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Malcolm Mitchell reportedly expected to play vs. Steelers, how does this impact Michael Floyd, Danny Amendola? 01.22.17 at 12:04 pm ET
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Malcolm MItchell reportedly is expected to play against the Steelers. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm MItchell reportedly is expected to play against the Steelers. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots will have a gameday roster decision to make in advance of Sunday’s AFC championship game.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell will play against the Steelers after missing the last two games with a knee injury. The report also adds Chris Hogan (thigh) is good to go as well.

With Mitchell out against the Texans last weekend, the Patriots went with Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd. This could be altered a bit Sunday with Mitchell appearing to be ready to go.

It seems unlikely the team will have five receivers active against the Steelers because of other needs on the roster. Edelman and Hogan are locks to play. Mitchell is playing, according to Schefter, so this leaves the Patriots seemingly deciding between Amendola and Floyd for the last wide receiver roster spot.

Amendola returned last week from an ankle injury that kept him out of the last month of the season. He was the fourth receiver on the depth chart, but it’s hard to say if that was just a case of him working his way back and not ready for a full work load.

Floyd, who joined the Patriots in December, played in the last two regular season games before the playoff game. The former Cardinals receiver didn’t have the best of games last Saturday, as his chemistry with Tom Brady appeared a tick off. Brady led Floyd too much on one of his interceptions and there seemed to be some issues with Floyd’s breaks on routes.

This reporter sees the Patriots going with Amendola over Floyd because of Amendola’s chemistry with Brady (remember how important he was in the playoffs the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl?) and the fact he has some special teams value returning punts. Floyd doesn’t have any special teams value.

Ultimately, the final decision will be known around 5:10 p.m. Sunday when inactives are released.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Floyd,
Scouting Report: What you have to know about Texans-Patriots 01.13.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

This may not be a big component of the game in the early going, but it will be before things are all said and done. LeGarrette Blount (299 carries, 1,161 rushing yards, a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns) was able to run for big yardage when these two teams met back in September (24 carries, 105 yards, 2 TDs), and while it’s dicey to try and compare these two teams now to what happened a few months ago, stats tell us that the Texans are still vulnerable when it comes to rush defense; they finished the year 12th in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 99.7 rushing yards per game. One thing with Blount, as we saw in September? There are few guys in the league better when it comes to executing in a four-minute offense. In the second half of that win over Houston, he had 17 carries for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s not so much Blount’s total yards that matter, but when he gets them. One other guy worth watching will be Dion Lewis (64 carries, 283 yards), who got a significant uptick in reps between the tackles over the last month of the season as a changeup offering to the wrecking-ball approach of Blount.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

If they’re all healthy, we’re an advocate for the idea of dressing all five receivers and giving New England the sort of depth in the passing game that they haven’t had in a playoff game in a long time. Basically, give Tom Brady (67 percent completion rate, 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs) as many options as possible when it comes to the quick hitters; you get the ball out as fast as possible, it minimizes the chances of the Houston pass rush getting after the quarterback. Expect the bulk of the targets to go to Julian Edelman (98 catches, 159 targets, 1,106 yards, 3 TDs), who has been as rock solid as they come over the second half of the season. Martellus Bennett (55 catches, 73 targets, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and Chris Hogan (38 catches, 58 targets, 680 yards, 4 TDs) will also figure into the mix.

Over the course of the season, the Texans were second against the pass (201.6 yards allowed per game), while their 17 takeaways were tied for 26th in the league. Safety Quentin Demps, who has been dogged by a hamstring issue, leads Houston with six interceptions. Per Football Outsiders, the Texans aren’t great at slowing backs in the passing game, which means there could be more chances for Lewis (17 catches) and James White (60 catches) on Saturday. Meanwhile, Whitney Mercilus (7.5 sacks), Jadaveon Clowney (6 sacks) and Benardrick McKinney (5 sacks) lead one of the better pass rush groups in the league. Look for lots of heavy sets with an extra blocker (Cam Fleming) when it comes to helping the tackles keep Brady as clean as possible. For what it’s worth, Brady has gone up against a Romeo Crennel-led defense on three occasions, and has averaged 20-for-32 (63 percent) for 242 yards, just over two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks per game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: A.J. Bouye, Brock Osweiler, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola
Will Danny Amendola play Saturday vs. Texans? 01.10.17 at 5:03 pm ET
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Danny Amendola spoke for the first time since his injury on Tuesday. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Danny Amendola spoke for the first time since his injury on Tuesday. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Danny Amendola hasn’t played a game since Dec. 4 against the Rams when he sprained his ankle returning a punt in the second half.

The receiver missed the final month of the year, but returned to practice last week and has practiced each of the last three practices.

Amendola spoke for the first time since the injury Tuesday afternoon in the Patriots locker room, noting he hasn’t experienced any setbacks.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel good today. Getting ready for tomorrow. I have had no setbacks.”

Added Amendola: “I feel good. Running around good and taking it day-by-day.”

After not being seen at Gillette Stadium for virtually the entire month of December and being seen in a walking boot walking around town, he was back at the facility the final week of the season, which was a sign progress was being made.

“Honestly, the only thing I have been focusing on in the last four, five weeks is getting as healthy as possible, to feel as good as I can and be available for whatever the coach needs me to do,” Amendola said.

He admitted it was hard missing as much time as he did.

“Any time you miss time, mentally it’s draining,” Amendola said. “It’s frustrating. You try and get back as soon as you can. I love playing football. It’s what I am here to do. That is what I am working for.”

Amendola finished the regular season with 23 catches for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

The next biggest question is will he be on the field Saturday night against the Texans?

“Whatever coach wants me to do,” he said.

Judging by the way he’s progressed over the last few weeks and being on the practice field leading into the postseason, it would appear Amendola will be returning for the games that matter most, starting on Saturday night.

“The playoff is what you play for,” he said. “That is why everyone is here. That is what we’ve been waiting on all year. We’re ready to go.”

Read More: Danny Amendola,
Will Patriots have 5 wide receivers active Saturday vs. Houston? Bill Belichick doesn’t seem opposed to the idea at 10:22 am ET
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Danny Amendola should be active for Saturday's game against Houston. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Danny Amendola should be active for Saturday’s game against Houston. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The Patriots will have a big decision to make prior to the game Saturday night against the Texans — have five active wide receivers and inactivate a healthy player who would have played otherwise, or go with four receivers and sit a pretty good player.

With the addition of Michael Floyd and Danny Amendola returning to the practice field, the team now has five receivers who could play in the games. Besides Floyd and Amendola there’s Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell (not including Matthew Slater).

Although Amendola hasn’t played since injuring his ankle Dec. 4, he seems to be trending in the right direction to play Saturday night after practicing last week.

“Nobody works harder than Danny. Nobody works harder,” Bill Belichick said. “He’s done everything he can do. I am sure he will continue to do that. We’ll see how it goes.”

The Patriots haven’t been faced with a decision of making five wide outs active all year. In fact, they’ve played most games with three healthy receivers.

If New England elects to have five wide outs active for the game, there are a few candidates to be made inactive who have been active of late including, Geneo Grissom, Matt Lengel, Justin Coleman, Cyrus Jones and Elandon Roberts.

It seems like having five receivers active is the wise play given they can all do different things.

Edelman and Hogan are locks to be active. Mitchell, pending he’s healthy, has been a favorite target of Brady of late. Floyd is the only one who can really stretch a defense and displayed his value in the season finale against the Dolphins and Amendola has special teams value as he can return punts and keep Edelman out of harms way.

Belichick seemed to hint he wouldn’t be opposed to having five receivers active for the game.

“Well, we’ll have to do what we feel is best for the team for this game like we always do,” he said. “We’ve had that situation several times this year where we’ve inactivated players that had they been active would have played. We’re under the same constraints as everybody else — 46 active. We’ve had a lot of healthy inactives this year, which hasn’t always been the case.

“It hasn’t been the case very much in the past, so it’s been decisions we’ve had to make this year where in other years a lot of the time the decisions were made for you based on availability of players. Whatever it is this week it is. We’ll make the best decisions we can that we feel is best for this game. I can’t tell you what they answer will be. We’ll see how it goes.”

If the Patriots elect to only go with four receivers, it would likely come down to Floyd or Mitchell being inactive, but the likely scenario appears five receivers will be active Saturday against Houston.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Michael Floyd,
Danny Amendola returns to Patriots practice, but Tom Brady, 2 others missing 01.04.17 at 1:00 pm ET
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Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola

FOXBORO — There was good news on the Patriots practice field Wednesday afternoon.

After about a month of sitting out due to a high ankle sprain, wide receiver Danny Amendola returned to practice, which was held in full pads on the lower grass field behind Gillette Stadium.

The team did have three players missing in Tom Brady, Malcolm Mitchell and Cyrus Jones. Mitchell and Jones both didn’t travel to Miami last weekend, as both are dealing with knee injuries. Brady has been dealing with a thigh injury the last few weeks, so with no game this weekend it’s likely just a maintenance day.

Amendola was very excited to be back on the field with his teammates. He was giving high-fives and even head-butting a few players. Before stretching, the receiver was practicing catching punts from a JUGS machine. It would seem likely he will be the Patriots’ primary punt returner in the postseason.

Given there’s no game this week, there will be no injury report. The team will practice Thursday before being off until Monday.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Tom Brady,
Danny Amendola (ankle) showing signs he could be ready for postseason 01.02.17 at 5:37 pm ET
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Danny Amendola is trending towards being ready for the playoffs. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Danny Amendola is trending towards being ready for the playoffs. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The last time Danny Amendola stepped on the field was Dec. 4 against the Rams when he suffered a sprained ankle returning a punt.

The original diagnosis was a high-ankle sprain and the team hoped to get him back for the playoffs.

In the few weeks following the injury, Amendola wasn’t spotted at all inside the Patriots locker room and his chair was often folded up, but was seen in public with a walking boot.

Then, early last week the receiver was seen inside the locker room without a boot — a sign he was making progress.

Monday delivered another good sign when Amendola emerged from the team meeting room with the rest of the receivers and strolled through the locker room at a brisk pace and even tried on some new receiver gloves.

“We’ll see how it is going with him. He’s working hard,” Bill Belichick said Sunday on the Patriots Radio Network’s pregame show. “Nobody works harder than Danny. We’ll see next week and maybe take a look at that with where we’re at.”

With the addition of Amendola, the Patriots would have five wide receivers in Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Floyd. It remains to be seen whether all five could be active on game day.

The Patriots’ first playoff game is set for January 14, well over a month since Amendola suffered the injury and judging by what’s taken place it appears he should be ready to go.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Danny Amendola,
Dont’a Hightower, Danny Amendola missing from Patriots practice 12.22.16 at 11:56 am ET
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Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — One of the stars of the Patriots defense wasn’t at the start of practice on Thursday.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower wasn’t present after being limited in Wednesday’s session with a knee injury. He’s been off the injury report the last few weeks, but re-appeared on Wednesday.

Also absent was receiver Danny Amendola, who is reportedly out for the remainder of the regular season with a sprained ankle.

The injury report will come out Thursday afternoon, with designations for the game not until Friday.

If Hightower is unable to play Saturday, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts figure to see expanded roles. Hightower missed Weeks 2-3 also with a knee injury.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Dont'a Hightower,
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