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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Jets Preview

10.08.11 at 9:30 am ET
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Another Sunday, another big one for the Patriots as they host the Jets in Foxboro. Here are some numbers that struck me:


* – New England’s Stevan Ridley rushed for 97 yards on 10 carries last Sunday, good for a 9.7 yard average. It was the highest average by a Patriots’ rusher in his first game with 10 or more carries since at least 1970:

9.7 – Stevan Ridley, 2011
7.3 – Robert Perryman, 1987
6.9 – Andy Johnson, 1975
6.9 – Don Calhoun, 1975
6.8 – Steve Grogan, 1977

In the last 41 years (since 1970), 1,116 different NFL players have experienced their first game with 10 or more carries. Ridley’s 9.7 average was the 6th highest out of those 1,116 (non-QB’s). Here are the top three:

10.7 – Troy Hambrick, DAL, 2001
10.4 – Gil Fenerty, NO, 1990
10.4 – Tony Galbreath, NO, 1976


* – New England has put up a touchdown on their first offensive possession in all four games this season. The Jets have allowed two opening possession touchdowns. With 35 “first possession” points (first and second halves combined), the Patriots lead the league:

35 – Patriots
31 – Cowboys
28 – Packers

Note this: On their first possession of the second half, New York has wound up punting the ball away all four times.


* – The Patriots have scored a touchdown in the first quarter in nine consecutive games, one shy of the longest in the NFL since 1997:

10 – Chargers (2009-2010)
9 – Patriots (2010-2011)
9 – Titans (2004-2005)

Note this: In three of the last nine games, the Patriots have scored TWO touchdowns in the first quarter. The Jets have not scored two first quarter TD’s in a game in any of their last 29 games.

Note this too: After not allowing a first quarter TD until their EIGHTH game last season, the Jets have allowed four in their first four games this year.

Only St. Louis (7) and New Orleans (5) have allowed more.

Worthless Fact: Since 1997, the Patriots have allowed an average of 5.6 first quarter TD’s per season, easily the fewest in the league in that span (the Jets rank second at 6.0).


* – Patriots’ opponents are averaging an incredible 8.83 yards on first down through four weeks. Not only is that last in the league, but it’s on pace to be the worst in the NFL since 2000 by a WIDE margin:

8.83 – Patriots, 2011 (through four weeks)
6.80 – Lions, 2008
6.57 – Redskins, 2010
6.52 – Texans, 2010

The Patriots’ worst showing from 2000 through 2010? They allowed an average of 5.93 yards on first down in 2005. I’d say that mark is in serious trouble.

Note this: While the Patriots have the worst first down defense in the league, the Jets have the best, allowing an average of 3.97 yards on first down.

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Peter King on M&M: ‘It’s only a matter of time before the defense ruins their season’

10.07.11 at 1:43 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly discussion of NFL news.

King talked about wide receiver Wes Welker and his incredible start to the season. Welker has 40 receptions for 616 yards and five touchdowns in just four games so far this season. King said that the Patriots wideout is one of the top four or five receivers in the game.

“I think he is [one of the NFL’s top receivers] if you consider that there are a lot of different kinds of receivers in football right now,” King said. “He certainly is the state-of-the-art in the flat, and the great thing about him is he’s versatile, he can do anything.

“If the Jets are smart, they’ll put [Darrelle] Revis on him from the start of the game until the end. He clearly is a guy who you have to pay attention to on running downs and throwing downs, and If I were Rex [Ryan], if I were Mike Pettine, there’d be no question. On Wednesday, I would have taken Revis and I would’ve just said, ‘You’ve got this guy every snap.’ ”

While Welker has been enjoying an excellent 2011 season, teammate Chad Ochocinco has struggled to find a place in the New England offense. Through the first four games, Ochocinco has just seven receptions for 113 yards.

“I’m surprised, because knowing the offense and conquering what he has to know in the playbook has never been a problem, and I don’t know if specifically if that’s his problem today,” King said. “He has not done with Tom Brady what Brady has with all those other guys, which is the faith of knowing exactly where he’s going to be and what time he’s going to be there.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On the Patriots defense: “It’s only a matter of time before the defense ruins their season. I wrote that the other day, and after watching them now for 75 percent of their games, their plays so far, I just think that first of all, I was very surprised to hear Pepper Johnson, who I respect a lot, say the other day that he’s happy with the pressure that they’re getting on up front. How can you be happy with the pressure you’re getting up front when Chad Henne torches you?

I don’t think its the scheme. I think Belichick knows what he’s doing in that way. I just think the players playing it, particularly in the front end, are just not getting the pressure they need to bother quarterbacks enough to beat them.”

On Jets QB Mark Sanchez: “We’ve all seen him be good enough to very good, especially in the clutch. And I refuse to believe that the guy’s a bum. He’s not a bum, he’s a young quarterback learning his craft who is going to have some rocky days. … Without pressure on Sanchez, I would think he’d be able to do some damage with [Plaxico] Burress and Santonio Holmes this week.”

On the surging Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson reminds me of Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub once told me, ‘I’ll just throw it up there, [Andre] has the best chance of anybody, even if he’s in triple coverage, to get it. And I remember being with Matthew Stafford in training camp this year and I said, ‘Look at how many times you keep going to Calvin Johnson.’ I think there was 17 plays on that day in camp with the full squad on the field, on both sides, 17 snaps and he completed six passes out of like 10 to Calvin Johnson. And I said, ‘Why’d you go to him so much?’ And he look at me and he goes, ‘Wouldn’t you?’ “

Read More: Chad Ochocinco, Darrelle Revis, Peter King, Wes Welker

Deion Branch makes his peace with the trash-talking Jets

10.07.11 at 1:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The emotions following last January’s 28-21 playoff loss to the Jets were pretty raw for the Patriots, even for the always-smiling and relaxed Deion Branch.

After he saw Jets players doing their airplane wings all over the field in the closing moments and hearing many of them trash-talking to the Patriots and to the crowd, he had seen enough.

‘€œIt was a lot of classless play on the football field after the game,’€ Branch said after that game. ‘€œBut you have to expect that from some of the guys.

‘€œYou can tell they’€™re not used to being in this position, for some of the guys to act like that. You can tell some of the guys that have been in this position before.’€

Branch was so bothered by both the Jets behavior and his own response that he felt he had to make amends. On Friday, Branch told reporters inside the Patriots locker room, that he had done just that.

“Nah, that’s stuff is behind me,” Branch said, two days before the rematch at Gillette. “I’m a refreshed man. I’m a refreshed man Everything’s good. That stuff is in the past. I don’t think about that. I spoke to those guys. I’m a refreshed man. Everything’s good. It’s all about going out Sunday and playing football.

“I think the rivalry will get guys pumped up. All that stuff that happened in the past, I don’t think guys are really fueling off that stuff. They’re not coming in here and saying, ‘We beat them last year, da, da, da.’ It’s a big game for both of us. We both have to go out and execute our plays and whatever team goes out and makes the [fewest] mistakes, I’m pretty sure that’s who will come out on top.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Deion Branch, LaDainian Tomlinson, New England Patriots

Patrick Chung on M&M: ‘You’ve got to play hurt sometimes’

10.07.11 at 11:41 am ET
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Patriots defensive back Patrick Chung joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday as part of WEEI’s Patriots Friday. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Patriots defense ranks last in opposing quarterback rating outside the red zone but first inside the 20, offering a glimmer of hope.

“The game is about limiting the points,” Chung said. “You have to stop them in the red zone. They drive down the field and all they get is three points or nothing, it’s a bad drive but it’s a good ending. It’s all about the finish. If you finish good, finish strong, we have another chance.”

Added Chung: “That’s what’s going to win and lose you games — third down and red area. So, we have to limit them to that and we’ll be all right.”

Chung played against the Raiders last Sunday with a cast protecting his surgically repaired right thumb, but he’s not interested in making excuses.

“I can’t think about it,” he said. “You pad it up and you play your game. If it hurts, it hurts. If you can’t play, you can’t play. But you’ve got to play hurt sometimes. So, you get right, get your mind right, and just play football. Because if you try to take one hit out of your game, it’s going to mess you up. You’ve got to just play football and deal with the pain for a little bit.”

Read More: Patrick Chung,

Fantasy Football: Rotobahn’s Week 5 Starts and Sits

10.07.11 at 11:39 am ET
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Here are our starts and sits for week five. The bye weeks are now kicking in, so it’€™s a little thinner out there. If you are looking for more help, you can check out our full lineup rankings at The quarterbacks have been posted and we’€™ll be adding running backs and receivers later today.  Check it out!



Eli Manning vs Seahawks

Eli has settled in and he’€™s no longer missing his old weapons. New guys like Victor Cruz have filled the void and the Giants‘€™ offense is looking solid again. We like the home matchup with Seattle.

Mark Sanchez @ Patriots

Granted, the Jets/Patriots games tend to have a life of their own; you never know what’€™s going to happen. Having said that, we think New England gets the upper hand and forces the ground-and-pound Jets to the air. New England has given up yardage to most teams so far this season, and we like Sanchez’€™ chances of posting some nice numbers. Though, it may be cosmetic at the end of the day.

Andy Dalton @ Jaguars

We really like this kid, and he could post solid stats this week as the Bengals put the ball in the air. It will be tough sledding against a fairly stout Jaguar front seven, and Dalton will throw more than normal. He also has some really dynamic targets in AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham.  He’€™s a solid bye-week replacement.


Matt Cassel @ Colts

He’€™s looking a shade better, but we do not like this match-up for him as the Colts harass the passer very well. Cassel has a little more upside than he did a week ago, and we like what Rookie Jon Baldwin might bring if they give him a role, but you can do better than Cassel on the average waiver wire.

Alex Smith vs Buccaneers

He’€™s looked better, but don’€™t be fooled.  His fantasy ceiling is just too low unless you are really desperate.  Even if he plays a flawless game, his fantasy stats will be mediocre.  They just don’€™t get the ball downfield enough.

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Andre Carter on M&M: We’re going to get the Jets’ best effort

10.07.11 at 11:39 am ET
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Patriots defensive end Andre Carter joined Mut & Merloni Friday morning to discuss New England’s looming game against the rival Jets this Sunday.

While New York struggled in its loss to Baltimore last weekend, Carter said he knows the Jets will be at the top of their game for the much-anticipated AFC East showdown on Sunday.

“We take into consideration last weekend was one of those games that unfortunately some teams have them, it was just a bad game,” Carter said. “But we know they have a lot of offensive weapons, defensive weapons, as well as special teams. So we know we’re going to get they’re best from them and vice versa.”

In what has become typical in the week leading up to a Jets-Patriots matchup, there has been a lot of chatter from the New York locker room. Jets receiver Santonio Holmes took a dig at the New England defense when he said, “The numbers speak for themselves about how well they’re not playing.” Carter did not bristle at the comments, instead choosing to focus on the game at hand.

“We can’t really pay attention to that,” Carter said. “I think what’s most important is what we do on Sunday and what they do on Sunday. I think it comes down to: comments are comments and I respect the man’s opinion, but at the end of the day, it’s all about preparation and going forth and out-executing your opponent.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On the Patriots’ lack of sacks so far this season: “The pressure is there. As far as getting to a quarterback and either sacking them or knocking them down, it’s been a little bit inconsistent. But once we watch the film, we go, ‘OK, we’re one step closer here, one step closer there.’ So, the intensity is there, the will and determination is there. We just have to get there a little bit faster.

“If you can get a quarterback pressure the whole game as far as pressures and knockdowns, then that takes a toll on the quarterback.”

On Rolando McClain calling Patriots a “finesse team” before last Sunday’s game: “We didn’t really pay no mind to it. The most important thing coming into Oakland was how we were going to be and how we were going to be successful. Offensively, our offense ran the ball well, was successful to make big plays. Defensively, unfortunately we did give up big plays but overall we played a decent game.”

Read More: Andre Carter, Santonio Holmes,

Michael Lombardi on D&C: Aaron Hernandez ‘the X factor’

10.07.11 at 11:21 am ET
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Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network checked in for his weekly NFL analysis with Dennis & Callahan Friday morning. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots host the Jets Sunday, a matchup that features a struggling Jets offense against a disappointing Patriots defense. Lombardi was asked if Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will get a chance to find his rhythm against a New England defense that ranks in the bottom of the league statistically.

“I think you’re going to see a boot, naked type of game from the Jets offense,” Lombardi said. “I think they’re going to roll him out, they’re going to move him, make him have some easy throws, get him off to a good start, get his confidence back, and then try to set up their running game.

“I think the Jets like to control the football in the game, and I think they’re going to want to be able to be in a lot of third-and-shorts so they can convert and keep the Patriots offense off the field and try to get the confidence in their offense back up. And then when they get down to the red zone, throw it up for Plaxico Burress to make a play, or try to get Santonio Holmes on a big play down the field.

“But I don’t think they’re going to come in and try to chuck it 40 times. I think they’re going to be really careful at what they do. But I think they’re going to be very much about bootlegs and nakeds and creating a situation where Sanchez either throws the ball to one receiver or he throws it away.”

There has been some speculation that Darrelle Revis will be assigned to cover Wes Welker at least part of the game. Lombardi explained that that’s easier said than done.

“I think it’s a hard matchup to put Revis on him because of where Welker lines up,” Lombardi said. “You never know where Wes is going to line up on the field. It’s not like he’s going to line up like Dez Bryant would and he’s going to be at the outside receiver all the time, and, boy, there I am, and Revis can find him.

“It’s tough to really create situations when you have to match up on a guy and he gets in those bunch formations and he’s the inside receiver of the bunch, and then that applies your bunch rules. When you get in a bunch formation, you just can’t say, ‘OK, I’ve got Welker, you’ve got this guy.’ Because it’s like basketball, players get picked. You have to have bunch rules and bunch concepts on defense. So, that’s what happens. It’s difficult for him to match up on just Wes Welker based on where he lines up.”

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Albert Haynesworth, Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez
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