Tag: New England Patriots

Noontime’s NFL Wild Card Predictions

By Matt Noonan

Ah, the National Football League’s (NFL) second season has arrived – are you ready for playoff football

I am and hope you are, as well!

With the Wild Card round set to begin tomorrow — that would be Saturday, January 15, 2022, with a pair of games, — it is time to share some thoughts on all six matchups, as well as make some picks.  

As usual, let us know what you think (of what I predicted below) with a comment or connect with us on social media.

Enjoy the games and make sure to circle back for more football (and maybe, some non-football content?) throughout the weekend. 


Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m.): Earlier this year, I thought the Silver and Black were going to be one of the toughest teams to beat, especially in the postseason. And despite winning four straight contests, including an-end-of season win against the Los Angeles Chargers, I don’t think their momentum will travel with them to Ohio where quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals will be able to score the franchise’s first postseason win since January 6, 1991, against the Houston Oilers. PREDICTION: Cincinnati 30, Las Vegas 20 

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, January 15 at 8:15 p.m.): Quarterback Mac Jones exceeded expectations — he played much better than I thought he would as a first-time professional starter. Yet, the former University of Alabama signal-caller has hit the “rookie wall,” which makes me think that these Patriots will have a tough time keeping up with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. PREDICTION: Buffalo 25, New England 13 

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, January 16 at 1 p.m.): Somewhere, Doug Pederson is smiling as his former team somehow secured a playoff spot with an unknown first-year coach named Nick Sirianni. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I have been impressed with what Sirianni and his staff have been able to accomplish this season — hey, they’re a pretty good running team! But unfortunately, I don’t think this particular Eagles squad will be able to keep pace with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on Sunday. Had this matchup pitted the 2017 Eagles against the 2021 Buccaneers, then I would have picked Philadelphia. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, Philadelphia 17 

San Francisco at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, January 16 at 4:30 p.m.): The last time these two teams met, the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship Game en route to winning Super Bowl XXIX. Could a win on Sunday provide the winning team with the necessary momentum to capture the title next month? It’s possible, but in the end, the team that makes fewer mistakes will win this particular matchup. And as a Cowboys fan, I believe this particular Dallas squad will be ready to make one — maybe two or three more plays than San Francisco to win Sunday’s meeting. PREDICTION: Dallas 28, San Francisco 27 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 16 at 8:15 p.m.): Earlier this week, I picked the Chiefs because they will be at home. But these are not the same Chiefs from 2018, 2019, and 2020. I think they’re vulnerable. Additionally, I think the Steelers defense will pose problems for Patrick Mahomes. So, I am taking the road team in an exciting upset win — why not? PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 20, Kansas City 18 

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (Monday, January 17 at 8:15 p.m.): When the Cardinals defeated the Cowboys two weeks ago, it seemed as if their late-season slide was over. But last week, they fell to the Seattle Seahawks in their regular-season finale to secure a matchup with the Los Angeles Rams next Monday. Quarterback Kyler Murray has been inconsistent over the last few weeks. He looked like he was going to have an amazing season in September, but between his up-and-down play, along with some not-so-great plays by the offense and defense over the last few weeks, it would be hard to pick them to beat the Rams. PREDICTION: Los Angeles 30, Arizona 24 

Noontime Commentary: Learning More About The Ever-Changing QB Position

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback — he has also evolved with the position. (PHOTO COURTESY: Boston.com | AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

By Matt Noonan

When I was growing up, I always wanted to play quarterback (sadly, I never did).   

I loved watching Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, and Steve Young – all three played the position extremely well. But as much as I loved watching all three compete on Sunday, I fell in love more with the position from watching Tom Brady quarterback the New England Patriots.

Brady, as we all know, has become the greatest to play the position. Sure, some might argue that Joe Montana or someone else is better, but I believe Brady is the best because he continues to raise the bar and elevate the position on a yearly basis.

The former New England Patriots quarterback inspired all of us in this region, including the backyard signal-callers to those spotted under center on Friday evenings at various high school stadiums, to mimic his play, which is certainly not easy. And while Brady continues to impress, especially these days as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is what I, along with others in the football community consider one of the last remaining drop-back/pocket passers.

Sure, it might be hard to call Brady a drop-back passer knowing his footwork and agility have improved over the last few years. But saying he is the same type of signal-caller as Lamar Jackson, a cerebral quarterback that relies more on his legs than his arm, would be a hard comparison.

Jackson, along with Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, are what some coaches might consider the “modern-day quarterback.” And the same could be said for Aaron Rodgers, who entered the National Football League (NFL) five years after Tom Brady and has shown similar improvements, especially in his ability to attempt acrobatic off-balanced throws from all angles. Ever see Rodgers’ “pop pass?”

Aaron Rodgers, along with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, were just three names a few coaches mentioned when speaking with them about producing a piece on the “modern-day quarterback” — well, more what has changed about the position. We all know how amazing these three quarterbacks are, but one might not realize that their Sunday or Monday performances are just a sliver of what makes them great signal-callers.

As I learned from recent conversations, playing quarterback at any level does not mean you have to possess the strongest and accurate arm. Nope, there is much more to the position than just throwing the ball 30, 40, or 50 yards.

For starters, coaches believe their quarterback must possess a slew of skillset, including the following: leadership, accountability, knowing how to read multiple defensive schemes, making the necessary changes at the line of scrimmage, and watching a lot of film.

Of course, there are other intangibles and thoughts that were generated by coaches in both the college and high school world, but one thing many harped on is that their team must find the right individual to operate a popular offensive scheme: the spread offense.

What’s the spread offense?

It’s an offensive scheme that finds the quarterback in the shotgun formation with three, four, or five skill position players – think halfbacks, fullbacks, wide receivers, and tight end – spread out along the line of scrimmage. When defenses see this formation deployed, they must be ready to defend different zones/areas of the field, as well as be alert for a possible running play.

(Hopefully what I described above makes sense, but if not, I have included an introduction video to the spread offense below!)

To say the spread offense is a major reason the quarterback position has changed would be an understatement – the same could be said about how the game’s speed has changed, too.

Like anything in life, change can be perceived as both good and bad, but when it comes to the quarterback position, I believe this new wave makes the game fun and enjoyable. It is certainly a different position than the one I watched growing up in the 1990s, but now, I am ready to mimic Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen in the backyard.

Anyone up for a game of pick-up football?

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: Timel Benton (Gallaudet University)

Gallaudet University quarterback Timel Benton rushed for a career-high 232 yards last Saturday against Dean College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Gallaudet University Athletics/David Sinclair)

By NoontimeSports.com

For the past few seasons, Timel Benton has been a quarterback to watch.

Last weekend, the senior signal-caller from Columbia, South Carolina, rushed for a career-high 232 yards and scored four touchdowns in Gallaudet University’s first conference win of the 2021 season against Dean College.

The win over the Bulldogs bumped the Bison’s overall record to 3-0 and 1-0 in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) play – the team’s three-straight wins matches its start from 2013, which saw Gallaudet secure an NCAA Division III first-round postseason matchup with Hobart College.

“Coach Chuck (Goldstein) called my number throughout the game and the big guy’s upfront, the slots, and wide receivers took care of the rest,” said Benton when discussing his impressive performance against the Bulldogs.

“(My teammates) opened lanes for me, and I was able to get out in space to help lead us to win. Without them, this win would not have been possible against such an athletic Bulldogs’ defense.”

Prior to rushing past numerous members of the Dean College defense, Benton threw for a season-best 265 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s 49-42 victory over Greensboro College.

Noontime Sports recently caught up with Benton to discuss his impressive rushing performance, but also what he and the team must do this weekend against Keystone College.

You rushed for a career-high 232 yards and four touchdowns in the win – do you recall rushing for that many yards or more prior to competing for Gallaudet?

In high school, I was a role player. I plugged in at positions that needed filling each week. I never got the opportunity to have big games but what matters most to me is the wins. I could have all the stats in the world, but without another one in the win column, they’re meaningless in my opinion. 

It sounds cliché, but how important was it for you and your team to begin conference play with a win? How does a victory last Saturday help the team heading into this week’s contest against Keystone College?

I told the guys during pregame, “This game is what sets the tone for the rest of our season. If everyone does their job and knows their role, we’ll be just fine.”

The win over Dean has given us a spark that this program hasn’t felt in a long time. We have momentum but it’s important that we continue to stay focused and take it one game at a time. 

How has your game evolved from your initial season in 2016 to this fall? What changes have you made to become not just a thrower, but also a rushing signal-caller?

When I came into the program I had no idea what to expect in this system because it was so new for me being from an air raid offense in high school. When I earned the starting job in 2016, I played off of pure athletic ability and not enough knowledge. Over time I developed into my role as a leader and with that came my understanding of this offense. Coach Chuck preaches on seeing the big picture of what our offense is based on. It took some time but I finally understood that I didn’t have to do things on my own, I just need to take what the defense gives us and get the ball into our playmakers’ hands.

To become a more effective rusher, I had to learn to limit the impacts of the hits I took in games. Over the years I’ve studied New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara’s game film and his insane workouts that improved his balance. I took a few notes from those and applied them to my workouts as well as my game. 

Who is one or perhaps two (or three) quarterbacks you idolize/have studied over the past few seasons? And how has watching these quarterbacks play helped you become the signal-caller you are currently?

My two favorite quarterbacks to watch and mirror my game after are Denard Robinson (Michigan) and Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots). I admire how when Denard Robinson was in tight situations he would make people miss in the smallest gaps and just explode for long runs. Additionally, I love how Cam was such a powerful force with the ball in his hand and his vibe of playing the game he just had fun with it. 

Tell me about your major – what interested you in pursuing a degree in physical education and recreation? What do you hope to do with it after graduation?

In high school, I bounced between culinary, business, and graphic design. My senior year I was a middle school teacher’s assistant for PE class and loved it. I enjoy being physically active even outside of playing football and I want to dig even deeper to encourage the new generations to enjoy physical activity as well. 

My plan is to go back to South Carolina and pursue my career somewhere in the physical education field. I want to work with high school students but I’ll take whatever opportunity is available.

Finally, could you see yourself coaching or finding a way to stay involved in football after your final game with the Bison?  

Funny you ask, during the Covid year of 2020 I was a quarterback coach at a high school in South Carolina. I loved every second of it, and I plan on returning to be a coach once my football career comes to an end. I even have aspirations to coach college football at some point in my life.  

Mac Jones Embraces Quarterback Competition

By Matt Noonan

Mac Jones knows starting jobs in the NFL are not handed out after three days of training camp. 

“We’re all competing for a job,” said Jones while speaking with members of the media after the New England Patriots’ third day of training camp concluded earlier this morning at Gillette Stadium

Jones has the potential — well, more the skillsets, to be exact — to be the team’s starting quarterback in week one. However, for the Jacksonville, Florida native to secure the starting gig, he will need to outperform Cam Newton, who is entering his second season with the Patriots after starting 15 games last fall. 

“Our goal is to win,” said Jones, who quarterbacked the University of Alabama to a national championship earlier this year against Ohio State. “I guess they’re going to obviously play the best player and that’s going to be whoever it may be, but I’m just here to work.”

Mac Jones spoke with members of the media on Friday, July 30 to discuss his first few days of training camp with the New England Patriots. (PHOTO COURTESY/Screenshot: New England Patriots YouTube Channel)

Competing for the top spot on the depth chart is nothing new to Jones, who has experienced numerous camp battles over the years at both The Bolles School and Alabama. He competed with two current NFL quarterbacks in Tuscaloosa for the starting role, including Tua Tagovailoa, whom he replaced down the stretch of the 2019 season when the current Miami Dolphins signal-caller suffered a season-ending injury against Mississippi State

His experience in both 2019, as well as last fall, should position him well to possibly snag the team’s starting role. But as the first-year signal-caller explained, “I’ve got to get better (because) I’m young and I know that, and I have to produce on the field and do exactly what I’m supposed to do on each play and fix every problem. So, if I can do that then things will work out.”  

Indeed, things could work out for Jones, who certainly has aspirations to lead the Patriots this fall. But as many believe (or think?), we’ll gain a better understanding of how Jones operates the offense when the team competes later this summer in a trio of preseason games, along with a pair of joint practices with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles

“Every day is a new day,” said Jones. “I’m going to have bad days and I’m going to have good days, and we’re all going to get better together. And when I’m in there, I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do, and everyone else is going to do what they’re supposed to do.”