Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Halloween: Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh

Every off-season, when the schedule is released, there is a stretch of games that stands out and you know after those games is when you will learn the true identity of the team. Last year it was the Pittsburgh through Jets Act 2 when the Patriots proved they were the class of the AFC (lets choose to ignore the playoffs for this exercise). For 2011, these next three - five games are that stretch. We should have a pretty clear picture after the following: at Pittsburgh, home for the Giants at the Jets; followed by a home game against the resurgent Chiefs and then on the road in Philadelphia. If the Patriots can go 4-1 over this stretch, they should be well positioned for the top seed in the AFC. It starts this weekend against a familiar foe, the one organization in the NFL that can come close to comparing to New England's resume over the past decade (although not really that close). Fresh off a bye week and with the return to health of a number of injured players, the Pats are in prime position to face a recently hot Steelers team coming back from a tough start to the 2011 season. Of course the Steelers are 0-2 when facing teams with winning records; their 5 wins coming against opponents that are a stellar 7-24 combined. The last time the Pats played in Pittsburgh on Halloween (in 2004) was also their last loss to the Steelers. Lets hope this time around goes a bit better.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Riding the RomoCoaster: Game 6 vs. Dallas

Ahhhhh; there is not much better than beating up on the Jets. After a weeks worth of blather from Rex about how the Jets would get back to their "ground-and-pound" approach, the Pats took that script and shoved it right down Rex's fat throat - out-rushing the Jets 152 to 97. Now the question becomes: how will the Pats respond coming off an emotional win (with their bye week on the horizon); facing a more formidable than you think Cowboys team coming off their bye week.

two faced 'Boys stand at 2-2, but could very easily be 4-0. Or 0-4 (their game against Washington was one of the ugliest games I've ever watched). As the Romocoaster goes, so go the Cowboys (I've seen this clip probably 10 times now on SpotsCenter and have literally no idea what they say - it's too much fun to watch Marcellus Wallace's face). As much fun as it was beating up on Rex last week, the Pats face his equally talented, less obnoxious brother Rob this week. The last time the Pats didn't score 30+ points in a game was in their miserable performance against Cleveland last year. Cleveland's Defensive Coordinator last season? Rob Ryan. The Browns were also coming off a bye last year when they beat the Patriots, and I think it's safe to say that the Ryan brothers shared some ideas of how to stop the unstoppable Patriots offense.

Gordon Edes: Not bad my friend

I plan to do a full series of posts on what the Red Sox should do this off-season, but today Gordon Edes of offers his take. And you know what? It is really not bad at all. I usually take shots at mainstream media types like Edes, but there are some relatively level-headed suggestions in here that could help this team. He also makes a prediction that I fully agree with that the Red Sox will make the playoffs next year. Ultimately what I think he shows here is that it will not take much to win those extra couple games they needed this year. The talent is there, it just needs some tweaks. Let's take a look at his suggestions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Come Back NBA! (Part 2)

On its own, the NBA is a spectacular league that I love to watch. But it also serves another purpose in my world.

My passion is baseball, but when the season ends I need something else to occupy my time. The NBA gives me exactly that. Until now. Besides the obvious entertainment value I get out of it, the NBA gives me something  to talk/read/write about while baseball players slumber.

When the Red Sox season ends, win or lose, people love to talk about feelings, chemistry, leaders, cancers and what ever other post facto argument for success ("Cowboy Up!") or failure ("Chicken and beer :(") they can come up with that have little to no bearing on what actually happened on the field. When the NBA is around, I get to watch Paul Pierce and the boys make beautiful music on the court. Now, I have to deal with this mind numbing shit head on. So here are my quick thoughts on the Bob Hohler piece.

  • I can't stand anonymous sources. Man up to the shit you smear. Unless it is a political controversy, either put your name on what you say or don't say anything at all.
  • Poor Terry Francona. None of what was printed in this is any of our business.
  • Larry Lucchino made some comment about how this was "Hohler's take" on the situation. The radio jockeys are blasting Lucchino for saying this, but I don't get why. Yes the bulk of the column is information he received in interviews, but they are still coordinated in a way to support a specific narrative that Hohler decided on. This is like saying that Michael Moore is only presenting the facts when he makes his "documentaries."
  • The biggest instance of Hohler imparting his own take is with the infamous chicken, beer and video games revelation. He starts by saying how the signs of the collapse appeared early in the season (of course nobody noticed them when they occurred) when some of the pitchers appeared in the "Hell Yeah, I Like Beer" video. He then says that Lackey, Lester and Beckett were drinking, eating chicken and playing video games in the locker room, though never once says how often and under what circumstances. Then he says that some of the guys cut back on their in-season workouts. Then he closes with the terrible September stats of the 3 starters. I may not be no fancy journalist, but to me that seems like a writer saying "Beer video -> drinking beer -> not working out -> bad September performance." With no concrete evidence that these three things caused the bad performance, this is what we call a "take."
  • If you want to follow this story line, find out how often this happened. Was it a Sunday only thing? Was it every start that one of the three weren't involved in? Was it once a month? Was it only during blowouts? How long were they in the clubhouse? These are all things we should know if we are to speculate on how disruptive these activities were to the team.
  • Beyond the basic 4 W's and an H (I took a class in High School), shouldn't we then look to see if there is any evidence that these practices lead to poor performance? There have been tons of out of shape, drunk and loner players that have had tremendous success individually and with their teams. Truthfully, nobody has ever measured the effects of working out or not working out mid-season so it is not fair to make the connection until it happens.
  • People talk about how chemistry was a reason for the collapse, but who has more chemistry than 3 or 4 dudes sitting around drinking beer, eating chicken and playing video games?
Please come back NBA. I hate writing this stuff.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Come Back NBA! (Part 1)

So the NBA canceled the first 2 weeks of the season. I know what you are thinking, and the answer is, "Yes", I am on suicide watch 24 hours a day. You can all breath easier now.

My therapist, Dr. J, says I should share my frustrations with the people I care about during these trying times. So any time I hear or see something that makes me long for sneakers squeaking, balls bouncing and KG screaming, I will share it with my loyal readers.

Yesterday while driving home from work, someone called into 98.5 The Sports Hub to discuss Milan Lucic. For those few who haven't jumped on the bandwagon, Lucic is the star left winger for the Boston Bruins. He led the team in goals scored, points and was 4th in plus minus last year.

The caller started by reminiscing the days when "Luc" was young and he would get in fights every game. Fine, I can deal with that, people like fighting. Then he says something like, "but last year we would only talk about him fighting every few games and it seemed like he was more focused on scoring than mixing it up. I mean, when the puck isn't going in, Luc has a great over hand right."

What fucking sport is this?!?!?!?!?! Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Please come back NBA. I can't listen to morons complaining that their leading scorer isn't better at a completely different sport. Scoring wins hockey games. Over hand rights win boxing matches. Fuck I hate hockey.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Now Ownership is to blame?

He's so hilariously Obnoxious!
X Dad forwarded me this article from by some guy calling himself "Obnoxious Boston Fan", the latest hack trying to be Bill Simmons (yes, I am one of those too, but at least I research the stuff I say). The article talks a lot about all the mistakes ownership made this year and how they were too focused on their other entities, which caused a top down sense of apathy that ultimately led to the collapse. Since I am getting the sense that this idiot is not the only one who thinks this way, I am going to address what this Einstein has to say. And since he is stealing from Simmons, I am going to steal from the guys at Fire Joe Morgan and go piece by piece through this ridiculous article (OBF's words in  Bold Italics).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quick Hit thoughts for Game 5 vs. New York Jets

I'm hungover, recovering from a wedding, have a cold and little to no interest in writing. But it's the Jets, so I have to get some thoughts out there.
  • No Jerod Mayo. Waaaaahh. Replacing Mayo with Gary Guyton is like going from dating Anna Kournikova to Serena Williams.
  • As of now it looks like Hernandez, Haynesworth and Chung will all be playing today. Obviously Chung is the most important of these because we have nothing else even resembling another safety; but boy is it nice to have Hernandez back. He adds such another dimension to the offense, and after the balanced rushing attack the Pats displayed last week, his return should get them back to good old unstoppable form.
  • Should be interesting to see how the Jets match up with the Patriots offense. It seems natural to assume that they'll move Revis inside to cover Welker (aka the current best receiver in the NFL), however, they like to keep Revis outside so this marquee match-up may be one we don't get to see much of.
  • Antonio Cromartie is one of the single most over rated players in the NFL. Please watch how many defensive holding penalties he gets away with today and how many tackles he shies away from. Of all the loathsome players on the Jets, I think I hate him the most. Second most is Cheddar Burress. God do I hate him too. Then Eric Smith and Sanchez.
  • Will rookie Stevan Ridley continue to see an increase in his carries after his solid week last week, or will Benny be the featured back? Regardless who it is, the Pats should be focusing on another balanced offensive attack today (30 rushes/30 passes last week) considering the Jets are giving up over 180 yards per game on the ground - not to mention their league leading pass D.
  • The health of NYJ Center Nick Mangold will be one of the key to the game. Mangold is by far and away the best Center in the NFL, and if he misses the game that is a huge advantage to the Pats. Take a nice day off Nick, you deserve it.
  • Sanchez has looked like a JV QB so far this season. If anyone can turn that around, it's the Patriots pass defense - so today will be a good test for both.
  • Due to Sanchez's struggles, Rex has been talking about getting back to their "ground and pound" approach, so the Pat's run D will have to set the tone today.
  • Lets hope Shaun Ellis took some notes from Richard Seymour last week on how not to perform when facing your old team for the first time.
  • If Woodhead is out, could it be time for Shane Vareen to make an appearance in the 3rd down back role?
  • The pass rush has been alllllmost getting there for a few weeks now. Today would be a great time for them to close the gap.
  • Prediction: New England 28 - New York 20

Friday, October 7, 2011

History Lesson: Depth (Part 3)

Last night, Ivan Nova and Doug Fister squared off in Game 5 of the AL Division Series for the Yankees and Tigers, respectively. Nova is the Yankees's rookie sensation who won 16 games, including 12 decisions in a row, and headed into the post season as the team's number two starter. Fister was picked up in a trade mid-season from the Mariners and proved to be the most important trade acquisition in baseball, stabilizing a shaky Detroit rotation by going 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 0.6 BB per 9 innings after the trade.

The results of last night's match-up are inconsequential to this discussion (but thank baby Jesus the Tigers won). The reason for highlighting these pitchers is because Red Sox fans and media have wondered why the Red Sox didn't have a pitcher from the minors like Nova or why they didn't make a trade for a pitcher like Fister, but instead threw out the likes of Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland and Tim Wakefield in key September starts while the playoffs were slipping away.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

NFL First Quarter Report

Bill Belichick often say it takes about 4 weeks to know what kind of team you have (6 may be more accurate this year given the lockout, but whatever) - so on that note, here are some random NFL thoughts after the first quarter of the season.

* The biggest story of the season to date has to be the 4-0 Detroit Lions. The Lions flashed their potential in a major way against N.E. in the pre-season; but that was only preseason. While I figured they would be a good team, I ultimately thought they were a year away from making the playoffs (I picked them to go 8-8 in an article that never got posted). Calvin Johnson has looked downright unstoppable and could give Randy a run for his money for the TD record. What's been most impressive is the lack of quit in these young pups (down by 24 at Dallas & 20 vs. Minny). With quite a few winnable games remaining on their schedule (Chicago twice, Minny, Denver, Carolina & Oakland, among others); the Lions have a legitimate shot at the playoff and should be fun to watch for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

History Lesson: September Pitching (Part 2)

The Red Sox pitching in September was Loiazan. This is no surprise, and it is not my hypothesis. Even the staunchest supporters of the "bad chemistry" theory can admit that the pitching was just plain terrible in September (although all those chemists point to this drinking story as a reason why, not a combination of bad talent and bad timing; because the Red Sox are definitively the only team in baseball with pitchers that drink between starts; riiiiight).

In September, Red Sox pitchers allowed 6.37 runs per game (earned and unearned). From April-May they had allowed 4.19 runs per game. They went from an above average pitching staff to an historically bad one. While this was happening, the offense more or less remained the same (5.4 runs per game in September, 5.4 runs per game through the whole season), elite compared to the rest of the league, but not historically elite. Because the 2011 Red Sox offense was unable to morph into a combination of the late 90s Cleveland Indians and late 20s New York Yankees, that September pitching became a problem.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

History Lesson: Injuries (Part 1)

It is time to dive into the collapse once and for all. I am not sure how many parts this will take or what answers I will find. I have preconceived notions about each topic that I plan to discuss, but I am going to back each argument up with research. Sometimes I may be wrong and sometimes I may be right, but I promise to give unbiased research for each topic. I will start each part off with what I think is right and then will dive into the research to confirm or refute my own theory. Sounds exciting right? While the scientific method may not sound exciting, hopefully it will bring us all some closure.

Today I will look at injuries as a cause for the Red Sox collapse. Injuries seem to be the topic that nobody likes to discuss. For one, people tend to think that every team has injuries so if everyone is on a level playing field with respect to injuries then this is a poor argument. Two, talking about injuries is just sad and boring. There is no way to predict injuries (yet) and prevention is equally unpredictable. Plus, we as fans are not really privy to the methods of preparation and prevention nor the people in charge of the medical and training staffs so when there is a failure there is nobody to focus the blame on so it becomes a dead end. And three, people see injuries as a cop out. They think that these pretty boy millionaires should be able to play through a stiff neck, strained muscle or bone sticking out of the flesh because at the end of the day they get to go home to their mansions and super model wives and this is their job, damnit!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hello old friend; it's really scary to see you once again - Game 4 at Oakland

The following is from one of my first SBS posts; a draft preview article discussing the need to draft a DE; and it seems worth repeating given the circumstances:
"The date was September 6th, 2009- the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I was sitting at a diner in Hyannis with a group of friends recounting ridiculous stories of the past weekend (people falling off docks and into the harbor for a late night swim, girls kicking through glass doors to get into the hotel, etc) when my phone rang. It was Papa O. I assumed it was the standard call to make sure I was still alive after a weekend adventure with the idiots I call my friends. Nope.

'Did you hear the Pats traded Seymour' he asked. Whaaaaaaa? I shared the news with the table and started getting chewed out as if I was the one who traded him. So much for don’t shoot the messenger. How could they trade Big Rich? One of the unquestioned leaders of the team; a 5 time Pro Bowl selection (and 3x 1st team All-Pro); was gone? You know it’s bad when even the girls at the table are upset that a Defensive End was traded. I can’t even think of the male equivalent to that – being upset over what dress Jessica Biel wore to the Oscars? Outraged at which golddigger got voted off of The Bachelor? I don’t know, think of something funny and laugh."
This will be the first meeting between Big Rich and the Pats since the trade. While I love Seymour and everything he did for the Pats (and for punching Big Ben in the face; hence the picture above), I hope he remembers how much he enjoyed his years here and takes it easy on his old team. Stay away from Tom, Mr. Seymour. Please.

After a putrid week of sports throughout Boston, can the Pats put a historical loss behind them and move on against an up-and-coming Raiders team coming off a big win against the Jets? The secondary is thin once again (Bodden & Ras-I are out while Chung is coming back from surgery on his thumb), and the Raiders are leading the NFL in rushing. The freaks of the Black Hole celebrate Halloween year round, making Oakland a tough place to play. I enjoyed this quote from G Brian Waters (who traveled to Oakland many a time during his days with KC) about the weirdest thing he ever saw from the Black Hole: "I’ll say this, that's the first time I ever saw an old lady in a wheelchair shooting me the bird with both fingers. That’s crazy right there." So how will Brady and the Pats respond to the Raiders and their ill-mannered old women? Lets take a look at some key match ups.

New England Offense vs. Oakland Defense

Running Game:
While all the talk this week will be about the Raiders and their league leading Rushing attack, lets take a quick look at the other side of the ball. For all the success Oakland has had running the ball, they've been equally as bad at stopping the run. As talented as the Raiders D-line may be, opponents are averaging a league leading 5.8 yards per carry on the year. Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain made headlines this week by calling the Pats' a finesse team.The Patriots have a penchant for making anyone who runs their mouth eat their words (see ex-Steelers safety Anthony Smith), so perhaps the Pat's will make Mr. McClain realize that giving up 5.8ypc is just about as finesse as it gets. The Patriots struggled a bit at times to run the ball last week, but I see a focused effort on establishing the ground game to slow down the Raiders pass rush. Rookie Stevan Ridley was effective last week, so look for him to get a few more chances this week.
Advantage - Patriots

Passing Game:
As big of a disaster as last week was, consider this for a second: Tom Brady threw as many interceptions in one game last week, as he did in all 16 games in 2010 (45 attempts last week compared to 492 in 2010). While Brady's ridiculous stats in 2010 were an anomaly, so to was the game vs. Buffalo (plus, only one of those picks was his fault - well 1.5 if you want to give some of the blame on the one to Chad Johnson, which would be fair - but I hate Chad so I'm calling it one). Point being - last week is not going to happen again.

Now, onto this week. As banged up as the Pats' secondary may be, it's not all sunshine and rainbows in the Raiders defensive backfield. After losing their best player to free agency (Nnamdi Asomugha), the injury bug has hit Oakland's D-backs over the past couple weeks. As Tedy Bruschi points out:
"Free safety Michael Huff had a concussion. Left cornerback Chris Johnson injured his hamstring. So you have to monitor those two situations this week. Overall, this is a defense that has given it up against the pass -- 264 yards to Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 2, and 369 to Mark Sanchez last week. I'm sure Tom Brady sees that, and if he gets time, I think he'll like what he sees in terms of matchups."
The key here today will be how the offensive line can hold up in pass protection against the four man rush of the Raiders. So far this year, Oakland has sent 4 or fewer pass rushers on 76.4% of pass plays. The strength of their defensive line allows them to do this, as they can consistently generate pressure while rushing only four (10 sacks in 3 games) - which is of course led by our old friend Rich. The reason the Jets were able to win the playoff game last year was because they were able to generate consistent pressure while using only 3 or 4 pass rushers. If the Patriots O-line can protect Brady against the Raiders standard 4 man rush, he should be able to pick apart a banged up Oakland secondary. Also of note: WR Taylor Price will be making his season debut today. He had a monster pre-season and should be in the mix to challenge The Struggling Chad Johnson (yes, that is now his official name) for the WR3 role. I'm very interested to see what kind of playing time he gets. Regardless - we have Tom, and he has a fresh haircut, so:
Advantage - Patriots

P.S. - This is always fun to watch

Oakland Offense vs. New England Defense

Running Game:
The Raiders l
ead the league in rushing, with 185 ypg behind solid play from a brutish offensive line. The Patriots are without Fat Albert. But they did re-sign Gerrard Warren - a move I was very happy to see considering he looked like the best defensive lineman on the team during the pre-season. Now I feel a bit better - Shaun Ellis, Vince, Gerard. That's a good start. Cycle through Andre Carter, Kyle Love and Anderson. Given Oakland's lack of talented WR's, perhaps they'll play more 2 receiver sets and allow the Pats to stay in their base defensive (and even mix in some of the old 3-4). Regardless, McFadden, fragile as he may be, is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL.

Limiting Oakland's running game is going to be the most essential aspect of the game for the Patriots today. If the Patriots can hold Oakland to short gains on early downs, it will take away the play action pass and make Oakland's offense o
ne dimensional. Tackling by the cornerbacks will be of added importance in order to contain McFadden's big-play-ability on runs to the outside.
Advantage - Oakland

Passing Game:

Oooh where to begin? The Patriots pass defense is giving up 377 ypg, meaning, well, they basically could be as effectiv
e even if they weren't on the field. The pass rush has been generating decent pressure, but it seems like every play they have been just a split second late. McCourty is in the midst of a brutal sophomore slump - being targeted, and burnt, early and often - but I have confidence he'll return to form shortly. The inexperience of the safeties (sans Chung) shone through in a major way last week - and bears questioning the decision making of releasing both Merriweather (nope, he stinks, right move) and Sanders this offseason.

From Oakland'
s perspective: Jason Campbell is playing with the same offensive coordinator as the previous season for the first time in his career. Yes, he has been in the league for 7 years. Campbell has been thriving under the new found continuity, sporting a cool 93.8 passer rating through the first three games. Granted this is based off a small sample size, and is in no doubt benefited from the strength of the running game - but I have always felt Campbell was underrated as a quarterback. The Raiders don't have much in terms of talent at the Wide Receiver position, but Rookie 5th round draft choice out of Tennessee Denarius Moore has shown plenty of potential to date (leading the team with 9 catches for 181 yards and a TD). Add in the receiving threat that McFadden brings to the table (2nd on the team with 11 catches for 84 yards and a TD) and the acquisition of TE Kevin Boss; and the Raiders passing game seems to be heading in the right direction.

Until the Patriots prove that they can at least pretend to stop the pass, this match up will go against them no matter who the opponent (well save for Tavaris Jackson and Alex Smith). So:

Advantage - Oakland

Special Teams
As much as I like the Patriots' combination of Zoltan and Gostkowski; Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski are the best pair of kickers in the league.

Advantage - Oakland


I'm dying to pick the Pats in a blowout in this one. Brady coming off one of the worst games of his career and facing a beat up Raiders secondary. The Raiders, running their mouths coming off a big win. In years past, I would have chalked this one up as NE 44 - Oak 7. But this team isn't quite there yet. The defense is going to take time to come together, and while I believe they will be great by the end of the year, the won't be by the end of today. The once laughable Raiders have built a solid foundation and will give the Patriots a test. In the end, the Pats offense will be too explosive allowing N.E. to hold on for the W. September football - win and move on; no matter how ugly the wins may be. With the Jets traveling to Baltimore tonight and into Gillette next weekend; Belichick won't let the possibility of a two game lead over the loud-mouth boys in green slip away against a beatable opponent this afternoon.
Patriots 30 - Raiders 20