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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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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
Fantasy Football: Week 1 starts, sits 09.05.14 at 2:02 pm ET
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Well, it’€™s officially Week 1 and it’€™s time for our first batch of starts and sits. For our newer readers, I do my best to avoid the obvious choices. These are not rankings. Rather, they are takes on specific matchups that make players more or less desirable than they would normally be. Is there a player you want our take on that isn’€™t mentioned? No problem. For rankings on all the major players, go to Rotobahn and check out our full Week 1 lineup rankings.

This Sunday features the first regular-season airing of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. We’€™ll be discussing this article and other Week 1 roster options that will help you to submit your most potent weekly fantasy roster. Tune in to WEEI 93.7-FM at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday game days to check it out. If you’€™re not an early riser, go to WEEI.com and enjoy it on your own schedule. I’ll be back in this space on Tuesday with our first waiver wire of the year.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Carson Palmer, Cardinals vs. Chargers

He’€™s got a nice home matchup, so it’€™s a good week to use him. He should be ready to roll in his second year as the starter in HC Bruce Arians’€™ offense. If Andre Ellington’s new foot injury proves serious, Palmer will be throwing most of the game.

Derek Carr, Raiders at Jets

He’€™s far from ideal, but if you are a Cam Newton owner (like me), looking for insurance, you could do worse than the strong-armed Carr vs. a battered Jets secondary.

Geno Smith, Jets vs. Raiders

It’€™s a great home matchup, so if you need a cheap option in a deep league, Smith can help.

Sit

Robert Griffin III, Washington at Texans

If you happen to have another strong option, then this is a week to consider benching Griffin, who will be running a new offense while facing JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney … and the chaos they create.

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Read More: Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, Derek Carr, Eric Decker
Mark Sanchez Era comes to a close with Jets as AFC quarterback shuffle continues 03.21.14 at 9:04 pm ET
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The Jets decision to release Mark Sanchez and add Mike Vick brings this week’€™s quarterback carousel to an end.

Sanchez, who was a first-round pick of the Jets in 2009, was cut loose four days before a $2 million roster bonus was due to the USC product. He spent five years with New York, leading the Jets to back-to-back trips to the AFC title game in his first two seasons with the Jets. However, he was never able to hit the same heights, and sat out all of 2013 with a shoulder injury.

“I’€™d like to thank Mark for everything he’€™s done for this team and me personally,”€ Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a statement released by the team. “We were rookies together and had some early success, becoming the first rookie head coach and quarterback to go to back-to-back championship games. We experienced a lot together, and I really appreciate Mark. He’€™s a great player, a great teammate, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

The Jets later announced they had signed Vick, a veteran who lost his starting job with the Eagles midway through the 2013 campaign to youngster Nick Foles. Vick, 33, inked a one-year deal to (presumably) serve as the backup to Geno Smith.

“€œIt means a lot to have the chance to come in and play for a great organization that had a lot of success last year and being on the brink of doing some good things,” Vick told the Jets’€™ website Friday. “Maybe I can come here and be an asset whenever my number’€™s called. I’€™m excited, I’€™m elated, and I feel like this is a great opportunity for me and my family.”
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Read More: Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez, Matt Schaub, Mike Vick
Offseason updates on rest of AFC East 02.18.14 at 12:51 pm ET
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While we continue to view the world through a Patriots’€™ prism, here’€™s a quick update on what’€™s been going on in the rest of the AFC East this offseason:

Jets – New York started the offseason with a bang, announcing Rex Ryan landed a multiyear extension. But at the same time, the Jets have some tough calls to make on some veterans, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace. Then, there’€™s the question as to whether or not to release quarterback Mark Sanchez — per salary cap expert Joel Corry, the Jets will gain more than $8.3 million of cap room if they let him go before his $2 million roster bonus is due on March 25. (They’€™ll also get some more financial flexibility if they decide to part ways with wide receiver Santonio Holmes in mid-March.) If Sanchez is indeed gone, that will likely clear the decks for Geno Smith, who was involved in an off-field dustup involving a flight attendant on a Virgin America flight. However, GM John Idzik says he anticipates a competition at quarterback this season. On the other side of the ball, while the New York defense is pretty solid as a whole, they’€™ll almost certainly be the market for offensive skill position players this offseason either in the draft or free agency.

Bills – As is the case at this time of year, the biggest moves for Buffalo to this point in the offseason have come on the coaching staff — following the departure of Mike Pettine, the Bills have added Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. They’€™ve also done some more sideline shuffling, including the addition of Rob Moore as receivers coach and Pepper Johnson as linebackers coach. Schwartz favors a 4-3 scheme, which means the Bills will have to tweak their personnel as a result, but on paper, the Buffalo defense is actually pretty well-positioned going into 2014. Led by linebacker Kiko Alonso and pass rushers Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, the Bills led the league with 57 sacks, and were second in the league with 23 picks. They could add some depth in the secondary, particularly if defensive back Jairus Byrd leaves as a free agent. Buffalo also needs some help on the offensive line, as well as some help at tight end if Scott Chandler walks in free agency. The Bills reportedly have roughly $15 million under the cap, and will likely use some of that to put more offensive skill position players around quarterback EJ Manuel, who needs to make a sizable leap going into 2014 if the Bills are able to break through in the AFC East.

Dolphins – Where to start? Miami is a bit of a mess right now, as the franchise continues to deal with the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins end up making changes on their coaching staff as a result of what’€™s happened, but they’€™ve already parted ways with GM Jeff Ireland, going with Dennis Hickey in his place. (They also fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman after Miami’€™s offense finished 26th in the league with an average of 19.8 points per game. They hired Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor as the new OC.) Hickey will have roughly $17 million in cap space to deal with when free agency opens, and he will almost certainly focus on an offensive line that was struggling, even before the Incognito-Martin situation blew up — quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013, most in the league. From a big picture perspective, it will be interesting to watch the moves that Hickey, coach Joe Philbin and owner Stephen Ross will make this offseason in hopes of trying to repair the Dolphins rep this offseason.

Read More: Bill Lazor, Calvin Pace, Dennis Hickey, EJ Manuel
Fantasy Football: Week 9 waiver wire 10.29.13 at 10:18 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 9 waiver wire. I know a lot of you are too busy enjoying the Red Sox to go digging in the fantasy weeds, so it’€™s probably a good thing (for you) that I’€™m a Mets fan. In the words of Tommy Callahan, ‘€œI got spare time.’€

We had more injuries in Week 8, and that makes this upcoming week a challenge in terms of putting a team on the field, especially in deeper formats. I’€™ll do my best to give you ideas and options for all league types and sizes. For those of you playing in large formats, feel free to head over to Rotobahn.com, where I’€™ll be adding more targets throughout the day as I continue to work through last week’€™s game tape.

QUARTERBACKS

Andy Dalton, Bengals 

He’€™s already taken in 76 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but that leaves enough possibility to mention him. Dalton is on a serious hot streak over the last three games and is a solid QB1 in all leagues based on his production so far. The skill talent around him is simply outstanding. Add him if you can.

Alex Smith, Chiefs

He’€™s still available in 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and you can’€™t argue with his consistent production. Smith is coming off of his best fantasy week so far in Week 8, and he gets the Bills in Week 9. Add him if you need short- or long-term help at the position, but be wary of his Week 10 bye.

Jake Locker, Titans 

He’€™s past the bye and he’€™s healthy. Throw in the fact that the Titans have already played the worst part of their schedule and you have a player to own in 12-team formats. He’€™s also largely available, with a 17 percent ownership rate in Yahoo! leagues.

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders 

He got it done in a tough matchup last week. Granted, he got a lot of his points on a single play. Pryor has some solid matchup value in all formats with the Eagles and Giants on the schedule the next two weeks. He is available in 64 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Josh McCown, Bears 

He’€™ll be the man until Jay Cutler comes back. McCown can help you in deeper formats as a Cutler replacement or as bye week help. I thought he looked pretty good in relief against Washington in Week 7 — making some good throws and clean reads. The matchups the next two weeks are at Green Bay and home vs. Detroit. That’€™s not too bad, and you can get McCown in all but 4 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Geno Smith, Jets 

Geno was a ‘€œsit’€ in my Week 8 starts and sits column at WEEI, but he’€™s a reasonable play this week, at home vs. the Saints. The Jets will need to throw if they are going to compete, and hosting New Orleans is a far easier task than playing the Bengals on the road. Smith can help you in large formats if you’€™re in a jam, and you can still get him in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Case Keenum, Texans 

Keenum will draw the start this week at home vs. the Colts.  He’€™s a player to add in large formats for sure, because he has a chance to take this gig for the rest of the season if he plays as well as he did in Week 7 at Kansas City. He’€™s available in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Case Keenum, Geno Smith
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