|Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland: ‘We have to close the gap’ with the Patriots||02.21.13 at 12:01 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots have been in pretty firm control of the AFC East for the last decade or so — New England has won nine of the last 10 division titles, with the only break coming in 2008 when the Dolphins finished first.
But heading into the 2013 season, the team who has the best chance to challenge the Patriots for the division title appears to be Miami. The Dolphins surprised several people with a strong finish — including wins in two of their last three games — on the way to a 7-9 finish and second place behind New England. That, combined with the fact they are more than $40 million under the cap, gives Miami GM Jeff Ireland hope that the Dolphins can close the gap in the not-too-distant future.
“There’s a gap,” Ireland acknowledged Thursday morning at the scouting combine. “Certainly, [the Patriots have] won the division quite a bit. We have to close that gap. I think it’s a five-game gap, right now, in wins and losses. That’s what the gap is. We have to close that gap, and we plan to do our best job and put our best foot forward and getting that done this offseason. Whether we can completely close the gap … we have to get back on the field and close the gap on the field. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to talk about it right now.”
Part of the reason for the gap between the Patriots and the rest of the division is because of the quarterback — no matter the supporting cast, Tom Brady has been able to consistently give New England enough separation between the Patriots and the rest of the division. In Miami, Ireland expressed optimism that Ryan Tannehill — who just finished his rookie year — is trending in the right direction.
“As I’ve said before, Ryan has 35 or 36 games under his belt as a starting quarterback combined, from a college and pro career. You’d normally like to have 35 games under your belt as a graduating senior,” Ireland said of Tannehill, who ended his first season with 3,294 passing yards, a 58 percent completion rate, 12 touchdowns and 13 picks.
“I still think there’s a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential. I like what I see so far. I love intangible makeup. I love his athletic skill set. We have a long way to go — he knows that. But he can get a lot better. I’m confident in that.”
|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.
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: ‘I think it’s going to be New England and Denver’ in AFC||11.30.12 at 10:29 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Heading into Sunday’s game with the Dolphins, Lombardi said that the Patriots have to figure out a way to run the ball against a Dolphins team that a lot of people credit as having a better defense than they actually do.
“People say that all the time,” Lombardi said. “But when you study the team, and you’re in a nickel formation, they allow five yards per carry. So, the reality of the situation is if you want to be in two backs and you want to show how tough you are, and you want to try to prove a point and you want to prove that they can stop the run, line up in two backs and run the ball at them. You won’t have any success. So, you have to solve the problem, you have to be divergent in your thinking. So, what teams have done is spread them out, get in nickel and see if they can force the run in nickel, which fits the Patriots perfectly.”
Tom Brady and the Pats are coming off a Thanksgiving night victory over the Jets. Lombardi said that Brady is a patient quarterback and that it will benefit the Patriots in Sunday’s game.
“I think what Brady is able to do is make the right decisions almost all the time,” Lombardi said. “Since the Seattle game when he threw the ball to Deion Branch and he should’ve probably thrown it to [Rob] Gronkowski or [Aaron] Hernandez on a crossing route, you rarely see Tom take a chance that’s not there. Sometimes you get upset that he doesn’t try to at least throw it up the field, but Tom always is doing what’s best for the offense. … I think Tom plays a patient game and that really helps when you play a team like San Francisco or when you’re going to play Miami. Patience is a virtue. You’ve got to be able to continue on up the field and not always kind of try to be desperate, and I think he does a great job of that.”
Added Lombardi: “I think he’s having a great season. It’s swept under the carpet because of the running game of the Patriots. … But I think now he’s throwing the deep ball better than he has pretty much in the last three or four years.”
|10 things to know about Ryan Tannehill||11.28.12 at 7:35 pm ET|
On Sunday, the Patriots will have the opportunity to clinch the AFC East, but they’ll have to beat Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins in order to do it.
Tannehill, the third quarterback taken in the 2012 draft behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, was selected by the Dolphins eighth overall with the hopes that he could finally provide some stability at a position that has been in flux since the retirement of Dan Marino.
Thus far, Tannehill has put up lackluster numbers, completing 197 of 334 passes for 2,373 yards with seven touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 72.9 quarterback rating. In the process, he’s led the Dolphins to a 5-6 record which, while not outstanding, is good for second place in the AFC East.
The Dolphins certainly hope that Tannehill is the long-term solution, so the Patriots figure to see plenty of Tannehill over the next however many years. Here’s an introduction to the rookie with nine more things to know about Tannehill:
He played a lot of receiver in college
Though Tannehill was recruited to Texas A&M as a quarterback, he was moved to receiver in his redshirt freshman season after competing for the starting job at quarterback.
Tannehill stuck at receiver for his first two seasons and played the first six games of his junior year there before getting more snaps splitting time at quarterback with Jerrod Johnson and, eventually, earning the starting job. He completed 152 of 234 passes for 1,638 yards with 13 touchdowns and six picks as a junior and went 327 of 531 for 3,744 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his senior year.
His wife has gotten a lot of attention
We’ll get this one out of the way early. Put it this way: When you Google Ryan Tannehill’s name, “Ryan Tannehill wife” is the first item below his name on autocomplete.
Tannehill met his wife, Lauren, at Texas A&M and the two were married in January. Over the course of the pre-draft process through the draft and the Dolphins’ appearance on “Hard Knocks,” Lauren gained more and more attention from fans. She currently has over 17,700 followers on twitter.
When Tannehill was asked after being drafted why he got married at 23 years of age, he responded by pointing to her and asking, “Do you blame me?”
He’s one of 10 rookie quarterbacks to start from Week 1 on in the last five years
Think about that. Remember the days when a team would draft a quarterback in the first round and have a veteran signal-caller around to start the season and help him ease into life as an NFL quarterback? That’s becoming a thing of the past. Read the rest of this entry »
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 10: Falcons continue to sit at top||11.06.12 at 11:15 am ET|
The Falcons remain the only undefeated team in the NFL at 8-0 and fly atop the WEEI NFL Power Rankings once again. Breathing down their necks for the No. 1 spot in the conference are the Bears. Chicago finally moves into the NFC-dominated top five after an impressive performance against the Titans.
We’re nine weeks into the season, and one of the main storylines has been the emergence of the rookies. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Doug Martin all have made significant impacts. Luck has helped lift the Colts all the way to the No. 15 spot.
Week 10 games to watch: No. 2 Texans at No. 5 Bears, No. 12 Cowboys at No. 20 Eagles, and No. 1 Falcons at No. 17 Saints.
1. (1) Falcons (8-0) — They’ve found a way to win in each of their eight games, and that’s all that matters. Since 1978, 15 teams have started the season 8-0, and six have gone on to win the Super Bowl.
2. (2) Texans (7-1) — The three-headed offensive attack of Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson was in full force on Sunday. The Texans have a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
3. (4) 49ers (6-2) — The Niners have a great opportunity to deliver a second championship to the city of San Francisco in five months. Coming off an impressive overall performance, this team has proven why it is one of the most balanced in the league.
4. (5) Packers (6-3) — The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for a decimated Packers team. Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings are just a few of the key players who are nursing injuries.
5. (6) Bears (7-1) — The Bears will have an opportunity to prove they are an elite team in the NFL the next two weeks when they take on the Texans and then the 49ers. The Bears defense loves to score, with seven interception returns for touchdowns.
6. (7) Patriots (5-3) — Give the Patriots credit for upgrading at a position that was a serious weakness. The Aqib Talib acquisition has the potential to be a difference-maker as to whether the team reaches the Super Bowl or not.
7. (10) Steelers (5-3) — What has gotten into the Steelers run game? Pittsburgh running backs have rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games. The added production has done wonders for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense.
8. (8) Ravens (6-2) — Many were calling for more carries for Ray Rice, and it seems like John Harbaugh listened. Rice had a season-high 25 carries against the Browns. Ravens fans now should worry about the injuries that have decimated the defense. A number of starters are out and Haloti Ngata is playing through a bevy of injuries.
|Fantasy Football: Week 10 waiver wire||11.05.12 at 12:45 pm ET|
Welcome to the Week 10 waiver wire. It’s been a rough eight days for yours truly. The town in which I reside still is in a state of total dysfunction in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I’ve been staying with friends so as to be informed enough to keep informing all of you, but please excuse the early release of this week’s wire. If I had confidence that I would have connectivity Tuesday, I would wait a day longer. But sadly, I don’t. Lastly, for those who are in a position to do so, please consider donating to the Red Cross to help those who are suffering in New Jersey and New York. The extent of the damage is mind-boggling, and every cent helps.
I will be updating this column at Rotobahn on Tuesday if I have the capability, so head on over then if you are looking for more insight. Lastly, great thanks go out to our friends in Andover, Mike and Aricia, for giving us a warm place to stay for the last few days, not to mention a place to watch football and upload this article.
Carson Palmer, Raiders
We’ve been pushing him for a few weeks now as he’s been a solid fantasy contributor for most of the year. Now, with more healthy receiving options, Palmer is posting very good numbers. As I said a few weeks back, he’s cheap and he won’t hurt you. Well, he might not be cheap anymore after Week 9, but he still is available in a great many leagues, so go get him if you need some QB help in any format.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He’ll be getting WR Alshon Jeffery back soon, and with Brandon Marshall fully heated up, the Bears could be a high-powered offense sooner rather than later. Add Cutler in any format. He can be your starter going forward if you are in a pinch.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
In big leagues, he is a guy who can provide depth and he is a solid start when the matchup is right, especially at home. Pick him up in 12-team leagues.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
He is a viable fantasy asset, but the reason to consider him right now is the sweet matchup he has with Tennessee in Week 10. If you are looking for a way to replace Aaron Rodgers during his Week 10 bye, Tannehill could be your guy — in any format. He also gets Buffalo in Week 11, which is an added bonus.
John Skelton, Cardinals
In really deep formats, Skelton can be a depth player for you. With rookie WR Michael Floyd beginning to emerge along with TE Rob Housler, the Cardinals QB could be more of a fantasy factor going forward. He’s better left for 12-team and 14-team formats, but we think he will get better in the coming weeks, so he is a guy to keep an eye on for sure.
Nick Foles, Eagles
For Michael Vick owners at minimum, Foles could be the QB in Philly next week, so we’d be adding him as protection if we were dependent on Vick. Foles has plenty of upside if he was to start, so add him in any league where your success is tethered to Vick.
|Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts, sits||11.03.12 at 12:11 pm ET|
Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. It’s been a rough week for yours truly and all New Yorkers, but I’m now up in Boston with friends — fully loaded with bandwidth and a large coffee. Let’s get into Week 9, shall we? For those of you looking for full rankings, we will be adding them at Rotobahn.com throughout the day as we play catchup in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We also will be hosting our weekly Sunday chat right here, so check back Sunday at 11 a.m. if you have any pressing lineup questions.
Cam Newton, Panthers at Redskins
Yes, Newton was a lock starter going into the season, but we’ve received enough e-mails about him to put him here. Newton should step up in this game against Robert Griffin III. The bigger issue is the Washington defense, which is prone to lapses in coverage. Newton is a good play here and he has some upside, too. He’s a good play in any league.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers at Raiders
Stick with Freeman this week in a plus matchup at Oakland. His receivers are making plays and now he has ground support with a surging Doug Martin.
Joe Flacco, Ravens at Browns
There’s some risk due to how poorly he’s played lately, but we wouldn’t be afraid of using him here. The Ravens have had two weeks to prepare for this game and they are well coached. They should be ready. Flacco is a viable start in 12-team leagues.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills at Texans
Fitz is a very risky play on the road against a quality opponent. Just look at what he did in Weeks 5 and 6 if you require proof. The Bills most likely will be chasing in the game, so there’s some hope, but we’d strongly consider other options in all leagues.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins at Colts
Two big things here: Tannehill is not a lock to play, so even if you are going to roll with him, you need a Plan B. The more important thing is the in-game risk. There’s a solid chance that he could start but not finish, and that’s what worries us most. He’s got an easily aggravated injury. The matchup is a very good one, but we’d look for more secure options in Week 9.
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