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Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview Patriots-Falcons 09.25.13 at 5:38 pm ET
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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Chris Price, Matt Ryan, Mike Petraglia
Bill Belichick on Matt Ryan: ‘He does a lot of things right’ at 3:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Since leaving Boston College in 2008, Matt Ryan has ascended to the rarified atmosphere of the so-called “elite” quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. On the next rung of the ladder there’s Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

All of those have quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl, with one exception. Matt Ryan is the only one of those who hasn’t even made it to the big game.

But that won’t keep Bill Belichick from putting Ryan in elite company.

“He looks pretty good at everything to me. He has a good touch, he does a good job throwing the ball down the field, reads coverages well, doesn’€™t make many mistakes, manages the game well, he’€™s accurate, he’€™s tough, he’€™ll definitely stand in there, throw the ball and take a hit,” Belichick said Wednesday. “He has very few bad plays, let’€™s put it that way, very few. So, consistency. I think that’€™s the mark of any great player. He’€™s pretty consistent: every play, every game, every series. He does a lot of things right.”

Belichick’s Patriots will have to defend Ryan and his weapons this week on the road, weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White, Jacqizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.

“Julio does, I’€™d say, pretty much everything well,” Belichick said of the Falcons big-time receiver. “He’€™s a very strong, physical receiver with good speed. In the running game, he’€™s a very aggressive blocker. He’€™ll come in and crack safeties and block well. In the passing game, he can go down the field, he can go up and take the ball away from defenders even though he’€™s covered. He has good vertical jump, timing, strong hands, go up and get the ball. Tough guy to press because he’€™s so physical coming off the line of scrimmage. He can run through most corners that are trying to press him.

“He’€™s a strong runner after the catch so they throw him a lot of short passes, under routes, tear screens, things like that. He’€™s strong to break tackles. He can take a two-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard run or he could run a 50-yard go route and go up and catch the ball, either way. He’€™s a tough guy to match up against. He’€™s got very good speed so he can run by the defense but he’€™s strong and he can run through them too. He’€™s tough and he’€™s a hard guy to tackle. He does everything well.”

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Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan, New England Patriots, nfl
Bill Belichick: ‘I don’t know’ what impact Rob Gronkowski might have at 11:22 am ET
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FOXBORO — Another day, another failed attempt to gain any sort of prediction from Bill Belichick as to whether Rob Gronkowski could make his long-awaited return to the Patriots this Sunday night in Atlanta.

Gronkowski was on the field for full pads practice Wednesday morning. He has been practicing with the team since being taken off PUP on Aug. 31. After being officially listed as “doubtful” by the team for the first two games, he was upgraded to “questionable” (50-50 chance of playing) last week for the first time this season after an offseason filled with forearm and back surgeries. He was subsequently one of the seven inactives for the third straight game to start the season.

Wednesday, Belichick was asked about Gronkowski’s physical improvement from week to week.

“He’€™s definitely made progress,” Belichick said.

Belichick was asked if the upgrade from doubtful to questionable was an indication Gronkowski has taken positive steps of late.

“Just doing better; football conditioning,” Belichick answered. “Like any player that’€™s not able to do some things, they do what they can do. The things they can’€™t do, they can’€™t do. Things they can do, they can do. Hardly anybody has a full body injury. If they have an injury in one part of the body, they can still train other parts of the body. If that’€™s the part of the body that’€™s injured, that’€™s the part that needs to be rehabilitated. But that’€™s a medical thing, it’€™s not a coaching thing, I don’€™t really have anything to do with that.”

From a playing standpoint, does Belichick feel his strength is in a good place?

“It’€™s better than what it was.”

One of the obvious areas Gronkowski is missed is in the red zone. After three games, the Patriots are ranked dead last (32nd) in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 30.7 percent. Even worse is New England’s goal-to-go efficiency without Gronkowski. They are converting just 16.67 percent. Can Gronkowski’s potential return start to change things around?

“I don’€™t know. We’€™ll see, I don’€™t know,” Belichick said.

But whether or not Gronkowski returns, there’s something else Belichick would like to see change inside the 20.

“Number one, not turning the ball over,” Belichick said. “That would be number one.”

Tom Brady threw a red zone interception last week against Tampa Bay and fumbled the ball at the goal line in Buffalo.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Gronk, New England Patriots
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Seahawks, Broncos set themselves apart 09.24.13 at 10:13 am ET
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No argument here: The two best teams in the NFL through three weeks reside in Seattle and Denver. The Seahawks latch on to the top spot in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings once again while the Broncos hold a firm grasp on the No. 2 position.

Seven undefeated teams remain, and four of them are ranked in our top five. The Saints (3) and Bears (4) claw their way in after starting the season on the outside. The Patriots (7), Dolphins (10) and Chiefs (14) still have something to prove before they can climb into elite status.

Spiraling downward are the Giants (26), Bucs (30) and Redskins (23). The G-Men fall eight slots as they prepare for the undefeated Chiefs in Week 4.

Click here to listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss this edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. 

1. (1) Seahawks (3-0) — Seattle has an early two-game lead over the 49ers in the battle for the NFC West. It’s just not fair to the other teams in the league when the Seahawks play at home.

2. (2) Broncos (3-0) — To figure out how dominant this Broncos offense really is, consider these statistical comparisons:

First 3 games        ’07 Patriots            ’13 Broncos

Points                              114                                127

Total yards                  1,323                            1,458

QB TDs                       Brady 10                   Manning 12

3. (6) Saints (3-0) —  The transformation on defense continues. The Saints are allowing just 12.4 points per game. Last year, the defense allowed 28.4.

4. (8) Bears (3-0) — An argument could be made that the Bears are the most improved team from last year. Marc Trestman‘s team has played with confidence, and it has translated on the field. There is only one starting quarterback in the league that has been sacked less than Jay Cutler. That’s a remarkable turnaround for a QB who has been sacked 148 times in the last four seasons.

5. (3) 49ers (1-2) —  It’s easy to see that the Niners offense is out of sync. The Seahawks defense can do that to a team. San Fran has to get back to what it does best on offense — pound the ball on the ground, have a high completion percentage and protect the football.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan
Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 3: Rookie risers include Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson 09.23.13 at 1:10 pm ET
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This preseason, we debuted the Tom Brady Confidence Index, a by-the-numbers look at the comfort level the quarterback had with the rest of the skill-position players when it came to the passing game. Because of the reaction we got, we decided to make it a semi-regular feature and expand it to include overall offensive touches (receptions and carries, with more weight to carries in clutch situations) and how comfortable the quarterback might appear to be with some of his teammates when it came to trusting them in certain situations.

As always, we rate each of the skill-position players and their relationship/comfort level with Brady on a scale of 0 (Taylor Price) to 100 (Wes Welker) on their body of work to this point in the season.

(Disclaimer: While most aspects of this blog deal in mathematical specifics as it relates to football, this entry is more of a tongue-in-cheek approach to Brady and how he relates to the rest of the New England offense. Bottom line? Don’€™t take the rating system too seriously.)

WIDE RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN: 90 (last week: 89)

Season stats: 27 catches, 34 targets, 201 yards, two touchdowns

In the wake of the step the rookie receivers appeared to take Sunday against the Bucs, it’s easy to forget that Edelman kept up a remarkable pace — he had seven catches on seven targets and now is just 10 receptions from matching his career high (37, set as a rookie in 2009). Heading into the Sunday night game, he’s tied with Atlanta’s Julio Jones for the league lead in catches, but in a weird statistical quirk, he has 201 yards receiving — that’s 7.4 yards per catch. Of all receivers who have at least 15 catches, only Dallas’€™ DeMarco Murray (7.3 yards per catch), rookie Tavon Austin in St. Louis (6.6) and old pal Danny Woodhead (6.4) are behind Edelman. To this point, not many receivers have had the kind of start in the New England system that Edelman can boast — over the last decade, only one other receiver had as many catches after three games as Edelman has this year (Welker, who started the 2011 season with 31 catches through the first three games).

RUNNING BACK BRANDON BOLDEN: 70 (last week: N/A)

Season stats: 3 rushes, 51 yards, 17 YPC; five catches on six targets for 49 yards

The numbers are a big skewed because he was able to hit on two big plays, but the second-year back out of Ole Miss — who missed the first two games because of a knee issue — was able to provide an impressive multidimensional threat against the Bucs. He showed a niftiness as a pass catcher (it’s important to remember he had 76 receptions as a collegian) as well as a good between-the-tackles toughness. (He also offered a smart mea culpa after he stopped running on a pass attempt from Brady down the Tampa sideline, saying he was “hard-headed.”) Not saying he’s an answer to Shane Vereen being on the shelf, but as he showed last year, he can serve as a good get-you-over guy who can do a lot of things well in a pinch.

WIDE RECEIVER KENBRELL THOMPKINS: 65 (last week: 62)

Season stats: nine catches, 28 targets, 130 yards, two touchdowns

The undrafted rookie clearly is showing progress. From the season opener against the Bills to Sunday’s performance against the Bucs, there’s more confidence and sharper routes displayed, and it’s starting to pay off for the New England offense. He had two touchdown catches on Sunday. On the first one, he showed a nice flair for picking up some good yardage after the catch, zig-zagging through the Tampa Bay secondary to pick up the final few yards on the way to the end zone. In all, it was a good day for Thompkins, who was matched up for much of the afternoon against Darrelle Revis. Another step forward for the rookie.

WIDE RECEIVER AARON DOBSON: 64 (last week: 50)

Season stats: 10 catches, 20 targets, 108 yards, one touchdown

One of our two big movers this week, the Marshall product had his best week of the season. If you want a show of confidence, Brady went to Dobson on several occasions in key moments early — including a fourth-down attempt that ultimately helped swing momentum in the Patriots’ favor. Four of his seven catches Sunday went for first downs, and he showed assuredness and confidence when it came to running his routes. A good week for the rookie.

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Brandon Bolden, Danny Amendola, James Develin
Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I’ve got to play better at quarterback’ at 10:42 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, during his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to recap Sunday’s 23-3 victory over the Buccaneers, talked about how he dealt with criticism directed at him for his behavior toward his struggling receivers in the team’s previous game.

Brady was questioned by some media members locally and nationally for his display in the win over the Jets, when he yelled at his young receivers.

“Truthfully, I don’t hear about any of that,” Brady said. “Like I said, I think the guys that I play with, they have an understanding about how much I care about winning and the team. Everything that goes on on the field is about winning. There’s a lot of trust and confidence in one another. I know as analysts what you do is analyze, and that’s what guys’ job is to do. Often for ratings and so forth, there’s one side and there’s another side.

“There’s emotion to the game, it’s an emotional game,” he continued. “I know the guys that I play with know how much I care about them and how much I care about our team winning. That’s ultimately the goal for us. We’ve done a pretty good job to this point — three attempts and three wins. We’re just going to try to keep getting better.

“Coach always talks about ignoring the noise, not believing what anyone says good or bad about you, whether that’s anybody in the media or your parents or your friends or your wives or your girlfriends, and just try to focus on the process of improving and getting better as a team. We need to keep getting better. We’re far from the team we’re going to be. Like I said, we’re going to need our best this weekend.”

Brady was more even-tempered in dealing with his teammates Sunday, but he said he didn’t plan it that way.

“I didn’t think about that,” Brady said. “Truthfully, I don’t ever really think about that. I’m an emotional person and player. When we get out there in the heat of the moment, everyone’s emotions are running high.

“Our young players have done such a great job. It’s hard to expect them to come in straight from college and go through the combine process and drafting and play like 10-year veterans. That’s why they’re rookies. There’s learning curves. And we’re all trying to learn each other. It’s not that they’re doing the wrong thing — they do the right thing as much as anybody out there right now.

“The important part that I saw yesterday is we got contributions from the running game, we spread the ball around the passing game, we took advantage of some good opportunities, put some good drives together. I said last week, the burden of the offense can’t fall on one position. If it falls on only the receivers, or only the tight ends, then you become pretty easy to stop. So, I think what we did a great job of yesterday was utilizing everybody basically that played. Every skill-position player that played made some critical plays in the game.”

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Bill Belichick, Kenbrell Thompkins, Tom Brady
Adam Schefter on D&C: Trent Richardson trade not about money at 10:33 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss a number of NFL news stories from the past week.

On Wednesday, the Browns shocked the NFL world by trading running back Trent Richardson, whom they took with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, to the Colts for a 2014 first-round pick. Some speculated that Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam traded Richardson as a way to alleviate some of the potential financial cost for a pending lawsuit against his truck stop company, Pilot Flying J. Schefter vehemently denied that speculation.

‘€œI don’€™t think money had anything to do with it,’€ said Schefter. ‘€œThey gave Trent Richardson a $13 million signing bonus right after he was drafted. ‘€¦ So, that makes no sense to me at all.

‘€œI was in Cleveland this summer and I’€™m taking to [the Browns] and Trent Richardson’€™s name came up and they say, ‘€˜Yeah, he’€™s pretty good,’€™ and I’€™m like, ‘€˜pretty good? That’€™s it? The No. 3 pick in the draft?’€™ And I could tell then that this team does not feel enamored with this guy right now.’€

Then, on Friday, San Francisco’€™s star third-year defensive end Aldon Smith was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and marijuana possession. The 49ers took heat when they decided to play Smith in their 27-7 loss to the Colts before giving him a leave of absence. Schefter had no problem with the 49ers’ decision.

‘€œAldon Smith has an issue, and he knows he needs treatment, and he’€™s taken an excused leave of absence, starting today to go seek help. They were concerned that if you take some young 23-year-old kid, who’€™s got an issue, and you take him away from the football field on Sunday, that it would not be the best decision for him and it would not be safe,’€ Schefter said.

Smith’€™s treatment will force him to miss at least the team’€™s Thursday night game against the Rams, and perhaps even more time.

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Read More: Aldon Smith, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Tom Brady
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