Patriots

Three Patriots made PFF's 2018 All-Pro team (and none were Tom Brady)

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USA TODAY Sports

Three Patriots made PFF's 2018 All-Pro team (and none were Tom Brady)

For once, the best player on the New England Patriots may not be Tom Brady -- by the numbers, anyway.

Pro Football Focus released its 2018 NFL All-Pro team based on its own player grades, and three Patriots players made the 26-man squad: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, right guard Shaq Mason and special teamer Albert McLellan.

Edge defender Trey Flowers also made PFF's list as a second-team All-Pro behind J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack.

This isn't the official All-Pro team, which the NFL will reveal in a few weeks. But it's still a notable honor for Gilmore, Mason and McLellan, who were the best players at their positions this season according to PFF's grades.

Gilmore, PFF notes, led the NFL with 18 pass breakups and allowed catches on just 46.7 percent of his targets.

Mason, who got passed over for a Pro Bowl nod, was a "dominant" force in the run game for a Patriots offense that ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing yards. He also allowed a career-low 16 QB pressures, per PFF.

McLellan's nod may surprise Patriots fans, who usually see Matthew Slater earn New England's special teams accolades. But the backup linebacker, who signed with the Patriots prior to Week 10, was an excellent blocker on New England's return units and also tallied six special teams tackles without a miss.

So, where is Brady, who joined Gilmore as the Patriots' only two Pro Bowlers this season? The 41-year-old QB still had a decent season -- 4,355 passing yards, 29 touchdown passes and a 65.8 completion percentage -- but wasn't on the same level of Patrick Mahomes, who earned PFF's All-Pro nod after tossing an NFL-best 50 TD passes.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Rich Eisen on 'positively absurd' Spygate 2.0

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Rich Eisen on 'positively absurd' Spygate 2.0

Like most of the rest of the NFL world, Rich Eisen of the NFL Network is amazed that we are talking about what has become known as Spygate 2.0 - the Patriots again being accused of taping an opposing teams' sideline - and the repercussions surrounding it. 

He joined Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast to provide a little national perspective on the controversy and his first reaction was how "positively absurd" it was that the Pats are being accused of the same behavior that they were punished for back in 2007.

"If the Patriots did attempt something like this again, how remarkably brazen it would be?" Eisen told Curran. "I couldn't imagine being in that press box and seeing that happen? That's what makes it so positively absurd. How does anybody that represents anything to do with the Patriots not know you're not supposed to shoot the other team's sideline?''

Eisen predicted that the Patriots' admission of a "unintended oversight" in taping the sideline of the Cincinnati Bengals while they were playing the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday and Bill Belichick's adamant denial of knowing anything about the operation, won't prevent a hefty fine from being leveled by the NFL against the team. 

I'm sure there are a lot of people who are breathing fire at One Patriot Place," Eisen said. "Even if it was a clueless botched operation, I think the Patriots get fined. They still shot video of another teams' sideline and bottom line is that's a no-no, an absolute no-no.

"I'm assuming its a hefty fine for the team that's coming."

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Eisen's comments come near the end of the episode. Former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel joins Curran earlier and talks about how the original Spygate accusations back in '07 were a motivating factor for a Patriots team that went on to a 16-0 regular season.

"We were shocked at how it took on a life of its own," Cassel recalled. "It honestly was comical the way they took it, with people thinking we had it all figured out, we filmed them and we knew all their signs. The best thing that possibly could've happened is we came out for the rest of the season after the knowledge that Spygate took place and everyone saying 'That's why they won their Super Bowls' and we just dominated." 

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Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots continue to slide in AFC

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Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots continue to slide in AFC

Through 13 weeks, it’s become clear that there are six good teams in the AFC and one very good, maybe great team. The Ravens are a complete team: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, situationally smart, tough, you name it.

Everybody else has the flaw that they’ll either need to cover up or overcome in the playoffs to get past Baltimore.