Patriots

#FridayBag: Is Eagles D Pats will face better than Jags?

#FridayBag: Is Eagles D Pats will face better than Jags?

Each week, Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi answer you Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or FridayBag as they call it. This week, Giardi's packing for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis but Perry and Curran provide the answers.

MORE PATRIOTS - CURRAN: Whispers persist about Brady's post-40 greatness 

Got a question for the trio? Tweet at them using the hashtag #FridayBag. Now on to this week's edition: 

PP: Great question, Jay, because I think the assumption for many Patriots fans is this: If the Pats just took down the Jaguars (No. 2 in points and yards allowed in 2017), then how are the Eagles (No. 4 in yards and points allowed) going to stop them? Here are a couple ways in which the Eagles are better: 1) They're better against the run. They were the No. 1 ranked run defense (less than 80 yards allowed per game) in the regular season. That may be a concern for the Patriots since they averaged just 2.4 yards per rush against Jacksonville. No surprise here, but they'll lean heavily on Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. 2) The Eagles have a deeper stable of pass-rushers than the Jags did. In the AFC title game, the Patriots had to worry about Jacksonville's base four-man front and their sub package (which typically just swapped out Marcel Dareus for Dante Fowler). Against the Eagles, the Patriots offensive line will have to be able to contend with a group that goes seven or eight deep and may have more energy by game's end. The Patriots may not be able to wear down Philly's front the way they seemed to against Jacksonville's (or Atlanta's in Super Bowl LI). Test of wills. 

PP: I don't think he'll be inactive, fellas, but it's hard to predict the impact he'll have. Even though he hauled in a big 31-yard completion off a flea-flicker in the fourth quarter against the Jags, he still only played three snaps in the game. He dressed and didn't play in the Divisional Round. It's early yet, but my initial thought about the Patriots offensive game plan is that they'll do what they tried to do early against Jacksonville. Get the opponent's base package on the field and try to exploit athletic mismatches with either pass-catching backs or tight ends. (That plan, which they flashed early, seemed shot when Rob Gronkowski got hurt and the speed of Jacksonville's linebackers overwhelmed Patriots backs.) To get Philly's base personnel on the field -- that means having linebacker Najee Goode on the field instead of "big nickel" third safety Corey Graham or third corner Patrick Robinson -- then the Patriots will have to go with two-back or two-tight end sets. That means two-receiver packages. That means little work for No. 4 receiver Phillip Dorsett. 

PP: Hard to say anyone other than Dion Lewis, Alexander. He is a true all-purpose back who can play in any situation, and the Patriots clearly trust him no matter the down or distance. It would make sense, though, if all three backs -- Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead -- saw plenty of work in the quick passing game in order to limit the amount of time Eagles rushers have to get to the quarterback. The Eagles have some athletic linebackers who don't get lost in coverage in Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks, but I still think that trio of backs will see plenty of footballs thrown their way. 

PP: It's interesting because on Amendola's go-ahead touchdown against the Jaguars, he ran the same route he ran on that play back in Super Bowl XLIX. Brandin Cooks had the Julian Edelman "whip" route in the front corner of the end zone. The Patriots mix and match their receivers and so there are plenty of plays where Amendola will run what looks like an Edelman route and others where that route will go to Cooks or Chris Hogan. This isn't something that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels unleashed for the postseason. I think what you could say about Amendola, though, is that his playing time has been more consistent in the postseason. The team has done well to manage him during the year in recent seasons in order to have him ready for the playoffs, where his opportunities tend to skyrocket. In the regular season this year, he played 15 games and only cracked the 40-snap threshold four times. In the Divisional Round, he played 50 snaps and AFC Championship, 48.  

PP: Defensively, Patrick, it's probably the Jaguars. Post-safety coverages. Talented defensive lines and defensive coordinators who don't like to blitz. Offensively, it's the Chiefs. Doug Peterson has a long history of working under Andy Reid, and so you'll see his offense use motions and strange formations to try to confuse the Patriots. On one snap against the Vikings down near the goal line, Philly aligned with three offensive players in the backfield...but none were running backs. Then they re-positioned to try to find a mismatch. The Eagles also have made use of bunch formations late in the season and had some success. Their quarterback, Nick Foles, may not be a world-beater. But, like Alex Smith, he's also probably not going to give the game away with an untimely interception.

TC: Hello, Gerry. I appreciate your forward-thinking. The Patriots have a budding tackle situation. Nate Solder’s contract is up. It’s hard to handicap which way he’ll go after the season – retirement, re-sign or free agency – and it’s reasonable to suspect even he doesn’t know at this point. He’s in the moment. The Patriots’ depth at the other end of the offensive line is also up – LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming are both free agents after the season. Marcus Cannon will be back from his ankle injury in 2018 (presumably) so the right tackle spot is set. Meanwhile, Antonio Garcia – a third-round pick in the spring who spent the year on IR – is going to have opportunity staring him in the face at tackle. Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Ted Karras are all under contract as well so the interior is solid. But there’s definitely work to do at tackle. 

TC: Earl! Offensively, the Eagles resemble the Kansas City Chiefs in their scheme because head coach Doug Pederson is a protégé of Andy Reid’s. There are West Coast elements in the mix, meaning slants and timing patterns with short drops. But Pederson’s shown an ability to add wrinkles depending on personnel. Since Nick Foles entered the mix, there have been more run-pass option plays. The upside of those is freezing linebackers from getting into coverage and simplifying for Foles the read he has to make. If the linebackers come up and the run will go nowhere, hit the quick, short timing patterns. If they stay back, hand it off. Here’s a good read on Pederson. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’ forte is altering his scheme to his players’ strengths. There are elements of a morphing “game plan” defense but the attacking, upfield style that Schwartz was weaned on while with the Titans remains. More than anything else, the Eagles are nasty against the run and play fast as hell in the front.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Rob Gronkowski's cameo at Syracuse-Duke game has Twitter buzzing

Rob Gronkowski's cameo at Syracuse-Duke game has Twitter buzzing

Who needs a beach vacation when you can watch college basketball in central New York?

Rob Gronkowski apparently had that same thought, as the New England Patriots tight end showed up to the Carrier Dome in full Orange regalia Saturday night to watch Syracuse battle No. 1 Duke.

Gronkowski hails from the Buffalo area -- he grew up in nearby Williamsville, N.Y. -- hence the allegiance to Syracuse, about 150 miles east on I-90.

The 29-year-old rolled in with a crew, too, as his brothers joined him in courtside seats for the high-profile matchup.

It looks like Gronk even got his own custom jersey for the occasion, a No. 4 jersey with "Gronkowski" on the back.

The star tight end doesn't have direct ties to Syracuse, as he played his college ball at Arizona. But the Gronkowski clan still has a connection to the Orange, as his father, Gordon, played football at Syracuse.

Gronkowski still hasn't decided whether he'll return for the 2019 season, and it appears he's still enjoying his time away from football with some nice quiet family time.

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.

Is Robert Kraft "biggest name" charged in prostitution case, after all?

Is Robert Kraft "biggest name" charged in prostitution case, after all?

Those waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Florida prostitution scandal may be stuck holding their breath.

ESPN's Adam Schefter prompted massive speculation Friday by mentioning on "SportsCenter" he was told Robert Kraft is "not the biggest name involved" in a Jupiter, Fla., bust that resulted in the New England Patriots owner being charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution.

The list of "bigger names" than Kraft, the owner of arguably the most visible franchise in North American sports, isn't a long one. So, who the heck was Schefter referring to?

Turns out those close to the investigation are wondering the same thing.

From Deadspin's interview with Palm Beach County state attorney's office spokesman Mike Edmonson:

Deadspin asked Edmondson about a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter saying he’d been “told that Robert Kraft is not the biggest name involved down there in South Florida.” Edmondson responded: “Nobody around here has any idea what [Schefter] is referring to.

Police released a list Friday of 25 people facing charges for their alleged involvement in a human trafficking ring run out of several Florida day spas. Kraft was the only notable public figure on the list, but police added they've identified at least 100 men suspected of paying prostitutes for sex as part of their months-long investigation.

That means it's still possible another high-profile figure gets connected to the scandal. But according to Edmonson, it's also possible we've already seen the biggest bombshell.

Kraft strongly denied any illegal activity in a statement Friday afternoon, but a warrant for his arrest is expected to be issued Monday, so we likely won't have closure on this case for some time.

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.