Coach Belichick and the Patriots have had problems with Baltimore in their postseason career; will they exorcise that demon this time around? ("Family Guy," '3 Acts of God,' 3/16/2014)

With the Divisional Round here, it’s time for the top teams of the season to play. New England and Seattle each face hungry teams, Peyton Manning faces his replacement again and Dallas faces Green Bay in an Ice Bowl rematch. All four games should be very hard-fought and competitive.

On our panel, three of the four contests were picked unanimously, while the fourth was much closer in the selections. And while Seattle and Carolina projects to be a tactical, defensive game, the others should see the ball aired out more.

As before:

  • Successfully picking the winner of each game is worth two points.
  • Picking the total number of touchdowns scored by both teams COMBINED in each game is worth one point if guessed to within one, or two points if guessed exactly right.
  • Picking the total number of yards thrown in each game by WHICHEVER quarterback throws the most is worth one point if guessed to within 50, or two points if guessed to within 10, or five points if guessed exactly right.

So with that, picks are below, and check back Sunday night for the results. Continue reading 2014-2015 NFL Playoffs Expert Picks: Divisional Round »

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In what can be summed up as a disappointing season for the Bruins so far, the team has showed little signs of being a serious Cup contender and are on the cusp of not making the playoffs at all. The media and fans are quick to point fingers in all directions, but most notably the blame is going toward the General Manager, Peter Chiarelli.

Chiarelli, who has been known as more of a passive GM, gets criticized as being too committed to his core group, which limits the Bruins ability to make big deals. While this may be fair, this is for a good reason. The Bruins core is the reason we don’t need to make big deals. Outside of Chara, the core of this team includes Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Dougie Hamilton. All under thirty years old. A lot of teams would kill for a core like that.

When people want to blame Chiarelli for every single thing that goes wrong with the Bruins, I want to cringe. He’s an excellent GM. Is her perfect? Of course not. But he’s put together a great team overt the years with a track record of success. He took a crumbling franchise back in 2007 and slowly, steadily, and patiently built it into the team that won a Stanley Cup and a President’s Trophy.

So I took the time to lay out three of the main criticisms of Chiarelli and thrown in counter-arguments. Truth be told, it seems silly to me that we even have to have this conversation but that that’s the way things go.

1. Chiarelli got lucky when the Bruins won the Cup

This one drives me crazy. It fits right in with the age-old theme that when things are going well, people praise the players, and when things are going poorly, people blame the GM. Did Tim Thomas stand on his head during that Cup run and play out of his mind for a month and a half? Absolutely. He was incredible. A performance for the generations. And who signed Thomas, despite the fact that he was 34 years old and we had a young superstar in Rask waiting in the wings? Peter Chiarelli. Continue reading In Defense of Chiarelli: Debunking 3 Myths about the Controversial GM »

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When the Ravens travel to New England on Saturday for a Divisional Playoff matchup, there will be several key battles the Patriots will have to win. One of the most critical will be the Patriots offensive line versus the Baltimore defensive line. In the past, the Ravens have shown a unique ability to harass Tom Brady and force him into mistakes or short offensive series. They have also consistently been able to get pressure against any team. This season has been no different for the Ravens and Saturday will be tough for the Patriots up front.

In 17 games (16 regular season, one playoff) this season, the Ravens have accumulated 54 sacks total which comes out to roughly three per game. In an eight game stretch in the middle of the season, the Patriots only gave up four sacks total. However, they gave up that many in the first half of their week 16 game against the Jets and had some issues in week 17 against Buffalo before resting their starters. Dan Connolly has missed time late in the season which has caused reshuffling and the Patriots will hope that he is fully healthy for Saturday. Nate Solder also struggled the last two games and Sebastian Vollmer was inactive for the final game although that seemed more precautionary than anything else. Continue reading Baltimore Defensive Front Could Sabotage Patriots »

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Several times this season I have written about the impact that a healthy Rob Gronkowski can make in a game. It is no secret that he is the league’s most dominant tight end and one of the premier offensive weapons in football. He is virtually uncoverable and will provide the Patriots with a distinct advantage this weekend. The Patriots have played the Ravens three times in the postseason since 2009. In those three games, they have had Gronkowski for a total of less than three quarters. He was not on the roster for the 2009 game, injured in the third quarter of the 2011 game, and missed the entirety of the 2012 game due to injury.

If Gronkowski can be healthy for the entire game Saturday, he can dramatically affect the outcome. Continue reading Rob Gronkowski Could Prove a Nightmare for Ravens »

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Remembering Stuart Scott

January 6, 2015 at 8:20pm in Featured, News, Opinion

The loss of Stuart Scott at age 49 has touched us all. His voice as a sportscaster on ESPN’s flagship show SportsCenter was unparalleled. Scott, along with Keith Olbermann and longtime co-host Rich Eisen, changed sportscasting for the better, nay the best, as they searched for the “cool side of the pillow.”

Continue reading Remembering Stuart Scott »

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The Bruins recalled rookie forward David Pastrnak from the Providence Bruins of the AHL Tuesday morning. Pastrnak had spent the previous few weeks shining at the World Juniors Tournament for the Czech Republic. Pastrnak, the 25th overall pick for the Bruins in the 2014 draft, played in five games earlier this season for the Bruins registering one assist and 14 shots.

Boston has been mired in a season long offensive slump and shaky play from top line forward Milan Lucic as well as shaky healthy from top line center David Krejci have exasperated the Bruins problems. Putting Pastrnak on the top line with both Lucic and Krejci could provide an offensive shot in the arm for the black and gold. He leads Providence with 10 goals this season and had one of the best goals of the tournament for the Czech Republic to win an overtime game at the World Juniors.

Pastrnak is young and inexperienced but he makes up for that inexperience in raw offensive talent. When in training camp with the Bruins he looked like the best young player to debut since Tyler Seguin. He is fast, smart, and has a deadly accurate shot from anywhere on the ice. He has a knack for finding open holes in the defense and making plays happen. Surely he will have growing pains but Pastrnak is the best in house option for the Bruins and would provide an instant upgrade over the solid but less talented Seth Griffith.

One concern for the Bruins is that if Pastrnak plays ten games in the NHL this season he would become a free agent one year earlier than if he did not. However, at this point the Bruins should be thinking about what moves give them the best chance to be  a Stanley Cup Contender in 2015 and 2016. Bringing Pastrnak up and pairing him with elite offensive talent such as Krejci’s would do just that.

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One of the surprises of the NFL season was the emergence of Ravens running back Justin Forsett. Forsett, who had bounced around several teams before landing in Baltimore, saw his chance early in the season in the aftermath of the Ray Rice domestic violence situation. Forsett seized the moment, running for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which was good for one of the best marks in the league. His mix of power and speed as well as vision makes him difficult for the Patriots to defend. The Ravens offensive line has also done a good job opening holes for him and they show no signs of slowing down.

Most games are won and lost in the trenches and this week’s game will put the play of the Patriots’ defensive line into even greater focus than normal. If the Patriots allow Forsett to run as he has throughout the season they will have a tough time getting off the field, and it will open things up for the Ravens passing attack. There are two players above the rest that will need to play well for the Patriots to slow Forsett down: Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga.

Wilfork has been the anchor of the Patriots defense for a decade and the Patriots will need all of his 6’2” 325 pound frame to clog the middle of the line. Siliga is also 6’2” and hovering around 325 pounds next to Wilfork. Siliga missed eight games while on the Injured Reserve/Return list but has been healthy for the last four games. In the nine games that Siliga missed, the Patriots gave up an average of 122 rushing yards per game. That number nose-dived to 87 yards per game in the month of December once Siliga returned to action. Siliga and Wilfork together will need to push the middle of Baltimore’s offensive line back and come up with tackles for losses or force the Ravens to bounce runs outside. This will also mean Rob Ninkovich, Akeem Ayers, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower will need to be stout outside and in the second level.

The Patriots cannot miss tackles and allow Forsett to gain yards after contact. Forsett has to be met at the line of scrimmage and forced to move around before hitting the hole. If the Patriots can accomplish this, it will go a long way towards limiting his effectiveness. Alan Branch could also factor into stopping Forsett as well as being a key rusher up the middle. Wilfork and Siliga will not be able to play every snap so Branch will have to perform when he is called upon. Forcing the Ravens to be a one-dimensional passing team will allow the Patriots vaunted secondary to shine. This is the first postseason in nearly a decade that the Patriots will have a distinct advantage in the secondary against nearly any team they will play. However, if they do not stop Forsett, that advantage will not be as useful.

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