LOS ANGELES — The annual abnormally giant human fashion and accessory show we call the NFL Draft gets underway tonight at Radio. City. Music. Hall. Where the flyest 21 and 22-year olds have their names called and then they awkwardly hug the Commissioner for an uncomfortably long period of time. Seems like we were just here, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s that time of year again where NFL teams load up on potential and What-Could-Be, and kids become instant millionaires before a single ball is snapped on Sunday. Who will be the Next Big Thing? Who will be the Next Big Bust? All speculative, all conjecture, all fun. That’s what the NFL Draft is and will be from here until the end of time. Let’s get started.
As always, I’m tuning into NFL Network for my coverage; not because I’m a company man but because it’s the best. Enjoy.
4:01pmPST – The draft is now an hour away and already a couple Radio. City. Music. Hall. calls from my man Rich Eisen (he’s joined by Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin and, of course, draft guru Mike Mayock). Gonna try and drop a few thoughts here before the real coverage begins at 8pmET… And look at this, show starts with old footage of the guys on the set in college. Marshall’s is of him getting drafted. So tiny and nice flat top with Paul Tagliabue
4:02 – WOW. Look at that mustache on Mooch. “National Champion Northern Michigan!” Mooch is a proud Yuper, indeed.
4:03 – Man, Irvin is so hood. That soundbite from his draft day was incredible. Referred to himself as “The Playmaker” even way back then. Guaranteed he could still catch 50 balls for 700 yards and a couple scores even today.
4:04 – MAYOCK JUST INTERCEPTED DAN MARINO. Didn’t see that in the “30 for 30.” “Did you hold that up?!” Marshall yells at him. Incredible. And love that Mayock finally ditched the Philly gangster pinstripe suit. Still 3-piece though. Always OG.
4:06 – Hot damn, now THAT’s a gangster suit from Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. Early front runner for best dressed.
4:08 – Geno Smith tells Melissa Stark and Deion on the Red Carpet that today his his mom’s birthday. That’s pretty awesome. Can’t beat getting drafted as a birthday gift.
4:18 – Feature on Pat Summerall and John Madden gave me instant goosebumps. Incredible piece. Sumerall was so smooth and told you so much by being so brief. Best of all time.
4:30 – A Django reference from Eisen talking about John Idzik, the Jets GM. Wonder if it’ll be the last? probably… what the hell is a “War Daddy?” We need a Mayock dictionary.
4:44 – Assignments that don’t suck: Hawaii. Alex Flanagan is the big winner of the Draft reporters tonight.
4:47 – Manti Te’o says he’s not angry. I’d be pretty pissed if I was him, though what ya gonna do. Everyone will forget about this soon enough. All that matters in the NFL is how he performs on the field. That’s it. If he can play, all this crapola about Catfishing and whatnot will go away.
4:59 – Shot of Geno Smith sitting at his Green Room Table and he’s rocking some Nike Flight lines in the side of his head. Very sick.
5:03 – HERE WE GO!! Mayock says Eric Fisher, followed by Luke Joeckel are the first two picks and then the intrigue begins with the Raiders at #3. Mayock loving Lane Johnson. Thinks someone will move up.
5:04 – Roger Goodell hits the stage to welcome the crowd to a chorus of boos. New York Fans are seriously the best… classy move remembering the people of West Texas and Boston as crowd chants U-S-A! Love America. Land of the free, home of the brave.
5:06 – Someone resembling Joe Namath just did some awkward chanting to put the New York Superbowl on the clock. I can’t tell if he’s your kooky drunk uncle or just plain kooky. His hair is so bizarre, too. It’s a terrible rug, that’s for sure. And just under 283 days and counting until Super Bowl LXVII… and Goodell puts the Chiefs on the clock.. and look at that Hawaiian shirt on Andy Reid. Thanks for dressing up, Andy.
5:09 – Whoa, Eric Fisher’s mom. What’s up.
5:11 – I know these two oafs are going 1-2, but I really wish Al Davis was still alive so the Raiders could screw everybody’s board and take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin at #3. Now that would really be something.
5:16 – Here comes the Commish to more boos … “with the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Eric Fisher, tackle, Central Michigan” … Alex Smith sleeps a little easier tonight.
5:17 – Jacksonville is on the clock. What are they waiting for? Immediately take Luke Joeckel. Come on! Blaine Gabbert is your franchise QB!!
5:20 – “I’m so proud of myself” … big ups to you Eric Fisher for giving yourself props. Somewhere Freddie Mitchell is nodding in agreement.
5:24 – Goodell out with the Jags pick … Joeckel is it, on his iPhone5 as he shakes hands and hugs his peeps in the Green Room. How do we feel about their new uniforms? Helmets are kinda cool with the half matte, half gold… classy 3 piece gray suit for Luke .. and good to see we’re still hugging the Commish like crazy. This is by far the weirdest facet of Draft day to me.
5:24 – Hip snap! Mayock needs that pop-up video treatment explaining all his lingo.
5:28 – Rich explains this is the first Raiders First Round pick since 2010 when they took Rolando McClain and his flock of pistols. They have to trade down, right?
5:29 – Darren McFadden is the only Raiders First Round pick still on the team since 2003. Being a Raiders fan must literally be the worst.
5:31 – “We need a word better than rebuilding,” Irvin says about the Raiders… OK, clock has stopped, which means we have a TRADE!!! Yes!!!! It’s about to get hairy up in herrrre.
5:33 – Dolphins move up. WOW. Miami going for broke this offseason to compete in the AFC East … and here comes Roger with the call …
5:34 – DION JORDAN!!! and we have a round of “whooooaaaaaasss!!!” from the guys on set. Unbelievable. Turning to my resident Ducks fan Chelsea for some reaction: “HOLY SHIT!!!! and it’ll be really easy to get tix to see him play.”
5:35 – “This is all about going to get some pressure on Tom Brady” – says Marshall. He’s absolutely 100% right. Miami has to compete and to do that they have to stop the Patriots. Well here’s one way to do it. What a move. Love it. Love when crazy takes over the Draft.
5:36 – Amazing bow tie on Jordan and not for nothing, he’s a freakin’ giant…. “He’s breathtaking off the edge.” Mayock is swooning.
5:39 – If you’re scoring at home, and I know you are, that’s 4 Radio. City. Music. Halls. out 0f Eisen.
5:42 – First pick of the Chip Kelly era is Lane Johnson, the big tackle from Oklahoma. Mayock’s adoptive son. “Most athletic offensive tackle in the Draft” … ROCKY theme playing in the background. Hilarious.
5:45 – Lane Johnson just said something about buffets. I have no idea. Great southern accent. Good ole boy for sure. Said he was excited to protect Michael Vick. Wonder what Chip has to say about that?
5:49 – Joey Harrington jokes never get old. Love Mooch pretending not to listen to Eisen rib him.
5:50 – Barry Sanders, your new Madden cover boy, out to announce the Lions pick.. and it’s Ziggy Ansah. Never played football until a couple years ago after getting cut from BYU hoops team and track team. Amazing. What a story. Mayock explaining how Ziggy wasn’t on scouts radars in September until he started dominating and then blew up the Senior Bowl…
5:53 – Browns fan draft party and guy wearing a “Punters Are People Too” shirt in the front row jumping up and down. Very cool.
5:55 – Browns select Barkevous Mingo. the winner of the All-Name team today. Don’t even think about it. He’s the winner.
6:00 – The Cardinals pick is in and we’re waiting … great shot of Bruce Arians rocking the Kangol. Are they officially licensed team gear? The Arians Era is basically going to be like if Samuel L. Jackson coached an NFL team. Someone get HR on the phone …
6:01 – Jonathan Cooper picked by the Cards….zzzzzzzzz…. come on, Cardinals fans, you’re not happy about that?! You don’t even know who he is?! Mayock says the team got better by drafting him. Well then, what the hell do I know??
6:04 – Rams have traded up with Buffalo to the #8 slot and talk from former scout and guru Daniel Jeramiah is they’ll be taking Tavon Austin, whose stock has risen like Apple computers in 2001 in the last couple days… Also, love Jeramiah. He’s going to be a huge star very soon and a big media winner when this Draft is over.
6:08 – Mega trade with the Rams and Bills with St. Louis getting 2 picks (1st and 3rd) and Buffalo getting 4 in this year’s draft. Bills loading up and here’s the Commish with the pick … Tavon Austin … Sam Bradford sleeps a litlte easier tonight… and snap, look at that burgandy jacket. Looking sharp, son. West Virginia swag.
6:12 – Deion asks Austin if he always has this much confidence. Um, come on Deion, look at that suit, of course he does. Pretty sure he wakes up and pisses excellence …
6:16 – Jets on the clock here with the 9th pick… fans on the edge of their seats in Radio City. Oughta be realllly interesting here … and the Commish says : Dee Milliner from Alabama … Revis out and another corner in. No pressure, kid.
6:18 – Mayock had him number 2 on his defensive board … and states “essentially the Jets traded revis for Milliner and 3rd next year” … as we see Milliner at the combine dropping passes like he’s Terrell Owens.. that’s just brutal video. Welcome to the NFL, son.
6:21 – Nice watch, Dee. Hope that’s a rental.
6:23 – “At least his first game isn’t against Revis’s new team … oh wait, yes it is. … at least his first nationally-televised game isn’t on a short week against Tom Brady … oh wait, yes it is.” Love it when Rich does this.
6:24 – Army troops in Afghanistan says the Titans should take guard Chance Warmack so Chris Johnson can get back to doing this thing .. and the pick is in and the Titans war room is very happy …
6:25 – Pick #10 and the Titans take Chance Warmack from Alabama … Major Taylor picked it right! “I told you 6 fatties would go in the top 12.” Mike Mayock, everybody!!
6:30 – Rapoport reproing the Bills could still take Ryan Nassib at 16 … Chargers pick is in and it’s offensive lineman DJ Fluker … 3rd straight Alabama player taken … Nick Saban, if you need him… Roll Tide.
6:32 – First time since 2000 that a quarterback wasn’t selected in the first 10 picks (Chad Pennington) … some guy named Brady was taken with the 199th pick that year. Whatever happend to him?
6:33 – “I love his length.” Mayock doesn’t give an eff.
6:38 – From Chelsea: “I’d love for the Jets to draft Barkley. Not in the first round, but eventually. That ‘d make me so happy.” Um, that would make us all happy.
6:46 – And the Jets pick is in … wow, fans are gonna go nuts here … Geno? … nope, it’s Sheldon Richardson, some defensive tackle from Missouri … wow. Very Anticlimatic … “explosive, freakish athlete at 310 pounds .. and Jets fans aren’t that excited” … uum, ya think?
6:50 – Panthers take Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a very good player who really shouldn’t have dropped that far. In that division you have to be able to stop offenses and this is one way to accomplish that. Also on the All-Name team for this Draft. He’s at home watching with his family. That’s the way to do it. Why come to New York when you can party with your family?
6:58 – Saints are on the clock and to say they need defensive back help would be an understatement. I threw for 378 yards and 4 scores last year against them… and here comes the Commish with a special guest from St. Jude’s hospital, whose favorite team is the Saints … Kenny Vaccaro is the pick … loving his suit, two-toned three piece .. very fly… can’t wait to hit up @fragglesrocks for the All-Swag team tomorrow.
7:00 – Mayock: “you never want to be limited in the box” … Addison chimes in: “you always want to be strong in the box.”
7:04 – Bills on the clock here at 16 and it’s QB time … will they do it? … EJ MANUEL from Florida St.!! WOW!!! The first quarterback taken!! unbelievable … Deion Sanders is going to have A LOT to talk about with him shortly … dang. Former Syracuse coach and new Bills HC Doug Maronne passes on our guy Ryan Nassib .. Kurt Warner loves that pick … I’m stunned.
7:06 – Just texted Owl, my resident Bills fan … we’ll see how angry of response he comes back with … “Love it. and I LOVE that they traded down.” Didn’t see that coming. Thought for sure he’d want Nassib.
7:08 – EJ emotional with Deion .. “I’m just so happy” .. good moment for him. his mom had breast cancer and beat it… you’ll be seeing this interview a lot in the next couple days.
7:12 – It’s getting fun now in here. The 49ers have traded up and have made a pick … swapped picks with the Cowboys … and we appear to be in a back log … Steelers up right now and take Jarvis Jones … WOW… Jantzen, our Georgia alum friend, is PUMPED RIGHT NOW!! unreal. still think he should’ve named his kid Jarvis.
7:14 – 49ers up and take Eric Reid, the defensive back from LSU, who’s in the green room holding his adorably cute daughter… “big physical safety” says Mayock … love former 9ers great Merton Hanks giving Reid his cap: “maybe he’ll make him do the chicken walk,” says Eisen … Reid walking out to meet the Commish with his daughter in his arms … very cool moment … maybe my favorite so far.
7:20 – G-Men on the clock with the 19th pick and the Commish is out… always curious to the crowd reaction … Justin Pugh … Syracuse Tackle … “I told you it wasn’t sexy, but I love the pick” … as some broad is dancing like crazy on screen … “she likes the pick” says Rich.
7:25 – Oregon guard Kyle Long goes to Chicago amid rampant Manti Te’o speculation. Long is the brother of Chris Long from the Rams and son of Raiders great, Howie. Talk about NFL bloodlines. He’s going to no doubt be a success. And let’s be honest, Jay Cutler needs needs protection.
7:33 – Bengals up at #21 amid report that Falcons have traded up to 22 … Bengals take Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame, arguably the best tight end in the Draft, which perhaps foils the Falcons plans … Eisen points out Falcons knew Bengals were taking Eifert when they made the trade … still curious who they’re grabbing now despite.
7:40 – Falcons take Desmond Trufant, defensive back from Washington who fits in and will start right away with a depleted secondary down in ATL. He’ll be tested too with all the weapons in that division. NFC South shaping up to be a really competitive.
7:42 – Lots of good players still available including Sharrif Floyd, Mayock’s top-rated defensive player and his most explosve player on tape all year … Geno Smith .. Ryan Nassib … Vikings are about to make their pick as members of the military coming out on stage … awesome.
7:45 – Floyd goes to the Vikings … he dropped but he’s going to play right away and learn from Kevin Williams.. what a force they could be in the middle there … “this kid will be a heckuva player,” Mayock says.
7:48 – Mayock getting out of his seat talking about Floyd’s explosiveness … “right now there’s a chip on my shoulder … and I’m ready to get going” he says with Deion … nice simple Mad Men pink shirt black tie combo … “I’m here and I can stand here today and say I’m a better man than I was a year ago.” Redemption is always a nice element to any sport.
7:50 – Painful shot of Geno Smith in the Green Room … getting that Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn treatment right now.
7:51 – Bjoern Werner going to the Colts at 24 … “a taste of Germany going to Indianapolis” says Eisen … “guy that does everything really well but doesn’t have a spectacular trait,” adds Mayock … compares him to Paul Kruger … Werner wipes off his girlfriend’s kiss on his way up. Don’t let her see this tape, young fella.
7:53 – Aaron Rodgers tweets to Geno Smith to hang in there and said good things come to those who wait … awesome.
7:54 – Vikings back up with their second pick of the round … Xavier Rhodes from FSU … “whoa” from Mayock. Hey, someone has to cover Brandon Marshall and Randall Cobb, right? … Te’o still on the board.
7:59 – Packers on the clock and they need a Running Back … is it Eddie Lacy time? Also, and can’t believe I’m just noticing this; Irvin’s suit is very conservative for the second year in a row…wonder if he’s feeling OK these days.
8:01 – Datone Jones from UCLA to the Packers … hey, you can never have enough pass rushers, right?
8:03 – Rich starts talking about Geno and Manti and how the audience is probably sick of hearing about them by now … “some players on the desk might think that,” Mayock not happy with the repeated Te’o talk.
8:09 – Deandre Hopkins from Clemson, a wide receiver drafted by the Texans at 27 to go with Andre Johnson and those weapons … Irvin says he reminds him of Roddy White … high praise (Nic Cage voice).
8:14 – Broncos pick is in at 28 and the Patriots are on the clock … Mayock giving us three names – Damaontre Moore, Sylvester Williams or Manti Te’o for Denver … we’ll see … guessing it’ll be Moore with the loss of Elvis Dumervil and that fax fiasco earlier this offseason.
8:15 – Goodell out and it’s Sylvester williams … Mayock was right , shocker… “he can immediately come in and start at defensive tackle.” Oh, you don’t say?
8:17 – Apparently Williams worked at a radiator plant … “Do you know how many radiators you have to make to make the kind of money he’s gonna make” … Irvin references “Game Changers” (fantastic show) again to which Rich responds, “I haven’t even once said the P word!” Referring to the podcast … “I HAVE A PODCAST!!” he coudn’t make it anymore.. I knew it.
8:19 – Wow, the Vikings are back in the First Round trading with the Patriots and could take Te’o … unreal … Classic Bill Belichick move. Cant’ wait to see the particulars … damn! 4 picks to the Patriots: a 2, 3, 5 and 7. What must Tom Brady be thinking…
8:26 – Former Patriots lineman and Boston Marathon first responder Joe Andruzzi out to talk about marathon … unreal moment. That guy is a real man and Patriot.
8:30 – Vikings take Cordarrelle Patterson, the explosive receiver from Tennessee. This is what frustrates Patriots fans. Remember a few years ago when Dez Bryant fell into their lap and they traded down to the Cowboys? Yeah, think Brady would like to have Dez right now? We’ll see how Patterson pans out.
8:37 – Rams up with another First Round pick and take Alec Ogletree from Georgia. “Les Snead played some poker tonight and won.” Guess Mayock likes the Rams draft.
8:38 – Two picks to go. Cowboys and Ravens. We’ll see what Jerry Jones has up his sleeve here. We know he always likes to make a splash.
8:42 – Travis Frederick, center from Wisconsin. HAHA. Wow. So that’s what we were waiting for, Jerry. Isn’t this guy not even the best lineman on his own college team and a 2nd day projected pick? Cowboys fans must be steaming right now. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folk.
8:43 – OK, so one last pick for Manti Te’o. There were only a handful of teams who thought to be in his market – Bears, Vikings, Ravens – and let’s see what they do.
8:47 – WOW. So Te’o will have to wait until Day 2 to get drafted as the Ravens go with safety Matt Elam from Florida to replace Ed Reed. What a First Round.
8:48 – Thanks for tuning in, everyone. Had a lot of fun with this for the 4th year in a row now. It was low on celebrity but thank goodness the trades were plentiful to keep it interesting. No players from Southern Cal or Miami, 12 players from the SEC and only 1 from the Big Ten selected. Only one quarterback chosen, and not the one we expected, and no running backs for the first time ever. What will come on Days 2 and 3? No one knows, so be sure to check out all the action. I’ll have sporadic commentary on my Twitter feed: @ChrisBrockman.
LOS ANGLES — I don’t know what to think about this Manti Te’o situation, to be completely honest. I’m starting to write this at 4pm pacific time on Thursday and in the last 24 hours I’ve consumed about as much as humanly possible, talked about with friends and colleagues, seen the jokes and speculation on Twitter and I’m about as confused as I was when I first read the Deadspin story Wednesday afternoon. With what is known as of this moment, and all that I’ve read, I think he was 100% complicit and sold this narrative to the media to its fullest because he liked the attention and he wanted to win the Heisman. That’s just what I think. Maybe it started out as a joke and then when the national media got wind of it, it was too late and he got caught too deep in the lie to come clean; he was embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Maybe. But there’s no chance he didn’t know. None.
There are other theories floating across the Twitterverse and blogosphere and talk radio and the like, and sure, those make some kind of sense to me too, but being in this business for nearly 10 years and being around high school, college and professional athletes of all ages, levels and backgrounds, I’ll believe the crazy and outlandish because I’ve heard tales of things I couldn’t possibly imagine could be true, but they were. One-hundred percent. Truth is stranger than fiction, just remember that, and sports is the ultimate reality show. In Te’o’s situation, we all missed. We were all caught up. We all wanted Notre Dame to be good again because they are the country’s university and when they are good and playing at an elite level College Football is more interesting. And this was a college football season for the ages.
The public and the media were the ones duped and we were duped by Manti Te’o and his cronies.
If and when the truth comes out and this is proven to be not the case, I’ll admit to being wrong, but I just don’t see how me and others are. The holes in his story and Notre Dame’s are too big. The timeline doesn’t add up. Pete Thamel’s notes and transcript is there to read and shows a guy not even knowing what he’s saying. It’s remarkable. Read the Deadspin story again. And then again. It’s incredible. And now we wait.
(update: so it’s Saturday afternoon now and Te’o has spoke to Jeremy Schaap on Friday and seemingly explained everything, that he was embarrassed and told a lie to his dad, which begat more lies, and he tailored his story to match what was going on. Sounds a lot like lying to me. Watching Schaap on SportsCenter late Friday night, it seemed to me like he believed Te’o, which I find fascinating. And apparently, Te’o didn’t really believe it was a hoax until a couple days ago when Ronaiah Tuisosopo confessed via Twitter to making it all up. But how does this explain him finding out on Dec. 6 and then not telling Notre Dame for 20 days and then him talking his girlfriend in the days leading up to the National Championship game. And then this whole she faked her death to avoid drug dealers story, and he believed that?! Is Te’o the biggest moron in the world? This is the strangest, most bizarre story I’ve ever seen. Who the hell knows what’s true.)
Onto the NFL and what should be two fantastic Championship Games this weekend in Atlanta and Foxborough:
It appears that I’m once again the lone wolf rolling with the Falcons, which suits me just fine. There has been A LOT of noise from the 49ers Hype Machine in the last week after Colin Kaepernick went video game on the Packers in the Divisional Round. And rightfully so. What he did was beyond spectacular. I wondered if it was as surprising as Michael Vick going into Lambeau to beat the Packers in the 2003 playoffs, because for me, I was just as shocked when I saw his final stat line, and because I thought the Packers were starting to peak and looked like a team primed for another Super Bowl run. But Kaepernick stole the show and is playing like seasoned playoff veteran, not a QB who’s only started half the year. There’s been a lot of Brady/Bledsoe comparisons lately and for me, they’re a little unwarranted. Brady isn’t nearly the athlete CK is, he started basically the entire year in 2001 after Mo Lewis knocked out Drew in Week 2 and the game itself so much different than it was 11 years ago. CK is a new-age quarterback. Athletic. Versatile. Mobile. Cannon for an arm. He can make all the throws and if your rush breaks down, he’s proven he can take off and go to the house.
When it comes to the Falcons, it begins and ends with Matt Ryan. He reminds me of a young Peyton Manning with how much he commands their offense, audibles at the line of scrimmage and isn’t afraid to take chances in order to make big plays. Ryan takes grief for throwing interceptions, but to me (and not having won a playoff game which is now moot), throwing interceptions is a combination of not being afraid to make mistakes and get the ball to your receivers in tight spots and misreading your coverage. Ryan takes those chances. No guts, no glory. Atlanta took chances deep against Seattle, had a couple pay off, and they’re going to have to do it again in order to stretch out the 49ers defense. It’ll be interesting if Jim Harbaugh chooses to take away Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and try and let a Michael Turner/Jacquizz Rodgers run game try and wear them down. Atlanta’s defense can’t really stop anybody, so I’m expecting a shootout.
Prediction: Falcons 27, 49ers 24.
I can’t lie: as a Patriots fan, this Ravens team scares the beejezus out of me. They’ve just seemed to have the Patriots number, dating back to the 2009 Wild Card, when they flew into Foxborough and beat up Tom Brady and mopped up the turf en route to a 33,14 trouncing. That game was just two weeks after Wes Welker went down with a knee injury and Brady was terrible, throwing 3 interceptions and getting sacked 3 times. In 2010, Brady was the league’s MVP and the Patriots defeated Baltimore 23-20, and in 2011 New England was again victorious in last year’s memorable AFC title game by the same 23-20 margin. This year, in Week 3, the Ravens eeked out a 31-30 win when Justin Tucker’s field goal maybe sorta I guess went through the right upright as the clock hit zeroes. But these are different teams playing now than 16 weeks ago. The Patriots are better defensively and can run the football, but are without Rob Gronkowski, and the Ravens are riding this emotional Ray Lewis wave that has carried them to a pair of playoff wins thus far. This has turned into the NFL’s best rivalry (San Francisco and Seattle should be good for a long time), the two teams clearly don’t like each other and Joe Flacco has shown a knack for coming up big in the playoffs on the road. He now has 8 playoff wins in 5 seasons; just one win shy of Peyton Manning for his career. And, as he showed last week, he can throw the deep ball and that’s what scares me. He’s going to take chances with Torrey Smith, who torched the Patriots back in Week 3. If New England doesn’t give up an big plays and keeps Ray Rice in check, then it shouldn’t be a game. A very big if.
For the Patriots, it begins and ends with Tom Brady. A year ago, he was out played by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game; in Week 3, the same. He’s arguably the greatest modern-era quarterback when it matters: the playoffs. He passed Joe Montana with his 17th win all-time last week. A win Sunday and he’d be the only QB in history to reach a 6th Super Bowl. Adding lines to his legacy is not what drives him, being the best is. The best play their best with the moment is the biggest. This is a pretty big moment in front of him. Not having Rob Gronkowski doesn’t worry me; the team has played a good portion of this season without and only scored one less point-per-game. For me, the Patriots have to have a balanced attack offensively. Hurry-up when necessary, but a solid running game will go a long way to building and preserving a lead. Defensively, gotta get pressure on Flacco and not give up the deep ball. All of New England will be holding its breath when No. 5 lets that ball fly on Sunday, because he will and often, and it won’t exhale until it falls down. Incomplete. Let’s hope this one doesn’t come down to a field goal. Again.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Ravens 21.