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Did the Jets put their team together with a specific eye toward beating the Patriots?

11.29.10 at 10:56 pm ET
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There’s been a lot of speculation that the Patriots’ in-season moves ‘€” the trade of Randy Moss, the acquisition of Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch ‘€” were done with an eye toward beating the Jets. Last month, Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network told that the moves were made ‘€œspecifically’€ with the Jets in mind.

‘€œThey are building this team specifically to beat the Jets,’€ Baldinger said of the Patriots. ‘€œYou are not going to beat the Jets by taking seven-step drops and looking for Randy Moss 50 yards down the field. You beat the Jets by getting the ball to the quicker guys who can beat coverage. Between [Julian] Edelman, [Wes] Welker, [Deion] Branch and [Danny] Woodhead, that’€™s what they are doing. All of these changes are designed to beat the Jets.’€

On Monday, Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked if his team was built specifically to beat a team like New England.

‘€œWe just tried to put a great team together, that’€™s for sure,’€ Ryan told reporters. ‘€œWe did try to specifically, I felt we needed to get another corner to match up with New England. We drafted Kyle Wilson also, and that was to try to beat New England and Indianapolis and whoever else got in our way. We tried to build our team to win a Super Bowl. We thought to win a Super Bowl, you have to beat New England, so we’€™ll see if it works, if that blueprint works or not. We beat them once already.’€

Read More: brian baldinger, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman

Bill Belichick knows games get bigger at this time of the year

11.29.10 at 9:36 pm ET
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It was something we wrote about earlier this month, and it was a point echoed by coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio in a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon ‘€” as far as the Patriots are concerned, the real season starts after Thanksgiving.

‘€œThere aren’€™t many games left, so each game becomes more important, more critical and has more influence in the final standings,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œWe just go into it with that kind of emphasis. Right now you just want to be in good position where you are still in contention, which obviously both these teams are for Monday night, and then go from there.

‘€œI think you can look back to just about any season and see teams that played well in September or October or got off to a good start, or maybe not such a good start but then played better at the end of the year or not as good, whatever the case might be, and that’€™s usually more the way their season gets defined.’€

Saving your best football until the end of the season is a philosophy that’€™s worked for Belichick and the Patriots ‘€” since 2001, New England has compiled an NFL-best 78-23 (.771) record after Nov. 1, a record that includes this year as well as the postseason. In addition, quarterback Tom Brady holds a 51-13 record as a starter in games played after Thanksgiving. When they have enjoyed success late in the regular season and into the playoffs, the seeds for greatness have been planted in November: In their three Super Bowl years (2001, 2003 and 2004), New England was a combined 33-2 after Nov. 1, with only one of those losses in three seasons coming after Thanksgiving.

Caserio said this week, there’€™s even greater importance because it’€™s a November game against a division opponent.

‘€œLater in the year, those games, they take on maybe a little more significance,’€ Caserio said. ‘€œI think the implication from the perspective of being a division game, that’€™s important. You want to try and win those games in your division. Those are the teams that you see twice over the course of the season.

‘€œSo, it’€™s a division game, it’€™s later in the year, they’€™ve obviously established themselves as one of the better teams in the league, they have the best record in the league. It’€™s an important game, but it’€™s just as important as any other game. And it’€™s the next one that’€™s on the schedule. Hopefully, our players will be ready to perform on Monday night.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio,

No contest: Brady has been the MVP

11.29.10 at 5:36 pm ET
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I understand that no one really gets worked up about the NFL MVP.

It’s not like baseball – I mean, there is no NFL MVP debate to match Pedro Martinez/Ivan Rodriguez in 1999, Terry Pendleton over Barry Bonds in 1991 or Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams in 1947. Have you ever heard anyone argue about Joe Montana over Randall Cunningham in 1990? Actually, can you even tell me how many MVP’s Joe Montana has won (two – and I had look it up)? Baseball MVP = Oscars. NBA MVP = Golden Globes. Hockey MVP (Hart Trophy) = Emmys. So I guess what we’re left with is the People’s Choice Awards.

Still, I’m a little troubled about something. There seems to be a wave building for Philip Rivers as MVP and I don’t get it. At first glance Rivers seems perfect casting for the MVP this year. He’s on pace for 4,890 yards passing, 33 TDs and has a QB rating of 104.9. And after Sunday night’s win over Indianapolis the Chargers find themselves over .500 for the first time all season and very much in the AFC West and wild-card hunt. Obviously a terrific year and is I think he’s as good a candidate as any to take over the title as Best QB On The Planet when the two guys who have swapped the top spot for the last decade or so begin the inevitable decline.

But he has not been the most valuable player in the NFL to this point in 2010. That would be Tom Brady.

And in my best fashion let me give you four reasons why (after the jump):

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Nick Caserio admits it: Jets game ‘a little more’ significant

11.29.10 at 4:29 pm ET
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The man responsible for helping coach Bill Belichick put together the Patriots roster came out and didn’t exactly say the Jets game next Monday night is all about revenge or the end of the world.

But player personnel chief Nick Caserio on Monday did acknowledge the magnitude of the showdown at Gillette Stadium next Monday in a match-up of 9-2 teams who share the best records in the NFL.

“Later in the year, those games, they take on maybe a little more significance,” Caserio said.

What’s at stake? A lot. And everyone who draws a paycheck in Foxboro knows it.

Forget pride. Monday night is all about home field advantage in the upcoming playoffs. Win and you’re likely to not only have a home game and probably a bye in the opening round, but you’re looking at home field through to the AFC title game.

Lose and you’re not only going to probably lose out on the AFC East but you’re going to have to start the playoffs on the road and will have to battle through an extra round of the playoffs. Caserio points to wins over Pittsburgh and Indianapolis back-to-back as prime examples of the Patriots responding when put to the test – which they certainly will next Monday night. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC East, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots

Deion Branch on D&H: ‘Truly thankful and blessed’ to play with Tom Brady

11.29.10 at 1:48 pm ET
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Receiver Deion Branch stopped by for a brief visit with the Dale & Holley show Monday from Gillette Stadium as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Branch recounted his long touchdown pass from Tom Brady in Thursday’s win over the Lions and talked about how grateful he is to be back in New England following the trade with the Seahawks.

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity that Mr. [Robert] Kraft and coach [Bill] Belichick came back to give me, the opportunity to come back and play here and join this team,” he said. “I’m home now.”

Branch said Brady makes his receivers want to run all out because he considers every option, as was the case on Thursday’s big play, a 79-yard touchdown that tied the game in the third quarter.

“When the coaches install the plays, they have [options] 1′s, 2′s and 3′s, by guys’ names,” Branch explained. “But it’s really not that way with Tom. Tom’s like, ‘Hey, everybody’s open. Everybody’s the first option.’ So, even though I can look at a play ‘€” I’ve been playing football long enough ‘€” [I know] OK, I’m not in the progression, just by the play design. But once I take the football field, I run that play as if I’m getting the ball. Every time. Because you never know. Just like the touchdown. I wasn’t in the read at all.”

Added Branch: “If every receiver had the opportunity to play with Tom, they would do it. ‘€¦ I’m truly thankful and blessed just to have the opportunity to play with him. It’s crazy.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Tom Brady,

Patriots-Bears flexed to 4:15 p.m. kickoff

11.29.10 at 1:07 pm ET
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The Bears have announced that their Dec. 12 game against the Patriots have been flexed out of its 1 p.m. spot, and will now kickoff at 4:15 p.m. This is the first New England game of the year to be “flexed” out of its original spot, an option that the NFL and networks have in Weeks 11-17 of the regular season.

Read More: Bears, Patriots,

Belichick sidesteps question on Josh McDaniels and video incident

11.29.10 at 12:47 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked Monday about the recent incident involving the Denver Broncos videotaping scandal ‘€” an incident that involved former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steve Scarnecchia, a former employee of the New England video department ‘€” and sidestepped the question, saying the team was concentrating on this week’s task at hand.

“Just focused on the Jets,” Belichick said.

McDaniels and the organization were fined $50,000 each by the NFL for taping a 49ers walk-through prior to their game in London last month. The team reported the league violation to the NFL. McDaniels took the fine on behalf of Scarnecchia, who filmed the 49ers prior to their game on Oct. 31, a game won by San Francisco, 24-16. Scarnecchia, the son of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, was fired as a result of the violation.

“I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London,” McDaniels said in a statement released Saturday. “The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization. I understand the punishment from the NFL and support it’s commitment to the integrity of the game. We have addressed the situation internally to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Josh McDaniels, Steve Scarnecchia
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