|12.26.14 at 2:56 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich will be seeing a familiar face on the other side of the ball when lining up Sunday against the Bills and quarterback Kyle Orton. Orton was the quarterback during Ninkovich’s time at Purdue and he even caught two touchdown passes from the 32-year-old.
“Yeah, an old teammate,” Ninkovich said Friday. “Again, he’s a good quarterback. We go back a long ways, caught a couple of touchdown passes from him. I’m sure I will enjoy going after him a little bit.”
When the Patriots played the Bills on Oct. 12, Orton had just replaced starting quarterback E.J. Manuel. With more than two months under his belt working with the Bills’ offense, it’s a much different offense than it was in their prior meeting. In 11 games as the Bills quarterback, Orton is 271-for-424 for 2,842 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“We saw him, again he was early in his progression, he first got there and now he is the starting quarterback,” said Ninkovich. “He’s had a bunch of time with the wide receivers and just the timing of everything so again, the more time a quarterback can spend with his receivers and his running backs and tight ends especially, they can get a feel for what he wants and again, he’s a good quarterback and can make a lot of great throws. They’ve done some good things on offense with him in there.”
Even with Sunday’s game essentially meaningless, as the Patriots have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC, Ninkovich is still focused on the game at hand and not looking past the game, especially facing the Bills, a tough division team looking to improve to 9-7 on the year.
“For me I enjoy it,” said Ninkovich. “It’s a division game. Buffalo always plays us tough. They are a good football team. They have weapons everywhere — I mean running backs, tight ends, quarterback, receivers, they have a lot of good football players on that team so it is going to be another challenge for us and it is another challenge in the NFL. That is what I am here to do. I am here to play football and I am excited to play Buffalo at home.”
|12.26.14 at 12:39 pm ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter checked in with Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about Patriots and NFL news heading into the final Sunday of the regular season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Asked which team the Patriots would least want to face in their first playoff game, Schefter said it’s more about the Patriots than the team they’re playing.
“It’s really about them, not about the opponent. If they’re going to play the way that they have, I don’t think anybody’s going to beat them in Foxboro if they play their brand of football,” Schefter said. “But what team is most likely to take them out of that realm? I think we’ve seen the Ravens do that before. I don’t know if the Ravens are going to make the playoffs at all. Obviously they’re on the outside looking in right now. It’s going to be tough. But a lot of funky things can happen.”
Darrelle Revis‘ future in New England is uncertain, as he signed a two-year deal last offseason that is backloaded, leaving the team in a situation where it’s unlikely to keep him on that pact.
“I think the Revis story is still playing out,” Schefter said. “Darrelle Revis has been a great player for a long time. I’ve always look at him as a businessman — that he’s going to go where the best deal is. If the best deal is in New England, then fine. Does he like it there enough? If they win a Super Bowl, where he gets a Super Bowl on his resume, and he says, ‘Now I can just go for the best deal truly.’ Or is it worth it to compromise a little bit there to continue playing on in New England where you’ve got a shot to win the Super Bowl? That’s possible, too. The Darrelle Revis story obviously has yet to be written. I think he’d be open to going back to New England. But when I think of Darrelle Revis I think business first, always.”
Added Schefter: “The circumstances were such last year that it just played perfectly for both sides. And I’m sure that they both would like to be together next year in a perfect world. But again, we’ll see how Darrelle approaches that and what his thoughts are there. I’m sure he’s been very happy playing there this year, but again, it’s going to come down to money.”
Looking around the league, Schefter said that the Lions-Packers game that will decide the NFC North winner is the most intriguing game of the weekend.
“The fact that the Lions have not won in Green Bay since 1992 — 23 straight games, 22 regular season, one in the postseason, I mean, really, it’s hard to imagine that,” Schefter said, adding: “It’s the longest streak in NFL history, longest losing streak of one team to another in NFL history. You don’t see that. It’s very unusual.
“At some point the Lions are going to snap it, and I think they’re good enough to do it this weekend. But to go into Green Bay and win there now is a tall, tall order.”
For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
|12.26.14 at 12:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Running back Jonas Gray was the lone Patriots player not spotted at the start of practice Friday afternoon held on the lower grass field behind Gillette Stadium.
This wasn’t the only Friday practice Gray has missed this year, but this time might be different as the running back has been on the injury report with an ankle injury he suffered in the first half of Sunday’s win in New York.
Gray has been listed as limited in practice this week. He left Sunday’s game, but did return, although was very limited and Brandon Bolden received the majority of the carries in the fourth quarter.
Stay tuned for the injury report, which will be posted later in the afternoon.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|12.26.14 at 11:48 am ET|
Terry McAulay will work as the referee for Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium, according to FootballZebras.com.
This is McAulay’s first Patriots game of the season, and first since he served as the lead official for a New England-Houston game at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 10, 2012. A veteran official, he’s worked several big games over the last decade-plus, including Super Bowl XLVIII.
Here’s a look at who has worked as the lead official for each New England game this year, and the corresponding penalties for each game, not counting the flags that were offset or declined.
Sept. 7 at Miami: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 100 yards (Dolphins — 4 penalties, 26 yards)
Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Tony Corrente — 15 penalties, 163 yards (Vikings — 7 penalties, 58 yards)
Sept. 21 vs. Oakland: Pete Morelli — 6 penalties, 59 yards (Raiders — 6 penalties, 49 yards)
Sept. 29 at Kansas City: John Parry — 3 penalties, 30 yards (Chiefs — 4 penalties, 35 yards)
Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati: Jerome Boger — 12 penalties, 114 yards (Bengals — 4 penalties, 37 yards)
Oct. 12 at Buffalo: Walt Coleman — 9 penalties, 60 yards (Bills — 8 penalties, 107 yards)
Oct. 16 vs. Jets: Bill Leavy — 9 penalties, 64 yards (Jets — 7 penalties, 70 yards)
Oct. 23 vs. Chicago: Brad Allen — 7 penalties, 38 yards (Bears — 5 penalties, 41 yards)
Nov. 2 vs. Denver: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 71 yards (Broncos — 10 penalties, 72 yards)
Nov. 16 at Indy: Pete Morelli — 5 penalties, 53 yards (Colts — 4 penalties, 27 yards)
Nov. 23 vs. Detroit: Tony Corrente — 11 penalties, 89 yards (Lions — 9 penalties, 54 yards)
Nov. 30 at Green Bay: Ed Hochuli — 4 penalties, 25 yards (Packers — 4 penalties, 22 yards)
Dec. 7 at San Diego: Bill Leavy — 6 penalties, 70 yards (Chargers — 8 penalties, 61 yards)
Dec. 14 vs. Miami: Bill Vinovich — 5 penalties, 51 yards (Dolphins — 5 penalties, 35 yards)
Dec. 21 at Jets: Brad Allen — 5 penalties, 38 yards (Jets — 2 penalties, 14 yards)
Dec. 28 vs. Bills: Terry McAulay —
For more on McAulay’s work as a referee, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For more information on this week’s assignments, click through to the always reliable Football Zebras. And for more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|12.26.14 at 11:07 am ET|
FOXBORO — In what hasn’t been talked much about this week, Sunday will be a homecoming for Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes — his first game back at Gillette Stadium since signing with the Bills this past offseason.
The fiery, emotional 27-year-old played four seasons in New England before not being re-signed last offseason and signing with the Bills in March. Spikes has played in all 15 games so far this season, totaling 54 tackles and a sack. In the team’s first meeting this season in Buffalo, Spikes had eight tackles, a season-high, and was a game he clearly was pumped up for — he was jumping up-and-down from the second he stepped on the field for pregame warmups.
Bills coach Doug Marrone had nothing but praise for his linebacker when asked about the former Patriot on a conference call earlier this week.
“He’s really done a great job for us — in the locker room, on the field, helping some of our longer guys like Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham,” he said. “With Kiko Alonso being out, he’s helped them learn how to be pros, watching film and doing those things. He had an outstanding offseason. He was here throughout the entire offseason. I think that was important. He’s been everything that we expected him to be.”
Spikes’ departure in New England didn’t go smoothly. The linebacker was placed on season-ending injured reserve late in the regular-season last year with a knee injury and thus missed the postseason. Earlier this season, Spikes told the Boston Herald he believed the injured reserve designation was a suspension by coach Bill Belichick.
“Absolutely, absolutely, but you know what I’m saying, I ain’t going to go — what’s done is done,” Spikes told the Herald. “We can’t change it. It is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. Whatever, man, I’m here with the Bills now. I’m happy. I’m loving the game. I’m loving my teammates, the entire organization, the city, your fans. It’s all great, man. It just reminds me of when I was in Gainesville with the Bills Mafia and the Gator Nation. It’s kind of the same, honestly.”
Belichick and Spikes did hug on the field following the Oct. 12 game and appeared to put what happened in the past behind them.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|12.26.14 at 10:56 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 17 starts and sits! It’s a tough week to predict when you look at the teams with nothing to play for, so when given the choice, you want to focus on players who are in need-to-win situations. Using Patriots players this week is inherently risky, and the same goes for the Broncos, Colts and Cowboys.
I’ve isolated some players in good situations for your consideration. Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon.
If you want to keep track of all our fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh articles and chats as well, including our full Week 17 lineup rankings. I’ll be back next week with playoff pool cheat sheets and strategies.
Cam Newton, Panthers at Falcons
He got his feet wet last week, but I expect the Panthers to unleash Newton in this game because there is a playoff berth at stake.
He has a receiver who tilts the field in Odell Beckham, and it’s made a big difference lately. Manning should finish 2015 strong, and I like his chances of being a QB1 next season if the Giants address the offensive line better than they did in 2014.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Bengals
He has a lot to play for here with the division title in the balance, so expect four quarters of action and QB1 results when all is said and done.
Andrew Luck, Colts at Titans
They went to backup Matt Hasselbeck early last week, and I am not betting on a longer outing for Luck this week — not with so much at stake. The Colts are locked into the fourth seed no matter what happens this week.
|12.26.14 at 10:12 am ET|
FOXBORO — Although rookie backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has only thrown 10 passes, appearing in mop-up duty in five games, coach Bill Belichick has noticed a steady improvement throughout the course of the season, now heading into Week 17 and the final week of the regular-season.
With the Patriots already clinching the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs and home field advantage, Sunday’s game against the Bills is essentially meaningless when it comes to the standings. As for how Belichick might manage his players, particularly his quarterbacks, 2010 is the best season to look back to, as like this year, the team clinched the No. 1 seed in Week 16.
Tom Brady started Week 17, but then left the game briefly in the second quarter for Brian Hoyer, like Belichick typically does in the preseason to simulate the quarterback potentially getting hurt in the middle of a game. Brady then went back in and played until there was 10:15 left in the third quarter and the Patriots leading the Bills 31-0.
With what has taken place in past history, it’s likely Garoppolo will at least see some time on the field Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
“I think Jimmy’s worked hard,” Belichick said Friday. “I’d say similar to [Bryan] Stork. He’s been consistent, he’s improved every week. Running different offenses for the scout team and having to keep up what we’re doing and our installation and our game plans on a weekly basis, but he’s been durable, healthy, out there everyday. He keeps getting better. He’s worked on a lot of things that we’ve identified for him to do. He’s gotten better and certainly has a much better understanding of the league.”
In the five games Garoppolo has seen the field, he’s actually performed at a pretty high level, throwing passes in two of the five games — the Chiefs blowout loss and the Bears’ blowout win. He’s a combined 9-for-10 with 92 yards, a touchdowns and not throwing an interception.
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