Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: NFL playoffs are finally here

John Rooke
January 04, 2019 - 4:04 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Carson Daly?

  • It’s what you play for.  And, it’s what fans talk about from the time the first laces are tied, the first pads are popped and the first jock is strapped.  Getting a bye week for the NFL Playoffs.  Happy now?

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but your Patriots are the only NFL team to finish unbeaten at home this season.  Which we know, this year, is a good thing.  And that’s the biggest change from recent, more successful seasons that I can see.

 

  • And why is that?  Lack of concentration and focus.  It starts at the top.  Coaches, veterans.  And some of those veterans have simply underachieved.

 

  • But it all starts anew next week in the NFL Divisional Round, which may be the best weekend of pro football on the calendar every year.  Prediction? 

 

  • I kinda like the chalk.  Crazy, I know.  But best bet for a surprise?  Chargers in the AFC, and the Cowboys in the NFC.  Only because I dreamt this week Dallas was in the Super Bowl.  No reason for it, either.  Sad, but true.

 

  • But know this – things, they will a-change in the off-season for these Patriots.  A lot.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @FieldYates:  “A look at each playoff team’s record vs. the rest of the playoff field this season: * Bears: 2-1 * Chargers: 2-3 * Chiefs: 2-4 * Colts: 2-3 * Cowboys: 3-3 * Eagles: 3-3 * Patriots: 4-0 * Rams: 4-3 * Ravens: 1-2 * Saints: 3-1 * Seahawks: 2-4 * Texans: 2-3.”

 

  • See anything interesting in that mix above?  Just sayin’.

 

  • But Stephon Gilmore was the only Patriot player named to the All-Pro team.  Nope, these aren’t your big brothers’ Patriots.

 

  • If there truly is a football god, then please let him (or her) allow Rex Ryan back onto the field, and in the AFC East at Miami.  Please, please, please.  Rex, where ya’ been?  Out having a g-d snack with TV types?

 

  • My emboldened alter-ego, Rookestradamus, believes Josh McDaniels will be coaching elsewhere in 2019.  Brian Flores?  He stays in Foxboro.  For now.

 

  • Rookestradamus did accurately predict 11-5 and the 2-seed for these Patriots BEFORE the season started, so there is that.

 

  • TB12 plays in his 38th NFL playoff game next weekend.  Adam Vinatieri plays in his 31st this weekend.  #1 and #2 all-time in NFL postseason history.  They’re both like Timex watches – they take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.’

 

  • And if you’re of my age bracket, you know where that reference came from, amiright?  If you’re not, just Google it.

 

  • Can I just say this now, and get it out of the way?  Loved the Google TV ads with Macauley Culkin reprising his “Home Alone” movie role.  Brilliant, actually. 

 

  • Now, it’s time to pay attention to the NBA.  Post-Christmas is tip-off time for me.  And first impressions of the Celtics?  They are NOT better without Kyrie Irving.  That’s just dumb.

 

  • But they’re also not buying into what Brad Stevens is preaching.  That’s just trouble.

 

  • Former Friars Marshon Brooks and Kris Dunn are teammates in Chicago now?  Maybe it doesn’t last, but it sure helps the Bulls’ popularity around here right about now.

 

  • What about the Bruins?  Fun to watch them skate at Notre Dame on New Years’ Day.  If Patrice Bergeron stays healthy, there’s no reason they can’t make a dent in the race for Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Ever an optimist, I am.

 

  • Ever a fan, are we all.  NBC said this week Boston led all national markets for the Winter Classic in the TV ratings’ department with a 7.9, while Providence was 2nd at a 6.5.  Hartford tied Buffalo and Las Vegas for 4th at 3.4.  Long live the Whale(rs).

 

  • P-Bruins’ forward Ryan Fitzgerald was named to the AHL All-Star squad for the Atlantic Division team – as were ex-Friars John Gilmour and Colin McDonald, and former Friar player (and coach) Tim Army.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @CoachBobWalsh: “It's been 50 years since we landed a man on the moon but we still can't figure out the appropriate volume level for the announcements on a plane?”

 

  • Yes, it was a missed opportunity for the Friars last weekend against Creighton.  We told you the Blue Jays could shoot it.  They’re still shooting it.  Can never have enough of those guys, right Coach Cooley?

 

  • It was one of those games where you simply applaud the opponent for their performance.  Some of those shots were well-defended.  But others were not.  File it, but don’t forget it.

 

  • Losing to Creighton makes it a must-win Saturday, already, against defending National Champ Villanova at a banged-out Dunk?  Silly, right? 

 

  • Um, no.  0-and-2 in the league with the first two at home is a bump that will be hard to handle.  Channeling my inner Al Davis – just win, baby.

 

  • That early-season loss to Wichita State on a neutral court is killing Providence’s NET ranking.  So is the home loss to UMass.  Especially that one.

 

  • St. John’s got Sedee Keita back in the lineup after being out injured, but lost transfer guard Mikey Dixon.  He’s decided to depart after arriving at SJU from Quinnipiac.  The Red Storm rotation for Chris Mullin is a short and solid seven deep – not much room to roam for anyone else.

 

  • Speaking of the Johnnies, they had quite the game of it against Marquette in a 20-point home win to finally get them on the national map.  Personnel-wise, they’re right there with the Golden Eagles.  But it isn’t a deep bench.  Still like Marquette for the long haul.

 

  • And speaking of a haul, what about Seton Hall?  One of the surprises nationally – somehow the Pirates have figured out a way to simply out-tough the opposition.  That’s a fantastic trait to have in the Big East. 

 

  • Better have them down by double-digits late, if you hope to win.  Like SJU, I question their depth for February and beyond, but they’re fun to watch.

 

  • Next weekend, “This Week in the Big East” returns Saturday mornings to WEEI 103.7, and to radio stations across the country on Westwood One and through Sirius/XM.  No time to listen live?  Hit up the podcast at iTunes (#1 for college basketball) or Stitcher, or online at WestwoodOneSports.com or BigEast.com.

 

  • Will the Rams bounce back up, or slide back down?  Seems to me URI’s hoop fortunes are moving back and forth like a thermometer of late.  Beating Middle Tennessee is great.  Beating preseason A-10 favorite Saint Louis this weekend, on the road, makes you a contender.

 

  • Against Middle Tennessee, the Rhody freshman class – Dana Tate, Tyrese Martin, Jermaine Harris – combined for 31 points and 19 rebounds.  Consistency here, and wins will appear.

 

  • Freshman Aris Tsourgiannis left the URI program at the semester break, having appeared in only one game for the Rams.  Perhaps it wasn’t what either side thought the experience would be.

 

  • Meanwhile, Brown is killing it in a good way.  Mike Martin’s Bears set the school record for non-league wins with their 75-67 victory over Maine this week.  Brown is 10-4, with a trip to Buffalo to face Canisius next Tuesday – and sophomore Desmond Cambridge is already a two-time Ivy League Player of the Week.

 

  • What’s that saying – the Bears have it ‘goin’ on?’  Yup, they do.  If they can keep it goin’ on against the likes of Penn, Princeton and Harvard – then they’ll really have something.

 

  • Alabama and Clemson?  YAWN.  But they are clearly the two best college football teams on the planet.  Don’t like that?  Don’t blame them.

 

  • But it has been clear that the current bowl system is a mess.  Long gone are the days where New Years’ bowl games mean anything.  Seems like every time I turned on a Cheez It/Russell Athletic/Quick Lane/First Responder bowl, it was a rout.  Or cancelled.

 

  • And that’s an argument for an expanded 8-team playoff?  Absolutely, it is.  More meaningful opportunities for the players will mean more meaningful (or better) bowl games.  Games for 6-6 teams mean squat, unless your team hasn’t been to a bowl game in, say, 10 years.

 

  • Hey, maybe more meaningful college games will keep some of the better players from turning pro early and turning their backs on the coaches and teammates who helped them get better in the first place?

 

  • From the very first time I ever watched pro wrestling, Gene Okerlund was there.  He was a part of the schtick, the routine and even the action.  I never thought an “announcer” should ever be a part of the action.  But he was, for a reason.  Okerlund was a WWE Hall-of-Famer for a reason, too, with an energy and delivery like few others.  He passed away this week at age 76.

 

  • Thanks, Mean Gene, for making wrestling entertaining, if nothing else.  You did your job quite well.

 

  • So did Super Dave Osborne, aka Marty Funkhouser, aka Bob Einstein, who also passed this week at age 76.  I remember Einstein mostly as the laugh-out-loud comedic stuntman Super Dave, who dressed up like Evel Knievel and made frequent appearances on the David Letterman Show – you know, when late night TV was actually funny?

 

  • Funkhouser was his role on HBO’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ playing a funny, witty, nutty friend of Larry David’s.  The kind of guy you kept cracking up over every 30 seconds or so that you watched him, even when you knew the punch line that was coming. 

 

  • David said, “there was no one like him, as he told us again and again.”

 

  • If I were voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, my check-marked ballot would have selected Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Curt Schilling.  Probably Mike Mussina, too.  Sensible, or a by-product of our environment in the northeast?

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez he was watching his grandson in his garden try to put a worm back in its hole.  He said, “I’ll give you 10 bucks if you can get that worm in the hole.” His grandson rushed into the house, brought out a can of hairspray and gave the worm a good dose.  Stiff as a board, he pushed the worm right back into the hole.

 

  • “Big E” was amazed and gave his grandson the 10 bucks.  About an hour later, he gave him another 10 bucks.  “But grandpa, you already gave me 10 dollars,” was his reply.  “Don’t worry about it, kiddo,” Big E said.  “That 10 is from Grandma.”

 

  • Was there ever any doubt that the Foxy Lady would return to business?  But, business as usual?

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, and a Happy New Year, from @paulnanos: “Carson Daly, Steve Harvey & Ryan Seacrest. I miss Dick Clark more and more every year.”

 

  • By the way, nothing has happened to Carson Daly, except continued success.  I simply haven’t seen much of it, thanks to my age/routine/normal bedtime.  But I caught some of his late-night prowess in hosting NBC’s New Years’ Eve Show, and the one-time MTV jock (remember Total Request Live?) still is as smooth as ever. 

 

  • Daly has been hosting NBC’s Times Square Show since 2003 and still hosts “Last Call” on weeknights, which doesn’t air on the east coast until the ungodly hour of 1:35 am.  That certainly explains why I haven’t seen much of him lately.  And to think 1:35 am used to be the time when things were just getting started.

 

  • Youth is entirely wasted on the young, isn’t it?  Now, 1:35 is about the time I stumble upon the first trip to bathroom.  Whaddaboutyou? 

 

  • Joseph sent me an email last week, clearly caught up in the hockey-krishna aura around here: “PC Women’s hockey - don’t forget about them.  They have something going on.”

 

  • Joseph – Absolutely haven’t forgotten.  Mentioned them a couple of weeks ago.  The Friars are currently ranked 7th nationally and open 2019 this weekend with two games at Schneider Arena against Vermont.  At 15-3 overall, and 9-2 in Hockey East, it’s their best start to a season since ’91-’92.  Maureen Murphy is 5th in the nation in scoring.  How’s that for going on?  Go Friars.

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to [email protected]. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

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