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
Under Trappattoni, the team has rarely ever deviated from the 4-4-2 formation which has served them so well.
While it may not be the most adventrous strategy, there is no doubting that Trappattoni has got results as we approach the nation's first major tournament appearance since 2002. While many will point out that Ireland simply don't have the players to play expansive football, that is not the truth.
Unlike the NHL, where the game is too dangerous to be played competitively, or the MLB where the actual stars don't see the field enough, or the NFL which combines both problems, the NBA has perfectly figured out the marquee event of a weekend full of fun.
The all-star game remains an exhibition game, but what does that really mean? What does that mean for the fans who tune in to watch the game?
Bill Belichick is not the type of head coach to sit around licking his wounds after a devastating loss to end the season. Belichick will already have spent a few weeks determining what he can do during this off-season to take that final step which eluded the team last season.
The Patriots enter the off-season in good shape with roughly $20 million in cap space.
While most of their key contributors on both sides of the ball are under contract, there are some pivotal role players who the team will be desperate to sign. Despite drafting two running backs last year, BenJarvus Green-Ellis' value to the team should see him re-signed.
When you look at the Celtics season so far this year, things are actually much worse than their 15-14 record would initially imply.
The Celtics may have won 15 games, but look at the teams they have beaten: The Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Bobcats and Chicago Bulls.
Lin is now a sure starter for the Knicks, but the guard rotation in New York will be somewhat muddled once Baron Davis returns. Davis and other veteran Mike Bibby were brought in as the prospective starter at the point.
However, there was another youngster who was getting quality minutes at the position before Lin took over.
Ray Allen's put-back attempt as time expired in overtime was blocked by Pau Gasol at the rim which moved the Celtics record to 14-11 on the season. In reality however, the Celtics should never have even gone to overtime.
Both teams shot the ball around 39 percent but the Celtics were much better from the three point line with 31.6 percent to the Lakers' measly 6.7 percent. The Celtics didn't miss a free throw as the Lakers were at 75 percent for the game.
Mock draft PART 2 is here. For PART 1 click here.
17. Cincinnati Bengals select - Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia.
The Bengals are set at both tackle positions but both of their starting guards are hitting free agency. I expect them to find one guard in free agency, while Glenn can become the other starter.
With another pick in the first round, the Bengals can wait to add a running back to replace Cedric Benson. Putting in place a talented guard to blow open holes for that whoever carries the ball, as well as to protect Andy Dalton, is just another positive step for an emerging franchise.
18. San Diego Chargers select - Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois.
Ideally, the Chargers would add an offensive linemen to keep Philip Rivers upright. However, without a tackle or guard worth taking. The Chargers jump at the chance of adding a pass rusher to complement Antwaan Barnes.
Barnes, despite being a situational pass rusher, was the only Charger to get more than four sacks last year. With Larry English once again failing to make an impact, playing only five games, the Chargers have to look to move on with Mercilus.
This is the first NFL Mock draft for 2012 from the Sports-Central blog. This year's draft projections will be broken into two articles. Here is the first of the season with some bold predictions.
*A special shout-out must go to Matt Miller of Bleacherreport and Newerascouting for providing in-depth draft grades and rankings. Be sure to follow Matt on twitter @NFLdraftscout
1. Indianapolis Colts select - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford.
It's time to usher in the next era in Indianapolis. This is definitely the silver lining on the Colts' 2011 NFL season. Peyton Manning's injury may be a blessing in disguise in the long-term considering that Luck is rated as the best college prospect since Manning himself by most scouts.
With Luck under center next season, the Colts fortunes will likely take a hit. That shouldn't be a problem however as the Colts dependance on Manning, and his subsequent loss, will force them to rebuild and fully enter a transition period regardless.
During a season when many, including myself, had already written the Celtics off as old, slow and in trouble, Pierce has made the difference on the court for Doc Rivers' side.
With Pierce in the side, the Celtics are 14-7 on the year including the five game winning streak that they are currently enjoying. Without Pierce, the team started 0-3. It may have only been three games, but the contrast in the team without Pierce opposed to with him is startling.
In 2008, the New York Giants sacked Tom Brady five times on the way to the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. While the Patriots aren't the juggernauts that they were back then, with Tom Brady's offense being a record breaking unit, the gameplan remains the same for the Giants to repeat with another victory.
With Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck on the outside, with Osi Umenyiora rotating, the Giants' pivotal players upfront haven't changed much. Tuck and Umenyiora remain, but Strahan's starting role has been filled by Jason Pierre-Paul.
When I last looked, the New England Patriots were favored by 2.5 points heading into the Super Bowl this weekend against the New York Giants. For most of the Patriots' roster, that is an unusual feeling.
Despite Tom Brady's career as a superstar in the NFL, Brady still holds onto the fact that he was the 199th overall draft pick in 2000 as motivation for his career. Brady's road to NFL stardom is a celebrated underdog story but there are plenty of other parts of the Patriots' roster who are going unnoticed.
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