|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Patriots jump to No. 3||12.03.13 at 10:44 am ET|
The dominance continues. Seattle’s reign atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings has reached its seventh straight week. The Seahawks look like a lock to play in New Jersey in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Panthers (2), Patriots (3) and Broncos (4) all inch one spot closer while the Saints drop out of the top five after being absolutely dismantled in Seattle. New Orleans won’t have much time to think about the loss because the red-hot Panthers are next on the schedule in a battle for the NFC South.
As the regular season draws closer to an end, we’ll see more teams officially eliminated from the playoffs. It looks like at least five playoff teams from 2012 won’t make a return trip in 2013. The Packers (20), Vikings (27), Redskins (28, already eliminated) Falcons (29) and Texans (32) have not lived up to expectations.
1. (1) Seahawks (11-1) – Good luck to any NFC team that has to go through Seattle to reach the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson hasn’t lost at CenturyLink Field and is 22-6 since becoming the starting QB last year.
2. (3) Panthers (9-3) — Owners of eight straight wins, the Panthers and their highly ranked defense will take on the Saints on Sunday night.
3. (4) Patriots (9-3) — As usual, the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady-led Patriots get stronger and better as the season shifts to November and December. They are one win and one Miami loss away from wrapping up their 11th division title in 13 seasons.
4. (5) Broncos (10-2) — The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Denver. The Broncos’ remaining opponents have a combined 16-32 record. None of the four teams they will face have a record over .500.
5. (6) 49ers (8-4) — The injuries on the offensive line combined with the inconsistency of the run game over the past two weeks are a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.
|Jason Cole on M&M: ‘[Tom] Brady outplayed [Peyton Manning] by a large margin’ on Sunday||11.26.13 at 3:40 pm ET|
Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the play of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in New England’s 34-31 victory over Denver on Sunday night, as well as the status of the AFC and Super Bowl XLVIII.
One of the top story lines of Sunday’s game was, of course, the matchup between Brady and Manning. Brady once again seemed to have the advantage in the contest, as he finished the night with three touchdown passes, a 107.4 quarterback rating and the win, while Manning only managed 150 passing yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 70.4 QBR.
“I thought Brady outplayed him by a large margin, and I thought Peyton looked really uncomfortable, and not because he was getting rushed,” Cole said. “He just didn’t look comfortable throwing the ball, he didn’t throw with much authority. I think that because of the way New England disrupted his receivers, similar to what they did against New Orleans earlier this season, he never had his timing down, and perhaps that’s because they had to throw so little in the first half and didn’t throw much in the third quarter.”
Added Cole: “[Manning] just never seemed to get into a groove, so the doubts about him in big games, particularly cold-weather big games, persists. He’s not answered that, and makes me really concerned about [Denver] going in the playoffs.”
While the Broncos (9-2) and Patriots (8-3) are in line for the top two seeds in the AFC at the moment, the Chiefs (9-2) are a worthy competitor in the conference, despite losing two straight games to Denver and San Diego.
“Kansas City, when they are healthy, in a playoff situation [can be a threat]. That’s similar to what we saw on Sunday night between the Patriots and the Broncos, which is if you allow defenses to bump receivers and knock them off their routes, hold them up at the line, I think that helps the defense so much, and I think Kansas City will be able to do more of that when they get into the postseason,” Cole said. “To me, they have a chance to get their defense back in line and be competitive in the postseason. But that’s the only other team, I think, that can challenge New England or Denver at this point and time.”
|Tony Carter on fateful punt: ‘One of those freakish things that happened’||11.25.13 at 2:18 am ET|
FOXBORO – After 72 minutes and 62 points in another instant classic between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, it appeared the Patriots and Broncos were going to play to the dreaded tie.
Following both teams not doing anything with their first two possessions in the overtime period, with just over three minutes left, Patriots punter Ryan Allen booted one inside the Patriots 20-yard line towards Broncos return man Wes Welker. Of the 170 total plays ran in the game, this particular one, thought as of the simplest ones became the play that ultimately decided the final outcome.
Instead of coming up and making the catch, Welker did not, which allowed the ball to bounce in front of him. On most occasions the ball would seemingly bounce harmlessly dead, but on this particular one it skipped into Broncos cornerback Tony Carter’s leg and Patriots backup safety Nate Ebner pounced on the loose ball, recovering it for the Patriots, which set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning, 31-yard field goal in the Patriots’ 34-31 win over the Broncos.
“I felt like there was a lot of traffic, high ball, and basically I didn’t want to get into a situation where someone is running into me or anything else and we ended up with a situation that I didn’t want to happen in the first place,” Welker said. “I have to do a better job of getting up there and getting those guys out of the way and making sure it doesn’t hit them.”
Welker noted the call to alert his teammates to get out of the way of the ball, as they cannot see the punt since they are blocking and setting up a potential return, is “Peter, Peter” and acknowledged he may have been a bit indecisive when making the call, leading to the ball hitting Carter.
“I have to get to him earlier and tell him,” Welker said. “I need to get those guys out of the way if I am not going to make the catch. I was a bit in between and you can’t be that way.”
For Carter, who is in his fifth season and evidently played for the Patriots in 2010, he heard the call but everything happened so fast there wasn’t much he could do.
FOXBORO — A disheartened Wes Welker spoke to the media about his return to New England following the Patriots’ 34-31 comeback victory over the Broncos at Gillette Stadium.
“It was a little different for sure,” said Welker. “It was great seeing Mr. Kraft. I got a lot of respect for him as a man, as an owner of a team and everything else.”
The former Patriots receiver caught four balls for 31 yards in his first return to Gillette Stadium since signing with Denver this off-season. Before the game, a video tribute highlighting the great moments of Welker’s career in New England was played inside the stadium on the video board.
“It was very classy of them to do something like that and I appreciate it very much,” the wide receiver said.
One of the big storylines coming into the game was the relationship between he and Bill Belichick. In a pregame interview conducted by Tedy Bruschi on ESPN, the 32-year-old receiver said, “I think so” when asked if he still had a good relationship with Belichick. Welker went on to say he was anticipating, “the most awkward situation that could possibly happen” if he and his former head coach were to interact.
After the game, Welker talked about that interaction which took place on the field following the game where Belichick sought out his former receiver.
“It wasn’t awkward at all,” Welker said. “It was good to see him. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He came over and was like ‘good job; we’ll see you all again I’m sure.’”
For Welker, a 10-year veteran, he acknowledged he tried to make this just another game, but it wasn’t easy.
“I tried to. You try to make it just a regular game, but it’s hard at times,” he said. “You try and go out there and focus and do your job. I’m sure there were more emotions and things like that going into it for sure.”
In his first time back at Gillette Stadium the game could have marked closure on his time in New England, but ultimately it didn’t go as he would have liked and now it’s time for Welker to put the game behind him and move on to another big game against division rival Kansas City next Sunday.
“It would have been a lot better closer if we would’ve won, but I had a lot of good years here and things like that,” he said. “I feel like I’ve had closure before and I’ve kind of moved on. We have another big game this week against Kansas City and we have to move on to that.”
Ryan Hannable contributed to this article.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Pats drop out of top 5||11.20.13 at 11:58 am ET|
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.
1. (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.
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.
4. (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.
5. (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.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, playoff edition: Peyton Manning’s Broncos No. 1||01.02.13 at 9:40 am ET|
It’s finally here. The postseason kicks off this Saturday and there are many teams capable of raising the Vince Lombardi trophy in New Orleans. Of the 12 playoff teams, four were not in the postseason last year (Colts, Seahawks, Redskins, Vikings). Three of those teams will have rookie quarterbacks leading the offense. Football fans are in for an entertaining postseason.
Leading the way are the Broncos (1). With 11 straight wins and as the only team to have both a top-five offense and defense, Denver is poised for a deep run. The No. 1 seed in the NFC is at No. 4 in the Power Rankings. The Falcons will enjoy a week off before Matt Ryan attempts to win his first playoff game. The two other teams that will enjoy a first-round bye are the Niners (3) and Patriots (4).
Will wild card weekend produce a few upsets? The Seahawks (6) could deliver one on the road against the Redskins (10).
1. Broncos (13-3) — Peyton Manning has led the Broncos to 11 straight wins and guaranteed Denver home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The veteran quarterback has done a tremendous job getting the offense in sync. The passing attack is one of the most dynamic in the league. The defense is ranked in the top five of the league as well.
2. 49ers (11-4-1) — One thing to watch is how Justin Smith deals with his triceps injury. The dominant D-lineman is a big reason why the 49ers defense is the best in the league. San Francisco will be facing some high-powered offenses in the postseason and will need Smith to wreak havoc up front like he usually does.
3. Patriots (12-4) — We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but doesn’t it seem like the Patriots and Broncos are on a collision course for an AFC championship showdown? Grabbing a first-week bye puts the veteran Pats in a great position to return to the Super Bowl. A healthy Rob Gronkowski is key to this team’s success.
4. Falcons (13-3) — The No. 1 seed in the AFC has a lot of doubters. The Falcons have been in this position before and have failed. The difference now is Matt Ryan is playing better, the offensive is filled with explosive playmakers, and new coordinator Mike Nolan has the defense playing inspired football.
5. Packers (11-5) — No one wants to play the Packers in the playoffs, but Green Bay is vulnerable with a beat-up offensive line, shaky defense, and only one guaranteed game on the friendly confines of the frozen tundra.
|Von Miller: Broncos defense ‘didn’t execute’ against uptempo Patriots offense||10.07.12 at 10:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning met was on Nov. 21, 2010 — a game where the Patriots beat the Colts, 31-28. In that one, Brady threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, while Manning racked up 396 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
On Sunday, Manning made his first trip back to Foxboro since that loss in 2010, this time with his new Broncos teammates. Each team entered Sunday’s contest with identical 2-2 records, but Manning’s Broncos weren’t as prepared as they had hoped for the up-tempo pace of the Patriots’ no-huddle. The Patriots went ahead early and did not relinquish the lead, winning 31-21 at Gillette Stadium.
After the game, Broncos linebacker Von Miller said that his defense was prepared from watching film all week long for the fast-paced offense Brady and the Patriots ran, but his defense just didn’t execute well enough to come out on top.
“They’re a good offense — we knew that coming into the game,” Miller said. “We were prepared for the type of offense we knew they were going to run. We didn’t execute — another week we didn’t execute — and we put ourselves in situations that we can’t get out of.”
Although Manning put up solid numbers (31-of-44, 345 yards and three touchdowns), most of the damage done by him was in the second half. The key for the Patriots was a mix of effective running and passing plays — something the Broncos couldn’t accomplish. Willis McGahee finished the day with 51 yards on 14 carries and a crucial fumble inside the Patriots’ 15-yard line with less than four minutes left to play.
Broncos head coach John Fox said after the game that the inability to stop New England’s fast-paced offense was a mixture of personnel, lack of communication and lining up in the wrong positions.
“It’s not new; they have been doing this for a long, long time,” Fox said. “They just have a good, solid group together doing it, so they communicate very well. And obviously [the Patriots] communicated better than we did.” Read the rest of this entry »
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