Slater, Branch agree Talib trade best for team

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Slater, Branch agree Talib trade best for team

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick stated frankly on his Monday conference call that he wouldn't discuss players not currently on the team. He was, of course, addressing questions about Aqib Talib, who the team traded for last Thursday.

At least, according to the Buccaneers; New England has not yet announced the move.

But Patriots coaches are not the only ones to keep quiet about newly acquired cornerback. Special teams captain Matthew Slater was similarly tight-lipped Tuesday.

"I don't really have any comment on that right now," he said.

The quip was so uncharacteristic of the usually eloquent Slater, reporters paused awkwardly before laughing. Still, he never moved to fill the silence. Slater said he had no relationship with the former first round pick other than on-field competition.

When asked his opinion on the trade, he recited the Patriots handbook.

"I'm trusting in the decisions of Coach Belichick, Director of player personnel Nick Caserio, and the rest of this organization to do what's best for our football team moving forward, giving us the best chance to succeed on the field."

Receiver Deion Branch's sentiment wasn't much of a departure. He did admit that a push to improve the secondary around the NFL's usually quiet trade deadline wasn't too surprising in light of those in charge.

"We know Coach Belichick and his staff and the organization will always do that," Branch said. "They're going to put the team first. Whatever it takes to help improve the team, that's what they're going to do."

Branch did share a bit more than Slater, though not by much.

I played against him in preseason and stuff like that. Hes a great player," he said.

New England faced the former Buccaneers corner during Week 3 of the preseason. Branch played 12 offensive snaps (17-percent of the total) that night; Talib played 20.

Understandably, it's not much for Patriots players to go on.

I dont know if well use him the same way they used him," Branch said. "Its just all about what happens once he gets here.

Which is the point we keep returning to. Talib has one more contest to miss as part of his four-game suspension which he received October 13. In the meantime, he can't set foot on any team facilities.

Not an ideal situation.

Any player who is traded will feel behind to begin with in a new system; Talib will be out of football for four weeks when it's all said in done.

But Branch, traded twice in his career, doesn't foresee any issues.

"I think the guys a professional," he said. "This is the NFL, this is our job. Im sure hell do a good job."

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

The Patriots and Raiders and neck-and-neck as the race for home field in the AFC turns for home. And, with four games left, the Raiders are ahead by a nose. The tiebreakers between the 10-2 teams in play currently? Common games followed by strength of victory. 

The first tiebreaker – conference record – is a deadlock as both teams are 7-1 in the AFC (the Brady-less Patriots lost to the Bills back in Week 4.

After conference record, it's the teams record in common games. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So far in common games with the Texans and Bills, the Patriots have gone 2-1 and the Raiders have gone 2-0. The Patriots play the Ravens next week. Oakland beat them. The Patriots play Denver after that. Oakland beat them as well but have one more game against Denver in Week 17.

So if it comes down to common games the Patriots really need to win these next two games.

Or hope the Raiders stub their toe a time or two in their final four games which are at the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos with a home game against Indy in Week 16.

As for strength of victory, that too goes to Oakland at this point. The Raiders’ strength of victory is at .471. The Patriots’ is at .370.

But the tiebreaker that kicks in after conference record and before strength of victory – common games – is very much unresolved.The remaining picture as it stands right now? The Ravens are the No. 3 seed with a 7-5 record that leads the AFC North. The Texans’ 6-6 record is good enough to lead the AFC South. The 9-3 Chiefs are the top Wild Card. The 8-4 Broncos are the No. 6 seed.

The Patriots play the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks. Currently, the Dolphins (7-5) and Steelers (7-5) are on the outside looking in.

The Titans (6-6) will have a chance to get even with the Texans in Week 17 in head-to-head matchups but they host Denver and play at Kansas City the next two weeks so they have obstacles to clear before they get there.