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If the New England Patriots are going to get past the number four seed Houston Texans (10-7), and into the AFC Championship game, they will likely need strong performances from three guys named Malcolm. Obviously they will need to play well in all three phases of the game, as Coach Belichick is so fond of saying, but WR Malcolm Mitchell, LCB Malcolm Butler, and DT Malcom Brown, are  going to have to be major contributors if New England is going to return to the “Big Game”. OK, so it’s two Malcoms and a Malcom, but you get the idea. One way or another, the Pats will be counting on them in what could be, despite a 16 point spread,  a deceptively difficult contest.

 

No one in Patriots Nation has forgotten that they handed the Texans a 27-0 beating back in week 3, and that it happened with third string QB Jacoby Brissett at the helm. But you would have a great deal of difficulty finding anyone who believes either team is in anyway the same team it was back September, so although everyone is expecting a win, no one expects it will be easy. Granted the Pats will have Tom Brady back behind center and rookie WR Mitchell (32 rec, 401 yds, 4 TDs) has become a key target, but the Houston “D” has statically become one of the best. They will feature old friend Vince Wilfork, in what will probably be his last game, at nose tackle, and will have DE Jadeveon Clowney, as well as OLB Whitney Mercilus bringing pressure from the outside. The Patriots defense has also come on strong over the latter stages of the season with both DT Malcom Brown (6-2, 320) in his second year out of Texas, and 2014 Super Bowl hero LCB Malcolm Butler (63 tackles, 4 INTs) being two of their most dependable performers.

 

Besides, no one in Patriots Nation has forgotten January of 2011, when the New York Jets upset the Pats 28-21, in the Divisional Round, only about a month after they had pounded the Jets 45-3 in a nationally televised night game. Lesson learned. As I said before, no one expects this to be an easy win, as I don’t think Brock Osweiler exactly strikes fear into anyone heart, but then again neither did Mark Sanchez. My prediction is that the Pats will cover the spread, but in a relatively low scoring game, say 20-3.

 

Assuming that “Big Ben” isn’t too badly bruised, I expect that Pittsburgh will be their next, as well as a different challenge.  But let’s save that for another time…

 

THREE ACTS OF EXTREME RANDOMNESS:

 

ACT I: Single Handed: Odell Beckham strikes me as one of those young entertainers/athletes who puts too much emphasis on their “brand” instead of their performance. He seems to be obsessed with bringing attention to himself and forgets he is part of a team. Maybe I’m a little too “old school” but when I saw the picture of him and his friends partying with Justin Bieber the week of a playoff game it just seemed “off” to me  and that it would likelyncome back to haunt him. Maybe he just needs to spend more time practicing how to catch with two hands?

 

ACT II: Longed for the Post Season: There is probably no one in Patriots Nation more excited for the post season to start then the Pats DE, Chris Long. The 6-3, 270, 31 year old veteran will be participating in his first playoff game after eight years with the St. Louis Rams. Let’s hope he makes his dad, Huey, proud.

 

ACT III: Better to Receive: I know that when it comes to Christmas Eve, people will try to convince you that it’s better to give than receive, but I think you’d have trouble convincing Patriots back up tight end Matt Lengel of that. This past December 24th, saw Lengel catch his first pass from Tom Brady, an 18 yarder against the Jets, that just happened to be good for 6 points. The 6-7, 265, 26 year old is an interesting story. He was a red shirted freshman at Northeastern when they decided to do away with football. He ended up at Eastern Kentucky, from which he was signed as an undrafted free agent by Cincinnati. Now with Rob Gronkowski out for the season, he is number two on the depth chart at TE behind Martellus Bennett. Now if he can just catch a TD in SB LI, he’ll be up their with Malcolm Butler…

 

Stay tuned….

Jerry Ballgame

About Jerry Ballgame

The personification of "old school", Jerry Ballgame was born in the shadow of Dr. Naismith's peach basket, and baptized in that "Dirty Water." Designated by his "Uncle" Ted, to keep an eye on things, he's here to tell everyone what his view is like from the Hub of the Universe.

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