Patriots believe in Flacco's skills

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Patriots believe in Flacco's skills

FOXBORO -- Last week the Ravens put their game against the Eagles in Joe Flacco's hands and lost. On a third-and-two, and with one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ray Rice in the backfield, Baltimore asked Flacco to pass for the game-saving first down. His throw went incomplete. On fourth down the Ravens lined up in a shotgun formation and put it on Flacco again. With pressure baring down on him, he flipped a pass too long for Rice and the game was over. Eagles won, 24-23.

The Ravens coaching staff reiterated its trust in its quarterback on Thursday.

"Joe Flacco Im going to have a ton of confidence in Joe," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "It has nothing to do with lack of confidence in anyone else. I like our chances, and as you guys have seen with Joe Flacco, with his ability to get the ball to any of those other five receivers. And will we do that all the time? No, but in critical situations you are going to see that a lot.

Flacco carries a 60.8 percent completion percentage for his career. Last year that was down a bit to 57.6 percent. His career quarterback rating is 86.2 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is slightly less than 2-1 (83 touchdowns to 47 picks). By the numbers, he's a middle-of-the-pack quarterback.

As last week showed, though, the Ravens trust him implicitly. And the Patriots believe he will cause them problems on Sunday night.

"He's always been a tough quarterback," Vince Wilfork said. "He's been playing very, very well this year. He's tough, physically. He's very physically tough, and mentally. He doesn't let much get to him, and that's a big time leader when you have a leader, especially the quarterback, who can be physically and mentally tough. It says a lot about that guy as an individual and as a player. He's definitely . . . he's playing lights out right now."

Flacco had a tough Week 2 in which he was 22-for-42 for 232 yards, a touchdown and an interception. In Week 1, he was, as Wilfork put it, lights out. Against the Bengals, Flacco was 21-for-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-13 win.

On Thursday it sounded like the Patriots were expecting the Flacco they saw in Week 1.

"Joe Flacco's a great player," said Chandler Jones. "I admire his game. I've been watching for a while because I've been watching my brother (Arthur) play for the Ravens. I'm real familiar with him and he's a great player."

While he may not have prolific passing numbers from week to week, Flacco will be the best and most experienced quarterback the Patriots have faced to this point in the season. He will likely be better than both Tennessee's Jake Locker and Arizona's Kevin Kolb, and will provide the Patriots with their biggest test this season.

He was a challenge last season in the AFC Championship Game. Had Ravens receiver Lee Evans held onto a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, Flacco would have been the hero and the Ravens would have likely gone to Super Bowl XLVI. Even without that completion, his numbers were good: 22-for-36, 306 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.

As the Patriots prepare for Flacco this week, it sounds as though they're not thinking about his up-and-down career numbers, or his up-and-down start to this season. No, theirs is a selective memory where they hold onto the best of Flacco in the hopes that they're ready for it if it shows up on Sunday night.

"They're doing some amazing things," Wilfork said. "Defensively we have to be ready to bunker down and take everything that we're thrown out there because I'm they're going to give us everything they have."

Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

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Rodriguez to start Tuesday, Buchholz to bullpen

As expected, Eduardo Rodriguez will start for the Red Sox on Tuesday in Baltimore and Clay Buchholz will go to the bullpen, manager John Farrell told reporters in Toronto.

The move became apparent after Buchholz (2-5, 6.35 ERA) struggled again Thursday night, allowing three two-run home runs in an 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Rodriguez, who hurt his knee in spring training, has yet to pitch for the Red Sox this season. The left-hander, who was 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie last season,  made three rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. 

More to come. 

Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

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Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

BOSTON – Celtics fans are slowly but surely getting over the disappointment of the team not landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery earlier this month.
 
As cool as that would have been, the conference finals serve as a reminder that while having the top pick can be a good thing, most teams have to take a different route when it comes to getting on track towards and NBA title.
 
Of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only one that has truly been elevated to their current lofty status courtesy of landing the number one overall pick (first with LeBron James back in 2003 and more recently with Kyrie Irving in 2011).
 
That means the rest of the remaining field built their way up into an NBA power relying on a combination of making wise draft picks and shrewd additions via free agency and trades.
 
So much of that has to do with leverage, something the Celtics have plenty of on all three fronts.
 
They have the potential to free up enough salary cap space to sign a pair of max players, a first for this franchise. Boston also has eight draft picks in next month’s draft (three in the first round, five in the second), the most of any team leading up to the draft since it went to a two-round system in 1989.
 
Those picks plus a roster full of really good but not great talent, gives them the kind of ammunition to pull the trigger on a trade that could add that much-needed All-Star caliber talent.
 
But it’s like a high school chemistry experiment as the Celtics try to figure out the right combinations to avoid having it all blow up in their face.
 
For now, the emphasis has to be on the June 23 draft.
 
A big part of that planning process involves figuring out what to do with the No. 3 pick, the highest selection the Celtics have had since they took Jeff Green (and traded him that night) with the fifth overall selection in 2007.
 
If the Celtics keep the pick, it will certainly bring about some controversy regardless of who they select.
 
By taking Dragan Bender of Croatia, the Celtics will be selecting the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November) who may take years to develop into a legitimate contributor.
 
Selecting Providence College’s Kris Dunn, arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft, seems a bit redundant considering all the guards Boston has under contract whose strengths are essentially the same as Dunn’s.
 
Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is another option. He’s the best shooter in this draft, but doesn’t provide much other than scoring. Is that really worthy of a No. 3 overall pick?
 
Regardless of who the Celtics take with the No. 3 pick (and that’s assuming they keep it and not trade it away which is indeed an option), one thing we know for sure.
 
History tells us that if the Celtics keep the pick, he will wind up being a pretty good player.
 
In the past 20 years, the No. 1 overall pick has produced 12 All-Stars.
 
Among top six picks in that same span of time, the No. 3 selection has generated the second-highest number of All-Stars (8), while the No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 picks each had five All-Stars.
 
That’s important to note because the need to have multiple All-Stars is paramount to a team’s chances at making a deep playoff run.
 
Take a look at the four remaining teams.
 
There’s the defending champion Golden State Warriors, whose roster includes a quartet of current (Stephen Curry; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and former All-Stars (Andre Iguodala).
 
Cleveland’s roster includes a similar breakdown of recent (LeBron James; Kyrie Irving; Kevin Love) and not-so-recent (Mo Williams) All-Stars.
 
And then there’s Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan) who each have a pair of All-Stars.
 
For Boston, the team's lone All-Star is Isaiah Thomas, who knows all too well that he can’t carry this team to a deep, meaningful playoff run without getting some All-Star caliber help.

The top two picks in this year’s draft – Duke’s Brandon Ingram and LSU’s Ben Simmons – are head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class, but the Celtics are in a good spot if you’re talking about adding a key piece to a potential title contender. 

Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

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Friday’s lineups: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays - Ortiz and Bautista out

David Ortiz is out of the starting lineup and Jose Bautista sits for the Blue Jays as the Red Sox open a three-game series tonight in Toronto.

It’s a night off for Ortiz, while Bautista is serving his one-game suspension for his fight with the Texas Rangers' Roughned Odor earlier this month.

Hanley Ramirez moves to DH for the Red Sox, with Travis Shaw playing first base and Marco Hernandez filling in at third against Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez (4-1, 3.20 ERA). Joe Kelly (2-0, 5.28) makes his second start since coming off the disabled list for the Red Sox. He pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings Saturday in his return, a 9-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Travis Shaw 1B
Hanley Ramirez DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Marco Hernandez 3B
Christian Vazquez C
Blake Swihart LF

Joe Kelly RHP

BLUE JAYS
Ezequiel Carrera RF
Josh Donaldson 2B
Edwin Encaracion DH 
Michael Saunders LF
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Russell Martin C
Devon Travis 2B
Kevin Pillar CF

Aaron Sanchez RHP