Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NFL Week 12 Primer (With Picks): Thanksgiving

Give thanks for Cam Newton "Superman" plays when the Panthers face the Cowboys on Turkey Day.

 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Thanksgiving is about three things. Family, Food, and Football. Not in that order.

We're starting to get a better view of the playoff picture. According to the Football Outsiders model, six teams already have a 90 percent chance or better to reach the playoffs - the six division leaders that aren't the NFC East or AFC South. Those leaders (New York and Indianapolis) still see just a coin flip likelihood of playing any deeper into January.

Weekly Playoff Machine Nonsense

There is one fun tool out there on the internets - a page that allows you to choose winners for each remaining game and see how the seedings change (much like ESPN's Playoff Machine, which, for whatever reason, hasn't yet been updated for this season). These tools (whatever is available) will be featured in this space going forward, to keep you, fair reader, abreast of tiebreakers and such.

Here are two (relatively) realistic scenarios:

1. All four teams in the NFC East finish 8-8. Dallas would win the division thanks to the first tiebreaker (they'd have the best division record so long as their only remaining loss comes to Carolina or Green Bay).
2. The AFC South champion finishes 7-9 and gets a home playoff game. Meanwhile, all four teams in the AFC East finish 8-8 or better.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nashoba Will Relish Underdog Role in Division 2 State Championship Game

Egan Bachtell (11) and Jake Fire (29) celebrate Nashoba's D2 state semifinal win over Springfield Central.

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Ed. Note- This is the first in our series of MIAA state championship game previews, focusing on the three squads from Central Mass to qualify for Gillette. We begin today with Nashoba's date in the D2 final with Reading, but will feature previews of both Northbridge and St. Bernard's in the next week.

After a wild weekend of state semifinals, three CMass squads have punched their tickets to Gillette Stadium for the state championship games on December 5th.

Central Massachusetts went 3-1 against its rivals from Western Mass this past Saturday, as St. Bernard's defeated Lee in Division 6, Northbridge topped Hoosac Valley in Division 5 and Nashoba bested Springfield Central in a classic Division 2 semi.

Division 4 is the only district Central Mass competes in that won't see a CMass team at Gillette, as Grafton's comeback bid came up short against Chicopee Comprehensive.

Any way you slice it, Saturday was a success for the region, as both Northbridge and St. B's won convincingly, while Nashoba continued to come up big when it mattered most, stopping Springfield Central on fourth and goal twice in the game's final minute.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bob Lobel: Only Injuries Can Slow the Patriots

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

It is the sworn duty of those fans in New England to rise up as one and just ignore injuries. It's pretty thin out there on the field, as Patriots standouts are dropping left and right.

The king of the Golden Flashes, Mr. Julian Edleman, could be real a show stopper. What a combination he and Brady have become in a throw and catch league. It has to be policed because, these guys are defining the league. Thin ranks and working with healthy players is almost impossible at this time of year. 

White House Down: Real Madrid's Faithful Turn on the President's Box.

By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

Incompetent. Lacking foresight. Dominated by the people we hate.

These were just some of the words splashed over all of the papers describing a president and the white house he rules with an iron fist.

Only this time, they weren't coming from a Donald Trump rally, or your “patriotic” friend on Facebook cluttering your timeline with impending armageddon.

Barcelona won Saturday's Clasico 4-0, seemingly undressing Real Madrid in the process, leaving their flaws exposed for all of the world to see. From the second the ball was kicked off from the center circle, Barcelona were in control.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Celtics Quietly Building One of the NBA's Best Defenses

Forward Jared Sullinger has been pivotal for Boston on the defensive end, and on the glass this season.
By Adam Lowenstein (@StatsAdam)

Wednesday’s 18-point lead against the visiting Dallas Mavericks did not last long. The TD Garden crowd was roaring at referees Tony Brothers, Ben Taylor and Tony Brown for most of the game, but the Celtics have to be faulted for their frustrating shooting in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Boston’s 26th-ranked 3-point shooting started strong. The Celtics made three of their first five shots from downtown, but finished the game 5-for-21, including missing all six of their 3-point attempts in the second quarter.

However, the green bounced back on Friday to win yet another game by double digits. With Boston’s 120-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the 7-5 Celtics have yet to win a game by fewer than 13 points this season. The seven victories of at least 10 points thus far this season already ties Boston’s total of double-digit victories during the entire 2006-07 season, and surpasses the team’s total in 1996-97.

According to ESPN’s Hollinger team statistics, the Celtics’ defense is tied with the San Antonio Spurs’ defense for the lowest number of points allowed per possession. The main reason for the green’s success is that the team is forcing the highest turnover percentage in the league this season.

Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Box Plus/Minus, which measures a players’ per-possession performance relative to the league average, has three Celtics in the top ten: Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder.