Ramble On Sports

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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Belichick’

Five things I hate about Mut & Merloni

Posted by bdowd625 on November 16, 2011

(Having trouble sleeping? Tune in!)

It’s time to debut a new feature here at Ramble On, one I’d like to call “Five Things.” Today’s edition centers around Mut & Merloni, WEEI’s midday radio show. I was driving around earlier this afternoon, doing my usual flip-flopping between WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub, when I landed on Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni bitching about David Ortiz’s contract situation. The duo was having the most pathetically bland conversation you could possibly imagine, which prompted me to come up with my inaugural topic for “Five Things.” Away we go:

* Merloni brings zero to the table except for a little bit of baseball knowledge, and even that’s sketchy at best. He often provides more questions than answers. Hey, Lou, we’re listening to you to get some insight on the local sports teams, not to hear the following: “What’s going to happen in the Red Sox clubhouse next year? Will there still be beer? Will the starting pitchers be forced to sit in the dugout all game? Will I still have a job at this radio station next year? I really don’t know. We’re just going to have to wait and see.” Here’s an idea. Get off your ass and go find out for us.

* Mutnansky would rather talk to New England’s pro athletes about their Twitter accounts instead of asking actual thought-provoking questions. “Hey, Patrick Chung, why haven’t you tweeted about the Oregon Ducks’ latest crappy uniforms?” Newsflash, Mut. No one gives a shit.

* Troy Brown always has to be in studio when they interview any of the Patriots, because he’s the only one who has a clue about football. Thank God we don’t have to listen to the two of them talk to Bill Belichick. That would be unnecessarily painful.

* The constant references to the University of Connecticut (Mut’s alma mater) and Providence College (Merloni’s) make me sick. Congrats, guys, you went to college. So did most of us – we just don’t get paid six figures a year to lull people to sleep on the radio every day.

* The Penn State scandal has forced these two to recycle and regurgitate the same played-out news that we’ve been hearing for the last two weeks. Why don’t you try to focus on a new viewpoint when it comes to this topic? Nevermind, I just changed the station.


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Faulk the latest New England ACL victim?

Posted by Bill Koch on September 21, 2010

Kevin Faulk has always been the type of player you wouldn’t notice until he’s gone – and that might be happening a lot sooner rather than later for the New England Patriots.

Reports started to circulate Tuesday afternoon that Faulk has a torn ACL in his right knee and will be placed on injured reserve, ending his 2010 season almost before it ever really started. The 34-year-old running back will be reevaluated throughout this week and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick said the team would make a decision on Faulk in the near future. Faulk sustained the injury on Sunday against the New York Jets and didn’t return to the game. Trainers were spotted in the bench area tending to Faulk’s right knee.

This is a crushing blow for New England, both on the field and off. Faulk is a 12-year veteran and the only player on the roster who precedes Belichick, an instant voice of reason and respect in the Patriots’ locker room who has seemed almost ageless in his backfield role. Faulk has played more snaps than any other running back in New England since 2007, a product of the Patriots spreading the field and using Faulk as both pass blocker and reliable option out of the backfield. Tom Brady’s safety valve now appears to be shut off for the rest of this season and possibly beyond – 34-year-old running backs don’t tend to see 100 percent again after this sort of injury.

Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are the three remaining running backs in New England’s rotation. Look for the Patriots to shuffle their personnel, potentially bring in someone who can play exclusively on third down and employ more two tight end sets with explosive rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. If there’s one thing Belichick has always been able to do, it’s make adjustments. He’s had to do it each of the last two years after Brady tore his ACL in the 2008 opener and Wes Welker tore his ACL late in 2009 against Houston. The final 14 weeks of the season is plenty of time for Belichick to figure out a solution, but losing a player like Faulk isn’t an easy problem to solve.

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Crying Colts get their way again — this is not a recording

Posted by Bill Koch on September 2, 2010

What a shock we’ve had here today at Ramble On. The IndiaNoPlace Colts have cried, whined, screamed and gotten their way again.

Peyton Manning, Bill Polian and St. Anthony of Indianapolis (that’s Tony Dungy for those of you who haven’t gotten the memo that he’s the second coming of The Messiah) apparently can do no wrong as far as the National Football League is concerned – unless it includes raising kids or maintaining any sort of professional dignity. The league has caved to the PR campaign orchestrated by Manning and Polian and will move umpires back to their original positions for the final five minutes of each half during the final round of preseason games this weekend. We can all see what’s going to happen next. The NFL will try to save face, insist that this is the better way and cave to the Colts’ demands.

All it took was Manning being whistled for a pair of false start – snap infringement penalties against the Green Bay Packers the other night for the usual tantrum about league rules to start in the Midwest. We’ve already reviewed the situation this week and we’re not going to cover that ground again, but it needs to be noted that it took the NFL took only 48 hours before changing a rule that was implemented in the offseason as a safety precaution to protect umpires from the collisions that have been knocking them out of games and out for seasons.

And people accuse Bill Belichick of being the cheater. Here was Belichick’s reaction to the new rule and his thoughts on how the New England Patriots would adapt to it just one day after Manning let loose in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column:

“I think we are more concerned about what we are doing,” Belichick said. “Whatever the officials are doing, they are doing. We’ll adjust to it or deal with it whatever it is. Right now, we are more concerned about what we’re doing.”

Now, Belichick knows damn well that his team is going to be throwing the ball a ton this season. He knows there are times when he’s going to put Tom Brady in the no-huddle and have the Patriots air it out. He knows that defenses will face the same struggles against New England that they do when they face the Colts.

With all that said, Belichick isn’t on the phone to King or Roger Goddell or anyone else on the NFL Competition Committee to change a rule that without question could hurt his football team’s chances of winning games. That passes for common practice in IndiaNoPlace, an organization that took on Dungy’s Holier Than Thou persona while he was the coach there and won’t let it go. The next time you hear Belichick pass judgment on Rex Ryan like Dungy did earlier this year will be the first.

To put in perspective how disgusting this should be to the rest of the league, consider this – it’s something that Patriots’ fans and Jets’ fans can agree on, something that hasn’t happened very much since Bill Parcells took his groceries and turned up in Manhattan.

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Brady’s flaws become shockingly clear

Posted by Bill Koch on January 11, 2010

Tom Brady sideline demeanor

Tom Brady is finished.

He’s done winning Super Bowls. He’s done being one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s done leading the league’s first dynasty of the new millennium, his power stripped by his ever-growing outside influences that have taken his focus away from the field. Look no further than No. 12 to start playing the blame game for the New England Patriots’ 33-14 demolition at the hands of the hungry Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in Foxboro.

Nobody wants to point the finger at Brady, because ripping him in New England is like ripping Michael Jordan when he was in his prime in Chicago. No Bulls fans wanted to hear that Jordan was a selfish coach-killer who rode teammates to their breaking points, refused to sacrifice his own personal statistics for the good of the team and generally stunted the growth of any promising player who could have helped him win an NBA title sooner. No Patriots fans want to hear that Brady is past his prime and done winning, that all those trips to New York and California at the expense of punishing offseason workouts and hours of film study have taken their toll. They want to point the finger elsewhere. Let’s look at some of the common targets.

The Offensive Line

All season we’ve heard that New England’s offensive line was the cause of Brady’s struggles. That’s simply not true, and the season-ending numbers prove it. The Patriots actually made remarkable improvement on the line after Matt Cassel absorbed a league-leading 47 sacks last year. New England allowed just 18 sacks this year, their lowest number since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Brady himself hit the deck 16 times, the fewest in his 10-year career, and was sacked just twice during the last six weeks of the regular season. For a little perspective, Brady was sacked 21 times during his record-breaking 2007 season, 26 times in 2004, 32 times in 2003 and 41 times in 2001 – all years in which the Patriots reached the Super Bowl.

The Defense

It’s hard to get too excited when you’re talking about Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess as your edge pass rushers, but the Patriots defense wasn’t as bad as you might think this season. New England held its opponents to 22 points or less in 12 of the team’s 16 regular season games, two more times than it did last year, and posted an equal number of sacks (31). The Patriots forced 43 takeaways, 14 more than they did in 2008, and posted a plus-6 turnover ratio, better than last year’s plus-1. New England was plus-7 in 2001 and plus-9 in 2004, both Super Bowl years. That’s a very small margin despite the overwhelming public perception that those teams had so many more playmakers on that side of the ball.

New England did allow 33 points on Sunday, but look a little deeper into the box score. Four of Baltimore’s six scoring drives started in New England territory, including a pair inside the Patriots’ 35 that ended in field goals. The Ravens began their touchdown drives in the first quarter at the New England 17 after Brady’s fumble and at the New England 25 after Brady’s second interception. Ray Rice did go 83 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening play, but Baltimore averaged barely three yards per carry (51 carries, 151 yards) the rest of the afternoon. That certainly can’t be considered poor play by the Patriots defensive line.

The Wide Receivers

Wes Welker was out on Sunday and Randy Moss has been catching heat for allegedly dogging it on the field, but neither one of them can be seriously at fault for Brady’s inability to consistently push New England’s offense into the end zone in 2009. Welker led the league in receptions and Moss led the league in touchdown receptions, giving the Patriots a spectacular 1-2 punch. The perceived lack of a third receiver is a baseless myth as well, because the Patriots have won without one in the past. Julian Edelman finished behind Welker and Moss with 37 catches for 359 yards this year and Kevin Faulk added 37 catches of his own. During the championship seasons, Deion Branch (35 catches, 454 yards in 2004), Troy Brown (40 catches, 472 yards in 2003) and the duo of Terry Glenn and Charles Johnson (14 catches apiece in 2001) finished third in catches among New England’s receivers. There’s certainly not much of a difference to be found there.

No, the underlying fact in all of this is that Brady has changed. He’ll be 33 in August before the 2010 season starts, entering the final year of his contract, and he’s not the kid with the chip on his shoulder who willed himself into being one of the league’s elite quarterbacks anymore. He forgot what made him great in the first place around the time he started dating Hollywood actresses and supermodels and began jetting off to Paris and Milan instead of busting his ass with the rookies at minicamp. He gave away the parking spot close to the Gillette Stadium entrance that is awarded to the Patriots’ hardest offseason worker in favor of the high life – the luxury apartment in Greenwich Village, the mansion in Brentwood, the $10,000 suits complete with matching scarves – and at the same time handed off the respect of his teammates and his ability to lead them like he had before. He’s not one of them anymore. He’s above them, and he lets them know it without saying it. He spit in the faces of New England’s medical staff when he had one of his childhood buddies perform his knee surgery in 2008 and spit again at the training staff by trying to go through his brutal rehabilitation on his own while staying on the West Coast. No other Patriots’ player with any regard for his job security would have been allowed to do such things.

Not even Bill Belichick could see it. The man who may go down as the greatest coach in NFL history, a man who won three Super Bowls in four years and has captured five rings in the salary cap era, couldn’t coldly and clinically evaluate Brady like he had with so many others. It was Belichick’s decision to bench Drew Bledsoe, New England’s franchise player at the time, in favor of Brady that launched the Patriots’ dynasty and cemented Belichick as “The Genius.” Tedy Bruschi was forced into retirement. Brown was replaced in the slot by Welker. Lawyer Milloy and Ty Law were both cut when their contract demands became too much. Richard Seymour was traded for a first round draft pick, the type of move designed to make the Patriots a younger team that can stay under the cap and still feature quality depth.

Brady should have followed Seymour out the door. He should have been traded before the start of the season for draft picks and he likely would have fetched a pair of first rounders or a combination of a first round pick and several lower round choices, future players that New England could have used to turn over its roster. Cassel could have been retained for the same contract that Brady is playing under right now – six years, $60 million – and slipped nicely into Brady’s spot under the salary cap. At 27, Cassell could have led New England into the new decade with fresh enthusiasm and the everyman quality that its players responded to so well when Brady possessed it.

Instead, New England has a quarterback for the foreseeable future who is as old as Joe Montana was when he won his final Super Bowl in the 1980s, older than Troy Aikman was when he won his last Super Bowl in the 1990s and older than Terry Bradshaw was when he won his last Super Bowl in the 1970s. Montana’s 49ers, Aikman’s Cowboys and Bradshaw’s Steelers watched their respective dynasties decay as their play declined through injury and the relentless assault of time. The same thing is already well underway for Brady’s Patriots, and he’s powerless to save them this time. He’s not their hero anymore. He’s done.

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Posted by Bill Koch on January 3, 2010

I wanted to write about the Houston Texans today. I wanted to talk about how many nice pieces they have in place for the next few seasons. I wanted to say that if I was Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or any other big-name coach on the sidelines looking to return to the NFL that Houston would be at or near the top of my list of places to go.

All of that changed midway through the first quarter when Wes Welker crashed down to the Reliant Stadium turf and grabbed his left knee.

The New England Patriots’ heart and soul, the league’s most productive wide receiver over the past three seasons, was down and out. Welker was helped to the sidelines and then carted off to the locker room, his day and the Patriots’ season apparently finished before their playoff run could even begin.

Julian Edelman can try all he wants, but he’ll never be able to replace what Welker gives this New England offense. Welker set a new NFL record with 9.38 catches per game this season and further established himself as Tom Brady’s go-to guy. Welker terrorizes opposing linebackers and safeties by going underneath, making the tough catches over the middle and racking up the hard yards that keep the chains moving. That sort of production is critical against the tougher defenses that teams face in the postseason.

I’ll take a guess and say that Welker tore his ACL – we won’t see him wearing that No. 83 jersey again until October at the earliest. A guy as tough and as gritty as Welker doesn’t cover his face with a towel and break into tears on the bench over a sprained knee. The trainers tending to him likely gave him their preliminary diagnosis, one serious enough to make Welker drop a few F-bombs and vent his frustration.

The debate will rage this week about whether or not Welker should have even been playing in this game, one which the Patriots didn’t need to win to qualify for the postseason or secure a home game in the AFC Wild Card round. I’m siding with Bill Belichick on this one – the starters had to play at least a quarter or maybe even the whole first half. There’s no way to replicate game speed in practice, and the Patriots would have been looking at a very stale 14 days off before hosting one of a handful of teams who could still qualify for one of the two AFC Wild Card spots had they rested their regulars. Josh Beckett still has to throw side sessions between starts, even in the postseason. There’s just as good a chance that Beckett could tear his rotator cuff on a Tuesday in June as there is two days before Game 7 of the World Series, but it’s part of the routine. It’s what Beckett needs to do to stay sharp, and playing hard for at least a little bit of Week 17 is what Belichick thought the Patriots needed to do to be effective next week. Welker’s injury is part of football – the very unfortunate part.

And so New England’s 2009 season effectively ends the same way that the 2008 campaign began – with a left knee injury. The Patriots were finished after Brady shredded his against the Kansas City Chiefs, and now they’re done again after Welker sealed his own impending trip to the operating table on Sunday. Their travel plans to Miami for this year’s Super Bowl just got canceled in the cruelest way possible, and any thoughts I had about talking up Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans Brian Cushing and Dunta Robinson vanished as well. Welker’s is the only name on my mind today – and it’s for all the wrong reasons.

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Colts, Manning are cowards again

Posted by Bill Koch on December 27, 2009

What you saw on Sunday is a perfect example of why the Indianapolis Colts will never win another Super Bowl with the current regime in charge.

The Colts gutlessly and fraudulently laid down for the New York Jets, taking a blowtorch to their own bid for a perfect season and suffering an embarrassing 29-15 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis had its undefeated run halted at 14 games and had its NFL-record 23-game regular season winning streak snapped by a team with a rookie quarterback that was struggling desperately to qualify for the postseason. Mark Sanchez and New York were handed a gift, a chance to play into the second week of January by finishing the season with a win next week against Cincinnati in what should be the last game at the old Giants Stadium. The Colts, meanwhile, will play in Buffalo and battle the Bills in a game where the better loser will lose.

The Peyton Manning Face was on full display in the second half on Sunday, and there was no masking his own displeasure when he was hooked in favor of the immortal Curtis Painter late in the third quarter. Manning’s own bid at finally doing something Tom Brady never accomplished went by the boards, and now all that’s left for Manning and the Colts to do is win the Super Bowl. They’ve clearly sent a message that their season will end in failure if it doesn’t feature a fresh set of championship rings after a trip to Miami in February.

If Bill Belichick pulled the stunt that Jim Caldwell pulled on Sunday, we’d hear screaming and yelling about how Belichick “disrespected the game” and about how he didn’t have any integrity or respect for his opponents. Caldwell called off the dogs in a 21-15 game, pulling Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and all of the other Indianapolis stars while practically inviting New York to finish off its upset win. Caldwell is a branch of the Tony Dungy coaching tree, and his treatment in the aftermath of this decision will likely be something similar to what St. Anthony of Indianapolis would have received. Teflon Tony never heard a cross word from any writer or talking head at any point in his career, even after he failed to win a big game as the head coach in Tampa Bay and scraped his way to a lone Super Bowl thanks to a pathetic performance by Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman. Caldwell’s sins will be forgiven because he’ll say he was looking out for the best interests of his team. The Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens, Jaguars and every other team in the AFC Wild Card equation might have a few different things to say.

Manning’s sideline emotions betrayed how he felt on Sunday, and it might be the only time I’ve ever agreed with the modern-day Dan Marino on anything. Manning was wearing his trademark scowl, so familiar to New England Patriots fans after watching all of those horrendous, interception-laced playoff performances in frosty Foxboro. After the game Manning stuck to the party line, insisting that the Colts have greater goals than going undefeated, but you could tell he wasn’t happy with the plan. He wanted to run the table, go 19-0 and end any discussion about his supremacy over Brady in this era.

That chance vanished as quickly as Painter trotted onto the field and the Indianapolis stars came to the sidelines, and it sealed the one fundamental difference between two of the decade’s premier franchises. The Patriots, like Herm Edwards famously said, PLAY TO WIN THE GAME – every game. The Colts don’t, and it’s that mindset that will keep Indianapolis from retaining its sharpness into the postseason. Manning has seen this story before, a strong Colts’ start that flames out early in the playoffs, and his face on Sunday bore the worry of a man who sensed that Indianapolis had allowed the momentum it spent 15 weeks building to slip away in 20 minutes. It was shameful and disgusting, and Indianapolis will endure similar feelings when it comes up short in the postseason again very soon.

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Will The Real Tom Brady please stand up?

Posted by Bill Koch on December 23, 2009

Anybody else curious why we’re hearing so much about Tom Brady’s injury status lately?

The sound you hear is Bill Belichick running interference for his cover boy quarterback. He’s trying to divert your attention from the fact that Brady is slowly and silently making his way down the other side of the mountain, his best days behind him, his peak as much a part of history as his 50-touchdown season in 2007.

Before you flip out and start posting death threats (although all feedback is welcome as always), consider the facts. It isn’t like Belichick to allow any nugget of information to leak out of his Foxboro lair, especially when it concerns the health of his franchise player. If Belichick won’t tell you that Stephen Neal has a chronically bad right shoulder and likely wouldn’t pass a league physical right now were he to be cut or traded, he sure as hell isn’t going to say whether or not Brady is playing through legitimate pain. The running joke on the New England Patriots injury list for the past six years is that Brady is listed as “probable” every week, a vague “right shoulder” ailment cited as the cause. It’s Belichick’s way of tweaking a system that he regards as ridiculous – he doesn’t want to give opponents any advantage, whether it be through some misguided trash talk by his own players or by telling that week’s opponent that the leader of his offense has a sore arm and can’t get the ball down the field.

With that in mind, listing Brady’s rib, finger and shoulder ailments on that Wednesday list is no longer a laughing matter. It’s out of character for Belichick to be so revealing. It gives the Foxboro fan base a reason to rationalize the 9-5 record that New England has posted so far – Brady’s hurt. It’s that simple. But it’s not.

Ignore for a minute the 3,945 yards that Brady has thrown for this year – even quarterbacks on bad teams can put up those kinds of numbers, because they’re usually behind and slinging the ball all over the place. Look a little deeper. Take away Brady’s six touchdown passes in that 59-0 thrashing of Tennessee, and he has only 18 touchdown throws in the Patriots’ 12 other games. He’s been careless with the football, throwing at least one interception in New England’s last four games and in seven of its last nine. Brady has been picked off at least once in nine games this season, his worst period of turnovers since his second full season as a starter in 2002-03. His decision-making was what caused Belichick and the rest of the Patriots’ staff to stick with Brady instead of handing Drew Bledsoe his job back in 2001. That was always considered Brady’s greatest strength – his mind. Not this season. Look no further than last year to see Matt Cassel’s nine turnover-free games while directing an offense that featured just about all of the same weapons.

And it continues from there. Brady’s quarterback ratings from the last four weeks read like a D-student’s marks in high school – 55.0, 101.5, 74.0 and 59.1. Even Brady’s best statistical game during that stretch, a 352-yard effort against Miami, was clouded by the hideous fourth-quarter interception he threw in the Dolphins’ end zone to help pave the way to a 22-21 loss. New England’s point totals from the last four games are equally staggering. This perceived offensive juggernaut has scored 17, 21, 20 and 17 points in the last four weeks, a Cleveland Browns-like output for a unit that features two of the NFL’s best receivers in Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Brady was better and more efficient when he had David Givens, David Patten, Troy Brown, Deion Branch and Mike Vrabel as his targets.

Moss has taken most of the heat for the recent offensive difficulties, and it’s easy to blame him for just about anything that goes wrong in Foxboro. That was Moss’ reputation when he came to New England, a player who was perceived as a dog at certain times in Minnesota and almost all of the time in Oakland. Belichick has come out publicly in defense of Moss, insisting that he’s still very much a part of New England’s game plan going forward. What Belichick doesn’t have to say is that Brady is as well, for better or for worse. Belichick won’t say how concerned he is about that in so many words, but his Brady injury smokescreen and rare peek into the training room in Foxboro should tell you all you need to know.

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Pats vs. Dolphins – Who ya got?

Posted by bdowd625 on December 5, 2009

I’ve got to be honest. I’m having a tough time getting pumped up for tomorrow’s Patriots game. I spent so much energy gearing up for the Colts and Saints games – both losses – that I’m struggling to summon the same emotion for a lesser opponent like the Miami Dolphins. I’m still down after last week’s debacle at New Orleans I guess. The Pats are just terrible against good teams and this game really doesn’t seem to carry the same weight as the last few have. Yes, New England will most likely win, but what does that really prove? They’ll pad their lead in the AFC East, but the rewards seem to end there. Anybody else as indifferent as I am right now?

I see the Pats rolling to a fairly comfortable 27-14 victory. I just don’t know how excited I’ll actually be watching it. Some other predictions for tomorrow’s game:

*  Tom Brady carves up the Miami defense like a Thanksgiving turkey. I expected Brady to have a monster game last week and he looked worse than Tim Thomas in Montreal last night. And that’s hard to come by when you’re busy getting torched for five goals. Yes, I’m pissed at the Bruins right now. But I digress. I’ll be amazed if Brady strings together two clunkers in a row.

*  Laurence Maroney? Enough said. I’m going to keep prediciting at least one fumble from him until he proves me wrong.

*  Strong games out of Randy Moss and Wes Welker. They were as hard to find last week as Ferris Bueller in Ben Stein’s history class. Moss? Moss? Moss? Welker? Welker? Welker? They should be back in class tomorrow. I see the two combining for 20 catches and about 200 yards.

*  As far as the Pats defense goes, you’ll have a better chance of seeing Jonathan Wilhite spontaneously combust on the field than you will of seeing him actually break up a pass. The same goes for the rest of New England’s secondary.

*  Since we haven’t heard a word from Joey Porter all week, chances are he will actually show up tomorrow. Something like two sacks and 10 tackles. Then we will have to listen to him bitch and moan for the rest of the season about how he dominated the Pats.

*  Bill Belichick has started to look as lost as Charlie Weis on the sidelines. Raise your hand if you thought that would ever happen? I’m thinking someone makes a big play at some point on offense to light a fire under his ass and maybe, just maybe, he cracks a smile or throws a fist pump.

Check back after the game for some analysis.

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