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5 things we learned at combine Sunday 02.23.14 at 11:22 pm ET
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UCF QB Blake Bortles was impressive in drills on Sunday. (AP)

UCF QB Blake Bortles was impressive in drills on Sunday. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS –€“ Five things we learned at the combine Sunday:

1. Quarterback Bake Bortles can take advantage of an opportunity

Johnny Manziel didn’€™t throw (but did look really fast in the 40, as well as the 3-cone), and Teddy Bridgewater didn’€™t throw or run, and so Bortles was in the spotlight during the throwing drills and he looked impressive, making a variety of impressive connections to a variety of targets on several different routes throughout the session. We still believe that Jadeveon Clowney is the consensus top pick (even though there were some eyebrows raised after he only hit 21 reps in the bench press, a number that was topped by several smaller skill position players), but Bortles certainly made his case to be the first quarterback selected.

2. BC’€™s Andre Williams helped himself

With a relatively nondescript group of running backs this year, the former Eagle had a chance to make a name for himself when it came to the on-field drills, and the power back (5-foot-11, 230 pounds) had a good outing. He ran a 4.54 and 4.56 in 40 (good times for a bigger back), and had a 38.0 on the vertical jump (fourth in his position group), and went 10-foot-9 on the broad jump (third in his position group). Last year was the first time in 50 years a running back was not selected in the first round, and while the same fate likely awaits Williams and the rest of the backs this year, the BC product is certainly doing his part — he may have gone from a third-day pick to a second-day selection with his work on Sunday. (The best performance for a relatively unknown back went to Kent State’s Dri Archer, who had the best time of the day in the 40 with a 4.26. That just barely missed the 4.24 record set by running back Chris Johnson in 2008, the mark the NFL says is the best 40 by anyone, ever.)

3. The Patriots may not be in the market for an elite-level receiver, but there were several prospects who showed something in the 3-cone drill

New England craves pass catchers who can put up great 3-cone times — the drills showcases footwork, agility and the ability to quickly change direction as opposed to simple straight-line speed. In the past, several of the guys they’€™ve gone after have popped as collegians in the 3-cone in their Pro Day or at the combine, a group that includes Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Chad Jackson and Josh Boyce all excelled in the drill as collegians. This year, 19 different receivers cracked the 7-second barrier, traditionally considered the barometer for a great time in the drill. (In the previously mentioned group, only Welker topped seven seconds.) On Sunday, Top 10 3-cone times for receivers were Louisville‘€™s Damian Copeland (6.53), Baylor’€™s Tevin Reese (6.63), Saginaw Valley State’€™s Jeff Janis (6.64), Tulane’€™s Ryan Grant (6.68), Alabama’€™s Kevin Norwood (6.68), LSU’s Odell Beckham (6.69), South Carolina’€™s Bruce Ellington (6.69), Murray State’€™s Walt Powell (6.7), Fresno State’€™s Isaiah Burse (6.74) and Oregon State’€™s Brandin Cooks (6.76). History tells us that one of these guys has a good chance of landing in Foxboro, either as a draft pick or undrafted free agent.

4. Louis Nix III, Dee Ford and Adam Muema made things interesting in the media workroom

Nix, a defensive lineman out of Notre Dame, had been billed as a terrific quote, and he didn’t disappoint in his session with reporters. Asked about his recent weight loss, he said, “My thighs got a little smaller. I just feel sexier, man.”€ Asked about his occasionally troublesome knee, he smiled and replied, “œIt’€™s fantastic. How’€™s your knee?”€ And he admitted to being star-struck when he met Seattle coach Pete Carroll. Meanwhile, Muema, a running back from San Diego State, left the combine without taking part in any drills, saying God told him to. (And apparently, if Muema followed God’€™s wishes, he’€™d be taken by the Seahawks. “€œ[God] told me to sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the peace,”€ he said.) And Ford, a defensive lineman out of Auburn, took a shot at Clowney, saying the South Carolina lineman “plays like a blind dog in a meat market.”

5. Cooks, Beckham and Sammy Watkins are REALLY fast

In addition to his 3-cone time, the 5-10, 189-pound Cooks was the fastest receiver tested with a blazing 4.33 in the 40, while the 6-foot, 194-pound Beckham was close behind him with a 4.46. (For what it’€™s worth, Beckham showed a nice dependability in the receiving drills, and is a guy who will get a bit of a post-combine bump because of his work on Sunday.) The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Watkins had an amazing burst, and finished with a 4.43 40 that should also give him a bit of a post-combine bump.

Read More: 2014 combine, Adam Muema, Andre Williams, Blake Bortles
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 17: Seahawks still No. 1 despite loss 12.24.13 at 8:48 am ET
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The Seahawks stumbled but didn’t fall in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Despite suffering a setback in Week 16, Seattle stands pat because of its overall dominance. The 49ers, Panthers, Broncos and Patriots, who all have secured playoff spots, round out the top five.

As we head into the last week of the season, division titles and playoff spots still are up for grabs. Four teams are fighting for one spot in the AFC: the Chargers (11), Ravens (13), Dolphins (15) and Steelers (17). The NFC is wide open, with three divisions and a wild card spot on the line. The Eagles (12) will look to become the 11th consecutive team in the NFL to finish in last place and then go on to win the division the very next year, and it will take a win over the Cowboys (19) on Sunday to accomplish that feat. Philadelphia’s odds of winning the NFC East improved dramatically on Monday after it was reported that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be sidelined due to a back problem.

The conclusion of the 2013 regular season promises to be a wild one. Be sure to check in next week after all is decided for the playoff edition of the Power Rankings.

Seattle Seahawks1. (1) Seahawks (12-3) – The NFC took notice that the Seahawks are vulnerable in Seattle. They lost at home for the first time in two years. Penalties and a struggling passing attack hurt Pete Carroll‘s team Sunday. 

San Francisco 49ers 2. (2) 49ers (11-4) — They’ve clinched and now have won five straight. The Niners are the type of seasoned, well-balanced team that is capable of going into Seattle and winning if the situation were to arise.

Carolina Panthers3. (3) Panthers (11-4) — The Panthers have the tools to reach the Super Bowl. Cam Newton has proven this year that the big moment doesn’t negatively affect him. Carolina’s defense forces turnovers, rushes the passer well and allows the fewest points per game in the league.

Denver Broncos 4. (4) Broncos (11-3) — Much is being made about the loss of Von Miller, but the Broncos won their first six games this season when the Pro Bowl linebacker was suspended. If Denver doesn’t reach the Super Bowl, it won’t be because Miller is out.

New England Patriots 5. (6) Patriots (11-4) — You can’t count this team out as long as Tom Brady is behind center and Bill Belichick is on the sideline. They’ve proven that this year more than ever.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bills, Chris Johnson, NFL Power Rankings
Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits 12.20.13 at 9:09 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

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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Read More: Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Chris Johnson
Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts, sits 11.03.12 at 12:11 pm ET
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Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. It’s been a rough week for yours truly and all New Yorkers, but I’m now up in Boston with friends — fully loaded with bandwidth and a large coffee. Let’s get into Week 9, shall we? For those of you looking for full rankings, we will be adding them at Rotobahn.com throughout the day as we play catchup in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We also will be hosting our weekly Sunday chat right here, so check back Sunday at 11 a.m. if you have any pressing lineup questions.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Cam Newton, Panthers at Redskins

Yes, Newton was a lock starter going into the season, but we’ve received enough e-mails about him to put him here. Newton should step up in this game against Robert Griffin III. The bigger issue is the Washington defense, which is prone to lapses in coverage. Newton is a good play here and he has some upside, too. He’s a good play in any league.

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers at Raiders

Stick with Freeman this week in a plus matchup at Oakland. His receivers are making plays and now he has ground support with a surging Doug Martin.

Joe Flacco, Ravens at Browns

There’s some risk due to how poorly he’s played lately, but we wouldn’t be afraid of using him here. The Ravens have had two weeks to prepare for this game and they are well coached. They should be ready. Flacco is a viable start in 12-team leagues.

SITS

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills at Texans

Fitz is a very risky play on the road against a quality opponent. Just look at what he did in Weeks 5 and 6 if you require proof. The Bills most likely will be chasing in the game, so there’s some hope, but we’d strongly consider other options in all leagues.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins at Colts

Two big things here: Tannehill is not a lock to play, so even if you are going to roll with him, you need a Plan B. The more important thing is the in-game risk. There’s a solid chance that he could start but not finish, and that’s what worries us most. He’s got an easily aggravated injury. The matchup is a very good one, but we’d look for more secure options in Week 9.

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Read More: Cam Newton, Chris Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, joe flacco
Tavon Wilson shows he can ‘play with a lot of confidence’ 09.11.12 at 9:59 am ET
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Tavon Wilson celebrates his first interception in his first NFL game. (AP)

FOXBORO — Tavon Wilson has shown two traits key to be a rookie contributor in the Patriots defensive scheme. He is a quick learner and plays fearlessly. Two traits that Bill Belichick saw in him on film at Illinois and why he chose to use a second round pick on him in April’s draft.

Wilson had a chance to show off those traits and play more than many expected in the season opener on Sunday in Nashville.

With Patrick Chung seeing limited playing time in the two weeks leading up to the season opener because of a shoulder injury on Aug. 20 against the Eagles, the rookie safety out of Illinois played some strong safety, coming up to help in coverage on Titans tight end Jared Cook and helping in run support on Chris Johnson.

“He’s got good size, he’s a physical player, he runs well, I think he’ll mix it up in the running game and can blitz; can do those types of things,” Belichick said of his rookie safety. “He’s done a decent job for us at that. He’s still learning. It’s kind of a new position for him but he’s picked it up okay. We’ll see how it goes.”

“I think it went well,” Wilson said Monday. “It was great that we got the win. That’s the most important thing, that we got the win. It’s always great to win. Now, we’re on to Arizona.”

Ironically, his biggest play came in the passing game when Jake Locker tried to go deep for Nate Washington in the second quarter. Kyle Arrington was in coverage in the end zone and the ball careened off Arrington’s face mask and into the hands of Wilson.

“It just happened to be an interception,” said Wilson, who had three tackles and an assist in his first NFL game. “Right place at the right time I guess. It was a good play. Something that just happened. I wouldn’t say it’s a big relief. It was good to have. It was something good to have.

“I just kept running. If you run to the ball, great things happen for you.”

Something else that’s not just good to have but essential to success in the NFL is confidence.

“I just feel like I go out there and play with a lot of confidence, regardless,” Wilson said. “Even if you’re making those plays at defensive back, you have to go out there and play with a lot of confidence. That’s something I pride myself on is going out there and playing with a lot of confidence every single play.

“It was a team effort. It was a team effort containing all those guys. We just went out there and gave it a good team effort. We did a pretty good job on him. But that’s behind us now and it’s on to Arizona.”

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Chris Johnson, New England Patriots, nfl
Vince Wilfork on Pats D in opener: ‘I think we’ll do some special things’ 09.09.12 at 5:40 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork led a defense that bottled up Chris Johnson (28) to a career-low four yards. (AP)

To Vince Wilfork, Sunday’s dominating defensive effort against one of the best running backs in the NFL is an example of the great potential of this Patriots defense.

Chris Johnson was held to a career-low four yards on 11 carries as the Patriots defense completely shut down the Titans, 34-13, at LP Field in a season-opening win.

“I think it’s a mix of everything,” Wilfork said afterward. “When you put 11 guys together and you have goals, you don’t want to let the guy beside you down. Our goals every year is being able to stop the run, good third down and red area defense. So, today we responded well against the run. I think throughout the preseason, we showed improvement each week. This is something I think that can be a backbone for us, going into each game giving teams just one dimension. That will help us tremendously. That’s what we’re looking forward to.

“Very excited about these guys, very, very happy with the performance these guys came out with as a team and as a unit, especially as a defensive lineman coming out and holding a great back to only four yards. That was good team defense. And it’s just not the guys up front, it’s the backers, secondary at times. As long as we continue to play better and get better as a team, I think we’ll do some special things.”

Even Tom Brady was impressed from the sidelines.

“I tell you, they’ve been playing like that all preseason on defense,” Brady said. “We see them in practice every day. They’re very competitive, they’re competitive on the outside, rush the quarterback, get turnovers, do a good job of covering the backs out of the backfield. There was a lot of team defense out there.”

Wilfork said he could sense something special was brewing this week in practice.

“We came in feeling good, happy with the way we practiced, way we prepared,” Wilfork said. “I think everybody was confident and it showed today. This is a good team win. You’re talking three phases of your team, special teams, offense and defense coming together and getting the team victory. It’s great to have that, especially in your first game, on the road in a tough environment. I think we responded very, very well. Definitely something to build on.

“It wasn’t perfect. It’s the start of the season so there are some things that we still need to work on and get better. The key for us now is to go back, watch film, make corrections, move forward and get better as a team. I think everybody’s mind-frame, that’s where we’re at right now.”

Never was the defensive preparation on display more than when the Titans were threatening on first and goal at the Patriots 1 early in the fourth quarter. The Titans were trailing 28-10 and the obvious call was to hand off to Johnson. They did and the Patriots read it to perfection, overloading with pursuit to the strong side, Wilfork (shown in above photo) broke through and drilled Johnson for a five-yard loss and suddenly, it was 2nd and goal from the 6. The Titans were forced to settle for a field goal.

“Just preparation,” Wilfork said. “That’s one thing we went through this week, knowing tendencies down there. That was all play-calling. I can’t really take credit for that. That was play-calling, perfect play-calling on defense putting me in that position to make that play. If that other 10 guys didn’t do their job, it probably would’ve created a problem also. I know I made the tackle but trust me, it’s my teammates and coaches that put me in that position to make that play.”

Read More: Chris Johnson, CJ2K, New England Patriots, nfl
Vince Wilfork: Pats D has to ‘hit the ground running’ 09.06.12 at 7:39 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork is now the face of the Patriots defense. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The man who has seen more on the Patriots defense than anyone else knows the potential of this group.

Vince Wilfork sees two first-round picks added in April’s draft. He watched as Bill Belichick used his first six picks on defense. He’s seen the Patriots draft defense in 12 of their last 20 picks going back to 2010.

Now, with names like Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower added to Brandon Spikes, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Kyle Love and Patrick Chung, Wilfork knows it’s time for the Patriots D to step up. And stepping up begins Sunday in Nashville against the Titans.

But at 30 years of age, Wilfork stands with Tom Brady as the only Patriots that have Super Bowl rings in their jewelry collection. Wilfork said Thursday he’s not feeling his age heading into the opener – and that’s a good thing.

“I don’t feel it,” said Wilfork, who turns 31 on Nov. 4. “That’s something I never look at. Every year I know it’s a year under your belt. But when I’m playing I don’t feel like I’m 30 or nine years in. I’m like everyone else; I come to work, work hard, and expect the same out of my teammates. As long as you keep that mind frame, you can play as long as you want to play.

“It’s very excited to get going. We’re on the road and it’s going to be a tough game for us. But we can’t look back now. We have to hit the ground running and I’m looking forward to it.”

Obviously, the biggest challenge will be containing the refreshed and rejuvenated Chris Johnson, a one-time perennial Pro Bowl running back with explosive power and speed.

“You have to have the passion for it. I love it, and I love playing with my teammates; love playing for this organization,” he said. “Whatever I can do to make this team better, that’s what I’m going to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: chandler jones, Chris Johnson, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo
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