Who's got next?


Who's got next?

I dont know about you, but I could get used to having Wednesdays off. Really breaks the week up, dont you think? Honestly, screw healthcare and immigration, all Obama or Romney needs to do is adopt a Wednesdays Off! policy and theyll run away with the election.

Anyway, welcome back to work. Hope youre not too tired, too hung over, or too still drunk in front of that keyboard. Hope youve got all your limbs in tact. Hope you celebrated freedom with the passion of a sermonizing Ray Lewis.

And most of all, hope youre ready for some wild excitement in the world of sports!

OK, that last part was a joke. Excitement? Come on now. Its July, aka the most boring month on the sports calendar. And this summer in Boston, July takes on an extra boring identity. The Pats dont start until the 26th; the Celtics will take a few days to sort out Brandon Bass and Ray Allen before heading into virtual hibernation; the Bruins have spent the off-season quietly stroking their Zambonis while the rest of the NHL feasts on free agency.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are all we have, but until Crawford, Ellsbury, Middlebrooks and Pedroia are back in the everyday line-up, Bobby V.s boys are merely treading water. And thats fine, but after three months, the noveltys wearing thin.

No, no. Despite what you saw last night, July is not a time for fireworks in professional sports. Its a time for boredom, for forced rhetorical contemplation. For questions like this:

Which team is the mostly likely to bring home Bostons next title?

OK, so let's see here . . .

Instinctively, the Pats are the most logical answer. After all, the AFC picture hasnt changed too much since February.

The Steelers and Ravens didnt get better. The Jets continue to flail. The Broncos are interesting, but you don't know howif Peyton will bounce back. The Texans are still terrifying when healthy, but lost one of the best defensive players in the league. The Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs theyll be fun, but aren't quite ready. And what else can I say? Its July. But considering what happened last year, and in the five months since, the Pats are in prime position.

The biggest question is still the defense, especially if they dont come to terms with Andre Carter. But Ill tell you this: Belichick's building himself an army at linebacker.

Its the calling card of every dominating Belichick D. In the 80s, he had Taylor, Banks and Carson with the Giants. In the 2000s, he had Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest and Co. Now, between Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and hopefully Donta Hightower the Pats have a core of angry and tough, but also versatile and athletic LBs. And you know Belichicks got his Tommy Bahama boxers all twisted in anticipation. If those guys can do some damage and the offense can just stay healthy, the Pats will be among the NFL elite.

One that note, the issue of elite is what will probably haunt the Celtics moving forward.

We can all agree that theyre in a much better position than we thought theyd be at this point. With KG, Pierce, Rondo, Bradley, Jason Terry and hopefully Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, the Celtics will be competitive; they're one of the top four teams in the East. But while the Pats are undoubtedly in the upper echelon of the NFL, the Celtics arent quite there in the Association. Even with their encouraging off-season, you cant help but feel like the Green will spend the next few seasons on the outside looking in while the likes of LeBron and Kevin Durant imprint their legacies on NBA history.

Still, as we saw last year and numerous times before that all it takes is one injury to really shake things up. Derrick Rose goes down and the Bulls go from contender to pretender, and suddenly opportunity knocks. And if the Celtics can somehow stay healthy and reach next years playoffs with their entire team intact, theyll once again be in a position to take advantage of any love the basketball Gods want to throw their way.

Its not ideal, but all things considered, well take it.

The Bruins situation feels a little more optimistic than the Celtics, mostly because theres no one in the NHL on the level of Miami or OKC. No one that you look at on paper and say: "Oh man, there's so much better than the Bruins. Boston doesn't have a shot!" While Peter Chiarelli defiantly shrugged his shoulders at free agency, you can't really blame him. He's happy and confident with what the Bruins have a core of players who already climbed the mountain, who know what it takes to win and still have the talent to do so. Throw in a still-improving Tyler Seguin, who should continue to expand upon his dominance, and the Bruins will be in the mix for all Stanley Cup conversations.

Of course, there's a huge wild card in this year's discussion: Goaltending. It's what won them the Cup last summer, and could very well leave them short from here on out.

Tim Thomas was a pain in the ass this season, but he still ranked third in wins, third in goals against and second in save percentage in the Eastern Conference. Sure, in Tuukka Rasks's 23 games he had a better percentage and GAA than Timmy, so there's reason for hope. But as we know, the postseason is a different beast, and it's now been two years since Tuukka even played in the playoffs. We still don't know what he's capable of under that spotlight, and until he proves otherwise, questions will linger. It will be impossible to enter any playoff series with the confidence that you had under Thomas, and I'm going to stop talking about hockey now before I say something incredibly stupid.

And finally, there's the Red Sox. Ah yes, the Red Sox. On their third month of treading MLB water, but getting closer to judgment day.

Listen, I know it's easy to write this team off. To say: "Please . . . they suck! They don't have a chance in October!" And then "I told you so" yourself silly when they fall short. You know why? Because odds are that the Sox WON'T win this year. Hell, they've only won it twice in 94 years! It's not an easy accomplishment.

But to say that the Sox don't have a chance is insane. All they have to do is sneak into one of the Wild Card spots right now, even after the awful West coast swing, they're only two and a half back and anything's possible. Then you have Beckett, Lester and Buchholz. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Crawford. You have a rotation with the potential to win games by itself with a line-up capable of torturing any pitcher. You have a chance. Just as much as any other team that's reached that point.

Still, it won't be easy. It's impossible to sit here today and not worry about how Ellsbury and Crawford will fare after missing a few months, or how Beckett's shoulder will hold up, or if Pedroia's thumb will ever get better or if David Ortiz's bitching will reach a boiling point and start affecting his on-field production. There's so much baseball to be played and unknowns to come to light. But they still have a shot.

Fortunately, all four of our teams do. But if I'm ranking their chances, here's my break down:

1. Pats
2. Bruins
3. Sox
4. Celtics

What do you think?

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Patriots players got a refresher on NFL social media policy because of Brown

Patriots players got a refresher on NFL social media policy because of Brown

FOXBORO -- Antonio Brown's live stream of coach Mike Tomlin's postgame speech on Sunday had a ripple effect that traveled all the way to New England: Just in case Patriots players weren't familiar with the league's social-media policy, they were reminded of it this week. 

"We were reminded of that," receiver Chris Hogan said. "I’m not sure what the timing is, but obviously, I don’t think we’ll see guys doing that in the locker room."

Players are prohibited from using social media in the locker room until media outlets have been given an opportunity to talk to players following games. Brown's Facebook Live video, which garnered national attention almost as soon as it went online, was shot well before the visitor's locker room at Arrowhead Stadium opened following Pittsburgh's win over Kansas City.

"We have a team policy on that," special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "Strictly enforced. We go from there."

Of course part of the reason the video became as widely disseminated as it did was because it caught Tomlin calling the Patriots "a--holes."

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Tomlin," Slater said when asked about Tomlin's speech. "I appreciate the way he prepares his team. I’ve had a good working relationship with him over the years, and it will continue to be that way."

Both Slater and Hogan insisted that their focus will be trained solely on preparing for what Tomlin and his players will do when they arrive to Gillette Stadium Sunday night -- not what they say leading up to kickoff.

"You come in here, you're automatically bought into what we preach here, what coach [Bill] Belichick preaches," Hogan said. "It's football. We're 100 percent football here. It's not about anything outside. Between the media or whatever it is outside of football, whatever we're doing. When we come here, it's 100 percent football. That's all we're focused on is the opponent we're playing that week."

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”