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Peter King on M&M: Texans need to limit Patriots’ possessions 01.11.13 at 12:07 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated NFL insider Peter King made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday morning to talk about Sunday’s Patriots-Texans AFC playoff game and other news from around the league.

King said the key for the Texans to avoid a repeat of the Dec. 10 shellacking at the hands of the Patriots is to limit Tom Brady‘s opportunities.

“The only way I see it being close is if Houston really limits the number of possessions by the Patriots, which I think is going to be hard anyway,” King said. “And even if they do that, part of me thinks that Brady with eight possessions is still going to be able to put up enough points on the board. If I’m Houston, I’m playing the four-corners offense that Dean Smith used to play at North Carolina. You’ve got to slow the game down. You’ve got to play the way the Giants played the Bills in the Super Bowl 21 years ago.

“I would also make this point, that I think one of the things during the course of the year that has really become noticeable: No matter who’s on the field for New England — whether they have [Rob] Gronkowski, whether they don’t; whether [Aaron] Hernandez is healthy or not — they’re still running fast and running a lot of plays. I was amazed when I looked this up this week: The New England Patriots ran 13 more plays a game in 2012 than in 2010. They ran 205 more plays this year than they did just two years ago.

“It’s just another instance of Bill Belichick learning as he gets older as a coach. You’re never finished learning in this business, because once you think you are, some new Chip Kelly or some new defensive guy comes in there and makes your job a lot more difficult. Hats off to the Patriots for basically advancing the ball down the field really in a schematic sense.”

King said he expects Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, known for being reliant on the blitz, to avoid being as predictable as he has in the past.

“I think he’ll change up from the first game they played,” King said. “One of the things I think they’ll emphasize, a change in this game I think is going to be a healthy Brooks Reed, assuming that he is. And Connor Barwin coming as well as J.J. Watt and occasionally Whitney Mercilus.

“I think that one of the things you have to look at if you are the Houston Texans is you’ve got to make sure that your linebackers are going to be cognizant of the intermediate stuff. And they’ve just got to clog the field. To me, when you play Tom Brady, I couldn’t agree more: I think blitzes — I’m not saying they’re fruitless, because you have to do everything. But I think you’ve got to clog the middle of the field against him because he loves doing so many things with a guy like Gronkowski. I’m not sure about this, but I heard Connor Barwin on the radio saying yesterday he’s never played Gronkowski before. So, there’s a newness to this. There’s going to be a feeling-out early that’s going to be an interesting thing in an X’s and O’s sense to watch.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peter King, Tom Brady, wade phillips
Wade Phillips’ comments on Wes Welker create stir 01.10.13 at 8:55 pm ET
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Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips stirred some mild controversy on Thursday when answering a question on Patriots receiver Wes Welker. Phillips was asked by whether or not Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph — who covered Cincinnati’s A.J. Green in Houston’s wild-card win over the Bengals — would draw Welker in this week’s divisional playoff matchup.

“Welker’s not Green,” Phillips said. “He’s a good player, but he’s not that big or a real athletic guy. He’s a quick guy that gets open on option routes. [Brandon] Harris actually played him pretty good.”

For what it’s worth, in the first game between the two teams Welker was held to three catches (matching a season-low) for 52 yards in the 42-14 win over the Texans.

Later in the day, Phillips tweeted the following message: “Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time. #twistthataround”

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Cosell: When it comes to identifying Patriots’ defensive front, mind the gap 03.26.12 at 11:09 am ET
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During the 2011 season, much was made about the Patriots’ apparent decision to move from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. With the acquisition of veteran defensive linemen like Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and Albert Haynesworth — all defenders who appeared to be a better fit in a 4-3 — it certainly appeared Bill Belichick was making a seismic shift in defensive sensibility.

But it turns out that the idea of 4-3 vs. 3-4 scheme in New England wasn’€™t as simple as having someone on the edge put their hand on the ground instead of stand up. Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who serves as the executive producer of ESPN’€™s ‘€œNFL Matchup,’€ said that when it comes to the Patriots, the differences between a three-man front and a four-man front are more complex than you’€™d think.

‘€œYou have to understand one thing — fronts are not determined by who’€™s in a three-point stance and who is in a two-point stance. Fronts are determined by gap concepts,’€ Cosell said. ‘€œAnd I guarantee if you look at a lot of the Patriots’€™ ‘€˜three-man fronts’€™ in the past where there’€™s actually two linebackers standing up on the outside, you’€™ll see that they’€™re actually in four-man front principles.’€

Some of the versatility of defenders like Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich allow the Patriots to present one front when they’€™re actually in a different look altogether.

‘€œWith the Patriots, it’€™s complicated. You’€™ll see a three-technique. You’€™ll see a nose shade, not a nose tackle. Sure, there were snaps where they played a true 3-4 with a true nose tackle or a zero technique and two ends who are five techniques. But just because you have three down linemen, it doesn’€™t mean you are playing a 3-4.’€

With the Patriots cutting Haynesworth and losing Anderson in free agency to Buffalo and the future of Carter uncertain because of injury, Cosell believes the Patriots won’€™t necessarily brand themselves a 3-4 or 4-3 team going forward, no matter who they might draft (or otherwise acquire), saying there’€™s ‘€œno need for them to make a delineation between 3-4 and 4-3. You don’€™t need to do that.’€

Instead, look for them to continue to add versatile linemen and keep people guessing.

‘€œIn Houston, Wade Phillips‘€™ defense is not a 3-4. It’€™s a 4-3. It just has the weak side defensive end — which was DeMarcus Ware in Dallas and was Mario Williams in Houston — stand up in a two-point stance. But every gap tells you it’€™s a 4-3,’€ Cosell said. ‘€œPeople immediately assume because you see three down linemen and you see two outside linebackers standing up, that’€™s a 3-4. No. Belichick is smarter than that.’€

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Bill Belichick, DeMarcus Ware
Patriots Potential Playoff Opponents: Houston Texans 12.27.11 at 9:17 pm ET
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With the Patriots securely in the postseason, it’€™s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is part of a weeklong series of features on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. We’€™ve already profiled the Baltimore Ravens. Today, we’€™ve got a look at the Houston Texans:

The skinny: If the Texans were ever going to win the AFC South, this was the year: without Peyton Manning, the Colts were down, Tennessee was rebuilding and Jacksonville started slowly and made a coaching change. Houston took advantage, and now, they enter the final week of the regular season at 10-5, having already clinched the AFC South championship. (They’€™re currently locked in as the No. 3 playoff seed in the AFC.) They have some impressive wins on their resume, including victories over the Steelers (17-10), Atlanta (17-10) and Cincinnati (20-19). However, they also have more than enough stinkers, including defeats to Oakland, Carolina and Indianapolis. From a distance, the Texans appear to be a competitive young team that has had some occasional struggles with success.

Offense: Houston is down to its third-string quarterback, and while T.J. Yates (78-for-130 for 902 yards with three TDs and three INTs) has played relatively well down the stretch, there are plenty of holes in his game. Offensively, the Texans are powered by running back Arian Foster, who has 1,224 yards on 278 carries for 10 touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average. Houston is anticipating the return of wide receiver Andre Johnson (six games, 31 catches, 471 yards, two touchdowns) for the postseason, and if he is at full strength (he’€™s been slowed by a hamstring problem), he gives the Texans a pair of dynamic skill position players who are among the best at their position.

Defense: Thanks to linebackers Connor Barwin (11.5 sacks) and Brooks Reed (six sacks) and defensive end J.J. Watt (5.5 sacks), the Texans do a good job getting after the quarterback. They’€™re one of the best teams in the league when it comes to the rest of their defense: second in average total yards allowed (280.7), tied for second in the league against the pass (184 yards per game), fourth in the league against the run (96.7 yards per game) and fourth in the league in points per game allowed (17).

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Read More: Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin
Peter King on D&H: Only Bill Belichick can handle Randy Moss 11.06.10 at 7:38 am ET
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Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports football insider Peter King joined the Dale & Holley show on Friday once again to talk about NFL news. The conversation covered everything from the NFL’s Top 100 Players list, the Randy Moss saga and player fines.

Many Patriots fans are upset that Brett Favre was ranked slightly ahead of Tom Brady on the all-time list, but King offered a consolation for the future. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they do another list in 2020, when the NFL turns 100, the 100 best players as the league turns 100. And again, if Brady just progresses at a very normal level, and if even if he ends at three championships, I’€™ve got to think at the end of the day that’€™ll he’€™ll be higher than Brett Favre will be.”

Following are some more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

How does Tom Brady make your midseason MVP but not your midseason All-Pro team?

That’s one of those decisions that at the end I really thought long and hard, I thought long on two decisions. One was [Steelers center] Maurkice Pouncey over [Rams quarterback] Sam Bradford as Offensive Rookie of the Year, which was a really difficult choice because Bradford has been so good. I picked that because Pouncey has been a better center, and solidified a really shaky unit of one of the best teams it football, been a better center than Bradford has been at quarterback.

But let’s focus on the Brady-Manning thing. To me, I think it’s arguable that Peyton Manning has played better in the first half of the season but that Tom Brady has been more valuable to the best team in football in the first half of the season. And at the end of the day ‘€” I finished this Sunday morning at about 7:30 or 8 in the morning. I could have changed after Sunday’s games if I had wanted to, but I didn’t. I couldn’t go back in with the Monday night game. I just think that Manning has been absolutely terrific, as usual, and has had a great passing season and a great season orchestrating what he’s had to do in Indianapolis with a new offensive coordinator.

Whereas Brady, I think his value has rarely if ever been higher to the Patriots, because he’s gotten five new receivers up to speed while having the whole Moss thing go haywire. I realize it’s a very subjective thing. At the end of the day, I sort of wanted to honor each guy, because I think each of them had been tremendous in the first half of the season.

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Read More: Brett Favre, Jeff Fisher, Josh McDaniels, Peter King
Boomer Esiason on D&C: Brett Favre alienating coach, teammates 11.01.10 at 9:30 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Esiason praised BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead for their performances in the Patriots’ win over the Vikings on Sunday, and he said the Patriots have earned their spot atop the AFC.

“You’re beating the best of the best,” Esiason said. “You can’t say right now that the New England Patriots aren’t the best in the AFC. Their record not only amplifies that, but the teams that they’re beating tells you that. Because they’ve beaten some of the best teams in football.”

Esiason said he’s not concerned that the Patriots will have a letdown next Sunday when they play the lowly Browns in Cleveland.

“The Patriots aren’t a normal team,” he said. “They don’t seem to get too caught up in everything that’s going on around them. I guess the coach does a pretty good job of keeping a lid on it. He’s not [Jets coach] Rex Ryan sitting there telling you that they’re the best team in football. He’s not [Buccaneers coach] Raheem Morris trying to tell his team, his fan base that they’re the best team in the NFC. He just kind of goes about his daily routine and his business, and I think the players kind of follow that. I don’t necessarily know that I could ever remember a time where the Patriots didn’t beat somebody that they were supposed to beat.”

Asked about Brett Favre‘s press conference Sunday that has drawn criticism for Favre’s eagerness to talk about himself and his injuries, Esiason said: “Brett’s got a lot on his plate, man. I think any of us who played the game completely appreciate who he is as a football player. I love the fact that he came back this year, because he does create stories, he does create drama. For those of us in the media, it makes it easy for us to talk about Brett. At the end of the day, I hear where you’re coming from. I think most fans are probably tired of it. I think most people who cover the team probably are tired of it. And I understand it can be nauseating at times.”

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Read More: boomer esiason, Brett Favre, wade phillips,
Peter King on D&H: The Brett Favre situation, and Bill Belichick’s phenomenal season 10.29.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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Peter King of and NBC Sports joined the Dale & Holley Show on Friday to discuss the state of the NFL, including the league-changing impact of special teams this year, the struggles of the Cowboys, Saints and Broncos, as well as the looming contract situation with Peyton Manning and the Colts.

He also rebutted the suggestion that the Vikings have been looking for an opportunity to turn over the offense to Tavaris Jackson. King said that the only thing that might keep Brett Favre away from Monday’s game against the Patriots would be his health, and that “unequivocally,” Vikings coach Brad Childress is not looking for a chance to move away from Favre.

King also praised the coaching job being done by the Patriots in getting a number of young players — primarily rookies — to be effective contributors on both sides of the ball. He suggested that, to this point, Tom Brady and Manning would be his MVPs.

A transcript of the interview is below. To listen to it, click here.

On the league this week:

What’€™s interesting is that Randy Moss comes back to town for you guys and that’€™s hardly the story. ‘€¦ It just seems this week, as so many weeks have [been] in the past, it’€™s all Favre, all the time.

You’€™ve got something special you’€™re working on for Monday’€¦

I really don’€™t. I’€™m actually doing a story for the magazine for the story next week about special teams and their impact on the first half of this season. It just seems every week, there are two or three plays, I think special teams have been a huge impact. And it’€™s one of those things that you barely ever, ever think about in the offseason. When’€™s the last time someone called your show in May and said, ‘€˜I wonder who the Patriots gunner is going to be.’€™ Ask the San Diego Chargers if they care. They have lost four games this year, lost, because of special teams.

What’€™s your guess: will Favre play on Monday, and if not, is it because of health or because Brad Childress doesn’€™t want him as a quarterback?

My guess is yes, and the answer to the second question is absolutely not. I’€™ll tell you sort of what I know. Here’€™s exactly what’€™s going on. You can take what I’€™m about to say to the bank. Brad Childress has not made a decision yet about what he’€™s going to do. Starting here in a little while, when the Minnesota Vikings take the practice field in Eden Prairie, Minn., he is going to judge Brett Favre’€™s readiness based on about an hour and 15 minutes of practice today and then how he comes back from that tomorrow in the walk-through ‘€“ how nimble he is today and whether he’€™s OK in the walk-through. That, and only that, is what is going to be used to judge whether Brett Favre plays [Monday] against the Patriots.

There have been stories written overnight and a lot of things have been said publicly that I’€™ve heard. But I think I know what’€™s going on with this story well, and what’€™s going on is that if Favre looks good in practice, moves around and can basically prepare himself in the eyes of Brad Childress, he definitely will play on Monday. And if he can’€™t, he won’€™t. I have looked into this week whether Brad Childress would be using this as an excuse to transition away from Brett Favre and towards Tavaris Jackson, because he quite frankly is unhappy with a lot of the decisions that Favre have been making in games, and everybody knows that.

I have been told that the answer is absolutely, unequivocally not. This is going to be a decision based solely on how he looks in practice and whether he’€™s healthy enough to play.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, brad childress, Brett Favre, jennifer sterger
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