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Report: Brandon Spikes needs knee surgery immediately after season

12.29.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The knee injury that has clearly slowed down Brandon Spikes will require surgery after the season, according to a report from the Boston Globe.

Spikes, the lead run-stopping linebacker on the Patriots defense, has been hobbled since the middle of the season. He has been on the team’s injury report for several weeks with a knee injury. The Globe’s Shalise Manza Young reports the knee issue is a ligament
tear that will require injury.

Spikes most active game came on Oct. 6 against the Bengals when he made 22 tackles (coaches grade) and picked off Andy Dalton once in a 13-6 loss in Cincinnati.

‘€œIt’€™s pretty banged up, but this deep in the season, everybody’€™s banged up,’€ Spikes told Young. ‘€œI’€™ve been able to deal with the pain and stuff like that.

‘€œAnd when I’€™m out there, my adrenaline is pumping and the thrill of it, but it’€™s part of the game. That’€™s what makes this game so good ‘€” you’€™ve got to be able to play through pain.’€

Spikes is third on the Patriots with 48 solo tackles and 85 overall. Only Dont’a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich have more.

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Week 17 Fantasy Football Live Chat, 11 a.m.

12.29.13 at 10:25 am ET
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Join and fantasy expert Pete Davidson for a Week 17 live chat to help you set your fantasy roster for your championship games. The chat starts at 11 a.m.; get your questions in now!


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Final thoughts on Bills-Patriots

12.29.13 at 6:00 am ET
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1. Shane Vereen was quiet the last two weeks, but still has a personal plateau in sight as the regular-season finale looms Sunday — the Cal product could be the first New England running back since Kevin Faulk (2008) to hit for 50 catches and 50 carries in a single season. (Faulk had 83 carries and 58 catches that year.) Vereen enters Sunday’€™s game with 42 carries and 44 catches, and considering his line in the season opener against the Bills (14 carries, seven catches), it’€™s certainly a realistic possibility. The 50-50 mark is an excellent measure of the value of a third-down, multidimensional back, but Vereen’€™s stats are all the more impressive considering the fact that he missed eight games this season because of a wrist injury he suffered in the opener against Buffalo. He’€™s already reached a pretty impressive plateau — as we noted here, going back 20 years, five other New England backs have hit the 40-catch/40-carry mark, including Danny Woodhead (once), Faulk (four times), Curtis Martin (twice), Dave Meggett (once) and Leroy Thompson (once).

2. Julian Edelman is also on the verge of a notable mark going into Sunday’€™s game. The wide receiver has 96 catches, 991 yards and six touchdowns through 15 games. If he has at least four receptions Sunday against the Bills, he will be the first receiver not named Wes Welker to finish with at least 100 catches in the New England offense since Troy Brown had 101 catches in 2001. Edelman, who is signed through the 2013 season, will certainly be one of the great free agent debates this offseason. While there will undoubtedly be people who deride him as a product of the Patriots system and his association with Brady, that’€™s an unfair assumption, at least from this viewpoint. Edelman’€™s smarts, toughness and special teams value as one of the steadiest punt returners in the league will almost certainly create a marketplace for the former college quarterback. While it’€™s far too early to speculate on a possible landing spot for Edelman if he decides to leave Gillette after this season, it’€™s interesting to note that some AFC teams who would love to weaken New England (Dolphins, Colts, Bengals and Bills) are expected to have lots of cap space going into the offseason.

3. One more notable mark: defensive end Chandler Jones has 11.5 sacks to this point in the season, and 17.5 through his first two seasons in the NFL. If he comes away with one more sack in the regular-season finale against the Bills, he can tie for second place on the franchise list of most sacks over their first two years in Patriots history. (Garin Veris is first with 21 sacks in 1985 and 1986, while Chris Slade is No. 2 with 18.5 sacks in 1993 and 1994.) With one more sack, he’€™ll also tie the single-season record for a Bill Belichick-coached New England team — that mark was set by Mike Vrabel (12.5) in 2007. For Jones, he’€™s having a far better finish to 2013 than he did in his rookie year. This season, he has five sacks in his last seven games — a quantum leap forward for a player who did not have a single sack over the second half of his rookie year.

4. Going into the regular-season finale, the Patriots are pretty much assured of having one of their best seasons in recent memory when it comes to penalties. Through 15 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 65 penalties (tied for second-best in the league) for a total of 594 yards (third-best in the league). They won’€™t beat the recent mark for New England teams under Belichick — that came in 2008 with 57 penalties and 501 yards — but it represents a dramatic dip from previous seasons. Last year, New England had 97 penalties for 840 yards in the regular season. In 2011, it was 87 penalties for 815 yards, and 83 penalties for 766 yards in 2010. In 2009, it was 81 penalties for 743 yards. For what it’€™s worth, the only positional grouping for the Patriots that hasn’€™t been flagged over the course of the first 15 games of the season is the running backs. In fact, the last two seasons, the running backs consistently have been one of the lowest-penalized positional groupings on the team. In 2012, they were the least-penalized group with two penalties and five yards, and in 2011 they had one penalty for five yards.

5. We have the complete rundown of the playoff picture here, but here’€™s a look at the schedule for this week’€™s key AFC matchups as viewed through a Patriots’€ prism:

a. Ravens (8-7) at Bengals (10-5), 1 p.m.: If the Bengals win and Patriots lose, that means Cincinnati captures the No. 2 spot, while New England could tumble to as far as No. 4, depending on what else happens. The Ravens are in must-win mode just to get into the playoffs — Baltimore needs to win, and has to have San Diego or Miami lose if it wants to land the sixth seed.

b. Jaguars (4-11) at Colts (10-5), 1 p.m.: If Indy wins and the Patriots lose or the Bengals lose or tie, the Colts can take the No. 2 seed. Odds are, however, that Indy is going to stay locked in at No. 4. Jacksonville’€™s playoff chances were out the door before Halloween.

c. Jets (7-8) at Dolphins (8-7), 1 p.m.: The Dolphins need some help — they have to win (or tie), and will then reach the postseason with a Baltimore loss (or tie) or a San Diego win. They can also get there if they tie the Jets, and then Baltimore loses and San Diego loses. They can also make it if they tie, and then Baltimore and San Diego also tie.

d. Browns (4-11) at Steelers (7-8), 1 p.m.: When you break down the remaining AFC playoff possibilities, the Steelers are the longest of long shots. They need to beat Cleveland, and then have Miami, Baltimore and San Diego all lose.

e. Broncos (12-3) at Raiders (4-11), 4:25 p.m.: The one that really affects the Patriots. If Denver loses and New England wins, the Patriots capture the No. 1 seed. The Broncos can do no worse than No. 2.

f. Chiefs (11-4) at Chargers (8-7), 4:25 p.m.: Kansas City is locked into the No. 5 spot. San Diego has some possibilities, but if the Chargers do win, they’€™ll need to get a Baltimore loss or tie and a Miami loss or tie. If the Chargers and Chiefs end in a tie, then Miami has to lose and Baltimore has to lose for San Diego to claim the No. 6 seed.

As always, make sure to consult Playoff Status for updates.
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Patriots sign Kanorris Davis, Justin Green off practice squad to 53-man roster

12.28.13 at 5:24 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Saturday they have signed safety Kanorris Davis and defensive back Justin Green to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.

Davis, 23, originally joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Troy on May 3. The 5-foot-10, 207-pounder was released on Aug. 31 and was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. Davis was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster prior to the game at Atlanta on Sept. 29 and played against the Falcons on special teams. He was released by the Patriots on Sept. 30 and signed back to the practice squad on Oct. 2. He was signed back to the 53-man roster on Oct. 5, the day before the game at Cincinnati on Oct. 6 and played on special teams before being released the next day and signed back to the practice squad. Davis played as a linebacker in college, where he helped Troy win the Sun Belt Conference Championship in 2011 and 2012.

Green, 22, was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Saturday, Nov. 23, and played on defense and special teams in the victory over Denver on Nov. 24. Green was released on Nov. 26 and re-signed to the practice squad on Nov. 28. He originally was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Illinois on July 21. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder began his college career at Illinois as a running back before moving to the secondary for his final three seasons. Green was released by the Patriots on Aug. 31 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1.

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Ten things you have to know about Bills-Patriots

12.28.13 at 12:04 pm ET
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Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s Bills-Patriots game:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Linebacker Brandon Spikes against the Buffalo running game: The Bills run the ball just about as well as anyone in the league. Buffalo averages 145.2 rushing yards per game (second in the NFL) and is the only team in the league with at least two backs who have 800 yards or more through 15 games ‘€” Fred Jackson has 193 carries for 836 yards and eight touchdowns, while C.J. Spiller has 182 carries for 822 yards and two touchdowns. They’€™ll face a team in New England that has, at least statistically, shown better numbers against the run over the last month. In the previous four games, the Patriots have allowed an average of 109.75 rushing yards per game. It doesn’€™t sound like much, but in that span, New England’€™s average rushing yards allowed per game has gone from 139.7 yards allowed to 131.7 yards allowed. It’€™s not much, but it’€™s an improvement, one, the Patriots hope to continue to build on Sunday against Buffalo. Spikes will likely lead the charge in this department — the linebacker, who is clearly hobbled with a knee issue he’€™s been battling over the last month, will have the primary responsibility of tracking Spiller and Jackson.

2. Quarterback Tom Brady against the Buffalo pass defense: Brady has owned the Bills’€™ pass defense for the better part of the last dozen years. The quarterback has led the Patriots to 21 regular season victories over the Bills, recording his highest regular season victory total over any opponent. Additionally, Brady has thrown for more touchdowns (53) against Buffalo than any other opponent, and has more 300-yard games (7) against Buffalo than any other NFL team. The Bills have played very good pass defense as a team over the course of the 2013 season — they’€™ve gotten good pressure up front (more on that in a second), but they’€™ve also gotten improved play when it comes to coverage. Buffalo has four different players with four picks, including Kiko Alonso, Aaron Williams, Jairus Byrd and Jim Leonhard. That depth in pass coverage will surely provide some challenges for the Patriots’€™ pass catchers.

3. The Patriots offensive line against the Buffalo front seven: It’€™ll be another stern test for the New England offensive line, which has met some really impressive defensive fronts over the course of the year. While they haven’€™t kept Brady’€™s uniform completely clean — if he’€™s sacked twice against the Bills, it’€™ll equal his career-high for sacks absorbed in a season with 41 (2001 in 15 games) — they have done well given the fact they’€™ve dealt with injuries to right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (lost for the season) and left tackle (Nate Solder, who has struggled with concussion issues as of late but appears likely to play). Buffalo is the only team in the league with four defenders with 7.5 or more sacks — Mario Williams leads the way with 13 — and have shown an ability to get pressure off the edges or up the middle. For the Patriots, part of the game plan will likely be the same it was over the course of several games this season against some of the league’€™s best pass rushers like Miami, Baltimore and Carolina — Brady has to get the ball out as fast as possible to try and negate the Bills pass rush. As a result, don’€™t expect too many deep shots downfield. Instead, look for the strength of the Patriots passing game on Sunday to focus on the short and intermediate routes to receivers like Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’€™ fans need to know: It’€™s tough to call Scott Chandler an under-the-radar opponent anymore — he leads the team in receiving yards, and is second on the team in receptions — but the tight end has consistently been a tough cover for New England. In two games against the Patriots last year, Chandler had nine catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns on 16 targets. While he was held to four catches for 38 yards in the season opener against New England, managed to carve out a really nice niche for himself this year with 50 catches on 77 targets for a team-leading 600 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Bills don’€™t really throw the ball with any sort of consistency, but when they do, Chandler is one of their first options.

5. By the numbers: (tie) One, Brady has thrown more touchdown passes against the Bills — 53 — than any other team in his career, and has a 21-2 record against Buffalo. Two, the Bills are the only team in the league with two running backs (Jackson, Spiller) with at least 800 rushing yards each.

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Tom Brady and Aqib Talib among four Patriots selected to Pro Bowl

12.27.13 at 9:13 pm ET
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Four members of the Patriots were selected to the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl, the league announced Friday: Quarterback Tom Brady, guard Logan Mankins, wide receiver Matthew Slater (special teams) and cornerback Aqib Talib have been selected to represent the team in the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl on Jan. 26, 2014 at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.

Here’s a portion of the press release issued by the team:

Brady was named to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time, tying John Hannah (9) for the most Pro Bowls in Patriots history. It is his fifth consecutive selection to the all-star game. He was voted to the Pro Bowl after each of the following seasons: 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Brady heads into the final week of the season with 4,221 yards and 24 touchdown passes. He joined Dan Marino (6), Brett Favre (6), Drew Brees (8) and Peyton Manning (13) as the only NFL players to have at least six seasons with 4,000 passing yards. Brady also guided the Patriots to their 11th division title in 2013, the most division titles among any NFL quarterback.

Mankins was voted to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl, as well, and his sixth overall. He went to his first Pro Bowl in 2007 when he became the first Patriots guard to earn a Pro Bowl selection since 1985 when Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah went to his ninth career Pro Bowl. The Fresno State product is in his ninth season with the Patriots since being selected in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. Since entering the starting lineup in 2005, Mankins has helped New England finish in the top 10 on offense seven times. That mark will improve to eight, as the Patriots enter the final week ranked seventh in offense.

Slater earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl selection. A productive member of the Patriots special teams units since joining the squad as a fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2008, Slater has become a leader after being voted special teams captain each of the last three years. He led the Patriots in special teams tackles for the past three seasons with 21 in 2010, 17 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. He enters the final week of the 2013 season ranked second on the team with 13 special teams tackles, despite missing four games due to injury.

Talib earned his first Pro Bowl selection this year. Talib forced three turnovers, including a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions, to help seal the Patriots 13-10 win over the AFC East rival New York Jets on Sept. 12. He defended a pass in the end zone on a fourth-down attempt in the final minute to secure the Patriots 30-23 win at Atlanta on Sept. 29. Talib also played a major role in holding New Orleans tight end Graham without a catch in the Patriots 30-27 win on Oct. 13. Graham entered that game averaging 118.6 receiving yards per game.

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Patriots release WR Austin Collie for a second time

12.27.13 at 4:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One day after releasing defensive back Marquice Cole for a fourth time this season, the Patriots cut ties with veteran receiver Austin Collie on Friday for a second time in 2013. The move leaves the Patriots with just 51 players on their active roster, two shy of the limit.

The Patriots added depth at both running back and slot receiver on Friday when they signed Sam McGuffie to their practice squad.

Collie, who was at practice with the Patriots Friday, was originally signed by the Patriots on Oct. 3 and then released on Nov. 5 before being re-signed on Dec. 5 following the injuries to Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Dobson returned last week for the first time in four games while Thompkins missed his third straight game Sunday with a hip injury.

Collie, 28, is in his fifth NFL season after spending four seasons with Indianapolis (2009-12). The 6-foot, 204-pounder originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick (127th overall) of the Colts out of Brigham Young in 2009. He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 2, 2013, but was released by the 49ers on Aug. 31.

Collie has played in 49 NFL games with 17 starts and has registered 179 receptions for 1,908 yards and 16 touchdowns. He played in seven games with one start for the Patriots and registered six receptions for 63 yards.

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