Todd: Lots happening on the New England sports scene, so I figure it’s about time to once again clear some data off the proverbial hard drive and opine on some of what’s happening…

Three straight solid wins for the Patriots – are they rounding into their annual midseason form, or was their performance Sunday night more a reflection of their opponent’s play?  Seemed apropos that the Falcons looked like they were in a fog, although one could make the case they’ve looked that way since taking a 28-3 third-quarter lead on that fateful February night (I never get tired of typing that).

While some of Atlanta’s struggles could be the remnants of their SB51 hangover, the bigger reason is likely the departure of their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left to follow his coaching heart in San Francisco.  Formerly the top-ranked offense in 2016, the Falcons’ attack is now a shell of its former self despite bringing back all the same personnel.

Quick trivia: who are the last two QBs to not pass for at least 300 yards against the Patriots?  Sort of a trick question, as the answer is Matt Ryan both times (SB51 and Sunday night in Fogs-boro).

But let’s not totally diminish the Pats’ best all-around effort they’ve put forth this season.  Great to see Rex Burkhead return to New England’s four-headed RB attack that ran for 162 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry against the Falcons.  Each individual in the rushing law firm of Lewis, White, Gillislee and Burkhead offer a unique skill set.  In particular, Dion Lewis’ explosiveness and cutback ability on display Sunday is proof that he has completely recovered from his second major knee surgery.

As for TB12, continues to defy the football gods performing at a crazy level for a 40-year old NFL quarterback.  I swear that special water he drinks so often must come from Ponce De Leon’s fountain.  His ability to consistently convert all the third-and-long situations should not be taken for granted, especially without Julian Edelman to bail him out.  Thanks goodness for Gronk and the welcome addition of Brandin Cooks

Not related to anything, while I’m not that crazy about the NFL’s color rush uniforms, I’m starting to warm up a little to the Pats’ all-navy look with the striping on the shoulder pads and pant legs that are almost an homage to the old red jerseys of the ‘Pat Patriot’ era.

How about a score prediction for this week’s game, for old time’s sake?  The formerly-San-Diego-now-Los-Angeles ‘Super Chargers’ have played closer to super of late, having won three straight and coming off a shutout of the Broncos, their first win in LA as a home team in nearly 57 years.  While neutralizing Trevor Siemian is hardly a herculean task, don’t sleep on the Chargers’ defensive unit, unless they are asleep due to playing at 10:00am west coast time this week.  I think the Chargers’ front seven will get a hand or two on Brady, making this game a bit of a grind.  But in the end: Patriots 24, Chargers 14.

On to hoops, where a Celtics season filled with lofty expectations literally came crashing down onto the floor of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena less than six minutes into the season opener. I saw Gordon Hayward’s grotesque injury for a brief moment and never intend on watching it again.  Hopefully he makes a full recovery and returns to form next year.

In the meantime, the only silver lining I can take from this black cloud of news is it means more minutes for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, which can only help in their developments and ultimately make this Green Team a formidable unit down the road.  As for this season, a good Celtics season in my view would be finishing fourth in the East and earning home court in the opening round of the playoffs.  As currently assembled, I think the C’s will go as far as they ‘Jays’ can take them.

Attempting to segue to some baseball thoughts, how about wishing both Jaylen Brown and Rafael Devers a happy birthday?  Both rising Boston athletes turn 21 today with bright futures ahead.  On a personal note, a cake is also cookin’ today for my 11-year old godson Ryan, a talented baseball player himself.

Speaking of Devers—who had the last happy moment of the 2017 Red Sox season with his inside-the-park home run—I’m sure he and his teammates are as excited as I am to hear that Alex Cora will be their new manager next year.  The former Boston infielder (who earned a ring in 2007) has been talked about for years as managerial material, and he’ll get his first opportunity after finishing up his run as bench coach for the American League champion Houston Astros (who BTW I like to upset the favored LA Dodgers in the World Series that starts tonight in very hot southern California).

I am hopeful that Cora is the perfect elixir to what has seemingly ailed the Red Sox despite back-to-back AL East titles.  I know some will disagree, but it was time for John Farrell to go because I think he lost the respect of his clubhouse in early 2016 after his extra-marital affair.  That lack of respect only snowballed with all the off-field antics of 2017, not to mention many beat writers covering the Sox have talked about the dour attitude that permeated the club this season.  Cora should help rectify that and build strong relationships with the younger players that hopefully will help the Sox’ young nucleus reach its full potential in 2018.

Mike: First of all, I will not be commenting on the Patriots' game from this past Sunday night. That's because for the first time in years, I didn't watch a single play.

Instead of watching football, I was reliving my early 20s at the TD Garden with a night of mellow sounds and laid-back tunes from Guns N Roses.

It was an epic show, and since the band came on right on time at 7:30, I thought I might have a chance to catch the end of the game. Not so, Axl, Slash and company rocked the Garden for just about three-and-a-half hours, and the game was over by the time we got out of there. And I didn't regret missing the game for one second!

So I give the win to Guns N Roses over the Patriots for one night only!

Here's a shot of the band during "Knocking on Heaven's Door."

And what the hell. Here's what it looked like during November Rain.

Now that the band's out of town, I guess it will be back to football for me. I think now is the time of the season when the Patriots dance past everyone and they won't monkey around with the Chargers. Pats win 31-17.

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