Photo via Fox Sports

Earlier this week, ESPN released their NFL Power Rankings for the upcoming 2016-2017 NFL season. And guess who they ranked number one? Yes, our New England Patriots.

I was actually blown away when I saw this for a couple reasons. One being that ESPN has constantly covered everything and anything bad they hear happening with the Patriots. Including covering every waking second of Deflategate. From the rants I’ve seen on that show, I don’t believe there’s too many Pats fans over there at ESPN which is why I’m surprised they ranked them at the top seed. But that’s just my bias opinion. And two, mainly because Tom Brady apparently won’t be playing until the fifth week due to his Deflategate suspension.

Even though Brady is most likely not going to play for the first four games of the season, do not count them out. From the looks of it most people would say that the Patriots have done a very good job this off season with the draft and free agent pick ups. Here are some new notable players to keep an eye out for this upcoming season:

New Players to Keep an Eye On

  • TE Martellus Bennett
  • WR Chris Hogan
  • G Jonathan Cooper
  • DE Chris Long
  • WR Nate Washington
  • CB Cyrus Jones
  • DT Anthony Johnson

It looks like the Pats and Jimmy Garoppolo have their work cut out for them as they play in Arizona against the Cardinals for Game 1 of the season. But Patriots fans do not worry. We have one of the most diverse and intricate running games in the league along with many different running backs of all shapes and sizes. Our wide receiver positions just got even stronger with the adds in of Nate Washington and potential slot receiver Chris Hogan. The Pats have arguably the best tight end scheme in the entire NFL with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. They have improved their defense with add ins at the LB, DT, and CB positions. The biggest question Patriots fans are left with is, can the offensive line protect the quarterback?

I don’t know I’m not a doctor, but I sure hope so.

 

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Cyrus Jones (Photo: Associated Press)

In total, the Patriots selected 9 players overall during the 2016 NFL Draft. Without a first round pick, none of these players are particularly spectacular, but most, according to NFL Scouting Reports, seem coach-able. Regardless, all nine will be fighting for their jobs when training camp rolls up in late July. So without further ado, all nine picks (complete with reasoning as to why Belichick may have been interested).

#60 overall: Cyrus Jones (5’10”, 197), CB, Alabama: As a fifteen game starter last year, Jones had two interceptions. This may not seem overly impressive, but Jones is a versatile cornerback that should fit well into a nickel system. What is interesting about this cornerback is his punt-returning ability. Jones returned 42 punts for a 12.6 average, complete with four touchdowns. This could provide immediate relief for already beleaguered wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.

#78 overall: Joe Thuney (6’5″, 304), OL, North Carolina State: Thuney, a three year starter at NC State is a valuable player because he has spent time at every position on the offensive line. Versatility and flexibility in terms of position is a trait that Belichick appreciates (e.g. Troy Brown and Julian Edelman both spending time at CB in seasons past). Currently, the Patriots unofficial depth chart lists Thuney as a left guard, but this could change quickly depending on need.

#91 overall: Jacoby Brissett (6’4″, 231), QB, North Carolina State: In 2015, Brissett led the Wolfpack to a 7-6 record, throwing for 2,662 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. This is a mobile quarterback that rushed for over 300 yards, paired with 6 touchdowns, and is seemingly competition for Garroppolo. Brissett will still begin the season third on the depth chart, behind a suspended Brady and Garroppolo (who will be completely overwhelmed in Week 1).

#96 overall: Vincent Valentine (6’4″, 329), DT, Nebraska: Last year, Valentine, after recovering from a knee injury that more or less sidelined him for the first half of the year, started seven games, recording ten tackles and three sacks. Valentine was likely picked up for his size, which is reminiscent of Vince Wilfork. Both are able to draw the attention of double teams (but only one has proved himself on an NFL level).

#112 overall: Malcolm Mitchell (6’0″, 198), WR, Georgia: With some grooming, Mitchell might develop into a dependable receiver for Brady to look to. NESN.com reports that Mitchell only had 3 drops on 93 targets in 2015 (compare with Julian Edelman, who had eight drops on 88 targets). To make matters more interesting, Mitchell’s NFL scouting report iterates how he is able to make the tough, contested catches across the middle.

#208 overall: Kamu Grugier-Hill (6’2″, 215), OLB, Eastern Illinois: Eastern Illinois’ Pro Day turned out to be wildly beneficial for Grugier-Hill. The linebacker was able to add a 38.5″ vertical leap and a 4.45 forty yard dash to his resume, which is rounded out nicely by his 2015 campaign: 70 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and a single interception.

#214 overall: Elandon Roberts (6’0″, 235), ILB, Houston: Defenses need someone who is able to be a coach on the field, and with the departure of Jerod Mayo, the Patriots are seemingly lacking in that department. Enter Elandon Roberts, complete with a scouting report (from NFL.com) with buzz words such as “leader”, “passion”, and “coach’s dream”. The downside? “Slow to accelerate”. “Below average speed”.

#221 overall: Ted Karras (6’3″, 307), OG, Illinois: A captain during his senior year, Karras possesses one statistic that Belichick could not ignore; Karras has committed only two penalties over his last two seasons. At 307 pounds, Karras was able to open up running lanes consistently at the college level. Whether this will translate to the NFL or not remains to be seen, but the 4-year starter is planning on it.

#225 overall: Devin Lucien (6’2″, 195), WR, Arizona State: According to Pro Football Focus, Lucien had only three drops on 98 targets in 2015. Wide receivers with steady hands are a hot commodity in New England at the moment, and the ASU receiver opened eyes with his last three games, in which he had 534 yards and 5 touchdowns. This is certainly a low-risk/high-reward pick to round things out.

 

 

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Tom Brady/AP Image

After Week 3 of the 2015 season, many New England Patriots fans were not hoping for a repeat Super Bowl appearance-they were expecting it. New England seemed unstoppable on both ends of the ball. Edelman, Brady, and the unknown Dion Lewis were producing at a level that was other worldly. Malcolm Butler led a defense that seemed to suffer no immediate backlash from losing two of their best players, and all was well. However, a torrent of injuries was soon to follow, with Lewis going down in Week 9 against Washington, Edelman breaking his foot in New York, and Gronkowski memorably going down hard in Denver (only to miss a short period of time). Continue reading The 5 Most Intriguing Games the Patriots Will Play This Year »

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Tom Brady (Tom Pennington/Getty Images), Roger Goodell (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Deflategate news is back and I cannot comprehend why. This controversial story was first introduced to the public after the 2015 AFC championship game that featured the Patriots and Colts. It is now April 2016, over one year and three months since these allegations were introduced and we are STILL talking about this. Well thanks to Roger Goodell, Patriots fans have more reasons to despise him.

It seemed like we had the world in our hands going into the 2015-2016 season as Tom Brady was fresh out of a Deflategate court win. We had our starting quarterback for game one of the season, we were playing as the defending Super Bowl champions, and Brady’s revenge tour was engaged. We felt like nobody could stop our team. The Patriots had a fantastic season before coming up just short to the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game. Continue reading It’s Now Roger Goodell vs Patriots Nation »

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GTY_tom_brady_presser_jef_150122

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, perhaps the best player in the history of the league, is “not ready to accept” an appeals court’s ruling that he must serve his four-game suspension for #Deflategate. Yes, you heard that right – somehow, because of what two people in New York think, this 16-month saga will continue.

Brady’s next logical step is to appeal the ruling to have the enter second circuit court of appeals to hear the case, which currently has 2-2 record with federal judges. Unfortunately, there’s a slim chance that the court will hear the case… and an even slimmer chance that the case is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

We shall see…

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The Daily Beast

Peyton Manning announced his retirement to the Denver Broncos this weekend and gave his retirement speech and final goodbye, at least as a player, to family, friends, players, coaches and fans this afternoon. The press conference started with statements and stories of gratitude and greatness in regards to the legendary 18-year veteran by Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis, followed by Vice President of Denver football operations and legend in his own right John Elway, as well as current head coach Gary Kubiak. The speeches highlighted Manning’s greatness as a player in Indianapolis and Denver but also focused on his leadership, organization and community contribution, teamwork, and personal relationships he had with everyone involved with him in Denver. In a split screen on ESPN one could see the three aforementioned speakers giving examples of his illustriousness career in all capacities mentioned above with an emotional Peyton Manning doing his best to fight back tears.

When it was Peyton’s turn to speak he was as he usual is during interviews and media gatherings, all class. He had difficulty containing his emotions but did get through his speech which was full of career highlights and woes, stories of his first days on the NFL gridiron, and reflections on what specific moments in time meant to him both playing the game and interacting with players past and present in those moments.

Manning alluded to the Patriots on more than one occasion, the following is transcript from his speech: “I’m going to miss a steak dinner at St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis after a win. My battles with players named Lynch, Lewis, Thomas, Bruschi, Fletcher, Dawkins, Seau, Urlacher, Polamalu, Harrison, Woodson and Reed. And with coaches like Fisher, Ryan, Belichick, Kiffin, Phillips, Rivera, LeBeau, Crennel, Capers, Lewis, the late Jim Johnson, and so many more.”

“I’ll miss that handshake with Tom Brady and I’ll miss the plane rides after a big win with 53 teammates standing in the aisles, laughing and celebrating during the whole flight. I’ll miss playing in front of so many great fans both at home and on the road. I’ll even miss the Patriots fans in Foxborough, and they should miss me because they sure did get a lot of wins off of me.”

As a player Peyton Manning was always someone New England fans loved to hate, but now it is time to give Peyton his due, to honor his greatness, and to respect his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever put on the uniform.

Bill Belichick was quoted as saying: “For 18 years, we battled fiercely but regardless of each game’s outcome, I always walked off the field with the utmost appreciation for the highest level of competition in which those games were prepared for and played. Peyton’s immense contributions to the game reflect how genuinely passionate he is about it. I can honestly say that I never ‘enjoyed’ our meetings, but the respect I have for Peyton Manning as a competitor was, and will likely remain, second to none.”

Tom Brady on the Monday Morning Quarterback Show had this to say: “What just happened, winning the Super Bowl in his last game, is a perfect way to end a career. But what he’s accomplished through all these years, what makes it so admirable, is the pressure he’s had on him his whole life. He was the highest-rated recruit in high school. He was the biggest quarterback in college football. He was the first pick in the draft. Who has lived up to the expectations year after year after year as well as Peyton? He’s done it so gracefully, so admirably. He set the standard for how to play the quarterback position.”

The drama provided over the years by the Brady vs Manning match ups has been unbelievable, for so many seasons these two quarterbacks were at the top of their game and their places in history will be forever intertwined. The level of preparation and surgically precise execution as well as competitive fire and Super Bowl contending teams made the contests some of the most well-played and exciting games of the era.

Peyton’s success can be measured with his statistics and accolades which include but are not limited to:

-Most all-time passing yards: 71,940

-Most all-time passing touchdowns: 539

-Most all-time career wins (regular season and post season): 200

-Most all-time regular season wins: 186 (Tied with Brett Farve)

-Most all-time game-winning drives: 56

-Most all-time Pro Bowl Selections: 14

-Most all-time 4,000+ yard seasons: 14

-Most single season passing yards: 5,477

-Most single season touchdowns: 55

-Most NFL MVP awards: 5-time winner

And the thing that one would imagine Manning is most proud of (even if Eli isn’t psyched about it) is being a 2-time Super Bowl Champion.

Manning has countless other statistics that are impressive if not the best all-time but what fans can appreciate about Manning is that he was a student of the game and he respected the game as much as anyone who has ever played it.

As much as New England fans have hated Peyton Manning over the years, there is no match up that has been looked forward to more. The conversation of ‘who is the better quarterback’ in regards to Brady and Manning has been had in about every sports bar in New England and probably many places around the country. Wherever fans land on this is their own perspective from their own experiences but one thing is for sure both of them could make a case for the best all-time. There has rarely been a television event that is more must-see TV than Brady vs Manning, Patriots vs Colts/Broncos over the last 15 seasons.

Manning finished his speech with this to say: “When I look back on my NFL career, I’ll know without a doubt that I gave everything I had to help my teams walk away with a win. There were other players who were more talented but there was no one could out-prepare me and because of that I have no regrets.

“There’s a scripture reading, 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

“Well, I’ve fought a good fight. I’ve finished my football race and after 18 years, it’s time. God bless all of you and God bless football.”

The final touch on the final day of his career was one of class, grace, and respect for the players, the fans, and the game of football. To read Manning’s entire speech transcript click here http://espn.go.com/blog/denver-broncos/post/_/id/19274/transcript-of-peyton-mannings-retirement-speech.

 

 

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brandon lafell

It has been a week to remember in Boston sports. Let’s recap all that happened from Wednesday to Friday.

The Patriots released Brandon Lafell and Scott Chandler, opening up some salary cap space to revamp the New England offense. LaFell and Chandler underperformed this year. Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick are most likely looking for tight ends and backs. Tom Brady is willing to give up part of his salary for the right receivers. Will that be enough to make a difference? It all depends on what kind of talent is out there.

Continue reading Week In Review: Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, Bud Collins »

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