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Fantasy Football: Week 4 starts, sits

09.28.12 at 10:48 am ET
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Welcome to Rotobahn’€™s Week 4 starts and sits. As always, we’€™ve tried to avoid the obvious choices and have focused on players that represent tougher lineup choices. We’€™ll be releasing full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.com Friday and Saturday, so check us out this weekend if you need a little help. Good luck to all in Week 4.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Andy Dalton, Bengals at Jaguars

Dalton is rolling right now, and that should continue against a very beatable Jacksonville defense. He’€™s using A.J. Green as he should, but he’€™s also spreading the ball around to all his other targets and keeping the opposition honest. Dalton can help you in all formats this week.

Matt Schaub, Texans vs. Titans

It’€™s a good matchup, and the only risk we see with Schaub this week is that Houston wins too easily and goes to the ground game for most of the second half. He’€™s a pretty safe play in all formats if you need a QB.

Christian Ponder, Vikings at Lions

Ponder has looked very good so far and he gets WR Jerome Simpson back from suspension this week, which gives him one more quality weapon to go with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph. The Lions have been shaky so far on defense, so this one should go well for Ponder.

SITS

Alex Smith, 49ers at Jets

There will be the inclination to write off the Jets defense without Darrelle Revis, but New York can still defend the pass better than a lot of teams. San Francisco is a conservative outfit and the Jets might not be able to score much at all in this one. Alex Smith may be doing a whole lot of handing off in Week 4. We see a score to Vernon Davis and a whole lot of ground and pound. You can do better.

Jay Cutler, Bears at Cowboys

The Bears need to show me they can protect Cutler before I can trust them against a team like the Cowboys, who shows up with a stud pass-rusher and two very solid cornerbacks. We like Cutler, but we don’€™t trust his support system in this one.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Kyle Rudolph

Nuggetpalooza: All your offbeat Patriots-Bills stats!

09.28.12 at 9:08 am ET
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The Patriots try to put the gut-wrenching losses of the last two weeks behind them as they head to Orchard Park, N.Y., to face the improved Bills this Sunday. Read on for some stats that (I hope) will make you scratch your chin (or whatever it is that you scratch) and say “hmmm.” Or stats that you’ll at least find to be interesting and different.

* – CONSECUTIVE HEARTBREAKERS: The Patriots have lost consecutive games by one or two points for just the second time since 1970. The other such streak came in Weeks 5 and 6 in 1999, when they lost 16-14 at Kansas City and 31-30 against Miami. Only one team since the merger has lost three straight in such a fashion: The 2002 Jaguars, who were nipped 21-19 at Dallas, then 25-23 against the Steelers, and 21-20 against the Browns.

Note this: That 1999 streak of futility by the Patriots included a third game that was decided by one or two points, as New England beat Denver the following week, 24-23.

* – 20 POINTS AT HALF USUALLY IS ENOUGH: The Patriots lost last Sunday’s game after having won 33 of their last 35 road games in which they scored 20 or more points by halftime, dating back to the start of the 1976 season. The loss dropped their winning percentage in such games to .917 (33-3), still the highest by any team in that span (min. 15 such games):

.917 – Patriots (33-3)
.911 – 49ers (41-4)
.889 – Giants (24-3)

Note this: Houston’s teams in that span, the Oilers (8-0) and Texans (5-0), are unbeaten in 13 such road games.

* – DOMINATION OF THE BILLS: Since getting clocked by a 31-0 score in Orchard Park in 2003, the Patriots have gone 16-1 and averaged 30.3 points against the Bills. That’s the highest average by any team against a single opponent (min. 10 games) in that span:

30.3 – Patriots vs. Bills
29.2 – Colts vs. Texans
27.5 – Saints vs. Falcons
26.9 – Chargers vs. Raiders

Note this: Buffalo’s 12.8 average points against New England in that span is the second lowest by any team against a single opponent (same minimum). Only the Browns, who have averaged 12.2 points against Pittsburgh, are worse.

* – QUIET THE CROWD: New England has scored 30 or more points in 13 of its last 14 road games and each of its last six. Since 1970, here are the longest road streaks scoring 30-plus points:

8 – Rams (1999-2000)
7 – Patriots (2010-2011)
6 – Patriots (2011-current)
6 – 49ers (1984)

In their 42 road games since the start of the 2007 season, they’ve averaged 30.4 points, far and away the league leader in that span:

30.4 – Patriots
26.8 – Saints
25.7 – Packers
25.0 – Giants Read the rest of this entry »

Super Bowl XLVI referee part of crew that will work Patriots-Bills on Sunday

09.27.12 at 6:16 pm ET
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The Bills have announced the officiating crew for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. The group is led by John Parry, who was in charge of the crew that worked Super Bowl XLVI.

Referee: John Parry
Umpire: Dan Ferrell
Head linesman: Derick Bowers
Line judge: Rusty Baynes
Field judge: Scott Edwards
Side judge: Ron Torbert
Back judge: Perry Paganelli
Replay official: Earnie Frantz
Replay assistant: Brian Matoren

Vince Wilfork on refs: ‘I don’t care about [anything] but Buffalo’

09.27.12 at 1:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was a fairly predictable response Thursday. Nearly all players in the Patriots locker room had a very low-key reaction to the eight-year agreement between the NFL and its regular officials Wednesday night that ended one of the ugliest chapters in recent league history.

“My focus is on the Buffalo Bills, nothing else. Buffalo,” Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “I don’t care about [anything] but Buffalo right now, plain and simple. We need to get back on track around here. Kind of forgot how it feels to win. All of my focus is on going to Buffalo and playing well. Hopefully, that’ll be good enough to win, so everything else, I really don’t care about.

“We have to focus quick because this team always plays us tough and it always seems like the first time we see them, they play us very, very tough. They’re very disciplined; they’re coached very well, play very hard, they make a lot of plays, and once again we’re on the road. Our backs are against the wall.”

Special teams captain Matthew Slater offered a little bit more insight. Slater this year replaced Tom Brady as the team’s player rep, so when the NFL Players Association spoke of player safety concerns, Slater was the one delivering the message to teammates.

“It’s obviously encouraging that they got that whole situation resolved,” Slater said. “It was really a tough situation for all parties involved. I don’t really think you can point the finger at anyone. Fortunately, they got it worked out, but we can’t spend too much time worrying about who’s calling the game, we just have to continue to prepare and do our jobs. I’m sure at some point we’re going to be mad or upset with a call these guys make. That’s just the reality of it. So, we just have to move on, but I’m happy things have resolved themselves, though.

“I think that’s big for us as players, to know that we’re out there with guys that are going to do their best to keep us safe by making the right calls, and it really comes down to player safety. We want to be safe out there on that field. We want to make sure the rules are being abided by and that we are taken care of and the game is fair for everybody involved.”

Slater was asked if it feels strange to be so happy to have regular officials back, officials players will no doubt have beefs with in the future.

“It does, definitely,” Slater said with a laugh. “”Those guys have a tough job to do. I know there were a lot of situations that came up with guys that were in there for them but they were put in a tough spot, they really were, and they did the best they could. But it’s good to have these guys back who’ve had some experience calling big games and been in tough situations, and now we’re all moving forward.”

The response of Nate Solder was more representative of the Patriots’ reaction.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Solder said with a laugh.

Asked if he’s confident that the returning officials will have a better sense of what’s happening in the trenches, the left tackle was non-committal.

“I’m not going to say much about that. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that,” Solder said.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots, nfl

Deion Branch on NFL officials: ‘Enough is enough’

09.27.12 at 10:07 am ET
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FOXBORO — One group of players around the NFL is particularly happy that the labor problems with the referees is over.

Wide receivers have a hard enough job of getting open for their quarterbacks and catching the ball in traffic. We all saw on Monday night just how hard they’re willing to fight for the ball.

But now, after the NFL and NFLRA came to an eight-year agreement, the receivers at least have the comfort of knowing that experienced NFL officials will be ruling on such matters as pass interference and completed passes.

“I think enough is enough,” Patriots receiver Deion Branch said just hours before the agreement was reached. “We just got to go out and play our game. We can’€™t worry about the refs.”

For Brandon Lloyd, his biggest concern wasn’t with the calls during the play but rather the extraneous activity afterward, that in some cases put a player’s health at risk.

“I think mainly just the missed calls and how long the extracurricular activity is allowed to go on before it’€™s interrupted and before any flags get thrown,” Lloyd said.

Many NFL players have complained that there was a significant drop-off in the quality of play. Lloyd didn’t necessarily agree.

“I wouldn’€™t say a decline, but like I said, there’€™s a lot of extracurricular activity and there’€™s a lot of plays and maybe call the blind spot that the more experienced referees would see,” he said. “I think that’€™s mainly the issue.”

Now, this weekend, we’ll see just how much better the regular officials see the game.

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, New England Patriots, nfl

What return of regular referees means for Patriots

09.27.12 at 12:21 am ET
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The announcement that the regular referees are returning is good news for the whole league, including the Patriots.

The returning officials certainly will restore some order to the game and eliminate much of the uncertainty that dominated the league over the first three weeks of the regular season. And despite the fact that Bill Belichick adroitly steered clear of the topic when asked about it on Wednesday, the Patriots coach certainly will welcome their return for several reasons, not the least of which is that he’€™s unlikely to chase down a regular referee at the end of the game and pull his arm in hopes of getting his attention for an explanation of a call.

(Belichick — known as one of the more referee-friendly coaches in the league when the regular refs are working — was fined $50,000 for the incident at the conclusion of the loss to the Ravens. He issued a statement of contrition on Wednesday, apologizing for the ‘€œinappropriate’€ contact with the official.)

Belichick’€™s postgame chase aside, compared to many teams across the league — particularly the Packers — the Patriots were relatively quiet on the topic of the replacement officials. Perhaps the loudest complaint from New England came in the wake of the loss to Baltimore when linebacker Brandon Spikes tweeted about wanting to send ‘€œthese [expletive] zebras’€ back to their jobs at Foot Locker. (To this point, Spikes has not been fined for his comments.)

Things will be easier across the league, but for the New England offense — which enjoys operating at a higher pace — the return of the officials means there will be no question as to whether or not the zebras will be able to keep up with the Patriots’€™ no-huddle. (Although, it’€™s not like New England eased off the pedal with the replacements in there — through three weeks, the Patriots have been in no-huddle for 70 of their 222 plays from scrimmage, a rate of 31.5 percent. That’€™s an increase from last year when they went no-huddle 25 percent of the time.)

Things also are going to be slightly easier when it comes to game-planning. Each team has a book on the regular refs, their tendencies and what sort of penalties they’€™re inclined to call in certain situations. With the replacements, it was pretty much impossible to know their habits as officials, being that they came from such disparate backgrounds. With the regulars back in place, the Patriots — like most other teams across the league — will be able to brief their players on the backgrounds and tendencies of the refereeing crews they will see in that week’€™s game.

One thing that is interesting to note is that even with their 10-penalty performance last Sunday against the Ravens — with the replacement officials — the Patriots actually had more penalties and more penalty yards assessed through three games in 2011 than this year. Through three weeks, the 2012 Patriots have been flagged for 21 penalties (15th in the league) for a total of 163 yards (20th in the league). In their first three games of the 2011 season, the Patriots were flagged for 23 penalties and 223 yards (at the time, that was good enough to tie with the Vikings for third-most in the league).

Read More: Bill Belichick, referees,

Bill Belichick on being 1-2: ‘We don’t talk about records’

09.26.12 at 8:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Leave it to Bill Belichick to put perspective on his team uncharacteristic 1-2 start.

Reporters descended on Gillette Stadium Wednesday to try and get a feel for a team that is under .500 for the first time since being 0-1 to start the 2003 season. Every week, Belichick has a message for his team. With his team losing two of its first three, Belichick was asked what his message was this week.

“I talked about getting ready to go against Buffalo,” Belichick said.

How would he describe being 1-2 to start the season, reminded that it’s obviously unfamiliar territory for his Patriots.

“We don’€™t talk about records,” Belichick answered.

But the Patriots coach DID talk about the Bills, a team that is 2-1 and could go two games up on the Patriots if they repeat last year’s win in Orchard Park this Sunday.

“We’€™ve been spending a couple days here on Buffalo,” Belichick said of the Bills, who have beaten the Chiefs and Browns in the last two weeks. “Real impressive the last two weeks, they had big wins over Kansas City and Cleveland. Just a real well balanced football team, Chan [Chan Gailey] and his staff have done a great job, as they usually do. They give you a lot of things to prepare for. They’€™re very solid defensively, good front. Good guys in the secondary, good cover players, very disruptive group up front.

“Kicking game has been explosive with [Leodis McKelvin] McKelvin. Offensively, of course they do a great job of getting the ball to everybody ‘€“ backs, tight ends, receivers. Quarterback is active. Offensive line is solid. They have a lot of good players, good scheme. I’€™m sure it will be a hostile environment for us Sunday, like it was last year up there, like it usually is on the road for us. That will be a challenge for us to deal with that. We have a lot of work to do here this week and start trying to string a couple days together here and get ready to go.”

There will be plenty of talk this week about the pass rush and defensive line of the Bills – and for good reason. In Mario Williams, former Patriot Mark Anderson, Alex Carrington, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, they present one of the most formidable hurdles the Patriots offensive line will see this season.

Kyle Williams … he’€™s a very disruptive player,” Belichick began. “Carrington, Dareus, certainly Williams and Mark Anderson, the ends. They’€™re big, athletic, active. Kyle Williams is hard to block whether he’€™s long or not but they do have some length up there.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Kyle Williams, New England Patriots
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