Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘Major League Baseball’

Yes, the Broncos really are 5-0

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 14, 2009

Patriots Broncos Football There has certainly been a lot going on the past few days in the Denver sports scene, hence the lateness of this post. ¬†We will give the Rockies their due for a fantastic season in just a moment, but the Broncos are rapidly becoming the talk of the sports world for being the unquestioned biggest surprise in the National Football League. ¬†With a win over the Patriots in overtime, the Broncos have now silenced critics who said their fast start was a result of an easy schedule (actually three of their five wins have come against teams with winning records). ¬†The Broncos were a team that was universally picked to be horrible primarily because everyone seemed to think they made a colossal error in trading Jay Cutler (for example Sports Illustrated picked them to finish 5-11. ¬†Hell, even Denver Post columnist Woody Paige predicted 4-12). ¬†Well, now that they are 5-0, the Broncos’ start has to be among the most surprising in NFL history. ¬†Fans wanted Josh McDaniels fired before he even coached a game and few seemed to think that he was doing a good job in the offseason. ¬†The Broncos are quickly showing that they are for real, and are quickly making people forget Cutler and Mike Shanahan.

There are many places we could start in dissecting this game, but I think it is necessary to start with Kyle Orton, being that he was one of the primary reasons “experts” were predicting such a bad year for the Broncos. ¬†Start with the fact that Orton posted the second 300-yard game of his career, then that he was named offensive player of the week. ¬†Against the Patriots Orton led not one, but TWO 90 yard touchdown drives (the second one was 98, in the fourth quarter no less). ¬†This is the type of clutch drive that only few are capable of leading, and it is a drive that can sometimes define a quarterback. ¬†Orton spread the ball around the field, finding Eddie Royal 10 times (more than in the previous four games combined), Jabar Gaffney eight times and Brandon Marshall six. ¬†In five games he has only thrown one pick (and I’m not sure that should even really count as it was a hail mary at the end of the first half). ¬†Orton continued to make very smart decisions with the football, not doing more than he was asked to do or was capable of. ¬†Orton is now 27-12 as a starter in his career, and is proving that flashy numbers and rocket arms aren’t the only way to win in the NFL. ¬†He is definitely making people in Denver and around the NFL forget about Jay Cutler in a real hurry.

The Broncos defense is of course also to be commended in this game once again. ¬†In the fourth quarter, the Broncos endured a sequence where they committed not one but two fourth down penalties on special teams (a running into the punter and an offsides), extending a Patriots drive and giving Tom Brady extra chances. ¬†Needless to say, any time you give Brady an extra chance to beat you, let alone two chances, you’re going to be cooked most of the time. ¬†The Broncos had twice forced a New England punt attempt to no avail, finding themselves in need of another stop. ¬†The Broncos defense was able to dig in and get yet another stop, getting enough pressure to force Brady into a couple of incompletions. ¬†Overall, the Broncos held the Patriots to 17 points, and while I realize New England has not been lighting up the scoreboard so far this year, this still proves that the Broncos defense is indeed for real. ¬†I realize also that the following is essentially a sentence I could cut and paste every week, but Brian Dawkins’ presence and importance is not to be underestimated. ¬†He is nothing short of the ultimate leader in the locker room, and he is showing he can still play a little on the field too.

Some other thoughts:

РThe Broncos missed Correll Buckhalter Sunday, both for his running ability and his pass catching presence.  Knowhson Moreno did have a nice game, but he needs to hang onto the football.

– Brandon Marshall is back. ¬†Two more touchdowns for starters, but it is clear that he is once again playing with effort and is enjoying the game again. ¬†It’s amazing what winning can accomplish.

– I actually liked the Broncos throwback jerseys more than I thought I would. ¬†I’m not saying they should wear them again, but it is nice once in awhile to see a different look, in this case a VERY different look. I also as I said before liked New England’s throwbacks more than their current uniform.

РNew England will really miss Fred Taylor.  Somehow, they will need either Laurence Maroney or Sammy Morris to be effective going forward, but right now the lack of running game is holding their offense back.

– 12 targets for Wes Welker, only 3 for Randy Moss, and that’s without Champ Bailey shadowing Moss. ¬†Not sure if that means anything, it’s just interesting.

– I think both teams look like they are playoff quality right now.

РIt was interesting to see the chess match between McDaniels and Belichick.  Clearly both knew each other extremely well, and were trying new wrinkles to outsmart each other.  This was most obvious when timeouts were called in confusion.

– The Broncos have a huge game Monday night in San Diego. ¬†In their last three trips west, the Broncos have lost 48-28, 23-3, and last year 52-21. ¬†The Broncos can take yet another step toward elite status and away from the mediocrity of previous years if they can get a victory. ¬†The Chargers have looked vulnerable lately, so I’m not sure this is entirely out of the question.

– I also want to give the Colorado Rockies their due. ¬†The Rockies were 12 games under.500 in May when they fired manager Clint Hurdle, and naturally no one was expecting anything from this group at all. ¬†I’m honestly not sure what Jim Tracy did to turn things around, but whatever he did, it worked wonders and then some. ¬†He got the guys to play with confidence, and just seemed to always know what buttons to push to make things work. ¬†The Rockies nearly caught the Dodgers in the NL West even though that lead was seemingly out of reach, but did clinch the NL wild card. ¬†While the Rockies lost to the Phillies in four games in the division series, let’s not forget what a wild ride this team had just to get in the playoffs. ¬†I know fans are getting on Huston Street right now for getting the loss in game three and game four, but the Rockies would not have even made the playoffs at all if not for his ability to close games on the clutch. ¬†Hopefully ownership will keep the team together and the Rockies will be able to make another run next season.

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Random Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 12, 2009

– I am getting really sick of hearing about steroids and baseball.¬† We know players cheated.¬† We know there were more players hopped up on performance enhancers in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s than we’ll care to admit.¬† I actually applaud Alex Rodriguez for his honesty and coming clean, but baseball has a real problem on its hands that just won’t go away, ever.¬† It’s not as if Rodriguez is the only player that used.¬† Odds are he was hitting off home runs off of pitchers who were also using.¬† Obviously that doesn’t make it right, but it is impossible to know for sure which players used and which didn’t, and how much of an advantage those that used really got.¬†

– The fact is the steroid era encompasses much of recent baseball history.¬† Is it practical to wipe out records or to keep some of these players (like Mark McGwire) out of the Hall of Fame?¬† Be honest, how many Yankees fans are going to refrain from buying tickets at the new Yankee Stadium this season because A-Rod admits he used steroids?¬† None.¬† How many Yankee fans will cheer him if he hits 50 home runs and leads the Yankees to a title this year?¬† All of them.¬† One of baseball’s problems with this is that the fans don’t seem to be near as appalled as they are made out to be.¬† Ticket sales are way up, ratings are up, and MLB isn’t exactly a struggling operation.¬† When teams lose, that’s when fans stop going to the games.¬† A key player gets busted for steroids?¬† That doesn’t have near the economic impact as a struggling team, so MLB owners will continue to have this issue on their hands.¬†

– On the plus side, it’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers are already reporting this week.¬† If the Rockies weren’t destined to be so awful in 2009, I might be actually be excited about this.¬† I just don’t think they got enough in return for Matt Holliday, and if Jeff Francis actually does have shoulder surgery later this month as rumored, the rotation is already in trouble.

– It’s also hard to get excited when the Yankees have an unfair advantage that allows them to buy whatever free agents they want.¬† MLB needs a salary cap in the worst way, but the players union will never agree to it.

– At least we have college basketball for another month.¬† Other than the NFL, this is my favorite sport.¬† The college game is so much better than the NBA in absolutely every way it’s not even funny.¬† For starters, it’s not about individual players.¬† The college game relies on a team working together.¬† This is much more fun to watch than an NBA game where an individual tries to take over while three of teammates are standing around watching.¬† Plus, it’s hard to beat an atmosphere where the crowd is actually into the game and cares about the outcome.¬† Not that NBA fans don’t care, but there is a big difference between passionate student sections and corporate yuppies that stroll in around the second quarter and leave midway through the fourth.

– I’m also excited about the college game because Missouri (my alma matter) is finally good again.¬† After a five year absence from the NCAA tournament, the Tigers are 21-4 and 8-2 in conference play.¬†

РMost of all, the college games are just more intense, competitive and fun to watch.  I am already looking forward to the NCAA tournament.

– It will also be an interesting off season in the NFL.¬† There are several receivers who could end up moving (including T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Anquan Boldin, and possibly Terrell Owens) plus there are several other big time free agents out there such as Julius Peppers and Albert Haynesworth.¬† Free agency opens on the 27th after the scouting combine, so we’ll delve more into offseason movement then.¬† It will be interesting to see which teams try to make splashes and which don’t, keeping in mind that big ticket signings don’t always guarantee success and in some cases quickly blow up in a team’s face.¬† Look at the Jaguars, who spent big money on Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence last offseason, and released them both this week.

– I will not believe that Brett Favre is actually retired until I see that he is not on the field playing for some team in week one.

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One More Post-Holliday Trade Note

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 17, 2008

I’ll let Jim Armstrong, the great sports columnist from The Denver Post, make the point. ¬†You can read his latest thoughts on the Holliday trade, and specifically why such a lopsided deal wouldn’t happen in the NFL here.

I completely agree with everything he says. ¬†MLB really needs to adopt the NFL model, except the players (and especially the union and their agents) are too greedy. ¬†The sad thing is the way the NFL labor contract currently reads, the 2010 season would be played without a salary cap, and the players say they will not go back to one if they play a season with an uncapped year. ¬†It seems in any case from what I’ve heard that the NFL is on its way to labor strife after the 2010 season (or after two more seasons following the conclusion of this one). ¬†It’s a ways off yes, but it would be a shame if the NFL and its players allowed the best business model in sports to go poof.

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Holliday Follow Up

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 13, 2008

A couple of quick follow up thoughts on the trade that sent Matt Holliday to Oakland for Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith:

– The Rockies are trying to portray Holliday as not being a team player and are trying to argue that they will be better team next year even though their best hitter and only game changer is gone.¬† Please, Dan O’Dowd, don’t insult our intelligence by trying to say the team is now better.¬† It may be better in two years if Gonzalez and Smith turn out to be as good at their potential indicates they could be, but the team is not better now.

– As for Holliday not being a team player, it’s hard to argue with O’Dowd on that point.¬† Holliday wrote his ticket out of town and put his full selfishness and greediness on display the instant he hired Scott Boras as his agent.¬† Players who hire Boras are seeking as much money as possible and NEVER re-sign with their current team for less.¬† The Rockies frankly couldn’t afford to keep Holliday, and¬†we all knew¬†that.¬† My issue¬†is more with the timing of the trade and¬†what the Rockies got (or didn’t get) in return.

– I do want to give¬†Smith, Gonzalez, and Street the benefit of the doubt.¬† Smith did eat up a lot of innings last year in Oakland, and maybe we¬†should give him a chance to see if he can cut his walks down, which¬†he¬†will have to do to be effective.¬† The Rockies need him to be a 2 of 3 starter, not¬†the 4 or 5 starter he is now.¬† Gonzalez¬†¬†has the tools to be a good center fielder, but he has yet to put it together at the Major League level.¬† If he can meet his full potential and improve his woeful on base percentage, the trade may prove to be ok for the Rockies in 2-3 years.¬† If he is a bust, the trade is a full failure.¬† As for Street, it is unknown whether the Rockies will keep him or try to spin him for a starter.¬† If he stays, he will compete with Manny Corpas for the closer role, but the Rockies should be aware of his less than promising injury history.¬† Street has the talent and to¬†his credit does not walk many hitters, but he has¬†yet to prove he can stay healthy.¬† That must change if he is to be effective in the Rockies’¬†bullpen.¬†

–¬†To those ripping A’s General Manager Billy Beane regarding¬†his acquisition of Holliday: ask yourself who you’re ripping.¬† Beane has¬†routinely¬†made bold moves to improve the A’s.¬† It is unknown whether the A’s will keep Holliday after this year, but they knew they needed an elite power¬†bat to keep pace with the Angels in the AL¬†West.¬† Holliday is a game changer, and the A’s will benefit from his presence in the middle of the order.¬† If nothing else, the A’s will get two¬†high compensatory picks in next year’s draft if Holliday bolts as a free agent.

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Unfortunate Reality Hits the Rockies

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 10, 2008

So apparently the Rockies have traded Matt Holliday.¬† I can’t really say I’m surprised frankly considering Holliday is represented by Scott Boras, who to put it kindly is extremely greedy.¬† Boras is notorious for getting monster deals for his clients (see Alex Rodriguez, he of the 10 year $275 million deal).¬† I’m sure Holliday has his reasons for not wanting to re-sign with the Rockies.¬† He says he wants to be somewhere where he has a consistent chance to make the World Series every year, and frankly it’s hard to argue that Colorado fits with that ideal.¬† There are reports of a rift with ownership considering the teams willingness to win and upgrade the roster, which is very possible considering the Monforts weren’t exactly active in the free agent market even after making the World Series.¬† If those are Holiday’s reasons for not accepting an extension with the Rockies and essentially forcing a trade, that’s one thing.¬† Of course it’s frustrating, but you can’t blame a player for not wanting to be somewhere where winning is a top priority.¬†

Now, if this is indeed about nothing other than money, than it impossible to keep any respect for either side.¬† If it is true that Holliday turned down an $85 million extension before last season, than I say good riddance.¬† Seriously, what can you do with $160 million that you can’t do with $85 million, short of buying a hundred cars and three extra mansions and who knows what else?¬† Maybe I just don’t understand it because I’ve never known what it’s like to have that kind of money, but I say if $100 million isn’t enough for you, perhaps you ought to work a real job for a year to better learn to appreciate the opportunity you have.¬† Maybe it’s just me.¬†¬† I obviously can’t say for sure what Holliday’s motives are for not wanting to stay in Colorado, and I don’t want to throw him under the bus based on speculation, but it seems like it is with most Boras clients that it really is a money issue regardless of what else comes out of the player’s mouth.

I personally believe that the unsettled nature of the Holliday contract negotiations had¬†to have an adverse effect on the team’s performance last season.¬† The ownership and players alike may say otherwise, but how could it not have had an effect?¬†¬† If nothing else, there was a notable decline in Holliday’s numbers last season (.321 average down from .340 the previous year, home run decline to 25 from 36, and RBIs were down from 137 to 88).¬† To be fair, Holliday did miss two weeks in May due to injury, but even factoring that in, that’s a noticeable decrease in production.¬† Even considering his two week injury, that type of decline in production doesn’t seem to merit the $20 million offer he is seeking.¬† Even given all that, it is a shame that the relationship between Holliday and the Rockies went south so quickly that the Rockies felt forced to deal him even with a year to go before he hit free agency.¬†

It seems clear that Rockies ownership is in a pickle here because they seem to have made Holliday the best offer they could afford.¬† His unwillingness to accept their offer means they are now getting roughly 30 cents on the dollar in the deal.¬† While reports vary on what exactly the Rockies will get in return, the one consistent piece seems to be pitcher Greg Smith, he of a 7-16 record last season and a 4.16 ERA.¬† Smith finished third in the AL in walks allowed with 87, which is not a good stat.¬† The 16 losses may not be a good indicator of his ability¬†because the A’s weren’t a good team last year, but walking guys is never a good thing.¬† If this is the best the Rockies can hope for in return for Holliday, than there is no way they can make a legitimate argument they are a better team for trading Holliday.¬† Whoever’s fault it is, it is still frustrating to know that already the Rockies are behind the eight ball in the NL West race and spring training is still three months away.

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Week Nine Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 31, 2008

Obviously my predictions need to be taken with a grain of salt, since I once again managed to be woefully incorrect on the World Series. ¬†I have to admit I really thought the two day layover in the middle of game five gave the Rays an advantage, but alas, the Phillies got the job done, and deserve all the credit for doing so. ¬†From the looks of the awful TV ratings, it seems as though I was about the only one to watch anyway. ¬†(The ratings numbers can’t have been helped by Saturday’s massive rain delay and accompanying 10 pm. eastern start time, or by the Barack Obama ad running on seemingly every channel opposite the conclusion of game five). ¬†Incidentally, not shockingly to those who know me, my TV was on the game, not on politics. ¬†I realize that’s not a choice people needed to make in most time zones where the game didn’t overlap, but it did where i live in the Mountain time zone. ¬†My viewing choice¬†would have been the same no matter what party was on the infomercial. ¬†Sports just flat trumps politics in my household, that’s the way it works. ¬†We all clear on this? ¬†Excellent! ¬†Now to the picks:

Last Week: 8-5 (.615)  Season: 71-44 (.617)

– Bills over Jets: Last week the Jets barely beat a Kansas City team that they were supposed to destroy. ¬†Frankly, Kansas City had the upset pulled off if not for some ultra conservative play calling by Herm Edwards on the Chiefs’ last possession they had with the lead, which resulted in a three and out, and allowed Brett Favre a chance to drive the Jets for a go ahead touchdown. ¬†The Jets have turned it over more times than their opponents in their past three games, and they’ve somehow managed to win two of them. ¬†That is not a recipe for success if it keeps up for the Jets. ¬†Buffalo meanwhile is coming off a surprising loss to Miami, and knows they must win this one to maintain their division lead with a Patriots showdown looming next weekend. ¬†I expect a big rebound game from Trent Edwards and I expect the Bills defense to force Favre into a couple of turnovers he won’t be able to recover from. ¬†Buffalo gets the win at home. ¬†

– Broncos over Dolphins: I know I seem to always fall into the trap of picking my team to win, but this is one that the Broncos should be able to get regardless of badly they’ve played recently. ¬†They are coming of a much needed bye week, they are getting injured players back (Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley, Selvin Young), and the running game will also get the added bonus of Ryan Torain’s much anticipated debut. ¬†If he is still available in your fantasy league, claim him now, because it’s only a matter of time before Torain is the starter. ¬†Torain was the talk of training camp before he got injured, and he should shine in Denver’s system. ¬†In any case, the Broncos offense should be able to get back on track in this game against a Dolphins pass defense that is ranked 25th. ¬†Miami did get the win last week against Buffalo, and should be able to run the ball with Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat formation, but they don’t have enough offense to keep up if Denver is clicking. ¬†The Broncos get a narrow home win.

– Jaguars over Bengals: I simply refuse to give up on Jacksonville. ¬†How this team is 3-4 is absolutely beyond me. ¬†If they can’t win their next two games (this one and the Lions next week), then I suppose there really is no hope for them. ¬†I still think the Jaguars will be a playoff team when everything is said and done, but they need Maurice Jones-Drew to be more dominant, and they need David Garrard to manage the game better. ¬†Jacksonville let a home game slip away against Cleveland, and they know that urgency is starting to settle in with the AFC race so tight. ¬†Going on to road to Cincinnati and all the empty seats that await is not intimidating, and the Jags’ defense shouldn’t have any trouble harassing Ryan Fitzpatrick or shutting down Cincinnati’s less than stellar running game. ¬†The Bengals’ passing game doesn’t have much hope either after Chad Johnson (or Ocho Cinco or whatever) and T.J. Houshmanzadeh have now both disappeared for weeks. ¬†Jacksonville wins in a laugher here.

РBrowns over Ravens: This should be a very good, low scoring, defensive game.  Baltimore clobbered the Browns in Baltimore week three, but this is always an emotional game for the Cleveland fans since the old Browns left for Baltimore in 1995.  Cleveland is playing infinitely better since that week three meeting, and gave a very impressive performance in Jacksonville that made me wonder if I wrote them off a little too early after their 0-3 start.  The Ravens have been very impressive too, and would actually be in playoff position if the season ended today.  Joe Flacco had by far his best game as a pro against the Raiders last week, and Willis McGhaee finally looks healthy.  That being said, if Derek Anderson can avoid costly turnovers against the Ravens defense, Cleveland will sneak away with a win in this one.  

– Texans over Vikings: In a mini-upset pick, I think Houston will continue their winning ways in the Metrodome. ¬†The Texans have now won three straight, and their offense has looked more and more impressive each week (I’m still kicking myself for stupidly cutting Matt Schaub in one of my fantasy leagues after week three). ¬†Houston’s passing game will cause all kinds of problems for a Vikings secondary that gave up 48 points to a less than explosive Bears offense before the bye. ¬†Minnesota has had a disappointing start and has certainly failed to meet the preseason hype, and they will be a desperate team playing in front of a raucous home crowd, but I just can’t see how they’ll be able to contain Houston’s offense. ¬†Even a huge day for Adrian Peterson may not be enough to keep up, and on a hunch I say Houston wins a close one at the wire. ¬†

– Packers over Titans: MAJOR UPSET ALERT. ¬†I’ve had a gut feeling on a couple of these this year (Cowboys-Rams being right at the top), and while I have by no means gotten them all right, I have a real gut feeling on this one. ¬†Tennessee has no doubt been the league’s best team with their 7-0 start, and they’re coming off a real emotional Monday night win against the Colts, and that’s why I sense a letdown here. ¬†The Titans have a day less preparation, while the Packers are coming off a bye and will be well rested and healthy. ¬†Green Bay is also two weeks removed from their big win over the Colts, so they won’t have that lingering in the rear view mirror anymore the way it’s still fresh for the Titans. ¬†The key for Green Bay is to avoid turnovers against Tennessee’s stout defense, but I think the Packers will be able to run with Ryan Grant. ¬†If they can, Aaron Rodgers should have an opportunity to make some plays. ¬†Tennessee is built to win a tight, low scoring game, but what if Rodgers has a big day? ¬†Can the Titans offense keep up? ¬†A hunch says Green Bay pulls the upset and knocks off the league’s last unbeaten team. ¬†

– Buccaneers over Chiefs: Needless to say, I am not picking an upset here, although the Chiefs actually did show a surprise pulse last week. ¬†They were actually able to run a little with Jamaal Charles, Tyler Thigpen gave a performance actually resembling an NFL quarterback, and the defense was able to force turnovers. ¬†The problem for Kansas City is that they’re about to face a Tampa Bay team that is hopping mad after they felt they gave one away in Dallas. ¬†The Buccaneers defense has been awesome all year, and Thigpen will find it much harder to move the offense against it than he did against the Jets. ¬†The Buccaneers’ offense has been up and down this year, but it seems like the trend should be up against the Chiefs. ¬†Jeff Garcia is a smart, veteran QB who will not be rattled by the Arrowhead noise, and the Bucs will be able to withstand the early Chiefs’ punch and have enough to pull away for a road win. ¬†

– Falcons over Raiders: Atlanta was needless to say screwed last week in Philly. ¬†Down by six with just over two minutes to go, and receiving a punt, this sequence ensued. ¬†Despite the fact that Adam Jennings clearly didn’t touch the ball, the refs said he did, and gave the ball to Philadelphia. ¬†Brian Westbrook sealed the Eagles’ win with a touchdown run two plays later, and the Falcons were robbed of a chance to potentially take the lead with plenty of time on the clock and roughly 60 yards to go. ¬†Since there was over two minutes on the clock, replay couldn’t be initiated by the booth upstairs, and the Falcons couldn’t challenge because they used their three timeouts to conserve time on defense while the Eagles were trying to get a first down. ¬†This is a ludicrous flaw in the challenge system: should the Falcons have been asked to save a timeout just in case of a blown call? ¬†Of course not. ¬†The challenge system does not take into account blown calls after all challenges have been used. ¬†This is a rant better served for another column, but the point is the Falcons gave a very admirable performance on the road in a hostile road environment, and by all rights may have had the game stolen from them, and I say they will be highly motivated to make a statement against the Raiders. ¬†Oakland looked awful in Baltimore (what else is new?), and it seems like the Raiders should already be trembling of the thought of a very angry, motivated Atlanta team. ¬†Oh, and the Falcons just happen to have more talent. ¬†Atlanta wins in the Black Hole, erasing the memory of a bad loss in Philadephia

– Giants over Cowboys: This NFC East rivalry always bears watching, particularly after New York’s playoff win in Big D last year. ¬†Dallas is still without Tony Romo for one more game (he is expected back Nov. 16 after next week’s bye), so the Cowboys certainly face an uphill battle in the Meadowlands. ¬†Dallas did sneak away with a much needed win against Tampa Bay, and could still find themselves 5-4 after the bye even with a loss here. ¬†Still, the Cowboys are in flux for this one, with Brad Johnson looking over his shoulder at Brooks Bollinger if he has a bad start to the game. ¬†The Giants continue to prove that their title last year was not a fluke, and that everyone who predicted them to miss the playoffs this year (and in many cases finish under .500) seriously missed the boat. ¬†The Giants showed a lot of guts picking up a win in Pittsburgh in a physical game where a lot of teams would have folded up. ¬†This one actually has the look of a blowout if the Giants continue to be able to run the ball effectively and pressure the quarterback they have all year. ¬†The Giants continue to flex their dominance in this one. ¬†Is a Mount TO eruption coming if he has another bad game?

– Eagles over Seahawks: Seattle came out of nowhere and blew out the 49ers last week, although that may not be saying much. ¬†(The Mike Singletary press conference video you’ve surely seen by now says it all about the state of things there). ¬†Given that, we’re not giving Seattle much credit for that one. ¬†Matt Hasselbeck is still out and so are most of his receivers, and that can’t be a good thing for Mike Holmgren’s club over the long haul. ¬†The Eagles showed how their offense is really dangerous when Brian Westbrook is healthy, and that’s another uh oh for Seattle. ¬†Even though the Seahawks are at home, that won’t be much help against the Eagles’ pressure defense, which is sure to have a field day against Seneca Wallace. ¬†Philadelphia is one of the best teams in the league when healthy, and they frankly should have no problem rolling here. ¬†

– Bears over Lions: This is my eliminator pick this week. ¬†Sure, the Lions showed some fight at home against Washington, but they folded like a house of cards when it counted. ¬†Chicago’s offense gave a complete performance against the Vikings before the bye, and the defense has been swarming. ¬†Even though the Bears have given up more points than usual, they’ve made up for it by forcing turnovers at key times and even scoring touchdowns. ¬†This is not good news for Dan Orlovsky, who has not yet shown he can handle pressure well. ¬†Couple that with Detroit’s inability to consistently run the ball, and the Bears defense should be in for a feast. ¬†Chicago is tied for the lead in the NFC North, and they know they need to win this one with a big game against Tennessee coming up. ¬†Chicago should win this one easily.

– Cardinals over Rams: This should be an entertaining game that actually has a lot of subplots. ¬†The former St. Louis Cardinals return to Missouri to play St. Louis’ current team, the Rams. ¬†Dick Vermeil, the coach of the Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl Championship team, is back to be honored in a pregame ceremony. ¬†Kurt Warner, the quarterback of that team, returns as a member of the Cardinals, and is having a great year to boot. ¬†Not to mention, the Rams are slowly showing signs of making a play in the NFC West, where no one has really managed to take control. ¬†The Rams gave great effort in New England last week and if nothing else showed they are not lumped with the dregs of the league. ¬†Arizona is the current leader, and they can extend that with a road win here. ¬†The Cardinals took a tough loss in Carolina last week even though they showed they could play with the Panthers on the road. (West coast teams are still winless when facing an early kick on the east coast this year). ¬†A couple of quick second half turnovers doomed Arizona last week, but their high octane passing game should have a big day indoors on the carpet at the Dome. ¬†The Cardinals continue to surprise with a hard fought win, and a happy homecoming for Warner. ¬†

– Colts over Patriots: Upset alert. ¬†The Sunday night game is one that for the past few years has easily been the league’s showcase game. ¬†These two teams have always battled at the top of the AFC, and had three memorable playoff meetings this decade. ¬†Some luster is taken off this year’s meeting with the absence of Tom Brady and the Colts’ struggles this year. ¬†The Patriots have shown a lot of gusto starting 5-2 without the league’s top quarterback, and came from behind to beat the Rams last week. ¬†As Matt Cassel feels more comfortable, big plays are starting to open up for Randy Moss and Wes Welker. ¬†Indianapolis is coming off two tough losses, but returns home and gets reinforcements. ¬†Top running back Joseph Addai and run stuffing safety Bob Sanders are both expected to be back Sunday night, and that will give the Colts a huge boost in a game they absolutely must win if they want any chance of staying in the AFC race. ¬†The rivalry nature of this game, and the desperation the Colts are surely feeling will be the swing factors as they pull off the upset at home. ¬†One thing is for sure, I know with absolute certainly that Peyton Manning will not allow himself three bad games in a row. ¬†

– Steelers over Redskins: The Monday nighter should be a great one, and it’s not because of the halftime interviews of Barack Obama and John McCain (in fact that should be an excellent time for a bathroom break). ¬†The Steelers lost a tough one to the Giants last week, and will be looking to rebound on a national stage. ¬†Washington is coming off a win over Detroit, but lost Clinton Portis to an ankle injury late in the game. ¬†He still rushed for 125 yards, and says he will be ready to go for the Steelers, but is he 100 percent? ¬†The Redskins have been one of the league’s top surprises at 6-2, and should be fired up for a Monday night game at home, but they haven’t faced a defense as physical as Pittsburgh’s since their week one loss to the Giants. ¬†Pittsburgh will have a fire in their belly as well, and will be able to run the ball with Willie Parker. ¬†If Portis is indeed beat up, the Steelers defense will smell blood in the water and force Jason Campbell to beat them. ¬†Campbell has played well, but a hunch says the Steelers D will be slightly better. ¬†Pittsburgh wins what should prove to be one of the best Monday night games of the year. ¬†I believe the Steelers and Redskins are both playoff caliber teams, and an interconference loss shouldn’t be crippling to either one. ¬†Keep in mind Washington already has all three division road games out of the way, which will really help them down the stretch.

BYE: Chargers, Panthers, Saints, 49ers

NOTE: Those of you need to submit picks and/or fantasy lineups before first kickoff, keep in mind that starting NEXT WEEK NOV. 6 the Thursday night games begin.  Make sure any picks and lineups are turned in accordingly.

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Baseball Chaos?

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 29, 2008

As game five of the World Series gets set to resume tonight, I am definitely intrigued.¬† Never before have we seen a World Series game get suspended due to rain.¬† I think I am one of the few out there that doesn’t blame Bud Selig for starting the game as scheduled Monday night.¬† The rain hadn’t come yet when the first pitch was thrown, and the forecast didn’t indicate that there would be enough precipitation to cause the playing conditions to go astray so quickly.¬† When the rain did come, everyone tried to make the best of a bad situation for awhile, until it got to the point where play couldn’t continue.¬† I don’t think anyone¬†would say it’s ideal to have a two day gap between the top and bottom halves of the sixth inning, but it is far preferable to the alternatives: handing the Phillies the title after a shortened five inning win, starting the game over, or forcing the action through unplayable conditions.¬†

I am intrigued to see¬†the three and a half inning shootout of sorts tonight.¬† It will be a sprint to the finish so to speak, with each team going to the bullpen right away.¬† Philadelphia gets the “advantage” so to speak of getting three extra outs to play with, since the game will resume in the bottom of the sixth.¬† It will be interesting to see if the Rays keep the momentum they gained by tying the game in the top of the sixth two days ago.¬† It will be interesting to see if the Phillies get the same lift from their home crowd the way they have this entire series.¬† It is needless to say highly unusual to see a game “started” with a pinch hitter, as will be the case tonight for the Phillies, unless they wish to have Cole Hamels bat and give the Rays a free out.¬† It is also interesting to note that the Rays figure to have all the momentum if they can sneak away with a win, with the final two games of the series awaiting back in front of their fans at Tropicana Field.

It is interesting to note that before a very recent rule change,¬†the Phillies would have been awarded the win even after the Rays had tied the score in the sixth inning.¬† I think Bud Selig seems to get a bad rap a lot of the time, for he is really being roasted here for allowing the game to start at all, and for allowing the game to be played in such conditions.¬† Selig certainly has had his dubious moments, but this is not one of them.¬† I applaud the decision to both start the game as scheduled, and the decision to stop it when they did.¬† Sure, a two day delay isn’t ideal, but it’s much better than seeing the champion decided by weather.¬†

For the record, my prediction still stands: the Rays will come back and win tonight, and they will win this series in seven.  The Phillies will feel the pressure tonight, and would not be able to recover from a loss tonight, facing the task of winning back in the Dome.

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World Series Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 22, 2008

I’ve said all along from day one that I would be first to be up front about erroneous predictions on my part.¬† It only seems fair if I’m going to call out others for being wrong.¬† In light of that, let’s look back at my baseball playoff picks.¬† Let’s just say that i only got one series right out of seven.¬† In an effort to save face, I offer a revised World Series prediction below.¬†

ALDS: Angels over Red Sox in five: The Angels were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and had everything clinched several weeks before the end of the season.  The Red Sox are not healthy. 

The Red Sox bats ended up booming in this series and proved to be the difference.¬† The Angels had chances, but couldn’t get the timely hit.¬† A¬†rare blown save by K-Rod in game two didn’t help¬†matters either.¬† ¬†

Rays over White Sox in four: Chicago has momentum, but they will have a letdown at Tropicana Field.  Tampa Bay’s surprise story continues, thanks in part to Carl Crawford’s return.

This is the only series I got right.¬† Tampa Bay’s young lineup was able to get the job done in this series (particularly Evan Longoria).¬†

NLDS: Brewers over Phillies in five: C.C. Sabathia is the difference for Milwaukee as the Brewers bats outslug Philly in a high scoring series.

Sabathia got shelled in game two and was essentially a non-factor.  Philadelphia clearly had the better offense in this series. 

Cubs over Dodgers in four: The Dodgers benefited from the Manny Ramirez trade, but the Cubs have the pitching and the emotion of Wrigley in the first two games.

Turns out the “emotion” of Wrigley was of a different variety.¬† Did the Cubs feel the pressure of the Curse?¬† We may never know, but the Cubs imploded at the wrong time, while LA was red hot.¬†

ALCS: Angels over Rays in seven: The Angels are deep, have a solid lineup, a terrific rotation, and a shut down bullpen.  Their experience is the difference against the young Rays.

The series between the Rays and Red Sox proved to be terrific.¬† As it turned out, Boston’s experience was not enough to overcome the young Rays.¬† Tampa showed a lot of gusto rebounding from their game five debacle.¬†

NLCS: Cubs over Brewers in six: The Cubs owned the Brewers during the regular season, and that continues in the playoffs.’

Philadelphia continued to amaze in the NLCS, beating the Dodgers even though Manny Ramirez hit over .500 in the series.¬† The Phillies proved that their offense can get the big hit even against a bullpen as good as LA’s.¬†

World Series: Cubs over Angels in seven: This would be one the best World Series matchups in a number of years.  The Cubs get it done because a 100 year drought seems long enough, and why not end it on a nice round number?

So maybe Phillies-Rays isn’t as sexy as a Cubs-Angels World Series would have been, but it will still be a very entertaining series.¬† Both teams can swing the bat, the Phillies featuring Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, and the Rays sporting the young guns of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.¬† Both teams stack up well with their rotation, the Phillies sporting Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, while the Rays can counter with Scott Kazmir and James Shields.¬† Philadelphia appears to have a slight edge in the bullpen with closer Brad Lidge, but the Rays may have found an answer for that role in David Price, who got the final four outs of the ALCS game seven against Boston.¬† Tampa Bay has home field advantage thanks to the American League winning the All-Star Game, and the Rays have been very tough to beat at Tropicana Field all year.¬† The Phillies have also been successful at home this year, and should have a raucous atmosphere for their home games, but the extra game at the Trop will ultimately be the sway factor for the Rays as they complete arguably the most surprising season in MLB history, completing their worst to first turnaround.¬†¬† Keep in mind also, the Phillies have been off for a full week while the Rays just wrapped up the ALCS on Sunday.¬† As the Rockies proved last year, the time off isn’t always a good thing.¬†

The Pick: Rays in seven.

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Week Seven Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 17, 2008

Before we get to the NFL picks this week, I have to admit that I didn’t watch the entire ALCS game last night between the Rays and Red Sox.¬† I turned the game off when the Rays entered the bottom of the seventh inning with a 7-0 lead and Scott Kazmir pitching a shutout.¬† Imagine my surprise when, a little while later, I flipped back expecting to see postgame reaction of the Rays victory, only to find the game had only progressed to the 8th with Tampa clinging to a 7-6 lead.¬† “NO! What the hell happened?”, I screamed to the room at large.¬† If you haven’t already guessed I am rooting for the Rays for several reasons, not the least of which is a refusal to root for the team that swept my Rockies in the World Series last year, but it also¬†has a lot¬†to do with rooting for the underdog.¬† Watching the rest of the game was exactly like watching a train wreck.¬† The Rays gave up¬†the tying hit on a Coco Crisp single in the 8th, then wasted an opportunity with two runners on in the top of the 9th, only to kick away the game on a throwing error by Evan Longoria and a walk-off single by J.D. Drew.¬† It would seem easy to blame the Rays bullpen for not holding the lead for Kazmir, but Boston does deserve credit.¬† Sure. David Ortiz had been in a slump, but he’s still David Ortiz, one of the best playoff clutch hitters in MLB history.¬† The Red Sox clearly got a tremendous¬†lift from the Fenway Park crowd, most of whom stayed for the finish.¬† (Side note: How dumb would you have to be to leave ANY playoff game early?¬† Seriously, if you leave a playoff game early, you should receive an automatic lifetime ban from the stadium.¬† If you’re going to bail out, give your ticket to a real fan who cares!¬† Sometime I would very interested to hear from fans who leave these games early, to find out what exactly they were thinking).¬† The energy provided by the fans who stayed gave Boston all the momentum they needed, and to their credit they capitalized.¬† From a fan’s perspective it will no doubt go down as one of the great games in MLB playoff history, but did it completely turn the series around?

This is the type of loss that really has to be devastating for Tampa Bay, considering they allowed the biggest playoff comeback since 1929.¬† This is a Red Sox team that erased a 3 games to 1 deficit against Cleveland in the ALCS last year and came back from 3 games to 0 against the Yankees in 2004.¬† Boston does not know how to quit, and even though the series is headed back to Tampa, the Rays won’t be helped by the legions of Red Sox fans that will surely be able to elbow their way into Tropicana Field.¬† What Tampa does have going for them though is James Shields on the mound tomorrow night, going against Josh Beckett.¬† Shields has been dominant all year for the Rays and actually pitched very well even in defeat in game one, while Beckett got shelled in game two and is clearly not healthy.¬† The key for the Rays is they need to quickly forget about how close they got last night, and remember this simple fact: to make the World Series they need to win one of two at home this weekend, where they have been nothing less than stellar all season.¬† That doesn’t seem so bad for Tampa now does it?¬† The fact is the Red Sox will not die quietly, and obviously deserve a great deal of credit for their comeback win, and the question is, can the Rays kick it back up a notch? It should make for great baseball this weekend, and I guarantee I’m not the only one hoping Tampa Bay can get the job done and complete their Cinderella season.

Now on to the picks:

Last Week: 8-6 (.571)   Season: 53-35 (.602)

– Bills over Chargers: This should be a fantastic game.¬† The Chargers looked like the favorites they were expected to be in trashing the Patriots last week, while the Bills come off a bye and will get the benefit of Trent Edwards back in the lineup after he suffered a concussion against Arizona.¬† San Diego should keep it close for a majority of the game, but the Bills will be highly motivated to prove they aren’t a fluke.¬† The Buffalo crowd will be fired up for this one, and that combined with the early kickoff time will spell doom for San Diego.¬† It’s a script that never seems to fail in the NFL: west coast team playing on the east coast in an early kickoff (10 a.m. pacific) = win for the home team.¬† The Bills gain legitimacy with a huge win.¬†

– Dolphins over Ravens: Both teams are coming off losses, but the Dolphins have not only the home field edge, but also know that Joe Flacco has not played well on the road for Baltimore.¬† In fact, the Ravens’ offense has been practically non-existenton the road this year, while Miami’s defense has played very well at home.¬† Miami continues to improve and is certainly one of the surprise teams in the league.¬† The Dolphins also continue to fool teams with their creative formations and plays, and they should be able to come with at least one play to surprise the Ravens’ defense and pull out a win in this low scoring affair.

– Jets over Raiders: It should not have come as a surprise to anyone that the Raiders’ coaching change had no impact, and likely made things a lot worse.¬† Oakland did nothing right in their loss to New Orleans, and even a return home to the Black Hole will not help.¬† The Jets are in the midst of¬†an easy¬†part of the schedule and¬†have not wasted any time taking advantage.¬† Brett Favre has unequivicably¬†proven he can still play at a very high level, and he seems like he’s getting more and more comfortable in the offense each week.¬† The Jets win what should end up being a yawner.

– Steelers over Bengals: How bad is it in Cincinnati right now? ¬†This¬†should give you a pretty good idea.¬†¬†This means there could well be more terrible towels in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday then there will be Bengals fans.¬† The Bengals¬†once again start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, which gives them about a 0.10% chance to win against anyone, even at home.¬† Factor in Chad Johnson being unhappy as usual, and the fact that they’re playing the Steelers, and well, that chance goes down to about 0.00000000001%.¬† Pittsburgh¬†has absolutely owned the Bengals¬†for the past few years anyway, let alone when¬†Cincinnati is a complete mess.¬† Even¬†if Willie Parker can’t play, Pittsburgh should win this¬†in their sleep.¬† ¬†

– Redskins over Browns: This one is certainly tricky after Cleveland’s spectacular effort on Monday night and the Redskins’ surprising loss to St. Louis.¬† This game will go a long way toward helping us find out a lot about both teams, as both really need the win to stay in their respective division races.¬† Clinton Portis should be able to continue running well for Washington, but the Browns also seem like they have finally found their offense again.¬† Perhaps Derek Anderson will continue to play well if he knows he’s not liable to be yanked for Brady Quinn at any time.¬† That being said,¬†a hunch says that Jim Zorn and his staff will not allow Washington to drop two home games in a row, and for that reason I take the Redskins, but you might as well flip a coin here.¬†

РTexans over Lions: Houston finally picked up a win last week, and that should really give the Texans confidence heading into this one.  Houston is in the midst of something you never, ever see in the NFL: they are entering game three of a four game homestand, and five of six at Reliant Stadium.  This came about because of rescheduling needs due to Hurricane Ike, but with the remaining home games all winnable (the Bengals and Ravens remain on the home stretch), Houston seems likely to make a big, big move in the AFC.  Even though Houston started 0-4, and even if that proves to be too much to overcome, the Texans will be a major player in the AFC race.  As for Detroit?  This play says it all.  The countdown to next year has already begun.

– Colts over Packers: The unquestioned game of the week.¬† Indianapolis finally looked like themselves last week, and there was even a Marvin Harrison sighting!¬† Green Bay slugged their way to road win in Seattle, and will obviously benefit from a return to Lambeau Field.¬† The Packers have played reasonably well considering the slew of injuries they’ve been dealing with, and it stands to reason that Ryan Grant should be able to gain 100 yards against a defense that has had trouble stopping the run without Bob Sanders.¬† This seems to be the consensus¬†anyway even though the Colts completely shut down Baltimore’s running game last week.¬† Still, a great game like this often comes down to the quarterbacks, and I’ll take a (now healthy)¬†Peyton Manning over Aaron Rodgers 100 percent of the time.¬† The Colts have debunked the myth for several years now that they can’t win away from the Dome, and they get an important road win here¬†to get back on track.¬†

– Titans over Chiefs: It seems as though Days of Our¬†Lives has made its stop in Kansas City this week.¬† Tony Gonzalez remains with the team after they refused to honor his trade request, and Larry Johnson will not suit up for the Chiefs because he violated team rules this week.¬† Kansas City playing one of the best defenses in the league without any threat of a running game? ¬†Case closed, the only question here is how much the Titans will win by.¬† Besides, Johnson rushed for only¬†two yards on seven¬†carries last week against the Panthers, so is Kansas City really missing anything anyway? ¬†Then again, every time I say the game is a guaranteed blowout¬†we have an upset or near upset (see the Minnesota-Detroit game last week, which the Vikings barely won).¬† You could make the case that Kansas City will benefit from the Arrowhead crowd, but really, do you see the Titans imploding here following a bye week? I sure don’t.

– Rams over Cowboys: MAJOR UPSET ALERT.¬†¬†The Cowboys have struggled for three weeks now, getting a win only because they got the gift of a home game against the Bungles.¬† Dallas does not know¬†who will start at quarterback.¬† Will it be Tony Romo with a broken pinkie finger, or Brad Johnson?¬† How will new receiver Roy Williams fit in?¬† His presence should make it interesting to see how Mount TO will be affected.¬† The Dallas secondary is also in shambles, as they will be without Pacman Jones and Terrence Newman.¬† I sense a huge passing day for Marc Bulger and Torry Holt, who is waiting to break out after a really slow start.¬† How quickly the mighty have fallen, I have a hunch that St. Louis wins this at home, being that they’re playing much harder for new coach Jim Haslett.

– Giants over 49ers.¬† This is not a good week for San Francisco to be making the trip east.¬† The same thought from the San Diego-Buffalo game about a west coast team and an early east coast kick also applies here, but¬†a larger factor is the Niners will be facing a really angry Giants team.¬† The defending champs know they laid an egg in Cleveland, and they’ll be out for blood on Sunday.¬† The 49ers have shown some spunk offensively, mainly thanks to Frank Gore, who should really be getting the ball more, but their defense won’t have any answer for a motivated Eli Manning and company.¬† The Giants also know they enter the really tough part of their schedule and need to win this game.¬† This should be another blowout in the Meadowlands.

– Bears over Vikings: Both teams are 3-3, and both have been really up and down in the early part of the year.¬† This should be a really tight, low scoring, defensive game, which gives the Bears an edge, especially at Soldier Field.¬† Kyle Orton has actually been playing pretty well for the Bears, and I actually give him a slight edge over Gus Frerotte in the quarterback battle.¬† The deciding factor could very well be turnovers, and both defenses are capable of forcing mistakes from the other team.¬† I go with Chicago primarily because they’re playing at home, and I would probably take the Vikings if the game were in the Metrodome.¬† The winner of this game will¬†have at least a share of¬†the lead in the NFC North.¬†

– Panthers over Saints: This should be a very entertaining game in the NFC South.¬† Carolina will be highly motivated after getting blown out last week, while the Saints are on a roll coming off a blowout win.¬† Both offenses are capable of lighting it up, with Reggie Bush and Steve Smith usually stealing the show for their respective teams.¬† New Orleans should get star receiver Marques Colston back, which will clearly help their offense.¬† Carolina will be looking for a better effort from their running back duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, plus they hope¬†Mushin Muhammad will be healthy enough to play.¬† The difference in this game is likely to be Carolina’s motivation factor playing at home, and Smith should be able to outshine Bush, but not by much.¬† Carolina wins a squeaker.¬†

– Buccaneers over Seahawks.¬† This game could very well be second fiddle in the central Florida area if the Red Sox and Rays are playing game seven at Tropicana Field Sunday night.¬† If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see what kind of crowd is on hand for Sunday Night Football at the pirate ship.¬† Tampa Bay in any case should have little trouble winning easily, with a defense that is suffocating as always under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.¬† Seattle continues its musical chairs at quarterback with Seneca Wallace likely to get the nod after Charlie Frye struggled last week and Matt Hasselbeck still at least a week away from returning.¬† Lots of quarterbacks is never a good thing, and the Bucs defense is licking its chops in excitement.¬† The fact that Jeff Garcia is healthy and playing well again can’t hurt either.¬† If there is an ALCS game seven, Tampa sports fans at least shouldn’t have to worry about the football game after the first quarter.¬† Tampa Bay by at least three touchdowns in this one.

– Broncos over Patriots: The Monday night game this week is a really good matchup of two teams coming off a loss.¬† Denver should get some reinforcements with the return of Eddie Royal and likely Tony Scheffler, although Brandon Stokley is questionable with a concussion.¬† The Broncos defense has struggled against the run, but the Patriots have really struggled to run the ball in recent weeks.¬† Going with one of the weekend themes of looking at quarterback play, how can anyone possibly go with Matt Cassel over Jay Cutler?¬† Partially on that note, the Brandon Marshall has a better chance for a big game than Randy Moss because Moss will be matched against Champ Bailey.¬† The deciding factor here is actually history: the Broncos are the only team in the NFL with a winning record against the Patriots since 2000.¬† Denver has actually won five of its past six games against New England, including three in a row.¬† Mike Shanahan is 8-3 against the Patriots and Bill Belichick is just 2-9 against Denver.¬† So even in the height of the Patriots’ dynasty, they still always struggled against Shanahan.¬† Now that New England is clearly down without Tom Brady?¬† The Broncos get a much needed win entering the bye week.¬†

BYE: Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Arizona

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Days of Our Lives in the NFL, plus Baseball Playoff Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 1, 2008

I realize I am stating the obvious that the Oakland Raiders have been the NFL’s official soap opera for at least the last five years.¬† Is it possible to feel sympathy for a loathed division rival?¬† Is it possible the Raiders have become so bad and so embarrassing that it’s impossible to hate them anymore?¬† It’s certainly not possible to feel that way¬†for Al Davis, who clearly doesn’t have the faintest clue how to run a team anymore.¬† As long he’s in charge, the Raiders will never again be even remotely good.¬† The almost comical part is how Davis deflects blame onto everyone but himself, and always has.¬†

Yesterday Davis dismissed Lane Kiffin, who it is very easy to feel sorry for after reading this letter¬†Al Davis sent to him before their week two game in Kansas City.¬† Everyone knows Al Davis is an owner who is intimately involved in EVERY personnel decision, so it seems very hypocritical of him to pin the botched signings of Javon Walker and D’Angelo Hall on Kiffin, when everyone knows Davis pulled the trigger on the signings.¬† Especially in the case of Walker, it was obvious that was destined to fail.¬† He didn’t come to camp in shape, his personal life is a mess, and he’s coming off a second knee surgery in three years.¬† Yet, they guaranteed him $16 million.¬† How is that Kiffin’s fault?¬† That’s strictly on the owner.¬† It is equally comical that Davis is critical of Kiffin for not wanting to draft JaMarcus Russell, who has been anything but spectacular in his limited action this year and last.¬† (Anyone else think Davis misfired by not taking Adrian¬†Peterson last¬†year instead?¬† Yes, they got a good back in Darren McFadden this year, but that wouldn’t have been needed had they taken Peterson).¬† The point is, Al Davis has always made the final call on personnel decisions in Oakland, so it is very difficult to believe Davis that he has nothing to do with the organization being in the dumps.¬†

Why anyone would want to coach the Raiders is absolutely beyond me.¬† Kiffin is now the fourth coach fired by Davis since 2003.¬† That’s four coaches in four seasons (plus four games).¬† Um, anyone else think there is a pattern here that something is really wrong there besides the head coach?¬† The Raiders have no coaching stability since Jon Gruden left for Tampa before the 2002 season (is it coincidence his Buccaneers torched the Raiders in the Super Bowl the next year?).¬† Bill Callahan lasted two seasons, with the Raiders going absolutely in the tank in 2003 after the Super Bowl loss.¬† Norv Turner coached for two seasons before getting fired in 2005 after an awful 9-23 stretch over two seasons.¬† Then Art Shell lasted one year, finished a woeful 2-14, before Kiffin finished 4-12 last year and got fired after a 1-3 start this year.¬† The fact is Al Davis doesn’t allow his coaches to coach, despite what his letter to Kiffin may indicate.¬† There is a clear pattern here that his pressence is the problem in the Raiders organization.¬†

Now, this is not to say that game day coaching hasn’t been a factor in the Raiders’ slow start this year.¬† They blew a big fourth quarter lead in a loss at Buffalo, and then had a 15-0 lead against San Diego late in the first half before this sequence.¬† The resulting poor clock management resulted in a 76 YARD FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT.¬† Obviously, that’s insane that such a thing would even be attempted for several reasons, but that’s not really the point.¬† The point is the Raiders had a chance to extend their lead and didn’t, and ended up blowing a fourth quarter lead to the Chargers.¬† That being said, the pressure as head coach of the Raiders, and more specifically working for Davis, has to be stressful beyond belief.¬† The fact that something as crazy as a 76 yard field goal was even attempted is a reflection of the soap opera nature of the Raiders organization, and not specifically on Kiffin’s head coaching ability.¬†

There is some irony here, considering Davis fired Mike Shanahan as head coach four games into the 1989 season.¬† It is interesting to note that Shanahan lasted exactly as long as Raiders coach as Lane Kiffin: 16 games.¬† Davis is trying to say he fired Kiffin for cause so he doesn’t have to pay him, which is not surprising considering Davis still owes Mike Shanahan $250,000 that he has not paid to this day.¬† Shanahan has made Davis pay by routinely beating the Raiders during his tenure as coach of the Broncos, yet Davis has still not seemed to¬†learn his lesson.¬† I am reasonably convinced that Kiffin will latch on somewhere in the league, probably not as a head coach right away, but he will get another opportunity to prove himself in the league.¬† It is quite clear that Kiffin being fired is not in any way a reflection of his head coaching ability.¬† The coach of the Raiders is essentially a yes man to Al Davis, who in spite of what he says, no doubt has his hand in the till in regards to key organization decisions, possibly right down to game plans.¬† As I say, why anyone would want to coach the Raiders is absolutely beyond me.¬† Anyone who takes that job is automatically destined to fail because Davis is running a joke of an organization.

As a side note, the Rams are not near as much of a soap opera as the Raiders, but their coaching change does not lack drama.  Scott Linehan angrily yanked Marc Bulger from the starting quarterback slot and gave it to Trent Green before the Buffalo game last week.  The Rams played hard, and actually had a lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Bills ended up pulling away.  Players said later they were upset with the Bulger benching, and it seemed like no one was on the same page.  Now, Jim Haslett has been installed as the interim head coach after Linehan was dismissed.  This despite Haslett being in charge of a defense that has surrendered 30 points every game so far this season.  Haslett has already re-instated Bulger as the starting QB, so it will be interesting to see if the drama continues in St. Louis.  Will either of these coaching changes make a difference?  Maybe, maybe not, but I am sure that Kiffin and Linehan will not be the last coaches to be fired this season. 

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In spite of the fact that my Colorado Rockies reverted to their form prior to last year and flamed out well before September, I offer my picks for the baseball playoffs that begin today:

ALDS: Angels over Red Sox in five: The Angels were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and had everything clinched several weeks before the end of the season.  The Red Sox are not healthy. 

Rays over White Sox in four: Chicago has momentum, but they will have a letdown at Tropicana Field.¬† Tampa Bay’s surprise story continues, thanks in part to Carl Crawford’s return.

NLDS: Brewers over Phillies in five: C.C. Sabathia is the difference for Milwaukee as the Brewers bats outslug Philly in a high scoring series.

Cubs over Dodgers in four: The Dodgers benefited from the Manny Ramirez trade, but the Cubs have the pitching and the emotion of Wrigley in the first two games.

ALCS: Angels over Rays in seven: The Angels are deep, have a solid lineup, a terrific rotation, and a shut down bullpen.  Their experience is the difference against the young Rays.

NLCS: Cubs over Brewers in six: The Cubs owned the Brewers during the regular season, and that continues in the playoffs.

World Series: Cubs over Angels in seven: This would be one the best World Series matchups in a number of years.  The Cubs get it done because a 100 year drought seems long enough, and why not end it on a nice round number?

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