Friday night in Frederick, MD, a short drive from the Smith homestead, is going to be a fun one. Frederick is the home to the Single A Frederick Keys - part of the Carolina League, and opponent to the Salem Red Sox, who happen to be in town this weekend.
When I first moved to the area the Wilmington Blue Rocks were the Red Sox affiliate that played the Keys, and then the Blue Rocks changed their major league affiliate, leaving me sans Sox prospects to watch. This weekend I get to watch five of the Sox top 20 prospects - Ryan Kalish, Luis Exposito, Yamaico Navarro, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Kyle Weiland - as well as Jonathan Paplebon's brother Josh.
I'll be at the game at Harry Grove Stadium on Friday night with the family, but will probably leave long before the end of the game (hard to stay till the end with a 20-month old), but it's always a fun time. My seven-year old loves the kids' zone with the carousel, and my wife loves the fact that the stadium serves beer from both of the town's brew pubs.
It'll be my first time to the stadium this season. For those of you baseball fans who have never made it to a minor league game, I highly recommend it.
As I mentioned yesterday, I believe that the strength of schedule that people talk about at this time of year is a faulty way to view the difficulties of the coming season. It has no bearing - before last season the Dolphins were a one win team, this season they go in having won 11, the previous season was no predictor of future success.
Based on last season's results, the Pats have the third hardest schedule in the NFL. That said - Miami is sneaking up on no one this season, and while it's possible they might repeat their 11 win performance that won them the AFC East last season, I don't think that they're going to surprise anyone with the Wildcat offense in 2009 and they'll slide. The Jets currently have no quarterback, and key players on the Bills are going to start the season suspended, putting Buffalo into an early hole. And that's just the AFC East. There are definitely issues with some of the other teams as well - are Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan going to have surprise seasons again? I don't think so.
I could go on, but I'm going to address another interesting quirk in the schedule. What happens when the Pats hit the bad weather months of November and December? Let's look at the schedule...
After the bye week at the beginning of November in week 8, the Pats play out the string as follows:
|Sun 11/8/2009||1:00 PM||vs||Dolphins||WBZ / CBS|
|Sun 11/15/2009||8:20 PM||@||Colts||WHDH / NBC|
|Sun 11/22/2009||4:15 PM||vs||Jets||WBZ / CBS|
|Mon 11/30/2009||8:30 PM||@||Saints||WCVB / ESPN|
|Sun 12/6/2009||8:20 PM||@||Dolphins||WHDH / NBC|
|Sun 12/13/2009||1:00 PM||vs||Panthers|
|Sun 12/20/2009||1:00 PM||@||Bills||WBZ / CBS|
|Sun 12/27/2009||1:00 PM||vs||Jaguars||WBZ / CBS|
|Sun 1/3/2010||1:00 PM||@||Texans||WBZ / CBS|
So - in New York, at home, in Houston, at Indy, at home, at home, in New Orleans, at home, at Buffalo.
With the exception of the game at Buffalo in December, the bad weather games the Pats really face are at home in December against the Panthers, and Jaguars, and maybe the November contest against the Jets. Otherwise the Pats are playing in warm climates, or domes. At first glance that might not seem to be important, but for anyone that remembers the way the Pats passing game slowed down at the tail end of the season during their 16-0 run, they might want to think about how Tom Brady and the receiving corps might thrive in some of these late-season contests.
Fewer late season games in cold and wind might mean for a more prolific late season offense, helping to keep the defense off the field.