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NFL Sunday: Latest on Brandon Lloyd, Derrick Mason, Drew Brees and in-game injuries

10.16.11 at 4:52 pm ET
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According to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, the Patriots are among three teams with interest in Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. The nine-year veteran has 19 catches for 283 yards this season, but given the success of Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch in New England, Lloyd looks more like a short-term signee rather than a marquee trade. The Patriots interest in Lloyd, however, could be a sign that New England is turning away from reliance on Chad Ochocinco, who has nine catches for 136 yards this season and has yet to make a big impact with the Patriots.

The Jets may have traded contentious receiver Derrick Mason to the Texans for nothing. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that unless Mason catches 33 passes over the course of the rest of the season, the Jets will receive nothing in return from the Texans. If Mason catches 33 or more passes, the Jets will reportedly receive a seventh-round draft pick. This reported compensation seemingly refutes Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum‘s claim that the Jets never would have traded Mason had the Texans not called about him. Mason’s relationship with the Jets grew strained once Mason publicly criticized the Jets offense and was reportedly amongst a group of receivers that went to coach Rex Ryan to complain about offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Talks between the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees have reportedly stalled in recent weeks, and it is becoming more likely that the Saints will have to apply a franchise tag to Brees and negotiate a long-term contract with him in the offseason. Brees is in the final year of a six-year, $60 million contract and, given a Super Bowl championship and his status as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, it is likely that Brees will demand a significant pay-raise. Despite the slowed negotiations, however, reports still say the Brees will likely be a Saint next season.

Injuries:

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was sidelined for the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 17-13 win over Jacksonville with concussion-like symptoms, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. Polamalu left the game after a hit on Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew and remained on the sideline with his helmet on for the rest of the game. The Steelers will host the Patriots at Heinz Field on Oct. 30.

Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell left Sunday’s game against the Browns after landing hard on his right shoulder in the second quarter. The team announced its medical staff was examining Campbell’s collarbone, and his return looks doubtful. Campbell was replaced by eight-year veteran Kyle Boller, who completed four of his first six passes for 28 yards.

In the strangest injury of the day, Saints coach Sean Payton reportedly tore his MCL and fractured his tibia when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham ran into him in the first half. Payton continued coaching during the game, calling plays from the bench with his leg elevated in the first half before moving upstairs with a headset for the second half.

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Chad Ochocinco, Derrick Mason, Drew Brees

Live Blog: Patriots take on Tony Romo, Cowboys at Gillette Stadium

10.16.11 at 3:51 pm ET
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Patriots/Cowboys

Analysis: A closer look at what Sunday’s inactives mean for the Patriots

10.16.11 at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots announced the following players as inactive for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys: safeties Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown; cornerback Ras-I Dowling; wide receiver Julian Edelman; quarterback Ryan Mallett; linebacker Jerod Mayo and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

The fact that safeties Barrett and Brown are out leaves the Patriots dangerously thin at the safety position. Barrett has been hobbled by thumb and hamstring injuries, while Brown was questionable with a chest injury as late as Friday. Their absence will mean lots of Pat Chung and James Ihedigbo (presumably, both will start and play the majority of snaps), while Ross Ventrone will serve as the chief backup.

As we expected, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is active, as is fellow running back Danny Woodhead. Green-Ellis (toe) and Woodhead (ankle) were both on the injury report late this week, but both went through extensive pregame workouts and were clearly given the green light to play. Even though his toe injury had him limited in practice as late as Friday, expect Green-Ellis to get the bulk of the reps at running back this afternoon — he leads the Patriots in touches after five games.

As for the rest of the inactives, Dowling (hip), Edelman (ankle) and Vollmer (back) have all missed significant chunks of playing time over the first five weeks of the season, with Vollmer now a scratch because of the back problem for the fifth time in six games. Meanwhile, Mayo suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against the Raiders, and while he did practice this past Friday, the fact that he’s not able to go isn’t much of a surprise. Expect Sterling Moore and Antuwan Molden to see increased playing time as a result. In place of Vollmer, rookie Nate Solder should go wire-to-wire at right tackle for the Patriots.

And last (but not least), Mallett is a healthy scratch, with the Patriots electing to go with two quarterbacks for the fifth time in six games this season.

Read More: Antuwan Molden, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Danny Woodhead, James Ihedigbo

Some highlights from Wes Welker’s Q&A with NFL Network that aired Sunday morning

10.16.11 at 1:51 pm ET
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Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker sat down with Michael Irvin of the NFL Network for a chat that aired this morning, and Welker shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including why he’s been so successful, facing pressure and how he works with Chad Ochocinco. Here are a few of the highlights:

On how he is able to have success, despite his size: ‘€œThe mind can be a powerful thing. I think just believing in yourself and if you go out there every single play with that mindset of hey, I’€™m going to make a play here, if I don’€™t make it, nobody is going to make it, I think ultimately that’€™s the most key thing about being a receiver.’€

On getting cut by the Chargers and going to Miami: ‘€œI was pretty devastated after that and really didn’€™t know what was going to happen. I was kind of lost and next thing you know, I was on a plane to Miami. I was going to be on the practice squad at first there and then ended up getting bumped up.’€

On if he thought he matched Jerry Rice‘€™s record-breaking paces: ‘€œNo, not at all. I thought I was going to return kicks and punts my whole career. I didn’€™t know that it could become this. At the time, I was just trying to keep a job. I was thinking the more receiver I can play, then they’€™ll see I can do that and help out there and they’€™ll keep me around longer.’€

On the pressure of being the No. 1 target on the field: ‘€œIt’€™s definitely pressure, but at the same time I love it. I love being that guy and having that attitude that I have to get this done for us and make sure that I’€™m making the plays necessary for us to win. You know, having No. 12 back there doesn’€™t hurt either and once you get that first play, it kind of takes the pressure off everybody.’€

On how he encourages Ochocinco: ‘€œKeep on encouraging him and keep on bringing him along, talking about different routes and telling him at some point, you’€™re going to have to have a breakout game for us to win. We have all the confidence in the world that’€™s going to happen.’€

Read More: Chad Ochocinco, Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Wes Welker

Setting the scene: Patriots-Cowboys

10.16.11 at 12:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Mother Nature has provided another ideal fall afternoon at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots to extend one of the more remarkable streaks in recent NFL history.

Partly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s are expected, with breezy conditions as the 4-1 Patriots host the 2-2 Cowboys in New England’s first inter-conference game of 2011. The wind could be a factor as a breeze could turn into heavy wind with gusts up to 30 MPH expected out of the south.

The Patriots head into today’s game having won 17 straight home games against NFC opponents, with their last – and only NFC home loss – coming to Brett Favre and the Packers on Oct. 13, 2002, their very first game against an NFC opponent at Gillette.

Not surprisingly, the Patriots’ 17-1 home mark against NFC foes is the best such mark in the NFL since 2002. Pittsburgh is next at 16-2-1, the Ravens are 16-3 and Indianapolis is 14-4.

As for actives and inactives, the only Patriot ruled out for today is safety Josh Barrett, who is nursing hamstring and thumb ailments. Jerod Mayo returned to the practice field on Friday after missing nearly two weeks with a left knee injury and was listed as questionable for the game, meaning technically there’s a 50-50 chance he plays. With the Patriots bye coming next week, it would be a significant surprise to see Mayo back on the field today against the Cowboys.

Another Patriot player to keep an eye on is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The running back missed practice on Thursday with toe injury and was limited on Wednesday and Friday. He is questionable for today and, with the Patriots facing a Top-5 NFL run-defense, might get today and the bye week to rest.

The Cowboys come in fairly healthy, with Miles Austin having the bye week last week to heal his strained hamstring. Dez Bryant is also expected to be a key factor today after a week off to rest his thigh.

The cover boy of today’s “GAMEDAY” program is looking to continue his assault on the record books. Wes Welker has 740 yards on 45 catches. The 745 yards are an NFL record through five games. Welker is on a streak of 83 straight regular-season games with at least one catch. Welker has played in 70 career games with the Patriots, including four postseason games. He has caught a pass in each and every one. He missed the Jan. 2010 playoff game against the Ravens when he blew out his ACL in the regular-season finale in Houston.

Watch the Cowboys kicking game today. Their place kicker David Buehler was limited all week in practice with a groin strain and was ruled out on Friday. Taking his place will be Dan Bailey.

Today’s referee is the one-and-only: Walt Coleman. Yes, THAT Walt Coleman. The man who tucked it to the Raiders.

Today also marks the second and last home game in the month of October, national Breast Cancer Awareness month. The Patriots and the American Cancer Society will honor and celebrate 12 breast cancer survivors from all over New England on the field at Gillette. The 12 survivors will take the field with the Patriots cheerleaders as the Patriots players take the field beyond the big helmet. The survivors are there to remind women of the importance of receiving yearly mammograms.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Dallas Cowboys, Jerod Mayo, Josh Barrett

Fantasy Football: Week 6 Starts and Sits

10.15.11 at 10:59 pm ET
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Welcome to the week six starts and sits. We’€™ve isolated some options that we like and some that we don’€™t like for the upcoming week’€™s games. If you need deeper analysis, please feel free to join us at Rotobahn.com, and check out our comprehensive lineup rankings.

QUARTERBACKS

Starts

Eli Manning vs Bills

He is producing every week. His weapons are all healthy and ready to go. This is also a nice home matchup against a team that can be had through the air. We expect him to chip away but to also make a few big plays on his way to a very nice day.  He is a QB1 in week six. He is also still available in some 10-teams leagues, so he might even get you out of a jam if your number one is on the bye this week.

Joe Flacco vs Texans

The matchup is good with Mario Williams listed as out. We expect him to have a very solid day, and, as always, he can get a big play any time he dumps it off to Ray Rice.  Flacco can be had in 15% of Yahoo leagues, so he might be an option if you are in need. He’€™s a borderline QB1 in most formats.

Mark Sanchez vs Dolphins

For deep leagues, he is an option to consider if you need help. The Jets are in turmoil, but that’€™s actually where they tend to operate best under Rex Ryan. Sanchez is not dependable week-to-week, but we like him against Miami in 12-team formats or larger.

Sits

Sam Bradford @ Green Bay

Yes, Green Bay has been thrown on, but we’€™d avoid the Rams until they prove something. St. Louis has been dysfunctional. Green Bay’€™s defense is the unit more likely to find their game. Play wait-and-see with Bradford unless you have no better option.

Alex Smith @ Lions

He’€™s looked better, but we worry about him in this matchup. There’€™s too much pressure in his face. He may manage the game, but he won’€™t help you in fantasy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Cowboys!

10.15.11 at 10:19 am ET
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It’s already Week 6 and before the Patriots can enjoy the bye week, they’ll have a tough matchup against the Cowboys in Foxboro. Get ready with all the numbers that I bet you won’t see elsewhere:

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* – Lots was made of Tom Brady throwing his first red zone interception ever at home last week (although it wasn’t his fault). But for New England as a club, it snapped just an 18-home game streak without such a pick as Matt Cassel threw two in 2008. The longest home red zone interception avoidance streaks still going:

36 – 49ers (last was Week 14, 2006)
24 – Panthers
22 – Jets

Clip-and-save since I’m on the subject: While Denver hasn’t intercepted a red zone pass on the road since 2006 (38 road games), the Patriots have one such pick in four of their last five road tilts.

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* – The Patriots have won 19 straight regular season home games, tied with the 1997-1999 49ers for the third longest home streak since 1970. Only the Packers (25 in a row from 1995-1998) and the Broncos (24 straight from 1995-1998) have had longer streaks.

Note this: New England has scored 20 or more points in their last 19 regular season home games as well. If they extend the streak to 20, they will tie the longest home streak with 20+ points since 1970, currently shared by the 2007-2009 Saints and the 2003-2005 Chargers. Want some perspective? Carolina has played 10 home games since the beginning of last year and has put up 20+ points just twice.

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* – Last Sunday, Tom Brady and the Patriots completed 77% of their throws that were 10 yards downfield or shorter. It was the 57th consecutive game in which the Pats have completed 60% or higher on those short throws. Here are the three longest current streak of over 60% completions on such passes:

57 – Patriots
34 – Saints
21 – Seattle

Let’s take that one step further and see the streaks for 55% or higher on throws of 10 yards or less:

84 – Patriots
45 – Packers
44 – Saints

Note this: Dallas’ defense has held two of their last six opponents to under 60% completions on those throws.

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* – The best way to attack third-and-long situations is not to put yourself in them. Well, that’s the Patriots’ approach as they have attempted third down and six or more yards just 25 times, the fewest in the league. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to convert those situations whenever possible, and the Patriots have done that at a 40% clip, trailing only the Saints (55%).

Note this: Another reason to get into third-and-short this weekend: Dallas’ defense has allowed 70% conversions on third down and five or less, second highest/worst in the NFL. Only the Eagles (71%) have been worse.

—————————————————————————————— Read the rest of this entry »

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