You hate to admit it, but . . .

197881.jpg

You hate to admit it, but . . .

By Michael Felger

A Felger three-fer two football, one Bruins -- to get Jets Week started.

Before we get started, please know that I fully expect the Patriots to beat the Jets this weekend. I believe the Pats are a better team with better coaching, better quarterbacking play and a better track record against quality opponents. I'd be stunned if Bill Belichick allowed that team, of all teams, to come into Foxboro and win on Sunday.

But here's something I think people around here arent recognizing.

The Jets don't suck.

They aren't nearly the mess you want to believe they are.

Two years ago they lost the last three games of the season with Brett Favre at quarterback and Eric Mangini as the coach. That's a mess.

Now they've made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the Joe Namath era. You said they were frauds for backing into the postseason last year, but they followed that up with 11 wins, another playoff victory, and a trip back to the divisional round. Sounds like something approaching validation to me.

You think the Jets are pathetic, but if they're pathetic then that doesn't speak very well of you. The Pats are just 2-2 against the New Yorkers since Ryan got there. The Jets have won three of their last four playoff games after Saturday's win in Indianapolis. The Pats? They've lost two straight.

The Jets may have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play, but Mark Sanchez is just 24. He's probably going to get better. Their best defensive player, and for my money still the best corner in football, Darrelle Revis, is just 25. The core of their offensive line is young and under contract. Ownership has proven it will spend what it takes and the drafting by the scouting department has been pretty good.

Again, none of that will mean a heck of a lot on Sunday. The Pats should win. It could very well be another blowout. And maybe the Jets will never catch you as long as Tom Brady is here.

But if you think the Jets aren't legit or aren't headed in the proverbial "right direction," then you're simply blinded by your hatred for them. And I'd hate to be you if the unthinkable happens on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Peyton Manning suffered the seventh one-and-done playoff defeat of his playoff career on Saturday. Its not that he played poorly or, as has been the case in the past, gave the ball away in the fourth quarter. Its just that he lost again. His Colts are now 9-10 in his postseason lifetime. And, again, seven of those nine defeats came in their first playoff game. Ouch.

Then again, watching the Colts under Jim Caldwell only backs up a part of what Ryan had to say about Brady last week. Namely, that Brady benefits more from his coaches than Manning does from his. Folks around here took it as a major blast and it was certainly a dumb thing for Ryan to say, on many levels but it has more than a grain of truth to it.

I would have been more outraged over the Bruins collapse in Montreal on Saturday night had it not been so familiar. I mean, really. Aren't you conditioned to it by now? And at what point will you finally realize the sad truth?

This is what you're going to get from this group of players and this coaching staff.

This is who they are.

The most depressing part of the story is that the general manager of this soft, underachieving group, Peter Chiarelli, keeps giving out big contract extensions to the core of it.

Zdeno Chara, the captain who was on the ice for all three Montreal goals in the third period and overtime, who didn't get angry until the game was over and who then slinked out of the locker room without doing his job and speaking for the team, is signed for another 7 12 years. He's 33. He's been in the league 12 years and has been to just one conference finals and has never been to the Stanley Cup finals (the Senators went the year after he left).

Goalie Tim Thomas, who has been very good this year but was nevertheless brutal down the stretch in Montreal and has now blown third-period leads in each of his last two games, is signed for 2 12 more years at a cap-killing 5 million per season. He's 36. He's won one NHL playoff round in his life.

Marc Savard, who has been dreadful since returning to the lineup in November and looks like a shadow of his pre-concussion self, is signed for 6 12 more years. He's 33. He's never been out of the second round.

Coach Claude Julien, who is in his eighth NHL season and has never been out of the second round with three teams, is in the first year of his contract extension.

I could go on, but you get the point. Even if president Cam Neely wanted to clean house behind the bench (a big "if" given the fact Jeremy Jacobs just got through paying off Dave Lewis' deal), he's stuck with much of the roster. And as we've seen, it's a roster that has no idea how to win beyond a first-round level.

So as disheartening as Saturday's loss was, it's even worse to consider what's ahead unless a major shakeup occurs.

Purgatory.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”