Who's got next?


Who's got next?

I dont know about you, but I could get used to having Wednesdays off. Really breaks the week up, dont you think? Honestly, screw healthcare and immigration, all Obama or Romney needs to do is adopt a Wednesdays Off! policy and theyll run away with the election.

Anyway, welcome back to work. Hope youre not too tired, too hung over, or too still drunk in front of that keyboard. Hope youve got all your limbs in tact. Hope you celebrated freedom with the passion of a sermonizing Ray Lewis.

And most of all, hope youre ready for some wild excitement in the world of sports!

OK, that last part was a joke. Excitement? Come on now. Its July, aka the most boring month on the sports calendar. And this summer in Boston, July takes on an extra boring identity. The Pats dont start until the 26th; the Celtics will take a few days to sort out Brandon Bass and Ray Allen before heading into virtual hibernation; the Bruins have spent the off-season quietly stroking their Zambonis while the rest of the NHL feasts on free agency.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are all we have, but until Crawford, Ellsbury, Middlebrooks and Pedroia are back in the everyday line-up, Bobby V.s boys are merely treading water. And thats fine, but after three months, the noveltys wearing thin.

No, no. Despite what you saw last night, July is not a time for fireworks in professional sports. Its a time for boredom, for forced rhetorical contemplation. For questions like this:

Which team is the mostly likely to bring home Bostons next title?

OK, so let's see here . . .

Instinctively, the Pats are the most logical answer. After all, the AFC picture hasnt changed too much since February.

The Steelers and Ravens didnt get better. The Jets continue to flail. The Broncos are interesting, but you don't know howif Peyton will bounce back. The Texans are still terrifying when healthy, but lost one of the best defensive players in the league. The Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs theyll be fun, but aren't quite ready. And what else can I say? Its July. But considering what happened last year, and in the five months since, the Pats are in prime position.

The biggest question is still the defense, especially if they dont come to terms with Andre Carter. But Ill tell you this: Belichick's building himself an army at linebacker.

Its the calling card of every dominating Belichick D. In the 80s, he had Taylor, Banks and Carson with the Giants. In the 2000s, he had Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest and Co. Now, between Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and hopefully Donta Hightower the Pats have a core of angry and tough, but also versatile and athletic LBs. And you know Belichicks got his Tommy Bahama boxers all twisted in anticipation. If those guys can do some damage and the offense can just stay healthy, the Pats will be among the NFL elite.

One that note, the issue of elite is what will probably haunt the Celtics moving forward.

We can all agree that theyre in a much better position than we thought theyd be at this point. With KG, Pierce, Rondo, Bradley, Jason Terry and hopefully Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, the Celtics will be competitive; they're one of the top four teams in the East. But while the Pats are undoubtedly in the upper echelon of the NFL, the Celtics arent quite there in the Association. Even with their encouraging off-season, you cant help but feel like the Green will spend the next few seasons on the outside looking in while the likes of LeBron and Kevin Durant imprint their legacies on NBA history.

Still, as we saw last year and numerous times before that all it takes is one injury to really shake things up. Derrick Rose goes down and the Bulls go from contender to pretender, and suddenly opportunity knocks. And if the Celtics can somehow stay healthy and reach next years playoffs with their entire team intact, theyll once again be in a position to take advantage of any love the basketball Gods want to throw their way.

Its not ideal, but all things considered, well take it.

The Bruins situation feels a little more optimistic than the Celtics, mostly because theres no one in the NHL on the level of Miami or OKC. No one that you look at on paper and say: "Oh man, there's so much better than the Bruins. Boston doesn't have a shot!" While Peter Chiarelli defiantly shrugged his shoulders at free agency, you can't really blame him. He's happy and confident with what the Bruins have a core of players who already climbed the mountain, who know what it takes to win and still have the talent to do so. Throw in a still-improving Tyler Seguin, who should continue to expand upon his dominance, and the Bruins will be in the mix for all Stanley Cup conversations.

Of course, there's a huge wild card in this year's discussion: Goaltending. It's what won them the Cup last summer, and could very well leave them short from here on out.

Tim Thomas was a pain in the ass this season, but he still ranked third in wins, third in goals against and second in save percentage in the Eastern Conference. Sure, in Tuukka Rasks's 23 games he had a better percentage and GAA than Timmy, so there's reason for hope. But as we know, the postseason is a different beast, and it's now been two years since Tuukka even played in the playoffs. We still don't know what he's capable of under that spotlight, and until he proves otherwise, questions will linger. It will be impossible to enter any playoff series with the confidence that you had under Thomas, and I'm going to stop talking about hockey now before I say something incredibly stupid.

And finally, there's the Red Sox. Ah yes, the Red Sox. On their third month of treading MLB water, but getting closer to judgment day.

Listen, I know it's easy to write this team off. To say: "Please . . . they suck! They don't have a chance in October!" And then "I told you so" yourself silly when they fall short. You know why? Because odds are that the Sox WON'T win this year. Hell, they've only won it twice in 94 years! It's not an easy accomplishment.

But to say that the Sox don't have a chance is insane. All they have to do is sneak into one of the Wild Card spots right now, even after the awful West coast swing, they're only two and a half back and anything's possible. Then you have Beckett, Lester and Buchholz. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Crawford. You have a rotation with the potential to win games by itself with a line-up capable of torturing any pitcher. You have a chance. Just as much as any other team that's reached that point.

Still, it won't be easy. It's impossible to sit here today and not worry about how Ellsbury and Crawford will fare after missing a few months, or how Beckett's shoulder will hold up, or if Pedroia's thumb will ever get better or if David Ortiz's bitching will reach a boiling point and start affecting his on-field production. There's so much baseball to be played and unknowns to come to light. But they still have a shot.

Fortunately, all four of our teams do. But if I'm ranking their chances, here's my break down:

1. Pats
2. Bruins
3. Sox
4. Celtics

What do you think?

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

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  


But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017. 

Brady lists suspects in jersey theft: Edelman, Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones villain

Brady lists suspects in jersey theft: Edelman, Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones villain

The case of Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey got a tad more serious on Tuesday as the Houston Police Department's report on the stolen No. 12 was published by TMZ. In it, police estimate the value of the jersey at a cool half-million dollars

Brady clearly took notice. 

Though he'd probably like to have the jersey back in short order, he took to Instagram on Wednesday to make light of the search. 

His investigation seemed to lead him toward a familiar face, Julian Edelman, who he describes as a "sneaky lil squirrel." 

To let his teammate know he means business, Brady pulled a quote from Good Will Hunting.

"Ya suspect, yeah you! I don't know what your reputation is in this town, but after that s@?# you pulled, you can bet l'll be looking into you!"