Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Morning Coffee - Christmas Edition

by Hal Bent, BostonSportPage.com

First off, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Fantastic Festivus, Krazy Kwanzaa, and a Happening Hanukkah to all as we roll into the last days before the madness of Christmas.  Here South of Boston we're looking at a potential white Christmas and left wondering why the NFL took control of Thanksgiving but gave Christmas to the NBA?  At least ESPN has a quintuple-header lined up all day.  Christmas is all about family and friends that are as close as family, and that's how the day will be served up from dawn to dusk.  My shopping for the lovely Mrs. B is done (and wrapped! Thank goodness for unused vacation time!) and even though there is a lot of wrapping to do for the spoiled brats kids, we still have a few days to get it done. May the holiday season wrap all in its love and pageantry, and now onto the sports:

PATRIOTS:

It's easy for the Patriots to look past the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins these next two games.  Hopefully, they can get out to big leads and let the bench get some action.  The offense and defense still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the playoffs, so these two games need to focus on fixing their flaws against flawed squads.  The offensive line is struggling to get in rhythm with guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly back in the line-up along with tackle Sebastian Vollmer.  Hopefully, their time off for injuries this year keeps them fresh in January and allows them to run defenses off the field with the no-huddle.  The no-huddle is a huge weapon. With the success on offense with Nick McDonald and Daniel Thomas at guard, it almost makes sense to continue to work them into the game, even playing a few series or coming on in the 4th quarter to help keep the line fresh.

The defense got away from making stops and defending the big play until San Francisco went into their "prevent offense" in the 3rd quarter.  No one confuses this defense in New England with the 1980s New York Giants with Bill Belichick at the helm, but they are better than they have played.  These last two weeks are chances to add some confidence to a unit that needs it going into the playoffs. Jacksonville, with no Maurice Jones-Drew or Rashad Jennings, could be a team to get some confidence against.

Expect the Patriots to try to start early, punch the Jaguars in the mouth, and then work on getting consistency on both sides of the ball.  Expect the same game plan next week at home against Miami.

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I think if I am Bill Belichick, I am trying to pry Mike Pettine away from Rex Ryan and the Jets this off-season, to fix the defense.  Belichick needs to be a head coach, not the defensive coordinator.  Short of burying the hatchet and bringing back Eric Mangini (NEVER going to happen) it is time to admit that, like many second round draft picks the past five years, defensive coordinator Mike Patricia is not cut out for his role and move on.  The players are there. The weakness is the caching staff.  Pettine has proven himself in New York, taking a squad with (outside of the cornerbacks) next to no talent into a perennial top defense. The Patriots need to be as open to change as possible to fix this team and get back to a dominant squad like the were early in the Belichick era.

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MISC NFL:

Speaking of the Jets, the Jets are a mess.   Rex Ryan won't, but should be fired. He lost control two years ago and has no prayer to get it back. He should be a defensive coordinator. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is a goner, and expect the Jets to try to keep him on to manage the cap. Someone has to take the hit for quarterback Tim Tebow and the Mark Sanchez insane contract extension.  I think both deserve it, but only one will go.

More proof Ryan needs to go? What in the world was he doing hiring a special teams coach who got a job in Miami as a FOB (Friend of Bill, as in Parcells)? Did Rex Ryan owe the Godfather, Bill Parcells, a favor?  Tony Sparano was an abject failure in Miami, was ostensibly brought in to run the wildcat offense with Tim Tebow, which never happened.  The Jets would have been better off with ANYONE at offensive coordinator.  But, owner Woody Johnson, thanks from all the Patriots fans.  We appreciate you screwing over your team this season with all your inane moves.  Keep up the good bad work.

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I hate Eli Manning.  Forget the two Super Bowls. One of my fantasy football teams was in the playoffs and I made the indefensible move of benching Ben Roethlisberger and playing Eli last week at QB.  I have no idea what made me do it. I lost by 5 points. Roethlisberger scored over 20 fantasy points, Eli pooped his pants and got me all of 4 points.  So instead of two championship games this week, I have one and a consolation game. 

In my Yahoo head-to-head league I finished in 9th place with the 3rd most total points.  How did that happen? Straight up bad luck.  My team was one of the best, but just ran into hot teams at the wrong time.  Week in, week out, the team was so much better and consistent, but couldn't put together wins.  Frustrating as all get-out, but nothing to second guess about 3rd most points. 

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CELTICS:

I'm trying not to watch the Celtics this winter, but with the NHL strike (and my eleven-year old son's interest in the NBA) I keep putting the games on and raising my blood pressure. This team doesn't miss Ray Allen at guard; they miss Avery Bradley. The team needs a big body in the middle, and as much as I hate to admit it after defending the move these past two years, Danny Ainge may have made a mistake trading Big Kendrick Perkins away for forward Jeff Green.  They lack a shot-blocking big body in the middle to clear space and punish guards driving the lane.  Kevin Garnett is a power forward who belongs on the wing playing smothering defense.  They miss a big body of ANY kind in the middle on defense.

Green is lost on the court. I don't think his game fits an offense with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Jason Terry and Courtney Lee are lost on both sides of the ball at guard.  Neither is playing defense (which the return of Avery Bradley solves) and nor are they comfortable on offense.  They cannot get in rhythm and look like a team battling for the last playoff spot, not a title contender.  They have stopped NOBODY on defense, and don't have the offense to  stay with anyone and run and gun.  This team is stuck in neutral, and almost 30% of the season gone by, I don't see it getting much better from just bringing back Avery Bradley.

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