Jimmy Garoppolo Vs. Matt Cassel

Image result for jimmy garoppolo matt cassel

The 2008 New England Patriots season sucked, at least by the standards that we’re used to in New England.  It was 1 of 2 seasons out of 15 when they didn’t make the playoffs, an 8-8 team played January football but the 11-5 Pats didn’t, and we got to watch Tom Rrady for exactly 2 drives all season.

But we learned some things about the Patriots.  We learned that anyone who thought that Belichick’s success had been entirely due to Tom Brady was a moron.  We also got to see a good estimate of how good a quarterback has to play for the Patriots to still be a playoff team.  They may not have made the postseason that year, but an 11-5 record in a season with inflated records in the AFC East is a pretty good indicator of where the line of demarcation is for whether or not a team makes the playoffs.

Therefore, we need Jimmy garoppolo to measure up to Matt Cassel in order to the Pats to stay on a playoff pace.  They could still make the postseason if Garroplo was a lot worse and the Pats went 1-3 without Brady, because TB12 is TB12.  But given how important homefield advantage is for the Pats, we need to hope for more.

Matt Cassel put up almost 3700 yards, 21 TDs, 11 picks, a 63.4% completion percentage, an 89.4 passer rating, and he threw on 270 rushing yards for good measure.  Cassel also averaged 7.16 yards per passing attempt, and the Pats as a whole averaged 6.7   Garoppolo is only slated to play a quarter of the season, so we can knock those numbers down to 925 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, and the same 63.4% and 89.4 completion percentage and passer rating, respectively.

However, we need to account for the fact that the quarterbacks and passing attacks have gotten a lot better in the NFL over the past 8 years.  In 2008, the median yards per team passing play was 6.4, and in 2015 it was 6.7.  The median passing completion percentage in 2008 was 60.45%, while it was 63.08% in 2015.  That means that 2008 New England was about 0.3 yards per passing attempt better than league average with Cassel, and Cassel put up a completion percentage that was about 3% better than league average.

So let’s say Garoppolo performs beats league average by the same margins that Cassel does.  That would put the Pats at 7.0 yards per passing play and a 66.4% completion percentage.  Those seem like some lofty standards, but that’s where the NFL passing game is right now.

Garoppolo had a 72.7% completion percentage, and the Pats averaged 7.8 yards per passing play.  That means that Garoppolo is already ahead of pace from what Matt Cassel laid out, which is something I think we all expected anyway.

Really, though, why does it matter how much better Garoppolo is than Cassel?  If The Pats can just get enough good play and enough luck for New England to go 3-1 without Brady, isn’t that all that matters?

Not so much.  Matt Cassel provides another barometer for Garoppolo and the Patriots: The Kansas City Chiefs traded the 34th overall pick for Cassel, and Cassel was a former 7th rounder who still carried doubts about whether or not he would succeed without an amazing team like the Patriots around him.  Bill Belichick will look to trade Garoppolo after the season — when Jimmy G has 1 year left on his deal — and he’ll want a bigger return than the 34th pick.

How much better Garoppolo plays than Cassel determines just how high that return is.  If Jimmy G continues that line of 7.8 yards per passing play (and 8.0 yards per actual pass attempt) and keeps completing more than 7 out of every 10 passes, then 2 first round picks is in play as far as a trade haul.  Matt Cassel set the trade market for a promising backup of Tom Brady, and it looks like Jimmy Garoppolo has a good shot of obliterating that market.

Patriots 2016 Season Preview

2016 IS HERE! LET’S GO!!!!!

Ever since that damn 2 point conversion, we’ve been waiting for this day.  The Pats are back, and that void in our lives has been filled.

Let’s be honest, though.  We’re a little nervous about the 2016 season, at least compared to previous years.  With the team that New England has this year, the Pats should have an automatic top 2 seed before the season even starts.  They started out 10-0 last year, earned the #2 seed, and would have had homefield advantage throughout had it not been for injuries and a dumb decision to lay down in Week 17.  Their only real loss from the team was Chandler Jones, and Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, and co. should be able to serve as decent enough replacements for the synthetic pothead.

But this year doesn’t look too good out of the gate.  Brady is out for 4 games, and Gronk is out at least tonight.  My gut tells me that Gronk will miss at least 2 more games, because it wasn’t like it was a gametime decision for him not to play today, as we heard the news yesterday.  That makes a Week 2 comeback unlikely, and week 3 is on a Thursday night after a short week.

As far as Brady’s B.S. suspension goes, I think there’s a higher potential for disaster in Garoppolo’s first 4 starts than most Pats fans do, especially without Gronk.  Pats fans point to the fact that the team’s next 3 games after tonight’s are all at home, but they conveniently overlook the fact that the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills collectively make up a fearsome foursome of defensive lines.  Both before and after the severity of Gronk’s hamstring injury came to light, I thought that a 2-2 record through the first 4 was most likely.  Before Gronk’s injury, I thought that 3-1 was more probable than 1-3.  Now, though, 1-3 feels more likely than 3-1.

A 1-3 start would be rough for the Patriots, but not because it would put their playoff chances in doubt.  After all, I’m the guy who just wrote that it’s insane that the Pats are only -350 to make the postseason.

What should worry you, though, is the Pats’ seed in the playoffs.  They’ve never made a Super Bowl without having a 1st round bye.  They could easily make the Big Game from a 3 or 4 seed, but Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and especially Denver, as I wrote last year, represent very difficult places to play in January.

Still though, New England is the most likely AFC team to earn the top seed and make the Super Bowl.  Denver’s defense simply can’t repeat itself from last year, as elite defense is more volative year to year.  They also lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan.

Kansas City is going to be a tough, ballsy team this year, and I’m glad that the Pats don’t face them in the regular season.  But I just can’t bet on an Alex Smith team to beat a Tom Brady team to the top seed.  And let’s stop the “If Pittsburgh can get healthy” talk.  Ben Roethlisberger is always prone to missing a few games, Maurkice Pouncey is always prone to missing the whole season, and Le’Veon Bell is out for at least 3 games and maybe more if the injury big hits him again.

The Pats may stumble out of the gate thanks to Roger Goodell’s sliminess and the NFLPA allowing the NFL to run their lives during the last CBA, but this season might wind up being the opposite of 2015:  Start out slow, go on a run when Brady and Gronk are both back, and be healthy late in the year rather than early in the year.  If the Pats can earn the top seed or even the 2 seed after missing Brady for 4 games and Gronk for a few to start the season, everyone will be talking about how they’re the best team heading into the playoffs.

What else is new?

Prediction:

Garoppolo goes 2-2, but the Pats have a point differential of -15 in those 4 games, leading everyone to worry if something is truly wrong with the Pats.  Brady and Gronk come back and right the ship, and the Pats have decent injury luck throughout the rest of the year.  They finish 12-4 and earn the top seed because the AFC doesn’t have many elite teams.  They’ll make the Super Bowl and face the Packers in a Brady-Rodgers showdown, and ultimately Brady will come out on top.  

It’s not biased if they truly are the best team.  Can you honestly tell me anyone else is better?  God, it’s good to live in New England.

How the Hell Are the Patriots Only -350 to Make the Playoffs????

I can’t quite seem to understand this one…

Image result for tom brady confused

If you’re unaware of how betting lines work, that’s fine.  They’re kinda weird.  Essentially, if a team is -7 points in a given game, they’re favored by 7 points (because they’d have to “subtract” 7 points for the teams to be equal).  If they’re +7, they could lose by 6 points and cover the spread.  If an outcome is listed as “-200,” then you have to bet $200 to win $100.  If it’s +200, then you have to bet $100 to win $200.

The Patriots are -350 to make the playoffs.  That’s insane.  If you do the math, you’ll realize that Vegas is giving the Pats a 77.78% chance of making the playoffs.

The first time I did the math and read the stat, I thought that it was a 78% chance of winning the division, and I thought “Ok, that’s fair considering that Brady is missing the first 4 games.”  But nope, this is just about making the playoffs.  Even if the Jets, Bills, or Dolphins somehow has an awesome season and exceeds everyone’s expectations — which is the only way that the Pats wouldn’t win the division barring an insane number of critical injuries — the Pats could still get one of the Wild Cards and win you the bet.

Have they not been watching the Brady-Belichick Patriots for the past 15 years? Only in 2002 and 2008 did the Pats not make the playoffs.  Brady wasn’t Brady in ’02, and he was obviously injured in ’08, an unusually deep year for the AFC.  The Pats won it all in 2014, won their first 10 games in 2015 and had a playoff spot pretty much locked up from like Week 4 on.  Oh yeah, and they’ve made 5 straight AFC Championships and earned 6 (!!!!) consecutive 1st round byes.  That seems like a lot more than a 78% chance to make the playoffs to me.

This line shouldn’t be that surprising, though.  Las Vegas is damn good at making lines that either screw you over or make it impossible for you to make a decision, but they constantly underrate New England.  In 2014 and 2015, the Pats had under/overs of 10.5 wins.  I could kinda see that in 2014, but that was certifiably stupid in 2015 after the Super Bowl 49 season.  (That 10.5 wins line existed even after Brady’s suspension was originally overturned in early September of 2015.)

An even better example might be 2010, when Vegas pinned the Pats at 9.5 wins heading into the 2010 season after the shaky 2009 Pats season.  That line was somewhat defensible at the time because it did seem like Belichick didn’t have the same command of the locker room as he did during the Super Bowl years, but 9.5 wins for a team getting Tom Brady back for the 2nd year after his ACL tear? C’mon.  At the very least, you’d think that Vegas would have learned their lesson after that debacle of a line and the Pats’ subsequent 14-2 season.

We love sports as a whole because of the unpredictability, but we love the Patriots because of their consistency and reliability.  Patriots -350 to make the playoffs is as close to free money as you’ll get in sports.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity.

I Can’t Blame Dombrowski for Trading Future for Present

Boston Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen
Boston Red Sox vice president of international scouting

 

Dave Dombrowski may wind up trading away the future at the trade deadline in a week.  That’s his M.O., after all.  Here’s the thing:  I can’t really blame Dombrowski for trying to sell out for this season.  Don’t get me wrong, this 2016 Red Sox team is incredibly frustrating and might wind up blowing the season down the stretch, deeming any trade acquisitions a complete waste of resources.    But it’s the fact that the Sox are so frustrating that makes it so understandable for Dombrowski to go full throttle for this season at some expense of the future.

This Red Sox team should be one of the best in the league.  They’ve scored 539 runs this season (as of Saturday night’s 11-9 loss to the Twins), and no other team has even 500.  They have David Price, who have every ability to be an ace.  Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez were two of the team’s biggest question marks heading into the season, and both of them have played like they’re actually worth $20+ million a year.  Steven Wright has come out of nowhere, and now the Sox have one of the season’s best pitchers in Drew Pomeranz.  Finally, they have a bullpen with five relievers who have a 3.55 ERA or less.

That’s what makes losses like those on Friday or Saturday night so damn frustrating.  They lose 2-1 after David Ortiz, of all people, grounds into a double play with the bases loaded and 0 outs in the 9th. The next night, they score 9 runs and lose because their ace David Price gets shelled, and then Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree decide “Oh yeah David?  Bet I can do a lot worse.”

 

The 2016 Red Sox are more than well-equipped to win the World Series.  Their rotation now consists of 4 dependable starters, assuming that Price pitches like he did in May and Pomeranz only has a slight dropoff from his San Diego numbers and not a major one.  Their bullpen, when Kimbrel returns, will have enough guys to throw to the fire, although I wouldn’t mind one more guy via trade.  And their offense is fantastic.  Problem is, the rotation has been a mess outside of Porcello and Wright, and the bullpen and offense both struggle from cases of bad timing.

I know that baseball analytics say that there’s no such thing as a clutch player or clutch team, but that’s one of the few analytical items that I’ll push back on.  This Red Sox team hasn’t been clutch, and Friday and Saturday night demonstrated that perfectly.  When they give up 2 runs and are facing the lowly Minnesota Twins, the offense somehow does nothing and disintegrates with the best clutch hitter of all time grounding into a DP.  When they score 9 runs and have their ace on the hill, the ace sucks and the bullpen sucks worse.

I’m still hopeful, and you should be, too.  The Sox have everything that it takes to win, and that’s why I find it hard to blame Dave Dombrowski for trading good prospects for Ziegler, Pomeranz, and maybe someone else in the next week. But something has to change with the 2016 Red Sox, and that something is the timeliness of the players’ production.

The Tyler Zeller Contract Is Genius

 

NBA: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks

 

Earlier today, Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics re-signed Tyler Zeller to a 2 year, $16 million deal with a team option for the 2nd year.  On the surface, the deal seems like a fair-but-not-very-meaningful one.  The Celtics used their remaining cap space on a quality backup in Zeller, which is fine given that there are no more worthwhile free agents out there and Zeller’s new deal doesn’t tie up any 2017 cap space.

When examining the contract a little further, though, the deal is tremendous.  What’s at the top of every Celtics fan’s wishlist right now?  That’s right, a blockbuster trade.  When trading for a superstar, the Celtics will need to match salary in order to trade for one of the top guys on the market.  Given that they don’t have any huge expiring contracts on mediocre player a la Theo Ratliff in 2007, making it hard to math salaries without giving up an asset that the C’s otherwise wouldn’t have to (such as Amir Johnson and his $12 million salary).

If the C’s wanted to trade for Jimmy Butler and his $17.5 million salary, for example, they couldn’t get the job done by only giving back Avery Bradley, RJ Hunter, Terry Rozier and a bunch of top draft picks to put the deal over the top.  (The picks would be the centerpiece of that trade, of course.)  The C’s could make that deal by throwing in another small salary, but what if they wanted to take back another player from the Bulls or another team in a 3 team deal?  Or what if they wanted to give the Bulls the option of attaching a bad contract to Butler in order to get more assets from the Celtics?

Now that the Celtics have Zeller signed for $8 million this season, they can toss in another expiring contract.  And Zeller has some added value as an expiring deal, because he’s still a productive player who is on a reasonable deal for the 2017-2018 season, if some team chooses to pick up his option.  Any team that might acquire Zeller from the C’s would probably love the option to give a productive center $8 million to hold down the front court.

Worst case scenario?  Zeller gives nothing to the Celtics, who cut him, trade him as part of a larger trade, or trade him for nothing to one of the many teams with cap space.  There’s zero downside to Tyler Zeller’s new contract, which is why Danny Ainge made a fantastic move.

We’re Back

Life sucks sometimes.  Actually, pretty much all the time.  I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to post for a full 2 months, and I apologize for that.  The good news is that the 2 months I missed featured no Boston teams in the playoffs and only the Red Sox during the regular season, and I’m back for the baseball pennant race and Pats training camp, preseason, and the regular season.

Bruins Sign Kevan Miller to 4 year, $10 million deal

bruins fan flask

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!

You would think that Don Sweeney learned his lesson last year after signing Adam McQuaid to a 4 year, $11 million extension and watching McQuaid fail to play 65 games for the FOURTH year in a row, but nope, Sweeney keeps shelling out cap space to guys who he could replace for half the cost.

I’m not as low on Kevan Miller as many Bruins fans.  While people around these parts feel that Miller should be riding a bus in the AHL, I’m cool with him as a 7th or mayyybe 6th defenseman on a contender.  However, under no circumstances does he deserve $2.5 million per year.  The cap is rising and $2.5 million isn’t what it was in the NHL 5 years ago, but a depth defenseman almost never gets more than $1-1.5 million per season.  Kevan Miller could be replaced with any 6th/7th defenseman off the street for about a million bucks per year, and a the Belichickian way of thinking dictates that it’d be easy for the Bruins to get 90% of the player that Miller is for 30 or 40 cents on the dollar.  But Don Sweeney is no Bill Belichick.

Sweeney obviously has his job through this summer and well into next season, but unless something drastic changes, I’ll be pissed if he has a job in Boston. on July 1, 2017.  Sure, moves like the Lucic trade or the Beleskey contract were smart, but his batting average on good moves is way too low because of stupid decisions like the McQuaid contract, giving up a 3rd round pick for Zac Rinaldo, the infamous Dougie Hamilton trade, and now the Miller contract.  Claude Julien changed his coaching style during the season in order to turn the Bruins into a more offensive team this year, and he almost got the B’s to the playoffs.  Don Sweeney is trying to make sure that the Bruins are consistently the 9th seed in the East.

 

Celtics’ Fans Have a Stomach Knot about Draft Lottery

celtics darft lottery tommy heinsohn

I care about the Boston Celtics for two reasons.  First, I love Boston sports teams, and rooting for them is an integral aspect of living in this city.  Second, I love watching basketball, and the NBA is the best basketball league on the planet.

That’s why it sucks that tonight is more important than any single game that the Celtics played all season, with the possible exceptions of April 1 in Oracle Arena and Games 3 and 4 against the Hawks.  It was a huge statement for the Celtics to become the first team to win in Oakland during the regular season since January 2015, and it was imperative for the C’s to hold home court in Games 3 and 4 and tell the world that they wouldn’t roll over, even with a missing Avery Bradley and a hobbled Kelly Olynyk.

Tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery will determine the fate of the Celtics’ franchise over the next decade far more than just about any game the C’s could play.  Get one of the top 2 picks, and suddenly the Celtics have all the pieces to contend within a few years, whether through player development or trading assets.  If they don’t, Operation Contend Again stalls.

Celtics fans do need to realize, however, that the C’s are not screwed if they wind up with the 6th pick tonight, which will probably happen according to Celtics’ lottery history.  The plan to rebuild simply gets stalled, not halted in its tracks.  They still will draft in the Nets’ spot for each of the next 2 years after this one, and they still will have the Grizzlies’ pick in 2019, 2020, or 2021 when Memphis probably sucks.  That’ll be a valuable asset within 1-3 years.  Most importantly, they still have a good young core and one of the best young coaches in the league who will only get better after a 48 win season.

But tonight is super important.  I’ve been nervous since I woke up Monday morning, 36 hours before the ping pong balls are revealed.  Only the NBA draft lottery can make fans feel this way without the sport actually being played.

 

NFLPA Took the Biggest Hit Today

demaurice smith

No, that headline was not meant to be clickbait or to give Patriots fans a distraction to the franchise’s best player getting suspended for a quarter of the season.  It’s the truth.  The NFL Players’ Association took a humongous hit today, and I hope that they have the backbone to admit how badly they screwed up.

Ever since a reporter for a huge sports media conglomerate and another from a newspaper based in the capital of Indiana, whose names and company names I refuse to write because it gives them the publicity that they so crave (it’s not like they are about journalistic integrity, after all), misreported facts about how the Patriots “cheated” during the AFC Championship Game, fans and media alike have overlooked the most far-reaching aspect of this case.  The NFL Players’ Association gave Roger Goodell the power to be the judge and jury for these types of decisions, and they gave him so much power that an Appellate court in NYC decided that such power superceded actual science and fact.  And while I’m upset with the Appellate Court, who apparently used the Wells Report in their decision despite the fact that every scientist who took a look at the report said it was BS, I’m far more upset with the NFLPA.

While Roger Goodell has significantly elevated his status of villain in the past 5 years, the players knew that he was an enemy before the 2011 lockout.  It’s not breaking news that he’s an owner’s puppet who will gladly prioritize making the owners happy over morality and fairness.  Therefore, why in the world would they agree to a CBA that allows Goodell to be the judge and jury?  Actually, judge and jury isn’t a fair assessment.  Goodell is essentially the police, prosecution, judge, and jury, and he was allowed to pay off the crime scene investigators (Wells) to prove exactly what he wanted to hear.  That doesn’t seem like a fair system of justice, which makes it all the more baffling that the NFLPA would agree to such a statute.

The NFLPA just lost one of their best players for the first 4 games of the season, and what’s more, a United States Appellate Court just determined that they have to take each of Roger Goodell’s beatings on the chin, no matter how unfair they are.  The NFLPA has to live with this statute for another 4 years until the CBA expires in 2020, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

I know this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but Tom Brady is to blame for this as well.  It’s not just DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA, who shoulders the blame for Brady’s suspension.  Brady was a high ranking member of the NFLPA during the CBA negotiations in 2011, and while he wasn’t as high ranking as the name of the case, “Brady vs. NFL,” would suggest, he was certainly high enough that he deserves his fair share of blame for this.  Players should never accept a statute like this.  If a union is going to be in place, then a union should be able to have basic rights that allow its workers to operate as if they were living in, you know, America.  When it comes to punishment, the NFLPA has no such rights, which is all the more evidence we need to know that the NFLPA is far more inferior than the players’ associations in other sports.  One judge ruled that the commissioner’s ruling was unfair, and the higher court came along and said “Yeah, but they have the right to be that unfair, the NFLPA agreed to it.”  That’s a problem, and it sucks for Patriots fans that Tom Brady is the one paying for it.  Remember, though, Tom Brady shares the blame in this one, and I’ll bet you THAT’S what is going to cause him a sleepless night tonight — not footballs that were never actually underinflated.

Brady Suspension Overturned, Will Face 4 Game Suspension

brady goodell

Well, it happened.  We knew this would be possible, but wishful thinking combined with fatigue from Deflategate prevented us from truly understanding the possibility that Tom Brady would actually sit out 4 games due to suspension.

I don’t have to tell you that the decision is total BS, given that the judges used the Wells Report in their decision, and every major scientist from every major university who ran their own tests on this scenario found that science was not on Ted Wells’ side.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to matter to judges, who didn’t feel that it was their job to care about the facts of the case, but only to determine whether or not Roger Goodell could be this unfair.  Apparently, he can.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely devastated.  This ruling could hurt the Pats’ playoff seeding, which, as we learned a few months ago, is a huge deal with a potential trip to Denver looming.  Denver has a very advantageous schedule this season, which makes this ruling hurt a little bit more.  Having said that, better men than I have doubted the Brady/Belichick Patriots, and they’ve all been proven to be morons.  I’m not gonna be a moron, and I hope that you won’t either.