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Ten Final Thoughts on Patriots-Chargers

09.18.11 at 9:12 am ET
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With kickoff looming, here are 10 final thoughts on the Patriots and Chargers:

1. It didn’€™t make the cut for our Top 10 matchups, but it’€™ll be interesting to see how Sebastian Vollmer does in his first game back, and how the Patriots rotate their tackles. Just a guess, but it appears that Nate Solder and Vollmer have the most versatility, while Light sticks for most of the contest at left tackle.

2. You can measure the recent history of the Patriots using games against the Chargers as a guidepost: the legend of Tom Brady really took hold on Oct. 14, 2001, when he led his first comeback as a pro against San Diego. The 2002 Patriots were exposed in a nasty loss to the Chargers in San Diego. You knew the 2005 Patriots were in serious trouble after getting spanked 41-17 hat October by the Chargers at Gillette Stadium, breaking a 21-game home win streak. Brady led New England to perhaps its most underrated playoff win in recent memory when the Patriots upended the Chargers in the 2006 divisional playoffs. And in 2007, a thunderous win the week after the Spygate scandal broke highlighted the regular season, while New England’€™s win over San Diego in January 2008 remains New England’€™s last postseason victory.

3. BenJarvus Green Ellis has some awful career numbers against the Chargers — in two games against San Diego, he has 24 yards on 11 carries, with one touchdown. Among teams he’€™s faced more than once, it represents the lowest output of his career.

4. My favorite stat of the week from my buddy Gary from Nuggetpalooza — the Patriots have not allowed a rushing touchdown in the first quarter in their last 22 home games, the longest current streak in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Chargers haven’€™t scored such a touchdown in any of their last eight road tilts.

5. News on two former Patriots worth passing along: One, defensive lineman Ty Warren was placed on injured reserve on Saturday with a pectoral injury. It’€™ll make back-to-back seasons on injured reserve for Warren, who missed all of last season with New England because of a hip injury. For the immensely likable Warren, it could mean the end of his career. Second, it looks like safety Brandon Meriweather is going to start this week for the Bears against the Saints in New Orleans. It’€™ll be the first time Meriweather has faced the Saints since the Patriots were blown out of the Superdome in 2009, 38-17. It was an ugly game for New England, one that Meriweather remembers. ‘€œI dropped two picks that game,’€™’€™ Meriweather told the Chicago Tribune. ‘€œIt was very frustrating. Any time you get a chance to get a pick, you want to get it, especially when you’€™re going against an elite quarterback. That’€™s one of the balls you put up in your trophy room and brag about.’€™’€™

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Why Vince Wilfork has so much respect for Philip Rivers

09.17.11 at 5:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Philip Rivers has earned a reputation as being an emotional, confrontational and often fiery competitor on the field.

In some ways, the Chargers quarterback has brought an aggressive defensive mentality to the position.

Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork will be facing him on Sunday once again. And it’s no surprise Wilfork says he loves it, even when he’s on the receiving end.

It adds just that much more to the intensity of the game.

Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

When Tom Brady calls, Deion Branch will be ready to answer

09.17.11 at 5:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Deion Branch is ready for whenever Tom Brady finds his passing rhythm in a game.

On Monday night, it was the second half, as Brady targeted Branch six times and found him four times for 68 of his 93 receiving yards on the night as Branch opened up things on the edge while Brady was finding Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski over the middle.

And like Monday night, when the Patriots quarterback does, Branch plays a huge role.

In the drive following the fluke Brady interception that led to the game-tying score early in the third quarter, Branch caught three passes in four snaps, including back-to-back catches of 13 and 20 yards.

Brady knew Branch could exploit Dolphins corner Nolan Carroll, who was filling in for the cramping Vontae Davis. And Branch was ready.

The gameplan will no doubt be tweaked this Sunday when Branch goes up against the Chargers secondary, led by Eric Weddle and Bob Sanders.

Read More: Bob Sanders, Deion Branch, Eric Weddle, New England Patriots

Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Chargers

09.17.11 at 10:12 am ET
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In Week Two, the Chargers come to town. With just one week’s worth of numbers in the book, even though some of them were *BIG* numbers, it’s not easy to draw many conclusions from them yet. But here are some things I’ve seen:

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* – The last time these two teams met (last October 24), the Patriots threw for only 128 yards, their fewest in any game last season. Their net yards per pass play in that game (3.56) was their lowest in a win (23-20) since 2004. Also, the Pats completed only one pass thrown 20 or more yards in the air in that game, tied for the fewest such completions by the Patriots since Tom Brady returned from injury in 2009.

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* – Wes Welker’s 109 YAC yards (yards after the catch) last week was his career high, the most “ever” (since 1992) by a Patriots’ wideout/tight end, and the second most since ’92 by any Patriots player (118, Kevin Faulk, 2003). Since they began tracking this stat in 1992, the Dolphins have allowed 100+ YAC yards to a receiver only nine times. Six receivers, from six different teams, have one such game. And Wes Welker has THREE of them.

Note this: Welker’s 109 YAC yards were also the most ever by a Patriot on the road (since 1992):

109 – Wes Welker, 2011
107 – Wes Welker, 2008
107 – Wes Welker, 2009

Note this too: Welker now ranks second in career YAC yards by a Patriots wideout/tight end:

2,871 – Troy Brown
2,673 – Wes Welker
2,095 – Ben Coates

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* – New England’s 622 total yards last Monday was the most in the NFL since Pittsburgh had 645 in 2002 in a 34-34 overtime tie against Atlanta. It was the most by a road team since Washington had 676 at Detroit in a 41-38 overtime win in 1990. But listen to this… It was the most by a road team in a non-overtime game since 1962, when Green Bay rolled to 628 yards in a 49-0 rout at Philadelphia. Miami had never allowed 600 yards in a game prior to Monday, and
the last three times that they have allowed 500+ yards (in 2008, this past January 2, and Monday night) have come against New England.

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* – The Patriots have not allowed a rushing touchdown in the first quarter in their last 22 home games, the longest current streak in the NFL. The Chargers haven’t scored such a TD in any of their last eight road tilts.

————————————————————————————————————————————————— Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Brady ‘airs’ it out for FedEx Award

09.16.11 at 5:52 pm ET
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After completing 32-of-48 passes for a career-high and team-record 517 yards with four touchdowns, Tom Brady has been honored as part of the first FedEx “Air & Ground” award of 2011.

Brady became just the 11th quarterback to pass for over 500 yards in a single game, leading the Patriots to a 38-24 win over the Dolphins in Week 1.

The NFL made the announcement on Friday. The “ground” part of the award went to running back LeSean McCoy of the Eagles are the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week for games played on September 8-12.

McCoy had 15 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’€™ 31-13 win over the Rams. He essentially sealed the Eagles’€™ victory with fourth quarter 49-yard touchdown scamper that ended any chances the Rams had of mounting a comeback. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: FedEx Air and Ground, LeSean McCoy, New England Patriots, nfl

Fantasy Football 2011: Week 2 Starts and Sits

09.16.11 at 1:35 pm ET
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Here are our starts and sits for week two. A quick word on how we put these together. We look for the players that are on the edge of lineups as much as we can. We’€™re staying away from the obvious plays. Nobody needs us to tell them to start Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson. If any of these picks creates a tougher decision for you, please feel free to check out our complete player rankings at Rotobahn.com. The rankings are posted throughout the day on Fridays. Further clarity can be provided by leaving a question in our forums. Registration is free. Good luck in week two!

QUARTERBACKS

Starts

Joe Flacco @ Titans

He stood up tall against a better defense in week one, so we can’€™t see him flopping in Tennessee. Flacco looks like he’€™s raised his game a little since 2010. He’€™s got enough options to be a solid play and he dumps the ball off to backs who can make yards after the catch, not to mention after contact.

Jay Cutler @ Saints

The Saints are good on defense and this game could go in a lot of directions based on the way Chicago was hitting last week. Check our ranking to see if you have a better option, but we like Cutler and would see no issues putting him in there this week. We think there will be enough scoring to support solid fantasy production. Cutler is using all of his weapons and is not as one-dimensional as he was early in 2010.

Chad Henne vs Texans

He looked improved against the Patriots in the opener, and the Fish seemed determined to keep pushing the offense through the air.

Cam Newton vs Packers

We wouldn’€™t avoid him despite the bad matchup. He can create fantasy points in a lot of ways, so roll with him if he’€™s your best option. We still view him as an average play or even a bit better. Look to our QB Rankings at Rotobahn.com to see if you have a better option.

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Sebastian Vollmer might be taking it ‘day-to-day’ but Bill Belichick ‘expects’ he’ll play

09.16.11 at 1:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick said Friday he expects starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer to be available to play against the Chargers after missing Monday night’s season opener in Miami with a sore back. Belichick suggested that Vollmer, rookie Nate Solder and Matt Light would likely work in a rotating system of tackles as the team continues to find its way along an offensive line that lost its starting center on Monday.

“I would expect all three of those guys to play, Light, Solder and Vollmer,” Belichick said. “I’d think they all play.”

However, Vollmer is playing it cautiously.

“I’ll really have to see about that,” Vollmer said. “So far, I’m limited at practice and I do what I can and try to get better. When it feels right, it feels right.”

Vollmer dismissed concerns over his latest back issues after having similar problems when he was at the University of Houston.

“It feels good getting back out there and doing what I can,” Vollmer said. “I’m only looking forward so it’s day-to-day and we’ll see what happens.”

The team practiced in shorts and shells on the lower grass fields on Friday in preparation for Sunday’s home opener at Gillette at 4:15 p.m., with Vollmer, Solder and Light all at practice.

The news is not as clear on defensive lineman Mike Wright, who missed again Friday with a concussion suffered Monday in Miami. Belichick deferred to his medical staff when asked if last year’s concussion combined with another suffered by Wright on Monday was cause for concern.

“That’s all handled by our medical staff,” Belichick said. “They evaluate that. I’m sure they’ll do what’s in the players’ best interest the way they always do. That’s not really my field.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Matt Light, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
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