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Peter King on M&M: ‘I don’t think there’s anybody really to be afraid of in the AFC’

12.20.13 at 1:23 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game and talk about other NFL news.

The Ravens had major personnel changes in the offseason, but King said they’ve started to return to their physical style the last few weeks.

“I think that what has happened over the years is that they have been able to be really physical and be able to run the ball very well, which is why this year is such a strange year for the Ravens,” King said. “It’s almost like they’ve changed this year — not because they wanted to change, but almost because they had to change, because they just simply cannot run the ball as well as they have been able to do so in the past.

“In the past they were obviously going to hand the ball to Ray Rice a lot, and they’re going to basically let him control a lot of these games. And I think a couple of things have made a difference this year. Recently they’ve been running the ball better, without any question. But I do think in general, missing Matt Birk [who retired] has hurt them. Marshal Yanda has not played nearly as well. Last year toward the end of the year they got really good play, solid play at the left tackle from Bryant McKinnie. They ended up having to trade for Eugene Monroe because McKinnie wasn’t playing as well there this year.

“Look, they’re better in the running game now than they were two months ago. But still, that’s not going to be quite the edge that the Ravens have had on the Patriots in the past.”

The Broncos appear headed for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, but King said the injury-riddled Patriots are right in the mix despite some recent struggles.

“One of the things I look at this year, as much as any other year in recent memory, is who’s going to be playing well in Week 15, 16, 17,” King said. “Now, obviously, I look at a team like the Denver Broncos and I say they very well might set all these records that you’re talking about for points scored and everything like that. But the fact is, they’re going to play teams that are really familiar with them in the playoffs. And San Diego was one of those teams — they’re not going to play San Diego in the playoffs — but San Diego is one of those teams that’s really familiar with them, knows how to play them. And basically really shut them down last week.

“I don’t think that there’s a team that you can look at in the month of January right now in the AFC where you say I can rely on them to play a certain way. I think it’s going to be absolutely wide open, which is why I think it’s a good year, if you’re thinking that the Patriots might overachieve in a particular year, this would be a great year for it. Because clearly you’re at the point where they’ve lost so many weapons on both sides of the ball that you say, well, you know, reload for next year. But not this year, because I don’t think there’s anybody really to be afraid of in the AFC.”

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Read More: Peter King, ray rice,

Bill Belichick on Ozzie Newsome: ‘I probably learned more from him than he learned from me’

12.20.13 at 12:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When Bill Belichick repeats something, it usually means he has a message he wants everyone to hear.

That message Friday, two days before taking on the Ravens again, was his respect and admiration of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. Belichick stepped up to the microphone Friday and repeated his praise of Newsome and the Ravens front office.

Belichick admires Newsome because, like the Patriots, Newsome and the Ravens have stuck to their principles in replacing players and building their organization around fundamental football beliefs.

Where did Newsome learn that?

“My first year in Cleveland was Ozzie’€™s first year not playing,” Belichick said of the Hall of Fame tight end. “He had retired after the ‘€™90 season and we sat down, it’€™s one the first things I did when I took the job. We sat down, talked to Ozzie about his future. He wanted to have a future in the organization, he wasn’€™t sure if it was in coaching or scouting or some other aspect of public relations or player development or whatever it was. He did a number of different things for me there. He coached, he was in the scouting department ‘€“ similar kind of maybe to what Nick [Caserio] has done here, kind of going a little bit back and forth. I think in the end probably all those experiences benefitted him because he got an appreciation of the scouting end, the player end of it ‘€“ of course he had been a player so he had great familiarity of what it was like to be a player in the NFL ‘€“ but scouting players, developing players, being a coach, creating game plans, making personnel decisions from a coach, as opposed to as a scout, and all those things.”

But Belichick went further.

“He did a great job for me and I learned an awful lot from him, again because of his experience as a player and how his playing career ‘€“ he was a wide receiver in college and then he became a tight end so there was a lot of development and progression of his career,” Belichick said. “Like every player, had a great career, peaked and at the end was at a different point in his career and how that whole transition worked for him. He taught me an awful lot about that and just the whole passing game, receiving, being a receiver, playing for different quarterbacks, playing in different offensive systems as he did and so forth. He was a great resource for me. He taught me an awful lot and he’€™s been very complimentary about his comments of what he learned from me but I think I probably learned more from him than he learned from me.

“He’€™s a very astute, sometimes quiet kind of guy, but the wheels are always turning, he’€™s taking a lot in. when he speaks, you listen because you respect him and you know that he’€™s just not saying things to hear himself talk. He’€™s saying them because he’€™s given it a lot of thought and he has a very important observation or opinion to share. He’€™s had a great career. I can’€™t think of many people that did what he did as a player and then in his current position and all the other things along the way ‘€“ as a scout, as an assistant coach and so forth. He’€™s a pretty special person, special football person too.”

Belichick knows full well how hard it is to sustain greatness and excellence in the NFL. This year, the Ravens started 4-6 and barely had a heartbeat in the AFC playoff picture. They’ve won four straight, thanks in part to a defense that’s been restocked and reloaded.

“They’€™ve had a lot of people come and go there too, again losing the different assistant coaches and coordinators and players ‘€“ the Ed Reeds and Ray Lewises and [Jonathan] Ogdens ‘€“ just really great players and still continue to produce and perform at a really high level,” Belichick said. “I think those, especially the people there at the top, but obviously all the ones that are part of it deserve a lot of credit for the consistency and the level of performance they’€™ve been able to sustain there.

“We know this is a big challenge for us headed down there Sunday. It’€™s a big game for both teams and I think we’€™re excited to play, excited for the opportunity and the challenge and we’€™ll need our best football from everybody ‘€“ players, coaches, all the starting players, all the role players, all the specialists, all everybody. That’€™s what it will take down there I’€™m sure. That’€™s what we’€™re gearing up for, that’€™s what we’€™ll try to be. The Ravens are a very good football team. They have a real solid organization and they’€™re tough. We’€™ll need to be at our best to beat them.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl

Bill Belichick walks a fine line: ‘We’re all going to make mistakes and nobody makes more of them than I do’

12.20.13 at 11:50 am ET
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FOXBORO — On Friday, Bill Belichick revealed his more humble side to make a point about the fine line he walks between correcting mistakes and accepting them as part of the game and the other side where too many can just kill a team.

The obvious best example of this on the 2013 Patriots is Stevan Ridley, the most explosive running back the Patriots have. He was benched in the Houston game after losing fumbles in each of the previous three games.

He came back against Cleveland and Miami, carrying the ball just eight times in each of the two games. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season on 151 carries.

Belichick was asked Friday if there is a balance a coach has to go through between making it a teaching moment not only for him but also the other players on the roster and taking him out of the equation hurting the team. In other words, is there a balance to strike as a coach between making sure that they get the message that it’€™s not acceptable while not hurting the team?

“I’€™d say absolutely,” Belichick said. “I think that’€™s the perfect way to put it actually. That’€™s the balance they’€™re trying to strike. I think that’€™s true probably every day of the football season, let’€™s put it that way. Every day of the football season, including OTAs, including training camp. Everybody has to understand that there’€™s a below the line level. When it’€™s below the line, we can’€™t live with it. It hurts the team. Now, we’€™re all going to make mistakes and nobody makes more of them than I do. I understand that mistakes are part of the game. I’€™ve been in it long enough to know there’€™s no perfect player, no perfect game or practice. If you go out there and compete against high level competition, that they’€™re going to make some plays too.

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Read More: Baltiimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots

Adrian Wilson tweets progress from his Achilles surgery

12.20.13 at 10:57 am ET
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FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork is not the only Patriots player who had Achilles surgery this season.

As it turns out, Adrian Wilson, the 34-year-old veteran Patriots safety placed on injured reserve during the final round of roster cuts before the season opener, tweeted on Friday that he is recovering from a similar procedure.

In the tweet, Wilson said he was completing his second running session at Fischer Institute in Phoenix. Wilson tweeted on Thursday about his first running session.

Wilson did not reveal how or when his Achilles injury happened, or if he even intends to return to the Patriots in 2014.

Last March, Wilson signed a three-year deal worth as much as $6 million last offseason, carrying him through 2015.

If the Patriots choose to cut him because they don’t think he’ll be fit to return, they could save $1.2 million against his $1.833 million cap hit over the the next two seasons.

 

Read More: Adrian Wilson, New England Patriots, nfl, Vince Wilfork

Patriots practice Friday: Josh Boyce (ankle) only player missing

12.20.13 at 10:54 am ET
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FOXBORO — For the second straight day, rookie receiver Josh Boyce was the only player missing from sweats and shells practice on the lower grass fields as the Patriots finished their on-field preparations for the Ravens this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Boyce injured his ankle during a 15-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. Boyce has missed all three practices this week and is likely to sit out Sunday’s game in Baltimore.

In a possible sign that he is ready to play again Sunday, left tackle Nate Solder attended his second straight practice on Friday.

Solder, who suffered a head injury last week against Miami and has been listed on this week’s injury report with a concussion, has only missed Wednesday’s practice this week. Solder has been diagnosed with concussion symptoms in the last two games, coming out of the game against Cleveland on Dec. 8.

In a positive sign for a pair of rookie receivers, Aaron Dobson (left foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) participated in practice again Friday and could be ready to go Sunday against the Ravens. Thompkins has missed the last two games while Dobson was hurt in the Broncos game Nov. 24 and has missed the last three games.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Baltimore Ravens, concussion, Josh Boyce

Judge freezes Aaron Hernandez’s assets pending wrongful-death lawsuit

12.20.13 at 9:24 am ET
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A New Bedford judge ordered the North Attleboro house and other assets of accused murderer Aaron Hernandez frozen at the request of the family of Odin Lloyd, which is suing the former Patriots tight end.

Bristol County Super Court judge Richard T. Moses made his ruling Thursday with no objection from Hernandez’s criminal attorney, who asked that the matter be revisited at a later date after Hernandez hires counsel for the lawsuit.

As part of the wrongful-death lawsuit, Lloyd’s family also is attempting to block the Patriots from paying Hernandez the $3.25 million the NFL Players Association claims the player is owed, as the family wants the funds to be made available to Lloyd’s estate when the lawsuit is resolved.

A lawyer for the Patriots, Andrew Phelan, told the judge that the team continues to maintain that it does not owe Hernandez any money. Phelan confirmed to the judge that the Patriots and Lloyd’s family have reached an agreement in which the team will not pay any more money to Hernandez and in return will be dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Hernandez continues to be held without bail after pleading not guilty to murder and weapons charges related to the shooting death of Lloyd on June 17.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,

Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits

12.20.13 at 9:09 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 16 starts and sits! I’€™ve tried to find some good recommendations that aren’€™t too obvious. I’€™ve thrown in a few that I just wanted to emphasize, like Chris Johnson and Shane Vereen, who I think should be locked into lineups. Obviously, there is a lot of talent that we do not address in this article, so hit Rotobahn for our full lineup rankings. And on Sunday, stop by WEEI for our Sunday chat at 11 a.m. I’€™ll be happy to address any last-minute decisions you may have. Good luck to all this week! Bring home the hardware!

QUARTERBACKS

START

Kirk Cousins, Redskins vs. Cowboys

Talk about tricky! There are some very compelling reasons to consider Cousins as your quarterback for Week 16. The obvious one is the matchup at home against the defenseless Cowboys. I know a lot of people are talking about risk. Sure, there always is some uncertainly with an inexperienced quarterback. Then again, there’€™s risk playing Tom Brady on the road vs. the Ravens. At least there is from a fantasy football perspective. With Cousins, we see a lot more reasons to play him than to sit him. Here’€™s the most compelling one: Washington is marketing the player. Cousins is an asset that the Redskins need to maximize, as they have holes all over their roster. A lot of football experts see Cousins as a potential NFL starter, and we agree. The Redskins wants draft pick compensation for Cousins, and they are going to throw the football. And, with their defense, they’€™ll need to do it for four quarters. Cousins can help you if you have a need at quarterback. He’s an obvious choice for those who’€™ve been using Robert Griffin III.

Andrew Luck, Colts at Chiefs

Quite simply, he is capable in any matchup. I would not hesitate to play Luck in Week 16. Yes, the matchup is tough, but Luck has stepped it up on the road against tough defenses before. Look at what he did to the Bengals a few weeks ago. Luck is a viable option in any format this week. Check out our lineup rankings if you have a strong second option to consider.

Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Vikings

As with Luck, Dalton falls outside of my top 12 for Week 16 but remains a very solid option with plenty of scoring potential. Dalton can be your starter this week if you need him. He has outstanding receiving options, and most of them are red zone guys.

Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Colts 

It’€™s often ugly or random, but Smith almost always ends up with good numbers at the end of the day. Another fact worthy of a mention is his success at home, where he’€™s had only one weak fantasy start all year long. Smith can be your quarterback this week if you need him.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Chris Johnson

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