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Patriots: Week 1 locker room celebration still felt the same without Tom Brady



A New England Patriots win feels just as good this year without Tom Brady. Just ask Matthew Slater!

The New England Patriots are just setting off on the wild road of 2020, with many different components they likely didn’t anticipate.

After two decades of Tom Brady, things were bound to look a bit strange the first time the Pats launched into a post-win breakdown of the huddle. Not face shields strange, but strange nonetheless.

But all in all, following a Week 1 victory in which Cam Newton effortlessly dismantled the Miami Dolphins, you might not have noticed that anything was different after the dub.

Bill Belichick handed out game balls and motivated his team further. JC Jackson got some well-deserved accolades. And Matthew Slater polished everything off with his trademark fervor.

“You look back over the past six months, what’s been going on,” Slater began. “And the road to get to this point wasn’t an easy one. At all. But I guarantee you one thing: At some point, we’re going to have to continue to overcome adversity. That’s gonna be the name of this season. That’s what kind of year it’s been. … But I NEED to know … how we feel about being 1-0?!”

Then the Pats launched into a raucous celebration that looked like any other victory formation from any other typically dominant season.

If you closed your eyes and ignored the new uniforms and the notable absence, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was 2020.

Of course, it wasn’t just a special Sunday because of the win. It also represented plenty of individual comebacks, too. Cam Newton shaking off the rust got all the headlines, but Newton wanted to make sure his center, David Andrews, didn’t feel left out of the proceedings. The new QB gave the old stalwart the chance to celebrate after a touchdown, too.

Patriots helping Patriots was the theme on Sunday, and yes, it felt an awful lot like the familiar old days.

We could get used to this — again.

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Buffalo Bills: Inactives for Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams




Zack Moss and tight end Dawson Knox were ruled out Friday due to injuries.

The rookie running back suffered a toe injury and his absence now means that running back Devin Singletary should see a significant increase in his workload in this game. As for the tight end, it will be veteran Tyler Kroft stepping into the starting lineup for Knox.

The good news though is linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are both returning this week. The Bills two starting linebackers missed last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

While Tyrel Dodson did a good job, the absence of particularly Milano allowed the Dolphins to create a mismatch with Mike Gesicki. The Bills defense faces another athletic tight end in Tyler Higbee but the return of Milano is a big boost in this matchup.

For the second straight week, Deon Lacey is active for the Buffalo Bills. The team added Lacey to their practice squad last week but with Del’Shawn Phillips inactive, the team will turn to Lacey once again to help on special teams.

In addition to Moss, Knox, and Phillips, the Buffalo Bills will have quarterback Jake Fromm, offensive lineman Ike Boettger, and defensive end Darryl Johnson inactive. This is the third straight week that Boettger has been inactive but it is the first time that Johnson is inactive.

Next: Who are the X-Factors for the Bills in Week 3?

This is also the second week that second round draft pick A.J. Epenesa is active after being a healthy scratch for Week 1. It appears that Epenesa may have passed Johnson on the depth chart and should be a regular contributor on this defense moving forward.

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Week 3 spotlight: Tahir Whitehead has plenty to prove at the Chargers




Tahir Whitehead has endured a difficult start to life with the Carolina Panthers, but can the linebacker get back on track at the Los Angeles Chargers?

It looks like it is going to be some time before the Carolina Panthers get over the departure of Luke Kuechly.

The legendary linebacker called it a day after eight sensational seasons with the Carolina Panthers following the conclusion of the 2019 campaign. Kuechly’s intelligence and ability to make big plays came with a plethora of notable individual accolades. But the perennial All-Pro was unable to clinch an elusive first Super Bowl for the franchise despite a very near miss in 2015.

Kuechly is still part of the organization after accepting a role as a pro scout, but it is just not the same.

Tahir Whitehead’s rough start with the Carolina Panthers.

Tahir Whitehead was the man chosen by the decision-makers to replace the former first-round pick. The free-agent signing signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal during the offseason, and to say he has gotten off to an indifferent start would be something of an understatement.

This linked the player back with his former college coach Matt Rhule after the pair worked together at Temple. He did perform well for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2019 despite not getting a contract extension, but this trend hasn’t continued over the first two weeks of the season in Carolina.

Whitehead’s performances have not been what the Panthers expected. He has failed to provide an assured tackling presence in the run game and his deficiencies in coverage are a clear and obvious concern.

This is reflected by his Pro Football Focus grading over two weeks, which ranks Whitehead dead last among linebackers with an abysmal 27.1 grade. While PFF isn’t the be-all and end-all, it isn’t hard to see that his level of production so far has been less than stellar.

Nobody will know this more than Whitehead himself. He holds himself to a high standard and takes pride in being a leader, something that saw the player voted as a team captain prior to their season opener.

It might just be a case of adjusting to the rigors of the NFL once again after not having any warmup games to do so. Whitehead will have to raise his game considerably at the Chargers on Sunday otherwise it could be another long afternoon for the player and the Panthers.

Los Angeles has a formidable running back tandem in Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, who could become a real problem for the Panthers if they can dictate the tempo from the outset. It will be up to Whitehead and others to get to the point of attack quickly and get their angles right to limit their threat.

It might be early in the season, but it already looks like Whitehead has his work cut out to get a longer-term commitment from Carolina. He has recorded eight solo tackles and 12 combined tackles so far this season, but not much else. This is a trend that needs to change at the earliest possible opportunity.

Whitehead has plenty to prove at SoFi Stadium this weekend. And the onus will be on the veteran to prove his worth in the face of another talented offense.

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Dallas Cowboys: Corner concerns following Chidobe Awuzie injury




The injury bug continues to plague the Dallas Cowboys, this time at cornerback

The lack of a proper offseason training program and the cancellation of all preseason games is a possible culprit for a rash of injuries sweeping across the NFL for the last two weeks. And the Dallas Cowboys have suffered more than most.

Entering Week Three of the regular season, and several key names are missing from the Cowboys’ starting lineup. Some of the more prominent names include linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, right tackle La’el Collins, and tight end Blake Jarwin.

Now, starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie can be added to that growing list. According to head coach Mike McCarthy per’s Todd Archer, Awuize suffered a hamstring injury in the comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.

Awuzie’s absence places the cornerback position in an even more precarious position with fellow starter Anthony Brown current on Injured Reserve due to a rib injury.

This leaves the Cowboys with rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs and Jourdan Lewis in the starting roles. The latter having just returned last week from an ankle injury that forced him to miss the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

Down two starting cornerbacks, you can also expect veterans Daryl Worley and Brandon Carr to play more significant roles in Week Three. Special teams ace C.J. Goodwin and fourth-round rookie Reggie Robinson II could also find themselves filling in.

Dallas may also look to promote one of the many cornerbacks currently on their expanded practice squad. Defensive backs like Deante Burton, Saivion Smith, Chris Westry, Rashard Robinson, and Steven Parker. In fact, both Burton and Robinson were chosen as two of the team’s four protected practice-squad players for this week.

While the Dallas Cowboys may have several bodies available to cover the loss of both Chidobe Awuize and Anthony Brown, there will more than likely be a downgrade in play. And that’s a scary proposition considering the team is set to face the Seattle Seahawks and red-hot quarterback Russell Wilson this Sunday. Wilson has thrown for nine touchdowns in his first two games this season, the most in the NFL so far.

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