Feeling like a trap?


Feeling like a trap?

If you fancy yourself a betting man or woman, by now youre well aware that the Patriots are 14-point favorites in Sundays home opener against the Cardinals. In the same breath, youre also well aware that, by any measure of NFL gambling, this qualifies as an enormous spread.

In fact, according to Covers.com, the Pats have been favored by MORE than Sundays 14-point spread only three times since Super Bowl XLII:

1. In Week 1 of 2008, when they were 16-point favorites against Lucipher Pollard and the Chiefs. Final Score: Pats 17, Chiefs 10

2. In Week 7 of 2009, when they were 15.5-point favorites against the Buccaneers in London. Final Score: Pats 35, Bucs 7. (In the under card, Brandon Meriweather defeated the Big Bang Clock by a split decision.)

3. And finally, in Week 13 of last season, when they were 20.5-point favorites over the Suck for Luck Colts. Final Score: Pats 31, Colts 24.

Anyway, like I was saying. Its a big spread on Sunday, and much like they did on the aforementioned three occasions, the Pats will probably win. They should win. But theres one little twist on this Cardinals game that deserves at least a few minutes of our attention

Its a classic trap.

Just to refresh, there are two defining characteristic of a trap game.

1. Its a game against a team that you should most definitely beat. Where youre heavily favored. Or just enough to let your guard down.

Arizona at New England (-14): Check!

2. Its a game thats scheduled the week before a wildly important game against a bona fide rival. Where theres every reason for the favored team to look beyond the task at hand.

Next week, the Pats are in Baltimore for an AFC Championship rematch, and what will likely be the biggest test and most telling game of the entire season: Check!

You can argue both sides of whether a game is more trappy when the favored team is on the road (where the underdog is more pumped and ready to play) or at home (where the favorite is a little more comfortable, relaxed and ripe for the picking), but either way, this Sunday qualifies as a trap game. Its the very definition.

So, heres my question: Why isnt anyone worried?

Answer: Because history has shown these Patriots to be essentially trap proof. In fact, by my count, the Pats have fallen victim to only one trap game in the last five years. And since I have the space and time, I might as well elaborate.

First of all, in 2007, the Pats didnt lose any trap games because they didnt lose any games. In a sense, I guess Super Bowl XLII qualifies as the trappiest game of all time, but that was a very different set of circumstances. We cant compare the Super Bowl to Week 2 against the Cardinals.

In 2008, the Pats didnt lose any trap games because when your quarterback is a former seventh round pick who hasnt started a game since high school, youre never quite comfortable enough to be trapped. And anyway, the Pats five losses that season came against the eventual division-winning Dolphins, at the Chargers, at the Colts, in overtime to the Jets and at home to the Steelers.

In 2009, with Tom Brady back in the pocket, the Pats lost six games: At the Jets, at the Broncos, at the Saints, at the Colts (You see a pattern here?), at the Dolphins and at the Texans.

Of the six, the only two that the Pats should have won were the Dolphins game which doesnt qualify as a trap because the 5-7 Panthers were up next and the Texans game which doesnt count because it was Week 17 and lets all go throw rocks at Bernard Pollards house.

Moving on, in 2010 the Pats only lost two games. The first one came in Week 2 at the then-mighty Jets not a trap. And the second one . . . well come back to that in a second.

And finally, last year, the Pats went 13-3. Loss No. 1 came against Buffalo in a game that could have qualified if not for a mere date with the lowly Raiders looming on the other side. Loss No. 2 came at Pittsburgh not a trap. Loss No. 3 came at home against the Giants, in a game that they should have won, with a huge date with the Jets on the horizon BUT . . . no way that counts as a trap. Regardless of anything else, there was way too much hype around the long awaited Super Bowl rematch. Trapless, I say!

That brings us back to present time.

But first a quick trip back to Week 7 of 2010.

The Pats are riding high off a huge Week 6 win over old friend Randy Moss and the Vikings. They have an enormous Week 8 date against the Steelers in the on-deck circle. But first, a pit stop in Cleveland to deliver a beat down on the Browns.

Or, the exact opposite.

Yeah, that loss to the Browns (how many TDs did Peyton Hillis have? 10? 12?) was as ugly as they come, and the very definition of a team falling face first into a trap.

But hey, one every five years isnt bad. And theres no reason to believe that the one trap for the next five years is in the cards on Sunday against the Cards.

Give me the Pats and the points.

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

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”


Patriots reportedly deal Derby to Broncos for fifth-round pick


Patriots reportedly deal Derby to Broncos for fifth-round pick

The Patriots pulled off a rare deal with a rival on Tuesday. 

According to ESPN, they've sent tight end A.J. Derby to the Broncos in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Derby played in 33 offensive snaps over four games this season for the Patriots. A sixth-round draft choice in 2015 out of Arkansas, Derby spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve. 

One of the stars of the preseason for the Patriots, Derby caught 15 passes for 189 yards in four exhibition games. A former college quarterback for Iowa and Arkansas, Derby was named a practice player of the week by the Patriots when they were hurting for healthy signal-callers early in the season during Tom Brady's suspension.

The deal leaves the Patriots somewhat thin at the tight end position. They now have now true tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. They do, however, have fullback James Develin, who meets with tight ends on a daily basis. On the practice squad, the Patriots have another fullback in Glenn Gronkowski. 

In Denver, Derby will compete with tight ends Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman and John Phillips for time.