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In Doug Martin, Patriots see a lot of C.J. Spiller 09.19.13 at 8:31 pm ET
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Doug Martin will have the Patriots in his sights Sunday at Gillette. (AP)

Doug Martin will have the Patriots in his sights Sunday at Gillette. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots have seen Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin before. They saw him in the preseason. They saw him in three joint practices between the Patriots and Buccaneers in the second week of August.

But even more to the point, they saw him in the season opener in Buffalo, or at least a very close reproduction. Speaking after practice Thursday, Patriots edge rusher Rob Ninkovich compared Martin to Bills running back C.J. Spiller in style and substance.

“Quick guy,” Ninkovich said. “He can make a lot of plays out there by testing the edge and also inside. I think, as a defensive line, you have to be strong on the edges, set the edge, not allow him to bounce the ball out and make yards that way. Good challenge for us to just keep him contained and not let him run all over the place because he’s fast.

“Spiller is similar, similar styles, really quick. Quick guy in space so you want to keep him bottled up.”

If the Patriots are making open comparisons like that then it’s likely they will try to replicate the game plan in the opener that worked so well. Spiller had just 41 yards on 17 carries with a long of nine yards. The second time Spiller touched the ball, the Patriots forced a fumble that led to a Tom Brady-to-Julian Edelman TD connection. The Patriots bottled Spiller up like a fine wine, holding him to five catches for just 14 yards. Martin has 209 yards on 53 carries in his first two games, good for a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. Martin hasn’t done much in the passing game, catching just two balls for -1 yard.

Ninkovich admitted the strategy would be similar. It’s worth noting that the Patriots on Sept. 8 against Buffalo went primarily with a nickel package (five defensive backs and two linebackers) in base defense to put additional speed on the field to help the edge rushers contain Spiller.

“Similar because you just don’t let a guy like that hit the edge and get going. You need to set a firm edge and not have him hit it running,” Ninkovich said. “Yeah, that he’s explosive. You know that he’s a dangerous guy and a target so he’s a guy you just want to take care of.”

Vince Wilfork noted that if Martin gets going, it can make their other weapons – most notably receiver Vincent Jackson – much more dangerous and harder to contain.

“He’s one of them,” Wilfork said of Martin in the Tampa Bay arsenal. “He’s a good, good football player. He’s a great back, can block, can run, can catch. We have our hands full with him and Vincent Jackson.”

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Preseason fantasy football rankings: Running backs 08.19.13 at 1:26 pm ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2013_hdr_v6

Today we take a look at the top 50 backs for fantasy football purposes with write-ups for the top 24 — the backs that start in 12-team formats. If you are looking for even more information, join us at Rotobahn.com, where we break them all down and update content every day. I will be back Tuesday with a look at the receivers, so check back with us for that. You can find my take on the quarterbacks here and the tight ends here. If you are looking for some sleepers, check out my article at Rotobahn that I’ll be posting later today. If you need any clarification regarding these rankings, feel free to tweet a question to @rotobahn with the hashtag #FantasyWEEI. Finally, listen to our running back rankings podcast.

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings

AP is all by himself. He should be the first man taken in any league. He’s the best at his position by a large margin and his team is improving around him. And oh yeah … he’s healthy this year with no injuries to rehab. Take this guy if you can and do it with confidence.

2. Doug Martin, Buccaneers

Our No. 2 was a Rotobahn favorite as a rookie in 2012. We expect more of the same this year behind an improved offensive line. Martin is the total package with a perfect build for the position. His offensive line will be healthy this year, so his arrow is pointing decidedly up. Is it reasonable to take Foster or perhaps Jamaal Charles or C.J. Spiller? Sure, but we’d take Martin because we love his combo of high-end talent, health and situation. There are no backs on his roster that will dig into his fantasy value.

3. C.J. Spiller, Bills

Spiller is perhaps the most exciting back in the league and he is primed for his best year to date in new coach Doug Marrone’s offense. Spiller is diverse. While some backs get taken out of the game plan when their team falls behind, Spiller will still be involved … heavily. While some folks are worried about touch totals, we are not. Spiller is not a volume back. Twenty touches is more than enough for him to dominate a game, and he should get that on most weeks. Fred Jackson can still play and he will play, but Spiller is as dynamic as any ball-carrier in the world. The new coaching staff appreciates the need to use that advantage, and Spiller is now fully developed. He’s ready to explode, folks, and he is our third back and is worth even more in PPR formats.

4. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

He’s now a season removed from his ACL injury. He’s also in a new offense that we project to help his stats. Charles should be a more consistent threat with Andy Reid in charge and with Alex Smith under center. He had some minor issues with soreness last year, so there is still room for improvement with the knee. If that happens, and JC is less limited, he could really break out. He’s a great way to start your team in any format and is arguably as good as anybody once AP is off the board. A career year in 2013 or 2014 is very likely as long as he holds up health-wise. Charles has increased value in PPR formats.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 10: Falcons continue to sit at top 11.06.12 at 11:15 am ET
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The Falcons remain the only undefeated team in the NFL at 8-0 and fly atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings once again. Breathing down their necks for the No. 1 spot in the conference are the Bears. Chicago finally moves into the NFC-dominated top five after an impressive performance against the Titans.

We’re nine weeks into the season, and one of the main storylines has been the emergence of the rookies. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Doug Martin all have made significant impacts. Luck has helped lift the Colts all the way to the No. 15 spot.

Week 10 games to watch: No. 2 Texans at No. 5 Bears, No. 12 Cowboys at No. 20 Eagles, and No. 1 Falcons at No. 17 Saints.

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

1. (1) Falcons (8-0) — They’ve found a way to win in each of their eight games, and that’s all that matters. Since 1978, 15 teams have started the season 8-0, and six have gone on to win the Super Bowl.

Houston Texans2. (2) Texans (7-1) — The three-headed offensive attack of Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson was in full force on Sunday. The Texans have a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

San Francisco 49ers 3. (4) 49ers (6-2) — The Niners have a great opportunity to deliver a second championship to the city of San Francisco in five months. Coming off an impressive overall performance, this team has proven why it is one of the most balanced in the league.

Green Bay Packers4. (5) Packers (6-3) — The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for a decimated Packers team. Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings are just a few of the key players who are nursing injuries.

Chicago Bears5. (6) Bears (7-1) — The Bears will have an opportunity to prove they are an elite team in the NFL the next two weeks when they take on the Texans and then the 49ers. The Bears defense loves to score, with seven interception returns for touchdowns.

New England Patriots 6. (7) Patriots (5-3) — Give the Patriots credit for upgrading at a position that was a serious weakness. The Aqib Talib acquisition has the potential to be a difference-maker as to whether the team reaches the Super Bowl or not.

Pittsburgh Steelers 7. (10) Steelers (5-3) — What has gotten into the Steelers run game? Pittsburgh running backs have rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games. The added production has done wonders for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense.

8. (8) Ravens (6-2) — Many were calling for more carries for Ray Rice, and it seems like John Harbaugh listened. Rice had a season-high 25 carries against the Browns. Ravens fans now should worry about the injuries that have decimated the defense. A number of starters are out and Haloti Ngata is playing through a bevy of injuries.

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