During the Celtics’ first 13 games, they have 4 back-to-backs, which means that 8 games are involved in back to backs by November 19th. Last year, part of the reason that the Celtics exceeded expectations last year was that they were awesome in back-to-backs due to their depth.
Tonight, Boston takes on the ever-confusing Bulls in Chicago, and it’ll be a good test for the C’s to determine how they fare against an Eastern Conference team that they clearly should beat. Even if the C’s are on the road in the latter half of a back-to-back, they don’t have an excuse for losing to a team like the Bulls.
In fact, the Celtics are on the road for the latter half of all 4 back-to-backs by November 19. They play in Cleveland, Indiana, and Detroit in each of the next 3, all of which will represent tough matchups for the C’s. But tonight’s is the easiest of the quartet of games, and they have to get off to a good start in back-to-backs tonight. (The Detroit matchup looks like it could be easier on paper than a healthy Chicago, but the C’s face the Pistons the night after playing the Warriors in Boston, which will surely leave the Celtics tired.)
I’m not stupid enough to call the 1st or 2nd night of the season a must win. That’s Trent Dilfer’s job. But I am very eager to see tonight’s game, because it’ll be a great litmus test for the Celtics going forward.
The New England Patriots are the best pick to win the Super Bowl, but they also have a glaring Achilles heal that could spell their demise in January. The Pats have been a bend-but-don’t-break defense in the past 5 seasons or so, but their 30th ranked red zone defense this season is a huge departure from the norm.
New England has given up touchdowns on 80% of opponents’ trips to the red zone. That’s flat out horrible — good for a tie with Atlanta for 2nd worst in the league. That’s exactly the type of weakness that could cost the Patriots a playoff win. Even if the pats means that they give up just one more red zone score than an average team in the playoff game, that’s a 4 point swing right there. In the 4 years that the Pats won the Super Bowl, they’ve won 7 games that were decided by 4 points or fewer. Their seasons also ended in playoff games decided by that same margin in 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2015. The importance of the Pats’ red zone defense cannot be underrated.
Malcolm Butler has shut down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. before, but I’m still concerned about him facing a bigger receiver like A.J. Green. Green represents the perfect test for the Pats defense, as the Bengals are similarly ranked 30th in red zone offense. If New England is going to have a chance at being a good red zone defense, the Bengals are the type of offense that they have to contain in the field’s final 20 yards. We need to see Butler and the rest of the secondary handle A.J. Green, and we need to see Mike Nugent get as many field goal opportunities as he gets PAT chances. If that happens, then the Pats will be making an almost undeniable argument that they’re the best team in the league. We’re going to learn a lot about our team’s Super Bowl chances today.
According to Adam Schefter, Jimmy Garoppolo is unable to play today and Jacoby Brissett will get his 2nd NFL start.
Gotta say, I’m surprised that Jimmy G isn’t going. It seems like he’s able to throw the ball well enough on short passing plays, which is what the Pats offense does best. And even if he re-injured himself today and was unable to play for the next 4-6 weeks or so, who cares? TB12 is back after this, so I’m surprised that Garoppolo didn’t force his way into the lineup.
Actually, I’d bet that Garoppolo tried to do exactly that but was shut down by Belichick and the medical staff. Garoppolo knows that this would likely be his last time playing this year outside of garbage time. Alas, he’s sitting out. Belichick has seen 2 quarterbacks get dinged up in the first 3 weeks of the season, and he wants to make sure he has the best backup QB in the league available in case the same fate happens to Brady.
Also, I’d bet that Belichick has Garoppolo’s trade value somewhere in the back of his head when the Pats made their inactives decisions today. Garoppolo currently has 6 amazing quarters under his belt this season, and his value is at an all time high. If he struggled today, regardless of his injury, his value might drop. Bill always has that next level thinking.
When it comes to today’s game against the Bills, Belichick is probably signaling that the deep ball will be important to the Pats’ offense today. Garoppolo’s arm strength would have been a major question, and Rex Ryan would have taken advantage of that by tempting Jimmy G to throw the long ball.
The Bills are 22nd in the league in passing yards given up per game, and giving them the ability to forgo defending the long ball is an advantage that they need not have. Brissett may not have 2 perfect thumbs today, but at least there’s the chance of him throwing deep.
Regardless, it’s just 1 more week until we get the GOAT back. Happy Sunday.