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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season

10.02.12 at 9:00 am ET
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Through four weeks, the Patriots have been flagged for 22 penalties (26th in the league) for a total of 173 yards (29th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
TE Rob Gronkowski: three penalties (two offensive holding, false start), 20 yards
CB Devin McCourty: two penalties (defensive holding, defensive pass interference), 32 yards
WR Julian Edelman: two penalties (false start, offensive pass interference), 15 yards
Team: two penalties (illegal formation, illegal block above the waist), 15 yards
ST Niko Koutouvides: two penalties (defensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 14 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: two penalties (defensive pass interference) 8 yards
S Steve Gregory: one penalty (personal foul), 15 yards
S Tavon Wilson: one penalty (offensive holding–punt return team), 10 yards
CB Ras-I Dowling: one penalty (defensive pass interference) 9 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive holding), 5 yards
DE Chandler Jones: one penalty (defensive offsides) 5 yards
LS Danny Aiken: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Cornerback: Four penalties for 46 yards
Specialists (punter, kicker, long snapper, kick/punt units): Four penalties for 29 yards
Tight end: Three penalties for 20 yards
Linebacker: Three penalties for 13 yards
Team: Two penalties for 15 yards
Wide receiver: Two penalties for 15 yards
Defensive line: Two penalties for 10 yards
Safety: One penalty for 15 yards
Offensive line: One penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: Four
Defensive pass interference: Four
Defensive holding: Three
Offensive holding: Three
Illegal block above the waist: Two
Defensive offsides: Two
Illegal formation: One
Personal foul: One
Encroachment: One
Offensive pass interference: One

Notes: By way of comparison, through four games last year, the Patriots had 28 penalties for 268 yards. ‘€¦ The Patriots were likely happier than any team in the league to see the regular refs back, as they were called for just one penalty on Sunday against the Bills. The last time they were flagged for just one penalty was the AFC title game last season against the Ravens (1/22/12). It’€™s also worth noting that Sunday’€™s nearly penalty-free performance comes on the heels of the 10-penalty game the previous Sunday night against Baltimore. … The one penalty that was called on New England on Sunday was offensive holding on safety Tavon Wilson, who was working on the punt return team — that’€™s why we have it labeled as a special teams penalty and not as a penalty to the safeties. … No team in the league has seen their penalty numbers fluctuate over the last two weeks like the Patriots. In the wake of the flag-filled loss to the Ravens, New England jumped from 24th in the league in total penalties against to 15th. In addition, the Patriots went from 28th in total penalty yardage lost to 20th. After Sunday’€™s disciplined victory over the Bills, New England dropped back to 26th in the league in total penalties and 29th in total yardage lost. … In what is clearly a sign the Mayans were right about the impending apocalypse, the Raiders — annually one of the most penalized teams in the league — have just 19 penalties for 143 yards (both 31st in the league).

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Fantasy Football: Week 5 waiver wire

10.02.12 at 8:52 am ET
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Now that the real four-team byes are here, I wanted to broaden the scope a little more, so you’€™ll find more players listed than usual. After all, more team needs will require more free agent options. The teams on the bye in Week 5  are the Cowboys, Lions, Raiders and Buccaneers. We get the Steelers’€™ and Colts’€™ players back.

We’€™ll have a full waiver wire posted at later today and I will be updating it up until early evening as I continue to work through the Week 4 games. And please check out our podcast that will be posted later today on Jim Hackett and I will get into this week’€™s free agent options and take a look at next week’€™s game as well.


Andy Dalton, Bengals

He continues to get it done thanks to all the talent around him. There’€™s no reason this guy should be available in any league. Snatch him up if he’€™s there.

Christian Ponder, Vikings

He was a game manager last week, but now that he has Jerome Simpson back, we think he has enough talent around him to be pretty consistent. He should be owned in all leagues.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

He’€™s been impressive. He made Brian Hartline into a star last week. He looks like a guy who should be rostered in large formats, and he can be used when he has a decent matchup. In long-term formats, he is definitely a player to own.

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans

This could be a short-term add for those who normally start Jake Locker (non-throwing shoulder injury), whom they are calling day-to-day right now. Locker is a longshot to play in Week 5. The veteran looked pretty good out there in relief of the less consistent but infinitely more athletic youngster.

Kevin Kolb, Cardinals

Kolb is really battling. We give the guy credit, and his newfound mettle may help him keep the gig all year. And the receiving talent that surrounds him gives him viability in big leagues.

Tim Tebow, Jets

The Mark Sanchez watch is on and for good reason. Tebow has upside as a starter due to his foot-point potential. He’€™s a nice add in large formats if you have issues with QB depth. He’€™s also a great add in long term leagues. He might be the Jets QB in 2013.

Brandon Weeden, Browns

Weeden has more ability than he’€™s getting credit for. He’€™s making some rookie mistakes, but it’€™s the mistakes happening around him that are really hurting him. If his receivers start hanging onto the ball, he could have some value through the bye weeks. Target him for deep leagues and long term formats only.

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Pressure Points: Which Pats defenders have done best job of getting after QB in 2012?

10.02.12 at 8:16 am ET
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Through four weeks, the Patriots have 11 quarterback hits and six sacks as a team. Based on gamebooks, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2012 season:

Quarterback hits
DE Chandler Jones: Three
LB Brandon Spikes: Two
DE Jermaine Cunningham: Two
DL Vince Wilfork: One
DE Trevor Scott: One
DE Rob Ninkovich: One
LB Dont’a Hightower: One

Jones: Two (Six yards)
Ninkovich: Two (five yards)
Cunningham: One (seven yards)
Hightower: One (zero yards)

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 5: Falcons retain crown

10.02.12 at 7:09 am ET
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For the first time in this still-young season, the No. 1-ranked team retains its crown. “Matty Ice” and the Falcons improve to 4-0 and stay atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Texans are breathing down their neck at No. 2. In an extremely close race, strength of schedule was the deciding factor in crowning the Falcons supreme for the second straight week.

The top 10 also stayed relatively the same with a few teams moving up and down. The Cardinals (6), Patriots (7) and Broncos (8) all jumped one spot.

Every team ranked 21 through 32 in last week’s rankings lost in Week 4, aside from the Colts (bye week). The 0-4 Browns maintain their spot at the bottom of the pack.

Looking ahead to Week 5 there are three games that could have a significant impact on the rankings. The Eagles will play the Steelers in the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Broncos face the Patriots, and the Chargers will take on a Saints team in search of its first win of the season.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the NFL Power Rankings.

1. (1) Falcons (4-0) ‘€” Great teams are resilient, and the Falcons proved that on Sunday. Matt Ryan didn’t flinch when he was forced to start a game-winning drive on his 1-yard line. The true measure of a team is how it performs in pressure situations, and the Falcons answered the call.

2. (2) Texans (4-0) ‘€” Week after week the Texans show why they are one of the most complete teams in football. They score the second most points per game and they give up the least amount of points on defense.

3. (3) 49ers (3-1) ‘€” Coming off a tough loss, the 49ers were out to make a statement against the Jets. They certainly didn’t disappoint. The smothering defense of the Niners completely overmatched the beleaguered Jets offense.

4. (4) Packers (2-2) ‘€” It took a game against one of the worst defenses in the league, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense finally performed at a high level. Cedric Benson certainly was a factor; he averaged close to five yards per carry. Although they won by the skin of their teeth, the Packers showed they can handle adversity and come out on top. The referees haven’t been kind to Green Bay over the last two weeks. 

5. (5) Ravens (3-1) ‘€” The Ravens survived a difficult two-game stretch in which they played New England on Sunday night and then were right back at it on Thursday against a divisional opponent. What has stood out most about the Ravens through four games is their offense. Torey Smith, Anquan Bolden and Ray Rice have made it easy for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense to average 30 points per game.

6. (7) Cardinals (4-0) ‘€” You have to give credit to the Cardinals for battling back and finding a way to win, but they still have a lot of work to do. Kevin Kolb was sacked eight times in the victory over the Dolphins.

7. (8) Patriots (2-2) ‘€” The Patriots are only going to get better as the season goes along. The league should give them their division championship T-shirts tomorrow. The AFC East is a disgrace.

8. (9) Broncos (2-2) ‘€” Peyton Mannings return to the NFL has been anything but easy. The veteran quarterback has already faced the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in this poll, plus he has to face the Patriots Sunday. Manning is being tested early and that will help him in the long run.

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Dan Koppen says there will be no added incentive when it comes to facing his old team

10.01.12 at 7:51 pm ET
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Dan Koppen says returning to Foxboro for Sunday’€™s game between the Patriots and Broncos is ‘€œgoing to be fun,’€ but when it comes to knocking off his old team, they’€™ll be no added motivation on his part this weekend.

‘€œI’€™m sure it’€™s going to be fun,’€ Koppen said on Monday when asked about facing New England on Sunday. ‘€œA little bit different, a little bit of a different view, but it’€™s still just football.

‘€œI think anytime you step on the field you’€™ve got motivation,’€ he added. ‘€œIf you don’€™t, then you’€™re in the wrong business.’€

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Koppen, who was a fifth-round pick by New England in 2003 out of Boston College, started 120 games over eight season with the Patriots before suffering a fractured ankle midway through the 2011 opener against the Dolphins. The injury landed him on season-ending IR, and after an up-and-down camp, he was released by New England on Aug. 31.

Now with the Broncos, he got into last week’€™s game against the Raiders when starter J.D. Walton went down with an ankle injury — one similar to what Koppen suffered last season. With Walton moving to injured reserve because of the injury, Koppen looks to be the Denver starter going forward.

‘€œI’€™m just fortunate to be here and be around these guys,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œIt’€™s unfortunate that it’€™s this way — you don’€™t want to see anybody get hurt. Just go out there and try to do my job, whatever the coaches ask of me.

‘€œThey’€™ve got a great group of guys here,’€ he added. ‘€œComing in from Day One, everybody’€™s been great. [I’€™m] just trying to get acclimated to what they do and how they do things. Everybody’€™s been helpful.’€

Broncos coach John Fox said it didn’€™t appear that Koppen missed a beat when he relieved Walton last Sunday.

‘€œI thought he did very well,’€ said Fox. ‘€œOne thing about NFL football is the tape is never as good as you think and it’€™s never as bad as you think. We still have a lot of improving to do. Dan with more reps in practice and a better understanding of our offense, he’€™s capable of playing better, but he did a good job kind of on the job training just getting thrown out there quickly when J.D. went down. Considering all that, he did an excellent job.’€

‘€œI’€™m pretty familiar with [the offense],’€ Koppen said. ‘€œI think it’€™s along the same lines of what we ran in New England, which helped. Just a little bit different verbiage and all that stuff. [I’€™ll] get out there this week and try to go from there.’€

Koppen is also entering rare air — he will be the only center in league history who can boast of having worked with future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

‘€œWe’€™ll worry about that afterwards,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œWe play with who’€™s out on the field. Fortunately for me, it’€™s been Tom and Peyton. We’€™ve got good players, and it’€™s all about playing together.’€

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Rob Gronkowski on the Pats offense: ‘It’s not as easy as it looks’

10.01.12 at 6:48 pm ET
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After rolling up 35 straight points and punishing the Bills defense for 45 points in the second half, it might be worth remembering that the Patriots – even without Aaron Hernandez – still have the most toys of any offense in the NFL.

As Kirk Minihane pointed out, a lot of the credit has to go to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the perfect mix of run and pass Sunday in the 52-28 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But the largest portion of the credit has to go to the players who went out and did what was asked, as Brandon Bolden put it after the game. The Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady produced the most balanced offensive single-game attack in franchise history, a history that includes some video game-like statistical seasons.

But the Patriots of 2007, 2009 and 2010 never did what the Patriots managed Sunday.

The Patriots ran the ball 40 times for 247 yards. They actually rushed four more times than they passed, as Brady was 22-of-36. But the Patriots didn’t give up on the ground attack, even when they trailed 21-7.

“We just made plays when they called our numbers,” Ridley said. “That’€™s all we can do, when they call our number we handle the plays. It’€™s all about trying to move the football, moving down the field to score.

“We worked on it hard this week in practice, and that’€™s what we do in and out of practice every week. When we mess up, we try and improve that as a team. The line did an exceptional job, and this wouldn’€™t have been done without them. It takes a team effort, with 10 other players out there to do what we did on the ground and I’€™m excited that those guys are doing work for us up front.”

In the passing game, Welker and Gronkowski overcame first-half fumbles to put up 100-yard receiving performances. They were each targeted 11 times. Welker caught nine passes for 129 yards while Gronkowski had a five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown on a wide open seam route over the middle.

“It’€™s not as easy as it looks,” Gronkowski said. “It’€™s the NFL, those guys are out there, they are great players, you got to work your butt off, you got to be going full speed in order to execute, in order to make plays. Overall, everyone just game together, chemistry, and worked hard, and things went rolling from the third quarter on.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Bill Belichick says what Peyton Manning is doing with the Broncos looks awfully familiar

10.01.12 at 5:54 pm ET
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When it comes to defending Peyton Manning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick says that it’€™s the same as it ever was.

Belichick said that what Manning is doing with his new team is very similar to what he did for several years with Indianapolis: running an offense that features two tight ends and three wide receivers. That doesn’€™t mean it’€™s any easier to defend.

‘€œHe looks good,’€ Belichick said Monday afternoon when asked about preparing for Manning, who will lead the Broncos into Gillette Stadium on Sunday for a matchup with the Patriots. ‘€œHe does a good job managing that offense: getting the ball to everybody, running it, throwing it inside, throwing it outside. All the things, they have a lot of weapons.

‘€œYou have to be careful about giving him opportunities because he’€™ll usually find them. We have to do a good job of disguising and keeping him off balance and trying to make him figure it out after the snap or as late as possible. You certainly don’€™t want to just show it to him too many times and let him take a run at it.’€

Belichick said that he’€™s not surprised that Manning — who threw for three touchdowns in a Sunday win over the Raiders — was able to pick right up after missing the entire 2011 season because of a neck injury.

‘€œI’€™m not that surprised,’€ Belichick said of Manning, who has eight touchdown passes and 1,162 yards through four games with the Broncos. ‘€œHe’€™s a pretty smart guy, he’€™s got a lot of experience, he’€™s got good skills. There have been a number of other players that have missed a year with an injury, whatever it happened to be, come back the next year and been able to play at a high level. It’€™s about what I would have expected him to be at.

‘€œHe’€™s an impact player for whatever team he’€™s on,’€ Belichick added. ‘€œI’€™m not saying that I’€™m really excited about having to face him again, but you have to play somebody. Everybody is good in this league. Everybody has good skills, good players, good coaches, good teams. It’€™s out of our control, whoever it is, it is. It’€™s [been] great, competitive with Denver and with Peyton and now those two have kind of combined, so I guess that’€™s good. But I can’€™t say this is the quarterback you really want to face. He’€™s pretty good. He does a good job.’€

Here are a few other highlights from Belichick’€™s Q&A with the media Monday afternoon:
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