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Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Tom Brady ‘making a pretty good supporting cast look a lot better’ 10.27.14 at 9:40 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ big win over the Bears and next week’€™s battle against the Broncos. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

New England’€™s offensive outburst and Brady’€™s 30-for-35 passing performance has given the Patriots a lot of confidence heading into the second half of the season. Next Sunday the Patriots will face off against Peyton Manning‘€™s Broncos, a game that will pose another midseason challenge.

Said Hasselbeck: “It doesn’t need hype. … In terms of the tune-up, with the way [the Patriots] played offensively, just the points they had, they end up with over 50 points in that football game. So now everyone looks at it as if New England has solved all of the offensive woes that they had early in the season. And now it’€™ll be billed as a big shootout between the two star quarterbacks.”

New England’€™s wide receiving corps and Brady’€™s supporting cast during Sunday’€™s win, and over the last few weeks, have stepped up since the early part of the season. The hosts wondered whether it’€™s time to stop talking about the possibility that they are a weak group.

“I don’€™t know if a couple of weeks changes it,” Hasselbeck said. “Now, [Rob] Gronkowski is healthy, I think that all of us would agree, Gronkowski’€™s healthy versus what we saw from Rob Gronkowski after very little work in the preseason and playing about 30 snaps a game at the beginning of the year, versus what we saw yesterday is totally different. Tim Wright, I think we’ve seen very little from Tim Wright. They threw him a touchdown pass down near the goal line, but you probably could’ve taken Jim Dray from the Cleveland Browns and had it sneak out. I don’€™t that that was a matchup that was won necessarily by Tim Wright. Shane Vereen‘€™s a nice player, but he’€™s not Le’€™Veon Bell.

“I still don’€™t look at the supporting cast as this unbelievable group surrounding  a very good quarterback. I see a very good quarterback making a pretty good supporting cast look a lot better than they did earlier in the year.”

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Read More: Geno Smith, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Tim Hasselbeck
NY Daily News’ Manish Mehta on D&C: Already poor 2014 Jets season ‘trending downward’ 10.15.14 at 9:16 am ET
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New York Daily News Jets beat writer Manish Mehta joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss the state of disarray the Jets are in. To hear to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

After starting off the year with a promising win, New York has come crashing down and lost its last five games. From bad quarterback play from Geno Smith to poor secondary defense, the Jets have very little going right for them. Coach Rex Ryan has come under heavy criticism for the failures of his team.

Rex Ryan is a good coach,” Mehta said. “He’s not Bill Belichick — I don’t think anyone is going to say that. But he’s one of the best defensive coaches, for sure, in the league right now for the last 10 years. There’s only so much you can do when you don’t have much talent. And he doesn’t control who comes into the building via draft or free agency. That’s general manager John Idzik.”

Continued Mehta: “Idzik has never been a general manager before, he has never really had any personnel say of significance in his previous stops in Seattle, Arizona and Tampa Bay. … And now this guy is in charge of giving Rex players, and he hasn’t done a good job his first couple of years.”

Part of the reason the Jets have had trouble in the past few years, and especially this year, is the lack of talent at the skill positions. Without good quarterback play and a solid corps of wide receivers, New York’s offense has been lackluster.

“[Ryan has] never really had a star quarterback. He’s never really had a star player at an offensive skill position,” Mehta said. “If you look his five years, the best you can say is Thomas Jones in the backfield in 2009 and then Santonio Holmes for one season in 2010. … No dynamic players, certainly no dynamic players at the quarterback position. Now he’s really saddled with Geno Smith, who when you look at statistically, is probably the worst quarterback in the NFL right now.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Geno Smith, Manish Mehta, Rex Ryan
Rodney Harrison on MFB: ‘Geno Smith, he stinks, Michael Vick doesn’t want to play’ 10.14.14 at 12:36 pm ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots’ injury issues and the upcoming game against the Jets. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Harrison said he expects Thursday’s game will be a tough one despite the Jets coming in with a 1-5 record and struggling badly on offense.

“I think it will be competitive,” Harrison said. “The Jets, they have such a hatred for the Patriots. Rex Ryan, he’s had success against Tom Brady, he knows what to expect. And I think he will have this team ready. And this team, they’re 1-5, they’re not very good. Geno Smith, he stinks, Michael Vick doesn’t want to play, they haven’t practiced well. This team has lost a lot of players, young guys in the secondary. Tom can really eat up this defense.

“But just knowing Rex, and just knowing how much he dislikes the Patriots, I think this game will be a lot more competitive than what people think.”

Added Harrison of the Jets: “They’re going to have to win on defense, because they’re offense is nothing.”

Smith, the second-year quarterback, has struggled on the field and made some questionable comments off it, which leads Harrison to question his approach.

“When they talked about drafting him, I never viewed him as a top first- or second-round pick. I thought maybe he was a guy that could probably go between Rounds 3 and 5. I just wasn’t really impressed with him,” Harrison said.

“Sometimes when you’re a young quarterback and you’re struggling, sometimes it’s best just to be quiet and not say too much in the media, just come off as a very humble guy, just trying to learn the system. But he continues to talk, he continues to put his foot in his mouth.

“What he needs to do is stop turning the ball over, bottom line. Every game this year he’s turned the ball over, and they just don’t have a chance if he continues to turn the ball over.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Geno Smith, Jerod Mayo, Michael Vick
Geno Smith: Jace Amaro reminds me of Rob Gronkowski at 7:00 am ET
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Jace Amaro is a rookie tight end with the Jets. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jace Amaro is a rookie tight end with the Jets. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Jets quarterback Geno Smith gave rookie tight end Jace Amaro a big compliment Monday, saying that the Texas Tech product compares to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“I think he has big time potential,” Smith said of Amaro, who some believed would have been a good fit in New England. “We don’€™t like to talk about the guys on the other side, but when I think about Jace I think about [Rob Gronkowski] — two really big, bouldering guys who have physical statures, but are as nimble as some of the smaller guys who can run great routes and have great hands and can run after the catch.

“I think Jace can be a really good tight end if he continues to work at the pace that he’€™s been working. We expect big things from him in the future.”

Amaro, who has 24 catches for 212 yards and a touchdown, has become a sizable part of the New York passing game as a rookie. Meanwhile, ex-Patriots tight end Zach Sudfeld has also found a home as a tight end with the Jets. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Sudfeld, a training camp star last summer with New England before being released, has apparently become good pals with Smith.

“Zach has been one of my best buddies on my team — I really like the way that he works,” Smith said of Sudfeld, who has one catch for 15 yards this season. “He has a great work ethic. He’€™s been in there every single day. He even comes into all-quarterback meetings we have with the offensive linemen and watches tape with us. He’€™s just continuing to gain experience and continuing to learn this offense.

“He’€™s a guy that we’€™ve used in multiple packages. He’€™s a big target, a guy who can stretch the field, and he’€™s got great hands. So, he’€™s a guy that we definitely should get the ball to a little bit more. But you always got to take what the defense gives you. He’€™s been great with that, not forcing the issue, but he’€™s always preparing and he’€™s always coming in to work, working to the best of his ability.”

Read More: Geno Smith, Jace Amaro, Zach Sudfeld,
Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Despite Patriots’ win, lack of WR talent ‘a problem long term’ 10.06.14 at 10:02 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss the Patriots’€™ win over the Bengals on Sunday night. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

A week after getting beat badly by the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, the Patriots came back home to win convincingly 43-17. New England piled it on early with 20 points in the first half, and then continued the dominance over Cincinnati in the second half.

Hasselbeck said something went more into this win than just a good plan for the Patriots.

“There’€™s no doubt that emotion and feeling like you’€™re up against the wall a little bit and people have counted you out,” Hasselbeck said. “It’€™s just human nature for people to kind of dial it in. Focus it in during the week, which many times translates to how you play come Sunday. But I think it was a combination of that type of thing, good effort and a nice plan.

“I will say, not to pour water on some of the excitement of it, but part of what I’€™m working this morning is some these breakdowns, some of the successful plays New England had on offense. And there’€™s some really, really bad mistakes by a Cincinnati defense that is surprising me by looking at it this morning.”

The Patriots did protect Tom Brady better, which led to almost 300 yards of passing for the quarterback. Still, though, having quality receivers down the field still appears to be an issue for the offense.

“I do think it’€™s a problem long term,” Hasselbeck said of the receivers. “Nothing’€™s been solved in terms of somebody really dominating outside the numbers. I think [Brandon] LaFell’€™s role is kind of what it is for the team right now. And I don’€™t know how much bigger it can truly get. And [Julian] Edelman, he’€™s a fine player, but we know what he is. [Rob Gronkowski] looked to come alive a little bit more and Tim Wright’€™s involvement was fine. But when you look at all of that, that doesn’t solve the fact that you don’€™t have somebody that can really, really dominate outside. And you don’€™t even necessarily have to be totally dominant, but you just have to have the ability to win out there.”

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Read More: Geno Smith, Tim Hasselbeck, Tom Brady,
What we learned Sunday: J.J. Watt is a beast, Steve Smith is awesome and Adam Vinatieri is ageless 09.28.14 at 8:55 pm ET
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With the Patriots set to play Monday night, here’s a quick look at what we learned around the league Sunday, mostly from a New England perspective.

1. J.J. Watt could be an MVP.

Remarkably, the last defensive player to win MVP was Lawrence Taylor in 1986, but if he continues on his current path, Houston’s J.J. Watt could certainly make a case to be the next defensive player to take home the honor. The defensive lineman had six quarterback hurries and a pass defense before picking off an EJ Manuel pass and rumbling 80 yards for the pick-six to help lift the Texans past the Bills.

Through the first three games, the Patriots offense has five touchdowns. Watt has two of his own this year, and is just the second player since the merger with a receive touchdown and interception in the same season. (Ex-Pats linebacker and current Houston assistant Mike Vrabel was the first to turn the trick back in 2005.)

2. EJ Manuel is apparently suffering from a crisis of confidence. The second-year Buffalo quarterback was apparently pretty shaken in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Manuel ended the day 21-for-44 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Texans as the Bills lost their second straight to fall to 2-2 on the young season. To be fair, things were a little shaky around Manuel, given the fact that his offensive line was struggling, there were a couple of key drops and the fire-breathing monster known as Watt was on the other side of the ball. Coach Doug Marrone said after the game there were no plans to hand the reins to backup Kyle Orton, but the idea of jumpstarting the offense with a switch at quarterback has to be entering the minds of the Buffalo coaching staff.

3. Maybe the Dolphins weren’t as dysfunctional as we thought. The week of back-and-forth between Miami coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill ended Sunday in London, where the Dolphins absolutely crushed the Raiders, 38-14, at Wembley Stadium. Tannehill, who engaged in a weird public exchange with his coach after Philbin refused to name him the starter in the media, was an impressive 23-for-31 for 278 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Meanwhile, the Raiders, who looked good last week when they came to Foxboro and put a scare in the Patriots, were a mess. Their issues were compounded by the fact that rookie quarterback Derek Carr left the game in the third quarter, and told the media after the game that he has a high ankle sprain and sprained MCL. Yikes.

4. The Jets are in trouble. New York struggled at home against the Lions, and it was another bad outing for quarterback Geno Smith, who was 17-for-33 for 209 yards, one touchdown and one pick in a 24-17 loss to Detroit. After the game, Rex Ryan said he was standing by Smith. “I’m confident in Geno. If Geno’s healthy, then Geno Smith will start,” Ryan told reporters after the game. “I’m not gonna replace him. I feel good about Geno, and again, I think he’s gonna get it turned. He’s a tough, resilient young man, and I think we’re gonna win.” Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound like Jets fans are going to stand by Geno.

Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told reporters after the game that fans who were booing Smith should “shut up.” Yikes.

5. Not everyone needs a punter.

Sunday’s game between the Packers and Bears was either the second or third game in NFL history without a punt. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-17 win over Chicago. The Packers, who had been suffering from offensive inconsistency over the course of the first three games of the year, scored on their first six possessions and finished with 358 total yards on the way to their fifth consecutive victory at Soldier Field. It was a bit of a redemption for Rodgers, who told Green Bay fans to “R-E-L-A-X” this week when they started worrying about the Packers‘ 1-2 start.

6. No one knows what to make of the Steelers.

There are weeks where the Steelers look ready to crush all those who come before them. Then, there are occasions like Sunday, where they melt down in the fourth quarter and end up losing a game to a Tampa Bay team ‘€¦ that lost to the Falcons by six touchdowns a week ago. Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson with the game-winner with six seconds left on the way to a shocking 27-24 win over host Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who were poised to move to 3-1 with the win, fell back to .500 with the surprising last-second loss. (Pittsburgh committed a whopping 13 penalties for 125 yards.)

7. Steve Smith is never not awesome.

As promised, the gritty receiver one-upped his old team. The former Panther lit up Carolina for seven catches — including an awesome reception on a tipped ball he ended up taking for a touchdown — for 139 yards and a pair of scores on the way to a 38-10 win over the Panthers. There wasn’t “blood and guts” like he promised, but Smith, who played 13 seasons in Carolina before he was cut in the offseason, clearly enjoyed making his old team eat a little crow after the contest. “I’m 35 years old and I ran by those guys like they were schoolyard kids,” the veteran said after the game. Meanwhile, while we were all upset about the state of the Panthers’ offense, it’s worth noting that Carolina has yielded 75 points in two games.

I want to know what this kid is thinking.

8. Adam Vinatieri is some sort of superhuman.

It’s remarkable to think that the former Patriots kicker is now in his ninth season in Indy, and while the 41-year-old isn’t the kicker he once was, he’s still money when it comes to working extra points and field goals. Through four games, he’s 8-for-8 on field goal attempts and 16-for-16 on extra-point attempts, including a pair of field goals and five extra points Sunday in the 41-17 win over the Titans.

Oh, and this happened 18 years ago.

9. Chip Kelly can feel Bill Belichick‘s pain.

Philly went West on Sunday and nearly knocked off the Niners, despite the fact that the Eagles continue to have serious offensive line issues. Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis went down in Week 1, and with starting right tackle Lane Johnson already serving a four-game suspension, things got even worse when starting center Jason Kelce went down last week with a sports hernia. Despite those woes, Philly nearly pulled off the upset, despite the fact that the Eagles’ offense didn’t pass midfield until the fourth quarter and it had just two more first downs (five) than turnovers (three) late in the third quarter. Things should get better next week when Johnson is eligible to return from his ban, but the fact that Kelce and Mathis won’t be back until the second half of the season should provide some interesting phone conversation between BFF’s Kelly and Belichick when it comes to commiserating about their woes.

10. The Patriots are in first place.

The Bills’ loss to the Texans in Houston allowed the 2-1 Patriots to sneak into first place in the AFC East.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Chip Kelly
Fantasy Football: Week 4 starts, sits 09.26.14 at 9:31 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 4 starts and sits! Is it too late to recommend Larry Donnell? Oh well. Don’t fret, we have plenty of other ideas for this weekend. If you need more guidance than I could fit into this space, check out my full lineup rankings over at Rotobahn or participate in our WEEI Sunday morning chat. It starts right here at 11 a.m. and I’ll tweet a link to the chat early Sunday morning as soon as it’s available. Follow me on Twitter to get all the fantasy football info we have to offer.

I will also be back on the air this weekend, so tune in Sunday morning for The Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host and good friend Jim Hackett. You can check out our latest podcast as well. I’ll also be on NFL Sunday with Dickerson, Price and DeOssie at about 10:45 as usual, so don’t miss it.

And, don’t forget to start your Week 5 with us on Tuesday, when I break down the best pickups in the Week 5 waiver wire.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Tony Romo, Cowboys vs. Saints

He’s been shaky in his return from back surgery, but he battled back last week on the road against a better defense. I expect a high-scoring game and a solid fantasy output from Romo. Don’t hesitate to use him in any format.

Philip Rivers, Chargers vs. Jaguars

He’s playing very well so far, and this is a very enticing home matchup. Treat Rivers like a QB1 in all formats in Week 4. He’s good for a solid outing.

Blake Bortles, Jaguars at Chargers

He’s a young QB making his first start on the road. That’s normally a red flag situation, but Bortles will be chasing a Chargers offense that can score points in bunches in good matchups like this one. Bortles can score points with his feet and with his arm. That should give him a solid fantasy floor. He can help you in big formats if you need some help in Week 4. If you are unfamiliar with the rookie’s skill set, check out my original scouting report on the UCF product.

Sit

Geno Smith, Jets vs. Lions

This is not a week with a lot of sits for quarterbacks outside of the obvious ones. Smith is a good passer to avoid this week because he struggles more than most when the pocket gets busy, and things certainly will get busy with Detroit’s front four in town. Factor in the injuries to Smith’s receivers and you have a recipe for bad play or at least limited success. Even on a slow week, there are better options out there than Smith.

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Read More: Blake Bortles, Frank Gore, Geno Smith, Khiry Robinson
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