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Steve Gregory only one missing at start of Patriots practice

11.12.13 at 11:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — Steve Gregory was the only player missing from the start of Patriots practice on Tuesday morning. The veteran safety, who suffered a thumb injury in the Week 9 win over the Steelers, is expected to be on the shelf for a few weeks.

The team was in sweats and shells on a chilly Foxboro morning at it started preparations for Monday’s game against the Panthers in Carolina.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 11: Patriots climb into top 5

11.12.13 at 11:28 am ET
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The Seahawks continue to soar high above the rest in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. As fellow NFC teams suffer injuries and decline, Seattle seems to be getting stronger, and its big offseason acquisition, Percy Harvin, is set to debut in Seahawk green. The Broncos stand pat at No. 2 as they survived a health scare to their franchise QB. The Chiefs are proud owners of a perfect record and jump the their highest spot all year at No. 3. They sat back and enjoyed their bye week as the Colts (6) and Niners (8) suffered losses and fell in the rankings.

The difference a year makes continues to be the story across the league. Playoff teams in 2012 like the Texans (28), Vikings (27), Redskins (26) and Falcons (25) continue to plummet in 2013. It seems highly unlikely any of those teams will make a return to the postseason. On the other hand, the Chiefs, Panthers (7) and Jets (11) all have exceeded expectations and are in the thick of the playoff race after being completely out of it at this time last year.

Week 11 will deliver one of the most anticipated matchups of the year as the league’s best offense clashes against one of the league’s best defenses in an AFC West battle. The Broncos and Chiefs will duke it out to maintain their position in the NFL’s elite. It should be an exciting week of football.

1. (1) Seahawks (8-1) — Last year Seattle owned a 3-5 record on the road; this year the Seahawks boast a 5-1 record away from CenturyLink Field. As Harvin nears a return to the field following hip surgery, the Seahawks’ lead in the NFC continues to grow.

 2. (2) Broncos (8-1) — Peyton Manning re-aggravated an ankle injury, but that won’t sideline him when the Broncos take on the first-place Chiefs. Denver needs to be extra cautious with Manning. It may be even worth considering shutting him down for a week or two. Their chance for a Super Bowl title could be on the line.

3. (5) Chiefs (9-0) — The time finally has arrived for the Chiefs to prove to the rest of the league they are as good as their record indicates. It’s quite simple why Kansas City is at the top of the standings. The defense has been ferocious. The Chiefs have forced a league-high 23 turnovers.

4. (6) Patriots (7-2) — The Patriots are an astonishing 87-24 coming off their bye week since 2001. They’re 26-4 over the last three years alone. There’s no reason to believe Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won’t lead the Patriots to another impressive post-bye week performance when they take on the Panthers on Monday night.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, dolphins, Drew Brees, Jets

Fantasy Football: Week 11 waiver wire

11.12.13 at 10:36 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 11 waiver wire! We have some serious work to do this week with a few significant byes and a ton of major injuries over the last few weeks. I’€™ve added the remaining schedules for a few players where I felt it was a significant factor in their value. I’€™ll be doing this the rest of the way because the schedule is huge at this point when evaluating a player’€™s remaining worth.

If you play in a deep format and need more options, head on over to Rotobahn, where we cater to the needs of those in huge leagues. I’€™ll be adding players to the wire all day long as I continue to work through the Week 10 game film.


Nick Foles, Eagles

You can still get him in 34 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He’€™s a good QB as we’€™ve been saying for a while now. It’€™s unlikely that we see Mike Vick under center unless Foles gets hurt or implodes. Add Foles and he can be your starter in most formats. Are you listening, Aaron Rodgers owners?

Carson Palmer, Cardinals

He’€™s a weekly adventure, and he’€™ll always throw a pick or two it seems, but he has a lot of high-end talent to throw to and he has a very favorable schedule on most weeks over the rest of 2013.

  • Week 11 – at Jaguars
  • Week 12 – Colts
  • Week 13 – at Eagles
  • Week 14 – Rams
  • Week 15 – at Titans
  • Week 16 – at Seahawks

Week 16 is really the only week you can’€™t play Palmer, who is available in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Case Keenum, Texans

You can still get him in 71 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he’€™s a guy who can help you if you are in a jam — and a lot of us are with all these injuries. Keenum has the job, and he has the weapons to be a fantasy option in 12-team leagues.

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Read More: Carson Palmer, Case Keenum, Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick

Tom Brady on D&C: Dolphins’ bullying controversy ‘their issue to deal with’

11.12.13 at 9:40 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning as the team returns from its bye week to prepare for a Monday night matchup against the Panthers.

The Patriots are coming off a 55-point outburst against the Steelers, leading to widespread optimism following a slow offensive start to the season.

“Our expectations have never changed with the way that we perform offensively,” Brady said. “The reason why you score a lot of points is because you execute well. You hit the plays that are there. When you get defenses that you may expect to get and you have a great play call vs that defense, you’ve got to really take advantage of that opportunity.

“Football is about matchups and it’s about execution. When both those things come together, you can have pretty good nights offensively. And if you execute really well offensively, it’s hard for good defenses to stop you. But if you execute poorly, you could call the best play vs. the defense that you’re looking for, and if I make a bad throw, then we’re unproductive.

“We’re trying to be productive on a consistent basis. We talk about it at practice, we talk about it before the games. You always go into the games thinking that you have a really good plan of attack, and then it comes down to how well the players can go out and execute that. The last game, we scored 55 points, that was our best night of execution. We played really well.

“How we fare against Carolina, we’ve got to put the work in in practice, we’ve got to be prepared so that we can go out there and play with anticipation. You can play to 100 percent of your aggressiveness if you’re really confident in what you’re doing. There’s definitely games where you gain confidence in what we’re doing, and you think, ‘OK, man, this is what we’re capable of if it all goes well.’ That’s what we’re going to go try to do this next week.. This week we’re playing one of the best defenses in the league. So, our margin of error will be even less. But we still expect to go out there and play really well. That’s the expectation for the offense.”

The big news in football over the past week is the situation in Miami, where Jonathan Martin left the team after allegedly being harassed by Richie Incognito and other Dolphins teammates. Brady distanced himself from the controversy by noting the Patriots have avoided such issues.

“I’ve been a part of one locker room — or two, really, being in Michigan and being in the Patriot locker room,” Brady said. “We’ve got a great group of guys, we have great respect for one another. It starts with coach [Bill] Belichick and Mr. [Robert] Kraft and Jonathan [Kraft] and the leadership that they bring.

“We don’t want to do anything to misrepresent what’s going on in our locker room, we want to be good role models, we want to win football games. And I think that’s what it comes down to. We show up every day trying to do our job and really not let anything else get in the way of that. Because if there’s issues in your locker room, if there’s issues that are outside of the realm of your own opponent that you’re dealing with, it just takes away from what you’re trying to accomplish. Coach Belichick has always done a great job of keeping the players focused on our opponent, and that’s where our energy needs to go.

“It’s an unfortunate thing. There’s been a lot of awareness brought to the situation, based on what’s happened down in Miami. But that’s their issue to deal with. It’s certainly not an issue that any of us Patriots want to deal with. We’re not really concerned with that, to tell you the truth. We’re concerned with how we’re going to do our best to prepare to prepare for the biggest challenge of our year this week.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito, Robert Kraft

Bye-week breakdown: Defensive backs

11.12.13 at 7:30 am ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the team. We kicked things off with a look at special teams and offense. We focused on the defensive line and the linebackers — now, with the team set to take the practice field again Tuesday,we wrap things up with the defensive backs.

Overview: The most consistent part of the defense over the first nine games, the secondary has exceeded expectations all season long. Sure, a sizable portion of that has been thanks to the work of cornerback Aqib Talib — when he’s been healthy, he’s deserved a spot in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. At the other corner spots, there’s rapidly improving rookie Logan Ryan, who has pushed Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard for playing time. (For what it’s worth, Arrington has had an excellent first half, while Dennard has assumed his usual role as the No. 2 corner opposite Talib.) At safety, Devin McCourty is playing at a Pro Bowl level and could be one of the only players in franchise history to make it to Hawaii via two different positions. Meanwhile, Steve Gregory is having a sneaky good year of his own.

But above all others, it’s been Talib who has been the transformative presence. Like Rob Gronkowski (and Tom Brady), he is an elite player at his position, and someone who the Patriots will rely on heavily down the stretch and into the playoffs. If he can continue to be the high level corner he was over the first half of the season, there’s every reason to think New England will have one of the best pass defenses in the AFC.

Depth chart: Cornerbacks Aqib Talib (17 tackles, four interceptions, nine passes defensed), Alfonzo Dennard (34 tackles, one interception, seven passes defensed), Kyle Arrington (33 tackles, one interception, seven passes defensed), Logan Ryan (20 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception), Marquice Cole (one interception); safeties Devin McCourty (52 tackles, one interception, six passes defensed), Steve Gregory (53 tackles, two passes defensed), Duron Harmon (nine tackles, two interceptions), Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner.

Best moment: It’s tough to choose from Talib’s Greatest Hits — the Falcons and Saints are likely his two best this season — but we’ll take the performance against Atlanta for two reasons: one, his pass breakup at the end of the contest fundamentally saved the win for the Patriots. And two, his reaction after the play was made. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a New England cornerback look that confident in his play — when it comes to pass defense, that’s a good thing.

Worst moment: Two jump off the page: One (and the first is more of a team defense breakdown than anything), in the Oct. 20 loss to the Jets, there was a breakdown in containment when New York QB Geno Smith scrambled free in the red zone, and he was able to shake Cole near the goal line and plunge in for the touchdown. Two, the sight of Talib leaving the win over New Orleans with a hip injury has to be disconcerting — so much of the success of the defense is tied up in having Talib on the field.

By the numbers: 52.5 yards per game. The difference in passing yards allowed through nine games in 2012 vs. nine games in 2013. The Patriots preach team defense more than just about anyone, but it’s hard not to look at the this year’s pass defense numbers against last season and not credit the work of the secondary. Through nine games in 2013, the Patriots have yielded an average of 232.8 passing yards per game (13th in the league). Through nine games last year, New England was allowing an average of 285.3 passing yards per game (29th in the NFL).

(Of course, the flip side — and there’s always a flip side — to all of this is that through nine games last season, the Patriots were one of the best teams in the league at stopping the run, allowing an average of 96.8 rushing yards per game, good for ninth in the league. This year? It’s 128.2, which was 30th in the league going into this weekend’s action.)

Money quote: “I think Aqib is a little bit different than some of the players that I’€™ve coached. There are some similarities to Ty [Law], but I think they’€™re two different players. They’€™re both good, both perimeter corners but I see them as having different skill sets. But maybe Ty would be similar in that he was a good corner and you could put him on a lot of players and not maybe feel like you need to give him a lot of help. I think Talib is a guy that we have a lot of confidence in and probably would treat his matchups a little bit differently than we’€™ve treated some other ones in the past – [former New York Jets cornerback] Aaron Glenn, but again, he’€™s about as different a player physically as you could get from Aqib but he also was a guy that could go out and cover a lot of receivers without a lot of help.” — Bill Belichick on Talib, Nov. 11.

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Bye-week breakdown: Linebackers

11.11.13 at 9:32 pm ET
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With the Patriots off this weekend, we’€™ve got our Bye-Week Breakdown, a position-by-position look at the team. We kicked things off with a look at special teams and offense. We opened on the defensive side of the ball with the defensive line — now, it’s the linebackers.

Overview: For the Patriots, the entire linebacking picture changed when Jerod Mayo went down with a season-ending pectoral injury in an October win over the Saints. The veteran wasn’t necessarily an elite linebacker across the board, but he did so many things really well: run defense, pass defense, communication, leadership. In the weeks since Mayo went on season-ending injured reserve, it’s been a work in progress as New England tries to find the right combination when it comes to defending the run as well as the pass.

Dont’a Hightower has certainly taken steps in the right direction over the last year-plus; however, he might not be at the level where he can step into Mayo’s role immediately. (Few people can — Mayo was in his sixth season as a professional, while Hightower just began his second.) That being said, Hightower played well in Mayo’s absence. Meanwhile, Brandon Spikes remains an elite run-stopper, while the Dane FletcherJamie Collins combo is progressing nicely. And youngsters Steve Beauharnais and Chris White have provided depth and special teams value over the first half of the season.

(One thing that has been noticeable over the last few weeks — when the Patriots have moved from their four-man front to a three-man front with four linebackers, Rob Ninkovich has been a stand-up, edge-of-the-line guy. In other words, an outside linebacker. Ninkovich hinted at the fact that he had an expanded role since Mayo and Wilfork had gone down, so it’s no surprise to see him standing up on occasion at his old linebacker spot. That’s not to suggest it’ll be a permanent thing, but instead, another indication the Patriots value players — defensive hybrids, really — who can fill multiple spots. Especially when they need help after losing Pro Bowlers in Mayo and Wilfork.)

As the urgency starts to increase and the most important stretch of the season looms, more will be asked of the linebacking crew as the defense looks to stay consistent down the stretch. Without Mayo, it will be a tall order — whether or not the group is up to the challenge will go a long way toward determining the ultimate legacy of the 2013 defense.

Depth chart: Dont’a Hightower (69 tackles, one sack), Brandon Spikes (84 tackles, one interception), Jamie Collins (11 tackles), Dane Fletcher (six tackles, two sacks), Steve Beauharnais, Chris White.

Best moment: Led in large part by the linebackers, New England was able to do a terrific job disguising its looks in the second half of the win over the Dolphins. That was the spark for six second-half sacks for the Patriots.

Worst moment: The loss of Mayo against the Saints.

By the numbers: 22. Spikes had a career-high with 22 total tackles at Cincinnati on Oct. 6. His previous best was 16 tackles at the Jets on Nov. 22, 2012. It is the highest tackle total for a Patriots player since Mayo had 23 total tackles vs. the New York Jets on Nov. 13, 2008. Spikes has four games so far in 2013 with 10 or more tackles ‘€“ 10 vs. Tampa Bay, 22 at Cincinnati, 17 at Jets and 12 vs. Miami.

Money quote: “I just come out and have a good time on Sundays. I don’€™t really pay attention to stuff I can’€™t control — it is what it is,’€ he said. ‘€œI just feel fortunate to be able to play this game. I just want to make the best of it. There’€™s a small margin in the time you get to play, and why not just go have fun? That’€™s all I just base it on — going to have fun. Being happy and playing the game I love.’€ — Spikes, Oct. 11.

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Rob Ninkovich on M&M: Dolphins scandal ‘unfortunate’

11.11.13 at 3:01 pm ET
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Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss New England’€™s bye week and the Jonathan Martin bullying saga.

Ninkovich and the Pats were out of action this week, as 7-2 New England enjoyed its bye week. The Patriots travel to Carolina next Monday night to take on the surprising 6-3 Panthers.

‘€œI just wanted to get a little break here, and definitely clear my mind a little bit and focus on the family,’€ Ninkovich said, adding that he’d advise other to ‘€œtake the time and use it wisely to try and get your body back to feeling pretty good, because there’€™s not much time like this to have a break and get your body going in the right direction.’€

Ninkovich, a Patriots team captain, declined to elaborate on the Dolphins’€™ bullying fiasco.

‘€œI really don’€™t want to get into the whole subject, issue of it,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œIt’€™s something I have no idea about’€¦ [I’€™m] just trying to focus on our team and moving forward in the season here.’€

ESPN’€™s Lisa Salters reported that Martin’€™s days as a Dolphin are likely done. It’€™s speculated that teammate Richie Incognito, who’€™s currently serving a suspension for an indefinite amount of time for bullying Martin, is also on the way out.

‘€œI just think it’€™s unfortunate what happened down there,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œEventually, they’€™re going to have to figure out what’€™s going to happen with him, and I just don’€™t want to get involved with it.’€

To hear the interview, go the the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

Read More: Jonathan Martin, Lisa Salters, Richie Incognito, Rob Ninkovich



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