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Patriots vs. Ravens: Setting the Scene

10.17.10 at 10:22 am ET
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FOXBORO — Today figures to be the chilliest day of the year – so far –  for a Patriots game at Gillette as the 3-1 Patriots look to keep pace with the 4-1 Jets atop the AFC East.

The opponent is another 4-1 team, considered a Super Bowl favorite, the Baltimore Ravens.

Temperatures are expected in the lower 60s with sunny skies and a breeze out of the west. That’s a far cry from one year ago this weekend when the Patriots beat the Titans, 59-0, in a freak snow storm in New England.

The Patriots have started the season with three wins in their first four games for the fifth straight year, the only NFL team to accomplish that feat.

The Patriots are an amazing 13-2 against AFC North teams in the regular season since the eight-division format was adopted in 2002. Their only losses are against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 2004 and 2008. The Pats are already 1-0 against the AFC’s black and blue division this season, as they beat the overmatched Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24, on opening day.

While everyone recalls last January’s 33-14 debacle at Gillette, the Patriots have never lost to the Ravens in the regular season, going 5-0, including a 27-21 win last October at Gillette.

The Patriots, of course, are playing their first game since trading away Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and acquiring Deion Branch from Seattle earlier this week.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Deion Branch, Fred Taylor, New England Patriots

McCourty continues to make the grade

10.16.10 at 12:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick may have been mightily impressed with Devin McCourty when the two went over his film during a pre-draft interview last spring. But to McCourty, the rookie Patriots cornerback, it felt much bigger than any college exam he ever took at Rutgers.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking, not sure what he was looking at and how he was evaluating and just going through that whole process. You’re just hoping that he’s watching the film and liking what he sees,” McCourty said. “Just answering questions, it was just a privilege sitting there with him watching film.

“I had some mistakes on there and then he would ask me, ‘What did you do wrong,’ and ask me certain questions so I remember calling my agent and he asked me how it went. I wasn’t sure.”

In other words, McCourty felt like anyone else who ever went into an exam prepared, took the test but really didn’t have a clue how well he did.

“All the meetings and all the draft process felt like an exam.”

Then he was taken by the Patriots in the first round in April, 27th overall. It’s safe to say he passed Belichick’s first exam with flying colors.

Earlier this week, Belichick put McCourty in the same class as Ray Lewis when it came to the ability to break down film prior to turning pro. Belichick said that the rookie out of Rutgers has a special knack for not only understanding his responsibilities but how his position fits in with the rest of his teammates on the field.

“McCourty was one for sure,” Belichick said of the list of players who have impressed him during film sessions before a draft. “Guys start telling you what the nose is supposed to do on a particular stunt when he’€™s playing corner and stuff like that. Usually you don’€™t get that.

“I’€™d say Devin was a guy, sitting down with him’€¦and I know a little bit about that scheme from [Rutgers] coach [Greg] Schiano and what they do and so forth, so you kind of [say], ‘€˜What’€™s this guy doing? What’€™s that guy doing?’€™ and kind of keep going and say, ‘€˜Well, alright, so he understands what the linebackers are doing. He understands a couple adjustments. OK, now what about this?’€™”

McCourty redshirted his first season at Rutgers in 2005, giving him an extra year of experience and film study that helped him make the grade as a prospective pro. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Greg Schiano

Nuggetpalooza’s Around the NFL – Week Six

10.16.10 at 9:14 am ET
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Here’s a slew of statistical observations from around the league as we head into Week 6:



* – There has not been a shutout yet in the NFL this season, making this just the third season since 1990 without a shutout in the first five weeks. The first shutout in 1997 and 2005 came in Week 8.


Seahawks at Bears

* – Seattle rushers have lost yardage on 15.1 percent of their attempts this season, the highest percentage in the NFL.

* – Why do Bears’ fans want Cutler back quickly? Last Sunday, Todd Collins threw just 47.4 percent catchable balls, the worst mark in the league last week.

* – The Panthers blitzed the Bears on ten pass plays last Sunday. The results? 18 yards passing and 22 yards lost on sacks, for a net of minus four yards.

* – The Bears have just five passing first downs over the last two weeks, tied for the fewest in the NFL over two consecutive games since San Francisco managed just three over two games in 2005.

* – Since converting 6-of-11 third downs in Week 1, Chicago has converted only 7-of-48 opportunities (15 percent) over their last four games. No other team has converted less than 27 percent in that span.

* – Seattle leads the NFL in kickoff return average (37.8) while the Bears are fifth (28.7). Last week, all three returns by the Bears went for 30 yards or more.

* – The Bears are averaging just 3.3 points per red zone drive this year (second worst) while the Seahawks are allowing 3.3 such points (third best).


Jets at Broncos

* – So far in 2010, Denver has completed 54 percent of their passes against opponent blitzes this season (ranked 24th) and 72 percent when there is no blitz (first). So why wouldn’t opponents blitz the Broncos more than 32 percent of the time (21st)?  Well, that shouldn’t be an issue on Sunday as the Jets blitz FAR more than any team in the league.

* – Denver has been excellent this season at utilizing their wide receivers for catches behind the line of scrimmage. They have 16 such completions (league high) and are averaging 11.3 YAC yards on those plays (league high; minimum four such completions).

* – Jets’ opponents are 3-for-11 on pass attempts of 30 or more air yards this season (27 percent). They went just 3-for-38 on those passes for the 2008 and 2009 seasons combined (8 percent). Note that the Broncos went 2-for-2 on those throws last week against Baltimore.

* – Denver’s defense has allowed “success” on first down (gains of four or more yards) just 38 percent of the time this season, the best percentage in the league.

* – The Jets have allowed 11 conversions on third-and-very long (ten yards or more) already this season (the most in the league) equating to a 40.7 percent conversion rate (second worst). Denver’s offense has converted just 2-of-22 (9 percent) of those chances.

* – The Jets lead the league in net starting field position (+9.3 yards). They rank second in starting field position (34.8) and first in opponent starting field position (25.5).

* – The Broncos managed only one rushing first down last week, making this the third consecutive season where Denver has had at least one game with one or no rushing first downs. Prior to the start of the 2008 season, they went 113 straight games with two or more such first downs.


Dolphins at Packers

* – The Dolphins and Packers are the only NFL teams that have yet to take an offsides penalty this season.

* – Packers’ receivers had a league high six drops last week. They had just three over the season’s first four weeks.

* – Only 24 percent of Miami’s passing yards have come on pass plays of 20 or more yards, the lowest percentage in the league.

* – Green Bay allowed five first downs last week via penalty, the fourth time in their last 16 games that they’ve done so. Compare that to the longest current streaks without allowing five or more penalty first downs in a game:

143 – Seattle
121 – Denver
114 – Buffalo

* – Miami ranks last in the league in net starting field position (-7.3 yards), thanks mainly to their dismal average offensive starting position (24.4 yard line). It hasn’t helped that the Dolphins are last in average kickoff return allowed (35.8) as 40 percent of opponent returns have gone for 30 or more yards.

* – Green Bay attempted only six rushing plays in the first half last Sunday, the fewest in the league. Boy, they appear to really be missing Ryan Grant.

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

Ravens Friday injury report

10.15.10 at 4:36 pm ET
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The 4-1 Baltimore Ravens will be without three players for Sunday’s game against the 3-1 Patriots at Gillette Stadium and could be without a key fourth player.

Linebacker Paul Kruger was against limited at practice on Friday and is listed as doubtful for the game.

Running back and Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is questionable with a knee injury while running back Ray Rice is probable and should be a go for the game with a knee issue.

Ravens Injury Report for Friday:

T Jared Gaither (back)
LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder)
WR Donte Stallworth (foot)

Limited Participation
LB Paul Kruger (knee) Doubtful
CB Josh Wilson (thigh) Questionable
DT Haloti Ngata (knee) Questionable
S Ken Hamlin (ankle) Probable
TE Edgar Jones (thigh) Probable
RB Le’Ron McClain (shoulder/knee) Probable
RB Ray Rice (knee) Probable
LB Jameel McClain (knee) Probable

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Haloti Ngata, injury report, New England Patriots

Taylor out against Ravens

10.15.10 at 4:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As expected, running back Fred Taylor was ruled out for Sunday’s game against Baltimore with a toe injury while safety James Sanders is questionable with an ailing hamstring. Taylor did not practice this week while Sanders was again limited on Friday as the team continued its preparations for the Ravens this Sunday at Gillette Stadium. This will be the second game Taylor has missed since his last action against the Bills on Sept. 26. The team practiced in brisk winds inside Gillette Stadium, on the main field.

Patriots Injury Report for Friday:

Did Not Practice

RB Fred Taylor (toe)  OUT

Limited Participation

S James Sanders (hamstring) Questionable

Full Participation

QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) Probable

CB Terrence Wheatley (foot) Probable

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Fred Taylor, injury report, James Sanders

‘Happy’ Welker not worried about a new deal

10.15.10 at 2:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Randy Moss may have been concerned about getting a new contract as a star wide receiver. And Deion Branch went so far as to restructure his base salary to return to a place where he won a Super Bowl MVP.

But Wes Welker said Friday he is concerned about the here and now. And not the money.

With all of the uncertainty revolving around the NFL labor situation and the move by Branch to restructure his contract, Welker was asked Friday if he would like to see the Patriots come forward and re-work his current, five-year, $18 million deal, signed in March, 2007.

“Not really at all,’€ Welker said. ‘€œAll I know is, I’€™m under contract and I’€™m just happy to be here, happy to be a Patriot and just look forward to winning some ballgames.’€

On Friday, the NFL Players Association officially adjusted Branch’s 2011 salary. He will be paid $2.2 million, a savings to the Patriots of $3.75 million in base salary.

Welker is considered one of the most underpaid receivers in the NFL and with the trade of Moss to Minnesota, he becomes the active team leader in receptions and touchdowns since his arrival in 2007. This season, Welker leads the Patriots with 26 catches, 217 yards and three touchdown catches.

Read More: Deion Branch, New England Patriots, nfl, Randy Moss

Peter King on D&H: Brandon Tate will be a revelation

10.15.10 at 1:32 pm ET
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Peter King from Sports Illustrated and NBC joined Dale & Holley for his weekly conversation about the Patriots and the NFL. Among the topics discussed by the crew: Brett Favre’s status, the return of Ben Roethlisberger and how the Patriots offense will perform without Randy Moss.

Click here to hear the whole interview on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page

Even without Moss, King thinks the Pats will still have a high-scoring offense and he is high on Brandon Tate and Aaron Hernandez.

“I sort of think Brandon Tate is going to be a revelation to a lot of people who don’t know him very much,” King said. “I think Aaron Hernandez has shown the ability to be not just a tight end. You saw against the Jets in Week 2, cornerbacks were lining up against him and there was one completion from [Tom] Brady where he beat [Antonio] Cromartie on a play. I think he’s going to be really different kind of player.

“As far as [Deion] Branch goes, who knows? It’s hard to think that, even though he played with Brady, it’s hard to think he can come in right away and have the impact that Hernandez and Tate could have right away against Baltimore this Sunday.”

As to whether Favre would sit out this week after missing practice with elbow tendinitis, King thinks Favre will play. “I don’t think it’s going to happen this week,” King said. “I don’t see Favre missing a game unless the tendinitis [has] really worsened or he had significant swelling in the elbow. I’ve just seen him play with much worse. I think if he misses a game this year, unless it gets worse, I think it will be because of the commissioner, not his elbow.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate, Brett Favre, Peter King
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