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Fantasy Football: Week 17 waiver wire

12.24.13 at 8:57 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 17 waiver wire. I know it’€™s championship week for those of you left out there and it’€™s a really tough way to play your biggest game, because we’€™ll have a lot of players taking this week off or at least playing under very limited snap counts. So I’€™ll do my best to find you a few good options. One good idea is to come back later this week for the starts and sits, where I will try to find some of the key sits based on playing time or a predictable lack thereof. As always, I will be expanding the waiver wire for those of you in deeper formats, so head over to Rotobahn if you are a deep leaguer in need of even more ideas. I will also be doing our usual Rotobahn lineup rankings for Week 17, so check back later this week for that.

QUARTERBACKS

Jay Cutler, Bears

He was mediocre last week, but he is one of the more talented options out there, so he is very worthy of a plug-n-play this weekend at home against the Packers. Green Bay has been suspect defending the pass and the Bears have incredible talent at all of the receiving spots.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins

He’€™s a viable play at the Giants in a game that is meaningless for both teams. Washington is not going to play conservative when it is trying to increase Cousins’€™ market value. The ball is going to be in the air. Cousins is not a QB1, but he can help you if you need an option.

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders

Pryor will start in place of Matt McGloin this week and he’€™s an very interesting option. The Broncos are locked in and they will be playing without stud pass rusher Von Miller. Pryor may not be the long-term answer for Oakland, but he has fantasy upside this week because he makes plays with his arm and with his legs. If you are hurting in a deep league, he’€™s a viable option.

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Read More: James Starks, Jay Cutler, Kirk Cousins, Knile Davis

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 17: Seahawks still No. 1 despite loss

12.24.13 at 8:48 am ET
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The Seahawks stumbled but didn’t fall in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Despite suffering a setback in Week 16, Seattle stands pat because of its overall dominance. The 49ers, Panthers, Broncos and Patriots, who all have secured playoff spots, round out the top five.

As we head into the last week of the season, division titles and playoff spots still are up for grabs. Four teams are fighting for one spot in the AFC: the Chargers (11), Ravens (13), Dolphins (15) and Steelers (17). The NFC is wide open, with three divisions and a wild card spot on the line. The Eagles (12) will look to become the 11th consecutive team in the NFL to finish in last place and then go on to win the division the very next year, and it will take a win over the Cowboys (19) on Sunday to accomplish that feat. Philadelphia’s odds of winning the NFC East improved dramatically on Monday after it was reported that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be sidelined due to a back problem.

The conclusion of the 2013 regular season promises to be a wild one. Be sure to check in next week after all is decided for the playoff edition of the Power Rankings.

1. (1) Seahawks (12-3) — The NFC took notice that the Seahawks are vulnerable in Seattle. They lost at home for the first time in two years. Penalties and a struggling passing attack hurt Pete Carroll‘s team Sunday. 

 2. (2) 49ers (11-4) — They’ve clinched and now have won five straight. The Niners are the type of seasoned, well-balanced team that is capable of going into Seattle and winning if the situation were to arise.

3. (3) Panthers (11-4) — The Panthers have the tools to reach the Super Bowl. Cam Newton has proven this year that the big moment doesn’t negatively affect him. Carolina’s defense forces turnovers, rushes the passer well and allows the fewest points per game in the league.

 4. (4) Broncos (11-3) — Much is being made about the loss of Von Miller, but the Broncos won their first six games this season when the Pro Bowl linebacker was suspended. If Denver doesn’t reach the Super Bowl, it won’t be because Miller is out.

5. (6) Patriots (11-4) — You can’t count this team out as long as Tom Brady is behind center and Bill Belichick is on the sideline. They’ve proven that this year more than ever.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bills, Chris Johnson, NFL Power Rankings

Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

12.24.13 at 7:00 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely 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 after the first 15 games of the 2013 season:

WR Julian Edelman: 96 catches on 140 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 53 catches on 80 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 44 catches on 64 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 39 catches on 66 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 36 catches on 76 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 32 catches on 69 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 21 catches on 29 targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 12 catches on 18 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 10 catches on 12 targets
WR Josh Boyce: 9 catches on 19 targets
WR Austin Collie: 6 catches on 11 targets
FB James Develin: 4 catches on 4 targets
TE Matthew Mulligan: 2 catches on 3 targets
RB LeGarrette Blount: 2 catches on 5 targets
TE Zach Sudfeld: 0 catches on 3 targets
RB Leon Washington: 0 catches on 1 target
TE/OL Nate Solder: 0 catches on 1 target

By position
Wide receiver: 232 catches on 395 targets
Running back/fullback: 81 catches on 115 targets
Tight end: 53 catches on 90 targets
Other: 0 catches on 1 target

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the target breakdown through 15 games in 2012.

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Snapshot of AFC playoff picture: Top five seeds locked into postseason, but ultimate seeding still to be determined

12.23.13 at 5:10 pm ET
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With one week to go in the regular season, the top five seeds are locked into the playoffs, but there are still plenty of questions about who might end up where. In addition, there’s a race between four teams for the final playoff spot. Here’s a breakdown of what lies ahead, as well as the odds of who is mostly likely to finish where, per Playoff Status:

1. Broncos (12-3): Clinched first-round bye. Sunday at Raiders (4-11). Denver can clinch the No. 1 seed and home-fleld advantage throughout the playoffs with a win in Oakland or a Patriots’ loss or tie. Playoff Status says the Broncos have an 88 percent chance of taking the top seed, and 12 percent at No. 2.

2. Patriots. (11-4): Clinched AFC East. Sunday vs. Bills (6-9). New England can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a tie against Buffalo; or a Cincinnati loss or a tie or an Indianapolis loss or a tie. The Patriots can clinch the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win and the Broncos lose. Playoff Status gives the Patriots a 12 percent chance at landing the top spot, a 73 percent chance at No. 2 and a 5 percent chance at the third seed.

3. Bengals (10-5): Clinched AFC North: Sunday vs. Ravens (8-7). Cincinnati can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Ravens and a New England loss to Buffalo. Playoff Status has the Bengals at 11 percent for No. 2, 65 percent for No. 3 and 24 percent for No. 4.

4. Colts (10-5): Clinched AFC South: Sunday at Jaguars (4-11). Indy can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Jaguars, combined with a Patriots loss to the Bills and a Bengals loss or tie against the Ravens. Playoff Status says it’s likely the Colts end up with the four spot (66 percent), while they still have a shot to either go up to No. 2 (4 percent) or No. 3 (31 percent).

5. Chiefs (11-4): Clinched playoff berth: Sunday at Chargers (8-7). Regardless of what happens around them, Kansas City is locked into the five spot as the lead wild card entry.

6. Dolphins (8-7): Currently sixth seed: Sunday vs. Jets (7-8). Miami can clinch a playoff spot with one of the following four scenarios: a win and Baltimore loss or a tie; a win and a San Diego win; a tie, a Baltimore loss and a San Diego loss or tie; or a tie, Baltimore tie and San Diego tie. Playoff Status likes the Dolphins as the best bet to land the final playoff spot, giving them a 58 percent chance at the No. 6 seed.

7. Ravens (8-7): Currently seventh seed: Sunday at Bengals (10-5). Baltimore can clinch a playoff spot with one of the following five scenarios: a win and a San Diego loss or tie; a win and a Miami loss or tie; a tie, Miami loss or San Diego loss or tie; a tie, Miami tie and San Diego loss; or a Miami loss, San Diego loss and Pittsburgh loss or tie. Playoff Status has them at 22 percent to reach the postseason.

8. Chargers (8-7): Currently eighth seed: Sunday vs. Chiefs (11-4). San Diego can clinch a playoff spot with one of the following two scenarios: a win, Miami loss or tie and Baltimore loss or tie; or a tie, Miami loss and Baltimore loss. A ten percent chance at the playoffs, per Playoff Status.

9. Steelers (7-8): Currently ninth seed: Sunday vs. Browns (4-11). Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff spot with the following scenario: a win, Miami loss, Baltimore loss and San Diego loss. Playoff Status has them at 9 percent.

Read More: AFC playoff picture,

Poll: How far can Patriots go?

12.23.13 at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With Sunday’s 41-7 blowout of the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, the Patriots are 11-4 and positioned for a first-round playoff bye.

Does Sunday’s win make you feel these Patriots are more capable than ever of reaching another Super Bowl?

How much does Sunday's win over the Ravens change your expectations for Patriots?

View Results

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Bill Belichick: Sunday success in red zone came down to ‘better execution’

12.23.13 at 2:45 pm ET
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One of the keys to the Patriots’ 41-7 win over the Ravens on Sunday was an ability to convert in the red zone. New England — which has seen some of its red-zone numbers slip in recent weeks, including a 1-for-4 performance the week before against the Dolphins — was 3-for-3 on red zone touchdown chances. Running back LeGarrette Blount had two rushing touchdowns from inside the 20, while fellow running back Shane Vereen caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to help lead the way in the blowout.

Asked about what happened against the Ravens in the red zone on Sunday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said it was simple.

“Better execution. It wasn’€™t a big new game plan or anything, like we put in a new offense down there. We just did things better,” Belichick said on a conference call with the media. “I think the way that [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and the offensive coaches set some of the plays up to match up against the Ravens looks probably might have helped us a little bit too but we had some good blocking, good execution in the passing game, some very good running. Not anything revolutionary –€“ just good football from really all 11 guys that were out there on the field.

“That’€™s what it usually is when things go well, in any situation, whether it’€™s red area, third down, running game, passing game. If everybody is doing a good job, you’€™re going to have good results. If they’€™re not, it’€™s not going to look the way you want it to.”

Belichick also discussed the ability of rookie offensive lineman Josh Kline to step in as needed at the left guard spot — he took over late last week when Nate Solder went down at veteran Logan Mankins kicked out to the left tackle spot. He went wire-to-wire against the Ravens in his first start as a professional.

On Monday, Belichick gave credit to offensive assistant coach Brian Daboll for coming across Kline when Kline was a collegian.

“Josh was a good player in college,” Belichick said. “Brian Daboll worked him out in the spring, and I think that was part of the impetus of our interest in him. He wasn’€™t drafted, we were able to recruit him and sign him as a college free agent. He’€™s played guard in college but we also worked him some at center. He played both center and guard in the preseason. Versatile guy, he’€™s got good intelligence.

“He was kind of on and off the roster a little bit early in the year. He’€™s worked hard and steadily improved through the course of the season in every area: his versatility, run blocking, pass blocking, work in the weight room. He’€™s given us confidence in the way that he’€™s practiced. We just felt yesterday that was the best way to go with the lineup. Of course Logan is one of our most dependable players and he certainly came through big yesterday playing left tackle against some pretty good players over there and definitely holding his own, doing a good job.”

Following are more highlights from Beichick’s Q&A.

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Read More: Bill Belichick,

Josh McDaniels says Pats want to dictate offensive style ‘regardless of who we’re playing’

12.23.13 at 2:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Kyle Arrington called it throwing the first punch. Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater said it was just matching Baltimore’s toughness.

On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the Patriots simply wanted to dictate and not be dictated to.

That’s how McDaniels summed up the somewhat head-turning decision to take it to the Ravens on the ground Sunday, choosing to attack Baltimore’s apparent strength on defense.

The Patriots ran the ball 34 times for 142 yards, averaging 4.2 yards a pop against a defense that was yielding just 102 yards a game coming in, seventh-best in the NFL.

“We certainly want to try to do things that we feel like we can do well regardless of who we’€™re playing, and then we also want to try to factor in the different variables in terms of matchups, personnel, all of the different things that go into each player, each series in the game, you want to factor into those things too, because they can certainly give you the best chance to be successful,” McDaniels said. “You’€™re not going to trick the Ravens. You’€™re not going to beat them that way, and so you’€™re going to have to stand in there, but you know it’€™s going to be a tough, physical game, you know it’€™s going to be a situation where you’€™re going to have to fight it out for four quarters, and I thought our guys did a good job of staying in there and slugging it out with them.

“It wasn’€™t always pretty, but in the end it was effective enough for us. I thought the important things were we took advantage of the opportunities that we had in the red zone, we didn’€™t turn the ball over, and then the guys really stayed committed to making yards in the running game and giving us an opportunity to stay ahead on the sticks, and then did a good job of finishing the last drive.”

Logan Mankins said after Sunday’s game that the offensive line was very aware of the commitment to the run and wanted to give McDaniels every reason to keep grinding away on the ground.

The other area that had to make McDaniels and Bill Belichick happy was their execution in the red zone. The Patriots were a perfect 3-for-3, LeGarrette Blount running it in twice while Tom Brady found Shane Vereen in the flat for the third.

“Obviously it’€™s good to score touchdowns when you’€™re down there,” McDaniels said. “I think we only had four plays down in the red zone, maybe five, and we had three trips and only four or five plays I think total. We were fortunate to run it in twice, once on the goal line, and guys did a good job.

“That’€™s always a tough situation against a good defense. You’€™re trying to get a yard and you just bang it out, and guys did a good job of letting LeGarrette [Blount] get to the line of scrimmage, then he muscled his way in there. And then we were able to come up with a play in the passing game there with Shane [Vereen] where the guys executed well, and then we were running the ball effectively on that last drive and got it into the red zone and just stayed with that formula, and they got it in there too. Each week in the red area, it’€™s its own game. Statistics from the past, they don’€™t really determine what’€™s going to happen from one week to the next, they just kind of tell you what happened in the past. This is a week to week thing, and we’€™ve got to do a good job of preparing now for a very good Buffalo defense, and the challenge will be a little different in terms of maybe the scheme or the players this week, but again, if we do a good job then we’€™ll give ourselves a great chance, and if we don’€™t and Buffalo executes better than we do, then you could find some struggles. The guys did a good of executing, and they deserve the credit.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Josh McDaniels, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
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