Wakeup Call: That was one costly safety for Vegas

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Wakeup Call: That was one costly safety for Vegas

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Wednesday, February 6.

AUTO RACING
-- After a tire test Tuesday at Darlngton Raceway, drivers give a thumbs-up to the new Gen-6 race car. (AP)

BASEBALL
-- The burgeoning drug scandal has implicated Ryan Braun -- again -- but the 2011 N.L. MVP is ready with an explanation. (AP)

-- And it'd better be good, because MLB has started its own investigation into the Miami New Times report. (AP)

-- That investigation may lead to suspensions, but the Rangers -- whose Nelson Cruz was named in the New Times story -- say they're planning on having Cruz in right field until they're told otherwise. (AP)

-- Um, Derek? Does the phrase "beggars can't be choosers" mean anything to you? (NBC's Hardball Talk)

-- Funny, I never heard the words "Jed Lowrie" and "veteran leadership" used together before. (CSN Houston)

-- Spring training hasn't even started and already the Cardinals have suffered a big loss. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
-- If we can get a couple more games that match No. 3 Michigan's 76-74, overtime win over No. 10 Ohio State on the excitement meter, we'll consider this a successful season. (AP)

-- So stop worrying about college hoops, will ya? (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

-- So much for that No. 2 ranking, eh, Florida? (AP)

-- Wouldn't this be considered a hostile act against foreign entities? (AP)

-- Old Dominion raises a number of questions about coach Blaine Taylor as it fires him with eight games to go in the season . . . and then refuses to answer any of them. (AP)

-- A tip of the hat to Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw as she records her 700th career coaching victory in the Irish women's 59-52 win over Villanova. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
-- Starting soon, Northwestern will be calling Wrigley Field home, at least once a year. (AP)

HOCKEY
-- The Blackhawks stake their claim as best in the West with a 5-3 victory over the Sharks in San Jose. (CSN Chicago)

-- The Sharks might be blaming the refs for this one, but that wouldn't be completely accurate. (CSN Bay Area)

-- Blame them for what, you ask? Take a look. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

-- The NHL did, and immediately rescinded the match penalty that was handed to Andrew Desjardins. (CSN Bay Area)

-- It probably won't be rescinding this one, though. (Pro Hockey Talk)

-- An acid flashback for the Rangers, as they suffer a 3-1 loss to the Devils . . . the team that beat them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. (AP)

-- It's the dreaded lower-body injury, and it may cost the Flames the services of Miikka Kiprusoff for a while. (AP)

-- Can't quite decide on the proper phrase -- Grasping at straws? Whistling past the graveyard? -- for Adam Oates' declaration that the Capitals are "going in the right direction" after a 3-2 loss to Toronto that drops their record to 2-7-1. (Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
-- Bet when you heard that the Rockets nailed 23 3-pointers in their 140-109 blasting of the Warriors, you thought, "Hmm, bet that's a record." And you know what? You were right! (AP)

-- Bet you also thought, "Wow, bet the Warriors were pretty upset that they were launching 3s with such a big lead." And you what? You were right again! (CSN Bay Area)

-- But if you thought the Rockets were at all remorseful about the whole thing, you were wrong. (CSN Houston)

-- Even when the Lakers win these days, they lose. Players, that is. (AP)

-- The word's in on Thaddeus Young: He's out three weeks because of that Grade 1 hamstring strain. (CSN Philly)

PRO FOOTBALL
-- That intentional, last-second safety taken by the Ravens Sunday night may not have meant much to you, but it was a killer to the Nevada sports books, who had to pay off on the will-there-be-a-safety-in-the-game? and will-the-49ers-last-points-come-on-a-safety? prop bets. (NBC's Off The Bench)

-- They still don't know what caused the third-quarter power outage, so Superdome officials and the utility companies are bringing in "outside experts" to investigate. (AP)

-- No Super Bowl halftime show next year? There is a God! (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

-- Quite the day for the Ravens: They had their victory parade . . . (AP)

-- . . . and President Obama phoned in his congratulations to John Harbaugh. (CSN Baltimore)

-- But today is the first day of the rest of their lives, and it's starting with Joe Flacco's agent saying that his client should be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. (Pro Football Talk)

-- And Bernard Pollard warning that the Ravens have to bring back Ed Reed. (Pro Football Talk)

-- And ex-Raven Trevor Pryce ripping Ray Lewis' performance in the Super Bowl. (CSN Baltimore)

-- Sorry, Jim Harbaugh: Despite your theatrical, over-the-top pleas for a holding call on the 49ers' final offensive play, Mike Pereira says the referees were right when they didn't flag Jimmy Smith for whatever it was he did, or didn't do, to Michael Crabtree. (CSN Bay Area)

-- As one season ends and a new one begins, teams begin to shed those onerous contracts or declining veterans. In Detroit, the Lions say goodbye to Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Peterman. (AP)

-- In New York, the Giants bid farewell to Michael Boley. (AP)

-- And in Cleveland, the Browns say so long to Frostee Rucker. (AP)

-- But in Philadelphia -- surprise, surprise -- the Eagles aren't parting ways with Michael Vick. Not yet, anyway. (Pro Football Talk)

-- A new season means a new look for the Jaguars. Literally. (AP)

-- Only the fourth? (CSN Chicago)

SOCCER
-- The U.S. begins its final push for the 2014 World Cup today with a match in Honduras. (NBC's Pro Soccer Talk)

TENNIS
-- So far, so good on Rafael Nadal's comeback. (AP)

Bean: The 2007 Patriots don't get nearly enough love

Bean: The 2007 Patriots don't get nearly enough love

Phil Perry has been running a series on the 2007 Patriots vs. the 2017 Patriots. He breaks everything down position-by-position and compares what should go down as two of the best teams in franchise history. It’s really good stuff. 

Also, a lot of people are idiots. 

    For some reason -- and it’s either because they’re rightfully excited for the upcoming team or because they’re still shell-shocked by 18-1 -- the 2007 Patriots have been shown a remarkable lack of love when it’s come to the reader votes. It’s insane. 

    2007 PATRIOTS vs. 2017 PATRIOTS:

    And before you start with the “This is Boston and it only counts if you win” nonsense, remember that the 2017 team hasn’t done a thing yet, so by saying the 2017 Pats are better than the 2007 Pats, you’re saying the then-greatest offense of all time is worse than a current work in progress.

    As if anyone should need the reminder, the 2007 Patriots rank as the No. 2 scoring team ever, and at the time they were No. 1. Their 36.8 points a game was dwarfed only by the 2013 Broncos, who averaged 37.9. Then again, the Patriots have four of the top 12 scoring teams ever, so there’s no reason to rule out what should be a loaded 2017 group registering high on that list as well. 

    But back to the ’07 team for a second. At the time of this writing, a poll of over 3,300 readers had 67 percent finding the 2017 receivers and tight ends being better than the group from 2007. If ever there were a poll that should be split 50-50, it’s that. In fact, I would take the 2007 group over the 2017, but that’s only because I saw Randy Moss play in every game and am not sure I will see Rob Gronkowski do the same. 

    Think about the options after the top guys in both groups. Donte’ Stallworth was a get in free agency -- a 27-year-old first-round pick with all the talent in the world and a few damn good seasons in New Orleans under his belt -- and the guy didn’t even have 50 catches for that 2007 team. No, it wasn’t because he wasn’t any good; it was because Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were so busy putting up a combined 31 touchdowns together that there was barely time for anyone else. 

    Laurence Maroney was the ’07 team’s lead back, but given how much the team threw and the fact that he missed three games, his 835-yard season with an average of 4.5 yards a pop was a lot better than has been remembered. 

    The only thing you can give the 2017 team over the 2007 one is that they figure to be well-rounded. The Patriots’ defense should be better than that ’07 group, even though the 2007 Pats gave up the fourth-fewest points in the league. Damn, the 2007 Patriots were so good.  

    Yes, that ’07 team lost, but it was still the best team in the league by a mile that season. Bad Super Bowl game plan, bad execution, obviously. But overall? There wasn’t a team close to as good as them that season. 

    The expectation is that something similar could play out this season. The Pats are so much better than everyone else that you’d be nuts to rule out 19-0 talk. Yet that hasn’t happened yet, and for now, the most explosive offense the Pats have ever seen — and very well may ever see — will be that 2007 one. They aren’t held in the same regard as the five championships, and for good reason, but to slight that offense — or really that team at all — is foolish. 

    Poll ranks Patriots as NFL's most 'badass' team

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    Poll ranks Patriots as NFL's most 'badass' team

    Five-time Super Bowl champions. Seven-time AFC champs. Fourteen-time AFC East champs. Now, Bill Belichick's Patriots have another title.

    NFL's most "badass" team.

    The Tampa Bay Times polled a panel of 43 NFL writers and asked them for the top three most "badass" teams and players in the NFL.

    MORE PATRIOTS

    The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots came out on top with 29 top-three votes. 

    Here's a sampling of the panelists' comments:

    "They keep winning in a league designed to discourage dynasties." -Terez A. Paylor, Kansas City Star

    "Hands down. They take a three-touchdown lead and keep throwing, and throwing, and don't give a damn what anybody thinks." -Tyler Dunne, Bleacher Report

    "For a decade they've been toying with and laughing at the rest of the league. The biggest bullies on the block." — Ralph Vacchiano, SNY

    "Behind the glitz and glamour of having the game's greatest quarterback, the Patriots ranked among the league's top 10 scoring defenses each of the past five seasons, including No. 1 in 2016." — Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press-Gazette

    The most badass player? Veteran Steelers linebacker James Harrison. The highest-ranked Patriot on the list? Tom Brady at No. 6. Rob Gronkowski was tied with Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 8. Julian Edelman was among the others receiving votes. 

    Here are the full rankings: 

    MOST BADASS TEAM 

    1. Patriots (29 votes)

    2. Seahawks (27)

    3. Steelers (18)

    4. Raiders (9)

    5. Ravens (8)

    6t. Broncos (6)

    6t. Cowboys (6)

    8. Bengals (4)

    9t. Cardinals (2)

    9t. Packers (2)

    9t. Panthers (2)

    9t. Texans (2)

    Also receiving votes: Chiefs, Falcons, Rams, Titans (1 each)

    MOST BADASS PLAYER

    1. James Harrison, Steelers LB (14 votes)

    2t. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders RB (10)

    2t. J.J. Watt, Texans DE (10)

    4t. Kam Chancellor, Seahawks S (8)

    4t. Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins DT (8)

    6. Tom Brady, Patriots QB (7)

    7. Von Miller, Broncos LB (6)

    8t. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE (5)

    8t. Khalil Mack, Raiders LB (5)

    10. Aaron Donald, Rams DT (4)