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Why Wes Welker feels optimistic

10.17.10 at 12:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — We’re about to find out just how different life is for Wes Welker without Randy Moss.

Welker heads into today’s game with all eyes focused on him. Coaches, fans and most of all, the defensive backfield of the Baltimore Ravens.

But Welker believes he is prepared to handle the added pressure with Moss now in Minnesota and Deion Branch still re-learning what the ‘Patriot Way’ is all about.

“I think we’ve adjusted real well,” Welker said this week. “We’ve had a pretty good week of practice and Deion’s come in and done really well in practice, picked up the offense really well. A lot of the stuff is the same as when he was here but a lot of things are different, too.”

Branch, of course was a Tom Brady favorite and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP.

“Tom’s talked about him forever so I knew about him for a long time, how much he loved having Deion out there,” Welker said. “They seem to have that same connection they had, that same chemistry. It’s great to have him back out there to help us win games.”

However many passes Branch catches and however many times he is targeted, Welker will be the one asked to make adjustments.

“I’m sure maybe a little bit different but we’ll just see what happens,” Welker said. “But that’s what adjustments are for and coming out there and seeing what they’re doing and making the adjustments off that.

“There’s always a new wrinkle here and there every year so you just have to be ready for everything and make the adjustments as you go.”

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Deion Branch, minnesota vikings, New England Patriots

Brady: Pats better without Moss is ‘foolish’

10.17.10 at 11:50 am ET
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FOXBORO – Tom Brady sat down for an interview Sunday with Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network and gave his thoughts on the CBS report from last week that suggested he and Randy Moss had an altercation in the locker room a week before the wideout was dealt to Minnesota. Charlie Casserly reported that Brady had criticized Moss’ beard and Moss had in turn made fun of the quarterback’s hair.

“There was nothing to that [report],” Brady said. “That sounds like little girl games that little girls play. We are both big boys and that’s not the way it works here.”

Brady was also asked about the loss of Moss and how it will affect the Patriots on the field.

“You don’t lose Randy and say we’re better,” Brady said. “I’d be foolish to say that.”

Pats-Ravens Inactives: Sanders out for Pats

10.17.10 at 11:49 am ET
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FOXBORO — Safety James Sanders has been ruled out of today’s game against Baltimore with an ailing hamstring, an injury that limited him in practice this week.

The full list of inactives include running back Thomas Clayton, offensive linemen Mark LeVoir and Rich Ohrnberger, defensive lineman Kyle Love, wide receiver Taylor Price, running back Fred Taylor and cornerback Tyrone Wheatley.

Taylor is missing his second straight game with a toe injury and was ruled out on Friday.

The Ravens inactives include former Patriots wide receiver Dante Stallworth, cornerback Josh Wilson, linebacker Tavares Gooden, offensive lineman Scott Kooistra, nose tackle Arthur Jones, offensive lineman Jared Gaither, defensive tackle Lamar Divens and linebacker Paul Kruger.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Fred Taylor, James Sanders, New England Patriots

Inactive analysis for Patriots

10.17.10 at 11:47 am ET
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FOXBORO — The following players are inactives for Sunday’s game: running back Thomas Clayton, offensive lineman Mark LeVoir, defensive lineman Kyle Love, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, wide receiver Taylor Price, safety James Sanders, running back Fred Taylor and cornerback Terrence Wheatley.

While Love, Ohrnberger, Price, Taylor and Wheatley are no surprises — either victim of numbers or, in the case of the Taylor (toe), Sanders (hamstring) or Wheatley (foot), injuries — the loss of LeVoir leaves the Patriots a little thin at the tackle spot, and likely means more playing time for versatile veteran Quinn Ojinnaka. The Sanders injury should also mean more playing time for safety Jarrad Page, a veteran who has impressed in the relatively small amount of playing time he’s received so far.

Read More: inactive analysis, Patriots,

Patriots vs. Ravens: Setting the Scene

10.17.10 at 10:22 am ET
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FOXBORO — Today figures to be the chilliest day of the year – so far –  for a Patriots game at Gillette as the 3-1 Patriots look to keep pace with the 4-1 Jets atop the AFC East.

Big Vince ready for a big day against Ravens.

Big Vince ready for a big day against Ravens.

The opponent is another 4-1 team, considered a Super Bowl favorite, the Baltimore Ravens.

Temperatures are expected in the lower 60s with sunny skies and a breeze out of the west. That’s a far cry from one year ago this weekend when the Patriots beat the Titans, 59-0, in a freak snow storm in New England.

The Patriots have started the season with three wins in their first four games for the fifth straight year, the only NFL team to accomplish that feat.

The Patriots are an amazing 13-2 against AFC North teams in the regular season since the eight-division format was adopted in 2002. Their only losses are against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 2004 and 2008. The Pats are already 1-0 against the AFC’s black and blue division this season, as they beat the overmatched Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24, on opening day.

While everyone recalls last January’s 33-14 debacle at Gillette, the Patriots have never lost to the Ravens in the regular season, going 5-0, including a 27-21 win last October at Gillette.

The Patriots, of course, are playing their first game since trading away Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and acquiring Deion Branch from Seattle earlier this week.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Deion Branch, Fred Taylor, New England Patriots

McCourty continues to make the grade

10.16.10 at 12:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick may have been mightily impressed with Devin McCourty when the two went over his film during a pre-draft interview last spring. But to McCourty, the rookie Patriots cornerback, it felt much bigger than any college exam he ever took at Rutgers.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking, not sure what he was looking at and how he was evaluating and just going through that whole process. You’re just hoping that he’s watching the film and liking what he sees,” McCourty said. “Just answering questions, it was just a privilege sitting there with him watching film.

“I had some mistakes on there and then he would ask me, ‘What did you do wrong,’ and ask me certain questions so I remember calling my agent and he asked me how it went. I wasn’t sure.”

In other words, McCourty felt like anyone else who ever went into an exam prepared, took the test but really didn’t have a clue how well he did.

“All the meetings and all the draft process felt like an exam.”

Then he was taken by the Patriots in the first round in April, 27th overall. It’s safe to say he passed Belichick’s first exam with flying colors.

Earlier this week, Belichick put McCourty in the same class as Ray Lewis when it came to the ability to break down film prior to turning pro. Belichick said that the rookie out of Rutgers has a special knack for not only understanding his responsibilities but how his position fits in with the rest of his teammates on the field.

“McCourty was one for sure,” Belichick said of the list of players who have impressed him during film sessions before a draft. “Guys start telling you what the nose is supposed to do on a particular stunt when he’s playing corner and stuff like that. Usually you don’t get that.

“I’d say Devin was a guy, sitting down with him…and I know a little bit about that scheme from [Rutgers] coach [Greg] Schiano and what they do and so forth, so you kind of [say], ‘What’s this guy doing? What’s that guy doing?’ and kind of keep going and say, ‘Well, alright, so he understands what the linebackers are doing. He understands a couple adjustments. OK, now what about this?’”

McCourty redshirted his first season at Rutgers in 2005, giving him an extra year of experience and film study that helped him make the grade as a prospective pro. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Greg Schiano

Nuggetpalooza’s Around the NFL – Week Six

10.16.10 at 9:14 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small3Here’s a slew of statistical observations from around the league as we head into Week 6:

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NFL:

* – There has not been a shutout yet in the NFL this season, making this just the third season since 1990 without a shutout in the first five weeks. The first shutout in 1997 and 2005 came in Week 8.

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Seahawks at Bears

* – Seattle rushers have lost yardage on 15.1 percent of their attempts this season, the highest percentage in the NFL.

* – Why do Bears’ fans want Cutler back quickly? Last Sunday, Todd Collins threw just 47.4 percent catchable balls, the worst mark in the league last week.

* – The Panthers blitzed the Bears on ten pass plays last Sunday. The results? 18 yards passing and 22 yards lost on sacks, for a net of minus four yards.

* – The Bears have just five passing first downs over the last two weeks, tied for the fewest in the NFL over two consecutive games since San Francisco managed just three over two games in 2005.

* – Since converting 6-of-11 third downs in Week 1, Chicago has converted only 7-of-48 opportunities (15 percent) over their last four games. No other team has converted less than 27 percent in that span.

* – Seattle leads the NFL in kickoff return average (37.8) while the Bears are fifth (28.7). Last week, all three returns by the Bears went for 30 yards or more.

* – The Bears are averaging just 3.3 points per red zone drive this year (second worst) while the Seahawks are allowing 3.3 such points (third best).

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Jets at Broncos

* – So far in 2010, Denver has completed 54 percent of their passes against opponent blitzes this season (ranked 24th) and 72 percent when there is no blitz (first). So why wouldn’t opponents blitz the Broncos more than 32 percent of the time (21st)?  Well, that shouldn’t be an issue on Sunday as the Jets blitz FAR more than any team in the league.

* – Denver has been excellent this season at utilizing their wide receivers for catches behind the line of scrimmage. They have 16 such completions (league high) and are averaging 11.3 YAC yards on those plays (league high; minimum four such completions).

* – Jets’ opponents are 3-for-11 on pass attempts of 30 or more air yards this season (27 percent). They went just 3-for-38 on those passes for the 2008 and 2009 seasons combined (8 percent). Note that the Broncos went 2-for-2 on those throws last week against Baltimore.

* – Denver’s defense has allowed “success” on first down (gains of four or more yards) just 38 percent of the time this season, the best percentage in the league.

* – The Jets have allowed 11 conversions on third-and-very long (ten yards or more) already this season (the most in the league) equating to a 40.7 percent conversion rate (second worst). Denver’s offense has converted just 2-of-22 (9 percent) of those chances.

* – The Jets lead the league in net starting field position (+9.3 yards). They rank second in starting field position (34.8) and first in opponent starting field position (25.5).

* – The Broncos managed only one rushing first down last week, making this the third consecutive season where Denver has had at least one game with one or no rushing first downs. Prior to the start of the 2008 season, they went 113 straight games with two or more such first downs.

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Dolphins at Packers

* – The Dolphins and Packers are the only NFL teams that have yet to take an offsides penalty this season.

* – Packers’ receivers had a league high six drops last week. They had just three over the season’s first four weeks.

* – Only 24 percent of Miami’s passing yards have come on pass plays of 20 or more yards, the lowest percentage in the league.

* – Green Bay allowed five first downs last week via penalty, the fourth time in their last 16 games that they’ve done so. Compare that to the longest current streaks without allowing five or more penalty first downs in a game:

143 – Seattle
121 – Denver
114 – Buffalo

* – Miami ranks last in the league in net starting field position (-7.3 yards), thanks mainly to their dismal average offensive starting position (24.4 yard line). It hasn’t helped that the Dolphins are last in average kickoff return allowed (35.8) as 40 percent of opponent returns have gone for 30 or more yards.

* – Green Bay attempted only six rushing plays in the first half last Sunday, the fewest in the league. Boy, they appear to really be missing Ryan Grant.

—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

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