|Fantasy Football: Week 14 starts, sits||12.07.12 at 9:24 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 14 starts and sits. It’s a high-stakes week and I have found some matchups worth highlighting, but a lot can change between now and Sunday, so stop by our Sunday morning chat if you need any last-minute help or a second opinion on a lineup decision. We’ll kick off the chat at 11 a.m. I hope to see you there. We also have full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.com and I will update them over the weekend, so check that out, too.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers vs. Eagles
Freeman will get back on track after a few rough weeks of tough matchups. The Eagles at home looks like a get-well game to me. Start the Bucs QB if you normally would.
Matthew Stafford, Lions at Packers
Don’t overthink. Stafford has a few red flags, like injuries to his receivers and a road matchup against Green Bay, but he also has a piping-hot Calvin Johnson to work with, and Stafford himself has played a bit better recently. The Lions also have solid depth players like Tony Scheffler, who can replace guys like Titus Young and Ryan Broyles in the slot. Unless you have a really strong second option, just roll with Stafford in Week 14.
Eli Manning, Giants vs. Saints
He was OK last week despite the medium statistical output. Look for Manning and the Giants to post better numbers at home against a weak Saints defense. I have him ranked 12th overall this week in our preliminary rankings.
Chad Henne, Jaguars vs. Jets
Henne is likely to be playing without Cecil Shorts and already has lost Laurent Robinson for the year. The Jets play solid defense, so this is a situation to avoid for Week 14.
Philip Rivers, Chargers at Steelers
He’s going bad and his team is in turmoil. Throw in a bad road matchup against a very motivated team and you have a reason to look elsewhere. Rivers is viable but very risky and he lacks the upside he’s had in recent years. Avoid him if you can.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Falcons stay on top, Ravens tumble||10.23.12 at 9:22 am ET|
Matt Ryan and the Falcons survive another week at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The undefeated Falcons had the week off and will try to improve to 7-0 when they take on the Eagles. The Texans jump the Giants (3) and reclaim the No. 2 position. The only team to drop out of the top five was the depleted Ravens. A blowout loss and an endless amount of injuries was enough to drop Baltimore to No. 8.
The NFC is dominating the top five with four teams occupying spots. At the other end of the spectrum, the AFC is in full control taking up four of the bottom five positions.
Could the top ten teams be safe for another week? None of them will play a fellow top-ranked team. Week 8′s most intriguing games include the Falcons at Eagles, the Giants at Cowboys and the Saints at Broncos.
1. (1) Falcons (6-0) — The undefeated Falcons saw defensive tackle Corey Peters return to practice Monday for the first time this year. The 6 foot 3, 300-pound defensive lineman should help improve the run defense which is currently ranked 28th in the league.
2. (3) Texans (6-1) — The Texans got their first win against an opponent over .500 on Sunday. It was against an injury-plagued Ravens team but it still was a very impressive victory. Houston ranks in the top of the league in many different offensive and defensive statistical categories.
3. (2) Giants (5-2) — If your team is trailing or tied in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning is the quarterback you want behind center. For the 27th time in his career, the Giants QB led his team on a game-winning drive when he hit Victor Cruz for a 77-yard touchdown pass Sunday against the Redskins.
4. (5) 49ers (5-2) — They don’t have an elite offense and a top three quarterback but the Niners are still an extremely entertaining team to watch. They play a different brand of football than what we’ve grown accustomed to watching in the NFL. This team plays tough, is extremely physical, and loves running the ball down the opponents throat.
5. (6) Packers (4-3) — Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has come alive over the past two weeks. They’ve scored 72 points in two games and that’s without Greg Jennings. They did suffer a crushing blow with the injury to Charles Woodson. The Packers defensive captain is expected to miss six weeks.
6. (7) Bears (5-1) — The Bears defense can carry the team into the playoffs if Jay Cutler continues to protect the football. The Bears have outscored their opponents by a total of 84 points this season and are allowing an average of just 13 points per game on defense.
7. (8) Patriots (4-3) — The Patriots pass defense is horrendous and the team’s inability to close games is certainly alarming, however if the past has taught us anything, Bill Belichick‘s team will improve. The Pats are 16-2 the last two years once November hits and are undefeated in December. This team has to get better in a lot of different areas but they have plenty of time to do so in a mediocre division.
8. (4) Ravens (5-2) — The Ravens have been decimated by injuries and that caught up with them against the Texans. However, a lack of Ray Rice has also contributed to the loss and that is usually the case when Rice’s carries are limited. Rice had just four carries in four drives in the first quarter and two carries in the second quarter. John Harbaugh has to utilize his best offensive weapon more.
9. (10) Broncos (3-3) — Peyton Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last four games and has 11 touchdown passes with just one interception in that span as well. John Elway‘s gamble on Manning has paid off so far. The Broncos are easily the most well-rounded team in their division.
10. (11) Steelers (3-3) — Not even injuries could prevent the Steelers from evening up their record at 3-3. They had standout performances from a third-string running back, Jonathan Dwyer, and a heavily criticized cornerback, Ike Taylor. Dwyer rushed for over 100 yards and Taylor held AJ Green to just one catch.
11. (9) Seahawks (4-3) — The Seahawks are in a division filled with some of the best defensive teams in the league. The passing offense must improve. Seahawks receivers dropped five passes against the Niners on Thursday night. Having a strong defense is important but you have to be able to put points on the board as well and Seattle ranks 31st in the league in average points scored.
12. (13) Eagles (3-3) — Coming off their bye week, it’s obvious where the Eagles need to improve most — turnovers. The team is on pace to turn the ball over 45 times this season.
13. (14) Cowboys (3-3) — Jason Garrett‘s squad stymied a two-game losing streak but lost offensive lineman Phil Costa in the process. That’s a tough loss to an already shaky line. The Cowboys have a key divisional game against the Giants Sunday and they’ll attempt to take the season series.
14. (16) Vikings (5-2) — It’s always important to put a W in the column but Christian Ponder‘s play of late has been alarming. He’s been making some real questionable decisions with the ball and has thrown two interceptions in each of his last three games.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 7: Patriots fall to No. 8||10.16.12 at 9:59 am ET|
The cliche “any given Sunday” has never seemed more true in the NFL. The one constant has been the undefeated Falcons, who reign supreme in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings for the fourth straight week. Other than the Falcons, the elite teams we’re used to seeing steamroll through the league do not exist anymore. The Patriots (8) and Packers (6) both have three losses; the Saints (17) have four. Meanwhile, surprising teams including the Seahawks (9), Cardinals (12) and Vikings (15) have four wins. There is parity throughout the league and that has made this season even more exciting and unpredictable than years past.
The once prestigious AFC East has turned into a division of mediocrity. All four teams are 3-3. The Patriots are the only AFC East team in the top 10 at No. 8. The Jets stand still at No. 20 while the Dolphins (21) and Bills (24) both jump up a few spots after victories. It’s amazing how quickly things have changed. The NFC West now has three of its four teams in the top 12.
Looking at the AFC, the entire conference is 3-3 or worse aside from the Texans and Ravens. Four teams represent the AFC in the top 10. That could change after Week 7 when the top two teams in the conference clash.
1. (1) Falcons (6-0) — They call him “Matty Ice” for a reason. Since his rookie season in 2008, Matt Ryan has 13 fourth-quarter comebacks and 19 game-winning drives. If we’ve learned anything from past dominant teams in the league, we know that it’s all about coming away with a victory rather than the way it looks.
2. (8) Giants (4-2) — Eli Manning and the Giants offense were able to move the ball with ease against one of the best defenses in the league. The defending Super Bowl champs showed the other 31 teams that they’re a serious threat to repeat.
3. (2) Texans (5-1) — The Texans failed their first real test of the season, and they failed miserably. The loss of Brian Cushing on defense proved to be a major blow on Sunday night when the Packers embarrassed the Texans D with six touchdowns. They’ll have another tough test Sunday against the Ravens.
4. (4) Ravens (5-1) —The Ravens have just been decimated with injuries — especially on defense. Ray Lewis is the latest Ravens player to drop. His leadership and guidance on the field can’t be replaced and certainly will have a major impact on the beleaguered Ravens D. Cornerback Lardarius Webb also is out for the year.
5. (3) 49ers (4-2) — Alex Smith has enjoyed recent success because of the way he protected the ball and didn’t turn it over. He had a total of five interceptions last season. In 2012, Smith already has four. Three of them came last Sunday against the Giants. It was the first time the Niners QB threw more than one interception in a game since Oct. 10, 2010.
6. (7) Packers (3-3) — The Packers offense erupted Sunday night and finally showed what everyone thought it was capable of. Aaron Rodgers felt vindicated after throwing six touchdown passes and quieting all of his doubters. Unfortunately for the Packers, the win came at a price. The team already was without key contributors Greg Jennings and B.J. Raji. Starting linebackers Nick Perry and D.J. Smith have been added to the team’s long injury list.
7. (6) Bears (4-1) — The Bears will immediately be tested coming off their bye week when they take on NFC North rival Detroit. Right now, the division is the Bears to lose. They should take advantage of the early lead they’ve built because the Packers aren’t going to lay down.
8. (5) Patriots (3-3) —The Patriots’ inability to close out games has become alarming. Bill Belichick‘s team already has matched its loss total from 2011. It’s evident the secondary still is among the worst in the league. The Patriots should still win the division, but fans will be looking to see improvement as the season continues.
9. (16) Seahawks (4-2) — Pete Carroll‘s Seahawks have developed a never-give-up identity that has propelled them to a 4-2 record. Three of those four wins have come against the Packers, Patriots and Cowboys. Backed by a hard-hitting secondary, the Seahawks have proven they can play with some of the best teams in the league.
10. (11) Broncos (3-3) — It doesn’t get much sweeter heading into a bye week. The Broncos need to build on the momentum they’ve established and use it to their advantage the second half of the season. They all believe Peyton Manning is capable of leading them on a Super Bowl run, and they should. The veteran has been tremendous since his return.
11. (9) Steelers (2-3) — The Steelers have been outscored 40-16 in the fourth quarter in their three losses this season. Those losses have all come against teams under .500. The lack of depth on the offensive line is alarming. The latest injury on the line came to center Maurkice Pouncey, who likely will be out against the Bengals in Week 7.
12. (10) Cardinals (4-2) — The one constant in Arizona is the quarterback carousel that continues to go round and round. One of the main reasons is that quarterback protection is a major weakness on this team. Kevin Kolb‘s injured ribs might keep him out of next week’s game against the Vikings.
|NFL Power Rankings, Week 1: Packers on top, Patriots lead AFC||09.05.12 at 11:21 am ET|
The much-anticipated 2012 NFL season kicks off Wednesday night in New Jersey as the defending Super Bowl champion Giants begin defense of their crown against the Cowboys. However, the Giants won’t start the year at No. 1 in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Led by MVP Aaron Rodgers, the Packers find themselves in the familiar No. 1 spot. Eli Manning and the Giants start at No. 3.
Behind Tom Brady and a high-powered offense, the Patriots once again are poised to be one of the best teams in the league. The Patriots are the top-ranked AFC team and sit at No. 2 overall.
It’s finally time to get answers to the countless questions around the NFL. How will Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow co-exist with the Jets? Can Peyton Manning be the Peyton Manning of old? How big of an impact will the replacement officials have on the game? All of these questions and more will be answered.
1. Packers (15-1) — Green Bay once again sets the standard in the NFL, seeking its second Super Bowl title in three years. Over the past two seasons, the Packers are 29-8 in the regular season and playoffs.
2. Patriots (13-3) — Brady and the Patriots offense will be as explosive as ever. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd will be giving opposing teams nightmares all season long. It will be interesting to see how improved Bill Belichick‘s defense is. Rookie Chandler Jones has the potential to be an absolute force on the defensive line.
3. Giants (9-7) — Eli Manning is clutch, maybe even more so than Brady. SI’s Peter King brought up an amazing stat about the Giants QB: In his last three games against the Patriots, Manning has been behind at the two-minute warning and each time has led his team to a go-ahead touchdown.
4. 49ers (13-3) — Jim Harbaugh‘s 49ers are one of the most complete teams in the NFL. The addition of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham should be enough for Alex Smith and the offense to improve in the red zone.
5. Ravens (12-4) — Baltimore fell just one dropped pass short of the Super Bowl. People talk about the “aging” defense, but Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have yet to show any signs of slowing down. On top of that, Haloti Ngata is one of the best defensive linemen in the game, and the addition of rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw gives the defense some youth.
|New England represents a new beginning for Robert Gallery||07.28.12 at 5:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For Robert Gallery, opportunity could be knocking.
The veteran offensive lineman, who was signed as a free agent this offseason by the Patriots, is coming into an uncertain situation in New England. No one is saying much about the future of last year’s starting right guard Brian Waters, while starting left guard Logan Mankins is coming off offseason knee surgery. Meanwhile, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has sat out all spring and the first three days of summer because of a back problem.
That could create a chance for the 32-year-old Gallery to suddenly become a key part of New England’s offensive line. The former Raider and Seahawk, who has played both guard and tackle over the course of his eight-year career in the NFL, has seen a lot of time at right guard over the first three days of camp, working with a reasonable facsimile of the Patriots’ starting offense.
At this point in the summer, Gallery has to be aware of the situation, but said after practice on Saturday that he’s not letting that uncertainty affect the way he goes about his business on the field.
“It doesn’t really affect me at all. I come to work every day and work on what I have to do to get better as a player, and all that stuff will play itself out,” said Gallery, who was given Matt Light’s old No. 72. “I’m just here to work on my skill, get better every day and do what I can do to help the team. That will all be decided once camp is over.”
Gallery, who was taken second overall (behind Eli Manning) in the 2004 draft, appeared to struggle at times in his professional career. (To be fair, seven seasons in Oakland can wear on a guy.) But after spending the 2011 in Seattle, he welcomed the chance for a fresh start in New England.
And while his Patriots’ career is still in its’ early stages, he’s already flashed some flexibility. He’s played some guard and tackle, filling in where needed, and has already developed a positive working relationship with veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
“[He’s] great. He’s a technician,” Gallery said of Scarnecchia. “He demands a lot, like a good coach should. It’s been enjoyable working with him so far. He pushes us to be the best, like he should do.
“It’s great,” he added. “I’m excited to be here and be here with this team, and just ready to get things rolling.”
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Training camp edition||07.26.12 at 7:13 am ET|
Training camps are underway across the NFL and it’s just 45 days until the Cowboys kick off the season against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Sept. 5. The offseason was filled with news of free agent signings, suspensions, player arrests and comeback kids. Now it’s time to see where all 32 teams rank before the preseason and injuries begin.
The two teams that dominated the regular season in 2011 find themselves at the top. Powered by their high flying offenses, the Packers and Patriots will start the season as two of the elite teams in the league. The Giants are at No. 3 coming off their second Super Bowl victory in five years.
The Saints (7) and Broncos (10) are two notable teams in the top 10. The anticipation is building by the day to see if Peyton Manning has something left in the tank and if the Saints can overcome “Bountygate.”
And now, since football is officially in the air, here is the first edition of WEEI’s 2012 NFL Power Rankings.
1. Packers (15-1) — Coming off a 15-1 season, the Packers addressed their defense in the offseason. Their first six draft picks were dedicated to the defensive side of the ball, and rightfully so. Green Bay’s defense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2011. With that said, the Packers still won 15 games. There’s no doubt, the Packers have a great shot at winning their second Super Bowl in three years.
2. Patriots (13-3) — The Patriots offense, once again led by Tom Brady, speaks for itself. The addition of Brandon Lloyd adds an outside threat to the arsenal. Bill Belichick will undoubtedly focus on improving the defense during training camp, and the team brought in the personnel to ensure that it’s not the 31st-ranked defense for a second year in a row. First-round draft picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are expected to make an immediate impact. Both add a tremendous amount of athleticism to a defensive squad that struggled to defend the pass and get off the field on third down.
3. Giants (9-7) — The defending Super Bowl champs are No. 1 in another category, most difficult schedule. The Giants will face six teams that made the postseason in 2011, and don’t forget, that doesn’t include the Eagles or Cowboys. If any team is up to the challenge, it’s the G-Men. Eli Manning has proven he is indeed an elite QB in the NFL, and you can ask the Packers and Patriots about New York’s relentless pass-rushing defense.
4. 49ers (13-3) — Down to his final out, Alex Smith resurrected his career in San Francisco. It was obvious new coach Jim Harbaugh made a major impact in improving the former first overall pick. If Smith can improve on third down and in the red zone, the 49ers can once again compete for a Super Bowl. The offense finally has weapons on the outside to go along with the run game, and Vernon Davis. Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will help the Niners put points on the board.
5. Ravens (12-4) — Ray Lewis and the Ravens were so close to the Super Bowl they could taste it. They’ll once again be one of the elite teams in the NFL vying for a chance to play for the Lombardi Trophy. Joe Flacco is the biggest X-factor. In the AFC championship, he proved he can play in big games. He’ll have to be more consistent in 2012. The Ravens should once again have their signature shutdown D, even with Terrell Suggs out until November. Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw will be relied upon to fill in for “T-Sizzle.”
|National media reflects on what won, lost Super Bowl XLVI||02.06.12 at 12:18 pm ET|
In the immediate aftermath of the Giants’ 21-17 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night, several major national publications and outlets tried to dissect and figure out what happened at Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as the long-lasting effects of this game moving forward.
Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King, in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback piece, wrote that there is no quarterback he would rather have in the final two minutes with the game on the line than Eli Manning.
Wrote King: I still can’t get over that throw from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham. As much as I respect the catch (it will be the greatest of Manningham’s career, no matter how long he plays), I am in awe of the throw. How did Manning make that throw? Why make that throw? Why did he pick the target of the guy with a corner in coverage and a safety flying over to crush Manningham? The 38-yard throw — which began an 88-yard, Super Bowl-winning touchdown drive that Bill Belichick will see in his nightmares — is just one more reason to never, ever question how good Eli Manning is. He will have some crappy games the rest of his career, because two or three times a year he stinks. But I ask you: What quarterback alive do you want with the ball in his hands in the last two minutes of a big game?
Thought so. Eli Manning.
Despite the three Super Bowl rings and the five Super Bowl appearances that Belichick and Tom Brady have amassed in their time together, Mike Freeman of CBS Sports feels that the legacies of both men will suffer as a result of the Patriots’ second loss to the Giants in a Super Bowl.
Wrote Freeman: This was both Brady’s finest moment and his worst. The same could be said for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Both are among the best in history. Both have forgotten more about their craft than most will ever know but there is no question about the following: their impressive legacies take a hit. A pretty good sized one, too.
There are some already reassessing the Patriots legacy. Noting that the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tweeted just minutes after the game: “Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!”
Brady has been beaten twice now by Eli Manning in the biggest of spots and Belichick has lost to Coughlin the same. That’s not great for legacies. That’s what you call rebuttal material.
With otherwise sterling legacies and reputations now under question, some observers, like Bill Reiter of Fox Sports, wonders whether Sunday night’s loss may have signaled the end of the Patriots’ run as title contenders.
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