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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

10.12.10 at 12:29 pm ET
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The 1972 Dolphins can rest easy. Parity rules in the NFL and for the first time since 1970, there are no 4-0 teams. However, there are some teams that are finally starting to pull away and look like the league’s best. For the second straight week, the Baltimore Ravens are No. 1, the New York Jets are No. 2, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are No. 3 in WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings. The Ravens have three big road wins, two against divisional opponents, and they look like the most complete team in the NFL. The Jets are enjoying a 3-0 record in the AFC East and are playing well in all three phases of the game.

After a long run, the Saints fall out of the top five to No. 7. Drew Brees has thrown five interceptions already and is certainly feeling the effects of a weak running game. The Giants squeeze into the top ten at No. 9 after back-to-back wins and a defensive line that has looked dynamic.

The Cowboys drop all the way to No. 20 after another mistake-ridden game. Wade Phillips and Dallas’ coaching staff have done a horrendous job to this point. Dallas has yet to win at home in 2010. Another underachieving team is the Cincinnati Bengals. After an amazing 2009 season, the Bengals have been awful this season and are going into Week 6 having suffered back-to-back losses to the Browns and Bucs.

The Panthers and the Bills remain winless and in the cellar.

1. (Last week, 1) 4-1 The dual rushing attack of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, complemented by a relentless defense, has the Ravens atop the NFL as the best team in the league.

New York Jets2. (2) 4-1 Through five weeks, this Jets team looks as good as advertised. The Jets have posted a takeaway-giveaway differential of 11; that leads the league. This team has turned the ball over just once this season. Meanwhile, quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown zero interceptions. Last year, he had 20.

Pittsburgh Steelers 3. (3) 3-1 The Steelers will be licking their chops Sunday when a rookie quarterback will lead a struggling offense into Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s defense is one of the best in the league and with Ben Roethlisberger returning, the Steelers are in great position to do some damage as the season progresses.

4. (5) 4-1 The first-place Atlanta Falcons have put together a nice winning streak after losing in Week 1 to the Steelers. One of the keys to Atlanta’s success has been scoring points off their takeaways. The team’s rushing attack, led by Michael Turner, is second only to the New York Jets.

5. (8) 3-2 The Colts proved they can win without Peyton Manning having a Peyton Manning-like game. Against the Chiefs, it was Indy’s defense that stepped up in the red zone. The Colts also allowed just a field goal following a Manning interception that put Kansas City in great field position.

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Transcript of Tom Brady interview with D&C

10.12.10 at 7:33 am ET
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Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning and made his first public comments since the Patriots traded Randy Moss to the Vikings last week.

Brady denied the report of a confrontation with Moss, saying: “I love the guy as a person, as a player. I don’t think I’ve ever had an altercation with a teammate. I think you command a certain level of respect in the locker room. I think that’s the culture of our team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any players in our locker room fight. That’s just not the way it is.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Is Charley Casserley’s report true? Did you and Randy go toe-to-toe, have to be separated and eventually exchange some grooming insults?

No, certainly not. I don’t know why these things come about, but they do. I think it’s just a competitive media culture out there now. There’s certainly, between Randy and I — I love the guy as a person, as a player. I don’t think I’ve ever had an altercation with a teammate. I think you command a certain level of respect in the locker room. I think that’s the culture of our team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any players in our locker room fight. That’s just not the way it is.

Based on the evolution of this offense, do you suspect that was a problem in Randy’s mind, in that he was becoming more of a decoy and less of a deep threat?

Well, I have no idea. I really don’t. With all due respect [to] all the different questions I’m sure you guys have about Randy, he’s moved on. He played for another team last night. And we’ve moved on. We had two practices last week and we’re prepared to move on as we always have. And that doesn’t diminish anything that he’s done or has accomplished for our team, because he’s obviously an exceptional player. But we’ve got a season to play. Really, what happened last week in my mind has come and gone. We’ve got to prepare for our toughest test of the season coming up.

How can the offense be just as effective or more effective when you lost the best deep threat the NFL has ever seen?

I’d say that’s a great question. And that remains to be seen with our offense. I can tell you 20 different ways, but we’ve got to go out there and do it. I don’t think there’s any one solution. You just don’t replace a guy with Randy’s talent and ability down the field. You replace it with maybe using the strengths of other players. So, Randy certainly has his strengths. Wes [Welker] has his strengths. The tight ends have their strengths. I think it’s up to the coaching staff when you game plan to determine what your players do the best, and those are the things that you ultimately do.

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Read More: Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady

Tom Brady on D&C: Charley Casserly report ‘certainly not’ accurate

10.12.10 at 7:20 am ET
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Tom Brady said that he had no say in either the Randy Moss or Deion Branch trades. (AP)

Tom Brady said that he had no say in either the Randy Moss or Deion Branch trades. (AP)

During his weekly appearance with the Dennis & Callahan Show, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the report by CBS NFL analyst Charley Casserly that the QB had a heated confrontation with Randy Moss prior to the trade of the wide receiver wasn’t accurate.

“No, certainly not. I don’t know why these things come about, but they do. I think it’s just a competitive media culture out there now,” said Brady. “I love [Moss] as a person, as a player. I don’t think I’ve ever had an altercation with a teammate. I think you command a certain level of respect in the locker room. I think that’s the culture of our team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any players in our locker room fight. That’s just not the way it is.”

Brady later continued, attempting to move on from the conversation regarding Moss, “He’s moved on. He played for another team last night. And we’ve moved on. We had two practices last week and we’re prepared to move on as we always have. And that doesn’t diminish anything that he’s done or has accomplished for our team, because he’s obviously an exceptional player. But we’ve got a season to play. Really, what happened last week in my mind has come and gone. We’ve got to prepare for our toughest test of the season coming up [against Baltimore].”

Brady explained that he was not consulted when the Patriots traded Moss to Minnesota, saying, “Certainly not. I’m a player on this team. I’m just like all the other players.”

The quarterback, who said he watched the first quarter of the Jets victory over Moss’ Vikings Monday night, wouldn’t divulge what he wrote in the text message the wide receiver mentioned after his new team’s loss, only commenting, “That’s between he and I. Like I said, he’s something special. He certainly will be missed, but we’ve go to move on.”

Brady said he couldn’t give specific examples how the offense might change without Moss, but insisted that the Patriots will still take their fair share of shots down the field.

“I still think we have a lot of confidence that we can move the football … I think we still have some explosive players in the passing game, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.” he explained.

Brady — who said he never had a conversation with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick about potentially acquiring wideout Deion Branch — later went on to say, “I don’t think we’ve ever been gun-shy about taking shots down the field … It’s not like we’re going to throw three-yard passes all day. That’s not our offense.”

As for how much work Branch had cut out for him prior to the Patriots’ game against the Ravens Sunday, Brady commented, “I’m not sure how much Deion has retained over the years. Deion is a very smart player. He is going to certainly have his work cut out for him. I would say things aren’t exactly the way they were when he left … I’m sure there will be a pretty steep learning curve for him.”

Regarding the Patriots’ next opponent, Baltimore, Brady called the Ravens’ victory over the Pats in the playoff game last season as “probably the worst beating we’ve had in a long time.” But he then defended New England’s chances, pointing out, “If you guys don’t think we can do any better than that, then maybe you guys shouldn’t watch. I certainly think we can do better.”

For more Patriots coverage, see the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Charley Casserly, Deion Branch, Randy Moss, Tom Brady

Video: Remembering the communication between Brady and Branch

10.11.10 at 11:39 pm ET
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A few years ago, Steve Kroft and “60 Minutes” paid a visit to Foxboro for a feature on Tom Brady, and they took a look at the extraordinary communication level between Brady and Deion Branch. Check it out:

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What the return of Deion Branch means for the Patriots

10.11.10 at 11:04 pm ET
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Deion Branch returns to New England. (AP)

The return of Deion Branch provides another trusted set of hands in the Patriots’ passing game for Tom Brady, and will also allow New England’s younger receivers another year or two to mature in the system.

The 31-year-old Branch, who was taken by the Patriots in the second round of the 2002 draft and spent four seasons in New England, started slowly but quickly became a dependable presence in the Patriots’ passing game. After caching 43 and 57 balls his first two seasons with New England, he came of age in his third season. He had 35 receptions in the regular season that year, but had an 11-catch, 133-yard performance in Super Bowl XXXIX, earning him MVP honors and allowing him to be included in the conversation as one of the best young receivers in the league.

(That Super Bowl performance also cemented his rep as a big-game receiver — he also caught 10 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in a Super Bowl XXXVIII win over Carolina, and his 21 receptions in those 2 games is an NFL record for reception in consecutive Super Bowls and the third highest total of career Super Bowl receptions by a single player.)

The 5-foot-9, 193-pounder was now ensconced as New England’s No. 1 receiver, and caught 78 balls for 998 yards and five touchdowns in 2005. But unhappy with his contract situation the following season, Branch sat out, and forced a trade to Seattle for a first-round pick in the 2007 draft, a choice that was eventually used on safety Brandon Meriweather.

Branch’s departure was bitter, and was a difficult pill to swallow in the New England locker room.

“I don’t think any of us envisioned something like this happening,” said former teammate Richard Seymour after the trade was announced. “It took the air out of me. It really did. When you look at Deion Branch, he embodies everything we want in a football player. Everything we talk about, the kind of guy we want on this football team, he did as good a job as anybody of embodying that.”

Now, after five seasons in Seattle, Branch returns to his roots. He joins a New England receiving corps that has Wes Welker, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price and Matthew Slater. While there won’t be a traditional No .1 receiver like with Moss, the Patriots’ receiving corps will likely look an awful lot like it did through the earlier part of the decade — without a traditional big-play threat, New England will instead look to utilize more two tight end sets in an attempt to utilize short and intermediate routes in the passing game.

As for expectations this season, Branch — who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since leaving the Patriots — has dealt with his share of injuries, but has been a dependable presence this year for Seattle. According to Brian McIntyre of “Mac’s Football Blog,” he was in on 83 percent (186 of the 224 offensive snaps) of the Seahawks’ offensive plays this season, and had 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown through four games this year. That, combined with his pre-existing knowledge of the New England’s intricate passing game, should allow him to step in and contribute immediately to the Patriots’ offense.

While his presence will cut into the playing time of some of New England’s younger receivers (namely Tate and Price), it buys some time for the Patriots’ younger receivers to continue to develop within the system. What he isn’t is a deep threat in the mold of Moss: His yards per catch average has steadily declined the last three-plus years, going from 13.7 in 2008 to 8.6 this season. (His career-high was 14.1 with the Patriots in 2003.)

Branch is signed through the 2011 season, and the Patriots are now responsible for almost $4 million in base salary this season, as well as the the  2011 season, for which he is owed$5.95 million in base salary.

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Report: Branch dealt to Patriots for fourth-rounder

10.11.10 at 9:25 pm ET
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The Patriots have acquired wide receiver Deion Branch for a fourth-round draft pick in 2011, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Branch, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2002 out of Louisville, spent the first four years of his career with New England and developed a tight bond with quarterback Tom Brady. He had 213 catches in four seasons in New England, and finished Super Bowl XXXIX with 11 catches to take home MVP honors in the Patriots’ win over Philadelphia.

However, Branch and the Patriots became embroiled in a contract dispute, and New England shipped Branch to Seattle for a first-round pick in the 2007 draft. But the recent trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings clearly opened up a slot for Branch to return to the Patriots.

The 31-year-old has 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown through four games with the Seahawks this season.

Read More: Deion Branch, Randy Moss, Tom Brady,

Branch’s absence from practice fuels trade speculation

10.11.10 at 8:26 pm ET
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Deion Branch spent four seasons with the Patriots. (AP)

Time to crank up those Deion Branch trade rumors again.

The former Patriot and current Seattle wide receiver missed Monday’s practice to take a personal day off, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who said the expectation is that Branch will be with the team Wednesday when the Seahawks begin game planning for Sunday’s game against Chicago.

But even an excused absence is enough to raise eyebrows when it comes to the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Branch, who has been the subject of trade rumors that could bring him back to New England sooner rather than later.

Branch, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2002 out of Louisville, spent the first four years of his career with New England and developed a tight bond with quarterback Tom Brady. (He had 213 catches in four seasons in New England, and finished Super Bowl XXXIX with 11 catches to take home MVP honors in the Patriots’ win over Philadelphia.)

Branch and the Patriots became embroiled in a contract dispute, and New England shipped Branch to Seattle for a first-round pick in 2006. However, the recent trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings could open up a slot for Branch to return to the Patriots.

The 31-year-old has 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown through four games with the Seahawks this season.

Branch was at Louisville over the weekend — his No. 9 jersey was placed in the Ring of Honor before the second quarter of Saturday’s 56-0 blowout victory over Memphis. He was asked by the Louisville Courier-Journal about his NFL future.

“I’m going to leave that to the people that handle that,” Branch said. “Right now I’m still a Seattle Seahawk, and whatever happens happens.”

Read More: Deion Branch, Pete Carroll, Randy Moss, Tom Brady
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