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Patriots rule out Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins for Sunday vs. Dolphins

12.14.13 at 8:40 pm ET
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Despite returning to practice on Friday after missing the last two games with a sore left foot, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson was one of two players the Patriots ruled out on Saturday night for Sunday afternoon’s game in South Florida. Also ruled out Sunday is fellow rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with a hip injury.

Dobson injured his left foot in the game against the Broncos and played just 36 of 87 snaps. After catching six passes for 56 yards against Denver on Nov. 24, Thompkins was held to just one catch for 16 yards against Houston on Dec. 1 and injured his hip.

Both Thompkins and Hobson watched last Sunday’s come-from-behind win over the Browns from the press box. Dobson was wearing a boot on his left foot before discarding it for Friday’s practice.

Dobson and Thompkins were among the nine listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report, but the only two ruled out by the team Saturday after the team arrived in South Florida. It is standard procedure for road teams not to travel players who are ruled out the night before the game.

For more, including coverage from Chris Price in South Florida, visit the Patriots team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Ten things you have to know about Patriots-Dolphins

12.14.13 at 12:24 am ET
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Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s Patriots-Dolphins game:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Running back Shane Vereen against the Miami defense:
With Rob Gronkowski now out for the rest of the season, Vereen is New England’s most dynamic offensive option, a multidimensional threat who can be a handful for opposing defenses to contain. Vereen, who averages 7.2 yards every time he touches the ball this season, is a threat on the ground, but can do some serious damage through the air. Last week against the Browns, he had 12 catches for 153 yards (franchise marks for a running back) and a touchdown.

2. The Patriots offensive line against the Dolphins defensive front:
The New England offensive line has struggled at times over the last month-plus as Tom Brady has been knocked around pretty good. Despite a repeated emphasis on getting the ball out as fast as possible — which will almost certainly be a priority this week for several reasons against some very good pass rushers — the New England front will be asked to keep Brady clean in a the face of an very good group of pass rushers. Keep an eye on the edges, as Patriots left tackle Nate Solder missed one day of practice with a concussion he suffered against the Browns, while Marcus Cannon and Will Svitek has combined to hold down the right side with Sebastian Vollmer on injured reserve. Olivier Vernon (11.5 sacks) Randy Starks (3 sacks), Jared Odrick (4.5 sacks), Paul Soliai (2 sacks) and Cameron Wake (7.5 sacks) are all impressive in their own right, both against the run and the pass, and will provide the Patriots with another stern test.

3. Defensive end Chandler Jones against left tackle Bryant McKinnie:
Jones was on a streak of five sacks in six games entering the Dec. 1 contest against the Texans — since then, he’s been held sackless. The New England defensive end was stymied by McKinnie when these two teams met in Week 8, just eight days after McKinnie was acquired by the Dolphins in a trade. With the New England defensive front struggling the last few weeks, a jolt from Jones on the outside would go a long way toward shaking up the Miami offense.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’€™ fans need to know: Charles Clay.
“The Claymaker” has become an absolutely vital piece of the Miami offense. The Tulsa product — who checks in at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds — caught 34 passes in his first two seasons with the Dolphins, but has really clicked with quarterback Ryan Tannehill this year, hauling in 60 passes for 678 yards and six touchdowns. He’s not just a pass catcher, but Bill Belichick went out of his way to praise his work as a blocker who has been able to nullify some pretty good defensive ends over the course of the year, including Carolina’s Charles Johnson. Considering that the Patriots have struggled at times when it comes to containing relatively anonymous tight ends (Jordan Cameron had nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown last Sunday), New England needs to make containing Clay a priority.

5. By the numbers:
Per Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, the Patriots have four wins after trailing by nine-plus points in the second half since Week 8. By way of comparison, the Packers have one (Sunday) since 2005.

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Video: NWOA Injury Report takes a look at Rob Gronkowski’s torn ACL and MCL

12.13.13 at 9:54 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Chris Price is joined by Dr. Matthew Messina, D.O. of Newton Wellesley Orthopedic Associates to talk about the torn ACL and MCL suffered by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

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T.J. Ward not fined for season-ending hit on Rob Gronkowski

12.13.13 at 5:07 pm ET
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There will be no financial penalty or other discipline levied against Browns safety T.J. Ward for his season-ending hit on the right knee of Rob Gronkowski.

The key, in the eyes of the NFL’s disciplinary panel, was that Gronkowski was not a defenseless receiver. He had the ball following a seam pass from Tom Brady so the hit was technically legal. Ward, at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, dove into Gronkowski’s right leg as his foot was planting, which forced his knee to bend while simultaneously lifting the tight end into the air. Gronkowski, at 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, somersaulted sideways and suffered a torn ACL and MCL.

He was placed on injured reserve Monday, ending his season.

After Sunday’s game, Ward, who has been fined multiple times in his career for high hits, lamented that he has to go low to avoid another more serious fine.

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots Friday injury report: Aaron Dobson returns, among nine questionable vs. Dolphins

12.13.13 at 4:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One day after left tackle Nate Solder returned to Patriots practice and was limited, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson got out of the walking boot on his left foot and was limited at practice on Friday.

Solder and Dobson are among nine officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in South Florida against the Dolphins.

Tom Brady, Steve Gregory and Aqib Talib also made strides on Friday as they were upgraded from limited to full participation at practice. All three are among the six Patriots officially listed as probable for Sunday.

Here is Friday’s complete report:

Limited Participation
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) QUESTIONABLE
CB Kyle Arrington (groin) QUESTIONABLE
RT Marcus Cannon (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee) QUESTIONABLE
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) QUESTIONABLE
LT Nate Solder (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
LB Brandon Spikes (knee) QUESTIONABLE
OT Will Svitek (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) QUESTIONABLE

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) PROBABLE
S Steve Gregory (finger) PROBABLE
CB Aqib Talib (hip) PROBABLE
WR Danny Amendola (groin) PROBABLE
WR Matthew Slater (wrist) PROBABLE
RB Shane Vereen (wrist) PROBABLE

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Miami Dolphins, Nate Solder, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick: Stephen Gostkowski is like Tom Brady ‘gets a little better each year’

12.13.13 at 4:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As clutch as Tom Brady has been late in the games this season when the Patriots have needed him to pull off miracle after miracle, the same could be said for Stephen Gostkowski all season.

Gostkowski had the biggest clutch play last Sunday when he perfectly executed an onside kick with just under a minute remaining to give the Patriots a chance for the game-winning touchdown. His season of clutch started in Week 1 when he kicked the game-winner in a 23-21 win over the Bills at Orchard Park. It has continued consistently ever since.

The case could easily be made that the eight-year kicker out of Memphis is not only having the best season of his career but he’s having the best season of any kicker in the league.

He has made 30-of-32 field goal attempts this season, missing only from 43 yards wide left against the Jets in Week 2 and from 55 yards against Houston in Week 13. Gostkowski followed up that 55-yard miss in Houston by hitting a pair from 53 yards on the suspect grass turf of Reliant Stadium in the fourth quarter, one to tie the game and one to win it.

His 93.8 conversion rate on field goals would be a career best, passing his 90 percent mark (36-of-40) in 2008.

How far has Gostkowski come in his eight years as kicker?

“I think, it’€™s maybe a little bit like Brady,” Bill Belichick said Friday in comparing him to the quarterback. “He gets a little bit better each year, but he started off at a pretty high level. He’€™s had a lot of great years for us and individual plays. He continues to work hard at his job, his training, his conditioning, his technique, obviously the execution with his other teammates on field goals.”

This is also the best season Gostkowski has had in kickoffs. His net kickoff yardage is 44.49 yards, fifth best in the NFL. His touchback rate of 64.6 percent (51-of-79) is also fifth in the NFL. Lofty numbers that, along with his field goal numbers, should make him a favorite for the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.

“He just becomes a better student of the game, more knowledgeable, more experienced, better situational player,” Belichick said. “But it’€™s incremental. It wasn’€™t like it started at a low point. It started at a pretty high point and it’€™s gradually ratcheted it up a little bit. You talk about Brady, where he was in ‘€™02, ‘€™03, ‘€™04, he played at a pretty good level but has continued to improve since then too. His work ethic and attention to detail and focus on a lot of little things, but again, it wasn’€™t the jump that he made his first year, let’€™s put it that way.”

Gostkowski has hit 200-of-234 attempts in his eight years in New England while missing just once on 391 extra points. His record in the playoffs is just as strong, converting all 35 extra points and hitting 18-of-20 in the postseason.

Gostkowski last Sunday also extended to 104 games his streak of at least one point in a game, three better than that of Adam Vinatieri and John Smith.

After playing so many years in the shadow of Vinatieri, Gostkowski has finally kicked himself into his own place in Patriots greatness.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Stephen Gostkowski

Fantasy Football: Week 15 starts, sits

12.13.13 at 10:35 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 15 starts and sits! If you are reading this, then congratulations are probably in order. It’€™s semifinal week in most leagues, so you are one win away from a bowl appearance and a shot at glory. Hopefully these recommendations will help you maximize your lineup, but if you need more, then head over to Rotobahn and check out our full lineup rankings. Additionally, you can attend our weekly Sunday chat right here at WEEI. You’€™ll find a link to the chat Sunday on the home page under ‘€œThis Just In.’€ I hope to see you all there.

QUARTERBACKS

START

Matt Stafford, Lions vs. Ravens

Stafford had a rough Week 14 due to the weather, but if you survived the storm, you should stick with him. He’€™ll be much better at home, even in a tough matchup. The Lions probably will lose, but Stafford will get his stats.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Texans

He’€™ll be solid this week at home vs. a pretty good defense. Luck now has enough weapons to get the job done. Da’€™Rick Rogers is a big upgrade over Darrius Heyward-Bey. Luck may not give you a big number, but he’€™ll produce like a top-10 quarterback.

Tom Brady, Patriots at Dolphins

Brady owners must feel cursed at this point. The rug got pulled out from under them this past Sunday when Rob Gronkowski was lost again, with perhaps his worst injury so far, and that is saying something. Giving up on Brady is a logical move, but I think even with significant missing parts, the Patriots offense as a unit is clicking now. Brady should be good for a few scores and 250-plus yards.

Jay Cutler, Bears at Browns

He should be the starter, but just to be clear, this recommendation goes for whomever starts for the Bears this week. If Cutler has another setback, go ahead and start Josh McCown, who has been astoundingly good this year in Marc Trestman‘€™s offense.

Matt Ryan, Falcons vs. Redskins

Yes, the Falcons already are toast, but they have most of their offense back on the field and probably will cut through the Washington defense like a hot knife through butter. Ryan is a viable option this week in any format.

Jason Campbell, Browns vs. Bears

The one thing to keep on top of here is the weather. There is some snow in the forecast, and if it gets really ugly, you’€™ll want to have a backup plan. Still, Campbell can help you if you are in a jam. The Bears have few answers for what the Browns will be throwing at them, namely Josh Gordon. The second-year receiver has been a one-man wrecking crew lately.

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler

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