To say that today’s matchup at Gillette Stadium will be intense is an understatement. The New England Patriots (9-1) are back at home to host the Dallas Cowboys (6-4). The Patriots and the Cowboys are first in their divisions (AFC East and NFC East, respectively). With a tough starting lineup on both sides, it should be an even match between two of the NFL’s most disliked teams.
Both teams are coming off a win during Week 11, so both will have a head of steam to continue their streak. The Patriots are coming home after a sloppy win that left quarterback Tom Brady visibly agitated during his postgame press conference. Needless to say, the Patriots offense has to get their act together. In the past, the consistency of the New England offense has been unparalleled, with Brady able to connect with his receivers constantly. Week 11 found him hitting a career-high 14 incomplete passes in the first half. Can sheer frustration win a game?
Consistency has been an issue for New England's offense all season, but the one thing we know is that Brady is one of the best bad weather quarterbacks in the league. The 42-year-old has spent 20 years playing for a team who’s moniker is synonymous with unpredictable weather. The driving rain that’s drenching Foxboro right now could be a silent asset. Given the injury report, where Brady was listed as questionable, as many possible assets for the offense are crucial.
Thankfully, left tackle Isaiah Wynn has been activated and has a chance to play. The offensive line hasn’t done a great providing consistent coverage for Brady, who sometimes has plenty of time in the pocket, while other times has to throw the ball away to avoid a wall of players looking to sack him. Even the best quarterbacks need some assistance.
Speaking of good quarterbacks, the defense may have their hands full with Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott can air the ball out with the best of them, and has running back Ezekiel Elliot, one player that the Patriots will have to push back and tamp down early and often. This will be Elliott’s first game against New England's, so he’s got something to prove.
Special teams has been a huge contributing factor to the Patriots' success this season, and that unit will need to keep chugging along today to keep the momentum. Punter Jake Bailey has been kicking with consistent success, and special teams returns and kickoff coverage, i.e. Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel, is the one rhythm New England fans can count on.
The Cowboys don’t have a good special teams unit. Brett Maher has been shaky kicking field goals. But as long as the Patriots keep putting the offense in a good position, Dallas has their work cut out for them, and New England can finally find some synchronicity.
Kickoff is at 4:25 EST at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Here are the Patriots' inactives for Week 12, courtesy of PatriotMaven site owner, Devon Clements:
15:00 Patriots elect to kickoff after winning the toss.
13:48 Jones comes in for a huge block on a third down to end the first Dallas possession of the game.
13:31 Michel takes the ball for New England's offensive first play and rushes the ball for 13 yards. I've said it before and I'll say it again; man's a machine.
12:28 Michel is marching the ball down the field, picking up a new set of downs.
11:22 Patriots are forced to punt unable to make a 4th down conversion. The Cowboys are putting pressure on Brady already.
10:32 Elliott rushes the ball through a wall of Boogeymen to move the chains.
9:15 Gilmore puts the brakes on Witten, taking the Cowboys to a 3rd down.
7:40 Cowboys attempt a field goal into the wind. Off the uprights, the field goal attempt is no good.
7:34 Michel picks up a new set of downs as he finds a huge gap and rushes the ball down the field.
5:33 A forced fumble out of Brady's hands was quickly scooped back up by the quarterback and stopped what could have been an unpleasant turn of events.
3:34 Van Noy and Collins showing Elliott and the rest of the Cowboys that the Boogeymen are alive, taking him down for a huge loss.
2:15 Hightower coming in quickly again for a big tackle.
1:28 There is a very large pile of players on top of the ball as Slater comes in with a huge punt block on a rush; something that will definitely be a career highlight.
:47 Brady airs the ball out to Harry for a touchdown for the rookie.
PAT IS GOOD NE 7 - DAL 0
:41 The Patriots thrive in bad weather, and this is an example. A pop up kick into the wind is fumbled by the Cowboys and there's another pile of players on the field. Cowboys remain in possession.
14:17 Gilmore intercepts a huge pass, stepping in front of the ball for the first pick of the game, starting at the Dallas 29.
12:46 Folk for a 44 yard field goal attempt.
FIELD GOAL IS GOOD NE 10 - DAL 0
12:37 Van Noy brings Elliott down short of a first down.
11:20 Elliott picks up a new set of down finding a gap to run the ball straight into Harmon.
8:40 Prescott might be seeing ghosts...
8:36 Maher goes for a 46 yard field goal attempt.
FIELD GOAL IS GOOD NE 10 - DAL 3
8:30 Brady fakes and throws the ball to Meyers, who breaks tackles and tucks the ball in for 32 yards down the field.
7:41 Brady finds Edelman down the field, who yanks the ball out of the air and picks up a new set of downs with a big catch and glimpse of the rhythm and synchronicity we've been looking for.
6:51 Folk with a 46 field goal attempt.
FIELD GOAL IS NO GOOD NE 10 - DAL 3
4:25 Prescott finds Gallup downfield to get within the Patriots 20 yard line.
3:08 The Boogeymen are here.
2:28 Maher goes for a 27 yard field goal attempt.
FIELD GOAL IS GOOD NE 10 - DAL 6
:41 With all the time in the world in the pocket, Brady finds Meyers for a 23 yard reception.
:17 Edelman snags the ball from Brady; looks like an argument was about to break out.
:04 Folk goes for a 48 yard field goal attempt.
FIELD GOAL IS NO GOOD NE 10 - DAL 6
13:40 Brady completes a quick pass to Edelman, and that's impressive; thanks to the wind, it's raining sideways.
12:26 The pressure on Prescott was too much, and he throws the ball away.
12:00 Bolden picks up a new set of downs with an incredible wide running play.
11:00 Brady airs the ball out too high. It's 3rd and 20 now is it time for an incredible New England 3rd down conversion?
10:40 It is; Brady finds Edelman downfield to move the chains and pick up a new set of downs. There's that synchronicity we've been waiting for.
9:28 Maybe I spoke too soon; Brady goes down in his second sack of the game.
8:33 Prescott manages to complete a short pass to Elliott.
7:16 A hard hit by Jones knocks Cobb off his feet and out of bounds; where there are some hiccups in this game, there's no denying the power of the Patriots defensive lineup.
5:38 Michel... why are you running backwards?
5:02 A great throw by Brady and a great catch by Meyers had all the potential of a touchdown, had Heath not come up and knocked Meyers and the ball apart.
4:40 Elliott picks up a first down with a solid run.
3:25 Gallup makes a huge catch from Prescott, who was being pushed back deeper and deeper into the pocket.
2:00 The bad weather Boogeymen brought that run to a halt.
14:53 Michel the machine takes the hand off and runs the ball into Cowboys territory on an excellent play.
13:40 Meyers is doing an amazing job fighting the wind and the rain to grab the ball.
13:03 A short pass to Burkhead gained 8 yards, and if he hadn't been tripped up, there was definite touchdown potential.
12:18 Meyers yanks the ball out of the air to pick up another set of downs with a huge reception. It's like it's not even raining for him.
10:21 Harry was so close to another touchdown. The ball was positioned well and there was a chance.
10:05 Bennett drops White for a huge loss.
9:34 42 yard field goal attempt by Folk
FIELD GOAL IS GOOD NE 13 - DAL 6
9:32 No one caught the kickoff, and the live ball was almost recovered by the Patriots; Cowboys managed to hang on.
8:40 Prescott finds Cobb who heads for the end zone with a head of steam; Cobb fumbled and caught his own ball.
8:24 Pollard is brought down at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
6:15 Prescott found his target in the end zone but Chung got in between and knocked the ball away.
6:08 Maher to attempt a 29 yard field goal.
FIELD GOAL IS GOOD NE 13 - DAL 9
5:21 Brady is throwing absolute bullet passes.
4:43 For a 23 yard pick up, Brady airs the ball to Edelman and practically places it in his hands.
2:48 Bailey kicks the ball for his best punt of the game; 34 yards.
2:10 Witten struggles to catch the ball as Prescott attempts to move his team up the field.
1:50 Pressure by Collins forces Prescott to throw the ball into the ground.
1:44 Cooper makes a diving catch for a new set of downs, IF it's not an incomplete pass. Play under review.
1:28 After review, the ball hit the ground and is incomplete. Game clock will be moved back to 1:44.
1:33 Michel runs through a line of people, gets an edge block by Watson, picks up a first down.
:35 A rain soaked camera finds Brady sauntering towards a ref with his arms crossed, running out the play clock.
:05 Brady throws the ball away and off to the side, I believe a Marine in a full dress uniform on the sidelines came close to catching it. Good form, looked like the intended receiver.
:01 The Cowboys have the ball as New England takes another timeout. Gallup makes one more catch, and is tackled one more time.