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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.02.14 at 4:44 pm ET
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Every week, we list the Patriots’€™ “€œoffensive touches,”€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’€™s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after 12 games:

RB Shane Vereen: 125 (81 carries, 44 catches) 3 negative catch, 6 negative runs
RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 85 (8 carries, 77 catches)
RB Jonas Gray: 71 (71 carries)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 65 (65 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 53 (53 catches)
TE Tim Wright: 25 (1 carry, 24 catches), 1 negative rush
RB LeGarrette Blount: 22 (22 carries), 1 negative run
QB Tom Brady: 20 (20 carries), 15 sacks, 8 kneeldowns
RB Brandon Bolden: 20 (19 carries, 1 catch), 3 negative runs
RB James White: 12 (9 carries, 3 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 11 (11 catches)
FB James Develin: 7 (1 carry, 6 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 6 (6 carries) 2 sacks, 6 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 (3 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: The Patriots had two negative plays from scrimmage on Sunday against the Packers –€” one negative run from Bolden and a sack of Brady. It tied for the second-fewest total on the season. (New England had zero negative plays from scrimmage in last month’€™s win over the Colts). … On the season, New England has run 812 plays from scrimmage, and 40 of them have gone for negative yardage (5 percent), not including kneeldowns. … Against the Packers, the Patriots ran 54 plays, with 30 of them coming in shotgun (56 percent). In addition, the game-book lists them as having run zero no-huddle plays. (That ties a season-low — the last time it happened was the November win over the Colts in Indy.) … On the season, the Patriots have run 67 of their 812 plays out of no-huddle (8 percent) and 286 snaps in shotgun (35 percent). … By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps. … It’€™s also worth mentioning that Vereen has crossed the 40-catch/40-carry barrier for the second straight season. It marks the first time a New England running back has put together back-to-back seasons of at least 40 catches and 40 carries since Kevin Faulk did it in 2007 and 2008. Vereen is one of six running backs with at least 80 carries and 40 catches this season, a group that includes DeMarco Murray (Dallas), Le’€™Veon Bell (Pittsburgh), Andre Ellington (Arizona), Matt Forte (Chicago) and Fred Jackson (Buffalo).

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2014 season

12.02.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Through 12 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 99 penalties (fourth-most in the league) for a total of 861 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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Josh McDaniels doesn’t ‘have any idea’ about University of Florida coaching rumor

12.02.14 at 3:54 pm ET
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Earlier this week, it was reported Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was a “viable candidate” for the University of Florida head coaching job and the school was “vetting” him. McDaniels was asked of the rumor on Wednesday’s conference call.

The offensive coordinator didn’t have much to add to the report, saying his focus is on the Chargers.

“I really honestly don’t have any idea about that rumor,” said McDaniels. “I mean I heard it, but I have nothing to add to it. My focus is solely on the Chargers and getting our team ready to go this week on offense and trying to do the best thing I can. It’s a time of year that this happens quite a bit and I’ve been through it before. Keep your focus where it belongs, which is on your next opponent. We have plenty to work on and get prepared for because this is a really good defense we’re facing.”

Last January prior to the postseason, McDaniels was a candidate for the Cleveland Browns job, but he eventually withdrew his name from consideration. His only other college coaching experience was a graduate assistant at Michigan State from 1999-2000.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Rodney Harrison on MFB: Patriots can ‘play with any team’ in the NFL

12.02.14 at 12:57 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-Packers game and look ahead to this Sunday’s game against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Even though the Patriots had their seven-game winning streak snapped Sunday against the Packers in a 26-21 defeat, Harrison says he would not be worried if he was a Patriots fan, as he feels the Patriots and Packers are the two best teams in the NFL.

“It’s one of those things where you have to just shake the other guys hand and say you guys beat us today. You were the better team today,” Harrison said. “But, I know [Bill] Belichick talked about the team playing hard and hanging in there and when you’re on the road in tough conditions you’re going to have to face adversity. They just made more plays than the Patriots, but if I am the Patriots I am not discouraged at all. I can learn from this definitely, and this team can play with any team in the National Football League. I still think the two best teams are the Packers and the Patriots, with Seattle being a close third.”

A major key in the game was the Packers picking on Patriots third cornerback Logan Ryan, as Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were focused on stopping Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams led the Packers with 121 receiving yards on six catches, mostly coming against Ryan and Kyle Arrington. He also had a tie for a team-high 11 targets.

“I just finished watching the game, and that is exactly what I said,” Harrison said. “[Darrelle] Revis did a good job, he moved from the slot, he went outside, played a great game. Gave up that one play to Jordy Nelson — that has to be expected. The third cornerback Logan Ryan — I mean, they went after him. That was an excellent game plan by coach [Mike] McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, they went after the third cornerback. Logan [Ryan] can be a good cornerback. I think at times, his technique just as well as [Kyle] Arrington, his technique breaks down. He puts himself in bad positions. When he got beat on the deep ball, he looked in the backfield, by Davante Adams. He looked, I mean, it was like third-and-2 and he looked in the back field. As soon as you look in the backfield you create a little separation and you lose sight of the receiver. It’s basic fundamental things that can be taught.”

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Patriots still prefer to defer when it comes to coin toss

12.02.14 at 12:03 pm ET
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Last Sunday’s game against the Packers marked the first time this season either the Patriots or an opponent have won the opening toss and elected to receive. (All eight of the times New England has won the toss this season, they have decided to defer.) Here’€™s a look at how the coin toss has broken down for each game this season, and what has happened:

vs. Green Bay: Packers win the toss, receive
vs. Detroit: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Indy: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Denver: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Chicago: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. New York Jets: Jets win the toss, defer
vs. Buffalo: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Cincinnati: Bengals win the toss, defer
vs. Kansas City: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Oakland: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Minnesota: Patriots win the toss, defer
vs. Miami: Dolphins win the toss, defer

Fantasy Football: Week 14 waiver wire

12.02.14 at 10:23 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 14 waiver wire! If you are here reading this then congratulations are probably in order. The playoffs start in most leagues this week, which means it’€™s win-or-go-home time. Rather than list every player worthy of consideration as I do on most weeks, I’€™m more focused on players who can actually move the needle for you. This is because after the thinning of the herd, we are dealing mostly with strong rosters. These are the options that even good teams should consider.

For those of you in really deep leagues or who just happen to have a hurting roster that snuck into the playoffs, I will be posting my usual expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn this afternoon. It’€™s free, so head on over if you want more options.

As always, the ownership percentages are listed for each player. These rates of ownership are based on Yahoo! leagues, which tend to be smaller and more representative of the 10-team leagues most of us play in. Obviously, these numbers are mostly for perspective. What really matters is which players are available in your particular league, and you’€™ll need to do the legwork on that.

To keep pace with all WEEI and Rotobahn fantasy football content, including Sunday chats and The Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett, follow me on Twitter.

QUARTERBACK

Mark Sanchez, Eagles — 53 percent

He’€™s got a tough home matchup this week against Seattle, but he closes things out with Dallas and Washington, so he has value if you are streaming your quarterback position, or if you are mixing and matching. The ex-Jet is posting solid numbers as an Eagle and is a good pickup in any league.

Johnny Manziel, Browns — 12 percent

This one is still a bit speculative, but I expect head coach Mike Pettine to make the switch to Manziel this week. Without starting center Alex Mack, the offense is in need of a spark. The Browns host the Colts this week and have no more bad matchups on their schedule. As with Sanchez, Manziel can be an asset if you are streaming or playing matchups at quarterback.

Colt McCoy, Washington — 6 percent

He may be able to help you in bigger formats. McCoy is performing well in head coach Jay Gruden’€™s offense. He’€™s playable this week against the visiting Rams, but is more appealing in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Giants and Eagles.

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Tom Brady on D&C, still frustrated by Sunday’s loss: ‘I felt like we should have won’

12.02.14 at 9:30 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and talked about last Sunday’s game against the Packers, how much he hates losing and looked ahead to this week’s game against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots lost Sunday’s game against the Packers 26-21, a game in which they had the ball on the Packers‘ 20-yard line with under four minutes remaining and a chance to take the lead. A sack on third-down forced a field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski, which was missed, and then the Packers picked up a first down and ran out the clock.

After trailing 13-0 and coming all the way back against a team as good as the Packers, and then not being able to come away with a win, was tough for the quarterback to take.

“I think you have some defining moments in your season and you have some defining moments in what could be people’s careers and you have a lot of things … a great streak of wins going and the other team had a great streak of wins going, especially at home, was really dominant, and we said we can’t get behind early,” Brady said. “We got behind early, but we fought back and we hung in there all game. Finally, we had the opportunity to go ahead and we just couldn’t do it. We were kind of trying to climb the mountain all day and we were right at the top, and we had an opportunity to get there, and we kind of let it flounder away. I think that was the real frustrating thing for all of us. … These sit with you for a little bit and you have to move on and move past them. You have to focus your energy on the next opponent because it doesn’t get any easier for us.”

Some have compared Sunday’s loss to a game in 2001, when the Patriots lost to the Rams, 24-17, in a highly competitive game, before the Patriots eventually beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. Brady isn’t making such comparison since he feels the current team is different than the one back then.

“Truthfully, I felt like we should have won,” said Brady. “I don’t think there’s a lot of consolation. I feel like we are capable of winning every time we take the field. Maybe back in 2001 we didn’t feel like that all the time because we didn’t really prove that. I think what we’ve seen over the course of this season is — we’ve seen the best teams in the AFC certainly, with the three division leaders at this point and we’ve played some other pretty good teams, teams that will likely make the playoffs. Now to see a team in the NFC, and to think we beat the Lions and they were tied for first when we played them and then Green Bay was first in their division.

“I just felt like we were going to win that game. We went into the game realizing how important of a game it was and what we needed to do to rise to the occasion. I don’t think you could have asked for anything more — having a chance to go ahead with three and a half minutes to go in the game. If someone said you have a chance at the 20-yard line with three and a half minutes, you like your chances. I think everyone in our locker room would have loved them. We just couldn’t get it done.”

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