Patriots still have shot at first round bye


Patriots still have shot at first round bye

The playoff teams are set in the AFC: Texans, Broncos, Patriots, Ravens, Colts, and Bengals.

But what isn't set is what seed each team will have entering the postseason.

Last week, some thought the Patriots should purposely lose over the last two weeks to avoid potentially playing the Steelers. Well, the Steelers lost on Sunday to the Bengals, are are now ineligible for the postseason.

The Patriots (11-4), on the other hand, won -- albeit it in an ugly way. The Broncos (12-3) won too, beating up on the Browns, 34-12.

But it was the Houston Texans (12-3), currently the top seed in the AFC, that couldn't get the job done. Houston fell on its face, losing to the Vikings, 23-6, at home. That loss keeps the Patriots chances alive for a No. 1 seed.

The Patriots will look to finish off the season with a win at home over Miami. Houston would have to lose again next week on the road against Chuck Pagano and the Colts, and perhaps more unlikely, the Broncos would have to lose at home to the Chiefs, for New England to earn the top seed.

But if one of those teams loses and the Patriots win, the No. 2 seed is theirs. They own the tiebreaker over both the Texans and the Broncos.

If the Patriots lose, however, and the Ravens (10-5) beat the Bengals (9-6) next week, the Patriots would become the No. 4 seed and play the Colts in the first round.

Bradley supporting Olynyk as he returns from shoulder surgery


Bradley supporting Olynyk as he returns from shoulder surgery

WALTHAM, Mass. – Avery Bradley had just returned to the Boston Celtics lineup after having had surgery on both shoulders, eager to put his injury-riddled days in the past.

Then-Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue had suffered a similar shoulder injury a decade earlier in 2003, so he knew all too well what Bradley was going through.

“I remember Tyronn Lue took me to the side and said, ‘you’re going to struggle,’” Bradley recalled. “When he said it to me, I was like, ‘what is he talking about?’”

The words of Lue, now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, were indeed prophetic. And now that current Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk is back to practicing after having surgery on his right shoulder, Bradley plans to be there for Olynyk the way Lue was there for him.

Bradley, who missed the first 30 games of the 2012-2013 season recovering from the injury, recalls struggling with his shot for the first couple of weeks.  

His first game back was Jan. 2, 2013. For the next two weeks, Bradley shot 40.6 percent from the field (28-for-69) and 28.6 percent (8-for-28) on 3s, both below his career averages in those respective categories.

Bradley is hopeful Olynyk doesn’t struggle as much as he did upon his return to the lineup from shoulder surgery.

But just in case, Olynyk knows he has a teammate who literally knows what he’s going through right now in trying to get back on the floor and play good basketball.

“It’s our job as his teammates to help keep him confident in himself,” Bradley said. “I told him, ‘you’re going to have your days when you come in and you might make shots. Then you’ll have your week where you don’t make a shot.’ You just have to stay confident.”

But Bradley admits it’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you’ve had success shooting the ball and now all of a sudden the shots that you normally make in your sleep keep you up at night wondering why they no longer going in.

“It just happens. The muscle memory, you have to get it back,” Bradley said. “It’s just reps; that’s what it took. It took like maybe a good month before my shot felt good again. It’ll probably be the same for Kelly; hopefully not. If it is, I’ll be there to make sure he’s positive and knowing it’s a process and he has to continue to get shots up.”

But there’s more to returning to the game when healthy.

While the body may be ready to go, the mind more often than not hasn’t totally cleansed itself of the injury.

“It’s still in the back of your mind, thinking it’s going to happen again,” Bradley said. “You may not want to drive it to the basket as much or box out the same way or be aggressive. But like I said, we have to give him that confidence and he has to do his work as well, staying in the weight room, making sure he’s strong. We’re here to help.”

And no one is offering the consistent assistance that Bradley has to his injured teammate.

“I’ve taken him to the side like five times already and I told him, ‘I’m here bro. Whatever you need,’” Bradley said. “I’m just happy that he’s back."