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Have you visited the KITB Sports Talk podcast page? Check out the newest podcasts featuring hosts Mark Littlefield and Kevin Tocci, who have been talking sports for nearly 10 years in the Boston area!  In this latest episode, Kevin Tocci chats with Noube Rateau about the latest regarding the rebounding New England Patriots. They kick off the podcast with a look at the Pats recent victory over the New York Jets and evaluate the upcoming schedule that features some tough games ahead. Noube also shares details about his new sports documentary, "Out of Bounds!" 

Orioles return to Championship Form
by Rob Welch                                                                                         October 10, 2014

After nearly two full decades of agony, the Baltimore Orioles are back in the American Championship Series.  Not since 1997, when the O’s lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS, have the Orioles been this close to making their first World Series since 1983. Other than an appearance in the ALDS in 2012, the O’s hadn’t even sniffed the possibility of bringing a championship to B’More.  While the nearby by football team, the Baltimore Ravens, have been relevant in the city since the late 90’s, winning two Super Bowls, the Orioles have fielded horrible team after horrible team.


I remember thinking the Orioles had a chance when they signed a shriveling right fielder named Sammy Sosa in the mid 2000s. Who could forget the Albert Belle years?  Or when their best pitcher, Mike Mussina, left for the hated Yankees?  But while the team struggled, the front office continuously made deals to better the team. Credit is due to former GM Andy McPhail, as well as the current GM Dan Duquette.  As Baltimore was making quick work of the Tigers this past week names like Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, Adam Jones, Bud Norris and lifelong Nick Markakis were thrown into the spotlight. These players, acquired while the team struggled, among others, were all vital to the rejuvenation of the team.


The Orioles won the AL East this year with a high powered offense, solid starting pitching, and an excellent bullpen. If the Birds starters can make it to the 7th inning with a lead, it’s a likely bet that they will come out on top. Andrew Miller, a mid-season acquisition from Boston, has pitched lights out since coming to Baltimore, and it was no different against Detroit. Kevin Gausman, who started during the year, came in the 2nd inning of Game 2, down a run, and was lights out for 6 innings. His pitching helped the team tread water before they finally got a lead in the 8th, and eventually a win. With Zach Britton pitching lights out as their closer, it’s tough to see anyone doing damage to a bullpen that continuously has guys coming in throwing heat in the high 90s.

The O’s also got lucky this offseason by landing Nelson Cruz for cheap money. Cruz hit 40 Homeruns this season, and added two during the ALDS. It was great to see the team sweep the Tigers, even with their best player, Adam Jones, struggling at the plate hitting only .181, but with 4 runs scored.


But the real hero of this resurgence in Baltimore is manager Buck Showalter. Since he came to the O’s the team has improved thanks to coaching. He is the perfect coach for this team. His ballsy move in the 9th in Game 3 to intentionally put the winning run on base to set up an eventual double play was one of the greatest coaching moves of the playoffs.  Buck, and the O’s, have been winning games despite missing three of their best players in Matt Wieters (out since May), Manny Machado (out since August), and Chris Davis (suspension).

The Orioles will face another surprising team in the ALCS,, the Kansas City Royals. The Royals are the complete opposite from the Orioles in the sense that they don’t hit for much power, rather manufacturing their runs with speed.


The series should be very fun to watch, and it’s great, as an Orioles fan living in Massachusetts, to see my favorite team back where they belong, in the ALCS.

Nation's Capitol Alternative
by Rob Welch                                                                                  September 28, 2014                                                 

As a Boston Celtics fan, it's very tough to get excited about the upcoming NBA season. The C's aren't expected to win more than 30 games this year, in another rebuilding/retooling year. So as a fan of the game, you have to look at other ways to keep yourself entertained, even if it means becoming a fan of another team. I have that team for Celtics fans. They reside in the nation's capital, and could be a very sexy pick to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

The main reason, as a Celts fan, to route for the Washington Wizards has to do with a certain former captain of the green who unexpectedly signed with the Wiz this summer. Paul Pierce will bring veteran leadership to a team that could use it. On a side note, let's not go nuts and go out and purchase a Paul Pierce Wizards' jersey, you don't want to end up like the one kid with a Toronto Raptors Hakeem Olajuwon jersey.

 

The Wiz need leadership, something they lacked in the Eastern semis last season. Washington had a great chance to beat the Pacers in the playoffs last season, losing in 6 games, but an addition like Pierce maybe could have changed the outcome of the series.

 

The Wiz also added some solid bench help this summer. Old friend Kris Humphries will backup Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat. Say what you want about Hump, but he is an above average rebounder with has an improving jumper. He also didn't say one negative thing last season about his time in Boston, that can't be said about everyone; I'm talking about you Gerald Wallace. The team also signed Dejuan Blair, who although his knees are always questionable, had a very solid last season in Dallas.

 

Nene and Gortat are a solid front court in a very small Eastern Conference. Gortat inked a new deal this summer with the Wiz for 5 years $60 million. The length of the contract may be a little long for a 30 year old, but the fact remains, Gortat is a welcomed commodity to any team, with his shot blocking, rebounding and old school offensive game.

 

With Nene, Gortat, Pierce, Bradley Beal, and John Wall as their starting five, the Wiz will have one of the best starting five in not just the East, but the entire league. I for one, am looking forward to following them this season.

BLOG: It's Football Season at Last
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                  August 24, 2014 

If you're a sports fan living in the Boston area, football season couldn't have come at a better time. The Red Sox, who usually are competing for the division lead or a playoff spot, have been a major disappointment this year.  It honestly feels like 2012 again, when the Sox finished with their worst record since 1965, as the team finished 62-100. So when training camp opens for the New England Patriots, it's a sign that football is right around the corner. Click here to read more!
BLOG: What's wrong with these Sox? 
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                         July 6, 2014
What a difference a year makes huh? It was a year ago at this time that the Boston Red Sox sat atop the American League East. The team was looking to rebound from one of it's worst seasons since 1965, when that club finished the year with a record of 62-100. Some would say the 2014 season was magical for the Sox, as they found ways to come from behind and win. Click here to read more!!!
BLOG: Smart Move or Hedging Their Bets
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                         June 28, 2014
Many who follow the Boston Celtics seemed surprised by the move that President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge made on Thursday night: drafting Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. I have to be honest, I had a funny feeling this would happen. The one thing I always chuckle at is all the chatter on social media regarding what Ainge would do with that pick or who might "fall" to the Celts. Couldn't tell you how many posts on Twitter and Facebook had Joel Embiid falling to the sixth spot in the draft. Click here to read more!!!
BLOG: Drafting The Future 
by Rob Welch                                                                                                                                                                                                  June 25, 2014
This Thursday marks the date of the most anticipated NBA draft since 2003 when the league was introduced to people named Lebron, DWade, Melo and Bosh. With a year of hype the prospects entering this draft will have extreme pressure on them to carry a franchise to the promise land.  Click here to read more!!!
Iginla Deserves Another Run at Lord Stanley
by Aguinaldo Logan                                                                                       June 9, 2014

Its been almost a month since the Boston Bruins were eliminated in the NHL  playoffs at the hands of their most hated rival,the Montreal Canadiens and Bruins players and fans alike are still left wondering what happened?   What happened to the team who won the President’s Trophy with the best overall record in the NHL this season?   What happened to David Krejci and Milan Lucic? And what happened to Brad Marchand and the usually rock solid goaltending of Tuukka Rask?  I can sit here all night and ask these questions until I’m blue in the face, but the one Bruin whose playoff performance I can’t question is Jarome Iginla's. 


He was one of very few Bruins whose playoff performance matched his regular season output. Iginla hit everything that moved , never took a shift off and contributed with 5 goals against Detroit and Montreal.  A lot has been said about the debacle that transpired at last years trade deadline when Peter Chiarelli thought he had a deal in place to bring Iginla to Boston in a trade with the Calgary Flames,just to have the rug pulled out from him at the last second when Iginla decided he wanted to play with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and we all know how that worked out for Iginla, right? But with hindsight being what it is, the important thing now is that Jarome Iginla was everything as advertised for this Bruins team and then some. He’s the prototypical Bruin and Boston would be very wise to re-sign him to a one or two year contract.


Iginla lays it all on the line, even at the age of 37 he still plays with heart, grit, and determination, not to mention his immense goal scoring talent. Finally, to see a classy guy like Jarome Iginla hoist the Stanley Cup would be amazing, it would be just like we saw in 2000 when Ray Bourque finally won the cup , even though it was with Colorado and not our Bruins, it was still a tremendous moment to watch and hopefully just like Bourque.  Jarome Iginla will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of his hall of fame career.

Trading Partners
by Rob Welch                                                                                      May 30, 2014

As the NBA Draft on June 26th rapidly approaches, a few franchise changing players could change hands. Kevin Love in Minnesota and Carmelo Anthony in New York are two players at the top that could change teams within the next month, altering the history of another NBA franchise. As a Boston Celtics fan, you have to realize, they too have a player that could help put another NBA team over the hump, the player of course is Rajon Rondo.

Unless Celtics GM Danny Ainge can swing a deal for a player like Love or Anthony, then it’s more likely than not that the Celts will endure another season like last year. They will continue to be a team that shows some life, but in the end can’t close out games, and more importantly can’t play defense. With Rondo, the Celts have a tradable asset that may not want to stick around for a rebuild. So I am positive Ainge is fielding calls on a daily basis inquiring about Rondo’s services. But the question is who could be calling?


Houston Rockets

The Rockets are a team that has long been in the Rondo discussion, whether it is true or not. Houston added Dwight Howard last summer, but disappointed in this year’s playoffs, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. The Rockets have a scrappy point guard in Patrick Beverley and a decent backup in Jeremy Lin, but adding Rondo may cement them as the third best team in the West, behind Oklahoma City and San Antonio. With the Spurs aging core, it’s more likely than not, that they only have a few more seasons of top play before they finally show their age.

Rondo could be that piece that lifts the Rockets into elite status very quickly. And as evident in the Kevin Garnett trade in 2007, Ainge and Kevin McHale (Houston’s Head Coach) aren’t afraid to deal with each other. A core of Rondo, Howard and James Harden would be the new Big Three of the NBA.

Houston gets: Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green

Boston gets: Omar Asik and Chandler Parsons.


Indiana Pacers

As I write this article, the Pacers are going back to Miami for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, down 3-2. I would be lying if I said that I find the Pacers enjoyable to watch. Their offense is extremely boring, with non-stop high picks and rolls involving Lance Stephenson, Paul George and David West. Obviously, due to their #1 seed, the Pacers offensive strategy was successful, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some improving.

The Pacers desperately need a penetrating point guard. George Hill is nice, but he is more of a shooter, than a passer. This is where the acquisition of Rondo would be huge. Rondo would force defenses, like Miami, to collapse freeing up more open space for All-Star center Roy Hibbert and West. Adding Rondo to the team would certainly help the Pacers finally make it to the NBA Finals.

Indiana gets: Rajon Rondo

Boston gets:  Evan Turner, George Hill and a future first round draft pick.


Los Angeles Lakers

Sorry C’s fans but this is an actual possibility. The Lakers brass, as well as their brand, will not stand for another losing season. Like the New England Patriots with Tom Brady, the Lakers know the time is ticking on Kobe Bryant, so they have to win now. Adding Rondo would be a no-brainer, and would give Kobe his first real point guard since Gary Payton left town.

Los Angeles gets: Rajon Rondo

Boston gets: 7th overall pick in the 2014 draft, a future first round pick and Steve Nash’s corpse


New York Knicks

The Knicks would be the last team Ainge probably wants to trade with, but who knows, Ainge is not afraid to make any move.  The Knicks need to make a splash in free agency or trades since they don’t seem to have a first round pick till President Barack Obama is out of office. If you don’t believe me, look at this

http://www.prosportstransactions.com/basketball/DraftTrades/Future/Knicks.htm

Adding Rondo would most surely keep Melo around, and it would make Phil Jackson’s job easier.

New York gets: Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green

Boston gets: Amare Stoudamire and Tim Hardaway Jr.


Sacramento Kings

It was reported earlier in the week that the Kings would be open to the idea of trading for Love without the assurance he would re-sign. So why wouldn’t we say the same for Rondo? The Kings are overshadowed by three other team in the state of California, and with a new arena on the way, the team urgently needs to make some noise.

Sacramento gets: Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass

Boston gets: Jason Thompson, Ben McLemore, Isiah Thomas (sign and trade) and 8th pick in 2014 draft


Keep in mind with all these deals I have suggested, this isn’t necessarily to improve the Celtics now, but rather for the future, if the rebuilding process is to take longer than first expected.



2014 NFL Mock Draft

by Mark Littlefield                                                                                          May 2, 2014


1. Houston Texans:  Jadaveon Clowney, DE South Carolina

The Texans have the defensive front of the future and a pairing of Clowney and Watt would be trouble for opposing offenses for years to come. But what about quarterback….

 

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Greg Robinson, OT Auburn

The Rams have to keep their quarterback off the ground if they want to have a shot at winning and Robinson is a future Hall of Famer in my opinion and would be a great selection but the Rams will probably move this pick considering they have two of the top 13 picks.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo

The Jaguars need to add a playmaker on either side of the ball and Mack is one of the few blue chip prospects in this draft.  If he can live up to the hype it could be worth it but taking a player out of the MAC at three is a bit risky if you ask me.

 

4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M

The Browns need to find the quarterback of the future as Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney are the only passers currently on the Browns roster.  Quarterback is the safe and correct pick for Cleveland.

 

5. Oakland Raiders: Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina

The Raiders love them some freaks.  And reaching.  Whoever the Raiders draft at five will be a reach but after a nice offseason defensively, they can add some firepower here at 5.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M

I think the Falcons will ultimately move the pick but if Thomas Dimitroff keeps the pick he will use it on the offensive line.  With a couple of great prospects to choose from I believe he will choose pedigree.

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson

With a solid defense in place the Bucs should add a threat opposite Vincent Jackson to free him up and give their young quarterback Mike Glennon another blue chip target to throw to.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State

Gilbert is one of the top prospects available and his ability in the kick return game could help replace Percy Harvin, who is one of the elite return men in the game.

 

9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M

The Bills can give last years’ first round pick EJ Manuel a true weapon here, whether it be at WR or TE, and they should not pass up the opportunity to do so.  If Ebron falls, I’d take him here but if he is not available then Evans is the next best pick.

 

10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB MSU

Dennard is regarded as one of the premier corners in this draft and the Lions definitely have a need.  Having played his college ball down the road at Michigan State the Lions can snag a hometown product.

 

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, DE UCLA

Remember Jevon Kearse? A 6’5, 262 beast of a man nicknamed, “The Freak?” Drafted by the Titans in 1999?  Ran a 4.43 40 yard dash and had a 37” vertical leap at the combine? Ring a bell? Meet this years freak: Anthony Barr: 6’5, 255. 4.41 40 yard dash and a 34.5” vertical leap in combine and workouts.

 

12. New York Giants:  Ra’Shede Hageman

After losing almost their entire defensive line from their Super Bowl teams the Giants have to start rebuilding.  Not a better place to start in this draft than Hageman, who I believe is the top D-tackle available.

 

13. St. Louis Rams: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S Alabama

If the Rams use both picks they have an opportunity to add a playmaker on both sides of the ball and they could definitely use help in the secondary.

 

14. Chicago Bears:  CJ Mosley, LB Alabama

The Bears once mighty defense is losing its punch.  Here is a hard hitting linebacker that can help erase the memories of Brian Urlacher as Mosley is one of the top LB’s available.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers:  Taylor Lewan, T Michigan

The Steelers have a lot of holes to fill and it will be interesting to see which direction they go.  I believe that they need to beef up their offensive line to keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy and Lewan is an absolute steal at 15.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT Pitt

After losing Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff the Cowboys seem to have an identity crisis on their defensive line. Who are they? A team that should start rebuilding in the trenches…

 

17. Baltimore Ravens:  Allen Robinson, WR PSU

Was it worth trading Anquan Boldin after winning a Super Bowl? You now have to use a first or second round pick to replace him when all you got in return was a sixth rounder. Shouldn’t have done that…

 

18. New York Jets:  Brandin Cooks, WR OSU

One thing is for sure, whoever the Jets pick will get booed on draft day.  If it happens to be Cooks than the Jets have added one of the fastest prospects to a receiving corps desperately in need of a playmaker.

 

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, G ND

Anyone remember the show Martin back in the day, starring Martin Lawrence? Not that it has anything to do with the Dolphins pick but they clearly need to replace the loss of Jonathan Martin…with Zack Martin??? DAAAAAMN GEENA!!!

 

20. Arizona Cardinals:  Derek Carr, QB Fresno State

This is a good spot for the Cardinals as they can draft the quarterback the future with plenty of good options as I see quarterbacks falling in this draft.  Having an NFL pedigree might go a little bit further and I think that is what will make Bruce Arians make this his pick.

 

21. Green Bay Packers:  Timmy Jernigan, DT FSU

The Packers need a dominant D-Tackle that will draw the double teams needed to free up Clay Matthews on the outside.  Drafting Timmy Jernigan would do just that…

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S Louisville

Chip Kelly was hoping that Patrick Chung would be the answer at safety but after releasing him in the offseason it looks like the Eagles are looking for a safety.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State

The Chiefs are in a very good position here and can probably draft the top talent left on the board here and that is what I consider Shazier to be at 23.  The truth is that the Chiefs will probably draft O-line.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Cyrus Kouandjio, T Alabama

This is just one of those picks where I can already see KOUANDJIO on the back of a Bengals jersey in big white letters and orange and black trim.

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB TCU

The Chargers gave up more passing yards than any team in the NFL last year and still made the playoffs.  Drafting one of the top DB prospects here has to be an improvement.

 

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Kelvin Benjamin, WR FSU

If I believe my own hype than the Browns will look to the future.  After adding Ben Tate and Johnny Manziel the Browns complete their offensive facelift by adding a 6’5 target to complement Josh Gordon.

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE Auburn

After losing their best defensive pass rusher in the offseason the Saints must get some help on the D-line if they want to take some pressure off Drew Brees.

 

28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr, WR LSU

After losing Brandon Lafell to the Patriots the Panthers might want to consider giving Cam Newton some more quality targets or he will be left scrambling for a big play, leading to a career ending injury. Do the right thing Carolina…

 

29. New England Patriots:  Xavier S’ua-Filo, OL UCLA

A lot of people didn’t know who Logan Mankins was when he was drafted out of Fresno State ten years ago.  Meet this drafts’ Logan Mankins: Xavier S’ua-Filo.  The UCLA product would be a perfect fit with the Pats.

 

30. San Francisco 49ers:  Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech

Losing Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown doesn’t really give the 49ers a reason to pass on cornerback in the first round and there is plenty of DB talent to be had.

 

31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB OSU

The Broncos are looking to shore up their secondary and it is questionable whether Chris Harris will return to form after tearing an ACL and Roby would be a nice complement across from Aqib Talib.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Marquise Lee, WR USC

The Seahawks didn’t look like they needed any receiving help in the Super Bowl but after losing Golden Tate in the offseason they might want to reconsider.  Pete Carroll and Marquise Lee both know each other pretty well and I believe there will be Trojans reuniting in Seattle on draft night.

Climb Back to the Top
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                    April 20, 2014

The offseason for the Boston Celtics has begun and so has the rebuilding process. The NBA draft is two months away, but the more important date is May 20th for the Celts front office; that’s when the upcoming draft lottery is being held. Where the ping pong balls fall could determine whether the team will pick a future franchise player to build around or another valuable asset to use as trade bait. Whatever may happen, it could be a matter of moves to turn this club around from 25-57 in 2013-2014 to a contending team in the Eastern Conference.


Eleven first overall picks have won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Unfortunately, the C’s have a 10.5% chance of grabbing the top spot in the draft.  There’s always that chance that Boston could move up a few selections or fall back to the seventh or eighth position. I’m not sold on this draft or that one player could be the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James. There are those that suggest Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker could have the skills to turn a club around quickly. Sure we’ve see 1st overall picks in the past 15 years like LeBron, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose, but there have also been duds such as Greg Oden, Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi.  I think there’s one thing that Celtics fans can trust when it comes to assessing talent; Danny Ainge knows how to draft.


Here’s the question; does Boston keep the pick or trade it? In 2007, the C’s traded away the fifth pick (Jeff Green) in the draft along with Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak for Ray Allen and the 35th pick (Glen Davis). They also acquired Kevin Garnett to play with Allen and Paul Pierce. That mix of talent went on to win a championship and be a playoff team for the next four seasons. It was fun while it lasted, but it was somewhat short lived too.


The Celts will also have to make decisions about the roster. Rajon Rondo is entering a contract year. Do they let him play out the season or trade him? I think it’s a tough question, but he’s worth building around. There are other young players who have shown promise like Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, but will they be in the next championship mix or trade bait for other talent Ainge is currently scouting? It’s too soon to know that answer. The only thing that could become a problem; how long will the fans wait for a winning team? 


Boston fans have become accustomed of having winning teams since 2001, when the New England Patriots won their first of three Super Bowls. Every team has since won a title. The Bruins and Celtics are the only local teams that have yet to win multiple championships during that stretch of time. However, the C’s are the winningest team in Boston with 17 banners. Hopefully, it won’t take longer than two or three years for the next Celtics team to raise banner number 18. Have an opinion on this article? Email mail me at kitbsportsmedia@gmail.com.

BLOG: Let Jerry Remy Do His Job
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                    March 30, 2014

It's not too often that I take sides on a controversial topic that aren't related to a the play of a sports team or its transactions, but after seeing some of the outcry regarding NESN broadcaster Jerry Remy returning to call baseball games, I feel compelled to say something on the matter. Everyone is well aware of the situation surrounding Remy's son Jared, who is accused of murdering Jennifer Martel, the mother of his 5-year old daughter Arianna. Jared Remy had a lengthy history with the law, whether it was harassing or assaulting women he dated or getting caught selling steroids, trouble always seemed to follow him. Jerry did what most parents would do when they realized their kid had legal issues, he hired good lawyers. Why not, he can afford it. But I guess the question I keep hearing; should he be held responsible for enabling the kid's behavior? Click here to read more!!!

BLOG: Building a team through NFL Free Agency
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                                      March 16, 2014
The first week of NFL Free Agency is in the books and it's been an exciting period of time that's had its ups and downs.  If you're a fan of the New England Patriots, there have been some tense moments along the way, but things seem to be shaking out for the home town team. The league, if not the AFC is going to have a different look to it. The two teams to watch next season will definitely be the Pats and the Denver Broncos. Click here to read more!!!
Moving on from "Birthday-Gate"
by Rob Welch                                                        March 15, 2014
The dust and angst is finally settling with Boston Sports Radio, as well as some fans, regarding Rajon Rondo’s absence from a team flight to Sacramento a couple of weeks ago. Rondo missed the flight for a childish reason, to celebrate his birthday, but the heat Rondo is taking is outrageous. The only people who should be concerned with this issue are Rondo’s coach, his teammates, and GM Danny Ainge. As it should be, the issue is being handled internally. But, of course, people now feel the need to question Rondo’s character and, to an extent, even his game. Click here to read more!!!
The Patriot Way vs NFL Free Agency
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                      March 9, 2014

It's that time of year when NFL teams around the league will have the tough task of trying to keep some of their top talent, while also trying to plug talent into various areas. Talk around New England has been torn between whether Bill Belichick and the Patriots should try resigning WR Julian Edelman and/or CB Aqib Talib. With the deadline just a couple of days away, both Edelman and Talib will be fair game to other perspective teams. If you’re New England, what do you do? If I'm correct, they have a little more than $12 million under the salary cap to spend on retaining or luring free agents and signing draft picks.


Everyone is well aware of the window that's closing on QB Tom Brady's career and the need to put talent around him so the team can take a couple of more cracks at winning another Super Bowl. The problem is that there are a number of teams out there looking to do the same thing, but with a larger pile of cash. Sure they could begin cutting players like they recently did with Steve Gregory. A couple of other potential cuts that could be considered:  Isaac Sopoaga or Vince Wilfork. I could see Sopoaga being released, but I’m not too sure about big Vince. I think the only way he would be set free is if the team felt they could move on without some of the intangibles he brings to the locker room and onto the field.


Staying with Wilfork’s situation, he would definitely be a perfect candidate to restructure his contract and accept a cap friendly deal. But what if he resists? I've already seen fan polls asking what the Patriots should do. After seeing the problems the team had on stopping the run last season, I certainly wouldn't cut him. Let's face it, New England wasted last season's spare cash from Brady's restructured deal, if you’re Wilfork, would you sacrifice millions for this team's front office? I tend to doubt it, as Big Vince is on the back 9 of his career and less likely to see another big pay day. The other possibility is Logan Mankins. He signed a big deal a couple of years ago and the Pats could approach him about reducing his $10.5 million cap hit this coming season. However, he also had previous issues negotiating his current contract, so he might hesitate to do a reduced deal.


So let's say the Patriots aren't successful at increasing their cap space? Then it's obvious that they'll need to be smart and yet frugal (which they do well) with the deals they sign. Let's take a moment to look at a couple of their key free agents. Both Talib and Edelman were instrumental in making plays while others fell victim to the injury bug. Edelman quickly became Brady's trusted target when all of the other receivers struggled to run the right routes or gain separation.  Julian had a terrific season, as he hauled in 105 passes. He also came at a major discount, signing a one year deal worth approximately $1 million. Not a bad deal for the Pats, but they got lucky.


Up until 2013, Edelman's role wasn't clearly defined on the offense. It wasn't until Wes Welker departed and problems began to materialize with the wide receiver corps that Edelman value went through the roof. But what is he worth? New England will probably offer a 3 year, $10 million deal, while Edelman's agents will counter with a multiyear offer at $5 -$6 million per year. If Edelman and the Patriots can’t come to an agreement, I think the plan would be to attempt signing one of the other free agents like Emmanuel Sanders (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ted Ginn (Carolina Panthers),  Andre Roberts (Arizona Cardinals) Hakeem Nicks (NY Giants) and Kenny Britt (Tennessee Titans).  Of this group, Sanders or Roberts would be welcomed additions to replace of Julian Edelman.


Meanwhile Talib will not be so cut and dry. The Patriots waited him out last year before the two sides agreed to a one year deal. He proved to be a bargain once again, providing leadership in the secondary. If New England is unable to ink him to a new contract by Tuesday, he’ll definitely see some interest. But what will he seek? If he looks around the league, Sam Shields just resigned with the Green Bay Packers for four-year, $39 million deal and the Miami Dolphins extended Pro Bowl cornerback Brett Grimes to a four-year, $32 million.  That could set a range of $8-10 million per year. Odds are that the Patriots might want to pay Talib $7 million and limit the deal to 2-3 years.  It’ll be up to Talib to see the value in playing for a contender or grabbing the cash and playing for a team on the rebuild.


There could be an alternative, albeit an expensive one; Darrelle Revis. He's easily the best cornerback in the league, but he’s currently under contract with Tampa Bay and could probably be had for a 2nd round draft pick. As intriguing as it sounds to have him on the roster, he would have to agree to restructuring his contract, which I believe pays him approximately $16 million for the next 5 years. The Pats could also explore free agency for guys like Vontae Davis (Indianapolis Colts), Antonio Cromartie (NY Jets), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver Broncos) or Asante Samuel (Atlanta Falcons). My money is on Belichick resigning Talib and convincing him that New England is the best chance for him to win a championship.


In closing, I think there will be a few names that Belichick and Nich Caserio might consider like defensive linemen Justin Tuck or Jared Allen, but knowing this team, they’ll probably address their needs in the draft. There are players who once wore the Patriots and will no longer be on the roster. Guys like Brandon Spikes and LaGarrette Blount were key contributors and will not be resigned. That’s part of the business though. I definitely will be watching the transaction wire on Tuesday, March 11 to see who lands where. It should be interesting.

BLOG: Time to Move on From Rondo
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                                      March 6, 2014
I’m sure most were hoping the Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics would put a big pretty bow and a “for sale” sign on point guard Rajon Rondo when the NBA closed in on its trade deadline. However February 20 came and went without the transaction happening. As always, there were those who whined openly that the Celts need to rid themselves of the problematic ball handling enigma and stockpile draft picks for the future.  Click here to read more!
The Season of Taint
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                                              February 23, 2014 

Welcome to the part of the calendar that all sports fans dread. It’s the time of year just after the Super Bowl that everything seems to come to a slow grind. Sure you have the NBA, NHL and college basketball if that’s your thing, but the schedule and intensity of the games are different. The sports world was lucky this year to have the Olympics in Sochi, which helped to stave off any boredom some of us suffer from while awaiting an uptick in the action.


Maybe we get spoiled by having the NFL, NBA and NHL all at our disposal until the first week of February. While the NFL operates a shorter season (16 regular games), it’s often action packed and brings a certain amount of excitement and entertainment. This again is not a knock on professional basketball or hockey. I think it’s more the combination of the three that gives the regular sports fanatic something to sit on the couch and watch with great interest. Hey, I’m just as much a fan of ten pin bowling and bass fishing, but that type of programming should be shown after 2 a.m. in the morning.


So what could be done to fill the void that's felt until March Madness, the start of competitive baseball or the NBA or NHL playoffs begin?  That’s a tough question to answer, because there is no real easy solution.


Some would probably want the NFL to extend the season by four games. It’s no secret that Roger Goodell and some of the owners around the league have discussed going to an 18 game schedule. The problem is that it would be more of a trade off than an extension, as the preseason schedule would be shortened to two games. Personally, I’d like to keep the four preseason games and maybe have a 20 game season. The issue with what the owners have proposed is that the players union won’t approve such a change in the middle of the current agreement. There’s also concern tied to injuries and how player’s contracts are written for the current season.  So for the moment, tweaking the NFL would be out of the question.


The NCAA basketball season could be another direction to explore.  The BCS could consider getting more teams involved with the tournament or even start the process a few weeks earlier. Ok, so it would no longer be called March Madness, but that’s merely a formality. Why not change up the title to something clever like the NCAA’s February Fever?  With a little marketing it could work. The only problem is if the organization would fear losing advertisers or sponsorships. The NCAA would get a boost from the post NFL lull by beginning its single elimination tournament the second week of February. They could consider adding between 12-16 teams to the format that currently uses a field of 68 teams. Then there’s the politics of who to add during the selection process and will also depend on the chosen school’s records.  I know there are probably other issues that I've overlooked, but it's an idea worth exploring.


I would suggest that Major League Baseball move up the opening of spring training and its games, however I think the weather would be a factor in making any changes. As for tweaking the other winter sports like the NBA or NHL, it might also be too difficult to offer change without speaking to the unions and owners. So it seems for now, we’ll have to endure future “Seasons of Taint,” where it ain't the same excitement of the NFL’s final game or the kickoff of the NBA and NHL playoffs.

BLOG: What a difference a year makes
by Kevin R Tocci                                                                                                                                         February 15, 2014                                                                                                                  
Life comes with so many unknowns, some more mind boggling then the next. I remember sitting through last year's baseball hot stove and feeling dissatisfied with the moves the Boston Red Sox had made to rebuild the club. Mike Napoli? Shane Victorino? Jonny Gomes? I was not impressed with these additions to a team that finished last in the American League East and compile its worst record since the mid 1960's. On this very website, I griped and even picked the Sox to finish no higher that fourth. Boy was I wrong! Click here to read more!
New England Patriots Off Season Work Begins
by Kevin R Tocci                                                         February 9, 2014

The 2013 NFL season concluded with yet another exciting Super Bowl and with it comes the start of the offseason. The New England Patriots, just like the other 31 teams around the league will have to make several decisions when it comes to addressing the team’s needs. But where do they start? We’ll look at a number of avenues that the Pats will look to build next year’s squad that will hopefully go deep into the playoffs.

 

The first dominoes have already fallen, as defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will not return for the 2014 season. Scarnecchia, who spent 30 years with the organization announced recently that he was retiring.  In his place, former Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo will attempt to fill the void left by Scarnecchia. The question here is whether DeGuglielmo can maintain a similar regiment and blocking schemes, whether it’s to open holes for the running game or to provide adequate protection for Tom Brady. Meanwhile Johnson departure was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment. Some think that Belichick’s choice of Matt Patricia as defensive coordinator set the wheels in motion for Johnson’s announcement. It will be interesting to see if Johnson’s absence will be noticeable or not.

 

The Patriots have already placed a value on which of their free agents they will try and resign or will walk. One would think that coach Bill Belichick and GM Nick Caserio would want to get deals done with defensive back Aqib Talib and wide receiver Julian Edelman. The key will be how much will it take? Who knows right now, but New England’s salary cap could be a story in the making. Talib accepted a 1 year, $5 million deal last season. Various media sources have reported that the shutdown corner maybe seeking a 3 year, $24 million dollar deal. Edelman is another story. He could attempt to ask for Danny Amendola money (5 years, $31 million) or he could negotiate a deal that pays him up to $4 million a year. Hard hitting linebacker Brandon Spike and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell probably won’t return. There are a few wild cards in the mix like RB LaGarrette Blount, tight ends Matthew Mulligan and Michael Hoomanawanui, who could return. Blount proved he was worth a 4th Round pick, but it’s doubtful that he will get more than $2 million a year. As for any splash the Pats might make into the free agency pool, I somehow doubt there will be any big name signings, seeing the team doesn’t have much to spend this offseason.

 

A number of players will be returning from season ending injuries. Guys like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo will bolster a defense that struggled with stopping the run last season. Meanwhile a healthy Rob Gronkowski is always a welcome sight when it comes to his ability to make plays and score in the Red Zone.  The problem with some injuries depends on the age and severity of the injury. Wilfork is hoping to return from an Achilles tear.  Some are questioning whether the big man can return this year and be in good health. Same goes for Gronkowski’s ACL/MCL injury. The worry is that he may not return to full health until 2015. Of course this conversation leads to another offseason topic: the draft.

 

If some fans had their way, they’d have Belichick draft either another big tight end or wide receiver. The problem is that when the Pats pick at 29, any worthy tight end will no longer be available.  New England drafted two wide outs last year in Aaron Dobson (2nd Round, 59th overall) and Josh Boyce (4th Round, 102nd overall), plus signed undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, so that wouldn’t be an option. After seeing how Seattle defense dominated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, it’s a safe bet that we could see a defensive tackle or end taken earlier, along with a hard hitting safety or physical cornerback. Then again, it’s never easy to guess what this team will do when it comes to drafting players. We’ll just have to wait and see what moves they make this offseason.

 

It’s still too early, but one thing is certain; time is running out for Tom Brady and the Patriots. At best, Belichick has maybe three good years left with #12 under center, so he has to continue to build around a guy who gives this team a chance to go all the way every season. 

Boston Celtics: Plenty of Reasons to Watch
by Rob Welch                                                                                         January 28, 2014

Bostonians have been spoiled for the last decade and a half by their superior sports teams. Three championships each from the Patriots and Red Sox, plus one title from the Bruins and Celts, have made winning a priority in the city.

As the Patriots season ended Sunday, many Boston fans wondered two things; 1) When do the Stanley Cup Playoffs start? And 2) How long until pitchers and catchers report?


But lost in all the hoopla of the B’s and Sox are this year’s Celtics. The Celts are 15-30 on the season, but have been a very entertaining team to watch.


Ok, there isn’t a real reason to get overly excited for a team that won’t crack .500 this season. But Boston fans, who question turning the channel to watch the Green, should give them a chance. You literally don’t know what you are going to get from this team night after night, with one exception. You’re going to get a team that works its tail off every game, even with a lack of superstar talent. The Celts are a team that when they take the floor each night, don’t have a go-to guy as they did with Paul Pierce for the past 15 years.


What they do have are guys that know they belong in this league, and are determined to prove it. Kris Humphries came to Boston with an unenthusiastic look on his face during his introductory press conference during the summer, but admitted this week he would like to stay with the Celtics long term. Sure, Humphries won’t come close to making the $12 million he makes this season, but what’s to say 6 or 7 million per year wouldn’t get the ball rolling? Humphries would be the ideal big man off a contender’s bench. Humphries' game isn't pretty, but what he does do, is work hard on the glass, on both ends, giving constant effort every night.


You also have an undrafted point guard, Phil Pressey, who looks like someone who wouldn’t be your first pick in a YMCA pick-up game. Pressey is listed at 5'11" tall, but even that could be a stretch. But the New England native has shown Celts fans that he belongs in the NBA. It helps when you go for a career-high 20 points like he did Wednesday night, but Pressey has shown consistency in the brief minutes he has been playing. He has made a legitimate case to be the team’s backup point guard. He does make mistakes, but at times his passing skills remind you of something you used to see from old Sacramento Kings guard Jason Williams. Pressey certainly has a knack for the flash, but he also understands his role as a backup point guard.


Another reason to watch this team is its coach. Brad Stevens, like Pressey, has made mistakes in his rookie campaign, but he has his team buying into his philosophy, even when the wins aren't piling up. A great example of this was evident on Wednesday night. The Celts beat the Washington Wizards, on the road, in overtime. The win wasn’t exactly a historical one for the franchise, but it snapped a 10-game losing streak on the road, and that’s not even the biggest story. Because of injuries, the Celts only had one real point guard, Pressey, who fouled out in the 4th quarter. They played Chris Johnson, a D-leaguer playing in his second game, 29 crucial minutes. In addition, they played another D-leaguer, Vander Blue, who signed with the Celts, the morning of Wednesday's game.


The C’s also blew a 19-point lead and could have easily folded down the stretch on the second night of a back to back, but they didn’t, and that is a testament to their coach.


Even Gerald Wallace, who has been outspoken about his unhappiness in Boston, came to play Wednesday night, hitting the game winning shot in overtime. Wallace, running the point in overtime with Pressey on the bench, went coast to coast for a layup with under two seconds remaining in the game to give the Celts the win. The fact that Wallace was the primary ball handler shows how little backcourt depth the Celts had in the game. With all of Wallace’s negativity, he still plays hard every game, even if it's ugly, which is even more evidence that the veterans also believe in their coach.


Watch a C’s game and you’ll also see the smooth play of Jeff Green (ok, well, once in a while). But when Green has it going, his game is one of the prettiest in the league to watch. Avery Bradley, who is currently injured, is another reason to keep an eye on this basketball team. Bradley is one of the best defenders in the league, and has an improving offensive game. You will also be pleasantly surprised with Jared Sullinger, who is a throwback to the players of the 80s. Sullinger brings a sense of toughness and grit which is missing from today’s NBA.


And if none of that really will encourage you to watch the Celts, do it for Rajon Rondo. A guy who returned to a mediocre team, less than a year after suffering a knee injury that has kept some athletes out of the game for nearly two years. Rondo could easily have done his rehab work away from the cameras and the team. Instead he practiced and traveled with the team while he continued his rehab. Rondo has clearly bought into being the man in Boston, even being the named the team's captain earlier in the week.


These are just a few reasons why you should keep an eye on the Celts. Their games are enjoyable, entertaining, and proof that the "Celtic way" still lives on. If these reasons aren’t enough to watch the games at least do it to listen to the insane antics of Tommy Heinsohn.

Deserving of the "Fame"
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                                      January 12, 2014
This year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were announced and for what’s becoming an annual occurrence, the questions are being asked about whether any the recipients were really worthy of the honor bestowed upon them.  


The era of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) that has tainted and inflated a player’s statistics may have ended, but the problem has now trickled down to Cooperstown. The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) now have the task of policing the issue by not voting for players like Mark McGuire and Rafael Palmeiro, who have admitted or tested positive for PEDs.  But will that really resolve the problem? I think some players that cheated the system and padded their career stats will gain undeserved glory, while the players suspected of using PEDs could forever be on the outside looking in.


I look at this year's inductees; Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux & Frank Thomas, who each gained the required 75% of the vote to allow them to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sure they dominated during their time in the game. Glavine and Maddux each won more than 300 games and led an Atlanta Braves pitching staff in the 1990’s.  Meanwhile, Thomas was one of the American Leagues feared hitters, slugging more than 500 homeruns and had a career batting average of .301.  Now none of these players have ever tested positive for PEDs, but some have suspected a player or two to have used from time to time. In the end, all three were first time nominees who were selected by the members of the BBWAA.


Some critics are on the fence as to how the HOF should deal with the players who did put up big numbers, are suspected of using, but never tested positive. Should they be made an example of for their era or an example for current or future players? I mean as it is, the BBWAA vote is basically a popularity contest. If the writers like you as a person and you play long enough to compile some numbers, you’re in. Then again if you’re a guy like Hall of Famer Jim Rice, and you didn’t have the best relationship with the media, you might have to wait 15 years before you get enough votes. I’d call it politics at its best.  


I’m sure Major League Baseball will find a way to identify those from that era who excelled without a needle or a pill, but I say don’t hold your breath waiting. When a highly competitive sport like baseball pays millions of dollars in salary and bonuses, people will do whatever it takes to succeed.  It finally appears that baseball owners and the union are willing to keep an eye on the issue of PEDs use and test players more often. Let’s see how long it’ll last before the next series of undetectable enhancements find their way into the sport and taint another era of players.


Who  Will Win Boston's  Next Championship?
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                                       December 29, 2013

I think it’s safe to say that the Boston Red Sox did the improbable in 2013 by winning the World Series after finishing last the previous year. No one (including me) predicted such a quick turnaround, never mind a championship. Now that one of the four Boston sports teams has won a title, the question that needs to be asked is who is capable of securing a trophy?


If I used the process of elimination, the Celtics wouldn’t be in the conversation. The team that competed for the last six years was pretty much disassembled during the recent offseason by team’s President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. Head Coach Doc Rivers, along with the heart of the 2008 Championship squad; Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have all been replaced by 1st year coach Brad Stevens and a collection of second tier players.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, but the C’s best player hasn’t even played this season. I’ll be curious to see when Rajon Rondo might take the court and if Ainge plans to keep one of the NBA’s top point guards. The 2013-2014 Celtics were considered by most to be a lottery team at best.  Despite the predictions and a 0-4 start, the C’s sit near the top of the Atlantic Division with a 13-17 mark. The team is far from a contender this year or at least the next couple of seasons, but if Ainge has his way, they’ll be back in the thick of things soon enough.


The New England Patriots are the team that began this championship run for Boston teams. They currently are the one area franchise that has gone the longest without a championship. However, I’m not sure they can win another title with Tom Brady under center. Sure, they were once considered a dynasty, but that was nearly ten years ago and plenty has change in Foxboro.  The Pats still have had a chance this year if the team can continue to survive all of the injuries they’ve sustained. The injury bug went beyond ending the season for players like Vince Wilfork, Sebastian Vollmer and Jarod Mayo, but it also affected All Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski too.  That “magic” the Patriots have possessed seems to have diminished with time.  Listen, it goes without saying that Bill Belichick is unlike any other head coach in NFL, but he too needs a certain amount of talent to get the job done. The closest this team came to doing the unthinkable was in 2007 and then again in 2010. The 2007 Patriots team was on the cusp of an undefeated season, winning 18 straight, until falling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.  Oddly enough, New England returned to the Super Bowl but fell again to the G-men. Since his runs in 2001, 2003 & 2004, Brady has been anything but clutch when it comes to winning playoff games.  I hate to say it, but with age an athlete’s skills decline and Tom Terrific has been showing his age from time to time.  He definitely has a few good years left, which means that the chances of another Lombardi Trophy are growing slimmer by the day.


I think both the Bruins and Red Sox have probably the best chance stay viable and compete for the next several years. Sure the Sox are fresh of winning a title, but they have a few things in their favor.  The front office has finally moved away from the “outspend the New York Yankees” philosophy of acquire talent.

Whether it’s the mindset of General Manager Ben Cherington or the Sox ownership, but it seemed to start when the team dealt away Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. I was the team’s biggest critic when they signed guys like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. It is easy to play Monday morning quarterback by looking at player stats and comparing Boston’s moves to other teams offseason acquisitions (like the LA Angels). However, the one thing that isn’t readily available to the public is industry talk and conversations that only those inside baseball would be privileged to experience.  Instead of signing guys with inflated numbers, they targeted players that were driven to win as a unit and for each other. And that’s something you can’t put a price tag on. Ok, so they lost a component to two titles in Jacoby Ellsbury. So what. The heart of the Sox still remains in players like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedrioa and Jon Lester.  Plus they have tons of young talent in their system. I think they could gain a fourth championship in the next couple of years, as long as they stick with their philosophy of only bringing in players driven to compete as a part of a team, they’ll do just fine.


As for the B’s, they have a similar situation to the Sox.  General Manager Peter Chiarelli and team President Cam Neely have done something that Harry Sinden failed for years to do; build a winning team that’s deep in talent and can compete for the Stanley Cup regularly. As a fan who followed the Bruins in the late 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, it was frustrating to see franchises like the Edmonton Oilers, NY Islanders and Colorado Avalanche have depth and not care about spending money to win championships. Meanwhile Boston would have to grind out wins with an All-Star first line (Cam Neely,  Adam Oates, Craig Janney, ect,.,)and a top notch defenseman (Ray Bourque), but that would be the extent of the talent.  Even before Chiarelli arrived, the B’s tried winning with coaches like Pat Burns and Mike Keenan, who were brought in to get the most from players like Jason Allison, Joe Thornton and Sergi Samsonov. However that has changed. Since 2008, the Bruins have not only competed, but are known for being four lines deep and having a Vezina Trophy type of goalie in net. After collapsing in the playoffs to the Flyers in 2009-2010, the club bounced back to win the Cup.  They didn’t repeat, but they nearly won another last season before falling to Chicago. The front office is the key to this franchise. They’re always pro-active when it comes to needs, contracts or developing young talent to step in. If the Red Sox don’t beat them to it, I see the Bruins as being the next Boston area team to add to the growing number of trophies this town is collecting for its fan base. 


Patriots in Drivers Seat
by  Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                              December 1, 2013
If you asked me before the New England Patriots played the Denver Broncos last Sunday night, I would have predicted a different outcome of the game and direction for the team. However, this team under the guidance of Bill Belichick, cannot be underestimated or counted out. Denver came into the November 24th game with a top-ranked offense that is capable of putting points on the board. The Pats have navigated through a season with a number of issues on offense and defense. Click here to read more.
2013-2014 Boston Celtics Preview: Time For a Change 
by Rob Welch                                                                         November 8, 2013            


Although tough to swallow, sometimes in life change is necessary. The same can be said for sports. As fans, we have an unhealthy obsession with grown men making millions of dollars. We feel as though they are part of our everyday lives. We grow close to them and then, when they sign somewhere else, we curse them like an ex-girlfriend who decided to move on to your arch-nemesis.  For the past six seasons, the Boston Celtics were that unhealthy obsession. They won a championship in their first year, and gave us a heartbreaking loss in the finals in the third year.  Then, when all seemed to be over for the aging veterans, they went and gave us one last hurrah in the form of an Eastern Conference Finals run in 2012.


But then a year like last year happens. It’s like a relationship that’s run its course, and yet both parties can’t come to grips with reality. Things were getting bad when the Celts struggled to a 500 record, and then Rajon Rondo was lost for the season with a knee injury in January. Thinking the worst was yet to come, somehow the Celtics turned it around for a few games and started flirting with Celts fans again. But the bottom line was that the 2012-13 version of the Boston Celtics wasn’t very good. They should have beaten the Knicks in the opening round, but Father Time clearly caught up to them. They struggled in the first half, only scoring 27 points in the first two quarters of a “win or go home” Game 6.


Although it just wasn’t meant to be, for some reason C’s fans wanted the band to come back together. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers were our guys and we wanted to see them one more time. What people didn’t realize was that if the band did come back together, we would have to watch the demise of the Boston Celtics in December and January. Instead we got a clean slate, a young team that isn’t expected to do much in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.


People can complain about how Danny Ainge traded away Pierce, the greatest Celtic in the lives of anyone born after 1980, but it was similar to a relationship with a significant other that was just dragging on, the end needed to happen.  Ainge did a beautiful job stretching Pierce and Garnett into three, first round draft picks as well as serviceable NBA players.  Say what you want about Kris Humphries (ok his salary is a bit too high), but the Hump man is a serviceable NBA player even if he is making a team-leading $12 million dollars. Now if you think he’s going to be one of your better scorers, then your team is going to suck. But Humphries will win Celts fans over by playing hard, grabbing offensive rebounds, and mixing it up down low.


It is apparent to any Celtics fan that the road ahead is going to be long. Although not as long as previous rebuilds, thanks to having a superstar point guard already on the squad, the next few seasons could be tough to watch. The hiring of the young Brad Stevens as Head Coach initially appears to come with low expectations. Nobody is expecting this year’s team to contend for a playoff spot, much less a title. But the six year contract Stevens secured will give him time to teach and grow his basketball philosophy.  Stevens’ philosophy is built on tough defense, a lot of running in transition, and a trust in his ability as the head man on the sideline.

Let’s look at some issues that face the 2013-2014 version of the Boston Celtics.

 

What to do with Rondo?

Smart basketball minds, like ESPN’s Bill Simmons, say that the Celts should trade Rondo to complete a total “blowup” of the roster. I respect a lot of what Simmons says, but that would be a move I would disagree with. The biggest knock on Rondo is that he’s a stubborn player that wants it done his way.  With a coach willing to let him run the show, Rondo will have full control whenever he comes back from his injury. You can’t trade a guy who is clearly willing to take some bumps, in the prime of his career, because he does have faith that the Celts will eventually turn this thing around.


The main reason why Rondo shouldn’t be traded is easy; he is one of the most unique and most talented point guards in the game. There aren’t many players in the NBA like him, an unselfish, pass first point guard whose number one priority is to make his teammates better. But when Rondo wants to, he has the skills to take over a game on the offensive end.  I just believe that if you trade Rondo, you will regret it for years to come. The last true great C’s point guard was a guy whose game was very similar to Rondo’s; Dennis Johnson. Think back on what we had to deal with between the tenures of those two players.  Sherman Douglas, David Wesley, Kenny Anderson, JR Bremer, Milt Palacio, and Sebastian Telfair are a few players who started for the Celts at the point during that period. That list isn’t exactly glowing with future Hall-of-Famers.


Tanking

The art of tanking has never been a specialty for the Boston Celtics, and they shouldn’t try again to throw away a season for a high draft pick. They tried to tank for Tim Duncan, and instead got half a season from Chauncey Billups and the below-average Ron Mercer. Then, when they were crossing their fingers for Kevin Durant, they got hosed, ending up with only the fifth draft pick. So that should be reason enough to not tank.

Also, why would you openly tank a season when you have a group of guys who want to win games? You have a new coach who needs to inspire a winning culture in this town, and tanking will only serve to set his NBA experience back a few steps.


You also have young developing players like Jarred Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and Jeff Green who can’t afford to have a bad season with the whole NBA watching.  Also, those guys are Ainge’s trade chips to possibly pull off a blockbuster trade in the future.

Unhappy Veterans

The city of Boston, with its cold winters, can be tough enough to deal with at times, without even considering the fans and media. For veterans like Keith Bogans, Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries, this season could be very long.  Ainge will do his best to deal these players if the right deal comes his way, but in the meantime these guys are in town to stay. The season, like the winter, will be very long, and at times these veterans might want to be anywhere but in the Celts locker room. Their attitude will be crucial to affecting a positive outlook for the young core of Celtics. Any negative vibe could deeply affect the mindset that Stevens wants to bring to the roster.

 

Jeff Green’s game

Mr. Optimistic:  This is the most important year in Green’s career. He has the ability to play 40 plus minutes a night, and at times he will be the Celts only real scoring threat on the floor. This will allow Green to play with the freedom that makes him such a sight to watch. Gone are the expectations and pressure of carrying the offensive load or deferring to Pierce and Garnett. If Green can show any consistency, he should put up better scoring numbers than Pierce did last year.  A season average above 20 is not that crazy to ponder, and that alone will get Green consideration for an All-Star selection.


Mr. Pessimistic: Green will struggle in a role that he has shown he’s not that comfortable with. Defenses will focus on his offense, knowing that if Green isn’t scoring then the Celts offense weapons are very minimal. If someone bites on the $27 million he has left on his contract, don’t be surprised to see Green traded before season’s end.


Who will get traded first?

During this season, Ainge will not be one to back away from making any deal he feels necessary to help his team. As was apparent in the past, with the trades of Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House, and Nate Robinson, Ainge will pull the trigger if he finds a deal he likes. I don’t expect this current group of Celtics to stay.  Wallace and Humphries are both likely to get shipped out of town when Ainge can convince another GM to swallow their contracts. Humphries’ contract is a little more attractive since he is on the last year of his deal.


A guy I believe will be dealt, come the deadline, is Brandon Bass.  Bass is owed a little under $14 million over the next two seasons. Any playoff team looking for a power forward to spread the floor off their bench would have to look at Bass as a viable option.


Who will be the biggest surprise?  

In the NBA, even on a bad team, someone has to score. I expect Jeff Green to play a lot, and hopefully show some aggression by putting up an average of 15 shots a night. But when it comes to who will surprise this season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a solid all-around season from Avery Bradley.  His offense may still need a lot of work, but on a team that will struggle to defend, having Bradley on the floor will only help, which in turn will up his minutes. His defense will help his offense and I can see Bradley averaging about 13 PPG, compared to his career total of 6.9 PPG.  Also, keep in mind that Ainge hasn’t re-upped Bradley’s contract, giving AB more motivation to have a solid season, during his contract year.


Record

For the previous six seasons, Celts fans were spoiled with teams that every year had a chance to win 50 plus games. This season, of course, will be completely different.  As evident from the lackluster preseason, this team is a work in progress that may never hit its stride.  A new coach, along with a mediocre roster, will make for a long, long winter. Expecting Rondo back any time before Christmas is asking for a lot.  Even when he does return, the Celts point guard will take time to get acclimated to his new teammates.


Pierce’s Celts were known to give teams all they could handle in their own buildings. One of the best moments of the C’s championship season in 2008 was the sweep of the Texas triangle.  Beating Houston, Dallas and San Antonio gave the Celts an added confidence once the playoffs hit. Granted, they did struggle on the road for the first two rounds of those playoffs, but they still knew in the back of their minds that they were just as good as a road team as they were at home.


I can’t picture this team winning many games during a west coast road trip or even when they have 4 games in 5 nights. I put them at about 7 to 12 road wins and about 16 to 20 home wins. If this team is to overachieve they could sniff the 30 win mark. Unfortunately, without a full season from Rondo, and the fact that they are going to struggle to defend and score, I don’t expect more than 27 wins from the C’s.


2013-2014 record: 24-58

As always, let’s hope I’m wrong.

NFL Week 5 Picks
By Mark Littlefield
October 5, 2013

Season Record: 31-33

Buffalo (2-2) +4.5             CLEVELAND (2-2) -4.5     

Buffalo takes a trip to the dawg pound...and get pounded.  

Browns 24-37 

 

Sunday, October 06

Seattle (4-0) -2.5              INDIANAPOLIS (3-1) +2.5                            

A confident and unbeaten Seattle team goes into Indianapolis coming of a strong performance against AFC power Houston.  Cornerback Richard Sherman goes against former teammate and number one overall pick Andrew Luck with something to prove. Advantage Seattle

Seahawks 24-20

 

New England (4-0) +1.5 CINCINNATI (2-2) -1.5                  

The Patriots have shown the ability to move the football when they have to and since the Bengals have played down to every opponent I have to give the advantage to the Patriots.  Danny Amendola is rumored to be coming back for this one which will give the Pats much needed flexibility against a stout Bengals defense.

Patriots 27-23

 

Baltimore (2-2) +2.5        MIAMI (3-1) -2.5                            

The Dolphins head back home after an embarrassing loss to the Saints on Monday Night Football. I look for them to bounce back against a Ravens team that is having trouble moving the football.

Dolphins 23-20

 

Jacksonville (0-4) +11.5  ST. LOUIS (1-3) -11.5                     

Even the Rams are a double digit favorite against the Jaguars? Since Jacksonville is the closest thing the NFL has to a college team you have to pick the Rams in this one.

Rams 23-10

 

Kansas City (4-0) -2.5      TENNESSEE (3-1) +2.5                   

The unbeaten Chiefs have been one of the biggest surprises and they are facing another upstart in the Tennessee Titans.  I’ll take the team who didn’t lose their starting quarterback a week ago.

Chiefs 21-13

 

New Orleans (4-0) +0.5 CHICAGO (3-1) -0.5                       

Two NFC powers replay an NFC Championship matchup from a few years ago.  I’m going to go with the quarterback who won that game as the Saints look like they are back in championship form.

Saints 30-24

 

Detroit (3-1) +6.5             GREEN BAY (1-2) -6.5                    

The 3-1 Lions are getting 6.5 points against the 1-2 Packers? I’ll take the points in this one, I don’t care where the game is.

Packers 27-23

 

Philadelphia (1-3) +2.5   NY GIANTS (0-4) -2.5                    

How does a winless team get the standard home line in a divisional game? The Eagles have the lowest amount of time of possession and have trouble throwing the ball. The Giants aren’t much better but they are due for a win.

Giants 26-20

 

Carolina (1-2) -1.5            ARIZONA (2-2) +1.5                       

Patrick Peterson said this week that he is the best cornerback in the NFL and he is playing the quarterback that could help him look right in that statement, despite coming off a bye.

Cardinals 20-17

 

Denver (4-0) -7.5              DALLAS (2-2) +7.5                          

The Broncos have been unstoppable while Dallas has shown some offensive ineptitude.  I’ll expect the Broncos to take away Dez Bryant and that leaves Dallas with almost nothing to work with. Advantage Denver.

Broncos 33-20

 

Houston (2-2) +6.5          SAN FRANCISCO (2-2) -6.5                         

The Texans are matched up with another NFC West opponent after blowing a late lead against another West powerhouse last week.  I give the advantage to the 49ers as they should be able to slow down the Houston running attack while they put up some points of their own.

49ers 27-23

 

San Diego (2-2) -4.5         OAKLAND (1-3) +4.5                     

The Chargers have been one of the top scoring teams and I look for that trend to continue against the Raiders, who are offensively challenged.  Look for another big day from Philip Rivers.

Chargers 30-17

 

Monday, October 07

NY Jets (2-2) +8.5             ATLANTA (1-3) -8.5

The Dirty Birds will play another primetime matchup after coming up short against the Patriots a week ago on Sunday Night Football.  This time the Falcons get the Jets, who are still figuring things out with a rookie quarterback, at home, on Monday Night.

Falcons 34-16

Week 4 NFL Picks
by Mark Littlefield
September 28, 2013

San Francisco (1-2) -3.5  ST. LOUIS (1-2) +3.5   

I don't expect San Fran to struggle in 3 consecutive games despite being on the road on a short week. They are the more talented team and should win easily.

49ers 35-11      

 

Sunday, September 29

 

Baltimore (2-1) -3.5        BUFFALO (1-2) +3.5                       

Baltimore on the road -3.5 is a scary proposition without ray rice but they should beat a Bills team that is still figuring things out.

Baltimore  24-13

 

Indianapolis (2-1) -7.5    JACKSONVILLE (0-3) +7.5                            

Colts should cover on the road against the worst team in the NFL. Especially after showing they are not afraid to use Trent Richardson who will be featured with Ahmad Bradshaw out.

Colts  27-12

 

Seattle (3-0) -2.5              HOUSTON (2-1) +2.5                     

Probably the best match up of 1:00pm games. Houston has played down to their opponents so far this season and has struggled to run the football and against a tough Seattle defense I see more of the same. Expect a low scoring game.

Seahawks 20-17

 

Cincinnati (2-1) -4.5        CLEVELAND (1-2) +4.5                  

The browns are coming off a big win and they are home.  They are playing a much better defense this week then they faced a week ago. Especially with it being a division game, I give Cincinnati the advantage with this one.

Bengals 26-17

 

Chicago (3-0) +2.5            DETROIT (2-1) -2.5                         

That’s a tough one. The bears should be able to throw the ball against the Detroit secondary  and despite the bears losing their starting defensive tackle for the year, I don’t see the lions moving the ball in a division match up.

Bears 24-20

 

Pittsburgh (0-3) -1.5       MINNESOTA (0-3) +1.5                

The steelers are favored on the road? They can’t run the ball, they can’t throw the ball.  Minnesota can at least run the ball despite starting their back up QB advantage Vikings.

Vikings 20-17

 

Arizona (1-2) +2.5            TAMPA BAY (0-3) -2.5                  

Oh boy. Ahhh. Buccaneers starting a rookie QB at home equals a disaster and an easy victory for an aggressive Arizona defense. Expect a low scoring affair.

Cardinals 13-10

 

NY Giants (0-3) +4.5        KANSAS CITY (3-0) -4.5                

The giants are winless and going against one of the most surprising teams in the league.  However Eli Manning always seems to surprise you when you least expect it.

Giants 24-23

 

NY Jets (2-1) +3.5             TENNESSEE (2-1) -3.5                    

The titans are looking strong early in the season coming off a win over Houston.  The jets are starting a rookie QB on the road in a hostile environment.  Advantage Titans.

Titans 24-17

 

Washington (0-3) -2.5    OAKLAND (1-2) +2.5                     

This is a tough one to pick. RG 3 has not looked like himself and the raiders don’t have a QB.  Advantage redskins.

Redskins 23-17

 

Philadelphia (1-2) +10.5 DENVER (3-0) -10.5                        

The broncos have looked impressive so far this season and the eagles have the least amount of time of possession. That is not a good formula against Peyton manning who could put up a lot of points in this game. Advantage Broncos.

Broncos 37-23

 

Dallas (2-1) -1.5 SAN DIEGO (1-2) +1.5                   

The cowboys can move the football but so can the chargers. The cowboys have an advantage because they are at home but the lines makers like the chargers based on the 1.5 point spread.  I agree with the lines makers.

Chargers 30-24

 

New England (3-0) +1.5 ATLANTA (1-2) -1.5        

Both teams are pretty banged up going into the Sunday affair. The patriots will have to contain the falcons dangerous passing attack while the patriots are showing they are still trying to figure out how to throw the football to their young receiving core.  Advantage Falcons

Falcons 23-20

 

Miami (3-0) +6.5               NEW ORLEANS (3-0) -6.5                             

The upstart dolphins travel to the super dome in the battle of unbeatens.  Here’s my prediction, someone won’t be undefeated after this game. In all seriousness, A dolphins defense will be without one of their premier pass rushers and I expect the saints to exploit that.

Saints 26-20

Week 3 NFL Picks
By Mark Littlefield
September 19, 2013

Kansas City (2-0) +3.5     PHILADELPHIA (1-1) -3.5             

Coach Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia, with redemption on his mind and a pretty good football team.  If there is a coach in the league who should know how to shut down Michael Vick, Reid should be the guy.

Chiefs 27-23

Sunday, September 22

Detroit (1-1) +1.5             WASHINGTON (0-2) -1.5             

Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson can show what an elite quarterback/wide receiver can do against the Redskins who were thrashed by Aaron Rodgers last week.  Defensively, one of the best young defensive lines in football will get after a quarterback trying to find his mojo. I like the Lions in this one.

Lions 31-20

 

NY Giants (0-2) +1.5        CAROLINA (0-2) -1.5     

Someone has to win this game, right?  I see Eli Manning outdoing Cam Newton in this one.  Giants have more weapons and I don’t see Tom Coughlin starting off 0-3.

Giants 24-20

 

Arizona (1-1) +7.5            NEW ORLEANS (2-0) -7.5             

Call me crazy but I think Arizona has the players to slow down the Saints offense, it’s whether or not Carson Palmer can muster up enough points to cover the spread. In the end, 7.5 is a big number.

Saints 22-17

 

St. Louis (1-1) +3.5           DALLAS (1-1) -3.5           

Not only do I like the points in this game, I like the Rams to go into Dallas and win.  Although Dallas got me last week on the spread I don’t think they’re going to pull it off two weeks in a row.

Rams 26-24

 

Tampa Bay (0-2) +7.5      NEW ENGLAND (2-0) -7.5           

With the suspension of Dashon Goldson being overturned and the Patriots being without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola could lead to a slow day offensively for the Pats.  Slow enough to take the Bucs despite the tumultuous relationship between Josh Freeman and Coach Greg Schiano.

Patriots 20-19

 

Cleveland (0-2) +5.5        MINNESOTA (0-2) -5.5

With Cleveland trading Trent Richardson midweek and Brian Hoyer starting in this one, how can you not love the Vikings at home? Minnesota will be Blowout City by halftime.

Vikings 28-10     

 

Green Bay (1-1) -1.5       CINCINNATI (1-1) +1.5 

Probably the toughest game of the week to pick, a great Packers offense versus a great Bengals defense.  I like the Bengals offense more than I like the Packers defense, especially at home.

Bengals 27-24

 

San Diego (1-1) +3.5        TENNESSEE (1-1) -3.5    

The Chargers have proven they can score some points, hovering around thirty in both games so far.  The Titans have a quarterback still looking to prove himself.  I’ll take the veteran quarterback and the points.

Chargers 27-23

 

Houston (2-0) -2.5           BALTIMORE (1-1) +2.5  

Both teams looked sloppy to start the season and are hobbled by injuries to their stars but the Texans are still unbeaten and should beat Baltimore on the road.

Texans 27-20

 

Atlanta (1-1) +1.5             MIAMI (2-0) -1.5            

The Dolphins are favored in this one?  Miami has looked pretty good and they are at home but I still like the Falcons to go down to South Beach and win.

Falcons 24-20

 

Jacksonville (0-2) +19.5  SEATTLE (2-0) -19.5        

19.5 points? How can you not take the points? Because it is the worst team in the league on the road against a team that is almost unbeatable at home. Who’s starting at quarterback for the Jaguars? As the Rock would say, it doesn’t matter.

Seattle 31-0

 

Indianapolis (1-1) +10.5 SAN FRANCISCO (1-1) -10.5       

I like the 49ers redeeming themselves following their Sunday Night disappointment.  Indianapolis is reeling after losing running back Vick Ballard to injury and I don’t see Trent Richardson having an impact in this one.

49ers 35-23

 

Buffalo (1-1) +1.5             NY JETS (1-1) -1.5           

The Bills are coming off an emotional win and the Jets are coming off a tough loss.  I like the team with more offensive talent and that is the Buffalo.

Bills 20-17

 

Chicago (2-0) -2.5             PITTSBURGH (0-2) +2.5

The Steelers have shown a complete ineptitude offensively to start the season. That’s not good against a stout Bears D.  Oh yeah, and Chicago can score some points. Bears all day.

Bears 31-17

 

Monday, September 23

Oakland (1-1) +14.5         DENVER (2-0) -14.5        

The Raiders have some fire under Terrelle Pryor.  Just not enough fire power to keep up with Peyton Manning.

Broncos 34-17

NFL Week 2 Picks
by Mark Littlefield
September 14, 2013

NY Jets (1-0) +12.5      NEW ENGLAND (1-0) -12.5   

Pats without top wr and backup running back against a familiar foe that will try and run the ball to keep Tom Brady off the field. Pats offense struggled mightily in second half against the Bills and the Jets have enough talent to keep it close but Belichick will force rookie QB into mistakes that will cost them late.

Pats 23-17

 

Sunday, September 15

Miami (1-0) +2.5         INDIANAPOLIS (1-0) -2.5       

Dolphins come into this one with confidence after a strong defensive showing but still not enough offensive firepower to keep up with Andrew Luck. Take the Colts and the points in their home opener.

Colts 27-17

 

Carolina (0-1) -2.5      BUFFALO (0-1) +2.5  

Buffalo showed a lot of reiliency against a familiar NE opponent but this week the Panthers provide a much different look than the pocket passing offense of the Patriots. Carolina LB Luke Kuechly will be a thorn in CJ Spiller’s side all afternoon and will force the Bills to beat them with their passing game and I don’t see that happening.

Panthers 20-17

 

Tennessee (1-0) +8.5  HOUSTON (1-0) -8.5 

The titans were the surprise of week 1 with an upset over the banged upSteelers but this week they have a familiar foe that struggles with the Texans zone blocking scheme. I see a big day for Arian Foster as Houston gets some good momentum after struggling out of the gates against San Diego in week 1.

Texans 31-13

 

Cleveland (0-1) +6.5   BALTIMORE (0-1) -6.5          

The Ravens we’re thrashed in week 1 and will be looking for some redemption in their home opener. They match up well with the Browns and Joe Flacco will be looking to prove his worth to the home crowd after signing a huge contract extensionin the offseason. Besides, never bet against the reigning champs in their home opener.

Ravens 30-20

 

San Diego (0-1) +7.5   PHILADELPHIA (1-0) -7.5       

Talk about two teams heading in different directions. Eagles have some much needed momentum after a big win on MNF while the Chargers blew a big second half lead later on that same night. Generally, I don’t like West Coast teams playing an early game on Sunday, especially on a short week. All Eagles in this one.

Eagles 34-23

 

Washington (0-1) +7.5            GREEN BAY (0-1) -7.5           

The ‘Skins will be looking to prove themselves in this one as RG3 looked rusty on MNF in his return from injury. Unfortunately they will be going up against a veteran Packers team with one of the best QB’s in the league. Hard to pick against the Packers coming off a loss in their home opener.

Packers 31-24

 

Dallas (1-0) +2.5         KANSAS CITY (1-0) -2.5            

Tony Romo was hurt by the Giants in week 1 and when you throw in that Romo is going against a coach that knows him well in Andy Reid, I really like the Chiefs in this one.  The Chiefs are at home and have created some nice momentum in a season opening win against Jacksonville and I can see that giving them the extra push they’ll need to beat Dallas.

Chiefs 27-20

 

Minnesota (0-1) +6.5  CHICAGO (1-0) -6.5   

This is a strength vs strength matchup as the stout Bears run D faces off against the Vikings offensive line and their special weapon Adrian Peterson.  I like the home team to slow down the MVP but they will only contain him.  Chicago will have a few big plays in the passing game that will ultimately win this game for them but it will be close.

Bears 23-17

 

St. Louis (1-0) +6.5      ATLANTA (0-1) -6.5   

The Dirty Birds look to get back on track and the Rams are just the cure for that.  The Falcons will put up more points than the Rams can strike back with. 

Falcons 31-23

 

New Orleans (1-0) -3.5           TAMPA BAY (0-1) +3.5          

Tampa Bay is a hot mess right now off the field and with their defensive secondary still putting their moving parts in place I can see the Saints throwing their way to a victory in this one.

Saints 30-24

 

Detroit (1-0) -1.5         ARIZONA (0-1) +1.5  

Can someone tell my why this is a two point spread? Arizona will be lucky if Carson Palmer makes it through this game, most likely cause Ndamakong Suh will take a cheap shot at him at some point in this game. Detroit is going to put up some points in this one, too many for Arizona to keep up with.

 

Denver (1-0) -4.5        NY GIANTS (0-1) +4.5

Ah, the Manning Bowl. Who gives a shit? Peyton certainly doesn’t and he’s going to throw another 7 TD’s against his brother’s awful defense in this one.

Broncos 41-23

 

Jacksonville (0-1) +5.5            OAKLAND (0-1) -5.5  

The Jaguars are off to a retched start and Terrelle Pryor could be quite the problem for the Jaguars.  He could also make a few mistakes that keep the Jaguars in this one but I expect the Raiders to win in the Black Hole.

Raiders 27-16

 

San Francisco (1-0) +2.5         SEATTLE (1-0) -2.5    

In what could be an NFC Championship game preview the Seahawks are going to attempt to break the loudest stadium record during this game.  Is it going to help them win the game? Only if it is loud enough to slow down Colin Kaepernick.  Not likely to happen.

49ers 32-23

 

Monday, September 16

Pittsburgh (0-1) +6.5   CINCINNATI (0-1) -6.5           

The Steelers are decimated by injuries right now and it should be all Bengals on Monday Night in what is usually a close divisional rivalry game.  Expect a blowout in this one.

Bengals 30-13

Tim Tebow : A NFL QB Without A Team
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                       September 1, 2013
How can you not feel bad for a saint-like guy such as Tim Tebow? A great talent, who wowed college football fans, now can't find a NFL team to lead their offense or even be on their roster. The question I pose to football fans: is this the end of the enigma known as Tebow or is there another opportunity awaiting him somewhere?  


Re-vamped Patriots Will Find their Way
by Keith Tocci                                                                                     August 11, 2013

The official kickoff to the NFL season is still a bit away, but I feel there is a need for me to address a topic that has been circulating around the league recently;  the state of the New England Patriots. If you've kept up with the news coming out of Boston, you would know the Pats had a turbulent offseason that included a murder investigation involving Aaron Hernandez, a departing Wes Welker, the arrest of Alfonso Dennard for suspicion of DUI and an injury which required surgery to another staple of the team’s offense, Rob Gronkowski. In the eyes of many analysts, the damage the team has sustained because of these events now has New England being projected as a team that has too many problems to fix on both sides of the ball to live up to the high standards that they themselves have set over the past decade. Yes, I agree that the team has undergone some major changes, but I don't feel like the sky is falling in Foxboro like so many others seem to insist. So with my hand being forced, here is my bold prediction for the upcoming NFL season; the New England Patriots will find their way!

 

To start off, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is still a team that is coached by a man that’s considered one of the greatest head coaches of all time, Bill Belichick.  Not to mention, there's also a pretty talented guy at quarterback that has helped lead them to 5 Super Bowl appearances 3 of which New England walked away with the victory, Tom Brady. The point I'm trying to make is that regardless of the turnover the team has endured, whether it be this year or a prior season, the Patriots always seem to find a way to be competitive as both Brady and Belichick the ability to lead this team to a championship.

 

This offseason wasn't all fire and brimstone, there were some positives moves made. Danny Amendola will flawlessly fit into the Patriots' offensive system. He is a young player, who is in the "Welker mold,” can play on the outside as well as in the slot. By resigning DB Aqib Talib, the Patriots will once again have a legit cover corner. He’s a player with an "attitude" or "swagger" that became infectious for the rest of the New England secondary. There was also the free agent signing of Adrian Wilson, a veteran who will add a physical, experienced presence at the safety position that the team has lacked since the days of Rodney Harrison. 


Let's not forget that with a year under their belts, the sophomore duo of DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower are primed for a breakout type of a season. Then there's rookie draft pick LB Jamie Collins, who may be another potential defensive stud. Collins is versatile, can play multiple positions and has turned heads in training camp with his ability to disrupt the offense. With a sense of continuity carrying over from last season, as well as the additions through the draft and free agency, this defense has the ability to be one of the better groups of Belicjick's tenure.

 

As for the offense, lets dissect the hot button topic; the receiving core. Does anyone else remember what this team was like before Wes Welker and Randy Moss or that there wasn't a big name at the wide-out position? When the Pats won Super Bowl Championships in 2003 & 2004, they did it with an aging Troy Brown and a couple young receivers. Those young receivers I'm referring to are Deion Branch (drafted in the 2nd round of 2002) and David Givins (drafted in the 7th round of 2002).  If you look at how that squad was composed and what they achieved and compare it to this seasons depth, the current receiving core is bigger, faster, and exactly what I feel the Pats have been lacking since the departure of Moss; a downfield threat with the ability to take the top off the defense.

 

Anyone who has watched the NFL in recent years, can tell you that the Patriots have struggled in both drafting and developing receivers for quite some time. Names like Chad Jackson (2006), Brandon Tate (2009) and Taylor Price (2010) comes to mind. So understandably there is some skepticism when it come to the receivers Belichick has added via the draft and undrafted free agents. I believe that this seasons wide outs will make an impact for the offense. Aaron Dobson (drafted 2nd round out of Marshall) is known as a savvy route runner who will fight for the ball. Josh Boyce (drafted 4th round out of Texas Christian) has good speed, soft hands and tracks the ball well. Kenbrell Thompkins, who was undrafted out of Cincinnati has shown promise during training camp and appears to have a knack for taking the top off of the defense on deep passing plays. The Pats may have had their struggles at the position before, but if these guys can stick and build chemistry with Brady, they will wipe away all previous failures the Patriots braintrust has experienced in the past.

 

Even though it may appear their entire foundation is crumbling around them, New England and the "Patriot Way" will continue. The AFC East division still belongs to the Pats and a Super Bowl Championship is always within reach for them so long as Brady and Belichick are members of the franchise. They will rise above the noise and come together with the, "us against the world" mentality. A mantra that has pushed them to greatness time and time again.  They have built a solid, athletic, smart team that has a lot of talent and upside. So fear not, the sky is not falling down on Foxboro, and the New England Patriots still have just as much of a chance as any other team in the NFL to hoist the Lombardi Trophy by next February.

An American Coach in London
Enjoy this digital short from NBC Sports Network featuring Jason Sudeikis playing an American Football coach who is hired to coach the Tottenham Hotspurs of the English Premier League.
YouTube Beatbox Sensation Tom Thum
Check out the video below of professional beatboxer Tom Thum doing his thing at TedXSydney:
Things to Watch For As Patriots Open Camp
by Mark Littlefield
July  26, 2013

The old saying goes, “when it rains it pours,” has carried into the beginning of the Patriots training camp.  After an offseason filled with embarrassing moments for a proud franchise, the Pats open camp, fittingly, in the rain at Gillete Stadium on Friday morning.

 

Everyone has heard enough about Aaron Hernandez, who is facing one murder charge and a possible double murder charge on the horizon, and Alfonso Dennard, who received probation for an altercation with a police officer and he followed that up with a DUI just a few weeks ago.

 

But the show goes on.  The question remains: who will be the stars of the show?  Of course, Tom Brady is the main attraction, but who will be filling Hernandez’ shoes and what will Coach Belichick do if Dennard is sent to jail or suspended by the league.

 

Combine that with the fact that Brady is without four of his top five receivers from last year and this makes for one of the most interesting training camps in recent memory.  Here are three things to watch for as the Pats open camp this weekend:

 

  1.  How will the Patriots use Devin McCourty?  With the offseason acquisition of Adrian Wilson it will be interesting to see how Belichick uses McCourty.  With Dennard facing possible jail time or a suspension, the Patriots have the flexibility to shift DMac back to corner if they have to but a pairing of McCourty and Wilson at the safety positions would be ideal for this defense.  The only problem with that scenario is that means Kyle Arrington would be starting at cornerback and we all know how that worked out after Aqib Talib got injured in the AFC Championship.  I would rather see Talib and McCourty at corner, paired with Steve Gregory and Wilson at safety, if Dennard is to miss some time this year.
  2. The tight end position.  With Hernandez awaiting trial and Gronkowski on the PUP recovering from back and forearm surgery (a little concerned, not going to lie) who would have thought the Patriots would start training camp with Michael Hoomanuanuei, Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld as their top tight ends.  A group that combined for 10 catches for all of 2012.  I’m more intrigued by the unknowns than the returning players at the position. Sudfeld is built like Gronkowski (6’7, 253 lbs) and put up numbers like him his senior season at Nevada where he caught 45 passes for 598 yards and a team leading 8 touchdowns in an offense known for its running game.   Check out this short highlight video from Patriots.com showing Sudfeld’s blocking ability out of the pistol offense.  That running game could be one of the reasons why Sudfeld wound up in New England as the Patriots could use a blocking tight end to help establish the run early in the season as they identify who their wide receivers are. Which leads me to my next point…
  3. The Wide Receivers.  Who are they and where did they come from?  The core of veteran receivers is gone and this is now a position up for grabs among rookies and castaways.  Danny Amendola is the front runner to a starting position but questions about his durability remain.  Julian Edelman couldn’t get much time at the position during four years here so I have my doubts.  Lavelle Hawkins is an interesting signing and has a good shot at a roster spot but I’m more interested in the rookies and there are a bunch of them.  Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce were selected by the Pats in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, but it is the unsigned rookies that are making some noise.  Kenbrell Thompkins is getting reps with the first team after an impressive rookie camp and Mark Harrison, the seventh player from Rutgers on the Patriots roster, led the Big East in touchdown receptions in 2011 with 9 TD’s.

 

After playing through the rain on the opening day of camp it will be interesting to see if the Pats can weather a stormy offseason as well.  
New Additions Have Sox Poised for Second Half Push
by Mark Littlefield
July  22, 2013

I’m still not sure if the ball that Mike Napoli hit over the Green Monster in the 11th inning has landed yet?  Okay, I’m pretty sure it has, and the gentlemen who caught might be holding a microcosm of what the Sox second half could look like.

 

The hero of last night’s 4 hour and 46 minute affair had a night that by the end of the season could represent everything the Sox stand for. Sure, Napoli’s stat line for the night is impressive, 2-for-6 with 2 homers and 4 RBI, but in this case the numbers do lie about the first baseman’s performance but it might say more about what this team is capable of in the long run.

Napoli struck out three times and hit into an inning ending double play, stranding seven runners on base before playing the role of the hero in the bottom the 11th.  I would call that overcoming a little adversity and frustration while sticking it to the division rivals and the Sox have shown those kind of guts all year.

 

The Sox have needed a morale boost on several occasions and it is the newcomers that have provided that boost and it is fitting that in the series finale against the hated Yankees after receiving the news that reliever Andrew Bailey will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury that one of the new guys would deliver the finishing blow.

 

The Red Sox have NINE walk off wins through 100 games. NINE!!  That is the best in baseball and it has a lot to do with the character guys that have been brought in by the front office following the Chicken and Beer fiasco.

 

The consistent performances by the new additions started with Shane Victorino’s walk-off single against Tampa Bay on April 13.  That was followed up by Jonny Gomes’ 8th inning double that graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and is one of the more iconic moments of the sports year but that was just the beginning of the Sox showing their resiliency.

 

 After trading All-Star Mark Melancon for Joel Hanrahan, the Sox looked to pair Hanrahan up with Bailey for a dynamic closing duo.  Season ending injuries to both pitchers quicky changed that plan but another new addition to the roster has answered the call.

 

Koji Uehara, a 38-year old journeyman reliever, has taken over the closing duties and carried the all hands on deck attitude as his emphatic high-five has become another signature move of the new additions.  Uehara has a 1.62 ERA to go along with his 9 saves and 2-0 record through 46 games pitched and his .159 BAA (batting average against) is an indication of just how hard he is to hit.

 

Don’t forget about Jose Iglesias.  The American League Rookie of the Month for June, the first Sox player to win the award since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007, has filled in admirably for Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew who were supposed to be two of the more reliable guys on the roster heading into 2013.

 

Despite all of the question marks and injuries the Sox replacements have responded loud and clear that they are not going to roll over. If the Sunday Night Baseball walk off win is any indication of how this team will play in the second half of the season, it is safe to say they are going to fight to the end, regardless of who is on the field.

 

Now this is a team I can root for!


No One to Blame But Themselves
by Keith Tocci                                                                                                     July 18, 2013

Remember when you would talk NBA with friends and the two most dominant teams in the league were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers? As it sits at this moment, things are very different. Once proud franchises are figuratively on their knees begging for coaches and players alike to stay and play under the allure of the days of old. For a team like the Lakers, these wounds and the subsequent consequences cannot be blamed on outside circumstances, because they are all self-inflicted.


In 1979, Dr. Jerry Buss took the Lakers and made them an entertaining team that was also a contender. The good doctor created a mystical and polarizing franchise by being able to seemingly pull of the impossible. Whether it was getting a big name free agent to sign in LA or pulling off a big draft day steal, he made it happen. After having so many successful years, things have not gone as of late and the franchise has found itself going in a complete tailspin.

            

The Lakers have continually shot themselves in the foot at every possible turn the last few years. After Phil Jackson retired in 2011, Kobe Bryant voiced his support for then assistant Brian Shaw to take over. When the face of your franchise asks for something, you do your best to accommodate him right? Not if your name is Jim Buss. He decided to not consult with his star player and signed Mike Brown instead. When Brown didn't get off to a hot start in 2012 (he went 1-4), Buss fired Brown. The Lakers front office unanimously decided against re-hiring Phil Jackson who was pondering a return to coaching and brought in Mike D'Antoni to fill their coaching vacancy.  This is a decision that in my opinion has continued to haunt the Lakers.


Is it just me or does it seem like the lights are all on for the Lakers, but no one is home? It’s a little baffling to think that an organization could tell a guy that he's the "face of the franchise" then ignore his input entirely. Not only does Kobe know what that feels like, but now Dwight Howard has experienced the same thing. If ever there was an indication that the Lakers franchise as a whole has lost its draw we don't need to look any further than the Dwight Howard saga as evidence.

            

On August 10, 2012, in a trade involving 4 teams, the Lakers traded Andrew Bynum and acquired the newly dubbed "Iron Man"(Shaq already coined the nickname Superman in L.A.) Dwight Howard. The highly touted big man came in with the expectation of being the face of the Lakers after Kobe's departure via retirement. Things quickly went south for both parties. During the 2012-2013 season Howard would voice his dislike for head coach Mike D'antoni's system as well as the lack of touches he was getting. He had envisioned the team signing CP3 and bringing back Phil Jackson in the Post-Bryant era. I'm guessing the Lakers organization and Howard didn't see things eye to eye on that.

            

Which bring us to the Lakers pleading with banners for Howard to return for one more go. It's pathetic that a franchise like the Lakers needs to get on their knees and beg for a player to resign. Howard ultimately chose to go to the Houston Rockets and pair up with James Harden instead. I think it speaks volumes about a franchise, when a player is willing to walk away from $30 million that no other team can offer, don't you? When was the last time you heard of a superstar turning down the Lakers for a smaller market outside of Howard, go ahead I'll give you a minute.

           

It’s tough these days to consider the Los Angeles Lakers an elite team in the NBA’s Western Conference. They’re losing their appeal and the Clippers are quickly becoming the #1 team in LA. Sure the 2014 free-agency brings hope, as well as the draft that season. In fact it's possible that's exactly what the team had in mind when it decided use its amnesty clause to release Metta World Peace. Is it sac religious to say that Kobe may be next with his $30.2 million contract? The time has come for some hard decisions to be made, and not all of them will be viewed as popular. All I know is the Lakers front office cannot blame anyone or anything else for their current predicament; they made some difficult decisions and now they will have to live with them.

New Story by Craig Stoddard on the Contributors' Page.
Here is a small preview:

With two weeks passing since the disaster in game 6 that cost the Bruins the cup, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli started off the Bruins offseason with a bold statement by trading the young, highly-touted, fan-favorite Tyler Seguin. 


The Jersey Exchange
by Mark Littlefield
July 8, 2013

Buyer beware, especially when shopping for your next sports jersey.

 

In 1972 the sports world was forever changed when the Supreme Court ruled on Flood v. Kuhn, enabling players to jump from team to team during the Major League Baseball offseason.  In essence, free agency was born.

 

Since the birth of free agency, we have seen how free agency periods have evolved within their respective sport.  After reviewing the start of the NHL’s free agency period, is it safe to say that hockey is starting to look like the other 3 major sports in North America?

 

Lebron James made “The Decision,” three years ago today, a premeditated decision to join up with a couple of other free agents to increase his chances of winning a championship.  Ultimately, he chose to sign with the Miami Heat, who had one more NBA title than his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.  Now it seems like every year we wait to see what NBA superstars are looking to pair up during the free agency period.

 

In Major League Baseball we have watched the Florida Marlins win two championships, one through free agency, and then watched them have two fire sales.  Every offseason the biggest free agents are always rumored to be signing with the Yankees but lately have gone elsewhere (usually, where Scott Boras tells them to go).

 

Even the NFL has become very businesslike when it comes to the departure of players for a bigger contract when free agency was redefined in 1992. I reference guys like Deion Sanders and Charles Haley, who bounced from the Cowboys to the Niners to better their odds of winning a championship while also increasing their pay.

 

 All of these sports are able to ensure profitability for their owners through the salary cap, even as ticket prices continue to skyrocket.  Salary caps in the modern sports world sometimes handcuff franchises who can’t afford to keep their up and coming star players and with the NHL salary cap set to shrink in 2014 more players are finding new cities to play in than ever before.  Just like the other sports…

 

The NHL retention rate of free agents is down this offseason from 36% of free agents re-signing with their teams in 2012, compared to just 22% sticking with their current team so far this offseason.

 

The overpaid veterans are causing displaced youth in several NHL cities.  16 of the free agents are under the age of 30 and only one of them was re-signed by their current team (Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs).

 

The Bruins are one of the teams that saw a veteran head out the door for greener pastures as Nathan Horton had already made up his mind that he was leaving before free agency had begun (as most players probably do).  However, the Bruins replaced him with Jarome Iginla in free agency as Peter Chiarelli has learned how to balance the roster quite nicely.

 

The Bruins have a good young core in place and it is Chiarelli’s job to keep that youth from walking out the door for more money elsewhere.  The trick is balancing the cap and last week’s trade of Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin, which freed up cap space and brought in more young talent, showed Chiarelli is creatively taking to task on that front.


Iginla played for the Calgary Flames for almost 17 seasons.  After signing with the Bruins he will be wearing his third jersey in less than a year.  I feel bad for Penguins fans who bought his gear, kind of like Lakers fans who bought any Dwight Howard apparel, except I don’t feel for Lakers fans because they should have expected this from an NBA player.  


But not hockey players, right?

 

Do I even need to mention Patriots fans who bought an Aaron Hernandez jersey?  Hopefully you traded yours in this weekend…?

 

Take this as a warning hockey fans: be very careful when buying your next jersey, you might not be wearing it for very long.

Throwing it all away
by Kevin R Tocci                                          July 7, 2013
Let's pretend that you're 23-year-old star football player and  just signed a new $40 million contract, what would be the perfect thing to do that would compare to these significant events in your life? I'm pretty sure a majority of you didn't pick gunning down a "friend" like former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is being accused of doing.  Click to read story
A Green Rebuilding Project  
by Keith Tocci                                                                                               July 6, 2013
Boston Celtics fans get out your calendars and be sure to mark the date of July 10th. Why you ask? Let’s just say an era will officially be ending in Boston on that day. That's when a blockbuster trade will be approved by the NBA, which will change the face of the franchise as we know it. After Doc made a decision to take his talents to Hollywood by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston's brass worked fast to shift the rebuild into full force. So with multiple things happening in rapid succession, let’s review what remains after the dust begins to settle.
  On June 27th, the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets agreed in principal to a trade that will send three, 1st round picks (2014, '16, and '18) as well as Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and a sign and trade of Keith Bogans in exchange for  Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. We all knew the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before something like this transpired, but I'm sure I can't be the only C's fan feeling a bit nostalgic with thoughts of yesteryear. Sadly enough, this is only a few dominoes to fall in a series of many still to come.
News of a trade of this type of magnitude is destined to occupy most headlines, yet in their attempt to rebuild a team as quickly as possible, no one seemed to notice what the Celtics were able to do on draft night. Being aggressive the C's were able to move up and grab Gonzaga's 7-footer Kelly Olynyk at with the 13th pick via a trade with Dallas that sent the Mavs the Celtics no.16 pick and two future 2nd round draft picks. Olynyk gives Boston a versatile, efficient scoring, back to the basket type of big man, who may not be the toughest or best rebounder but can make a decent impact. During his junior season at Gonzaga, he averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 26.4 minutes per game. 
With this year’s draft behind us, the C's now apparently want to position themselves for a prime spot in the 2014 draft. Headlining that draft class is the most hyped basketball prodigy since LeBron James. He is the 6' 8", 195 lbs. shooting guard from Kansas, Andrew Wiggins. Even if the Celtics are unable to land Wiggins, scouts believe that there could be multiple franchise players and as many as eight NBA All-Stars in this group. In order to land any of these top prospects, Boston will have to play hard, yet lose games to have any chance. 
No one ever said rebuilding a team was fast or even an easy process. It still remains to be seen if Danny Ainge will actually do as he said and build around Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Some experts think they could become trade bait as well. I think that it's safe to say with Rondo's history, he may not be willing to put his ego at the door and lose in order to help aid the rebuilding process. Let’s not forget, he has yet to meet with new head coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens was instrumental in leading the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship on two different occasions. Who knows if Rondo will be willing to work with a rookie coach, who has no NBA experience. If that does turn out to be the case, Ainge may just decide to trade him as well and restart completely.
Boston's brass has done its best to stock pile future picks and assemble an "ok" team in order to position themselves for things to come. With the brooms in hand, they have cleaned house of the old in order to usher in the new. Brace yourselves though, because this is only the beginning and the worst still lies ahead. This recent flurry may have passed and things may seem calm now, but we are merely sitting in the eye of a massive storm of change that is still to come.
Boston Celtics fans get out your calendars and be sure to mark the date of July 10th. Why you ask? Let’s just say an era will officially be ending in Boston on that day. That's when a blockbuster trade will be approved by the NBA, which will change the face of the franchise as we know it. After Doc made a decision to take his talents to Hollywood by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston's brass worked fast to shift the rebuild into full force. So with multiple things happening in rapid succession, let’s review what remains after the dust begins to settle.
  On June 27th, the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets agreed in principal to a trade that will send three, 1st round picks (2014, '16, and '18) as well as Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and a sign and trade of Keith Bogans in exchange for  Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. We all knew the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before something like this transpired, but I'm sure I can't be the only C's fan feeling a bit nostalgic with thoughts of yesteryear. Sadly enough, this is only a few dominoes to fall in a series of many still to come.
News of a trade of this type of magnitude is destined to occupy most headlines, yet in their attempt to rebuild a team as quickly as possible, no one seemed to notice what the Celtics were able to do on draft night. Being aggressive the C's were able to move up and grab Gonzaga's 7-footer Kelly Olynyk at with the 13th pick via a trade with Dallas that sent the Mavs the Celtics no.16 pick and two future 2nd round draft picks. Olynyk gives Boston a versatile, efficient scoring, back to the basket type of big man, who may not be the toughest or best rebounder but can make a decent impact. During his junior season at Gonzaga, he averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 26.4 minutes per game. 
With this year’s draft behind us, the C's now apparently want to position themselves for a prime spot in the 2014 draft. Headlining that draft class is the most hyped basketball prodigy since LeBron James. He is the 6' 8", 195 lbs. shooting guard from Kansas, Andrew Wiggins. Even if the Celtics are unable to land Wiggins, scouts believe that there could be multiple franchise players and as many as eight NBA All-Stars in this group. In order to land any of these top prospects, Boston will have to play hard, yet lose games to have any chance. 
No one ever said rebuilding a team was fast or even an easy process. It still remains to be seen if Danny Ainge will actually do as he said and build around Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Some experts think they could become trade bait as well. I think that it's safe to say with Rondo's history, he may not be willing to put his ego at the door and lose in order to help aid the rebuilding process. Let’s not forget, he has yet to meet with new head coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens was instrumental in leading the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship on two different occasions. Who knows if Rondo will be willing to work with a rookie coach, who has no NBA experience. If that does turn out to be the case, Ainge may just decide to trade him as well and restart completely.
Boston's brass has done its best to stock pile future picks and assemble an "ok" team in order to position themselves for things to come. With the brooms in hand, they have cleaned house of the old in order to usher in the new. Brace yourselves though, because this is only the beginning and the worst still lies ahead. This recent flurry may have passed and things may seem calm now, but we are merely sitting in the eye of a massive storm of change that is still to come.
Boston Celtics fans get out your calendars and be sure to mark the date of July 10th. Why you ask? Let’s just say an era will officially be ending in Boston on that day. That's when a blockbuster trade will be approved by the NBA, which will change the face of the franchise as we know it. After Doc made a decision to take his talents to Hollywood by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston's brass worked fast to shift the rebuild into full force. So with multiple things happening in rapid succession, let’s review what remains after the dust begins to settle.
  On June 27th, the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets agreed in principal to a trade that will send three, 1st round picks (2014, '16, and '18) as well as Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and a sign and trade of Keith Bogans in exchange for  Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. We all knew the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before something like this transpired, but I'm sure I can't be the only C's fan feeling a bit nostalgic with thoughts of yesteryear. Sadly enough, this is only a few dominoes to fall in a series of many still to come.
News of a trade of this type of magnitude is destined to occupy most headlines, yet in their attempt to rebuild a team as quickly as possible, no one seemed to notice what the Celtics were able to do on draft night. Being aggressive the C's were able to move up and grab Gonzaga's 7-footer Kelly Olynyk at with the 13th pick via a trade with Dallas that sent the Mavs the Celtics no.16 pick and two future 2nd round draft picks. Olynyk gives Boston a versatile, efficient scoring, back to the basket type of big man, who may not be the toughest or best rebounder but can make a decent impact. During his junior season at Gonzaga, he averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 26.4 minutes per game. 
With this year’s draft behind us, the C's now apparently want to position themselves for a prime spot in the 2014 draft. Headlining that draft class is the most hyped basketball prodigy since LeBron James. He is the 6' 8", 195 lbs. shooting guard from Kansas, Andrew Wiggins. Even if the Celtics are unable to land Wiggins, scouts believe that there could be multiple franchise players and as many as eight NBA All-Stars in this group. In order to land any of these top prospects, Boston will have to play hard, yet lose games to have any chance. 
No one ever said rebuilding a team was fast or even an easy process. It still remains to be seen if Danny Ainge will actually do as he said and build around Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Some experts think they could become trade bait as well. I think that it's safe to say with Rondo's history, he may not be willing to put his ego at the door and lose in order to help aid the rebuilding process. Let’s not forget, he has yet to meet with new head coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens was instrumental in leading the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship on two different occasions. Who knows if Rondo will be willing to work with a rookie coach, who has no NBA experience. If that does turn out to be the case, Ainge may just decide to trade him as well and restart completely.
Boston's brass has done its best to stock pile future picks and assemble an "ok" team in order to position themselves for things to come. With the brooms in hand, they have cleaned house of the old in order to usher in the new. Brace yourselves though, because this is only the beginning and the worst still lies ahead. This recent flurry may have passed and things may seem calm now, but we are merely sitting in the eye of a massive storm of change that is still to come.

   Boston Celtics fans get out your calendars and be sure to mark the date of July 10th. Why you ask? Let’s just say an era will officially be ending in Boston on that day. That's when a blockbuster trade will be approved by the NBA, which will change the face of the franchise as we know it. After Doc made a decision to take his talents to Hollywood by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston's brass worked fast to shift the rebuild into full force. So with multiple things happening in rapid succession, let’s review what remains as the dust begins to settle.

  

On June 27th, it was announced that the Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets had agreed in principal to a trade that sends three, 1st round picks (2014, '16, and '18) as well as Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and a sign and trade of Keith Bogans to Boston in exchange for  Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. We all knew the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before something like this transpired, but I'm sure I can't be the only one feeling a bit nostalgic with thoughts of yesteryear. Sadly enough, this is only a few dominoes that have fallen in a series of many still to come.

            

News of a trade of this type of magnitude is destined to occupy most headlines, yet in their attempt to rebuild a team as quickly as possible, no one seemed to notice what the Celtics were able to do on draft night. Being aggressive the C's were able to move up and grab Gonzaga's 7-footer Kelly Olynyk at with the 13th pick via a trade with Dallas that sent the Mavs the Celtics no.16 pick and two future 2nd round draft picks. Olynyk gives Boston a versatile, efficient scoring, back to the basket type of big man, who may not be the toughest or best rebounder but can make a decent impact. During his junior season at Gonzaga, he averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 26.4 minutes per game.

            

With this year’s draft behind us, the C's now apparently want to position themselves for a prime spot in the 2014 draft. Headlining that draft class is the most hyped basketball prodigy since LeBron James. He is the 6' 8", 195 lbs. shooting guard from Kansas, Andrew Wiggins. Even if the Celtics are unable to land Wiggins, scouts believe that there could be multiple franchise players and as many as eight NBA All-Stars in this group. In order to land any of these top prospects, Boston will have to play hard, yet lose games to have any chance.

            

No one ever said rebuilding a team was fast or even an easy process. It still remains to be seen if Danny Ainge will actually do as he said and build around Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Some experts think they could become trade bait as well. I think that it's safe to say with Rondo's history, he may not be willing to put his ego at the door and lose in order to help aid the rebuilding process. Let’s not forget, he has yet to meet with new head coach, Brad Stevens. Stevens was instrumental in leading the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship on two different occasions. Who knows if Rondo will be willing to work with a rookie coach, who has no NBA experience. If that does turn out to be the case, Ainge may just decide to trade him as well and restart completely.

            

Boston's front office has done its best to stock pile future picks and assemble an "ok" team in order to position themselves for things to come. With the brooms in hand, they have cleaned house of the old in order to usher in the new. Brace yourselves though, because this is only the beginning and the worst still lies ahead. This recent flurry may have passed and things may seem calm now, but we are merely sitting in the eye of a massive storm of change that is still to come.



Have Another One Boston Sports Fans...it's Summertime!
By Mark Littlefield
June 30, 2013

If you are a sports fan who lives in the Greater Boston area I don’t have to tell you what a tough week it was.  Instead, we are going to remind you that everything will be okay and there are brighter days ahead, especially if you like to drink.

 

Despite the Celtics losing Doc, KG and Paul Pierce, the Bruins losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, and Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez being accused of murder, here is what you have to look forward to: 



Drinking, lots of drinking.  Okay, I'm kidding (kinda).  It is summer and summer is always filled with fun sporting events, so here is a look at the month ahead following one of the toughest weeks in recent Boston Sports memory.

 

Who doesn’t like fireworks? There will be plenty of them on display this week as America celebrates another birthday as my favorite holiday, the 4th of July, will be sure to light up the summer sky as you try to wash the bad taste out of your mouth with a cold beer (or maybe some straight moonshine depending on how down the Boston sports scene has you feeling) and some good ‘ol BBQ.

 

After you shake off the hangover from the Fourth you can look forward to the NBA Summer League, starting on July 7.  You will get a sneak peek at how Danny Ainge plans on rebuilding the team during what is pretty much a two week tryout for most of the guys on the roster.  However, you might want to pull out the hard stuff if you plan on watching the late-night highlights on NBA TV.

 

While the summer league hoopsters try to crack an NBA roster, it will be time for the Midsummer Classic as Major League Baseball will announce the rosters for the All-Star game on July 6.  The game will be played on July 16 but my favorite event takes place the night before as Home Run Derby is always an interesting contest.   I’ll never forget the Derby where Mark McGwire hit bomb after bomb at Fenway.

 

The Home Run Derby is the perfect sports drinking event.  You can get hammered without worrying about the details.  What’s the count? How many outs? What’s wrong with Clay Buchholz again?  Just keep drinking because the only thing that matters in this one is the ball going over the fence.

 

Crack another beer and chug if you share the sentiment that the All-Star game should NOT determine who has home field advantage. The team with the best record has EARNED the right to start the World Series in their house, not because the Commish decided to end the game in a tie once because it was getting late.

 

Right around this time, some crazy cyclists will be riding their bikes through France.  Yeah, I know, nobody gives a shit (unless some douchebag claiming to be a champion turns out to be a total fraud because he admitted to doping like he was a WWE Superstar).  Prepare to down a few more cold ones as Lance Armstrong clings to his fame doing every TV interview possible as the Tour winds down.

 

That is almost a full month of sports drinking events to keep your mind occupied until Patriots training camp opens on July 26 when the media circus shows up at Gillette Stadium to overwhelm us with redundant questions about Aaron Hernandez and Tim Tebow.

 

In case none of the sports interests you there is always the alcohol.  Whatever you do, do it responsibly.  You don’t want to be Aaron Hernandez’ roommate…

Decisions, Decisions
By Keith Tocci
June 23, 2013

For a couple of seasons now, the fan base of the Boston Celtics has been anticipating a roster overhaul that appears to be becoming more inevitable by the moment. Helping to solidify the impending fear of a rebuild fans were so weary of, this years’ postseason run proved that it was quite apparent this team just doesn't have the necessary pieces required to get them back to the NBA Finals.


Like Rock and Roll icon Bob Dylan once wrote, "The times they are a changing." Unfortunately for the Celtics, and this roster in particular, they are not the same contender as they have been in years before and change does appear to be coming. With Doc River's foot out the door and deciding not to stay and rebuild following the ‘Big Three’ era, the future of this historic franchise is now filled with uncertainty.


After signing a 5 year, $35 million contract two seasons ago, it appeared that Rivers was here to stay, and he was going to help the C's through the dark times ahead.  However, I was fooled once again. Shortly after being bounced out of the playoffs Doc shocked me by announcing he felt it was time for a change.


With so many teams looking for a head coach, the option of joining an immediate title contender in the Los Angeles Clippers caught River's eye. I can't help but think it's a bit ironic to think that the same man who would preach loyalty and teamwork as the staples of his coaching tenure, now is so willing to jump ship to another team, rather than honor his own commitment, but I digress.


For the Celtics, and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, it has become protocol at the end of each season to allow Doc the time to wind down and reevaluate his future. So far Boston's brass has been fortunate that Rivers has decided to return to coach the C's next year. It's also not uncommon each season in Boston to hear whispers of possible trades, and it is common knowledge that Ainge is always willing to listen to all trade talk, even if a trade never transpires.


Doc, Ainge, and the Celtics fan base have known for a while that a major overhaul is coming. Yet it is hard to think of a team not led by the fiery KG or to see the Truth sinking a clutch shot to seal a game, or hear Doc straining to scream out plays at his team from the sideline. However, it appears it may be a big possibility at this moment, that the Celtics we have come to know and love may not be the same team for much longer.


So now as we sit and wait to hear the results of an on again off again trade between the Clippers and the Celtics that would send Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan and a a couple of 1st round picks, there are so many questions left to answer.


For instance, why would a man beloved as a coach second to only Red Auerbach in Beantown want to leave? After Doc and KG depart, will Boston's brass decline Paul Pierce’s option in order to create cap space for other pieces, or is he part of the deal as well? What will the squad that hits the floor next season look like? Who is the best candidate to replace Rivers?  So many questions with so many uncertainties…


Yes, for the Boston Celtics the current future of this historic franchise is shrouded in uncertainty, but hey, it can't get much worse right?


Decisions, Decisions…

Stanley Cup winner may be decided by lucky bounce
by Kevin R. Tocci                                            June 16, 2013
After sitting through the first two NHL finals games between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks, it's obvious that it may take a small mistake or re-directed puck to decide who will hoist Lord Stanley's cup at the end of the best of seven series. 

A few days before this series kicked off at the United Center in Chicago, many in the sports world picked the Boston Bruins to win their second cup in three years. I heard some say the dominance they demonstrated over the Pittsburgh Penguins showed that they were hockey's best team. Both of these teams have shown a resilience during the playoff this year. The Bruins were nearly eliminated during the Conference Quarter Finals, as they fell behind 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in game seven. Boston mounted a third period period comeback, scoring three goals, before winning in overtime. Lets not forget that the Blackhawks were awarded the Presidents' Trophy for amassing 77 points and a finishing the strike shortened season with a record of 36-7-5. This is a team that can win at home and on the road. The same team that was down three games to one in the Conference Semi Finals to the Detroit Red Wings, before reeling of three straight victories to secure the series. 

The first two games could have gone either way. Boston was up 3-2 in the third period until Johnny Oduya's slap shot rebounded off the skate of Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference and tied the score. The two teams played almost a complete second game before Andrew Shaw tipped home the game winner at 12:08 of the third OT.  A very exciting game that saw Boston scramble to replace forward Nathan Horton, who left with a shoulder injury. What's crazy is that the second game of the series went into overtime too. Anyone who watched the first 20 minutes had to wonder what kept the Bruins in the game or Chicago from scoring multiple times, as they outshot Boston 19-4 in the first period. Daniel Paille put home the winner, thanks to a Brandon Bollig turnover in the Blackhawks' end. 

These two teams play such a physical style of hockey, but it appears the Bruins excel from that sort of play. Chicago definitely has the speed and similar depth to Boston. See that's what I mean. You see flashes of a team pulling away or dominating, but the bench of the other club has been able to adapt and keep things close. If you listened to one of the recent KITB Sports Talk podcasts between me and Mark Littlefield, I picked the Bruins, but I saw this being a long series. A grind if you will. However, after seeing these two clubs after two games, I think it could go either way. With this series, fans are getting to see two Original 6 teams duke it out, plus they're seeing some of great hockey, and that's not a bad thing. It's about time too.




Why the Spurs will beat the Heat
by Mark Littlefield
June 7, 2013

As Miami Heat fans poured into American Airlines Arena for what is becoming an annual tradition since the Big 3 came together, Game 1 of the NBA Finals, they were not prepared for what they were about to see: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. 


Miami might have the Big 3 but San Antonio has the two best players at the positions that matter the most in this series.  For that reason and a few others, I believe the Spurs can and will go on to beat the Heat in the NBA Finals.


Sure, Miami might have the more talented roster but basketball is a team sport, much like hockey is.  The Bruins are showing that the better team can beat the more talented roster, even if they have the two best players in the planet on their team, and the Spurs face a similar challenge going against Miami.


I’ve always said basketball is a big man’s game and this is reason number one why I believe that San Antonio can pull this one off.  Tim Duncan, a first ballot hall of famer, is the best big man in the league.   If you are going to beat Miami the center position is a good place to start since the Heat lack a dominant low post player, as Chris Bosh is better suited at the 4.  Miami will struggle to matchup down low with San Antonio which leads to my second reason, the Spurs have the better point guard.


Basketball might be a big man’s game but ball control is almost equally important.  Miami is rotating between Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers at the point while San Antonio is guided by the steady hand of Tony Parker, who was phenomenal in Game 1.  With Parker playing up to his potential, slashing the lane and running give and go’s through Duncan, the Heat will have their hands full defensively. This leads to my next point: coaching.


Do we even have to question who the better coach is? We will find out if Erik Spoelstra can come up with a defensive game plan that will lead to a better transition offense so the Heatles can do what they do best, run and gun.  I’m not sure if matters because if that becomes the case, Gregg Popovich will manage the game and guide his team through it as he has done throughout his career.


There is a reason Pop is the longest tenured coach in all of the major sports and that reason is backed up by his four championship rings, most among active NBA coaches.  Pop comes from a military background and it shows through the discipline with which his team plays.


Hopefully San Antonio can prove again that a true championship team is built through hard work and fundamentals, not free agency.  Don’t worry Miami, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are both free agents this summer and maybe they will take their talents to South Beach too.

NHL Eastern Conf. Finals; Let's Get Physical   by Kevin R Tocci                                                                                           June 2, 2013

Boston, MA - If hockey fans and sports prognosticators have learned anything from the first game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins; it may be way too tough to pick the winner of this series because of the physical nature of the first game . I say this because back in January, I prediction on this website that Pittsburgh would go on to meet the Chicago Blackhawks for Lord Stanley. So far in the Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks are leading the series 2-0 over the L.A. Kings, but the Bruins haven't proven they won't go easily, blanking the Penguins 3-0. 

The funny part of watching Saturdays game between the Pens and B's is that, I there were a number of things that I didn't expect. First, who would ever look at the list of players on each roster and say, "yea, I can see Patrice Bergeron and Evgeni Malkin duking it out at some point in the series."  I didn't expect Pittsburgh to go from their normal high powered scoring approach to bruisers, nor did I see the Bruins shutting out the Penguins potent offense. Let's not make Sid Crosby's team sound inept with the puck, they hit their share posts and put 29 shots on Tuukka Rask.

It was good to see hockey as a sport be physical. I thought it was out of character for Pittsburgh, because I see them more as a finesse team, who is deep with forwards that can put the puck in the net. Now the B's, they would be seen as the rough and tough kids looking to bloody the nose of a Pen player or two. Never the less, it was good to see these two teams play with a chip on their shoulders. However, it appeared that frustration set in for players like Crosby and Malkin, when they didn't get calls. The one thing I hate seeing is elite players whining about not getting calls or when they get caught in the act of committing a penalty. 

Then there are the dirty hits committed by both teams.  Matt Cook got a game misconduct for hitting Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid from behind and then Brad Marchand received two minutes in the box for boarding James Neal. I don't mind chippy play, but injuring another player to gain an advantage is frowned upon in my book. But then again, Game one may very well set the tone for the remainder of the series. We'll just have to wait and see.


Heart of a Champion
by Mark Littlefield
May 15, 2013

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory. 
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory. 

Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again. 

Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again. 

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory. 

Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again. 
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory. 

Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again. 
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory. 

Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again. 
Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory. 

Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again.  

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a Bruins fan but I must admit that I wasn’t shocked by the way Boston rallied facing a three goal deficit in the third period of Game 7.  Despite my allegiances and despite the fact that the Bruins struggled down the stretch  to score goals, I still couldn’t give up on the hometown team, regardless of the deficit.  I’ll call it the heart of a champion theory.


Everyone knows that when the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 in 2011, they were the less talented team, maybe in several of those series.  What got them to the next series and eventually The Cup was a mix of determination, toughness and togetherness.  That is exactly what we saw out of these Bruins on Tuesday night at the Gahden. 

 

The Bruins showed determination and toughness when they fought back with a fury in the final five minutes of the third period.  Most teams down three goals would pack it in and start polishing their golf clubs but the Bruins would rather grind it out for another chance to polish the cup. Or drink beer out of it. Or bathe in it.  Or whatever the hell you do with Lord Stanley’s Cup.


The biggest part of the heart of a champion is the ability to sacrifice it all for your team and play within a team concept.  Phil Kessel refused to buy into the team concept in Boston and that is the reason he skated off the ice with a smile on his face during the postgame team handshakes, which I found a little weird (shouldn’t he have been pissed? Oh wait, he doesn’t have the heart of a champion).  The Bruins don’t need guys like him anyway. 

 

The guys they do need are guys like Shawn Thornton and former Bruin Mark Recchi.  Thornton said some motivational words to the slumping Tyler Seguin heading into overtime the other night and Recchi was the man behind the Varsity Jacket the Bruins wore postgame during their run to the Cup in ’11.   The ability to motivate and imply togetherness goes a long way to winning a cup but it looks like the Bruins are back on track as they prepare for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.


Now that we know they have the heart of a champion all they need is someone other than David Krejci to score some goals and they just might find themselves playing for the cup again.  



NFL Mock Draft 2.0
by Mark Littlefield
April 24, 2013

 Avon, MA - With the NFL Draft just days away KITB gives its second mock draft and there are some changes as several players have seen their stock go up and down.  Tune in to the NFL Draft Thursday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN.




Round 1

  1. Kansas City (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OL Texas A&M

Andy Reid will have his hands full restocking the Chiefs roster but with plenty of defensive talent to build around the former Eagles coach will have to start with a franchise player and Joeckel is a good place to start.

 

  1. Jacksonville (2-14) Bjorn Werner, DE Florida State Dion Jordan, OLB Oregon

The Jags go for athleticism over the consistent Werner whose draft stock is falling as draft day approaches.

 

  1. Oakland (4-12) Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M Shariff Floyd, DT Florida

Floyd’s stock is through the roof and the Raiders have seen the interior of their defensive line walk out the door (Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour).  The trade for Matt Flynn indicates they are likely to stay away from a QB early.

 

  1. Philadelphia (4-12): Chance Warmack, OG Alabama Geno Smith, QB WVU

I had the Eagles originally selecting Geno Smith but since Chip Kelly was had a change of heart.  Always trust your gut, Geno Smith it is.

 

  1. Detroit (4-12): Jarvis Jones, ILB Georgia Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan

Detroit has lost some depth on the line this offseason and can add a franchise tackle with a player whose stock has steadily risen since bowl season ended.  If Matt Millen was still the GM you could almost be Tavon Austin would be the pick.

 

  1. Cleveland (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan Chance Warmack, OG Alabama

The Browns can give their ground game the pulling guard that it needs to be successful by pairing up last year’s first rounder, Trent Richardson, with his former college teammate.

 

  1. Arizona (5-11): Geno Smith, QB West Virginia  Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma

Originally, I didn’t have Johnson as a first round pick but as the first round is filled with a lot of question marks it has become apparent that the most depth is at the tackle position and the Cardinals can get a good one here.

 

  1. Buffalo (6-10): Matt Barkley, QB USC

The Bills are in serious need of a franchise quarterback and I’m not buying Ryan Fitzpatrick as the long term solution despite the contract extension he received over a year ago.  New Head Coach Doug Marrone should definitely be looking for a long term solution at quarterback and Barkley is it.

 

  1. New York Jets (6-10): Star Lotulelei, DT Utah Ezekiel Ansah, DL BYU

 The Jets could really use some help defensively and here I can see them grabbing the player who gives them the most flexibility while filling a need.

 

  1. Tennessee (6-10): Dee Milliner, CB Alabama

The Titans probably don’t want to admit it, but they missed Cortland Finnegan, who moved on to St. Louis in free agency, more than they thought they would.  Milliner is a great chance to replace one of their biggest mistakes.

 

  1. San Diego (7-9): Manti Te’o , ILB Notre Dame Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M

The Chargers have a chance to grab one of the biggest physical specimens in the draft with the hopes of restoring that outside pass rush and Moore is a great value here.

 

  1. Miami (7-9): Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama DJ Fluker, OT Alabama

With Jake Long leaving in free agency the Dolphins have a need at tackle and lucky for them this draft has plenty of depth at that position.

 

  1. Tampa Bay (7-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE LSU New York Jets: Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State

You can cross that whole line out because the Bucs owned this pick as of publication of mock 1.0.  Here the Jets replace one cornerback with another as the organization continues to swim in circles.

 

  1. Carolina (7-9): Robert Woods, WR USC Star Lotulelei, DT Utah

Once considered the top pick, Lotulelei has watched his star fall and here the Panthers can get great bang for their buck.

 

  1. New Orleans (7-9):  Dion Jordan, OLB Oregon Jarvis Jones, ILB Georgia

The Saints have a chance to add a playmaker and Jones is just that.  I have a feeling that Jones will fall New Orleans would be more than happy to catch him.

 

  1. St. Louis (7-8-1): DJ Fluker, OT Alabama Tavon Austin

Is there anyone who doesn’t think this is the obvious pick?

 

  1. Pittsburgh (8-8): Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri

The Steel Curtain defense has somewhat disappeared in recent years with age becoming a big factor.  The Steelers can start in the trenches by finding Casey Hampton’s replacement with one of the top DL prospects who could fall due to a run on offensive lineman

 

  1. Dallas (8-8): Shariff Floyd, DT Florida Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina

Cooper will help bolster the Cowboys lack of protection for the most overrated quarterback in the league while giving DeMarco Murray a chance to become a superstar.

 

  1. New York Giants (9-7): Ezekiel Ansah, DE BYU Barkevious Mingo

The Giants will need to address the depth on their defensive line after watching star defensive end Osi Umenyiora walk out the door and sign with the Falcons.  Mingo is one of the top DE’s available and New York is in the market for one. (Not too different from my original thought, just the name)

 

  1. Chicago (10-6): Tavon Austin, WR WVU Manti Te’o

Teo joins a group of legendary Bears linebackers and will fit in just fine in the Windy City.   

 

  1. Cincinnati* (10-6): Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas

The Bengals need a game changer at safety to complete their defense and Vaccaro is a nice fit.

 

  1. St. Louis - from Washington* (10-6): Cordarelle Patterson, WR  Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama

Coach Jeff Fisher hit a home run with Chris Johnson with a very similar position and he can do the same here with the stud running back from Alabama.

 

  1. Minnesota* (10-6): Desmond Trufant, CB Washington Cordarelle Patterson

The Vikings have to give Christian Ponder a big target after trading Percy Harvin and Patterson is just that.  Might not be the same talent that Harvin is but still brings value.

 

  1. Indianapolis* (11-5): Alec Ogletree, OLB Georgia

Ogletree may fall because of a predraft DUI but there is no doubt that this kid can play.  Indianapolis has also built a good young core through the draft and Ogletree could help this franchise develop more talent on the defensive side of the ball after letting Dwight Freeney go in free agency.

 

  1. **Minnesota from Seattle (11-5): Jesse Williams, DT Alabama

The Vikings have a chance to add some weight on their D-line and it is never a bad idea to start in the trenches.  They could use some help at wide receiver for Christian Ponder but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go with defense here.

 

  1. Green Bay* (11-5): Alex Okafor, DE Texas Bjorn Werner, DE Florida State

The Packers have some rebuilding to do on the defensive side of the ball.  After getting exposed by the 49ers in the playoffs I can see Green Bay going to the defensive side of the ball to add some more depth.

 

  1. Houston* (12-4): Kevin Minter, ILB LSU Arthur Brown, LB Kansas State

Houston has drafted very well and could land an impact player in Brown if they choose to go this route.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Brown comes off the board sooner as he may be the best talent available at linebacker in this draft.

 

  1. Denver* (13-3): Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio State Alex Okafor, DE Texas

After signing Wes Welker the Broncos must address the depth on the defensive line after losing Elvis Dumervil to their own poor management. 

 

  1. New England (12-4): Barrett Jones, OL Alabama  Robert Woods, WR USC

Woods is probably the top overall receiver in this draft and the Pats could use some help at the position but New England is almost sure to trade down with this pick.


30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE LSU Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

Trufant brings an NFL pedigree to a team that must improve its secondary to contend for a championship and Thomas Dimitroff, one of the best GM’s in football, is aware of both of these.


31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Kenny Vaccaro, FS Texas Margus Hunt, DE Southern Methodist

The 49ers were devastated by free agency defensively and will have to get younger as well and the athletic Hunt will fit in nicely with fiery head coach John Harbaugh.


32. Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Arthur Brown, LB KSU Matt Elam, S Florida

The Super Bowl champs will have to replace both of their starting safeties and have already gotten a start on it by bringing in Michael Huff and Rolando McClain and Elam could be the final piece.  Considering that didn’t bring a Super Bowl to Oakland I don’t see a lot of success for Baltimore either way.

Topic of the Week; The Marathon Bombing Tragedy
Mark's take...
Now that the most tragic, terrifying marathon in running history is over I am ready to speak my mind.  This one hit close to home as I had family, friends and a girlfriend all within a few blocks of the blast zone.  The worst is over but it will never be forgotten. Click here to read the full story...

Kevin's take...
The past week was yet another reality check for America and her people; there are still individuals out there, foreign and domestic, that want to harm innocent people and aren't afraid to do it on American soil. Click here to read the full story


Miami Heat appear focused on a second NBA title run

by Keith Tocci                                                                                        April 14, 2013

Rapid City, SD - When it comes to the NBA’s Eastern Conference, one thing is for sure, the Miami Heat are leaps and bounds above the rest. As it sits, there are few teams in the East that pose a possible threat to the Heat repeating as NBA Champions. Yes the Indiana Pacers and NY Knicks have taken their best shots at Miami, each winning 2 games apiece, yet still the Heat rolls on unfazed. With only 9 games remaining before the playoffs arrive, the team from South Beach is sitting in prime position to at least win back-to-back Championships. Click here to read the full story.

Sinista Thoughts - WWE's Wrestlemania 29 Predictions
by Sinista1, of Whoobazoo.com                                                                                                                                
Brockton, MA - Today is the day that professional wrestling fans anxiously wait for like kids and Christmas morning year after year in what has become the most iconic, and most memorable Pay Per View event of all time. WWE’s Wrestlemania is an event that takes five months of storylines, and concludes them with epic, historic matches and finishes them in way to build paths for new stories that will lead to next year’s event. In it’s 29th year WM is taking place at MetLife Stadium, the home of the NY Giants/Jets where it may just get a little nippy once the sun goes down for those in attendance tonight. This year’s Wrestlemania has been the most anticipated ever, and even after suffering two real life high profile incidents with two of their major stars the cards are still stacked in their favor for success tonight so with that let me breakdown my thoughts on WWE’s Wrestlemania 29!  Click here to read the full story
KITB Sports NFL Mock Draft 1.0
by Mark Littlefield
March 31, 2013

Avon, MA - With the NFL Combine and most pro days winding to a close it is time for NFL scouts, coaches and GM's to evaluate the NCAA talent pool with the NFL Draft set for Thursday, April 25.  Here at KITB Sports Media we like to put on the prediction hat every now and then and pretend like we are one of those NFL talent scouts and here is how I see the first round.  Stay tuned as KITB Sports will be running newer versions as draft day approaches.



Round 1

  1. Kansas City (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OL Texas A&M

Andy Reid will have his hands full restocking the Chiefs roster but with plenty of defensive talent to build around the former Eagles coach will have to start with a franchise player and Joeckel is a good place to start.

 

  1. Jacksonville (2-14) Bjorn Werner, DE Florida State

Just to put this in perspective, J.J. Watt had more sacks than the entire Jacksonville defense.  The Jags 20 sacks was five worse than the next worst team (hint, hint, they have the next pick in the draft) and addressing their horrific pass rush is top priority for whoever replaces Mike Mularkey.

 

  1. Oakland (4-12) Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M

The Raiders had the second worst pass rush and could use a versatile DE/OLB like Moore to improve their terrible defense.  As the draft inches closer I would expect Moore’s stock to rise based on the raw physical ability (6’4, 250) and high motor that earned him the nickname “DaMonster.”

 

  1. Philadelphia (4-12): Chance Warmack, OG Alabama

I had the Eagles originally selecting Geno Smith but since Chip Kelly was hired literally as I had finished typing up my Eagles summary, I quickly switched to Warmack.  The Eaglles will be implanting Kelly’s up-tempo offense and will need the best pulling guard available to do so.

 

  1. Detroit (4-12): Jarvis Jones, ILB Georgia

The Lions have built themselves a nice little defense over the last few years and can further solidify it up the middle for the next few years by adding the best inside linebacker available.

 

  1. Cleveland (5-11): Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan

The Browns have issues on both sides of the ball and could go in a few directions here. They could use a big play wide receiver and another playmaker in the defensive secondary but President Mike Holmgren is known to build his team from the trenches and Fisher is a cornerstone tackle to be had.

 

  1. Arizona (5-11): Geno Smith, QB West Virginia

2012 was the year of the quarterback with several rookie quarterbacks starting and even a few guiding their teams to the playoffs.  Having said that, I don’t believe there are any of those in this years’ draft. I consider the top quarterbacks in this draft to be average at best but Smith might be the best of that bunch and a great Cardinals D needs a new signal caller for a rebound in 2013.

 

  1. Buffalo (6-10): Matt Barkley, QB USC

The Bills are in serious need of a franchise quarterback after releasing Ryan Fitzpatrick and the glory days of the K-gun fade into the distance.  New Head Coach Doug Marrone should definitely be looking for a long term solution at quarterback and Barkley could be it.

 

  1. New York Jets (6-10): Star Lotulelei, DT Utah

The Jets are a mess. They could draft offensive line, quarterback, wide receiver or defensive line.  I see them going for the player with the most upside remaining at pick 9. If not a defensive lineman I can see the Jets shoring up their offensive line.

 

  1. Tennessee (6-10): Dee Milliner, CB Alabama

The Titans probably don’t want to admit it, but they missed Cortland Finnegan, who moved on to St. Louis in free agency, more than they thought they would.  Milliner is a great chance to replace one of their biggest mistakes.

 

  1. San Diego (7-9): Manti Te’o , ILB Notre Dame

The Chargers have an aging defense and would be best suited to draft one of the most solid linebackers to come out of college in recent years. This could be San Diego’s chance to rebuild the mold of Junior Seau and the southern coast of California would be a perfect place for Te’o to go and get away from the all of the madness caused by his hoax.

 

  1. Miami (7-9): Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama

Despite Reggie Bush having a stellar year the Dolphins need to add depth to their running attack and adding a power back such as Lacy would complement a stellar offensive line that features Jake Long and Mike Pouncey

 

  1. Tampa Bay (7-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE LSU

The Buccaneers had trouble getting after the quarterback, recording only 27 sacks on the season and the LSU standout can definitely get after the passer.  Mingo has the size and athleticism that would give Tampa some much needed flexibility on their defensive line, but DL should be the pick.

 

  1. Carolina (7-9): Robert Woods, WR USC

The Panthers have trouble finding a receiver to play opposite Steve Smith and with his window closing the Panthers should look to the future.  Woods was Matt Barkley’s favorite target and I believe he will be the first receiver off the board and the Panthers are a great fit for the Trojan.

 

  1. New Orleans (7-9):  Dion Jordan, OLB Oregon

The Saints haven’t drafted this high in years and this is their opportunity to grab an impact player on the defensive side of the ball and Jordan is just that.  At 6’7, 240 pounds Jordan brings an NFL body to a team in need of a defensive playmaker.

 

  1. St. Louis (7-8-1): DJ Fluker, OT Alabama

The Rams have an outstanding defense and could really use some help on the offensive side of the ball protecting franchise QB Sam Bradford.  O-Line should be the pick here but they may be forced to go in another direction if Fluker and Lane Johnson come off the board earlier than expected.

 

  1. Pittsburgh (8-8): Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri

The Steel Curtain defense has somewhat disappeared in recent years with age becoming a big factor.  The Steelers can start in the trenches by finding Casey Hampton’s replacement with one of the top DL prospects who could fall due to a run on offensive lineman

 

  1. Dallas (8-8): Shariff Floyd, DT Florida

Dallas has got to get help on the defensive line to free up DeMarcus Ware and Floyd would definitely do that.  Floyd’s stock has risen and it would be surprising to see him fall this far but if they do Dallas could definitely use a player like Floyd.

 

  1. New York Giants (9-7): Ezekiel Ansah, DE BYU

The Giants will need to address the depth on their defensive line after watching star defensive end Osi Umenyiora walk out the door and sign with the Falcons.  Ansah is one of the top DE’s available and New York is in the market for one.

 

  1. Chicago (10-6): Tavon Austin, WR WVU

The Bears will be looking to add a playmaker across from Brandon Marshall after signing Martellus Bennett away from the Giants to add another weapon for Jay Cutler.  Tavon Austin would be a nice complement to solidify the Chicago receiving corps especially with Johnny Knox’ sudden retirement.

 

  1. Cincinnati* (10-6): Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina

The Bengals have built themselves into a contender through the draft over the past few years (AJ Green, Vontez Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Andy Dalton).  The Bengals can Bolster their offensive line by drafting one of the top guards available and giving BenJarvus Green-Ellis a true lead blocker.

 

  1. St. Louis - from Washington* (10-6): Cordarelle Patterson, WR Tennessee

The Rams have a chance to get some top young talent after acquiring this pick from Washington in the RG3 deal a year ago.  They have to replace Danny Amendola and I can see the Rams going to wide receiver with this pick as there will be some good talent left on the board at this point.

 

  1. Minnesota* (10-6): Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

After letting Antoine Winfield depart via free agency the Vikings can use this pick and what was Seattle’s first round pick to fill some of their needs .  Trufant would be a nice fit as Minnesota bolstered their defensive secondary by drafting Harrison Smith in the first round a year ago.

 

  1. Indianapolis* (11-5): Alec Ogletree, OLB Georgia

Ogletree may fall because of a predraft DUI but there is no doubt that this kid can play.  Indianapolis has also built a good young core through the draft and Ogletree could help this franchise develop more talent on the defensive side of the ball after letting Dwight Freeney go in free agency.

 

  1. **Minnesota from Seattle (11-5): Jesse Williams, DT Alabama

The Vikings have a chance to add some weight on their D-line and it is never a bad idea to start in the trenches.  They could use some help at wide receiver for Christian Ponder but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go with defense here.

 

  1. Green Bay* (11-5): Alex Okafor, DE Texas

The Packers have some rebuilding to do on the defensive side of the ball.  After getting exposed by the 49ers in the playoffs I can see Green Bay going to the defensive side of the ball to add some more depth.

 

  1. Houston* (12-4): Kevin Minter, ILB LSU

Houston has a chance to develop some depth on the defensive side of the ball and could go a number of ways but after signing Ed Reed the position with the biggest need is right in the middle and there could be a number of options here for the Texans to pick from and Minter is a solid pick.

 

  1. Denver* (13-3): Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio State

After signing Wes Welker the Broncos must address the depth on the defensive line after losing Elvis Dumervil to their own poor management.  Denver could add an outside pass rusher to complement Von Miller but what would free him up the most is a big guy like Hankins (6’3, 320) to draw the double team.

 

  1. New England (12-4): Barrett Jones, OL Alabama

Jones is the ideal player for a coach like Bill Belichick. He played in every position on the offensive line and excelled at each one, winning awards in all of his seasons with the Crimson Tide.  With Sebastian Vollmer not likely to return Belichick will turn to old pal Nick Saban for a safe pick here.

 
30.  Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Sam Montgomery, DE LSU

The Falcons will try to replace John Abraham with a player with some size from the SEC.  Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff has a history with players from the conference (Julio Jones, Peria Jerry, Akeem Dent) in recent years and I see that trend continuing this year.

 

31.  San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Kenny Vaccaro, FS Texas

The 49ers reloaded after their Super Bowl appearance this past year by acquiring Anquan Boldin and adding former top five pick Glenn Dorsey to their defensive line. However the Niners lost Dashon Goldson in free agency and have a chance to get a late round steal with Longhorn standout Kenny Vaccaro.


 32.  Baltimore Ravens (12-4): Arthur Brown, LB KSU

The Ravens were decimated by their post Super Bowl fire sale but will have a chance to reshape their defense in the draft and Arthur Brown is just the kind of player that GM Ozzie Newsome is known to have his eye on.  Brown produced at a high level for K State and will fit nicely with the Ravens.


 Time to Show Bill Russell a Little Respect
  by Rob Welch                                                             March 16, 2013

Brockton, MA. - Bill Russell is the greatest champion in sports history. His mark on the NBA is second to none.  Say what you want about NBA Commissioner David Stern, but he made the right call in 2009 when the NBA officially named the Finals MVP Award after Russell. As Stern’s tenure as the man in charge of the NBA comes to an end next February, it would be ideal for him to give Russell one last acknowledgement, retiring Russell’s No. 6 league-wide.


   Major League Baseball did it with Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 for obvious reasons. Breaking the color barrier, at a time when racial issues were at the forefront, is remarkable. Not to mention the type of player Robinson was. Michael Jordan’s No. 23 was retired. Jordan carried the game in the 90’s after Bird and Magic retired. Jordan’s impact outside the game has been historical. His endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, and Hanes, among others, make him one of the most marketable icons, even 10 years after he played his last game. But one would argue who had a greater impact on the game, Russell or Jordan.


   For everything that Jordan did endorsement-wise, Russell accomplished with civil rights issues. As an African-American playing in Boston during the 1960’s, Russell dealt with numerous racial issues in the city as well as throughout the country. He stood by Muhammad Ali when he refused to go to Vietnam and by Martin Luther King during his “I Have a Dream” speech. He also boycotted a game in St. Louis when a black teammate, K.C. Jones was denied lunch at a whites only restaurant. Russell was also the first African-American coach in all of the four major sports, paving the way for the numerous successful African-American coaches in today's NBA. He even added two championships to his resume as a player-coach.


  But most of all, the reason why Russell’s number should be retired, concerns his actions on the court as a player. He was the cornerstone of the most successful franchise in the sport, a game that was struggling to survive through the eyes of its white viewers during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.


  Russell also dealt with backlash, even in his own town. He wasn’t the most liked athlete in his own town. Bob Cousy was the apple of the city’s eye before he retired. Russell’s career regular-season averages of 15.1 PPG and 22.5 RPG were extraordinary, but then he upped his numbers during playoff time to 16.2 PPG and 24.9 RPG. He was 10-0 in deciding Game 7’s. He was a five-time MVP. And who knows what Russell would have averaged per game when it comes to blocks, a stat they didn’t keep track of in the 1950s and 1960s?


   Adding to the reasons why his number should be retired are his 11 rings in 13 years. Case closed. Nobody will ever match his championship pedigree. Russell's decade of dominance makes me jealous, because I was born 20 years too late to witness it.


   The city of Boston has also slacked on honoring Russell. The fact that it has taken the city so long to dedicate a statue to him is a travesty. In 2010, the city dedicated a statue to Bruin legend Bobby Orr. It would have been touching to build a Russell statue at the other entrance of the TD Garden. Thankfully President Obama pleaded for the city to honor Russell with a statue and the city listened as one is in the works to be placed at Boston's City Hall Plaza.The chances of the NBA retiring Russell's number league-wide are very slim. However, it would be a respected move by the NBA brass and something to be witnessed in NBA arenas for years to come

NFL Free Agency; Time to Go Shopping!
by Kevin R Tocci                                                                    March 10, 2013

Boston, MA - If you're a NFL team looking to fill a need or two with top quality talent and don't want to wait for a draft pick to pan out, then this Tuesday couldn't come quick enough! I've heard that this could be one of the busier free agent periods that we have seen in sometime. 

  According to the Boston Herald, the Cleveland Browns ($46.3 million), Cincinnati Bengals ($42.2 million) and Indianapolis Colts ($41.8 million are the teams with significant room under their caps and could be the most active shoppers. But what exactly is out there that would entice these clubs to scoop up and pay some of the top talent in the league?  If you're Cleveland, why not spend a bundle to snag a wide receiver like a Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Wallace is a guy who has speed to burn and the ability to stretch a defense, while Jennings has proven that he can run routes and pile up the yards after making a catch. If you're the Browns, adding Wallace, Jennings or even a wideout like Wes Welker, gives QB Brandon Weeden a quality target next to WR Josh Gordon (50 catches, 805 yards) and Greg Little (53 catches, 647 yards).

   What if you're the Miami Dolphins, who has $37.1 million to spend, yet has needs on both sides of the ball. The team just inked WR Brian Hartline to a new deal, but could use another offensive player maker for QB Ryan Tannehill to utilize.  The team could ultimately look to a guy like Welker (111 catches, 1,354 yards) as a viable source of production.  They could also look to build up their defense. The Dolphins are looking to bolster their depth at linebacker, why not snag Baltimore Ravens free agent Dannell Ellerbe. He has proven that he the ability to stop the run, cover downfield and also rush the quarterback. Ellerbe would come in looking to start, but could give Miami an extra body in the linebacker corps.

  The New England Patriots are listed as a top ten team with cap money to spend ($25.3 million), who are also Super Bowl contenders year after year. However this team appears to have a number of holes to fill, plus a few needs to satisfy, if it hopes to make it further than the AFC Championship game. The Pats find themselves in a tough position; they need help at multiple positions. The reports leading up to this weekend, had New England and the Wes Welker camp far apart on a contract. However, this is a player that the team has leaned on heavily since he was acquired in 2007. If they can't sign him, I'd look for the Patriots to target Jennings or Danny Amendola, as potential replacements. 

  Besides offensive help, coach Bill Belichick will need to fortify his secondary. The main problem New England has had the past few years is limiting the number of yards an opponent gains through the air. The team went out and traded for CB Aqib Talib, who proved to be a valuable addition down the stretch. He's now a free agent and it doesn't look like he's returning, so the Patriots will need to sign a similar type of player. The word is that Sean Smith, Derek Cox and Chris Gamble could all pay a visit to Foxboro. The question is, which one will sign his name on the bottom line and commit to the team for the next few years. We'll have to see.

  Regardless of what the results will be the same time next week, it promises to be an exciting time for the teams that have cash to spend and holes to fill on their rosters.

  
All Aboard the Tuukka Express
by Kevin R. Tocci                                                                                                                                                                       March 3, 2013
Boston, MA - The 2013 NHL season is flying along and one thing is for certain; goaltender Tuukka Rask will be the key to where the Boston Bruins seed for playoffs and how deep they go. 

    The troubles of the 2009-2010 season seems like a distant memory if you're a Bruins fan.  That season, the B's went with the young netminder, after #1 goalie Tim Thomas experienced a drop off in play.  Rask shined during the regular season, posting great numbers (22-12, 1.97 GAA), but faded in the playoffs especially during the Philadelphia Flyers series. The following season, Thomas returned to his Vezina Trophy form and Boston won its first Stanley Cup since 1972. You would think after achieving such success under Thomas, the Bruins would be tempted to trade a commodity like Rask.  Good thing they didn't, huh?

   Here we sit 18 games into a strike shortened season, and the Bruins are currently sitting atop their division. If you were fair weather fan, you would instantly think Thomas is the reason for Boston's success. General Manager Peter Chiarelli was smart during the off season. He gave Tuukka a one year deal at $3.5 million and basically dared his goalie to prove he was worth a long term contract. So far, the kid is off to a 11-2-2 1.82 GAA start and seems like he has something to prove! He has obviously convinced Chiarelli that he's for real, who traded Thomas in February to the New York Islanders for a conditional second-round pick in either 2014 or 2015. There have been reports that the Bruins are quietly working on a new deal for Rask.

   I think Tuukka and backup Anton Khudobin are capable enough to help Boston secure a top spot in the playoffs. Lets not forget, the season is only 47 games, which is like a sprint compared to the marathon an 80 game season can be. However, there will be a number of games played in a short span of time. That can have an effect on some teams. I think Rask possesses a couple of traits that all winning goalies possess; cat-like reflexes and that hunger to win. The other intangible Tuukka has going for him at this time is a good team in front of him. This team is capable of matching up with any team in the NHL. It has the scoring prowess with the likes of Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton, plus a defensive group that includes Zdano Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. 

   Come playoff time,  Rask and his teammates will have to hope they get through the season without any key injuries and are consistently winning games. If that's accomplished, then I think Tuukka can steal games and keep his team in games. All it takes is a "hot" goalie and I think #40 is just as capable of heating up and taking the Bruins to another shot to win a Stanley Cup.

  

All is Not Well in Los Angeles
by Keith Tocci                                                                                          Feb 22, 2013
Something is very amiss in Lakerland. Could it be that the Lakers are no longer the team that "owns" Los Angeles, as it has been surpassed by the Clippers? If their record is any indication, as well as their pathetic play so far this season (Lakers are 25-28), then the answer is yes. Now I know that the Lakers' franchise is that of a contender who has amassed multiple championships dating back to when they were located in Minneapolis. However, this Lakers squad unfortunately doesn't look like it has a remote chance of making it to the Finals this season, or any time soon. So what in the world could be going on with this team?
Midseason Awards for the Boston Celtics
by Rob Welch                                                                    Feb 18, 2013

Brockton, MA - As the Boston Celtics enter the All-Star break with a 28-24 record, they stand 7th in the Eastern Conference, only 2 ½ games behind fourth place Brooklyn. More importantly they are 2 ½ games away from having home court advantage in the first round. The C’s won’t have time to mess around, as they begin the unofficial second half of the season with a five-game west coast trip that will start in Denver and end in Utah. The Celts don’t have any cupcakes in between, because they’ll face the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, and the always entertaining matchup against the Lakers. The C’s will be on the road when the trade deadline passes, so there’s a chance Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls was the last in a Celtics uniform for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.


The trip to the west coast is very important, because the team struggled early in the season, meaning they can’t take any games lightly. Although their start was extremely slow, the Celts also have had win streaks of 6 and 7 games respectively, as well as winning 8 of 9 going into the break. Before the second half tips off, let’s hand out some mid-season awards for a team that will either be sellers or buyers at the deadline:

 

MVP  - Kevin Garnett (15.1 PPG 7.7 RPG 50% FG)

Garnett’s scoring is down, but his importance to this team is as high as it’s always been.  KG only has 6   games of 20 plus points this season, but in those games the C’s are 5-1. Garnett is a + 71 this season and it’s clear to see that when he’s off the court, the Celts defense takes a step back. If the Green hope to make another deep playoff run, Doc Rivers will need to find a way to limit KG’s minutes even more from the 30.3 he’s averaging this season. Hopefully, the team can continue its winning ways and Garnett can sit out the second game of back-to-backs, similar to what the veteran players do in San Antonio.

Runner-up - Paul Pierce

 

Least Valuable Player  - Brandon Bass (7.6 PPG 5.0 RPG 45% FG)

Bass’ play of late has given fans hope that he can turn his season around, but the fact is that he has been horrible during the first 3-plus months of the season. Bass came into the season with a new contract and was called upon to be the Celts starting power forward. His job was taken by rookie, Jared Sullinger, and the only reason Bass returned to the starting lineup was because the Celts lost Sullinger for the season to injury.

Bass puts up close to nothing in too many games and still doesn’t rebound enough. His one asset is his jump shot, something he has seemingly been afraid to use at times this season. If GM Danny Ainge can find any value in trading Bass, you have to believe Bass won‘t be a part of this team when they return home on March 1st.  Bass showed his potential in Wednesday’s win over Chicago, when he poured in 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.

Runner-up - Jason Terry

 

Rookie of the Year - Jared Sullinger (6.0 PPG 5.9 RPG 49% FG)

The Celts knew they were taking a chance with Sullinger when they drafted him in June. Back issues plagued the ex-Ohio State star, and he slowly fell down the draft board as a result. Sullinger did not disappoint this season, before he was lost for the season with a back injury. Sully averaged a team-high 2 offensive rebounds per game. He was slowly coming into his own, even getting a starting gig over Bass.

His willingness to get dirty in the paint made him a fan favorite in Boston. If he continues with that kind of work ethic, he should have a lengthy career in green and white. His game reminds me of an ex-Celtic, Danny Fortson, but maybe with a little more touch. Sullinger was robbed by not being selected to the Rookie/Sophomore game at All-Star weekend and was surely going to use the snub as added motivation before his injury.

Sullinger is supposed to be healthy and ready for camp in the fall.  A speedy recovery would be crucial in the Celtics’ effort to get younger.


Best Win - January 27th vs. Miami (100-98 2OT)

News broke during the game that Rajon Rondo was done for the season with a partial tear of his ACL. The Celts could have easily folded against the reigning NBA champs. Instead they fought for a crucial double-overtime win in Boston.  A late jumper by Paul Pierce sealed the deal for the Green and began a 7-game winning streak.

Runner-up - February 10th vs. Denver (118-114 3OT)


Worst Loss - January 20th at Detroit (103-88)

In a game that, thankfully, not many New Englanders watched because the New England Patriots were playing the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship, the C’s played a garbage game in Motown.  After the game, Rivers threatened immediate changes. Rivers was pretty much talking to the whole team, but Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Bass may have been the main culprits in Rivers’ rant.

Runner-up - December 30th at Sacramento (118-96)


Best Performance  - December 19th vs Cleveland

Paul Pierce (40 points 13-16 FG 8 rebounds 5 assists)

It’s one thing to put up 40 points by chucking up 25-30 questionable shots, but Pierce had his only 40-point game of the year on an efficient 13-of-16 from the floor, a shooting percentage of 81% for the game. Add the 8 rebounds and 5 dimes and it was great to see the Captain put on one of his vintage Garden performances that Celts fans have become accustomed to for the past 14 years.


Worst Performance - December 21st vs Milwaukee

Jason Terry (4 points 1-15 FG 1-9 3PT)

A disgusting game from Terry was the bottom of the barrel for the Celtics key signing of the off-season. The Celts suffered a 99-94 loss in a game where a few made-jumpers by Terry would have meant a victory for the Green. Losses like this could come back to hurt the Celts when playoff seeding comes around.


The San Francisco 49ers; Back on Top Again
by Keith Tocci                                                                    Feb 3, 2013

 Rapid City, SD - At the end of the 2011 season one thing was for sure; the San Francisco 49ers were once again considered an elite football team. Despite losing to the New York Giants in last season’s NFC Championship game, San Francisco proved that they were going to be a dominant team in the NFC. With a defense that made other teams receivers fear taking a bone crunching hit, as well as quarterbacks that feared the "Smith brother" pass rush. Click here to read the full story

Filling Rondo's Shoes
by Rob Welch
January 30, 2013
Brockton, MA - When news broke Sunday that Rajon Rondo would be lost for the season, many Celts fans mourned the loss like it was a death in their family. Rondo is the Celtics best player, without a doubt, and in his absence the Green will have a tough time adjusting without their best playmaker. But all is not lost with the C’s.

Is the NFL Actually Concerned About Player Safety?
by Mark Littlefield                                                                                    Jan. 24, 2013

The most critical play in Sunday’s AFC Championship game just happened to center around a topic bigger than the game itself: player safety.  When Stevan Ridley was knocked unconscious on a hit from Bernard Pollard, on what is one of the most debatable fumble calls in NFL history, did the refs and the league get it right?

As a lifelong fan of football and former official, I don’t understand how that play was ruled a fumble.  The picture used for the story clearly shows Ridley’s leg on the turf with the ball still in his possession and the ball doesn’t come out until his knee bounces off the ground and knocks the ball out of his hand.  According to NFL rules, “the ground cannot cause a fumble.”  Apparently it says nothing about your leg hitting the ground and then knocking the ball out of your possession.  Without sounding like a homer, I have two main arguments, even after replay review, as to why the play was ruled a fumble:

1. Between the Harbaugh Super Bowl and Ray Lewis’ final NFL game, there were far better storylines for the big game rather than another Patriots Super Bowl appearance.  Giving the Ravens the football on the New England side of the field with less than 12 minutes to play is an easy way to make that Harbaugh Bowl happen.
2. Apparently the requirements in the rulebook for being down by contact have changed.

Whatever happened to explaining the call on the field?  Head official Tony Correnti looked as if he had been threatened by the mafia when he came out and gave no explanation as to when and how Stevan Ridley lost possession of the football.  Instead he just said, “the ruling on the field is confirmed, it was a fumble.”  I say Bullshit.  You mean to tell me that even when a player maintains possession of the football after being knocked the eff out, you are still going to reward the opposing team for a violent and borderline illegal hit even though the runner didn’t actually fumble? (I believe the hit was clean, it was Ridley who lowered his head, it just happened to be that scumbucket Bernard Pollard who appeared as though he was injuring ANOTHER Patriot) As they say on ESPN, “C’MON MAN!”

It is somewhat bothersome to me, as both a Patriots fan and an advocate of player safety, that the officials and the league won’t admit that they are wrong in this case.  The truth is they could give a shit less about player safety.  The NFL is about to get a slap in the face from the Seau family as a wakeup reminder to how important player safety is. 

After filing suit against the NFL, the Seau family may finally be the one to knock some sense into the NFL braintrust (pun intended).  But what does the league care, they have the matchup that all of their sponsors and advertisers have dreamed about for years: two brothers trying to knock each other’s heads off in the biggest game of all. Maybe that is why the Ravens were rewarded with the football for their illegal hit; so the league can to continue to profit from another man’s head trauma.

One thing remains clear after all of this: the NFL could care less about player safety.

Foxboro, MA - The most critical play in Sunday’s AFC Championship game just happened to center around a topic bigger than the game itself: player safety.  When Stevan Ridley was knocked unconscious on a hit from Bernard Pollard, on what is one of the most debatable fumble calls in NFL history, did the refs and the league get it right? Or did the league have an agenda that overrode standard refereeing protocol to set up the Super Bowl matchup that they wanted?

 

As a lifelong fan of football and former official, I don’t understand how that play was ruled a fumble.  The picture used for the story clearly shows Ridley’s leg on the turf with the ball still in his possession and the ball doesn’t come out until his knee bounces off the ground and knocks the ball out of his hand.  According to NFL rules, “the ground cannot cause a fumble.”  Apparently it says nothing about your leg hitting the ground and then knocking the ball out of your possession.  Without sounding like a homer, I have two main arguments, even after replay review, as to why the play was ruled a fumble:

 

  1. Between the Harbaugh Super Bowl and Ray Lewis’ final NFL game, there were far better storylines for the big game rather than another Patriots Super Bowl appearance.  Giving the Ravens the football on the New England side of the field with less than 12 minutes to play is an easy way to make that Harbaugh Bowl happen.
  2. Apparently the requirements in the rulebook for being down by contact have changed.

 

Whatever happened to explaining the call on the field?  Head official Tony Correnti looked as if he had been threatened by the mafia when he came out and gave no explanation as to when and how Stevan Ridley lost possession of the football.  Instead he just said, “the ruling on the field is confirmed, it was a fumble.”  I say Bullshit.  You mean to tell me that even when a player maintains possession of the football after being knocked the eff out, you are still going to reward the opposing team for a violent and borderline illegal hit even though the runner didn’t actually fumble? (I believe the hit was clean, it was Ridley who lowered his head, it just happened to be that scumbucket Bernard Pollard who appeared as though he was injuring ANOTHER Patriot) As they say on ESPN, “C’MON MAN!”

 

It is somewhat bothersome to me, as both a Patriots fan and an advocate of player safety, that the officials and the league won’t admit that they are wrong in this case.  The truth is they could give a shit less about player safety.  The NFL is about to get a slap in the face from the Seau family as a wakeup reminder to how important player safety is.

 

After filing suit against the NFL, the Seau family may finally be the one to knock some sense into the NFL braintrust (pun intended).  But what does the league care, they have the matchup that all of their sponsors and advertisers have dreamed about for years: two brothers trying to knock each other’s heads off in the biggest game of all. Maybe that is why the Ravens were rewarded with the football for their illegal hit; so the league can to continue to profit from another man’s head trauma.

 

One thing remains clear after all of this: the NFL could care less about player safety.
New England Patriots Offseason Wish List
by Mark Littlefield
January 23, 2013


Foxboro, MA – Now that the offseason has arrived for most New England Patriots fans, it is time to prepare for another Super Bowl run next year.  After losing to Baltimore it is clear New England has to upgrade their roster to take the next step and here is the Krashing Into the Bigfield Patriots wish list:
 
1. A Playmaking Safety.  Dear Rodney Harrison, we miss you here in New England.  We long for a safety that has your big play ability (Game ending INT’s in AFC Championship vs. Indy, Super Bowl vs. Philly, don’t even mention ‘the catch,’ that was pure luck).  You were a fearless leader in the defensive secondary and you always played with a chip on your shoulder.  You always found a way to motivate your teammates and we are in desperate need of someone built in your mold back there.  Our secondary is so bad that we had to convert our best cover corner to a safety just to keep opponents out of our endzone.  A player like you would give us a lot of flexibility defensively and I was wondering if you would contemplate coming out of retirement?  Sincerely, a desperate Pats fan.

There are several ways for the Pats to go here.  There is a big name free agent down in Baltimore who would fit in very well in New England but Ed Reed’s loyalty to the Ravens would probably make him retire rather than playing for another NFL team and I don’t see him moving to Foxboro.  That leaves the draft or other free agents (Jairus Byrd or Dashon Goldson, anyone?) for the Pats to consider.

In all seriousness, it’s time to move on from Patrick Chung.  We shouldn’t waste our money on a player who, had he played the ball and not the man in the Super Bowl last year, lost us the Super Bowl for all intents and purposes.  You were drafted to be Harrison’s replacement but you have shown us how hard a guy like Rodney is hard to replace.  As one of my favorite television game show hosts would say, “Sorry Patrick Chung, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.”  
1. A Playmaking Safety.  Dear Rodney Harrison, we miss you here in New England.  We long for a safety that has your big play ability (Game ending INT’s in AFC Championship vs. Indy, Super Bowl vs. Philly, don’t even mention ‘the catch,’ that was pure luck).  You were a fearless leader in the defensive secondary and you always played with a chip on your shoulder.  You always found a way to motivate your teammates and we are in desperate need of someone built in your mold back there.  Our secondary is so bad that we had to convert our best cover corner to a safety just to keep opponents out of our endzone.  A player like you would give us a lot of flexibility defensively and I was wondering if you would contemplate coming out of retirement?  Sincerely, a desperate Pats fan.

There are several ways for the Pats to go here.  There is a big name free agent down in Baltimore who would fit in very well in New England but Ed Reed’s loyalty to the Ravens would probably make him retire rather than playing for another NFL team and I don’t see him moving to Foxboro.  That leaves the draft or other free agents (Jairus Byrd or Dashon Goldson, anyone?) for the Pats to consider.

In all seriousness, it’s time to move on from Patrick Chung.  We shouldn’t waste our money on a player who, had he played the ball and not the man in the Super Bowl last year, lost us the Super Bowl for all intents and purposes.  You were drafted to be Harrison’s replacement but you have shown us how hard a guy like Rodney is hard to replace.  As one of my favorite television game show hosts would say, “Sorry Patrick Chung, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.”  

  1. A Playmaking Safety.  Dear Rodney Harrison, we miss you here in New England.  We long for a safety that has your big play ability (Game ending INT’s in AFC Championship vs. Indy, Super Bowl vs. Philly, don’t even mention ‘the catch,’ that was pure luck).  You were a fearless leader in the defensive secondary and you always played with a chip on your shoulder.  You always found a way to motivate your teammates and we are in desperate need of someone built in your mold back there.  Our secondary is so bad that we had to convert our best cover corner to a safety just to keep opponents out of our endzone.  A player like you would give us a lot of flexibility defensively and I was wondering if you would contemplate coming out of retirement?  Sincerely, a desperate Pats fan.

 

There are several ways for the Pats to go here.  There is a big name free agent down in Baltimore who would fit in very well in New England but Ed Reed’s loyalty to the Ravens would probably make him retire rather than playing for another NFL team and I don’t see him moving to Foxboro.  That leaves the draft or other free agents (Jairus Byrd or Dashon Goldson, anyone?) for the Pats to consider.

 

In all seriousness, it’s time to move on from Patrick Chung.  We shouldn’t waste our money on a player who, had he played the ball and not the man in the Super Bowl last year, lost us the Super Bowl for all intents and purposes.  You were drafted to be Harrison’s replacement but you have shown us how hard it is to replace a guy like Rodney.  As one of my favorite television game show hosts would say, “Sorry Patrick Chung, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.”  


2. A lockdown cover corner.  See ya later Kyle Arrington, you won’t be missed. Same goes for you Ras-I Dowling.  It is no secret that the blueprint to beat the Pats is with a vertical passing attack. The acquisition of Aqib Talib showed how much a great cover corner improves the secondary but as soon as he tweaked his hamstring against the Ravens in the AFC Championship, Baltimore began their aerial assault and ended New England’s season soon after.  It is pretty obvious that Dowling can’t complete a walkthrough without getting hurt and Kyle Arrington couldn’t cover a paper cut with two band-aids.  Sometimes you have to cut your losses (Dowling) and let the dead weight walk out the door (Arrington).  The solution is simple, re-sign Talib and look to free agency for a certified cover corner instead of wasting your valuable commodities (draft picks) to draft a bust at cornerback in the second round.

With a weak crop of top free agents at this position (Leodis McKelvin, Chris Houston) the Patriots could be looking to find a steal in the draft and there just might be one available.  There is a former LSU standout who has fallen to the middle rounds because of off the field issues and I believe the honey badger, Tyrann Mathieu, is an NFL ready cornerback and might be the best solution to this problem.

3. The Next Wes Welker.  Or the real Wes Welker works just the same for me but with his impending free agency I don’t see Welker and the Patriots agreeing on a long term deal. This reminds me of a situation with former offensive lineman Damien Woody.  The Pro Bowl tackle left the Patriots for a much more lucrative deal with the Jets and was even told by Coach Belichick that he HAD  to take that contract because there was no way the Patriots could give Woody that type of compensation for his talents.  I can see Belichick having a similar conversation with Welker unless Tom Brady has something to say about it. Speaking of Damien Woody…

4. A Dynamic Punt and Kick Returner.  Anyone who watched New England play without Julian Edelman will tell you how much the special teams suffered without him.  As an unrestricted free agent Edelman will have to make his own decision regarding his future and I’m sure other teams have noticed what Edelman can do. The kid is a football player, plain and simple.  Once Edelman went down, Wes Welker assumed the punt return duties and it is debatable what kind of toll it took on his body during the course of a game.  The Patriots won Super Bowls with Bethel Johnson as their return man and in order to return to the big game it will take an explosive return man to get the job done.  Addressing my solutions to the first three items on this list might give you the answer to this problem.

5.  A versatile offensive lineman.  The Patriots have three free agents on the offensive line (Sebastian Vollmer, Donald Thomas and Jamey Richard) and with Logan Mankins on the wrong side of 30 by NFL standards (Mankins will be 31 in March) it is time for New England to consider adding some depth on their O-line.

 

Bill Belichick can address this in free agency but I feel he is better suited to build through the draft.  Considering his ties to Nick Saban there are a couple of elite O-line talents coming out of Alabama that will probably go off the board in the first round, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones.  Warmack will most likely be off the board by the time the Pats pick but Jones is an interesting prospect.  He has won three national titles during his time with the Crimson Tide while collecting some personal hardware along the way.

 

Jones won the Outland Trophy, an award for best offensive lineman in college football, in 2011 and followed that up by winning the Remington Award as the best center in college in 2012.  A player as decorated and versatile as Barrett Jones is a perfect fit for the Patriots, on and off the field.  Jones received his bachelors degree in 2011 with a 4.0 GPA and earned his Masters Degree a year later, again with a 4.0 GPA.  Few players come into the league with a “can’t miss” label but in Jones' case it is a fair assessment.  After playing through the national title game with an injury and owning one of the top defensive prospects, Louis Nix III, Jones showed me has what it takes to play with the big boys.  It will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick feels the same way if Jones is there on draft day. 


Follow Mark Littlefield on Twitter: @MCLittlefield


Celtics should take a chance on Greg Oden
by Rob Welch                                                                  Jan 20, 2013

Brockton, MA - The Boston Celtics have certainly had a number of big-men on their bench in the past five years that haven’t exactly made a case for their jerseys to be raised to the rafters at the TD Garden. Patrick O’Bryant, Mikki Moore, Ryan Hollins, Darko Milicic, and Shelden Williams are just some of the names that have kept their warm-ups on at the end of the C’s bench. With Chris Wilcox battling injury and the likeliness of Jason Collins only spending one year in Boston, it’s the ideal time for the Celtics to take a flyer on former 1st overall pick, Greg Oden. Reports have surfaced that Oden would like to sign with a team this season, with the plan of coming back at full strength for the 2013-2014 season. Click here to read more
The Successes & Failures of College Coaches in the NFL
by Keith Tocci                                                                                                                                                                                              Jan 19, 2013                                              
Rapid City, SD - Its official, the Philadelphia Eagles have found the successor to Andy Reid, and his name is Chip Kelly. After it was reported by ESPN on January 6 that Kelly wasn't comfortable leaving the college ranks in pursuit of an NFL career and would stay with the school, there was doubt if he would land in Philly. As the Head Coach of the Oregon Ducks, Kelly led his team to the BCS Bowl game in all 4 seasons he coached there(2-2 record in those games). His overall record while at the school is an impressive 46-7. The knock on Chip is that he has no prior NFL coaching experience. With that in mind, here is my list of 6 other college coaches who took the leap, 3 who failed in the NFL and 3 who rose to the top. Click here to read more

The Worst Thing That Happened to Lance Armstrong

By Mark Littlefield                                                             Jan 17, 2013

 

Before we judge Lance Armstrong, can you think back to the moment where we achieved something unbelievable.  So unbelievable, you believe you can accomplish anything?  For that reason, I’ll say Lance Armstrong beating Cancer was the worst thing to ever happen to Lance.


  To me, this story is all about philosophy in many ways.  Lance forged his mind into believing anything was possible but somewhere along the line he inserted, “no matter what,” into that mindset.  After overcoming cancer, Lance found himself with an incredibly strong power of will and it is a shame that he used that power to bully and manipulate almost every situation that made him who he is today: an embarrassment to his sport.


  It is one thing to cheat, but ruining peoples’ lives is a whole different arena.  Armstrong was willing to win at any cost, because of his incredible will power, and he ruined a lot of other people in the process in what is in many ways a team sport.  After reading Tyler Hamilton and Dan Coyle’s, The Secret Race, I have a better understanding of who Lance Armstrong really is.


  After reading the book I now know that Lance played a variety of roles during his 7-year run as Tour De France champion, but none of those was that of a hero.  More like the villain if you ask me.  Tyler Hamilton spilled his guts on the entire topic and I soaked up all of the details like a sponge. Among those many roles was the rat, the cheat, the bully and the manipulator.  I will share an excerpt that sums up all of those roles wrapped into one.  We’ll call it Lance being Lance:

 

     “I rode up next to Lance. Together again, a few inches apart. He could see I was pissed, so he opened his mouth to say something. He didn’t get far. Shut the *** up Lance, you piece of ****. I know you, I know what you did. I know you’ve been ratting me out, talking shit about our team. Worry about yourself, because we’re going to ******* kill you.  Lance’s eyes got wide.  “It’s not true. I never said a word. Who told you that. Who?”

- - Never mind who said it, you know it’s true.”

 

  This was Hamilton’s response after hearing from Floyd Landis, who is not so crazy after all, that Lance was ratting on Hamilton to cycling’s governing body, the UCI.  In many ways, this one passage says everything we need to know about Lance.


  He was okay with cheating to win but when someone else who was cheating outperformed Lance, he would just run to the UCI and suggest that they were cheating.  Lance was consumed by winning at any cost and in the end it amounted to him being the most selfish and controlling athlete of his time. The one thing I can say is that Armstrong admitted to all of the above and seemed remorseful during his time on his interview with Oprah, but that doesn’t change the past.


 Armstrong will be responsible for paying many people for his cycling sins from Team Postal to Livestrong and his iconic image will be forever stained because of his incredible will power; a power forged by the cancer that he defeated.


Maybe beating cancer was the worst thing to happen to Lance…

Is Avery Bradley Responsible For Celtics Inspired Play?

By Rob Welch                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Jan 16, 2013


Brockton, MA - We all knew Avery Bradley was valuable. But were we really sure he was this valuable? Since Avery Bradley has come back, the Celtics are 6-1 and playing their best basketball of the season. It’s no coincidence that Bradley’s return has influenced this team on the defensive end as his play is superior to anyone on the team. The fact is that Bradley should get considered for NBA All-Defensive Team this season. If Rajon Rondo can make the All-Defensive team two years in a row, then there is no reason Bradley shouldn't receive the honor.

Click here to read more

Say hello to the "bad guys"
by Kevin R Tocci                                                                                                                                                                                                      Jan 15, 2013
 Boston, MA - Call it what you will, but next Sunday night's AFC Championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium is already shaping up to be a classic duel between good and evil. The Patriots had barely put the finishing touches on their Divisional round victory over the Houston Texans, when word began circulating about Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo remarks on Twitter. It's only fitting that this has happened, as there's been quite a rivalry and competitiveness between these two teams that seems to spark the negative comments.

   Ayanbadejo, a three-time Pro Bowler, couldn't wait to trash the Patriots hurry-up offense, their involvement in Spy Gate and New England's failed attempt to go undefeated in 2007. Source say he was tweeting as the game was winding down. I have one question; why would you want to provoke the same team that defeated you during last year's AFC Championship game?  He has since apologized, but the damage might have already been done. New England is no stranger to using bulletin board material to motivate and unite them as a team against an opponent, especially under Bill Belichick. It'll be interesting to hear the post game comments from Patriot players to see if Ayanbadejo's tweets fueled their play on the field.

  But then again, this is nothing for new for Baltimore right? There's the ongoing dialogue that Terrell Suggs has a had regarding Tom Brady. The outspoken linebacker has openly commented about Brady's involvement with creating the tuck rule, questioned the validity of the Patriots three Super Bowl wins and criticized New England's videotaping of other team's practices. When asked what provokes such harsh criticism of Brady, Ayanbadejo points to an October 2009 game between the two teams that he was flagged twice for roughing the quarterback. He reportedly has said that he is no longer has animosity towards Brady from that game, but that too could be short lived.

  What about the Ravens leadership, like Ray Lewis? I would think a guy, who is counting the dwindling number of snaps that he'll be lined up for, could reign in his teammates for possibly the last game or two of his career. In the past, Ray hasn't been shy to engage in verbal battle, especially when it comes to New England. As a matter of fact, he shared some choice words with Suggs about the Patriots offense, despite losing in overtime 23-20. Lewis may be seen by some as an inspirational leader by his play on the gridiron, but I honestly think there have been times that he's shirked his duties and not truly led by example.

  When you look at the Patriots, you almost never hear players making negative remarks about other teams or someone on their roster. I think it's almost a reflex for a guy like Brady, Jerod Mayo or Vince Wilfork to deflect a comment from an opponent and not respond. But that's Belichick and his staff coaching them up to be professionals. Again, I don't know who will win, but in this match up it's too easy to root for the team that uses its head and does its talking on the field and not a group of player who run their mouths up until the kickoff then whine when the scoreboard isn't in their favor.

Have a comment on this article? Send an email to kevintocci@gmail.com or follow Kevin Tocci on Twitter: kevintocci
It Doesn't Pay To Cheat 
by Kevin R Tocci                                                                                                   Jan 12, 2013

 Boston, MA - Life always finds a way of evening things up. Sure, there are those who get more than they should, but there's no real way of knowing how much. There are those who know how to harness their abilities with practice and hard work. Then there are those with the gift to play professional sports, who get greedy and find that something to be above and beyond their peers. I think everyone wants to find an edge to be that much better, some just don't care what it takes, even if it means putting it into their body illegally. This is called cheating. What's worst, it's done for financial gain or to break and set records. However long it may take, cheaters are eventually exposed and made example of. 

  This week, the MLB Hall of Fame revealed results to induct new members, but didn't deem any of the candidates worthy. Barry Bonds, who not only broke records for homeruns during a season and overall and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens were each eligible and top of the class, but were not gain enough votes because both are long suspected of using steroids. Also considered by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was Mark McGuire (2nd year) and Sammy Sosa. McGuire received 16% of the vote, while Sosa only garnered 12%. Will any of these guys ever get enough votes? Who knows. If not, it could effect a whole generation of baseball players, who may be innocent victims or just as guilt as those already accused. What it has done is generated a response from MLB to do in season testing, which will weed out anyone who may be tempted by using performance-enhancing drugs. 

  Let's not forget another well known athlete who is now being labeled a cheater; Lance Armstrong. Here's a guy who I enjoyed following during his run of seven consecutive Tour de Frances victories. Here's a guy who had what seemed to be a terrific story when he overcame testicular cancer to repeatedly win cycling's most prestigious race.  He was amazing to watch when it came to methodically maintaining his hold on the yellow jersey, racing the time trials or pulling away from another cyclist during a climb in the Pyrenees. He had his fans, but Armstrong also had those who openly speculated that he was enhancing his performances.  It wasn't until 2012, that the US Anti-Doping Agency charged him with using illicit PEDs and banned him from competing and stripped him of all titles. Since 1886, the sport has had its issues suspecting riders of using drugs or accused of doping to win races. Armstrong now joins other disgraced American riders like Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist Tyler Hamilton, who was suspended in 2005 for 2 years for blood doping, for have left a negative mark on that sport.  

  Some may worry about the type of examples that are our athletes are setting for our children, but if life has taught us anything, there's always a lesson learned when we make mistakes, especially if you're a cheater.

Have a comment on this article? Send an email to kevintocci@gmail.com or follow Kevin Tocci on Twitter: kevintocci

Brady vs. Manning; One Last Dance
by Keith Tocci                                                                                                     Jan. 5, 2013

With the NFL playoffs right around the corner, I cant help but hope for one more showdown between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. These two quintessential quarterbacks epitomize greatness. When these two players are on the field, anything is possible. The anticipation of each play literally draws you in, as you find yourself sitting on the edge of your chair. Each player leading his team blow for blow with the other, with each game seeming to get somehow better than the previous. I think the real question is, who wouldn't want to see two of the greatest of all time go head to head for an AFC crown, and the chance to add to their legacies? 

NFC Playoff Preview
by Mark Littlefield                                                                                                                                                                                        Jan. 5 2013


NFC Wild Card Round:

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

 The Packers were in the position where they could control their own destiny, essentially choosing who they were going to play depending on the outcome of their game against the Vikings last Sunday. Win and they would face a tough Chicago Bears defense. Lose and they draw the One-Man Circus that is Adrian Peterson. Which would you rather face? I’d take my chances against Christian Ponder rather than Jay Cutler and that is just what the Packers did by throwing, I mean losing, their game against the Vikings.


Prediction: The Packers want to get back to the big game and if they stop Adrian Peterson in this one the Vikings are in trouble. I don’t see this one being that close as the Pack moves one step closer to the Super Bowl.

Packers over Vikings, 34-20


Seattle at Washington

In a matchup of rookie quarterbacks you have to like the home team. Both teams are HOT, with Seattle winning five in a row, but Washington is HOTTER, winning seven in a row. Based on that alone I’m going to make my prediction that the hotter team wins.

Washington over Seattle 29-19


NFC Divisional Round:

#4 Washington Redskins at #1 Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons offense will be more than either the Redskins or Seahawks can handle especially considering that a rookie quarterback, no matter who it is, will have to travel to Hotlanta and take on the dirty birds.  Generally rookie quarterbacks don’t play well on the road in the playoffs and even if second year quarterback Christian Ponder, who is virtually a rookie, somehow guides the Vikes over the Packers I don’t see any of these guys beating the Falcons.


Prediction: Atlanta moves on easily, regardless of who they play.  The Falcons will have their hands full when they have play a team that can score and that WILL happen in the NFC Championship game.  

Falcons over Redskins 34-20


#3 Green Bay Packers at #2 San Francisco 49ers

The important thing to remember in this one is that Aaron Rodgers, a bay area native, was passed on by the San Francisco 49ers on draft day in 2005 when the Niners chose to draft current backup, Alex Smith with the number one pick, despite Rodgers being widely considered the best quarterback available.  Aaron Rodgers fell to pick 24 and has brought the Packers back to prominence since, while it has been Jim Harbaugh, not Alex Smith, who has brought the Niners back to the big stage.  The funny thing is that current Niners starter, Colin Kaepernick, grew up in Wisconsin wanting to be a Packer.  He will have to beat a bay area kid who wanted to be the quarterback for 49ers. Interesting little situation we have here.

 

Having said that, I believe there is a big fire in Aaron Rodgers belly; a fire that still burns to prove the mistake the 49ers made on draft day.  The Packers will be very motivated to travel to the Golden State and throw a beating to the Niners.


Prediction: The Packers go to San Francisco and upset one of the best defenses in football.  Aaron Rodgers puts on his championship belt several times in this one, reminding everyone in attendance what COULD HAVE BEEN. 

Packers over 49ers, 33-23


NFC Championship:

#3 Green Bay Packers at #1 Atlanta Falcons

Finally, a team that can keep up with Atlanta, and they won’t even have to worry about the terrible weather in Green Bay.  Normally, I give the advantage to the home team, especially in January.  But when the opponent will get to escape their natural practice conditions, in this case the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay, I believe the Packers will benefit from traveling and playing indoors.

Sure, Atlanta has a great offense, but will their defense be able to slow down a Packers team that appears to be hitting their stride and getting healthy at the right time? I say no. 


Prediction:  Green Bay wins on the road for the second time to set up their second trip to the Super Bowl in three years.  This game will be a grind all the way but should be exciting cause their will be a lot of points on the board. 

Packers over Falcons, 34-31


Follow Mark Littlefield on Twitter: @MCLittlefield

AFC Playoff Preview
by Mark Littlefield                                                                                           Jan 4, 2013


  It’s that time of year NFL fans; the time of year when we separate the men from the boys.  The time of year when defense wins championships.  The time of year when anyone who knows anything about football makes their prediction on who will play in the Super Bowl and here is my version, starting with the Wild Card Round. 

 

AFC Wild Card Round:

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

 This is an interesting matchup for several reasons.  If you asked me a month ago what I thought about this matchup I would have said that Houston will win easily, as they were the #1 seed and cruising to a bye in the first round of the playoffs.  That plane was shot down in a battle at Gillette Stadium against the Patriots when the defending AFC Champs throttled the Texans 42-14.


 Over the last month Houston has gone from Contender to Pretender.  Matt Schaub has regressed as it looked like he peaked in November and that is not when you want to peak.  Schaub has just one touchdown in the last month, ONE.  That one touchdown came in a victory over Indianapolis on December 16, but the Texans have lost both games since as their quarterback has failed to find the endzone.  Coincidence, I think not.


 The Texans will have to get their passing game going in a rematch of last year’s AFC Wild Card matchup, a game the Texans won 31-10.  With Benjarvis Green-Ellis in doubt for the rematch it looks as though Cincinnati will also be airing it out.  This formula didn’t work out well for the Bengals last year as quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in the loss to the Texans, but that was a rookie quarterback in his first playoff game.

I’m sure the Bengals are aware that it has been 21 years since their last playoff win and when you combine that with their terrible road record in the playoffs (0-5) it appears as though the odds are stacked against the Bengals.  That is motivation for a team coming off a big win against another playoff team as the Bengals defeated Baltimore on Sunday to set up this matchup with the Texans.

 

 Prediction: I believe the Bengals avenge last year’s loss and push the Texans off the cliff that they have been hanging from for the last month.  It should be a great matchup but I think Cincinnati is the better coached and more motivated team in this one.

Bengals over Texans, 27-23

 

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

 What a great story it has been for the Colts. It started with Head Coach Chuck Pagano being diagnosed with and then beating cancer and returning to the sidelines where his rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, has broken several of Peyton Manning’s rookie records while guiding last year’s worst team to the playoffs in his first year under center.

Unfortunately, that story will most likely come to an end in Baltimore on Sunday.  There is a guy on the other sidelines who is a master motivator and he has played a trump card this week.  By announcing that he will be retiring at the end of the season, Ray Lewis will have the fans at M&T Bank Stadium on their feet to the final whistle after he comes flying out of the tunnel like only Ray Lewis can. 


 It is hard enough for a rookie quarterback to go on the road and win a playoff game, just ask Andy Dalton, nevermind when the most legendary player in franchise history has announced that this COULD BE his last game, but it won’t be.   It is an excellent play by Lewis to use the retirement card as his team will need to play at a very high level to upend the upstart Colts.

 

 Prediction:  The Ravens turn Baltimore into Blowout City as the Colts won’t be able to overcome the crowd as head gladiator, I mean middle linebacker, Ray Lewis lives to play another week.

Ravens over Colts, 23-13


AFC Divisional Round:

#1 Denver Broncos vs. #6 Cincinnati Bengals

 After Peyton Manning is handed another undeserving MVP trophy he will lead his Broncos into a battle where they will have homefield advantage.  Denver is the only team in the NFL with a true homefield advantage, despite what the fans in Seattle have to say about it.  The Broncos play at Mile High Stadium, where oxygen is a factor for teams not familiar with the high altitude. 

 

Denver has only lost once at home this year and they haven’t lost in 11 games.


Prediction: Better make it 12 straight games as the Broncos move on to the AFC Championship.

 

#2 New England Patriots vs. #4 Baltimore Ravens

 A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game in the divisional round would put the Patriots against one of the teams they lost to earlier in the season in Baltimore.  Baltimore has all the motivation they need as a missed field goal at the end of the last AFC Championship game cost the Ravens a trip to the Super Bowl.


 Unfortunately for the Ravens their team will look a lot different from the one that defeated the Patriots earlier in the season and the one that pushed them to the brink a year ago.  If Baltimore gets by Indy it will be interesting to see what kind of shape they are in as Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are already playing with nagging injuries.  


 Meanwhile the Patriots are getting healthy at the right time.

New England will have a healthy Rob Gronkowski back in an offense that will feature both of their elite tight ends.  Whoever New England faces will have their hands full as Josh McDaniels will have the full playbook at his disposal.


Prediction: New England over Baltimore (or whoever they will face)

 

AFC Championship: 

#2 New England Patriots at #1 Denver Broncos.

 What a fitting matchup for the AFC Championship:  Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, another one for the record books.  Unfortunately, I can’t respect the Broncos weak schedule and I like to think the fact that Denver played Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego twice has a lot to do with them having home field advantage.  Not like Miami, Buffalo and New York Jets are much better but the Pats drew the best division in football, the NFC West, as their NFC divisional opponent going 1-3 in those games (and nearly losing to the Rams as well) while the Broncos went 3-1 in their matchups against NFC South opponents.


This one would be a classic and there is a likely chance that this is the matchup we see on January 20th.


Prediction: Denver's easy schedule finally catches up with them and the NFL MVP fails to make it to the Super Bowl AGAIN as Tom Brady takes his team to a sixth Super Bowl in 11 years, New England over Denver.


Stay tuned for Tomorrow's NFC Playoff Preview...


Follow Mark Littlefield on Twitter: @MCLittlefield


Top 5 Celtics Moments of 2012 
by Rob Welch                                                                                                  Dec. 28, 2012

Boston, MA - The year 2012 was a memorable one for the Boston Celtics. A quarter away from making their third trip to the NBA finals in five years, the C’s gave their faithful a lot to cheer about and a lot to complain about.  Now, as the New Year is among us, let’s look back at the positive that the Celtics gave to the diehards. Here is my top 5 most memorable moments from your 2012 Boston Celtics...


Click here to read more...


West Coast Appeal
by Kevin R Tocci                                                                                             Dec. 26, 2012

Los Angeles, CA - Funny how times have changed, especially when athletes from various sports jump at the chance to play for a west coast team instead of in New York or Boston. The days of wooing a big named player to the east coast appears to be diminishing with the number of lucrative contract being offered. I mean, what really draws these athletes to the "Sunshine" state. Is it the climate or the culture? Is it the chance to see a big star like Jack Nicholson in the stands or the opportunity to play for a prestigious team that's capable of winning it all? I think it's all of the above, but it's not a new concept either.

 

    One could point to the 1988 trade of Wayne Gretzky, who went from the Edmonton Oilers to the LA Kings as the start to the trend. Some would say that “The Great One" helped to stimulate the interest in the sport of hockey in that city. Let's not forget David Beckham. Here's another athlete, who left his home country (England) in 2007 to play for a Major League Soccer team known as the LA Galaxy. Some think he was lured by the 5-year, $32 million contract and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Then again, maybe his wife, Posh Spice had something to do with the final decision.

 

   The Clippers and Lakers were each successful in luring Chris Paul aka CP3 (Clippers), Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to their respective clubs. Sure CP3 was acquired in a trade via the New Orleans Hornets, but the All-Star guard had his preference as to where he was willing to go. Paul was nearly a teammate of Kobe Bryant's until the league nullified the trade. Then there's Howard, who had a short list of his own and LA was right at the top.

 

  The key part to my observation occurred the past two years during Major League Baseball's free agency period when the Angels and Dodgers swooped in and secured some of the top names available like first baseman Albert Pujols (Angels, 2011), pitcher C.J. Wilson (Angels, 2011), Zachary Grienke (Dodgers, 2012) and outfielder Josh Hamilton (Angels, 2012). Each of these players secured large contracts, and neither the New York nor Boston were part of the conversation.

 

   Watching two teams like Boston and New York flounder the past few years when it comes to signing big names, one has to wonder if this is the end of an era for these two franchises when it comes to large or long term contracts. Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees were players when it came to players like Hamilton or Grienke. Sure Boston was rumored to have chatted with Hamilton, but that was after they had already signed outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino.

 

   When I look at both LA Dodgers and LA Angels at this moment, I have to ask; is it really going to be worth it in the end for either of these clubs? Will we see an all Los Angeles world series next November? Anything is possible, but I'll close out this article with a couple of final observations. Since coming to America, Beckham has helped the Galaxy win the MLS Cup twice. The Clippers are currently one of the top teams in the west, while the Lakers continue to struggle for an identity. Meanwhile, the jury is still out for the two LA clubs until next fall. But I'll be curious to see how much they'll spend before they either win a pennant or realize that it's not as simple as buying a championship.


Niners present interesting challenge for the Patriots

by Mark Littlefield                                                                                           Dec. 15, 2012


 Foxboro, MA – With the NFC conference runners-up coming to town this weekend, the New England Patriots will have their hands full on Sunday Night Football.  The 49ers defensive roster resembles that of one team the Patriots have struggled with in the past, the New York Giants, and it will be interesting to see how Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady will attack the Niners.

  

  If one team has given the blueprint on how to beat New England, it’s the Giants, as their two Super Bowl victories over the Pats are solid evidence of that.  That game plan is somewhat basic: send your four best defensive linemen after the quarterback and hope they force the quarterback into making a quick decision while the seven other defensive players run a complicated zone coverage scheme. 


  The Giants have the personnel to get after the quarterback as Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Matthias Kiawanuka have all made offensive linemen look foolish during their careers, while allowing the linebackers and secondary to roam in coverage.  Jim Harbaugh is no dummy and I expect his 49ers to bring a similar game plan for the primetime affair on NBC.


  San Francisco’s front four is downright dirty (I mean that in the most complimentary way, of course), as they have a plethora of playmakers.  While the Smith brothers, (I know they’re not really brothers, but it sounds cool) look like they are heading to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl, it is the guys around them that make their trip possible.

Aldon Smith leads the NFL in sacks (19.5) and will probably break Michael Strahan’s single season record (22.5).  He can thank his lucky stars that he has Justin Smith on the other end to draw double coverage while Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean-Francois wreak havoc on the interior of the line.  I can see the Patriots offensive line struggling if Brady doesn’t get rid of the ball quickly in passing situations.


 The Niners linebacking corps is a unit that gets after it with future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis leading the way.   

Willis’ was given some flexibility with the arrival of Navorro Bowman in 2010 and since emerging as a starter Bowman provides the Niners D with a powerful 1-2 punch in the heart of the defense.

As we all know in New England defense wins championships and the Patriots are going up against a championship caliber defense.  If Harbaugh can follow the Giants blueprint and use his talent effectively, they might just be able to upset the Patriots.  But the real question is whether the Patriots offense has fixed the flaws in that blueprint…?


Patriots vs Texans; A Prime Time battle for AFC Supremacy

By Kevin R Tocci                                                                                                                                                              Dec. 8, 2012

 

 Foxboro, MA – I remember seeing that many of the experts were picking Houston Texans to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and could not wait for the New England Patriots to meet them during the regular season. That game WILL happen Monday night in Foxboro and you might as well call it a preview to the AFC Championship game on January 20, 2013.

    

   This is going to be an epic battle of two playoff bound teams; one with something to prove, the other hoping it still has what it takes when it comes to winning the “big game.”  Houston is meeting a Patriots team that is tough to beat at home and during the month of December. However, the Texans have key players on both sides of the ball that could change the outcome of the game.  Quarterback Matt Schaub has key weapons like RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson to lean on to put points on the board, while JJ Watt is a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to sacking the opposing team’s quarterback or swatting down passes.  The Texans are second in the AFC when it comes to a key stat: turnover differential, with a plus 14.

  

   Let’s not forget the strengths the Patriots possess in QB Tom Brady, second year running back Stevan Ridley and a receiving corps that has Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Meanwhile, Vince Wilfork is leading a defense that has the ability to create turnovers (2nd in the NFL with 33 take-aways) and have a league best plus 24 take-away, give-away differential. Houston has the fifth best offense as well as a top-notch defense that’s second in the league when it comes to stopping the run (87.6 yards per game). The Patriots aren’t slouches either, as they rank first in the NFL for team offense, yards and points scored per game. So now that it’s clear that each team possesses strengths, how about any apparent weaknesses? New England’s pass defense has been better in past weeks, but still ranks 28th when it comes to passing yards allowed (3,359 yards). The Texans have a better passing defense, but not by much.

   

   The game will come down to how each team optimizes ball control and each scoring drive it gets. The Patriots cannot afford to settle for field goals, not just because Stephen Gostkowski has lost his kicking “Mo-Jo.” Houston is a team that is just as formidable at using its secondary targets like tightend Owen Daniels and RB Justin Forsett to generate yards. It’ll be interesting to see how Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels uses newly signed WR Donte Stallworth, who was brought in to replace injured punt returner/receiver Julian Edelman.   New England will have to work to keep a balanced attack, despite the Texans ability to shut down the run. Houston may have given up 354 passing yards to Jacksonville’s QB Chad Henne and 441 yards to Detroit’s Matt Stafford, but still won both games. The Pats will have to hope that defensive back Aqib Talik can somehow contain Johnson and not give up big chunks of yards or return trips to the end zone.

   

  So here’s the prediction; the Patriots will win a close 27-24 game that will not only be a grind for both teams, but will be a nail biter up until the closing moments.  


Follow Kevin on Twitter: @kevintocci or email: kevintocci@gmail.com

Boston Red Sox offseason $$ well spent??

by Mark Littlefield                                                                                              Dec. 7, 2012

 Boston, MA - Alright Red Sox Nation, I’ve had enough. As I drove around yesterday I was hoping to hear about the upcoming Monday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and Houstan Texans, but all of you diehard baseball fans kept calling into the local talk radio stations to ruin it with boring BoSox talk.


    These losers finished with the worst record in the American League East with a 69-93 record, their worst finish since 1966, as they were the third worst team in the AL despite having the third highest payroll to begin the season.  What is there to care about again?

The Red Sox went out and spent 13 million a year on Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to get their hot stove season going.  All these moves make me wonder how much I’m worth on the open market in Major League Baseball, if Napoli (a career .269 hitter) and Victorino (career .275 hitter, who hasn’t had an all around great season since 2009) are worth $13 million a year.

 

     I’m so disgusted by this that I just threw up in my mouth. Just a little though, the full fledged hugging of the toilet bowl won’t begin until next April if these are the top notch moves that I have to look forward to.  Oh, how could I forget about Jonny Gomes. Gomes will be earning $5 million a year over the next two years to be a platoon outfielder at best. That’s more money than Jason Varitek, the only player to have ever caught 4 no hitters, made in his last two year deal where his efforts will probably be more productive than Gomes over the next two seasons. To be completely honest, I’m getting frustrated with General Manager Ben Cherington.  I’ve hated the ownership group for years, but at least when Theo Epstein ran the show you knew he was calling the shots.  Cherington seems to be more of a puppet than a GM, as you have to question the validity of these deals. Were they done based on merit or to appease a fan base dying for a winner again?  I’m going with the latter on that one.


  If the ownership group is serious about going after another World Series they are wasting their money on the guys they have gone after. I would have rather seen them spend that same $26 million on Felix Hernandez, a pitcher who brings All-Star or MVP type of potential.  Spend 26 million on Josh Hamiliton, an outfielder who truly brings a big stick that ensures 35 home runs and 100 RBI’s a year. Not to mention that he is a former MVP.  Anything other than the two guys that they overpaid for.


   I’m sitting here purposely listening to “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z because at least every Yankees fan knows there organization is committed to winning.  I’m wondering what the hell the Red Sox are committed to after these signings. Wasting money?

I understand that the Sox are afraid of long-term deals after being burned by Crawford and Gonzalez but that’s on ownership and management. Don’t disappoint the fans because you mismanaged the present and are now going to cost us the future by overpaying in the short term because you’re afraid of the long term.

Bringing this back to football, I’m going to leave this column with one of my favorite NFL coaching quotes because this is how I truly feel about these signings.  Mike Singletary once said, “I’m from the old school and this is what I believe…I want winners. I want people who want to win.”  I hear ya, Mike, I want winners too.


  So back to what I was saying, the Patriots are 9-3 and AFC East Champions AGAIN.  I’m going to pay attention to the team that is clearly committed to winning and preparing for another playoff run, rather than sit here and waste my time on an organization and ownership group that is clearly lost.

I know they can’t hear me but here it goes;  Hey John, Tom, Larry and Ben (not sure if Ben is even relevant in this but he IS the GM after all), I WANT WINNERS!  


Follow Mark on Twitter: @TheMLittlefield

by Mark Littlefield


Foxboro, MA – The New England Patriots have a long, tough road ahead of them as they play two of the top teams in the NFL in the month of December, as this team is preparing to make another playoff run. But if history is any indication, is there another Super Bowl in the cards for Tom Brady and company? Click here for more...

               

   

The Boston Red Sox must make an offseason splash

By Kevin R. Tocci

 

 

 Boston, MA. - It wasn’t too long ago when the Boston Red Sox would make bold offseason moves to trade or sign a big-named player that would stock the team with an arm for the bullpen or a bat to boost the lineup.  Such moves would usually excite a ball club’s fan base right up until players begin reporting for spring training.   

 

   Actually, it was just two years ago that the Sox traded a group of minor league players to the San Diego Padres to acquire slugger Adrian Gonzalez.  Boston traded outfielder Reymond Fuentes, right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, outfielder/second baseman Eric Patterson and first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the All-Star first baseman. While he still had one year remaining on his contract ($6.2 million), the Sox gave Gonzalez a seven-year, $154 million extension in the spring of 2011.  

 

  Days after trading for Gonzalez, the Sox announced that they had signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal.  The signing was one of Boston’s biggest offseason scores since luring Manny Ramirez away from the Cleveland Indians for eight-years, $160 million back in 2000.

 

  What appeared to be two great moves to improve the team, became the beginning of the end for the Red Sox. The 2011 season saw the team get off to a miserable 2-10 start and then finish the month of September with a 7-19 record. Gonzalez, despite a slight midseason homerun drought, had good numbers (.338 27 HR 117 RBI .410 OBP), while Crawford struggled at the start the season, finishing a career low in batting average and a drop in stolen bases. The collapse in the final month of the season killed the Sox playoff hopes and led to the firing of manager Terry Francona.

 

 This past season, the team struggled to stay above .500 under then manager Bobby Valentine, who led the team to a 69-93 record. The big story of the season wasn’t the team’s unwillingness to play for Valentine, or the trade of 1B-3B Kevin Youkilis, but the Sox major salary dump in August.  Boston jettisoned both Gonzalez and Crawford, along with troublesome starting pitcher Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for first baseman James Loney and a group of pitching prospects. The trade saved the Sox $261 million in salary, but depleted the roster of talent.

 

  So how does this relate to this particular offseason?  There’s an obvious difference in styles when comparing former general manager Theo Epstein to current GM Ben Cherington.  Under Epstein, the brain trust of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Luccino seemed willing to chase and be in the running for key free agents, even if they were eventually outbid. Once Epstein fled Fenway for the Chicago Cubs front office, so did the desire to bid for top talent. 

 

   While it’s still too earlier to judge Cherington’s tenure as GM, this offseason is where he’ll have to make his mark on this team. Last year at this time, the Sox had just installed Cherington, who had the tall task of replacing Francona and then attempt to sign free agents. 

 

  Sure there were some good signings like outfielder Cody Ross and shortstop Mike Aviles, but there were some questionable moves too. One example would be the decision to not re-sign relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon. The big righty was a mainstay at the backend of the bullpen and saved 219 games during his 7 years in a Sox uniform. Instead of bidding for Papelbon’s services, the Sox traded for reliever Andrew Baily and outfielder Ryan Sweeney and gave away outfielder Josh Reddick, infield prospect Miles Head and minor league pitcher Raul Alcantara.  Boston started the 2012 season without Bailey, who injured his thumb during spring training and Sweeney played in 63 games (0 HR 16 RBI .260BA), but couldn’t match the offensive production that Reddick (32 HR 85 RBI .242) produced.  The lack of a reliable closer became the team’s biggest burden. Bailey returned in August to post six saves, but never looked like an All-Star closer. Alfredo Aceves may have had 25 saves, but he also had a 5.36 ERA and 8 blown saves.

 

  The Sox roster has too many holes to fill this offseason, but a splash of some kind is needed.  Free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton could be a great addition in the lineup, perhaps batting cleanup behind David Ortiz. While the market for Hamilton (43 HR 128 RBI .285) has yet to heat up, the Sox would be wise to strike early with an offer. Word is, the slugger wants a long term deal and plenty of cash. However, his past issues with drug and alcohol addiction will scare some teams off. Maybe Boston could tempt him with a four-year, $80 million deal.  The Sox has also shown interest in catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Nick Swisher.  Napoli would make sense, because he would fill a void at first base and also provide some power (24 HR, 56 RBI .227 BA). Swisher would be an acceptable signing if Boston couldn’t score either Hamilton or re-sign Ross.

 

Boston could go with pitching, but with the lack of quality arms on the market, there’s a real chance that the highest bidder could overpay for the services of Zack Grienke or Kyle Lohse. In 2009, the Sox dipped into the free agent market to sign big righty John Lackey to a five year, $82 million contract.  Lackey hasn’t quite lived up to that deal, going 26-23 5.41 ERA during the first two years and then missing last year due to Tommy John surgery.  If the team was seeking pitching at the front of the rotation, the best bet is through a trade.  The Sox could acquire a former Cy Young Award winner in either Seattle’s Felix Hernandez or San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum. However, both would require some significant negotiating and a right mix of talent in exchange.

 

Regardless of what happens, it’s still too early in the off season to access any transactions the Boston Red Sox may make. The only hope is that whatever moves the team makes, it’s an improvement and not another step backwards.


Follow Kevin on Twitter: @kevintocci  or email: kevintocci@gmail.com