|12.27.13 at 4:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For a second straight week, rookie receiver Josh Boyce will miss a game with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Devin McCourty is listed as doubtful to play after missing practice all week with a concussion. By injury report standards in the NFL, a “doubtful” designation indicates only a 25 percent chance of playing. McCourty and Boyce were both spotted in the locker room on Friday chatting with teammates but neither spoke with reporters. They were the only two players to miss practice the entire week.
The Patriots finished up practice Friday on a frigid day outside Gillette Stadium. Rob Ninkovich did participate but was limited for a second straight day and is questionable for the season finale. Ninkovich is one of 11 players officially listed as questionable.
Ninkovich, with an ice pack on his injured left ankle, did speak to reporters on Friday and said he would be “all right” to go and play Sunday in the season finale. For the Bills, Thad Lewis will start at quarterback as EJ Manuel (left knee) is doubtful while receiver Stevie Johnson (mother’s death) and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) have both been ruled out.
Here is Friday’s complete Patriots report:
Did Not Practice
WR Josh Boyce (ankle) OUT
S Devin McCourty (concussion) DOUBTFUL
CB Kyle Arrington (groin) QUESTIONABLE
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle) PROBABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) QUESTIONABLE
LB Dane Fletcher (groin) QUESTIONABLE
S Steve Gregory (finger/knee) QUESTIONABLE
DL Rob Ninkovich (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
OT Nate Solder (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
LB Brandon Spikes (knee) QUESTIONABLE
OT Will Svitek (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) QUESTIONABLE
RB Shane Vereen (groin) QUESTIONABLE
|12.27.13 at 1:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick is very aware of the fact that a first-round bye is just a win away.
Therefore, he doesn’t need the distraction of watching the scoreboard or watching the games on TV before his team takes the field for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff vs. the Bills on Sunday.
The situation is this: Win, and the Patriots will have a weekend to rest their weary bodies and watch the first round on TV for a fourth straight year.
So, to Belichick’s way of thinking, there’s no real need to watch the Bengals-Ravens game at 1 p.m.
“No, I’m not planning on it,” Belichick said Friday morning. “I know when we walked onto the field for the Baltimore game last week, I saw the score up on the board and that’s really the first time I saw that Buffalo beat Miami. There’s nothing we can do about any of those games. Whatever they are, they are. We just have to concentrate on what we’re doing. We need to do it for us. We’re not really worried about what anybody else is doing.”
The NFL created a little more drama between the Patriots and Broncos for the No. 1 seed in the AFC when they moved the Patriots-Bills to a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff. If the Broncos win at Oakland, they’re locked into the No. 1 seed. If they lose, the Patriots would wind up with the No. 1 seed with a win. If the Bengals beat the Ravens in the 1 p.m. game, the Patriots will have even more to play for, as they would need a win over the Bills for a first-round bye.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” Belichick said. “It’s not even on my radar.”
Last week at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, the video board showed a split screen of the Bills-Dolphins game on one half and the Bengals-Vikings on the other.
“They kind of messed me up with that,” Aqib Talib said. “I tried to keep my eyes off of it. I had too much to worry about with [the Ravens].”
Many of the Patriots players said they saw the games during warmups but were focused on the Ravens. Belichick was asked Friday how aware are the players of the playoff scenarios?
“They know that if we win, we’re into the second round of the playoffs,” Belichick added. “If we don’t win, we’re most likely playing in the first round of the playoffs and that’s really all there is to know. Who, what, when ‘ none of that, who knows? You have to be a mathematician and have great, great vision to figure that out. We know what we can control. If we can win, we can get into the second round of the playoffs. We know that. I think right now that’s probably all we care about.”
|12.27.13 at 1:11 pm ET|
Bills head coach Doug Marrone announced Friday that Thad Lewis will get the start against the Patriots in place of Manuel, who is out with an LCL injury to his left knee. Lewis led the Bills to a 19-0 win over the Dolphins last week in Orchard Park.
“It was a tough decision,” Marrone said. “EJ was practicing hard all week trying to come back and basically it goes back to the injury didn’t progress as well as I wanted it to. He wanted to go out there and play, but I need him to play at 110-percent for us to win. So he wasn’t going to be able to go out there and play at 110 percent. He could have played but not at the level that we need for us to win. Thad has done a nice job and he’s the backup quarterback so we’re putting him in there and he’ll be the starter Sunday.”
The Bills also ruled out wide receiver Stevie Johnson (mother’s death) and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) for Sunday’s game in Foxboro.
Manuel has had three different knee injuries has now missed six regular season games. Lewis, meanwhile, has thrown for 845 yards this season and has completed just over 60 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
“I think we all, starting with EJ, have a sense of frustration but there’s also a sense of excitement,” Marrone said. “Here’s a guy that did play 10 games and he probably practiced less than anyone else who played 10 games. There were points in those games where he played well, either won the game for us or put us in a position to win. And there were points where he did not play well. From that standpoint, there’s a sense of excitement of having someone coming back, full offseason, getting ready to go and really seeing his game take off.”
For Lewis it’s another opportunity to help solidify himself as the team’s backup quarterback heading into the 2014 season. The third-year signal caller out of Duke will make his fifth start for the Bills Sunday.
“Thad is 2-and-2 playing for us and really doing a good job,” said Marrone. “We know that he’s capable being that backup. It’s a big game for him. As a backup, you’re always trying to prove yourself. It will be very good for us to be able to go into the offseason and having, believe it or not, an experienced I guess quarterback in Thad, maybe not from the standpoint of games played, but from the standpoint of years in the league.
“He brings a lot to our football team. Our team has confidence that they can win with him and I think that’s the most important thing.”
Doug Marrone: #Bills QB EJ Manuel (knee) did not progress as needed. Thad Lewis will start at QB vs. Patriots.
|12.27.13 at 12:56 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Patriots and news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
With the Patriots in line for a No. 2 seed — and the possibility of getting No. 1 or No. 3 — New Englanders have their eye on the playoffs in an AFC that lacks a dominant team.
“The problem with the AFC this year is that is that it reminds me exactly of the AFC last year,” King said. “The Baltimore Ravens could be the 6 seed; I think last year they were 5 [actually 4]. They could be a road wild card team, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Ravens make noise in the playoffs. Or I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Kansas City Chiefs get to the Super Bowl.
“I think every AFC team is flawed, and I think every AFC team has a decent shot. I don’t love a single team in the AFC. How can you? Every one of them has shown in the past month that they can be vulnerable.
“There’s a reason why there’s only been one time in the last 19 years that the two No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl. Think about that for a second. You’ve got all these advantages — you’re playing at home, you have a bye, you get to play both games at home to get to the Super Bowl. And imagine, it’s only happened once in the last 19 years. That, to me, is stunning. And it says that what [former commissioner] Pete Rozelle designed the NFL to be is exactly what it is. Which is, there’s 18 teams right now in play for the playoffs entering the last weekend of the season. Out of the 16 games this weekend, 13 — as of 1 o’clock anyway — have some playoff implications. It’s exactly what the NFL wants.”
Looking at the NFC, King said there’s also a great deal of uncertainty there, as the Sehawks and 49ers appear to have come back to the pack.
“Before Monday I would have said that San Francisco is the second-best team in football. Now I might say it’s Carolina,” King said. “San Francisco was on such a great roll coming into Monday, and then they looked pretty mortal. Just like Seattle looked mortal against Arizona on Sunday, also at home.
“I think the last couple of weeks going to back to New Orleans dismantling Carolina at home three weeks ago, I think that has shown us that every team in the NFC can be beaten, exactly like the AFC. And that’s why I think this postseason is as wide open as any I remember.”
|12.27.13 at 11:43 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots made a practice squad move on Friday, signing rookie RB Sam McGuffie to the practice squad while releasing RB Cierre Wood. McGuffie also brings experience and roster depth as a slot receiver.
McGuffie, 24, was originally signed by the Raiders on April 29 as a rookie free agent out of Rice. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder was released by Oakland on Aug. 26 and signed by the Cardinals to the practice squad on Sept. 3 before being released on Sept. 17. McGuffie began his college career at Michigan as a running back, seeing action as a true freshman, before transferring to Rice.
After two seasons as a running back at Rice, he made a successful transition from running back to slot receiver as a senior in 2012 and finished with 54 receptions for 603 yards and five touchdowns.
McGuffie gained internet acclaim when he hurdled a player in high school and the video was shown on YouTube.
Wood, 22, was signed to the New England practice squad on Nov. 5. The 5-11, 215-pounder was originally signed by the Texans as a rookie free agent out of Notre Dame on May 10. He made the Houston 53-man roster out of training camp and played in three games before being released on Oct. 21. Wood had three rushing attempts for nine yards in his three games.
|12.27.13 at 10:46 am ET|
FOXBORO — After much debate and conflicting reports, it was confirmed Friday that linebacker Rob Ninkovich did attend practice. He told reporters he’ll be ready to play Sunday in Buffalo.
“I haven’t missed a practice all season,” said Ninkovich, who had an ice pack on his left ankle in the locker room after practice.
Asked if he’ll be ready to play in the season finale, Ninkovich said, “I’ll be all right.”
The Patriots practiced in sweats and shells on a frigid Friday morning on the lower grass fields.
Ninkovich didn’t appear to injure himself during Sunday’s win in Baltimore but appeared on Thursday’s injury report as limited with an ankle injury, opening the door to the possibility that he was injured during Thursday’s practice. He was not spotted by most reporters in the team’s stretching drills in the first 10 minutes of practice open to the media. However, TV cameras spotted him late in practice and he did participate.
Practice squad running back Cierre Wood was not spotted and was released before practice while rookie running back Sam McGuffie was signed to the practice squad to take his place, wearing jersey No. 39.
McCourty suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Ravens when he went low, trying to make a tackle on Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson.
Boyce missed the game on Sunday altogether with an ankle injury suffered on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter of the loss in Miami on Dec. 15.
Neither player is expected to suit up for Sunday’s game after missing Tuesday’s walkthrough and practice on Thursday and Friday.
With a win in the regular season finale, the Patriots would improve to 12-4 and clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming AFC playoffs.
|12.27.13 at 10:38 am ET|
Welcome to the final installment of the 2013 starts and sits. Week 17 is always tricky, which is why the vast majority of fantasy leagues opt to use Week 16 as their bowl week. It’s tricky because you never know which teams are going to pull their starters early and which teams will play to win for 60 minutes. I’ll do my best to warn you off of a few options and to highlight some safer plays. We’ll be doing full Week 17 lineup rankings at Rotobahn, so feel free to head over if you require any additional clarity. I’ll also be back at WEEI at 11 a.m. Sunday for our final chat, so stop by if you have any lineup questions.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Browns
They play at 1 p.m., so the Steelers will go out there guns blazing to see if they can put some pressure on the teams ahead of them. They post big numbers when they get the offense going, so Roethlisberger is a solid option in any league this week against a Browns defense that’s been shaky lately.
Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Jaguars
He’s got a decent home matchup and it’s indoors, so we don’t need to worry about weather. The Colts have something to play for at this point, though they would need some help from the Patriots and Bengals. It’s an early game, so they won’t know their fate when they play. Luck is a viable starter in any home matchup. Start him if you need him.
Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Ravens
The Bengals play early and they can put pressure on the Patriots in the race for the bye if they can win. You can count on the Bengals pushing as hard as they can for four quarters. Dalton is a solid play if you need a Week 17 quarterback. His offensive weaponry makes him dangerous on a weekly basis.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins at Giants
If you really need an option, Cousins should give you solid production, though this is not as good a matchup as he had last week. Washington’s temporary starter is a viable option in 12-team leagues with a hot No. 1 receiver and a stout running game to work off of. There is a chance of rain in the forecast, but nothing as epic as what we saw last week.
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