Patriots prepare to face Fitzpatrick

Patriots prepare to face Fitzpatrick

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO A Harvard graduate making a name for himself comes as a shock to uh nobody, really.

But when you're talking about the NFL and its glamorpretty boy position -- quarterback -- it's clear that Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his Crimson pedigree don't exactly come to mind.

It doesn't matter.

Fitzpatrick's game has said more than enough about his place among this season's quarterbacks.

And although the NFL season is still young, Fitzpatrick's play has been one of the early feel-good stories of the season.

If he has his way, it'll only get better on Sunday when the Bills host the New England Patriots in a battle of AFC East powers -- powers? Buffalo? Sounds weird, I know.

Fitzpatrick, in his sixth season with his third different team, is living the dream, folks.

He comes into Sunday's game with a 7:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, an impressive start that is only matched by some dude named Tom Brady.

Fitzpatrick has completed more than 63 percent of his passes and comes into Sunday's game having led the Bills to scoring drives in all five of their possessions in the second half of their 38-35 come-from-behind win over the Oakland Raiders.

Buffalo's early success has certainly fueled the interest level of those in Fitzpatrick, who threw for 3,000 yards with 23 touchdowns to 15 picks a year ago for the Bills.

Nice numbers, right?

When it came to the Bills, the only numbers that folks really cared about was four -- as in, the number of wins they had all season.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick had seen enough from the 28-year-old last season to know he's a pretty good quarterback.

"He's accurate, he gets rid of the ball quickly and he's smart," Belichick said. "He's doing a good job and so are all the other 10 guys that are out there."

Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty was impressed with Fitzpatrick last season, especially after he put a major scare in the Pats before New England eventually squeaked out a 38-30 win.

"He's better this year, but I felt he made a lot of really good plays last year, too," McCourty said. "I think he's just steady improving his game."

Patriots defensive end Shaun Ellis was with the New York Jets last season, so he, too, is familiar with Fitzpatrick.

Even though the Jets drubbed the Bills 38-14 -- that was the week after New England's eight-point win -- Ellis recalls how Fitzpatrick continued to battle, despite the score getting out of hand.

And like Belichick and McCourty, one of the first words Ellis used to describe Fitzpatrick was, 'smart.'

"He went to Harvard, right?" Ellis said. "So you know he's a pretty smart guy. He understands his offense, his keys, where to go with the ball and they do a great job of getting open, his receivers."

And with a comeback win already under his belt this season, Ellis sees him picking up where he left off a year ago.

"He's one of those quarterbacks, when you're playing against, you know he's going to make a lot of plays. He's heady, tough and he's smart. For us, we have to go in with our game plan, try to execute and make plays."

And with most up-and-coming quarterbacks, there's always the inevitable comparisons.

The way Ellis sees it, Fitzpatrick is an original.

"He has his own style," Ellis said. "With that being said, it's good to have your own style. You're only compared to yourself. With this guy, he's going to compete for 60 minutes, regardless of how the game is going. We have to be ready to fight the whole way."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
G Alex Lewis (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

FOXBORO -- It seems unlikely that a 23-year-old who has spent much of his life around sports would be unaware of how fantasy football works. But Malcolm Mitchell insisted on Friday that he was that 23-year-old. 

Over the past seven days, Mitchell has been the second-most added player in ESPN.com fantasy leagues behind only Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. The rookie wideout went undrafted in many fantasy leagues before the start of the regular season, but his production has spiked over the last three weeks making him one of a hot commodity for people headed into the fantasy playoffs.

In wins over the Niners, Jets and Rams, Mitchell has caught 17 passes for 222 yards and three scores. 

"I have family members mention it, but I never know what they're talking about," Mitchell said when asked if he was asked about his newfound popularity among fans of fantasy football. "I'm not sure how that works. If someone said it, I'd probably have no idea what it means."

A fewer lockers down from Mitchell is the stall of rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who cut into Mitchell's back-and-forth with reporters joking, "I've got him on my team!"

Mitchell's confusion over the phenomenon that is fantasy football seemed to be genuine as he asked questions about how teams operate and what fantasy free-agency means. 

Those who've picked him up probably don't mind that Mitchell is in the dark on the subject -- and the same goes for the Patriots coaching staff, it's safe to assume -- as long as he continues to do his job as well as he's done it in recent weeks.