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Peter King on M&M: ‘Julian Edelman has a chance in the postseason to burst into America’s living rooms’

01.03.14 at 1:40 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss NFL news and expound on his prediction that the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

King predicts the Patriots to beat the Broncos in the AFC championship game and then win the Super Bowl over the Seahawks, with Julian Edelman earning MVP honors.

“The way I look at this postseason for New England, it’s going to be a continuation of Tom Brady making due with guys the way he’s done most of his career,” King said. “This is a redux of Troy Brown, the year that he caught all the balls. That’s the thing about this team.

“You know who kind of reminds me of Brady right now is Andrew Luck. If you look at Andrew Luck‘s last month, remember how he was a total lost sheep when he lost Reggie Wayne? They played poorly for about a month, and he couldn’t find a weapon. What happened is he adjusted. He got used to Griff Whalen and Da’Rick Rogers and a bunch of guys like that. Now he’s even throwing to Trent Richardson.

“I think what happens is you adjust to the personnel you have. Brady’s always done that. I think that Julian Edelman has a chance in the postseason to burst into America’s living rooms.”

Looking at the Patriots’ potential opponent next weekend, King said to keep an eye on the Bengals.

“I’d be afraid of Cincinnati, which is the team the Patriots are probably going to get,” King said. “I must say that I watched an awful lot of that game, too — the game earlier this year obviously when the Patriots went to Cincinnati and lost the game. And a lot of people will say, well, the torrential downpour and all that. And look, I don’t have a crystal clear memory of that. But the one thing I do remember is that for the first at least like 2 1/2 quarters it didn’t rain. It was kind of crummy weather but they were able to play. And I think if you look back at that game — I remember thinking about it — if I’m not mistaken, I think the Patriots punted like eight of their first 10 possessions or something in that game.

“I think that the Bengals, even without Geno Atkins — because remember, they lost Geno Atkins in that game — even the Bengals without Geno Atkins have been a very, very formidable foe for a lot of teams they’ve played. Look at the teams in the playoffs that Cincinnati has beaten. Even though they haven’t played maybe as tough a schedule as a team like San Diego, they’ve beaten New England, they’ve beaten Green Bay, they’ve beaten San Diego, they’ve beaten Indianapolis.

These Bengals, I wouldn’t predict them to go to Foxboro and win a game, but this is going to be one of the tougher divisional tests the Patriots that have faced.”

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Hulk Hogan throws his full support behind Patriots

01.03.14 at 10:15 am ET
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We already knew that Hulk Hogan was already a fan of the Patriots, but the former champ threw his full support behind New England on Thursday night via Twitter.

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Patriots’ Potential Playoff Opponents: Broncos

01.03.14 at 6:00 am 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, Chiefs and Bengals. We wrap it up with the Broncos.

The skinny: Denver earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC by virtue of a very good regular-season slate that ended at 13-3. With the exception of an occasional misstep — road losses to the Patriots and Colts and a home defeat to the Chargers — the Broncos were able to meet the challenges that were placed in front of them. Their offense, led by quarterback Peyton Manning, had an epic year, with five games of 45 points or more. Meanwhile, for most of the regular season, the defense did just enough to allow the Broncos to win their share of shootouts, getting enough stops at key moments for Denver to come away with 13 wins. It remains to be seen if the Broncos will be able to shake off the ghosts of recent postseason failures (from both Manning and the franchise). For a team with such a proud history, it’€™s telling that Denver has had just two playoff wins since John Elway retired following Super Bowl XXXIII in January 1999.

Offense: The Broncos were an offensive machine for the better part of the 2013 season, churning out points at a record pace. (They were the first team to crack the 600-point barrier, breaking the mark of 589 points set by the 2007 Patriots.) Manning had a monster season — a 68 percent completion rate (450-for-659), 5,477 yards, 55 TDs and 10 picks. He was able to connect with six pass catchers for 60 receptions or more, as Demaryius Thomas (92 catches), Eric Decker (87 catches), Wes Welker (73 catches), Julius Thomas (65 catches) and Knowshon Moreno (60 catches) all played sizable roles in the passing game, while Moreno was able to finish with 1,038 yards rushing on 241 rush attempts. The Broncos were first across the board in total offense (457.3 yards per game), passing yards per game (340.3) and points per game (37.9). They were 15th in the league in rushing (117.1 yards per game). When compared to the rest of the playoff field, Denver gives away the ball a little more than the rest of the teams in the postseason, with 10 picks and a league-leading 16 fumbles.

Defense: The defense took a sizable hit when Von Miller went down for the year, but has put up good numbers down the stretch and created some optimism in Denver that the Broncos D could do more than simply serve as a way to get Manning and the rest of the offense an occasional breather. Shaun Phillips leads the team with 10 sacks, while Malik Jackson (six sacks) has also had a good year. Defensive linemen Terrance Knighton and Robert Ayers are solid against the run, while defensive backs Danny Trevathan and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have three interceptions each. Denver is 19th in total defense (356 yards allowed per game), 22nd in points per game (24.9) and 27th in passing yards allowed 254.4 yards allowed per game). If there’€™s a strength, it’€™s their run defense, where they were tied for seventh at 101.6 rushing yards allowed per game during the regular season. When it comes to takeaways, the Broncos are above average, with 26 (17 picks, nine fumbles) on the season, good for sixth-best in the AFC.
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Matt Mulligan explains reason behind Hulk Hogan connection

01.02.14 at 5:23 pm ET
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Matthew Mulligan was more than a little surprised to get a video shoutout from Hulk Hogan.

The Patriots tight end, who grew up a pro wrestling fan, drew the notice of the Hulkster when Mulligan’s wife purchased a replica of a WWE championship belt. Hogan mentioned Mulligan by name in a video, and said he was now a Patriots fan.

“I feel like there are only a few people in life where, as a grown man, you would be pretty giddy about meeting, and I think Hulk Hogan would be one of them” Mulligan said Thursday. “I was showing all my buddies at home and they were all freaking out, and like I said, Hulk Hogan is a household name whether you watch professional wrestling or not in my opinion. So, it was really cool.

“[My wife] actually wanted to give me one of his belts for Christmas because obviously I’€™m a Hulk Hogan fan,” Mulligan added. “I mean anyone that grew up in my era, if he wasn’€™t watching pro wrestling then he wasn’€™t watching very much I guess. So, it was just my wife’€™s idea and him doing that [promotional video] was his idea. I definitely appreciate it because, like I said, I’€™m a big fan of Hulk Hogan.”

Mulligan said he didn’t have the belt yet — he says the delivery was likely held up by the bad weather — but is excited.

“€œI’€™m just going to have it here,” he said. “All the guys are pretty stoked about it too. Like I said, all lot of us grew up being Hulkamaniacs, so it’€™s a nice thing to have Hulk Hogan reference the Patriots. It’€™s cool.”

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Patriots announce return of Austin Collie, place Josh Boyce on IR

01.02.14 at 4:57 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Thursday afternoon they have placed rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce on injured reserve, and re-signed veteran Austin Collie.

Boyce, 22, was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (102nd overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder played in nine games with three starts and finished his rookie season with nine receptions for 121 yards. He also returned nine kickoffs for 214 yards.

This is the third time Collie has been picked up by the Patriots. He was originally signed by the Patriots on Oct. 3 and then released on Nov. 5 before being re-signed on Dec. 5. He was released for the second time by the Patriots on Dec. 27.

Collie, 28, is in his fifth NFL season after spending four seasons with Indianapolis (2009-12). The 6-foot, 204-pounder originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick (127th overall) of the Colts out of Brigham Young in 2009. He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 2, but was released by the 49ers on Aug. 31.

Collie has played in 49 NFL games with 17 starts and has registered 179 receptions for 1,908 yards and 16 touchdowns. He played in seven games with one start for the Patriots and registered six receptions for 63 yards.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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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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