Morning sports update: Rob Ninkovich thinks Patriots’ season ‘over’ with a loss to the Bills

"If they lose this game, they're going to be sellers and try to get as many draft picks as possible."

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick during the Patriots' loss to the 49ers. –AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The sports world is mourning the loss of Travis Roy, who died on Thursday at the age of 45. Roy, who was left paralyzed by an injury just 11 seconds into his Boston University hockey career, went on to become an inspirational figure as a philanthropist for spinal cord injury treatment.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick began his Friday press conference with a tribute to Roy:

Elsewhere, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence — widely expected to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft if he leaves college after this season — tested positive for COVID-19. Lawrence will miss the team’s Saturday matchup with Boston College at 12 p.m.

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The stakes for Patriots-Bills: This Sunday at 1 p.m., the Patriots’ streak of consecutive AFC East titles will be on the line. Though the season is only at its halfway point, the importance of the game can’t be underestimated, according to former Patriots linebacker (and ESPN analyst) Rob Ninkovich.

“It’s their season, it’s everything right now,” Ninkovich told ESPN show “Get Up!” on Friday morning. “Last week I said it was one of the biggest games that I could remember, so this is the biggest game that I could probably remember because of the fact that if they lose this game, they’ve dug themselves in a hole so deep they can’t get out of it.”

For Ninkovich, a loss to the Bills (which would take the Patriots’ record to 2-5) means New England shifts its approach before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.

“If they lose this game, they’re going to be sellers and try to get as many draft picks as possible,” said Ninkovich. “So this is a must-win game for the Patriots. If they do not win, their season pretty much is over.”

Fellow ESPN analyst and former Steelers safety Ryan Clark also placed pressure on Belichick to deliver in Sunday’s game against the Bills.

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“All eyes will be on [Cam Newton], but I think that all eyes should also be on Bill Belichick,” said Clark. “For years, we have lauded this man and applauded him as being the greatest football coach of all time, the best we’ve ever seen on the NFL sidelines. He’s going to have to work the other two phases, which are special teams, defense, find a way with Josh McDaniels to get the offense to move just enough to win an extremely important game.

As Clark noted, Belichick’s post-Tom Brady legacy is on the line.

“We’ve watched him win six of the biggest games ever played,” Clark explained. “Well, this is going to be one of those games where the GOAT, the guy that has six rings, has to show us all why he has them without the other man he won all those rings with.”

Trivia: At the end of the 1994 season, the Patriots faced Bill Belichick’s Browns in the AFC wildcard round of the playoffs. Bill Parcells’ team lost to Belichick, 20-13, but who was the Patriots’ leading receiver that day?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: A 1993 Patriots second-round pick, he had zero receptions in the 1996 regular season due to injuries, but made two catches in Super Bowl XXXI.

More from Boston.com:

Patrice Bergeron had a pretty good Elmo impression:

Joe Montana on Tom Brady:

On this day: In 1960, Diego Maradona was born in Lanús, Argentina. At 15, he made his debut in the Argentinian Primera Division, the youngest player in the league’s history. At 21, Barcelona broke the world record transfer fee to sign him for $7.6 million in 1982 (Napoli would break the record again to sign him in 1984).

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And by 1986, Maradona was at his height in the World Cup. In arguably the single most dominant performance by a single player in any World Cup, Maradona scored or assisted virtually every Argentinian goal, helping his nation win the trophy for a second time.

He achieved all of these highlights in just seven games at one World Cup:

Daily highlight: Jordi Gomez caught the goalkeeper napping during a UEFA Europa League game on Thursday, but PSV still defeated AC Omonia, 2-1.

Trivia answer: Vincent Brisby

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