Tag Archives: afc

Patriots Off-Season Match-Up Mania: Coach BB vs. GM BB

edelman


I have no idea where Bill Belichick is going to be during the Super Bowl on Sunday. He may or may not watch the game, but I bet he’s already focused on the 2014 New England Patriots.

Lots of time has been spent since the AFC Championship Game congratulating BB for his coaching performance with his 13-5 club. I’m not terribly focused on where to rank this season in terms of his coaching resume except to say if it was a great coaching job then it means he created a flawed team as a GM that he had to coach up.

BB has a busy winter and spring ahead of him. Some ideas:

Changes are already under way within Bill’s coaching staff. Dante Scarnecchia and Pepper Johnson, two positional staffers who toiled under Belichick seemingly forever, or, since he became the coach of the NEP, are gone. Were they problems with the team? That answer could depend on how their replacements do in 2014.

Bill might need to coach up the coaches who stayed, honestly. I’m not the only person who was puzzled by some coaching decisions during the season. The Patriots didn’t react too well to the loss of Aqib Talib in Denver two weeks ago in the 26-16 conference title game loss and in-game adjustments have always been part of the Belichick aura.

Coaches, of course, need players to coach. This team faced a consistent challenge of keeping players on the field because of injury after injury. Yes, they reached the AFC Championship game despite injuries, but would a healthier team be in New York now prepping for the Super Bowl in place of Denver. Talib is just one of several names like Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola that failed to reach the end of the season intact. Long term, do the Pats need to be wary of players who can’t stay on the field? For example, does Talib deserve a big payday if he can’t finish the AFC title game every year?

Aside from injuries, the biggest issue all season was who could Brady throw to. Not signing Wes Welker and signing Amendola instead was not a success. Julian Edelman proved himself and is now on the open market. Rookies like Aaron Dobson were either unavailable or dropping passes for most of the year. Could BB be forced to choose between Edelman and Amendola?

This rumor/gossip about Larry Fitzgerald coming here seems unlikely to happen. Will the draft bring more young receivers for Tom Brady? Again, unlikely. But, draft experts expect the same. With a very young club, I’m expecting more veteran value roster moves we’ve come to expect from the Pats.

 

Patriots Match-Up Mania: Playoffs?

Tom Brady practices for the Ravens.

Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs? I’m just hoping we can win a game, another game.” – Jim Mora.

Certain games defy analysis of important match-ups. When the New England Patriots travel to Baltimore to meet the Ravens on Sunday, that’s the situation each team faces.



style="display:inline-block;width:728px;height:90px"
data-ad-client="ca-pub-0701776857259407"
data-ad-slot="3065965756">

Rivals who know each other after six battles in four seasons, only one of which was truly one-sided. It comes down to a cliche bowl: Who wants it more. The best team wins. Something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are certain factors that could sway the outcome either way. Will receivers catch balls that hit their hands? Danny Amendola. Turnovers? Stevan Ridley. Stop Joe Flacco and Ray Rice? Defense.

In short, as Bill Belichick described it, it’s a big game requiring the Pats best effort of 2013:

We know this is a big challenge for us headed down there Sunday. It’s a big game for both teams and I think we’re excited to play, excited for the opportunity and the challenge and we’ll need our best football from everybody…That’s what it will take down there I’m sure. That’s what we’re gearing up for, that’s what we’ll try to be. The Ravens are a very good football team. They have a real solid organization and they’re tough. We’ll need to be at our best to beat them.

There’s a big reward awaiting the Pats if they overcome this challenge and that’s a clinched playoff spot and a fifth-straight AFC title. Just win and be in. Going into game 16 without punching a playoff ticket is a bad thing. Tom Brady, who has had a frustrating season despite 4,000+ yards passing – again – is aware of the implications. “We need it,” Brady said. “There’s no bigger game than this one for us. ”

He also made a comment that summed up the season well, too.:

It would be nice to go out there and play this team and play them well for once. We haven’t done a great job playing against them offensively.

There are certainly reasons for it, but how many times this season have they put it all together against a good team? A bad half followed by a display of offensive prowess. Good defense combined with turnovers and poor third-down execution. You’ve seen it.

Before they can worry about playoffs, they need to be playing good football.

Patriots Match-Up Mania: WWBBD?

Rob Ninkovich


Here is the question that fans of the New England Patriots must consider with three winnable games sitting between them and the AFC’s top playoff seed: Will they run out of players?

Okay, they won’t. But, a seemingly endless spate of injuries – you all know the names – makes me wonder how Bill Belichick compensate for some obvious holes in his roster. What will BB do?

Start with the offense that has trouble starting on time lately. In the three prior games the Patriots managed to win, their opponents led by a combined 47-7 at the half. And that was with Rob Gronkowski. Last week’s comeback did come after Gronk was injured which provides some hope. But, 60 minutes of effort would be helpful.

How will the Pats react to losing Gronk again? (How does he keep getting hurt when he seems unbreakable?) First off, Matthew Mulligan isn’t the answer. He seems to be willing to step up and “replace” Gronk, but he’s an undrafted free agent from Maine. He’s not Gronk. Does he play golf?

Brady has confidence in Mulligan, sort of:

We still have confidence that we can go out and win games. You have to try to figure out what we’re going to do to still get the level of production that’s good enough to win. If you’re an eligible receiver, then you’ve got to do something with it, so we either run it better or throw it better or catch it better or run with it after the catch. It’s not going to be an excuse for us, I know that.

The players most likely to see the ball more post-Gronk are Shane Vereen and, surprisingly, Stevan Ridley. Vereen has proven to BB and, more importantly, Tom Brady, he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it. He can run, catch and score.

Ridley’s status is tenuous as depends on his fumbles. But, with a major target like Gronk gone, TB12 needs a reliable ground option to turn to. His next fumble might be his last as a Patriot.

BB needs to tighten up the defense, too. Josh Gordon abused Aqib Talib last week as Talib wasn’t 100%. BB must continue to keep shaking things up on defense to stop the opponents on offense.

BST&N’S 2013 NFL Predictions From The Playoffs To Individual Awards

Unknown-24

It’s almost here, but if you weren’t excited enough about the NFL returning in a couple weeks, here are a few more reasons. It’s time to make some predictions that will inevitably have clear cut outomes and boggle the minds of some while sparking some pretty intense debates. I think I have them all right, though. Here are my picks for all eight division winners, the four Wild Card teams, each conference’s championship matchup, the Super Bowl, league leaders and major award recipients.

AFC East (2): Patriots – Nine straight division titles when the team has been quarterbacked by Tom Brady? Yeah, make it 10 for New England. While they undoubtedly will be transitioning on the field this season, they are still fairly high above the other three teams in the division. Plus, their quarterback never runs into butts.

AFC North (4): Bengals – Get used to hearing “Dalton to Green” and get used to seeing the Bengals in the postseason (even if it is just for one game) for the third straight year. Cleveland will probably finish fourth.

AFC South (3): Colts – The Colts made an unbelievable turnaround in 2012 and it seems to me they are not done improving. Eleven wins last season was good, but I see them hitting at least 12 this year, including making a push to overtake the Texans late in the year with a huge win over them in Week 15.

AFC West (1): Broncos – Obviously. This one will probably be the biggest division win by any team this season. I say 14-2 for Denver with San Diego the closest to them at 7-9. Welker…and Decker…and Thomas might play a role in their success as well.

Peyton Manning wil lead the Broncos to another division title.

Peyton Manning wil lead the Broncos to another division title.

AFC Wild Card (5): Texans – Houston has three of the best players in the league in Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt. The supporting cast is not bad either and Matt Schaub obviously has what it takes to lead a team to the postseason. I just think the Colts will steal the division from them sooner or later and Houston will wind up in the five-spot.

AFC Wild Card (6): Ravens – Though their defense is gong to look quite different, the Ravens should be able to get enough out of Joe Flacco to back in to the playoffs as the conference’s No.6 seed. From there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were bounced immediately as I’m a little wary that Flacco might have nothing left to motivate him.

NFC East (3): Redskins – As long as RG’s knee can hold up for 16 games, the Redskins are poised to repeat as NFC East champs. He will be an x-factor for them this season, leading them to big wins over the Packers, Falcons and Giants and clinching this division before the final night of the season.

NFC North (4): VikingsAdrian Peterson will carry them to the division title in 2013. That’s really the only way I see that happening for the Vikes, who will have to contend with the Packers and maybe even the Lions or Bears. Green Bay finishes a very close second, but will be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Read more

Will They, Won’t They? The Patriots And Their 18 Free Agents

It’s time to clean out the house, time to shuffle the faces and time for the 2012 New England Patriots to start looking toward 2013 after they failed to show up in the second half of their embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Ravens in Sunday’s AFC Championship game.

As is the case every year, the team has a host of free agents that they need to make decisions on. Eighteen of their 20 free agents heading into the offseason are unrestricted and if the team doesn’t do anything to lock them up, they could be gone like that.

If the front office is having any trouble, they can just ask me. I’d be glad to help. Here’s my first offseason addition of will they or won’t they. (Hint: Both Wes Welker and Aqib Talib need to be back).

A veteran in the secondary would be good to have, but I don't see Will Allen making a comeback in 2013.

A veteran in the secondary would be good to have, but I don’t see Will Allen making a comeback for the Pats in 2013.

Will Allen: The former first-round pick has had a decent career and certainly could have been able to help in the Patriots secondary this season, but he has played in just 21 games since 2009, missing entire campaigns in both 2010 and 2012. Of course, as he was drafted almost 12 years ago now, age is going to be a question. Would he be able to keep up with the fast and physical tight ends around the league like, oh, I don’t know, Dennis Pitta for instance as a 34-year-old coming off of whatever injury he had. I’m just not sure it would work out like that. I’d cut Allen loose.

Kyle Arrington: Assuming the team does bring Talib back for his first full season, Arrington’s role would be that of a third corner in nickel situations or when injuries occur, like in Sunday’s game when Talib went down. In that game, particularly in the second half, Joe Flacco was pretty much throwing the ball at will with Arrington and Marquice Cole in the secondary. In 2011, Arrington led the league with seven interceptions. In 2012, however, he had zero. If he is okay with his role as a third corner, then I wouldn’t hate to see him brought back in 2013, but for less than the $1.85M he made this year.

Josh Barrett: In the five years since getting drafted out of Arizona St., Barrett has barely touched the turf during the regular season. Though he has shown signs of strong play and intelligence, his consistent ability to get injured has done neither him nor the team any good. Though he should be ready for the 2013 season after a calf injury has held him out for more than a year, he just might be playing it with another team. I’d let this one go too.

Deion Branch: Branch only returned to the team in 2012 following the injury to Aaron Hernandez in Week 1 of the season. He was cut by the team in the preseason. At 33 years old, he isn’t getting any younger. While Tom Brady still trusts him as much as anyone else, Branch had just 29 targets on the season, an indication that even if the team may want him back, he might not be willing. I predict that one way or another, Branch will not be a Patriot for the 2013 regular season. That is, until someone gets hurt.

Patrick Chung: Chung’s play and presence on the field has declined in each of the last two seasons, culminating with him losing his starting safety job to Steve Gregory in 2012 and seeing most of his playing time come on special teams. With both Gregory and Devin McCourty expected back next season, Chung may be the odd man out at safety. He could always be used as a backup and a spot defender, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that he could be a starting safety on a lot of other teams in the league. I wouldn’t be shocked if Chung has played his last game as a Patriot.

Marquice Cole: Aside from being a pretty decent gunner, Cole doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of secondary play. Only used as a defensive back when there were six or seven of them on the field or, like Arrington, when there were injuries, Cole is the kind of player who makes his money on special teams. His speed, particularly utilized at the gunner position, can also be helpful on the coverage teams. If he wants to come back, I’d have no problem seeing No. 23 in blue again next season.

Julian Edelman has been solid, but unfortunately may have played his last game in a Patriots uniform.

Julian Edelman has been solid, but unfortunately may have played his last game in a Patriots uniform.

Julian Edelman: When Edelman went down with a broken leg on Dec. 2 against the Dolphins, there was talk about that potentially being his last game as a member of the Patriots. Assuming the team does decide to re-sign Welker, Edelman may not be needed or wanted. His real value to the team is in the punt return game and not as a play-making wide receiver. If Welker is lost, which I don’t see happening, then Edelman would appear more likely to return to the team in 2013. I guess it kind of depends on what happens with Wes, but it is very possible that Edelman does not return to the team next season.

Read more

Ravens Shock Patriots, Return To Super Bowl

Tom Brady sits on the ground following the interception that sealed the game for the Ravens.

Tom Brady sits on the ground following the interception that sealed the AFC Championship game win for the Ravens.

Remember when Tom Brady in the postseason was as sure as death or taxes? His 9-0 start to his postseason career had people all over New England thinking that this late-round diamond in the rough could never do any wrong. Three championships in his first four seasons.

None in his last eight.

Maybe it was payback. Maybe it was destiny. Whatever it was, Joe Flacco outplayed Brady, the Ravens defense outplayed that of the Patriots and as banged up as Baltimore  had been this year, it was the home team and favorite that felt the blows when it mattered most. Oh, and Ray Lewis, with the help if his good friend, God, has lived to play another day – and for the Super Bowl.

From the moment the coin hit the ground in favor of the Ravens and they deferred to the second half – stealing the Patriots’ bread and butter on their home field – it just seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. They committed fewer penalties, made less mistakes and completed a higher percentage of their passes. Most importantly, their zero turnovers, compared to three from the Patriots, were nothing less than huge. They were the team that executed better on Sunday.

Like it did towards the end if the regular season, the Patriots offense struggled to capitalize when their defense set them up with good field position and scored just 13 points – their lowest total of 2012. As the league’s No. 1 offense, the fewest points they had scored this year before yesterday were 18 in the Week 2 loss to the Cardinals.

The windy conditions at Gillette Stadium forced both teams to play conservatively and cost the Pats a couple chances at field goals they would normally attempt.

Their opening drive looked promising, but Wes Welker couldn’t haul in a deep pass from Brady when he had his defender beat by a couple if steps. They then almost caught the Baltimore special teams off guard, however, as Ryan Mallett snuck into the punt formation and forced the Ravens to burn a timeout.

A quick three-and-out by Baltimore gave New England the ball back, but only after a holding penalty called on Aqib Talib backed them up to their own 21. They had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and took a 3-0 lead on their 32nd straight red zone possession that resulted in points.

The next Baltimore drive ended quickly as well, but came at a cost as Talib hurt his thigh while breaking up a pass on third and long. Some production from last week’s star Shane Vereen on the ensuing drive and a 15-yard personal foul penalty called on Lewis were for not as Brandon Lloyd ended up dropping a tough catch on third down.

Flacco then missed an open Dennis Pitta down the field and New England couldn’t convert following a 28-yard punt return from Welker as Paul Kruger influenced the Brady pass. The Pats D allowed just one completion in the first quarter and the Ravens went 0-for-3 on third down. New England led the Ravens 3-0 after one quarter of the AFC Championship game for the second consecutive year.

As the second quarter began, Flacco would lead a 90-yard drive in his first Title Game win to put the Ravens on the board with a two-yard run by Ray Rice. Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower both missed tackles on the back as he then walked into the endzone on second down. Pitta had an 18-yard reception on third and four and Flacco took advantage of Talib’s absence, hitting Torrey Smith on a 25-yard pass to the New England 15.

Brady would answer right away, however, aided by another personal foul penalty, this time on Dannell Ellerbe. A 24-yard pass to Welker set the Pats up in good position and Brady found him again from a yard out to make it 10-7 Patriots with 4:18 left in the opening half.

Read more

« Older Entries