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Pressure Points: Which Pats defenders have done best job of getting after QB in 2012?

09.18.12 at 12:50 pm ET
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Here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots through two weeks:

Quarterback hits
LB Brandon Spikes: Two
DE Jermaine Cunningham: One
DL Vince Wilfork: One
DE Trevor Scott: One
DE Chandler Jones: One
DE Rob Ninkovich: One

Jones: One (one yard)
Ninkovich: One (zero yards)
Cunningham: One (seven yards)

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots’ penalties for 2012 season

09.18.12 at 12:28 pm ET
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Through two weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 11 penalties (24th in the league) for a total of 80 yards (28th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
TE Rob Gronkowski: two penalties (offensive holding, false start), 15 yards
Team: two penalties (illegal formation, illegal block above the waist), 15 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 9 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 6 yards
DE Chandler Jones: one penalty (defensive offsides) 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Tight end: Two penalties for 15 yards
Team: Two penalties for 15 yards
Defensive line: Two penalties for 10 yards
Safety: One penalty for 15 yards
Cornerback: One penalty for nine yards
Linebacker: One penalty for six yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper): One penalty for five yards
Offensive line: One penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Three
Defensive pass interference: Two
Offensive holding: One
Illegal formation: One
Illegal block above the waist: One
Personal foul: One
Defensive offsides: One
Encroachment: One

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 3: Patriots plummet to No. 7

09.18.12 at 9:52 am ET
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For the third straight week, a new team climbs to the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The 49ers now have the throne as they come off two dominant performances against playoff teams. The Patriots’ reign at No. 1 didn’t last long and they drop to No. 7 after a shocking loss to the Cardinals at home.

Balance is the key attribute to the top three teams. The 49ers (1), Texans (2) and Falcons (3) all have great defenses to go along with a strong offense.

The Saints continue to march in the wrong direction and fall all the way to No. 18. Meanwhile, the 2-0 Eagles jump all the way to No. 5 after a huge win over the Ravens.

More change is in store for the teams in the top 10. Two of the powerhouses of the AFC, the Patriots and Ravens, will face off on Sunday night. One team will bounce back after suffering a loss in Week 2 while the other will fall a game below .500.

Check back here next Tuesday to see how all 32 teams rise and fall. Here are the rankings, with last week’s rank in parentheses:

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss the NFL Power Rankings.

1. (2) 49ers (2-0) ‘€” It’s clear, the 49ers are the best team in the league. Jim Harbaugh‘s team doesn’t seem to have a weakness. The Niners have a strong run game, a formidable passing attack and an elite defense. Alex Smith has completed over 70 percent of his passes and has been protecting the ball well.

2. (4) Texans (2-0) ‘€” The Texans took care of business in Week 2 and improved to 2-0. It’s tough to gauge how good this team really is after Houston played two extremely weak opponents. It will be fun to watch the Texans against Peyton Manning and the Broncos next week. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings

Fantasy Football: Week 3 Waiver Wire

09.18.12 at 8:46 am ET
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To all you Aaron Hernandez owners out there: I feel your pain.

His injury cost me a win last week in a league I care about. Losing a guy always stinks, but losing him before he has time to register a stat stinks even more. That being said, there is good news. The tight end position is the deepest outside of quarterback and I’€™ve listed some extra options this week figuring that we might just have some Hernandez owners at

Call me crazy. If you need even more options, as always, we invite you to drop by for a visit.

For those new to fantasy football, we mention the term handcuff often and just so you understand, it has nothing to do with any illegalities. Rather, we use the term to identify backup players who would offer solid fantasy production if the starter were to go down. Handcuffs are most often used at the running back position, but they can be used at others. For example, in my keeper league, I have Ryan Mallett rostered as a handcuff for Brady, who is my starter. With that out of the way, let’€™s look at some of this week’€™s options:


Alex Smith, 49ers

He was here last week, but he’€™s still available in 50 percent of Yahoo! Sports leagues and with the weaponry at his disposal, we think he needs to be owned. Yes, they run a very conservative offense, but he is becoming a consistent option in spite of the system’€™s limitations. Smith should be owned in all leagues as a backup or spot starter.

Christian Ponder, Vikings

This kid can play the position. The key for him will be staying healthy. For fantasy purposes, we like him as a backup in any format and he may even evolve into more once his team is all there. Jerome Simpson is still two weeks away and Adrian Peterson is still not 100 percent though he is effective. Ponder should be rostered in all leagues. He can play for you if you need him and the matchup is right.

Carson Palmer, Raiders

He’€™s putting up numbers and he is available in half of Yahoo! Sports leagues. If his receivers can get healthy, he could be a starter for you at some point. He should be rostered in all leagues.

Andy Dalton, Bengals

He is getting close. If he can settle in just a bit more, he has the weapons to be a dangerous fantasy option. BJGE has given them a solid ground game and AJ Green tilts the field for him. This makes the secondary options, like Brandon Tate and Andrew Hawkins more dangerous and effective. He’€™s also got a quality tight end in Jermaine Gresham. Dalton is a backup right now, but he’€™s closing in on being a fringe starter, so make sure he is rostered in all formats.

Josh Freeman, Bucs

He has some real weapons now and the support of a solid ground game. We think he makes for a very solid backup if you are in need.

Running Backs

Cedric Benson, Packers

He’€™s available in 28 percent of Yahoo! Sports leagues. Roster him if you can for obvious reasons. He can start for you on a lot of weeks and is a strong RB3 to have in reserve.

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In Focus: What Kellen Winslow’s addition means for Patriots’ offense

09.18.12 at 8:05 am ET
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With the news that Aaron Hernandez is expected to be on the shelf for multiple weeks because of an ankle injury he suffered last Sunday against the Cardinals, it appears the Patriots are ready to sign tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.

The 29-year-old Winslow, who was checked out earlier this month by the Patriots after he was cut by the Seahawks, would theoretically take up some of the slack in the wake of Hernandez’s departure. Winslow caught 75 passes for 763 yards and two touchdowns with the Buccaneers last season, and he’s recorded at least 66 catches while accounting for 730 or more receiving yards in each of the last three years.

The Patriots do have some depth at the spot — Rob Gronkowski remains healthy, while fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (who was signed Sept. 5) and Daniel Fells (who has been battling a shin injury) all remain on the active roster. (Visanthe Shiancoe was placed on injured reserve with designation to return shortly before the start of the season.)

However, Winslow’s body type (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) is more along the lines of the longer, leaner Hernandez (6-foot-1, 245 pounds). As evidenced by his career receiving numbers, the University of Miami product is more of a pass catcher than blocker, and if he’s healthy (there are questions about the health of his knees), he can provide the sort of support in the passing game that Hoomanawanui and Fells might not be able to offer. While he doesn’t have the same sort of positional versatility that Hernandez does — and it should take him some time to get up to speed in the passing game — Winslow should take a sizable portion of the snaps that Hernandez received in the New England offense.

The signing is also an indication that the Patriots expect to be without Hernandez for an extended stretch. While coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t comment on Hernandez and his health on Monday, several reports indicate that the Florida product could be sidelined for four to six weeks with the injury he sustained in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Arizona.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Kellen Winslow Jr.,

Bill Belichick: Wes Welker is ‘one of our smartest’

09.17.12 at 6:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Playing time for Wes Welker, trash talking from Patrick Peterson and the health status of Aaron Hernandez were all subjects at Bill Belichick‘s Monday press briefing at Gillette Stadium.

Belichick debunked one theory about the lack of playing time for Welker. Belichick was asked if the receiver’s departure for several days from the team for a funeral had caused him to behind others in the team’s offense.

“Wes has a lot of experience around here,” Belichick said. “I think he’s one of our smartest and obviously most experienced players. I don’t really see him behind.”

Welker, who was not listed on the injury report, did not start in his customary slot receiver position on Sunday, with Julian Edelman taking his place. Welker played in 63 offensive snaps on Sunday while Edelman took part in 75. Belichick said it’s not unusual for a player like Welker to get fewer snaps than others because of game situations.

“I’m sure you’ve seen us play before. We have different combinations of personnel groups in every game all the time pretty much every week. That’s pretty much the way we run our offense, and we have for quite a while,” Belichick said. “The players we have out there are the ones we feel are best for that particular play, situation, however you want to look at it. That’s the way we set up the plays, the offense. When they’re called, we put that group out there. So, whatever is out there is what we feel is best for our team, that time, that situation.”

Here is the entirety of Belichick’s Q and A with reporters on Monday afternoon:

BB: I think after going through the film last night and this morning, there’€™s really not a whole lot new from yesterday. Basically, we just didn’€™t do a good enough job across the board as a team in any area consistently enough to win yesterday. We all just need to do a better job; go back and obviously look at the mistakes and improve on the things that we’€™re doing, all do them better. I think there’€™s plenty of room for improvement all the way around. I’€™m sure that every player and every coach that was involved in the game looked back and sees some things that we could all do a little differently, certainly do a little better. Hopefully the next opportunity we get we’€™ll be able to improve on that. Just wasn’€™t a good enough day for us yesterday. It was disappointing but we’€™ll turn the page and move on.

Q: The Danny Woodhead nine-yard loss ‘€“ was that setting up for a potential pass?

BB: It was a play that obviously didn’€™t go the way we wanted it to go. We just didn’€™t do a good job on it. [We] need to coach it better, need to execute it better ‘€“ it just wasn’€™t a good play.

Q: A lot of the players said they did not feel that they practiced well in the week before the game. Is there any reason that they just didn’€™t have it?

BB: I don’€™t know, you would have to ask them that. I think practice is practice. Practice never goes perfectly. That’€™s what practice is for: you work on new things, you work on things that the team you’€™re playing is doing and you correct those and sometimes you get a chance to run those plays again in practice but usually you really don’€™t. We just don’€™t have that many plays by the time you get in all the situation ways ‘€“ third down, red area, goal-line, short yardage, all the special teams things, second-and-long, second-and-short, all that, you just don’€™t have time to go back and repeat everything three and four times. There are corrections on every play; that’€™s what we practice for. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl

Matthew Slater: ‘We can’t hang our heads’ with ‘amped’ Ravens up next

09.17.12 at 6:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater is one of the most friendly faces in the Patriots locker room.

But he had no intention of talking about the blocked punt or missed field goal from Sunday that combined to spell disaster in Sunday’s 20-18 loss to the Cardinals at Gillette Stadium.

“No, we didn’t dwell on it,” Slater said of his special teams meeting Monday with the coaching staff. “No need beating a dead horse. We know, obviously, we can’t do that and we’re going to get beat if we continue to experience plays like that. It’s just a matter of going back to our fundamentals and the techniques we’re taught in training camp. I’m confident it’ll be fixed.”

The added motivation for moving forward this week is the upcoming opponent. The Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night in Baltimore in a rematch of last January’s classic AFC championship game at Gillette that propelled the Patriots onto Super Bowl XLVI.

“They have great leadership over there,” Slater said. “They play the game the right way. They’re coached very well. We know we’re going to have our hands full as we do every time we play them. If there’s thing that we know, we need to prepare to play a physical football game. There’s going to be a lot of hitting involved. So, you know that going in playing this team. I’m sure they’re going to be amped up, Sunday night football at their house. We can’t hang our heads from [Sunday]. It’s time to pick up the pieces and move forward and get ready for these guys.”

Another topic that was off-limits Monday was improving the work ethic during practice, something several players hinted after Sunday’s loss was missing last week.

“I really don’t want to address that one, to be honest with you,” Slater said. “We just have to go out and practice hard and do the right things.

“We’re moving on. You know I’m going to talk about that. We saw what happened and we have to learn from it and hopefully we can improve upon it going forward because I’m sure we’re going to see similar things, similar rushes from teams and they’re going to try and get after us. It’s been corrected and we’re going to move on.”

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots, nfl
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