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Nuggetpalooza’s NFL Playoffs Preview – Sunday’s Games

01.08.11 at 10:54 am ET
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Get ready for all of Sunday’s playoff action in the NFL with a bunch of statistical observations that you probably won’t find elsewhere!

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RAVENS (11-5) at CHIEFS (10-6)

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* – This blew me away: The Ravens have not allowed a touchdown in the third quarter in their last 25 games.  In that same span, every other NFL team has allowed at least six such touchdowns and the average number allowed is 13.2.

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* – Baltimore’s scoring totals have taken a dive recently.  Here are their totals for weeks 13-16:  34, 30, 20, 13.

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* – After averaging 25.9 points over their first 11 games, they’ve managed just 16.2 over their last five, scoring 10 or
fewer in three of them.  Only three other teams scored 10 or fewer three times in their last five games: Carolina, Cleveland, and Miami.

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* – The Ravens have scored 20 or more points in each of their last five road games.  It’s the first such streak within a
single season in club history.

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* – Kansas City’s 118 points allowed at home was the third fewest in the NFL this season:

107 – Jets
110 – Steelers
118 – Chiefs

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* – The Ravens have been a very good defense right out of the locker room, allowing just 22 total points (five field goals
and one touchdown) on their opponents’ opening possession of the first and second halfs combined (0.69 points per
possession).  On all other possessions against the Ravens, opponents averaged 1.62 points per possession.

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* – For some reason, both offenses were TERRIBLE on third down and short (three yards or fewer to go) in 2010.  Baltimore converted just 48.1 percent (ranked 29th) while the Chiefs were even worse (45.9 percent; 31st).  Compare those two to New England, the league leader at 76.4 percent.

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Analysis of Mike Wright’s move to injured reserve

01.07.11 at 4:52 pm ET
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The decision to move injured defensive linemen Mike Wright to season-ending injured reserve is hardly a surprise ‘€” Wright hasn’t been seen since he suffered a concussion in the Nov. 21 win over the Colts. (He hadn’t practiced since then, and had not been seen by the media in the locker room.) But the move is another sign that the Patriots are seriously thin along the defensive line as they head into the postseason.

The 28-year-old Wright is no Pro Bowler, but his familiarity with the system (he was signed as a rookie free agent out of Cincinnati in 2005) and his positional versatility (he has played all three spots on the defensive front in New England’s 3-4) made him a valuable asset for the Patriots. This season, he had played in 10 games with five starts, and finished the season with 17 total tackles and a career-high 5.5 sacks.

The loss of Wright hurts on a couple of levels. First, Wright is the team’s best interior pass rusher ‘€” in only 10 games, his 5.5 sacks were best on the team. Vince Wilfork has started to emerge as a pass-rushing threat up the middle the last few weeks, but Wright’s ability to get a consistent push up the middle will be hard to replicate.

Second, the loss of Wright will render the depth along the defensive line even thinner. This is a group that is getting great play from the likes of Wilfork and fellow veteran Gerard Warren, but because of injuries to Ty Warren, Ron Brace, Darryl Richard and Kade Weston (who have all gone on injured reserve), as well as injuries to Myron Pryor (who has struggled with a back problem) and a suspension to youngster Brandon Deaderick (who was reportedly reinstated on Friday), they have been forced to acquire players like Landon Cohen, Atiyyah Ellison and Eric Moore in an attempt to add depth. This also means more will be expected of rookie Kyle Love, who has started to play well as of late.

Wright is the 14th New England player to be placed on injured reserve since the start of training camp, a group that includes Warren, cornerback Leigh Bodden, safety Brandon McGowan, offensive linemen Nick Kaczur and Stephen Neal, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and running back Kevin Faulk.

Read More: Atiyyah Ellison, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon McGowan, Darryl Richard

Patriots place DL Mike Wright on season-ending injured reserve

01.07.11 at 4:27 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Friday afternoon they have placed defensive lineman Mike Wright on season-ending injured reserve. Wright suffered a concussion in New England’s win over the Colts on Nov. 21, and had been a no-show at practice and in games since that point. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Wright had only played in 10 games, but was the team leader in sacks on the season with 5.5. The 28-year-old out of Cincinnati, who was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2005, finished the year with 17 total tackles.

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Vince Wilfork fined $10K by league for hit on Chad Henne

01.07.11 at 4:08 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was fined $10,000 by the NFL for driving the quarterback into the ground on a play in last Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game. Wilfork’s hit on Miami quarterback Chad Henne came in the third quarter of the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium. Wilfork sacked Henne, but the play was ruled a helmet-to-helmet hit and the New England defender was penalized 15 yards.

Read More: Chad Henne, Vince Wilfork,

Devin McCourty a finalist for Rookie of the Year

01.07.11 at 1:21 pm ET
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Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty is one of five finalists for the NFL Rookie of the Year award.

The Rutgers product, drafted with the 27th overall pick, has 82 tackles (69 solo), seven interceptions with 110 return yards and two fumble recoveries.

The other finalists are Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, Browns defense back Joe Haden, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams.

Read More: Devin McCourty,

Peter King on D&H: Rex Ryan’s ‘mouth goes before he really thinks about it’

01.07.11 at 1:18 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports football analyst Peter King made his weekly WEEI Patriots Friday appearance on the Dale & Holley show and talked about news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

King predicts the Ravens and Colts will win in the AFC playoffs this weekend. In the NFC, the Seahawks-Saints game has turned in to one to watch. “I think Seattle really is in an interesting position this weekend,” he said. “Because when you think about how this thing has played out ‘€” I mean, the Saints are on a short week. They’re very beat up. Their two running backs are gone. They’re going to have to play Reggie Bush at running back, which Sean Payton really does not like to do ‘€” play him probably 30 snaps at running back, running between the tackles. He and Julius Jones, who has been nothing special at all. Marques Colston coming off arthroscopic surgery 10 days ago on his knee. This is the week that you want to play the Saints. And that, plus the fact that you make them travel 2,200 miles on a short week.”

“So, I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle won. Plus, they’ve got their crowd up there. If they’re in the game early, that crowd will be in the game. So, I definitely think they’ve got a shot. Now, obviously, the difference-maker is Drew Brees. Matt Hasselbeck is at the end, and Drew Brees is in the prime. And he’s the most accurate passer of our day. I don’t know. I don’t see New Orleans losing, but it wouldn’t shock me.”

Commenting on Rex Ryan‘s backhanded criticism of Tom Brady this week, King said: “I just think his mouth goes before he really thinks about it. That happens a lot of times.”

Looking at coaching moves around the league, King said part of the reason for the fascination with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is because there are no “hot” assistants in the NFL this year. But he said the type of money reportedly being offered does not make sense. “I do think that Harbaugh should be a very attractive guy,” King said. “When the Dolphins were talking about paying him $7 [million] or $8 million a year, anything to be able to get him, that was categorically insane. To pay him Bill Belichick money ‘€” and I don’t even know what Belichick makes, and I’m assuming it’s around $8 million ‘€” to pay him Bill Belichick money is an insult. Plus, in my opinion ‘€” everybody says, ‘Who cares? It’s the owner’s money.’ Well, that’s fine. But you talk about putting pressure on a guy that he doesn’t need.”

As for former Patriots assistant coaches who were fired in the past month, King said Josh McDaniels is visiting the Vikings Friday but may hold out for a job that will better enhance his career. King said he’s heard Eric Mangini is interested in the UConn job or the Cowboys defensive coordinator position.

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Read More: Drew Brees, Ed Sabol, Eric Mangini, Jim Harbaugh

Fred Taylor on D&H: ‘Everybody’s just excited for’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis

01.07.11 at 12:12 pm ET
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Running back Fred Taylor joined the Dale & Holley show Friday for his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Patriots Friday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Taylor said that despite missing much of the season with injuries, he has no problem with coaches chewing him out along with the players in the film room in preparation for the playoffs. “I’m not perfect by any means,” he said. “I need to make sure I’m on top of everything, trying to continue to improve myself. Constructive criticism is great. You just listen, you take heed to it, and you try to get better from it.”

BenJarvus Green-Ellis reached 1,000 yards rushing on the season in Sunday’s regular-season finale, and the team was visibly excited for the young back. “It meant a lot to whole lot of people,” Taylor said. “Everybody understands Benny. He’s a non-nonsense, straightforward young guy with an old soul who works extremely hard. He deserves everything that he’s gotten to this point. And I’m sure he’ll continue to go out and get better. Knowing Benny, everybody’s just excited for him.”

Asked what running backs are most proud of, Taylor said: “Not turning the ball over. That’s the key to everything.”

Running back Kevin Faulk has been a regular presence at Gillette Stadium despite being on injured reserve since his Week 2 injury. Taylor had plenty of complimentary things to say about the veteran. “That’s the passion and dedication that Kevin Faulk brings to the team,” Taylor said. “He’s at every meeting. He’s, I think, the only IR guy that’s in every meeting ‘€” well, not at every meeting, but every squad meeting every morning, just prior to his treatment, his rehab. That’s just his dedication and his involvement with the organization and the things that he’s about. That’s just Kevin at the end of the day, nothing special for him. It’s not going above and beyond for him. It’s just his everyday approach with his dedication to the team.”

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk,
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