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Dont’a Hightower, James White final 2 Patriots inactives vs. Buffalo

10.12.14 at 11:36 am ET
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — After testing out his injured knee on the field pregame, Dont’a Hightower was ruled out for Sunday’s game with the Bills along with running back James White. It is the second straight game Hightower has missed.

The Patriots had already ruled out offensive linemen Cameron Fleming (finger) and Bryan Stork (concussion), safety Nate Ebner (finger), cornerback Brandon Browner (ankle) and defensive lineman Dominique Easley (shoulder/knee).

For the Bills, their inactives are: wide receivers Mike Williams and Marcus Easley, safety Aaron Williams, cornerback Ross Cockwell, running back Bryce Brown, linebacker Randell Jackson and tackle Cyres Kouandijo.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Will this photo fire up the Patriots?

10.12.14 at 10:16 am ET
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bill Belichick has been known to use a newspaper clipping in his day to fire up his team.

The Buffalo News gave the Patriots’ head coach some ammunition if he so chooses for the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Sunday’s editions of the Buffalo News have a picture of Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady on its sports section, with a question as a caption: “A Fading Dynasty?”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Tom Brady

Setting the scene: Tom Brady will start despite ankle injury as Pats visit Bills

10.12.14 at 9:22 am ET
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It's the dawn of a new era in Buffalo as the Bills play the Patriots in the first game of the Pegula Family ownership in Buffalo. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

It’s the dawn of a new era in Buffalo as the Bills play the Patriots in the first game of the Pegula Family ownership in Buffalo. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A chilly start should turn into a perfect afternoon for football in Western New York as the 3-2 Patriots visit the 3-2 Bills at newly renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The forecast calls for a temperature of 60 degrees and sunshine for the 1 p.m. kickoff that will mark the inaugural game in the ownership of Terry and Kim Pegula. The Pegulas were unanimously approved as the new owners of the Bills this week by NFL owners, and the family has vowed to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

The Pegulas are trying to duplicate what the late Ralph Wilson accomplished, winning their first game against the Patriots. Wilson’s Bills beat the Patriots 13-0 in Boston on Sept. 23, 1960.

With new ownership in charge, the team and crowd figured to be fired up for the game, which pits the two early-season leaders of the AFC East. The Bills are coming off a 17-14 win over the Lions while the Patriots rebounded from their abysmal loss in Kansas City to post a 43-17 blowout of Cincinnati last Sunday night.

The Patriots survived a bit of a scare Friday in practice when Tom Brady rolled his ankle on one of his offensive linemen, and was limited. He was officially listed as questionable for today’s game but is expected to suit up and start. It’s the second time this season Brady has been questionable for a game. He was questionable with a calf injury in Week 1 in Miami but played the whole game.

“It’s really not an issue,” a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter regarding Brady’s ankle.

The Patriots were not as lucky with one of their starting offensive linemen as center Bryan Stork was ruled out Saturday night with a head injury, sustained Thursday in a full pads practice. Others ruled out for the Patriots include defensive back Brandon Browner, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, offensive lineman Cameron Fleming and special teamer Nate Ebner.

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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Kim Pegula, New England Patriots, Terry Pegula

NFL Week 6 picks: Whose line is it anyway? Russell Wilson most unlikeable player in NFL

10.12.14 at 2:01 am ET
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Let's face it, Russell Wilson is just too darn nice. (Getty Images)

Let’s face it, Russell Wilson is just too darn nice. (Getty Images)

For the past five weeks, I have been trying to convince you that no football blogger, analyst, or talking-head really knows anything about what’€™s going to happen in the NFL. But I’€™ll have to admit, that’€™s simply not the case.

There is one man, one forward-thinking, hilarious, spread-defeating machine who you really should be listening to. His name is Sam Packard — a.k.a. “The White Black Frank White.” Also a.k.a. “S. Barnaby Covers.” And he is a good-looking gambling genius. Don’€™t believe the hype and shameless self-promotion? Last week I went 4-0-1 and I am 15-8-2 on the season. Don’€™t act like you’€™re not impressed. Of course, this hubris will probably lead me to an 0-5 week, but nonetheless here are my picks.

Steelers +1 at Browns

Cleveland is a dump.

Last week the Browns could barely beat Chuck “Jesus” Whitehurst and the crap-tastic Tennessee Titans. All it took was the largest comeback on the road in NFL history, and they couldn’t even cover the one-point spread. Also, last week I spent three paragraphs and half a podcast talking about Antonio “Nino” Brown, and he was unable to find the end zone. What’€™s more, I’€™m starting Ben Roethlisberger in fantasy this week and I’€™d like to see him do well. This pick is based more entirely on irrational Cleveland hate, fantasy implications and my desire for Nino Brown to become a thing. I know I am using zero logic, but who needs logic when Cleveland is a Grade A poo factory.

Pick: Steelers +1

Packers -3 at Dolphins

Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in football, but frankly his entire “Discount Double Check” ad campaign has been national embarrassment. It’€™s bad enough that three times every Sunday we have to watch the comedic carcasses of Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey play Hans and Franz, who never were very funny in the first place, but now Rodgers is directly associated with Rob Schneider. Yes, the one-time star of such movies as “Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo” and “The Stapler” now is a member of the State Farm team. If I were Rodgers I would demand editorial control of all future commercials, and, just to shed his bad ju-ju, demand Rod Schneider be banned from the state of Wisconsin. The Rodgers-Schneider connection forever will be a stain on the 2014 Packers season, but that doesn’t mean they have a chance of losing to the lowly Dolphins.

Pick: Packers -3

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Live Chat: Join Pete Davidson for Week 6 live chat, 11 a.m.

10.12.14 at 1:27 am ET
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Let Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com help guide you in setting your Week 6 fantasy football lineups. Davidson will be answering all your questions, while advancing the fantasy football conversation, starting at 11 a.m. Get your questions in now …

Live Blog Week 6 Fantasy Football chat
 

Sunday NFL Notes: Patriots staying steady through early-season ups and downs

10.11.14 at 10:27 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots have been on a roller coaster ride over the first five weeks of the season. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots have been on a roller coaster ride over the first five weeks of the season. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

1. There was no panic in the New England locker room in the days after the Kansas City game, and there was little sense this past week that there was a feeling the team was getting too high. Ultimately, in the wake of the eventful couple of weeks, it’s clear — at least as it stands right now — that it can be shortsighted to judge a teams’ long-term chances too early. Sure, there are truly great teams that go wire-to-wire without a bump in the road — like last year’s Seahawks — who won 11 of their first 12 on the way to the title, as well as the 2009 Saints, who started 13-0. But more often that not, history tells us that championship DNA is something that’s shaped over the course of a long season. To that point, while the 2014 Patriots have stumbled occasionally over the course of their first five games, there’s a lot of football left to play, something several veterans reminded this reporter this week. “I think after September, a lot of teams are just starting to round into shape and become who they are going to be for the course of the season,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “I don’t think it’s unfair to say the story is ‘To Be Continued’ after September. And I certainly think that’s going to be the case with us.” Quarterback Tom Brady echoed that statement: “It’s still really early in the year — it’s only five games,” Brady said Wednesday. “There’s a whole season that’s got to be decided from this point on.”

2. Very quietly, Stephen Gostkowski has gotten off to another terrific start. Through the first five weeks of the season, he’s only one of four kickers remaining who have attempted at least 10 field goals this season and have connected on 100 percent of their attempts — Gostkowski (13-for-13) is joined by Indy’s Adam Vinatieri (12-for-12), San Diego’s Nick Novak (11-for-11) and Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro (11-for-11). If you’re looking for a separator, you might be inclined to go with field goals from 40 to 49 yards — Gostkowski is 6-for-6 from that distance, the best of the bunch. (Vinatieri and Catanzaro are 3-for-3.) In addition, while the bad weather has yet to arrive in earnest, he’s the only Northeast, non-dome kicker of the bunch. The 30-year-old Gostkowski, who is in the final year of his contract, has now made 21 straight field goal attempts. The streak, which dates back to the end of the 2013 regular season, began after he missed one Dec. 15, 2013 against the Dolphins in Miami. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a kicker, but in the wake of Alex Henery’s performance late in the game last week against the Bills, Gostkowski’s reliability cannot be discounted.

3. Stevan Ridley‘s roller coaster of a 2013 season was one of the reasons he failed to become the first running back ever under Bill Belichick to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. But his resurgence last Sunday has him pointed in the direction of another milestone. The LSU product, who rushed for 1,263 yards in 2012, is averaging 63.4 rushing yards per game over the first five contests. If he can maintain something close to that over the final 11 games of the season, he’ll become the first back under Belichick to rush for 1,000 yards twice in a three-year span. We’ve also mentioned this before, but his fumble-free streak of 150 straight touches (including the regular season and postseason) dates back to last November. He’s also one of only two backs over the first five weeks of the season to have posted at least 75 carries this season without a fumble. Ridley (84 carries) is joined by Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (87 carries) and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (77 carries).

4. Former Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has only been in Oakland for a few days, but he’s already managed to impress his new teammates, as well as the coaching staff. Thompkins, who was released by the Patriots last weekend, was claimed by the Raiders on Monday, and reportedly has a good chance to play this weekend for Oakland against the Chargers. Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson praised Thompkins, saying he “has a tremendous work ethic,” is an “intelligent player” and “has picked up things quickly over two days.” The 26-year-old Thompkins, who had 38 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games with the Patriots, has also impressed his new quarterback Derek Carr. “The first time he saw me, he wanted to sit down and he wanted me to go over signals, routes,” Carr told reporters. “Instead of just showing up and saying, ‘Hey, nice to meet you. OK, I’m going to go now.” It wasn’t like that. He wants to learn, and he wants to be out there.” Thompkins said there were no grudges against New England about being released, and said he’s just “happy to be an Oakland Raider.”

5. It feels like the Patriots have gone through more walkthroughs as of late, and that is likely for one of two reasons: one, for a team entering the sixth game of the regular season, it has a slightly longer than usual injury report. 11 players appeared on Friday’s injury list. (By way of comparison, the Bills had nine.) And two, the Patriots are in the midst of a stretch that has them playing four games in 18 days. It began with a Monday night game against the Chiefs on Sept. 29, and continues through their Oct. 16 game against the Jets, set for this coming Thursday night. A quick check of past schedules reveals that’s tied for the most condensed schedule the Patriots have had in recent memory — New England had four games in 18 days in 2002, a stretch from Nov. 10 through November 28 that featured three straight Sunday games and a Thanksgiving day clash. (The Patriots went 3-1 through that series of games, three of which were on the road.) In addition, there were four games in 18 days in 2008, three of which were at home. In a span that went from Oct. 26 to Nov. 13, they went 2-2. And there was a similar stretch in 2010 when four games between Nov. 7 and Nov. 25 saw them go 3-1, with three of those games away from home.
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Brandon Browner, Dominique Easley, Bryan Stork ruled out for Sunday’s game

10.11.14 at 8:24 pm ET
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Patriots have downgraded three players to out for Sunday’s matchup with the Bills. Brandon Browner (ankle), Dominique Easley (shoulder) and Bryan Stork (concussion) have all been downgraded from questionable to out.

Cameron Fleming (finger) and Nate Ebner (finger) were already ruled out so the team will have to make two more players inactive Sunday morning prior to the game.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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