Tag: Bill Belichick

The Early Outlook for the NFL’s Wild Card Matchups

Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders secured a spot in the 2021 NFL Playoffs with an end-of-season victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. (PHOTO COURTESY: Getty Images | New York Post)

By Matt Noonan

The 2021 National Football League’s (NFL) regular season concluded last night.

Now, it is time for the playoffsare you ready?

The 2021 season came down to the final day, as well as its last matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers.

In some way, this season mirrored the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) from the last two seasons (2019 and 2021) where every matchup and week was needed to determine not just divisional winners, but overall seeding for the 14-team playoff.  

Saturday cannot come soon enough – I am eager for yesterday’s excitement to continue. Does anyone know how to hit fast forward in the next few days?

Either way, I am excited – and I hope you are, as well – for some playoff football!

Over the next few days and weeks, Noontime Sports will be keeping its focus on football – consider this some “overtime” coverage from last summer and fall. We will have some op-eds and commentary pieces to previews, along with a piece about quarterback progression (I guess I can thank those armchair quarterbacks calling Boston radio stations!) over the next few days.

Let’s jumpstart the week with some early thoughts on all six Wild Card matchups — have a great day, everyone!

AFC Wild Card Matchups

Los Angeles Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7): The Raiders concluded their 2021 campaign by winning four-straight contests, including back-to-back games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. The Silver and Black have been quite the story this season – sure, there was some negative press over the first few weeks, but somehow, they managed to go on a late run to secure an opening round meeting with the Bengals. Don’t overlook the Raiders in this matchup.

New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6): The Patriots ended their season with a disappointing setback to the Miami Dolphins – they also lost two other games before their divisional meeting with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. But something tells me this was the matchup coach Bill Belichick and his team wanted. They beat Buffalo last month by running the ball and attempting three passes. But a few weeks later, New England struggled to contain quarterback Josh Allen. The rubber match between the Bills and Patriots should be fun!  

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5): The Chiefs may not be the explosive offense they once were – in fact, it seems as if their defense has played better, especially down the stretch. But here’s my question: will this unit be able to stop a Steelers squad that has averaged 17.75 points in their last four outings? My initial answer: yes, but I also wonder if the Pittsburgh defense is good enough to stop Patrick Mahomes?

NFC Wild Card Matchups

Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4): With a big win on Sunday over the Carolina Panthers, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were able to move up to the second seed, thanks to some help from the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Tampa Bay is not the same team as last year – they have some issues on both sides of the ball, which makes them vulnerable. Yet, the Buccaneers should be able to win this game, however, they must find a way to stop an impressive Eagles rushing attack led by quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts concluded the regular season with 784 rushing yards on 139 carries and 10 touchdowns while completing 265 of 432 passes for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns.

San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5): This is a classic matchup – go ahead and break out those Steve Young and Troy Aikman jerseys. Neither signal-caller will be spotted under center next Sunday, but the 49ers’ offense will provide some challenges for a Cowboys defense that struggled initially at slowing down Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew and Kenneth Gainwell this past weekend. But while the 49ers’ come-from-behind win yesterday against the Los Angeles Rams was impressive, the question I have heading into this contest is can this defense — San Franciscos’s, to be exact — slow down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense? This game presents some interesting storylines, as well as features two coaches that used to work together: Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco) and Dan Quinn (Dallas).  

Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5): Arizona and Los Angeles both scored one win against each other, so like Buffalo-New England, this is a rubber match. To be honest, I did not anticipate this would be a first-round match-up – in fact, I thought Arizona or Los Angeles would be heading to Dallas this weekend. But instead, the Cardinals and Rams will square off once more this season – I am not confident in the Rams’ defense, which struggled to contain the San Francisco offense yesterday, especially in the final minutes. Additionally, will we see a great or subpar Kyler Murray against the Rams? Similar to Dallas-San Francisco, this game also presents some unique storylines.

Player Perspective: David Estevez (Wesleyan University)

Wesleyan University senior quarterback David Estevez recorded a school record 474 yards of total offense last week in his team’s win against Tufts University. (PHOTO COURTESY: Steve McLaughlin)

By NoontimeSports.com

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for Wesleyan University senior quarterback David Estevez, who has been named the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Offensive Player of the Week twice in the last three weeks.

In addition to being recognized by his conference, Estevez, a native of River Edge, New Jersey, was one of two recipients of this week’s New England Football Writers Association Gold Helmet Award after he broke a 32-year school record last weekend with 474 yards of total offense in his team’s come-from-behind win against Tufts University.

Against the Jumbos, Estevez completed 13 of 23 passes for 270 yards and one touchdown while adding 204 yards on 22 carries and two scores. His final touchdown of the afternoon – a four-yard rushing score with 4:54 remaining in the fourth quarter – capped his team’s comeback to extend the Cardinals’ current winning streak to five games.

Wesleyan, which has won its last eight contests dating back to their final three outings in 2019, will look to continue its recent momentum on Saturday when they host Middlebury College.

Noontime Sports recently caught-up with David Estevez to discuss his record-setting day with the Cardinals, as well as what he and his teammates must do this week to earn their sixth straight win of the 2021 season.

First off, tell me about breaking a 32-year school record last weekend against Tufts University. When did you find out that your total yards of offense (474) established a new program record?

I really had no idea at the time – I don’t pay attention to that stuff during the game. After the game, our Director of Athletics, Mike Whalen, shook my hand and shared the news with me. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of Wesleyan Football history.

It sounds cliché, but what worked for you (and the offense) last Saturday against Tufts? Additionally, how can you duplicate this performance this week against Middlebury College?

The offense was clicking against Tufts. The offensive line did a great job protecting me in the pocket while allowing me to make throws. From there, the skill guys did the rest, making spectacular plays all throughout the game. We have a tough opponent this week so the only way to duplicate these performances is to trust the guys alongside me, believe in the scheme, and execute. 

Tell me about this season. Your team has won five games, but the past three weeks have seen the squad somehow find a way to walk away with a victory or perhaps rally to beat Tufts. So, what’s the secret to these exciting wins?

I think these gritty wins speak to our strength as a team. A lot of teams in the NESCAC have great talent but that only gets you so far in this league. I think our team has a toughness and desire to win that only comes from experience. In 2019, we were put in a lot of similar situations so now we are ready. 

From your perspective, how have you improved your individual game from earlier this fall against Colby to last week against Tufts? Also, what are some things you hope to improve on between now and the end of the 2021 season?

With every week in the season comes new opportunities. The coaches do a tremendous job of motivating the team., I’ve been doing my best to improve in areas where I need to improve on a weekly basis. And since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the team has encountered numerous roadblocks, but we have done a tremendous job of staying focused.

Tell me about your major. How did you choose it? And what do you hope to do with it beyond Wesleyan?

I am an economics major. I chose this major because although there isn’t a business school here at Wesleyan, economics gives you the analytical skills along with the quantitative and computer skills valued in business and finance. After Wesleyan, I intend to get into investment banking.

Finally, do you plan to stay involved with football after graduation? If so, would you like to coach or do something else with the sport?

I’m not sure if I want to get into coaching – Wesleyan has already produced one of the greatest coaches of all time in Bill Belichick, but it’s definitely a possibility. 

Bill Belichick: We All Have A Long Way To Go

Bill Belichick says his focus heading into his team’s training camp this week is on football. (PHOTO COURTESY: CREDIT: EPA/JOHN CETRINO/People.com)

By Matt Noonan

Ahead of his team’s first training camp of the 2021 NFL season, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick met with the media this morning to discuss his team’s upcoming practices.

And as expected, the tenured coach did not have much to say.

“We all have a long way to go,” said Belichick.

Indeed, Belichick and the Patriots “have a long way to go” — the team produced just seven wins last season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2008. But many believe this year’s squad, specifically the defense, should be much better, thanks to some key offseason acquisitions that should help the Patriots contend for the top spot in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

But as Belichick explained — and yes, it has been reported over the past few days (and weeks) — some members of the Patriots won’t be on the field tomorrow when camp begins at 9:45 a.m. And one of those players is cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was nowhere to be found during the team’s mandatory minicamp.

Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract in 2017, wants a new deal. “I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out,” he said to Josina Anderson earlier this month.

Belichick didn’t budge when pressed about Gilmore’s contract. “I’m not going to talk about contracts and personal situations,” he said.

How Gilmore’s contract situation will play out remains a mystery, but for now, Belichick and his team will keep their focus on football going forward.

“From this point on, (I’m) focused on football and trying to get our team ready to go,” he said.

The team’s first practice will be open to the public — fans will also be able to see the team workout on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

Fans can learn more about the team’s upcoming training camp by visiting the Patriots’ website.

New England will compete three times next month, including once at home when they open their preseason slate against the Washington Football Team on Thursday, August 12 with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

New Patriots Training Camp: Will Cam Newton Win The Starting Job?

Cam Newton enters the New England Patriots’ 2021 training camp as the favorite to start at quarterback. (PHOTO COURTESY: AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)

By Matt Noonan

A brand new season of New England Patriots football is quickly approaching — are you ready for some football?

I am — I have been counting the days, weeks, and months since the Patriots concluded their 2020 campaign with a two-touchdown victory over the New York Jets in January at Gillette Stadium.

Like many, I am excited to see how some of the team’s offseason signings mesh with members of last year’s squad, including quarterback Cam Newton, who will enter the team’s 2021 training camp on Wednesday, July 28 as the favorite to be spotted under center in week one against the Miami Dolphins.

Newton did not have a great 2020 season — I think many know that or are aware of how he performed last fall. But coach Bill Belichick has acquired some solid pieces for the offense over the past few months, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both players should certainly help Newton, as well as the offense, perform even better than they did last season — New England won just seven games in 2020 but had a chance to squeak out a few more victories had things gone their way down the stretch, especially against the Buffalo Bills in New York.

With a full year under his belt, along with some offseason practices (and meetings, of course), Newton enters training camp more prepared than he was last year, however, he certainly will be challenged by Mac Jones, who the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in April.

Like Newton, Jones competed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) — Jones played at Alabama while Newton competed at Auburn — and should be ready to take the reigns from the league’s most valuable player in 2015.

Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in January — Alabama rolled past Ohio State, 52-24, in the College Football Playoff National Championship contest, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida — and recorded career-highs in completions (311), passing yards (4,500), and touchdowns (41). And despite seeing limited action in 2018 and 2019, Jones should be able to translate his junior season’s success to the NFL this summer and fall.

Jones certainly has what it takes to challenge Newton for the starting quarterback spot — I am unsure if Jarrett Stidham is ready to slide up the depth chart considering he will begin his team’s camp Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham has competed in eight games since becoming a member of the Patriots organization, including five contests last season. The former Auburn signal-caller completed 22 of 44 passes for a career and season-high 250 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, throw three interceptions compared to one in 2019.

Numerous talking heads, along with various analysts believe Mac Jones could be the starter in the opening week, but it will all depend on how he handles himself during in-game situations. As Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault explains, “Every throw of 11-on-11 work will be dissected ad nauseam, but the bottom line is whether or not Jones or Stidham do enough to dethrone Newton, and can Newton hold them off by taking significant strides in his second year in the offense.”

For now, my bet is Cam Newton will be the starter in the opening week, but I do think Patriots fans will see Mac Jones under center at some point this fall — maybe against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week four? I am not sure if week four is when Jones will be thrusted into the lineup, but we’ll certainly learn more about his readiness when the Patriots scrimmage the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles later this summer. Those inter-squad practices will help us identify which quarterback(s) is ready to lead the hometown team to hopefully a postseason appearance next January.

Chris Hogan Thinks Paul Rabil Could Go From PLL To NFL

Chris Hogan, who played ten seasons in the NFL, recently secure a spot on the Cannons Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). (PHOTO COURTESY: NFL.com)

By Matt Noonan

Chris Hogan made headlines earlier this year when he elected to swap his football pads for a lacrosse stick.

Hogan, who won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, secured a spot earlier this month on the Cannons Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) but did not suit up this weekend. However, he was on the sidelines supporting his teammates this afternoon en route to their first-ever PLL win against the Waterdogs Lacrosse Club while discussing his experience thus far with NBC‘s Paul Burmeister.

One question Burmeister asked was a fun, what-if/hypothetical questions — he wanted to know which of his Cannons teammates was “best suited” to go from the PLL to the National Football League (NFL).

Of course, there are a few that come to mind, but Hogan named Paul Rabil, who is a co-founder of the PLL with his brother Mike Rabil. He described the veteran midfielder as “big, physical, runs hard, (and) probably could play offense or defense.”

“All these guys are good athletes, and I know a lot of them played two sports,” Hogan said to Burmeister. “I mean, I think Paul gave it a second thought there for a little while.”

While it’s unknown if Rabil wanted to play in the NFL, especially earlier this year, he did tell Rich Eisen that Patriots coach Bill Belichick did try to convince him to try out for the team when he was younger.

“We went back and forth — this was when I was 23 and I was the captain of Team USA at the time and we kind of came to an agreement that it was the best decision to stay in lacrosse,” Rabil said during a recent interview on The Rich Eisen Show.

It would have been fun to see Rabil and Hogan compete for the Patriots, especially with Tom Brady, but for now, they can focus on winning a championship later this summer/early fall.