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Which QB does best job spreading ball around in passing game? 02.18.14 at 6:00 am ET
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Piggybacking on a column we did last year about Tom Brady‘€™s ability to work in new receivers and spread the ball around — and with another full season in the books — we figured we should take another look at some of the league wide numbers when it comes to ball distribution in the passing game.

Using the 250-catch barometer as the mark for involvement, three over-30 veterans continue to set the standard when it comes to getting everyone involved in the passing game, as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have managed to make stars out a variety of pass catchers on the way to record-setting seasons.

Using numbers culled from Pro Football Reference — which utilizes stats dating back to 1999 — the three are head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacking field when it comes to finding equilibrium in the passing game:

- Since 2001, Brady has completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 13-year career as a starter: Wes Welker (563), Deion Branch (328), Troy Brown (323) and Kevin Faulk (310). Providing they stay healthy — and, in the case of Julian Edelman, return for 2013 — two more receivers could be added to the mix: Rob Gronkowski had 39 catches in an injury-shortened 2013 season, bringing his total of receptions via Brady to 223. And his 105 catches in 2013 boosted Edelman to 166 career receptions from Brady.

For those of you asking about guys who just missed out on the 250-catch mark with Brady, two jump off the page: one, Randy Moss caught 192 passes from Brady while the two were together in New England, including 98 catches in 2007 and 83 in 2009. And two, Aaron Hernandez finished with 166.

- In that same span, Manning has completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Reggie Wayne (779), Marvin Harrison (677) and Dallas Clark (387). Depending on how long he plays, Denver’€™s Demaryius Thomas could also be part of that group as well — he has 185 catches from Manning over the last two seasons, and could reach 250 in 2014 if he and the quarterback can both stay healthy.

To be fair to Manning, that time frame of 2001-2013 does cut off the first three seasons — from 1998 through 2000 — of his career. As a result, some of his early numbers aren’€™t included, particularly the formative years with Harrison, who had 276 regular-season catches with the Colts in that span. Our cutoff also means the work of an excellent pass-catching back like Edgerrin James goes unrewarded. He caught 230 passes from Manning from 2001-2005 before he departed Indy for the Cardinals. In all, James ended up catching a total of 355 passes from Manning while the two were together from 1999-2005.

- While Brady and Manning have impressive totals, when it comes to finding a variety of targets, they’€™re nowhere near Brees. When you combine his work in San Diego and New Orleans, the 35-year-old has complied at least 250 passes to six different receivers: Marques Colston (605), Lance Moore (346), Jimmy Graham (298 over the last four seasons), Reggie Bush (294), Pierre Thomas (284) and LaDainian Tomlinson (254). And a seventh — Darren Sproles — can hit 250 receptions from Brees in 2014. He’€™s already at 235 catches and counting.

When it comes to the next generation, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to connect with six different pass catchers for at least 250 receptions. Among the quarterbacks who have been in the league for 7-10 seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings (324) and Jordy Nelson (252), but just missed out when Donald Driver (241) called it a career. However, his two wild cards are free agents James Jones (216) and Jermichael Finley (214) — if they both return and are healthy, Rodgers is seemingly a lock to get four pass-catchers to 250-plus receptions.

Ben Roethlisberger also has a good chance of getting to four — he’€™s completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Hines Ward (513), Heath Miller (420) and Antonio Brown (250), and could make it four if free agent Emmanuel Sanders (146) ends up sticking around Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Atlanta’€™s Matt Ryan has three, having connected for 250-plus with Roddy White (520), Tony Gonzalez (383) and Harry Douglas (205). And New York‘€™s Eli Manning has Hakeem Nicks (306) and Victor Cruz (241) — he appears to have just missed with Plaxico Burress (244) and Steve Smith (213).

As for the quarterbacks who have between two and five full years in the league, Detroit’€™s Matthew Stafford has found tremendous success with Calvin Johnson (353 catches from Stafford), but Brandon Pettigrew (215) and Nate Burleson (154) are also within hailing distance of the 250-catch mark, providing Burleson somehow makes it back to Detroit. In addition, Indy’€™s Andrew Luck has Wayne (145), T.Y. Hilton (133) and Coby Fleener (78), while Cincinnati’€™s Andy Dalton has benefitted from working with AJ Green (256), Jermaine Gresham (165) and Andrew Hawkins (85).

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 13: Patriots top dogs in AFC 11.26.13 at 12:36 pm ET
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The Patriots are the new power team in the AFC as they have surpassed the Broncos for the first time this year in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Sunday night’s stunning comeback was good enough to catapult New England from seventh to fourth and drop Denver from second to fifth.

In the NFC, the scene is set for the two top teams to clash on Monday night. The Seahawks have enjoyed the top spot for quite some time, but the Saints, up a spot this week to No. 2, are a real threat with their prolific offense. Monday night’s outcome may not only determine who gets home-field advantage in the playoffs, but ultimately who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.

At the bottom of the barrel, the Jaguars finally clawed their way out of the most miserable position. The good news for the Texans, our new bottom-feeder, is that they can only go up from here. Houston has plunged week after week after starting the season at No. 7.

Seattle Seahawks1. (1) Seahawks (10-1) — Seattle should be solely focusing on its NFC clash with the Saints, but news that cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner are facing suspensions has changed that plan.

New Orleans Saints2. (3) Saints (9-2) — The most important game of the year for the Saints is Monday in Seattle. New Orleans wants to play in the comfort of its dome in the postseason. Winning two games in Seattle in the same year doesn’t seem likely.

Carolina Panthers3. (4) Panthers (8-3) — We’ve seen many qualities of a Super Bowl-caliber team during the Panthers’ current seven game win streak. The ability to close out tight games is a trait we see year after year from Super Bowl champions during the regular season.

New England Patriots 4. (7) Patriots (8-3) — No franchise executes the “next man up” philosophy better than New England. Whether it’s Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Aaron Hernandez or Wes Welker, the Patriots continue to find a way to win more than they lose.

Denver Broncos 5. (2) Broncos (9-2) — It’s clear the formula to beating the Broncos is pressuring Peyton Manning. The veteran QB was 0-for-6 with an interception when faced with pressure from Patriots defenders. For the first time this season, Denver doesn’t look like the clear favorite in the AFC.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Pats drop out of top 5 11.20.13 at 11:58 am ET
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The Seahawks are showing no signs of wanting to fly south as winter nears. Seattle continues its reign at No. 1 as it heads into its bye week and prepares for a tough stretch against the Saints (3) and 49ers (8).

The Panthers (4) claw their way into the top five after a statement win in the Monday night game. The Patriots drop three spots to No. 7 and have no time to focus on a controversial call in Week 11 because the Broncos (2) are set to roll into Foxboro. Tom Brady will prepare for his 14th showdown vs. Peyton Manning. Brady has had the upper hand in nine of the 13 meetings between the two stars.

The bottom five welcomes its latest playoff team of 2012. The Falcons plummet to No. 30 and join the Vikings (28) and Texans (31) as teams to have hit rock bottom after reaching the postseason last year.

Many teams still are in the thick of the playoff race as the final quarter of the season approaches. Check back next week to see who’s on the way up and who’s on the way down.

Seattle Seahawks1. (1) Seahawks (10-1) — The Seahawks look to be getting stronger and stronger as they inch closer to capturing the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They go into their bye week with six straight wins.

Denver Broncos 2. (2) Broncos (9-1) — Manning has been the story all year, but the Broncos offensive line deserves the credit after Sunday night’s performance. The O-line came up huge on the biggest stage by not allowing a sack to the team that led the league in that category going into the game.

New Orleans Saints3. (5) Saints (8-2) — The Saints are a scary team when the offense is firing on all cylinders. Drew Brees is quietly putting up monster numbers once again as Peyton Manning gets all the attention.

Carolina Panthers4. (7) Panthers (7-3) — Cam Newton and the Panthers finally got the league’s attention.  Newton needed to prove he could lead his team late in the fourth quarter against a playoff-caliber team, and he accomplished just that.

Kansas City Chiefs5. (3) Chiefs (9-1) —  That ferocious Chiefs defense was non-existent Sunday night. Kansas City had a tremendous opportunity to rough up Peyton Manning but was unable to even knock him down. Despite the loss, many of the mistakes are fixable and the Chiefs should be able to rush Manning better when they face him again at Arrowhead.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 11: Patriots climb into top 5 11.12.13 at 11:28 am ET
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The Seahawks continue to soar high above the rest in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. As fellow NFC teams suffer injuries and decline, Seattle seems to be getting stronger, and its big offseason acquisition, Percy Harvin, is set to debut in Seahawk green. The Broncos stand pat at No. 2 as they survived a health scare to their franchise QB. The Chiefs are proud owners of a perfect record and jump the their highest spot all year at No. 3. They sat back and enjoyed their bye week as the Colts (6) and Niners (8) suffered losses and fell in the rankings.

The difference a year makes continues to be the story across the league. Playoff teams in 2012 like the Texans (28), Vikings (27), Redskins (26) and Falcons (25) continue to plummet in 2013. It seems highly unlikely any of those teams will make a return to the postseason. On the other hand, the Chiefs, Panthers (7) and Jets (11) all have exceeded expectations and are in the thick of the playoff race after being completely out of it at this time last year.

Week 11 will deliver one of the most anticipated matchups of the year as the league’s best offense clashes against one of the league’s best defenses in an AFC West battle. The Broncos and Chiefs will duke it out to maintain their position in the NFL’s elite. It should be an exciting week of football.

Seattle Seahawks1. (1) Seahawks (8-1) — Last year Seattle owned a 3-5 record on the road; this year the Seahawks boast a 5-1 record away from CenturyLink Field. As Harvin nears a return to the field following hip surgery, the Seahawks’ lead in the NFC continues to grow.

Denver Broncos 2. (2) Broncos (8-1) — Peyton Manning re-aggravated an ankle injury, but that won’t sideline him when the Broncos take on the first-place Chiefs. Denver needs to be extra cautious with Manning. It may be even worth considering shutting him down for a week or two. Their chance for a Super Bowl title could be on the line.

Kansas City Chiefs3. (5) Chiefs (9-0) — The time finally has arrived for the Chiefs to prove to the rest of the league they are as good as their record indicates. It’s quite simple why Kansas City is at the top of the standings. The defense has been ferocious. The Chiefs have forced a league-high 23 turnovers.

New England Patriots 4. (6) Patriots (7-2) — The Patriots are an astonishing 87-24 coming off their bye week since 2001. They’re 26-4 over the last three years alone. There’s no reason to believe Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won’t lead the Patriots to another impressive post-bye week performance when they take on the Panthers on Monday night.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 10: Patriots leap to No. 6 heading into bye week 11.05.13 at 10:02 am ET
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A bizarre week in the NFL has concluded, and it’s time to digest exactly we saw. The Broncos and Texans witnessed their coaches have serious health issues. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are making national headlines for the wrong reasons. The spotlight will be on all three of these teams to see how they react to some very unfortunate circumstances.

The Seahawks’ control of the top spot remains intact after a dramatic comeback victory over the winless Buccaneers. In fact, the entire top five stays the same. The Chiefs are undefeated but still stuck at No. 5 as they’ve benefited from an extremely easy schedule the first half of the season.

The Patriots, Bears and Jets all creep higher after impressive wins in Week 9. The Ravens (19) and Falcons (23) are two playoff teams from 2012 that continue to slide.

Who knows what’s in store for football fans in Week 10?

Seattle Seahawks1. (1) Seahawks (8-1) — They’re the best in the league right now because they find a way to win week after week. Super Bowl-caliber teams win the close games, and the Seahawks do just that.

Denver Broncos 2. (2) Broncos (7-1) — We saw the Colts use the illness of their coach to inspire them last season. It will be interesting to see how John Fox‘s absence following heart surgery affects this talented Broncos team.

3. (3) Colts (6-2) –  You can never count out Andrew Luck and the Colts. The second-year QB continues to play like a poised veteran. Luck now has 10 game-winning drives in his young career.

San Francisco 49ers 4. (4) 49ers (6-2) — Mario Manningham, Eric Wright and Aldon Smith all are set to return as the Niners come out of their bye week locked in a dogfight with the Seahawks in the NFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs5. (5) Chiefs (9-0) — The Chiefs still have a lot to prove. Two of their next three games are against the Broncos. Their opponents in their first nine games have a combined 27-49 record.

New England Patriots 6. (9) Patriots (7-2) — Many questions surround the Patriots as they limp into their bye week. They have lost many key players on defense. Will they be able to overcome with their leaders missing?

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Fantasy Football: Week 10 waiver wire at 9:34 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

Welcome to the Week 10 waiver wire. A few things happened after I began writing this on Monday afternoon. The big one was Aaron Rodgers getting injured in the Monday night game. Talk about serious fantasy fallout. Rodgers’ injury, if it’s serious, and it might be, will have a detrimental effect on all of the Green Bay receivers. It could affect the backs, too, though there was no sign of that in Monday night’s game as both Eddie Lacy and James Starks were outstanding.

So, with Rodgers potentially out for a period of time and with four other signal callers out on the Week 10 bye, I’ve added a few more quarterbacks to the list this morning and I will continue to add more over at Rotobahn.com as I put together the expanded waiver wire for those of you who play in large leagues. Head on over if you need more options.

QUARTERBACKS

Jay Cutler, Bears

He’s reportedly ahead of schedule with his groin injury and he’s a very good fantasy play when healthy because of all the weapons in the Chicago offense and because of the new offensive coaching staff led by Marc Trestman. Cutler has been dropped in a lot of leagues, so go get him if you can.

Nick Foles, Eagles

The rest of his schedule is not particularly scary, so he is certainly worth adding in most leagues if you need help at quarterback. Chip Kelly’s offense certainly has some big-game potential because of the pace the Eagles play at when things get going good. It leads to more possessions and points. Traveling to Green Bay is a good test for Foles this weekend, but things get sweet again in Week 11 when the Eagles face Washington at home. You can still get Foles in about three out of four leagues and he can help you if you are in need. I’m talking to you, Aaron Rodgers owners.

Case Keenum, Texans 

As I said last week, we liked what we saw in Keenum’s first outing, and he really carried it over to his second start in Week 9 against the Colts. Keenum can throw the ball, and he is certainly a viable option in plus matchups — and he has a few of them remaining on his schedule. Not a bad guy to pick up in deep formats or if you are hurting at QB for some reason. The good news with Keenum is that you can still get him in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

E.J. Manuel, Bills

He has a good chance to return this week, and when you look at the success that Jeff Tuel was able to have in Sunday’s game, you have to be encouraged about Manuel’s chances. The Bills are getting healthier all around on offense with both Marquise Goodwin and C.J. Spiller making big plays in Week 9. Manuel can help you in deep formats.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Colts leap to No. 2 after edging Broncos 10.23.13 at 11:12 am ET
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A major shakeup is the result of a thrilling and somewhat shocking Week 7. The Broncos relinquished the No. 1 spot, with the Seahawks retaking the crown. Storming all the way up to No. 2 are the Colts. Behind Andrew Luck, Indy knocked off what looked to be an unbeatable Broncos team that falls to No. 3.

The Saints (6), Bengals (7) and Packers (8) all dropped a few spots despite winning or being on a bye. The spectacular Indy win along with the Chiefs (5) improving to 7-0 is the reason why. This goes to show how close the top teams are. Parity is king in the NFL.

Coming off an exciting overtime victory over the Patriots (9), the Jets make a dramatic leap five spots to No. 14. Meanwhile, the Bears (15) continue to plunge, having lost three of their last four and Jay Cutler for an extended period of time.

Three teams have claimed the top spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings through seven weeks. Can the undefeated Chiefs be the fourth? Week 8 awaits …

Seattle Seahawks1. (2) Seahawks (6-1) — Percy Harvin‘s imminent return should instill fear throughout the NFC. If the Seahawks get home-field advantage in the playoffs, it will take a perfect game to knock them off.

2. (9) Colts (5-2) — Forget the six fourth-quarter comebacks and nine game-winning drives, Luck’s signature game was this past Sunday when he outdueled future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. The Colts have another special QB in Indianapolis. 

Denver Broncos 3. (1) Broncos (6-1) — Turnovers at the running back position is a reason for concern in Denver. This team doesn’t have many weaknesses, but running back is one of them.

San Francisco 49ers 4. (4) 49ers (5-2) — That’s four straight for the red-hot Niners. The run game has been a major factor for the offense. Frank Gore spoke out about his lack of carries following a Week 3 loss to the Colts and has seen his workload increase dramatically ever since.

Kansas City Chiefs5. (7) Chiefs (7-0) — The Chiefs have the makeup of a Super Bowl contender. They win close games, don’t turn the ball over and have a ferocious defense. It’s not the Seahawks but the Chiefs who are allowing the fewest points per game in the league (11.6).

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