Friday, October 31, 2008

Patriots vs. Colts

This Sunday's matchup against the Indianapolis Colts marks the New England Patriots' biggest challenge this season. The seemingly annual Colts game is always a yardstick by which to measure each season's Patriots team.

The Colts are coming off a road loss to AFC South division rival, the Tennessee Titans, in which they played terribly in the second half. The Patriots beat an improving Rams team at home that gave them everything they could handle. Despite playing two very bad games vs. Miami and San Diego, the Patriots are tied for first place with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East with a record of 5-2.

Even though this is the halfway point of the season, it is not too early to call this game a "must win" game for the 3-4 Colts. Already, they are four games behind the Titans and cannot afford to fall further back in the playoff picture.

Key Matchups:

The Patriots Defense vs. Peyton Manning - it is imperative that the Patriots front seven shuts down a weak Colts running game. Granted Pro Bowl RB Joseph Addai is returning from injury, but even before getting hurt, the Colts had difficulty running the ball. By shutting down the run, the Patriots defense takes away Peyton Manning's ability to run the play action pass plays that have been so effective for him throughout his career. The Patriots secondary is weak and if Manning is able to run play action effectively, the Patriots defense will get torched.

Matt Light vs. Dwight Freeney and Mark LeVoir vs. Robert Mathis - the Colts like to get after the quarterback, particularly on their home artificial turf where they have an extra burst of speed, plus the backing of the crowd. Patriots QB Matt Cassel has shown improvement the last two weeks in his ability to move around in the pocket. Cassel needs to continue his progress and get rid of the ball quickly.

Patriots RB's vs. Bob Sanders - when healthy, Bob Sanders is THE biggest difference maker on defense in the NFL. He's a terrific player with no regard for his body. Because of his take no prisoners style, Sanders is hurt every year. While this is his first week back from a high ankle sprain, I still expect to see him on the field for most of the game. Sanders is the best run defender in the NFL, capable of shutting down a running game almost by himself. The Patriots will likely be getting Lamont Jordan back, and that is good news for them. Kevin Faulk did an admirable job last week, but he's not a RB who can carry the load for the long haul.


I like the improvement of Cassel the last few games. The Patriots are allowing him to make more plays, as opposed to having him just manage the game. However, this game will present an immense challenge for him to make fast reads and get rid of the ball.

Sunday night's matchup means more to the Colts than the Patriots. I expect the Colts to play with a sense of urgency and considering the Colts will be playing at home, Colts President Bill Polian will have the audio system pumping in phony crowd noise to make things difficult for the Patriots on offense.

I also have serious concern about the Patriots secondary. They allowed several big plays last week to the St. Louis Rams. Their play last week won't cut it vs. the likes of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Marvin Harrison, and Anthony Gonzalez.

Colts over the Patriots - 38-13

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The end of the 2008 baseball season

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies for winning their first World Series since 1980. When you consider they have the Village Idiot Jimy Williams on their coaching staff, it is an amazing accomplishment.

I caught some of Peter Gammons interviewing Shane Victorino after the game. I know Gammo fancies himself as a rocker, but he needs to ace the sunglasses at night. The only ones who can wear sunglasses at night are Corey Hart and Ringo Starr.

This World Series left me with the feeling that the Red Sox left this one on the table. If the Red Sox were healthy and had only handled TB, they would've blown away the Phillies. The Rays acted like they were just happy to be in the World Series.

Hot Stove Musings:

Manny would be wise to stay in LA with the Dodgers. That is a perfect fit for him. Joe Torre is the perfect manager for him.

CC Sabathia is a regular season horse, but buyer beware - he has a terrible postseason record. Whoever signs him will need to limit his innings more in the regular season, so he is fresh for the postseason.

Matt Holliday is a very good player, but considering the money it will take and his Coors Field and road splits, I don't see him as much of an upgrade over Jason Bay.

If my initials were T.E., I would dangle young Red Sox prospects Michael Bowden and/or Daniel Bard in offseason efforts to get a young catcher.

Recently, the New York Yankees farm system was ranked a shocking 29th overall in MLB. Look for them to attempt to sign every high profile player in the offseason.

When he's on, A.J. Burnett is as nasty as anyone. However, he's always been a guy to me who's an All Star from the neck down. He's not mentally tough.

Francisco Rodriguez is going to the Mets. Take it to the bank.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jeff Beatty for U.S. Senate for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Regarding their U.S. Senate endorsement, I am troubled and disappointed that the Boston Herald endorsed Senator John Kerry for another term. Just because someone has been in office for a long time, doesn’t mean they are the right person for the job.

In terms of today’s economic troubles caused by the credit crisis, Senator Kerry’s hands are dirty. In the list of the top recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Campaign Contributions from 1989-2008, Senator Kerry received the second most contributions - $111,000. In order to be the recipient of such significant contributions, Senator Kerry has been a strong advocate for their initiatives. The initiatives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have caused great harm to the financial state of our economy and cost citizens billions of dollars in investments in their 401Ks and in the financial markets.

Senator Kerry also selfishly devoted 18+ months on a presidential campaign, in which he missed countless Senate votes and for all intents and purposes, left the Commonwealth of Massachusetts short a U.S. Senator. The right thing for Senator Kerry to have done would’ve been to resign his Senate position, which Senator Robert Dole did back in 1996 during his presidential run.

Jeff Beatty is a perfect replacement for John Kerry in the U.S. Senate. In today’s time of war and terrorism, Jeff Beatty’s military and security background is just what we need. Instead of Senator Kerry’s partisan lectures, Jeff Beatty will bring facts and quality analysis to crucial foreign policy issues.

Twenty four years of John Kerry in the U.S. Senate is too much. It is time for a change and Jeff Beatty is the right candidate at the right time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

ALCS Preview

Consider this: 365 days ago, who would've thought the Tampa Bay Rays would be one of the last two teams standing in the ALCS? No one? That's what I thought.

Rays manager Joe Maddon deserves major credit for the job he's done with this young team this season. The Rays are a good team and the Red Sox would be wise to not take them lightly.

The Rays are a resilient team, one that has fought back from adversity all year. They have a nice stable of young starters and Grant Balfour is really getting it done in the bullpen. BJ Upton, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria are a threat to go deep every at bat.

The Red Sox have some injuries, but they have the experience, team chemistry, and talent to be champions. They have a lot of depth throughout the roster and players who can play multiple positions. Even though Mike Lowell is injured, Mark Kotsay has stepped right in at 1B and Kevin Youkilis has moved across the diamond to 3B seamlessly. The Sox also have the two best post season pitchers in this series, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, and facing them is a tall task for any team.

Keys to the series:
The Red Sox must pitch Carlos Pena inside and adjust his plate coverage. If they can hold him down, they'll be in great shape to win this series.

The Rays must limit the damage by David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.

The Red Sox need to drive up the pitch count of the young Rays starters and get to their middle relief corp.

The Rays need to run when they can and manufacture runs.

Prediction: Red Sox in 6 games - the Red Sox know how to get it done. Granted, the Rays gave the Red Sox everything they can handle in the regular season, but I believe the Rays are a year away.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Patriots Analysis at the Quarter Season Mark

After four games this season, the New England Patriots are a far different football team than was expected two months ago. Most of this has to do with the injury to the best QB on the planet, Tom Brady. Despite the Brady injury and a stinker of a game vs. the Dolphins, the team has managed to cobble together a 3-1 start. Here are my evaluations of the position groups 1/4 of the way through the season:

QB - Matt Cassel has been adequate. He looked good in NY and in SF, and was awful vs. Miami. About what you'd expect from a backup QB. Two criticisms of him are he holds the ball too long and locks in on receivers. He also needs improvement in running the offense in the red zone. However, he's made some good throws and he's met expectations. Going forward, I would like to see improvement in his reads and for the offensive game plan to open up more for him.

RB - As a whole, this group has been steady and unspectacular. Some running backs have performed better than others. Kevin Faulk has had some good moments both in the passing game as well as running the ball. Lamont Jordan runs angry, and Sammy Morris is a solid second back. Laurence Maroney has been dreadful. Maroney continues a pattern from most of last year where he's tentative and dances in the backfield too much. What he needs to do is follow Morris' lead and hit the hole. Sometimes that means there will only be a 2 yd gain as opposed to trying for the home run on every carry. This group has met expectations.

WR - This is a little bit tougher to evaluate due to the expectation level set by last year's aerial circus and with the Brady injury. In the games vs. NY and Miami, Randy Moss wasn't involved much and his enthusiasm on the field seemed to reflect that. Wes Welker is an excellent slot receiver who is outstanding at getting yards after the catch. However, Jabar Gaffney's numbers have fallen this year and Kelley Washington is still a non factor in the passing game. It's obvious that Brady is better at spreading the ball around than Cassel. Because of this, the WR group has underachieved.

TE - When will Benjamin Watson ever reach his all world potential? Watson is hurt every year and some games is invisible. Dave Thomas has been a disappointment, particularly in the passing game where he's been a non factor. Thomas also isn't much of a blocker. This group has underachieved.

OL - This unit lacks a big stud OL who can push the pile and keep speed rushers away in pass protection. As a unit, they work well together. They aren't flashy. Overall, they are solid, but were exposed in last year's Super Bowl against speed and power rushers. Dan Koppen is an underrated center. In 2009, I'd prefer the team move Matt Light to RT and invest a first round pick in an air craft carrier who can move his feet and occupy the LT position for the next decade. This group has met expectations.

DL - The Miami game was a disaster as Warren, Wilfork, and Seymour were pushed around as if they were on roller skates. Other than that game, this group has been excellent. I expect a lot out of this group, probably too much, because there's so much talent there. It's good to see Richard Seymour back to being himself, as opposed to the imposter of the last two seasons. This group has met expectations.

LB - The pick of Jerrod Mayo is already paying dividends. While he may sometimes be out of position and has been a chase down linebacker during some games, his enthusiasm and speed have made a difference next to Tedy Bruschi. He's been an improvement over Junior Seau. Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel have had some good moments. My expectations of Thomas are impossibly high. His two person sack of Brett Favre and Leon Washington is the play of the year. As long as Bruschi isn't in pass protection, he's still adequate. I figured Mayo and Bruschi would struggle, but they've been good. Gary Guyton has filled in and brought some quickness to the group, too. This unit has exceeded expectations.

DB - This group has often times looked to be running around with their hair on fire. What is scary, is they really haven't played a great QB, yet. Rodney Harrison was all over the field vs. KC, but he no longer runs well. Where's Terrence Wheatley? Deltha O'Neal is an up and down player. Brandon Meriwether still struggles, although this year he's caught two INT's. This unit has underachieved. Look out when they play Pittsburgh, Denver, and Indy.

Special Teams - Stephen Gostkowski has been TERRIFIC this season. He's been the best player on the roster, in terms of job title and function. Chris Hansen has a good leg, but still kicks to many touchbacks. This group has exceeded expectations.

Coaching - Belichick and his coordinators were badly outcoached by rookie Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and no adjustments were made to the Wildcat offense where Ronnie Brown was taking snaps. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels needs to open up the offense a little for Cassel. I don't understand the fascination with Laurence Maroney right now. Also, why are high draft picks Terrence Wheatley and Shawn Crable not playing? I'm concerned by the lack of progress of young players from the recent drafts; this includes Chad Jackson. I'd like to see better coaching of the younger players. Meriweather still looks lost on occasion on the field. Right now, this group is underachieving.

Overall - It's hard to quibble with a 3-1 record. However, there is lots of room for improvement as the tougher games start coming up. Right now, I don't consider the Patriots an elite team and believe they may not even make the playoffs.

Stock Market Blues

It has been a frustrating month watching the stock market sink due to the massive selloffs of investors spooked by the U.S. banking industry credit situation. I can't even bear to look at my 401K balance right now. At what point will the selling stop? Right now, the Dow Jones in the low 9000 range. What will be even worse is if the market sinks another 500-800 points, because then the corporate layoffs will begin. Once the layoffs begin, the negative economic growth will really kick in.

The stories of a $400,000 party at AIG after their bailout and Lehman executives receiving large bonuses while the company was going down the toilet are outrageous. The lack of ethics by executives of both firms is appalling and frankly, puts them in the same category as scorned Enron chief Kenneth Lay.

The $700,000 bailout sure is working great, isn't it? NOT! The market has tanked since last Friday when an agreement was announced. The idea of a bailout working was dubious at best, and so far, has not done anything to stabilize the free falling markets.

We are in tough times right now and they could get worse.