Patriots

If this was Rob Gronkowski's last home game as a Patriot, he went out with a bang

If this was Rob Gronkowski's last home game as a Patriot, he went out with a bang

FOXBOROUGH – As the rumors of Rob Gronkowski’s potential flirtation with retirement swirl once again, one can’t help but wonder if Sunday afternoon was Rob Gronkowski’s final walk off the Gillette Stadium turf of his NFL career.

Asked about this possibility following the Patriots’ 41-28 thrashing of Los Angeles in an AFC divisional round matchup, Gronkowski said his focus was on the Chargers and that it would be the same way next week when the Patriots travel to Kansas City for the AFC Championship.

“I’m all-in right now,” he said. “We’ve got the Kansas City Chiefs now. It’s going to be another week of preparation, and I haven’t thought about anything like that, so just got to go all-in, keep our focus and keep on doing what we’ve got to do.”

The 29-year-old veteran has taken countless brutal hits and battled numerous injuries throughout his nine-year career in New England, but has continually shot down speculation that he’s hanging up the cleats after this season. Last month, he told reporters he was “all-in” for 2018, saying, “I love the grind.”

Sunday morning, that speculation was brought to the forefront again by a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport saying Gronk will “strongly consider retirement” once the 2018 season has ended.

PATRIOTS 41, CHARGERS 28

So, Gronkowski was asked in a follow-up Sunday, what are the thoughts right now?

“That I’m going to have to enjoy the win,” he said. “That’s what we do. You get one night to enjoy the win, actually around here. You do, you get one night. And then when you wake up tomorrow morning, then it’s on to Kansas City.”

If this truly was No. 87’s last performance in front of the fans that have come to deify him over the last decade, it was defined in a manner perhaps too befitting of him. 

After all, how many skill-position players in the NFL can honestly say they dominated a game without even really touching the ball?

Gronkowski was targeted just once, his only catch coming on one of those customary lumbering car crashes over the middle that fans in New England have venerated time and again. And yet, those big, glue-trap mitts of No. 87 are all over the blueprint of every rushing touchdown New England scored. 

PATRIOTS 41, CHARGERS 28

Whether it was barrel-rolling into Darius Philon to open up Sony Michel’s first score of the game, a one-yard dive; velcroing himself to Hayes Pullard at the second level to open up the alley for Michel to dive at the pylon for his second score; putting Kyle Emanuel on roller skates for Rex Burkhead’s lone score; or leading the pile-push that netted Michel his third rushing score; this may have very well been one of Gronk’s most complete games of the season.

“Just to be able to run the ball, to be able to block, I mean, I’ve never taken it for granted,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve always loved run blocking. I love to do the balance of both.”  

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Why do Patriots still have (relatively) strong Super Bowl odds? Sportsbooks explain

Why do Patriots still have (relatively) strong Super Bowl odds? Sportsbooks explain

We have a new arena for the Bill Belichick vs. Tom Brady debate: Las Vegas.

With Brady leaving the Patriots to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 seasons, sportsbooks are wrestling over whether New England is still a contender without the greatest quarterback of all time.

But several betting outlets are surprisingly bullish on the 2020 Patriots in their Super Bowl LV odds, for one obvious reason: They still employ the greatest head coach of all time.

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"If this were any other team, we'd probably just adjust them up to 100-1," Matt Metcalf, the sportsbook director for Las Vegas bookmaker Circa Sports, told ESPN's David Purdum. "But with Belichick, you can't do that."

Instead, the Patriots are listed at 20-1 to win Super Bowl LV at many sportsbooks -- the same odds they had to win Super Bowl LIV entering last season's playoffs with Brady, according to Purdum.

Ironically, Brady's Bucs also have 20-1 odds to win Super Bowl LV at Caesar's Sportsbook. But should a talent-deficient Patriots team really be on the same level as a loaded Tampa Bay squad led by a six-time Super Bowl champion?

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Caesars director of trading Jeff Davis also cited Belichick in his rationale.

"It's hard to say," Davis told Purdum, "But is there anyone who's done more with less than Belichick? I'd say, no."

Interestingly, Purdum cites two more reasons why sportsbooks haven't dropped the Patriots' odds more: 1) They still play in the mediocre AFC East; and 2) they still could sign a "high-profile" quarterback like Cam Newton, Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton.

Our Tom E. Curran has reported that second option is unlikely, but even if Belichick rolls into 2020 with Jarrett Stidham, sportsbooks are wary of writing the Patriots off.

Ex-Patriots scout gives interesting details on Bill Belichick's NFL Draft grading scale

Ex-Patriots scout gives interesting details on Bill Belichick's NFL Draft grading scale

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, despite some recent struggles, has enjoyed a ton of success selecting players in the NFL Draft.

Just a few days ago, Hall of Fame general manager Gil Brandt tweeted Belichick is the best drafter of his lifetime. Brandt is 87 years old, so he's seen plenty of drafts.

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Former Patriots scout and current Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy in a few tweets Wednesday provided some interesting information on how Belichick and his staff grade prospects entering the draft. One example he used was based on evaluating cornerbacks. 

Check out Nagy's explanation below:

The Patriots' ability to contend in the AFC in 2020 could hinge on their success in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, which is still scheduled to begin April 23 despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.

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New England has lost several key players on both sides of the ball through free agency and trades over the last few weeks.

The most notable departure, of course, was quarterback Tom Brady, who took his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent after spending 20 seasons and winning six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots. The Pats have lost a bunch of important defensive players, too, including linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, as well as safety Duron Harmon. Special teams also has taken a hit with the losses of safety Nate Ebner and longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Filling this holes won't be easy, but luckily for the Patriots, they have 12 picks in the 2020 draft. These picks include No. 23 overall in the first round and three selections in the third round. Only the Miami Dolphins (14) have more picks than the Patriots.

Another positive for the Patriots is many of the top players in the 2020 draft class are wide receivers or defensive players -- two areas of need for New England. In fact, it's possible we see more than half of the first-round picks used on defensive players, and many recent expert mock drafts predict Belichick will target that side of the ball with the 23rd overall selection.