Saturday, September 13, 2008

Border War Takes on New Look

For my money, this is the best time of the year for sports fans. You've got baseball revving up for the playoffs, college football roaring out of the gates, and NFL football back on the weekly agenda. And the weather's still pretty nice to boot.

Before I get into some thoughts on the Sox and Pats, had to share this from The site asks readers to list the 50 things that annoy them the most, and the featured list on the main page this morning reads like this: 1. The Red Sox, 2. Bill Belichick, 3. The USC Trojans, and 4. the BCS. The poster's handle? "YanksJetsKnicks4Life." How sweet is that? And really - can you blame them? The Yankees have been in free-fall for a month now, and are currently in fourth place in the AL East. The Knicks are a perpetual train wreck. And the Jets - coming off a crappy 4-12 season last year - made some bold moves in the offseason to try to make themselves more competitive. All of which makes me salivate at the prospect of Matt Cassel & Co. giving YanksJetsKnicks4Life and his slovenly friends the ultimate middle finger salute tomorrow.

So let's start there. Tom Brady isn't walking out of that tunnel tomorrow, and as the initial shock has subsided, I think more and more Pats fans are intrigued at what this still-talented team can do. They do have the easiest schedule in the league this year, and if you think back to 2001-02, when Jets LB Mo Lewis (little irony there, no?) permanently altered this franchise for the better, remember what we called Brady back then? A game manager. His typical line each week was maybe 15 for 20, 185 yards, no picks. Fast forward to 2008, and that's really all Matt Cassel has to do. And his team - on both sides of the ball - is more talented than it was back then. You can argue about the defense maybe, but the point remains. We don't need Cassel to be Brady-like. I say this team goes 11-5, and then all bets are off in the playoffs.

As for the game tomorrow, it's going to be an incredibly intense atmosphere. You've got the Mangini-BB angle, Spygate anniversary, Brett Favre's first game in front of the home crowd, etc. Jets fans are discounting the Pats and smelling blood, which is exactly the type of situation the Pats thrive on. Call me a homer, but I'm predicting a 24-17 victory, with a Favre interception being returned for a TD. The Pats' D-line comes up big.

Turning to the boys of summer/fall, the Sox endured a couple of tough losses at Fenway this week to the amazing Rays, and currently sit 2 games behind the division leaders. The Sox had to play through a mini-monsoon last night with the red-hot Blue Jays because they've already got a day-night twinbill scheduled for today due to an early-season rainout. It turned out to be a good thing they played last night, as Tim Wakefield turned in a great performance and we didn't have to use the bullpen. So we've got lots of fresh arms ready for today's marathon. First game is at 12:30 with A.J. Burnett going against Paul Byrd, and the second game has Bartolo Colon going against Jesse Litsch tonight at 7.

It will be interesting to see if the Sox go full-throttle to try to win the AL East, or if they'll be relatively content to take the wild-card route, where they have a commanding lead. Me personally? I don't want to have to travel out to LA to play the Angels, so let's go for it.

Enjoy the weekend.

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