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Nuggetpalooza’s Patriots vs Bills Preview!

12.23.10 at 4:41 pm ET
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This is what Andy Williams meant when he sang of “the most wonderful time of the year”! All the Christmas hustle and bustle followed by Week 16 of the NFL season! Don’t sleep on those Bills. They’re competitive…

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* – New England’s defense is allowing an average of 374.6 yards per game, on pace for the second highest average in their history (since 1960):

375.0 – 1972
374.6 – 2010
364.2 – 1981
360.3 – 1995
356.1 – 1990

What makes this so interesting? Well, this year’s team enters their game Sunday with a record of 12-2. The other four teams on that list combined to go 12-50, a winning percentage of .194.

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* – So far in 2010, the Patriots have scored 446 points while gaining 4,970 yards, an average of 11.14 yards per point scored. Check out the best averages in the NFL since 1990:

11.14 – Patriots, 2010
11.17 – Patriots, 2007 (16-0 regular season, Super Bowl)
11.27 – Vikings, 1998 (15-1, #1 seed)
11.87 – Chargers, 2006 (14-2, #1 seed)

All hail the value of an efficient offense and defensive/return touchdowns!

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* – On the flip side, the Patriots have allowed 303 points while giving up 5,245 yards, an average of 17.31 yards per point allowed. It would be the seventh season in the last eight in which New England has posted an average if 16.00 or higher. No other team has more than five such seasons in that span.

All hail the value of “bend but don’t break”!

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* – Wanna know one reason how the Patriots can look so pedestrian on defense and still win? Make your opponent drive the whole field. New England has allowed their opponent to begin a drive on the Patriots’ side of the 50-yard-line only six times this season, on pace for the fewest in a season by any team since at least 1995:

6 – Patriots, 2010 (on pace for 7)
9 – Dolphins, 2008
9 – Giants, 2008
10 – Done five times since 1995 (two by the Patriots: 2007 and 2009)

Note this: The Patriots are on the verge of leading the league in this category for the third time in four seasons.

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* – New England (8) and Buffalo (3) have combined to score 11 defensive/return touchdowns this season, but have allowed only two between them (one each).

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* – The Patriots have yet to allow any points in the final two minutes of the second half this season, the only team in the league that can make that claim. If they can finish the season with such a shutout, they would become the fifth team to do it since 2006 (including the 2006 Patriots).

Note this: Since 2001, the Patriots have allowed an average of 9.7 points PER YEAR in the last two minutes of second halfs, easily the best mark in the NFL in that 10-year span:

9.7 – Patriots
13.2 – Bears
15.0 – Jets
15.5 – Redskins

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* – Since the start of the 2004 season, the Bills are 1-17 at home when they lose the turnover battle (including losses in their last 10 such games. Compare that to 16-4 in that same span when they win the turnover battle at home (and 8-9 when turnovers are equal).

Note this: New England is 35-1 on the road since mid-2001 when they win the turnover battle.

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

Bills only list three on injury report

12.23.10 at 3:57 pm ET
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The Bills only listed three players on their Thursday injury report, with a pair of offensive linemen and a linebacker. Here’s the complete report:

Limited Participation
C Geoff Hangartner (knee)

Full Participation
T Demetrius Bell (knee)
LB Chris Kelsay (knee)

Read More: Bills, injury report,

Six absent from Patriots practice, including Dan Connolly and Aaron Hernandez

12.23.10 at 3:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots had six players absent from practice on Thursday, including, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, wide receiver Deion Branch, offensive lineman Dan Connolly and tight end Aaron Hernandez. Here’s the complete report:

Did Not Practice
LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin)
WR Deion Branch (knee)
G Dan Connolly (concussion)
LB Jermaine Cunningham (calf)
TE Aaron Hernandez (hip)
DL Mike Wright (concussion)

Limited Participation
DL Ron Brace (concussion)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
DL Brandon Deaderick (shoulder)
NT Myron Pryor (back)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (elbow)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

The Big Nickel: Deion Branch on blocking, Tom Brady is back at practice and the Bills are impressed by the turnover-free Patriots

12.23.10 at 1:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things to know about the Patriots on Thursday:

1. On Sunday’€™s broadcast of the Patriots-Packers game, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth lauded the blocking of Deion Branch after the wide receiver delivered a pancake block on Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams, which helped spring running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 33-yard first-half touchdown run.

Branch clearly takes pride in his blocking, and he said on Thursday morning that he views it as a reciprocal relationship, especially when it comes to clearing the way for someone like Green-Ellis.

‘€œI think what’€™s important is that the guys don’€™t get a lot of credit for the things that they do for us when they catch a pass,’€ Branch said. ‘€œI know if BenJarvus is doing everything he can for me to give [quarterback] Tom [Brady] time to thrown me the ball, we have to do that in return. Each game, everybody wants to go out and throw the ball 100 times, but we can’€™t do that. I think the biggest thing is that I’€™m here to do whatever coach asks me to do. I want to catch some balls too, but if I have to block 20 times a game, 20-30 times, that’€™s what I have to do.’€

2. In fact, the Wes Welker-Branch duo has become one of the best blocking wide receiver tandems in the NFL, with their biggest highlight coming when they helped clear a path for Danny Woodhead‘€™s 36-yard touchdown run in last month’€™s win over the Colts. (The two helped knock Indianapolis defensive back Kelvin Hayden out of the picture, which allowed Woodhead to reach the end zone.)

The two have become competitive in trying to one-up each other. That goes for every aspect of the game.

‘€œEach game is going to be something. Mentally, we have this competition thing in our heads: ‘€˜I’€™m going to try and outdo you, you do the same thing.’€™ That makes our team [better] ‘€” each one of us trying to outdo one another,’€ Branch said of Welker. ‘€œIt’€™s not a competition thing or a jealousy thing if he gets 10 balls and I get three. I’€™m going to try and make the best of those three balls, and he’€™s going to do the same with his 10. It’€™s a good thing.’€
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Deaderick, Chan Gailey

Pats practice: Tom Brady return, Dan Connolly, Deion Branch miss

12.23.10 at 1:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Dan Connolly, Deion Branch and Tully Banta-Cain were among those missing at Patriots practice on Thursday on the main Gillette Stadium field. Tom Brady did report and was present at the start of practice.

Also out Thursday were tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, and defensive lineman Mike Wright. The Patriots did get three defensive linemen back as Ron BraceBrandon Deaderick and Myron Pryor returned on Thursday. Pryor has missed the last six games with a back injury.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, Dan Connolly, Deion Branch, New England Patriots

Woody Johnson to Bob Kraft: Sorry about that ‘wall’ charge

12.23.10 at 1:01 pm ET
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In a report by the New York Daily News, Jets owner Woody Johnson placed a call to Patriots owner Robert Kraft this week, apologizing for the accusation by Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff that the Patriots employed a special teams ‘wall’ along the sideline similar to the one that led to a coach tripping a Miami Dolphins player.

In the Dec. 12 game, Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck his knee into Dolphins kick returner Nolan Carroll and was suspended indefinitely after general manager Mike Tannenbaum said new evidence had come to light. That evidence was that Alosi instructed the players to line up on the sideline to create a wall. Westhoff insisted that he did not give the order to Alosi and then went on a Chicago sportsradio station and accused the Patriots of doing something similar.

“A number of teams do it,” Westhoff said. “There is a pretty good team up north that lines their whole defense up when they do it, so it’s something that just kind of happened.”

Westhoff wouldn’t say definitively the Patriots were breaking the rules, but went on to suggest specifically what it is the Patriots do on the sidelines during kicks.

“Well, if you watch them — their defense when the opponent’s punt team is out there — they’re up there pretty close to the line so it looks like they are trying to do it,” Westhoff said. “Now are they doing anything illegal? Are they tripping anybody? Heck no. I’m not saying that. That’s not the point. But, yeah, they’re lined up there. Is it making a difference? I don’t know. I really don’t know, because to tell you the truth, before this happened, I never really looked at anybody’s sideline in all my years.”

The Daily News also reported that Johnson apologized to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for the actions of Alosi.

“I apologized to Mr. Ross. It’€™s not a problem for him [but] it’€™s a problem for me,” Johnson said. “We’€™re not perfect. But once we’€™ve made a mistake, we’re pretty good at trying to make remedies.”

Read More: Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Deion Branch: ‘Whatever it takes’ to get Tom Brady healthy

12.23.10 at 12:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After missing his media availability for the second straight day, it appeared Tom Brady would miss practice with flu-like symptoms as the Patriots continued preparations for the Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park.

But low and behold, there was the Patriots quarterback on the main stadium field at 1 p.m. getting ready for the game that could clinch the AFC East title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs if the Patriots come out on top.

“We have to do what we have to do, whatever it takes to get Tom up to full steam,” Patriots receiver Deion Branch said before Thursday’s practice. “If he needs to rest two or three days, that’s what he has to do.”

Adding to the mild surprise of seeing Brady on the field was the fact that Thursday’s practice was outdoors on the Gillette Stadium main field. Speculation was rampant that since Brady missed his media availability for a second straight day and was no where to be seen during locker room availability, he was staying home again with the flu.

“We’ve been speaking a lot about it a lot now that the weather’s been changing,” Branch said. “I think I couple of you might be sick later on. We’re noticing not as many reporters in here. Right about now, with the weather changing, there’s going to be a lot of illness running around, we’re trying to make sure we’re pumping in the fluids in our bodies, getting the proper rest, eating the right foods, trying to be more of a true professional right now.”

One way of assuring more rest is beating Buffalo this weekend. If they do, they will not only win the AFC East but they’ll get the No. 1 seed, meaning the weekend of Jan. 8-9 off and no plane travel throughout the playoffs.

“That’s every team in the league,” Branch said. “We don’t get an exception. Nobody gets an exception. I think the thing is now just take advantage of the opportunities that we have in front of us and hopefully we can go out and get the job done this week and rest some guys.”

Brady is expected to address the media on Friday before the team leaves on Christmas Day for Sunday’s road game against the Bills.

Read More: Brady flu, Buffalo Bills, Deion Branch, New England Patriots
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