Patriots

Our panel picks 'em: Patriots should prep Banner No. 6

nfl-predictions-90717.jpg

Our panel picks 'em: Patriots should prep Banner No. 6

Our CSN panel has made their NFL picks as the season opens tonight and it's unanimous: Another Lombardi Trophy for the Patriots. Plus, bold predictions, MVP choices and more.

The panel: CSN Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, Patriots reporter Phil Perry, CSNNE.com's DJ Bean, Arbella Early Edition host Trenni Kusnierek and CSN's Kyle Draper.

THE PICKS

AFC EAST: All pick the Patriots.

AFC NORTH
Perry: Pittsburgh
Bean: Pittsburgh
Kusnierek: Pittsburgh
Draper: Pittsburgh
Curran: Baltimore

AFC SOUTH
Perry: Houston
Bean: Tennessee
Kusnierek: Houston
Draper: Houston
Curran: Houston

AFC WEST
Perry: LA Chargers
Bean: Oakland
Kusnierek: Oakland
Draper: Oakland
Curran: Kansas City


NFC EAST
Perry: NY Giants
Bean: Dallas
Kusnierek: Dallas
Draper: NY Giants
Curran: NY Giants

NFC NORTH: All pick Green Bay

NFC SOUTH
Perry: Atlanta
Bean: Carolina
Kusnierek: Tampa Bay
Draper: Atlanta
Curran: Atlanta

NFC WEST: All pick Seattle

AFC WILD CARDS
Perry:
Oakland, Miami
Bean: Houston, Kansas City
Kusnierek: Tennessee, Kansas City
Draper: Kansas City, Denver
Curran: Pittsburgh, Oakland

NFC WILD CARDS
Perry: Dallas, Carolina
Bean: Panthers, Cardinals
Kusnierek: Falcons, NY Giants 
Draper: Dallas, Tampa Bay
Curran: Carolina, Arizona

SUPER BOWL
Perry: Patriots beat Packers
Bean: Patriots over Seahawks 
Kusnierek: Patriots beat Seahawks
Draper: Patriots beat Packers
Curran: Patriots over Packers

NFL MVP
Perry: Tom Brady
Bean: Tom Brady
Kusnierek: Russell Wilson 
Draper: Tom Brady
Curran: JJ Watt

PATRIOTS RECORD
Perry: 14-2
Bean: 16-0
Kusnierek: 12-4
Draper: 14-2
Curran: 15-1

BOLD PREDICTION FOR PATRIOTS
Perry: Rob Gronkowski will play 16 games
Bean: They will trade for Joe Thomas at the deadline
Kusnierek: Gronk plays the entire season
Draper: Gronk will play all 16 games 
Curran: Patriots punt on regular season finale to take only loss

BOLD PREDICTION FOR THE NFL
Perry: Chargers will be good
Bean: Browns will be kind of not that bad
Kusnierek: Tampa Bay jumps Atlanta in the NFC South
Curran: Jay Cutler wins comeback player of the year 

IF PATS DON'T WIN SUPER BOWL, IT'S BECAUSE...
Perry: There will be no Super Bowl thanks to North Korea
Bean: You're crazy for this one. They're for sure going to win the Super Bowl.
Kusnierek: Their defense
Draper: The front seven will not be able to pressure the quarterback 
Curran: A comet strikes

WHEN WILL BRADY START TO SHOW HIS AGE? 
Perry: 2018
Bean: 2017
Kusnierek: 2018
Draper: 2018
Curran: 2020

Could trick-shot kicker return to Patriots in 2020 after practice squad release?

patriots_kicker.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Could trick-shot kicker return to Patriots in 2020 after practice squad release?

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots' rare instability at kicker has forced them to get creative.

The Patriots raised a few eyebrows Wednesday by signing Josh Gable -- a "YouTube star" with no college football kicking experience best known for his trick shot videos -- to their practice squad.

Gable's tenure in New England was short-lived, as the Patriots released him Friday.

So, why use a practice squad spot on a kicker only to cut him two days later?

"We had a spot available on the practice squad, and it gave us an opportunity to look at a younger kicker," head coach Bill Belichick said Friday.

" ... Rather than just (have him) come in and do a workout, we were actually able to (have him) kick with the team and put him on the practice squad for a couple days."

Belichick said the Patriots have no plans to move away from Nick Folk as their starting kicker this season. 

But getting Gable in for essentially a multi-day tryout allowed New England to explore a potential kicking option for 2020.

"We'll worry about that next year," Belichick said. " ... Put that in the bank, and maybe it comes up later on at some point in time down the road. Maybe it doesn’t. I’m not sure."

Such is the reality for the Patriots, who lost Stephen Gostkowski to season-ending hip surgery in October and have cycled through Mike Nugent, Kai Forbath, Folk and Younghoe Koo (practice squad) since.

Gostkowski turns 36 in January and is entering the final year of his contract, so Belichick has good reason to get a head start on contingency kicking options for 2020.

That's assuming New England doesn't stick with Folk: The veteran has been the most consistent of Gostkowski's replacements this season, connecting on eight of 11 field goals and making all four of his extra-point attempts.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

N'Keal Harry using big play vs. Chiefs as a reminder of his potential

N'Keal Harry using big play vs. Chiefs as a reminder of his potential

FOXBORO -- At the moment, N'Keal Harry will take positive reinforcement wherever he can get it.

The New England Patriots rookie had just one reception in last Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He made the most of it, though, breaking multiple tackles and diving for what should have been ruled a touchdown.

For 21-year-old rookie with just five catches on 10 targets through four NFL games, the play was a reminder to himself and the Patriots of what he's capable of in space with the ball in his hands.

"Yeah, definitely," Harry said Friday when asked if that play was a confidence boost for him. "It kind of felt like some of the stuff I did in college, just getting the ball in my hand and being able to run with it.

"So, that definitely helped. Just seeing that I'm able to do the same things (I did in college)."

Harry averaged 13.9 yards per catch as a sophomore and 14.9 yards per catch as a junior at Arizona State, earning First-Team All-Pac-12 honors in both seasons as a playmaking deep threat.

Harry's NFL transition has been bumpy to date, as an ankle injury caused him to miss New England's first nine games. But the Patriots still are well aware of his talent.

"I need to do a better job of finding ways to get him in space, get him the ball, and let him have an opportunity to (make plays)," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels admitted earlier this week.

The red zone seems like a natural place to get Harry more involved; the 6-foot-4, 225-pound wideout is a matchup nightmare for smaller cornerbacks and scored 17 touchdowns over his final two seasons.

Even after the Week 14 confidence booster, though, Harry will defer to McDaniels on how the Patriots want to increase his workload entering Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"That's more of a Josh question," Harry said when asked about his role in New England's red zone offense. "I'm just ready whenever my name is called."

" ... Whenever I get onto the field, whether it's 50 snaps or one snap, whenever my name is called, I have to be able to contribute."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.