Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pats/Colts Preview

"Maybe we’ll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove."

Well this is it. Everyone has been looking forward to this game every since I turned 22 (January 21, 2007...AFC Championship Game). The Pats get another shot at the Colts. Now that I can finally focus on this game, I am real excited about seeing how this one will turn out. This is for #1 in the AFC. Forget about being the best team in the league. I already know the Pats are the best team in the league. If the Colts beat the Pats on Sunday, I still won't be convinced that they're better than us (unless they run the score up on us, which would be a little ironic I suppose). So, without futher ado, let's get into it. Again, hopefully you will be seeing this on Patriots Insider. By the way, apparently, my stuff has been good enough to hit the "premium" section, but fear not. If you set up a free account on Patriots Insider, you will have access to my articles, as well as all the other great staff members that make contributions.

Pats Look For Revenge In Their Return Trip To Indianapolis

"Be prepared for hysterics and even a fainting spell. Better have smelling salts handy and a nip of brandy." ~Witness for the Prosecution


New England:

Since 2005:

• 3-2 vs. AFC South opponents
• 12-5 after a home game
• 10-2 as a road favorie (current line: NE -6)
• 24-6 playing on turf
• 18-4 after allowing less than 17 points in the previous week (last week: 7)


Since 2005:

• 18-1 at home
• Has not been underdogged at home
• 5-0 vs. AFC East opponents
• 12-2 when the over/under is over 47.5 (currently 57)
• 2-0 vs. New England

Last Meeting: 1/21/07 AFC Championship Game: Indianapolis 38, New England 34 (RCA Dome)
Last Regular Season Meeting: 11/5/06: Indianapolis 27, New England 20 (Gillette Stadium)

Interesting Fact: The meeting between the 8-0 Patriots and the 7-0 Colts will be the first time in the history of the NFL that two teams had met this late in the season that were both undefeated.



POINTS/GAME 41.4 (1) 32.0 (3)
YARDS/GAME 439.5 (1) 399.0 (3)
TURNOVERS 7 (3) 5 (1)
PENALTIES 37 (10) 29 (2)
PENALTY YARDS 305 (12) 183 (2)
3RD DOWN 48.8% (13) 53.9% (2)
4TH DOWN 66.7% (2) 66.7% (2)
SCORING EFFICIENCY 57.8% (1) 54.9% (2)


OPP. POINTS/GAME 15.9 (5) 14.6 (2)
OPP. TOTAL YARDS/GAME 265.8 (3) 272.9 (4)
OPP. 3RD DOWN 28.7% (1) 46.2% (22)
OPP. 4TH DOWN 66.7% (29) 50.0% (28)
OPP. SCORING EFFICIENCY 21.3% (1) 24.6% (4)

Opponents’ Grades and Analysis:


It’s no secret that Peyton Manning has been one of the best signal-callers not only of the past decade, but of all time. Manning’s ability to confuse defenses at the line of scrimmage and break down defensive coverages and blitzes has been well-documented. Of course, a lot of his success has been because of the weapons he has utilized, mainly Harrison and Wayne. While Harrison has been out the past few games with a bruised knee, Reggie Wayne has filled in tremendously in his absence. Wayne could easily be a #1 receiver on just about any other team in the league. He showed he can catch the ball over the middle and on deep balls last week in the game I went to when the Colts played Carolina at Charlotte. Wayne could not be covered by the Panthers’ corners, and went for 168 yards on seven receptions, including a 59-yard bomb down the sidelines. With Harrison likely coming back this week, the gold standard of receiving duos will be reunited. Another facet of the passing offense that Manning utilizes is the middle of the field. While Harrison and Wayne occupy the defensive secondary downfield, it leaves the middle wide open for tight ends Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht to roam free under the coverage. Both these offenses are so effective because there are so many options for both quarterbacks to go to, making it tough on a defense to commit their attention to just one man.



Addai has really impressed me this season, and especially in the game I saw him in last week. The whole “sophomore slump” precedent has not had any effect on Addai this year. Against the Panthers, Addai was able to pick up four to five yards almost every time after initial contact, an attribute all the great backs possess. This will be a great contest between two second-year running backs with Addai and Laurence Maroney. The Colts run a somewhat unusual offense in that they do not have a fullback on the field to lead-block for Addai, and honestly, they really don’t need one with Jeff Saturday at center. Saturday has become the best center in football, and is so explosive off the ball that few nose tackles have the ability to stay near the line when Addai runs through. In addition, the line will be solid for years to come with Lilja, Scott, and Diem all being terrific, and all 28 and under. The big question mark will definitely come with Tony Ugoh, who simply has not been effective this year. It was tough on the Colts when Tarik Glenn suddenly retired during the preseason, and they simply did not have enough time to find a suitable replacement. Richard Seymour is still recovering, and looked rusty last week. If he can get himself back to “game speed” for Sunday, this will be the biggest mismatch on either side of the ball.



Freeney has always been a nuisance against the Patriots, and for that matter, the entire league. On the turf, the Freeney/Matt Light matchup has been completely one-sided, with Freeney able to use his size and speed to blow by Light and cause havoc to Tom Brady. Robert Mathis is also a tremendous pass rusher on the other side. Nick Kaczur will be another guy that will have his hands full on Sunday trying to stop Mathis. Ed Johnson and Robert Mathis have been good at stuffing the middle, but if the Patriots run the ball, look for them to go after the middle of the line, as it is next to impossible to get to the outside with the speed the Colts have on the ends. Gary Brackett is a very underrated middle linebacker, and will be called upon to get Maroney and anyone else who chooses to attack the middle of the field. The outside linebackers will be used mostly on blitzes to add to the pressure coming from the outside. Again, the middle of the field is going to be key for both the Patriots’ run and pass offense. While Vinny Testaverde was throwing for the Panthers, he effectively used short passes over the middle to drive Carolina all the way down the field on their opening drive for a touchdown.



Bob Sanders is finally getting the respect that he deserves. After flying under the radar for the last two seasons, for whatever reason, Sanders is now heralded as one of the best secondary players in the league. Sanders adds a terrific dynamic in terms of aiding the run defense, but also lends himself to making the big hit in the passing game. Despite both their starting cornerbacks from last year’s Super Bowl team now off the team, Marlin Jackson has been tremendous this year. However, his biggest test will come this week trying to cover Randy Moss. The same goes for Hayden, who will likely be lining up opposite Donte’ Stallworth or Wes Welker. Bethea will do everything he can to try and help the young corners out, but it will be tough to account for all the targets Brady will have on the field.


When New England Has The Ball:


RUN YARDS/GAME 135.8 (8) 107.4 (13) PUSH
YARDS/CARRY 4.2 (14) 4.1 (17) PUSH
PASS YARDS/GAME 303.8 (1) 165.4 (1) PUSH
COMPLETION % 73.6% (1) 65.7% (26) NE
QB RATING 133.2 (1) 69.9 (3) PUSH
SACKS 8 (3) 12 (22) NE

Advantage: New England

When Indianapolis Has The Ball:


RUN YARDS/GAME 140.3 (5) 87.0 (6) PUSH
YARDS/CARRY 4.4 (10) 4.2 (22) IND
PASS YARDS/GAME 258.7 (6) 181.5 (5) PUSH
COMPLETION % 65.4% (8) 59.7 (11) PUSH
QB RATING 102.5 (2) 73.0 (5) PUSH
SACKS 5 (2) 22 (5) PUSH

Advantage: Indianapolis

Matchup Of The Game: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis vs. Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, and Whoever Else Can Possibly Block Them

This one bares repeating because of how absolutely monumental this one is. Unless Matt Light got infinitely times better than he was in January, Freeney will likely have his way with him. Light is an above average tackle, but Freeney could be one of the most explosive ends of all time, and simply overmatches Light on the fast track in Indy. Mathis is another speed guy, and it will be tough for Kaczur to keep up with him coming around the end. What I look for is the Patriots to use a lot of sets with Kyle Brady lining up on the left side to help Light out, and also, a mixture of Maroney, Heath Evans, and Kevin Faulk to help out on the strong side with not only blocking, but being decoys to distract Mathis from getting after Brady. If the Pats can neutralize these two forces, it will allow Brady to keep having plenty of time in the pocket to read Indy’s defense, and attack the middle of the field, which is what New England will be looking to do right off the bat.

Key Injuries:

New England:
• Eugene Wilson: Questionable (ankle)
• Benjamin Watson: Questionable (ankle)
• Sammy Morris: Doubtful (chest)

• Tony Ugoh: Questionable (foot)
• Marvin Harrison: Questionable (knee)
• Marlin Jackson: Day-To-Day (neck)

New England Keys To Victory:

1. Protection For Brady: Sure, it was brought up in the “Opponents’ Grades and Analysis,” and in the “Matchup Of The Game,” but there simply is no limit to how much emphasis can be put on this. In all the games played against the Colts, and more so at Indianapolis, the ends repeatedly get around the tackles and put pressure on Brady. Ever since Indy drafted Freeney, it has been like this. Again, if the Pats can figure out a way to at least slow the pass rush down, the Colts will be almost helpless against the pass attack of the Patriots.

2. Attack The Middle: Clearly, the middle of the field is where most of the damage can be done on the Colts’ defense. This is true not only for passing, but also for running the ball. Maroney will be running most of his attempts in between the tackles to avoid the outside pressure. Also, I expect a huge day for Wes Welker, who will be targeted over the middle like he has been all season.

3. Keep Attacking Manning: The Pats had a huge lead at halftime in last year’s AFC Championship game, but decided to only rush a maximum of four in the second half, and played a soft zone which Manning picked apart. If the Patriots had kept up their level of pressure on Manning from the first half into the second, who knows what the outcome could have been? In any event, New England has to keep trying to get to Manning, mixing up their schemes to try and at least give Manning another couple of seconds of indecisiveness. If you let Manning sit in the pocket and pick apart a defense, he will put up his normal, gaudy numbers that helped the Colts come back in January to go to the Super Bowl. If the Patriots want the Super Bowl to run through Foxboro, they will need to stop Manning from having a big game.

Indianapolis Keys To Victory:

1. Bob Sanders: This Indy team is a completely different one without Sanders’ presence, and it showed last year. After being the worst rush defense for most of last year while Sanders was sidelined, he returned just in time for the playoffs, where he was a key figure in stopping Larry Johnson, Corey Dillon, and Thomas Jones in the Colts’ three playoff victories. Sanders was integral in both Colts wins against the Pats last year, and if the Colts are going to try and contain the #1 offense in the league, Sanders is going to have to step up again and make his presence known early and often.

2. Test Richard Seymour: Seymour is obviously not back to full strength, and while Tony Ugoh, the weakest link in the Colts’ offensive line, will be going up against Seymour, the Colts should still see how well the All-Pro defensive end can maneuver. I anticipate a lot of running to the left side of the line, which could also involve pulling Jeff Saturday and Jeff Scott over to drive the running game. If Seymour cannot play up to his normal, outstanding ways, then the Colts will be able to establish a strong running attack that will set up the rest of their offense.

3. Spread The Ball Around On Offense: If Manning starts only targeting one or two receivers, the defense will be able to key up on them, and it may be difficult for Manning to keep the chains moving. However, if Harrison is able to go, this should be no problem in terms of getting multiple receivers involved. What Manning likes to do is establish his outside targets right from the beginning. Even if no points come from it, Manning likes to spread the defense out to open up the middle of the field, where Dallas Clark has become so good at taking advantage of. Also, it helps the inside draw play to Addai when the linebackers are forced to keep track of the receivers split out.

Game Time: 4:15 (CBS), RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN
Announcers: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms

Can't wait 'til Sunday. Peace.


We Win Again

"His conversations kill."

Sure, I'm late to the party, but really, I'll be celebrating until April, so maybe I'm a little early. In any event, congratulations to the 2007 Boston Red Sox, hereby to be known as your World Champs. Sunday was once again a sweep for New England teams much like what happened last week with the Pats and the Sox. First, the Pats snuck by the Redskins 52-7 (more on that later), and then the Sox completed yet another World Series sweep, this time of the Rockies, winning a thriller, 4-3, including another multi-inning outing for Jonathan Papelbon, who could have easily been the series MVP.

While the Sox spent around $140 million to create this team, it turned out that a lot of the guys making short money were the guys who ended up having the biggest impact on the team. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Papelbon, Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen Jacoby Ellsbury, and even Bobby Kielty were heroes of the series. Can you believe a Bobby Kielty home run was the difference in the Sox' clinching game? How more unlikely can you be? Anyway, the real key to the Sox winning once again was the starting pitching. Much like what happened in '04, the Sox' starters came out and were simply dominant in their outings. The firestarter, of course, was Josh Beckett, who, again, should be the Cy Young Winner of the American League (by the way, are there anymore C.C. Sabathia backers?...I know that the award is symbolic of the regular season, but still, the two head-to-head matchups in the playoffs should just kill that debate), was as dominant as any pitcher as ever been in October. Schilling once again showed his prowess in October, and for that reason alone, the Sox should at least consider re-upping with him for another year (although the price tag is pretty steep...$13 million). Dice-K was good enough for people to not be able to throw him under the bus like they have done basically all year. By the way, how can a guy be considered a "bust" if he wins 15 games his first season in the majors? Have you ever heard of anything like that? Sure, it was $103 million en total, but again, it's spread over six years. Plus, do you not think the Sox were picking up some of that revenue from Japan to offset that $51 million posting fee? I think there's more criticism of the Sox signing Dice-K than the Yankees signing Clemens. The guy had 200 K's in 204 innings! He's still got five more years! What is wrong with you people?! Sure he could have been better, but he could have been way worse. Therefore, all and all, it was a successful "rookie" season for the Dice man. And, of course, there was Jon Lester, the feel-good story of the Red Sox. In no way is this a trivialization of Lester's bout with non-Hochkins' lymphoma, but rather, it has more to do with the fact that he came out of the bullpen to pitch brilliantly in Game 4. The future is oh so bright with Lester and Buchholz coming into the rotation next year with Beck, Dice, and, hopefully, Wake.

The hitting was another big story from the series. Going into the games against the Rockies, I gave a slight edge to the Colorado lineup, but after it was all over, there was no question about who was the more superior offensive team. The Sox ended the Series batting .333, the second highest in the history of the World Series. It all started with Game 1, when the Sox exploded for 13 runs in the first five innings of the game. The Rockies' starters and their bullpen were worn out after the first two games, simply not being used to the patience that the Sox' hitters showed at the plate. Never was this more evident than in Game 2, where Ubaldo Jimenez, who has great stuff, simply had no control over his pitches, and despite only giving up two runs on three hits, could not pitch through the fifth inning, and forced Clint Hurdle to go into his 'pen much earlier than he would have wanted. This was a continued theme throughout the series. The Rockies were simply worn out. They had a huge layoff, which I didn't think would matter like it did last year, but in the end, it turned out that the Rockies looked as flat as the Tigers did last year against the Cardinals.

Basically, all that has been said about the Sox has been said. It's taken me three days to let it all sink in (and sleep everything off), but the fact remains that we won the Series...I mean the Sox are World Champs...that's two in four years...did you ever think you would see one? Are we spoiled now? Well, perhaps. Do I care? Not in the least bit. In fact, let the rest of the world talk about Sox fans. Honestly, a little while back, it bothered me that we were labeled "obnoxious" and "spoiled," but now, I just don't care anymore. If you know who you are, and you know about the trials and tribulations that go with following this team, then it doesn't really matter what anyone says...

We win again.

Speaking of not caring about what people think, the Patriots continue to have their way with the NFL, putting a 52-spot on the Redskins last week. Sure, people can talk about the Patriots being unsportsmanlike and unfair for running up the score...but if I listened to what everyone had to say, I would think that my team has been cheating for five years and that all their wins were tainted. So, this is why I have basically formed this opinion: It's us against them. I think the Pats have also took on this mentality, and the fact that people said the Pats couldn't win without cheating has simply fueled the fire that is Belichick. Sure, if you asked him straight up about all of this, he would throw out that all of this is ridiculous, but come on. I know what's going on. You (i.e. the NFL, its coaches, players, owners, officials, and everyone covering the league) screw with us, we are going to beat all of you into submission and twist your arm and say "uncle." We're the bullies now, because you have messed with us, and the Patriots have officially taken on the role of "the bad guys" because they stopped caring about everything. They stopped caring about this whole "sportsmanship" aspect of the game because that whole theory was thrown against us when we were called out for stealing signs. Why should the Patriots be sportsmanlike? Because "it's the right thing to do?" The Pats have been the class franchise for this century, and yet, our integrity was put into question because a jealous coach in the Meadowlands felt like his joke of a team actually had a shot against us. This is like getting snitched out for being in the mob, serving the sentence (i.e. the first rounder, and the $750,000 in collective fines), coming back out, and going on almost a murderous rampage. Will this stop? Well, the fact of the matter is that this team will be devastated if they don't bring home a title. All of our previous titles have been brought into question, so if the Pats are able to win this one, it would be the last in a long and lengthy series of middle fingers to everyone who has questioned our ability to play this game. If you don't want the Pats to run up the score, how about playing a little defense? The last time I checked, Washington supposedly had the fifth best defense in the league, and they gave up 45 offensive points, but no one questions that. They don't question how miserable the 'Skins defense was. Instead, they question why Brady was still throwing in the fourth quarter. If Belichick wants to risk Brady getting hurt in the fourth, that's his prerogative. If you wanted to send Belichick a message, why not blitz Brady and try to knock him down? Instead, the 'Skins played soft zone for basically the entire second half. Are we supposed to just sit there and let them get away with that? If you don't want to play hard and cover receivers, you will pay in this league. Also, Joe Gibbs, if you are ok with how we went about doing things, why didn't you shake Bill's hand at the end of the game? I don't like LT because he's a total fairy, but at least he said what was on his mind...however stupid it may have been. Of course Gibbs had a problem with what we did. If you're a Redskins player/coach/front office guy/fan, how could you not have a problem with what the Patriots did? We embarrassed them thoroughly, and basically made a mockery of both their offense and defense all game long. How could you not be offended by that? If you have a problem, say it. What difference is it going to make? Gibbs would have basically reflected the opinion of about every non-Patriot fan and every media member. Or, shake Bill's hand at the end, and say it's not an issue, like basically every NFL coach has come out and said throughout the week.

Well, it's on to Indy now. I'll have a preview up for this one real soon. Take care everyone.




Friday, October 26, 2007

NFL Week 8/College Week 9 Predictions

"Well I went to a dance just the other night
Everybody there was there."


Thank you Dave Clark Five for singing one of the most bizarre lines in rock and roll history. Ok, in any event, last week was good, but it needs to be better. So, here's how I plan on doing it:


Georgia vs. Florida:
The "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" commences once again this year. Right now, Florida is about the best two-loss team you may ever see, as they have been firing on all cylinders after two straight losses to LSU and Auburn at home. Florida has won four of the last five meetings, all by a touchdown or less. Much like the FSU/Miami game last week, it really doesn't matter how good the teams are...they're going to play close. Florida (W), Georgia (+9.5).

West Virginia vs. Rutgers: West Virginia's one loss was to South Florida at South Florida by eight. Now, they're "back" apparently? I don't really know how a team can fall so far out of favor with America than West Virginia. They have one loss! Their backup running back might win the Heisman next year! Also, Rutgers winning another huge game at home? They're good...I'm not quite sure they're that good. Mountaineers (W, -6).

Ohio St. vs. Penn St.: If this was played at the Horseshoe, it may have been the Buckeyes in a laugher. However, this is Happy Valley, a place that has haunted Ohio St. I will say this: If Ohio St. can somehow win this game, they may be able to cruise to the National Championship because they have no championship game (then again, the way Michigan's playing..."I'm not so sure about that"). Penn St. (W, +3.5).

South Florida vs. UConn: Wow I love UConn football. That is a shirt that will be mine...oh yes. I love how the Huskies have gone from the building stages of a D-1 program to a top 25 team in like five years. Last week, the refs blew the fair catch call to give the Huskies the game over Louisville, one of the most egregious calls you may ever see (one which the Big East has apologized for profusely, which does...well, nothing really; anytime a conference has to apologize for the officials, two things should happen: 1.) The refs need to either be fired or at least suspended for a couple of games, and 2.) Neither team should be credited for a win or a loss...make it like the game never happened, because if the refs can turn a game on a dime like they did last week, in a lot of ways, it didn't). In any event, South Florida is reeling, but the fact that this is a 3:30 game makes me think they will be able to bounce back. Again, I love UConn...South Florida (W, -4).

Colorado vs. Texas Tech: Colorado was 'dogged on the road to Baylor! Sure, they gave Kansas a game last week, but much like their baseball counterparts, home field is big for Colorado. Me, personally, I like my chances with Tech coming off a lashing against Mizzou last week. Red Raiders (W, -13.5).

Southern Cal vs. Oregon: Dennis Dixon and his merry band of over-achievers take on the Trojans, fresh off their whooping of everyone's favorite national television disaster. I ran into a guy I know at the bar last night who was a Steelers/Notre Dame fan...I mean after "hi, how are ya?," where can I go?...Hey, Notre Dame almost scored, or hey, the Steelers may win the North because all the other teams in the division are imploding. In any event, Oregon (W, -3).

Clemson vs. Maryland: It's always nice to pick against Clemson...always...oh yeah...and I'm getting points at College Park? Giddeup! Terps (W, +4).

Virginia vs. North Carolina St.: Virginia = Fuego. N.C. State = Not Fuego. Virginia (W, -3).

Michigan St. vs. Iowa: So have I missed every single Iowa game this year? Probably. Oh well. In any event, the home team wins every time here, so I'm looking for the Hawkeyes to duplicate what they did against Illinois at home. Iowa (W, -3).

UCLA vs. Washington St.: Washington St. has won four of the last five meetings, and the one loss was by three points. It's chiasmic. Washington St. (W, +6).

Last Week: SU: 7-3, ATS: 7-3
Season: 41-25, ATS: 37-26-3


Washington vs. New England: As I've said all week long, Washington is a quality opponent that should not be taken likely. The Pats have been smoking people, but again, this ATS streak has to end eventually, and it almost did last week vs. Miami. I'm seeing Washington coming out and scoring first for some reason, and that this will actually be a tight game. Patriots (W), Redskins (+16.5).

Cleveland vs. St. Louis: So this is it for the Rams. If they don't win this, it's smooth sailing to 0-16. So, with that being said, I like the Rams to finally break through. Also, Steven Jackson is coming back. Fantasy owners rejoice! Rams (W, +3).

Detroit vs. Chicago: Detroit already has one on the Bears this year...I could not be more confused about this Bears team. Really, it doesn't matter a whole bunch where I go with this one, because I have almost zero confidence in where I go in this game. Lions? (W, +5).

Indianapolis vs. Carolina: So Vinny goes on the road and beats Arizona, and his reward is the bench. This is arguably the worst 4-2 team in the history of the NFL, and I hope with David Carr at QB, they get smoked this week...I know I'll be there. Indy (W, -7).

New York vs. Miami: Live from London. So this could be the worst decision the NFL ever made. Screw a team out of a home game, and play in front of people who think football is a completely different sport. Still, I'm curious as to what will happen. Miami got its first class ticket to Screwedville last week when Ronnie Brown went down for the year. The Giants will go on a long losing streak, but again, this is the wrong week for it. G-Men (W, -9.5).

Oakland vs. Tennessee: Oakland plays Tennessee very close, so I'm liking that. Tennessee (W), Oakland (+8).

Philadelphia vs. Minnesota: The Vikings have only had two home games all year, and the Eagles have been dreadful on the road, beating only the Jets away from the Linc. Vikings (W, +2).

Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati: The home team has been surprisingly awful in this series. Cincy pulled one out against those "pesky" Jets, and Pittsburgh got beat by Denver on the road, which I accurately predicted would screw me over. In any event, I think this is going to be one of those 38-35 games...which actually favors Cincy...Bungles (W, +3.5).

Buffalo vs. New York: The Jets have been dreadful, and once again, they refuse to start Kellen Clemens. When 95% of the money is going towards the road team, you know the Jets have fallen out of favor with the public that would put money on games if that were legal. Buffalo (W, +3).

Houston vs. San Diego: The Texans were close to completing one of the best comebacks in NFL history, but the Sage Rosenfels experiment fell short to Rob Bironas...and I guess the Titans were playing too. The Texans have lost five in a row ATS, and San Diego is coming off a bye. San Diego (W, -9.5).

Jacksonville vs Tampa Bay: Garrard is out for a month, and the line went bananas when that news broke, going from Jags favored by three to Bucs by four. Tampa is 3-0 at home, and Jacksonville is 2-0 on the road. Quinn Gray at QB?...Ehhh...Tampa (W, -4).

New Orleans vs. San Francisco: The Niners have looked awful, losing their last four. However, the Saints have been even worse ATS (1-5). So, I look for the Niners to rebound. 'Frisco (W, +3).

Green Bay vs. Denver: The Broncos again get a national TV game at home...what are the odds? In any event, Denver is 0-3 as a favorite, and once again, it's almost impossible to go against the Brett Favre "will I retire a winner, paralyzed, or both?" ride. Packers (W, +3).

Last Week: SU: 10-4, ATS: 6-8
Season: 69-34, ATS: 55-39-9

Take it easy. Peace.


Friday October 26th, 2007: Boston Is On Top Of The Sports Universe

" Trying to stop my hands from shakin'
Somethin' in my mind's not makin' sense
It's been a while since we were all alone
I can't hide the way I'm feelin'."

We're everything.

I mark the date for my title because when I look back on the history of Boston sports, this will arguably be the highest of all highs that it can get to. The Sox just won their second straight World Series win, sending the series to Colorado needing just two wins for the franchise's seventh title. The Patriots have beat at least 17 points, and face a good Washington team this weekend (more on that to come). The Bruins are off to a 6-3 start, forcing my boss to order the hockey package for the bar. The Celtics are favored to win the Eastern Conference, and start regular season next week against the Wizards, and last but certainly not least...the Boston College Eagles.

I've said all along that the Eagles will not win the national title...but man was that a hell of a win last night in Blacksburg. Can anyone recall someone coming into a game as one of the favorites to win the Heisman, then becoming a goat on the wrong end of a dominating performance by the opposing team's defense, and then, in just two and a half minutes, he becomes the favorite to win the Heisman? Matt Ryan looked like a goat for basically the entire game, making horrible decisions, having no poise in the pocket, and just looking completely uncomfortable. But then, with the game on the line down 10-0, and Virginia Tech's unwillingness to win the game despite having tons and tons of opportunities to put the Eagles away, Matt Ryan stepped up and basically took the team on his back, chugging down the field and throwing a tremendous touchdown pass to make it a field goal game. Then, VA Tech made another blunder, and giving the ball back to the Eagles after being unable to recover the onside kick. Ryan then engineered another fantastic drive, throwing all over a Hokie defense that had been unforgiving through the first three and 9/10 quarters. Finally, Ryan, who had been running frantically away from the VA Tech D-line all game, and was once again forced to run around to escape the pressure, found a wide open Andre Callender, arguably the nation's most underrated running back, in the end zone to put the Eagles on top for the first time all game...with 11 seconds remaining. With a win against a top 10 team on the road, it may not even matter what happens to Ohio St. this weekend when they go on the road to Happy Valley this weekend. Because BC was so close to the Buckeyes in the BCS before this game, the win likely will help them jump Ohio St. into the #1 spot heading into next week. The funny thing was that I really thought the Eagles were going to win this one, and I was more worried for them about playing Maryland next week than I was against the Hokies. They really did not have much to lose. If they lost this game, they would likely have dropped to only #3 in the country because of the disparity between the third and fourth place teams in the BCS. Another thing: They were 'dogged going into the game, and yet, I was reading an article on ESPN about how VA Tech could pull off the "upset" despite the fact BC was 'dogged 3 1/2 points heading into the game. Is it my imagination, or doesn't a team have to be favored to get upset? Clearly, like myself, Vegas had underestimated BC's resolve, and did not think they could win a big game. While I thought they would win, I certainly had my doubts, but now, they go into College Park next week the #1 team in the country.

The Sox have shown so far they can win with everything. In the first game, they beat down both the starter, Jeff Francis, and the rest of the Rockies' bullpen with a never-ending offensive onslaught, tying and breaking team and baseball records along the way in the 13-1 win. Then, in Game 2, Ubaldo Jimenez, while throwing wild, was able to keep the Sox guessing long enough to keep the scoring to a minimum. However, Curt Schilling, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon were just that more impressive, and had it not been for a bloop hit by Matt Holliday that caromed off Mike Lowell's glove, they may not have scored at all. While Schilling pitched another great game, the credit really needs to be given to Okie. All postseason, he has shown why he was one of the most valuable Sox players all season long, but last night, if there was still any doubt about his ability to perform on the biggest stage, it was wiped away by 2 1/3 innings of brilliance, striking out four along the way, and not allowing a single baserunner to reach. In addition, he was brought on with two runners on in the sixth, and did not allow them to score, which was absolutely critical given the circumstances. I will say that the Rockies did perform a 180 as far as their bullpen goes. Pitching Herges, Fuentes, and Corpas, their three best, they only three hits scattered over 3 1/3 innings, keeping Colorado in the game all the way until the very last pitch. This will continue to be a big storyline as the series shifts to Mile High. With no DH, can the Sox keep pace with Colorado's offense, who will likely be at least a little more impressive than they were in the first two games? If Josh Fogg and Aaron Cook can make quality starts, and keep the Sox offense off-balance in the process, it may be a tough task for Boston to try and come from behind given how well the bullpen was in Game 2. I personally think Game 1 was an aberration of what the Rockies have out there. Morales and Speier literally walked the Rockies out of that game, and it's not like Josh Beckett is going to give up a lead like that in the World Series. So now, Game 3 at Denver, Dice against Josh Fogg. This will be the first ever outing for Dice in Denver. While I still am unsure of how I feel about that, the biggest question has to be the musical chairs match of Papi/Lowell/Youk. Right now, it would seem like you almost have to sit Youk, even though he has been scorching this postseason, for at least Game 3. Ortiz...well, I mean what else can possibly be said about him in October? And as far as Lowell goes, not only has he been the MVP of the team, a great defender at third, and the guy responsible, at least on the offensive side, for winning Game 2, he has played at Mile High a bunch, recording almost 100 plate appearances there. Again, it really comes down to what happens in Game 3 that will determine the fate of this series. If the Sox are able to win, I immediately sit Ortiz and play Youk at first, and throw Beckett in for Game 4 to try and win right now. If on the off-chance Beckett happens to appear human, you still have a 3-1 series advantage, and with a day off for Ortiz, he will be back in the lineup for Game 5, where Jon Lester will likely take the ball. Then, if that game doesn't go as planned, the Sox will return to Boston and pitch Schilling in a Game 6 again. Again, Schilling and Game 6 has proven to be a great combination. The Sox' thinking could be to wait on Beckett until Game 5, which I completely understand. You want to give the guy his four days' rest. However, if the Sox do win that critical Game 3, the Rockies will officially be in one-man's land, down 0-3, and that one man, or in this case, team, that has been able to navigate themselves out of that place is the team they are facing in this series. So, why even let the Rockies back in it? I love Jon Lester, but Josh Beckett is on another level...maybe even another planet compared to any pitcher in baseball right now. So, Saturday will be a huge game for the Sox, and the undercard will be the Cocks/Vols game, with both trying to rebound from two demoralizing defeats last week.

The view certainly is nice from up here. Sure, it won't last forever...I think, but for now, it's good to take it all in, and talk about it to every single living person I can get a hold of. That's all for the moment. Plenty still to come.




Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cleveland Rocks!...Thanks For The Push, We're 2007 AL Champs!

"This is what you get, when you mess with us."

Here's something to keep in mind for the people who gave Indians fans World Series towels before Game 5: Next time you are close to getting there, you may want to wait until you actually advance before you start waving those towels around in front of the opposition...especially the Sox. I mean did we really need any more motivation going into that game? We're a game away from elimination, our best pitcher is on the think they would attempt to be a little more modest before starting their celebration. Now, they're all goats, ripe to be poked fun at by the whole damn world...luckily, I am a member of the damn world I speak of, and now, you're going to hear about it.

Planning parades, celebrating preemptively, why do people still try and motivate New England teams? Don't you know what will happen? You will lose time and time again. Ask the Chargers. Last year, they planned a parade for when they won the AFC Championship, basically writing off the Pats. After the game, their fans booed the team, partially because San Diego lost, but mostly because they dropped two grand on Super Bowl tickets that wouldn't feature their team. Now, Cleveland thinks the series is over. Ryan Garko tells everyone "the champagne tastes as good on the road," and Kenny Lofton tries to start a fight with Beckett...why? Why motivate us? All we're going to do is embarrass you, and when it's over, you will be watching us on TV, and the season will be over. So, for the future, please, for your own good, don't do it anymore. It will just lead to the pain and misery. I know about pain and's not such a great place to be.

So thank you Cleveland for helping the ratings (highest since '04), and giving the Sox, and the fans, that adrenaline push to get us back to the World Series. In all honesty, I said after Game 4 that "Indians fans want this thing right now more than we do," and it was a perfectly correct assumption. Game 2's crowd was abysmal. There was no energy for the extra innings, and, hello, that's the time when the energy has to be there. Indians fans were going wild every inning for Games 3 and 4, and it seemed like Sox fans (again, speaking about those in the building at the time) were almost content that the Sox were going to let this game slip away. Then, after Game 5, everything changed. The towels, Lofton, Garko running his mouth after the game, and Curt Schilling in another Game team, and I mean no team could have come back from those circumstances. To say this was like the '86 ALCS would be a complete understatement...this was the '86 series all over again. A team, up 3-1 in the series against the Sox, this time being the Angels, that was so sure that they would win the series that they were already distributing "1986 American League Champions" t-shirts down in the clubhouse. The home crowd was in a frenzy, the players were walking with their chests pumped out, it seemed like it was all over but the crying...then Dave Henderson hit the home run of Donnie Moore in the ninth, then the sac fly in the 11th to win the game...and the Angels never recovered. They got trampled at Boston in two straight games, and they were sent home with their tail in between their legs. The heroes were also of the unexpected variety, especially in the case of J.D. Drew, who, despite hitting the grand slam and driving in five in Game 6, is still far from redeeming himself from the never-ending suck-fest he put on for $14 million this year. Joe Buck said Drew "erased the season" with that hit..."I'm not so sure about that."

In any event, the Sox are in, so now, who are these Colorado Rockies that can't be beat? Well, obviously, they have a great lineup, which is headlined by the potential MVP (Matt Holliday) and Rookie Of The Year (Troy Tulowitzki) of the National League, but they have a bunch of other guys that can do some damage. Rightfielder Brad Hawpe and third baseman Garrett Atkins both had over 25 homers and over 110 RBIs. Throw in Todd Helton, and you're looking at five guys who can flat out hit. Sure, their stats are inflated by Coors Field, but hey, they are going to play at least two games there in this series. In addition to the mashers in the middle of the order, the Rockies have two guys at the top of their lineup (Willy Tavarez, Kaz Matsui) who have stolen over 30 bases.

Their lineup is great, but the biggest factor for the Rockies' chances of winning this series rest on the pitching staff. Jeff Francis has been outstanding in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA. Then, well, if Francis was "unknown" enough, the rest of the staff is a mystery to even the biggest baseball fans. Ubaldo Jimenez was the Game 2 pitcher in the NLCS. I saw the game, and I have to say I was impressed by his exploding fastball. Jimenez wasn't very impressive in the regular season, and has a serious problem with his control. In fact, he's very much like Fausto Carmona, which could be a huge advantage for the Sox if they can be patient at the plate. Game 3 will feature Josh Fogg, who is another guy who I can't quite understand why he is having the success he's having. Fogg has had a fairly mediocre career, and actually wasn't in the starting rotation until the NLCS. Finally, Game 4 will feature the biggest wild card of them all, Franklin Morales. In two starts, he has only gone a combined seven innings in the postseason. One of the biggest underlying stories of this series will be Colorado's focus on finding hard-throwing pitching in the Domincan, Central America, and Venezuela. Morales is from Venezuela, Jimenez is from the D.R., and perhaps the Rockies' best pitcher, Manny Corpas, is from Panama. Plus, the Rockies have more on the way in the minors to replenish the bullpen in the next few years. What is surprising to me is the amount of supposedly "washed-up" relievers Colorado has. Guys like Matt Herges, Jeremy Affeldt, LaTroy Hawkins, Jorge Julio...Jorge Julio! What a crazy world we live in where Jorge Julio will be relied on in the World Series. In any event, the bullpen goes with Corpas and former close Brian Fuentes. It's not like Fuentes was not effective, it's just that Corpas was so good in Fuentes' absence that they decided to keep him as the closer.

Clearly, the Sox have an advantage in starting pitching and in the bullpen in terms of depth. However, the lineups are about even...maybe even a slight edge to Colorado. So, if the Rockies' pitching can keep them in games, Colorado, despiting being a 2-to-1 underdog, has a reasonable chance at making this series close. I think the Rockies really have to put the Sox away early to win. If this series goes back to Boston a second time, I just don't think the Rockies will have enough to win. The key for them will simply be to get a split in Boston. It will be Beckett vs. Francis in Game 1, with a clear advantage going to the Sox in that one. If Colorado can somehow beat Beckett, they will not only get a 1-0 series lead, but they will both keep the momentum going on their own streak (21 wins in 22 games), they will halt the Sox' winning ways as well, and throw them back into the position they were in during the Cleveland series.

Interesting news handed down today, as Wake will be left off the roster for the series, meaning that right now, there is no starter for Game 4. Schill will go Game 2, Dice in Game 3, but who will go Game 4? It is totally dependent on how the series has gone up to that point. One of the factors will be what the series advantage is at that point. If there's a 3-0 lead for either team, I would think Beckett will be in there to attempt to save/win the series for the Sox. However, if it's 2-1, I think the Sox will call upon Jon Lester to pitch the fourth game. Lester pitched a simulated game today, and from what the people on the inside are rumbling, it went very well. So, that will be interesting if it comes down to that situation about how effective Lester will be. Despite getting rocked in the 11th inning of Game 2, Lester came in Game 4 and was masterful, giving up just one hit and striking out four in three innings of relief.

Probably the biggest story going is the lay-off the Rockies have had before the Series starts, which will hit nine days on Wednesday. I guess the reason this is so big is because of what happened last year. After Detroit quickly bounced the A's in the ALCS, they were heavy favorites, and St. Louis was made out to be a team that was basically an after-thought in terms of even standing a chance in the series. So after the Cardinals pulled it off last year, I can see why some writers would look to that as being a "key" or whatever. Personally, I think it's completely different this year. The Sox come in as overwhelming favorites, and right now, no one is giving the Rockies a chance. Remember, this is a team that rifled its way through the last part of the season and the playoffs, and really should not be taken lightly. Also, they've been catching a tremendous amount of breaks, especially in the Wild Card determining game, where Matt Holliday was clearly out, yet called safe at home. If the Padres win that game, that's it for the Rockies. They won't be mentioned until probably next April at the earliest. However, they got that call, and proceeded to beat down on Philly and Arizona. While these are two good teams, they are not the caliber of team the Sox are. Also, the Sox have been catching breaks lately as well. So could it come down to a team that catches the most breaks? Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Game 1 will definitely be the table-setter. The Rockies, as of right now, have been given absolutely no shot to beat Beckett. If they go out and pull off the improbable, they will be sitting pretty, with the series at least split going back to Denver, having beaten the best pitcher in baseball right now. For the Sox, Game 1 will not be a clear indication on how they can expect the series to unfold. That honor will go to Dice-K pitching at Mile High in Game 3. Call me overconfident, call me what you will, but I'm not really concerned about the first two games. Don't get me wrong, I am sitting here filled with as much anticipation as I can possibly have for any sporting event my team is involved in, but I am already looking at Game 3 as the potential tipping point of the series. Again, if I'm in charge, Dice-K doesn't even get a chance to pitch in Denver. He pitches Game 2, and Game 6 if necessary. Schilling has been there done that not only in the postseason, but in Denver. He was in the National League until '04, and made 14 starts in Denver. But hey, I'm sitting here writing as a fan, and that's all. I like Dice, and I hope he pitches well in Game 3, but I'm big on experience and a proven track record. In any event, I still don't know all there is to know about the Rockies, but I'm anxiously waiting to find out what they've got in store for the Sox.

Game 1 of the World Series tomorrow night.

So, again, a big thank you to the city of Cleveland, the Indians, and their fans for thinking they had the series in the bag, and taking us for granted. Now you're crushed, and you have all winter to think about it. We've done it before so don't feel bad...wait...yeah you should.

Game 1 of the World Series tomorrow night.




Friday, October 19, 2007

Pats/Dolphins Preview

"Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger than moonshine."

So here you go. The spreadsheet tables came up horribly. Sorry about that. In any event, I hope this gets put up on Saturday. Hopefully, this will help you for those two to three minutes that ESPN is not running coverage, pseudo-presidential assassination/major catastrophe, about Joe Torre not going back to the Yankees. Sure, it's a big story that Torre felt disrespected, but is there any chance you can talk about a team that is still playing games? I guess we get our 15 minutes, and they get their day and a half...typical. In any event, Joe Torre has now taken the lead for my favorite manager ever, and until Francona puts Ellsbury in to replace Coco (i.e., freggin tomorrow), Torre will assume the pole position. He stuck it to the Yankees almost as bad as we did in '04.

Pats Looking To Avoid A Letdown Facing The Winless Dolphins

“And maybe there's no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else, I don't know. But I do know that, as long as we live, we must remain true to ourselves.” ~Spartacus

Here’s a look at how the Patriots match up against the Dolphins in this week’s game at Miami.


New England:

Since 2005:

• 11-5 after playing a road game
• 11-5 after scoring 25 or more points
• 5-4 on grass
• 11-3 vs. AFC East opponents
• 5-4 when the over/under is over 47.5 (currently 51.5)


Since 2005:

• 9-9 at home
• 2-1 when underdogged by 10 or more points (current line: NE -16.5)
• 5-12 after playing a road game
• 6-15 after a loss
• 3-2 as a home underdog

Last Meeting: 12/10/2006: Miami 21, New England 0 (Dolphin Stadium)

Interesting Fact: Despite being tied with Roger Staubach for the most wins ever for a quarterback in his first 100 starts (76), Tom Brady is just 2-4 in six career starts at Miami.




POINTS/GAME: 38.1 (1ST)/21.3 (13TH)
YARDS/GAME: 431.2 (1ST)/325.0 (21ST)
TURNOVERS: 5 (2ND)/12 (23RD)
PENALTIES: 26 (9TH)/43 (29TH)
PENALTY YARDS: 225 (13TH)/348 (30TH)
3RD DOWN: 48.5% (14TH)/40.0% (23RD)
4TH DOWN: 60.0% (3RD)/100.0% (1ST)
SCORING EFFICIENCY: 56.5% (2ND)/40.3% (6TH)



OPP. POINTS/GAME: 15.3 (6TH)/30.3 (29TH)
OPP. TOTAL YARDS/GAME: 257.0 (2ND)/352.2 (23RD)
OPP. 3RD DOWN: 30.6% (1ST)/53.8% (31ST)
OPP. 4TH DOWN: 50.0% (14TH)/66.7% (29TH)
OPP. SCORING EFFICIENCY: 22.7% (2ND)/54.1% (32ND)

Opponents’ Grades And Analysis:



Miami traded away its best receiver, Chris Chambers, to the Chargers for a second round pick in next year’s draft. Does that mean they are throwing the towel in on this season? Not necessarily. Lemon has proved to be a capable quarterback coming in for Trent Green. Lemon accounted for four touchdowns in last week’s loss to Cleveland (two rushing, two passing). While Lemon loses a nice weapon in Chambers, it didn’t appear as though he was relied on too heavily in scoring situations, having zero touchdown catches. Marty Booker has been a consistently solid guy catching balls. Ted Ginn has become a bigger part of the offense with every passing week, and quite frankly has to be considering the spot he was taken in the draft. Look for a bunch of balls to go his way with Booker being covered by Asante Samuel. David Martin is quietly becoming one of the better young tight ends in the league. While not mentioned above, Ronnie Brown is now the team’s leading receiver, and will get a lot of looks coming out of the backfield.



On either side of the ball, this is by far and away the best part of this Dolphins team. Ronnie Brown has literally and figuratively carried this offense. His 526 yards on the ground places him third in the league. After battling injuries and having two average seasons (average for a guy picked 2nd overall in the draft), Brown has emerged as one of the top backs in the league. He also has a 5.2 average per carry, and has yet to fumble the football. The line in front of him is a little above average. Vernon Carey has made a fairly good transition from guard to tackle over the last few years. The Dolphins think Satele is a future Pro-Bowler at center, and they should hope so, as he was part of the compensation in the Wes Welker trade to the Patriots.



While this group certainly has a lot of big names and big talent, they are not getting any younger, and the rust is starting to show on them. Taylor is probably the best defensive end in football, and has been an absolute house of horrors against the Pats. You don’t have to look to far to see his, and the Dolphin dominance. Last year, in their 21-0 win at Miami, Taylor and Co. Sacked Tom Brady four times, held Corey Dillon to 79 yards rushing, and forced three fumbles. I expect the Dolphins to bullrush Brady with both Taylor and Joey Porter from opposite ends. Sammy Morris definitely won’t play, and Laurence Maroney likely won’t, so this unit will be facing third-stringer Kevin Faulk on Sunday, making it that much easier for them to disrupt the offense. Not having Vonnie Holliday in the lineup will certainly weaken the line, as Holliday and Taylor make up one of the best tackle/end combos in the league.



In all honesty, if the front seven does not get pressure on Brady, this unit will get absolutely torched. The Cowboys had a fairly good secondary, and look what happened to them. What Miami needs to do to is to stay at home on play fakes, and really read what Brady and the rest of the offense are doing to try and move the ball. They need to be looking to make the big play and try to get the offense good field position when they are starting their drives. If Brady has time, this game could get ugly real quick.


When New England Has The Ball:

RUN YARDS/GAME: 141.7 (7TH)/168.5 (31ST)/NE
YARDS/CARRY: 4.2 (14TH)/4.5 (25TH)/NE
PASS YARDS/GAME: 289.5 (1ST)/183.7 (6TH)/NE
COMPLETION %: 72.5% (1ST)/58.7% (7TH)/NE
QB RATING: 128.9 (1ST)/96.7 (29TH)/NE
SACKS: 6 (4TH)/8 (26TH)/NE

Advantage: New England

When Miami Has The Ball:

RUN YARDS/GAME: 104.5 (18TH)/78.3 (5TH)/NE
YARDS/CARRY: 4.8 (7TH)/4.0 (17TH)/MIA
PASS YARDS/GAME: 220.5 (16TH)/178.7 (4TH)/NE
COMPLETION %: 58.8% (25TH)/59.3% (8TH)/NE
QB RATING: 69.9 (26TH)/74.0 (9TH)/NE
SACKS: 10 (15TH)/16 (6TH)/NE

Advantage: New England

Matchup Of The Game: Ronnie Brown vs. Patriots’ Front Seven

Last week, while Dallas did not run very often, when they did, they were extremely effective. It looked like the Pats would be missing two or three tackles on every single running play, but had a lead for basically the entire game, which forced Dallas to go through the air. This week, Richard Seymour is scheduled to come back and play. His effectiveness is unknown, but what can be said is that these guys are a whole lot better when he is in the lineup. Miami doesn’t have the best line, but they are solid, and they will test the Patriot resolve. Unlike Dallas, Miami clearly likes to keep things simple and go to Brown as much as they can both on the ground and passing to him out of the backfield. Roosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas, the two outside linebackers, are going to have to watch out for this all game long. While Lemon is susceptible to the occasional sack, he can be elusive, and when he can escape pressure, it leaves the secondary and the linebackers in coverage exposed. If the Patriots are planning on a blowout, they need to keep Brown in check. Last year, then-Dolphin Sammy Morris ran for 123 yards and a score. I would not be surprised if Brown was able to duplicate those numbers.

Key Injuries:

New England:

• Randall Gay: Questionable (thigh)
• Laurence Maroney: Questionable (groin)
• Sammy Morris: Out (chest)
• Benjamin Watson: Questionable (ankle)
• Adalius Thomas: Questionable (ankle)
• Donte’ Stallworth: Questionable (knee)


• Trent Green: Out (concussion)
• Vonnie Holliday: Out (ankle)
• Travares Tillman: Out (knee)
• David Martin: Probable (ankle)
• Zach Thomas: Probable (toe)

New England Keys To Victory:

1. Turnover Margin: Last year, the Pats did themselves in by fumbling four times, losing three of them. To eliminate any chance the Dolphins may have in this game, the Patriots cannot give Miami any cheap points by turning the ball over in their own territory, and set the Dolphins up with a short field.

2. Stop The Run: While it will be really hard to totally “stop” the run, the Pats need to at least contain Ronnie Brown. If they allow him to do his usual damage of 100 yards and over five yards a carry, the Dolphins will be able to control the pace of the game, which does not bode well for the Pats, especially considering this team is very hungry for their first win, and have shown that they can put up a lot of points given the right opportunities.

3. Move The Ball On The Miami Secondary: The Pats have the #1 passing offense in the league, and considering both Maroney and Morris could be out for this one, New England will have to rely on Tom Brady more than ever. While Miami is bad against the run, and they have the sixth best pass defense in yards, they are 29th in yards per attempt, 29th in opposing QB rating, and 30th in interceptions, meaning that the front seven does most of the damage for the secondary. If the Pats’ line can slow the impending pass rush, Brady should be able to put up big numbers in Miami.

Miami Keys To Victory:

1. Constant Pressure On Brady: This was how they won the game last year. The defense got to Patriot quarterbacks five times in that game. They seemed to be in Brady’s face all game long, and had just a few seconds to drop back and find a receiver. Brady was 12 of 25 for just 78 yards. If Jason Taylor does what he did last year, and if Zach Thomas can play the way he always has against New England, Miami could force some turnovers, and have a real shot at winning this game.

2. Ronnie Brown All Day Long: Once the Dolphins traded away Chris Chambers, Brown has become the Dolphins’ only big-play guy. He does it on the ground, and he does it catching the ball as well. The Patriot defense looked dreadful in the meaningful parts of last week’s game against Dallas’ running attack, so if Miami can control that aspect, Cleo Lemon could open it up and throw to Ted Ginn or Marty Booker in single coverage.

3. History: It seems that no matter how well the Patriots are playing, they have an incredibly tough time playing in Miami. Maybe it’s the humidity, maybe it’s the defense, but the Pats have never seemed right playing the Dolphins in Florida, while the same can be said about Miami playing up in Foxboro. Sure, the Patriots have looked unstoppable, but this could be a letdown game after playing Dallas, and hosting the Redskins next week. If they overlook the Dolphins, their perfect season may come to a screeching halt.

Game Time: 1:00 (CBS), Dolphin Stadium, Miami, FL

Go Cocks. Go Sox. Go Pats!!! Peace.


ALCS Game 5 Recap/NFL Week 7/College Week 8 Predictions

"I'm shipping up to Boston."

Well, that was a relief, and who would have thought before the series that C.C. Sabathia would be a welcomed sight for the Sox. Despite more umpiring blunders, the Sox were able to get 10 hits off the slightly larger than life lefty, scored four earned off of him, and were able to get enough of a cushion for the wunderkind, Josh Beckett, to be able to breathe a little easier (unlike myself), and once again shut down the Cleveland offense, who has been able to get the timely bloop hit, random Sox infielder deflection, then a three-run homer basically all series long. While they did get the first two (by the way, after watching Lugo botch so many plays in the infield and swing at so many pitches off the plate, is there anyone left on this planet that is thinking that dumping Cabrera three years ago was a solid move? you not see the continuing digression going on?...and also, when they had a good shortstop (Alex Gonzalez), they signed him for one year, but when they got two inferior players (maybe it's just me, but I think Gonzalez is better than Renteria despite his resurgence in Atlanta...I'm talking better in terms of playing in Boston), the Sox signed them to four year deals...sort of interesting I guess), Beckett was able to stop any hint of bleeding that was impending, and was dominant over eight innings. Then, in probably the best move he's made all postseason, Francona put in Papelbon in the ninth, despite being up six runs, purely for the fact that if he allowed any of the "scrub" relievers to come in (Lopez or Gagne...for right now, Gagne is a scrub...I still haven't completely given up on him because of how good he has been in recent history, with "recent" meaning the first half of this season, but he has been tremendously awful since dawning the Sox uniform...thus, scrub), then they probably would have given up two or three runs, and driven down the Sox confidence in their bullpen, which was already pretty low to begin with.

In any event, scoring first was absolutely pivotal, with Youk hitting a solo shot in the first. After the Tribe had scored first in each of the first four games, it was nice to be on top in the early going for once. After Ramirez hit that "single" in the third, I got flashbacks to Game 6 of the ALCS, the last time in a Sox playoff game that the umpires huddled up to make a key decision to affect the outcome. I determined to myself that if we got the call, the Indians would have no shot, and if it was upheld, we would be in trouble. It was upheld...but the Sox were able to put a run up on the board, and no one was called out on the play, so it wasn't completely horrible. Still, the Sox do not need anymore blown calls going against them...they need blown calls for them...they definitely still need a lot of luck if they are going to pull this one off. Fortunately, for whatever reason, Kenny Lofton decided it would be in his best interest to go after Beckett after, apparently, Beckett trash-talked him as he flew out to left. While this wasn't exactly A-Rod-Varitek game-changing, it did halt any kind of momentum the Tribe may have ever gotten, especially considering that Beckett barely blinked while Lofton came out and started screaming at him. I have to say, in a fight, I have Beckett winning in a second round TKO, and the only reason the fight would go on that long would be because Lofton would dance around most of the first round...but he's 40...he'll get tired, and then it's all over. What is interesting is that Cleveland's "hero" was reduced to nothing more than a crybaby who only motivated a pitcher who was already mowing the Indians down. The hero for the Red Sox, Manny, doesn't let anything bother him anymore. Remember in 2003 when he went off on Clemens purely to start a fight even though the pitch he went off about wasn't really that close to hitting him? I just don't see that kind of thing happening. In my opinion, you want to keep Manny away from as many details as possible, like who's pitching, who's winning, where they're playing, that kind of stuff. This guy is perfect for the postseason, because any kind of pressure just slides right off of him...because really, what does he have to prove? He has a ring, and was the MVP of that series, now he has the record for the longest hitting streak ever in the LCS (he either has it, or he's tied with Pete Rose, one of the two)...he's done pretty much everything a baseball player can do for their career. He's a first-ballot hall-of-famer, and probably has another four or five good years left, so he really doesn't have anything to worry about. Considering all the members of Red Sox Nation (including myself) can do is freak out about every little thing this team does, it's nice to see a guy who just doesn't care about what the situation is, or how much of a pressure cooker one at-bat will be. Rather, he goes up to bat and out in the field with the same aloof, fun-loving attitude that has both won him love and ridicule from all kinds of baseball fans. So, it's onto Game 6...anyone recall how Schilling did the last time he pitched in a Game 6?


Ok, onto predictions...ok I was horrible last week. I will be the first to admit that I took a turn for the worse, at least for straight up predictions. Then, two QB injuries killed me in the NFL (Young and Warner). Oh well, I did well ATS, so for those of you in foreign countries where gambling is not "illegal," I hope some of those picks helped you out. In any event, it's back to the grindstone. Also, I'm going to make the explanations quicker, because looking back at the time when I had to rush to go drink a ton of beer at Oktoberfest, I did really well. Also, if I mention the words "will kick the crap out of," I tend to lose. So, onward and upward...

First, once again, I should have thrown out a Thursday night pick, because I once again saw it coming. Good for Rutgers, good for BC, good for USC...and the Bruins won again...what a night!

USC vs. Vanderbilt:
4-0 ATS in the SEC. Interestingly, the Cocks play Vandy tougher on the road than they do at Williams-Brice. Oh well. Go Cocks! (W, -13).

Tennessee vs. Alabama: The last time these two played in Tuscaloosa, the score was 6-3 tide...yikes. While I don't think it will be quite that low-scoring, I do know that Tennessee has played three road games, two of whom were quality opponents, like 'Bama will be, and they got run in both. Roll Tide (W, +1).

Texas Tech vs. Missouri: Tech is coming off a huge win over A&M, while Mizzou was very impressive against Oklahoma at Norman. Now, these two will face each other at Mizzou, where the Tigers have been dominant at home, while Tech has the #1 passing offense and scoring offense in the country. This will not be one for the fans of defense. Mizzou has won their last two meetings, hopefully they can make it a third. Mizzou (W, -3).

Miami vs. Florida St.: Despite the fact that Florida St. is probably the better team, these teams play each other so close each year that there's no way I can pick FSU ATS in this one. I think it will come down to a field it always does. Florida St. (W) and Miami (+6.5).

Auburn vs. LSU:
Again, this is one of those games that seems to always be close. Auburn has won four in a row, and can clearly play well in hostile environments...just ask the Florida Gators. LSU (W), Auburn (+11.5).

Southern Cal vs. Notre Dame: This is not your big brother of two years' Southern Cal team. No, this one is actually just not so good. Booty may return, but watch out, ND is starting a new QB, their third, and have covered three in a row. Southern Cal (W), Notre Dame (+20).

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss: Sometimes, you really have no explanation of why you like a game. This happens to be one of them. I guess my reasoning is that when playing at The Grove, Ole Miss is extremely difficult to play against...again, ask the Florida Gators. 'Bama barely snuck out with a win last week, and eventually, the cookie will crumble. Also, the Hogs have played one, count 'em, one away game, I'll take the Rebs (W, +6).

Michigan St. vs. Ohio St.: When the dust finally settled from last week, the Buckeyes became the #1 team in the country. The Spartans have been able to hang in there for most of the year, bouncing back from a crusher against Northwestern to beat up on Indiana. I like the way MSU plays at Columbus as well, so I'll split the difference. Ohio St. (W), Michigan St. (+19).

Wake Forest vs. Navy: Really, it comes down to Navy's run game vs. Wake's defense. The Deacons have had success stopping the run so far this year, and have won four in a row. Navy has won three in a row themselves, including a wild one last week at Pitt. Wake has played their last five on grass, with their only loss coming at home to Nebraska...when they were a field goal. Wake (W, -3).

Last Week: SU: 4-6, ATS: 6-4
Season: SU: 34-22, ATS: 30-23-3

New England vs. Miami:
Of course I'm going with the Pats here, but seriously, it will be interesting to see how this game plays out. Miami won 21-0 at Dolphin Stadium last year, and they did put up 35 last week. The problem is that, despite going 12-4 last year, the Pats are a team that is on another planet compared to last year. Still though, the Pats have so many injuries going into the game that I'm feeling like they will be sitting a bunch of their starters, meaning that Miami will be able to hang around in this one. Pats (W), Miami (+16.5).

Arizona vs. Washington: So the status of Warner is up in the air, and I have to say that, given what happened against Carolina, the Cardinals are going to be in trouble against the 'Skins. Also, the 'Skins defense is really, really good, and I would like to see a good performance from Chris Cooley, who resides on every single fantasy team I have (him, Brady, Kitna, and Gostkowski). Redskins (W, -7).

Atlanta vs. New Orleans: I would personally like to thank the Saints for showing up last week and killing my pick of the enigmatic Seahawks. So, are they back? I know who isn't, and that's the Falcons, who now go into full-on Byron Leftwich mode after getting crushed by the G-Men at home. The Saints have won three straight ATS against Atlanta in the Superdome...why change a good thing? Saints (W, -7.5).

Baltimore vs. Buffalo: A battle of two former Pac-10 quarterbacks who were on the bench to start the season. The Ravens, despite being 4-2, are 1-5 ATS. That's an indication that people are giving them way too much credit. Buffalo is also 3-0 ATS while being at home and 'dogged, losing all of those games straight up, but only by a combined five points. I'll take Buffalo (W, +3).

Minnesota vs. Dallas: Despite leading the league in rushing, the Vikings are content to stick with Adrian Peterson as their #2 back. You know, I like their thinking. Keep Peterson fresh and let Chester Taylor pound out yards, eventually wear himself out, and make the Peterson transition a lot smoother. Dallas got blown out by you know who last week, and have not looked good in their last two games. Good luck running on this defense too. With Minnesota having a win and two pushes on the road, I'll take Dallas to win (W), but the Vikings to cover (+10.5).

San Francisco vs. New York: Well, I can say this: Thank goodness the Niners are losing. Going into this year, this was everyone's "sexy" pick to win the NFC West. Now, after three losses, it's looking like they are going nowhere fast. The Giants are basically doing what they did last year, which is start off real hot, and what's going to happen is that they'll come down to Earth sometime soon. However, I don't think it will be this week. G-Men (W, -9.5).

Tampa Bay vs. Detroit: The two former Lions backups square off, as the two guys they were #2 to (Josh McCown and Joey Harrington) are now riding the pine in their respective locales. What's nice is that because Detriot got demolished by Washington two weeks ago, they get a handicap of about six points in this one. After a bye, Calvin Johnson should be back to full health, and Tampa still has no running game, even though they barely snuck out a win against the Vince Young-less Titans. Lions (W, -2).

Tennessee vs. Houston:
I hope Vince Young plays in this one, because if he does, it should be another epic like the game last year, when Young made his improbable TD run in OT to give the Titans the W. The last three contests have been decided by six or less. This game is off the boards at most places because Young's presence is a three point mover. Andre Johnson for Houston is another game-time decision. This is probably one of the biggest unknown games you may ever see. Who's healthy? Who isn't? I'll take the Texans (W, +1.5).

Kansas City vs. Oakland: All the money in this game is being tossed on the Chiefs after their win against the Bungles last week (they have officially stepped back into "Bungle" mode too by the way). Oakland has lost there last three meetings at home to KC. Also, Oakland is 0-2 ATS at home this year. I'll go KC (+3).

New York vs. Cincinnati: I feel like Ty in Caddyshack when Carl asks him how he likes his place with this game. "It's really...really awful." Wow. Well, let's see. Rudi Johnson may not be able to go again, but the drive to play Kellen Clemens will come up short for another week. I have to go with the Bungles (W, -6).

Chicago vs. Philadelphia: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the NFC. Just when it looked like the Bears were on the right track after beating Green Bay, Adrian Peterson goes for over 200 on the ground in their loss at home against the Vikes. Given how well the NFC East has played the NFC North (especially the Lions getting absolutely beaten down by Philly and Washington), I'll go with the Eagles and Brian Westbrook (W, -5).

St. Louis vs. Seattle: For the second straight week, the Seahawks will take on a winless team at home. Seattle will be without Deion Branch again, and the Rams will still be without Steven Jackson, but will get Marc Bulger back, meaning that this game is a little bit harder to predict now. Seattle has won the last three, but the last two have been by a combined five points. If Seattle loses this game, the NFC West could officially be the worst division in sports history. So, I'm hoping Seattle gets their act together. Seattle (W), and the Rams to cover (+8.5).

Pittsburgh vs. Denver: This one is almost too good to be true, which means that my pick is in trouble here. The Steelers are 4-1 ATS and have won the last two ATS at Denver. They also are coming off a bye, and will get Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, and Casey Hampton back. Denver, meanwhile, has looked downright awful, going 0-5 ATS this season. They too are coming off a bye, but still will not be able to get Javon Walker back. Again, this is too good to be true. Pittsburgh (W, -3.5).

Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: Despite all the hype for the "Duel in Dallas," this could become the game of the year thus far in the NFL. The Jags just crushed a Texans team that usually plays them tough 37-17 last week, while Indy, who is 5-0, was on a bye. To say I love Jacksonville in this game is an understatement. The Colts are 2-0 in the division, but have only won by a combined eight points in those games, while winning their other three by a combined 68 points. Give me the home 'dog (W, +3.5).

Last Week: SU: 8-5, ATS: 7-4-2
Season: SU: 59-30, ATS: 49-31-9

The Pats Insider preview will be up soon. Have a great weekend everyone. Go Sox! Peace.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Game 5 Article

"You may be right
I may be crazy
Oh, but it just may be a lunatic you're looking for."

Ugh. Once again, the Sox looked awful in every stage of the game, and now their facing elimination, with all of the momentum going against them. I did a little article for Sports Central, and I'll probably be doing a post after Game 5 whether we win or lose. For now, I hope you enjoy this one. It's short, but talking about the Sox getting bounced from the playoffs is about the most depressing thing ever, so I kept things pretty succinct.

Down 3-1, Sox Look To Their Ace To Stay Alive

Facing elimination, the Red Sox will turn to Josh Beckett on Thursday to strafe off elimination from the baseball postseason. Beckett has been the team’s most reliable pitcher all season, and now, with the Sox on the ropes, Boston will put its collective faith on the 27-year old to get the series back to Boston, and keep the Sox playing in October.

The Red Sox entered the season as one of the favorites to win the World Series, but after an abysmal showing in their last two games at Jacobs Field, they find themselves in the precarious situation of win, or go home. This is not the first, and will likely not be the last time that this franchise will be in this situation, and they have actually some recent success in these spots.

Down 0-2 in the 2003 ALDS, Boston rallied back to beat Oakland in three straight games, sending the team to the ALCS, where they inevitably lost to the Yankees in seven games. Then, in the 2004 ALCS, the Sox were facing elimination against the Yankees, and after losing Game 3 19-8, and going down three games to none. However, with some heroics, the Sox made baseball history, becoming the first team in baseball history to win a seven-game series after being down 0-3.

Beckett is no stranger to the postseason. In seven career starts in the playoffs, Beckett has gone 4-2 with a 1.87 ERA, including two wins this postseason. In 2003, Beckett, then 23, won the World Series MVP after winning the series clincher for the Marlins on two days rest. In three career starts in championship series, Beckett is 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA, and won the first game of this year’s ALCS at Fenway, guiding the team to a 10-3 victory, going six innings and giving up four hits.

Opposing Beckett will be his opponent from Game 1, C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia got rocked in their first matchup, giving up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. Even so, it has become clear that one of these two pitchers will win this year’s AL Cy Young Award, so relying on Sabathia to copy his performance from Game 1 will be a bit of a stretch, especially considering the venue. The Indians fans have been going crazy since Game 3, and it seems like this trend will carry over into the fifth game, where the Indians could go to the World Series for the first time since 1997, and look to capture its first World Series title in 60 years.

The Sox’ offense has been put in neutral ever since Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell hit back-to-back home runs off of Rafael Perez in Game 2, and have been outscored 18-5 since that point. While they have shown hints of life in the past two games, with a two-run home run by Jason Varitek in Game 3 to close the deficit to two runs, and back-to-back-to-back homers in Game 4 to make the score 7-3, they have been unable to do anything else to capitalize on those offensive outbursts.

Cleveland has scored first in each of the four games of the series. In addition, the Sox were able to get to the two pitchers, Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, who were the headliners of the Indians’ staff, and have been completely ineffective against Cleveland’s other two starters, Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd, who combined to give up four runs over 11 2/3 innings in their wins.

It seems like the seven-run 12th inning in Game 2 by the Indians has been a back-breaker for the Sox, whose bullpen was completely exposed after their big guns, Mike Timlin, Hideki Okajima, and Jonathan Papelbon, were used earlier. With their best pitcher going in what could be the final game of the season for the Sox, it will be up to Beckett to keep Boston in the game, and also, it will be up to the offense to make a turnaround and send the series back to Fenway Park, where Boston has had so much success this season.

That's all for now. Take care. Peace.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pats/Cowboys Review

"I'd like to fly
My wings have been so denied."

I'm just so upset by Game 3 I can't even stand myself right now. The called strike on Manny in the top of the sixth could have been one of the worst called strikes in baseball history...and honestly, you don't even have to be as biased as I am to know that. In any event, I'll be writing a baseball article pretty soon for Sports Central, and I'll have that up shortly. With all the chaos going on the past few days, I haven't even had time to check my e-mail, let alone put up a column. I did find time to do a recap of the Pats game for the Insider. Hope you enjoy:

Cowboy Down: Pats Move To 6-0 With A 48-27 Win At Dallas

“I'm only just beginning. From this night forward I'll use every means in my power to fight you!” ~The Adventures of Robin Hood

Through two and a half quarters, the game featuring two undefeateds, built up as the “Duel in Dallas,” was building up to its wild west mantra, but once again, the Patriots proved to be too much to handle, and when all was said and done, Dallas was left in the dust.

New England had yet another double-digit victory, their sixth consecutive to start the season. This marks just the second time in NFL history that a team has scored 30 or more points in their first six games, joining the 2000 St. Louis Rams. Their 48 points on Sunday was the sixth most points scored in franchise history, and the most they have scored since 1984.

In Tom Brady’s 100th NFL start, he had arguably his finest game ever, throwing for a career-high five touchdowns and 388 yards in the victory. Brady now stands alone in NFL history, throwing three or more touchdowns in six consecutive games. He sits atop the NFL with his 21 scoring strikes, a new NFL record for the first six games, six more than opposing quarterback Tony Romo. In addition, Brady now leads the NFL in yards (1,771), completion percentage (72.5%), and quarterback rating (128.9).

Once again, the Patriots were able to score on their opening drive, and have scored first in every game this year, and now nine games in a row dating back to last season. On the drive, New England converted on four third downs, with the fourth conversion being a six-yard touchdown from Brady to Randy Moss.

Moss has undergone a career renaissance after being traded from Oakland to New England, and once again leads the league in yards (610) and touchdowns (7). Moss has recorded a touchdown in five of his six games as a Patriot. While Moss definitely has benefitted from a change of scenery, Tom Brady now has the big, down-field target that he has been missing his entire career.

"I've always been a fan of Tom Brady.” Moss told reporters following the game. “I've always (wondered) if Peyton Manning has his receivers why can't Tom have his. Now that Tom has his, we'll see."

Moss does bring up a valid issue in terms of comparing the two quarterbacks, which has gone on since Brady’s emergence as an elite quarterback once he took over as New England’s starter. While Manning has had the benefit of throwing to countless first-round picks, as well as always having a solid running game and offensive line, Brady has had to use patch-work receiving corps, and has not always had a consistent running attack behind him. With the receivers the Patriot front office got for Brady, he is off to by far his best season to date, and has looked almost untouchable because of the outstanding help he continues to get from his offensive line and his running game.

Dallas’ offense looked abysmal in the first quarter, starting the game with three three-and-outs. Tony Romo, who had drawn comparisons to Brady going into the game, looked out of place, going 1-for-5 for 2 yards on those first three drives.

“It's a long game and you just have to keep playing.” Romo remarked about his first quarter struggles. “You try and do stuff that is not there; on the first couple of possessions they just covered things and if you try and fit it in somewhere that is not there then they have us beat already because you are throwing right into their hands.”

New England was able to capitalize on their strong defensive effort once again in the first, with Brady this time finding another Patriots off-season acquisition, Wes Welker, on a 35-yard score down the middle of the field. Welker was double-teamed on the play, but was able to use his speed and elusiveness to run right through both Dallas defenders, making himself open for the past.

“He's a threat anytime he's out there.” Brady said about Welker. “He's elusive, he's very quick, he's very smart and he makes a lot of guys miss."

Dallas was finally able to get on the scoreboard with a Nick Folk 38-yard field goal, capping off a drive that carried over from the first quarter and into the second, making it a 14-3 game. On the ensuing New England drive, the Patriots attempted some trickery to catch the Cowboys off guard, and tried to hit Randy Moss down the field for a big play by using a flea-flicker with Sammy Morris. This was the second time in the game that New England attempted a trick play to find Moss down the middle of the field and over the top of the Dallas secondary. On the first play of the game for New England, the Pats attempted a fake end-around with Welker, but like the flea flicker, their attempt came up short. It was clear from the onset that the Patriots were looking to establish their dominance early on, and were looking to silence the Cowboys and their fans before they knew what hit them.

After the failed flea-flicker attempt, the Patriots offense made their one glaring mistake of the day. With Brady stepping back for a pass Greg Ellis came from behind and not only sacked Brady, but forced him to fumble the ball. Jason Hatcher then picked the ball up and rumbled 29 yards the other way for the score, putting Dallas right back into the game at 14-10. For the first time all game, Dallas fans had something to cheer about, as their defense had been cut up on two of the first three Patriot drives, and the offense was struggling to get any movement at all.
Once the Patriots got the ball back, Brady was determined to make up for his turnover, and marched the offense down the field with a vengeance. The drive ended like so many did, with a Brady touchdown pass. This time, he once again found Welker over the middle, this time on a short crossing pattern, to put the Pats back on top by 11. The offense converted on another three third down plays, and were 11-for-17 on the day in converting on third downs.

Welker was another Patriot to have a career day. After collecting just one receiving touchdown for his career, Welker now has three touchdowns this year, and in addition to having his first two-touchdown game, recorded career-highs in receptions (11) and receiving yards (124). This was Welker’s first 100-yard receiving game of his career.

While he may not be the biggest target on the field, Welker is quickly becoming a favorite target of Brady. With Troy Brown having to start the year on the PUP list, Welker has filled in beautifully for him at the slot position.

Welker on his involvement in the offense: “There's some different things that we are able to do and there are some routes that get me open...We just have some underneath stuff and when we are able to stretch the play out, there's some room for me to move."

Dallas got the ball back with three and a half minutes to go in the half, and quickly went down the field on the right arm of Romo, as he completed 7-of-8 passes for 84 yards on the drive, which ended when Romo found Terrell Owens over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown with under a minute to go, again getting Dallas to within four points of the lead.

While Owens did not speak to reporters at any point during the week or before the game, the sign he left on his locker, referring to Moss as “the other #81,” and the words “getcha popcorn ready” left as some sort of indication of how he would play in the game, clearly fell short of anything Owens had in mind. While he did make a few nice catches, he was held mostly in check, catching six balls for 66 yards and the score. When asked afterwards about Moss’ performance, Owens answered “next question,” a response made famous by Owens’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, during a press conference last year.

The second half opened with the Patriots going three and out, including another sack of Brady. The Patriot offensive line was tested all game long, and did bend at times, allowing three sacks, which equaled the amount given up by the team in the first five games combined. Once the Cowboys got the ball back, they wasted little time going down the field. The Cowboys finally started to go to the running game, handing the ball off to Julius Jones on two straight plays, and Jones responded by picking up 25 and 18 yards respectfully. Romo hit Patrick Crayton in the back of the end zone to give Dallas their first lead of the game at 24-21. This was the first time all season that the Patriots fell behind in the second half.

Once again, the Patriots responded to the Dallas score with one of their own. On the first play of the drive, Sammy Morris left the game with a chest injury, and would not return for the rest of the game. This meant that the top two running backs for New England, Morris and Laurence Maroney, were both out of the game, leaving Kevin Faulk to handle the running responsibilities. Faulk responded by collecting 50 yards on 13 carries, and fared much better than Morris, who was only able to get 14 yards on 10 carries.

The key play of the series came when Pat Watkins was flagged for pass interference on Randy Moss, setting up a first and goal for the Pats at the 1 yard line. Probably the key statistic of the game, besides all of New England’s offensive numbers, was the penalties amassed by Dallas, which is something that has plagued them all year long. With 12 penalties, the Cowboys chalked up 98 penalty yards.

Once down at the one, New England brought in their “jumbo” set, which included Junior Seau at fullback, Heath Evans in the backfield, and Mike Vrabel lined up at the end of the line. Brady faked the handoff to Evans, and looked to hook up with Vrabel again like they had done so many times before in the past. Only this time, the Cowboys knew what was coming, and double covered Vrabel as he ran into the end zone. This, however, left Kyle Brady wide open in the back of the end zone, and for the first time all year, the Brady-to-Brady combo connected for a touchdown. One cannot begin to underscore how valuable Vrabel is not only catching the ball, but acting as a decoy, especially on this play, getting “actual” receivers open because of his past performances. Later on in the quarter, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it a seven point game heading into the fourth quarter.

Dallas’ last gasp came at the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the ball close to midfield. On a fourth and one play, it looked as though Marion Barber III, who at times looked totally overpowering and untacklable, had gotten Dallas a first down to continue the drive. However, once again, the Cowboys shot themselves in the foot, as Kyle Koiser was called for holding, and the drive was halted, forcing another Mat McBriar punt.

The Patriots’ had been searching for a knockout blow all throughout the second half, and the search finally concluded on the next drive. After converting on another third down attempt, the Pats had Donte’ Stallworth run a post pattern over the middle of the field, a place New England attacked all game long, and Brady connected with him in stride at around the Dallas 40. Then, Stallworth was able to break a Ken Hamlin tackle and take it to the house, completing a 69-yard pass play, putting the Patriots up by 14. Stallworth had been waiting for a game like this. After watching Randy Moss and Wes Welker each have huge starts, it seemed as though Stallworth was almost left out of the fun. Donte’ was targeted seven times for 136 yards and the touchdown. This was why the Patriots took a chance on Stallworth. After finishing second in the league last year with a 19.1 yards per catch average, and averaging at least 13 yards a catch his entire five-year career, Stallworth had become one of the best deep-ball targets in the entire league. This was his first 100-yard performance as a Patriot, and now, New England has had four different receivers in their first six games have 100-yard receiving games.

The final highlight of the game came with Dallas starting deep in their own territory down 41-27. Romo made his biggest mistake of the game by trying to force the issue, attempting to hit Terrell Owens on a crossing route over the middle. The ball was thrown well behind Owens, and into the waiting arms of Junior Seau. After Seau caught it, he proceeded to run with the ball clutched closely to his chest with two hands, which was a quite different approach than he used when intercepting a pass last week against Cleveland, as he held the ball in the air with one hand while still running. Seau’s third interception of the season marks a new career high for him, with all three coming in the last two games.

Now, let’s see how each team fared in the keys to the game:

New England:

1. Attack The Dallas Secondary: No doubt was this the biggest factor for the Patriots’ sixth win. Tom Brady picked apart the banged up defensive backfield, and was particularly successful going over the middle of the field, going after those safeties who were caught out of position so many times throughout the game.

2. Stop The Run Early: This was particularly puzzling to me, as Dallas, while being so effective running the ball, instead chose to go to the air to try and get themselves out of the deficit they faced early on in the game. Marion Barber looked unstoppable. At one point, he was nearly wrapped up for a safety, but broke five or six tackles to make his way out of the end zone and close to the original line of scrimmage, one of the best running plays not only of the game, but of the entire year. The Dallas running backs only had 14 carries between them, and chalked up 98 yards collectively, a 7.0 yard average.

3. An Effective Offensive Line: While their performance in this game wasn’t their best showing of the year, they did nevertheless help Brady out when he was in the pocket looking for receivers. Once Sammy Morris left the game, the offense became very pass-oriented, and despite their one-dimension game plan, the line still did a very nice job straying away any pressure that was attempted.


1. Not Asking Tony Romo To Do Too Much: Romo really didn’t put himself in a very vulnerable situation in terms of making a mistake until his fourth quarter interception to Seau. The Dallas passing game was fairly conservative, and Romo completed 62% of his passes and threw for two scores.

2. Establish The Run Early And Often: Again, I was shocked at how little Dallas ran the ball in this game. The few times they did, they were absolutely overpowering the Patriot defense. Anytime a defense gives up seven yards a carry, the thought process should be to continue to exploit that weakness. The Cowboys did not, and it hurt them in the end, as they lost the time of possession battle by almost 17 minutes.

3. Special Teams: While this game was close for a while, special teams did not factor in nearly as much as I thought they would. One thing to note is Wes Welker’s 12 yard average on punt returns, which gave New England some nice field position on a number of instances. The Cowboys are going to have to look into their coverage on punt and kick returns, as they clearly were weak in this area for the second week in a row.

Again, Game 4 is tonight. BC is #3, USC is #6, and South Florida has a tough one on Thursday at Rutgers, so you never know what's going to happen. Hope everyone is doing well. Stay strong Red Sox Nation! Peace.