Which Boston Pro Team is Next in Line to Win a Title?
By Tom Keegan
BOSTON -- Pretend you will be punished if time proves you wrong. Otherwise, if you don’t start this exercise with that premise, you might vote with your heart and not your head.
Pretend that if you aren’t correct you will be tied to a chair, placed in front of a TV and forced to watch a WNBA game in its entirety.
Convince yourself that if proven correct, you will be rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to watch the 2019 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four, an underrated spectator sport played above the net as well as with terrific horizontal athleticism.
So think before you vote.
Which of the “big four” in Boston professional sports will be next to fire up the duck boats?
Obviously, the calendar gives the Patriots the first chance because the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 3. You also might want to consider how oddsmakers weigh each team’s chances. Vegasinsider.com has the Patriots at 17/2, ranking behind only the Saints (2/1), Rams (11/2) and Chiefs (13/2).
Four months and change after the Lombardi Trophy ceremony, the Stanley Cup owners for a year and the winner of the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy (should be named after Bill Russell, winner of 11 titles) will be crowned. The Bruins have the 14th-shortest odds at 28/1 on a list that has the Lightning (5/1) and Maple Leafs (6/1) on top.
The Celtics have the third-shortest odds in the NBA at 10/1 (not as good as short as the Patriots’ odds), ranking behind only the Warriors (10/17) and Raptors (29/4).
The Commissioner’s Trophy comes four months and change after that. The Red Sox (5/1) lead the pack at 6/1, followed by the Astros (7/1), Yankees (7/1) and Dodgers (8/1).
Here’s how I would rank the four local teams’ chances of winning the race to the duck parade.
1. Red Sox: No need to rush things in fortifying the bullpen. The market will come to the Red Sox and they’ll pay less than if they set the market. If that backfires and they don’t land a reliever on the level of David Robertson or Zach Britton, they still have time and options.
2. Celtics: The Warriors are the only odds-on-favorites to win it all among the four leagues. It’s easy to see why. Yet, if this is the year clashing egos blow it all up, why can’t the Celtics win the title?
Kyrie Irving’s an outrageously creative passer, and can get a shot whenever he wants one, which comes in handy in games that come down to the final possession. After a 10-10 start, coach Brad Stevens made it all come together by putting Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart in the starting lineup, which is backed by as deep a bench as there is in the NBA.
3. Patriots: The aging offense has limped through three 10-point road clunkers (Lions, Titans, Steelers), but heading into the week still ranked seventh in the NFL with a 26.7-point average. The defense checked in at 14th with a 22.1 average.
The Patriots shouldn’t have any trouble finishing 8-0 at home and 11-5 overall, but at the moment rank third in the AFC, which puts them in danger of having to win two consecutive road games to get to Atlanta.
Questions about other contenders keep the Patriots’ hopes afloat. Such as: Why have the Rams and Saints stalled offensively? Is Jared Goff’s inexperience showing? Did Drew Brees grow old overnight? Do the Chargers and Chiefs have Super Bowl defenses? Can the Bears be taken seriously with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback?
4. Bruins: They have weathered injuries in impressive fashion, and Jaroslav Halak has stood out with a 2.20 and .930 save percentage. Even so, unless a sixth productive forward appears from outside the organization or one emerges from within way ahead of schedule, they probably don’t have ample firepower to win the Stanley Cup.