What Should New England Do With Chad Ochocinco?

What should New England do with Chad Ochocinco's contract? (Photo Credit: USA Today)

By Matt Noonan 

One of the beauties of living in Boston is that all four major professional sports teams are constantly being examined under a microscope.

Reporters, media members and fans always question various decisions or moves that team owners and presidents execute on a day-to-day basis. And with that being said, I’ve decided to join this so-called “party” by providing a few thoughts on some recent New England Patriots news pertaining toward Mr. Chad Ochocinco.

Here is my two-cents on his current contract:

When reports surfaced on Wednesday about the Patriots considering restructuring Ochocinco’s contract, the first thing I thought was that the highly touted wide out was going to be shown the door.

However, I was wrong.

What the Patriots are doing is practically redoing a deal that is providing Ochocinco with too much money. He’s expected to receive a base salary of $3 million in 2012 and an additional $3 million in 2013, but since he finished the past season with just 15 catches and one touchdown, I think it’s best that the organization lowers his future income, especially since he hasn’t exceeded expectations.

A player who earns that much money in the NFL should have finished a campaign with more catches and touchdowns, but numerous mistakes hampered Ochocinco, who clearly didn’t understand Bill Belichick’s system.

So, what should New England do?

Well, I’d say, lower his monthly income, and make sure he begins preparing for the upcoming season immediately.

He certainly can make an impact on a team that definitely needs a “deep threat.” The Patriots offense is lethal with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, as well as the best quarterback in the game, Tom Brady. However, if Ochocinco learns the playbook, he’ll be able to assist his offensive counterparts by stretching the field, and opening up various pass and run plays, too.

I’m a firm believer in Ochocinco, and confident that an actual non-lockout offseason will help this two-time First-Team All-Pro makeup for his 2011 blunders.

The Boston Sports Pulse: New England Patriots

By Matt Noonan 

Last year, Noontime Sports ran a column that featured an insightful breakdown of all four major Boston sports teams, as well as their current statuses as of last January, (2011).

This year, we’re making a change.

Instead of combining four teams into one blog, we’ve decided to separate each squad, and provide four individual posts, which will focus thoroughly on that one team.

So, we’ve decided to kick off this four part series with the New England Patriots, who’re technically two wins away from earning their fourth Super Bowl trophy in 10 years.

Here are some thoughts and analysis on the local pigskin squad, enjoy.

Reflecting On The Past Year:  It’s been a rather interesting season for the Patriots, who not only earned their third AFC East championship crown in the past four years, but also, the top seed in the AFC Conference, too.

Tom Brady experienced one his better seasons as a quarterback. He tossed 39 touchdowns and recorded 5,235 yards through the air, as well as helped second year tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez become elite stars.

Both tight ends combined for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns in 16 games.

However, the biggest weakness for New England was their defense, which yielded 342 points, and 6,577 yards. They also allowed opponents to average 6.2 yards per play, as well as tally 370 first downs and 26 touchdowns.

Yet, the Patriots front seven and secondary did combine for 23 interceptions and 40 sacks.

Biggest Disappointment From The Past Year: During the 2011 season, New England did not defeat a team with a winning record.

They lost to the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, who managed to tally nine wins or more, as well as secure a spot in the postseason, too.

However, against Dallas, Denver, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, New England earned wins, but they weren’t exactly “special” or “great,” especially since all these teams finished the season with roughly eight wins or less.

It’s indeed rather shocking that their opponents didn’t have great records, but earning the top spot in the conference against underachieving squads isn’t exactly something to feel great about, right?

Who knows how the rest of the season will play out, but certainly, Patriots fans will always remember this particular squad as the team that didn’t defeat any true “winners.”

Playoff Success: No Patriots blog would be complete without providing a few intriguing statistics from their past playoff tilt against the Denver Broncos, but also noting that their most recent victory snapped a two-game playoff-losing streak, which dated back to their last win against the San Diego Chargers in the  AFC championship in 2008.

Against the Broncos, Brady completed 26-of-34 passes for 363 yards, and six touchdowns. He tossed five of his six scores in the first half, while his opponent, Tim Tebow, struggled immensely, as well as finished 9-of-26 for 136 yards. He didn’t register a single touchdown or interception, but did manage to get sacked five times.

New England will face a daunting task on Sunday when they welcome the Baltimore Ravens to Gillette Stadium, who defeated the Patriots during the 2009 playoffs, 33-14.

Closing Thought: The New England Patriots finally won their first playoff game in four years, but now, they need to use that momentum to carry them to Indianapolis, Indiana for Super Bowl XLVI.

Yet, do they have what it takes to win their fourth championship in 10 years? Um… I think so, (yes, I am a tad bit unsure).

New England isn’t exactly the flashiest squad in the NFL. Their defense was horrendous, but their offense was stupendous, and yes, I know that rhymed.

However, if they do manage to reach the NFL title match, it will certainly prove to teams like Philadelphia that you don’t need loads of talent to win championships.

The Patriots have always been about teamwork and hard work. They’re not self-centered players. They want to win a championship, as well as continue their modern day 21st century dynasty.

So, in conclusion, I am going to display my “hometown optimism” by saying, they’ll end this current season by celebrating on the same fake grass that Peyton Manning defeated them on November 15, 2009, with a Vince Lombardi championship trophy.

Fans Take: What are your thoughts or “two cents” on the current Patriots squad? Do you think they have what it takes to reach the Super Bowl and win? If so, post your thoughts below, as well as on our Facebook page, too.

Follow Matt Noonan on Twitter @NoontimeSports.

Noonan: Six Weeks Of The NFL Is In The Books

Have you been impressed by the Buffalo Bills this season? (Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills website)

By Matt Noonan 

After six weeks of the NFL’s current season, we’ve learned a lot, and witnessed some amazing moments. However, we’re far from over or throwing in the towel, especially since we have another 10-weeks remaining of the regular season.

Yet, I do wonder if anyone imagined that after six weeks, the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers would be a combined, [10-2]?

Here’s another question – who truly believed that the Cincinnati Bengals would eventually trade quarterback Carson Palmer?

Finally, did anyone expect the Philadelphia Eagles “dream-team” to implode after six weeks?

Overall, there’s been a bunch of surprises, but in this particular column, it’ll be my duty to breakdown some teams that have raised some eyebrows, as well as look ahead to the remainder of the season.

Biggest Surprise Team: I certainly have enjoyed watching Detroit and San Francisco, but the team I am going to select for this particular category is the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo has been dreadful over the past few years and yes, they’ve had some fast starts, but between quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Fred Jackson, as well as a defense that’s forced numerous turnovers against Tom Brady and Michael Vick, I’d say, they’re cooking and onto something.

Yet, despite their two recent losses against Cincinnati and New York, the Bills will certainly want to regroup quickly, especially since their remaining schedule features a variety of playoff bound teams, such as Dallas, New England, New York, San Diego, and Tennessee. They should certainly pick up a few more wins against Denver, Miami and Washington, and will most likely compete for an AFC Wild-Card spot too.

All in all, the Bills have been a lot of fun to watch, but we’ll have to wait and see if this is yet again another year of a “fast start” or possibly the start of something new.

Biggest Flop Team: Hands down, this award goes to Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Backup quarterback Vince Young should have bit his tongue this past summer when he told reporters that Philadelphia was “the dream team.” The Eagles have played horrendous on both sides of the ball, but managed to pick up an important win last weekend against Washington. Philadelphia certainly is a talented group, but if they keep playing haphazard football, don’t expect a championship to be delivered anytime soon.

Vick and his receivers need to get on the same page, while the defense has to figure out ways to stop their opponents. Expect the Eagles to pick up the slack in the coming weeks, but overall, they have a lot of ground to make-up.

Who’s more likely to clinch a postseason birth? Buffalo, Detroit, San Francisco or Tennessee?

Again, I have enjoyed Buffalo’s wild ride, but my best guess is the San Francisco 49ers, who practically have the NFC West locked up. Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis have been complete flops, which have allowed the 49ers the opportunity to distance themselves from the pack. San Francisco has been quite impressive this year, especially against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few weeks ago, (sorry, Brian Willwerth) and should certainly hang onto win their division, especially since they have five divisional contests remaining, which include two against the winless Rams.

Expect Aaron Hernandez to continue being one of Tom Brady's go-to guys for the rest of the season!

Best AFC Team: As much as I want to pick the Baltimore Ravens, who have demolished their opponents thus far, I am going to pick the New England Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Wes Welker have been a deadly one-two punch, while second year tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have helped with the run game.

As far as their defense, well… it’s getting better. Against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets, the secondary, which is one the worst in the NFL played quite well, while the front seven pressures both quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo.

This week, the Patriots will enjoy a much needed bye week before they travel to Pittsburgh. If New England can keep grinding out wins, expect this team to finally end their recent playoff drought.

Best NFC Team: This is an easy one – the Green Bay Packers.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Pack have been on a roll this season, and are certainly on pace to return to the Super Bowl. Yet, it’s only been six games, so I think we need a few more weeks to decide how good this Packers team is, but as of Oct. 20, 2011, I’m going to say, they’re the best the NFC has to offer this season.

Possible Super Bowl Prediction: Earlier this summer, I didn’t have a chance to predict a possible Super Bowl matchup, but now, I am going to say it’ll be between the Packers and Patriots. Both teams are committed to winning, as well as have two of the best quarterbacks in the game that are completely clutch in the fourth quarter. Green Bay’s defense might be a tad bit better than New England’s, but all in all, I’m anticipating a Super Bowl XXXI rematch in Indianapolis, Indiana this February.

New England Patriots – Preseason Game Two Observations/Thoughts

Tom Brady, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker took care of business on Thursday, as the Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 31-14.

By Matt Noonan 

It’s only the second game of the preseason, but still, there are plenty of things to take away from this particular game, despite the Patriots second victory.

Here are a few overall thoughts on the game, as well as things that will need to be addressed or corrected going forward.

*The first offensive statistic that sticks out right away was New England’s opening drive, which was a total of five plays for 64 yards. Tom Brady connected with tight end Aaron Hernandez to give the Patriots momentum, as well as the lead. The offense continued their success on their second and third drives of the game, as well as watched BenJarvus Green-Ellis convert six points on a one-yard run and Chad Ochocinco record his first touchdown reception in a New England uniform. Although, despite their first quarter success, the offense struggled during the second, third and fourth quarter, but did managed to display positive signs, especially when Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet were under center. Although, I’m sure Mr. Brady wasn’t exactly the happiest person, as he watched both back up quarterbacks struggle to maintain momentum, which he had established. Both Mallet and Hoyer didn’t appear as productive in this game, as they were against the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the quarterbacks combined for 10 completions and one interception.

*As usual, head coach Bill Belichick mentioned during his postgame press conference that there are always things to improve upon, yet, after observing his first string offense, especially in the first quarter, it almost felt as if we were watching highlights of the ’07 squad. Although, don’t ask the head coach about that squad, especially since they didn’t finish the season undefeated.

Once again, Patriots fans watched rookie running back Stevan Ridley take over the ground game.

*Running back Stevan Ridley proved that once again, he deserves a spot on this particular roster. The halfback finished the game with 84 yards on 14 carries, but didn’t manage to record his fourth touchdown of the preseason. However, Ridley has also proven that he’s reliable, gritty and tough football player, especially since he was sidelined earlier this past week with an injury. Yet, it’s likely we’ll be seeing number twenty-two on the sidelines this year.

*The Patriots defense smothered the Buccaneers starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, who finished the game with five completions for 33 yards. Yet, despite keeping Freeman on his toes, the defense also recorded three sacks and one interception. Linebacker Tracy White led New England with five tackles, while Jerod Mayo finished the game with two sacks, three tackles and two assists.

*The Patriots defense constantly provided pressure from all different angles, as well as allowed their front seven to force their way through the Buccaneers offensive line. Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter appeared incredibly uncomfortable in and outside the pocket, as well as out of sync with their second and third string offense, which had to make Belichick somewhat happy, right? Expect this trend to continue the next two weeks, as well as into the regular season too. Belichick indeed has retooled his defensive unit, although, one has to wonder, will they use more blitz packages this season or resort to playing a variety of zone coverage’s? Who knows, but after two completely different exhibition games, it’s quite easy to think that the Patriots will be an aggressive defense this season.

All in all, it was yet again another successful team effort by the Patriots offense, defense and special teams. Of course, fans should expect some changes to occur, but in the meantime, it was yet another solid outing, as well as a positive sign of things to come.

Expectations Were Exceeded: Patriots 2010 Season

 

No one in New England, not even in America, Europe and Asia or on the planet Earth imagined that the New England Patriots would finish their 2010 season with 14 wins.

Ask any Patriots fan this week and surely they may say, “I knew this would happen” or “Of course they were destined to earn 14 wins because of their quarterback, Tom Brady.

Yet, despite all the doubters who tossed around the ideas of the Patriots being a .500 team or even worse, clearly, their analysis was proven wrong.

Entering training camp in July, no one exactly knew what this Patriots team would be like or if they had fully recovered from their 33-14 beat down by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2009 NFL Playoffs. There were the usual faces, as well as multiple rookies or first-year players that made many fans begin to doubt the outcome of this squad. Although, under the guidance of Bill Belichick, it is almost a guarantee that they will have immediate success no matter who plays or sits every Sunday.

In fact, excluding his first season with the Patriots in 2000, he has led the squad to five AFC Championship contests, four Super Bowls and has acquired three Lombardi trophies.

The defense was the biggest concern during July and August, but so was their offensive line. Who was going to fill the void of Logan Mankins for nearly half the season? Was Brady healthy enough to lead his team to victory during the fourth quarter? Would Wes Welker be the same player he once was before tearing his ACL during the final regular season game in ’09?

Questions, questions and more questions continued to build prior to their opening game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but after an impressive win, Randy Moss tried to steer the ship in the wrong direction by complaining for 14-minutes straight about needing a new contract. Unfortunately for Moss, his message didn’t distract the Patriots too much and eventually he was forced to leave town and return to the team that he began his NFL career with, which was the Minnesota Vikings.

Moss’s comments could not bring down the Patriots and neither did a Kevin Faulk season ending injury too during their week two contest against the New York “Football” Jets. Although, with a few minor tweaks and only one loss through the first five weeks, the Patriots seemed destined to finish the season 15-1.

The Patriots continued to pile up impressive wins against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Indianapolis and eventually New York on “Monday Night Football,” which prompted all Bostonians to believe that they were indeed watching one of Belichick’s finest teams. They may have not been the squad that finished [16-0] in ’07, but they were a team that relied heavily upon teamwork and hard work ethics.

Various players that had joined the team midway through the season or were deemed the typical rookies began to shine at important moments. Running back Danny Woodhead became a household name, as well as a fan favorite too. His small frame allowed fans to connect and realize that maybe they too could be the next Patriots running back, (fat chance).

Both rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski became reliable targets for Brady, whether it was for a short yardage pick up or red zone strike, both young men were there to make the difference.

On defense, it was clearly cornerback Devin McCourty who provided great defensive coverage on all-star opposing receivers. Even linebacker Brandon Spikes chipped in when he could, although, it is debatable if he was more effective on the field or off it.

Besides these “no names” or rookies, the Patriots exceeded on all sides of the ball, but most importantly, they showed the importance of team football. They have always strived toward playing “team football” and not being one or two stars, but in the end, they clearly exceeded their pre-season expectations and were able to walk out of their locker room Monday feeling somewhat proud or optimistic for the future.

The Patriots maybe young and inexperienced at some positions, although, after a few more years of remaining as a unit, this squad could return to their ’03 and ’04 form and add a few more Super Bowl banners to Gillette Stadium.

For the time being, lets at least consider that this year was unexpected and that winning 14 games was unexpected, but beating rivals and all those “heavyweight” opponents clearly demonstrated to any casual or aggressive fan that expectations were exceeded.