Friday, October 27, 2006

KIBBLES AND BITS

As I have a tendency to do, I often harass the Boston Globe sportswriters, I mean email them to find out a little more behind the stories in the papers. On Wednesday, the polished, polite, and professional Mike Reiss responded to a follow-up I had after reading his piece on Asante Samuel. Samuel, along with Daniel Graham, are both free-agents at the end of the season that I would like to think the Patriots would be more than anxious to keep. Having talked to the agent of Samuel, I bothered Mike about whether he thought this agent was as Scott Boras type playing hardball to get Asante to the open market, or if he was sensible and seemed amenable to working something out and getting some long-term security in a comfortable location for his client. I was relieved to hear that his agent is more along the lines of the latter (aka not a Scott Boras type). Though I feel guilty picking up scraps from legitimate writers who pass on information to shlubs like myself out of the kindness of their hearts, I would feel even worse not sharing it with my two or three semi-loyal readers.

* * *

In return for his kindness, I want to plug that Mike Reiss also appears on The Boston Globe SportsPlus on NESN Friday night at 5:30 and 11:30PM and replayed over the weekend. The program is hosted by Neumy (Bob Neumeier, late of WEEI and before that one of the local news channels, and only the best horse racing analyst in the country) along with my favorite New England Patriot when I was a kid, Tim Fox. It is very informative and interesting, especially compared to the three Big Show WEEI tubs of lard on FSN Thursday nights: the Big O, Fred Smerlas, and Steve DeOssie. Wide-angle lens are not optional. Heck, this past weeks program included the three musketeers wearing Halloween costumes, making it the first time the three tele-genic personalities looked good on TV (yes, masks were on). So check out Mike Reiss, drive up the ratings, make him more money. If he takes time out of his day to answer my idiotic ramblings, you know he has to be a prince of a guy.

* * *

Great article by KC Joyner at ESPN.com (subscriber only, sorry!) details an NFL team winning games with a very strong defense, good special teams, winning the turnover battle, a very good running game, and multiple questions with their wide receivers. Nope, not the New England Patriots, but rather the Denver Broncos. Joyner details how the Broncos are basically a one-dimensional passing team (all Javon Walker, all the time) and that just maybe the problem is not Jake the Snake at QB. It makes sense to me, but still I would take a rookie over Plummer in a playoff game any day.

* * *

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

THE CELTICS ARE COMING

I hate to say it, but it is autumn: the Patriots have a strangle-hold on the AFC East, the Bruins already have a strangle-hold on last place, Theo Epstein is planning Thanksgiving at the Lugo residence, and the Celtics are, believe it or not, finishing up the exhibition season. Here are the the Starting Five (Five Pertinent Questions Regarding the Celtics):

* * *

1. Who is running this spa?

Paul Pierce is out with an infected finger? From a paper-cut? Delonte West was out with an infected toe earlier in the pre-season. Did Paul Pierce get the infection passed to him? Is he running a pedicure business in the locker room? Red Sox manager Terry Francona has an infected foot as well, which is keeping him from managing the touring MLB team in Japan. That should teach him to go to the 3P (Paul Pierce Pedicures) Foot Shack.

* * *

2. Is THIS the year for Big Al?

What is great about this year is that Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have dialed down the expectations for Big Al. In fact, Big Perk looks like the future star right now. Tentatively, Big Al is coming off the bench to spell Big Perk or Theo Ratliff at center when the Celtics play small-ball, or to relieve Ryan Gomes at power forward and give the Celtics two big guys down low when they need to bang some bodies. Jefferson can concentrate on his role instead of saving the franchise. Al can pull down rebounds and outlet to Rajon Rondo or Sebastian Telfair to lead the break, block some shots, and be a low-post scoring option.

* * *

3. Do the Celtics have a real live point guard this season?

YES, but with an asterisk. As good as Telfair and Rondo have looked, both are barely old enough to buy alcohol, let alone take the burden of running an NBA team. Having two real point guards at least gives Doc the option of going with the hot hand. At times, both have looked great. At times, both have looked lost. With Delonte West coming off the bench and giving some life and energy out of the two guard spot, the Celtics depth gets a serious boost.

* * *

4. Will Paul Pierce ever get a title?

Sure, but not in 2006-7. This team has incredible young depth. It will take time to sort through it, but let me ask you this: how good would this team be if Pitino never traded Chauncey Billops and the front court was Ron Mercer at SG, Billops at PG, and Pierce and a couple of big guys? Good enough to win 40+ games, which puts them ahead of the Celtics teams of the past few teams. My point (yes, I actually have one) is that these players need time to learn. Sorry, but polished players coming out of college is just not part of the equation anymore. A Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, etc come every couple of years, there are not seven or eight coming out every year. The patience will pay off: just be patient!

* * *

5. How many games will this team win?

I think this is a 40 to 50 win team. If Rondo and Telfair are above average, Theo Ratliff still has some hop left, and Wally Szczerbiak stays healthy, closer to 50. Any major injuries, and closer to 40. Good enough to make the playoffs and out a scare into a top seed in the first round, that is for sure.

* * *

SOMETIMES YOU GUESS RIGHT

Here is a random nugget of wisdom I stumbled across. Check out what I wrote in August:
When did Daunte Culpepper ever do anything without Randy Moss lining up at wide
receiver? Did the Dolphins trade for Moss and I somehow missed it? Daunte will
find it quite daunting to throw off his surgically repaired knee to the
maddeningly inconsistent pair of Chris Chambers (I know how maddening his
production is, I have been drafting him in fantasy football for years!) and
Farty Marty Booker (yikes!). I respect Nick Saban as a coach, but Culpepper and
Joey Harrington are neither THE answer the Dolphins were looking for nor are
they capable of leading a team with an aging defense and barely adequate
offensive line to the playoffs.
Miami going to the Super Bowl? Hah! That is right, read here for the best prognostications available on the web (just ignore the NFL picks from last week. I was, uhh, drunk or something. Yeah, that is it. Too much Buttershots. Yeah, that is what it was. Watching Shannon Sharpe and Sterling Sharpe rotted my brain. Yeah, that is what it was).

* * *

Making this a theme: Check out this prescient thought from the middle of August:

For the Yankees, it is if Mussina bounces back, Johnson can be consistent, and
Cory Lidle keeps forgetting he is Cory Lidle. Watching Jared Wright is for
Yankees fans like watching Byung-Hyun Kim pitch for the Red Sox in the
not-so-distant past: game-to-game you have no ideas if he is going to give you
five solid innings (and pray they pull him before he falls apart) or if he gives
up eight runs in the first inning. Forget the Yankees fantasy line-up, the
biggest fear for the Pinstripes in August and September is if Chien-Ming Wang
falters, the season is basically over for New York. Wang is the Yankees number
one starter. As odd as that seems, he is the key down the stretch.

Sure, the Wanger held up, but I was dead-on about that crappy starting rotation holding back the Pinstriped Demons.

* * *

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I am an idiot. But it is nice to be right twice in my life!

* * *

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BIG D QB CONTROVERSY

With former New England Patriots franchise savior Drew Bledsoe looking like Brett Favre against the Giants in the first half of the Monday Night Football game on ESPN (and no, that was not a compliment), Bill Parcells reached for the old panic button. Realistically, if Tony Romo was going to be the choice, the old curmudgeon in the Big D (and co-New England Patriots franchise savior) should have went with Romo all along. Of course, Romo went on to save my fantasy football season by throwing three more picks, including one brought all the way back to give me the six points I needed and squeak out a win by less than three points.

Back to the big mess with the ex-Pats. Parcells is toast. He is done. This team will never win anything in Dallas. I would be surprised if he made it to the end of the season. The dream is over. Running game stinks, there is no QB, Terry Glenn is the mentally stable wide receiver on the field, and the defense cannot stop anyone. The problem is not Bledsoe. It is the entire offense. Dallas has two running backs that need to be morphed into one; two head-case wide receivers; and a leaky offensive line. The defense, a strength a few years ago, is obviously in transition and in need of a purpose.

Time for the Tuna to hang it up.

* * *

MONDAY REWIND

Ho-hum. Another impressive performance from the lunch-pail gang in Foxboro. A solid, near-mistake-free game in which the Patriots dominated from the opening drive until the end of the game. Nothing sexy. Just the Bill Belichick bend-but-do-not-break defense holding the hapless Bills to two field goals.

Seriously, the offense, defense, and special teams were excellent. Minnesota, Indy, and Chicago. Three tough teams standing between the Pats going 11-5 and 14-2. As good as they looked on Sunday, how could anyone not think that it is going to be Denver, New England, Indianapolis, and beating up on whoever gets in their way in January (that is presuming Denver dumps Jake the Snake for Jay Cutler).

OFFENSE:

Corey Dillon rushed for some tough yards.
Doug Gabriel looks like a solid receiver who can make a lot of plays for the Patriots. The Raiders gave this guy up and kept Jerry Porter and Randy Moss?
Tom Brady seemed not to have many body language issues.
The offensive line settled down nicely and protected Brady form the mid-second quarter on.
We have a Chad Jackson sighting! We have a Chad Jackson sighting! We have a Chad Jackson sighting!

DEFENSE:

I know what Asante Samuel is thinking (ala Mo Vaughn): Every day the price goes up! Seriously, the Pats need to get this guy locked up.
Junior Seau quietly had his best game yet as a Patriot.
Chad Scott! SMACKDOWN! Best hit of the year for the Pats (I would have said the double-team on Lick My Cotchery of the Jets, but he never went down and scored a cheap TD.
Willis McGahee is a good running back, and he looked very ordinary against the Patriots front seven.
Jarvis Green or no Jarvis Green, I am still holding my breath regarding Richard Seymour.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Kicker? Is there some issue with the kicker?
Is this the best anyone has ever seen Josh Miller punt?
Laurence Maroney stealing the ball from Kevin Faulk and rumbling seventy yards was unbelievable. I was standing and pumping my fist. I have not been that excited about a kickoff return since Stephan Starring was running them back for the Patriots in the mid-eighties.

* * *

Highlight of the game? Check out the PET PICK OF THE WEEK over at ProFootballTalk.com. Big Vince Wilfork digging out a little second-half snack. Ughh.

* * *

Go Pats

Funny how much a bye week will throw you off. Suddenly, it is Friday afternoon and I wake up from the fog of a busy week to realize that the Patriots have a 1pm game on Sunday against Buffalo. Ohmygawd, ohmygawd, ohmygawd.

Can the Pats special teams keep the Bills dangerous returners out of the end-zone?
Can anyone keep Schobel & Kelsay off of Tom Brady?
Are Jabbar Gaffney and Chad Jackson ready to contribute in the passing game yet?
Is Corey Dillon healthy?
Should the Patriots bring in Mike Vrabel on offense and split-out Heath Evans to go with the first 5 tight end set?
Will Patrick Pass be taken off the PUP list?
Will he have a job when he is healthy?
Is Tom Brady in tune with Doug Gabriel and Reche Caldwell?

Probably.
I think the O-line is up to the task.
I am excited to find out.
Apparently.
No.
Not this week.
I am not sure.
Very likely so.

See, I have all the answers.

Seriously, the Bills are the type of team the Patriots should beat-up on. If they can get a lead and create some turnovers early, the Bills are likely to implode and give the Patriots the type of blow-out win seldom seen in these parts. On the other hand, if the Bills can run the ball effectively and Losman can hook-up deep with Lee Evans, the game could be a lot closer and not the blow-out everyone is assuming will take place. Dick Jauron is an excellent close. Remember, week one was a close game.

I take heart with the fact that as I sit on the train home on a rainy Friday afternoon, the graffiti on the seat ahead of me reads: Go Pats. That has got to be good karma.

* * *

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MONDAY, MONDAY:

First, a quick HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my older sister, Emilie. Yes, there is a reason my daughter shares the name (though we spell it Emmalee). My sister may not have understood why I wasted so much time on baseball and the like, but she held her own and then some in Little League, and she is quite simply the most loving, caring and most generous person I have ever known in my life. With more like her, the world would be a much better place. Happy birthday, older sis. I love you.

* * *

Peter King, as always, is a wealth of information about the NFL, but also some great Patriots-related thoughts and opinions shine through this week in his Monday Morning Quarterback column at SI.com:

First, a little bit of what makes a winning team:

I think I hate to do this. I really do. We're in Week 6 of the football season, but I have to give some advice to Joe Torre and Brian Cashman right now, because they are decent men, even if they do work for the Evil Empire. Get in a car sometime this month, and drive 3½ hours up I-95 to Foxboro. Visit the Patriots. Or if you're inclined to go a place where you might be more invisible, fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive north to Lake Forest, where the Bears are headquartered. Learn how to build a winning team and how to navigate through the noise that disrupts every big-market team today.
Football isn't baseball, you'll argue. Football is the ultimate team game, and baseball is more of a stars' game. But the one thing all good baseball teams have is the one thing all good football teams have -- role players. Guys who don't need the credit and who don't earn the big money. In baseball, David Eckstein is a winning player, much the same as Mike Vrabel is. It wasn't so long ago that both of them were on the street. The best team in football right now is the Chicago Bears. Look at their roster. Ever hear of Bernard Berrian, RashiedDavis, Mark Anderson, Tank Johnson, Alfonso Boone or Jason McKie? Don't feel bad. Not many football fans have, either.
Those are six of the 25 or 30 most important players on the team rampaging its way through the NFL right now. I'm guessing their combined salaries equal one month of AlexRodriguez's. This is what Bears GM Jerry Angelo told me the other day: "One of the things I learned from the Patriots and Steelers in the last few years is they lost more than they gained in free agency, and they never were worried about it. They drafted rank-and-file players, developed them, were patient with them, knew the exact roles they wanted them to play and put them in those roles. Dan Graham, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson ... are any of them stars? No. Are they Patriots players? Yes. And that's all they care about.''
Before this season, Angelo was assailed for not getting a big-name receiver in free agency. He was in the game for Antwaan Randle El but didn't think he was worth $6 million a year, and lost him to Washington. "I got hammered by the local media for not getting a good receiver,'' he said, "but I said, 'Guys, we've got good receivers here. They fit the profile of what we want in a receiver.' But because we'd done a poor job of stabilizing the quarterback position, you couldn't tell what we had at receiver. We'd gone for five years playing three or four quarterbacks almost every year. How do you know if your receivers are any good? They never work with the same quarterback. Now that we've had Rex for an offseason and he's been healthy for the regular season, now we can judge the receivers. And what we have is pretty good.'' To say the least. It's a lesson for all other franchises, regardless of the sport.

* * *

I could not agree with Peter King, whom I am eternally grateful (taste-buds)/full of rage (expanding waist-line) with for introducing me to the Starbucks holiday themed nectar of the gods: the eggnog latte, which will be back soon. The Patriots, Steelers, and (soon) the Bears have become model franchises. They, like the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins in baseball, are doing it right. There is no magic formula for competing year-in and year-out: it takes intelligence, discipline, and confidence. Intelligence: to be one step ahead of the competition and create an intelligent plan. Discipline: to follow that plan to its logical conclusion and not jump ship at a moments notice. Confidence: the ability to believe in yourself and trust the team (front-office and players) you have put together to follow-out the plan and win.

* * *

Next, this little shot that I have taken repeatedly over the past few weeks on display on a national stage:

Anybody out there seen David Givens? Remember him? He signed a $25 million contract before the season in Tennessee.

* * *

Sometime, at the end of the season, some idiot on TV or radio (or print) will admit they were wrong and the Patriots did the right thing not signing Givens. I said it from day one, but what do I know? I am not TV or radio (or in print, really) like the professionals. Just once I would like to hear the Kerry Healey Campaign Headquarters, I mean Dennis & Callahan, admit they are unprepared idiots who are talking out their @$$.

* * *

Finally, this little nugget about old friend Lawyer Milloy:

Lawyer Milloy is playing the run better than he has since his Patriot days. I was wrong about him.

* * *

Good for the old boy. He cannot cover the slowest tight end or fullback anymore, but I always thought he could put a hit on. Playing the run was never a problem. I hope he at least comes back to Foxboro for one last day with Ty Law. They were a huge part of that first Super Bowl run in 2001.

* * *

Last note this afternoon (this one is more for Gallagher, who would appreciate it most): how great would it be to have the Schaefer/Foxboro/CMGI/Gillette Stadium PA play Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin after the Patriots create a turnover or force a punt. Just the part where Robert Plant croons: We are your Overlords.

It would be beautiful, I know it. (Kathy is looking at me like I am insane and shaking her head. I know what she is thinking. Bad enough I have the kids hooked on the Beatles and Aerosmith, and that Emma was singing the Fabulous Thunderbirds classic: Wrap it Up the other day in the car, but she will draw the classic rock line in the sand at Plant & Page. Not that I can really blame her!)

Friday, October 13, 2006

A CELEBRATION

Since I have this site to serve as my public forum to toot my horn and shout my opinions, today, October 12th 2006, I am taking a moment to celebrate. Today marks the 74th birthday of my Dad. Growing up, my Dad had many serious health problems, ranging from heart attacks of all varieties and severity, to multiple bypasses, to back, shoulder, knee, feet, etc woes. Somehow, someway, he always had the strength to pitch batting practice, hit ground-balls, catch, and spend the precious free-time he had when not at work with me.

I knew at the age of nine that I was never going to play professional baseball. Looking back, I have to believe that my Dad came to that same conclusion around that time as well (I am still deluded enough to believe that Hal the fourth will be a great situational lefty for the Sox in about 18 years coming out of the bullpen). Still, he never hesitated to get up at 6AM in the summer to drive us to the local practice field before the day got too hot and others took over the field for practices. Hitting grounders and pop-ups and pitching BP until his back went out was how he showed how much he cared and loved us all. How some people cannot see that for what it was (a labor of love) is beyond me.

It was not just baseball, although that remains our bond, football, basketball, soccer, floor hockey, karate, and anything else he could think-up to better us was a sacrifice he made. As I got older, I got into cross-country running to go with basketball and baseball, and every night after work he go home, eat dinner, and then go pick me up at the high school after I goofed around all afternoon with my friends, I mean had an exhilarating run through the woods of beautiful downtown Middleboro.

No matter what it is in the world of sports, I still call my Dad immediately to discuss and analyze what happened, how the Red Sox are going to blow it, how we still cannot believe that the Patriots are the 1980s San Francisco 49ers, and how the Celtics are never going to be what they were from the late fifties to the early nineties.

Most of all, I just want to celebrate that my Dad is still here to chase baseballs and pitch batting practice to my son, and to listen to him tell his grandfather about Big Papi, Manny, Youk, Paul Pierce, Tom Brady, and how the Jets and Yankees stink. And while I am here and on the subject, thank you again for everything you did for me Dad. My only aspiration is to be half the father to my kids as you were to me. Thank you again for everything. I love you, Dad.

* * *

A LOSS

I really do not have a lot to add to the Cory Lidle plane crash. Maybe sportscasters and writers will spend a little more time on the good guys who gutted their way to the big leagues and worked their tails off just to survive like Lidle did for nine years in the majors instead of wasting paper and breath on idiots like T.O. and his ilk of media-hungry malcontents. Of course, as the news had shifted from Lidle back to T.O. on ESPN in less than 5 hours, I really do not see this happening.

All I can do is think of his poor wife and child, and about the family of the flight instructor who perished with him in the crash. What a tragedy. And this is a real tragedy. The football team losing because their kicker slipped in the dirt is no tragedy. The Sox missing the playoffs is no tragedy. Cory Lidle, Thurman Munson in 1979, and Roberto Clemente on New Years Eve in 1972: those are tragedies. Sports are merely an escape from reality. When reality butts in like with Cory Lidle crashing his plane into a New York City high-rise, it takes everyone a while to get their bearings back.

Sad. So sad.

* * *

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

RED SOX FANS WATCH IN GLEE

It warms the cockles of my heart just read about the fallout in New York (which promises to get worse, with more acrimony, finger-pointing, backstabbing, and all the other fun issues associated with a team in upheaval). A sampling of the blame game is below:


It is no news bulletin that A-Rod wants to be liked, accepted, loved, however
you want to say it, by his teammates, especially Jeter. And the captain hasn't
budged on the matter, to the point where an ex-teammate, who wouldn't use his
name for fear of crossing Jeter, said yesterday it creates a certain tension at
times.
He won't let Alex in, the former Yankee said of Jeter. Everyone in
there knows it, and it bothers Alex and impacts the clubhouse. John Harper:
New York Daily News 10-9-06
Some MVP! Jeter is the divider, not the uniter. Hmmm. Harper goes on to compare how Jeter threw A-Rod under the bus while with Jason st eroid abuser Giambi, he bent over backwards to throw his support to the cheating, shrunken-testicle abuser.

* * *
For the Yankees to have any chance of getting back to the World Series, they
must address their starting pitching, which sabotaged Torre as much as his
hitters against the Tigers. In that regard, their own Philip Hughes has the
stuff to be a dominant starter but has been held back by Yankees minor
league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, who had him on gradually
receding pitch counts all summer, then shut him down at 146 innings.
Scouts who saw Hughes at Trenton this summer agreed he's ready for the
big leagues now and even Yankee officials on the major league level, Gene
Michael for one, were dismayed that Hughes wasn't allowed to finish the
season at Triple-A. Now, as one scout told me: "This kid is a stud, but what
good is he going to do them if he's been programmed to pitch five innings?
They're turning him into Jaret Wright." Bill Madden:
New York Daily News 10-9-
06

Nice to see that the blame and dysfunction extends all the way down to the minor league pitching coordinator. So now the Yankees are ruining their only pitching prospect? Beautiful!

Amazingly, I feel like the only person in America who remembered that teams do not slug their way to the World Series, they pitch their way there (Marlins in 03; Red Sox in 04; White Sox in 05. None of those teams were what you would call an offensive juggernaut, although the 04 Sox could score runs, they won due to Keith Foulke in the pen, and Curt Schilling anchoring a staff with Pedro and a rejuvenated Derek Lowe.). This Yankees squad won by scoring runs. Torre burnt out his bullpen by August, Mussina and the Big Eunich did their usual fade job, and then in the worst managerial move of the past ten years, Torre threw out Jaret Wright instead of his only good starting pitcher, the Wanger.

* * *


We were worrying about all of that stuff, and we still had a game to play. If
I'm on the other side, and all of a sudden they're putting Rodriguez eighth and
putting me or Jason on the bench, you wonder what's going on. Those guys [the
Tigers] were asking me about it. I think it boosted their morale. It gave them
confidence they didn't have, Sheffield told the USA Today. ESPN 10-9-06
Of course, the player on his way out the door lobbing bombs at his former manager and team. To think, Johnny Damon thought he was going to a calm, collected, less rambunctious situation.

* * *

Dysfunction in the Bronx:

Truly this is the surest sign that the time of Regular Joe leading the Yankees has come to a bitter end. They had a great run in the late nineties, but it is clear that the Dynasty has been dead for a number of years. I think that if Brian Cashman can take control of the team, he will make sure that the organization blows the team up and he can get back to building a team built around pitching, defense, and hitters dedicated to wearing out opposing pitchers. Cashman is smart enough to want a team of over-achievers instead of a collection of superstars. Of course, I doubt he is powerful enough to get his way and the Yankees will continue to meander on, content with 90 win regular seasons and post-season collapses.

* * *

WEEK FOUR RECAP:

Arizona at Atlanta
WINNER: ATLANTA

Yeah, Arizona is not sneaking up on anyone or winning anything anytime soon. Time for the youth movement for the tenth straight year.

Dallas at Tennessee
WINNER: DALLAS

Poor Vince Young. This was supposed to be about his flashes of brilliance, but instead it is the game where Albert Haynesworth stomped a defenseless Andre Gurode on the head. Classless, senseless, and stupid move. Suspend him, and suspend him a long time.

Indianapolis at NY Jets
WINNER: INDIANAPOLIS

Another valiant effort by the Jets that comes up short. If anyone has a game plan against Manning in his back pocket, it is Eric Mangini. Just too bad he did not have Hank Poteat to throw in there and thwart the Indy comeback.

Miami at Houston
WINNER: MIAMI

Miami has the defense, make no bones about that. But Daunte Culpepper is not the answer. Ugh. An ugly loss for the team that was supposed to take out the Patriots this season.

Minnesota at Buffalo
WINNER: MINNESOTA

Very simply, the magic ran out for Minnesota. Of course, it is never easy to play in Buffalo, no matter who the team is and how bad the Bills are at any time.

New Orleans at Carolina
WINNER: NEW ORLEANS

Carolina: 3-0 with Steve Smith. 0-2 without him. Yah, it is going to be tough to pick against Carolina from here on out.

San Diego at Baltimore
WINNER: SAN DIEGO

Ugly game. Ugly offenses. Ugly coaching.

San Francisco at Kansas City
WINNER: KANSAS CITY

Damon Huard, bee-yotch! Running up the points for my fantasy team. Yet again, my strategy of staying away from QBs early pays off as David Carr and Damon Huard carry my team week-in and week-out.

Detroit at St Louis
WINNER: ST LOUIS

I will continue to pick against any team put together by Matt Millen for the rest of my natural life. Actually, an exciting game, but I just cannot believe that Detroit can beat anyone (except maybe for the Raiders).

Cleveland at Oakland
WINNER: CLEVELAND

Right now, Romeo Crennel is petitioning the league to get more games with the Raiders on the schedule. Leave it to the Raiders to blow a 21-3 lead at home against a crappy team.

Jacksonville at Washington
WINNER: WASHINGTON

Now this was a wild finish. Santana Moss up, up, and away! To think the Jets gave him away for Lavernius Coles. Yikes.

New England at Cincinnati
WINNER: NEW ENGLAND

Maybe Cincinnati needs to win a Super Bowl before they start strutting around. It has been easy to be the big man on the block beating up on Cleveland in September. I think the Patriots sent the NFL a message that they are not dead, are not down and out, and are not going anywhere. Somewhere, Bill Cowher is writing a thank-you note to Bill Belichick for the game plan he devised for Sunday that the Steelers can build upon for their next match-up with the Bengals.

Seattle at Chicago
WINNER: SEATTLE

Why do I pick against the Bears in Soldier Field? Why? Why? Why?

Green Bay at Philadelphia
WINNER: PHILADELPHIA

Yah, I said Brett Favre should have hung it up a long time ago. He looks so bad it is sad. Now Philly screams en masse: BRING ON T.O.!

Record for the week: 9-5

Monday, October 09, 2006

SQUISH THE FISH

The Patriots offense could not run the ball. They could not throw the ball. They could not stop the mighty Joey Harrington to Wes Welker connection. They did, however, stop the Dolphins ground game, created some turnovers, and not give up any cheap, long passes. In other words, it was a typical Patriots-Dolphins game.

Make no mistake, the AFC East interdivision games are always competitive games. Miami and the Jets are led by mini-Bill Belichicks (Nick Saban and Eric Mangini), and the Bills finally have a solid, defensive coach in Dick Jauron. The games tend to be close, with one big play swinging the balance of the game. These teams play each other enough that the teams know each other inside out. I mean, Zack Thomas and Jason Taylor have played 10+ games against Brady and Belichick, heck Keith Traylor played for the Patriots. There are no secrets between these teams.

A trademark of the Patriots is winning ugly. It is never pretty, but they somehow manage to pull out the game in the end. It is not luck (for the most part), but instead it is good coaching, smart players, and the team staying cool under pressure. The Patriots are not going to have many 28-13 blowouts. Instead, the 20-10 win versus Miami was what the Patriots do best: enough to win.

* * *

RANDOM GAME OBSERVATIONS:

Caught only pieces of the first half as we had the wild and crazy fifth birthday party for Hal Dawg. Five years olds running wild at the bowling alley, that is what it is all about.

Nice to see Ellis Hobbs flying around the field even though he had one hand in a huge cast.

Anyone seen Rosie Colvin (on the field, I mean. He was on NESN chatting with Hazel Mae and hawking his book bags this AM.)?

We went to Warren, RI this Saturday as there was a fair/pumpkin contest. Why? Well it was fun for the kids, and the boyfriend of my sister Rose had an entry (as well as his Dad). I saw some large pumpkins (1,000 lbs+), but none of them were as round and large as the mid-section of Keith Traylor on Sunday.

Anyone says anything about Tom Brady and body language again and I explode.

The Dolphins coughed up a second round pick for Daunte Culpepper? Kudos to Minnesota on that piece of highway robbery.

Nice timing for the bye week. 4-1. A couple tough games out of the way. Time for a lot of work between Tom Brady and the receiving corps.

When are the Pats going to take care of Asante Samuel with a new contract?

* * *

Saturday, October 07, 2006

RED SOX WRAP-UP

Funny how the same people that ripped the Red Sox front office repeatedly for taking a stand and not giving in to motor-mouth Pedro when they knew anything over 2 years was just throwing money away are now crowing about how smart Theo was in putting one over on Omar Minaya and the Mets as they are stuck with two more years of exorbitant salary with likely nothing in return. Look, the Mets got what they needed out of Pedro: he gave them legitimacy. They knew the risk they were taking. Just like Theo knew the risk in going to three years for Pedro. Do you think the Yankees knew the risk? The fact they did not even make an offer for the Dominican Diva when they were desperate for pitching should have set off warning bells about his fragile shoulder.

Sure, Pedro would have been great last year on the Red Sox, and for half a season this year, but that is why Theo was adamant about the two year contract. They knew his shoulder would not hang in there long. Pedro knew it. What galls me is that these idiots who ripped Theo and the front office all last season and this spring now turn around and act like they were all for letting Pedro walk.

* * *

Already the great debate is on regarding Jonathan Papelbon and his role with the 2007 Red Sox. Obviously, his future is in the starting rotation. A big three of Papelbon, Curt Schilling, and Josh Beckett matches up with any starting rotation in the big leagues. A healthy Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester (God willing) would make a strong rotation, with a selection of kids, reclamation projects, and yet-to-be-acquired choices to fall back upon.

The bullpen is a big question mark, but there are a number of young pitchers who can help (Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Edgar Martinez) as well as a few former closers out there who could be brought in as a short-term solution. My theory would be for the Sox to bring in as many relievers with closing experience, throw them against the wall, and see who sticks.

The line-up will be much improved just by having a healthy Coco Crisp and Wily Mo Pena. I imagine that either Julio Lugo or Alfonso Soriano will be brought in to bring a big bat to the line-up. Manny will likely play out his contract in Boston whether he likes it or not, and the Sox just need to keep Big Papi happy and healthy.

* * *

Sunday, October 01, 2006

WEEK 4 PICKS

Arizona vs Atlanta
WINNER: ATLANTA

Dallas vs Tennessee
WINNER: DALLAS

Indianapolis vs NY Jets
WINNER: INDIANAPOLIS

Miami vs Houston
WINNER: MIAMI

Minnesota vs Buffalo
WINNER: MINNESOTA

New Orleans vs Carolina
WINNER: NEWORLEANS

San Diego vs Baltimore
WINNER: SAN DIEGO

San Francisco vs Kansas City
WINNER: KANSAS CITY

Detroit vs St Louis
WINNER: ST LOUIS

Cleveland vs Oakland
WINNER: CLEVELAND

Jacksonville vs Washington
WINNER: WASHINGTON

New England vs Cincinnati
WINNER:NEW ENGLAND

Seattle vs Chicago
WINNER: SEATTLE

Green Bay vs Philadelphia
WINNER: PHILADELPHIA

ALERT THE MEDIA

As I ride the train home on a beautiful fall Friday, I have come to think that apparently a couple members of the media (this in no way is meant to include Mike Reiss, Tom Curran at NBCSports.com/projo.com, and Michael Felger) seem to have selective amnesia about the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick. Time to review:

1. Fast starts are usually indicative of problems, slow starts are usually indicative of a good team getting its footing. In 2002 and 2005 (to a degree) (plus all those marvelous, pre-Belichick/Pioli, Pete Carroll seasons) the Patriots stormed out the gate initially, making things look too easy. In 2001 and 2003, the team struggled out of the gate. Change is a constant in the Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli system. Players need time to be eliminated (injury/poor performance), get integrated (healthy/late camp pick-ups), and the coordinators to get settled in and comfortable with the game planning. If it keeps happening, it is a trend!

2. There was a time that the Patriots won a Super Bowl or two with a collection of receivers and running backs with not even close to the prowess of the current collections. Laurence Maroney, Corey Dillon, and Kevin Faulk trump Antwain Smith, J.R. Redmond, and Kevin Faulk of 2001 by a significant margin. Do not get me started again about 2001 with Troy Brown, David Patten, and Fabulous Fred Coleman. And those were the starters! Doug Gabriel, Chad Jackson, and Reche Caldwell are a significant step-up. And what in the world of Rod Rutledge was going on at TE in the pre-Ben Watson/Daniel Graham/Christian Fauria era?

3. Bill Belichick has the hardware, the pedigree, the humility, and the desire to win. I beg some of these so-called hosts and writers to at least read The Education of a Coach and Patriot Reign. This is akin to Joe Morgan not reading Moneyball and denouncing it out of hand. Truly sad.

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