Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: cleveland browns

Catching Up with the Busy New England Patriots

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

In the past week, by my count, the Patriots have signed, re-signed, or traded for 8 different players. This has been an unusually active period for the Pats who historically let the first few days of the free agent signing period settle before jumping in looking for deals. This year, Bill Belichick jumped into the trade market on March 8th and when free agency began at 4pm on March 9th, he made a big splash signing a #1 CB to bolster the defense. For those who haven’t been following the Pats moves as closely as I have, here is a recap of the new additions to the roster (in order of acquisition).

TE Dwayne Allen, Traded from the Colts 

Allen was the first domino to fall for the Pats and fills the #2 TE void that was left behind with the departure of Martellus Bennett (signed with the Packers). Allen is an excellent blocker, which is exactly what Bill Belichick looks for in a #2 TE, so he should fit in nicely. Allen has a history of catching passes in the red zone and will likely have a chance to tally some TDs this season opposite Rob Gronkowski.

CB Stephon Gilmore, Signed in Free Agency

The biggest early splash was the 5 year, $65 million deal Gilmore got in free agency from the Pats. The big payday was warranted given that he was one of the top ranking free agents this off-season, it’s just surprising the Pats were the one paying. After 5 years with the Bills and 5 defensive coordinators, Gilmore is ready for some stability. If he works hard and buys into the system (some question there), Gilmore has the size and athleticism to be an excellent #1 CB, especially since he is just 26 years old. The signing did create some issues with CB Malcolm Butler, who will likely be playing somewhere else next season. If not, a Butler/Gilmore secondary could be dominant against the pass next season.

S Duron Harmon, Re-signed

Harmon is a perfect Belichick player. He’s the 3rd safety on the depth chart and plays mostly in nickel and dime packages, but is also an important special teams player. Bill loves guys who get dirty on special teams and can contribute in multiple aspects of the game. Harmon has only missed 1 regular season game in 4 seasons, making him a nice, stable rotational piece.

TE Michael Williams, Re-signed

Many Pats fans won’t even know the name Michael Williams because he didn’t see the field in 2016. Williams is the definition of a depth piece who can be valuable in case of several injuries. In 2015 he appeared in 15 games of the Pats (started 9) and caught 3 passes for 26 yards over that span – he was primarily a blocker. At 26 years old, the Pats like him enough to keep him around, but don’t expect to see his name called unless something catastrophic happens.

WR Brandin Cooks, Traded from the Saints

One could argue this trade was even bigger than the Gilmore signing and may be the best move of the off-season, period. Cooks has been coveted by Belichick and the Pats for years and now he is a Patriot. The 23-year old WR is one of the best receivers in football and the sky is the limit on his potential. The Pats gave up their 1st and 3rd round picks for Cooks, but he has an expiring rookie contract after this season. My guess is that Belichick and Co. hope he signs a longer term deal and stays in New England for the foreseeable future, although he will not come cheap and likely demand top dollar. Cooks had 75+ receptions and 1,000+ yards in his last 2 seasons with New Orleans, which is up there with only Antonio Brown of the Steelers and Odell Beckham Jr. for the Giants in terms of production. Cook adds speed to the Pats receiving options, making them even more potent this upcoming season.

DE Kony Ealy, Traded from the Carolina Panthers

The Pats looked to bolster their defensive line depth by trading for Kony Ealy from the Panthers. Ealy has played in all 32 regular season games the past 2 seasons for the Panthers, but only started 15 of them total. He can get to the QB and is just 25, so could develop into regular starter over time. Ealy is best known for his dominant performance in Super Bowl 50, when he became the only play to force a fumble, get an interception, and record 3 sacks in a game. The potential is there and the risk is pretty low.

DT Lawrence Guy, Signed in Free Agency

Another guy in his mid-20s with potential. Guy is a journeyman defensive lineman who will add depth to the Pats line. He is 6-5, 300lbs and has 67 games under his belt (20 starts). During the past 2 seasons Guy played for the Ravens and started 17 of their 32 games while racking up 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. He’s a big body inside who stays at home and won’t light-up a stat sheet. A Belichick special: depth.

RB Rex Burkhead, Signed in Free Agency

Fitting the same mold, Burkhead is a 26-year old with potential, but little to show for it in his career. He will have to compete with James White and Dion Lewis for a spot in the backfield, but given past injury history at the RB position, it’s a low-risk signing. Burkhead is looking for a chance to play and will likely be motivated to work hard in practice to prove his value. I doubt he will see the field much this year, but could be a safety valve is White and/or Lewis go down for an extended period of time.

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LB Dont’a Hightower, TBD

As of writing this, Hightower had yet to make a decision on where he was signing, but a return to the Pats seemed likely and a decision was expected Wed. The Jets and Steelers were also reportedly interested in his services, but the needle seemed to be pointing to Foxboro.

CB Malcolm Butler, On roster

One of the bigger stories recently had been the discontent of Butler, the Pats #1 CB and Super Bowl hero. Butler is set to make under $4 million this year if he signs the transitional tag, which is a big raise, but still makes him vastly underpaid (see Gilmore’s deal). The Saints may be interested in his services leading to a potential trade in the near future. Stay tuned.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo, On roster

Will they or won’t they trade Garoppolo? No one really knows, but the Browns remain the most likely landing spot for the Pats back-up. The Pats don’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick this year, so a trade with the Browns could solve the pick deficit for Belichick. My opinion swings daily on if this will actually happen.

Trick or Treat: Belichick Pulled a Trick

Winslow Townson/USA Today

Winslow Townson/USA Today

As most people were getting through their Monday work day in anticipation of an evening filled with scary masks and candy, Bill Belichick was hard at work scaring Pats fans by trading away an All-Pro linebacker. Bill sent Jamie Collins packing in exchange for a conditional 3rd round pick from the Cleveland Browns. The move sent shock waves throughout the NFL and sent the Patriots fan base into a tizzy. A Patriots team without Collins is not surprising given he will be a free agent at the end of the season and is reportedly asking for Von Miller money (6 yrs, $114.5 million), but the timing of the trade is very curious.

Going into their bye week, the Pats are 7-1 after having avenged their only loss of the season to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The defense has been under-performing as a group leading to Belichick calling them out to the media saying he was “disappointed” (full quote below). Clearly he felt like a message needed to be sent to the defense that if you don’t work as hard as you can at every practice and during every game, you may be shown the door, regardless of your talent, contract, etc. Collins has had a roller coaster year, looking elite in a few games and disappearing for long periods of time in others.

“I think overall, we had our ups and downs. At times we played well defensively and at other times, not so well. It was good enough to win. It was good at times and then at other times I think we really – I think we’re all disappointed, so we really just need to do a better job. That’s pretty much across the board – the running game, the passing game, everything. I mean there were some things that just, we need to do better.”

In order for Bill to make the move now, there has to be another reason. The more I think about this trade the more I believe there were other factors involved in sending Collins away so early in the season. There had to be. My guess is that Collins was not working as hard as he should and has not given 100% effort in every practice and game. Belichick is not about to tolerate a player half-assing it on the field and I could easily see that scenario resulting in this type of trade. Seeing the emergence of Elandon Roberts as a solid linebacker may also have helped Bill decide that Collins was an expendable piece. Roberts is no Collins, but I, for one, am excited to see him get even more playing time now.

Where I struggle with this trade the most is in the return, not the player. I know Collins is a “rental” player because his contract is up at the end of the season, but there are enough teams in football with enough cap money to sign a player of his caliber longer term. There really wasn’t a sign and trade deal out there that would have given the Pats more than a 3rd round conditional pick? Was Collins that toxic to the team environment that he had to go to any bidder just halfway through the season? Is there another move brewing for Belichick?

In Bill We Trust. In Bill We Trust. In Bill We Trust.

Just keep saying it over and over again, because that’s the only redeeming piece of this deal.

Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland

cleveland-sports-logos

For New England sports fans, all attention is focused on Cleveland sports teams this weekend. The Red Sox open postseason play in Cleveland tonight, then play again tomorrow and Sunday, while the New England Patriots are preparing to play the Cleveland Browns on the road on Sunday afternoon. This odd overlap of Cleveland and Massachusetts teams has me digging up some history on previous Cleveland/New England sports matchups.

Going back to 1901, the Red Sox have played the Indians 2,021 times in their history and have a 977-1,036 record against the franchise. However, since 1990, the numbers favor the Red Sox slightly (251 games, 133-118 record, including a winning record in Cleveland – 64-59). Since I love numbers, I looked at the past 10 years as well and it shows similar success to the past 26 years, the Red Sox with a solid 47-34 record against the Indians. Overall, these two teams have played each other well but a slight recent historic advantage swings to the Sox.

On the football side, the Patriots have played the Browns 23 times (first matchup in 1971) and have a 10-13 record against Cleveland. In the same vein as the Red Sox/Indians history, more recent matchups have looked different. The Patriots have a 7-2 record against the Browns since 1995, with their 2 losses coming in 2010 and 2001. The Patriots will likely move to 8-2 over their past 10 meetings on Sunday when the 0-4 Browns host the Pats. This week’s match-up gives the Patriots a significant advantage even on the road (spread is around 10/10.5 points).

Even though the Boston Celtics are not playing the Cleveland Cavaliers this weekend, I figured it’s worth bringing them into this look at Cleveland/Boston “rivalry”. The Celtics and Cavaliers have matched-up 232 times since 1970 and the Celtics hold a commanding 141-91 record against the Cavs. Like the Patriots and Red Sox, recent history is also kind to the Celtics. Since 2000 (78 games), the Cs are 42-34 against the Cavs. Now I know, like the Browns, there were come lean years in that stretch for the Cavs, so looking at just the last 10 years, not surprisingly the record shifts slightly in the Cavs favor (Cavs 28-27).

Overall, New England professional teams have had some decent success against Cleveland teams over the last 15-20 years (as have most franchises in most sports). Thankfully for Cleveland sports fans, the streak of no professional championships for the city ended this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the NBA title and the Indians are back in the playoffs, so life is better now. What does that mean for tonight and into this weekend? Nothing, but it was a fun ride, wasn’t it?

*All stats are courtesy of Baseball Reference, Pro Football Reference and Basketball Reference

Brady’s Back, Back Again

Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY Sports

Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY Sports

Some of you may have heard, the New England Patriots have been without their starting QB Thomas Brady for the first 4 weeks of the season due to a suspension. It’s arguably the most under-talked about news story of all time because Thomas “Tom” Brady is just not that popular, especially in New England. I’m not going to go into the entire story, but in summary, the wicked-witch of the east, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, decided to lay his wrath on Brady and the Patriots because there was slightly less air in some footballs during a Patriots game. I know, I know, not enough hot air? Shocking.

The story is now over and completely behind us never to be mentioned again. After reports and counter-reports and counter-counter reports and counter-counter-counter reports followed by lawsuits and court hearings and more ink spilled than the Merriam Webster Dictionary, it’s over. The words deflate, deflated, and deflategate will not be spoken on Sunday during the Patriots vs. Browns game, nor will it come up in any game broadcast from now until February.  Plainly said, it’s behind us and we are on to Cleveland.

Or not. This is just the next chapter in the nauseating talk about a dictator and his all powerful role in the NFL. If Brady goes out on Sunday and lights up the Cleveland Browns, which would not be a surprising outcome, the talk will get louder and more annoying with each passing day. Look, I can just see the headlines now: Tom Brady is Sticking His Shrunken Balls in the NFL’s Face, Brady’s Revenge Tour to Deflate Roger Goodell in Full Force, Brady Sucking the Air Out of Goodell’s Lungs, Roger Goodell is a Dick. Ok, ok, the last one is just my commentary on the unstable psychopath running the league, but I think you get the point.

I, for one, believe that Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. will be on a revenge tour to screw the league and win the Super Bowl. I believe that he will look like a younger version of himself and guide this Patriots team deep into the postseason with a sole mission of ripping that Super Bowl trophy out of the cold, dead hands of Goodell on the stage in February. If this suspension motivates him, that’s fantastic and I’m all for extra motivation, but for everyone’s sake, can we just let Brady play some freaking football. It’s the thing he was born to do and the thing he will do until he’s dead and buried. Game on.