Time Out for Sports Talk: Year-End File Maintenance
Todd: My original intent for our final column of the year was a ‘Best of 2015’, but too many current events make it a year-end cleaning of the hard drive with a couple best-of thoughts.
First off, I hate being right when I have negative thoughts against the hometown team, but I did not have a good feeling going into last Sunday’s game at the Meadowlands and predicted a Jets win accordingly. Having done that, the Patriots put up a valiant effort with an offensive line that is well beyond patchwork and a receiving corps with Brandon Bolden running slant patterns. I knew it was going to be a long day for the offense when they ran three consecutive trick plays and only one of them actually worked.
Now about that overtime coin toss. At the moment of the flip, the fanboy in me wondered what the Hades was going on. But after hearing Matthew Slater’s explanation after the game, I can understand Bill Belichick’s thinking that the defense was in better position to make a stop than the offense was going the length of the field for six. Unfortunately Bill forgot the Pats played the entire game with their backup safeties, which came back to bite them at the worst time. Maybe the Pats should have foregone OT altogether and gone for two after James White’s fourth quarter touchdown; even Belichick would’ve needed some pretty big brass ones to make that call.
BTW I’m not buying that Belichick tried letting the Jets win after hearing Baltimore upset Pittsburgh. Sure, going into last week the Steelers were the team no one wanted to play because of Ben Roethlisberger and that explosive passing attack. But the Jets have given the Pats not one, but two tough games this season. I think both the players and coaching staff would prefer avoiding a third encounter with Gang Green if they can help it.
Heading into Week 17, the Indianapolis Colts can incredibly still make the playoffs as long as they beat the Titans and eight other teams—Texans, Bengals, Jets, Chiefs, Chargers, Browns, Saints and Patriots—all lose. I think the Pats have better odds going back in time to last Sunday and electing to receive the overtime kickoff. The Colts might not even win their game as Stephen Morris—an undrafted QB from Miami just activated from the practice squad—will be Indy’s likely signal caller.
Quick hitters – Kobe Bryant makes his last trip to Boston tonight, and count me in the minority of being glad to finally see him retire (and that his current team is on pace to win about 15 games). Kobe’s five titles in LA are quite an accomplishment, but he’s still one ring behind Michael Jordan and his Lakers one banner behind the Celtics all-time. And sadly I’m going to remember him more for what he did off the court than all the points he scored on it.
Despite lacking blue line depth and struggling on the penalty kill, the Bruins are still eight games over .500 and right in the playoff hunt as they head into their Winter Classic showdown with the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium to kick off 2016. But with the severity of David Krejci’s upper body injury reducing him to ‘week to week’ status, how long can the B’s offense and power play sustain their current pace? Krejci was limited to just 47 games last year due to injury and Boston missed the playoffs…guess we’ll have to wait and see.
If I had to pick my Boston sports play of the year, hands down it’s Malcolm Butler’s improbable pick at the goal line to secure the Pats’ fourth Lombardi trophy. Nationally, I’m going with American Pharoah as my equine of the year for winning horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 37 years. Finally, my best in-person sports memory of the year would have to be attending my very first nine-inning no-hitter, tossed by Devin Smeltzer, now pitching for San Jacinto College in Texas with the hopes of being drafted by an MLB team this June.
I haven’t watched much college football, but I won’t let that stop me from picking tomorrow’s College Football Playoff Semifinal games. I like Alabama over Michigan State and Oklahoma to stun #1 Clemson and advance to the National Championship game on January 11th.
As for the Patriots regular season finale down in Miami, rumor has it that some of the Dolphins players have set up tee times for late Sunday afternoon with the hopes of getting in nine holes before dark. Yes, the Pats will continue to be depleted this week. But Dan Campbell is a dead coach walking, and if Brady can somehow find a way to get the offense to score a couple early touchdowns, the Dolphins ought to pack it in early. Yet I still expect it will be a bit of a grind. Patriots 23, Dolphins 13.
Week 17 Picks (2-1 last week, 24-18 season): Last chance for Mike and I to break our deadlock, so like with our season-long duel I will pick games with something on the line. Sorry Colts fans, but I like the Chiefs over the Raiders, Steelers over the Browns and the Broncos over the Chargers. Happy New Year and thanks for reading!!
Mike: I gotta confess, I've been checked out of the sports world most of this week with the holidays, and watching the Patriots at the end of the very busy Christmas weekend, I was so exhausted, that I simply didn't care who won, I just wanted it to be over.
So, I'm going to let Todd carry things this week. But I do happen to agree with him, I'm thinking that the Dolphins will be checked out on Sunday, and the Patriots will be able to walk to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Pats win 31-17.
Week 17 Picks (2-1 last week, 24-18 season): OK, here's where I do have to pay attention, I need to take the week and the season-long duel. I'll take the Jets over the Bills, the Cardinals over Seattle and the Giants over Philly.
Have a great New Year's and we'll see you in 2016!