Patriots

If the Patriots are in the trade market, Week 7 helped their cause

If the Patriots are in the trade market, Week 7 helped their cause

If the Patriots are looking for help at tight end or receiver, Week 7 around the NFL probably helped their chances.

The Chargers and Broncos both lost to fall to 2-5. Even with Patrick Mahomes out for the time being, those two squads aren't climbing back into relevance in that division.  The Falcons' loss to the Rams left Matt Ryan banged up and the team's record sinking to 1-6. The 2-4 Bucs had a bye and have six non-division leaders ahead of them in any futile Wild Card hunt. The Bengals remained the Bengals and are therefore 0-7.

All of those teams have pieces that could suit the Pats as next Tuesday's trade deadline approaches. Here's a carcass-by-carcass breakdown:

FALCONS

The guy who makes the most sense from Atlanta is veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu, a 30-year-old Rutgers guy with one year left on his deal. Atlanta still has Julio Jones and 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley at receiver, so it's not like they'd need to cling to Sanu during a retooling in the offseason.

The Falcons also have a good tight end in Austin Hooper, but the 24-year-old is still on his rookie deal. There would be little reason for the Falcons to flip him unless a team paid handsomely.

BRONCOS

Other than Antonio Brown, no non-Patriots receiver has been mentioned more around these parts than 32-year-old Broncos veteran Emmanuel Sanders. The Pats have a history with him, as they signed him to an offer sheet back in 2013 when trying to steal him away from the Steelers. They also talked to him the following offseason before he signed with the Broncos. Now in his sixth season in Denver, he clearly wants out and the team is reportedly set to trade him.

CHARGERS

The Chargers have been brutal this season, but their pieces still might be too good to trade. Keenan Allen is still 27 and has one more year left on his contract. Assuming the team re-signs Philip Rivers in the offseason, they should want their two-time Pro Bowl receiver there with him.

You can also put tight end Hunter Henry in the "pipe dream" category. Like Hooper with the Falcons, Henry is on his rookie deal and is better suited to be a building block in Los Angeles than a deadline defection.

BUCS

Free O.J. Howard. For real.

We don't know if the 2017 first-round tight end out of Alabama is a bust, because it's just as possible that Bruce Arians doesn't know what to do with him. Being used primarily as a blocker, Howard has just 18 targets and 13 catches through six games. Regardless of whose fault that is, that type of usage in the passing game has undeniably crushed Howard's trade value. If I'm the Patriots, he'd be the guy I'd target.

BENGALS

A.J. Green is an apparent long shot for multiple reasons. In addition to liking it in Cincinnati, he still isn't back from his ankle injury. Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Green won't be back until after the deadline.

Tyler Eifert has just nine catches over the last five weeks. He is a big name who could probably be had for a song, but if the Patriots didn't want him in free agency, why would they want him now?

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Patriots defense must beat Cowboys QB Dak Prescott in this area of the field

Patriots defense must beat Cowboys QB Dak Prescott in this area of the field

One of the key matchups in Sunday's Week 12 game between the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys will be passes outside the numbers.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has shredded defenses on throws outside the numbers in 2019. The Patriots are the best team in the league at defending these passes.

NFL Research tweeted a few interesting stats Tuesday that highlight the importance of this matchup:

Prescott is playing at an MVP-level this season, and he's performed at a particularly high level over the last three weeks with 1,202 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions over that span. The Cowboys' success, in a lot of ways, rests on his shoulders.

The Patriots will be Prescott's toughest test of the year so far. Here's where New England's pass defense ranks in several statistical categories:

TD allowed 4 (1st)
Yards allowed/game: 152.6 (2nd)
Interceptions: 19 (1st)
Sacks: 37 (2nd)
Yards/Attempt: 5.3 (1st)
QB Cmp %: 53.6 (1st)
QB rating: 49.2 (1st)

The Cowboys are in a tight race with the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East title, and they enter Sunday's matchup at Gillette Stadium with a slim 1-game lead over their division rivals. It's hard to imagine the Cowboys leaving Foxboro with an upset win if Prescott doesn't play well, so it'll be exciting to watch how he handles going against the league's best pass defense on the road.

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Rob Gronkowski includes cruel joke in his assessment of 2019 Patriots

Rob Gronkowski includes cruel joke in his assessment of 2019 Patriots

Rob Gronkowski essentially put the kibosh on a return to the New England Patriots in 2019. But he hasn't closed the book on his former team.

Shortly after revealing his latest "big announcement" -- he's hosting a mega beach bash in Miami on Super Bowl weekend -- the retired tight end told ESPN's Mike Reiss he's open to considering an NFL comeback down the road.

"I wouldn't say 'never coming back,' " Gronkowski told Reiss on Tuesday. "I'm 30 years old. I'm young. I still stay fit, still watch the game whenever I can, still enjoy it.

"I'm feeling good, but you know, one year off could possibly be the case. Or maybe two years off, man."

The Patriots have gone 9-1 without him this season, but as Tom Brady will tell you, there are major issues to address on offense.

Gronkowski, who has kept a close eye on New England's games this season as a fan and analyst for NFL on FOX, couldn't resist pointing out one way the Patriots could address those issues in his assessment of the 2019 team.

"The defense is just tremendous, the way they're coming together with the veteran leadership they have there, and the skill set they have," Gronkowski told Reiss. 

"With the offense, they're finding ways to make it work like they've always done, putting guys in the right situation to make plays.

"But man, they're missing some guy who is 6-6, 260 [pounds]. They're missing that guy, for sure."

Gronkowski is referencing himself, of course, which is a cruel joke considering just how much the Patriots could benefit from his presence: New England's tight ends have combined for just 23 catches on the season, with 38-year-old Ben Watson accounting for 11 of them.

It sounds like Gronk misses the Patriots, too, even if 30-year-old has enough business and entertainment irons in the fire to keep him occupied through the end of 2019.

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