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Patriots to play Saturday, Jan. 16, NFL wild card playoff schedule announced 01.04.16 at 12:19 am ET
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Will Andy Dalton play when the Bengals host the Steelers this weekend in the playoffs? (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Will Andy Dalton play when the Bengals host the Steelers this weekend in the playoffs? (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Patriots will open the playoffs in a divisional game at 4:35 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 16 at Gillette Stadium. They will play one of three teams, the Bengals, Chiefs or Texans.

There is something a little different about the NFL wild card playoff schedule announced late Sunday night after the Vikings defeated the Packers, 20-13, to clinch the NFC North title.

For the first time, both conferences will have a dedicated day for their playoff games on the first weekend.

The AFC will go first on Saturday as the No. 5 seed Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) visit the AFC South champion and No. 4 seed Houston Texans (9-7). The Texans earn the game by virtue of winning their division while the Chiefs finished a game behind the Broncos in the AFC West and earned the first wild card. The game will start at 4:20 p.m. ET and be broadcast nationally on ESPN/ABC.

The second game Saturday will feature the No. 6 seed Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) visiting the AFC North champion and No. 3 seed Cincinnati Bengals (12-4). The two teams each won in the other team’s building this season. This game is also a revenge game for the Bengals, who lost a similar game in Jan. 2006 when they won the AFC North but lost quarterback Carson Palmer to a knee injury in the first quarter of a 31-17 Steelers’ win. The game will be on CBS nationally beginning at 8:15 p.m. ET at Paul Brown Stadium.

If the Bengals win, they will play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. If the Steelers win, the Patriots get the winner of the Chiefs-Texans game.

In the NFC, the wild card weekend begins on Sunday with a pair of games. NBC will broadcast the matchup between the No. 6 seed Seattle Seahawks (10-6) and the NFC North champion and No. 3 seed Minnesota Vikings (11-5) in Minnesota beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

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Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, houston texans, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots
Fantasy Football: Postseason draft preparation 01.01.15 at 11:23 am ET
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Pat Riley used to say that nothing really happens in a NBA playoff series until a team loses on their home court. To me, NFL playoff leagues are similar. In NFL playoff pools, things don’€™t really get interesting until there’€™s an upset. Once that happens, or if that happens, all bets are off. When things play out as expected in the real games, the fantasy teams that draw high draft positions will usually be the winners. However, an upset or two can change everything. If you drew a late draft position, this is your potential saving grace, but you need to locate that low-seeded team that has the ability to make a run.

In this article I will look at two primary things. First, I’€™ll break down the 12 playoff teams and how far I see them going. This is my take, but if your’s differs, you should adjust the rankings accordingly. Second, I’€™ll break the top 75 players down into tiers. If you are in a hurry and are in need of full rankings and cheat sheets, go to Rotobahn and download ours for free. You can be ready to draft in about 60 seconds.

When preparing for a playoff draft, you need to answer a few essential questions. Because unlike regular-season drafts, you have the added element of players getting knocked out when they lose. The outcomes of the games themselves play a huge role in the outcome of your league, because when your player advances you get another game and the potential for more after that. This makes certain bits of player information crucial this week. For example, consider the massive impact of the Ndamukong Suh non-suspension. Suh’€™s presence in this week’€™s game has a huge impact on the value of Cowboys players and Lions players. If the suspension had been upheld, the Lions are almost a certain loser at Dallas. With Suh on the field, I give them a 30 or 40 percent shot at winning. The Cowboys go from an almost certain two-game team to a somewhat probable two-game team. That’€™s big. Players who are one-and-done are team killers, especially if you select them with a premium pick. Understanding this, you’€™ll want to answer the following questions. Your board depends on them.

Are there any teams that can realistically play four times, and who are they?

The only way this happens is if a team playing in the Wildcard round makes the Super Bowl. Look at this week’€™s matchups. Do you see any of these teams making runs at the big game? In the NFC, is there a team playing this weekend that could win at Seattle? In the AFC, is there a team playing this weekend that could win at New England? My answer to both is no, so I can’€™t see any teams playing more than three games. Remember, teams that have a bye max out at three games played. Only Wildcard teams can get that fourth game. This has made juggernauts out of teams like Arizona in 2008 and the Ravens in 2012 — the Giants did it in 2007 and 2011, so there’€™s plenty of precedence for it happening.

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Read More: Ndamukong Suh, NFL Playoffs, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady
Steve Gregory might be a future coach, but right now he’s focused on Andrew Luck 01.09.14 at 9:45 am ET
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FOXBORO — From the moment Steve Gregory joined the Patriots in March 2012, there was a sense among the Patriots that they had an extra coach in the secondary.

Now, with the playoffs on the horizon, the Patriots are leaning on Gregory, not just on the field but in the classroom as they look for ways to cover the explosive Colts passing game and hopefully confuse Andrew Luck.

“I think with Steve a lot of it is, even in the film room, when we’€™re in meetings we’€™ll have something in the defense and we’€™re watching and Steve will say, ‘€˜Why don’€™t we do this?’€™ We’€™ll all sit there and look at him and be like, ‘€˜You’€™re right, that probably would be better.’€™ I think that’€™s what makes him so good,” Devin McCourty said after practice on Wednesday.

“When we’€™re preparing for games, he’€™s not only able to watch film and see things coming but he’€™s able to go to the coaches and say, ‘€˜Why don’€™t we tweak this defense this way because it better fits what they do?’€™ I think it’€™s good, our coaches listen to everyone. Steve always has something each week we play that he sees and things we can do. That’€™s why we call him a future head coach.”

The 31-year-old Gregory, along with McCourty, are two of the key pieces in the secondary because – as safeties – they are the ones calling signals and lining up players in the right spot before the snap. And much of that preparation and recognition comes from studying film.

‘€œYeah, definitely. Just with anticipation and things like that, recognition of formations, where guys are, route combinations, things like that, understanding the schemes and stuff that we’€™re running, where help is, that all ties in to being able to play fast and play at a high level,” Gregory said.

‘€œI think it’€™s a little bit of everything. It’€™s a little bit of film work, it’€™s a little bit of studying, understanding really what the scheme is within your defense, what your job is, what other guys’€™ jobs are, and then kind of just having some instincts of football, just kind of understanding the game itself, and those things can go a long way.’€

As for his coaching career, Gregory is hoping that well off in the future and he hasn’t given any serious thought yet to what McCourty suggested.

‘€œNot really. I’€™m a player right now, so I’€™m hoping on playing for a little bit longer,” Gregory said.

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Read More: 2014 playoffs, Andrew Luck, Devin McCourty, Indianapolis Colts
Bill Belichick isn’t buying ‘way overrated’ intel impact of Indianpolis Colts WR Deion Branch 01.08.14 at 11:38 am ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick isn’t worried about Deion Branch giving away trade secrets this week prior to the Patriots’ showdown with the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

The Colts signed Branch on Monday and the natural question was raised: Could Branch, who played several stints in New England, provide valuable Patriots-based information that helps in game planning?

“I think that’€™s way overrated,’€ Belichick said. “A lot of time the information in those situations is misinformation, because things have changed from whenever that person [played for the opposing team]. I’€™m not saying that in any particular circumstance, I’€™m just saying in general, a lot of times a player who has been with another team tells you, ‘€˜This is what they do, this is their call, this is this, this is that,’€™ and then it turns out that’€™s really not what it is.

“€œSo, honestly, we have enough trouble doing all the things we do and getting them right and getting everybody to do them well. I’€™m sure they have the same thing with the amount of volume that you have in your different systems, and the amount of volume that you face on the other side of the ball. To be able to not only know everything you’€™re doing but also be able to figure out everything they’€™re doing, it’€™s pretty overrated.”

In baseball, they change the signs. In Foxboro, will Belichick do the same?

“€œWe’€™ll do whatever we think is best,” Belichick said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Patriots officially promote LB Ja’Gared Davis, sign Reggie Dunn to simulate T.Y. Hilton in practice 01.07.14 at 5:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Looking for every advantage possible heading into the their playoff game with the Colts Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots signed a speedy wide receiver to their practice squad to mirror the skill set of Colts speed merchant T.Y. Hilton.

Reggie Dunn, 25, was originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent on April 7, 2013 out of Utah. The 5-foot9, 178-pounder was released by the Steelers after training camp and spent time on the practice squads of Green Bay, Cleveland and Miami this season. Dunn was a decorated kick returner during his collegiate career, returning five 100-yard kick returns for touchdowns, more than any other player in NCAA history.

Dunn takes the spot of linebacker Ja’€™Gared Davis on the practice squad as Davis was promoted Tuesday to the 53-man roster to take the spot of Brandon Spikes who was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.

Davis, 23, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots on Aug. 28. The 6-foot, 238-pounder, was originally signed by the Houston Texans as a rookie free agent from Southern Methodist on May 10 and was released on Aug. 27. Davis was released by the Patriots on Aug. 31 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1. He was signed to the 53-man roster the day before the Patriots game at Cincinnati and played on special teams against the Bengals. He was released Oct. 7 and re-signed to the practice squad on Oct. 9.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, Ja'Gared Davis, New England Patriots, nfl
Patriots put limited number of playoff tickets on sale 12.30.13 at 3:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Fans hoping to see the Patriots in person on Jan. 11 will have to be quick on the draw.

Hours after locking up their 12th win of the season, earning a first-round bye in the process, the league announced its playoff pairings and the Patriots learned that they will host an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 8:15 p.m. On Monday, the team announced a limited number of individual tickets will go on sale Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. exclusively through Ticketmaster.

After fulfilling orders for Patriots season ticket holders and Patriots “wait list” members, the remaining tickets will be placed on sale to the public on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. All Patriots playoff ticket orders will be processed through Ticketmaster.

Playoff tickets will not be sold at the Gillette Stadium Ticket Office. Ticket orders can be processed one of two ways, online at or by phone by calling 800-745-3000. Visa, an official Patriots and NFL sponsor, will be the only accepted form of payment. The Patriots are advising fans to beware of any tickets acquired through third-party vendors or non-Ticketmaster transactions. Counterfeit tickets will be rejected at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots are the first AFC team to earn four consecutive first-round playoff byes and are just the third team in NFL history to do so, joining Dallas (1992-95) and San Francisco (1992-95). On Saturday, Jan. 11, the Patriots will host their 14th playoff game since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, which is four more than the second-place Colts have hosted. The Patriots are 10-3 (.769) in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium.

For the first 34 years in the franchise’€™s history, the Patriots hosted just one playoff game ‘€“ a loss to the Houston Oilers in 1978. Yet, in the 20 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994, the Patriots have qualified for the playoffs 15 times, including 13 times as division champions, and have hosted a league-leading 17 playoff games. The Patriots are 14-3 in those games.

This year will mark the fifth time in franchise history that the Patriots have earned the number two seed to enter the playoffs. Historically, that home-field advantage has helped propel the Patriots through the playoffs as the team has advanced to the Super Bowl on three of those five occasions.

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Read More: New England Patriots, nfl, NFL Playoffs, Ticketmaster
Setting the AFC championship scene: Patriots-Ravens 01.20.13 at 2:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — High winds and falling temperatures are expected in Foxboro as the Patriots shoot for their sixth AFC championship in the the last 12 seasons under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Game time temperatures are expected in the mid-30s and are expected to drop into the mid-20s throughout the game but the bigger factor will be winds between 15-20 miles an hour with gusts up to 35 MPH making it feel like 14 degrees in the second half.

The only significant injury for the Patriots is the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski to a broken left arm, suffered last Sunday in the win over the Texans.

Chandler Jones (ankle) and Danny Woodhead (left thumb) should both be available to play and both were listed as probable for the game after fully participating in practice on Friday.

As for the Ravens, the most notable injury could be running back Bernard Pierce (knee). He did not practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday, and was officially listed as questionable on Friday.

This is the fourth rematch in AFC championship history since 1975. The Steelers beat the Raiders in 1974 and 1975 before losing the 1976 game in Oakland as the Raiders finally broke through and won Super Bowl XI. In 1978 and 79, the Steelers hosted the Houston Oilers, and beat them both times on the way to winning Super Bowl XII and Super Bowl XIII.

It happened again in 1986 and ’87. In Jan. 1987, the Broncos beat the Browns on “The Drive” in Cleveland. The next year, Ernest Byner fumbled in the closing seconds and the Broncos held on to beat the Browns at Mile High Stadium.

The Raiders are the only the team to win an AFC championship rematch.

As for the season history, the Patriots will be looking for revenge after losing a 30-21 fourth-quarter lead and falling 31-30 on a controversial Justin Tucker field goal as time expired at M&T Bank Stadium. The field goal appeared to go over the right upright but replacement officials ruled it good.

Ray Rice had 101 yards rushing on just 20 carries in that game while Joe Flacco was 28-of-39 for 382 yards and three touchdowns. Brady, who last week set the all-time NFL playoff record for quarterback wins with 17, was 28-of-41 for 335 yards and a touchdown in the Sept. 23 game in Baltimore. The high winds at Gillette Stadium today figure to drastically impact the deep passing game.

The press box at Gillette Stadium will be a busy place today as over 600 credentials have been issued to local and national media.

Some other nuggets for today:

  • The Patriots are 7-1 in the AFC championship, including 4-0 at home.
  • This is the Patriots ninth appearance in the AFC championship, only Pittsburgh (15), Dallas (14), San Francisco (14) and Oakland (11) have more.
  • The Patriots are looking for back-to-back AFC championships for the second time, having turned the trick in 2003-04.
  • The Patriots were first in the NFL in total offense per game at 427.9 yards and points (34.8).
  • The Patriots were first in the NFL in turnover margin at +25. Ravens were tied for eighth at +9.

    For more Patriots news, visit the team page at WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Ravens at 6:30 p.m.

  • Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, joe flacco
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