Sunday, October 31, 2010

NFL Picks, NBA talk and Nolan Ryan's comeback

I finally got my first in depth look at the Miami Heat when they played Orlando this past week. As I mentioned I had caught parts of their preseason games, but nothing major. It goes without saying, but this team is going to be terrifying.

- Their defense is outstanding and it's only going to get better. No matter how weak the other three players on the court are defensively, LeBron and Wade make up for it. Those two are so long and quick that they can jump to double almost any defender and get back to their man before he gets an open shot. The offense has some work to do, but the defense should carry them until they get the kinks worked out.

-You're going to have to take charges to beat this team. Or flop. A lot. With the way Wade/Bron can drive and get the benefit of any call, your only hope is trying to draw the charge. This bodes well for a Boston team full of actors and LA because of Pau Gasol. Not so much for Orlando, meaning Dwight has to save all his fouls for Wade/James. The phantom calls for those two has begun and won't end until sometime in 2015.

-That team can score in a hurry. A 6 point lead turned to 15 after a three by James and two by Wade. Bron/Wade/Bosh all rested at the same time because of the big lead they had. As the subbing/rotations get clearer, those three will probably never be on the bench at the same time. No lead will ever be safe.

As for Orlando:

-Dwight has looked like a new man this season. He's noticeably more serious (LeBron too) and he's letting that jumper fly. He went 5/9 on jumpers longer than 10 feet in the Miami game and banked in a beautiful 17 footer against Washington. He fell in love with a little against Miami taking it a couple times with the corpse of Zyrdruans Ilgauskas guarding him, but it's hard to argue with the results he had.

-He had 19 points in the first half. He had 0 points in the second half. A good bit of that was due to limited minutes as he fouled out having played only 29 minutes. Another part of it was poor entry passes.

-VC and Shard no showed again. This is becoming a trend in "big" games. Not really a big game because it's the second game of the season but big in the sense that any game against the Celtics/Heat/Lakers could be a playoff matchup. VC got hurt after playing 14 minutes. Quentin Richardson/Nelson/Lewis all combined to go 3-25 for 14 points. I can't wait to see how Dwight gets blamed for this one.

-Again it's early, but this isn't built for a championship run. We don't have a guy that can consistently create his own shot and we need it badly. I think Carmelo is destined is for New York and Chris Paul is still out of the question. Now I hear talks that we may end up picking up the option for next year on Vince Carter. The rationale is this" Even with declining Carter's option, we are over the cap and won't be able to sign anyone from a weak free agent class. If you are over the cap and can't make a move, you might as well have VC as opposed to having no cap room and not having VC, right? It makes too much sense so now I'm openly hoping for a trade to bring in anyone that can consistently create his own shot. Except Gilbert Arenas.

That wasn't a Gilbert gun joke either. I'd be physically ill if Arenas somehow ended up on this team.

Now for the picks.

Cincinnati over Miami- Our secondary is hurting. We're down to our fourth string CB starting and a guy we traded for a week before Game 1 starting at safety. We get no pass rush which only makes the secondary's troubles worse. My concern is that with Roddy White running roughshod on Adam Jones last week (who did the best he could), why was Leon Hall not on him? Leon Hall is a damn good cornerback in his own right. He doesn't have elite speed so maybe I can understand him not starting the game on White, but why not try him after he's proved to be too much for Jones? Still, I'll ride with Cincy.

Dallas over Jacksonville- I said it might take Kitna a start to get going. I didn't know Dallas' first game was against Jacksonville. I can see a convincing win here as they run a little more and trust Kitna not to make mistakes.

Washington over Detroit- Don't you talk about first ballot Hall of Famer Matthew Stafford like that! He'll only have two picks here but next week against the Jets? Double digits could be in play.

Buffalo over Kansas City- It's not enough for Carson Palmer to suck. Now his former backup has the second highest QB rating in the league and has done it against good teams. Kill me now.

St. Louis over Carolina- Lemme tell ya something about Sam Bradford. That's a guy that has the pedigree for success. He went to a little school called Oklahoma...maybe you've heard of it?!? He's a guy that doesn't make mistakes. He does. Not. Make. Mistakes. Not on the field, not off the field. Sam Bradford is the man that your woman wants and you want to be. Bask in him.

NY Jets over Green Bay- Only because if the Jets win this, they can coast for the next month and Rex Ryan knows it. After The Pack at home, they travel to Detroit and Cleveland and then come home to play Houston and Cincinnati. I can see the 10-1 Jets getting way too much hype and Ryan playing the "Nobody believed in us!" card. Can you?

Denver over San Francisco- I'd agree with you about Nate Davis, if they hadn't waived him right before the season. They signed him back to the practice squad, but anytime you waive a guy and pretty much say "Hey, NFL teams. He's all yours!" and nobody bites after the preseason hype he built for himself, that says something. Normally I'd be all for starting the unproven guy over the proven mediocre veteran, but Troy Smith isn't an old man and hasn't really had a fair shot at the starting job. I can see him having a decent game.

Tennessee over San Diego- Phillip Rivers has 2300 passing yards and it's only Halloween! Sweet Jesus. Though I'm not a LaDainian Tomlinson fan, part of me does enjoy seeing him do well in NY just because the entire Chargers organization reeks of jerks and/or creeps to me.

Tampa Bay over Arizona- The Bucs also have somewhat of a cushy schedule in the upcoming month. After Arizona they go to Atlanta, but then have the Panthers and 49ers. I can see the cover of Raheem Morris sitting in his office palming a football with "I told you so!" over his head. Can you?

New England over Minnesota- Please play Brett Favre. Prove how much of a soldier you are even as you kill you team with awful turnovers. That's a guy that just loves playing the game. He's a gunslinger. You'd have to break his ankles to keep him out of the lineup...unless he decides he wants to play on a broken ankle.

Oakland over Seattle- I was high on Darren McFadden in college and it's good to see him playing well in the league. Once blog favorite Jason Campbell turns it on, this team is headed to the Super Bowl! Or an 8-8 record. Whatever.

Pittsburgh over New Orleans- James Harrison decides to come out of retirement just in time to put the beats on Drew Brees and the Saints.

Indianapolis over Houston- Foster won't rush for 230 again. Peyton will make a name for another previously unknown receiver. Here's to hoping it's former UK tight end Jacob Tamme. Colts win.

Am I the only one that thinks Nolan Ryan is dying to get back on the field? The way he watches the game screams "I could go 6 and a third if I needed to". I see the Giants winning Game 4 and Cliff Lee being a healthy scratch in Game 5 as Ryan calls his own number.

No plans for Halloween. You get into anything?

World Series Talk and NFL Picks

Loving this Rangers/Giants World Series.  Blow-outs in the first two games (including an epic bullpen meltdown late in the second game), then a 4-2 game last night.  Even the blow-outs were kind of enjoyable for some reason...I think it was because the Giants made a name for themselves on pitching and defense.  It was kind of fun to see their bats wake up...they looked like little kids celebrating.  I'm pulling for the Rangers, but I like this Giants team, too.

I'm with you on Kitna.  Romo has a great arm, but his decision making is suspect (to say the least).  Kitna should cut down on the interceptions, and could really do pretty well for the Cowboys in Romo's absence.  I've always liked Kitna...I hope he can do something with this team.

For the picks:

Miami over Cincinnati:
Sorry man...but after the offensive smack-down Atlanta laid on them last week, I just can't trust this Bengals defense.  And they're going against Brandon Marshall this week.

Dallas over Jacksonville:
Kitna shows that he is a much smarter quarterback than Romo...even if it is against a Jags team that is quickly falling apart.

Washington over Detroit:
How have the Redskins won 4 games?  It boggles the mind.  I actually originally picked the Lions to win this game...but then I remembered that Stafford is coming back.  No way he doesn't throw at least 3 picks.

Kansas City over Buffalo:
After this game, all that "Ryan Fitzpatrick is a great quarterback" talk will quickly die down.

St. Louis over Carolina:
Because Sam Bradford is obviously the best quarterback to ever play the position.

Green Bay over New York Jets:
I can feel it.  This is the week the Packers wake up and turn into the team that went 7-1 down the stretch last year.  And can everyone please stop talking about Revis.  Even when he's been playing this year, he hasn't been great, and he hasn't been matched up on the other team's top receiver.

Denver over San Francisco:
Here's a question for you...one that I haven't seen asked anywhere else.  Alex Smith is injured.  David Carr was terrible.  The Niners have won 1 game.  Why would they give the start this week to Troy Smith...when they already have Nate Davis?  I just don't understand the logic there.  There's no way Troy Smith is a better option this week than Nate Davis.

Tennessee over San Diego:
I keep waiting for the Chargers to go on a winning streak and win their division.  If they win this week, I'll jump on that train.  But I don't see them winning this week.

Tampa Bay over Arizona:
If the Bucs win this week, they'll be 5-2.  Who saw that coming?

New England over Minnesota:
Especially if the Vikings play like they did last week.

Oakland over Seattle:
I'm not sure where that 59 point outburst came from last week, but I loved it.  The Raiders keep running the ball this week.

New Orleans over Pittsburgh:
I know...the Saints haven't looked good and the Steelers have been great.  I just have a feeling that, at home on Halloween, the Saints will turn it on and beat this Steelers team.

Houston over Indianapolis:
Yes...the series sweep.

I will also take the Rangers over the Giants tonight in another close one.

It's Halloween...any big plans?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Random Gibberish

Opening night for the NBA is here and I'm stoked. Well, it's actually the third official night but it's the first game for Orlando, and it's against John Wall and the Wiz to boot. Hence, me being stoked. I won't waste time doing season previews or conference predictions because the fact remains that the NBA champion will be one of these teams this year: Lakers, Heat, Celtics, Magic. Oklahoma City and Dallas could make some noise, but I think your champion comes from those four. Just a few random NBA related thoughts.

-I said it before but I'll repeat it: The Cavaliers will win 35-40 games and make a play at the final playoff spot in the East. Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, JJ Hickson, Anthony Parker: These guys aren't bad players, they just aren't pieces of a championship team. They've repeatedly shown the ability to show up...in the regular season. They are playing with something to prove and Byron Scott should do well in his first year here.

-I keep seeing Oklahoma City being predicted to have a much better year and be a 4-6 seed. Come again? If they won just one more game last year, they jump from an eight seed to a six seed. Let's look at some of the teams ahead of them last year

Phoenix- Downgraded from Amare to Hakim Warrick
Denver- May or may not be trading Carmelo soon and very soon
Portland- Officially time to stop playing the annual Bob Sanders "If they could just stay healthy" card
San Antonio- I think that window slammed shut last year.

That leaves the Lakers, Mavs and Jazz as the only teams ahead of them, based on last years standings. I think the Thunder get a top 3 seed this season.

-Barring injury, I can't see any possible way John Wall isn't a starting PG in this league for the next 15 years. His floor is better than a lot of guys in the league right now. I am extremely excited for the John Wall era.

-LeBron could average 30-20-20 and he still wouldn't win MVP this year. He's turned off way too many voters to get first place votes...at least until the Heat start winning championships. Durant is the favorite, but I'll put my homer money on Dwight Howard. He's finished top 5 the lats three years and with Wade/James splitting votes he benefits the most. I expect another great year from Kobe, but one of more declining percentages, so I think he's a long shot. This is between Durant and Dwight.

-The Pistons will be the worst team in the league...maybe not record wise but all things considering. Sorry. Toronto has the "losing a star for nothing" card to play. Minnesota actually has some decent pieces and are shedding the triangle so they could at least be interesting to watch from time to time. I don't know what Detroit has going for it. First round pick Greg Monroe didn't play a single minute in the team's first game. This team isn't competing this season so that makes no sense to me. If they are smart, they can flip Tayshaun Prince's expiring contract for a young player and maybe move Rip Hamilton to a contender and pick up another piece and save some cash.

As I mentioned, I'm a Vlad Guerrero fan but part of me enjoyed seeing him kick the ball around in right field last night. For the first time in a while the NL has had home field advantage in the World Series. Seeing the Rangers take a chance on Vlad's bat but accept his poor fielding felt strangely vindicating to me. I can't explain it. Now Ron Washington has to decide whether to chance it again, or go with a lesser bat in hope for some relief in the field. I also get to see Pablo Sandoval openly lick his chops waiting for Game 3 and his chance to DH and get as far away from defense as he can.

Speaking of America's past time, I keep reading word about Joey Votto balking at signing a long term deal with the Reds. I can't fault him one bit. He just had an excellent year, and if he does it again his asking price goes through the roof. Hindsight tells us that locking him up long term last offseason would have been the thing to do. Still, with his anxiety issues and the games he's missed over the past two seasons I understand why we didn't. We can't make the same mistake with Jay Bruce. Bruce recently said he would like to sign a long term deal with Cincy and I think we need to strike now. In a small market, these are calculated risks you have to take. If he doesn't get any better than he was this past season, Bruce is still a player I'd like to have in a Reds uniform for a while. Add in his age, his great defense and how well he played during the final 2 months of the season and I don't think the Reds can wait this one out. I'd love to see Votto and Bruce locked up long term, but we need to act now before both play well enough to price themselves right out of Cincinnati.

The Bengals lost yet again. In the AFC, and especially the AFC North, that pretty much does it for the season. I was happy to see Andre Smith get the start though. He had two false start penalties, but otherwise had a solid game. Adam Jones has a solid game and did the best he could against Roddy White, but White is pure beast. And now Jones is out for the year with a neck injury. Great. It took us being down two scores during the 4th quarter before Jermaine Gresham and Bernard Scott got involved in the offense. The defense was gashed. Chad had a Chad-esque game (100 yards and a TD, but a couple of drops and a lazy route that would make Randy Moss blush). Shipley was outstanding and I really don't get why he and Gresham aren't getting more passes thrown their way. We had 12 men in the huddle twice in the same half. I don't know if I've ever seen that happen. It's going to be a long rest of the season.

EDIT: Can I buy some "Jon Kitna will fill in admirably for the Cowboys" stock? It's not too late, is it? I can see a shaky first start before the Cowboys win a couple straight games. Jon Kitna is not a bad quarterback. At the very least, they will win more games than they won during Romo's 6 starts this season.

Add another movie to my list. Jackass 3D was outstanding. At this rate, I'll be in double digits by New Years!

Joe Budden's new mixtape, "Mood Muzik 4" is fantastic. For some reason I haven't been able to get into the albums he'd made but his Mood Muzik series is good listening. How this guy isn't more popular is beyond me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 7 Picks and World Series Talk

Sorry to hear about your hand, fella. I'm sure beating your wife has become infinitely more difficult.

But seriously.

I couldn't be happier for a Rangers- Giants World Series. Before the playoffs I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that a Phillies- Yankees World Series was going to happen. I'm happy to have been wrong. I keep hearing about how this is baseballs worst nightmare because there is no big market team in it. Who cares? Isn't a Rangers-Giants more likely to attract the casual fan who would normally never watch if it was just two teams with 140 million dollar payrolls playing? I think this is good for baseball. Getting to see Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee go at it hopefully three times should be fantastic. Buster Posey could be the young star baseball needs so badly and he gets to play on the biggest stage in his first season. I have no idea who I want to win. I like the Rangers because of Josh Hamilton being a former Red. Michael Young getting to play in his first postseason is a good story. I've always been a big Vlad Guerrero fan so I'd love to see him get a ring. At the same time, since the whooping San Fran put on Cincy a couple of months ago, I've been intrigued by them. I like Posey and Lincecum. Cody Ross is coming on at the right time. Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria being their highest paid players cracks me up the same way Arroyo and Cordero being the highest paid Reds cracks me up. As much as I'd like to see Vlad get a ring, something is telling me that San Fran wins this one in 6. Either way, I expect this to be a great series that no one remembers in 5 years because New York/Boston/Philly weren't involved.

I'm with you on the NFL hits. The only blatant fine/suspension under new rules that I saw last week was Brandon Meriwethers hit on Todd Heap. I really do think the NFL means well with trying to protect players, but if anything it seems like most of the concussions this year are coming from heads slamming off the ground after legal tackles. I do like how James Harrison was so close to retiring that the Steelers gave him all of one day to think about it. I believe it was Steve Young that suggested fining the quarterbacks that constantly lead their receivers into these positions. It's one thing to send a guy across the middle. It's completely different to leave him out to dry the way Kevin Kolb did to Desean Jackson.

The NBA season is among us and Orlando has finished another preseason undefeated. I believe their 21 game preseason winning streak is the longest in NBA history and as Stan Van Gundy put it, "just behind Dimaggio hitting 56 straight" in terms of important streaks. I didn't catch much of the games but by all accounts Vince Carter looked great. Like not "great for VC", but legitimately great. His 17 ppg on 60% FG/59% 3P shooting in only 24 minutes a game give me hope. His 2009-10 campaign doesn't. Dwight put up 15-12-3 blocks in just 26 minutes a game and used his jumper to moderate success. I don't care how much it's going in at this point, but I am glad that he is trying more in game situations. Orlando's starting 5 has only played about 40 minutes together, but they have dominated on both ends in the time they have. I don't know what to expect out of this NBA season as a whole, but I am excited. I have however caught limited parts of the Heat playing. I know it's very hard to judge them without Wade and now Mike Miller, but they looked strangely similar to the Cavaliers only if they had Chris Bosh. Granted that's not a bad strategy with Cleveland's regular season success these past 2 years, but there seemed to be a lot of LeBron doing his thing while others stood around. I'm very interested to see how this works out.

Picks.

Cincinnati over Atlanta- Not a homer pick. Really, it's not! This is just the type of game we find a way to win after losing to the Bucs. Our schedule is brutal the rest of the way, but we're good enough to win a game like this and trick people into thinking we're getting on the right path.

Washington over Chicago- How did all that preseason hoopla about the NFC East being one of the best divisions this word has ever seen turn out?

Tampa Bay over St. Louis- This is one thing Simmons and I agree on: I think Josh Freeman is really good. Even after last weeks thrashing. I think he's going to be great once they get him any type of weapon around him. Agreed on Bradford. He's had a nice rookie year with no receiving weapons, but let's not give him elite QB status just yet. That's for proven stars like Sanchez, Flacco and Stafford.

San Francisco over Carolina- Don't look now, but Alex Smith is on pace for 3800 yards and 21 touchdowns. He could really add several dozen votes to his Pro Bowl campaign with a good game here.

Baltimore over Buffalo- Fitzpatrick's QB rating is a shade under 100. I'm thinking we kept the wrong quarterback.

Philadelphia over Tennessee- I can't wait to see how Andy Reid botches this QB controversy. I'm assuming he'll start giving Kolb the first and third quarters, and Vick will take second and fourth.

Kansas City over Jacksonville- Is there a reason for the Chiefs to ever throw the ball? Even on 3rd and long, I think I'd still take my chances with Charles or Jones.

Pittsburgh over Miami- Chad Henne has thrown the ball 44, 48 and 39 times the last three weeks. The Dolphins are 1-2. I don't think that's a coincidence. Pittsburgh will shut down the run forcing Henne to throw it 30-35 times again which bodes well for Pittsburgh.

New Orleans over Cleveland- Colt McCoy's numbers didn't look bad against Pittsburgh. I think he has a good day here, but he just doesn't have enough talent around him.

Seattle over Arizona- Seattle doesn't lose at home. The fight for first place in the NFC West! Are you excited?!? Get excited!

San Diego over New England- I have no reason why, but I can see San Diego winning this one comfortably.

Oakland over Denver- I just hope the Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn deal isn't forgotten about when mentioning blunders on Josh McDaniels' watch.

Minnesota over Green Bay- This one should be a dandy. If the Pack could get any type of consistent running attack, I think they could take it. I think Minnesota's defense is the difference in a surprisingly low scoring game.

NY Giants over Cowboys- What is Jerry Jones trying to prove by keeping Wade Phillips around? Especially when he has a more than competent replacement in Jason Garrett waiting in the wings? I'm kidding. The Cowboys are a mess all around.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NFL Talk

Sorry for my absence.  I was the starting pitcher for our softball team a couple of weeks ago (the first game of the playoffs).  In the 3rd inning, the batter hit a line drive directly back at me.  I didn't see it.  It hit the back of my right hand, and my hand immediately began swelling.  It looked like there was a baseball attached to the back of my hand.  The best description of it came from our second baseman: "It looks like a fist on top of his hand."  Luckily, nothing was broken.  It has been extremely sore, and I've had a hard time doing much with it.  It's healing, though, and I'm able to do a little more with it over the past couple of days.  So here I am.
Side note: our team went up against a team we had never come close to beating before in that game.  When I left in the 3rd, we were down 7-6.  We ended up winning 29-19.  Great job, guys.  

Big up to the Rangers for beating the Yankees last night.  They have great pitching and an explosive offense.  Whoever comes out of the NL, they're going to have a tough time beating the Rangers.  I've been rooting for the Giants coming out of the NL, so hopefully they'll be able to close the deal tonight in Philly.  I wasn't looking forward to a Philadelphia/New York World Series, because I wasn't sure who I would cheer for.  With the Rangers winning, at least I know I'll have a rooting interest in the Series.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk a little about all this "big hits are bad" going on in the NFL since last Sunday.  It's ridiculous.  I'm all for player safety, but the way everyone is talking, any sort of helmet contact will lead to penalties, fines, and suspensions.  That takes all the fear out of going over the middle.  How is a defensive player supposed to put a hit on a guy without thinking, "Am I going to get flagged for this?" in the back of their minds?  Beyond that, much like we've seen with the emphasis on roughing the passer calls, I think refs will be calling these penalties more than they should.  Anything close to the helmet will get flagged, especially this week.  With all the emphasis on protecting offensive players, who is protecting the defense?  If a running back puts his head down and plows into a defensive player, will that get called?  Of course it won't.
One last thought.  James Harrison got fined $75,000 for his hit on Massaquoi.  Watch that play again...Massaquoi puts his head down.


If he doesn't put his head down, Harrison hits Massaqoui in the chest.  I'm not a huge fan of Harrison, but the outrage over this hit is ridiculous.
What say you?

Onto the picks:

Atlanta over Cincinnati - Sorry man.  Unless the Bengals can run the ball better than they have been, and unless Palmer can turn into a good quarterback again, they're going to have a hard time winning games.

Washington over Chicago - This is less because I think the Redskins are a good team, and more because I think the Bears are a bad one.

Tampa Bay over St. Louis - I get it...Bradford is playing better than expected.  But let's cool it on all the, "Bradford is a great quarterback, and will be a massive star in this league," talk.  

San Francisco over Carolina - The Niners finally got a win last week.  Good for them.  Make it two in a row here, over the wretched Panthers.  This game will be closer than it should be, because the Niners make a ton of mistakes.

Baltimore over Buffalo - This should be easy.  The Ravens are mad about that loss last week.  The Bills are terrible.

Tennessee over Philadelphia - I have a feeling that the Eagles, after their big win last week, will have a letdown game here.

Kansas City over Jacksonville - I would have taken the Chiefs here anyway...but now it's looking like the Jags will be starting Todd Bouman.  No thank you.

Miami over Pittsburgh - Just a hunch.  The Dolphins defense is pretty good, and their offense should give the Steelers some problems.  It'll be close, but I can see the Fins pulling this one off.

New Orleans over Cleveland - Up until last week, the Saints were not looking good.  They beat the Bucs pretty soundly...they'll do the same to the Browns.

Arizona over Seattle - Just because I don't believe in the Seahawks.

New England over San Diego - I wouldn't be surprised to see the Chargers win this (this is the time of year they normally turn it on), but the Patriots looked really good in the second half of the Ravens game last week.

Denver over Oakland - The Broncos have a terrific passing attack.  The Raiders have Kyle Boller or an injured Jason Campbell.  I'll take the Broncos.

Green Bay over Minnesota - Because this is the week the Packers turn it on.  Because Matthews will be back, and he'll get to Favre a handful of times.  Because Rodgers will get in sync with his receiving corps.  Because McCarthy will call more than 12 running plays, and it will be effective.  

New York Giants over Dallas - I've read the phrase, "The Cowboys have too much talent to keep losing."  Do they?  Their running game doesn't look great.  Romo has always been mistake prone.  Their receiving corps is made up of Miles Austin (who has been fantastic this year), Roy Williams, an injured Dez Bryant, and a declining Jason Witten.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

NFL Picks

What a game by the Cats last night. After being down 18 points at halftime to the #10 Gamecocks, UK reeled off 21 unanswered points to win the game with a little over a minute left. This is the second straight week the Cats have been down double digits at halftime and fought to get back into the game. Mike Hartline played his best game as a Wildcat going 32/42 for 349 yards and 4 touchdowns (3 in the second half) to 0 interceptions. I can't say enough about the improvement he's made from last year to this year. He's minimizing mistakes, keeping his eyes downfield and his body language and poise show a new man. Next weeks game against Georgia will be a big one. The SEC East is pretty much wide open and a win over the Dawgs could jump UK from fifth to first in the East depending on how things shake out.

Pick time.

Bears over Seahawks- What a boring game. Cutler is coming back from his concussion so I think the Bears win rather easily.

Dolphins over Packers- The injuries are really adding up for your boys. For the sake of Rodgers future, wouldn't you rather sit him this week to be safe than try to rush him back? I'd really hate to see concussions and mishandling hinder such a promising career.

Chargers over Rams- The Rams were actually looking decent until that beating Detroit gave them. The good news is that they still have a great chance of winning the NFC West.

Patriots over Ravens- I can see this going either the "Brady was lights out! Randy Who?!?" or the "Think the Patriots are regretting that trade yet?!?" route. No in between. I'll go with the former.

Lions over Giants- I like Shaun Hill. The record doesn't reflect it but the Lions played hard and lost some close games with him starting. This is probably his last start until Matthew Stafford separates another shoulder. I can't wait for the Lions to start losing by 20 points again when Matty Franchise takes the helms.

Eagles over Falcons- Because I'm not nearly as sold on the Falcons as everyone else seems to be. I can see Kolb having another nice game here but it really is a shame Vick won't get to play against Atlanta.

Steelers over Browns- RIP Colt McCoy. Your career has nowhere to go but up???

Buccaneers over Saints- I like this Bucs team. I think they are a year away but I like Josh Freeman a lot. I think they surprise N.O. here.

Chiefs over Texans- I really can't decide if Matt Cassel is that bad, or if he has absolutely no receiving weapons. Dwyane Bowe and Terrence Copper are his starting receivers. That can't be a good sign.

Jets over Broncos- Mark Sanchez has yet to turn the ball over yet. Kyle Orton is on pace to throw for 5,500 yards. I don't know which way is up anymore.

Raiders over 49ers- The 49ers should not be this bad. My man Jason Campbell is back in the starter position for now. This could/will be an ugly game.

Vikings over Cowboys- Fact: The Brett Favre- Jenn Sterger situation cracks me up. Fact: The voicemails left killed me. I know I always bitch about how too much information is being leaked, but any time you can hear someone suspected to be Brett Favre say, "So you think I'm gonna leave you in some garbage can, huh?", you have to go for it.

Colts over Redskins- McNabb hasn't exactly lit Washington on fire. Who woulda guessed it?

Titans over Jaguars- These teams have the same record? When did Jacksonville get three wins? It's an even numbered week which means Chris Johnson is due for a 62 yard day and a fumble, but I think the Titans still get the victory.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cincinnati Ranting

What a brutal weekend. The Cats lose a tough one to Auburn. The Bengals give one away to the Bucs. The Reds are finally put out of their misery. I'm going to do quite a bit of ranting on the Bengals and Reds failures. Don't mind me.

First the Bengals.

Something strange is happening in Cincinnati. For the longest time, Carson Palmer has been excused from the blame of Cincinnati's woes. Now I feel like he's getting a little too much of it. Don't get me wrong, he's an average quarterback at this point despite being one of the league's highest paid players. His play this year has hurt us, but he's not the sole reason we are losing. Our offensive playcalling has been predictable for the last couple of years. On several occasions, the game announcers have been able to accurately predict what play we are about to run. That's a problem. Yesterday when trying to run the clock down until the 2 minute drill, a pass was called and intercepted. It wasn't a great pass but it bounced off of Chad's hands and into a defenders. Bernard Scott is being forgotten about and when he is in the game, he's being used to run between the tackles. That's not his game. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski must go. This team has had at least 8 penalties in 4 of 5 games this season. That's a problem. This team was among the leaders in penalties last year. This team rarely has a good opening game drive or a good drive after halftime. The Bengals don't make adjustments. They keep doing the same exact thing and hoping for something different. I think that falls on Marvin Lewis. I think it's time for him to go. During the season, not after its over. He certainly deserves credit for getting this team out of its 2-4 win seasons but I'm not sure what he does anymore. The defense was underwhelming until Mike Zimmer took over as defensive coordinator. I don't think he's had the majority of the teams respect since the fight he and Chad had at halftime during the 2005 playoff game. I can't think of any other coach in the NFL that has been in the same place for 8 years, despite having a .500 record and no playoff victories to his name. It's time for change within the coaching staff but owner Mike Brown would never do such.

Back to Palmer. The people that are beginning to blame Palmer are claiming he's still injured or that he's targeting TO/Chad too much to keep them happy. I don't think he's still injured. His problems aren't physical. They are mental. He's not putting lame ducks up for grabs. He's locking onto receivers and making horrible decisions. As far as TO/Chad goes, TO is getting a lot of targets but he's been getting a lot of single coverage due to Chad taking on more than one defender. I agree that TO is getting too many targets, but he's got one on one coverage for the most part and has been making the best of it. Still, Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley (when he comes back) should be feasting. Shipley has an uncanny ability to get open and I've yet to see a linebacker that can consistently cover Gresham. This also goes back to having an offensive coordinator who can't utilize all of his tools. Another thing that bothers me is that young guys haven't been getting a chance to play. Jerome Simpson, a second rounder from 2008, has been active in 10 career games and has 1 catch in his career. If he's showed enough to be on the team, he should be getting some more playing time. If not, he should be cut. Andre Smith is splitting time with Dennis Roland, who is terrible. Not saying that Smith is great, but he's no worse than Roland. You have to at least see what you have in these guys. Rey Maualuga is still playing out of position despite Dhani Jones consistently being beat across the middle. Maualuga gets beat as well, but its worth seeing if he can be salvaged at his original position of MLB, or not. It makes no sense to me. Roland/Jones aren't getting it done and the team is losing. If they were winning, I could understand it. We're not winning. If this losing keeps up, I wouldn't be opposed to cleaning house. Gresham, Shipley, Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph could stay but everyone else could go. Coaches and owner included.

Now for the Redlegs.

What a season. I find some solace in the fact that I think the Reds were a year ahead of schedule. Votto had been progressing nicely, but I didn't see a MVP year out of him. I certainly didn't see Stubbs going for 22 homers and 29 stolen bases in his first full year. Jay Bruce had a great finish to the year. I didn't see Mike Leake and Travis Wood turning in nice rookie seasons. I figured Ed Volquez was a season away from contributing anything worthwhile. I thought 2011 was the year for this squad and I was pleasantly surprised. That still doesn't make the way they lost in the playoffs any better though. For all the talk of the Reds not being able to compete simply because they don't have a true #1 pitching, the pitchers performed well for Cincy. Volquez struggled but was ultimately undone by shaky defense from Gomes and Cabrera. Arroyo had a nice game but more bad defense did him in. Cueto had a nice outing, but again an error lead to all the offense that Philly would need to win. Halladay and Hamels pitched gems, and wouldn't have been outpitched by anyone on those days. It was the #1 offense in the National League that scored 4 runs in three games. It was the #2 defense in the National League that committed 7 errors in three games. It was the much criticized pitching staff that allowed only 7 earned runs in three games.

Still, Orlando Cabrera should not have been playing in Game 3. Some (I) would argue that he shouldn't play at all because Paul Janish matches him on offense and outperforms him on defense. I can only pray his option for next season is declined because Dusty Baker will have no problem trotting him out there for another 120 games. Also, can anyone explain to me why Jay Bruce was batting seventh last night? I know his track record against Hamels wasn't good, but it's an elimination game. Instead the murderers row of Rolen-Gomes-Hernandez hit after Votto giving him little to no protection. At least with Bruce (the only Red to reach base in all three games) there's a chance Votto might get something to hit. Rolen batting cleanup for the second half of the season was a joke. Check out these statistics:

Scott Rolen (Opening Day-June 30th): .300, 17 homers, 53 RBI's <---Cleanup hitter numbers Scott Rolen (July 1st- October 10): .258, 3 homers, 30 RBI's <---Not Cleanup hitter numbers With that rapid drop off and his brutal defense in the NLDS, I honestly have to wonder how much longer Rolen hangs on. He seems like the type that would hang it up on his first sign of serious decline, and he looked bad in the playoffs. I have to wonder if he was playing hurt.

This team is built for the regular season, so assuming the exact same roster is brought back I could see this team winning the NL Central yet again. There are some decisions to be made though. Payroll should be on the rise and with the money created by Aaron Harang's deal expiring and playoff revenue, I wouldn't be surprised to see a big move by Walt Jocketty. Bronson Arroyo's option will be picked up leaving Cincy with Arroyo, Cueto, Volquez, Bailey, Leake, Wood and Chapman as potential starters in 2011. I wouldn't mind seeing a young arm paired with Yonder Alonso and other prospects in a trade to bring back a star...Zach Greinke maybe? I previously mentioned how I'd like to see Matt Kemp play left field next season. After listening to a Simmons podcast, he thinks Ellsbury is on his way out. I'd love to take a chance on him because he could probably be had for pennies on the dollar. Put him in left and bat him leadoff and I'd be happy. The offseason after next year is where things could get really interesting. Francisco Cordero, Brandon Phillips and Arroyo (assuming his option is picked up and he isn't extended) could all be free agents. That would cut about 36 million off of a payroll that could be on the rise after another playoff appearance. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto will also need long term contracts around that time. If he plays his cards right, Jocketty could extend both and still have some cash to play with. I haven't been excited for an upcoming Reds season since the Ken Griffey Jr trade. Now I'm thinking about future offseason plans. It's finally good to be a Reds fan again.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Game 2 debacle and NFL Picks

Man, I haven't been as hurt about a game since Game 2 of the NBA Finals when Courtney Lee missed that layup that could have won us the game. Game 2 against the Phillies was brutal. Jumping out to a 4 run lead on a pitcher that has historically owned us felt good. Watching us self destruct did not. Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips, two of our best fielders, had crucial errors that allowed Philly to get their first two runs on the board. If either one of those guys makes the play, its 4-0 heading into 6th inning. The next inning Logan Ondrusek walks in a run. The 7th inning was one for the ages. First, Chase Utley is awarded first base after an umpire says he was hit by a Chapman pitch. Only, its kinda obvious he wasn't hit. If a 101 mph fastball hits you, it should be obvious. This one whizzed by him. The ball never changed trajectory as it breezed to the backstop, but he was awarded first base.

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Then Utley is clearly out at second on a force play. He also appears to miss third base on his way home after Jay Bruce misplayed a ball out in right field. Then Phillips dropped the relay throw that allowed Jayson Werth to score with ease. Just unbelievable stuff from one of the best fielding teams in the league. I don't put much stock into postseason experience playing a factor either. Roy Halladay was unbelievable in his first playoff game. Scott Rolen looked bad in his 34th postseason game. I refuse to believe we will play as poorly in Game 3 as we did in Games 1 and 2.

This leads me to one question I have about the Dusty Baker extension. Again, I'm not pleased about it but I see why he was extended. But why before the playoffs? If somehow the Reds won the World Series, then surely Baker retires. If we get truly embarrassed, like we are doing now, do you want him back? Anything in between and you can offer him the 2 year extension. I'm not saying Game 2's mistakes were all Dusty Baker's fault, but if you're going to reap the benefits of Joey Votto having a MVP season, you have to take the criticism when your team gets embarrassed in two straight games. I mentioned how I supported Volquez starting Game 1, and defensive miscues did him in as well, but I was under the assumption Travis Wood was being shut down for the year as a part of watching his innings count. Instead, he came out of the bullpen in Game 1. Why not give him a start against the Phillies? I guess there's a chance he could start Game 4, if there is one, but I figured he'd be in the first part of the rotation. He took a perfect game into the 9th inning...in his third career start...against these same Phillies...in Philadelphia....against Halladay! Dusty said he didn't want to chance it because that was the first time the Phillies saw Wood. Isn't that a chance you have to take in the playoffs? These are the decisions that will drive me nuts over the next two years.

I've heard a couple of suggestions I've liked pertaining to the wild card setup. One is to add another wild card team and let them play the other wild card team in a one or three game series, while the other teams are resting/setting up their rotation. Another I liked is to give the wild card team one home game during the divisional series so there is some incentive to win the division. I also think the wild card team should be allowed to play its division winner in the first round. Maybe the Yankees play with some urgency if they know they might get the Rays again, instead of seeing the Twins.

I don't know how I feel about the Moss to Minnesota deal. Like you mentioned, he'll be a great help to that Minnesota offense just by getting attention off of everything else. On the other hand, I still don't see them winning that division and they gave up a third rounder for probably a one year rental. How did a disgruntled 30 year old Randy Moss get traded for a fourth rounder, but a disgruntled 33 year old Moss get traded for a third rounder? I just have a feeling that once Sidney Rice gets back, Favre will have too many toys and Peterson will be forgetten about. We shall see.

Excited for hockey season? You betcha...because that means it's almost time for the NBA to start. If you've got some time, give this video a look. Well worth the watch. Hakeem has still got it.



Congrats on your walkoff softball victory. I have but one walkoff victory in my athletic career and it was a pickup basketball game. Hit the game winning shot then shimmied down the court like I had just knocked Michigan State out of the Sweet Sixteen. Good times.

Now for the picks.

Jacksonville over Buffalo- I'll give credit when it's due: Ryan Fitzpatrick has played extremely well this season. It won't be enough here, but I see him having another good game.

Cincinnati over Tampa Bay- Terrified of this game. I really like Josh Freeman and think he has a great day against us and our non-existent pass rush. Hopefully it's not enough to get the win.

Atlanta over Cleveland- Why do people care if Jake Delhomme is healthy? Seneca Wallace has had that team playing hard in his three starts. Either guy is only keeping the spot warm for Colt McCoy next year, so whats the rush to get Delhomme healthy?

St. Louis over Detroit- You're preaching to the choir on Stafford. I think the word "elite" is being thrown around too much in general when it comes to quarterbacks. John Clayton wrote an article ranking his list of NFL quarterbacks. He gave 14 quarterbacks elite ranking, including Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. If almost half of the league's QBs rank as elite, the word "elite" has lost all meaning.

Indianapolis over Kansas City- The Colts will win this game and go on to get a wild card spot. Peyton Manning will begin trying to raise his career playoff numbers by feasting in the wild card round and then not sucking during the next round. Slowly but surely his lackluster playoff numbers will rise and 50 years from now he will be hailed as the greatest quarterback of all time. The end.

Green Bay over Washington- You mean to tell me another big off season acquisition by the Redskins hasn't worked out the way they wanted it to? I won't believe it.

Carolina over Chicago- I don't know why Carolina is so bad. I really don't. Jonathan Stewart has been forgotten about. Yet again, Steve Smith has no competent receiver to take the pressure off of him. I still think they get the win here though because that Bears line is horrible and Todd Collins is Todd Collins.

Baltimore over Denver- I'm still not sold on Baltimore on either side of the ball but they are getting it done. Future Hall of Famer Joe Flacco has a nice day against a weak Denver secondary.

Houston over NY Giants- I love the rumors of Brandon Jacobs demanding a trade. If you're not a good player anymore, is it really demanding? Shouldn't it be "Brandon Jacobs asked politely for a trade?"

New Orleans over Arizona- Kudos to Arizona for making a QB change. It seems like most teams would just ride Derek Anderson for 15 games before tossing Max Hall a start at the end of the season. Maybe Hall is great. Maybe he's terrible, but you don't know what you're getting from him. You know you can expect consistent mediocrity from Anderson.

San Diego over Oakland- Oakland has played hard every game Gradkowski has started. If McFadden were healthy, I'd pick them. But he's not. So I won't.

Tennessee over Dallas- Don't you talk bad about America's team. The Super Bowl is being played in their stadium for crying out loud! That automatically makes them a contender!

San Francisco over Philly- Future Pro Bowler Alex Smith gets back on track here. Well, he was never on track in the first place so he gets his first taste of being on track here.

New York Jets over Minnesota- I'm really hoping Darrelle Pendergrass plays here. If he does, you already know Favre and Moss are dying to test out that hamstring. This could be a fantastic game.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Packers, Picks and Softball

I did not see any of the Bengals game.  I did,  however, catch the entire second half of the Packers game.  Gah.  Never has a win felt so much like a loss.  After the Monday Night debacle against the Bears, I was happy for a win...but a two-point win over the Lions does not allow me to rest easy.  We started last season pretty slow (4-4), so perhaps that is what is happening this season.  I know they have the offensive talent, but they seem to struggle a lot more than they should.  Part of that has to do with the lack of a running game...but there are ways around that.  Brandon Jackson is a pretty good back, and he's great in open space.  They need to throw some more screen/swing passes his way.  I really believe he's good...they just need to get him going.
I am pretty concerned with our defense.  We had questions coming into the season, but injuries are taking their toll.  Al Harris and Atari Bigby won't be coming back until Week 6 (at the earliest).  Morgan Burnett - Bigby's replacement - tore his ACL last week, so he's out for the season.  Barnett dislocated his wrist, and it looks like he's done for the season.  Chillar is out at at least another week.  Collins may miss this next game.  If Collins misses this game, that means we will start two unproven safeties.  I'm not looking forward to that.
I still believe that the Packers will win the division...but the offense needs to get in sync fast.

Sorry about the Reds.  Halladay was on in Game 1...but the Reds self-destructed in Game 2.  Here's to hoping they can pull it together and make a series out of this.

I have a slight problem with the wild card system.  It just doesn't seem to reward the division winner enough.  The Yankees dogged it in the last week of the season, because they felt they had a better chance against the Twins, which they would get as the wild card.  They let the Rays win the division, and now they're up 2-0 on the Twins.  Shouldn't the goal be to win the division?
Plus, anytime a one-game playoff is involved, I'm all in.  It's extremely exciting.  If we got a couple of those a year...that would be terrific.

I've tracked down East Bound and Down, but I've only watched the first episode so far.  I liked it, but felt it was the weakest episode in the series so far.  That's to be expected...it was kind of setting up this season, and none of the supporting cast from the first season was in it.  I'm looking forward to this season, and hope they figure out a way to get those characters involved (I heard Stevie Janowski shows up in the second episode, so I'm excited about that).

Hockey season is getting started...you excited?

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Moss trade.  I've had a couple people ask me how I felt about it.  I don't like that he's back in the division, and I don't like that he's going to be mad and playing for one last big contract.  A motivated Randy Moss is an unstoppable Randy Moss (that one-handed TD catch over Revis was unbelievable).  I think having Moss will get Favre motivated again.  It will give Harvin more room to maneuver through the middle, and Adrian Peterson will have fewer guys in the box to stop the run.  In short, it makes the Vikings an infinitely more dangerous team than they have been so far this year.  Still, I think the Packers have the talent to win the division.  It'll be tougher than I thought it would be at the beginning of the season, but we got this.

Onto the picks:
Jacksonville over Buffalo
The Jags beat the Colts last week (on a dramatic, 59 yard field goal, no less).  The only way I see them losing this game is if either a.) Garrard has a wretched game, or b.) Fred Jackson, finally set free after the Lynch trade, goes bonkers.

Cincinnati over Tampa Bay
I have to assume the Bengals will win this game.  But the Bucs haven't been as bad as I thought they would be.  This could be closer than it looks.

Atlanta over Cleveland
I was tempted to take Cleveland here...but I think an injured Delhomme will be under center.  No thanks.  (I know football players are tough, and want to play through the pain...but, if they're no good to begin with, they're really doing more harm than good.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that an injured Delhomme is worse than a healthy Seneca Wallace.  Not that either is a great choice...but it's the lesser of two evils.)

Detroit over St. Louis
The Lions are better than their record shows.  The Rams are worse.  Bradford gets hammered, and Hill goes for 3 touchdowns.  (I already made this point, but I feel the need to make it again.  Every article I read about this game mentions the fact that the Lions are playing without Stafford, as if that hurts them.  They work under the assumption that Stafford is an elite quarterback, and Hill is garbage.  Stafford has shown nothing at the NFL level, and underperformed at Georgia.  Enough with the "Stafford is a great QB" talk.)

Kansas City over Indianapolis
I don't think I really believe this, but I want to believe.  Two things working in the Chiefs favor:
1. Their running game is terrific, and the Colts run defense is terrible
2. The Chiefs have Romeo Crennel as their defensive coordinator...the same Romeo Crennel that used to give Manning fits when he was in New England.  The Chiefs have a decent defense this year...it's not a stretch to thing they can win this game.

Green Bay over Washington
The Packers get their offense in gear and destroy the Redskins.  And by "destroy" I mean "put up a ton of points, while their defense allows Chris Cooley to go for 100+ yards and a touchdown".  (I hated all the "Philly was wrong to give up on McNabb" talk after their win last week.  Did you see McNabb's stats?  8/19, 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  Vick got injured early in the game.  Kolb came in and went 22/35, 201 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  I know the Redskins won...but you can't give that victory to McNabb.)

Chicago over Carolina
Collins!  Clausen!  NFL Fever...catch it!

Denver over Baltimore
Just a feeling.  The Broncos have a decent defense and a great passing offense.  The Ravens have a pretty good defense (with a weak secondary) and a decent offense.  It'll be close, but I think the Broncos will pull this out.

Houston over New York Giants
The Giants pass rush is not as good as it looked last week.  That was a combination of a terrible Bears line, a quarterback who held onto the ball for too long, and an offensive coordinator who refused to run short routes.  With Andre Johnson back, the Texans shouldn't have much of a problem with this game.

New Orleans over Arizona
The Cards dropped Leinart before the season started, naming Derek Anderson as their starter.  It's Week 5, and they now turn to the undrafted Max Hall.  With how Anderson looked, I can't blame them...but I don't expect their offense to start lighting it up anytime soon.

San Diego over Oakland
The Chargers finally seemed to figure out their offense last week, which is a couple weeks sooner than they normally do that.  That's bad news for the Raiders.

Tennessee over Dallas
Chris Johnson isn't having a great season, but he'll have a good game here, and Vince Young will do just enough to win.  A couple mini-rants:
1. I don't know why people keep thinking that the Cowboys are an elite team.  They're a team with talent, but they're ridiculously inconsistent.
2. Jeff Fisher has been coaching with the same franchise since 1994.  That's amazing.  He has been coaching for that long, yet, in the past week, there have been a ton of people asking, "Is Jeff Fisher a dirty coach?"  That's ridiculous.  If he was a dirty coach, wouldn't we have noticed by now?

Philadelphia over San Francisco
How is that "Alex Smith is an Pro Bowler" working out for you?

Minnesota over New York Jets
The Jets have looked good recently...but you still can't convince me that Sanchez is a good quarterback.  Favre will be re energized in this game, and he'll hit Moss on a couple bombs.  A close game, but, in the end, the Vikings will pull it out.

One final note: I play softball with Grace Evangel Fellowship every Thursday night.  This past week, we won in dramatic fashion.  In this league, we play 7 innings or an hour...whichever comes first.  We were the home team.  Entering into the bottom of the seventh, we were down 2 runs.  The lead-off man gets a hit.  The second guy up hits an absolute bomb over the fence.  Tie game.  The next guy pops out.  The next guy hits a laser over the left field fence.  Walk-off home run.  Even though it was a church softball game, it was still an amazingly exciting moment.  Great job, guys.  We start the playoffs next week...let's do it again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Playoff baseball and Rex Ryan

I was on the run for most of the last week, hence me failing to post my picks. Rest assured, I would have gotten them all correct. Every single one. So I have that going for me.

I also missed every NFL game except most of Bears-Giants, which I wish I had missed. Therefore I can't complain too much about the Bengals- Browns game. I saw the final score and wasn't the least bit surprised that we lost. The box score tells me Carson had a good game, but lost two fumbles. The Browns were able to hit our quarterback consistently, but we weren't able to hit their quarterback consistently. We failed to rush for 100 yards on a Brown's defense that gave up at least 100 yards on the ground in their first three games. Believe you me, I'd love to let loose on what's wrong with the Bengals and why they should listen to me, but I can't in good conscience without having seen the game. There is always next week.

I caught a couple episodes of "Hard Knocks" recently. Man, I love that show. They could have me convinced that 0-16 Lions team a couple of years ago are Super Bowl contenders. I keep wanting to hate Rex Ryan, but I can't do it. He's exactly what you'd want in a head coach...or what I'd want at least. He handles all the tough talk. He strokes the egos. Then he gets out of the way and lets his coordinators do their job. Of course, it always helps to have competent coaches on your staff. He established an identity. The team accepted it and the media went crazy with it. The Bengals can't even say that much anymore. Last year we were similar to the Jets as running teams with good defenses. Now, I have no idea what we are. Ced Benson has yet to hit 100 yards in a game. We're passing more because we have more weapons, but we've forsaken the identity that won us the division last year. The Jets got Sanchez more weapons, but have still kept his pass attempts limited. He's attempted 30 passes just once this season. Palmer hasn't had less than 35 pass attempts in a game yet. Hence, Sanchez's QB rating is 105 and his team sits in first place and Palmer's is 83 as his team looks up from 3rd place.

The playoffs are finally here and the Phillies are expected to make quick work of the Reds. In the regular season, the Phillies won 5 of 7 against Cincy. Four of those seven were lost in extra innings and the fifth was a 1-0 game. Philly hasn't exactly "owned" the Reds this season. To their credit, they did all that before they acquired Roy Oswalt. To our credit, we did that with the Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce of early and not of late. The Phillies and Reds played in June and July. Stubbs hit .230 in June and .213 in July. Since then? Stubbs has hit .308 in addition to his great glove and Flash-like speed. Bruce has been outstanding lately. I kept hearing announcers go on and on about how much of a positive effect the acquisition of Jim Edmonds has had on Jay Bruce. Since August 9th, the day Edmonds was acquired, Bruce has hit .367 with 13 of his 25 homers and 27 of his 70 RBI's. Sweet Jesus. If they keep that up, it might not matter who's pitching for Philly. With my homer glasses proudly perched upon my nose, I'll take the Reds in 5.

I like Dusty Baker's decision to start Volquez in Game 1. In his last four starts, he's went at least 6 innings, struck out at least 6 batters and given up no more than 3 earned runs. If he's on, he can hang with Halladay. If he's not, you probably weren't going to win that game anyway. In Game 2, Mr. Consistent Bronson Arroyo faces Roy Oswalt and Johnny Cueto gets Cole Hamels in Game 3. I'll admit, I like the rotation Baker put together. As far as his contract extension, I can't say I'm pleased but I certainly understand it. There has been a lot of talent on this team in the past 15 years, yet no manager was able to get them to the postseason. Regardless of how I feel about his in game management, he was able to get the Reds over the hump and the players seem to enjoy playing for him.

I've heard some complaints about baseball's wild card system. Do you have any problems with the current setup?

I was actually starting to get excited for the NBA season until I saw an article entitled, "With the New Season Looming Large, Orlando Magic turn to Vince Carter." Aw geeze. I'm not that excited for the NBA season anymore. Still, the one thing I hope is that Vince realizes that this is a potential contract year for him. In the two seasons prior to VC signing big contracts, here are his numbers:

2000-01: 27 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4 apg
2006-07: 25 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.8 apg

If there is anything that will make him show up, it's a contract year. He's 33 now and assuming Orlando declines his option at years end, he stands to be in line for his last decent contract. His days at 18 million per year are over, but 8-10 million a year isn't out of the question. Consider 35 year old Ray Allen, who does one thing well and failed miserably at that one thing on the biggest stage, just signed for 2 years, 20 million. There is a GM stupid enough to take one more chance on VC with a decent contract this year. I only hope VC remembers that.

Why, yes that is Gilbert Arenas with a new number, a new beard, looking a little bigger and a lot surlier when he refused to smile for pictures at the Wizards media day. He'll have a great influence on John Wall and the other youngsters in Washington!

The Wildcats losing on the road to Ole Miss was disgusting. If this team is going to get out of the "6-7 wins and a mediocre bowl every year" phase, these are the games you have to win. Ole Miss is fresh off of losses to juggernauts Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. UK played about as poorly as they could have in the first half with three turnovers in Mississippi territory and they were only down 4 at the half. Then they fell apart. Hartline's play has declined as the quality of opponents improved, but he's still better than he was last season. Randall Cobb has yet to have 10 touches (rushing/receiving) in a game this season, which is beyond me. Derrick Locke and Chris Matthews have looked great but for all the offensive success, the defense is atrocious. I still expect UK to get the customary 6 or 7 wins, but I thought this could be the year they take games like Ole Miss, Georgia and/or Tennessee. That much remains to be seen, but it doesn't look good.

The Haynesworth thing you posted is a joke. I don't know when people will realize that there are certain things that will never go over well. Slavery is one of them. Hitler references are one of them. Yet it seems every year, at least one of these things is brought up. My favorite part of the article was Albet saying "he doesn't like the spotlight and would prefer to hang out at Wal-Mart. Which is fine...just don't sign the 100 million dollar contract and expect those things. Neither the Redskins or Haynesworth will get my sympathy.

I hope that somehow you've been able to track down the new season of "Eastbound and Down".