Patriots playoff rematch means looking ahead

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Patriots playoff rematch means looking ahead

On December 6, 2010, the Patriots walloped the Jets, 45-3, on a Foxboro edition of Monday Night Football. Six weeks later, New York returned to Gillette Stadium for the Divisional Playoffs and whipped the home crowd into stunned silence by bouncing New England from the postseason. 
It will sound familiar to some.
Fans were already thinking back to that experience and its parallels to the Patriots' upcoming rematch with Houston before the media could even write it. 
New England demolished Houston, 42-14, on December 10, 2012. Monday Night Football. Some five weeks later, the Texans will return to Gillette for the Divisional Playoff. It's not hard to see why more melodramatic fans and analysts are salivating over the storyline. 
But ask Bill Belichick how he feels about the drama.  
"I think there's certainly a lesson there," he said during a conference call Sunday. "But the game that we play now doesn't have much to do with the game we played before, whether it's them or anybody else. It's an example we can point out. It doesn't have to be talked about that many times . . . There are a lot of other games that don't have anything to do with this game on its own. And that is, and will always be, the case. 
"But it's an example we can point out of how little relevance each game with the same team really does have."
The Patriots can appreciate a level of familiarity that December's meeting with Houston provides. Bottom line, however, is that enough has changed that neither team will depend on the tape. 
And this isn't a lesson Belichick learned from the Jets. 
"As we all know, when you play a team twice during the season the games are totally different; they never go the same way," he said. "We'll certainly be able to certainly look at some of the match ups individually -- guys that faced each other in the game -- but as far as plays and calls and things like that, I'm sure they'll have some new wrinkles. I'm sure we'll have some, too."
A few things can be gleaned from Houston's Saturday night Wild-Card game against the Bengals. 
Why that game? Because it's the most recent one. 
Houston fell into a bit of a funk after playing the Patriots, going 1-2 in its final regular season games. Also, the addition of a few parts -- linebacker Brooks Reed, defensive back Alan Ball, tackle Derek Newton -- has changed how the machine runs since it came to New England. 
But above all, Belichick emphasized the importance of getting a fresh start. Even this weekend's game between Houston and the Bengals gives limited insight because the Texans game plan was specific to Cincinnati. The work this week will be extensive, yet tailor-made for the Divisional Playoff.
"We've got to be ready for all the things that they do," Belichick concluded. "It'll just be a full week of preparation. We'll take from the Cincinnati game what we can -- there's some good examples of things we can learn from their game -- but ultimately our match ups are different than theirs."
New England's look back to Week 14 will be brief; the one to 2010, nonexistent. 

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


 

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

MORE CELTICS

 
“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”