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Devin McCourty a finalist for Rookie of the Year

01.07.11 at 1:21 pm ET
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Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty is one of five finalists for the NFL Rookie of the Year award.

The Rutgers product, drafted with the 27th overall pick, has 82 tackles (69 solo), seven interceptions with 110 return yards and two fumble recoveries.

The other finalists are Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, Browns defense back Joe Haden, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams.

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Peter King on D&H: Rex Ryan’s ‘mouth goes before he really thinks about it’

01.07.11 at 1:18 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports football analyst Peter King made his weekly WEEI Patriots Friday appearance on the Dale & Holley show and talked about news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

King predicts the Ravens and Colts will win in the AFC playoffs this weekend. In the NFC, the Seahawks-Saints game has turned in to one to watch. “I think Seattle really is in an interesting position this weekend,” he said. “Because when you think about how this thing has played out ‘€” I mean, the Saints are on a short week. They’re very beat up. Their two running backs are gone. They’re going to have to play Reggie Bush at running back, which Sean Payton really does not like to do ‘€” play him probably 30 snaps at running back, running between the tackles. He and Julius Jones, who has been nothing special at all. Marques Colston coming off arthroscopic surgery 10 days ago on his knee. This is the week that you want to play the Saints. And that, plus the fact that you make them travel 2,200 miles on a short week.”

“So, I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle won. Plus, they’ve got their crowd up there. If they’re in the game early, that crowd will be in the game. So, I definitely think they’ve got a shot. Now, obviously, the difference-maker is Drew Brees. Matt Hasselbeck is at the end, and Drew Brees is in the prime. And he’s the most accurate passer of our day. I don’t know. I don’t see New Orleans losing, but it wouldn’t shock me.”

Commenting on Rex Ryan‘s backhanded criticism of Tom Brady this week, King said: “I just think his mouth goes before he really thinks about it. That happens a lot of times.”

Looking at coaching moves around the league, King said part of the reason for the fascination with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is because there are no “hot” assistants in the NFL this year. But he said the type of money reportedly being offered does not make sense. “I do think that Harbaugh should be a very attractive guy,” King said. “When the Dolphins were talking about paying him $7 [million] or $8 million a year, anything to be able to get him, that was categorically insane. To pay him Bill Belichick money ‘€” and I don’t even know what Belichick makes, and I’m assuming it’s around $8 million ‘€” to pay him Bill Belichick money is an insult. Plus, in my opinion ‘€” everybody says, ‘Who cares? It’s the owner’s money.’ Well, that’s fine. But you talk about putting pressure on a guy that he doesn’t need.”

As for former Patriots assistant coaches who were fired in the past month, King said Josh McDaniels is visiting the Vikings Friday but may hold out for a job that will better enhance his career. King said he’s heard Eric Mangini is interested in the UConn job or the Cowboys defensive coordinator position.

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Read More: Drew Brees, Ed Sabol, Eric Mangini, Jim Harbaugh

Fred Taylor on D&H: ‘Everybody’s just excited for’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis

01.07.11 at 12:12 pm ET
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Running back Fred Taylor joined the Dale & Holley show Friday for his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Patriots Friday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Taylor said that despite missing much of the season with injuries, he has no problem with coaches chewing him out along with the players in the film room in preparation for the playoffs. “I’m not perfect by any means,” he said. “I need to make sure I’m on top of everything, trying to continue to improve myself. Constructive criticism is great. You just listen, you take heed to it, and you try to get better from it.”

BenJarvus Green-Ellis reached 1,000 yards rushing on the season in Sunday’s regular-season finale, and the team was visibly excited for the young back. “It meant a lot to whole lot of people,” Taylor said. “Everybody understands Benny. He’s a non-nonsense, straightforward young guy with an old soul who works extremely hard. He deserves everything that he’s gotten to this point. And I’m sure he’ll continue to go out and get better. Knowing Benny, everybody’s just excited for him.”

Asked what running backs are most proud of, Taylor said: “Not turning the ball over. That’s the key to everything.”

Running back Kevin Faulk has been a regular presence at Gillette Stadium despite being on injured reserve since his Week 2 injury. Taylor had plenty of complimentary things to say about the veteran. “That’s the passion and dedication that Kevin Faulk brings to the team,” Taylor said. “He’s at every meeting. He’s, I think, the only IR guy that’s in every meeting ‘€” well, not at every meeting, but every squad meeting every morning, just prior to his treatment, his rehab. That’s just his dedication and his involvement with the organization and the things that he’s about. That’s just Kevin at the end of the day, nothing special for him. It’s not going above and beyond for him. It’s just his everyday approach with his dedication to the team.”

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk,

Jerod Mayo on D&H: Coaches keep Patriots humble

01.07.11 at 11:38 am ET
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Linebacker Jerod Mayo checked in with the Dale & Holley show Friday morning as part of WEEI’s Patriots Friday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Asked if Bill Belichick has been keeping the team grounded by hammering the players in the film room,” Mayo said: “Every single day. We went over every bad play that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks, and there have been quite a few.”

Mayo said part of the team philosophy is to limit the involvement with the media. “I think coach Belichick and the rest of the staff do an excellent job keeping us humble and not paying attention to any media,” he said. “Every week, we’ll get ‘€” I don’t want to say ‘bashed,’ but he’s making sure our heads are in the right place and still preparing well like we’re playing tough teams, which we are in the playoffs.”

Asked if he will be watching playoff action this weekend, Mayo replied: “I will, especially the AFC games, just to see what guys are doing. Everybody’s pulling out all the stops this weekend, and hopefully we can find out our opponent soon.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo,

Adam Schefter on D&C: ‘I think Rex [Ryan] just talks. He doesn’t care’

01.07.11 at 10:20 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday, and he started off by taking questions about Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. When asked if he was sick of hearing about Harbaugh, Schefter responded by sharing an anecdote about his wife.

‘€œI will just say this,’€ Schefter began, ‘€œthe great philosopher wife that I’€™m married to, last night, she’€™s an uninterested football fan, she looked at me at one point and she said, ‘€˜So, is this Jim Harbaugh guy the new Brett Favre?’€™ ‘€

Schefter went on to discuss where he thinks Harbaugh will be coaching next year.

‘€œMy guess is Stanford,’€ he said. ‘€œBut again, my guess every single day in this process has been wrong. So if I’€™m saying Stanford, that probably means he winds up as the 49ers head coach. But I would guess Stanford.’€

Schefter said he thinks Harbaugh has lost his leverage when it comes to negotiating with NFL teams, and he pointed out that the Dolphins never made an offer to him, contrary to some reports. He said the Dolphins were not in compliance with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates, and therefore could not make an offer even if they wanted to.

Below is more on Harbaugh, as well as Schefter’€™s thoughts on Andrew Luck, Rex Ryan and which team could challenge the Patriots. To listen to the interview, check the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Is it possible Harbaugh told the Dolphins he did not want the job because the general manager and defensive coordinator are both staying?

It’€™s possible, yeah. I could see that. The way that it was explained to me throughout the day yesterday by various people is the Dolphins went out there, they rushed out there. ‘€¦ They rushed out there to try to see if they could get this guy, but the calls I got yesterday that seemed to be consistent were that the Dolphins were not in a decision mode, they were in an exploratory mode. And they were trying to figure out whether they wanted to go out and hire Jim Harbaugh.

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Read More: adam schefter, Bill Cowher, Jim Harbaugh, Jon Gruden

Nuggetpalooza’s NFL Playoffs Preview – Saturday’s Games

01.07.11 at 10:14 am ET
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Imagine the following sentence being read by John Facenda, the NFL Films’ “Voice of God”:

Welcome to the NFL Playoffs.

This is the first of two previews that I’ll have for you this weekend. This one covers the Saturday games and I’ll have another one tomorrow with a slew of nuggets looking at the Sunday matchups.

As those of you who are familiar with my previews probably already know, my stat nuggets are not like those that you’ll get from most football media outlets. I do my best to bring you numbers that you probably won’t see anywhere else but will add some depth to the game discussion. Hopefully, you’ll find something interesting in there that make the games more interesting for you!

Only 11 NFL games remain… maybe for a long time.  So, enjoy them while you can!

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SAINTS (11-5) AT SEAHAWKS (7-9)

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* – The Saints averaged just 20.8 points per game over the season’s first half, then reeled off five straight games over 30 (averaging 32.8 during that stretch), only to cool off over their last three, averaging just 18.

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* – New Orleans led the NFL in third down conversion percentage (48.8 percent) and their 37.7 percent conversion rate on third-and-10+ also led the league. Compare that to Seattle’s 35.5 percent overall conversions (22nd) and 14.3 percent on third-and-10+ (30th).

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* – Seattle began a league high nine possessions inside their opponents’ 20-yard-line this season. No other team had more than six such possessions this year. The Seahawks had managed only six such possessions over the previous two seasons combined.

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* – The Saints’ 55 points scored on their first possession of games led the NFL, while they allowed just nine on their opponents’ opening drives, also the best mark in the league. Seattle allowed 45 points on opponents’ opening drives, third worst in the league.

Note this: New Orleans has scored in the first quarter in each of their last seven games. Since 1997, they’ve had only one longer streak (nine in 1999).

And this: Seattle has scored a touchdown in the first quarter in their last four games, the third longest streak in the NFL this season: Green Bay-6 ; New England-5 ; Seattle-4.

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* – Seattle allowed 30 drives of 10 or more plays this season (fifth most) and allowed an average of 4.63 points on those drives (third highest). This bodes quite well for New Orleans, who’s offense put up 39 such drives this season, second most in the league.

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* – New Orleans, Kansas City, and Cleveland were the only teams without a kickoff return of 40 or more yards in 2010. However, 75 percent of the Saints returns went for 20 or more yards, the highest such percentage in the league. An incredible 63 percent of their returns went for 20 to 29 yards, by FAR the highest percentage in the NFL:

63% – Saints
51% – Steelers
50% – Rams

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* – The Seahawks allowed 17 touchdown receptions on balls caught outside the end zone, tied for the second most in the league (Houston, 18). New Orleans allowed only four such catches, tied with the Chargers for the league’s fewest.

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* – New Orleans’ pass defense on third and fourth downs has been terrible over the last six weeks, allowing a +3.89 rating, the worst in the league in that span (the way I keep ‘em, mostly based on net yards per pass play over or under the league average with adjustments for touchdowns and intereptions).

Those numbers include 8.58 net yards per pass play on combined third/fourth downs (last), 67 percent completions, and just one pick.

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* – Seattle’s longest rushing play this season was 39 yards, the second shortest “longest rush” in the league this season. The only team with a shorter “longest rush”? The New England Patriots (36 yards).

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Rex Ryan is the motivational gift that keeps on giving to Tom Brady and the Patriots

01.06.11 at 2:27 pm ET
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Jets coach Rex Ryan was at it again on Thursday as he attempted to shower Peyton Manning with praise in advance of his team’s showdown with the Colts Saturday night in Indianapolis. But in the process of crediting Manning preparatory skills – which he claimed were better than anyone’s in the NFL – he slighted Tom Brady.

“I know Brady thinks he [prepares the most]. But it’s Peyton Manning,” Ryan said, according to the New York Daily News. Ryan’s comments come on the same day that Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December – which included a Brady-led 45-3 rout of New York on Dec. 6.

Ryan’s Jets are trying to avenge a loss to the Colts in last year’s AFC Championship on the same Lucas Oil Stadium field. The last time the two teams met, Manning and the Colts trailed the Jets, 17-6, before the Colts rallied for a 30-17 win.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl
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