Todd: Wait, it’s almost 2017?  Where in the world has the time gone?  2016 will be remembered as the year of the unexpected, most certainly in terms of politics, but the same can also be said when it comes to sports. 

The city of Cleveland won its first championship in five decades thanks to the Cavs’ incredible 3-games-to-1 comeback against the 73-9 Warriors.  But don’t worry Ohioans, those 0-14 Browns are more than making up for your other teams’ winning ways.

While the Cubs were extremely talented and heavily favored going into the MLB season, they too had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit to win their first title in 108 years, and any time a team wins for the first time in over a century it has to be considered somewhat unexpected.  But amazingly they were passed over for Sports Illustrated Sportsperson/Team of the Year for LeBron James.  Don’t forget that the 2004 Red Sox were bestowed that honor and their championship drought was only 86 years.

The tragic passing of 24 year-old Miami Marlins pitching phenom Jose Fernandez in a boating accident came as a shock given the bright future he was supposed to have.  Speaking of deaths, can anyone think of another recent year when three absolute sports icons—Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe and Arnold Palmer—all passed within four months of each other?  Their impacts cannot be overstated.

Having more of a personal impact, RIP to former Patriot running back Kevin Turner, who earlier this year passed away much too soon at age 46 from CTE complications.  Mike and I both remember the joy he gave us catching Drew Bledsoe’s pass in the corner of the end zone on November 13, 1994 to complete an exciting overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings that kicked off a seven-game winning streak and clinched the Pats’ first playoff berth of the Robert Kraft ownership era.

As Patriots fans today, we tend to take playoff appearances for granted, as 2016 marks the 18th postseason trip in the last 23 years.  But it’s still incredible to think that only the 1970s Los Angeles Rams have matched the Pats’ eight straight division titles, and that the Pats have earned a playoff bye for the seventh straight season.  Seriously folks, when Brady and Belichick ride off into the sunset (not necessarily together), we will never witness this level of sports success again…enjoy the ride.

Speaking of that ride, the last two wins over the Ravens and Broncos have been an impressive display of team football, the special teams’ gaffes against Baltimore notwithstanding.  Watching this defense making all their tackles, getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and now even forcing a turnover or two has me believing this unit just might be good enough to win a Super Bowl.  The second coming of the ’85 Bears they are not, but they don’t need to be as I view the current NFL landscape.

BTW am I the only one who think the Patriots and Giants could be on another collision course to meet in February?  At least Tom Coughlin, David Tyree and Mario Manningham have all moved on.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think the NFL’s corner office will attempt to do all they can so the Commish doesn’t have to hand off that Lombardi trophy to anyone named, Kraft, Brady or Belichick.

Before my Pats pick, a quick Red Sox hot stove note.  Have to be honest, never thought I’d ever see any pitching staff consisting of both Sale and Price, let alone that team being our Fenway nine.  Kudos to Dave Dombrowski for talking down the White Sox from the likes of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Andrew Benintendi to land lefty Chris Sale, who is an absolute bulldog of a competitor and should be a great fit at the top of Boston’s starting rotation.

Despite trading away a boatload of prospects, DD has kept the young nucleus of the Sox intact, making a Red Sox-Cubs World Series more than a legitimate possibility.  And we also get to finally say goodbye to the riddle-wrapped-in-a-mystery-inside-of-an-enigma that is Clay Buchholz.  While I would have liked to see the Sox get more for Clay, it’s probably time for the two sides to part ways.

Now for the Pats, who either need to win their final two regular season games against the Jets and Dolphins—or win once and have the Raiders lose one of their remaining two games—to earn the AFC’s top playoff seed.  I think that after how last season ended in Denver, Belichick will keep his foot on the gas pedal until home field is clinched.  Therefore, expect a lump of coal in that green-colored Jets stocking this Christmas Eve because it’s not Bowles’ season…Patriots 27, Jets 10. 

Will wrap up my portion of the column by wishing a joyous holiday season and wonderful new year for all—and for all us New England sports fans, let’s hope 2017 brings another title or two.

Mike: Well, I can't say I'll be sorry to put 2016 in the rear view mirror. It's been a tough year.

But sports-wise it's been more of a weird year.

I mean, the Cleveland Cavilers and Chicago Cubs won championships-who would have thought it?

But locally, the Patriots seem to be poised to break out of their ever so long (2-year-LOL) Super Bowl slump and win it all, leading to what I have deemed "The Most Awkward Trophy Presentation of All Time™.

I mean, imagine it now- I can just see Roger Goodell in his private box as the Pats clinch another championship and he realizes he will have to hand the trophy to Kraft, Belichick and Brady. I bet it would look something like this...

And as I get ready to wrap up, I must deal with the Buchholz trade. He just has been so frustrating to watch as he has wasted his potential over the year, I am glad that the Sox have moved on from him finally, clearing up a log jam and clearing some money.

Once again, I am forced to conjure up a mental picture of the Sox staff telling Clay that he was leaving. I bet it went something like this...

And lastly, a Pats prediction. It's almost sad to watch the Jets. OK, more hysterically funny than sad, but I digress. This isn't going to be a Merry Christmas for the Jets as the Pats are targeting the No. 1 seed overall and will want to put this game away early. I don't think they'll have an issue against a team that has given up on the season. I predict total carnage.

Want another visual representation? OK-this one is pretty apt.

Pats win 31-6,  and it won't be that close

Have a Merry Christmas!

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