|11.30.13 at 9:52 pm ET|
The Patriots will announce their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Sunday — about 11:30 a.m. — but based on practice time and personnel decisions, here’s who we think will end up sitting this week against the Texans and what it means for New England’s game plan.
Tackle Marcus Cannon: The offensive lineman, who suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Broncos, did not practice all week and was downgraded on Friday. Expect Will Svitek to take the bulk of the reps in his place on the right side.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: Hoomanawanui went down with a knee injury in the loss to the Panthers in Carolina, and hasn’t been seen on the practice field or in game action since. It will be interesting to see who might fill in for him — Matthew Mulligan has seen the bulk of the reps in his place to this point in the season, but the recently acquired D.J. Williams also could see some action this week if the Patriots feel like he’s up to speed.
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson: Like Cannon and Hoomanawanui, the rookie was downgraded on Friday. (He did not practice this week after suffering a foot injury in the win over Denver.) Expect Kenbrell Thompkins to get some reps in his spot, and this could open up the door for Josh Boyce to see some snaps as part of the New England passing game.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard: Despite a knee injury, the second-year corner out of Nebraska did start last week against the Broncos, but was limited in what he could and couldn’t do, and ended up coming out of the game. He was downgraded Saturday, which likely means more snaps for rookie Logan Ryan, although the Patriots do have the option of moving Kyle Arrington from the slot to the outside and putting Ryan at Arrington’s old spot. Something to look for.
Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The rookie out of Rutgers has been caught upon a numbers game for the bulk of the season, and as a result, has been a healthy scratch for most of the year.
Defensive end Jake Bequette: The second year defensive lineman out of Arkansas has slipped behind Andre Carter and Michael Buchanan on the depth chart.
Offensive lineman Chris Barker: Barker doesn’t appear to have much experience at tackle, but with New England down to its third right tackle in Svitek, his ability to play guard could provide the Patriots with a chance to do some shuffle of one of their other offensive linemen in Svitek does go down. (If Barker is activated, this spot could come down to a variety of players, including Boyce. If his thumb is still keeping him on the sidelines, veteran safety Steve Gregory could be a candidate to be deactivated as well.)
|11.30.13 at 11:18 am ET|
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s Patriots-Texans game.
Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:
1. Quarterback Tom Brady against the Texans pass defense ‘ As miserable as the last nine games have been for Houston (2-9), the pass defense has actually been pretty good. A sizable portion of that is because teams have gotten good leads on the Texans and they’ve been more inclined to run the ball (Houston is 22nd in the league against the run at 118.5 yards per game allowed), but there’s also something to the fact that the Texans defensive front has worked well with the secondary when it comes to slowing down opposing passing games. In their 11 games, only four passers have gone over 200 yards against Houston (Andrew Luck tops the lot with 271 passing yards), and the Texans are in the Top 10 in several major passing defense categories, including total passing yards allowed (first, 1,890), completion percentage against (seventh at 58.1) and yards per attempt (eighth, 6.7). Believe it or not, those are some of the best defensive numbers Brady will face all season.
2. The Patriots offensive line against defensive lineman J.J. Watt ‘ As bad as this season has been for the Texans, Watt has been immense, solidifying his spot as a bonafide Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He’s a transformative presence who can make life miserable for the New England offensive line. Pro Football Focus has him credited with 10 sacks (tied for the top spot among all 3-4 defensive ends), 24 quarterback hits (best at his position) and 26 quarterback hurries (fifth at his position). Look for the Patriots to try and get after Watt with multiple looks up front in hopes of slowing him down. For what it’s worth, the 6-foot-5, 289-pounder enters Sunday’s game against the Patriots with a five-game sack streak. (In his two games against New England last season, he was held to 0.5 sacks.) One other thing to keep in mind — one of the things that’s allowed the New England offensive line to have some measure of success as of late is a renewed emphasis by Brady on getting the ball out as quickly as possible. A quick release is always paramount, but even more so against an overwhelming defensive presence like Watt.
3. Wide receiver Andre Johnson against cornerback Aqib Talib ‘ Provided that Talib is set to go — the hip has remained a question as of late, and he’s been limited all week in practice — this should be a really good matchup between two of the better players at their respective positions. Johnson has struggled over the course of the season, but you can chalk a lot of that up to inconsistent quarterbacking play. Even with the issues the Texans have under center, he’s still one of the best in the game, as the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder has 74 catches on 119 targets for 1,002 yards (fourth in the NFL) and five touchdowns. Johnson is the kind of guy that Talib was brought in to try and slow down, a long, lean deep threat. Look for Talib to try and get a little physical with Johnson — jam him and get in his face to try and slow him down off the line. Talib and the Patriots were able to do a good job “limiting” Johnson in their two meetings last year, holding him to eight catches on 95 yards in each game. He got decent numbers, but was fundamentally a nonfactor in both contests.
4. Under-the-radar opponent Patriots fans need to know ‘ Keshawn Martin. The wide receiver also works as a punt and kick returner, and has put up pretty good numbers as a special teamer over the course of the first 11 games. The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder out of Michigan State is ninth in the league in kick return average at 26 yards per opportunity. While he’s not as consistent when it comes to punt returns (16th overall at 8.5 yards per return), he does have an explosive element to his game that makes him difficult to contain — he’s one of only 10 guys in the league this year to take one all the way back. He’s not a part of the regular rotation at receiver, but still has 11 catches on 21 targets for 148 yards on the year.
‘¨5. By the numbers: 2. The number of rushing touchdowns the Texans have through the first 11 games of the season. It’s second worst in the league, only ahead of Cleveland’s one. Arian Foster and Ben Tate each have one. (One other stat worth passing along: Much has been made about the third-quarter struggles the Patriots have occasionally suffered this season, but New England appears to have broken out of its rut with good third quarters against the Steelers, Dolphins and Broncos, and now have 57 third-quarter points this season. The five-plus points per game average isn’t terrific, but it’s much better than it was earlier in the year. Meanwhile, the Texans are a hot mess just after halftime — they have 29 third-quarter points, including just three third-quarter points in the last three weeks.)
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|11.30.13 at 8:23 am ET|
Welcome to the starts and sits for Week 13. I’ll be featuring better players than usual because there are no more bye concerns and most fantasy teams, especially those still alive, will be looking at better players when it comes to lineup decisions.
For those who have more questions than this article has answers for, you have two places to go. First, you can hit Rotobahn and consult our full lineup rankings, which will give you a ranking and a ‘skinny’ on just about any player you might be considering in any league. Second, you can come back to WEEI.com tomorrow and participate in our Sunday morning chat where I will answer all of your lineup questions. You’ll find a link to the chat on the homepage in the “This Just In” section.
Tom Brady, Patriots at Texans
Just kidding, folks. This one is an ultra-obvious freebie — meant to do nothing but point out that Rotobahn had the future Hall of Famer on our trade-for list when others were running for cover. For those who stuck with Brady … or dealt for him, enjoy the next few weeks. He’s a QB1, period.
Josh McCown, Bears at Vikings
How often do we recommend a backup quarterback playing on the road? Not that often, but McCown has been very good so far in terms of fantasy production and this matchup is very solid. Start McCown in any format this week and you are in pretty good shape.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers vs. Rams
Two things factor into the decision to make CK a start. First, he looked much better last week. Second, he gets Michael Crabtree back this week. The Rams are not an easy mark, but they can be had, especially when on the road, and this one is at Frisco.
Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Titans
He may not inspire the kind of confidence that he did a few weeks back, but a lot of it is perception. Luck is still a very sound fantasy play in 12-team leagues and has produced good fantasy numbers in games that were pretty ugly from the Colts’ perspective. He was serviceable against the Titans on the road in Week 11 and he should be able to handle them this week in Indianapolis.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Chargers
He’s been a strong option for most of the season and he gets a decent road matchup here. We expect the Bengals to be ready after having an extra week to prepare. Dalton can start for you in any format this week. He always has nice scoring potential due to the quality of the weapons around him.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Eagles
The matchup is mediocre, but he’s playing well and has tons of good places to throw the football in Bruce Arians‘ offense. The Eagles are playing well, but they will have trouble matching up with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Palmer can help you in 12-team leagues this week.
Brandon Weeden, Browns vs. Jaguars
Here’s an option for those searching for an answer in a deep league. Weeden is not a great start, but he may be the best thing on waiver wires in 12-team formats and he could have a solid day at home vs. the Jaguars. Weeden can be your QB this week if you are hurting and he might just surprise you if he can get Josh Gordon going and hit on a few deep balls.
Mike Glennon, Bucs at Panthers
The rookie has been pretty good so far, but he lacks the experience and the firepower to play against the Panthers defense on the road in a hostile environment. Look elsewhere if you can.
|11.29.13 at 7:56 pm ET|
Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, the NFL playoff picture is starting to come into sharper focus. (For the latest playoff scenarios, bookmark this page.) Here are 10 questions we have about what might happen down the stretch and into the postseason:
1. WHO IS GOING TO NAIL DOWN THE SIXTH SEED IN THE AFC PLAYOFF RACE?
After seeing how they were able to hold off the Steelers Thursday night at home, it’s awful hard to discount the Ravens’ (6-6) chances to land that final playoff spot in the AFC. It’s not going to be easy — Baltimore faces a handful of challengers for that No. 6 seed, including the Jets, Dolphins, Titans, Chargers (all 5-6) and Steelers (5-7). In addition, three of the five games left on their schedule are against plus-.500 teams, including the Patriots and Bengals. While they’re not the same team that got on an epic roll last year ‘ rising up out of the four spot to win the Super Bowl — there are still plenty of mentally tough individuals on both sides of the ball who know how to navigate through December and into January.
2. PROVIDED THEY GET THERE, WHICH TEAM IS BEST SUITED TO WIN A COLD WEATHER SUPER BOWL?
There are some good cold-weather teams who have an excellent shot at reaching North Jersey in February, but based on what we’ve seen to this point — as well as previous seasons — you would have to think the Patriots have an excellent shot at winning a bad-weather/cold-weather Super Bowl. Tom Brady‘s ability to operate in sub-zero temperatures was again evident in last Sunday’s win over the Broncos. Brady is now 25-5 as a starting QB when the game-time temperature is 32 degrees or lower, throwing 51 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. In addition, Brady improved his record to 40-6 when the game time temperature is 40 degrees or colder (including playoffs). Brady has thrown 85 touchdowns and only 30 interceptions in such games, including a three-touchdown, no-interception performance against Denver. That, combined with the fact that New England has a sturdy running game that can help provide some offensive oomph in bad weather, should be a boost when/if the Patriots get to MetLife in February.
3. WHICH TEAM HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SURPRISE AND SNEAK IN TO THE SUPER BOWL?
In the NFC, the Panthers probably have the most potential to surprise the field and pull off the upset, providing Cam Newton doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, their defense continues to play solid against the run and pass and Riverboat Ron Rivera doesn’t overplay his hand. When it comes to the AFC, there are a handful of surprise possibilities, including the aforementioned Ravens and Bengals. Given what they’ve done to this point in the season, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the Chiefs can make it through, but when you consider the big picture and how far the franchise has come from this point last year, it would be a remarkable turnaround.
4. IN THE NFC, CAN ANYONE STOP SEATTLE?
The biggest game of the year in the NFC is Monday night in Seattle, when the 10-1 Seahawks meet the 9-2 Saints, a contest that will have major implications when it comes to determining who gets home-field advantage in the NFC playoff race. If Seattle can hold serve and win at home, that could effectively wrap up the No. 1 seed, giving it at least a two-game lead on the rest of the field with four to play. Given their dominance at home, that would make it awful hard for anyone to get past Seattle in the postseason. But if New Orleans can find a way to win, that would open it up for the Saints, or maybe even the 8-3 Panthers depending on how each team handles its business the rest of the way.
5. WHICH TEAMS ARE GOING TO HAVE THE BIGGEST BEEF WITH THE PLAYOFF SYSTEM THIS YEAR?
In the NFC, the Cardinals have been a really pleasant surprise — Bruce Arians has gotten that franchise turned around and headed in the right direction with a 7-4 record through the first 11 games. Unless everything collapses, they should be a pretty good bet to finish with at least nine wins. (Their schedule down the stretch includes games against the Rams and Titans, both of whom are 5-6, as well as the 6-5 Eagles.) That would stand in serious contrast to the dumpster fire in the NFC East, where a nine-win team (Dallas? Philadelphia?) could end up walking away with the division title. In the AFC, all six of the playoff teams deserve to make the postseason (with the exception of whoever sneaks in and grabs that No. 6 spot). The biggest complaint will likely come from whoever finishes second in the AFC West — because of the playoff positioning, that team (either the Chiefs or Broncos) will be relegated to the No. 5 seed and top wild-card spot.
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|11.29.13 at 4:11 pm ET|
The Patriots have ruled offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, tight end Michael Hoomananwanui and wide receiver Aaron Dobson out for Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston.
No surprises with all three — all of them have missed practice this week with injuries that date back a week or more. Hoomanwanui has been struggling with a knee problem he first sustained in a loss to the Panthers earlier this month, while Cannon went down with an ankle injury in last week’s win over the Broncos and Dobson was slowed by a foot problem he sustained against Denver.
As for the rest of the report, cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole are all listed as questionable, jointing a group that includes safety Steve Gregory and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Here’s the complete report:
Did Not Practice
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) OUT
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) OUT
RT Marcus Cannon (ankle) OUT
CB Kyle Arrington (groin) QUESTIONABLE
CB Marquice Cole (shin) QUESTIONABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee) QUESTIONABLE
S Steve Gregory (finger) QUESTIONABLE
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm/hamstring) QUESTIONABLE
CB Aqib Talib (hip) QUESTIONABLE
LB Chris White (back) QUESTIONABLE
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|11.29.13 at 12:03 pm ET|
After seeing the Steelers coach come perilously close to making contact with Ravens returner Jacoby Jones Thursday night — some would say it was an accident, some would say it was on purpose — Belichick recalled getting “blown up” on the sidelines on a couple of occasions.
“There’s one play in particular where I was kind of watching the pass rush of the front and the ball was thrown,” Belichick said Friday morning. “I didn’t really follow the ball that quickly, and all the sudden the guy caught it and was right on top of me and [I] ended up under the Gatorade bench.
“Obviously if you’re watching the ball, it shouldn’t be that big of a problem,” he added. “But if you’re trying to watch something else ‘¦ obviously we have to give the officials and the players room to play. Sometimes that just happens where you get guys caught up a little bit on the sideline. But yeah, I saw the play last night. I was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah.’ That could easily happen to any of us. It’s a good lesson, I have to be careful.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|11.29.13 at 11:41 am ET|
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon were all missing from the start of Patriots practice on Friday, according to reports.
Hoomanwanui has been struggling with a knee injury he first sustained in a loss to the Panthers earlier this month, while Cannon went down with an ankle injury in last week’s win over the Broncos and Dobson was slowed by a foot problem he sustained against the Broncos.
One player who was back at practice on Wednesday was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who missed practice on Thursday and has dealt with a knee injury he suffered earlier this month.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
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