|Peter King on M&M: Joe Flacco ‘fearless about throwing the ball deep’||01.18.13 at 2:00 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday morning to preview the NFL’s conference championship weekend.
King, who predicts a 31-26 Patriots victory over the Ravens, is leaving open the possibility of an upset.
“The Patriots have been so good in these championship games, so consistent,” King said. “It’s not going to be their mistake that’s going to beat them, if history is a judge. It’s going to be the Ravens playing well if they win.”
Joe Flacco‘s ability to test the Patriots secondary with the long ball is one of the keys to this game.
“I just think he’s a very good deep-ball thrower,” King said. “Throwing the deep ball twice to Torrey Smith and once to Jacoby Jones six days ago is why the Ravens won that game. If he doesn’t take chances downfield, they’re sitting home right now and it’s New England going to play at Denver on Sunday.
“We talk about players, who’s elite, who’s not elite — I don’t know who’s elite and who isn’t. All I know is that in this game — I don’t think Joe Flacco’s ever going to have the kind of great completion percentage or anything like that that’s going to make him one of the top-rated quarterbacks, but I believe that his team is always going to have a chance for a very simple reason: He’s fearless about throwing the ball deep and he’s the best deep-ball thrower both on percentage and in yardage in the NFL this year.
“I think the Patriots secondary is really going to have a lot to do with whether they move on.”
On the other side of the ball, the aging Baltimore defense will attempt to contain New England’s uptempo offense.
“They better have a lot left in their tank,” King said of the Ravens. “After having a much tougher road in the playoffs, obviously, than New England has had, they better have a pass rush on [Tom] Brady left, particularly when it comes to Paul Kruger. I think he’s the guy that — because right now Terrell Suggs just really isn’t himself, and I don’t know that he is going to be himself in this postseason at all — I think they have to rely on Paul Kruger to get to Tom Brady and do some damage. … In my opinion, that’s going to have a lot to do with who wins and loses this game — how much the Ravens have left in their tank.”
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 16: Niners, Broncos pull ahead of Patriots||12.18.12 at 10:42 am ET|
For the second straight week, the No. 1 team has been dethroned in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. After falling to the Niners at home, the Patriots drop to No. 3 while San Francisco leaps to the top of the class. Nine straight wins has propelled the Broncos all the way to the No. 2 spot, and the red-hot Seahawks fly jump to No. 7.
The Giants (8), Ravens (9) and Steelers (15) all plummet as those three teams are a combined 2-7 in the month of December. With just two games to go, many teams are fighting for their playoff lives. The NFC race will be fascinating as six teams — Giants, Redskins (10), Bears (11) Cowboys (12), Seahawks and Vikings (16) — fight for three remaining spots.
As usual, the Jaguars (32), Chiefs (31), Raiders (30) and Eagles (29) remain the bottom feeders of the NFL.
1. (2) 49ers (10-3-1) — Yes, the Niners blew a 28-point lead, but they also went into Gillette Stadium and beat the red-hot Patriots in December. It was very impressive that they were able to keep their composure after losing the lead. In the end, the best defense in the league beat the best offense.
2. (3) Broncos (11-3) — With games against two of the worst teams in the league remaining, the Broncos should wrap up the regular season and go into the playoffs with a first-round bye and 11 consecutive wins.
3. (1) Patriots (10-4) — The road to the Super Bowl got a little tougher, but the Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. No team in the AFC will want to play New England once the playoffs begin. Putting up 31 points in a half against the best defense in the league without Rob Gronkowski is pretty impressive.
4. (4) Texans (12-2) — The number of big plays the Houston defense has allowed over the past few weeks has to be concerning to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The Texans have given up a 30-plus, an 80-plus, and three 60-plus-yard touchdown passes in their last five games.
5. (5) Falcons (12-2) — As the playoffs draw near, the Falcons made their best case on Sunday for why teams should be afraid to play them this postseason. This is a mentally tough, resilient and well-rounded football team.
6. (6) Packers (10-4) — Packers fans are optimistic their team will make another deep postseason run. Green Bay has won eight of its last nine, has wrapped up the NFC North, and is getting healthy at the right time.
7. (9) Seahawks (9-5) — Since November, the Seahawks have scored 210 points and are averaging 35 points per game. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have developed into one of the best quarterback-running back tandems in the league.
8. (7) Giants (8-6) — The inconsistent play at the end of the regular season has to catch up to them eventually, right? It’s hard to count the Giants out after what they did in ’07 and ’11, but they have put themselves in a very dangerous position with just two games to go.
9. (8) Ravens (9-5) — The Ravens need to find a way to stop the negative momentum that has built up in December. The best way to do that is for Joe Flacco to focus on protecting the football. Flacco has turned the ball over six times this month with three interceptions and three fumbles.
10. (13) Redskins (8-6) — It’s amazing how this team has gone from out of playoff contention to first place in the NFC East. The Redskins control their destiny — two more wins and they can call themselves division champs for the first time since 1999.
11. (10) Bears (8-6) — What good is Jay Cutler if he can’t beat the Packers? The Bears QB is 1-6 against Green Bay since joining the NFC North. It’s hard to imagine that a team that started the season 7-1 could miss the playoffs. Chicago controlled the division for most of the season but lost both of its games to Green Bay this year.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 15: Patriots charge to No. 1||12.13.12 at 7:14 am ET|
The mighty have fallen. After seven straight weeks occupying the top two spots, the Texans (4) and Falcons (5) no longer can be called the two best teams in the league. The Patriots surge all the way to the No. 1 spot for the first time this season after a dominating Monday night performance. The 49ers (2) and Broncos (3) round out the new top three.
The Seahawks (9) finally break into the top 10 after winning four of their last five games. Their impressive play of late has catapulted them in front of both the Bears (10) and Steelers (12). The Colts are another team that continues to inch closer into the league’s elite. Andrew Luck has Indy (11) poised to make a playoff appearance after the team won just two games last year.
The top two teams in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings rarely play each other, not to mention in December, but we’ll get to watch the regular-season version of the Super Bowl this Sunday night. That’s not the only top-10 matchup we’ll see in Week 15. The Broncos (3) play the Ravens (8), and the Giants (7) will take on the Falcons (5). We’re in for another interesting week of pro football.
1. (3) Patriots (10-3) — The Patriots defense did what it had to do: improve. Bill Belichick‘s D held the Texans to just 14 points. The only other team in the league that was able to hold Houston to fewer points was the Bears. Under Tom Brady, the Pats have won a remarkable 20 straight home games in the month of December. Super Bowl-caliber teams get better in December and that’s just what New England is doing once again.
2. (4) 49ers (9-3-1) — The relentless 49ers defense is at the top of the league in pass defense, run defense and points allowed. Sunday night’s matchup pits the best defense in the league against the best offense. Football fans are in for a treat.
3. (5) Broncos (10-3) — The way Knowshon Moreno has been able to step up and fill Willis McGahee‘s shoes is very encouraging for Broncos fans. With Peyton Manning at the helm, an effective run game makes the Broncos offense extremely difficult to defend against.
4. (1) Texans (11-2) — Are the Texans good enough to rebound from a loss like this? Their pass defense has officially been exposed. On a big stage, the Texans crumbled. Stupid penalties, turnovers and an overall lack of competitiveness has many across the NFL questioning if this team is as good as its record indicates.
5. (2) Falcons (11-2) — The Falcons have a tremendous opportunity this Sunday to prove to the NFC that they are an elite team. The defending Super Bowl champion Giants will be in Atlanta and both teams have a lot on the line.
6. (7) Packers (9-4) — Green Bay has won seven of its last eight and has come storming back to take control of the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers has been terrific, though it has been production from the run game over the last two weeks that has made a huge difference on offense for Green Bay.
7. (8) Giants (8-5) — Keep an eye on the NFC East race and the Giants. New York travels to Atlanta and Baltimore the next two weeks while the Redskins and Cowboys are just one game back and hold a better divisional record.
8. (6) Ravens (9-4) — It’s never a good sign for a playoff team to fire its offensive coordinator in December. Unlike the Patriots and Broncos, the Ravens have played worse as the season has progressed. If recent play is any sign, the Ravens look to be on track for falling just short of the Super Bowl once again.
9. (11) Seahawks (8-5) — There have to be many organizations out there that are extremely jealous of the Seahawks’ recent success. This is a team that not only drafted a quarterback in the third round but started him over Matt Flynn after signing the former backup to a three-year deal. Teams struggling to find a quarterback like the Cardinals, Jets and Bills must be envious. Russell Wilson has played outstanding of late. In his last five games, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception.
10. (9) Bears (8-5) — Jay Cutler‘s health is imperative to the Bears’ success. Everyone watched the Bears go 1-5 last year at the end of the season when Cutler was injured. The starting QB has been sacked 31 times this year and already has suffered a concussion. The offensive line has to get better if this team is going to be successful. Chicago has dropped four of its last five.
|Fantasy Football: Week 15 waiver wire||12.11.12 at 8:47 am ET|
As I mentioned last week, we are looking for upside and startable commodities vs. the depth players we were pushing throughout the bye weeks. The other thing to pay attention to are the key handcuffs to your lynchpin players. I will be updating last week’s handcuff article at Rotobahn for those looking to lock up their key insurance policies. I will be back next week for those who make the big game and we will be doing our 11a.m. Sunday morning chat this week for those who are looking for some lineup advice. Good luck to all this week!
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
He’s not state of the art just yet, but Kaepernick is the future in San Francisco. He can be your present in Week 15 as the 49ers head to New England. Kaepernick can start for you in 12-team leagues if you need a player. His matchup at Seattle in Week 16 is a bit more problematic.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
He has a nice matchup in Week 15 at Buffalo, so he is worth an add if you need a plug-and-play QB. Wilson is viable in 12-team leagues. His struggles last week were due to San Francicso’s running game dominating the contest, not the passing game’s failures.
Nick Foles, Eagles
We like this kid some and he showed significant improvement in Week 14 in a very solid matchup vs. the Bucs. Things get tougher this week against the Bengals, who are solid defensively, but we’d add Foles for his Week 16 matchup at home against the Redskins, who give up plenty of points via the pass. If you need to piece together your last few weeks, then Foles can help you.
|Fantasy Football: Week 14 waiver wire||12.04.12 at 9:45 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 14 waiver wire. We’re definitely switching our priorities now. The wire will begin to shrink from here on out as I focus more on players with playable upside. The byes are long gone and most leagues have dwindled to six teams or less after the elimination of non-playoff teams. That means there is less competition on the waiver wire and less teams with needs, too. Congratulations to those who are still alive. Come on over to Rotobahn for more advice. I’ll be adding players throughout the day as I work through the Week 13 games. I’ll also be adding an article on running back handcuffs for those who are fine-tuning their rosters to survive the playoffs. For those who have some tough lineup choices, we will be holding another Sunday morning chat this weekend at 11 a.m. Stop by if you need any help.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
He has a solid schedule and he’s a dual threat at the quarterback position. His ability to score with his feet was a big factor in Week 13, and it kept those who started him competitive despite his struggles throwing the ball. Coach Jim Harbaugh already has named Kaepernick as the starter for Week 14.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
The rookie got it done again, and he did it on the road against a very tough defense. Wilson now is a player who should be owned in all leagues. He can help you down the stretch if quarterback is your weakness. Wilson is looking like the biggest steal of the 2012 draft right now.
Carson Palmer, Raiders
Palmer bounced back nicely in Week 13 and he has a few good matchups left on his schedule if you need some help at quarterback. Palmer has had a solid year in spite of all the chaos around him. There’s no reason to think he’ll collapse now. The only thing to keep an eye on is backup QB Terrelle Pryor. If Oakland decides to give Pryor significant playing time, it could have an effect on Palmer’s stats. My guess is that we don’t see that until Week 17, but it’s worth monitoring.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He’s healthy now, and with Alshon Jeffery returning as soon as this week, we like Cutler to have a few good games the rest of the way. There are no scary matchups left on his schedule. Cutler has some value in deeper leagues.
|Fantasy Football: Week 8 waiver wire||10.23.12 at 11:49 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 8 waiver wire. We have significant bye losses with the Ravens, Bills, Bengals and Texans all taking the week off. We’ll do our level best to help you cope with the bye week blues. I’ll be adding more players throughout the day at Rotobahn, so feel free to check us out, especially if you play in deeper leagues.
Carson Palmer, Raiders
He’s available in way too many leagues when you consider how well he has played. I’ve been a critic of Palmer in the past, but he’s been dealt a mediocre hand in Oakland and he’s handling it pretty well. Palmer is just one example of why paying big booty for a fantasy quarterback is a fool’s act. Palmer can start for you in any league and he won’t hurt you.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
The talent around him has been upgraded, to put it mildly. Newly acquired skill players Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin did a lot of the heavy lifting for Freeman in Week 7, and that’s the key. Freeman doesn’t need to be superhuman to be a fantasy asset … that has not always been the case. Freeman is a nice QB2 in all leagues.
Brandon Weeden, Browns
He played another solid game under tough circumstances. As his teammates have gone down all around him, Weeden has stood tall and used his young receivers. Now, with both Josh Gordon and Greg Little making big plays, Weeden has the look of a winner and he can be a QB2 for you in most formats.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Fitzpatrick clearly is a matchup play in fantasy football. He can post very nice numbers against soft opponents, but he can be shut down with extreme prejudice by strong defenses. Just look at what he’s done over his last four games. The pattern could not be more obvious. Fitzpatrick does have some solid matchups down the stretch. I like him a lot from Week 10 and beyond.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
He’s a backup for fantasy, but he is worth owning in larger formats. We’d be more bullish on Wilson for 2012, but his receiving talent is average and his schedule is tough. Leave him for 12-team leagues and larger.
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: Patriots DBs ‘have to get better’||10.19.12 at 10:35 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to review the Patriots’ loss to the Seahawks, preview Sunday’s Pats-Jets game, and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The finger has been pointed at the Patriots secondary as the key reason for the team’s struggles. Lombardi discussed how it can be improved.
“It’s certainly a concern and obviously it has to rely on some of the players. I think what you saw, let’s be real honest here, Patrick Chung’s ball skills down the field have got to get better,” Lombardi said. “I don’t know how you make them better, how you make his instincts better on the ball down the field. I think not having Steve Gregory back there is certainly a concern. … They have to get better at making plays down the field. [Devin] McCourty, everyone. And I think ultimately its something that will be worked on. It’s a skill. … Instincts for DBs are something we don’t talk enough about, we always talk about size and speed. But I think instincts really play an important part, and ultimately, that’s a hard thing to coach.”
Following the matchup with the Seahawks, Lombardi considered what teams should do against the Patriots in coming weeks.
“You should throw it up five times a quarter. Let’s be real honest, you’ve got to throw it up,” Lombardi said. “People are going to throw it to McCourty and see if he can make a play. He hasn’t been able to make a play with the ball in the air down the field all season. So I think that’s where teams see it on tape, and why not take a shot?”
Lombardi identified a weak pass rush as a contributing factor to the struggles vs. Seattle.
“More importantly than the lack of play in the secondary, I thought their pass rush last week in terms of controlling [Russell] Wilson in the pocket and, typically, that’s what the Bill Belichick defense usually does, is control him in the pocket with their pass rush,” Lombardi said. “When you have Russell Wilson, you have to rush him like he’s actually attempting a field goal. You have to force him to stay in front of you. You got to force him to see over the big guys. You got to force him to have to stand behind the center and throw the ball. And then there’s no chance he’s going to beat you doing that.”
Looking at the Patriots’ fourth-quarter struggles, Lombardi was asked whether the drive this team has showed in past years still exists.
“No, it doesn’t. There’s that fine line about where do we go, do we be aggressive offensively or do we play it and try to just let the clock run out,” Lombardi said. “I think they’ve lost a little bit of that edge, the confidence within the edge. They’ve got to find it and they’ve got to get that back. They have to make the throws they have to make. … Going 1-for-6 in the red zone is not going to win many games. … Mistakes that the Patriots typically don’t make and they’re making them and they’ve made them all season long and I think that’s where they have to eliminate that.”
2013 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS
2013 NFL DRAFT
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- Patriots Sign Second-Round Pick Jamie Collins
- New England Patriots Links 5/17/13 - Hightower Understands Work Ethic...
- Rapoport: Gronkowski Forearm Surgery 'Imminent'; Likely To Be Monday
- Kyle Love Claimed By Jaguars; Joins Brandon Deaderick
- On Kyle Love
- Dwight Freeney's Dad Wants Him To Play For The Patriots