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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick had a heart-to-heart talk with LeGarrette Blount this week.


FOXBORO — Bill Belichick had a heart-to-heart talk with LeGarrette Blount this week.

The Patriots coach knows how ugly things ended in Pittsburgh this week, when he walked off the field before the end of the Steelers’ 27-24 win over the Titans in Tennessee. But Belichick also knows how much Blount liked his situation in New England and thinks having an extra running back like Blount could help the Patriots down the stretch.

“That’ll be up to him, just like everybody else,” Belichick said when asked Friday about the chance he’ll get to play and show his value. “When he gets an opportunity, how much he can take advantage of it, how much he can be productive, what he can do with those opportunities will determine how many more there are. It’s totally up to him. He’s knows that. We’ve talked about that. He knows that’s the way it is and I think he’s excited about it.”

The Patriots tried to re-sign the 25-year-old Blount in the offseason when he became a free agent but Blount decided to sign a two-year, $3.85 million deal with the Steelers.

“Well, you know we tried to sign LeGarrette in the offseason. That didn’t work out, which is it’s the NFL, the business part of the NFL. He was released [this week], he was available and we were able to work it out for him to come back here. Glad to have him back.”

He thought he would have a key role in the Steelers offense, along with Le’Veon Bell. Instead, he ran the ball just 65 times for an impressive 4.1 yards per carry average. He got just 21 touches in the last four games and didn’t have a single carry on Monday night in Tennessee.

“Pretty much everybody in the league has been playing at this time of year, with some exceptions,” Belichick said of Blount’s game readiness. “I don’t know. We know the player, we have a history with him. I think that was the biggest part of it.”

Blount debuted Thursday at Patriots practice wearing No. 60. But don’t expect Blount to recreate the Marion Motley look on Sunday against the Lions. Motley wore No. 76 as a star fullback for the Cleveland Browns in the late 1940s and early 50s.

“I’m sure he’ll have a regular number,” Belichick said. “Ask the equipment people about that. Maybe those jerseys got mixed up. I don’t know.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the Patriots’ game Sunday against the Lions as well as other news around the NFL.

NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the Patriots’ game Sunday against the Lions as well as other news around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Against the Colts this past Sunday, the Patriots had a run-heavy game plan that featured tailback Jonas Gray. With a strong Detroit defense looming, a different strategy might have to be employed for New England to win.

Said Harrison: “This a pretty good defense overall. I don’t care about the rankings and all of that other stuff, but they’re a lot better. This is a different Detroit Lions team, they’re more disciplined, they play together. Ndamukong Suh, he’s having a big year. Their secondary guys, they’ve improved. I think you still have to somewhat try to maintain a level of balance. You’re probably not going to be able to run in the A-gaps and up in between where Ndamukong Suh is at. But at the same time, I think you have to run some screen plays, you have to keep this team off balance, you have to be able to take some shots down the field. They still have to cover your guys and they still have to defend the run.”

Detroit’s defense has been a strength this season, but the offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford has not been as good as expected. The unit has only scored more than 24 points once this season, and that came all the way back in Week 1.

“They’ve had tight end issues, all of their tight ends have been hurt,” said Harrison. “Reggie Bush, he’s been hurt. They really haven’t been able to develop that chemistry and rapport with an offense. It’s good that you have a lot of talented guys, but if they’re injured, if they’re in and out of the lineups, it’s hard to really develop that chemistry. And I think that’s what you see what’s happening with their team. Calvin Johnson, he’s had so many injuries. And Darrelle Revis talks about how great of a player he is, but you could see Calvin Johnson starting to slow down a little bit. Those injuries have taken a toll. … But they still have the ability to make a lot of plays. Matthew Stafford, I think he’s gotten better. I wouldn’t say he’s great but he’s still capable of beating you in the forth quarter if the game is close.”

As good as Stafford has been in his young career, the final two months of the regular season have not been kind to him. He has a 9-24 record in 33 November and December starts and has 56 touchdown passes to 49 interceptions. Tom Brady, on the other hand, has thrived in these months.

Said Harrison: “It’s obvious — Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Maybe one of the top three quarterbacks of all time. You’re dealing with Matthew Stafford, a guy that’s gone through a lot of ups and downs. He’s always had some great weapons, but he’s just not a great quarterback on Tom’s level. I mean, that’s what it comes down to. You can call out the stats all you want, numbers and all of those different things, but Matthew Stafford, he can’t even be classified in a class with Tom Brady because Tom Brady is so great.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, go to the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the Bills not being able to practice because of the snow in Buffalo: “It’s all part of the deal. You’re lucky you can sit here and talk about a football game when other people have lost their lives and are dealing with devastation and property and being away from loved ones. I mean, just keep things in perspective. We’ve been playing this football a long time, and you know the plays. It’s just a matter of going out there, executing and doing your job and handling your business. No one feels sorry for those guys getting paid millions of dollars having to regroup to Detroit to play a football game and still get that big check when other people are going through some real-life situations.”

On the Raiders’ win over the Chiefs on Thursday night: “Not a surprise at all. Just, nothing surprises me in this league anymore. I mean, this league this year has been so crazy with the short week, the turnaround emotionally after Kansas City coming off an emotional win against Seattle. I thought it would be definitely a close game, but then you factor in the rain. It’s not like they even have to really travel super far like they were traveling across [the country]. Nothing really surprises me about this league. But I know that game will come back to bite Kansas City in their butt later on.”

On if he wanted to coach after his playing career ended: “I thought about coaching and I wanted be initially a part of the Patriots. But then you think about all the time and the hours that you put in and I have three kids 10 years and under and I just didn’t want to spend all that time away from them. It’s still a possibility maybe some time down the future. I’m 41 years old, I still love the guys. Just imagine if I was able to coach Revis and those guys, that would be something really special.”

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano

WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 12 starts and sits! In most fantasy leagues, there are only two regular-season weeks remaining, and that means you probably have a whole lot to play for this week. Hopefully this column gives you a few nuggets that can help you, but if you are looking for more takes on more players, I suggest you consult my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.

Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon every Sunday.

If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.

QUARTERBACKS

Start

Russell Wilson, Seahawks vs. Cardinals

Wilson has a tendency to run more in big games and tough situations. This game certainly qualifies. With Marshawn Lynch nursing a sore back, Wilson might keep the rock a bit more than normal when given the option. He should be good for 20-plus points.

Mark Sanchez, Eagles vs. Titans

He’s been solid for fantasy purposes and that should continue this week at home vs. a Titans defense that doesn’t scare anyone right now. The only fear I have is that the Eagles run so well that they don’t need to pass much. Sanchez should be serviceable this week. Use him if you need him.

Josh McCown, Buccaneers at Bears

He’s looked very much in control the last few weeks, and with the way Mike Evans is exploding, you have to like McCown’s chances of producing against his old team in his old stomping grounds. The veteran passer should produce QB1 stats this week.

Sit

Robert Griffin III, Washington at 49ers

While I think the football world is coming down on Griffin a bit harshly, I also want no part of him on the road in San Francisco. The Niners are too disciplined and they stay home well on defense. They are not prone to giving up big rushing yards to quarterbacks or plays over the top. This is a week to sit Griffin if you have other options.

RUNNING BACKS

Start

Denard Robinson, Jaguars at Colts

He’s produced every week since taking over the job in Week 7. That includes strong showings against the Browns and the Dolphins, who both play the run well. Robinson should be in for a solid workload this week and he should produce starter’s stats on the road in Indianapolis.

Tre Mason, Rams at Chargers

He’s battled really well so far in some very tough matchups. Seriously, look at the defenses Mason has played since taking the job.

It really doesn’t get much worse for a rookie back in his first six games. For this reason, I suggest that you ignore Mason’s mediocre stats and consider who he’s played. He gets his best matchup of the season this week at the Chargers. I’d get him active unless your ground game is exceptionally strong.

Isaiah Crowell, Browns at Falcons

It looks as if he’s the guy now. Ben Tate was released, so both Crowell and Terrance West will have weekly roles. For now, the bigger role belongs to Crowell, and this week’s matchup looks promising. He’s a very attractive RB2 play in 12-team leagues.

Shane Vereen, Patriots vs. Lions

Last week’s hero was Jonas Gray, as we all know. This week looks like a Vereen week to me. Detroit’s strength resides in its front four, and Vereen can help Tom Brady by giving him a quick outlet and some route flexibility out of the backfield. This is not the week to expose the future Hall of Famer. This is a week to get the football out of his hands with some urgency on passing plays.

Sit

Fred Jackson, Bills vs. Jets (at Detroit)

It’s hard to tell how healthy he is or how much he will play. You also have a difficult run opponent in the Jets, who handle power backs very well. The Bills have also missed a lot of practice time this week. Jackson is for big leagues only.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Start

Josh Gordon, Browns at Falcons

I’ve been telling you to pick him up for months, so it should make sense that I want you starting him this week. Is there some risk? Sure, but Gordon has so much upside that he is, at least, worth a look as your third receiver. By next week, he’ll be locked in as a WR1.

Golden Tate, Lions at Patriots

I expect Darrelle Revis to lock horns with Calvin Johnson for most of the day, and that leaves Tate with Brandon Browner for the most part. This is not a matchup that Tate will fear, as he knows the rough-and-tumble style well from his days in Seattle. Tate easily could be the Lions’ most productive player this weekend. I would not shy away from him in any league.

Torrey Smith, Ravens at Saints

My regular readers might be a bit surprised at this one. Smith has burned me a few times in the past, but I’d be pulling my punches if I failed to list Smith as a start this week. He’s in a lot of my Week 12 lineups both in seasonal and daily leagues. He matches up quite well with what’s left of the Saints secondary, and they will target him often. He has nice upside as a WR3 this week.

Rueben Randle, Giants vs. Cowboys

I thought he played one of his better games last week, and with Odell Beckham drawing more and more defensive attention, Randle should continue to produce. He’s a useful WR3 option this week at home vs. “America’s Team.”

Sit

Justin Hunter, Titans at Eagles

He has a sore knee and he hasn’t been all that productive. He still has all kinds of potential, but he is a very risky play this week. I would avoid him unless you are playing in a league with 14 or more teams.

TIGHT ENDS

Coby Fleener, Colts vs. Jaguars

With starter Dwayne Allen almost certainly out for this week’s game, I am liking Fleener’s upside. And, to be fair, Fleener has expanded his role even without Allen’s injury. He’s been making fairly regular trips to the end zone and he has an excellent chance to score this week. He’s a TE1 in all formats if you need him.

Larry Donnell, Giants vs. Cowboys

Donnell is a smooth athlete with a pure tight end skill set. He’s outstanding tracking the ball down the seam and he really knows how to use his body to shield smaller defenders. I see no reason to sit Donnell this week against a Cowboys team that gets shredded often by tight ends.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings vs. Packers

I burned myself last week with Rudolph in a lot of my seasonal lineups. Well, guess what? I am jumping right back into the fire this week. The Vikings need Rudolph like nobody’s business, and with him practicing in full this week, I expect better results. He’s a TE1 in 12-team leagues.

Sit

Vernon Davis, 49ers vs. Washington

I had him here last week and he posted zero fantasy points. My guess is that Davis is playing through an injury — most likely the same back injury that he suffered earlier this year. No matter what the reasons are, the lack of production is obvious. Make Davis earn his way back into your lineup, and sit him this week if you have other options.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

Join Chris Price of WEEI.com to break down all things Patriots and the NFL, Friday at noon. Price will help you get ready for the Pats‘ Sunday showdown in Foxboro with the Lions, while looking at the landscape of the league heading into the regular season’s final stretch. Get your questions in now …

Live Blog Chris Price Patriots live chat
 

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Marcel Reece celebrates with Oakland fans after the Raiders shocked the Chiefs Thursday night. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Marcel Reece celebrates with Oakland fans after the Raiders shocked the Chiefs Thursday night. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In the wake of Kansas City’s shocking loss to the Raiders on Thursday, the Broncos are perhaps the biggest winners, as Denver now has gotten some more separation from the second-place Chiefs in the chase for the AFC West crown. But at the same time, the Kansas City loss gives the Patriots a little more margin for error down the stretch.

Entering the evening, the Chiefs were the one team in the upper reaches of the AFC playoff picture that could boast of a head-to-head tiebreaker over New England, with that coming in a 41-14 blowout of the Patriots back in Week 4. But now, with Kansas City falling to 7-4 with the loss to Oakland, New England (8-2) holds a 1 1/2-game lead over the Chiefs, which could stretch to a two-game advantage if the Patriots beat the Lions this weekend.

Overall, here’s a look at the AFC playoff picture as it stands right now:

1. Patriots (8-2): New England leads the AFC East, and currently holds home-field advantage with the top seed, and would host a divisional playoff game. The Patriots have potential tiebreakers against Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

2. Broncos (7-3): Denver leads the AFC West, and has a lock on the No. 2 position going into the weekend. They would also wait out wild-card weekend and host a divisional playoff contest.

3. Bengals (6-3-1): On top of the AFC North. If the playoffs opened today, Cincinnati would host Kansas City in a wild-card game.

4. Colts (6-4): Leaders of the AFC South. They would host No. 5 Pittsburgh in an AFC wild-card game if the postseason began today.

5. Steelers (7-4): Best of the teams that aren’t tops in their division, they’d travel to Lucas Oil on wild-card weekend for a date with Indy. They have the edge on the Chiefs here because of a better conference record.

6. Chiefs (7-4): Losers against the Raiders, the Chiefs have control of the second wild-card spot — barely ahead of four teams that sit 6-4. If the playoffs opened today, they’d be at Cincinnati.

REST OF THE PACK: 7. Dolphins (6-4); 8. Chargers (6-4); 9. Ravens (6-4); 10. Browns (6-4).

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The NFL announced Thursday night that this weekend’s Jets-Bills game will be played in Detroit Monday night because of the massive storm that has paralyzed parts of upstate New York.

The storm has forced the Bills to cancel practices for the last two days. More than 5 feet of snow has fallen in the Buffalo area since Monday, and another 1 to 3 feet was projected to fall by Friday.

This is the second time in four years Ford Field has served as a host for a neutral site game. Following the collapse of the roof of Minnesota’s Metrodome in 2010, the Vikings and Giants played in Detroit.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
LeGarrette Blount has returned to Foxboro. What sort of role can he have with the 2014 Patriots? (Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount has returned to Foxboro. What sort of role can he have with the 2014 Patriots? (Getty Images)

1. In stark contrast to the nasty words that were coming out of the Pittsburgh locker room in the wake of what happened with LeGarrette Blount over the last week, on Thursday, the vibe around the Patriots was all good when it came to the newest Patriot. Special teams captain Matthew Slater called him a “great teammate,” while fullback James Develin said it was “good” to have him back. Meanwhile, Jonas Gray — who will likely see his role shrink some with the addition of Blount — said he had no problem with the move, adding that the veteran is is a “great guy to learn from.” As for what sort of role awaits him, it’s likely he’ll split duties with Gray as the primary between-the-tackles back, as well as serve as some sort of insurance policy if the stage gets too big for the youngster, or if he puts the ball on the ground at some point. It’s also possible he sees time as a part-time kick returner — with the occasional exception of Danny Amendola, no one has really done much to distinguish themselves in the position. With his background last year, it certainly makes sense for the Patriots to give him a shot back there.

2. Few teams have seen the type of turnover at the running back position as New England. With the injury to Ridley, if form holds, the Patriots will have their sixth different back lead the team in rushing in 2014 over the last decade — only four other teams (Saints, Browns, Broncos and Cardinals) have had more. Corey Dillon (2004-2006), Laurence Maroney (2007, 2009), Sammy Morris (2008), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010-2011) and Stevan Ridley (2012-2013). And now, with Ridley on the shelf the rest of the year, this season it figures to be either Vereen, Gray or Blount. That could change again next year, as Brandon Bolden, Ridley and Shane Vereen are all in the final year of their contracts, while Blount, Gray and rookie James White are all under contract for 2015. (In addition, Tyler Gaffney, who was claimed by the Patriots this summer but is spending the year on injured reserve because of a knee issue, is still a possibility to be a part of the mix next season.) Regardless, even with all the changes, things could still change between now and the start of next season.

3. As forward thinking as the Patriots offense — and the passing game in particular — has been the last few years, there’s something impressively retro about what New England might be able to do this season. If we operate with the idea that a “running back by committee” includes a team with four backs with at least 40 carries, it appears that for the second straight season, the Patriots will attempt to be the first team to win a Super Bowl using the “running back by committee” approach since the 1987 Redskins, who won Super Bowl. Right now, the Patriots three different backs reach with at least 69 carries (Ridley with 94, Vereen with 70 and Gray with 69). While some of those numbers are borne out of necessarily since Ridley went down, if Blount is able to click down the stretch for New England — and it’s entirely possible he can hit the 40-carry mark, given his experience in the system — he would be a fourth. If the Patriots could take the title, it would represent the greatest cross-section of work for running backs for any Super Bowl champion since that Washington team emerged with a win in Super Bowl XXII. (Of course, that Redskins team could be discounted on a penalty, as that was a strike year and one of the backs was a scab who rushed 80 times in three strike games but never played another down. If you disqualify them on a technicality, them the last true RBBC team to win a Super Bowl in a non-strike year was the 1981 Niners, a team that had five different backs finish with 40 carries or more: Ricky Patton, Earl Cooper, Johnny Davis, Walt Easley and Paul Hofer.)

4. The guy who will be affected the least when it comes to his role down the stretch and (presumably) into the postseason is Vereen. A third-down option who has become a steady and reliable presence as a pass catcher out of the backfield, he will stay in his role as an occasional ballcarrier, but will also continue to be featured as either the third or fourth option in the passing game behind Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell. For what it’s worth, Vereen is closing in on the second 40-catch, 40-carry season of his career. After 10 games, he has 70 carries for 328 yards, both of which are career highs, as well as 35 catches on 53 targets for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He’s only one of six backs in the league who have at least 70 carries and 35 catches at this point in the season, joining a group that includes Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, Arizona’s Andre Ellington, Chicago’s Matt Forte and Indy’s Ahmad Bradshaw.)

5. When it comes to Blount, it has almost as much to do with including him on your roster as it does keeping him away from running back-starved teams like the Colts and Broncos. While every team had a crack at him via waivers, the idea of Blount with Indy or Denver for the stretch drive and into the postseason certainly makes a lot of sense. Both teams are headed for the playoffs, but both the Colts and Broncos have major questions about the state of their respective running games at this time of the year. Indy has just lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season with an ankle injury he sustained in the loss to the Patriots last Sunday, while Trent Richardson has been unable to gain any sort of traction in his relatively short career with the Colts. In addition, the Broncos are struggling when it comes to picking up quality yardage on the ground — starter Montee Ball is still struggling with a groin injury and backup Ronnie Hillman will apparently miss another week because of a foot injury. In the meantime, Denver will lean on C.J. Anderson and unddrafted rookies Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs, as well as practice squadder Jeremy Stewart. (Word out of Denver was that the franchise believed there wasn’t enough time left in the season for a running back to come in and learn the team’€™s offensive system.)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

There was a familiar face walking the halls of Gillette Stadium this week — Randy Moss.