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Who are Bill Belichick’s favorite trade partners? 03.19.15 at 4:13 pm ET
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Based on their relationship and history between the two franchises, Chip Kelly could emerge as a go-to trade partner for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. (Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)

Based on their relationship and history between the two franchises, Chip Kelly could emerge as a go-to trade partner for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. (Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)

If you’re of the mind that the Patriots need to make some deals in hopes of shoring up the secondary of defensive line in the wake of the personnel losses of Darrelle Revis or Vince Wilfork, you should be checking out the rosters in Houston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

History tells us that when it comes to dealing, Bill Belichick has a relatively small circle of teams — and more specifically, individuals — he prefers to deal with more than others. Since he took control of the Patriots in 2000, by our count, Belichick has made 102 trades. In all, he’s made the most deals with Oakland (9), followed by Denver, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Green Bay (all 6). That’s followed by Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore and Philly (5).

The Raiders have been Belichick’s most frequent trade partner, and deals with Oakland have arguably produced the most blockbusters, including the trades of Richard Seymour and Randy Moss. However, it’s worth noting that since the death of Al Davis in October 2011, the Patriots have not made a single deal with Oakland. (The last trade between New England and Oakland came when the two teams swapped picks on draft weekend in April of that year.) That’s not to rule out any sort of future trades between the two teams — only to suggest that the Raiders might not necessarily be the first team Belichick targets when he picks up the phone to talk about a deal this time around.

As for the best of the rest, it’s also unlikely that the Patriots and Broncos look to make a deal anytime soon, given the nature of their rivalry, as well as the fact that old friends Mike Shanahan or Josh McDaniels are no longer with Denver. Tampa Bay and Green Bay remain intriguing trade partners, as the Packers and GM Ted Thompson have shown a willingness to work with Belichick in the past on more than a few occasions over the last decade, with the last trade between the two teams coming last summer when New England acquired defensive tackle Jerel Worthy for a draft pick. And while the Patriots and Bears made a couple of notable deals a little over a decade ago (New England acquired Ted Washington in 2003 and a swap of draft picks that same year netted the Patriots Ty Warren), the two teams haven’t made a deal since 2007.

(Two teams we do know who are likely off Belichick’s trade radar: the Colts and Jets. While New York received compensation for losing Belichick to the Patriots in 2000, since he arrived in New England, Belichick has not made a personnel swap with either Indy or the Jets.)

That brings us to the Texans, Ravens, Eagles and Bucs. All four of these franchises have shown a willingness to work with the Patriots in the past, and given the deep relationship Belichick has with most of the decision-makers in each one of the four teams, it makes it a possibility that they could put together another deal in the not-too-distant future.

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Read More: Al Davis, Bill Belichick, Bill Belichick New England Patriots, Bill O'Brien
Josh McDaniels would ‘love to’ be head coach again, given the right spot 01.27.15 at 3:38 pm ET
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PHEONIX — Josh McDaniels‘ name has been mentioned a number of times over the last few months as a potential head coach.

He reportedly interviewed with the Falcons and 49ers during the Patriots’ bye week, and although the Falcons job is still open, there was a report from an Atlanta paper that he was staying with the Patriots. Tuesday at the Patriots’ media day, McDaniels said he still has interest in being a head coach, given the right situation.

“I would love to do it again,” McDaniels said. “I think the most important thing to me is to just be in the right situation and just be in a place where I feel good about being. There are a lot of great teams and great places out there. I happen to be in a good situation for myself right now and for my family. If it comes up again and it is like there it is, that is the right spot, then I would love to do it again and give it another shot.”

Even though things didn’t work out in Denver for McDaniels, going 11-17 in one-plus season with the Broncos, he said it was a learning experience and it is benefiting him now. He said he and the rest of the New England coaching staff work very well together.

“I have learned a tremendous amount,” he said. “There is probably so many things that I learned there. I think one of the things that I really learned in Denver is the value of being a good listener. When you do something like that for the first time you feel like you have to run through everything and be in charge of too many things and sometimes that is a significant negative. I have tried really hard in St. Louis and then here back in New England. We really gather ideas, we listen to one another and try to do the best thing for the offense in this particular case and it has really been a great thing.

“Our atmosphere on our staff has been very healthy and a big part of that is that we have a lot of guys that can contribute and it doesn’€™t come from one source. I made a lot of mistakes there and you know that. I think it was a great learning experience for myself. Hopefully I have grown from that and will continue to grow.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Josh McDaniels, Super Bowl XLIX,
Bill Belichick doesn’t want to discuss Bryan Stork’s knee injury 01.13.15 at 10:41 am ET
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Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork

Starting center Bryan Stork left Saturday’s divisional round game with the Ravens in second quarter with a knee injury. It was then announced right after halftime he would not return to the game.

The rookie was not seen in the locker room following the game, and coach Bill Belichick didn’t have much of an update to offer on Tuesday’s conference call.

“I think Bryan has done a good job for us,” said Belichick. “We finished the game without him last week and if he wasn’t available then we’d be in a similar situation this week. Whether it would be the same [personnel] or different, I don’t really want to get into that. He’s obviously done a good job for us, he’s grown along the way.”

When Stork went down the Patriots made some adjustments on the offensive line, as Ryan Wendell shifted over from right guard to center and Josh Kline was inserted at right guard. Kline has emerged as the team’s top backup offensive linemen, as he started in place of Dan Connolly at left guard when he missed the final two games of the regular season. When it comes to Sunday’s game against the Colts, if Stork cannot play, it would seem Jordan Devey would become active, and along with Marcus Cannon, serve as the backup offensive linemen.

Another scenario to consider is rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming could be active, as the team had a lot of success in the last meeting with the Colts with Fleming serving as an extra offensive lineman. The Patriots ran for a total of 257 yards in the game.

Stork has been very important to the offensive line after taking over at center in Week 4. As noted last week, when the Patriots had a starting offensive line of Nate Solder, Connolly, Stork, Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer, they allowed only four sacks in the regular season, compared to 17 with any other combination. Tom Brady also a QB rating almost 14 points higher.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Bryan Stork, Josh McDaniels
Josh McDaniels won’t be afraid to turn to his bag of tricks again if time is right 01.12.15 at 11:45 pm ET
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Julian Edelman unloads his first career pass, a 51-yard TD strike to Danny Amendola Saturday. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Julian Edelman unloads his first career pass, a 51-yard TD strike to Danny Amendola Saturday. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Will Josh McDaniels turn to his bag of tricks again Sunday in the AFC championship?

Will he even be tempted to run the double-pass again? The answer to both is a definite maybe.

The Patriots offensive coordinator said Monday during his conference call with coordinators that he’s willing to try anything if the right look presents itself.

After the game, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola said they had been working on the double pass play all year long. Does McDaniels have a series of those plays in practice and want to break out in the right situation?

“We’€™ve all seen trick plays or whatever you want to call them, gadget,” McDaniels said. “We have probably no longer [a] list of those here than anybody else does, and I think you just look for I would say the potential of a situation to present itself that may give you an opportunity to have success with one of them.

“I don’€™t think there’€™s a guarantee on any of them. We’€™ve certainly called them before here, and maybe it wasn’€™t a great defense to try it against, or the defense had a great call on at the same time and it happens not to work.”

Once a trick play gets called and used, would McDaniels be tempted to go back to it?

“Like everything else you do on offense, you practice that play ‘€“ if it’€™s a run, a pass, a screen, a gadget, a red zone play ‘€“ enough to where you feel like your players have confidence in what they’€™re being asked to do to give them the best chance to go out and do it successfully,” McDaniels said. “And then if you feel like that, it’€™s just a matter of trying to match it up against a defense, a call or a situation where you feel like you’€™ll have an opportunity to get it to work. Like I said, I think we all have them. It’€™s just a matter of when you call them, and if you can get it executed, and the guys did a great job the other night.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Indianapolis Colts, Josh McDaniels
Patriots coaches preparing for different Colts team than one faced in blowout win last meeting at 4:35 pm ET
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Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the Nov. meeting between the two teams. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the Nov. 16 meeting between the two teams. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

After a slow start to the game, the Patriots blew out the Colts, 42-20, in Indianapolis on Nov. 16 where they rushed for 246 yards on the ground.

Some may think because of that game the Patriots will be able to walk over the Colts this coming Sunday in the AFC championship game, but that simply isn’t the case according to the Patriots coaches, who say a lot has changed with the Colts’ team.

The Colts seemingly used that game to lift their play for the rest of the season, as they have gone 7-1 in games since the blowout loss, including two playoff wins. Their defense has especially picked up its play of late, allowing 13 points or less in their last three games.

“I think they’€™ve improved in every area,” coach Bill Belichick said on Monday’s conference call.  “[They’€™ve] gotten more production in their running game with the backs and [Donte] Moncrief’€™s become more a part of the passing game. They’€™ve gotten a lot of production out of the tight ends, offensive line, even though they’€™ve had a couple moving parts in there, I think they’€™re playing well. Defensively I think getting [Arthur] Jones back has definitely helped them. They’€™re playing just good team defense.

“They’€™ve got [Josh] Cribbs in the return game, so he gives them an explosive player there. I think they’€™re good in all three phases of the game. Obviously they’€™ve got a great kicker. They’€™ve improved the return game; excellent punter and kickoff guys. They do a good job on field position and those areas, so they’€™ve improved their return game and their overall balance offensively. They’€™re playing well on defense.”

Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in that Nov. 16 meeting, but the Colts were without one of their best defensive players in Jones — Chandler Jones’ brother. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels knows they are an improved team or else they wouldn’t be in the AFC championship.

“Each team that’€™s playing at this time of the year is, to me, they’€™re getting better as the season goes on and improving as a football team, and I see no difference with this group on defense,” said McDaniels. “A lot of times, it doesn’€™t require a dramatic shift in philosophy or scheme or players to improve. Sometimes it takes consistency and staying with it and just working at it and at times getting some people back healthy to really arrive at what you hope you could be. … Like I said before, I would imagine that this group is playing the way they want to play, and we’€™re going to have to play our best football game of the year against them on Sunday night.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, Josh McDaniels
Adam Schefter on MFB: ‘I think [Patriots] win this matchup handily’ 01.09.15 at 1:05 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about pressing issues in the NFL as well as his take on the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Ravens. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Unlike many people who have expressed their concerns with Saturday’s matchup, Schefter feels strongly that the Patriots have more than a decent chance to advance to the AFC championship game, even stressing how he thought New England would win “handily.”

“Everybody is talking about how this is the matchup that New England didn’t want, this is a nightmare play,” he said. “They get to play the team that has beaten them two of the last three, I mean, I could just hear this playing in the organization, you know the message that’s been delivered all week long. ‘Oh, nobody’s giving us a chance ’cause it’s Baltimore, this is a team that we should fear, this is the team that could beat us.’ I think it’s just the opposite.

“I think this sets up great for New England,” Schefter continued. “This is the kind of matchup that they win handily. I don’€™t know whether that means by 10, 20, 30, I have no idea, whatever it is … I think they win this matchup handily.”

Schefter also pointed out that the Ravens team on everyone’s mind from years past is not the same Ravens team playing in Foxboro on Saturday afternoon and that this Patriots team is different from the ones that lost the last two of three playoff games against Baltimore.

“The ones that lost, they didn’t have [Darrelle] Revis and [Brandon] Browner, they didn’t have [Rob] Gronkowski when they lost those two games,” he said. “Last year, Week 16, Baltimore needed to win a home game in Baltimore to get to the playoffs. New England deactivated Nate Solder to rest him, Rob Gronkowski was on IR, and New England, with nothing to play for, went into Baltimore and won 41-7. Forty-one to 7. So I think that New England is just feeding off this idea that this is a nightmare matchup for the Patriots. We’ll see if it is.”

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Read More: adam schefter, Josh McDaniels, Rex Ryan,
What Antonio Brown might teach Josh McDaniels, Patriots about Ravens’ approach to Rob Gronkowski 01.05.15 at 9:32 pm ET
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Josh McDaniels is looking forward to the Ravens Saturday in the divisional round. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Josh McDaniels is looking forward to the Ravens Saturday in the divisional round. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With interviews with the Falcons and 49ers out of the way, Josh McDaniels said Monday that his complete focus now is on the Ravens in the AFC divisional round this Saturday. That’s a good thing because after watching the Ravens defense handle Steelers’ wideout Antonio Brown over the weekend, he knows that he’ll need his whole bag of tricks to make sure they don’t do the same thing to Rob Gronkowski.

“They seem to do a good job each week of forcing the offense to do some things that maybe the offense didn’€™t want to do,” said McDaniels on a conference call Monday. “They have the ability to try to take somebody out of the game with different things that they can do in their scheme. They also have good players that they can just cover and match up with the guys they have without doing anything special.”

Cornerback Ladarius Webb was asked to spot Brown Saturday night in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger targeted the NFL’s leading receiver 14 times, connected just nine times for 117 yards. Take out the 44-yarder in the second half and that’s eight catches for 73 yards. Webb also kept Brown out of the end zone.

“They’€™ve played a lot of good players this year, and really they don’€™t do a lot of exotic things to take them out of the game,” McDaniels said. “They play good team defense. It’€™s one of the best units in the league for a reason. They’€™re well coached, as I mentioned before. They play hard. It’€™s 11 guys playing the same call and executing their assignment on every snap, which makes this a tremendous challenge for us.”

McDaniels will also being going up against old friend Dean Pees, the defensive coordinator in Baltimore who held the same job in New England for four years (2006-09).

“I don’€™t know how much of an advantage it is from one year to the next because Dean is obviously a very good coach,” McDaniels said. “This unit we’€™re playing is very talented. But they don’€™t really stay the same in terms of the things that they use or do in each game that we’€™ve played them.”

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Dean Pees, Josh McDaniels

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