The Patriots still have something to play for Sunday in Miami

The Patriots still have something to play for Sunday in Miami

The NFL's wild weekend settled the AFC playoff race in one regard: The six spots are all accounted for. The Patriots, Raiders, Steelers, Texans, Chiefs and Dolphins are in. Out are all the rest, most notably the Broncos and Ravens.

However, that doesn't mean Sunday's New England-at-Miami finale is meaningless. Here's what's on the line for the two teams . . .

THE PATRIOTS: They're still vying for the No. 1 overall seed and need a win (or a Raiders loss) to clinch. Oakland closes at Denver, and it's hard to imagine the Broncos having much fight left in them after becoming the first defending Super Bowl champion since the 2013 Ravens to miss the playoffs.

We all know what home-field advantage means -- or have you forgotten the 2015 AFC Championship Game in Denver? -- but, with David Carr out for the season, there's legitimate reason to wonder if the Raiders can make it to this year's AFC title game even if they win Sunday. So there's a chance the Pats could be at Gillette for the AFC title game despite a loss in Miami. And even if the worst-case scenario (for New England) plays out, a meeting with the Carr-less Raiders in Oakland might not be the toughest road to the Super Bowl.

THE DOLPHINS: They're just playing for seeding, but a win -- and a Kansas City loss --- would get them to No. 5, where they would miss Pittsburgh in the opening round. The Steelers are locked in at No. 3 and the Texans at No. 4, and there's no team in the playoffs that wouldn't rather play Houston, with Tom Savage at quarterback, than Pittsburgh. The fifth seed get the Texans, and the sixth seed gets the Steelers.

Then again, not only do the Chiefs have that same sense of urgency -- they'd just as soon avoid Pittsburgh in the first round, too -- but they still have a shot at the AFC West title. They need a victory in their finale at San Diego to stay alive in that race; even if the Raiders beat them out for the division, they can clinch No. 5 with a victory.The Chargers, 5-10 and losers to Cleveland (!) last week, don't figure to put up much of a challenge for a team with something with play for.


What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...