Celtic Trade Scenarios

Another day, another new team that is rumored to be the frontrunner in the Kevin Love sweepstakes. The Golden State Warriors, as expected, are the top competition for the Boston Celtics in the pursuit of Kevin Love, and today things got interesting. The Warriors have offered David Lee and Klay Thompson for Love, Kevin Martin and JJ Barea. Golden State sees the opportunity to add Love and move Harrison Barnes into the lineup to replace Thompson. In theory, there is no dropoff for the Warriors at small forward and they replace David Lee with Kevin Love, which is a huge upgrade. If you think Love is bad on defense, wait until you watch David Lee.

This would validate the report that Minnesota wants NBA veterans in return for Love, but this new rumor stinks of posturing. Why would the Timberwolves, a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2005, trade their franchise player and other assets to a direct competitor in the stacked Western Conference? There are eight precious playoff spots and if Minnesota helps one of those eight from 2013/14 improve, they are doing a disservice to themselves and their fans. Considering this new report and applying logic to these rumors, this sounds like a direct message to Boston that they aren’t getting Love without providing a veteran that they can immediately put in their lineup. I’m assuming Boston doesn’t have the guy they want, so it may be time to get a third team involved. Here are a couple possible deals:

Trade Scenario #1- Boston, Minnesota and Orlando

Boston Receives- Kevin Love, Magic 2014 2nd Round Pick, T’Wolves 2015 & 2016 2nd Round Picks

Minnesota Receives- Aaron Afflalo, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, 2014 #6 Pick, #17 Pick, Boston 2017 1st Round Pick

Orlando Receives- Jeff Green, Kelly Olynk, Boston 2015 1st Round Pick, LA Clippers 2015 1st Round Pick

Some may look at this deal and think Orlando is getting the lower end of the return, but Aaron Afflalo has already talked about wanting to be traded and Orlando is in full rebuild mode anyways. Adding Green will make up for lost scoring, Olynk is still improving and they get two 1st round picks next year. Minnesota gets the proven young NBA star in Afflalo and replace Love in the frontcourt with the up and coming Sullinger. Avery Bradley would also be a good young piece for the Wolves and they also get the three 1st round picks they coveted. The Celtics end up with Love, possibly JJ Barea, and three 2nd round picks. Everyone wins and the money works.

Trade Scenario #2- Boston, Minnesota, Detroit

Boston Receives- Kevin Love, Detroit 2014 2nd Round Pick, Minnesota 2015 2nd Round Pick

Minnesota Receives- Greg Monroe, Jeff Green,Boston 2014 #17 Pick, Boston 2015 1st Round Pick, LA Clippers 2015 1st Round Pick, Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st Round Pick

Detroit Receives- Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynk, Avery Bradley, 2014 #6 Pick, Boston 2016 1st Round Pick

Again, it looks like Detroit is getting the raw end of the deal, but they actually get quite the haul for Greg Monroe, a player that most likely will be traded this summer. The Pistons end up with Boston’ top pick because Minnesota gets a true young big in return, not to mention three first round picks and a good bench scorer in Jeff Green. The Celtics get their guy, albeit after surrendering five 1st round picks and a few good, young players.

All of these rumors will be just rumors until something comes to fruition, but when it comes to trade talk, it is important to remember that the trade has to benefit all the franchises involved. Both of these deals would benefit all three teams involved and would allow the Timberwolves to possibly compete with Golden State instead of handing them a guaranteed playoff spot next season and beyond.

Love & Boston Are a Perfect Fit

The NBA offseason is about to begin, and the tampering season has been in full effect for the last month. If the NBA is good for two things, it’s drama and player movement. Perennial powers Miami and San Antonio Spurs just wrapped up the Finals, again, and if anyone is going to knock these two powers off, we may see that team beginning their construction on draft night. The team that rises on draft night may not be handing out a new hat to a young kid out of college; they’ll be making a trade for a franchise altering player. That team is starting to look like the Boston Celtics, and that player appears to be Kevin Love.

The Kevin Love trade rumors have been well known for a long time, and if it is true that Love doesn’t want to return after 2015, then the rumors will become reality. The Wolves have no choice- they’ll be forced to trade him on draft night to get the best return on a deal, and the only way to do that is to send Love to a place where he wants to be. Love spent the first weekend of June in Boston, taking in the sites and hanging with some of the local pro sports stars. NBA superstars don’t just make weekend trips to historic cities with a rabid fan base, so it is safe to say Love’ trip to Boston wasn’t just a vacation. It looked like a trip to check out his potential home and workplace.

Yes, the Celtics are among many suitors when it comes to Love’ services (Chicago, Golden State, Houston, and the LA Lakers), but when you step back and take a look at the scenario, it’s easy to see why Boston makes the most sense for Love. First and foremost, Boston has the most assets to offer, by far, and considering Minnesota would be dealing their franchise player, it is important to be able to find another potential franchise player with the picks gained in the deal. The Wolves would potentially receive the number six pick in a deep draft later this month and any additional picks they may want (Celtics have nine first round picks in the next five years.) Brooklyn’ first rounders in ’16 and ’18 has huge potential because Brooklyn has an aging and inflexible roster. If the Wolves want financial flexibility or young talent, the Celtics have expiring contracts and players they can include too (Jeff Green, Avery Bradley-sign and trade.)

Some question whether this deal makes sense for Boston considering the amount they will have to give up in the deal, but the only way Boston is going to compete is to put talent around Rondo. Love fits in perfectly with the pass-first point guard. Minnesota has to be leery of making this deal because the last time they made a deal with Boston, it netted the Celtics a championship in the first year. When it comes down to it, the Wolves should do what is right for the franchise and for Love. Avoiding trades out of spite is bad for business, and the Timberwolves still need to sell tickets, which won’t happen with a lame-duck Love on the roster.

Chicago has a good amount of assets to move (Taj Gibson, draft picks), and although Derek Rose is (was?) a great player, he’s not a pass-first point guard like Rondo, he’s coming off two straight missed seasons, and there are questions regarding the health of his knees. Houston has a good team and they may be able to clear cap space, but it isn’t the best fit. Howard didn’t play well with another dominant big (Gasol) and there won’t be a lot of shots for Love with Harden around too. Golden State has the players on their roster that are the most appealing (David Lee, Harrison Barnes), but they don’t have the picks and they aren’t a proven contender in the stacked Western Conference. The Lakers would be a viable candidate if they had something to trade, but besides the number seven pick, the cupboard is bare.

In the summer of 2007, the Celtics entered the draft armed with assets and the number five pick. After the draft was done, they had added Ray Allen and a shot to trade for Kevin Garnett because he was willing to come to Boston for a chance at a ring. It worked. Now we enter the summer of 2014, and this time the Celtics are in similar position, and because it worked in ’07, that gives them the confidence to go for it again. The Celtics are going to do what they have to do to build a contender, and draft night will mark the beginning of a big summer in Boston. Danny Ainge is hoping he can repeat history.

 

2014 Mock NFL Draft- Round One

Round 1

1. Houston Texans – Trade w/Jacksonville- Jaguars select Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Manziel is a perfect fit in Jacksonville; he’ll sell tickets, make the Jaguars relevant again, and he’s going to be a great. Quarterbacks are more valuable than defensive ends, which in turn makes Manziel the most valuable player in this draft, not Clowney.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

In the hypercompetitive and defensive dominated NFC West, the Rams make the decision to follow suit and take the talented linebacker from Buffalo. I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded down, but in this version of the draft they stay put.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Pick traded to Texans- Texans select Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney has been the consensus (I’m not a member of this group) top prospect for well over a year now, so the Texans get the best of both worlds by adding a pick and still getting the player they wanted to take at number one. 

4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Instead of adding a quarterback, the Browns land the best wide receiver to enter the NFL since Julio Jones. Watkins may be better than Jones, and he’ll help form one of the best wide receiver duo’s in the league with Josh Gordon.

5. Oakland Raiders – Greg Robinson, T, Auburn

The Raiders need help up front and they end up with the top tackle in the draft. With the trade for Matt Schaub in the offseason, it is clear the Reggie McKenzie and his crew are trying to win now. Protecting your quarterback is the best way to do that, and Robinson fills that major need. 

6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M

The Falcons are in major need of offensive line help, and they find a player with the best NFL bloodline of all time. Matt Ryan needs to be kept upright and adding Matthews, who has been blocking for Manziel the last two years, will do just that. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Last year the Bucs spent a third round pick on quarterback Mike Glennon and he pushed Josh Freeman out the door. Enter a new regime with a new plan; expect to see Glennon traded and Bortles to eventually win the job over career backup Josh McCown. 

8. Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Everyone has him falling, his pro day was awful, blah-blah-blah…Minnesota needs a quarterback desperately, and they like Bridgewater. Let’s not forget that Rick Spielman once used the number 12 pick on Christian Ponder. 

9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

The Bills need to find a good tight end, and Ebron fits the bill. Ebron has issues with concentration, so he’ll take time to develop, but if he taps into his athleticism like he did at UNC, then the AFC East is going to have their hands full for the next decade. 

10. Detroit Lions – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The third Aggie to go in the top ten heads to Detroit to team with Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford. Detroit has had issues with their second receiver so having Evans fall to number ten is a godsend for the Lions offense. Evans brings toughness that the Lions need. 

11. Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.

Alterraun Verner bolted for Tampa in free agency and left a hole in the secondary; Gilbert is the type of player that can come in and play right away. He may not be the level of Verner, but the Titans will be happy with the skill set Gilbert brings to their defense. 

12. New York Giants – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Donald provides a presence that the Giants are desperately in need of on the defensive front. Donald shouldn’t be available at this point in the draft, but questions about his size push him out of the top ten. This is a steal for the Giants. 

13. St. Louis Rams – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

People are going to think I’m nuts to project the Rams to draft two linebackers with their first two picks, but I’m sticking to it. Barr is an outside linebacker with huge NFL potential and impossible to pass up at this point. The Rams linebacker core, in theory, would be all set for the next five to eight years.  

14. Chicago Bears – Ha Ha Clinton Dix, FS, Alabama

The Bears need help at safety and Clinton Dix is the top safety in the 2014 class. The Alabama product should start right away and will add athleticism and flexibility to the Bears secondary. Dix has the ability to play corner in a pinch too, making him more valuable. 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan

The Steelers haven’t been able to protect Big Ben for the last few seasons, and if they want to get back to the playoffs they better fix this problem. Lewan has great feet, balance and he has been facing top competition throughout his college career.  

16. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

Although the Cowboys do need help on the offensive line, they’re also thin at the safety position. Pryor is the second ranked free safety in this draft; this would be the smart pick for Dallas, so assume they’ll do something different. 

17. Baltimore Ravens – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

Alabama’ track record for NFL players, especially first round picks, has been very spotty, but the Ravens typically draft well. They go with Mosley, one of the best athletes in this draft. The Ravens are still in transition on defense since the departures of Lewis and Reed. This pick helps. 

18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU

The Jets were linked to every big name free agent wide receiver this offseason. Nothing came to fruition and John Idzik has made it clear he’s building through the draft. Beckham is an athletic specimen that looks the part of the NFL wide receiver. Geno Smith gets a new weapon to work with. 

19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, G, Notre Dame

The Dolphins went into this offseason with a major problem- the offensive line. They essentially didn’t have one after watching it crumble in 2013 due to bullying and chaos. Martin is considered the top guard in the draft and will be most likely inserted into the starting lineup on day one. He and Pouncey alone will make Miami stronger up the middle. 

20. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Carson Palmer has about three seasons left in him, so drafting a quarterback is a necessity for the Cards. Derek Carr will not get the same treatment his brother did by getting thrown to the wolves and will have a chance to learn under Palmer until he’s ready to take the reins. 

21. Green Bay Packers – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The pass rush was addressed in free agency and now the back end is addressed in the first round. Dennard has decent size, a strong bloodline (cousin Alfonzo is a starting cornerback for New England) and has the look of an NFL corner. Health could be an issue. 

22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marquise Lee, WR, USC

If Lee was allowed to enter the draft last year, he would have been a top ten pick. He had a down junior season but Chip Kelly will look past it because he knows what he is getting with Lee- one of the top wide receivers in this draft. Lee isn’t your typical Trojan wide receiver (translation- not a bust.) 

23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The Chiefs need depth at the wide receiver position and Cooks fills that need. Cooks is a polished, strong third receiver to add to the Avery/Bowe duo. Andy Reid knows that a wide receiver core should resemble a basketball starting five and the selection of Cooks gets them 3/5 of the way there. 

24. Cincinnati Bengals – Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois

The Bengals have a good defense and Taylor Mays has played decent for them at strong safety, but it is hard to pass on Ward at this point, especially knowing that New England and other AFC contenders like him. Watch for Ward to steal the starting job from Mays.

25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech 

The Chargers get a steal when Kyle Fuller slips to them in the first round. Facing the Broncos a minimum of twice a year makes it essential to have a great pass defense. If the Chargers don’t take a corner here, don’t be surprised to see them go after a pass rusher.

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

With Joe Haden at the top of the depth chart and the addition of safety Donte Whitner, the Browns are one corner away from having a dominant secondary. Roby will look to become the second Buckeye starting in the Cleveland secondary. 

27. New Orleans Saints – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

The Saints gambled their first round pick on a running back in 2011, trading up for Mark Ingram, but he looks like a bust. Darren Sproles was traded and Pierre Thomas isn’t getting any younger, so Hyde will have an opportunity to win the job right away. The Saints get it right this time around. 

28. Carolina Panthers – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

The Panthers gutted their wide receiver core in the offseason so this pick is more of a need pick than a best overall player pick. The Panthers select a player that Cam Newton will love and help erase the pain of losing Steve Smith. Latimer, a former basketball star, has good size and athleticism. 

29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

When Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down last year, it was clear that the Patriots depth on the defensive line was lacking. The main problem was stopping the run; adding Nix will give the Patriots the insurance policy they need if Wilfork’ Achilles injury acts up or Kelly happens to go down again. 

30. San Francisco 49ers – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

The 49ers have a problem on their hands with Aldon Smith, regardless if he cleans up his act. He is absolutely going to be suspended by the NFL and he could possibly even face jail time for his braincramp at the airport. The 49ers add Ford to their star studded defense and allow the young talent to develop on the fly. 

31. Denver Broncos – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

The Broncos did have a great offseason and they added a top end cornerback, but Verrett is the best player left on the board. With the prospect of facing New England in the AFC title game, having a strong secondary will be key. Aqib Talib is always a wild card when it comes to health, so Verrett could end up getting his fair share of playing time in his rookie year.

32. Seattle Seahawks – Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

The Seahawks have gone through the typical free agent raid that Super Bowl champs endure, and the most important piece they lost was Golden Tate. Robinson isn’t the same type of player as Tate, but he will certainly help the Seattle offense get over his loss.

It’s Time For The Celtics To Clean House

With 11 days remaining before the NBA trade deadline, teams are trying to figure out if they are a contenders or pretenders. We have already seen teams like the Cavaliers try to make a last ditch effort at a playoff run (swing and a miss!), but the truth is the NBA is not all that balanced, and the haves, i.e. Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, and the LA Clippers are the only teams with a real shot to win the NBA title. Regardless of the lack of parity, there are teams looking to improve their rosters or go in another direction. It is time for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics to start calling them.

The 2013-2014 Boston Celtics currently stand at 18-34 with 30 games left on their schedule. It’s very clear that Boston has become one of the “have not’s” and are in a rebuilding stage. With that being said, what is the point of keeping players that hold value but aren’t in the plan for the future? The answer is simple- there is no point in retaining them. There are five players on the Celtics roster that need to have their futures decided sooner rather than later. Let’s take a look at their situations.

Jeff Green- With his nine million per year on the books for two more seasons and the inability to step up and be the consistent player he was expected to be, it’s time to move on. Green deserved the benefit of the doubt after having open heart surgery and last year became a mulligan season, but the excuses have run dry and Green is what he is-maddeningly inconsistent yet extremely talented. Let someone else try and draw the potential out of him because it isn’t happening in Beantown.

Brandon Bass- He was a solid addition for the Celtics and a strong return for Big Baby Davis, but he doesn’t fit in the Celtics future plans. The tweener forward also accounts for over six million on the cap with another season remaining, so not only is he not part of the future, he’s slowing down the rebuilding process by taking playing time away from younger big men and also eating up cap space that could be allotted to a younger core player like Avery Bradley. There have been rumors surrounding Bass since the season began; it’s time to make one of those rumors a reality.

Kris Humphries- This is truly a “time is of the essence” situation with the strong rebounding power forward; Humphries can simply walk and Boston will gain 12 million in cap space, but it makes more sense to try and gain an asset for a player that could help a team down the stretch. Humphries is an attractive player for a possible playoff team; Charlotte might make sense with the expiring contract of Ben Gordon and a possible first round pick. Humphries might also be a part of a package deal.

Gerald Wallace- Moving Wallace might be a little tricky. He accounts for over ten million on the cap and he has two seasons left on his awful contract. Wallace is only 31 years old, so he isn’t exactly washed up. Danny Ainge may end up having to take back some baggage to move Wallace, but if it clears cap space, it’s worth it. Wallace may be part of a package deal if the Celtics move on from…

Rajon Rondo- This is a tricky one. 27 year old point guards with championship pedigree aren’t the easiest thing to find, not to mention one who is as competitive as any player in the game and looks to have learned a thing a two while out with a torn ACL. Rondo has one season remaining on his deal and has said that free agency “intrigues” him, so what do the Celtics do? Simple- hold onto him unless a young big man or top five pick is the return. Danny Ainge should do all he can to pry a big from Detroit, especially with that franchise in a bit of disarray, but if Detroit stands by their declaration of no Drummond/Monroe, there is no reason to trade Rondo. When the draft rolls around and a team offers a top five pick, that would be hard to turn down too, but until one of those scenarios occurs, expect to see number nine running the point for at least another calendar year.

Danny Ainge and his front office need to make these decisions because the Celtics will stay in a neutral stage that nobody likes but it is inevitable while rebuilding. The sooner they move on the better. The next ten days in Boston could go a long way towards deciding how soon the Celtics contend again, but until Ainge and Co. put it in drive, Boston fans are just going to have to be patient and confident that there is a plan to bring title number 18 to the hub of basketball.

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The Transformation of the Patriots Offense- Why It Had to Happen

When the Patriots season ended last year, it was another painful end to a season filled with the hopes of winning the fourth Lombardi Trophy in team history. For a team with a regular season record of 39-9 from 2010-2012, it didn’t seem right that all this winning occurred without a championship to show for it. The Patriots had some success in the playoffs, but in the end, they weren’t properly equipped to get the job done. It was time for some self-scouting and to accept the obvious- they weren’t fast or athletic enough on offense, especially at wide receiver. Something had to be done in the offseason.

The Patriots started the process at the receiver position, and to Patriots fans chagrin, the decision was made to replace Wes Welker. Yes, he is a good player, but does he demand double teams and can he battle for a ball with a defensive back? Absolutely not, and because he is showing signs of age-12.5 drop percentage in 2012- it forced the Patriots to make a tough decision. Bob Kraft said they would have taken him back, but is there any guarantee he wasn’t going to get phased out like he was in the beginning of 2012? The writing was on the wall, and now Welker catches passes from Peyton Manning.

Danny Amendola makes the receiving core more dynamic, although he has issues staying healthy. Amendola has been productive, he’s two inches taller than Welker, and he has also has very long arms, which helps his catch radius. They traded for LeGarrette Blount to share the bulk of the carries with Steven Ridley as the Patriots will commit to a true 50-50 offensive balance in 2013. Shane Vereen, when healthy, has proven to be a good receiver out of the backfield and has provided some relief after the loss of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman has also done a great job of relieving the pressure of losing Welker, and he is on pace to have better receiving statistics for the season, which is no small feat.

The Patriots drafted for speed and athleticism. Offensively, drafting Aaron Dobson in the second round gives Tom Brady a 6’3″ wide receiver with speed, something he hasn’t had since Randy Moss. Dobson will look to replace the production Brandon Lloyd provided in 2012. The Patriots also selected Josh Boyce, a 5’11”, 210 pound wide receiver out of TCU in the fourth round. Boyce run’s a sub 4.5 forty and can play in the slot and outside. New England also struck gold with rookie free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, a player who had a checkered history but always had the talent to play at a high level.

Fans were worried that the Patriots didn’t have a plan, but they did, and it revolved around speed and power to compete with the Ravens, 49ers, Seahawks, and other athletic, talented teams. Most trail the Patriots when it comes to roster strength and identifying areas of weakness, but athletically, work had to be done to catch up to Super Bowl level rosters. Patriots’ fans, be confident that Bill Belichick and company have finally found the players to inject athleticism and speed to push them over the top.

The Battle for Home Field Advantage & Why it’s Crucial to Winning a Super Bowl

Winning consistently in the NFL is a difficult task to accomplish. Year after year we see teams that look like a true contender fall off the map after a short losing streak, and 2013 will be no different. Although there have been teams in recent history that have won the Super Bowl taking the long road, the truth is the teams with the best chance to represent their respective conferences are the teams that stay home for the playoffs.

As we near the completion of Week 14 of the NFL schedule, we are starting to get an idea of who will clinch the crucial home playoff games and bye weeks. The Denver Broncos continued their great season with a thrashing of Tennessee which leaves them at 11-2. The Broncos have to stay on point because they still have the 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs nipping at their heels. The New England Patriots started the day as the number two seed, and although it looked like the Bengals were about to leapfrog them after their big win versus Indy, the Patriots found a way to pull out the miracle win after being down 12 with three minutes to go. While this miracle comeback was occurring, the Patriots best player not named Tom Brady was on his way to the hospital to ultimately learn his ACL is torn.

The Broncos and the Patriots do appear to be the clear top two teams in the conference, and home field for both of these teams may be more important than the other playoff participants. New England is 3-3 on the road this season, and two of those three wins were dicey to say the least. Comebacks against Houston may be possible during the regular season, but getting in holes on the road in the playoffs is a death sentence. This alone makes obtaining a top two seed vital for the Patriots to have any chance to win their fourth Lombardi Trophy.

Peyton Manning and the Broncos are 4-2 on the road this season, so they aren’t much better than New England in other team’s stadiums.  If Denver was to somehow lose the top seed or even fall behind Kansas City, they will end up playing on the road in a tough environment. The Broncos are 2-2 on the road versus potential playoff teams (Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, and Kansas City) and they’re undefeated at home. It is pretty clear that the Broncos have a serious home field advantage and need to win out to maintain their current standing.

New England has had more recent success in Denver than the Broncos have had in Foxboro, so going to Mile High for the AFC Championship isn’t exactly an impossible task for the Patriots. It will be an impossible task if they aren’t able to clinch a top two bye and earn the bye week to heal up. The last thing Peyton Manning wants to do is come back to Foxboro, especially in January. These next three weeks will be very interesting and will go a long way towards deciding the AFC Champion. If today was a sign of things to come, we may see the best two months of football in a long time.

Bye Week Review- Weeks 1-9 & What the Rest of the Season Has in Store

Sitting and watching every other team in the NFL play while the Patriots are idle can be a little frustrating, but bye weeks are a welcome break for NFL players and coaches, and this recess came right in time for the banged up AFC East powerhouse. Many of the NFL pundits have questioned the Patriots all season, regardless of their 7-2 record and strong victories over teams like New Orleans and the Atlanta Falcons, who had a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White at the time. When a team has consistency like New England has for such a long period of time, it becomes common to nitpick and question the “style” of winning.

The main reason for the lack of confidence in the Patriots is due to their problems on offense. The injuries at wideout to Danny Amendola, running back with Shane Vereen and at tight end with Rob Gronkowski were crippling to an offense that was used to walking up and down the field at will. The defense also has dealt with their own injury problems. Losing stalwart defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and also linebacker Jerod Mayo for the season were huge blows, especially considering they were turning the corner and becoming one of the NFL’s elite. Injuries to star cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Steven Gregory have also hurt, but haven’t stopped the Patriots from winning and getting defensive stops in situations where they’re needed.

As the weeks wore on and the Patriots continued to find ways to win, Amendola, Gronkowski and now Vereen slowly but surely got healthy; last week against the Steelers, the Patriots lit up the score board for 55 points and also generated over 600 yards of offense. All this without the excellent receiving back Vereen, who will be in the lineup this week versus the Carolina Panthers; it is pretty clear this offense is ready to take the next step. The bye week also bought Aqib Talib another week to heal, and it appears he will be active for this week’s game.

The second half of the season kicks off with a trip to Carolina backed up by a Sunday night game in Foxboro against Denver; two tough tests for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. After that, the Patriots face the Texans, Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, and Bills. Assuming New England takes care of business, they should have a good shot at a bye in the first round of the playoffs. If that happens, don’t be surprised if the Patriots are playing in their sixth Super Bowl since the 2001 season.