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7 things we’re looking for in Friday’s Patriots-Panthers preseason game 08.28.15 at 12:23 am ET
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How should the Patriots split the reps at QB Friday night?  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

How should the Patriots split the reps at QB Friday night? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Friday night when the Patriots meet the Panthers in the third preseason game for both teams:

1. How the reps are split at quarterback:

Nine of the last 10 times the Patriots took the field for the third preseason game of the summer, Tom Brady was at quarterback deep into the contest. (He sat out the third preseason game in 2008 entirely.) For the record, over those nine appearances, he finished with an average line of 15-for-22, 179 yards, 1.4 TDs, .33 INT and 40.5 snaps, with the bulk of the work coming over the first two-plus quarters. But with Brady’s status for the regular-season opener still unclear, there has to be some thought given to the idea of having Jimmy Garoppolo get more snaps than usual Friday with an eye toward making sure he’s ready for opening night against the Steelers if need be. From this viewpoint, the cautious play would be to have Brady start the game, but yield at roughly the 30-snap mark, depending on the offensive rhythm at that point in the evening. That way, Brady still gets in his needed work, but Garoppolo gets a little more activity than usual in advance of the regular-season opener.

For the record, here’s Brady’s workload and production in the third preseason game over the last 10 years:

2014: 17-for-21, 204 yards, two touchdowns, 42 snaps vs. Panthers
2013: 16-for-24, 185 yards, one interception, two sacks, 46 snaps vs. Lions
2012: 13-for-20, 127 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 45 snaps vs. Bucs
2011: 12-for-22, 145 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 37 snaps vs. Lions
2010: 18-for-22, 273 yards, three touchdowns, 30 snaps vs. Rams
2009: 12-for-19 for 150 yards, two touchdowns, one sack, 29 snaps vs. Redskins
2008: DNP
2007: 17-for-22, 167 yards, two touchdowns, 47 snaps vs. Panthers
2006: 17-for-30, 231 yards, one touchdown, 49 snaps vs. Redskins
2005: 12-for-21, 127 yards, one touchdown, one sack, 40 snaps vs. Packers

2. The third-down back competition:

This has been one of the best summer positional battles the Patriots have had in the last decade or so. Over the course of camp, the smart money appeared to be on Travaris Cadet, but he suffered an injury before the preseason schedule opened, and wasn’t heard from for a couple weeks. With that void, after Week 1 of the preseason, James White appeared to have the best shot at the job with a really nice outing against the Packers. But last week against the Saints, Dion Lewis really flashed positively, so much so that he looked to be in command. Now, who knows? Cadet needs to stay healthy if he wants to stay in the race, but it was hard not to look at the White/Lewis duo over the first two weeks of the preseason and imagine a combo role while White grows into the job on a full-time basis a year or two down the road, a la Shane Vereen.

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Read More: Brandon LaFell, Cam Newton, Devin McCourty, Dion Lewis
Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings 08.07.15 at 3:43 pm ET
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Fantasy football preparation is in full swing, and I’m kicking off my positional ranking articles with the quarterbacks. And why not? After all, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. I’ve broken them down into tiers for you, and you have viable options all the way through with the exception of the last tier, which should be avoided like discounted seafood. Still, even without the final tier, you have more quarterback depth than I have ever seen. The benefits of waiting to draft your quarterback have never been greater. As we move through August, there will be changes to these rankings. To keep pace with these changes, you can always go to Rotobahn. It’s 100 percent free and its updated on a daily basis.

If you missed Thursday’s article on players who can drastically outperform their draft-day cost, you can access it here.

I’ll be back next week with a look at the running backs and receivers. And, be sure to tune in this Sunday at 8 a.m., when Jim Hackett and I will be live on 93.7 with this season’s first edition of WEEI’s Fantasy Football Hour. Please join us! We’ll make it worth your while.

Andrew Luck is the surest bet at the quarterback position for fantasy owners.  (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Andrew Luck is the surest bet at the quarterback position for fantasy owners. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Tier 1

Andrew Luck
Aaron Rodgers

The elite are easy to spot this year. Luck and Rodgers stand alone atop the quarterback rankings. While they have as much upside as anybody out there, it’s their strong floors that make them such good bets. Both of these guys could have relative down years and still finish as QB1s. Injury is really the only concern I have for either of these studs, and I have more concern in that area with Rodgers, who has been banged up in both of the last two seasons. That’s why Luck gets the top spot.

Tier 2

Russell Wilson
Cam Newton
Ben Roethlisberger

Here we have three excellent stat producers who all got new toys this offseason. Cam Newton finally has respectable weapons in the passing game. And, what’s better is that his weapons are all tall targets. This works to minimize one of Newton’s biggest weaknesses — leaving too many passes up high. Roethlisberger is surrounded by outstanding skill talent, and that includes one of the best receiving running backs in Le’Veon Bell. The newest weapon, Sammie Coates, may not even be able to get on the field in 2015. That’s how incredibly deep Pittsburgh is when it comes to the skill positions. Russell Wilson has a lot of good young receivers, but the key addition obviously is tight end Jimmy Graham, who gives Wilson the kind of red zone weapon he’s sorely lacked throughout his young career. All three of these guys have up-pointing arrows. They are strong reasons to not go too early on a quarterback.

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Fantasy Football, Tom Brady
Cam Newton gets in Deflategate dig at Tom Brady 06.22.15 at 11:53 am ET
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We know that Cam Newton and Tom Brady are fellow Under Armour endorsers, but it was interesting to see his video of the Carolina quarterback getting a Deflategate dig in at Brady. (H/T SBNation.)

Read More: Cam Newton, Deflategate, Tom Brady,
Panthers top Cardinals to open NFL postseason play 01.03.15 at 7:52 pm ET
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Cam Newton led the Panthers to a win over the Cardinals to open the NFL postseason. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Cam Newton led the Panthers to a win over the Cardinals to open the NFL postseason. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In what was a sloppy game to open the NFL postseason (six turnovers), the Panthers capitalized on three Cardinals’ turnovers to win 27-16 at home. The Panthers entered the game 7-8-1, but were able to win the NFC South to earn the No. 4 seed in the NFC.

Carolina led 10-0, but went into the locker room trailing 14-13 because of some bad turnovers late in the first half. The home team responded with 14 points in the third quarter to take command of the game. The only points Arizona scored in the second half were on a safety the Panthers took with three seconds left in the game.

Fozzy Whittaker caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cam Newton with 5:49 left in the third quarter, and then following a fumble on the kickoff, the Panthers scored just over a minute later on a Mike Tolbert 1-yard touchdown catch to extend their lead to 27-14.

Newton finished the game 18-for-32 with 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was his first career playoff win. Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Carolina defense played very well limiting Arizona to just 77 yards of total offense, and eight first downs. Cardinals quarterback (third string) Ryan Lindley was just 16-for-28 with 81 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.

The Panthers will now await the result of tomorrow’s Lions-Cowboys game to know who they will play next. If the Lions were to win, the Panthers would travel to Green Bay. If the Cowboys were to win, the Panthers would travel to Seattle.

For more Patriots and NFL playoff coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Arizona Cardinals, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits 12.26.14 at 10:56 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 17 starts and sits! It’s a tough week to predict when you look at the teams with nothing to play for, so when given the choice, you want to focus on players who are in need-to-win situations. Using Patriots players this week is inherently risky, and the same goes for the Broncos, Colts and Cowboys.

I’ve isolated some players in good situations for your consideration. Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon.

If you want to keep track of all our fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh articles and chats as well, including our full Week 17 lineup rankings. I’ll be back next week with playoff pool cheat sheets and strategies.

QUARTERBACK

Start

Cam Newton, Panthers at Falcons

He got his feet wet last week, but I expect the Panthers to unleash Newton in this game because there is a playoff berth at stake.

Eli Manning, Giants vs. Eagles

He has a receiver who tilts the field in Odell Beckham, and it’s made a big difference lately. Manning should finish 2015 strong, and I like his chances of being a QB1 next season if the Giants address the offensive line better than they did in 2014.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Bengals

He has a lot to play for here with the division title in the balance, so expect four quarters of action and QB1 results when all is said and done.

Sit

Andrew Luck, Colts at Titans

They went to backup Matt Hasselbeck early last week, and I am not betting on a longer outing for Luck this week — not with so much at stake. The Colts are locked into the fourth seed no matter what happens this week.

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Eli Manning
Vince Wilfork leads NFL ‘brothers’ sending out thoughts, prayers to Cam Newton following car crash 12.09.14 at 3:29 pm ET
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Cam Newton is treated after being pulled from his vehicle after an accident Tuesday. (Charlotte Observer via  Twitter)

Cam Newton is treated after being pulled from his vehicle after an accident Tuesday. (Charlotte Observer via Twitter)

Cam Newton suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back and is in “fair condition” following a two-car accident on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Carolina Panthers. The team said Newton suffered no further serious internal injuries.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, the accident took place around 12:30 p.m. ET just outside the team’s stadium. Both Newton and the driver of the other vehicle were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Panthers released a statement saying the 25-year-old Newton will be held overnight for observation but that the franchise quarterback “is in fair condition and undergoing tests at Carolinas Medical Center.”

Team owner Jerry Richardson told the Charlotte Observer that Newton is “in good shape,” after speaking with Carolinas Medical Center doctors.

“At this point, it looks like he’s just got scrapes and bruises, but he should be OK,” a source told ESPN’s Ed Werder. “He’s going to be sore and beat up, but he should be relatively OK.”

A witness told the Charlotte Observer that Newton was “alert” but “in pain” at the scene of the accident.

Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork led the players around the NFL wishing Newton well.

Read More: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Vince Wilfork
Fantasy Football: Week 6 starts, sits 10.10.14 at 1:50 pm ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

As we near the midpoint of the fantasy football regular season, we’re seeing things come into focus. Whether you’re a seasonal GM or a weekly player, you probably are starting to get a feel for how you want to play things. It’s been a strange year, but that’s the NFL. While Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles owners are feeling some much-needed relief, those who rely on Calvin Johnson, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson are on the ledge — staring into the fantasy abyss. I have good news for those who drafted McCoy. He’€™ll get things going — probably this week. Those with Johnson probably are out of luck on Sunday but have long-term hope. If you drafted Peterson, you have my sympathy as well as my commiseration. He’€™s a sunk investment — a potential season-wrecker.

As always, I’ve attempted to avoid the obvious stuff. If you are looking for information on players not listed below, follow this link to my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn. If your guy’s not listed there, get on Twitter and give me what for.

For those in need of Sunday lineup advice, feel free to stop by our chat, which kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs through noon every week. And don’t forget to check out the Fantasy Football Hour every Sunday morning.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Eli Manning, Giants at Eagles

He’s now rolling, and with a full complement of weapons we like his chances in this game, which looks like a bit of a shootout going in. Manning’s a projected QB1 in all formats this week.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Browns

He’s got all the weapons he needs and the Browns have some injuries at cornerback. Big Ben is a good play in Week 6 regardless of your league’s size. He should get you QB1 stats.

Cam Newton, Panthers at Bengals

While Newton is not an elite start this week, as he often is, he is playable. There’s no reason to look to the waiver wire. He may begin to run more with a battered backfield behind him and a need to win games due to the team’s 3-2 start in a very competitive division. He’s my 12th-rated passer this week.

Brian Hoyer, Browns vs. Steelers

If you are hurting in a big format, Hoyer is an option. He’s not even in my top 20 this week, but he’s playable and that’s why I listed him — to illustrate the depth of the Week 6 quarterbacks. If you are in need, just consult the Rotobahn QB rankings for the best available option.

Sit

Kyle Orton, Bills vs. Patriots

I feel like the Patriots could take his best weapon away, and that’s a potential problem. Orton’s not loaded with upside as it is, so you hopefully have other options. Beware of Revis Island.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andre Williams, Ben Roethlisberger, Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton
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