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Fantasy Football: Week 7 waiver wire 10.15.13 at 9:57 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 7 waiver wire. Things start to get more challenging this week as the byes hit in full force. We also had injuries to some major players over the weekend, which will have some fantasy GMs searching for answers. For those of you who play in deeper formats, head on over to Rotobahn.com for even more free agent options. I will be adding names throughout the day as I continue to work through the Week 6 game film. I’€™ll be back here at WEEI on Friday with my starts and sits.  I’€™ll also  sit down with Jim Hackett for the Fantasy Football Podcast brought to you by our friends at Mohegan Sun. You can find the podcast in our audio on demand section.

QUARTERBACKS

Jay Cutler, Bears

You can still get him in 24 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he’€™s looking more and more like a weekly starting option, even in smaller leagues. The new coaching staff has really improved things in Chicago, and the personnel has been upgraded as well.

Andy Dalton, Bengals

He’€™s available in 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and he can be a strong play when the matchup is right. Dalton’€™s weapons are all young and improving, and that includes rookies Gio Bernard and Tyler Eifert.

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders

You can still get him 63 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He can be your starter on most weeks if need be because he gives you extra points with his feet and he has underrated weapons around him.

Sam Bradford, Rams 

He’€™s got a lot of good receivers to work with, and the running game has been stabilized in recent weeks by our guy Zac Stacy. Bradford can help you when the matchup is right, and you can still get him in 51 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Nick Foles, Eagles

We’€™ve always liked Foles, and now he may have stolen the starting gig from Michael Vick. He’€™s a much more accurate passer than Vick and he runs the offense the way Chip Kelly wants it run. Foles is definitely worth a speculative add right now if you have a roster spot for him and a need at quarterback. Foles can be had in 71 percent of CBS leagues.

Josh Freeman, Vikings

He could end up starting as soon as this week, and he is the most talented quarterback in Minnesota at this point. In larger formats, he might be worth adding now. You can get him in 84 percent of CBS leagues.

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Read More: Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, Nick Foles
Peter King on M&M: Patriots ‘desperately need Aqib Talib’ 10.04.13 at 2:16 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, at Fenway Park for Friday’s Red Sox-Rays game, stopped by for his weekly visit with Mut & Merloni to discuss news from around the NFL.

Aqib Talib is having a tremendous season, leading to speculation that the Patriots will attempt to sign the cornerback to a contract extension to avoid having him become a free agent at the end of the season. However, questionable behavior in Talib’s past makes the decision more difficult.

“If you’re Bob Kraft, Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick, what you have to do is, you really have to do — I’m sure they’ve done a lot of homework already on Aqib Talib before they acquired him. And I’m sure that they’re doing more now. Because I’m sure Bill understands that as a football player, they desperately need Aqib Talib,” King said.

“I was thinking the other day when I read that [Vince] Wilfork goes down. This is the first thought that comes into my mind. I said, If I’m a Patriots fan, I’m saying, ‘Oh, boy, at least it wasn’t Talib.’ ‘€¦ Look, Vince Wilfork one day will get discussed in the room about going to Canton, in my opinion. But right now, this team, the way football is played — 61-39 pass-run ratio in the NFL so far this year, or something like that, it’s very close — 61 percent passing, going against Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones last week, [Peyton] Manning down the road. If you don’t have at least one good [cornerback] — to me, you know who he is right now? He’s Richard Sherman. He’s good, he’s physical and he knows it. And I want my cornerback to have those three traits. So, to me, that is a gigantic [factor]. You can’t let him go. But on the other hand, you also can’t guarantee him [$]30 million, and a year and a half down the road he does something stupid.

“Hey, there’s no right answer if you’re the Patriots. But I think the rightest answer is to sign Aqib Talib for as long as you can, but build enough insurance points into the contract so that if he does something dumb in two years, you’re not liable for this gigantic cap hit.”

The Patriots added oft-injured Austin Collie to the roster Thursday in an attempt to add depth to the receiving corps.

“There’s nobody who knows — and I mean nobody — who knows if he’s going to last two years, two weeks or two days. He has had so many problems with concussions,” King said. “And with the way the league is right now, they’re going to be so adamant about Austin Collie being right every time he goes on the field. I viewed it honestly as a shot in the dark, what can it hurt. Bring him in here. He’s definitely a worthy player on a winning team.

“But the guy’s been out there for a while. And the guy was in camp this summer with San Francisco. ‘€¦ Really at that time, nobody needed Austin Collie more than the 49ers. And they didn’t keep him.”

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Read More: Andy Dalton, Aqib Talib, austin collie, Brian Hoyer
10 things you have to know about Bucs-Patriots 09.21.13 at 9:00 am ET
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Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s Patriots-Buccaneers game.

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Cornerback Aqib Talib against wide receiver Vincent Jackson Talib was not necessarily brought in to shut down the opposing team’€™s No. 1 receiver — it was more to match up in man coverage on the longest and most physical of the pass catchers — but this is one of the those occasions where Jackson fits both descriptions. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder is one of the best and most versatile receivers the Patriots have faced over the last few years. (Remember how he scalded Devin McCourty early in the 2011 season when he was with the Chargers? In that one, he had 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns.) Part of his brilliance comes in the fact that he can line up in multiple spots, including the slot. Earlier in the week, Talib did an excellent job breaking down Jackson’€™s vast array of talents, saying Jackson ‘€œruns routes like a smaller guy, and he runs deep balls like a 6-foot-4 guy. He has the best of both worlds as a wideout [and is] real hard to defend. He brings that quickness to the table, so he can get in the slot and still get open. He definitely brings both sides to the table.’€

2. Quarterback Tom Brady against cornerback Darrelle Revis We’€™re not going to fully commit to the idea of Revis manning up on Julian Edelman — Revis himself reportedly has voiced displeasure over the fact that the Bucs aren’€™t playing enough man-to-man — but the the all-world corner matching skills with Brady certainly will provide some compelling theatre. Since 2009, Revis has faced Brady and the Patriots on seven occasions, and according to Pro Football Focus, the quarterback has done pretty well against the corner. In all, Brady has completed 20-of-39 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns with one interception with Revis in coverage. Revis will get his shot at bettering those numbers when the two meet again Sunday.

3. The Bucs against themselves – The Buccaneers have a world of individual talent on both sides of the ball, but through the first two games of the year they’€™ve have done a good job of self-destructing. Through two games, no team had more penalties (23) and more penalty yardage assessed against it than Tampa Bay (220). The Bucs have lost a pair of field goal games at the buzzer, one in the season opener to the Jets (when a late flag — the third of three personal fouls assessed to Tampa Bay) allowed New York to get into field goal range as time expired) and last week vs. the Saints, when Drew Brees led New Orleans to a 16-14 last-second win. Toss in the various reports of team unrest, a case of MRSA, and a reported trade request made by Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman, and it’€™s shaping up to be a long year for the Bucs. Not saying they won’€™t give you everything they have, but to this point, Tampa has come up short in the biggest moments of the 2013 season.

4. Under-the-radar opponent Patriots fans need to know – He’€™s not a household name, but Dashon Goldson is one of the more underrated defensive backs out there, and he will present problems for the Patriots for several reasons, not the least of which being he’€™s developed a rep as a headhunter. Goldson, who appealed and won the decision after a one-game suspension for an incident against the Saints last week, will play on Sunday, with a track record of recklessness. He’€™s committed a whopping 15 personal fouls since the start of the 2010 season, the most in the league, and while his latest violation didn’€™t get him suspended, it was Goldson’€™s fifth for unnecessary roughness since 2011 and his second in the first two weeks of the 2013 season.

5. By the numbers: Percentage-wise, no receiver accounts for more of his team’€™s total receptions through the first two games of the season than Jackson. He’€™s caught 12 of the 24 passes Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman has completed over the course of his first two games, a 50 percent rate. The only two receivers who were close to Jackson in terms of percentage over the first two weeks were Edelman and Philly’€™s DeSean Jackson, both of whom accounted for 42 percent of their teams receptions in that same span.

(One more for good measure: through two weeks, the Patriots offense has gone no-huddle on 13 plays, or 11.8 percent of time. For comparison, the Pats went no-huddle an average of 25 percent per game over the last two years.)

6. Quote of note –
‘€œI just assume he’€™s not playing until they tell me that he’€™s going to play. We’€™ve dealt with him injured for a lot of last season too, so you just don’€™t want to ‘€¦ I think we know how to play without him. It’€™ll be a nice little influx of really rare talent when he gets back. I love having him on the field with me, I love working with him. He’€™s been great to work with since the day he got here, so whenever he’€™s back on the game field it’€™ll be exciting for all of us.’€ -- Brady on the potential return of Rob Gronkowski

After being listed as doubtful for the first two games of the regular season, the tight end was upgraded to questionable when the final injury report of the week came out on Friday.

7. Patriots fans should be worried about ‘€¦
Freeman and the Bucs hitting on the deep ball. This clearly was a talking point this week in Foxboro — by my count, no fewer than three defensive players referenced separately the fact that Tampa led the league in big plays last year. (The Bucs actually were first in the NFL in pass plays of 40-plus yards in 2012 with 16.) Another talking point that was likely referenced this week, although one not for media consumption, was GTFB. It’€™s a simple, four-word philosophy ‘€“ not repeatable in polite company — for New England defensive backs that drives home the danger of allowing the big play.

8. Bucs fans should be worried about ‘€¦
another excellent performance from the New England defense. Yes, the first two games came at the expense of rookie quarterbacks, but the numbers are undeniably impressive. The defense yielded three touchdowns on 29 offensive drives, allowed an average of 15.5 points per game, forced six turnovers and has held opponents to a 32.3 conversion rate when it comes to third down (eighth-best in the league). Again, the numbers were against occasionally ragged offenses, but still need to be singled out as exemplary.

9. One more thing –
The rookie receivers will again be in the spotlight Sunday, as the Patriots will continue to force-feed them in an attempt to see if they can join Edelman in helping move the chains. We wrote about this earlier in the week, but it certainly bears repeating: Over the first two weeks of the 2013 season, New England has relied on its rookie receivers in a way no other Tom Brady-offense has done in the past. While targets can occasionally be an imperfect stat, the fact that Kenbrell Thompkins has been targeted 21 times through two games (and is on pace for 168 targets over the course of the regular season) gives you a good idea of what’€™s going on. Thompkins is already almost halfway to the rookie receiving record for targets in New England, established by Edelman in 2009 (54). There was some marked improvement for Thompkins between Week 1 and Week 2, and Aaron Dobson was really in a no-win situation last week — he made his first start during a short week with no padded practices — and so any sort of progression this week should be taken as a good sign. The Patriots and Brady will need them to step their collective game up this week against the Bucs.

10. Prediction:

Read More: Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson, Josh Freeman
Aqib Talib says that when it comes to facing his old team, it’s no big deal 09.18.13 at 3:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to facing the Bucs, Aqib Talib isn’t getting too worked up.

The former Tampa Bay cornerback said after practice on Wednesday that when he faces his old team Sunday at Gillette Stadium, it won’t mean any more than any of the other 15 games on the schedule.

“No, it’s a game,” said Talib, who played with the Bucs for four-plus seasons. “Number three game. Week three game. The next game. the most important game.”

One of the things that will make this one a little easier for Talib is the fact that the two teams spent a few days practicing together over the summer before meeting in a preseason clash.

“We got a chance to see their weapons and they got a chance to see ours,” said Talib, who has a pair of picks through the first two games of the season. “I’m sure it helped them too, getting to practice against us. I mean, we got an early look at each other, so both teams kind of held a little back — we didn’t show each other everything. They didn’t show us everything. So we got a small look. Now, we have to go play the real game.”

Of course, Talib — who was dealt from Tampa Bay to the Patriots for a draft pick less than a year ago — does have some working knowledge of how the Bucs offense operates, as he’s faced many of their key players every day in practice, including quarterback Josh Freeman and wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

“He’s got a strong arm, man,” Talib said of Freeman. “They get that running game going, and off that play action, he can throw that ball and he knows where they need to throw it. He brings that strong arm and they bring that deep ball, they hit a lot of big plays. They led the league last year, so that’s exactly what he brings to the table.”

As for the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jackson — who can line up in the slot or split wide — he presents a unique skill set, according to Talib.

“He runs routes like a smaller guy, and he runs deep balls like a 6-foot-4 guy. He has the best of both worlds as a wideout. Real hard to defend,” said Talib of Jackson, who were teammates for a portion of the 2012 season before Talib was dealt to the Patriots. “He brings that quickness to the table, so he can get in the slot and still get open. He definitely brings both sides to the table.”

Read More: Aqib Talib, Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson,
Bill Belichick calls Tampa Bay Buccaneers ‘one of the most explosive teams in the league’ at 12:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have scored just 33 points in their first two games and lost both of them in low-scoring affairs but that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick doesn’t think they’re capable of the big play.

As a matter of fact, just the opposite.

Belichick considers the Bucs big playmakers on both sides of the ball. Last week, linebacker Mason Foster returned a Drew Brees interception 85 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the Bucs on top, 14-13, only to lose the game on a last-second field from Garrett Hartley.

“As we’€™ve been looking at Tampa, obviously we’€™ve seen a lot of them from the offseason and then in training camp, but just really going back and looking at their games from last year, looking at the games from this year, this is one of the most explosive teams in the league,” Belichick said at his Wednesday morning press conference. “This is a big challenge for us. Defensively, they’€™re obviously very­­ good; creating negative plays, taking the ball away, the interception return against New Orleans, the strip-sack they had called back, another strip-sack they had against the Jets, had the ball on the five-yard line. They can score on defense. They create a lot of negative plays. Offensively, they’€™re one of the most explosive teams in the league.

“They led the league last year in big plays over 40 yards. They had another long pass last week against New Orleans called back, a 75 yarder. But the running back is a big play guy, the receivers are big play receivers, [Mike] Williams and of course [Vincent] Jackson. [Josh] Freeman has a great arm, great athlete. They’€™re explosive in the kicking game; they led the league in blocked punts. They’€™re a team that covers well, that creates good field position. They’€™re a tough team to get the ball off on, on their kick blocking units and also they’€™re a good return team with [Eric] Page and those guys back there. It’€™s a good, explosive team, a team we really have to be careful of all the little things because it can lead to big things and those big things can lead to big plays and nobody makes more of them than these guys do. It will be a big challenge of us this week getting ready for them.”

Offensively, there’s quarterback Josh Freeman and big-play receiver Vincent Jackson, who runs most of routes from the slot.

“They move him,” Belichick said of Jackson. “You know, they’€™ve run a lot of three receiver sets and he’€™s normally in the slot but not always. In their two receiver sets, he could be either on the weak side or on the strong side. They move him around. Finding him is definitely an issue because he’€™s not always in the same spot, but wherever he is, you better be aware of him.

“I think it’€™s just a different type of player. I think there are two kinds of slot receivers. There are the quicker, more lateral, more explosive, quick guys and then there’€™s the bigger, more vertical guy. He has elements of both but he’€™s certainly a big, vertical receiver. He’€™s a tough guy to match up with for some of the slot corners. But they move him around. They’€™ll play him on the perimeter in some multiple receiver sets and of course he’€™s out there in their two receiver sets. He’€™s a good player.”

As for Freeman, who is just 24-of-53 for 335 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in two losses, Belichick is very aware of his arm strength.

“I see a guy that can, like I said, can make all the throws,” Belichick said. “He can throw the deep ball, he can throw sideline routes. Again, I thought that last drive against New Orleans, they have a third-and-10, third-and-8, whatever it was, he made big throws in critical situations to move the team down, to move up most of the clock there before they had that last field goal. Same thing against the Jets, [he] put them back in field goal position to go ahead in that game with whatever it was, 30 seconds to go in the game or whatever it was. He can scramble, he does a good job on bootleg passes on the run, throws well in the pocket, utilizes all his receivers, the outside receivers, tight ends, backs. I think he’€™s got plenty of skill.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Josh Freeman, New England Patriots, nfl
Adam Schefter on D&C: Rob Gronkowski back ‘maybe as early as this week’ 09.16.13 at 11:46 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ lack of offensive weapons and New England’€™s Week 3 opponent, the Buccaneers.

The Patriots are coming off of a 13-10 win at home against the Jets on Thursday night. The win disappointed some because of the lack of production from the offense. Tom Brady completed just 19 of his 39 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski (back) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) sidelined with injuries, New England has been forced to turn to inexperienced playmakers like Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman at the skill positions.

Schefter was quick to remind fans that as bleak as the offensive outlook looks, a few teams have it worse.

‘€œEven for the Patriots’€™ injuries or free agent defections, whatever it may be, they still don’€™t compare to other teams,’€ said Schefter who mentioned the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars as teams with worse offensive weapons than New England. ‘€œThere are some teams that really have so few offensive weapons. ‘€œBut saying that, [the Patriots] wouldn’€™t rank particularly high with the depth they’€™re playing with right now.”

On Thursday, rookie wide receivers Thompkins and Dobson combined to catch five passes, despite a whopping 17 targets, for 103 yards. Even more concerning, no tight end registered a reception.

Schefter mentioned that reinforcements could be on the way for the Patriots.

‘€œNow say that at some point here, maybe as early as this week, Gronk is going to come back, at some point, Danny Amendola, maybe a few weeks, will come back, and let’€™s just say Gronk and Amendola are on the field at the same time, then all of a sudden it’€™s not as bleak and as desperate as people think. So there’€™s still some hope that some of these guys can get back, to me,’€ Schefter said.

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Greg Schiano, Josh Freeman
Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits 12.22.12 at 11:30 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 16 starts and sits. If you are reading this article, then there’€™s a good chance you are in the championship game for your league. Congratulations on that. Now let’€™s see if we can give you a little guidance on some of this week’€™s tough lineup choices. I will also be hosting our final Sunday morning chat this weekend, so feel free to swing by if you have any tough choices. We kick off the chat at 11 a.m. If you need comprehensive lineup help, join us at Rotobahn, where I will have full lineup rankings posted later Saturday.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Robert Griffin III, Redskins at Eagles

If he plays, you should play him. Washington sat him last week, so you know the coaches have some standards in place. They won’€™t just throw him out there. The matchup is favorable and he’€™s an effective QB even without his typical mobility. Unless you happen to have another elite option, you should start RGIII and just accept the risks. His upside merits it in my view.

Tony Romo, Cowboys vs. Saints

Dez Bryant proved that he can be a factor with his injury last week and this is a solid home matchup. Romo has been a fantasy asset over the last eight weeks and we expect that to continue in Week 16. Expect QB1 results in a high-scoring game.

Sam Bradford, Rams at Buccaneers

Bradford is playing well, has a nice matchup and has a full complement of weapons to work with now that Danny Amendola is back. He makes a solid start this week if you are in need. Start him in all leagues.

SITS

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers vs. Rams

Freeman is reeling along with the entire Bucs offense. After last week’€™s debacle, we’€™d be very leery of starting him against a solid yet inconsistent St. Louis defense. If you have another viable option, I’€™d use it.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks vs. 49ers

Yes, we love this kid, but this is not a great week to use him unless you are weak at the position. Wilson is viable, but we have him ranked as an average QB2 this week, not the monster he was in Week 15. He’€™s not running for a bunch of scores on San Francisco. At least, we’€™re not willing to bet our season on it.

Jake Locker, Titans at Packers

For those in deep leagues, don’€™t let Green Bay’€™s recent defensive struggles tempt you into using Locker. He’€™s missing way too many throws right now for you to trust your title game to him. He’€™s an exciting young player, but he could let you down on the road in Green Bay and hasn’€™t topped 20 points since Week 3. If you are a Freeman owner looking for another option, keep looking and avoid Locker in Week 16.

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Read More: Josh Freeman, Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford, Tony Romo
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