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

Farley’s Forecast- AFC East

Good to be back here on NTCF. I’ve been reading all of the great content however I haven’t done much to contribute. I want to get back into the mix here so i am introducing my first edition of Farley’s Forecast where the slogan i just made up is, I’m right more than your local weatherman (person for you sensitive types).

Its a very boring period in the NFL season (there is no off-season), OTA’s mean very little because its played in short and t shirts. Pay no mind to local reports of who has impressed in OTA’s or minicamps. The main goal for coaches during this period is to get the rookies and newly acquired free agents acclimated to how practices will be run and what to expect from the coaching staff.

Allow me to delve into the AFC East and forecast how I see it playing out this season. Shocker here, New England wins the division. I’ll get to them later, though. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.

New York Jets

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Now, when the most newsworthy story for your team is that the butt fumble has been #1 on the not top ten for half of the year, there are some problems with your franchise.  The New York Jets are in a world of trouble folks. They just traded away the best player on their already talent-starved roster, and while Revis may never reurn to form its still isn’t a smart football decision. Which, if you’re keeping track at home occurs about as often as Rex Ryan opting for a salad. I can assure you that Dee Millner is not the second coming and what was a strength for them has become yet another problem area. The best quarterback on that roster just retired due to injury and the battle of Sanchez and Smith should be, well, irrelevant. Smith just doesn’t project as a solid NFL starter in my opinion and he had more weapons in West Virginia. I expect Sanchez to win the job is Rex has say, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m calling a 32nd ranked offense this season. Listen, if you think I’m bashing the Jets you’re right, but am I wrong? With  Rex in seemingly a lame duck period as the coach of this team and a questionable lockeroom to be kind, can you honestly see this team competing in this division? This team should come apart by the halfway mark with all the great character in the locker room and the only thing to look forward to from them is the occaisonal meltdown in front of a microphone.

Win range- 2-6

Buffalo is a team that will be interesting to monitor leading up to September. Did they draft EJ Manuel too high? Of course they did, but I think he was the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft and I’m not sure he will win the job right away. Say what you want about Kevin Kolb but the offensive line in Arizona will make every quarterback in the NFL struggle. I think Kolb will be much improved in this new system and the change of scenery should serve him well. CJ Spiller will have a breakout year because he finally has a coach who believes in him being an every down back. I think Buffalo’s offense will be exciting to watch this season and they will need to be to keep the Bills in the hunt this season. The best defensive addiiton the Bills made was reatining star safety Jaruis Byrd. Byrd will need more help this season and it starts in run support. The Bills allowed 5 yards per carry last season, thats just terrible. If they can make improvements in stopping the run they’ll be able to pin their ears back and maybe get something from their investment in Mario Williams. I can see the Bills having a similair season to years past where they show flashes of brilliance but ultimately fail to compete for a full 16 games.With a rookie head coach and too many holes to fill in one year i see them finishing third in the division this year.

Win Range- 4-9

Miami wins the Dan Snyder award for over-spending in the offseason. General Manager Jeff Ireland saw the writing on the wall and spared no expense revamping the mediocre roster he created in a final attempt to save his job. Alot of the moves Miami made make sense on paper but for now all they seem to be doing is blowing hot air down in south beach. The seventh ranked scoring defense seems to be improved  from last season. Miami struggled to create turnovers in 2012 and that was the point of emphasis from the coaching staff when discussing the new look roster. Drafting Dion Jordan should help Cameron Wake on the opposite side of the line in passing situations however I don’t see him as an every down end just yet. He will have time to develop and fill out his thin frame while serving as a rush specialist early in his career similair to Bruce Irvin in Seattle. The secondary is still the biggest weakness for this team and when you play Tom Brady twice a year thats a problem. The offense also added alot of pieces but I would like to talk about one that was on the roster last season. Lamar Miller is set to take over for Reggie Bush and I love his potential. The offensive line needs to create more holes but if they do Miller can be a big surprise this season.Miami has made alot of moves but they won’t mean a thing if Ryan Tannehill doens’t take a significant step forward this year. He showed flashes and you one could point to the lack of weapons, but that is no longer the case. The Miami Dolphins will go as Ryan Tannehill goes this season and that will determine where they end up this season.

Win Range- 6-10

New England will win this division, but when you’re the Patriots, (at least in the last decade) winning the conference is the goal. The division shouldn’t be a struggle but the AFC looks to be tougher than in years past. The storyline with New England lately is how do they get back to the Super Bowl? Time and again they seem to have a let down in the playoffs and this post-postseason saw alot of players leave. Welker is the most noteworthy departure however as long as Amendola stays healthy (huge if) they will get more explosive plays from the slot this season. While the Gronk surgeries should cause some concern it won’t jeopordize training camp let alone the seaosn opener. While we are on the subject Gronk could miss the entire regular season and the offense would still be top ten. What New England needs is him to be healthy in the playoffs. The offense will always be in good hands so long as Tommy ballgame is under center. The defense needs to either get to the quarterback at a record pace, or change something up on the back end. The Pats were middle of the road in the sack department tying for 15th in the league. The secondary however finished 29th in the league and therein lies the problem. Bill Belichick needs a new perspective for his schemes in the secondary. You can point to his super bowl trophies and say how completely ridiculous that statement is but after you settle down think back to those super bowls. When New England was winning super bowls they had at least one pro bowl corner on one side of the field.

2013 New England Patriots Roster Breakdown – May Edition

In this post, I’m going to take a look at the potential 53 man roster for the New England Patriots for the upcoming 2013 season.  Obviously, it is May so many things will change between now and the beginning of the season.  However, if the season were to start today, this is how I see the roster shaking out.  For each position, I will list the players in order from starter to backup (i.e. 1) starter, 2) backup, etc.).  Let’s do it…

QUARTERBACK: 2 (2)

1)    Tom Brady

2)    Ryan Mallett

Analysis: This one is a no brainer.  Brady is the man, and no one in the league could compete for his position.  The thing to watch at quarterback for the Pats this offseason is the  performance of Ryan Mallett.  While some believe Mallett was drafted to be groomed as Brady’s potential replacement, I think Mallett was brought in 1) Because they saw great value when they selected him in the 3rd round in 2011 and 2) They saw him as a potential trade chip for a higher draft pick than he was originally selected.  If Mallett performs this preseason, he could get dealt to a team that has a big need at QB.

RUNNING BACK: 4 (4)

1)    Stevan Ridley

2)    Shane Vereen

3)    LeGarrette Blount

4)    Leon Washington

Analysis: Ridley earned the starting spot after his performance throughout the 2012 season, however some late season fumbling issues forced the Pats to bring in some insurance at the running back position (Blount) to at least compete with Ridley for the top spot.  Shane Vereen will pick up where Danny Woodhead left off, and will produce at a higher level than Woodhead did.  Ridley’s biggest area of improvement needs to be in pass protection, where Woodhead excelled.  Leon Washington is kept on as a return specialist/emergency/change of pace back.  Blount beats out Brandon Bolden for a spot on the roster and will look to be used in short yardage and goal line situations.

WIDE RECEIVER: 6 (5)

1) Aaron Dobson [outside]

1) Josh Boyce [outside]

1) Danny Amendola [slot]

2) Julian Edelman

2) Donald Jones

3) Matthew Slater

Analysis: This is by far the toughest position to predict the roster breakdown for on the 2013 Patriots.  With so much change that has occurred at the position, determining the direction that Pats will go is tough.  In my opinion, this is how the depth chart will stack up in September.  I think that Dobson and Boyce will both make a smooth transition and earn starting spots on the outside, while Amendola is already penciled in as the starting slot receiver.  Julian Edelman makes the team for two reasons: 1) Familiarity with the system and 2) Depth in the slot (although Boyce can play the slot as well.  The position battle to watch here will be between Donald Jones, Michael Jenkins, and newly signed Lavelle Hawkins.  I think Jenkins’ skill set has diminished to a point where he won’t produce on this team.  Hawkins had some issues with coachability and offensive knowledge in Tennessee, which is the recipe for being cut here in New England.  That leaves Jones, who has proven he can produce in the division and has good speed and size.  Slater isn’t going anywhere.  He is a lifer with the Pats.

TIGHT END: 4 (4)

1) Rob Gronkowski

1) Aaron Hernandez

2) Jake Ballard

3) Michael Hoomanawanui

Analysis: The top two spots here are set in stone for the next 5-6 years.  Gronkowski is still dealing with forearm issues, which now has me concerned that he will not be ready for the start of the season.  Here’s my prediction: Gronkowski starts the season on the PUP list in an effort to get that forearm back to 100% (and because they know they can afford to miss Gronk for 6 weeks).  With that said, the Pats are utilizing the two tight-end set more than any team in the NFL, so they are forced to carry 4 (at least) on their roster.  After Gronk and Hernandez, the next two spots are up for grabs.  The Pats made a great move and grabbed an injured Jake Ballard off of waivers from the Giants, and the greatness of that move will be realized this year.  Ballard is a mammoth of a human (6’6″, 275 lbs), but is as a good receiver (2011: 38 rec, 604 yards, 4 TDs) as he is blocker.  The Pats re-signed Hoomanawanui to a one-year, $1.323 million contract this offseason, so I think that gives him a leg up over Daniel Fells for the 4th tight end spot.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: 4 (4)

1) Nate Solder [LT]

1) Sebastian Vollmer [RT]

2) Will Svitek

2) Marcus Cannon

Analysis: The top two spots here are filled by returning players in Solder and Vollmer.  After that, I see Svitek as a near lock to make the roster considering he is guaranteed to make at least $500,000 this season even if he is cut.  Svitek has the versatility to play both tackle positions and has been a good back-up for several years in the NFL, while also having started 16 games throughout his career.  Marcus Cannon will be the other backup tackle.  Cannon played decently in limited action last year, and should continue to develop this offseason.  Some believe the Pats will look to move Cannon inside to guard, which could shift the depth chart at tackle a bit.

OFFENSIVE GUARD: 3 (4)

1) Logan Mankins [LG]

1) Dan Connolly [RG]

2) Nick McDonald

Analysis: I see the Patriots only needing to keep 3 guards on the active roster for a couple of reasons: 1) McDonald has the versatility to play both guard positions and 2) Cannon can bump inside and play guard as well.  Mankins and Connolly are locks at both starting guard positions, while McDonald has been a good, versatile backup over the last couple of seasons.  Over his career, McDonald has lined up at all 5 offensive line spots, and worked a lot on playing center last offseason.  This is a great advantage for the Pats, considering that they usually only keep one center on the active roster (Connolly has also played center in the past).  Nick’s brother Chris will push him for a spot on the 53-man roster, however I think Chris makes his way onto the practice squad.

CENTER: 1 (1)

1) Ryan Wendell

Analysis: Not much analysis required here.  As mentioned previously, McDonald and Connolly have both played center in the past, so if Wendell happens to go down, the Pats have options.

DEFENSIVE END: 5 (6)

1) Chandler Jones [Right DE]

1) Rob Ninkovich [Left DE]

2) Jermaine Cunningham

2) Justin Francis

3) Jake Bequette

Analysis: For consistency purposes, I am creating this depth chart based on the assumption that the Pats will primarily play a 4-3 defense in 2013.  Obviously, they often switch between defenses, however, I’m projecting all players as they fit into a 4-3.  At defensive end, Jones and Ninkovich get the starting nod, just as they did in 2012.  The battle at defensive end starts with the second string guys.  Unlike some other positions where the second stringers don’t see the field much, back-up defensive lineman are becoming much more important in the NFL.  High-powered passing attacks are forcing defenses to rotate lineman to keep fresh bodies on the field that can get to the quarterback.  For the Pats, pressuring the quarterback is a top priority in 2013.  There will be a battle for the back-up spots at defensive end this off-season.  Jermaine Cunningham showed flashes of the player expected when he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.  A 4-game suspension derailed some of that success, however I think his performance last season warrants him making the team in 2013.  Justin Francis went from being an undrafted free agent signing to top back-up performer for the Pats in 2012 (10 tackles, 3 sacks).  Jake Bequette only played in 3 games last year, however he was awarded practice player of the month in October of last season and is expected to make a bigger impact in 2013.  A prospect to watch here is 7th round pick Michael Buchanon.  Buchanon has the athleticism to rush the passer in the NFL, however he needs to ass some bulk in order to hold up in the run game.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 4 (4)

1) Vince Wilfork

1) Kyle Love

2) Tommy Kelly

2) Armond Armstead

Analysis: The surprising release of Brandon Deaderick a couple of days ago makes me think that the Patriots have something in one of their young defensive tackles that we don’t know about yet.  Vince Wilfork is considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, and will remain a staple on the New England defensive line for years to come.  I believe that Kyle Love has earned a starting spot on this team.  Love has a Wilfork-like build (6’1″, 320 lbs) and is in the game on 1st and 2nd down to simple take up blockers.  On third down is where Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead come in.  Kelly is a formidable pass rusher from the defensive tackle position (14.5 combined sacks between 2010-2011) and will hopefully fill a Gerard Warren-like role for the 2013 Pats.  Armstead comes from the CFL through USC.  Armstead had a heart attack as a senior at USC and was never cleared to play college football again.  Therefore, he had to go through the CFL to make his way to the NFL.  Armstead had 44 tackles and 6 sacks in the CFL last year.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: 3 (3)

1) Jerod Mayo

1) Dont’a Hightower

2) Jamie Collins

Analysis: Jerod Mayo, one of the NFL’s best inside linebackers, make the transition to the outside in the Pats 4-3 defense in 2012, and seemed to not miss a beat.  Mayo amassed 147 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 interception.  Opposite Mayo, 2012 1st round pick Dont’a Hightower had a good first season in New England, ending with 60 tackles and 4 sacks.  I expect Hightower to become a more efficient pass rusher in 2013 and be most effective on first and second down.  Then there is 2013 2nd round pick Jamie Collins.  As mentioned in a previous post, I think Collins can contribute most on 3rd down as a rookie.  As a former safety, Collins has fluid hips as an outside linebacker and should be able to cover backs, tight ends, and slot receivers more effectively than the bigger Hightower (Collins: 6’3″, 250 lbs; Hightower: 6’2″, 270 lbs).  Niko Koutouvides and Jeff Tarpinian, former contributors for the Pats, will be competing primarily with inside linebackers for a roster spot as none of the aforementioned outside linebackers will be released.

INSIDE LINEBACKER: 3 (3)

1) Brandon Spikes

2) Dane Fletcher

3) Mike Rivera

Analysis: 2013 is a huge year for Brandon Spikes.  Spikes is in the 4th year of his rookie contract, and needs to prove he is worth the next contract he will get from either the Patriots of another team.  Spikes has already displayed great run-stopping ability in the NFL.  The problem is that Spikes is considered by some to be a 2-down linebacker.  2-down linebackers don’t usually get big-time money in the NFL.  Dane Fletcher was cementing himself as a good backup and possible future starter for the Patriots before he tore his ACL last season.  The Pats thought highly enough of Fletcher to re-sign him (he was a restricted free agent) this off-season.  Mike Rivera his filled in well for the Pats over the last couple of seasons and will be competing with rookie 7th round pick Steve Beauharnais for the 3rd spot on the depth chart.

CORNERBACK: 6 (7)

1) Aqib Talib

1) Alfonzo Dennard

2) Kyle Arrington [Nickel Corner]

2) Ras-I Dowling

3) Logan Ryan

3) Marquice Cole

Analysis: Unlike 2012, I’m projecting that the Pats only carry 6 cornerbacks in 2013 simply because they are overloaded at safety (and I believe a couple of their safeties could play on the inside at corner).  The Patriots got lucky this off-season when Alfonzo Dennard got sentenced to only 30 days in prison (starting in March 2014).  Dennard will look to build on a successful rookie campaign and start opposite of the $5 million man (Talib) in 2013.  Newly resigned Kyle Arrington played well enough over the past few seasons to earn 4-year $16 million deal this off-season.  Arrington will play, and is most effective in the nickel.  After than, the battle begins.  Logan Ryan is essentially a lock simply because of the position that he was drafted this season.  2013 is a make or break season for Ras-I Dowling.  If he is able to stay healthy and contribute, we may begin to realize some of his talent.  However, another injury may lead to Dowling’s release.  Marquice Cole gets the nod as the 6th corner because of his special teams prowess.  Rookie free-agent Brandon Jones could push for Cole’s roster spot if he proves that he can perform on special teams.

SAFETY: 5 (4)

1) Devin McCourty [FS]

1) Adrian Wilson [SS]

2) Tavon Wilson

2) Duron Harmon

3) Nate Ebner

Analysis: As I mentioned earlier, the Pats have an overload of safeties on their roster.  I project that 5 safeties will make the final 2013 roster, which is one more than last season.  I believe it is time that Devin McCourty makes the official switch to safety.  McCourty has performed well as a part-time safety over the last couple of seasons (although he was basically full-time last year), and it looks like the Pats think he may be a long-term solution at free safety.  I still think McCourty could be a good corner in the NFL, however I don’t get paid to make those decisions.  Adrian Wilson will get the start opposite of McCourty and will provide a physical presence that the Pats have lacked since the Rodney Harrison days.  At 6’3″, 230 lbs, Wilson has lost a step over his career, but McCourty’s responsibility will be to cover, Wilson will be asked to hit.  Behind those two, 2012 second round pick Tavon Wilson earns a roster spot after showing some promise in his rookie campaign (41 tackles, 4 interceptions).  Wilson also has the ability to drop down and play over the slot receiver, which will be useful as the Pats are only keeping 6 corners.  2013 3rd round pick Duron Harmon makes the roster over 2012 starter Steve Gregory.  Gregory was serviceable in 2012, although I think the Pats will decide to move in a new direction in 2013.  Special teams standout Nate Ebner gets the nod as the 3rd string safety due to his special teams ability (him and Slater are essentially the new Larry Izzos).

SPECIALISTS: 3 (3)

PK) Stephen Gostkowski

P) Zoltan Mesko

LS) Danny Aiken

Analysis: No change here from 2012.  The Patriots have brought in 2012 Ray Guy Award winner Ryan Allen to compete with Zoltan Mesko, however I expect Mesko to win that battle.  Some believe Allen may make the practice squad, which speaks to his talent as punters don’t often take up a spot on the 7-man practice squad.

PRACTICE SQUAD: 7 (7)

1)    Michael Buchanon, DE

2)    Matt Stankiewitch, C

3)    Chris McDonald, OG

4)    Brandon Jones, CB

5)    Steve Beauharnais, LB

6)    Jason Vega, DE

7)    TJ Moe, WR

Analysis: At this point in time, practice squad predictions are nearly impossible considering that training camp hasn’t even started yet.  However, in true Mattyoshow fashion, I’m giving it a shot.  Michael Buchanon is a raw talent out of Illinois that needs time in the weight room to bulk up.  I truly think Buchanon will push Jake Bequette for a roster spot at defensive end, but will wind up on the practice squad.  Matt Stankiewitch was a 25-game starter at Penn State at center, and certainly benefitted from Bill O’Brien’s tutelage during his last year at Penn State.  Stankiewitch is determined to learn to play guard in the NFL to improve his versatility and subsequently his odds of making the active roster.  Chris McDonald, younger brother of the aforementioned Nick McDonald, was a 39 game starter for the Michigan St. Spartans and will look to carve a position out at guard in the NFL.  Brandon Jones, yet another Rutgers product, will compete for an active roster spot this season, but will most likely end up on the practice squad.  Steve Beauharnais is an instinctual linebacker that ha a nose for the football.  Beauharnais doesn’t project as a 3-down linebacker, but a year in the weight room could lead to him competing for a roster spot in 2014.  Jason Vega is another CFL product signed this offseason.  Vega is a former Northeastern product (via Brockton) that amassed 66 tackles and 12 sacks in the CFL in 2012.  Missouri product TJ Moe draws comparisons to Welker simply based on his skill set and skin color.  Moe is bigger than Welker (6’0″, 200 lbs), stronger (26 reps at the combine), and maybe even more agile (Combine best 6.53 3-cone drill).  Moe could use a year of seasoning on the practice squad, however in 2013 he could look to replace Julian Edelman on the roster.

Top 5: Touchdown Celebrations of 2011

Last night, I watched Victor Cruz catch a short pass from Eli Manning.  He then turned the corner and took off toward pay dirt like he stole something.  Once he scored, he broke into his patent Victor Cruz Salsa Dance, complete with accompanying music blared from the Met Life Stadium speakers. I also realized there is an art to celebrating a touchdown.  Stevie Johnson certainly hasn’t mastered the art because he is good for a 15 yard penalty after every touchdown he scores with his excessive celebrations. Yesterday, it earned him a spot on the bench for the rest of the game. This got me thinking about who had the best patent end zone celebrations in 2011.

5) Tim Tebow- “Tebowing” 

I equate Tim Tebow to John Cena from the WWE.  You either love him or you despise him.  Much like Cena he doesn’t let people’s opinions phase him.  He can be putrid in some games yet walk on water in other games.  But no matter the circumstance, he will be found down on one knee, head bowed, deep in prayer and the rise up, yell and point to the sky.  He has even turned into a national phenomenon.

 

 

 

 

4) Rob Gronkowski “The Spike”

Rob Gronkowski put together the best season ever by a tight end in 2011.  He set the receiving yardage mark with 1,327 yards.  He also set the record for most touchdowns by a tight end with 17.  At the end of the each of those 17 touchdowns, Gronk would spike the ball to the turf with all his might.  It is a simple celebration, but when you see it 17 times, it starts to grow on you.

 

 

 

 

3) Aaron Rodgers- “Showing off the Belt”

Two WWE references in one post? Really? Really?  (Ok there’s 3).  When you have a commercial that features your touchdown celebration you are worthy of a top 5 spot.  I am a fan of Aaron Rodgers’ subtle flashing the belt because I am a WWE fan.  Not to mention Rodgers looks pretty bad ass when he does it.  Discount double-check? Yes sir.

 

 

 

 

 

2) Victor Cruz “The Salsa”

My favorite play from Victor Cruz this year came when the Giants were getting blown out of the stadium by the New Orleans Saints.  Cruz caught a 72 yard touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter.  No, he didn’t break out into his Salsa, he simply game the ball to the ref because he knew there was no celebrating losing by 30.  After seeing that, I became a big Victor Cruz fan and now thoroughly enjoy the dance.

 

 

 

 

 

1) Green Bay Packers “The Lambeau Leap”

Sure, this celebration has been going on for decades.  But is there truly anything better than a player running up and jumping into the fans’ arms?  Ultimately the fans are the reason the players are on the field and making the money they do.  To celebrate with the people who make you who you are is truly the greatest celebration. The Packers went 8-0 at home this season and scored 43 touchdowns at Lambeau Field.  Yes, that’s 43 Lambeau Leaps!

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

The Matty O Show Week 17 Review: Patriots 38 Dolphins 7

I continue to step in for Matty O as he looks to get his computer repaired.  This is the MattyO Show Review, Scottie style.

New England Patriots 38   Miami Dolphins 7

Bill Belichick played it safe, learning his lesson from last year, having Wes Welker, Deon Branch, and Aaron Hernandez all inactive.  Tom Brady and BenJarvus Green Ellis both played about a half.  Even without the core players, the Patriots annihilated the Miami Dolphins by 35.

Tom Brady threw for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis got to the 1,000 yard mark on the season, the first Patriot to do so since Corey Dillon in 2004.  He had 20 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.  Watching Green-Ellis gets better and better every week.  He is the polar opposite of a man named Maroney that once danced around (and thats about all he did) the backfield for the Patriots.  BJGE is always going forward and is the definition of a down hill runner. Rob Gronkowski was a beast today catching 6 balls for 102 yards and a touchdown.  I believe he deserves offensive rookie of the year consideration.

Miami simply couldn’t move the ball today as they had less than 300 yards total offense.  I am unsure if that is a reflection of how bad the Dolphins offense is, or how stout the Patriot defense was.  Several times, the Patriots ran unblocked into the backfield getting to either Chad Henne or Tyler Thigpen.  It should come as no surprise that the Dolphins lone score came at the expense of Darius Butler.  He was flagged for a pass interference and then on the next play Davone Bess caught a ball over Butler.

Brandon Tate finally showed some potential on a great route he ran in which Brian Hoyer found him in the end zone for a diving touchdown catch.  He had another play that was a catch and run for 40 yards.  Although it went for big yardage, it was more due to Miami’s inept tackling that anything Tate actually did.  Taylor Price and Hoyer showed a nice rapport on a few slant plays.

Julian Edelman had a huge day with a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown.  He also had 3 catches for 72 yards.  His success today had me thinking, “is it the hair?” The Patriot offense in general was running on all cylinders today with 321 passing yards and 181 rushing yards.  They have a ton of momentum going into the playoffs and look to be the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl.

The Patriots return to the gridiron in 2 weeks, opponent unknown.

I can be followed on Twitter at Scottientcf.

 

Week 9 – The Mattyoshow Review

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

-I want to start this post by congratulating the Cleveland Browns for winning Super Bowl XLV.  It was a majestic scene as Mangini got doused with Gatorade, the offensive coordinator was flopping around the field like a fish out of water, and the players were hugging each other, expressing their pure joy after spending an entire season working towards this one goal…Seriously Cleveland?  I know it was a big game for you.  The Patriots had the best record in the NFL, this game has probably been circled on your calendar’s since the schedule was released.  But a Gatorade bath in the first week of November?  You’re better than that Cleveland…or at least we thought you were.

-The lack of a deep threat finally reared its ugly head in Sunday’s loss in Cleveland.  I’ve been calling out this receiving corps for three weeks now, and we finally got to see how much the offense is hindered when you can’t get a receiver behind the defense.  The four longest completions of the day, 22, 22, 26, and 22 yards went to Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Woodhead, and Sammy Morris respectively.  That means every pass completed over 20 yards were essentially dump off passes where the receivers ran after the catch.  Welker was blanketed for the fifth week in a row.  Without a deep threat, this offense will continue to struggle.

-BenJarvus Green-Ellis did his best Houdini impersonation today, disappearing a week after having the game of his career.  Nine carries just isn’t enough to get his guy rolling.  Granted, being down the whole game almost forced the Patriots into a no-huddle offense, where the majority of plays were passes, giving Woodhead more playing time.  But still, nine carries for BJGE isn’t enough to establish the run game, isn’t enough to force the defense into respecting the run, isn’t enough to make the play action pass effective, and isn’t enough to get victories.

-So much for the improving and impressive run defense for the Pats.  Hillis ran into, over, and around New England’s front seven early and often, leading to a career day (29 carries, 184 yards, 2 touchdowns).  Jerod Mayo again led the team in tackles, but he seemed to be one of the few Patriots even attempting to slow Hillis down.  Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich, and Jermaine Cunningham were all terrible at attempting to set the edge.  I counted at least five or six times that Banta-Cain flew up the field and Hillis ran right underneath him.  If the Pats want to be considered among the elite teams in the league, their run defense can never have another performance like that again.

-Colt McCoy was 14-19 for 174 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions….unacceptable in my opinion.  When facing a rookie quarterback it is imperative that you not only confuse him, but force him into turnovers.  Colt McCoy was eerily accurate on Sunday, completing severely tight passes through small windows, and often on crucial downs.  I am aware that the Pats defense is essentially as young as McCoy, but Belichick’s scheme needs to be complicated enough to put his defense in places to make plays off of mistakes.  I failed to see it on Sunday, and that was very disappointing.

-NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 18 – Steelers 17

Who’s the Answer?

By now, almost all sadness and anger surrounding the Randy Moss deal has vanished.  The focus of Patriot fans not lies squarely on who will fill the void that opened when Randy Moss departed to Minnesota.  Rumors have been swirling about Vincent Jackson, Deion Branch, and even Larry Fitzgerald.  All of these crazy scenarios being thrown around got me thinking about who, realistically, will be filling the Moss void.

Vincent Jackson

I said it last Wednesday and I’ll say it again, there is no shot that Vincent Jackson winds up in New England.  The trade just doesn’t make sense for either side.  Tom Curran was throwing it out there that the Pats and Chargers were exploring a Vincent Jackson for Logan Mankins deal.  In what world do we live in where a Pro Bowl guard is a suitable trading asset in return for a Pro Bowl wide receiver?  Then there were rumors that Belichick was stockpiling picks so he could deal them away for a guy like Jackson.  I think that we have learned over the years (especially on ever-frustrating draft day) that the Patriots love draft picks.  They may value draft picks more than any other team in the NFL.  Coach Belichick becomes giddy like a school girl when the opportunity presents itself for him to trade down in the draft and grab an extra pick.  So would it make much sense for Belichick to give up a second and third rounder (if not more) for Jackson?  I don’t think so.

Aside from those ridiculous rumors, Vincent Jackson is in the middle of a contract holdout.  The 27 year old, sixth year receiver reportedly wants to make around $9-$10 million a year.  Over his six year career, Jackson has amasses 3,400 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.  Over Randy Moss’ 13 year career, he has amassed 14,604 yards and 151 touchdowns.  Let us consider what these players, on average, have produced per season.  Over six years, Jackson has averaged 567 yards and 4 touchdowns per season.  Over 13 years, Moss has averaged 1123 yards and 12 touchdowns per season.  So, if you wouldn’t pay Randy Moss $10 million a year, why again are you willing to give it to Vincent Jackson?

Oh, you want to pay Vincent Jackson because he isn’t a “problem player” like Moss?  If Vincent Jackson became a member of the New England Patriots today, he would be facing a 6-game suspension because of violations of the league’s substance abuse policy (3 games) and because the Chargers placed him on the roster-exempt list because of his holdout (3 more games if he plays for another team).

Then you want Vincent Jackson because he is younger, and projects to be more productive at 28 and 29 than Randy Moss and 34 and 35?  First off all, Randy Moss’ 2008 and 2009 were both more productive than Jackson’s 2008 and 2009 seasons.  Secondly, Chargers’ current number one wideout Malcom Floyd is on pace to have about 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns; a season very similar to Jackson’s 2009 campaign.  Is Malcom Floyd not worthy of a $10 million a year contract?  Or maybe is the Chargers number one wideout (regardless of the name) a beneficiary of San Diego’s wide open, gin-slinger type offense?

Chance of Vincent Jackson winding up in New England – 0%

Deion Branch

The possibility of Deion Branch winding up in New England is certainly greater than the Jackson deal happening, but I wouldn’t say that it is a sure bet either.  Ever since Branch left New England after the 2005-2006 season, he has not lived up to the label as a number one wideout.  People tend to forget that in Branch’s best season with the Pats (2005-2006) he racked up only 998 yards and five scores.  That certainly isn’t a season to be scoffed at, but a wideout worthy of a first round pick in a trade?  I’m not buying it.  But, the Pats have been thanking the Seahawks for that deal ever since they drafted Brandon Meriweather with that pick in 2007.  Anyways, Branch has some familiarity with the system, but it has changed dramatically since 2006.  But, you can’t overlook the chemistry that he and Brady had.  Chemistry that lead to Branch being the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX (an epic 11 catches for 133 yards).

Branch would be a good fit to come in and help the Pats.  No one is going to replace Randy Moss, but Branch could provide some speed on the outside to try and help keep some of the coverage off of Wes Welker underneath.  And, at a price tag of a 5th or 6th round pick, Branch might be somewhat of a steal.

Chance of Deion Branch winding up in New England – 30%

Larry Fitzgerald

You are coach Ken Whisenhunt, and you know that your team isn’t doing much this season (even at 3-2 currently).  Your starting quarterback is an undrafted rookie.  What other reason do your fans have for coming to the game other than to watch Larry Fitzgerald play?  It took a first, third, and sixth round pick from the Cowboys to get Roy Williams away from Detroit.  I can’t even imagine what you would have to give Arizona for Fitzgerald, probably something like a 1, 2, and 4…if not more.  The Pats have the picks to do it, and I would love to see Fitzgerald in a Patriot uniform, but I can’t see Belichick making a deal even remotely close to that.

Chance of Larry Fitzgerald winding up in New England – 1%

Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, etc.

The most plausible way to fill the void left by Randy Moss is by using the talent that the Patriots have amassed at the offensive skill positions.  Much has been made of Aaron Hernandez’s and Rob Gronkowski’s success as rookies so far in New England.  With Moss now gone, I can easily see each’s respective role growing.  Hernandez is a bigger version of Wes Welker.  He isn’t really fast, but he has exceptional quickness for a guy that is 6’1” 245lbs.  Hernandez can run through the middle and up the seam to try and keep the linebackers and safeties of opposing teams honest, and away from Welker.  Gronkowski is more of a mauler than Hernandez, but he has great hands for a big guy.  Look for Gronkowski’s size to be taken advantage of in both the run and pass game.  More two and three tight end sets will be seen to pound the ball with BJGE, as well as deploying Gronkowski into the end zone as a red zone target.  Brandon Tate has shown glimpses of electricity so far this season, and his role will look to expand with Moss’ departure.  Tate is not one of the few, if not the lone deep threat for the Pats (depending on Taylor Price’s contributions as the season progresses), and will be used as just that.  The deep ball will not be thrown as often in this new-look offense, but when it is thrown Tate is the most likely recipient.  Julian Edelman hasn’t played much so far this season, but we saw some of his ability last season when filling in for the then injured Wes Welker.  Edelman and Welker’s skill set are comparable, so similarly to Hernandez, look for Edelman to run a lot of those underneath routes to take some coverage away from Welker.

Chance of the aforementioned players being the main replacement for Randy Moss – 69%

Trading a sure-fire Hall of Fame player like Randy Moss is never an easy thing to over come.  But, it is important to realize that for Belichick to make this move he has to have a lot of confidence in the young offensive weapons that are currently on the roster.  Look for more emphasis on the run and play action passing, but to be completely honest, I don’t foresee much of a dip in the offensive production out of New England, even without Randy Moss.