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.”

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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.

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
(Will Middlebrooks follows me. Obviously you should, too!)

From Austin to Providence: 12/2-12/9 Weekly Report

My brother and I send a weekly email in which we catch up, go over the week in sports, etc.  I thought it would be a good post to put on the blog as far as diversfying the content, which as of late has just been NFL picks.  My brother lives in Texas and doesn’t really get the full feel of the New England sports scene down there.  He has been disappointed with my lack of content on the site lately.  So here is to keeping the site alive and interesting.  For faithful readers dating back to the Mongoose days, this will be reminiscent of my “Mumbles” column, but with an added twist courtesy of my brother.

My brother’s opinions/statements are in regular font.  My responses are in italics.  Enjoy.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated!

1.  Gronk – Tough injury.  Clean play.  The DB said he was afraid to hit him high because of a fine.  Well, I am not sure if that is the thing you are thinking of during the game with a split second to decide on how to hit an opposing player.  Everyone hits Gronk low because hitting him high is a foolish attempt to bring him down.  I hope he recovers well.03982814.r

1) I honestly would not be surprised if Gronk never plays another down of football in his life.  At what point does he say enough is enough?  He was hurt in college often, too.  I find it funny he basically Danny Amendola when it comes to injuries but does not receive the same criticism.  They aren’t soft players, more fragile.  They suffer significant injuries more than the normal athlete.  There are some reports saying Gronk suffered a concussion as well as the knee injury.

2.  Knee injuries – ACL/MCL – I had the same injury (adding torn meniscus, I am willing to bet he has a meniscus tear and it will be corrected in the same surgical procedure), I was hit from the side vs. straight on.  It occurred 6 months ago and I can run, jump, swim and bike.  Here is my point:  I am 43.5 years old, do not have access to world class medical and training staff.  My job is not to be a professional athlete, it is not my only focus.  Under those circumstances (age, time, resources, medical staff), I can honestly say, I would have been able to rebound in 5 months.  For Gronk, in 5 months, that would be Apr/May, then he would have 60 more days for camp.  He can fully recover.  Psychologically, that is another matter.

2) TJ Ward is not at fault here.  That was a clean hit in today’s NFL.  I disagree with you in thinking he processed the thought to go for the knee in that split second.  Safeties and linebackers have been trained to go for the knee for the past few years in order to avoid the 15 yard penalty and subsequent fine.  Going for the knee is second nature, muscle memory, a learned behavior now.

3.  Yankees – So if ARod is not suspended, Yankees cannot afford Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran (or to keep Cano).  This further supports my conspiracy theory that the Yankees and MLB are in collusion to not be on the hook for the contract.  That is not to say that ARod did not use PEDs, it is just stating that he is being treated differently than any other player who has been caught to date.  Because of how his case has been treated, the largest and richest team can shop for free agents after missing the playoffs and the TV revenue that goes with it.  Hmmmm, suspicious maybe?arod-cigar1

3) I would love to see A Rod win his lawsuit.  More over, we, as fans, are appalled at some of these contracts.  I would love to see the owners open up their books and see what type of coin they bring in.  No business man would shell that kind of dough if he didn’t have 125% of said contract.  The numbers boggle my mind.

4.  Pats – Gronk loss is big, but the issue is really the injuries on defense and poor secondary.  They have given up a lot of points.

4) Gronk loss effectively ends the Pats season.  Thankfully all the guys on the offensive side of the ball have experience and can step up.  Edelman has been huge in his contract year this season.  Interesting to see what happens there.  Patriots need to start getting ahead early and then run the bejesus out of the ball and eat up time of possession.  Their best defense is keeping the other offense off the field.

5.  Angels – Was thinking the other day, does the Pujols and Hamilton contracts prohibit the Angels from re-signing Trout?  If Cano gets $240M, Trout is better.  I am sure the arbitration rules kick in somewhere, but I am not that familiar with the rules.

5) Trout is under Angels control for 4 more years.  He will get a 10 year 300 mil contract when he hits free agency. They  Bryce Harper will get a tad less than that.  Scary.  Trout’s money is beyond manageable for the next 4 years. 

6.  Bruins/Thornton – Do not follow hockey as much, but saw the Thornton thing.  Bad for Bruins organization and bad for NHL, they need to make some serious changes regarding fighting and “enforcers”.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to advocate unnecessary violence in pro sports.  Need to look at ejections more oftenost he will get is $15 mil a year in arbitration.Unknown

6) I am in no way supporting Shawn Thornton.  I do not condone what he did.  However, the whole issue could have been avoided if Orpik fought Thornton earlier in the game when Thornton wanted to drop the gloves.  Orpik has fought ONCE in the last 5 years and that was against Alexandre Burrows, a wuss in his own right.  Orpik goes around with these cheap shots and then doesn’t own up to what he did.  Pittsburgh seems to be the Candiens of the Continental United States in the NHL.  James Neal knees Marchand in the head on purpose and then doesn’t own up to it.  After the game Thornton took full responsibility for his actions.  He was damn near in tears and apologetic.  He will get a 10 game suspension for something that could have been avoided if Orpik sacked up earlier in the game.

7.  MMA – Then of course, you see MMA and wonder what all the fuss is about, they have no protective gear and 4-6 oz gloves.

7) Still not really into MMA.

8).  Auburn – If they win it all, they have a great season highlight DVD (Georgia, Alabama and Mizzou games)

8) The final play of the Auburn-Bama game is up there with Doug Flutie and “the band is on the field” in terms of greatest finishes in college football history.  Havent decided who I am rooting for in the national championship yet.  Texas should coast over Oregon since the Ducks lost Marriota for the season.  But they will probably get smashed.  When reading anything I predict, remember I told you and the Green’s the Texans would be in the AFC Championship this season. Grain of salt saying applys here.

9.  Roy Halladay – Announcing retirement, would have loved to have him in Boston during his prime when he was with Toronto.

9)  Halladay was a beast for sure. Last pitcher that routinely threw a minimum of 7 innings every start.  Often times he went complete.Don’t see starters get out of the sixth anymore. Surprised he hung em up.  Thought he would try for a rebound year.  Always strange seeing a guy you watched growing up retire.

10.  World Cup – Tough draw for USA with Germany and Portugal.  I have been watching some Premier League, still love the sport.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that this comment does not have any relevance for you.  🙂South Africa Spain US Confed Cup Soccer

10)  You are forgetting Ghana in that group.  Ghana has knocked the US out the last 2 World Cup’s.  It surely is the group of death.  To devil’s advocate, Portugal is overrated and never plays to their potential.  If they can beat one of the team’s and play the other two to a draw, the permutations would show they advance right?  Boom.  Bet you didn’t see that analysis coming.

11.  RGIII – The shine has kinda worn off, don’t you think?

11) Shanahan will get fired before I am done typing this email.  I feel for RG3 outside of Alfred Morris, he has no supporting cast.  Jordan Reed was good for 3 weeks and that was about it.  Pierre Garcon is a #3 maybe a #2 receiver in the NFL.  Can’t fault RG3, he can’t do it all himself.  I watched a few of his last games, and he hasnt thrown the ball down the field like he did before the injury.  I find that strange.  Until he gets some help, the Redskins will be 4-12 no matter who coaches them.

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

New Challenges Same Results for Patriots

In an effort to make this blog more than just weekly NFL picks, I am going to step out of my comfort zone . I am going to take a look at the New England Patriots through the first four weeks of their 2013-2014 campaign.

Patriot Nation was obviously concerned coming into 2013 with Wes Welker donning Bronco Orange, Aaron Hernandez imageswearing State Penitentiary Orange, and Rob Gronkowski out for an unknown amount of time (sorry no orange reference there).  Through four games, the Patriots have traded in their high-flying ways for more of a smash mouth variety with a concentration on playing stout defense.  Most will be quick to argue the Patriots have been the beneficiary of an easy schedule opening against the Bills, Jets, Bucs and the 1-3 Falcons.  Most will be quick to argue the Patriots beat rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, and beat a now benched Josh Freeman.  The same people forget guys named Dan Orlovsky, Mark Sanchez, and Ryan Fitzpatrick have thrown up serious numbers against the Patriots in years past.  It has been refreshing to see the Patriots get off the field after third down.  It has been refreshing to see the Pats defense make stops to win ball games,

The biggest reason for the defensive success has been Aqib Talib.  Talib is the first true shut down corner I can remember theaqib-talib-boss-face-570x320 Patriots having since Ty Law.  Talib’s coverage of Julio Jones on Sunday night was masterful throughout the game.  On Atlanta’s last chance, he batted the ball away from Roddy White in the corner of the end zone.  Over the last several years, the Patriots cornerback would’ve been beaten like a drum and the Falcons would have tied the game.  Not with Talib on the field.  Talib’s off the field troubles are well documented.  Off field problems are a particularly sensitive subject in New England nowadays.  From a public relations perspective, they have to tread lightly with Talib.  Be that as it may, I believe re-signing Talib as soon as possible is in their best interests.  I was stunned when he decided to come back to New England over the summer on a 1 year deal for $5 million.  Cornerbacks that can shut down opposing receivers are at premium in today’s NFL.  The Patriots have one of the best in the business.  They need to evolve from “The Patriot Way” and pay the man.

Speaking of paying the man, I have to wonder if Rob Gronkowski would be back on the field by now if he hadn’t of signed RobGronkowski-dllp-570xthe 6 year $54 million extension back in June of 2012.  Why Rob Gronkowski does not receive an iota of the criticism Jacoby Ellsbury receives in this region is beyond comprehension.  The scoreboard says Jacoby has a championship ring and Gronk does not.  The scoreboard says Ellsbury and Gronk are real life versions of Samuel L Jackson’s character in Unbreakable.  I feel that since the Patriots signed both tight ends to long-term deals, the young men repaid them with reckless behavior.  Gronk has his money and will play when he wants to.  I can’t appreciate that out of Gronk as fan.  At the same time, I will risk speaking out of both sides of my mouth.  The Patriots have been fine without Gronk through the first four games of the season.  Given the choice, I’d rather have Gronk healthy for the playoffs than the beginning of the season.

Lastly, I would like to speak to the genius of the coach, Bill Belichick.  Belichick introduced the hurry up, no huddle, fast break style offense to the NFL.  Many teams have now employed that strategy to the point where it is now the norm in the NFL.  Belichick has already gotten away from that strategy out of necessity and also to defend it.  Many wondered why the Patriots were carrying four running backs coming into the season.  The answer is now clear.  Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LaGarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden are all work horse backs that can fight for tough yardage.  They all can get at least 4 yards in a carry which is all you need in football to get a first down. Taking the air out of the football is Belichick’s way of defending the fast break offense.  Adding the ground and pound element to a stout defense is a recipe for winning football games.

It also does hurt the Patriots that the greatest quarterback of all time is under center.  And it doesn’t matter who is receiving corps is.

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

Assessing the Final 53 for the New England Patriots

Quarterback (2):

1. Tom Brady

2. Ryan Mallett

Analysis: No surprise here with the two names listed above.  For me, the surprise is that Tim Tebow got cut.  Here’s my thought process: When the Pats signed Tebow, they knew about his struggles as a passer and had to assume that he was going to be a developmental project.  Then, Tebow comes in, shits his pants throwing the ball as was suspected, and yet he gets cut.  I just don’t understand why Tebow was brought in if they weren’t in it for a long-term developmental project.

Running Back (5):

1. Stevan Ridley

2. Shane Vereen

3. Brandon Bolden

4. LeGarrette Blount

5. James Develin

Analysis: In my opinion, 5 is too high.  Yes, James Develin is a fullback by trade, but on a team that relies primarily on the pass, keeping 5 running backs makes you pretty thin in other areas.  With that being said, I love having both LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden waiting in the wings.  We all know that Shane Vereen has had some problems staying healthy, but if Ridley were to ever go down, both Blount and Bolden are more than capable of handling the load.  My question is surrounding the 3rd down running back.  If Vereen goes down, who handles the pass blocking and catching?  Blount has never been known to have great hands, and Bolden is an unknown.

Tight End (3):

1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Michael Hoomanawanui

3. Zach Sudfeld

Analysis: For those of you that have sprouted a little Gronkowski in your pants after seeing the Pats remove him from the PUP list, let’s examine Gronk’s injury history.  During the Patriots last two Super Bowl appearances, Gronkowski, arguably the Patriots’ most dangerous offensive weapon, was banged up.  Wouldn’t you rather have a healthy Gronk in the playoffs rather than in week 3 of the regular season?  I know that I would.  I was a proponent of him starting the season on the PUP, and am still leaning in that direction.  Hoo-man and Sudfeld were no brainers in my opinion.  Hoo-man is a good blocker and has familiarity with the system.  He also has the ability to play both TE and FB.  Sudfeld has shown some flashes of greatness in the preseason, but needs to ass bulk to his frame.  I could see him in a Hernandez-like role this season, playing primarily outside of a 3-point stance, running routes and not run blocking very often.  Am I surprised that Jake Ballard got cut?  Not really.  Word from the insiders were that Ballard never looked right after suffering a torn ACL more than 18 months ago.  Fells?  He was useless.

Wide Receiver (6):

1. Danny Amendola

1. Aaron Dobson

1. Kenbrell Thompkins

2. Josh Boyce

2. Julian Edelman

3. Matthew Slater

Analysis: No real surprises here.  Veterans Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, and LaVelle Hawkins were all cut early on in camp, which was a clear indicator to me that the Pats were confident in the rookies that they had brought in.  Matthew Slater is nearly exclusive to special teams, so that means the Pats are going into 2013 with 5 wide receivers, 3 of whom are rookies.  I expect the starting 3 wideouts to be Thompkins and Dobson on the outside, with Amendola roaming the middle.  Edelman and Boyce have the ability to spell all three starters.

Offensive Line (9):

1. Nate Solder

1. Logan Mankins

1. Ryan Wendell

1. Dan Connolly

1. Sebastian Vollmer

2. Marcus Cannon

2. Will Svitek

2. Braxston Cave

2. Chris Barker

Analysis: Again, there aren’t any surprises here.  The Patriots are returning their whole starting offensive line from 2012.  Nate Solder has had a year of experience and time in the weight room with the Patriots’ strength and conditioning staff.  Top backups Marcus Cannon and Will Svitek are very versatile and can both play 4 of 5 spots on the line.  Cave is probably their backup center, with Barker providing some depth at guard.

Defensive End (4):

1. Chandler Jones

1. Rob Ninkovich

2. Jake Bequette

2. Michael Buchanon

Analysis: I’m a little surprised with some of the moves that the Patriots made at defensive end.  Previous contributors like Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis received their pink slips.   Offseason CFL acquisition Jason Vega got cut while Armond Armstead is on the non-football injured list.  Meanwhile, unproven guys like Bequette and Buchanon hang around.  I’ll be interested to see what the rotation starts to look like once the season gets underway.

Defensive Tackle (4):

1. Vince Wilfork

1. Tommy Kelly

2. Joe Vellano

2. A.J. Francis

Analysis: The top two guys on this list come as no surprise.  Wilfork has been a staple for the Pats for years, while Tommy Kelly has impressed throughout the preseason.  The surprise comes with the 2nd two guys on this list.  Both Vellano and Francis were undrafted rookies that were claimed on waivers by the Patriots yesterday.  Meanwhile, the Patriots released more proven commodities in Marcus Forston (who was moved to the practice squad) and Marcus Bernard.  I’m not sure if Vellano and Francis will be here for long, but either way I am surprised by the moves.

Linebacker (7):

1. Jerod Mayo

1. Brandon Spikes

1. Dont’a Hightower

2. Jamie Collins

2. Dane Fletcher

3. Steve Beauharnis

3. Chris White

Analysis: Not many surprises here.  Mayo, Spikes, and Hightower were all expected to return and start for the Patriots in 2013.  Jamie Collins will contribute on passing downs, where he’ll be able to use his rushing ability and pass coverage skills.  Dane Fletcher looks close to the 2011 version of himself as he is still recovering from a torn ACL.  Steve Beauharnis has looked decent in the preseason and will need time to add some bulk to his frame.  Chris White was acquired on waivers and will look to contribute on special teams.

Cornerback (5):

1. Aqib Talib

1. Alfonzo Dennard

2. Kyle Arrington

2. Logan Ryan

3. Marquice Cole

Analysis: The Patriots will move into the 2013 season with 5 cornerbacks on the roster.  That concerns me.  Yes, if necessary Devin McCourty can move to corner.  Yes, if necessary Steve Gregory can slide down and cover slot receivers.  Sadly, neither are ideal situations.  In addition to only keeping 5 corners, Alfonzo Dennard’s future is completely unknown as his probation hearing is approaching.  Kyle Arrington can play the outside, but he is much better on the inside.  Logan Ryan played more snaps than any other player this preseason, but he still has a lot of room for improvement.  If there is one position that concerns me on this Patriots team, it’s cornerback. 

Safety (5):

1. Devin McCourty

1. Steve Gregory

2. Tavon Wilson

2. Duron Harmon

3. Nate Ebner

Analysis: Although much has been made of Adrian Wilson being placed on IR, I don’t see it as much of a surprise.  Throughout the preseason, Wilson has reportedly looked slow, and Gregory was receiving many more 1st team reps than Wilson.  As camp progressed, Duron Harmon was moving his way up the depth chart while Adrian Wilson wasn’t making any improvements.  As for the guys remaining on the roster, McCourty is solid at free safety.  Steve Gregory makes me nervous.  Oftentimes, he takes gambles and is found out of position when the other team makes big plays.  Tavon Wilson is losing my confidence as he continues to fail to make gains as time progresses, while Duron Harmon makes plays that continue to improve my confidence in him.  Nate Ebner is a Matt Slater type, aka special teams extraordinaire.

Specialist (3):

P: Ryan Allen

K: Stephen Gostkowski

LS: Danny Aiken

Analysis: The only surprise here is with the cut of Zoltan Mesko.  Mesko was a solid performer for the Patriots and was an even bigger influence within the community.  However, Allen proved to be as effective as Mesko in the preseason, and by cutting Mesko the Patriots saved more than $1 million in salary cap space this season.

 

Most Surprising Player Cut: Tim Tebow

As mentioned above, the Patriots had to expect that Tebow was going to be a developmental signing, however it didn’t seem that they were willing to give Tim Tebow time to develop.

Most Surprising Player Kept: James Develin

By keeping James Develin, on thing is becoming apparent, the Patriots will place a lot of emphasis on the run game in 2013.

The New Look New England Patriots

As you all have heard by now, the 2013 New England Patriots will look nothing like the 2012 version of New England’s favorite football team.  Tom Brady’s top 5 receivers, and 6 of the top 8, from 2012 are either gone (Welker, Lloyd, Hernandez, Woodhead, Branch) or will likely start the season on the PUP (Gronkowski).  The new infusion of receivers is led by Danny Amendola, and consists of several rookies that were productive in college, but as we all know, that is not a barometer of success in the NFL.  If you listen to sports talk radio, read the local newspaper, and have Patriot-based conversations with your buddies, you are sure to have heard about how tough of a transition that 2013 will be for Tom Brady, how much the Pats will have to rely on the run game, and how the Miami Dolphins might challenge the Pats for the AFC East.  Well, never fear, Mattyoshow is here is dispel these ridiculous notions and assure you why the 2013 version of the New England Patriots will contend for yet another Super Bowl.

Offensively, the Patriots are expected to have some difficulty.  As I previously mentioned, there has been a lot of turnover at both wide receiver and tight end.  However, unlike most, the turnover doesn’t worry me.  Let’s start with what we know to be fact.  Stevan Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards in 2012.  Ridley ran for all of those yards while Tom Brady was completing 401 passes for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns.  Ridley ran for all of those yards while only taking 55% of the teams carries (290 of 523 total carries).  Stevan Ridley ran for all of those yards behind an offensive line that was able to dominate the line of scrimmage at various points in games.  That is the same offensive line that is returning all 5 starters for the 2013 season, while also grooming dominant run blocker Marcus Cannon to be their new starting right guard.  Aside from Ridley, the Patriots backfield will contain an improved and more experienced Shane Vereen, two short-yardage specialists in LaGarette Blount and Brandon Bolden, and a proven change-of-pace back and return specialist in Leon Washington.  I expect the New England Patriots’ run game to be a force in 2013, and will help take some of the load off of Tom Brady.

While many are predicting a near-apocalypse for the Patriots’ receiving corps, I think that they will produce well.  If we begin to consider pure talent, the 2013 New England Patriots might boast their most talented group of receivers since 2007, when the Pats had Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelly Washington (and I wouldn’t be ready to induct that group into the Hall of Fame).  Amendola has proven that he can produce when he stays on the field.  Even with that said, I’m not as concerned with Amendola’s health as almost everyone else is.  Amendola tallied 14 games in 2009 and 16 in 2010 with the Rams.  In 2011 he suffered a rare elbow dislocation that cost him all but 1 game, and in 2012 he fell victim to a freak clavicle dislocation (which was millimeters from killing him), where he only missed 5 games.  Julian Edelman has produced in the Patriots’ system before, and will have to take a step forward in 2013.  Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are rookies, but all reports from training camp have portrayed them as being very studious, picking up the offense quickly, and making an impact in practice.  The Patriots tallest receiver in 2012 was Brandon Lloyd at 6’0”.  Aaron Dobson is 6’3”.  Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins has been receiving high praise from the coaching staff and defensive players.  Kenbrell Thompkins is 6’1”.  Aqib Talib is on record speaking about Dobson and Thompkins saying, “[Dobson’s] got good releases off the line, that’s what I think he does real good. Him, KT [Thompkins], they’re both pretty good at releasing off the line.  I don’t know what it is, speed, quickness, strength. You either got it or you don’t. They got it.”  That’s pretty high praise for a top-notch NFL corner.  Will there be some learning curve associated with plugging in this many new pieces?  Yes, absolutely.  Will Tom Brady still be Tom Brady in 2013?  Yes, absolutely.  Will the 2013 version of the Patriots’ receiving corps be able to produce similar numbers to the 2012 version?  Yes, absolutely.

Arguably the biggest reason in my mind that the 2013 New England Patriots will once again contend for a Super Bowl is because of one thing, defense.  The defense for the New England Patriots will dominate in 2013.  After years of gathering talent, this is a group that is ready to impress.  Reports from training camp indicate that Devin McCourty has been splitting time between corner and free safety.  This off-season, they resigned Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington.  Pending an unforeseen result from his August DUI hearing, Alfonzo Dennard will be looking to retain his spot as the starting corner opposite of Talib.  Don’t forget about Ras-I Dowling as well, who has a ton of talent (if he can ever stay on the field).  Aside from those veterans, the Patriots also have brought in some young talent at corner in 3rd round draft pick Logan Ryan and undrafted free agent Brandon Jones.  The Patriots are also loaded at safety, with Adrian Wilson taking most of the 1st team reps at SS.  He has been spelled by Steven Gregory and Tavon Wilson.  The Patriots also have young safeties Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner getting reps as well.

Even with the depth in the secondary, the strength of the Patriots’ defense is in the front seven.  No matter the front (whether 4-3 or 3-4), the Patriots are loaded up front.  The linebacking core will consist primarily of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Don’t’a Hightower.  In the 3-4 front, Rob Ninkovich will kick outside to be their 3-4 OLB opposite of Hightower.  Up front, Chandler Jones and Nonkovich will start at defensive end, with Wilfork and newcomer Tommy Kelly plugging up the middle.  There is a ton of talent in the group that I just mentioned, but the depth of this Patriots team is what will make them excel.  In passing situations, the Pats will be able to substitute in Armond Armstead, who is a pass rushing defensive tackle, to pair with Wilfork/Kelly on the inside.  In 3rd and long situations, the Pats can bring in rookie linebacker Jamie Collins, whose athleticism makes him a scary defender for lineman to block, to group with Hightower, Jones, and Jermaine Cunningham to create an awesome pass-rushing package.  Do not forget about Justin Francis, an undrafted free agent in 2012 that showed he has the skill to rush the passer in the NFL (10 tackles, 3 sacks in 2012), and 2012 3rd round pick Jake BeQuette that will look to contribute in 2013.  As you can see, the Pats are absolutely loaded up front, which should correlate to a much-improved defense in 2013.

Keep tuning into your favorite sports radio station.  Keep reading your morning newspaper.  Keep having Patriot-based conversations with your buddies.  By all means, formulate your own opinions and stick with them throughout the season.  However, when it’s the end of December and we are looking at a New England Patriots team that is 12-4, won the AFC East by 4 games, and boasts a top-5 offense and defense in the NFL, don’t say you didn’t see it coming.  Just remember, when the Pats are fighting for another shot at a Super Bowl, Mattyoshow tried to tell you that this was going to happen it August.

Even if 2013 is a miserable season for the Patriots, God is on our side…because we’ve got TEBOW!!