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Around the AFC East: Dolphins, Bills pull off narrow victories 09.15.13 at 5:12 pm ET
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Miami's Brent Grimes (21) celebrates with Jimmy Wilson (27) after Grimes intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for Indy's Reggie Wayne during the second half of Sunday's game. (AP)

Miami’s Brent Grimes (21) celebrates with Jimmy Wilson (27) after Grimes intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for Indy’s Reggie Wayne during the second half of Sunday’s game. (AP)

With the Patriots having Sunday off, it gave us a chance to check out what’s going on in the rest of the AFC East. Here’s a quick look at what happened in the rest of the division over the weekend:

Dolphins (2-0): Miami won a highly entertaining contest Sunday against the Colts and Andrew Luck, coming away with a 24-20 victory to stay unbeaten on the year. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 23-for-34 for 319 yards and one touchdown to give Indy its first home loss in 12 months. Miami, which is 2-0 for just the second time since 2004, saw Mike Wallace (nine catches, 115 yards) and Charles Clay (five catches, 109 yards) go over 100 yards receiving. The Dolphins needed the firepower, as Luck had the Colts in position to pull off another comeback win — he had the ball at the Miami 23-yard line with 1:45 left, but tossed three incompletes and was sacked on fourth down to finish things.

Next up: Sunday, Sept. 22 vs. Falcons

Jets (1-1): Like the Patriots, New York also had the weekend off, but managed to make its share of headlines with the decision to place quarterback Mark Sanchez on injured reserve with a designation to return. While coach Rex Ryan said he believed Sanchez could contribute later in the season, the move means that Sanchez will be on the shelf for the next eight weeks. (The earliest Sanchez could be back is Nov. 17 at Buffalo, following the Jets’ bye week.) That means that for the foreseeable future, the quarterback job belongs to rookie Geno Smith, who was a bit of a mixed bag in Thursday’s loss to the Patriots. The West Virginia product was 15-for-35 for 214 yards, and was sacked four times and intercepted three times.

Next up: Sunday, Sept. 22 vs. Bills

Bills (1-1): Buffalo got its first win of the season on Sunday with a dramatic 24-23 victory over the Panthers, thanks in large part to rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, who connected with wide receiver Stevie Johnson on a 2-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left to lift the Bills. Manuel engineered a game-winning drive late in the fourth, a nine-play, 80-yard series where he went 6-for-8 for 51 yards. (He ended the game 27-for-39 for 296 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.) Manuel got some help down the stretch when Carolina (and former Boston College) linebacker Luke Kuechly was penalized for pass interference on a third down play with less than a minute to go to help keep Buffalo alive.

Next up: Sunday, Sept. 22 at Jets

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Aqib Talib responds to Stevie Johnson: ‘I don’t watch NFL Network’ 09.05.13 at 1:45 pm ET
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Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib

FOXBORO — Informed of Stevie Johnson‘s quote that he doesn’t feel like the Patriots have anyone who could stop him, Aqib Talib played it cool.

Asked if he had heard about Johnson’s boast, the New England cornerback responded by saying Thursday he hasn’t seen it.

“I don’t watch NFL Network or read the newspaper during the season,” Talib said. “I’m a basketball fan. My TV pretty much stays on NBA TV. I don’t really read what nobody says.”

Johnson said earlier in the week that he didn’t “think [the Patriots] have anybody to stop me.”

Talib was asked if a comment like that would get him fired up.

“Of course,” he said. “But I didn’t hear it so I didn’t really read into it. I guess it is what it is.

“He’s sharp in his routes. He’s really good on his releases,” Talib added of Johnson. “We just have to, you know, prepare for him.”

Johnson was actually pretty complimentary of Talib and the New England defense, even if he did get some of the names wrong. (He identified Patrick Chung as one of the Patriots’ defensive backs, even though Chung was signed as a free agent in the offseason by the Eagles.)

“[He's] long, athletic, tries to play with vision,” Johnson said of Talib. “I have a lot of respect for [Patrick] Chung. [Devin] McCourty: he’s a Pro Bowl player.

“I give a lot of credit to the Patriots. They play as one unit. … They’re aggressive. It’s going to be a test. It’s going to be a challenge,” Johnson added. “But I still still think we can take advantage of their defense. … I’ll still ride with my boys over their guys.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Bill Belichick on EJ Manuel: ‘We have to be ready for everybody’ 09.04.13 at 5:27 pm ET
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Bill Belichick at the podium on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bill Belichick at the podium on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Doug Marrone may have confirmed Wednesday that rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will get the start over Jeff Tuel for the Bills Sunday against the Patriots but that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick is taking anything for granted.

“We have to be ready for everybody,” Belichick said Wednesday during his press conference. “We all know that could change in one play so we have to be ready for all the guys on the active roster.”

What are Belichick’s impressions of the rookie out of Florida State?

“An athletic guy,” Belichick said of the signal-caller some draft experts had as the most talented quarterback out of college. “He hasn’t played a lot; he played against Indianapolis. Good arm, good athlete and a very productive player in college.”

Manuel was 26-of-33 for 199 yards and two touchdowns in two preseason games.

Belichick dismissed the advantage his defense has going up against a first-year quarterback.

“We’re playing against some individual players but we’re playing against an entire team too and their scheme and what they do,” Belichick said. “We have to have an awareness of the players that are in there but we have to defend the scheme that they run against us and we have to carry out our responsibilities. It’s kind of a combination of those things. We’ll be aware of the skills that Manuel has, that Tuel has, that Spiller has, that [Fred] Jackson has, that [Tashard] Choice has, whoever they are in there, we’re going to have to be ready for all of them. We still have to play our defense and maybe we have a little bit better awareness specifically of one player over another and we should. We still have to play our defense, still have to play football.

And then there’s Stevie Johnson, the wideout who said this week that New England doesn’t have anyone who can cover him, including Patrick Chung, now of the Philadelphia Eagles. Does that make Belichick laugh?

“We can’t really worry about what they’re doing,” Belichick said. “We’re just trying to get ready to go. We’ll try to be ready on Sunday. That’s what we’re going to do.”

As for what Johnson brings to the Bills’ offense?

“He’s an explosive player,” Belichick said, staying on the high road. “He’s got great quickness, catching skills, good route runner. He’s a hard guy to cover.”

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Rob Ninkovich on M&M: ‘We’ll be prepared and be ready to roll’ against Bills 09.03.13 at 12:49 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich

Rob Ninkovich

Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning to discuss Sunday’s game against the Bills that marks the beginning of the season.

For Ninkovich, facing a division rival makes the first game of the season that much more energizing and exciting.

“Buffalo is always a fun place to play,” Ninkovich said. “There’s a ton of energy there. You get the beer cans and the eggs and everything on the bus when you’re coming in, so it’s really a fun atmosphere to play at. The fans always seem to really like us there and enjoy our presence.

“That first game is always a very exciting game and everyone has a ton of energy and it will be exciting. I’m ready to get to Buffalo already. It’s Week 1, it’s a great game to be at. … We’ll be prepared and be ready to roll there.”

Buffalo may feature a new quarterback in undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, but as Ninkovich noted, the Bills still feature a dangerous offensive core with weapons such as running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

“They definitely have some weapons with Spiller, Johnson and [running back Fred] Jackson, so you definitely have to make sure that you have those guys contained. Every single one of those guys have big-play ability,” Ninkovich said. “You have to make sure that you have the edge [against Spiller] every single time, because you have to be aware of him being able to not only trying to get to the edge, but cutting back and running back across the field and test the other edge, so you just have to be super aware of him and where he’s at.

“The ball could be running away from you, but in a split second, it’s coming back to you, so you just have make sure that you have the ball contained and bring it back to all your buddies.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

On the release of defensive ends Justin Francis and Marcus Bernard: “It’s the one unfortunate part of the business that you have to deal with. You know, guys coming and going. There’s guys that make those decisions for a reason and you just take it for what it is and you move on and you roll with what you’ve got. Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan are both great football players, so I’m happy to have those guys as teammates.”

On playing with a roster that includes 14 rookies, the most of any NFL team: “It’s definitely, definitely a young football team. Right now … you just have to really make sure that we prepare well and get those guys ready to go. It’s definitely a lot different from what it was five years ago when I first got here, I’m one of the only guys to still be around, so you just see the turnover there and these young guys just have to … get ready to play a long season here.”

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Kyle Arrington on M&M: Bills WR Stevie Johnson an ‘extreme talent’ at 11:39 am ET
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Kyle Arrington

Kyle Arrington

Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday as the Patriots prepare to open the season Sunday against the Bills.

Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson made some interesting comments this week, saying that he doesn’t believe the Patriots have anyone who can stop him and then noting he has “a lot of respect” for his friend Patrick Chung, apparently not realizing Chung left New England as a free agent in the offseason, signing with the Eagles.

“I’m going to leave that for you guys to dissect,” Arrington said.

Added Arrington of Johnson: “Extreme talent. Very, very talented. One of those all-around talents that we see. He’s not only fast, not only just shifty, not only great hands, not only possession, run after the catch. We have a great challenge on our hands. We’re getting ready.”

The Patriots defense improved during the 2012 season after a slow start, and Arrington is looking for the defense to pick up where it left off.

“Our goal is always we want to be a fast, physical, dominant defense,” he said. “I think we’ve taken some good steps in the right direction, but I know we have a long way to go. It’s going to be a long season. Everything is focused on getting ready for Buffalo this week. I guess we’ll assess where we’re at after that.”

Arrington has been moved around the defensive backfield during the preseason. He said he’s just happy to be playing, no matter where he is.

“I just love being out there on the field, being able to go out there and play football. It’s fun,” he said. “I love being on the inside, I love being on the outside. I love, like I said, just going out there and being a football player. It’s a tremendous game. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

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Bills WR Stevie Johnson on Patriots: ‘I don’t think they have anybody to stop me’ 09.02.13 at 3:09 pm ET
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Stevie Johnson made quite a boast to reporters on Monday. (AP)

Stevie Johnson made quite a boast to reporters on Monday. (AP)

Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson kicked off the regular season with a bang Monday, telling reporters he doesn’t “think [the Patriots] have anybody to stop me.”

Johnson was asked why he feels the Bills can compete with New England, which has won nine of the last 10 AFC East titles.

“Because I’m here,” he said. “I don’t think they have anybody to stop me. For real. I think we have guys in the receiver room that are as good as I am, if not better. I just have that confidence in my teammates and in myself.”

At the same time, Johnson was deferential to several players in the Patriots secondary

“[He's] long, athletic, tries to play with vision,” Johnson said of Aqib Talib. “I have a lot of respect for [Patrick] Chung. [Devin] McCourty: he’s a Pro Bowl player.”

While it’s worth noting that Chung is no longer a part of the Patriots — he signed with the Eagles in the offseason — Johnson continued.

“I give a lot of credit to the Patriots. They play as one unit. … They’re aggressive. It’s going to be a test. It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “But I still still think we can take advantage of their defense. … I’ll still ride with my boys over their guys.”

The Patriots and Bills face each other in the regular-season opener for both teams Sunday in Buffalo.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson on Patriots secondary: ‘They make plays when they need to’ 11.07.12 at 6:06 pm ET
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Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson has had some memorable touchdown celebrations over the years. This was his new year's message to fans last time the Bills were in Foxboro. (AP)

FOXBORO – Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson acknowledged Wednesday that the Patriots don’t have the best secondary in the league, but “they make plays when they need to … for the most part.”

“They win games,” Johnson said of the New England secondary. “We all know about the offense, but it still takes the defense to make plays and hold opponents off. They have done that. I cannot say they are the greatest, but when it is time to play, they definitely step up when needed. They’re a good bunch.”

In a conference call with the New England media, the Bills’ top wide receiver — who was held out of practice Wednesday with what he called “a thigh bruise” — said that if he had to choose between the Patriots and Texans for the top team in the AFC, he’d go with New England.

“I’m just going to have to say the Patriots because the first quarter (against the Texans) I was feeling pretty good about it from my perspective,” said Johnson, who has 35 catches for 416 yards and four touchdowns this year. “I was feeling pretty good about it. and then I ended up getting the thigh injury and I really couldn’t do too much. I played the game against the Patriots with pretty much no injury and they still put a whooping on us. So I am going to give the nod to the New England Patriots.”

The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Johnson has engaged in a couple of memorable touchdown celebrations at Gillette Stadium, including pretending to fire the musket of one of the end zone Minutemen. (He also revealed a unique fashion sense last season when he scored a touchdown against New England in a New Year’s Day game and pulled up a T-shirt that had “Happy New Year!” written on the front. The stunt earned him a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and some time on the sidelines.)

This time around, he said he has no celebrations planned.

“That happened in the middle of the game,” he recalled with a laugh when he was asked about the musket celebration. “The Patriots scored, the musket went off and scared me on the sideline. I was like ‘OK, I got something for them.’ This year, no. I pretty much just want to get in the end zone and keep my team ahead. Whatever happens is going to happen. I do not have anything planned though.

“All those gun days are done with Stevie Johnson.”

He did have some good things to say about Rob Gronkowski’s recent celebration in the Patriots-Rams game in London that saw the big tight end act like one of the palace guards.

“I like Gronkowski. He’s good,” he said. “And it was well worth doing, being in London.

“I think it is we put in this work from Monday all of the way to Sunday. You know how hard it is to get in the end zone. Just to get there is like, ‘Man, I did it.’ Just want to celebrate a little bit,” he added. “I think it should be legal to celebrate at least with your teammates. You put in a lot of work throughout the week to get in the end zone, and when you get there, you feel like you can’t even do anything. We understand there are certain things you cannot do. I know I have done some things that you should not be able to do, but for the most part if it is a simple celebration. I think that should be good with any team.”

Here are a few other highlights from his Q&A with the media:

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