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Patriots reportedly re-sign WR Austin Collie

01.02.14 at 1:56 pm ET
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According to an ESPNBoston report, the Patriots have continued their on-again, off-again relationship with Austin Collie by re-signing the wide receiver six days after releasing him for the second time.

Collie has played in seven games this season, recording six catches for 63 yards.

The move would make sense for a team that is dealing with injury issues at the position. Josh Boyce (ankle) and Aaron Dobson (foot) have not practiced this week.

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Patriots’ Potential Playoff Opponents: Bengals

01.02.14 at 12:58 pm ET
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With the Patriots securely in the playoffs, it’€™s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is a series on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. We’€™ve already taken a look at the Chargers, Colts and Chiefs. Now, it’€™s the Bengals.

The skinny: The Bengals reached the postseason by taking the AFC North for the second consecutive season, as they finished with an 11-5 mark, winning five of their last six to head into the playoffs on an up note. There’€™s a lot to like about Cincinnati — they have a young and aggressive defense led by the likes of Wallace Gilberry, Michael Johnson, Vontaze Burfict and Carlos Dunlap. There’€™s also an impressive array of skill position players, including A.J. Green, Gio Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham and Marvin Jones. The biggest question is at quarterback, and whether or not Andy Dalton is ready to make the leap to the next level and show himself capable of leading a team deep into January. He’€™s certainly shown impressive flashes over the course of the regular season — whether he can put it all together in the postseason is another story. Cincinnati will face the Chargers Saturday, as the franchise hopes to find its first playoff win since 1990.

Offense: The 6-foot-4, 207-pound Green is one of the best young receivers in the league — he finished the season with 98 catches for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns, and is the Bengals best pass catcher. He also gets help in the passing game from Jones (51 catches, 712 yards, 10 TDs) and Gresham (46 catches, 461 yards, four TDs). The real multidimensional threat here is Bernard, who is a rare 50 catch-50 carry guy that can beat you through the air (56 receptions, 514 receiving yards) or on the ground (170 carries, 695 rushing yards). He has eight total touchdowns on the year, and has proven himself to be a tremendous offensive option. The Bengals also lean on old pal Green-Ellis in the running game (220 carries, 756 yards, seven TDs). But as we said before, it all comes back to Dalton, who has shown himself to be very good at times, and not so good at others. He had five games this season where he completed at least 70 percent of his passes, and also had five games where he threw for at least 325 yards — he also had three other games where he threw at least three picks. (For the season, he’€™s 363-for-586 for 62 percent, to go along with 4,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.) As a team, the Cincinnati offense is certainly above average statistically — the Bengals are 10th in the NFL in total offense (368.4 yards per game), eighth in passing yards per game (258.7), 18th in rushing yards per game (109.7) and tied for sixth in points per game (26.9). One thing that sticks out is that they’€™re not great when it comes to holding onto the ball — the Bengals have turned the ball over 31 times this year, more than any other team in the postseason.

Defense: The Bengals defense hasn’€™t been the same since All-World defensive lineman Geno Atkins went down for the season with a torn ACL, but the group has still been very impressive. They do a good job getting after the passer — the Bengals are 10th in the league in sacks — and have only allowed six opponents to rush for more than 100 yards. Gilberry and Dunlap bring pressure from off the edge (they both have 7.5 sacks each), while Burfict is one of the league leaders in tackles up the middle and Johnson has evolved into one of the better run stoppers in the league. Dre Kirkpatrick and Pacman Jones have three picks each to lead the secondary. The Bengals defense is one of the best in the league, at least from a numbers perspective. Cincinnati is third in the league in total defense (305.5 yards per game allowed) and fifth in the league in points per game allowed (19.1), run defense (96.5 yards per game) and pass defense (209.0 yards per game).

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Video: Hulk Hogan declares Patriots fandom, offers a helping arm

01.02.14 at 12:19 pm ET
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Hulk Hogan says he is a Patriots fan, and he’s apparently willing to lend the team one of his arms in order to help out.

That’s the takeaway from a video posted on the Hogan’s Beach Shop Facebook page. Hogan starts by name-dropping tight end Matthew Mulligan for reasons still unknown before going into an impassioned speech about his love of New England and offering up one of his arms to help any Patriot who might need it.

“Right in New England, you’ve got a piece of Hulk Hogan,” he says. “And what that means, brother, is if you get tired, if [Tom] Brady gets tired, or if anybody’s knees wobble, their back cracks or their liver quivers, brother, you can take one of the largest arms in the world, Hulk Hogan’s arm, you can strap it to your hips and you can score as many touchdowns as you want, brother.”

Unsurprisingly, Hogan ends with a variation of his famous catch phrase, asking, “What are the Patriots gonna do now that they got Hulk Hogan running with all of you?”

Check out the full video here:

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Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Logan Mankins, Alfonzo Dennard all missing from start of Patriots practice

01.02.14 at 11:38 am ET
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Wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, as well as cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and offensive lineman Logan Mankins were all missing from the start of Patriots practice on Thursday, according to reports.

All four have been dealing with injury issues — Dobson (foot), Boyce (ankle), Dennard (knee/shoulder) and Mankins (ankle) have all missed varying amounts of playing time over the last week-plus.

One positive sign for Patriots fans was the sight of safety Devin McCourty at practice for the second consecutive day. The veteran defensive back, who suffered a concussion in a win over the Ravens late last month, had missed the regular-season finale against the Bills with the injury, and did not practice all last week.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, playoff edition: Patriots enter at No. 5

01.02.14 at 10:55 am ET
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Fittingly, the Seahawks end the regular season where they spent most of it, at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Pete Carroll-led Hawks have ensured that they’ll be playing any and all NFC playoff games in Seattle, a place where they’ve lost just once over the last two years.

The Niners cling to the No. 2 seed as they prepare to take on a Packers team they’ve been successful against in their prior two meetings. The Panthers (3), Broncos (4) and Patriots (5) round out the top five playoff teams.

As wild card weekend approaches, keep in mind that the last three Super Bowl champions played in the first round of the playoffs. If history has taught us anything, any team that has reached the postseason has a shot at the title. We’re in for another exciting year of postseason football. Let the games begin.

1. (1) Seahawks (13-3) — If defense wins championships, the Seahawks have the best shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. The Seahawks finished the regular season at the top of many defensive categories, including points allowed, passing yards and takeaways.

 2. (2) 49ers (12-4) — A tough road lies ahead for the Niners, who look to return to the Super Bowl. They’ll most likely have to travel to Green Bay, Carolina and Seattle to get to where they want to go.

3. (3) Panthers (12-4) — Carolina brings one of the league’s best defenses into the playoffs. The Panthers’ ferocious D sacked opposing QBs a league-high 60 times.

 4. (4) Broncos (13-3) — The precision and methodical offensive attack Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense deliver makes them the favorite in the AFC. Denver set an NFL record with 606 points scored, averaging almost 40 points per game.

 5. (5) Patriots (12-4) — The Patriots are the experienced veteran team in the AFC that no one wants to play. With the number of key injuries this team has suffered, Bill Belichick deserves to be named Coach of the Year.

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Fantasy Football: Postseason rankings, strategy

01.02.14 at 10:27 am ET
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The fantasy football season has concluded, but as most of you know, fantasy football lives on with postseason leagues. We’€™re here to help you stack the odds in your favor or at least to avoid doing the opposite.

Playoff leagues can be a lot of fun, and they are completely different than regular-season fantasy football. The key difference is that predicting game outcomes is perhaps the key factor in your team’€™s success. In most situations, you’€™d rather have your player advance than have a big game and lose. That’€™s because once your player’€™s team is finished, so is the player. That means no more points and a big old dead spot in your lineup. For this reason, it is important to project the number of games each team will play.

You may think Philip Rivers is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, but if you think the Chargers are a one-and-done team as I do, and if you think the 49ers have a chance to play four games (the maximum), as I do, then you’€™d be kooky to draft Rivers ahead of Kaepernick.  This is true even if you project Rivers to outscore Kaepernick by a factor of two on a per-game basis. This is how you must think in a playoff draft. Get in that frame of mind — the same frame of mind that makes you want LeGarrette Blount over Jamaal Charles. Yes, really.

Since leagues are different sizes and many use different sets of rules, I am going to keep the rankings somewhat general. The first thing you need to do is to decide how you think the playoff games will go, then follow those predictions. I’ve laid out my current take below, but I won’€™t lie to you, I could flip a few games this week as I continue to think about things and assess the injury situations. Some of these games are very close. Value players accordingly. For example, I think Kaepernick plays twice, but I also think he’€™s the player with the best chance at playing four times. It will take an upset of the Seahawks in Seattle to make that happen, but Frisco probably is the best bet to pull that off at this point.


Broncos, 3 games
Seahawks, 3 games
49ers, 2 games
Eagles, 2 games
Patriots, 2 games
Panthers, 2 games
Colts, 2 games
Bengals, 2 games
Saints, 1 game
Packers, 1 game
Chargers, 1 game
Chiefs, 1 game

If you look at the projections, you might assume that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson are the players to own. And they certainly are players you’€™d like to have, but a few of the quarterbacks with two projected games played are potentially as or more valuable. I already mentioned Kaepernick, but Tom Brady will have a very good chance at a third game, and I see most of the early round games being competitive. For this, I suggest that you play your own hunches if you have strong ones and if you trust your instincts. That’€™s really what make these postseason leagues so much fun. You get to do more prognostication.

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Report: Browns will interview Josh McDaniels on Saturday

01.02.14 at 12:39 am ET
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The Browns will interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for their vacant head coaching position on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Cleveland will reportedly meet with McDaniels at an undisclosed location in the New England area. The Browns are looking to replace Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after one season where he led Cleveland to a 4-12 record.

According to Mortensen, the Browns have also requested permission to speak with three other candidates: Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

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