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Tom Brady back at practice, but limited

11.18.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Quarterback Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday, but was still limited. Here’€™s the rest of the Patriots injury report for Thursday.

Did Not Practice
S Jarrad Page (calf)
DT Myron Pryor (back)

Limited Participation in Practice
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
G Stephen Neal (shoulder)
RB Fred Taylor (toe)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip)

Read More: injury report, Patriots, Tom Brady,

Timing is everything… if you want to get to Peyton Manning

11.18.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Tully Banta-Cain are justifiably feeling more confident about the ability of he and his teammates to get to the quarterback.

After a season of listening to critics question whether the Patriots would or could ever pressure the QB, the Patriots put up five sacks last week against the hardest quarterback in the league to bring down – Ben Roethlisberger.

Peyton Manning is somewhat slighter in build but a lot harder to get to the ground for one reason – he almost never lets you get to him. He has a lightning-quick release and knows how to dump the ball off and take his chances on the next snap. In the 2008 and 2009, Manning was sacked 10 and 14 times, respectively. This year -through nine games – that number is already up to 12, the highest mark through nine games since he was dumped 21 times in 2007. Before that you have to go back to the 2002 season for the last time he was sacked 20 or more times in a season.

But talk to those on the Patriots defense and they’ll tell you if you don’t want No. 18 rip you to shreds, you better disrupt his timing.

“Because he’s very smart and because he knows whatever you’re in [defensively], he knows what can hurt that,” Pats linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. “He’s a great quarterback. Anytime you can affect his timing, it’s going to be good for you in that game.

“He’s always had a good offensive line and he knows when to get the ball out. Anytime he’s got pressure, you always see him throwing the ball off to an open receiver because he knows who’s going to be open and he knows every route that going to be run so he can go through his progression and throw to somebody who’s open.”

Jerod Mayo, as a middle linebacker, is pretty much in the cross hairs before each Manning snap.

“His pre-snap reads are amazing,” Mayo said. “He pretty much knows what’s going on before he snaps the ball. It’s very difficult. He studies a lot of film. He’s a great quarterback. We have to try, we have to try.”

Keep Manning from getting into a rhythm on the field and you slow down the machine that is the Colts offense. The rhythm and timing is one big reason why the Colts have been able to lose weapons like Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Addai to injury and not miss much.

“He’s a tough quarterback to try to confuse,” Banta-Cain said. “He’ll confuse you more than you’ll confuse him. He’s a guy you try to do your best to disguise stuff but he’s really good at what he does and picking out coverages.

“You can try but it’s still one of those things where you have tight coverage, good pass rush and hope you disrupt the play somehow.”

The Colts come to Foxboro with a 6-3 mark, thanks in large part to Manning’s ability to effectively use replacements like Austin Collie, Jacob Tamme and Donald Brown. Now, Collie is likely going to miss his second straight game after suffering a concussion in a violent collision in Philadelphia on Nov. 7.

But the Patriots don’t think that will slow down Manning and what he hopes to accomplish at Gillette on Sunday.

“They’re still doing the same things. Tamme’s done a great job coming in when Dallas Clark went down and those guys on the outside as well,” Mayo said.

Those guys on the outside are none other than Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. Wayne leads the Colts in catches (63) and yards receiving (758) while Garcon is having another solid season with 28 grabs but only one TD.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, nfl

The Big Nickel: Tom Brady back at practice, Jonathan Crompton on ‘Being Peyton Manning’

11.18.10 at 2:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday.

1. As expected, Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday, at least for the first 10 or so minutes of the session that were open to the media. Brady, who missed Wednesday’s practice with what was listed on the injury report as a foot problem, was not in the locker room during media availability, but went through the stretches and drills with the rest of the team at the start of practice. He did not appear to be hindered in any fashion. The injury report will be released at 4 p.m., and that should tell us if he was limited in any way.

2. Being Peyton Manning. Practice squad quarterback Jonathan Crompton said on Thursday that he and backup Brian Hoyer have been splitting duties working as Peyton Manning in practice this week, trying to prepare New England’€™s starting defense for the Indy quarterback. Hoyer has apparently been working in no-huddle sets and Crompton handling the other duties.

It’€™s a job that Crompton, a rookie out of Tennessee, is taking seriously.

‘€œWe just have to study and give our defense the best look we can. I know Brian does a real tremendous job with that, and so I’€™m just going out there and the both of us are just doing the best we can,’€ said Crompton. ‘€œThe biggest thing is that you’€™ve got to know how to handle your job. That’€™s my role on the team right now, and I’€™ve got to do the best I can.

Giving the starting defense a reasonable facsimile of Manning is the sort of thing that goes a long way around Foxboro: In the days leading up to the 2003 AFC Championship Game, former backup Damon Huard did such a good job that he was singled out by coach Bill Belichick after the game, and he received a game ball for his efforts.

3. It’€™s still really hard to sack Peyton Manning. While the Indy quarterback is a stat-producing machine, one of the most intriguing numbers are his sack totals. In 201 games and out of 6,917 pass attempts over the course of his career, the Colts quarterback has been dropped only 227 times. That equates to one sack every 30.47 passes attempts, an extraordinarily low number for a pocket quarterback like Manning. No quarterback has been sacked fewer times than Peyton Manning since the NFL started keeping official track of the statistic.

This season, Manning has been sacked 12 times through nine games. While that number is relatively high for the Colts quarterback, it remains one of the lowest figures in the league among starting signal-callers. Why is it so hard to bring Manning down?

‘€œYou have to give his line credit ‘€” he’€™s always had a good offensive line. And he knows when to get the ball out,’€ said outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. ‘€œAny time you’€™ve got pressure, you always see him throwing the ball off to an open receiver because he knows who’€™s going to be open and he knows every route that’€™s being run. So he can go through his progression quickly and throw the ball to somebody who’€™s open.’€

[Click here to read more about what the Patriots plan to do to Manning this weekend to get him off his game.]

‘€œHis pre-snap reads are amazing. He pretty much knows what’€™s going on before he even snaps the ball,’€ said inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, who got his first career sack against Manning last November. ‘€œThat’€™s the tough part.’€

The Patriots’€™ pass rush has been inconsistent since the start of the season ‘€” through nine games, they have 18 sacks, tied for 19th overall ‘€” but they did come away with five sacks last week against the Steelers. Can any of that performance carry over this week against Manning and the Colts?

‘€œWe just have to keep moving in the right direction,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œThere was a little hiccup in the road against the Cleveland Browns, but the four weeks previous to that, we were going in the right direction. Like I said earlier this year, we have a young defense and we’€™re trying to get better.’€
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Read More: Bill Polian, Bob Kravitz, Brian Hoyer, Dallas Clark

Tom Brady back at practice

11.18.10 at 1:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As was the case last week, Tom Brady returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday to rest his ailing foot. Brady said during a national conference on Wednesday afternoon that he was “doing well” and was looking forward to playing on Sunday against the Colts.

Jarrad Page (calf) and Myron Pryor (back) were both missing for the open portion of practice as the Patriots worked out in sweats and shells on the upper grass fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady

Bob Kravitz on D&C: Peyton Manning ‘doesn’t have any weapons’

11.18.10 at 9:12 am ET
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Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz called in to the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to discuss Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Colts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Kravitz said Colts fans are resigned to the fact that their injury-depleted team, despite being 6-3 and leading the AFC South, faces a difficult challenge in Foxboro.

“I think there’s a feeling, especially around here, that this team is just trying to hold on for dear life until guys come back and are healthy,” Kravitz said. “I think people around here are sort of ready to take their lumps against New England and just hope they can hang on long enough to get some guys back and make a run at the playoffs.”

Kravitz said it wouldn’t be fair to assign blame to Peyton Manning for any offensive struggles, as the veteran quarterback can’t do it all by himself. “I think he’s been as good as he’s ever been for the most part,” Kravitz said. “He just doesn’t have anything around him. This offensive line is just not good. They made some changes in the offseason, and none of the people they brought in even made it out of training camp. [Joseph] Addai‘s been hurt. You figure it out, you lost [Austin] Collie, you lost [Anthony] Gonzalez, you lost Dallas Clark. Pierre Garcon may as well be hurt, because he’s been useless. So, he just doesn’t have any weapons at this point.

“When he did have a full complement of weapons early in the season, he was very, very good. The last couple of games he’s been ordinary. And I think we’re finding out as good as he is, when you take away all his toys, he’s just not a great quarterback.”

Kravitz said it won’t be a surprise to see the Patriots employ the strategy of controlling the ball to keep Manning off the field. Said Kravitz: “The story with the Colts is the story since the beginning of time, it seems: If you can run the ball on them, you win. The three teams that have beaten them ‘€” Jacksonville, Houston and Philly ‘€” all ran the ball very effectively, kept Peyton on the sideline and won their games. So, I think the formula is the same as it’s always been.”

Read More: Bob Kravitz, Peyton Manning,

Week 11 fantasy football starts

11.18.10 at 8:33 am ET
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As Week 11 approaches and the race for the fantasy playoffs heat up, many owners may find themselves trapped in the middle of the pack, feeling oddly similar to this lady. But, as all your friends laugh at you, defy the odds. Get out of this ditch. Plug a fresh face into your lineup that can propel your team out of this hole and onto the road to fantasy fortune. And, for God’s sake,  don’t give up and cry out, “I’m going to have a seizure!” Your pathetic excuse will only cause more torture.

Below are some slightly obscure names that I expect to tear it up, based off of matchup analysis. Sure, anyone could tell you that Drew Brees will light up the 28th-ranked Seahawks pass defense, or that Frank Gore will run wild against a Tampa Bay rush defense that allows the second most yards per game (143.8). But I’m here to reveal the less obvious players, ones that are likely available in your league either via waivers or a cheap trade, that I think can put up equal or more points than the big names.

Without further ado, here are some players I think can help you avoid the same fate as our friend in the ditch.


Note: There are many viable options this week, as plenty of juicy matchups await many unheralded quarterbacks. While time and space only allow analysis for two, consider any of the options listed as a strong play. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them finish in the top 10 this week in fantasy points.

Mark Sanchez (Jets) vs. Texans

It’s almost become too easy. Stream start whichever quarterback faces Houston’s atrocious secondary, gain 20-plus fantasy points, rinse, repeat. Last week against the Jags was really just the epitome of this unit, as the Texans vaulted my predictions of David Garrard and Mike Thomas from mildly useful to elite starts in the game’s final seconds. If you haven’t seen the Texans’ defensive stats, check out last week’s column, as the Jaguars only validated and added to those shockingly bad numbers.

Next up to bat is Mark Sanchez. The Sanchize has posted back-to-back 20-point-plus efforts, and that trend should continue this week. Though his decision-making remains questionable, Sanchez’s rocket arm and loaded cast of deep threats are a perfect fit against a Texans secondary that has surrendered the most plays of 40-plus yards (11). Expect at least one deep touchdown, another one or two short scores, and bundles of yardage for the sophomore signal-caller. Yes, even this guy can roast a defense as bad as this.

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Read More: Fantasy Football, Mark Sanchez, Rumor Mill, Vince Young

After missing practice, Tom Brady says ‘I’m doing well’

11.17.10 at 8:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Despite the fact that he missed practice Wednesday because of injury, quarterback Tom Brady expressed confidence that he’€™ll be good to go for this Sunday’€™s game against the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

After he missed his second consecutive Wednesday practice with what was described on the injury report as ‘€œright shoulder/foot,’€ Brady spoke to reporters on a national conference call. He was asked, ‘€œYou were not seen in the media portion of practice today. Can you talk about how you’€™ve been doing lately and how you’€™re feeling?’€

‘€œI’€™m doing well. I’€™m doing well,’€ Brady responded. ‘€œI’€™m looking forward to the game this weekend.’€

Brady missed practice last Wednesday and was limited in the days leading up to the Sunday night game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh because of the same injury. In that contest, he showed no ill effects of the reported foot sprain, lighting up the Steelers by going 30-for-43 for 350 yards, three touchdowns and no sacks or interceptions.

Read More: Tom Brady,
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