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Colts coach Chuck Pagano: Just made sense to sign ex-Patriots WR Deion Branch 01.07.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday that there was no ulterior motive when it came to signing former Patriots receiver Deion Branch.

In a conference call with the New England media, Pagano said that there were several factors in play when it came to adding Branch, including the fact that they had brought him in for a workout last month, he was local, and he has a track record of success.

“We had worked out Deion three or four weeks ago,” Pagano said of the 34-year-old Branch. “[General Manager] Ryan [Grigson] and his staff bring in guys every week to work out and have guys that you know about and give physicals to in case you have an injury here or there, and we were a little bit short at the wide receiver position, and we had worked out Deion.

“He came in and had a great workout for us, he was in shape, he’€™s local, he’€™s right in our backyard, so we knew about him and knew who he was from a physical standpoint. Again, every decision we make is based on two things: what’€™s best for the team and what helps us win, and we feel like we got a guy that’€™s a former Super Bowl MVP that’€™s played a lot of good football at a high level, so he can help us.”

It’s debatable how much impact Branch will have on Saturday night — he only has a handful of days to try and get up to speed in a new system. But Indy quarterback Andrew Luck said he was looking forward to connecting with Branch.

“€œI definitely will pick his brain,’€ Luck said in a conference call with the media. ‘”œHe’€™s going to be a great addition to our team. I haven’€™t had a chance to sit down yet. We’€™ve been rolling in and out of meetings.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of Branch Tuesday.

“Deion had a great career here — I think he was here for seven years or north thereof,” Belichick said. “Very smart, professional player. Great leader. One of the top guys we’€™ve had here in terms of off the field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things. He had some very productive seasons here. He’€™s a tremendous person. He’€™s had a great career.”

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Bill Belichick, Chuck Pagano, Deion Branch
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, playoff edition: Peyton Manning’s Broncos No. 1 01.02.13 at 9:40 am ET
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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.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Broncos, Chuck Pagano, NFL Power Rankings
Chuck Pagano has good news for Patriots fans 12.26.12 at 6:30 pm ET
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Christmas was on Tuesday but on Wednesday – Boxing Day in Canada – there was some very good news from Indianapolis that might turn into a gift for the Patriots and their fans.

The returning Chuck Pagano – who will be coaching his first game since successful cancer treatment – told reporters that he intends to play all of his starters who are physically cleared to play, despite the fact that the Colts are slotted at the No. 5 seed in the AFC and that won’t change, win or lose.

It seems only fitting for a coach that just battled leukemia for the past three months.

‘€œIt’€™s just not in our DNA. It’€™s not in our makeup,’€ Pagano said Wednesday of playing his players to win. ‘€œThese kids deserve it, their families deserve it. Our fans in this city deserve our best every game regardless of the situation and regardless of the circumstances.’€

What’s at stake? If the Colts beat the 12-3 Texans and the 11-4 Patriots beat the Dolphins, the Patriots will have a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The Colts also know that the Texans are playing for their playoff position, as a Houston win clinches the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs, as well as a first-round bye for the Texans.

Pagano ruled out running back Delone Carter (ankle) and center Samson Satele (ankle). The status of at least four others are likely game-time decisions.

‘€œWhether you agree with it or not, I think there is something to be said about keeping your momentum going and still going out and working on your craft,’€ Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney said. ‘€œGuys who can play, should play. I don’€™t know if it’€™s going to be a whole game situation scenario, but that’€™s up to the coaching staff to decide. You are risking getting hurt, but that’€™s just part of the nature of this game.’€

Pagano believes playing to win, whether Week 1 or Week 17 is still the main objective.

‘€œThey’€™re going to roll a ball out there and it’€™s our job to go out there and try to win a football game,’€ he said. ‘€œYou want to win. You want to win at home. You want to go into the playoffs with momentum.’€

And the Patriots would love that momentum to rest a week.

Read More: Chuck Pagano, dwight freeney, houston texans, Indianapolis Colts
Boomer Esiason on D&C: Aqib Talib ‘definitely a very different sort’ 11.05.12 at 9:50 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and recapped Week 9 in the NFL, touching on the Colts, the Falcons, the Buccaneers, Peyton Manning and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots traded for suspended Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib last week, and Esiason said it’s up to the team to convince him to heed the Patriot Way.

‘€œIf he stays out of trouble, he will [be successful],” Esiason said. “I know what they’€™re banking on here. They’€™re banking on the locker room, they’€™re banking on the organization. ‘€¦ This Aqib Talib kid is definitely a very different sort, very, very different. Hopefully up in Foxboro, he’€™s not going to get himself in trouble. This is what you call rolling the dice.’€

The Colts posted a 23-20 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday behind Andrew Luck‘€™s rookie-record 433-yard game. Esiason said the way ailing coach Chuck Pagano addressed the team following the game in the locker room was very impressive.

‘€œThe Andrew Luck-Chuck Pagano show was something special,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œI picked Miami to win the game yesterday. ‘€¦ Andrew Luck doing what he did, throwing for as many yards as he did, setting a rookie record in a single game and then tying Peyton Manning for most 300-yard games in a season at the number four. How lucky are the Indianapolis Colts fans to be able to go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. Hopefully a career of greatness that we’€™ll see there.

“The Chuck Pagano thing, for anybody who knows anybody whose ever dealt with cancer, to see him in the locker room after that game to talk about his daughter’€™s weddings and things of that nature, just gave me chills. So I would say that was really impressive.’€

Eli Manning had a tough game on Sunday, throwing for just 125 yards with an interception in the Giants‘ 24-20 loss to the Steelers.

‘€œI thought the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to beat the New York Giants, because the Steelers now, whether you love them or hate them, these are the Steelers that we know and love or hate,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œThey’€™re coming back defensively. Big Ben [Roethlisberger] is doing exactly what he does in games in which they win — he extends plays and makes throws and stands in there in the face of the pass rush. He’€™s as brave as any quarterback in football and he showed that yesterday.

“And the Giants, Eli Manning hasn’€™t played that well the last couple weeks. They won a game in Dallas, they won a game at home against [Robert Griffin III], but when you take a look at the stats and you see the yards that opposing offenses are putting up against that defense, it wasn’€™t shocking to me that the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Giants yesterday.’€

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, boomer esiason, Chuck Pagano
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots return to top 5 10.09.12 at 10:19 am ET
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For the third straight week the Falcons (1), Texans (2) and 49ers (3) remain at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. At a combined 14-1, those teams have one major thing in common: balance. They are strong on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

One team that is no stranger to the top five is the Patriots. Tom Brady and company hop back in at No. 5 after a three-week absence. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are the latest team to get bounced after their loss to the Colts. Green Bay drops to No. 7.

One division that has gone from rags to riches is the NFC West. The 49ers (3), Cardinals (10), Seahawks (16) and Rams (25) are all bolstered by solid defense and are progressing week to week.

Week 6 has the potential to be the most impactful week yet. In a rematch of the NFC championship, the 49ers will be out for revenge against the Giants (8). Meanwhile, the Texans will battle the Packers as Green Bay attempts to avoid dropping to 2-4.

1. (1) Falcons (5-0) ‘€” Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their first 5-0 start in franchise history. Mike Smith‘s team put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to remain perfect. Great teams win close games and find ways to prevail. The Falcons have proven they are capable of that so far.

2. (2) Texans (5-0) ‘€” The pulse of the Texans defense may be out for the year. The early reports suggest Brian Cushing suffered a torn ACL in Monday night’s win over the Jets, and that could be a crippling blow.

3. (3) 49ers (4-1) ‘€” The Niners have outscored their opponents 79-3 in their last two games. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. It shows how dominant this team is but also how terrible the Jets and Bills are as well. They’ll face some real competition next week against the Giants but there are reasons to be concerned. Alex Smith has a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand.

4. (5) Ravens (4-1) ‘€” It wasn’t pretty but the Ravens improved to 4-1 without scoring a touchdown. Ray Rice rushed for over 100 yards and that usually means a Ravens victory. Baltimore is 13-2 when Rice rushes for over 100 yards. For John Harbaugh, the formula to victory is simple: Get Ray Rice the rock.

5. (7) Patriots (3-2) ‘€” As long as the defense remains opportunistic, the Patriots will continue to roll. The defense has forced key turnovers in crucial moments throughout the season. A solid giveaway/takeaway number is usually a great indicator of how good a team really is, and the Pats and the Falcons top the NFL with a plus-10.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Brian Cushing, Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 5: Falcons retain crown 10.02.12 at 7:09 am ET
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For the first time in this still-young season, the No. 1-ranked team retains its crown. “Matty Ice” and the Falcons improve to 4-0 and stay atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Texans are breathing down their neck at No. 2. In an extremely close race, strength of schedule was the deciding factor in crowning the Falcons supreme for the second straight week.

The top 10 also stayed relatively the same with a few teams moving up and down. The Cardinals (6), Patriots (7) and Broncos (8) all jumped one spot.

Every team ranked 21 through 32 in last week’s rankings lost in Week 4, aside from the Colts (bye week). The 0-4 Browns maintain their spot at the bottom of the pack.

Looking ahead to Week 5 there are three games that could have a significant impact on the rankings. The Eagles will play the Steelers in the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Broncos face the Patriots, and the Chargers will take on a Saints team in search of its first win of the season.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the NFL Power Rankings.

1. (1) Falcons (4-0) ‘€” Great teams are resilient, and the Falcons proved that on Sunday. Matt Ryan didn’t flinch when he was forced to start a game-winning drive on his 1-yard line. The true measure of a team is how it performs in pressure situations, and the Falcons answered the call.

2. (2) Texans (4-0) ‘€” Week after week the Texans show why they are one of the most complete teams in football. They score the second most points per game and they give up the least amount of points on defense.

3. (3) 49ers (3-1) ‘€” Coming off a tough loss, the 49ers were out to make a statement against the Jets. They certainly didn’t disappoint. The smothering defense of the Niners completely overmatched the beleaguered Jets offense.

4. (4) Packers (2-2) ‘€” It took a game against one of the worst defenses in the league, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense finally performed at a high level. Cedric Benson certainly was a factor; he averaged close to five yards per carry. Although they won by the skin of their teeth, the Packers showed they can handle adversity and come out on top. The referees haven’t been kind to Green Bay over the last two weeks. 

5. (5) Ravens (3-1) ‘€” The Ravens survived a difficult two-game stretch in which they played New England on Sunday night and then were right back at it on Thursday against a divisional opponent. What has stood out most about the Ravens through four games is their offense. Torey Smith, Anquan Bolden and Ray Rice have made it easy for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense to average 30 points per game.

6. (7) Cardinals (4-0) ‘€” You have to give credit to the Cardinals for battling back and finding a way to win, but they still have a lot of work to do. Kevin Kolb was sacked eight times in the victory over the Dolphins.

7. (8) Patriots (2-2) ‘€” The Patriots are only going to get better as the season goes along. The league should give them their division championship T-shirts tomorrow. The AFC East is a disgrace.

8. (9) Broncos (2-2) ‘€” Peyton Mannings return to the NFL has been anything but easy. The veteran quarterback has already faced the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in this poll, plus he has to face the Patriots Sunday. Manning is being tested early and that will help him in the long run.

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Read More: Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan, NFL Power Rankings, Tom Brady
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