Four-thought on Pats and Bruins


Four-thought on Pats and Bruins

By Michael Felger

A Felger Four to kick off 2011:

I know a lot of you disagree with me, but I think things broke in the Patriots favor on Sunday when the Chiefs were upset at home by Oakland and the Colts got by Tennessee later in the day.

In short, thanks to those results the Pats now wont have to face Peyton Manning until the AFC title game, should they both make it that far. As the No. 3 seed, the Colts are guaranteed of going to No. 2 seed Pittsburgh should they beat the Jets next weekend.

The Pats, on the other hand, will face the lowest remaining seed from Wild Card Weekend, which means either the Jets, Chiefs or Ravens. If New York wins at Indy on Saturday night, then the Pats get their hated division rivals. If the Colts win, then the Pats will await the winner of Chiefs-Ravens on Sunday.

Id take my chances with any of those teams over the Colts. And you can add the Steelers to that list, as well. I still believe the teams that matchup best against the Pats are the ones who throw to win. And thats the Colts. Thats Manning, who figured out Bill Belichick a long time ago.

Are any of you still willing to argue with me about Randy Moss and his value to the Patriots? Is there any more debate? The Pats are a better team without him. Tom Brady is a better quarterback without him. Period, story over. Fact. Not opinion.

Brady threw an interception in the third quarter of his first game without Moss against Baltimore in Week 6 . . . and he didnt throw another real pick the rest of the year (unless you an include an interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the Ravens game). Over the next 10 games, nine of which were wins, Brady threw 24 touchdowns and no interceptions. Over his final eight games he didnt have a quarterback rating under 107. He finished the year with the fifth-highest QB rating of all time, 111.0. He had 36 touchdowns on the year against four interceptions. Four. And he did it against the iron of the league. Baltimore. At Pittsburgh. The Jets. At Chicago. Brady and the Pats played six games against playoff teams after the Moss trade, and they won every one.

And just imagine. They were able to do all that without Moss running off the safety.

If theres another case of more people being more wrong on one topic than the overwhelming majority of fans and media were on Moss, then Id like to know what it is. Because as far as I can tell, it doesnt exist.

A few Pats quick-hitters from Sunday's win over Miami:

I wish Julien Edelman could do it when it counts. For all the progress made by so many young players on the roster this season, Edelman remains one of the disappointing ones. Or maybe we just overrate him every August and this is just what he is. A special teamer.

Those of you wondering where Taylor Price was all year, there you go. Seems like theres a little something there, right?

So Brandon Meriweather is a Pro Bowler and Rob Gronkowski isnt. Hmm. Maybe they need to step up the drug testing across the league.

For all the time we spent talking about the upgrade the Pats experienced in going with Deion Branch over Moss, we overlooked a similar swap that took place in the backfield. How about BenJarvus Green-Ellis for Laurence Maroney? When it comes to this Patriots team, give me the overachiever every time.

Finally, I understand Claude Julien is feeling some pressure. I understand these December and January games may mean a bit more to him than other coaches. A bad stretch and he could be toast. So hes riding a hot hand.

But does he need to risk destroying the confidence of a good, young goalie in the process?

Theres only two reasons I can think of to play 36-year old Tim Thomas in seven straight games in December of an 82-game season (including a stretch last week when he played back-to-back nights and then again two days later) when you have one of the leagues most promising young goalies on the bench. The first is what we mentioned above. Julien fears for his job so hes treating every two points like its life or death. So Thomas gets the call.

The other relates to the four-year, 20 million contract the general manager gave to the aforementioned 36-year-old. Its in Peter Chiarellis best interest to play Thomas as much as possible, too. The more Thomas plays and the better he does, the more Chiarelli can justify that unjustifiable contract to his new boss, Cam Neely.

Anyway, what happened to Rask the other night in Buffalo is ridiculous. Playing in his first game in 16 days, Rask let in one bad goal and was pulled after 20 minutes of action. A 4-3 Bruins lead turned into a 7-6 shootout defeat in front of Thomas, who hasnt exactly been standing on his head of late, either. The Bs lost the two points and they lost the opportunity to give Thomas a needed rest. Lets just hope they dont lose Rask as well.

Felger's season-ending Patriots report card will appear tomorrow. E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.


But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.

Celtics' Ceiling-to-Floor profiles: An award-winning summer for Rozier?


Celtics' Ceiling-to-Floor profiles: An award-winning summer for Rozier?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Terry Rozier. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has every reason to feel good about himself after this year's Summer League, where he was clearly the Boston Celtics’ best player. 
But what does Summer League success really mean in the grand scheme of things?
This isn’t the Olympics, where a good couple of weeks in the summer can lead to sudden endorsement opportunities. And a bad summer, on or off the court, won’t necessarily result in your personal stock taking a Ryan Lochte-like dip, either.
For Rozier, the summer has been a continuation of his emergence during the playoffs last season against the Atlanta Hawks, when his numbers were significantly better across the board in comparison to what he did during the regular season.
And while his role at this point remains uncertain, there’s a growing sense that what we saw in the summer was more than just Rozier making the most of his opportunity to play. 
It was the 6-foot-2 guard playing with the kind of confidence and overall swagger that Boston hopes to see more of in this upcoming season.  
The Ceiling for Rozier: Most Improved Player, Sixth Man candidate
Rozier never wanted to see teammate Avery Bradley suffer a hamstring injury in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series with Atlanta last season. But he knows if not for that injury, he wouldn't have played as much as he did, nor would he be viewed as someone who could seriously compete for minutes this season. 
That injury afforded Rozier playing time he had not seen in the 39 regular-season games he appeared in, when he averaged 8.0 minutes per contest.
In the playoffs, Rozier saw his playing time increase to 19.8 minutes per game, which naturally led to a rise in all of his statistics. 
It did more than help the Celtics compete with the Hawks. It provided a huge confidence boost for Rozier this past summer and will do the same going into training camp, where he believes he will be better-equipped to compete for playing time. 
Rozier already plays above-average defense for the Celtics. The big question mark for him has been whether he can knock down shots consistently. It certainly didn’t look that way during the regular season, when he shot 22.2 percent on 3s and just 27.4 percent from the field. 
Although the sample size is much smaller, he was able to shoot 39.1 percent from the field and 36.4 percent on 3s in the five playoff games he appeared in this past spring. 
So both Rozier and the Celtics feel good about the fact that his game in key areas such as shooting and assists are trending in the right direction. 
And if that continues he'll solidify a spot high atop the second unit, which could translate into him having a shot at garnering some Most Improved Player recognition.
The Floor for Rozier: Active roster
While his minutes may not improve significantly from a year ago, Rozier will likely enter training camp with a spot in Boston’s regular playing rotation.
On most nights the Celtics are likely to play at least four guards: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Rozier. 
Look for him to get most of the minutes left behind by Evan Turner, who was signed by Portland to a four-year, $70 million deal this summer. 
Of course, Rozier’s minutes will be impacted in some way by how those ahead of him perform. But Rozier can’t consume himself with such thoughts. 
He has to force the Celtics’ coaches to keep him on the floor, And the only way to do that is to play well and contribute to the team’s success in a meaningful way. 
While his shooting has improved, Rozier is at his best when he lets his defense dictate his play offensively. 
In the playoffs last season, Rozier averaged 1.2 fast-break points per game, which was fifth on the team. 
Just to put that in perspective, Rozier averaged 19.8 minutes in the postseason. The four players ahead of him (Bradley, Thomas, Turner and Smart) each averaged more than 32 minutes of court time per night.
While it’s too soon to tell where Rozier fits into the rotation this season, his play this summer and overall body of work dating back to the playoffs last season makes it difficult to envision him not being on the active roster for most, if not all, of this season.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath


Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats