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Peter King on M&M: ‘I can’t see Ed Reed being much of a factor in the AFC playoff race’

11.15.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss news from around the NFL, including the possible impact of Ed Reed, the health status of Peyton Manning and the legal maneuverings of Richie Incognito.

It was a quiet week for the Patriots, who were off last weekend, with the week’s big news being the team’s interest — or lack thereof — in Reed, who became a free agent after being cut by the Texans and then clearing waivers. The veteran safety signed with the Jets on Thursday.

“I heard right away that the Jets reached out and that Rex Ryan personally pushed hard for this,” King said. “But it’s hard for me to imagine that if Bill Belichick called Ed Reed the day this happened and said, ‘I really want you,’ it’s just hard for me to imagine that Reed wouldn’t have gone.”

King predicted Reed’s influence would be minimal over the season’s final seven weeks.

“I think you’ve got to be a little bit realistic in this case about what Ed Reed has left,” King said. “The guy had 14 tackles for Houston. He was hurt a lot more than he played. He did not play effectively. I live in New York now, and they’ve made a huge deal in the last 24 hours over Ed Reed signing. But it’s like in any game in any sport, when you sign a guy who’s significantly over the hill, it’s great for headlines, but headlines don’t play, headlines don’t win games.

“I can’t see Ed Reed being much of a factor in the AFC playoff race.”

In Denver, Manning has been sitting out practices with an injured ankle as the Broncos prepare to host the undefeated Chiefs in an AFC West showdown Sunday night. King said Manning will be under center, but he could struggle.

“The injury report doesn’t matter. Whatever it is they say, he’s going to play,” King said. “We all know that he’s hobbled on either one or both ankles; I think there’s some mystery there. But the word out of Denver is he’s going a high ankle sprain and is really not going to be able to be mobile. And I think against four legitimate pass rushers in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston on the outside, Derrick Johnson and Dontari Poe on the inside — look, Denver’s line has allowed him in the last three weeks to get mauled. And especially over left guard, where Zane Beadles is having a terrible year.

“I really question how effective Peyton Manning can be. If you have a fantasy team this week, I don’t think this is the week to think you’re going to get many bombs out of Demaryius Thomas, because I just don’t know how much time Manning is going to have this weekend.”

Added King: “This could be the kind of game, really, that Carolina and San Francisco played last week [a 10-9 Panthers win]. I know it sounds crazy to think that, but this could be a very low-scoring game won by the defense. I have sincere reservations about whether Manning is going to be able to play effectively on that ankle and against this pass rush, this team that clearly is in the lead in sacks in the NFL. ‘€¦ I keep thinking that even if Kansas City can eke out 17 points this weekend from an offense that isn’t playing well, I think they’re going to have a really good chance to win this game.”

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Read More: Ed Reed, Peter King, Peyton Maning, Richie Incognito

What Bill Belichick remembers most about Super Bowl XXXVIII against Panthers: ‘The results’

11.15.13 at 12:53 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Super Bowl XXXVIII may not have been won on the last play like Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams, but the win over the Panthers on Feb. 1, 2004, still stands out in the mind of Bill Belichick, as he recalled Friday morning.

“The results, yeah,” Belichick recalled of the 32-29 win over the Panthers for the second of three titles in four years. “It was a crazy game. There was no offense in the first quarter and then there was a lot of scoring right before the half and then, as I remember, not a whole lot of offense in the third quarter and then all hell broke loose in the fourth quarter. Nobody could stop anybody, it was just up and down the field.”

That was the game the defenses battled to a 0-0 draw after 15 minutes. Then the two teams combined for 24 points in the second quarter, with the Patriots taking a 14-10 halftime lead.

The teams managed another scoreless tie in the third quarter before the Patriots seemingly grabbed control, assuming a 21-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Panthers responded with drives of 81 and 90 yards, taking a 22-21 lead. The Patriots responded by marching 68 yards, capped off by a Tom Brady to Mike Vrabel TD pass to put the Patriots up, 29-22. The Panthers tied the game on their third TD drive of the quarter.

Adam Vinatieri won the game with a 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.

Belichick was asked to not only reminisce about the game Friday but compare and contrast the Panthers of 2003 and the current version, which is on a four-game winning streak after a 0-2 start to the season.

“I would say it’€™s quite a bit different,” Belichick said. “[Offensive coordinator Dan] Henning was a very game-plan, running-game coach. I think these guys are more — they have their system, it’€™s well-balanced, but it’€™s not like 10 new plays every week. [Jake] Delhomme was a lot different quarterback than [Cam] Newton. Steve Smith, but I’€™d say it’€™s quite a bit different.”

Belichick sees more parallels to the Carolina defense now in comparing it to the one that John Fox ran in 2003.

“Yeah, I’€™d say more on defense than offense, yeah,” Belichick said. “Four-man line. John was more of a quarters coach at that time and a lot of blitz zone, probably a higher percentage. I’€™d say the X’s and O’s were probably similar, maybe the percentages come out a little bit different, ratios. But similar, real good front four like Carolina had a tremendous group there, starting with [Julius] Peppers, but that whole group was really good and schematically closer to what they’€™re doing now.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, nfl

Bill Belichick thinks Steve Smith ‘brings a lot of heart and toughness’ to Panthers

11.15.13 at 12:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With all the talk this week about Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, it’s easy to forget that Steve Smith has seen it all with the Panthers.

He’s seen the very good (Super Bowl XXXVIII appearance, 2005 NFC championship appearance) and the very bad (2009 Rae Carruth murder case, 2008 training camp fight with teammate Ken Lucas.)

Now, this season, the veteran fiery leader of a young and promising team is providing a different kind of boost to the Panthers.

“He’€™s not returning punts and kickoffs, but he’€™s very competitive,” Bill Belichick said Thursday. “He’€™s still a tough guy to handle. He’€™s very strong for his size. He’€™s a shorter player but he’€™s stocky, he’€™s thick, he has good balance. He’€™s tough, he’€™s hard to bring down. He has strong hands, he can see him really reach out there and take the ball aggressively. He has good quickness and run after the catch ability is still good.”

Smith, at 34, is still the Panthers leader in catches (42), yards (450) and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (3). Smith has been the perfect veteran security blanket for Newton as he has grown in his first three seasons in the NFL.

“He’€™s taken some shorter passes and broken some tackles or beaten guys in the open field,” Belichick continued. “He’€™s a tough guy to handle. His playing strength, his quickness, his speed, his experience ‘€“ but just his competitiveness. He’€™s a tough, competitive player. The bigger the situation, the more he wants to be out there and step up and take the shot, so to speak. I have a lot of respect for Steve Smith and I think he’€™s still very effective in that role for the Panthers. He’€™s a good player. I think he brings a lot of heart and toughness to their team.”

Assuming he’s healed adequately from his hip injury, Aqib Talib is looking forward to going up against Smith and will likely be matched up against him as he was during his days with the Buccaneers when they played Carolina in the NFC South.

During the 2003 season, Smith played a critical role for the Panther offense and helped lead them to the only NFC title in franchise history. He finished the regular season with 88 catches for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. During the NFC divisional playoffs, Smith caught a 69-yard pass and ran it for a touchdown in the 2nd overtime period to beat the Rams 29’€“23. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, he caught 4 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, and returned a kickoff for 30 yards in the Panthers 32’€“29 loss to the Patriots.

With 176 games in 13 seasons under his belt, no wide receiver in the NFL has been around longer than Smith. Only Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss have been active as long, with all three coming into the NFL in the 2001 NFL draft.

Aqib Talib might be ‘day-to-day’ but sounds close to returning

11.15.13 at 11:24 am ET
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FOXBORO — There are usually good signs that a player is nearing return from injury.

Aqib Talib is showing some of them.

For the first time since suffering a hip injury in Week 6 against the Saints, Talib spoke with the media Thursday, which could be a sign that the shutdown corner is getting ready to come back.

Asked where he stood this week, Talib would only commit to “day to day,” but he was on the practice field for the team’s full-pads practice Thursday, and was on the field again on Friday.

He gave credit to his teammates picking him up during his absence while saying it’s been difficult watching the games.

“Definitely, man, anytime you have to watch the guys go to war without you, man, that’s the worst thing in the world,” he said.

Talib said the bye last week came “at the perfect time.”

The other big sign that Talib appears ready to return is his eagerness to get on the field with one of the best talkers in the game, Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, someone he got to know very well from his NFC South days with the Buccaneers.

“He brings it every Sunday or Monday or whenever the game is,” Talib said. “Steve’s gonna bring it. If you’re competitive like that, you’re gonna be successful.”

As for his own trash-talking exploits on the field, Talib acknowledged he’s got game, too.

“Yeah, I say a couple words,” Talib said with a devilish smile.

Read More: Aqib Talib, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, nfl

Patriots practice Friday: Steve Gregory missing again, WR LaQuan Williams released

11.15.13 at 11:15 am ET
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FOXBORO — It’s beginning to look like Patriots safety Steve Gregory will miss Monday’s game against the Panthers.

The safety was not spotted during the media portion of practice Friday morning, marking the second straight day he’s missed with an injured thumb suffered against the Steelers on Nov. 3. The team worked out in sweats and shells on a mild, pleasant morning on the lower practice field.

Also not in attendance was wide receiver LaQuan Williams, who was released Friday before the practice. Williams was signed by the Patriots on Nov. 5 and did not play in a game with the team.

Williams, 25, is a veteran of two NFL seasons with the Ravens. The 6-foot, 195-pounder originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Ravens out of Maryland in 2011. Williams was released by Baltimore on Sept. 6.

He played in 23 NFL games over the last two seasons and finished with four receptions for 46 yards and nine special teams tackles. Last season, Williams played in 11 games and finished with five special teams tackles before being placed on injured reserve.

Read More: Carolina Panthers, LaQuan Williams, New England Patriots, nfl

Fantasy Football: Week 11 starts, sits

11.15.13 at 9:28 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 11 starts and sits. It’€™s a tough week with a lot of bad matchups, but I’€™ve done my best to find some appealing options for this weekend. If you need some more feedback on players not listed here, hit Rotobahn for our full lineup rankings. And don’t forget to check out our weekly podcast, too. I’€™ll also be back at WEEI on Sunday at 11 a.m. for our regular chat, so send in those questions.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Nick Foles, Eagles vs. Redskins

Is Michael Vick healthy yet? Will it matter when he is? Foles has been outstanding lately, and I’€™d be very willing to start him this week against a Washington defense that fails to inspire fear in opponents. He’€™s a QB1 in Rotobahn’€™s Week 11 rankings.

Case Keenum, Texans vs. Raiders

This kid can play, and there’€™s very little reason to doubt him in this plus matchup at home. Expect a few big plays and a solid performance that yields numbers worthy of a start in most formats.

Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Browns

Dalton has played well against Cleveland in the past and he has enough options to work around CB Joe Haden if he’€™s having a good day against A.J. Green. Dalton should give you solid production that’€™s good enough to be a QB1 in 12-team leagues.

Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Jaguars

The Jaguars will give him some opportunities, and he’€™s been solid the last few weeks against stronger opponents. If you need an option this week, Palmer can give you a serviceable start.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, Case Keenum

Panthers coach Ron Rivera: Patriots are ‘one of the elites in this league’

11.15.13 at 6:15 am ET
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FOXBORO — Panthers coach Ron Rivera comes into Monday’s game against the Patriots with his team on a five-game win streak, with the latest victory an upset of the 49ers in San Francisco.

But he acknowledges that this week’s game against New England will provide a good litmus test for his team as it prepares for a possible run for the postseason.

“Is it a litmus test?” he asked on a conference call with the New England media. “Yeah, they all are, but again I do agree because of who we are playing. We’re playing one of the elites in this league, who just also happens to have one of the elite quarterbacks in this league.

“[But] they are all litmus tests. They are all important because it is our next, most important, game because it is the one we are about to play,” he added. “That’€™s kind of been my mantra. I don’€™t want these guys to get ahead of themselves. I want these guys to understand that we have to take care of business every week, so every week is an important game. You know, heck, our first game was important, our second one was, and this one is important just like last week as well.”

The 6-3 Panthers have become one of the surprise teams in the league over the first nine games of the season. Buoyed by an aggressive young defense and a third-year quarterback in Cam Newton who has come into his own, Carolina is on a roll. It’s been a particularly gratifying stretch for Rivera, who was on the hot seat at the start of the season, but is now seeing his name bandied about as a possible Coach of the Year candidate.

“It is very satisfying,” Rivera said. “It’€™s really about just the culmination of the hard work we’€™ve put in. We’€™ve come a long way in the last four and a half seasons; two seasons before I got here and my first two, have been very hard. [They’€™ve been] hard on a lot of young players. A lot of guys have gone through four tough years and now just the fact that we are winning, we’€™re playing pretty good and we’€™re doing things that right way we’€™ve given ourselves opportunities. It’€™s very satisfying.”

Rivera is someone who made his bones on the defensive side of the ball — first as a linebacker in Chicago, and then as a defensive coordinator with the Bears and Chargers. He took over the Panthers in 2011, and has seen the maturation of a talented young defense, led by Boston College product Luke Kuechly. Rivera offered a scouting report on Kuechly, who was taken in the first round of the 2012 draft.

“Probably the biggest thing and the best thing he has is a great first step, for the most part. He doesn’€™t take a lot of bad steps and then put himself in bad positions,” Rivera said of Kuechly, who was selected ninth overall. “He plays with his hands pretty doggone well, and if there is one thing I like about him, I think he is a good hit-and-wrap tackler. He led the NFL in tackling [last year] and I think for two years he led the NCAA in tackling. It’€™s something that he does very well and he’€™s adept at it. A very bright, very smart guy. He handles most of our calls and checks, so he is a complete package and he keeps getting better and better.

“He is smart like a Brian Urlacher. He is a physical tackler like Jeremiah Trotter was,” he added. “He is a combination of several guys that I have coached. I coached a young man named Stephen Cooper [who] played at Maine, from that area up there. Coop was one of the smartest guys that I’€™ve had and a very good tackler as well. There are just so many guys that he is similar to, but again he has his own personality, his own style.”

Here are a few more highlights of Rivera’s Q&A with the media:
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Read More: Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Ron Rivera,

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