Hot takes gone ice cold, (like the AFC Divisional Round playoff games)

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The good news is I went 3-1 in my game predictions, the bad news is all of my score type predictions were wrong. The Pats blew out the Chargers, the Rams didn’t win as big as I thought they would, the Saints game came down to the wire. The Colts lost in embarrassing fashion and it wasn’t a shootout. We have the top 2 seeds in each conference fighting it out for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. So, let’s hope I can be right, no hot takes included.

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Patriots at Chiefs: The Patriots looked great in their blowout win against the Chargers. The Patriots did what they needed to do and exploited the Chargers weakness of running backs catching passes out of the backfield. The running game looked surprisingly good as Sony Michel had a 3-touchdown game. The defense looked great as well, giving up 14-21 points depending on when you think garbage time starts, then gave up a little more when they took their foot off the gas to avoid injury. The Chiefs also looked good in their win. Their defense had a shutout going until the middle of the 4th quarter, the only other points coming from the Colts special teams. Arrowhead stadium is a decisive homefield advantage for the Chiefs, but Belichick is just about the only guys who can not be affected by that. This Patriots defense is better than it was in the week 6 matchup, which the Pats won 43-40. Tom Brady will be Tom Brady; the offensive line needs to continue their good play, Gronkowski also looked really good as a blocker in the Chargers win. I really think the Patriots defense can better matchup with the Chiefs thanks to their health and unique defensive personnel packages. Patriots win.

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Rams at Saints: Both of these teams played well this past weekend. The Eagles jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead then scored 0 points the rest of the game as the Saints came back to win. The Rams handled the Cowboys rushing attack and had a great rushing attack of their own and Dak Prescott wasn’t able to win the game by himself. This game should be great, the Superdome is a tremendous home field advantage for the Saints. The Saints have a great offense headlined by the two headed backfield of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. The Rams have established a great rushing attack with Todd Gurley and the re-emergence of CJ Anderson, and a passing attack of Brandin Cooks, Robert woods and Jared Goff. Both defenses have playmakers and Aaron Donald will be a handful for the Saints, but I think the Saints can squeeze out a win. Their defense matches up with Rams offense better than the opposite. Saints win

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

 

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Those damn Eagles just won’t lose, will they? How ‘bout them Cowboys? Can Andy Reid win a playoff game? Philip Rivers vs Tom Brady and the New England winter? All this and more coming up, ft. my hot (I think) takes.

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Colts at Chiefs: The Colts showed a somewhat stunning display of dominance last week against the Texans. Going to Kansas City is no easy task but their defense is not close to being on the level of Houston’s. Last time these teams met in the playoffs Kansas City blew a 23-point lead, and Andy Reid hasn’t coached/managed a good playoff game since. I have no reason to believe he will now. Timeouts and game clocks are the same no matter what Kansas City fans say about the differences between Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes II. The Colts defense played fast and smart last week and will have to do it again to match up to the speed of Kansas City’s offense.  Colts win in a relatively high scoring game.

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Cowboys and Rams: Did Dallas play well last week? Yes. Did Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer absolutely fall flat on their face despite Russell Wilson’s best effort? Also a resounding Yes. Sean McVay and the Rams are a much more potent and aware offense. With Todd Gurley anchoring the run game and Jared Goff having weapons to throw to, the Dallas defense could be in for a rude awakening. The rams will need to work to get pressure on Dak Prescott only after they try to contain Ezekiel Elliott. The Rams need to force Dak Prescott to beat them with his arm. If they can do that, I like their chances to establish an early lead and better contain the Cowboys. Rams win by at least 10.

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Chargers at Patriots: The Chargers dominated the ravens for about 3 quarters, almost completely collapsed and the forced a game sealing fumble. If Lamar Jackson can pick apart the Chargers defense, why can’t Brady? The Pats will need to protect Brady and if the can do that, receivers should be able to get open over the middle so Brady doesn’t have to hold the ball. The Pats need to use James White and Rex Burkhead in the passing game because that is a weakness for the Chargers defense, and it’s usually a strength for the Pats offense. I don’t believe chargers running back Melvin Gordon will be playing healthy so that could allow the Patriots to focus on defending the passing game and getting pressure on Phillip Rivers. Pats win the closest game of the weekend.

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Eagles at Saints: What almighty power is betting on the Eagles? After winning on a tipped field goals miss last week the Eagles ride into New Orleans, site of their biggest loss this season, a 48-7 blowout. The eagles defense played better than expected last week, but the bears offense does not have the weapons the saints does or the most accurate quarterback of all time in Drew Brees. If the Saints can put up a lot of points the eagles don’t have a diverse enough offense to be able to mix in the run with the pass. The Saints are coming in with a vengeance after how their season ended last year, a missed tackle resulting in the Minnesota Miracle. Sean Payton will have his team fired up to get to where they think they should’ve been last year. The luck is going to run out for Nick Foles. Saints win the most lopsided game of the weekend.      

Hey Celtics, long time no write

 

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics

Due to a variety of reasons I haven’t written about the Celtics in a while. Their schedule is weird so I’m going to quit trying to plan and just do it.

The Celtics are pretty good again, sitting at 24-15, not the best but they’re getting better by the day. After a disappointing start Brad Stevens mixed up his starting lineup. Inserting Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Marcus Smart brings defense, playmaking, and toughness/scrappiness right from the start of the game. Marcus Morris has been having a career year shooting wise by a wide margin. He also brings defense, toughness and rebounding to the starting lineup.

 

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This move pushed Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward to the bench. Jaylen Brown has been playing much better recently now that he’s gotten settled into his role and is playing his style of basketball, using his athleticism to get to the basket easily. As a starter he tried to become more of a catch and shoot guy, which doesn’t suit his skill set. Gordon Hayward is looking good, he’s showing more confidence in his ankle by being more willing to get to the basket, he’s more confident in his shot, he’s showing great passing/playmaking ability, and is playing solid defense while playing premium bench minutes.

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Lets back track for a minute, Marcus Smart is quietly having “breakout year”. He is shooting above his career averages and a very respectable 35% from 3-point range. If he can continue that along with his better playmaking ability, he can be a valuable asset for the Celtics as they make a push for a higher playoff seed and make a playoff run. He is still a defensive magician, he can guard just about anyone on the floor, his puts his body on the line to make the tough plays. Kyrie recently said in his free time that he watches Marcus Smart defensive highlights, me too Kyrie, it’s just so amazing to watch.

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Speaking of Kyrie Irving, he is becoming more of a vocal leader and showing that he can be the number one option on a top-level team. He is playing the best all around season of his life; he’s scoring at least 20 a night usually, displaying great playmaking abilities and is hustling and grinding on the defensive end to make a great Celtics defense even better. Watching this man play basketball is jaw-droppingly amazing. He is an amazing shooter, a great passer, can score at will when he gets to the basket from any angle and he has the best dribble moves in the league bar none.

Big game tonight for the Celtics, with a chance to make up some ground against the higher seeded Indiana Pacers, Celtics are on the comeback and are back with a vengeance to show they’re still one of the top teams to go through in the East and the league.

NFL playoffs: Wild Card Round

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Due to my finals week and the holidays right after, I didn’t write about the last couple Pats games, not much happened to change their future so I’m just going to skip to the playoffs.

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Colts at Texans: The matchup of healthier than past seasons, AFC South rivals. Lead Andrew Luck and his now functional right shoulder the Colts bounced back from a bad start to the season and somewhat quietly ripped off a stellar ½+ of the season to make the playoffs. The defense has undeniably stepped up compared to the last few seasons lead by breakout rookie sensation Darius Leonard. The Texans are healthy too. Deshaun Watson had a great bounce-back season after tearing his ACL during his rookie season and J.J. Watt is healthy and still pretty good. Deandre Hopkins had an unbelievable season, not dropping a single pass. These defenses are somewhat similar statistically, but the Colts offense is more productive and features a more diverse attack. Colts win

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Seahawks at Cowboys: Russell Wilson is really good. Pete Carroll did a good job this year taking this revamped defense and keeping it somewhat on par with past Seattle defenses. The emergence of Chris Carson really helped this offense become less predictable than just a Russell Wilson show. Dallas’ defense has also been better than expected this season, Ezekiel Elliott had another superb season behind a good offensive line. Seattle’s offense brings a more diverse attack somewhat similar to the Colts and they have a defense with the ability to contain a somewhat suspect Dallas offense. Seahawks win.

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Chargers at Ravens: I kind of feel bad for the Chargers, they have the second-best record in the AFC and they have to play a road playoff game in the first round because they’re in the same division as the Chiefs. The ravens had a slow start under Joe Flacco then once Lamar Jackson became the starter the Ravens went 6-1 and controlled their destiny by beating the Browns to win the division and knock the Steelers out of the playoffs. The Chargers offense hasn’t been the same recently, Phillip Rivers has looked bad and star running back Melvin Gordon doesn’t seem to be 100% healthy. The Ravens defense is elite, and they have a killer rushing attack. This one is a toss up for me, but my gut says Chargers if they can see and replicate some of the success the Browns had last week against the Ravens. Chargers win

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Eagles at Bears: Nick Foles came back and lead the eagles to the playoffs, giving them a chance to defend their title. (hypothetically, if the eagles win the super bowl again do the eagles trade Wentz? Because at that point it can’t be a coincidence that the team is performing better with Foles.) The Eagles defense is not the juggernaut it was last season when it carried them through the playoffs. Lead by my coach of the year pick, Matt Nagy and dominant preseason acquisition Khalil Mack, The Bears defense is tops in the NFC, no matter how you spin it. The Bears also have a complimentary offense that can run the ball with the best teams to wear out opponents, old school, smash-mouth football style. They also can throw the ball to good receivers and the swiss army knife Tarik Cohen, also Trey Burton is a good double pass tight-end/quarterback. Bears win.

Do I Really Have To?

Short and simple so I don’t put a hole in my computer out of frustration.

Belichick out thought himself. No sane human being would think Tannehill would throw a 70 yard bomb to the end-zone on a bad ankle. But Belichick put in the Hail Mary safety (Gronk, who took a beating this game) instead of using his best tackler (Devin McCourty). He also benched one of his better pass rushers, specially this game (Hightower). No blame on Gronk, it is ALL on Belichick.

McDaniels is still terrible at his job. The struggles in the red-zone are ridiculous.

Brady had a great game, the offensive line fell apart in the second half. Yes Brady did screw up the end of the first half but they should have scored a few plays ago (see McDaniels’s red-zone struggles) .

I supported and defend this defense all season and they gave me a big old screw you and played their worst game this season. Albeit Miami is a fast an athletic team but not being able to stop 50 year old frank Gore and a special teams player whose classified as a running back for roster placement reasons in Brandon Bolden is the epitome of pathetic.

At least Pittsburgh and Houston lost. Pittsburgh is beat up, so we need to go in with an edge and destroy them to prove that we are a competent team on the road with hopes to lock up a first round bye.

Patriots – Vikings Recap

 

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I have 2 things I need to say. First of all, Tom Brady is the greatest dual threat quarterback of all time, sorry Michael Vick (yes, I’m kidding for those not fluent in sarcasm). Second is very serious, Josh McDaniels needs to be fired, or take a job somewhere else in the offseason. We will touch upon this second point later.

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In a day which featured a slow first half from the Pats offense the Pats still won 24-10. It went to halftime with the Pats up 10-7. The defense continued its hot streak and only allowed 10 points, 3 in the second half. The biggest winner of the game should definitely be fullback James Develin. He now has 3 rushing touchdowns on the goal-line, where the Pats have struggled mightily this season despite having the greatest QB sneak sneaker of all time in Tom Brady. He also blocked extremely well per usual, get this man to a second straight Pro Bowl.

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The defense has been on a roll and there was no stopping them for the Vikings. Trey Flowers continued a great, and underrated season collecting another sack while providing the elite level pressure he has all season. They held Kirk Cousins to 201 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The secondary locked up the big plays downfield which forced Cousins to settle for short gain passes where the Pats defense made the tackles to keep them short of first downs. Stephon Gilmore has continued his elite season as a top cornerback in this league. I haven’t been high on rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson in the past, but he played extremely well, breaking up multiple passes and tipping up a pass that was intercepted by the Pats closer, none other that Duron Harmon.

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The Pats offense woke up in the second half and realized that the had receivers open down field. McDaniels finally realized that Josh Gordon was good and kept him on the field on third down. Gordon finished with 58 yards and a touchdown. He has been amazing since coming over from Cleveland and Brady trusts him more by the week. James White bounced back for 118 total yards on 13 touches. Burkhead returned to action and was a boost to the offense running on fresh legs and Cordarrelle Patterson had the catch of the night against his former team. Brady slightly underthrew him but he was able reach down and in front of him and catch it right before it hit the ground. For guy not known for his receiving ability he has been pretty good for the Pats.

Now I need to rant, Josh McDaniels has pissed off a lot of Pats fans, including this writer. He will run the ball on first and second down and sometimes end up in 3rd and long and draw up a pass play where the Pats can’t get a first down and they have to punt. You have Tom Brady against a banged up secondary or just a bad secondary, but you choose to run the ball on good defensive lines. On the goal line you can’t call a QB sneak, a toss to the outside or a creative pass play it’s always runs up the middle. We have great guards and tackles that can get outside to block run plays, Gronk is a dominant blocker but you run right to the strength of the opposing defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Brady adjusts passing plays at the line of scrimmage on the effective plays. I hope McDaniels takes the Cleveland or Green Bay head coaching job then maybe people will understand that Brady made McDaniels not the other way around.

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Now the Pats are on to Miami, home to incredibly frustrating Dolphins – Patriots games. A game we should win but will probably be much closer than it should be. Then off to Pittsburgh for a pivotal matchup with the Steelers. After their loss to the Chargers the Patriots overtook the second seed in the AFC playoffs, in position for a first round bye. So a win against a possibly James Conner-less Steelers could seal up the second seed especially because the Pats beat the Texans week 1, giving them the tiebreaker in the event that they finish with the same record.

 

Patriots – Jets recap

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and company know how to bounce back from a loss. The Patriots bounced back from a rough loss before their bye week to beat the Jets 27-13.

However, before we get started, we have give the G.O.A.T. some credit. Brady set the all time passing yards record Sunday, combined between regular season and playoffs. Drew Brees is somewhat close to reaching Brady but he set a record nonetheless. He did it without stopping the game for a victory lap, getting a certificate or having his family on the field. If it was anyone else there would’ve been a 30 minute intermission for celebration and recognition but I digress.

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The offense, and defense at times, looked sloppy in the first half. The Patriots as a team collected a season high in penalties accepted and penalty yards allowed in the first half alone. Penalties, on the offensive line especially called back big plays, most of them runs by Sony Michel. The defense gave up a long play or two and got little pressure in the first half as the game went into halftime tied at 10-10.

Then the Patriots showed up to play. Sony Michel would bounce back from a very painful looking injury, where a Jets player attempted to fold him in half on a tackle and post a career high in rushing yards with 133 and a touchdown. The defense was able to generate a lot of pressure in the second half and hold the Jets to three points. Tom Brady, to the shock of nobody not employed by ESPN or named Shannon Sharpe looked on point after the bye week. With time to rest up his throws looked strong and, for the most part, accurate. He missed a couple to Gronk on their signature down the seam route but there was great coverage on them. They did hit on one of those routes where Gronk made a great catch for a 34-yard touchdown.

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The theme of the day for the Pats was the big play. The passing game was able to get guys open downfield as Tom looked to spread the ball around more creating mismatches and openings. The difference from this game to prior just that, Brady looked to pass to more than just Josh Gordon and James White. Hogan had a few long catches, Dorsett caught a few balls, Michel got involved with a few catches as well. As I predicted, having Gronk as helps. He draws coverage from the best player on the defense or double coverage and it creates opportunities for others. Such as how Edelman was left wide-open for his touchdown catch.

There were also big running plays as Michel and White Both had at least 1 run of 20+ yards. This was the first game since 2014 where the Patriots rushed for 200+ yards as a team. Anybody remember that game? I’ll give you a hint, it was against the Colts. Still can’t place it? Let’s give a holy throwback welcome to Jonas Gray who rushed for over 200 yards by himself, 201 to be exact, and 4 touchdowns in the 1st slaughter of the Colts on the Patriots run to winning Super Bowl 49. (He even got his own Sports Illustrated cover, as pictured below, because of one game, then he disappeared into irrelevance). (Also another shoutout to Corey Kluber who won the AL Cy Young, as seen on the cover, even though I think Felix Hernandez should’ve won it that year, but I digress again).

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A decent game all around and a good tune up game for Gronk, Michel, the offensive line and others who were fighting injuries previously. With Minnesota coming to town this week and a regular season trip to Pittsburgh for the millionth straight year looming soon after, this was a good game to get back into sync for the Pats as they look to lock up a top seed in the AFC playoffs and get that first round bye.