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Foxborough, Mass. –After leading the Lynn Classical Rams to a perfect 4-0 start to begin the season, first-year head coach Brian Vaughan has been named this week’s New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week.

Coach Vaughan, a former standout running back from league rival Lynn English, led the Rams to an impressive start with back-to-back victories over Medford High and Malden High by a combined score of 79-7, before notching their third victory; a 12-6 overtime thriller against the Revere Patriots. Last week, Coach Vaughan’s team was able to pull off a 21-19 victory over the Gloucester Fishermen in a nail biter between the two undefeated squads. The Rams jumped out to an early lead behind two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Keith Ridley, while Ridley added another score on a 13-yard run to give the Rams a 21-0 advantage at the half. Despite a late push from Gloucester, the Rams were able to remain unbeaten and atop the Northeastern Conference’s Central Division standings. Next up for the Rams is a date with undefeated Danvers High School this Friday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m.

Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, now the team’s executive director of community affairs, visited the Rams players and coaching staff Tuesday afternoon to present Lynn Classical High School’s football program with a $1,000 donation on behalf of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, in honor of Coach Vaughan. The visit and check presentation will be featured on the Patriots weekly television show, “Patriots All Access,” which airs on Friday night at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV in Boston and will be available immediately after on Patriots.com.

This is the 22nd year in which the Patriots joined the National Football League in conducting the High School Coach of the Week program, which recognizes outstanding high school coaches and promotes youth football throughout New England. The 2017 season marks the seventh year that Tippett has taken the award on the road to visit the schools that benefit from the program.

“What an impressive start for Lynn Classical and Coach Vaughan,” Tippett said. “Jumping out to a 4-0 start under a new head coach shows the Rams have bought into Coach Vaughan’s leadership. We wish them the best in 2017.”

At the conclusion of the fall, one of the weekly winners will be named the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Year and will receive a $2,000 contribution towards the school’s football program.

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For good teams, point spreads are friendlier when playing on the road. Take the New England Patriots, who not only own a nine-game road winning streak, they’re 8-1 against the spread over that span. Coming off a surprising home loss, New England is on the road this week, favored by less than a touchdown at Tampa Bay for Thursday night.

NFL point spread: The Patriots opened as five-point favorites; the total was 53.5 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark (line updates and matchup report).

NFL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 29.1-25.8 Buccaneers (NFL picks on every game).

Why the Patriots can cover the spread

The Super Bowl champs are playing for the bounce-back this week, after falling at home to Carolina on Sunday 33-30. The Patriots led for most of the first half, fell down 30-16 early in the fourth quarter, rallied to tie the score at 30-30 with three minutes to go but lost on a 48-yard field goal the last play of the game.

On the day, quarterback Tom Brady hit on 32 of 45 throws for 307 yards and two touchdowns, the last one on a fourth-and-goal from the Panthers one-yard line to tie the game. But two defensive penalties on Carolina’s last drive, including one that negated a third-down sack, basically cost New England a chance at winning the game.

Despite the loss, the Patriots lead the league in total offense, averaging 424 yards per game, 27 more than second-ranked Kansas City.

Why the Buccaneers can cover the spread

The Bucs just pulled a bounce-back of their own, a week after a poor showing at Minnesota, beating the Giants on Sunday 25-23. Tampa Bay took an early 13-0 lead on a pair of Jameis Winston scoring passes, fell down 23-22 with only three minutes to go, but drove 59 yards and won it on a Nick Folk field goal.

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The 2014 Patriots won the Super Bowl, so why can’t this version?

The New England Patriots are 2-2, they’ve lost an embarrassing game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and there are problems on the roster that seem unfixable in the middle of the season. Many are wondering if this era of Patriots football might be over.

Sound familiar?

What the Patriots are going through right now is eerily similar to what happened in 2014. The Patriots were also 2-2 after four games then, with the Chiefs loss coming on Monday Night Football during Week 4 and the fan base spinning into a frenzy.

Things worked out pretty well that season. The team went on to win the Super Bowl, and it all started when the team went “on to Cincinnati” a week later. That is the situation that this current team is in now, and some players see it as motivating. According to Jim McBride of The Boston GlobeJames White sees plenty of similarities between that team and this one.

“Guys took it as a challenge. We came out the next week against the Bengals and guys were just flying around, making plays, and just trying to improve off the Kansas City game,’’ White said Monday afternoon. “That’s all it really is. That’s the approach we really take every week whether you’re coming off a loss or a win. You try to find things you can improve on and come out flying around that next week.”

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In that sense, these early losses could prove to be beneficial to the Patriots this season. It’d be easy for a team that has had as much success as New England to get complacent.

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Sometimes 2-2 is a reason to celebrate (see: Jets, New York), other times it’s a potential disaster.

The Patriots fell to .500 on Sunday, falling 33-30 on a last-second field goal against a Panthers team that had scored 45 points combined in their first three games.

“Disappointed, 2-2 is just a record, but just in terms of how we played and what we need to do in order to play better and win,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on WEEI on Monday morning.

“Hopefully, we can figure out a way to play consistently over an entire game.”

The Patriots just as easily could be 1-3, with Texans safety Corey Moore dropping an interception that would have sealed a Houston Week 3 victory, instead turning into a 36-33 Pats win thanks to some Brady magic.

We’ve been here before. We’ve buried the Patriots before.

In 2014, after getting pummeled 41-14 by the Chiefs on Monday night with Brady playing dreadful, the New England dynasty was declared dead. Brady was washed up. Bill Belichick had lost his magic touch.

That season ended with a Super Bowl.

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San Francisco’s ownership is thrilled with the early returns and high potential of their new coach/general manager combo of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, but they came closer than most realize to hiring another dynamic duo.

The 49ers intently pursued Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and esteemed player personnel director Nick Caserio in January and nearly completed contracts with both highly-sought candidates. While much media attention revolved around a potential coupling of McDaniels and former NFL exec and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, sources said that never was a pairing, but McDaniels and Caserio very much were a potential package deal for the 49ers.

Both men have been sought for years by other franchises, and while they love working in New England and are discerning about pursuing outside opportunities, the 49ers job was intriguing enough for both to heavily consider. Contrary to the perception that neither would leave as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are there, it’s very conceivable one or both could depart in 2018, depending on which jobs are open.

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That’s at least the belief within the Patriots organization, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Rapoport reported prior to Thursday night’s game that the Patriots just don’t foresee a long-term future with the cornerback they found out of the University of West Alabama in 2014.

“My understanding is it is expected to be his final season in New England,” Rapoport said. “The reason is they invested a lot in Stephon Gilmore. They are not going to franchise-tag Butler if he goes out and has another Pro Bowl season.”

According to Rapoport, the Patriots and Butler’s camp never really came close to reaching a contract agreement.

“They made a slew of offers for him over the last couple of years, none recently,” Rapoport said. “They really are done negotiating.”

The Patriots are so far down the road with their Butler plan that, according to Rapoport, they’re already factoring him in to the compensatory pick formula next offseason.

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A little different personality from Rob.”

Glenn Gronkowski in the Patriots-Jaguars preseason game.
Glenn Gronkowski in the Patriots-Jaguars preseason game. –AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

While he doesn’t grab as many headlines – or touchdowns – as his older brother, Glenn Gronkowski has nonetheless earned praise from Bill Belichick since first joining the Patriots in October of 2016.

Aside from being the younger sibling of one of the team’s dynamic players, the 24-year-old has also notably been cut and re-signed to the Patriots’ practice squad three times before signing (and remaining) last December. He earned a Super Bowl LI ring and was signed to a futures contract in February.

And his consistent work rate recently drew compliments from Belichick during a Monday press conference:

Yeah, hard-working kid, quiet, a little different personality from Rob [Gronkowski] around here, but he just comes in every day, works hard, runs well, has played for us in the kicking game, some as a pass receiver, some as a fullback, so he has a little combination skills there. Just trying to develop kind of that role for himself, but he’s a hard-working kid that’s improved. He was kind of on and off the practice squad roster last year for the last, I don’t know, I forget how many weeks it was – eight weeks, whatever the time frame was – but this year has obviously been a lot more consistent, as you said, through the offseason program, through OTAs and through training camp. But he’s been durable, hasn’t missed a day, hasn’t missed anything. Just continues to work hard and get better.

Gronkowski went undrafted as a rookie in 2016. He made the Bills’ opening day roster before he was eventually released, winding up in New England.

Sometime during the spring, at a time all NFL teams were working on their offseason training regimen, a Dolphins player decided he had something important to share with Adam Gase. The player paid an unannounced visit to the coach’s second-floor office at the team’s training facility, only to find out Gase was working out somewhere else in the building.

So the unnamed player left his boss a note.

“We don’t have time for your ‘workouts,’ ” the note read. “You think BB works out?”

BB is New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The note was meant to jokingly jab Gase, but one of its underlying thoughts is obvious: The Dolphins, second in the AFC East behind the Patriots a season ago, are chasing New England and have their rivals on their minds.

That’s obvious now because you’ll recall Jarvis Landry, on an offseason overseas promotional tour that included Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, predicted the Dolphins would sweep the Patriots. Later, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh called the Patriots “definitely beatable” and added the Dolphins aren’t afraid of the Patriots.

“I think we respect all opponents we have; we obviously start the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and look forward to that,” Suh said on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” when asked how much he focuses on the Patriots. “We have many games prior to [the Patriots] that are going to be big focuses.

“But we understand that New England is at the top of the East right now. We understand that we need to have certain particular game plans for them, as they do for us. Taking that into account, I think one of the great things about Miami and this team, we’ve never been scared of the New England Patriots. We never will be. So, with that being said, when we play them late in the season, we’ll be prepared.”

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