|09.18.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
“Woodson really doesn’t look like a 17-year veteran, I’ll tell you that,” Belichick began. “He makes plays all over the field – very aggressive, fast, instinctive, strong tackler, tough. Just couldn’t say enough about how impressed I’ve been watching him on film. The Raiders have real good team speed. They’re a big, physical team. We have a lot to get ready for in terms of their scheme and personnel.
“I think Coach [Dennis] Allen has done a good job there defensively with emphasizing the turnovers. They caused a lot of fumbles last year. I think it was the fourth-most in the league or something like that. They do a good job of turning the ball over.”
Of course, it’s the one turnover that Woodson thought he caused on Jan. 19, 2002 that will haunt him and the Raiders forever. Charles Woodson came on a corner blitz and sacked his former Michigan teammate in the snow of old Foxboro Stadium. Woodson stripped the ball from Tom Brady and Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert recovered. With 1:43 left in the fourth and the Raiders leading, 13-10, in the AFC divisional playoff game, all hope appeared lost for the Patriots.
Brady and Woodson were best of friends at the University of Michigan. They were separated by just two locker stalls. Brady even threw to Woodson a little while the two were with the Wolverines. This Sunday will mark the sixth time the two have met in the NFL but Brady says the two have never discussed the way their first encounter ended.
“I don’t think we’ve ever talked about that, but I remember it very well, and I’m sure he does, too,” Brady said Wednesday. “He was making plays back then, and he’s still making plays the same way. He’s got long arms, a really strong tackler. He’s been a ball hawk his entire career.”
|09.18.14 at 12:32 pm ET|
While every other blogger pretends to know what’s going on in the NFL, I am going in the exact opposite direction.
That piping-hot sports take might not do much for my credibility, but isn’t the honesty refreshing? The Internets is full of people desperate to prove that they are smarter than everyone else, but not me, I am proud of my mediocrity. I learned that lesson a long time ago from a close friend of mine. No NFL insider, let alone blogger, could have predicted that the Seahawks would lose to the Chargers or that the Saints would open the season 0-2. Instead of droning on about the elite-ness of Richard Sherman, or the struggles of the Saints pass rush, I am going to chalk up those anomalies to the fact that the NFL, especially early in the season, makes zero sense. Thus my picks will not be based on trends, facts or stats, rather the classic combination of Miller High Life and braggadocio. The title of this weekly blog really should be ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ Because in the end, everything is made up and the points don’t matter. With that being said, onto the picks.
Chargers +2.5 at Bills
The Bills may have won their first two games, but they are still the Bills. I have watched the Bills suck for too long to be impressed by a two-game winning streak. The last time the Bills made the playoffs I was 9 years old and the Music City Miracle only struck me as mildly hilarious. At that age, I didn’t have the wherewithal to properly appreciate how typically Bills-ian that loss was. But with maturity and experience, I’ve come to the obvious realization that the Bills will never be good. This year will be no different. Also, as a card-carrying member of the #FreeRivers fan club, you better believe I am picking the Chargers. Plus, this gives me the excuse to play this all day Sunday.
Pick: Chargers +2.5
Ravens -1.5 at Browns
I really hate the phrase ‘God hates Cleveland,’ because it implies that God actually cares about the sports future of the 45th-largest city in the United States. The suggestion that a divine power was some how responsible for The Drive, The Fumble or Jose Mesa is patently absurd. So no, God doesn’t hate Cleveland, but I sure do. Cleveland has nothing going for it and is easily the worst of the Rust Belt cities. It is just as crime-ridden and plagued by deindustrialization as Detroit, yet has none of the charm. When Drew Carey and James A. Garfield are your most notable residents, you know you are dealing with a bunk city. Heck even Gary, Indiana, produced the Jackson 5.
As for actual football reasons to pick against the Browns: The Ravens have a good run defense, are 22-8 all-time against Cleveland, and have wily vet and pass-catching machine Steve Smith Sr. Don’t be surprised if this game is won by a Justin Tucker field goal in the final moments.
Pick: Ravens -1.5
I really have no idea what is going to happen in this game. I can’t even rely on irrational hatred because I don’t like either of these teams. You may ask then, Sam, if you have no insight, why pick this game? Because it’s the most interesting game of the week and I might as well have a rooting interest. For the Broncos, this game is an opportunity for revenge after last year’s Super Bowl embarrassment. For the Seahawks, it’s the opportunity to re-establish themselves as the league’s best team. Now, I don’t like the fact that the most valuable member of the Seahawks always will be the architect who designed CenturyLink Field to be a cacophonous false-start-producing sound dungeon. That has never sat well with me. But I have to take Seattle’s home-field advantage into consideration. Also, throughout last week, the ‘Nothing beats that new car smell’ line from Peyton Manning‘s new Nationwide ad was stuck in my head. To borrow a line from Drew Magary and a tune from Nationwide: ‘Peyton is a haughty douche.’
Pick: Seahawks -5
|09.18.14 at 12:13 pm ET|
According to reports, the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice Thursday, as linebacker Jerod Mayo and safety Don Jones both returned after not practice on Wednesday. It appears Mayo was absent on Wednesday because of the birth of his child.
Meanwhile, Jones was dealing with a hamstring injury.
The Patriots continue preparation for their home opener this weekend against the Raiders.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|09.18.14 at 11:40 am ET|
If Derek Carr is able to lead the Raiders to an upset win over the Patriots on Sunday in Foxboro, he would break new ground for rookie quarterbacks against Bill Belichick. Since 2001, no rookie QB in his first or second start against the Patriots has beaten Belichick in New England.
In that span, Belichick has faced rookie quarterbacks on 19 occasions, and New England is 14-5 against them. However, none of those losses have come at home. Last year, Geno Smith turned the trick at MetLife Stadium when he led the Jets past the Patriots in overtime. In 2012, Russell Wilson did the same in a home game for the Seahawks. Colt McCoy shocked the Patriots in a Browns blowout in 2010 in his first time against New England. In 2009, Jets QB Mark Sanchez knocked off the Patriots in his first-ever game against Belichick in the Meadowlands. And in his first year in the league, Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers past the Patriots. All of those games were away from Foxboro.
Belichick said this week he’s been impressed with several aspects of Carr’s game, and as a team that was interested in taking a quarterback in the early stages of the 2014 draft — Carr went 36th overall to the Raiders, while New England chose Jimmy Garoppolo at No. 62 — the Patriots were able to get what Belichick called a “good look” at Carr. The coach was impressed by the Fresno State product.
“His athleticism, [as well as his] arm strength, Belichick said. “[His] ability to get the ball down the field and avoid negative plays in the pocket with his athleticism, mobility and some running ability, too, are all things that we saw in college that I’d say are showing up this year in the NFL as well.
“He’s only been sacked a couple of times,” Belichick added of the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder who has completed 47-for-74 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions while adding 55 rushing yards. “He’s an athletic guy back there. He can certainly get the ball down the field. We know he’s a smart kid. I think all the things that we saw from him at Fresno and when he’s had an opportunity to do them in this league have continued to show up. Obviously the systems are different, but from a skill standpoint I think his skills are his skills and they’re pretty good.”
|09.18.14 at 10:08 am ET|
FOXBORO — There must be something nostalgic in the air in Foxboro this week.
On Wednesday, Bill Belichick spent nearly 15 minutes of his 27-minute press conference waxing poetic about his eighth-grade football playing days and the influence of the “Single-T”, “Wing-T” and “Wishbone” offenses. On Thursday, Tom Brady, apparently inspired, posted a copy of his resume from 2000 just before his was taken with the 199th pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
As part of the pop phenomenon “Throwback Thursday” or #TBT, Brady held the resume in one hand and took the picture with the other. He then wrote: “Found my old resume! Really thought I was going to need this after the 5th round. #tbt”
Brady was acknowledging the fact that he was somewhat nervous after not being selecting in the first five rounds of the 2000 draft before the Patriots selected him and changed the course of his life and football in New England forever.
Highlights of the resume include his work at Merrill Lynch in Ann Arbor, where he “assisted” the Senior Sales Broker, was “exposed” to upper-level management and company strategy and “programmed inventory control and reporting systems” for clientele.
He also listed his work in researching stock and mutual fund reports while updating client portfolios while gaining knowledge of broker activity and day to day administrative duties.
Brady resume also highlights his academic achievement while earning a Bachelor of General Studies from the College of Literature Science and the Arts from the University of Michigan, graduating in Dec. 1999 with a 3.3 (4.0 scale) GPA.
Under “ADDITIONAL,” Brady itemizes his achievement as team captain of the ’99 Wolverines and the fact that he “guided the football team as starting quarterback to 1998 Big Ten Championship and postseason bowl victory.”
|09.18.14 at 9:59 am ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick loves to talk football, especially the history of football.
That was certainly apparent this week when he was asked about the art of the unbalanced offensive line, putting an extra tackle on the end of the line and leaving just two linemen on the opposite side.
Stephen Belichick, Belichick’s father, wrote “Football Scouting Methods” and was on Navy’s coaching staff for 34 years in Annapolis. It was there that Belichick began to soak up all kinds of football knowledge that he makes use of today.
“In a way I really feel lucky because the one year, in eighth grade I played for the T-Birds in Annapolis,” Belichick said. “It was the Ford dealership. I think it was 110-pound football and so we were the T-Birds and so our coach played college football at Clemson so we ran the single-wing. That was our offense. Whatever year that would have been, call it ‘62, somewhere in there, ‘63, whatever it was.
“So, for a whole year I got to experience what a single-wing offense was. It was pretty interesting, just being a lineman, which that was the game really, was the blocking play, the blocking patterns and the calls. That’s kind of all he knew, was to run the single-wing. So we ran the single-wing. Really looking back on it, it was a great experience I never would have gotten otherwise just because it was kind of going out of, hardly anybody was running it.
“Lawrenceville [N.J.] ran it and when I played at [Phillips Academy] Andover in 1971, Coach [Ken] Keuffel down there, I think he might have been the last one to run the single-wing because he ran it all the way through his career at Lawrenceville. So we actually played against it when I was in high school. The principles and the elements of it are interesting. I’m glad I got to experience it. I got to experience the wing-T in high school, the single-wing in Pop Warner football, the Wishbone in college and my exposure to all the NFL stuff since ‘75.”
1975 was the year Belichick entered the NFL with the Baltimore Colts. The modern-day Colts used an unbalanced line often against the Eagles on Monday night while the Patriots – featuring Cameron Fleming – have used it frequently in their first two games as they look to bolster the protection in front of Tom Brady while also strengthening the running game.
That’s all the daylight Belichick needed to begin his lecture.
“I’d say the main issue you get into would just be the commitment you make to it,” Belichick began. “Putting an offensive lineman in for a tight end, I would say you’re going to get less of a defensive adjustment, normally. I would say you’d get less of a defensive adjustment because the spacing is still the same, it’s just who is that guy? It’s a lineman instead of a tight end, but if it was a blocking tight end or lineman, how much difference is there? I’d say there’s a smaller degree of grade of adjustment for the defense.
|09.18.14 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Raiders are well aware of what they are walking in to.
Oakland coach Dennis Allen ripped off a few of pertinent numbers on his conference call with the New England media Wednesday, painting a less-than-favorable scenario for his team heading into Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.
“I understand that this is a good football team — they’re well coached, they’re good on offense, they’re good on defense, they’re very sound in what they do special teams-wise, and they’ve been that way for a long, long time,” he added. “So, we understand that it’s a great challenge going up there.”
Historically, it’s been tough for West Coast teams to play East Coast games at 1 o’clock, and the Raiders are no exception. Oakland is looking to end a 14-game East Coast losing streak this Sunday — the Raiders last win in the Eastern Time Zone was Dec. 6, 2009 in Pittsburgh. While most teams come to New England a day before kickoff, Oakland will touch down in New England on Friday in hopes of getting better acclimated to the time difference.
“The schedule is what the schedule is, and our job is to show up and try to win a football game, and that’s really what we’re focused on doing. We’re not really focused on the travel,” Allen said when asked about prepping for playing a game that is essentially at 10 a.m. their time. “We don’t change a whole lot as far as what we do. We start pretty early here anyways, so we kind of keep the schedule as normal as possible.”
In truth, even if this were a home game for the Raiders, they would still face a sizable challenge in the Patriots. Oakland has lost its first two games of the season, having been outscored by a combined 40-7 margin in the first three quarters of each game while yielding an average of 200 rushing yards per game, the worst total in the league. (Veteran Raiders safety Charles Woodson told reporters, “We suck” shortly after Oakland suffered a 30-14 loss to the Texans last weekend.)
Allen said Wednesday that the biggest sticking point for the Raiders to this point has been inconsistency.
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