Sunday, September 21, 2014

'Ugly win better than a pretty loss' for Patriots

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The New England Patriots were supposed to blow out the Oakland Raiders with relative ease.

There was no ease Sunday afternoon.

New England's home-opener was a little tougher than expected, though the Patriots were able to fight off a pesky Raiders squad en route to a 16-9 win.

After loss, Dolphins 'have to look at everything'

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Miami Dolphins' Week 1 win-over-the-Patriots honeymoon is officially over.

Coming off a disappointing 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills following their season-opening win over New England, the Dolphins did nothing to console their fans Sunday, getting romped by the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, 34-15.

"We have to look at everything we're doing," coach Joe Philbin said, via the AP. "There was no phase where we played well enough to win."

Big plays, penalties end Bills' undefeated streak at two

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Prior to the team's Week 3 matchup against the Chargers, the Buffalo Bills secondary had given up only two pass plays of 20 yards or more.

The group gave up twice that in just the first half Sunday, as Philip Rivers and the San Diego offense put up more than 250 yards through the air and evaded almost every attempt the Bills' defense threw at them en route to a 22-10 victory.

Brees threw for two touchdowns -- both short passes to receiver Eddie Royal -- and committed zero turnovers, tallying a 131 passing rating in the win and keeping Buffalo's aggressive defense in check for nearly the entire game.

Week 3 picks: Chiefs at Dolphins

BY EDITOR

Publisher Nick St. Denis, associate editor Dan Begnoche and senior writer Sean Donovan pick the Miami Dolphins' AFC battle with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sean's take:
It's early, but the Chiefs may be starting to feel desperate to keep their playoff hopes from sinking even further. In order to avoid falling to 0-3, Kansas City unloads their playbook and gets out to a fast start, and their outside pass rushers make life miserable for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins passing game. Mike Wallace is exactly the player you'd want facing a team with a terrible safety situation, but Tannehill's continued inability to deliver a catchable deep ball prevents Miami from taking advantage.
Prediction: Chiefs 31, Dolphins 21

Dan's take:
This game could have been a really interesting ground battle, that's if each side's top running backs were 100 percent. With Moreno sidelined and Charles a question mark, expect the passing game to be much more of a factor than usual, which plays into Miami's hands. If Tannehill can stay clean and connect on some deep throws, this should be an easy victory for him and a rabid 'Phins defense. If the third-year back struggles, however, all bets are off, with Smith more than capable of stringing together some positive drives.
Prediction: Dolphins 17, Chiefs 13

Matchup Mashup: Your Dolphins-Chiefs primer

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Week 3: Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-1), 4:25 p.m.
Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Weather: Humid, 80 degrees; 50 percent chance of thunderstorms (accuweather)

The skinny: After two straight weeks of divisional matchups, the Miami Dolphins are at .500 and already in a tough spot injury-wise. The loss of running back Knowshon Moreno, coupled with ailment woes at the linebacker position, have forced the team to make some roster moves early on. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is still struggling to get on the same page with his receivers, and the team will once again put its faith in back Daniel Thomas to help carry the run game. On the other side of the ball, Kansas City is dealing with a running back/linebacker problem of its own, with Jamaal Charles questionable and Tamba Hali probable this week following respective ankle injuries. Signal-caller Alex Smith will do his best to manage an offense that's averaged less than two touchdowns a game thus far, while the defense hopes to pull the team's turnover ratio (-3) back into legitimacy.

Week 3 picks: Raiders at Patriots

BY EDITOR

Publisher Nick St. Denis, associate editor Dan Begnoche and senior writer Sean Donovan pick the New England Patriots' home-opener against the Oakland Raiders.

Dan's take:
Oakland is coming into Foxboro 0-2, though they have an element of uncertainty on their side in rookie quarterback Derek Carr. The signal-caller showed signs of improvement in Week 2, and New England's defense has a mediocre history against mobile quarterbacks. The Pats own question marks on offense have been the talk of the week, though the rushing attack had no problems last week against Minnesota. Look for a trench war with opportunistic turnovers to tell the tale in this one.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Raiders 14

Sean's take:
A struggling west coast team travels cross-country to face a motivated contender that is historically nearly unbeatable at home. Seems cut-and-dry, right? There's always an element of 'any given Sunday' to every NFL contest, but the Patriots handle their business in this one. A talented, savvy New England defense harries developing rookie quarterback Derek Carr into a couple of crippling turnovers, and the offense puts on the rout.
Prediction: Patriots 41, Raiders 13

Matchup Mashup: Your Patriots-Raiders primer

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Week 3: Oakland Raiders (0-2) at New England Patriots (1-1), 1 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Weather: Showers at kickoff, 50 percent chance of rain, high-70s. (accuweather)

The skinny:
The Raiders stink. Shocking, we know.  Oakland is coming off a bad loss to the Houston Texans last week, a game in which it allowed 188 yards on the ground to add to its league-worst 400 rushing yards given up through two weeks. The Patriots, meanwhile, bounced back from a Week 1 divisional loss to the Miami Dolphins by handily beating the Minnesota Vikings. Quarterback Tom Brady is still trying to get the passing game rolling, and New England is looking to cut down on its penalties. Defensively, the Patriots were dominant last week and should be able to get after rookie quarterback Derek Carr.

Week 3 picks: Chargers at Bills

BY EDITOR

Publisher Nick St. Denis, associate editor Dan Begnoche and senior writer Sean Donovan pick the Buffalo Bills' AFC home bout with the San Diego Chargers.

Dan's take:
Buffalo's ground game will face another solid foe in the Chargers this week, a game that could be quarterback E.J. Manuel's first true test this season. If the rushing attack stalls, Manuel may be forced to throw much more than he has in his first two games this season, an opportunity San Diego's secondary surely will be ready for. With Ryan Matthews out for an unforeseen amount time, expect Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense to stick with what they know best -- finding Antonio Gates.
Prediction: Chargers 23, Bills 17

Nick's take:With the Bills rolling along at 2-0 and the Chargers coming off a huge win over the Seahawks last week, both teams may be ripe for a letdown. Behind Manuel, Buffalo may have to play keep-up with a Rivers-led offense that put up 30 points against Seattle, though the cross-country trip to play an early game isn't a favorable spot for the Chargers. Home field advantage lifts the Bills in this one.
Prediction: Bills 21, Chargers 20

Matchup Mashup: Your Bills-Chargers primer

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Week 3: San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (2-0), 1 p.m.
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
Weather: Cloudy, high 60s at kickoff; 50 percent chance of thunderstorms (accuweather)

The skinny: It may only be two games into the season, but the Buffalo Bills are perfect, thanks to a gritty road win on opening day in Chicago and a decisive victory against the division rival Dolphins in Week 2. Staying relatively mistake-free has helped, as the Bills currently hold the fifth-best turnover ratio (+4) and have only given up a few big plays on defense. For San Diego, it's about riding the wave from last Sunday, when they rolled into Seattle and upended the defending champion Seahawks. They'll be without their No. 1 contributor in the ground game, running back Ryan Matthews, but quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates seemed to be all the team needed against Seattle. Buffalo has given up a huge chunk of passing yards the first two weeks, but the Bills' secondary has kept much of the action in front of them.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pouncey likely a no-go, Clay questionable for Sunday

BY NICK ST. DENIS

The Miami Dolphins got some good news when center Mike Pouncey returned to the practice field this week, but it appears the team and its best offensive lineman aren't going to push it.

Pouncey is listed as doubtful for the Dolphins' Week 3 home bout with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Meanwhile, as expected, running back Knowshon Moreno is out, as is linebacker Koa Misi and guard Shelley Smith.

Perhaps the most important note on the injury report is tight end Charles Clay, who is listed as questionable with a foot ailment.

Here's the full slate of injuries for the team:

Patriots fairly healthy for Week 3 matchup vs. Raiders

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Seems like all is finally right in the world injury-wise for the New England Patriots.

After what seems like an eternity of having at least one player -- usually Rob Gronkowski at a minimum -- out because of one ailment or another, the Pats will host the Oakland Raiders this Sunday will their full roster suited up and ready to go. 

That includes Gronkowski, who's officially listed as probable, as well as linebacker Jerod Mayo, who missed practice last week due to the birth of his third child and was subsequently removed from the injury list.

Here's the team's full list of injuries for this week:

Meeks, Johnson out; Woods probable against Chargers

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

After a week's worth of uncertainty regarding the status of Robert Woods, a start for the sophomore wideout seems much more certain Friday, as the Buffalo Bills officially listed him as probable for the team's home matchup against the San Diego Chargers.

Woods, who's been working through an ankle injury the past couple days, told John Wawrow of the AP Thursday that he would be a go in Orchard Park. However, linebacker Randell Johnson and safety Jonathan Meeks are listed as out.

Here's the team's full injury report:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tannehill assesses tailbacks corps without Moreno

BY DAN BEGNOCHE

Ryan Tannehill was on the ground a lot last season.

The sophomore quarterback was sacked 58 times last season, a number that's become a torturous reminder of the Miami Dolphins' offensive line woes a season ago. Coupled with those struggles up front, however was also some troubling play in the running game.

Miami's ground attack amassed 1,440 yards on the ground last year (90 yards per game on average), 25th overall in the league. Neither of the team's two main running backs -- Lamar Miller or recent returnee Daniel Thomas -- had more than 750 yards, and now both will be once again in charge of leading the Dolphins' rushing attack after losing Knowshon Moreno to an elbow injury.

Preston Brown happy to play wherever Bills put him

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Three's a charm for Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown.

Brown was taken in the third round of the 2014 draft to supplement a pretty deep stable of linebackers in Western New York.

The Louisville product, however, has made the rounds in his rookie season, getting experience at all three linebacker positions thanks to his summer work with the second team at middle linebacker and his filling in for the suspended Nigel Bradham (Week 1) and injured Keith Rivers (Week 2) in the regular season.

Wilson to approach match with Holmes like any other

BY NICK ST. DENIS

Cornerback Kyle Wilson has spent time in practice opposite Santonio Holmes when the pair were teammates from 2010-13.

The next time they face off, it will be for real. Wilson will be lining up opposite Holmes Monday night when the New York Jets host the Chicago Bears.

"I’ve got a little familiarity with him, but still it’s not going to change anything," Wilson said, via NewYorkJets.com. "I’m going to play what I see. I’m definitely familiar with him and I’m going to go out there and play my technique and make a lot of plays."