1. First-round pick N’Keal Harry was on the 53-man roster for last Sunday’s game in Baltimore, but was not active. Some have pointed to the hurry-up offense the Patriots utilized and with all the time he missed, he wouldn’t have been able to handle it all. But, by not playing some have questioned if he even has a role on the team over the remaining seven games. “I think there is no doubt they believe in him,” Mike Lombardi of The Athletic said on Ordway, Merloni, & Fauria Friday. From this viewpoint, the team has to get something out of Harry because it’s really hard to count on the passing game continuing to stay on the field (Julian Edelman, James White and Phillip Dorsett) and perform like it has through nine games. So, what is a reasonable expectation for Harry? It might make most sense to look at his skill set — 6-foot-4 and known for making contested catches — and use him mostly in the red zone. This has been a troublesome area for the team this year (22nd in the NFL) and Harry could give it a boost. It also makes some sense considering routes in the red zone aren’t all that complicated and wouldn’t put the rookie in a position to make split-second decisions on the fly on what Tom Brady wants. When Harry plays he certainly won’t drastically change the offense, but he has an ability to make a few plays and help in certain areas. From a numbers perspective, 14 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns seems reasonable.
2. Looking back at the Baltimore game and early in the week, Bill Belichick may have admitted he and the coaching staff went into the game with a poor gameplan. Every interview the coach did, he mentioned multiple times the coaching needed to be better and it starts with him. While this is a common phrase from him, the way he said it and the number of times he said it stood out. After the first three drives for both the offense and defense things seemed to get figured out, so maybe there is something to the poor gameplan entering the game.
3. Going through the midseason awards over the last week, Edelman deserves more recognition than he’s received. While he hasn’t put up huge numbers, the fact that he’s been on the field each and every week and produced has been vital to the offense. Despite being on the injury report since Week 4 with a chest/ribs injury, the wide receiver has been on the field every game and still playing with the same fearlessness as he did before the injury. While the offense hasn’t been great, without Edelman on the field it’s worth wondering where it would be.
4. Looking for a player to breakout in the second half of the year? Keep an eye on Jakobi Meyers. Everyone remembers Malcolm Michell’s rookie season in 2016 when he had 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns, but it’s worth noting the majority of those came beginning in Week 11. From Week 11 on, Mitchell had 21 catches for 306 yards. Right now, Meyers has 14 catches on 17 targets for 172 yards. Don’t be surprised if Meyers surpasses Mitchell’s receiving total pending Brady shows the trust to throw his way.
5. There should be some clarity on the Week 16 game against the Bills in the coming days. It has been selected as one of five games that has the potential to move to Saturday, and given the success of both teams this year, it would not be a surprise in the least if it is. The NFL Network is airing three games that day and the other four games it has to select from are Houston at Tampa Bay, Detroit at Denver, Oakland at LA Chargers, and LA Rams at San Francisco.
6. In a story posted to Patriots.com by Angelique Fiske, it was revealed wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator Joe Judge is pursuing a PhD in education. The coach started the process when he was a graduate assistant at Mississippi State, but then he went to Alabama and then to New England and he hasn’t had the time to finish it between work and family time. “I’ve started the process of reaching out to some of members of my committee and letting them know that I’m going to wrap this thing up sooner than later,” Judge said. “They kind of laughed about it and said it’s about time. They’ve been supportive, and they all know what I’m doing. As long as I send a Patriots hat every once in a while, they all keep in good spirits.”
7. Coming off their bye, the Patriots will return to Gillette Stadium on Monday to begin preparations for the Eagles. It will be a normal week for the team with having its normal off day on Tuesday. In a scheduling coincidence, the Eagles are also coming off their bye, so there really is no advantage for one team or the other going into the matchup.