Friday, 21 April 2017

New England Patriots 2017 Schedule Breakdown

Yesterday, the 2017 schedule was released and much like that day in June when we salivate over the EPL fixture release in England, here the NFL release all the schedule including Monday Night match ups.

Teams can decipher the short weeks, the quick turnarounds, Thanksgiving and Christmas battles. For New England you look at the trips away in the division, as well as match ups that include journeys to Mexico to face the Oakland Raiders as well as trips away to Pittsburgh and Denver.

The breakdown
Week 1 - 7th Sept, v Kansas City
The league's official kick off as the reigning Super Bowl champions host a pretender in the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday 7th September. Likely you see the champs win out with a fit again Gronkowski and new toys for Brady to play with, whilst Stefan Gilmore starts shutting down Jeremy Maclin (not hard).
Prediction : Win, 1-0

Which team will Butler being playing for in Week 2?

Week 2 - 17th Sept, @ New Orleans
The Malcolm Butler derby, but will he be wearing the black of the Saints or the white of the Patriots. Either way Butler would love to make a statement but we also have Brandin Cooks returning to the Superdome and with our offensive superiority you cannot see a Saints side admittedly still in transition winning, although they are wasting the twilight years of Drew Brees.
Prediction: Win, 2-0

Week 3 - 24th Sept, v Houston
This was a Week 3 victory last year with Jacoby Brissett getting his win. Houston will be a different side with J. J. Watt returning and the Texans did give the Patriots a scare in the playoffs and this could well be a banana skin, but this is dependent upon what continuity and productivity the Texans have at quarterback be it Tom Savage or someone else. The Patriots lay an egg once a season, this may be it.
Prediction: Loss, 2-1

Week 4 - 1st Oct, v Carolina
The Panthers whilst they have the game changer in Cam Newton, they are about their front 7 on defence against our O-line. This turf war is where Blount may come to the fore, whilst the Panthers may not have enough weapons on outside to worry the secondary.
Prediction: Win, 3-1

Week 5 - 5th Oct, @ Tampa Bay
A short week against a bristling Bucs side who look to kick on and this should be an entertaining game for the neutral, however, the experience and dominance of Patriots will be too much although the speed of their wide receivers may provide match up problems for Gilmore and Butler (if he remains).
Prediction: Win, 4-1

Week 6 - 15th Oct, @ New York Jets
The first divisional game is against the weakest side of the division, an ageing side with no identity on offense and is ear marked to be one of the favourites for wooden spoon and Number 1 seed in 2018 draft.
Prediction: Win, 5-1

SuperBowl 51 rematch in October

Week 7 - 22nd Oct, v Atlanta
The Superbowl rematch where the Falcons will want redemption for blowing a 28-3 lead before Brady turned on his after burners and led the Patriots to his and their 5th Super Bowl. Again a high scoring affair but the Patriots won without Gronk, and they will find a way to win again but could be one of the regular season games of the year.
Prediction: Win, 6-1

Week 8 - 29th Oct, v LA Chargers
This could be a tricky game, the Chargers will be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder searching for their identity in their new home. But for all their injuries sustained last year they might have made the play offs in a competitive division, but if they can maintain a healthy roster they still have Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon will only get better and the defence is one of the more under-rated units in the NFL.
Prediction: Win, 7-1

Week 9 - Bye Week

Week 10 - 12th Nov, @ Denver
A week off is followed by a week up at altitude in Mile High. The Broncos are far removed from the defensive class that won the Super Bowl led by Von Miller. A lot of that team remain but on offense they are a question mark with one of Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch under centre. A week off leads to the Patriots triumphing again.
Prediction: Win, 8-1

Can Derek Carr bounce back from broken leg?

Week 11 - 19th Nov, @ Oakland (in Mexico)
Arriba! A road trip to Mexico versus perhaps one of the main challengers to the Patriots AFC dominance. Derek Carr back from a broken leg, a returning Marshawn Lynch as well as Amari Cooper and that defence that swallowed up offensive lines. Another game at altitude but having played there the week before, you can imagine the Patriots being more prepared than the 'home' team. A great game nonetheless but the Patriots might have too much.
Prediction: Win, 9-1

Week 12 - 26th Nov, v Miami
Home for Thanksgiving, the Patriots do not lose to the Dolphins at home. It will be very cold and Tannehill will freeze again in the spotlight against Brady.
Prediction:  Win, 10-1

Week 13 - 3rd Dec, @ Buffalo
The Bills are like the Jets a bit of a mess, this is one of the more hostile atmospheres the Patriots will face throughout the season but we have Gilmore returning and he will pick off Tyrod Taylor once in this game. By this point you imagine the offensive juggernaut rolling into Buffalo for another W.
Prediction: Win, 11-1

Week 14 - 11th Dec, @ Miami
Monday Night Football in South Beach. A glamour game for sure but the Patriots have a bad history in Florida recently as if the Patriots are aware of this record and the Dolphins elevate their game for this with good reason. Could be one of those games where that extra 5% from the Fins may undo the Pats.
Prediction: Loss, 11-2

Big Ben provides opposition to No. 1 seed

Week 15 - 17th Dec, @ Pittsburgh
Twas the week before Christmas and all through the Burgh, not a creature was stirring as Le'Veon Bell ran for 150 yards on a Patriots side that could not contain the offensive weapons that Pittsburgh have. Sometimes you have road games you look at the schedule and mark out as difficult venues to go to. The Steelers away is one of those and a loss is nothing to be sad about although two in a row is not something Bill Belichick does.
Prediction: Loss, 11-3

Week 16  - 24th Dec, v Buffalo
Merry Christmas New England. You get one of the weaker offences at home on Christmas Eve and the chance to perhaps wrap up home field advantage by then throughout the play offs. Happy Holidays Mr. Kraft
Prediction: Win, 12-3

Week 17 - 31st Dec, v New York Jets
The year and the season end at home against another weak division rival who may well be tanking for the overall pick. Perhaps this will be Jimmy Garrapollo's final snaps in a Patriots jersey or Tom Brady further cements his regular season wins records. Another division title. Another 12+ win season. The dynasty continues to reign and another deep play off run begins.
Prediction: Win, 13-3

Will it be Lombard Trophy #6 for Brady?

Other notes:
Predict the other AFC divisions belong to Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans
Wild cards: Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

What Alice Knew

This intriguing novel by T. A. Cotterell tells the story of Alice, a faithful wife, whose love for her husband is sorely tested by his indiscretions one night.  Set in the Bristol area, it follows on the footsteps of other novels I have read this year set outside of the Metropolitan hub-bub of London such as Oxford for We All Start As Strangers and the grim drabness of Manchester in Sirens.

Alice is a portrait artist, married with two children beloved in the area and a model of maternal nature. This is put to the test by her husband's may or may not be adulterous behaviour which may or may not have led to the death of a flirtatious admirer.

The novel hopes to be a gripping thriller in the same vein of keystone texts such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and yet this was a book this reader found hard to get through.  The combination of somewhat implausible plotting, the hysterical nature of the faithful wife losing her mind and sometimes unnecessary art history lessons.

By the final 70 pages when Alice goes to visit her mother do you understand the psychology of Alice fully in that she wants to please everyone and people take advantage of her grace from her bitter mother to her awful siblings who live far away from her as well as the home in Scotland.

The ending felt a bit contrived and rushed unfortunately, but then again the plodding nature of the plot to begin with perhaps the writer wanted to get away from these characters he created. A potential pivotal standoff with an old school mate for Alice when she paints her portrait is handled muddily and instead makes Alice even more vulnerable and this weakness does not enforce our sympathy but instead pity; not something you ever want to extend to someone.

At times the book felt like it wanted to say so much, but was unable to due to the weakness of the protagonist and the ending where she attempts to fall on her husband's sword is both ill timed and messy.

A shame after a strong opening that this book could not maintain the focus nor the attention of this reader.

What Alice Knew is released in Hardback/Paperback by Black Swan (Goldsboro Books) on 4th May

Monday, 10 April 2017

A Monster by Violet

The debut novel by Laura Wake is a gritty to the bones drama about a young girl, the eponymous heroine who we follow on a week in her life.

Violet has abducted her best friend's baby, Maria. Her friend is an addict and the child would likely have died in her care, so doing what she thinks is best for the child and perhaps hopeful of starting afresh herself, Violet takes the child and withdraws what money she has in her account and heads for the Isle of Wight.

We follow Violet as she becomes a born again person doting on Maria and her feeds, looking after her and realising that she has to leave the temptations of drugs and addiction behind if she is too care for the child.

Violet thinks she can have the best of both worlds taking Maria to a house party that goes wrong when a snake is thrown into the mix and she has sexual contact with some other girl's boyfriend.

These dark episodes are merely the lead narrative, running parallel is the flashback to Violet as a ten year old and how she become a troubled teen and young adult; her home life is good but following the cot death of her younger brother she starts to rebel and her parents marriage hits the rocks.  There is also the unsettling storyline of a female teacher attempting to make Violet good again, which could have been construed as grooming in another plot.

However, Wake is better when following Violet and Maria on their journey around IoW yet the novel does somewhat lose its way nearer the novel's conclusion when they abscond a boat and head for France with a Portugese waiter, Sergio for company. On the boat, Violet's demons come to the fore and her paranoia regarding being possibly followed nearer brings down here downfall.

The book has good moments, especially as you see Violet becoming more maternal and the blossoming friendship between her and Sergio is nicely handled; yet the flashback storyline is dropped somewhat abruptly and does not fully explain her addictive future nor what her relationship with her parents is.

Some critics feel she is an abhorrent lead character, I think of her as reminiscent of the lead character Lily, Agyness Deyn played in the little seen film Electricity.  A smart girl who has her own mental demons to overcome, and is lost in the big bad world and is always attempting to run away from it.

A Monster By Violet is out now from Urbane Publications