Patriots

Pats-Panthers practice participation/injury report: Burkhead still missing

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Pats-Panthers practice participation/injury report: Burkhead still missing

FOXBORO -- Rex Burkhead was the only Patriots player who missed practice on Thursday. It was the second straight day that the running back was not on the practice field. He's dealing with a ribs injury he suffered in Week 2 against the Saints.

Against the Texans, the split for Patriots backs wasn't drastically altered without Burkhead. Dion Lewis, who can serve as an all-purpose back, played 12 snaps. Versus the Saints in Week 12, he played 14 snaps. James White (the team's primary sub back) and Mike Gillislee (the team's big back) have not seen their roles change with Burkhead out, either. 

Utilizing Lewis more, however, could make sense for the Patriots in certain situations. They've struggled in short-yardage this season, but handing off to Lewis could potentially help them solve those woes.

The quickness Lewis has displayed at the line of scrimmage is unlike anything the Patriots have at that position, meaning when the Patriots offensive line has trouble generating movement -- which it has on third-and-one and fourth-and-one -- Lewis could potentially pick up yardage on his own by making tacklers miss. 

For example, in the third quarter against the Chiefs, Lewis was hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage, wiggled away, bounced off three tackles and somehow fell forward for five yards. Another example? In the third quarter against the Saints, Lewis was hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage again, spun out of two tackles, dove underneath two more hits and fell forward for a one-yard gain.

Neither of those plays featured opposing defenses stacking the line of scrimmage the way they would in a third-and-one or fourth-and-one situation, but maybe the Patriots will be willing to try something new if they need a yard to move the chains against the Panthers.

Here's Thursday's full practice participation/injury report, which featured no changes for the Patriots from Wednesday . . . 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
WR Phillip Dorsett (knee)
S Nate Ebner (shoulder)
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)

CAROLINA PANTHERS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Jeremy Cash (calf)
LB Thomas Davis (rib)
DE Daeshon Hall (knee)
DE Charles Johnson (rest)
C Ryan Kalil (neck)
RB Jonathan Stewart (rest)
CB Daryl Worley (shoulder)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Cam Newton (right shoulder)
WR Curtis Samuel (back)

FULL PARTICIPATION
WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee)
DT Star Lotulelei (shoulder)
DE Julius Peppers (rest)

Eagles announce Wentz has torn ACL, out for rest of year

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Eagles announce Wentz has torn ACL, out for rest of year

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles star quarterback Carson Wentz has a torn left ACL and will miss rest of the season and playoffs, coach Doug Pederson confirmed.

Wentz, a favorite in the NFL MVP race, had an MRI on Monday that revealed the severity of the injury. Wentz was hurt late in the third quarter Sunday at Los Angeles. Backup Nick Foles rallied the Eagles (11-2) to a 43-35 win over the Rams that secured the NFC East title and put them in first place in the conference with three games remaining.

The Eagles have overcome several key injuries and now have to move forward without their most indispensable player. Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, return specialist/running back Darren Sproles, star linebacker Jordan Hicksand special teams captain Chris Maragos already went down for the season.

"If there's ever an opportunity for me to rally the troops as the football coach, now might be the time," Pederson said. "You can't lose faith. This has been a resilient football team all season long."

After starting all 16 games as a rookie, Wentz made a giant leap this year. He passed for 3,296 yards and set a franchise single-season record with 33 touchdown passes while only tossing seven interceptions.

Foles led the Eagles to a pair of field goals on consecutive drives against the Rams. He is 20-17 as a starter in six seasons with the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs.

Pederson insisted the offense won't change with Foles.

"He's a highly intelligent football player," Pederson said.

A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles in his second stint in Philadelphia. He replaced an injured Michael Vick in 2013 and led the Eagles to an NFC East title during Chip Kelly's first season as coach. Foles tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 and finished that season with 27 TDs and only two picks. The Eagles lost at home to New Orleans in the playoffs. Foles went to the Pro Bowl and was the offensive MVP.

But Kelly traded Foles to St. Louis for Sam Bradford after the 2014 season. Foles spent a year with the Rams, a season with the Chiefs and returned to Philadelphia as a free agent this season.

Second-year pro Nate Sudfeld is Philadelphia's No. 3 quarterback. Pederson said he hasn't spoken to personnel boss Howie Roseman about adding a third quarterback yet.

"I'm absolutely ready to go - need be," Foles said after the win over the Rams. "I prepare every day."

Brady winning MVP might not be ideal for Pats fans, according to one important stat. . .

Brady winning MVP might not be ideal for Pats fans, according to one important stat. . .

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A fan base would have to be crazy not to want its star player to be recognized as the NFL's best, right? 

With 14 weeks of the NFL season nearly in the books, Tom Brady is now the favorite -- according to Bovada and OddsShark -- to win the league's MVP award. Former MVP front-runner Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL on Sunday, leading to the recent shift in the odds. Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and a trio of Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell -- round out Bovada's top-six. 

Brady has captured the award twice previously in his career in 2007 and 2010, and there's a reason Patriots fans might be OK with someone else taking home the hardware this season. 

Since 2000, no NFL MVP has won the Super Bowl. 

Call it circumstance. Call it a curse. Call it whatever you want. That's how it's worked out. Matt Ryan kept the streak alive last season. 

The last MVP to hold the Lombardi was Kurt Warner when he led the Rams to a title in 1999. MVPs ending the season with a win was actually pretty run-of-the-mill that decade. Terrell Davis (1998), Brett Favre (1996), Steve Young (1994) and Emmitt Smith (1993) all were MVPs and Super Bowl champs. 

In the Super Bowl era, MVPs have won championships 10 times in 51 years. So history isn't totally stacked against for the game's best player. It's just that recently, MVPs have had a hard time carrying their teams to the finish. Ryan, Cam Newton (2015) and Peyton Manning (2013) were all named MVP on the eve of the Super Bowl -- NFL practice since 2010 -- and lost. 

Things set up pretty nicely for Brady to have a strong finish and solidify his standing as "most valuable" since he'll face three divisional opponents -- two at Gillette Stadium -- and a Steelers team built for shootouts. 

And despite what recent history says about MVPs and the Super Bowl, Wentz's injury could help make 2017 the year that trend is altered. Bovada now has Brady and the Patriots as 9/4 favorites -- up slightly from 12/5 -- to win the championship, with the Steelers (4/1) and their three MVP candidates following closely behind. The Eagles, meanwhile, fell from 6/1 odds to win it all to 9/1.

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