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Nuggetpalooza’s Patriots vs. Dolphins Preview!

12.31.10 at 9:35 am ET
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As far as the standings are concerned, Sunday’s final game of the regular season against the Dolphins is meaningless. However, there will still be football played in Foxboro and the stats still count. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

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* – The Patriots won last Sunday by 31 points despite Buffalo taking an early 3-0 lead. It tied their largest winning margin ever in a game in which their opponent scored first:

31 – at Buffalo, 12/26/2010
31 – vs Miami, 10/15/1967
28 – vs Denver, 9/16/1961
28 – vs Buffalo, 11/11/1984
27 – at Miami, 10/4/2010

Note this: It was the largest winning margin ever by New England in a road game where their opponent scored first.

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* – Despite Miami having almost as many drives of 10 or more plays this season as the Patriots (NE has 27 to Miami’s 26), the Pats have been MUCH more efficient, averaging 4.78 points (ranked first) compared to just 3.15 points for the Dolphins (24th).

Note this: Despite allowing an NFL high 33 drives of 10 or more plays this year, the Pats’ defense has allowed 3.94 points on those drives, the eighth highest average allowed in the league.

And this: If New England allows one drive of 10+ plays this Sunday, they will have allowed more such drives in 2010 than in any season since 2004.

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* – Miami’s defense has been VERY good recently at limiting opponents on first down, allowing four or more yards only 38.5 percent of the time over the last five games, second best in the league in that span. Of course, the Patriots offense will provide a stern test, as they have been successful on 53.3 percent of their first down plays over the last five games (also ranked second).

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* – Despite limiting the Bills to 3-for-10 last week on third downs, the Patriots are still on pace to allow the highest third down conversion percentage in the NFL in the last 15 years:

48.2% – Patriots, 2010
47.4% – Raiders, 2004
47.4% – Colts, 2008
47.4% – Chiefs, 2008

Since they began tracking the stat in 1992, the Patriots’ previous worst such season was 2008, when they allowed 44.4 percent conversions.

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* – Both offenses have been quite good right out of the gate as both rank in the league’s top five in points scored on their first possession of the game:

49 – Eagles
48 – Saints
40 – Dolphins
38 – Patriots
38 – Falcons

The Patriots and Dolphins are also two of just five teams that have not committed a turnover on their first possession of a game this season. Miami is the ONLY team that has not committed a turnover on their first possession of EITHER half of a game this year.

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* – New England has scored 134 points off opponent turnovers this season (five defensive touchdowns along with 12 touchdowns and five field goals on drives following takeaways) while allowing just 24 points following Patriots’ turnovers, a net of +110 points, by far the highest in the league:

+110 – Patriots
+ 72 – Packers
+ 59 – Chiefs

Note this: Miami’s net is -39 points, the fourth worst mark in the NFL.

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Adam Schefter on D&C: Ravens have best shot to knock off Patriots

12.31.10 at 9:28 am ET
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ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Calllahan show Friday morning with guest hosts Bob Ryan and Bob Neumeier to talk about the Patriots and news from the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Schefter said Bill Belichick is his choice as the NFL’s coach of the year. “You look at the job that he’s done, and you could argue ‘€¦ that the job he’s done this year is more impressive than the job he did in 2007, and as compelling or better than the job he did in 2001, when the Patriots first really launched themselves into the national conversation and became the franchise that we know today,” Schefter said.

Schefter was not one of the many media people who predicted the Jets would topple the Patriots and win the AFC East this season. He explained why he believed in the Patriots and wasn’t convinced by the Jets.

Said Schefter: “I never bought it, and I’ll tell you why I didn’t buy it. Because, again, it’s a quarterback league. And on my visit to Patriots training camp, the one thing that I sensed ‘€” and it’s easy to say it now but I’m telling I’ve been consistent on this all along ‘€”there was a real quiet confidence there in their young talent. They really thought they had a lot of really good, young football players.

“And the reason I stayed with the Patriots and didn’t go to the flavor of the month in New York was because the best quarterback, the most proven quarterback, the most consistent quarterback is Tom Brady. And it’s a quarterback league. And you have to go with the quarterback every time.

“The best and most proven and decorated coach in the division is Bill Belichick. Any team that has the coach and the quarterback, I don’t know how you go against them. And that was why I picked them to win the division at the beginning of the year.”

Asked which team has the best chance to knock off the Patriots in the playoffs, Schefter made it clear the choice is easy. “Baltimore,” he said. “They did it last year. They almost did it in the regular season this year. It’s the only team, to me, that I could see coming into Foxboro and beating the Patriots. ‘€¦ To me, there’s nothing about the Patriots that unnerves the Baltimore Ravens. Nothing.”

Added Schefter: “Maybe the Jets could give them a game on the right Sunday. The Jets beat them earlier in the year. But I think the Jets would be a little psyched out coming back to the place where they got trampled, 45-3, in the Boston Massacre.”

The Saints went into Atlanta and knocked off the NFC-leading Falcons on Monday night. Said Schefter: “More than anything it was a message: Beware of New Orleans in the postseason. ‘€¦ It’s the world champs, and they’re not done yet.”

Looking at coaches whose futures are considered in jeopardy, Schefter said he thinks that Tony Sparano (Dolphins), Tom Coughlin (Giants), Gary Kubiak (Texans) and Leslie Frazier (Vikings) will return to their teams next season, while Eric Mangini (Browns), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Jeff Fisher (Titans) and John Fox (Panthers) are likely to depart.

Read More: adam schefter, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady,

NFL fines Jets $100K for tripping incident involving Sal Alosi

12.30.10 at 6:03 pm ET
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The NFL has fined the Jets $100,000 for violating league rules in the tripping incident involving New York strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, according to multiple reports.

In an attempt to intimidate Miami’s Nolan Carroll ‘€” who was serving as a “gunner” on punt coverage ‘€” during a Jets-Dolphins game, Alosi appeared to be part of a special teams “wall” that involved other players on the sidelines, and he stuck his knee out, tripping Carroll as he went by. Alosi later apologized for the incident, and the Jets suspended him indefinitely.

After the incident, Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff intimated that there other teams who engaged in the same practice, including the Patriots.

“[There are] a number of teams [that do it],” Westhoff told ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “If you watch carefully, there is a pretty good team up north that lines up their whole defense when they do it, so it’s something that just kind of happened.”

As a result, according to the NFL, a portion of the fine includes Westhoff’s remarks.

Here’s the complete announcement from the league, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.

“The New York Jets were notified today that the club has been fined $100,000 by Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating league rules in the recent incident involving Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi, who placed players in a prohibited area on the sideline to impede an opposing team’€™s special teams players and gain a competitive advantage. This is both a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic. The discipline imposed on the club also includes the response to the incident of coach Alosi and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who made public comments accusing other teams of employing similar tactics. Both the NFL Constitution and Bylaws and other league policies require clubs to report actual or suspected violations of competitive rules by other teams only to the league office and not to engage in public criticism of other clubs. The fine has been imposed on the Jets to emphasize that clubs are accountable for the actions of their employees and have the obligation to ensure that all members of their organization comply with league rules.”

Read More: Mike Westhoff, Nolan Carroll, roger goodell, Sal Alosi

Report: Brandon Meriweather’s fine reduced to $40,000

12.30.10 at 5:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Brandon Meriweather‘€™s fine for his two hits on Baltimore’€™s Todd Heap earlier this season has been reduced from $50,000 to $40,000, according to Judy Battista of the New York Times. Meriweather was hit with the penalty in the wake of his actions in the Oct. 17 game between the Patriots and fine, and in the days after the game, he issued an apology for the incident.

‘€œTo start off I want to say once again I’€™m sorry for the hit. I understand the league is trying to protect the health of all our players, but ‘€¦ I don’€™t even know how to put it, but to be honest I just want all of this to go away,’€ Meriweather said.

‘€œI want to focus, with the rest of my team, on the Chargers, really not let this come up again. I’€™m going to try my best to play within the rules, like my coach had always taught us. I’€™m going to hit and play the game like my coaches have always taught us. Even in training camp, we have always been taught the proper way to hit, and I’€™m just going to focus on that and put it in my game in some way, shape, form, or fashion. And from here on, I’€™m focusing on the Chargers and anything else spoken on this, I will not comment on.’€

According to Battista, Dunta Robinson and James Harrison ‘€” each of who had big hits the same weekend at Meriweather ‘€” also had their fines reduced from $50,000 to $25,000 and $75,000 to $50,000, respectively.

(UPDATE, 6:08 p.m.: The NFL has confirmed the reduction in the fines, and have issued the following statement, via Chris Mortensen of ESPN: The fines of Dunta Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons and Brandon Meriwether of the New England Patriots for flagrant hits against defenseless receivers have been reduced on appeal. The appeals officer, Ted Cottrell, reduced Robinson’€™s fine from $50,000 to $25,000 and Meriweather’€™s fine from $50,000 to $40,000. Following these decisions, Cottrell took the additional step of reviewing the appeal of James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harrison was fined $75,000 earlier this season for a similar flagrant hit. Cottrell consulted with Commissioner Goodell about reducing Harrison’€™s fine to $50,000 and the commissioner fully supported the decision. Cottrell said he reduced the fines because the players said they understood the rules and have made efforts to adjust their techniques to play within the rules that protect player safety.)

Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Dunta Robinson, James Harrison, Todd Heap

Three miss practice for Dolphins

12.30.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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The Dolphins had just three players miss practice on Thursday ‘€” linebacker Karlos Dansby, tight end Anthony Fasano and tight end Lydon Murtha. Here’s their complete report:

Did Not Participate
LB Karlos Dansby (toe)
TE Anthony Fasano (knee)
TE Lydon Murtha (head)

Limited Participation
CB Nolan Carroll (head)

Read More: dolphins, injury report,

Six Patriots limited at Thursday practice

12.30.10 at 3:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” In addition to the three players who missed practice ‘€” Ron Brace, Dan Connolly and Mike Wright ‘€” the Patriots had six players who were limited, including quarterback Tom Brady. Here’s the complete report:

Did Not Participate
DL Ron Brace (elbow)
G Dan Connolly (concussion)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)

Limited Participation
LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
WR Deion Branch (knee)
LB Jermaine Cunningham (calf)
TE Aaron Hernandez (hip)
NT Myron Pryor (back)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)
CB Devin McCourty (rib)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

Report: Jerod Mayo hit with fine for nailing the Bills

12.30.10 at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO – Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo has been informed by the NFL he will be fined for at least one of the several huge hits he laid on the Bills during Sunday’s 34-3 rout of Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium, according to the Boston Herald.

Mayo told the paper that the league told him he’€™s been fined for at least one hit in game but wasn’€™t sure which one was deemed too violent or unnecessary.

Players typically received the formal notice of a fine and the amount on the following Friday after the game in question and Mayo had not received his as of Thursday morning. The Patriots leading tackler laid out Steve Johnson over the middle when he crashed into the receiver’s facemask with his own. Receiver David Nelson was also the victim of a Mayo hit, with some help on the play by safety Jarrad Page.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, David Nelson, Jarrad Page, Jerod Mayo
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