The Pats as Dogs

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The Pats as Dogs

The Patriots will find themselves in an unfamiliar spot this Sunday night, and I'm not just referring to the city of Baltimore where New England's played only twice since 1996.

I mean that the Pats are underdogs, by three points to be exact.

According to Covers.com's database, this will be only the 10th time in the last five years they've had a healthy Tom Brady (that means I skipped the 2008 season in favor of 2006) that the Patriots are underdogs in a regular season game.

Just for fun, here's how they did in the previous nine. (Unsurprisingly, all nine games were on the road):

November 13, 2011 (at N.Y. Jets): Final Line: Pats 2.5; Final Score: Pats 37, Jets 16

November 14, 2010 (at Pitt): Final Line: Pats 4.5; Final Score: Pats 39, Steelers 26

October 24, 2010 (at San Diego): Final Line: Pats 2.5; Final Score: Pats 23, Chargers 20

October 4, 2010 (at Miami): Final Line: Pats 1; Final Score: Pats 41, Dolphins 14

November 15, 2009 (at Indianapolis): Final Line: Pats 1; Final Score: Colts 35, Pats 34

November 30, 2009 (at New Orleans): Final Line: Pats 1; Final Score: Saints 38, Pats 17

December 31, 2006 (at Tennessee): Final Line: Pats 3.5; Final Score: Pats 40, Titans 23

December 24, 2006 (at Jacksonville): Final Line: Pats 3; Final Score: Pats 24, Jaguars 21

October 1, 2006 (at Cincinnati): Final Line: Pats 5.5; Final Score: Pats 38, Bengals 13

The final count? Over the last five seasons, Tom Brady's Pats are 7-2 straight up as underdogs, and 6-1-1 against the spread.

That leaves me with two questions for Vegas:

1. How about making New England an underdog a little more often?

2. I think Bernard Pollard owes one of you guys money. Can someone break his knee caps before Sunday night?

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

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Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

FOXBORO - If Alan Branch is worried about his spot with the Patriots, he isn’t acting that way. A notorious slow starter, Branch played just six snaps in Sunday’s win at New Orleans. And to hear him talk, it’s business as usual.

“It’s not like you can practice 3 technique on a store clerk,” said Branch late Wednesday afternoon. When informed that he probably could if he wanted, Branch smiled and noted “you’d probably get arrested for that.”

All kidding aside, it was stark to see Branch’s ample behind stapled to the bench. He earned a two-year contract this offseason, and his presence on the interior has been critical to the defense’s success. But after getting pushed around a bit too often in that opening night loss to the Chiefs, Branch spent a lot more time watching then playing. Did he know that he wasn’t a big part of the plan?

“That’s another question you gotta ask Bill, man” said Branch. “That’s not something I can talk about.”

Branch has - at times - come off as nonchalant about the game. Wins, losses, big plays, no plays, none of it seems to change his demeanor. Knowing that, I asked him if he was frustrated by his lack of playing time.

“I mean every player wants to be on the field so it is what it is,” he responded. 

Does he think that he’ll be more involved Sunday against the Texans?

“I don’t know what they plan to do with me,” he said. “i just need to go in there and keep my head to the grindstone and work.”

That may be Bill Belichick’s plan: sitting the player to motivate him. It would also seem to be potentially the last resort, and with someone who clearly marches to the beat of his own drum, it’s unclear how he’ll respond.

Patriots-Texans practice report: Gronk sits out; Gilmore limited

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Patriots-Texans practice report: Gronk sits out; Gilmore limited

Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Texans game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
TE Rob Gronkowski (groin)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee)
WR Phillip Dorsett (knee)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
WR Chris Hogan (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (thumb)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)
DT Vincent Valentine (knee)

HOUSTON TEXANS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
G Jeff Allen (ankle)
CB Kevin Johnson (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Stephen Anderson (concussion)
RB Alfred Blue (ankle)
WR Will Fuller V (shoulder)
CB Jonathan Joseph (shoulder)
G Xavier Su'a-Filo (knee)
DE J.J. Watt (finger)

FULL PARTICIPATION
CB Marcus Burley (knee)
T Chris Clark (wrist)
WR Bruce Ellington (concussion)
TE Ryan Griffin (concussion)