Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Heat are Public Enemy #1 in Beantown

Some old-school fans may cringe at this fact, but the Lakers are no longer the C's biggest rival. It's the Heat. Kevin Garnett stirred the pot when he refused to acknowledge Ray Allen's tap on the shoulder during yesterday's game in Miami. It was ice cold, but that's how it should be this season.

The storied Boston-LA rivalry has toned down the past few seasons.. There's no real tension or storylines between the two teams. Russell had Chamberlain. Bird had Magic. Kobe has...Pierce? Garnett? No, these teams don't mirror each other well.

The 2008 and 2010 Finals were good stories, but it's a different era now. Rondo, Pierce, and KG are the only ones left from the Big Three era. LeBron has now led a team to a championship and has established himself as teh league's best player.  The Celtics are hoping to recreate themselves as a run-and-gun team. The Lakers have retooled as well.

It's clear that Boston and Miami are the two best teams in the east. Derrick Rose is out untill January. Brooklyn improved, but not significantly better. And New York just got old. Why should the Celtics care about the Lakers? They only face them twice this season and those two games are in a two week span in February, when the NBA doldrums set in.

The Heat are the Alpha Dog team in the NBA right now. Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” The Celtics didn't try and become the Lakers, they got a quicker, higher scoring team that can run with the Heat.

I'm glad KG "lost" Ray Allen's phone number. That animosity provides a better storyline for Celtics fans and basketball fans in general.

Forget Long Beach, South Beach is where Celtics fans should be focusing their hatred.

Friday, October 26, 2012

David Stern: The World Is Not Enough

David Stern and Adam Silver could be the villains in the next Bond movie. I can picture the twiggy, bald, bespectacled Silver stroking a white cat while listening to Stern pontificate how to get a professional basketball team on the moon. " It can't be any worse than Sacramento, right?" says Stern. "Yes, master. Of course," responds Silver. Cue evil laughter.

Like a Bond villain, Stern ruled through fear, intimidation, and ruthless thirst for expansion to all corners of the globe. But unlike those villains, I begrudgingly tip my cap to Stern for helping build the league into what it is today.

I like that Stern has emphasized smaller markets through expansion and a favorable CBA, but then again, who wants to watch a Charlotte-Sacramento game on a Tuesday night?  There was also all but blood in the streets when Seattle moved to Oklahoma City. Sacramento fans live in constant fear for their team being deported. Stern has a shrewd business mind, which is good for business, but it doesn't always help me as a fan. The league is big, but maybe...too big. (But at least the NBA has built franchises better than the NHL. Hockey in Atlanta? Really?) 

Stern helped usher in a global NBA empire. And I LOVE that. With some of my baseball loving friends, I frequently argue which is a bigger global sport, baseball or basketball? It's no question. You can pick an NBA all-star from every continent. Euro leagues are becoming more attractive basketball finishing schools. Stern was initially reluctant to let NBA players go to Barcelona in '92, but its a decision he probably doesn't regret. This year's Olympics featured some professional caliber squads in Spain, France, and Brazil. This has been a great addition to the sport and I thank Stern for that. The NBA is also televised in 215 countries world-wide. This past year I've had in depth conversations about basketball with people from France and China. I don't think they would have been interested in talking about the advantages of a WAR metric. (And who watches the World Baseball Classic? Really?)    

Stern also implemented some weird policies. There were accusations of racism when Stern implemented a dress code aimed at the hip-hop generation of basketball players. Stern vetoed the Chris Paul-to-Lakers deal that had many basketball-philes drooling. And preventing Stan Van Gundy from being on TV is just wrong. 

So what is the meaning of David Stern? He helped grow a floundering league in to a global juggarnaut. Of course, he had help from mega stars like Jodan, Shaq, LeBron and Kobe. And there have been some rocky times like the lockouts. But I'll let it slide. To quote Bond-villain parody Dr. Evil,  "I've been a frickin' evil doctor for 30 frickin' years! So cut me some frickin' slack." I guess I should. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John Farrell: Much Ado About Nothing

Something is rotten in the state of Fenway. It’s the idea that John Farrell can lead the Red Sox out of the mire and back to respectability. Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington may have gotten the man they wanted, but Farrell’s hiring was a knee-jerk reaction that won’t pay off in the long run.

After the Bobby Valentine fiasco, Lucchino and Cherington wanted someone who had good clubhouse management skills. Farrell mentioned how he deals with players several times in his press conference. “If you treat the players like men, I believe it will come back to you tenfold. It won’t always be rosy; there will be tough conversations,” he said.

Toronto was not a rosy place these past two seasons. The team went 154-170 under Farrell and struggled to develop its young talent. The Blue Jays’ recently retired shortstop Omar Vizquel, a future hall of famer, harshly critiqued the atmosphere in the clubhouse."If you make mistakes and nobody says anything about it -- they just let it go -- we're going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” Vizquel told Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons in a late September interview. The shortstop also admonished the Toronto coaches for not communicating the mistakes to young players:

“I think a lot of mistakes were let go because it's young guys. You expect mistakes from young guys. It needs to be talked about. It shouldn't just be let go and say, 'Ah, we have another day.' You have to get on it.”

Although he never called out Farrell specifically, it’s doubtful that Vizquel meant for him to escape blame. Farrell responded with a comment saying that the team dealt with player issues internally.  

Vizquel later apologized, but this exchange should have been a red flag for Lucchino and Cherington. This was not an immature rookie going on a Twitter rant; it was a highly-respected, veteran calling out a coaching staff  that was not developing young players. The Red Sox need to have a player development-friendly organization. Will Middlebrooks had a promising rookie year will most likely be the starting third baseman next year. Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was in a similar situation to Middlebrooks this past season and greatly underperformed. The Red Sox can’t let that happen to their third basemen of the future.    

The notion that Farrell’s connections to the Red Sox World Series teams will somehow lead to success is as ridiculous as an eight year anniversary parade. “Connections” don’t win ball games. Just ask the former Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen. Guillen was the third base coach for the Marlins when they won the World Series in 2003 and said he was happy to be “home” when he was hired earlier this year. The team won 69 games, the same number as the Red Sox and Guillen is out of a job. Granted, Guillen is a controversial, but his connection with past glory did not do his team any good.

In his press conference, Farrell mentioned that constant change on a team can make it difficult to find success. He dealt with 107 different players over two years in Toronto. Boston fans should cringe at hearing that. Injuries are a part of the game, but good teams find a way to win. The Oakland Athletics were plagued with injuries all season, and yet they won AL West with a rotation that featured all rookies by the end of September. Farrell needs to be able to bring together a clubhouse that will probably feature some new faces next season.

This hiring reeked of sentimentality. Cherrington and Luchinno are patting themselves on the back. Good for them. It’s time they won something. Red Sox fans should remain skeptical. Management can laud Farrell’s “family ties” all it wants, but that doesn’t make up for his managerial deficiencies. Owner John Henry and his management team are extremely happy with this hire, but Red Sox fans are still miserable and Farrell provides few reasons for them to cheer up. Be warned, management. To quote Shakespeare once more,  “how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Don Draper's Basketball Team

In the first season of Mad Men, the final episode closes out with Don Draper pitching a campaign to Kodak executives to sell their new "photo wheel."  The pitch is pure Draper, emotional, heartfelt, and right on the money. He evokes nostalgia as he cycles through photos of his family. Draper says, "In Greek, nostalgia literally means, 'the pain from an old wound." 

It's a pitch that he would use if he was campaigning for the Brooklyn Nets

You would be hard pressed to find a bigger collective wound in the sports world than one left by the Brooklyn Dodgers when they moved to Los Angeles in 1957. 

 Brooklyn waited a long time for that wound to heal. No one expected that the 22-44 New Jersey Nets to fill the hole that was left by the Dodgers, a team rich with the history. But the Brooklyn marketing campaign has successfully woven its way in to the cultural mosaic of Brooklyn. We don't know how this team is going to be on the court yet, but they're going to be a media force and fun to follow.

The organization has proved itself to be different than it's crosstown competitor, the Knicks. That organization shot itself in the foot this summer when they let go their most likable and marketable star, Jeremy Lin. The 'Melo and Amare show still has not proved itself to their fans. Their most memorable playoff moment came when Amare punched in a fire extinguisher case. They Knicks have been the most popular NBA laughingstock of the last decade. They have not won more than 49 games since the 2000 season. They are an embarrassment and fans have found other teams to support in that time. They have't gripped the passions of the city like the Yankees and Giants have. 

The Nets have not been much better on the court. Their 12-win 2010 season was one of the worst in NBA history. This team wasn't winning any fans on the court. They couldn't just move to Brooklyn and expect fans to come, they had to transform and become a part of Brooklyn. 

image via Grantland.

And they've done a good job so far. Their sleek Jay-Z designed logo removed the frills of their god-awful 3D shield. Their arena, the Barclay's center opened up with a 8-day run of concerts by HOVA. They've also done some decent work for on the court work as well by signing Joe Johnson and getting Gerald Wallace. This team doesn't have it all together yet, but it's said "We're here for you Brooklyn." It's what New York basketball fans have been waiting for. 

 Borough president Marty Markowitz even fired the first shot in the Knicks-Nets rivalry. "It's treason to support the other borough's team," he said during a rally that proclaimed Joe Johnson & Deron Williams day. This team isn't riding in on its laurels, because it doesn't have any. It's creating that connection to establish themselves as part of the borough.

Sports are bigger than just businesses. They are culture. They are part of a community. And the good ones can evoke that pain of nostalgia that makes us love them all that much more.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rajon Rondo's Ben Affleck Problem

Rajon Rondo and Ben Affleck have the same problem. It’s called the “yeah, but...” syndrome. They are both talented individuals, but this disease makes people talk about their shortcomings whenever you talk about how great they are. It’s probably be described with an example. Imagine you’re talking with friend and you start talk about Affleck’s directing credentials..
        You say, “ Hey I just saw Argo. It’s fantastic. Ben Affleck has totally established himself as one of the best directors in Hollywood today.”
        Your friend replies, “Yeah, but wasn’t he in Gigli? And Reindeer Games? I still can’t take him seriously.”
Now switch the conversation to your best basketball chum. You say, “Rajon Rondo is the best player on the Celtics and the team will be better with him in a leadership role.”
Your friend replies, “Yeah, but doesn’t he shoot like 60% at the free throw line?  Doesn’t he turn the ball over a lot? And isn’t he a hot head? I still can’t take him seriously.”
        Affleck’s movie, Gigli did receive a 7% rating on the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes. And Rondo did record a personal worst 3.6 turnovers per game last year. You can’t disregard those numbers, but just because you get nominated for a Razzie, doesn’t mean you can’t win an Oscar as well.
        I’m not a director, nor am I a point guard, but I’ll venture a guess that those jobs have some similarities. They have to call the shots. They have to work with people to get the right flow to a scene or the right movement to a play. Both a good point guard and a director know when to let people improvise. If Affleck/Rondo can lead behind the camera and add something in front of it, I say let them go forward.
        One of the biggest concerns about Rondo is his shot. It was downright disgusting at times last year. His true shooting percentage was 48.3% on the season, well below the league average. Luckily, Rondo has a new supporting cast that can help disguise his shooting inconsistencies. Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee all had true shooting percentages above the league average of 52%. (I used the numbers from Green’s 2010 season, his last full season.) The right supporting cast can cover for the shortcomings of a leader. If the leader directs them correctly as Rondo can dishing the ball, just ask Jeremy Renner and his Oscar nomination for The Town.
        Rondo is a master at ball handling. He doesn’t need to be LeBron James and do everything. Ben Affleck has mastered the art of creating a story. He doesn’t need to be George Clooney in front of the camera. Remember that Affleck won an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon when he was 25.
It’s the same story with Rondo. During Game 4 of this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Rondo made a pass between LeBron James and Mario Chalmers to a driving Paul Pierce in a space that looked to amount to the size of a sheet of paper. Announcer Jeff Van Gundy even said that he didn’t think anybody else in the league could do that.  Rondo has a unique set of skills that very few other point guards possess. He doesn’t have to be a LeBron James do-everything sort of guy. The offense doesn’t need to run through him. He directs the offense and the Celtics are fortunate to have him do his thing well.
        How do Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce fit in to Rondo’s development? Let’s pretend those two are Alan Arkin and John Goodman, two guys who had roles  in Argo. They play two seasoned Hollywood veterans, one a makeup artist and the other a director. They help create the film company that produces the fake movie that is going to help rescue the Americans trapped in Iran. They provide a role for support, but they don’t head to Iran. KG and Pierce are getting up there in age and coach Doc Rivers can’t expect them to be in the thick of things for all 82 games. They have a place and can step up when they are called on, but for day to day operations, its Rondo’s turn to lead.
        One of the best lines in Argo comes when Affleck and his CIA cohorts propose the movie rescue mission to their supervisor. Their boss doesn’t like it and they respond, “This is the best bad idea we have, sir.” And that bad idea worked. Rondo might not be the best point guard in the NBA, but he's the best player for the Cetlics right now. And they're better for it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Letter to Dan Shaughnessy

Boston Globe columnist Dan "The Ripper" Shaugnessy called out "the bloggers" again the other day.

Shaughnessy brought up the issue of civility in sports after Kansas City Chiefs' fans cheered the injury to QB Matt Cassel.
"It’s an issue about civility in America today. It’s about accountability. It is about angry fantasy football players who do not know how to look someone in the eye, or hold a face-to-face conversation. It is about fanboy bloggers who kill everyone and everything under the brave cloak of anonymity. It’s about instant tweets fired from the safety of your basement. It is about anonymous bullying with the World Wide Web serving as the new bathroom wall."
I agree that KC fans were out of line booing Cassel. Someone just got hurt.

But I don't think it is right to blame bloggers for this problem. And a lot of other Boston bloggers felt the same way.

So I sent Dan a letter.
Hi Dan, I am a blogger as well as a graduate student in journalism at BU (Frank Shorr is one of my professors.) I grew up reading writers like yourself, Bob Ryan, Charlie Pierce, etc. I have a lot of respect you and your colleagues, but I think your attitude towards internet sportswriting is antiquated. I listened to your segment on Toucher & Rich this morning. 
I also read your Matt Cassel column and enjoyed it. I agree with you that it was absolutely terrible to cheer Matt Cassel getting hurt, but I disagree with you that it's mainly bloggers who fuel this sort of thing. I think your point that there are lots of anonymous bloggers out there taking pot-shots at sports stars and professional media members is way off. 
There are many people writing on the internet. However, a lot of anonymous bloggers don't get read. It takes a lot of work to develop a blog. You have to be constantly posting, interacting, updating. If you don't have something new, you're dead in the readers eyes. The idea that bloggers are just unemployed 20-something sitting in their parent's basement isn't really an accurate picture. The blog I edit, is run by a group of us that have real jobs. We have to provide new content every day. It's a lot of work. (We were also just named one of Time Magazine's 50 best websites of 2012.) And our names/emails/twitter handles are all right there on the front page if you want to get in touch with us. 
Stuff like SB Nation, Deadspin, Awful Announcing update regularly. And they are quality blogs. While they may have controversial content at times, they at least stand behind their work. I can't think of a single anonymous blogger I read regularly. I believe the real problem is with people who comment on articles on the internet. I wish more sportswriters like yourself would acknowledge that. Anyone who writes on the internet has experienced the wrath of internet trolls. That is where the real hatred is spewed. Those people aren't held accountable by readers. They don't even have to know how to write well. They can just throw their opinion at the wall and leave. 
Bloggers are, for the most part, good people. Thank you for your time. 
Sincerely, Nick Hansen
 To Dan's credit, he responded to me.
Thanks, Nick. We agree. Good luck with your work
I'm sure he's a busy guy and I appreciated that he sent me a note.

I'm not a big "calling out" guy like Shaughnessy. So my point here is, let's not insult anybody who works hard and stands behind their work. Both bloggers and columnists.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Running Game Fuels Victory Over Broncos

                The Patriots-Broncos game was hyped as a battle between two of the best quarterbacks in the league today. Even thought the battle between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning was entertaining, it was the Patriots running game that stole the show. The Patriots ran for 251 yards in a 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Teams will have to start paying more attention to the Patriots rushing game. Today was the first time in Tom Brady’s career that Patriots rushed for 250 yards, while the passing game did not pass that mark. (It did happen twice in 2008 when Matt Cassel was at QB.) It was only the third time that it had happened since 1993.
Stevan Ridley is quickly becoming another dangerous offensive threat for the already potent Patriots. His 151 yards rushing against the Broncos was the first time a Patriots running back had run for more than 150 yards since 2007.
                Ridley gained yards with a mechanical precision against the Broncos defense. He carried the ball three times in a row on five separate occasions, most of which came in the no-huddle offense. Ridley gained at least one first down on each one of those sets. Patriots fans may be used to the deep ball threat, but maybe they should get used to seeing quick gains from Ridley.
However, it looked like the ghost of Ridley’s past came to haunt him in the fourth quarter when he fumbled on the 37-yard line after Broncos linebacker Von Miller stripped the ball out of his hands. That turnover gave Peyton Manning the ball back with 5:19 left in the game with his team only ten points down. Ridley worriedly paced the sidelines, fearing that his mistake might cost them a victory. However, Rob Ninkovich forced his second fumble on the day. The Patriots recovered and were able to run out the clock.
Danny Woodhead also made some key runs on the day. New England was facing 3-and-17 at midfield. Most fans probably expected a quick pass to Wes Welker, which had been happening successfully most of the day.  Instead, the Patriots stayed on the ground and handed it off to Danny Woodhead. Woodhead, who did not have a single rushing gain longer than 10 yards on the season, broke through multiple Broncos defenders for a 19 yard gain. And if that wasn’t enough, Woodhead carried the ball on the next two plays as well giving the Patriots another first down. That helped continue a Patriots drive that took over 6 minutes off the clock and put them up 24-7 in the third quarter.
In addition to the successful running game, the receiving corps had another solid day. Wes Welker caught 13 passes for 104 yards, setting a personal best with nine catches in the first half. The offense put together a franchise best 35 first downs this afternoon.  They were also efficient, with four drives of longer four minutes. The defense did its part as well, limiting the Broncos to only one possession longer than four minutes.
The Patriots seem to be at their best when they are running the no huddle offense. Their offense flows in those occasions and they don't need help from anyone, even the referees. This was evident in the second quarter when Brandon Lloyd had a ten yard reception and slid in to the end zone. The referees said he was down, but it was close and looked it could be reviewed. That didn’t even matter to the offense. Running back Shane Vereen ran in for a one yard touchdown on the next play.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The New Era Owners

Do you have a friend that seems to own a baseball cap for numerous different sports teams? You know the guy who is  repping LSU one day and the next day he’s rocking Dodger blue. And then he’s wearing, the Knicks, Cowboys, Hartford Whalers... You get the picture.

I can’t stand those “fans.” I don’t believe teams should be fashion statements. (Of course marketing people may disagree.) I believe you should stick with the team you were brought up with. There is some grey area, but the point is, don’t go buying a North Stars hat unless you can name the last active player who was actually a North Star. (It was Mike Modono, by the way.)

There is another version of the hat fan for the 1%. It’s owning teams. Some owners just want the visibility that comes with owning a franchise without understanding what it means to be part of a team.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fantastic piece on Grantland about why owning teams shouldn’t be viewed as a conventional business.

“But most of all professional sports owners don't have to behave like businessmen. For every disciplined and rational operator like the Patriots' Robert Kraft or Mark Cuban, there is also someone like Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Snyder was a brilliant entrepreneur, who at the age of 36 sold Snyder Communications — the marketing company he built from scratch — for an estimated $2 billion. He has subsequently run the Redskins like a petulant 14-year-old fantasy owner. Snyder Communications was a business. The Redskins are a toy. The former he ran to solely maximize profit. The latter he runs for his psychic benefit — as a reward for all the years he spent being disciplined and rational. And it is one of the surreal qualities of professional sports that they are as welcoming and lucrative for those owners who chose to behave like 14-year-olds as they are of those owners who chose to behave like grown-ups.”

Teams are not fashion statements. They have histories. People live and die by them. Most of us don’t live and die by the price of Apple stock.

I don’t think a lot of owners understand this.The current owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslam previously owned their division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those two teams have played each other 120 teams, the most in the AFC.

Peter Gruber owns both the Golden State Warriors and the LA Dodgers. I know there isn’t a rivalry between those two teams directly, but really?

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn put in a bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams, but was rejected. He then went to go purchase the Jaguars. Do you think Kahn actually cares about the Jaguars? He wants them to make money, but I’m sure he would gladly close up shop if the opportunity to move the Jaguars to LA or England came along.

Red Sox owner John Henry previously owned part of the Yankees and the Marlins. Jeesh...

Now I have respect for owners who run a tight ship, like Bob Craft. Or guys who have built their franchises up, like Mark Cuban.

However, I think sports owners should have some investment in their community. Sports shouldn’t just be assets on a balance sheet. They’re an entity that is a visible part of the community. Ask any Bostonian if the Red Sox are just a sports team.

I think there have been some positive trends recently. Peyton Manning’s wife, Ashley just signed off as a principle owner of the Memphis Grizzlies. Peyton and Ashley went to University of Tennessee.

"As a native of Memphis, it was important to me that the Grizzlies remain in Tennessee and continue to have a positive impact on the community," she said to the Denver Post.

And of course, Jay-Z a native Brooklyner owns 1/15 of 1% of the Brooklyn Nets. I know that’s a small part, but Jay-Z brings some hometown cred with him. He’s helped build the brand to show that its part of the community and not just a moneymaking venture for a Russian billionaire.

Sports teams are not normal businesses. They are a reflection of a community. They are important parts of peoples lives. Just like a hat is a reflection of who you support. I wish more owners would show pride in their team, and not just on their metaphorical head.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Patriots 1/4 Review

¼ Patriots: A quarter review

Four weeks into the season the Patriots are sitting at 2-2. It’s their worst start since 2001 when they were 1-3. (Of course that team went on to win the Super Bowl.)

Here are four observation through a quarter of the season:

Chandler Jones has a chance to win Rookie of the Year: Jones has been one of the most explosive players on the Patriots defense and one of the most exciting rookies so far this season. The rookie out of Syracuse leads all rookies in sacks with 3.0. He also has two forced fumbles, and was a constant headache for Cardinals tackle D’Anthony Batiste in week 2.
DE’s don’t usually win Rookie of the Year (Julius Peppers was the one to win in 2002), but Jones has a good shot this season.

A big test for Jones next week. He’ll face off against 2-time Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady. Expect Jones’ profile to increase if he gets past Clady to Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

The improved running game is a huge benefit : Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden are not the focal point of the Pats offense, but they proved they can provide a spark if needed. And maybe the Patriots don’t need to ask too much more. Steven Ridley has 339 yards rushing so far this season. That puts him ahead of Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, and Ray Rice.

If the Pats can count on Ridley and Bolden the passing game isn't clicking, Josh McDaniels will be a very happy man.

Pass defense is the biggest weakness:
Opponents have passed for an average of 281 yards per game against the Patriots which is eighth in the league. Even though Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four interceptions last week, he still passed for 350 yards and four touchdowns. 135 of those yards were on plays of 20+ passes.

And in the previous week Torrey Smith burned the Patriots backfield for 127 yards. The backfield needs to get a hold on long yardage plays, otherwise opponents will still be able to stay in games.

Two and two is no reason to panic: Is there really any substantive drama on this team? Nope. Everyone seems to be focused and the clubhouse drama has been kept at a minimum.

Ok there was that Wes Welker thing, but have you noticed how no one is really talking about that anymore? He’s sixth in the league in receiving yards. It looks like contract issues have taken a backseat to getting wins

The Pats have their embarrassing loss out of the way (well, maybe it won’t be as embarrassing if the Cardinals continue to play well) and their dramatic/revenge loss out of the way (against the Ravens).

The Pats biggest division rival, the Jets, are drama central. So, if the Patriots can stay focused, expect good things to happen.

Prediction for the rest of the season: It’s pretty smooth sailing for Tom Brady and Co. for the rest of the season. The Texans and the 49ers are the only current +.500 teams that the Patriots face for the rest of the season. I predict 11-1 for the rest of the season.