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Key Moment: Gronkowski gets loose for go-ahead score

11.14.11 at 1:03 am ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the Patriots, the key moment in Sunday’€™s win over the Jets came at the end of the first half. With New England in a 9-6 hole because of a safety taken by quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots responded with a six-play, 80-yard drive that took 1:11 and ended with an 18-yard pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski deep over the middle that gave New England a 13-9 advantage.

Gronkowski finished with eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the win, but his work on that drive — where he accounted for 55 of the 80 total yards — was immense in giving the Patriots a lead they wouldn’€™t relinquish.

‘€œIt was a very important drive,’€ Gronkowski said. ‘€œThey were up, and we had to go back into halftime and put some points up. We had about a minute and a half, and everyone did well. Everyone executed well. It was a good overall drive.’€

‘€œI think we put players out there we think that can produce when they get the opportunity,’€ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘€Rob got some chances tonight, and he made them count. But other guys have done that too.  Wes [Welker], Deion [Branch], [Danny Woodhead] Chad Johnson, Ocho, whoever, pick one. They’€™ve all had their chances and we feel like they can all be productive.’€

With the win, the Patriots move into sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

‘€œIt was definitely a big win,’€ Gronkowski said. ‘€œComing on the road, you have to win road games. It was huge. It was for first place in the division, but we have many more games. We have to take them one game at a time… but it was definitely a big victory.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch

Snap Judgments: Patriots 37, Jets 16

11.13.11 at 11:54 pm ET
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The Patriots went into MetLife Stadium and pounded the Jets on Sunday night, getting three TD passes from Tom Brady, two INTs and a TD from Rob Ninkovich and a career effort from Andre Carter in a 37-16 victory that puts New England back in sole possession of first place in the AFC East and snaps a two-game losing streak.

The Patriots (6-3) will host the Chiefs next Monday night.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Rob Ninkovich was the standout performer in a standout performance by the Patriots linebackers. Ninkovich had a pair of interceptions, including a fourth-quarter, 12-yard TD pick that gave the Patriots a 37-16 lead that put the game away. Ninkovich jumped in front of LaDainian Tomlinson on the Mark Sanchez pass (with help from Tracy White, who flattened Dustin Keller) and converted the pick-six.

— Andre Carter was an absolute game-changer for the Patriots, picking up 4.5 sacks (a franchise record) and several other pressures on Mark Sanchez. Carter — who now has 9.0 sacks on the season, more than any Patriots player in 2010 — manhandled rookie Matthew Mulligan on third down to end the Jets’ second drive and was untouched (the Jets O-Line seemed distracted by a Jerod Mayo blitz) on his second sack, a second-quarter takedown of Sanchez.  He bullied D’Brickashaw Ferguson on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter to collect his final two sacks. As big a bust as Albert Haynesworth was for this team — and he was a complete misfire — Carter has been a savior for this group.

Rob Gronkowski had a pair of TD catches for the Patriots, as the Jets had no one to match up with the tight end. Gronkowski (eight catches, 113 yards) blew right past Eric Smith for an 18-yard TD at the end of the first half (capping the six-play, 80-yard drive) and hauled in a four-yard TD on a slant to give the Patriots a 23-9 lead in the third quarter. Gronkowski now has eight TDs on the season, second only to Calvin Johnson among all NFL players. Gronkowski had another TD catch (third quarter) wiped out after it was correctly ruled that he had stepped out of bounds before making the reception. Is there any question that this is the best tight end in the NFL right now?

— Tom Brady was up-and-down in the first half (made many of the same questionable decisions and throws we saw last week vs. the Giants) but was brilliant in the final 30 minutes, finishing the game with 329 yards on 26-of-39 passing and three TDs. Brady is now over 3,000 yards passing on the season and his 23 TD passes rank second in the NFL to Aaron Rodgers (24).

— The defense was outstanding — particularly when the injuries to Brandon Spikes, Pat Chung and Devin McCourty are considered — in holding the Jets to just 16 points. Third-down defense was key, as the Jets were successful on just five-of-13 attempts.

— Niko Koutouvides came through on special teams, recovering a Joe McKnight fumble on a third-quarter fumble at the Jets’ 11. The Patriots would turn the fumble recovery into a Gostkowksi field-goal.

Chad Ochocinco makes his debut in the “What Went Right” category, hauling in a pair of passes on the second field-goal drive of the first half, including a 53-yard catch-and-run off of what appeared to be blown coverage from Darrelle Revis. Until Sunday night, Ochocinco hadn’t had a game with 53 yards this season.

— A relatively quiet night for Wes Welker (six catches, 46 yards), but he did catch his 500th pass with the Patriots in his 70th game with the club. No player has made 500 receptions with one team as quickly as Welker has with New England.

Stephen Gostkowski converted all three field-goal attempts, including a 50-yarder in the first quarter on the drive following the missed 24-yard attempt by Nick Folk. Gostkowski is now 5-of-7 in his career on attempts of 50 yards or more.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Devin McCourty struggled early, giving up catches to Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Holmes again on the opening drive. He was also bailed out on a very shaky PI call against Burress, which took away what would have been a first-down catch on 3rd-and-14 in the second quarter. McCourty would later leave the game with a shoulder injury (and did not return), an injury that occurred when Sterling Moore drilled him in an attempt to tackle Burress (Moore was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play, a bogus call).

BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a career outing vs. the Jets in Week 5 — 136 yards on 27 carries — but was a non-factor on Sunday, finishing with just eight yards on eight carries. The Patriots weren’t able to gain much consistency on the ground, picking up only 61 yards on 27 carries. The Jets, conversely, had a very solid running attack, gaining 110 yards on 25 carries, including 61 yards on 13 carries from Shonne Greene.

Halftime analysis: Patriots 13, Jets 9

11.13.11 at 10:11 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Two quarters are in the books at MetLife Stadium and the Patriots hold a 13-9 lead. Here are a few quick notes.

Two of the first-half stars for the Patriots? Chad Ochocinco (two catches for 65 yards) and Andre Carter (2.5 sacks, as well as forcing Mark Sanchez into a bad intentional grounding situation), both of whom have sparked New England. Brady is 12-for-22 for 194 yards and a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, who has five catches for 79 yards.

Offensively, the Jets failed to convert their first five third-down chances, but picked up a safety with 4:44 left in the second and added a late touchdown on a two-yard scramble from Sanchez (10-for-16 for 137 yards) with 1:20 left in the half to make it 9-6. The Patriots then answered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Gronkowski with nine second left to end the first-half scoring.

The Patriots defense was very impressive throughout much of the first half, stopping New York in the red zone on their first series and getting lucky when Nick Folk missed a 24-yarder. Most of the rest of New York’s first-half drives were slowed by Carter. The Jets could only get to its own 35 on its second drive, one that ended with Carter’s first sack of the night on Sanchez. Carter helped slow New York’s third drive of the night by coming up with another sack when New York’s blocking scheme broke down. It was more of the same on the next sequence, where Carter and Anderson consistently brought good pressure on the Jets’ quarterback.

After New York’s first drive, the Patriots answered with a solid drive of their own that was slowed when they were called for an illegal substitution. The highlight of the series was likely a 12-yard connection to Ochocinco down the New England sideline, a play where the receiver could have had significantly more yardage had he not stepped out of bounds with no one around him. (He did a good job shaking cornerback Antonio Cromartie on the route.) It ended with a 50-yard field goal from kicker Stephen Gostkowski. On New England’s next drive, it was Ochocinco again, as No. 85 was left wide open on third down for 53 yards to the 17-yard line. That sequence also ended with a Gostkowski field goal, this one coming from 36 yards out that staked the Patriots to a 6-0 lead.

The Jets got on the board with 4:44 left in the half when Jamaal Westerman got to Brady in the end zone. The quarterback flung the ball away and was called for intentional grounding, giving the Jets the safety and making it 6-2. That set the stage for the two late touchdowns.

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl, Rob Gronkowski

Live Blog: Patriots take on Jets in huge AFC East showdown

11.13.11 at 7:49 pm ET
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Patriots/Jets Live Blog

Patriots inactives analysis: Patrick Chung won’t play

11.13.11 at 7:24 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots announced the following players as inactives for Sunday’s game against the Jets: linebackers Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes; quarterback Ryan Mallett; wide receiver Taylor Price; offensive lineman Donald Thomas; running back Shane Vereen and safety Patrick Chung.

The big news here is that Chung is out. The Oregon product, who suffered a right foot injury late in last week’s loss to the Giants, will sit for the second time this season. (He was inactive for the Week Three loss to the Bills because of a thumb injury.) He was on the field in sweats during warmups, but is apparently unable to give it a go against the Jets. It leaves the Patriots perilously thin at the safety spot, as New England will have Sterling Moore, James Ihedigbo, Sergio Brown and Ross Ventrone at the safety spot for the game.

Michele Tafoya of Sunday Night Football reported 40 minutes before kickoff that Moore, who was signed just this week off the practice squad, will get his first NFL career start.

The other mild surprise is that Price appears to be unavailable again because of a lingering hamstring issue. The young wide receiver has struggled to see the field over the course of his career and was a late scratch last week against the Giants because of a hamstring problem. Price’s absence could mean more reps for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. The rest of the inactives aren’t a surprise for several reasons. Both Fletcher and Spikes were downgraded to “out” on Friday, while Mallett, Vereen and Thomas are all healthy scratches.

As far as who isn’t on the list of inactives, tackle Nate Solder was downgraded to questionable late in the week because of a concussion, but it sounds like he’s good to go this week. (He was on the field during pregame warmups working with defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick giving it a shot, and it looks like he passed the test.) In addition, linebacker/defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was a healthy scratch the last two weeks, but will get the call against the Jets. And Shaun Ellis missed last week’s game against the Giants because of a rib injury he suffered against the Steelers, but will suit up against his old team. (It will be interesting to see how Ellis’ presence affects Deaderick, who picked up a lot of snaps last week in the absences of the veteran.)

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl, Patrick Chung

Setting the scene: Patriots-Jets

11.13.11 at 4:43 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Clear skies and temperatures right around 50 are expected for tonight’s tilt between the 5-3 Patriots and the 5-3 Jets at MetLife Stadium. There will be a breeze out of the south at 12 MPH but that’s calm by Meadowlands standards, where winds can always whip up inside the stadium.

With the Bills getting clobbered by the Cowboys, 44-7, earlier in the day in Texas, the winner of tonight’s game gets sole possession of first in the AFC East to start the second half of the season.

The Patriots are trying to avoid their first three-game losing skid since dropping four straight in 2002, a streak that began in late September and saw the Pats go winless in October.

As of Saturday night, the Patriots ruled out only two players heading into the game, as linebacker Dane Fletcher will miss his third straight game with a thumb injury and Brandon Spikes is out with a reported sprained MCL in his right knee.

Patrick Chung (foot) and Ryan Wendell (concussion) both returned to practice on Friday and were listed as questionable on the injury report. Expect Chung to play tonight, after he spoke to reporters on Friday and said “not to worry” about his status for the game.

The team did sign safety Ross Ventrone back to the active roster on Saturday as insurance for Chung and safety depth.

Nate Solder (concussion) appeared on the injury list on Saturday and is questionable.

The Jets enter the game remarkably healthy. Only cornerback Brodney Poole (knee) missed practice on Friday with an injury. He was listed as questionable. Tight end Shawn Nelson also missed Friday with an illness and was listed as questionable. The Jets did list 15 other players on their injury list but all fully participated in practice on Friday and are probable for the game.

Speaking of 2002, the Patriots are still tied with San Diego with the highest NFL winning percentage in division games from November through the end of the season.

The Patriots are 24-7 against AFC East foes in the last two months of the season, and have the chance to make some hay again this year as tonight’s game marks the first of three game games against the AFC East in the final eight weeks. This is the final divisional road game of the season, winning in Miami on opening night and losing a 21-0 lead against the Bills in Week 3 in Orchard Park, NY.

The game also marks the second of two straight against New York teams, following last week’s 24-20 loss to the Giants at Gillette last week. It’s the second time in franchise history the Patriots have faced the two New York teams in back-to-back weeks. In 1990, the Patriots finished out their 1-15 season with losses to the Jets in the Meadowlands and the Giants at Foxboro.

The Patriots have played in this stadium just once previously, losing 28-14 last season in Week 2, when the Patriots couldn’t protect a 14-7 second-quarter lead.

That was the game when Tom Brady forced the ball to Randy Moss twice, resulting in two of the four interceptions Brady would throw on his way to an MVP season.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, MetLife Stadium, Nate Solder

Fantasy Football: Week 10 starts and sits

11.12.11 at 11:24 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 10 starts and sits. We’€™ve highlighted some options that we like and some that we don’€™t like for the upcoming week’€™s games. If you need deeper analysis, please feel free to join us at Rotobahn.com and check out our comprehensive lineup rankings. If you want information on late-breaking injury information on game day, follow us on Twitter. Just follow the link on our home page. Good luck to all in Week 10!

Quarterbacks

Starts

Tony Romo vs Bills

Romo looked like he was throwing the ball well last week. The injury seems to be affecting him less and we like this matchup for him.  The Cowboys will make big plays on play-action and we see Romo throwing multiple scores and close to 300 yards. He’€™s a QB1 in week ten.

Tim Tebow @ Chiefs

Did you really think we’€™d pull back on him now? Say and think what you want about this kid, but he is built for fantasy football whether he succeeds as a NFL starter or not. They have embraced his ability as a runner and that is the key thing here. It seems that they have made the decision to not try and change him. That means lots of option and some targeted throws down the field. The bottom line is that the foot-points raise his fantasy floor to the point where he is a safe play. We see him as a QB1 this week.

Jay Cutler vs Lions

If you’€™ve been reading Rotobahn for the last two years, you know how much respect we have for Cutler. He’€™s really playing well right now and they seem to have found ways to work around their offensive line. Getting WR Earl Bennet back also seems to have helped as Cutler has a real trust factor with his old college teammate. He may not be a fantasy stud yet, but he is worth a start this week if you need him. He’€™s a fringe QB1 playing at home versus Detroit.

Sits

Alex Smith vs Giants

After what I saw last week, I am not looking to start any QB against the Giants and especially not a guy like Smith, who does not have the arm to make them pay for their aggression. The 49ers will probably win, but they will do it in typically ugly fashion.

Josh Freeman vs Texans

I am a big fan of Freeman’€™s, but you can do better right now. He just doesn’€™t have the kind of support that he had in 2010 as his number one receiver has struggled and his other targets have battled injuries. He has a chance to do well, but in a week with no byes, there are plenty of better options, especially in smaller leagues.

Running Backs

Starts

DeMarco Murray vs Bills

Are we guilty of just pimping our guy here? Yeah, maybe a little bit, but on the off chance that you are worried about the return of Felix Jones, we’€™d like to ease your worry. Jones may cut into Murray’€™s production party at some point, but we very much doubt that this week is that week. We’€™ve got the kid ticketed for RB1 production and he’€™s in my lineup in a few leagues over guys like Mendenhall and Chris Johnson for what that is worth.

Chris Johnson @ Carolina

A little ironic given my write-up on Murray, but I’€™d roll with CJ at this point unless you’€™d be benching a guy like DeMarco. Johnson looked much better last week and if they give him a few more touches, he could get back to being a solid weekly contributor.  Tennessee getting into the red zone with more consistency would help too. We see CJ as a strong RB2 play in week ten.

Roy Helu @ Dolphins

We hope you picked this guy up before the bust-out. You can’€™t say we didn’€™t warn you.  Helu now has a shot to become the clear-cut back in DC and we like his chances as long as they give him a legit opportunity. Nobody has ever gotten rich trying to read the mind of Mike Shanahan, but this is his guy. They drafted him pretty high and Helu was a volume back in college. The stage is set. All the things you look for are there. Helu could be a major fantasy asset for the rest of the season and he is obviously a great guy to own in all long term leagues. This week, he is a RB2 or strong flex and he has some nice upside too.

Ben Tate @ Bucs

More of an option in deeper leagues, but even with 10-14 touches, this kid can do serious damage. The Texans run the ball like nobody’€™s business and it really doesn’€™t matter which back is in there. The more Tate plays, the better he gets. He’€™s got flex appeal in week ten.

Sits

Brandon Jacobs @ 49ers

The urge to start him is strong with Ahmad Bradshaw out again, but proceed with caution and consider other options if you are deep. This matchup is potentially brutal as the 49ers’€™ front seven is playing great football. Jacobs has nice value if he starts and he’€™s worth a look as a flex here, but don’€™t expect big numbers unless he gets a few cheap scores.

LeGarrette Blount vs Texans

We are Blount fans at Rotobahn, but he could have problem in this game unless he gets going early. The way Houston is playing, they will have a chance to get a lead and to dominate time of possession with their two-headed monster running attack. Once behind, the Bucs will scrap Blount and go to the air. I’€™m not saying you need to bench the guy, but this is a week to at least consider other options. Check out our full rankings at Rotobahn.com and see if you have some better options before starting Blount.

Wide Receivers

Starts

Dez Bryant vs Bills

I know. We’€™ve been wrong on him a few times. At least we’€™re consistent, right?  Really though, with Austin out and with Romo getting healthier, we like Bryant to start doing the things he is capable of. Dez makes a strong start as a WR2 this week.

DeSean Jackson vs Cardinals

Here’€™s another guy that has cost me a few sawbucks in 2010. And, though I am sure most folks will be sticking with him this week, I wanted to point out that you are doing the right thing. We like him a lot in this matchup and while there’€™s risk, we think his upside in this game is way too big to bench. Stick with him.

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