Blog Archives

I Take It Back?

In recent weeks I have been saying that I feel like the New England Patriots have enough pieces on offense to make the whole thing work.  That they were still trying to integrate guys like Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry into the mix.  That they still had Julian Edelman and James White.  That the running backs have enough talent to be better.  That the tight ends are decent enough.  Etc.

But…I may have been wrong.  And I could be finally ready to admit it.

Now, I don’t have access to the coach’s film like some people that cover the team.  And some of them saw progress against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

I didn’t see it from my angle.

The Pats should have pummeled these pathetic Bengals, similar to how they pummeled all those bad teams at the beginning of the year.  Especially with the 5 turnovers.  Especially when they had some tape of the Bengals’ sideline to work with…oops…sorry, was that out loud?!

But they found themselves down by the end of the first quarter and barely up at the half.  And looked fairly brutal for most of the game.

Tom Brady missed open guys.  Receivers were dropping passes.  A bunch of punts.  All that.

Never really looked good to me.

Of course, it appears that Edelman is extremely banged up.  And Brady may have a bum elbow to boot.  Factors that have to be considered for sure.

To that I say, if Jules can’t go, that’s a wrap.  Even if Brady ends up being completely healthy.

It would be hard for me to believe the offense could move the ball at all without a somewhat healthy Edelman.  Since James White apparently has been defended more by someone in the defensive secondary instead of a plodding linebacker and isn’t as open as he used to be, Jules has been really been Brady’s only reliable target.  Even if, with all the drops this year, he hasn’t been as reliable as he usually is.

I just don’t think we can really count on the rest of the corps right now.  For a variety of reasons that we have been through before.  I just wasn’t ready to face those facts.  I am kind of ready to now.

UNLESS they get the running game going.  But I’m not counting on that with this offensive line.  Sure, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead looked pretty good Sunday.  But…the Bengals.

Big test this week against a top defense in the Buffalo Bills.  Being at Foxborough should definitely help.  And I do expect the Pats to win the game.  But I am also not counting on any offensive fireworks, that’s for sure.  Hope I am wrong.

Speaking of Edelman, despite the drops, we were really hoping he would make the Pro Bowl this year.

PRO BOWL?!!  WHO CARES??!

True.  Normally I don’t care.  Especially since we know it’s a popularity contest.  Same guys go every year it seems.  Not to mention we hope that no Patriots CAN even go, meaning they would be in the Super Bowl again.  Not to mention that like a quarter of the team usually backs out, so Jules may still get there if the Pats lose early in the playoffs.

My only thing with Edelman is that somehow he has never made one.  People actually put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame conversation.  And he hasn’t even made one single Pro Bowl?

Just would have been nice to see, that’s all.

But we know the Pats don’t care, so why should we?

Moving on…

So the Thursday Night Football slate is done for the season.  The feeling here was that the picks were brutal on this night over the course of the season.  But they weren’t as bad as I thought.  9-8 against the spread and 11-6 straight up.  Not too bad!!

We will separate the Saturday games out from the rest in this case.  Actually, let’s just do them all…

Houston (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Big win at Tennessee last week put the Texans in the driver’s seat for the AFC South.  Another matchup with the Titans next week to end the regular season and that is sure to be a big one too.  Let down for Houston this week?  Well, we saw it against the Broncos the previous Sunday.  But I’m betting it doesn’t happen again.

Houston 30, Tampa Bay 24.  

Buffalo at New England (-6.5)

The Bills are trying to prove they are ready for Prime Time.  But…Josh Allen still stinks.  There is just no way to sugarcoat this.

New England 20, Buffalo 17.  

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco (-6.5)

What a bad loss for the Niners last week.  The Falcons.  The way it went down.  They would have been better off getting smoked like the Rams did.  Guess LA was not back on track.

San Francisco 38, Los Angeles Rams 23.  

Carolina at Indianapolis (-6.5)

The Colts were brutal on Monday Night Football.  But the Panthers are down to their third string QB.

Indianapolis 27, Carolina 16.  

New York Giants at Washington (-2.5)

Wake me up when this one is over.

Washington 17, New York Giants 13.  

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tennessee

Good for Drew Brees last week.  But have a gut feeling the Titans show up this week.

Tennessee 31, New Orleans 27.

Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland

The Browns beat the Ravens in Week 4, Baltimore’s last loss.  Can’t see that happening again.  Lamar Jackson and company can wrap up home field advantage with a win.  Give some players Week 17 off in the process.  Even though some of the Browns players are denying they want out, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Baltimore 35, Cleveland 17.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at New York Jets

Duck Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Dennis Dixon, Mike Tomczak, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Bubby Brister…does it matter?  And yes…I am saying this when they are playing the J-E-T-S!

New York Jets 24, Pittsburgh 20.  

Cincinnati at Miami (-1.5)

Wake me up when this is over, part II

Miami 17, Cincinnati 14.  

Jacksonville at Atlanta (-7.5)

Tom Coughlin just got fired.  Imagine that.

Atlanta 31, Jacksonville 17.  

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

Horrid loss for the Raiders last week.  Same for the Chargers.  When am I getting to a game that matters on this list?

Oakland 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24.  

Detroit at Denver (-6.5)

Nope, this one doesn’t matter either.  Glad to see Matty Patricia getting another shot next year.  Not sold on Patricia.  But I can’t imagine you can win many games with Jeff Driskel and David Blough.

Denver 34, Detroit 23.  Lock of the week (yup!).

Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia

Here’s one that matters!!  I imagine the winner of this one will win the NFC East.  Though it wouldn’t shock me if either lost their Week 17 game against the Redskins or the Giants, respectively.  Dak Prescott has been limited in practice, but I would doubt he sits this one out.  The ‘Boys have a more talented team.  The Eagles have been hammered by injury.  But your guess is as good as mine on this one either way.

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 31.  

Arizona at Seattle (-9.5)

The Seahawks should roll.  But they always seem to play close games.  9.5 is a lot of points.  Sorry to hear about Josh Gordon.  Looks like his last chance in the NFL.  Maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t.  But still a sad story.

Seattle 33, Arizona 24.  

Kansas City (-4.5) at Chicago

Here’s hoping the Pats beat the Bills and the Bears win here so the Pats that are banged up can take Week 17 off after wrapping up the second seed and therefore a first round bye.  Wishful thinking on the second half of that though.

Kansas City 34, Chicago 17.  

Green Bay at Minnesota (-4.5)

The final Monday Night Football game of the year should be a doozy.  The Vikings may have clinched a playoff spot by this time and they still may not win the tiebreaker for the division in the end, even with a win here.  And the Pack have seemed to sleepwalk through their last couple of games so maybe they awaken as well.  Sticking with the home team regardless.

Minnesota 30, Green Bay 24.

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  10-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  8-7

Season (against the spread):  112-112

Season (straight up):  144-80

Back To Earth?

Been over two months since I wrote about the Boston Bruins.  Since…before the season started.  Solid work, I know.

Does this now mean that I am “ready for hockey”?  If you remember, I wasn’t ready for the start of the hockey season in early October.  It seemed like the previous season had just ended.

Welp, we are almost halfway through the NHL season, so I’d better be!

Wait, halfway through already??

Yup.  36 games in.  82 game season.  Honestly, doesn’t seem real.

So I guess it’s time to say SOMETHING about the local hockey team.

So what do we say?

If you also recall, I was not excited about the Bruins’ prospects this season.  Not because they aren’t a talented squad.  But because it was a long year last year, one that ended in disappointment.  Then, General Manager Donnie Sweeney brought basically the same team back this year.  In my opinion, this is not a recipe for success.  We’ve seen it many times before.  In more than one sport.  I’ve always felt a team in that position needs a little turnover the following season.  Keeps hunger in the room.  My opinion anyway.

Then the B’s started 20-3-5 (or 20-8 for people that have no interest in tracking overtime and shootout losses).

Maybe that’s why I hadn’t written anything?  Because I looked like an idiot?

Nah.  Though if you wish to think that, please feel free to do so.

Of course, seeing that I am choosing to write now in the recent 1-4-3 (1-7!) stretch over the last 8 games would lend some credence to that theory as well.  Wouldn’t blame you either way.

But the bottom line is that football has just taken precedence.  It’s fall.  Autumn, if you will.  It’s football season!!  To wit, we haven’t written about the Boston Celtics in a couple months either.

Whatever.

Sssssssooooo…what do we think of the Boston Bruins as we sit here right now?  Funny thing is, I feel EXACTLY the same as before Game Number One of this regular season.

What?!

Yup…the SAME.

You know I am never going to change my tune on goaltender Tuukka Rask.  There has never been a lot of love from me headed in his direction.  Again, he should be ok splitting with Jaroslav Halak all year.  But it doesn’t mean I have to like him.

My main concern is basically the same concern we have had for quite some time around here.  This is still a “one-line” team.  Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.  That’s it.  Sorry.

Can you honestly tell me otherwise?  I mean, just cuz you hand Charlie Coyle 31.5 mil over the next 6 years doesn’t mean he is all of a sudden a first line forward.

Yeah, that contract was a little much.  Listen, Coyle is a nice player.  And maybe he can play wing on the second line.  Maybe.  But that may have been money better spent elsewhere.

OR…you couldn’t have signed him for like 4-5 years at 4 mil per?  Someone was going to give him more?

In any event, what is the second line technically right now?  David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and…Danton Heinen?  DeBrusk and Heinen seem to be the best of the young guys that were drafted in recent years.  But honestly, that is not saying much.  I keep waiting for Jake to kind of explode.  But it hasn’t happened.  Heinen appears to be a third liner at absolute best to me.  I guess Donnie Hockey and the brass like his defense.  Which is all well and good.  But if you are playing on an offensive line, it would be nice to see some points come along with the D.  Maybe that’s just me though…

Anders Bjork has shown some promise.  Perhaps Karson Kuhlman develops.  Or Jack Studnicka.  But these guys aren’t top six guys anytime soon.  Not this year anyway.

The rest of the roster is littered with Sean Kuraly, Brett Ritchie and Chris Wagner types.  Speaking of Wagner, he’s a nice 4th liner.  But was it necessary to lock him up for three more years?  I’m just not a fan of handing long-term contracts to bottom of the roster guys.  They are a dime a dozen.  Makes me think of former GM Peter Chiarelli handing those out with no movement clauses like it was Halloween candy.

But I digress…

The point is, where is the scoring coming from after the first line?  Same question as before the season.  Not to mention that when scoring on the top line dries up, how is that going to look?

I’ll tell you.  1-4-3…or 1-7, to be precise.

Pastrnak has cooled off (and he wasn’t scoring like 75 goals this season anyway just so you know).  Marchand hasn’t scored in over 10 games.  And Bergeron has missed some games this year.

And not much is being done along the rest of the lineup to pick up the slack.  Nor do I expect any of those players to.

Speaking of scoring, the overtime and shootout record of the Bruins is jarring.  2-3 in OT and ZERO AND FIVE in the shootout.

That is pathetic.  And although I don’t have the lineups that coach Bruce Cassidy throws out there each time they enter a shootout.  I can’t imagine he has many choices on who to pick.  Other than Pastrnak I would say.  Marchand’s career shootout numbers are not good.  Who else can you depend on there to snipe one home?  Not even Bergy, I have to say.

Midseason moves?  Maybe.  We are still several weeks away from the trade deadline.

But who are you going to go get?  And with extremely limited cap space, how good is that player (those players?) actually going to be?

I don’t see much coming for reinforcements.  Not from outside the organization anyway.  That leaves the likes of Kuhlman and Studnicka.  Hopefully not the likes of minor league veteran Paul Carey.

I did not see the Bruins starting out as hot as they did.  But the end result will be the same, unfortunately.  A playoff spot for sure.  Then I’m predicting a fairly quick exit.

Prove me wrong.  There is plenty of time to do that.

What’s Next?

For Robert Kraft?

Nope.

You guys can talk about Kraft on your own time.  Plenty of talk radio action on that, I am sure.

I know, he is the “flavor of the week”.  And I suppose his “situation” is newsworthy, to some degree.  To the degree of “what the F are you doing, you couldn’t have been more discreet about this?” anyway.  That’s how I see it.

Listen, whatever the old man wants to do on his own time is up to him as far as I’m concerned.  The guy was married for like 50 years for Chrissakes.  But more importantly, he has done a lot of good in his life.  Despite having plenty of money lining his own pockets.  If he wants to partake in some consensual “fun”, all the power to him.

Now, if Kraft were involved in any way of participating in human trafficking, then that is an entirely different story.  But I’m not aware of any evidence being turned up on that.  Yet anyway.

Other than that, why the hell are we even talking about it?  Kraft has suffered some embarrassment, that is for sure.  But I’m also sure he likely doesn’t give much of a rat’s arse.

That’s all…

In any event, the question posed in the title was supposed to reflect the upcoming free agency period for the New England Patriots.  I know, the Super Bowl pretty much just happened.  But the offseason movements are coming soon.  Time to get ready.

Let’s take a look at the roster as it currently stands.  That includes everyone that ended the year on the injured list and any of the practice squad guys that were signed to futures contracts.  As well as the guys who are due to become free agents.

We will talk a little about the salary cap.  I know, the NFL salary cap is fraudulent and can be manipulated any way you like.  But we will just go on theoretically what the cap implications could be.

Per usual, we will do it by position:

QB:

Under contract:  Tom Brady, Danny Etling

Unrestricted free agents:  None

In limbo:  Brian Hoyer

What I would do:  Hoyer is under contract, but in limbo I feel because he counts 3 million against the cap next season.  Hoyer is Brady’s good buddy, but do the Pats need to pay him that much to do nothing all year?  I mean, if Brady gets hurt and has to miss time, Hoyer can hold the fort in the regular season sure.  But the Pats ain’t winning a Super Bowl with Hoyer at the helm.  I’d slash his salary.  You would think he would be agreeable, especially since no one else in the league is handing him a starting job.  I know, do we want to tick off Brady over pinching pennies?  Maybe not.  But I think they should look into it.

Etling can stay…for now.  With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, it may be a good time to draft the ACTUAL QB of the future though.  And if Brady is serious about playing 3 or more years, maybe it’s time to extend him and drop his 27 million cap hit.  Maybe 2 more years, not 3 or 4.  But even if you do 4 more years and it’s basically throwing money away at the end, we could probably live with it since it’s Brady after all.  He’s earned it.

What the team will probably do:  Extend Brady, keep Hoyer at his current cap hit, keep Etling and yes, I’m thinking they take a QB this year with more upside than Etling and someone who has a real shot at being the franchise QB after Brady.  First rounder?  Doubtful.  But with several picks in Round 2 and 3, a spot there has to be considered a real possibility.

RB:

Under contract:  Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James White, James Develin (FB)

Unrestricted free agents:  Jeremy Hill

In limbo:  None

What I would do: Re-sign Hill if healthy after he tore his ACL in the first game of last season.  If not Hill, another comparable veteran back.  Same difference.  Someone that may have once been good and still maybe can be…but will be cheap.  Other than that, no need to do much else here.  Maybe draft a kid for the practice squad as well.

What the team will probably do:  Likely the same thing I would do.  Burkhead, Michel and White form a pretty good trio, when healthy.  That’s the biggest issue, health, specifically for Burkhead and Michel.  That’s why you need the extra back, preferably a veteran.  Maybe that kid too, but not another first rounder for sure.

WR:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, Darren Andrews, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson

Unrestricted free agents:  Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron

In limbo:  Josh Gordon (restricted free agent), Cody Hollister (exclusive rights free agent)

What I would do:  LOAD UP!!  All kidding aside, receiver is a huge need.  Stating the obvious, I know.  Just look at the names.  Edelman is under contract for only 2019 as well.  Perhaps a short extension is in order?  Berrios got some props last preseason, but I didn’t see it.  Andrews and D. Patterson?  Whatever.

3 bodies, at least, need to be brought in.  And good bodies at that.  Not Dorsett, Hogan or C. Patterson.  Look, if you wanted to bring Cordarrelle back as a #5 guy, I wouldn’t complain.  He can be that gadget guy again.  But not for the 3 mil he earned last year I would say.  Even bringing Gordon back as an extra piece wouldn’t bother me.  “Extra piece” cuz you sure as hell can’t count on him.

Golden Tate said “he would love to play for the Patriots”.  Of course he would.  He’s a free agent.  He’d love to play anywhere right now.  That being said, him as a #3 here?  Sign me up.  Someone like Danny Amendola at #4?  Sure.  But you need a #1/#2 to match with Edelman.  Odell Beckham Jr?  Hmmmmmmm…I’d consider it.  If any team can rein that jackwagon in, it’s the Patriots.  But someone of that ilk would be nice.

High draft picks?  I don’t know.  Rumors are that the team is meeting a whole slew of highly regarded college receivers at the NFL Combine going on now.  Meetings are nice.  But Belichick’s track record of drafting wide receivers is not.

Even though that with the drafting of Michel and the extension of Burkhead last year and how the team played a lot of ball control in the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl victory may lead to the conclusion that the Pats will continue to run the ball more as Brady gets older, they still need major upgrades at receiver to keep the offense rolling.  They don’t need Randy Moss, Part II.  But they need reliable dudes.

What the team will probably do:  There were rumors that the Pats pushed hard for Beckham at the trade deadline last season.  But it would still shock me if they went in that direction in the coming weeks.  Or Antonio Brown either, though there is pretty much zero chance the Steelers will send him to New England.

Tate?  Maybe.  But not if he wants too much money.

I’m thinking they will load up on bodies, like last summer, and see who sticks.  There is probably a good chance Dorsett and Cordarrelle will be back…unless someone wildly overpays for Patterson.  Seems unlikely, but you never know.  Dorsett they apparently are already talking to.  Hogan is likely gone, but we will probably be looking at another summer of Kenny Britt’s and Jordan Mathews’ and the like.

TE:

Under contract:  Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo

Unrestricted free agents:  None

In limbo:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

What I would do:  This is what I wrote last year, shortly after the free agency period had commenced:  “Comments:  I do believe we have to take Gronks’ retirement “threats” seriously.  Despite being a monster, he has taken quite a beating over his NFL career.  And despite all the back surgeries, there is no doubt that the back will always hang over his head at least a little.  I’m betting that throwing a little money at him will get him back into the fold mentally though.  Isn’t that always the case?

Speaking of money, I am absolutely stunned that Allen is still here.  5 mil against the cap next season.  Was he that good a blocker?  Is he just hanging around in case Gronk does retire?  I don’t see it.  That’s money better spent elsewhere.  I know Hollister and Tye aren’t appealing backup options if Allen departs.  But there has to be someone else out there that is.

Let’s make Gronk happy and find a young tight end somewhere.  Not an extremely pressing area of need (unless Gronk walks of course), but definitely a position to keep an eye on.”

Aren’t we in EXACTLY the same boat here?  Well, Tye is no longer on the roster, but you get the point.

Gronk had an off-year, with supposedly an Achilles injury to blame as well as…back problems.  My belief is that Brady can talk him into one more year if Gronk is up for it.  I can totally see that happening.  But we are still waiting to see if Gronk will retire, just like last year.

Allen’s salary is still an issue, though for 2019 he will be over 7.3 mil against the cap.  Outrageous.  Hollister is still unappealing as a backup and I am guessing that Anderson is too.

Izzo, a seventh rounder from last year, could perhaps be that kid they are looking for.  He spent all year on injured reserve, likely with some kind of bogus injury to “redshirt” him for the year, similar to Berrios.

I’d talk Gronk into one more year and cut bait with Allen.  Give Izzo a shot at a spot, but bring in some competition.  Draft one relatively high?  Perhaps.  I’d even take Allen back if he wants to play for like a million.  After Gronk, will any of the other TE, regardless of who they are, make any difference in this offense?

What the team will probably do:

The longer time goes by where Gronk doesn’t retire, the likelihood increases that he will be back.  I think Brady talks him into one more go-round.  Allen sticks too, believe it or not.  But maybe shaves some salary.  Hollister’s time may be up, but he, Izzo and Anderson battle for a spot.  Perhaps another Izzo type drafted late looking for future depth.

Wouldn’t put it past Bill to draft a TE high.  He’s done it before.  A lot of mock drafts have them taking one.  But that’s when Bill throws us a curve and takes a safety or a running back or something.

OL:

Under contract:  David Andrews (C), Marcus Cannon (T), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), Isaiah Wynn (T/G), Cole Croston (T), James Ferentz (C), Ted Karras (G/C), Brian Schwenke (C), Dan Skipper (T), Ryker Matthews (T), Jake Eldrenkamp (C)

Unrestricted free agents:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Ulrick John (T), Tony Adams (T)

In limbo:  Trent Brown (T)

What I would do:  Brown is in limbo because theoretically the Patriots can franchise or transition tag him.  I doubt that happens and I would let him walk anyway.  Someone is going to pay him huge bucks and he has his ring to boot.  Brown played well this year, but I am wary of giving an almost (over?) 400 lb. guy who had underachieved prior to last season an enormous (pun intended) amount of dough.  Wynn may be able to replace him.  But Brown replaced Nate Solder well enough after only playing right tackle his whole career previously.  So Dante Scarnecchia and company can replace Brown probably fairly easily…and cheaper.  Bring in a vet to compete with Wynn and then the loser should provide good depth on the line.

I may see if I can extend Thuney, as his contract is done after 2019.  Thuney and the other starters have been solid.  And the current backups don’t scare anyone.  However, even though the team has said since Day One that Wynn is a tackle, maybe he ends up at guard where many projected all along.  That would line him up to replace Thuney and then we are still left with getting that left tackle.

Otherwise, just keep bringing in big bodies and continue to improve the depth.  Cannon can be a weak link, but he’s locked in for decent dough for the next three years, so replacing him is probably a pipe dream at this point.

What the team will probably do:  Make Wynn the left tackle and bring in a lot of fringe vets and maybe a draft pick or three to find out who can provide depth.  It seems to be pretty cut and dried here.  I mean, look at some of the nobodies they already have signed for the upcoming year.

Next:  The Defense.

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