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5 mostly Patriots-related thoughts on Sunday’s divisional playoff action: If you don’t have an elite QB, you’re out of luck 01.16.17 at 12:05 am ET
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Aaron Rodgers celebrates the Packers' win Sunday. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

Aaron Rodgers celebrates the Packers’ win Sunday. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

1. So the NFL’s Final Four is set, with the Packers meeting the Falcons in the Georgia Dome Sunday at 3:05 p.m., and the Patriots and Steelers squaring off at 6:40 in Foxboro. In the NFC, it’ll be a four seed (Green Bay) and a two seed (Atlanta), while the No. 1 seed in the AFC (New England) will host the third seed (Pittsburgh). But more importantly, it’s simply the latest reminder that in a quarterback-driven league, if you don’t have a signal-caller who stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field, you’re pretty much going to be out of luck. It’s hard to look at this group of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisbeger, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan — and not include them in some sort of combination of the NFL’s top 5 QBs, at least at this point. (What does it say about the field that the guy who now appears to be the odds’ on favorite to win the MVP has the thinnest resume of the bunch?) Anyway, keep that in mind when the next round of team-building commences shortly after the end of the postseason. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’d still be shocked if Roger Goodell was in Foxboro this weekend. That dude is headed straight back to Atlanta.)

2. These quotes from Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler will be fun to revisit this week. Prior to the October game between the two teams in Pittsburgh, Butler was interviewed for the “Coordinators Corner” podcast on the Steelers’ team website, and was asked about Brady and Bill Belichick and if they study harder than other teams, or if they’re doing something special? “I don’t think they’re doing anything special,” Butler said, via MassLive.com. “I think they do things outside the box sometimes, you know, that might be on the edge of being legal or not legal. They’ve done a couple of things in the past — putting an offensive tackle out as ineligible but he’s not really. Sometimes the emphasis by the NFL in terms of what they call and what they don’t call, [the Patriots] use that a little bit. They’ve been accused of doing a lot of things. But the thing we’ve got to do is ignore that and play.”

For what it’s worth, Brady has faced the Pittsburgh defense twice since Butler took over as defensive coordinator prior to the start of the 2015 season:

9/10/15 in Foxboro: 25-for-32 for 288 yards with four touchdowns, no picks and two sacks in a 28-21 win
10/23/16 in Pittsburgh: 19-for-26 for 222 yards with two touchdowns in a 27-16 win

3. Travis Kelce wants to be Rob Gronkowski the same way that Bon Jovi wants to be Bruce Springsteen. The Kansas City tight end was underwhelming on the big stage Sunday night against the Steelers, committing a dopey penalty while finishing with five catches for 77 yards in the loss. On a night where the Chiefs needed Kelce to be a difference-maker, he and the rest of the Kansas City offense came up short. Consider this NSFW locker room video of Kelce a fitting postscript to the season:

4. The Steelers are a far more appetizing opponent for the Patriots to consider than the Chiefs for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Pittsburgh does a better job stirring the emotion in the New England fan base than Kansas City. Who can get upset with Kansas City? It’s Andy Reid in a big red jacket. Meanwhile, the Steelers are still worthy of a spot among the Patriots’ chief rivals. There’s so much terrific history to consider between these two teams. The names and faces have changed along the way, but this week promises to be a lot more fun — at least from a hype-driven perspective — than last week against the Texans.

5. We covered our feelings about Rodgers and the Packers’ wild win over the Cowboys here, but it’s safe to say, the NFC title game should be a compelling contest in the Georgia Dome. Can Ryan rise to the challenge and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in his career? Can Rodgers keep his remarkable streak rolling? From this viewpoint, we’re in completely uncharted waters when it comes to Rodgers and what he’s doing. Despite the fact that they’re on the road, our first inclination is to go with the Packers. No one else has been able to slow down Green Bay quarterback over the last month-plus. Why should Atlanta be any different?

Read More: aaron rodgers, Andy Reid, Ben Roethlisberger, Bon Jovi
Rob Gronkowski gives update on injured back 01.09.17 at 10:41 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski's back seems to be doing better. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski’s back seems to be doing better. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Things appear to be going well for Rob Gronkowski.

The tight end posted a video on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted” account Monday night where he talked about hanging out with his friend “Goon,” as well as how his back his doing following surgery just over a month ago.

“What’s up, everyone? Out here driving Goon in his hometown,” Gronkowski said in the video. “He’s super famous now because he rode a bull over the weekend. I am his new driver, he’s paying me about 10 bucks an hour. He’s the best driver ever.

“Hopefully all is going well. I started my rehab last week. Everything is going super smooth. Feeling good, can’t wait to be back. Playoffs are going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to watch the team go out there and ball.

“Hanging with my little brother, driving him around too. ‘Hey, Glenn, say hi.’ We jammin’ out to the music while driving around Bobby Goons in his hometown. He’s too famous now. Talk to you later.”

Gronkowski last played in a game Nov. 28 when he left after the first quarter against the Jets.

Everything appears to be going well and he reportedly will be ready for the Patriots’ offseason program.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,
Video evidence that even in high school, Rob Gronkowski was a beast who was crazy good at football 01.04.17 at 12:22 pm ET
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High school highlights should always be taken with a grain of salt, but this newly-unearthed video of Rob Gronkowski as a high schooler just flat-out mauling opponents is nuts. No Gronk spikes, but still plenty of amazing action of Gronkowski as a teenager.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,
Rob Gronkowski reportedly expected to participate in Patriots’ offseason program 01.01.17 at 2:33 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

There continues to be good news for Rob Gronkowski following having back surgery in November.

According to CSNNE’s Tom E. Curran, Gronkowski is expected to be ready to participate in the team’s offseason program.

For Gronkowski, it was his third back surgery since 2009 and there were some questions of whether or not he would participate in the Patriots’ offseason program, but this is a good sign that the tight end is progressing well post-surgery and in all likelihood will not have his 2017 season impacted.

The tight end is signed through 2019 and is on the books to have a base salary of $4.2 million next year, $8 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Dan Gronkowski: Rob’s surgery ‘wasn’t as major as his other back surgeries’ 12.15.16 at 10:55 am ET
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According to Rob Gronkowski's brother Dan, his surgery wasn't as major as his other back surgeries. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

According to Rob Gronkowski’s brother Dan, his surgery wasn’t as major as his other back surgeries. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

There hasn’t been much of an update on Rob Gronkowski following his back surgery two weeks ago besides the tight end posting an Instagram video immediately following his surgery.

Appearing on WCVB on Wednesday night to promote the new “Gronk Fitness Program,” Rob’s brother Dan gave an update how he’s doing.

“It wasn’t as major as his other back surgeries, so I think he actually felt better after the surgery because it takes some pressure off,” Dan said. “He’s always a goof ball. You guys know that by now, but he likes to work hard. He’ll get back into shape.

“This is actually the kind of training he does a lot of now because he doesn’t want to go squat, he doesn’t want to go bench 500 pounds now. He would rather push a push sled, jump on the plyo boxes, do lighter weights with interval training so you get that feel like you’re on the field training for those types of movements.”

“He is definitely doing better, yes,” he added.

The program will launch Jan. 2, 2017 at the Boston Sports Club’s Wellington Circle location in Medford and is designed by all of the Gronkowski family.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,
Malcolm Mitchell not worried about fantasy football: ‘Don’t think about anything more than they tell me to do’ 12.09.16 at 1:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The rookie wide receiver of the Patriots out of the University of Georgia really sounds like he gets it.

Malcolm Mitchell refuses to be distracted by anything, not injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola that affect his role in the passing game. Not his first Monday night football appearance. And certainly not his new celebrity as the most-added receiver in fantasy football leagues over the last several weeks.

Mitchell in the last three games has 17 catches, 222 yards and three touchdowns in wins over the 49ers, Jets and Rams.

“I’ve said from the day I entered [Patriots], I feel blessed to even have the opportunity to be a part of this organization,” Mitchell said. “From the time they drafted me to now, I still feel the same way. The philosophy around here is pretty simple, and it’s said all the time: Just do your job. I just do what they tell me. And that’s how I like to keep it. I just keep it that simple, honestly. I don’t think about anything more than they tell me to do.”

Mitchell said there’s no added pressure with the likes of Gronk and Amendola out of commission.

“If they tell me to go in, I go in,” Mitchell said.

As for fantasy implications, Mitchell is not the guy to ask.

“Not really at all. I don’t know much about it,” Mitchell said Friday. “I have family members mention it but I never know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure how that works. I don’t know. I need to look back through my phone. If someone said that, I probably have no idea what they’re talking about.”

As for his status as most-added receiver in many leagues?

“That’s cool,” Mitchell said, adding, “I really have no idea about fantasy football.”

Jacoby Brissett, who is two lockers down from Mitchell, yelled, “I got you on my team.”

Mitchell’s real team will have its hands full with the 7-5 Ravens Monday night.
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski Patriots’ nominee for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year 12.07.16 at 10:34 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski is up for a NFL award.

Gronkowski is the Patriots’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field and is among the league’s most prestigious awards.

“We’re proud to honor these outstanding men who represent the NFL’s best on and off the field,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “Our players have a unique platform to make a difference far beyond the field of play. We salute these individuals who are exemplary in their commitment to making a positive impact in communities across the globe through their dedicated service and philanthropic efforts.”

The winner will be announced in Houston at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 4, the night before Super Bowl LI.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski,
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