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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

11.25.14 at 9:11 pm ET
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Every week, we list the Patriots’ “offensive touches,” a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Here’s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after 11 games:

RB Shane Vereen: 122 (78 carries, 44 catches) 3 negative catch, 6 negative runs
RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 78 (8 carries, 70 catches)
RB Jonas Gray: 70 (70 carries)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 58 (58 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 48 (48 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 19 (19 carries), 14 sacks, 7 kneeldowns
TE Tim Wright: 24 (1 carry, 23 catches), 1 negative rush
RB Brandon Bolden: 17 (16 carries, 1 catch), 2 negative runs
RB LeGarrette Blount: 12 (12 carries), 1 negative run
RB James White: 12 (9 carries, 3 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 11 (11 catches)
FB James Develin: 7 (1 carry, 6 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 6 (6 carries) 2 sacks, 6 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (2 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: The Patriots had five negative plays from scrimmage on Sunday against the Lions — two negative runs from Vereen and one from Blount, as well as two negative pass plays to Vereen. … On the season, New England has run 758 plays from scrimmage, and 38 of them have gone for negative yardage (5 percent), not including kneeldowns. … Against the Lions, the Patriots ran 73 plays with 50 of them coming in shotgun (68 percent), a season-high. In addition, the game-book lists them as having run 14 of their 73 plays in no-huddle (19 percent), also a season-high. … On the season, the Patriots have run 67 of their 758 plays out of no-huddle (8 percent) and 256 snaps in shotgun (34 percent). … By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps. … One more note: Brady was not sacked for the second consecutive game. For all the struggles the offensive line endured at the start of the year, it’s worth noting that through 11 games this year, he’s only been sacked 14 times. Through the first 11 games of 2013, he was sacked 31 times. While that’s all not the result of the offensive line — Brady has displayed increased mobility, a greater ease with his receivers, and has had a rejuvenated Gronkowski — it’s a sizable difference, and the offensive line deserves some kudos for the better numbers.

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New Patriots defenders contributing right away because of ‘their study and their work ethic’

11.25.14 at 8:55 pm ET
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Akeem Ayers has already made his presence felt in New England. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Akeem Ayers has already made his presence felt in New England. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

With long-term injuries to important players on the Patriots defense so far this season — Chandler Jones (out since Week 7), Jerod Mayo (season-ending injured reserve) and Sealver Siliga (short-term injured reserve designated for return) — the Patriots have had a number of players step up to fill the voids.

A few of those players weren’t even with the team at the start of the regular season.

On Oct. 21, linebacker Akeem Ayers and a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft were traded to the Patriots for a sixth-round pick, also in next year’s draft. Ayers played in that Sunday’s game against the Bears and recorded a sack and five tackles. In his four games with the Patriots, Ayers has recorded a sack in three of the four games.

On Oct. 28, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, along with a 2015 sixth-round pick was traded to the Patriots from Tampa Bay for a 2015 fifth-round pick. Casillas played in the Nov. 2 game against the Broncos and recorded three tackles, but has been most known for his contributions on special teams.

A day later, Oct. 29, the Patriots announced they had signed veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch. Branch also played in the Denver game that Sunday, and has been a major contributor in stopping the run.

With all these new players joining the team and learning a new system, it wouldn’t be a surprise for each player to take a few weeks to settle in, but that hasn’t happened — the players have fit in right away. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia says a lot of that has to do with the leaders the Patriots have on defense, and to go along with the work ethics of all three new players.

“Specifically talking about [Casillas and Ayers] I will say those guys work extremely hard,” Patricia said on Tuesday’s conference call. “They are true professionals as far as their ability to study, learn the game, understand what we are doing from the systems standpoint and have matriculated into what we are trying to do defensively fairly quickly from their study and their work ethic. They have really fallen right in line. We have great guys on defense.

“I say this all the time, but I can’€™t stress to you the importance of the leaders that we have on defense — Vince Wilfork and Dont’€™a Hightower and Devin McCourty and [Darrelle] Revis and [Brandon] Browner, the list goes on. The way that these guys approach and attack each week to try to learn the opponent, study their film and prepare themselves to play every week is really a tribute to their professionalism. I think that’€™s something that can’€™t be understated. As a group, these guys work extremely hard to get ready to compete every week. We have a difficult task every week and this week is no different than the next. It’€™s a very huge challenge for us to get ready to handle.”

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Read More: Akeem Ayers, Alan Branch, Jonathan Casillas, matt patricia

Detroit’s Dominic Raiola: No regrets about cheap shot Sunday against Patriots

11.25.14 at 7:17 pm ET
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Dominic Raiola has no regrets about what happened Sunday against the Patriots. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Dominic Raiola has no regrets about what happened Sunday against the Patriots. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Detroit offensive lineman Dominic Raiola said Tuesday he has no regrets about what happened between him and Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore last Sunday.

In the waning moments of New England’s 34-9 win over the Lions, Raiola could be seen diving at Moore’s knees, as well as trying to punch him in the back of the head. Raiola said Tuesday he wasn’t going to be fined by the NFL for the incident.

“There’s no fine,” Raiola told reporters. “It’€™s during the game. I don’€™t know about regrets, I don’€™t live life with regrets. I didn’€™t intentionally try to hurt anybody. I didn’€™t try to do anything out of the ordinary.

“So, just play the game,” he added. “I didn’€™t make it a big deal, everybody else did.’€

Moore shrugged off what happened, while Patriots coach Bill Belichick took a swipe at Raiola the day after the incident, reminding people that Raiola was likely frustrated about what happened because he’s never beaten the Patriots in his 14 seasons in the NFL.

“€œI don’€™t really care what he said,”€ Raiola said when asked about Belichick’s comments. “Not a lot of people beat those guys. I didn’€™t make it an issue. I just finished the game.”

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

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dominic Raiola, Zach Moore,

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2014 season

11.25.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Through 11 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 95 penalties (second-most in the league) for a total of 836 yards (most in the NFL). To this point in the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

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Packers putting up ‘historical’ numbers at Lambeau Field this year

11.25.14 at 3:43 pm ET
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Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers has been putting up big numbers at home this year. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When it comes to playing it home, no one in the NFL is better than the Patriots.

But, right up there with New England is the Packers at Lambeau Field — the place the Patriots will be traveling to on Sunday, as Green Bay is 71-29 at home during the regular season since 2002, the fifth-best winning percentage in the league.

The Packers have been especially great this season as the Green Bay is a perfect 5-0 at home and have outscored its opponents 219-85, averaging 43.8 points per game. Getting off to quick starts has been a huge key for the Packers, as in the first half of their last four home games, they have outscored their opponents 128-9.

Bill Belichick knows getting off to a good start is key, particularly on the road against Green Bay. It does help the Patriots will enter the game averaging 18.8 points per game in the first half this year, the second-most in the league, behind none other than the Packers at 20.2.

“We’€™re playing Green Bay in Green Bay,” Belichick said on Tuesday’s conference call. “That’€™s where they’€™ve been very dominant really in terms of getting ahead and playing from ahead, first quarter. The numbers are staggering: 128 to 9 in the first half and [opponents] get outscored by 110 points in four games. It’€™s got to be of historical type proportions, but we have to find some way to do that. Like I said, the games got so far away from Chicago and Philadelphia that no matter what you have, what kind of game plan, whatever you’€™re trying to do, the game got out of hand so fast, they had no chance really to be able to do it.”

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field,

Rodney Harrison on MFB: Dominic Raiola’s cheap shot was a ‘real childish and immature act’

11.25.14 at 12:25 pm ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the end of the Patriots’ game with the Lions and to look ahead to this weeks game against the Packers. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

At the end of the Patriots’ 34-9 win over the Lions this past Sunday, Lions center Dominic Raiola dove at the knees of Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore when the Lions were taking a knee to end the game, as well as appearing to take a swing at him earlier on the drive. It was reported Monday he likely would not be fined. Harrison said it comes down to playing the full 60 minutes and Raiola was in the wrong.

“I don’t know how the NFL is going to respond, but I think you have 60 minutes to play football,” said Harrision. “[Detroit has] a lot of issues for him to worry about. When you look at the Patriots, the Patriots each and every week — it’s not they did something different, they play 60 minutes. That’s [what they are taught] — to play 60 minutes and never expect to come out of the game, you don’t care if you are losing by 50 or winning by 50. I think it was a real childish and immature act.

“I think it could have got somebody hurt and I think in a situation like that you have other concerns. He should be concerned with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, that offense and them not being able to move the ball and put up points. I was very disappointed in what he did — a veteran player should know better than that. You have an opportunity to play 60 minutes, shut up and play 60 minutes. You got your butt kicked flat out and getting your butt kicked each week. Do something about it, don’t try and cheap shot somebody and take somebody’s knees out. There’s no place for that.”

Harrison also looked ahead to the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Packers, who are playing just as well as the Patriots of late — winning seven of their last eight games and currently leading the NFC North with an 8-3 record. The Vikings put up a tough fight against them last Sunday, with the Packers winning by a score of 24-21, and Harrison said they did a good job of limiting the big plays from Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Darrelle Revis, detroit lions, Dominic Raiola

Fantasy Football: Week 13 waiver wire

11.25.14 at 10:29 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 13 waiver wire! I have to say, I am surprised at the amount of high-quality options that are still available in most leagues. If you need to do some fine-tuning this week, you are in pretty good shape based on current ownership rates. The fact that you are here reading this means you still have something to play for and that’s good news in and of itself. Let’s make Week 13 count!

As always, the ownership percentages are listed for each player. These rates of ownership are based on Yahoo! leagues, which tend to be smaller and more representative of the 10-team leagues most of us play in. Obviously, these numbers are mostly for perspective. What really matters is which players are available in your particular league, and you’ll need to do the legwork on that.

If you play in a large format with 12 or more teams, check out my expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn. It will be posted early this afternoon. Check it out –€” it’€™s free.

To keep pace with all WEEI and Rotobahn fantasy football content, including Sunday chats and The Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett, follow me on Twitter.

QUARTERBACK

Eli Manning, Giants — 54 percent

As I have said in recent weeks, Manning has a good closing schedule and one of the best young receivers in the game. You can ride Manning and Odell Beckham down the stretch in most leagues and you’€™ll be very competitive. Not bad for a couple of waiver wire players.

Mark Sanchez, Eagles — 53 percent

Again, it wasn’€™t pretty, but at the end of the day the numbers are there and I expect that to continue for the most part for Sanchez. The Eagles do play Seattle at home in Week 14, but that’€™s the only game where you may want to pull him.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins — 65 percent

His schedule is mediocre down the stretch, but he’€™s been productive in some tough matchups, so consider him a viable option in all formats. Tannehill travels to play the Jets this week on Monday night.

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Read More: Eli Manning, Fantasy Football, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Tannehill
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