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Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done the best job of getting after the quarterback through eight games?

11.09.11 at 9:05 am ET
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According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 324 dropbacks against the Patriots through eight games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 40 times, to go along with 15 sacks (25th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of who has been getting to the quarterback for the Patriots through eight games:

Quarterback hits:
Defensive end Andre Carter: Eight
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Anderson: Six
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: Six
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Four
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: Four
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Three
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: Two
Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Two
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: One
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren: One
Safety Pat Chung: One
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: One
Cornerback Phillip Adams: One

Sacks:
Anderson: 4.5
Carter: 4.5
Ninkovich: 1.5
Wilfork: 1.5
Chung: One
Love: One
Pryor: 0.5
Mike Wright: 0.5

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

11.09.11 at 7:08 am ET
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A wild week in the NFL resulted in a shakeup in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Packers have a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot, but many other teams went soaring up or skyrocketing down. The 49ers (2), Ravens (3), and Steelers (4) move around but all remain in the top five. Meanwhile, the Patriots (11) plummet to their lowest spot all year. Back-to-back losses and the league’s worst pass defense is the main reason for the big drop.

It was a good week for some of the NFC’s top teams. The Falcons (5), Saints (6), Giants (8), and Bears (10) all rise at least one spot and sit in an NFC-dominated top 10. The Ravens (3), Steelers (4), and Jets (9) are the only teams that represent the AFC in the top 10.

Week 9 resulted in the NFL having just one remaining winless team. The Dolphins (29) wrapped up their first win of the season against the Chiefs (19). The Colts remain in the gutter at No. 32 and are now the lone front-runners for Andrew Luck.

Week 10 promises to be an exciting one, with will several divisional showdowns scheduled.

AFC East: Pats at Jets, AFC West: Chargers at Raiders, AFC North: Steelers at Bengals

NFC South: Saints at Falcons, NFC North: Lions at Bears

1. (1) Packers (8-0) ‘€” Dating back to last season, the Packers have won 14 straight games (including postseason). With the Vikings and Bucs next, there’s a very good possibility the defending champs could be 10-0 heading into their Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions.

2. (3) 49ers (7-1) ‘€” Make that six straight wins for the biggest surprise team in the league. The 49ers are atop of the NFC West and have the division practically wrapped up. Frank Gore‘s second sprained ankle of the season is reason to worry in San Francisco. Gore’s play this year is a major reason why the 49ers are in first-place. Alex Smith is a much better QB when he can lean on Gore. 

3. (5) Ravens (6-2) ‘€” A season sweep of the Steelers is a true sign of a strong team. Joe Flacco has redeemed himself after his poor performance against the Jaguars. Flacco is starting to get into a rhythm and has thrown for 300 or more yards in three of his last four games.

4. (2) Steelers (6-3) ‘€” The pass rush looks to be back with James Harrison wreaking havoc in the backfield. However, the Steelers defense still allowed the Ravens to convert 14 third downs on Sunday night. One positive is that Pittsburgh played much better against Ray Rice this time around. Rice averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. In Week 1, Rice ran all over the Steelers D. It almost seems inevitable that the Ravens and Steelers will see each other again in January.

5. (6) Falcons (5-3) ‘€” The Falcons’ biggest game of the season will come this week against the Saints. The two teams will fight for first place in the NFC South. Atlanta has to be encouraged going into the game after winning three straight and having a healthy Julio Jones back in Matt Ryan‘s arsenal.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Albert Haynesworth, NFL Power Rankings, Tim Tebow

Analysis: A closer look at Patriots’ decision to release Albert Haynesworth

11.08.11 at 2:33 pm ET
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In New England, the Albert Haynesworth era began in July with the promise of new beginnings, but ended bitterly last Sunday, as the defensive tackle submitted a weak performance and was seen sniping on the sidelines with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.

The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth arrived in a deal with Washington on July 29 for a fifth-round pick in 2013. The Tennessee product, who had a checkered history both on and off the field, sounded excited for the fresh start that was afforded to him with the Patriots, and spoke optimistically about a new lease on his football life. He appeared to put his money where his mouth was, as he reworked his contract down from a seven-year, $100 million deal he signed with Washington prior to the 2009 season to a far more cap-friendly, incentive-based deal.

However, he struggled to stay on the field — Haynesworth sightings at training camp were few and far between. When he did play at the start of the year, he was disruptive, finishing the regular-season opener against the Dolphins with what would be a season-high 30 snaps and three quarterback pressures. In addition, he drew a pair of holding calls on Miami offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

It would be the unquestioned high point for him in a New England uniform. His snaps quickly tailed off, and he eventually sat for two games because of a back problem. From that point on, Haynesworth’€™s playing time declined significantly. And while there were occasional flashes of solid play — he talked on several occasions about still trying to ‘€œknock the rust off’€ — things bottomed out this past weekend against the Giants, where he was on the field for just nine of the Patriots’ 74 defensive snaps.

When he was on the field against New York, he clearly struggled — at one point, he was bowled over on a 10-yard touchdown run by Giants’€™ offensive lineman David Diehl, and on another play, he was rag-dolled by New York offensive lineman Chris Snee. He spent the majority of the second half on the sideline, at one point engaging in what appeared to be an animated discussion with Johnson.

‘€œWe had a lot of defensive linemen active, so they played in different rotations,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday when asked about Haynesworth’€™s playing time against the Giants. ‘€œVince [Wilfork] is a guy, obviously, that we don’€™t want off the field, but the rest of those guys, they can’€™t all play. One guy plays for a while, then somebody else plays, and we rotate them.’€

In the end, Haynesworth played 132 snaps in New England, and in games he was active, he was on the field for 31 percent of the snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, he got two hits and eight hurries on 83 total rushes with the Patriots.

Haynesworth made $32 million in his two seasons with Redskins, but his reworked deal had him taking home $1.5 million in base salary with Patriots. If he is claimed, the remaining $706,000 on his deal will be picked up by his new team (teams have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to claim his contract). Otherwise, New England will be on the hook for the rest of the money this year.

Going forward, this will open up more playing time possibilities for second-year defensive tackle Kyle Love, who was ahead of Haynesworth on the depth chart at this point in the season, as well as third-year lineman Ron Brace. In addition, expect more overall responsibility to fall on the shoulders of veteran defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Wilfork, as the Patriots remain relatively deep at the position (barring injury) for the rest of the season.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chris Snee, David Diehl

Bill O’Brien: ‘I don’t really agree with’ fact that Patriots don’t have a deep threat in passing game

11.08.11 at 1:28 pm ET
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Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien said he doesn’€™t really agree with the notion that they don’€™t have a deep threat in the passing game this season.

‘€œI don’€™t really agree with that,’€ O’€™Brien said when asked about it during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. ‘€œI think we have guys that can stretch the field. We have guys that are good vertical receivers and some that do a little bit of both. … I don’€™t necessarily agree with that. I just think, again, we have do a better job of coaching, playing, and actually showing what we’€™re capable of doing. Hopefully we do that this week.’€

To O’€™Brien’€™s point, this season the Patriots have 38 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and are on pace for 76, which would be the highest total since New England had 71 in 2005. At the same time, the Patriots are annually one of the best teams in the league when it comes to yards after the catch (they are only one of three teams to have at least two receivers in the Top 15 in YAC), and many of their big plays have come this season because of a great catch-and-run by a wide receiver, including a 73-yard connection against the Jets by Wes Welker and a 99-yarder against the Dolphins, also by Welker.

Many have pointed to second-year receiver Taylor Price as a possible deep threat for New England, and O’€™Brien even referenced him in last week’€™s conference call as someone the Patriots need to get on the field more often. Price was a late scratch from Sunday’€™s game against the Giants, and O’€™Brien said Tuesday he was ‘€œdisappointed’€ for the Ohio product.

‘€œI was disappointed for him, but you can’€™t control injuries,’€ O’€™Brien said. ‘€œAnd as it was related to that question last week, I really would like to get a lot of people involved. We play a lot of guys and each game go into it with that thought process and we take what the defense gives us. Like in this past game, Wes and Rob had a bunch of catches but hopefully in the next game, we can get some more involved. It’€™s not just one guy, it’€™s trying to get a lot of guys involved.’€

Read More: Bill O'Brien, Taylor Price, Wes Welker,

Following the flags: Breaking down the Patriots penalties through eight games

11.08.11 at 9:46 am ET
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Through eight games this season, the Patriots have been flagged for 52 penalties (18th in the league) and 471 yards (12th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against New England, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
OL Logan Mankins: five penalties (offensive holding and four false starts), 30 yards
OL Nate Solder: four penalties (three holding and illegal use of hands), 40 yards
Team: four penalties (12 men on the field, offensive holding, two illegal substitutions), 25 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: three penalties (holding, false start, facemask), 29 yards
S Sergio Brown: three penalties (three defensive pass interference), 71 yards
OL Matt Light: three penalties (two holding and one false start), 20 yards
LB Dane Fletcher: two penalties (offensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 17 yards
OL Brian Waters: two penalties (holding, offensive holding), 15 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: two penalties (holding, encroachment), 11 yards
TE Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
CB Leigh Bodden: two penalties (both defensive holding), 10 yards
WR Wes Welker: two penalties (illegal motion, false start), 10 yards
S Pat Chung: two penalties (unnecessary roughness and facemask), 15 yards
WR Deion Branch: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
WR Chad Ochocinco: two penalties (illegal formation, false start), 9 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 35 yards
DL Andre Carter: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
LB Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
DL Kyle Love: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
OL Dan Connolly: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S James Ihedigbo: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
CB Devin McCourty: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
QB Tom Brady: one penalty (delay of game), 5 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct), 2 yards
OL Sebastian Vollmer: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
K Stephen Gostkowski: one penalty (illegal onsides kick), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: 16 penalties for 125 yards
Safety: six penalties for 108 yards
Tight end: six penalties for 44 yards
Wide receiver: six penalties for 29 yards
Linebacker: five penalties for 43 yards
Cornerback: four penalties for 55 yards
Team: four penalties for 25 yards
Defensive line: three penalties for 32 yards
Quarterback: one penalty for five yards
Kicker: one penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
False start: 14
Offensive holding: 13
Defensive pass interference: four
Roughing the passer: three
Illegal block above the waist: three
Defensive holding: two
Facemask: two
Illegal substitution: two
Illegal formation: one
Illegal use of hands: one
Unsportsmanlike conduct: one
Unecessary roughness: one
Illegal motion: one
Twelve men in the huddle: one
Illegal onside kick: one
Encroachment: one
Delay of game: one

Read More: Patriots, penalties,

Fantasy Football: Week 10 Waiver Wire

11.08.11 at 8:53 am ET
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Welcome to the week 10 waiver wire. Since we have this odd gap in the bye weeks, we’€™re featuring more long-term options and fewer one-week fill-ins. We’€™ll get back to bye week options in week eleven, which is the final week for byes. If you play in a deep format and are looking for even more options, please feel free to join us at rotobahn.com.

Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos

People can debate his worth as an NFL QB until the cows come home, but it is pretty clear that the guy is a fantasy asset as long as he is starting. This is probably the last week we list him here. He should already be owned in all leagues.

Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders

Let other people focus on the loss and the drama. Palmer has a very good supporting cast and he is, at minimum, a quality backup for fantasy purposes.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams

He hasn’€™t really performed that well this season, but we like his potential in this offense with Steven Jackson performing at a high level and with Brandon Lloyd in the fold as the #1 receiver. Bradford should be owned in all leagues.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

He continues to get it done and he is a fantasy asset due to the solid weaponry in Cincy. He is a decent matchup starter in larger leagues and a solid backup in any format.

Roy Helu, RB, Redskins

We’€™ve been talking about Helu since July, and looks like his ship has finally come in. He may not get 24 touches every single week, but as we’€™ve been saying all along, he is the back to own in DC. Helu is now a must-add in any format and he looks like he’€™ll have some bonus value in PPR formats. Helu is a very nice player to own in long term formats.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants

There are rumors that Ahmad Bradshaw will be back, but even if he is, there are tons of reasons to doubt his ability to return to form. His injury is nothing new. Bradshaw has been having serious problems with his feet for years now. Even if he manages to gut it out and go, he may not have his usual burst. For these reasons, we like Jacobs as a possible answer for your RB2 spot. He is worth an add in all performance formats … and in some PPR leagues too.

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Player Poll: Chad Ochocinco, Tom Brady among NFL’s most overrated

11.07.11 at 6:38 pm ET
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A poll of 111 NFL players by The Sporting News featured a pair of Patriots on the list of the NFL’s most overrated players. Tim Tebow (22 votes) and Tony Romo (21) were runaway selections for the top two spots in the category. A bit further down the list, Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco received five votes to finish in a tie for fifth place, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was named on three ballots, tied with Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Cardinals signal-caller Kevin Kolb for seventh in the NFL.

Ochocinco was on another ignominious midyear list. He ranked sixth in a survey by Forbes of the most disliked NFL players by the public, with 35 percent of fans suggesting they had a poor opinion of the mercurial wide receiver. That was still behind Patriots teammate Albert Haynesworth, who was the fourth most disliked player in the NFL, with 46 percent of survey participants suggesting they disliked the defensive lineman. He finished behind Michael Vick (60 percent dislike rate), Plaxico Burriss (56 percent) and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (49 percent), all of whom have been either convicted of or charged with crimes in recent years.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, most dislike player, most overrated player
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