|01.04.15 at 11:12 am ET|
It’s widely reported Josh McDaniels interviewed with the Falcons this weekend for their head coaching job, but it’s now come out he is very high on their list, which stems from his time in New England as Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff and top assistant Scott Pioli were with the Patriots during the Super Bowl years when McDaniels was an assistant coach.
According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, McDaniels’ candidacy “has been championed” by both Dimitroff and Pioli. The pair isn’t safe, though, as during owner Arthur Blank‘s press conference when firing head coach Mike Smith, he didn’t entirely rule out more changes (Dimitroff and/or Pioli). A source told La Canfora their fate could tie into how the coaching search goes. Getting McDaniels on board would certainly create some stability with the trio all spending significant time together in New England.
While McDaniels removed his name from the Browns’ head coaching vacancy last year, last week on a conference call with reporters he said, “I’m very happy here. I think I have one of the best jobs,” speaking of being in New England. He has been on record in the past saying it would have to be a perfect fit for him to leave his current position. Having Matt Ryan at quarterback, along with Julio Jones and Roddy White at wide receiver, one would imagine the job at least would get some consideration.
The report also says the Falcons are interviewing Rex Ryan, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase and are waiting to interview Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.04.15 at 10:07 am ET|
|01.04.15 at 9:54 am ET|
Here are five things you have to know about the sixth-seeded Ravens, who will face the Patriots in the divisional playoffs next Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
They have struggled to stop the pass.
The Ravens do have a fearsome pass rush — Elvis Dumervil had 17 sacks this year, and Terrell Suggs had 12 — but many teams have been able to beat them because of their issues in the secondary. Over the course of the regular season, the Ravens were 23rd in the league with 249 passing yards per game allowed, 22nd in completion percentage allowed (64.2) and 19th in opposing passer rating (90.6). In all, the Ravens yielded 300 or more passing yards on five occasions. As we saw Saturday night, Baltimore does have the sort of pass rush that can make life difficult on an opposing quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times by the Ravens, including twice by Dumervil), but a secondary that’s struggled with health and other personnel losses could have some issues with New England’s passing attack. The Patriots will likely try and utilize several different options in hopes of slowing the Baltimore pass rush, including an extra offensive lineman (possibly Cameron Fleming), more sets with multiple tight ends and putting a priority on quarterback Tom Brady getting the ball out as fast as possible to intermediate targets like tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell. Look for the quarterback to have a quick trigger this week.
Conversely, the Ravens’ defense does a pretty good job against the run.
Baltimore has been pretty stout against the run over the course of the regular season — the Ravens yielded more than 100 yards on the ground five times, and two of those came in the final two weeks of the season as they were trying to survive without vaunted defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, who was suspended for failing a PED test for what he said was Adderall. Suggs is underrated as a run stopper, and C.J. Mosley has also proven himself to be valuable when it comes to slowing down opposing backs. The Patriots are likely to run the ball just enough to keep the Ravens honest on Saturday.
Justin Forsett is underrated as a feature back.
Forsett won the starting job after Ray Rice was released, and he had a very impressive season. The Cal product, who ended the season with 235 carries for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns, basically came out of nowhere to become the only running back in the NFL to finish with at least 1,200 rushing yards and average at least five yards per carry (5.4). The 5-foot-8. 197-pounder struggled at times down the stretch and had just 16 carries for 36 yards on Saturday against the Steelers, but will get the bulk of the work if the Ravens try and beat the Patriots on the ground next Saturday in Foxboro. In terms of the rest of their offense, we know that quarterback Joe Flacco is the sort of signal-caller capable of getting on a postseason run, especially when the Ravens hit the road. (His seven road playoff wins are the most by a quarterback since the 1970 merger.) Flacco set career-highs for regular-season passing yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27) this year. When he does throw, he’ll look for veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. (79 catches, 134 targets, 1,065 yards, 6 TDs), Torrey Smith (49 catches, 92 targets, 767 yards, 11 TDs) and tight end Owen Daniels (48 catches, 78 targets, 527 yards, 4 TDs).
|01.04.15 at 9:44 am ET|
PITTSBURGH — While most of the talk in the Ravens locker room following their 30-17 win over the Steelers on Saturday night revolved around the AFC wild card round victory, some discussion involving the Patriots couldn’t be helped.
With the Patriots having already lost one AFC championship game in Foxboro to the Ravens, while narrowly managing a victory in another, the showdown between the teams at Gillette Stadium (Saturday, 4:35 p.m.) surfaced plenty of emotion and analysis even moments after the win at Heinz Field.
Here are some of the Ravens’ comments Saturday night regarding their next playoff foe, the Patriots:
“We’re going to enjoy this plane ride home, but we all know who we’re dealing with next.”
“Everybody knows the history with these two teams. We’re going to play a football game. It’s the Ravens vs. the Patriots. Everybody knows the storylines. We’re going to save that. Right now it’s still Ravens, Steelers and we’ll see you all next week.”
“We all know the matchup the NFL wants to see. Something for the TV, for the sponsors. We’ve got faith in ourselves and Ravens Nation and we’ll see if we can disrupt some people’s plans.”
“I have to go watch some film and be prepared. [Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are] two great corners. Me and Revis has played against each other, he’s done a very good job so I anticipate watching a lot of film like I did this week and being prepared and ready.”
“That’s been my experience since I’ve been here. That’s just the way it is. If you want to go to the Super Bowl, you have to go through the Patriots first.”
“From an emotional point of view, for the guys who have played in Foxboro, I’m not going to say can give you an edge but it gives you a sense of comfort where you’re not really shaken by the fans or how loud it is because you’ve been in that situation and you’ve had experience. For guys who have played in Foxboro I feel like they will be more comfortable. It won’t be one of those situations where they freak out or freeze up.”
“We just have to go out and play our game. Play like Ravens. A lot of energy and just try and get after people. That’s all we can do. They’re a well-coached team. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”
|01.03.15 at 11:25 pm ET|
Here come the Ravens.
Baltimore went into Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers by a 30-17 count Saturday night in an AFC wild card contest. With the win, the Ravens advance to the divisional playoff round and a matchup with the Patriots Saturday at 4:35 at Gillette Stadium. It will mark the fourth time in the last six postseasons the Patriots and Ravens will renew their playoff feud, a stretch that includes a pair of AFC title games. (Baltimore has won two of those previous three contests.)
Joe Flacco ended up 18-for-29 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. had five catches on seven targets for 101 yards, and tight end Owen Daniels added four catches on five targets for 70 yards.
The Steelers were without their No. 1 offensive option, as running back Le’Veon Bell went down with a knee injury in the regular-season finale against the Bengals, and Pittsburgh struggled to find offensive rhythm for much of the evening. The Steelers, who were the seventh-highest scoring team in the league over the course of the regular season, had just one touchdown on the night as they saw their year come to a close. Ben Roethlisberger finished 30-for-44 for 327 yards and one interception. He was picked off twice and sacked five times in the loss. Antonio Brown had nine catches for 117 yards for the Steelers, who end their season with a 12-5 record.
At the start, it was a typical AFC North rockfight — tough, physical football with points at a premium. There was only one first half touchdown, that coming at the end of an impressive eight-play drive that culminated in a 5-yard run from Bernard Pierce to give Baltimore a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. Other than that, there were three field goals from the Steelers and one from the Ravens, which left it 10-9 at halftime.
|01.03.15 at 7:52 pm ET|
In what was a sloppy game to open the NFL postseason (six turnovers), the Panthers capitalized on three Cardinals’ turnovers to win 27-16 at home. The Panthers entered the game 7-8-1, but were able to win the NFC South to earn the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
Carolina led 10-0, but went into the locker room trailing 14-13 because of some bad turnovers late in the first half. The home team responded with 14 points in the third quarter to take command of the game. The only points Arizona scored in the second half were on a safety the Panthers took with three seconds left in the game.
Fozzy Whittaker caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cam Newton with 5:49 left in the third quarter, and then following a fumble on the kickoff, the Panthers scored just over a minute later on a Mike Tolbert 1-yard touchdown catch to extend their lead to 27-14.
Newton finished the game 18-for-32 with 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was his first career playoff win. Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Carolina defense played very well limiting Arizona to just 77 yards of total offense, and eight first downs. Cardinals quarterback (third string) Ryan Lindley was just 16-for-28 with 81 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.
The Panthers will now await the result of tomorrow’s Lions-Cowboys game to know who they will play next. If the Lions were to win, the Panthers would travel to Green Bay. If the Cowboys were to win, the Panthers would travel to Seattle.
For more Patriots and NFL playoff coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.03.15 at 10:27 am ET|
With the playoff picture now set, it’s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents for the Patriots. We’ve profiled the Broncos, Ravens and Steelers and Colts. We’ll wrap things up with the Bengals:
The skinny: The Bengals wrapped up the season with a 10-5-1 mark and the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture. Cincy started strong with a 3-0 record before getting poleaxed in Week 4 against the Patriots, 43-17. It provided a jumpstart for a sluggish New England team, and marked the start of a three-game winless streak for the Bengals. Cincinnati bounced back nicely and stayed in the thick of the playoff chase all year long, despite the up-and-down year from quarterback Andy Dalton, who might have been the only signal-caller in the league with five games with 250 or more yards passing and four games where he had less than 150 yards passing. (In fact, Dalton had arguably the worst game any starting quarterback played this year, while also finishing the season with six games where he completed almost 70 percent of his passes.)
Offense: Good or bad, Dalton (64 percent completion rate, 3,398 yards, 19 TDs, 17 INTs, 83.5 passer rating) is the centerpiece of the Cincinnati offense. The biggest question for the Bengals is the health of wide receiver A.J. Green (69 catches, 117 targets, 1,041 yards, 6 TDs). Green remains one of the best young receivers in the league, but is a question mark for the wild-card contest agains the Colts because of concussion issues. Tight end Jermaine Gresham (62 catches, 80 targets, 460 yards, 5 TDs) and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (56 catches, 98 targets, 790 yards, 5 TDs) are secondary options for Dalton in the passing game
The Bengals do a good job running the ball, and if Green is on the shelf for an extended stretch in the postseason, running back Jeremy Hill (222 carries, 1,124 rushing yards, 9 TDs, 5.1 yards per carry) will become even more important to the success of the Cincy offense. Hill has at least four games of 145 yards or more, and evolved into one of the better young backs in the game. Gio Bernard (168 carries, 680 yards, 5 TDs, 4 yards per carry) provides a nice complementary piece to the Bengals’ round game. Bernard also brings some multidimensional punch, as he finished the season with 43 catches for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Overall, the Bengals are 15th in the league in scoring at 22.8 points per game.
Defense: It was a tale of two seasons for the Cincinnati run defense: In their first nine games, the Bengals yielded at least 90 yards rushing in each contest. But in six of their last seven games, the Bengals were able to hold their opponents under 100 yards on the ground. In all, Cincinnati ended the year 20th in the league against the run, having allowed 116.3 rushing yards per game.
Read the rest of this entry »
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