The State of the Patriots: October 4th, 2014

I’m stating the obvious here when I say that it has been a frustrating start to the 2014 NFL season for New England Patriots fans. Throughout that time frame, I have had countless debates, conversations, and occasional verbal eruptions with friends regarding my viewpoint on what’s going on with this team. Along the way, I’ve run into the “sunshine.com” people (thanks to Felger and Mazz for that title) that can just not be critical about this team. They believe in just blindly trusting Bill Belichick based on the body of work, and therefore leaving us fans with the inability to critique or criticize any move or decision that is made. On the flip side, I’ve run into the “doomsday” bunch that are saying Brady is a shell of himself, Josh McDaniels should be fired, and Bill Belichick may have lost it and the franchise may want to consider moving on. I find myself stuck in the middle of these two extremes, and reaching a boiling point of frustration from dealing with the aforementioned people. Therefore, after a long hiatus, I have returned to ntcf.wordpress.com to express MY opinion on the current state of the New England Patriots.

Because this post will encompass the past 4 weeks, I’m going to limit my opinion sharing to a select few topics. If I touched on everything, we’d be here for a week. In no particular order:

TOM BRADY
Do I believe that Tom Brady’s skill set has diminished? Yes. Do I think that the team can’t rely on Brady to cover up for mistakes or a lack of talent like in pervious years? Yes. Do I still want Tom Brady as my quarterback? Without a shadow of a doubt. I still think that Tom Brady is a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. Is he playing like it currently? No not at all. But there are so many variables that play a role in Tom Brady’s performance. It’s impossible to judge how much Brady has declined based on several factors, including poor offensive line play, decreased talent at wide receiver, a still recovering Rob Gronkowski, and a very inconsistent run game. All of those factors lead to my original point, Tom Brady’s skill set has diminished slightly. In years past, the Patriots have had poor talent at wideout, and yet Brady would move the ball down the field effortlessly. Additionally, Brady is locking in on recievers more than I can ever remember. Is that a lack of talent? Maybe a lack of trust? Only Brady knows that, but it’s certainly an issue. In previous seasons, there have been issues along the offensive line, and yet Tom Brady would deliver quick passes that were on point and not allow the defense to get to him. However, I personally can not remember a season where the offensive line was in disarray and the receiving corps was not on the same page as Brady both at the same time. I believe that is the reason Tom Brady and the Patriots offense is struggling mightily to start the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Has the Logan Mankins trade affected the offensive line play so far this season? In my opinion, yes. If you gave me the option to do the trade all over again, would I? Absolutely not. I’m sorry, I just don’t understand the trade. I’m sure that Mankins’ play has declined, and I commented on it to some friends last season. But come on, I would take Mankins over Jordan Devey 10 times out of 10. I just don’t understand why you deal away arguably your best offensive lineman 2 weeks before the start of the season when you have a 37 year old immobile quarterback and when there doesn’t seem to be an in house replacement ready to go. However, that does not excuse Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, and the remainder of the lineman for their shit play this season. Last week I read an article by Pro Football Focus that ranked every single offensive lineman that played at least 1 snap this season. Solder ranked 65 out of 69 left tackles. Vollmer was 63 out of 69. Come on! That’s pathetic. Nate Solder is a 6’8” marshmallow. Vollmer looks very rigid and is an injury waiting to happen. The only lineman I like on the Patriots right now is Bryan Stork. The dude has a mean streak about him. That is what this team is missing. In Kansas City on Monday night, the offensive line played their best game thus far (that isn’t saying much). Stork looks like he may be the answer at center, and Fleming played a decent right guard. Now, Fleming has been ruled out of the game Sunday against Cincy. Maybe the Pats will give Devey another look! Looks like Brady will be in “duck and cover” mode again Sunday night.

THE DEFENSE
A buddy of mine last week told me that the Patriots had the best defense in the league. I questioned him, commenting on the second half of the Miami game and the lack of competition in Minnesota and Oakland. He gave me shit about not judging the team based on one bad half, blah, blah. Well, he’s not making such definitive statements after the Kansas City game. Much has been made of Darrelle Revis not looking like an absolute stud. I’ll admit, he hasn’t been amazing. However, I can’t say that I watched every game Revis played in New York. Maybe he coasts against sub par talent. I do think the Pats are trying out a variety of schemes on defense, and Revis isn’t allowed to lock down on a wideout for the whole game just yet. AJ Green coming to town is the ultimate test of how good Revis still is and how the Patriots will utilize his strengths.

Revis isn’t the big issue for this team. It’s the defensive line. Much has been made of Chandler Jones making a big leap to become on of the elite pass rushers heading into year 3. Well, I’m not on board. I’ve never been thrilled with Jones’ skill set. He’s big, but gets overpowered way too often. He’s fast, but doesn’t seem to have that quick twitch speed off of the line. When teams run to his side, he gets steam rolled. A vast majority of his sacks last season were coverage sacks (surprising, I know). As we move down the line, we see Vince, who’s still a serviceable defensive tackle, but certainly isn’t the same player that he was 3-4 years ago. We find the combination of Silva Salinga, Chris Jones, and Joe Vellano. I’d rather have Scott Patterson and Chris Veltri shedding blocks out there. And finally Nonkovich. I’m not a big Ninkovich guy. Never have been, probably never will be. He isn’t consistent enough of a player to be relied on to start. Don’t forget, Tommy Kelly was cut over what likely would amass to about 800k in salary. Great move guys!

THE RECEIVERS
Via ESPN Boston – “In my year and a half with Aaron Dobson, he has always been respectful to me and to the rest of the coaching staff. He has never once been argumentative or confrontational. The suggestion and reporting that his playing time was in any way the result of a ‘loud disagreement’ with a coach is completely false.”

That was Bill Belichick’s prepared statement that was released approximately 3 hours after refusing to answer questions regarding Aaron Dobson at his press conference today. Is it just me, or is this whole situation really, really weird? Your second year 2nd round wide receiver is inactive for 3 of the first 4 games, not because of health or he wouldn’t have played in one game, but allegedly because of mouthing off. Now, Belichick comes out, says Dobson is respectful and never had a disagreement with a coach. So now, he’s inactive because he sucks? What the hell is going on? The Patriots have NEVER been able to evaluate wide receiver talent well, and the more that this saga continues, the more concerned I am that Dobson isn’t going to pan out.

As for the rest of the bunch, Edelman is Brady’s crutch. If he goes down, kiss the season goodbye. Lafell looked better last week, but I get the sense that they were trying to force feed him the ball to either boost his morale or give the defense another look. Either way, I’m not sold. Danny Amendola can’t get open without them running a pick play for him. Kenbrell allegedly isn’t very good either because he’s been inactive this season as well.

What I believe is really plaguing this group is the lack of a deep threat. We originally thought Dobson would be that guy, but apparently not. Ed Reed made a comment on whatever show he is on that he wouldn’t be afraid of any wide receiver the Patriots have. What that means to me is that they safeties creep up closed to the line of scrimmage, cornerbacks are more likely to jump shorter routes, and linebackers have less responsibility in pass coverage and can therefore blitz more often. All of that adds up to some ineffective play a wide receiver.

THE GAMEPLANNING / COACHING / ROSTER DECISIONS
Zone coverage for Darrell Revis. Only 3 wide recievers are active against KC (5 running backs active), and yet we open the game in shotgun and don’t run the ball until late in the first quarter. Failure to stay committed to the run game (especially against porous run defenses like Oakland). Bringing back Patrick Chung to start at strong safety even though we let him go last time because he sucked. Putting Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins on the same side of the formation defensively, basically beginning teams to run in that direction, and get big yardage. We have to assume that things will get better, because Bill’s track record depicts that it should. However, many of these issues need to be addressed sooner rather than later, or I truly believe that the coaching staff will be in danger of losing this team.


I guess all it comes down to after that long ass rant is what Billy Boy said this past week, “We are on to Cincinnati.”

Super Bowl XLVIII: Scottie vs. Mattyoshow

My fanship got the best of me last week, as I went with the Pats to beat the Broncos.  Meanwhile, Scottie went with his brain and picked up the win in that matchup.  On the week, Scottie went 2-0 with 24 confidence points.  I, on the other hand, went 1-1 with 16 confidence points. For the playoffs, Scottie is 7-3 with 46 confidence points, while I am 6-4 with 37 confidence points.  Considering that the Super Bowl is worth 16 confidence points, our playoff battle comes down to the Super Bowl for the 3rd consecutive season.  Let’s do it…

Denver vs. Seattlerichard-sherman-peyton-manning

Scottie: Seattle

Sorry, Matty I am going to continue to go with my brain.  Sure I can make this whole thing a lot more interesting but the truth is I don’t see Denver winning this one.  I am looking forward to seeing Richard Sherman cover Demaryius Thomas all day.  I am also a little tired of Wes Welker.  Before he came to New England, he was a nobody who middled around the Chargers and Dolphins organizations returning punts.  Bill Belichick and Tom Brady made him.  I would be okay with him if he took the high road and recognized what Belichick did for him instead of engage in this mini cat fight.  Much like Matty says below, the thought of rooting for Peyton Manning nauseates me.  Unlike the Patriots the Seahawks will stick with their strategy of running the ball down Denver’s throat.  The Terrance Knighton vs. Marshawn Lynch matchup will be an interesting one.   I am not looking forward to rooting for Pete Carroll on Sunday but he is the lesser of two evils.

Mattyoshow: SeattleUnknown

I’m going with the Seahawks for two primary reasons in Super Bowl XLVIII.  First, I can’t stand Peyton Manning and it would just piss me off if he won another Super Bowl.  Second, the Seahawks’ defense matches up amazingly with the Broncos’ offense.  Let me break it down for you.  The two keys to success against a Peyton Manning led team are 1: pressure him without having to blitz, and 2: jamming his receivers to throw off his timing.  Seattle possesses the ability to do both of those things.  Their cornerbacks are big and physical, which will cause problems for Thomas, Decker, and Welker.  I think Seattle will focus their efforts on slowing down Denver’s two outside wide receivers and then just plan on punishing Welker and Julius Thomas whenever they catch the ball.  Offensively, Seattle can control the clock with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson will come up big.

Mattyoshow: Broncos

Well, Scottie is gonna be an ass and pick the same team as me, so I’m going with the Broncos just to potentially get a win.

Brother to Brother: Episode 3

In this edition of Brother to Brother, I present the topics, and Big Bro responds.  My comments will be in regular font.  Steve’s will be in italics.  Please note: My comments were made January 21.  Steve took some time responding.  His comments were made January 23.

In this edition we talk about the Patriots season, top 10 Friars we have seen play, Jeff Green, and various other topics!

1) The Patriots have no reason to be upset with the season they had.  They lost to the better team on Sunday.  To be honest, I expected them to get walloped to the tune of 42-24 or so.  I still believe the Patriots can make another run next year because there is no clear cut team in the AFC ready to make the next step.  Keep in mind the Pats will be healthy coming into next season.  All in all you might be able to say the Pats overachieved this season.  Still hurts to lose to Peyton though.untitled

Pats –  Great season.  Something very difficult for NE fans to keep in perspective.  The Pats have been to the AFC Championship 8 times and 6 Super Bowls in the last 20 years, plus amazing winning percentage.  Pats fans are spoiled because of all the success.  Think of the following teams:  Browns, Bills, Jags, Texans, Cowboys, Lions, Dolphins, Bengals, Raiders, Bucs, Redskins, .  Cowboys have not won a playoff game in 20 years.  Think about that.  They had a great season and the future looks bright.  You could make the argument that their off-season acquisitions will be the return of injured players (Wilfork, Kelly, Armstead, Mayo, Talib, 3 rookie receivers, full season of Vereen, Gronk, Amendola at full health).  I read they were the second youngest team in the NFL.  Health was the biggest factor for them.  I also saw that Amendola should have been on season ending IR in Oct, maybe people will give him a break, he must be tough.

2) Everyone is bashing Richard Sherman.  You know I like to stick up for the guy everyone hates.  Let’s be honest, his cough adrenaline cough was flying high after the biggest play of the season to send his team to the Super Bowl.  You interview him 10-15 minutes after that play on the field?  He is still emotional.  Everyone knows his history.  Of course that outburst was going to happen.  He was jacked up.  And I have no problem with it.  I like seeing emotion a lot more than the usual “yes man” athlete.  I thought it was fantastic to see the unadulterated emotion.

 Sherman – Ehhh, an example of a non-story becoming a story.  Wow, an NFL player talked trash, gee I never saw such a thing.

3)Eddie Cooley has the Friars at “first 4 out” in the latest Bracketology.  Amazing he has the team this competitive with the adversity the team has faced this season.  He is basically playing 6 guys.  Bryce Cotton has played 50 minutes twice this season.  Cooley has said he will come out of the game when he graduates.  Cotton has crept into the 10 top Friars I have ever seen.  I know my list will vary greatly from yours but here it is.  1) Eric Murdock 2) Austin Croshere 3) Eric Williams 4) Ryan Gomes 5) Michael Smith 6) John Linehan 7) Bryce Cotton 8) Dickey Simpkins 9) MarShon Brooks 10) Jamel Thomas.untitled

Friars – In no particular order – Billy Donovan, Eric Murdock, Soup Campbell, Otis Thorpe, Eric Williams, Ryan Gomes, Austin Croshere, Ron Jackson, Joe Hassett, Michael Smith.  Ask Dad if he remembers Ron Jackson.  They very best were before my time:  Ernie D, Marvin Barnes and Jimmy Walker.  Special note to Marty Conlon, became a solid NBA player, but no one saw that coming.  And special note to Harold Starks, the greatest energy, defense first guy they ever had.

4) The Longhorns had a big win over #8 Iowa State the same day PC beat #20 Creighton.  Our squads are looking up?  Frankly, Iowa State is a one and done candidate come March.  I don’t think they get out of the first round.  After PC beat Creighton, Creighton turned around and smacked #4 Villanova by 30.  Too bad the transitive property doesn’t pertain to college basketball. Keep in mind Nova smashed PC by 30.

Longhorns & Barnes – Crazy program.  It is obviously a football school, but he has built a great basketball program.  The team is 2-3 recruits away from being very, very good.  Problem is when they get the talent, they are not around long.  But something to think about, here is a list and again in no particular order of the guys UT/Barnes has placed in the NBA.  TJ Ford, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph, DJ Augustin, Daniel Gibson, Jordan Hamilton, Dexter Pittman, Royal Ivey, Damion Jones, Tristan Thompson, PJ Tucker, Chris Mihm.

5) It is time to explore trade options for Jeff Green.  The Celtics are in a complete rebuild mode.  Green is a fringe player.  He has shown signs of being a top dog in the NBA, other times he completely disappears.  I don’t see him as a guy that can lead a team anywhere.  Remember the old line Bobby Knight used referring to Steve Alford?  That applies to Green.  The Celtics should rebuild around Rondo and Sullinger.  I compare Sullinger to Charles Barkley.  Both are undersized power forwards, who have a knack for cleaning the glass.  Sullinger is trying to develop some range similar to Kevin Love.  As long as his back holds up, Sullinger can be a great guy to build around.  Remember he was supposed to be a #1 overall pick after his freshman year but he stayed in school.  Time to trade Green for a first round pick somewhere.untitled

Jeff Green – Dropped 39 last night.  I still go back to my comments last year during the playoffs.  This is a guy who has been Option #3 for most of his career. He is an outstanding athlete, but does not have the instinct for selfish play and may not be a natural leader.  That is not a bad thing, when you think of the alternative, which is someone who wants to lead but can’t or sends the wrong message.  Also, you cannot have a locker room full of so-called self-appointed leaders, then you have nothing, sometimes having no drama guys who follow is a great thing to have.  Ainge actually did a good job with him from a contract standpoint.  He did not overpay.  I would rather have Green and his contract than Wallace and his contract.

6) Now that the Patriots season is over, the focus in the region will be the Bruins.  The Bruins are in second in the Eastern Conference, 5 points behind Pittsburgh.  They could be in trouble come playoff time because they lost Dennis Seidenberg for the season to an ACL injury.  The defensive pairing of Chara and Seidenberg has completely shut down high-flying offenses in years past.  Seidenberg might be the most underrated athlete in Boston.

Bruins – I have to do a better job following hockey.  My lack of hockey knowledge is apparent.

7)The Olympic break is one of the more interesting conundrums in sports.  Hockey owners must hate sending their best players to Sochi.  The beauty of the Olympic hockey is hockey players are a different breed. Cam Neely said it best when asked why the hockey players compete in the Olympics and do everything they can to win (as opposed to NBA players who coast through these competitions) “because they don’t know any better.”  The Olympics will serve as the true All Star Games fans want to see.

Olympics – Ehhh, used to love it, now it just feels like a pre-cursor to Campbell’s soup commercials and Wheaties boxes for the lucky winner.

8)Not much news on the Red Sox.  I am praying the Mets sign Stephen Drew so Xander and Middlebrooks will not have to look over their shoulder and have their development stunted by Drew.  The Grady Sizemore deal is reminiscent of when the Red Sox signed Rocco Baldelli.  Low risk/ high reward.  He offers competition for the center field spot with Jackie Bradley Jr.  I can’t honestly say I am expecting anything from him.imagesCAUU54PH

Red Sox –  Grady Sizemore!  Way to go all out Cherrington.  Reminds me of when Sinden ran the Bruins knowing they would always make money so never signed the talent to get to the Cup.  Although, I think the Sox really learned their lesson with Crawford/Gonzo signings.  They saw the burden those contracts might present, the animosity of the fans when they don’t perform.  Boston fans would rather have guys killing themselves to prove themselves, than guys who get  paid a lot to demonstrate apathy with W-L.  Boston fans can handle losing, if they know the players hate losing.  If they think the players are rich guys who could care less, it gets ugly.

Peter Vescey follows me on Twitter and you should too @ScottieNTCF.

2013-2014 NFL Conference Championship Picks: Scottie vs. MattyoShow

I went undefeated last week correctly predicting the outcome of all four divisional playoff games.  My perfect weekend tied me with MattyO for the playoff wins-loss aspect of this challenge.  Matty lost one game incorrectly picking the Panthers to beat the 49ers.  We are both 5-3.  I have 22 confidence points.  Matty has 21 confidence points.  As always, it is a tight matchup.  This weekend we have two close games to choose from.

Scottie’s confidence grows on a weekly basis as I continue to fail to put him away.  This weekend is huge, and I need to go 2 for 2.  My fanship for the Pats will most likely interfere with my brain function while making these picks, but I’m so pumped for this game I can’t help it!  Let’s do it…

Patriots @ Broncos

Scottie: Broncos 8

The weather report for Sunday in Denver calls for temperatures reaching nearly 60 degrees with 0% chance of precipitation.  In other words, ideal weather for Peyton Manning.  Since when does it hit anything above 35 in Denver in the middle of January?  I hate to say it but I believe this weather dooms the Pats.  Peyton can’t choke when there are no elements to deal with.  He is surrounded by too many deadly weapons on offense.  Talib will play Demaryius Thomas, Dennard on Decker, Arrington on Welker, and Collins on Julius Thomas?  Without Brandon Spikes, Knowshon Moreno will gut the Pats up the middle time and time again.  I see no possible way the Patriots can pull this one out in Denver.

On a side note, I want nothing more than for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl this season.  I want Aaron Hernandez to know he was not important to this team.  I do not want him to have the luxury of saying, “If I had of been there…”

Matt: Patriots 8

Scottie says there is no possible way that the Pats can win in Denver.  The weather will be nice, Brandon Spikes is still snowed in, Peyton Manning has had arguably the best season of his career, and so on.  Well, guess what Scottie, the Pats are winning this game!  Tom Brady has as much to prove as Peyton Manning.  The guy hasn’t won a title in 9 years.  His playoff stats since that point are similar to Peyton Manning.  The Broncos can run Moreno all they want.  Heck, he can rush for 300 yards.  That means Peyton Manning isn’t completing passes and the Patriots game plan is being successful.  Tom Brady gets the job done in crunch time, Peyton Manning shits his pants with the game on the line.  DONE DEAL!

49ers @ Seahawks

Scottie: Seahawks 16

Everyone is talking up Kapernick vs. Wilson.  In reality this game is a tale of two hard nosed running backs and two incredible defenses.  The teams are near mirror images of each other.  I never pick against Seattle when they are playing at home.  I will not break that habit now.  Yes, the Niners are the hottest team in football coming into Sunday.  That will not matter on Sunday.  Kaepernick will not be able to solve the Seahawks defense and the crowd will be all over Kaepernick from he player introductions until the time the Seahawks are crowned NFC Champions.

Matt: Seahawks 16

So much is being made of how great the 49ers are.  Guess what, they aren’t that awesome!  In the Wild Card round, they beat up on a Green Bay team that had their starting quarterback playing for the first time in over 2 months.  Last week they took out the Panthers, whom were underprepared and under-talented.  This week, they are matched up with a team that knows what it takes to win playoff games (last week’s game against the Saints was the most physical game I’ve seen all season) and has a HUGE advantage when playing at home.  The 49ers defense will keep it close, but I expect a big mistake from Kaepernick to be the difference in this game.

2013-2014 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks: Scottie vs. MattyOShow

Obviously, I did not do so well last week in my picks.  Once the Chiefs blew a 28 point lead in the third quarter in the first game of the weekend I knew I was in trouble the rest of the weekend.  The highlight of my weekend was picking the Chargers upset, especially because Matty called me “an idiot” last week for doing so.  In hindsight, was that not an obvious pick?  I need to get my stuff together here because Matty has smoked me from the second half of the season on.  Yes, I took home the regular season title but I want more!

Playoff Record

Scottie-  1-3  2 points

Matt- 2-2  3 points

Saints @ Seahawks

Scottie: Seahawks  8

I don’t buy what the Saints are selling.  I was pretty surprised they won last weekend in Philly. But I can confidently say their playoff run ends in Seattle.  The Seattle defense is too good, their crowd is too loud, and they are getting healthy on the offensive end of the ball at the right time.  I will stick with my mantra.  Seattle does not lose at home.

Matt: Seahawks 4

The Seattle Seahawks at home might be the best team in the NFL.  On the road, they aren’t as scary, but at home with that crowd they are nearly unbeatable.  Meanwhile, the Saints on the road are a completely different team, and Drew Brees in the elements rarely gets the job done.

Colts @ Patriots

Scottie: Patriots 2

I do not know why, but this game makes me nervous as a Patriot fan.  The Colts defense isn’t spectacular however they are opportunistic.  Robert Mathis’s strip sack was the game changer last week in their come from behind win over the Chiefs.  If the Colts can clog the middle of the field on defense, the Patriots are in trouble.  LaGarrette Blount will need to carry the load against the Colts, chewing up clock, and keeping Andrew Luck off the field.  I believe Kyle Arrington will garner the TY Hilton assignment because Hilton works primarily out of the slot.  Talib will cover Da’Rick Rodgers or Griff Whalen.  Do not expect Deion Branch to be a factor.  The zombie Patriot fan mindset says the Patriots win because they have Brady and Belichick.  I don’t think it will be that simple.  I am a Patriots fan, so I am picking my team.

Matt: Patriots 8

I’m not sure why I am so confident in this game, but I just feel like there is no way that the Pats are losing this game.  Indy is arguably the most ideal matchup for the Pats, considering they aren’t stout running the ball and have a tough time stopping the run.  Lately, the Pats haven’t been able to stop the run and have been pounding the rock like the Ravens of 2000.  Tom Brady is better than Andrew Luck, for now, and that will show on Saturday night.

49ers @ Panthers

Scottie: 49ers 6

The Panthers were the biggest surprise of the 2013 season.  Their defense has been stingy.  Cam Newton has really developed into what everyone thought he would be coming out of college.  All of that is fantastic.  I just don’t see the inexperienced Panthers taking down a battle tested 49er team.  The Niners have been on this stage before.  The Panthers have not.  The 49er defense will neutralize Cam Newton and the rushing attack will lead the Niners past the Panthers in Carolina.  Do not expect this game to be high scoring as both defenses are rather stout.

Matt: Panthers 2

Everyone is jumping on the 49ers bandwagon, however is it really that impressive to beat a Packers team that had their starting quarterback return for the first time in 2 months by 3 points?  I don’t think so.  Kaepernick is dynamic, but he might be the most overrated quarterback in the NFL.  Meanwhile, while most believe that Sunday’s game will be a coming out party for Cam Newton, I think that this game will be a Luke Kuechly coming out party.

Chargers @ Broncos

Scottie: Broncos 4

Every part of my being wants to pick San Diego in this matchup.  I just can’t pull the trigger.  Beating Denver in the regular season might be the worst thing that could have happened to the Chargers.  I expect the Broncos to still have a bitter taste in their mouth from that loss.  They had last week off to get healthy.  I expect Peyton will come out guns blazing and the Chargers won’t be able to keep up with the high powered Broncos offense.

Matt: Broncos 6

The season series is 1-1.  The Chargers are an 8.5 point under dog.  I put some money down on San Diego covering the spread, however I think that there is little chance that the Broncos lose this game.  Yes, Peyton Manning has lost more 1st time playoff games than any other quarterback in NFL history (8), but he really can’t do that again…can he?

Brother to Brother: Episode 2

I have decided to change the title of this feature to NTCF.  “From Austin to Providence” was too close to Brandon Austin and the Providence College Friars in my mind.  I hope y’all can deal with the change.  If you have any suggestions for a better title please don’t hesitate to comment!  A reminder: My brother’s (Steve) comments will be in regular font.  My responses will be in italics.

Here is what was on the minds of the Patterson boys this week!

NBA:
1.  Miami Heat – Recently read how the Heat would be the first team to go make 4 consecutive finals appearances since the 1987 Celtics.  You have often asked about Bird and the 80’s Celts.  No better way than history repeating itself in a rarity.  So Jordan, Hakeem, Duncan, O’Neal, Bryant, Stockton/Malone, Isaiah etc. and even Magic, never did it.  Possibly, it gives you an idea of how good the Celts were in the 80s.Big-3-win
1) I know I always argue Pierce belongs in the all time great Celtic conversation.  The truth is, I was too young to really remember those 80’s teams.  That is pretty incredible the Celtics were able to get to 4 Finals in a row without free agency really being a factor.  I also believe Jordan’s Bulls would have easily made 4 and probably won 4 in a row if he wasn’t suspen- ahem, if he didn’t leave to play baseball.  Keep in mind The New Big Three Era with the Celtics.  If they avoided injuries to KG, Perk, and Avery Bradley it is very likely they could have achieved the same feat.
2.  Pacers – Like their chances if Granger contributes off the bench.
4.  Portland Trailblazers – Head Coach Terry Stotts deserves some serious accolades.  Look at their roster and tell me they would be 26-8?  Hopefully, they stay healthy and make a trade deadline deal to help with some wing scoring.
2/4) The Pacers and Blazers are particularly interesting because they both built their teams through the draft.  They are the anti-Heat, anti-Nets.  They also do not have a superstar on their team that David Stern smashes you over the head with in his marketing ventures.  I will make the argument Damian Lillard is the best point guard in the NBA.  Also Paul George and Lance Stephenson have been great in Indy this year.  It wouldn’t be the sexiest NBA Final, but I would definitely watch it from a pure basketball standpoint.
3.  Tanking – This is a really big issue for the NBA.  You could make the argument that 13 of the 15 teams in the East would prefer NOT to be in the playoffs or Finals.  Enough said.
3) There has to be a remedy to stop the tanking issue.  Even if teams aren’t tanking, the perception is there.  Maybe the 9th seed from each conference should get the most ping pong balls in the lottery.  Do it that way, and keep the league more competitive.
5.  Kobe and KG – Interesting how the media plays out the end for players, meaning as if it is unexpected.  Both players always played hard and now the years and mileage catch up.  Then, you look at Duncan at 17 pts and 9 rebs and you wonder why Coach Pop gets criticized for resting players.
5) You have dealt with this more than I have but man is it difficult watching the guys you grew up watching get old.  It’s like the media expects KG to be a 20-12 guy every night.  Remember how much of a beast he was in Minnesota in his prime?  His last years as a Celtic he started to taper off but was still very serviceable.  Sad that he is getting criticized.  He does not deserve it.
NFL:
1.  Pats – Getting home field was big, I think they can get it done against the Colts.  Talib neutralizes TY Hilton, the defense bends, not breaks.  Brady dials up some vintage clutch 3rd down play and…..Blount, Ridley, Vereen do the rest.
1) Everyone around here seems to think the Pats will coast by the Colts.  Have Patriot fans not learned their lesson the past few untitledseasons?  Remember when they were suppose to spank the Jets a few years back? Then they lost.  Granted the Colts only true weapon on offense for Luck to utilize is TY Hilton.  I actually expect Kyle Arrington to play him since Hilton plays primarily out of the slot.  Losing Brandon Spikes bothers me because he brings an attitude to the defense.  Not many guys like going over the middle when he is playing.  The injuries this team has suffered over the course of the year is bordering on ridiculous.  3rd down has been a mammoth issue up here.  Brady doesn’t have that dependable guy to go to on 3rd.  For some reason this game scares me.  Once again the Patriots will only go as far as Brady and The Hoody can take them.
2.  Bengals – A lot of criticism on Andy Dalton and he did not play a good game.  But the infatuation with QB controversies could be a really bad trend.  People forget, he is the guy who got your sorry franchise in the playoffs in his first three years after about 20 years of nothing.  The Bengals should be AFC favorites next year.  Guess who lost his first 3 playoff games? Peyton Mannning.  Not comparing Manning to Dalton, just stating that overreaction and knee jerk can get a franchise in a lot of trouble.  Just ask the Raiders, Bucs, Jags, Titans, Bills…
2) I agree with you 100%.  I believe people like to bash because it is fun to bash.  The bottom line is Andy Dalton has brought the Bengals into respectability.  Peyton Manning lost his first 8 playoff games all the while resurrecting the Colts franchise.  No, Dalton is not Manning but at the same time he shouldn’t be facing the level of heat he currently is facing. 
3.  Westlake HS – Drew Brees and Nick Foles both went to Westlake.  Just so you know, that is only about 10 miles from our house.
3) Everyone will be quick to criticize Mack Brown for not recruiting either Foles or Brees, but remember who was quarterbacking the Longhorns at the time Foles and Brees were in college.  Foles graduated college in 2011. (Colt McCoy)  Brees graduated in 2000  (Chris Simms-Major Applewhite)
4.  Kaepernick – Not sure what it is, but I am not sure I am a fan.  Respect his ability, athleticism, but there just seems to be something missing?  Maybe I like the traditional Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers guys more than the RGIII, Kaepernick guys.   Here is a thought, I think the 49ers would be in the same spot with just about 18 other QBs in the league, their roster is loaded on both sides of the ball.   For argument, any of the following would have them in the same position (Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Romo, Cutler, Foles, Vick, Newton, E. Manning, Stafford, Ryan, Wilson, Palmer, Roethlisberger, Luck, Smith).  I would say that Kaepernick could NOT get the following teams to the playoffs with the current roster.  (Giants, Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings, Bucs, Cardinals, Rams, Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Browns, Titans, Jags, Raiders, Chargers)untitled
4) Interesting way of looking at the quarterback argument.  I love/hate Kaepernick.  Love his talent.  Hate that he screwed my fantasy football team this year.  I think he is better than Matthew Stafford.  Stafford is so insanely overrated it’s beyond anything that could be considered a rational thought.  Give me Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, hell just give me Calvin Johnson and I can throw for 350 yards, too!  I also absolutely 100% believe Kaepernick takes the Bears to the Super Bowl and wins it no matter who the opponent is.  Also the 49ers would be worse with Carson Palmer as their quarterback.  He is terrible.  Same can be said for Jay Cutler.
5.  Versatile HBs – Woodhead, Sproles, Charles, McCoy really like those guys.  If Manning did not have such a monster year, I really think J. Charles is the MVP.  He is Priest Holmes and M. Faulk 2.0.
5) Jamal Charles should be the MVP.  He did more with less talent around him.  Peyton Manning had a video game like roster on his hands.  If he did anything less than what he did this season, he’d be considered a failure.  Heck, I’d even say he underachieved this season.  Records mean nothing to me anymore because the rules now protect the offensive side of the ball.  If he had these numbers 5-10 years ago, maybe I’d be impressed.
6.  Coaching Fires – Brutal profession, but I guess most of the guys who were let go, there is reason.  Only guy who did not get a fair shake was Chudzinski in Cleveland.  Seriously, one year and all the injuries at QB (not to mention the QB choices were Weeden, Campbell and Hoyer).  He did not draft those guys and he did not pick or trade Richardson.
6) Completely agree Chudzinski got the short end of the stick.  Then you have a guy like Jim Schwartz who should have been fired 3 years ago.  The Schwartz was not with him.
MLB:
1. Sox – Nothing
1)  The story with the Red sox right now is whether they will bring back Stephen Drew or not.  I hope he signs elsewhere.  If he stays, he stunts the development of Will Middlebrooks and Xander Boegarts.  In a full season, Middlebrooks will hit 30 home runs and drive in 100.
2. Astros – Less than nothing
2) I think the Astros will win more than they did last season.  Shouldn’t be hard since that total is 51.  Only players worth watching on their roster are Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler.  Can’t believe they gave Scott Feldman a 3 year contract for $30 million.  Feldman…from across the hall!  (Bizarro Seinfeld-world Kramer!)
3. Pujols – Saw the other day, he is only 33 years old.  Playing like he is 43.  Wait, I am 43.  Ok, 53 then.
4. Hank Aaron – Look up his numbers some day (then Gehrig and Ruth).  Man!  Basically, Pujols would have to average 30 homers for the next 7 years to reach 720 career home runs, 35 short of Aaron.  Of course, Aaron needed 700 more games than Ruth to hit 755.  Bonds needed 483 more games to hit 762 than Ruth’s 714.  Yeah-yeah, not to mention PED assisted.
3-4) Hank Aaron’s power numbers are absurd.  I say Pujols has an outside chance at some of them because he will likely DH the rest of his career. 
5.  Greg Maddux – Gotta be unanimous – right?untitled
5) Maddux should be unanimous but there is always that one dink writer that wants to make a story and not vote in an obvious selection.  The BBWA is a bigger joke than anything Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, or Ron White ever delivered.
I CAN BE FOLLOWED ON TWITTER @SCOTTIENTCF
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2013 NFL Playoffs Wild Card Round: Scottie vs. Mattyoshow

Last Week:

Scottie: 11-5, 106 CONFIDENCE POINTS

Mattoshow: 11-5, 112 CONFIDENCE POINTS

Regular Season Results:

Scottie: 156-99-1, 1365 CONFIDENCE POINTS

Mattyoshow: 154-101-1, 1373 CONFIDENCE POINTS

My laziness came back to haunt me.  I didn’t put in a solid effort in the last month of the season and Matty came back to snipe me in confidence points.  I did salvage the overall record which is nice considering Matty owned me the past few years.  Now it is playoff time.  Here we go.

Chiefs @ Colts:

Scottie: Chiefs 4

Yes, the Colts beat many of the top teams in the NFL this year including the Seahawks,49ers, and Broncos.  They have also beat the Chiefs.  With all that being said, I believe the Colts will have trouble against the Kansas City defense and even more trouble containing Jamal Charles.  More importantly, the Chiefs do not turn the ball over.  That is a key ingredient for any successful team in the NFL playoffs.

Mattyoshow: Colts – 2 CONFIDENCE POINTS

Mike Felger, from Felger and Mazz, has really been convincing me of one thing over the past week or so: You don’t win in the playoffs by running the football.  You know what, he’s completely right.  Yes, you can ice the game and eat up possession if you can run.  But, you get that lead through the air, that’s just what today’s NFL is all about.  The Colts sputtered towards the end of the season, but as Scottie mentioned, they beat some really good teams this year.  Meanwhile, the Chiefs have been riding Jamaal Charles all season, and their previously heralded defense hasn’t been very good lately.  The Colts are primed for a win, and they beat the Chiefs at home.

Saints @ Eagles:

Scottie: Eagles 3

The Saints are an arena football league team.  They only play well in a dome. They will travel to Philadelphia and battle the Eagles, the cold, and being outside of New Orleans in general.  Nick Foles will be serviceable and for one day he will be the best quarterback to come out of Westlake High School in Austin.

Mattyoshow: Eagles – 4 CONFIDENCE POINTS

Drew Brees in 20 degree weather isn’t the same Drew Brees that plays in a dome at home games.  The Eagles have been arguably the best team in the NFL since week 9, and have been even more dominant at home (finished the year by winning 4 straight home games).  I just don’t think the Saints have the type of team and, more specifically, offense that travels very well, and I expect the Eagles to get off to a quick start and end this game early.

Chargers @ Bengals:

Scottie: Chargers 2

Here is my upset special of the week.  Marvin Lewis is awful in the playoffs.  Phillip Rivers has really developed under soon to be gone Ken Whisenhunt. Yes, the Bengals have a stout defense but they are without Geno Atkins.  Andy Dalton has been inconsistent at best.  At times he has been awful.  Other times he has been great.  I will stick with the more consistent team not named the Bengals.

Mattyoshow: Bengals – 3 CONFIDENCE POINTS

Scottie, you’re an idiot.  The Chargers should have lost to the Chiefs backup squad last week if a certain kicker could make a pretty routine field goal!  I know that Marvin Lewis hasn’t been good in the playoffs.  In fact, he’s been downright awful.  However, this isn’t the Marvin Lewis show anymore, this is the Andy Dalton show.  Similarly to how I feel about Andrew Luck, I just think that Andy Dalton is ready to make that jump from good NFL quarterback to being in the discussion for the top 5 or 6 guys.  And you do that by winning playoff games.

49ers @ Packers:

Scottie: Packers 1

Talk about getting healthy at the right time.  The Packers welcomed back Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb just in time to ensure a playoff berth.  The 49ers will be battling a healthy Packers team and the bitter cold in Green Bay.  The Packers would not have made the playoffs without Aaron Rodgers.  With Aaron Rodgers? They have as good a shot as any team in the NFL at getting to the Super Bowl.  Kaepernick screwed me all year long in fantasy football.  I may hold some bitterness toward him in making this pick.

Mattyoshow: 49ers – 1 CONFIDENCE POINT

This game is going to be brutal.  Brutal to play in, brutal to think about, and brutal to watch.  When talking about cold weather football, what are we always concerned with?  The quarterback’s ability to pass the ball.  How the pigskin comes out of the quarterbacks hand.  Well, in a game with projected wind chills around -40 degrees, either team’s ability to be stout defensively, grab a score, and control the clock with the run will be the determinant of this game.  I believe that the 49ers are better at performing the aforementioned tasks than the Packers, therefore 49ers win.