By Michael Felger
Which previous champion should we compare the Patriots to? Where is the Bruins' heartbeat?
It seems we can ask the same questions every year.
Hey, Felgy,Now I'm starting to get a little concerned. The Pats are bowling over the competition and "may" not be getting properly tested for the mentalphysical toughness you need to get through the playoffs. I think this kind of happened in '07, and I think the offense is better equipped to handle it this time. But how about the defense and the coaching? I guess we may find out with any one (or all) of the three remaining games down the stretch, but if we don't?Your thoughts . . . PhilMethuen
My thought is that there is absolutely, positively nothing you can do about it. If you want close games you can rest your starters, but then you're not getting anything out of those games, either. So then what do you do? Tell your starters to suck so they can play a close game?
I agree that there's something to the notion of being battle-tested. I agree that having a run of soft games down the stretch can lead to bad habits. But the bottom line is that there's nothing you can do about it.
The good news is that the Pats are just coming through a stretch against some of the best teams in the league. In 2007 they never had a two-month stretch like this one: Baltimore, at San Diego, Minnesota, at Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, Indy, at Detroit on Thanksgiving, Jets and at Chicago. Whatever the Pats needed to gain for a postseason run was acquired in that stretch.
Hey, Felger,It feels like 2007 except for one BIG difference: This team's accomplishments are not happening under the mega-downer shadow of Spygate.This is LEGIT and this is FUN! Marie
No doubt that this a fun team to root for. It's much more interesting in my mind than the 2007 version, which, as I've said before, was just a collection of talent. The '07 squad wasn't exactly the kind of Patriots "team" we came to know and love through the earlier part of last decade. They were more like the Colts soft, high-scoring and, ultimately, unable to come through when it counted. The Spygate thing also dulled it for some people, even around here.
Hey, Felger,Clearly the Pats are clicking on all cylinders and beating the crap out of all of the top teams in the AFC. But I still am not completely sold on the defense and their ability to succeed in the playoffs. They have succeeded with everything that has been put before them, but are they ready for the playoffs? The offense has given them double-digit leads to work with in almost every win this season, which is no guarantee in the postseason. The only real, wire-to-wire close game where every series meant something was the Ravens game. Can the Pats' 'D' play in a game like that and still be successful? I also feel like they rely on the turnover a bit too much. Come playoff time the turnovers I think will come down by opposing teams and this could be a problem for the Pats. Can they win without the turnover? Ryan
Beyond legit, Ryan. I still say the offense is going to have to win these games for the Patriots, with the defense playing a complimentary role. Now, weather is going to be huge factor the remainder of the regular season and, presumably, the first two rounds of the playoffs. I trust the defense to do enough in those situations with the possible exception of a return engagement from Peyton Manning. In that case, I don't trust the defense. That will be a game where anything can happen. The other game that would worry me? The Super Bowl under the roof in Dallas against a good NFC offense like New Orleans, Philly or Atlanta. That's a game where the Pats are going to have to hang on for dear life.
Hey, Felgy,Curious for your thoughts on this. The Pats shipped Maroney to Denver for a fourth-round pick and then shipped a fourth-round pick to Seattle for Branch. And as you've commented on many times, then they shipped the "turd in the punch bowl" to Minnesota for a third-round pick. So BB basically shipped out Moss and Maroney for Branch and a third-round selection. I think that Branch's contributions alone have given them far more than anything they could have expected out of Maroney or Moss. Plus they netted out an additional third-round pick (which likely will become a second in 2012, given how BB loves for move up a round into the following year's draft). At the beginning of the season I think many would have called such moves foolhardy; now I think you'd have to call those moves a steal. Your thoughts.JoeWoburn
Absolute grand slams on the part of Belichick. He would have made his team better by simply releasing Maroney and Moss for nothing in return. Those guys are classic, addition-by-subtraction guys. But to also get those draft picks in return? Masterstrokes. What made the Moss move even better, of course, is that no one understood it at the time (with a few notable exceptions . . . ahem).
Felger,When do we start to talk about Moss being the MVP for forcing the trade??Thanks for sticking around here, Mike, big fan. I couldn't stand you when you started, but you grew on me over the years. Thanks for bringing a different point of view to the fans. This town is full of robot media types . . . keep it up.James
Don't talk about Tanguay like that. But you're right on that first point. Randy Moss is turning into the Mo Lewis of 2010.
Felger,Will Spikes be a Patriot next season? He's already had three strikes (eye gouging, sex tape, banned substance). I realize two of them came before he was in the NFL, but you'd think he'd be smarter than he has shown.AndrewLeominster
The Pats won't hold those things against him. They could care less about sex tapes made in college. Or eye-gouging, for that matter. But if those incidents, plus the failed test, are indication of his intelligencematurity level, and if those things don't improve, then it's just a matter of time before he does something to take himself out of Foxboro or out of the league. It's totally up to him. I'd be more concerned about him being a part of the league's testing program. If he was pushing the limits before, he may not be able to do that in the future and maybe he'll be a lesser player because of it. In other words, it's not uncommon for players who fail PED tests to be not as productive as they were prior to getting busted. Funny how that happens, right?
Felger,I think you and that other soccer twit owe Brandon Spikes an apology after your disparaging remarks about him Friday night.WilfredDelta Junction, Alaska
What specifically are you talking about? That he's a PED guy? What in the world would ever lead us to believe that?
Felger,I saw that Brett Favre is selling a signed football on his website with the No. 297 and the dates of his first and last game. It is only 499.99. Did you ask Mrs. Felger to buy it for Christmas? I can't wait for that fraud to ride off to his next calling -- a porn shoot in the California valley. Freakin' degenerate!!!KenWhitman
It's been quite a bit of fuss for someone who has won a grand total of three playoff games the past 12 years, wouldn't you say?
Hey, Felger,Get over your Jets love. First of all, you keep saying Sanchez is going to be good. Well most QBs make that leap in the second year. Manning, Brady, Flacco, Ryan (first year), Rivers, Brees, I could go on and on. There is no evidence that he's going to be good. However I can name a lot of top 5 quarterbacks who never got better: Alex Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington, etc. Just because Sanchez made some big plays against bad competition doesn't indicate anything. So did Jake Plummer, another West Coast, Pac-10, overhyped QB.As for the rest of the Jets, Rex was a great DC and he has made the Jets a formidable defense mostly with players Mangini brought in. The core is there, but the Jets have a ton of free agents and they are not all going to take market deals to come back to a franchise that has really won nothing.So bottom line, Mikey, the Jets haven't won anything. Going to the AFC Championship last year and getting blown out after getting gifted into the postseason is like kissing your sister. As far as beating the Pats 2-of-4 times, who cares? So have the Dolphins, and no one is putting them on the precipice of greatness. You keep mentioning they went farther than the Patriots last year. Wow, Mike, thanks for stating the obvious. That was an average Patriots team in transition. It only would support your argument if the Jets had surpassed the Pats again this year.You talked heavily about the "Jet way." So far it hasn't proven to be anything that exudes greatness. Are the Jets in the picture the next few years? Yes, but no more than a dozen other teams. Study your NFL history, Mike. The Ryan Jets are a carbon copy of the Ryan Eagles, a team with big mouths, star players, a young QB and a lot of hype. And it ended with Buddy being show the door. Read the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf, Mike. Rex is the mouth that won't shut up. GeorgeWoburn
P.S. I think the Red Soxownership is so afraid of the decline in TV ratings on the nights DiceK pitches they are looking to trade him. You think I'm kidding but I amsure there are charts and graphs to support this.
Brilliant observation on that last point, whether it's actually true or not. I like it. As for your Jets obsession, I don't know what I can do to help you. For a team that is so pathetic, you certainly seem to have some strong feelings for them. That's rare. Usually we reserve such passion for the teams we deem a threat.
Felgy,The baseball media in this town drives me crazy. After years of absolutely CRUSHING the J.D. Drew contract, the sycophants are now lauding Carl Crawford for seven years @ over 20 million per. Let's see how the career averages of the two stack up through the age of 29. With how good you've been on Randy Moss, I thought you'd be averse to falling in love with the razzle dazzle players . . . Drew (I didn't count his rookie year in which he played 14 games):SLG: .504OBP: .385OPS: .889AVG: .284HR: 20Crawford:SLG: .444OPB: .337 (pathetic, IMO, for a speed guy)OPS: .781AVG: .296HR: 12My opinion: were it not for the fall-out of steroids, there's no way Crawford even sniffs at that kind of money. This is all apart of a larger shift in baseball, and I don't like it one bit. It's too soon to determine what the "post Steroid-Era" baseball player is.Thanks,GregManchester NH
It's pretty obvious what happened here, Greg. For business reasons (TV ratings, market share, etc.), the Red Sox felt they needed to make a splash. Otherwise, that deal makes little sense. They don't need more speed. They don't need another left-handed bat. They don't need a middle-of-the-order guy who doesn't hit for power. Yet they needed some buzz and Crawford fit the bill. And all that said, he's still a very good ballplayer. He'll make them better. We can pick the signing apart, but we really shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. What, you want another Mike Cameron?
Hey, Felger! Now that my ice-cream headache has subsided (come on, Mazz, get over the Teixeira thing; people make mistakes -- I've been married three times -- and at least they realized their wrong and tried to right it), I would like to comment on where I think Crawford fits in the lineup. I have not heard anyone mention leadoff. Ellsbury is gone. Right now he is just a chip to be bartered for later. My lineup as of now would be Crawford, Pedy, Gonzo, Youk, Papi, Cameron, Drew and who cares. L-R-L-R-L-R-L-R. Pretty balanced, I'd say. Now let's get back to football and hockey talk.SteveChester NH
Don't think so. You don't pay someone over 20 million per season to lead off. You pay them to drive in some runs, and I'm pretty sure the Sox are going ask Crawford to do that. If you look at his numbers batting third in Tampa last year (.323 average; .890 OPS) there is reason to believe he can do it.
Hey, Felger,Doesn't Adrian Gonzalez bear a striking resemblance to Lou Merloni with the beard? Long-lost twins? I think so.MattNatick
I think Lou would prefer to have his swing over his facial hair.
Hey, Felgah, What's with those lame questions to Thornton each week? One minute you're railing (deservedly so) on the Bruins for a lack of response to the McQuaid hit, and the next you're accepting a "well . . . you know . . . it's a tie game at the time'' response from Thornton. Tie game?! The regular season is just one big team-building exercise. Who cares about a lousy two points in December? Did they learn nothing from the fan reaction last year? Where the hell is Cam's stamp on this team? We keep waiting with each of his promotions for a hint of the Big Bad Bruins, yet we keep getting this passionless, robotic squad that looks to be trying to win a Lady Byng. Favorite Christmas present, indeed. Daniel
A: I can't disagree with one thing you've said, although I don't know how much you expect me to challenge him on a TV set. (Why are you guys such wussies, Shawn?) They aren't a hard team to play against. They just don't leave a mark. I'm not saying they suck. They'll make the playoffs. But does this group have what it takes to be great? I don't see where the evidence of that is.
For me, the bottom line is this: Chiarelli, Julien and Chara have done a good job lifting the Bruins out of the basement. That's no small feat (just ask Toronto). But do they have what it takes to get the B's to the next level? Again, if they do, I haven't seen it.
Felger, You DB! So I was watching Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight last night and I'm sort of conflicted after seeing the "Someone's Gotta Go" segment. Is Tanguay stupid because he doesn't understand why you're complaining about Bruins ownership, or is he brain dead because he thinks that his mention of a magic wand in the introduction requires him to remind viewers that neither of you actually possess mystical powers? As for the Bruins ownership, in the last 15 days they have traded Matt Hunwick and Marco Strum for Colby Cohen while casting some rather harsh glances at Jodie Shelly after he tried to play Lawn Darts with Adam McQuaid -- and I don't think JJ or Chuck have lost a wink of sleep over it. They could care less that their GM seems to miss the fact that the Blackhawks managed to win a cup BEFORE they were forced to have a team yard sale.At this point, I don't know what's worse: Chiarelli building a soft team that needs cap-driven fire sales after choking in the playoffs three years running . . . or the fact that he needed two flushes to send Sturm to the Kings for nothing. And please, don't let anyone tell you the Bruins were forced to sell low on Sturm. Terming it as selling would imply there was an exchange of goods of some sort. Wouldn't peddling Wheeler have at least gotten something in return? Ownership also seems oblivious to the fact that the Bruins' captain plays like he spent his offseason listening to the Swami Baha's power-of-positive-thinking records. Maybe next year they can have the preseason team-building weekend in Tibet? The owner, GM and coach don't have a problem with Big Z playing like a Big P, but I'm sure there are plenty of fans that would have liked to see their captain make an example out of somebody after the Flyers tried to turn McQuaid into rink signage. And, yes, we know the refs sent Shelley off, and he was very sorry and sent chocolates and flowers but there are at least four other guys on the Flyers that deserve a punch in the face "just because." This was as good an excuse to do so as any. If JJ and Charles in Charge want to convince their fans and the media that they really want that "Big Trophy," they let PC can the coach, let Cam can PC, or both, eat some of those deals and pay to get a couple of tyrants who will light a fire under this team. Show the fans you really want it by finding leadership that will make the team show it on the ice -- or else. No more contracts that look like Mass Pike pensions. No more ice time for guys playing like conscientious observers. I know it's hard to get this through to Gary, though -- so maybe this will help. The B's have Daniel Paille locked up for two years!!! Woo. MikeAttleboroP.S. Thank you Cliff Lee.
At least we have that going for us . . . Once again, though, Mikey does this about 1,000 times better than I ever could. Just let me know when you want to take over the bag. The job is yours.
Read Felger's Patriots-Packers game column on Monday. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.