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Poll: What will have the biggest impact on Patriots-Texans? 01.13.13 at 1:49 pm ET
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On Dec. 10, all the breaks went New England’s way in a 42-14 romp over the Texans. Stevan Ridley‘s fumble in the opening minutes was recovered by Aaron Hernandez. Matt Schaub threw into double coverage and was intercepted by Devin McCourty. The Patriots raced out 21-0 in the first quarter and didn’t look back.

What will be the most important factor today?

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Read More: Arian Foster, houston texans, New England Patriots, nfl
Brandon Spikes: ‘Either go hard or go home’ 01.08.13 at 5:25 pm ET
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Brandon Spikes is ready to finish the deal in the playoffs for the Patriots. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Brandon Spikes is ready to finish the deal in the playoffs for the Patriots. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Brandon Spikes has seen the playoffs with the Patriots from a couple of different perspectives, both equally disappointing and painful.

He desperately wants the chance to finally finish one successfully.

“Postseason is what it’s about,” said the second-round pick of the Patriots in 2010 (62nd overall). “Either go hard or go home. It’s that simple. So, definitely looking forward to this. It’s everything we’ve built on in terms of physicality and they’re coming out trying to run the ball and we want to establish the dominance early.”

“It is postseason. We’re going to be ready no matter what. We’re expecting the unexpected so we’re definitely going to be prepared.”

Spikes was on the 2010 team that suffered a shocking 28-21 loss to the Jets in the AFC divisional round after thumping them 45-3 on a Monday night several weeks earlier. He was also on the team last season that came so close against the Giants in the Super Bowl, a game in which he made a team-leading 11 tackles.

With Jerod Mayo in the background making faces, Spikes was asked about last year and being so close, and if it motivates him right now.

“Why do you have to bring that up? Come on,” Spikes said with a good-natured smile. “I’m trying to forget about that. Like I said, of course, everybody feels like we came up short but that’s part of the game. That’s part of football. We just have to come and do whatever we can not to let that happen again. We had a great day today and looking forward to tomorrow and trying to get better and get that edge.

“I approach the postseason like, ‘That’s it.’ If we don’t come out and play well, we’re going to be at home, plain and simple, watching the next game. That’s a terrible feeling. We just have to come out and execute.”

This year, Spikes has had a breakout season, second on the team to Mayo in tackles with 128. He’s also been nursing a sore knee and ankle. But the week off helped.

“I feel great,” Spikes said Tuesday. “I’ve been feeling great. But it’s postseason, it’s been a long year and nobody’s healthy, nobody is 100 percent. I just have to deal with it and try to get better every day.”

“You just have to leave it all out there or go home. It’s that simple. We want to come out and play well and definitely in the postseason at home. We’re looking forward to this game.”

They’ll need that attitude on Sunday when they take on Arian Foster, coming of a 140-yard, 32-carry game against the Bengals in the wild-card round.

“He’s an all-around player,” Spikes said. “He’s one of the emotional guys for them. He obviously gets the offense going and that team going. He’s definitely a big target for us and as far as the linebackers and entire front seven, we want to come out and contain him, definitely.”

Read More: Arian Foster, Brandon Spikes, houston texans, Jerod Mayo
Vince Wilfork on Arian Foster and Texans: ‘We are expecting their best’ at 2:20 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork looks to be a overpowering force again for the Patriots D on Sunday. (AP)

Vince Wilfork looks to be a overpowering force again for the Patriots D on Sunday. (AP)

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork doesn’t need a sports columnist to remind him that the Houston Texans will be highly motivated for their AFC divisional game this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The Pro Bowl nose tackle is fully aware the Texans will be out to show they are a much better team than the effort they put forth in their 42-14 no-show against the Patriots on Dec. 10.

“Yeah, we know that,” Wilfork said Tuesday. “They didn’t play their best game. They know that and we know that. Come Sunday we are expecting their best. It’s all or nothing from here on out and for us; we have to be able to execute. If we don’t execute, we’ll have troubles. First, it starts with their running game. It starts with [Arian] Foster – the more touches that he gets, in the passing game or on the ground, the better that team is. But I’m pretty sure they’re sitting down there saying, ‘You know what? They played us in the regular season and things didn’t go well.’ We basically outplayed them and they feel that they are a better football team and they are a better football team.

“There’s a reason that they’re in the postseason and there’s a reason that we’re in the postseason. So I don’t think anything from that game is going to play a huge factor. I think it will give them more momentum or give them more of an edge that they will want to come back up here and face us and try to beat us in Foxborough. So we can control what we can control, and that’s going to practice and working hard and trying to fix little kinks and stuff. We had a good chance to get back to work last week. We had two days of good practices, working on things that we think can help us moving forward. But it’s going to come down to execution – that’s what it’s going to boil down to. A bunch of guys making plays – who can make the most plays and who can execute well. That’s what this game is going to boil down to.”

And it just might boil down to how well the Patriots do against Arian Foster again. Back on Dec. 10, Wilfork and the Pats held Foster to 46 yards on 15 carries. Last week against the Bengals, Foster carried over twice that (32 carries) for over triple the amount of yards (140) and a touchdown.

“Absolutely, I expect to see the best,” Wilfork said of Foster. “Whatever they have, I expect to see it – the kitchen sink if it’s called for. But last week you saw why this guy is one of the top offensive players in the game – not just a back, but a top offensive player in the game – the things that he can do with the ball in his hands in the pass game and running it. He’s a great blocker when they ask him to block. I mean he’s a special player and we understand that. We know it starts with their running game. I mean you can’t x-out the receiver, Andre Johnson, you can’t x-out [Owen] Daniels, you can’t x-out the quarterback [Matt Schaub] and you can’t ex-out their Pro Bowl size. They’re well put together and the last time we played them, they didn’t play as well. So, I’m pretty sure that they’re going to come out here fired up and ready to play this week.”

Here is the remainder of Wilfork’s press conference on Tuesday at Gillette Stadium:

Q: What are some of the challenges of facing a team that runs a zone blocking scheme?

VW: Well always cut blocks. That’s something that they do very, very well. Their zone running scheme, stretch runs [and they] mix in a couple scheme runs. But playing cut blocks is always a big challenge when you’re facing a team like this because it seems like – I don’t care if you’re getting cut on the front side or the back side, that running back sees it and he hits it right off that cut block. So up front it’s going to be very important for us to try to stay on our feet and make sure that we are playing our blocks pretty good. And hopefully everybody around us is doing the same thing. But it’s always tough. Any team that runs the ball the way they run the ball and has the play-action and the bootlegs and all the stuff that comes after that, it’s a big challenge for us. But we’ve faced it, we’ve seen it a bunch of times, so we kind of know how we want to play this game. If we play it the way that we need to play it, we’ll be OK. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Arian Foster, houston texans, New England Patriots, nfl
Peter King on M&M: Texans DE Mario Williams should consider Patriots 03.05.12 at 1:13 pm ET
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Peter King

Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, known for his Monday Morning Quarterback column, appeared on the Mut & Merloni show Monday morning to talk about the Saints’ bounty scandal, and he also touched on a free agent signing that could affect the Patriots.

With news breaking that running back Arian Foster agreed to a new contract with the Texans, King noted that the chances of defensive end Mario Williams becoming a Patriot just increased.

“I was surprised by Houston signing Arian Foster for five years and $43 million because they could’ve tagged him as a restricted free agent this year and an unrestricted free agent next year. They could’ve tagged him both times and kept him for a lot less money for what they in essence have guaranteed him. They’ve guaranteed him 20 million bucks in this contract.

“I think that is a tremendously positive sign for sort of team cohesion and treating your players the right way. This is a guy who basically has averaged 95 yards rushing a game in his 29 starts and really has performed tremendously. He’s clearly one of the top two, three, four backs in the league and the Texans took care of him.

“Now, what that means to me is they clearly — unless Mario Williams takes a fraction of what everyone thinks he’s going to get — that means that Mario Williams is going to be out on the market for somebody. And I wrote this morning, in my opinion I think the Patriots ought to be at the absolute very least kicking the financial tires on Mario Williams, because he can play so many different places on a defense. I just think he’d fit in very well with the Patriots.”

Williams likely could earn more money signing elsewhere, but King said Williams would be wise to consider less money to play in New England.

“If you’re Mario Williams and the Patriots offer you, say, $13 million a year in a long-term deal with good guarantees, you’ve got to think of that. If you’re a defensive player, who the heck wouldn’t want to play for Bill Belichick? … I’ve not talked to Mario Williams, so I don’t know what he’s thinking. Maybe he’s thinking, ‘This is the last contract I’ll ever sign and I’m going to make every last dime.’ If he is, he’s not going to the Patriots. But my feeling is, if you’re a really good defensive player and you want to be deep in the playoffs every year, where’s your best chance right now? My feeling is your best chance right now is go to play for Bill Belichick.”

Read More: Arian Foster, Mario Williams, Peter King,
Patriots Potential Playoff Opponents: Houston Texans 12.27.11 at 9:17 pm ET
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Arian Foster makes the Houston offense go. (AP)

With the Patriots securely in the postseason, it’s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is part of a weeklong series of features on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. We’ve already profiled the Baltimore Ravens. Today, we’ve got a look at the Houston Texans:

The skinny: If the Texans were ever going to win the AFC South, this was the year: without Peyton Manning, the Colts were down, Tennessee was rebuilding and Jacksonville started slowly and made a coaching change. Houston took advantage, and now, they enter the final week of the regular season at 10-5, having already clinched the AFC South championship. (They’re currently locked in as the No. 3 playoff seed in the AFC.) They have some impressive wins on their resume, including victories over the Steelers (17-10), Atlanta (17-10) and Cincinnati (20-19). However, they also have more than enough stinkers, including defeats to Oakland, Carolina and Indianapolis. From a distance, the Texans appear to be a competitive young team that has had some occasional struggles with success.

Offense: Houston is down to its third-string quarterback, and while T.J. Yates (78-for-130 for 902 yards with three TDs and three INTs) has played relatively well down the stretch, there are plenty of holes in his game. Offensively, the Texans are powered by running back Arian Foster, who has 1,224 yards on 278 carries for 10 touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average. Houston is anticipating the return of wide receiver Andre Johnson (six games, 31 catches, 471 yards, two touchdowns) for the postseason, and if he is at full strength (he’s been slowed by a hamstring problem), he gives the Texans a pair of dynamic skill position players who are among the best at their position.

Defense: Thanks to linebackers Connor Barwin (11.5 sacks) and Brooks Reed (six sacks) and defensive end J.J. Watt (5.5 sacks), the Texans do a good job getting after the quarterback. They’re one of the best teams in the league when it comes to the rest of their defense: second in average total yards allowed (280.7), tied for second in the league against the pass (184 yards per game), fourth in the league against the run (96.7 yards per game) and fourth in the league in points per game allowed (17).

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Read More: Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin
Fantasy football: Latest on Peyton Hillis, Michael Vick, Arian Foster and Jerome Simpson 09.25.11 at 12:24 pm ET
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With just a few hours left until Week 3 Sunday kick-off, late roster changes are out and here are some important moves you may want to make to your lineup.

Browns running back Peyton Hillis will be out Sunday with strep throat. Conflicting reports about his status emerged Sunday morning when Hillis appeared at the stadium Sunday although he “did not look well at all” Sunday morning, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Later reports said Hillis left the stadium and will not play against the Dolphins. Expect Montario Hardesty to play in Hillis’s place.

Concussed Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is expected to play Sunday just six days after suffering a concussion. Arian Foster is out again for the Texans, and Ben Tate will get the start in his place against the Saints Sunday.

Cinncinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson is also expected to play Sunday after police discovered over eight pounds of marijuana at his Kentucky home Wednesday. Simpson did not practice on Thursday or Friday, but the team said Simpson is “innocent until proven guilty” and deserves to play Sunday, ESPN sources said. Simpson was a key fantasy contributor last week after making four receptions for 136 yards against Denver.

Read More: Arian Foster, Jerome Simpson, Michael Vick, Peyton Hillis
Drafting running backs remains an inexact science 03.17.11 at 9:42 pm ET
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Some positions in the NFL draft require more attention early on than others. For example, if your team is in need of a quarterback, history shows that while there can be risk in spending a Top 10 pick on a signal-caller, you’re far more likely to go wrong by choosing one in the second or third round.

More than half of the running of the backs chosen in the first two rounds the last five years, including Beanie Wells, have never rushed for 1,000 yards. (AP)

While quarterback is a position best addressed in the first round (or, if you’re lucky, the 199th overall pick), not every position necessarily screams “high pick.” Of course, punters go untouched in the early part of the draft, but other positions — even the occasional kicker — have been fair game in the first two rounds over time. Still, for an event that is defined by finding value, trends over the years have shown that certain positions may not represent the utmost value high in the draft.

It could be argued that one such position is running back. Despite being a position that plays such a crucial role in the average NFL offense, running backs that get big attention on draft day don’t necessarily provide a big payoff for their teams. Here’s a look at every running back selected in the top two rounds of the last five drafts:

2010

16th overall — Ryan Mathews
30th overall — Jahvid Best

36th overall — Dexter McCluster
51st overall — Toby Gerhart
58th overall — Ben Tate

2009

12th overall — Knowshon Moreno
27th overall — Donald Brown
31st overall — Beanie Wells

53rd overall — LeSean McCoy

2008

4th overall — Darren McFadden
13th overall — Jonathan Stewart
22nd overall — Felix Jones
23rd overall — Rashard Mendenhall
24th overall — Chris Johnson

44th overall — Matt Forte
55th overall — Ray Rice

2007

7th overall — Adrian Peterson
12th overall — Marshawn Lynch

49th overall — Kenny Irons
50th overall — Chris Henry
52nd overall — Brian Leonard
63rd overall — Brandon Jackson

2006

2nd overall — Reggie Bush
21st overall — Laurence Maroney
27th overall — DeAngelo Williams
30th overall — Joseph Addai

45th overall — LenDale White
60th overall — Maurice Jones-Drew

Of those 28 players, eight finished Top 20 in the league in rushing yards last season. Of course, simply looking at last season doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Arian Foster
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