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Bill Belichick explains why Champ Bailey can ‘match up against anybody’ in the NFL

10.06.12 at 1:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker knows how hard it’s going to be to get open on Sunday against the Broncos, especially when perennial Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey is matched up against him.

“He’s just a great ball player,” Welker said of the 34-year-old corner. “I think he just gets out of bed and he’s just great. He’s very patient and does a good job to get his hands on you and plays really well. Smart guy, instincts, all those things and it’s why he’s stayed around so long.”

There’s been so much focus on future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning that it’s easy to overlook another sure-fire Hall of Famer in Bailey. He has more Pro Bowls than any cornerback in history with 11. He is a six-time All-Pro and has been the NFL Defensive Back of the Year twice.

Welker has had a decent amount of success in his battles with him, catching 22 balls in four regular season games for an average of 11.4 yards per reception. He’s averaged just over 64 yards a game but only two touchdowns in the four matchups. He had six catches for 55 yards and a score in the 45-10 romp over Tim Tebow‘s Broncos in the playoffs last January.

“Just have to be very precise and keep him on his toes and make sure you’re really mixing it up on him and being physical and doing things necessary to get open,” Welker said of what a receiver must do against the decorated corner. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andre Johnson, Bill Belichick, Calvin Johnson, Denver Broncos

Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Broncos statistical preview!

10.06.12 at 9:20 am ET
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Tom Brady squares off against Peyton Manning on Sunday as the Patriots try to capture their first home win of the season. Here are some numbers that I thought might interest you:

* – If it seems like the Patriots usually play the Broncos on the road (in regular season games), you’re right. This is their 25th regular season meeting since 1972, and 15 of the previous 24 have taken place out west (including eight of the last 12).

* – On Sunday, the Patriots amassed 33 first downs, the 31st time since 1991 that a team has racked up 33+ in a game. Thing is, the Patriots were the 30th team to do it also, as they collected 33 against the Ravens as well. Only one other team, the 2004 Chiefs, have put up 33 or more first downs two weeks in a row, and both of those came at home. The Patriots and Bengals are the only teams that have put up two such games on the road in total over the last 22 seasons and the Pats are the only ones to do it twice in one year, much less twice in a row.

Note this: The 19 rushing first downs by the Patriots were the most by any NFL team since 2005, the second most ever by a Patriots team (21 vs. Denver, 1976) , and the most allowed by the Bills since at least 1991.

NFL Note: The Cardinals remained unbeaten last Sunday despite zero rushing first downs. They were the first team since 2006 to win without picking up a first down on the ground and just the 10th such winner since 1991. Funny thing is that four of the other nine such winners over the last 22 seasons did so while playing AGAINST Arizona.

* – On a related note, the Patriots have gone three-and-out only three times this season, the fewest in the league. But here’s where it gets interesting: The Broncos’ defense has forced their opponents into 15 three-and-outs, the most in the league. That’s a whopping 34% of opponent possessions, on pace to be the second highest percentage since they began tracking the stat in 1995, trailing only the 1999 Ravens (35.5%).

* – By far this season, when you’ve heard the name Peyton Manning, the words most often heard along with it were “arm strength”. Well, I guess “tapenade” would be up there as well, but I digress. It’s a small sample size of only four games, but let’s take a look at Manning’s passing by length of throw so far this season and in 2010, his last season before his injury. When I use “rating”, I’m referring to a rating that takes average net yards per pass play (so sacks are factored in) plus 30 times the touchdown percentage, minus 50 times the interception percentage (so interceptions hurt more than touchdowns help), and compare that figure to the league average net yards per pass play. Whew. So here we go:

Passes thrown behind the line:
2012: 23-for-30, +5.02 rating (2nd);
2010: 88-for-105, +0.82 rating (5th);

Passes thrown 1 to 10 yards downfield:
2012: 54-for-77 (70% completions; 9th), 3 TD, 0 INT, +1.62 rating (4th);
2010: 266-for-357 (75% completions; 1st), 17 TD, 3 INT, +1.10 rating (9th);

Passes thrown 11 to 20 yards downfield:
2012: 18-for-35 (51% completions; 21st), 1 TD, 0 INT, -1.05 rating (20th);
2010: 76-for-140 (54% completions; 13th), 7 TD, 7 INT, -1.44 rating (13th);

Passes thrown 21 to 30 yards downfield:
2012: 2-for-7 (29% completions; 20th), 1 TD, 3 INT, -20.39 rating (32nd; Last);
2010: 13-for-52 (25% completions; 24th), 4 TD, 6 INT, -4.63 rating (25th);

Passes thrown 31+ yards downfield:
2012: 2-for-5 (40% completions; 8th), 1 TD, 0 INT, +7.50 rating (12th);
2010: 7-for-25 (28% completions; 24th), 2 TD, 1 INT, -0.15 rating (16th);

In 2010, before he got hurt, 11% of Manning’s passes were thrown 20 or more yards downfield and his rating was -3.45, which ranked 21st. So far this season, only 8% of his throws have been long passes of 20+ yards, and his rating is -8.61, ranked 29th. Just to complete the puzzle, Manning’s rating on long passes was -1.07 in 2009 (17th) and -1.76 in 2008, also ranked 17th.

So judging by the numbers only, it’s difficult to tell if Peyton’s arm strength is worse post surgery, because he was not a terribly effective long passer before his injury. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: ‘4th and Goal’ breaks down Patriots and Broncos

10.05.12 at 10:50 pm ET
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Check out the latest edition of Chris Price’s “4th and Goal,” which breaks down the three keys to the game plus a prediction on the final score for this Sunday:

Chandler Jones: ‘Don’t try to play the name game’ with Peyton Manning

10.05.12 at 2:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One day after being named the NFL defensive rookie of the month for September, Chandler Jones took another step Friday in an effort to show he’s mature beyond his years in the league.

Jones, like many around the league, grew up loving football and a fan of Peyton Manning. But on Sunday, Manning becomes just another quarterback he’ll be trying to plant into the ground.

“Definitely been watching him since I was a little kid but you take this game with the same approach you take it from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 13,” Jones said. “I don’t try to play the name game, who I’m going against. There’s a quarterback out there and my job is to get after him.”

Jones has been getting after quarterbacks – and offensive players – with regularity in his first four NFL games. He 19 total tackles, a team-leading three sacks, five quarterback hits and two forced fumbles, earning him the rookie of the month honor. But the challenge will be getting past two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady this Sunday at Gillette. Clady has given up just one quarterback hit and no sacks this season.

“Ryan Clady is a great player,” Jones said. “From my film study, he has some experience with him and it’s our job to execute.”

Another sign of maturity came when he was asked about his defensive rookie of the month honor.

“Defense as whole,” Jones said. “All the credit goes to the defense. You’ve got Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Rob Ninkovich and all the others. Without those guys, it couldn’t be possible.”

Read More: chandler jones, Kyle Love, New England Patriots, nfl

Fantasy Football: Week 5 starts, sits

10.05.12 at 12:32 pm ET
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Welcome to Week 5. I’€™ve compiled some solid starts for your consideration and I’€™ve also highlighted some players that are poor options for one reason or another. As always, if you need further assistance, please feel free to join us at where you can consult our full lineup rankings. Good luck to all in Week 5!



Joe Flacco, Ravens at Chiefs

The Chiefs should go down pretty easily, and we think Flacco will do very well. The risk is that they simply don’€™t need to throw at some point. That could make having a big game tough to pull off, but we like Flacco to produce solid numbers worthy of starting for you in all formats.

Jay Cutler, Bears at Jaguars

Cutler’€™s Jekyll & Hyde routine continued in Week 4 as he and Brandon Marshall had a good time dealing with the Cowboys defense. The ‘Boys have a stud pass-rusher, so it’€™s a good sign for the Bears and Cutler, because pass protection is their Achilles’ heel. Cutler should fare well against Jacksonville in Week 5 and he can be a bye week solution for you in any league.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Packers

The game looks good in terms of its dynamics. Luck may have his ups and downs, but we know that the Colts will have to open it up if they want to compete with Green Bay. You won’€™t be seeing Donald Brown and a cloud of dust all day long. Not by a long shot. Luck is a solid play if you need bye week help.

Christian Ponder, Vikings vs. Titans

Check his health just to be sure. If Ponder is limited in Friday’€™s practice, then there could be some reason for concern, but he’€™s been very good so far and we think Tennessee is ripe for the taking as far as matchups go. The Vikings are healthy and fully loaded on offense as long as Ponder is ready to roll. He’€™s a strong play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Luck, Cedric Benson, Christian Ponder, Jay Cutler

Brandon Spikes: ‘I’ve been inconsistent’

10.04.12 at 1:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The numbers say Brandon Spikes is finally reaching his potential.

The third-year run-stopping linebacker out of Florida is second on the Patriots with 30 tackles through four games. Only Jerod Mayo (46) has more.

He forced two fumbles on Sunday in the 52-28 win over the Bills and set the tempo on the sideline with ferocious hits that turned the momentum in the game.

“It was a just form tackling,” Spikes said Thursday of his fourth-quarter hit on Fred Jackson in Sunday’s win. “I was taught to hit the ball and separate it from the man so that’s what I was able to do. It went well that game.”

He also leveled big tight end Scott Chandler at the end of Devin McCourty‘s second interception of the game.

“It’s something that comes natural. I always have been like that, ever since I was little,” Spikes said. “I played with a lot of emotion and I just love the game. As you can see, you can tell I’m having fun playing. It’s just a part of me. It’s just comes with playing beside me.

“I’ve been playing that way. Honestly, you guys just noticed but I feel like I’ve been playing like that ever since I stepped on the field. It’s just emotion. It just comes out.”

Regarded as one of the most physical athletes on the team, Spikes is showing just how valuable he is to the defense.

“I definitely have to stay agile,” Spikes said. “I play basketball so that helps me out. I still have a lot of work to do. I feel like right now, as far as my performance, I’ve been inconsistent. So, if I could start doing all the little things and getting better each week, I feel like I’ll have a great season.”

Spikes, who had 11 tackles in the Super Bowl last February, feels there are areas he can improve. One such example came in the first half Sunday when he lined up in the slot to cover Chandler. Chandler shook him off and beat him to the middle of the field. He stopped his coverage on the play, leaving the defensive backs to pick him up. The secondary didn’t get to Chandler in time and the result was a 20-yard touchdown for the Bills.

“Pass coverage, just everything. Just ups and downs,” Spikes said. “I might have a brain fart here and there. It’s the league, I’m trying to get that out of the way.”

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, nfl

Brandon Bolden has ‘blinders’ on as he continues to keep his focus on field

10.04.12 at 12:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Brandon Bolden isn’t looking back, only forward.

The rookie running back, who finished with 16 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bills, isn’t resting on his accomplishments. He said before practice on Thursday that the focus has now moved on to the Broncos, saying that he has “blinders” on.

“[You don’t] worry about last week. Last week happened; now we’re getting ready for Denver. We have them coming here,” he said. “Just forget about it. It was a game. You see that: ‘Yeah, yay, yippee.’ Everybody was happy. But it happened, it’s in the past, and now, we’re moving on.”

An undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back said he isn’t sure how he’s going to fit into the game plan this weekend.

“I have no clue. Like I said, you never know,” Bolden said. “We might go in one game and do something different from what we expected and we have to change it. You don’t know. So I don’t know.

“Going into every week of practice, you go in and try and learn as much of the game plan as you can in case your number does get called, you have the opportunity to go execute everything.”

Four games into his professional career, Bolden said there haven’t been a whole lot of surprises.

“Really, I haven’t had much of a surprise, per se,” he said. “I had a great job working with our entire [team] this spring, when I first got here. Everybody kind of jump started me ahead of time and let me know what to look for — this and that. And then, getting in with the older guys, watching film and seeing how they take notes and everything and kind of preparing you for the entire season.

“My first four [games], things have been pretty much the pace they prepared me for, and things are still going according to plan.”

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