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5 things you have to know about Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Ndamukong Suh look to lift Miami to first win in Foxboro since 2008 09.13.16 at 1:51 pm ET
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First-year Dolphins coach Adam Gase will try and lead Miami to a win in Foxboro for the first time since 2008. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

First-year Dolphins coach Adam Gase will try and lead Miami to a win in Foxboro for the first time since 2008. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Five things you have to know about the Dolphins, who will travel to New England this weekend for a date with the Patriots.

1. When they get cranked up and ready to play, the defensive line is pretty impressive.

Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips, Jason Jones, Mario Williams and Cameron Wake all looked very good in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks. Granted, it was against an offensive line that’s in a bit of a state of flux, but Suh had four tackles, including a 13-yard sack, and three quarterback hits. Williams had a sack and a quarterback hit before exiting because of concussion concerns. (At this point, his availability is in doubt for this weekend.) In addition, it’s also worth noting that Wake is a situational rusher at this stage of his career, in large part because the team is working him back cautiously after a season-ending Achilles’ injury last year. It’s a group that’s always been a challenge, but when Suh and the rest are engaged, it’s a big test for any offensive line.

2. They have one really good defensive back in Reshad Jones. The rest of the secondary is pretty vulnerable.

Miami’s defensive front can be overpowering. The secondary is another matter. Jones is a smart and rangy safety who is capable of making some game-changing plays — he made a team-high 12 tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks. While he might not be quite as good as he thinks he is (he compares himself to Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu in this interview, and says his nickname is “G-5. It’s like a luxury jet. I’m always flying around the field”), he’s the sort of guy who has to be accounted for on every snap. The rest of the group is middle-of-the-road at best. At the corners, it’s veteran Byron Maxwell and youngster Xavien Howard, while Isa Abdul-Quddus was at the other safety spot in the opener. (Abdul-Quddus had the lone pick of Seattle’s Russell Wilson on Sunday.) From this viewpoint, the Patriots might be inclined to target Howard. Provided the New England offense is healthy and Jimmy Garoppolo can do as good a job getting the ball out quickly as he did against the Cardinals, this appears to be a winnable matchup for the Patriots.

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Read More: Andrew Franks, Arian Foster, Byron Maxwell, Cameron Wake
Free agent RB Arian Foster spotted in Boston, fueling speculation about a future with Patriots 05.21.16 at 1:21 pm ET
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Arian Foster has spent a lot of time in New England the last 24 hours or so.  (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Arian Foster has spent a lot of time in New England the last 24 hours or so. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

So what’s the deal with Arian Foster?

The veteran was spotted at Logan Airport and at Fenway over the last couple of days. The Patriots ostensibly have a need for depth at running back after passing at the position in the draft. The veteran is still on the market. According to our pal Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Foster’s visit to New England doesn’t include a meeting with the Patriots. But per Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, New England has expressed a “preliminary” interest in Foster.

So what does that all add up to?

At this point, it’s nothing more than pure speculation. But if the Patriots are interested in kicking the tires on the veteran, he’s certainly an intriguing prospect. The 29-year-old, who is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2015 campaign, is a 6-foot, 232-pound veteran who has 6,472 career rushing yards — including four seasons where he topped 1,000 yards on the ground — in his seven years in the NFL, all of them with Houston.

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Read More: 2016 NFL free agency, Arian Foster,
Fantasy Football: Top 50 running backs 08.06.14 at 12:22 pm ET
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With the exception of the Giants and Bills, teams have not played their first preseason games yet. Nevertheless, running backs already are going down. The losses of Kendall Hunter, Tyler Gaffney, Vick Ballard and David Wilson underscore the volatility of the position and the need to prepare and build depth on your fantasy roster. You can hope for health, if you believe in the power of positive thinking, but you also better be prepared for injuries, because you will almost assuredly have a few.

Last week we took a look at the quarterbacks and a week prior we broke down the receivers. You can link to those two articles below as well as our high-value targets piece from earlier this month.

Today we’€™ll get into the top 50 running backs and how they relate to each other in terms of value to give you a lay of the landscape. If you are looking for a deeper take on a particular player, go to Rotobahn’€™s Top 400.

I’€™ll also be posting my “32 Backfields” article in about 10 days, where I will break down the ground games of all 32 NFL teams. Keep checking and Rotobahn for daily content and tune in this Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on 93.7 FM to hear the first broadcast of WEEI’€™s Fantasy Football Hour with myself and Jim Hackett! If you’ve never heard us before, check us out Wednesday when this week’€™s podcast goes up. Jim and I will breakdown this article in depth and cover some other timely fantasy topics. I’ll be back in this space next week with an in-depth look at the tight ends.

Tier 1 (1-5)

LeSean McCoy, Eagles
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Eddie Lacy, Packers
Matt Forte, Bears

It’€™s almost impossible to go wrong here. These are the elite options and we project all of them to play in very good offenses with the exception of Charles, who will be running behind a retooled line for a team with a very shaky passing attack. We still expect his talent to win the day, but Charles will have to earn his numbers in 2014. These should be the first five players off the board in all drafts regardless of scoring format. If you have a shot to draft any of them in the six-hole or later, you should jump at the chance.

Tier 2 (6-9)

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Montee Ball, Broncos
Le’€™Veon Bell, Steelers

All four of these backs have two things going for them: talent and the support of a strong offense. They also are multidimensional players who get involved in the passing game. They all are projected as their team’€™s primary goal-line weapon. It’€™s also a young tier, with Lynch being the elder statesman at 28 years old. Lynch and Murray are more proven, as is Bell to some extent. Ball, while not being proven, has no legitimate competition on his roster and plays in an insanely high-octane offense. While some are smelling risk with Ball, just remember that you are buying the Broncos offense and goal-line opportunities and not Montee Ball in a vacuum. The one concern with Ball is his recent appendectomy. It’€™s something to watch, but he projects to be 100 percent for Week 1 at this point. Expect this entire tier to be off the board about halfway through Round 2 of 12-team drafts.

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Read More: 2014 Fantasy Football, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Eddie Lacy
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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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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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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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,



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