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Josh McDaniels expresses ‘great confidence’ in Stevan Ridley

11.26.13 at 4:16 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that despite Stevan Ridley’s recent struggles with ball security, he has “great confidence” in the running back Stevan Ridley. However, he added that Ridley’s issues are just part of a bigger problem when it comes to fumbles.

‘€œWhen things happen like this, in back-to-back games ‘€“ or in this case a few games in a row ‘€“ I think you certainly have to address what you can address in terms of trying to fix the problem,” McDaniels said of Ridley, who has lost fumbles in three straight games and four this season. “I have great confidence in Stevan as a runner. He’€™s been very productive in our offense. He’€™s done a lot of things. At the same time, obviously, ball security is the most important factor for our offense and for our team when we have the ball. We have to be part of the solution. We have to work with him.”

McDaniels was quick to point out that Ridley wasn’t the only player who put the ball on the ground Sunday against Denver. The Patriots had six fumbles, and lost three of them.

‘€œHe certainly wasn’€™t the only one that put the ball [on the ground] or got the ball knocked off of him the other night. We had way too many balls out, or balls on the ground, and turned the ball over a significant number of times. We were fortunate to overcome that, which is very rare,” he said. “I think our entire offense, we need to do a better job of taking care of the football, protecting when we have it, and making smart decisions and not giving the defense the opportunity to either strip it off of us, knock it off of us, whatever it may be. That’€™s a team thing. Our confidence, as an offense, you want to be able to protect the football no matter who you give it to. That’€™s our goal and that’€™s our focus, and we’€™ll work with everybody to try to fix the issues that certainly came up the other night.’€

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Josh McDaniels, Stevan Ridley,

Patriots lose defensive tackle A.J. Francis to Dolphins

11.26.13 at 4:00 pm ET
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The Patriots lost practice squad defensive tackle A.J. Francis on Tuesday, as the Dolphins signed him to their 53-man roster.

Francis, who started the year with Miami before the Patriots claimed Francis to their active roster in September (before releasing him and slipping him through to the practice squad), returns to the Dolphins having never played a game with New England. The 6-foot, 316-pounder was a four-year letterman at Maryland and recorded 149 total tackles, 9½ sacks and three blocked kicks.

Francis’ farewell — combined with the news that the Patriots are set to sign tight end D.J. Williams — could force the Patriots to do some roster shuffling. Williams could be ticketed for Francis’ old spot on the practice squad, but he could also join the active roster as insurance in case Michael Hoomanawanui’s knee is worse than initially anticipated. If that’s the case, New England would have to release someone off the 53-man roster to make room for Williams.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: A.J. Francis, D.J. Williams,

Jason Cole on M&M: ‘[Tom] Brady outplayed [Peyton Manning] by a large margin’ on Sunday

11.26.13 at 3:40 pm ET
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Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the play of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in New England’s 34-31 victory over Denver on Sunday night, as well as the status of the AFC and Super Bowl XLVIII.

One of the top story lines of Sunday’s game was, of course, the matchup between Brady and Manning. Brady once again seemed to have the advantage in the contest, as he finished the night with three touchdown passes, a 107.4 quarterback rating and the win, while Manning only managed 150 passing yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 70.4 QBR.

“I thought Brady outplayed him by a large margin, and I thought Peyton looked really uncomfortable, and not because he was getting rushed,” Cole said. “He just didn’t look comfortable throwing the ball, he didn’t throw with much authority. I think that because of the way New England disrupted his receivers, similar to what they did against New Orleans earlier this season, he never had his timing down, and perhaps that’s because they had to throw so little in the first half and didn’t throw much in the third quarter.”

Added Cole: “[Manning] just never seemed to get into a groove, so the doubts about him in big games, particularly cold-weather big games, persists. He’s not answered that, and makes me really concerned about [Denver] going in the playoffs.”

While the Broncos (9-2) and Patriots (8-3) are in line for the top two seeds in the AFC at the moment, the Chiefs (9-2) are a worthy competitor in the conference, despite losing two straight games to Denver and San Diego.

“Kansas City, when they are healthy, in a playoff situation [can be a threat]. That’s similar to what we saw on Sunday night between the Patriots and the Broncos, which is if you allow defenses to bump receivers and knock them off their routes, hold them up at the line, I think that helps the defense so much, and I think Kansas City will be able to do more of that when they get into the postseason,” Cole said. “To me, they have a chance to get their defense back in line and be competitive in the postseason. But that’s the only other team, I think, that can challenge New England or Denver at this point and time.”

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Read More: Broncos, Denver, Jason Cole, New England

Report: Patriots set to sign TE D.J. Williams

11.26.13 at 3:39 pm ET
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The Patriots are set to sign tight end D.J. Williams, according to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Williams, who has played for the Packers and Jaguars, is an Arkansas product who has been in the league since 2011. Last season with Green Bay, he had seven catches for 57 yards. Known more as a blocker, Williams could be insurance for No. 2 tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who suffered a knee injury earlier this month against the Panthers and sat out last Sunday’s win over the Broncos.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: D.J. Williams, Michael Hoomanawanui,

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 season

11.26.13 at 2:10 pm ET
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Through 11 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 51 penalties (29th in the league) for a total of 493 yards (26th). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:
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Pressure Points: Which New England defenders are doing best job getting after QB in 2013?

11.26.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2013 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. While sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Through 11 games, the Patriots have 34 sacks (tied for 6th), 61 quarterback hits and 122 quarterback hurries. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2013 season:

Quarterback sacks
DL Chandler Jones: 10.5 (65.5 yards)
DL Chris Jones: 5 (32 yards)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 5 (24 yards)
DL Tommy Kelly: 2.5 (14.5 yards)
LB Dane Fletcher: 2 (19 yards)
CB Logan Ryan: 2 (18 yards)
DE Michael Buchanan: 2 (15 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1.5 (5 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 1 (13 yards)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 1 (9 yards)
DE Andre Carter: 1 (6 yards)
Team sacks: 1 (8 yards)

‘€¨’€¨Quarterback hits (per NFL game books)
DE Chandler Jones: 19
DE Rob Ninkovich: 11
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
DL Chris Jones: 5
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 3
DE Andre Carter: 4
LB: Dane Fletcher: 2
DL Joe Vellano: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
CB Logan Ryan: 1
S Steve Gregory: 1

Quarterback hurries (per PFF)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 30
DE Chandler Jones: 26
DL Joe Vellano: 10
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 10
DL Chris Jones: 7
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
LB Jamie Collins: 5
LB Brandon Spikes: 5
DE Andre Carter: 4
DL Vince Wilfork: 3
LB Dane Fletcher: 2
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
CB Devin McCourty: 2
CB Marquice Cole: 1
CB Kyle Arrington: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1

By way of comparison, here’s a look at pass rush numbers for the Patriots through 11 games in 2012.

Read More: pressure points,

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 13: Patriots top dogs in AFC

11.26.13 at 12:36 pm ET
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The Patriots are the new power team in the AFC as they have surpassed the Broncos for the first time this year in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Sunday night’s stunning comeback was good enough to catapult New England from seventh to fourth and drop Denver from second to fifth.

In the NFC, the scene is set for the two top teams to clash on Monday night. The Seahawks have enjoyed the top spot for quite some time, but the Saints, up a spot this week to No. 2, are a real threat with their prolific offense. Monday night’s outcome may not only determine who gets home-field advantage in the playoffs, but ultimately who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.

At the bottom of the barrel, the Jaguars finally clawed their way out of the most miserable position. The good news for the Texans, our new bottom-feeder, is that they can only go up from here. Houston has plunged week after week after starting the season at No. 7.

1. (1) Seahawks (10-1) — Seattle should be solely focusing on its NFC clash with the Saints, but news that cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner are facing suspensions has changed that plan.

2. (3) Saints (9-2) — The most important game of the year for the Saints is Monday in Seattle. New Orleans wants to play in the comfort of its dome in the postseason. Winning two games in Seattle in the same year doesn’t seem likely.

3. (4) Panthers (8-3) — We’ve seen many qualities of a Super Bowl-caliber team during the Panthers’ current seven game win streak. The ability to close out tight games is a trait we see year after year from Super Bowl champions during the regular season.

4. (7) Patriots (8-3) — No franchise executes the “next man up” philosophy better than New England. Whether it’s Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Aaron Hernandez or Wes Welker, the Patriots continue to find a way to win more than they lose.

5. (2) Broncos (9-2) — It’s clear the formula to beating the Broncos is pressuring Peyton Manning. The veteran QB was 0-for-6 with an interception when faced with pressure from Patriots defenders. For the first time this season, Denver doesn’t look like the clear favorite in the AFC.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning

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