NFC North: New England Patriots

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There's another potential suitor for tight end Jermichael Finley, but it's with the same caveat as there is with the Green Bay Packers.

Bush
Finley
Everything hinges on Finley's surgically repaired neck.

The free-agent tight end visited the New England Patriots last Friday, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. The trip to Foxborough came less than a week after Finley was in Green Bay to check in with the Packers' team doctors.

Finley has reportedly been cleared by the doctor who performed his neck fusion surgery, Dr. Joseph Maroon. But the Packers' doctors did not put Finley through the full battery of tests that would need to be done in order to clear him to return to the team.

Last week, Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, one of Finley's closest former teammates, said he believes Finley will play in the NFL again but was not sure whether it would be in Green Bay.

Finley bruised his spinal cord -- an injury that left him briefly without movement and feeling -- after taking a hit in the Oct. 20 game against the Cleveland Browns. He has not played since. Less than a month later, he had his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae fused together.

He was in the final season of a two-year, $14 million contract when he was injured. As an unrestricted free agent, he is allowed to visit and be examined by any team.

The Patriots' interest in Finley makes sense. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off ACL reconstruction. The other tight ends on their roster are former Packers draft pick D.J. Williams, Michael Hoomanawanui and rookies Justin Jones and Asa Watson.

Sharing some halftime thoughts

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
2:35
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some halftime thoughts from the Patriots’ game against the Buccaneers (New England leads 17-3):

[+] EnlargeKenbrell Thompkins
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaKenbrell Thompkins, right, had two first-half touchdowns.
Offense rebounds after first quarter. The Patriots only ran 12 plays in the first quarter despite receiving the ball to open the game. Not a strong start, but the attack found its groove on its fourth drive of the game and the key from this viewpoint was getting the running game going. A switch to “11 personnel” (1 back, 1 tight end) was the catalyst, as the Buccaneers matched with their nickel defense. The Patriots got enough of a ground game going to help settle things down, and things started to click in the passing game. It still isn’t up to the standards quarterback Tom Brady wants, but some signs of life from the passing game. The rookie receivers have looked better this week, especially Aaron Dobson as some chemistry appears to be developing between Brady and Dobson. The Patriots are running the majority of their snaps with three or more receivers in the game, with Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman and Dobson as the top three. Thompkins has two touchdowns and has played every snap.

Fourth-down stops like turnovers. Two fourth-down stops in the game have essentially been turnovers for the Patriots’ defense. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard seemed to get away with a defensive holding call on one of them, and linebacker Brandon Spikes (one of the team’s top performers) and Dennard combined for a stop on a run play late in the second quarter. The defense has carried the Patriots through the first 10 quarters of the season, and the fourth-down stops were complemented by the offense today. Some drops by the Buccaneers have obviously helped the cause.

A lot of Bolden … and the rust shows. With Shane Vereen and Leon Washington out, the Patriots turned to Brandon Bolden as their top “passing back” and he played 16 snaps in the first half. This was Bolden’s first game of the season after being sidelined with a knee injury and he looked rusty. At one point late in the second quarter, he stopped running a route as the pass sailed past him incomplete down the right sideline. On the first drive, he struggled in pass protection. When the Patriots turned to Stevan Ridley more in the second quarter, the results seemed to be better.

Good situational football at end of half. The Patriots played good situational football at the end of the half, stealing three points on Stephen Gostkowski's 53-yard field goal. Great interception by Aqib Talib.

Overall, it hasn’t been pretty, but the Patriots will take it at this point. The Buccaneers get the ball to start the second half.

Countdown Live: Packers-Patriots

December, 19, 2010
12/19/10
7:31
PM ET
Join ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak on Sunday night for an in-game chat during the Patriots-Packers game at Gillette Stadium. The chat kicks off around 8:15 p.m. ET.

CHICAGO -- No sense devoting too much wordplay to this stinker.

It became abundantly clear very quickly the home-team Chicago Bears were more affected by the inclement weather conditions than the visiting New England Patriots, who rode Tom Brady’s arm to a 36-7 smackdown at Soldier Field.

Chicago’s embarrassing loss brings back the question that has hung over the club all season: Are the Bears the real deal?

They definitely didn’t look the part against the Patriots.

What it means: The Bears squandered an opportunity to pad their lead atop the NFC North by falling to the Patriots. Earlier in the day, the Green Bay Packers -- already a game behind the Bears in the division -- lost 7-3 to the Detroit Lions. Further complicating matters for Green Bay was the concussion quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered in the first half that casts doubt about his availability for the Packers' matchup next week at New England.

So had the Bears taken care of business Sunday against New England, they’d be two games up against a Packers team that could very well be on the way to yet another loss next week on the road against what appears to be the best team in the league.

Snow what? That’s probably what the Patriots say to the notion of inclement weather at Soldier Field affecting their offense. The Patriots racked up 273 yards in the first half, converting on 67 percent of third downs.

The team with home-field advantage, meanwhile, managed just 33 yards of offense in the first half as quarterback Jay Cutler succumbed to two sacks and finished with a passer rating of 58.3. The area the Bears hoped to lean on most -- the rushing attack -- produced just 19 yards in the first half, led by Matt Forte, who averaged 1.9 yards per carry. The club’s longest run in the first two quarters was a 7-yard scramble by Cutler.

Brady lights up Cover 2: Chicago made no secret of its plan to stay in Cover 2 and test Brady’s patience by forcing him to make short passes. Brady did that and more in the first half, lighting up the Bears' Cover 2 defense for 195 yards in the first half with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 124.1.

Brady displayed patience against Chicago’s Cover 2 in taking New England on 12- and 11-play scoring drives to start the game. Then, when the Bears started to take more chances in coverage, the quarterback and his receivers took advantage. On the final play of the second quarter, Brady hit Deion Branch -- who beat Bears corner Charles Tillman on the route -- for a 59-yard touchdown as time expired.

In the first half alone, the Patriots lined up in six different personnel packages on offense, in addition to no-huddle. The Bears seemed to have no answer, and by the end of the third quarter, two New England receivers -- Branch and Wes Welker -- had each racked up more than 100 yards on a combined 15 catches.

Record-setting first half: Chicago’s performance in the first half Sunday will go in the team's record books, just not the way it would like. The Bears allowed the most first-half points in franchise history, surrendering 33 through the first two quarters, shattering the old mark of 31 points scored on the club by the Detroit Lions on Sept. 18, 2005.

What’s next: Minnesota is next up on the schedule, but there’s uncertainty concerning whether the Bears will be able to play the Vikings at the Metrodome next Monday night because the facility’s inflatable roof caved in under the weight of heavy snows in the area.

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission -- which operates the Metrodome -- reportedly said that extent of the damage was still being assessed. But Steve Maki, the facilities manager, told the Associated Press he is optimistic the roof can be repaired in time for the Monday night matchup.

Countdown Live: Patriots-Bears

December, 12, 2010
12/12/10
2:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the match up between the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears.

Contribute your thoughts and questions starting at 4 p.m. ET. See you there.

Countdown Live: Vikings-Patriots

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
3:57
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the Minnesota Vikings trip to face the New England Patriots.

Contribute your thoughts and questions starting at 4 p.m. See you there.

Video: Randy Moss news conference

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
5:22
PM ET


Newly acquired Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss addresses the media at his introductory news conference.

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8