Sports Centralby Cian Fahey
- We've moved to The Sports Central
- Avery Bradley's stuttering start to Boston Celtics career is no more
- New England Patriots - a case for keeping Brandon Lloyd
- Tom Brady's contract extension puts pressure on New England Patriots to perform in short-term
- Jeff Green's approach epitomizes Boston Celtics Post-Rajon Rondo
Defensively, the Dolphins are a bit of a mixed bag of talent that comes in all different sizes. Players such as Cameron Wake, Randy Starks and Reshad Jones could be all-pro players on any given Sunday, but the defense as a unit has had days when it has looked particularly bad. They do rank sixth overall in points allowed per game, giving up just under 20 points per game, but have also had days such as that in Tennessee when the Titans scored 37. The Dolphins will look to get pressure on Tom Brady to contain the Patriots offense, however they will likely need to eclipse their four sack tally from the two teams' last meeting if they are to effectively manage that.
The 2012 calendar year for Irish sports fans was one filled with glorious moments of sheer delight as well as gutting moments of despair and disappointment. National pride took its hits and blows repeatedly, but some athletes kept fighting through the blows to deliver what fans' dreams were made of.
10. Underdogs Ulster Reach Heineken Cup Final.
Ireland's recent struggles as an international footballing powerhouse(!) have opened the doors to this other sport known as rugby. A sport at which the Irish international teams have recently dominated at different levels. The International team has had its ups and downs over the past few years, but there has been a level of consistency at the provincial level that has surpassed all expectations. Leinster have become the most feared club side in the world, but their counterparts in the North, Ulster, have timed their rise to prominence perfectly as Munster appear to slide out of relevance. Ulster shocked European Rugby this year when they marched their way into the 2012 Heineken Cup Final, only to be beaten by an unstoppable Leinster side. With youth on their side however, the future appears bright for this province.
Following a Week 15 that gave the New England Patriots the present of the San Francisco 49ers, along with a loss to bring their fans back down to earth, Week 16 offers the team a much less enticing, but also less challenging matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars have one of the worst records in the NFL with 12 losses already locked down, in fact nobody has a worse record but the Kansas City Chiefs do match their two wins all season.
The Jaguars' two victories this year were uninspiring also. A late Cecil Shorts' touchdown allowed them to sneak past the Colts in Indianapolis early in the year, while their only home victory all season came against the Tennessee Titans, who have had almost as underwhelming a season. The Jaguars haven't been helped my multiple losses of key players. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert and running-back Maurice Jones-Drew get most of the attention, but the early hits losing Laurent Robinson, Will Rackley and Daryl Smith all significantly hurt the team also.
Sullinger has made a somewhat promising start to his career for the Celtics and could develop into an important piece in the future. However, he does have lingering question marks over his health from the draft evaluations and may be one of the better players on a bad team once the Celtics' veterans retire. Sullinger and Lee would be the two most likely trading chips if the Celtics move for Gortat, unless they can somehow convince the Suns to take Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins or Fab Melo in his place.
Having dominated the Houston Texans, the San Francisco 49ers will be more determined than ever to make a statement against the Patriots on their own turf. In order to prevent that from happening, the Patriots need to match the 49ers' physicality more so than outwit them with their gameplanning. They passed their biggest test of the season last week, but just like interceptions from Ryan Fitzpatrick, as soon as the first one has happened a second is sure to follow.
To beat the Patriots you need to have consistent pressure and excellent coverage without sacrificing quality run stopping. In essence, you need to have an elite defense. To be the best you have to beat the best. So while the Patriots are the favorites right now, it means nothing until they prove that they can get past every obstacle that emerges between now and February.
WR Lestar Jean (knee)
The Texans have very good depth, but it is their high quality and notable quantity of stars makes them a difficult matchup for anyone.Offensively, they can light up the scoreboard on the ground or through the air. Defensively they can contain passing attacks and shut down running backs while still creating turnovers. They can suck the life out of the clock on offense or put points on the board with their defense. Essentially, they are the most well-rounded team in football.
Sitting those starters would probably cause them to lose rhythm and timing with each other, but that rhythm and timing shouldn't be a lost cause if they were brought back in at the end of the regular season, because the Patriots' key players are all veterans who know how to manage such situations.
It's not the easiest trip for the reigning AFC East champions, but it is very much a winnable game and opportunity to cement their place in the playoffs.
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