The most intriguing aspect of the Patriots-Jaguars wild card tilt this Saturday is likely the battle in the trenches between the offensive and defensive lines.
When the Patriots offensive line clicks, they open holes for Corey Dillon & the running game, which in turn helps keep pressure off Tom Brady. Operating in the pocket without any kind of pass rush is like shooting fish in a barrel for Brady. Those are the occasions that you see Brady completing those 25 yard passes over the middle. Of course, the Jags have a pretty healthy gruesome twosome in the middle of the defensive line in Richard Seymour’s college running mate, Marcus Stroud, and big John Henderson.
Like all football games, the standard cliché applies: this game will be won in the trenches. If Dante Scarnecchia gets his patchwork offensive line able to execute and open some creases for Dillon and keep Brady standing up, it could be a long day for the Jags. In addition, with the Jags secondary looking only a little healthier than the Pats (Donovan Darius is the Rodney Harrison of the Jaguars. Jacksonville is a totally different defense with Darius on injured reserve.), look for the Patriots spread formation early and often. It can slow the pass rush and allow the team to take advantage of mismatches, especially Kevin Faulk coming out of the backfield.
The Patriots front seven has proven to be the barometer of success this season and last. Hank Poteat is never exposed by an offense when the front seven stops the running game and the linebackers are allowed to tee off on the quarterback. The secondary is an issue when they defense has a safety cheating up near the line of scrimmage and there is only one safety deep in the middle. Of course, the Patriots really do not have any safeties, with cornerbacks manning all four defensive backfield spots. Of course, while this can be seen as a liability in the running game, they do hit hard and make it easier to match up to spread offenses.
Once Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Richard Seymour were all healthy and able to play with cohesion, the run defense took a giant step forward. Of course, having Willie McGinest and Roosevelt Colvin on the outside gives the Patriots basically a 5-2-4 defense. If Tedy Bruschi can play close to as well as he has this season, then he and Mike Vrabel should be able to keep the Jags running game contained and allow the team to start blitzing whoever shows up for Jacksonville at QB: the inexperienced David Garrard or the immobile Byron Leftwich.
The playoffs are almost here;The Patriots are still in it; the fun starts Saturday.
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WHERE WILL YOU RUN TO BABY/WHERE WILL YOU HIDE:
So now the rumors leak out that Manny will accept a trade to Baltimore if, and only if, they pick up the two $20 million per year options on his contract. OK, when the pigs start flying, let me know. Tejada for Manny straight-up is probably fair, if only because the position played by Miggy makes up for the drop-off in production. Giving anyone else to Baltimore is senseless. Somehow, I doubt the Sox will fall for the Orioles attempts to stand firm.
The other trade rumor I hope is dismissed immediately is the Andy Marte to Tampa Bay for Julio Lugo deal. Now that, I hope, is only wishful thinking on the part of the Devil Rays. I would not make that deal if I were a co-co-GM for Boston unless it included Rocco Baldelli or Carl Crawford in addition to Lugo for Marte. Marte is a big bopper: Lugo is nickels and dimes. No way no how that deal should be made.
Finally, it appears that David Wells is well on his way to nowhere. With the Sox main attraction in San Diego (Adam Eaton) already gone, I doubt the Padres will dangle much for a one year rental of Wells. The best bet for the Sox is to keep Wells and Clement (since someone will get hurt sometime) and bring Papelbon and Lester along slowly. Arroyo can help bolster the much improved already bullpen like he did in the playoffs and be a swingman if necessary.
Trades made solely for the sake of making a splash never seem to work out. The Sox can stay pat and be in a good position to win.
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