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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.09.12 at 4:59 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. Five weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 107 (102 rushes, 5 catches). 11 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 41 (36 rushes, 5 catches). 2 negative runs.
RB Brandon Bolden: 39 (37 rushes, 2 catches). 7 negative runs.
WR Wes Welker: 38 (0 rushes, 38 catches). 1 negative reception.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 28 (0 rushes, 28 catches).
TE Rob Gronkowski: 23 (0 rushes, 23 catches).
WR Julian Edelman: 12 (2 rushes, 10 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
QB Tom Brady: 10 (10 rushes, 0 catches.) 12 sacks and 5 kneel downs.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 7 (1 rush, 6 catches).
WR Deion Branch: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
RB Shane Vereen: 3 (2 rush, 1 catch)
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Daniel Fells: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TOTAL: 314 touches (190 rushes, 124 catches): 23 negative plays, plus 12 sacks.

By position
Running back: 190 touches (177 rushes, 13 catches). 20 negative runs.
Tight end: 33 touches (1 rush, 32 catches).
Wide receiver: 81 touches (2 rushes, 79 catches). 2 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Quarterback: 10 touches (10 rushes, 0 catches)

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Bill Belichick and Patriots ready to face noise of Seattle

10.09.12 at 4:00 pm ET
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Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is accorded as one of the loudest places in the league, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that they will spend the week trying to prepare themselves for the raucous atmosphere.

“I think it might be the loudest stadium that we’€™ve been in — and we’€™re in a lot of loud ones,” Belichick said on a conference call. “I’€™ll put that one right up there. Their fans are vocal, it’€™s really loud. When we were out there before, four years ago, their record was 2-10, it wasn’€™t very good and there was a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a great atmosphere for football. The crowd is totally into it. They do a great job of being loud, causing false start penalties and things like that on the offense.

“Seattle has historically played very well at home. It’€™s a huge home field advantage for them. Record-wise, their record at home has been among the best in the National Football League really. They’€™re right up there with the Packers in the NFC. Absolutely, that will be another big challenge for us. The long trip out there and then the environment, the hostile crowd we’€™ll be facing. Yes, all that is certainly part of the whole preparation and Seattle week.”

It was a point echoed by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“[Seattle] is an incredible venue to play at. I’€™ve had an opportunity to be there three or four times, and it never disappoints in terms of how loud and how vocal they’€™re going to be,” McDaniels said. “I think it’€™s a great environment to play in and certainly for us on offense it will be important for us to do a good job of communicating and paying attention to all of the little details, so that we make sure that we can work together and try to execute our assignments the best we can.

“Certainly they make it difficult, but I think that the best way for us to do that is to practice with the noise here and do the best we can here; focus on our assignments and our execution and hopefully go out there and play well. If we do that we give ourselves the best chance to be successful.”

Here are some other highlights from Tuesday’s conference call with Belichick:
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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.09.12 at 3:45 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the New England passing game through the first five weeks of the 2012 regular season:

WR Wes Welker: 38 catches on 52 targets
WR Brandon Lloyd: 28 catches on 45 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 23 catches on 34 targets
WR Julian Edelman: 10 catches on 15 targets
TE Aaron Hernandez: Six catches on eight targets
RB Stevan Ridley: Five catches on eight targets
RB Danny Woodhead: Five catches on six targets
WR Deion Branch: Three catches on five targets
RB Brandon Bolden: Two catches on two targets
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: One catch on one target
TE Kellen Winslow: One catch on two targets
TE Daniel Fells: One catch on four targets
RB Shane Vereen: One catch on two targets
TOTALS: 124 catches on 184 targets

By position
Wide receiver: 79 catches on 117 targets
Tight end: 32 catches on 49 targets
Running back: 13 catches on 18 targets

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Pressure points: Which Pats defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2012?

10.09.12 at 11:18 am ET
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Through five weeks, the Patriots have 17 quarterback hits and eight sacks as a team. Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2012 season:

Quarterback hits
DE Chandler Jones: Five
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Three
DE Rob Ninkovich: Three
LB Brandon Spikes: Two
DL Vince Wilfork: One
DE Trevor Scott: One
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: One
LB Jerod Mayo: One

Ninkovich: Three (11 yards)
Jones: Two (Six yards)
Cunningham: One (seven yards)
Hightower: One (zero yards)
Mayo: One (seven yards)

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Fantasy Football: Week 6 waiver wire

10.09.12 at 10:52 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 6 waiver wire. The bye weeks are in full swing, so it’€™s always a good idea to keep your bench strength at a maximum, and that’€™s what we are here for. Go to for full free agent rankings if you play in deeper leagues. We’€™ll be adding players all day as we continue to work through the Week 5 film.


Carson Palmer, Raiders

If he was dropped on his bye week, we suggest that you pick him up. He’€™s been playing pretty good football and the Raiders will be throwing a lot in 2012.

Christian Ponder, Vikings

He’€™s getting more love in the marketplace, but he’€™s still available in a lot of leagues and he makes a fine QB2 or matchup QB if you lack a strong No. 1 option.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

He stands tall in the pocket and gets it done with marginal personnel. The Dolphins have finally found their quarterback. Tannehill can be a solid backup for you in most formats.

Brandon Weeden, Browns

He was impressive again in Week 5. We like Weeden, as we said in preseason, and he is starting to show it on the field. He can be your QB2 in a deep league. Grab him if he’€™s available. The Browns have more offensive talent than they are given credit for.


Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers

This one is obvious, but he is still unowned in some Yahoo leagues … and after last week, he needs to be owned everywhere. He looked pretty darn good in his first action since knee surgery.

Alex Green, Packers

He’€™s our guy for those of you who go back with us. He may finally get his chance this week after filling in well for Cedric Benson in Week 5. It appears that Benson could be out long term, so pick up Green in any league where you need a starter for Week 6 and beyond. He has a chance to make a name for himself now. Green is a great fit for the Packers offense. Tons of upside here. Check out this article I wrote on Green last year before his season-ending injury.

David Wilson, Giants

He’€™s a potential star. His upside alone makes him a guy you should want on your roster. Is he going to be given a bigger role after last week’€™s touchdown run?

Brandon Bolden, Patriots

He looks really good toting the rock, and Ridley now has fumbled in consecutive games. That is a risky way to keep your job under Bill Belichick. Bolden is a guy to own, especially in deep formats and long term. This kid is not a fluke.

Kendall Hunter, 49ers

He’s flashed his talents the last few weeks with the 49ers holding big leads and we expect him to be a bigger factor as the weeks wear on. The big reason to own Hunter is that Frank Gore is oft-injured and Hunter would start in his absence. Hunter is a very good handcuff option.

Pierre Thomas, Saints

He is playing well right now and he makes solid flex or bye week replacement in medium to large leagues. Thomas is involved in the passing game too, so he has PPR appeal too.

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Read More: Brandon Bolden, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Rashard Mendenhall

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots return to top 5

10.09.12 at 10:19 am ET
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For the third straight week the Falcons (1), Texans (2) and 49ers (3) remain at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. At a combined 14-1, those teams have one major thing in common: balance. They are strong on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

One team that is no stranger to the top five is the Patriots. Tom Brady and company hop back in at No. 5 after a three-week absence. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are the latest team to get bounced after their loss to the Colts. Green Bay drops to No. 7.

One division that has gone from rags to riches is the NFC West. The 49ers (3), Cardinals (10), Seahawks (16) and Rams (25) are all bolstered by solid defense and are progressing week to week.

Week 6 has the potential to be the most impactful week yet. In a rematch of the NFC championship, the 49ers will be out for revenge against the Giants (8). Meanwhile, the Texans will battle the Packers as Green Bay attempts to avoid dropping to 2-4.

1. (1) Falcons (5-0) ‘€” Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their first 5-0 start in franchise history. Mike Smith‘s team put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to remain perfect. Great teams win close games and find ways to prevail. The Falcons have proven they are capable of that so far.

2. (2) Texans (5-0) ‘€” The pulse of the Texans defense may be out for the year. The early reports suggest Brian Cushing suffered a torn ACL in Monday night’s win over the Jets, and that could be a crippling blow.

3. (3) 49ers (4-1) ‘€” The Niners have outscored their opponents 79-3 in their last two games. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. It shows how dominant this team is but also how terrible the Jets and Bills are as well. They’ll face some real competition next week against the Giants but there are reasons to be concerned. Alex Smith has a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand.

4. (5) Ravens (4-1) ‘€” It wasn’t pretty but the Ravens improved to 4-1 without scoring a touchdown. Ray Rice rushed for over 100 yards and that usually means a Ravens victory. Baltimore is 13-2 when Rice rushes for over 100 yards. For John Harbaugh, the formula to victory is simple: Get Ray Rice the rock.

5. (7) Patriots (3-2) ‘€” As long as the defense remains opportunistic, the Patriots will continue to roll. The defense has forced key turnovers in crucial moments throughout the season. A solid giveaway/takeaway number is usually a great indicator of how good a team really is, and the Pats and the Falcons top the NFL with a plus-10.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Brian Cushing, Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

10.09.12 at 8:14 am ET
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Through five weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 28 penalties (28th in the league) for a total of 232 yards (25th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 30 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
Team: two penalties (illegal formation, illegal block above the waist), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: two penalties (defensive pass interference) 8 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding’€“punt return team), 10 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 9 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
DE Chandler Jones: one penalty (defensive offsides) 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards
G Logan Mankins: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
ST Nate Ebner: one penalty (offensive holding), 5 yards
OT Nate Solder: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
C Ryan Wendell: one penalty (offensive holding), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Cornerback: Five penalties for 65 yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper, kick/punt units): Five penalties for 34 yards
Tight end: Four penalties for 30 yards
Offensive line: Four penalties for 20 yards
Linebacker: Three penalties for 13 yards
Team: Two penalties for 15 yards
Wide receiver: Two penalties for 15 yards
Defensive line: Two penalties for 10 yards
Safety: One penalty for 15 yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Six
Defensive pass interference: Five
Offensive holding: Five
Defensive holding: Three
Illegal block above the waist: Two
Defensive offsides: Two
Offensive pass interference: Two
Illegal formation: One
Personal foul: One
Encroachment: One

Notes: By way of comparison, through five games last year, the Patriots had 34 penalties and 318 penalty yards. This year, through five games, they have been flagged for 28 penalties and 232 yards. (Here’s a look at the Patriots penalty information through the first five games of the 2011 season.) … Four Patriots were called for their first penalties of the season last week against the Broncos: Mankins, Ebner, Solder and Wendell. It’s interesting to note that Wendell and Solder — who have played every offensive snap this season — picked up their first penalties of the season on Sunday.

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