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NFL Power Rankings, Week 2: Patriots claw to top

09.11.12 at 9:26 am ET
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A wild and exciting Week 1 is officially in the books and already we have a new No. 1 team that reigns over the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Bolstered by a new and improved defense, the Patriots climb to the top spot. Meanwhile, in the NFC, the 49ers “Lambeau leaped” the Packers after beating them in a statement game in Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers and Co. drop down to No. 5 after their loss. The Texans clawed their way into the top five and sit at No. 4. Peyton Manning and the new-look Broncos are the fourth-ranked team in the AFC and stand at No. 7 overall.

Looking ahead to Week 2, there are a few matchups to watch that could impact the rankings. The Bears and Packers will battle in an NFC North showdown, and the Jets and Steelers will face off in a battle could move the winner into the top 10 of next week’s rankings.

Listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss the NFL Power Rankings on WEEI.

1. (2 last week) Patriots (1-0) ‘€” A young, rejuvenated defense makes Bill Belichick‘s squad the clear AFC favorite after Week 1. This D has much bigger tests ahead of it, but holding Chris Johnson to just four yards in 11 attempts is very impressive. The versatility the pass offense showed on Sunday was expected. If Stevan Ridley can balance the offense and become a threat on the ground, the Patriots will be as close to unstoppable as a team possibly can get.

2. (4) 49ers (1-0) ‘€” The defense picked up exactly where it left off. The 49ers made Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look confused and out of rhythm. I don’t think there’s another defense in the league that is capable of that. The Niners are a well-rounded, well-coached team that made a statement to the entire NFL in Week 1: Last year was no fluke.

3. (5) Ravens (1-0) ‘€” It wasn’t the defense, it was Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense that was most impressive in the team’s win over the Bengals. With Ray Rice in the backfield, opposing defenses always have to respect the run. On Monday night, the Ravens’ play action was in full effect.

4. (6) Texans (1-0) ‘€” After the Texans’ 30-10 victory over the Dolphins, Andre Johnson said to reporters, “Man, we didn’t even play that well and won by 20 points. It’s crazy.” That quote says a lot about how good Houston really is. The Texans have playmakers on both sides of the ball and will go deep into the playoffs if they can stay healthy.

5. (1) Packers (0-1) ‘€” Just one week into the season and the Packers already have matched last year’s loss total. Still, why panic? When Aaron Rodgers is behind center, Green Bay has a shot to win every Sunday. A Week 1 loss to a well-balanced 49ers team doesn’t mean the Packers won’t contend for  a Super Bowl.

6. (8) Falcons (1-0) ‘€” The Falcons’ prolific offense showed how dangerous it can be. Matt Ryan played just the way he needs to play all season if Atlanta wants to win the NFC South.

7. (11) Broncos (1-0) ‘€” It’s tough to believe Peyton Manning hadn’t played a game since the 2010 season after watching the 36-year-old QB on Sunday night. Manning and the offense were in rhythm and operating like a well-oiled machine. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil made sure to remind everyone that the Broncos D is just as dominant.

8. (14) Cowboys (1-0) ‘€” Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne did a great job at shutting down the Giants‘ dynamic receivers. The Cowboys could turn into the favorite in the NFC East if their defense can consistently perform like it did on opening night.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, NFL Power Rankings, Tom Brady

Fantasy Football: Week 2 Waiver Wire

09.11.12 at 9:14 am ET
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Welcome to this year’€™s first Waiver Wire.

We’€™ll be bringing you the best fantasy football pickups on a weekly basis just like last year, so check back when you need roster help.  There were plenty of illuminating plays and happenings in week one, so let’€™s get right to it. As always, we make an effort to list players who are available in a fair number of leagues. I’€™m sort of re-using this line, but we ALL know it’€™s advisable to pick up Julio Jones if he is available. We’€™re trying to give you guidance you can actually use. If you have a question about a player we did not list, please feel free to look us up at Rotobahn.com and check out our full waiver wire and free agency tool.

Quarterbacks

Russell Wilson, Seahawks

He was solid in his debut, though the stats tell a different story. Wilson has a chance to be very good for fantasy purposes. He gets points with his feet, which we always like, and we think the team around him is underrated now that WR Sidney Rice is proving to be healthy and Marshawn Lynch is back in the good books with the Commissioner and law enforcement.

Alex Smith, 49ers

He’€™s not special, but he’€™s predictably good due to great coaching and a very solid supporting cast. Not bad when Randy Moss is a complimentary piece, right?  Smith is playing at his highest level as a pro right now and that is good enough to be a good QB2 in all formats.

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars

He played with poise we didn’€™t see in 2011 and that is good news. He also produced two scores and no picks, so the result matches the play. We expect Gabbert to fare pretty well going forward now that he has legit weapons at his disposal.  He’€™s always had a top-flight arm. He’€™s a decent and practically free way to solve your backup QB problem if you have one.

Mark Sanchez, Jets

I’€™m admittedly surprised about this one, but he played well enough to be owned in most large formats and right now, he is unowned in 88% of Yahoo leagues. He can be a decent backup, especially if he has a decent matchup on your starter’€™s bye week. Tebow’€™s effect was negligible and looks to take more from the Jets’€™ RBs than he will Sanchez at this stage. Then again, you know what they say about New York minutes.

Running Backs

CJ Spiller, Bills

Spiller looked like he was shot out of a cannon on a few of his runs against the Jets. He showed burst, balance and patience. He bounced off of would-be tacklers and ran behind his pads. Spiller has come a long way over the last year or so and he now looks like he’€™s ready to be a consistent force. He should be a very high priority if not the highest priority in this week’€™s free agent spread. If you own Fred Jackson, sell out for Spiller and we’€™d be going after him in most other scenarios too. Jackson is out two weeks minimum and perhaps as many as eight according to HC Chan Gailey.

Mikel Leshoure, Lions

He will miss one more game and then we like him to be the most valuable back in Detroit over the final fifteen weeks. We’€™d pick him up in all formats if we have the need and or the roster space. He is unowned in 66% of Yahoo leagues. He’€™s a big powerful back and he is ready to roll based on the info we have now. If you own Kevin Smith, then adding Leshoure makes even more sense.

David Wilson, Giants

If you own starter Ahmad Bradshaw, you must own Wilson. The fact that he literally coughed up his first big chance may give you a second chance at him, though he is still unowned in 46% of Yahoo leagues. This is a very talented player and he should be owned in all but the tiniest of league formats. Speed kills.

Alfred Morris, Redskins

We are still unsold on him, but he’€™s got RB2 value for the time being. We lean towards Roy Helu over the long haul, but Morris does run hard and has earned the job.  Evan Royster is also a factor in D.C., so we still have the dreaded three-headed backfield potentially. Avoiding the Redskins backs in total makes some sense.

Wide Receivers

Randall Cobb, Packers

We like Cobb a ton and if they are going to keep using him this way, then he’€™ll be a PPR dream. They are using him in the Percy Harvin/Aaron Hernandez mold, where he overlaps at several positions. He was being used in pass-pro in week one, and that made him available for dump offs and screens, in addition to all the things we’€™ve seen from him before. We’€™d go get him if he is available. He’€™s looking like he could be viable in all formats.  Rodgers likes him and seems to trust him. That matters.

Alshon Jefferey, Bears

We don’€™t want to go too crazy here, but he looked very good. He’€™s a great fit for Jay Cutler as an ‘€œalways open’€ guy. He runs well for a guy with his frame and he has better-than-advertised feet as we saw on his 4th quarter touchdown. He’€™s unowned in 66% of Yahoo leagues and that number is way too high. We’€™d roster him now because he may  be very useful soon. We expect him to be starting in a few games, which would make him a legit WR3.

Brandon LaFell, Panthers

It was a rough day for Carolina, but LaFell found the zone and continued to look like a player on the rise. Newton is looking for him and he’€™s got the ability. He should be a pretty solid WR3 the rest of the way. He should be rostered in all leagues.

Stephen Hill, Jets

This kid showed up to play week one showing strength to break the jam and an ability to go up and get the football. He’€™s 6-4 with burner’€™s speed, so this is a player to roster based on upside alone.

Tight Ends

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings

Unowned in 65% of Yahoo leagues, Rudolph should be the 2nd option in Minnesota. And with Ponder at the helm, we think that makes Rudolph a legit TE option if not a TE1. He’€™s big and athletic and he can catch the ball in traffic. We think he’€™ll keep getting it done.

Coby Fleener, Colts

He’€™s still learning, yet the stats are already there. That’€™s always a positive sign. He obviously has the trust of his QB and he should yield TE1 value on most weeks. He should be owned in more than 50% of Yahoo leagues. Pick him and start him if you are in need.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens

Not a big name, but we like his game. He was just coming back from injury last night yet he was targeted early and often by Joe Flacco finding the end zone once. Pitta can start for you if you need a guy and he may creep into the TE1’€™s before all is said and done. He’€™s a solid add in deeper formats.

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars

He’€™s not a sexy name, though with a name like Marcedes, we’€™re not sure why not.  Nevertheless, the guy can play, and now that his QB is looking rather functional, Lewis is back to being a viable fantasy option in most formats. He’€™s an underrated asset.

Defense/Special teams

Denver Broncos

They have the talent to score fantasy points and they looked very good against Pittsburgh. They can start for you and they are very much available in most leagues.

Kicker

Greg Zuerlein, Rams

If you are in need of a kicker for some odd reason, we like this kid’€™s leg and he is available in most leagues. The only downside is the Rams’€™ offense, but they do stall and they do play in a dome. He’€™s a fringe PK1.

Some thoughts on Wes Welker, Stevan Ridley and the specialists

09.11.12 at 12:46 am ET
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Four final things to wrap up your Monday:

1. If you toss out the 2009 regular-season finale against the Texans — a game where he left in the first quarter after shredding his knee — Wes Welker has never had a game like he had last Sunday against the Titans. Welker finished with three catches on five targets for a total of 14 yards in the 34-13 win over Tennessee. Other than the Houston game, it was his lowest output, yardage-wise, in a New England uniform. (Before that, you have to go all the way back to the 2006 season when he had one catch for 11 yards in a Dolphins loss to the Jets — his next-to-last game in a Miami uniform — to find such an inauspicious day.) While it’€™s easy to speculate that Welker’€™s diminished output had something to do with his tumultuous offseason and his contract situation, I wouldn’€™t read too much into a one-game dip. (Welker certainly isn’€™t too riled up.) The Patriots’€™ offense game is an egalitarian effort, one with the flexibility to operate based on week-to-week game plans. In that context, I wouldn’€™t get too worked up about Welker’€™s situation in the same way I wouldn’€™t get too worked up about what Stevan Ridley did. Both are interesting, but it’€™s entirely likely that they are not typical performances in this offense, as they’€™ll be utilized differently from week to week. If Welker finishes September with 20 or fewer catches, then it’€™s something that bears watching. But until then, you can chalk it up to a one-game spike. Nothing more, nothing less.

2. Watching Ridley run on Sunday against the Titans, I was struck by the fact that the Patriots have rarely had such a dynamic back. There have been the physical rumblers like Corey Dillon and (to a lesser extent) Antowain Smith. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was more of a workmanlike runner who was consistent in his ability to maintain control of the football and hit the magic four yards a carry mark. Ridley has something that Laurence Maroney had when the ex-Minnesota back wasn’t dancing two yards behind the line of scrimmage — an ability to shake off would-be tacklers with his speed and wiggle. Two other things that stuck out about Ridley’€™s performance: One, he had four carries that went for negative yards. These aren’€™t necessarily his fault — on further review, at least two of them were caused by breakdowns in blocking — but if you figure the negative carries into the mix, he came away with 17 carries for 125 yards, an even more impressive figure. And two, he clearly has an ability to break big runs. His 5.1 yards per carry average last year was a hint of that, and the fact that he accounted for five of the Patriots top 10 longest plays from scrimmage on Sunday serves as further confirmation.

3. We really should have had something in ‘€œ10 Things….’€ about this, but Stephen Gostkowski and Zoltan Mesko had a good afternoon against the Titans. Tennessee’€™s average start was its own 18-yard line, with their best coming at the 21-yard line. Gostkowski put six of his seven kickoffs into the end zone, with three going as touchbacks. (He was also 4-for-4 on PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals, with successful conversions coming from 25 and 31 yards.) And while Mesko had what looked like a semi-pedestrian 38.5 average on the day, he dropped three of his four punts inside the 20 with only one touchback. When it comes to New England’€™s return game, the Titans, always one of the better teams when it comes to punt and kick coverage, did a good job of containing the New England returners. And while Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater each handled one kick return attempt for New England, it certainly doesn’€™t appear the Patriots are any closer to finding a full-time kick returner than they were at the start of the summer.

4. Interesting information here about the Cardinals ability to defend outside the numbers. According to Doug Clawson of ESPN Stats & Information, Arizona has made great gains when it comes to defending the perimeter over their last 10 games, dating back to last season. The completion percentage for opposing quarterbacks outside the numbers have dropped from 66 percent to 49 percent, while yards per attempt has already decreased from 9.5 to 5.6. Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady attempted 20 of his 31 passes outside the numbers during a victory at Tennessee in Week 1. He completed 16 of those 20 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. Patrick Peterson will be patrolling a large chunk of the area outside the hash marks for Arizona, and it’€™s clear that Brandon Lloyd has all the respect in the world for him, calling him ‘€œone of the best players we’€™ve faced all season.’€ Should be an excellent matchup on the perimeter.

Read More: Stephen Gostkowski, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Zoltan Mesko

Report: Former Patriots center Dan Koppen signs with Broncos

09.10.12 at 10:57 pm ET
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Former Patriots center Dan Koppen signed a one-year deal with the Broncos on Monday, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.  The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Koppen was selected in the fifth round of of the 2003 draft by the Patriots, and he appeared in 121 regular-season games for New England from 2003-2011. The 32-year-old was released at the final roster cutdown before the start of the regular season.

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Snap Counts: Tracking Patriots participation in all three phases of the game

09.10.12 at 9:51 pm ET
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Per the NFL gamebooks, here’s a look at snap counts for the Patriots through Week One:

Offense
Ryan Wendell: 67 of 67 (100 percent)
Nate Solder: 67 of 67 (100 percent)
Tom Brady: 67 of 67 (100 percent)
Rob Gronkowski: 66 of 67 (99 percent)
Aaron Hernandez: 66 of 67 (99 percent)
Logan Mankins: 62 of 67 (93 percent)
Brandon Lloyd: 57 of 67 (85 percent)
Dan Connolly: 51 of 67 (76 percent)
Wes Welker: 42 of 67 (63 percent)
Stevan Ridley: 40 of 67 (60 percent)
Marcus Cannon: 38 of 67 (57 percent)
Sebastian Vollmer: 34 of 67 (51 percent)
Julian Edelman: 23 of 67 (34 percent)
Donald Thomas: 18 of 67 (27 percent)
Danny Woodhead: 14 of 67 (21 percent)
Michael Hoomanawanui: 12 of 67 (18 percent)
Brandon Bolden: 6 of 67 (9 percent)
Lex Hilliard: 5 of 67 (7 percent)
Matt Slater: 2 of 67 (3 percent)
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Big start for Chandler Jones and the rest of the Patriots’ rookies

09.10.12 at 6:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For rookie Chandler Jones, you couldn’t draw it up much better.

The Patriots defensive end, who played 58 of a possible 65 defensive snaps in his professional debut Sunday against the Titans, finished with five tackles (three solo) and a strip sack of Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker.

On the sack, Jones beat Titans’ tackle Michael Roos off the edge and easily brought down Locker. He ended up knocking the ball away, where it was gathered up by fellow first-round pick Dont’a Hightower. Hightower then broke one tackle on the way to the end zone for the touchdown.

“I didn’t even know it was a strip sack, to be honest with you, I thought it was just a normal sack,” Jones said on Monday afternoon. “And I got up and Dont’a was in the end zone jumping up and down, so that was good.

“Me being a pass rusher, you basically just take what they give you. When you’re rushing the passer, you look at the offensive linemen and his stature and what he’s doing, [and you base that] on what move you’re going to do. That’s what he gave me, so I took it.”

It was a great start for the rookie out of Syracuse, but only a small part of his personal expectations when it comes to measuring success in the NFL.

“My expectations were to get respect from these vets. You have Vince Wilfork over here to my right, just earning his respect,” said Jones, motioning to the veteran defensive lineman who was dressing two stalls down. “For him to be out there and to trust in me that I’m going to do my job, that’s my goal. For me to go out there and say, ‘I don’t want Vince to worry about what I’m doing. I want him to have trust in me that I’m doing my job.'”

Jones and Hightower weren’t the only rookies to provide highlights. Defensive back Tavon Wilson also came away with a pick of Locker, his first as a pro. All in all, it was a good day for New England’s draft class.

“That was great. That was really great, actually,” he said of the Wilson interception. “It was funny that it happened, actually. Every time someone mentions me on Twitter, I read it. I read it all the time. One of the fans mentioned, ‘I was playing Madden and you got a strip-sack fumble and Hightower picked it up for a touchdown.’ That was right before the game. I was reading that. For me, for it to happen in real life, it was great. It was like a dream come true. That guy predicted it.”

Read More: chandler jones,

Brandon Lloyd can help new Patriots’ teammates get acquainted with the Cardinals

09.10.12 at 6:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to getting up to speed on the Cardinals, Brandon Lloyd could be a valuable resource.

The former Rams and Broncos receiver is pretty familiar with New England’s next opponent. He faced them twice last season when he was with St. Louis, and when he was with Denver, the Cards were a common opponent, both in the preseason and regular season.

“I haven’t watched film on them [yet], but I’ve played them the last couple of years and in the preseason,” said Lloyd, who had five catches for 69 yards in the regular-season opener on Sunday. “They’re a young football team and they have some of the most explosive football players in the NFL. And the matchups with [defensive back Patrick] Peterson … it’s a good team, competitive. We’ll have to do well in man coverage to beat them.

“They have a terrific pass rush and that pass rush puts a lot of pressure on your ability to protect the quarterback and insure the throws. Tight coverage, big time pass rush, some of the best ball skills from their cornerbacks that I’ve seen in the NFL. You look forward to these kinds of games because they really challenge you.”

Lloyd should expect a heavy dose of Peterson, Arizona’s finest cornerback. The 6-foot-1, 219-pounder out of LSU had 13 passes defensed and two picks last season as a rookie, and has become one of the best young defensive backs in the league.

“He has all the intangibles — the size, the speed, the short-area quickness. He has all that,” Lloyd said of Peterson. “On top of that, he has just incredible ball skills. That’s what separates him from a lot of the guys you face. And in the special teams area, he’s an incredible threat when it comes to returning the ball. he’s definitely a really talented player. One of the best players we’ve faced all season.”

In terms of his performance in the opener, Lloyd was targeted a team-high eight times, with the only real misstep of the day coming on a missed connection with quarterback Tom Brady in the first half. (Lloyd wasn’t in the mood to talk about the incomplete, saying only, “We’re going to talk about Arizona today.”) The receiver said the Patriots played well “in all phases” against Tennessee.

“Our offense and our defense complimented each other, and each one of them complimented our special teams,” Lloyd said. “It felt like we did well. We still have another opportunity this week to improve against Arizona, and that’s how we’re looking at it.”

Read More: Brandon Lloyd,
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