Patriots

Some thought the Patriots dynasty was over earlier this year

Some thought the Patriots dynasty was over earlier this year

After the Patriots struggled on the road and during parts of the season, some pundits thought the Patriots dynasty might be over. They spoke too soon...

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Rob Gronkowski barely edges Chris Herndon in PFF's AFC East tight end ranks

Rob Gronkowski barely edges Chris Herndon in PFF's AFC East tight end ranks

Rob Gronkowski was the best tight end in the AFC East in 2018. That should surprise no one.

What's quite eye-opening, though, is how much the gap has closed between him and his competitors.

Pro Football Focus revealed its AFC East tight end grades for the 2018 season Thursday and the New England Patriots' five-time Pro Bowler topped the list -- by just 0.1 point.

By PFF's estimation, Gronkowski essentially was as productive as New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon.

Who?

The 22-year-old rookie actually had a solid campaign, catching 39 passes for 502 yards (both second-highest on the team) with four touchdowns. But you wouldn't think he'd be in the same stratosphere as Gronkowski, who's never had fewer than 540 receiving yards in each of his nine NFL seasons.

These rankings are a sign of the times, however. Gronkowski still is mulling retirement after another taxing season in which he missed three games due to injury. The 29-year-old caught 47 passes for 682 yards in those 13 games and still was an excellent run blocker but scored just three touchdowns. His previous low TD mark during a season in which he played at least 10 games? Eight.

Gronkowski would go out on top as a (first ballot?) Hall of Famer if he retires this offseason. If he comes back for a 10th season, though, he'll have to fight to retain his standing as an elite NFL tight end.

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Willie McGinest slams critical Steelers blog with accurate takedown

Willie McGinest slams critical Steelers blog with accurate takedown

Score another victory for the New England Patriots in their "rivalry" with the Pittsburgh Steelers, thanks to a guy who's beaten them a few times before.

The Steelers blog "Steelers Depot" bashed NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest on Wednesday, calling the former Patriots linebacker "one of the least prepared analysts" on the network for his take on Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert's comments about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Steelers Depot tagged McGinest in the tweet, which turned out to be a very bad idea. Here's McGinest's definitive response:

It's a good burn, sure, but it's also accurate. McGinest has carved out a successful second career as an analyst by drawing from the experience he gathered from 12 years and three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, one of the model franchises in professional sports.

That's what McGinest was doing here: He criticized Colbert for telling his players they need to take their direction from Roethlisberger -- "That's one of the dumbest things you can say to a group of men in the locker room" -- because he knows from his days in New England a team's success is built on collective effort, not preferential treatment of one player.

Pittsburgh has plenty of issues beyond Colbert's comments to work out this year. Star running back Le'Veon Bell officially will become a free agent in March after the team declined to use its franchise tag on him, while top wide receiver Antonio Brown has demanded a trade.

The Patriots? They'll keep rolling along, seeking to defend their sixth Super Bowl title in the last 18 years.

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