Patriots

Bill Belichick details what makes Jets' Le'Veon Bell so tough to defend

Bill Belichick details what makes Jets' Le'Veon Bell so tough to defend

Le'Veon Bell is always going to be a focal point of the New York Jets offense, but he should play an even more important role Sunday against the New England Patriots with his team forced to start its third-string quarterback.

The Jets won't have starting quarterback Sam Darnold because he's battling mono, and backup Trevor Siemian won't play again this season after suffering an ankle injury Monday night. That means Luke Falk likely will start versus a Patriots defense that's given up just three points over the first two weeks of the season. 

Bell was one of the NFL's best running backs during his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after sitting out the entire 2018 season because of a contract dispute, he took his talents to New York. The 27-year-old running back has rushed for 128 yards and zero touchdowns in his first two games with the Jets, but he also has tallied 16 receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown.

Bell's patient running style often causes problems for opposing defenses, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is well aware of the talent the star running back brings to the field each week. 

"He's a very explosive player," Belichick said Wednesday during a media conference call. "Yeah, if (the hole is) there, he'll hit it. If not, he does an excellent job of setting the blockers up and making the defenders commit, and then finding space and going. You don't see him running into the back of his blockers and running into a pile and things like that. He makes guys commit, and then he finds space and is able to get to it. He's an excellent player."

Bell played three regular season games against the Patriots as a member of the Steelers, and his team lost each time. He didn't play too poorly, though, racking up 276 yards (4.46 yards per carry) and one touchdown, as well as 19 receptions for 181 yards.

Belichick was asked if he sees any differences from Bell after skipping a season, and the Patriots could come up with any.

"Yeah, he looks pretty good. He looks fresh," Belichick noted. "Yeah, looks good. Catches the ball well, is very good in the open field, he's a strong in-line runner."

The Patriots have beaten the Jets six consecutive times, and oddsmakers -- based on the spread of 22.5 points in favor of the New England -- are expecting another one-sided matchup. If the Jets are going to end that losing skid and earn a potential season-altering win, Bell has to make a huge impact in both the passing and rushing attacks Sunday.

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Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

What a difference a few hours makes.

Going into their Thursday night matchup with the Chiefs, the Broncos didn't have to be sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They were 2-4, about to play at home, in prime time, against a banged-up division rival fresh off of back-to-back losses.

Denver wasn't necessarily a front-runner for a playoff spot, but a win over Kansas City would bring them closer to .500 and respectability. If they could get to 3-4, it might've been harder for them to deal off pieces, acquire draft capital and re-launch a re-build.

But now, after a loss in which Fox Sports color commentator Troy Aikman called the Broncos offense "about as bad an offense as I've seen," they're 2-5.

Time to start selling.

One would think that would be John Elway's approach, at least. And if it is, the Patriots could end up the beneficiaries.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders has long made the most sense as a Patriots midseason acquisition. He's in the final year of his contract, playing for a team that isn't competing for a postseason spot, and he's a player in whom Bill Belichick has had interest before. Back in 2013, the Patriots signed Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet that the Steelers then matched to keep the talented wideout.

Six years later, perhaps Sanders could finally end up in New England. With an ability to play both inside and out, Sanders, 32, would provide a lift for a Patriots offense in need of interior receiving help. He'd help alleviate some of the work thrust upon Julian Edelman in the middle of the field, and he'd provide Tom Brady with a receiver who can shake free from one-on-one coverage in critical moments.

From the sounds of it, Sanders isn't exactly thrilled with the way things are going in Denver.

"I don't even have the answers," he said late Thursday night. "Obviously, I do know. But I ain't gonna say it. It is what it is . . .

"You know. You know the answers. You watched the same game I watched."

Sanders did not, however, take the route other star players have veered down lately, making a public trade request from the home locker room at Mile High. 

"Is the season done? No, it's not done, obviously," he said. "We can get on a roll but it doesn't look like it right now after this loss, obvious. That's what everybody's going to be thinking. But at the end of the day, you gotta remain positive. It's the NFL. It's not easy to win. When you do lose, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. We gotta do that."

Might the silver lining be for Sanders that he could be sent elsewhere? Somewhere where Joe Flacco, who took eight sacks and fumbled three times Thursday, is not his starting quarterback?

It could conceivably cost the Patriots a third-round pick to acquire Sanders, even as only a rental for the remainder of 2019. That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year. Detroit took a 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign.

The highest compensatory pick Sanders could land the Broncos, Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal informed us, would be a fifth-rounder because he has 10 accrued seasons in the NFL. Perhaps the Patriots wouldn't even have to part with a third-rounder, then, to land Sanders.

The Patriots have plenty of draft capital they could trade. They should have three third-rounders in 2020 if they receive third-round comp picks for losing highly-paid free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. 

Sanders injured his knee last week against the Titans, but he played on short rest against the Chiefs and finished the game with five catches for 60 yards. On the season, Sanders has 25 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns despite having missed two games. 

Even with first-round rookie N'Keal Harry on track to return later this season, he would provide more of an outside-the-numbers presence, while Sanders could be an impact player from the slot or outside.

Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury. Phillip Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice limited because of a hamstring, and Edelman was limited with a chest issue. Adding Sanders would appear to be a no-brainer for a Patriots team that's a little light on capable veteran receiver help. 

And after the Broncos fell to 2-5 Thursday night, the possibility of Belichick bringing Sanders aboard seems a little more realistic.

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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

The Kansas City Chiefs could be without their star quarterback for an extended period of time.

Patrick Mahomes left Thursday night's game vs. the Denver Broncos with a right knee injury. The 2018 NFL MVP injured himself attempting a QB sneak in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game shortly thereafter.

Mahomes was able to walk off the field under his own power, but this looks like it could be a serious injury for the 24-year-old. If that's the case, the Patriots' path to another AFC title just got infinitely easier.

Mahomes will undergo an MRI on Friday.

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