Patriots Week Four Recap

Bill Belichick is no genius
Smug Bill thinks he knows football talent

The 2014 New England Patriots suck. Everything about this team reeks of incompetence, inability and a nice dash of unwarranted arrogance, from the GM to the coaching staff and down to the players. That buzzing sound in Foxborough hovering over Gillette? A billion flies getting ready to feast on a huge pile of crap.

This season has been years in the making, too.

Listening to MNF announcers Mike Tirico and John Gruden exchange “This is surprising,” “I’m shocked, John, are you?” “I don’t know what to make of this, can you believe this?” made me want to throw the remote through the television (unlike Brady, I’d have hit my target). There is absolutely nothing surprising about what is happening with the Patriots right now. What is surprising is that it’s taken this long to come about.

Bill Belichick may be a great coach. He may be a scheming genius. He is just terrible, horrible, no good and very bad at identifying and evaluating talent. How many cornerbacks and wide receivers can you draft in six years and have nothing to show for it? How many players can you take from Florida (31-21 over the last 4 years) and that football powerhouse Rutgers (28-23 over the last 4 years)? These guys didn’t dominate college. They’re not going to dominate in the NFL.2014 New England Patriots are crap

Ultimately, his failure to draft highly talented players has put the Patriots in the position they’re in now. Weak college players and players checkered with injury histories, retreads, never-have-beens and never-will-bes make up the 2014 roster. The players that did have talent are old and hurt and need to be carried by the new wave. Except the new wave is about as strong as the current in the kiddie pool.

Then there’s the rest of the coaching staff. Whatever they’re paying these guys above $7.25 (Federally mandated minimum wage rate) an hour is too much. In back to back weeks the Patriots have faced teams with a soft run defense. What does Josh McDaniels dial up? Pass, pass, pass, pass, run, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, half a run, pass, pass…you get the idea. Then he power runs with shifty scatback Shane Vereen and plays bob ‘n weave with downhill steamroller Stevan Ridley.

How about trying to dial up some plays that match the personnel ability instead of trying to mash the personnel into your crap scheme? Sound too much like a plan for success? Thought so – can’t have that.

It’s not any better on the defensive side of the ball. Revis Island (and I’ll admit, I’ve been pretty hard on the guy this year) is a human shadow. But Patty Matt has him playing waaaaay off the receivers and sometimes even putting him in zone situations. It’s a defensive scheme least suited to his abilities. Also, the rumor was that the Patriots acquired some serious pass rush ability this off season. Psych. (Cue Belichick pulling his hand away like he’s slicking back his hair just as Brady goes for the high five.)

Pairing this lame roster with poor game planning and expecting players to perform and play with intensity and enthusiasm is a Walmart strategy. People will do just enough to get by, get paid and move on as soon as possible (see Tommy Kelly).

Tom Brady said he’d retire when he sucks. It’s looking like retirement is calling (loudly). Sure, he has no offensive line, no receivers and no game plan, but when he does have time to throw and the receiver is open, Tom Terrific ain’t hitting ‘em. Of course, Belichick snidely dismissed the question of a possible quarterback controversy. Clearly, Jimmy G is not pro-ready, but he’s close. The time is coming soon when there will be a controversy.

Which makes me wonder, is the ineptitude we’re being treated to just part of the transition plan? Is Belichick sabotaging Brady and making him look ineffective or just plain bad in order to make the switch to Garoppolo that much easier?

The original question posed by the media was whether or not the Patriots would cut ties with Brady like they did with Ty Law, Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins. I’m thinking it’s Brady that should cut ties with the Patriots – if he survives the season.

Any way you slice it up, Patriots fans are in for a rough time of it in the next two years. This team has a long way to go to regain any kind of relevance in the NFL. Things are only going to get worse before they get better. Somehow, though, New England sportswriters still manage to think (and write) “there’s nowhere to go but up from here.” Wrong. We’re looking at Oakland bad right now.

Unfortunately, the rest of the AFC East is so pathetic that the Patriots still look competitive. It’s a façade and Pats fans are falling for it. Even Vegas appears to be falling for it as the Patriots are still three point favorites this week against the Cincinnati Bengals. This is such a gimmee game that I may even lay down some loot. Bengals to win outright.

If the Patriots think they were embarrassed against KC, just wait until this week. The Bengals are going to replicate the Chiefs’ performance, only this time it will come with the added insult of being on New England’s home turf.

New England’s D will not be as befuddled and anemic as they appeared against Kansas City, but the offense will be worse. Much worse. Re-watch last year’s game and imagine fewer capable receiving threats, a less-mobile Brady and an O-coordinator who refuses to match play calling with personnel. Somehow, though, the Patriots will scratch out a pair of field goals and the D will hold the Bengals to a measly 37 points.

Yep. Bengals 37 and Patriots 6. At Gillette.

I’ve never wanted to be wrong more in my life.

—Ryan Varney

Patriots Week Three Recap

Bill Belichick is no genius
Smug Bill says the Pats faced a very tough opponent in the Raiders

If this past Sunday didn’t put a scare into you, check your pulse. The Oakland Raiders visited the New England Patriots and – unlike every other west coast team that heads east – saw vast improvement in their football skills. Either that, or New England is a really bad football team.

The Raiders are horrible against the run, so the Patriots promptly came out with Ridley steamrolling. Wait, no. No they didn’t. They started out with three straight passing plays and a punt. Brilliant. From there, it was a lot more of Brady trying to throw while being continually violated in the pocket. The Grand Canyon has fewer holes than the Patriots offensive line.

The decision to push the passing game was a real head-scratcher considering the Raiders were allowing, on average, about 200 rushing yards per game. The Patriots backfield gashed them for well under half that with 76 paltry yards.

Fortunately, in spite of the weak protection, Brady was able to rack up 234 passing yards and the game’s lone touchdown, which proved to be just enough to slip past the cagey Raiders.

Rookie Raider QB Derek Carr didn’t play a great game, but he held his ground against what little pass rush the Patriots defensive line could apply. At one point, I’m pretty sure I saw him wink at them in defiance. I hope it didn’t hurt the D’s feelings. But allowing a potential game-tying TD pass in the closing minutes should have. Good thing the Raiders committed a face-saving penalty to nullify it, and thus enabling Vince Wilfork (Wilfork Island) to snag a ridiculous INT on the ensuing play, after the pass pinballed off the receiver and the cornerback.

About the only good thing to come out of this game is that no serious injuries were suffered to key players. Which basically means Edelman, Gronk and Brady escaped to play another week.

And while the defense again allowed under ten points (yay.) they have yet to face anything more than a middling to poor offense. Revis Island is shrinking in stature by the minute, eroded by the efforts of actually having to play real games and not simply bask in hype.

Watching this game was as comfortable and pleasurable as eating a box of pine tar-coated tacks.

Said the eminent sage and deep-thinking Gronk, “We did enough this game, but that’s not always going to get the job done.”

Well, Gronk, you punch the clock on Monday Night Football next week. Think you’ll do enough to get the job done? I don’t.

Expect complete embarrassment on MNF as the Patriots slough off to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs. If Peter King has the Patriots in his Fine Fifteen next week, I may stop reading the MMQB altogether, because they shouldn’t even be in there after this week.

—Ryan Varney

Patriots Week Two Recap

Bill Belichick is no genius
Smug Bill – Guess he showed his critics this week

In week two, the Patriots punched Chicken Little square in the mouth, beating the Minnesota Vikings 30 – 7 on the Vike’s home turf.

Wild speculation about the demise of the New England Patriots ran amok last week after the team failed to show up for the last 30 minutes of football against the Dolphins. In week two the Patriots showed up for the last 50 minutes of football and regained most of their rightful respect as a top tier team in the AFC.

Still, one wonders where they were in the first ten minutes of the game. Things grew tense when Minnesota drew first blood. What made it worse is the manner in which they did so.

Every so often Bill Belichick likes to send Shane Vereen out of the backfield and up the sideline on a wheel route. I think the play has worked all of once for a .05% success rate. Then yesterday, the Vikings ran the same play with Matt Asiata. You’d think the defense would’ve recognized the play, but no, it went for a touchdown. Maybe the Patriots run that play so much because the D can’t stop it in practice, so they can only assume it’s the golden ticket to TD land. (Note to the coaching staff: it only works against the Patriot’s defense.)

The Patriots offense responded with a three and out.

Then the defense came to life with a pick (nearly six) by Devin McCourty. Stevan Ridley followed with a touchdown run from the one.

From that point forward, the Patriots controlled the game, forcing three more turnovers, as well as a FG blocked and returned for a touchdown, and the offense even managed a passing touchdown (Brady to Edelman). Gostkowski kicked three field goals, too. The Vikings never saw the end zone again.

Patriots Nation are now packing their bags for a trip to Arizona in February.

Not so fast, my friends. This is a Vikings team led by all world backup quarterback Matt Cassel. He showcased why he earned that label by providing four interceptions on some really poorly thrown balls. But he had to keep throwing because the Viking’s running game was completely destroyed when they decided to deactivate Adrian Peterson for the game. AP truly is all world and the Patriots were the beneficiaries of a real gift in his not playing. (I don’t take lightly the off-the-field situation surrounding Peterson, btw, but it’s a discussion for another time after all the facts – and videos – have been reviewed.)

If there’s anything to be learned from the week two performance, it’s that the defense isn’t dead in the water and they still have a knack for creating the turnover, especially with Chandler Jones on the edge and Revis Island covering a receiver older than he is. Special teams looked like they belonged as part of a professional organization. The offense is still very concerning, though.

Earlier this summer, Brady said he would quit playing when he started sucking. He’s walking a very fine line this year between being excused for having limited weapons and a bad O-line, and just plain not making the plays or throws that should be made…or put simply: sucking. However, it’s still too early to make any kind of judgment on his playing. Let’s revisit this after week five, when all the pieces have more time to gel and there’s a larger sample size.

Gronk is still clearly not close to being 100% and the receiving corps still look and play very small. Except you, Burger Tyme Edelman, you’re the man. But the passing attack can’t live on burgers alone.

Dobson, Amendola and LaFell need to pick up the level of play if the Patriots are going to sustain any drives and put the ball in the end zone.

Overall, I still see the Patriots as a .500 team at this point. They’ve shown they can let things go horribly wrong (Miami) and that they can put the screws to a team that is missing their MVP running back and has no quarterback so to speak (Minnesota). With Oakland coming to Gillette next weekend, there’s no real chance to show improvement. The Raiders are relying on a rookie QB who has even less weapons at his disposal than Brady.

But in regards to the Patriots keeping pace with the Red Sox in the cellar of the AFC East, the sky most certainly is not falling.

—Ryan Varney

Patriots Week – or Is That Weak? – One Recap

Bill Belichick is no genius
Smug Bill – Look into his eyes

Last week I picked the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Later, I found out ESPN host Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning also picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. The cumulative effect of these two predictions may be too massive a hurdle for the 2014 Patriots to overcome. Forget the play on the field. This dual hex is crippling to the Patriots’ chances at winning even a game this season (forget the Super Bowl).

Perhaps Tom (not so) Terrific agrees with my sentiment, uttering this eye-opening statement after the 33-20 shellacking at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, “You can’t go out there and play the way we played today and think you will win a game this season…”

Could the Patriots actually go defeated this year?

AL East and AFC East standings
Boston Strong

It wouldn’t be a first in Boston this year as the last place Red Sox have essentially gone defeated a year after winning the World Series (see standings to the right).

Still, it’s unlikely that a group of veteran players like Vince Wilfork, Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis and Jerod Mayo will fail to produce a victory. But with the horrible coaching schematics and game planning along with obviously under-conditioned players, it could happen.

One has to think the Evil Genius Bill Belichick will move to improve the poor planning that went into creating turmoil in an already weak offensive line (he opted to trade Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins a week before the season started). Mankins wouldn’t have made yesterday’s game any closer, but maybe playing a consistent set of players instead of rotating so much inexperience in and out of the O line would have.

The Patriots started the game looking good, cruising to a 20-10 halftime lead. Then they proceeded to give up 23 straight points while looking absolutely gassed and overwhelmed, left behind in the (Cameron) Wake of the Dolphins. Pun intended. (This piece is honoring the quality of play produced by the Patriots yesterday, btw.)

The offensive offensive line was not the only problem. As it turns out, Revis Island is located somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle, where incompletions, pass break-ups and interceptions disappear into Mike Wallace touchdowns. And why wasn’t there a game plan for defending against that future HOF running back (read with sarcastic inflection) Knowshon Moreno?

I have a notion that most Pats fans know Knowshon, considering he gashed them for over 200 yards last year while with the Broncos.

And keep in mind the Patriots are heading to the land of Adrian “All Day” Peterson next week. He really is a future Hall-of-Famer and just might break the single game rushing record if he suits up (fantasy owners take note).

Needless to say, the Patriots may want to work on their off day this week and study up extra hard on the Vikings. But after having five months to game plan for the Dolphins, it remains to be seen whether five days is enough time to plan for the Matt Cassel-led Vikes.

The good news is that New England really can’t play much worse than they did in the second half against Miami. So there’s plenty of upside left for the season. I still expect them to win the division, but another performance or two like this one and I’m bailing on that idea faster than Josh Gordon can grab a quick joint, er, car sale (was that too blunt?).

Stay tuned for more glowing reviews of the 2014 Patriots as the season progresses. For the record, I plan to conduct a little experiment during next week’s game by standing barefoot on a pile of glass shards during the Patriots game. We’ll see what hurts less, the Pats play or the glass.

Or maybe it’s just your eyes that hurt…from reading this.

—Ryan Varney

2014 NFL Season Predictions

NFL Logo
Expert predictions for the 2014 NFL season

The 2014 NFL season kicks off tonight with the Green Bay Packers taking on the 12th Man, er, the Seattle Seahawks. Could very well be a preview of the NFC Championship game… No matter what, though, the game is sure to get pro football kicked off with a deafening bang.

Now that all the preseason exhibitions, practices and roster moves are behind us, I’ll give you my expert take on how the season will shape up.

Regular Season Predictions

X = Division Champion; Y = Wild Card

AFC North NFC North
x-Pittsburgh (10-6) x-Green Bay (11-5)
y-Cincinnati (9-7) y-Chicago (9-7)
Baltimore (9-7) Detroit (7-9)
Cleveland (4-12) Minnesota (5-11)
AFC East NFC East
x-New England (11-5) x-Philadelphia (10-6)
NY Jets (9-7) NY Giants (7-9)
Miami (8-8) Washington (6-10)
Buffalo (4-12) Dallas (4-12)
AFC South NFC South
x-Indianapolis (10-6) x-New Orleans (11-5)
Tennessee (8-8) Tampa Bay (9-7)
Houston (7-9) Atlanta (8-8)
Jacksonville (3-13) Carolina (7-9)
AFC West NFC West
x-Denver (14-2) x-Seattle (12-4)
y-San Diego (10-6) y-Arizona (9-7)
Kansas City (8-8) San Francisco (9-7)
Oakland (4-12) St. Louis (4-12)

AFC Playoffs

Wild Card

San Diego Chargers over Pittsburgh Steelers
Indianapolis Colts over Cincinnati Bengals

Divisional Round

San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos
New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts

AFC Championship

New England Patriots over San Diego Chargers

NFC Playoffs

Wild Card

Green Bay Packers over Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles over Chicago Bears

Divisional Round

Green Bay Packers over Seattle Seahawks
New Orleans Saints over Philadelphia Eagles

NFC Championship

Green Bay Packers over New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl

New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers

In a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI (or 31 as I like to say), I have the Patriots coming out on top this time.

Some people are bold enough to pick actual scores, regular season, playoffs, Super Bowl or all three, but that’s just getting a little too crazy. There is no real sample population yet to help us determine just how potent each team’s offense or defense is going to be. Except that we know Jacksonville’s offense will be anemic.

Other Predictions

Here are some things I will be watching for during the season.

Johnny Manziel – not when he’ll start (week 5, BTW) but when he’ll get hurt (week 9 against the Bucs).
Rob Gronkowski – not when he’ll get hurt (week 5 against the Bengals) but which body part this time (ankle, BTW).
Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick – not which one has the better season (Kaepernick) but which one gets hurt running outside the pocket (Wilson – which is why Kaep has the better year).
Bill Belichick – just the over under on how many times he smiles this season during press conferences (cumulative). I have him at six. Six smiles.
Marshawn Lynch and Pete Carroll – when does Carroll finally realize he should just lead a trail of Skittles from the line of scrimmage to the end zone, thereby ensuring a Marshawn Lynch touchdown on every drive (for a blueprint of this plan see E.T.) and victory for Lynch fantasy owners everywhere.
Dallas Cowboys – Over/under on how many games it takes for a team to put up 50 against that stalwart D (4 games).
Andy Dalton – After signing the big money, does he live up to his salary a la Joe Flacco? What’s that – Joe Cool didn’t live up to his salary? Well then, sucks to be you Cincy.
Michael Sam – Will he or won’t he play in an actual game in 2014 – who cares? When do the nudes get leaked?

Finally, to all you fantasy football players out there, good luck from the bottom of my heart. My only advice: it’s not about the talent of the players, but how the coach’s game plans incorporate them. That being said pick up Tim Wright (TE, New England) now. I have no idea just how good he is, but you can bet Belichick will work him into as many plays as he can.

—Ryan Varney

Where to Watch Football in Cincinnati

UPDATE: The 2014-15 NFL season is about to kickoff. Hopefully your team pulled through the pre-season with no devastating injuries and it’s time to enjoy some actual real football. The only problem now is figuring out where to watch, especially if your team isn’t local. With that in mind, it’s time to revisit this blog post from last year. It’s still 100% relevant, meaning nobody went out of business and no other sports bars made the leap into my top five.

Where to watch football in Cincinnati
Watching football at Buffalo Wild Wings in Rookwood

One of the first things I asked about when I moved here was where to watch football in Cincinnati. I can’t believe that was four years ago. Even more troubling is that I’ve never written about my findings (and this is some serious research, mind you).

If you’re already thinking blah blah blah…just tell me where to go., then feel free to skip ahead to find the best place to watch football in Cincinnati.

First, I’d like to encourage you not to get fooled by this compilation from Metromix – like I did when I moved here. It’s fine if you’re only interested in watching one or two games, with the Bengals game being both of them. These are mostly fine establishments, but they DO NOT cater to the fan that wants to watch EVERY NFL game.

Second, if you’re wondering why you should listen to me, let me present some credentials. I moved from Chicago, my home for a decade and a somewhat transient city, that hosts a wide spectrum of NFL team fans besides da Bears. They know how to do a football Sunday Funday. I also go out just about every Sunday with my wife. She will validate any of these assessments. We root for different teams, neither local, so it’s important for us to see all the games. Plus she actually runs a money fantasy football league, so she’s double-y invested. Yeah, we’re serious about the NFL.

So what makes a great place to watch every NFL game?

Three things: TVs, TVs, TVs.

Actually, there’s more to it than just TVs. Food and atmosphere help round out the contributing factors. But the TV setup is clearly the most important thing here. So here are my picks for the places doing it right.

Top 5 Places to Watch NFL Football in Cincinnati

These are not listed in any particular order. The viewer’s proximity to the location plays a big role in determining where to go. Just know that all provide a great football-watching experience.

Buffalo Wild Wings (Rookwood/Hyde Park/Norwood)
http://www.buffalowildwings.com/

Buffalo Wild Wings Norwood - where to watch football in Cincinnati
2692 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH 45208

If you can get a seat in the bar area, you’re pretty much set up for every game. They have four large TVs (two side by side above the bar) and five smaller TVs in a line. Plus you have good sight lines to catch some of the bigger TV displays in the dining area. They work with you to make sure you can see the games you’re interested in, but it is first come first serve. So get there early.

The atmosphere is pretty festive, especially when the Bengals are on. If you go semi-often, you’ll definitely be able to turn strangers into friends as there is a regular crowd.

Drink specials generally include 23 oz drafts of either Miller Lite, Bud Light or Coors Light for $3. And while they’re working on expanding the menu, it’s still your typical bar fare. Just get the wings.

Putter’s (Liberty Township)
http://putterstavern.com/

Putter's in West Chester - where to watch football in Cincinnati
6575 Cincinnati Dayton Rd
Liberty Twp, OH 45044

Putter’s has a more limited setup, but the south bar has a nice wall of TVs (two large screens surrounded by several smaller ones). There are also many TVs scattered across the entire restaurant, but depending on where you can get a seat, they may not be viewable.

The atmosphere is usually pretty noisy and you may find yourself involved in some trash talk, so be prepared.

During the early games, they have a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar that is excellent. Choose from a variety of mixes and garnish with several cheese choices, olives, pickles, celery, salami, hot peppers and so much more. If that’s not meal enough, enjoy a gameday steak hoagie and fries for five bucks – your choice of mushroom or Italian and mozzarella.

Holy Grail (The Banks/Downtown)
http://www.holygrailcincy.com/html/banks/banks.php

Holy Grail at the Banks - where to watch football in Cincinnati
161 Joe Nuxhall Way
Cincinnati, OH 45202

The Holy Grail has really expanded its TV setup. All screens are large and crystal clear. There’s really not a bad seat in the house and they do a good job of labeling each TV so you know what game will be where.

It’s always loud and rowdy and quite often you can find ESPN radio personality Mo Egger there watching the games. Y’know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

They have your typical bar food fare and they do a good job with it. I don’t think they have any gameday deals that will really draw you in.

Buffalo Wild Wings (Newport/Ft. Thomas)
http://www.buffalowildwings.com/

Buffalo Wild Wings in Newport, KY - where to watch football in Cincinnati
83 Carothers Road
Newport, KY 41071

Best TV setup in Cincinnati. While the whole place is relatively small, they somehow packed in over 45 TVs, all 48” screens or larger and all crystal clear HDTV displays. Plus they have home theater-sized screens above the bar on both sides. The bar is in the middle (so it’s oval) and there are four sections surrounding the bar. Each section has at least eight TVs – needless to say, you can find all the games here. They’ll also work with you to get any game you want on any TV you want. This is where you will find me most Sundays.

The atmosphere isn’t as good as the Rookwood location (above), but it’s new and needs time to develop. It’ll come around, especially when people realize just how AWESOME the TV setup is.

I’ve already commented on the food. It’s the same here as Rookwood.

Willie’s (Covington)
http://www.williescovington.com/

Willie's - where to watch football in Cincinnati
401 Crescent Ave
Covington, Kentucky 41011

Willie’s has the Great Wall of Television. If you can get a seat in the bar, you can sit and stare at four huge screens surrounded by several smaller ones. If you sit in the dining area, the view’s not so good.

Willie’s is a fun place and the food is very good for bar fare – and pretty reasonably priced. The only thing that keeps me from going back more often is the smoke. One of these days NKY will get with the program and ban smoking.

Honorable Mention:

Thirsty’s Oasis (Mason)
http://www.thirstysoasis.com/ordereze/default.aspx

Willie's - where to watch football in Cincinnati
5579 A Ohio 741
Mason, OH 45040

Thirsty’s has a boatload of TVs, well-positioned throughout the bar and you can see all the games from just about wherever you sit. They even have an outdoor patio/bar with enough TVs to show all the games. However, they’re not real adept at working the remote, so you may have to wait awhile before the game you want hits the TV you’re watching.

They have a great selection of beers, but no real gameday specials. The food is good and varied, but I’ll recommend the Flying Pig Wings. And the Bloody Mary.

Did I Miss Your Fave?

Drop me a comment if you think I missed one. I’m always willing to try other places in my quest to find football heaven.

—Ryan Varney