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Fantasy Football Week 7 Live Chat at 11 a.m.

10.19.14 at 9:09 am ET
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Let Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com help guide you in setting your Week 7 fantasy football lineups. Davidson will be answering all your questions, while advancing the fantasy football conversation, starting at 11 a.m. (For this week’s starts and sits, click here.) Get your questions in now:

Live Blog Fantasy Football Week 7 Live Chat
 

Sunday NFL Notes: Going inside the numbers with 2014 Patriots

10.18.14 at 11:54 pm ET
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Tom Brady's stats through seven games this year are better than they were at the same point in 2013. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady‘s stats through seven games this year are better than they were at the same point in 2013. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With seven games in the books for the 2014 Patriots, the strengths and weaknesses of the team are starting to come into sharper focus. You can use stats to make any argument you want, but from this viewpoint, when given some context and deconstructed with the help of some film breakdown, they can be very illustrative, and help give a clearer picture of where a team succeeds or fails. With that in mind, here are 10 numbers that help shed some light on the state of the team after seven games, and where they could be headed the rest of the way.

1) 21.1 – The difference in passer rating for Tom Brady between the first seven games of the 2014 season when stacked against the first seven games of the 2013 season. (Brady’€™s rating for the first seven games of this season is 96.4, while he was at 75.3 over the first seven games of 2013.) Much of that is likely attributable to the presence of Rob Gronkowski — he missed the first six games of the 2013 season, and it took him a few games after that to get up to speed in the offense. This year, even though the big tight end only recently returned to 100 percent, he has a clear impact on several aspects of the offense, and the passing game in particular. Even when he’€™s a decoy, he opens things up underneath for other pass catchers like Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen.

Here’€™s a complete look at Brady’€™s numbers from the first seven games in 2013 measured against the first seven games of 2014:

2013: 158-for-285, 1,708 yards, 55 percent. 8 TDs, 5 INTs, 20 sacks
2014: 151-for-246, 1,775 yards, 62.1 percent, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, 13 sacks

2) 7 – The difference in sack totals for Brady from the first seven games of the 2013 season (20) to the first seven contests of the 2014 campaign (13). There are multiple reasons for the change — when you put a stopwatch on him, it’€™s clear that quicker release times have been the focus. But while there have been major issues with pass protection through the earlier part of the season — and pressures still remain an issue — things have started to even out slightly over the course of the last month. If the Patriots get center Bryan Stork and guard Dan Connolly back for next Sunday’€™s game against the Bears, those numbers should get better.

3) 0 – The number of pass plays of 40 yards or more the Patriots have allowed over the course of the first seven games of the season. The Patriots are the only team in the league to not yield a pass play of 40-plus yards to this point in the season. The old-school “Get The [Bleep] Back”€ directive has been employed to great effect this year, as the New England secondary hasn’€™t been beaten deep. At the same time, the priority or now allowing deep balls can occasionally be a double-edged sword, as it leaves a pass defense more vulnerable to shorter and intermediate pass plays. We’ve seen that on occasion, as teams have taken advantage of some softer spots in the Patriots secondary to occasionally pick up chunk yards in the passing game. But for a defense that was routinely torched by the long ball over the last four years, it’€™s a tradeoff they appear to be safe making.

4) 190 – The number of different offensive lineup combinations used by the Patriots over the course of the first seven games, which includes seven different starting lineups. It’€™s not completely fair to judge New England against the rest of the league — the fact that the Patriots and Jets played on Thursday night throws the numbers slightly out of whack — but it’€™s unlikely any team will be able to surpass New England by the end of the week, as the Patriots are miles ahead of the rest of the league. The Jets are No. 2 at 156, and the Lions are next at 154 different lineup combinations on offense. (On the other end of the spectrum, the Broncos have utilized just 43 different lineup combinations.) Much of it has to do with the constant shuffling along the offensive line, but there has also been a lot of different combinations in the backfield as well.

5) 3 – The number of times the Patriots have allowed 190 or more rushing yards this season, which was first brought to our attention by our pal Kevin Duffy. In the opener, the Dolphins rushed for 191 yards, while the Chiefs hit for 207 in the Monday Night massacre last month. And on Thursday, the Jets rushed for 218 yards.  (To put this number in perspective, from 2005 through 2013, New England allowed 190-plus rushing yards five times.) The statistical damage has been minimized slightly because the Patriots have held their four other opponents (Minnesota, Oakland, Cincinnati and Buffalo) to less than 80 yards on the ground, but as several defenders noted following the narrow win for the Jets, the run D is top priority for the New England defense.
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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots’ skill position players

10.18.14 at 5:54 pm ET
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Every week, we list 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. Here’€™s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after seven games:

RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
RB Shane Vereen: 77 (53 carries, 24 catches) 1 negative catch, 2 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 50 (6 carries, 44 catches)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 31 (31 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 19 (19 catches)
RB Brandon Bolden: 17 (16 carries, 1 catch), 2 negative runs
QB Tom Brady: 13 (13 carries), 13 sacks, 5 kneeldowns
TE Tim Wright: 10 (10 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
RB James White: 6 (3 catches, 3 carries)
FB James Develin: 5 (1 carry, 4 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 5 (5 catches)
RB Jonas Gray: 3 (3 carries)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 3 (3 carries) 1 sack, 3 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (2 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: The Patriots had three negative plays from scrimmage on Thursday — one sack of Brady and two negative runs by Vereen. … On the season, New England has run 460 plays from scrimmage, and 28 of them have gone for negative yardage, not including kneeldowns. …  Against the Jets, the Patriots ran 53 plays, with 8 of them in no-huddle (7 percent). … In addition, 27 of their 53 snaps (51 percent) were in shotgun formation. … On the season, the Patriots have run 33 of their 460 plays out of no-huddle (7 percent) and 151 snaps in shotgun (33 percent). By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps.

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Target Practice: Tracking opportunities in Patriots passing game

10.18.14 at 3:04 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown after seven regular-season games this year.

WR Julian Edelman: 44 catches on 65 targets
TE Rob Gronkowski: 31 catches on 56 targets
RB Shane Vereen: 24 catches on 35 targets
WR Brandon LaFell: 19 catches on 39 targets
TE Tim Wright: 10 catches on 11 targets
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 catches on 11 targets
WR Danny Amendola: 5 catches on 11 targets
RB Stevan Ridley: 4 catches on 5 targets
FB James Develin: 4 catches on 4 targets
RB James White: 3 catches on 3 targets
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 catches on 4 targets
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets
TE Michael Hoomananwanui: 2 catches on 2 targets
WR Brian Tyms: 1 catch on 2 targets

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Chris Jones says film shows Patriots need to be better against run

10.17.14 at 5:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The extra weekend of rest couldn’t be coming at a better time for Chris Jones and the Patriots defense. After all, they were on the field for nearly 41 of the 60 minutes Thursday night and had to defend 80 plays while the Patriots ran just 53. Usually, that’s a formula for disaster but the Patriots averted it when Jones blocked the 58-yard field goal attempt from Nick Folk at the final gun.

“We had something like [80] plays, obviously when a defense is on the field that long [it's bad],” Jones said. “A lot of it is on us. We just can’t do that and win a lot of games doing that. That’s going to wear you down at some point. That’s where the mental toughness kicks in because you’re going to physically be tired and you just have to mentally override that.”

The Jets were 9-of-16 on third down, converting many chances that extended drives and kept the Patriots defense on the field longer.

“As a defense, you don’t anybody do that well on third down,” Jones said. “That’s over 50 percent, which is really good for them but really bad for us. Whenever that happens that’s going to make for a really long day for us.”

The Jets were attacking Jones and the middle of the Patriots defensive front all night, gaining 226 yards on the ground and rushing for over five yards per carry. That was a point of emphasis, according to Jones, during Friday’s film review with coaches.

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Rex Ryan: Officials didn’t do anything wrong on final play

10.17.14 at 4:47 pm ET
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Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he took no issue with umpire Carl Paganelli's relocation of Dont'a Hightower on a game-ending blocked field goal. (Getty Images)

Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he took no issue with umpire Carl Paganelli’s relocation of Dont’a Hightower on a game-ending blocked field goal. (Getty Images)

Jets head coach Rex Ryan, in a conference call on Friday, said that he took no issue with umpire Carl Paganelli repositioning Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower on the game’s final play — a blocked 58-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk — to avoid a penalty.

‘€œI think that’€™s the best officiating crew in the league, in my opinion,’€ Ryan told reporters in a conference call. ‘€œI think [referee Bill] Leavy and his crew do as good a job as anybody in the league. This league’€™s about protecting the players, and that’€™s the way it should be. If something like that happens, you’€™re trying to protect the player before something has a chance to happen. Obviously, that’€™s a good thing for the league.

‘€œNow, would I like to see it snapped there and [long-snapper Tanner Purdum] take one for the team and us to have another chance at it? Of course. It’€™s to protect the players. The official’€™s not wrong doing what he did.’€

Fantasy Football: Week 7 starts, sits

10.17.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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All right, Patriots fans, after Thursday night’s big win, your heads should be clear and ready to focus on your fantasy fortunes. I’ve got the Week 7 recommendations ready for you and there’s more to come. As always, I will be available this Sunday at 11 a.m. to take all your last-minute lineup questions. Get them in early!

If you have questions about any players not listed in this space, head over to my free site, Rotobahn, and dig into my full Week 7 lineup rankings. And don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my buddy Jim Hackett, who will be in a good mood after the Patriots’ third straight victory. If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Raiders

He’s back and we expect his arm strength to improve week to week. Palmer has a healthy offense around him and he has a nice matchup with Oakland. Start him if you need him in all formats.

Joe Flacco, Ravens vs. Falcons

He lit up Tampa last week and he could do the same thing to the Falcons when the Ravens visit Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens receivers are in a groove and so is Flacco. He’s a viable play in all leagues this week.

Matt Ryan, Falcons at Ravens

He’s not screaming “Start me” this week after light output in Week 6, but Ryan has enough weapons in addition to Julio Jones, who is a monster. He should have to throw the ball for most of the day to keep pace with the Ravens. Ryan is playable in all formats.

Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Browns

Need an option in a deep league? Bortles can help because he grinds out points with his arm and with his feet. The Browns should get a lead and force the Jaguars to throw and open up the offense. Bortles might throw a pick or two, but the numbers should be there in the end. A good play in big formats if you are in need.

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