Patriots

Patriots move back into AFC's No. 2 seed with Steelers loss

Patriots move back into AFC's No. 2 seed with Steelers loss

The Steelers' upset loss at Mile High early Sunday evening worked out to New England's favor, sliding the Patriots back into the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

At 8-3 the Patriots stand one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs, of whom they own the head-to-head matchup over, and a half-game over the Houston Texans, who play the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.

Of the Patriots, Steelers and Texans, Pittsburgh has the toughest schedule the rest of the way. Three of the Steelers' final five opponents have at least eight wins on the year (Chargers, Patriots, Saints), while the Patriots and Texans' final five opponents both have a combined record under .500.

Here's how the playoff picture looks after Sunday's games:

AFC SEEDS
1. Kansas City 9-2
2. New England 8-3
3. Houston 7-3
4. Pittsburgh 7-3-1
5. LA Chargers 8-3
6. Baltimore 6-5

IN THE HUNT
Indianapolis 6-5
Tennessee 5-5
Miami 5-6
Cincinnati 5-6
Denver 5-6

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Patriots rumors: Latest buzz on free agents Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy

Patriots rumors: Latest buzz on free agents Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy

Tom Brady isn't the only important free agent the New England Patriots have to consider re-signing this offseason.

The strength of the Patriots in 2019 was their defense, and several valuable members of that unit have expiring contracts. Among that group are linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, as well as safety Devin McCourty.

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Here are the latest updates on those three Patriots free agents with a few weeks to go before the market opens.

Devin McCourty
McCourty is the fifth-longest tenured Patriots player behind Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman and special teams ace Matthew Slater. He's been one of the team's best players and leaders since he was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft. McCourty's five-year, $47.5 million contract is about to expire, and even though he's 32 years old, his talent is still impressive. 

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported Thursday "the understanding is the Patriots want the veteran safety back."

McCourty has not missed a game since the 2014 season. He tallied 58 total tackles, two forced fumbles (one recovery) and seven passes defensed last season. His five interceptions were tied for the second-most in the league. The Patriots secondary ranked among the league's best in the 2019 campaign and held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 56.5 completion percentage. McCourty played an important role in that success, and the Pats would be wise to bring him back.

Kyle Van Noy
The Patriots acquiring Kyle Van Noy and a seventh-round draft pick from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a sixth-round pick in October of 2016 turned out to be one of their best trades in recent memory. Van Noy has been a fixture of New England's linebacker group since his arrival, and he's helped the team win two Super Bowl titles over that span.

USA TODAY Sports' Henry McKenna reported Thursday that Van Noy's camp and the Patriots aren't scheduled to meet this week.

Van Noy tallied 56 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles (two recoveries), three passes defensed and a touchdown last season. He's also been pretty durable with zero games missed due to injury since 2017.

If Van Noy hits the open market, he'll be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

Jamie Collins
Collins returned to the Patriots last season after a disappointing two-year run with the Cleveland Browns, and the veteran linebacker re-established himself as a top-tier player in Bill Belichick's defense.

The Boston Globe's Jim McBride tweeted Thursday that Collins "is expected to have many suitors." This isn't surprising given how well Collins played in 2019.

Collins led the Patriots defense in total tackles (81) and sacks (seven) last season, while also tallying three forced fumbles (one recovery), seven passes defensed, one touchdown and a career-high three interceptions.

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Patriots told Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney he had 'loser's mentality' in combine interview

Patriots told Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney he had 'loser's mentality' in combine interview

Under Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have created a very defined culture. They don't deal with nonsense and players they pick often have specific traits and ways of thinking that fit their winning culture.

And Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney found out about this the hard way at the 2020 NFL Combine.

The NFL hopeful described his meeting with the Patriots during the combine and spoke of their dedication to culture and how one wrong answer made the team say that Pinkney's response was "a loser's mentality."

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“It’s interesting, because [with] a team that’s been winning for as long as they have, you expect them to come in with a certain mentality and to share that mentality and to spread it and impart it on you,” Pinkney said, per NESN's Zack Cox. “And that’s exactly what happened. I gave a kind of wonky answer, and it was like, ‘No, that’s a loser’s mentality.’ And I was like, ‘OK, my bad.’ [raises hands] They were like, ‘You need to be like this and that and that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m better.’ ”

That had to be an uncomfortable moment for Pinkney, but he surely isn't the first prospect to have something like that happen to him at the combine. And that was just one of the responses he gave during his session with the team, so he probably did fine overall.

It's no surprise that the Patriots interviewed Pinkey, who our own Phil Perry identified as a Prototypical Patriot to watch in the Senior Bowl. And the Patriots are looking to add some talent at tight end, as they got little to no production out of their triage of Matt LaCosse, Ben Watson, and Ryan Izzo last season and never properly replaced Rob Gronkowski after his retirement during the 2019 offseason.

Pinkney (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) had 20 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. His most productive collegiate season came as a junior in 2018 when he grabbed 50 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.