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These Flags Are KILLING Me…

…and everyone else of course, right?

Big topic around the league recently.  Simply because all of these penalties being called in the NFL has somewhat affected “watchability” of the game itself…for the Blowhard anyway.  Especially the Dallas Cowboy/New York Jet game last week, where near the end of the game there were penalties called on SIX CONSECUTIVE PLAYS.  Believe me, I hate both of those teams so I had no interest in watching either of those clowns.  BUT, of course, I had the Cowboys in not one, not two, but THREE knockout pools.  (Thanks Jason Garrett!!).  Shame on me…but I digress…

Listen, officials could call pass interference, holding, illegal contact and several other penalties on EVERY play if they wanted to.  Doesn’t it seem like they actually ARE calling them on every play now though?

Yeah, yeah, every year the NFL Competition Committee hands down some “points of emphasis” for the officials to start clamping down on.  But by Week 6, a lot of those infractions that were called in the preseason and the early regular season weeks to get the players’ attention have been virtually eliminated.  Start out strong, then wane down as the season progresses.  Seems to happen every year.

Not this season, I don’t think.

Is it more than “point of emphasis” calls then?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that the biggest change of the offseason was giving the head coaches the ability to challenge offensive pass interference calls.  Due to the atrocity that occurred in the NFC Championship Game last season.

But you know what?  They aren’t reversing any of those.  Or a fraction anyway.

So why bother with that rule now?

People are blaming everyone from the Commissioner to the Competition Committee, to the owners, to the coaches, to Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron, to the refs themselves.  Who do I blame?  All of them!!  Let’s face it, they all have a role in this mess.  But where doe the largest piece of blame pie go?

Replay.

I know, some penalties cannot be even replayed and thus confirmed or overturned.  But because we have it available I feel like it is a root cause.  The officials have a split second in real time to make a determination on everything.  We as fans see 9,000 different angles of each play within seemingly a split second.

The fact that it exists just provides a little bit of pressure on the officials to “get everything right”, no?

I’m almost at the point where I don’t want replay in ANY sport.  It seems to be killing most sports.  “Killing” may be a bit strong.  But it’s putting a dent in a lot of them.  My opinion anyway.

These sports have existed for decades on human judgment.  And other than a few egregious calls over the last century or two, we all seemed to have lived with it.

You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to be an official in any sport.  No one likes you.  The players are all bigger and faster and stronger and all than they ever have been.  And it is IMPOSSIBLE to see everything.  Yes, some of the officials across the board are old and fat.  But it’s even tough for the younger and athletic ones to stay on top of stuff.

And now we have replay looking to see if a pinkie came off the second base bag or a skate was a fraction over the blue line or a there was a slight bobble while a receiver is heading out of bounds…etc., etc., etc.

Enough is enough.

I never thought I would say this, but we need to go back to the days of no replay and human judgment/error.  On top of that, we need to “let the boys play” a little bit.

And just deal with the consequences.

Couple of brief Patriot notes from the news of the week:

*Michael Bennett.  I guess we all should have seen this one coming.  Playing in garbage time.  Not playing much overall.  When was Mt. Bennett going to erupt?  Despite all the nice things he said about Bill Belichick and the overall program from the second he got here?

I have no idea what specifically happened with the defensive coach.  Furthermore, I have no idea why he isn’t playing much.  But most assuredly that’s what it was all about.

Do the Pats trade him?  Not sure how many suitors he would have or who will take half his salary.  Or what they could even get in return.  But I honestly don’t know if I trade him actually.

It’s a long season and injuries and other things happen (see:  wide receivers).  What’s the harm in giving him a little more time and seeing if he can get back on board.  And maybe by the playoffs he is making a huge contribution?

Would not rule that out.

Unless he becomes a complete locker room cancer.  That’s a different story.

But with the leaders in that locker room, I am not sure it will blow up to any more than this.

*N’Keal Harry.  Good to see Harry practicing (and Phillip Dorsett returning).  Now all we have to do once Harry actually gets into games is to convince Tom Brady to throw to him.

I do not think the wide receiver or overall “weapon” problem is as big of a problem as people are making it out to be.  I know, Brady does.  And he is the one who needs the weapons.  I will allow for that.

But think about it.  Harry and Dorsett come back.  Josh Gordon and Rex Burkhead eventually do too.  Ben Watson is now here.  Watson is no Gronk but is certainly capable of doing more than Matt LaCosse or Ryan Izzo…maybe combined.  Brady is now throwing to Sony Michel out of the backfield.  Jakobi Meyers should have earned some trust last week.  And of course Jules and James White.

That’s not all that bad, right?

*Demaryius Thomas.  Thomas thinks his time in New England was a waste of time.  According to comments he made to a New York newspaper this week.  Perhaps that is true.

But welcome to the world of not being a star buddy.  Demaryius isn’t used to being on the back end of the roster.  Yeah, I guess he is starting (or at least getting good playing time) for the Jets.  But…the Jets.  On the Houston Texans last year and the Patriots this year (without the injuries), he wasn’t the All-Pro receiver he has pretty much always been.

Not to mention he is just getting up to speed from a serious injury.

This roster juggling is what the end of the roster guys go through ALL.  OF.  THE.  TIME.

Just think about it from that angle Demaryius.

*Trade deadline.  The Pats will make moves.  Still have some time.  But bank on it.

Probably not left tackle Trent Williams from Washington though.  Williams has been holding out all year because he is upset with the teams’ medical staff.  Not about money?  Yeah, that has to be part of it too of course.

But the ‘Skins are inexplicably not taking offers for him.  Plus the haul and the salary will likely make it prohibitive for the Pats to pursue.

So stop dreaming about that, but be cognizant that help will be on the way.  And not just in the form of Isaiah Wynn.  That’s if Wynn can even be counted on.  Big “if”.

Now on to the game:

Kansas City (-3.5) at Denver

Thursday Night divisional games often go the opposite of how they really should.  Actually, a lot of the Thursday games are crapshoots.  This one should be no different.  The Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes do not look right.  KC has lost two in a row at home, no less.  Their defense is putrid.  The Broncos are “hot” as they have won their last two…albeit against the underachieving Chargers and Titans (or do they just stink?).  The Bronco D appears to be still serviceable.  So things seem to be trending in the Bronco direction here and they are at home.  And I’ll be picking them, right?  Wrong.  If KC loses three in a row I’d be shocked.  And ultimately Denver isn’t any good.  People across the country are starting to question the Chiefs.  Big mistake.

Kansas City 31, Denver 17.

Week (against the spread):  6-8

Week (straight up):  8-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  3-3

Season (against the spread):  46-46

Season (straight up):  59-33

Takin’ A Stab…

…so while the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins presumably wrap up their current playoff series’ this coming week, one way or the other, and me waiting to comment more on them until after they are complete, we thought we could stuff a New England Patriot roster projection right in the middle of all that to pass the time.

How’s that for a run-on sentence?!

Oh and the Red Sox?  They seem to be rounding back into form.  But then they will probably lose the upcoming series to the Orioles.  So let’s push them off for a bit as well.

In any event, projections don’t really mean much, especially at this time of year.  But we certainly do love to do them.  Even better once all the draft picks and other nobodies fill up the 90-man roster without anyone ever seeing (or really, hearing) what they are doing in practices over the spring/summer.  So let’s get right to it:

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham

In:  Brian Hoyer

Out:  Danny Etling

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Stidham would have to be really atrocious all spring and summer for him not to stick.  Hoyer’s 3 mil cap hit is stupid, but he will be around for insurance for one more year.  Could they cut him and leave him “on call”?  Perhaps.  But I don’t see it playing out that way.  Unless Stidham is the real deal.  Some people have been pointing out that the Pats did keep 4 quarterbacks one year of the Belichick regime.  But that 4th QB was Brady.  Etling is…and will not…be Brady.  Plus if they thought he could be they would have kept him on the roster last year.

RB (5):

Locks:  Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel, Damien Harris, James Develin (FB)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  Nick Brossette, Jakob Johnson (FB)

Comments:  Nothing to see here.  4 dudes from last season and a third rounder from this year.  Good enough.

WR (5):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry

In:  Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington, Demaryius Thomas

Out:  Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Damoun Patterson

Way Out:  Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers

Suspended:  Josh Gordon

Comments:  Could be the position most in flux.  Edelman and the first rounder Harry are locks of course.  Then what?  The coaches seem to love Dorsett.  Thomas signed for fairly big coin and may start the year on the PUP list, so he likely sticks…unless he turns out to be Chad Ochocinco, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker, Joey Galloway or the like.  Meaning, he can’t get the offense or is officially done.  Maybe Berrios or Harris beats out Ellington.  Maybe none of the three make it.  There seems to always be some buzz around Berrios, but for now, I’m going with the veteran.  If, for some unknown…and unbelievable…reason Gordon is reinstated, then he gets a spot over everyone but the top two.  Not going to count on that, however.

TE (3):

Locks:  None

In:  Matt LaCosse, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Ryan Izzo

Out:  Stephen Anderson

Way Out:  Andrew Beck

Comments:  Complete turnover.  Worse yet, no Gronk.  In any event, your guess is as good as mine.  LaCosse got signed to a decent deal.  But the club seems to like Izzo and Anderson.  Sefarian-Jenkins may be the guy with the most talent, but who really knows with him?  Rumors of Ben Watson are in the air.  And perhaps Gronk at midseason?  Doubt it.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if none of these guys were here for Opening Night, to be brutally honest.

OL (8):

Locks:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT),

In:  Yodny Cajuste (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G), Ted Karras (G/C),

Out:  James Ferentz (C), Brian Schwenke (C), Cole Croston (T)

Way Out:  Calvin Anderson (T), Jake Eldrenkamp (C), Tyler Gauthier (C), Cedrick Lang (T), Dan Skipper (T), Tyree St. Louis (T)

Comments:  On the other hand, this group seems to be fairly set in stone.  If Wynn is healthy, they probably go with him to replace Trent Brown at left tackle.  The other starters are mainstays.  The two fourth rounders would seem to be in, along with Karras who is the backup center.  Maybe an undrafted free agent sneaks in there somewhere since one or five always seem to make the team.  But for now, this seems right.

Defense:

DE (6):

Locks:  Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich

In:  Keionta Davis, Derek Rivers

Out:  None

Way Out:  Nick Thurman

Comments:  Bennett goes without saying, but the rest of the group looks to shake out like this.  Wise shows flashes from time to time, Simon re-upped for decent cake and Chase is a third rounder so they all are no brainers.  Think they give Davis and Rivers one more year.  But their spots are anything but safe.

DT (4):

Locks:  Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Mike Pennel

In:  Byron Cowart

Out:  Ufomba Kamalu, David Parry

Way Out:  Trent Harris, Frank Herron

Comments:  Wouldn’t shock me if a fifth body made it, but for now looks to be these guys.  Hey, Danny Shelton is apparently available!  Ugh…

LB (4):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts

In:  None

Out:  Christian Sam

Way Out:  Shilique Calhoun, Terez Hall, Calvin Munson

Comments:  Looks like Hightower’s high cap number is irrelevant to the team.  Roberts still stinks, but they love him.  Sam is still on the outside looking in.  May be a place where any of the last three players could sneak in with a big camp.  But maybe I just wanted to say the word “Shilique” again?

CB (7):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams

In:  Keion Crossen

Out:  Ken Webster

Way Out:  D’Angelo Ross

Comments:  Loaded.  McCourty signed a pretty pricy 2 year deal, so he’s firmly in, as opposed to last year where he was firmly on the bubble.  Hard to believe they would cut bait with Dawson after lugging him around all last year.  Williams’ second round status this year locks him in.  Crossen could be in trouble, but he supposedly showed well last year, we don’t believe they would just toss him by the wayside at this point.  Jones played plenty of safety in the Super Bowl, so maybe that’s part of next seasons’ plan?

S (3):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  None

Out:  Obi Melifonwu

Way Out:  Malik Gant, A.J. Howard

Comments:  Harmon makes too much money (as does Devin, for that matter), but I don’t see them jettisoning him.  Some of the corners and special teamers can back up here, in my opinion.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Terrance Brooks (ST)

In:  None

Out:  Ryan Allen (P)

Way Out:  None

Comments:  A hunch on the punter.  Allen has been serviceable since he has been here.  And he had a helluva Super Bowl!  But they tried to replace him last year pretty much, by getting a dude with a big leg, trying to “hide” said dude by not punting him the entire preseason, yet he still was claimed by Buffalo at final cuts when they tried to get him through waivers to the practice squad.  Now they DRAFT one in the fifth round?  And Allen only signed for one year because “that’s what he (Allen) wanted”?  Seems like the writing is on the wall here.  The rest of the specialists…it’s almost like they have tenure here.  Yeah, Bolden left for a year, but you know Bill loves him.  And Brooks is new, but he was a kind of a “priority signing” if you will.

Final comments:  Yup, that’s 56 guys for a 53 man roster!!  I can add, I swear!  I thought it was pretty good narrowing things down as I went along position by position in order though.  I didn’t go back and adjust, because…I don’t have any real answers.  There will be injuries.  And trades.  That will pare things down.

But for the sake of accuracy, the three I would remove from above to have an actual 53-man projection would be both Keionta Davis and Derek Rivers at defensive end, to be honest.  They can move some linebackers around to cover the edge.  And it’s not like those guys have stood out in any way.  For the last cut, I considered Crossen, Hoyer (as discussed above), Ellington or one of the TEs.  But I’m taking the easy way out and putting Demaryius Thomas officially on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

I can do what I want I guess…but a lot can happen from now until September of course.  So again, this doesn’t really mean all that much in the end…

Leftovers…

A lot to address from the last week or so.  What follows here will be mostly incoherent babbling, in no particular order:

*The Boston Bruins could be done in the next several hours.  Sure, we expected a close series and even a possible Toronto Maple Leaf victory.  But even though the series is technically “close” at 3 games to 2, the series really hasn’t been…close.  Game Two was the Bruins’ best game…and even though they won Game Four, it felt like the Leafs totally controlled the play.

The Bruin defense has been more than suspect.  And although Tuukka Rask has been decent, he is still, of course, prone to the soft goal.  Usually one a game or so.  That simply cannot happen in the playoffs.

But the forwards have been subpar as well.  Especially in their defensive zone.  I don’t know the exact numbers, but it has seemed that the Leafs have lived in the Bruins zone.  That’s not a way to win a series, my friends.

So what’s the problem?  Well, Toronto is actually a good team, so there’s that.

Otherwise?  I have a sense that guys are playing more hurt than we know.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that sounds like an excuse.  I guess it could be.  But there are some dudes out there that clearly aren’t the same players.  Yes, the Bruins have a “healthy” roster now that Sean Kuraly just came back…other than Kevan Miller.  And can you say maybe Connor Clifton?  Maybe not.

But take a closer look.  Torey Krug has been abysmal.  To me anyway.  Missed time with a concussion a month or so ago and then whacked his head on the boards early in the series.  Could be a factor.  Jake DeBrusk is another.  Took that two-hander to the face and he has been borderline invisible.  Patrice Bergeron?  Does something ail him?  Perhaps.  He hasn’t had his best series.

Toronto has been the better team thus far.  No excuses.  But let’s see what comes out after elimination…today or otherwise.

*On the other hand, the Boston Celtics could be done today…with the first round.  This Indiana Pacer team is absolutely brutal.  Worse than I thought when I was putting together the preview.  I pretty much don’t want to waste any more time on them.  We will chat more in Round Two

*Tiger Woods won the Masters.  This is actually news nowadays.

I used to root against Tiger with regularity.  Not because I ever hated him.  Because he always won.  He was just TOO good.  So I always rooted for the underdog…even though pretty much they never beat him.

But isn’t Tiger NOW the underdog?

It is unfortunate that a talent like that has gone through what he has gone through the previous decade or so.  And no, I am not talking about his personal “problems”.  Like Robert Kraft, I could care less what these dudes do on their own time.

All the back surgeries and physical ailments he has endured.  Now those are real issues.  And now here he is, a major winner yet again.

I guess I can say that I am happy for him?  Sounds weird.

*Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, Joey Galloway, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker…Demaryius Thomas?

It’s entirely possible.

But I still take the chance.  This wide receiver group for the New England Patriots is embarrassing.

*Yes, the Bruins are in trouble.  But if we are all paying attention, Tampa Bay and Calgary are already out.  And they were both ahead of the Bruins in the overall standings.  Pittsburgh is out as well, and they always scare me in the playoffs.  That’s the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year.  Anyone can win.  Even though the locals may be hurt by that very aspect.

*Yoan Moncada is .321/.361/.628.  6 homers and 18 RBI in 19 games.

Was I wrong?

The way he handled himself at the plate…I never thought he would figure it out.  And no, I’m not taking back the Chris Sale trade.  Do that every day of the week.  EVERY day.

I’m just saying that Moncada actually may be a player.  Ok, it’s still April so we will give it some more time.

*Dustin Pedroia.  Please retire.

You’re done.  As the immortal Terry Glenn once said, D-U-N…DUN!!

Can you please admit that Little Leader?

Better yet, we really need the Red Sox to admit it.  They have bent over backward to accommodate Pedroia, despite the fact that no one has ever come back from what he has.

Did the Sox really expect him to play about 120 games this season?  Silly.

And now they are stuck with some sort of combination of Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, Tzu Wei Lin…and Christian Vazquez?  Michael Chavis?

Or…until Pedroia gives it another shot in May.  Since now he thinks his latest setback was “minor”…

*Blake Swihart.  Good luck in Arizona.  May you actually get a chance to play.  Hopefully, you flourish.  You probably won’t.  But after the Sox jerked you around for the last few years, I am rooting for you.  If you care anyway.

*Sandy Leon.  The Red Sox starters won’t magically get better because Leon is back on the team.  They will get better because they ARE better than they have shown.  Period.

*Last but not least, let’s talk about the Red Sox management.  Yeah, they just came off a World Series.  Should we even be complaining?

Of course!!

The team has gotten off to a rocky start, despite wins the last two days over the first place Rays.  Sure, they will likely turn it around and be in the mix.  But this start is inexcusable.

Everyone shares in the blame.  The front office?  Dave Dombrowski brought back essentially the same team as last year.  On paper, it sounds awesome.  But in theory, it may not be.  Look at the Bruins the year after they won the Cup.  They brought 17 of 20 players back and got dumped in the first round.  Players were complaining they were tired, and it was a long Cup run and all that.  Perhaps that’s a valid reason if one were to insist.  So that’s why you have more turnover from year to year.  Although no one wants to hear the excuses of the players for sure.

The manager?  Alex Cora has repeatedly defended the slow start by saying that “we did the same thing last year…”  Enough already.  The players were not ready to play for whatever reason.

Sure, the coaches prepared the starting pitchers like they did last year.  But each year is a different entity.  Each season needs to be treated differently.  Didn’t Cora learn anything from Bill Belichick?

The starters being babied during the spring played a part in the slow start.  I would also hazard a guess that the players weren’t as hungry as last year after winning the World Series.  Human nature.  Again, another reason for some turnover.  Long season last year taking its toll?  Perhaps.  But there should have been plenty of time to rest in the offseason.  So I am not sure I can buy that one.  I personally never bought it for that Bruins scenario above either.

No time for panic.  It’s only April 21st.  But it doesn’t mean we have to like where they are right now.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!!

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