Saturday, October 31, 2009
Back in September I made up my personal short list of potential candidates for MLB awards. Official announcements will be made soon after World Series games conclude. Today, I'm posting my final list of players most deserving of this years hardware.
MVP - Joe Mauer (C, Minnesota)
Cy Young - Felix Hernandez (Seattle)
Rookie of the Year - Andrew Bailey (CL, Oakland)
Manager - Mike Scioscia (Angels)
Comeback Player - Aaron Hill (2B, Toronto)
MVP - Albert Pujols (1B, St. Louis)
Cy Young - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis)
Rookie of the Year - J.A. Happ (P, Philadelphia)
Manager - Tony LaRussa (St. Louis)
Comeback Player - Chris Carpenter (SP, St Louis)
Just like every other season, I'm sure plenty of controversy surround winners and runner-ups. Many think Zack Greinke should be AL Cy Young. It wouldn't surprise me if he won it. In my book, Hernandez had a better season and helped his team win more games. AL MVP is a crowded race. Plenty of votes will be spread out between Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Cabrera and Kendry Morales. The NL side is more straight forward. Cy Young might become the only exception. Wainwright and teammate Carpenter should end up 1-2 on official ballots.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Six blind mice. How many more bad umpiring calls will take place before the end of the World Series? It has often been said the best umpires go unnoticed. Attention has been focused on umpires throughout the playoffs and now in the World Series too. There have been plenty of bad calls. Not boderline bad. Flat out missed calls.
During the regular season umpiring crews consist of four men. Two more are added to watch the outfield lines, home runs and attempted diving catches come playoff time. In theory, six umpires should rarely make mistakes. So, what's been happening in '09? Nearly every playoff series has been filled with controversy. Luckily, most didn't alter game outcomes. Here are a few off the top of my head.
Joe Mauer (Minnesota) hit a clear double down the left field line in Yankee Stadium. Left field umpire (one of the two extra's) was in perfect position to make the correct call. Nope. It was ruled a foul ball.
The worst had to be this one. ALCS Game 4, Yankees Cano and Posada clearly were tagged out to end the inning but only one was called out.
In the same game (as show in above video), Yankees Swisher should have scored a run on a sacrifice fly. Instead, 3B umpire said he left early and called him out for an inning ending, rally killing double play. Another play involving Swisher happened earlier when hs could have been called out on a pickoff play at 2B.
Last night, 1B umpire was out of position. 1B Ryan Howard was credited for catching a liner and turning a double play. Even Howard knew the ball initially hit the ground. His actions gave it away. Howard tried throwing to 2nd for a force play and threw wide of 2nd allowing Posada to reach safely. Had he caught the liner all he had to do was step on 1B for a double play. There was no need to rush a throw to 2nd.
Momentum has picked up for baseball to finally institute instant replays. Playoff games this year has added ammo. I really hope this never happens. Bad calls, for better or worse, is part of baseball. Replays do exist for questionable home runs in dispute. If baseball were to start replaying every close call the game would quickly become monotonous. Could you imagine how long games would become? Managers racing out of dugouts after every bang-bang play at first. Sometimes to slow down an effective pitching performance or to cool off hot bats. No thank you. A topic for another day.
Sooner or later, before the Series ends, a blown call or two will factor into final scores. It's been amazingly bad. This is without mentioning always disputed balls and strikes. I can't remember ever watching so many goofs with such frequency. In most cases, umps aren't out of position. They've been right on top of plays enjoying clean angles. Go figure. It's been contagious.
Fox blew their live coverage last night when Yankees manager Joe Girardi popped out of the dugout to argue at first. Fox almost immediately cut away to commercial then tried unsuccessfully to recap what we missed. It was a key play at a key point in time and Fox cut away from the onfield action to make a few bucks. Give me a break. This is the World Series. Make your commercial money after the play was resolved. Yankees players sat for an extended period in the dugout while the entire umpiring crew huddled. Radio listeners were the only ones to catch live action play by play.
I'm sure these six blind mice do not want to be center of attention. Or to be remembered as the crew credited for baseball adopting instant replay. Open your eyes ump!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
NFL Week 8 has a few must see games. Highlighting this weekends schedule is Brett Favre's return to Green Bay (4-2) playing for the Cheeseheads arch rival Minnesota Vikings (5-1). Favre already beat his former team on a Monday Night game back in week 4 as he threw for three touchdowns. Can he do it again? Also on my list is: Giants (5-2) @ Philadelphia (4-2) coinciding with Yankees @ Philadelphia World Series Game 4 later on Sunday night... rivals Miami (2-4) @ Jets (4-3) usually put on a great show... and MNF game Atlanta (4-2) @ New Orleans (6-0). There is one complete dud of a matchup, Rams (0-7) @ Lions (1-5). I'm surprised Vegas put out a betting line on this one!
Last week I correctly predicted 9 of 13 games bringing my season total to 66-37. Here's how I see this week unfolding:
Week 8 (home team in BOLD):
Houston 24 BUFFALO 13 - Both teams on two game win streaks. Houston is the better team and will prevail.
CHICAGO 26 Cleveland 3 - Browns are just what is needed for this Chicago team after two straight defeats.
Seattle 33 DALLAS 27 - Seattle's passing attack should feast on weak Dallas secondary. Cowboys looked good vs tough Atlanta team last weekend. This is an anything can happen game. Whoever wins the line of scrimmage battle should walk away victorious.
DETROIT 7 St. Louis 6 - Two pathetic teams suit up. They'll only look good heading out of the locker room.
Denver 23 BALTIMORE 21 - Undefeated Broncos vs Ravens team needing a bounce back game after 3 straight losses. Ravens offense has great rythm. Defense struggling BIG time.
INDIANAPOLIS 43 San Francisco 10 - Manning is playing near flawless football. SF's weaker offense can't keep up even with Smith returning to starting status as QB.
Miami 26 JETS 24 - Dolphins imploded after a great first half vs Saints last week. Jets D faces a difficult challenge vs wildcat formation in Dolphins clock controlling offense.
Giants 23 PHILADELPHIA 20 - NY coach Coughlin is running no nonsense practices after back to back lackluster losses. Eagles won ugly vs Redskins last week. Another anything can happen game. I'm sticking with my home town team.
Jacksonville 30 TENNESSEE 10 - Oh how the mighty have fallen. Titans from 13-3 to 0-7 after this game. Tennessee's owner wants a QB change. Will Fisher comply?
SAN DIEGO 30 Oakland 6 - SD too tough for leaderless Raiders.
ARIZONA 35 Carolina 14 - Wow. I was way wrong about Carolina heading into this season. They've been terrible. Cards aren't very good but they're winning and Warner might throw for 400 in this one.
Minnesota 34 GREEN BAY 23 - Packers & fans continue lashing out at Favre. Now they're saying '96 GB team was much better than '09 Vikes. As if it matters. Favre shows up old mates... again.
NEW ORLEANS 31 Atlanta 27 - (Monday Night Football) - Atlanta fell apart vs Dallas. Now they're playing a much more confident and undefeated Saints team. I actually like Atlanta in this one... then again, I thought they'd have no problems vs Dallas.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Baseball's two best teams are getting ready to face off in tonight's opening game of the 2009 World Series. Philadelphia Phillies are trying to become the first team to win consecutive titles since 2000 and the first National League repeat champion since Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" went back to back in 1975-76. Standing in their way is the last team to repeat, New York Yankees. Yankees are taking aim at their 27th franchise World Series title.
World Series 2009 is one of the best pairings in recent history. Both teams have very talented lineups, pitching staffs, fielders and managers. Here's how I break it down position by position. On paper, Philadelphia vs New York could turn out to be one of the best ever.
Starting Pitchers: Even
Home ballparks for both clubs favor power hitters and pitchers had better beware. It looks like 3 man rotations for both clubs. Lee, Martinez & Hamels go for Philly vs Sabathia, Burnett & Pettitte for NY. All 6 rely in changing speeds for maximum effectiveness. None are strangers to post-season play. At times all have pitched like future Hall of Famers. Going deep into games is an essential ingredient for success which will be no easy task against baseball's best lineups. Philadelphia's bullpen during the regular season was very inconsistent. NY had better success. On paper, I'm rating them as equal. We'll soon see how well they can handle pressure packed situations with everything on the line.
Ok, before New York fans have a cow, here's why. Posada is by far the better hitter. But, he's yet to come through in the clutch this post-season on a consistent basis. If he does get hot then Phils are in trouble. His pitch calling is also very suspect. Plus, Burnett would rather pitch to backup Molina which could factor into Game 2. I don't see Posada riding the bench and this could throw off AJ's effectiveness or confidence.
Ruiz has been sensational in the playoffs for Phils (.346, 7 RBI). Defense has been solid, clutch hitting and good pitch calling. He's the hotter player right now (not the better player).
1B: Edge Phillies
Phils Ryan Howard is a monster at the plate. 14 post-season RBI in 9 games while batting .355. He's one of baseball's best clutch hitters. Howard vs Rivera in 9th inning situations will keep nervous fans sitting on the edge of their seats. Howard's defense has improved but is still shaky and a booted ball or bad throws could be game changers.
Mark Teixeira recovered from a slow start in pinstripes to become the AL leader in HR and RBI. However, he's struggling in the playoffs (.205). Time and time again he failed to deliver this postseason with runners in scoring position and is not looking good at the plate. Yanks need him to get back on track. Defensively, there's no better.
Phils fans turn to have a cow. Utley possesses great power (31 HR). His playoff defense hasn't been great. 2 playoff RBI isn't exactly clutch hitting either.
Robinson Cano is starting to turn it on after many failures to deliver with runners in scoring position. He must come through as bottom 3rd of lineup needs to produce. His defense has been excellent.
SS: Edge Yankees
Rollins can explode at any time. However, 2009 performance is far below career numbers. He struggled in playoffs so far (.244, 0 BB, 0 SB) except for a clutch game winning double on a meatball pitch. His defense is always strong. As Phils leadoff hitter, he needs to get it going vs a Yanks staff usually around the strike zone.
Yanks have Captain Jeter. He's been on fire (.297, 3 HR, .455 OBA). He's baseball's all time playoff hit leader (164). He's patient at the plate and usually comes thru in clutch situations. He's the table setter. Yanks will go as far as Jeter takes them.
3B: Edge Yankees
3B is the greatest disparity in my position by position analysis. Pedro Feliz will never be confused with Alex Rodriguez offensively or defensively. Feliz playoff stats are horrible (.161, 2 RBI). His defense hasn't been great either. However, never underestimate a slumping player. World Series are often won by non star-like characters when opposing pitchers take them for granted.
Alex Rodriguez has been enjoying the greatest postseason of his career. Can he keep it going vs Lee & Pedro? He's in the zone (.438, 5 HR, 12 RBI) coupled with flawless defense. ARod's biggest career challenge to date... producing in World Series play.
Phils might have a slight edge here with Ibanez. Ibanez was 1st half MVP candidate. But, he's struggled to regain his stroke at the dish. While Ibanez didn't hit for much of an average during playoffs (.236).. he has come thru time and time again with runners on base (9 RBI). He's been subbed out in late inning defensive situations but does play a decent LF.
Yanks Johnny Damon is a big game player waiting to turn it on. 24 regular season HR, 107 runs scored. So far, only batting .238. But, Phils pitching style is exactly the type he thrives on. We'll soon see. Damon has no arm in LF and can't throw anyone out. He's been lifted for stronger arms in late innings.
CF: Edge Phillies
Victorino is Phils leading hitter in playoffs (.361). He's showing no signs of slowing down after batting .292 during regular season. This guy will become a hero in the City of Brotherly Love if he remains the Phils catalyst. He's an excellent defensive CF to boot. He'll see plenty of activity.
Yanks free swinging Cabrera (.314) has deceptive playoff numbers. His average appears good in the surface, but he's failed in many clutch situations and is tied with RF Swisher with 11 K's. Not a good formula at the bottom of Yanks lineup. It might be time to give Gardner a shot. It won't happen since Gardner is Damon's late inning defensive replacement.
RF: Edge Phillies
Werth is tied with ARod for most playoff HR's this year (5). This kid keeps getting better. Werth is the Phillies key player in this series. Can he handle pressures of World Series play in NY? Probably. Coming in hitting .281, 5 HR, 10 RBI. Utley, Howard & Werth hit 3-4-5 and usually come through when needed in late game situations.
Swisher became Yanks everyday RF after Nady's season ending injury. He played very well during regular season (29 HR, .371 OBA). Playoffs have been another story (4-32, .125, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 11 K). He looks lost at the plate with feeble pop ups and plenty of strikeouts. He's a slug on the bases who is not alert. He seems to get picked off with ease. Luckily, his defense has been very good from tracking down balls to strong throws.
DH: Edge Yankees
Phils might play around with DH. Rumors state Ibanez might DH vs lefties with Francisco in LF. Matt Stairs might play vs righties.
Yanks strut out Matsui who has struggled (.233) in key playoff situations after a clutch '09 regular season (28 HR, 90 RBI). He was red hot during the final weeks but it hasn't carried into playoffs. His contribution in home games is vital.
Middle Relievers - Set up: Edge Yankees
Phils bullpen during regular season was horrific and cost this team a shot at 100 victories. They've done much better in '09 playoffs. Last season, their pen was instrumental is securing the title. They must pitch the games of their lives vs a potent Yanks attack in key situations for Phils to prevail. JA Happ, Chan Ho Park, Joe Blanton will be first out of the pen in early innings if needed or could take center stage in extra innings.
On the flip side, Yankees relievers enjoyed great success during the regular season after a horrendous '08 effort. Most have done well in the playoffs except for set up man Hughes who is clearly feeling the pressure of playoff baseball. Aceves has also faultered which might change Girardi's normal late inning plans. Joba Chamberlain will probably be the long middle reliever even though I'm all for him being used as a setup man and future closer.
Closer: Edge Yankees
Lidge was phenominal in '08 and pathetically bad in '09 until the playoffs. He might be back on track which is bad news for Yankees hitters. He's only given up 1 hit in 5 scoreless appearances spanning 4 innings. Not much of a litmus test but it's encouraging for a player coming off the worst year of his career.
Mariano Rivera owns the playoff record book for relievers. 37 postseason saves is 21 ahead of #2 (Lidge). He's most effective pitching only one inning per appearance.
Not much to speak of here for either team. Matsui will be the big name off the bench when games shift to NL Phillies. Otherwise, it's mainly late inning defensive replacements in LF or pinch runners.
Both teams love their managers. Most playoff moves have paid dividends (not all). Talented and well liked field generals who have kept clubs under control and believing in themselves no matter what the scoreboard reads. How they handle relievers could be the key to this series.
Philadelphia and New York lineups are very strong. Yankees have more power 1-9. Yankees play better overall defense. Yankees bullpen better. Yanks relying on early long ball power. Clutch hitting belongs to Phillies. Yankees pitchers used to facing tough lineups. Phillies pitchers used to NL DH-less weaker lineups. Yankees in 6.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It's World Series time! The New York Yankees are trying to win their 27th title against the reigning champion Philadelphia Phillies. World Series 2009 has been dubbed the "Liberty Series" (deriving from Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and NY's Statue of Liberty). Tomorrow, I'll break down the Series position by position. Today.. let's talk nicknames.
Nicknames of famous athletes span generations. There's an old saying in baseball. "No player is bigger than the game itself." Normally, this statement holds true. Until, we start talking nicknames. "The Babe", "Charlie Hustle", "Mr October", "Say Hey Kid", "Stan the Man", "Iron Horse" and "The Splendid Splinter" are just a few from yesteryear who's nicknames live on forever. So, why is it not many World Series nicknames stick beyond "Subway Series"? There have been many but, trying to find a list on the internet is no easy task. Will the Liberty Series stick? Unless the Phillies and Yankees play a classic series, I doubt it.
World Series play has been dubbed "The Fall Classic". Can anyone recall individual series nicknames or slogans? Here's my short list.
1919 "Black Sox Scandal" is one of the better remembered slogans given after the Chicago White Sox played to lose, or "fixed" the Series by agreeing to lose games for money.
There have been 14 "Subway Series" derived from two New York teams playing for glory. The first 13 were named after NY Yankees vs Brooklyn Dodgers or New York Giants until the New York Mets played the Yankees in 2000 (14th).
1983 was the not so flashy "I-95" (Baltimore vs Philadelphia).
1985 "I-70", "Show Me Series" between Kansas City and St. Louis.
1989 "Bay Bridge Series", "BART" featured San Francisco vs Oakland.
2001 was dubbed "November Series". This was the first World Series played in November resulting from regular season games rescheduled in the wake of 9/11/01 attacks.
2009 "Liberty Series" and "Turnpike Series" are two names being thrown around in local newspapers.
Just think of how much additional revenue could have been made by MLB affiliated licensee's. Funny how every All Star Game seems to have taken on slogans relating to hosting cities. Not so on baseball's biggest stage?
Stay tuned for my detailed New York/Philadelphia position by position 2009 World Series analysis. Buckle up! On paper, this is the greatest Series matchup in years. They represent the best from American and National Leagues.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Four undefeated and two winless teams remain heading into NFL Week 7 action. New Orleans destroyed the Giants in a battle of unbeatens last week, 48-27. Denver showed off on MNF proving they're for real. Tennessee showed everyone why they haven't won a game after New England put up 59 points with ease.
The headline games this weekend are Minnesota at Pittsburgh and Atlanta at Dallas. Check weather patterns before laying odds on a few games. A couple of stinker matchups could make for upsets against point spreads. I went 10-4 last weekend bringing my season win/loss to 57-33.
Week 7 (Home team in BOLD)
Green Bay 37 CLEVELAND 6 - Packers beat up on a team in complete disarray.
San Diego 31 KANSAS CITY 17 - SD is off to another slow start. D and special teams giving up big plays all year.
Indianapolis 48 ST LOUIS 3 - Rams might want to forfeit this game now. Manning putting together another MVP type season.
Vikings 31 PITTSBURGH 30 - Game of the week. Battle of big play offenses vs big play defenses. As a fan I'm hoping this game comes down to the final few plays to decide a winner.
New England 44 TAMPA BAY 7 - Patriots embarrassed Titans 59-0. Hey Tampa... "DUCK!"
HOUSTON 23 San Francisco 17 - Another of the few potentially good games this week. Houston is finding their rythm. SF wants to hold onto 1st in NFC West.
CAROLINA 24 Buffalo 13 - Panthers 3rd win in a row coming up. Buffalo is not looking good at all.
Jets 20 OAKLAND 14 - New York played a very sloppy game last weekend vs Buffalo. Oakland energized after knocking off Philly. NY has history of giving up big plays vs Raiders in Oakland. A must win game for both teams seeking unity.
Atlanta 38 DALLAS 24 - Atlanta's passing attack will have a field day vs weak Dallas secondary. Cowboys returning from a bye week with WR controversy. Romo will have to ignite Dallas offense and "lead". Won't happen.
CINCINNATI 21 Chicago 16 - Normally I'd be taking the Bears. I'd like to see them win but Cincy has been playing inspired. Chicago still hasn't found a way to score consistently.
New Orleans 33 MIAMI 17 - Both D's will have their hands full. Saints passing attack should shred Dolphins thin secondary. Miami's running attack might keep Brees on the sidelines. I'm picking the Saints but this game has upset written all over it... especially since Dolphins have a history of snapping undefeated streaks.
GIANTS 27 Arizona 23 - Some are thinking Warner to will what Brees did last week. I'm not one of them. Saints and Cards are two very different teams. Coughlin will have Giants ready to go. Ball control eats up clock vs outclassed Arizona D. It'll be a tight game to the finish. Giants creating turnovers is the difference maker.
Philadelphia 24 WASHINGTON 10 - (Monday Night Football). Zorn has relinquished play calling duties. It won't matter. No way Philly takes them for granted after being upset by Oakland last weekend. This is an Eagles bounce back game.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
One week to go before NBA 2009-10 tips off. Do the LA Lakers have what it takes to repeat? Fans in Boston, Cleveland and Orlando think their teams will take it all this year. Time to predict how the new season will shake out.
LA Lakers (1)
San Antonio (3)
New Orleans (5)
Finals: Boston over Lakers 4-3
Monday, October 19, 2009
Baseball Playoffs. NFL action. NHL season in its' early stages. WBNA has a new Champ. Rush dumped from potential ownership of NFL Rams. College football player stabbed. It's been a busy month for sports news. Here's my take on a few events of October sports 2009.
It's been the Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez show as the Yankees take aim at returning to the World Series. ARod had been a playoff bust throughout his career. Not anymore. He's been ripping the cover off anyting near the plate and playing great defense. Clutch hitting to boot including a Game 2 9th inning tying home run vs Angels on a windy, cold and rainy NY night. Yanks went on to win in extra frames. In today's Game 3, Jeter led off with a homer. ARod got one too giving NY a 3-0 lead (game tied at 4 as I type).
Just how good are the Philadelphia Phillies? After an up and down season filled with injuries and a terrible bullpen the Phillies are playing great ball this post-season. They won a tough opening round vs Colorado and now they're taking it to the Dodgers. I'm rooting for LA but Philly clearly has momentum up 2 games to 1. Ryan Howard is on fire with RBI's in 8 consecutive games. Phils vs Yanks would make for one great WS. Phils lineup is hot enough they can rip any pitching staff. All games could be slugfests.
NFL It's been a crazy NFL season. What has happened to the Tennessee Titans? 13-3 last year, 0-6 this year following a 59-0 school yard beating by New England. Titans struggle to score (84 points). Defense has been dismantled for an NFL worst 198 points against. They have too good of a team to be playing so poorly.
Who's the best? Could it be the Minnesota Vikings (6-0)? Denver Broncos (5-0)? New Orleans Saints (5-0)? Indy Colts (5-0)? NFL pundits and former teammates ripped Brett Favre as on over the hill idiot for attempting to play football in 2009. From Green Bay to New York to Minnesota, Favre was slammed for his last minute decision to return. Results? Outstanding. 6-0, two last minute comeback wins, 3rd rated passer in NFL (109.5), 70% completions, 12 TD's. Way to prove the naysayers wrong Brett! He's having an MVP type season thru 6 games.
New York Jets and fans were flying high with Super thoughts after Gang Green win their first three games. J-E-T-S have been grounded lately and not looking good after 3 straight defeats. Rookie QB Sanchez and first year coach Ryan were glorified when winning. How quickly things can change in a New York minute. Now, they're getting lambasted by NY drive-by media pretenders.
NFL turned political this past week once news broke of Rush Limbaugh's involvement in a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams. ESPN eventually ran a headline stating "Rush Targeted by Obama Officials". If true, it's another a far overreaching public move by the White House against another US citizen. It should come as no surprise these days when our White House targets, attacks and demeans political opponents. Many high profile figures have joined the fracas calling Limbaugh all sorts of names. Even a New York law firm with close ties to our President got involved by posting potentially libelous and false claims on Wikipedia. As a result, Rush has been dropped by the group wishing take over the Rams. NFL has also broken it's own policies of non-disclosure by allegedly leaking Limbaugh's name. It's an ugly mess made worse by hypocritical comments stretching far and wide from NFL execs to civil rights groups.
NHL has taken a backseat to MLB Playoffs and NFL news so far. I'm not sure why as the 2009-10 season is off to a flying start. NY Rangers taking aim at their 8th straight win (7-1-0). East of Manhatten are the lowly NY Islanders who have lost every game (6, 0-3-3) but managed to get 3 points in the NHL's nutty system of rewarding teams for shootout losses. Also looking for their first win of the season is Toronto (0-6-1). Pittsburgh (7-1-0) has been sensational too.
The worst news of the week comes out of UCONN. Only a few hours after the Huskies victory over Louisville 20 year old Jasper Howard of Miami, a junior and starting cornerback, was stabbed during a fight early Sunday. His death has left family members and UC campus in a state of shock.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Five weeks in the books for NFL 2009. There have been a few surprising teams turning heads. It's time for my own version of NFL power rankings based on nothing more than personal observations of team performances on the gridiron.
1- New York Giants (5-0) - Strong in all facets of the game. Ranks 2nd in offense, 1st in defense. Jacobs hasn't found his running game but Bradshaw has been attacking defenses. Young WR's have been outstanding.
2- Indianapolis Colts (5-0) - Playing very well behind Peyton Manning's leadership. 3rd in total offense and bend but don't break defense allowing only 14.2 ppg.
3- Denver Broncos (5-0) - Yes, Denver is for real and NFL has taken notice after they beat New England. Defense giving up NFL low 8.6 ppg. Offense is a work in progress but has been making big plays in crunch time.
4- Minnesota Vikings (5-0) - Big play offense. Big play defense.
5- Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) - Who are these guys? If it wasn't for a last minute opening day stunning loss to Denver these guys would be 5-0. They've beaten Green Bay, Pittsburgh & Baltimore which pushed them up my list. Cincy schedule doesn't get any easier. Houston, Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburgh up next. We'll soon see if Cincy is for real.
6- New Orleans Saints (4-0) - Tentatively ranking 5th due to their not playing top teams... yet. Next opponent Giants. Should be one heck of a game. Saints will know how good they are after this one.
7- Atlanta Falcons (3-1) - Very strong team with plenty of weapons. This young team will remain tough for at least the next 5-7 seasons. Defense had only one hiccup so far and benefits from grueling offensive game plan.
8- Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) - Eagles offense playing great with and without McNabb. He's back now which spells trouble for next two opponents. Defense is getting the job done. Rushing game is way off track.
9- Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) - Here comes Pittsburgh. Steelers offense is on fire after 3 shaky weeks to begin their Championship defense. Running game has been revived by rookie Mendenhall. Roethlisberger very sharp. Defense rebounding after loss of Polamalu.
10- Baltimore Ravens (3-2) - Another 5-0 might have been. Two tough losses for a very strong team. Flacco is maturing as a top flight NFL QB. Defense has been off late in games. Running game has highs and lows. WR inconsistency is still biggest problem and takes heat for last 2 losses.
Keep an eye on:
New England (3-2) - Still explosive on paper. Problem is, it's only been on paper so far. Brady & Co. are off. Lack of faith in running game making Pats a one dimentional and defendable offense . Defense spending too much time on the field but has kept them in games. "When" and "If" are two big questions in New England.
Miami Dolphins (2-3) - 'Phins know how to gobble up time of possession. Against a very aggressive Jets D they learned how to score inside the red zone. Defense remains well rested behind a battering running attack. No one has figured out how to stifle the Wildcat.
New York Jets (3-2) - Ryan was mystified after Monday's defeat. Expect Jets to shed their cockyness and return to playing smart football. Perhaps starting 3-0 puffed up ego's a little too much. Ryan will have them back to business. Passing game needs to be let loose. Their deep game looks great. It's the short over the middle plays which seem to give Sanchez fits. They'll probably end up as a .500 team but have playoff potential at this early juncture.
Dallas Cowboys (3-2) - Offensive Coordinator has been horrendous. Never before have I watched games where an offensive line has completely dominated opposing defenses opening up running lanes down to the goal line only to have play callers suddenly decide to pass. 'Boys played great on opening day. They've looked horrible in every other game including wins. Very talented and deep team suffering from lack of leadership on the field and from entire coaching staff.
Chicago Bears (3-1) - Tough opening day defeat followed up by 3 straight wins. Cutler seems more comfortable. Running game taking hold. Defense always tough. Big games coming up after bye week @ Atlanta & Cincinnati.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Get ready for Tuesday night's one game showdown to decide the American League Central. "Every game counts" has been spoken by nearly all coaches ranging from amateur to professional sports. Nothing could be more true. For those fans who shrug their shoulders at an opening day defeat... this is why they "all" count. Detroit and Minnesota are tied with identical records 86-76. Tuesday's game decides who advances to play the New York Yankees in AL Division Series Playoffs.
The Tigers had been sitting alone in first place since May 16. On September 6, their lead was a season high 7 games over Minnesota. This is when Detroit began fading and Minnesota got hot. The Twins won 18 of 26 while Detroit stumbled losing 15 of 26. In head to head games, Minnesota holds the season advantage 11-7.
It all goes out the window tomorrow. Or, does it? Detroit sends rookie starting pitcher Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04) to the hill to face vet Scott Baker (15-9, 4.34). Baker has not fared well against the Tigers in '09 (1-1, 6.75 in 4 starts). Porcello was 1-2 with a respectable 3.09 vs Minnesota. These two are hittable. Fighting for every inch, every pitch and every base will be crucial to both clubs.
One game playoffs do not occur frequently.... well, usually not until recent history. 2009 marks the third consecutive year of one game playoffs. Minnesota played one last year too. They lost 1-0 to Chicago White Sox. In 2007, Colorado capped a remarkable September by beating San Diego 9-8.
Good luck handicapping this game. Neither pitcher strikes fear into any lineup. On the surface, there should be plenty of runs. Detroit's pitching has not been good of late. Minnesota's has been scrappy enough and getting the job done. Manufacturing runs and playing high level defense will decide this game. Tigers hitters have been inconsistent most of the year and simply un-clutch in September. Minnesota seems to get timely hits most often when games are on the line.
In games like these much of the focus surrounds star players like Miguel Cabrera or Joe Mauer. However, as history has proven time and time again... it's often the little guys making history. Remember Bucky Dent's game winning homer back in '78 which demoralized Boston?
I've run a few simulation games this morning. These teams split 10 games. Most were high scoring as all pitchers except Joe Nathan were lit up. For Minnesota fans a win tomorrow will be a perfect ending for the Metrodome's final regular season game. Twins fans will be loud as ever under the bubble.
Minnesota is the hot team heading into this game. Detroit barely survived on the final days of 2009. Advantage Twins. I'm expecting a close contest. Perhaps a few lead changes. Unless hitters are tight these two starting pitchers stand a good chance of getting rocked early. Any defensive lapses will be magnified. My bias has me rooting for Detroit even though I'm predicting a Twins 8-5 victory.
Friday, October 2, 2009
We were treated to some great games last week and one major upset. Detroit won their first game against an inept Washington Redskins team. Brett Favre's game winning td pass with :02 left sent shockwaves to the California cost. Coach Ryan has the undefeated New York Jets defense pounding opponents. I picked only 9 winners last week bringing my season total to 29-19. Far below my norm. Time to get back to winning ways.
Week 4 (home in BOLD):
CHICAGO 26 Detroit 10 Bears beginning to gel. Lions try building off first win, not yet.
Cincinnati 27 CLEVELAND 13 Bengals playing well. Cleveland in turmoil changes starting QB.
INDIANAPOLIS 28 Seattle 20 Manning's offense looking good in clutch. Seahawks trying to find rythm.
NY Giants 34 KANSAS CITY 14 Eli has excellent targets afterall. KC no match unless NY takes them lightly.
Baltimore 24 NEW ENGLAND 23 Ravens looking Super. Patriots are not. Expecting a close one here. Picking Baltimore on the road might be stretching it but their offense has greatly improved.
Tampa Bay 17 WASHINGTON 14 'Skins lose to another cellar dweller.
Tennessee 27 JACKSONVILLE 23 Titans need this game. Jags playing tough but are no match for pounding running game.
HOUSTON 31 Oakland 21 Texans D will steal the ball all game long.
NEW ORLEANS 30 New York Jets 24 Saints facing outstanding and motivated Jets D. Whoever makes least mistakes wins this one.
Buffalo 26 MIAMI 3 Bills will dominate here. Pennington is done for the year. Miami's secondary has many holes. Hurry up offense will drown Dolphins.
SAN FRANCISCO 23 St. Louis 10 Learning how to regroup after a last second loss will go a long way for SF. Rams not a good team but shouldn't be taken lightly.
DENVER 24 Dallas 20 Huge test for both teams. Speedy Denver WR's could have a field day vs terrible Dallas secondary. Orton needs to be sharp. Denver's stifling D takes on an inconsistent Romo led offense. This is one of my two suggested must watch games.
San Diego 17 PITTSBURGH 16 Where is Pittsburgh's offense?
MINNESOTA 36 Green Bay 24 (Monday Night Football) My other must watch game. Favre hosts his former teammates. Both teams will be very pumped up for this one. Vikings defense is better. Adrian might gain 150+ on the ground. Favre's Vikings win pulling away.
Bye: Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Philadelphia