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Archive for the ‘ NFL ’ Category

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Minnesota dumped Leslie Frazier and his outdated Tampa-2 defense in the offseason, replacing him with Mike Zimmer as the new head coach.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).

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

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

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

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.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

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

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

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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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

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.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

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.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

This and That (This Year’s Model)

It gives me great pleasure to once again pass along the latest meanderings of Zeus:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

This and That (This Year’s Model)

 

1. This Year’s Model – I probably couldn’t pick Blake Bortles – the #3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft – out of a lineup. But pretty much every day, I can turn on the NFL Network and see extensive coverage of the #21 pick – Johnny Manziel – flawlessly executing handoffs without spilling his beer (reassuring his parents that Johnny’s three years at Texas A&M were not a complete waste of his time and someone else’s money). Manziel has officially replaced Tim Tebow as the most overhyped athlete in the football universe and maybe in all of sports.

 

2. Whatever physical decline Tom Brady may have suffered (and there has to be some) is more than offset by his mental approach, his understanding of football in general and of the Patriots’ offense in particular. There are few QBs in the league that could come close to handling the responsibility that Brady bears for New England. His presence allows the Patriot offense to do things other teams wouldn’t dream of trying.

 

3. Revis – Most huge long term contracts in professional sports turn out to be mistakes. However, Darrelle Revis is a risk worth taking. I suspect the Patriots will treat this as they always do – they will set a maximum value as a walkaway number. In this particular case, I expect the max value to be quite high, befitting a Hall of Fame talent. New England’s best chance to keep #24 is a Super Bowl run, which might persuade Mr. Revis that being on television playing football in January and February is more enjoyable than wringing the very last dollar out of the free agent market. However, Patriot fans should prepare themselves for the very real possibility that Revis is every bit the mercenary that he has appeared to be so far in his NFL career.

 

4. Underrated – Old friend Rodney Harrison ruffled a few local feathers recently with his observations about the Patriots’ Super Bowl aspirations past and present. My take is that Rodney was not so much being critical as giving the team and fans a pep talk. For what it’s worth, the numbers suggest that Harrison was underrated as a Patriot. During his tenure in New England (2003-2008), including playoffs, the Patriots were an astounding 63-9 (.875) when Harrison played and a merely very good 26-13 (.667) when he did not. I have long believed the Patriots would have soundly beaten the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship game were it not for the Bobby Wade/Jeff Fisher cheap shot that knocked Rodney out of the playoffs.

 

5. Great Expectations – The post-game presser last Thursday was the usual Bill Belichick grumpfest. He sat out eleven of his very best players, pretty much tied the hands of the guys who did play and then offered the usual monologue about the need to play and coach better. I’m not being critical of Bill here – quite the contrary. It’s remarkable that his standards never waver. Bill expects even the scrubeenies to play well and holds them accountable to that. It’s one of the reasons he’s so good at what he does. Everyone is expected to do their job, no matter what.

 

6. Jumping to Conclusions I – With teams deep in practice mode, The Sporting Press and many diehard fans are in roster assembly/depth chart frenzy. Where’s the fire? With numerous practices and three preseason games to go, it’s time for players to compete and coaches to experiment. As September draws nearer and rosters shrink, the level of play goes up and competition intensifies. The UDFA who looks like a show horse in August all too often comes back to the pack. Let’s not forget the role that injuries play in shaping the final roster. A perceived surplus can quickly vanish into thin air.

 

7. Jumping to Conclusions II – A week ago, some thought that Jimmy Garappolo didn’t belong in the NFL. The jury is still out on that but Mr. Garappolo’s rapid progress in such a short period of time has given us a sliver of hope for the future. At the same time, many have viewed Ryan Mallet’s performance as lacking. It’s tough to judge a quarterback in preseason. As we saw with Matt Cassel, I don’t think you really know what you’ve got until the player has the benefit of first team reps in practice and a game plan tailored to his strengths and weaknesses. Otherwise, we’re just guessing.

 

8. Practice? – I was at practice on Tuesday with more than 25,000 other football fans. The bleachers were full, the hill was packed and the stadium ramps to the south end zone were filled to the very top of the building.

For practice.

Here’s how far the sport of football has come here in New England. In 1990, a December Saturday afternoon home game against Washington was attended by 22,286. (Lacking anything better to do, I was one of the unfortunate attendees.) The 1969 Boston Patriots played their home games at BC’s Alumni Field, which at the time was a glorified high school field, seating just over 25,000. The average attendance was 21,344 and four of the seven home games drew less than 20,000 fans.

 

9. Public Safety Hazard – The NFL Competition Committee has put my health in jeopardy. I’ve told my wife that if I were to be inflicted with some physical malady during the football season, she should find the most ornery personal injury lawyer in the country and sue Jeff Fisher (lead pipe cinch first ballot Hall of Mediocrity member) for a comfortable living. It’s early yet, but from what little fake football I’ve been able to withstand, this year’s idiotic Point of Emphasis seems intent on eradicating any semblance of pass defense whatsoever. Why bother having defenders at all? In the not too distant future, by rule, defensive backs will be nonagenarians and inanimate objects such as orange safety cones.

 

10. The more I think about it – **** you, Jeff Fisher.

 

Thanks once again Zeus, for allowing me to share your unique perspective on the current state of Patriots Nation and of the NFL.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

This and That (A.D.D.)

Editor’s Note: Once again this season we will hand control of this column over to Andy, aka Zeus, for his unique perspective on the state of the NFL and of Patriot Nation. All I can say is that if you enjoy his opinions even one half as much as I do, you will not only find his entries entertaining, insightful and well worth reading, but they will also leave you looking forward to the next installment. Enjoy…

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Well, I have been putting this off and for no good reason. But it is time to unburden myself about the upcoming NFL season. As the seven or eight regular readers of this feature may recall, This and That appears in this space on an inconsistent-to-semi-regular basis to share meandering thoughts about pigskin related matters. It is intended to stimulate further conversation but has rarely been even remotely successful in that regard. What the content lacks in brevity, it more than makes up for in incoherence. If, like me, you are the sort of person whose lips get tired after reading more than three sentences in one sitting, you are advised to turn your attention elsewhere.

Some innocent facts may occasionally be sacrificed in the interests of entertainment. With all that in mind, here we go …

 

1. Adrenaline Deficit Disorder – Adrenaline is the drug of choice of red-blooded sports fans everywhere. It is adrenaline that focuses our attention, causes our palms to sweat and our pulses to race. It is adrenaline that sears events into our memory – that’s why you can remember Vinatieri’s field goal against the Rams like it was yesterday.

It is also adrenaline that is completely absent from the local sports scene. The Celtics are in for a prolonged rebuilding effort and the Bruins season went off a cliff against the hated Canadiens. And now, the Red Sox again have unloaded a goodly portion of their roster in the middle of a disappointing season. (The Sox unceremoniously dumped 80% of their starting rotation, choosing to keep only Clay Buchholtz, a guy who looks more like a heroin addict than a baseball player.)

Here come the Patriots with 2014 looming as the team’s most anticipated season since 2007. We’ll all still have to wait until September to get the real jolt that will restart our adrenal glands, but at least the end is in sight.

 

2. Hot Air – During June and July, the lack of truly meaningful football action creates a void that is filled by players, coaches and owners making stupid pronouncements. Teams who haven’t sniffed the playoffs in years declare themselves playoff teams. There’s also a proliferation of franchise quarterbacks, 2000 yard rushers and 20+ sack pass rushers, exactly none of which ever comes to fruition. Sooner or later, someone is going to play a real football game; that will be a relief to say the least.

 

3. Reign of Error – It’s been a bad stretch in the haphazard administration of the intrepid Commissioner Blockhead. His Reefer Madness crusade against Demon Marijuana continues unabated, as does his vendetta against tackling, pass defense and the unsightly contagion of non-regulation socks. Now, it’s the commissioner’s job to overlook whatever bad behavior is being perpetrated by the denizens of the Billionaire Boys Club. It’s perfectly acceptable for Irsay Jr. to careen around the streets of Indianapolis at 12 miles per hour with a head full of dangerous chemicals in a car full of illegally obtained prescription drugs and $30,000 in loose change. (Extreme wealth does lend an aura of respectability not readily available to your garden variety street-urchin-dope-fiend.) Similarly, defrauding your customers of tens of millions of dollars is perfectly okay as long as you have the financial wherewithal to purchase a Get Out of Jail Free Card, which, in the case of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, cost $92 million. (Ed. Note: for public safety purposes, please do not wait underwater for Roger to take any action in either of these cases.)

Goodell’s obscene compensation (which approximated the combined pay of Brady, Brees and Manning in 2013) should be an affront to every player, coach and paying customer of the NFL. That the owners can’t find someone better for the job at significantly less money is an indictment of their overblown business acumen or their integrity or both. I guess $44 million must be the going rate for a cabana boy – it must be nice to know they can count on Roger to look the other way.

 

4. Domestic abuse is no laughing matter – One can only hope that Ray Rice is sincerely contrite and will follow through on his promise to change. The commissioner’s tone deaf treatment of this matter has given the league a black eye. The victim interceding on behalf of her assailant is all too common; using this as justification for less stringent punishment is potentially a grave error in judgment.

 

5. A Humane Solution – A pressing concern for good people everywhere is the sad state of affairs known as the new york jets. Here’s one solution: euthanize the franchise. Players and coaches could be humanely moved to obscure locations (a la the Federal Witness Protection Program) and season ticket holders could be bused to Atlantic City to gamble away the remainder of their meaningless existence in squalid decrepitude. In turn, the league would be free to place an expansion franchise, unburdened by the stench of 45 years of failure and embarrassment, in London or Los Angeles or San Antonio (or Davenport, Iowa, for that matter). This initiative should be undertaken as soon as possible if for no other reason than it is The Right Thing to Do.

 

6. Good vs. Great – The winter sports of hockey and basketball recently concluded their seasons in June (for reasons related to television contracts). The Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup victory was a high wire act, with dramatic comebacks and near-death experiences. The San Antonio Spurs championship run was an awesome display of excellence not seen in any sport in a long time. Both teams are champions. One prevailed by the slimmest of margins. The other played well outside any conceivable margin of error, completely dominating its opponents. This is the difference between a good team and a great one. Will the 2014 Patriots be merely good or can they aspire to be a great?

 

 

Thanks much Andy, for taking the time to break down the current state of the NFL.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

NFL Free Agent Update – a look at who is still available at each position

For what it’s worth, here’s a list of what’s currently available in free agency by position, along with the player’s age (as of this season/calendar year), and their last team. Apologies in advance for any incorrect positions, players that I overlooked that have been signed, players not worth mentioning that were left out, etc.

As you can see, it’s pretty slim pickings at some positions – though there are the occasional diamonds in the rough, and some players that may be very good values for the 2014 NFL season. Based on the other options, it would be nice to see the Patriots re-sign free agents Will Svitek and LeGarrette Blount, assuming the price is reasonable.

 

Defense

Defensive Tackle
29 – Pat Sims – Raiders
27 – Alex Carrington – Bills
27 – Vance Walker – Raiders
26 – Terrence Cody – Ravens
34 – Kevin Williams – Vikings
35 – Ryan Pickett – Packers
34 – Aubrayo Franklin – Colts
31 – Johnny Jolly – Packers
30 – Adam Carriker – Bills
30 – Peria Jerry – Falcons
35 – Kenyon Coleman – Saints
34 – Colin Cole – Panthers
31 – Derek Landri – Bucs
35 – Shaun Rogers – Giants
29 – Ogemdi Nwagbuo – Bengals
27 – Brandon Deaderick – Jaguars
33 – Isaac Sopoaga – Patriots

 

Defensive End
32 – Jared Allen – Vikings
33 – Shaun Phillips – Broncos
27 – Corey Wooton – Bears
30 – Anthony Spencer – Cowboys
29 – Robert Ayers – Broncos
33 – Will Smith – Saints
36 – Brett Keisel – Steelers
27 – Daniel Te’o-Nesheim – Bucs
31 – Jason Hunter – Raiders
27 – Everette Brown – Cowboys

 

Outside Linebacker
31 – James Anderson – Bears
30 – Parys Haralson – Saints
27 – O’Brien Schofield – Cardinals
30 – Desmond Bishop – Packers
29 – Rob Jackson – Redskins
36 – James Harrison – Bengals
31 – Stephen Nicholas – Falcons
28 – Lawrence Sidbury – Colts
30 – Blake Costanzo – Bears
29 – Garrett McIntyre – Jets
29 – Ernie Sims – Cowboys
29 – Marvin Mitchell – Vikings
34 – Will Witherspoon – Rams
31 – Rocky McIntosh – Lions
25 – Aaron Morgan – Bucs

 

Inside Linebacker
27 – Pat Angerer – Colts
28 – Erin Henderson – Vikings
26 – Arthur Moats – Bills
34 – Larry Foote – Steelers
33 – Nick Barnett – Redskins
32 – Jonathan Vilma – Saints
31 – Stewart Bradley – Broncos
30 – Bryan Kehl – Redskins
29 – Robert Francois – Packers
29 – Dan Connor – Panthers
28 – Austin Spitler – Dolphins
27 – Josh Mauga – Jets

 

Safety
29 – Thomas DeCoud – Falcons
26 – Kendrick Lewis – Chiefs
26 – Major Wright – Bears
31 – Steve Gregory – Patriots
31 – James Ihedigbo – Ravens
33 – Mike Adams – Broncos
32 – Jim Leonhard – Bills
32 – Reed Doughty – Redskins
34 – Quintin Mikell – Panthers
35 – Ryan Clark – Steelers
36 – Yeremiah Bell – Cardinals
36 – Ed Reed – Jets
38 – Charles Woodson – Raiders
29 – Tanard Jackson – Redskins
29 – Colt Anderson – Eagles
27 – Patrick Chung – Eagles
26 – Kurt Coleman – Eagles
26 – Darian Stewart – Rams
32 – Matt Giordano – Rams
31 – John Wendling – Lions

 

Cornerback
30 – Antonio Cromartie – Jets
33 – Carlos Rogers – 49ers
32 – Jabari Greer – Saints
29 – Terrell Thomas – Giants
31 – Dimitri Patterson – Dolphins
36 – Champ Bailey – Broncos
33 – Asante Samuel – Falcons
34 – Drayton Florence – Panthers
29 – Mike Jenkins – Raiders
31 – Josh Wilson – Redskins
32 – Aaron Ross – Giants
34 – Rashean Mathis – Lions
27 – E.J. Biggers – Redskins
28 – Antoine Cason – Cardinals
29 – Eric Wright – 49ers
30 – Zack Bowman – Bears
32 – Dunta Robinson – Chiefs
35 – Quentin Jammer – Broncos
26 – Phillip Adams – Raiders
27 – Cassius Vaughn – Colts
28 – Chris Owens – Browns
26 – A.J. Jefferson – Vikings
26 – Aaron Berry – Jets
27 – Dominique Franks – Falcons
27 – Jerome Murphy – Redskins
28 – Brice McCain – Texans

 

 

Offense

Center
29 – Brian De La Puente – Saints
36 – Jonathan Goodwin – 49ers
31 – Kyle Cook – Bengals
31 – Will Montgomery – Redskins
29 – Fernando Velasco – Steelers
28 – Ryan Wendell – Patriots
32 – Chris Spencer – Titans
36 – Andre Gurode – Raiders
35 – Dan Koppen – Broncos
33 – David Baas – Giants
32 – Dylan Gandy – Lions
30 – Samson Satele – Colts
31 – Ryan Cook – Cowboys

 

Guard
33 – Travelle Wharton – Panthers
28 – Rich Ohrnberger – Chargers
30 – Uche Nwaneri – Jaguars
31 – Davin Joseph – Bucs
32 – Daryn Colledge – Cardinals
33 – Harvey Dahl – Rams
28 – John Jerry – Dolphins
31 – Paul McQuistan – Seahawks
27 – Chris Scott – Panthers
27 – Vlad Ducasse – Jets
28 – Garrett Reynolds – Falcons
29 – Mike Gibson – Cardinals
30 – Leroy Harris – Lions
30 – Rob Turner – Titans
33 – Wade Smith – Texans
31 – Richie Incognito – Dolphins

 

Offensive Tackle
32 – David Stewart – Titans
31 – Eric Winston – Cardinals
27 – Charles Brown – Saints
32 – Will Svitek – Patriots
30 – Levi Brown – Steelers
34 – Tony Pashos – Raiders
26 – J’Marcus Webb – Vikings
26 – Marshall Newhouse – Packers
26 – Jason Fox – Lions
26 – Bruce Campbell – Panthers
27 – Eben Britton – Bears
27 – Thomas Welch – Bills
29 – Winston Justice – Broncos
29 – Ryan Harris – Texans
31 – Rashad Butler – Steelers
31 – Mike Otto – Titans
31 – Jonathan Scott – Bears
33 – Tyson Clabo – Dolphins
34 – David Diehl – Giants

 

Tight End
27 – Jermichael Finley – Packers
32 – Owen Daniels – Texans
30 – Dustin Keller – Dolphins
38 – Tony Gonzalez – Falcons
27 – Ed Dickson – Ravens
34 – Ben Hartsock – Panthers
28 – Bear Pascoe – Giants
28 – Fred Davis – Redskins
28 – Chase Coffman – Falcons
29 – Zach Miller – Bucs
31 – Jeff King – Cardinals
32 – Alex Smith – Bengals
35 – Dallas Clark – Ravens
31 – Kellen Winslow – Jets

 

Wide Receiver
26 – Kenny Britt – Titans
28 – Sidney Rice – Seahawks
31 – Lance Moore – Saints
31 – Jason Avant – Eagles
32 – Devin Hester – Bears
30 – Robert Meachem – Saints
27 – Earl Bennett – Bears
27 – Jacoby Ford – Raiders
29 – Josh Morgan – Redskins
32 – Jerricho Cotchery – Steelers
33 – Nate Burleson – Lions
26 – Damian Williams – Titans
27 – Marc Mariani – Titans
27 – Louis Murphy – Giants
30 – Miles Austin – Cowboys
31 – Michael Spurlock – Lions
23 – Eric Page – Bucs
25 – Dezmon Briscoe – Redskins
26 – Kyle Williams – Chiefs
27 – Taylor Price – Jaguars
29 – Davone Bess – Browns
30 – Santonio Holmes – Jets
37 – Plaxico Burress – Steelers

 

Running Back
27 – Knowshon Moreno – Broncos
29 – Maurice Jones-Drew – Jaguars
28 – LeGarrette Blount – Patriots
28 – Andre Brown – Giants
30 – Michael Bush – Bears
27 – Felix Jones – Steelers
27 – La’Rod Stephens-Howling – Steelers
29 – Justin Forsett – Jaguars
30 – Bernard Scott – Ravens
30 – Tashard Choice – Colts
30 – Brian Leonard – Bucs
26 – Fozzy Whittaker – Browns
26 – Phillip Tanner – Cowboys
28 – Kahlil Bell – Packers
33 – Ronnie Brown – Chargers
33 – Willis McGahee – Browns

 

Fullback
32 – John Kuhn – Packers
33 – Vonta Leach – Ravens
30 – Le’Ron McClain – Chargers
33 – Greg Jones – Texans
30 – Lex Hilliard – Jets
29 – Frank Summers – Bills

 

Quarterback
34 – Michael Vick – Eagles
32 – Ryan Fitzpatrick – Titans
33 – Jason Campbell – Browns
26 – Josh Freeman – Vikings
29 – Matt Flynn – Packers
30 – Kevin Kolb – Bills
33 – Luke McCown – Saints
34 – Shaun Hill – Lions
34 – Rex Grossman – Redskins
27 – Jimmy Clausen – Panthers
28 – Colt McCoy – 49ers
28 – Joe Webb – Vikings
31 – Dan Orlovsky – Bucs
34 – Seneca Wallace – Packers
42 – Jon Kitna – Cowboys

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots