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Patriots downgrade CB Alfonzo Dennard to out for Monday’s game

09.28.14 at 9:11 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

The Patriots announced Sunday that cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has been downgraded to out for Monday’s game against the Chiefs.

Dennard, who has been struggling with shoulder issues, will be sidelined for the third consecutive game. The 5-foot-10, 204-pound Dennard is in his third season with the Patriots. The 25-year-old has five picks over the course of his career, including three as a rookie in 2012.

With Dennard sidelined, expect a greater workload to fall on the shoulders of second-year corner Logan Ryan, who has seen the bulk of the playing time in Dennard’s place over the last three weeks. It will be interesting to see what happens at the corner spot next week for New England, as veteran Brandon Browner is set to come off his four-game ban following Monday’s game against the Chiefs.

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What we learned Sunday: J.J. Watt is a beast, Steve Smith is awesome and Adam Vinatieri is ageless

09.28.14 at 8:55 pm ET
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With the Patriots set to play Monday night, here’s a quick look at what we learned around the league Sunday, mostly from a New England perspective.

1. J.J. Watt could be an MVP.

Remarkably, the last defensive player to win MVP was Lawrence Taylor in 1986, but if he continues on his current path, Houston’s J.J. Watt could certainly make a case to be the next defensive player to take home the honor. The defensive lineman had six quarterback hurries and a pass defense before picking off an EJ Manuel pass and rumbling 80 yards for the pick-six to help lift the Texans past the Bills.

Through the first three games, the Patriots offense has five touchdowns. Watt has two of his own this year, and is just the second player since the merger with a receive touchdown and interception in the same season. (Ex-Pats linebacker and current Houston assistant Mike Vrabel was the first to turn the trick back in 2005.)

2. EJ Manuel is apparently suffering from a crisis of confidence. The second-year Buffalo quarterback was apparently pretty shaken in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Manuel ended the day 21-for-44 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Texans as the Bills lost their second straight to fall to 2-2 on the young season. To be fair, things were a little shaky around Manuel, given the fact that his offensive line was struggling, there were a couple of key drops and the fire-breathing monster known as Watt was on the other side of the ball. Coach Doug Marrone said after the game there were no plans to hand the reins to backup Kyle Orton, but the idea of jumpstarting the offense with a switch at quarterback has to be entering the minds of the Buffalo coaching staff.

3. Maybe the Dolphins weren’t as dysfunctional as we thought. The week of back-and-forth between Miami coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill ended Sunday in London, where the Dolphins absolutely crushed the Raiders, 38-14, at Wembley Stadium. Tannehill, who engaged in a weird public exchange with his coach after Philbin refused to name him the starter in the media, was an impressive 23-for-31 for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Meanwhile, the Raiders, who looked good last week when they came to Foxboro and put a scare in the Patriots, were a mess. Their issues were compounded by the fact that rookie quarterback Derek Carr left the game in the third quarter, and told the media after the game that he has a high ankle sprain and sprained MCL. Yikes.

4. The Jets are in trouble. New York struggled at home against the Lions, and it was another bad outing for quarterback Geno Smith, who was 17-for-33 for 209 yards, one touchdown and one pick in a 24-17 loss to Detroit. After the game, Rex Ryan said he was standing by Smith. “I’m confident in Geno. If Geno’s healthy, then Geno Smith will start,” Ryan told reporters after the game. “I’m not gonna replace him. I feel good about Geno, and again, I think he’s gonna get it turned. He’s a tough, resilient young man, and I think we’re gonna win.” Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound like Jets fans are going to stand by Geno.

Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told reporters after the game that fans who were booing Smith should “shut up.” Yikes.

5. Not everyone needs a punter.

Sunday’s game between the Packers and Bears was either the second or third game in NFL history without a punt. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-17 win over Chicago. The Packers, who had been suffering from offensive inconsistency over the course of the first three games of the year, scored on their first six possessions and finished with 358 total yards on the way to their fifth consecutive victory at Soldier Field. It was a bit of a redemption for Rodgers, who told Green Bay fans to “R-E-L-A-X” this week when they started worrying about the Packers‘ 1-2 start.

6. No one knows what to make of the Steelers.

There are weeks where the Steelers look ready to crush all those who come before them. Then, there are occasions like Sunday, where they melt down in the fourth quarter and end up losing a game to a Tampa Bay team ‘€¦ that lost to the Falcons by six touchdowns a week ago. Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson with the game-winner with six seconds left on the way to a shocking 27-24 win over host Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who were poised to move to 3-1 with the win, fell back to .500 with the surprising last-second loss. (Pittsburgh committed a whopping 13 penalties for 125 yards.)

7. Steve Smith is never not awesome.

As promised, the gritty receiver one-upped his old team. The former Panther lit up Carolina for seven catches — including an awesome reception on a tipped ball he ended up taking for a touchdown — for 139 yards and a pair of scores on the way to a 38-10 win over the Panthers. There wasn’t “blood and guts” like he promised, but Smith, who played 13 seasons in Carolina before he was cut in the offseason, clearly enjoyed making his old team eat a little crow after the contest. “I’m 35 years old and I ran by those guys like they were schoolyard kids,” the veteran said after the game. Meanwhile, while we were all upset about the state of the Panthers’ offense, it’s worth noting that Carolina has yielded 75 points in two games.

I want to know what this kid is thinking.

8. Adam Vinatieri is some sort of superhuman.

It’s remarkable to think that the former Patriots kicker is now in his ninth season in Indy, and while the 41-year-old isn’t the kicker he once was, he’s still money when it comes to working extra points and field goals. Through four games, he’s 8-for-8 on field goal attempts and 16-for-16 on extra-point attempts, including a pair of field goals and five extra points Sunday in the 41-17 win over the Titans.

Oh, and this happened 18 years ago.

9. Chip Kelly can feel Bill Belichick‘s pain.

Philly went West on Sunday and nearly knocked off the Niners, despite the fact that the Eagles continue to have serious offensive line issues. Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis went down in Week 1, and with starting right tackle Lane Johnson already serving a four-game suspension, things got even worse when starting center Jason Kelce went down last week with a sports hernia. Despite those woes, Philly nearly pulled off the upset, despite the fact that the Eagles’ offense didn’t pass midfield until the fourth quarter and it had just two more first downs (five) than turnovers (three) late in the third quarter. Things should get better next week when Johnson is eligible to return from his ban, but the fact that Kelce and Mathis won’t be back until the second half of the season should provide some interesting phone conversation between BFF’s Kelly and Belichick when it comes to commiserating about their woes.

10. The Patriots are in first place.

The Bills’ loss to the Texans in Houston allowed the 2-1 Patriots to sneak into first place in the AFC East.

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Week 4 Fantasy Football live chat with Pete Davidson, 11 a.m.

09.28.14 at 8:43 am ET
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Join fantasy football expert Pete Davidson of and in a live chat, kicking off at 11 a.m. Let Davidson help you set your lineup for all the Week 4 action. Get your questions in now …

Live Blog Week 4 Fantasy Football chat

10 things you have to know about Patriots-Chiefs

09.28.14 at 8:00 am ET
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It could be another big week for Julian Edelman. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

It could be another big week for Julian Edelman. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Here’s everything you need to know about the Monday night game between the Patriots and Chiefs.

Our three favorite matchups on the evening:

1. Wide receiver Julian Edelman vs. cornerback Marcus Cooper

This is one of the more winnable showdowns of the week for the Patriots. The eminently reliable Edelman has started the year on a roll with 22 catches (seventh in the league) over the first three games. Part of it is because quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t had too much time to go through his progressions, and so he tends to fall back to what he knows, which has been a steady diet of Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Cooper has been picked on over the course of the first three games, and it’s more than likely that the Patriots will try and find him in the passing game.

2. Left tackle Nate Solder vs. edge rusher/linebacker Tamba Hali

Over the first three games, when compared to his body of work over his first three years in the league, Solder has been a shell of himself. And while he’ll get some help this week from an extra tight end (Cameron Fleming?), he’ll have his hands full again on Sunday when he goes up against Hali, one of the better pass rushers in the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Hali has a pair of sacks on the season and seven quarterback hurries (per Pro Football Focus), and while there are several good pass rushers up and down the Kansas City front, but if Solder can manage to slow down Hali and keep Brady’s blind side clean, that’ll be a good start for the New England offensive line on the road to recovery.

3. Linebacker Jamie Collins vs. tight end Travis Kelce

Collins has struggled with a thigh injury since the start of the season, and despite the fact that he actually played last week, he was clearly limited, finishing the afternoon against the Raiders with 20 of a possible 60 defensive snaps, most of which came in the first half. When he’s been healthy, Collins has been the designated tight end stopper, and so it figures he’ll see a steady diet of Kelce. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder out of Cincinnati has emerged as a dependable presence in the passing game for Chiefs’ QB Alex Smith with 10 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown over the first three weeks. With running back Joe McKnight out for the year and Jamaal Charles probable because of a high ankle sprain, Kansas City is lacking dependable offensive options, which could make Kelce even more important to their success this week against New England.

4. Under the-radar opponent Patriots fans need to know

Kelce is the very image of an under-the-radar type who has the capability to do some damage to the New England defense. While he doesn’t necessarily have the resume of Rob Gronkowski, they are daily comparable when it comes to size and speed, as well as occasionally offbeat touchdown celebrations. Kelce missed the entire 2013 season because of a knee injury, but has certainly asserted himself as one to watch this week.

5. By the numbers: 29 — Per our pal B.J. Kissel, the Patriots defense has allowed 29 plays of at least 10 yards, which is tied for tops in the league. (The league average is 39.)
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NFL Week 4 picks: Stick with Patriots, go against Jets

09.27.14 at 5:49 pm ET
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As I have noted before, no one really knows anything about the NFL. There is zero chance anyone could have predicted that the Bengals, Cardinals and Eagles would be the last remaining undefeated teams. In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Info, there was only a 1-in-1,000 chance of this happening. So while so-called “experts” will use fancy techniques like All-22 game tape, statistical analysis or logical reason in order to make their picks, I will continue to trust in my whimsical panache and Forrest Gumption. (I apologize for that, it was just a really lazy excuse to bring up something that is really bothering me about Jenny Gump.)

This deceitful strumpet deserts Forest multiple times, encourages him to write while in Vietnam and then neglects to open a single letter, and is a known drug addict. Why should we trust anything she does? How am I, as a God-fearing American, really supposed to believe that Haley Joel Osment is Forrest’€™s kid? She contacts Forrest only after she learns she has a life-threatening illness. Forest had an IQ under 70 and this kid is a “Curious George” reading machine? Something doesn’t add up, and I’€™m not afraid to ask the tough questions. Is it so farfetched to think that Jenny changed her kid’s name and duped Forest in to taking care of him after she was gone? Now, I’€™m not making any accusations, all I’€™m doing is asking questions.

With that off my chest, just remember to never trust the football opinion of any random blogger on the Internet. On to the picks!

Lions -1.5 at Jets

Las Vegas is not run by idiots, so the only explanation for this absurdly small line is that Jets fans continue to put money on their hometown team. The Jets have a terrible QB and a depleted secondary. The Lions have a great defensive line and Megatron. I was a bit scared by the potential of Geno Smith throwing multiple interceptions and Michael Vick playing the entire second half, but then I remembered that after Fireman Ed quit, Jets fans had to be instructed on how to conduct the J-E-T-S chant. Gang Green has no shot in this game, especially not at home.

Pick: Lions -1.5

Titans -8 at Colts

The Titans have to be the most irrelevant team in all of football. If it weren’t for the bizarre Rob Bironas story, there would be no reason to talk about the organization. After Delanie Walker and Jake Locker, it’€™s really difficult to name a another Titans player. I originally picked this game so I could make a reference to the “Simpsons” episode where Bart, Milhouse, Martin and Nelson go to the World’€™s Fair, but then I remembered the Titans play in Nashville, not Knoxville, so there wouldn’t even be any shots of the famous Wigsphere. Then I remembered the game is being played in Indiana, making this reference even more asinine. The Titans have no business being on the field with Ugly Quarterback and the Indianapolis Colts. This game will be pretty unwatchable.

Pick: Colts -8

Falcons -3 at Vikings

Teddy Bridgewater will be making his first NFL start for the Vikings, and I don’€™t bet on rookie quarterbacks. That’€™s my entire reasoning for this pick, so I will use the rest of this space to complain about former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. I’€™m not sure if it’€™s the copious amounts of bronzer he wears, his vacant smile, or his inability to string together a coherent thought, but I refuse to accept he is a human being. His mere presence on camera makes me incredibly uncomfortable and makes the entire CBS broadcast entirely unwatchable. I am convinced he is some sort of football-analyzing drone sent from the future to distract us from our impending doom. Am I intimidated by his jawline? Is this just a backhanded way of me calling Gonzalez attractive? Does he sort of look like Christian Fauria with plastic surgery? More questions we may never have the answer to.

Pick: Falcons -3

Saints -3 at Cowboys

In my mind, the Cowboys have never been America’€™s team. Rather they have been America’€™s schadenfreude team. Nothing makes me happier than a watching Dallas lose in heartbreaking fashion. After local Dallas radio host Shan Shariff penned this article, arguing that Adrian Peterson needs a star on his helmet, my Cowboys schadenfreude has never been stronger. The Cowboys also have one of the worst defenses in the league.

Pick: Saints -3

Patriots -3.5 at Chiefs

I will never pick against the Pats and I don’€™t really have any strong feelings about Kansas City. It seems like an all right place. They have the Kansas City barbecue, are home to Count Basie and Kansas City jazz, and the Royals made the playoffs for the first time since 1985. After browsing the city’€™s Wikipedia page, I only found one thing to criticize. The official city nickname is “City of Fountains.” Apparently, Kansas City boasts the second-highest number of fountains of any city in the world after Rome. Wow, what a neat and pathetic fact! After more Wikipedia research, the fountains of Kansas City actually are pretty impressive. Well, now I feel like a darned fool. Can we just fast forward to next week when the Browns return from their bye and my irrational city hatred can continue unabashed.

Pick: Patriots -3.5

Last Week: 4-1-0
Season: 9-5-1

Patriots list 6 as probable for Monday, including CB Alfonzo Dennard, TE Rob Gronkowski and LB Jamie Collins

09.27.14 at 4:16 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

On Saturday, the Patriots listed six played as probable for Monday night’s game against the Chiefs, including cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Jamie Collins. In addition, the Patriots officially placed defensive lineman Sealver Siliga on injured reserve-designated for return with a foot injury.

Here’s the complete injury report

Did Not Participate — Placed on IR-DFR
DT Sealver Siliga (ankle)

Limited — Probable
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle)
LB Jamie Collins (thigh)
OL Dan Connolly (knee)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
S Don Jones (hamstring)

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Sunday NFL Notes: Is this the week Rob Gronkowski returns to full strength?

09.27.14 at 4:00 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski could take a sizable leap in playing time this week. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski could take a sizable leap in playing time this week. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. For the first time this season, tight end Rob Gronkowski played more than half the snaps. Last week against the Raiders, he was on the field for 42 of 73 snaps. That represents a bump from the first two weeks, where he was 38-of-86 in Week 1 and 28-of-67 in Week 2. In all, he’s played 48.5 percent of the snaps, and has 11 catches (on 23 targets) for 116 yards and two touchdowns. But if there’s a point in the schedule you want to start ramping him back up to what we’ll call Full-On Gronkowski Status, it’s these next two weeks against the Chiefs and Bengals. The Patriots offense can certainly use a jumpstart, and the idea of Gronkowski being unleashed could certainly give New England the spark it needs through what will be a difficult stretch. (Not just as a pass catcher, but also as a blocker.) For his part, Gronkowski was deferential to the coaching and training staff when asked about the possibility of more reps this week, but he certainly sounds like he ready for more action. “I’m a few games deep now — three games — so basically [I’m] progressing every week,” Gronkowski said this week. “It’s getting to the point now where we can start rolling more and more.” In his weekly conference call with reporters, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hinted that more could be in store for Gronkowski, saying he’s “happy with the things that he has done so far, and we will continue to add more as we go through the year.” It is worth mentioning that one of Gronkowski’s finest games came against the Chiefs back in 2011, when he had four catches (two of which went for touchdowns, one of which produced this memorable GIF) for 96 yards in a win over Kansas City in Foxboro.

2. Looking around the league, it’s hard not to draw at least a few parallels between the Patriots and the Packers at this point in the season as two established teams who have high hopes for the 2014 season, but have had some offensive issues in the early going. Green Bay has started the season 1-2, and a sizable portion for the slow start can be traced to a sluggish offense with a former MVP at the controls. The Green Bay offense is 28th in total yards, while the Packers have averaged just 18 points per game, 27th in the league. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has come in for some criticism, as his 62.7 completion rate would be the lowest of his career, and he’s failed to throw for at least 200 yards in two of the three games already this season. He’s missed on a few throws over the course of the first three games of the season, including a bad connection with usually trusted target Jordy Nelson on a key fourth-down play late in last Sunday’s loss to the Lions. On his show on ESPN Radio in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Rodgers had a brief message for panicking fans: “Five letters here. just for everybody out there in Packerland: R-E-L-A-X,” he said. “Relax. We’re going to be OK.” Rodgers has good reason to be confident, as Green Bay has started 1-2 the last two seasons, but on both occasions, ultimately made the playoffs.

3. From this viewpoint, we’€™ve never been shy about proclaiming our respect for veteran Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith, and that’€™s why we’€™re very excited about this weekend’s game between the Ravens and Panthers. (The planets have aligned to make sure they’re playing when New England’s on a Monday night, which makes it perfect.) In the offseason, Smith departed Carolina as a free agent and took shots at the Panthers on his way out of town. “Put your goggles on, ’cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere,” he said if his new team faced Carolina in 2014. The Panthers had some fun with it this week when Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams met the media wearing goggles, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco cautioned reporters earlier in the week against the idea of Baltimore leaning too heavily on Smith as it relates to the revenge factor. “If I pay much attention to that maniac on Sunday, who knows how I’m going to play?” Flacco asked. “He’s going to want the ball — probably every single down — and if I don’t get it to him, and I pay attention to how he reacts to that, then I’m going to be in trouble, and I’m going to feel bad, and then we’re not going to play the way we should.” Regardless of where you stand on Smith, it promises to be compelling theater.

4. Rookie running back James White has been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season, which has sparked some questions about his spot on the roster and his future with the team. At this point, unless there’s a major injury to one of the running backs, White seems ticketed for a redshirt year as he sits and learns about life in the NFL. Taking a redshirt year isn’t necessarily a slap in the face — it’s something the Patriots have utilized frequently with young players as a developmental decision, keeping them on the team without trying to get them through to the practice squad (and expose them to the rest of the league via waivers). While he struggled with injury as a rookie, Shane Vereen is one player who ended up taking a redshirt year as a rookie in 2011. That move paid off, as the Cal product has emerged as one of the best multidimensional options on the roster. Considering the full house at running back, White knows he’s the low man on the totem pole, and while he would desperately love to play, he understands the reality of the situation. One of the youngest players on the team (he’s currently one of four 22-year-olds on the roster), he knows he’ll get his chance sooner rather than later — he could ultimately step into a major role in 2015, particularly because Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden are all in the final years of their current contracts.

5. Three games into the season and four Patriots players are still possibilities to go wire-to-wire this year. On offense, quarterback Tom Brady and left tackle Nate Solder have played every snap through three games. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the football, linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower have not missed a single defensive play through the first four games of the season. Last year after three games, the Patriots had four players who hadn’t taken a single snap off: Brady, Devin McCourty, Ryan Wendell, and Logan Mankins. (In the end, Wendell was the only player on either offense or defense who played every snap last season.)

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