Patriots

Patriots vs. Bengals Instant Overreactions: N'Keal Harry takes positive step in win

Patriots vs. Bengals Instant Overreactions: N'Keal Harry takes positive step in win

The New England Patriots played poorly in the first half Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but like so many times this season, the defense stepped up and made the key plays to secure a victory.

The Patriots forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, and earned a 34-13 Week 15 win over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium to maintain their position as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture. New England also clinched a playoff berth with their 11th win of the season.

The Bengals led 10-7 at one point in the second quarter, but the Patriots went on a 27-3 scoring run to blow the game open in the second half. New England's offense struggled again, but there were encouraging developments in both the passing and rushing attacks that the team can build on over the final two weeks of the regular season.

Let's take a look at four instant overreactions from the Patriots' win and assess their merit.

1. N'Keal Harry will play a crucial role for rest of 2019 
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talked earlier in the week about finding ways to get the ball to Harry more often, and the Patriots did a pretty good job of that Sunday. The rookie wide receiver tallied two receptions for 15 yards, including a third-quarter touchdown the Patriots desperately needed. Harry also ran the ball twice for 22 yards.

Harry should've had three receptions, but a great diving catch he made deep downfield was nullified due to a false start penalty by Julian Edelman.

The Patriots made Harry a larger part of the offense against the Bengals and the result were positive. He has the size, strength and raw skill to make big plays, and that was very evident on his touchdown reception. Harry received only two snaps last week versus the Chiefs, and after Sunday's performance, he should be a focal point of the offense for the remainder of the season. It's not like the Patriots have a bunch of other options, so they might as well give the rookie a shot.

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2. Pats' run defense is a concern
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Bengals ran for 67 yards on eight carries during their first drive of the game, and it led to Cincinnati scoring its first opening-drive touchdown of the entire season. Bengals running back Joe Mixon had five carries for 43 yards by himself on that opening possession. Cincy finished with 164 rushing yards on 31 attempts (5.1 yards per carry), and Mixon accumulated 136 of those yards.

The Patriots run defense got off to a great start in 2019 and still ranks high in several statistical categories, but the unit has been less effective in recent weeks. New England gave up 159 rushing yards to the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, 210 yards to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, and 109 yards to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12.

A failure to stop the run allows teams to dominate time of possession and keep the Patriots offense off the field for long stretches, which is far from ideal for a New England team that's struggling to score (averaging 20.3 points scored over the last six games) and needs all the possessions it can get. The Ravens executed this strategy to perfection against the Patriots last month.

3. Stephon Gilmore is the best defensive player in the NFL this season
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

Gilmore intercepted two passes in the third quarter Sunday, and he returned one of them for a touchdown that increased New England's lead to 27-10. He also tallied two tackles and four pass breakups.

Gilmore already was the league's best cornerback before this game, and he further strengthened his case for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award with this performance. He now leads the league with six interceptions (including two pick-6s), and the list of top-tier wide receivers he's shut down this season also is quite impressive. Gilmore's spectacular play has been the main reason why the Patriots lead the league in several important passing stats such as interceptions, opposing QB rating, yards allowed per attempt, completion percentage, while also ranking No. 2 in passing yards allowed per game.

A Patriots player has never won the Associated Press' NFL DPoY award, but Gilmore deserves to be the first one as the MVP of an elite New England defense.

4. Joe Burrow will save the Bengals
Verdict
: Overreaction

No one player is going to save this inept Bengals franchise, not even LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. The Tigers quarterback is having a tremendous season with 4,715 passing yards, 48 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He's even drawn comparisons to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Cincinnati needs a lot more than a franchise quarterback to return to the playoffs, though. The Bengals' receiving corps is unimpressive, and the team's best wideout, A.J. Green, could leave as a free agent in March. The defense is giving up more than 25 points per game, and the coaching staff leaves a lot to be desired as well. Earning the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and selecting Burrow would be a great first step for the Bengals, but they have plenty more roster issues to address before being a contender again in the AFC.

Super Bowl 54 odds: Opening Chiefs vs. 49ers spread, MVP betting lines

Super Bowl 54 odds: Opening Chiefs vs. 49ers spread, MVP betting lines

The Kansas City Chiefs enter Super Bowl LIV in Miami as a small betting favorite over the San Francisco 49ers.

The Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, while the 49ers earned a convincing NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers.

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Here are the opening betting lines for the Super Bowl, via the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.

Spread: Chiefs -1
Total: 53.5
Moneyline: Chiefs -120, 49ers +100

Here are the Super Bowl MVP odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook). There are other players listed at DK, but these are the most likely MVP winners.

Patrick Mahomes: +110
Jimmy Garoppolo: +200
Raheem Mostert: +500
Tyreke Hill: +1600
Travis Kelce: +1600
George Kittle: +2000
Damien Williams: +3300
Mecole Hardman: +3300
Tevin Coleman: +3300
Sammy Watkins: +4000
Tyrann Mathieu: +5000
Nick Bosa: +5000
Deebo Samuel: +5000
Frank Clark: +6000
Arik Armstead: +6500
Matt Breida: +6600
Emmanuel Sanders: +6600
Richard Sherman: +6600

It's hard to imagine anyone besides Mahomes being named MVP if the Chiefs win. The 49ers are a different story, however. Garoppolo has the best odds of any San Francisco player, but that probably has more to do with the position he plays. Seven of the last 10 players to win Super Bowl MVP were quarterbacks. Garoppolo, however, hasn't had to do much in the playoffs, and the best example came Sunday when he attempted just eight passes versus the Packers. 49ers running back Raheem Mostert and tight end George Kittle are good value plays for bettors who envision the 49ers lifting the Lombardi Trophy.

Super Bowl LIV will be played on Sunday, Feb. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

Curran: No need to be bitter about Jimmy G. not being a Patriot

Darrelle Revis rips Richard Sherman on Twitter, prompting this response from 49ers CB

Darrelle Revis rips Richard Sherman on Twitter, prompting this response from 49ers CB

Former New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis didn't hold back on Twitter during Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

Revis ripped Richard Sherman in a tweet that, among other things, criticized the 49ers cornerback for staying on one side of the field and hiding in zone coverage.

Sherman got the last laugh, however. He kept Packers wide receiver Davante Adams out of the end zone and intercepted Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers late in the fourth quarter. The turnover created a celebratory scene at Levi's Stadium as the 49ers sealed a 37-20 victory to advance to Super Bowl LIV.

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Sherman isn't afraid to speak his mind on Twitter, so it wasn't surprising that he responded to Revis' criticism. 

Revis wasn't done tweeting, though. He clarified his original comments, and also responded to Sherman's claim that Revis' ninth year "looked a lot different."

Revis is right about the upcoming Super Bowl matchup. The Kansas City Chiefs have a talented group of pass-catchers headlined by speedy wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, and tight end Travis Kelce. These guys all are difficult to cover, particularly Hill, who probably is the fastest player in the league. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes presents a myriad of problems for opposing defenses on his own, too.

Sherman took one more shot at Revis before tweeting about other things after San Francisco's win.

What do the stats say?

Well, Revis has three interceptions in 10 playoff games, while Sherman has four in 14 career postseason games. Each of these defensive backs has one Super Bowl ring, and Revis' came against Sherman when the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Maybe that game is where some of the tension between these future Hall of Famers stems from.

Curran: No need to be bitter about Jimmy G. not being a Patriot