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NFL Open Thread: Conference Championship Day

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There used to be a time when you had to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt with pretty much anything. But hiring Matt Patricia to be the de facto OC and Joe Judge to be the QB coach — despite being spectacular failures as head coaches and having no experience coaching offense — was exactly as dumb as it appeared:

As Patricia came under outside fire as the face of the offense, Judge drew increasing criticism from within. Belichick would blast him in practice, and it wasn’t uncommon for Judge and Jones to trade profanity-laced outbursts. Jones’ trust in his position coach was effectively non-existent.

“Mac didn’t like him,” one source said. “At all.”

“(Judge) would speak extra loudly in meetings, trying to project like he was the guy,” another source said. “And I think that kind of rubbed people the wrong way.”

“A lot of people were frustrated with (Judge),” a third added.

After Jones returned from his high ankle sprain to play within a pre-planned rotation during a 33-14 primetime loss to the Bears, another Belichick decision that vexed players, the offense was exposed. The Patriots scored two offensive touchdowns over their next three games, close wins over the Jets and a 26-3 triumph over the rudderless Colts. The offensive line allowed 16 sacks, despite facing similar game plans in every game: zone coverage fronted by four-man rushes.

“Sometimes I would wonder, like, are we trying to screw this up on purpose?” one source asked.

That worked out about as well as making Donald Trump president — oh right, Belichick thought that was a good idea too. Anyway, you know things are bad when Bill O’Brien is a huge upgrade.

Today’s games look great, and I am in Vegas so my picks will be backed up by the full faith and credit of American currency. Rob and Erik have the Bengals (+1.5) and 49ers (-2.5). I’m with them on Cincy, but decided on the Eagles, based on 1)still not entirely sold as Purdy and 2)Shanahan bring an A+ gameplanner/playcaller but a C- in in-game tactics (where Siriani is one of the best.) But these are two of the most evenly matched championship games in a while, so I can’t blame anyone for taking the points on both.

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