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Posted on: January 27, 2009 3:48 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2009 7:29 pm

Belichick Jumps for Joy for London Game

The first 70,000 tickets to next year's NFL game at Wembley Stadium have already been sold, with 20,000 going in the first seven minutes of availability.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will "host" the New England Patriots on October 25 in London.

This new tradition was started in 2007, and in both years that a game in London has been played, the results were very positive.

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New England was announced as one of the teams that will be playing overseas in the 2009 season, and uber-owner Bob Craft was elated at the prospect of showcasing his team to millions of foreigners, having already alienated most of the American population of football fans outside of New England.

It was rumored that Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick called Craft and various NFL offices repeatedly, trying to ensure his team a chance to play in London.

Yeah, right. And goldfish live in trees?

In typical Belichick-ism, he deflected questions surrounding the 2009 game in London with the usual comments: "I want to focus on the players we have here," or "I'm worried about the 2008 season right now."

The NFL has its share of problems. From disruptive players, to feeling the pinch of a stagnant economy, to addressing the matter that the average life of an NFL head coach seems to be about six quarters long, the NFL needs a good and productive endeavor. And, according at least to commissioner Roger Goodell, they have found one in the annual game in London.

But, seriously, who had to sell this game to Bill Belichick? I for one would like to see the extensive physical mutialition that would have been endured if anybody but Craft or Goodell had to break the news to him.

Belichick is so anti-everything-that-has-to-with-fo
-plays that few would put it past him to try to "Bill Belichick" the New England Patriots.

We will wake up the day after the October 25th game (if we can figure out the time-zone exchange by then) to read blaring headlines such as "Belichick Goes Bananas in London: Starts Brady at Linebacker."

Until then, I guess "It is what it is."

Posted on: January 4, 2009 9:41 pm

Patriots to Franchise Matt Cassel

According to several reports, the New England Patriots are going to make quarterback Matt Cassel their franchise player for the 2009 season. Cassel will be set to make the average of the top five salaries at the position, which will net him around $10 million, more than what Tom Brady will earn.

Cassel finished the final year of his rookie contract the way that players dream to perform in a contract year, not only getting the chance to fill in for Brady, but also putting up impressive numbers and leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. Although missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, Cassel was instrumental for a team that lost 14 players to the injured reserve list, including Brady and starting running back Lawrence Maroney.

Cassel's achievements cannot be overlooked for a team whose Super Bowl expectations almost evaporated when Bernard Pollard fell on Brady's knee, forcing him out for the season. It took a few games before Cassel truly hit his form, but by mid-season, he was turning in performances that even Brady had not accomplished.

In week 11, Cassel not only scorched the Jets defense for 400 yards passing, but drove the Patriots down the field with no timeouts to tie the game on a remarkable touchdown pass to Randy Moss. In the following week, Cassel torched the eventual AFC East champion Miami Dolphins for 415 yards. Brady has only recorded one 400+ yard passing game in his entire career.

Although there are whispers of Brady being far behind his rehabilitation schedule; far enough to question his status for the 2009 season. If Brady's knee clears up and he is ready for the season opener, Cassel will be traded to one of a number of teams in need of a quarterback.

Cassel's success, however, should be questioned by other clubs before they make plans to acquire him through a trade. Cassel plays with two Pro Bowl receivers and behind an equally talented offensive line, not to mention Bill Belichick and one of the most sought after assistant coaches in Josh McDaniels. He is younger than Brady, and while some extremists in New England have pondered whether to keep Cassel and trade Brady, it is overwhelming likely that Cassel will be moved if Brady is a go come September.

Posted on: December 31, 2008 4:15 pm

NFL MVP is No Runaway

While fans must wait weeks after the end of baseball's regular season for the announcement of the yearly awards as voted by newspaper writers, NFL treats their fans to a much earlier arrival of the sport's best players. The MVP award will be given out soon, and while there is much speculation about who is going to take home this year's trophy, we can be sure of one thing:

There won't be a repeat.

Since there is no landslide candidate who set multiple individual records and led his team to many more, the discussion of which player is the MVP leads to fans attempting to skew the definition of what it means to be truly "valuable." But there are a handful of candidates who have separated themselves.

Peyton Manning led an incredible resurgence by the Indianapolis Colts to win their final nine games to finish the season 12-4. Philip Rivers took his play and his team from the doldrums and picked-up a terrible Chargers' defense en route to stealing the AFC West division crown. The Titans' Albert Hayensworth, Miami's Joey Porter and Pittsburg's James Harrison all had amazing defensive seasons for playoff teams. Michael Turner consistently ran the ball effectively and helped along a young team and a rookie quarterback to put a team in the playoffs that had no business in the preseason to believe they should be playing in January.

But in a very tight year for dominant performers, there is no one more deserving for this year's MVP than the Vikings' Adrian Peterson. Yes, he had trouble with fumbles, but everyone is gunning for AP while he is on the field. Defenses line up with eight and nine guys in the box and he still rips off huge gains and led the NFL in rushing yardage in a year with a lot of great running back performances.

But what makes Peterson truly the most "valuable" player is not only the way defenses lined up against the Vikings this season, but also the rotation they had at quarterback. Neither Gus Frerotte nor Tavaris Jackson put defensive coordinators in a position where they had to respect their abilities passing the football. Also, when we look at the best teams statistically running the football this year (teams that had over 2,000 total yards: both New York teams, Atlanta, Carolina, Baltimore, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington), the thing that sticks out is the fact that most great running teams now employ a two, sometimes three, headed monster at running back. The Panthers have Smash 'n Dash with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart; the Giants have Earth, Wind and Fire, and the Patriots featured four running backs all season long. Minnesota has a good back-up in Chester Taylor, but Peterson gets more than the lion's share in carries and he deserves the MVP for literally running his team to a division title and into the playoffs.

Posted on: March 19, 2008 10:42 pm

The draft the way it should be

Even though mock drafts are just that, mocks, I cannot help myself...

A run down of what teams actually need, not necessarily the best players available at each pick, and what each team will look for in the later rounds. Starting from the top:

Miami Dolphins, Pick One:
DT Glen Dorsey, Louisiana State. He is the best defensive player in the draft, and the Dolphins need some explosive young infusion of talent in their once aging, and now depleted defense. They will look for linebackers and cornerbacks later in the draft.

St. Louis Rams, Pick Two:
OT Jake Long, Michigan. The Rams have some holes, and Long will fill up a big one on that offensive line. The Rams offense was stagnant at best last year, and they need some who can throw defensive players around and create lanes for Stephen Jackson. They will look for wide receiver and linebacker help later in the draft.

Atlanta Falcons, Pick Three:
QB Matt Ryan, Boston College. The Falcons suffered an absolute debacle at quarterback last year, a terrible revolving door that including Joey Harrington and Bryan Leftwich. They need a signal-caller who can come in and start in week one and take over a team that needs a leader under center who can run a new offensive scheme. They will look for wide receivers and defensive linemen later in the draft.

Oakland Raiders, Pick Four:
DE Chris Long, Virginia. Most people would be looking for Darren McFadden here, but Oakland has a supply of running backs, and they need someone to stabilize that defense. Ellis has a great blend of speed and power to rush the passer on the outside of that defense. Oakland will look for offensive weapons for JaMarcus Russell to throw to later in the draft, as well as secondary help.

Kansas City Chiefs, Pick Five:
OT Ryan Clady, Boise State. The Chief's offensive line was a disaster last year, and they need a long term fix at tackle. Clady is strong and athletic and can play on the left side. The Chiefs will look for cornerbacks and more offensive linebackers later in the draft.

New York Jets, Pick Six:
RB Darren McFadden, Oklahoma. McFadden had an incredible combine, but we have seen backs that haven't produced like they should have. But the Jets can use a quick and powerful back and move Leon Washington to special teams and third downs. The will look for wide receivers and linebackers later in the draft.
New England Patriots, Pick Seven (from San Fransisco):
OLB Vernon Gholston, Ohio State. The Patriots will transform Gholston into an outside backer in their 3-4 scheme. He will fill the hole left by Roosevelt Colvin and will be a very similar player to fellow Ohio St. alum Mike Vrabel. They will look for cornerbacks and and more linebackers in the later rounds.

Baltimore Ravens, Pick Eight:
WR DeSean Jackson. The Ravens are not completely sold on Troy Smith, but they need some play-makers. Thomas is a speed threat, and a good return man, and did well in the combine. The Ravens will look for running backs and offensive line in the later rounds.

Cincinnati Bengals, Pick Nine:
NG Sedric Ellis, Southern California. The Bengals need a power player on their D-line, and Ellis can do just that. He is a solid overall player whose combine did not reflect how good he is. The Bengals will continue to look for defense in the later rounds, especially at linebacker.

New Orleans Saints, Pick Ten:
CB Mike Jenkins, South Florida. The Saints need to retool their secondary, and Randall Gay is not the answer. Jenkins has a lot of talent, is a good return man, and has a very good combine. The Saints will look for offensive linemen and linebackers later in the draft.

Buffalo Bills, Pick Eleven:
WR Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma. They need another speed threat along with Lee Evans, and with their quarterback situation hanging on by threads, they need all the help at receiver that they can get. The Bills will go for tight ends and cornerbacks later in the draft.

Denver Broncos, Pick Twelve:
OLB Keith Rivers, Southern California. The Broncos have a solid offense, but their defense needs improvement if they want to go anywhere in the playoffs. Rivers has excellent value with speed and versatility and is a smart player. The Broncos will will look for offensive linemen and wide receivers later in the draft.

Carolina Panthers, Pick Thirteen:
DE Derrick Harvey, Florida. Harvey has great speed and quickness off of the end and the Panther's D-line isn't getting any younger. The Panthers will look for help on the offensive line and at running back later in the draft.

Chicago Bears, Pick Fourteen:
WR Limas Sweed, Texas. Sweed put up very good numbers in college and has good size and speed. The Bears lost there two top receivers and need someone to help whoever is quarterbacking next year. The Bears will draft for the quarterback and offensive line positions later in the draft.

Detroit Lions, Pick Fifteen:
RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon. The Lions will balance their offense and take some heat off of the passing game with Stewart. He can hammer the ball up the middle and has big play speed. The Lions will look for help on the defensive line and cornerback in the later rounds.

Arizona Cardinals, Pick Sixteen:
CB Leodis McKelvin, Troy. Their secondary is becoming more and more depleted by the week. McKelvin can come in and start and play very well coverage and be an excellent return man. The Cardinals will look for running backs and safeties later in the draft.

Minnesota Vikings, Pick Seventeen:
QB Brian Brohm, Louisville. Tavaris Jackson needs a lifeline, or at least someone to light a fire under him to play better. If he doesn't, Brohm can be the franchise QB and does all the things you want your signal-caller to do. The Vikings will get help at wide receiver and defensive end later in the draft.

Houston Texans, Pick Eighteen:
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois. The Texans desperately need a franchise back, and Mendenhall can take some pressure off of the quarterback and O-line. He is also an effective receiver out of the backfield. The Texans will get linebacker and secondary help later in the draft.

Philadelphia Eagles, Pick Nineteen:
WR Early Doucet, Louisiana State. The Eagles have been without an explosive receiver since Terrell Owens left, and they need to get somebody so that Donovan McNabb doesn't loose his job. The Eagles will look for linebackers and safeties later in the draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pick Twenty:
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennessee State. They need someone with size to fill a hole in their cover-2 scheme, and Cromartie will live up to his name. The Bucs will get help at wide receiver and running back later in the draft.

Washington Redskins, Pick Twenty-one:
DE Phillip Merling, Clemson. The Redskins need help on a injury (and illness) depleted line. What Merling lacks in speed he makes up with strength and smarts. The Redskins will look for receivers and running backs in the later rounds.

Dallas Cowboys, Pick Twenty-two (from Cleveland):
OT Chris Williams, Vanderbilt. The Cowboys will build for the future in this draft, and Williams is an athletic tackle. The Cowboys will draft cornerbacks and receivers in the late round.

Pittsburgh Steelers, Pick Twenty-three:
G Brenden Albert, Virginia. The Steelers have a void at guard to fill, and Albert is by far the best in the draft. He has good strength and athleticism and will fit in perfectly. The steelers will get help at the cornerback and linebacker position later in the draft.

Tennessee Titans, Pick Twenty-four:
WR Devin Thomas, Michigan State. Somehow, the Titians manage to be in the playoff hunt without a dominant receiver. Thomas won't dominate right away, but he will give Vince Young the speed he needs to become a more defined passer. The Titans will look for running back and tight end help.

Seattle Seahawks, Pick Twenty-five:
OT Jeff Otah, Pittsburg. They got the running backs they needed in free agency, and now they need blockers for them. Otah can step in and play right away on the right side, and may be able to move to the left down the road. The Seahawks will look for help on the defensive line and at quarterback.

Jacksonville Jaguars, Pick Twenty-six:
DT Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina. Balmer will fit the hole left by Marcus Stroud nicely. He is a very strong defender who should improve as a pro. The Jags will look at offensive linemen and wide receivers in the later rounds.

San Diego Chargers, Pick Twenty-Seven:
LB Dan Connor, Penn State. Penn St. has produced good linebackers in recent years, and Connor's versatility will lend himself to the Chargers defense and he can play inside or out. The Chargers need help at receiver and will also draft at running back.

Dallas Cowboys, Pick Twenty-eight:
RB Felix Jones, Arkansas. Jones will be a great speed back to compliment Marion Barber and give that offense yet another weapon.

San Fransisco 49ers, Pick Twenty-Nine (from Indianapolis):
WR Mario Manningham, Michigan. The 49ers emphasized the defense in free agency and will go with a solid and dependable receiver with great hands as a much needed offensive weapon. San Fransisco will continue to look offense and draft offensive linemen and tight ends later in the draft.

Green Bay Packers, Pick Thirty:
CB Aqib Talib, Kansas. Talib is a solid corner in a stock of good secondary players. Talib can hold down man-to-man coverage well and provide a replacement for the Packers aging secondary. The Pack will draft help at the quarterback position and at wide receiver.

New York Giants, Pick Thirty-one:
DE Catais Campbell, Miami. The D-line won the Giants the Super Bowl, and they will draft Michael Strahan's replacement. Campbell is a huge force at 6-8, 290 and is almost as big as his potential. The Giants will look for help at safety and linebacker.

Well, that is it. The only thing I can say is that I would hate to be the first pick in the second round. (Think about it: a serious pay cut, and you go to the worst team last year instead of the best.)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or