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Free Agent Snapshot: Hakeem Nicks 02.10.15 at 11:58 am ET
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Logan Ryan makes a play on Hakeem Nicks in the AFC championship game. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Logan Ryan makes a play on Hakeem Nicks in the AFC championship game. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’€™€™re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller, and this series will continue over the coming days and weeks.

Hakeem Nicks
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 27 (Jan. 14, 1988)
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 208 pounds

The skinny: Nicks is coming off a disappointing and underachieving season in Indianapolis, where he signed a one-year, $5.5 million free agent contract last March. Since his breakout seasons of 2010 and ’11, Nicks has fallen off the map in terms of production. In 2010, just his second season, he had 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns. The next season, he was a key part of Giants Super Bowl championship run, hauling in 76 catches for a career high 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. It was that production that opened the door for Victor Cruz to break onto the season for the Giants. But in the three seasons since then, Nicks has a total of seven touchdowns and hasn’t broken the 900-yard plateau.

By the numbers: In the Week 17 game against the Titans, Nicks had 3 receptions for 46 yards, putting him over 5,000 receiving yards for his career. But he finished his first season in Indy with just 38 catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns. In his last three seasons, Nicks has managed yardage seasons of 692, 896 and 405 respectively.

Why it would work: Nicks could be a viable and relatively cheap option to bring into camp to push Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms and add depth to the receiving corps. Nicks could be looking for that one bust-out season to show that 2010 and ’11 were not just flashes in the pan. He is playing for one more big contract. He also could be very well motivated to work with Tom Brady (who wouldn’t be?) as Brady aims for a record fifth Super Bowl title. Bill Belichick knows Nicks’ game very well from preparing for him twice in 2011, including the Super Bowl against the Giants, and twice last season against the Colts, including the AFC championship. Nicks caught 10 passes for 109 yards in Super Bowl XLVI and had a nice touchdown pass on a fade route against the Patriots in the November meeting. Belichick knows you can’t have enough veteran savvy players and Nicks certainly qualifies as both. He is considered a very intelligent player who is capable of making adjustments in-game and in-route. That is a must with Tom Brady. Nicks also has a history of posting huge games: 12 catches vs. Houston, Oct. 10, 2010 and 199 receiving yards vs. Tampa Bay, Sept. 16, 2012 and three touchdowns against Carolina, Sept. 12, 2010.

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Read More: 2015 Free Agent Snapshot, Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Peter King on M&M: ‘More confident right now’ in Patriots offense’s ability to win a game 10.18.13 at 2:10 pm ET
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Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about news from Foxboro and around the NFL.

The Patriots are coming off a dramatic 30-27 victory over the Saints that ended with Tom Brady throwing a touchdown pass with five seconds remaining, a comeback that King called “just a tremendously fun moment in time.”

King exchanged e-mails with Brady after the game and said Brady was excited to talk about the win and expressed enjoyment about the play of the new receivers.

“The one takeaway I have from that exchange is that while a lot of us on the outside probably think that he’s upset about the caliber of player who he’s playing with on offense, the skill players, how they haven’t really built up the depth at the skill positions befitting a guy like Brady, I think in a lot of ways I get a sense that he views it as tremendously fun to be able to beat a great team like New Orleans with three of the four guys on the field in the last minute of that game who he didn’t even know six months ago,” King said. “Sure, he knew [Julian Edelman]. But Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Austin Collie — that’s three of the four receivers he had on the field on the biggest drive of the season so far for the Patriots. I find that really compelling.”

Touching on the Rob Gronkowski situation, King said he had no special insight, but he’s led to believe that Gronkowski has been advised to be careful about rushing back so that he doesn’t cost himself big money in the long run.

“I think they’ve done a really good job of keeping that in-house,” King said. “But there’s just something about this story that it just leads me to believe that Rob Gronkowski and those around him do not want him to take the field with all of the money he has due in upcoming years. They don’t want him to turn into damaged goods so that he blows all this money that he’s going make starting next year. So, I think that has a lot to do with this.”

Added King: “I do think that if a guy is out practicing, and practicing at a very, very high level, which he has been doing for a month, and then not playing in the games — most often when that happens, when a guy is practicing at a very high level, he goes and plays in the games. Everybody has some form of injury, they’re hurt in some way. And again, I don’t know the whole story with him. I don’t. But the fact is, if you practice as well as he’s been practicing for a month and then don’t play, you’re obviously going to have a lot of eyebrows raised about why you’re not playing.”

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Read More: Hakeem Nicks, Peter King, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts, sits 11.03.12 at 12:11 pm ET
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Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. It’€™s been a rough week for yours truly and all New Yorkers, but I’€™m now up in Boston with friends — fully loaded with bandwidth and a large coffee. Let’€™s get into Week 9, shall we? For those of you looking for full rankings, we will be adding them at throughout the day as we play catchup in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We also will be hosting our weekly Sunday chat right here, so check back Sunday at 11 a.m. if you have any pressing lineup questions.



Cam Newton, Panthers at Redskins

Yes, Newton was a lock starter going into the season, but we’€™ve received enough e-mails about him to put him here. Newton should step up in this game against Robert Griffin III. The bigger issue is the Washington defense, which is prone to lapses in coverage. Newton is a good play here and he has some upside, too. He’€™s a good play in any league.

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers at Raiders

Stick with Freeman this week in a plus matchup at Oakland. His receivers are making plays and now he has ground support with a surging Doug Martin.

Joe Flacco, Ravens at Browns

There’€™s some risk due to how poorly he’€™s played lately, but we wouldn’€™t be afraid of using him here. The Ravens have had two weeks to prepare for this game and they are well coached. They should be ready. Flacco is a viable start in 12-team leagues.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills at Texans

Fitz is a very risky play on the road against a quality opponent. Just look at what he did in Weeks 5 and 6 if you require proof. The Bills most likely will be chasing in the game, so there’€™s some hope, but we’€™d strongly consider other options in all leagues.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins at Colts

Two big things here: Tannehill is not a lock to play, so even if you are going to roll with him, you need a Plan B. The more important thing is the in-game risk. There’€™s a solid chance that he could start but not finish, and that’€™s what worries us most. He’€™s got an easily aggravated injury. The matchup is a very good one, but we’€™d look for more secure options in Week 9.

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Read More: Cam Newton, Chris Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, joe flacco
Super Bowl roundup: Ahmad Bradshaw ‘OK’ to play 02.04.12 at 4:19 pm ET
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Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw has been experiencing a sore foot after two straight days of practicing for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Bradshaw is one of six players on the Giants injury report, “but he’s OK,” Tom Coughlin told reporters on Friday. “He’ll be ready. He’ll be listed as probable.”

Despite the injury, Bradshaw showed up for practice Wednesday and Thursday after resting the first two days post-arrival to Indy.

“He got in two good days of work prior to this,” Coughlin said. “He’s prepared.”

‘™¦ Super Bowl fans everywhere are taking to social media outlets when it comes to navigating their way to and around Indianapolis.

Fans are using Facebook and Twitter to find the best restaurants and best parking spots for game day, and are even using them as locating devices to find out where the next major celebrity will appear.

According to a report by CBS New York, a year after Super Bowl XLV set a record 4,064 tweets per second during the fourth quarter of the game, organizers are aiming to make this year’€™s game in Indianapolis the most connected Super Bowl ever.

Read More: Ahmad Bradshaw, Corey Webster, Hakeem Nicks, Jacquian Williams
Taking a closer look at the regular-season matchup between the Patriots and Giants 01.25.12 at 9:07 pm ET
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Here are five takeaways after rewatching the Nov. 6 regular-season matchup between the Patriots and Giants:

1. We’€™ve been big proponents of the Patriots’€™ use of the no-huddle all season — New England has used it one in every four snaps since the start of the regular season, and run it effectively on a number of occasions this year in hopes of catching an opponent on their heels. One of the things that really stood out was the fact that even though the Patriots couldn’€™t muster any offense in the first half (they were scoreless over the first two quarters), they didn’€™t run a single play in the no huddle in that time. In all, New England used it just four of 75 total offensive snaps against New York, or five percent of the time. To that point in the year, it represented a season-low in total snaps and percentage (two games later, New England used the no huddle just once in 65 offensive snaps against the Chiefs). The only time the Patriots went no-huddle against the Giants was on their final drive of the afternoon, one that ended with the go-ahead touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to tight end Aaron Hernandez with 1:36 to go. For a team that leaned so heavily on the no-huddle all season long, the numbers were interesting.

2. Injuries were a big part of this game. Hernandez was still working his way back after a knee problem, and while he played 59 of a possible 78 snaps (according to Pro Football Focus), he clearly was at less than his best. That led to a passing game that relied almost exclusively on Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, as the two accounted for more than half of the targets (25 of 49), receptions (17 of 28) and receiving yards (237 of 342). In addition, the Patriots lost safety Patrick Chung to a foot injury late in the game and linebacker Brandon Spikes to a knee injury late in the second half. That led to some interesting personnel combinations down the stretch — linebacker Tracy White and safety Sergio Brown was on the field at the end of the game in pass coverage. On the other side of the ball, the Giants were without wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and starting center David Baas (more on them in a bit), which certainly altered their overall game plan.

3. The Giants were looking to defend the pass first and foremost against New England. According to Pro Football Focus, they had five defensive backs on the field on every play. Despite that, even with the New York pass rush being one of the best in the league, the Patriots were a pass-first offense — Brady looked to pass more than twice as much as run, with New England running the ball 24 times and throwing it 49 times. (For what it’€™s worth, PFF has Brady as being blitzed 14 times, and ended up going 4-for-12 for 68 yards with one run and one sack.) While New England got decent production in the running game from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, it was clear that Green-Ellis wasn’€™t 100 percent physically. For Green-Ellis, this game was sandwiched by eight-yard game against the Jets and a nine-yard game against the Steelers, and in the middle of an extended period where he was questionable on the injury report because of a toe problem on a consistent basis. (As our scout suggested here, expect the Patriots to try and run the ball more often against the New York defensive line that is always looking to get after the passer.)
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andre Carter, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Spikes



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