Tag:New England
Posted on: December 1, 2008 2:51 pm
 

Patriots Playbook: Patriots Playoff Picture

Before Sunday's matchup against the Steelers there was a graphic flashed on the screen indicating the Matt Cassel, with his performance against the Dolphins 2 weeks ago, became only the 5th player ever to throw for 400 yards in back to back games. Of the other 4 QBs, the three relatively prolific ones, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, and Dan Fouts, went on to play well and win their next game while the relatively unknown player, Billy Volek, threw for only 111 yards in a losing effort.

Looking at those stats I wondered to myself, "Is Matt Cassel, at this point in his career, more like Marino or Volek?" Sadly, by the end of the game I got my answer.

I'm not saying that Cassel's four turnover performance in the Patriots' 33-10 drubing suffered at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers means he's going to end up a never-was like the Volek (now a backup in San Diego), but it does show that Cassel has a long road ahead of him. You can chalk this one up as a learning experience for the young QB who hadn't played a game in poor weather all season, and probably not ever in those conditions in his life, having grown up in California and playing (or sitting) his college ball at USC.

But the Patriots have larger problems than Matt Cassel's ability to play in New England weather, and that is their place in the standings. At 7-5, the Pats find themselves on the outside looking in in terms of the AFC playoff race.

Although New England appears to be only 1 game out of the playoffs behind the Colts, Ravens, and Jets, the Patriots are, for all intents and purposes, 2 games back. This is why:

Wild Card Playoffs: Colts own tie breaker (Head-to-head).  Even if the Pats win out and the Colts go 3-1 against Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, and Tennessee (which they probably will), the Pats will lose the first WC tie breaker. For the Pats to get in over the Colts, New England would have to go 4-0 and the Colts 2-2 down the stretch...unlikely.

Wild Card Playoffs: Baltimore owns tie breaker (Conference record). With 5 AFC loses (Pitt, Indy, NYJ, Miami, SD) the Pats would lose to the Ravens in the second Wild Card tie breaker (Ravens have only 3 AFC loses, their fourth being to the NYG).

There is an outside chance New England could steal the tiebreaker from the Ravens. Baltimore has one of the toughest schedules down the stretch playing host to Washington, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville and travelling to Dallas. If the Pats can go 3-1 (only loss to Arizona), and Baltimore goes 2-2 (Losing to both the Steelers and Jags), the two teams would be forced to go to the 4th tie breaker which is Strength of victory (which is defined as combined winning percentage of the opponents a team has beaten). Although this would be close (neither the Pats nor Ravens have beaten any good teams), the Pats would probably pull this one out because they have wins over the Jets, Dophins, and Bills (all .500 or better) whereas the Ravens only have 1 victory over a winning team (Miami). If the Ravens lose to the Jags and Steelers, however, it is more likely they will lose to one of the two NFC East teams as well and the Pats can scoot by with a better record.

Since NFL rules stipulate Wild Card tiebreakers between divisional opponents will be decided by divisional tiebreaking rules, the following scenarios would playout in the event of a tie in the division or wild card between these teams:

Wild Card Playoffs/ Division Playoffs: Patriots own tie breaker (Divisional record). The Dolphins, with a record of 2-2 in the division would at this moment would lose a tie breaker to the Pats in either the division or wildcard because of New England's 3-2 AFC East mark. This could change, however, if the Pats go 3-1 the rest of the way with a loss to the Bills and Miami goes 3-1 with wins over both the Bills and Jets. If both teams were to win out and go 4-2 in the division, they would tie at 10-2 in common opponents, and the Patriots would again lose the in-conference tie breaker having 5 AFC loses and the Dolphins only 4.

Wild Card Playoffs/ Division Playoffs: Jets own tie breaker (Divisional record). Whereas the Pats are 3-2 in the division, the Jets are 3-1. If the Jets were to lose to either the Dolphins or Bills and the Pats win out, the Pats and Jets would be forced to go into the strength of victory tie-breaker, which the Jets would most likely win due to their W against Tennessee.

In short

 

 

The Patriots are going to be hard pressed to win tie breakers against any team they are currently in battle with for playoff spots. If they go 10-6, they will most likely not make the playoffs, and if they go 11-5 there is still no guarantee.
Posted on: November 25, 2008 3:17 pm
 

Patriots Playbook: Weird feelings for Matt Cassel

For all the females who are reading this in hopes of picking up some juicy insight on the total hunk that is Matt Cassel, I'm sorry, I'm not talking about that kind of feeling.

What I'm talking about is lack of fulfullment.

When I watch Cassel improve every game, move around in the pocket, throw on the run, rush for first downs, make tough throws, and win big games, I think, "Wow, look at this guy. He's young, he's got great talent, and he's a winner. I can't wait to watch him develope over the next 10 years and become a franchise quarterback!"

Then I remember that Cassel, assuming Brady's rehab continues as expected, will be wearing a different uniform next year.

It's unreasonable to believe that Cassel will remain as the backup with the Patriots when he could be making a projected $12+ million as a starter for one of the many QB desperate teams in the NFL...but you can believe that if his new team is on the Patriots' schedule next year there will be a large contingent of New Englanders who will be very nervous going into that match-up (including the Patriots' secondary).

So why is it that I feel cheated when I watch Cassel play? I compare watching the Pats' QB to watching a child grow up. You put all your effort and care into that child, encourage him to do his best even when other people might tell you he's not going to amount to much. Then, when he is finally turning into something you can really be proud of, he's taken away from you. Your child is given to new parents who benefit from the time you put into him and it's possible that he might make his family better than yours.

I guess what I'm saying is while I love watching Cassel play and excel the way he has been, that it's hard for me to put my whole heart into it because I know next year our baby is going to sign with a new family and leave us behind to watch him prosper elsewhere.

But, in the big picture, it's not so bad. We still have our oldest son Tom.

Posted on: November 25, 2008 2:48 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2008 2:56 pm
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Posted on: November 23, 2008 8:37 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2008 8:39 pm
 

Boston Sports Shoutout (Winning ways on the Road)

A weekend full of watching Boston sports teams is a good time. A weekend full of watching Boston sports teams WIN BIG GAMES is a GREAT time.

The Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and Boston College Eagles were all in action on the road on either Saturday or Sunday, and all four emerged from hard faught conference battles victorious. This is how it went down:

Boston College 24 - Wake Forest 21: The Boston sports weekend kicked off (literally) in Winston, North Carolina where the Boston College Eagles took to field to take on ACC Atlantic foe Wake Forest. The back and forth battle was decided when Dominique Davis made up for his two fumbles (both returned for touchdowns) by plunging into the endzone for a 1 yard score, putting BC in the lead to stay. The win saw the Eagles improve to 8-3 (4-3 in the ACC) which means if they win next week against Maryland (7-4, 4-3 in ACC), a team that got trounced by Florida St. this weekend at home 37-3, BC will win the ACC Atlantic (due the head to head tiebreaker they own against FSU) and play in the ACC championship game with a chance to earn an automatic bid to a BCS game (or in other words, the right to get destroyed by Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, or USC). If they happen to qualify for a BCS bowl, hopefully they get to play the winner from the Big East and at least have a shot at extending their 7 game active bowl winning streak (longest in the nation).

Boston Bruins 3 - Montreal Canadiens 2 (SO): Saturday night Boston's winning ways continued when the Bruins were able to take down a struggling Canadiens team (3-4-2 in their last 9) in a shootout. While a lot of focus in Boston is on the defending champion Celtics and streaking Patriots, the Bruins (14-3-4), with this win quietly moved into first place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the New York Rangers. Tim Thomas, who was in danger of losing his job during the preseason to veteran Manny Fernandez but has now emerged as an early favorite for the Vezina Trophy, led the way for the B's with 33 saves and helped them improve to 9-0-1 in their last 10. Wouldn't an NHL championship be just the thing Boston needs to put an exclamation point on probably the best decade in Boston sports history?

Boston Celtics 118 - Toronto Raptors 103: The Celtics picked up right Sunday afternoon right where the Bruins left off the night before by picking up a conference victory over a struggling opponent. Right from the get-go the C's took it to a beat up Raptors team which had lost a heartbreaker against New Jersey only two nights before. Boston started the game on a 21-6 run, and despite Toronto bringing it to within 6 partway through the 2nd quarter, the Celtics never relinquished their lead and extended their lead in the Atlantic Division to 5 games over New York and Philadelphia. The Celtics had their best statistical offensive game of the year shooting 61% from the floor and over 50% from behind the arc. It was a fun game to watch as 7 different C's scored in double figures. Ray Allen led the way with 21 points while Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Tony Allen all pitched in with 15 a piece.  

New England Patriots 48 - Miami Dolphins 28: The Boston sports weekend came to a marvelous conclusion when the Patriots were able to go into Miami and avenge a 13-38 loss suffered at the hands of these same Dolphins earlier this year in Foxboro. The now 7-4 Patriots, after last week's bitter loss to the first place Jets, were in danger of falling into third place in the AFC East, however, the ever improving Matt Cassel wasn't about to let that happen. Cassel overcame an early turnover to throw for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns (all to Randy Moss) and vault the Patriots into a tie for one of the Wildcard playoff spots in the AFC. In a game that saw an NFL season high 6 lead changes, Moss along with Welker, Gaffney, and Faulk all set season highs in reception yards while Cassel became only the 5th quarterback since the merger to throw for 400 yards in back to back games.

Congratulations to all the Boston sports teams who made this an enjoyable weekend in the Northeast. If you were away on business or traveling somewhere on a family vacation...you missed out...but don't distress! All four teams are back in action next weekend and the way things are going for all four teams, we can only hope for four more W's.

Posted on: November 6, 2008 6:44 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2008 6:46 pm
 

Happy with the Patriots' season

Tom Brady, the single most influential person in Boston sports, goes down in the first quarter of the first game of a highly anticipated NFL season and I am utterly pleased and overwhelmed with anticipation about New England Patriots football.

That's right, I am just as excited about this Patriots' squad as I was with last years' team at this point in the season and there are 3 reasons why:

It's exciting to watch regular season games again. Over the last few years it has be expected that the Patriots would win every game. You would sit down on Sunday and not wonder "will the Patriots win", but "how much will they win by". There was never a sense of accomplishment when they won, only dispointment when they lost. The joy of watching Patriots' regular season games was lost.

The fact that I can now cozzy up in my recliner and not lean back lazy boy style but balance tenderly on the edge of my seat while the Patriots fight for every victory (or suffer a well faught loss as it may be) is really satisfying. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but watching an inferior version of last years Patriots is more fun...which brings me to my next reason for being excited about the 2008-09 Pats.

Matt Cassel is Solid. Is Matt Cassel going to be a pro-bowler? No. Will he lead the Patriots to the Superbowl? Probably not. But could he be a viable back up for the Patriots or starter somewhere else next year? Absolutely.

Patriots fans have been spoiled over the last half decade with Tom Brady at the helm to the point where solid tallent at the QB position isn't recognized. "He's no Tom Brady" I hear people say all the time. No kidding. Who is? But next year when Matt Cassel is starting somewhere else in the league (Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota) and possibly playing winning football I think people are going to realize that they gave him the shaft right off the bat here in Boston.

Finally, It's fun proving people wrong. I can' t tell you how many blogs and threads were ready to write off the Pats after the loss of Brady. The majority of people were saying they believed the Patriots would "be lucky" to win 4 or 5 games this season. Well, guess what, they have won 5 thus far and we are merely at the halfway point. If Jabbar Gaffney holds onto a gimme TD pass against the Colts last week they are staring 6-2 and sole possesion of first place in the AFC East right in the face.

I know some New England fans who would have sold their first born child to have the Patriots be in this situation halfway through the year after the loss of Brady. The best part about this season is that the Patriots havn't even come close to maximizing their potential. They are going to improve more over the second part of the season than any other team because they have a QB who is still learning the ropes, a RB corp which hasn't been healthy yet, and a very young secondary that gets better every week.

Watch out NFL, the Pats are on their way to playoffs, and once they're there, as they say, anything can happen.

Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com