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Live Blog: Patriots kick off 2012 season in Tennessee, taking on Titans

09.09.12 at 12:15 pm ET
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A closer look at the inactives for the Patriots

09.09.12 at 11:49 am ET
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The following players are inactive for Sunday’s game against the Titans: Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard; running back Shane Vereen; offensive lineman Nick McDonald; tight end Daniel Fells, defensive ends Justin Francis and Jake Bequette; defensive tackle Marcus Forston.

Vereen and McDonald were hobbled over the course of the week, and are no surprises. Fells also had a shin problem that he’s dealt with over the last week. Dennard spent a lot of the summer on the shelf because of a hamstring problem, and while he did return late in the preseason, he’s still likely behind a little bit. Meanwhile, youngsters Bequette, Francis and Forston are personnel decisions.

It’s probably more interesting to see who is not listed, a group that includes new tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, wide receive Greg Salas and running back/fullback Lex Hilliard.

Scene setter: Patriots-Titans

09.09.12 at 11:48 am ET
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The Patriots begin their hopeful trek back to the Super Bowl in Music City where sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff.

The Patriots have won eight straight season openers, the longest streak in the NFL. The Packers have the second longest active streak with five straight opening day wins. If the Patriots win today, they would join an exclusive group that includes the Cowboys (17 straight), Dolphins (11), Portsmouth/Detroit (10) and Bears (9).

Before the streak, the Patriots were 20-24 in openers. They are now 28-24 but still only 9-12 in openers on the road. The last time the Patriots lost an opener on the road was the infamous “Lawyer Milloy Game” when the popular safety was cut the week before the first game. The Bills shut out the Patriots, 31-0, in Orchard Park on Sept. 7, 2003.

There will be several rookies in the spotlight today for the Patriots as first rounders Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are expected to start on defense for Bill Belichick‘s group.

The other big storyline coming in is the match-up between the McCourty twins as New England’s Devin and Tennessee’s Jason are on the same NFL field for the first time.

“I told him to lose my cell phone number,” Devin McCourty told reporters this week. “There’ll be time to catch up afterward.”

The Titans certainly the remember the last meeting between the two teams. During a freak pre-Halloween snow storm on Oct. 18, 2009, the Patriots put up a record 59 points in a 59-0 win over Tennessee, a game that saw the Patriots match an NFL record with 35 points in the second quarter.

On that day, Tom Brady massacred the Titans’ 31st-ranked pass defense. Playing in the rain and snow, Brady completed 19 of his first 20 passes, displaying deadly accuracy on the long ball. Brady finished 29 of 34 with 380 yards and tied a career-high with six touchdowns before he was replaced by rookie QB Brian Hoyer on New England’s second drive in the third quarter.

Belichick is beginning his 13th year as head coach of the Patriots. He is the first coach in NFL history with 13 or more wins in five different seasons, coming off a 13-3 season in 2011.

By contrast, Mike Munchak is in his second year in Tennessee after taking over for Jeff Fisher. Munchak will start Jake Locker at quarterback as the second-year signal-caller out of Washington will get his first NFL start. Matt Hasselbeck will be his back-up.

Locker will not have one of his key weapons at his disposal as wide receiver Kenny Britt is serving a one-game NFL suspension for a driving under the influence charge this summer, his eighth run-in with the law in his career. First-round draft pick Kendall Wright is in the lineup Sunday with Britt suspended. Wright was the 20th pick overall out of Baylor, while Martin was their third-round selection out of Michigan.

The Titans have scratched defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, and rookie Mike Martin will start in his place.

Tennessee also deactivated backup running back Javon Ringer. He was added to the injury report Saturday night with an ailing elbow. Quarterback Rusty Smith, linebacker Zac Diles, offensive tackles Mike Otto and Byron Stingily and defensive end Pannel Egboh also were inactive.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, Lawyer Milloy, McCourty twins

Friday free-for-all: Captain Devin McCourty and Nate Solder is confident

09.07.12 at 11:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Leadership is something that’s not taken for granted with the Patriots, nor is it bestowed lightly.

So when Devin McCourty was honored on Thursday as one of six team captains, he was humbled that his teammates felt he had what it takes in his third NFL season to lead the Patriots defense on the field.

“It’s an honor,” McCourty said Friday. “Whenever you can get voted by a bunch of your peers and your teammates as someone they feel is a leader. I think it’s an honor and I’m just going to try and do my duties and be a leader for these guys.”

McCourty joins Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo as captains on defense while Tom Brady and Logan Mankins are offensive captains and Matthew Slater rounds out the captains for the 2012 Patriots on special teams.

“Just trying to do whatever I think the team needs,” McCourty said. “I think we have some great leaders on this team so I think we’re just trying to feed off each other.”

McCourty has advice for the younger players, including the rookies, who will be making their NFL debut this Sunday.

“When you get out there on the field, the speed picks up a little more,” McCourty said. “I think the rookies will see it’s not as friendly. In the preseason, a lot of times you’re going against a lot of guys you went to school with, guys that are free agents get on teams. Once you start talking about each game matters, you get in the regular season and guys are really focused on just trying to win. I think the pace and the attitude changes a little bit.

“I’ve just been telling the guys to just remember that at the end of the day, it’s football. You’ve been playing football your whole life. It’s a bigger stage but it’s the next stage for you. Just be prepared and try to stay settled.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: lex hilliard, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, nfl

Fantasy Football: Week 1 starts, sits

09.07.12 at 10:24 am ET
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Here are Rotobahn’€™s Week 1 starts and sits. These rankings are based on 12-team leagues and performance scoring. We’€™ve done our best to highlight players who may be either available or on the lineup bubble. After all, we all know we need to keep Tom Brady active.

If you are looking for more in-depth roster rankings, join us at, where we break things down even further.


Jay Cutler, Bears

Now well stocked with weapons, Cutler is a solid value this year. Start him in Week 1 if you have the need. We think he’€™ll post starter’€™s numbers.

Robert Griffin, Redskins

Griffin is the real deal and can play for you right away. His receivers are underrated, and TE Fred Davis is a plus option as well.

Joe Flacco, Ravens

Flacco is a guy you might find on waivers in small leagues, and he can post starter’€™s numbers in Week 1.


Stevan Ridley, Patriots

Ridley is going to get the rock a lot this week, so we see the big back as a good Week 1 play. Shane Vereen has been absent and the Law Firm has moved on to Cincinnati. This is Ridley’€™s time.

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers

The Buccaneers, who host Williams’ Panthers on Sunday, have to prove that they can stop the run. They have been very vulnerable to speed in recent years, and Williams is looking very speedy these days. Throw in a banged-up Jonathan Stewart and you have a solid recipe for success.

Michael Bush, Bears

If you are looking for an option, Bush could help. We like his chances against Indianapolis’ front seven, and we like Chicago’€™s chances of putting up some numbers. He’s a good flex option in bigger leagues.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jay Cutler, Randy Moss, Robert Griffin, Stevan Ridley

Nuggetpalooza: NFL Week 1, Patriots vs. Titans statistical preview!

09.07.12 at 8:57 am ET
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Ah, football season. Finally.

The Patriots kick off the 2012 season on Sunday in Nashville against the Titans. If you’re familiar with my weekly Patriots previews, welcome back. I hope you have enjoyed these posts in previous seasons and that you will find this year’s edition even better. If this is your first time here, my goal is to provide you with stats that are not only pertinent to the upcoming game, but I also try to show you numbers that you most likely will not see elsewhere.

Let’s be honest, though. Statistics from last season must be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, considering all the changes that teams make every offseason. Tennessee, for example, has a new starting quarterback in Jake Locker, who if he leads the club in passing this season would make 2012 the fourth straight season with a different passing leader for the Titans. But, since last season’s numbers are all we have at this point, let’s get to it:

* – GET OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Only four teams last season never suffered a turnover (fumble, interception, or via downs) in their opening possession of a game: The Patriots, Titans, Chiefs, and Rams. New England is the only NFL team that has not committed an opening drive turnover in either of the last TWO seasons.

Note this: Tennessee managed to put up points only once all last season on their opening possession of the second half, as they wound up punting 14 times in 16 games. The Patriots ranked fifth in the league, opening up their 16 second halves by scoring six touchdowns and two field goals for a total of 48 points.

* – FIRST DOWN DEFENSE?: Last season, the Patriots’ defense allowed 3,455 yards on 501 first down plays, an average of 6.90 yards per play. That’s the highest allowed by any NFL defense since they began tracking the stat in 1995:

6.90 – Patriots, 2011
6.80 – Lions, 2008
6.57 – Redskins, 2010
6.52 – Texans, 2010

Note this: New England also intercepted a league-high 13 passes on first down last season, the most ever by a Patriots defense and tied for third-most ever in a single season (since they began tracking the stat in 1991):

17 – Buccaneers, 2002
15 – Bengals, 1996
13 – Four teams tied including 2011 Patriots

* – FRIENDLY SKIES LAST YEAR: “YAC” yards, or yards gained after the catch by receivers, has been tracked since 1995. Knowing the number of YAC yards also allows us to determine the number of “air yards” (i.e. yards gained by passing without any benefit from runs after the catch). Here is an exhaustive list of teams that have allowed 3,000 or more air yards in a season since 1995: The 2011 New England Patriots (3,021). No other team in the last 17 seasons has allowed even 2,800 air yards in a single year.

Note this: The 3,021 air yards allowed by the Patriots last season works out to an average of 188 per game. In the postseason, they (predictably) allowed just 79 against the Broncos, then gave up 188 against the Ravens and 189 against the Giants.

Note this too: The Titans reached 188 air yards only twice on offense in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Patriots thoughts: Going deeper on injury report; deconstructing Deion Branch’s possible return

09.07.12 at 12:47 am ET
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Four Patriots-related thoughts to wrap up Thursday:

1. The barometer for whether or not someone will be able to play on Sunday is usually their appearance on the practice field on Wednesday and Thursday. And with only running back Shane Vereen missing from both practices means the Patriots will be pretty healthy heading into the game against the Titans. Two things stick out, particularly about the offensive line: One, the return of Nick McDonald (who was back in shorts and shells with the rest of the team on Thursday, but limited) gives the Patriots eight healthy offensive linemen heading into Sunday’s game. And two, despite the fact that he’s been dogged by back problems all summer, it’s interesting that right tackle Sebastian Vollmer hasn’t been on the injury report all week. That should mean that the big German should be good to go for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Titans.

2. This is something we’ve Tweeted on a few occasions over the last week, but it bears repeating: it certainly indicates that Deion Branch is going to find his way back to the Patriots at some point, maybe sooner rather than later. He hasn’t drawn much (if any) interest around the league, he’s Tweeting like someone who doesn’t have a care in the world (and not to be accused of being a Twitter sleuth, but as of early Friday morning, his bio still says he’s a wide receiver with the Patriots) and he still has a full locker in the New England locker room — one week after he was released. I suppose he could always decide to retire, but that seems like a remote possibility.

3. On the topic of former Patriots, the fact that the Raiders kicked the tires on wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and decided against signing him (preferring instead to go with a former Oakland receiver in Derek Hagan) means that Gaffney is likely pretty dinged up, so much so that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the shelf for an extended period of time. (For what it’s worth, the Raiders also looked at a few other receivers, including former Patriot Tiquan Underwood.) As for Dan Koppen and Brian Hoyer, it’s my understanding they haven’t drawn much interest around the league.

4. While some around the league have been very public in their feelings about replacement referees, the Patriots were mostly mum on the topic on Thursday, with the best line coming from veteran lineman Logan Mankins, who said that “we’ve had the normal officials out there and they make bad calls.” He added: “Every time they call a hold on me it’€™s never a hold. They must just get my number confused with someone else.” Keep an eye on this site for the latest updates on referee assignments and biographical information for the Patriots-Titans game.

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