|11.05.10 at 9:00 am ET|
So the Patriots are sitting pretty at 6-1 as they face Cleveland, who since returning to the NFL in 1999, has struggled almost constantly, having made the playoffs just once. On top of that, Cleveland is apparently starting a rookie quarterback. So there’s no danger, right?
Not so fast. This Cleveland team is better than past editions, especially on defense. And when you play defense like the Pats have, every week is a bit of a high wire act. New England is definitely the better team, but this game is worth watching.
Before getting into the nuggets, let me tell you about a stat that I’ve introduced this week: Net passing yards as a percentage of gross passing yards. Since net passing yards are basically gross yards minus yards lost by sacks, this percentage provides a “sack yards rate”. For example, if you throw for 100 gross yards and lose 15 yards on sacks, your net passing is 85 yards and the net is 85 percent of the gross. But if you throw for 300 yards and lose that same 15 yards, the net is 95 percent. Two completely different “rates”. Let me know your thoughts.
Enough of that, let’s get to the stats:
* – New England leads the NFL in points per game (29.3) while the Browns rank 31st at 16.9. Keep an eye on the teams coming back out after halftime: In the third quarter, the Patriots lead the league, averaging 9.4 points, while the Browns have managed just 1.9 on average in that stanza.
* – The Browns have scored exactly 23 points in four of their last seven home games and have averaged 18.4 points in that span. In their seven home games prior to those, they never reached 23 points and averaged just 7.8 points.
* – So far in 2010, New England’s pass defense ranks last in the league in completion percentage allowed:
69.8% – Patriots
69.2% – Falcons
68.0% – Steelers
Combined records of those three teams: 16-5.
* – Net first downs in 2010: New England minus-18 and Cleveland minus-19. San Diego is +74.
* – The Patriots are fumbling less often than anybody this season (0.46 percent of offensive touches and none in their last three games) while the Browns are struggling at forcing fumbles (1.02 percent; 28th).
* – New England is tied for first (with Indianapolis) in scoring efficiency, having put up points on 42 percent of their offensive possessions this season. The Browns rank 27th at 26 percent.
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|11.05.10 at 8:47 am ET|
Brian Allee-Walsh of NewOrleans.com reports that the Patriots were engaged in trade talks for Saints running back Pierre Thomas on the eve of the Oct. 19 trade deadline. New Orleans reportedly was asking for a cornerback in return. Thomas’ versatile skill set would have fit well in New England’s system, but, according to a source, talks soured when the Patriots wanted the Saints to add a draft pick.
Thomas, who has consistently been one of the most effective backs on a per-touch basis he past few years, hasn’t played since Week 3 after suffering an ankle injury. Sean Payton had reportedly been growing frustrated with Thomas’ inability to recover from the ankle sprain.
|11.05.10 at 7:56 am ET|
Not a bad first effort last week. As is expected when you’re swinging for the fences, you either knock some out of the park or strike out miserably.
LeGarrette Blount, for example, rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns in emerging as Tampa Bay’s featured back. Matthew Stafford wasn’t too shabby either, displaying the predicted signs of rust early, but eventually lobbing four touchdown passes (three in the second half). I’ll milk my trot around the bases, thanks.
And yes, Blair White (zero catches on zero targets, nice) and Marshawn Lynch (a robust 7 yards on nine carries) were both typos that must have been missed in editing. I’ll be sure to proofread this week’s advice much more carefully.
All the rest were at least serviceable, probably not single-handily winning you any games, but definitely not losing you any either. So, two crushing home runs, two miserable whiffs, and a bunch of singles and even doubles? I’ll take it.
On to the Week 9 advice. As a reminder, these are players who are generally started in about half or less leagues, but who I think warrant consideration in every lineup. So, yes, I do think Adrian Peterson will run wild against the same Cardinals defense Blount KO’ed (Oh, he’s still got it! I’ll be here all week). And Philip Rivers is bound to keep padding his league-leading passing statistics against Houston’s league-worst secondary.
But here are some overlooked guys who could really make a splash if you’ve got a hole in your lineup.
Eli Manning at Seattle
Started in only a third of Yahoo! leagues this week, Manning should terrorize a Seattle secondary that has been hobbled with injuries to starting cornerbacks Kelly Jennings and Walter Thurmond. Though that pair projects to return this Sunday, they still won’t be at full strength and it could hardly matter. The team holds the 29th-ranked pass defense in the league and should have a hard time containing a loaded passing attack led by Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. If the prestigious Jason Campbell can post 310 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, there’s no reason Manning can’t. In a matchup that parallels his nickname, roll with ‘Easy’ for some big fantasy points.
|11.05.10 at 7:22 am ET|
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning as part of WEEI’s Patriots Friday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“We haven’t really talked about Eric Mangini at all, to be honest with you,” Mayo said. “It’s just about how they beat the Saints, how they’re a good team, how they have a great running attack. We need to go out and win this game.”
Added Mayo: “The theme of the week is: Six games won’t get you anywhere. That’s our attitude, and we’re fighting to keep winning.”
The Cleveland attack is led by running back Peyton Hillis. “He’s big guy, strong runner, and it will be a great challenge for me,” Mayo said. Mayo added that Hillis weighs 250 pounds, while the linebacker checks in at 248. “I’m trying to get up to 250 now, make it an even contest,” Mayo said.
With Randy Moss coming under heavy criticism for his poor treatment of Vikings caterers prior to his release by Minnesota, Mayo was asked if he ever saw similar behavior from the receiver in Foxboro. “I never did,” Mayo said. “That kind of surprised me when I heard about it. He was always a great guy and very hospitable to the staff here.”
Mayo also talked about Moss’ postgame comments Sunday praising New England. “Randy as well and organization formed a great relationship,” Mayo said. “Any time you leave on terms like that, it’s very tough. Getting those compliments from a guy like Randy means a lot to the team.”
Asked how he would feel if a Patriots player praised his former team in the same way, Mayo replied: “I would feel kind of bad, to be honest with you. But at the same time, he’s a grown man. He makes those decisions. As long as he’s playing on the field, then we can’t say anything about it.”
|11.04.10 at 4:13 pm ET|
|11.04.10 at 4:08 pm ET|
Patriots Injury Report
Did Not Participate
S Jarrad Page (calf)
RB Fred Taylor (toe)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
|11.04.10 at 1:32 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ After missing a day of practice on Wednesday, tight end Aaron Hernandez was back for the start of Thursday’s practice session for Patriots. The session, which was held in the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse in full pads, was only missing two players: running back Fred Taylor, who has been slowed by a toe issue, and safety Jarrad Page, who suffered a calf injury a few weeks back against the Ravens.
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