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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

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees excited for another showdown with old friend Tom Brady

12.20.13 at 6:30 am ET
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Dean Pees isn’€™t buying it.

The Baltimore defensive coordinator spent plenty of time in New England — six years, to be exact — and despite the fact that the Patriots have listed quarterback Tom Brady with a right shoulder issue on a fairly regular basis for the better part of the last decade, he knows what’€™s up when it comes to Sunday’€™s New England-Baltimore game.

‘€œHow many years has he been in the league? He’€™s been on the injury report every week for 12 years,’€ Pees said with a laugh on Thursday. ‘€œThat’€™s nothing new there now. I was there six years, [and] I don’€™t think I ever saw him ‘€¦ I never knew he had a bad shoulder.’€

Pees knows a few other things about the New England offense, and Brady in particular. He was the linebackers coach with the Patriots in 2004 and 2005, and was New England’€™s defensive coordinator from 2006 through 2009. Getting the chance to go up against Brady every day in practice allowed him to get a good feel for what he can and can’€™t do when it comes to game-planning for the Patriots’€™ offense, and the quarterback in particular.

‘€œHe’s seen it all, so there is probably nothing new coverage-wise that you are going to throw at him that he hasn’€™t seen,’€ Pees said of Brady. ‘€œWhat you’€™ve got to be really careful of is thinking that you’€™re so clever that you are going to outsmart him, and then you can’€™t play the coverage you’€™re showing him.

‘€œBottom line is, yes, you’€™re always trying to disguise and do stuff, but when it’€™s all said and done, whether he knows it or whether he doesn’€™t know it, we better make sure we can play it.’€

One of the keys, according to Pees, is to be able to generate pressure without blitzing.

‘€œYou can’€™t rely on [blitzing] all the time; he’ll pick you apart,’€ Pees said. ‘€œJust like [Peyton] Manning and all the good ones ‘€“ there are just not that many coverages or many blitzes that you can come up with that they haven’€™t seen, and he doesn’€™t recognize.

‘€œHe is really good and the ball comes out extremely quick, so we’€™ve got to get pressure on him with the four-man rush.’€
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Read More: Dean Pees, Tom Brady,

Aqib Talib brushes off health questions: ‘This ain’t my first rodeo’

12.19.13 at 7:51 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aqib Talib isn’t hearing any talk about his health being an issue.

‘€œI feel like everybody else,” he said Thursday. “It’€™s Week 16, and there isn’€™t anybody in the NFL who is 100 percent. It’€™s football, man.

“This ain’€™t my first rodeo.’€

Talib, who has struggled with hip problems on and off throughout the season, started strong but has appeared to drop off a bit as of late. There’s no telling how much of his problems are due to the hip issue (he was limited at Thursday’s practice because of the hip), but he knows he’s in for a challenge this week. The Ravens feature some of the better deep threats in the game — the Ravens have 13 pass plays of 40 or more yards this season, good for third-best in the league, trailing only the Eagles (18) and Browns (14). Torrey Smith (59 catches, 1,032 yards, four touchdowns and 17.5 yards per catch), Marlon Brown (40 catches, 443 yards, six touchdowns) and Jacoby Jones (35 catches, 433 yards, two touchdowns) all have an ability to connect with quarterback Joe Flacco when it comes to the deep ball.

Talib had plenty of good things to say about the Baltimore receiving corps, particularly the speed of Smith, who he called “one of” the fastest receivers in the league.

‘€œWe don’€™t even have to talk about that. You know how fast he is. We all know how fast he is,” Talib said. “He’€™s up there. Put him up there with the [Mike] Wallaces and Calvin Johnsons. Man, they’€™re burners.’€

One thing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick indicated earlier in the week was that the Baltimore offense has changed a bit since the return of Dennis Pitta — Belichick said it appears that the Ravens have favored more three-receiver sets since the tight end came back from injury. Pitta, who burned New England on several occasions in last year’s AFC title game, is still ramping back up after spending the bulk of the season sidelined, is still a factor.

‘€œHe’€™s key for them,” Talib said. “[Joe Flacco] goes to him a lot over the middle, in third-down situations. That’€™s one of his go-to guys. He’€™s key for them.’€

Talib and the Patriots (10-4) are looking to close out the regular season on an up note, while the Ravens (8-6) are in must-win mode — currently holding on to the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff race, they have to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.

“It’€™s a big game for the both of us,’ Talib said. “So I’€™m sure they’€™re preparing like we’€™re preparing. It should be a good one.’€

Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Dennis Pitta, Jacoby Jones

Report: Ron Winter will work as referee for Patriots-Ravens

12.19.13 at 7:07 pm ET
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Ron Winter will work as the lead official for Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Ravens, according to Football Zebras.

Winter has worked as an NFL referee since 1998. This marks Winter’s first Patriots game of the 2013 season. His last New England contest was Dec. 2, 2012 when the Patriots met the Dolphins in Miami — that game was a 23-16 win for New England.

Here’€™s a look at each lead official assigned to work Patriots games to this point in the 2013 season:

Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo: Walt Anderson
Sept. 12 vs. NY Jets: Carl Cheffers
Sept. 22 vs. Tampa Bay: Jeff Triplette
Sept. 29 vs. Atlanta: Walt Coleman
Oct. 6 vs. Cincinnati: Gene Steratore
Oct. 13 vs. New Orleans: Tony Corrente
Oct. 20 vs. NY Jets: Jerome Boger
Oct. 27 vs. Miami: Walt Anderson
Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh: Walt Coleman
Nov. 18 vs. Carolina: Clete Blakeman
Nov. 24 vs. Denver: Gene Steratore
Dec. 8 vs. Cleveland: Jerome Boger
Dec. 15 vs. Miami: Tony Corrente
Dec. 22 vs. Ravens: Ron Winter

For more on Winter’s work as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. And for the complete list of referee assignments this week, check out Football Zebras.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Ron Winter,

Patriots Thursday injury report: Nate Solder (concussion) limited, but Josh Boyce (ankle) another DNP

12.19.13 at 4:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Nate Solder went from DNP to limited, but the change in the status of the left tackle was the only tweak to the Patriots injury report on Thursday.

Solder, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, was missing from practice on Wednesday, but was present Thursday — at least for the start of the session — which was held in sweats and shells inside Gillette Stadium.

Wide receiver Josh Boyce suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s defeat. Thursday marked the second consecutive practice he has missed.

Here is Thursday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
WR Josh Boyce (ankle)

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee)
S Steve Gregory (finger)
RT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
LT Nate Solder (concussion)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
LB Dane Fletcher (groin)

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Phil Simms: Patriots, Ravens are ‘battle tested’ survivors

12.19.13 at 3:51 pm ET
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The broadcast team of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz will call Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game for CBS. On Thursday, Simms praised both teams as survivors who are used to pressure situations.

On New England vs. Baltimore: “Baltimore and New England are two of the greatest surviving teams there are in the NFL. They survive. The best way to describe them is, they are battle tested. And that is not an overused phrase.  In a pressure situation it’€™s just not a big deal to them. Why? The two things that stick out about both teams are the coaches and the quarterbacks. They don’€™t flinch.  And they can play it right to the end.”

On pressure in final two weeks: “All the preparation and all the work for so many teams, and here it comes down to the final weeks. The word pressure is so over-used in sports, but these are pressure-packed weeks because you realize that this is the chance to win and have success in the playoffs.”

Read More: Phil Simms,

Nate Solder back at Thursday practice, but Josh Boyce (ankle) still missing

12.19.13 at 12:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Left tackle Nate Solder returned to practice on Thursday, but rookie receiver Josh Boyce was missing again as the Patriots continued preparing for Sunday’s game against the Ravens.

Solder, who suffered a head injury last week against Miami and was listed on Wednesday’s injury report with a concussion, was not present for Wednesday’s practice session. He was on the field at the start of Thursday’s session, which was held inside Gillette Stadium in sweats and shells.

Boyce was clearly hobbled at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, and was on Wednesday’s injury report with an ankle issue.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Josh Boyce, Nate Solder,
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