|Scene-setting: Patriots look to ice out Texans and make NFL playoff history||01.14.17 at 5:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The time has finally come for the Patriots to get about their business of making playoff history.
The Patriots will host the Texans in seasonably cold conditions at Gillette Stadium in their seventh straight AFC Divisional home game.
Temperatures are expected in the mid-to-upper 20s for the 8:15 p.m. kick and then drop into the low 20s by the end of the game. There is a slight chance of flurries around 8 p.m. but otherwise, there is little chance of precipitation. There will be a wind out of the south at 7 MPH making it feel like 18-to-20 degrees throughout the game.
The Patriots enter the game having won their previous five AFC divisional round games. Their last loss came in Jan. 2011 when they were stunned by the Jets, 28-21, at Gillette, one of just three home playoff losses in the history of the building.
Overall, the Patriots are 14-3 in home playoff games at Gillette and 18-4 overall at home in Foxboro.
Should the Patriots, who are 17-point favorites in some places, advance, they will become the first team in the Super Bowl era to advance to six straight AFC Championship games. They are tied with the Raiders, who also played in five straight between 1973 and 1977.
A win against the Texans will also give the Patriots 30 playoff win in their franchise history. They will join the Steelers, Cowboys, Packers and 49ers as the only five to have reached that plateau.
The Patriots will get back the services of wide receiver and punt returner Danny Amendola, who injured his ankle against the Rams on Dec. 4 and missed the last four games. Malcolm Mitchell is not expected to play, as he was limited all week in practice with a knee injury.
Commissioner Roger Goodell will not attend the game in Foxboro Saturday night.
The Texans have never won a road playoff game in three tries. One of those losses was to the Patriots in Jan. 2013, when the Patriots beat Matt Schaub, 41-28, at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots were the No. 2 seed that year and lost to the Ravens the following week in the AFC Championship.
|Patriots greatness summarized in one amazing chart||01.03.17 at 4:04 pm ET|
We know how great the Patriots are around here, but it never hurts to see it laid out graphically.
A user over at Reddit named Portuguese Empire takes care of that (as unearthed by USA Today’s FTW blog) with this handy graphic illustrating division winners since NFL realignment 15 years ago.
Every division has had multiple teams win multiple division titles in that time . . . except the AFC East, which has been dominated by the Pats. Seriously. Look at this graphic. Look at all those little Patriots helmets. There are 13 in all.
It’s fascinating to see the runs of teams like the Eagles in the early 2000s, or the Colts in the early- and mid-2000s, or the Broncos of recent vintage come and go, while the Pats stay remarkably, dominantly consistent.
It’s also worth noting that of the two times the Pats didn’t win the division, in 2008 they actually tied for first with the Dolpins at 11-5, but lost on a tie-breaker.
|Patriots to play Saturday, Jan. 16, NFL wild card playoff schedule announced||01.04.16 at 12:19 am ET|
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.
|Fantasy Football: Postseason draft preparation||01.01.15 at 11:23 am ET|
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.
|Steve Gregory might be a future coach, but right now he’s focused on Andrew Luck||01.09.14 at 9:45 am ET|
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.
‘Yeah, 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.
‘I 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.
‘Not really. I’m a player right now, so I’m hoping on playing for a little bit longer,” Gregory said.
|Bill Belichick isn’t buying ‘way overrated’ intel impact of Indianpolis Colts WR Deion Branch||01.08.14 at 11:38 am ET|
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.
“So, 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?
“We’ll do whatever we think is best,” Belichick said.
|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|
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.
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