Patriots

Could Tom Brady miss first Pro Bowl since 2008? Where QB ranks in voting

Could Tom Brady miss first Pro Bowl since 2008? Where QB ranks in voting

Tom Brady has piloted the New England Patriots to the NFL's best record through 10 games.

He hasn't been the same Tom Brady, though, and we have another data point to prove it.

The New England Patriots quarterback currently ranks ninth among NFL QBs in fan voting for the 2020 Pro Bowl, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, with Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes among those ahead of him.

Here's some context to that ranking: The AFC and NFC both carry between four and six quarterbacks each on their Pro Bowl rosters, for a total of between eight and 12.

So, if voting ended today and Brady was the ninth-ranked quarterback with four AFC signal-callers ahead of him, he wouldn't make the cut.

That'd be quite the upset, considering the 41-year-old has been named to 14 Pro Bowls -- tied for the NFL record -- in 19 seasons and hasn't been left off the Pro Bowl roster since 2008, when he tore his ACL in Week 1.

(A necessary caveat: You can be named to the Pro Bowl and not play in the game. Brady actually has attended just two Pro Bowls in his career.)

Fan voting is open until Dec. 12, so there's still plenty of time for Brady to move up the board. Fans' votes also account for just one third of the total Pro Bowl vote -- NFL coaches and players get one-third each -- so Brady's contemporaries also could help get him in.

Brady's stats haven't exactly been Pro Bowl-esque this season, though: The Patriots QB ranks 20th in the NFL in passer rating (90.1), 17th in touchdown passes (14), 19th in completion percentage (63.7) and seventh in total yards (2,752).

Not that Brady will care if he gets left off the Pro Bowl and his Patriots are playing in Super Bowl LIV. Just ask Brandon Spikes, who said back in January that Brady once told him, "You think I play this s--- to go to Pro Bowls?"

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

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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.

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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."

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