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Broncos vs Patriots: Manning vs Brady XVI

Tomorrow sees the 16th installment in the legendary rivalry between two of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game and as always there are high stakes when Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos go head to head against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

With the Patriots on a four game winning streak they have been resurgent after a slow start to the 2014 season but now find themselves at 6-2 after a 2-2 start and with a chance to place themselves in the first seed position for the playoffs if they manage to defeat Denver tomorrow. The Broncos are also on a 4 game winning streak so they will walk in to Gillette Stadium full of confidence especially having beaten the Patriots when the two teams last met in last seasons AFC Championship game.

That victory in January avenged the demons of a 34-31 comeback victory by Brady’s Patriots earlier in that season when New England rallied from a 24-0 halftime deficit to knock off the Broncos in their own back yard but with Denver’s 26-16 postseason victory a couple of months after that encounter just mentioned Manning tied his head to head postseason record against Brady to 2-2 all-time.

Unfortunately for Peyton history does suggest that the Patriots could well come out as the victors tomorrow with Brady holding a 10-5 all-time winning record over his old foe. With New England’s huge 51-23 win over Chicago last Sunday this team is slowly moving through the gears week by week and finding ways to win after winning a narrow one against the Jets 27-25 the week before and knocking off the Bills in their own backyard 37-22.

With a bye week next week for the Patriots a win tomorrow against Denver would set them up perfectly for their remaining 7 games and allow them to focus on their tough tasks ahead as they go in search of claiming home field advantage for the playoffs; something that would definitely benefit the Patriots if they have to play the Broncos in the postseason as taking Peyton Manning out of Mile High stadium would work huge favours for New England.

The most intriguing aspect of tomorrow’s matchup is the improved fortunes of both of these teams defenses and that is what makes this game a lot more interesting in comparison to the other meetings we’ve seen between these two teams in recent years. The Patriots may be without their best pass rusher in Chandler Jones but have made two additions at linebacker before the trade deadline this past Tuesday to cover for the season ending injury to Jerod Mayo and also possess the number one pass defense in the league.

Manning vs Brady Round 16

That will be put to the test by what many considering to be the most devastating offense in the NFL and one that has added a versatile running back to its armory in recent weeks to go along with the ridiculously effective passing game that Manning has going on in Denver. Peyton is tied with Andrew Luck for the most touchdowns in the league with 22 but has to just 3 interceptions to the third years 9. Manning’s efficiency will be vital to any success the Broncos want to have tomorrow especially going up against a Bill Belichick defense that thrives on forcing turnovers.

The Patriots are tied for 7th in the league with 10 forced fumbles and have recovered 8 which leaves them tied for 2nd in that category. They are also tied 8th in interceptions with 8 and 9th in sacks with 21 so you can tell that the Pats defense has been playing at a very high level. Star cornerback Darrelle Revis is back to his superstar best challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage and has locked down star studded wideouts such as AJ Green and Brandon Marshall along with rookie sensation Sammy Watkins in the first half of this season.

Add Revis to a secondary that includes the likes of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan along with the return of Brandon Browner who made a massive personal improvement last week against the Bears following his debut against the Jets and it is clear to see this team has talent. That is not even including the players at the front of the D such as Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork who are all key contributors to the success of this unit.

They in particular will need to step up in Chandler Jones’ absence who is arguably the Patriots best all round defensive player. As for the Broncos defense well they aren’t exactly slouches themselves after adding the likes of DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib who left the Patriots for Denver this past offseason. Denver’s defense ranks high in key categories too; 6th in sacks with 23, 13th in interceptions with 7 but they are a lowly 31st in forced fumbles with 3 and just one recovery.

On paper despite Brady’s historical upper hand over Manning as well as the drastic improvements this Patriots offense has made week by week the Broncos offense is still edges that of New England and I feel that the outcome of this game will be decided by who wins out of the Patriots defense and Broncos offense when these two units go up against each other tomorrow.

As mentioned earlier Manning has 22 TD’s to just 3 picks and a host of weapons with the dynamic duo of Julius and Demaryius Thomas with the two having hauled in 15 of Peyton’s 22 scores this season. The other 7 are with Emmanuel Sanders who had 3 last week against the Chargers, 4 on the year, along with Jacob Tamme (2) and Wes Welker with just the one this season. Add that with running back Ronnie Hillman, he has broke on the scene in Montee Ball’s absence, who has 347 yards and 2 touchdowns in his past 4 games then you can begin to evaluate just how good this Denver offense is.

But as we know the Patriots offense is not looking too shabby either after fantastic performance after performance in October which ended with Tom Brady being announced AFC offensive Player of the month. Brady had a 129.1 passer rating, with 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns in those 4 Patriots victories and personally I feel this has propelled him in to the MVP conversation along with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, DeMarco Murray and JJ Watt.

Brady completed 30 of 35 passing attempts for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns last week leaving him with a quarterback rating of 148.4. Rob Gronkowski had 9 catches for 149 receiving yards and 3 TD’s and has definitely got back to his devastating best as Gronk now has 7 touchdowns this season leaving him tied for 4th. Brandon LaFell has also built up fantastic rapport with Brady and has 4 touchdowns on the year with 1 last week hauling in 124 yards in the process.

Ever since that Monday Night meltdown against the Chiefs all Brady and co have done is prove the doubters wrong. Anyone who did doubt Tom Brady’s abilities is quite frankly an idiot but he did what any fantastic player does and that was silence his critics on the field. The change in fortunes has brought a breath of fresh air along with hope in New England. Brady now has 18 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions on the year which ranks him 5th only behind Manning, Luck, Rivers and Rodgers.

Now that the Patriots have solved offensive line issues and the offense is performing at a high level you would have to say they are one of the best teams in the league due to their all round talent on defense, offense and special teams. Despite the loss of Stevan Ridley on the ground Shane Vereen has continued to be a brilliant weapon for Brady in the running and passing game and is the type of versatile player that Brady and Belichick love.

Vereen has one rushing touchdown for 281 yards giving him a 4.8 average and two receiving touchdowns for 208 yards. Jonas Gray was added to the running game fold last week and put in an impressive debut with the big bodied back racking up 98 yards off 20 carries averaging 4.9 yards a carry. If he can continue to impress he will be the Patriots’ equivalent of Denver’s Ronnie Hillman and a well welcomed running game addition to a team that possess one of the most efficient passing games in the NFL.

Gronk (7), LaFell (4), Vereen (2), Amendola (1) and Tyms (1) are the recepients of Brady’s passing scores this year but the guy who has been particularly important to the improvements of the passing game is Gronks new tight end partner Tim Wright. He possesses the other 3 Brady touchdown scores and Wright’s addition to the offense has given Brady a new tight end duo threat to trouble opposing offenses which has given Brady and the Pats offense to get all of these offensive players mentioned involved.

The rewards are key to see and after analysing both Denver and New England’s offenses tomorrows game will be a mouth watering encounter especially as we know the quality of both sides defenses as well. Personally I feel this is the most exciting regular season game since the November 7th encounter in the 2007 season when the 8-0 Patriots faced off against Manning’s 7-0 Colts. Despite the quality of both offenses both defenses can force mistakes in the opposing offenses and that is why I feel that it will be a nail biting game for fans of both teams that will end in a close one. I will go out on a limb and say that the Patriots get a repeat of that close win back in 07 and triumph over the Broncos 24-20 setting up a thrilling race for the first seed position come playoff time!

Rajon Rondo’s Favorite NFL Team: The Bruins

During a Twitter Q&A on Tuesday night, Rajon Rondo was asked what his favorite NFL team was. He didn’t answer with the Patriots, but instead said the Bruins.

rajon rondo

Its a bit surprising he didn’t know the Bruins played hockey considering they play in the same building the Celtics do, but in his defense, the Bruins could probably win more games than the Jaguars! Just give Patrice Bergeron the pigskin, and I’m sure he could find the end zone!

The End Of An Era? Bengals vs Patriots

Following last Monday’s humiliation at Arrowhead Stadium the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in particular have come under a lot of criticism. Last week was one of Tom Brady’s worst ever performance in the NFL with the future hall of fame quarterback finishing the game sitting on the sidelines looking deflated and just pure angry.

But you see this is when Tom Brady always brings out his best, right in the face of adversity. We all know this fairytale story; drafted as the 199th pick in round 6 back in the 2000 draft to then go on and move up the depth chart from 4th string quarterback all the way to beating out the well established Drew Bledsoe and then go on to new unthinkable heights as Brady made a massive contribution to the Patriots dynasty that won 3 Super Bowl titles in 4 years (2001 season, 2003 and 2004)

Since then he has only furthered his legacy making two more Super Bowl’s, winning MVP awards in 2007 and 2010, most playoff wins as a quarterback with 18 playoff wins among many other records so yes the list is endless. Now I or any other NFL fanatic could sit here all day praising Tom Brady’s abilities but after last Monday’s blowout defeat to the Chiefs the question is that is there any more magic left from Tom Terrific?

Tom Terrific has it all to prove again starting with tonight

Well I say yes there is but there are definitely more concerns around this Patriot’s offense now then there have been over the past decade. 2nd year wide-out Kenbrell Thompkins was released yesterday which leaves the receiving core with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell along with special teams specialist Matthew Slater and undrafted free agent Brian Tyms who remains inactive.

Edelman is a fantastic receiver but when your best receiver is a former high school quarterback that says it all. Amendola was supposed to be the second coming of Amendola but the realistic scenario happened with him being a flop. Dobson has a lot of potential but injuries have haunted him over this first quarter of the season and I personally feel like LaFell is building up a good rapport with Brady albeit rather slow; he was one of if not the only positive from last week’s loss in Kansas.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski remains Brady best and most reliable weapon in this offense as he is a superstar when healthy but unfortunately he’ll take time to get back to his best. Brady is not surrounded with the weapons that Peyton Manning has right now in Denver but Colts fans from the past will say Brady had better weapons at his disposal when the two use to face of years ago. That debate is for another day but one things for sure Tom Brady is a man who is known for making average receivers look good.

Sadly for Brady you can’t do that when you have a depleted offensive line and the play-calling is terrible. Josh McDaniels was using Vereen as a 3 down back last week which was horrible as every Patriot knows his skills come off screen and trick plays. While I have criticised running back Stevan Ridley in the past there are no denying this young mans talents; he finished last season with 10 touchdowns in the regular season and 2 in the divisional round playoff win against the Colts.

The Patriots need to establish a running game to take the pressure off Brady as at the moment opposing defenses are not afraid of the passing game and a talented group like Cincinnati will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing New England tonight. Despite 9 out of 10 people ruling the Patriots out tonight I personally think they will bounce back and win tonight as the Pats defense has so much talent and will put in a much better performance than last week which will provide a platform for the rest of the team to believe again.

 

Brady may not have the weapons that everyone believes he deserves but that can’t be changed and the Patriots just need to get on with it. Once the team has a offensive line that is starting together regularly then they’ll hope that in time it will come good. Many people will be choosing the Bengals to walk in to Gillette stadium and win tonight but I remember last season when the 4-0 Patriots walked in to Paul Brown Stadium against the 2-2 Bengals with all the praise in the world being heaped on the Patriots only for them to lose 13-6 in a game which was contested in monsoon like weather.

A year later and now the tables have turned with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick saying in his press conference that “They [The Bengals] have a lot of good players. They’re well-coached. They’re tough, they’re physical, they’re explosive. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a team that’s as complete as they are.” so yes tonight will be a heavy challenge but the turnover in who is the top dogs in the NFL is what makes it so exciting to watch. That is why Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots deserve so much credit for the level of consistency they have shown for over the past 10 years. They thrive off adversity and will take it head on when it’s right in their face, some people say good things can’t last forever well I think tonight will prove otherwise and whether it’s ugly or pretty the Patriots will move on to 3-2 and leave the Bengals at 3-1 come the end of Sunday Night Football.

 

 Prediction: Bengals 24-27 Patriots

Patriots Pulse: Can Danny Amendola Stay Healthy This Season?

The obvious answer is probably not, look at his injury history. Amendola has only played in all 16 games once in his career, 2010 with the Rams. While with the Rams he played in 14, 16, 1, and 11 games respectively. Last year with the Patriots he played in 12 games, he didn’t miss any of the same games Rob Gronkowski missed down the stretch, but Tom Brady did not look his way too often.

Danny Amendola hauled in 10 passes in last year's opener than was ineffective for much of the year.

Danny Amendola hauled in 10 passes in last year’s opener than was ineffective for much of the year.

Brady did not look his way at all in the AFC Championship Game against the Broncos where Amendola had no receptions as well as no targets. Amendola was brought in to replace the production vacated by Wes Welker but he did far less than expected. Julian Edelman who has had his fair share of injury history as well, stepped into the Welker role hauling in 10 passes in the AFC Championship. Edelman became Tom Brady’s favorite target and was fourth in the league in receptions with 105. Amendola only had 54.

Amendola has grown tired of hearing, as well as talking about his injury history. This offseason during a phone interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones, Jones asked Amendola a few questions relating to his injury history, Amendola was not too pleased and hung up on the phone interview. St. Louis is much different than New England. The comparisons to Welker are really unfair but now in his second year with the Patriots he should be expected to step up.

Amendola had a great showing in last season’s opener against Buffalo bringing in 10 passes for 104 yards, a game he was also injured in. After that he missed the next three games, and was not looked for often in the following games by Brady who was throwing passes to the likes of Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Austin Collie. Amendola did not bring in double digit grabs again until Week 15 against the Dolphins. He is surely capable of being a good receiver, he just needs to looks and to be healthy.

Courtesy of Dirty Water Tees, Amendola was hardly the savior the Patriots offense was looking for.

Courtesy of Dirty Water Tees, Amendola was hardly the savior the Patriots offense was looking for.

Danny Amendola’s injury history is well documented, but is it really his fault? Some might say it is bad luck. With new rules in place for defensive holding penalties, Amendola might be able to break out this season, splitting time in the slot with Julian Edelman while giving newly acquired receiver Brandon LaFell chances to get open. The real key to the Patriots offense has always been Tom Brady needs multiple weapons to throw to because once they double his favorite receiver where will he look? The AFC Championship Game last year was a prime example. Amendola will have to step up this season to silence his critics, myself included.

Red Sox Report: West Coast Struggle, Further Buries Sox

Red Sox Continue West Coast Struggles


The West Coast trips that the Red Sox used to enjoy in June and July the past few years are something of the past. Losers of five of six on the trip so far, the Sox send Clay Buchholz to the mound tonight in Seattle and he will be making his first start off the disabled list. Buchholz was said to have a hyperextended knee, but most feel it was all just in his head and his confidence was down so the team shut him down. He had two rehab starts in AAA Pawtucket which both went well, so the team has to hope he picks up in Seattle.

Clay Buchholz Red Sox

Clay Buchholz returns to the mound tonight in Seattle.

The rotation is now in a state of flux with Buchholz returning. Last night Jake Peavy did not help his case to stick in the rotation surrendering seven runs to the Seattle offense. Brandon Workman will start Friday in New York after serving his six game suspension. Rubby De La Rosa, has looked great in his starts, finally showing that he was the prize of the salary dump deal with the Dodgers in the summer of 2012. Felix Doubront’s return to the rotation last week in Oakland did not go well, as he could not get out of the fifth inning. The right choice right now is letting Workman and De La Rosa continue to take a regular turn in the rotation, but with Buchholz, Peavy and Doubront on the roster, that likely will be tough. Doubront did come out of the bullpen in mop up duty last night for two innings, so his turn in the rotation might be in question as well.

The Red Sox have the third worst record in the American League, is it time to focus on 2015? Today the Sox designated Chris Capuano for assignment, which could fuel a series of moves, riding themselves of veteran contracts in hopes of adding to a full farm system. Trading away prospects at this point, would be a true waste, too many teams are in contention to trade away a valuable bat that the Sox need in the middle of the lineup. Veterans to likely be gone by July 31st are A.J. Pierzynski, Jonny Gomes, and Jake Peavy. All three are free agents at the end of the season and will likely not be back with the team next year.

Koji Uehara and Stephen Drew also could also be dealt, Uehara is an interesting case, whether the team wants to chance resigning him in the offseason and seeing if he can be lights out again at age 40 remains to be seen. Stephen Drew has not been what the Red Sox hoped since the mid season signing. Drew, likely came back too soon and was nursing a sore quad for a few days after his debut. Also, moving Xander Bogaerts to third base has proved to be the wrong decision, as his offense has dipped. Some might say the two do not correlate but the writing is on the wall.

Xander Bogaerts Red Sox

Xander Bogaerts production has fallen since the signing of Stephen Drew.

Not saying it is over for these Red Sox, but this year’s team is not the team of 2013. The offense is not getting timely hits, the starting pitching is too inconsistent, and the moves Ben Cherington made did not turn into gold. Not every move a general manager makes is gold like his off season of 2012, but not finding another outfield bat is largely Cherington’s fault. Expecting Jackie Bradley Jr. to provide the same production as Jacoby Ellsbury was not happening. Daniel Nava over performed last season so a drop off had to be expected. And Shane Victorino was hurt most of the last season, so they had to expect the same for this year. The Red Sox do not return home until next Monday against the Cubs, the team will look the same as it left, but with many more questions marks on who is staying and who is going.

Red Sox Report: After Winning 3 in a Row, Sox Still Have Work To Do

After the Red Sox lost ten games in a row, a winning streak was in order right? Well tonight the Sox have a chance to sweep a home and home interleague series with the Atlanta Braves. Losing ten games in a row has to deflate a team and the Sunday afternoon happenings in Tampa Bay seemed to be an example. The benches cleared after Yunel Escobar stole third base up 5 runs in the 7th inning. Escobar began yelling into the Red Sox dugout, even taking off his helmet and walking towards the dugout. Jonny Gomes came in from left field and shoved Escobar, both were ejected. The Red Sox needed something to take their losing streak out on; maybe Escobar stealing third sparked the team.

Clay Buchholz might be missing an extended period of time.

Clay Buchholz might be missing an extended period of time.

Monday’s afternoon game in Atlanta, Clay Buchholz had no command of the strike zone. He walked 8 in just 3 innings of work and rumors began to swirl that he was injured during the game. Manager John Farrell even went as far to say that Buchholz lost seven pounds during the start. Yesterday afternoon Buchholz was played on the disabled list with a hyperextended knee. If Red Sox fans know Buchholz expect him to miss more than 15 days, as every June Buchholz seems to spend an extended time on the disabled list. The team might do better without him as he has a 7.02 ERA. The offense came back from a five run deficit, behind David Ortiz’s 4 RBI and went onto win the game 8-6.

Tuesday’s game was something Jon Lester did not enjoy on the mound, but ended up coming out on top. Lester was seen barking at the home plate umpire on multiple occasions yet not getting tossed or even reprimanded. Lester, who has had many problems with home plate umpires strike zones, fought through a strike zone to which he thought he was getting squeezed and the Sox prevailed yet again 6-3. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a huge two run single in the top of the 7th that put the Sox up by 3. Bradley had been really struggling at the plate as of late, so him contributing in a big spot will do wonders for his confidence.

Manny Ramirez emerged again from the Green Monster prior to last night's game.

Manny Ramirez emerged again from the Green Monster prior to last night’s game.

Before last night’s game the Sox welcomed back the 2004 World Series team for a 10 year reunion and all the familiar faces were there. Pedro, Varitek, Wakefield, Damon, even Manny Ramirez made the return to Fenway. The current day team won yet again behind great pitching from John Lackey who went 6 and 1/3 shutout innings striking out 9. Young players Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley lead the offense with 3 and 2 hits respectively. Bogaerts has really come on offensively of late and is now batting in the two hole ahead of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The Sox need those three to carry the lineup Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli are out.

Last night was the first time the Sox won three in a row all year. They were the last team to accomplish that feat. They jumped over the Rays into fourth place in the division but they still have a lot of work to do. Losing ten games in a row puts you in a real rut. They are still 6 games under .500 which seems like they just do not want to go over this year. The Blue Jays lead the division and are ten games over .500, 8 games up on the Sox. If the Sox want to really catch up quickly they will need to avenge last weekend’s sweep in Tampa and return the favor at Fenway starting tomorrow night. Three in a row is nice, but this team still has a long way to go.

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