Patriots notebook: Significant absence across the NFL creates easy road as New England make playoff push

Patriots notebook: Significant absence across the NFL creates easy road as New England make playoff push

When New England hosts Cleveland on Sunday, the Browns will be without star running back Nick Chubb, who has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and is ineligible to play. Chubb has been the key cog in Cleveland’s offense this season and had just totaled 137 yards rushing and two touchdowns last week against the Bengals, so avoiding an impact player of his caliber will be one less thing the defense will need to account for. Fellow Browns running back Kareem Hunt has also been on injured reserve and won’t play.  

Those are some heavy-hitters on the offensive side of the ball that the Patriots will avoid over the next three weeks, which gives them a great opportunity to pile up some more wins. While those clubs are all still formidable and could hand New England a loss without those stars, being able to evade those game-breaking talents gives Bill Belichick and Co. an edge as they look to solidify a playoff spot, which is noteworthy as they’re set to begin the second half of the year.  

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Here are some other news and notes surrounding the Patriots leading into Week 10. 

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  • Of course, a lot of that has to do with the Patriots’ overall improved play over the course of this streak. While this team is starting to find its footing, it’s also now getting a bit of luck thrown in its direction. Over the next three weeks, as they look to extend this winning streak, things have aligned to where New England is poised to catch its opponents at less than 100%.

  • Meanwhile, the Falcons, New England’s Week 11 opponent, have been without stud wide receiver Calvin Ridley as he focuses on his mental health. Then, in Week 12, the Patriots will face a Tennessee Titans team that will not have running back Derrick Henry, who recently underwent surgery on his foot. 

Date: Sunday, Nov. 14 | Time: 1 p.m. ETLocation: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)Follow: CBS Sports AppOdds: Patriots -2.5, O/U 45

Odell Beckham Jr. chooses L.A. over Foxborough

The New England Patriots were one of the teams reportedly in the thick of the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes. While the club made a push for the big-name receiver, he ultimately chose to sign with the star-studded Los Angeles Rams instead.  Adding Beckham to this offense would have been a fascinating move by the Patriots, but I do wonder if him forgoing an opportunity to join New England is better for the overall development of Mac Jones. As we saw in Cleveland, getting Beckham the necessary touches seemed to impact Baker Mayfield negatively as a passer. From a macro point of view, Jones needing to track how often Beckham is targeted rather than simply making his reads and hitting the open receiver could have led to the rookie developing some bad habits. Of course, the team did pursue Beckham, so it was likely not too worried about that aspect of his addition (or his talent outweighed any concern), but it certainly would have been a storyline worth monitoring. 

What can Brown do for New England? The Patriots welcomed back offensive tackle Trent Brown to practice this week. Brown had been on IR with a calf injury and hasn’t played since the opening drive of the season opener against Miami. After Brown went down, the offense line spiraled into disarray as the team struggled to identify a five-man rotation that could keep Jones upright and help move the offense forward in the running game. They ultimately were able to find a combination that worked with Mike Onwenu moving from left guard to right tackle and inserting Ted Karras at left guard. 

With Brown coming back, however, it will be interesting to see what the team does along the line. Do the Patriots simply roll with their Week 1 O-line with Brown at right tackle and Onwenu back to left guard? Or do they move Brown to left tackle to replace a struggling Isaiah Wynn? Brown is able to play both tackle spots and was New England’s left tackle during his first stint with the team.  “Trent’s all-in every day,” Bill Belichick said of Brown on Friday. “He does what we ask him to do. He’s been a little bit limited at times, but he’s tried not to let that affect what he can do, and he continues to work on things that he can do. Sometimes, it’s limited, but he’s made good progress.”

“It’s kind of like [Nick] Saban when we were in Cleveland,” said Belichick. “Nick knew what every player on the field was doing. He knew what the guard keys were. He knew what the running back was keying. He knew what the nose guard was doing. He knew what everybody on the field was doing, and Josh is kind of the same way. He knows what all 11 guys are doing on offense, what their keys are, what their adjustments are and all that, and he knows, defensively, how the guys are taught to play certain blocks or routes or reads and how to attack them. I’ve learned a lot from Josh. I really have. He really excels in every area. I don’t think it’s any one thing; play calling, fundamentals, strategy. It’s really all of them.” Cam Newton heads back to Carolina

Bill Belichick put offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in some pretty elite company Friday when speaking to reporters. The Patriots head coach was asked about McDaniels and praised his ability to know what every player on the field is doing, comparing him to current Alabama coach Nick Saban.  Belichick compares Josh McDaniels to Saban