Back to (Run) School

The most unique spelling of his first name and the fifth leading rusher in the NFL. Mr. Stevan Ridley! (patriots.com)

Anyone catch the Oregon versus Washington game last weekend? If you did then you  might have noticed how similar the Patriots offense looks as compared to the Ducks. Fast paced no-huddle with tons of running out of the shotgun formations and short quick passes.

Just compare the Ducks 52-21 waxing of Washington to the 31-21 victory by the Patriots over Peyton Manning and the Broncos last weekend.

Team A: 497 total yards, 299 rushing, 198 passing, 32 first downs.

Team B: 444 total yards, 251 rushing, 193 passing, 35 first downs.

Pretty identical right? Team A is Oregon. Team B is New England.

Guess what? It’s not a coincidence. Oregon coach Chip Kelly worked with the Patriots’ staff this offseason and yet again Bill Belichick, with the help of Josh Mcdaniels has transformed the offense. In 2007 they were like Texas Tech with the air raid. Last season it was tight end city in a more Pro-Style. This season seems to be a move to spread run attack which is very college-like.

So while every team was ready for Gronk and Hernandez to rip it up it has been another two guys; Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden.

Integral part of the offense indeed. (patriots.com)

Ridley piled up 151 yards against Denver for his third 100-yard game of the season. He is ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing. Who is the last Patriot running back that really produced like this? Perhaps in the one-year revival of Corey Dillon’s career? If not that then its Curtis Martin. Now that’s not to say that five games is enough to compare him to a Hall of Famer (or former Jet) like C-Mart and a big part of it has been the system but what Ridley has done has been very impressive.

Then there is Bolden who was undrafted out of Ole Miss. His numbers aren’t as eye-popping (206 yards, one 100-yard game) but they don’t need to be. He spells Ridley and runs hard. Also still in the shuffle is the versatile Danny Woodhead who picked up the two biggest third downs of the game against Denver.

Also got to throw a ton of credit to the offensive line. With Matt Light and Brain Waters gone the unit had more question marks than a team would care to have and yet the line has held up. You have to have a skilled and conditioned line to run and offense like the Patriots did last week and it never looked like the guys were staggering down the field gasping for air/water/death.

Do the Patriots have the best running back group in the NFL? Probably not. However as the third best rushing squad so far, they certainly have the best system.

Wow, 373 words into a post and we haven’t even touched on the passing game. That has to be some kind of record. With the Patriots seemingly able to run the ball at will Tom Brady didn’t really have to be unbelievable. He completed a good amount of his passes (23-for-31) for a good amount of yards (223) and didn’t turn the ball over. (By the way he’s right behind that Brees fellow on that consecutive games with a touch down streak after another last week). However the numbers belie Brady’s most important contribution. There aren’t that many quarterbacks that could actually run the offense like the Patriots did. The amount of reads he has to make, the audibles he calls all while keeping everyone on the same page. There isn’t a stat for that but it needs to be said, this new system doesn’t work without No. 12 under center.

Sunday also officially put to rest the Wes Welker is being phased out rumor.  13 receptions, 104 yards and a touchdown. He’s had at least 100 yards and eight catches in each of the last three games. Sit down, shut up. Wes is just fine.

One of the victims, at least in terms of statistics, of this new power run offense is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had just four receptions and 35 yards.  He’s had a few good games but is not at the level he was last season. Only three Gronk-spikes? Can’t say I’m not disappointed by that. However it’s coming with the offense playing a balanced and seemingly unstoppable style of ball so I also realyl can’t complain. Wins over fantasy points and stats all day erry day.

(Yes I just tossed out an erry).

Now let’s talk about the defense. It’d be awesome if the Patriots also looked like a college defnese like say Alabama. That’s not the case. Peyton threw for 337 yards on a bunch of passes that really wobbled and floated. At times it looked like a strong wind would just carry the ball away like the plastic bag in American Beauty. Still 337. The Patriots also had a open and shut game turn a bit more intriguing. That just seems to be the defense’s M.O. It can’t defend the pass very well (30th) and will let team’s back in the game if there is a top-line quarterback on the other side.

If it wasn’t for some fortunate miscues by Willis McGahee, that game could have ended up being even tighter.

Speaking of top-line quarterbacks have to take some time to mention the Manning-Brady rivalry. Brady is now 9-4 against Manning so its nice to see that the Patriots still own at least one of the Mannings.  A few too many Papa John’s adds probably slowing No. 18.

So the secondary is weak but the front seven. Ahh, the front seven. Chandler Jones is a beast even if his numbers don’t always show it.

Familiar sight, this time with Ninkovich making Peyton pay. (patriots.com)

He’s the only pass rusher that seems to get after the quarterback ferociously every down. Jerod Mayo still piles up tackles.  Vince Wilfork clogs the hole as well as ever and I mean the line of scrimmage not his arteries. Brandon Spikes has had a great bounce back season thus far. Also Rob Ninkovich, with a pair of forced fumbles against Denver,  needs to be given more credit. He’s a return of the Bruschi/Vrabel type linebacking corps of the early 2000s.

The Patriots will take on Pete Carrol (remember that failure of a Patriots coach?) and the Seattle Seahawks this coming weekend. Carrol has some experience against an Oregon-type offense with his tenure as the USC head coach. Guaranteed Carrol will go back to some of that knowledge to game plan for the Patriots. Another guarantee is that the Patriots offense will probably adjust accordingly. This week they’re running but with so much skill on the roster, it seems like the Patriots will just keep switching things up while very other team in the NFL tries to catch up.

-Phil

Will the Patriots stick with this offensive plan all season? Are the defense’s weaknesses too much for New England to overcome or can the front seven make up for it? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Guide to the 2012 MLB Postseason – Version NL

One last time for Chipper. (Justin K. Aller/Gett Images)

In case you can’t get enough fill of baseball playoffs in the AL, the senior circuit also has it’s own five-team tournament going on. As a Red Sox fan the NL is the more intriguing for me this season because these teams are even farther removed from the debacle that was the 2012 Red Sox. Watching the San Franciso Giants is at no point going to remind me of some miserable point of this past season. But who should Red Sox fans be hoping to play the Athletics (as decided on yesterday). Well let’s take a look.

Atlanta Braves

Why you should: Three words. Chipper Mothereffing Jones. Before the season Chipper declared this as his final season and all he did was put together a solid season (.287/.377.485, 14 HR, 62 RBI) in 112 games. Chipper is the Derek Jeter of the NL. Now before you take that to mean an insult coming from a Sox fan I mean it like this: he is respected across the league, dominated during the steroid era without a smidge of suspicion that he juiced and if he doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot with 98 percent of the vote I’d be stunned. Plus Chipper has one of the great old-school nicknames that Major League Baseball is sorely lacking. Whatever happened to guys named ‘Goose’ or “Oil Can” or “Catfish”. Now we are just lazy. We just hyphenate last names (K-Rod, A-Rod) or shorten last names (Naps, Salty). Moving on from that tangent this team also features some of the best young talent in the game including Jason Heyward (.269/.335/.479 27 HRs, 82 RBI), Freddie Freeman (.259/.340/.456 23 HR, 94 RBI) and the unhittable Craig Kimbrel who had 42 saves this season, just missed out on a sub 1.00 ERA and has one of the best names in baseball.

Why you shouldn’t: Contrary to what I said before, Atlanta actually might bring about the most mentions of the terrible Sox. Both teams had epic collapses last season but the Braves did what the Sox couldn’t and came back with a vengeance to win 94 games and earn a playoff spot.

Washington Nationals

Why you should: This is the first playoff appearance by the Nationals/Expos since 1981. That’s right 1981. This team has never won a

Poppin’ bottles like its DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

division (1994 strike robbed it of that) and this year pealed off 98 wins and dominated in the NL East. So in terms of parity this the team to pull for. You can’t say “Oh, I’m tired of the Nationals they are always there.” The Nationals haven’t even been relevant past the month of May since 2002 (as the Expos)  let alone at this late junction in the season.  They have probably the biggest steal of last winter’s free agent race in Gio Gonzalez (21-8,  2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 207 Ks) who is in a three-way battle for the Cy Young award with R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto. (Personally I think Dickey should get it but I have always had a soft spot for fantasy fiction loving knuckle ball throwers).  Plus you want good young talent. Let me throw you some Bryce Harper (2.70/.340/.477, 22 HRs, 59 RBIs) who seems to have wiped off that slump he had in the middle of the summer.  The Nationals even have a fun pitching staff without ace Stephen Strasburg with Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson pitching well entering the postseason.

Why you shouldn’t: That’s a clown question bro but if you want to Natpick (see what I did there) Bryce Harper is kind of a douche plus this might reinforce the decision to sit Strasburg for the playoffs which still seems like the wrong move to me. Other than that there is not a whole lot of reasons not to go for the Nats.

Cincinnati Reds

Why you should: Part of this is going to be a why I will more than why you should. That section starts now. DatDudeBP!  Bradon Phillips might be my favorite non-Red Sox player out there right now. Bro has swagger for days plus the production to back it up

DAT DUDE BP! (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(.281/.321/.429, 17 HRs, 77 RBI, 15 SB) plus he is good for at least one web gem per game. Whether he’s laying out to snag a liner or flipping the ball backhanded out of his glove to start a double play. On top of that he rocks the “hat-titled-to-the-side-slightly” look better than most players including C.C. Sabathia. Okay enough of my irrational love for BP. The Reds play in one of the best looking stadiums in the game, so seeing more HD baseball at the Great American Ballpark is always a positive.  You want young talent too? How about ome Jay Bruce (34 HRs, 99 RBI) and Todd Frazier (19 HR, 67 RBI) all up in your grillmix. Plus they have the most electric closer in the game in Aroldis Chapman. He slowed slightl down the stretch which is a concern but at his best his line looked like this (1.0 IP, 3 Ks, O R, S) 99 out of a 100 times. The other one time was with three strikeouts.  Also love the Reds uniforms. I realize that isn’t a big deal but that red hat with the black brim is one of the best in the bigs.

Why you shouldn’t:  This is another team where it is tough to find reasons to root against it. The Reds haven’t won a World Series since 1990 or a playoff series for that matter since 1995.  Perhaps you can root against the Reds because of Barry Larkin who I still think has yet to make a definitive statement in his time as an analyst on ESPN. Come on Barry, just once say something with some conviction before its obvious. For example: In stead of waiting until  two games left to say you think the Cardinals, with a two-game lead, will win the wild card but the Dodgers still have a chance, you could have said last Friday that the Cardinals will win the Wild Card period.

Saint Louis Cardinals

Why you should: Speak of the devil. Who knew that the the Cardinals made it to the playoffs and won World Series in recent years

Kyle Lohse’s time to shine. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

despite Albert Pujols? I kid of course but this season the Cardinals are headed to October while Pujols hits the links (all while being told he isn’t better than that young kid that got brought up in May). The Cardinals didn’t need the epic run it made last season to make it in 2012 but they do have a worse record (88-74).  Perhaps if you liek rooting for outfields the Sox probably should have gone after rather than Carl Crawford like Matt Holliday (.295/.379./.400, 27 HRs, 102 RBI) or Carlos Beltran (.269/.346/.496 32 HRs, 97 RBI) this is your squad. Although at 35 Beltran wouldn’t have been worth it down the road. Or maybe it’d be good to see Kyle Lohse lead a team to a championship as the ace (16-3, 2.86 ERA) after having a largely mediocre career.

Why you shouldn’t: I was really grasping at straws for checks in the pro column for the Cardinals. They won it last season so they’re basically eliminated unless there is some sort of familial attachment or you bet on the Cardinals in the beginning of the season to win it all at some crazy odds.

San Francisco Giants

Why you should:  Let’s poor a little out for Cody Ross. Can’t say enough about how much I loved having him on the Sox this season and hopefully for the next few, but Mr. Ross really got hosed with his decision. He left San Fran who made the playoffs to play for the

Your 2012 NL MVP (Jake Roth/US Presswire)

Henry-Lucchino-Valentine Circus. I still feel like Ross will be pulling for his boys back in the Bay Area and I could get behind that. The Giants are also blessed with what looks to be the NL MVP in Buster Posey.  Buster led the league in batting (.336) while smacking 24 home runs and 103 RBIs all while being a very good catcher for most of the season. He was one of only eight players in the NL to have 100 or more RBIs and the only one to do it in less than 561 ABs (530). Plus his team made the playoffs so he doesn’t have that hanging over him. So I say he slightly edges out Ryan Braun (still pretty certain he was juicing) and Andrew McCutchen, who like the Pirates fell apart down the stretch.

Why you shouldn’t: The Giants didn’t win it last season but two years ago isn’t exactly a Chicago Cubs like streak. Plus it’s unclear how many games they won because Melky Cabrera pumping himself up with testosterone and setting up a fake website to cover it up.

So this is really a three-team race. Despite my man-crush on Brandon Phillips I have to say no to the Reds and even though the Nationals are a great story and an awesome team, they will be there for awhile. Meanwhile Chipper could go out on top of the baseball world with a second ring. You can’t go wrong with any of those three but I got to go with Chipper and the ATL.

-Phil

P.S. Here are my final predictions. Atlanta beats Saint Louis in one-game playoff. Atlanta over Washington in five. San Francisco over Cincinnati in five. Atlanta over San Francisco in six.

In the AL I said yesterday that the Rangers and Detroit meet in the ALCS. Give me Texas in seven and Rangers win it all over Atlanta in six games.

What team is the one to beat in the NL? Which squad is taking the whole thing? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

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See Ya Bobby!

Well that was fast. (Patrick Semanski/AP)

If has happened. Not 24 hours after wrapping up the worst Red Sox season since 1965 the Boston Red Sox got rid of Bobby Valentine as manager. In all honesty this is probably the most excited I have been about anything related to the Red Sox since Will Middlebrooks got called up and started raking. I have been against Bobby V’s hiring since last season when he was just a name being tossed around. I never thought he made sense for this team and this season illustrated that in spades.

He clashed with one of the most beloved players on the team and even though Middlebrooks made the Youkilis trade more palatable you can’t tell me that Valentine’s less than healthy relationship with him had no hand in that move. It wasn’t just Youkilis that didn’t like playing for him. I honestly don’t know if there was one player who did. Alfredo Aceves imploded this season and part of it was an obvious disdain for Bobby V. Pedroia seemed to be warming to him slightly but that never seemed like the cribbage-playing marriage he had with Francona.  Didn’t hear a whole lot of talk from Big Papi about how awesome it was to play for him. He quite often down the stretch let Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester throw 783412 pitches despite the pair struggling to get outs into the fifth inning. Plus it is now being reported that this dislike from the players started in spring training when he “loudly questioned the aptitude” of shortstop Mikes Aviles.

Now as every Sox fan knows when someone leaves town or gets run out like Bobby V, the Boston media and the Red Sox front office put out smear campaigns that would put Romney attack ads on Obama look like glowing endorsements. There are going to be a number of bogus stories that come out all offseason about how Bobby V was shooting heroin in the clubhouse, was clubbing baby seals in his free time and (worst of all) purposely put out bad lineup cards. This whole pathetic season was not all on him. He can’t play the games. He also didn’t make all the terrible front office decisions and seemingly stop caring about baseball. John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington aren’t going to be fired but they deserve as much if not more of the blame here and the pressure is now squarely on them to turn things around. If another manager comes in and fails it’s suddenly going to look a lot more like there is something wrong with the organization and not the manager.

Yet Bobby never made sense in Boston. He just didn’t. And the way he handled this terrible season was certainly no indication that it was just because of the losses. It wasn’t just the players though as he called out coaches below him for “undermining” him. That’s right Bobby. Alex Ochoa and Dave Madagan want to have the team do terribly because there’s no possible way they could lose their jobs with bad seasons. As Curt Schilling said, in one of the most candid moments I have ever seen from an analyst, the move was gutless.

The 2012 Red Sox became exactly what I was afraid they would become under Bobby V; a circus. Now Valentine can take his clown car and the tents and head back to Japan or ESPN or wherever. Would it be too much to ask for one last favor though? Here’s hoping he takes Dice-K with him.

-Phil

How do you feel about Bobby V leaving? Who is really to blame for the Red Sox season? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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The Red Sox Fan Guide to the 2012 MLB Postseason – Version AL – UPDATED

So this is what the new format looks like.

EDITORS NOTE: This article has been altered, specifically in my breakdown of the MVP discussion. Text in bold is my retraction.

Yesterday the 2012 Red Sox season was mercilessly put to rest. For the past couple months baseball has been dead to me, and probably most other Red Sox fans. I haven’t watched many games. I haven’t checked scores every day. In fact its gotten so bad that I really just stopped following baseball as closely as I normally would. But yesterday that ended. There is no indication that things will get any better next season for the Sox but for now fans of the Fens can sit down and watch some playoff baseball without being constantly reminded of the circus going on in Boston.

I have never been one to believe in switching teams and I am not abdicating that now. Your team is your team whether its pounding out 100-win seasons or trotting out minr league lineups with three games left to go against your arch rival. However when your team is not in the playoffs I think its is permissible to favor one team if not openly pull for them.

For example back before the Celtics were what they are right now, from 1996-200 and then the 2006 and 2007 seasons there was always a team that I found myself getting to know and getting behind. From 96-98 it was Jordan’s Bulls because, you know, I was just like every other person in America. Then in 1999 it was the eighth-seeded New York Knicks and their improbable run to the NBA finals. Honestly the Larry Johnson four-point play is one of my great basketball memories from childhood. (The Celtics went 19-31 that season in their sixth straight losing season so cut me some slack. There weren’t a whole lot of pantheon moments from a team with Ron Mercer on it). Then I went for the Kings and Garnett’s T-Wolves during the first two years of the Kobe-Shaw three-peat. Took some time off as the Celtics actually made the playoffs and then in 2006-2007 was all in for Steve Nash and the Suns.

So what does that have to do with baseball? Well everyone knows watching sports is more fun when you have a vested interest. It’s why people love confidence pools and fantasy in football. Every game suddenly has something to watch. So who should Red Sox fans be pulling for this October, since they won’t be seeing anyone with a B on their hat play an inning.

Baltimore Orioles

Why you should pull for them:  A team that no one even expected to have competent players on at this point in the season somehow

Show me that ‘O’ face has got to be the catch phrase for the 2012 Orioles.

managed to win 93 games and push itself into the playoffs while also coming within a whisper of the AL East Division Crown. The

squads $81,428,999.00 payroll is less than half of that of the Sox and this team is still in the playoffs. The rotation isn’t anything to feel fantastic about and on offense they have a number of boom or bust batters like Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds but there is also some exciting young players like Manny Machado that no one seems to have figured out yet. Then there’s the bullpen that has been lights out thanks to a guy named Jim Johnson who had 51 saves this season. Baltimore is that feel-good story this season and has somehow caught every single break with something like a record of 178-0 in extra innings games.

Why you shouldn’t: This is the same team that put the final bullet in the 2011 Red Sox collapse and then stormed the field and celebrated like it they had just won game seven of the World Series. Also Kevin Gregg pitched for this team this season and I am none to fond of that goggled-up d-bag.

Detroit Tigers

Why you should: Yet again Detroit won in the junior circuit of the AL where it never seems like one team dominates. Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had better records than the Tigers while playing in divisions that each had two playoff teams. So seeing Detroit win would be a bit of an upset special although less akin to Baltimore’s due to the talent on the Tigers roster. After blowing up last season Justin Verlander has largely been more ignored this season, and unfairly so. The dude went 17-8with a 2.64 ERA this season while leading the league in complete games (six), innings pitched (238 1/3) and strike outs (239).  Don’t know what pitcher I’d rather watch throw in October. Plus the Tigers have the first guy to win the Triple Crown since 1967

Why you shouldn’t: Miguel Cabrera made it so Red Sox fans cannot hang their hat on Carl Yazstremski being the last player to win the Triple Crown. Oh and Trout’s the MVP and it’s not even close. I was on some sort of drugs with what I wrote earlier.

Oakland Athletics

Why you should: Think of these guys as Baltimore Version Two. Or better yet Baltimore Light. The A’s have the second lowest payroll

Of course Oakland won the AL West. Who didn’t see that coming?

in baseball and all season trotted out guys you had either never heard of or thought might be pitching in a Venezuelan slow-pitch softaball league if anywhere at all. Yet somehow this team did the unthinkable and WON its division over the Texas Rangers. Yes, the same Texas Rangers that have won the AL pennant the past two seasons. Also this team is filled with Red Sox castoffs like Jumpin’ Josh Reddick, Coocoo for Coco Crisp, Brandon “Brother of Santana, Cousin of Randy and childhood friend of Sinorice” Moss and George “It’s the Cataracs” Kottaros.

Why you shouldn’t: This could threaten us with a sequel to last year’s Hadrball. It would be called Hardball 2 with the two silhouetted behind hardball like in the new Taken. It would tell the story of how Billy Beane flew to Cuba to rescue his daughter from Communist nationals and mobsters while also scouting and signing rookie of the year runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

Texas Rangers

Why you should: Isn’t it about time for the Rangers. Two straight seasons of devastating losses in the World Series. Can’t help but feel for that squad and it’s Dallas Cowboy-worshipping fan base. Would it really be fair to have Tony Romo, of the five-interception fame, at quarterback and see your team miss out on a World Series all in the same month? Oh, okay Philadelphia fans I guess you’re right. The Rangers also have a couple of Red Sox castoffs including Adrian “Don’t touch my head” Beltre and David “Missed Out on a Golden Marketing Campaign with the Dropkick” Murphy (s). Also seeing a guy like Michael Young win a ring would be good to see. He has been one of the most consistently solid players in the league for so long and still barely gets recognized for it.  And fianlly the Rangers red alternate hat might be one of my favorite in baseball.

Why you shouldn’t: If the Rangers win a World Series with Mike Napoli on its roster it might transform Naps into an even mightier beast and with how much he feasts on the Red Sox that just isn’t a risk you’d want to take. Also Ian Kinsler is a poor mans Dustin Pedroia who acts like a rich man’s version. Don’t want to see that crooked-nosed, high-socked wearing troll win much of anything.

There is another team in the AL playoff hunt but if you would even consider pulling for the Yankees then you clearly started for the Red Sox post-2004 and need to be dragged into the street and shot. Or at least stop pretending to be a Sox fan.

For my money I throwing it in with the A’s. I like what Baltimore did this season but you know the farther they get the more the Red Sox failures will hurt. The Tigers seem to be in the playoffs every season and won’t have to shock the world again next season to get back. The Rangers have been winning in recent seasons and still have a window open. Oakland just has that perfect storm of humble nobodies who don’t make sense being there and would just be the best story. Plus I have never really stopped loving Josh Reddick.

-Phil

P.S. My predictions for the outcomes of the first round. Rangers over Orioles in the one-game playoff. Then Rangers over New York Yankees in Four. Detroit over Oakland in Three.

Which AL team is going to win it all? Want to tell me how stubbornly stupid and behind in the times I am on the MVP discussion? Drop a line on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or blast off in the comments.

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Tale of Two Halves

Nothing like a 52-point beatdown to get those spirits up. (patriots.com)

It was the worst of times and then it was the best of times.

For the first half and beginning of the third quarter in Sunday’s game against Buffalo the Patriots looked as if the wheels were seriously falling off and that despite all the talent on the roster, a 1-3 start was in the future. Then someone flipped on a switch and suddenly that same Patriots team that could only manage seven points in the first half erupted and laughed it’s way to a 45-point half.

All in all the game ended with the Patriots getting back to .500 with a 52-28 thumping of the Bills that included a 31-point outburst in the fourth quarter.

The usual suspects were involved in the offensive onslaught. Tom Brady looked like the Tom Brady completing 22-of-36 passes for 340 yards and three scores. He made throws all over the field. The short dumps to Woodhead and Welker. The deep throws to the outside to Brandon Llloyd and the deep seams to Gronk. He even dazzled us with his glorious mobility and speed with a whopping FOUR yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Speaking of Welker, I guess all that hoopla about him being phased out was just that. In his last three games he has 22 receptions for

Only three catches, for 50 yards and a touchdown for B-Llloyd. But that was really all that was needed. (patriots.com)

366 yards including the nine-catch, 129 effort he had against the Bills. Some people will mention that his production has only gone up with Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman out but  it’s looney tunes to think that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels decided to put more trust in a guy who was getting arrested for groping chicks last season than Wee Wes, the man for whom a 100-reception season is just another Thursday.

Production wise Gronk looked like his old self again as well. In fact we even got a GRONK SPIKE in this one. He caught a 28-yard pass early in the fourth for the score and with all his momentum carrying him into the end zone he just did one of the sprinting spikes. That is my second favorite type of spike he has done with the top one being when he shakes the ball a little, does some sort of stanky leg impression and then hurls it at the turf like the Hulk taking care of Loki at the end of The Avengers. In the first half though Gronk looked a little lost. He dropped a few passes including a sure touchdown (albeit he was hit during it) and fumbled. He also caught five of 11 total targets. Still it was nice to see him be a tight end and not just a very expensive decoy.

But where the offense continues to be surprising is in the running game. Really this game was won with a balanced offensive attack. GASP. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden seemingly ran wherever and whenever theywanted all day on that expensive Bills defense. What’s that Mario Williams? Oh this undrafted free agent from Ole Miss is just going to light it up for 137 yards and a touchdown with a stunning 8.7 yards-per-carry average.  Meanwhile Ridley will punch it in twice and pick up 106 yards himself.  The production of these two has me forgetting all about the LawFirm (who by the way is averaging 3.5 yards per carry in Cincy).

Defensively fans need to get used to this team giving up too many yards and third down conversions. It just seems like the way Belichick has this team playing, where it doesn’t allow anything deep and then tightens up in the red zone is how its going to be. Getting lit up for 438 total yards (350 passing) against Ryan Fitzpatrick who couldn’t throw a 20-yard out pattern if he was playing Madden, is concerning but it seems to be more scheme than ineffectiveness.

Where the team has excelled is against the run where the Patriots currently rank eighth in the NFL. Against Buffalo the team allowed the Buffalo backs to pick up only 3.6 yards per carry while giving up only three runs of 10 or more yards and four first downs on the ground. Also a major strength has been the defense’s ability to wait for a team to make a mistake and pounce. Like when Vince Wilfork got a rare clear shot at a ball carrier when the Bills ran a screen pass. Usually Big Vince his still scrapping with an offensive linemen with his right arms while dragging a running back or whoever has the ball down with the left. On that play though he had a wide open shot and absolutely blew Donald Jones Up. Brandon Spikes also needs to get alot of credit in this game as he forced two fumbles while Devin McCourty had a 2010-type game with a pair of interceptions.

Here comes the BOOM! (patriots.com)

In rookie watch, Chandler Jones continues to be a beast. The rook had five tackles including two for a loss and a sack. Dont’a Hightower had a less impactful game (two tackles) than were used to seeing but with how well Spikes played it wasn’t as big a deal.

So the Patriots are now 2-2 and tied for the top spot in the East (with the circus that is the New York Jets and the same Bills team they just ripped to shreds). Hopefully this begins a period of best of times that lasts until early February. The next step for that involves some guy named Peyton and the Denver Broncos.

-Phil

Relieved to see the Patriots look so dominant, even it was for just one half? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Officially Tough Loss

If Twitter has taught me anything it is that everyone really hates the replacement officials. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

So not sure if you had heard but apparently the NFL is using replacement officials. When did this happen?

Alright, all jokes aside, clearly this little experiment is not working. The Baltimore/New England game was called atrociously (on both sides) and the Golden Tate game winning touchdown reception that wasn’t really a reception it would be irresponsible not to mention and or discuss this issue. But really there isn’t much to discuss. The owners (who are somehow not taking much of the brunt of the hate), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell  and the real referees need to get in a room and figure this out. Honestly the rest of the season cannot have games like this past weekend.

I’d go on but really at this point between Twitter, SportsCenter and the personal blogs of millions I’d just be throwing a bucket of water into the Atlantic Ocean. Fix this referee issue. That is all.

Now to the actual reason fans care about the NFL, you know the football. On second thought maybe I should keep discussing the referee debacle since I really don’t feel like writing about yet another crushing New England Patriots defeat.

Before I get into that I would like to say that I wish Torrey Smith and his family the very best in these terrible times. As much as I hated to watch the Patriots lose it was nice to see Smith have such a huge game when he clearly needed it.

Anyway back to the less important stuff. I thought about just writing “The Patriots lost. The End” for this post but that was on Sunday. Now that I’ve been able to stew I can be more objective. (Okay not really but I can pretend).

Another week of disappointment (patriots.com)

Let’s spin it positively. New England is 1-2 but if you look at its defeats its not as devastating a record as it appears. The Patriots lost two games by a combined score of three points against two opponents that have a combined record of 5-1.

But there is also a negative angle to be taken. The Patriots lost two winnable games by not closing in a trend that seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Yet again the Patriots built a lead early and controlled the game for the first three quarters or so before suddenly folding in the fourth quarter. It happened against Baltimore (up nine halfway through the fourth), against Arizona to an extent (out gained the Cardinals 387-245 but lost because of a blocked punt that set up a two-yard touchdown drive). It goes further back to last season in the Super Bowl (team needed just one first down but Wes Welker dropped that pass) and you could even argue that it happened against Baltimore in the AFC Championship game because if Lee Evans makes that catch or that field goal goes in things could have gone entirely differently.

I’m not sure which of these outlooks is more of an accurate assessment but my feelings are that the second option is more indicative of what this team is right now.

After playing extremely well in the first two games and the first few drives of the matchup with Baltimore suddenly the defense couldn’t stop the Ravens at all. In fact on the first three drives of the game the Patriots forced two punts and an interception. From there Baltimore scored on five of their last seven possessions. Now part of the blame can go to the officials as time and time again Baltimore seemed to get bailed out on mysterious holding penalties but its not the only issue. The secondary just didn’t do a good job in coverage. Devin McCourty dropped an interception or two and the defense just didn’t get off the field enough. Watching this defense, especially in tight games, is painful because you just never feel like they’ll get a stop when they need to.

One positive was the stop the unit got on a fourth and one play. As I watched that I remarked that I didn’t think the Patriots had stuffed a run play on fourth and short since John Hannah was still on the team. In fact the run defense was pretty solid although Ray Rice did gallop for 101 yards.

Then there’s the offense which in these tough losses always seems to be just one first down from sealing the game only to fail to convert. Despite getting bailed out themselves on some dubious penalty calls (although the reversed interception in my mind was legit) the Patriots drive to kill the clock featured just six yards of offense actually gained without help from the zebras and had an alarming number of poor play calls. It needs to be mentioned that Josh McDaniels still seems to be readjusting to being the offensive coordinator again. I mean that double reverse to Edeleman was just a dumb play. You don’t need to run trick plays like you’re playing Boise State in the effing Fiesta Bowl.

The offense also failed in the fourth quarter when instead of putting the final nail in the coffin after driving deep into Baltimore territory with a touchdown, it settled for a 20-yard field goal. Seven of the team’s last 11 scoring drives have ended in field goals. That just can’t happen when you have the talent on offense the Patriots have.

Those struggles all come down to one thing; closing. The Patriots have to figure out how to better close out drives on offense and defense and even more importantly how to close out games if they want to rise from this 1-2 rut.

Some quick hits from the game:

Has anyone seen that guy on the left recently? (Matt Stone/bostonherald.com)

-Brandon Llloyd might be able to catch anything and clearly Brady feels that way. He has somehow become Brady’s favorite receiver even though Wes Welker had a vintange performance with eight catches for 142 yards. Time and time again Lloyd made catches that just didn’t seem possible.

-Has Gronkowski become just the most expensive decoy in the NFL? Three targets, two receptions, 21 yards. I don’t know if it’s the play calling or that Gronk just isn’t open but he just doesn’t seem like that important a piece in the offense right now. Could losing Hernandez being an even bigger loss than once thought?

-Stevan Ridley has certainly begun a slow descent back to earth. His carries and yards have all gone down each week with the 13 carries and 37 yards against Baltimore nowhere near the Barry Sanders-esque performance he had in week one. Granted Tennessee’s run defense is horrible. So horrible that even the Lions managed to rush for 100 yards against it.

-Heaping praise on the Patriots front seven, especially rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, seems to have jinxed the unit. The Patriots issues in stopping the pass, especially late in games, has a lot to do with the team not creating pressure. Against Baltimore on Sunday the Patriots had zero sacks and just one tackle for loss. Anybody is going to toss up 380 yards if they have all day to throw the ball.

The Patriots are 1-2 after last weekends loss. The first time since 2003 that they have been below .500. Here’s hoping this weekend everything (referees included) gets back to normal.

-Phil

Should the Patriots feel okay about the 1-2 start? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Prognostication Is My Business: Week 3 in the 2012 NFL

Does anyone like Thursday night games? I know the players don’t as several will miss the games with injuries that typically take a full week to almost heal and I’m pretty sure the fans don’t even like it. They can only be seen on the NFL Network and your team will only be on there once a year, which is hardly a reason to switch to dish and they completely ruin Sundays if your team is playing. To be perfectly honest I don’t even like Monday Night Football. I like my Sundays. I digress. The Patriots nearly came from behind, but still lost, in a game they were favored by nearly two touchdowns while the Giants completed the comeback and won by a touchdown. Buffalo had no need for a comeback as they blew out the Chiefs and the Jets had no chance as they were stifled by the Steelers. Let’s see how they will fare this week.

@ Carolina Panthers -2.5 New York Giants

This is an awful spot for the G-Men. Hakeem Nicks, David Diehl, Ahmad Bradshaw and Domenik Hixon are all out. They are on the road against a dynamic player in Cam Newton who can eat up defenses. The reasons why the Panthers are favored is obvious and as a prognosticator I think it’s the safe bet, but induldge me for a moment and I’ll tell you why as a fan I believe they will win. We still have Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. I don’t think Bradshaw is a feature back, so that isn’t a huge loss. They haven’t had the same offensive line seemingly since 2008. Newton is prone to make mistakes in the form of interceptions so the name of the game is contain and force him to pick apart the secondary. Big Blue is a more seasoned team and can take advantage of the up and coming Panthers. Plus the Giants always do the opposite of what you think they will.

New York Jets -2.5 @ Miami Dolphins

Anything can happen in road games and more importantly in divisional games. The Jets look like a mediocre team this year, which is more than you can say for the fish. Sure both teams are 1-1, but the Dolphins had the luxury of playing a west coast team on their home turf, where they all have trouble adjusting to the new time zone. The Jets will have no such problem and will move the ball on that weak d like an offensive lineman on a buffet. Ryan Tannehill will have more growing pains. Off the field he was winning the battle with his smoking hot wife Lauren, but the Jets are pulling closer as Mark Sanchez is dating Eva Longoria. Or are they winning?

Buffalo Bills -3 @ Cleveland Browns

I’m back in on the Bills. Well in certain situations like playing quite possibly the worst team in the league. CJ Spiller is my proudest prediction thus far. Have I mentioned that yet? I think I may have. I believe that Fitzy will have a big game passing for 300 plus yards while there is another dominating performance for everybody’s favorite losers.

@ Baltimore Ravens -3 New England Patriots

My how the mighty have fallen. The Pats looked like they would roll through this season straight into their second straight Superbowl. We knew they would lose a couple, because everyone does, but the Arizona Cardinals? Now the world has lost faith in this squad as they are road dogs. The Ravens lost last week too remember? I think that Belichick has had this game circled on his calendar for months and will be prepared to baffle Flaco, shut down Ray Rice and allow Tom Brady to do what he does best. Pats win on the road.

-Erik

Did I get it right? Let me know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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Try, Try Again – Week Three Picks

Make fun of Tom Brady for the Uggs commercials but you can’t question the toughness of anyone who will get in Ray Lewis’ grill.

It’s been a pretty rough first couple weeks in terms of picking for us here at SeeYouInOctober. Last week I finished with a 1-2-1 mark thnaks to the Giants hitting the seven points on the head. Overall this season I am now 2-4-1. That’s not exactly stellar but last weekend I went 9-0 (and 6-2 against the spread) in picking college games of my full-time gig so I have a feeling things are going to start turning around.

New York Jets (-2.5) at Miami Dolphins

I’m taking another New York team on the road in this one. Miami is just so bad. I know the Dolphins took down Oakland last week but the Jets won’t be recovering from a late Monday night game and have had a full week to prepare. Revis is still questionable to play which could hurt but if the Jets secondary can’t stop Tannehill without Revis I’m not sure that they can with Revis.

Snaps for Tebow: Seven. I think the Wildcat gets a few more laps around the track this weekend. I also predicted Tebow’s first pass attempt of the season.

The Pick: Jets 24 Dolphins 12

New York Giants (+2.5) at Carolina Panthers

Boy do I love me some Cam Newton. The dude is just a beast. Reminds me a bunch of Daunte Culpepper with his ability to throw and

Love Killa’ Cam but I’m taking the Giants this week.

run over dudes. He’s better than Vick because he doesn’t crumple like wet paper towels when he gets hit. In fact he often brings the pain more than takes it. I am wary about him because he reminds me of a young LeBron and I’m terrified he will do something a la the decision that will make me turn on him.

Anyway I really like the Giants in this game. I think that win over Tampa Bay really got the momentum going and even with Hakeem Nicks and most of the rest of the roster out, Eli has clearly made it to the elite level. I also think the Panthers, while a team that will be a ton of fun to watch this season, is still locked for a 7-9 year or thereabouts.

The Pick: Giants 28, Panthers 21

Buffalo (-3) at Cleveland

C.J. Spiller is getting ready for a “Get on my back and I will carry you to 2-1″ game. The Browns actually played well in week two and Brandon Weedon actually looked like a real NFL quarterback. This week the pass rush, led by Mario Williams might be too much for the 28-year-old rookie and if Spiller is for real (and I am all in on that being true) the Bills will put up their second blowout in as many weeks. Otherwise the Browns will be 2-1 and tied for first in the AFC North and really who thinks that’s going to happen?

The Pick: Bills 31 Browns 14

New England (+3) at Baltimore

From 13.5 favorite to three-point dogs. That’s what a 20-18 loss to to the effing Cardinals will do to you. Still the Patriots probably would not have been favored in this game anyway. Both teams are coming off of tough losses and desperately want  a win to stay above .500. Plus the bad blood between these teams tied in with the Patriots narrow win in the AFC title game make this a HUGE week three matchup. Still this game seems perfect for Baltimore who even without T-Suggs has a strong defense and will be out for blood against New England. Needless to say I am not looking forward to the painful Sunday night I will be enduring.

The Pick: Ravens 27 Patriots 20

-Phil

Think I got it wrong? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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Like A Boss Week Two

In a complete reversal from week one, the week two Like A Boss award nominees come from the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. It’s pretty simple. You win and you get nominations. You lose and you get mercilessly left out. So let’s get to those nominees.

1 – Eli Manning

He certainly didn’t look Boss-like in the first half when he was completing more passes to the Buccaneers than his Giants teammates but the new king of comebacks turned it on in the second half. Peyton’s little brother was actually able to bounce back from those turnovers to finish with 510 yards passing and three passing touchdowns while leading the team to 25 points, that’s right 25 points, in the fourth quarter. To put that in perspective 15 teams (including Peyton’s Broncos) didn’t score 25 points in the four quarters they were involved in.

2 – Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz

These two get co-nominations since they both were unbelievable against Tampa Bay. Eli wouldn’t have had  the game he  had without Nicks and Cruz catching any and all objects thrown in their direction. Rumor has it that Cruz caught a cornerbacks mouth guard that flew out on a running play early in the second quarter. Nicks caught 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and Cruz caught 11 passes for 179 yards and a score. It’s really a toss up who was more important which is why these two will share the nomination just like they share Eli’s passes.

3 – C.J. Spiller

If you haven’t read the Bills recap for this week then you missed out on my gushing about Clifford Spiller and his single-handedly carrying my fantasy team, oh and the actual team he plays for, this past weekend. With Fred Jackson down, Spiller was given the reigns to the offense and racked up 123 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Plus he caught a few passes for 47 yards.  Now if we can just figure out a sick nickname for him he will officially ascend into a stratosphere a Bills player hasn’t been in in a long time.

And the award goes to:

Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz!

Did I mention that Nicks was playing with an injury that will keep him out this week? Did I mention that both had games that would make Jerry Rice jealous? Did I mention that Nicks was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week? Well who am I to question what the NFC has already awarded.

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Crash Landings and Tebow Chants

Back to earth for Jets (steelers.com)

TEBOW! TEBOW! TEBOW! TEBOW!And since the Jets love to spell;  T – E – B – O – W  TEBOW TEBOW TEBOW!

That didn’t take long did it? Perhaps the fervor hasn’t reached a point where billboards are going up in NYC urging Rex Ryan to start Mr. Tebow but after a ghastly performance from Mark Sanchez, and really the entire Jets team you can already feel the Tebow fans arising from their slumber ready to bring a hale of boos and Tebow chants down on MetLife Stadium.

Why you ask? Didn’t Mark Sanchez play phenomenally in week one? Wasn’t that proof that this was the year he would finally make that next step? Well sure if he hadn’t dropped out a 10-for-27, 138-yard effort against the Steelers in a 27-10 loss last weekend. Before anyone comes running to Sanchez’s defense with the excuse of it was in Pittsburgh or the Steelers are a great team. Yes it was in Pittsburgh but James Harrison wasn’t playing and even against a good team shouldn’t you be able to complete at least, I don’t know, 40 PERCENT OF YOUR PASSES?!

Well not the Sanchize. It’s back to the bottom of the barrel yet again. Obviously he’s not in the Rodgers/Brady conversation but he should at least be getting into Flacco/Ryan territory by now and neither Flacs or Matty Ice put up those kind of numbers against anyone.

Meanwhile Sanchez’s arch-nemesis (the one that isn’t called consistent quarterback play) Tim Tebow played in something like three

Most important 22 yards rushing all day. (newyorkjets.com)

snaps and finished with one rush for 22 yards. I don’t think Tebow is the answer. I don’t think the Jets are any betetr if Tebow starts but if Sanchez continues to have absolute duds like he did last week the calls for the Jesus of football are going to start to get louder and louder.

Sanchez deteriorating robbed Jets fans of getting to see the ascension of Stephen Hill, who could be the team’s next Keyshawn Johnson. The Georgia Tech alum (that’s right the same Georiga Tech as one Calvin Johnson) was targeted only twice and had zero catches while Santonio Holmes had 11 target (three catches, 28 yards, TD) and the immortal Jeremy Kerly had four targets and a pair of catches.  It’s like the Jets are allergic to offensive stars. When was the last time they really had one. It’s got to be Curtis Martin or Keyshawn right? Since C-Mart retired this squad has just been a conundrum inside of an enigma marinated in question marks offensively speaking. Hill could be the stand out guy they need but if Sanchez (or Tebow) is throwing to him he might not get the chance to show that.

The Shonn Greene as a feature back era is slowly losing ground as well. Greene has the perfect name to be  star for the Jets but put up only 23 yards on 11 carries in the loss to Pittsburgh. Greene had a 1,000-yard season last year but just barely (1,054 yards) and really how impressive is just getting to the 1,000-yard mark anymore? Greene will again have solid  numbers this season if only because he gets all the carries.

Missing Darrelle Revis certainly hurt the Jets on offense against Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, one of which would have been covered by Revis Island, both got open far too often in the game, especially deep. Brown finished with seven catches for 79 yards and Wallace had five receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Garrett McIntyre had a (surprisingly) nice game against Pittsburgh with two sacks, the first of his career, of Big Ben. McIntyre was just one of a number of guys in the front seven that played well as the Jets swarmed especially against the run limiting the Steelers to just 66 yards on 28 carries. That’s just 2.4-yards-per-carry. It’s like they were going against Shonn Greene.

Revis is still in doubt for Sunday’s game against Miami but come on the Dolphins are awful and if the rest of the secondary can’t stop Ryan Tannehill it might not matter when or if Revis Island comes back.

Sanchez will get the start this week and Rex Ryan has been understandably mute on how much usage Tim Tebow will get and has downright denied that he will start. Sanchez will get some breathing room this week though thanks to a bad Dolphins squad but after that the schedule toughens up over the next four weeks (vs. SF, vs. HOU, vs. IND, @NE) and those Tebow chants could get louder with it.

-Phil

Should the JEts consider using Tebow more often? Is Sanchez as good as week one or as bad as week two? Somewhere in between? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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