Curran: Patriots, beware of Ochocinco


Curran: Patriots, beware of Ochocinco

By TomE. Curran
So let's get this straight. Bill Belichick was so pissed at Wes Welker's veiled swipes at Rex Ryan that he sat him down for the first series of a playoff game. A PLAYOFF game. Wes Welker. Aguy who battled back from a blown ACL in order to be ready ahead of schedule for this regular season. A guy who's caught 466 balls and 24 touchdowns in 65 games (including playoffs). A guy who generally wouldn't say s if he had a mouthful. And he gets punished pretty severely for a one-time verbal wobble? Compared toChad Ochojohnson, Welker is talkative as a window sill, inflammatory as a dandelion.
Yet we're all speculating on the possibilitythat Ochojohnson -- a man more brand than football player -- is legitimate quarry for the Patriots?It's the slow season. Chad's got his shortest, tightest skirt on and is stepping off the sidewalk to stick his bald head in the window of every passing car.But how plausible is this notion? I know the respect Belichick has forChad's game (can I call him Chad? I'm going withChad).Between both press conferences and normal conversation, I'veheard enough to know that Chad was -- at one point -- the receiver Belichick most admired. For a five-season stretch - 2003 through 2007- he caught 462 balls (92 per season) for an average of 1,374 yards and 43 touchdowns. ThenChad turned 30. In the past three seasons, he caught 192 balls (64 per season) for an average of 793 yards and 17 total touchdowns.He's on the decline. Not useless, not at all. Look at whatTomBrady did forDeion Branch, a playerseeminngly washed up whenhe arrived in New England back in October. But can Belichick convince Chad to give up cold turkey his"look at me" persona andbe a football drone?Just as important, can Brady? Forget the outward bouquet-tossing. He'd had all he could stand of Moss by the time Moss was dealt. The need to be fed the ball, the tepid effort on balls that needed extra effort, the resultant interceptions when he didn't compete . . . all of it came to a head against the Jets in Week 2. Moss saw four passes his way in the next two games and went buh-bye. Chad's every bit as demanding. And a helluva lot more verbal about it on Twitter and in the locker room. Or at least he has been. Will Brady -- coming off another surgery and a soul-crushing playoff loss -- be excited about having a high-maintenance receiver in his huddle after finding all the success he did with a bunch of team-first guys?Seems a stretch. Then of course there's the fact that Chad is UNDER CONTRACT AND CAN'T BE TAMPERED WITH!Already, this seems lost on one coach. Hue Jackson, the new man in charge of the Raiders, claimed Chad is his "son." We'll see what Rex Ryan says in response to Chad and Terrell Owens both saying they want to play for the Jets. Bengals owner Mike Brown can do vindictive. Think he'll want to release Chad so he can go sign where he wants? Or that he'll deal Chad to a place he's openly whored himself out to? At this rate, Ocho's probably piled up enough comments to get one of those "conduct detrimental to the team" punishments and get his posterior put on ice. Which is another dynamic to watch for. I'm hesitant to dismiss out of hand the idea that Belichick would want to coach Chad. Look at the track record -- no coach has made more unconventional personnel decisions than Hoody. But look at the makeup of the Patriots, their youth and need to keep maturing. Look at the recent history of how things went with a high-maintenance wideout with a me-first attitude. Consider the seriousness of Tom Brady and the grabassery Chad is constantly involved in.
When you look at it, it hardly seems logical. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable


Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:


WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)


TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)