PatsJets: The Pick

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PatsJets: The Pick

For all the back and forth leading up to this weeks PatriotsJets game and by back and forth, I mean the sound of Rex Ryan talking to himself Sundays result will ultimately come down one question:

Just how bad is the New England secondary?

Now typically, this is a question that Patriots fans dont want to address, and if they do, that answer will consist of some hateful, sarcastic mix aimed at the failures of Bill Belichick or incompetence of Devin McCourty and will somehow find its way back to the core reason that the Pats have gone seven years without winning a Super Bowl. I mean, theres no question that this secondary is bad. Its the single biggest flaw in the Patriots armor. The one thing that opposing coaches look at and say: OK, this is how we can beat them. This is how we will beat them.

But when it comes to Sundays game, it doesnt really matter how the secondary stacks up against most NFL passing games. In this case, it only matters how McCourty and company compare to one of the NFLs worst. Thats what the Jets bring to the table.

Call it a product of having one the leagues most inconsistent quarterbacks Mark Sanchez has thrown for fewer yards per game (188) than all but two starting QBs (granted one of them is Russell Wilson); he has the lowest QB rating (70.9) of any starter other than Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden; he has the lowest completion percentage (49.7) in the NFL.

Call it a product of losing their No. 1 receiver (Santonio Holmes) to a season-ending injury, or the fact that last years No. 2 receiver (Dustin Keller) has made only two catches since returning from his own injury or that last years No. 3 receiver (Plaxico Burress) is currently unemployed.

Whatever it is, just know that the Jets passing game is horrendous (they rank 30th in yards and 29th in net yards per attempt) and that for one game, the Pats only need to be better than them. Forget everything else. Its not about beating the critics. Its about beating Mark Sanchez.

Yeah, Tim Tebow will be there, too. I think we can expect a healthy does of No. 15 at various points on Sunday. The Jets know theyre out-matched; they know that theyll have to take some chances and that despite what Ryan says they have little to lose on Sunday. In a way, that makes them dangerous; I'm sure they'll have plenty of tricks up their sleeve. But when it comes down to it, this game will be decided with Mark Sanchez standing in the pocket. And it won't be enough for him just to hold his own.

Sanchez will have to keep pace with the NFL's No. 1 ranked offense, playing at home, with their backs against the wall, playing against a defense that has been decimated by injury. Sanchez will have to put up real numbers on Sunday. Brady numbers. Especially since the Jets running game is a mess, and the Pats rush defense currently ranks with in the NFL.

So let's get back to the original question: We know the Pats secondary is bad, but are they that bad? Are they turn-Mark-Sanchez-into-Tom-Brady bad?

I don't think so. Which makes this an easy pick:

Pats 35, Jets 13

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

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

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