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Fantasy Football: Week 11 starts, sits

11.14.14 at 10:04 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 11 starts and sits! If you are reading this you are either bored or still in the hunt for fantasy glory. While I appreciate your readership either way, I’m hoping that you fit into the latter category. With three regular-season games left in most fantasy leagues, all games are crucial unless you are way out ahead of the pack. I’ve done my best to isolate some good options for this week. If the player you want information on is not listed in this space, head over to my free site, Rotobahn, and dig into my full lineup rankings.

Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon every Sunday.

If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Philip Rivers, Chargers vs. Raiders

I’m sure there’s some temptation to bench Rivers after his awful Week 9 performance, but I’d stick with him unless you have another very strong option. He’s had an extra week to prepare for the Raiders, and his surrounding skill talent is relatively healthy. He should be good for QB1 numbers in typical leagues.

Robert Griffin, Washington vs. Buccaneers

He’s still in a prove-it phase to most people, myself included, but he’s a nice play this week in a home matchup against a defense that has been gashed all season long. I’m just fine with Griffin as my quarterback this week in any league size.

Mark Sanchez, Eagles at Packers

It may not be pretty all the way through, but I expect Sanchez to have a respectable fantasy point total by the end of the day. Aaron Rodgers is going to throw all day against the Eagles, and barring an unforeseen defensive play, he’€™s going to get his team a lead. Sanchez will either keep his team close or keep trying to do so. While the Eagles most likely will start out with a balanced offense, they will be forced to the air eventually.

Eli Manning, Giants vs. 49ers

I thought the Giants played a lot better at Seattle than the Week 10 numbers suggest. They battled a lot better than we’ve seen them at times this season, and it bodes well for them at home against San Francisco. It also helps that Manning has a true No. 1 target in rookie Odell Beckham Jr.

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Read More: Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Robert Griffin

Rodney Harrison on D&C: Despite top offense, Colts have ‘too many inconsistencies’

11.14.14 at 9:20 am ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show on Friday morning to preview the Patriots-Colts game and discuss other NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots are on a roll, winners of four straight, heading into the Sunday night showdown in Indianapolis. The AFC South-leading Colts come in at 6-3, one game behind the AFC-leading Patriots and Broncos.

Harrison said the Colts have yet to prove they belong with the AFC’s elite.

“I think you have the top couple of teams in the AFC, which would be, I would say, New England and Denver,” Harrison said. “And the Indianapolis Colts, right, they’re trying to take that next step. Just too many inconsistencies on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, they have the No. 1-ranked offense, but if you want to win games and playoff games and beat the upper echelon of teams, you have to be able to play defense. And it’s not just at home and playing with a different speed at home, but the consistency when you’re on the road.”

Andrew Luck has been heralded as the next elite QB, and Harrison said his personality has a lot to do with it.

“The kid is so humble, he’s so smart, he works his butt off, he’s got a great arm, he’s smart. He’s got basically all the tangibles and intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, and as you can see he’s really taken that next step to being an elite quarterback,” Harrison said. “And I don’t think anything’s going to change with him. The type of kid that he is now, he was in high school or when he was in college, and now he’s in the pros.”

Another quarterback who might soon join Luck in the NFL is 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Harrison said the Florida State star is not worth the risk.

“I wouldn’t touch him. Just too many issues,” Harrison said. “This kid, it’s amazing how he has a thousand lives. They continually give him opportunity after opportunity, and I just think it’s one of those things where he’s got to really fall on his butt to really appreciate the opportunity that he’s been given. There’s no way I’m touching him. I don’t care about the talent, because when you get to a point where you’ve become this distraction to the team; the coaches, the organization can’t trust you, and you don’t know which guy’s going to show up on Sunday, yes he can do that on the college level, but on the professional level its completely different.”

Randy Moss is back in the news with the debut of an ESPN documentary about him. Harrison said the one-time Patriot never got his due in part because of his off-field issues.

Randy Moss was spectacular,” Harrison said. “And I’m going to tell you this: As great as Randy Moss is, we still don’t appreciate how great he is because of some of the early distractions, some of the things that he’s gone through. Randy was one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around — very smart, articulate guy, like you see now on TV. And I just believe that if he would have had maybe a cleaner image that people would have really been able to understand how great Randy Moss is. And Randy’s a good person — just a little bit misunderstood.”

Read More: Jameis Winston, Randy Moss, Rodney Harrison,

Video: ‘4th & Goal’ breaks down Patriots and Colts

11.14.14 at 9:00 am ET
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WEEI.com Patriots writer Chris Price previews the Week 11 matchup between the Patriots and Colts. Find out the keys to the game, as well as Chris’ prediction.

Robert Kraft: Early season negative comments ‘really ticked’ off Tom Brady

11.14.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft

There is no question the Patriots’ season turned the week of the Cincinnati game in Week 5.

The Patriots were coming off of being embarrassed on Monday Night Football in Kansas City in Week 4 and the national media began to question quarterback Tom Brady. But, in typical Brady and Patriots fashion, the Patriots rolled to a 43-17 win over the Bengals and have now won five games straight to post a 7-2 record to lead the AFC.

In a wide-ranging interview with USA Today’s Jim Corbett, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said how fortunate the team is to have Brady as its quarterback, and the negative comments in the media may have actually helped Brady and the Patriots.

“Tommy? Absolutely. We’re so fortunate to have him as the face of our franchise in many ways as a quarterback,” Kraft told Corbett. “He’s just such a wonderful, genuine person. He works so hard. Whoever was putting those [negative] comments out there, helped us. I think it really ticked him off. You see how he trains, how he takes care of himself. He has his own personal trainer and dedicates his life to conditioning. He’s like a guy who is 10 years younger. What he puts in his body, how he works out, everything he does is done off the charts in a special way. And we’re so lucky to have him. That Kansas City game in a way was maybe a watershed moment for us. I think the whole team came together after that.”

Another star player this season has been cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis was signed this past offseason, and according to Kraft has made “a big difference.” He also compared him to a former Patriot and new member of the Patriots Hall of Fame — Ty Law.

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Rob Gronkowski, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady

Live Chat: Talk Patriots with Christopher Price, Friday at noon

11.14.14 at 12:23 am ET
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Talk Patriots with WEEI.com football columnist Christopher Price Friday at noon.

Live Blog Chris Price live Patriots chat
 

10 questions for AFC as stretch drive approaches

11.13.14 at 8:32 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski appears to be back to full strength. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski appears to be back to full strength. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the stretch drive set to begin this week and the AFC playoff picture coming into sharper focus, here are 10 questions for the conference as things start to heat up.

1. Can Rob Gronkowski stay healthy?

This is the biggest question looming not only over the Patriots, but maybe over the entire AFC. Gronkowski is a separator, an offensive alpha male that gives the New England offense the ability to move up and down the field almost at will. At 100 percent for the first time in more than a year, he’s delivered a jolt to the Patriots offense over the last five games, catching 36 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns. No one can stop him for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it’s almost impossible to get a body on him off the line because of what the Patriots do when it comes to pre-snap motion. If he’s able to finish out the season injury-free and stay on the field over the course of the postseason, the Patriots are on the short list of genuine Super Bowl candidates. If he’s hurt between now and then, even with an improved defense, New England’s title hopes are a lot slimmer.

2. Can the Steelers stay consistent?

No team has run a wider gamut this year than Pittsburgh. There have been impressive wins over the Ravens, Colts and Texans, but also really ugly losses against the Buccaneers and Jets. In the muddied AFC North, it’s been good enough for a 6-4 record and second place behind the Browns. While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has injected himself into the MVP race — at least he did until last week’s loss to New York — there hasn’t been enough consistency on the defensive side of the ball to warrant calling the Steelers a serious playoff threat, at least at this point. There’s something to be said for the Pittsburgh pedigree, as Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin have overseen Super Bowl champions. But right now, they don’t appear to have the sort of defense that might allow them to play deep into January.

3. Will special teams be Denver’s downfall?

The Broncos still have the best roster in the AFC from top to bottom, but the little things are still lacking with Denver, things that could ultimately doom them come the postseason. Their special teams was an area that really stood out as of late, particularly in their recent loss to the Patriots. That’s where rookie kicker Brandon McManus missed a field goal, the Patriots were able to break off an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown and the Broncos committed a major penalty on punt coverage leading to a New England score. None of this is enough to come back to haunt them, in, say, a December game against the Raiders. But in the postseason, when every team is good and the margin for error becomes dangerously slim, those sorts of errors are the sort of thing that could haunt them.

4. Are the Browns capable of staying in it for the long haul?

Cleveland — led by former Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer — has been the feel-good team of the year to this point in the season, going 6-3 so far, a stretch that includes wins in five of its last six games. (The last time the Browns led their division entering Week 11 was 1994, a team led by Bill Belichick that would go on to beat the Patriots in the wild card round of the playoffs.) If they’re able to continue execute at the same level — that is to say, play a sound, fundamental game on both sides of the ball and remain reasonably healthy — there’s no reason to think that Cleveland couldn’t finish with at least 10 wins. Three of their seven remaining games are against teams under .500, and four of their remaining contests are at home, where they’ve only lost one game all year. Ultimately, 10 wins might not be enough to get them into the postseason, but it should be enough to spark considerable optimism by the shores of Lake Erie.

5. Can the Ravens find a little bit of that late-season mojo they discovered two years ago?

Two years ago, after their Super Bowl run, Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked about the Ravens’ late-season struggles and how it allow them to build some calluses for the postseason. Baltimore is certainly part of the mix in the AFC North to this point — and they’ve gotten some nice contributions from running back Justin Forsett (133 carries, 721 yards, five TDs) and wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (49 catches, 728 yards, four TDs) but the Ravens don’t really threaten people like they used to on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the secondary. If Baltimore wants to be considered a true contender, it needs to get better play on defense and rediscover some of that December magic that propelled it into the postseason two years ago.

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Dominique Easley (knee) limited at Patriots practice

11.13.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — The Patriots got some good news Thursday when rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee) returned to practice after missing the first two practices of the week.

Easley practicing was the only change from Wednesday’s practice report, as Chandler Jones (hip) was the lone player not to participate in the session held inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse to simulate the playing conditions inside Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night.

For the Colts, defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle), Chandler’s brother, and linebacker Erik Walden (quad) were limited participants after not practicing at all on Wednesday.

Here is the complete Patriots practice report:

Did not practice

DE Chandler Jones (hip)

Limited participation

DL Dominique Easley (knee)
S Nate Ebner (finger)
OL Cameron Fleming (finger)
WR Matthew Slater (shoulder)
OL Ryan Wendell (knee)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Read More: chandler jones, Dominique Easley, Indianapolis Colts,
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