PatsJets: The Pick


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 Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Don't roll your eyes at the NBA's emoji tweets -- they're the best

Don't roll your eyes at the NBA's emoji tweets -- they're the best

On Wednesday, 👀aiah Thomas was up to his old tricks, sending out a cryptic tweet containing only the hourglass emoji. 

This followed Thomas’ infamous Monday night tweet of the eyes emoji, the same tweet he had sent just prior to the Celtics signing Al Horford in free agency.

Like Monday’s tweet, the internet dug into what the hourglass could mean, with a leading theory pointing out that the logo on Paul George’s new sneakers resembles a sideways hour glass. Or Thomas could completely be messing with us. 

Side-note, by the way: Basketball Twitter has it all over the other sports' Twitters. Football and baseball Twitter are generally lame because of years spent by the respective leagues with sharing video. Hockey Twitter is great but can be insufferable. Basketball Twitter rocks, though. The jokes are the best, the memes are the best, the people are the best. Plus Woj is there. Love that guy. 

Anyway, the point is that, yes, reading into what emojis grown men are sending out is a waste of time, but we’re talking about Twitter, which essentially has three purposes: reporting, freaking out about Trump and wasting time. 

Most people on Twitter are not reporters. Not all of them freak out about Trump. Wasting time is allowed by all, so really what’s the difference between tweeting emoji theories and sports fans giving you their takes on how teams to whom they have no connections will think? It’s all garbage. At least the emojis are cute. 

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club.