Spare Neurons - Turkey Day Edition

by Hal Bent,

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I am thankful that I have a forum to share my thoughts on sports with you all, and especially that you take your valuable time to read my little blog.  Readers can check-out my Thanksgiving Family Memories and Sports here, but this is all Boston Sports. Jumping right in as the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade rolls by on the television and my lovely wife and my nine-year-old daughter bake in the kitchen:

  • RED SOX:
    • Jonny Gomes. Well, cannot say it is a surprise. A lefty-masher to platoon in left-field and fill in at DH if Ortiz goes down with an injury was somewhere on General Manager Ben Cherington's list. Gomes will hit with some power, unfortunately make Manny Ramirez look like a gold glove outfielder in comparison, and strike out a lot. He is a spare part to fill in the bench: nothing more.  At best, he takes over for Cody Ross as surprise power hitter in the outfield for a year before moving on. It appears the Sox want to have rookies Ryan Kalish, Alex Hassan, and Jerry Sands compete for space in the outfield next to Jacoby Ellsbury (provided he's not moved for pitching and prospects this off-season).
    • A Thanksgiving Day showdown against the hated Jets is on tap for tonight.  After the Jets lost their Super Bowl against the Pats the New Yorkers over-reacted as ususal and declared their season dead as a door-nail.  Following up with a win over the terrible St Louis Rams (they were creamed 45-7 by the Patriots after all), the pendulum has swung and suddenly the Jets are a win against the Patriots from being an unstoppable juggernaut rolling into the Super Bowl behind superstar Mark Sanchez.  
    • The Jets know they have to come out and play a perfect game against the Patriots, even without having to face Chandler Jones and Rob Gronkowski.  Turn-overs, special teams, and the match-up in the trenches looms large in this game.  The Jets have to rattle Brady, stuff the run, pass the ball effectively, and get Shonn Green in rhythm for 100+ yards on the ground.  Heck, that is EVERY team's recipe against the Patriots.  
    • The Patriots have the talent to win going away on the road against the Jets. What usually happens is Rex Ryan brings enough wrinkles on offense and defense to get the Patriots off their game. It's like fighting against someone more technically proficient and stronger. They cannot be beat by lining up and fighting traditionally. Instead, you have to have them dragged down to a brawl in the mud and negate their advantages, enrage them, get them to stop thinking and then there is a chance to gut out  a win.  The Patriots need to stay out of that trap.
        • Can Steven Ridley and the Patriots running backs get back to turning second and long into third and short or a first down?  They did it so effectively in the first half of the season and have lost that momentum.
        • Can the Patriots defense generate pressure on Mark Sanchez without Chandler Jones in the line-up? Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham have the ability, and don't discount Trevor Scott coming in on third down to rush the outside with fresh legs and Cunningham moving inside next to Vince Wilfork. 
        • Can the Patriots secondary eliminate their mental mistakes and get the squad off the field on third down?  The Patriots getting opposing offenses off the field in a three-and-out has been huge for the offense.  Then, the Patriots can go hurry-up and wear down the defense and run up a lead and turn the opposition into a one-dimensional offense as they play from behind.  It all starts with a stop on third down. 
        • Can the Patriots prevent big plays on Special Teams? Making big plays is as good as stopping them. Devin McCourty had that huge touchdown return for a touchdown last game, and the Jets special teams is usually one of the best in the league.  Giving the Jets a short field or cheap touchdown must not be allowed to happen. 
        • Can the real Brandon Lloyd step up? How many times has Lloyd and Brady just missed by a fingertip on a long pass? A couple big plays by Lloyd could roll Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie off of Wes Welker and open the middle of the field for Tom Brady.  Hopefully, Cromartie will be too tired due to jetting around to visit all his children across the country on Thanksgiving to chase the Patriots receivers. 
OK, that's it for today. Have a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving!