New England Patriots face big quarterback decisions in 2017

"Bill Belichick" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison

Bill Belichick (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison

The New England Patriots would have been fearing the worst for the start of their 2016 season after quarterback Tom Brady‚Äôs four-game suspension for the deflategate scandal was reinstated. The four-time Super Bowl champion opted not to take his fight to the Supreme Court, allowing the NFL to claim victory in the matter and leave the AFC East outfit without their starting signal-caller for the opening quarter of the campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

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Judge rules in favor of Tom Brady; smacks down NFL and Roger Goodell

The Deflategate mess has blown up in the face of Roger Goodell and the NFL. They took a misdemeanor infraction by Tom Brady and turned it into a Watergate-level scandal.

Goodell’s foolishness may not hurt the NFL in today’s reality TV world where any exposure seems to be good exposure, but the NFL was coming off one of the most exciting playoffs and Super Bowl in years, and there has been little talk about those great games.

Goodell has become an embarrassment, and this decision, whether upheld or not on appeal, has really harmed the integrity of the league.

Seahawks on verge of luckiest Super Bowl ever; end with biggest choke job ever

This was the greatest Super Bowl ever. The ending was stunning in so many ways, from Tom Brady leading a fourth quarter comeback against the Seattle defense, only to be followed by another miraculous catch that seemed to spell doom again for the Patriots, to what can easily be described as the worst play call in NFL history.

Here are some thoughts with some real time tweets mixed in:

– I’m not a Russell Wilson fan, and I wasn’t looking forward to eating even more crow had he managed to win his second straight Super Bowl. Still, there’s no way I can blame Wilson for the last interception that cost Seattle the game. We can pick apart his throw and the decision (some are explaining you have to throw that ball low at the goal line), but this all comes back to Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell making that asinine play call. Also, looking at this shot below, you can see why Wilson threw the ball and just how brilliant Malcolm Butler was as he broke to the ball to make that play:

Read the rest of this entry »

Seattle defense destroys Denver in Super Bowl

It’s all too easy to make bold proclamations right after a sporting event, and I hate when people are prisoners of the moment. But the Seattle Seahawks defense was amazing tonight as they completely dominated a Denver Broncos offense that rewrote the offensive record book this year. People are already comparing them the the 1985 Chicago Bears and other great defenses. That debate can happen on another day as far as I’m concerned.

What they did tonight was truly impressive against Peyton Manning. They also did it in an era where it seemed that all the rules were rigged in favor of the offense. But the final score was also indicative of a game that completely got away from Denver. That just happens sometimes, and tonight nothing went right for Peyton’s crew. Throw in turnovers and special teams and we witnessed a complete meltdown. But all of it started with the Seattle defense.

That said, we’ve seen this story before. Look at the three greatest quarterback seasons of all time, and we see that Dan Marino, Tom Brady and now Peyton Manning ended up losing the Super Bowl against an excellent defense. We also remember Jim Kelly and the high-flying Bills getting stopped by Bill Parcels and the Giants. So in one respect this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

As for Russell Wilson, the kid deserves a ton of credit. He proved many of us wrong and he’s a Super Bowl champion in his second season. But let’s not overstate things here as well. Russell Wilson was riding the Seattle bus, not driving it. Calling him one of the greats is overreacting, as is calling him Trent Dilfer. Tonight he did what he had to do, though early in the game Seattle settled for two field goals when Denver was doing everything possible to give them the gang. Fortunately, the defense and special teams took over, and Russell Wilson and the offense could coast to the win.

NFL Championship Game Free Picks

AFC Championship Game: Patriots vs. Broncos, 3:00PM ET
After the Broncos hung on to beat the Chargers last Sunday in the Divisional round, oddsmakers opened the line for the AFC title game at Denver -6.5, which immediately drew New England bettors. The line quickly dropped to Denver -4.5 but has since been bet back up to 5, indicating that books are receiving good two-way action on today’s game.

All of that aside, the Patriots have accomplished remarkable feats this year despite losing Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, Tommy Kelly, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker since the start of the offseason. It’s a testament to Bill Belichick’s ability to plan around his strengths and attack opponents’ weaknesses that the Pats are once again back in the AFC title game. That said, the Patriots might finally face their end, ironically at the hands of Peyton Manning, whom they have bested plenty over the past decade.

If Denver can stop LeGarrette Blount, which is no easy task, especially since they too are depleted defensively due to injuries, and force Brady to work outside the numbers, then the Broncos could flip the script on Belichick. It sounds insane for Denver to put the ball in Brady’s hands but New England, in its latest rebirth, is a team that plays power football and uses play-action to stretch defenses vertically. Take away Brady’s ability to use the middle of the field to get the ball to Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola and the Broncos may turn this thing into a track meet.

Again, Belichick has done amazing things with his defenses, including using rookie Jamie Collins as a moveable chess piece in last week’s win over the Colts. But tight end Julius Thomas didn’t play in the first meeting between these two teams, which gives Belichick one more weapon to worry about. While it’s tempting to take the points with a red-hot Patriots team (if not the smart thing based on the value that the point spread offers), I like the Broncos.
FREE PICK: Broncos -5.

NFC Championship Game: 49ers vs. Seahawks, 6:30PM ET
Perhaps no team remaining in the playoff field is playing better than the Niners, whom have put together impressive back-to-back wins against the Packers and Panthers. This would be a perfect time to wax poetically about how difficult it is to win three-straight road games in the postseason but if any team is build to win on the road, it’s San Fran. First and foremost they play outstanding defense, their physical, they can pound the ball on the ground, and Colin Kaepernick’s ability to test the edge gives pause to even the most aggressive defensive coordinators.

But obviously San Francisco will meet its perfect match tonight in Seattle, which too plays outstanding defense, can run the ball and is just as physical is its counterpart – if not more physical. Pete Carroll’s hybrid front often gives opponents fits and nobody plays the Cover 3 better than the Hawks, who are tough to beat outside the numbers. Russell Wilson is also a versatile threat who forces defenses to adjust to his mobility.

So who offers the most value? Honestly, it’s the Niners, who are 3.5-point underdogs. One would expect this game to come down to a field goal based on how evenly matched these two teams are, although I don’t view the game that way.

I admit that this is more of a hunch than anything, but I believe Kaepernick will struggle today. Carolina gave him trouble for most of the first half last week in Carolina and Seattle will be even tougher on him today. The Panthers problem is that they couldn’t reach pay dirt twice in the first half when they had the ball at the goal line. And one thing that has separated Seattle and San Francisco in the previous three meetings is execution inside the red zone. The Hawks have made 11 trips inside the red zone versus San Francisco in the past three meetings, averaging 5.9 points in those three games. The Niners, meanwhile, averaged 2.6 points in 10 trips. Even though Wilson has struggled for nearly a month, I’ll take him in the red zone tonight over Kaepernick, who has had his fair share of issues in Seattle. While the Niners settle for field goals (much like they did a week ago in the first half against the Panthers), I expect the Hawks to eventually pull away with touchdowns.
FREE PICK: Seahawks -3.5.

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