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The Big Nickel: Bill Belichick plays it cool, Tom Brady isn’t at practice and defending Dustin Keller

11.30.10 at 3:47 pm ET
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The five most important things to know about the Patriots today:

1. Bill Belichick is playing it cool. Not like there was much of a surprise, but the Patriots’ coach  wasn’€™t going to respond to Rex Ryan‘€™s ‘€œkick his ass’€ comments with anything more than a simple shrug.

‘€œSure, that’€™s understandable,’€ Belichick said Tuesday. ‘€œHey, there’€™s no love lost out there between those two teams. We both want to win. That’€™s what we’€™re here for ‘€” the Jets and the Patriots, both teams are walking out on the field to come out victorious. Is that a big news story? Is that something we didn’€™t know? The Jets want to win the game, the Patriots want to win?

‘€œI’€™m not really worried about anybody else. I’€™m just trying to get this team ready to play,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI’€™m not surprised that they expect to win and they’€™re confident they’€™re going to win. So are we. It might be a headline story for you guys ‘€” both teams expect to win.’€

2. Tom Brady not at practice. The quarterback was one of six players who were not present at the start of Patriots practice on Tuesday, a group that included cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, offensive lineman Stephen Neal, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, defensive lineman Ron Brace and defensive lineman Mike Wright.

At this stage ‘€” and given what has transpired over the last few weeks ‘€” it’€™s not a surprise to see Brady sit things out on Tuesday, especially given the fact that there’€™s an extra day of prep work looming for the Monday Night showdown with the Jets. Bottom line is there’€™s not much to see here when it comes to Brady’€™s absence, especially when you consider the level of football he’€™s displayed through the last month or so ‘€” despite missing time with a foot injury, in his last three games, Brady has completed 70-of-95 passes (74 percent) for 877 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

One of the things that is worth keeping an eye on is the fact that Brace, Wright and Pryor were all out. Wright and Pryor have been hobbled by injury over the last week or two ‘€” Wright with a neck/concussion and Pryor with a back ‘€” but if Brace is out for a lengthy stretch, it could leave the defensive line a little thin going forward.

3. Jets tight end Dustin Keller has made a good living against the Patriots ‘€” his 22 catches and 281 yards in five career games against New England are career highs for him. In September’s win over New England, he was targeted a team-high nine times and caught seven passes for a team-high 115 yards and a touchdown. So what makes him so hard to defend?

‘€œThey definitely move him around. They use a lot of different formations, even within the same personnel groups, and they use a lot of different personnel groups. But, they definitely move him around,’€ Belichick said on Tuesday. ‘€œKeller’€™s a good receiver. He’€™s quick. He’€™s got good speed down the field. He can definitely threaten the vertical element of the defense. [He'€™s] good after the catch, got good hands, good red-area receiver. He does a good job for them.’€

The Patriots are without safety Brandon McGowan, who became their designated tight end stopper last season, taking on a variety of word class tight ends like Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark. On Monday, New England will likely use a variety of coverages against Keller, much of which will involve inside linebacker Gary Guyton. Linebackers coach Matt Patricia said the matchup of a tight end against a linebacker presents some unique challenges for a defense.

‘€œThe hard thing for an inside linebacker is that anytime you’€™re in a situation where the run game can be at you and be on you very fast and very quick, and where you have a situation with a very dangerous receiver who can get down the field and get open … I think that’€™s the hardest situation for an inside linebacker,’€ Patricia said. ‘€œYou are in the direct line of the run game, but also critically and crucially involved in the passing game. So, I think that’€™s why those guys are really hard working players for us and they have to do a lot of work and study and improve every week because they’€™re in that situation where both the run and pass game can affect them very quickly.’€
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dallas Clark, Danny Woodhead, Dustin Keller

Tom Brady among those missing at practice for Patriots

11.30.10 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The following players were missing from the start of Patriots practice Tuesday afternoon: quarterback Tom Brady, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, offensive lineman Stephen Neal, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, defensive lineman Ron Brace and defensive lineman Mike Wright.

While most of the other players have been dogged by various injuries over the previous week or so, Brace’s absence is his first in some time. No Brace, as well as Pryor and Wright, leaves the New England defensive line a little thin at practice Tuesday afternoon.

The practice session, which is being held in full pads, is on the upper practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. New England is preparing for a Monday night showdown with the Jets.

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

Bill Belichick responds to Rex Ryan’s comments

11.30.10 at 1:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Reacting to the quote from Jets coach Rex Ryan saying he came to New York to ‘€œkick his ass,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged there is no love lost between the two teams.

‘€œSure, that’€™s understandable,’€ Belichick said Tuesday. ‘€œHey, there is no love lost out there between those two teams. We both want to win. That’€™s what we’€™re here for ‘€” the Jets and the Patriots, both teams are walking out on the field to come out victorious. Is that a big news story? Is that something we didn’€™t know? The Jets want to win the game? The Patriots want to win?’€

Ryan told Newsday’€™s Bob Glauber on Monday, ‘€œAs much as I respect and admire Bill Belichick, I came here to kick his ass, and that’€™s the truth. That’€™s just the way it is.’€

‘€œI’€™m not really worried about anybody else. I’€™m just trying to get this team ready to play,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI’€™m not surprised that they expect to win and they’€™re confident they’€™re going to win. So are we. It might be a headline story for you guys ‘€” both teams expect to win.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan,

Alge Crumpler: Patriots ‘not worried about what’s being said’

11.30.10 at 12:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Don’t expect to hear any trash-talking from Gillette Stadium and the Patriots – at least in the week leading up to next Monday night’s showdown between the Patriots and Jets.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan had some fun on Monday when he said he and Tom Brady have one thing in common – “supermodel” wives. There had not been any comments from the Jets in light of their 28-14 win over the Patriots in Week 2 before Tuesday morning.

Ryan on Monday told New York Newsday’s Bob Glauber that he badly wants to beat Bill Belichick and his Patriots, “I came here to kick his ass and that’s the truth.”

“We’ve been told to play football,” said Patriots tight end Alge Crumpler before Tuesday’s practice. “That’s all I’m worried about. I’m just going to play. I’m not worried about what’s being said.”

He may not be talking about what’s being said but Crumpler did not try to downplay the significance of the match-up between a pair of 9-2 teams atop the division and the AFC.

“It is a big game,” Crumpler said. “There’s no need to downplay it. It is a big game. It only counts as one. That’s the nature of the Jets. They’re going to do what they do. They take after their coach, they play well. We take after our coach. we play well.”

Read More: Alge Crumpler, New England Patriots, New York Jets, nfl

Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Pats-Jets on MNF

11.30.10 at 11:08 am ET
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FOXBORO — Everyone and their brother ‘€” and sister ‘€” is looking ahead to next Monday night at Gillette Stadium and the battle of the Patriots and Jets, a pair of 9-2 teams battling it out for supremacy in the AFC East and the AFC.

Six days prior, we thought a look back might be in order. It was Oct. 18, 1976, when the 3-2 Patriots battled the 1-4 Jets ‘€” coached by Lou Holtz, believe it or not. The Patriots would go on to finish 11-3 only to lose out on the division to the Baltimore Colts. As a wild card, the Pats went out to Oakland and were done in by the Raiders, with a little help from referee Ben Dreith.

On this night at the old Schaefer Stadium on Route 1, the Chuck Fairbanks-led Patriots had their way with the Jets ‘€” and a quarterback by the name of Joe Namath ‘€” in a 41-7 rout.

So, while we all get lost in looking forward, let’s take a look back at another Monday night showdown between the Jets and Patriots in Foxboro, courtesy the folks at ABC.

Read More: Ben Dreith, Chuck Fairbanks, Joe Namath, Lou Holtz

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 13

11.30.10 at 7:08 am ET
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The battle for the AFC East title and the No. 1 spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings will be on the line in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium. For the third straight week, the Patriots (No.1), the Jets (No. 2), and the Falcons (No. 3) control the top three spots. That will surely change next week after the Pats and Jets collide. Tom Brady will be trying to break Brett Favre’s consecutive regular season home-game winning streak while the Jets will fight to stay unbeaten on the road.

The AFC East won’t be the only division up for grabs in Week 13. The Ravens (No. 4) and the Steelers (No. 6) will face off in a showdown themselves. The winning team will be in the driver’s seat to take the division and have a first-round playoff bye.

Continuing to climb are the Chargers (No. 9). There is something about the second-half of the season that flips a switch for Philip Rivers and crew. The “Super Chargers” have rattled off four straight wins.

Down in the bottom of the barrel, the last five teams have a new member. The embattled Denver Broncos come crashing down to No. 28.

1. (1) 9-2 The Patriots have scored more points this season than any other team in the NFL. Tom Brady and the offense are ranked third in the league after completing 45 percent of their third-down conversions. On the other side of the ball, Bill Belichick should be concerned about the amount of yards his defense has given up. The Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in total yards allowed. This team has relied on their ability to force turnovers. Their 15 interceptions lead the AFC.

2. (2) 9-2 Every good team must win on the road and the Jets certainly know how to do that. Dating back to last year, the Jets have won eight in a row on the road. Their most difficult task away from the Meadowlands will come this Monday night in Foxboro. Mark Sanchez has thrown an interception in six straight games after throwing none in the first five games of the season. Sanchez will have to protect the football against a very opportunistic Patriots defense if he wants to give his team a chance to win.

3. (3) 9-2 Matt Ryan is quickly becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The BC alum has five game-winning drives this season. He’s also an extremely accurate passer and has only been intercepted five times. The Falcons are in a prime position to take the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If they can lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs, they’ll be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Ryan is 19-1 inside the Georgia Dome.

4. (5) 8-3 The Ravens are entering the last month of the season playing extremely well on defense. They’ve given up 23-total points in their last two games. Ray Lewis and crew must take that momentum into their AFC North game against the Steelers this Sunday.

5. (8) 8-3 The defending Super Bowl champs were successful last year because they caused turnovers in key moments of the game. On Thanksgiving, we saw the Saints once again make a turnover to save a game. This team plays smart football and is well coached. That’s just one of the reasons they’ll be extremely difficult to beat in the playoffs.

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Read More: NFL Power Rankings,

Bill Belichick on the Big Show: The games are getting bigger

11.29.10 at 11:30 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his weekly appearance on The Big Show on Monday. In preparation for the much-anticipated showdown with the Jets next Monday night, Belichick said that he would talk to his players (especially the rookies) about preparing for the magnitude of the event. Even so, Belichick said that the gradual buildup of the season has already laid some foundation to deal with the AFC East tilt.

“The closer you get to the end of the season, the more important every game is, because there are so few of them left. Whether we were talking about the Pittsburgh game, the Indianapolis game or the Detroit game, each one seems bigger and bigger ‘€“ one fewer on the schedule as you march through the season,” said Belichick. “I just think it will be more of the same. We’€™re down to five to go. This is a division game. We’€™re back to division games now after a long break. I think we all know how important division games are. Every game is important, but division games even more so.”

Belichick discussed Jets coach Rex Ryan, and suggested that his New York counterpart had every reason to maintain his swagger.

“They were in the AFC Championship game last year. They’€™re 9-2. What is there not to be confident about?” said Belichick. “They’€™ve won a lot of games. I’€™m sure the players believe in what he’€™s saying and what he’€™s doing, and they should. They’€™ve had a lot of success. I think that’€™s the way you want a team to feel.”

A transcript of interview highlights is below. To listen to the complete interview from The Big Show’s audio on demand page, click here. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Devin McCourty, Jets
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