|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 14: Patriots jump to No. 3||12.03.13 at 10:44 am ET|
The dominance continues. Seattle’s reign atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings has reached its seventh straight week. The Seahawks look like a lock to play in New Jersey in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Panthers (2), Patriots (3) and Broncos (4) all inch one spot closer while the Saints drop out of the top five after being absolutely dismantled in Seattle. New Orleans won’t have much time to think about the loss because the red-hot Panthers are next on the schedule in a battle for the NFC South.
As the regular season draws closer to an end, we’ll see more teams officially eliminated from the playoffs. It looks like at least five playoff teams from 2012 won’t make a return trip in 2013. The Packers (20), Vikings (27), Redskins (28, already eliminated) Falcons (29) and Texans (32) have not lived up to expectations.
1. (1) Seahawks (11-1) – Good luck to any NFC team that has to go through Seattle to reach the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson hasn’t lost at CenturyLink Field and is 22-6 since becoming the starting QB last year.
2. (3) Panthers (9-3) — Owners of eight straight wins, the Panthers and their highly ranked defense will take on the Saints on Sunday night.
3. (4) Patriots (9-3) — As usual, the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady-led Patriots get stronger and better as the season shifts to November and December. They are one win and one Miami loss away from wrapping up their 11th division title in 13 seasons.
4. (5) Broncos (10-2) — The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through Denver. The Broncos’ remaining opponents have a combined 16-32 record. None of the four teams they will face have a record over .500.
5. (6) 49ers (8-4) — The injuries on the offensive line combined with the inconsistency of the run game over the past two weeks are a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.
|Jason Cole on M&M: ‘[Tom] Brady outplayed [Peyton Manning] by a large margin’ on Sunday||11.26.13 at 3:40 pm ET|
Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the play of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in New England’s 34-31 victory over Denver on Sunday night, as well as the status of the AFC and Super Bowl XLVIII.
One of the top story lines of Sunday’s game was, of course, the matchup between Brady and Manning. Brady once again seemed to have the advantage in the contest, as he finished the night with three touchdown passes, a 107.4 quarterback rating and the win, while Manning only managed 150 passing yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 70.4 QBR.
“I thought Brady outplayed him by a large margin, and I thought Peyton looked really uncomfortable, and not because he was getting rushed,” Cole said. “He just didn’t look comfortable throwing the ball, he didn’t throw with much authority. I think that because of the way New England disrupted his receivers, similar to what they did against New Orleans earlier this season, he never had his timing down, and perhaps that’s because they had to throw so little in the first half and didn’t throw much in the third quarter.”
Added Cole: “[Manning] just never seemed to get into a groove, so the doubts about him in big games, particularly cold-weather big games, persists. He’s not answered that, and makes me really concerned about [Denver] going in the playoffs.”
While the Broncos (9-2) and Patriots (8-3) are in line for the top two seeds in the AFC at the moment, the Chiefs (9-2) are a worthy competitor in the conference, despite losing two straight games to Denver and San Diego.
“Kansas City, when they are healthy, in a playoff situation [can be a threat]. That’s similar to what we saw on Sunday night between the Patriots and the Broncos, which is if you allow defenses to bump receivers and knock them off their routes, hold them up at the line, I think that helps the defense so much, and I think Kansas City will be able to do more of that when they get into the postseason,” Cole said. “To me, they have a chance to get their defense back in line and be competitive in the postseason. But that’s the only other team, I think, that can challenge New England or Denver at this point and time.”
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 13: Patriots top dogs in AFC||at 12:36 pm ET|
The Patriots are the new power team in the AFC as they have surpassed the Broncos for the first time this year in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Sunday night’s stunning comeback was good enough to catapult New England from seventh to fourth and drop Denver from second to fifth.
In the NFC, the scene is set for the two top teams to clash on Monday night. The Seahawks have enjoyed the top spot for quite some time, but the Saints, up a spot this week to No. 2, are a real threat with their prolific offense. Monday night’s outcome may not only determine who gets home-field advantage in the playoffs, but ultimately who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.
At the bottom of the barrel, the Jaguars finally clawed their way out of the most miserable position. The good news for the Texans, our new bottom-feeder, is that they can only go up from here. Houston has plunged week after week after starting the season at No. 7.
1. (1) Seahawks (10-1) — Seattle should be solely focusing on its NFC clash with the Saints, but news that cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner are facing suspensions has changed that plan.
2. (3) Saints (9-2) — The most important game of the year for the Saints is Monday in Seattle. New Orleans wants to play in the comfort of its dome in the postseason. Winning two games in Seattle in the same year doesn’t seem likely.
3. (4) Panthers (8-3) — We’ve seen many qualities of a Super Bowl-caliber team during the Panthers’ current seven game win streak. The ability to close out tight games is a trait we see year after year from Super Bowl champions during the regular season.
4. (7) Patriots (8-3) — No franchise executes the “next man up” philosophy better than New England. Whether it’s Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Aaron Hernandez or Wes Welker, the Patriots continue to find a way to win more than they lose.
5. (2) Broncos (9-2) — It’s clear the formula to beating the Broncos is pressuring Peyton Manning. The veteran QB was 0-for-6 with an interception when faced with pressure from Patriots defenders. For the first time this season, Denver doesn’t look like the clear favorite in the AFC.
|Adam Schefter on D&C: Tom Brady owns ‘slight edge’ over Peyton Manning||11.25.13 at 12:08 pm ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ 34-31 overtime win over the Broncos on Sunday.
New England came back from a 24-0 halftime deficit in the bitter cold at Gillette Stadium to improve to 8-3 on the season.
“The first thing I thought yesterday morning when I woke up and headed outside in the Northeast corridor here, I walked into that weather and it was biting cold and it was freezing, and I said to myself, ‘This is Patriot weather, this is conducive to a Patriot victory,’ ” Schefter said.
The Patriots and Tom Brady seem to flourish in adverse weather conditions, while the Broncos’ Peyton Manning seemingly wilts. Brady tore up Denver’s defense, throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Manning completed 19-of-36 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. However, it took him until late in the fourth quarter to eclipse the 100-yard mark.
“If you look historically, Peyton Manning just hasn’t produced as well in that type of setting, and the Denver strength is its offense,” Schefter said, adding: “When you take an offense like that and put it in weather like last night, it neutralizes things, and it takes away an advantage Denver might have in that area.”
Brady now owns a career 10-4 record over Manning.
“I’d give the slight edge to Brady based on the number of championships he’s won, and the players he’s played with,” Schefter said when asked which QB he would prefer. “But you’re talking about splitting hairs.”
FOXBORO — More than a few onlookers were scratching their heads when Bill Belichick won the coin toss to start overtime and actually chose to give the ball to the most potent offense in football.
Now, this is certainly no surprise to start a game as Belichick has often chosen to defer to the second half to start a game. But when you’re talking about giving it to Peyton Manning when a touchdown would end the game, it’s a gamble.
But it was a calculated gamble that paid off when Wes Welker couldn’t read the wind late in overtime and didn’t catch a punt. Instead, he allowed up-man Tony Carter to touch the ball after it hit the ground. That set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard game-winner with 1:56 left in overtime, giving the Patriots an unbelievable 34-31 win.
All of that wouldn’t have been possible if the Patriots defense didn’t come up big and stop Manning on the first drive. But after the Broncos reached the Patriots 45, they self-destructed and moved backwards on an Eric Decker pass interference call.
The Broncos were forced to punt. Chalk one up to Belichick. His decision to take the wind, howling out of the north all game long at 25 MPH on a brutally cold night, went from unorthodox to uncanny.
“The wind, it was a strong wind,” Belichick said. “We just had to keep the out of the end zone, obviously. I just felt like the wind would be an advantage if we could keep them out of the end zone on that first drive. We were able to do that. The wind was significant in the game, it was definitely significant.”
Was Peyton Manning surprised Belichick gave him the ball to start overtime?
“No. That’s what they do sometimes,” Manning said.
Rob Gronkowski was happy with the decision.
“Great decision,” Gronkowski beamed. “He is our coach [and] we’re behind him with everything, especially Coach Belichick. Whatever he has, we’re behind him. So it was a great call because we won.”
|Setting the scene: Brutally cold winds in store for Patriots-Broncos at Gillette||11.24.13 at 5:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The 14th edition of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady may very well come down to which quarterback can handle the brutal and hostile conditions throughout the night at Gillette Stadium.
The temperature at kickoff is expected to be 20 degrees but with winds howling out of the north at 25 MPH, wind chills will hover around 2 degrees for most of the night. The wind will be blowing in from the open (north) end of the stadium and could factor heavily into not only the passing game but the kicking game as well.
The game figures to be one of the coldest in the history of Gillette Stadium and could make many think back to the AFC divisional game with Tennessee on Jan. 10, 2004 when the Patriots had to hold on for dear life for a 17-14 win over Steve McNair and the Titans. That night, the game – also played in primetime for TV – was held in Arctic conditions.
The temperature at kickoff was 4 degrees with a wind of 15 MPH creating a wind chill of minus-14. That game still remains the coldest home game in Patriots history.
Tonight’s game is on NBC television and NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth will surely bring up the coldest game of his career. On Jan. 10, 1982, Collinsworth’s Bengals beat Air Coryell and the San Diego Chargers, 27-7, in a legendary AFC championship game know as the “Freezer Bowl.” That game was actually played in the sunlight of Riverfront Stadium but the sun did little to provide comfort. The temperature that day in Cincinnati was minus-9 at kickoff with winds swirling outside, making it feel like 59 degrees below. It remains the coldest game ever played.
The “Ice Bowl” between the Packers and Cowboys was actually colder in terms of real temperature (-13) but the wind chill was officially only 48 below. Peyton Manning has not had much success playing in the cold. He is 2-5 in his last seven games played under 30 degrees, including the playoffs. But his numbers show he’s not as terrible as the record suggests.
In Manning’s last eight games under 40 degrees, he is on a streak of seven straight games where he completed at least 70 percent of his passes. He has completed 177 of 243 passes (72.8%) for 2129 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and a 105.5 QB rating. He is 4-4 in those eight games and his offenses have averaged 26.5 points per game.
The winds were so strong that they forced the Patriots to cancel a pre-game ceremony in which they unveiled an American flag that covers the entire field.
|Bill Belichick on Peyton Manning: ‘If you tell them what you’re in, you’re probably not going to like the way it’s going to end up’||11.22.13 at 10:44 am ET|
FOXBORO — The real chess match to watch Sunday night is not between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. It’s not even Bill Belichick against Wes Welker.
The most fascinating match-up to watch is how Belichick’s defense adjusts to Manning’s always-changing tempo at the line of scrimmage and how Belichick’s troops attempt to disguise their defense.
Belichick gave some very interesting insight Friday morning on whether he still intends to disguise his defense to a high degree.
“You have to,” Belichick said.
Why not just try to execute your defense against Manning and hope your execution is better?
“Well, you can do that,” Belichick said. “It’s just a question on whether you can hold up in it or not. But I’d say the odds of that aren’t great, to be honest with you.
“Usually, when he sees what it is, he gets to the play he wants to get to and I would say they’ve hit a lot of big plays on plays like that. He sees a blitz, calls a tear screen to Demaryius Thomas and it goes 75 yards for a touchdown. You can be in whatever you want to be in but if they have a play to beat it and it’s well-executed, which it frequently is with Denver, you’re just playing right into their hands.
“They’ve waiting all day to run the play against that situation. You tell them, ‘Here we are, we’re going to be in Cover-2 zone, go ahead run your best play.’ Well, they will. We’re going to be in “man-free” or we’re going to be in blitz or we’re going to be in “man-under 2-deep,” what are you going to do about it? Well, they can usually do something about it. I don’t really think anybody has had a lot of success playing that way.”
The Broncos have scored 398 points in their 10 games, averaging nearly 40 points per contest. They are on pace for 637 points in 16 games, which would shatter New England’s mark of 589 in 2007, a season in which the Patriots averaged 36.8 points per game.
“Now, if you just out-personnel them at every position across the board and say, ‘OK, we’re all just going to lock up on one guy. We’re going to take everybody. We don’t care that they know where we are because we’re that good.’ I just don’t anybody has been able to do that [successfully]. They’ve scored more points than anybody in football. It’s hard to do. Somewhere along the line they have a good matchup if they know exactly what you’re in. I don’t think anybody has played them that way very effectively in whatever it is they’ve tried to play, man, zone, blitz, man-free, 2-deep man, 2-deep zone, 3-deep zone, 3-man rush. If you tell them what you’re in, you’re probably not going to like the way it’s going to end up. Sometimes, it’s situational and sometimes you have to live with that but I don’t think down after down, anybody’s really had much success doing that.”
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