NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to my first NFL Draft Report Card article of 2018.  I have given a grade to every pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and compiled the grades onto 32 report cards, one per team.  I averaged all the grades on each team to determine my final grade for each team’s NFL Draft.  To avoid overly long articles, I have split it into eight parts, one for each NFL division.  Let’s start with the AFC East, the home of the New England Patriots.

NFL Draft Report Cards

Image result for saquon barkley nfl draft photo

AFC East                                                              NFC East

AFC North                                                           NFC North

AFC South                                                           NFC South

AFC West                                                             NFC West

 

Miami Dolphins

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Dolphins started off the draft on a strong note.  Rather than trading up for a QB of the future that they do not need quite yet, they took Minkah Fitzpatrick, a versatile defensive back who fits well into a Dolphins secondary that needs significant help.  This was a big steal by the Dolphins, and it’s not the first time they have done this.  They took T Laremy Tunsil, originally the projected No. 1 pick after he slid in the 2016 NFL Draft.  They also did a good job filling their needs early on, taking a strong pair of tight ends, a defensive back, a young RB, and a linebacker.

What They Did Wrong: They made some reaches in the later rounds, and they took a second linebacker, TE, and cornerback when they could have used some offensive line help.  But there are no fatal flaws here.  The Dolphins arguably had the best draft in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

Grade: B

What They Did Right: The Bills had a spectacular Day 1.  They took two grade-A prospects in Round 1, making smart trades to put themselves in position to get what they needed.  Josh Allen has very high potential, and he will definitely compete for the starting job.  Tremaine Edmunds brings much-needed help to the linebacking corps on the outside and on the inside.  They got a steal in Edmunds with the 16th pick. They also had two other quality steals. They took DT Harrison Phillips after he nearly fell to Round 3.  They do not really need a DT, but Phillips was a valuable pick for the Bills at this point in the draft.  They also scored a steal in G Wyatt Teller. Not only was Teller projected to be drafted much earlier, but he fills the hole that Richie Incognito left behind.  Teller has the chance to compete for a starting job and thrive in one across from fellow Bills linemen John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse. They topped off their strong draft with a couple of good wide receivers in the late rounds.

What They Did Wrong: The Bills already had what is emerging as one of the league’s premier secondaries.  Yet they drafted not just one, but two defensive backs. In the meantime, they failed to fill some of their more important needs like tackle and linebacker (they could have still used another prospect there after Edmunds). Despite many steals, they also took a couple guys too early, and they could’ve done a better job addressing their current needs.

New England Patriots

Grade: B-

What They Did Right: The Patriots addressed all of their major needs despite many trades down. They ended up with nine total draft picks and they used them wisely. They eventually selected a QB, RB, WR, TE, offensive lineman, corner, and a linebacker. They started things off strong with two good players out of Georgia to address major needs. They also picked up a major steal in WR Braxton Berrios.

What They Did Wrong: The Pats may have waited too long for a QB, but reports say that they would have traded up if Baker Mayfield is available, which would not be the right strategy either. They could have also taken a linebacker or a tight end earlier. They had four picks in the first two rounds, and they used them on one T, one RB, one CB, and a trade down. I didn’t really see RB and CB as needs that were urgent enough to spend a first or second rounder on, and they did not need to trade down. Their grade gets a boost for addressing all their major needs, something no other AFC East team did in my eyes. But they waited too long for certain needs I saw as urgent.

New York Jets

Grade: C+

What They Did Right: The Jets started off strong by taking an NFL ready QB with the 3rd pick. I also liked the players they picked in the 3rd and 4th rounds. These two players addressed needs and are on my list of draft sleepers. But the Jets draft began to plummet from there. Day 3 did not end up looking so good for them.

What They Did Wrong: The Jets could have had a good draft if they continued to address their needs or take top available prospects in the later rounds. But they took CB Parry Nickerson when they did not need a corner, and took a running back I had never heard of when they were totally fine at running back. They have Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to handle the backfield. I doubt the RB they drafted will ever make an NFL roster, let alone an NFL start. They also took another DT in Round 6 when they had already done enough to address the defensive line.  If they were going to take two d-linemen, at least one of them should’ve been a defensive end, which is more of where the Jets need d-line help.

That’s all for Part 1 of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Stay tuned for more post-draft analysis soon.

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NFL 2018 Final Mock Draft: Who Will Go #1?

The 2018 NFL Draft is almost here.  Normally, by this point, the top three picks would be pretty much locked in.  But this year, the draft appears to be so unpredictable that we do not even know for sure who will go #1.  Today, I will play out Round 1, including trades, and I will even look at later picks for the Patriots.  However, prepare to be surprised, because my mock draft is not here to be a carbon copy of everyone else’s.

1. CLE With the 1st overall pick, the Cleveland Browns select
Sam Darnold
QB
USC
Josh Allen has high potential, and he looked great at the Combine.  But I see Darnold as the most NFL ready QB.  He has consistently put up good numbers as a starter at USC, and he has the size.  He fits well with the Browns, and the rest of their offense is ready to contend, so an NFL ready QB is a priority with this pick.  Tyrod Taylor is by no means the future in Cleveland.
2. NYG With the 2nd overall pick, the New York Giants select
Saquon Barkley
RB
Penn State
Barkley is the best of both worlds in terms of draft prospects.  He has future Pro Bowl potential, and he is ready to provide the Giants with the young workhorse RB they need right now.  In my opinion, he is one of the best running backs to enter the draft in recent years.  He has posted 3 consecutive 1000 yard seasons at Penn State, and of all RBs at this year’s combine, only Nyheim Hines had a faster 40-yard dash.
3. NYJ With the 3rd overall pick, the New York Jets select
Josh Rosen
QB
UCLA
Rosen may have attitude issues, and he may have struggled at times during his college career. But he has the potential to become a reliable QB for the Jets, and maybe even a future Pro-Bowler. Just look at what he did freshman year at UCLA. He just has to mature a little bit.
4.  With the 4th overall pick, the Cleveland Browns select
Minkah Fitzpatrick
CB
Alabama
Minkah is a versatile defensive back who can give a much-needed upgrade to the Browns secondary. Whether he starts at CB or S, I think he’s ready to be an NFL playmaker. He had 9 interceptions and 171 tackles in his college career.
5.  With the 5th overall pick, the Denver Broncos select
Quenton Nelson
G
Notre Dame
The Broncos have announced that the #5 pick is for sale, but signing Case Keenum does not solve all their offensive problems. They need to surround him with talent, including protection. They cannot pass up on Nelson if he is available. Nelson is arguably the best interior offensive lineman in the draft in the last 5 years.
6.  With the 6th overall pick, the Indianapolis Colts select
Bradley Chubb
DE
North Carolina State
The Colts need front seven help, and they will significantly benefit from Chubb, the best edge rusher in this draft. Roquan Smith is also an intriguing choice, but they will not pass on Chubb if he is available. He has tallied 10 sacks in two consecutive seasons at N.C. State.
7.  TRADE ALERT (See Details In TRADE Section)

With the 7th overall pick, the Buffalo Bills select

Josh Allen

QB

Wyoming

Allen has very high potential although he may not be NFL ready. He was very good, but also inconsistent at Wyoming. Young A.J. McCarron is the perfect bridge, giving them the ability to roll the dice and draft Allen.

8.  With the 8th overall pick, the Chicago Bears select

Roquan Smith

ILB

Georgia

Smith is not a perfect fit in Chicago, as he may be better in a 4-3 scheme. But he will give the Bears defense an instant boost. He is one of the fastest linebackers in the draft, and he is a strong defender who dominated in his junior year with 6.5 sacks and 137 tackles. He will contribute right away.

9.  With the 9th overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers select

Denzel Ward

CB

Ohio State

Ward is a versatile defensive back who despite his small stature has great ball skills and speed. He ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, tied for the best this year among defensive backs. He will help fill the hole in the 49ers secondary that Eric Reid left. Ward and Richard Sherman could potentially make a great CB duo.

10.  With the 10th overall pick, the Oakland Raiders select

Tremaine Edmunds

OLB

Virginia Tech

Edmunds can help the Raiders front seven right away. He has two older brothers in the NFL already, and not only do I expect him to follow in their footsteps, but I expect him to be a better NFL defender than them. He will be able to make an impact against the run and against the pass. He fits well into Oakland’s defensive scheme.

11.  With the 11th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins select

Maurice Hurst

DT

Michigan

Hurst is arguably the strongest interior defensive lineman in this draft. He can really get on the opposing QB’s nerves. He will help fill the hole that Ndamukong Suh’s release left the Dolphins with.

12.  Pick acquired from Bills

With the 12th overall pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select

Derrius Guice

RB

LSU

Guice is not quite Saquon Barkley, who the Bucs will definitely opt to draft rather than trading down if he is available at #7. But Guice is also very quick and powerful. He tallied 2638 yards in his final two years of college.

13.  With the 13th overall pick, the Washington Redskins select

Derwin James

S

Florida State

The Redskins are set at corner, but James will help fill a hole at safety that DeAngelo Hall left the Redskins with. James is a versatile defensive back who can really get in the way of the receivers he covers. He will help continue to revamp the Redskins secondary with talent.

14.  With the 14th overall pick, the Green Bay Packers select

Calvin Ridley

WR

Alabama

Ridley is a fast, explosive receiver who is ready to make an impact now. With Jordy Nelson gone, the Packers need a slot receiver. According to NFL.com, Ridley thrives both in the slot and outside, and after tallying 750+ yards and 5+ touchdowns in each of his three seasons of Alabama, he will thrive across from Davante Adams and give an immediate post to the Packers receiving game.

15.  With the 15th overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals select

Courtland Sutton

WR

SMU

With Ridley off the board, the Cardinals will take Sutton, a great fit in Arizona. This is a very deep WR class. With Larry Fitzgerald retiring eventually and John Brown in Baltimore, this is a huge need for the Cardinals. Sutton gives them the physical outside receiver they need. He has dominated in his final two seasons at SMU, tallying 1000+ yards and 10+ TDs in both junior and senior year. He has very high potential and gives the Cardinals the WR boost they need. But is he NFL ready right now?

16.  With the 16th overall pick, the Baltimore Ravens select

Da’Ron Payne

DT

Alabama

Payne will help the Ravens stop the run, filling in where Timmy Jernigan once played. He is an up-the-middle run stopper who tallied 102 tackles in his college career. He can be a pest to opposing offenses, getting in their way.

17.  TRADE ALERT (See Details in TRADE Section)

With the 17th overall pick, the Carolina Panthers select

Christian Kirk

WR

Texas A&M

The Panthers will need a receiver across from Devin Funchess, who is not a proven #1 receiver yet. Kirk is not Calvin Ridley, and if the Panthers have the chance to draft Ridley, they have the potential for an explosive, young offense that keeps the Panthers in contention. But he is a sturdy receiver who can play in several different schemes. In 234 college receptions, he scored 10 TDs and tallied 2856 receiving yards.

18.  With the 18th overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks select

Jaire Alexander

CB

Louisville

Seattle has rebuilt their secondary, but they need to supply the secondary with young talent now. Alexander fits in the Seahawks scheme, he is very fast and versatile, and he had 7 interceptions in his college career. He is a good fit and can make an impact right away.

19.  With the 19th overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys select

Connor Williams

T

Texas

Williams will keep the Cowboys offensive line strong after Doug Free’s retirement. With this pick, the Cowboys would arguably still have the best o-line in the NFL. The Cowboys are a good, local fit for him

20.  With the 20th overall pick, the Detroit Lions select

Harold Landry

OLB

Boston College

Landry supplies the Lions with the edge rusher they need. He has the potential to become a pest to the QB and a Pro Bowl level sack machine. He had 16.5 sacks junior year when he played 12 games. He had 5 sacks in 8 games senior year, which is still a good amount. Landry has very high potential and he can make an impact right now.

21.  With the 21st overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals select

Billy Price

C

Ohio State

After losing some of their o-lineman to free agency, it’s time for Cincinnati to revamp their offensive line with young talent. They are especially weak in the interior. Price supplies them with a powerful blocker that they need, and I expect the Bengals to use their 1st rounder on either Price or Isaiah Wynn.

22.  Pick acquired from Bills

With the 22nd overall pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select

Isaiah Wynn

G

Georgia

Now that the Bucs took Guice, it’s time to address the O-line. Wynn may be small, but he is a versatile offensive lineman who can help the Buccaneers protect young Jameis Winston whether it is at tackle or at guard.

23.  With the 23rd overall pick, the New England Patriots select

Mike McGlinchey

T

Notre Dame

McGlinchey has good size and has played at both LT and RT. If the Patriots draft him, expect to see him protecting Brady’s blind side. He should adjust rather quickly with the help of Dante Scarnecchia, although he cannot be playing at the level of Nate Solder right away, which could put Brady in a tough situation. But no offensive lineman available could do much better.

24.  Pick acquired from Panthers

With the 24th overall pick, the Los Angeles Chargers select

Leighton Vander Esch

ILB

Boise State

Vander Esch provides the Chargers with a fast, powerful inside linebacker who can get to the ball quickly. He had 4 sacks and 2 picks in 2017 at Boise State. He is one of this year’s best small school prospects, and it may take time for him to make an impact, but he will help the Bolts defense in the long term.

25.  With the 25th overall pick, the Tennessee Titans select

Vita Vea

DT

Washington

The Titans desperately need a powerful DT. Vea is just that. He can stop the run and get to the QB. He has Pro Bowl potential, and may not be all out dominant in Year 1, but he will fill a serious need for Tennessee.

26.  With the 26th overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons select

Marcus Davenport

DE

UTSA

Davenport will help restore Atlanta’s defensive line with young talent, and provide them with another edge rusher alongside Vic Beasley. He is powerful and explosive. He can really rush the passer, tallying 21.5 sacks in his college career, 8.5 of those in 2017.

27.  With the 27th overall pick, the New Orleans Saints select

Taven Bryan

DT

Florida

Bryan is an athletic and powerful DT who can help the Saints d-line across from Sheldon Rankins. Bryan had 5.5 sacks and 62 tackles in 3 years at Florida. He will take time to develop but has potential to become one of the league’s premier defensive lineman

28.  With the 28th overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers select

Rashaan Evans

ILB

Alabama

Evans is a powerful interior linebacker who specializes in rushing the passer. He racked up 6 sacks in senior year at Alabama, and he had 74 tackles. Evans and Ryan Shazier will make for a great pass rushing LB duo.

29.  TRADE ALERT (See details in TRADE section)

With the 29th overall pick, the New York Giants select

Baker Mayfield

QB

Oklahoma

My bold prediction in this mock is that only 4 QBs will go in Round 1, and I even had Mayfield slipping into Round 2 originally. But the Giants would be willing to trade up to secure the QB they want. Mayfield has not had off the field problems like Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, and he is one of the most NFL ready prospects of this draft. He nearly passed for 5000 yards in his senior year, tossing 43 TDs.

30.  With the 30th overall pick, the Minnesota Vikings select

Will Hernandez

G

UTEP

Hernandez will round out the Vikings o-line with Joe Berger retired.  He will serve as a physical, powerful run blocker for the Vikings, helping protect new QB, Kirk Cousins.  He will be a pest for defensive linemen to face.

31.  With the 31st overall pick, the New England Patriots select

Malik Jefferson

OLB

Texas

Jefferson fits well in New England’s 4-3 scheme.  The Pats could use a tough, physical OLB like him.  He is a powerful run stopper who collected 110 tackles in his junior year at Texas.

32. PHI With the 32nd overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles select

Sony Michel

RB

Georgia

The Eagles need to add RB depth.  Michel thrived while fighting for time with Nick Chubb at Georgia, tallying 1227 yards in his senior year.  He can make an immediate impact, doing the same in the Eagles’ deep backfield.

Trades

TB acquires DT Adolphus Washington, R1 P12, R1 P22, R2 P24, R4 P21, 2019 R3
BUF acquires R1 P7

———————-

LAC acquires R1 P24, R2 P23, R3 P24, 2019 R1
CAR acquires R1 P17
———————
NYG acquires R1 P29
JAX acquires R2 P2, R3 P5
Patriots Mock Draft: Rounds 2-7
Check back tomorrow!
That’s all for today.  Enjoy the draft, and stay tuned for my NFL Draft Grades after it ends.

UPDATE: Mock Coming Tomorrow, NFL FA Coverage Modified

As an aspiring reporter, I write this blog for a good writing experience, so I have posted articles in delay for the experience. But I also would like to try to stay as up to date as possible, so I have decided to cut down on the NFL free agency coverage. I was planning to release a big recap, but instead, I will be posting a chart on my Instagram that compares my initial Predictions to actual results, and I will be making some predictions about the remaining free agents after the draft (I do not expect any major free agent signings this week as the draft is every team’s current focus and every team will have to re-assess after the draft.

Here is part of the NFL free agency charts I will be posting on Instagram. I will also post the rest of these with my next NFL free agency Article:

These first three portray top QBs, RBs, and WRs who became free agents before the new league year began and have since signed with a team.

To catch up on NFL free agency, check out this NFL free agency tracker on Spotrac:

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/

But for now, I would like to focus my attention to this week’s big sports event, the NFL draft. My final NFL Mock Draft will be released tomorrow. I am unsure as to whether it will include trades. If it does not, I will include some potential trade scenarios. The mock I post will be one round long, but I will include my later round Patriots picks.

You will be able to see my full mocks (I have one with trades and one without) on MockOut, a mock draft contest app that I would recommend. I will leave links in the Mock Draft tomorrow.

After the draft, stay tuned for draft grades, Baseball Bits, Red Sox Report, my MLB April Power Rankings, Bruins and Celtics playoff coverage, and much more. I may also be releasing my NFL season predictions and Pats game-by-game predictions on the earlier side this year, especially now that the schedule is out, free agency is mostly over, and the draft is underway.

Red Sox Report: Red Sox On A Roll Despite Many Injuries

Can Boston teams sustain any more injuries?  First, the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on Opening Night and later lost Kyrie Irving for the season.  Then the Bruins began sustaining a lot of injuries, and although they are still a strong playoff contender, it seems like another player goes down every time somebody returns.  And now as the Red Sox are off to a hot start, they are far from full strength.

Even though Eduardo Rodriguez has returned and Drew Pomeranz will be back soon, the Red Sox have continued to lose players to injuries.  This past week, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Bobby Poyner, Mookie Betts, and David Price have all missed or left games due to injuries.  Hanley surprisingly only missed a game after taking a fastball on his hand/wrist area.  He hit a mammoth line drive HR in his first game back keeping his hot start going.

The Rivalry is Back: Red Sox Win In Heated First Series vs. Yankees

Image result for red sox-yankees brawl

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is back and better than ever.  This year, with the Sox and Yankees likely to compete for the AL East title, expect exciting games between these two teams.  It did not take long for the intensity to get going in the first series.  There were two bench-clearing incidents in the second game.  I expect the tension to carry over into the next Red Sox-Yankees series and likely all of the remaining sixteen games.

Despite numerous injuries sustained by both teams, this was not a series you would want to miss. After a hot 8-1 start, the Red Sox were confident and ready to prove that their strong start was not a fluke.  After the Sox blew out the Yankees 14-1 in game 1, the Yankees came into game 2 with a little more fight.  They won the game and Yankees DH Tyler Austin spiked SS Brock Holt when he slid into second.  Tensions flared and benches cleared.

Another bench-clearing brawl occurred when Joe Kelly retaliated by hitting Tyler Austin later in the game and Austin charged the mound.  This one got both Kelly and Austin ejected and both of them have since been suspended.  Both players appealed to stay in the series and on the active roster until the hearing.  You will not want to miss a Red Sox-Yankees game this year as they are clearly the best 2 teams in the AL East.

By the time this game was over, starters Tanaka and Price were long gone as neither lasted too long.  Price had the worst outing of his career lasting only 1 inning.  He left after giving up 4 runs and was pulled before starting the 2nd due to a tingling sensation in his fingers.  It was a cold night and sports radio talk has speculated Price’s issues were related to the cold, his elbow, or maybe even anxiety.  Regardless, the Sox need Price healthy so whatever it was, the team and fans hope it was an isolated issue and he returns to pitching as well as he did to finish last season and start this one.

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On A Roll: Lineup and Rotation Have Shown Flashes of Excellence

The Red Sox may be missing a lot of players due to injuries but the lineup has been hot of late after a slow start and their rotation has looked like one the best in the MLB all season (except Price’s bad outing).  Hanley Ramirez is on fire despite suffering a wrist contusion this week and J.D. Martinez has heated up after taking a week or so to adjust to his new team.  He now has 3 HR and 13 RBI on the season, including a grand slam in Boston’s comeback attempt in Game 2 against the Yankees.

The Red Sox have now hit 3 grand slams this season while they had none in 2017.  Mookie Betts has also been on fire all season, batting .353, and Bogaerts was just as hot before his ankle injury on Sunday that got him placed on the 10-day DL.  Andrew Benintendi started hitting well at home and is 10 for his last 26.

Image result for eduardo rodriguez vs. orioles 2018

The rotation has shown flashes of dominance too, and Red Sox starters have pitched quality starts in 3 of the last 6 games.  Rick Porcello even had a no-hitter through six on Thursday.  The defense has helped the pitching playing nearly flawless all year with only 3 errors on the season.  Jackie Bradley Jr. had an amazing catch this past Saturday that has SportsCenter Top 10 of the year potential.

Red Hot Hanley: Ramirez Riding 10-Game Hitting Streak, Is He Back To His Pre-2015 Form?

Image result for hanley ramirez home run

The Red Sox were expecting another power hitter to support Big Papi when they signed Hanley Ramirez back in the 2014-15 off-season.  But a shoulder injury in 2015 limited Ramirez and he fell short of expectations in 2015 and 2016.  Hanley looked better in 2017 but without Big Papi, he only hit .242 with 23 HR and 62 RBI.  This season Hanley has been off to a great start.  He is riding a 10-game hitting streak and he has hit 3 home runs and leads the AL in RBI.  He is also hitting .362/.415/.617.  You could argue that he has returned to the pre-2015 form that led the Sox to sign him to a very big contract.

After going down with a wrist contusion on Thursday, some speculated that he would not keep this up when he returned.  But he was ready to go for Saturday’s game he quieted the doubters and hit a home run in his first at-bat.  If he keeps this up, he will remain an everyday starter on the Sox, something that was not a given to begin the season.  Do you think Hanley Ramirez is back to his pre-2015 form, or will he cool down?

Injury Update: Who’s Out, What To Expect

Image result for xander bogaerts injury

The Red Sox sustained lots of injuries this week.  Xander Bogaerts was placed on the DL April 8th after hurting his ankle when chasing a ball into the Rays dugout.  On Wednesday, David Price left the game but it looks like he won’t miss a start.  Bobby Poyner went down with a hamstring injury in the same game as Price and was placed on the DL.

Image result for mookie betts foot injury

Mookie Betts left Saturday’s game after suffering a foot contusion by colliding with Orioles catcher Chance Sisco while sliding into home.  He is now day to day, but he was out of the lineup Sunday.

Image result for drew pomeranz

The good news is that Drew Pomeranz will be returning this Thursday or Friday after a strong rehab start in Portland, giving up just 2 runs in 5 1/3 innings.  Relievers Steven Wright and Tyler Thornburg are also making progress in their rehab.

I do expect the Red Sox to stay hot but these injuries could eventually hold the team back, especially with a tough road trip including visits to Anaheim and Oakland coming up.  The A’s are led by power hitting out of veteran Khris Davis and breakout star Matt Chapman.  The Angels are led by two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani and star hitter Mike Trout.  They have a stacked lineup that has helped them get off to a hot start as they lead AL West.  The Sox will face Ohtani in Game 1 of the series because their game on Sunday was postponed.  Will the Red Sox be able to stay hot against these two teams despite injuries?

Sox Prepare To Face Ohtani In Game 1 Of West Coast Road Trip

Image result for shohei ohtani

The Red Sox will head out west after their Marathon Monday game against Baltimore was rained out and the first game is against young Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.  He has dominated at the plate and on the mound, and he is the probable starter on Tuesday. Ohtani has become known as the HR-hitting ace.  He has hit 3 HR and is batting .367/.424/.767 in 8 games at the plate.  As a starting pitcher, he is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 2 games on the mound.

Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.

Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

Boston sports fans needed 2 TVs on Thursday night as the Red Sox battled the Yankees in the series rubber match and the Bruins kicked off their 2018 playoff hockey against a tough Toronto squad.  Most fans likely flipped back and forth and if they were lucky didn’t miss a run or goal and both teams dominated.  The Sox have now won three in a row after more dominance today and the Bruins are on tonight so no flipping is needed.

The Red Sox topped the Yankees 6-3, winning their first series of 2018 against New York.  The Sox looked very good throughout the series.  Although both teams are suffering numerous injuries, I think this is a good sign that the Red Sox may be ready to contend for a World Series title.  Some people believed the opposite before this series, as the Red Sox had faced only rebuilding teams before their series against the Yanks.  If they can do well against the 12-3 Los Angeles Angels and start next week’s west coast road trip off right, that will continue to solidify the Red Sox position as a true contender to win the AL East again and maybe go further.

While the Bruins limped into the playoffs losing 4 of their last 5 to miss a chance to lock down the #1 seed, they returned to midseason form Thursday and dominated in Game 1.  They blew out Toronto 5-1.  The Bruins refused to let injuries hold them back, and the depth of their roster helped them.  If the Bruins can bring the same intensity for the rest of the series, the Maple Leafs may struggle to win a game, let alone the series.  The top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak played extremely well and their play really shined on the power play as the Bruins were 3 for 6, scoring one PP goal in each period.

Please read on for a few more details on the big night for the Sox and B’s.

Porcello Dominant, Red Sox Cruise to Victory 

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The Red Sox came out aggressive fearing a rain-shortened game and put up 6 runs over the first 3 innings on their way to victory over the Yankees, 6-3.  Rick Porcello was dominant on the mound and had a no-hitter through six and finished with seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits.  Porcello stayed warm waiting out a rain delay after five innings but Rick came back into the game showing no ill effects from the delay.  His no-hitter came to an end in the 7th inning when Yankees star hitter Aaron Judge doubled to break it up.

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The Red Sox grabbed hold of a lead early in the game.  Hanley Ramirez, who has been on fire of late, left the game in the 1st after being hit in the hand by Sonny Gray but that did not stop the Red Sox.  Eduardo Nunez led off in the next inning with a base hit.  The cold was giving him knee discomfort as he raced down the first base line but he decided to keep on playing.  JBJ walked to make it 1st and 2nd, and Sandy Leon drove in the run with a single.  Brock Holt got on base with another walk to load the bases, and all three runners advanced one base when Mookie Betts hit a deep sac fly, making it 2-0 Red Sox with men on 2nd and 3rd.  Andrew Benintendi then grounded to second base with the infield in.  The Yankees chose to throw home but the throw bounced in by Sanchez and allowed Leon to score.  Holt advanced to 3rd and Benny had time to advance to 2nd. Mitch Moreland, in off the bench for Hanley, drove in the fourth run with a single despite limited playing time this year.

The Sox scored again the 3rd.  Eduardo Nunez doubled to right, and JBJ hit a ground rule double to knock him in.  Sandy Leon struck out on a pitch in the dirt that got away.  Another bad defensive choice by the Yankees allowed Leon to reach as Gary Sanchez fired to 3rd but JBJ slid in safely.  Mookie Betts knocked him in with a ground ball to the right side, 6-0 Boston.  Betts ended up going 0 for 4 but he had 2 RBI on the night.

The Yankees did not score until the top of the 9th when reliever Marcus Walden gave up a bases-clearing double to Gary Sanchez with the bases loaded.  Craig Kimbrel came in to finish the job, and the Red Sox won 6-3.

Injury Update: Hanley Ramirez did suffer a wrist contusion but avoided a more serious injury.  He was out of the lineup Friday against Baltimore but returned today with a Home Run.

What’s Next: The Red Sox have taken the first 2 games against the Orioles in a 4-game Fenway series as Eduardo Rodriguez dominated again against his former team as he has struck out more batters against the Orioles than any other opponent in his career.  The Sox won easily 7-3.  Velazquez gave up just 2 runs in 5 strong innings as the Sox cruised to a 10-3 victory and weather permitting hope Sale can keep the strong pitching streak for Sox starters going.

Bruins Dominate vs. Leafs, Led By Power Play success

  

The Bruins dominated in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  They topped a strong Toronto Maple Leafs squad, 5-1, with David Backes scoring one goal and being robbed of a second.  Rick Nash also made an impact returning after a long absence.  The Bruins dominated in their power plays, scoring a power-play goal in every period.  One PP goal was during a 5-minute major power play due to a gruesome hit Nazem Kadri put on Tommy Wingels, knocking him out of the game.  Kadri is suspended for the next 3 games of the series, and if the Bruins continue to dominate, he may not play another game this season.

Zach Hyman scored the only goal for Toronto when the Leafs tied it up in the 1st period. After that, the Leafs fell out of it due to 4 unanswered Bruins goals.

Injury Update: Wingels is out for Game 2 after being hit by Kadri. Riley Nash is doubtful with an ear laceration.  Donato is playing for Wingels.

What’s Next: The Bruins take on the Leafs at the TD Garden again tonight.  It is being aired on prime time on NBC.  The Bruins have jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the 2nd period, going 2 for 2 on the power play and scoring another 4 unanswered goals to begin the game.

Stay tuned for more Red Sox and Bruins coverage soon, including my latest Red Sox Report.

My 2018 NHL Playoff Bracket

I have finished my predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is my bracket:

The Bruins have a very tough road ahead. They will face a tough Maple Leafs team in the first round, and will likely see the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, another tough team. Their defensive struggles will definitely hurt them in the later rounds, especially if they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, or the dominant Nashville Predators. I do think the Bruins will win in the end though. If they can stay healthy from here, they have a lot of talent that is capable of keeping the offense going. The defense should be alright without Brandon Carlo, especially if Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug do well in the playoffs.

Here are some other notes about my bracket:

  • I have picked most of the higher seeds in the East besides the Bruins and Penguins. But in the West, I have picked several upsets. The Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise this year, but they are inexperienced in the playoffs, and regressed down the stretch after appearing to be the league’s best team in the early months. I think the Kings will give them a rude awakening and Vegas will struggle under pressure.
  • The Sharks will also go deep. I think they have a better roster than the Ducks and will outmatch them head to head. They will top the Kings, a lower seed after LA shocks the Golden Knights and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings will win in Round 1, but do not expect them to go any further. But the Predators are too good for them. I also picked the Wilds over the Jets for similar reasons.
  • I think the Bruins would’ve been much easier off against the Devils. The Lightning will dominate in New Jersey. I think the Florida Panthers, who just missed the playoffs and a lot of other teams would have given their opponents a bigger challenge than the Devils.
  • In my opinion, although the higher seeds in the East will win in the 1st Round, lower seeds like the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Blue Jackets will give their opponents a good challenge. As I said earlier, I think the Devils will be the easiest first round opponent.

That’s all for my NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions. Stay tuned for more coverage.

Crazy 8th for Sox 8th Win

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After a 7-1 start to the season for the Red Sox, things were not looking good for them today.  They were down 7-2 heading into the 8th inning, as the Rays had scored at least one run in six straight innings.  Eduardo Rodriguez had been knocked out of the game after 3.2 innings, forcing the Red Sox to use numerous relievers to finish off the game.  The bullpen struggled as Hector Velazquez, Bobby Poyner, and Brian Johnson gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings But the Red Sox came all the way back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 and extend their winning streak to eight games.  Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts extended their hitting streaks to 7 games each, as they led the Sox offense.

The Red Sox started off strong with a leadoff double by Mookie Betts, and Betts was driven in by Hanley Ramirez’s groundout.  But the Rays struck back quickly, with DH C.J. Cron hitting a solo homer.  Early on, Eduardo Rodriguez was doing well, striking out five batters, including the side in the 1st inning.  But the Rays were working the count and and E-Rod’s was over 70 after three innings.

While the Rays were not crushing the ball after Cron’s home run, they scored one run every inning from the 2nd all the way to the 7th. In the 3rd inning, E-Rod gave up a walk followed by a infield single that was originally ruled an out. Matt Duffy was clearly safe, so it was a smart challenge by the Rays.  The run scored on a double by Carlos Gomez.

In the 4th inning, Daniel Robertson reached on another infield single for the Rays.  3B Rafael Devers could not make the throw in time.  That was followed by a Brad Miller walk, and Adeiny Hechavarria drove in the run with a bloop single that Andrew Benintendi couldn’t quite get to.  The Rays were trying to continue the rally, as Matt Duffy singled again after E-Rod left the game, but Hector Velazquez came in to get the last out.

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Velazquez gave up a run in the next inning, as Daniel Robertson singled, stole second, and came home on Brad Miller’s base hit.  The Sox chipped away in the bottom of that inning.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Christian Vazquez single, and another walk.  Rays reliever Ryan Yarbrough had come in to replace Andrew Kittredge after two innings. Today, the Rays reliever combo to start was game was able to hold the Sox to just two runs through six innings, but it was not easy.

With two outs in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez ripped an infield single that Adeiny Hechavarria snagged to save more runs from scoring.  J.D. Martinez followed, but struck out with the bases loaded. Martinez was the only Sox starter without a hit, but that did not keep the Sox from winning.

The Rays scored again in the 6th after Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple off the Green Monster to drive in Matt Duffy, who had walked.  Kiermaier hit the triple off of Bobby Poyner, but Velazquez was charged with the run as he had walked Duffy before leaving the game.  Brian Johnson came in in the 7th and struggled, giving up two more runs.  Daniel Robertson walked, and came home on a triple by pinch hitter Joey Wendle.  On that play, Xander Bogaerts hurt his ankle as he had to chase the ball into the Rays dugout after throwing to third before Devers was there.  He will be evaluated further on Monday, but his timetable is currently unknown. Bogaerts was helped off the field, and it was really concerning when he couldn’t leave without assistance because he has been Boston’s best hitter so far this season.  Brock Holt came in to replace him.

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Tampa scored their second run of the inning off Johnson after a sac fly drove in Wendle.  The Sox failed to get things going in the bottom of the 7th, but after Carson Smith came into the game, the Rays failed to score another run.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Carlos Gomez single, and a walk.  But Smith escaped the inning by striking out Daniel Robertson.

This looked like it was going to be a Rays win, as after Hanley Ramirez led things off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, the next two batters struck out and flew out.

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But with two outs, Mitch Moreland, who was a doubles machine last year, hit his first double (and hit) of 2018, driving in Ramirez to make it 7-3 Rays.  Eduardo Nunez singled and Moreland advanced to third.  Rafael Devers then knocked a ball down the third base line that bounced off the left field garage, allowing both Moreland and Nunez to score.

With that, Rays reliever Matt Andriese was done, and Rays closer Alex Colome came in, hoping to secure the 7-5 lead the Rays were still holding on to. The Red Sox had done well against Colome in the home opener. Just in case the rally continued, Cora got star closer Craig Kimbrel warming up in the bullpen next to Joe Kelly.

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Christian Vazquez kept the rally alive with a base hit.  Devers scored, making it 7-6 Red Sox.  Vazquez advanced to second on another wild pitch.  Mookie Betts tied it up with a line single to left as Vazquez came in to score with a nifty slide to avoid the tag.  Andrew Benintendi kept the rally alive by doubling to the left field gap to drive in Betts.  The outfielders were playing shallow as Benny’s double did not reach the Green Monster. It was now 8-7 Red Sox.

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Kimbrel came in and quickly retired the side, as the Red Sox locked up their comeback victory, 8-7.  This was by far their most exciting game of the season.  The Sox faced easy opponents, but the Red Sox are now 8-1 to start the season, their best record ever after nine games. They had not even started 7-1 since 1904, a World Series-winning year.

The Red Sox head into their three-game series against the Yankees on fire.  Will they win their first series against their archrivals?  The Yankees have been depleted by injuries, and are just 5-5 after losing to Baltimore today in a 12 inning game.  With Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Brandon Drury, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, C.C. Sabathia, and Billy McKinney all injured, the Sox should certainly have the edge.