|10.12.14 at 1:27 am ET|
Let Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com help guide you in setting your Week 6 fantasy football lineups. Davidson will be answering all your questions, while advancing the fantasy football conversation, starting at 11 a.m. Get your questions in now …
|10.11.14 at 10:27 pm ET|
1. There was no panic in the New England locker room in the days after the Kansas City game, and there was little sense this past week that there was a feeling the team was getting too high. Ultimately, in the wake of the eventful couple of weeks, it’s clear — at least as it stands right now — that it can be shortsighted to judge a teams’ long-term chances too early. Sure, there are truly great teams that go wire-to-wire without a bump in the road — like last year’s Seahawks — who won 11 of their first 12 on the way to the title, as well as the 2009 Saints, who started 13-0. But more often that not, history tells us that championship DNA is something that’s shaped over the course of a long season. To that point, while the 2014 Patriots have stumbled occasionally over the course of their first five games, there’s a lot of football left to play, something several veterans reminded this reporter this week. “I think after September, a lot of teams are just starting to round into shape and become who they are going to be for the course of the season,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “I don’t think it’s unfair to say the story is ‘To Be Continued’ after September. And I certainly think that’s going to be the case with us.” Quarterback Tom Brady echoed that statement: “It’s still really early in the year — it’s only five games,” Brady said Wednesday. “There’s a whole season that’s got to be decided from this point on.”
2. Very quietly, Stephen Gostkowski has gotten off to another terrific start. Through the first five weeks of the season, he’s only one of four kickers remaining who have attempted at least 10 field goals this season and have connected on 100 percent of their attempts — Gostkowski (13-for-13) is joined by Indy’s Adam Vinatieri (12-for-12), San Diego’s Nick Novak (11-for-11) and Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro (11-for-11). If you’re looking for a separator, you might be inclined to go with field goals from 40 to 49 yards — Gostkowski is 6-for-6 from that distance, the best of the bunch. (Vinatieri and Catanzaro are 3-for-3.) In addition, while the bad weather has yet to arrive in earnest, he’s the only Northeast, non-dome kicker of the bunch. The 30-year-old Gostkowski, who is in the final year of his contract, has now made 21 straight field goal attempts. The streak, which dates back to the end of the 2013 regular season, began after he missed one Dec. 15, 2013 against the Dolphins in Miami. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a kicker, but in the wake of Alex Henery’s performance late in the game last week against the Bills, Gostkowski’s reliability cannot be discounted.
3. Stevan Ridley‘s roller coaster of a 2013 season was one of the reasons he failed to become the first running back ever under Bill Belichick to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. But his resurgence last Sunday has him pointed in the direction of another milestone. The LSU product, who rushed for 1,263 yards in 2012, is averaging 63.4 rushing yards per game over the first five contests. If he can maintain something close to that over the final 11 games of the season, he’ll become the first back under Belichick to rush for 1,000 yards twice in a three-year span. We’ve also mentioned this before, but his fumble-free streak of 150 straight touches (including the regular season and postseason) dates back to last November. He’s also one of only two backs over the first five weeks of the season to have posted at least 75 carries this season without a fumble. Ridley (84 carries) is joined by Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (87 carries) and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (77 carries).
4. Former Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has only been in Oakland for a few days, but he’s already managed to impress his new teammates, as well as the coaching staff. Thompkins, who was released by the Patriots last weekend, was claimed by the Raiders on Monday, and reportedly has a good chance to play this weekend for Oakland against the Chargers. Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson praised Thompkins, saying he “has a tremendous work ethic,” is an “intelligent player” and “has picked up things quickly over two days.” The 26-year-old Thompkins, who had 38 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games with the Patriots, has also impressed his new quarterback Derek Carr. “The first time he saw me, he wanted to sit down and he wanted me to go over signals, routes,” Carr told reporters. “Instead of just showing up and saying, ‘Hey, nice to meet you. OK, I’m going to go now.” It wasn’t like that. He wants to learn, and he wants to be out there.” Thompkins said there were no grudges against New England about being released, and said he’s just “happy to be an Oakland Raider.”
5. It feels like the Patriots have gone through more walkthroughs as of late, and that is likely for one of two reasons: one, for a team entering the sixth game of the regular season, it has a slightly longer than usual injury report. 11 players appeared on Friday’s injury list. (By way of comparison, the Bills had nine.) And two, the Patriots are in the midst of a stretch that has them playing four games in 18 days. It began with a Monday night game against the Chiefs on Sept. 29, and continues through their Oct. 16 game against the Jets, set for this coming Thursday night. A quick check of past schedules reveals that’s tied for the most condensed schedule the Patriots have had in recent memory — New England had four games in 18 days in 2002, a stretch from Nov. 10 through November 28 that featured three straight Sunday games and a Thanksgiving day clash. (The Patriots went 3-1 through that series of games, three of which were on the road.) In addition, there were four games in 18 days in 2008, three of which were at home. In a span that went from Oct. 26 to Nov. 13, they went 2-2. And there was a similar stretch in 2010 when four games between Nov. 7 and Nov. 25 saw them go 3-1, with three of those games away from home.
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|10.11.14 at 8:24 pm ET|
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Patriots have downgraded three players to out for Sunday’s matchup with the Bills. Brandon Browner (ankle), Dominique Easley (shoulder) and Bryan Stork (concussion) have all been downgraded from questionable to out.
Cameron Fleming (finger) and Nate Ebner (finger) were already ruled out so the team will have to make two more players inactive Sunday morning prior to the game.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|10.11.14 at 9:27 am ET|
FOXBORO — Devin McCourty remembers Week 4 in Kansas City all too well.
He knows that if the Patriots are to avoid the same pitfall that killed them at Arrowhead Stadium, they can’t fall behind 17-0 in the first half and expect to rally to a win.
“I think you’re into the game. I just think it makes it a lot harder when you go on the road and you start off down 14,” McCourty said. “That really gets the crowd going. I think in the early season, we’ve already experienced that. We understand how important it is getting off to a good start is and playing from ahead. I think that will continue to be our goal. A division game in Buffalo, I think that is very key going into this game. I think we have to focus on it. I think for us it’s good when we do that.
“I think we also know that we have a team that no matter what happens in the game, we keep fighting but that is definitely a goal of ours going into Sunday.”
Last year, as McCourty well remembers, the Patriots achieved their goal of a fast start, getting up, 10-0 on the Bills in the season opener in Buffalo. But then the Bills, thanks to a fumble from Stevan Ridley, jumped right back in the game as the Patriots were marching to make it a 17-0 game. The Bills went ahead 21-17. But the Patriots connected on two late Stephen Gostkowski field goal to salvage a 23-21 win.
“It’s always tough, especially going there. It’s never easy for us,” said McCourty. “We know they’re going to come out ready to go. The place is probably going to be rocking from the time the buses pull up to the end of the game. We know they have a bunch of explosive players. It seems like every week we keep playing a set of skill players that can do everything. With the two backs, with the receivers, so we’ll have our hands full. But I think we’re prepared for it. It’s a division game so we know it’s a big game on the road.
“Just being ready. We want to get off to a good start. No matter what game we play. Especially on the road, it’s very key to get off to a good start. Not many crossovers from that game but that’s always key, on the road, get off to a good start.”
|10.11.14 at 9:05 am ET|
FOXBORO — Sammy Watkins may think that he’ll be shadowed all day by Darrelle Revis but the Patriots corner isn’t letting on.
Told Friday that Watkins said that he’s learned he’ll be on Revis Island on Sunday in Buffalo, Revis said he’s not giving away any secrets to the game plan.
“I don’t know,” Revis said. “I don’t know what he heard or what he’s been told. It really doesn’t matter to me.
“I can’t tell you the game plan. I’m looking forward to the game on Sunday. I’m looking forward to us getting the win. That’s the main goal. We go up there as a team and we do great in all three phases and hopefully come out with a win.”
Revis also downplayed the suggestion that he’s finally being allowed to play more man-to-man coverage.
“Whatever the coaches bring to the table with the game plan and what’s best for the defense,” he said. “That’s what’s most important is whatever is best for the defense. We all do our job collectively. It’s all on the defense, what we can do the best.
“I take one week at a time. Whatever my assignment is, it is. I just have to go out there and play and compete. As a defense, we have to compete and play. It’s a challenge but at the same time, you go out there and you just execute your job. I’m just happy to play Sunday. That’s my motto. I’m just happy to be playing and playing on Sunday.”
|10.10.14 at 8:40 pm ET|
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s contest between the Patriots and Bills:
Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:
1. Quarterback Tom Brady against the Buffalo defense: Buffalo is terrific against the run (second-best in the league, yielding an average of 71 rushing yards per game), but its overaggressive nature certainly be exploited. Given the level of offensive success they had last week against the Bengals, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Patriots try and execute it again this week against the Bills. Colleague Ryan Hannable broke down the numbers here, but it’s interesting to note that when using play-action this season, opponents are 21-for-26 passing for 221 yards against the Bills, highlighted in Week 1 as Chicago’s Jay Cutler was 6-for-7 for 66 yards, and then in Week 4, when Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick was 7-for-9 for 75 yards. Like Bills opponents, Brady and the Patriots have also been successful when using play-action. Our numbers have Brady 26-for-37 for 353 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions in the first five games this season. Brady’s best week using play-action was this past week when he went 6-for-9 for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. If the quarterback can get the time, then it’ll mean good things for New England on Sunday.
2. Fullback James Develin against linebacker Brandon Spikes: Last week against the Bengals, Develin played 34 percent of the offensive snaps in New England’s thunderous win over Cincinnati, a game marked by the Patriots ease in running the ball. (Excluding end-of-game kneeldowns, New England had 43 carries for 224 yards against Cincinnati, an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Last time Develin was on the field that much? The regular-season finale last year against … you guessed it, the Bills. (It’s no coincidence that was the last time the Patriots running game topped 200 yards in the regular season.) Expect Develin and Spikes — who has played roughly half the snaps over the first five games of the season, but is still a primary reason why the Bills’ run defense has been as stout as it has — to collide in the hole on at least a couple of occasions as the Patriots try and keep the chains moving on the ground.
3. Cornerback Darrelle Revis against wide receiver Sammy Watkins: We covered most of it here, but it’s worth reiterating that the expected showdown between the rookie and Revis will mark the second straight week that Revis will face a new receiver for the first time. Last week against the Bengals, Revis appeared to play mostly man coverage — by our count, on half his snaps, he was up against the opposing receiver (usually Green) so close that he was able to get his hands on him within five yards from the line of scrimmage. Expect the same thing with Watkins, who has distinguished himself as a smart, dependable, speedy receiver with an excellent set of hands. It would seem to make sense that New England’s first priority as it relates to team defense is slowing down Buffalo’s twin backs, and assign Revis to try and shut down Watkins, with single-high safety help over the top. Regardless of how things shake out, it’ll be another compelling matchup for Revis.
4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’ fans need to know: We go through this before every Patriots-Bills game, and every time, it’s pretty much the same guy: tight end Scott Chandler. The 6-foot-7, 260-pounder out of Iowa, a poor man’s Rob Gronkowski, has set several career highs against the Patriots, including games (7), catches (21), yards (259) and touchdowns (4). He developed into a nice security blanket over the last year-plus for E.J. Manuel, and while no one is sure what sort of chemistry he’s capable of with Kyle Orton, you have to figure that he’s still capable of doing some damage against New England. (One area where Buffalo would like to see more from Chandler in 2014 is in the red zone — after catching nine touchdown passes inside the 20-yard line in 2011 and 2012, Chandler had just one red-zone catch in 2013.)
5. By the numbers: 150. Stevan Ridley’s fumble-free string in the regular season and postseason has hit 150 touches, dating back to last year’s regular-season win over the Broncos in November. In fact, Ridley (84 carries) is one of three backs who have at least 75 carries this year without a single fumble — Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (87 carries) and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (77 carries) are the other two.
|10.10.14 at 5:34 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Much has been made this season of the Patriots’ running game in their wins and the lack of it in losses. In three wins, they’ve run for 446 yards (148.7 yards/game). In two losses, they’ve run for 166 yards (83 yards/game). As a matter of fact, the Patriots are unbeaten in their last 25 games with a 100-yard rusher. That streak continued Sunday night as Stevan Ridley had 113 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
On Sunday night against Cincinnati, the Patriots were able to get both Shane Vereen (9 carries/90 yards) and Ridley into a rhythm early. Some of that came from the fact the Patriots were able to get the lead and play with the advantage the entire game, thus dictating tempo.
Some of that simply came from both backs reading the field and executing their runs to perfection. The latter was what Bill Belichick chose to focus on Friday. Belichick was asked how patience and vision factor in a back’s ability to run to daylight.
“It’s kind of probably a hard thing to put into words and define,” Belichick said. “But I think patience, a key to it is knowing when you have time to set blocks up and use the blocking scheme ahead of you to pull defenders one way or the other and cut off them and when you don’t and you just have to hit it and get through there because there’s just not enough time. That’s an instinctive thing that backs I’m sure learn through experience and some have better than others. When you have that ability to have a little bit of space and you have the patience to set up those blocks and force a defender to declare one way to set the block for whoever it is – lineman, guard, center, tackle, whoever it is – and then be able to cut off, that’s really ideal.”
As he did on Wednesday, Belichick spoke of two key runs in the game, one by each back. Vereen broke off a 19-yard run in the third quarter on a 3rd-and-16 that led to a first down, and eventually a Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski touchdown. Ridley ran outside for a big 43-yard gain in the third quarter when the middle of the line looked clogged.
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