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News Blitz 1/1: Scouting the AFC playoff contenders and more

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Erik Frenz](http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/2013/12/30/scouting-the-afc-playoffs/vPi06XXyZXiZXfYFZ9JGYL/story.html)* of the *Boston Globe scouts the AFC playoff contenders and gives his reasons why the Patriots can beat and lose to each team. In writing about the AFC's No. 1 seed - the Denver Broncos - Frenz believes beating them requires good halftime adjustments.

"The Broncos have been the league's highest-scoring offense all season, but they are at their best in the second half, where they average 21 points a game," he adds. "The cornerbacks must be physical at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of the Broncos offense. Finally, the Patriots must score touchdowns when they get into the red zone, which could be easier against a Broncos defense that's allowed opponents to score on more than 60 percent of red zone possessions this year."

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that the Cleveland Browns are eyeing Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their next head coach. The Patriots recently gave the Browns the OK to talk with McDaniels about the job, according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer.

"The Cleveland brain trust wanted to interview McDaniels for the job last year, but the Ohio native took himself out of the competition," writes Guregian. "He wasn't up for moving his wife and four small children again so quickly after returning to New England, and wanted to re-establish himself first after a year with the Rams as their offensive coordinator following his dismissal in Denver."

Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com reports that Devin McCourty has been given full clearance to return to action following a concussion that was suffered in the Patriots week 16 game against the Ravens.

"McCourty, who made a limited practice appearance last Friday, was back out at Patriots practice on Wednesday. McCourty missed the regular-season finale against the Bills," he adds.

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