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Report: Patriots, Bucs finalizing deal to bring LB Jonathan Casillas to New England

10.28.14 at 4:02 pm ET
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The Patriots and Buccaneers are reportedly finalizing a deal that will send linebacker Jonathan Casillas to New England, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Casillas is a 6-foot-1, 227-pounder out of Wisconsin who is in his sixth season in the league. He’s played for Tampa Bay and New Orleans, and had his best year with the Saints in 2011 when he finished with 43 tackles, three sacks and two passes defensed in 13 games (five starts).

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Bill Belichick: Peyton Manning has no weaknesses

10.28.14 at 3:47 pm ET
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Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As far as Bill Belichick is concerned, when it comes to Peyton Mannng, it’s pretty simple.

“I don’t think there are any weaknesses in his game,” Belichick said on a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon.

The 38-year-old Manning, who has thrown 41 touchdown passes in his career against the Patriots, will get a chance for a few more Sunday when he leads the Broncos into Gillette Stadium for another clash with the Patriots.

“I think it doesn’t really matter who is out there with him,” added Belichick, who — when teamed with Tom Brady — is 10-5 as a head coach against Manning. “Whoever it is, he finds a way to utilize them. He’s had different players at different positions and different combinations and guys have been out and other guys have been in and all that. But no matter who it is out there, he does a good job of finding ways to utilize the skills of the particular group that is out there relative to their defensive matchup.

“It seems like he causes every defense a problem every week for the last 15 years or however long it’s been. You have to know who the other people are out there. Everybody has to do their job to defend them. You can’t just stop one guy or one thing. But he does a great job of utilizing his players, his resources relative to what the defense is giving him and what looks best — a combination of his personnel versus where the defense is soft. He’s good because he does everything good.”

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2014 season

10.28.14 at 2:43 pm ET
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Through eight games, the Patriots have been flagged for 70 penalties (second-most in the league) for a total of 628 yards (most in the NFL). To this point in the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:
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Patriots to honor 3-time Super Bowl champions during Sunday’s game

10.28.14 at 2:09 pm ET
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During the Patriots’ three Super Bowl titles in four years during the mid-2000’s, 22 players were on the team for all three. 18 of those 22 players will be honored Sunday during halftime of the Patriots’ matchup with the Broncos, as it is the 10th anniversary season of the accomplishment.

“€œCollectively, these 22 players will always share a special bond,” said Robert Kraft in a press release. “While individual Super Bowl teams will certainly be celebrated in the future, these 22 players represent the greatest era in franchise history and one of the greatest accomplishments in NFL history. It is always fun to participate in reunions with former players. The stories they share from their playing days are always entertaining and it is always fun to see the ovations the players get from our fans. I look forward to seeing them and sharing those experiences with them.”

The 18 players who will be honored at halftime are: Joe Andruzzi, Tom Ashworth, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Matt Chatham, Je’€™Rod Cherry, Kevin Faulk, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Matt Light, Willie McGinest, Stephen Neal, Patrick Pass, David Patten, Lonie Paxton, Roman Phifer and Richard Seymour.

Tom Brady and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri are still playing, while Larry Izzo (New York Giants), Mike Vrabel (Houston Texans) and Adrian Klemm (UCLA) are currently on active coaching staffs and will not be able to attend.

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Pressure Points: Which Patriots defenders have done best job getting after QB?

10.28.14 at 12:55 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the 2014 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. Like all stats, the numbers have to be placed on context of game-situations and personnel. And while sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Currently, the Patriots are tied for ninth in the league in sacks with 21. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a look at the pass-rush numbers for the Patriots after eight games for the 2014 regular season:

Sacks (via gamebooks)
DE Chandler Jones: 4.5 (28 yards)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 4 (29 yards)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 3.5 (25.5 yards)
DL Chris Jones: 1.5 (12 yards)
LB Deontae Skinner: 1 (10 yards)
LB Akeem Ayers: 1 (9 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1 (9 yards)
DL Casey Walker: 1 (5 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 1 (4 yards)
DB Kyle Arrington: 1 (0 yards)
DE Zach Moore: 0.5 (2.5 yards)
DL Dominique Easley: 0.5 (2 yards)
DL Vince Wilfork: 0.5 (2 yards)

Quarterback Hits (via gamebooks)
DE Chandler Jones: 8
DE Rob Ninkovich: 8
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 5
DL Chris Jones: 3
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
LB Jamie Collins: 2
DL Joe Vellano: 1
LB Akeem Ayers: 1
CB Brandon Browner: 1
LB Deontae Skinner: 1
DB Patrick Chung: 1
DL Casey Walker: 1
DL Vince Wilfork: 1

Quarterback Hurries (via PFF)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 18
DE Chandler Jones: 15
DL Vince Wilfork: 7
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 6
LB Jerod Mayo: 5
DL Chris Jones: 5
DL Dominique Easley: 4
LB Jamie Collins: 4
DL Casey Walker: 3
DE Zach Moore: 3
DL Sealver Siliga: 2
DL Joe Vellano: 2
CB Alfonzo Dennard: 1
LB Akeem Ayers: 1
S Patrick Chung: 1
CB Logan Ryan: 1

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.28.14 at 12:41 pm ET
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Tim Wright

Tim Wright

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 after eight regular-season games this year.

WR Julian Edelman: 45 catches on 69 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 40 catches on 65 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 30 catches on 50 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 27 catches on 40 targets
TE Tim Wright: 17 catches on 18 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 7 catches on 13 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 catches on 11 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 4 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 4 catches on 4 targets
RB James White: 3 catches on 3 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 catches on 4 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets
TE Michael Hoomananwanui: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Brian Tyms: 1 catch on 2 targets

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Rodney Harrison on MFB: Next month will show how ‘fierce’ Patriots are

10.28.14 at 12:37 pm ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots’€™ upcoming game against the Broncos and also Tuesday’s trade deadline. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Patriots will have their toughest test of the season in Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday afternoon. It will also give their second-ranked pass defense a chance to go against an above average quarterback for arguably the first time this season.

“When I look at this team, they’€™ve played against Ryan Tannehill, the Oakland Raiders and Derek Carr –€“ I mean they haven’€™t played against a lot of great quarterbacks,” Harrison said. “I look at this next month in the season and they are going to play against some pretty quality quarterbacks so we’€™ll see how fierce the Patriots are, but if they want to get to the Super Bowl — I know that is their goal and aspirations, obviously they are not looking at it right now, but long-term that is your goal — you’€™re going to have to beat Peyton Manning. Not just compete with him, but you’€™re going to have to beat Denver.”

As for Tuesday’s trade deadline, there has been speculation the Patriots have expressed interest in wide receiver Vincent Jackson, but Harrison doesn’t see that as a fit.

“I wouldn’€™t say they have to go out and panic and get a guy like Vincent Jackson or someone like that because he still has to come in, learn the offense — and then who knows what kind of chemistry that messes up with Brandon LaFell,” said Harrison. “I think they are OK at the wide receiver spot. If they can stay healthy and have that offensive line protection — and Tom, he looks like he’€™s getting better. He looks like he’€™s getting more confident behind that offensive line, but I don’€™t think they need to panic and spend that type of money on Vincent Jackson.”

Harrison has been impressed with LaFell of late as he has 19 catches and three touchdowns in his last three games, including catching 11 passes on 11 targets in Sunday’s win over the Bears.

“I just love what Brandon LaFell has done,” Harrison said. “I love the confidence they are putting in him and it seems like each and every week the energy level, the route running, just the confidence and catching the ball — he looks like he is a legit wide receiver now.”

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