Pats can't count on Dolphins flop this year

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Pats can't count on Dolphins flop this year

The Dolphins could lay claim to the title of "Best Bad Team in the League."A far cry from the 1972 edition of the Dolphins that didn't lose a game and hasn't lost a chance to remind folks of it, either. Still, it's something for Miami to hang its hat on. And for the Patriots, it's something to be wary of. Newly-installed as the AFC's No. 1 seed (after the Steelers loss to San Fran Monday night), all the Patriots have to do is rip past two AFC East opponents during the holidays to protect that seed. If they do that and win a playoff game, the AFC Championship will be staged at Gillette Stadium on January 22nd. But the Dolphins could be a Christmas Eve irritant. They got a win over Buffalo last week for interim head coach Todd Bowles, and the truth is that they never quit on Bowles' predecessor Tony Sparano. Here's a fun picture of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to look at while pondering the head coaching change. They are 5-9 but lost four of those games by a field goal or less. And those tight losses came to Denver, the Giants, Dallas and Cleveland. (Not that Cleveland's a juggernaut but I can't mention the other three that are mildly impressive and the loss that isn't . . . know what I mean?) They are 4-2 since November 13.Last January, Miami memorably quit in the season finale at Gillette. Waddling to the finish line, Miami fell 38-7 to end the season at 7-9.Neither Wes Welker nor Deion Branch played. Tom Brady played into the third quarter then sat down, yet the Patriots gained 502 yards. Even Taylor Price caught three balls. The Pats were up 38-0 before Miami narrowed that gap with two minutes left. But the pride Miami played without last season seems to be present now. And that's why, if the Patriots are going to end up the No. 1 seed, the Dolphins are a team to be wary of.

Easley on character concerns: 'It's all rumors' until sources step forward

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Easley on character concerns: 'It's all rumors' until sources step forward

When Dominique Easley was released by the Patriots this spring, it wasn't because he wasn't productive when he was on the field. In fact, on a per-snap basis, he was one of the most productive interior pass-rushers in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Instead, there were some off-the-field factors, as well as injury concerns, that led to the Patriots choosing to cut ties with their 2014 first-round pick. 

As our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran put it, there were "philosophical differences" between Easley and the team.

Other, more scathing reports of Easley's impact in New England were released, including one report from the Boston Globe that included a quote from a former teammate saying he was a "locker room cancer."

Since then, Easley has landed with the Rams and has a chance to contribute to one of the most talented defensive lines in football. In an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Phil Savage and Amber Theoharis, Easley said he hopes that his new team will get to see that he's a better person than some have indicated.

"Just really," Easley said, "just hopefully that the Rams get to see what a great person and a great hardworker I am, and really, just a great person."

Easley went on to say that he's not sure who would speak of him negatively or why. He explained that it's not his "main goal" to prove there's nothing to worry about with his character, but clearly it's somewhere on the list. 

"There's been, obviously, stuff said about me," Easley said. "We don't know where it came from. I would say the person doesn't want to come out and say it, neither. As far as I know, it's all rumors until that person comes out and say that it was from them, and they can prove that they actually know who I am, or been around me long enough to know who I am and how I am as a person."

PFT: NFL plans to interview Manning about Al Jazeera PED allegations

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PFT: NFL plans to interview Manning about Al Jazeera PED allegations

Peyton Manning is retired, but that doesn't mean he's exempt from the interviews that the NFL plans to conduct as it looks into the allegations made by Al Jazeera's December PED documentary. 

It was reported last week by USA Today that the league's senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch informed the NFLPA that players named in Al Jazeera's report would be interviewed in July. 

Among those scheduled to be interviewed are Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Former Packers linebacker Mike Neal will also be interviewed.

(Harrison has taken issue with the league's request, and said on social media that he would only meet with the league if commissioner Roger Goodell showed up to his home.)

Manning was not mentioned in the letter obtained by USA Today detailing the league's interview plans, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk followed up on Monday to see if the NFL intended to speak with Manning. It does.

The former Broncos and Colts quarterback has been very vocal about just how strongly he denies Al Jazeera's claim that his wife, Ashley, received HGH for his use. Despite the fact that he's no longer playing, it will come as no surprise if, given his stance, Manning cooperates fully with the league as it seeks more information regarding the report. 

As Florio points out, if Manning hopes to return to the NFL at some point as an executive -- as many believe he will -- this is something he'll want to put to bed beforehand. That process will start with an interview.