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Scouting Report: What you need to know about Patriots-Broncos 01.23.16 at 2:26 pm ET
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Can Julian Edelman be the difference maker in Sunday's AFC title game? (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

Can Julian Edelman be the difference maker in Sunday’s AFC title game? (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s what you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s AFC title game between the Patriots and Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

There is no scenario I can imagine where the success or failure of the Patriots on Sunday will depend on their ability to run the ball, other than as a teaser to set up some play-action possibilities later in the game. Steven Jackson (21 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD) has done well in his limited time in New England, but given the strengths and weaknesses of both sides heading into this matchup, it would be a surprise if the Patriots had more than 20 designed runs in Sunday’s game against the Broncos. New England finished the regular season 30th in the league when it came to running the ball, averaging 87.8 rushing yards per game and 29th in yards per carry at 3.7, while Denver was third in the NFL in run defense, having allowed 83.6 yards per contest (and a league-best 3.3 yards per carry) on the ground. Not a palatable matchup for the Patriots — as a result, don’t expect them to run the ball much on Sunday.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

This is going to be one of two matchups that decide the game (with the other being Denver’s ability to run the ball, but we’ll get to that momentarily). Can the Patriots utilize the options in the passing game who weren’t available to quarterback Tom Brady in the first game this time around? From this viewpoint, the feeling is that a healthy Rob Gronkowski, combined with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (neither of whom played in the November showdown between the two teams) will be enough to gain an edge on a Denver defense that was one of the best in the league against the pass over the course of the 2015 season. Expect the Patriots to come out in a spread formation, with four or five-wide across the board, and if they can successfully delay their quick-strike passing game — that is to say, have Brady get the ball out consistently to trusted targets like Edelman, Amendola and James White — in two seconds or less, then New England is going to roll. At the same time, there’s a chess-match aspect to this as well. If the Broncos are able to disrupt the timing of the New England receivers and get their hands on them off the line, that could slow things down. (Of course, the Patriots could counteract this with plenty of pre-snap movement and motion, as they have done in the past.) The other thing that Brady needs to be mindful of is the fact that if the Denver front seven can’t get to him in two seconds before he gets the ball out, they’d likely come at him with hands high trying to bat down passes. All food for thought as both sides try and one-up each other as part of what will be the most important matchup of the contest.

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Read More: Aqib Talib, C.J. Anderson, Danny Amendola, Demaryius Thomas
Danny Amendola reportedly notified of NFL fine for hit on punt return vs. Chiefs, plans appeal 01.22.16 at 11:43 am ET
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Bill Belichick insists Danny Amendola did nothing wrong when he drilled Jamell Fleming while the Chiefs cornerback was attempting to down a punt deep in Patriots territory during Saturday’s game.

The NFL apparently disagrees.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Amendola was told he is being fined for the hit, which drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. Reiss reports that the fine would be $23,152 based on the league’s formula.

Amendola said he will appeal the fine.

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Chiefs’ Jamell Fleming compares Danny Amendola hit to Vontaze Burfict 01.17.16 at 12:08 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Jamell Fleming certainly is doing a lot of talking.

In the locker room following the game, Fleming called Danny Amendola‘s hit on him “calculated.” Then, he took to Twitter and compared the hit to the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict’s hit on the Steelers’ Antonio Brown from last weekend. Burfict was suspended three games to start the 2016 season.

Fleming’s tweet read: If Vontaze Burfict got suspended for 3 games for a shoulder. What yall think this weak dude should get? He also included video of the play.

On Sunday morning, Bill Belichick said the hit was clean, and so did Amendola after the game, adding he would appeal if he gets fined.

Amendola got an unnecessary roughness penalty on the play.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Danny Amendola, Jamell Fleming,
Bill Belichick on Danny Amendola: ‘It was a legal play. We’re allowed to block him’ at 10:50 am ET
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Danny Amendola (80) hits Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Jamell Fleming in the first half Saturday. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

Danny Amendola (80) hits Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Jamell Fleming in the first half Saturday. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has no problem with what Danny Amendola did to try and give the Patriots good field position during a key stretch of the first half.

With the Patriots defense having stopped the Chiefs at the New England 37, Kansas City decided to punt instead of attempted a 55-yard field goal.

Dustin Colquitt pooched a punt inside the 5 that Jamell Fleming tried to down at the Patriots 2. Danny Amendola, who did not call a fair catch, was the only Patriot nearby and drilled Fleming with a hit to the Fleming’s upper body near the shoulders and head.

Instead of trying to field the punt, Amendola had his sights set on making sure Fleming couldn’t down it. He drilled Fleming with a blow to the shoulder area that sent him to the ground hard. As it turned out, D.J. Alexander did down the punt at the 4.

Amendola was flagged for unnecessary roughness but it only cost the Patriots two yards of field position. Fleming took exception with the “calculated” hit but it was the right play by Amendola in the eyes of head coach Bill Belichick.

“Saw him trying to block the guy trying to down the ball,” Belichick said in a conference call Sunday morning. “It’s hard to tell from the coaching film where the hit occurred. It was a legal play. We’re allowed to block him. [Amendola] didn’t give a fair catch signal so he’s allowed to block.”

The play escalated quickly to a scrum when Chiefs linebacker and special teamer Dezman Moses came over and grabbed Amendola’s facemask.

“And then after the play, when Moses came over and snatched his facemask and started shaking him, that was… I’m not really sure what all happened on that,” Belichick added. “There were a lot of bodies around there, a lot of pushing and shoving and all that. I think you’d have to ask the officials exactly what they called on that.”

Amendola said he will appeal any fine if it’s levied by the league since he believes he made a legal, clean play.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Danny Amendola, Dezman Moses, Jamell Fleming
Chiefs’ Jamell Fleming upset by ‘calculated’ Danny Amendola hit at 10:01 am ET
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FOXBORO — Danny Amendola thought the hit was clean, but the Chiefs’ Jamell Fleming didn’t.

In the second quarter of the Patriots’€™ win over the Chiefs, Amendola was back inside the Patriots’€™ 10-yard line to receive a punt. As the ball was coming his way, he moved aside to hopefully have the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback. During that process, he hit Fleming with a violent shoulder to head hit and was flagged for necessary roughness.

Fleming called the hit “calculated.”

“Of course he knows he stuck me and everything,” Fleming said to reporters after the game. “€œAnd the crowd knows it, but there’€™s nothing I can do about it. We have one of the best pooch-area punt teams, of course, and I find the ball very good. Of course that was calculated. That wasn’€™t no fluke play. Everybody knows that, your own fans know that. So that’€™s how you know it’€™s bad.”

The Patriots beat the Chiefs 27-20, advancing to their fifth straight AFC title game.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Danny Amendola, Jamell Fleming,
Danny Amendola: ‘I’ll appeal if I’m getting fined’ at 6:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — In the second quarter of the Patriots’ win over the Chiefs, Danny Amendola was back inside the Patriots’ 10-yard line to receive a punt. As the ball was coming his way, he moved aside to hopefully have the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback.

During that process, he hit Jamell Fleming with a violent shoulder to head hit. He was flagged for necessary roughness, but Amendola said afterwards he thought the play was clean.

“I’€™ll appeal if I’€™m getting fined, but I thought it was a clean hit,” Amendola said. “We’€™re coached to do that. It’€™s a big play if I block that guy and the ball bounces in the end zone. We get the ball on the 20-yard line, so it’€™s a big play in the game, big play for field position.”

Here is video of the play, judge for yourself if you think it’s clean:

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Danny Amendola,
Rob Gronkowski (knee) misses Patriots practice, while Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola remain limited 01.14.16 at 4:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots’ injury report was the same as Wednesday’s except for two changes.

Rob Gronkowski and Jonathan Freeny, who both practiced Wednesday on a limited basis, did not practice on Thursday. Gronkowski reportedly was at the hospital receiving an injection to his knee, while Freeny’s absence was not injury related.

There were 10 Patriots limited including: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower and Sebastian Vollmer.

Once again, Tom Brady was a full participant after suffering an ankle sprain in the regular-season finale.

There is no media availability on Friday, but the team will release its final injury report of the week with game designations.

Here is the complete Patriots injury report from Thursday:

DID NOT PRACTICE
OL Tre’€™ Jackson (knee)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)
LB Jonathan Freeny (hand/not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (knee)
TE Scott Chandler (knee)
CB Justin Coleman (concussion)
DB Nate Ebner (hand)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower (knee)
DE Chandler Jones (abdomen/toe)
DE Rob Ninkovich (shin)
OT Sebastian Vollmer (ankle)
OT LaAdrian Waddle (shoulder)

FULL PARTICIPATION
QB Tom Brady (ankle)
OL Josh Kline (shoulder)
WR Brandon LaFell (foot)
S Devin McCourty (ankle)

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Rob Grokowski
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