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News Blitz 12/19: Dolphins are closing the gap in the AFC East

Posted Dec 19, 2013

Today's edition of the Patriots.com news blitz takes a look at the future of AFC East as well as a player that should be at the top of the Patriots off-season priorities.

With the upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens, Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston broke down how the Patriots compare with the Ravens in the penalty category.  Through Week 15, the Patriots are the least penalized team in the NFL; only 58 penalties against them were accepted.  On the other hand, the Ravens have had 97 penalties accepted against them.  The two most penalized players on the Patriots roster are Logan Mankins and Aqib Talib, both of whom have been flagged seven times.  Surprisingly, two of the league's best teams (the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks) are among the most penalized teams in the NFL with 103 and 112 penalties respectively.

"While the Patriots obviously prefer to be at the opposite end of the spectrum, the success of heavily-penalized teams like Seattle and Denver can't be overlooked," wrote Reiss.

Continuing with its "end of the year articles" Boston.com writer, Matt Pepin, created another fan-interaction article consisting of a list of the best Boston sports quotes of 2013.  Among them included Wes Welker's wife, Anna's facebook status following the AFC Championship game calling Ray Lewis a poor role model.  Antonio Smith also made the list for accusing New England of spying.  However, arguably the most notable and most important Patriots-related quote was Bill Belichick's press conference regarding Aaron Hernandez's arrest.

"Belichick was forthcoming and hit all the right notes in a rare but necessary depature from his usual approach of revealing little if anything to the media," claimed Pepin.

This morning, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald wrote an article on Shane Vereen and his drop in production last week against the Miami Dolphins.  With the injury to Gronk, many people expected Vereen to become a huge part of the offense.  However, by the game's final whistle, the Patriots 2nd-year Running back only had 3 receptions and only 21 total yards.  Fans assumed that Vereen's drop in production was due to the Dolphins defensive gameplan, but Howe explains that had nothing to do with it.  According to Howe, Miami hadn't done anything different than the Bills, Panthers, Broncos, Texans, or Browns had tried to do to stop Vereen.  It seems as though that Brady simply didn't target Vereen as much as he had in past games.

The Boston Globe's Ben Volin explains that the Dolphins are closing the gap in the AFC East.

"The Patriots are still the class of the division and will likely be the champions again.  But the Dolphins proved Sunday they're closing the gap."

Since Brady's coming out party in 2001, the Patriots have been at the class of the AFC East winning 10 division titles.  But if this year is any indication, Miami is quickly catching up with New England.  Volin claims that the Dolphins are more athletic on both sides of the football; right now the only thing that separates the two teams is the coach and the quarterback.  Volin also gives a recap of the Patriots week 15 matchup with Miami and highlights a few key points and plays from the game.

In an article writen by Doug Kyed on NESN.com, Julian Edelman was listed as the Patriots top priority in Free Agency this off-season.  Some may say it's too early to already be talking about the offseason, but nevertheless Kyed listed the players that he believes New England will resign as well as the players he believes the team will not bring back.  Of the most important players to resign, Julian Edelman was at the top of Kyed's list.  Edelman is currently ranked fifth in the NFL in receptions and has been Brady's top target following the exits of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez from the Patriots offense.  Kyed believes a deal for Edelman will most likely look a lot like that of Amendola's or Welker's.