What to Look For…

The New England Patriots are off to a somewhat surprising 5-1 start (tied for the division lead) and look to continue to build on the success and the development of their young players as the season progresses.  Contrarily, the Minnesota Vikings are off to a disappointing 2-4 start (3rd place in the NFC North) and are hoping that week 8 marks the beginning of their turnaround.  Here are a few things to look for during Sunday’s Patriots vs. Vikings game:

-How could I start this segment without mentioning Randy Moss?  Moss returns to New England, just four weeks after being traded to Minnesota for a 2010 third round pick.  There are a ton of questions swirling about Moss’ return.  Will he give the Vikings some of the Pats’ defensive calls/signals?  Will he be applauded or booed?  How will coach Belichick and Brady greet Moss after the game?  But the most important question in my mind is how will the Patriots’ game plan and coverage schemes look against Randy Moss.  As I continuously say every week, this secondary is very young and although they get a bit better every week, are guys like Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington ready to individually handle Randy Moss?  I look for a safety to be over the top of Moss all game.  But, one thing we can be sure of is that coach Belichick will have a great game plan on how to contain Moss.  What to look for: What defensive schemes the Patriots’ defense uses to minimize the “Moss-effect.”

-Speaking of game plan, how can you create a game plan for a guy like Adrian Peterson.  Peterson is a one of a kind, once in a generation type of back.  His combination of speed, strength, desire, determination, and just downright pissed-offness (yup, made that one up) is unlike anything that the Patriots have or will see.  Peterson runs harder than any back that I have ever watched play the game.  The key with him is that every year he seems to be amongst the league leaders in yards after contact.  It takes two, three, and sometimes four defenders to take Peterson down.  Tackling will be huge in this game, and I look for Jerod Mayo to lead the charge in attempting to contain Adrian Peterson.  What to look for: How the Patriots’ defense performs against one of the best running backs in the league.

-Last week the Patriots passing offense did not perform up to its usual standards.  I am completely aware that even soon to be Hall of Fame quarterback is allowed to have a bad week once and a great while, but if you put two performances together like that back-to-back, then I begin to worry.  I stand by my notion that this offense seriously lacks a deep threat (with both of the longest passes in each game going to Hernandez, where the yardage was attributed mainly to yards after the catch).  Brandon Tate hasn’t done anything since Moss left.  Deion Branch has been a pleasant surprise, but his production has led to a serious decline in Welker’s impact.  No one seems to be able to get behind the defense (Taylor Price earned co-practice player of the week honors this past week, maybe signaling some upcoming playing time for the young speedster out of Ohio), which after a couple of weeks of film, and safeties creeping closer to the line of scrimmage, will hurt this Patriots’ offense.  What to look for: How the offense continues to evolve, now four weeks (and three games) after the departure of Randy Moss.

-Speaking of practice player of the week awards, Price received the honors along with practice squad corner Tony Carter and the ever-elusive corner Darius Butler.  Butler’s role in the defense has basically dwindled to nothing ever since his disappointing performance in week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.  Butler’s playing time has essentially been limited to dime or quarters packages (6 or 7 defensive backs on the field).  This has been a major disappointment, especially for me because I really thought that Butler was primed to have a big season.  Receiving recognition for his work in practice may be the first step towards getting back on the field and having a real impact on this defense.  What to look for: How much playing time Darius Butler gets after a great week in practice, and against a talented Minnesota receiving corps.

-I wouldn’t be happy with myself as a source of information and wisdom if I didn’t at least touch on the Brett Favre situation in this post.  We all have heard it a thousand times, Favre is an iron man.  He plays through injuries that other guys would be out weeks with.  Yes, 291 straight starts is very, very impressive.  I’ve got it.  Sadly, Mr. Favre, you playing this week against the New England Patriots is NOT in the best interest of your team.  In 2007, Tavaris Jackson started 12 games (essentially his one season as a starter).  Jackson threw for almost 2,000 yards (with a 58.2% completion percentage), with 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  He also rushed for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Jackson compiled a passer rating of 70.8.  In 2010, Brett Favre, through 6 games, has thrown for almost 1,200 yards (with a 58.1% completion percentage), with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.  Favre has compiled a passer rating of 68.0.  After looking over those stats, let me restate what I said earlier: Sadly, Mr. Favre, you playing this week against the New England Patriots is NOT in the best interest of your team.  What to look for: How the whole Brett Favre/Brad Childress/Tavaris Jackson/Jen Sterger/Roger Goodell/Scottie (oh sorry, nix that last one) saga plays out.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 35 – Vikings 34


Death, Taxes, and a Favre Chokejob

Wasn’t it obvious?  Less than 30 seconds left in the 4th quarter, the Minnesota Vikings only needed about 5-8 yards to set up a game winning field goal by Ryan Longwell to make sure their appearance at the Super Bowl.  The premature celebrations were going up in Minnesota as Ryan Longwell is one of the best at his profession.  The problem was number 4 was under center.  Yes, the game was in the hands of the most overrated athlete in the history of sports.  Instead of running up the field for about 8 yards and out-of-bounds, instead of dumping the ball of to a wide open running back, Brett Favre chose door number three.  He decided to throw across his body back into the middle of the field.  The ball was picked off and with it the Vikings lost the coin toss in over time, Drew Brees marched down the field, and Garret Hartley nailed a field goal to win the NFC Championship.

Did Brett Favre have a great season? Yes. Would Minnesota have made it this far with Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfells? Absolutely not.  However it is time to shed the label off of Favre as being one of the all time great quarterbacks in NFL history.  Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Peyton Manning he is not.  He couldn’t even carry their jock straps.  The difference between Favre and the aforementioned quarterbacks are that Favre loves to choke.  And before you start asking me where Dan Marino’s ring is, I’ll ask you when did he ever have something that remotely resembled a supporting cast.  His best receiver was Irving Fryar.

What does Brett Favre do? He chokes. Plain and simple.  We all know about the great stats he has and I’ll concede that it is amazing that in 20 years in the NFL he had 1 losing season.  Sure, he is forty and takes a beating but keeps getting up which is admirable.  But he has screwed over his last 3 teams when the spotlight has burned the brightest on him.  His last throw as a Green Bay Packer? An interception in the playoffs that cost them the game. His last throw for the New York Jets? An interception that cost them a playoff berth.  After starting 8-3 with the Jets, he imploded to the tune of a 9-7 record. And now he cost the Vikings a Super Bowl berth.  Just for kicks, his stat line with the Atlanta Falcons when he was a young pup? 0-4 with 2 picks. 

There is definitely something Shakespearian when it comes to Brett Favre. Everything starts out all well and good. He is the 40-year-old man who is playing a kids game and having so much fun doing it. But the reality is Brett Favre is a tragedy.  For Brett Favre, a chokejob is as definite as are death and taxes.

Random Thoughts

Every once and a while I have all kinds of random thoughts that pop through my head.  These little thoughts are nothing I can really make a full post about but with all the thoughts through the week I can make a post out of them.  Here are 10 thoughts that occurred to me over the past week.

*Tiger Woods has gone through hell and back the past two weeks because of his extra marital affairs.  Why hasn’t Tom Brady received not even the slightest bit of criticism in fathering 2 children with 2 different women?

*In checking my calendar, I realized it was mid-December.  That can only mean one thing.  Brett Favre’s annual choke job is underway.

*The Yankees have acquired Javier Vazquez for Melky Cabrera and prospects. Haven’t the Yankees been down the Vazquez road before and didn’t it turn out less than favorable for them?

*Who is this imposter on the Celtics wearing number 42? And what has he done with Tony Allen? Wait. This is very much a good thing. Lets hope it stays that way.

*Speaking of the Celtics, rumor has it KyptoNate Robinson wants to come to the Celtics. Two trade possibilities: Marquis Daniels straight up or Bill Walker and JR Giddens. I don’t want to lose Marquis Daniels and I don’t think I am in favor of rescuing another player (malcontent) from the Knicks. (See Marbury, Stephon)

*Fans in this region are quick to criticize but are hesitant to give praise. There is a sick love for Tom Brady and people will never even sneeze in his general direction. But people have to be fair and say that the production of Lawrence Maroney has been huge this season for the Pats. With Brady playing banged up, he is not able to be Tom Terrific. Maroney will not rush for 100 yards consistently but he has vastly improved and shown flashes of being a hard-nosed runner.  Just what the Pats need to compliment the passing game.

*The Bruins have been able to stay in playoff contention (around the 4 or 5 seed) without Milian Lucic or Marc Savard the better part of the year.  That’s impressive. Tuuka Raask has a GAA of 1.97. Also very impressive for the rookie.

*I might be the only person to say it. But we have to be realistic and say that Mike Lowell is on the back nine. To be honest it was his fault for shunning Philadelphia to come to Boston for less money. Baseball is a business, just ask Bronson Arroyo. In baseball one has to be like Johnny Damon. Sign for big money, win a World Series and move to the next highest bidder.

* Predictions: The Texas Longhorns will win the national title is both basketball and football this year.

*RIP Chris Henry. It is truly an unfortunate set of circumstances for a man who looked to be on the cusp of finally turning his life around.  And kudos to Chad Ochocinco for putting his persona aside and not making the situation all about him by wearing number 15 last weekend.