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Which teams have best shot at denying Patriots back-to-back Super Bowl titles? 02.04.15 at 12:33 am ET
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Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner could very well square off in Super Bowl 50 next February. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner could very well square off in Super Bowl 50 next February. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

After knocking off the Seahawks Sunday night and capturing the fourth Super Bowl in the history of the franchise, the 2015 Patriots will attempt to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since New England’€™s 2003-04 team. While it’s wildly early — there’ a lot of time between now and the start of the 2015 season — here are our five best bets when it comes to potential challengers to the Patriots, in no particular order.

Ravens: Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh and the rest of the Ravens are a perennial nemesis for the Patriots, having split their last four playoff meetings with New England since 2009. What has become one of the most underrated rivalries in the NFL should have a little extra spice, given the bad feelings that came out of their most recent postseason showdown.

Broncos: While the status of Peyton Manning is still up in the air, the Broncos appear to be as well-positioned as anyone in the AFC when it comes to trying to mount a challenge for AFC supremacy. Denver is stacked on offense with wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, as well as tight end Julius Thomas and running back C.J. Anderson. It’s a similarly star-studded defense, with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, edge rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. With or without Peyton, expect them to contend in 2015.

Cowboys: If Dallas can somehow finesse the cap to allow free agents stars DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant to return, the Cowboys appear to be in as good a shape as anyone else in the NFL. They have one of the stoutest offensive lines in the NFL, and a surprisingly competitive defense will get a boost from the return of linebacker Sean Lee in 2015. At the same time, quarterback Tony Romo turns 35 in April, and only five quarterbacks (Tom Brady, John Elway, Jim Plunkett, Roger Staubach and Johnny Unitas) 35 or older have won Super Bowls.

Packers: When it came to second half of the 2014 regular season, Green Bay gave the Patriots probably the best game of the year, knocking off the Patriots at Lambeau in November. Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers will almost certainly be a man on a mission in 2015, looking to avenge a bitter playoff loss at the hands of the Seahawks in Seattle. If Green Bay can do enough to stabilize its defense and manage to avoid some of the inevitable hangover that comes with a postseason defeat like the one the Packers suffered against the Seahawks, Rodgers and Company should be in the mix for a title in 2015.

Seahawks: There’s the annual Curse of the Super Bowl loser to worry about — of the 49 Super Bowl losers, only two won the big game the next season, with the last instance coming in 1972 with the Dolphins. But provided the Seahawks stay healthy and can retain their talent, there’s no reason to think that they won’t be part of the championship conversation in some form or fashion. They still have one of the best pass defenses in the game and few players are as dominant at their position as running back Marshawn Lynch. Meanwhile quarterback Russell Wilson and coach Pete Carroll will be looking for redemption after Sunday’s withering loss.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers
Dez Bryant, Cowboys done in by officials, Aaron Rodgers, Packers in Ice Bowl rematch 01.11.15 at 4:20 pm ET
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Dez Bryant had a key catch at the goal line reversed late as the Packers beat the Cowboys Sunday. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Dez Bryant had a key catch at the goal line reversed late as the Packers beat the Cowboys Sunday. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Karma caught up to the Cowboys at the worst time Sunday.

A week after receiving what many feel was a gift win over the Lions in the NFC wild card round, the Cowboys were done in by a reversal of a critical catch that would’ve given them the chance at the go-ahead touchdown from the the one-yard line.

Trailing 26-21, Dez Bryant appeared to make a spectacular leaping grab with just over two minutes remaining at the Packers 1. Bryant had clear possession of the ball going to the ground but was ruled incomplete as the ball popped up in the air as Bryant collected it again while lying in the end zone.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the called and referee Gene Steratore came out and ruled that Bryant did not have possession while going to the ground.

The Packers ran out the clock and captured a 26-21 win over the Cowboys in the first playoff meeting between the two long-time rivals at Lambeau Field since the famed “Ice Bowl” of 1967. Bryant left the field with a towel draped over his head. Unlike the Dec. 31, 1967 game, when the temperature was minus-15 with a wind chill of minus-48, Sunday was a balmy 24 above zero with practically no wind chill.

The controversial officials’ reversal overshadowed a heroic performance by gimpy Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Playing with a bad left calf, Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead strike to Richard Rodgers of 13 yards with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, capping a comeback from a 21-13 deficit. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, aaron rodgers, Brandon Browner, Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys come back to beat Lions after controversial call in fourth quarter 01.04.15 at 7:51 pm ET
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Tony Romo led a second half comeback for the Cowboys in their win over the Lions. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Tony Romo led a second-half comeback for the Cowboys in their win over the Lions. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

In what was the most entertaining game of wild card weekend, the Cowboys came back from 13 points down in the second half to beat the Lions, 24-20, at home in an NFC wild card matchup.

Down by 13 with 8:41 left in the third quarter, the Cowboys scored the next 17 points to come away with a four-point win.

DeMarco Murray had a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:54 left in the third to get the comeback started. A Dan Bailey 51-yard field goal cut the deficit to six, 20-14, with 12:16 left in the game. Dallas finally was able to take the lead on a Terrance Williams 8-yard touchdown catch with 2:32 left.

It came on a drive following a Lions possession that ended on a controversial call. On third down, defensive pass interference was called, but the flag was picked up late, forcing a Detroit punt. The officials also ignored Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant running onto the field to argue the initial call.

The Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead and a 17-7 lead at the half, as they scored two first half touchdowns — a 51-yard touchdown reception by Golden Tate early in the first quarter and then a Reggie Bush 18-yard rush with 1:57 to play in the opening quarter.

Romo finished the game 19-for-31 with 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The NFL’s leading rusher, Murray, had 75 yards on 19 carries, to go along with a touchdown. For Detroit, Matthew Stafford was 28-for-42 with 323 yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception. Calvin Johnson was limited to five catches and 85 yards.

With the win, the Cowboys will travel to Green Bay next Sunday.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Dallas Cowboys, detroit lions,
Patriots valued at $2.6 billion, second behind only Cowboys in NFL 08.20.14 at 11:47 am ET
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Robert Kraft has the Patriots pointed close to the top of NFL net worth, second only to the Cowboys. (Getty Images)

Robert Kraft has the Patriots pointed close to the top of NFL net worth, second only to the Cowboys. (Getty Images)

The Patriots continue to be one of the most valuable commodities in sports.

According to Forbes, the team held by Robert Kraft and his family is worth $2.6 billion, surpassed in the NFL by only the Cowboys, worth $3.2 billion.

The Cowboys are surpassed by only the soccer superpower Real Madrid ($3.4 billion) in terms of overall net worth among all global sports franchises. Thanks in part to Cowboys Stadium (a.k.a. “JerryWorld”), Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has seen his value rise by 36 percent over 2013.

The Cowboys top Forbes’ rankings by a healthy margin for an eighth consecutive season, having risen in value by $900 million over the last 12 months to become the only NFL team worth more than $3 billion.

Here’s the top 5 franchises in the NFL:

Franchise Value
1. Cowboys $3.2 billion
2. Patriots $2.6B
3. Redskins $2.4B
4. NY Giants $2.1B
5. Texans $1.85B

The Cowboys have the NFL’s highest revenue ($560 million) and operating income ($246 million). This year, Jones added something new and different – partnerships with a worldwide luxury watch and cruise line, an NFL first.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are seven teams are worth less than $1 billion: the Chargers ($995 million), Bengals ($990 million), Raiders ($970 million), Jaguars ($965 million), Lions ($960 million), Bills ($935 million) and the Rams ($930 million).

Read More: Dallas Cowboys, Forbes, Jerry Jones, Jonathan Kraft
Setting the scene: Patriots-Dolphins 12.02.12 at 10:39 am ET
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Rain and temperatures in the mid-70s are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff as the Patriots look to clinch their 10th AFC East title in 12 seasons with a win over the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.

The Patriots head into the game with three players already ruled out, as Rob Gronkowski (forearm), Chandler Jones (ankle) and Logan Mankins (ankle) will all miss the game.

Julian Edelman did practice this week after suffering a concussion in the team’s last game, 11 days ago on Thanksgiving night. But he was limited and was officially questionable for the game. Edelman was one of 15 players listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report as of Friday afternoon.

The Dolphins, by contrast, are relatively healthy, listing only nine players on their entire report, with eight probable and one questionable.

Much has been made of the fact this week – and rightfully so – that the Patriots have been become automatic in the second half of seasons under Bill Belichick.

They are 19-0 in the second half of seasons, dating to their last loss, Jan. 3, 2010, which marked the 2009 season finale. That was the game in which Wes Welker blew out his knee in Houston and the Patriots lost a double-digit lead and fell to the Texans, 34-27.

They are also an NFL-best 41-5 in the month of December since 2001, a record that includes seven perfect Decembers. Belichick is 43-7 in December with the Patriots, the best record in the month for one coach with one team in NFL history. George Seifert (49ers) is second at 27-6.

A win today would also ensure New England its 12th consecutive winning season. Only San Francisco (1983-98) and Dallas (1970-85) with 16 straight winning campaigns have better in NFL history.

Who will be the key player in today's Pats-Dolphins game?

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dallas Cowboys, George Seifert, Miami Dolphins
Bobby Carpenter on Bill Belichick: ‘I’m not trying to get inside his mind’ 06.14.12 at 5:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — A player new to the Bill Belichick program in Foxboro is well advised to stick close to the “Patriot Way” during minicamp, training camp and whenever he steps inside the walls of Gillette Stadium.

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter has apparently read the manual.

Asked what he thought of Belichick giving the team the day off on the third and final day of minicamp, Carpenter played it pretty safe.

“You’ll have to ask Bill on that. Maybe he was so mad everyone was doing so poorly he wanted to get us out of here,” Carpenter joked. “You’ll have to ask him why he does the things he does. I’m not trying to get inside his mind.”

So, what exactly was in Belichick’s mind in bringing the six-year NFL veteran into Foxboro for a look-see with the Patriots after spending the last two seasons with the Lions?

“It’€™s been good,” Belichick began. “Bobby has been here all spring. He’€™s worked hard. Good athlete, runs well, smart guy, has some experience. He’€™s done some different things in his career ‘€“ played inside, played outside, played in sub, played in the kicking game. He’€™s been a pretty versatile player for a couple of different organizations, three [organizations]. He’€™s fit in well; he’€™s done a nice job. We’€™ve asked him to do some different things and he mentally, physically and experience-wise has looked pretty comfortable doing those. I think he’€™s in good position to go to camp and we’€™ll see what happens in training camp.”

Carpenter was signed by Belichick and the Patriots on April 5 as a free agent. Belichick was clearly impressed with the versatility he showed in the last two years with the Lions.

“Played more in their sub than in the regular defense, although he played some in there too,” Belichick continued. “He’€™s played inside and outside, so he’€™s played both middle linebacker and the Sam and Will, both on and off the line of scrimmage in a 4-3 and 3-4, going back to Dallas and Miami and Detroit was the 4-3 package with the off the line, three linebacker scheme, four man line scheme. He’€™s done a lot of different things. He’€™s a very versatile player and he’€™s smart so learning really hasn’€™t been a problem for him. He’€™s been able to handle multiple responsibilities so far.”

Versatility in the front seven is something already very apparent to Carpenter.

“We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of different things and I think they’re going to try to take advantage of that,” Carpenter said. “They’re moving guys around, doing all kinds of different stuff. whatever the coaches can scheme up and find that fits our talents the best, that’s probably what well do. hopefully it works pretty well.

“It’s been exciting. It’s been great being here with the guys, getting acclimated to everything, offseason program, OTAs and then minicamp. It’s been great just to kind of get a feel for how everyone plays, get to know guys, so when you’re coming into camp you ahve a strong relationship. I think that really helps.”

Carpenter has never really fulfilled the promise he showed at Ohio State, a potential that made him the Cowboys’ first-round pick – 18th overall – in the 2006 NFL Draft. In his four years in “Big D” he failed to establish a regular starting role, racking up 96 tackles. He was also the target of harassment.

During a 2008 episode of “Hard Knocks”, Carpenter was continuously beaten in a pads and shorts practice by Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo. That was the episode Colombo referred to Carpenter as “Barbie Carpenter” as Colombo made fun of his shoulder length blonde hair (which he still has – see photo above) and his lack of toughness. Carpenter’s highlight came in 2009, when he was the primary nickel linebacker. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 minicamp, Bill Belichick, Bobby Carpenter, Dallas Cowboys
Andre Carter gives Patriots D something to jump about 10.17.11 at 10:15 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots defense has been much maligned all season for its inability to stop opposing offenses from marching up and down the field, and specifically for its inability to get to the opposing quarterback.

Defensive end Andre Carter was brought to New England in the offseason to do just that — get to the quarterback.

Playing a lot of right defensive end on Sunday, Carter kept the pressure on and it finally paid off in two quarterback sacks, with one potentially saving the Patriots four points, the difference in New England’s 20-16 win over the Cowboys.

With the Cowboys looking like they had finally rediscovered their offense on their first possession of the third quarter, Tony Romo had his team first-and-goal at the Patriots 7, with New England clinging to a 13-10 lead.

Following an incompletion, it was second-and-goal and Carter lined up opposite Cowboys right tackle Tyron Smith. Romo dropped back and Carter blew past Smith and made a beeline for Romo. Carter didn’t miss and dumped him for an 11-yard loss. Carter got up and performed his version of the sack dance — the “Quincy Jump,” named for his son.

“Yeah, a high long jump,” Carter said with his trademark bellowing laugh. “I don’€™t know what it was, it just kind of sprouted up. That’€™s my son, the ‘Quincy Jump.’ I don’€™t know how it happened, it just kind of happened, one of those things. Sacks are hard to come by, especially now that the league has changed so much. So the more you can get, the better.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andre Carter, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, nfl
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