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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

11.23.10 at 8:21 am ET
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The AFC East is the cream of the crop once again in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Patriots and Jets remain the top dogs for the second straight week. The division rivals are on a collision course to fight it out for first place when they face off in New England on Dec. 6.

For the first time this year, every team in the top five was victorious. In fact, eight of the top 10 teams came out of Week 11 with a win. Despite losing, the Colts (No. 9) and the Giants (10) stay put in their respective spots, keeping the top 10 intact.

Week 12 certainly will cause some major movement in the rankings. There are many marquee matchups ahead. The Packers (No. 7) will face the Falcons (3), the 7-3 Eagles (4) will face the 7-3 Bears (11), and the red-hot Chargers (12) will face the struggling Colts (9).

The Bengals plummet all the way to the No. 31 spot while the Panthers are getting comfortable at No. 32.

1. (1) 8-2 We’re seeing typical Patriots football from the 2010 Pats. They take away what the opposing team does well and find a way to win each week. Last week, they held the potent Rashard Mendenhall to just 50 yards on the ground. In the win over the Colts, they made Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis non-factors. On defense, they are making big plays when needed most. The Pats have a total of 18 takeaways.

2. (2) 8-2 In a league in which it is extremely difficult to win on the road, the Jets are 5-0 away from the Meadowlands. Surprisingly, the Jets offense has been the story of this team in 2010. The poise Mark Sanchez has shown in the past few weeks has been impressive. The second-year quarterback’s ability to win games in the closing minutes has to be something Jets fans are extremely pleased with.

3. (3) 8-2 Atlanta is in a three-way tie for the best record in the NFL. Offensively, it looks like the Falcons are getting into a good rhythm. They have an extremely balanced attack between the pass and run. Michael Turner rushed for 131 yards Sunday while Matt Ryan threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

4. (4) 7-3 That’s back-to-back division wins for the Eagles, who are in prime position to take the NFC East. Sunday night’s game showed that the offense isn’t the only unit on the team that can help win games. Philly’s D played great again. This is an extremely aggressive and opportunistic defense. On Sunday night the Eagles picked off Eli Manning three times and held him to a quarterback rating of 53.5.

5. (5) 7-3 The Ravens have learned getting Ray Rice the ball is one of the most important things they can do offensively. Rice had 65 yards on the ground and 66 receiving yards Sunday. On defense, the Ravens continue to hold their opponents to a low number of points. The Ravens allow an average of just 17.8-points per game.

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Read More: NFL Power Rankings,

The Big Nickel: Patriots turning the page and Bill Belichick talks up Jim Schwartz

11.22.10 at 9:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Monday:

1. It’€™s all about turning the page quickly. On Monday, Bill Belichick and the Patriots all sounded the same theme ‘€” it would be nice to spend another 24 hours reliving a memorable win over the Colts, but time waits for no man, especially when you’€™re facing a short week of preparation for your next game.

‘€œIt would be nice to put the feet up and enjoy last night’€™s game and what we did, but we’€™re on to Detroit,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œIt’€™s a short week here ‘€” there’€™s a lot to do. We have to cram six days into three. I think the players came in with a good attitude [Monday] and really tried to get a lot done. Obviously we have a lot to do and we’€™ll try to keep grinding it out here the next couple of days. It was a big start for us today.’€

‘€œWe just have to kind of turn the corner real fast and turn our preparation to the Detroit Lions and get ready for them,’€ said running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. ‘€œJust go home and accelerate everything, more than a regular week. Get on the film and everything a little bit tonight.’€

The short week means there’€™s a real premium on practice time. While the usual practice preparation runs from Wednesday to Friday most weeks, the primary workday will be Tuesday before flying out on Wednesday and playing on Thursday. That means the Patriots need to be on-point when you hit the practice field.

‘€œI just think being mentally into every practice and being able to dial it up,’€ said Matt Light when it comes to the challenges of playing on a short week. ‘€œPhysically it is what it is, and yeah, you’€™re going to be a little sore, and by the time the game starts, all that stuff kind of dissipates and you’€™re out there doing what you do. But I think mentally, during the week, you really have to focus in on the little things.’€

2. Jim Schwartz. There’€™s an extensive professional relationship between Belichick and Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, who was originally hired by Belichick as a researcher and scout in the early 1990s when Belichick was the head coach in Cleveland. Schwartz stuck with the Browns for three seasons under Belichick … despite the fact that Schwartz once inadvertently stole his turkey sandwich.

The story goes that the young Schwartz believed he was going to get fired one spring in Cleveland, and went into the meal room to see what was in the refrigerator. He saw a turkey sandwich, and ate it. Later on, Belichick came in, looking for his sandwich and wasn’€™t happy when he found out who ate it.

‘€œHe’€™s really special ‘€” I’€™ve had a lot of people work for me and he’€™s right up there at the top of the list in terms of things that he can do and what a positive impression he made at a relatively young age or young point in his career,’€ Beichick said of Schwartz, an economics grad from Georgetown. ‘€œJim’€™s one of the smartest guys I’€™ve ever worked with. He’€™s a guy who, to say multitask, wouldn’€™t even be fair. He’€™s the kind of person who if you gave him 20 things to do, he would be on top of all 20 of them and know exactly where he was on all of them.’€

In fact, Belichick was such a believer in Schwartz, he tried to hire him as the Patriots linebackers’€™ coach in 2000, but Titans coach Jeff Fisher blocked the move because he considered Schwartz his future defensive coordinator. Schwartz would indeed go on to serve as Fisher’€™s defensive coordinator in Tennessee from 2001 until 2008 when he left to become head coach in Detroit.
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Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Darius Butler, Jeff Fisher

Five players, including Jahvid Best, do not practice for Lions on Monday

11.22.10 at 6:22 pm ET
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Five players did not participate in practice for the Lions on Monday, including running back Jahvid Best and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Here’s the complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
RB Jahvid Best (toe)
K Jason Hanson (right knee)
TE Tony Scheffler (ribs)
QB Matthew Stafford (right shoulder)
DT Corey Williams (shoulder)

Limited Participation
DE Cliff Avril (quadricep)
LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (knee)
G Dylan Gandy (calf)

Full Participation
QB Shaun Hill (quadricep)
LB DeAndre Hill (groin)

Read More: injury report, lions,

Mike Wright held out of practice for Patriots, while Tom Brady is limited

11.22.10 at 6:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Defensive lineman Mike Wright, who suffered a concussion on Sunday against the Colts, was the only player who did not practice Monday for the Patriots. In addition, quarterback Tom Brady was listed as having “limited participation” with a right shoulder/foot problem, one of six players who were limited. Here’s the complete injury report:

Did Not Participate
DL Mike Wright (neck/concussion)

Limited Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
G Stephen Neal (shoulder)
S Jarrad Page (calf)
NT Myron Pryor (back)
RB Fred Taylor (toe)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

Transcript of Tom Brady on D&C

11.22.10 at 4:46 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. Although the team’s second-half performance was shaky at times, he still had this to say about Sunday’s 31-28 victory over the Colts: “I’ve been around long enough to know that a win is a win is a win.

“You come up and say, ‘Hey we played great, how did we lose that game?’ I’d rather say, ‘I’m glad we won, but let’s figure out how to do some things better,’ ” continued Brady. “It was a great game,  it was a classic game. They have such a good team, an such an explosive offense and explosive defense with those guys, their two defensive ends. We all in the locker room felt we were very excited we won.”

Brady recognized the difficult challenges this schedule has provided. “We’ve had a tough stretch here playing a bunch of really good teams,” he began, before quickly turning his eyes to the future. “But now we have a short week against a team [the Lions] that has probably a huge advantage on us playing on Thursday. It was a great win for us there’s no doubt about it, I certainly wish we had finished them off better like I think we’re capable, but you know we just have to do a better job of that.”

Following is a full transcript of the interview. To listen, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, Tom Brady, Wes Welker

Bill Belichick on The Big Show: Lions game ‘about as tough as it gets’

11.22.10 at 4:14 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined The Big Show to discuss his team’s 31-28 victory over the Colts on Sunday as well as the upcoming challenge his team faces in traveling to Detroit for a Thursday game against the Lions. The reduced preparation time that the Pats will face by virtue of the Thanksgiving game creates a host of challenges.

“About as tough as it gets. This is about as tough a week of preparation as it gets,” Belichick said of the Lions game. “We don’€™t know the team. We don’€™t know the players. [Since] last time we played them, it’€™s a new staff. They’€™ve had a lot of turnover, a lot of young players, a lot of very good players. But we just don’€™t have great background on them. We did some work on them in the offseason. But 10 games have passed. ‘€¦ Some of the players there now weren’€™t there last year, like [Ndamukong] Suh and [Jahvid] Best, guys like that. They’€™ve added and changed the dimension of their team a little bit. So it’€™s hard.

“When you play out of conference on a short week like that, it’€™s tough. It’€™s the same challenge they face, though. But it’€™s definitely hard on our players and coaches to get the compact and precise and definitive information that we feel like we normally get on a team in such a short amount of time on a team that’€™s played 10 games, and try to consolidate it for the players, what they’€™re going to do in certain situations. Sometimes we struggle to put it all together on all the situations: third-down, goal-line, short-yardage, two-minute and so forth.”

Belichick also broke down the victory over the Colts, the impact of offensive lineman Logan Mankins, the inconsistency of the defensive unit, the diminutive stature of the Patriots receiving corps as well as his homage to former coaching great and football innovator Paul Brown.

To listen to the interview, visit the audio on demand page of The Big Show. Here is a transcript of the conversation:

On Sunday’s win over the Colts:

It seems like it’€™s always like that with the Colts. It’€™s a dogfight, comes down to the last possession or play. You can never count them out. They’€™re a good football team.

Did you have to remind guys at halftime to be prepared for second-half push, or do they know that?

I’€™m sure they do, but we still talk about it and reinforce it. You know it’€™s going to be 60 minutes against the Colts. They can score in a hurry. Their defense, they get strip stacks, tipped balls. Their ability to get turnovers is as good as anybody in the league. They’€™re really dangerous, no matter how much time is left on the clock. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, dwight freeney

Brandon Meriweather on D&H: Win ‘goes straight to the coaches’

11.22.10 at 12:37 pm ET
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Defensive back Brandon Meriweather stopped by for his weekly chat with the Dale & Holley show Monday at Gillette Stadium as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday, one day after a 31-28 victory over the Colts. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Meriweather said credit goes to the scout team and the coaching staff for having the defense ready to face Peyton Manning and the potent Colts offense.

“Our coaches had a great game plan,” Meriweather said. “This win right here goes straight to the coaches. They had a good game plan, they made good adjustments and they kept us focused and ready for this game.”

Meriweather said another key for the Patriots being able to hold off the Colts was because they didn’t let up until the final whistle. “Going against the Colts, you’ve got to play 60 minutes,” he said. “You can’t let up one minute. [Manning will] make you pay for it.”

Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Peyton Manning,
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