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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Celtics Hit A New Low In The Kevin Garnett Era: Lose To Kings By 22 Points

So what stage of grief are you in with the Celtics these days? I find that the current most common ones are either anger at seeing them repeatedly blown out or acceptance that they are just a bad team so what can you do?

Getting rolled by quality opponents like the Clippers or Warriors is one thing but Boston (14-16, 5-11 away) was embarrassed by Sacramento (11-19, 10-7 home) tonight, 118-96 at the Sleep Train Arena (haha yes that's really what it's called). The Celts went 1-3 on their nightmarish road trip, capped off by three straight humbling defeats in California.

The Kings hit 10 3-pointers and scored 30+ points in the last three quarters. Six guys scored double figures including three who had 20+. Isaiah Thomas had a game-high 27 points and five rebounds, Celtics killer John Salmons added 23 points and six rebounds, Jason Thompson put up 20 points and six rebounds while DeMarcus Cousins notched a triple double (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).

James Johnson had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks off the bench for Sacramento while folk hero Jimmer Fredette checked in with 10 points and five assists.

Rajon Rondo returned and had 10 assists with five rebounds but only two points. Jason Terry and Paul Pierce both scored 20 points, Kevin Garnett had 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, Jeff Green tallied 16 points off the bench and Jared Sullinger completed his fine road trip with 10 points and six rebounds.

Perhaps a new year will bring Boston some better fortune. They are off until Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CSN) when they host Memphis (19-8, 2nd Southwest Division) at TD Garden and Avery Bradley is expected to make his season debut. It is a very tough week as the Celts play the Pacers on Friday then go to Atlanta on Saturday to face the Hawks, three teams that are all well over .500 and in either first or second-place in their respective divisions.

UPDATE 1/2: The Celtics recalled Fab Melo but it was only to have their medical staff treat his concussion that he suffered over the weekend with the Red Claws. Apparently it's a weird rule that guys in the D-League have to be treated by the NBA teams.





Sunday, December 30, 2012

Patriots Roll Over Dolphins 28-0 To Clinch The No. 2 Seed In The 2012 AFC Playoffs

After Indianapolis beat Houston 28-16 earlier this afternoon, New England was handed a special opportunity: beat Miami and they'd clinch a Top-2 seed in the 2012 AFC playoffs. That extra certainty of motivation proved to be significant as the Patriots (12-4, 6-2 home) blanked the hapless Dolphins (7-9, 2-6 away) 28-0 at chilly Gillette Stadium.

With the victory, New England knows they host a divisional round game on Sunday, January 13 at 4:30 p.m. against either the Texans (who host the Bengals) or the winner of Colts/Ravens. I think I speak for all Patriots fans when I say that I like their chances against any of those three squads.

Basically the only thing that didn't go right for the Pats today was that Rob Ninkovich hurt his hip and had to leave the game in the second quarter. We're not sure how serious it is but the good news is that he has an extra week to heal and rest. Tom Brady (22 for 36, 284 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) had a solid game while Wes Welker (8 catches, 94 yards, TD) and Danny Woodhead (5 catches, 79 yards) were in a nice rhythm with TB12.

Stevan Ridley ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns while Rob Gronkowski returned after missing five games to catch a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The ironic part is that Gronk still leads all NFL tight ends with 11 TDs despite all that time off. He was obviously favoring his arm though so I'm thrilled that he doesn't have to play another game for a while.

New England's defense posted its first shutout since 2009 thanks to its best pass rush of the season which produced seven sacks led by undrafted rookie free agent Justin Francis (3 sacks). Steve Gregory intercepted rookie Ryan Tannehill (20 for 35, 235 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) and Dont'a Hightower recovered a Tannehill fumble.

Miami's only effective weapon was wide receiver Brian Hartline (5 catches, 69 yards). Tannehill's interception was terrible and Reggie Bush fumbled on the goal-line (although it was charged to Tannehill). Clearly, the Dolphins had no interest in putting up a fight in their season finale.

After Gregory's interception, Welker cashed in with a nine-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Ridley had a one-yard touchdown run (on 4th and Goal) followed by a two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The only intrigue left in the contest was over whether Ryan Mallett would make an appearance (he didn't) or if Miami would score (also a negative).

Now let's all sit back next weekend, watch the Wild Card games and get plenty of rest. The Patriots have never won a Super Bowl without a first-round bye so this was the first step to what we hope is a very special season.

UPDATE 1/1: The Patriots signed rookie defensive tackle Tracy Robertson to the practice squad.

UPDATE 1/4: Today, New England signed quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive end Marcus Benard to reserve/future contracts for next season.





Legendary Patriots Radio Announcer Gil Santos Headed To The Patriots Hall Of Fame

This afternoon, the Patriots honored longtime radio announcers Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti with a classy pre-game ceremony. In addition to that, Pats owner Robert Kraft announced that Santos would be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013 as a contributor.

2012 is the final season of broadcasting for Santos, who battled serious health issues last year. He will become the 20th member of the team's Hall of Fame and only the second contributor following Billy Sullivan, the franchise's founder and first owner.

It will be a very sad day next August when we fully come to grips with the fact that Santos is done. He's been my favorite New England related sports announcer in my lifetime. We are blessed with many good ones in the region but what makes him the best is that he didn't rely on schtick, blatant homerism or over the top calls. He was simply a professional that showed up every day and did his job, sound familiar?

Cappelletti retired after last season and was ably replaced by Scott Zolak. Finding someone to fill Santos's shoes will be much more difficult. I don't envy the person that has to replace a legend, that is never easy. After all these years and the innumerable big games (playoffs, Super Bowls) he's covered, Santos had become part of our extended family. He was always there and he never let us down.





Don't Be Ridiculous: You Can't Expect Rajon Rondo To Play Through A Bruised Hip

The Celtics' miserable tour of California continued tonight with another lopsided loss. The Warriors (21-10, 10-4 home) weren't really challenged as they cruised to an easy 101-83 win over Boston (14-15, 5-10 away) at ORACLE Arena.

It's the first time since November 3 (three games into the 2012-13 season) that the Celts have fallen under .500. They played without Rajon Rondo who apparently suffered a bruised right hip against the Clippers on Thursday. Hey, at least looking on the bright side, they only lost by 18 rather than 29 like they did to Los Angeles. That means that they should lose to Sacramento by less than 10!

Stephen Curry led Golden State with 22 points, nine assists and three steals. David Lee had 20 points and five rebounds while rookie Harrison Barnes added 15 points and eight rebounds. Klay Thompson notched 13 points and Jarrett Jack scored 14 off the bench for the Warriors, one of the NBA's biggest surprises.

Courtney Lee (18 points, 5 rebounds) was Boston's leading scorer which is about all you need to know about this utterly forgettable contest. Jason Terry and Paul Pierce scored 13 while Jared Sullinger put up 12 points and eight rebounds, showing why he should get more minutes moving forward. Brandon Bass had 10 points and Jeff Green grabbed nine rebounds but shot 2 for 11 from the field, yeesh.

It's hard to call a December game against Sacramento (10-19, 4th in Pacific Division) a must-win but that is the depressing state that the Celts find themselves currently stuck in. It is a dreaded back-to-back but the C's should never lose to these Kings under any circumstances. We'll get to see DeMarcus Cousins up close and personal, a guy the C's supposedly covet since he has already worn out his welcome in Sacramento.





Saturday, December 29, 2012

Week 17: Dolphins At Patriots Injury Report

The Patriots (11-4) host the Dolphins (7-8) on Sunday afternoon (4:25 p.m., CBS) at Gillette Stadium in the 2012 regular season finale. As usual, New England is headed to the playoffs while Miami is destined for another long offseason. We're supposed to get snow tomorrow (Saturday), it would be nice to see at least one snow game this season.

Today, the injury report came out with a season-high 20 Patriots listed as questionable. Marquice Cole (finger) is doubtful for New England. Miami wide receiver Davone Bess (back) has already been ruled out while three Dolphins are questionable: cornerback Nolan Carroll (knee), guard Josh Samuda (shoulder) and defensive tackle Randy Starks (not injury related).

The Patriot on everybody's mind is Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip), who has missed the last five games. He is questionable so it will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick wants Gronk to get in a game before the playoffs start. Other Patriots that are questionable: Patrick Chung (shoulder), Dan Connolly (back), Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring/knee), Nate Ebner (hamstring), Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Dont'a Hightower (hamstring/shoulder), Chandler Jones (ankle), Brandon Lloyd (knee), Kyle Love (knee), Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), Jerod Mayo (elbow), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Mike Rivera (ankle), Nate Solder (abdomen), Brandon Spikes (knee/ankle), Aqib Talib (hip), Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), Wes Welker (ankle) and Tracy White (elbow).

This game means plenty to New England in terms of playoff seeding and they have to win in that regard so I would expect pretty much all these guys (assuming they are OK) to be out there on Sunday. With the game being flexed to 4:25 p.m., we will have more time to figure out who will be inactive and most importantly if Gronk is playing or not.

The other tidbit of Patriots news coming out today was that Vince Wilfork was fined $30,000 by the NFL for unnecessary roughness in last Sunday's game at Jacksonville. Apparently, he hit some scrub offensive lineman in the head with his beefy forearm during a change of possession.

UPDATE 12/29: The Patriots released Ron Brace today and promoted WR Kamar Aiken and CB Malcolm Williams from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Also, they activated Jermaine Cunningham, who missed the last four games due to his PED suspension. Now, New England has a full 53-man roster with two spots open on the practice squad. I feel no need to talk about Brace, a second round pick in 2009 out of BC (a Worcester native) who never did a thing for the Pats.

UPDATE 12/30: Gronk is playing.





Thursday, December 27, 2012

Apparently The Clippers' 15-Game Win Streak & Best Record In The NBA Is No Fluke

After a beating like the one just handed to the Celtics tonight, there is very little to say. The Clippers (23-6, 14-3 home) extended their win streak to an eye-popping 15 games with a 106-77 win at Staples Center against Boston (14-14, 5-9 away).

Los Angeles has the best record in the NBA and seeing them up close, it is easy to see why they are a legitimate title contender this season. Chris Paul had eight points and 11 assists while Blake Griffin posted 15 points and eight rebounds and Caron Butler added 14 points. The real story was Matt Barnes, who had a game-high 21 points off the bench, and Jamal Crawford (17 points), who should be in the 2013 All-Star game if he continues to play like this.

After their best game of the season on Christmas in Brooklyn, a team that saw their head coach-Avery Johnson-get fired today, the Celtics came back with their worst effort. Kevin Garnett led the C's with 16 points, Paul Pierce had 12 points, Rajon Rondo put up 10 points, six assists and five rebounds while Jason Terry notched 10 points. Courtney Lee had 12 points off the bench, Brandon Bass grabbed nine rebounds and Jeff Green scored eight.

Afterwards on Inside the NBA, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley suggested that Doc Rivers start Green in order to get his confidence going. At this juncture, it's worth a shot since nothing else seems to make much of a difference. They pointed out that there is too much pressure on him playing with the second unit and being with Rondo would get him easy buckets.

I think numbers in blowout games (win or lose) can be meaningless but you have to admit that some of these are horrifying if you consider yourself a Celtics fan: Los Angeles shot 7.9% better from the field (48.2%-40.3%), hit six more 3-pointers (12-6), handed out 11 more assists (31-20), had seven more steals (12-5), four more blocks (7-3) and 10 less turnovers (18-8). The Clippers produced 16 more points in the paint (42-26).

Since Oklahoma City vs. Dallas went into overtime on TNT, we didn't get sent to LA until midway through the first quarter with the Clippers up 18-6. It honestly didn't get any better for the rest of the game. At one point, the Celts cut it to a four point deficit in the second quarter (32-28) but the Clippers responded with an 8-0 run and that was basically it.

Los Angeles outscored Boston in every quarter, including 24-10 in the fourth quarter which is beyond depressing. The Celts are at Golden State (19-10, 2nd in Pacific Division) on Saturday night (10:30 p.m., CSN) and there is a decent chance that it'll end up just like this blowout. The Warriors are one of the hottest teams in the NBA (7-3 in their last 10) and they play great at home (8-4 this season). If Boston doesn't bring a much more respectable effort, they'll find themselves on the wrong end of another embarrassing scoreline.





Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Patriots Hopefully Will Not Send Seven Guys To The 2013 Pro Bowl

I have made fun of the Pro Bowl more than enough in the past so I don't want to repeat myself ranting about the most useless yearly event in professional sports. As a dedicated blogger, I'm here simply to report that the Patriots had seven players named to the 2013 Pro Bowl in Hawaii on January 27, 2013.

Quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski, guard Logan Mankins, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo and special teams standout Matthew Slater were all selected by their peers, NFL coaches and fans. New England hopes that history repeats itself since the Patriots didn't have to send anybody to Hawaii in 2012 since they were in the Super Bowl the next Sunday against the Giants.

Gronkowski, Mankins, Wilfork and Mayo are the starters of that group and the Patriots had the third most selections of any team in the NFL. The 49ers (9) and Texans (8)-two teams they saw up close in recent weeks at Gillette Stadium-were the other squads most heavily represented.

This is the eighth time Brady has made it, one shy of John Hannah's team record, and fourth year in a row. Mankins, Welker and Wilfork are going for the fifth time while Gronkowski, Mayo and Slater each were named to the AFC roster for the second time in their careers.

One of the things that makes football so great is that it is the epitome of a team sport. It takes many solid players to get anywhere so while these particular guys all deserved to be singled out for their excellent seasons, I take this more of an indication that it's been a great year for the Patriots.

New England (11-4) hosts Miami (7-8) on Sunday afternoon (4:25 p.m., CBS) in the final game of the 2012 regular season. The playoff scenarios are pretty simple for the Pats: if they win and either Houston or Denver loses, they get the No. 2 seed in the AFC. If they win and both the Texans and Broncos lose, they get the No. 1 seed. However if both of those teams win, it doesn't matter what the Patriots do because they won't get a bye in the first round.





Red Sox Trade For Another Closer From A Bad Team, Good Luck Joel Hanrahan

For the second off-season in a row, the Red Sox have proceeded forward with the idea that closers on inferior teams should be able to make a smooth transition to the rigors of the AL East. How did that work out last season for Mark Melancon (formerly of the Astros) and Andrew Bailey (formerly of the A's)?

After much talk about the possible trade last week, it was made official today as Boston traded Melancon along with minor leaguers Stolmy Pimentel (pitcher), Ivan De Jesus (infielder) and Jerry Sands (first baseman/outfielder) to PIttsburgh for closer Jack Hanrahan and minor league second baseman Brock Holt.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a nice move for the Red Sox since Hanrahan is a two-time All-Star in the National League (2011, 2012) and they didn't give up much in return. Melancon was a complete disaster in 2012 (0-2, 6.20 ERA in 41 appearances) and who knows if Pimentel, De Jesus and Sands will pan out. Pimentel was in Portland (Double A) last season while De Jesus and Sands came over in the huge trade with the Dodgers. None of them were any of the Red Sox' elite prospects by any means.

Hanrahan is not young, he turned 31 in October and made his major league debut for the Nationals in 2007. After 2.5 years with Washington, he's spent the last 3.5 in Pittsburgh. So that means he played for two of the worst teams in baseball (this was before the Nationals were competitive) and hasn't sniffed a playoff spot let alone played meaningful games in September and October.

He had 40 saves in 2011 and 36 last season. In 2012, he was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 63 appearances. In 59.2 innings, he allowed 40 hits, 18 earned runs and eight home runs with 67 strikeouts and 36 walks. Hanrahan is a big guy (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) so he's a power pitcher. It makes you wonder what Boston plans to do with Bailey (7.04 ERA, 6 saves, 3 blown saves in 19 appearances) who was injured most of last season then terrible when he finally was activated late in the miserable campaign for all involved.

There is still over two months before spring training starts so expect the Red Sox to continue making moves to bolster a roster which as it stands, still appears to be the fifth best in the AL East. Pennants aren't won in November and December but it's hard to argue with all the improvements made by the Blue Jays. The Yankees, Orioles and Rays haven't done much but they were better teams than the Red Sox to begin with so I don't think that has changed.





Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Miracle: The Celtics Remember How To Play Defense, In Brooklyn

I doubt that many people saw it since it tipped off shortly after 12 p.m. on Christmas (God bless DVR) but this afternoon at the Barclays Center, the Celtics turned in their best defensive performance of the season with a complete 93-76 win against the Nets.

I'll rule that the victory was the most important of the season for the Celts since this was the beginning of a very difficult four-game road trip. From here, they are off to California for three games. This was the third time they've held their opponent under 80 points, not surprisingly they are 3-0 in those contests with this being the lowest point total.

Boston (14-13, 5-8 away) improved to 2-3 in the last five years on Christmas, their last win came in 2009 against Orlando. Brooklyn (14-13, 9-7 home) could never get on track, they scored 24 points in the first quarter but then were held to 18 or less in the final three quarters. The C's also handed the Nets their first head-to-head loss after Brooklyn won the first two meetings of the 2012-13 regular season.

Rookie Jared Sullinger had a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds as the Celtics had four guys in double figures yet none of them were named Kevin Garnett (8 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks)) or Paul Pierce (8 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds). Rajon Rondo led Boston with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Jason Terry added 11 points while Jeff Green scored 15 off the bench.

After a great start to the season, the Nets have quickly come back to Earth. They have a bunch of good players but no real go-to scorer or team identity. Robot Brook Lopez had 15 points and eight rebounds while Gerald Wallace put up 15 points, six rebounds and three steals. Deron Williams (10 points, 6 assists) was a non-factor which is hard to explain, haha he must have been up all night building toys for his kids. Yeah, something like that. Joe Johnson scored 12 points but as always, he was invisible.

The Nets were up 24-22 after the first quarter but the Celtics turned it around to 56-42 at halftime. Boston outscored Brooklyn 17-16 in a grimy third quarter before putting it away in the fourth quarter (20-18).

Boston shot 8.8% better from the field (49.4%-40.6%), they grabbed five more rebounds (41-36) and handed out 11 more assists (25-14) with four more steals (10-6) and nine less turnovers (20-11). The Celtics imposed their will on the Nets with 12 more points in the paint (46-34). I'm sure that was all thanks to Jason Collins (4 points, 4 rebounds).

The next two games have the potential to be some of the best of the season for the Celtics. They are both at 10:30 p.m. EST but there is no excuse since you probably don't have to work the rest of the week and they fall on a Thursday and Saturday. On Thursday (10:30 p.m., TNT), the C's are at the Clippers (21-6, 1st in Pacific Division) then on Saturday (10:30 p.m., CSN) they are at the Warriors (18-10, 2nd in Pacific Division). Do yourself a favor and watch these games, I can almost guarantee that they will be entertaining one way or another. Believe me, I very rarely say that about the NBA.





Sunday, December 23, 2012

Help Us Jarvis Varnado, You're Our Only Hope

With Chris Wilcox (thumb) being out for possibly up to a month of action, the Celtics had to make a move to bolster their thin frontcourt. Tonight, they have agreed to sign NBA D-League forward Jarvis Varnado of the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Before you laugh, I can assure you that Varnado is actually a pretty good player. He was the NCAA's all-time leading shot blocker at Mississippi State that was drafted by Miami in 2010 (2nd round, 11th pick). Of course, there has to be a reason that he was in the D-League. Unless you are a superhuman athlete-Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard, etc-it's hard to make much of an impact in the NBA when your primary skill is blocking shots.

At Sioux Falls this season, the 6-foot-9 Varnado was averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in 10 games. The interesting part about this move is that Celtics rookie center Fab Melo just put up a triple-double on Saturday night with the Maine Red Claws (15 points, 16 rebounds and a D-League record 14 blocks). Apparently, the Celtics don't want to rush Melo who is still extremely raw.

At 24-years-old and with a couple professional seasons (he played in Italy and Israel) under his belt, Varnado is the safer bet for the time being. There is no need to put too much pressure on Melo just yet. If you're looking for a good sign with Varnado, Greg Stiemsma played for Sioux Falls and then made the Celtics out of training camp last season. He parlayed that into a decent rookie season and earned a deal with the Timberwolves.

Nobody is expecting Varnado to be the presence that Stiemsma was from day one but I will say that his resume is more impressive than Greg's so he definitely has the ability. At this point, the Celts could use any type of energy they can get. Avery Bradley has said he thinks he'll make his season debut on January 2 but I read something today that Doc Rivers admitted Bradly could play on Christmas in Brooklyn. We shall see.

Because I'm a college hoops junkie, here's a little Christmas treat for you:





Patriots Survive Crapfest 23-16, Mostly Because They Were Playing The Hapless Jaguars

The less time spent talking about this afternoon's brutal 23-16 Patriots win against the Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, the better. If you didn't see any or even some of this one, I'm jealous of you. I feel like I need a cold shower to wash away the filth from viewing this.

Patrick Chung's (2 interceptions) interception in the end zone sealed a win that was way closer than it should have been for the Patriots. It is not hyperbole to say that if they were playing pretty much any other team in the NFL than Jacksonville, they would have lost. Oh well, I guess it was the predictable letdown/trap game after primetime matchups with the Texans and Niners in consecutive weeks.

New England (11-4, 6-2 away) spotted the Jaguars a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but after Jacksonville (2-13, 1-7 home) went up 13-3 early in the second quarter, it all went to shit for the team that is currently tied with the Chiefs (2-13) for the worst record in the NFL.

With all the guys that they sat with "injuries" or moved around, it appeared that the Patriots didn't have much interest in winning this game when it kicked off. However, maybe once they realized that Houston was losing (they fell 23-6 to Minnesota), they remembered that they were still able to get the No. 1 or 2 seed in the AFC. Hey, we all lose our minds at some point or another during the holidays.

Former Dolphins great Chad Henne (29 of 51, 348 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) picked the Patriots apart in the first quarter but he soon regressed to the awful quarterback that he's always been. Conversely, Tom Brady (24 of 41, 267 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) threw two early interceptions but then he settled down and began to find plenty of holes in Jacksonville's awful defense.

Stevan Ridley (18 carries, 84 yards) ran well after his bobble led to Brady's first interception. Wes Welker (10 catches, 88 yards on 12 targets) was Brady's main target as always while Brandon Lloyd (6 catches, 62 yards on 12 targets) came back to Earth after his huge game vs. San Francisco and Aaron Hernandez (1 catch, 13 yards on 5 targets) was M.I.A. all game. It goes without saying that the Pats really miss Rob Gronkowski and he can't return soon enough, maybe next week?

University of Maine product Montell Owens (77 yards receiving; 42 yards rushing) made the most of his rare start while Jordan Shipley (5 catch, 82 yards on 10 targets) and Justin Blackmon (7 catch, 79 yards on 12 targets) took advantage of a depleted secondary for New England with no Alfonzo Dennard and a banged up Aqib Talib.

Blackmon caught a 3-yard touchdown to give Jacksonville a 7-0 lead and Josh Scobee's 41-yard field goal made it 10-0 in the first quarter. Stephen Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal got New England on the board late in the first quarter.

Scobee added a 35-yard field goal before the Patriots finally woke up. Gostkowski drilled a 49-yard field goal and Brady hit Danny Woodhead with a 14-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left in the first half to improbably tie it at 13.

Gostkowski's 38-yard field goal in the third quarter was the only score of the frame as both defenses settled in and each offense sputtered. Welker's 3-yard touchdown catch put New England up by 10 (23-13) and that was just enough for them to hold on. Scobee had a 42-yard field goal but Henne couldn't complete the comeback at the end. Story of his life.

Marquice Cole (6 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, pass defensed) had his first interception as a Patriot while Dont'a Hightower (6 tackles, 4 solo, sack, tackle for loss, pass defensed, quarterback hit) had one of his best games of the season. Kyle Arrington (7 solo tackles, tackle for loss) also played well in extended action for him.

The 2012 regular season ends next Sunday with the Patriots hosting the Dolphins (7-8) at Gillette Stadium (4:25 p.m., CBS). New England is currently the No. 3 seed in the AFC but they can move up if either Houston or Denver lose. That's what we have to root for, the Pats could even jump to No. 1 if both lose but that probably won't happen with Denver hosting Kansas City (Texans are at Colts).

The game means plenty so I would expect that almost all the healthy Patriots will play. The difference between a bye and having to play during Wild Card weekend is enormous so they should go all out to ensure that they win. Miami isn't going anywhere and they are not great by any means but they'll make it competitive mostly because their defense is above average.

UPDATE 12/24: The Patriots made a bunch of roster moves involving guys you probably have never heard of. They released fullback James Develin and wide receiver Kamar Aiken from the 53-man roster. They also released wide receiver/punt returner Tony Logan and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren from the practice squad.

New England also received a one-week exemption for Jermaine Cunningham after his four-game suspension ended yesterday. They have a week to activate him to the roster, which they are expected to do. As it stands now, the Patriots have two open roster spots.

UPDATE 12/25: Aiken and Develin both cleared waivers today, meaning they are now free agents. The Patriots have three open slots on their practice squad and both retain practice squad eligibility so look for at least one of them to stick around Foxborough.

UPDATE 12/26: Today, the Patriots signed three guys to the practice squad: Aiken, Develin and cornerback Cyhl Quarles. You're obviously familiar with Aiken and Develin while Quarles spent two plus weeks on New England's practice squad earlier this season.





Saturday, December 22, 2012

So Apparently The Bucks Own The Celtics This Season

A wise man (former NFL head coach Bill Parcells) once said that "you are what your record says you are." At 13-13 after tonight's 99-94 overtime loss to the Bucks (14-11, 7-6 away) at TD Garden, Boston (9-5 home) is the epitome of a .500 basketball team.

Every promising win seems to be followed by a depressing loss and vice versa. We are almost a third into the 2012-13 season and the Celtics thus far have no real identity and they have yet to play with any consistency from game to game. Paul Pierce (35 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) tried his best to carry the team on his shoulders but unlike on Wednesday vs. Cleveland when he had 40 points, it wasn't enough. His 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation tied it and ultimately sent it to overtime.

Would you believe Milwaukee finished the season series with Boston 3-1? I guess the C's don't want to see them in the playoffs-something I don't think has ever been written in the last 20 years. Monta Ellis had 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute added 20 points and six rebounds, Larry Sanders had 17 points and 20 rebounds while Brandon Jennings put up 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds) was the only other Celtics starter in double figures. Jason Terry (1 of 15 from the field, 1 for 9 on 3-pointers) finished with four points in what had to be one of if not the worst game of the his excellent career. Rajon Rondo dished out 11 assists with four steals while Jeff Green (14 points, 4 steals, 2 blocks) and Courtney Lee (11 points) played well off the bench.

I guess the good news for Boston is that they don't play again until Christmas afternoon. They travel to Brooklyn (12 p.m., ESPN) to face the Nets (13-12, 2nd in Atlantic Division), who have already beaten them twice this season. It's the start of a grueling four-game road trip that sends them to California to meet the Clippers, Warriors and Kings.

We'll have to monitor Green's condition since he took a nasty elbow to the cheek late in overtime which chipped some of his teeth. He appeared in serious pain going off the floor to the locker room. That's the last thing the Celtics needed at this point when they are struggling so much to begin with and Green has been the most up and down player on the team.

UPDATE 12/23: Chris Wilcox could miss three or four weeks with a thumb injury and Leandro Barbosa is out on Christmas at Brooklyn but he's expected to play in Los Angeles.





Friday, December 21, 2012

Week 16: Patriots At Jaguars Injury Report

I'm not going to sugarcoat, this is by far the least interesting matchup of the entire 2012 regular season for the Patriots (10-4). Coming off two primetime games against some of the NFL's best teams-Houston and San Francisco-New England is a 14.5 point favorite at Jacksonville (2-12) on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS) and everybody knows they are going to blow out the hapless Jaguars.

For the Pats, it's all about getting a big lead and taking the life out of Jacksonville which shouldn't be too hard at all. Today, the injury report came out with 18 Patriots and two Jaguars listed as questionable. Depending on who you believe (the Boston Globe is No. 1 in my heart), Rob Gronkowski (forearm) will be out along with Jacksonville running backs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and his backup Rashad Jennings (concussion).

The New England players that are questionable include Mike Rivera (ankle), Patrick Chung (shoulder), Dan Connolly (back), Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring, knee), Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Dont'a Hightower (hamstring/shoulder), Chandler Jones (ankle), Brandon Lloyd (knee), Kyle Love (knee), Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), Jerod Mayo (elbow), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Nate Solder (abdomen), Brandon Spikes (knee/ankle), Aqib Talib (hip), Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), Wes Welker (ankle) and Tracy White (elbow).

Jacksonville safety Dwight Lowery (foot) and cornerback Aaron Ross (calf) are 50/50 to suit up for the Jags. Who could blame them from ducking this certain beating? Nobody wants to be hurt around the holidays, that is way too depressing to think about. Almost as much as playing for one of the NFL's most hopeless franchises.

This post will be updated with more information when I hear it on Saturday and Sunday. Until then, let's pretend that all the Patriots' good players will sit in the second half/third quarter. Haha a Patriots blogger/honk can dream right?

UPDATE 12/22: Gronk, Dennard and Spikes didn't make the trip to lovely Jacksonville so they are all definitely out for tomorrow's game. Additionally, wide receiver Kamar Aiken was promoted to the active roster. The Patriots only had 52 active players so they left one spot open, meaning they didn't have to do anything else.





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reports Of Paul Pierce's Demise Were Quite Premature As He Drops 40 On Cleveland

If it wasn't for one of the greatest games of Paul Pierce's soon-to-be NBA Hall of Fame career (statistically speaking at least), the Celtics very well could have lost to the Cavaliers. Instead after 40 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block from The Truth, the C's (13-12, 9-4 home) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 103-91 win over Cleveland (5-22, 2-14 away) tonight at TD Garden.

Boston led from start to finish and seemed to be cruising to a rare blowout when somehow they let up on Cleveland since the C's were up 20 (80-60). The Cavaliers hit them with a 20-2 run to make it pretty scary. This was coming from a team that might be the worst in the NBA (the Raptors are riding a four-game win streak) and didn't have Anderson Varejao. There is no excuse for Boston playing a back-to-back since Cleveland was in the same miserable boat.

He has obviously played in a million bigger games in terms of stakes but it's hard to figure out how Pierce could have cobbled together better numbers: 13 of 16 from the field, six of seven on 3-pointers and eight of eight on free throws. Rajon Rondo added 20 points and eight assists, Jason Terry scored 15 and Kevin Garnett notched 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks.

Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 22 points, rookie Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 20 points, another rookie Dion Waiters had 13 points while Tristan Thompson (11 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and Alonzo Gee both put up 11 points.

Along with Pierce's special output, you should frame some of these other amazing numbers by the Celts: they shot 59.7% to 40.9% for the Cavaliers; they made four more 3-pointers (9-5), six more free throws (20-14), handed out seven more assists (23-16), had two more steals (9-7), five more blocks (7-2) and 12 more points in the paint (18-6).

For the fourth time in a month and a half, Boston will meet Milwaukee (13-11, 2nd in Central Division) on Friday (7:30 p.m., CSN) at the Garden. The Bucks are 2-1 so far against the Celtics with two more contests remaining (including Friday). Most recently they beat Boston 91-88 on December 1 in Milwaukee.

UPDATE 12/21: Kris Joseph was recalled from Maine since Chris Wilcox (thumb) and Leandro Barbosa (personal matter) are both out tonight vs. Milwaukee.





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Time To Face Facts: The Celtics Are Not A Good Team At The Moment

I guess we should be happy that the Celtics are returning home tomorrow morning (they had issues with their charter, forcing them to spend an extra night in the Windy City). Their 3-game road trip couldn't have gone much worse (barring injuries) as they went 0-3, capped off by a listless 100-89 loss to the Bulls tonight at the United Center. Joakim Noah (11 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 blocks) recorded his second career triple-double in the victory.

Don't be fooled by the final score, Chicago (14-10, 8-6 home) was up by 20 (95-75) in the fourth quarter before Boston (12-12, 4-8 away) made it closer than it actually was. Would you believe that this is officially the Celtics' worst start since 2006-07 aka before Kevin Garnett (10 points, 8 rebounds) came here?

You have to give Boston credit for one thing after their losses in Houston, San Antonio and Chicago: they were very consistent as they scored 88 or 89 points each time and allowed 100-103 points. Rajon Rondo (26 points, 8 assists) wasn't the issue as he played very well. Paul Pierce had 16 points and Courtney Lee added 14 points. That was it though, nobody else did anything.

Chicago had six guys in double-figures plus their bench outscored Boston's 37-16. Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 12 rebounds while Luol Deng also notched 21 points. Marco Belinelli scored 10 points with former Celtic Nate Robinson (18 points) and Taj Gibson (13 points, 5 rebounds) coming up huge off the bench for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau-a Salem State alum and former Celtics assistant coach.

The Bulls outscored the Celtics in all four quarters. It was 28-23 Chicago after one quarter and 55-48 at halftime. The Bulls led 79-70 heading into the fourth before the wheels really came off for Boston.

Almost all the statistics favored the home team. Chicago shot 50% to 43.2% for Boston. The Bulls hit seven more free throws (21-14) and grabbed eight more rebounds (43-35) with 10 more assists (28-18), eight more blocks (10-2) and 12 more points in the paint (48-36). The Celtics had three more steals (7-4) and eight more fast break points (14-6).

Boston plays Cleveland (5-21, 5th in Central Division) tomorrow night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). The Cavaliers shouldn't have any sort of advantage since they played at home tonight and lost to the Raptors 113-99. The team might be terrible but Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are an excellent young backcourt while Anderson Varejao is playing at an All-Star level. The C's should win but it's not a gimme by any stretch, particularly with the way they stumbled this past week.





Monday, December 17, 2012

Apparently The Red Sox Don't Learn From Their Recent Mistakes

Nothing like waking up on a Monday morning, after a marathon Patriots loss on Sunday night, and finding out that the Red Sox have signed a complete piece of garbage that you can't stand. Boston and free agent shortstop Stephen Drew have agreed to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million plus $500,000 in performance bonuses.

If the name is familiar, it is because he is the younger brother of former Red Sox whipping boy J.D. Drew. So yes, after one glorious season without a Drew in Boston, we are going to be forced to suffer through another campaign from an injury-prone, overpaid, underachieving lifeless Southern robot.

Stephen and J.D.'s careers have followed similar paths: they were much hyped first-round picks out of Florida State, represented by superagent Scott Boras and somehow they've hoodwinked numerous MLB teams out of millions of dollars for years. I'll give Stephen credit that he had four decent seasons in a row (2007-10) but true to his heritage, he played 86 games with Arizona in 2011 and 79 combined between the Diamondbacks and A's last season.

The frustrating part with the Red Sox is that much like J.D., for some unknown reason, they've been obsessed with Stephen for as long as he's been in MLB. I just don't get it beyond the fact that they need a short-term fix at shortstop. Jose Iglesias is hopeless at the plate and seems destined to be Rey Ordonez Jr. at best while their top positional player prospect-shortstop Xander Bogaerts is probably a year away from reaching the Red Sox.

Stephen's best season to date was 2008 in Arizona: 152 games, 91 runs, 178 hits, 44 doubles, 11 triples, 21 homers, 67 RBIs. He hit .291 with .333 OBP and .502 SLG. For his career, he's a .265 hitter with .328 OBP and .433 SLG.

One of the ironic things is that he's probably no better than Mike Aviles who the Red Sox had no interest in retaining (they shipped him to Toronto for manager John Farrell). Aviles was later dealt to Cleveland so I guess nobody wants the poor guy. Given his last name, his brother's struggles in Boston and hefty price tag for such an average player, it's not hard to predict that Stephen's short stay with the Red Sox will be painful for both the team and fans alike.

UPDATE 12/19: The Red Sox designated right-handed reliever Pedro Beato for assignment. He was obtained from the Mets in the Kelly Shoppach trade in August. Beato went 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA in four games with seven strikeouts and three walks in 7 2/3 innings for Boston.





Sunday, December 16, 2012

Patriots Almost Rally For A Once-In-A-Lifetime Win, Fall Short Against 49ers 41-34

It's hard to know where to start when recapping what had to be the most exciting game of the 2012 NFL regular season. San Francisco built up a 31-3 lead in the third quarter, only to see New England rattle off 28 straight points and tie it at 31 in the fourth quarter.

The 49ers (10-3-1, 5-2 away) clinched a playoff berth with a completely absurd 41-38 victory at Gillette Stadium over the Patriots (10-4, 5-2 home) in the wind and freezing rain. New England went from looking completely overmatched to unstoppable in the span of a quarter. It turned out that the awful start by them came back to bite them, like a basketball team that makes a huge comeback but then falls short.

This win validates San Francisco as the team to beat in the NFC and the NFL too as far as I'm concerned. It could prove to be a particularly costly loss for New England since they lost their firm grip of the No. 2 seed in the AFC and now it looks like they are destined to be No. 3 at best barring an unlikely loss by the Broncos in the final two weeks.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (14 of 25 for 216 yards, 4 TDs, INT; 28 yards rushing) made his head coach Jim Harbaugh look smart in choosing him over Alex Smith. Tom Brady (36 of 65 for 443 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) carried the Patriots on his back when it appeared hopeless. Still, New England fell to 0-2 against the Harbaughs this season and 1-3 vs. the NFC West as they saw their seven-game win streak overall and 21-game home win streak in December both snapped.

Michael Crabtree (7 catches, 107 yards, 2 TDs) and Frank Gore (21 carries, 83 yards; 2 catches, 34 yards) were the main weapons for Kaepernick although he also spread it around with touchdowns to Delanie Walker and old friend Randy Moss. San Francisco's top-ranked defense held New England's top-ranked offense to a season-low three points in the first half.

The Patriots finally found some success in the second half when Brady sped up the tempo and went no-huddle. Brandon Lloyd (10 catches, 190 yards) had his best game for New England while Danny Woodhead (61 yards rushing, 23 yards receiving, 2 TDs) surprisingly enough was their best running back. Aaron Hernandez (10 catches, 92 yards, TD) and Wes Welker (5 catches, 56 yards) started off slow but in the second half, they also began to find bigger holes in San Francisco's tired defense. The Pats ran 92 plays and racked up 520 total yards.

The main reason that New England came up short (besides the huge deficit) is they lost the turnover battle (4-2) and committed more penalties (8-6). It is rare to see them come out on the wrong side of either of those statistics so when they get beat in both, doubly so. San Francisco actually fumbled six times, including four by Kaepernick but they only lost one whereas New England lost both of theirs (by Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen). Ridley's confidence has to be shaken since he nearly fumbled earlier in the game but he was ruled down.

Moss's 24-yard touchdown catch was the only score of the first quarter. Stephen Gostkowski cut it to 7-3 with a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter. Walker caught a 34-yard touchdown and David Akers's 20-yard field goal was the last play of the first half as the 49ers took a stunning 17-3 lead into the locker rooms.

Devin McCourty picked off Kaepernick to start the second half but New England couldn't take advantage as Ridley fumbled it back to them. Luck was on Kaepernick's side as he fumbled another snap early in the third quarter but Gore picked it up then ran seven yards for a touchdown. Aldon Smith picked off Brady on the next play after he rushed a throw to Hernandez and the supposed rout was on as Kaepernick threw a 27-yard touchdown to Crabtree on the following play.

The Pats chipped away as Woodhead's 6-yard touchdown run gave them their first touchdown with 5:59 left in the third quarter, trailing 31-10. Brady jumped over the pile from a yard out to cut it to 31-17 on the first play of the fourth quarter. After a San Francisco 3-and-out, New England made it a one-score game on Hernandez's 5-yard touchdown catch. Woodhead tied it at 31 with a 1-yard run of his own.

LaMichael James returned the ensuing kickoff 62 yards-the play of the game-and the 49ers regained all the momentum they had lost with a 38-yard touchdown catch by Crabtree on the first play after that. The Patriots had to go for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 12 but Brady couldn't connect with Woodhead. From there, it was a matter of field goals (28 yards by Akers; 41 yards by Gostkowski) for the final margin. New England got a chance to take an onside kick but it didn't get that good bounce so Walker grabbed it easily.

After the thrills of back-to-back primetime games (Monday night and Sunday night), the Patriots can take a siesta the next few weeks as they travel to Jacksonville next Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., CBS) to face the hideous Jaguars (2-12, 4th AFC South). That's followed by the regular season finale, at Gillette vs. Miami (6-8, 3rd AFC East) on Sunday, December 30. So yeah, time to get your Christmas shopping done and if you miss the next two games due to the holidays, it honestly isn't the end of the world.





Rajon Rondo Is No Tony Parker, Celtics Are No Match For The Spurs

For delusional Celtics honks that think Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA, tonight was a friendly reminder that he isn't even close to that imaginary throne. As much as I love him, I will admit that Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook are all better than him. Ditto for Derrick Rose when he's healthy.

Parker torched Rondo for 22 points, eight rebounds and four steals as San Antonio (19-6, 8-2 home) had no problem with Boston (12-11, 4-7 away) 103-88 at the AT&T Center. Rondo was held to six points, nine assists, five rebounds and seven turnovers. That makes it 14 turnovers in his last two games which is precisely why the Celtics lost on back-to-back nights in Texas (Houston, San Antonio).

Bigger picture, the Spurs are just a better team than the Celtics as they squeeze all the talent possible out of nobodies like Gary Neal (20 points), Tiago Splitter (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Danny Green (12 points). Tim Duncan (5 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks) didn't do anything offensively and Manu Ginobili left in the first quarter with a quad injury but San Antonio played like none of that happened.

Paul Pierce (5 rebounds, 3 steals) and Jason Terry led Boston with 18 points, Kevin Garnett had 13 points, six rebounds and two steals, Courtney Lee had 11 points and five rebounds and Jeff Green added 10 off the bench. For the second consecutive game, Brandon Bass had two points so I wouldn't mind seeing Doc Rivers not let him start on Tuesday. Clearly, he is struggling while Green and Jared Sullinger (7 rebounds) look more dependable at the moment.

San Antonio made six more 3-pointers (12-6), nine more free throws (15-6), handed out six more assists (28-22) and had three more steals (9-6). The only thing Boston did better in was fast break points (14-4) but that is of little solace given the final result.

The Spurs led from start to finish as the Celtics looked like an old team (which they are) that was playing its second game in two nights. San Antonio was up 26-21 after one quarter and 52-49 at halftime. The Spurs left no doubt who the tougher team is at this moment with a strong third quarter (25-20) and fourth quarter (26-19).

Boston has one more chance to grab a win on this difficult three-game road trip when they meet Chicago (13-9) on Tuesday (8 p.m., CSN) at the United Center. The Celtics beat the Bulls 101-95 on November 12 at TD Garden and Chicago still doesn't have Rose back in the lineup but they are slowly improving.






Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now Is Hardly The Time To Worry About A Silly NBA Game

Normally, after a loss like tonight I would have plenty to complain about regarding the Celtics. However given what happened earlier today in Newtown, CT coupled with the personal tragedy in Rockets head coach Kevin McHale's life recently (his daughter died), everything else seems secondary at the moment and not important in the least bit.

Boston (12-10, 4-6 away) opened its tough three-game road trip (Houston, San Antonio and Chicago) with a 101-89 loss to Houston (11-11, 9-5 home) at the Toyota Center. The Celtics actually led 45-43 at halftime but the Rockets bombarded them in the third quarter (32-25) and fourth quarter (26-19) for the win in front of far from a sellout crowd.

James Harden had a game-high 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals while something named Greg Smith put up 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks off the bench for Houston. Chandler Parsons (15 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) almost notched a triple-double and former Knick Toney Douglas scored 11 off the bench. Omer Asik (10 rebounds) and Carlos Delfino each scored nine points in the victory.

Nothing came easy for Boston which is what happens when you shoot a cool 40.0% as a team. Paul Pierce led the Celts with 18 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 13 assists, four steals and a season-high seven turnovers, Kevin Garnett added 14 points and five assists while Jason Terry scored 12 off the bench. Jeff Green (9 points, 7 rebounds) and Jared Sullinger (7 points, 6 rebounds) also had their moments as substitutes.

The C's had eight more steals (15-7) but the Rockets shot much better (48.7%) from the floor, with two more 3-pointers (10-8), four more free throws made (17-13), four more rebounds (45-41) and three more blocks (8-5).

Both teams had played on Wednesday but Boston went two overtimes with Dallas then had to travel to the Lonestar State while Houston chilled at home after beating Washington. That doesn't excuse the big discrepancy for fast break points (25-11) and points in the paint (40-32) that favored the Rockets. Their young legs looked fresh while Boston's old bodies didn't seem to have any energy once Houston took control in the second half.

Things only get harder from here as the Celtics go to face the Spurs (18-6, 1st Southwest Division) at the AT&T Center tomorrow night (8:30 p.m., CSN). San Antonio has lost two in a row-which is big news for them-so they'll be fired up or turned up as the kids say these days. This is the second of two meetings between the teams this season, the Spurs won 112-100 at TD Garden the night before Thanksgiving.






Friday, December 14, 2012

Week 15: 49ers At Patriots Injury Report

The Patriots (10-3) host the 49ers (9-3-1) on Sunday night (8:20 p.m., NBC) at Gillette Stadium in what could be the regular season game of the year for 2012. Granted, we said the same thing about last Monday-New England vs. Houston-and we all know how that one turned out.

Rob Gronkowski returned to practice for the first time today since breaking his forearm on November 18 but don't get your hopes up: CSN's Tom E. Curran thinks that he'll sit out the rest of the regular season and who could argue with that? No need to rush him back when the Patriots' offense is still putting up crazy numbers without him.

Other than Gronk, there are 17 other Patriots that are listed as questionable. San Francisco only had wide receiver Mario Manningham declared doubtful. The three New England players to pay the most attention to are cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip) and Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) plus tackle Nate Solder (abdomen). Talib and Dennard left the Texans game with injuries while Solder was limited in practice today and popped up on the list.

Let's all pretend that Kyle Arrington (knee), Ron Brace (elbow), Patrick Chung (shoulder/hamstring), Dan Connolly (back), Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Dont'a Hightower (hamstring), Chandler Jones (ankle), Brandon Lloyd (knee), Kyle Love (not injury related), Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), Nick McDonald (shoulder), Brandon Spikes (knee/ankle), Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), Wes Welker (ankle) and Tracy White (elbow) might not play. Yeah that's it.

This will be updated before kickoff on Sunday night as we find out who is missing out on this possible Super Bowl preview.

UPDATE 12/15: Manningham is out. The Patriots currently have 52 players on the active roster, meaning that they have one open spot and they will only need to make six guys inactive tomorrow night instead of seven. We'll have to see who they add in the next few weeks, it's hard to believe they would stay at 52 past this game.

In honor of the victims of the Newtown, CT tragedy, New England will wear black-ribbon logos on their helmets and light 26 white flares during a moment of silence before Sunday night's game. A nice touch that they might as well carry on for the rest of the season if you ask me.





Thursday, December 13, 2012

Red Sox Finally Add To Their Pitching Rotation: Sign Ryan Dempster To 2-Year Deal

At long last, the Red Sox have finally at least started to address their biggest need: their pitching rotation. After he supposedly turned down a two-year, $25 million deal last week with Boston, Ryan Dempster has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $26.5 million deal this afternoon with them.

He was apparently looking for a three-year deal so after turning down the Red Sox and Royals, the Canadian righthander circled back to Boston. You have to think that maybe winning had something to do with his final decision since the Royals offered him a two-year deal for $26 million and while they have improved thanks to the James Shields trade, Boston has more potential moving forward.

So what are the Red Sox getting in him? Basically, he is the perfect guy to slot into the number three spot in the rotation behind Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. In his 15 years of MLB service, he has thrown over 200 innings seven times (including four years in a row). More than anything, that's what Boston needs: a pitcher that they know will take the ball every fifth day and not spend half the season on the disabled list (like Buchholz or Josh Beckett).

Dempster is getting up there in age, he'll turn 36 on May 3 so that is why they were probably hesitant to offer a third year. Plus he had two different trips to the DL last season with a strained quad and strained lat that cost him another 200-inning campaign. He got off to a real good start (5-5 with 2.25 ERA and 1.038 WHIP) last season for an awful Cubs team before getting traded to Texas at the trade deadline.

Predictably for a player that had spent his whole career in the inferior National League (no DH, facing pitchers), he struggled with the Rangers. He got shelled in his first two starts but then won five games in a row before regressing at the end when the games mattered the most and Texas ended up missing the playoffs. For 2012 between the Cubs and Rangers, he was 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.179 WHIP in 173 innings. He struck out 153 and only walked 52.

A two-time NL All-Star (2000 with Florida and 2008 with Chicago) that is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, his numbers certainly won't blow you away and he's more control pitcher (he loves the slider and sinker) than a power pitcher. In his career, he's 124-124 with 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 11 complete games, three shutouts, 87 saves (he was Chicago's closer for three years), 1918 strikeouts and 998 walks.

The Red Sox will be his fifth and possibly final MLB home after time in Florida, Cincinnati, Chicago and Texas. He's known as a clubhouse leader and a mature guy that is along the same lines as Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, David Ross and Mike Napoli in that regard. You can see where Boston is going this offseason: they are trying to distance themselves from the overpaid, underachieving, injury-prone jackasses of the last few seasons. In their place, they want dependable guys that have been around a while and had success in MLB. Dempster hasn't been on many winning teams but that's not his fault. As he showed last season, it might take some time here but I wouldn't hesitate to count on him for a very respectable 2013 season.





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Celtics Beat Mavericks In The Worst Double Overtime Game In NBA History

Maybe it's because they blew a 14-point lead (68-54) from the third quarter or perhaps it doesn't feel so great since the Celtics squandered not one but two shots to win at the end of regulation and the first overtime. Still, I guess we should be thankful that Boston (12-9, 8-4 home) found a way to hold off Dallas (11-11, 4-8 away) 117-115 tonight at TD Garden in double overtime.

All you can say is that this was an exceedingly ugly game. How else do you describe 28 turnovers by the Mavericks or suffering through two overtimes officiated by Joey Crawford? Boston outscored Dallas 34-17 on points off turnovers.

Paul Pierce rescued the Celts with a game-high 34 points (1st Celtic with 30+ points this season), six rebounds and four steals. Rajon Rondo just missed another triple-double with 16 points, 15 assists, nine rebounds and three steals. Kevin Garnett had 16 points and five rebounds, Jason Terry scored 10 against his former team while Jeff Green (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Chris Wilcox (10 points, 6 rebounds) were great off the bench and honestly should have played more.

The Mavericks are still without the talents of superstar Dirk Nowitzki but O.J. Mayo (24 points, 6 rebounds) is turning into the All-Star nobody thought he would be. Remember when the Celtics could have flipped Ray Allen for him? Yeah, that could have worked. Shawn Marion (16 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) wasn't that far off of a triple-double of his own, Dahntay Jones and Chris Kaman (5 rebounds) scored 12 while Derek Fisher added 10 points.

I think the average age of Dallas is 53 when you factor in Vince Carter (10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists). Darren Collison (20 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) was spectacular off the bench so I have no clue why he doesn't start over that fossil Fisher, who still hits daggers left and right.

Boston could never shake Dallas, despite leading 27-25 after the first quarter, 48-43 at halftime and 76-70 heading into the fourth. The Celtics hit 12 more free throws (25-13) and made eight more steals (16-8). They needed all of that since the Mavericks shot way better (51.1%-43.0%), hit two more 3-pointers (8-6), grabbed eight more rebounds (50-42) and handed out three more assists (27-24) with two more blocks (7-5). Oh and Dallas had 20 more points in the paint (60-40).

At the end of regulation, Rondo isolated on Fisher but he got blocked, thinking he'd get fouled but he wasn't. Even worse, Pierce basically did the same thing at the end of the first overtime as Jones stuffed his feeble attempt.

The C's passed their first Texas test of the week but it will get harder this weekend as they travel to Houston (8 p.m., CSN) on Friday and San Antonio (8:30 p.m., CSN) on Saturday. The Rockets are 10-11 and fourth in the Southwest Division while the Spurs are 18-5 and first in the Southwest Division. Nobody expected much from Kevin McHale's Rockets but mostly thanks to James Harden and some emerging young guys, they are pretty competitive. As for San Antonio, they continue to defy age and play excellent team basketball while battling Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference.





Happy Tom Brady Day From The NFL

It is only right that on Tom Brady Day (12/12/12), our lord and savior was honored by the NFL with yet another AFC Offensive Player of the Week award. It is the 23rd of his career which pushes him ahead of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

In Monday night's beatdown of the Houston Texans, Brady was 21-of-35 for 296 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions plus that nifty six-yard run for a first down that featured him getting the crowd pumped up afterwards. His total quarterback rating was 95.6 with a passer rating of 125.4. Just like that performance showed that New England (10-3) is the team to beat in the AFC and maybe the NFL, Brady's MVP candidacy received a significant bump thanks to the Monday Night Football spotlight.

Brady and his team have another great chance to build their impressive resume on Sunday night (8:20 p.m., NBC) as they host the San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1), who are one of the top teams in the NFC and the NFL.





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just A Normal Tuesday In Foxborough: Stallworth Put On IR, Shiancoe Released & Branch Returns?

If you are going to play in one game in an NFL regular season and literally make one play, it's hard to top the way Patriots wide receiver Donte' Stallworth went out in 2012. He caught a 63-yard touchdown from Tom Brady (with one hand!) on Monday night which made it 28-0 New England and today, he went to IR with an ankle injury.

I guess it got lost in the shuffle of the 42-14 blowout victory over the Texans but apparently he sat out the last 25 minutes of the game. I don't remember one mention of that fact, I guess the Pats beat writers were too busy getting their stories done early. With Julian Edelman already on IR, the Patriots are very thin at wide receiver. That means that Deion Branch should be back as soon as tomorrow for the third time this season. His locker was kept just how he left it for him since he was waived on November 17-to deal with a hamstring injury.

In other Pats roster moves, they released tight end Visanthe Shiancoe from the 53-man roster and offensive lineman Tommie Draheim from the practice squad. To say that Shiancoe was a complete non-factor would be a big understatement. Hell even Kellen Winslow caught a pass the one week he was here. Haha bet you forgot about that. After going on IR (with the designation to return), Shiancoe "played" in the last four games but had zero impact-no catches.

All you have to know is that he was beaten out by Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui while Rob Gronkowski is out with his broken forearm. I doubt that New England would sign another tight end since they also have Aaron Hernandez and Gronk can't be that far away from getting back on the field. However, you never know with this team. Perhaps Ben Coates or Kyle Brady will return. Haha just kidding.

UPDATE 12/12: Today, New England signed wide receiver Tony Logan to the practice squad.







Monday, December 10, 2012

Well I Guess We Know Who The Best Team In The AFC Is After Monday Night

It's no wonder that we (Patriots fans) are all honks and lunatics that are despised by the rest of the country. Really though, how are you supposed to act when one team spoils us so many times in one magical decade? What was billed as the AFC game of the year turned out to be no contest as New England (10-3, 5-1 home) blew the doors off Houston (11-2, 6-1 away) 42-14 at Gillette Stadium in Monday Night Football.

This wasn't your garden variety Patriots beating since the Texans are the top team in the AFC and they had been unbeaten on road this season. Somehow the team that called this "the biggest game in their franchise's history" didn't manage to show up for it. New England won their seventh straight game overall and their 20th consecutive home game in December. Thanks to global warming, Houston didn't even get treated to proper weather since it was 59 degrees at kickoff.

Tom Brady (21 of 35, 296 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT), Brandon Lloyd (7 catches, 89 yards, 2 TDs) and Stevan Ridley (18 carries, 72 yards, TD) were collectively much better than Matt Schaub (19 of 32, 232 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), Andre Johnson (8 catches, 95 yards) and Arian Foster (15 carries, 46 yards, TD; 4 catches, 39 yards). As we all know, football is a team game and while those numbers were great for New England, what was even more impressive was their fast start and excellent defensive effort.

Vince Wilfork (4 tackles, 3 solo, sack, tackle for loss, pass defensed) and Jerod Mayo (7 tackles, 6 solo, tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hits) were the best defensive players on the field which is saying something since Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (4 tackles, 2 solo, 3 quarterback hits) will likely by the NFL Defensive Player of the Year this season. Houston had no answers for those two or Dont'a Hightower (6 tackles, 5 solo, 2 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hits), Devon McCourty (5 tackles, 5 solo, tackle for loss, pass defensed, interception) and Rob Ninkovich (5 tackles, 2 solo, .5 sack, 1 quarterback hit) for that matter.

The final outcome was never really in question as the Pats jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, 21-0 advantage in the second quarter and the Texans didn't get on the board until the third quarter when Foster's 1-yard run cut it to 28-7. Ridley fumbled near the goalline on New England's first drive but Aaron Hernandez (8 catches, 58 yards) recovered it and caught a 7-yard touchdown on the next play. Fortune later shone on the Patriots in the fourth quarter when Danny Woodhead fumbled (after Watt punched the ball out) following a nice catch and run but it went to the end zone, right to Lloyd.

Lloyd caught a 37-yard touchdown on a beautiful play action fake by Brady. That made it 14-0 and Hernandez added a 4-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. One of the more ironic parts is that after that score, the Texans defense actually held the Patriots in check for a while. They punted four times in a row (including three 3-and-outs to start) but all was forgiven when Brady hit Donte' Stallworth for 63-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

That was Stallworth's first grab of the season and most impressively, it was caught one-handed while the cornerback was all over him in coverage. Ridley's 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter made it 42-7 before Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates had a 1-yard touchdown run in garbage time.

Houston still has the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs but this game had to give New England so much confidence. They destroyed what had been (record wise) the best team in the NFL and made the road to home-field and at least a No. 2 seed very possible. If the Patriots win out and the Texans slip up once more, bingo they are No. 1.

The Niners (9-3-1, 1st NFC West) come to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night (8:20 p.m., NBC) for another primetime matchup with one of the NFL's top teams. After a short week and given that this wasn't even competitive, the law of averages would tell you that game will be much closer. Then again, after tonight's beating, it's impossible to predict how well the Patriots can play/how poorly a legitimate contender performs. The other main point for New England against San Francisco is that the Niners represent the last good team that they will see until January. The Pats could beat the Jaguars and Dolphins in their sleep so they might as well empty the tank (within reason) this week.