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Live blog: Patriots take on Bills in regular season finale

12.28.14 at 10:38 am ET
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Live Blog Patriots vs. Bills, live blog
 

Week 17 fantasy football live chat, 11 a.m.

12.28.14 at 10:14 am ET
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Join Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com for a fantasy football live chat, Sunday starting at 11 a.m. Let Davidson help you set all your lineups …

Live Blog Week 17 fantasy football live chat
 

Setting the scene: Patriots wrap up the regular season at Gillette against the Bills

12.28.14 at 10:13 am ET
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Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense look to go into the playoffs with momentum. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense look to go into the playoffs with momentum. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Cloudy skies and temperatures approaching 50 are expected for the regular season finale between the Patriots and Buffalo Bills here at Gillette Stadium.

There is the chance of showers for the 1 p.m. kickoff with skies becoming partly cloudy by the second half. A slight breeze is expected out of the west at the start of the game but winds could pick up by the start of the second half, with gusts of 10 to 15 MPH possible.

The Patriots enter the game with nothing at stake except to stay healthy for the playoffs. They are 12-3 with the AFC East and No. 1 seed in the AFC already clinched. With that comes home field advantage throughout the playoffs until the Super Bowl.

The Bills enter the game 8-7 after blowing their chance to make Week 17 relevant when they lost in Oakland last Sunday. They were eliminated from playoff contention.

The biggest question is who will play and who will sit for the Patriots. Tom Brady figures to start but come out midway through. Julian Edelman is likely to sit out as a precautionary measure after suffering a concussion in the week leading up to the Jets game at MetLife Stadium. Josh Boyce was activated Saturday from the practice squad and could expected to take his place. Running back Jonas Gray was also ruled out Saturday.

Rob Gronkowski has played in every regular season game but is likely to see limited time, if any at all, in the finale. Unlike 2011, Gronkowski enters the game with no significant milestones or records at stake. He has 12 receiving touchdowns, five shy of the 17 he scored in the 2011 season, setting an NFL record for tight ends.

Gronkowski said earlier in the week he is preparing to play the entire game.

A win today against the Bills would extend Bill Belichick‘s record of seasons with 13 wins to six.

With the Patriots figuring to rest most of their significant starters in the second half and players like Edelman possibly sitting out, this represents a golden opportunity for the Bills to finally break through and win a game at Gillette Stadium.

They are 0-12 against the Patriots at Gillette and have lost 13 straight in Foxboro, dating to their last road win, 16-13, in New England on Nov. 5, 2000.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski

Patriots promote WR Josh Boyce to active roster, place CB Alfonzo Dennard on IR

12.27.14 at 5:46 pm ET
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Josh Boyce

Josh Boyce

The Patriots made several personnel moves on Saturday night, signing wide receiver Josh Boyce to the 53-man roster from the practice squad and placing cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve. In addition, the Patriots signed defensive back Daxton Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson from the practice squad.

Here’s a portion of the statement issued by the team on the moves:

Boyce, 23, was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (102nd overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian. He played in nine games with three starts as a rookie and finished with nine receptions for 121 yards. Boyce was released by the Patriots on Aug. 30, 2014 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1.

Dennard, 25, is in his third season with the Patriots after joining the team as a seventh round draft pick (224th overall) out of Nebraska in the 2012 NFL Draft. He played in six games with four starts in 2014 and registered 15 total tackles and one interception.

Swanson, 23, has spent most of the season on the New England practice squad. He was released from the practice squad on Dec. 23. Swanson was originally signed by the Patriots as a free agent on May 22, 2014. He entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Indianapolis Colts on April 30, 2013, out of Sam Houston State. The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder was released by the Colts on Oct. 29, 2013 and was signed to the San Francisco 49ers practice squad on Nov. 18, 2013. He was released by San Francisco on May 12, 2014.

Henderson, 24, had two stints on the New England practice squad this season. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Atlanta Falcons on April 29, 2013 out of Central Florida. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder, was released by the Falcons on Aug. 25, 2014 and was signed to the Cleveland Browns practice squad on Dec. 4, 2013. He went to training camp this past summer with Cleveland, but was released on Aug. 25, 2014. He played two seasons at Central Florida after beginning his college career at Vavarro College.

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

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Cam Henderson, Daxton Swanson, Josh Boyce

10 things for Patriots fans to look for Sunday

12.27.14 at 1:00 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski could hit his goal of playing in all 16 regular-season games in 2014 Sunday against the Bills. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski could hit his goal of playing in all 16 regular-season games in 2014 Sunday against the Bills. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Because the relative worth of Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Bills is debatable — and because of that, trying to figure out potential matchups might very well be an exercise in futility — we’ve decided to eschew our usual game preview. Instead, we’ve created a checklist for New England fans as to what to look for come Sunday. Here are 10 things (in no particular order) the Patriots would like to accomplish Sunday against Buffalo:

1. Stay healthy: There are plenty of other elements for the Patriots to consider going into this one, but the singularly most important thing is to steer clear of injury heading into the postseason. (Because, as we all know, health trumps momentum at this time of the year.) That includes tight end Rob Gronkowski, quarterback Tom Brady, cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins. Given how Bill Belichick has approached these games in the past — and given the fact that they have two weeks between this game and their playoff opener — it’s reasonable to think that each one of these players will at least play some before being pulled.

2. Try and gauge the overall state of the offensive line: Despite the fact that it looks like Marcell Dareus might not play on Sunday, if Buffalo does roll out the same front seven it’s had over the course of most of the first 15 games, it’ll provide a nice test for the New England offensive line. The Bills are one of the best pass defenses in the league — they lead the league with 50 sacks — thanks in large part to the group that gets after the quarterback. Mario Williams has 13.5 sacks, while Dareus has 10. Jerry Hughes (9.5 sacks) and Kyle Williams (5.5 sacks) round out the group, which is an impressive collection of pass rushing talent as there is in the league. Left guard Dan Connolly (ankle), guard/tackle Cameron Fleming (ankle) and tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) were all questionable as of Friday afternoon, so a few backups could see time. But regardless, the New England line will face a stern test from a Buffalo front that should prepare them nicely for the playoffs.

3. Develop some confidence and consistency on offense heading into the postseason: Our scout hit on this in his game preview earlier in the week, but it bears repeating that the New England offense is looking to head into the playoffs on a better note than last week. In that contest against the Jets, the Patriots struggled to achieve any sort of real offensive rhythm, with only two drives that could best be described as anywhere near crisp and efficient. In the 2010 regular-season finale — a game similar to this one in that the top seed was already decided going into the game — the Patriots were a little sluggish out of the gate before Tom Brady and the rest of the offense got things together with a nice series at the start of the second half. It’s likely that the coaching staff will be looking for the New England offense to go out on a similar high note in this one before Jimmy Garoppolo and the rest of the backups take over.

4. Try and figure out your best option at nickel corner: The Patriots are going to be without Alfonzo Dennard on Sunday, but given how frequently he’s been a healthy scratch this season, it’s reasonable to question how much he’ll be in New England’s plans come the postseason. (EDIT: The Patriots put Dennard on season-ending IR Saturday evening.) With the assumption that Kyle Arrington will remain in the slot, that leaves Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, as well as the possibility of seeing Devin McCourty in a limited corner spot (something he’s done occasionally over the course of the second half of the season) for postseason. Smart quarterbacks and deep receiving corps have done well zeroing in Ryan and Butler over the last month, and that figures to be the case heading into the postseason. The Patriots need one of these younger players to assert themselves and seize control of the job.

5. Work on defending tight ends: The Patriots have struggled to contain good tight ends over the course of the season (Football Outsiders has them 29th in the league when it comes to defending tight ends), and they’ll get a chance on Sunday to go up against a guy who has done a really impressive job against them the last few seasons in Buffalo’s Scott Chandler. The Iowa product is not a high-profile target, but in eight games against New England he has 27 catches for 364 yards and four touchdowns. That includes six catches on nine targets for 105 yards in the October contest against New England in Buffalo. “He’s got good skills — long, tall guy,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick of the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder. “Big target, big catch radius; he’s a hard guy to match up on. We’ve had a lot of trouble with him.” As a result, Sunday could represent a good barometer of where the Patriots are when it comes to their ability to slow elite tight ends come playoff time.

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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady,

Report: Rex Ryan has cleaned out his office in anticipation of firing

12.27.14 at 12:14 pm ET
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It appears that Rex Ryan is resigned to his fate. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

It appears Rex Ryan is resigned to his fate. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

In his first move as “consultant” to Jets owner Woody Johnson, Charley Casserly has already started contacting possible replacements for GM John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan, according to a report from NJ.com. In addition, Ryan has already cleaned out his offices at One Jets Drive in anticipation of being fired on Monday.

The Jets, who are 3-12 heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Dolphins in Miami, appear poised to make sweeping changes, starting with the hiring of Casserly. It’s not clear as to what sort of responsibilities Casserly will have, but he has apparently received the blessing of Johnson to make major changes. That includes bringing in a new coach and GM. In addition, it’s believed Casserly won’t be the only “consultant” hired by Johnson and the Jets: numerous reports say Casserly has reached out to former Packers GM Ron Wolf to assist with making whatever changes the Jets have coming.

Viewed through a Patriots’ prism, the decision to bring Casserly on board in New York means there could mean the renewal of a Casserly-Bill Belichick feud. Casserly is one of Belichick’s more underrated sparring partners, as the Patriots coach has taken a couple of shots at Casserly over the years for a variety of incidents. The most notable came in 2010 when Casserly — then working for CBS as an analyst — revealed that quarterback Tom Brady was suffering from three broken ribs. That prompted an agitated Belichick to return fire.

“Who’€™s been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins? His percentage is like a meteorologist,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œHe has no relationship to this team. I’€™d say less than zero. Based on what? He’€™s never at a practice, never at a game.”

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

Read More: Bill Belichick, Charley Casserly, John Idzik, Rex Ryan

Alfonzo Dennard, Jonas Gray ruled out; 15 others questionable vs. Bills

12.26.14 at 4:57 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

FOXBORO — The Patriots will host the Bills Sunday afternoon in their regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium and will already be without two players.

After missing Friday’s practice, running back Jonas Gray (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game, as has cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Dennard didn’t appear on the injury report until today as he was limited in practice with a hamstring injury.

In addition to those two players, 15 players are questionable. Sebastian Vollmer appeared on the injury report for the first time this week with a back injury. He was limited in practice and questionable for the game. Julian Edelman (concussion/thigh), LeGarrette Blount (shoulder), Kyle Arrington (hamstring) and Dan Connolly (knee), who all missed the game last week were limited all week and are listed as being questionable.

Tom Brady (ankle) was a full participant in practice all week and is listed as probable.

Here is the complete injury report:

Out

CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), limited
RB Jonas Gray (ankle), did not practice

Questionable

LS Danny Aiken (finger), limited
CB Kyle Arrington (hamstring), limited
RB LeGarrette Blount (shoulder), limited
CB Brandon Browner (groin), limited
LB Jamie Collins (hip), limited
OL Dan Connolly (ankle), limited
WR Julian Edelman (thigh/concussion), limited
OL Cameron Fleming (ankle), limited
LB Dont’€™a Hightower (shoulder), limited
DE Chandler Jones (hip), limited
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder), limited
DE Rob Ninkovich (heel), limited
RB Shane Vereen (ankle), limited
OL Sebastian Vollmer (back), limited
LB Chris White (ankle), limited

Probable

QB Tom Brady (ankle), full participation

Read More: Patriots injury report,
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