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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.03.13 at 5:39 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Twelve games into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 144 (135 rushes, 9 catches), 12 negative rushes, 1 negative reception, 4 fumbles lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 94 (94 rushes, 0 catches), 8 negative runs, 2 fumbles lost
RB Brandon Bolden: 73 (54 rushes, 19 catches), 4 negative runs, 1 negative reception
WR Julian Edelman: 72 (2 rushes, 70 catches), 6 dropped passes
RB Shane Vereen: 63 (35 rushes, 28 catches), 2 negative runs
WR Danny Amendola: 38 (1 rush, 37 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Rob Gronkowski: 37 (0 rushes, 37 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 35 (0 rushes, 35 catches), 1 negative reception, 7 dropped passes
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 32 (0 rushes, 32 catches), 7 dropped passes
QB Tom Brady: 25 (25 rushes, 0 catches), 31 sacks, 15 kneeldowns, 3 fumbles lost
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 10 (0 rushes, 10 catches)
FB James Develin: 5 (2 rushes, 3 catches)
WR Austin Collie: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)

Some offensive notes: The Patriots ran 69 plays on Sunday against the Texans and 28 of them were in shotgun, a rate of 41 percent. To this point in the season, the Patriots have been in shotgun formation on 358 of their 853 offensive snaps, a rate of 42 percent. (Last year through 12 games, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 428 for 918 of their plays, a rate of 47 percent.) ‘€¦ Against the Texans, the Patriots were in no-huddle for 2 of their 69 snaps, a rate of 3 percent. On the year, the Patriots have operated in a no-huddle on 111 of their 853 plays from scrimmage ‘€” 13 percent of the time. ‘€¦ New England has run 853 offensive plays this year in 12 games. Not counting kneeldowns, 63 have been for negative yardage. Of the 69 plays against the Texans, a season-low three went for negative yardage ‘€” one sack of Brady, as well as two negative runs from Vereen. Sunday also marked the first time since Sept. 29 against the Falcons that Brady was sacked one time or less in a game. ‘€¦ In addition to a season-low in negative plays, the Patriots were able to pin several season-lows on the Texans defense: according to our pal Adam Wexler of CSN Houston, the Texans’ D allowed a season-worst 28 first downs (previous mark was 20), 453 total yards (357), 365 passing yards (245), 6.6 yards per play (5.5) and a 33:46 mark in time of possession (33:41).

By way of comparison, here’s a look at how the offensive opportunities broke down through 12 games last season.

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Despite fact Patriots can wrap up division Sunday, Bill Belichick says focus right now is Browns

12.03.13 at 4:01 pm ET
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The Patriots have a chance to clinch or tie for a share of the division title on Sunday if they beat the Browns and the Dolphins lose at the Steelers, an eminently reasonable scenario given the way the season has played out to this point.

However, Bill Belichick said that’s not the focus heading into the game at home against Cleveland.

“Really, we’€™re not talking too much about that,” Belichick said of his team, which could capture the AFC East for the 11th time in the last 13 years. “The only thing we can really control is how we play against Cleveland. That’€™s really what we need to focus on. Whatever else does or doesn’€™t happen in the league is definitely totally outside of our control.

“Hopefully we can go out there and improve and play better and win,” he added, “and whatever else happens or doesn’€™t happen, we can’€™t worry about that.”

Here are some other highlights of the Q&A with the media from the Tuesday afternoon conference call:
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Houston security guards fired for taking photos with Tom Brady

12.03.13 at 2:33 pm ET
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Two Reliant Stadium security guards who were working the Texans-Patriots game on Sunday lost their jobs after taking a picture with Tom Brady following New England’s 34-31 win.

Joel Williams, one of the security guards, told KHOU.com that he ran into Brady after he had clocked out of his shift for the day.

‘€œI said, ‘€˜Hey Tom Brady, good job, good game man.’ He looked at me and smiled,’€ Williams said. ‘€œHe was very polite, very nice guy, humble. Sometimes I see players and say hello, and they just keep walking.’€

After taking the picture, Williams was approached by his supervisor, who fired him on the spot.

‘€œImmediately after I took the picture, I got ran down by a supervisor,’€ Williams said. ‘€œThey didn’t really give a reason, they said you know you’re wrong and you’re fired.”

‘€œWhat they say and what they practice are two different things,’€ said Christopher Moore, the other guard who was fired for taking a photo with Brady.. ‘€œWhat we see on a daily basis, whether it be Reliant or CSC employees, is them taking pictures and asking for autographs from players.’€

CSC, which stands for Contemporary Services Corporation, justified its actions in a statement sent to KHOU.

‘€œIt is strictly against CSC policy for its employees to request photos or autographs from players. CSC stands by its decision to terminate the two employees who violated this policy.’€

Read More: houston texans, New England Patriots, Security Guards, Tom Brady

Pressure points: Which New England defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2013?

12.03.13 at 11:38 am ET
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Every week over the course of the 2013 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. While sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Through 12 games, the Patriots have 35 sacks (10th in the league), 68 quarterback hits and 134 quarterback hurries. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2013 season:

Quarterback sacks
DL Chandler Jones: 10.5 (65.5 yards)
DL Chris Jones: 5 (32 yards)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 5 (24 yards)
DL Tommy Kelly: 2.5 (14.5 yards)
LB Dane Fletcher: 2 (19 yards)
CB Logan Ryan: 2 (18 yards)
DE Michael Buchanan: 2 (15 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1.5 (5 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 1 (13 yards)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 1 (9 yards)
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 1 (8 yards)
DE Andre Carter: 1 (6 yards)
Team sacks: 1 (8 yards)

‘€¨’€¨Quarterback hits (per NFL game books)
DE Chandler Jones: 19
DE Rob Ninkovich: 13
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DL Chris Jones: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
DE Andre Carter: 5
DL Joe Vellano: 3
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 3
LB: Dane Fletcher: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
CB Logan Ryan: 1
S Steve Gregory: 1
DL Issac Sopoaga: 1
LB Jamie Collins: 1

Quarterback hurries (per PFF)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 33
DE Chandler Jones: 28
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 12
DL Joe Vellano: 10
DL Chris Jones: 10
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
LB Brandon Spikes: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
LB Jamie Collins: 5
DE Andre Carter: 4
DL Vince Wilfork: 3
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 3
LB Dane Fletcher: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
CB Devin McCourty: 2
CB Marquice Cole: 1
CB Kyle Arrington: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1

Read More: pressure points,

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Patriots jump to No. 3

12.03.13 at 10:44 am ET
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The dominance continues. Seattle’s reign atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings has reached its seventh straight week. The Seahawks look like a lock to play in New Jersey in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Panthers (2), Patriots (3) and Broncos (4) all inch one spot closer while the Saints drop out of the top five after being absolutely dismantled in Seattle. New Orleans won’t have much time to think about the loss because the red-hot Panthers are next on the schedule in a battle for the NFC South.

As the regular season draws closer to an end, we’ll see more teams officially eliminated from the playoffs. It looks like at least five playoff teams from 2012 won’t make a return trip in 2013. The Packers (20), Vikings (27), Redskins (28, already eliminated) Falcons (29) and Texans (32) have not lived up to expectations.

1. (1) Seahawks (11-1) — Good luck to any NFC team that has to go through Seattle to reach the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson hasn’t lost at CenturyLink Field and is 22-6 since becoming the starting QB last year.

2. (3) Panthers (9-3) — Owners of eight straight wins, the Panthers and their highly ranked defense will take on the Saints on Sunday night.

3. (4) Patriots (9-3) — As usual, the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady-led Patriots get stronger and better as the season shifts to November and December. They are one win and one Miami loss away from wrapping up their 11th division title in 13 seasons.

4. (5) Broncos (10-2) — The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Denver. The Broncos’ remaining opponents have a combined 16-32 record. None of the four teams they will face have a record over .500. 

5. (6) 49ers (8-4) — The injuries on the offensive line combined with the inconsistency of the run game over the past two weeks are a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

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Read More: Broncos, NFL Power Rankings, Patriots, Peyton Manning

Fantasy Football: Week 14 waiver wire

12.03.13 at 10:20 am ET
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As we look toward what is a playoff week in most fantasy football formats, there certainly are a few solid new options to consider adding. The sad reality is that half of the teams in most leagues just got sent packing, and that obviously cuts down on the competition for talent. Hence, we are concentrating on the better players vs. the depth moves, but we still have a little of both.

If you are looking for deeper options, you can head over to Rotobahn later Tuesday and check out my expanded wire for those in deep formats. As always, I’€™ll be back later this week with Jim Hackett for the Fantasy Football Podcast, plus the starts and sits. Then, on Sunday, I’€™ll be hosting a chat to help with any last-minute lineup issues that you might have. To those of you reading this, please accept our congratulations on making your league’€™s playoffs. Now let’€™s see if we can bring home the fantasy bacon!

QUARTERBACKS

Andy Dalton, Bengals

He’€™s available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and that percentage could rise after the stinker that Dalton had in Week 13. Still, we like Dalton’€™s Week 14 matchup, and Week 16 is pretty sweet, too.

  • Week 14 – Colts
  • Week 15 – at Steelers
  • Week 16 – Vikings

Joe Flacco, Ravens

He plays at home vs. the Vikings this week, and that could be enough to make him a great add. As an added bonus, he’€™s playable on all three remaining weeks. In Week 14, Flacco may also see the return of his favorite target, Dennis Pitta.

  • Week 14 – Vikings
  • Week 15 – at Lions
  • Week 16 – Patriots

Carson Palmer, Cardinals

He can’€™t help you Week 16, but he’€™ll be useful this week and next. Palmer has been very good lately, with multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games. He can help you as a QB2 in most leagues, and you can still add him in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

  • Week 14 – Rams
  • Week 15 – at Titans
  • Week 16 – at Seahawks

EJ Manuel, Bills

He plays a solid, though not incredible, schedule the rest of the way, and he’€™s been getting better in terms of health. Manuel also has scored well the last two weeks, so he can help you if you need to add a QB2 in a 12-team league. His receivers are healthy and he now has C.J. Spiller ripping off big runs, and that could take the edge off of the pass rush going forward.

  • Week 14 – at Buccaneers
  • Week 15 – at Jaguars
  • Week 16 – Dolphins

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Read More: Andy Dalton, Ben Tate, Carson Palmer, EJ Manuel

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 season

12.03.13 at 9:55 am ET
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Through 12 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 51 penalties (tied for 30th in the league) for a total of 493 yards (30th). Sunday’s game marked the second time this season they were not flagged for a single penalty. Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:
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Read More: penalties,
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