Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Top-50 QBs: #30-21

30.) Boomer Esiason

In his favor, Boomer Esiason won an MVP, led a Bengals franchise away from the dark ages for another decade, extending their relevance for another few years and even another Super Bowl appearance. He was also the first QB to really implement a no-huddle offense. His offense was revolutionary at the time, coming before the Bills did the same with the K-Gun. On the other side, he had a long fall in Arizona and New York that hurt his career stats. Not having great receiving options (I mean, Cris Collinsworth was arguably his best receiver in his career - and he was not that good) hurt his stats as well. Esiason never reached the heights that he could have on a better team, but with that no-huddle offense, his memory will lie on. Also, I have a personal soft-spot for him as one of the co-hosts of the great morning show on WFAN with Craig Carton. Easily the most accessible great QB in history.

29.) Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb was a lot better than people will remember. He was a lot better especially at the things people thought he was bad at. Donovan McNabb was incredibly careful with the ball, throwing interceptions on just 2.2% of his throws (a great figure for the early to mid 00's). He was better at evading sacks than almost any 'running' QB. He was also better at making competent-at-worst offenses out of nothing receivers. For most of his career, he was throwing to Todd Pinkston, James Thrash and Fred-Ex Mitchell. The one year he was given a motivated, play-nice Terrell Owens, he had an awesome year and led his team to the Super Bowl. His 11-years in Philadelphia will never be remembered by the people that cheered him on as much as it should, but we should all remember just how good Donovan McNabb was. He and Andy Reid made a really nice duo for 10-years. It all fell apart rapidly, but he's easily the best modern-era QB the Eagles ever had. Donovan McNabb was a lightning rod way more than anyone with his success, his ability and his performance ever should have been.

28.) Eli Manning

Everyone from here on out either is, will be, or should be in the Hall of Fame - and we start off with the QB who will get in but maybe shouldn't, but let's not pretend that means he isn't good. Eli Manning has been the most polarizing QB of the modern era, mainly because his play has necessitated it. How else do you explain a QB having a passer rating at the time below 80.0 winning a Super Bowl in an historic upset. How else do you explain a guy going from having one of the better full seasons when you count postseasons in 2011, to having a passer-rating under 70.0 in 2013? Eli Manning is unexplainable. At his best, he was easily a Hall of Fame worthy QB. For Eli's benefit, two of those periods of 'best' were four-game stretches in January and February. The Eli Manning regular season experience has been more or less than of a #8-#12 level QB for most of his career, but he's had enough peaks and enough handful-of-game stretches where that touches #3-#1. Eli Manning will never be underrated. Hard to be that when your best games are in your highest profile games, and your team misses the playoffs enough times that the natural regression over a bunch of playoff games (see: Rodgers, Aaron) brings that back to earth. Eli Manning has been dependable, has been very good in late-game situations, has elevated the level of his players around him, and has been able to succeed at times with marginal running games and o-lines. Succeed is a relative term, but Eli has shown an ability to do all these things at least once - and twice in January and February.

27.) Daryle Lamonica

Placing Daryl was really tough. He was really a starter for just six seasons - but then again, his fellow Raider Rich Gannon made this list with just four real seasons. Lamonica was a very accomplished player. In his Raiders career, he was 62-16-6 as a starter. He threw a bunch of TDs, didn't throw (for the 70's) that many INTs, and threw for a bunch of yards. Lamonica also held his value better than contemporary AFL QBs that made the transition into the merged NFL. Lamonica was also a great playoff QB, improving his stats across the board - including a great INT% given the era. The Raiders of that time had some great players on defense and at o-line, but this was before Casper and the only reliable option he had was Biletnikoff. Lamonica is another player who was just overlooked due to having more 'interesting' competition - mainly that of Namath. Statistically, Lamonica is better and it isn't very close. Both made a Super Bowl, and while Lamonica lost it was to one of the best teams of all time, and overall had far better playoff success. Out of the three great Raider reclamation projects (Daryl, Gannon, Plunkett), Lamonica was the best. Al Davis, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell. All of these guys overshadowed Daryl, but his importance on those early Raiders teams shouild not be forgotten.

26.) Philip Rivers

In many ways, Philip Rivers is the anti-Eli Manning. Forget the fact they were basically traded for each other, but Rivers has been good in all the ways Eli has not. Rivers has been far more consistent, a more accomplished passer in statistically and performance-wise in the regular season. He has been the QB of teams that went 13-3 and 14-2. He has been on multiple occassions, one of the Top-3 QBs in the NFL (2008, 2009, 2013), including leading the league in Y/A three straight years. He's piled up 'black ink', including leading the NFL in completion percentage twice, yards once (on the way in 2015), yards per completion once, and passer rating once. He';s done it all... except have a good 3-4 game stretch in January. However, unlike Manning, or Rodgers (2011 onwards), or other guys who have not fared well in the playoffs, his stats match someone who has not been a good performer. He hasn't been unlucky, he's just been plain bad in a lot of those games. He was bad in his one-and-done's. He was gritty playing on a torn ACL in the 2007 AFC Championship, but it showed with his performance. Rivers is better than Manning because the regular season makes up 80%-90% of a player's career, but had he had Manning's playoff career, he may be well in the Top-15 of all time. People I guess feel the Manning vs. Rivers debate is over - and in a way it is. The Giants got what they wanted: 2 Super Bowls. But in terms of who was actually the better player, it was Rivers - and depending on how much you feel those 8 games matter for Eli, it ranges from a lot better to just marginally better. But either way, it was better.

25.) Warren Moon

It is hard to separate Warren Moon's playing career from his historical legacy. Warren Moon was the first African-American QB to really succeed at QB. He himself would say he was far from the first with the talent, but he was the first to truly make it. He begat Cunningham and McNabb, McNair, Culpepper, and to the point know where it isn't really a big issue. The one difference, and maybe this is why he really lasted and became such a great trailblazer, is that he wasn't played for athelticism, or as a 'dual-threat'; he was played, paid and persevered, because he was a great passer. Warren Moon came closest to making the run-and-shoot work. He had some amazing years, including the back-to-back stellar seasons in 1990-91. Despite it seeming recent, 1990-91 was a long time ago, and his 4,690 yard seasons were something out of the future at the time. Moon is a deserving Hall of Famer on his playing career alone, but his legacy gets deservedly bumped for what he represented. Let's not forget he lost years of his career playing in the CFL. His career in the NFL started at 28, he peaked at 34-35, he had a long tail to end his career of slightly mediocre play, but that peak is good enough to be one of the best 25 to date. It may have been better had he been in the NFL the whole time. In that way, his career is a lot like...

24.) Kurt Warner

No QB may have been harder to place than Warner. Let's state the facts first. Warner is a two-time league MVP. Not many QBs have done that, and the one's that have (Manning, Favre, Montana, Rodgers, Brady, Young) are, spoiler alert, in the Top-20 of this list. Warner led two moribund franchises to the Super Bowl, and put up some of the best playoff stats of all-time. Warner was the key cog in an offense that was revolutionary, that put up volume stats that hold up 15 years later in a wildly more conducive to offense era. Those are all pluses. Kurt Warner was also bad enough in 2002-03 that the Rams were almost forced to release him. It is easy to call Warner's career one of peaks and valleys, but we should qualify that. The peaks were being the best QB in the league ('99-'01), and a Top-5 QB ('07-'09), and the valleys, apart from 2002, weren't all that bad. His QB Rating+ (adjusted for league conditions), was only below 100 (average) one time in a season that he started more than 2 games. He was anywhere from 106-111 in his first three years in Arizona, where injuries held him back. Once he stayed healthy, and the team got slightly better, he was a consistent QB again. Kurt Warner was as good as we remember him at his best, but he was also better than the player we remember him being at his worst. Guys who complete 65.5% of their career passes, with a career Y/A of 7.9, and a career passer rating of 93.7, playing mostly before passing stats exploded, is a player deserving of a Hall of Fame nod. Add in the playoff dominance, two league MVPs, and you get what should be a shoo-in.

23.) Len Dawson

I'm stretching my 'Super Bowl Era' rules with this and the next pick. Len Dawson played many years before the mgerger; his best year's came right before or during the merger; his stats were not as good after the merger. Yet, there are two reasons why I want to include him, and put him so highly. First, it wasn't like he played in the 40's-50's. The per-merger AFL was far closer to the NFL than, say, the AAFC was. Second, his stats were so amazing pre-merger, far better than Namath, or Lamonica, or the other great AFL QBs. Len Dawson also didn't drop nearly as much as some of his contemporaries. Len Dawson was the Peyton Manning of the AFL, black ink on his stat page everywhere. From 1962-1968, Dawson led the NFL in completion percentage six times, passer rating six times, TDs four times, and yards per attempt three times. The league's merged the year after, and while the black ink stopped, his passer rating adjusted for era was on average 12% better than league average. Dawson dominated the AFL because that was his peak, but he was pretty darn good in the merged league, leading a Super Bowl champion that first year. Becuase he didn't win with a guarantee, he''ll always be overlooked, by Len Dawson was, and will always be, the best QB ever to play in the AFL.

22.) Sunny Jurgenson

While Dawson was dominating the AFL in the mid-60's, Jurgenson was doing the same thing to the more-established NFL. His team wasn't as good as Dallas, or Green Bay, or even the LA Rams, but the Redskins were a consistent winner without much talent surrounding good ol' Sonny Boy. Between 1961 and 1968, Jurgenson led the NFL in completions four times, yards five times, TDs three times, and passer rating twice. Jurgenson was in many ways playing a different sport than most of the other 'winner' QBs of the time, passing shorter and more accurately. Jurgenson was the player most thought Archie Manning was - a guy playing for a franchise that really didn't given him much to work with, succeeding to all-pro levels. Jurgenson retired with the all-time lead in passer rating in the modern era, and again did this without hall of famers surrounding him like the other great QBs of his day.

21.) Ken Anderson

It has become almost passe to say that Anderson is the best QB not in the Hall of Fame. He likely will get in the Hall of Fame through the Veteran's Committee sometime soon. It's good too that he will, because it is hard to argue Anderson, a man who was the first QB to thrive and play well in Bill Walsh's offense, was not deserving. Ken Anderson has done more in his career with less around him than nearly any other QB in his era. Anderson had four different seasons that would play well in the 1990's, let alone his own era. His 1974-75 seasons, are something absurd for that era, averaging 62% completions, along with Y/A above 8.0, and passer ratings around 94.0. Those were Troy Aikman seasons from 20 years later, not seasons in the heart of deadball playing for a Northern team in an open-air stadium. Anderson then almost had a Kurt Warner-esque dip in the middle of his career, but rebounded with an even better two-season stretch in 1981-82, this time he averaged a 65% completion percentage, and a 97.0 passer rating. These are not normal seasons for QBs of that day not named Marino or Montana. Anderson was also a pretty good playoff QB, with a career 93.5 rating, albeit in only 6 playoff games. Anderson did everything well, did them in different eras with different coaches, and at his best he was putting up stats that Troy Aikman would blush at. That's good enough to be in the Hall of Fame, guys.

NFL 2015: Week 8 Picks

Miami Dolphins (3-3)  @  New England Patriots (6-0)  (NE -8.5)

 Dolphins 20  Patriots 27  (MIA +8.5)

Detroit Lions (1-6)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (2-5)  (KC -3.5)

Lions 21  Chiefs 16  (DET +3.5)

Tennessee Titans (1-5)  @  Houston Texans (2-5)  (HOU -4)

Titans 13  Texans 16  (TEN +4)

Minnesota Vikings (4-2)  @  Chicago Bears (2-4)  (MIN -1)

Vikings 20  Bears 23  (CHI +1)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)  @  Atlanta Falcons (6-1)  (ATL -7)

Buccaneers 17  Falcons 30  (ATL -7)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-0)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)  (PK)

Bengals 27  Steelers 24  (CIN PK)

Arizona Cardinals (5-2)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-5)  (ARZ -5.5)

Cardinals 33  Browns 14  (ARZ -5.5)

New York Giants (4-3)  @  New Orleans Saints (3-4)  (NO -3)

Giants 30  Saints 24  (NYG +3)

San Francisco 49ers (2-5)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-3)  (STL -8)

49ers 10  Rams 23  (STL -8)

San Diego Chargers (2-5)  @  Baltimore Ravens (1-6)  (BAL -3.5)

Chargers 20  Ravens 27  (BAL -3.5)

New York Jets (4-2)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-3)  (NYJ -3)

Jets 20  Raiders 24  (OAK +3)

Seattle Seahawks (2-4)  @  Dallas Cowboys (2-4)  (SEA -5)

Seahawks 27  Cowboys 13  (SEA -5)

Green Bay Packers (6-0)  @  Denver Broncos (6-0)  (GB -3)

Packers 24  Broncos 27  (DEN +3)

Indianapolis Colts (3-4)  @  Carolina Panthers (6-0)  (CAR -7)

Colts 21  Panthers 27  (IND +7)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thoughts on Grantland's Demise

Grantland shut down today. It was probably never going to last long after Bill Simmons left ESPN in May, and while ESPN publicly stated that they will keep it alive, they didn't. It's gone. And with it a collective of talented writers that covered every topic, most of it well. Grantland was created the Summer of 2011, it lived for four strong years. It's gone. In a way, I am sad. I visited it daily. I liked a lot of their writers. I listened to a few of their podcasts. I found it a great mix of pop culture, media entertainment, and sports. But now that it is gone, what did we actually lose?

Let's look at it another way. None of these writers died. They are all going to continue to write. They got tremendous exposure in Grantland that should benefit them in their search for new outlets. Some of the main sports writers may land up at ESPN proper. I don't think today marks the end of Zach Lowe's, Bill Barnwell's, Jonah Keri's, and Robert Mays's careers as journalists. I don't think this is the end of the type of content that they put out. They will find homes, continue to do what they do. Maybe with more restrictions, maybe with less freedom. But in the end what Grantland's failure proves is that freedom does not work.

Grantland didn't fail because Bill Simmons was let go. It was failing before that and stayed alive because Bill Simmons was there. Apparently the site never really made money. Similar type sites were created in multiple places, like SportsOnEarth, or The Classical, and they've all basically fallen apart. SportsOnEarth was something close to Grantland, with respected writers and huge media support, and it failed even more quickly. Without Simmons's at-the-time cozy position with ESPN brass, it lived for five years. That's the reality.

Let's treasure that we had Grantland instead of mourn the fact it is gone. To be honest, I am not a Bill Simmons fan. I respect what he meant for his industry, but Grantland got better the further away it went from Simmons's ideas. Early on the Simmons imprint was everywhere - take random bracket challenges for things no one cared about. But Simmons stopped being a real full-time writer around 2013 or so, and the site got better when it was more of the other people. That was the true Grantland... problem is not enough people cared.

ESPN is a business; and a company in that business that for the first time ever is forced to cut costs. Forget sports, ESPN was the biggest money-making machine in Television - but seemingly that period is over. It still will have the highest cable carraige fees, and the largest revenues, and the biggest pockets in sports media, but it couldn't survive at its current level. Cutting costs happens, and Grantland, without its spiritual heir and figure-head leader in Simmons, was not going to ever make it out alive.

The loss of Grantland says more about the inability for that model to work. The intersection of sports and pop culture really isn't that big; they are largely separate circles and people have seemingly better places to go for each.

As a consumer for each, I will follow Zach Lowe wherever he goes (ESPN would be foolish to let him go), and the same of Robert Mays, Jonah Keri and Ben Lindbergh (was never a real fan of Barnwell back when he was at Football Outsiders in his previous life). I will likely do the same for a couple of their pop culture people - though that was never my cup of tea. I will lose a few podcasts (though I feel like the hosted one's like Lowe's and Keri's will stay assuming they stay on ESPN). But I'm not lazy enough to go to three sites to read three people's work instead of one.

To be honest, I was more torn up when Kissing Suzy Kolber was gutted. Most of the sites writers had turned-over a few times from their initial group, but both the style of the site, and its interconnected set of commenters were still there. Those things were lost forever. Those guys may have gone elsewhere, but that amazing little community was lost. This wasn't. Zach Lowe will live on. Bill Barnwell will live on. Jonah Keri will live on. Robert Mays will live on. It may take a few months for everything to sort itself out, but we aren't losing those voices. We are just losing the last hope of a collection of voices like that being all at the same place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

NFL 2015: Week 8 Power Rankings & The Rest

The "We're Just the Worst" Quatro

32.) Houston Texans  (2-5  =  154-199)
31.) Detroit Lions  (1-6  =  139-200)
30.) Tennessee Titans  (1-5  =  119-139)
29.) Cleveland Browns  (2-5  =  147-182)

The Texans ostensibly have a good defense, with the best player in the NFL in Watt and a few nice supporting pieces, but twice in four weeks they've been down 0-35 and 0-41 at halftime. The Lions also have a team with some talent, but apparently that talent comes with a stipulation: not being able to block the Lions. What was that? Again? For the Titans and Browns, in some ways they've been decent, but they keep finding ways to lose games, and with Mariota out a while the Titans are in disaster mode, really calling into question of Whisenhunt makes it past this year.

The "Frisky but Terrible" Quatro

28.) Chicago Bears  (2-4  =  120-179)
27.) San Francisco 49ers  (2-5  =  103-180)
26.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (2-5  =  147-207)

25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2-4  =  140-179)

The Bears had a nice two-week renaissance, quickly forgotten after they threw away the Lions game. The team is really bereft of talent. The coaching staff is good all around but in a tough NFC that is far from good enough. The 49ers are able to be competent against some teams, but have now looked disastrous in four of their seven games so far. The Jaguars are actually putting together a decent offense, which makes the fact that their defense has returned to being one of the league's worst even more depressing. If only they had the 2014 Jaguars defense, you could argue they could win the division. Finally, Tampa Bay is blowing a few games, but that means that they've been in position to blow those games. That team is getting better, but closing out games is the last step.

The "Don't Injuries Suck" Trio

24.) Dallas Cowboys  (2-4  =  121-158)
23.) Kansas City Chiefs  (2-5  =  150-172)
22.) San Diego Chargers  (2-5  =  165-198)

All three of these teams have seen somewhat promising seasons ruined by injury. All three won in Week 1 behind the type of games they usually win by. Dallas's offense was sharp, the Chiefs defense and running game were great, and the Chargers had a guy that every now and then would become superman. Of course, none of these things lasted. The Cowboys are in the worst shape because the guy that allows them to cover a lot of holes is out in Romo. The Chiefs are now without Jamaal Charles and a few defensive injuries. Finally, the Chargers o-line is basically starting D-III lineman right now. I don't think that any of these three teams are done being quite competitive, but it is hard to be competitive when you are missing key players that unable your team to play its game.

The "Ryan Brothers Hand-in-Hand" Trio

21.) Buffalo Bills  (3-4  =  176-173)
20.) New Orleans Saints  (3-4  =  161-185)

Rob Ryan's always been quite overrated - his defenses are rarely all that good apart from infrequent great performances. Rex Ryan is not overrated - but should we start talking about that team underachieving. His defensive personnel in Buffalo is about as good as he's had on all three levels since the 2006 Ravens - but where are the results. The Bills were a Top-5 defense in 2013-14 with noted coordinators Gregg Williams and Jim Schwartz. Somehow, it has not translated in Buffalo. The Bills just blew a 4th quarter lead to Blake Bortles of all people.

The "NFL's Enigma; v. 2015" Uno

19.) Baltimore Ravens  (1-6  =  161-188)

The Ravens by almost any estimation are better than a 1-6 team. All of their losses by been by eight points or less. They led in the 4th quarter of five of them (all but last week); and done this against a tough schedule. They've had to play five of their first seven on the road (that said, they are 0-2 at home, both to division rivals). There is a chance they go on a run and finish close to 8-8 - setting up the Ravens for better things in 2016.

The "2012 was a long time ago" Duo

18.) Washington Redskins  (3-4  =  148-168)
17.) Indianapolis Colts  (3-4  =  147-174)

Maybe no one won the 2012 draft?

The "There will be team's that make the playoffs after a 1-3 start" Duo

16.) Philadelphia Eagles  (3-4  =  160-137)
15.) Miami Dolphins  (3-3  =  147-137)

The Eagles so far have three wins. One was against the Saints playing at their worst, the other against a Jets team that they nearly blew a 21-0 lead to, and a third game when the opposing team turned the ball over in plus territory three times. I still don't think they are any good, but they are still 2-1 after their start and just a game back in that awful division. The Eagles defense is for real. Is the Dolphins? Miami has now blown the doors off two straight teams following Philbin's firing. They get a great chance to show something this Thursday in Foxboro. On talent they can play New England close, but as the 1-3 start, talent is not the issue; execution and motivation are.

The "Good Bad Teams" Duo

14.) Minnesota Vikings  (4-2  =  124-102)
13.) Oakland Raiders  (3-3  =  144-153)

Both of these teams are good enough to beat bad teams. They are the best two bad teams. They both have the potential to be good teams, and will likely start being so in 2016, but the Vikings are living dangerously with an offense that can go long stretches without doing anything, and the Raiders still have holes and aging veterans. Things are headed up for both, and the best sign is that they are both winning the games they have to win in 2015.

The "Bad Good Teams" Duo

12.) Seattle Seahawks  (3-4  =  154-128)
11.) St. Louis Rams  (3-3  =  108-119)

Both of these teams are good, but probably can't beat any other good team. Put aside the weird Rams loss to Washington, and we have two teams that are 6-0 against bad teams, and 0-6 against good teams. Both have defenses that just swallow up bad offenses - as both showed this week. The Seahawks held San Francisco to 3 and the Rams held Cleveland to 6. They are two of the five or six best defenses in the NFL, but more exactly they are the best defenses against bad teams, and just average against good offenses.

The "How far can a QB take you?" Trio

10.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (4-3  =  158-131)
9.) New York Giants  (4-3  =  166-156)
8.) Atlanta Falcons  (6-1  =  193-150)

The Steelers, Giants and Falcons all have good elements aside from their QB (this is when Ben is back). The Steelers have their skill positions, the Giants the same, and the Falcons have Julio Jones, but all three teams need their QBs to be better to bump into that top group of teams. The Steelers need Roethlisberger to come back, but also need more consistency from that run game. The Giants need JPP to actually contribute with his 8.5 fingers. The Falcons need someone to step up aside from Julio Jones with Jones less than 100%. But really they need their three QBs to play like elite QBs - for teh Steelers that means Roethlisberger to come back, but for the Giants and Falcons that means consistency from two players that haven't been all that great the past two weeks. 

The "Defense is Still a Thing in 2015" Trio

7.) New York Jets  (4-2  =  152-105)
6.) Carolina Panthers  (6-0  =  162-110)
5.) Denver Broncos  (6-0  =  139-102)

I don't know if these are the league's best three defenses. I know the Jets and Broncos are likely the league's two best. Carolina's may be the best coached. What Ron Rivera has done with that team and spare parts around two all-world linebackers is amazing. They are just so competent all the time. The Jets and Broncos are more conventionally great, and have been each week. All three teams would have been far better thought of had this been 2005 and not 2015.

The "I Still Think this would be a good Super Bowl" Duo

4.) Arizona Cardinals  (5-2  =  229-133)
3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (6-0  =  182-122)

Seriously, I do. These are my two favorite teams to watch this year.

The "I guess this will just be the effing Super Bowl" Duo

2.) Green Bay Packers  (6-0  =  164-101)
1.) New England Patriots  (6-0  =  213-126)

But of course, we'll get this chalk-a-thon.

Project the Playoff Picks


1.) New England Patriots  =  14-2
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  13-3
3.) Denver Broncos  =  12-4

4.) Indianapolis Colts  =  8-8
5.) New York Jets  =  11-5

6.) Pittburgh Steelers  =  10-6


1.) Green Bay Packers  =  13-3
2.) Carolina Panthers  =  12-4
3.) Arizona Cardinals  =  12-4

4.) New York Giants  =  10-6
5.) Atlanta Falcons  =  11-5
6.) St. Louis Rams  =  10-6

Looking Forward to Next Week's Games

Byes: Buffalo Bills (3-4), Philadelphia Eagles (3-4), Washington Redskins (3-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5)

14.) Detroit Lions (1-6)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (2-5)  (9:30 - FOX)
13.) Tennessee Titans (1-5)  @  Houston Texans (2-5)  (1:00 - CBS)
12.) Minnesota Vikings (4-2)  @  Chicago Bears (2-4)  (1:00 - FOX)

11.) Seattle Seahawks (3-4)  @  Dallas Cowboys (2-4)  (4:25 - FOX)
10.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)  @  Atlanta Falcons (6-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
9.) Arizona Cardinals (5-2)  @  Cleveland Browns  (2-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
8.) San Diego Chargers (2-5)  @  Baltimore Ravens (1-6)  (1:00 - CBS)

7.) Indianapolis Colts (3-4)  @  Carolina Panthers (6-0)  (MNF - ESPN)
6.) San Francisco 49ers (2-5)  @  St. Louis Rams (3-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
5.) New York Giants (4-3)  @  New Orleans Saints (3-4)  (1:00 - FOX)
4.) Cincinnati Bengals (6-0)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
3.) New York Jets (4-2)  @  Oakland Raiders (3-3)  (4:05 - CBS)
2.) Miami Dolphins (3-3)  @  New England Patriots (6-0)  (TNF - NFLN)
1.) Green Bay Packers (6-0)  @  Denver Broncos (6-0)  (SNF - NBC)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rooting for Manning in the Year 2015

Late last year, when Peyton Manning started struggling, I looked past it. He was hurt. He was asked to throw too much. He was struggling with deep balls and nothing else. They were saving him for the playoffs. He was playing some good defenses. All of it.

Then he went out and played terribly in a sullen playoff loss to the Colts. The initial drive was vintage Peyton, but the last 55 minutes of the game showed a QB that was far below anyone's normal expectations of what Peyton Manning is. I felt he may retire. I thought he would retire. I didn't want him to retire. I didn't want him to go out that bad, go out with that pitiful performance in a game and an atmosphere that was about as depressing as any I had ever witnessed.

And he didn't. He decided to come back. I continued to make rationalizations for why it wouldn't matter that he had to switch coaches and schemes, and play with three new lineman. I thought it would all come together, that his play late in 2014 was a factor of an injury, that an offseason of rest would heal him weakened body. Instead, he's somehow worse. All everyone's pessimistic hopes of seeing Peyton fail have come true... my worst nightmare has come true. Yet, the Broncos are 6-0.

It is hard to say Peyton Manning should not have come back. For one, it isn't like he is playing any worse now than he was in the Colts playoff game. He wasn't really going out on top then. He's been able to add a few more wins to his record - on a team that started 6-0 for a ridiculous 6th time (2005-07, 2009, 2013). He's on a team that has the best defense he's ever gotten a chance to play on. He's on a team that is finally carrying him, after years of him having to do the opposite. He's finally getting to enjoy what so many QBs have: but he's been really bad.

He was bad in Week 1, but that was against a team we all expected to have a really good defense. He was respectable in back-to-back road primetime games, which aren't the easiest things in the world. But then he was average against Minnesota, bad against Oakland, and erratic against Cleveland. It isn't even that noodle arm right now. He's making mental mistakes we last saw from Peyton in 2001. He's missing easy throws, not seeing dropping linebackers, and overall just playing like a guy who has no real confidence in what he is doing.

But again, his team is 6-0. People say that 'age is undefeated', but so what? We are not trying to project his career out to 2017, we are looking at the guy right now, and what we have is a QB, with incredibly limited physical tools, basically just two weapons of note - one of which who drops every other pass - and his mind. And his team is undefeated.

Seeing athletes age is never fun (quick tangent, seeing Tom Brady not age is also not fun). I'm watching it with Rafael Nadal. I had to watch it with Roy Oswalt and Martin Brodeur, but with Manning, who seemed to figure out how to play with a weakened arm pretty damn well, the end has come really fast. Through 7 games of 2014, the Broncos were 6-1, were the best team in football, and Peyton Manning was the best QB in football. Through 7 games, Manning was completing 69% of his passes, with an 8.5 y/a, 22 TDs and 3 INTs, with a passer rating of 119.0. I'm not kidding. That was his stat-line through seven games in 2014. We're not even 365 days since then.

People always say the end comes quickly, but that quick? I guess so, but it is then somewhat admirable that he's still fighting. Maybe if the NFL didn't care so much about Super Bowls, he wouldn't want to come back, but he does. He wants to play. He wants to win. He really can't anymore, but he's trying. The end is near, but he's fighting as hard as he can to make that end come in 2016.

Peyton Manning is one of the smartest QBs of all time, somehow who, after accomplishing maybe a Top-5 career through 2010, had a nerve degeneration issue so bad he still hasn't recovered feeling in his fingertips. He had four neck surgeries. He got cut by the team he basically put on the map - and saw that team basically cut him and choose a replacement. He had to go to a new team, a new city, with a new coaching staff and city - and then put up one of the best three year runs of QB play in NFL history. And yet people weren't satisfied.

Well, I am. Every game I get to watch Peyton play in now is one to treasure, even if he has no idea what will happen once he releases the ball. I won't get to watch these for long. In a way, I'm already watching a different player, not the guy who was so, otherworldly good from 2003-2013 (he won 5 MVPs in his 10 healthy seasons). That guy is gone, but his near lifeless husk of a career is still here, fighting strong.

Peyton has carried teams, carried franchises like few QBs ever. He's had two different teams, five different head coaches (he's gone at least 13-3 for the first four). He's had so many different receivers, been saddled with at best average running games and defenses for 7 straight years now. He's been everything for all his teams - and now it is his talented teammates who need to carry him.

When India won the Cricket World Cup in 2011, the team carried Sachin Tendulkar around the field. Here was a guy who had done everything in his career. He built up cricket in India like no player ever. He had already become the most statistucally accomplished cricket player in the modern era. He was the best - but he never won a World Cup. And now, with a tournament played on home soil, his talented teammates carried an average Tendulkar to the World Cup.

After the match, the future star of Indian Cricket, Virat Kohli, a man who was barely born when Sachin Tendulkar first played for India, said it best about his older, fading star, "Sachin carried the burden of a nation for 21 years; it was time we carried him." There's really no better to way to state what we are currently seeing with Manning.

His career has been burdened with bad coaches, flukey playoff losses, terrible moments (and one triumph... no matter how much people try to discredit it, it still counts). He carried the burden of Indianapolis football, and then Denver football, for nearly 20 years. It maybe is just time his better teammates carry him.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

NFL 2015: Week 6 Picks

Week 5: 8-5-1


Atlanta Falcons (5-0)  @  New Orleans Saints (1-4)  (ATL -3.5)

I'm a little worried about the Falcons in this spot. Thursday Night games are anyway tough to pick, and historically they've not done too well in the Superdome over the years. The Saints are desperate, and after last week I'm not totally sold on how good the Falcons are. That all said, I'll still pick the Falcons because the line has all those issues built in. Something is just wrong in New Orleans right now.

Falcons 31  Saints 24  (ATL -3.5)

Houston Texans (1-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)  (JAX -1.5)

I have no idea, and to be perfectly honest I don't honestly care one iota about this game. Like what is the point of even having these teams. I'll take the Texans because I don't like the idea of the Jaguars being favorites ever.

Texans 20  Jaguars 17  (HOU +1.5)

Chicago Bears (2-3)  @  Detroit Lions (0-5)  (DET -3)

Very surprised that the Lions, off of that abhorrent game at home, are favored here, but I kind of understand it. The Lions are not as bad as the team that gave no effort to Arizona; whether they are closer to the team that should have beaten Seattle in Seattle, I'm not sure. However, I think we all may be underrating the Bears. With Jay Cutler healthy for a full game, they are 2-1, with a close loss to Green Bay. The Bears may just be decent - I guess John Fox can coach.

Bears 23  Lions 21  (CHI +3)

Miami Dolphins (1-3)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-3)  (TEN -1)

I love that this line is almost a pick-em (somehow, I bet on Bills -1 last week and pushed!!!), because there are reasons to like Miami. Very often, the first few games with an interim coach the team gets a boost. They are coming off of their bye. The Titans may not be all that good. They really blew that game to Buffalo. The Titans have a good young QB, someone may pass over Ryan Tannehill in the middle of the night as the next hope for the future of the AFC in the late 2010's. I like the Titans here with such a low line as I feel that we are all just off on the Dolphins.

Dolphins 17  Titans 23  (TEN -1)

Washington Redskins (2-3)  @  New York Jets (3-1)  (NYJ -7)

This is a really high line, but for a good reason: the Jets are very, very good at what they do well. Their defense is awesome, right up there with Denver as the league's best through the first five weeks. The last time we saw them the mercilessly blitzed an erratic Ryan Tannehill, and if not for a few pass interference penalties could have shut them out. The Redskins QB in Kirk Cousins may be one of the QBs who handles pressure worse than Tannehill. The other side of the ball favors the defense, but a little less with a team missing players in the secondary. I like a lot of favorites this week - partially because the lines are across-the-board lower this week than normal, and I feel like this could very easily be wrong given the overall points scored, but I'll take the Jets to cover.

Redskins 13  Jets 23  (NYJ -7)

Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)  @  Minnesota Vikings (2-2)  (MIN -3.5)

The Vikings are a good home team. They beat the Lions in a game not as close as the score, and then routed the Chargers 34-7 in a game probably slightly closer than the score. The Chiefs are at an all-time low right now, having lost Jamaal Charles and also lost a 17-3 lead at home against a bad Chicago team. Unless they rally for some unforseen reason, I have to like the Vikings to cover a low line. I really like way too many favorites this week.

Chiefs 16  Vikings 21  (MIN -3.5)

Arizona Cardinals (4-1)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)  (ARZ -4)

The Cardinals clearly have no qualms playing on the road. They drummed Chicago, especially against their hopeless backup QB, and then routed Detroit even worse. Pittsburgh is better than those teams, but the Cardinals blitz happy, athletic defense is a really bad matchup for this odd Michael Vick led offense. The Cardinals deep passing game should also work nicely against the Steelers. The Steelers really just need to tread water for a week or two before Roethlisberger comes back to still be in pretty nice shape, and even with a loss here that should still be very attainable.

Cardinals 27  Steelers 13  (ARZ -4)

Cincinnati Bengals (5-0)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-2)  (CIN -3)

The Bengals are good - and I think them not flinching for a second while down 24-7 to the Seahawks proves that. The Bills may or may not be good, but with EJ Manuel starting their chances are lower than before. The Bengals are a really solid team one that I don't think is appreciably worse on the road (certainly weren't in Oakland or Baltimore). This is a low enough line, one that could easily push I guess, but I like Cincinnati to continue their winning ways against a backup QB.

Bengals 24  Bills 13  (CIN -3)

Denver Broncos (5-0)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-3)  (DEN -4)

Another Top-6 team going on the road to play an average at best team, and another favorite that I like (I have a problem). The Broncos are an unbelievable defense right now, and even without Demarcus Ware they have matchup advantages everywhere on that side of the ball. The Broncos offense needs to get better, but the Browns defense, which has not been that good, provides a good opportunity, especially without Joe Haden and Tashaun Gibson. At some point they're going to have a break-out game.

Broncos 30  Browns 13  (DEN -4)

San Diego Chargers (2-3)  @  Green Bay Packers (5-0)  (GB -10.5)

I've picked favorites for way too many games, so here goes... I'll pick an underdog. No reason really, I guess the Chargers have this Rivers guy that is always capable of playing a shootout, and there is good backdoor cover chances here.

Chargers 24  Packers 31  (SD +10.5)

Baltimore Ravens (1-4)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-4)  (BAL -2)
Hey, did you know these two teams played in Super Bowl XLVII? That was only three years ago!? Amazing, right?! Well, three years is a long time. I'm somewhat surprised the Ravens are favorites, a team that was rarely great on the road. The Ravens pass rush has gone to waste since Suggs left, and that is the best way to basically bottle up the 49ers offense. The 49ers defense is still oompetent unless their opponent has a ton of receiving options - which the Ravens do not. I like the 49ers getting points at home here.

Ravens 20  49ers 23  (SF +2)

Carolina Panthers (4-0)  @  Seattle Seahawks (2-3)  (SEA -7)

The last four times these teams played, all games with superior Seahawks teams than this one, the scores were 16-12, 12-7, 13-9 and 31-17. The 31-17 was 14-10 through three quarters. The Seahawks have serious issues on offense, and the Panthers are one of the most solid defenses in the NFL. My issue is that through two games in Seattle, no opposing offense has scored a TD (Calvin Johnson came three-inches away). That all said, I think the Seahawks pull it out (I can't imagine a 2-4 Seattle team), but for what has been a competitive series at the Seahawks best, I feel this line is too high.

Panthers 17  Seahawks 20  (CAR +7)

New England Patriots (4-0)  @  Indianapolis Colts (3-2)  (NE -9.5)

Why isn't this line -19.5?

Patriots 41  Colts 17  (NE -9.5)

New York Giants (3-2)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)  (NYG +5)
I realize the Giants have had issues with health on defense, and I realize the Eagles gained all the yards last Sunday. I also realize how pathetic the Saints defense, and that any team with a competent defensive coaching staff and players has basically throttled this Eagles offense. The Giants defensive staff is competent, their run defense is good, and their offense matches up really well with the Eagles defense (they can handle pass rush well and take advantage against some suspect corners). The Giants are a good team, the Eagles are a bad team that had a good game - there is a difference.

Giants 27  Eagles 23  (NYG +5)

Enjoy the Games!!

The Top-50 QBs: #40-31

40.) Randall Cunningham 

Cunningham's career was defined by his amazing athleticism, the first truly transcendant running QB, one good enough to fundamentally change the way defenses tried to stop him. But behind that athleticism was a really good player who was surrounded for most of his career by awful O-Lines and marginal offensive talent in Philadelphia. For a 6-year run from 1987-1992, Cunningham was one of the best QBs in the NFL playing with no one but a coked-up Cris Carter. Randall's career rennaissance in Minnesota was more due to having Randy Moss and a non-coked-up Cris Carter who had reformed his life, but that showed what Cunningham was capable of with better talent. He had limitations like his propensity to take sacks and he melted down in a few playoff games, but Cunningham started an offensive revolution that now a few guys have taken over.

39.) Bert Jones

Here's another guy who would have been a lot better with better teammates. Bert Jones had the ability to be the best QB in the NFL, but was in a situation devoid of much talent in Baltimore in the 70's. They had left the Unitas and Shula era, and would end devolving into a situation where they moved to Indianapolis. That is the life Bert Jones had to play in, and my word was he able to play in it. His season in 1976 was one of the best dead-ball era NFL QB seasons, something that guys like Staubach, Stabler and Bradshaw would have loved to put up. To have a deserved 100+ QB rating in the 70's is like having a 115+ today. Bert Jones should have been better because he should have had better teammates, but in the 70's, if you have a bad owner who doesn't spend and a team that doesn't draft well, there's only so much you can do.

38.) Rich Gannon

Gannon's career is in a way like Kurt Warner, one with incredible highs but also significant lows. Now, it wasn't as good as Warner's when both were at their best, and unlike Warner, Gannon had a more surprising background. Warner came out of nowhere. Gannon just came out of mediocrity. For years in Minnesota and Kansas City, Rich Gannon was a mediocre, Matt Cassel-level QB. Of course, Matt Cassel wouldn't be in a Top-200 QBs list. What makes Rich Gannon special is that 4-year run in Oakland from 1999-2002, when he was a Top-25 QB of all time. Guys with multiple all-pro seasons, a deserved MVP, and a 4,600 yard passing season in 2002, are right at home in a Top-50 QBs of all time. Rich Gannon masterfully ran that offense along with Jon Gruden. He revived Tim Brown's career, extended Jerry Rice's, and turned guys like Charlie Garner and Roland Williams and Jerry Porter into legitimate threats. If you get Belichick on a good day, he will tell you how much of the Raiders short-passing game they used so well in 2002 he took and co-opted into what the Patriots have used since. Rich Gannon used so many years wandering the midwest, but in that time he cultivated enough knowledge to still run offenses to an exacting level. His downfall in '03 and '04 was shocking in how quick it was, but for a guy who's best years started when he was 34-37, it wasn't that surprising. Gannon developed slowly, but he definitely developed.

37.) Jim Hart

Don Coryell was a great coach, a legend of the game, and while he is more famously tied to a certain QB still to come, what he did along with Jim Hart was something we shouldn't easily forget. In the middle of the 70's, competing with the likes of Dallas and St. Louis and Washington and Minnesota, the St. Louis Cardinals made the playoffs three straight years, mainly off the back of Jim Hart's brilliance. This bombs away offense makes his stats look pretty average in retrospect, but the personnel he had to work with was not close to that of Dan Fouts. Air Coryell was still in the development phase during this time, and it still had to work out a lot of kinks, but Hart made it go. What Hart also did amazingly well was limit sacks; a fearless thrower that flung the ball in the face of heavy rush game after game. Jim Hart, like so many mid-70's QBs, will be lost in the annals of history, back when defense and running were still more important, but he was a guy whose career was limited by circumstance, but what he and Coryell did together cultivated what Fouts would perfect.

36.) John Hadl

10 years before Fouts exploded in San Diego, there was a QB coached by Coryell's mentor that basically did the same thing. John Hadl was great, throwing deep ball after deep ball into the waiting arms of Lance Alworth and co. He in many ways was the 60's version of Jim Hart, running an offense that was 10 years before its true prime, where both it was still in development and also ahead of the rest of the league. Hadl put up TD and Y/A numbers that were crazy for the 60's and 70's, and while he was never the most accurate, that was never really going to be a strong point for a system that relied a lot on 20-30 yard throws. Hadl will be remembered more fondly than Jim Hart and Bert Jones, other 60's-70's stars who never won a ring mainly because they never had a defense good enough, and Hadl was slightly better than those two.

35.) Steve McNair

Nothing was easy for Steve McNair. He came from a small town in Mississippi, had to play college at Division 1-AA Alcorn State, basically sat on the bench for two years, and had to be integrated to the starting line-up when his team was moving from Houston, to Memphis and finally Nashville. Through this time, McNair developed a undoing sense of leadership, commitment and intensity that if anything exceeded his already large bounty of talent. Starting in 1999, when the team finally settled on a stadium and a name that would last, it all came together. For a five year stretch, he was a Top-3 QB in the NFL - a stretch that was bookended by a Super Bowl season on one end, and an MVP season on the other. No season really said more about McNair than the 2002 team. By that point the run game with Eddie George had basically dried up, and it all was put on his shoulders. It took years of improving his craft but by then he had reached the stage that he could win games with his arms and brain. He led a Titans team from 1-4 to the AFC Championship Game, all while being somewhat banged up. That really was the lasting legacy of McNair, playing through pain, and letting his passion and poise take over. McNair's legacy is pretty well set in place. He fought an up-hill battle his whole career, but was in a rare situation that he got deserved credit for that as well. I don't think any QB got more credit for losing a Super Bowl than he did - but nothing better encapsulates McNair's career. They lost, but he left everything on the field.

34.) Matt Ryan

His career will always be undershadowed - assuming he never wins a Super Bowl - by both the plethora of all time greats whose peak he crossed paths with, and the fact that the man drafted the same year as him as won a Super Bowl. But let's not lose sight of just how good Matt Ryan has been in his career. He may never get any better than he has right now, but the number of QBs who have put up seven straight seasons ranging from good to awesome is a short list. I think his rookie season has also somehow become underrated. Michael Turner got all the headlines, but as a rookie Matt Ryan was arguably one of the 8 best QBs in the NFL. He inherited a team trying to come back from the Mike Vick mess, and with Michael Jenkins and a then unkown Roddy White, proceeded to have a really good season. Matt Ryan's criticism are obvious, in that he's had a few poor postseason games (and a few great ones), and is not as good as Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Roethlibserger, Brees. Well, most people aren't, but most QBs are also worse than Matt Ryan. Had Roddy White not slipped on what ended up being an interception, or had Harry Douglas not fallen down on a wide-open wheel route, maybe they beat San Francisco in 2012 and then beat Baltimore and he's easily a Top-30 all time. He's getting there anyway.

33.) Joe Theismann

We remember Joe Theismann for two reasons: his leg getting broken in 1985, and his (mis)adventurous broadcasting career. We should also remember him for being an excellent QB, the bridge between the 'Over-the-hill Gang' Redskins under George Allen to the Joe Gibbs era. Theismann had some of the best early-80's season aside form all-timers like Marino and Montana. His 1983 season, with 29 TDs and an 8.1 y/a is good for a 97.0 passer rating, a pristine number for that era against that competition. Sure, we are partial to other parts of the Redskins legacy for that era, like Art Monk and Gary Clark and the various Hogs, but Theismann made it work early on. While Joe Gibbs is famous for winning three Super Bowls with three QBs, he may not have needed the 2nd QB if not for Theismann's injury. His career adjusted passer rating is 14% above average, which is a really good number (all-timers are look 25% above average). Joe Theismann's personal legacy is enhanced by the bad-luck injury, but his playing career shouldn't get short-changed for that.

32.) Tony Romo

Quick, who led the NFL in passer rating in 2014? Hint: it wasn't league MVP Aaron Rodgers, he of the 38-to-5 QB to INT. No, it was Tony Romo, the guy who complted 69.9% of his passes, threw for 34 TDs on just 435 throws, and had he not gotten injured for two games, the Cowboys likely get the #1 seed, and maybe make the Super Bowl. Tony Romo's 2014 season wasn't the start of a new Romo, it was the cap to an already great career. We haven't yet reached 'Hall of Fame' territory, and Romo's outside perception of a choker probably would restrict him anyway, but with all the focus we spend on his mistakes, dating back to bobbling a field goal hold, we overlook the brilliance. Tony Romo's career stats are basically a 2000's version of Steve Young. Of course, Young doing what he did in the 90's is more impressive than Romo in the 00's-10's, but its not THAT different. Each of the 9 full years that Romo has been a starter, he has been between 6% better than league average and 30%, and more often closer to the higher number. And he's done this all on a team that mismanaged itself away from a dominant set of talent in 2008-09 to a team mostly bereft of it in 2012-13. Romo is missing a season where he may have been one of the best QBs again in the NFL, and as he closes in on 36 his years are numbered, but he's the clear 3rd best QB in Dallas Cowboys history, and there is nothing to be ashamed of for that.

31.) Joe Namath

There is no better way to trump up yourself more than be in New York and guarantee a win. That's really about it. Apart from that, it helps if you had a semi-memorable college career. I'm not saying that Joe Namath was a bad player. He wasn't; he was a very good player. But what he really is was an overrated player - if not a wildly overrated one. Joe Namath had two very good seasons, the last two seasons of the AFL before the merger. These are real seasons, worth considering. One's that ended in Super Bowls - but they still represent two seasons. He passed for 4,000 yards in one of them, becoming the first player ever to do that. Still, it is hard to look at his stats page and realize that even when you convert for 1970's offensive levels, and the fact that his teammates were not good in the 70's, and not think that this is a guy that peaked at 26. For his career, he was 2% above average in adjusted passer rating, but that number is closer to 10% if you take away the last three years of his career when he was a mess. At his best, Joe Namath was a very good player, a legendary QB. Problem was 'his best' was far shorter than people remember.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NFL 2015: Week 6 Power Rankings & The Rest

The "Man, the AFC South is garbage" Duo

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-4  =  93-145)
31.) Houston Texans  (1-4  =  97-135)

For years I used to get upset when people said the AFC South is a weak division. It most certainly was not for much of the time Peyton Manning was a QB in Indianapolis. But now? Yeah, it is awful. The last team not QBed by Luck (or Hasselbeck) that was any good was the 2012 Texans, whose successes lasted one year. Of these two, I have Jacksonville ranked lower, but they at least have some optimism in the form of their QB. The Texans don't even have that - but do have JJ Watt, who at least is fun to watch.

The "Teams that will put up one good game out of three" Trio

30.) Detroit Lions  (0-5  =  83-138)
29.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2-3  =  110-148)
28.) Kansas City Chiefs  (1-4  =  117-143)

There are very few truly bad teams that are good bets to be uncompetitive every week. Those first two apply, but these three will put up a fight. The Lions may be winless, but they probably should have beaten Seattle in Seattle. The Buccaneers have been blown out a few times, but they have two wins! The Chiefs may have four losses, but three of them came to teams that are currently 15-0. All three have pieces that could gel in a given game and give a team a challenge, but with a seemingly aging Calvin Johnson (sad), a seemingly extremely erratic Jameis Winston (not surprising) and a now-injured Jamaal Charles (very sad), the likelihood of that is not great.

The "Remember when people liked us, that was fun!" Trio

27.) Miami Dolphins  (1-3  =  65-101)
26.) New Orleans Saints  (1-4  =  103-143)
25.) San Francisco 49ers  (1-4  =  75-140)

At various points, all three of these teams were liked. The Dolphins had major preseason buzz with signing Ndamukong Suh and the hopeful-to-continue improvement of Tannehill. The Saints had buzz in the sense that someone had to win the NFC South, so why not New Orleans? The 49ers had a lot of buzz after Week 1 where they won in a fashion that would make Jim Harbaugh proud. Yeah, turns out none of that matters. The Dolphins may get a temporary lift with Joe Philbin gone, and the Saints still technically have Drew Brees, and the 49ers did play well in a close loss to the Giants, but all three have really peaked in terms of their prospects this season, and are more or less playing out the string. You can argue that the Dolphins still have a chance if they turn their shit around quick, but there are so many teams I would rather see win a wild card spot.

The "Mediocre Trinity" Trio

24.) Cleveland Browns  (2-3  =  118-132)
23.) Dallas Cowboys  (2-3  =  101-131)
22.) Baltimore Ravens  (1-4  =  123-137)

None of these teams is good, but all have the ability to be good. Obviously with Dallas they probably would be good had Bryant and more importantly Romo not gotten hurt. Imagine a Romo and Bryant Cowboys team with the defensive prowess they showed against New England? For the Ravens they were good for a half of week 1 before Suggs got hurt. His injury was followed by another half dozen, and now they're throwing out a team that would make the 2013 blush. The Browns are just mediocre. Their offense is good enough to break out for 500 yards one week, but also bad enough to lose at home to Oakland.

The "Sleepers and Giant Killers" Quadro

21.) Tennessee Titans  (1-3  =  102-91)
20.) Washington Redskins  (2-3  =  97-104)
19.) Chicago Bears  (2-3  =  86-142)
18.) Philadelphia Eagles  (2-3  =  117-103)

These are the four friskiest teams that probably have little chance of making the playoffs. You could probably get decent action on thinking the Redskins or Eagles may steal the NFC East, but let's not be fooled with a team that starts Kirk Cousins, or a team that outside of playing probably the worst defense in teh NFL, has struggled on offense all year long. That said, for those NFC East teams, they have good defenses; somewhat surprising in the case of Washington, and more expected with the talent they've accumulated for Philadelphia. The Titans will be dangerous because they have a rookie who can play well and a decent defense. The Bears with Cutler are far exceeded what I thought they'd be, and at this point we should all realize that no matter what Cutler is, he's ludicrously better than Jimmy Clausen.

The "Fight for 2nd in the AFC West Rivalry" Duo

17.) Oakland Raiders  (2-3  =  107-124)
16.) San Diego Chargers  (2-3  =  116-134)

After the Chargers stunning loss I had to drop them, as it looks like Phil Rivers is facing too many issues right now. The Chargers can't lose games like that, especially to teams that are right there with them in the AFC playoff picture. Anyway, let's talk about Oakland. Obviously, that was a slightly disheartening loss, but their defense is playing well, their young guys are looking good, and David Carr, though still needing refinement, is a future franchise-QB. The real question for Carr is whether his level peaks at a Joe Flacco, or can he be a Philip Rivers.

The "Maybe We can be the 2011 Giants or 2008 Cardinals!?" Quadro

15.) Indianapolis Colts  (3-2  =  99-113)
14.) St. Louis Rams  (2-3  =  84-113)
13.) Buffalo Bills  (3-2  =  124-105)
12.) Minnesota Vikings  (2-2  =  80-73)

All four of these teams have the ability to make the playoffs. Tough schedules may hurt the Rams and Vikings chances, but along with Carolina and maybe Seattle, someone has to get those last two Wild Card spots. Both teams have potentially suffocating defenses that really need more consistency. Speaking of which, so do their offenses, which are too reliant on spectacular talent surrounding at times inneffective play by their QBs. The Bills are basically the AFC version of the Rams or Vikings, but are luckily in the weaker, less deep conference. The Colts are essentially getting a bye to the playoffs, though danger certainly awaits them this week.

The "How Long can Pedigree Take You?" Duo

11.) Seattle Seahawks  (2-3  = 111-98)
10.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (3-2  =  120-95)

As these teams should be worse than they are. The Seahawks should be 1-4, including a loss at home. They played well for 40 minutes, but god awful the last 20 to blow a 17-point 4th quarter lead. Do you know how rare that is? The last team to do that was the Giants in 2010 - the DeSean Jackson punt return game. The Steelers probably should be 2-3, and are somehow competitive with Michael Vick? I'm not really sure what is going on there, but that win was huge. They are alive in that division, though the schedule is rather tough. Getting Roethlisberger back quickly is a must. For the Seahawks, getting any ability to pass block is as well, as the one thing that would really kill their chances is a Wilson injury.

The "New York, New York!" Duo

9.) New York Jets  (3-1  =  95-55)
8.) New York Giants  (3-2  =  132-109)

The last time both New York teams made the playoffs in the same year was 2006, a year when they also got knocked out of the playoffs on the same day. Every year from 2007-2011, one of the two made it, and now we've gone three straight without. Enter 2014, where both teams are exceeding expectations. The Jets are good. They're defense is a Top-3 defense. They're schedule is easy. The AFC is a mess. They really should have no excuse not to get one of the two Wild Cards. The Giants also get luxury of playing against that disaster of a division, and had their biggest rival more or less eliminated with Romo's injury. They can really make an early statement with a win in Philadelphia next week. They may have different styles, but both New York teams are confident and assured in what they do, and so far that has lead to some really positive results.

The "Tell me again how they are Undefeated?" Trio

7.) Carolina Panthers  (4-0  =  108-71)
6.) Atlanta Falcons  (5-0  =  162-112)
5.) Denver Broncos  (5-0  =  113-79)

There are a ridiculous six undefeated teams through Week 5, the most in a long, long time. Last year, no team was undefeated through Week 5. They also have basically been split in their performances so far this year. These three have had a few close calls. The Panthers were never in serious trouble, but have played teams that I currently have ranked #32, #31, #29 and #26. The Falcons needed OT to beat the Redskins at home - and that was their second scare at home already. The Broncos... well we know all about the Broncos really. These are the three likeliest to drop out of the ranks of the undefeated, some as soon as this week.

The "What will the NFL do if we are the one's playing in Super Bowl 50?" Duo

4.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-1  =  190-90)
3.) Cincinnati Bengals  (5-0  =  148-101)

Really, what would the NFL do. These are two fantastic teams. The Cardinals have a historic point differential through five games and are a few self-inflicted wounds from a 5-0 start. The Bengals are indeed 5-0, showing incredible guts winning against Seattle from 24-7 down, and doing it with relative ease. Both teams are built similarly: offenses that throw deep, dynamic running game, better-than-expected O-Lines, defenses with a ton of d-backs, good interior pass rush. They would make for an entertaining Super Bowl.

The "Does it seem like the NFL is rigging this season for this to be Super Bowl 50?" Duo

2.) Green Bay Packers  (5-0  =  137-81)
1.) New England Patriots  (4-0  =  149-76)

The Packers have shown in the last two weeks that losing Jordy Nelson does impact them somewhat. Specificially in the Rams game, they weren't afraid of getting beat over the top. Teams can play the Packers a little bit differently. That said, they've also shown all season that this is probably the best Packers defense since 2010. And for New England, the Champs are #1 till they get beaten, but they probably, begrudgingly, deserve it too.

Projecting the Playoff Teams


1.) New England Patriots  =  14-2
2.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  13-3
3.) Denver Broncos  =  12-4
4.) Indianapolis Colts  =  9-7
5.) New York Jets  =  11-5
6.) Pittsburgh Steelers  =  10-6


1.) Arizona Cardinals  =  13-3
2.) Green Bay Packers  =  13-3
3.) Atlanta Falcons  =  12-4

4.) New York Giants  =  10-6
5.) Carolina Panthers  =  11-5
6.) St. Louis Rams  =  10-6

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

Byes: Dallas Cowboys (2-3), Oakland Raiders (2-3), St, Louis Rams (2-3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

14.) Houston Texans (1-4)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)  (1:00 - CBS)
13.) Miami Dolphins (1-3)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
12.) Chicago Bears (2-3)  @  Detroit Lions (0-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)  @  Minnesota Vikings (2-2)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "The 1:00 Disaster" Quatro, as I feel so bad for the markets that get saddled with these games. None of them seem good. Of course, knowing the NFL, one of these will be the game of the day, but even then other than the Vikings all these teams are basically irrelevant as it comes to their chances in the playoffs. The Chiefs will be without Jamaal Charles, the Lions have to play at home right away after last week's disaster, and then we get four bottom-tier AFC teams squaring off. At least none of these were the Thursday Night game this week.

10.) Denver Broncos (5-0)  @  Cleveland Browns (2-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
9.) Washington Redskins (2-3)  @  New York Jets (3-1)  (1:00 - FOX)
8.) San Diego Chargers (2-3)  @  Green Bay Packers (6-0)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "Mismatch Alert or Upset Alert" Sunday, as all three teams feature one team that is a class above the other - and yes, I am willing to go on record saying the Jets are a class above the Redskins. The Broncos finish their pre-bye schedule with their second straight road game against a team that so far has been better on the road. The Packers get another home game, against a Chargers team that is beyond reeling on a short week. One of these three games will be close, and it is probably most likely to be Washington @ Jets, but I wouldn't be shocked if one is a complete blowout, one is a good win, and the other is an upset.

7.) Baltimore Ravens (1-4)  @  San Francisco 49ers (1-4)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "February, 2013, was a long, long time ago..." Sunday, as the two teams who last met in Super Bowl XLVII face off with both at 1-4. The 49ers seem in more dire straits given the retirements and injuries and whatever has happened to Colin Kaepernick, and their Harbaugh jetting away. But the Ravens are in bad shape also. They need to have a plan for a future without Terrell Suggs, and they need to start getting good young WRs, and stop losing games at home. Other than when Oakland traveled to Tampa Bay in 2004 (both teams went 5-11), I don't remember a less exciting Super Bowl rematch.

6.) Atlanta Falcons (5-0)  @  New Orleans Saints (1-4)  (TNF - NFLN)
5.) Cincinnati Bengals (5-0)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-2)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "Games that should have been better" Thursday and Sunday, as the Falcons go to New Orleans to play a team that is basically such a shell of its formal self. This was a good rivalry as recent as Week 1 last year, when the Falcons beat New Orleans in the Superdome in OT. A year+ later, and the Saints Brees/Payton era seems to be over. For the Bengals and Bills, this should have been a good game, but the news of Tyrod Taylor likely being out and EJ Manuel depressingly back in pushses it back a bit.

4.) New England Patriots (4-0)  @  Indianapolis Colts (3-2)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "Revenge" Sunday, as for some there is no line high enough to not take New England. Already New England has persistent structural and schematic advantages against this Colts team, and now they're out for blood after Deflategate. I'm assuming Luck plays, but even then the Colts really have no chance.

3.) Carolina Panthers (4-0)  @  Seattle Seahawks (2-3)  (4:05 - FOX)
2.) Arizona Cardinals (4-1)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Just two plain ol' good games" Sunday as the Panthers go to Seattle to renew a nice little rivalry that has built up over the past few years - this time with Luke Kuechly, and the Cardinals go to play the Steelers in a game that, and I'm assuming Roethlisberger is playing, pits two of the most exciting offenses in the league against each other. Nothing more to say, these are just two nice games.

1.) New York Giants (3-2)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "The rare NFC East game I want to see" Monday, as the Giants go to Philadelphia to play an Eagles team that is suddenly getting love again. Let's remember how bad the Saints are on defense before we pump up the Eagles chances too much now, but then again the Eagles may have found something out. A win here and they're tied for the division lead through 6 games. A win for the Giants, and with the Cowboys on a bye and the Redskins likely losing to the Jets, and their 1.5-2 games up through 6. A lot at stake here.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NFL 2015: Week 5 Picks

Quick picks this week...

Week 4: 10-3-2


Indianapolis Colts (2-2)  @  Houston Texans (1-3)  (HOU -5.5)

I realize Andrew LUck is missing the game, but I truthfuly believes the COlts with Matt Hasselbeck are better and more talented than the Texans with Ryan Mallet. At least enough so to keep this game within 5. This is an embarrassing line really. I'm rarely this confident in a line pick, but I can see the Colts really playing it up in this game and taking it outright.

Colts 23  Texans 17  (IND +5.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaners (1-3)  (TB -3)

What a dreadful game. The Buccaneers have hit higher highs this year, beating the Saints in the Superdome, and not getting blown ut 51-17. The Jaguars have lost a lot of luster over the past two weeks, as has their win against the Dolphins. This line too seems a bit low. I wouldn't touch this game with a 10-foot pole, but I think this is reasonable value for the Buccaneers. Betting on rooie Jameis is scary though.

Jaguars 16  Buccaneers 21  (TB -3)

Cleveland Browns (1-3)  @  Baltimore Ravens (1-3)  (BAL -7)

The Browns have had a habit of palying the Ravens tough once a year, and often it has been the game in Baltimore - but the Ravens end up winning and more often than not end up covering. The Browns have been competitive in their losses, but competitive also meant a 7-point loss to Oakland at home. The Ravens found something last weekend with their run game finally hitting its mark, and I think that continues against what has been, so far, a bad rush defense.

Browns 17  Ravens 27  (BAL -7)

Chicago Bears (1-3)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)  (KC -9.5)

High line, right? I wonder is a 1-3 team has ever been favored by this much before. That is a really odd bit of confidence in a team that has not looked good this year. The Chiefs have potential, but even in their dominant Week 1 win in Houston they couldn't beat a team by double digits. The Bears showed a pulse last week against the Raiders and while I think they lose, this is a really high line for a team that really hasn't stopped the pass yet.

Bears 20  Chiefs 26  (CHI +9.5)

Buffalo Bills (2-2)  @  Tennessee Titans (1-2)  (BUF -1)

Are the Bills good? To me, they still are, but the better question should be why the Bills defense isn't better. The Bills were a borderline Top-5 defense each of the past two years when they were led by good Defensive Coordinators in Gregg Williams and Jim Schwartz, but they've somehow taken a step back with Rex. Some of that is schedule - the Patriots and Giants are two good teams. Some of it may be age. But they should have more sacks. If Rex Ryan's defense is going to break out, it should happen here against a rookie.

Bills 24  Titans 13  (BUF -1)

Washington Redskins (2-2)  @  Atlanta Falcons (4-0)  (ATL -7)

The Falcons are 4-0, just had a 42-0 lead in their last game, and have been great at home for years. The Redskins were really close to losing to Philadelphia, and the last time we saw them on the road they were ably handled in New York. Also, Kyle Shanahan would probably love to stick it to the Redskins. I can see this being another big Falcons blowout.

Redskins 17  Falcons 34  (ATL -7)

New Orleans Saints (1-3)  @  Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)  (PHI -5.5)

The Eagles should not be giving this much points to anyone. I don't think the Saints are very good, but theoretically Brees should be a little bit healthier this week. The Eagles defense is simple enough right now that I think even Rob Ryan should be able to figure it out. I can't see this going well if the Eagles fall behind early. Something is seriously wrong in Philadelphia right now.

Saints 27  Eagles 20  (NO +5.5)

St. Louis Rams (2-2)  @  Green Bay Packers (4-0)  (GB -9)

The Rams had a huge win in Week 1, then went out East on the road and fell on their face. I can see something similar happening. They do often play up to their opponent, and they have the d-line to trouble the Packers, but I don't know if the Rams will score enough points against a better than expected Packers defense to cover even if their own defense holds the Packers at bay. In Lambeau, there's only so much you can do on defense.

Rams 16  Packers 27  (GB -9)

Seattle Seahawks (2-2)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)  (CIN -3)

The Seahawks are missing Marshawn Lynch, they have no o-line, they basically need Russell Wilson to pull a houdini act on every play to do anything of note. The Bengals are balanced, can basically do everything well, and have the best o-line in football in pass protection to hold the Seahawks d-line at bay. Yes, I realize Andy Dalton... but Andy Dalton has been able to lead a team that has beaten the Packers, Patriots and Broncos at home in the past two seasons.

Seahawks 17  Bengals 24  (CIN -3)

Denver Broncos (4-0)  @  Oakland Raiders (2-2)  (DEN -4.5)

Again, this is so little respect for the Broncos defense - forgot that their offense has basically been league average the past three weeks. The Raiders performances against two bad teams is clouding people right now. The Raiders can have a bright future and still be a few rungs below the Broncos. The Broncos defense can put Carr under pressure which he hasn't handled well yet, and can cover his few receiving options. They don't even have to score that much to win and cover.

Broncos 30  Raiders 13  (DEN -4.5)

New England Patriots (3-0)  @  Dallas Cowboys (2-2)  (NE -9)

I don't even want to talk about this game, as it should have been so much more than this.

Patriots 38  Cowboys 17  (NE -9)

Arizona Cardinals (3-1)  @  Detroit Lions (0-4)  (ARZ -3)

I can see the Cardinals stumbling here, and that seems to be factored into this line, but if we peel back, the Cardinals could and probably should have won that game. They killed themselves, and are, in my opinion, too well coached. I'm liking a lot of favorites this week, and it is just one of those weeks. My hope is that they go .500, and the I picked the right underdogs to cover. The Cardinals defense matches up well against a Lions team that can't run and has very few receiving options. I also worry about an emotional letdown for Detroit after that awful loss.

Cardinals 27  Lions 17  (ARZ -3)

San Francisco 49ers (1-3)  @  New York Giants (2-2)  (NYG -7)

Suddenly a lot of faith in the Giants, huh? The Giants are a good team, they should be at least 3-1. The 49ers have lost their last three games 28-107 and there's no real end in sight. The Giants defense is athletic, which should work well against on offense where all they really have to do is contain Kaepernick's running. Again, I fear taking so many favorites, and I would recommend buying half a point, but the Giants should be able to get their third straight.

49ers 14  Giants 27  (NYG -7)

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)  @  San Diego Chargers (2-2)  (SD -3)

Another game I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. The Chargers are so injured everywhere, but have Philip Rivers (and Antonio Gates back). The Steelers are healthy and playing better than expected on defense, but don't have their all-pro QB. The Chargers should win, and I'm screwing myself by taking so many favorites, but here goes.

Steelers 23  Chargers 27  (SD -3)

Enjoy the Games!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

2015 MLB Playoffs: Picking the NLDS's

No time to do in-depth breakdowns.

Cardinals over Cubs in 5 - Like the Cardinals because Arietta can only go once, and the Cardinals GB-heavy lineup should do well against hte Cubs. Would not be surprised if the Cubs take it, but when you take away Arietta from a game, it really helps the Cardinals.

Mets over Dodgers in 5 - I think the Mets steal one of these first two games, and then win the two in Citi Field. The Dodgers offense is struggling lately, and while Kershaw and Greinke are brilliant, the Mets are throwing at least three really good pitchers out there. Beat either Kershaw or Greinke and then make hay at home.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

2015 MLB Playoffs: Picking the DS's

I am all in on these playoffs. Of course, part of that is having the Astros there, but the other part is just having a lot of new blood. Even the Cubs, who I still kind of dislike because mentally I feel like a fan of a team that is still in the NL Central, are exciting enough for me to get behind. But there's the Mets, and the Blue Jays and Royals, whose sheen hasn't really lost any of its luster over the past year. Baseball is at such a good place right now, and the postseason field this year shows it.

Quickly, before getting to that, here are my award picks:

NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryan, 3B, CHC - It's really pretty simple. There were some good candidates early, and a boat-load of other players who can be future all stars, but after Matt Duffy and Joc Pederson tailed off, it was always going to Bryant.

AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa, SS, HOU - After seemingly having this award locked up for months, Francisco Lindor actually ended up with a higher WAR. Still, it wasn't by much and most of Lindor's value is driven by still unreliable defensive stats (more unreliable in that I don't trust their opinion of Correa). I also think Correa is a future MVP, while Lindor is a future all-star, and when close go with the guy who has the better trajectory going forward.

NL Cy Young: Zack Greinke, SP, LAD - This is so close between him, Arrieta and Kershaw. Clayton is still the best pitcher in baseball and the best bet going forward, and you can argue him getting to 300 Ks in this day-and-age is a better accomplishment than the ERAs that Arreita and Greinke put up, but I can't get past that 1.66. I also realize how amazing Arrieta was in the 2nd half, but Greinke was amazing all year long. He had a 1.10 ERA at the all-star break. He was just better for the entire season. It is so close and there is no wrong answer, but I think Greinke was slightly better.

AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel, SP, HOU - This is also close between him and Price. Their ERA and FIP are close to even. They pitched a similar amount of innings. Price had more strikeouts, but they had the same ERA. Keuchel gets my nod because he too was more consistent through the season, and also because by any stat he is at the top. He perfectly mixed a high strikeout, low walk season with continuing to prove that he has a repeatable ability to induce weak contact. He is not abnormally deflated by a low BABIP.

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, LF, WAS - I don't care that he made the playoffs. If anything, the best alternatives are one of the three pitchers up for Cy Young and not someone like McCutchen, or Cespedes (which is a ludicrous pick). Still, Harper was historically good for his age, and just historically good period. This was the best offensive season since probably prime Pujols.

AL MVP: Josh Donaldson, 3B, TOR - He slowed down a bit in September, while Trout picked it up, so now they're essentially even in WAR. In a weird reverse of the classic Trout / Cabrera debates, this time, Trout is the one who has most of his value tied to hitting and Donaldson is the one with an amazing defensive WAR. To me it is really close, basically a tie, and when tied, then you can look at something like who's team made the playoffs and all that other stuff.

Now, let's get to the picks

(A1) Kansas City Royals  vs  (AWC) Houston Astors

Royals Batting vs. Astros Pitching: I actually think this side matches up really nicely for Houston. The Royals lost to the Giants last year because they couldn't hit Madison Bumgarner, and while no one could last October, more than anyone they are powerless because that lineup is so lefty-leaning. Arguably three of their four top batters are left-handed, in Hosmer, Moustakas and Gordon. They still have Cain and Perez on the other side, but the power, the muscle of that lineup is lefty, and the Astros can toss two lefties. Now, Kazmir has been a mess recently, and Keuchel is only going once, but that is a good matchup. The Royals speed could be a factor, but I imagine Jason Castro, a good throwing arm, will start all the games for that reason. The bullpen for the Astros is a concern, but that may be just a case of having a bad month. They still ended up as a Top-5 AL unit. The Astros defense will also be key against a great contact team that struck out less than anyone - luckily for the Astros their defense is arguably the best in the AL.

Astros Batting vs. Royals Pitching

Much like the other matchup, the Royals are lucky that their pitching skews right-handed as the Astros bats skew right-handed as well. Few teams platoon as much, so they can force lefties into the lineup, but the constants are mostly right-handed. In many ways, the Astros are the anti-Royals in their batting approach. They don't make a lot of contact, strike out all the time, but they have great power, basically second to the Blue Jays in all the power / slugging stats. The Royals really need the real Johnny Cueto to show up for this series, but the power arms of Ventura and Volquez should do well against a free swinging club. As always, the Royals defense is great, but for the first time they're playing a team that runs more than them and the Astros running game will be a key. The

The Pick

I really like this series for the Astros. They ran into a team that plays a lot like itself in many ways with defense and speed, but they have a really good matchup against their hitters. Out of all the teams they could have played in the ALDS, the Royals are the one where they match up the best. Kansas City has been great all year long, but their starting pitching and bullpen is more questionable now than ever. This is the perfect time for the Astros, already playing with house money, to make another statement.

Astros in 4

(A2) Toronto Blue Jays  vs.  (A3) Texas Rangers

Blue Jays Batting vs. Rangers Pitching

Even more so than the Astros, the Blue Jays best hitters are right-handed. That power beginning of Tulo, Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion all have plus power (in some cases, plus-plus-plus power) and all are righty. So it hurts Texas that their best pitcher is left handed in Hamels. It also hurts that their bullpen is prone to giving up home runs. The Rangers defense is good, but against a team like Toronto that hits so few ground balls, that is lessened. The Blue Jays are such a balanced lineup with no real holes, and guys that are good enough to catch up to high heat from righties, that no pitching staff really lines up well.

Rangers Batting vs. Blue Jays Pitching

Even more incredible than the Blue Jays insane offense since the Tolu / Price deals, is their pitching. The Blue Jays have the guys who finished #1, #2 and #4 in ERA in the second half of the season in the AL. We all know about David Price, who as a lefty can counter the fact the Rangers have three of their four best hitters batting lefty (Fielder, Choo and Moreland), but both Marco Estrada and RA Dickey have had great second halves. Estrada is doing it with smoke and mirrors, but Dickey is moving that knuckleball close to how he did in his Cy Young season in 2012. The Rangers offense is well balanced, but their lefty-dominant approach hurts against Price who will start two games. The Rangers don't need to shut them down, just win a relative battle.

The Pick

This is probably the worst draw for Texas - in fairness, it would have been the worst draw for Houston as well. The Blue Jays have been the best team in baseball since August 1st, and they have not shown any signs of stopping. Having Price go twice, and having that lineup that matches up well against the Rangers top pitchers, they seem like a good, safe pick.

Rangers in 4

NL Coming Tomorrow

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.