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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Colts leap to No. 2 after edging Broncos

10.23.13 at 11:12 am ET
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A major shakeup is the result of a thrilling and somewhat shocking Week 7. The Broncos relinquished the No. 1 spot, with the Seahawks retaking the crown. Storming all the way up to No. 2 are the Colts. Behind Andrew Luck, Indy knocked off what looked to be an unbeatable Broncos team that falls to No. 3.

The Saints (6), Bengals (7) and Packers (8) all dropped a few spots despite winning or being on a bye. The spectacular Indy win along with the Chiefs (5) improving to 7-0 is the reason why. This goes to show how close the top teams are. Parity is king in the NFL.

Coming off an exciting overtime victory over the Patriots (9), the Jets make a dramatic leap five spots to No. 14. Meanwhile, the Bears (15) continue to plunge, having lost three of their last four and Jay Cutler for an extended period of time.

Three teams have claimed the top spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings through seven weeks. Can the undefeated Chiefs be the fourth? Week 8 awaits …

1. (2) Seahawks (6-1) — Percy Harvin‘s imminent return should instill fear throughout the NFC. If the Seahawks get home-field advantage in the playoffs, it will take a perfect game to knock them off.

2. (9) Colts (5-2) — Forget the six fourth-quarter comebacks and nine game-winning drives, Luck’s signature game was this past Sunday when he outdueled future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. The Colts have another special QB in Indianapolis. 

3. (1) Broncos (6-1) — Turnovers at the running back position is a reason for concern in Denver. This team doesn’t have many weaknesses, but running back is one of them.

 4. (4) 49ers (5-2) — That’s four straight for the red-hot Niners. The run game has been a major factor for the offense. Frank Gore spoke out about his lack of carries following a Week 3 loss to the Colts and has seen his workload increase dramatically ever since.

5. (7) Chiefs (7-0) — The Chiefs have the makeup of a Super Bowl contender. They win close games, don’t turn the ball over and have a ferocious defense. It’s not the Seahawks but the Chiefs who are allowing the fewest points per game in the league (11.6).

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Jets sign Ras-I Dowling to the practice squad

10.23.13 at 10:41 am ET
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Former Patriots second-round pick Ras-I Dowling has a new home. The Jets signed the cornerback to their practice squad on Wednesday morning.

Dowling, who was chosen in the 2011 NFL draft, played two games for the Patriots in the 2011 season before injuring his hip in Week 2 against San Diego. On Oct. 29, 2011, the Patriots placed him on injured reserve, ending his season.

Dowling seemed to be on track and healthy in the summer of 2012 but on Oct. 26, 2012, he was placed on injured reserve with a torn thigh muscle, ending his 2012 season.

Dowling did not have an apparent injury this summer during training camp but on Aug. 28, 2013, the Patriots released Dowling as part of their roster cutdown to 75. Over two seasons, Dowling had 10 tackles, no interceptions and no sacks.

Dowling attended the University of Virginia. As a freshman in 2007, Dowling played in 12 games recording 44 tackles and two interceptions. As a sophomore in 2008 he started nine of 11 games. He finished the season with 43 tackles and a team leading three interceptions.

In 2009, Dowling was voted All-ACC second team. He was also awarded ACC Defensive Player of the week vs. Indiana with nine tackles and the first sack of his career. He ended the season with three interceptions. Dowling was voted 2010 Pre-season All-ACC selection and second team All-American for the first time in his career.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports Dowling had workouts with the Texans and Chiefs before signing with the Jets on Wednesday.

Read More: houston texans, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Patriots officially add veteran defensive end Andre Carter to 53-man roster

10.23.13 at 9:32 am ET
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The Patriots announced Wednesday morning they added veteran free agent defensive end Andre Carter to the 53-man roster and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga to the practice squad. In addition, they released cornerback Travis Howard from the practice squad.

Carter, 34, was with the Patriots during the 2011 season and earned his first Pro Bowl selection after registering double-digit sacks (10.0) for the fourth time in his career. He played in 14 games and finished with 59 total tackles, 10.0 sacks and two forced fumbles before being placed on injured reserve. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder is a veteran of 12 NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2001-05), Washington Redskins (2006-10), Patriots in 2011 and the Oakland Raiders in 2012. Carter was released by Oakland on Aug. 31.

“We felt like he’€™d give us some things,” Belichick said. “We have a lot of respect for Andre. He’€™s a hard working guy that’€™s given us great leadership in the past and is a good teammate, I mean everybody loves Andre. But in the end, it still comes down to performance on the field and all that, so we’€™ll see.

“We played some 3-4 when he was here in ‘€™11 and played 4-3 and he played probably more 4-3 out there [in Oakland], but similar.”

Siliga, 23, has spent time with San Francisco, Denver and Seattle since joining the NFL as a rookie free agent with the 49ers in 2011 out of Utah. The 6-foot-2, 325-pounder, was released by the 49ers at the end of his first training camp and was then signed to the Denver practice squad. He began the 2012 season on the Denver practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster in September. He played in one game for Denver in 2012. Siliga was traded by Denver to Seattle in training camp this past summer and spent part of the year on the Seahawks practice squad before being released on Oct. 4.

Howard, 23, joined the New England practice squad on Oct. 16. He was originally signed by the Houston Texans as a rookie free agent out of Ohio State on May 10. The 6-foot-1, 197-pounder, was released by Houston on Aug. 27. He started every game as a junior and senior at Ohio State and totaled 81 tackles, six interceptions and 11 passes defensed during that time.

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Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga signs with Patriots

10.22.13 at 7:25 pm ET
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Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga has apparently agreed to a deal with the Patriots. The 23-year-old Tweeted from his personal account Tuesday evening with news of the agreement.

The 6-foot-2, 325-pounder out of Utah was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011 by the Niners, but released prior to the start of the season. Shortly after that, he was picked up by the Broncos and added to their practice squad. He played one game in 2012 with Denver, and was dealt to the Seahawks this past August, and spent time on their practice squad this past season.

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots’ skill position players

10.22.13 at 4:44 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of 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. Seven weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 84 (78 rushes, 6 catches), 8 negative rushes, 1 negative reception, 1 fumble lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 54 (54 rushes, 0 catches), 6 negative plays, 1 fumble lost
WR Julian Edelman: 48 (2 rushes, 46 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 42 (27 rushes, 15 catches), 2 negative runs, 1 negative reception
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 23 (0 rushes, 23 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 22 (0 rushes, 22 catches), 1 negative reception
RB Shane Vereen: 21 (14 rushes, 7 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 19 (19 rushes, 0 catches), 19 sacks, 10 kneeldowns, 2 fumbles lost
WR Danny Amendola: 17 (1 rush, 16 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Rob Gronkowski: 8 (0 rushes, 8 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 8 (0 rushes, 8 catches)
WR Austin Collie: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
FB James Develin: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
WR Josh Boyce: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: The Patriots ran 70 plays on Sunday against the Jets, and 44 of them were in shotgun, a rate of 63 percent. That’s a season-high for shotgun totals for New England — their previous high was 55 percent against the Bengals. To this point in the season, the Patriots have been in shotgun formation on 234 of their 500 offensive snaps, a rate of 47 percent. (Last year through seven games, the Patriots were in the shotgun 49 percent of the time.) ‘€¦ Against the Jets, the Patriots were in no-huddle for 11 of their 70 snaps, a rate of 16 percent and a significant drop off from the 53 percent rate they posted the week before against the Saints. On the year, the Patriots have operated in a no-huddle on 72 of their 500 plays from scrimmage — 14 percent of the time. ‘€¦ New England has run 500 offensive plays this year in seven games. Not counting kneeldowns, 38 have been for negative yardage. Of the 70 plays on Sunday against the Jets, five went for negative yardage ‘€” four sacks of Brady and a negative reception for Ridley. ‘€¦ Through seven games last year, the Patriots had run 547 plays and gained 3,053 total net yards, an average of 5.6 yards per play. Through seven games this year, it’s 500 plays, 2,388 total net yards, an average of 4.8 yards per play. … For more comparisons, check out what the offensive looked like through seven games last year.

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Bill Belichick: Jets were ‘using the play’ themselves on field goal attempt

10.22.13 at 4:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick may want to move on from Sunday’s overtime loss to the Jets, but he hinted Tuesday during his conference call with reporters that he’s still a little ticked off by how the “pushing rule” was enforced.

Sunday’€™s game ended in controversy, as the Patriots were called for breaking the NFL’€™s new ‘€œpushing rule’€ while Jets kicker Nick Folk attempted a 56-yard field goal to win the game in overtime. Folk missed that kick but Chris Jones was called for pushing Will Svitek into the Jets offensive line. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike call was made giving the Jets a new series of downs.

Four plays later, Folk took advantage and connected on a 42-yard attempt, giving New York the 30-27 win.

Following the game, various reports surfaced that Jets coach Rex Ryan had tipped off the officials that the Patriots have used this push technique.

Belichick was asked if it bothers him that there’€™s a report that the Jets tipped the officials off about the push play.

“Well, I mean, since they were using the play themselves I don’€™t even know about all that,” Belichick said. “But basically, we’€™re just moving on here.”

It would appear Belichick was referencing Stephen Gostkowski‘s 44-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining that sent the game to overtime.

Replays of Gostkowski’s kick show Jets outside linebacker Quinton Coples lined up to the left of teammate Muhammad Wilkerson, looped behind Wilkerson, and his right arm then pressed up against Wilkerson’s back as he then pushed Wilkerson, who then fell over snapper Danny Aiken and guard Logan Mankins.

No penalty was called on Gostkowski’s kick.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl

What the return of Andre Carter means for Patriots

10.22.13 at 2:07 pm ET
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Three thoughts on the return of Andre Carter to New England:

1. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long made a habit of collecting veteran defensive linemen and using them to coach up and mentor some of the younger players at the position. It was a tradition that started with the addition of Anthony Pleasant and Bobby Hamilton in 2001 and continued with Keith Traylor and Carter in 2011. (It’s a policy that’s had mixed results — while Pleasant, Traylor and Carter played important roles as mentors for Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth was also a veteran lineman who came to New England at a similar stage of his career. Him, not so much.)

As a result — without Wilfork in the lineup for the rest of the year and Tommy Kelly facing an uncertain future because of a knee injury — it’s reasonable to think that Carter has been added to a positional grouping as a mentor for younger defensive ends like Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette and Chandler Jones, as well as the rest of a defensive line that features rookies like Joe Vellano and Chris Jones and second-year player Marcus Forston. He’s a smart guy who commands respect in the locker room, and will be welcomed with open arms by a team that has lost some significant leadership on the defensive side of the ball.

2. You have to figure he still has a little something left in the tank. He shouldn’t be expected to instantly step in and be an every-down presence for New England, but if the Patriots can have him work as a rotational pass rusher, monitor his snaps and use him appropriately, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t have an occasional impact at defensive end.

3. While he did have some positional versatility earlier in his career, Carter is not a defensive tackle, so he should not be expected to step in and instantly provide depth and support in the trenches. What he does do is give you some ability to shift some guys around and utilize some of the versatile players they do have along that defensive front seven. Chandler Jones has spent some time this season working occasionally at defensive tackle, and Carter could provide an edge presence when Jones is kicked inside. (The Patriots previously have been using Buchanan on the edge in those situations.) There’s also the possibility — however remote — that the Patriots could consider occasionally moving the smart and versatile Rob Ninkovich from his defensive end spot to outside linebacker (a position he’s played before) and have Carter take some of those snaps at defensive end in his place. That would allow Ninkovich to provide depth at a linebacker spot that is still looking to rebound from losing Jerod Mayo for the season. Carter’s arrival opens up some new possibilities that the Patriots didn’t have before.

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