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Setting the scene: Patriots-Jets

11.13.11 at 4:43 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Clear skies and temperatures right around 50 are expected for tonight’s tilt between the 5-3 Patriots and the 5-3 Jets at MetLife Stadium. There will be a breeze out of the south at 12 MPH but that’s calm by Meadowlands standards, where winds can always whip up inside the stadium.

With the Bills getting clobbered by the Cowboys, 44-7, earlier in the day in Texas, the winner of tonight’s game gets sole possession of first in the AFC East to start the second half of the season.

The Patriots are trying to avoid their first three-game losing skid since dropping four straight in 2002, a streak that began in late September and saw the Pats go winless in October.

As of Saturday night, the Patriots ruled out only two players heading into the game, as linebacker Dane Fletcher will miss his third straight game with a thumb injury and Brandon Spikes is out with a reported sprained MCL in his right knee.

Patrick Chung (foot) and Ryan Wendell (concussion) both returned to practice on Friday and were listed as questionable on the injury report. Expect Chung to play tonight, after he spoke to reporters on Friday and said “not to worry” about his status for the game.

The team did sign safety Ross Ventrone back to the active roster on Saturday as insurance for Chung and safety depth.

Nate Solder (concussion) appeared on the injury list on Saturday and is questionable.

The Jets enter the game remarkably healthy. Only cornerback Brodney Poole (knee) missed practice on Friday with an injury. He was listed as questionable. Tight end Shawn Nelson also missed Friday with an illness and was listed as questionable. The Jets did list 15 other players on their injury list but all fully participated in practice on Friday and are probable for the game.

Speaking of 2002, the Patriots are still tied with San Diego with the highest NFL winning percentage in division games from November through the end of the season.

The Patriots are 24-7 against AFC East foes in the last two months of the season, and have the chance to make some hay again this year as tonight’s game marks the first of three game games against the AFC East in the final eight weeks. This is the final divisional road game of the season, winning in Miami on opening night and losing a 21-0 lead against the Bills in Week 3 in Orchard Park, NY.

The game also marks the second of two straight against New York teams, following last week’s 24-20 loss to the Giants at Gillette last week. It’s the second time in franchise history the Patriots have faced the two New York teams in back-to-back weeks. In 1990, the Patriots finished out their 1-15 season with losses to the Jets in the Meadowlands and the Giants at Foxboro.

The Patriots have played in this stadium just once previously, losing 28-14 last season in Week 2, when the Patriots couldn’t protect a 14-7 second-quarter lead.

That was the game when Tom Brady forced the ball to Randy Moss twice, resulting in two of the four interceptions Brady would throw on his way to an MVP season.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, MetLife Stadium, Nate Solder

Fantasy Football: Week 10 starts and sits

11.12.11 at 11:24 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 10 starts and sits. We’€™ve highlighted some options that we like and some that we don’€™t like for the upcoming week’€™s games. If you need deeper analysis, please feel free to join us at Rotobahn.com and check out our comprehensive lineup rankings. If you want information on late-breaking injury information on game day, follow us on Twitter. Just follow the link on our home page. Good luck to all in Week 10!

Quarterbacks

Starts

Tony Romo vs Bills

Romo looked like he was throwing the ball well last week. The injury seems to be affecting him less and we like this matchup for him.  The Cowboys will make big plays on play-action and we see Romo throwing multiple scores and close to 300 yards. He’€™s a QB1 in week ten.

Tim Tebow @ Chiefs

Did you really think we’€™d pull back on him now? Say and think what you want about this kid, but he is built for fantasy football whether he succeeds as a NFL starter or not. They have embraced his ability as a runner and that is the key thing here. It seems that they have made the decision to not try and change him. That means lots of option and some targeted throws down the field. The bottom line is that the foot-points raise his fantasy floor to the point where he is a safe play. We see him as a QB1 this week.

Jay Cutler vs Lions

If you’€™ve been reading Rotobahn for the last two years, you know how much respect we have for Cutler. He’€™s really playing well right now and they seem to have found ways to work around their offensive line. Getting WR Earl Bennet back also seems to have helped as Cutler has a real trust factor with his old college teammate. He may not be a fantasy stud yet, but he is worth a start this week if you need him. He’€™s a fringe QB1 playing at home versus Detroit.

Sits

Alex Smith vs Giants

After what I saw last week, I am not looking to start any QB against the Giants and especially not a guy like Smith, who does not have the arm to make them pay for their aggression. The 49ers will probably win, but they will do it in typically ugly fashion.

Josh Freeman vs Texans

I am a big fan of Freeman’€™s, but you can do better right now. He just doesn’€™t have the kind of support that he had in 2010 as his number one receiver has struggled and his other targets have battled injuries. He has a chance to do well, but in a week with no byes, there are plenty of better options, especially in smaller leagues.

Running Backs

Starts

DeMarco Murray vs Bills

Are we guilty of just pimping our guy here? Yeah, maybe a little bit, but on the off chance that you are worried about the return of Felix Jones, we’€™d like to ease your worry. Jones may cut into Murray’€™s production party at some point, but we very much doubt that this week is that week. We’€™ve got the kid ticketed for RB1 production and he’€™s in my lineup in a few leagues over guys like Mendenhall and Chris Johnson for what that is worth.

Chris Johnson @ Carolina

A little ironic given my write-up on Murray, but I’€™d roll with CJ at this point unless you’€™d be benching a guy like DeMarco. Johnson looked much better last week and if they give him a few more touches, he could get back to being a solid weekly contributor.  Tennessee getting into the red zone with more consistency would help too. We see CJ as a strong RB2 play in week ten.

Roy Helu @ Dolphins

We hope you picked this guy up before the bust-out. You can’€™t say we didn’€™t warn you.  Helu now has a shot to become the clear-cut back in DC and we like his chances as long as they give him a legit opportunity. Nobody has ever gotten rich trying to read the mind of Mike Shanahan, but this is his guy. They drafted him pretty high and Helu was a volume back in college. The stage is set. All the things you look for are there. Helu could be a major fantasy asset for the rest of the season and he is obviously a great guy to own in all long term leagues. This week, he is a RB2 or strong flex and he has some nice upside too.

Ben Tate @ Bucs

More of an option in deeper leagues, but even with 10-14 touches, this kid can do serious damage. The Texans run the ball like nobody’€™s business and it really doesn’€™t matter which back is in there. The more Tate plays, the better he gets. He’€™s got flex appeal in week ten.

Sits

Brandon Jacobs @ 49ers

The urge to start him is strong with Ahmad Bradshaw out again, but proceed with caution and consider other options if you are deep. This matchup is potentially brutal as the 49ers’€™ front seven is playing great football. Jacobs has nice value if he starts and he’€™s worth a look as a flex here, but don’€™t expect big numbers unless he gets a few cheap scores.

LeGarrette Blount vs Texans

We are Blount fans at Rotobahn, but he could have problem in this game unless he gets going early. The way Houston is playing, they will have a chance to get a lead and to dominate time of possession with their two-headed monster running attack. Once behind, the Bucs will scrap Blount and go to the air. I’€™m not saying you need to bench the guy, but this is a week to at least consider other options. Check out our full rankings at Rotobahn.com and see if you have some better options before starting Blount.

Wide Receivers

Starts

Dez Bryant vs Bills

I know. We’€™ve been wrong on him a few times. At least we’€™re consistent, right?  Really though, with Austin out and with Romo getting healthier, we like Bryant to start doing the things he is capable of. Dez makes a strong start as a WR2 this week.

DeSean Jackson vs Cardinals

Here’€™s another guy that has cost me a few sawbucks in 2010. And, though I am sure most folks will be sticking with him this week, I wanted to point out that you are doing the right thing. We like him a lot in this matchup and while there’€™s risk, we think his upside in this game is way too big to bench. Stick with him.

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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots at Jets!

11.12.11 at 10:03 am ET
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The Patriots head to New York to face the hated Jets in Week 10, trying to right the ship after consecutive losses to the Steelers and Giants. Don’t be surprised when this week’s preview is fairly heavy on “last two games” trends.

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* – Last Sunday, the Patriots turned it over four times, their third game with four turnovers this season, the most such games in the NFL. Only two other teams have even had two games with 4+ turnovers: The Chiefs and Chargers. Through nine weeks, the Patriots turnover margin stands at zero (14 turnovers, 14 takeaways). They’ve had more takeaways than turnovers in each of the last five seasons, the longest current streak in the NFL.

NFL Note: Since 1990, the longest streak of consecutive seasons with positive net turnovers is 11, by the Kansas City Chiefs (1990-2000). The Colts had a NEGATIVE turnover margin for seven consecutive seasons from 1996-2002, the longest such streak since 1990.

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* – Much was said about the 0-0 halftime tie last Sunday (the first in a Patriots game since 1993), but it was the first time in 16 games that the Patriots had gone to the break in a tie game. They’ve now won just three of the last seven games that were tied at halftime.

Note this: The Giants have now been tied at halftime in FOUR games this season. Prior to this season, they were tied at half in four of their previous 108 games.

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* – Brady threw for nine first downs on first down passes last Sunday, a mark eclipsed only twice by the Patriots since the start of the 2004 season (124 games). Those two were in 2006 at Minnesota and in Week 2 of this season against San Diego. You see, the best way of staying out of difficult third down situations is to move the chains on first or second down. For the season, the Patriots have thrown for first downs on first down a league leading 56 times this season, more than 14 different teams had all year last year:

56 – Patriots
49 – Saints
45 – Giants
45 – Chargers

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* – The Giants managed to complete just 4-of-13 passes on third down last Sunday (31%), the lowest such completion percentage allowed by New England since 2006 (min. 10+ third down pass attempts).

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* – The Giants attempted 39 passes last Sunday and the Patriots recorded no sacks, the third time this season that New England hasn’t recorded a sack despite 35 or more pass attempts by their opponent. Prior to this year they had only had one such game since 2005, covering 37 games of 35 or more attempts.

————————————————————————————————— Read the rest of this entry »

Can Wes Welker get past Darrelle Revis and the Jets again?

11.11.11 at 6:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was the defining moment of the biggest win of the season to date.

Wes Welker somehow found a way to get past Darrelle Revis on the first play of the second half. Seventy-three yards and a Revis touchdown-saving tackle from behind later, the Patriots had the breakout play that helped cement a 30-21 win. The Patriots stood 4-1 after that win and would improve to 5-1 the next week in a win over the Cowboys.

Welker finished with five catches for 124 yards.

But that bomb to Welker was the was the last major downfield airstrike by the Patriots offense. Since then, the Patriots have had four passing plays of over 20 yards, including a 45-yard catch-and-go on a pass to the left flat against the Cowboys.

Was the big play against Revis creative play-calling or simple execution?

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” Welker said. “I think you have to do a lot of good things out there in order to get open against him. We had a run-fake on and different things like that. I was able to get behind him and make a play. You just have to be on top of everything to be sure you putting yourself in a spot to get open.”

Can he beat Revis again for the big play this weekend in the swamps of Jersey?

“He’s a great player,” Welker said. “He’s fast. He’s patient. He’s strong. He does a lot of good things. He’s a smart football player so you have to come up with creative ways to attack him to keep him on his toes and really make him work out there and do the things necessary to get open.

“I mean, there’€™s a lot of good ones out there, you can’€™t pinpoint one, there’€™s a lot of good DBs, everybody gets paid and so, there’€™s a lot of good ones.”

Welker and Deion Branch have heard for the last three weeks that teams are turning up the physical contact on the Patriots wideouts, going as far as using the “F” word.

“It’€™s a physical game, so it’€™s the way it’€™s supposed to be played,” Welker said in dismissing any talk of finesse play by the Patriots. “You just gotta be ready for it and make sure that you’€™re being physical out there and playing the way you need to.

“I mean, a lot of the routes are won at the line of scrimmage, so, you’€™re always trying t find little things about a guy that he does and really kinda be on top of that and make sure that you’€™re trying to attack whatever he’€™s trying to do to you.”

In the playoffs, Revis got downright physical with Welker, and that continued in the first meeting four weeks ago.

“I think we’€™ve had a lot of physical matchups over the years, where different things happen,” Welker said. “I kinda know the way it’€™s going to be played and what to expect and hopefully the referees do, too.

“I mean, they’€™ve been solid across the board and putting themselves in position to win and that’€™s what they’€™ve been able to do. They’€™ve been able to finish out games and obviously, they have a great defense and so, we just have to have to be ready for everything that they bring and everything they’€™ve done.”

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Deion Branch, New England Patriots, New York Jets

A preview of Friday’s edition of ‘Patriots All Access’

11.11.11 at 4:37 pm ET
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Patriots All Access airs tonight on WBZ-TV at 7 p.m. and immediately following on Patriots.com. Here are a few highlights:

·Brian Lowe chats with Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman as well as Super Bowl-winning coach Jimmy Johnson about the development of wide receiver Wes Welker.

·Scott Zolak chats with head coach Bill Belichick about the difficulty of game-planning against a familiar opponent, and Belichick raves about the talent of the Jets’€™ special teams in the Belestrator segment.

·Steve Burton sits down with tight end Rob Gronkowski.

·Dan Roche examines the mood of the Patriots after rare consecutive losses for the team, and takes a look at the release of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

·Zolak and Christian Fauria demonstrate ways the Jets like to get the football to wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the TURF segment.

Here’s a quick preview:

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Brian Lowe, Christian Fauria

Bill Belichick reminded that he’s old and that he was HC of the NYJ for a day

11.11.11 at 2:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s hard to catch Bill Belichick off guard.

But when asked Friday by the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport about the epic press conference on Jan. 4, 2000 when he resigned from the Jets after one day on the job, Belichick seemed equal parts bemused and befuddled.

Why?

Not because Rapoport asked him if it were the strangest press conference he’s ever done. But because at the end of the question, Rapoport reminded Belichick that he was “a lot younger”

“What’€™s that supposed to mean?” Belichick retorted.

Rapoport: I am just saying you were younger, it was a long time ago.

BB: I’€™m sure you were younger in [2000], too. Any other breaking stories we have going here?

IR: I am wondering if that was the strangest press conference you’€™ve ever done.

BB: I don’€™t really rank them but it wasn’€™t a great situation all the way around, with Bill [Bill Parcells] resigning the day before and me resigning the day after that and all that. That’€™s all water under the bridge.

IR: Do you ever look back on that?

BB: No. Honestly, I don’€™t spend a lot of time looking back on that, no.

IR: It was good TV.

BB: At that point in time, that situation, I did what I felt like I needed to do and I don’€™t have any regrets about that. Certainly a lot of things could have been handled differently or whatever but anyway. It doesn’€™t matter now.

So, while the two-minute back-and-forth was amusing, it falls well short of the bizarre standard set by Belichick and the Jets on Jan. 4, 2000.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Boston Herald, Ian Rapoport

Peter King on M&M: Chad Ochocinco will perform before end of season

11.11.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly appearance. In addition to discussing the Penn State scandal, King talked about the upcoming Patriots-Jets game, as well as his thoughts on struggling wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.

It has been a disappointing year for Ochocinco, to say the least. The Patriots wideout has just nine catches in eight games so far this season and has been criticized for not learning the New England offense quickly enough. With the cut of Albert Haynesworth earlier this week, many are wondering if Ochocinco is next.

But King thinks that the Ochocinco situation cannot be compared to Haynesworth and that No. 85 will have a breakout performance before the end of the season.

“We can all say whatever we want, that it’s ridiculous that Ochocino has nine catches in eight games and he just hasn’t been the answer that they thought he would be. Well, no kidding,” King said. “But I think the one thing you can’t say is that he’s not giving an effort. It’s just not working out right now. I might be wrong about this, but I think it’s going to work out before the end of the year and I do think that at some point [Tom Brady and Ochocinco] are going to get on the same page.”

Brady, Ochocinco and the rest of the offense are going up against the Jets this Sunday night in a showdown for first place in the AFC East, or at least a tie for first place. The Jets defense allowed the Bills just 11 points last week in what King called a “championship defensive game” by New York. King said that the Patriots defense will have to put more pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez if New England wants to win on Sunday.

“One of the problems that I see for New England in this game is they have simply not put enough pressure on the quarterback,” King said. “And I think they’re going to need to do that in this game, because otherwise the receivers are talented enough, [Plaxico] Burress and [Santonio] Holmes, to make plays down the field against that secondary.”

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Peter King, Tom Brady

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