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Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell among 4 Patriots probable Saturday vs. Ravens

01.09.15 at 4:13 pm ET
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Going into the regular-season finale against the Bills, the Patriots listed two players as out, 15 as questionable and one as probable. With a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Patriots used the week to get healthy, as going into Saturday’s divisional around game with the Ravens they only list four players — all are probable.

After missing the last two games of the season with a concussion, Julian Edelman practiced all week on a limited basis and is probable for the game. Jonas Gray, who missed the season finale with an ankle injury is probable. Brandon LaFell, who didn’t practice all last week, but did on a limited basis this week, is probable as well. All are expected to play.

As has been the case all season, Tom Brady is probable with an ankle injury.

For the Ravens, tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle) is questionable, while tight end Owen Daniels (not injury related), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle), linebacker Daryl Smith (not injury related) and Terrell Suggs (not injury related) are probable.

Here is the complete injury report:

Probable

QB Tom Brady (ankle)
WR Julian Edelman (concussion)
RB Jonas Gray (ankle)
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe)

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Patriots injury report,

Adam Schefter on MFB: ‘I think [Patriots] win this matchup handily’

01.09.15 at 1:05 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about pressing issues in the NFL as well as his take on the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Ravens. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Unlike many people who have expressed their concerns with Saturday’s matchup, Schefter feels strongly that the Patriots have more than a decent chance to advance to the AFC championship game, even stressing how he thought New England would win “handily.”

“Everybody is talking about how this is the matchup that New England didn’t want, this is a nightmare play,” he said. “They get to play the team that has beaten them two of the last three, I mean, I could just hear this playing in the organization, you know the message that’s been delivered all week long. ‘Oh, nobody’s giving us a chance ’cause it’s Baltimore, this is a team that we should fear, this is the team that could beat us.’ I think it’s just the opposite.

“I think this sets up great for New England,” Schefter continued. “This is the kind of matchup that they win handily. I don’€™t know whether that means by 10, 20, 30, I have no idea, whatever it is … I think they win this matchup handily.”

Schefter also pointed out that the Ravens team on everyone’s mind from years past is not the same Ravens team playing in Foxboro on Saturday afternoon and that this Patriots team is different from the ones that lost the last two of three playoff games against Baltimore.

“The ones that lost, they didn’t have [Darrelle] Revis and [Brandon] Browner, they didn’t have [Rob] Gronkowski when they lost those two games,” he said. “Last year, Week 16, Baltimore needed to win a home game in Baltimore to get to the playoffs. New England deactivated Nate Solder to rest him, Rob Gronkowski was on IR, and New England, with nothing to play for, went into Baltimore and won 41-7. Forty-one to 7. So I think that New England is just feeding off this idea that this is a nightmare matchup for the Patriots. We’ll see if it is.”

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Read More: adam schefter, Josh McDaniels, Rex Ryan,

Fantasy Football: Divisional round daily leagues

01.09.15 at 11:44 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

If you are playing in one of the big contests this weekend, setting your DraftKings lineup is going to be a little tricky. The divisional round games help set up a rare dynamic in daily fantasy football. You have a small number of games (four) and most of the country watched these teams play last week. The exception would be the bye teams, but what’s left to learn about Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers or their respective offenses?

With familiarity at a high point and with available options at a low point, the number of unique fantasy rosters will be few. Good luck finding a contrarian move that half the league isn’t at least thinking about. Yes, it’s a tough week for differentiation. So tough, in fact, that you may want to steer away from it as a major point of strategy and focus more on matchups and lineup synergy.

Let’s try putting a few lineups together. If you are looking for my take on all of this week’s options, go to Rotobahn and check out my full rankings for this round.

QUARTERBACKS

This week I’m going to create two lineups — starting each with a different quarterback and working from there. The two quarterbacks I’m choosing will save me some money while not compromising upside.

Quarterback A

Tom Brady (7,800 units), Patriots vs. Ravens

Quarterback B

Tony Romo (7,600 units), Cowboys at Packers

These are not choices free of risk. Romo always comes with injury concerns and the tendency to go “tilt” at the wrong time, and Brady has a tough matchup for a less-then-mobile quarterback. That said, I see as much risk or more with all the quarterbacks who cost the same or more, and I have no interest in getting into the Joe Flacco or Cam Newton business. I’m not betting against the Patriots defense at home and certainly not Seattle’s.

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Read More: Daniel Herron, Eddie Lacy, Tom Brady, Tony Romo

Despite Ravens run D, LeGarrette Blount feels confident he will run well Saturday

01.09.15 at 11:34 am ET
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Things didn't work out for LeGarrette Blount in Pittsburgh. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Things didn’t work out for LeGarrette Blount in Pittsburgh. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The last time LeGarrette Blount played at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs, it was with stunning success. He scored four touchdowns and ran for 166 yards on 24 carries, also in the AFC divisional playoff round.

“€œI want to play well all the time,” Blount said. “Some games just don’€™t go as well as that game did, but I’€™m always looking forward to having a good game. I’€™m never going to back down from anybody. So, yeah, I feel like I’€™m going to play [well] against [the Ravens].”

Last January, Blount and the Patriots were going up against a Colts team that was powerless to stop the run. This week, they’re facing a Ravens run defense that finished the regular season ranked fourth in the NFL, allowing just 88.2 yards per game. Twice this season, Blount found out just how good the Ravens are. While with the Steelers, Blount totaled just eight yards on three carries on Sept. 11 and 10 carries for just 23 yards in the rematch on Nov. 2.

“€œIt isn’€™t going to matter. It’€™s going to be a different game,” Blount said. “This is my first time playing them in the postseason. I know what to expect. Bill [Belichick] has talked to us about everything, so I know what to expect and I know what to look for, too. So, I’€™m excited to play.”

Linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs lead the run stopping unit at the second level while nose tackle Haloti Ngata anchors one of the best defensive lines in the game. Those three players are big reasons why the Ravens have proven so hard to run against.

“€œI don’€™t know what it is,” Blount said. “I just know they’€™ve got a lot of good players on their team with Mosley, [Terrell] Suggs, Haloti. So, I don’€™t know if it’€™s the coach and I don’€™t know if it’€™s the players, but whatever they’€™re doing, they’€™re good at it, and we’€™re going to try to expose it.”

The Patriots have started games like this in the past with a spread offense.

But many have suggested the Patriots need to establish the run game in the cold weather in order to allow Tom Brady to eventually expose the Ravens secondary. Blount, Shane Vereen and Jonas Gray figure to play big roles in achieving that objective. The other objective is simply to hold onto the ball in the cold, and avoid giving Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense the ball in good field position. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, LeGarrette Blount

Junior Seau among 18 finalists for Pro Football Hall of Fame

01.09.15 at 11:24 am ET
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The late Junior Seau, in his first year of eligibility, is one of 18 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame after the list was cut down Thursday to 15 modern era nominees, one senior and two contributors.

To be entered, nominees have to get at least 80 percent of the votes from the selection committee, which is still to be elected and will be comprised of 46 people. The final class will be announced Jan. 31.

Seau’€™s career spanned from 1990-2009, during which he received Pro Bowl honors 12 times. The linebacker played for the Patriots from 2006-2009 but spent the most of his tenure with the Chargers from 1990-2002. He committed suicide in 2012.

In addition to Seau, Kurt Warner and Orlando Pace are on the billing as first-year options as well.

Warner helped the Rams earn their only Super Bowl victory in 1999 and won league MVP that year as well as in 2001. He was also part of the 2008 Cardinals team that made the Super Bowl for the first and only time in their history.

Pace was selected by the Rams first overall in 1997 and earned five Pro Bowl selections over 13 years in the league. He was a teammate of Warner’€™s when the Rams won the Super Bowl.

The other modern-day finalists are kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, coach Don Coryell, running back Terrell Davis, coach Tony Dungy, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, linebacker/defensive end Charles Haley, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, coach Jimmy Johnson, safety John Lynch and guard Will Shields.

The senior finalist is former Vikings center Mick Tingelhof, and the contributors are Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, who built Super Bowl teams in their times as executives.

Read More: Junior Seau,

Rodney Harrison on D&C: ‘There’s ways of frustrating Tom [Brady], but you have to get to him, and that’s difficult to do’

01.09.15 at 10:09 am ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to discuss Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game between the Patriots and the Ravens. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The weather — bitter cold and potential snow — has been a topic of conversation, as it always is with Foxboro playoff games, and according to Harrison the Pats certainly have the advantage when it comes to climate. However, there are other things that come into play in a game like this one as well.

“It’s one of those things where it’s playoff football, man, and people get nervous,” he said. “You have to deal with nerves, you have to deal with can guys play in front of the big lights. You’re playing in front of basically the world, and the difference between regular-season football and playoff football, regular season you know you’ve always got tomorrow or next week. Playoff football there’s no tomorrow and everyone’s scrutinizing every move that you make, so if you make a mistake it’s really enhanced in front of the world.”

It’s the Ravens defense that Harrison says will give the Patriots grief on Saturday, mostly because defensive coordinator Dean Pees is so familiar with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in addition to the fact that Baltimore has one of the best front sevens in the NFL.

Harrison also noted that getting pressure on Brady is one of the best ways for Baltimore to try to beat this Patriots team, saying that he’s been “rattled” in the past and “looks like a different quarterback at times … just like the rest of the great ones.” It doesn’t have much to do with his age, though.

“He’s actually moving really well in the pocket, and that’s the thing that’€™s really been surprising to me is how well, in his old age, he’s been able to move inside and outside that pocket,” Harrison said. “But Haloti Ngata, and he showed against Ben Roethlisberger last week, that force up the middle, getting Tom and getting the quarterbacks off that spot, and I think that’s so important.”

Another way the Ravens can be victorious, according to Harrison, is to realize that the secondary isn’t facing the most notable wide receivers in the league.

“This is a team, a veteran team that can almost trick those guys in the secondary to believing that hey, you’re not going against Demaryius Thomas, you’re not going against Emmanuel Sanders, great wide receivers in essence in terms of names,” he said. “These are guys that are kind of journeymen, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, that we can match up with these guys, and if we can stop Rob Gronkowski, we can have a great chance defensively of having success.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Rodney Harrison, Tom Brady

Source: Brandon Bolden signs extension with Patriots

01.09.15 at 8:50 am ET
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Brandon Bolden

Brandon Bolden

According to a source, Patriots running back Brandon Bolden has signed a contract extension with the team.

The news was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, who says it is a two-year deal worth $2.32 million, which goes through the end of the 2016 season.

Bolden has been a core special teams player during his three years in New England, but does have 634 rushing yards on 139 carries and six touchdowns in his three years, with only 89 yards coming this season. His best game rushing came in his rookie season when he rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries in a Week 4 win against the Bills.

The 24-year-old was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2012 draft coming out of Mississippi.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Brandon Bolden,
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