Archive for January, 2012

What Could Happen After Super Bowl XLVI

In these two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl you’re hearing a lot of analysis. Who will win the game? How will they win it? Is Rob Gronkowski going to be healthy? But there’s another story line to look at. What will happen after the game is over?

Well, there are two options, each with their pros and cons:

What will people say about the coaching abilities of Bill Belichick after Super Bowl XLVI? (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1. New England Patriots Win the Super Bowl: If the Patriots win Super Bowl XLVI it will be the fourth title in franchise history. The legacies of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be all but locked up. There will be no more questions about the Patriots struggling secondary and several formerly unknown players (James Ihedigbo and Sterling Moore to name a few) will get their first rings. Belichick may never be questioned about his defensive prowess again. He cleared out the secondary before the season began and brought in a bunch of new guys who immediately had to step into big shoes. He also had to deal with Devin McCourty having a bit of a sophomore slump. But he made adjustments and he created a defense that would bend, but not break. They were second to last in total defense this season, but middle of the pack (15) in points allowed. But the biggest victory will be overcoming a tough New York Giants team that has given the Patriots more than a few headaches in the past. Should the Patriots win the Super Bowl they will put to rest the 2007 Super Bowl and finally overcome the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin tandem.

2. New York Giants Win the Super Bowl: Eli Manning will have two Super Bowl rings and he’ll deserve a spot among the elite in the game if he can win Super Bowl XLVI. He will be one of the few quarterbacks who will have taken down Tom Brady. He would have proven it twice in the Super Bowl and once during the regular season this year. The Giants would also show that you need a defense to win a championship. Their pass rush is intense and has not been a friend of Brady’s. Tom Coughlin will have to be thrown into the conversation as one of the best coaches because he’ll have two championships under his belt. If the Giants win the Super Bowl, you can expect that the postseason chatter will be surrounding their rise to elite status. Belichick on the other hand, might take a bit more scrutiny for trying to run a team and a defense. To the critics, he might not look like such a defensive minded coach anymore.

What happens after the Super Bowl is a mystery at this point. All we know now is it’s a chance for the Patriots to get some redemption and there’s no room for error.

A Tale of Two Jerseys: How Navy Is The Story of the Patriots Season

The matchup is set and so are the jerseys. The Patriots will wear their navy jerseys and the New York Giants will wear their white jerseys when they take the field February 5 in Indianapolis.

Tom Brady has reason to be fired up. His navy jersey needs some Super Bowl success. The last time he won the big game in blue was in 2003. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

This post season the Patriots made their way to the Super Bowl by battling it out at home. As AFC Champions, the road to Indy went through them. In their game against Denver their uniforms came out looking clean but against Baltimore, a little more sweat and hard work was required.

On the contrary, the Giants hit the road for the bigger games of their postseason. After socking it to the Atlanta Falcons at home 24-2, they put on their white jerseys and beat the Packers and 49ers en route to the big show. Manning’s jersey took a heavy beating in the rain in San Francisco. He was hit 12 times and sacked six. And yet he didn’t throw any interceptions. He was focused and calm under pressure.

You may remember that the last time these two met up in Super Bowl XLII, the uniform situation was the same. The Giants last drive is burned into my brain and that unbelievable helmet catch by David Tyree is a scar that will not fade. So one can only imagine unfavorable memories will be brought up when we these two teams take the field for the rematch.

The Giants also beat the Patriots at home this season (24-20). Once again, the Patriots were in navy and the Giants, in white. And once again it was a last minute drive that gave Eli Manning the win over Tom Brady. In his own house Brady was forced to watch as Manning executed a game winning 1-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left.

As we get closer to the Super Bowl you may think that uniforms are an insignificant detail but give it a chance to settle in. The Patriots have some unfinished business to take care of in their navy uniforms. Brady’s only Super Bowl loss is to Manning and the Patriots only home loss this season was to the Giants. Both time the color of the uniform was, you guessed it, navy.

Brady said on WEEI this week that he wants to “hopefully go out there and play my best game, you know hopefully the best game I’ve ever played.” He’s got plenty of motivation and an extra patch on the left side of his jersey (MHK patch) should put some extra fuel in his heart to bring home another Lombardi Trophy to New England.

Patriots Fought and Won AFC Championship For Myra Kraft

The Patriots are headed for Super Bowl XLVI after winning the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.

It was an interesting game to say the least, and it was a defensive battle on both sides of the ball. Vince Wilfork was all over the field. He took down Joe Flacco once and had six tackles. And it goes without saying that Ray Lewis was a thorn in Tom Brady’s side all game long. Brady walked away from this one with an abysmal 57.5 passer rating, easily his worst of the season. He threw two interceptions and no touchdowns.

The Patriots gave owner Robert Kraft an AFC Title on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

With 15 seconds left in the game, it looked like we were headed for overtime. All Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff had to do was hit a 32 yard field goal to tie the game at 23. If you’re anything like me, at this point you got very quiet and clung to the edge of your seat. But I believe Myra Kraft was looking down on this one. Cundiff missed wide left and just like that the Patriots were crowned AFC Champs.

Drew Bledsoe handed over the Lamar Hunt trophy to Robert Kraft and the team. It was a special moment considering the history Bledsoe has with the Patriots.

At the ceremony Brady applauded the fans for being the twelfth man on the field. He also admitted that he “sucked”. In this matchup we got a taste of how tough it is for the Patriots to win when Brady isn’t on top of his game.

In an unexpected twist, the run game looked good, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting 68 of the team’s 96 rushing yards. But other than that, the Patriots struggled. The Ravens won the time of possession battle (33:33-26:27), had more yards (398-330) and more importantly, they turned the ball over less than the Patriots (1-3).

The Ravens put up a fight. Flacco had a 95.4 quarterback rating and threw some beautiful long balls. Next time Brady takes the field, I hope he puts up a similar rating. Especially since the Super Bowl is a repeat of 2007.

That’s right, get ready because the New York Giants are back in the picture.

If you’re going by the philosophy “what have you done for me lately?” the Giants are your team. They are riding hot and playing some serious football. Victor Cruz had ten receptions for 142 yards in the NFC Championship game. He’s a weapon Eli Manning loves to target. The Patriots secondary has some serious prep work to do for that matchup.

If you thought TebowMania was bad, think again. For the next two weeks be prepared to hear about the Super Bowl rematch and all the hype that comes with it. It’s Manning versus Brady and one of these two will walk away with another ring to add to his collection.

The Patriots have a lot of work to do to prepare for the Giants. Brady needs to be hyped up and the defense needs to hold up. The team needs to play a full 60 minutes of football because this is it. The records are 0-0 and it’s anybody’s game.

Patriots Ready for the Ravens Rematch

I was listening to sports radio out of Baltimore the other day and man, are Ravens fans confident in their defense. One caller said he expects the final score to be 24-17, Baltimore. I heard another say he expects the Ravens to hold the Patriots to under 20 points.

Matt Light and the rest of the Patriots offensive line are going to have their hands full on Sunday. Protection will be key because they’re facing the best remaining defense in the league. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Only one time this season the Patriots have failed to score at least 20 points. That was in Week 8 when they lost 25-17 at Pittsburgh. And since week 10, the team has scored at least 30 points in every game except one (Week 16 win over Miami 27-24). That’s a pretty effective offense if you ask me. All season long the constant for the Patriots has been Brady’s ability to put points on the board.

Looking at Baltimore’s defense, their reputation precedes them. The team is known as a defensive powerhouse with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs leading the charge. And their line is centered by Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Let’s take a quick look at their stats: Suggs has 14 sacks on the season, Lewis has 95 tackles and Ngata had a career high 64 tackles this year. The Patriots offensive line is going to have their hands full. I think the line of scrimmage is where the battle will be won on Sunday.

This week we also heard some news about Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Apparently he’s never been on a skateboard before and figured, this week, would be the prime time to try it out. His neighbor saw him and promptly called the franchise office and told on him. Now, I have no problem if Flacco wants to try his best Tony Hawk impersonation but I think he could have waited a week. The real question I have is why did his neighbor feel the need to rat him out? Do they hand out free tickets to fans policing the team in Baltimore? Either way, I don’t think we have much to worry about when it comes to the Ravens’ offense. As long as our defense can control Ray Rice I think we’ll be okay.

Fun fact: Aaron Hernandez has one more rushing yard this postseason than Rice (five attempts, 61 yards to 21 attempts, 60 yards).

Now that we’re only a few days away from the big showdown the anticipation is building. Tom Brady is going to have to have yet another fearfully fantastic performance. The anger he came out with last week was the spark that ignited their demolition of Tebow and the Broncos (45-10 was the score from last weekend). I liked the change up on offense and using Hernandez as a running back and I hope he’s healthy enough to do that again. The Patriots have a lot of offensive power and I think, if their offensive line can hold up to a surging defense, they’ll be well on their way to cruising through Baltimore and playing in Indianapolis in two weeks.

Patriots Defense Turned Up The Heat On Denver

Now that you’ve had some time to think it over, read some articles and listen to the guys on the radio, how do you feel about Saturday night’s win?

Brandon Spikes kept Tim Tebow in check last night. The two were teammates in Florida but Spikes got the last word with six tackles and one sack. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

I’ll tell you right now, I feel a lot more comfortable with our defense than I ever thought possible. After struggling all season and ending the year as the second worst defense in the league, the Patriots put on a show Saturday night. While Tom Brady and the offense were racking up points and breaking records, the defense was making sure Denver had no shot at doing the same.

Brady threw six touchdowns and his lone interception was the only break Denver got all night. His touchdowns tied him for the NFL record of the most touchdowns in a playoff game. Five of those were in the first half which is the most in any half of a NFL postseason game. He had, yet another, night for the record books and like I said in an earlier post, he was ready to rumble. There was nothing he couldn’t do last night, and he even punted – something he hadn’t done since 2003.

But back to the defense. Tim Tebow was 9 of 26 Saturday night for only 136 yards. The Patriots defense held the Broncos to under 50% on third down conversions (7/18) and only gave up ten points. Denver was one for three in the red zone and shut out in both the first and fourth quarters. For a team that made Dan Orlovsky (he threw for 353 yards against the Patriots) look like a stud, they did a complete 180 last night.

Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung at the safety position seemed to work well. Vince Wilfork and the defensive line were getting to Tebow and Brandon Spikes had one heck of a game. He had six tackles and a sack and it was nice to see him making an impact again. Tebow was taken down five times during the win. Pressure still exists in this defense without Andre Carter and that is a positive sign.

With Baltimore coming to town next week, it’s an emotional 2009 playoff rematch for the Patriots. This newfound swag the defense is wearing needs to hold strong. The Ray-Ray duo (Ray Rice and Ray Lewis) is strong on both sides of the ball. Joe Flacco (312/542, 57.6%, 20 TDs, 12 INTs) may be nothing to write home about but that won’t make this game easy.

As Bill Belichick likes to say, “it’s a one game season” and right now it sure seems like it. The Patriots are wearing a new game face and are headed to the AFC Championship game. The Ravens are the perfect opponent and I hope on Sunday we get to see just how tough our defense really is.

Three Final Thoughts For Tonight’s Patriots/Broncos Game

Today is the big game, the one everybody has been talking about. It’s the matchup of the year it seems. Denver and their holy quarterback, Tim Tebow will take the field in Foxboro to challenge Tom Brady and the Patriots tonight at Gillette Stadium.

If you’re like me, you’ve had just about enough Tebow Mania for one year and you’d really like to see the Patriots shut down the Broncos’ season once and for all. There have been countless songs and photographs altered to make it look like Tom Brady is God and Tim Tebow has no chance. It seems as though everybody can agree upon the fact that Brady was here first and he’s the real hero.

Looking back on what could have been the last week of Tebow Mania for the season, I’ve taken away three key thoughts. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Nobody is giving Denver a chance. Sure fans from New England harp on Tebow, but the media has too. Yes, SportsCenter has been nonstop with their Tebow coverage and haven’t said boo about the Patriots, but they do not expect Denver to succeed on Saturday. All season long the media has been flip flopping on Tebow. One week he’s good, the next week, he’s a mistake. Tebow has done nothing but improve this season. He’s proven he has the mental capacity to learn a pro-style offense. Take last week for example, he threw for over 300 yards for the first time this season. He worked through the Steelers defense and got the win. Don’t count this team out just because they’re headed for another matchup with the Patriots and lost the last time. Remember, they had a 16-7 lead at one point during that game and things could have ended differently if it wasn’t for their turnovers. Any given Sunday is the motto for this team.

Tom Brady is in playoff mode. He’s got an edge about him thats raising the level of perfection for the whole team. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

2. Tom Brady is ready to rumble. Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports wrote an interesting article a couple of days ago. It was about the seriousness and the edge Brady has to him this time of year. Chad Ochocinco said he’s never seen anything like it. He even went as far as to ask Deion Branch and Wes Welker what was wrong with Brady. This is a good sign for Patriots fans. Brady has upped his compete level and is demanding perfection. He’s got a lot of weight on his shoulders from the last few years and he has something to prove. He has carried this team all season long and it’s good to know they’re going to come out hungry on Saturday. I do not expect an emotion letdown from the Patriots this year.

3. The weather report is on our side. Probably the best news I’ve heard all week is that it’s going to be absolutely freezing on Saturday night. It will be around 23 degrees at kickoff with winds making it feel like 11 degrees. By ten o’clock, it will have dropped to 19 degrees and it will feel like a balmy 6 degrees at Gillette Stadium. Brady can play in the cold. He completes 62.5% of his passes when it’s below 40 degrees. Tebow on the other hand, grew up in Florida, played for the University of Florida, and doesn’t have much experience in colder temperatures. His first time wearing sleeves was during his preparation for Buffalo three weeks ago. When it comes to weather, we know the Patriots dominate in the cold. They thrive on it and Saturday will be no different.

Hopefully the Broncos will get what’s coming to them on Saturday and slip quietly into their golfing shoes. Tebow Mania has had enough of an impact on SportsCenter for one season and I think we all could use a rest. Leave it to a tenacious Tom Brady to restore order and lead the Patriots over the Broncos when the two meet one last time later tonight.

It’s More Than Just A Playoff Matchup Between the Patriots and Broncos On Saturday

It’s Tebow Time in New England and for Josh McDaniels, it’s the first time he’ll see Tim Tebow in live game action since he drafted him.

Don’t forget, it was McDaniels who had enough faith to select Tebow 25th overall in the 2010 draft. He never got the chance to see him play in Mile-High. Tebow got his first start two weeks after McDaniels was fired by the team.

With Josh McDaniels back on the Patriots staff, Denver Broncos fans are not too happy. They claim he has ‘insider information’ and that the NFL shouldn’t have allowed a postseason hire to immediately get to work. But creating a level playing field and a competitive balance are the jobs of the NFL and as fans, we have to sit back and accept whatever they deem acceptable.

Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady are the ultimate combination. Their reunion will be matched against Tim Tebow on Saturday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

So with the law laid by the NFL, McDaniels was cleared to coach and it’s a big reunion at Gillette. In addition to his Tebow connection, McDaniels will also be reunited with Tom Brady. The last season these two shared wasn’t Brady’s best. It was 2008 and he was sidelined for the year during the first game of the season. But 2007 was a year Brady won’t forget. Not just because of what happened in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants, but because of the numbers he accumulated.

Brady completed 68.9 percent of his passes that year, a career best. He also threw for 4,806 yards which is second only to this year’s astounding 5,235 yards. He had 50 touchdowns in 2007, which beats his second best season by 11 (39 TDs in 2011). We think Brady was good this year, well he’s proven he can be better. The addition of McDaniels is definitely in his favor.

The Patriots have already played the Broncos this year and got to see what not to do during Denver’s Wildcard game against Pittsburgh. The Steelers committed to the run what looked like 100 percent of the time and they got burned.

Even with this said ‘insider information’, I think the fact that McDaniels is back will mainly bring a sense of comfort to Brady and the offense. When these two click, Brady has been at his best. As far as Tebow goes, I think McDaniels would have relished the opportunity to coach him but will be glad to coach against him. He’s obviously done his homework on this quarterback and that might make it easier to defend against him.

So get your grills ready and make sure you have enough hamburgers to go around because it’s a reunion in Foxboro, and there’s going to be fireworks.

Patriots Now Set To Welcome The Broncos to Gillette This Weekend

The Pittsburgh Steelers were 9 point favorites heading into their Wildcard Weekend matchup with the Denver Broncos. I’m sure many Patriots fans, like myself, were hopeful the Broncos would pull out a win because you’d rather face Tim Tebow than the Steelers. Well, it looks like our wish has been granted. One pass in overtime and it’s Tebow Time in New England.

Jerod Mayo and the defense need to be ready for anything on Saturday. Tebow has a newfound threat with his passing game. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

There are plenty of reasons why this is the best situation for the Patriots. For starters, Josh McDaniels will be on the Patriots staff again. Fitting that his first game pits him against a team he used to be the head coach of. John Fox is behind the helm in Denver now but I’m sure McDaniels can add some insights to help the Patriots match up.

It’s also helpful that the Pats have played, and beaten, the Broncos already this year. It was a Week 15, 41-23 win that locked up the AFC East for the team. Chad Ochocinco got his first, and only, touchdown pass of the year in that game. Maybe that means good things to come in the playoffs. We’ve been hearing, it feels like all season, that there’s a chance he’ll breakout in the post season.

Tom Brady is 2-6 in his career against Denver. It is the only team he has a losing record against. So that, added with the pressure of actually winning a playoff game, should create some added fuel for Brady. We know he strives to be perfect and this game will be no different.

The last time the Patriots won a playoff game was in 2007 and they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. With the number one seed in the AFC, this year’s road to the big game, goes through New England. That is, if they can find a way to win.

We saw against the Steelers that Tebow can throw the ball. I have never been so blown away by his ability to put the ball on target. Clearly all those warmup throws have a positive impact on his game. He’s been known to throw around 200 passes pre-game.

In the second quarter on Sunday he threw a 30 yard pass for a TD. Then just about three minutes later, he had a 58 yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas that would lead to his rushing TD. Not to mention his unbelievable 80 yard TD pass in overtime. He made a serious case for himself as an improving quarterback. So now he is a threat to run and throw the ball.

The Patriots’ secondary is going to have to be ready for Tebow’s new found skill. The Steelers’ safeties got burned too many times on Sunday, and the Patriots can’t be the Broncos’ next victims. In addition the defensive line is going to have to be ready for Tebow’s ability to run. I’ll be watching to see if the line can pressure and get some contact with Tebow and force him to fumble the ball.

I don’t have any doubt about Tom Brady’s ability to lead the Patriots to a win on Saturday night. I just don’t want it to become a shootout or for it to come down to a field goal by Matt Prater. With some rest and McDaniels on their side, I think the Patriots are better off in this matchup. They’re rejuvenated and have something to prove to themselves and the league. On any given Sunday one team can blow the minds of many, let’s see if the Patriots can prevent the Broncos from doing that again.

A McDaniels Return Should Be Good For The Patriots

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is set to become the new head coach at Penn State. So far, the reaction to his takeover hasn’t been all positive. He’ll have his hands full recruiting and creating a new face for a program that has been marred by a scandal that completely destroyed the reputation of the University.

Bill Belichick has quickly filled the hole O’Brien left in the staff. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

That deal was made official today and it looks like a the hole left at offensive coordinator has been filled in New England. It is being reported that St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator and former member of the Patriots staff, Josh McDaniels, will return to the Patriots sidelines. Leave it to Belichick to stop speculation before it completely engulfs his team.

McDaniels spent seven years here before shipping off to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos. He spent two seasons there before moving to St. Louis where he is currently the offensive coordinator.

It didn’t work out quite as well as he had probably hoped. After a 6-0 start with the Broncos, went 2-8 the rest of the way, finishing 8-8 in his first season (2009). In his second season the Broncos were 3-9, and he was fired by the team after Week 13. That was thanks to a videotaping incident where the team’s director of video operations videotaped a San Francisco 49ers’ walkthrough practice during their Week 8 game at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

In January of 2011 he was hired as an offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. The team finished 2-14 and fourth in the NFC West this year.

McDaniels enjoyed a lot of success here in New England. In his first year with the team as a personnel assistant (2001), the Patriots won their first Super Bowl in Franchise history. They won it again in 2003 and 2004, with McDaniels working as a defensive coach.

In 2005 and 2006 the team made it into the post season but not to the big dance, and according to most reports, that was when McDaniels started getting more involved with the offense. He had spent 2004 as the team’s quarterbacks coach. We all know what happened in 2007, and in 2008 McDaniels helped Matt Cassel lead the team to an 11-5 record after Tom Brady was knocked out for the season. That’s not a bad way to start your NFL coaching career if you ask me.

So now the time has come and it looks like he’s reached out and grabbed his former position. Clearly the offense has changed from the Super Bowl days but I think for the better. The two tight end set the Patriots are centered around is incredibly valuable. Not to mention Wes Welker still has a few years ahead of him to continue giving other team’s defenses problems.

It’s been a while since New England has won a championship, and most fans are certainly hungry for one. McDaniels clearly works well under Belichick and I’m excited to see them join forces again. The Patriots are headed for a transition as the years start to pile up on their key veteran players. I think it’s time to start getting serious about creating new dimensions and preparing for the future, and having him back in New England is definitely a great start.

Don’t Count Tom Brady Out for MVP

Tom Brady has two league MVPs under his belt but is deserving of the 2012 award. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Many football fans have Aaron Rodgers’ name already engraved on the league’s MVP trophy. If not Rodgers, Drew Brees probably tops their list. But don’t forget about Tom Brady. After all, he was named the AFC Player of the Month for December/January.

That’s back to back months for Brady. He was also awarded the honor for November, and he was named the AFC Player of the Week three times this season (Weeks 1, 2 and 16). He’s the only AFC quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards and has consistently lead this team to winning seasons. Take the 17 point halftime deficit to Miami, the 21 point first quarter deficit last week, or the tight finish against Dallas. It seems as though there’s no gap Brady can’t close.

So how does he get the attention he deserves? We saw in Green Bay last week that the Packers offense is pretty stacked. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn was able to throw six touchdowns against Detroit. His TDs and 480 passing yards broke team records. Almost every time Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer comes in, he hands it off and then takes a knee. Sure Matt Cassel was able to lead the team to an 11-5 record but that was one season after a Super Bowl appearance with a talented group of players.

As for Brees, there’s no denying he is a high powered quarterback. He was the first to break Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season. He leads the league with 5,476 yards this season followed by Brady (5,235 yards). He has a multitude of weapons including Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. I think the Saints are on a crash course for a NFC Championship game against the Packers. The NFC overall was more impressive this season than the AFC. But does that make Brees worthy of a MVP nod?

There are clear arguments for Brady when it comes to the top player in the AFC. But as far as the league goes, I think a lot of voters could bypass his remarkable season. For the third time in his career he has a passer rating over 100 (105.6 this season). He’s thrown 39 touchdowns this year which is by far more than any other QB in the AFC, good enough for fourth in the league.

MVP stands for most valuable player and there’s no denying Brady is the backbone of the Patriots. When he struggles, the team struggles. Rodgers and Brees have the stats over Brady but they don’t have the impact. Brady’s name should be thrown into the mix and don’t count him out when the ballots are due.