Understanding Belichick (Or Not, Really)

So, at what point did you start believing this deflated football controversy? Were you home from an early Monday morning walk, expecting an easy MLK Day full of NFL highlights and entertaining Internet memes featuring various Patriots beating dead horses in Colts uniforms? Did you see the telltale question mark on the sports ticker, something like, “Pats Under Investigation?” when you first felt the elation of their AFC conquest sag a bit?

Did you not want to believe it? Do you yet?

Coach Bill Belichick’s subsequent meeting with the press offered no reassurance. He bookended answers with “We’ll do whatever the league asks us to do,” giving two separate “The first I heard of it was this morning,” responses. Nary a straightforward denial among them.

He did it. Of course he did. Because Bill Belichick – like most NFL coaches, to an extreme – is different from you and me.

Some with only a cursory understanding of these topics would say that Belichick ignores the rules. On the contrary, he obsesses over them. Think about his most consistent teacher over the years, his father. The man played professional football in 1941. Can you imagine the stories he could tell? Can you imagine what was thought of as “legal” for the 1940s Detroit Lions? Back then, considering the lack of protection, “helmet-to-helmet” resembled a head butt. Water breaks were for the weak. Just a completely different mindset of what was considered fair.

The younger Belichick knows the rules so well that he ensured quarterback/living B.C. statue Doug Flutie’s final play was a history-making drop kick for an extra point back in January 2006. At the time, very few knew whether a drop kick was still legal. Hell, not a lot of people knew what a drop kick was. Flutie became the first player to score a point by that method since Scooter McLean kicked for the Bears’ championship win in – surprise – 1941. (A fact Belichick knew, by the way: just read his post-game interview here.)

Imagine an SAT-type test involving NFL rules. Some multiple choice, some true/false, a couple of essays (haven’t taken the SAT in about 30 years, so apologies if it’s completely different now). He’d come out doing pretty well, right? Now imagine Roger Goodell taking the same test. Unless there’s a section on what cocktails to serve while sitting at the club waiting for the staff to service an owner’s yacht, hard to say ol’ Rog nails it.

That’s Belichick. He knows more than you. He knows he knows more than you. It seems he wants people to just leave him alone and let him do what he has been groomed to do since he watched game film with his dad as boy: to try to understand and prepare that much better than his opponent. And, in a sense, the rules makers and enforcers have become his opponents, too.

I mean, press conferences must feel like agony for this guy. The same questions, over and over, to people who don’t understand or have failed to put in the work to understand the game on the same level. At times, especially with the out-of-town media who show up week-to-week, it’s got to seem like he’s trying to explain Memento to someone who started watching near the end. It’s why, when he gets a question with specific historical context, he puts on his metaphorical suspenders and lectures about the history of the great game of football. It’s why, except at outdoor practices, he rarely sees sunlight during the season.

He wouldn’t have it any other way. His work is his fun. He’s not like you and me.

Make no mistake; these don’t qualify as excuses, just potential reasons. Belichick cheated. He knew the proper inflation for footballs, and – after watching his team put the ball on the ground three times the week before – he decided to soften the spheroids to make them easier to hold during a driving rainstorm.

“But you don’t know that,” you are saying. “You weren’t there. Maybe he knew nothing about it.” Do you actually believe Bill Belichick knew nothing about 11 footballs inflated two pounds less than required? Come on. You have to give him more credit than that.

So now fans must either turn a blind eye or, as WEEI.com’s Jerry Thornton does well in this piece regarding Eli Manning’s ball ritual (yup, sticking with that phrase), start playing the “everyone does it” card. It’s a strong card to play here: more and more examples have arisen of doctoring footballs, including a jocular on-air exchange between announcers Phil Simms and Jim Nantz regarding Aaron Rodgers’ preference for overinflated footballs and a piece on Super Bowl winner Brad Johnson having footballs doctored before the big game vs. Oakland.

(On that last one: Raiders fans get all up in arms over the Tuck Rule – an actual, albeit silly, rule – but they don’t go totally bat-guano over this? Pick your battles, Oakland fans!)

I can’t argue against the accusations of rampant hypocrisy in the NFL. Linebacker Ray Lewis used a banned substance to help him recover from a triceps injury during Baltimore’s championship run. The Seahawks had several players suspended due to PED use leading up to last year’s Super Bowl season. Were they cheating? Sure seems like it. Do we care? Not much, apparently.

Why should we? Goodell didn’t seem to care about taping defensive signals until he heard numerous complaints. He didn’t seem to care about brain injuries until it became a money issue via lawsuit. He didn’t seem to care about domestic abuse until video of a violent assault made its way onto the Internet for all to see. He made up punishments as he went along. Now he’ll have to do the same.

I’ll skip the joke about inflating the balls of NFL owners and head straight for the obvious: this was not an issue Goodell expected to deal with this week. That’s part of what gets Belichick into trouble: his understanding of the rules and his efforts at circumventing them make Goodell and the league higher-ups look bad. After all, what is the punishment? There’s mention of a minimum $25,000 fine. Goodell will increase that, because he’ll want to send a message. But by how much, and why? More work for him. More to hammer out and nail down before the Super holiday.

In any case, it doesn’t seem like Belichick will get the message Goodell wants to send. The coach will go back to the rule book, studying, deconstructing, looking for language that could potentially give him an advantage. The coach does this as well as anyone else in the league. It’s a fan’s choice whether to embrace this line of thinking or not. We know he didn’t need to tinker with air pressure to beat the Colts. We know he preps his players for on-field situations with awesome meticulousness. We can’t ignore his greatness. We can’t ignore his faults, either.

We know this about Bill Belichick: he has cheated; he will probably figure out a way to cheat again.

And, Heaven help me, I’ll be rooting for him.

Media Hypocrisy, Cowardice, Never Bigger Than When Patriots Are Involved.

Big Bad Bill Belichick.

He really does bring out the absolute worst in the media. Things that would be ignored, or laughed off if they were done by any other team, result in hysterical, hair-on-fire denunciations if the Patriots are involved.

He causes the media to become unable to think for themselves, and become subject to a mob mentality in which they are all sheep, following along with the loudest voices, afraid to produce an original thought.

The NFL, specifically its Commissioner, is a laughingstock in all of this, while pledging a transparent investigation, they instead allow late night leaks of salacious details to good ol’ boy reporters. They pledge to get all the details and facts from Foxboro when they can’t even ascertain whether a video was received by the league office showing a player knocking a woman unconscious. They want us to trust their investigation when they hire a former associate to investigate (and exonerate) themselves over said video incident.

As usual Roger Goodell has lost control of the situation, and will be in full reactionary mode once he decides to take action.

For Goodell, he can get himself into the good graces with the media by inflicting the harshest possible punishment upon Bill Belichick and the Patriots. This satisfies the bloodlust of the media and the public outside of New England, and gets Goodell back into the good graces of the media after his PR fiascos earlier in the season.

What I’m saying is be prepared for the worst possible outcome from this.

Belichick suspended for Super Bowl? Entirely possible. Suspended for next season? Entirely possible. Multiple first round draft picks taken away? Entirely possible.

If, after all of that Robert Kraft kowtows to Goodell and tells us all what a great job he’s doing one more time, I’m going to be gravely disappointed in him and what he stands for.

All of this for making the football a bit softer so the QB could grip them better. (and that’s even speculation, we don’t actually know the facts here yet, just that the balls were under regulation by 2 PSI.)

It doesn’t matter that the best quarterback in the NFL told CBS earlier this season about liking to overinflate balls and pushing the limits and seeing if they can fool the officials, all so he can grip them better.

It doesn’t matter that a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback insists on his footballs being doctored for months before he will use them in a game because he wants to be comfortable gripping them.

It doesn’t matter that a Super Bowl winning quarterback has admitted to paying $7500 to have the 100 footballs used in the Super Bowl he played in altered  so that he could grip them better.

It doesn’t matter that the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers were using heaters to warm up footballs on the sidelines this season. (which would impact the hardness/grip of the football, by the way)

Nothing matters other than the fact that the Colts were getting their butts kicked and wanted to find a way to try and get in the Patriots heads. They didn’t actually anticipate it going this far, very similar to the Jets when they reported the Patriots for taping in an incorrect spot.

Nothing matters other than the fact the owner of the Colts, coming off a season in which he was suspended for six games, gave a crony columnist a middle of the night tip, which initially the columnist thought to ignore, but instead realized that since it was the Patriots, he’d get a lot of play out of it, and ran with it, and now says Belichick should be suspended for the Super Bowl and for that is a national star.

Nothing matters other than the fact that Belichick isn’t cuddly with the media, and most out there would like nothing more than to see him fired and disgraced, so they’re put aside any objectivity they may (unlikely) have possessed and have gone all-in on the idea that this is a huge cheat masterminded by Bill Belichick who personally oversaw the deflation of the footballs. (also unlikely) That’s the true endgame here.

The national media, in addition to the piling on of Belichick also goes after the fans who make the points above. They call it excuse making, and saying that those incidents don’t matter because the rules were broken here, and the Patriots were caught. OK. That’s legit. Punish them according to the severity of the alleged crime. But why can’t the hypocrisy be pointed out at least? We’re supposed to take this incident seriously – to the point of huge suspensions/punishments – but it’s OK to completely ignore the other incidents that have taken place?

 sometimes you can get lucky and put an extra half a pound of air in there to help Aaron Rodgers out.

Hypocrites. Cowards. Frauds.

*******

Related: The Ballghazi Takes Are Here, And They Are F****** Insane

#DeflateGate is over. This Is The Smoking Gun.

So messing around with the inflation of the ball is something only cheating Bill Belicheat and the Cheatriots would do, right?

This is from the Packers/Patriots game earlier this season. (h/t to @pedroiar for the link)

Nantz: We talked to Rodgers about ‘How do you like your football?’ because you know, you can rub them up before the game, this is something you really kind of created this for everyone else in the league.

Simms: I don’t know if I did, because the quarterbacks got tired of complaining. But he said something that was unique. ‘I like to push the limits to how much air we can put in the football – even go over what they allow you to do. See if the officials take air out of it,’ because he thinks its easier for him to grip, he likes them tight of course he has very big hands and you can tell that by watching him play.

- Play call -

Nantz: …You’ve never heard of a guy really desiring the football to be fat and overinflated, correct?

Simms: Everybody wants it smaller and soft so they can dig their fingers into it. (More on Rodgers’ hands)

Nantz talks more about Rodgers’ hands

Simms: You know, the officials do check those footballs, and sometimes you can get lucky and put an extra half a pound of air in there to help Aaron Rodgers out.

Let’s just move on and talk about what should be an awesome Super Bowl, shall we?

Send In The Clowns. Wait, They’re Already Here.

“Shame” isn’t a word in the vocabulary of the seek-attention-at-any-cost segment of the Boston sports media.

They don’t care how bad or dumb they look, as long as you look.

Whether it is Dan Shaughnessy or Gary Tanguay or whomever, they’re going to do what it takes to get your attention, no matter how idiotic or stupid it makes them look.

Great way to make a living. I’m pretty sure if these guys had lived in the era before TV, Radio and the Internet, they would’ve been circus clowns. (Hey, doesn’t Shaughnessy….never mind.)

For the latest well documented examples:

The Boston and Indianapolis media are both going certifiably insane – Matt Yoder on Awful Announcing looks at the just…embarrassing antics going on this week.

People around the country hate Boston sports fans, and in many ways it’s because of the quasi-media types in that link.

Others who aren’t embarrassing themselves in that manner, aren’t really too interested in the AFC Championship Game taking place this Sunday at Gillette. Evidence of “meh” attitude manifested itself as I was in the car this morning, and each time I turned to one of the stations, there was talk of other things, notably, the Rt 93 protesters and the Academy Awards nominations. While I’m sure there was plenty of football talk, I didn’t hear it.

Andy Gresh is on the way out at The Sports Hub – Chad Finn confirms my suspicions of yesterday. He also reports that Gary Tanguay will also be out on the Patriots pre and post game broadcasts.

I can hardly wait to see what crew Jonathan Kraft trots out on the shows for next season.

Links.

New England Prepares for New Indianapolis – It’s easy to declare that since the Patriots dominated the Colts in recent matchups, not much is going to change, Matt Chatham explains why that is definitely not the case inside Gillette Stadium.

LaFell’s rise crucial to Pats’ success – Jackie MacMullan has a feature on the Patriots receiver, who last spring thought he would be playing in the AFC Championship this week. For Denver. Against the Patriots.

Once a forgotten man, Danny Amendola has risen to occasion for New England Patriots – Kevin Duffy with a piece on the oft-maligned receiver, and looks at his history with Julian Edelman and LaFell, which predates their time with the Patriots by years.

The Belichick-Brady Legacy Is Defined by Wins, Not Tapes or Tucks – Mike Freeman with a great column on the duo, and has some nice Spygate debunking.

Are the Colts 22 points better now? Here’s what the stats say – Alex Speier looks at whether the Colts can beat the Patriots simply by playing at the level that they’ve improved to in recent weeks.

Get everything else at PatriotsLinks.com.

New Deals For Some Sports Radio Hosts, Others In Limbo

A little bit of focus on the media in this post, specifically the sports radio side.

98.5 Afternoon hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti signed a new multi-year contract with the station. As Chad Finn put it, the deal means the duo “will continue their highly rated brand of Boston sports fan antagonism for the foreseeable future.”

Then this morning, Dale Arnold announced that he had signed a new deal with WEEI:

Finn also wrote about this deal, and noted that while Michael Holley’s contract expires next month, the sides are optimistic that something will be worked out.

Now for the uncertainties. There have been quite a bit of hints and whispers going around about a major change coming to one of the shows on the two sports radio stations. Kirk Minihane has mentioned it several times on the air, Finn has alluded to it in his weekly Boston.com chats, and on Twitter:

Finn wrote about Holley above, so it doesn’t appear that the change will happen on that show, and it seems unlikely that Marc Bertrand would leave Felger and Massarotti to go directly head-to-head with them. Bertrand would be a lead host on a show, not a co-host, so he’d be leading the discussion and in and out of commercial breaks.

So what opening could there be, where Bertrand could step in? By process of elimination, Finn has said that Tim Benz is probably not going anywhere, it wouldn’t be on Dennis and Callahan, nor WEEI nights where Mike Adams and Mike Mutnansky are pretty entrenched at this point.

So it’s probably 98.5. I don’t see Bertrand moving over to a morning shift role in place of either Toucher or Rich and not on the evening for Adam Jones either, though he was up for that role when Jones first got it.

That leaves Gresh and Zo.

We know that last winter, Andy Gresh had his contract option picked up. Was it a one-year option? Seems like it. Gresh took over from Gary Tanguay in April of 2010. So did Gresh originally sign a four-year deal with an option for a fifth which is expiring soon? That seems reasonable.

My conclusion from this is that 98.5 will replace Andy Gresh with Marc Bertrand.

Why would they do that? I’m not sure. Ratings have been good. Is there a dispute with Gresh? Or do they just want to give Bertrand his shot or risk losing him?

I don’t like the move. I’ve said many times that Gresh and Zo is the best Patriots/NFL show on the local airwaves. I don’t want it broken up. I hope they work something out with Gresh, but with the amount of rumors and hints out there, it seems like this is going to happen.

That’s how I see things shaking out.

This Week’s Meme: YOU People Think The Colts Have No Chance!

Given the relative ease in which the Patriots have dispatched the Colts as of late, it might be easy for some to dismiss Indianapolis’ chances in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

This attitude is now being transferred to the region as a whole. Shows are being introduced and based on the strawman of “Are we taking the Colts too lightly? Are we assuming too much in just saying the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl?

Or as Steve Buckley closes his column today:

You? You probably think the Colts can’t win.
You should worry a little about that.

Of course, it matters not one bit how the fans and media view the Colts. It’s how the Patriots coaching staff and players view them, and they seem to be taking them seriously.

While Dan Shaughnessy has made his annual proclamations about the opponent on the radio and on television, he hasn’t yet put them into column form. It’s probably only a matter of time. Each of the past two seasons, he’s made a similar proclamation about the opponent, which has generated all sorts of attention for himself, and gotten him booked on all sorts of shows all over the country. (Usually where he ends up saying something like “I don’t know a ton about football.”)

As I’ve said before, it’s genius, really. We should be honored to be in the presence of a trolling master. He’s the Tom Brady, the Bill Belichick of trolling.

Catch all the Patriots stories today at PatriotsLinks.com.

Let’s get onto the top five links of the morning:

Reversal of fortune: Why Tom Brady finally could be poised to post big numbers in an AFC title game – Christopher Price looks at Tom Brady’s historical struggles in the AFCCG, and why this time could be different.

Pastrnak’s love of game shines through – Joe McDonald with a look at the Bruins rookie, who has sparked the team with his scoring.

New Red Sox scouting director on lookout for next Kevin Youkilis – Alex Speier with a look at Mike Rikard, who will seek to find gems in the lower end of the draft.

Brian Bannister joins Red Sox analytics team – Scott Lauber looks at the hiring of the former pitcher-turned-advanced-statistics-analyst.

Remade Celtics turn it up a notch – Steve Bulpett examines how the remaining Celtics are still playing hard despite the non-stop personnel movement around them.

Onto Another AFC Title Game.

After Saturday’s epic 35-31 win over the not afraid Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots are set to host the Indianapolis Colts this coming Sunday in the AFC Championship game. This will be the ninth time the Belichick/Brady duo has played in this game. In a bit of symmetry, yesterday’s Colts win over the Broncos meant that Peyton Manning has gone one-and-done nine times in his career.

The Patriots/Ravens game had a bit of everything you could want in a game, big plays on both sides, stirring comebacks, and razzle-dazzle trick plays, and controversy.

We hear a lot in certain circles about Tom Brady’s performances in the postseason, but this one will certainly go down as one of this best, despite a baffling interception which led to a Ravens touchdown just before the first half.

The biggest conversation following the game has been the Patriots use of an offensive formation in which the Patriots had just four true offensive linemen in the game, and made running back Shane Vareen an ineligible receiver. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was caught off guard by the play, and protested vehemently, coming onto the field and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The NFL has since stated that the formation was legal and all reporting requirements for the play were done correctly.

It didn’t stop the Ravens from complaining about it.

“They couldn’t just drive the ball down on us regular. They had to do something tricky,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said.

and

“They did a great job of running the tricks,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “They had to trick us to beat us.

That would be like the Patriots saying “The Ravens couldn’t beat us just rushing the passer regular. They had to disguise coverage and try to trick us.

Get all the Patriots coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

Hot Mess NFL Rulebook Strikes Again – Matt Chatham has a detailed look at the play, and uses it as an example to show how convoluted the NFL rulebook is.

Manning flames out, Patriots will face Colts – Tom E Curran wacks all the sports radio talking points about the Broncos going “all in” this season.

Announcers’ script sounded forced – Chad Finn looks at the awkward segment of NBC’s broadcast in which they showed Roger Goodell at the game and had Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth quickly review the Mueller report and praise Goodell.

TV guide for Oregon-Ohio State; Michaels, Collinsworth help out NFL – Richard Deitsch looks ahead to tonight’s College Football National Championship and also has more on the NBC script.

Boston Celtics Complete Three-Team Trade – Danny Ainge continues to wheel and deal and shuffle his roster. The team announced officially that they have traded Jeff Green to Memphis, and have received Tayshaun Prince and a future first round pick from Memphis, and also guard Austin Rivers from New Orleans. Rivers is expected to be traded again, on to the Clippers, where he will play for his dad, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

At some point I’d like the Celtics to trade for a player that might be worth keeping around, but other than possibly Jae Crowder, Ainge seems more focused on obtaining picks.

Catch up with the Celtics at CelticsLinks.com.

BREAKING: Ravens Are “Not Afraid” Of Patriots, Source Says.

If there has been any more recycled theme this week than “John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs and the Ravens are not afraid of the Patriots and of playing in Gillette Stadium.” I don’t know what it could be.

Great analysis, guys.

Is it just me, or has almost all the local “analysis” this week been about how the Ravens can beat the Patriots rather than how the Patriots can beat the Ravens?

(Eagerly awaiting the “you’re a admitted Patriots loyalist!” emails like the one that came yesterday.)

I, for one would like to hear just how the Patriots can beat the latest incarnation of the ’85 Bears that will be invading Gillette Stadium tomorrow. Yes, these Bears Ravens are NOT AFRAID of the Patriots. Have you heard that? I didn’t know that. I thought all teams were scared of the Patriots and just bowed before them.

It’s ridiculous. Moving on.

herald-usoc

The only thing worse is the amount of kvetching and whining about a possible Olympics in Boston for 2024, after the USOC picked us as it’s candidate to host the game. Guys, you’ve got nine years to figure out how to avoid the city that month. I think you can handle it.

Some links? OK, Five.

What if Bill Belichick said no? Meet Bob Kraft’s second choice, Gary Crowton – If I tell you who wrote this, you won’t click on it. But if I don’t tell you, and you click on it, you’ll probably be pissed at me. OK. It’s John Tomase. It’s a good story, with details I haven’t heard before, such as that Crowton was told by Bob Kraft that if they couldn’t get Belichick from the Jets, they would hire him. And that Crowton probably would’ve brought Chip Kelly with him. And that he wasn’t impressed at all with Tom Brady at the combine.

Facing playoff opponent for first time doesn’t faze Patriots – The Patriots haven’t played the Ravens yet this season. Alex Speier looks at whether that means anything for tomorrow.

Darrelle Revis covers all the bases – Jackie MacMullan with a feature on the well prepared cornerback.

Rob Gronkowski able to join fun – Karen Guregian has the All-Pro tight end looking to make a healthy contribution to a postseason for the Patriots.

ESPN was a ratings hit during a sad week – Chad Finn looks at a record week for the cable giant, and also has some criticism for Mike Felger for the Pedro Martinez allegations earlier this week.

Is There A Tipping Point To Sports Media Trolling?

Tom Brady and Pedro Martinez have brought New England sports fans some of their greatest moments over the last 17 years or so. Pedro was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, and Brady is already a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame whenever it is that he decides to hang it up.

In the span of four hours this week, the achievements, integrity and character of both stars was openly brought into question by the top rated show on local sports radio.

The accusations are veiled under the disingenuous the guise of “Hey I’m just asking the question,” but in reality there is no attempt here to “speak the truth”, as some lackeys of the show would claim. There is no claim of actual knowledge by the hosts – that would take actual work and effort – and they are even too cowardly to make an direct accusation.  The one and only object is to lob innuendo-loaded bombs over the fan base to rile them up, and then sit back and laugh and collect a paycheck.

It was suggested – though in reality portrayed as fact – that both Martinez and Brady benefited from from performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, Brady was called a “prima donna” and the image of Martinez is that of a punk.

The show continues to gather huge ratings. My question is why?

Is this enjoyable? To whom?

At what juncture do we reach a tipping point, where the trolling and negativity just becomes weary? We clearly haven’t reached that point yet, and I’m not sure we’re even close.

It may actually take a few years of all of these teams actually being as bad as they are portrayed to be for this to wind down. If the Patriots are actually 4-12, week after week of saying how much they suck might be as grating to the same people who currently make that claim about week after week of saying that a 12-4 team is good. (Which in reality isn’t happening now, despite claims that it is.)

It used to be fun to listen to sports radio during the week-long buildup to big games. Now it is something to be avoided at all costs by the true fan.

At this point, there are really only 2 1/2 local shows that I would recommend listening to with any regularity. Dennis and Callahan and Minihane can be very good when the topic is actual sports, not hotsportztakes. The best thing Kirk Minihane has done has made me like Gerry Callahan again. Minihane has taken over the full-time contrarian role, allowing Callahan to just be the guy who actually likes sports and the local teams.

Gresh and Zo are the best program on the air locally for Patriots and NFL talk. They are definitely worth a listen. Dale and Holley is the other show that I recommend. People tend to hate on Dale, which I don’t fully understand. They can be critical of the local team without purposefully dumping on them just for attention. They work well together, and add Jerry Thornton to this show was the best fit for him.

Inevitably, I’ll get the “Oooooh, you just want the media to be positive all the time about the teams, Bruce.” comments, tweets and emails from the select few who send me that same crap all the time.

That notion is ridiculous. I have no issue with legitimate criticism of the local teams. There is certainly enough of it to go around, despite all the winning that has taken place around here.

I draw the line at local hosts impugning the character and achievements of Hall of Fame athletes simply to rile people up and draw attention to themselves. It’s shameful.

But it’s not going away anytime soon.

TiqIQ: Patriots Tickets Down More Than 35% From Last Playoff Game Against Ravens

For the past 18 weeks, the Patriots have comfortably cruised along the desolate highway of the AFC East, thwarting imposters like the Bills and Dolphins and subjecting the CYO-League Jets en route to their sixth consecutive divisional title. The switch behind the steering will be pushed off and the Patriots likely forced back down to earth come Saturday, however, as they ready to welcome the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Divisional Round Game at Gillette Stadium.

A brewing rivalry has formed between the two teams in recent years. Dating back to the 2010 postseason, the Pats and Ravens have met three times in January and have traded wins in each affair. If trends hold true to Saturday’s matchup, it’s the Patriots who are due to advance and play either Denver or Indianapolis next week. Focus remains on exposing Baltimore’s weak secondary on Saturday at home first, where Patriots tickets on the secondary market are the cheapest for a postseason game between the teams past the Wild Card Round in the last five seasons.

Patriots vs Ravens tickets on TiqIQ now own an average secondary price of $332.82, which is 35.2% cheaper than 2011’s AFC Championship Game’s average of $514.29 and 37.2% cheaper than 2012’s AFC Championship Game’s $530.78 average, both of which were also played in Foxborough. Only the Wild Card Game at the conclusion of the 2009 season was cheaper, where average price for the January 10, 2010 game was $205.25. Get-in price for Saturday’s game is currently listed at $130.

While each team takes one step closer to this year’s Super Bowl festivities in Arizona, the Patriots will have Rob Gronkowski on hand in a playoff game for the first time since 2011’s Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The 25-year-old tight end has played an integral role on New England’s thriving offense this season and has risen to superstardom following a series of arm and leg injuries that sidelined him significantly in 2012 and 2013. He’ll serve as one of the many threats the Patriots will display on the field this weekend, with Tom Brady hoping to rid the naysayers who believe he’s playing in his swan song season.

Baltimore won’t be that easy to get rid of, however. The Ravens struggled in the secondary this season and fishing a disappointing 23rd in the league in pass defense, but the rush defense was elite and ranked 4th in the league. Joe Flacco will look to counter the Patriots with his offensive rush as he gives Justin Forsett the ball, who rushed for 1,266 yards this season and scored eight touchdowns.

With ticket prices at their cheapest since 2010’s Wild Card Game, the Patriots will look to find holes in a streaking Ravens team this Saturday. A win would solidify a spot in the AFC Championship Game, which would be played in New England if the Patriots defeat the Ravens. Expect Brady and Gronkowski to link up and exploit Baltimore’s defensive weakness while Joe Flacco relies on Forsett to take his team to their third AFC Championship Game in the last four seasons.