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Deion Branch helps Pats prepare for Colin Kaepernick

The New England Patriots slayed the team perceived by some to be the AFC's top contender on Monday night. Now they get a chance to send a message against what might be the best team in the other conference.

Statement Sunday

Christmas comes early for NFL fans. There are six Week 15 games with major postseason implications. Take a closer look at these pivotal matchups:

» Giants at Falcons
» Broncos at Ravens
» Packers at Bears
» Colts at Texans
» Steelers at Cowboys
» 49ers at Patriots

On Twitter: #StatementSunday

The San Francisco 49ers will stand in the Patriots' way Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass. Coach Jim Harbaugh's team has a different edge to it since Colin Kaepernick took over at quarterback. To prepare, Deion Branch -- re-signed by the Pats on Tuesday -- played quarterback in option looks for the scout team.

"I did a little bit in high school, but I only went in when the game was out of control," Branch told NFL.com's Albert Breer. "I was really a DB and receiver, so once we had the games wrapped up -- which was a lot of them -- I went to quarterback. So I played it a lot. And I played it all through Pop Warner, that's all I played, was quarterback."

Branch said he knows the footwork and ball-handling for the option, but joked, "the throwing's what I do best, though."

Led by Steven Ridley, the Patriots are running the ball better than they have in years. Branch -- an honorary historian in matters relating to the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots -- said the ground game is the best it's been since the days of Corey Dillon.

"You can say that," Branch told Breer. "We didn't have the dominant tight ends. Our tight ends were great -- Ben Watson and Daniel Graham, those guys were great. But the run game, it's very exciting to see that stuff, man."

You might be surprised to know that only two teams have carried the ball more than the Patriots this season. This is a balanced offense loaded with impact players, complemented by a defense that's playing at a high level.

The Patriots are in a serious groove, making even a great team like the 49ers appear to be a heavy underdog.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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