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Bengals, Colts win, forcing Patriots to win to earn bye

12.29.13 at 4:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots will have to earn their first-round bye.

The Bengals beat the Ravens, 34-17, in Cincinnati and the Colts beat the Jaguars, 30-10, at Indianapolis. Those two results mean the Patriots will have to beat the Bills to earn a weekend off when the playoffs begin next weekend.

If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose, the Patriots will earn the No. 1 seed. If the Patriots win and Broncos win, the Patriots will be the No. 2 seed and still have next weekend off.

If the Patriots lose, the Broncos will be the No. 1 seed and the Bengals will be the No. 2 and both will advance to the divisional round and have next weekend off.

A Patriots loss would also ensure the Patriots would play the Chiefs next weekend in the 4-5 matchup at Gillette Stadium.

Cincinnati’s win also eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens from the playoffs as the Steelers won and the Dolphins lost.

A win over the Chiefs would put San Diego into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed while a Chargers loss would allow the Steelers to earn the final spot with an 8-8 record.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots

Inactive analysis: Devin McCourty inactive, but Nate Solder is good to go against Bills

12.29.13 at 3:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The following players were listed as inactive for Sunday’s game against the Bills: linebacker Steve Beauharnais, safety Devin McCourty, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, wide receiver Josh Boyce, defensive end Jake Bequette, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and offensive lineman Chris Barker. Here’s what the moves mean and who is most affected:

McCourty: When he went out last week against the Ravens because of a head injury, Duron Harmon saw plenty of time in his place. McCourty missed practice all week because of concussion-related issues, so expect the same to be the case again this week against the Bills.

Dennard: The corner has had knee and shoulder issues over the course of the last couple of weeks, and was limited to just six snaps last week against the Ravens. Logan Ryan will likely see most of the snaps in his place.

Boyce: He’s struggled with an ankle issue he sustained late in the loss to the Dolphins earlier this month. The release of Austin Collie likely means the health of the rest of the receiving corps is as good as can be expected at this time of the season — expect some of the other rookies (Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson) to see an uptick in reps as a result.

Bequette: A healthy scratch for much of the season, he’s fallen behind Andre Carter when it comes to working as a backup defensive end.

Beauharnais: The rookie linebacker has been up and down over the course of his first year in the league, and was active last week in place of linebacker Dane Fletcher. The fact that Fletcher is active this week likely led to Beauharnais picking up another healthy scratch.

Barker: The rookie offensive lineman has also been up and down over the course of the year, but the fact that he’s a healthy scratch likely means the Patriots feel better about their offensive line depth — particularly the health of tackle Nate Solder, as well as the production of rookie guard Josh Kline — heading into this one.

Sopoaga: Since being acquired from Philadelphia, Sopoaga’s playing time has dipped, and last week he was a healthy scratch against the Ravens. The same appears to be the case this week against Buffalo, which means more time for Sealver Siliga.

Setting the scene: Patriots host Bills in regular season finale

12.29.13 at 1:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Steady rain and winds are expected for the regular season finale Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The rain is expected to begin well before the 4:25 p.m. kickoff and continue throughout the game. Temperatures are expected in the low 40s before dropping into the upper 30s by the end of the game.

The Patriots clinch a first-round bye with a win and could wind up with the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win and Broncos loss to the Raiders in Oakland.

The Patriots have the best possible opponent visiting Foxboro as the Bills are 0-11 lifetime at Gillette Stadium and Tom Brady is 11-0 against the Bills lifetime in Foxboro, beating them in old Foxboro Stadium in 2001 but not facing them in 2008 due to his knee injury. Brady is 21-2 lifetime against Buffalo, with his only losses coming in 2003 and 2011.

The Bills haven’t beaten the Patriots in Foxboro since Nov. 5, 2000 in a 16-13 decision at Foxboro Stadium.

The Patriots are attempting to finish a perfect 8-0 at home at for the sixth time in team history, with all previous five coming at Gillette (2003, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010). The Patriots won both home playoff games in ’03, 04 and 07 but were beaten in their first home playoff game in 2009 and ’10.

This also marks the fifth time in team history the Patriots are opening and closing the season with the same opponent, beating Buffalo 23-21, on a last-second field goal from Stephen Gostkowski in Orchard Park on Sept. 8. The Patriots opened 2003 with a 31-0 loss in Buffalo before gaining revenge by the identical score in the season finale that season. It happened in 1987 against Miami, in 1981 against the Colts and in 1974 against Miami.

Devin McCourty isn’t expected to play with a concussion while Josh Boyce was ruled out with an ankle injury on Friday’s injury report.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady

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.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, New England Patriots, nfl,

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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