Posts about New England Patriots

Denver is methodical and Seattle holds as they are both conference champions.

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Yesterday’s games surprised me. To begin with, I didn’t expect the Broncos have a such a dominant victory over the Patriots. Denver was a dominant team for the most part of the season but late in the season, questions started to arise about how well they would perform when it was all on the line. After all, recent history showed that when it mattered most, Tom Brady and the Patriots should have been victorious yesterday afternoon. But as we all know and have come to realize, “should have” is not a phrase that matters in sports. Especially at the professional level. We were “supposed” to see at least one of the home teams lose the game. The Patriots’ slow start pretty much squashed their chances of coming back, even with a chance for a one-possession game late in the game. It was San Francisco’s turn to be David, showing all the signs of a team bound for their second Super Bowl in a row. Someone forgot to tell Seattle about all of that, taking the 49ers’ best punch early and coming back with their own strike. What the Broncos and Seahawks showed us, is that in a season where the unexpected was expected, order can be restored and the two favorites can both reach the final game of the season. Before we get to this all-world Super Bowl match up, let’s see how it all went down.

We started the championship Sunday in Denver, where the weather was uncharacteristically warm and the sun was shining all over the AFC title field. Remember how dreary and cold it was when the Ravens won there last year? Peyton Manning’s weather “demons” weren’t going to be a factor. While Manning didn’t make any throws that jumped off the screen, he did manage to rack up 400 yards and a couple of TDs, most of which was the result of long and methodical drives. In fact, Manning’s most memorable moment (too many m’s?) came when he bobbled a snap but recovered and easily threw a first down pass. The Broncos started off well, taking advantage of the Patriots’ defensive back Aqib Talib, their best player on defense, getting hurt. Tom Brady never really took the field in the first half, where the Patriots only managed to put up 3 points. Matt Prater’s leg put up most of the points for Denver but it was the long drives that were the key. Remember when the key to stopping Peyton Manning was keeping him off the field? Well that’s what happened, except it was Brady who never had good field position or multiple long drives. Let’s not forget that the Broncos defense limited a Patriots running game that was thought to be very potent. Once the late two-point conversion wasn’t successful for New England, the party started rocking in Denver. Perfect timing on the marijuana legalization law.

Wait, you’re telling me that the two places where marijuana is legal are sending their teams to the Super Bowl? I need to sign the Dallas petition. Seattle is in fact the champion of the NFC and they are going to face off against Denver in Super Bowl 48. Early on in looked like the 49ers were going to run away with this game. San Francisco wasn’t very potent on offense, most of it coming because of Kaepernick’s legs, but their defense was simply amazing in the first half. Neutralizing any and all offense as the Seahawks could only muster a field goal at halftime. Marshawn Lynch had a big scoring run to start the second half. But the Niners responded quickly, scoring on this incredible throw by the 49ers’ QB. Am I the only one who realizes how mind-blowing that throw was? As incredible as that throw was, Kaepernick also had two key interceptions, the second one sealing the deal for Seattle. The second one was the Richard Sherman interception. Sherman made an incredible play to seal the deal for the Seahawks, and for all of his obnoxious antics, at the very least, #25 backs up his talk with his play. San Francisco’s rally came up just a bit short and Seattle is on their way to New York, to try and win their first Super Bowl. The Seahawks fans are celebrating endlessly right now but shame on them for throwing food on Navarro Bowman, who suffered a gruesome injury. It looks like it was only one idiot but it’s not something you ever want to see.

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What will happen in the NFL’s championship weekend?

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It’s quite amazing the way the NFL season played out from start to finish. Plenty of chaos from week to week, no team safe from defeat, but in the end the teams that we predicted would be here, are going to be playing for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Vegas had the Broncos, 49ers, Seahawks and Patriots as the four teams with the highest odds to win the Super Bowl before the season began, in that order. So did we essentially waste our time watching the NFL this season? From a Cowboys fan’s perspective, it would have been nice to not have to deal with all those heart-breaking defeats. But as a fan of professional football fan, I don’t regret any of the Sundays (Thursday and Monday too) that I spent watching glued to my TV. My girlfriend might think differently but that’s another topic altogether. What are we going to see this weekend? Even if you’re not a fan of any of these teams, one has to admit that these two match-ups have the greatest potential out of all the teams in the NFL. Brady-Manning in their 500th installment to go along with the best rivalry in football and maybe all US sports right now, the 49ers and Seahawks. Despite how predictable it was for these to be the four teams left standing, it’s still going to be nearly impossible to predict what’s going to happen this weekend. As always, i’ll try to do my best:

For a minute, I was very much surprised that the Patriots visiting the Broncos was in fact NOT the final game of the day and/or weekend. The two most famous NFL players on the planet going head-to-head is everything that the NFL wants but because of something called time zones, it’s batting lead off. Could this be the last time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face each other in the postseason? If so, the stakes could not be higher. Manning is fresh off a solid opening playoff victory that, oh yeah, featured a record-breaking regular season. I’m sure if you ask Brady he’ll say he doesn’t care because the only stat that matters is Super Bowl wins, something that Brady has had over Manning for their entire careers. Massive stakes here folks but it’s not just about the men behind center come game time. New England now has a running game that can match Denver yard for yard and score for score. Neither defense is going completely shutdown their opponent’s offense for the entire game. Remember, last time these two teams squared off, the Patriots rallied furiously in the second half to win the game. I don’t see that kind of game playing out but the final score of the game (34-31) is what I do expect to be similar. It will be a tense game with lots of memorable plays and one of two plays off special teams that change the momentum. Who wins? Whoever has the ball last. Could be Brady but it’s probably going to be Manning. Broncos edge out the Patriots.

From there we head west and we head north into Seattle, for a showdown between two divisional rivals. In case any of you didn’t know, the 49ers and Seahawks don’t like each other. Colin Kaepernick and his crew will certainly feel the pressure from Seattle’s robust home field advantage but how much will it really matter? Right now, the 49ers are playing the best football in the league and have looked the most impressive throughout these playoffs. Momentum is always a factor and if you’re the road team, it matters that much more. But despite all of that, let’s take a look at the facts: last time these two teams squared off, the 49ers edged out the Seahawks in the Bay Area. The last time it was in Seattle (second game of the season) the Seahawks completely dominated the Niners, only allowing 3 points. Everyone knows that both of these defenses are among the best in the league but what worries me, if i’m a Seahawks fan, is how their offense is playing. Aside from Beast Mode, Seattle’s offense has been slacking and going up against San Francisco’s line isn’t going to help. I can’t shake that just like I can’t shake that despite Seattle’s pass defense, the 49ers have enough weapons to move the ball enough. The Seahawks were the best team all season and should be favored because of how good they’re at home but I just like how complete San Francisco looks right now. 49ers win a tough game in Seattle to go back to the Super Bowl.

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In an NFL season full of chaos, the Divisional Playoff games provided stability

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Every single team that won this weekend, was favored by the fans, analysts and whatever legal (illegal) betting lines one looks at. Who could have predicted that? For this entire NFL season, there seemed to be some sort of surprise, lurking behind every game that came out to surprise us before the final whistle was blown. That’s the main reason that I went ahead and picked the Chargers to upset the Broncos. Did I really think San Diego would go into Denver and take down the most successful offense in the league’s history? Not necessarily, but judging by this season, it would not have surprised me. The Chargers, showing all the signs of past Super Bowl winners, almost tied the game near the end but Denver played sound football to close out the game. So did New England, Seattle and San Francisco. Maybe that’s what was so chaotic about this weekend: the fact that in a season full of surprises, the teams that were “supposed to win” actually went out and did just that. It sets up for some really good conference title games, with endless story lines, but first let’s just take a quick look at how these teams got in to the final four.

As most people (social media) have made fun of by now, it’s baffling to think about what Marquis Colston was doing at the end of the Saints-Seahawks game. My only guess is that he assumed there wasn’t any time left on the clock but even then, no matter what your position, an NFL-level player should now how to properly execute a lateral. What’s most surprising than that bizarre play is that despite New Orleans not playing all that well, they were still in the game until the final minute. Lots of that goes to Seattle’s defense, who deserve tons of credit for shutting down the Saints the entire first half. Think about this: Drew Brees didn’t find Jimmy Graham until less than a minute was left in the game. Maybe that’s what happens when Richard Sherman decides to follow and hound Graham for the entire game. Marshawn Lynch was the main weapon for the Seahawks (130 yds, 1 TD) and his power running led the way on the offensive side for Seattle.

Things weren’t so close on Saturday night with the Colts taking on the Patriots in Foxborough. I wasn’t surprised about the Patriots coming out with such a dominant win, scoring at will against a Colts defense that just seemed overwhelmed. Who could have predicted that the Patriots would score over 40 points in the playoffs without any of those scores coming from Tom Brady but instead, a power running game? LeGarrette Blount was the feature back for New England, scoring four TDs on the ground as he led the Patriots’ offense. How crazy is that? For the Colts and Andrew Luck, it’s growing pains as this young team continues to progress. Luck’s second year brings him a bit further in the playoffs but his errors (4 INTs) show that he still a lot of time to grow in his young career. The Patriots now advance to their third straight title game against a familiar opponent.

Speaking of third straight conference title games, how impressive were the 49ers yesterday? Out of all teams that won this weekend, San Francisco looked the most impressive, on the road and heading to their 3rd straight NFC title game. It’s a run that also includes a Super Bowl berth and the most impressive stretch for any team in recent years. Even though Carolina led for most of the 2nd quarter, San Francisco just kept playing their style of football and took back control of the game. Kaepernick’s stat sheet didn’t particularly stick out but he played sound football and made the right plays. His main target was Anquan Boldin, who continues to come up big when his team needs it the most. The Panthers were a bit disappointing but when looking at their team, it’s difficult for a team with lack of experience to come out on top against an experienced team like the Niners. Panthers have a nice future but right now, it’s the 49ers time.

Things ended in Denver, where the Broncos took a big lead over San Diego and did enough to fight off a late Chargers comeback that fell short. Peyton Manning led the Broncos, as usual, as they dominated the first half. Not just on the offense but Denver shutdown San Diego’s offense for three quarters, not allowing a score until a couple of minutes into the 4th quarter. It was impressive but as San Diego started to make a comeback, things started to get really interesting. But unfortunately for Philip Rivers and co, they did not get a final attempt to tie the game as the Broncos played very well in controlling the clock and getting key first downs. From there it was a just a couple of kneel downs by Manning, and the Broncos move on to face the Patriots in what should be a great AFC conference title game.

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NFL Playoffs preview: Divisional Round

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We’re officially at the apex of the football season. I know the ratings will continue to climb until we finally get to the Super Bowl, but in terms of amount of quality football that we’re going to watch, the divisional round provides the best and the brightest. Just look at the QBs we’re going to be seeing this weekend. One could argue that if you assume Aaron Rodgers also belongs, the remaining eight quarterbacks are the best in the league right now. There’s a combination of veterans with postseason experience mixed with the young, up and coming future faces of the league. What more could a football fan as for? But as the games gets tighter, it gets more and more difficult to predict. From past experience, I’ve always realized two things about the second round. The first is to never overreact after a first round victory. The second is that there’s always a home team that gets upset in the divisional round.

The divisional festivities begin with the Saints in Seattle, a rematch from Week 13. In fact, all but one of this weekend’s games are rematches. Last time these two teams squared off, it was completely dominated by the Seahawks from start to finish. Do the Saints have a realistic shot to win in Seattle? Right now, Seattle (-8) is a heavy favorite and most people don’t give New Orleans a realistic shot at winning the game. I’m not in that camp. First of all, the Saints have clear advantages in two key positions: quarterback and head coach. Drew Brees didn’t need a heroic effort last week as the Saints had a solid running game. If that stays true, New Orleans has a shot to control the clock and minimize the crowd noise by getting constant first downs. Despite some of the advantage the Saints might have, i’m not going to pick them to win this game. Seattle’s pass defense is just too good and they’ve been nearly unstoppable at home. Saints give a good fight but the Seahawks move on the NFC title game.

Prime time Saturday features the most eye-catching quarterback match up. All-American hero and poster boy Tom Brady is looking to further improve his postseason resume when future great Andrew Luck visits the Patriots (-7) in Foxborough. The Colts are firing on all cylinders after their second half comeback over the Chiefs but is that enough to get them going in the first half of this game, given their season trend of slow starts? The Patriots aren’t the type of team that gives up big leads. In fact, Belichick and Brady are well known for running up the score, showing no mercy when it comes to putting their opponents away. If i’m a Colts fan, that’s what fears me the most. Aside from the QB battle, the Colts pass offense against the Patriots defense is the match up that intrigues me the most. Can Indianapolis take advantage of a porous New England secondary? Luck will most likely be great and continue to fight, no matter what the score is, but I feel the Patriots will get off to a fast start that they won’t give up.

Sunday begins with what I believe to be the most competitive game of the weekend. What baffles me about this game is that the 49ers (-1) are favorites on the road, against the Panthers, who beat them previously in SF exactly two months ago. I know, I know, the Niners were missing some key players but it feels slightly disrespectful to Cam Newton and co to be underdogs. These two teams play a very similar style. Both have excellent defenses and an excellent running game, led by their dual-threat QBs. It’ll be interesting to see how well Kaepernick’s connection with Michael Crabtree continues after a great performance last week. Not having Steve Smith at 100% will hurt the Panthers’ offense but I expect the Carolina defense to do well in limiting the 49ers attack. Even as I write this, i’m still not sure who is going to win this game. In all honesty, it will come down to who has the ball last in scoring position. Carolina’s only loss at home this season was to Seattle, in the first game of the season. Panthers edge out the Niners.

We’ll know three of the four teams left by the time the Chargers visit Denver (-9.5) to take on Peyton Manning and his arsenal of weapons. Last time around in Denver, Phil Rivers (Mr Bolo tie) and the Chargers surprised the Broncos on a Thursday night. How much do we take from that game? Thursday night games are always wonky but the Chargers presented some real problems for the Broncos. San Diego is showing all the signs of the Super Bowl champs of the past few years, catching breaks and gaining momentum at the games go on. This time around the Chargers defense won’t have Andy Dalton’s mistakes to take advantage of. Or will they? Manning’s “cold weather woes” will unlikely be in play but his “Chargers woes” will be. Yes, i’m going for it. The Chargers will control the clock with long drives, get enough pressure on Manning and upset the Broncos. Because of the way the league has been going all season long, i’m going with the possible over the probable in this game. Chargers upset the Broncos.

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Panthers edge out Patriots amid controversy; ranking the top 5 teams in the NFL

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There was controversy to end the game, that much we know. How much controversy exactly? Well, for one that depends on what team you were supporting last night. Patriots fans saw a flag that was rightfully thrown because they believe it was clear pass interference on Gronkowski during a game-deciding pass. Panthers fans saw a flag that was thrown, discussed by the officials and deemed not a penalty after all. From a neutral standpoint it wasn’t great to see the officials throw a flag and then completely go back on the decision. That does happen every now and then. It’s not very common but what is less common is when it the flag is revoked at the end of a game after a play that directly decides the outcome. Is this as big of a controversy as the Packers-Seahawks ending? No but there’s reason for discussion. Regardless of the controversy at the end of the game, the Panthers played a great game and very much deserved to come out on top last night. Huge win for Cam Newton, who continues to make the highlight reel while at the same time having the poise of an experienced quarterback. Remember when it seemed like Ron Rivera had the hottest coaching seat in the league? Now it’s six straight wins with no signs of slowing down. The last couple of weeks have proven that the Panthers are a real contender. The Patriots leave with a bitter taste in the mouth but last night’s game can’t linger too long in New England. Yes, they’re at home but it’s against Denver, who has just come off their biggest win of the season. How do the Patriots bounce back at home after last night’s game? Will we see another classic Brady-Manning game? First let’s see how the best teams in the league stack up as of today.

Record wise, the top three teams would be the Seahawks, Broncos and Chiefs. Seattle is the only team with 10 wins right now because of their schedule (on bye this week) so they’re naturally the best team in the league right now. As long as Seattle has the best record and is playing at home, there’s no reason to make anyone else a favorite going up against them. But if one team could have a legitimate shot at beating them, who would that be? Well Denver has proven that it can handle an elite defense and win without having to simply outscore the opponent. So they’re coming in second and i’m putting the Chiefs right behind them. After a shaky start to the game, Kansas City held their own in a hostile environment. Their offense has some questions but it should be different when they’re at home and Denver is the one in the hostile environment. With all due respect to Brady and co, the last two spots belong to the Saints and Panthers. The Saints didn’t look unbeatable at home for once but their road questions still linger. The Falcons on Thursday shouldn’t be much trouble but after that, visiting Seattle and then at home against Carolina is a tough two game slate. Panthers round up the top five teams in the league. They’re the hottest team in the league I don’t see them slipping anytime soon with the Dolphins and Bucs being their next two opponents.

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Patriots top Jets in ugly game; previewing Sunday’s games

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Is there still time for the NFL to take back their Thursday Night Football idea? Last night’s game between the Patriots and Jets was just downright ugly. Both offenses struggled to get going, the players on defense looked out of gas midway through the 3rd quarter and to add insult to injury, a storm decided to show up at halftime. Despite all of those factors, Tom Brady was still able to (somewhat) lead the Patriots to a 13-10 win over the Jets. Throughout last night’s game, I didn’t know who Brady was throwing the ball to half the time. But luckily for New England, the Jets were even worse when it came to offensive production. Geno Smith looked decent in the first half, despite not throwing a pass for touchdown but when it came to the 4th quarter, it was all downhill. A couple of dropped passes might be a bit to blame but Smith ended up with 3 interceptions in the 4th quarter to seal to win for the Patriots. I’m all for more football whenever possible but not if it’s going to make the game this sluggish and inefficient. Things got really ugly at the end of the game (pictured above) as a scuffle broke out between the teams, resulting in two Jets players being ejected. Maybe, because of all the circumstances, last night was made for a bad game. Next week’s game (Chiefs at Eagles) should provide a better product but we’ll have to wait and see.

Luckily for us, last night’s game wasn’t the most promising game of the week. Not even close. The only game that has the chance to be worse than last night’s is definitely the Jaguars in Oakland to take on the Raiders so avoid that game at all costs. Great slate of early games. I’ll of course be watching the Cowboys-Chiefs game in what feels like a game that will show us just how good both teams are after a 1-0 start. I’ll also be watching the Packers-Redskins game because one of those teams will come out of that game 0-2 and could spell doom for their season. It’s VERY rare for a team to start with two losses and make the postseason in that same season. Am I the only on who thinks that the Dolphins might be good? At the very least they’re the team that starts off 4-0, gets some buzz, comes back down to earth and ends the season 6-10. It’s either them or the Titans. Has to be an AFC team because the NFC is way too stacked for a dark horse team to really make some noise. The late afternoon games will revolve around the Broncos in New York to take on the Giants. It will definitely be a great game to watch but with respects to both Manning brothers, they’re not playing the game of the week. Everyone knows Sunday night’s game that has the 49ers in Seattle is THE game to watch. I might even wait until after the game to watch Breaking Bad like I did during last Sunday night’s game. That’s the potential between these two teams.

Enjoy the games everyone. Should be another great Sunday of NFL football.

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The crazy events surrounding Aaron Hernandez

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Normally a player’s personal life doesn’t interest me much. Sure, I read about what’s going on from time to time but I like to base my opinion solely on their performance on the court/field and nothing else. Mostly because everyone, including non-athletes, have personal problems. Even the greatest sports figures in the history of mankind (Ali, Ruth, Jordan) all had one or two problems away from where their did their best work. In certain cases the situations that athletes put themselves in can skew towards illegal or at the very least “frowned upon” by their teams or fans. I’m not one to get all up in arms (is that how you say it?) if an athlete say, smokes a bit of marijuana or does a little gambling/betting with his friends. As long as it doesn’t turn into an addiction and results into players getting into serious financial troubles that lead into worse circumstances. But when the words “murder” or “rape” or “child/spouse abuse” start getting seriously involved with an athlete, it’s time to get investigate and form an opinion based on the information given. That’s the case with Patriots’ (former) TE Aaron Hernandez because as of this morning, he’s been arrested by Massachusetts State Police.

The police haven’t given an official statement as to exactly why Hernandez was arrested but there’s no doubt that it’s about his alleged involvement with the murder of an “associate” named Odin Lloyd. Authorities have spent a lot time in and around Hernandez’s home for about a week now, trying to find out if he was somehow involved after the body of Lloyd was found only one mile away. Reports have surfaced that the security system in the home was destroyed along with his cell phone. Authorities entered Hernandez’s home this past weekend, spending over 3 hours inside and leaving with more than a dozen bags of evidence. There are also reports that surveillance video from neighbors shows Hernandez with Lloyd and two others only a couple of hours before he was killed.  So as of right now, things look very bleak for Hernandez but then again, i’m not a lawyer nor did I study law. He hasn’t issued a statement but his lawyer has, of course claiming that all these accusations/rumors are false. The Patriots, being the ruthless organization they are, took swift action and within two hours of his arrest released Hernandez from their team. Not surprising at all because I have a feeling that it’s going to be a while before Aaron Hernandez gets complete freedom, let alone plays professional football.

UPDATE: Aaron Hernandez In Court Charged With Murder

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49ers and Ravens both have comeback victories to reach Super Bowl

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Both games were a tale of two halves. Behind great plays on defense and great quarterback play, the 49ers and Ravens were both able to come from behind on the road to secure their spots in Super Bowl 47. Both the 49ers (favorites) and the Ravens (significant underdog) came into the title games in different situations but it was the perseverance to make changes at halftime and absorb blows that was the difference. Even if they weren’t brothers, the Harbaugh coaches both have to be recognized for excellent coaching adjustments throughout the game. Combine that with excellent play from the players and it’s a recipe for success. Players of the game go to Frank Gore (21 car, 90 yds, 2 TDs) in the NFC and in the AFC to Joe Flacco (21-36, 240 yds, 3 TDs) who definitely looked elite yesterday.

The 49ers were very impressive in the second half, shutting out Atlanta’s potent offense and recovering from an early deficit to finally take the lead in the 4th quarter. Kaepernick wasn’t as dominating as last weekend’s game against the Packers but he was effective enough, particularly late in the game to put drives together that put the Niners in scoring position. For the Falcons it simply wasn’t enough and this time around, the lead was just too great to overcome. Statistically Matt Ryan had a great game overall but the problem was that his turnovers (fumble and interception) came at critical moments. Right when the Falcons were going to score either keep the lead or take it back, there was a mistake and the Niners defense was there to take advantage. Also, I was pretty impressed by how loud the Georgia dome got.

Out east, the Ravens were able to play in a similar fashion. The biggest difference was that the Ravens were a pretty significant underdog and note, for the second week in a row they were able to win. Baltimore shutout New England in the second half and also scored 21 points to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since their title in 2000. 21 unanswered points and they made Tom Brady look pretty average; not bad for a defense that was supposed to be old and worn out for most of the season. Ray Lewis will get headlines as usual but it was a collective group effort from start to finish, even after the slow start. The Patriots were already injured and they suffered a couple of key injuries in this game but it’s very surprising that the offense only managed to score 13 points at home.

So we have a Super Bowl dubbed as the “Harbowl” and it looks to be a good one. Tons of headlines to go over in the next couple of weeks.

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