DeflateGate Fallout: 5 Thoughts & 5 Things That are “More Probable Than Not” For the Patriots in 2015

belichick

Oh, hey, that Wells Report thingy came out today. You remember it, right? That super serious investigation into whether or not the Patriots knowingly deflated footballs before the AFC Championship in January. It seems like we’ve been waiting on the results of this report for months. And with May being a slow news month for the NFL after the conclusion of the Draft, you had to figure it was more probable than not that the report would come out soon.

Rather than listen to ESPN’s stable of ex-NFL players who have an axe to grind with the Patriots produce a lot of hot air about this topic, I decided to write out some thoughts for anyone who wants a rational take on all this. Here are five random thoughts about the news that broke today and five modest predictions for the Patriots’ 2015 season:

  1. I can once again rely on the pulse of all my Patriot-hating friends to decide how bad this looks for New England. Because without a doubt, if there is even a minor shred of evidence that somebody cheated, these people will come out of the woodwork with a thousand nasty things to say about the Patriots, Brady & Belichick’s legacies and the legitimacy of past Super Bowl wins. And you know what I’ve heard so far? Nothing. Not. A. Thing. It’s been hours since the story came out and all I’m hearing is crickets.
  2. If you did take to Twitter to laugh at and takedown Pats fans, that just tells me that you didn’t bother reading any of the report. You simply saw a headline that said “New England ‘probably’ deflated footballs.” But if you read the report, you’d notice that the general gist is that they couldn’t find any true evidence of tampering or anyone of significance ordering the balls to be messed with, but they can’t imagine it happened any other way so they just assume there’s foul play.
  3. Is “more probable than not” the weakest stand someone can take on a matter? When picking a side, is refusing to pick and staying neutral more of a stance than saying “more probable than not?” They couldn’t say things like “we strongly believe” or “there’s overwhelming evidence” because they have absolutely not conviction in the result they came up with. This is the SOFTEST conviction in the history of convicting.
  4. Listen, when the Patriots were found guilty of taping opponents’ sideline signals in ’07 (an act that had only become illegal a few months prior to that incident), they may not have agreed with all the results of that investigation but they stood up and took their punishment, and didn’t cry foul. Obviously they have no intention of doing that this time, assuming Belichick, Brady and everyone else follows the blueprint their boss just laid out for them.
  5. Remember when I wrote that the NFL purposely let the DeflateGate accusations leak and did nothing about it after the AFC Championship game because they wanted to own the news cycles during that week off before the Super Bowl? Well here we are again. Why did this report take 100 days to come out? Because this was the best possible time for the NFL to use it to keep dominating the news. A week ago we had the NFL Draft to take up all our time. The week before that was the Greg Hardy suspension news. If you go back week by week to the end of the playoffs, you’ll find that significant news or rumors have come up on an almost-scheduled basis so the NFL never went away for long. Well since the draft is over and people have moved on from reading post-draft material, it was time to get us all to turn back to the NFL Network or click on ESPN.com’s fresh takes on this news. Any sort of punishment coming from this report will take about a week, I’m sure. As soon as the collective media’s most recent erection over this topic starts to soften, the NFL will take action.
    1. And let’s not sleep on the fact that the Patriots are now so polarizing that the NFL gets its biggest villain in a long time for an entire season. Even Patriots/Jaguars and Patriots/Titans will draw huge ratings and interest during the 2015 season. This is the most perfect result possible for the NFL. How convenient.

Predictions for the season:

  1. The ceiling has been lifted on the upcoming Patriots’ season. The Broncos set the record for most points in a season with 606 in 2013. I’m predicting a modest 950 points for the Patriots in 2015. I know a lot of times we pump up the concept of athletes going into Eff You mode more than they actually follow through with it, but remember that there’s an exact precedent for this when it comes to the Belichick/Brady Patriots: 
  2. Don’t expect Patriots fans to be even remotely rational this year. We’ve tried to use logic & reason with you people over the entire 14 years that you’ve hated New England. But no more. We’re going to meet your irrational stupidity with our own irrational stupidity. The Patriots are going 19-0. They’ll outscore every opponent 60-0. Tom Brady is Jesus. Bill Belichick is god. Our team has the undisputed greatest QB of all time and greatest coach of all time. Even with the league office, the referees and every fan base conspiring against them, the Pats will be hoisting Lombardi #5 next February.
  3. I may exaggerate slightly with my predictions on how many points the Pats will put up in 2015, but whatever you do, please, please, PLEASE make sure you clear your schedule for Sunday, October 18th, at 8:30pm Eastern. That is when the Patriots will take the field in Indy for the greatest revenge game in sports history. If the Patriots are favored by anything less than 28 points, I’m putting everything I’ve got on them. Only two games in NFL history have featured a team scoring more than 70 points. I think the Patriots make it three on October 18th.
  4. The biggest losers in all of this are the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were already dealing with playing against the Patriots in New England on opening night when the Super Bowl banner will be raised and the fans will be frothing at the mouth over the start of Super Bowl run #5. Now you also have to be the first team to face a pissed off Patriots team?
  5. The NFL won’t dare to seriously punish the Patriots. Sure, NFL, you could punish the Patriots for all of this circumstantial evidence, but do you really want to provoke them any further? You screwed with them during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl (which, by the way, they won behind 4 Brady touchdown passes against the best defense in the league) and now you’ve soiled their reputation with this nebulous report. If you don’t want your 2015 season ruined by a runaway train known as the Eff You Patriots, you’ll stop short of any real punishments. I think you should heed the advice of my favorite TV villain: 

As inappropriate as it would be for the league to suspend Brady for a game or two at the start of the season, I almost want this to happen so that when Jimmy Garoppolo leads the Patriots to a 2-0 start behind a pair of blowout wins, the rest of the NFL can freak out about how good New England will be even after Brady retires in 11 years.

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Week 8 NFL Recap: A Rush To Judgment Leads To Bruised Hands & Junk Food

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions

No matter how many times we have it drilled into us that in sports “it’s not over til it’s over,” we just can’t help rushing to judgment. Things can change so quickly, and we’ve all probably seen hundreds of examples of this across every sport.

But we just can’t help ourselves. Instead of patience, we feel the need to make a definitive statement about how things will end up, even when those things are still being played out right before our eyes.

I like to think of myself as a relatively even-keeled sports fan. But that doesn’t stop me from succumbing to the temptation to overreact. This past weekend was a perfect example.

After my Red Sox were on the losing end of that still-mind-boggling World Series game on Saturday night, I flipped out (kind of like Dez Bryant flipped out on Sunday). More depressing in my mind than the way that game ended was the fact that Boston was now down 2-1 in the series and a mysteriously-injured-or-fatgiued Clay Buchholz was the only thing standing in the way of the Cardinals getting a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. I reacted like any normal 30-year-old would: I crushed enough drinks at the bar to mostly wipe out my memory, and then I woke up Sunday morning with a confusing bruise on my left hand and a kitchen suddenly stocked with beef jerky, Goldfish, peanut M&M’s, a Heath Bar and Pringles. It seems like I had an anger-filled pity party for myself. I hope it was fun.

Fast forward to the first half of the Patriots-Dolphins game on Sunday and here are some of the notes I was taking for the recap blog:

  • “Marquice Cole might be the worst defender in the history of football…awful, awful coverage on the Dolphins’ first touchdown”
  • “It honestly looks like Gronk is the only eligible receiver on the field for the Patriots on every play. Why is Brady refusing to throw to Amendola, Edelman and Dobson???”
  • “Brady’s first completion comes with 1:35 left in the 1st quarter…terrible, terrible, terrible”
  • “The Pats’ best offensive weapon is a borderline pass interference call that went for 21 yards. Let’s do that 23 more times.”
  • “Patriots down 14-0. This might be over with the way Brady’s playing”
  • “From bad to embarrassing, the Pats get the ball to start the 2nd half and their three offensive plays are: Dobson drop on a perfect 10 yard throw, Brady trips on Ridley’s feet and gets hit while throwing a wobbler, Brady gets sacked…awful”
  • I don’t think I have the energy to deal with this Pats game and then another Red Sox loss later tonight..this is shaping up to be a terrible sports weekend for Boston fans”

Well…you don’t have to be a Boston fan to know that starting with the 2nd half of that Patriots game, this turned out to be a great sports weekend for New England. The Pats not only won, but they covered (important for jerks like me who always say they’re not going to bet on their own team but then do anyways). The Red Sox not only got a solid outing from Buchholz, but they won the game and knotted the series at 2-2.

Maybe the Patriots reacted to the Red Sox loss on Saturday night the same way I did and that’s why they were a bit lethargic to start the game on Sunday. The point is, no matter how much it kills us to demonstrate patience when things seem to be going bad, it’s necessary if you don’t want to have a meltdown every other day. I’ll try to remind myself of that if the Sox implode in game 5 on Monday night.

 

Let’s dig through the notebook and see what else went on this weekend outside of that Patriots game:

  • Calvin Johnson is good at football.
  • Dez Bryant is pretty good at football too, but he’s a fucking psycho. As Calvin continues to gravitate towards the Jerry Rice stratosphere, Dez continues to go down the Terrell Owens path. I hope the Dez-Dallas relationship ends as poorly as possible.
  • Speaking of Dallas and Detroit, I’m going out on a very small limb here and saying that was the best game of the year. Better than Peyton @ Indianapolis two weeks ago. Better than Patriots over the Saints in the final seconds. You couldn’t ask for more in this game. A 300-yard receiver, some circus catches from Owens Bryant, the Cowboys shooting themselves in the foot after leading by 10 with only six minutes left, and the perfect QB-WR combo to lead an unlikely comeback in the final minute. I even gained a new respect for Matt Stafford with that ballsy leap into the end zone on Detroit’s final score. If this had been the Thursday night game instead, it would have ended with Detroit winning 12-7.
  • I have a new favorite play of the year. Yes, better than all of those Brandon Weeden throws where he underhands it to a group of defenders. But this play also came from a Cleveland quarterback. With the Browns trailing by six and time about to run out, Jason Campbell ran to the line of scrimmage near midfield, got his team lined up, and then spiked the ball to “clock it” right as the game clock ticked to 0:00. I’m not sure, but I think a hail mary might have been the correct call.
  • It’s tough to get a feel for a lot of the games when you’re just watching the Red Zone Channel all day. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Buffalo-New Orleans game was just play after play of the two QBs getting absolutely demolished every time they dropped back. Did anyone else watching the RZC notice that? Every highlight from that game was either Drew Brees or Thad Lewis getting drilled. I’m stunned neither of them got seriously hurt.
  • I told you before week 7 to start shorting the Chiefs because they were a soft undefeated team that is getting too much respect from Vegas. And guess what? They haven’t covered in their last two games, both of them at home against bad Houston and Cleveland teams. Yes, they still won both times and they’re now 8-0, but they won’t fool me. I will continue to bet against them, and I might even pick them to lose at Buffalo next week. If you look at their schedule, it’s conceivable that they’ll lose their next four or five games. I know, I know, blasphemy. Everyone’s so high on this defense and mistake-free offense, but they haven’t played anyone yet. The fall is coming. (end of Chiefs rant)
  • If you’ve been paying attention to my football columns, you know I’ve been wrong on my Redskins predictions every week. And this week I picked Denver to cover only so I’d be wrong again and my friends from Washington would end the silent treatment they’ve been giving me. So in one sense you probably think I broke my curse by picking correct in one of their games. And maybe I’m not a jinx anymore…but in another sense, I should probably tell you that when Washington took a 21-7 lead, I wrote in my notes, “This week’s ‘football makes no sense’ example: The Skins are going to beat Denver in Denver.” To my friends in D.C., I’m very sorry for this.
  • The real “football makes no sense” example from week 8 is this: The Raiders were the consensus to be the worst team in football this year. That was when we thought a potentially competent Matt Flynn would be their starting QB. Instead, supplemental draft pick Terrelle Pryor wins the starting job and suddenly they’re 3-4, have a legitimate shot to be 6-5 after week 12, and hearing Andrew Siciliano tease us that an update on the Raiders game is coming on the RZC makes us wonder what awesome thing Pryor did this time. It makes no sense that the Raiders are this fun.
  • My favorite Siciliano update on the Raiders game yesterday was not the Pryor 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, but rather when he told us that multiple Raiders players and coaches were flipping the refs off from the sideline after a bad penalty went against them. Once Tom Brady hits the IR with a broken throwing hand, I might adopt Oakland as my team for the rest of the year.
  • The Red Zone Channel could have renamed itself “Turnover Central” or “Interceptions Only Channel” for the four late games on Sunday. You think I’m exaggerating? With half a quarter left in each game, I jokingly guessed that I had seen about 14 turnovers between those four games. Turns out I was off by 8 turnovers…there were 22 turnovers in those games. 19 interceptions and 3 fumbles. That’s an average of 5.5 turnovers per game.
  • As a comparison, there were 19 total turnovers in the other 8 games that have been played so far in week 8.
  • Personally I found all the turnovers to be fantastic TV viewing.
  • Here’s some interesting trends from the 2013 New York Jets: They’re 4-4. They’ve neither won two games in a row nor lost two games in a row. In their 4 wins, they’ve outscored the opponent by an average of 3.25 points. In their 4 losses, they’ve been outscored by an average of 20.25 points (Even if you take out the 40-point loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, they’re still getting outscored by nearly 13 points in their other losses).
  • From a betting standpoint, it seems that you should first decide if the Jets can win outright or not. If not, then don’t get cute and expect them to cover as a 3-10 point underdog.
  • I got a comment last week from one of my faithful Pittsburgh readers. He was upset that I didn’t spend any time recapping the Steelers’ big win over the Ravens. Fine. Here you go, Pittsburgh reader: That win over Baltimore looked like it could be big, but now it’s completely meaningless. Beating Oakland to get to 3-4 would have made things interesting, but now the 2-5 Steelers are finished.
  • I’m officially adding Pittsburgh to my list of teams that have no shot at the playoffs. 8-8 is their best case scenario.
  • And if I could change that list from last week’s recap, I’d be taking the Giants off of it. Unbelievable as it may be, the Giants are only two games out of first place in that horrific NFC East. For now, they remain alive.
  • I held out as long as possible, but I just have to brag a little. It wasn’t only a good sports weekend for me because of my Boston teams. I absolutely crushed my picks in week 8. I’m 9-3 going into the Monday night game (where I have Seattle to cover). I won both of my Pick ‘Em leagues for the week. Got another win in the only fantasy league I care about at this point. Everything turned to gold. The depressing part is that it took until week 8 for me to finally not lose money on my picks.

 

By the way, did you realize the city of St. Louis could get a double dose of sports depression tonight? Kellen Clemens vs Seattle in football and Red Sox-Cardinals in game 5 of the World Series. Fingers crossed that St. Louisians are jumping off the arch en masse later tonight.

 

Week 9 picks coming on Thursday.