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The NFL Draft has come to its conclusion and the New England Patriots have added some new names to their ranks.

The draft – which took place in Las Vegas – gave all 32 NFL teams a chance to replenish their ranks through seven rounds of picks from the collegiate ranks. This year proved to be an interesting one for a couple of reasons.

First, this is the first draft that takes into account the extra year of eligibility granted players due to COVID. In essence, it means that not only are there more players available than usual, but that many of these players are a bit older than the standard. This adds even more variability to an already fungible process.

Next, this draft didn’t feature any consensus elite quarterback prospects, meaning that teams were left to either reach for a QB or address other needs. The result is an order that we don’t often see; for the first time in decades, the first five selections were defensive players. It just means that we’re unlikely to see the same kind of paradigm shift that comes with a new stud QB.

Regardless, we’re here to talk about the Patriots, who had a … let’s call it unexpected draft. From a first-round reach to some late-round steals, New England continued its tradition of picking who they want to pick and consensus rankings be damned.

And that’s the thing. Just about every pundit out there is viewing this as a disappointing draft for Bill Belichick and company – and please include me among them – but in the end, what do the pundits know? Belichick wants what he wants and drafts accordingly, just like he’s done for the last two decades. Maybe we should see how this plays out.

And now, your new New England Patriots.

(Obligatory annual caveat: This is not an effort to grade the Patriots draft class. Literally nothing has changed about any of these players except that they have been given an opportunity to potentially make an NFL roster. As to whether any or all of them cash in on that opportunity, well … I can’t say. And neither can anyone else, no matter how authoritative they sound on TV or on the internet. Grading a draft that just happened is nonsense; a worthless exercise. This is just an introduction.)

Published in Sports

ORONO – A homegrown Black Bear is taking a shot at the next level after signing a free agent contract following the 2022 NFL Draft.

The University of Maine announced on May 1 that wide receiver Andre Miller has signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants.

It’s a relative rarity for local athletes to make the leap to Division I football at UMaine, but Miller – an Old Town native – not only survived but thrived, becoming an integral part of the Black Bears offense.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 16 February 2022 11:09

Pro Football Hall of Fame announces Class of 2022

Eight men – six players, one coach and one official – will be joining the ranks of the immortals as part of Canton’s Class of 2022.

While it might not inspire the same level of debate as its more venerated cousin in Cooperstown, the Pro Football Hall of Fame leads to plenty of conversation about what it means to be a true pro football great. The Selection Committee met back in January to whittle down the 18 names on the list of finalists into this year’s group of inductees.

These eight will be officially inducted in early August: players Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, LeRoy Butler, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour and Bryant Young; coach Dick Vermeil; and official Art McNally.

It’s always interesting to see who makes the cut for Canton. Many years, there are a handful of first-year candidates whose coronation is a foregone conclusion. This time, however, there weren’t any no-brainer newcomers. And so, we actually have a class featuring players who have waited a while – in some cases, a LONG while – to get in.

Published in Sports

Back in September, 32 teams hit the field with the opportunity to win a Super Bowl (though perhaps a few weren’t embracing that opportunity as fully as others). After a first-ever 17 game regular season and three rounds of playoff games, we’re down to just two.

The Los Angeles Rams are set to take on the Cincinnati Bengals for the chance to hoist aloft the Lombardi trophy as NFL champions. The game is set to take place at SoFi Stadium – the home of the Rams, marking just the second time in Super Bowl history that a team will play the game on their own home field. Granted, the first time was last year when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played (and won) Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 13.

Neither team was expected to make it this far – both squads had to win three games to get here. Each came into the playoffs as the fourth seed in their respective conference; this is the first time in history that not one of the top-three seeds from either conference is in the Super Bowl.

But while these aren’t the teams we expected to see, there are plenty of compelling storylines at play here. You’ve got an all-in Rams team against a Bengals team that has arrived earlier than anticipated. Exciting young talent and record-breaking players on both sides of the ball. The Rams haven’t won the title in over 20 years … and the Bengals have never won it.

There’s a lot happening here, is what I’m saying.

Let’s take a stroll through the teams and break down some of the positional matchups to get a sense of which squad stands superior. Of course, the most talented team doesn’t always win. The most prepared team doesn’t always win. The team we think will win doesn’t always win.

You get the picture. Anyone who tells you they KNOW what will happen is a charlatan who is almost certainly trying to sell you something. No one knows how this will all play out, but here’s my best guess – the best guess of a guy who, in the interest of full disclosure, got absolutely housed by his dog in picking winners this season (though my postseason run was solid).

Let’s break it down.

Published in Cover Story

Fans of the NFL are probably aware that Sean Payton, longtime coach of the New Orleans Saints, stepped down after this past season. However, they might not be aware that a new film involving the last time Payton “stepped down” has hit Netflix.

“Home Team,” directed by Charles and Daniel Kinnane and starring Kevin James, tells the story of what Payton got up to during his year-long suspension following the headhunting “Bountygate” scandal that involved Saints players getting paid to outright injure opposing players (not that this movie is all that interested in digging too deeply into that story).

No, what we get here is a focus on what Payton did while he was gone. Specifically, he apparently spent some time working with his son’s sixth-grade football team in Texas. And so, with the full power of Adam Sandler behind it, “Home Team” turns one of the biggest NFL scandals of the past decade into fodder for a kid-friendly sports movie.

It’s not great, folks. Now, it isn’t quite as terrible as some of Sandler’s previous Netflix productions (it’s worth noting that the man doesn’t appear in this one, though the rest of his usual roster is present and accounted for – and yes, that includes family), but that’s a low bar. It’s derivative of pretty much every kid-oriented sports movie you’ve seen … and worse than most of them.

Published in Movies

And the status quo is maintained.

While it was one of the best weekends of playoff football we’ve seen in a long time, neither Stella nor I had a lot of success in our picks, with both of us going 2-2. We split the games on which we agreed – we both had Kansas City winning their game and we both whiffed by picking the Packers – and then we each got one right in the games on which we differed. I was correct in picking the Bengals to beat the Titans, while Stella had the Rams taking down the Buccaneers.

Now, this means that I have all but sealed a postseason K&P victory, particularly since we differ on just one of the two conference championship games. Still, we carry on – there’s still plenty of room for me to embarrass myself. Meanwhile, Stella’s indifference to the postseason crown continues to emotionally wound me even as I can’t help but strive for the win.

Published in Sports
Friday, 21 January 2022 15:30

Kibbles and Picks 2022 – Divisional Round

It’s nice to feel a bit of pride in this space. Been a while.

I had a nice clean run in the Wild Card round, correctly picking five of the six winners – whiffing only on the Patriots, who as you’ll remember got their clocks absolutely cleaned by the Bills in Buffalo. Stella’s weekend was not as strong – she hit on the Bills but missed on both the Bengals and the Niners. Hence, my 5-1, her 3-3.

(Stella would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone – not that they need reminding – that the only title that matters is the regular season title. She will not be taking questions.)

Published in Sports

Well … it could have been worse?

It will surprise no one to hear that Stella has once more triumphed in Kibbles and Picks, outpicking me for the seventh time in nine seasons. However, I was able to battle back from the frankly embarrassing 15-game deficit of a couple of weeks ago; thanks to two consecutive 12-4 weeks, I was able to regain a little bit of my dignity.

I mean, I still lost to a dog, so dignity is a bit thin on the ground, but I’ll take what I can get.

Here are our final records:

ALLEN

Week 18 record: 12-4

Season record: 165-106-1

-

STELLA

Week 18 record: 8-8

Season record: 174-97-1

-

That’s right, folks! I wound up losing by just nine games! I got that lead down into single digits! Barely, but it counts! Let’s hear it for moral victories!

It’s worth noting, however, that even with my late-season push toward respectability, this might be one of the most dominant performances that Stella has ever put up in Kibbles and Picks. Even with a bit of a fade at the end, Stella was correct on 64% of her picks, whereas I managed just 60.7% for the year.

Published in Sports
Friday, 07 January 2022 14:47

Kibbles and Picks 2021 - Week 18

It’s not over, but it’s over. A concession would not be out of place right now.

Look, I did well in Week 17 – 12-4 is a solid performance – but 12-4 isn’t nearly the sort of elite performance that I needed to make up real ground against Stella. But her 10-6 week means that I gained just two games – her lead sits at an all-but-unassailable 13 games.

Is it possible for me to catch Stella? Technically, yes – all I would have to do is correctly pick 13 more winners than her this week. Now, is that likely? Not in the slightest: I would have to have at worst one of my best-ever weeks and Stella would have to put up her all-time worst week (and by a fair bit, too).

And so, for Week 18, I have instead chosen a more mitigatory path.

I made a couple of reaches, but ultimately, we’re at odds on seven games. That’s the most reasonable number I could get to without taking some absolutely wild swings, so we’re crossing our fingers to basically only lose by single digits. That said, I’ll also tack on some unofficial picks at the end as a non-canonical stab at an actual win.

Published in Sports
Friday, 31 December 2021 16:04

Kibbles and Picks 2021 - Week 17

Well … I suppose that’s that.

The combination of my utterly mediocre 8-8 Week 16 and Stella’s frankly mind-blowing 14-2 means that we’re pretty much done here. That’s all she wrote. Stella’s lead is up to 15 games, and with just two weeks remaining, it seems awfully unlikely that I’ll be able to take the power back.

Basically, I’m hoping that I can get her lead back down into the single digits before the season is over. If things stay as they are, this will be the largest margin of victory Stella has ever put up in all our years of Kibbles and Picks. And hey – she’s not even done with me yet.

We’re looking at seven games in which we differ here in the season’s penultimate week. Seven. So basically, if I get all of these right … I’ll still be eight games behind with a week to play. And considering how things have gone for me in recent weeks, getting all of them right feels pretty unlikely. Even so – that’s why they play the games.

Published in Sports
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