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Setting the scene: Brutally cold winds in store for Patriots-Broncos at Gillette

11.24.13 at 5:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The 14th edition of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady may very well come down to which quarterback can handle the brutal and hostile conditions throughout the night at Gillette Stadium.

The temperature at kickoff is expected to be 20 degrees but with winds howling out of the north at 25 MPH, wind chills will hover around 2 degrees for most of the night. The wind will be blowing in from the open (north) end of the stadium and could factor heavily into not only the passing game but the kicking game as well.

The game figures to be one of the coldest in the history of Gillette Stadium and could make many think back to the AFC divisional game with Tennessee on Jan. 10, 2004 when the Patriots had to hold on for dear life for a 17-14 win over Steve McNair and the Titans. That night, the game – also played in primetime for TV – was held in Arctic conditions.

The temperature at kickoff was 4 degrees with a wind of 15 MPH creating a wind chill of minus-14. That game still remains the coldest home game in Patriots history.

Tonight’s game is on NBC television and NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth will surely bring up the coldest game of his career. On Jan. 10, 1982, Collinsworth’s Bengals beat Air Coryell and the San Diego Chargers, 27-7, in a legendary AFC championship game know as the “Freezer Bowl.” That game was actually played in the sunlight of Riverfront Stadium but the sun did little to provide comfort. The temperature that day in Cincinnati was minus-9 at kickoff with winds swirling outside, making it feel like 59 degrees below. It remains the coldest game ever played.

The “Ice Bowl” between the Packers and Cowboys was actually colder in terms of real temperature (-13) but the wind chill was officially only 48 below. Peyton Manning has not had much success playing in the cold. He is 2-5 in his last seven games played under 30 degrees, including the playoffs. But his numbers show he’s not as terrible as the record suggests.

In Manning’s last eight games under 40 degrees, he is on a streak of seven straight games where he completed at least 70 percent of his passes. He has completed 177 of 243 passes (72.8%) for 2129 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and a 105.5 QB rating. He is 4-4 in those eight games and his offenses have averaged 26.5 points per game.

The winds were so strong that they forced the Patriots to cancel a pre-game ceremony in which they unveiled an American flag that covers the entire field.

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Cris Collinsworth, Denver Broncos, Freezer Bowl

Brandon Spikes downgraded to ‘questionable’

11.24.13 at 12:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Hours before their showdown with Peyton Manning and the Broncos at Gillette Stadium, another defensive starter’s availability is in question.

The Patriots Sunday morning downgraded linebacker Brandon Spikes to “questionable” from “probable” with a knee injury. The designation means his probability of playing has officially gone from 75 percent to 50-50.

Spikes attended Friday’s practice at Gillette Stadium but was the only player not spotted in shells, wearing only sweats and his practice jersey. He also spent the media portion of practice speaking with linebackers coach Pepper Johnson.

Spikes has been nursing a knee injury for most of the season and has dealt with knee injuries in past season, limiting his playing time in his first three seasons in the league. He played in 12 games in 2010 and eight in 2011 before missing just one game in 2012.

Spikes has played in all 10 games this season and leads the Patriots in total tackles with 60.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl

Week 12 Fantasy Football Live Chat, 11 a.m.

11.24.13 at 9:45 am ET
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Join fantasy football expert Pete Davidson of and for a Week 12 live chat, helping you set your lineups heading into Week 12. It all starts at 11 a.m. Get your questions in now …


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Sunday thoughts on Patriots, Broncos and our five favorite Tom Brady-Peyton Manning games

11.24.13 at 6:15 am ET
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1. There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the Patriots and Broncos, but one that has really jumped off the page to this point in the season is Denver’s ability to play fast football. Broncos head coach John Fox talked this summer about the Broncos desire to emulate New England’s tempo, and they’ve been able to put it into practice this season. Through 10 games, the Broncos lead the NFL with 707 total snaps. (By way of comparison, the 2012 Patriots had 741 plays through the first 10 games last year.) Many in Denver trace it back to the 2012 contest between the two teams, a game where the Patriots ran an astounding 89 plays in a 31-21 win over the Broncos. “I know we were interested in it and we were kind of curious what they were doing,” Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said this week. “It really didn’t get brought up until way later in the year. We were still kind of figuring who we were at that time. I think we did change a little bit as the season progressed.”

2. Sunday night will mark the third consecutive time that Gene Steratore will work as the referee for a Patriots-Broncos game at Gillette Stadium — he was in attendance on Oct. 7, 2012 for the Patriots-Broncos game, a 31-21 win for New England. He also served as an official for the 2011 divisional playoff between the Patriots and Denver at Gillette Stadium (a game where New England crushed Tim Tebow and the Broncos, 45-10). In addition, this will be the second Patriots game of the 2013 season for Steratore and his crew ‘€” they served as the officials for Patriots-Bengals on Oct. 6 in Cincinnati. Below is the complete list of referees who have worked New England games this season. (For more information on referee assignments, check out our friends at Football Zebras. And for what it’s worth, Pro Football Reference has an excellent database on each official and his stats when it comes to penalties.)

Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo: Walt Anderson
Sept. 12 vs. NY Jets: Carl Cheffers
Sept. 22 vs. Tampa Bay: Jeff Triplette
Sept. 29 vs. Atlanta: Walt Coleman
Oct. 6 vs. Cincinnati: Gene Steratore
Oct. 13 vs. New Orleans: Tony Corrente
Oct. 20 vs. NYJ: Jerome Boger
Oct. 27 vs. Miami: Walt Anderson
Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh: Walt Coleman
Nov. 18 vs. Carolina: Clete Blakeman
Nov. 24 vs. Denver: Gene Steratore

3. In no particular order, here are our 5 favorite games of the Brady-Manning Era.

a. Jan. 21, 2007: Indy, 38-34. Manning and the Colts finally break through against the Patriots in the AFC title game. In a duel for the ages, Brady pushes New England out to a 21-3 lead, but Indy answers down the stretch with a Joseph Addai touchdown. A late drive from Brady and the Patriots fell short when Marlin Jackson picked off the quarterback, setting off a celebration in the RCA Dome.

b. Nov. 30, 2003: Patriots 38-34. The Patriots dominated over the first two-plus quarters on the way to a 31-10 lead, but a furious comeback from Manning and the Colts got them to within four with a minute to go. But a colossal defensive stand from the Patriots — New England stopped Indianapolis four times from inside the 2-yard line as the game wound down, highlighted by a final tackle from Willie McGinest on Edgerrin James — was the difference.

c. Sept. 9, 2004: Patriots 27-24: As he did the previous November, it was McGinest coming up with a big play with the game on the line, sacking Manning late in the fourth quarter. The sack ended up pushing the Colts out of field-goal range, as a late field-goal attempt from Mike Vanderjagt was off the mark.

d. Nov. 4, 2007: Patriots 24-20. In another classic showdown, Brady and New England moved to 9-0 with a comeback win over Manning and the Colts. Clutch plays from Randy Moss and Kevin Faulk highlighted this one, but it’s the quarterback who shines again — as ESPN Stats & Info noted, it was Brady’€™s ninth straight game with at least three passing touchdowns, breaking Manning’€™s NFL record from 2004.

e. Nov. 15, 2009: Colts 35-34. The Patriots jumped to a 17-point lead, but the Colts kept chipping away throughout the fourth quarter. New England held a six-point lead with just over two minutes left, and Belichick decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from the Patriots’ own 28-yard line. A Brady-to-Faulk pass came up just short of the sticks, and Manning made them pay when he found Reggie Wayne for the game-winning touchdown four plays later.

4. While it’s important to remember that there’s still a lot of football to be played, the struggles of many of the recent traditional powers to this point in the season (like the Steelers, Giants, Packers and Ravens), only serve to reinforce just how difficult it is to make the playoffs on a consistent basis. That point was driven home in a Tweet from the great BaxFootballGuru, a football analyst who consistent churns out great content: He noted thus week that the longest active playoff streaks by seasons are the Ravens (five straight, from 2008-2012), Packers and Patriots (four, 2009-2012) and Falcons (three, 2010-2012). Keeping in mind the three other teams are in distinct danger of missing out on the postseason this year, New England could stand alone when it comes to postseason consistency. Something to keep an eye on down the stretch.

5. When viewing the rest of this week’s schedule through a Patriots’ prism, here’s how things stack up:

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Unlucky Seven: Who will end up sitting against the Broncos?

11.23.13 at 5:03 pm ET
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In accordance with league protocol, the Patriots will release their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Sunday evening. But based on what’s happened this week and what the game plan might entail, here’s a guess and who will be sidelined for the contest against the Broncos:

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The rookie out of Rutgers has provided depth at linebacker and on special teams over the course of the season, but could be looking at another healthy scratch against the Broncos as the Patriots are looking to beef up the secondary and will likely play a ton of nickel and dime against pass-happy Denver.

Defensive end Jake Bequette: The second-year lineman out of Arkansas has been passed on the depth chart by Andre Carter and Michael Buchanan. Like Beauharnais, he’s already taken several healthy scratches to this point in the season, and the need for more defensive backs against the Broncos supersedes needs in the front seven.

Offensive lineman Chris Barker: The rookie is essentially going to take a redshirt year — if he does sit against the Broncos, it would be his seventh healthy scratch to this point in the season.

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: The dependable tight end suffered a knee injury in last week’s loss to the Panthers, and did not practice all week. Look for Matthew Mulligan will see an uptick in snaps as a result of Hoomananwanui’s absence.

Wide receiver Josh Boyce: The one we feel the least sure about. The rookie receiver out of TCU was active for the first time in several weeks against the Panthers in a limited role, but if the Patriots decide that newly promoted defensive back Justin Green is more vital to their success against the Broncos, Boyce could end up taking a seat. If he does, expect more opportunities for fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins on offense and LeGarrette Blount in the return game.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard: Remarkably, the defensive back was on the practice field this week only days after getting his knee checked out. At the same time, he was moving gingerly, and as a result, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he couldn’t go. But at this point, he’s the least likely of the four hobbled defensive backs (a group that includes Steve Gregory, Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington) to play against the Broncos. With Dennard on the shelf, do you move Arrington from the slot to the outside, and then put rookie Logan Ryan in the slot against Wes Welker? Or do you keep Arrington inside and put Ryan on the outside against (presumably) Eric Decker? The answers could ultimately tell the tale of this game.

Defensive tackle Marcus Forston: Like Bequette and Beauharnais, a need for more defensive backs against the high-powered Denver passing game necessitates Forston getting bumped in favor of someone like a Green, Marquice Cole, Tavon Wilson or Nate Ebner.

Patriots release RB Leon Washington, promote CB Justin Green from practice squad

11.23.13 at 4:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots apparently don’t want to be caught short in the secondary against Peyton Manning.

In an effort to increase their depth in light of injuries to Aqib Talib, Steve Gregory and Alfonzo Dennard, the Patriots promotion Justin Green from the practice squad on Saturday. To make room, the team released veteran kick returner Leon Washington.

Saturday’s move was first reported by Field Yates of

Washington has been dealing with an ankle injury and has played in just two games this season. This is the second time Washington has been released. On Sept. 1, 2013 Patriots waived the 31-year-old veteran during final roster cuts before re-signing him six days later.

Green’€™s promotion to the 53-man roster is a likely indication that Dennard, who reportedly had a scope on his meniscus last week, will not be available. With Talib dealing with a hip injury, Kyle Arrington nursing a sore groin for much of the season and Gregory possibly coming back from a broken right thumb, Green will likely be activated.

Green is an undrafted rookie out of Illinois and was signed by the Patriots on July 21. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder began his college career at Illinois as a running back before moving to the secondary for his final three seasons. He made 29 starts over his final three seasons, registering 76 total tackles, 13 passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Green was released by the Patriots on Aug. 31 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1

Washington is in his eighth NFL season after spending time with the New York Jets (2006-09) and the Seattle Seahawks (2010-12). The 5-foot-8, 203 pounder originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round (117th pick overall) draft choice by the Jets out of Florida State in 2006. He was traded by the Jets to the Seahawks on April 24, 2010, for a 2010 fifth-round draft choice. Washington was released by Seattle on March 12, 2013.

Washington shares the NFL record with Josh Cribbs with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He also tied an NFL record when he returned two kicks for a touchdown in a game against San Diego in 2010. Washington earned Pro Bowl honors in 2008 and 2012 and All-Pro honors in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Washington has played in 105 NFL games with 14 starts and has registered 474 rushing attempts for 2,214 yards and 16 touchdowns, 146 receptions for 1,127 yards and two touchdowns. He has also returned 168 punts for 1,668 yards and 245 kickoffs for 6,334 yards and eight touchdowns. Washington has played in two games for the Patriots and had one carry for one yard and returned one kick for 19 yards.

Read More: Denver Broncos, Josh Cribbs, Justin Green, Leon Washington

Patriots asking fans to arrive early on cold night at Gillette

11.23.13 at 1:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots are warning their fans to be ready for the cold — and the added time it takes for them to safely pass through security at Gillette Stadium for Sunday’s much-anticipated showdown with Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 20s and drop into the teens throughout the game, which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. With winds kicking up around 20 MPH, wind chills could fall into the the low teens by the end of the night.

In order to avoid lines, Jim Nolan, senior VP of stadium operations, is asking the 68,000 fans to get to the stadium early.

“We have had good response to the league’s new ‘clear bag’ policy,” Nolan said. “But with fans bundling up and bringing extra layers Sunday night, there will be more to check.”

Blankets and extra layers of clothing are allowed to be carried into the stadium. We ask that such items be loosely draped over an arm, and not folded or rolled up, for ease of screening.

Starting this year, the NFL implemented new security screening measures, including the NFL’€™s clear bag policy. The message all season has been made CLEAR, the only bags allowed in NFL venues must be CLEAR and no larger than 12’€x6’€x12’€ (with the exception of a small clutch, no larger than 7’€ x 4’€ x 2’€).

In addition, all arriving guests are screened by metal detectors, a process that is considerably slowed when patrons forget to take cell phones, keys or loose change out of their pockets prior to the screening. In an effort to expedite the process, especially when our guests are arriving bundled for cold weather, we are reminding all fans to remove ALL METALLIC ITEMS from their pockets in advance of the security screening process. Metallic items can either be held in their hands or placed in a plastic bag for ease of inspection. Parking attendants will have complimentary one gallon freezer bags available for all guests upon entry into the parking lots.

For additional information on the NFL’€™s clear bag policy, please go to For more information on Patriots and Gillette Stadium ticket and stadium policies, please visit

Read More: clear bag policy, Denver Broncos, Gillette Stadium, Jim Nolan



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