Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: December 29, 2008 10:46 am
 

Celtics Weekly: C's still the team to beat?

It started out as a Christmas vacation for the ages. The Pats could gain a playoff birth in the final week of the season, the Sox could land Mark Teixeira and be on their way to another title, and the Celtics could win 20 in a row by knocking off the Lakers at home on Christmas day.

It didn't quite turn out that way.

But with the Patriots season over and with the burner on the Red Sox Hot Stove Report turned down to a simmer, we turn our attention fully to the Celtics (and Bruins I suppose). So after a pair of West Coast losses are the C's still the team to beat? The answer to that question is an simply: Yes.

While the loss on Christmas day to the Lakers was disapointing, it in no way proved that Los Angeles is the better team. At times L.A. even looked desperate as Luke Walton and Lamar Odom uncharacteristically tossed up threes (the two had made a combined 11 3-pointers the entire season coming into the game and knocked down 2 each against the C's) and the ever improving Rajon Rondo was able to pick apart the Laker D even though he was mired in foul trouble from the openning whistle.

Then the following day, putting aside the "let down" factor of having a long winning streak snapped, Golden State is just one of those teams that can't necissarily be stopped by a good defense. The Warriors are a team of free-shooting point-scorers that take bad shots and, if they make them, are impossible to stop. The Celtics ran into them on a hot night, just like the Lakers ran into a Sacramento team that had a hot hand last week and lost. Those things happen.

Here are several reason why the Celtics are still the best team in the land:

1) It was just a loss. Sports analyst and fans alike played up this Christmas day matchup to be some sort of NBA finals equivalent. The fact of the matter is that it was just one more notch in the loss column for Boston. It counts the same as the losses to Indiana, Denver, and Golden State. In the long term, all that matters is that the Celtics finish the season with a better record than the Cavs and Magic.

2) The Celtics are getting better. After their record setting 19th straight win Greg Dickerson asked Kevin Garnett if the Celtics could get better, to which he responded "hell yeah" several times (with apologies to all of the children who might have heard him). One of the things Boston's big man stressed was that the C's had to play consistent defense and not allow any period of let-up for the entire game. Last night against Sacramento the Kings never scored more than 17 points in any quarter. Thanks for the pep-talk KG!

3) Boston is not satisfied. After Los Angeles beat the Celtics on Christmas Day there were streamers and confetti raining down from the ceiling like they had just won the NBA championship. What non-sense. Boston has become a championship city and after the Patriots went 16-0 and then lost the Superbowl, the athletes and fans in this town know that winning streaks and regular season records can be forgotten, but championship remain in the rafters forever.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 2:08 pm
 

The NFL hates the New England Patriots...

I honestly do not believe that the NFL has it out of the Patriots, but the schedule change they made earlier today, flexing the Dolphins vs. Jets game from 1:00 to 4:00, really hurts New England.

The thing that bothers me is that there had to have been someone involved with this move that said, "If we make this schedule change and the Patriots win at 1:00, then the Jets are eliminated and could just lie down and let the Dolphins win, but if we leave the game at 1:00 then all three teams will have something to play for" and therefore someone more important simply said, "whatever".

I'm trying to follow the advice so often given by Bill Belichick and only worry about what the Patriots can do, but it is so hard. These two ideas keep bouncing back and forth inside my head:

1) The Jets lie down and let the Dolphins cruise to victory. My first thought when I hear this is "Yep, that could happen". The Jets despise the Patriots and they would like nothing more than to bring New England down with them. Mangini and Belichick aren't exactly best buds and the Jets could get away with it because they have played so awfully recently that anyone could say that they gave it their all.

2) The Jets come out, play well, and win. I know if the Patriots win then the Jets have "nothing to play for", but I hate that line. You always have something to play for, even if you can't make the playoffs. Every single player on that team is fighting for a job, a bigger contract, or even tv time, and the only way to get those things is to play well. If Mangini goes out and loses his last four games, even if the last game was "meaningless", he could definitely be on the way out the door. I just don't see how the Jets players/coach could throw this game away.

I just hope after everything is said and done a flex-schedule change isn't what ultimately decides who goes to the playoffs in a winable AFC.

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.
 
 
 
 
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