With the baseball season set to kick off in less than 24 hours after this blog is being written, here is a preview of my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, for the upcoming season.
The Red Sox are arguably the most successful franchise of the 21st century, but the past five seasons have certainly been a roller coaster. The 2010 season was hindered by a ridiculous amount of injuries, 2011 saw a historic September collapse after being dominant most of the season, 2012 was a disaster highlighted by a firesale in August, which set the stage for a World Championship in 2013, followed by another last place campaign last year. That being said, this year’s team is very different and for the most part there is optimism for the Sox to make another postseason run.
The Red Sox made several moves this offseason to make up for all the talent traded away during the 2014 campaign. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was signed to a five year $100 million contract in November coming off another championship for the San Francisco Giants. The 28 year old bring to the Sox what only one other active player has: 3 World Series Championships and a World Series MVP. Sandoval hit .279 with 16 HR and 73 RBI for the Giants in 2014.
One day later, the Red Sox signed another high profile free agent by bringing 31 year old (soon to be) left fielder Hanley Ramirez on board. Things have come full circle for Ramirez, since he made his major league debut with the Red Sox before being traded to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in 2005. The deal is for four years and $88 million, and if he stays healthy it could be one of the better signings of the offseason. Hanley hit .283 with 13 HR and 73 RBI in just 128 games for the Dodgers in 2014.
The Red Sox also made several moves to rebuild their pitching rotation, which I will talk about in detail more below. Another significant offseason move that might not pay dividends this year was signing of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. The 19 year old prospect has one of the highest potentials in recent memory. The Red Sox acquired the rights to him with a $31.5 million signing, and he will most likely play in the minors for the whole season.
The picture above is what is projected to be the Red Sox starting lineup when they open up the season in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon. Mookie Betts is primed for a big role for this team in his first season as a starter after hitting .450+ during spring training. Big things have been expected from the young outfielder as a prospect the last few years, and now he will have a chance to prove himself with extended playing time. For Dustin Pedroia, it’s just business as usual as the laser show should put up another solid season on the offensive and defensive side at second base. Likewise, David Ortiz shows no signs of slowing down coming off another 35+ HR 100+ RBI season, despite being 39 years old.
The new guys Ramirez and Sandoval will man the 4 and 5 spots, and with a post-sleep apnea Mike Napoli at first base in the 6th spot, positions 3-6 could easily put up 100-120 home runs this season if healthy. Shane Victorino starts the season in right field for now, but poor play and/or injury could quickly see him demoted or traded with Rusney Castillo ready to come up from Pawtucket. Xander Boegarts has big expectations as well and is hoping to prove himself at shortstop. The Red Sox took a hit with catcher Christian Vazquez going on the 60 day DL with Tommy John surgery, but this could open the door for star prospect Blake Swihart to get called up from the minors at some point this season.
Only one Red Sox starting pitcher returns from last year’s opening day roster, and he will be the opening day starter. Clay Buccholz has consistently shown flashes of greatness throughout his career, but has also been wildly inconsistent and battled through several injuries. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to be the ace that the Red Sox need. If not, there could be a lot of shuffling in the rotation this year. The Red Sox four other starters were not with the team before the trade deadline last year. Joe Kelly was acquired from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade, and Rick Porcello was acquired from the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes. The Red Sox also traded for 28 year old left hander Wade Miley who signed a three year $19 million contract extension and signed former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson to a one year $9.5 million deal.
These are all solid pitchers, and if they all pan out the Red Sox should have a great rotation, but rarely do things go as planned. Kelly is already on the 15 day DL and knuckle baller Steven Wright has been called up to replace him. Miley is 38-35 (8-12 in 2014) with a 3.79 ERA in four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 26 year old Porcello posted 15 wins last year with 3.43 ERA and 3 complete game shutouts for the Tigers. Kelly was 4-2 with a 4.11 ERA after being traded to Boston last season, and Masterson had one of his worse years with a 7-9 record and 5.88 ERA for Cleveland and St. Louis. The Sox bullpen will feature Koji Uehara for the third season in a row, although he will start the season on the DL, but should be ready for the home opener on April 15. Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and the newly signed Alexi Ogando will also be key bullpen contributors. Pitchers in the minors that could make an impact include Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Henry Owens.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox simply because nobody knows how all the offseason moves will work out, who will stay healthy, and the simple fact that the inconsistent Red Sox have gone from first to worst in 2011 alone, to worst in 2012, to World Series Champion in 2013, and back to worst last year. That being said, I think the Red Sox will contend this year and go 91-71 and make the playoffs as a wild card.
There may have been relatively few upsets this year, but it all sets up for what should be some great showdowns as four Hall of Fame head coaches lead their respective programs to Indianapolis for a shot at the national championship.
#7 Michigan State vs. #1 Duke
This is obviously the less anticipated of the two matchups on Saturday, but should be a great game nonetheless. Interestingly enough, neither of these teams won their respective regular season or conference tournaments, but with Tom Izzo leading the Spartans and Coach K at the helm of the Blue Devils, it’s really not much of a surprise that both of them have played well in the tournament. These teams met way back in November with Duke winning 81-71, but obviously much has changed since then. Michigan State’s defense has greatly improved, as evidenced throughout the Big 10 championship and through holding their opponents to just 34% from the field throughout the tournament. Meanwhile, Duke was third in the country in shooting efficiency at just over 50% for the season.
The main focus in this game is how Michigan State will defend player of the year candidate Jahlil Okafor. With forward Brandon Dawson expected to be matched up against Duke’s other threat down low, Justice Winslow, Okafor could have a big game if the Spartans don’t double him in the paint. Duke may have an advantage in the frontcourt, but so far in this tournament it looks like Michigan State has the advantage in the backcourt. Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have been huge in key games throughout this tournament. A key matchup to watch will be Duke’s freshman point guard Tyus Jones, who has played great all season, against Michigan State point guard Travis Trice.
A big point of emphasis has been made this week on the comparison between 2015 Michigan State and 2014 UConn. Both teams went 12-6 in conference play, finished third in their conference, lost in the conference tournament, earned 7 seeds in the NCAA tournament, and defeated the 10, 2, and 3 seeds in their region to advance to the Final Four. Although Michigan State has some great players, they don’t have a Shabazz Napier that can single handedly put the team on their back. Duke is the more talented team and Coach K’s 8-1 record all time against Tom Izzo indicates they have an advantage on the bench as well. Duke advances to National Championship game for first time since they won it all in 2010.
#1 Wisconsin vs. #1 Kentucky
Arguably the two best teams in the NCAA this year will clash in a Final Four rematch from a year ago in what could be a game for the ages. Kentucky’s #1 defense faces off against Wisconsin’s #1 offense. Wisconsin is seeking revenge after a heartbreaking defeat last year, while Kentucky is looking for redemption after losing to UConn in the championship game. These teams bring a combined 73-3 record into this game including the tournament, and for Kentucky this will be their biggest obstacle yet to completing an unprecedented 40-0 season. Both these teams and these players have starred on the big stage, and neither will be intimidated when they take the floor in Indianapolis on Saturday night.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has long been considered one of the best in the game, but has yet to win that elusive national title. On the other side, Calipari won a championship just three years ago and has made the Final Four for the fourth time in five years, but many only see him as an expert recruiter who picks up the best talent rather than a brilliant basketball mind. With such evenly matched teams, coaching could play a critical role in this matchup. Another theme that will come into play is Wisconsin’s upperclassmen against Kentucky’s freshman and sophomores. As I said earlier, Kentucky won’t be intimidated by the stage, but if this game comes down to the final seconds it may very well be decided by the veteran making a great play or the rookie making the mistake. Forwards Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker star for the Badgers, while Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Harrison twins lead the Wildcats.
Kentucky has certainly been tested at times this season, most recently in a narrow victory against Notre Dame in the Elite 8, but a huge advantage that they hold is their depth. Before Alex Poythress got injured they could essentially put out two different starting fives, and even now they are still so well-balanced and talented that anyone can step up and play a huge game. Kaminsky and Dekker are clearly the focus on the Badgers, but everyone is the focus on Kentucky. If you combine that with their length and athleticism, they are simply too good to stop. This will be a close hard-fought game for a while, but like last year Kentucky will once again win to reach the National championship.
Today I had the opportunity to hear Patriots’ Pro Bowl Special Team Captain Matthew Slater speak at a local church near my house, and afterwards have lunch with him. It was an awesome experience. He was a great speaker and comes across as an extremely humble and relatable person. At one point he said, “I’m no different than anyone else in this crowd. My job description might be a little different, but other than that I’m just like the rest of you.” He went on to talk about his faith in God, the role his father played in his life, and his journey to the NFL after not starting at UCLA.
After the service, we were fortunate enough to be sitting at the same table as Slater during lunch, and had some great conversations. I asked him about Tom Brady, and he had a couple of good stories about him during the Super Bowl. At the end of the game when the Patriots were about to kneel, Slater was drifting huddle thinking the game was over and playing it casual, when Brady grabbed him and yelled “SLATE! GET BACK IN THE HUDDLE.” Slater said that Brady was a really nice guy, but really intense on game day which this story illustrated. He also said the first thing Brady said in the locker room after the game was that they were going to win it next year. We asked him about Gronkowski, and he didn’t give specific stories but said Gronk is the same way behind the scenes that we see from him in public.
He was asked about the rule changes in the NFL, and said half-jokingly how the NFL targets the Patriots with the rule-making each year, this time with the ineligible receiver rule. He mentioned how they saw an opportunity to expose the Ravens with the ineligible receiver switches while watching film. Slater wasn’t a fan of any changes to the extra point, and thought the kickoffs should be moved back to the 30 as well. J.J. Watt is his favorite active player outside of the Patriots, and he thinks Revis is the best cornerback in the league, better than Sherman. When asked about the most surprising offseason move, he said the Eagles trading Nick Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford.
Overall, Matthew Slater was a genuinely kind, humble, and interesting person to talk to. He signed every autograph and took every picture that people requested, despite being in a sling for his arm. He thanked the church multiple times for having him, and only requested that people donate to a charity that he supports in return. The offseason is almost over for him however, as the Patriots will start back up on April 20, and begin their quest for a fifth Super Bowl championship.
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East Regional Semifinal 1: #4 Louisville vs. #8 North Carolina State
For the second straight year, a fourth-seeded Louisville team will face the number 8 seed in their region in the sweet 16. Last year, it was Kentucky who upset #1 Wichita State in the previous round before eventually beating Louisville and going to the Final Four. This time, it’s the eighth-seeded Wolfpack who come in off a win over the top-seeded Villanova Wildcats. NC State is a good team with impressive wins this year, such as a victory over Duke, but the game against Villanova showed more about the Nova’s weaknesses than it did about NC State’s strengths. Louisville and coach Rick Pitino are only two years removed from their championship in 2013, and after looking shaky at times down the stretch, and against #13 UC Irvine in the second round, the Cardinals looked impressive in their win against Northern Iowa in the round of 32. I think this will be a close battle since NC State certainly won’t be intimidated, but Montrezl Harrell will control the paint down low for Louisville who will return to the Elite 8 for the second time in three years.
East Regional Semifinal 2: #3 Oklahoma vs. #7 Michigan State
The Oklahoma Sooners are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since Blake Griffin starred as a player of the year candidate in 2009, while Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans are familiar faces in the second weekend of the tournament once again. With top-seeded Villanova and two seed Virginia both knocked out of the region over the weekend, the East’s Final Four berth is up for grabs. In a year that featured seven Big 12 teams making it to the tournament, few thought that Oklahoma would be one of the last teams standing ahead of the likes of Kansas, Baylor, and Iowa State. Meanwhile, many people believed Michigan State was underseeded after seeing them play Wisconsin to overtime in the Big 10 championship. A veteran team led by forward Brandon Dawson with an experienced coach will once again prevail as Michigan State locks up a berth in the Elite 8.
South Regional Semifinal 1: #1 Duke vs. #5 Utah
Utah has flown under the radar as a pretty solid team out of the Pac-12 this year, but all eyes will be on Duke and player of the year finalist Jahlil Okafor. Utah’s main focus will be preventing him and forward Justice Winslow from dominating in the paint and forcing Duke to shoot jump shots. Freshman point guard Tyus Jones will play a key role as well in running the offense. Duke has had some struggles in the tournament since their championship in 2010, including losses to a 15 and 14 seed in the round of 64. However, this Duke team appears to be playing much better basketball as of late, with dominating wins in their first two games of the tournament. Utah has not faced a team as talented as Duke, aside from possibly Arizona, this season and I expect the Blue Devils to keep it rolling.
South Regional Semifinal 2: #2 Gonzaga vs. #11 UCLA
Two West Coast teams clash in this Sweet 16 matchup as the UCLA Bruins face off against the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Neither of these teams are flashy or loaded with star power, but they do have key players that many people may not know about due to their games being late night on the west coast. Sharpshooter Bryce Alford leads UCLA, and made his presence in the tournament known with a 9 for 11 three point shooting night in the round of 64. Meanwhile, Gonzaga is paced by veterans point guard Kevin Pango and forward Kyle Wiltjer. Gonzaga has not been a very popular Final Four pick this year, despite being in the same region as arguably the weakest one seed in Duke, but the Bulldogs are very underrated and certainly have the capability to make a run. Many people think UCLA should not have even been in the tournament, and many also think they should not have won their first game on a controversial goaltending call. Combine that with their win against a 14 seed in the third round, and UCLA’s mediocre season will finally come to an end.
Thanks for reading my March Madness previews. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.
68 teams began their quest for a championship starting with the First Four on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the now that field is down to just sixteen. Here is a preview of what to watch for during the next eight games of the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Midwest Regional Semifinal 1: #1 Kentucky vs. #5 West Virginia
Kentucky is off to the best start in NCAA history at 36-0, but they’re not done yet. Their next opponent will be the fifth-seeded Mountaineers, led by coach Bob Huggins. An extremely under the radar statistic in this matchup is the surprising fact the Huggins is 8-2 all time against Calipari, the best winning percentage of anyone against him with at least three matchups. West Virginia comes out of a battle-tested Big 12 conference, and can create the type of full court pressure to take the opponent’s offense out of rhythm. However, the scary part about this Kentucky team this year is that they are so good, they can win games without even being at their best. They are a well-balanced machine with freakish athletes led by Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, and the Harrison twins. They have the length to block and alter shots which has resulted in a historic opponent shooting percentage of 35%, in addition to deadly three point shooters and efficient big men in the paint on offense. West Virginia will hang around at times in this matchup, but Kentucky will advance to the Elite 8.
Midwest Regional Semifinal 2: #3 Notre Dame vs. #7 Wichita State
ACC champion Notre Dame faces off against MVC champion Wichita State in a battle of veteran teams. Both of these teams are coming off of victories against in-state rivals, with Notre Dame pulling out a thrilling overtime win against Butler and the Shockers claiming the battle of Kansas over the Jayhawks. Notre Dame has caught the attention of many by defeating both Duke and UNC multiple times this season, and has the capabilities to make a deep run behind veterans Pat Connaughton and Zack Auguste. However, Wichita State still has much of the team that led them to the Final Four in 2013 and a 35-0 start last year, including Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Gregg Marshall’s team will be determined to win this game and potentially turn the tables on Kentucky in the Elite 8, which ended the Shockers’ undefeated season a year ago.
West Regional Semifinal 1: #1 Wisconsin vs. #4 North Carolina
This matchup has the potential to be one of the best games in the tournament: two outstanding coaches in Bo Ryan and Roy Williams, two star players in Frank Kaminsky and Marcus Paige, and two teams that both have the capability of making Final Four runs. Wisconsin has been consistent all season long. After a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Final Four last year, player of the year candidate and senior forward Frank Kaminsky is determined to lead his Badgers to Indianapolis for a shot at glory. Meanwhile, North Carolina has been inconsistent at times and posted double digit losses on the season, but has played better toward the end of the year. In a suddenly strong ACC featuring Duke, Virginia, Louisville, and Notre Dame, the Tar Heels have gone under the radar at times. This could be a dangerous matchup for Wisconsin since North Carolina has the talent to pull off the upset. The Badgers will need to control the tempo early and limit turnovers in order to advance.
West Regional Semifinal 2: #2 Arizona vs. #6 Xavier
Many people thought Arizona should have earned a #1 seed for this tournament, while many also overlooked Xavier as an overseeded team out of a relatively weak Big East conference. Now the Musketeers, led by Matt Stainbrook’s 12 points and 7 rebounds per game, are the lone representative of the Big East after the likes of Villanova, Butler, and Providence have fallen. Meanwhile, Brandon Ashley and the Arizona Wildcats are hungry for a potential Elite 8 rematch with Wisconsin, with last year’s game ending in a heartbreaking overtime loss. Arizona should win this game and is very much a threat to reach the Final Four.
The free agency period got under way on Tuesday and there has been no shortage of moves being made since then. I’m going to run down some of the more notable signings and give my quick reaction to each.
Ndamukong Suh to the Dolphins
This is a solid move by the Dolphins to pick up one of the best defensive pass rushers in the NFL. Alongside Cameron Wake, the Dolphins will try to finally put a stop to New England’s division dominance by consistently pressuring Brady and the Patriots. However, it comes at the cost of $114 million over six years, with $60 million guaranteed.
Darrelle Revis to the Jets
Good move by the Jets by not only bringing in the best cornerback in the NFL back to the place where he played for six seasons, but also stealing him away from the Patriots and upgrading their secondary. I can’t blame the Patriots for not paying him, as the cost is $70 million over five with $39 million guaranteed, but the Jets had the cap space to do so and went for it.
Lesean McCoy to the Bills in exchange for Kiko Alonso
This was no doubt a surprising move by the Eagles. McCoy is one of the best running backs in the league and is still only 26 years old, while Kiko Alonso has potential but has only played one full season. I think the Bills won this trade, since they have a solid #1 RB in place of unreliable, injury prone backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks for Max Unger and first round pick
The Seahawks learned that a ridiculously good defense still isn’t quite enough to win championships consistently without at least a decent offense. Jimmy Graham will provide that threat on the offensive side for Russell Wilson, while Drew Brees loses his favorite target. I think Seattle won this trade, despite giving up their starting center and a first round pick.
Devin McCourty resigns with Patriots
After losing Darrelle Revis to New York and Brandon Browner to New Orleans, the Patriots did manage to lock up one of their star defensive backs with a five year $47.5 million deal. This is obviously an important move for the Patriots, since McCourty has been a defensive starter since his rookie year in 2010 and has been a cornerstone of the defense.
Demarco Murray to the Eagles
The Eagles have made many questionable moves this offseason, but this one not one of them. After trading away McCoy, Philadelphia quickly found its replacement with the leading rusher from last season.
For a complete list of free agency activity go to the following link:
Selection Sunday is just around corner, which means it’s time to gear up for another 3 weeks of epic buzzer beaters, crazy upsets, and a cinderella making the Final Four. I will be hosting my 4th annual bracket pool this year on Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick ‘Em. It is only a $10 buy in to play, so anyone interested please go to the following link: https://yho.com/tourney?g=9124&k=094f1d0caf87a9e2 or email me at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
I will also be blogging previews and predictions about the games as well. Looking forward to another epic March!
The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and seen 39 players traded at the deadline, most ever, so it’s time to recap the important and notable trades and how they impact the race for the playoffs.
Celtics acquire point guard Isaiah Thomas from Suns in three team trade
My hometown Celtics got in the trade deadline chaos by sending Tayshaun Prince to the Pistons and Marcus Thornton to the Suns in exchange for point guard Isaiah Thomas. I really like this move because it gives the Celtics a good young point guard that can score and also has some experience in the league playing with Sacramento and Phoenix. After losing Rondo, and the plan being for Marcus Smart to be a back up for his rookie season, and the point guard of the future later on, Thomas can thrive in this role with a young roster and a good coach who will motivate him. With Boston only 1.5 games out of the 8th spot, this move could also vault them into the playoffs.
Miami acquires guard Goran Dragic from Suns
It was no surprise that Dragic was traded at the deadline, the only question was which team he would go to. With Chris Bosh potentially gone for the season, and Dwayne Wade always at risk of injury, Dragic provides a scoring threat in the backcourt for a team that currently holds the 8th spot. Not to be outdone, younger brother Zoran Dragic was also acquired in the trade by Miami, although he doesn’t figure to play as much of a role. Also involved in this trade was Danny Granger going to Phoenix and Norris Cole going to new Orleans.
Brandon Knight to Phoenix, Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee in 3 team deal
Phoenix continues to make moves, this time as the buyer and not the seller, by acquiring point guard Brandon Knight from Milwaukee, while the Sixers ship away reigning rookie of the year MCW. I like this move for Milwaukee, essentially upgrading at point guard with younger talent with more potential, as they battle for playoff position in the East. Meanwhile, Philly has revamped their quest to acquire yet another Top 3 pick this summer.
Denver trades shooting guard Aaron Afflalo to Portland Trail Blazers
I think this is a great move for the Trail Blazers as they try to upgrade in an already competitive Western Conference playoff scenario. Afflalo teams up with Damian Lillard in the backcourt to complement a frontcourt with all-star Lamarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez. Denver picks up Thomas Robinson and Will Barton on the other end.
Kevin Garnett returns to Minnesota
This trade won’t affect the playoff scenario in any way, but has to be mentioned as a cool story as Kevin Garnett goes back to his home town Timberwolves where he made several all-star appearances and won an MVP. Retiring with Minnesota will be a nice end to Hall of Fame career.
For the rest of the trades check out the following link: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/tradetracker/nba-trade-tracker-2015
Super Bowl XLIX will go down as one of the most dramatic, epic games in NFL history. From a pure football standpoint, it was an all time classic in a clash of two great teams that came down to the very end. However, the significance of the Patriot’s win goes far beyond just a Super Bowl championship, it solidifies unfinished business for one of the greatest modern day dynasties in professional sports.
Winning three Super Bowls in a four year span from 2001-2004 put the New England Patriots on the map as the team of the decade during the 2000’s. With a coach/quarterback combination that had so much success in their first couple of years, it was assumed that more championships were to follow. It was only a matter of time before they cemented their place in history. Like most things in life, though, it never comes easy. The Patriots continued to make the playoffs year after year and break record after record along the way, but couldn’t get over that final hump. Making things even tougher was that the whole world outside of New England wanted to see them fail.
The first significant outcome of this game is that it finally settles the Brady vs. Manning debate and solidifies Brady as the greatest ever. For years, this debate would rage on and simplified to the quarterback with the better regular season stats and passing records against the quarterback with the better postseason stats and winning records. Peyton Manning has the most one and done’s (9) in NFL history, and has been favored in 8 of them. Manning also has the most postseason losses (13) in NFL history, and a Super Bowl record of 1-2. Brady has the most postseason wins (21) in NFL history, the most Super Bowl appearances in NFL history (6), tied for the most Super Bowl wins (4), and tied for the most Super Bowl MVPs (3). As for regular season stats, Brady is just as good with a 50 touchdown season (2nd all-time), two regular season MVP awards, 392 career touchdown passes (4th all time), over 53,000 passing yards (5th all time), 160 wins as a starter (3rd all time) and a 0.773 winning percentage (#1 all time). He has gotten it done time after time with several different supporting casts, mediocre receivers, awful defenses, injuries, and in the clutch.
The second significant outcome of this game was cementing Bill Belichick’s legacy as the greatest coach of all time. Belichick tied Chuck Knoll for the most Super Bowl wins for a head coach with his fourth. He has 233 career wins, good for fourth all time, and 22 postseason wins which ranks as the most by a coach in NFL history. His 6 Super Bowl appearances tie Don Shula for most all time while his 9 Super Bowl appearances as a coach at any level are the most in NFL history. Belichick’s 12 division titles are the most all-time, and he is the only coach to win 11 division titles in a 12 year span. In addition, he is the only coach to win 3 Super Bowls in a four year span.
Finally, the Patriot’s fourth Super Bowl championship establishes their position on the Mount Rushmore of NFL dynasties, alonside San Francisco, Dallas, and Pittburgh. Are they the greatest dynasty ever? Well that depends on your timespan definition of dynasty.
And the most impressive part of all this? It’s not over.
Sunday, February 1 at 6:30 PM on NBC: #1 New England Patriots (-1) vs. #1 Seattle Seahawks
The stage is set for the biggest game of the year as the AFC champion Patriots meet the NFC champion Seahawks down in Glendale, Arizona in a battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy. There are several storylines surrounding this year’s Super Bowl: accusations of tampering with footballs, Bill Belichick succeeding Pete Caroll as the Patriots head coach, Revis vs. Sherman, Browner facing his old team, a potential repeat champion facing the last team to repeat, and most importantly the opportunity for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Patriots to cement themselves as the greatest NFL dynasty.
The key for the Patriots is to get in rhythm early. Establish the run with Legarrette Blount, even if the ground game isn’t working, to set up play action and short passes that will enable the Patriots offense to play up tempo and pick apart the Seahawks defense. Although the Patriots have preferred to get the ball to start the second half, I think they need to receive the opening kickoff if they get the chance here. Gronk and Edelman will be key, but they will also be the main focus for the Seahawks so it will be important for Lafell, Amendola, and Vereen to make key plays, especially on third down. For the defense, the focus will be on containing Marshawn Lynch and keeping Russell Wilson in the pocket. The secondary should be able to handle the likes of Baldwin and Kearse, but there’s only so much they can do if Wilson is consistently extending plays.
The key for Seattle is the same as for anyone who plays the Patriots. They will have to get pressure on Tom Brady and disrupt the rhthym of the offense. Taking away the short passes on third down and shutting down Gronk in the red zone will be important as well. The secondary needs to be alert at all times, several runs and quick passes can make you more tempted to blitz but every once in awhile there will be a play action deep pass on single-covered receiever so the secondary needs to prevent big plays. Obviously, Wilson will need to play a lot better than he did in the NFC championship. Part of how he will do this is if Lynch gets going on the ground early. That allows the Seahawks to run read-option plays where Wilson will often keep it and confuse the defense.
I am not going to make a prediction this time, instead I’ll leave that up to you in the poll down below.
As always, thanks to everyone who read this post.