Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Derek Jeter is Overrated, and 2014 Baseball Playoff Picks

The entire 2014 baseball season, and particularly the last week, became “Let’s push Derek Jeter as the greatest baseball player ever”. That might be a slight exaggeration, but I couldn't flip on the sports programming over the last week without hearing that. But the Derek Jeter insanity goes back further than that. Let me take you back to a time just before the season started. I was sitting down watching ESPN First Take (I know, I know, what was I thinking? Skip Baseless and Screamin’ A. Smith yelling at each other about a bunch of nonsense and Tim Tebow for two hours? I’d rather be hit in the temple with an ice pick than ever be subjected to that crap again), and the “Embrace Debate” question was, “Who was a better player in his sport, Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning?” Obviously, it was Peyton Manning. He’s going to hold all the passing records when he retires, he’s the greatest regular season quarterback of all time, and he’s a five time league MVP. Skip sided with Manning, but he couldn’t articulate a single coherent point as to why he did. Screamin’ A. took Derek Jeter because not only did he wish that he and Jeter could have a child together, but also because Jeter has five rings, and Manning only has one.




That may be the single dumbest thing any sportswriter has ever said. Jeter’s better because he has five rings? He plays baseball, a sport where he’ll probably only get three or four at bats a game, coupled with the fact that he’ll stand in the field of play for nine innings and maybe only have five or six balls hit his way. Couldn’t I argue that the team’s entire pitching staff is way more important than everything that Jeter brought to the table? Jeter played for the New York Yankees for 20 years, a team that constantly pumped money into the team, and were willing to spend and spend and spend no matter the cost, because they just had more money than everyone else. That’s why they won championships. They had so many great players. Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens (who juiced, but still), Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina, A-Rod (also juiced), Paul O’Neill, C.C. Sabbathia, etc. The list goes on and on and on. The media would make you think that Jeter pitched, caught, played every position in the field, and hit 800 home runs every game. It’s just not true.


And before you think, “Oh, I guess Matt doesn’t care about winning”, please don’t. I do care about winning. I want my teams to win, and the goal of team sports is to win. But if you just say, “This player is better than this guy because he has more championships”, that’s silly. By that logic, Ben Roethlisberger was a better quarterback than Dan Marino, and Steve Kerr was a better point guard than Steve Nash. Does anyone agree with that? Of course not. It takes a detailed analysis of a guy’s career to determine if he was better than someone else. It’s just lazy to use ring arguments, and it demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the history of the game.


You know who Jeter is a lot like actually? Kobe Bryant. Their careers have spanned about the same amount of time, both guys played for the most popular and marketable franchises in their sports, both their front offices have been willing to constantly pump money into their teams, and both guys have had this “winning” and “super competitive” narrative pushed their entire careers. And they’ve both been given way too much credit for their teams’ success, and are overrated historically. Kobe is not one of the 10 greatest NBA players ever. He’s never had a season in which he shot over 50% from the field, his stats are worse in the playoffs than they are in regular season, and he’s been surprisingly unclutch (or anti-clutch) throughout his career (in his playoff career, in games with 10 seconds or less, on shots that could tie or take the lead, the Black Mamba is a shockingly low 5 for 22. That’s a paltry 23%. For comparison, LeBron, who apparently doesn’t have the “clutch gene”, is 6 for 14 on such shots. That’s 43%.). He got bailed out multiple times throughout his career by his teammates (he shot 6 for 24 in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, yet the Lakers found a way to ugly it up and win, he’s shot below 42% in the NBA Finals for his whole career, and he also played with Shaq for 8 years, who was the best player on those first three title teams), yet the media would never tell you any of that. They just continue to perpetuate the “he’s a killer, he smells blood in the water, he’s the Black Mamba, a five time champion who’s super clutch, etc.” narrative. 


We can talk in more detail about Kobe later, but what does that have to do with Derek Jeter? Much like Kobe, the narratives around Jeter have always been stronger and more powerful for how we feel about him as a player than his actual play on the field was. We love Jeter because he was a “winner”, and because he hustled (his play at the plate against Jeremy Giambi is one of his most memorable, or the two iconic times when he crashed into the bleachers on the third base side. You can watch those here and here). Never mind the fact that he never won a league MVP, or that he’s had limited range at shortstop for at least the last 7-8 years. He was a good looking dude, he had a cool name (seriously, his name just reeks of athleticism), he made some really amazing hustle plays, had some clutch moments (at least more than Kobe. Jeter did rightfully earn his clutch reputation. His career World Series batting average is .321, with two World Series in which he hit over .400), and he played for one of the most popular franchises in the world, for 20 years, during the internet boom and the age of expanded media.


Please don’t misconstrue this as me saying Jeter sucks and shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer. That would be ridiculous. Of course he should be. He was a great player. However, on Friday, I wrote that Jeter wasn’t one of the 5 greatest Yankees of all time. Rather than just have you take my word for it, I thought I'd lay out Jeter’s numbers, as well as the stats of the guys I think are better players.


Babe Ruth: 22 years; 2,873 hits; 2,214 RBIs; .342 Batting Average; 714 Home Runs; .474 On Base Percentage; .690 Slugging Percentage; 1.164 OPS (on base plus slugging) no league MVPs (modern award wasn’t awarded until the 1931 season, when the Sultan on Swat was past his prime. Ruth won the 1923 League Awards MVP, but, according to the rules of that award, he would be ineligible to ever win it again. So he couldn’t win it despite his legendary 1927 season); 2 time All Star (would’ve had more, except the All Star game didn’t begin until 1933), one time American League batting champion; 12 time AL Home Run Champion; 6 time AL RBI Champion; at the time of his retirement, was the home run king, and held that record until Hank Aaron passed him in 1974.


Lou Gehrig: 17 years; 2,721 hits; 1,995 RBIs; .340 Batting Average; 493 Home Runs; .447 OBP; .632 Slugging; 1.080 OPS; 1 League Awards MVP and 1 Modern MVP Award, 7 Time All Star (like Ruth, was hurt by the fact that the All Star game did not begin until 1933, but he made it every year from 1933 until his retirement in 1939); won the Triple Crown (leading the league in hits, RBIs, and home runs in one season) in 1934; 3 time AL Home Run Champion; 5 time AL RBI Champion.


Joe Dimaggio: 13 years (lost 3 full years to military service); 2,214 hits, 1,537 RBIs, .325 Batting Average; 361 Home Runs, .398 OBP; .579 Slugging; .977 OPS; 12 time All Star; 3 time AL MVP; 2 time AL Home Run Champion, AL Batting Champion, and AL RBI Champion; has a baseball record 56 game hitting streak.


Mickey Mantle: 18 years; 2,415 hits; 1,509 RBIs; 536 Home Runs; .298 Batting Average; .421 OBP; .557 Slugging; .977 OPS; 16 time All Star; 3 time AL MVP; 4 time AL Home Run Champion; 1 time AL Batting Average Champion; 1 time AL RBI Champion.


Yogi Berra: 19 years; 2,150 hits; 1,430 RBIs; 358 Home Runs; .285 Batting Average; .348 OBP; .482 Slugging; .830 OPS; 15 time All Star; 3 time AL MVP.


Derek Jeter: 20 years; 3,465 hits; 1,311 RBIs; 260 Home Runs; .310 Batting Average; .377 OBP; .440 Slugging; .817 OPS; 14 time All Star; 0 AL MVPs


As you can see, Jeter’s stats are inferior to these five players. He is the Yankees’ all time leader in hits, and his batting average is greater than Mantle’s and Berra’s, but he comes up short everywhere else. He doesn’t make up for his comparative lack of batting with his work on the bases (358 career stolen bases, or 17.9 a year). It’s also important to point out that Jeter played 244 more games than Babe Ruth, who played the second most games out of everyone I listed. All those extra games allowed Jeter to bolster his numbers (and yet, he's still short of those other guys in a lot of ways, despite the sheer number of games he played). Heck, Jeter played 631 more games than Yogi Berra did! I grant that he’s better than Ruth in the field, but other than that, I don’t see how anyone could look at the numbers and come to the conclusion that Jeter was better than these 5 guys. I’d even argue that Mariano Rivera is a better player than Jeter. I know he’s a closer, and he isn’t on the field as much as Jeter was, but he was the most dominant force in baseball for 15 years. Nobody could hit that guy. His postseason ERA in 32 career series was .70. .70! That’s insane. And I didn’t even mention that he’s a 13 time All Star and has 652 saves. He’s the greatest closer ever, and he had a better career than Jeter.


I’d stick Jeter at 7th in Yankee history, just above Whitey Ford. And I could even be convinced to change that. Whitey was really good.


Like I said before, Jeter’s a great player. He’s a Hall of Famer. But did he, based on his career, deserve the type of send off and celebration that he received? Based on his numbers, I’d say no. But if you based it on how popular he was, then maybe. However, I don’t care how popular someone was. I care about what they consistently did on the field or the court for their entire career. Jeter’s a great player, but let’s not forget the legends that came before him. Let’s not allow what’s fresh on our mind, or what every media outlet tells us dictate how we feel about someone’s career. I appreciate everything that Jeter did. I’m glad he played as hard as he did, and I closely followed his career ever since I could throw a baseball. He’s one of the few players that really mattered over the last 20 years, and he didn’t cheat the game and the fans by using steroids. I appreciated that, and I was overjoyed that someone in baseball was playing clean. But is he the greatest player to ever lace up the spikes? No, of course he isn’t. And let’s not forget that.


Now, I promised a week ago that I’d write about the baseball playoffs. I know a lot of people my age and younger would rather watch paint dry than watch baseball on TV, but believe me when I tell you that the baseball playoffs are exciting. Every pitch matters. I think it’s great drama, and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. Give it a chance. If you aren’t doing anything tonight, flip over to TBS at 8:07 and just watch. If you have to do homework, just leave it on while you’re hating your life because you have to write some boring research paper, or while you do some pointless math homework.


Now I must admit, back in July, when the Tigers made the trade for pitcher David Price, I thought for sure we’d have a Tigers-Athletics ALCS, one that would be a pitching duel for the ages for all 7 games. Well, Price didn’t help the Tigers as much as I thought he would, and the A’s faded badly down the stretch, as they went 16-30 in their last 46 games. They surrendered their double digit lead in the AL West to the Angels, who ended up winning that division by 10 games. The A’s still pitched really well, but they stopped hitting, and since they traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester on July 31, they were shut out 7 times. Pitching is the most important thing in the playoffs, particularly having power arms, which the A’s still have. Still, I would pick them to beat the Royals tonight, except there’s such potential for Oakland to show up, get three hits, strike out 15 times, and lose 1-0. So I can’t pick them. Even though pitching is the most important thing in the playoffs, you also have to be able to manufacture at least a few runs here and there. Oakland can’t do that. Even if they win tonight, they won’t beat the Angels in the ALDS. They have no bats. The Angels have plenty.


On the National League side, I think the Nationals and Dodgers are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Washington has the best team ERA in baseball (3.03), and the Dodgers are 6th (3.40). Plus, Los Angeles has Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, the guy who should be the National League MVP. I hate counting out the Cardinals, just because they always seem to get a hit when they need it, or they get a great pitching performance from someone, but they have to play the Dodgers in the NLDS, and I think the Dodgers are going to the World Series. I believe in the power of Kershaw. I recognize that the Dodgers’ rotation is a little shaky after Kershaw and Greinke, and the bullpen isn’t great (they’re 22nd in the league in bullpen ERA), but if Kershaw and Greinke are at least good in all of their starts (which I believe they can be), they get a solid start here and there from someone else in their rotation (which isn’t asking too much really), and the bullpen can get into a little bit of a rhythm during the playoffs, I think they’ll be fine. They’ve got more legitimate hitters than anyone else in the NL (they’re 4th in baseball at 4.4 runs per game), and they’ll have two of the best three starting pitchers in that series. Kershaw hasn’t been great in the postseason in his career yet (1-3 record, 4.23 ERA), but he’s had such a monster year (21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts, 6 complete games) that I think he’s just going to come out and dominate everyone who comes into his path. The Dodgers will make it to the World Series.


On the American League side, I’m looking at Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels over Orange County or whatever they heck they’re being called now as the teams that make it into the ALCS. I jumped off the Detroit bandwagon because their pitching didn’t turn out to be as good as I thought it would be (24th in team ERA, 27th in bullpen ERA), as opposed to Baltimore (7th in team ERA, 6th in bullpen ERA). Miguel Cabrera had his worst year in quite some time, and Justin Verlander clearly isn’t as good as he was 2 or 3 years ago. The Angels pitching is average (15th in team ERA, 14th in bullpen ERA), but they’ve got enough sticks (Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton) to win in the ALDS. Pitching rules though, and that’s why I’ll stick with Baltimore to win the American League. As exciting as an all Los Angeles World Series would be, I just have to side with the team that’s got the better pitching, which is Baltimore. The Orioles have a league leading 211 home runs, which is a little concerning because teams that hit a lot of home runs normally strike out a ton, and strike outs are the worst possible out, but I see that pitching staff locking in and limiting the Angels bats, allowing for Baltimore to advance to the World Series.


In the World Series, I’ll stick with the Dodgers and the power of Kershaw. The American League has the home field advantage in the World Series because of the stupid All Star game rule, but that ultimately won’t matter. LA is just better. They’ll get it done for the first time since 1988. I’ll stick with the Dodgers.


Like always, feel free to comment, and please share this with someone. And watch the baseball playoffs! It’s great television. Enjoy it, you deserve it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Week in Football: A Devastating Loss for the Vols, Dallas Dominates, and Brady Hoke is Gone

It was a rough Saturday for me, as Tennessee lost a close, contested game to Georgia for the fourth year in a row. It was completely devastating. It wasn’t Derek Dooley devastating, meaning you have the realization after the game that the Vols suck, they have no hope of ever turning it around, and maybe I should just smother myself with a pillow tonight so I never have to watch this team again. This one was different, as it was more of a sigh of frustration, followed by wondering, “When is Tennessee going to get this thing turned around? When are they going to win a big road game against a ranked team again?” I just have to remember to be patient, because this is just Butch’s second year, but I hate it. I’ve been patient for years. That’s all I heard the entire time Dooley was the coach. I guess the difference is I still have hope. I still believe in Butch. Every Vol fan lost hope with Dooley.


Speaking of Tennessee football, the only person who had a worse weekend watching the game than me was my Angry Old Man. Throughout the entire game he was just yelling a bunch of nothing and trying to scream about how angry he was while he was shoving down a mouthful of Doritos. I was only able to catch one coherent thought, which was, “Since Tennessee went to the T Formation in 1964, Nathan Peterman is the worst quarterback in the history of the program! If I was running the program, I’d pull his scholarship and kick him to the curb tonight! Where’s Josh Dobbs? Why aren’t they playing him? Also, you’re adopted. We found you in a snow bank in the Ukraine.”


Sheesh. That’s one of the angriest questions he’s ever yelled at me. However, despite his yelling and eating, he did make 2 interesting observations….


  1. Nathan Peterman was awful. As soon as he came in the game, it changed everything. I cringed every time he dropped back to pass. I knew he was going to have any time to throw the ball, because the offensive line had more holes than Swiss cheese. Their only semi-decent drive with Peterman ended when he fumbled on a botched quarterback-running back exchange. Before Justin Worley got injured, and after he returned, the Tennessee offense looked like a real college offense, and they moved the ball on Georgia. With Peterman, it was awful. Matt Simms never played that bad in a Vol uniform. If Worley ever gets injured again during a game, I’d rather Tennessee throw punter Matt Darr out there to play QB than roll the dice with Peterman ever again. He wasn’t quite as bad as he was against Florida last year, but he was just abysmal. Please please please never let him step foot on the field again. I don’t care if we have to run the Wildcat the entire game. Just not Peterman.
  2. Tennessee is in big trouble at the quarterback position next year. Worley will be gone, and there isn’t any incoming freshman that they’ve recruited who will be able to step in next year and play right away. I thought Josh Dobbs was the perfect type of guy to run Butch’s offense, someone who could both run and pass. But he’s their 3rd string guy! Nathan Peterman played before him! Obviously the coaching staff isn’t high on him, or they would’ve put him out there, maybe even to start the season. Who is going to play quarterback for this team next year? That position is so important, and I’d hate to see all this young talent go to waste because they could never find the right guy to play it for them. I’m shocked they haven’t been able to recruit one of these 4 or 5 star dual-threat quarterback recruits. Just tell him, “When you step on campus for practice for the first time, you’ll instantly be the best quarterback to run the type of system we want to run. You’ll probably be able to start from day one. Oh yeah, and you’ll also get to play in the best conference in all of college football, against the best players and teams every Saturday”. Isn’t that enough of a recruiting pitch right there? They need a quarterback. I hope they can recruit one. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a Marcus Mariota or Braxton Miller type guy in Knoxville? Of course it would.


I can’t even think about Tennessee football right now. It’s too frustrating. I’m cautiously optimistic about the Florida game this weekend. I’ve felt like this since the game in 2011. We’ll see what happens. But more on this game later in the week.


There are no Dominant Teams in College Football


Everybody looks vulnerable, and I have no idea who is going to end up in the playoffs. Last year it was Florida State, who didn’t play a close game all year until the BCS Title Game against Auburn. This year, the Seminoles struggled with Oklahoma St, Clemson, and NC State. Oregon struggled to put away Washington State. Alabama struggled against West Virginia, and Florida played them pretty equally for a half. How good is Auburn? I have no idea. In their only test of the year, they got outplayed by Kansas State, yet still found a way to win. Texas A&M still has the most impressive win of the year (the season opening beat down at South Carolina) but their defense is awful. I’m pretty sure Nathan Peterman could light them up. We’ll learn a lot about Notre Dame this weekend when they host Stanford, but I don’t think they’re a great team. I had given up on UCLA, but they finally put it all together and completely destroyed Arizona State. However, the Bruins still stunk for 3 games before their dominating win on Thursday night. Oklahoma has probably been the most impressive team thus far, but they haven’t played a ranked team yet. Everybody else that is a playoff contender has a loss (or is Ole Miss. I believe in Buddha more than I believe in the Rebels as a legit SEC contender. They’re going to lose by at least 17 points at home against Bama on Saturday). This is just a wild season. Every single team can lose to anyone on any Saturday. There are no dominant defenses anymore, and now, with all the rules favoring the offense, almost every single team (except Michigan) can score points. NC State scored 41 on Saturday. 41! Every defense will probably get lit up at some point this year. Even Stanford’s D might struggle with an opponent, and they’re the best in the country. It’s so hard to hold onto leads, and it’s so easy for teams to come back. This weekend will be important for a lot of the playoff contenders, as a lot of them (particularly in the SEC) are involved in high profile games against really good teams. We’ll learn a lot about those teams this weekend.


Goodbye Brady


I have a better chance of leaping off the roof of my house and flying than Brady Hoke does of keeping the head coaching job at Michigan. He’s got no shot. They are so bad, and they haven’t even been competitive against the best teams they’ve played (Notre Dame, Utah, Minnesota). There’s no debate. He’s going to get the axe, probably at the end of the year. So who will the Wolverines bring in? Jim Harbaugh has to be at the top of their list. He’s a Michigan man (he played there), which apparently is really important to everyone involved, plus he’s won everywhere he’s been. He turned Stanford, one of the worst programs in the country when he got there, into a national title contender, and he instantly transformed the culture of the 49ers when he arrived in San Francisco. They’ve been to three straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl since he got there. He’s a great football coach. I have no doubt he’d be a slam dunk in Ann Arbor. But I don’t know how realistic that is. I know there’s been all these rumblings after last season about how he and the Niners front office don’t get along, and they weren’t able to agree to a new contract in the off-season. After this season, Harbaugh has one year left on his deal. There’s no way he’ll go into next season as a lame duck head coach. He’s either going to get a new deal from the Niners after this year, or he’s walking. If he doesn’t get a new contract, then maybe Michigan is a realistic option for him. However, I think he and the Niners are going to eventually going to sit down and agree to something. It would be incredibly stupid for personalities to get in the way of a team bringing back the right guy to be in charge of their locker room. Of course, that’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. I’m betting it won’t though. So where else will Michigan look? Les Miles has got to be second on that list. He’s a great coach, and he’s a Michigan grad. Miles makes 4.3 million dollars a year. Couldn’t Michigan, with all its boosters and revenue generated by the athletic department, offer him 6.5 million a year, while also selling him on, “Come home and win big at your alma mater” message? I think they could. Of the two guys, I think Miles is way more realistic. If they don’t get him either, then I’m not sure where they’d go. They’ll probably end up hiring someone from a mid major that had a nice year.


Now, onto the NFL…..


The Dallas Cowboys are good?????


I thought this would be the game that Dallas finally turned back into Dallas. But it didn’t happen. The Cowboys were dominant from the start, and they never took their foot off the gas. They never gave Romo a chance to screw it up. They have one of the best offensive lines in football, they’ve finally committed to pounding the football on the ground with DeMarco Murray, and they’ve got one of the best five receivers and tight ends in football (Dez Bryant and Jason Witten). They could have a really good offense if they are able to stay healthy, and pray that Romo doesn’t make terrible decisions with the football (I know, that’s impossible. It would be like watching an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta and suddenly becoming smarter and more well-spoken). I’m still not a believer though. I’ve seen too many legendary screw ups and choke jobs from the Cowboys over the years to believe that they’re actually legitimate contenders. They’ll turn back into Dallas at some point. For now though, they’re tied for first place in their division.




Aaron Rodgers was the man yesterday. He made amazing throw after amazing throw, and he reminded everyone (including me) just how good he is. He’s the best quarterback in football, and he might be the best and most important player in the NFL. I love Phil Rivers and Peyton Manning, but not even they could’ve made some of the throws that Rodgers made yesterday. I still don’t think Green Bay has turned the corner yet though. They’re still the 3rd best team in that division. Detroit is really, really good, and I still think Chicago has a better roster than them. Then again, the Packers have owned the Bears over the past few years. Green Bay is 10-3 in the regular season against Chicago since Rodgers took over as the starting quarterback, and they also beat the Bears in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Rodgers owns them.


So where does this leave the Pack? I’m still not a fan of this team. Unless they get to play the Bears every week, I still see this team at 8-8 or 9-7. They can’t expect Rodgers to play like he did yesterday (302 yards, 4 TDs, no sacks) every game. He is mortal. They still don’t run the ball well, and that defense is not good. I applaud Rodgers for his play yesterday, but Green Bay just has too many holes in their roster to make the playoffs. They depend too much on Rodgers to save them every week.


San Fran Saves Their Season


This was a must win for the Niners. A 1-3 start would’ve been a nail in the coffin for this team, as historically only 14.5% of NFL teams that start out that way make the playoffs. But it would’ve been more than that. It seemed like that locker room was coming apart. The team was facing adversity, the coaching situation was up in the air, Kaepernick was playing horribly, and the team was murdering themselves every week with penalties. They needed this game, and their defense delivered for them, as they shut out the Eagles offense. I realize that Philly was missing 4 of its 5 starting offensive lineman, but Philly had been lighting up everyone all year. That Niners defense dug in and bullied the Eagles all day. They shut down Shady McCoy (17 yards on 10 carries), punched Nick Foles in the mouth, and played like the 49ers of the last three years. Plus, they took their fair share of body blows in that game (blocked punt in the end zone that was recovered for a touchdown by the Eagles, a Michael Jenkins pick-six, and a Darren Sproles punt return for a score), and yet, they stayed on their feet and kept fighting. They showed me something this week, and I’m buying some stock in San Fran again. We’ll see what happens against Kansas City next week.


So enjoy the Monday Night Game tonight. And then watch the baseball playoffs that start tomorrow. Give the sport a chance. I love the playoffs. It’s great drama, and every pitch matters. I’ll be writing about that and Derek Jeter tomorrow. Be sure to check it out! Like always, I appreciate everyone who read, feel free to comment, and please share this with someone.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tennesee WILL Beat Georgia, Tony Romo WILL Blow it, and Game Picks

Football has returned to our living rooms for another weekend, and I couldn’t be happier. I was glad to hear ESPN and other media outlets actually talk about GAMES and TEAMS (I know, what a concept) this week instead of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson all day every day. After all, isn’t that what most of us care about anyway? I love sports because of the games and the players, and I tune into ESPN to hear them talk about those things, not to see Ray Lewis talk about the things you can cover up and things you can’t. However, apparently it was “Derek Jeter is the greatest athlete in the history of sports” week at ESPN, which was annoying, because he’s not (he’s not even one of the 25 or 30 greatest baseball players ever, or one of the five greatest Yankees. But more on that next week). However, at least they were talking about a players’ on field performance. That was so refreshing to listen to, because that’s why I watch sports. I watch for the players and the teams and the games. And I’m glad they’re here again this weekend.


Now, onto the games….


College Football


The college game has given us a few more interesting games this week. Then again, they hit rock bottom with the number of important games the last two weeks. Now I’m not saying there weren’t exciting games, but you knew it was going to be an unimportant week when there were a combined THREE GAMES over the last two weeks that pitted two ranked teams against each other. This week only has one, which happened yesterday in that UCLA-Arizona St game, but just trust me when I tell you that the level of importance is much higher this week. Actually, you don’t have to trust me, because I’m going to tell you about it.


#16 Stanford over Washington


I love Stanford to such a degree that I’m almost uncomfortable writing about it. I’m not a fan of the team by any stretch of the imagination, but I love the way they play. They are so physical and tough; it’s almost like they have an entire team full of guys who have swapped brains with Marshawn Lynch. Just like Lynch, they want to punch you in the mouth, physically intimidate their opponent, and they don’t care to make it ugly. And, yes, I intentionally italicized the ugly, because I don’t know if you’ve seen a picture of Lynch or not, but that dude makes Rosie O’Donnell look appealing. Just look at these pictures.


Anyway, I realize they’re traveling to Washington, but do we even know if the Huskies are any good? This is their first true test of the season, and they have to play the nation’s stingiest scoring defense (Stanford only allows 4.3 points a game). I think the Cardinal are one of the most underrated teams in the country. Everyone has sort of forgotten about them because of their early loss to USC, but they’re still an excellent team. Washington doesn’t stand a chance. Stanford will Marshawn Lynch-it-up early and win by double digits.


Missouri over #13 South Carolina


Yes, yes, I realize Missouri is coming off a terrible loss to a bad Indiana team, the same Hoosier team that lost to Bowling Green. It was inexcusable. That was a worse loss than the time when the “Andy Griffith Show” lost Don Knotts. And yeah, I know that pop culture reference is about 50 years old, but I had to throw that one out there for my older readers. A lot of them have probably been reading this blog over the last few weeks and thinking things like, “Kardashians? Isn’t that one of OJ’s lawyers?” or “What the heck is a Honey Boo Boo?” And if you do know anything about the “Keeping up with the Kardashians” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, I’m sorry. They don’t make your life any better, just worse. Much, much worse actually.


Anyway, I still like Missouri this weekend. They’ve got great receivers, a legitimate QB in Maty Mauk, and they’ll have the best defense in that game. I’m not a fan of South Carolina at all this year. They got their doors blown off by Texas A&M, East Carolina hung around with them the entire game, and they made Vanderbilt look like a semi-competent SEC team (which they aren’t). Yeah, I give them credit for the win over Georgia, but the Bulldogs blew that game by not handing the ball to Todd Gurley on three straight times on 1st and goal from the 4 yard line. I try not to overreact to every bad loss. Sometimes a team loses to someone they should beat, a team that they are way better than. Missouri is still very good. I like them to bounce back in a big way this weekend and win.


Tennessee over #12 Georgia


I’m going to admit this up front, this is a little bit of a homer pick. Georgia is the better team. A few things to keep in mind though:


  1. Georgia’s defense is terrible. Dylan Thompson threw the ball all over them in the South Carolina game, and they even struggled early to stop Troy’s passing game, though they buckled down and won 66-0. I like the way the Vols have thrown the ball this year, and they’ve got some nice, strong, physical receivers. Justin Worley, besides his two end zone picks against Oklahoma, has been really solid this year. He’s at least as good as Dylan Thompson right? And I feel like Tennessee is similarly skilled at the wide receiver and running back position as South Carolina. They’ll be able to move the ball the entire game. Tennessee will have to stop the run, which will be a huge task, because Todd Gurley might be the best back in the country. But if they can limit Georgia’s running game at all, then it comes down to Hutson Mason, a guy with only 3 games experience, to win the game for them.
  2. The score (34-10) in the Oklahoma game didn’t tell the entire story. Tennessee, despite the fact that Worley got blasted again and again by Oklahoma’s pass rushers, actually played well. If Worley doesn’t throw those aforementioned end zone picks, Tennessee is down only 27-24 or 27-20 in the 4th quarter, instead of 34-10, meaning they’d have a chance to win the game. The Vols played really well in that game. They competed the entire night. Plus, they won’t have to face a Georgia pass rush that’s anywhere close to as good as Oklahoma’s.
  3. Georgia is one of the few teams that hasn’t blown out Tennessee every year the last few years. Even Dooley’s teams (excluding his first year) competed with the Dawgs. The Vols lost 20-12 in 2011, 51-44 in 2012, and a heartbreaker in overtime last year, 34-31. In every single one of those games, if Tennessee had made a few extra plays, or caught a few more breaks, they would’ve won those games. In 2011, in Marsalis Teague wasn’t starting at corner, playing his revolving door defense, Tennessee might have won that game. In 2012, Cordarrelle Patterson dropped a wide open pass (there was no one within 20 yards of him) in the first half that would’ve given the Vols a touchdown. And last year, Pig Howard fumbled through the side of the end zone as he was trying to reach for the pylon in overtime. That fumble gave Georgia the ball back, and they kicked the winning field goal. At some point, the Vols are going to have to catch a some breaks in this game right? They’ve played Georgia so close the last three years. I think this will be the year. I believe in Butch, I believe in this team. They’ll get it done on Saturday.


Other college picks:

#15 Arizona St over #11 UCLA (whoops, I whiffed badly on this one. More on the Bruins on Monday)

#24 Oklahoma St over Texas Tech

#6 Texas A&M over Arkansas

#1 Florida St over NC State

Kentucky over Vanderbilt

#22 Ohio State over Cincinnati




This is the first week of the NFL season in which teams have a bye. The Seahawks, Broncos, Cardinals, Bengals, Browns, and Rams are all off this week. I know, only 4 of the best 5 teams (at least according to my rankings) in the league. Still though, the NFL has delivered some interesting games, so, in celebration of that, we’ll run through all the NFL games this week. Also, just so you know, I had the Redskins over the Giants last night. I know, I know, I’m off to a stellar 0-1 start. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.


Texans over Bills


I don’t feel great about this one, because I still don’t really have a feel for how good the Texans are yet. They dominated the RG3 led Redskins in Week 1, blew out the Raiders in Week 2, and then were put down hard by the Giants last week. I wrote last week that the Texans were the most logical and obvious team to be this year’s Kansas City Chiefs, a team that somehow finds itself 8-1 after nine games, only no one is really sure how good they are, because they haven’t had to play any of the best teams in the league yet. I still think that, and that’s why I’ll take them this week. Buffalo’s impressed me this year, and they kept it relatively close against San Diego last week. And I really like EJ Manuel, though most people say he’s erratic and inaccurate. This will be a close game, probably low scoring, but Houston will find a way to gut it out and win close.


Ravens over Panthers


I’ve flipped on the Steve Smith Bowl about 500 times this week. I hate overreacting to losses, like the one Carolina had on Sunday night, but that game was decided almost completely by the fact that Cam Newton had almost no time to throw the ball the entire night. Pittsburgh has rushers in his face the entire game. Baltimore’s got a better front seven than the Steelers do, and I feel like they’ll be able to create at least similar pressure this week. Carolina is still banged up at running back, and Cam has no great weapons on the outside. The Panthers D is still really good, but if they break a few times (and I think they will), Carolina won’t be able to score enough to keep up with Baltimore. Plus, I think Steve Smith is going to have a monster game this week for the Ravens. At least, he better, because this is his game. It’s been named after him. I see at least 2 touchdowns and 125 receiving yards for him this week. I hate picking with Joe Flacco though, particularly against a great defense, just because I feel like he’s always got the potential to go Romo Jr. and throw some debilitating interceptions. But I’ll cross my fingers, close my eyes, and roll the dice with the Ravens this week.


Bears over Packers


I’m not a believer in the R-E-L-A-X message that Aaron Rodgers was pushing this week on a Milwaukee radio station. If I was in Packerland, I would be freaking out. This team isn’t good. No running game, no pass rush, bad tackling, etc. The list goes on and on. It’s all on Aaron Rodgers to make all the plays for them. And I like this Bears team a lot. They’re great offensively. Isn’t it weird that the Bears have a great offense, yet they are average defensively? That’s the exact opposite of how they’ve been for almost their entire franchise history. That would be like the entire cast of Jersey Shore, during the last season, deciding that they actually wanted to do something productive with their lives. It just wouldn’t be right, or make any sense. But enough about crappy reality shows. Green Bay’s strategy every week is, “We need Aaron Rodgers to make 700,000 plays every week for us to win” and whenever that’s the case, I’ll stick with the other team, particularly when that team is better.


Jets over Lions


My upset special of the week. If this game was in Detroit, or the Lions were coming off a loss last week, I would pick the Detroit without thinking twice. But the game is in New York, and the Lions dominated the Pack last week. They always play poorly off a big win (see Week 2, when they were dismantled by Carolina after their big win in Week 1 on Monday night against the Giants), and the offense is worse outdoors. Plus, the Jets run the ball really well, and they have an excellent defense (1st against the run, second in yards allowed). I just don’t trust Matt Stafford or the Lions in a big spot following a win. The Jets will slog it out.


Speaking of the Jets, can everyone just chill out with all this Michael Vick nonsense? Let Geno figure it out. It’s his second year, and he’s only played three games! You drafted Geno for a reason, now let him go out there and play. That’s the only way he’s going to get better. Let him take some bumps, and let him make some mistakes. See if you’ve got a potential franchise quarterback in him. Don’t trot out Vick just because you think he gives you a better chance to win. It’s not like if you started Vick, he’ll suddenly take you to the Super Bowl or something. He won’t. He probably won’t even be able to stay healthy. Let Geno play. See what you’ve got there.


Colts over Titans


I might be off the Jake Locker bandwagon. He can’t consistently be accurate with football. The Titans were the biggest jokers of Week 1. They looked so impressive, but ever since then, they’ve done everything they can to make everybody forget that. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t love this Colts team either. They are the Packers of the AFC, meaning it is Andrew Luck or bust. But they’re better than the Titans. Much better. Colts will win easily.


And seriously, how lucky are the Colts? I know this has been touched on before by many people, but how lucky do you have to be to land two great, franchise changing quarterbacks both times that you get the number 1 pick? How were they so lucky that they went from Manning right to Luck? So many franchises (Browns, Bears, Cardinals, Lions, Jets, etc.) searched for years for a franchise QB, only they always swung and missed with every guy they drafted or traded for. Indy has used up all its good fortune and luck for the next 100 years with those two draft picks. I hope they appreciate it.


Dolphins over Raiders


The Raiders are probably the 2nd worst team in the league. They’re old and bad, and Dennis Allen probably won’t be around next year. It’s just a mess in Oakland. It’s like a Sharknado has constantly been ripping through that front office for the last decade. I don’t love the Dolphins either, but they’re better than the Raiders, even with all the controversy surrounding Ryan Tannehill and the quarterback situation.


Speaking of this game, why is the NFL sending this garbage match up to London? I mean seriously? Raiders-Dolphins? That’s what the Brits are getting? No wonder the league isn’t popular around the world. They get the Raiders, a team that hasn’t competed (and really has no hope of competing), and the Dolphins, who have been bad to mediocre the last 4 years. Why not throw them a bone and give them another game? You know, one where both teams actually have a chance of making the playoffs? But don’t give them Raiders-Dolphins. That sucks.


Steelers over Bucs


How did anyone think that Tampa Bay was going to be good this year? Is it because they hired Lovie Smith as their head coach? Or because they had Josh McCown starting at quarterback? Whatever it was, they’re just awful. Pittsburgh is super banged up though, so much so that they even signed James Harrison this week, who was three levels beyond washed up the last time we saw him play. They’ve lost Ike Taylor for at least 6-8 weeks, and they’ll miss Jarvis Jones for a while with a dislocated wrist. Tampa’s got to win a game at some point right? They won’t go 0-16. But they won’t get that first win this week. Pittsburgh’s injuries will allow the Bucs to hang around a little bit more than they probably should, but the Steelers will ultimately win. Tampa is just so bad.


Chargers over Jags


The Chargers are going to win. That’s really all I need to say about that. If you thought Oakland and Tampa Bay were bad, then you haven’t seen Jacksonville. They’ve played well for one half this year, when they led the Eagles 17-0 in the first half in Week 1. Since then, it’s been all bad. They lost that game 34-17, and then proceeded to get blown out by the Redskins and Colts the following two weeks. Honestly, I have no idea how the Jags are even still in Jacksonville. They’re so bad, and they’ve got no fan support. Nobody really cares if they’re good or not. They just trot out bad team after bad team year after year, and no one is really upset about it, because it’s the Jags and no one goes to those games. If the NFL ever ends up putting a team in Los Angeles (and I think they will), Jacksonville will be that team that ends up relocating there.


Falcons over Vikings


The Teddy Bridgewater era really goes into full effect this week, as he’ll start for the first time. I’m not a huge Bridgewater fan, but I think he could end up being a solid starting quarterback at some point. I’m a little disappointed that Cordarrelle Patterson hasn’t had a bigger impact this year yet, but that may have been a result of having Matt Cassel throwing him the ball. We’ll see if Bridgewater and Mike Zimmer make getting Patterson the ball a more important part of their game plan this week. Even still, Minnesota isn’t beating Atlanta this week. Offensively, particularly through the air, Atlanta is elite. How are the Vikings going to cover all of their weapons? I don’t see how they will, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Bridgewater struggles a little bit and throws a few picks. Plus, I actually really like this Atlanta team. They’ve impressed me more than anyone in their division. I’ll take Atlanta this week.


49ers over Eagles


This was the toughest call of the week for me. It really was. The 49ers haven’t scored any points in the 4th quarter this season, and they either murder their chances to win with destructive penalties, or Colin Kaepernick blows it by throwing picks or making horrible decisions. The only reason I’m sticking by the Niners this week is because the Eagles will be without four of their five starting offensive lineman this week. Plus, Philly doesn’t have the athletes on the defensive side of the ball to make the Kaepernick pay when he makes a bad decision with the ball. For the last time this year, I’ll stick with the Niners. I’m betting on their past reputation and their pride. If they have any left still in that locker room, they’ll gut it out, and find a way to win on Sunday.


Saints over Cowboys


It’s always a good rule of thumb to pick against the Cowboys, particularly when they’re coming off a huge comeback win, and the country starts to get behind them and say things like, “You know what, maybe the Cowboys aren’t all that bad” or “Wow, they really look like they know what they’re doing offensively”. But what have we learned about Dallas these last few years? Every time Cowboys’ fans think they’ve figured it out, they find a way to break their heart. It will happen again this week. New Orleans will get to play on the turf in Jerry World, which means they’ll be able to move the ball easily on offense, and we’re still waiting for that Romo game this year where he throws like 2 or 3 debilitating interceptions. I thought it would be last week against the Rams, but I forgot one important detail; there is a positive correlation between awful, self destructing Romo games and games that are on national TV. The bigger the game, the more likely it is that Romo will kill his team with a few terrible throws. And when you add in the fact that everyone in the media is starting to get behind the Cowboys, coupled by the fact that Dallas is coming off a huge comeback win, there’s almost no way that Dallas will win on Sunday Night. It’s just in the character and personality of the team.


Pats over Chiefs


Finally, the Monday Night game. I hate this New England team. They more limited offensively than they’ve ever been. Gronk doesn’t look like the same player, and it seems like they have less weapons on the outside than they ever have. I mean, they struggled to put the Raiders away last week, and Oakland was a late holding penalty away from tying that game. But let’s not forget that they’re playing the Chiefs, a team that may be without its best offensive player (Jamal Charles), one that is quarterbacked by Alex Smith and coached by the King of Clock Mismanagement, Andy Reid. The Chiefs aren’t good. Let’s not forget that. New England isn’t either, but when I’m unsure about a game, I always go with the team that’s got the best coach-QB combo. That’s clearly the Pats. They’ll win this week.


Like always, I appreciate all who read. Feel free to comment, and please share this with someone. More importantly, enjoy football this weekend. You deserve it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Week in Football: Mississippi State is Really Good, NFL Power Rankings, and the Return of My Angry Old Man

Another important and exciting weekend of football has almost come and gone, and it’s a shame. It’s nice to know that from Thursday night to Monday night, no matter what happens during my day, I can always come home, flip on the TV, and watch some football. It’s like a good friend that’s always there for you. Thank goodness for the Monday night game.


College Football


Mississippi State is Really Good


I was more shocked than a death row inmate in the electric chair that Mississippi State dominated LSU on Saturday. I couldn’t have envisioned a scenario where MSU would go in there and play as well as they did. LSU was 43-3 in home night games under Les Miles. When LSU scooped and scored on the first possession of the second half to cut the lead to 17-10, I thought, “Oh, Mississippi St just had a really good first half, but now LSU is going to start to open it up”. But they didn’t. Dak Prescott was the man all night, as he threw for 268 yards, rushed for 105, and scored three total touchdowns. Clearly, they are much better than I thought they were. However, I’m not going to overreact to one huge win and declare that they’ll win the SEC West. They have a bye week, followed by two home games against Texas A&M and Auburn, only two of the best 6 teams in the country. On November 15th they travel to Alabama (ranked #3), and on the last day of the season is the Egg Bowl, one of the great college football rivalry names, against Ole Miss (ranked #10). So the schedule isn’t going to get any easier. Mississippi St doesn’t have as many athletes as any of those schools, and it wouldn’t shock me if they lost all four of those games. The league is just that good. And that’s the tough thing about the SEC. It’s hard every week when you have to go against great coaches every week like Les Miles, Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, and Derek Mason (whoops, actually not Mason. In fact, you should be overjoyed when you see him on the schedule). Even Kentucky has a legitimate head coach. The schedule is just absolutely brutal every single year. So MSU might actually be really good. They might be the best team in the Big 10 if they were in that conference. But they aren’t. That’s just life in the SEC.


Virginia Tech is done as a Player at the National Level with Frank Beamer


Frank Beamer has done a great job at Virginia Tech. He made that program into what it is today. He’s the reason they are relevant on the national level. However, what I’ve seen from them the last three years has been nothing but mediocre. They’ve had back to back years at 7-6 and 8-5. This year, after one of the program’s biggest and most emotional wins in recent memory, the victory over #8 Ohio State in Columbus, they’ve followed it up with two losses at home to East Carolina and Georgia Tech. The Hokies have never recruited the best athletes in country, but they were always one of the best coached teams in the country, and they played Beamer Ball (great defense and special teams). Now, they don’t even do that. And they haven’t for the last 3 years. Beamer is 67 years old. I don’t think he’s too old to be the coach of a Division 1 program, but he has to lose a step at some point right? Maybe he already has. They still seem to be recruiting the same type of athlete, but they don’t look as well coached. They make way more mistakes now than they did five or ten years ago. Do Beamer and his staff just not spend as much time “coaching them up” as they used to? It wouldn’t shock me. They just don’t look as solid as they used to. It’s hard to have the same fire and intensity for something as you get older. Maybe Beamer is satisfied more easily than ever. He just might not have the energy like he did before. I’m not saying they should fire Beamer, but I don’t expect them to win a conference, or even a division title, again as long as Beamer is patrolling the sidelines.




This week, I’ve decided to do something different with the NFL, which is power rankings, in reverse order, from 10-1. I’ll do this periodically throughout the season.


10. Detroit Lions (2-1)


Detroit has taken care of business at home, and that’s why they slide into the top 10. They dismantled the Giants in Week 1 and shut down Green Bay in Week 3. I like their physical defense, and at home, that offense looks really good. Reggie Bush looks 3 steps faster on that turf, and Matt Stafford goes from making decisions like a rebellious, angry, know-it-all 16 year old on the road to a wise old soul at home. He’s just way better at home. They’ve also got the best receiver in football in Megatron. I’d also feel better about this team if they didn’t have emotionless Jim Caldwell on the sidelines. Jim would probably react the same way to winning the Super Bowl as he would to being informed by doctors that he would have to undergo a quadruple amputation. Just that same, forward blank stare. Speaking of Caldwell, has there ever been a team in sports that has hired two complete opposites as head coach back to back? Jim Schwarz was like the Seattle’s 12th man of NFL coaches. Caldwell is like the Jaguars fan base. He looks like he couldn’t care less.


9. Carolina Panthers (2-1)


Yes, yes, I realize Carolina got dominated like the opponent against a young Mike Tyson last night, but I still love their defense. It’s one the few physical and nasty units left in the NFL. I hate their offense though. I’d wish they’d open up the playbook a little bit more, though Cam Newton didn’t exactly have any time to throw the ball yesterday. Pittsburgh brought 5 or 6 guys on a blitz the entire game, and they’d get in Cam’s face and deliver shot after shot after shot. I mean, Cam took some blows last night. He didn’t even finish the game. They don’t have any great weapons on offense (Kelvin Benjamin is a talented player, but he’s not a franchise receiver yet), but that defense is still there. It will keep them in some games, and enable them to win some games that they probably shouldn’t. For now, they stay at number 9.


8. Chicago Bears (1-1)


I want to put the Bears higher, but I’ll keep them at eight for now, just because they’ve only played two games. I’m probably higher on them than most, but the defense showed me something last week, and I love their offense. There are a lot of people who don’t like Jay Cutler, but I’m a fan. His only problem has really been his inability to stay healthy, which honestly isn’t surprising, considering all the hard hits he took last week against the 49ers. They have two huge, physical receivers (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery), which is even a bigger advantage in this, “We don’t care about defense, and are going to make every single new rule favor the offense” era of the NFL. If the offensive line can be a solid brick wall instead of a revolving door and keep Cutler from taking shot after shot to the sternum, I like this team to win the division. But I have my doubts about that, so I’ll leave them at number eight.


7. Atlanta Falcons


This might be a slight overreaction to their Thursday night thrashing of Tampa Bay, but I do like this team. The defense is just ok, but they’re going to be able to put up points on almost anyone. Matt Ryan is very good, and they’ve got 4 game breakers on the outside (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Devin Hester, and Harry Douglas). They went toe to toe with New Orleans, who I think are actually pretty decent despite their slow start, and won, and despite the fact that they were getting dominated by the Bengals in Week 2, they somehow managed to stay in the game for the most part. They’re at the Vikings and Giants the next two weeks. I wouldn’t be shocked if they’re 4-1 after five games. I like this Falcons team a little bit.


6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)


These next six teams are a step above all the others. I have Philly ranked at sixth because as much as I love that offense, I don’t like their defense, and they’re also a missed pass interference call away from losing to the Colts and being 2-1. I know that sounds nit-picky, but we’re in the top 6 now, and I have to be able to distinguish between all these teams somehow. Plus, I feel like they have the least impressive resume of the teams I have ranked above them. I like what Darren Sproles brings to that offense, and I’m happy to see Jeremy Maclin back having a great year after he tore his ACL. And Nick Foles is a solid QB. It’s hard to punch holes in a team that’s started 3-0, but I just don’t like them as much as the other five I have ranked above them.


5. Arizona Cardinals (3-0)


Arizona might have the best defense in the entire league. They’ve held their opponents scoreless in the 4th quarters of the first three weeks. They’ve beaten the Chargers and the 49ers at home, and won in New York against the Giants. They have some game breakers on offense, and the O-line is solid. The only thing I don’t like is their quarterback situation, though Drew Stanton has been solid the last two weeks. Eventually they’ll get Carson Palmer back at QB though, who I actually like much better. They have a bye week coming up, and then a huge showdown in Week 5 against Denver. But as long as that defense plays like they have, they won’t have to worry about who they have playing quarterback.


4. Denver Broncos (2-1)


The Broncos showed me something yesterday. I fully expected them to go into Seattle and get physically dominated, but that defense punched back, and Denver started to move the ball on the Seahawks at the end of the game. I thought the game was over when Cam Chancellor intercepted Manning, but Denver drove 80 yards with no timeouts left and less than a minute remaining to tie the game. They also weathered many potential storms, like Montee Ball’s early fumble and Manning’s aforementioned late interception to stay in the game. They showed me a toughness I didn’t think they had. One concern for me though is actually Manning. Since the next surgeries, particularly in cold weather, Manning’s ball has sort of fluttered through the air. Yesterday, a day in which weather wasn’t a factor at all, Peyton had some particularly weak throws, including the one Chancellor picked off. Granted, he had some strong throws, particularly on the last drive of regulation, but there were so many ducks and balls that lacked a tight spiral. He is close to 40 years old, so it’s understandable, but if he’s struggling to throw powerfully down the field on a warm day in September, imagine what it will be like for him on a cold January day with biting wind in the playoffs. It’s something to keep an eye on for sure.


3. San Diego Chargers (2-1)


I love the Chargers. That solid, physical defense, coupled with Phil Rivers, is enough for me. They’ve got two of the most impressive wins in the early part of the year, the win over Seattle in Week 2, and their cross country victory in Buffalo yesterday. They don’t run the ball all that well, particularly with Ryan Mathews missing the next few weeks with an MCL injury, and they might be without Danny Woodhead for the rest of the year, but I still love this team. Rivers is one of the best 5 QBs in the league. He’ll cover up some of those holes until Mathews comes back.


2. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0)


They’ve got a great roster, a great defense, and some awesome playmakers. The only question with Cincinnati is the same one they’ve had over the last 3 years, which is “Can we even win a playoff game with Andy Dalton at quarterback?” Honestly, I’m not sure. If Dalton plays well, they’ll represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. And I say that as someone who is a bigger fan of the Chargers than just about anyone. That’s how talented this team is. But we’ll have to see what happens when we get to January. The Dalton question is why I like San Diego better. I have doubts about Dalton playing well in a high pressure playoff game. I don’t with Rivers. I’ve seen Rivers go on the road in the playoffs and play great. I’ve seen him gut out a torn ACL and play against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. I know he’ll show up and play well. I don’t know what I’m getting from Andy Dalton. For now, though, the Bengals are number two in my power rankings. But that might not matter come January.


1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)


Seattle took Denver’s best shot late in that game yesterday, and still found a way to win. It’s not like they played their best either. They weren’t able to physically pound Denver like they’ve been able to do against so many teams before. And there were open Bronco receivers running everywhere during the 4th quarter. Then again, they only really allowed the Broncos to drive on them one time the entire game, which was the last possession of regulation. I’d argue that Seattle just relaxed a little bit on that last drive, because mentally, they thought they’d already won after Cam Chancellor picked off Manning. Pete Carroll was celebrating on the sidelines like he’d won the powerball. I’m sure the rest of the team felt the same way. But then they had to go back out there, Manning made some nice throws, they lost some guys in coverage, and Denver scored quickly. But they composed themselves in the overtime period and drove down the field for the winning touchdown. That impressed me. If they get the one seed, and I think they ultimately will, I still don’t see any team going in there and winning in Seattle during the playoffs. It’s just so hard to deal with the cold weather, the crazy 12th man, and the Legion of Boom. They’re going to get everyone’s best shot throughout the year, but they’re so talented I think they’ll persevere. For now, they’re still the best team in the NFL.


I saw my Angry Old Man the other day, and I could tell that he had been stewing on something for a long time. There is one sport that old angry people love more than anything, and he couldn’t help but yell and scream at me about.


This weeks Angry Old Man question is as follows, “Why don’t you ever write about baseball? It’s probably because all you dang kids these days only care about what’s hip and what’s fast, and you have no appreciation for a 4 and a half hour 1-0 baseball game. Also, when are you going to get your life together and stop disappointing me? That’s been a constant problem for you honestly”.


I’m sure many of you can see the anger in that writing. Sheesh. I shudder when I think about it. I’ll probably start writing about baseball as soon as the post season starts. I like baseball, and I’ve been monitoring things all season. But I have this approach when it comes to baseball, which is the Fox approach. Fox takes Joe Buck off the baseball stretch run and puts him on the start of the NFL season. Then, when the baseball playoffs start, Buck is back on baseball. So when Buck is there, that’s when I’ll write about it. I’ll have something baseball related in the next week or so. Until then, it’s going to be all football.


Like always, I appreciate anyone who read. Feel free to comment, and please share this with someone if you can.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Jameis Winston Drama, Another Compelling Week in the NFL, and Game Picks

Football is here again, and hopefully ESPN and all the other media outlets will start talking about actual games again, though I doubt they will. Nevertheless, I promise that this post will be a Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson/Jonathan Dwyer/the NFL is doomed/every single NFL player is a goon who beats his wife or children/hand-wringing free zone. I’m not saying that these stories weren’t horrible, or didn’t deserve some coverage. But I literally haven’t been able to watch ESPN this week without having to hear every 5 seconds about Adrian Peterson. Can we not just let these stories breathe and play out? We don’t have to beat them to death. ESPN pretty much has a monopoly on sports TV and radio (Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network and others have minor audiences compared to them). They could literally talk about whatever they wanted to, but instead they decided to constantly ram these same stories down everyone’s throat. We’re so caught up in political correctness and all of this crap. I don’t tune into ESPN or NFL pre-game shows to hear the political talking point of the week. I just want to hear people talking about games.


Now, onto the real reason we like talking about sports, the games….


College Football


Once again, college football has produced another largely uninteresting weekend, though there are a few more high profile games than last week. I’m going to pick five games this week, but I’ll focus on two.


  1. Alabama will beat Florida this week by AT LEAST 17 points. Bama’s at home, they’ve got better playmakers, and they’re better in the trenches. I don’t love Blake Sims, but I like him better than I like how Florida needed triple overtime to beat Kentucky, a game that they actually should have lost. I never thought this game was going to be close, and I expect Bama to punch them in the mouth early and continue to dominate them. 17 points might be low. 21 or 24 points might be more appropriate. The Crimson Tide haven’t played a great game yet this year. This will be the week.
  2. FSU-Clemson is also one of the biggest games of the weekend, but this one feels like a blowout as well. I realize the Seminoles will be without Jameis Winston in the first half, so they’ll probably be really conservative in the first half. Clemson’s defense is terrible, but with FSU not hitting the gas pedal in the first half, I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s 10-7 in the first half. However, when Jameis does step foot on the field in the second half, I expect FSU to open it up, and for the game to get ugly quickly. The Seminoles are going to win by at least 17 points as well. I really don’t think the Tigers are that good. Bad defense, new quarterback, and a late night road game against a better team? It doesn’t look good for them. FSU wins big.
  3. Speaking of this game, is their a bigger clown in college football than Jameis Winston? Obviously I don’t think standing on a table at the student union building and yelling “an obscene phrase” is the worst thing in the world, but it’s just typical Jameis. This is the same guy who walked out of a Tallahassee supermarket with about 30 dollars worth of crab legs because he forgot that he had to pay for them. Or something like that. He’s also the guy who the Tallahassee police never questioned even though he was the prime suspect in a rape, basically because he didn’t want to talk to them. Jameis and I are about the same age, and I can’t ever envision a scenario where I would stand on a table and curse publicly in a very loud voice. I also can’t see a time where I would ever forget to pay for groceries. And I certainly can’t foresee a time when every single adult around me would coddle me my entire life, continue to make excuses for me, and most alarming, allow me to not be questioned by the police. Honestly, that’s really his biggest problem. Winston is a knucklehead because he’s able to be one. He knows he’ll have adults saying, “Oh, he just a kid, it’s no big deal, give him another chance”. He’s had that his whole life, simply because he’s a great athlete. He’s even had law enforcement take his side. During his rape investigation, an officer allegedly asked the accuser if she was sure that she wanted to go through with all of this, because “Tallahassee is a big football town”. And State Attorney Willie Meggs turned the press conference to announce that Winston would not be charged with rape into a big yuck-it-up-fest, as he was chuckling and smiling the entire time. He looked like he was opening for Kevin Hart’s new comedy special, instead of dealing with what I thought was actually a serious matter. I guess I missed that. So I’m not mad a Jameis. He’s made a lot of dumb choices, but it’s hard not to be when every adult, including law enforcement, enables you to do whatever you want. He knows, even if it’s subconsciously, that they’ll make excuses for him, and he won’t really get in trouble. Suspending someone for a half is a joke. That’s like making a middle school kid write “I will not chew gum in class” 100 times. It’s annoying, and maybe my hand hurts a little bit afterwards, but you know what? Gum is still very flavorful, I love it, and I’d rather chew gum, get caught again, and have to write this again than never chew gum in class again. It doesn’t teach me anything. And that’s where Jameis is. He’ll do something dumb, he’ll get a slap on the wrist, and then he’ll go out there and do his thing again. And that’s a shame. Eventually though, there won’t be any adults to make excuses for him. Eventually, he’ll have to grow up. And eventually, when he does do something stupid, he’ll have to speak to the police.


Other game picks:

Oklahoma over West Virginia

Nebraska over Miami

LSU over Mississippi State




Unlike college football, the NFL actually gives its fans plenty of compelling games every week. So in honor of that, I’ll run through every game this week and give my pick. Also, just so you know, I had Atlanta over Tampa Bay last night. So I’m off to a stellar 1-0 start. We’ll see what happens this week.


Chargers over Bills

Yes, I realize the Chargers are flying across the country to play a game starting at 1 PM Eastern Time, which is normally about as tough for West Coast teams as it is for me to enjoy Keeping up with the Kardashians. I don’t care. I love the Chargers this week. They’re just better. Phil Rivers is one of the best five quarterbacks in the NFL, their defense is very good, and they’re playing the Bills, a team I’m still skeptical about. EJ Manuel has been ok, but he hasn’t played a defense as good as San Diego’s yet this year. The Bolts may start out slow, but they’ll wake up in the second quarter and take care of business.


Browns over Ravens

The Browns will take care of business at home this week. I know, I know, it’s Cleveland, but Brian Hoyer actually looks like a serviceable quarterback (426 yards, 2 passing TDs, no picks this year), and the defense is solid. I get that Baltimore is pretty good in the front seven, but I feel like Joe Flacco is in for a three interception game with like 175 passing yards at some point. This will be the week. Flacco won’t be able to constantly force the ball to Steve Smith Sr. (seriously, go look at his jersey, that’s what he is now going by) because Joe Haden, one of the best and most underrated corners in the league, will be covering him. It will be an ugly game, but Cleveland will gut it out and win like 14-12 or something like that.


Bengals over Titans

I haven’t written about Cincinnati yet, but I actually really like their team. They’ve got a great defense, a solid offensive line, and plenty of playmakers. I don’t love Andy Dalton, but this isn’t the playoffs. He’s fine in the regular season. The Titans looked pretty good in week 1 when they destroyed Kansas City, but they followed that up with a disappointing showing against Dallas. I’m a Jake Locker fan, but he’s going to struggle this week. The Bengals are one of the three best teams in the league, and they’ll look like it this week.


Cowboys over Rams

This was one of my toughest calls this week. Dallas has actually decided to run the ball this year, and that’s smart, because the Cowboys are 12-1 when DeMarco Murray gets 20 or more touches. He leads the league in rushing, and I think Dallas has realized, “Maybe we should start running the ball instead of allowing our inconsistent and heartbreaking quarterback to throw 40-50 times a game”. Then again, it is the Cowboys. Every time we think they’ve turned the corner, they find a way to lose in the most disappointing and soul-crushing fashion. And then I start looking at this Rams team; they have a physical, hard hitting defense, and maybe Austin Davis isn’t totally awful. They won a road game last week (yes, I realize it was at Tampa Bay, but still). I could totally see Tony Romo going out there and throwing 3 or 4 completely debilitating interceptions, only St. Louis can barely capitalize, because their offense sucks. Dallas then gets the ball back trailing like 9-7, and as they begin to drive down the field, Romo makes another terrible throw that’s picked off, killing their last chance, as well as destroying the collective will of every Cowboys’ fan. Thinking…. Why don’t we just do this?


Rams over Cowboys

For all the reasons I just mentioned. It’s the Cowboys. It’s what they do. They lose games like this. The Rams are at home, and they’ll find a way to gut this one out, though it will be ugly.


Lions over Packers

Green Bay is Aaron Rodgers or bust. He covers up so many holes for them. They don’t run the ball well, and their defense can’t stop anyone. Green Bay won last week against the Jets solely because Rodgers just turned it on and made so many great plays. Oh yeah, and because Marty Mornhinweg called that timeout. Now I don’t love the Lions either, but their roster is better. The defense is competent, and Green Bay has no one to contend with Megatron, who I expect to have a huge game this week. I don’t completely trust Matt Stafford, but he’ll play well enough this week for Detroit to get the win.


Saints over Vikings

I’ve officially sold all my stock in the Vikings. I’m done. They’re done offensively without Adrian Peterson. Matt Cassel was Ryan Leaf/Jamarcus Russell level bad last week. I wouldn’t be shocked if they throw Teddy Bridgewater out there in this game, particularly if it gets ugly quickly, which I think it will. New Orleans is at home for the first time this year, they’re angry and motivated after starting 0-2. Plus, I just can’t see a scenario where the Saints are 0-3. Drew Brees plays quarterback for them. They won’t be 0-3. New Orleans will win big this week.


Texans over Giants

I’m not a huge fan of the Texans, and I think they’re the most obvious candidate to be this year’s Chiefs, a team that doesn’t really have a tough schedule, which will enable them to be 8-1 after 9 games. However, the Giants are one of those bad teams on their schedule. The Giants’ defense is abysmal, and Eli Manning is no longer an elite quarterback. He looks particularly bad when he has pressure in his face, and Houston can consistently get that because they have a monster pass rusher in JJ Watt. Could one of the Manning brothers actually quarterback a team that finished with the worst record in the league? It’s in play.


Colts over Jaguars

If the Giants aren’t the worst team in the league, it’s the Jaguars. Also, much like the Saints and Drew Brees, the Colts and Andrew Luck are not starting the season 0-3. The Colts can’t rush the passer, and they won’t be able to fix that problem this year because Robert Mathis is out for the year. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t think Indy is a serious threat in the AFC, and why they couldn’t do anything to slow down the Eagles last week. But that won’t matter this week. Indy will win big.


Pats over Raiders

If the Giants or Jaguars aren’t the worst team in the league, then it’s definitely the Raiders. They’ve been one of the worst franchises in sports the last decade, and now, they’re just an old, bad team. This will be a beat down, much like last week’s Pats-Vikings game. Honestly, I have no idea what the plan is in Oakland. They drafted Derek Carr, which I guess is something, but they continue to trade away draft picks for old veteran players, and they continue to sign old, past their prime, beat up vets. They used to have this excuse, “Al Davis runs this team, and he’s just out of touch with the current state of the league, because he’s just an old man who can’t pay attention and think critically like he used to. This is the same guy, who at the introductory press conference for then new head coach Lane Kiffin, referred to him as ‘Lance Kiffin’. But as soon as he’s gone, we’ll be able to compete”. Well Al hasn’t been running this team for a while now, and they are still abysmal, and they’re still making the same old mistakes as before. They aren’t competing with New England this week, and they won’t compete this year, or for years to come.


Eagles over Redskins

I never like or am glad when players get hurt, but the RG3 injury might be the best thing that could ever happen to the Redskins. If Washington is going to push this whole pocket passer thing, then Kirk Cousins is clearly the guy. He’s way more comfortable there. Plus, I have my doubts that RG3 will ever be able to stay healthy. He’s just three years in, yet he’s already torn his ACL and dislocated his ankle. Those are two pretty serious injuries, and you can’t build your team around a guy who can’t stay healthy. I expect Washington to lose this week, just because Philly has the most explosive and unique offense in the league. But going forward, I think Cousins will play very well, and when RG3 is finally healthy, Cousins will keep the job. But Cousins’ presence won’t matter this week. The Eagles will win.


49ers over Cardinals

This was another tough one for me. I’m selling stock on the 49ers as well, just because Colin Kaepernick is a modern day incarnation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I literally don’t know what I’m getting from him week to week. In Week 1, he looked awesome. In Week 2, he was terrible, throwing three picks and fumbling once. He literally cost them the game with his play. His turnovers gave the Bears so many short fields. Then again, if I pick Arizona, I’m going with Drew Stanton, who made the Giants’ defense look semi-competent. This will be an ugly, physical game, one that I’ll actually really enjoy, because I love defensive slugfests, but the Niners have more and better playmakers on the side of the ball. Plus, San Fran is 9-2 in the Jim Harbaugh era after a loss. I think they’ll find a way to squeak this one out, but it will be close throughout.


Dolphins over Chiefs

Kansas City looked pretty impressive against Denver last week, particularly in the second half, despite the fact that they played without Jamal Charles. We’ll see how effective Charles can be this week with that ankle injury, but even if he is 100%, I still like Miami. They looked bad last week against Buffalo, but they’re at home, and Andy Reid always has one clock management screw up every few weeks that will end up costing his team. Plus, I still think the Dolphins are a pretty good team. This is same squad that put it on New England 23-0 in the second half of Week 1. They’re still a good team.


Seahawks over Broncos

Anyone that has read my writing knows that I love the Seahawks. I realize they lost last week, but I still think they’re the best team in football. Plus, Denver hasn’t really impressed me that much. They’ve dominated their competition in the first half in the first two weeks, but both the Colts and Chiefs had the ball late, trailing by seven, driving for the tying touchdown, before the Broncos ultimately stopped them. They don’t run the ball well, and their defense really isn’t that physical. I love Peyton Manning, and I’m a huge Tennessee fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore all the facts and what my eye balls tell me and just pick Denver. Seattle, as evidenced by the Super Bowl, is an extremely tough match up for the Broncos. They have a great secondary, they rush the passer extremely well, and they impose their will physically. Denver can’t run the ball, and they rely on Manning to drop back and throw a lot. That plays perfectly into what Seattle wants to do. Their pass rushers can pin their ears back and come after Manning the entire game, which means he’s going to be rushing his throws all day. If he does get his throws off cleanly, he’ll be throwing into one of the most physical and best defensive backfields in the league. On defense for Denver, Seattle is just going to constantly punch them in the mouth, and run the ball down their throats. Add in that Russell Wilson is 18-1 at home is his career, plus the fact that the 12th man will be screaming like a bunch of kamikaze pilots the entire game, makes me believe that Seattle will win by at least 17 points.


Panthers over Steelers

Pittsburgh is not very good. They’re going to struggle to score points this week. Carolina’s defense is one of the best in the league, and Cam Newton is just a solid, consistent presence every week. He doesn’t turn the ball over, and he’ll make a few big plays each week that will help his team win. That’s literally all he needs to do every week. Pittsburgh may get shut out this week. It wouldn’t shock me. That O-line isn’t very good, and Baltimore, a team that’s not as good as Carolina defensively, held the Steelers to six points. I whiffed on the Panthers, I thought they’d regress this year. Oh well, it happens. Carolina will win big this week.


Bears over Jets

Finally, the Monday Night Game. I actually am a fan of Geno Smith. He looks like a guy that could lead a team to the playoffs. Plus, that defense is excellent against the run, and they run the ball very well. However, Chicago’s best asset is dropping back and throwing to those monster receivers on the outside. The Bills, another good running team, ran all over the Bears in Week 1, and the Jets may be able to do the same thing again this week. However, Chicago showed me something last week. They were so resilient, and that Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery receiver combo is going to be tough to contend with, just like last year. I like the Bears on Monday Night.


As always, if you liked what you read, share it with someone, and feel free to comment. And enjoy football this weekend, you deserve it.