Map proves America still hates the Patriots (with a fitting exception)

Map proves America still hates the Patriots (with a fitting exception)

When New England Patriots fans boast, "They hate us 'cause they ain't us," they're at least half right.

The sports gambling website published an "AFC Championship Game State Rooting Interest" map this week, using geotagged Twitter data to visualize which states are rooting for the New England Patriots and which are pulling for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Shocker: Nearly every state wants to see a Patriots loss.

In fact, only one state in the whole country outside of New England wants the Pats to win Sunday: Michigan, where Tom Brady played college football.

These "rooting interest" maps -- which search for tweets with positive or negative sentiment for each team and filter them by location -- usually don't favor the Patriots. Nobody likes seeing the same team in the Super Bowl every year (New England has played in three of the last four), and if you've read the news this week, there are plenty of folks out there who think Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Co. are dirty cheaters.

Then again, the landslide usually isn't this severe, as the Patriots sometimes have holdouts in random states like North Dakota or Hawaii. That's the case for the Los Angeles Rams, who are the unpopular choice in the NFC Championship Game but still have some support in the South thanks to Atlanta Falcons' fans fierce hatred of the New Orleans Saints.

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Bucs' Bruce Arians fretted over 'secret team' stealing Tom Brady in free agency

Bucs' Bruce Arians fretted over 'secret team' stealing Tom Brady in free agency

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians admitted he wasn't convinced Tom Brady would sign with Tampa Bay until the two spoke on the phone during the first night of NFL free agency.

But according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer, Arians may have still had doubts after his phone call with Brady.

During an appearance Thursday on FS1's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," Glazer detailed his back-and-forth with a very paranoid Arians in the days leading up to Brady's signing.

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"I was talking to him throughout the whole thing. Believe it or not, while everybody thought it was a done deal, he didn’t because Tom hadn’t signed,” Glazer said. "Like, it took him a couple days and he didn’t sign."

Brady announced he was leaving the New England Patriots on Tuesday, March 17, but didn't sign with the Bucs until that Friday due to some logistical issues regarding his physical.

Those few extra days apparently made Arians worry that either the Patriots had convinced Brady to stay or that another suitor -- the Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts reportedly were all in the mix -- had swooped in to sign the six-time Super Bowl champion.

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"At one point Bruce actually hit me up and said, 'Do you think there’s a secret team here?' " Glazer said. "He’s been around football so long that paranoia is part of your DNA if you’re a head coach.

"He was like, 'Is there another team?' I was like, ‘You’re good, dude. I think you’re good.’ "

Considering Brady actually pitched the Bucs on why they should sign him, it appears Arians' worries were unfounded. But maybe the Bucs' head coach is a superstitious man and didn't want to jinx his chances of landing the GOAT.

"He was almost like, ‘It’s too good to be true,' " Glazer added of Arians.

Next Patriots kicker? Analyzing best free agents, 2020 NFL Draft prospects

Next Patriots kicker? Analyzing best free agents, 2020 NFL Draft prospects

The 2020 offseason has been one of transition for the New England Patriots, and that extends to the kicker position.

The Patriots have been fortunate to not have to worry about kicking throughout most of the last 20 years. Whether it was Adam Vinatieri or Stephen Gostkowski, the Pats were in good hands when it came time to kick an important field goal. 

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Changes are in store for 2020, though. Here's a breakdown of the Patriots' kicking situation, and who could step in as the team's new kicker.

Current Situation

The Patriots do not have a kicker on their after Gostkowski was released last month. Gostkowski had filled the starting kicker role since the Patriots drafted him in 2006 to replace a Super Bowl hero in Vinatieri. Gostkowski had a remarkable career and ranks as New England's all-time leading scorer. He suffered a season-ending hip injury early in the 2019 campaign and only played in four games.

The Patriots signed a few kickers after Gostkowski's injury, and veteran Nick Folk ultimately won the job. He played in seven games for the Patriots and converted on 14 of 17 field goal attempts, including a perfect 12-for-12 on extra points. Folk remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent (more on that below).

Free Agents

The quality of free agent kickers is poor. There aren't even many of them on the market. In fact, Spotrac has four kickers listed on their free agent tracker. Let's examine each player.

Stephen Gostkowski: The Patriots recently released him, although he told NBC Sports Boston's Tom E. Curran that he does plan to play in the 2020 season.
Adam Vinatieri: The return of Vinatieri, who won three Super Bowl titles and made some of the most iconic kicks in league history with the Patriots, would make for a great story. Vinatieri really struggled last season, though. He converted on just 17 of his 25 field goal attempts and missed six of his 28 extra point attempts. His field goal and extra point percentages were by far the worst of any single season in his Hall of Fame career. A Vinatieri reunion with the Patriots simply doesn't make sense.
Ryan Succop: Succop played in 12 games for the Tennessee Titans last season due to injury, and he was released by the AFC South club last month. The veteran kicker made only one of his six field goal attempts in 2019. Signing him would be a huge risk for the Pats.
Nick Folk: Folk played well for the Patriots. He missed only three kicks, and he converted both of his field goal attempts and his one extra point try during the Patriots' playoff loss to the Titans. Folk easily is the best free agent option available to the Patriots, especially if they're looking for a veteran to fill the starting kicker job.

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NFL Draft History

Here's a look at the kickers drafted by the Patriots in the last 30 years. It's a short list, as you probably would imagine.

2006, Round 4, 118th: Stephen Gostkowski (Memphis)
2001, Round 7, 216th: Owen Pochman (BYU)
1993, Round 5, 113th: Scott Sisson (Georgia Tech)
*Vinatieri was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 1996. 

Not many kickers have been drafted over the last five years. Here's a look at those selections.

Round 5, 145th, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Gay, Utah
Round 5, 170th, Cleveland Browns: Austin Seibert, Oklahoma

Round 5, 167th, Minnesota Vikings: Daniel Karlson, Auburn
Round 7, 229th, Miami Dolphins: Jason Sanders, New Mexico

Round 5, 153rd, Cincinnati Bengals: Jake Elliott, Memphis
Round 7, 224th, Cleveland Browns: Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
Round 7, 233rd, Carolina Panthers: Harrison Butker, Georgia Tech

Round 2, 59th, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State


Harrison Butker is the best kicker who's been drafted over the last five years. Despite being drafted by the Panthers, he never attempted a kick for them. Butker signed with the Chiefs in 2017 and has become one of the league's top kickers. He led the league with 34 made field goals last season.

Every kicker who ranked in the top five in field goals made during the 2019 season either went undrafted or does not currently play for the team that drafted them.

2020 NFL Draft Prospects

These three kickers are worth considering in April's draft. Blankenship is the best option for the Patriots. He not only posted impressive stats in four years at Georgia, he also kicked in a lot important moments during bowl games and the College Football Playoff.

Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
2019 Stats: 27 FGM, 33 FGA, 46-for-46 XP

Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern
2019 Stats: 20 FGM, 28 FGA, 36-for-36 XP

Jet Toner, Stanford
2019 Stats: 12 FGM, 12 FGA, 13-for-13 XP