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Article:The Sports Brief's Week 11 NFL picks

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Half of The Sports Brief went to the Pats game last night against the Jets. Keefe would have gone, but he couldn’t get off the air soon enough, and when dealing with traffic, getting there late isn’t good for anyone. So I met my buddy Kevin from home there and we enjoyed the festivities.

Obviously the loss was tough given the circumstances. Nationally televised game on the NFL network, you’re at home, tied with the Jets at 6-3 atop the AFC East with the winner getting sole possession. Not only that, but you come back from a 24-6 deficit, tie it on a miraculous 60-second drive that consummate with an incredible pitch and catch from Cassel to Moss in the front corner of the end zone with one second left, only to see the Jets win the coin flip in OT and win on a field goal. And while I’ve never been a fan of highlighting moral victories and silver linings in professional sports, there was certainly a lot of good to be drawn from last night’s loss.

First off was the play of Matt Cassel. Is it me or is he a deep ball away from being a legitimate, top tier quarterback in the NFL? He’s slowly mastering the short routes, finding Wes Welker consistently in the middle of the field for short gains. He still needs to find his range throwing down the field to Moss, but what makes his a significant threat and dangerous QB is his mobility. Brady is mobile, but in a different way. He has tremendous pocket presence and finds small gaps as he eludes tackles, giving himself an extra split second to make a throw. Cassel, however, doesn’t quite have the pocket presence of Brady but makes up for it with his 10 and 15-yard scrambles up field. And he’s got balls too. Most quarterbacks slide in a yard or two shy of the first down marker. But Cassel is separating himself from those guys by working to get those last hard couple yards. It’s dangerous, especially with lord knows who behind him in the depth chart at this point, but he’s making a difference in doing so.

Another thing I enjoyed was the resilience of the Patriots despite spotting the Jets what appeared to be an insurmountable lead early in the game. I have to be honest, last night’s game had the feel of a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Somehow, you just never sensed this team was out of it. The touchdown before the end of the first half shifted the momentum, and as the defense stepped up in the 3rd quarter holding the Jets at 24 points, you couldn’t help but think a comeback was in order. I couldn’t believe it when I saw people flocking to the exits after Thomas Jones punched one in to take a 31-24 lead with only 3:14 left and the Pats being forced to punt on the ensuing drive. For all those who left, serves you right, you missed a hell of an ending.

See I have a theory about leaving early…I don’t do it. I learned my lesson back in 2000 when my cousin Matt and I went to a Red game against the Devil Rays. It was the 8th inning, tied at 3 and all 6 runs have come via 3 by the Rays in the third and 3 by the Sox in the sixth. It was a fairly unexciting game. To beat traffic, we left in the bottom of the eighth and hit the Red Line to Quincy where he’d parked. While on the train, some guy was listening to the game on his handheld radio cassette player and screamed when he heard Rico Brogna hit a walk-off grand slam to win it in the bottom of the 9th. Rico hit one homerun that year for the Red Sox, and we missed it. Never again.

Finally, it was good to see Jabar Gaffney and Ben Watson step up last night, although Watson had a piss poor, critical fumble to open the 3rd quarter down in Jets territory. But each scored a touchdown with Gaffney adding an extra point, and that’s going to be important for the Pats down the stretch as teams seem to be covering Moss well and Cassel needs to look elsewhere if Welker isn’t freed up.

But one thing that did concern me was the defense and those penalties. The Jets didn’t score for 32 minutes spanning from 5:06 in the 2nd until there was only 3:14 left in the 4th. Solid showing by the Pats D after spotting 24 quick points. But down the stretch, it looked tired and overmatched. Those holding penalties on Vrabel and Sanders in the 4th were desperation moves after getting beat, and the Jets were able to convert two critical 3rd down plays in OT. The worst of which was the 3rd and 15 at their own 15. Favre bought time and hit Keller about 11 or 12 yards down field, and Meriweather was playing too soft a coverage. Not only that, but he got absolutely crushed and run over. I couldn’t help but wonder if the soft coverage was an attempt at preventing getting beat downfield and more or less focusing on damage control.

Nonetheless, I still think I’m in good shape to win my $20 bet with my buddy Scotty. If the Pats go 4-2 down the stretch. Three of those games are against Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, and you have to think that Miami and Arizona will be winnable. The Steelers game scares me a bit, but the same could be said about the Colts game two weeks ago, a game in which the Pats should have come out on top.

Onto the picks…

Keefe’s picks:

Last week: 9-5; Overall: 69-75

Jets +3.5 over Patriots

Falcons -5.5 over Broncos

Bengals +9.5 over Eagles

Bears +5.5 over Packers

Texans +8.5 over Colts

Chiefs +4.5 over Saints

Raiders +10.5 over Dolphins

Ravens +6.5 over Giants

Buccaneers -3.5 over Vikings

Lions +14.5 over Panthers

Titans -2.5 over Jaguars

49ers -3.5 over Rams

Cardinals -3.5 over Seahawks

Chargers +4.5 over Steelers

Cowboys -1.5 over Redskins

Browns +4.5 over Bills

Besse’s picks:

Last week: 6-8; Overall: 74-70

Jets +3.5 over Patriots

Broncos +5.5 over Falcons

Bengals +9.5 over Eagles

Bears +5.5 over Packers

Texans +8.5 over Colts

Saints -4.5 over Chiefs

Raiders +10.5 over Dolphins

Ravens +6.5 over Giants

Vikings +3.5 over Buccaneers

Lions +14.5 over Panthers

Jaguars +2.5 over Titans **upset special of the week**

Rams +3.5 over 49ers

Cardinals -3.5 over Seahawks

Chargers +4.5 over Steelers

Cowboys -1.5 over Redskins

Browns +4.5 over Bills

Random Rob’s picks

Last week: 9-5; Overall: 83-61


















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