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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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San Diego Chargers eliminate Cincinnati Bengals, paving way for Andrew Luck to play Patriots at Gillette Stadium 01.05.14 at 4:15 pm ET
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Danny Woodhead and the Chargers beat the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati. (AP)

Danny Woodhead and the Chargers beat the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati. (AP)

CINCINNATI — The Patriots can get ready for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium next Saturday night.

Andy Dalton turned in another atrocious playoff performance while Philip Rivers managed a near-perfect road playoff game as the San Diego Chargers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10, Sunday at an appropriately dreary Paul Brown Stadium.

Dalton threw a pair of second-half interceptions and forced his own fumble on a scramble as the Bengals fell to 0-5 in the postseason under head coach Marvin Lewis. Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in all three seasons in the NFL but has lost in the first round each time.

Rivers finished 12-of-16 for 128 yards and a touchdown for the No. 6 seed Chargers, who advance to play the No. 1 seed Broncos next Sunday in Denver. The Chargers beat the Broncos, 27-20, in Denver on Dec. 12. The Chargers trio of Ronnie Brown, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead combined for 196 yards rushing on 40, a 4.9 yard-per-rush average.

The Chargers dominated the opening quarter, grabbing a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard TD run up the middle by former Patriots back Danny Woodhead. The Chargers ran the ball 12 times for 57 yards, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and possessing the ball for over 10 minutes of the opening quarter.

The Bengals responded with a strong second quarter, holding the ball for 10 minutes, 34 seconds, tying the game on an Andy Dalton TD pass to Jermaine Gresham just as Dalton was hit by linebacker Melvin Ingram.

The Bengals appeared to be going in for the go-ahead touchdown when Dalton connected to Giovanni Bernard at the Chargers 10. But he was stripped from behind by Donald Butler and the ball was recovered in the end zone.

After the Bengals defense forced a punt deep in San Diego territory, the Bengals marched to the Chargers 28, thanks to a 13-yard pass to Gresham, who was pushed out of bounds with 11 seconds left. But the side judge ruled Gresham was tackled in bounds and the clock ran down to two seconds.

Both the Gresham catch and Bernard fumble resulted in long reviews by referee Jeff Triplette, the same referee who allowed a controversial TD run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the Colts in early December.

Mike Nugent connected from 46 yards to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead at the half.

San Diego took their opening possession of the second half and marched 80 yards in 10 plays, taking the lead for good, 14-10, on a Rivers 4-yard TD pass to Ladarius Green.Dalton turned in an awful third quarter performance, capped off by a fumble on a head-first scramble that gave the Chargers the ball at the Cincinnati 46. The Chargers capitalized on a 25-yard field goal from Nick Novak, making it 17-10.

After another Dalton interception led to another Novak field goal, Ronnie Brown put the game away with a 58-yard TD run with just over two minutes left to send San Diego to Denver and Indianapolis to Foxboro next Saturday.

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Peter King on M&M: ‘Julian Edelman has a chance in the postseason to burst into America’s living rooms’ 01.03.14 at 1:40 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss NFL news and expound on his prediction that the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

King predicts the Patriots to beat the Broncos in the AFC championship game and then win the Super Bowl over the Seahawks, with Julian Edelman earning MVP honors.

“The way I look at this postseason for New England, it’s going to be a continuation of Tom Brady making due with guys the way he’s done most of his career,” King said. “This is a redux of Troy Brown, the year that he caught all the balls. That’s the thing about this team.

“You know who kind of reminds me of Brady right now is Andrew Luck. If you look at Andrew Luck‘s last month, remember how he was a total lost sheep when he lost Reggie Wayne? They played poorly for about a month, and he couldn’t find a weapon. What happened is he adjusted. He got used to Griff Whalen and Da’Rick Rogers and a bunch of guys like that. Now he’s even throwing to Trent Richardson.

“I think what happens is you adjust to the personnel you have. Brady’s always done that. I think that Julian Edelman has a chance in the postseason to burst into America’s living rooms.”

Looking at the Patriots’ potential opponent next weekend, King said to keep an eye on the Bengals.

“I’d be afraid of Cincinnati, which is the team the Patriots are probably going to get,” King said. “I must say that I watched an awful lot of that game, too — the game earlier this year obviously when the Patriots went to Cincinnati and lost the game. And a lot of people will say, well, the torrential downpour and all that. And look, I don’t have a crystal clear memory of that. But the one thing I do remember is that for the first at least like 2 1/2 quarters it didn’t rain. It was kind of crummy weather but they were able to play. And I think if you look back at that game — I remember thinking about it — if I’m not mistaken, I think the Patriots punted like eight of their first 10 possessions or something in that game.

“I think that the Bengals, even without Geno Atkins — because remember, they lost Geno Atkins in that game — even the Bengals without Geno Atkins have been a very, very formidable foe for a lot of teams they’ve played. Look at the teams in the playoffs that Cincinnati has beaten. Even though they haven’t played maybe as tough a schedule as a team like San Diego, they’ve beaten New England, they’ve beaten Green Bay, they’ve beaten San Diego, they’ve beaten Indianapolis.

These Bengals, I wouldn’t predict them to go to Foxboro and win a game, but this is going to be one of the tougher divisional tests the Patriots that have faced.”

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Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits 12.27.13 at 10:38 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

Welcome to the final installment of the 2013 starts and sits. Week 17 is always tricky, which is why the vast majority of fantasy leagues opt to use Week 16 as their bowl week. It’€™s tricky because you never know which teams are going to pull their starters early and which teams will play to win for 60 minutes. I’€™ll do my best to warn you off of a few options and to highlight some safer plays. We’€™ll be doing full Week 17 lineup rankings at Rotobahn, so feel free to head over if you require any additional clarity. I’€™ll also be back at WEEI at 11 a.m. Sunday for our final chat, so stop by if you have any lineup questions.

QUARTERBACKS

START

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Browns

They play at 1 p.m., so the Steelers will go out there guns blazing to see if they can put some pressure on the teams ahead of them. They post big numbers when they get the offense going, so Roethlisberger is a solid option in any league this week against a Browns defense that’€™s been shaky lately.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Jaguars

He’€™s got a decent home matchup and it’€™s indoors, so we don’€™t need to worry about weather. The Colts have something to play for at this point, though they would need some help from the Patriots and Bengals. It’€™s an early game, so they won’€™t know their fate when they play. Luck is a viable starter in any home matchup. Start him if you need him.

Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Ravens

The Bengals play early and they can put pressure on the Patriots in the race for the bye if they can win. You can count on the Bengals pushing as hard as they can for four quarters. Dalton is a solid play if you need a Week 17 quarterback. His offensive weaponry makes him dangerous on a weekly basis.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins at Giants

If you really need an option, Cousins should give you solid production, though this is not as good a matchup as he had last week. Washington’s€™ temporary starter is a viable option in 12-team leagues with a hot No. 1 receiver and a stout running game to work off of. There is a chance of rain in the forecast, but nothing as epic as what we saw last week.

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Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits 12.20.13 at 9:09 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 16 starts and sits! I’€™ve tried to find some good recommendations that aren’€™t too obvious. I’€™ve thrown in a few that I just wanted to emphasize, like Chris Johnson and Shane Vereen, who I think should be locked into lineups. Obviously, there is a lot of talent that we do not address in this article, so hit Rotobahn for our full lineup rankings. And on Sunday, stop by WEEI for our Sunday chat at 11 a.m. I’€™ll be happy to address any last-minute decisions you may have. Good luck to all this week! Bring home the hardware!

QUARTERBACKS

START

Kirk Cousins, Redskins vs. Cowboys

Talk about tricky! There are some very compelling reasons to consider Cousins as your quarterback for Week 16. The obvious one is the matchup at home against the defenseless Cowboys. I know a lot of people are talking about risk. Sure, there always is some uncertainly with an inexperienced quarterback. Then again, there’€™s risk playing Tom Brady on the road vs. the Ravens. At least there is from a fantasy football perspective. With Cousins, we see a lot more reasons to play him than to sit him. Here’€™s the most compelling one: Washington is marketing the player. Cousins is an asset that the Redskins need to maximize, as they have holes all over their roster. A lot of football experts see Cousins as a potential NFL starter, and we agree. The Redskins wants draft pick compensation for Cousins, and they are going to throw the football. And, with their defense, they’€™ll need to do it for four quarters. Cousins can help you if you have a need at quarterback. He’s an obvious choice for those who’€™ve been using Robert Griffin III.

Andrew Luck, Colts at Chiefs

Quite simply, he is capable in any matchup. I would not hesitate to play Luck in Week 16. Yes, the matchup is tough, but Luck has stepped it up on the road against tough defenses before. Look at what he did to the Bengals a few weeks ago. Luck is a viable option in any format this week. Check out our lineup rankings if you have a strong second option to consider.

Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Vikings

As with Luck, Dalton falls outside of my top 12 for Week 16 but remains a very solid option with plenty of scoring potential. Dalton can be your starter this week if you need him. He has outstanding receiving options, and most of them are red zone guys.

Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Colts 

It’€™s often ugly or random, but Smith almost always ends up with good numbers at the end of the day. Another fact worthy of a mention is his success at home, where he’€™s had only one weak fantasy start all year long. Smith can be your quarterback this week if you need him.

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Fantasy Football: Week 14 waiver wire 12.03.13 at 10:20 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

As we look toward what is a playoff week in most fantasy football formats, there certainly are a few solid new options to consider adding. The sad reality is that half of the teams in most leagues just got sent packing, and that obviously cuts down on the competition for talent. Hence, we are concentrating on the better players vs. the depth moves, but we still have a little of both.

If you are looking for deeper options, you can head over to Rotobahn later Tuesday and check out my expanded wire for those in deep formats. As always, I’ll be back later this week with Jim Hackett for the Fantasy Football Podcast, plus the starts and sits. Then, on Sunday, I’ll be hosting a chat to help with any last-minute lineup issues that you might have. To those of you reading this, please accept our congratulations on making your league’s playoffs. Now let’s see if we can bring home the fantasy bacon!

QUARTERBACKS

Andy Dalton, Bengals

He’s available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and that percentage could rise after the stinker that Dalton had in Week 13. Still, we like Dalton’s Week 14 matchup, and Week 16 is pretty sweet, too.

  • Week 14 – Colts
  • Week 15 – at Steelers
  • Week 16 – Vikings

Joe Flacco, Ravens

He plays at home vs. the Vikings this week, and that could be enough to make him a great add. As an added bonus, he’s playable on all three remaining weeks. In Week 14, Flacco may also see the return of his favorite target, Dennis Pitta.

  • Week 14 – Vikings
  • Week 15 – at Lions
  • Week 16 – Patriots

Carson Palmer, Cardinals

He can’t help you Week 16, but he’ll be useful this week and next. Palmer has been very good lately, with multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games. He can help you as a QB2 in most leagues, and you can still add him in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

  • Week 14 – Rams
  • Week 15 – at Titans
  • Week 16 – at Seahawks

EJ Manuel, Bills

He plays a solid, though not incredible, schedule the rest of the way, and he’s been getting better in terms of health. Manuel also has scored well the last two weeks, so he can help you if you need to add a QB2 in a 12-team league. His receivers are healthy and he now has C.J. Spiller ripping off big runs, and that could take the edge off of the pass rush going forward.

  • Week 14 – at Buccaneers
  • Week 15 – at Jaguars
  • Week 16 – Dolphins

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Fantasy Football: Week 13 starts, sits 11.30.13 at 8:23 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

Welcome to the starts and sits for Week 13. I’ll be featuring better players than usual because there are no more bye concerns and most fantasy teams, especially those still alive, will be looking at better players when it comes to lineup decisions.

For those who have more questions than this article has answers for, you have two places to go. First, you can hit Rotobahn and consult our full lineup rankings, which will give you a ranking and a “skinny” on just about any player you might be considering in any league. Second, you can come back to WEEI.com tomorrow and participate in our Sunday morning chat where I will answer all of your lineup questions. You’ll find a link to the chat on the homepage in the “This Just In” section.

QUARTERBACKS

START

Tom Brady, Patriots at Texans

Just kidding, folks. This one is an ultra-obvious freebie — meant to do nothing but point out that Rotobahn had the future Hall of Famer on our trade-for list when others were running for cover. For those who stuck with Brady … or dealt for him, enjoy the next few weeks. He’s a QB1, period.

Josh McCown, Bears at Vikings

How often do we recommend a backup quarterback playing on the road? Not that often, but McCown has been very good so far in terms of fantasy production and this matchup is very solid. Start McCown in any format this week and you are in pretty good shape.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers vs. Rams

Two things factor into the decision to make CK a start. First, he looked much better last week. Second, he gets Michael Crabtree back this week. The Rams are not an easy mark, but they can be had, especially when on the road, and this one is at Frisco.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Titans

He may not inspire the kind of confidence that he did a few weeks back, but a lot of it is perception. Luck is still a very sound fantasy play in 12-team leagues and has produced good fantasy numbers in games that were pretty ugly from the Colts’ perspective. He was serviceable against the Titans on the road in Week 11 and he should be able to handle them this week in Indianapolis.

Andy Dalton, Bengals at Chargers

He’s been a strong option for most of the season and he gets a decent road matchup here. We expect the Bengals to be ready after having an extra week to prepare. Dalton can start for you in any format this week. He always has nice scoring potential due to the quality of the weapons around him.

Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Eagles

The matchup is mediocre, but he’s playing well and has tons of good places to throw the football in Bruce Arians’ offense. The Eagles are playing well, but they will have trouble matching up with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Palmer can help you in 12-team leagues this week.

Brandon Weeden, Browns vs. Jaguars

Here’s an option for those searching for an answer in a deep league. Weeden is not a great start, but he may be the best thing on waiver wires in 12-team formats and he could have a solid day at home vs. the Jaguars. Weeden can be your QB this week if you are hurting and he might just surprise you if he can get Josh Gordon going and hit on a few deep balls.

SIT

Mike Glennon, Bucs at Panthers

The rookie has been pretty good so far, but he lacks the experience and the firepower to play against the Panthers defense on the road in a hostile environment. Look elsewhere if you can.

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