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Week 3 NFL Television Schedule: Patriots-Raiders surprisingly gets decent coverage

When the NFL first announced their schedule (with much fanfare, it’s an event!), I figured this game would be broadcast in New England, the Bay Area, and nowhere else. Surprisingly it is getting a decent amount of distribution, despite the lack of drawing power that the Raiders provide thanks to having done nothing since 2002. It may also have something to do with CBS having no compelling games this week, with the best games either being on FOX or kicking off later.


Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots
Early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Broadcast in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia (except Savannah), southern Florida (Miami, West Palm, Fort Myers, Tampa and the Panhandle – but not Orlando to Jacksonville), Alabama, Missouri (except St. Louis), Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Reno, northern California, Alaska, Hawaii
Patriots favored by 14½ with a point total of 46½


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Thursday Night Football on CBS and NFLN; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Falcons favored by 6½ with a point total of 44½


San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills
Early game on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker
Broadcast in southern California and western New York
Bills favored by 2½ with a point total of 44½


Dallas Cowboys at St. Louis Rams
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in Texas (except Houston), New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, southern Illinois
Cowboys favored by 1½ with a point total of 45


Washington at Philadelphia Eagles
Early game on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Broadcast in New England (except Boston and Providence), New York (except NYC and Buffalo), Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, western Tennessee, southern California, Hawaii
Eagles favored by 6½ with a point total of 50½


Houston Texans at New York Giants
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Broadcast in New York (except Bills Nation), northern New Jersey, northeastern Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Las Vegas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan
Texans favored by 2½ with a point total of 42½


Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Broadcast in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Georgia, Florida panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
Saints favored by 9½ with a point total of 51


Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals
Early game on CBS; Brad Johansen (who?), Chris Simms (huh?)
Broadcast in Cincinnati, western West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky
Bengals favored by 6½ with a point total of 43½


Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Early game on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Broadcast in Maryland, DC, Delaware, Virginia, western Pennsylvania, Ohio (except Cincinnati)
Ravens favored by 1½ with a point total of 41½


Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch
Broadcast in Florida (except Jacksonville and Tallahassee), Ohio (except Cincinnati), Ohio, Michigan, Chicago, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska
Lions favored by 1½ with a point total of 52½


Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Early game on CBS; Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Broadcast in Orlando, Jacksonville, Savannah, Indiana, Illinois (except St. Louis)
Colts favored by 6½ with a point total of 45½


San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Late game on FOX; Thom Brennaman, David Diehl
Broadcast in Boston, Providence, New York City, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Nashville, Houston, Reno, Arizona, California (except San Diego)
Niners favored by 2½ with a point total of 44½


Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
Late game on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Broadcast everywhere except Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Arizona
Seahawks favored by 4½ with a point total of 48½


Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins
Late game on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Broadcast in Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska
Dolphins favored by 4½ with a point total of 41½


Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
Sunday night game on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Panthers favored by 3½ with a point total of 41½


Chicago Bears at New York Jets
Monday night game on ESPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden
Jets favored by 2½ with a point total of 45½



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NFL Week 2 Previews and Predictions

The Pats-Vikings game is available in most television markets even though it is an early game, but there are two head-scratchers in terms of the decision making that went into choosing which game to broadcast.

Houston will see the Jacksonville-Washington game, apparently because the Jaguars are a division rival of the Texans. Seriously, does anybody in Houston really care whether the Jags are on television or not, or look forward to seeing them when they can’t watch their Texans play?

The other is Tampa, where the CBS station there has apparently reverted to the idea that the Dolphins are the second-favorite team in that area. While that may have been true thirty years ago when the Buccaneers were still in their infancy and the Dolphins were still enjoying the benefit of being the state’s only NFL team for ten years, it is absolutely not the case now. All one has to do is check out what gear people are wearing, logos and bumper stickers on vehicles, or sports bars catering to out of town fans to see that is not the case. After the Bucs, the fan favorites in the Tampa Bay area are the Steelers, Patriots and Giants, followed by a second tier that includes the Bears, Eagles, Browns, Bills, Lions and Jets. The Dolphins may not even rank in the top ten in number of fans, yet CBS and the local affiliate ignores this reality and broadcasts Miami games whenever they can.

End of rant; here are some quick thoughts on the week two NFL games.

New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Broadcast in New England, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and everywhere west of the Mississippi River except for eastern Texas

Minnesota dumped Leslie Frazier and his outdated Tampa-2 defense in the offseason, replacing him with Mike Zimmer as the new head coach. Zimmer has installed a more aggressive defense, mixing things up by bringing extra players to the line of scrimmage and calling stunts and overloading on one side of the line. Their defense starts six former first round draft picks (DT Sharrif Floyd, rookie SLB Anthony Barr, Pro Bowl WLB Chad Greenway, FS Harrison Smith and CB Xavier Rhodes), and has been bolstered by the addition of veteran free agents NT Linval Joseph and CB Captain Munnerlyn. Bottom line is that this Minnesota defense is vastly superior to the one that ranked dead last in the NFL in 2013, allowing 30.0 points per game. Unless New England’s offensive line gets their act together and performs much better than they did last week, that’s a huge problem for the Patriots.

The Patriots need to scrap the 3-4 and go back to the 4-3; the 4-3 is much better suited for the personnel on their roster, and will best take advantage of the talents of guys like Chandler Jones. RB Adrian Peterson is inactive for the Vikings, but that is somewhat offset by the Pats best coverage linebacker, Jamie Collins, also being declared out with a thigh injury.

This game could easily go either way, but I’m thinking that the New England coaching staff will make enough adjustments to put their players in a better position to win individual battles this week.
Pick • Patriots 24, Vikings 23
Vikings +6 (one unit)
under 48½


Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Broadcast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Chicago, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, western Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina

Are the Lions that good, or is it just that the Giants are that bad? As good as Matthew Stafford (22/32/346, 2 TD, 0 INT), the fact Detroit averaged just 2.5 yards per carry and committed eight penalties for 85 yards against a clearly inferior team is enough to pump the brakes on this bandwagon. Cam Newton returns for this game, and Luke Keuchly and the Carolina defense will be the difference for a home victory for the Panthers.
Pick • Panthers 24, Lions 17
Panthers -2½ (one unit)
under 44½


Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills ★★★
Early game on CBS; Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Broadcast in New York (except New York City), Miami, Fort Myers and Tampa

Both teams are feeling good after coming off upset victories in week one, but injuries to the Dolphins’ defense that could have a major impact for this game. Miami is depleted at linebacker, with Dannell Ellerbe (hip) out for the season, Koa Misi (ankle) doubtful, and Philip Wheeler (thumb) questionable after missing last week’s game. EJ Manuel was solid, throwing only six incompletions (16/22/173, 1 TD, 1 INT), and the Bills will stay on the ground with CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson attempting to take advantage of the situation at linebacker. New Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s up-tempo offense was much more effective running the ball (191 yards, with 134 from Knowshon Moreno) than they were passing: Ryan Tannehill was barely over 50% (18 of 32 for 178 yards), and will need to do better for the Dolphins to win on the road.
Pick • Bills 23, Dolphins 20
Bills +1
under 43½


Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington ★★
Early game on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Broadcast in Orlando, Jacksonville, Savannah, eastern North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, DC, Philadelphia

Washington scored a measly six points against Houston last week, while the Jaguar defense racked up five sacks and forced three turnovers. Sure, the Eagles put it together in the second half, but Griffin (can we please call him by his two-syllable last name, rather than his three-syllable marketing-driven nickname?) looks as if he can neither throw nor run.
Pick • Upset Special – Jaguars 20, Redskins 17
Jaguars +6½
under 43½


Dallas Cowboys at Tennessee Titans ★★★
Early game on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Broadcast in eastern Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, San Francisco

Tennessee won as an underdog last week, but I’m not ready to jump on the Jake Locker bandwagon. The Titans rolled up 405 yards in a 16-point victory over the Chiefs, while the Niner defense forced four Dallas turnovers, including three picks off Tony Romo. I’m expecting the Dallas offense to bounce back this week; however, their defense still has a long ways to go.
Pick • Titans 28, Cowboys 27
Cowboys +3½
over 48½ (one unit)


Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants ★★
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch
Broadcast in New England (except Boston and Providence), New York (except Buffalo), New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Arizona, West Palm Beach FL

Not a big fan of backing west coast teams when they play an early game on the east coast, but on the other hand it is very difficult to find a solid reason to back the Giants. Carson Palmer didn’t seem to have a good grasp of the offense early last year, but he performed much better in the second half of the season. Arizona also gets a boost with the news that RB Andre Ellington will be able to play rather than missing six weeks with a foot injury.
Pick • Cardinals 27, Giants 17
Cardinals -1½ (two units)
over 42½


New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio (except Cincinnati), southern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana

The New Orleans defense wasn’t bad last year, but Matt Ryan (31/43/448, 3 TD, 0 INT) made them look bad last week as Atlanta totaled 568 yards of offense in week one. Cleveland’s defense seemed to regress from 2013 as well, as the Steelers scored 30 points with 503 yards of offense, averaging 7.5 yards per play. New Orleans is notorious for playing so poorly on the road, and unlike last week’s game, this one is not only away but also outdoors on a natural surface. This is no cakewalk for the Saints, but I’m not going to go so far and say the Browns will win.
Pick • Saints 24, Browns 20
Browns +6½
under 48½


Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals ★★★
Early game on CBS: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Broadcast in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio (except Cleveland), Kentucky, Tennessee (except Nashville), South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana

The Falcons come crashing back to earth as they go on the road and face a very legitimate defense.
Pick • Bengals 30, Falcons 20
Bengals -4½ (one unit)
over 48½


St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Late game on FOX; Dick Stockton, Kirk Morrison
Broadcast in Florida (except Miami and West Palm Beach), southern Illinois and Missouri

While the Bucs lost last week, that was against one of the NFL’s best defenses (Carolina). The Rams on the other hand looked like they are early favorites to have the number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft. These two teams combined to score just 20 points while allowing eight sacks, and Tampa Bay gained just 21 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Pick • Bucs 17, Rams 13
Rams +6
under 38 (one unit)


Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers ★★★★★
Late game on FOC; Thom Brennaman, David Diehl
Broadcast in Boston, Providence, Buffalo, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, California (except SF), Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii

San Diego was limited to 52 yards rushing last week, and now they face a stout Seattle defense. While the NFL is a passing league, becoming too unbalanced can lead to predictable situations that this Seahawk defense can take advantage of. One area that San Diego may look at is at whoever Seattle has covering San Diego’s tight ends and slot receivers. After Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, at cornerback Seattle is dealing with Jeremy Lane (placed on in-season injured reserve), and Tharold Simon (knee) not being available Sunday. Even though it is on the road and without their 12th man, I still like the Seahawks to win a close one here in what looks like it may be the best game of the week.
Pick • Seahawks 24, Chargers 20
Chargers +6
under 45


Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders
Late game on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker
Broadcast in Texas (except Dallas) and northern California

New head Bill O’Brien has an opportunity to win his second game in two weeks, which is as many as the Texans won all last year. The Houston defense is starting to look like they did two years ago while the Raiders, well, looked like the Raiders as rookie QB Derek Carr threw for just 151 yards on 32 passes.
Pick • Texans 20, Raiders 17
Texans -2½
under 40 (one unit)


New York Jets at Green Bay Packers ★★★
Late game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Broadcast in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (except Pittsburgh), West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Miami and West Palm Beach

Sure, Green Bay lost by 20 points last week – but that was against the best team in the NFL (Seattle) at the toughest stadium in the league for a road team to win. Even if Eddy Lacy (concussion) is not available, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay receivers should pick apart that weak Jet secondary. The Jets have a good offensive line and one of the league’s best defensive line, but that’s it. Beating Oakland at home by five points is not impressive and nothing for Jet fans to crow about.
Pick • Packers 31, Jets 17
Packers -8 (three units)
over 46


Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos ★★★
Late game on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Broadcast in Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas (except Tampa, Miami and west Palm Beach), Pittsburgh, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, southern Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Dallas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California (except San Diego), Colorado, Utah, Las Vegas, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii

Since the midway point of the 2013 season, when they started facing legitimate starting quarterbacks, the Kansas City defense has been absolutely torched. Now they get to go on the road and face the league’s best offense – without two of their best defensive starters (LB Derrick Johnson and DT Mike DeVito).
Pick • Broncos 38, Chiefs 24
Broncos -11½
over 50½ (one unit)


Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers ★★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth

If the Bears could not beat Buffalo at home, how can they be expected to defeat San Francisco on the road? The Bears’ run defense was not good last year, and they gave up 193 rushing yards last week. Jay Cutler threw two picks in week one, but with Niner corners Tramaine Brock (toe) and Chris Culliver (concussion, stinger) hurting, he and WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery could be in for a big game. Things don’t get much easier for the Bears; this game starts an eight-game stretch in which Chicago has to go on the road six times.
Pick • Niners 30, Bears 24
Giants +7
over 47½ (one unit)


Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts ★★★★★
Monday night game on ESPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden

Granted it was at Denver, but I am not at all impressed with the Colt defense. Philly slept walked through the first half before outscoring Jacksonville 34-0 in the second half. I think the Eagles will cover, and have a good chance of winning this game straight up even though they are on the road. This should be an entertaining, high-scoring game.
Pick • Colts 30, Eagles 28
Eagles +3
over 52½ (one unit)



The crystal ball has been very cloudy thus far, but the season is still young. Last week was tough with the top play being a four-unit loss (Saints minus 3 at Falcons), and Thursday night went not the way I expected at all as Baltimore crushed Pittsburgh. The season is till young though … enjoy the games (responsibly).



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Thursday Night Football:
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Preview and Prediction


Thursday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
8:25 pm ET, September 11, 2014
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Airs on CBS and NFL Network
Ravens favored by 2½

Last week Pittsburgh seemed to be cruising to an easy blowout win, leading Cleveland 27-3 at halftime. In the second half the Browns utilized an uptempo no-huddle offense which the Steelers were unable to stop, and the game appeared to be headed to overtime before Ben Roethlisberger looked like his old vintage self, leading the Steelers to a game-winning fourth quarter drive.

Baltimore lost 23-16 at home to Cincinnati last week in a game that had far more negatives than positives for the Ravens. Baltimore’s poor clock management at the end of the half cost them a field goal, their receivers dropped six passes, Bernard Pierce averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and was benched after losing a fumble, and Joe Flacco threw 27 incomplete passes. The Ravens called 65 pass plays compared to just 20 running plays, an imbalance that is going to allow opponent pass rushers to tee off on Flacco and create unfavorable down and distance situations. While he Baltimore defense did Cincinnati to settle for six field goal attempts, they created zero turnovers, zero sacks, allowed Andy Dalton to pass for over 300 yards, and with less than five minutes to play the secondary broke down for a game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass reception.

Neither team’s defense distinguished themselves last week, but Pittsburgh did look better on offense. Running Back Le’Veon Bell had a whopping 197 yards from scrimmage, Roethlisberger completed 68% of his passes and threw for 365 yards, and wide receiver Antonio Brown had 116 yards and a touchdown.

I just don’t see how Baltimore can be properly and focused on this game in a short week, with the ongoing Ray Rice distraction. It doesn’t get any easier for the Ravens either, as they play five of their next seven games on the road. Nine of the last ten regular season games games between these two rivals have been decided by three points or less, but I’m not expecting that trend to continue; a blowout victory by the Steelers would not be shocking at all.

Pick • Steelers 27, Ravens 20
Steelers +2½ (two units)
Over 43½



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This and That (Train Wreck)

With all that has transpired in the last few days, we need my friend Zeus to put the current state of the NFL and Patriots Nation into proper perspective.

This and That (Train Wreck)

After much anticipation, Sunday was a rough day but what followed on Monday was even worse. I’d much rather talk about football than the other b.s. that’s been going on but I guess that’s just not the way life works anymore.

1. Opening Day found the local fans a bit overwrought, with the stubborn drought of sports related adrenaline continuing unabated since the winter. It’s been a more than a decade since the Patriots dropped their opener, so the game proved to be nerve jangling to say the least. I spent a good bit of the fourth quarter pacing in front of the gigantic television shrieking obscenities, something that I fear has prompted our new neighbors, a lovely young couple from the UK, to seek alternative housing arrangements. (Sensing my obvious distress, they wanted to get help but couldn’t decide between calling 911 or an exorcist.)

The outcome plunged New England into a pit of black despair. Any strengths we hoped that the team possessed had quickly evaporated. And our darkest fears about aging, infirm, unathletic players and senile, incompetent coaches had grown exponentially to become far worse than even the most dire pessimist might have imagined. Such torpor will continue at least until the next decisive victory.

2. Cant’ Block, Can’t Tackle, Can’t Win – Schemes and game plans can’t overcome poor fundamentals, mental errors and stupid penalties. After a respectable (and perhaps underrated) first half, the wheels came off in Miami. The third quarter alone was as bad as anything we’ve seen since Rod Rust’s team played that way on a weekly basis. It was an odd twist that the more Dolphin players left with injuries, the better Miami played, prompting the question as to whether they were playing the right guys in the first place. That’s two loses in a row at Miami. Let’s not forget that at home last year, the Patriots had to come back from a 17-3 halftime deficit to win 27-17 in a game that Miami had under control. A disturbing trend against an AFC East rival to say the least…

3. Not Ready for Prime Time – Was Bill Belichick’s biggest objective in preseason getting his team to September in one piece, perhaps prioritizing health over preparation? Given the assorted torn ligaments, dislocated joints, shattered bones and vibrating crania being reported league-wide throughout training camp, it’s hard to argue with this approach. So players like Gronkowski, Mayo, Easley and Dobson saw little or no action, while healthy veterans (Brady, Revis) played only sparingly. It’s fair to wonder if the lack of preseason game action was a contributing factor in the uneven play we observed Sunday, not so much from a conditioning standpoint, but with respect to the team’s ability to execute on a cohesive basis. It’s a tough choice, but if you’re going to try to win a War of Attrition, you might as well show up with as many able bodies as possible.

4. Half and Half – The Patriots were not alone in what appeared to be a nearly league wide epidemic of Trick or Treat Football that saw teams play well in one half and abysmally in the other. Much like the Patriots, many teams were not ready to play 60 minutes of football on Opening Day.

5. Roger Goodell took over as NFL Commissioner on August 8, 2006 as a self-professed hard-ass. Goodell’s justice is characteristically harsh, haphazard and capricious. He has taken a hard line with players for indiscretions large and small. He stomped on the Patriots for a technical rule violation that even he acknowledged provided little if any competitive advantage. His excessive punishments in Bountygate required intervention from his retired predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, who vacated all of Goodell’s player suspensions.

Might the players who have been on the receiving end of Goodell’s autocratic dictates be wondering what happens when The $44 Million Man publicly screws up in such a monumental fashion? What little credibility Goodell still had with the rank and file is shot to hell. Today’s NFL demands discipline and accountability, but I guess that only applies to The Hired Help.

6. Train Wreck – The NFL is at the pinnacle of its popularity and profitability. Were the league a publicly traded stock, Warren Buffet would be buying by the boatload because the business right now is so fundamentally sound that no amount of mismanagement could possibly derail the cash-laden freight train. The sad fact of the matter is that the owners regard this unprecedented success as giving them carte blanche to do whatever they want whenever they want. Ethical or criminal misdeeds by the owners themselves are barely recognized, let alone punished. Business partners such as the broadcast networks are treated like servants and the ticket buying fans are a mere afterthought. Every possible aspect of the game is being monetized and sold to the highest bidder, even the Super Bowl half-time show.

It is hubris of the highest order.

Mark Cuban is right – The Hogs Are at the Trough and they are getting fatter by the minute. The fatter they get, the stupider they get. It’s a huge train wreck waiting to happen.

7. Shame – Ray Rice’s disgraceful assault on Janay Palmer speaks for itself. I hope the Rices get the help they need and I think it is counterproductive to say that a 27 year old man doesn’t deserve a second chance. However, Rice and his enablers are off to a terrible start. Knowing what actually happened, the attempt by Rice, his despicable attorney, the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL to foist any degree of culpability for the assault onto the victim was a cowardly and cynical a thing as I have seen in my lifetime. The stink from this shameful act will not go away any time soon.


A very special thank you to Zeus for his much needed unique perspective and analysis.



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NFL Week One Previews and Predictions

Some quick thoughts on the week one NFL games.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel and Trent Green
The Patriots should be able to take advantage of a weak Miami interior offensive line to put pressure on Ryan Tannehill. Look for the Patriots to create mismatches against Dolphin safeties Louis Delmas and Jimmy Wilson.
Pick • Patriots 23, Dolphins 17
Patriots -3½
under 47½
Final Score: Dolphins 33, Patriots 20 … Dolphins cover by 16½ … over by 5½


New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch
The Falcons still have a ways to go before they are back to being as competitive as they were from 2008-2012; they have some recognizable names on offense, but their defense is awful. I’ll be interested in seeing how first-round pick WR Brandin Cooks performs in the New Orleans offense.
Pick • Saints 34, Falcons 21
Saints -3 (four units)
over 52½
Final Score: Falcons 37, Saints 34 … Falcons cover by 6 … over by 18½


Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams ★★
Early game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch
Let the Shaun Hill era begin for St. Louis. The Rams have a good defense, but no offense. Not a strong feel one way or the other for this game.
Pick • Rams 17, Vikings 13
Vikings +4
under 43½ (two units)
Final Score: Vikings 34, Rams 6 … Vikings cover by 32 … under by 3½


Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers ★★★
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
The Steelers have beaten the Browns at home ten straight times, and I would expect that to become eleven by Sunday evening. However, Pittsburgh’s offense has looked anemic and out of synch in preseason, which could be a problem against an underrated Cleveland defense.
Pick • Steelers 20, Browns 17
Browns +7
under 42 (two units)
Final Score: Steelers 30, Browns 27 … Browns cover by 4 … over by 15


Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles ★★★
Early game on CBS; Andrew Catalon and Steve Tasker
I’m always hesitant to go with a double-digit favorite, but there’s probably only one Jacksonville player, guard Zane Beadles, who could start for Philadelphia. The Jags may end up being better than they were the couple of seasons, but that’s not saying much.
Pick • Eagles 34, Jaguars 20
Eagles +10
over 49½ (two units)
Final Score: Eagles 34, Jaguars 17 … Eagles cover by 7 … over by 1½


Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Early game on CBS; Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
Why in the world would CBS send their top broadcasting crew to announce the worst game of the week? Even though I can find no compelling reason why the Jets should win, I can’t back a west coast team playing an early game on the east coast with a rookie quarterback.
Pick • Jets 20, Raiders 17
Raiders +6½
under 41½
Final Score: Jets 19, Raiders 14 … Raiders cover by 1½ … under by 8½


Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens ★★★★★
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
The Ravens ranked just 20th in point differential last year, so it’s tough to back them against a quality team like Cincinnati. However, Baltimore but will be fired up for their home opener; they will be looking for revenge after losing to the Bengals in week 17 last year to be eliminated from the playoffs.
Pick • Bengals 23, Ravens 20
Bengals +1½
under 43½
Final Score: Bengals 23, Ravens 16 … Bengals cover by 8½ … under by 4½


Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston
While the Bears are the better team, this is one of those cases where the lesser team matches up pretty well. Buffalo is committed to running the ball, and last season Chicago had one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.
Pick • Bears 24, Bills 20
Bills +7
under 47½
Final Score: Bills 23, Bears 20 … Bills cover by 10 … under by 4½


Washington at Houston Texans ★★
Early game on FOX; Thom Brennaman and David Diehl
The Texans are a better team than their 2-14 2013 record would indicate. Their defensive line is very good, and should be able to take advantage of a soft Washington offensive line.
Pick • Texans 24, Skins 17
Texans -2½
under 44½
Final Score: Texans 17, Washington 6 … Texans cover by 13½ … under by 21½


Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs ★★★
Early game on CBS; Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon
New Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhut put together a solid defense in Arizona; I expect the Titans to improve this season. The Kansas City defense was exposed down the stretch last year, but Jake Locker and Shonn Greene don’t cause sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators.
Pick • Chiefs 23, Titans 20
Titans +3½
under 45
Final Score: Titans 26, Chiefs 10 … Titans cover by 19½ … under by 9


Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers ★★
Late game on FOX; Chris Myers and Ronde Barber
Cam Newton is injured, and he has an entirely new set of wide receivers this year. Tampa Bay has a new defensive-minded head coach, and they will be without their offensive coordinator calling plays today. The Bucs offensive line will be improved with the addition of Logan Mankins, but it may take a few games for that unit to gel and work together as one cohesive unit. That all adds up to a low scoring game, with turnovers playing a big role in the few scoring opportunities that occur.
Pick • Bucs 16, Panthers 13
Panthers +4½
under 39 (one unit)
Final Score: Panthers 20, Bucs 14 … Panthers cover by 10½ … under by 5


San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys ★★★★
Late game on FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
The vaunted 49er defense will take a step back, with linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith unavailable. The Dallas defense was historically bad last year, and doesn’t appear to be improved at all.
Pick • 49ers 31, Cowboys 21
Niners -3½
over 49½ Final Score: Niners 28, Cowboys 17 … Niners cover by 7½ … under by 4½


Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos ★★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
With the exception of Andrew Luck, the Colts are collectively an old team that is slowing down. Their middle of the road defense is without Robert Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season.
Pick • Broncos 35, Colts 24
Broncos -7½
over 54½
Final Score: Broncos 31, Colts 24 … Colts cover by ½ … over by ½


New York Giants at Detroit Lions ★★★
Early Monday night game on ESPN; Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden
After a horrible start to the 2013 season, the Giants won seven of their final ten games. The Lions were handed a golden opportunity to win the NFC North last year when injuries decimated the Packers and Bears, and let that slip through their hands as they lost their last four games and six of the last seven – much of that due to turning the ball over 34 times.
Pick • Giants 27, Lions 24
Giants +6½ (one unit)
over 46½
Final Score: Lions 35, Giants 14 … Lions cover by 14½ … over by 3½


San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals ★★★★
Late Monday night game on ESPN; Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer
Injuries to defensive end Darnell Dockett and safety Tyrann Mathieu will make it difficult for Arizona to defend against a San Diego offense that has plenty of weapons.
Pick • Chargers 27, Cardinals 24
Chargers +3½
over 44½
Final Score: Cardinals 18, Chargers 17 … Chargers cover by 2½ … under by 9½



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Week One NFL Television Schedule

Week One NFL Television Schedule

While the Pats-Dolphins game is CBS’ marquee game, it is not going to get a whole lot of distribution since CBS has no late game and must squeeze six games into one time slot. For some unknown and baffling reason CBS is sending their top broadcasting crew to do a game between the Jets and Raiders – two clubs that are not expected to make the playoffs, combined to go 12-20 last year, and have no marquee names to market the game. The good news is that the Pats-Dolphins game gets CBS’ number two broadcasting crew – but while in seasons past that meant having to listen to Dan Dierdorf, that is no longer the case since he has retired been replaced. Trent Green will serve as the analyst, while Greg Gumbel will call the play-by-play.


Thursday Night

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
8:30 pm ET on NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
Seahawks favored by 5½ with a point total of 46½


Early Sunday Games on CBS

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Greg Gumbel and Trent Green
Broadcast in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Buffalo NY, Florida (except Jacksonville to Orlando), Alabama, southern Mississippi, Texas (except Dallas and Waco), New Mexico, Arizona, eastern Nevada (Las Vegas), Utah, western Idaho, northern Oregon, eastern Washington (Spokane), eastern North Dakota (Fargo, Grand Forks), Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Illinois, Indiana (except South Bend), Alaska, Hawaii.
Patriots favored by 5 with a point total of 47½

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Broadcast in Pennsylvania (except Philadelphia), Rochester NY, Ohio (except Dayton and Cincinnati), West Virginia, western Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, most of Georgia (including Atlanta), Waco TX.
Steelers favored by 6½ with a point total of 41½

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots
Broadcast in Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, eastern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati OH, Dayton OH.
Ravens favored by 1½ with a point total of 43½

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon
Broadcast in Tennessee, western Kentucky, northern Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, western North Dakota (Bismark), Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, eastern Idaho.
Chiefs favored by 3½ with a point total of 43½

Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles
Andrew Catalon and Steve Tasker
Broadcast in Philadelphia PA, Jacksonville FL, Orlando FL, Savannah GA, Dallas TX.
Eagles favored by 10½ with a point total of 52½

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms
Broadcast in New York (except Rochester and Buffalo), New Jersey, California, Reno NV, southern Oregon.
Jets favored by 5½ with a point total of 39½


Early Games on FOX

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch
Broadcast in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, North Carolina (except Raleigh), South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio (except Toledo), Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii.
Saints favored by 3 with a point total of 51½

Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears
Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in New York State (except New York City), Toledo OH, Michigan, Indiana, northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa.
Bears favored by 6½ with a point total of 47½

Washington at Houston Texans
Thom Brennaman and David Diehl
Broadcast in Connecticut, Pennsylvania (except Philadelphia and Pittsburgh), Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma (except Tulsa), Arizona.
Texans favored by 3 with a point total of 45½

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams
Dick Stockton and Kirk Morrison
Broadcast in southern Illinois, Missouri (except Kansas City), Tulsa OK, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana.
Rams favored by 4 with a point total of 43½

Later Games

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
4:25 pm ET on FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman
Broadcast everywhere except North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida (except Miami, West Palm Beach), Savannah GA, New Orleans LA, Beckley WV.
49ers favored by 4½ with a point total of 51

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4:25 pm ET on FOX; Chris Myers and Ronde Barber
Broadcast in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida (except Miami, West Palm Beach), Savannah GA, New Orleans LA, Beckley WV.
Buccaneers favored by 2½ with a point total of 39½

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
8:30 pm ET on NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
Broncos favored by 7½ with a point total of 55½

New York Giants at Detroit Lions
7:00 pm Monday 9/8 on ESPN, WABC-New York, WXYZ-Detroit; Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden
Lions favored by 5½ with a point total of 47

San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
10:20 pm ET Monday 9/8 on ESPN, KUSI-San Diego, KTVK-Phoenix; Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer
Cardinals favored by 3 with a point total of 45



As for Thursday night’s game, I think Seattle will win in a close, high-scoring game. Even if Richard Sherman is able to limit Jordy Nelson, that still leaves a now-healthy Randall Cobb (80 receptions for 954 yards and 8 TD in 2012), Jarrett Boykin (49 catches for 681 yards last year), as well as RB Eddy Lacy (35 receptions in 2013) to account for. Seattle nickel back Jeremy Lane has moved up in the depth chart with the departures of Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, and he is limited due to a groin injury. If Lane can’t go then Pete Caroll may have to shift free safety to the slot, or insert Marcus Burley (who was acquired in exchange for a 7th-round draft pick) into the lineup.

However, the effect of the crowd at the C-Link for the season opener on a night the championship banner will be raised is something you just can’t overlook. I’m slightly leaning towards the Packers plus 5½ points and over 46½ total points, but for this game my wallet is staying in my pocket.

Prediction: Seahawks 27, Packers 24



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This and That (Good Golly Miss Molly)

Just in time before the kickoff of the 2014 season, Zeus graces us with his presence and his unique perspective of the current state of the NFL.


1. Thank God it’s time for real football. – Happy to see preseason arrive; much happier to see it go… What a relief to finally be able to watch a real football game where the best players play and there’s a game plan designed to actually try to win the game. Might coaches be using preseason games more to evaluate talent and less to prepare the real players for regular season competition? Just another reason that four preseason games are way too many …

2. Good Golly Miss Molly! – Was it Adderall (The Dog Ate My Homework excuse for drug test failures) or did somebody dose Wesley’s mint julep with Molly juiced with enough speed to separate him from both his senses and handfuls of $100 bills? Welker’s sense of bewilderment and outrage seems genuine, but we’ve seen the same act from people like Lance Armstrong and Ryan Braun. Positive tests are not accidents and the fact is that the offenders are not likely to be forthcoming about what actually happened.

Still, the NFL drug policy makes little sense. Maybe the league should just focus on PEDs, letting the criminal justice system deal with marijuana and various other controlled substances. The collectively bargained drug policy is unnecessarily punitive in its application of suspensions and fines where treatment and counseling are far more likely to be of therapeutic value. Maybe someone can educate me as to precisely who is better off now that the league has suspended Josh Gordon indefinitely for having trace amounts of The Evil Weed in his bloodstream.

3. Will Gronk Play? – It’s amusing to watch Bill Belichick industriously stuff the cat that Gronk let out back into the proverbial bag. It is too bad Gronk shot his mouth off – I was looking forward to a reenactment of the 2007 Randy Moss Sandbag Caper. You may recall that after tweaking a hammy early on, Moss spent the bulk of the 2007 training camp in virtual witness protection, resulting in unfounded rumors about how the bad blood between the team and Moss would likely result in the release of the enigmatic receiver. For the record, Moss burned the jets on opening day with nine receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown. We’ll see if Gronk can put on a similar show on Sunday.

4. Value – The conventional wisdom is that you can’t have one guy be coach and GM because the coach’s survival instincts will create short term needs that will overwhelm the longer term perspective of the GM. So it’s at least interesting that Bill Belichick is so willing to defer the gratification of the New England Patriots. From the outside, it seems that the Patriots have imposed a strict discipline that requires performance and compensation to be in balance.

Many believe that the Patriots traded Logan Mankins because they are cheap, but that’s tantamount to saying that Bill Belichick is more concerned with Bob Kraft’s profits than winning football games. Does anybody really believe that?

It’s not about money, it’s about value. That is the philosophy that determines who stays and who goes. As players age, they become less athletic and more prone to injury. The combined effects of these two inevitabilities can be surprisingly sudden. Once it is determined that a player’s production no longer justifies his compensation, something’s gotta’ give. It’s tempting to make exceptions for long time stalwarts like Logan Mankins. But in the end, it is the enforcement of this discipline over the past 14 years that has allowed the Patriots to remain among the NFL elite.

5. Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown – The notion that you’re only as good as your last game has created the impression that the Seahawks are the second coming of the 1985 Bears. So while the Hawks did indeed thrash the overmatched Broncos (who turtled at the first hint of adversity) in the Super Bowl, they also beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game by the thinnest of margins.

One of the hardest things to overcome in sports is success. Pete Carroll lost two NFL head coaching jobs because of his unwillingness or inability to hold people accountable. It will be no surprise if Seattle opens the season on a tear, but sustaining that through the long haul of a 16-game season and the playoffs that follow is another thing altogether. There’s a reason no team has repeated since 2004. Maybe the Seahawks are good enough to overcome the distractions and complacency that accompany a championship. Time will tell.

6. The 2014 Festival of the Yellow Flag was supposed to include a crackdown on offensive pass interference. The so-called Competition Committee may well have legislated the screen pass out of existence with phony downfield blocking fouls. How dumb of me to imagine that the focus would instead be on pick plays. Of course, cleaning that up would have the unacceptable side effect of deflating the stupendously bloated stats of the league’s most precious asset, The Gigantic Forehead. So that’s Out of the Question.

7. The Professional Sports League That Cried Wolf – One of the problems with throwing a flag on just about every play is that fans will almost universally regard even the most blatant infractions with contempt. The bright side is that the paying customers will now be able to while away the hours required to watch an entire game hooting at the tormented Zebras, who will no doubt need significant professional help to endure the resulting trauma.

8. Pinocchio – It is NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino’s job to put a Happy Face on the weekly cavalcade of officiating screw-ups. How much does Dean get paid for lying through his teeth? It was Blandino who publicly declared Wes Welker’s blindside hit on Aquib Talib in the AFC Championship game to be legal because it was “almost simultaneous” with the pass reception. This newly invented fiction qualifies for the Creative Prevarication Hall of Fame. It was a bald faced lie.



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A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #44, Darius Fleming

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #44, Darius Fleming

Here is the fifteenth in a series of historical perspectives on who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Darius Fleming is the latest members of the Pats to don the number 44. Below is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots, highlighted by running back Don Calhoun.


44 – Linebacker Darius Fleming

- Drafted out of Notre Dame in the fifth round in 2012 by San Francisco, Fleming missed two full seasons due to two injuries to his left knee. The Patriots signed him on May 16 and if he remains healthy, could be a valuable playmaker in situational roles.


2014 off-season: TE Terrence Miller

Miller was one of three tight ends signed by the Patriots on August 10, and was waived/injured three days later. After clearing waivers he was placed on injured reserve. The 6’4″ 234 pound tight end was originally signed by the Jets right after the draft, an was released a month later. Miller had 95 catches for 1,117 yards during his college career at Arizona.


2014 off-season: TE Tyler Beck

- Beck was an undrafted free agent from Bowling Green known for his blocking skills; he caught only ten passes as a senior. He was released on May 15, prior to the start of OTAs.


2013: TE Zach Sudfeld

- The undrafted free agent became a fan favorite during OTAs and training camp with his exceptional play, but that was short lived. The 6’7″ 253 pond product from Nevada-Reno was simply not as good once the pads were on, and a dropped ball that resulted in an interception eventually led to his being released. In three real games with the Patriots he had zero receptions, but was quickly picked up by the Jets. As a rookie he had five catches for 63 yards with Gang Green, and this summer is competing for a starting position there.


2011-12 off-season and practice squad: FB Eric Kettani

- The 5’9″ 240 pound back was one of three players from Navy that the Patriots signed as undrafted free agents in May of 2009. They had to fulfill their military commitments first, and Kettani was activated from the Reserve/Military list in May of 2011. He was released as part of the final camp cuts in September, but signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.

In October he was denied leave from the Navy and had to return to active duty, but the Patriots re-signed him the following spring. Kettani was then cut again at the end of camp in 2012. The Pats added him to the practice squad on September 1, but released him four days later to make room for OL Jeremiah Warren. Kettani later spent time on the practice squads of Washington and Kansas City, and on August 20, 2014 was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.


2011: S James Ihedigbo

- The UMass alum caught the eye of Bill Belichick with his special teams performance while with the Jets from 2008-10. The Pats picked him up after he was cut during training camp in 2011, and due to injuries he ended up playing a lot of defense in addition to special teams. He appeared in all 16 games with 12 starts, recording 72 tackles (50 solo) and one pass breakup. Ihedigbo also started all three playoff games, registering another 20 tackles.

As a position player with the Pats he seemed to be a bit overmatched, but Ihedigbo has gone on to play safety for Baltimore, totaling 12 passes defensed and three interceptions over the last two seasons.


2010: S Jarrad Page

- A seventh round pick by Kansas City in 2006, page was acquired by the Patriots on September 5, 2010 in exchange for a seventh round 2012 draft pick. He played in ten games with one start at safety with two interceptions, 13 tackles, two passes defensed and six special teams tackles. After starting 37 games with the Chiefs, his contribution was a bit of a letdown. Page spent 2011 with Minnesota and Philadelphia, then in 2012 quit football to become a major league baseball player.


2005-08: FB Heath Evans

- Originally drafted in the third round by Seattle in 2001, Evans’ career appeared to be over when Miami released him in 2005. The Patriots signed him and he played every game for the Pats over the next three and a half seasons, then played two more years with New Orleans. Evans was a reserve at fullback and a core special teams player, appearing in 53 games with the Pats. Evans had 677 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns with the Patriots, and played in 143 NFL games, plus nine playoff games. Evans has since gone on to become a respected analyst on Fox and the NFL Network.


2003: FB Fred McCrary

- McCrary was 31 years old when the Patriots signed him, coming off four years as the blocking back opening up running lanes for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. With the Patriots he appeared in only six games in a limited role in the New England offense. McCrary went on to play four more seasons with Atlanta and Seattle; he appeared in 128 games over 11 seasons in his NFL career.


2001-02: FB Marc Edwards

- The Notre Dame graduate was a second round pick by San Francisco in 1997, an spent two years with the 49ers and two with the Browns before signing as a free agent with the Patriots in 2001. His best trait was blocking and opening up holes for Antowain Smith, but he also added 599 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in his two seasons with the Patriots. Edwards later played for Jacksonville and Chicago, appearing in 132 games over his nine-year NFL career.


1998-2000: RB Harold Shaw

- A sixth round draft pick from Southern Miss, Shaw was a special teams ace who saw very little action on offense. In three seasons he had 18 carries for 35 yards and four catches for 42 yards, with no touchdowns.


1994: RB Marion Butts

- The big (6’1″, 250) back was a two-time Pro Bowler with San Diego, who came to the Patriots with high expectations. Problem was that even though he was only 28, Butts was pretty much done. Though he rushed for 703 yards and eight touchdowns, he averaged a mere 2.9 yards per carry in his only season with the Patriots.


1988-92: RB John Stephens

- The 17th pick out of NW Louisiana State got off to a great start with the Patriots, rushing for 1,168 yards. Stephens was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year and went to the Pro Bowl, but that turned out to be the pinnacle of his career. Stephens rushed for 833 yards in ’89 and 808 in ’90, but injuries and wear and tear (753 carries in his first three seasons) took their toll. In ’91 Leonard Russell took over as the feature back, and Stephens averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. He spent one more year with the Pats, then finished his NFL career in ’93 with Green Bay and Kansas City.

Stephens rushed for 3,249 yards in his five years in New England, seventh most in club history. His 891 carries is the fifth most, and his 17 rushing touchdowns ranks 13th; the 1,168 yards rushing in 1988 is the seventh highest in a single season in team history.

After his career was over Stephens made news for the wrong reasons, as he was convicted on a sexual assault charge in 1996. His daughter Sloane has gone on to become a highly ranked professional tennis player, but he never got to witness that success; Stephens died in a car crash in 2009 at the age of 43.


1987: TE Todd Frain

- Frain was a replacement player during the 1987 strike; in two starts he had two receptions for 22 yards.


1984: KR/RB Jon Williams

- Williams had a tough childhood, with his father in prison on a murder charge when he was eight years old, and growing up in a neighborhood full of drugs and violence. He somehow persevered, got a scholarship and was a member of the national championship team at Penn State.

The Patriots selected Williams in the third round with the 70th pick of the 1984 draft, but after nine games he suffered a career-ending knee injury. He overcame that adversity by having a productive career in sales with FedEx, while drawing on his experiences to council and mentor at-risk youths.


1982: RB Larry Cowan

- A seventh round draft pick by Miami, Cowan lasted just one season in the NFL. In six games with the Patriots he had no stats.


1975-81: RB Don Calhoun

- After being waived by Buffalo, the Patriots signed Calhoun late in the 1975 season. Over the years his combination of quickness and strength allowed him to be productive at both halfback and fullback, a valuable asset on some of those great rushing teams from the Fairbanks era. At one point Calhoun ranked third all-time in club history in rushing yardage, and his 3,391 yards is still sixth most in franchise history. Calhoun also ranks eighth with 23 rushing touchdowns, seventh with 4.1 yards per carry, seventh with 820 carries, and eighth with 23 rushing touchdowns.


1975: RB Doug Dressler

- Acquired on September 8, 1975 from Cincinnati in exchange for a 1976 7th round draft pick, Dressler appeared in five games with three rushes for eight yards and one reception for a loss of one yard. The Cal-State Chico product spent five years in the NFL, appearing in 68 games with the Bengals, Patriots and Chiefs.


1969-72: CB John Outlaw

- A tenth round pick out of Jackson State, Outlaw had three interceptions, a pick-six and a fumble recovery in 1971. He then spent six seasons with the Eagles, and then was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina Central University for 11 years. Outlaw then switched sports: since 1990 he has been an assistant coach in the NBA with Denver, Washington and Charlotte.


1965-67: DB White Graves

- Graves was taken by the Patriots in the 17th round, 135th overall, in the 1965 AFL draft. In three seasons with the Patriots he appeared in 40 games, and had three interceptions. The Cincinnati picked him up in the 1968 expansion draft, and he played with the Bengals for one season.


1960-61: RB Gerhard Schwedes

- When the AFL formed, the eight owners agreed to have a consensus regional player go to each team. With no decent college teams in New England at that time, the Patriots ended up with Schwedes – and he therefore is the answer to the trivia question of who was the first player drafted in the history of the Patriots franchise.

An All-American and captain on Syracuse’s 1959 championship team, the German-born Schwedes did not have much of a pro football career. The Pats traded him to the Titans before the season began, then re-signed him in mid-season. In seven games over two seasons with the Patriots, Schwedes rushed for 14 yards on ten carries and had one reception for 21 yards.




#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

#29 – RB Roy Finch and CB Malcolm Butler

#31 – S Shamiel Gary

#35 – RB Jonas Gray and CB Daxton Swanson

#36 – S Stephen Houston

#39 – CB Brandon Browner

#42 – CB Travis Hawkins




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A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #42, Travis Hawkins

A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #42, Travis Hawkins

Here is the fourteenth in a series of historical perspectives on who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.

Travis Hawkins is the latest members of the Pats to don the number 42; below is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots. For anybody that first thought of Mack Herron or Ronnie Lippett, congratulations on your loyalty and continuing fandom – though you are showing your age in comparison to those that first thought of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.


42 – Cornerback Travis Hawkins

- Hawkins transferred to Delaware after two years at Maryland. With the Blue Hens he recorded 168 tackles, eight interceptions and 20 passes defensed, while also returning kicks and playing on special team coverage units. Hawkins may eventually carve out a niche for himself in the NFL as a special teams ace, but more realistically he will start out the season on the practice squad.


2008-11: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

- Despite posting solid numbers (4,185 yards, 26 TD) during his college career, The Law Firm went undrafted thanks in part to mediocre combine numbers and never being part of the passing game. The Patriots signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss in 2008, but he was cut at the end of training camp. The Pats signed him to the practice squad and promoted him to the 53-man roster in October, and immediately scored in four straight games.

In 2009 BJGE was almost strictly a special teams player, and was inactive for four games plus the playoff game against Baltimore. However in the next off season he had shown enough that the Patriots were comfortable in trading Laurence Maroney, with the idea that BJGE could replace his snaps as the third running back on the depth chart. Playing time changed a lot more than anticipated, as Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead carried the load due to injuries to Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk. The Law Firm rushed for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had a streak of five games with at least one touchdown (third longest in club history). Most impressively, Green-Ellis did not fumble the ball a single time; in fact, he would not fumble in the NFL until 2012.

In 2011 Law Firm battled a turf toe injury all season, and although he rushed for 11 touchdowns, his yards per carry dropped from 4.4 to 3.7. After having drafted Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, the Patriots elected to let BJGE depart as a free agent. He has rushed for 1,850 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons with the Bengals, but his playing time in 2014 with Cincinnati may dwindle between the breakout season of Giovani Bernard, and the addition of rookie Jeremy Hill at running back.

Green-Ellis rushed for 29 career touchdowns with the Patriots, which ranks as the seventh most in franchise history. His 2,064 yards is 18th all-time for the club, and he is one of only twelve players to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season for the Patriots, and his 4.0 yards per carry ranks as ninth best in team history among those with at least 450 carries.


2004: S Dexter Reid

- In his final two years at North Carolina, Reid racked up 298 tackles and was a first team All-ACC player both seasons. The Patriots drafted him with the 113th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2004 draft.

Reid played in 13 games plus all three playoff games, on special teams as well as in nickel and dime formations. He was a big hitter, but a liability in coverage. In the Super Bowl against Philadelphia he was beaten for two touchdowns, once badly by Greg Lewis when the Patriots were trying to run down the clock. Between being outplayed by James Sanders and slowed down with injuries, Bill Belichick pulled the plug and released Reid at the end of training camp in 2005. He finished his one-year career as a Patriot with 13 games, two starts, 15 tackles, two passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one Super Bowl ring.

The Colts claimed Reid off waivers the following day, and he spent two seasons with Indianapolis – primarily on special teams – and got himself a second ring following the 2006 season.

In the weeks that followed that Super Bowl, Reid’s life came tumbling apart. He was arrested three times, with charges ranging from felony possession of drugs with intent to distribute to illegal firearms. Later in 2007 Reid proved he was not the sharpest blade in the drawer when he drew attention to himself by parking in a handicap spot in front of a Chick-fil-a during the noontime rush; the end result was an arrest for possession of a loaded AK in the vehicle, and an arrest on a fugitive warrant from previous gun charges. Another time he was pulled over for driving erratically; he told the police officer it was because he was texting, but apparently forgot that he had three ounces of weed in full view in the back seat.

Reid was initially sentenced to two years in jail, but a forgiving judge reduced that to a suspended sentence based on his staying out of trouble for two years, along with three years of probation. Reid was able to do just that, but his NFL career was over. In 2011 Reid tried out for the Marty Schottenheimer’s Virginia Destroyers of the UFL, but at the age of 30 and five years removed from playing competitive football, he did not make the roster.


1997-99: S Chris Carter

- Carter attended the University of Texas, where he set a school career record with 348 yards on interception returns, on 14 picks. The Patriots chose him with the 89th overall pick in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft.

In his rookie season he appeared in all 16 games, almost exclusively on special teams. The next year he finished second on the team with 20 special team tackles, again appearing in all 16 games. In 1999 he took over as the starting free safety, and was second on the Pats with three picks, and was fourth with 94 tackles.

On July 15, 2000, Carter was re-signed, part of an announcement that included a skinny rookie quarterback from Michigan. He was released at the end of training camp, and picked up off waivers by Cincinnati. Carter spent two seasons with the Bengals and one with Houston, finishing his NFL career in 2002.

Carter appeared in 47 games with 15 starts in his three seasons with New England; he had three interceptions and two fumble recoveries with the Pats. Overall he appeared in 92 NFL games with 29 starts, with five interceptions, two forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.


1993-94: S Harlon Barnett

- Barnett was drafted in the fourth round, 101st overall in the 1990 draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played 38 games with ten starts in three seasons with the Browns before Bill Belichick cut him after week one – allegedly with the idea of re-signing him – and Bill Parcells claimed him off waivers. The 1993 Patriots were in disarray in the backfield, and Bennett started 12 games in ’93, and then all 16 games in ’94. He then played two years with Minnesota, finishing his NFL career with 99 games and 53 starts, 264 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

In two seasons with the Patriots Barnett made 120 tackles with four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He started in 28 of the 30 games he played for the Patriots, plus one playoff game.

Barnett was a captain and All-American at Michigan State, and after retiring from pro football he eventually returned to East Lansing. Since 2007 he has been the Spartans’ secondary coach, leading that unit to be one of college football’s top defensive units during his tenure.

What Barnett is probably most well known for though, is being made to look foolish by Barry Sanders. Barnett is number 42 in the video clip:


1983-91: CB Ronnie Lippett

- Being selected in the 8th round, 214th overall in the 1983 draft, expectations for Pats fans for the University of Miami Hurricane were rather low. It turned out that pick was one of the best values in franchise history, as Lippett went on to start 111 games at left corner for the Patriots, and earn a place on the 1980s All-Decade Team.

Lippett won the starting job as a rookie, capably taking over the position vacated by the departure of hall of famer Mike Haynes, and leading the team with 26 passes defensed. In 1985 he played in all 20 games for the Pats and had two interceptions plus two passes defensed in the 27-20 road playoff victory over the Raiders. Lippett followed that up with eight picks in 1986, third most in the NFL that season. In 1987 he returned two interceptions for touchdowns to lead the NFL in that category.

After rupturing his Achilles tendon in the preseason in 1989, it looked like Lippett’s career was over. At the age of 30 he bounced back though, and had four interceptions and four fumble recoveries while starting every game for the Pats.

Lippett played one more season and finished his career with 24 interceptions for the Patriots, which is eighth most in franchise history. He played in 122 games with 11 starts, plus four starts in the playoffs. Since then Lippett has been active with charitable organizations and working with at-risk youths in the local area.


1987: S Ron Shegog

- Shegog went undrafted by the NFL out of Austin Peay State, but was selected by the Birmingham Stallions in the fourth round of the USFL’s 1986 draft, 28th overall. Unfortunately that was the year that Donald Trump and Eddie Einhorn convinced the other USFL owners to play in the fall rather than the spring, and the season never kicked off. Shegog played in each of the three replacement games for the Patriots during the 1987 strike, and had an interception in the Patriots 21-7 victory at Houston. He also played for the Denver Dynamite of the Arena Football League in 1989.


1973-75: RB/KR/PR Mack Herron

- ‘Mini-Mack’ Herron was born in 1948 in Biloxi, Misssissippi, and grew up in the slums of Chicago. Due to poor grades he was unable to get into any Division 1 schools, so he enrolled at Hutchinson (Kansas) Junior Coolege, where he scored 41 touchdowns and twice has five TDs in a single game. Herron was a second team All-American, and also won the national junior college 100-yard dash title, and then transferred to Kansas State. Despite having to split touches with future NFL players Larry Brown (Redskins), Mike Montgomery (Cowboys) and Lynn Dickey (Oilers), Herron scored 27 touchdowns in two years and led the Big Eight with 52 receptions in 1969; if he had been given more playing time he would have been a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Herron set several K-State records during his brief career as a Wildcat, including most points in a season (126), most career points (188), and most career touchdowns (31).

Because of his small stature – Herron was just 5’5″, weighing 170 pounds – NFL teams wrote him off before the draft. Atlanta selected him in the sixth round, 143rd overall in the 1970 draft, but that was not meant to be. Herron said that Falcon head coach Norm Van Brocklin (who had two winning seasons in 13 years as a head coach) “told me I had a bad attitude and might as well not come to camp. He had all these dress codes and all. He was trying to take away a man’s freedom. He never really evaluated people either. He has a preconceived idea about people before he ever saw them play. I never had a chance.” Herron turned down Atlanta’s contract offer that included no signing bonus and no guaranteed money, and eventually headed north to the Canada.

In 1971 Herron signed with the Winnipeg Bombers, and was an instant success in the CFL. In his rookie season he was an All Star after rushing for 900 yards, adding 426 more on 36 receptions and another 1019 yards on 35 kickoff returns. As good as that was, the next year he was even better. Herron rushed for 1,527 yards, caught 39 passes for 451 yards, added 552 on kickoff returns, and scored 17 touchdowns. That season he was an All-Canadian selection, which is comparable to being a first team All Pro.

However, in May of 1972 what would turn out to be a recurring theme for Herron played out. Winnipeg police raided his apartment where they tackled Herron before he could toss evidence – a small amount of marijuana – off his balcony. After a search the police also found traces of cocaine, and the Bombers released him. Five months later Herron plead guilty to two drug-possession charges and was given a choice: four months in jail or pay a fine and costs totaling $1,000.

With his pro football days apparently behind him, Herron moved back to Chicago to get on with his life. As luck would have it a former college assistant coach, Dick Steinberg, was now a scout for the Patriots, and he hunted Herron down; Steinberg found him earning a paycheck selling jeans. The Pats were a team in transition: under new coach and general manager Chuck Fairbanks, they were completely turning the roster over, at one point making 27 waiver claims in one three-day period in their desperate search for talent. Fairbanks had no problem giving Herron an opportunity with a team that had gone 3-11 under Phil Bengston and John Mazur the previous season.

In his first NFL season Herron was used primarily as a return specialist. He led the NFL with 1,092 kick return yards in 1973, averaging 26.6 yards per return. Herron averaged an NFL-best 12.5 yards per touch that year, and was second in the league with 1,839 all-purpose yards. Between his electrifying style of cutbacks and a size that fans (especially kids) could relate to, Herron immediately became a fan favorite.

The following season was one for the ages. Herron became a regular in the backfield alongside Sam Cunningham, and the Patriots jumped out to a 5-0 record to start the season. Herron had one of the best seasons by an individual player in league history, shattering the great Gale Sayers’ single-season record for all-purpose yards that had been set back in 1966. Herron led the Patriots with 824 yards, caught 38 passes for 474 yards, was second in the NFL with 517 yards on punt returns, and scored twelve touchdowns, totaling 2,444 all-purpose yards. Though the Pats faded in the second half of the season due to too many key injuries, the region had become excited about the team – in large part due to Herron’s play.

Sadly, things spiraled out of control the following season. There were rumors of heavy drug use, with the final straw allegedly being a late-night birthday party that Herron threw for Leon Gray on a Friday night/Saturday morning before the Patriots were scheduled to play Dallas on Sunday. The Patriots released him, and after Atlanta picked him up for the final four games of the 1975 season, his NFL career was over.

Herron has reportedly been arrested 20 times, most recently three years ago for possession of heroin. In 1978 he was sentenced to five years on cocaine trafficking charges, was sentenced again to four years in prison in 2000, and served nine months in prison in 2003. He has diabetes, and ankle and leg ailments that are so bad that he sometimes can hardly walk due to the constant pain. Herron has attempted to get help from the NFL, but has been stymied due to his short career.

Herron was named to the 1970s Patriots All-Decade Team despite being on the club for just two and a half years. During the 1973 season he set eight club return records, then set nine team records in 1974. In franchise history he ranks tenth with 1,796 kickoff return yards, tenth with 71 kickoff returns, and ninth with an average of 25.3 yards per return. He is second in club history with a 12.0 yard average on punt returns, and ninth in both punt return yards (888) and number of returns (74). Herron is also 23rd in team history with 1,298 yards rushing, and on the club’s all-time leader board with 96 points scored. In all Herron had 4,771 all-purpose yards in just 35 games with the Patriots. His 2,444 all-purpose yards in 1974 is the most ever in the NFL in a 14-game season, and is still the sixth highest single-season total in NFL history.


1962-71: CB/S Don Webb (wore 48 in ’61)

- After averaging 5.2 yards per carry at wingback as a sophomore, Iowa State converted Webb to end for the 1959 season. In his junior year he led the conference in receptions, receiving yards and yards per catch, and was a first-team All-Big Eight selection; the next season led the Big 8 in receiving touchdowns. The Patriots then selected him in the 24th round, 186th overall in the 1961 draft.

The Pats moved him to defense and he not only made the team, but was the starter at left corner his rookie season. He made an immediate impact, leading the AFL with four non-offensive touchdowns: a fumble, a blocked punt, and two picks. He had five interceptions on the season and was a one-man show in the season finale at San Diego where he had a 31-yard pick six to put the Pats up 17-0 in the first quarter, and then finished off scoring with a 20-yard return of a punt for another score. The Pats won 41-0 to finish 9-4-1, but Houston’s victory over the Raiders the same day gave the Oilers ten wins and the AFL East crown, and a trip to the league championship game.

Webb lost his starting position to Chuck Shonta the following year, but still played in all 14 games. He missed the entire 1963 season with a knee injury suffered just prior to the start of the season, but bounced back by reclaiming his starting position and recording six interceptions in 1964. He was considered one of the hardest hitters in the league, and in 1967 was converted to safety, a position that better suited his skills. In 1969 he was named the team’s Unsung Player of the Year and was an AFL All-Star, and was annually among the top three in voting for team’s Most Valuable Player. Webb remained a starter until 1971, was named a member of the Patriots All-Decade Team for the 1960s. His 21 career interceptions was second most in club history at the time he retired, and over 40 years later he still ranks 11th all time in that category, as well as 8th in interception return yards. He finished his career with 134 games played, which at the time was second only to Houston Antwine’s 142 games played, and still places him in the top 30 all time in club history.


1960-61: DB Bob Soltis

- Perhaps his biggest claim to fame may be that he was part of the impetus that led to Gino Cappelletti deciding to tryout for the Boston Patriots. After Cappelletti heard that Soltis and two other college football teammates (Bobby Cox and Gordy Holz) had been contacted by Lou Saban for tryouts, Cappelletti decided that at age 26 perhaps he was not too old to play pro football, and got a hold of Saban and got himself an audition with the Pats.

On a bad (1-8) 1958 UM team, Soltis was a halfback who was second on the roster with 424 yards from scrimmage and – incredible as this may sound today – led the Gophers with 11 receptions. The New York Giants drafted him in the 16th round, 190th overall in the 1959. That ’59 club was very good – they were in the midst of a run when they went to the championship game five times in six seasons – and Soltis was relegated to the taxi squad, but was never on the full roster.

Soltis converted from offense to defense and played all 14 games in the inaugural 1960 AFL season for the Patriots, and three more in 1961 before the effects of a back injury suffered in the preseason sidelined him and ended his playing days; he finished his career as a Patriot with two interceptions for 33 yards in seventeen games played. He then went on to join what was then a very new industry, and had a very lengthy and successful post-football career in computer sales and management. He passed away in his native Minnesota at the age of 79 on June 26th, 2009.




#10 – QB Jimmy Garoppolo

#14 – KR/WR Reggie Dunn

#16 – WR Reese Wiggins

#19 – WR Brandon LaFell

#21 – CB Jemea Thomas

#23 – S Patrick Chung

#24 – CB Darrelle Revis

#28 – RB James White

#29 – RB Roy Finch and CB Malcolm Butler

#31 – S Shamiel Gary

#35 – RB Jonas Gray and CB Daxton Swanson

#36 – S Stephen Houston

#39 – CB Brandon Browner




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Call Off the Zebras

Get ready, because here is another fantastic op-ed entry from Zeus:


Call Off the Zebras


The collective self-esteem of pro football offenses must be noticeably flagging. Maybe that is why in the NFL’s Brave New World, an offense that fails to convert on third down is not only given a do over, but is also awarded a first down, a bonus five yard improvement in field position, and a pony. Now you can call it defensive holding or illegal contact or any number of other names. But the all too predictable outcome will be interminably long games with scores that more resemble NCAA basketball than professional football and celebrity NFL referees getting more TV face time than Dr. Phil.


In a game that features 300 pound linemen savagely trying to beat each other senseless and lightning quick 250 pound linebackers routinely trying to decapitate or otherwise maim equally fast, insanely powerful running backs, it is indeed a strange and ironic twist for the rules to require that pass receivers be allowed to scurry down the field unimpeded by any minute, trivial contact that might imperil a pass completion and the attendant fantasy points.


Once again, the fans are on the receiving end of the dubious business judgment and questionable leadership of Commissioner Blockhead, the owners’ $44 million cabana boy. The vehicle for implementing this travesty is the so-called Competition Committee, the corrupt and imbecilic Kangaroo Court that presides over the enforcement of the NFL’s byzantine rule book, a document that makes the Federal Income Tax Code seem like a shining example of fairness, clarity and brevity. (Any discussion of the lamented committee would be remiss if it failed to note the ham-handed efforts of its chairman, Mean Mr. Moustache, a man who has been handsomely and inexplicably rewarded for being so utterly unremarkable.)


The abject corruption of the Competition Committee was on full display in 2004 when Bill Polian drove it to embrace the flag football rules that brought the game one step closer to Arena Football. It’s no secret that the remorseless Polian acted not for the good of the game, but in naked self-interest. That Polian’s actions were greedy, cowardly and disgraceful was readily apparent to anyone with the tiniest sense of decency and a double digit IQ.


Now, after February’s internationally televised public flogging of the league’s most precious asset, The Gigantic Forehead, the Committee steps once more into the breach. Once again, the good of the game is being publicly sacrificed at the altar of television ratings and revenue growth, the incredibly powerful narcotics that are leading the NFL owners down the path to destruction. But this time, it’s a fool’s errand.


As a long time season ticket holder, my message to Football Family Kraft, Commissioner Blockhead and the rest of the Billionaire Boys Club is as follows:


I am not paying ($169 per ticket x 6 tickets x 10 games = a hell of a lot of money) to watch guys dressed in white pants, striped shirts and funny hats blow their silly whistles and throw their festive colorful yellow bean bags around the field.

What I am paying ($169 per ticket x 6 tickets x 10 games = a hell of a lot of money) for is to watch Professional Football. Now I can’t say for sure just what it was that was happening on the Gillette Stadium field Friday night, but it most definitely was not Professional Football.

I really don’t want to invest my heart and soul into a game whose outcome depends so much on the capricious and whimsical judgment of some guy named Clete who can make my life miserable simply because it’s easy for him to do so. (Ed. Note – Clete has already done this at least twice that I can think of.) I want the players to play and, to the greatest extent possible, the officials to stay the hell out of the way.


I’m hard pressed to figure out who benefits from this. Fans are already complaining loudly. Players and coaches have to be exasperated. And even the officials themselves must be embarrassed having to call lame penalties for such ticky-tack nonsense.


The good news is that it’s August and it’s not too late.


It’s time to call off the zebras.


Thank you once again to Zeus for allowing me to share his unique perspective on the current state of the National Football League.


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