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Patriots Friday injury report: Aaron Dobson returns, among nine questionable vs. Dolphins

12.13.13 at 4:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO — One day after left tackle Nate Solder returned to Patriots practice and was limited, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson got out of the walking boot on his left foot and was limited at practice on Friday.

Solder and Dobson are among nine officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in South Florida against the Dolphins.

Tom Brady, Steve Gregory and Aqib Talib also made strides on Friday as they were upgraded from limited to full participation at practice. All three are among the six Patriots officially listed as probable for Sunday.

Here is Friday’s complete report:

Limited Participation
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) QUESTIONABLE
CB Kyle Arrington (groin) QUESTIONABLE
RT Marcus Cannon (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee) QUESTIONABLE
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) QUESTIONABLE
LT Nate Solder (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
LB Brandon Spikes (knee) QUESTIONABLE
OT Will Svitek (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) QUESTIONABLE

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) PROBABLE
S Steve Gregory (finger) PROBABLE
CB Aqib Talib (hip) PROBABLE
WR Danny Amendola (groin) PROBABLE
WR Matthew Slater (wrist) PROBABLE
RB Shane Vereen (wrist) PROBABLE

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Miami Dolphins, Nate Solder, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick: Stephen Gostkowski is like Tom Brady ‘gets a little better each year’

12.13.13 at 4:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As clutch as Tom Brady has been late in the games this season when the Patriots have needed him to pull off miracle after miracle, the same could be said for Stephen Gostkowski all season.

Gostkowski had the biggest clutch play last Sunday when he perfectly executed an onside kick with just under a minute remaining to give the Patriots a chance for the game-winning touchdown. His season of clutch started in Week 1 when he kicked the game-winner in a 23-21 win over the Bills at Orchard Park. It has continued consistently ever since.

The case could easily be made that the eight-year kicker out of Memphis is not only having the best season of his career but he’s having the best season of any kicker in the league.

He has made 30-of-32 field goal attempts this season, missing only from 43 yards wide left against the Jets in Week 2 and from 55 yards against Houston in Week 13. Gostkowski followed up that 55-yard miss in Houston by hitting a pair from 53 yards on the suspect grass turf of Reliant Stadium in the fourth quarter, one to tie the game and one to win it.

His 93.8 conversion rate on field goals would be a career best, passing his 90 percent mark (36-of-40) in 2008.

How far has Gostkowski come in his eight years as kicker?

“I think, it’€™s maybe a little bit like Brady,” Bill Belichick said Friday in comparing him to the quarterback. “He gets a little bit better each year, but he started off at a pretty high level. He’€™s had a lot of great years for us and individual plays. He continues to work hard at his job, his training, his conditioning, his technique, obviously the execution with his other teammates on field goals.”

This is also the best season Gostkowski has had in kickoffs. His net kickoff yardage is 44.49 yards, fifth best in the NFL. His touchback rate of 64.6 percent (51-of-79) is also fifth in the NFL. Lofty numbers that, along with his field goal numbers, should make him a favorite for the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.

“He just becomes a better student of the game, more knowledgeable, more experienced, better situational player,” Belichick said. “But it’€™s incremental. It wasn’€™t like it started at a low point. It started at a pretty high point and it’€™s gradually ratcheted it up a little bit. You talk about Brady, where he was in ‘€™02, ‘€™03, ‘€™04, he played at a pretty good level but has continued to improve since then too. His work ethic and attention to detail and focus on a lot of little things, but again, it wasn’€™t the jump that he made his first year, let’€™s put it that way.”

Gostkowski has hit 200-of-234 attempts in his eight years in New England while missing just once on 391 extra points. His record in the playoffs is just as strong, converting all 35 extra points and hitting 18-of-20 in the postseason.

Gostkowski last Sunday also extended to 104 games his streak of at least one point in a game, three better than that of Adam Vinatieri and John Smith.

After playing so many years in the shadow of Vinatieri, Gostkowski has finally kicked himself into his own place in Patriots greatness.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl, Stephen Gostkowski

Fantasy Football: Week 15 starts, sits

12.13.13 at 10:35 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 15 starts and sits! If you are reading this, then congratulations are probably in order. It’€™s semifinal week in most leagues, so you are one win away from a bowl appearance and a shot at glory. Hopefully these recommendations will help you maximize your lineup, but if you need more, then head over to Rotobahn and check out our full lineup rankings. Additionally, you can attend our weekly Sunday chat right here at WEEI. You’€™ll find a link to the chat Sunday on the home page under ‘€œThis Just In.’€ I hope to see you all there.

QUARTERBACKS

START

Matt Stafford, Lions vs. Ravens

Stafford had a rough Week 14 due to the weather, but if you survived the storm, you should stick with him. He’€™ll be much better at home, even in a tough matchup. The Lions probably will lose, but Stafford will get his stats.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Texans

He’€™ll be solid this week at home vs. a pretty good defense. Luck now has enough weapons to get the job done. Da’€™Rick Rogers is a big upgrade over Darrius Heyward-Bey. Luck may not give you a big number, but he’€™ll produce like a top-10 quarterback.

Tom Brady, Patriots at Dolphins

Brady owners must feel cursed at this point. The rug got pulled out from under them this past Sunday when Rob Gronkowski was lost again, with perhaps his worst injury so far, and that is saying something. Giving up on Brady is a logical move, but I think even with significant missing parts, the Patriots offense as a unit is clicking now. Brady should be good for a few scores and 250-plus yards.

Jay Cutler, Bears at Browns

He should be the starter, but just to be clear, this recommendation goes for whomever starts for the Bears this week. If Cutler has another setback, go ahead and start Josh McCown, who has been astoundingly good this year in Marc Trestman‘€™s offense.

Matt Ryan, Falcons vs. Redskins

Yes, the Falcons already are toast, but they have most of their offense back on the field and probably will cut through the Washington defense like a hot knife through butter. Ryan is a viable option this week in any format.

Jason Campbell, Browns vs. Bears

The one thing to keep on top of here is the weather. There is some snow in the forecast, and if it gets really ugly, you’€™ll want to have a backup plan. Still, Campbell can help you if you are in a jam. The Bears have few answers for what the Browns will be throwing at them, namely Josh Gordon. The second-year receiver has been a one-man wrecking crew lately.

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler

Broncos’ loss provides Patriots with chance to land No. 1 seed in AFC

12.13.13 at 12:53 am ET
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The Chargers’ win over the Broncos on Thursday night in Denver has opened the door for the Patriots in the AFC.

The Broncos drop to 11-3 with the defeat, and with the Patriots sitting a half-game back at 10-3 — and the tiebreaker in hand because of the victory over Denver last month — New England now controls its own destiny. If the Patriots are able to win all three of their remaining games, then they will secure the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

It won’t necessarily be an easy road for New England, which has two games on the road (against Miami and Baltimore), but if the Patriots can pull it off, they will have home field as far as they advance through the AFC playoff chase.

Here’s a look at the latest AFC playoff standings:

Division leaders
1. Denver: 11-3 (clinched playoff berth)
2. Patriots: 10-3
3. Cincinnati: 9-4
4. Indianapolis: 8-5 (clinched AFC South)

Wild card
5. Kansas City: 10-3
6. Baltimore: 7-6

Still in the hunt
7. Miami: 7-6
8. San Diego: 7-7
9. NY Jets 6-7

Read More: Philip Rivers,

Report: Tony Corrente will serve as referee for Patriots-Dolphins

12.12.13 at 4:27 pm ET
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Tony Corrente will work as the lead official for Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins in South Florida, according to our friends at Football Zebras.

It will mark the second New England game of the season for Corrente, who also served as the referee for the Oct. 13 contest against the Saints. Prior to this year, he’€™s worked one New England game per season since 2009, all of them wins for the Patriots. That includes a 17-10 win over the Bills in 2009, a 23-20 victory over the Chargers in 2010, a 31-19 triumph against the Raiders in 2011 and New England’€™s 41-28 divisional playoff win over the Texans this past January at Gillette Stadium.

Corrente is regarded as one of the more well respected officials in the game, and served as the lead official for Super Bowl XLI.

Here’€™s a look at each lead official assigned to work Patriots games to this point in the 2013 season:

Sept. 9 vs. Buffalo: Walt Anderson
Sept. 12 vs. NY Jets: Carl Cheffers
Sept. 22 vs. Tampa Bay: Jeff Triplette
Sept. 29 vs. Atlanta: Walt Coleman
Oct. 6 vs. Cincinnati: Gene Steratore
Oct. 13 vs. New Orleans: Tony Corrente
Oct. 20 vs. NY Jets: Jerome Boger
Oct. 27 vs. Miami: Walt Anderson
Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh: Walt Coleman
Nov. 18 vs. Carolina: Clete Blakeman
Nov. 24 vs. Denver: Gene Steratore
Dec. 8 vs. Cleveland: Jerome Boger
Dec. 15 vs. Miami: Tony Corrente

For more on Corrente’s work as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For a complete look at the officiating crews for the week, click through to Football Zebras.

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

Read More: Tony Corrente,

Phil Simms: Patriots ‘an amazing story’

12.12.13 at 4:04 pm ET
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CBS analyst Phil Simms will work the Patriots-Dolphins game this Sunday, and offered his take on the state of both teams Thursday.

On New England: “The amazing thing about the New England Patriots is that they basically had to reshape the team on the fly after losing both tight ends from last year, and of course Wes Welker. They have had injuries everywhere on the football team and here they are at 10-3. It shows you they always have a plan in place and ready to activate. It’€™s an amazing story in the NFL to continue to do what they have done. Now we are seeing Shane Vereen catching passes, so they continuously find ways to keep weapons around Tom Brady so he can still be a productive quarterback.”

On Miami: “Everyone always wants to know about their quarterback. We are getting to see Ryan Tannehill late in his second year and see the improvement in his play. He shows the difference on the field physically with his throws and how he plays the game. There is a little bit of an aura around him, which you always want for your quarterback.  You can tell he’€™s the man. I think he thinks he’€™s the man and it really shows. It’€™s a hard line to cross as a quarterback and a football team but they are getting close to it. These last three games will show us where they are. If they are able to make that first step and become a playoff team, then go from there.”

Read More: Phil Simms,

Nate Solder among 11 limited for Patriots at Thursday practice

12.12.13 at 3:50 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Left tackle Nate Solder returned to Patriots practice but was limited, while Aaron Dobson was the only player missing from Thursday’s session, as New England continued to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami.

Solder is one of 11 players who were limited on Thursday, a group that includes quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder), Aqib Talib (hip) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle).

Here is Thursday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)

Limited Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
RT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee)
S Steve Gregory (finger)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
LT Nate Solder (concussion)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)

Full Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (wrist)
RB Shane Vereen (wrist)

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

Read More: Aaron Dobson, Nate Solder,

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