Note: It once again is my pleasure to hand over control of the blog to special guest writer Zeus, for the first of what will hopefully be many of this season’s This and That entries.

Venting My Spleen

Offseason Blues (Exhibit I) – In the NFL calendar, there seems to be a full moon every night between the conclusion of the June mini-camps and the start of actual training camp. This puts an exclamation point on the offseason, where many players indulge in their two favorite pastimes: having surgery and getting arrested. In future, aspiring doctors and lawyers will not waste their precious time on law/medical school. They’ll just watch the NFL Network.

Offseason Blues (Exhibit II) – For the diehard fan of American professional football, the pages of the calendar turn slowly between the first week in February and the end of July. Training camp brings an air of anticipation. I actually look forward to the preseason games because (in theory) even really, really bad football is better than no football at all. But the farcical nature of the glorified scrimmages reached a tipping point this past weekend with inept, disinterested play being accompanied by the continuing tidal wave of critical injuries. The evidence mounts that a schedule containing four preseason games is an unconscionable rip-off of the paying customers and is actually counterproductive to the level of play that we will see during the regular season. I don’t pretend to know what the answer is but I do believe that the four game NFL preseason should be very high on the endangered species list.

On to Football

2013 Prospects – I think it was the loss in January that led Bill Belichick to the realization that a significant change in the offense would be required for the Patriots to truly compete at a championship level. These changes focused on getter younger, more athletic and more versatile at the WR position. Change involves risk. Without risk, there can be no reward. The team’s chances this year will rise and fall on the performance of the new corps of receivers and the continued development of young defenders drafted over the past several seasons. There will undoubtedly be some rocky times early in the season but the team’s history over the past decade strongly suggests that, come December, coaches will have adapted and players will have developed. Bring it on – I can’t wait.

Almost Famous –It was the New England Patriots that made the slot receiver truly relevant in the NFL. The careers of both Troy Brown and Wes Welker changed dramatically once they started playing for Bill Belichick. Danny Amendola is about to become a household name.

Elsewhere in the AFC East

Buffalo – Courtesy of tiebreaker #137 (Alphabetical Order), the Bills will spend August comfortably ensconced atop the AFC East. New head coach Doug Marrone’s attempts to retool the quarterback position have been met with significant medical complications. Candidates to start in the home opener September 8th against the Patriots include:

  • 1st round pick EJ Manuel, who hasn’t played or practiced since his August 18th “procedure” (which one can only hope involves a knee or something rather than, say, being neutered);
  • Some guy named Jeff who no one has ever even heard of
  • Recently unemployed retread/washout Matt Leinart;
  • Duke grad Thaddeus Lewis who was traded by the Lions because of his refusal to commit personal foul penalties;
  • Manti Te’o’s formerly dead ex-girlfriend.

Marrone has been spotted in a bright orange sweatshirt on the New York Turnpike hitchhiking in the direction of Syracuse.

New York – The jets front office is a highly combustible minefield of ego, naked ambition, rank incompetence and epic dysfunction. It is entertaining enough, I suppose, for the idiot owner to pit the new humorless grunt/know-it-all general manager against the fun-loving blowhard/loose cannon head coach in a steel cage death match. The intrepid Idzik, bent on restoring the two-time AFC Championship game contestants to their former heights of semi-final glory, purged Rex’s coordinators and jettisoned much of the team’s (admittedly overhyped) talent, leaving Coach Ryan effectively abandoned on a garbage scow, heading aimlessly toward the briny deep with no hope whatsoever of professional survival. Cue the calliope music – this should make for excellent TV viewing, especially if (when, really) the volatile Ryan finally erupts. If Rex were a beloved pet, he’d be mercifully euthanized. Instead, he’ll be humiliated in a 16 week long bizarre internationally televised public spectacle which will make Caligula look like a Walt Disney movie.

Miami – The perennially overrated Dolphins have a new logo (virtually indistinguishable from the old one), a Stupendously Overpaid Free Agent Human Hamstring Pull at WR and a glaring vacancy at left offensive tackle. Mission accomplished! Now the team’s befuddled ownership can turn its full attention to a pointless political vendetta that will ensure that the Dolphins will become pariahs with All the Right People.

Random Thoughts

Hogs at the Trough (Part 7,234,213) -Those of us who believe the $NCAA$ to be the epitome of greed and corruption can only be delighted to watch the self-appointed guardians of so-called amateur athletic purity stewing in their own juices over the dilemma presented by Johnny Manziel. The Heisman Trophy winner is worth huge money to both Texas A&M and the $NCAA$. Suspending him will cut into booster donations and television ratings. It says here that the justice meted out to Manziel will not be anywhere near as harsh as that imposed on others who are not such prodigious producers of the cash the $NCAA$ desperately craves.

Real Men of Genius – Did you know the purchaser of a common household iron will find a warning to the effect that ironing your clothes while wearing them is dangerous? This is one of those stupid disclaimers that manufacturers use to avoid civil litigation and that people with common sense regard as hilariously unnecessary. But, seriously, no one would iron their clothes while wearing them! Well, no one except Chris Gasper and Albert Breer, that is. I really can’t say what was worse – Gasper being caught in the act (per Marc Bertrand tweet) or Breer’s tweeted acknowledgment that he had given himself 3rd degree burns with his own iron.

A heartfelt thanks again to Zeus for taking the time to share his unique perspective on the Patriots, the NFL and more.

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2013-14 Calendar: Key Dates for the Patriots and the NFL