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Big day for BC: Mark Herzlich and Ron Brace return

11.06.11 at 12:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With lots of attention this week on UMass star Victor Cruz coming back as a key receiver for the Giants, there are several products of Boston College who could be on center stage today for the Giants-Patriots battle. And a couple are making a return of sorts.

Mark Herzlich returns to New England today, after a brief cameo in the preseason finale on Sept. 1. The cancer survivor and former Boston College All-American linebacker has earned a spot on the Giants special teams unit.

“First and foremost, he’€™s a tough kid and really, a guy who’€™s a dedicated football player, loves the game, [and] loves to be around the game,” Giants coach Tom Coughllin said. “Really never misses a thing, hasn’€™t missed one play of practice ‘€“ hasn’€™t missed anything; he’€™s completely reliable. He’€™s a guy who’€™s very smart. You tell him one time and he’€™s got it. He’€™s been a good solid citizen here and he’€™s working as hard as he can as a young rookie to understand the National Football League and to continue to grow and develop.”

Ron Brace has been at Patriots practice since the bye and was activated off the Patriots PUP list on Saturday. The former BC defensive tackle could join the rotation for the Patriots four-man front.

Prior to 2010, Brace was moved to defensive end, and missed most of training camp after failing his conditioning test. However, he returned and started the first three games of the regular season, including a four-tackle game in Week 2 against the Jets. Brace soon lost his starting job to rookie Brandon Deaderick, and was inactive for the team’s Week 7 win over the Chargers.

Brace was active again in Week 8, and returned to the starting lineup two weeks later against the Steelers. He was a reserve the next week against the Colts, but tied his season-high of four tackles in the game. Three weeks later, he started the Week 13 game in Chicago, but sustained a concussion that kept him out of their Week 15 game against the Packers. After playing in Week 16, Brace missed the team’s regular season finale with an elbow injury. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston College, Boston College footbal, New England Patriots, New York Giants

Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts and sits

11.05.11 at 5:53 pm ET
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Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. We’€™ve highlighted some options that we like and some that we don’€™t like for the upcoming week’€™s games. If you need deeper analysis, please feel free to join us at Rotobahn.com and check out our comprehensive lineup rankings. If you want information on late-breaking injury information on game day, follow us on twitter. Just follow the link on our home page.  Good to all in week nine!

Quarterbacks

Starts

Andy Dalton @ Titans

He’€™s a solid play in most formats in week nine. He’€™s proven to be a solid signal caller and he has some nice weapons to work with and rookie stud AJ Green tops that list. The Titans are not playing very good defense right now, so the matchup is solid.

Josh Freeman @ Saints

He’€™s playing better and the Saints are not world beaters on defense. We have Freeman as a fringe QB1, and his thumb is not going to keep him out. He’€™s practiced with it all week.

Tim Tebow @ Raiders

Yes, we know it isn’€™t pretty, but we doubt that most people even realize that even in last week’€™s debacle, Tim Tebow posted top-12 fantasy numbers. He may never be a winner at the highest level, but the guy is a fantasy asset as we speak. It’€™s all about the foot points.

Sits

Joe Flacco @ Steelers

The temptation might be to assume that he will do well against the Steelers as he did in the opener. We’€™re not so sure about that due to Flacco’€™s struggles in road games. He’€™s got a little upside due to the early success, but we fear the meltdown as well. He’€™s our 21st ranked quarterback for week nine.

Carson Palmer vs Broncos

We think he may have some legit fantasy upside as we really like the Raiders’€™ skill players, but he still has to master a new offense and that will take some time. Palmer also may need to get into football shape. This is a week to assess the Raiders’€™ new QB … not a week to start him.

Running Backs

Starts

DeMarco Murray vs Seattle

Pete Carroll‘€™s guys can stop the run, but we’€™d roll with Murray in any format. He can be very effective as a receiver, so we expect him to post solid total yards one way or another. Murray is also dynamic near the stripe and we see him finding the zone.

Michael Bush vs Broncos

Bush is a quality back, and with Darren Mcfadden sidelined, he will get a chance to show it. He is a very worthy RB2 this week and has RB1 upside. Get him in there.

Jackie Battle vs Dolphins

The matchup is sweet and Battle has been getting the touches in Jamaal Charles‘€™ absence. He hasn’€™t wasted the opportunity and has outperformed an aging Thomas Jones and the diminutive Dexter McCluster. He has RB2 value in week nine.

Sits

Ryan Torain vs 49ers

He just hasn’€™t shown enough, and this is a brutal matchup. We are bigger believers in rookie Roy Helu and we expect the kid to take over at some point in the coming weeks. Torain is a very risky flex option in week nine.

Joseph Addai vs Falcons

He may not even play, and we certainly don’€™t trust him if he does. You can do better on the average waiver wire. Addai ran well early-on when he was healthy, but we just don’€™t trust him at this point. Rookie Delone Carter is the better option and a better bet to finish the game healthy regardless of who starts. Carter is a viable flex option in large leagues.

Wide Receiver

Starts

Dez Bryant vs Seahawks

Dez has been a disappointment, but we sense a breakout coming and he should still be active in all formats. This is a good matchup, so keep him in there.

Antonio Brown vs Ravens

He has really been playing well and is becoming a weekly start in most formats. We’€™d have him in there this week as the Steelers will be throwing the ball a ton.

Jonathan Baldwin vs Dolphins

He’€™s one of our favorite rookies this year and his time has finally come. He looked great last week and we like him to post WR3 numbers in his week nine matchup with a reeling Dolphins’€™ defense.

Sits

Steve Johnson vs Jets

He is going to get a heavy dose of Darrelle Revis. That usually means a down week. As good as Johnson has been, we’€™d consider other options if we had them. Revis is simply on another level.

Kevin Walter vs Browns

Joe Haden is not Darrelle Revis, but he has been doing a damn good job matching up with opposing teams’€™ number one options. We like him to handle Walter in week nine.

Tight End

Starts

Brent Celek vs Bears

He has looked good and the Bears’€™ secondary gives it up to tight ends. We think Celek continues the trend this week and has a solid game.

Jake Ballard @ Patriots

He has been heavily involved and gets red zone love too. Ballard is close to being a weekly starter in larger leagues.

Scott Chandler vs Jets

The Jets are vulnerable to large tight ends and Chandler is coming off of a two-score week. We’€™d stick with him in week nine.

Sits

Jared Cook vs Bengals

He’€™s been inconsistent and we don’€™t like this matchup. Cook needs to improve his blocking so he can get on the field more.

Ben Watson @ Texans

He’€™s startable if you need him, but we don’€™t like the matchup and he’€™s not far removed from a concussion.  You can do better in most leagues.

Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Giants!

11.05.11 at 9:20 am ET
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Are the Giants, 5-2 and leading the NFC East, for real? We’ll find out in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon as the Pats face that “other” team from New York. Here are some stats to get you ready:

——————————————————————————–

* – New England has won 54 consecutive home games when they’ve taken a lead into halftime. Their last such loss was a 27-24 decision to the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, 2000, after the Pats led 21-17 at the break. It’s far and away the longest such streak since 1997:

54 – Patriots (2001-current)
25 – Dolphins (1998-2002)
22 – Eagles (2003-2005)
22 – Packers (2009-current)

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* – This is the 8th consecutive season that the Giants have started 5-2 or better:

2004 – Started 5-2; Finished 6-10
2005 – Started 5-2; Finished 11-5
2006 – Started 5-2; Finished 8-8
2007 – Started 5-2; Finished 10-6
2008 – Started 6-1; Finished 12-4
2009 – Started 5-2; Finished 8-8
2010 – Started 5-2; Finished 10-6
2011 – Started 5-2;

From 2004 through 2011, the Patriots and Giants rank first and second in winning percentage over the first seven games of the season:

.786 – Patriots (44-12)
.732 – Giants (41-15)
.714 – Colts (40-16)

The Giants’ problem is that after those fast starts, they’ve stumbled down the stretch to the tune of 29-34 (.460) over the last seven seasons.

Note this: Having said all that, the Giants have won the season’s 8th game in 13 of the last 16 seasons and are 8-2 when their 8th game has been on the road since 1995.

————————————————————————————————————–

* – There was lots of hand wringing last week about the 36 pass completions allowed by the Patriots, and yes, that’s a lot. But let’s break them down:

Thrown 10 yards or less downfield: 31-for-40 (78%) for 272 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; +1.42 rating;
Thrown 11 yards or more downfield:  5-for-10 (50%) for  93 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions; -0.33 rating;

80% of the Steelers’ passes were thrown 10 yards or less downfield. Coming into the game, only 59% of Pittsburgh’s throws (and 65% of throws against New England’s defense) this season had traveled 10 yards or less.

Entering last Sunday’s contest, the Patriots had actually defended against those short passes fairly well, allowing a +0.09 rating (13th). They were much worse on passes beyond 10 yards, allowing a +1.59 rating (26th).

The Patriots allowed Steelers’ receivers to gain 199 yards after catches last Sunday, the 4th most against New England since they began tracking the stat in 1992. 180 of those came on short completions, an average of 5.8 per catch. Any guesses as to how often the Pats have allowed greater than 5.8 YAC yards on short passes? If your answer was “in seven of their last eight games”, give yourself a gold star.

So other than the fact that the Steelers were uncharacteristically content to dink and dunk their way down the field, it doesn’t appear that the pass defense was nearly as bad as it seemed.

————————————————————————————————————–

* – So will the Giants use the same approach? Doubtful. Here is the same breakdown for the Giants offense through eight weeks:

Thrown 10 yards or less downfield: 108-for-149 (72%), 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; +1.47 rating (4th in NFL);
Thrown 11 yards or more downfield:  48-for-92 (52%; ranked 5th), 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; +2.59 rating (4th in NFL);

Only 62% of New York’s passes have been 10 yards or shorter this season, but they’ve been awfully effective at both short and long throws so far this season.

So good, in fact, that the G-Men (mostly Eli Manning) have put up the third best overall rating in the league:

+4.08 – Packers
+2.11 – Patriots
+2.02 – Giants
+1.73 – Texans
+1.39 – Lions

Their lofty mark is helped by 7.8 net yards per pass play (3rd), 5.1% touchdowns (6th), and 2.0% interceptions (8th best). Quite an improvement from their 14th ranked +0.26 rating last season.

————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

Wes Welker ‘could care less’ about the predictions of Antrel Rolle

11.04.11 at 5:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker is a prideful man. So, when it was suggested that getting the ball deep on defenses would open things up for receivers like him underneath, he reacted like it hurt him more than any Troy Polamalu head tackle or any Antrel Rolle proclamation.

“I’ve actually gotten the ball deep a few times deep this year so I don’t think you can take me out of the equation, either,” Welker said Friday when asked if getting speedsters Taylor Price and Chad Ochocinco deep and to the outside would help his routes.

“I think any time you get the ball deep to anybody is going to help out the passing game. We’ll just see how it all plays out and what we can do on Sunday.”

Welker did catch the first 99-yard TD play in Patriots history on opening night in Miami but that came on a seam route 15 yards downfield. The last deep connection for the Patriots came on the first play of the second half against the Jets at Gillette when Tom Brady hit Welker in stride for a 73-yard play.

Indeed, if Welker can get deep then his path will no doubt cross safety Antrel Rolle, who said this week – when asked about Welker – “I can handle anything.”

“I’m really not too worried about it, just trying to study him up on film and get ready for him and make sure I do everything possible to be successful on Sunday and really, that’s where my focus is,” Welker said Friday. “I’m not worried about too much else.

“I could care less either way if he did or didn’t. I’m just focusing on the game and really, I think at this point, you hear it all and you just don’t worry about it, move on and get ready for the game.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: antrel rolle, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets

Peter King on M&M: Pats should have drafted for pass rush

11.04.11 at 1:55 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly appearance. King spoke about the Patriots’ struggling defense and the personnel problems in the secondary.

King said he thinks the Patriots may have used too many draft picks on defensive backs over the last few years. New England has drafted a defensive back in either the first or the second round of every draft since 2007. King noted that the Patriots may have been better served bolstering their pass rush instead of worrying about the secondary.

“I’ve got think that if there’s somebody there like [Scott] Pioli, who used to get into pretty good arguments with [Bill Belichick] and used to challenge him on things, somebody might’ve said, ‘Look, we have got to simply buttress our pass rush,'” King said. “If you look at where they are now rushing the passer, it’s basically a Scotch tape job. … At some point, you’ve got to respect the guys who get to the quarterback and sack the quarterback as much as you do the guys who cover the receivers.”

New England is in the bottom third of the NFL in sacks and dead last in total defense, giving up 424.1 yards per game. While the defense has been better of late, King said it could end up hindering the Patriots’ hopes of a Super Bowl run.

“I said, maybe three or four weeks ago, that their defense ultimately will kill them and it will mean another failed season come playoff time,” King said. “Now, obviously they have nine weeks to prove me and probably a lot of other people wrong. But they obviously have not played at a tremendously high level. Having said that, you look at them in the last month, they certainly in the last month are better than they were early on. So you have some guys learning a new defense and playing a bit better.

“With the way things are going for them right now, I’m not afraid of getting in a shootout game with Tom Brady against anybody, and there’s a good chance there’s going to be a shootout game this weekend against Eli Manning, because Manning is playing so well. But, and I’ve always thought this, its very difficult to win three or four games in a row in the playoffs if every week you have to rely on a shootout to win.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Waters, Peter King, Terrell Suggs

Kevin Faulk is ‘still behind the 8-ball’

11.04.11 at 1:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Kevin Faulk is not fooling himself.

He knows he missed the first six games of the season before returning last weekend from his ACL tear of 2010. He was effective. He caught his trademark passes out of the backfield. He was the hot-read several times for Tom Brady, when the QB was under pressure. He picked up blitzes.

But he is still getting in game shape. He knows it and Bill Belichick acknowledged as much this week when asked about Faulk’s contribution.

“Let’s get to the next game,” Faulk said. “That’s the mentality. You want to get there, you want to get that taste out of your mouth, you want to get that feeling out of your mouth. You want to get back in the win column.

“Whatever I can do. That was my first game back. For me right now, just keep building and keep getting better and be as consistent as I can be because I’m still behind the 8-ball right now. I just have to get in there and get comfortable.”

Faulk led the Patriots with six carries for 32 yards and while catching five passes from Brady.

“I haven’t played the first [six] games of the season,” he said. “Everybody else has. It’s just time for me to catch up with everybody.”

And how did the knee respond?

“Right now, I’m sore,” Faulk said. “But that’s to be expected. That’s the game we play. You have to get to ready to go. Every week is tough. Every week is different.”

Faulk will be called upon to help contain one of the most ferocious front fours in the NFL this weekend as the Giants will look to replicate their Super Bowl XLII effort, when they battered and bruised Brady.

“Their front four is magnificent,” Faulk said. “They can bring guys in to do the same thing, drop guys down from the linebackers position and come and play D-end and rush the passer. That’s what’s so unique about their rush group; their line.

“I think it’s all about having confidence in yourself and being able to know that you can do it. Just like practice, have repetition. Like I said, I’m behind the 8-ball. That’s one of those areas I’m behind the 8-ball. I’ve got to get up to speed.”

Read More: 8-ball, Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots, New York Giants

Hello DB Malcolm Williams, goodbye DB Josh Victorian

11.04.11 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots signed DB Malcolm Williams to the practice squad on Friday. To make room they released DB Josh Victorian from the same unit.

The 23-year-old Williams was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round (219th overall) of the 2011 Draft out of TCU. He originally signed with Oklahoma but ended up at Trinity Community College before going to TCU for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. This is the second time Williams has been added to the practice squad. He was released by the Patriots on Aug. 29 and signed to the practice squad on Oct. 25, 2011. He was released from the practice squad on Oct. 28, 2011.

Victorian, 23, went to training camp with Baltimore after signing with the Ravens as a rookie free agent out of Louisiana Tech on July 28. Victorian, 5-10, 190 pounds, originally joined the Patriots practice squad on Sept. 22 before being released on Oct. 25. He was re-signed to the practice squad on Oct. 28.

Read More: Josh Victorian, Malcolm Williams, New England Patriots, nfl

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