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Nuggetpalooza’s Gameday Preview: Pats at Dolphins

10.04.10 at 9:02 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-smallOughta be a good one tonight in south Florida:

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* – New England has been outscored in the second half of their last 6 road games (by a total of 52 points). The Pats have outscored their foes in the second half in just 2 of their last 11 games overall.

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* – The Patriots appear to be using their tight ends much more efficiently in 2010. Their TE’s have a 81.8% reception percentage (receptions divided by targets), the highest percentage in the NFL (min. 6+ targets). This is much better than their 70.5% mark last season (7th).

Here’s the kicker, though: Last season, NE tight ends averaged 2.70 yards after the catch, the lowest in the league. This season, their average YAC is 7.56, the 4th HIGHEST in the league.

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* – Last weekend, Miami completed 12 passes of more than 10 “air” yards (caught 11+ yards beyond the line of scrimmage), their most in a game since at least the 2000 season. They had 5 such completions total over the season’s first two games.

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* – Since the start of the 2009 season, New England has allowed 4.67 yards per rushing attempt at home (27th) and just 4.20 per carry on the road.

The Patriots allowed a 5.6 yard average to the Bills last week, the highest in 14 games and the highest by Buffalo versus New England since they put up a 5.8 on 10/13/95 (the Thurman Thomas days).

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* – New England has scored touchdowns on 36% of their drives this season, tops in the league:

35.7% – New England Patriots
30.6% – Philadelphia Eagles
29.4% – Indianapolis Colts

They were 5th last season (26.4%).

Miami, at 12.5%, has the 6th lowest percentage so far.

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* – Over the last two games, the Patriots have allowed points on 52.6% of opponent possessions, the 2nd worst percentage in the league (Buffalo, 54.5%).

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* – The Patriots rushed for 200 yards last Sunday for the first time since week 15 of the 2008 season when they amassed 277 rushing yards at Oakland. It was just their 5th 200-yard rushing game at Foxboro since 1993.

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* – The Dolphins allowed 3 touchdown passes last week for the 3rd time in their last 6 games dating back to last season. Prior to that stretch, they allowed 3+ TD passes just twice in their previous 27 games.

An FYI: New England has allowed 3+ TD passes ON THE ROAD just once in their last 38 road tilts dating back to mid-2005.

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* – New England (16 penalties) and San Diego (20 penalties) are the only teams that have yet to have a penalty against them decline by their opponent. The Patriots also have not declined a penalty against their opponent (14 penalties).

Meanwhile, opponents have accepted just 11 of 16 penalties against Miami so far (69%), the lowest percentage in the league.

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* – The Pats have had 7 different drives that have lasted 10 or more plays this season (6th), and they have 5 touchdowns and are averaging 5.4 points on those drives (5th). Miami is averaging just 3.4 on those drives (14th).

Of course, New England is ALLOWING 5.29 points on opponents’ 10+ play drives (29th). They’ve allowed 7 such drives as well (2nd most).

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* – The Patriots are allowing 4.41 rushing yards per carry this season, which ranks 20th. But if we look only at what I’ll call “trench rushing” (taking out all long runs of 10+ yards), they’re giving up 3.14 per carry, the 2nd highest such average in the league. Only Indianapolis (3.28) has been worse.

Flip side: On offense, Miami is averaging 3.82 yards per rush (29th), but their “trench rushing” average (2.77) ranks 7th best so far.

One other thing: If it keeps up, Miami’s 3.82 rushing average would be their lowest since the 2004 season.

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* – The Dolphins are one of only two teams (SF is the other) without a touchdown play of 20+ yards yet this season. New England has 3 such touchdowns, and Philadelphia leads the league with 4.

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* – The Patriots are the only team in the league to have started as many as 3 drives on their opponent’s side of the 50 but has not scored on any of them. Of course, New England is averaging 3.60 points on drives started on THEIR side of the 50, the highest average in the league.

Miami is the only NFL team that has yet to start any drives on their opponent’s side of the 50 yard line.

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* – Even after limiting Buffalo to 5-12 (42%) passing when New England blitzed last week, opponents have completed 76% of their tries against Pats’ blitzes this year, the highest percentage in the league. Miami’s opponents have completed 67% against blitzes, ranked a not-much-better 28th.

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* – “Uncatchable” passes thrown by Tom Brady by week: 6, 13, 4. Can you guess which one came in a Patriots loss? And here’s Miami’s weekly uncatchable balls totals: 10 (win), 5 (win), 17 (loss).

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* – Last week against Buffalo, only 31.7% of New England’s pass yards came as “yards after the catch” (YAC). It was their lowest YAC percentage in 36 games. They had been over 60% in each of their last 3 games dating back to last season.

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* – Beware the Dolphins running left. They’re averaging 6.05 yards per carry when they run left, the 2nd highest mark in the league. Compare that to their 2.77 average up the middle (30th) and 3.52 when going right (20th).

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* – Opponents are just 3 for 13 passing against the Dolphins when inside the Miami 30 yard line this season (23%), the lowest percentage in the league:

23.1% – Miami Dolphins
37.5% – Baltimore Ravens
39.1% – Cincinnati Bengals

New England is hitting on 67% of those passes this year, including 7-8 over the last two games.

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* – Once New England’s opponents have driven inside the 30 yard line this season, the Patriots have allowed an average of 5.67 points per possession, the highest average in the NFL. They’ve allowed scores on 11 of 12 such drives.

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* – The Patriots gained 4 or more yards on 20 of 30 first down plays last week against Buffalo (67%), the 2nd best mark in the league last week. They ALLOWED 4+ yards on 17 of 26 (65%), the 3rd worst percentage.

Offensively, they still lead the NFL at 60.5% after three weeks.

Also, the Patriots (6.33, 25th) and Dolphins (6.24, 24th) are have been almost even in average yards allowed on first downs this season. Both teams allowed averages of 8+ last weekend.

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* – When the Patriots have run the ball on 3rd down and 7 or fewer to go (or 4th down), they’ve moved the chains 6 times in 6 tries. Last season, they were successful just 57% of the time on those rushes (34-60), ranked 17th in the league.

Miami led the NFL at converting those rushes into first downs last season as they were successful 71% of the time.

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* – Buffalo punted just one time last Sunday against the Patriots, the first time in 55 games that New England hasn’t forced 2+ punts. Here are the longest current streaks of 2+ punts forced:

159 – Dallas Cowboys (9/24/2000)
91 – Philadelphia Eagles
84 – Baltimore Ravens

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* – Miami has gone three and out on just 15.6% of their possessions this season (7th) while the Patriots are forcing their opponents into three and outs just 13.3% of the time (30th), including ZERO last Sunday against Buffalo. Quite a turnaround from last year by the Pats defense: They forced three and outs over 24% of the time in 2009, 7th best in the NFL.

Actually, the Bills have not gone three and out in either of the last two weeks… against New England and Miami.

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* – New England leads the NFL in third down conversions at 58%. That includes 9 for 21 (43%) on 3rd and 6+ (best mark in the league) and 12 for 15 (80%) on 3rd and 5 or fewer (also the best in the league).

Miami has also been good on 3rd and 5 or fewer (65%, 3rd), but not so much on 3rd and 6+ (29%, 19th).

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* – The Dolphins have only 5 pass plays of 20+ yards in 2010, tied with Tennessee and Buffalo for the fewest in the league. Only 25% of Miami’s passing yards have come on such plays, the 2nd lowest percentage in the NFL (Atlanta, 21%). Contrast that to Philadelphia, where 51% of their pass yards have come on 20+ yard completions.

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* – Miami has the worst average starting field position (24.5 yard line) in the NFL so far in 2010:

24.5 – Miami Dolphins
24.8 – San Francisco 49ers
24.9 – Baltimore Ravens

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“Around The NFL” – Nuggetpalooza Style!

10.03.10 at 8:56 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small4How about a whole slew of statistical observations from around the league to get you ready for the fourth NFL Sunday of football?

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* – Minnesota Vikings’ opponents have scored on just 1 out of 6 long drives (lasting 10+ plays) this season. I can’t imagine that is sustainable.

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* – Carolina was “successful” on first down (gained 4+ yards) just 5 of 27 times last Sunday against Cincinnati (18%), the lowest in the league. For the season, they’re down to just 32%, also worst in the NFL.

What does that lead to? Lots of “Third and Long” situations. The Panthers went 0-9 on 3rd down and 6+ to go last Sunday.

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* – Chicago is now leading the NFL in average starting field position (the 37.7 yard line) and in average opponent starting field position (the 22.8 yard line). So obviously, they also lead the league in net starting field position (+14.9). No other team is above +8.1.

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* – After forcing Pittsburgh into 4 three and outs in week one, the Falcons defense is the only one in the league with just 1 forced three and out over the past two weeks.

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* – The Washington Redskins’ offense has converted 3rd downs just 18% of the time this season (6-33). The lowest ever (at least since 1991) in a season is 24% by the 2005 San Francisco 49ers:

24.0% – San Francisco 49ers, 2005
24.0% – Dallas Cowboys, 2002
25.0% – Buffalo Bills, 2007

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* – San Diego has converted 6 of 14 times when faced with 3rd and 10+, a 42% conversion rate. If (and it’s a big if) they were to keep it up, it would be the highest rate since at least 2004 (the ’06 Colts were 40%).

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* – The Chicago Bears have found themselves in 3rd and 1 on 6 different occasions in 2010 and have converted the first down just twice (33%). The 2005 Bears have the lowest 3rd and 1 conversion percentage for a full season since 2004, making it just 7 of 19 times (36%). Only 7 teams sine 2004 were under 50% on 3rd and 1.

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* – 81% of Baltimore’s kickoffs have reached the end zone this season, the highest percentage in the league. That’s quite a turnaround from 2009, when only 26% of their kicks made it (27th).

Only 14% of San Diego’s kickoffs have reached the end zone (last in the league), much like their 21% mark last season (28th).

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* – The Tennessee Titans, led by Chris Johnson, have lost 32 yards on 16 stuffed rushing plays already, the most stuffs in the league.

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* – Three teams (Jets, Colts, Eagles) have yet to throw and interception yet this season. Three teams (Ravens, Bills, Texans) have yet to intercept a pass.

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* – The Green Bay Packers have sacked the quarterback on 14.1% of opponent pass plays this season (13 sacks), more than double their sack rate of last season (6.4%). No other team is sacking the QB at a rate of even 10% so far.

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* – Denver and San Diego each have 18 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season. No other NFL team has more than 13 such completions.

However, 51% of the Eagles’ passing yards have come on plays of 20+ yards, the highest percentage in the league. This despite just 11 such pass plays. The Eagles led the league last year as well at 50.6%.

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* – The Atlanta Falcons lead the NFL in first downs per game (25.3), rushing first downs (9.7), and net first downs (+10.3) this season. Their defense is allowing only 15.0 first downs per game (4th).

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* – After returning two kickoffs for touchdowns last Sunday, it’s not surprising that Seattle leads the league in kickoff return average (46.3). 57% of their returns have gone for 30+ yards (also 1st).

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* – The Eagles sacked Jaguars quarterback David Garrard 6 times last Sunday for a total of 51 yards. They had 3 or  fewer sacks in each of their previous 10 games. For Jacksonville, it was just the 2nd time since 2000 that they’ve lost 50+ yards via sack.

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* – Jacksonville was flagged 4 times for 67 yards last week against Philadelphia, an average of 16.8 yards per penalty, the 2nd highest average per penalty in Jaguars history (min. 4 penalties).

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* – The Arizona Cardinals are averaging 7.30 yards per rush in the 1st half this season (1st) and just 3.76 in the 2nd half (17th). Also, they’re ALLOWING 6.02 in the 1st half (4th worst) and 2.95 in the 2nd half (8th best).

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* – The Kansas City Chiefs have forced 8 punts in each of their three games this season, tying the longest streak of games with 8+ punts forced since at least 1990, last done by Arizona’s defense in 1995.

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* – San Diego completed 16 passes of 11+ “air yards” (caught at least 11 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) last week (16 for 30). That was the most in a single game since New Orleans completed 16 such passes in Week 10 of the 2008 season. It was the most such completions by San Diego since at least 2000.

It was also the most such completions ALLOWED by Seattle since at least 2000, although they’ve now allowed 857 such completions in that span, the most in the NFL.

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* – St. Louis Rams’ opponents have attempted 3 rushes this season on 3rd down and 2 yards to go or fewer and have not converted a first down on any of them. Why is that significant? Well, over the last two seasons, their opponents have converted those first downs on 42 of 53 rushing tries (79%).

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* – The Vikings have won the second half points battle in each of their last 13 home games.

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* – The Giants didn’t punt last weekend against Tennessee. It the first time that they G-Men haven’t punted in a game since 1991 (301 straight games). However, the Giants lost BOTH of those games.

It was the 14th time since 1990 that a team has lost a game despite never punting. It’s happened in each of the last two weekends, though, as Jacksonville didn’t punt in Week 2 and lost.

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* – Tennessee has allowed an average of just 2.67 points on opponent red zone drives this season, allowing 2 touchdowns and 6 field goals on 12 opportunities. Compare that to New England’s defense, who has allowed an average of 5.67 points (29th) on such drives (6 TD and 3 FG on 9 red zone drives).

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* – The Denver Broncos have run an NFL-high 42 plays in the red zone already in 2010. However, they’re averaging just 3.38 points per red zone opportunity, ranked 26th in the league.

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* – Jacksonville and Chicago are the only teams without a rushing touchdown yet this season. Dallas and Cleveland are the only ones that haven’t ALLOWED one yet.

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Enjoy the games and be sure to check back tomorrow morning for the Patriots preview!

Miami rules Jerry, Odrick out for Monday’s game

10.02.10 at 7:28 pm ET
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Dolphins Injury Report
Out

G John Jerry (illness — did not practice)
DE Jared Odrick (ankle — did not practice)

Doubtful
LB Channing Crowder (groin — limited participation)

Probable
CB Nolan Carroll (hand — full participation)
T Jake Long (knee — full participation)

Read More: dolphins, injury report,

Taylor ruled out for Monday’s game

10.02.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Patriots running back Fred Taylor is one of three players who were ruled “out” for Monday night’s game against the Dolphins in Miami. Here’s Saturday’s complete injury list:

Patriots Injury Report
Out

OL Nick Kaczur (back — did not practice)
RB Fred Taylor (toe — did not practice)
CB Terrence Wheatley (foot — did not practice)

Probable
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder — full participation)

Read More: injury report, Patriots,

No Taylor at start of Saturday practice

10.02.10 at 1:10 pm ET
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According to pool reporter William Bendetson of CBS, the following players were not at the media portion of practice Saturday morning for the Patriots: cornerback Terrence Wheatley, running back Fred Taylor, and offensive lineman Nick Kaczur. Taylor, who has missed most of the week with a nagging toe injury, likely will not play when New England meets the Dolphins Monday night in Miami.

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The Hot List: Struggles on South Beach

10.02.10 at 11:14 am ET
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Patriots Dolphins Football

Tom Brady sits on the bench in the final moments of last year's New England loss in Miami. There have been a few exceptions, but the Patriots have frequently struggled in Miami. (AP)

There have been positive moments, but since 2001, when Tom Brady and the Patriots have taken their talents to South Beach more often than not they’ve come away with a memorable loss. With the Patriots headed for Miami for another Monday night clash with their AFC East rivals, this edition of The Hot List examines the five most indelible defeats New England has suffered in Miami since Brady and Bill Belichick took control of the Patriots.

5) Oct. 6, 2002 — Miami 26, Patriots 13: The back end of a humbling two-game stretch — which included a nasty loss to the Chargers in San Diego — that proved to the young and feisty Patriots they weren’t as good as they thought they were.

Prior to this game, four ex-Dolphins playing in New England (including linebacker Larry Izzo and quarterback Damon Huard) took pictures of themselves with their Super Bowl XXXVI rings on their middle fingers, which were extended for the camera. The picture showed up on the wall at the Dolphins’ practice facility, the players were fined, and wide receiver Oronde Gadsden said they used it to their “advantage” after the win over New England.

4) Dec. 10, 2006 — Miami 21, Patriots 0: The four starting quarterbacks who beat the Patriots during the 2006 regular season? Jake Plummer, Peyton Manning, Chad Pennington and Joey Harrington.

Joey Harrington?

Yes, that Joey Harrington. Harrington was the starting quarterback for the Dolphins when the two teams met in December in Miami. In that one, New England was dominated by the trio of Harrington, Jason Taylor and Sammy Morris: Taylor had nine tackles and a sack, Morris rushed for 123 yards and Harrington guided a pair of second-half touchdown drives, while Miami punter Donnie Jones was able to pin the Patriots inside their own 5-yard line on three occasions. Meanwhile the Patriots had just 90 total passing yards and lost three fumbles. (Brady was 12-for-25 passing for 78 yards and a 55.1 passer rating.)

It would be the last regular-season loss the Patriots would suffer — their next defeat came in the infamous AFC Championship Game against the Colts in Indianapolis.

Joey Harrington?
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Read More: dolphins, hot list, Patriots,

Matt Light talks Monday Night Football on The Big Show

10.01.10 at 5:28 pm ET
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Patriots tackle Matt Light joined The Big Show Friday to talk about the team’s preparation and outlook for the upcoming Monday Night game in Miami against the Dolphins.

Following are some highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page. Click here for the interview.

Would you rather play a game in Miami early or late in the season?

It’s kinda funny; it always seemed at first that we were down there on the hottest day. And then we had this transition where they came up here for the first game and we were down there when it was cooler. For a 1 p.m. game early in the year it can be pretty hot. I can imagine by the time it kicks off Monday night we won’t have to deal with so much of the heat. I would prefer to play down there when it’s not quite as sticky.

Sitting through Sunday without football for a Monday night game:

It’s kind of brutal. I think every guy in the league would like to wake up on Sunday, get an early meal in, head to the stadium and get to play a game at one o’clock. You’re trying to get a little extra film study in and the day keeps dragging and dragging. You might have a meeting and everyone else has already played their game. It’s definitely an adjustment that you have got to account for.

Is [Miami defensive end] Jared Odrick a full go right now?

You always prepare for that. You can never know and you never prepare that way. The guys who have been around now for a couple years are definitely guys we’ve focused on for a while now on film. They are very active up front and they have some good interior guys. They can definitely get up the field. They have a pretty good playing style. Definitely a different style in which they play this year versus last year. They have a few new license plates to understand how they do things. Other than that though it’s Miami football.

On the playing environment in Miami:

I don’t think the footings ever been too much of an issue. It’s never been too much of an issue. Not for us, the really fleet footed and nimble; the very cat-like. I’m sure the guys out there making big plays for us, whether is the defensive backs or wide receivers at skill positions, I’m sure they have a little issue with some of that turf. The crowd noise can definitely be a factor though.

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Read More: Matt Light, Miami Dolphins, Patriots, The Big Show
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