It Is What It Is
Follow football writer Christopher Price at In addition, get the latest updates at
A Patriots Blog Blog Network

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 9: Cream continues to rise

10.31.12 at 12:15 am ET
By   |   Comments

How powerful are the top 10 teams in this week’s WEEI NFL Power Rankings? Well, powerful enough to have gone a perfect 8-0 in Week 8 (the Texans (2) and Ravens (8) had byes). Remarkably, the top 10 stayed the same for the second week in a row. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have been at the No. 1 slot for five straight weeks.

On the other side, teams positioned from Nos. 11-19 in last week’s rankings weren’t as lucky. They combined for an 0-9 record in Week 8. The Eagles (16) and Jets (24) both fell significantly after suffering embarrassing losses.

We’re halfway through the season and some teams have overachieved while others have disappointed greatly. At the start of the season, no one would have thought the game between the Dolphins (15) and Colts (25) in Week 9 would have any playoff implications — but astonishingly enough, it does. On the other hand, the Saints (19) and Panthers (30) haven’t come close to living up to expectations. Those two teams have a combined 3-11 record.

1. (1) Falcons (7-0) ‘€” They’ve proven they can come from behind, they’ve proven they can blow teams out, and they’ve proven they can win on the road. The Falcons are the league’s best team and the only remaining unbeaten.

2. (2) Texans (6-1) ‘€” The best team in the AFC will look to pick up right where it left off after the bye week. The Texans are ranked in the top five in both pass and run defense. This is a team in line to not only win its second playoff game in franchise history but also to go deep in the postseason.

3. (3) Giants (6-2) ‘€” It wasn’t a pretty victory, but it was a win against a divisional opponent nonetheless. The Giants have a comfortable 3½-game lead in the NFC East. 

4. (4) 49ers (6-2) ‘€” If the 49ers offense can play as methodically and efficiently as it did on Monday night, San Francisco can be the most complete team in the league. Defensively, we know what this team is capable of. The Niners allowed a total of seven rushing yards against the Cardinals. That’s domination.

5. (5) Packers (5-3) ‘€” There are reports that the Packers might be interested in trading for Steven Jackson before the Thursday deadline. That would be a solid move for a team that ranks 26th in the league in the running game. Starting running back Alex Green averaged just 2.5 yards per carry against the league’s worst run defense, the Jaguars.

6. (6) Bears (6-1) ‘€” The Bears D already has returned six interceptions for touchdowns and is one of the main reasons the team is in first place in the NFC North. If Jay Cutler can stay healthy, the Bears can go deep into the playoffs. That’s a big IF. The Bears QB has been under duress a lot over the last two weeks and has been sacked 11 times in that span.

7. (7) Patriots (5-3) ‘€” The Patriots historically get better when the month of November rolls around. It doesn’t hurt that six of their remaining eight games are against the Bills, Colts, Dolphins, Jets and Jaguars. There’s no reason to believe the Pats can’t lock up at least the No. 2  seed in the AFC.

8. (8) Ravens (5-2) ‘€” Ravens fans are hoping to see more Ray Rice in the team’s offensive game plan in the second half of the season. The star running back is the team’s best weapon offensively, but for some reason his workload has been limited at times. Baltimore will limp out of the bye week without defensive standouts Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis.

9. (9) Broncos (4-3) ‘€” We already know how impressive Peyton Manning has been this season, but the Broncos D really stepped up in Sunday night’s win over the Saints. Denver held the Saints to just 14 points and Drew Brees passed for just 213 yards. The Saints offense looked out of rhythm for most of the night, and a lot of credit has to go to Denver’s defensive unit.

10. (10) Steelers (4-3) ‘€” Jonathan Dwyer has revived the Steelers running game and offense. In two starts, the Steelers running back has averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The strong running game also puts less pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and keeps opposing defenses guessing.

11. (11) Seahawks (4-4) ‘€” Since defeating the Patriots in dramatic fashion, the Seahawks are 0-2. All four of their losses have come on the road. Pete Carroll told local radio station ESPN 710 in Seattle that his team “could easily be 8-0.” The problem is that argument could be reversed pretty easily — especially if you look at the legendary “Fail Mary” game against the Packers earlier in the year.

12. (13) Cowboys (3-4) ‘€” Tony Romo already has thrown 13 interceptions this season, three more than his total all of last year. The Cowboys are a mediocre team that isn’t disciplined enough to be successful in the NFL.

13. (14) Vikings (5-3) ‘€” Christian Ponder‘s play of late has to be a concern for Vikings fans. After starting the season without throwing an interception, he’s now thrown at least one in four straight games.

14. (20) Lions (3-4) ‘€” The young Matthew Stafford certainly has a knack for leading his team to victory in the fourth quarter. The Lions QB has nine career game-winning drives after downing the Seahawks on Sunday. All three Lions wins this season have come by way of the game-winning drive.

15. (21) Dolphins (4-3) ‘€” The Dolphins have rattled off three straight wins, and there finally is postseason hope for fans in Miami. Two of their three losses have come in overtime. It was a good sign that backup quarterback Matt Moore was able to enter the game without any hiccups. Rookie Ryan Tannehill‘s status for Sunday’s game is up in the air, but the quarterback said he was “optimistic” he’d be ready to play.

16. (12) Eagles (3-4) ‘€” Michael Vick sure looked and sounded like a beaten man following his team’s loss to the Falcons. The Eagles’ season is quickly spiraling out of control, and you have to wonder how much longer Andy Reid will survive.

17. (15) Chargers (3-4) ‘€” No seat is hotter than Norv Turner‘s. The Chargers’ embarrassing 7-6 loss to the lowly Browns was just another step closer to the inevitable firing of Turner. This team has way too much talent for a 3-4 record.

18. (17) Cardinals (4-4) ‘€” They didn’t lose in September but didn’t win in October. The Cardinals have lost four straight and quickly are losing ground in the NFC. Until the Cards learn how to protect the quarterback, they will be a pretender.

19. (16) Saints (2-5) ‘€” Despite the return of interim head coach Joe Vitt, the Saints defense showed no improvement. The Saints are the first team to allow at least 400 yards in seven straight games. Ouch.

20. (18) Redskins (3-5) ‘€” The defense has a poor pass rush and an even worse secondary. The Redskins also missed a lot of tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. Halfway into the season it’s clear that the team was right to draft Robert Griffin, but Washington is a few pieces away from being a legit Super Bowl contender.

21. (24) Buccaneers (3-4) ‘€” Greg Schiano has done a terrific job changing the losing culture in Tampa Bay. This is a young team that has shown improvement throughout the year. The Bucs won just four games all of last year.

22. (22) Bengals (3-4) ‘€” Andy Dalton has thrown at least one interception in all seven of his games this year. That’s one important area he’ll have to improve in during the second half of the season if the Bengals want a chance at making the playoffs for the second straight year.

23. (27) Raiders (3-4) ‘€” They’ve won two straight, but those were against teams ranked 31 and 32. The Raiders’ schedule gets a little more difficult the next three weeks as they face the Bucs, Ravens and Saints.

24. (19) Jets (3-5) ‘€” Rex Ryan probably has one of the most predictable dilemmas of the season. That dilemma is whether or not to start Tim Tebow at quarterback over Mark Sanchez. As soon as the team traded for Tebow, it was obvious that a few bad games for Sanchez would result in an overwhelming push for “Tebow Time.” Jets fans are eager for anything but what they’ve gotten so far. Sanchez has proven what he can do and what his limitations are. This team isn’t going far with Sanchez behind center. Why not try something else?

25. (28) Colts (4-3) ‘€” Many believed the Colts would be improved, but it’s been remarkable how fast this team has progressed from last year. A record over .500 seven games into the season is quite a feat for a team that didn’t win a game until December last year.

26. (23) Titans (3-5) ‘€” The Titans defense struggles in many different areas. The pass rush is weak, the run defense is terrible, and on Sunday, the communication was terrible. The Titans lined up with only 10 men on the field twice during the Colts’ game-winning overtime drive.

27. (25) Bills (3-4) ‘€” The Bills spent the offseason improving their defense, but those signings have shown little positive results. The Bills run defense is the worst in the league and the team is allowing an average of 32.4 points per game.

28. (26) Rams (3-5) ‘€” The Rams’ lack of weapons on offense makes it difficult for them to compete against some of the elite teams in the league. Sam Bradford needs more talented receivers to target. Heading into the bye, Danny Amendola should be ready to get back on the field when the Rams play the 49ers in two weeks.

29. (30) Browns (2-6) ‘€” Coach Pat Shurmur gave his players the opportunity to take Monday off after a huge win on Sunday, but they decided to show up for work anyway. The Browns are a young team, and the most important thing right now is that they play hard and continue to show improvement week after week.

30. (29) Panthers (1-6) ‘€” Cam Newton has been subject to a lot of criticism. The Panthers have lost five straight games, and the second-year QB has taken a step back from his rookie season. Newton’s fourth-quarter interception was returned for a touchdown. He’s not protecting the football and that’s been an issue the team has struggled to overcome throughout the year.

31. (31) Jaguars (1-6) ‘€” If your team has the league’s worst passing offense, that usually translates into a very subpar record in the NFL. Mike Mularkey has yet to find a way to get first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon more involved in the offense. For all the hype, the fifth overall pick has been disappointing to say the least.

32. (32) Chiefs (1-6) ‘€” The Chiefs have been outscored by their opponents by an astounding 89 points this season. People in Kansas City no longer have to watch the games to see if the Chiefs will win, they just have to watch to see how much they’re going to lose by.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Drew Brees, Mark Sanchez, NFL Power Rankings

Josh McDaniels happy with performance of Patriots offense against Rams

10.30.12 at 8:05 pm ET
By   |   Comments

For the Patriots offense, Sunday represented one of the high-water marks of the 2012 season. Against the Rams, New England was able to put up 45 points (the second-best point total of the season), post 300-plus yards passing and 150-plus yards on the ground for the second time all year and score touchdowns on its first five possessions. All that was punctuated by the fact that quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t sacked for the first time all year, and you could understand why offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was happy with the performance.

But on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, New England’s offensive coordinator said there was still room for improvement.

“When you go into any week you hope to put together a plan that gives your guys a chance to go out there and execute and play fast and hopefully be productive, and then [when] the players go out and play the way they did it always makes you feel good,” McDaniels said. “There definitely, certainly [are] things we need to do better and we can improve on. I would say [there are] plenty of things over the course of any game that you can do better.”

McDaniels said one of the things that impressed him the most about New England’s offensive effort was the fact that the Patriots adapted some defensive looks they hadn’t seen before.

“I thought our guys did a good job of executing against some different looks that we hadn’€™t seen,” he said. “St. Louis presented us with some different challenges that we hadn’€™t necessarily seen before, but our guys followed their rules and reacted and executed even so and I think that’€™s a good thing and we need to do that on a consistent basis. It’€™s something that we haven’€™t necessarily done each week for four quarters and that has to be a focus for us going forward.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady,

With bye week looming, expect Patriots to dive into self-scouting process

10.30.12 at 7:18 pm ET
By   |   Comments

With the bye week, the Patriots’€™ coaching staff will get a few extra days to do some self-scouting and examine what sort of things they’€™re doing right, as well as some things they might need some work on. According to Bill Belichick, the self-scouting process involves ‘€œa combination of things,’€ including some statistical analysis, film study, meetings with positional coaches and looking at how other teams have played them.

‘€œWe take a look at our statistical information, what we’€™ve done, how productive it has or hasn’€™t been in all aspects, see what tendencies we have created and whether we’€™re happy with those tendencies or whether we want to change them,’€ Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. ‘€œThen we go back and look at each of the individual plays and groups of plays and see if there’€™s something that jumps out or maybe we go into it looking for something and see what we can find.

‘€œSometimes we just look at it, and you see a group of 15 or 20 plays in a certain situation ‘€“ red area, two minute, third down, outside runs, inside runs, whatever it happens to be. Sometimes something just jumps out at you,’€ he added. ‘€œIt’€™s probably something you’€™re aware of, but maybe it’€™s a little bit more prevalent than what you expected — the self-scouting process, the film evaluation, kind of taking a look at how other teams have played us, if there’€™s a common thread there, if we’€™re kind of seeing the same coverages or the same front or the same plays or the same formations are repeating.’€

On the offensive side of the ball, Josh McDaniels said the self-scouting process is all about being able to ‘€œidentify areas that you can make some progress and/or make some improvements — or at least make your players aware of some things we need to try to do better.’€ But you also have to be mindful of the time you do have.

‘€œYou can’€™t hit everything in a bye week. It’€™s too short in terms of time that you have with the payers,’€ the Patriots offensive coordinator said Tuesday. ‘€œBut if we find a few things that we feel like can make a difference for us in some area of our games, that’€™s definitely something you try to get done. I think if you try to tackle 100 things you probably don’€™t get anything accomplished.

‘€œWe’€™re in the process now of just trying to look back over the first half of the season and maybe more specifically the last so many games here and try to focus on some things that we think can make us better heading into the last eight games.’€

According to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the key is to pinpoint a few areas of emphasis — not give players a series of ‘€œmass pieces.’€

‘€œObviously that’€™s a big part of this week for us certainly — to take a look at everything that we’€™re doing and see some areas where we can improve and hopefully find some areas where we are doing some things that are also OK and good, and things that we can build off of,’€™ Patricia said. ‘€œSo we’€™ll certainly take a look at that as well.

‘€œHopefully [you] try to find a couple areas once you take a look at it and show the players a couple avenues where we can really do some things better and improve that would really make a difference in our team. I think you’€™ve got to try to narrow that down — after you take a good look at all of it — and give them a smaller scope so that you’€™re not just looking at everything and try to get something done instead of just giving them mass pieces.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, matt patricia,

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.30.12 at 3:46 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Eight weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 156 (150 rushes, 6 catches). 17 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 68 (49 rushes, 19 catches). 2 negative runs, 1 negative reception.
WR Wes Welker: 60 (0 rushes, 60 catches). 2 negative receptions.
RB Brandon Bolden: 45 (43 rushes, 2 catches). 7 negative runs.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 43 (0 rushes, 43 catches).
WR Brandon Lloyd: 37 (0 rushes, 37 catches).
RB Shane Vereen: 20 (17 rushes, 3 catches). 1 negative run
TE Aaron Hernandez: 18 (1 rush, 17 catches). 1 negative reception
WR Julian Edelman: 15 (2 rushes, 13 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
QB Tom Brady: 11 (11 rushes, 0 catches.) 14 sacks and 5 kneel downs.
WR Deion Branch: 5 (0 rushes, 5 catches)
QB Ryan Mallett: 3 (3 rushes, all kneel downs)
TE Daniel Fells: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)

TOTAL: 486 touches (276 rushes, 210 catches): 33 negative plays, plus 14 sacks and eight kneel downs.

By position
Running back: 289 touches (259 rushes, 30 catches). 27 negative runs, 1 negative reception.
Wide receiver: 117 touches (2 rushes, 115 catches). 3 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Tight end: 66 touches (1 rush, 65 catches). 1 negative reception.
Quarterback: 14 touches (14 rushes, 0 catches)

Read More: offensive opportunities,

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

10.30.12 at 12:31 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Through eight weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 48 penalties (16th in the league) for a total of 394 yards (18th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 35 yards
Team: four penalties (illegal formation, illegal shift, illegal block above the waist, defensive holding), 25 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: three penalties (two encroachment, defensive offsides), 15 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: two penalties (defensive holding, unnecessary roughness), 20 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: two penalties (defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 19 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
OL Donald Thomas: two penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
OT Sebastian Vollmer: two penalties (illegal formation, false start), 10 yards
DE Chandler Jones: two penalties (encroachment, defensive offsides) 10 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: two penalties (defensive pass interference) 8 yards
S Pat Chung: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 40 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
WR Brandon Lloyd: one penalty (offensive pass interference), 10 yards
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: one penalty (defensive holding), 10 yards
C Ryan Wendell: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding’€“punt return team), 10 yards
ST Nate Ebner: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
QB Tom Brady: one penalty (intentional grounding), 10 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
G Logan Mankins: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
OT Nate Solder: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
ST Matthew Slater: one penalty (offsides on free kick), 5 yards
TE Daniel Fells: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 12 yards
DL Jake Bequette: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Cornerback: Seven penalties for 75 yards
Offensive line: Seven penalties for 45 yards
Tight end: Seven penalties for 52 yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper, kick/punt units): Six penalties for 44 yards
Defensive line: Six penalties for 30 yards
Linebacker: Five penalties for 33 yards
Team: Four penalties for 25 yards
Wide receiver: Three penalties for 25 yards
Safety: Two penalties for 55 yards
Quarterback: One penalty for 10

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Nine
Defensive holding: Seven
Defensive pass interference: Six
Offensive holding: Six
Encroachment: Four
Offensive pass interference: Four
Defensive offsides: Three
Illegal block above the waist: Two
Illegal formation: Two
Unnecessary roughness: One
Intentional grounding: One
Personal foul: One
Illegal shift: One
Offsides on free kick: One

Notes: By way of comparison, through the first eight games in 2011, the Patriots were flagged for 52 penalties for 471 yards. (For a complete look at last year’s numbers through eight games, click HERE.) … Biggest dropoff per position continues to be the offensive line, which was flagged for 16 penalties for 125 yards through eight games last year. This season, it’s seven penalties for 45 yards. Biggest uptick comes at corner, as they had four for 55 through eight games in 2011 — this year, it’s seven penalties for 75 yards. … Interesting to see some of the penalty spikes over the last couple of weeks. Last week against the Jets, the Patriots entered the game with three defensive holding calls, but picked up four more (three were accepted) in the win over New York. On Sunday against the Rams, New England was flagged three times for encroachment — a spike considering the fact that the Patriots were hit with one encroachment call through the first seven games of the year. … After sprinting out to a lead with four penalties over the first five weeks of the season, Gronkowski has gone penalty-free over the last three weeks.

Read More: penalties,

Pressure Points: Which Pats defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2012?

10.30.12 at 11:18 am ET
By   |   Comments

Through eight weeks, the Patriots have 30 quarterback hits and 17 sacks (tied for 15tth in the league) as a team. Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2012 season:

Quarterback hits
DE Chandler Jones: Nine
DE Rob Ninkovich: Six
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Three
LB Brandon Spikes:
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: Three
DL Vince Wilfork: Two
DE Trevor Scott: One
LB Jerod Mayo: One
DL Brandon Deaderick: One
DL Kyle Love: One

Jones: 6 (33 yards)
Ninkovich: 5 (29 yards)
Hightower: 2 (10 yards)
Cunningham: 1.5 (15 yards)
Love: 1.5 (4 yards)
Mayo: 1 (7 yards)

By way of comparison, through eight games in 2011, the Patriots had 15 sacks and 40 quarterback hits.

Read More: pressure points,

Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.30.12 at 10:25 am ET
By   |   Comments

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game through the first eight weeks of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker:
60 catches on 83 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 37 catches on 69 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 43 catches on 64 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: 17 catches on 24 targets
RB Danny Woodhead: 19 catches on 22 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 13 catches on 19 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Six catches on 10 targets
WR Deion Branch: Five catches on 12 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: Two catches on two targets
RB Shane Vereen: Three catches on four targets
TE Daniel Fells: Two catches on six targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: Two catches on two targets
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
TOTALS: 210 catches on 319 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 115 catches on 183 targets
Tight end: 65 catches on 98 targets
Running back: 30 catches on 38 targets

Read More: targets,
Latest on Twitter
Draft Kings
Patriots Box Score
Patriots Schedule
Player News
Patriots Headlines
NFL Headlines
Tips & Feedback