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Analyzing the loss of Brandon Spikes

12.10.10 at 5:06 pm ET
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The loss of Brandon Spikes for the final four regular-season games of 2010 will leave the inside linebacker spot a little thinner than the Patriots might like, but will open up more playing time for both Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher.

Spikes, who was second on the team in tackles through the first 12 games of his rookie season, won the starting job early in the season, and had started eight games to this point in the year, with 71 tackles, good for second on the team. Primarily a first- and second-down player for the Patriots through the first three-quarters of the 2010 season, he was replaced on third downs and passing situations by Guyton, who was the starter for the duration of the 2009 season on the inside next to Jerod Mayo.

Now, Guyton figures to move into the spot full-time over the course of the next four games while Spikes is on the sidelines. In addition, Fletcher, who has started to come on nicely over the last few weeks, will move up on the depth chart and likely see more time as a result of the decision on Spikes. Tracy White ‘€” who is more of a special teams player ‘€” could also be called on in a pinch to provide some depth at the inside linebacker spot.

On another note, the ownership cannot be happy with Spikes, as this is the second time the rookie out of Florida has put the organization in a bad light ‘€” earlier this year, it was discovered he was involved in a explicit sex tape that turned up on the Internet.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton,

Bears rule out LB Piso Tinoisamoa vs. Patriots

12.10.10 at 4:42 pm ET
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The Bears have ruled linebacker Piso Tinoisamoa out for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Here’s their complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
LB Piso Tinoisamoa (knee) Out

Full Participation
LB Nick Roach (back) Questionable

Read More: Piso Tinoisamoa,

Patriots Injury report

12.10.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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The Patriots have three players who did not participate in Friday’s practice who have been ruled as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago. Here’s the complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
NT Myron Pryor (back) Questionable
CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip) Questionable
DL Mike Wright (concussion) Questionable

Limited Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot) Probable

Read More: Jonathan Wilhite, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor,

Source: Brandon Spikes suspended 4 games for banned substance

12.10.10 at 4:10 pm ET
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According to a league source, Patriots rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes has been suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league’€™s banned substance rule. The suspension was first reported by the Boston Herald.

Spikes reportedly will not appeal the suspension and hopes to return for the playoffs. Spikes’€™ suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Patriots’€™ active roster on Monday, Jan. 3 following the team’€™s final regular season game on Jan. 2 against the Miami Dolphins. Spikes is eligible to participate in all playoff games.

Spikes issued a statement through the team on the incident: ‘€œI’€™ve been contacted by the NFL and informed that I will be suspended four games for the detection of an illegal substance in a drug test. The substance was a medication that I should have gotten clarification on before taking. It was not a performance enhancer or an illegal drug. The integrity of the game is very important to me. I understand the league’€™s ruling and apologize to my teammates, the fans and the Patriots organization for this mistake.’€

The Patriots selected Spikes with the 62nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft after his four-year career at Florida. Spikes is currently fourth on the team with 61 tackles this season. This is the second incident this season that has brought unwanted attention on Spikes ‘€” earlier this year, it was discovered that he was involved in a sex tape.

Read More: Brandon Spikes,

Pats practice: Brandon Spikes misses again

12.10.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes was again missing from the open portion of Patriots practice on Friday as the team held its final outdoor practice on a cold and blustery Gillette Stadium field in sweats and shells.

Spikes also missed Thursday’s practice and the team said the absence was “not injury” related. Safety Patrick Chung returned to practice on Friday after also missing with a non-injury related issue. Also missing Friday were defensive linemen Mike Wright (concussion) and Myron Pryor (back) and defensive back Jonathan Wilhite (hip).

Newcomer Chevis Jackson – wearing No. 41 – was in attendance and took part in practice. Jackson, who turns 25 Saturday, was brought in for depth in the secondary with the lingering injury to Wilhite.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Chevis Jackson, Chicago Bears, injury report

Pats add Chevis Jackson for DB depth

12.10.10 at 12:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In an effort to bolster depth in their defensive backfield, Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed Friday morning before practice that they’ve brought in defensive back Chevis Jackson. Belichick said they would have a move “later on” Friday. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite has been battling a hip injury for several weeks and was again missing from practice on Friday.

Jackson, who was at practice Friday wearing No. 41, was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 3rd round (68th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. He recorded his first career interception on a 95-yard return for a touchdown on Nov. 9, 2008. Jackson played most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars, signing with them on Oct. 18.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chevis Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jonathan Wilhite

Nuggetpalooza’s Patriots vs. Bears Preview!

12.10.10 at 10:29 am ET
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Following their exhilarating, 45-3, romp over the Jets last Monday, the Patriots continue what appears to be an endless string of games against top NFL competition, this time against the Bears, who are chasing a playoff berth of their own. And it appears that the weather outside will be “frightful” at Soldier Field late Sunday afternoon.

Anyway, here are a bunch of nuggets to help get you ready for the action:

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* – Last Monday, the Patriots scored over 30 points for the fourth week in a row, tying the longest such streak in the NFL since New England’s nine game streak from late-2006 through mid-2007.

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* – The three points allowed by the Patriots Monday night snapped a streak of 12 consecutive games allowing 14 or more. During that streak, they allowed an average of 25.0. The 301 total yards allowed were the fewest by the Patriots in 13 games and snapped a five game streak allowing 400 or more.

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* – Strength vs. Strength: The Patriots have the league’s best overall passing rating (+2.30 the way I keep them, basically net yards per pass play compared to the league average, adjusted up for touchdowns and down for interceptions). However, the Bears have the best overall DEFENSIVE passing rating (-1.87). New England leads the league in touchdown passes (27) while Chicago has allowed the second fewest (9).

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* – How’s this for some good red zone passing? Over the last six games when in the red zone, Tom Brady is 19-for-25 (76 percent) with 10 touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks. For the season, the Pats lead the NFL in red zone completion percentage (67 percent) and touchdowns (19), but they’ve also allowed the most red zone sacks (8).

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* – If the game is close in the fourth quarter (within seven points either way), the Bears have passed quite well in those spots so far in 2010, posting a rating (the way I keep them… see below) of +2.42, third best in the league. Chicago has been in more close contests than New England, putting up 55 attempts in late and close situations, compared to just 27 for the Patriots.

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* – The Bears have allowed 45 quarterback sacks and lost 299 yards to sacks this season, both league high figures. The Pats’ defense has just 21 sacks (29th) for 132 yards (28th).

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* – New England and Tom Brady lead the league in LOTS of passing splits, but one important one is in third and fourth down passing (combined). Their +3.53 rating in those situations is tops and is built on 73 percent completions with 11 touchdowns (tied for the most with Green Bay and New Orleans). In addition, only 3.4 percent of their gross passing yards have been lost to sacks, the third lowest percentage in the league in those spots:

0.8% – Giants
2.6% – Colts
3.4% – Patriots

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