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Unlucky Seven: Who will end up sitting Sunday against Raiders? 09.21.14 at 7:00 am ET
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James White

James White

The Patriots will announce their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Sunday, but based on what we’ve seen this week and the matchup on Sunday, here’s our guess as to which seven players might be inactive:

RB James White: The rookie has been the odd man out over the first two weeks of the season. Unless there’s an unforeseen injury, he could be headed for a redshirt year.

DE Zach Moore: The defensive end was sidelined last week, and given some of the personnel decisions, we think he’s going to end up sitting again this week.

DE Michael Buchanan: The second-year lineman has been out the first two games because of an ankle issue, and the feeling here is that he gets another week on the sidelines to get right before the Patriots open a tougher stretch.

WR Aaron Dobson: The Patriots appear to be carrying an extra wide receiver, and so there might be a healthy scratch each week — last week it was Kenbrell Thompkins. If it isn’t Dobson this week, it could be Brandon LaFell.

C Ryan Wendell: The veteran lineman has struggled with knee issues over the last week., and so Wendell could spend another week on the shelf. (Dan Connolly popped up on the injury report with a knee problem — he’s probable for Sunday — and so he could land on the inactive list instead.)

S Don Jones: The former Dolphins has carved out a nice spot as a special teamer, but popped up on the injury report this week with a hamstring issue and missed Wednesday practice.

LB Jamie Collins: The second-year linebacker missed last week’s game in Minnesota against the Vikings, and his thigh injury left him limited over the course of the week.

For the record, here are the Patriots inactives for the first two weeks of the regular season:

Week 1
DE Michael Buchanan
WR Aaron Dobson
LB Darius Fleming
DT Chris Jones
G Josh Kline
C Bryan Stork
RB James White

Week 2
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Jamie Collins
CB Alfonzo Dennard
DE Zach Moore
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
C Ryan Wendell
RB James White

Sunday NFL Notes: Matthew Slater boosts rep as advocate for rest of Patriots roster 09.20.14 at 11:00 pm ET
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Matthew Slater says he would welcome another year as the Patriots' player rep. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Matthew Slater says he would welcome another year as the Patriots’ player rep. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. Few guys in the Patriots locker room were as busy this week as special teams captain and players rep Matthew Slater. The UCLA product, who has served as the team’€™s player rep the last two seasons, has been keeping his teammates informed about the progress regarding a new drug policy. With the constant changes, it was a challenge to keep up with the latest information.

“€œIt’€™s a responsibility that I take very seriously, because there’€™s a lot to keep our guys informed on,”€ said Slater, who was nominated for the job a few years back by quarterback Tom Brady. “€œThere’€™s a lot of changes, a lot of things our players can take advantage of, but they have to have the knowledge and information. I think it’€™s very important to keep guys informed, to address questions. We have a great league and a great union that does lot to help our players. It’€™s about the reps helping the other players take full advantage of that. I take a lot of pride in that.”

Slater, who is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, said the elections for player rep for the coming season will be held within the next month, but he’€™d welcome the chance to serve another term.

“€œIt’€™s definitely an honor, because I feel like your teammates have to have a lot of trust and faith in you to uphold the duties and responsibilities of that position,”€ Slater added. “I have a passion for the union — I think because of my father’€™s experience in the league — and I have a passion for taking care of our retired players and making them feel like they’€™re still a part of this. I have a lot of things I’€™d like to see done, and hopefully, we can get them done.”

Slater believes that the new drug plan is a good one for both sides.

“As players, we’€™re getting a fair deal,”€ Slater said. “€œI really believe that. And I feel as though the league is getting us to be transparent and to be players of integrity. We’€™re going to be accountable for what we put in our bodies — as we should. I think it’€™s fair for all parties. I think it’€™s best for the shield. And at the end of the day, nobody’€™s bigger than the league, and nobody’€™s bigger than the integrity of the league.”

2. Through the first two games of the regular season, Brady has done well to steer clear of turnovers. Including the end of the 2013 season and into the playoffs, (as well as the first two games of the 2014 regular season) Brady has assembled a streak of 80 straight completed passes without an interception. It’€™s not anywhere near his record (his regular-season streak of 358 consecutive pass attempts without an interception between the 2010 and 2011 season is still the gold standard), but it’€™s a good start to the season for a quarterback and his relatively young receiving corps. Of the quarterbacks who have started at least two games in 2014, Brady is part of a group that includes Cleveland’€™s Brian Hoyer, Denver’€™s Peyton Manning, Cincinnati’€™s Andy Dalton, Seattle’€™s Russell Wilson, Houston’€™s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Washington’€™s Robert Griffin III as QBs who have yet to throw an interception this season. (For what it’€™s worth, Brady and Hoyer are the only quarterback with at least 70 pass attempts who have yet to throw a pick this year.)

3. We touched on this a few times over the course of the week, but it bears repeating that when it comes to West Coast teams coming to the East Coast and playing one o’€™clock games, it rarely ends well for the road team. The four West Coast teams are a combined 43-83 in the Eastern Time zone over the last decade, according to STATS. (That includes a 14-game losing skid for the Raiders — their last win on the East Coast was Dec. 6, 2009 in Pittsburgh.) At 17-18 in East Coast games, the Chargers are the only team close to .500. Meanwhile, the Raiders (5-28) and Niners (10-18) have struggled — even Seattle, the defending Super Bowl champs are just 11-19 in one o’€™clock starts on the East Coast over the last 10 years. The road has been particularly unkind for the Raiders this year — Sunday marks their second trip to the East Coast in three games. Oakland will follow up this weekend’€™s stop in New England with a trip to London for a game with the Dolphins. (Ultimately, the Raiders will travel a league-high 36,078 miles this season.) Oakland coach Dennis Allen is philosophical about his team playing another game that starts at 10 a.m. West Coast time. “Listen, the schedule is what the schedule is, and our job is to show up and try to win a football game, and that’€™s really what we’€™re focused on doing,” he said. “We’€™re not really focused on the travel.”

4. Vince Wilfork isn’€™t given over to empty platitudes, so it was interesting to hear him talk this week about the progression over the last year-plus of linebacker Dont’€™a Hightower. By Hightower’€™s own admission, he struggled last season (he was benched late in the regular-season win over the Broncos) but down the stretch, everything seemed to click for the Alabama product, and he played well into the playoffs. That’€™s carried over into the first two games of 2014, where he’€™s had nine tackles and two sacks. Wilfork said he wasn’€™t impressed by Hightower’€™s performance over the first two games, because he believes it’€™s been something that’€™s been in him all along. “€œI’€™m happy we have him and I’€™m glad he’€™s doing things the way he’€™s capable of doing them,”€ Wilfork said of Hightower. “We knew all along what he had, and he knew. Sometimes you have to put him in a situation for that to come out.”

5. September 21st marks the latest date on the calendar the Patriots have had a home opener since 2001. That year, they had their home opener at Foxboro Stadium against the Jets on Sept. 23. That fall, in the wake of Sept. 11, the NFL schedule was reconfigured slightly, as the Week 2 games were rescheduled for the weekend of Jan. 6, 2002. For New England, that meant moving its contest against the Panthers in Carolina from Sept. 16 to Jan. 6, 2002. (In 2003, New England’€™s home opener as also on Sept. 21, and also against the Jets.) Going into this weekend, the Patriots were one of three teams that had yet to play a home game — the Jaguars and Saints were also on the road for their first two games. However, like New England, will both be home Sunday for the first time all year.

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10 Things You Have To Know About Raiders-Patriots 09.20.14 at 10:47 am ET
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Michigan men Charles Woodson and Tom Brady will meet again on Sunday. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Michigan men Charles Woodson and Tom Brady will meet again on Sunday. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s season opener between the Patriots and Raiders:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Quarterback Tom Brady against free safety Charles Woodson: At 37, Woodson is no longer the elite-level defensive back he once was, but to paraphrase Darrelle Revis, he’s still able to make plays. (The level of respect for Woodson is so great that Bill Belichick apparently put on film of Woodson’€™s work in team meetings this week, a reminder that the surefire Hall of Famer is still capable of pulling off some impressive plays.) Brady talked fondly about him on Wednesday, and Revis added to the praise on Thursday. The byplay between Brady and Woodson should be engaging on Sunday; maybe one of the most compelling matchups on what might otherwise be a relatively uneventful afternoon. Woodson has had 57 picks over the course of his 17-year career (he’s had at least one a year dating back to 1998), but has never been able to get one against Brady. While nothing is set in stone, this might be Woodson’s final chance to get one off his old college pal. At the very least, Woodson would love to gain a small level of revenge for the Snow Bowl/Tuck Rule contest.

2. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork against running back Darren McFadden: In his seventh season, McFadden is no longer the elite multidimensional threat he once was, but he’s still able to do plenty of damage offensively. The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder had a good week last week against the Texans, running well between the tackles. While the numbers weren’t overwhelming — 12 carries, 27 yards and a touchdown — with Maurice Jones-Drew a question mark because of a hand issue, he could be the Raiders best shot on the ground against the Patriots. Wilfork and the rest of the New England defense has been excellent against the pass, but struggled against the run, yielding 122.5 rushing yards per game (tied for 21st in the league). Oakland loves running between the tackles, which means it’ll be Wilfork who will likely handle the bulk of the duties. From this viewpoint, if Derek Carr is going to have a chance, he’s going to need plenty of good complementary football from the rest of the Raiders, and on offense, that starts with a big contribution from McFadden and the rest of the running game.

3. Left tackle Nate Solder against outside linebacker Khalil Mack: Mack is probably the best young defensive prospect the Raiders have had in some time, and over the course of his first two games, has appeared to line up mostly opposite the left tackle. Used both as a linebacker in their regular defense and a defensive end in Oakland’s sub packages, the rookie out of Buffalo has flashed very positively on occasion, working as a disruptive force off the edge. (Though two games, he has 12 tackles, two of them for a loss, as well as one pass defensed.) He’ll likely get a healthy dose of Solder, who has held up relatively well over the course of the first two games of the season. If the Patriots follow the same course of action they did last week against the Vikings (and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them do this, given the fact that the Raiders are the worst run defenses in the league), expect an extra tackle to work as a tight end to provide help in the running game. (Last week, it was rookie Cameron Fleming.) Bill Belichick had plenty of good things to say about Mack this week, calling him “disruptive,” as well as “fast” and “explosive.” It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up with Solder.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’ fans need to know: There are a handful of offensive skill position players who are relatively anonymous faces, but one relatively intriguing prospect who might get a chance against the Patriots is Latavius Murray, a second-year player out of Central Florida. He didn’t play last season (a foot injury landed him on injured reserve) but had 23 carries for 94 yards in the preseason for the Raiders. Murray has flashed positively as a kick returner this season, averaging 24.3 yards per return in seven chances — and if Jones-Drew continues to have issues with his hand, Murray could get an opportunity against the Patriots.

5. By the numbers (tie): 4 — Per NFL gamebooks, the number of Patriots who have played every single offensive or defensive snap to this point in the season. On the offensive side of the ball, it’s Brady and Solder. On defense, it’s been linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower. (Last year after eight games, the Patriots had eight players who hadn’t taken a single snap off: Brady, Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Aqib Talib, Devin McCourty, Ryan Wendell, Sebastian Vollmer and Logan Mankins.)

6. Quote of note: No single phrase stood out for us this week more than the word “savvy.” On four different occasions, this reporter heard Patriots players use it to describe Oakland, usually in conjunction when asked about the collective age of the Raiders. (They are, on average, the oldest team in the league.)

7. Patriots fans should be worried about… the fear of the unknown, particularly when it comes to Carr. Sunday will mark his first ever start against New England and only his third career start at the NFL level. The Fresno State product has distinguished himself with two decent performances to this point — the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has gone 47-for-74 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions while adding 55 rushing yards in two games, both losses for the Raiders. The simple fact that they haven’t faced him is enough in itself to insure that Belichick has been able to keep his defense a little wary about the prospect of facing a rookie signal-caller. If Carr has the ability to surprise, it could come with his ability to keep plays alive with his feet and maneuver out of the pocket once things break down. (To that point, several defensive players we spoke with this week talked about the importance of gap discipline when facing a potentially shifty quarterback like Carr.) As we wrote here, it’s worth mentioning that Carr has the opportunity to make history against the Patriots: Since 2001, no rookie QB in his first or second start against the Patriots in his first year in the league has beaten Belichick in New England. (In that span, Belichick has faced rookie quarterbacks on 19 occasions, and New England is 14-5 against them. However, none of those losses have come at home.)

8. Raiders fans should be worried about… the Patriots executing their offensive game plan, which involves jumping to an easily lead and sitting on the ball over the course of the second half with a bunch of grind-it-out drives. The Raiders enter the contest as the worst team in the league against the run, having yielded an average of 200 yards per game in their first two contests. Expect a heavy dose of Stevan Ridley throughout the contest — dating back to last November, the LSU product has put together a regular-season and playoff streak of 98 consecutive touches without a fumble. If he can build on his 101-yard performance last week against the Vikings and reach the century mark again, chances are good New England will win — since 2001, the Patriots are 38-1 when they have a running back hit the century mark. Given Ridley’s recent run and the Raiders woes against the run, it seems like a safe bet for Sunday.

9. One more thing: It’€™s interesting to watch the continued attempts to try and get tight end Rob Gronkowski up to speed. The big fella has played less than half the snaps to this point in the season — 38 of 86 in the opener against Miami, and 28 of 67 last week against the Vikings — and is still clearly working his way back to 100 percent. From this viewpoint, the Patriots appear to be gradually increasing his workload over the start of the regular season, with an eye toward having him as something close to a full-go next week when they head to Kansas City for a date with the Chiefs. They would then be able to build on that the following week against the Bengals, and have him at full strength for a five-game stretch from early November to early December that includes tough road games against the Colts, Packers and Chargers. Ultimately, as it relates to this week, it appears he’€™d be in the 50-75 percent range when it came to total snaps.

10. Prediction:

Current, former players mock Roger Goodell’s press conference 09.19.14 at 5:11 pm ET
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In the wake of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference Friday afternoon, several current and former players took to Twitter to mock the commissioner and his performance. Here’s a sampling of some of their reactions:

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Roger Goodell: ‘Same mistakes can never be repeated’ 09.19.14 at 4:11 pm ET
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Roger Goodell answers questions Friday. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Roger Goodell answers questions Friday. (Elsa/Getty Images)

In a press conference that ran just shy of 45 minutes, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged Friday afternoon that “over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong, [and] that starts with me.”

In his first public statements in over a week, Goodell addressed many of the questions that have arisen in the wake of several high-profile domestic violence cases involving the NFL, as well as the league’s handling of those situations. In the case of the Ray Rice incident, Goodell said they mishandled that case, adding that the “same mistakes can never be repeated.”

Goodell spoke about the league’s handling of the Rice incident, saying that initial account given to the league by Rice was “inconsistent” with what was later revealed on video.

“I’m telling you right now it’s inconsistent with what he told us,” Goodell said.

Goodell was also quizzed about a statement from law enforcement officials saying they had no record of an NFL request for information on the case.

“We gather almost entirely all of our information through law enforcement, and that’s something else we’re going to look at,” he said. “We asked for it on several occasions. According to our security department, we went through it, we asked for it on several occasions.”

Goodell said he has not considered resigning at any point during this, adding, “I’m focused on doing my job.” He was asked about the possibility of giving up some of his power when it came to disciplinary cases, and said that “everything was on the table.”

He added that as far as he knows, he has the support of the league’s owners.

“I believe I have the support of the owners,” he said. “That has been clear to me.

“I’m focused on doing my job,” he added. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The league announced sizable new plans to try and stamp out domestic abuse and sexual assault. The new policy would mandate that all players and staff on the league’s 32 teams undergo education and training about how to prevent abuse. The training and education sessions will begin within the next month, the commissioner said.

Late Thursday, Goodell sent a memo to teams announcing a partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline as well as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). The league will provide financial and promotional support to both groups.

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Revis Report, Week 3: ‘The Raiders always come to play’ 09.19.14 at 12:49 am ET
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Darrelle Revis and the Patriots will meet Oakland on Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis and the Patriots will meet Oakland on Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll present The Revis Report, a look at what’s on tap for the Patriots cornerback. This week, New England welcomes the Raiders to Foxboro for the first time since 2005.

Overview: Revis and the Patriots open up their home slate Sunday at one against the Raiders. With rookie quarterback Derek Carr at the helm, Oakland is coming into the game with an 0-2 mark, having lost its first two games by scores of 19-14 (at the Jets) and 30-14 (home against the Texans). For Revis, it will be a chance to play a regular-season game in front of a home crowd for the first time with the Patriots, as well as catch up with a few old friends in the Silver and Black.

“It’s finally here,” he said Thursday when asked about the home opener. “I think the team is excited. We’re looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd.

“I know a lot of guys on that team, so I’m really looking forward to it,” he added. “The Raiders always come to play. We just have to be ready for what they’re going to bring. They’re 0-2 right now, and I’m sure they’re searching for a win coming off 0-2. We know they’ll be ready — we just have to be focused and make sure we don’t let one slip away at home.”

Last week: Per NFL gamebooks, Revis played 58 of a possible 66 defensive snaps on Sunday against the Vikings. (In terms of overall snaps, he played 88 percent, which was tied with Devin McCourty for highest playtime percentage among the defensive backs. Logan Ryan was first with 66 snaps.) While he was utilized mostly on one side in the preseason, as well as the opener against the Dolphins, last Sunday against Minnesota, it was mostly Greg Jennings. (He told the CBS broadcast crew the night before the game that he was going to be matched up against Jennings for most of the afternoon.) The nine-year veteran caught just one pass for 4 yards (in the fourth quarter) on four targets while matched against Revis. By the looks of the All-22 film, Revis did not allow another catch to any of the other receivers he was against, either in man or zone coverage. (It was a group that included Cordarelle Patterson.)

Perhaps the highlight of the year to this point for Revis came when he picked off Matt Cassel for his first interception of the season. With just over 13 minutes left in the second quarter and the Patriots holding a 10-7 lead, Cassel and the Vikings faced a 2nd and 10 situation at their own 38. The Vikings quarterback dropped back and fired a pass deep down the right side for Jennings, only to see it picked off. It was the 22nd career pick for Revis, and New England quickly cashed it in — seven plays later, Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for a 9-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-7, giving the Patriots a double digit lead they would enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Including what he yielded in Week 1, to this point in the season — when matched in man coverage — Revis has yielded three catches on nine targets for 40 yards, with one interception and three pass breakups.

Possible man matchups this week (with the understanding that it won’t be solely one-on-one): This week, it appears likely that the primary candidate for Revis Island will be veteran receiver James Jones. Called a “savvy vet” by the Patriots corner on Thursday, the 30-year-old Jones is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound presence out of San Jose State who is in his first season with Oakland after spending the last seven in Green Bay. A solid combination of size and speed, his performance last week likely moved him to (or at least near) the top of the wide receiver depth chart in Oakland.

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Darrelle Revis: ‘Much respect’ for Charles Woodson 09.18.14 at 3:45 pm ET
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Darrelle Revis has a ton of respect for Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis has a ton of respect for Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Darrelle Revis has “much respect”€ for Oakland’€™s veteran defensive back Charles Woodson, but isn’€™t sure he wants to spend 17 years in the league.

“I’€™m still in year eight right now,”€ Revis said with a laugh after practice on Thursday. ‘€œI’€™m a big fan of him. Watched him at Michigan and looked up to him. He’€™s … hopefully, he’€™s a future Hall of Famer. The guy has played great ball in the league, and [is] still making plays. Bill [Belichick] put up some plays and he’€™s still making them, in year 17. I tip my hat off to him. I have much respect for him.”€

Revis won’€™t have to worry too much about Woodson — that’€™s more for quarterback Tom Brady. Instead, his focus is going to be the Oakland passing game, led by rookie quarterback Derek Carr. On Thursday, the veteran crier talked about the challenges that come with facing a rookie signal-caller for the first time.

‘€œThe material that we have, you just have to rely on that and go from there,”€ Revis said of Carr. “We’€™re doing the best we can with game planning against that offense, and we have to stick to the material we have and go from there.

“€œHe’€™s running their offense. He can throw every route.”

Of course, Revis has been known to bait a young quarterback into a bad throw from time to time. Could that be the case again on Sunday?

“€œI can’€™t give you all of that,”€ he said with a laugh. “Like I said, we’€™re going to do what we think is best to make sure we’€™re successful in the game plan. We’€™re still going through it. We have another day tomorrow to finish up red zone. So far, it’€™s been going good with the game plan and we just have to go through some more film study and figure out come Sunday where our best matchups are the best game plan on defense.

‘€œTheir receiver corps, they have [Denarius] Moore, who’€™s very fast. I’€™ve played against him in the past. Him, you have to watch him at all times on the deep routes. [Rod] Streeter — we don’€™t know, but we’€™ll figure that out. Then you’€™ve got James Jones, the savvy vet. We feel like we give them a lot of respect, their receiving corps. We’€™re just looking forward to the matchup and covering those guys. Like we said, there’€™s not a lot of material on Carr. We just have to focus on what we know about Jones, Moore and Streeter.”

In the end, while the Patriots figure to be favored heading into this one, Revis knows this sets up to be a classic trap game.

“€œI know a lot of guys on that team, so I’€™m really looking forward to it,”€ Revis said of Oakland. ‘€œThe Raiders always come to play. We just have to be ready for what they’€™re going to bring. They’€™re 0-2 right now, and I’€™m sure they’€™re searching for a win coming off 0-2. We know they’€™ll be ready — we just have to be focused and make sure we don’€™t let one slip away at home.”

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