Can you say championship?

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Can you say championship?

By Michael Felger

No longer are they just an overachieving collection of youngsters and spare parts.

No longer have they simply put the lie to the embarrassing conventional wisdom that said Randy Moss was the key to their offense.

No longer would making another Super Bowl be considered a big surprise.

It's now expected.

We'll now be disappointed if they don't make it.

Maybe that's unfair, but that's what happens when you beat all comers in the regular season -- Baltimore, Indianapolis, the Jets and Pittsburgh -- and then sit at home on wild-card weekend. That's what happens when you play near-perfect football games, like the one the Pats played on Monday night.

I don't know if you can call this a great Patriots team yet. That distinction should really be reserved for champions -- and even then it might be hard to call a team with this much youth, inexperience and holes on defense as truly great.

But do you know how much more interesting I find these Patriots than their last supposedly "great" squad, their 2007 edition? That team was just a collection of talent. And their run through a 16-0 regular season was joyless by comparison to this. That team was typified by Moss, the ultimate front-runner. That team sold it's soul for the record book and paid the price when it mattered the most. In the end, they became the exact kind of team we used to hate around here -- soft, finesse, choke artists. They became the Colts.

This team is also very much dependant on its offense, and maybe because of that they'll meet the same fate at some point in the postseason. But that doesn't take away the fact that they are much easier to root for.

I don't know about you, but former first-round pick Laurence Maroney never did anything for me. But I respect the hell out of undrafted backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. I simply love the fact that Wes Welker is embarrassing all those who said his production was merely a result of the room Moss created. (And remember, Welker is still doing this on a bad knee.) Watching Tom Brady and Deion Branch work together is pure joy. I like the fact the Pats actually have young tight ends who can catch and young defensive players who can take the ball away and are improving. I no longer have to root for turds like Adalius Thomas, Derrick Burgess, Maroney and Moss.

And, last but not least, Brady has always been more interesting to me when he uses his head more than his arm. That's when he's at his best, anyway. That's what he did when he was winning championships.

That's right. We're talking championships again. The Pats have left us with no other choice.

Read Felger's report card on Wednesday. E-Mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

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Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

When the topic of Deflategate was broached on HBO's Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, which debuted this week, Ben Affleck became all kinds of fired up.

"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone," Affleck said. "I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone . . . so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?"

Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and is a passionate Patriots fan. He made no attempts to hide his fandom, and his appreciation for Brady, as he and Simmons (also a Patriots fan) discussed the football-deflation controversy that has now lasted well over a year. 

Affleck, who said he would want to cast himself as Brady if ever a Deflategate movie was made, harped on the fact that the league wanted Brady to turn over his phone. 

"Maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman," Affleck said, "that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers."

Brady is waiting for the Second Circuit to make a decision as to whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension issued by the league when a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL, 2-1. 

Pro Football Talk wrote on Thursday that a decision from the Second Circuit could come at any time. If the rehearding request is denied, Brady could then take the case to the Supreme Court. Should the Second Circuit grant Brady a rehearing, his suspension would be delaed until the court reached a decision. In that case, Brady could potentially play the entire 2016 season before a decision came to pass. 

Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

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Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

Tom Brady wasn't always the most famous person in his family. Growing up, his sisters were the accomplished athletes in the household. 

For his latest Throwback Thursday style Facebook post, Brady published a pair of photos of an old high school essay that he wrote in the fall of his senior year in 1994. It was titled "The way my sisters influenced me."

I found an essay I wrote in 1994... I love my big sisters! #tbt. Thanks for the good grade Mr Stark!

Posted by Tom Brady on Thursday, June 23, 2016

In it, he discusses some of the difficulties of growing up with three older sisters and no brothers. Because Maureen, Julie and Nancy Brady had achieved so much in softball, basketball and soccer, Brady -- or "Tommy," as he signed his paper -- had trouble getting noticed. 

Of course, it wouldn't be long before Brady was headed from San Mateo, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan in order to play football for the Wolverines. He probably had no trouble garnering attention by then. Still, it's funny to read about how he felt overlooked in his youth. 

He closed the essay explaining that he knew his sisters would always provide him support throughout his life, adding, "hopefully, just maybe, one day people will walk up to them and say, 'Aren't you Tommy's sister?' or 'Hey where is your brother?' Maybe . . . "

If the Brady sisters didn't get those kinds of comments by the time the baby of the family was given an 'A' for his English assignment, it probably didn't take long before they did. About seven years later, he took over as the starting quarterback of the Patriots.