Sports Centralby Cian Fahey
- We've moved to The Sports Central
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- 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
With the Patriots offense missing Rob Gronkowski still, the Patriots can't afford to keep losing starters because they need to prepare for the playoffs. They are very close to clinching a playoff berth and shouldn't have any issues with their remaining schedule. However, not having key performers playing for the team during the run up to the playoffs could come back to haunt them at a later date.
The Jets' offense is not an impressive unit, but it does have the potential to complement the defense if the Patriots' offense is kept in check. For the Patriots to convincingly beat the Jets, they must find a way to get off to a hot-start without Gronkowski. That could prove to be very difficult.
Although the Jets have already lost to the Patriots this year, they lost by just three points in a game they easily could have won. Forcing the Patriots to play in New York, on a short week with a key contributor missing, could be the tipping point for the potential upset.
While it is often media hype that pits two quarterbacks against each other in head-to-head matchups between football teams, this game is the epitome of a quarterback battle as both Andrew Luck and Tom Brady will be able to take advantage of weak defenses in Foxboro. Because Luck has struggled to maintain his consistency on the road, Patriots fans will likely feel very confident entering today's game.
Devil's advocate would state that this would be the perfect time for Luck to have a staple performance, and even a victory, against a questionable defense for a franchise his own are determined to overcome. Beating Peyton Manning's greatest rival in a season when Manning himself failed to manage that feat, would be a very sweet way for Luck to kickstart his career on the road.
While the Patriots' schedule plays to their strengths and should allow them to easily secure a number one seed in the playoffs, a lack of consistent challenges in the regular season could put them a step behind other teams when the post-season actually begins. Sometimes it is better to be exposed severely in the regular season, so it becomes easier to fix those issues before the playoffs. Once the playoffs begin, it will already be too late.
The Bills' 3-5 record already includes a loss to the Patriots, when Brandon Bolden's breakout performance helped the Patriots to a 52-28 victory. Since then Bolden has only tallied 82 rushing yards since then, before being suspended four games for violated the league's substance abuse policy. Despite Bolden's disappearance, the Patriots have continued to run a balanced offense.
Yet, it is not a player who has just been suspended, rather a player who is just coming off suspension who will attract all of the attention of Patriots' fans this week. Aqib Talib is set to make his debut for the Patriots after the team traded for the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cornerback at the deadline just over a week ago. Talib brings a physical presence to the Patriots' secondary and shifts Devin McCourty from starting cornerback to starting free safety.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Heat were a team with much better chemistry and decisiveness because the Celtics are still trying to find themselves. With seven new active players on the roster, the Celtics are still defining roles for players and settling on a rotation. At different times of the year the rotations will adjust to keep older players like Kevin Garnett fresh, but first Doc Rivers must find his best combinations.
One of those new faces has already forced a lineup change. Rookie first round draft pick Jared Sullinger has already forced his way into the starting lineup, just a handful of games into his career. Sullinger replaced Brandon Bass after the team started off 0-2, the second loss coming against the Milwaukee Bucks. Even though Bass has dropped to the bench, he has remained a prominent piece of the rotation notching 28 and 33 minutes from the bench. Sullinger has jumped from averaging 13 minutes per game to 26 as a starter.
That leaves the Patriots with two decisions to make regarding starters in the secondary. Choosing the second safety should be significantly easier though as Patrick Chung is a better fit with McCourty over rooke Tyler Wilson. Chung hasn't lived up to his draft stock throughout his career, but is more likely to start than veteran Steve Gregory. Whoever is starting with McCourty, they will need to improve their own personal level of production.
That serves as little comfort to the thousands, maybe millions, of fans across the world who want to watch their team today. Instead of watching the Patriots, you can do many things. You could cut the grass, clean the windows, walk the dog, go to the gym or...heaven knows...take the wife/girlfriend out to dinner. But since all of those tasks sound incredibly boring and completely unrelated to the Patriots, instead you could sit inside and watch the rest of the NFL. Except, do so with your favourite team in mind.
Here is a guide of how to watch the bye week as a Patriots fan.
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