In this week's mailbag, we talk about receivers who could key the postseason, whether this is the week we finally get a ton of Damien Harris action, and setting the early table for 2020 . . .

For Jakobi Meyers to be able to reel in all three targets — one in a contested situation deep in Bills territory, one off a play-action fake — was significant. Not only should that do wonders for his confidence, but it should do wonders for Tom Brady’s confidence in him. Meyers’ contributions highlighted one of the themes Bill Belichick pointed to after the game. He went out of his way to note the number of players who stepped up against Buffalo.

Against a playoff team, with plenty on the line, perhaps enough wasn’t made of what Meyers did. Or what Marshall Newhouse did at right tackle. Or what Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson did at tight end. Or what Rex Burkhead gave them. Or how Joejuan Williams stepped up, and how JC Jackson stepped into a slot defender role with Jonathan Jones out. Or how Nick Folk came through when needed. The Patriots of course had key contributions from guys like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower.

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But to have that many role players perform, with the No. 2 seed and the division still up for grabs, against that level of competition, could be a harbinger of good things to come for the Patriots moving forward. They’ll need more than just their stars if they hope to get to where they want to be.


He should be able to, Pat. We aren’t THAT far removed from 10 catches and a touchdown — often working out of the hurry-up — in Baltimore. I’d attribute some of his struggles to the ankle. I think some are due to his unfamiliarity with the details of certain assignments. For instance, when he forgot to block someone on fourth-and-one last week, that wasn’t because of the ankle he injured weeks ago. There’s a reason the Patriots paid a second-rounder to get him. He might not be worth that kind of compensation. But he’s better than what he’s given them.

Not sure how there could be any frustration with his role, simply because he’s played more than any Patriots wideout recently. He’s an every-down guy for them. And yet the production has been what it’s been. If they can get anything out of him — with Julian Edelman continuing to grind through, and N’Keal Harry showing signs of growth — it’d be huge for this offense. 

Let’s peg it at two years and $30 million. Not the top of the market. But right there with Matt Ryan in terms of average annual value. Would put him ahead of guys like Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. Feels right. I’m of the mind, at this point, that deal won’t be coming from the Patriots. 

THIS. IS. (MAYBE?) YOUR. TIME. People have been clamoring to see Damien Harris all season. Sony Michel is now questionable to play Sunday because of an illness. If Michel can’t go, expect Harris to be active. The reason he rookie hasn’t played more as of yet is multi-pronged. 1) He’s a rookie. Pass-protection is difficult for rookies. 2) There’s depth at the position and no one has been injured. Running backs coach Ivan Fears acknowledged this was one of the primary reasons we haven’t seen Harris much. The Patriots like him, Fears said. There’s just not much in the way of opportunity. 3) As disappointing as has been Michel’s production this year, the coaching staff has put a good deal of his relative lack of success on the blocking in front of him. Getting downhill too deliberately has been an issue at times, as well, but clearly the staff didn’t think that was so bad that they’d rather see Harris.

I think Dante Scarnecchia’s relationship is one of several that helped encourage Josh McDaniels in his decision to stick in New England. I still think that was due more in part to getting a greater commitment from ownership here in New England and some hesitation about the situation in Indy. 

I’ve been a fan of N’Keal Harry’s skill set even prior to the draft, and so you can probably guess me answer here. Tom E. Curran and I went back and forth on this question in this week’s Point/Counterpoint


I’d pick the Ravens as the tougher matchup in any locale. If they meet the Patriots, and if the Patriots land the No. 2 seed, them that game will be played in Baltimore.

As things stand right now, Harry gives the Patriots a better big-play threat than Phillip Dorsett. The rookie’s ability to beat one on one coverage with his size alone, turn runs into chunk gains, and win in the red zone make him a better fit as the team’s No. 3. That’s where he’s slotted in lately, pushing Dorsett to a (totally capable) No. 4 role. 

1. Brady. I don’t think he’ll be back, but whether he’s here or not will have a greatest say in how the team’s record will look in 2020. He’s the obvious No. 1 of we’re just going be importance. 

2. Thuney. One of the best guards in football. Critical to keeping the quarterback, whoever that is, healthy. He’s in line to see a serious pay day this offseason and could be tough to retain. 

3. Devin McCourty. He’s the brains of the secondary operation. The secondary is the team’s greatest strength. Pretty simple. 

4. Kyle Van Noy. Versatile. The team’s most consistent pass-rusher. Someone who will get pod come March. 

5. Jamie Collins. Still a Swiss Army knife type for Bill Belichick. 

There were several who looked like Patriots fits. Maybe 2020 is the year. We may learn more as the pre-draft process plays out, but it doesn’t look like an incredibly strong tight end class. 

Huge. Still, I think it’s a Patriots cover, 31-13. Happy New Year, friends. 

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