|Aqib Talib brushes off health questions: ‘This ain’t my first rodeo’||12.19.13 at 7:51 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Aqib Talib isn’t hearing any talk about his health being an issue.
‘I feel like everybody else,” he said Thursday. “It’s Week 16, and there isn’t anybody in the NFL who is 100 percent. It’s football, man.
“This ain’t my first rodeo.’
Talib, who has struggled with hip problems on and off throughout the season, started strong but has appeared to drop off a bit as of late. There’s no telling how much of his problems are due to the hip issue (he was limited at Thursday’s practice because of the hip), but he knows he’s in for a challenge this week. The Ravens feature some of the better deep threats in the game — the Ravens have 13 pass plays of 40 or more yards this season, good for third-best in the league, trailing only the Eagles (18) and Browns (14). Torrey Smith (59 catches, 1,032 yards, four touchdowns and 17.5 yards per catch), Marlon Brown (40 catches, 443 yards, six touchdowns) and Jacoby Jones (35 catches, 433 yards, two touchdowns) all have an ability to connect with quarterback Joe Flacco when it comes to the deep ball.
Talib had plenty of good things to say about the Baltimore receiving corps, particularly the speed of Smith, who he called “one of” the fastest receivers in the league.
‘We don’t even have to talk about that. You know how fast he is. We all know how fast he is,” Talib said. “He’s up there. Put him up there with the [Mike] Wallaces and Calvin Johnsons. Man, they’re burners.’
One thing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick indicated earlier in the week was that the Baltimore offense has changed a bit since the return of Dennis Pitta — Belichick said it appears that the Ravens have favored more three-receiver sets since the tight end came back from injury. Pitta, who burned New England on several occasions in last year’s AFC title game, is still ramping back up after spending the bulk of the season sidelined, is still a factor.
‘He’s key for them,” Talib said. “[Joe Flacco] goes to him a lot over the middle, in third-down situations. That’s one of his go-to guys. He’s key for them.’
Talib and the Patriots (10-4) are looking to close out the regular season on an up note, while the Ravens (8-6) are in must-win mode — currently holding on to the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff race, they have to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“It’s a big game for the both of us,’ Talib said. “So I’m sure they’re preparing like we’re preparing. It should be a good one.’
|Five things you have to know about the Ravens||12.17.13 at 7:15 pm ET|
The Patriots will try to close out the AFC East and put a major dent in the playoff hopes of the Ravens when they travel to Baltimore for a Sunday afternoon contest. Here are five things you have to know about the Ravens.
1. They almost always do a really good job at defending Tom Brady.
Old warhorses like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer around, but the Ravens remain are as stout as they come defensively. There are some questions about their ability to close defensively — they’ve allowed 96 points in the fourth quarter this season, the most of any AFC team still in the playoff chase — but there’s still a lot to like about what they’re doing. They’re in the top 10 when it comes to total defense (334 yards per game allowed, ninth-best in the league), run defense (102.4 rush yards per game allowed, seventh-best in the league) and points per game allowed (19.8 per game, seventh-best in the league). They are one team that consistently makes things difficult for Brady, who is 2-3 against them in his last five games. Over the course of his career, the quarterback averages 57 percent when it comes to his completion rate, and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-10 in his career against Baltimore. (According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, the Ravens have held Brady under 6.8 YPA in six of eight career meetings.) With New England facing a dicey situation when it comes to offensive line depth, particular at tackle, the pressure off the edges will be a concern — old friend Terrell Suggs (9 sacks) figures to have something to say about this one before the week is done, and Elvis Dumervil (9.5 sacks) should also be a handful for the Patriots offensive line.
2. They have almost as much experience playing close games this season as the Patriots.
When the Patriots and Ravens meet Sunday, chances are good that it’ll be a close game. Eleven of the 14 games New England has played this year have been decided by seven points or less, while Baltimore has played in 10 games decided by seven points or less. The Ravens have gone 5-5 in their games decided by a touchdown or less, while the Patriots are 7-4. Baltimore has won their last three games by a total of seven points, which includes Monday’s win over the Lions, a contest that wasn’t decided until Justin Tucker connected on his sixth field goal of the night, a 61-yarder than lifted the Ravens to an 18-16 win. All that comes against a backdrop of almost nothing but close games between these two teams — since 2004, five of the eight games between Patriots and Ravens have been decided by six points or less. Expect another close one come Sunday afternoon.
|Fantasy Football: Week 16 waiver wire||at 9:23 am ET|
And then there were two … Congratulations to all the teams in their league’s final game. The Week 16 dynamic is a bit unusual and this article reflects that. What we want this week are players that might be available, who can tip the scales for either you or your opponent. There are some leagues that have different rules. Perhaps your league has a second game between the semifinal losers, for third place. Whatever the case, the team you want to work against in this week’s free agent market is your opponent.
First, look at your roster. Do you have a weak spot in your lineup that can be strengthened in free agency? That should be your first priority — maximizing your Week 16 lineup. Second, look at your opponent’s roster. Do they have a weak spot that can be improved via the waiver wire? If they do, that is a move that you might consider blocking if you have waiver priority or a larger remaining free agent budget. Lastly, you can be aggressive with your cuts now. There’s nothing left to save for. You’re here. The only players you truly need are the ones who will be in your lineup this week, so don’t be afraid to manage your roster with that in mind and cut players who can’t help your opponent this week.
For example, let’s say that you have Rashard Mendenhall as your fifth running back. You are not playing him this week and he’s got a brutal matchup at Seattle. Your opponent has injuries at running back and horrible matchups with what he has left. You think he’ll go after Jordan Todman in free agency. In this case, I would dump Mendenhall and add Todman, who I project to outscore Mendenhall by about 10 points this week. You won’t play Todman as you would not have played Mendenhall, but you’ve hurt your opponent’s potential score and helped yourself.
So, get in that frame of mind and see all the angles. One more win and you’re a champion. Having said all that, I will be back next week just in case you play in one of those bizarre leagues that use Week 17 as its championship week. We’ve got you covered. As always, I will be adding talent throughout the day at Rotobahn as I continue to work through the film from Week 15. Come by later if you play in a really deep format.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins
He had a very nice outing against Atlanta, and he is a very good fantasy play in Week 16 if you’ve been streaming quarterbacks. A home matchup against Dallas is about as good as it gets right now. Cousins is a very good option.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He was dumped in a good many leagues after his injury, so he could be a nice addition for those of you looking for quarterback help. Cutler has a very nice Week 16 matchup at Philadelphia, and his receivers are insanely good.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Give Tannehill a lot of credit for hanging tough behind a reconstructed offensive line. He continues to make plays on a weekly basis and is on a nice four-week run of production. He’s a solid option this week at Buffalo if you need help at quarterback.
Joe Flacco, Ravens
He’s available in about 50 percent of leagues, so he’s worth mentioning, since he’s playing for something and has a solid Week 16 matchup at home vs. the Patriots. I’d rather start Cousins, Cutler or Tannehill, but Flacco is viable.
|Fantasy Football: Week 15 waiver wire||12.10.13 at 10:28 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 15 waiver wire! If you are still reading, then you must have survived the snow last week — and all the injuries. In most leagues, you now are two wins away from glory, and we’re here to help if you have a few holes to fill or if you just want to keep your roster maximized. If you play in a really deep league, check out Rotobahn later today as I will be adding more talent as I continue to work through last week’s game film. I’ll be back later in the week with WEEI’s fantasy football podcast and the starts and sits.
If you need any last-minute lineup help, stop by our Sunday chat, which has been very lively lately. It’s nice to know that so many of our readers are doing well. For those of you in keeper leagues and dynasty formats, you’ll want to check in with us at Rotobahn throughout the offseason, as we will be increasing our offseason content again this year, with scouting reports for the 2014 rookie class and frequent dynasty updates for key veterans. Stop by and check it all out if you’re a fantasy football diehard.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Tannehill is rolling right now, and with Lamar Miller injured, you have to think he is going to throw the ball a whole lot next week against New England. The Dolphins starter is a good pickup right now in 12-team leagues, and he’s got a good remaining schedule.
- Week 15 – Patriots
- Week 16 – at Bills
Jay Cutler (or Josh McCown), Bears
Cutler has been dropped in a lot of leagues, and he is a decent option if he starts in Week 15. If McCown ends up getting the start, then he is an equally solid play. Rostering both of them is a very sound move in deep leagues.
- Week 15 – at Browns
- Week 16 – at Eagles
Joe Flacco, Ravens
With Dennis Pitta back, the Ravens finally have their intended offensive paradigm in play. They have a diverse backfield and a dependable possession receiver at tight end plus a potent vertical attack. We saw how well that mix can work last year, and, as I said last week, the closing schedule is very playable.
- Week 15 – at Lions
- Week 16 – Patriots
Jason Campbell, Browns
I don’t think I need to explain how good Josh Gordon is to my friends in New England. Campbell throws to Gordon, and the matchups are solid the rest of the way. He can help you in 12-team leagues if you have a problem at quarterback.
- Week 15 – Bears
- Week 16 – at Jets
|Fantasy Football: Week 14 waiver wire||12.03.13 at 10:20 am ET|
As we look toward what is a playoff week in most fantasy football formats, there certainly are a few solid new options to consider adding. The sad reality is that half of the teams in most leagues just got sent packing, and that obviously cuts down on the competition for talent. Hence, we are concentrating on the better players vs. the depth moves, but we still have a little of both.
If you are looking for deeper options, you can head over to Rotobahn later Tuesday and check out my expanded wire for those in deep formats. As always, I’ll be back later this week with Jim Hackett for the Fantasy Football Podcast, plus the starts and sits. Then, on Sunday, I’ll be hosting a chat to help with any last-minute lineup issues that you might have. To those of you reading this, please accept our congratulations on making your league’s playoffs. Now let’s see if we can bring home the fantasy bacon!
Andy Dalton, Bengals
He’s available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and that percentage could rise after the stinker that Dalton had in Week 13. Still, we like Dalton’s Week 14 matchup, and Week 16 is pretty sweet, too.
- Week 14 – Colts
- Week 15 – at Steelers
- Week 16 – Vikings
Joe Flacco, Ravens
He plays at home vs. the Vikings this week, and that could be enough to make him a great add. As an added bonus, he’s playable on all three remaining weeks. In Week 14, Flacco may also see the return of his favorite target, Dennis Pitta.
- Week 14 – Vikings
- Week 15 – at Lions
- Week 16 – Patriots
Carson Palmer, Cardinals
He can’t help you Week 16, but he’ll be useful this week and next. Palmer has been very good lately, with multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games. He can help you as a QB2 in most leagues, and you can still add him in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
- Week 14 – Rams
- Week 15 – at Titans
- Week 16 – at Seahawks
EJ Manuel, Bills
He plays a solid, though not incredible, schedule the rest of the way, and he’s been getting better in terms of health. Manuel also has scored well the last two weeks, so he can help you if you need to add a QB2 in a 12-team league. His receivers are healthy and he now has C.J. Spiller ripping off big runs, and that could take the edge off of the pass rush going forward.
- Week 14 – at Buccaneers
- Week 15 – at Jaguars
- Week 16 – Dolphins
|Fantasy Football: Week 6 starts, sits||10.11.13 at 9:08 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 6 starts and sits. I’ve tried to vary the level of options to give people in all league sizes something to chew on. If you are looking for more comprehensive rankings, go to Rotobahn.com, where we rank them all every week and update the rankings every weekend. Jim Hackett and I will be doing our weekly podcast later Friday and we’ll cover these starts and sits in depth. Check it out. You can find it in our audio on demand area. I’ll also be back Sunday, as usual, to answer all of your lineup questions in our Sunday morning chat sponsored by our friends at Mohegan Sun.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Bills
There are better options out there, obviously, but Dalton should do well this week against a Bills squad that is beat up on the back end. He’s got weapons all around him and a solid ground game to work off of.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Jets
The Steelers are looking better than they did a few weeks back and they get a Jets team that may be down a few cornerbacks. This bodes well for Big Ben and his receivers. He’s a good play in most formats.
Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Raiders
If you are looking for help this week, Smith can step in for you. A big game may not be in the cards, but a solid effort seems to be something you can count on from Smith and Andy Reid’s offense.
Joe Flacco, Ravens vs. Packers
There will be plenty of points in this game, and Flacco will need to attack the Pack downfield. Ray Rice’s major contributions likely will be in the passing game, and that helps Flacco. He’s a decent play if you are in need.
Matt Schaub, Texans vs. Rams
He’s risky, as he could have a short leash this week in a home game in front of potentially hostile fans. He’s playable if you are stuck with him, but this is definitely a week to consider other options. Schaub may not get a chance to finish if he starts poorly.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals at 49ers
It’s a bad matchup, and Palmer has really been struggling lately. He may post some garbage-time numbers, but the 49ers usually are pretty good at playing hard for 60 minutes. I’d avoid Palmer this week. This offense has a lot of upside, but this is not the week to roll the dice with it.
|Catching up with … the Ravens||08.07.13 at 9:25 am ET|
As we count down to the start of preseason games, we take a look at all 13 opponents on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule and break down each one of them. We’ve already featured the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, as well as the Buccaneers, Falcons, Bengals, Saints, Steelers, Panther, Broncos, Texans and Browns. Now, we wrap up with the Ravens.
Specifics: Christmas is coming early for Patriots fans, who get to watch the team visit the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens in another prime-time matchup on Dec. 22.
Say goodbye to … linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive back Ed Reed, defensive back Bernard Pollard, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, defensive end Paul Kruger, defensive back Cary Williams.
Welcome … defensive end Elvis Dumervil, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, linebacker Rolando McClain, safety Matt Elam, linebacker Daryl Smith, linebacker Arthur Brown, defensive back Michael Huff.
Recent history: The game most prevalent in everyone’s mind will be, of course, Baltimore’s 28-13 win in the AFC championship last January. The Patriots’ 13-7 halftime lead quickly evaporated as Joe Flacco threw for three second-half touchdowns en route to the Ravens outscoring the Pats 21-0 in the final two quarters.
Playoffs included, the teams have split their six games since the start of the 2009 season. New England last came out on top in the January 2012 AFC championship, when Tom Brady — who threw for 239 yards and no touchdowns — ran it in from one yard out for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
The Patriots should be worried because … well, you never want to discount the defending champs, right? Baltimore will be without a number of its biggest names on defense from a year ago — Lewis, Reed, Ellerbe and Pollard among them — but the Ravens re-tooled and could be even better this time around. They added Dumervil, a Pro Bowler, took Elam and Brown in the draft’s top two rounds and signed a reliable veteran in Huff. Just a few weeks into training camp, the defensive corps’ early showing has Ravens players and coaches alike clamoring about the potential.
The Patriots shouldn’t be worried because … in tearing apart its Super Bowl-winning core, the Ravens also lost significant contributors in its passing game. They traded Boldin to the 49ers, then lost Dennis Pitta for the year due to a hip injury, and now are facing Ed Dickson missing time with a hamstring tear. As it is right now, Torrey Smith is the No. 1 receiver with Jacoby Jones backing him up. Flacco, who despite signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract still is in the middle of the pack in terms of quarterback rating, completion percentage and yards per game, could have some trouble.
The skinny: The average margin of victory in the teams’ last nine games spanning the last decade is eight points, with five of those contests being decided by a field goal or less. The personnel has changed aplenty in that time, of course, but the message should be to sit back and enjoy the ride. January’s season-ending loss could serve the Patriots well in the motivation department.
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