Remember the Celtics

Joni Mitchell was famous for singing a song titled “Big Yellow Taxi.”  Among the lyrics in the song are “You don’t know what you got ’till its gone.” Why in the world would I open a basketball related post with something that has nothing to do with basketball?  It is simple really.  I have made a distinct effort to catch as many Boston Celtics games as I possibly can so far this season because I don’t want to realize how great I had it as a fan when it is gone.  So much so, that I have made the Boston Celtics a priority in my life. And I promise you, this trend will continue throughout the season, much to the dismay of my girlfriend.

I don’t quite know how to explain this in rational terms because I can be an irrational person.  But I will do my best to try.  Maybe I have a greater appreciation for the Celtics because I have seen what happens when I take things for granted.  Case and point: After the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, I fully expected them to be contenders for the crown year after year.  I took for granted the successes of 2004 and 2007 thinking that the famous curse was broken and the Sox were infallible.  I don’t need to say anything more about the Sox because we all know they haven’t won a playoff game since 2007.

The New England Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2005 after winning 3 in four years.  As Patriot fans we felt it was our God given right to win Super Bowls with Tom Brady as our quarterback.  The New York Giants punched that notion right in the mouth when they beat the Pats in Super Bowl XLII after the Pats put together an undefeated season up until that point.  Since then Bernard Pollard, and the Baltimore Ravens, respectively, have reminded Pats fans not to take anything for granted.

Maybe being a fan of the Red Sox and Pats has made me realize that there is a certain window of opportunity in the life of a franchise that is their golden era.  Maybe I am realizing that for the first time in my lifetime, the time is now for the Celtics.

Maybe I am so into the Celtics this year because, I have been an avid fan since before the Pitino years.  I didn’t have the luxury my brother had of following them during the Bird years.  I didn’t have the luxury of following the Celtics when they had Bill Russell and Bob Cousy running the show like my father did.  I wasn’t around to see Red light a victory cigar at the end of every win.  The only memories I have of Red Auerbach coincide with a time when Dino Radja was the star player, when Sherman Douglas was the point guard in the last games played at the Boston Garden, when Walter McCarty was considered a viable third option to score, and Red was the president of a last place team hoping to win the draft lottery to land Tim Duncan.

Maybe I am so into the Celtics this year because they boast (depending on how Rondo pans out) a lineup where every member of the starting five is Hall of Fame bound and a bench that is better than some starting fives in the NBA.  Maybe I am so into the Celtics this year because last season’s loss in game 7 of the NBA Finals to the rival Lakers left such a bitter taste in my mouth.  Maybe watching them win banner 17 was so fantastic that I want to enjoy banner 18 as well.  Maybe in a way I feel robbed that Kevin Garnett went down with a knee injury that essentially stole a year and a half of his career. Now he is fully healthy and looking great.

Whatever the case may be, I am bleeding green this year more than ever.  The team is playing like a well oiled machine when it wants to.  When they are motivated, the opponents don’t have an ice cube’s chance in hell in competing with this squad. The way these Celtics are playing basketball is poetry in motion.

I urge the casual basketball fan to jump on the wagon now.  There will never be another team like this.  The 2010 Boston Celtics have the deepest roster in memory.  They are beyond fun to watch with Garnett’s unmatched  intensity, Ray’s beautiful jump shot, Pierce closing in on being one of the greatest Boston athletes of all time, Shaq’s presence, and Nate Robinson’s antics.

I don’t want to look ahead to the future.  I want to live in the now because what we have in the Boston Celtics right now, may be the best we have it for years to come. Five Hall of Famers on the same court chasing Banner 18.  I know what I have got right now, and it isn’t gone yet.

The Miami Heat are a Joke

I would like to preface this post by saying that I am fully aware the regular season in the NBA means absolutely nothing and I also fully expect the Heat to get a top 3 seed in the playoffs.

I really want to avoid writing about the Miami Heat.  I swore I would do my best to not care what happens in South Beach all season. But with all that has unfolded 17 games into the season, I am like a kid in a candy store that simply can’t help himself.  I have made no bones about my dislike for LeBron James.  Maybe because he is also 25 years old and he gets to play basketball for a living and I get to come home from a day of work and write about him.  I, also, like Cleveland and the rest of America love that the Heat aren’t exactly off to a smooth start.  Back in July when this “team” was first assembled, many thought the Heat would win 73 games and cruise to a NBA title.  Now they are three losses away from ensuring that one of Michael’s greatest records stays intact at least for another season.

Sean recently posted Michael Jordan commercially slapping LeBron James in the face.  In that very commercial, Jordan is quoted as saying, “Maybe this is my fault. Maybe I led you to believe it’s easy when it wasn’t.” Jordan basically says that he worked every single day, as hard as he could, to be as great as he was.  The Heat clearly aren’t from the Jordan blueprint.

This is a direct contrast to what Chris Bosh recently said about the Miami Heat as a team.  When asked about head coach Erik Spolestra, Bosh said, “He wants to work. We just wanna chill.”  Really Chris? Has anyone who ever wanted to win a title ever uttered those words?  After a loss to the Celtics on their home court, LeBron told the media, pointing to the stat sheet, “For myself, 44 minutes is too much.” Granted my basketball playing days are limited to CYO basketball but I can never remember saying I played too many minutes. Seriously LeBron? You played too much? Do you want some cheese with that wine? Over the course of a year you have gone from an icon to nothing more than a baby who, in all honesty, is yet to really do anything notable when it comes to the game of basketball.

Even Dwayne Wade has joined Wine Fest.  After getting out to a 5-4 start, Wade was quoted as saying, “We are the best 5-4 team in the league.” Is there such a thing as a good 5-4 team?  I found myself most disappointed in Wade as I expect more out of him.  I have always viewed Wade as a hard nosed player who worked hard on his game going back to his days at Marquette.  LeBron gets no such sympathy from me as he is a diva in the worst way.  And Chris Bosh? Well, he has shown that he should have stayed in Canada where he flourished because nobody was paying attention.

LeBron has continued to make news for all the wrong reasons.  The other night in Dallas after a timeout LeBron bumped his head coach on the way to the bench.  He is quickly gaining the reputation as an uncoachable player.  It is only a matter of time before LeBron will have gotten 2 head coaches fired in less than a year.  At the time of this writing, news broke that “the Heat are frustrated with Erik Spoelstra.” Chris Broussard of ESPN broke the story, the same guy who broke the news that LeBron would sign with the heat.  The same guy that is from Ohio and covered LeBron since his high school days.  Basically, this is a move by LeBron’s awful public relations crew looking to pass blame onto someone else.  Are you surprised?

This debacle is nowhere near Spolestra’s fault.  Wade and James are the same exact player in that they both need the ball in their hands to be productive.  Chris Bosh is not willing to mix it up in the paint.  The Heat don’t have a big man, a point guard, or a bench.  They have three diva superstars that admit they don’t want to work on their games and would rather “bring their talents to South Beach and chill.”  LeBron has complained that coach Spolestra isn’t letting him be himself after Spolestra chewed out LeBron for not taking pre game warmups and practices seriously.  Spolestra is essentially Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking. Everything is going against him and none of it is his fault.  Every team needs a glue guy and the Heat’s (Udonis Haslem) is done for the season.

People will argue that LeBron never asked for all this attention.  At that notion I laugh like Heath Ledger in the Joker role.  LeBron proclaimed himself as King James as a freshman in high school.  Everyone loves to compare him to Jordan whether it is fair or not.  But LeBron asked for that.  The problem is he is not even close to being in the conversation as the greatest to play the game.

The Heat may be the most interesting team in the NBA. They have the big names, the glamour, and the huge target on their backs.  The problem is that don’t have what it takes to be contenders.  Until they put all their personal agendas aside, they will continue to be the car accident you can’t look away from. The Heat will continue to hang onto mediocrity in the Eastern Conference and face an untimely exit in the second round of the playoffs.

The Rest of the Week 12 Picks

After a great Turkey Day, Matt and I were tied at 2-1…  Here is the rest of the week 12 picks.

I’ve already said everything that needed to be said…let’s finish it…

Packers @ Falcons

Scottie: Falcons

This might be the best matchup Sunday has to offer being a precursor for the NFC Championship. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are flying high as he continues to prove that he is deserving of being in the conversation of elite quarterbacks.  He matches up against another good young quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers is yet to lead his team to victory in any kind of close game and I believe that trend will continue here.

Matt: Packers

I’ve said it many times throughout the year, I love this Falcons team.  Matt Ryan doesn’t lose at home, and the Packers are the most banged up team in the NFL.  But, I’ve sat in front of my computer for the last five minutes trying to think of who is going to block Clay Matthews and I’ve yet to come up with a name.  Matt Ryan can’t win a game if he’s one the turf the whole time.

Steelers @ Bills

Scott: Steelers

The Bills have actually been playing great football over the last month.  The problem here is that they may have played themselves out of having the number one pick in April.  However the Bills will get back to their losing ways Sunday against the strong Steeler team.

Matt: Steelers

The Bills may make this game more competitive than it looks on paper, but I still think that the Steelers have way to much offensively and defensively for the Bills to keep up.

Panthers @ Browns

Scottie: Browns

I have admittedly been high on the Browns since they upset the Patriots a few weeks ago.  Even with Colt McCoy out on Sunday, I still think they have enough to beat the lowly Panthers.  Jake Delhomme’s best days are far behind him but his only responsibility is to hand the ball to Peyton Hillis and get out of his way.  I think he can manage.

Matt: Browns

The games that I hate picking the most are the ones between two bad teams.  I’d be better of flipping a coin to determine the winner because it’s anyone’s guess who is the best of the worst.  Anyways, I think that Peyton Hillis will run all over the Panthers defense, which equates to a Browns victory in Cleveland.

Jaguars @ Giants

Scottie: Jaguars

MJD has his mojo back and despite David Garrard’s best efforts to lose the game last week, The Jags still came out on top.  Eli Manning has lost his top 2 recievers to injury and their once rock solid back field is now questionable.  Ahmad Bradshaw has fumbled away the starting job to Brandon Jacobs.  I expect the Giants offense to struggle to move the ball and the Jags to sneak away with the win.

Matt: Giants

As Scottie said, MJD is back running like a monster again, but I’m not sure he can carry an entire team to victory in the Meadowlands.  Even without Hakeem Nicks, the Giants passing attack will find success against a porous Jags’ secondary, and Brandon Jacobs will surely be rejuvenated after finally getting to start again.

Vikings @ Redskins

Scottie: Vikings

It seems that whenever a coach is fired mid-season, the interim coach provides a spark that enables a team to rattle off a few wins.  We saw it in Dallas when Wade Phillips was canned in favor of Jason Garrett.  The Vikings hated playing for Brad Childress and I feel they will step up for Leslie Frazier. It doesn’t hurt that the Redskins stink.

Matt: Redskins

I almost always side with the team that has a new coach in a situation like this.  But, in this case I’m going against the guys in Purple.  Brett Favre has been a cancer to that organization this season, first essentially eliminating any hope that this team had of making the playoffs and then running the head coach out of town.  Now, Leslie Frazier is supposed to come in and restore order?  Brett Favre runs this team, and as long as he is there it’s tough for me to pick the Vikes.

Titans @ Texans

Scottie: Texans

The Titans are a mess.  Vince Young has the maturity of a 13 year old girl and that has created chaos in the locker room.  It is true the Texans can’t defend my grandmother but I am still waiting for Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to show up this season.  Arian Foster will continue to do work and the Texans will win this ball game.

Matt: Texans

Both of these teams are desperate for a win.  Both teams started off the season very strong, looking like locks to at least contend for a playoff spot, and now both teams are essentially in must win situations.  So what’s the difference in this game?  I’m sticking with Matt Schaub over Rusty Smith.

Chiefs @ Seahawks

Scottie: Chiefs

I have done nothing but disrespect the Seahawks all year.  While I will still pick against them it is worth noting that the Seahawks are division leaders and are in line for a playoff spot.  Making the playoffs a reality will be difficult losing Mike Williams, but with or without him I’d expect Jamaal Charles to run all over the field on Sunday setting up Thomas Jones touchdowns.

Matt: Chiefs

The Seahawks are a tough team to play in Seattle, but without Mike Williams (who is doubtful to play with a foot injury) I’m just not sure if Seattle has the offensive weapons to be able to score enough to keep up with Kansas City.  I’m sticking with Jones and Charles in this one.

Dolphins @ Raiders

Scott: Raiders

The Dolphins are in disarray without a true starting quarterback and no Brandon Marshall.  The Raiders have exceeded many experts’ expectations this season, but I have always felt they had an outside shot at a playoff spot.  Darren McFadden has arrived and the defense is playing really well.

Matt: Dolphins

Brandon Marshall is doubtful.  Chad Henne is terrible.  Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are missing.  So why am I picking the Dolphins?  Because you simply can not trust Oakland.  One game they come in and look like the best team in the league, and the next week they forget how to run the ball and just try and throw bombs to DHB.  The Dolphins may not be better, but they are more consistent, so I’m going with Miami.

Rams @ Broncos

Scott: Rams

When I pick the Broncos they lose by 30.  When I pick against the Broncos they win by 30.  The hell with it! I have been a closet Rams fan this year because I love watching young teams.  I also think Steven Jackson will have a big day against a weak Broncos D.

Matt: Broncos

The Broncos got smoked by the Chargers last Monday, and should still be licking their wounds.  Apparently, Josh McDaniels just got fined 50k for some videotaping incident thing (I’m not really sure, but I don’t care enough to look into it), so I’m expecting the Broncos to rally around their coach and bounce back from a tough loss.

Eagles @ Bears

Scott: Eagles

Mike Vick passed the test last week against the tough Giant defense.  This week he faces another stiff test with the stingy Bears defense.  I think the Eagles are a really scary team because they are the fastest team in football and there is no way to defend all the weapons they have.  It also helps the cause that the biggest baby of a quarterback since Dan Marino (that being Jay Cutler) is opposing the Eagles and he is good for 3 picks and 7 sacks.

Matt: Bears

Unlike 99% of the nation and 100% of ESPN commentators (not to mention my roommate who is a die hard Eagles fan), I’m not sold on the Eagles yet.  Call me dumb, crazy, idiotic, etc, but I’m not ready to anoint this Eagles team as one of the two or three best teams in the league.  Over Philly’s last three games, they beat up on the Giants, Redskins, and Colts.  The Colts have Scottie playing wideout, the Redskins already beat the Eagles once this season (it is very difficult to sweep an inter-division foe), and the Giants beat themselves.  Julius Peppers will wreak havoc on the Eagles’ offensive line, and the Bears d is among the stingiest in the league.  I am hoping that Jay Cutler doesn’t lose the game for his squad, because I see the possibility for a Bears’ victory at Soldier field.

Buccaneers @ Ravens

Scott: Ravens

Rahiem Morris’ boys get a look at some real NFL competition this Sunday as they travel to Baltimore.  While I do love what the Bucs have done this season, I can’t in my right mind go against the Ravens.  I expect Josh Freeman to have a tough time against the Ravens D, Ray Rice to run wild, and Ray Lewis to decapitiate someone coming over the middle.

Matt: Ravens

Similarly to what Scottie said, the Bucs get a chance to matchup against one of the best teams in the NFL.  I like what Raheem Morris is doing down there in Tampa, but Baltimore is already at where the Bucs are trying to get to.

Chargers @ Colts

Scott: Colts

What Phillip Rivers has done this season with no name receivers has been downright amazing.  He gets a legit weapon back in Vincent Jackson just in time for a showdown with Peyton Manning and the Colts.  ButI don’t care what miracles Rivers has pulled this season, I’ve learned to never go against Peyton Manning especially after a loss.

Matt: Colts

Again, Scottie said it all.  If the season ended today, the Colts would be on the outside looking in, in terms of the playoffs.  The Chargers are on a short week after beating up on Denver last Monday, and traveling to ice-cold Indy can’t be fun.  This game will be a shootout, but I can’t see Peyton losing two in a row.

49ers @ Cardinals

Scottie: 49ers

Last week I admitted I have severely overrated the 49ers all year.  My problem was i fell too much in love with Mike Singletary, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis.  An old roommate in college use to pick teams to win solely based on one player.  I turned into that roommate over the last 12 weeks and I feel awful about that.  With all that being said there is not a shot in hell the 49ers lose to the Cardinals on Monday night.

Matt: 49ers

So after 11 weeks you expect me to pick against Mike Singletary…no shot.  Singletary is fighting for his job, and if it takes him suiting up and playing some linebacker for the 49ers than he’ll do it.

Week 12 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-The New England Patriots got off to a slow start in Thursday Thanksgiving Day battle in Detroit, finding themselves in a 17-10 hole going into halftime.  But, a reestablished focus combined with a fiery halftime speech from Tom Brady amounted to a 35 point second half and a blowout of the Detroit Lions.  Much has been made this season of the Patriots young defense not being able to stop the bleeding when teams began piling on points.  Well, on Thursday their defense did just that.  After allowing 17 first half points, the defense tightened up, essentially shutting down Calvin Johnson, and subsequently allowing only 7 Detroit points in the second half.

-It seems that in every edition of the Mattyoshow Review, I can not mention the defense without bringing up two names, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty.  Jerod Mayo had yet another game where his effectiveness can not be measured in terms of stats.  Although he posted a good stat line (8 tackles, 4 assists), Mayo was seemingly in on nearly every play.  Detroit’s run game was surprisingly effective early in the game, but once the defensive line settled down and started plugging holes, Mayo began to shine.  He stuffed a few runs at the line of scrimmage, and then when the Lions began to abandon the run game, Mayo made nearly every play on the underneath passing routes that the Lions ran.  Countless times Mayo and teammates would crush Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew on catches that they made over the middle.  That’s what is needed and expected from a middle linebacker, and Jerod Mayo continues to deliver.  This guy deserves serious consideration for defensive MVP.  As far as I know, Devin McCourty has missed only one defensive snap the entire season.  It is for a good reason because McCourty is one heck of a football player.  As the season progresses and McCourty becomes more comfortable in the Patriots’ defensive scheme, his personal statistics are beginning to pile up.  McCourty recorded two interceptions against the Lions, which gives him 5 interceptions in his last six games.  The more I am afforded the opportunity to watch McCourty play, the more I see a shutdown corner in the making.  This kid is a special football player, and defensive rookie of the year might be one of many awards McCourty will win in his career.

-Prior to Thursday’s game, Tom Brady had thrown for over 300 yards only one time this season (week 10 @ Pittsburgh).  But, on Thursday Brady looked like the 2007 version of himself as he surgically picked apart the Lions defense en route to a 21 of 27 effort for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns, not to mention compiling a perfect passer rating.  Brady did a great job spreading the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers.  What may have been more impressive than that was his reliance on his two top receivers, Deion Branch (3 catches, 113 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns).  There has yet to be a game that both Branch and Welker had very good numbers, but Thursday proved to be the day.  Brandon Tate dropped a couple of key passes, which hurt the success of some drives, but Branch and Welker stepped up to pick up the slack.  Hopefully, their joint production will continue throughout the remainder of the season.

-Fred Taylor was active for Thursday’s game, but didn’t see any time on the field.  Thankfully, the Patriots didn’t need him.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis capitalized on the few carries that he got (12 carries, 59 yards, two touchdowns), finding his way into the end-zone twice.  I was wary of how much work BJGE would get with Taylor returning, and in the first half he very rarely saw the football (mainly because the Pats were forced to pass as they were down), but in the second half when he was called upon to ice the game and punch the ball into the end-zone, Green-Ellis delivered.  Looking ahead, a backfield consisting of BJGE, Danny Woodhead, Fred Taylor, and the occasional Sammy Morris sighting could be very effective complimenting Tom Brady and the passing attack.

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 20 – Jets 10

Jordan Steps Up And Gives Lebron A Media Facial

The only thing better than this would be to have Jordan actually putting Lebron in a “timeout” and scolding him like the child he is.  Nobody disrespects Jordan and something tells me when Jordan saw this whole Lebron saga soap opera that showed him picking Miami on live primetime TV that it made MJ a swirling dervish and when the Lebron’s commericial aired #23 went even more ballistic.  Normally I’m not a fan of people getting back at each other through the media but I have to say job-well-done to Jordan here.  I hope he is just as disgraced as I am that the NBA has become full of a bunch of pre-madonnas and overall just a ridiculous square dance.  The NBA and Lebron sucks….Long live the real king!


EDIT: I’ve been informed that this commercial came out before Lebron left Cleveland.  Sue me.  Either way, anyone who likes to smack Lebron in the nose deserves praise.  Who’s next on the list that consists of Jordan and Delonte?

Week 12 NFL Picks: Scottie vs. Matt – Turkey Day Edition

Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday of the entire year.  I can think of very few times more amazing where it is expected that you over indulge on food and watch football all day…pure harmony.  Anyways, I would much rather hang out with my friends and family over the next few days than sit here writing posts, so until Sunday we are only giving you this Turkey day edition.  After going 11-5 last week, I now have a record of 90-70 (.563 winning percentage) for the season, while Scottie went 12-4 which puts him at 89-71 (.556 winning percentage).  It’s too close for comfort on my end…let’s do it…

Along with Matt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  There is nothing better than being around family and today is a celebration of just that.  I am truly thankful for all my family and friends.  Without them I would probably be face down in a ditch somewhere.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to whoop Matty’s behind.  So let’s get to it.


Patriots @ Lions

Matt -Patriots

The lone Lion that scares me in this game is Calvin Johnson.  But, I think that even if Johnson goes for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns, the Pats would still manage to win the game.  The return of Fred Taylor bolsters that Pats’ rushing attack, and against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, that spells victory for New England.

Scottie -Patriots

Much like the Browns game, this is a trap game.  The Pats are playing the Jets in 10 days.  If they get caught looking ahead the Lions will burn the Pats with one of the more explosive offenses in football.  The Pats’ secondary has been swiss cheese lately and I expect Calvin Johnson to have a big day.  However the Lions are still the Lions and the Pats are still the Pats.

Saints @ Cowboys

Matt -Cowboys

The New Orleans Saints are in for a dog fight.  There are few teams in the league that I would not want to play more than the Cowboys.  After their surprising win against the Giants two weeks ago, the Cowboys beat the Lions down and are now on a roll.  A team this talented can’t be held down for an entire season, and it looks like they are in the middle of breaking out.

Scottie – Cowboys

The Cowboys are among the most talented teams in the league.  They clearly gave up on Wade Phillips but have shown they are willing to play for Jason Garrett.  The Saints haven’t impressed me at all this year and I think they are in trouble in Big D.

Bengals @ Jets

Matt -Jets

I can see it now.  The Bengals are up 5 with 10 seconds left and then all of a sudden Cincinnati forgets how to tackle and lets Santonio Holmes run 80 yards for a touchdown off of a quick slant.  The Jets have somehow squeaked out wins in three consecutive games, and I don’t see Cincinnati being good enough to stop that trend.

Scottie -Jets

To quote Terrell Owens, the Bengals are just terrible.

What to Look For…

Thursday’s matchup between the Patriots and the Lions looks to be a tale of two teams headed in different directions.  The Lions, with a record of 2-8, are in last place in the NFC North and it seems that any hope of them making the playoffs has now dispersed.  The Patriots, with a record of 8-2, are tied for first place in their division as well as the best record in the NFL.  Super Bowl aspirations are becoming more prevalent for this team, even with how youthful this team is.  But, as we have seen time in and time out this year, games that look like sure wins on paper often prove to be better matchups than anticipated.  On Thanksgiving day, when you plop down in front of the television at 12:30pm, here is what you should look for…

-The biggest “x-factor” in this game is Calvin Johnson.  When you look in the dictionary under the word “man,” Calvin Johnson’s picture should be there.  At 6’5”, 236 pounds Johnson is bigger than any defensive back that the Patriots have by far, and he is equally as fast.  It has to scare Belichick when the Lions essentially have a tight end lined up on the outside that can outrun any defensive back that he has.  The Pats’ pass defense hasn’t been great this season, but they have done enough to win.  I would love to see McCourty matchup against Johnson for the duration of the game, but so far this season Kyle Arrington has drawn the short straw and had to matchup against the opposition’s number one wideout.  What to look for: How the Pats’ corners matchup against Calvin Johnson.

-The Detroit Lions have one of the worst run defense in the entire NFL, giving up an average of over 130 yards per game.  Fred Taylor is active for Thursday’s game, so we will finally get to see the Patriots backfield at full health (minus Faulk).  BJGE has filled in for Fred Taylor better than any of us could have expected, but the amount of carries he gets have been anything but consistent.  I am very interested to see how the workload is dispersed between Taylor, Green-Ellis, and Woodhead, but I’m assuming that BJGE’s production will take the biggest hit.  What to look for: How efficient the Patriots run game is against one of the league’s worst run defenses, especially with all of their running backs back to full health.

-Tom Brady is listed as questionable for Thursday’s matchup with a bad foot and shoulder.  Brady is continuously listed on the injury report with shoulder issues, but this is the second week in a row he has listed as questionable with a foot injury.  After such a short turnaround, it will be interesting to see how truly healthy Tom Brady is.  I’m not suggesting that there is any possibility that he won’t play, but watching him plant his foot and drive into throws may give us an indication of how healthy he is.  What to look for: How Tom Brady plays after a short week and an injured foot.

-With such a bad record and few things left to play for, Thanksgiving is like the Lions’ Super Bowl.  Very few times, if any, each season the Lions play for a national audience, so it has to be expected that they will come out with guns blazing on Thursday.  For some of the younger players (i.e. Ndamukong Suh, Jahvid Best, etc.) this game is the first time that they have played in the NFL for a national audience, and others (i.e. Calvin Johnson) would love to prove to the country how truly great they are.  If the Patriots come out flat, the Lions could very well throw up 14 quick points and have the Pats in a huge hole that will be touch to get out of.  What to look for: How the Patriots deal with the extreme emotion that the Lions will bring to the table.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 34 – Lions 24