying the passing game. That doesn’t mean the Patriots aren’t going to pass the ball, because that’s their bread and butter. For Tom Brady to be effective in this game, the offensive line is going to have to step up and keep DEs Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora away from him. If Brady has time to throw the ball, he’s going to have a field day as the Giants are not loaded with good cover corners. WRs Wes Welker and Deion Branch could both have big games for the Patriots this Sunday as Brady is going to challenge Giants’ CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster quite a bit in this game. The Patriots are also going to use TEs Rob Gronkowski (he has a high ankle sprain) and Aaron Hernandez a lot in this game, so Giants’ safties Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant are likely going to have long days if Brady has time to throw the ball. I see the Patriots scoring a lot of points this Sunday.
When the Giants have the ball: The Giants are likely going to try to stay somewhat balanced offensively in this game. That means the front seven are going to have to stop the running game while getting a good pass rush on Eli Manning. That will be easier said than done. The Giants have two good RBs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. The OLBs (Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo) are going to have to keep the outside contained and force the Giants’ RBs inside to deal with Brandon Spikes and Vince Wilfork. The Patriots are going to have to get a good pass rush on Eli Manning or they are going to be in big time trouble. WRs Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham are going to cause big time matchup problems for the Patriots. CB Kyle Arrington has been a big time player for the Patriots but he’s going to get challenged big time this weekend. CBs Sterling Moore and Antwaun Molden are really going to have to step up this weekend as they will likely be matched up with Cruz and Manningham. Safeties Devin McCourty and Pat Chung are going to have to give help over the top for the corners while also keeping an eye on TE Jake Ballard. A lot of times Manning throws the ball up for grabs after he gets hit a few times early in games, so the secondary is going to have to win those jump balls this Sunday.
PREDICTION: PATRIOTS 31, GIANTS 27
The Patriots waived 24-year old WR Tiquan Underwood last night on the eve of the Super Bowl. He played in 5 games for the Patriots this year and he caught 3 passes for 30 yards (10.0 avg). Underwood has now played in 15 games in his first three years in the NFL and he caught 11 passes for 141 yards (12.8 avg). He has also returned 26 kickoffs for 599 yards (23.0 avg) so far in his NFL career. Don’t be too sad for Underwood as he will still get a share of the Super Bowl winnings and he will get a Super Bowl ring if the Patriots prevail later today.
UPDATE: (2/7/2012) – The Patriots have re-signed Tiquan Underwood to a reserve/futures contract for 2012.
The Patriots have used their franchise tag on 30-year old WR Wes Welker. Welker played in all 16 games for the Patriots last year and he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards (12.9 avg) with 9 TD grabs. He also carried the ball 4 times for 30 yards (7.5 ypc) and he returned 8 punts for 82 yards (10.3 avg) last year. Welker has now played in 77 games in his first five years with the Patriots and he has caught an amazing 554 passes for 6,105 yards (11.0 avg) with 31 TD grabs. Welker has also carried the ball 16 times for 126 yards (7.9 ypc) so far in his career with the Patriots. Welker has returned 89 punts for 942 yards (10.6 avg) and 10 kickoffs for 247 yards (24.7 avg) in his career with the Patriots. It was smart of the Patriots to bring back Welker for the 2012 season as he is still money over the middle.
The New England Patriots have released 29-year old DT Mike Wright. Wright only played in 1 game for the Patriots last year and he had 1 tackle. Wright played in 81 games in his 7 years with the Patriots and he had 134 tackles, 15 sacks, 5 tackles for a loss, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 3 passes defensed. The Patriots will likely try to replace Wright with a more durable and younger player either in the draft or free agency.
The Patriots have waived 26-year old G/C Rich Ohrnberger. He spent all of last season on the Injured Reserve List. He played in just 5 games (0 starts) in his three years with the Patriots. The Patriots have decided not to waste a roster spot anymore on a rather untalented player in Ohrnberger, who also can’t seem to stay healthy.
Mike Reiss reports draft analyst Todd McShay shared his insight as to some of the “value” areas that could be there for the Patriots in the late first round.
Receiver: “Michael Floyd [of Notre Dame] would be a good fit, a guy who can get down the field and has some size. Kendall Wright [of Baylor] I think also could be a good fit; he’s undersized like some of their other guys, but he has explosive, explosive speed. He can get down the field and provide that big play, vertically, that they’ve been missing. He also can help in the return game should they choose and he’s great after the catch.”
Cornerback: “It will be interesting to see if any of these corners drop. By any of them, I mean Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama. Obviously Bill Belichick has a great relationship with Nick Saban and will have a great feel for Kirkpatrick and whether he fits what they want to do or not. He certainly looks like a corner who would fit what they like in terms of the versatility. He’s not an elite man-to-man cover corner, but very instinctive in zone. The knock on him, outside of the baggage, is that he gets there and bats down a lot of balls and is in position to make tackles after the catch, but doesn’t make a lot of big plays. Janoris Jenkins would be another guy, a Florida guy who was dismissed from the team and played at North Alabama this past season. I think he has very good man-to-man cover skills and certainly can play on the outside for them and I think would upgrade their corner situation.”
Safety: “Mark Barron from Alabama could drop a little bit [hernia]. He won’t be working out at the combine.” Pass rushers: “Chandler Jones, the Syracuse defensive end, I know I’m probably higher on him than most guys. But I do think he has a chance to be a really good player and I love his versatility. I think he would fit New England from that perspective. Andre Branch is another one, out of Clemson – 6-4, 260, could play defensive end but also could drop when they go back and forth in their four-man front and three-man front. There is some depth to this class. Ronnell Lewis is another one, from Oklahoma. They can find a pass rusher should they decide to draft one.”
The Patriots ran into the Giants yesterday, who had the perfect gameplan to beat them. The Giants were ball hogs and it made things very hard on the Patriots yesterday. Tom Brady completed 27 of 41 passes (65.9%) from the floor last night, good for 276 yards with 2 TD passes and 1 INT. BenJarvus Green-Ellis came alive in the second half as he finished up with 44 yards rushing on 10 carries (4.4 ypc) and he also caught 2 passes for 15 yards (7.5 avg). Danny Woodhead pitched in with 18 yards rushing on 7 carries (2.6 ypc) and he also caught 4 passes for 42 yards (10.5 avg) with 1 TD grab. TE Aaron Hernandez (8 rec, 67 yards, TD) and WR Wes Welker (7 receptions for 60 yards and 2 carries for 21 yards) led the way for the Patriots in the passing game, but they each dropped key passes on the Patriots’ final drive. WR Deion Branch (3 rec, 45 yards) and TE Rob Gronkowski (2 rec, 26 yards) also pitched in for the Patriots in this game. The Patriots finished up with 83 yards rushing on 19 carries (4.4 ypc) and they also completed 27 of 41 passes (65.9%) for 266 yards as they had possession of the ball for 22:55.
The defense didn’t play too well for the Patriots in this game. LBs Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes led the way for the Patriots with 11 tackles apiece last night. Safeties Devin McCourty (7 tackles) and Patrick Chung (6 tackles and 1 pass defensed) also pitched in for the Patriots in this game. The Giants finished up with 114 yards rushing on 28 carries (4.1 ypc) and they also completed 30 of 40 passes (75%) for 282 yards in this game. The Patriots are now 0-2 in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants, who seem to have their number lately. The Patriots’ season ends with a huge thud!
The Patriots have re-signed 25-year old safety Ross Ventrone to a futures/reserve deal. Ventrone played in 8 games for the Patriots last year and he had 2 tackles. Ventrone was like a yo-yo for the Patriots last year as they kept signing him and waiving him. He spent half of the year on the practice squad in 2011, but he will lose eligibility for that when he plays in one more game for the Patriots. It will be interesting to see if Ventrone steps up and snatches a full time job with the Patriots in 2012.