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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Backup Chick

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is still the backup quarterback, for now. With yesterday's announcement that Brian Hoyer would start against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Manziel learned that he was not yet "the man" in Cleveland. Manziel, however, has had zero shortcomings in the ladies department.

Manziel's girlfriend, model Colleen Crowley, is getting starting playing time in front of the camera and on the Internet with good reason. Hoyer may have the job, but Manziel has the chicks. Ms. Crowley is the subject of today's Chick Pic.

Nothing wrong with a backup.... 1

Like Johnny, she's a team player. 2
Geek chic 3

And she shares with others.... 5
Maybe there will be an opening in Denver in a few years. 6
Lights, camera, action! 7
Don't hate the player hate the game (which he isn't even in yet...much). 8

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Retweet of the Day - December 3, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel saw extensive playing time last week during the Browns' loss to the Buffalo Bills. Current starting quarterback Brian Hoyer has been ineffective of late. The move to Manziel late in the Bills game, in which Manziel led the Browns on a touchdown drive, fueled rampant speculation that Manziel may start this coming weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.

Cleveland Browns Head Coach Mike Petine stopped the rumor mill yesterday when he announced that Hoyer would start on Sunday. It is only a matter of time before Manziel gets the ball, but that first start can never come soon enough for an NFL quarterback. Today's retweet, from His and Hers (@HisandHers), illustrates that, literally.

"When Johnny Manziel heard Brian Hoyer will be the starting QB this Sunday…" (play video)


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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NFC Division Gone South

With five weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, the NFC South has 13 wins. There have been twelve weeks played, and the division averages a win per week. Let me repeat that: the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – four NFL teams composing an entire division – have a total of 13 wins.


What do you call the guy who graduated last in his medical school class? A doctor! The ultimate goal of every NFL team at the beginning of each season is to win the Super Bowl. To win the Super Bowl, a team must first reach the playoffs. The most favorable way to get into the playoffs is to win one’s division as it results in the first playoff game being at home for that team.
So what do you call the team with the worst record among the four conference division winners? A playoff host….


Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Bucs are two games out of first place. However, they don’t do anything particularly well and are surrounded by inexperienced players with potential and veteran journeymen. As much as this division continues to go up for grabs every week, the Buccaneers have almost no chance of winning the South with the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers on their schedule.

Carolina Panthers – This team has found new and creative ways to shoot itself in the foot. Poised to run away with this mediocre division earlier this year, the Panthers went on a six game winless streak. Their last win came on October 5th. It’s unclear where this team’s next win will come from.

Quarterback Cam Newton has not been healthy this season and compounding that problem, he’s getting inadequate pass protection.  The defense is made up of talented individual parts that never seem to be in sync enough to help deliver a win. However, three of its remaining games are against division opponents. I think the odds of them winning two or more of those games are about 50/50. That may be all it takes for the defending NFC South champions to retain their crown.

Atlanta Falcons – By virtue of winning the tiebreaker from their Week 1 win over the Saints, if the season ended today, the 4-7 Falcons would be the NFC South winners. This team has lost some very close games in some very unusual manners and could easily have a winning record if a few balls had bounced differently for them. The offense under quarterback Matt Ryan can keep up in a shootout with the best NFL offenses. Their defense can’t stop a runny nose.

Notwithstanding that, the Falcons finish the season with two division games – at the Saints and hosting the Panthers. It is not inconceivable that the Falcons could still control their own playoff destiny at 4-10 heading into Week 16.

New Orleans Saints – This team is the favorite to win the division. I use the term “favorite” very loosely. However, the Saints do have some tangible advantages over the comically mediocre field. The Saints travel to Pittsburgh next Sunday to play the Steelers. That is the last regular season game the Saints have against a team that currently have a losing record. The Saints are 3-1 against losers this season.

In addition, the other teams in the division either have no exceptional facets of their game or are one dimensional. The Saints offense is spectacular and the defense, while mediocre, is good enough for the offense to have a chance to win every week. Of the Saints’ seven losses, five were by a touchdown or  less, four were on field goals either in the final seconds or as time expired, and two of those were in overtime. Yes, I’m a Saints fan. Yes, I’m biased. But I would still put my money on this team winning this pitiful division.


Should New Orleans win the division as a losing team, Saints fans will have a chance to witness delicious irony. In 2010, the then-defending Super Bowl champion Saints finished 11-5, but were two games out of first place in the NFC South and entered the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, meaning the Seahawks would host their Wild Card opponent, the Saints.
In a game in which defense was thrown out of the window, the teams engaged in a shootout. Seattle put the game out of reach with one of the most spectacular plays in NFL postseason history. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch went “Beast Mode” on a 67-yard touchdown run during which nine Saints players made contact with Lynch but none brought him down. The play included six broken tackles and a stiff armed Saints defender as the Seahawks eliminated the defending champs, 41-36.

Fast forward to 2014. The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks will likely need to enter the playoffs as a Wild Card team, two games out of first place with only five games remaining. Should they have the better record of the two Wild Card teams, they would have to travel to play to play the NFC South winner, possibly the Saints who would likely not have a winning record, yet have not lost an NFC game at home during regulation play in four years. Revenge, in any form, can be sweet.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Retweet of the Day - November 20, 2014

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner and defending national champion Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston is a lightning rod. He is also talented without limit on the gridiron. The FSU signal caller pulled the Seminoles through in the 4th quarter to a come from behind 30-26 win at their in-state ACC rival, the University of Miami.

The dramatic win extended the Seminoles' winning streak to 26 consecutive games. Florida State secured the ACC Atlantic Division title last Saturday while the loss put Miami's chances of an ACC Coastal Division championship on life support. Jameis Winston has never lost a game as a starting quarterback in college football.


Of course, nobody walks on water and football fans outside of Tallahassee and not connected to FSU would just as soon dunk Winston in a tank of water. Winston, talent notwithstanding, is a knucklehead. The rap sheet is well known: accused of sexual assault (though no charges were ever filed), involved in an air gun fighting incident, shoplifted soda from a Burger King restaurant, shoplifted crab legs from a grocery store, and was videoed standing on a table in the Florida State student union shouting a vulgarity.

His off-field antics have drawn backlash from his fans and supporters at Florida State. The "#BlameJameis" Twitter phenomenon arose from all the repeated extensive media coverage of Winston's antics, most of which (save for the sexual assault accusation - which never warranted any charges) are typical of post-adolescent collegiate foolishness, albeit with increasingly unsettling frequency. In the #BlameJameis paradigm, anything wrong in the world is Winston's fault.

Today's retweet, by Cee Bee (@CoryBarry_) is sweet and simple and could be on the Mount Rushmore of #BlameJameis inspired tweets.

"Jameis Winston was responsible for 9/11"

I just KNEW Lee Harvey Oswald was just a patsy!
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

By the Book: Showtime

I graduated from high school more than 20 years ago. Still, as sports fans, we can all enrich our fanhoods with a good book about one of our favorite sports subjects. There are few topics in sports history more fascinating or important to the development of a major North American sports than the Showtime era Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. Author Jeff Pearlman (once again) captivates the interest of sports fans with his tell-all book, "Showtime".

Magic Johnson was the centerpiece of the Showtime era in Lakers basketball. From how the Lakers acquired the pick to draft him to how he was convinced to leave Michigan State University a year early to enter the NBA to the backdrop of Magic's rivalry with Larry Bird in college and the pros, Peralman explores all things Magic.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest players in NBA history, a vocal minority would argue the greatest. Kareem was also private and somewhat aloof. Many reports, after his carer was over, from those who covered him describe him as not necessarily the most likable person (or coworker) in the sporting lexicon. Pearlman goes into extensive detail on the background and behind-the-scenes persona of the enigmatic yet transcendent talent.

Former Lakers Coach Pat Riley was the captain of the Showtime ship. The GQ posterboy guided the Showtime dynasty to four NBA titles ad launched what is certain to be a Hall of Fame coaching career. "Showtime" discusses Riley's metamorphosis throughout the 1980's from a former player turned-announcer turned-assistant turned-head coach. Riley's rise and fall with the Lakers organization is a classic story of man's determination and shortcomings.

Dr. Jerry Buss is the Father of the Los Angeles Lakers as we know them today. What became showtime was Buss' vision. Pearlman extensively reveals how Buss made his unlikely Showtime dream into a reality.

This should surprise no one. 2

What even the most ardent Showtime Lakers fans don't know about this team could fill a book. That is what Jeff Pearlman did. His text is filled to the brim with stories, scandals, anecdotes, and secrets that only an author like Pearlman can deliver to the masses. The Showtime Lakers were like rock stars. The phrase "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" is a cliche for a reason. "Showtime" reveals why the 1980's Lakers were no exceptions.

There is a new, original, and often unbelievable tale of frat house mischief in every chapter. Cocaine is a "helluva" drug and the Lakers were not immune to its wonders - good, bad, and otherwise. There is sex, nightlife, sex, glamour, sex, fame, sex, and in case I forgot to mention it, more sex. Sex always sells, but it is also critical to the complete story of the Showtime Lakers. That roughly a quarter-century has passed since the end of the Showtime dynasty did little to silence the first-hand witnesses to the excitement and debauchery that was the backdrop of the Lakers' story.

There's more where this came from. 3

This book isn't just about the stars and the sensational. In addition to Magic, Kareem, and Riley, Pearlman writes about Buss, Jerry West, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon, trainers, P.R. people, draft busts, the former owner - Jack Kent Cooke, the X's and O's architect of Showtime (no, not Pat Riley) and many others with fascinating stories about all of them. Simply put: if you are familiar with Pearlman's work, you know what to expect and your expectations should be high. If you have never read any of his gems like the biography of the late Walter Payton and the story of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, you will not be disappointed with "Showtime".
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Roll!

The University of Alabama football team put itself back into the driver's seat for a spot in the 2014 College Football Playoff with a hard fought 25-20 home win against SEC West Division rival and former #1 ranked Mississippi State on Saturday. Fans are cheering in Tuscaloosa again. That's why the Alabama cheerleaders and dance team are the subject of today's Chick Pic.

Good. They aren't neglecting their studies. 1

Their so hot that their male counterparts want pictures. 2


The choreography could use some work. But I doubt you fellas care. 4

I don't think she is on either of the squads. In fact, I'm not sure that she's ever been inside of a classroom at Bama. But you're looking, aren't you? 5

Stretching is important to reduce injuries. 6
What a great bunch of team players! 7
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Rose Colored Lenses

Former NBA MVP and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose kicked the sports-talk ant hill last week when he commented that he was sitting out of games to avoid long term health problems. Rose, who has suffered two serious knee injuries, one in each knee, since the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Rose missed nearly all of the past two seasons due to the injuries.

Last week, Rose said regarding sitting out games, "I think a lot of people don't understand that when I sit out it's not because of this year. I'm thinking about long term. I'm thinking about after I'm done with basketball. ... I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball. Having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to, I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. [I'm] just learning and being smart."

I don't understand why he didn't finish the game. What a sissy! 1

Rose was immediately, vigorously, and almost unanimously criticized for his remarks by sports media and former NBA players, most notably outspoken Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. The narrative generally was along the following line: Rose is paid roughly $20 million per year to play a game. He sounds like an out-of-touch whiner when people with less desirable and more physically strenuous and/or dangerous, occupations that often offer more value to society's basic existence and progression as a whole earn far less, some living paycheck-to-paycheck. For those reasons, he should never publicly complain about his physical concerns for his body.

Athlete envy grates my nerves to no end. Everyone is dealt a different set of cards and everyone has to manage his or her own life based on the circumstances and opportunities in his or her life. For anyone raising his blood pressure beyond a normal level from annoyance by an off-putting comment, my (likely unpopular) response is: tough shit.

There are cops who go to work on crutches. He can't at least shoot some free throws. If that happened at MY job (insert stupid, self-righteous blathering from a fat slob with no ambition and half of Rose's work ethic)! 2

The "controversy" brought on by the Rose comments has taken a life of its own. I could understand some rumblings by Chicago area fans whose patience as fans may be thinning from the former MVP's absence holding the Bulls back from possibly winning a championship. The nationwide "outrage" is ridiculous to me.

At worst, Rose is guilty of being a little tone deaf, especially after doubling down on his remarks later in the week. Rose is not a public relations or communications professional. He's a basketball player. He isn't paid to deliver well crafted, fan friendly statements on the fly when asked about his body and his career. The bottom line is that he suffered two significant, potentially debilitating injuries that robbed him of two years of his career and he is going to be careful. Whether he used terminology about being "sore" while envisioning and attempting to quickly articulate future situations in his life in which he could be in pain from aggravating his injuries or simply said, "I'm concerned about long-term consequences from short-term overexertion," is irrelevant.

Former pro athletes know that their bodies are their money makers and should consider backing off a bit. People in the media are fanning the flames to have a discussion topic and should demonstrate a greater depth of their ability to engage their audiences with their opining skills. Members of the public venting outrage through sports-talk radio and the Internet need to look at themselves in the mirror. If your job shoveling horse crap doesn't give you the options that Rose has from playing basketball, learn to play basketball and an elite, world class level or worry more about bettering your own lot in life You come across as pathetic.

I'm in complete agreement with Joakim Noah (comments in this clip). 3

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Return of the Sanchize

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sachez is enjoying a career rebirth in the NFL. Sanchez was unceremoniously run out of New York following an injury fiasco in the Jets' 2013 preseason finale. After missing the entire 2013 season and being sent on a 2014 free agency journey, The Sanchize appears to have found his landing spot in Philadelphia.

Two impressive performances by Sanchez, including a drubbing of the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in relief of the injured Nick Foles has the Eagles in first place in the NFC East. It also has Sanchez at the top of sports media discussion topics again. The former first round draft pick is riding a wave of good fortune right now.

Sanchez is a bit of a lightning rod among sports fans, both for his inconsistent play and his GQ playboy persona. Sanchez has had his share of dime pieces of the years. I'm not sure if socialite Alana Kari is his current squeeze, but she is worthy of being today's Daily Hat Trick Chick Pic. Don't hate the player; hate the game!

Sanchez and Derek Jeter could have a pool going. 1
Ms. Kari keeps good company. 2
A lot of good company.... 3

What a team player!!! 4

Let's skeletons for Halloween...all bones. Did Sanchez provide the muscle and meat? 5

A generous soul, sharing the spotlight. 6

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Retweet of the Day - November 12, 2014

NFL football has its own circle of life. The QB carousel has come full circle for a pair of northeastern teams in green. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets have lacked a long-term starter at quarterback for quite some time. Fightin' for Philly (@FightinForPHI) points this out in today's Retweet of the Day.

"So Nick Foles replaced Mike Vick who replaced Geno Smith who replaced Mark Sanchez who replaced Nick Foles."

Trading Places 2014
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Louisiana Football Hangover

Louisiana football fans entered this past weekend with a lot to look forward to. Alabama was coming to Tiger Town to play in prime time with the LSU Tigers fresh off of an upset win over then-number 3 ranked Ole Miss. Alabama appeared ripe for an upset and LSU appeared set to revitalize their 2014 narrative in the national spotlight.

The New Orleans Saints, appearing to have turned a corner with two straight wins, including one on the road, were in first place in the NFC South and set to host struggling NFC rival San Francisco in the Superdome. The Saints last loss in the Dome under Head Coach Sean Payton was in 2010.

The Saints and Tigers played well enough to win. Both the Saints and Tigers would lose in overtime. I cannot recall the last time Louisiana has so much buildup for a weekend of football only to end in such profound disappointment.


The LSU Tigers got off to an uncharacteristically bad start in Southeastern Conference play. They lost to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, in fairly convincing fashion, for the first time in this century. LSU was curb stomped by their Tiger counterparts at Auburn. Tiger fans braced themselves for an unpleasantly mediocre season.

Suddenly, the clouds parted and LSU's mojo fell out of the sky and onto them in Gainesville against the University of Florida. Three consecutive conference wins later, including the epic slugfest against Ole Miss and voila! Tiger fans are talking Playoff - as in the College Football Playoff - again.

LSU repeated the blueprint it rolled out against Ole Miss - relentless defense, powerful running, infrequent, high-percentage/low risk passing attempts. Alabama suffered a similar result - down three points in the final minute of the game. The difference? LSU, mentally, took its foot off of the gas.

The Crimson Tide, in spite of having no timeouts remaining when the drive began, took advantage of a kickoff out-of-bounds by LSU then worked the sidelines, repeatedly, to set up a short game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime. In overtime the Tide rammed the ball down LSU's throat to get into the end zone. LSU suddenly decided in was a passing team on the ensuing possession with the line. Four downs later, Coach Les Miles and his staff learned what the rest of the world knew - passing was a bad idea. Final score: Alabama 20 LSU 13.

LSU extends Southern Hospitality to Alabama's DeAndrew White in overtime. 3

Getting off to an abysmal 2-4 start, with three losses coming by a combined total of six points, the New Orleans Saints appeared to rediscover their brand - offense, offense, and more offense than an opponent can handle - by shellacking the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 8. After securing their first, elusive, road win against their division rival Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football, the Saints demonstrated twice before the nation that they were the Super Bowl contender everyone expected them to be at the start of the season.

In came the 4-4 San Francisco 49ers. Like the Saints, the 49ers were expected to contend for the Super Bowl. Like the Saints, the 49ers suffered some head-scratching early season losses. The difference? The Saints entered Sunday's game in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. The desperate 49ers were in a midseason "must win" situation. Both teams played like it.

The Saints effectively spotted the 49ers 14 points in the first quarter. While they would come back to take the lead in the 4th quarter, not even the raucous Superdome crowd and a 4th and 10 situation with the game on the line could stop Colin Kaepernick and the Niners from tying the game. The 49ers left 0:44 on the clock and the Saints had a timeout remaining. Often, this is too much time to leave for Drew Brees.

On the final play of regulation, Brees heaved a 47 yard bomb toward the endzone into the awaiting hands of Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints appeared to score a game winning touchdown on the Hail Mary. Unfortunately, Graham put his hand on a defender's shoulder and Perrish Cox of the 49ers delivered the flop of the year to draw an offensive pass interference penalty against Graham to nullify the touchdown and send the game into overtime.

The Saints and Niners swapped possessions, then Brees was sacked by Ahmad Brooks (who ironically cost his team the game in the Superdome in 2013 with a personal foul on a sack of Brees). A fumble was forced and recovered by the 49ers deep in Saints territory. Forty-Niners kicker Phil Dawson connected on a 35-yard field goal to hand the Saints their first loss under Sean Payton in the Superdome in nearly four years.

If you believe Parrish Cox was "shoved" to the ground then I've got the Brooklyn Bridge for sale to! Hey! If you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin', right? 2


The LSU Tigers are out of the 2014 College Football Playoff picture. However, their rapid improvement during this season is a cause for hope for Tigers fan. Head Coach Les Miles has often been a victim of his own success. His recruiting classes are among the best, if not the best, in the country. Those talented players often leave for the NFL after three years, forcing Miles to chase his own tail to refill the cupboard. This LSU team is loaded with underclassmen who cannot leave for the NFL. At the rate at which this team is improving, Tiger fans can expect this team to be a serious contender in 2015.

The Saints have the brightest silver lining in their dark cloud of a week. Following the Carolina Panthers loss at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football, the Saints, in spite of a losing, 4-5, record, are in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. The Saints, throughout their 48 season history, have often been the victims of near misses costing them a shot at postseason play. This Saints team is far superior to those of the past. The football gods have apparently rewarded this team with chance after chance after chance to get on track. Strangely, I have confidence that they will in light of their higher quality play of late.

Ahmad Brooks thought he was unfairly called for hitting Brees in the neck in 2013 (clearly not).  He redeemed himself on Sunday. 1
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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Catching Up

After a month-long sabbatical, The Daily Hat Trick is back on the "interweb". Since the last posting in early October, much has changed. Here's the "long story short" on the pro sports world from the Hat Trick.


Rumors of Tom Brady's death are greatly exaggerated. After the Monday Night Football curb-stomping that Brady and the Pats took at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs, the "real" Brady arrived. Rob Gronkowski has been "going Gronk" and Brady, apparently, has spent extra-extra time in the film room as he has been unstoppable in October. 

After winning the most recent Manning-Brady prizefight (number 16, I believe), it appears that Brady may have an opportunity to reach a sixth Super Bowl. The AFC is primed for another Broncos-Patriots rematch in late January. Stay tuned.

In the NFC, all we know is that w don't know anything. The Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFC, but with the aid of Liquid Nails and duct tape at the QB position and on defense. The Packers looked like the class of the conference before a thrashing on national television called that assertion into question. And the team that pushed that question to the forefront, the New Orleans Saints, went from disappointment to division leader (.500 record notwithstanding) in five days with consecutive prime time wins. The NFC East has become less predictable than a box of Mexican jumping beans.

Mark Ingram's surge in production has rapidly bolstered the Saints' prospects. 1

I'm not sure what is more astonishing: the Kansas City Royals not only reaching the World Series, but being one swing of the bat in the bottom of the 9th from winning Game 7 or San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner's superhuman performance, especially his five innings of relief in Game 7. Bumgarner, the World Series MVP, surrendered only one run in 21 innings of work.

    "Chevy Guy" still cracks me up...and stuff. 2

In the East, we can just skip ahead to a Bulls vs Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals. With The King back in Cleveland...and Kevin Love,,,and Kyrie Irving...and Ray's like Back to The Future in C-town. The Cavs have a golden opportunity to return to the NBA Finals.

In the West, expect the same big boys from last year to duke it out: the Spurs, the Clippers, the Thunder. Expect the Lakers to have ping-pong balls in their future again, especially with the losses of Steve Nash and Julius Randle. 

Finally, being a Louisiana man, I have to toss in some Pelicans fodder. Anthony Davis is poised for a huge year. You can print it; he is my dark horse MVP candidate for 2015.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Must See Sports - First Weekend of October 2014

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 10-4
Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, in series: 4-0
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 49-36
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 8-1

Thursday, October 2

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 1
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels
Jason Vargas - Royals (11-10, 3.71 ERA) vs Jered Weaver - Angels (18-9, 3.59 ERA)

The Angels have the better pitcher on the mound, the better batting order, and are at home

Advantages: Game - Angels, Series - Angels

American League Division Series - Game 1
Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles
Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA, 252 Ks) - Tigers vs Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA)

Baltimore is solid from top-to-bottom in the field, has a strong bullpen, and one of the best managers in the game in Buck Showalter. Detroit is ridiculously potent in its batting lineup, with a monstrous starting rotation for the playoffs. Its bullpen is a black hole. The Tigers will need eight or more solid innings from their starters to have a good chance to win games in this series. However, I expect reigning American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to deliver just that in Game 1.

Advantages: Game - Tigers, Series - Orioles

Buck Showalter wants more where this came from after leading the O's to their first division title in 17 years. 1
Friday, October 3

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 2
Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles
Justin Verlander (15-12, 4.54 ERA) - Tigers vs Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54 ERA) - Orioles

Justin Verlander has been unpredictably feast-or-famine. In addition, I don't think the O's will be swept in its home stand of this series. Back to Motown, all knotted up!

Advantage: Orioles

American League Division Series - Game 2
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels
Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA) - Royals vs Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04 ERA) - Angels

The pitching matchup gives the Royals their best chance to win a gae in this series. That doesn't mean I think it will happen.

Advantage: Angels

National League Division Series - Game 1
St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) - Cardinals vs Clayton Kershaw (21-3, 1.77 ERA, 239 Ks) - Dodgers

This game has the potential to be an instant classic. Both pitchers are All-Stars. Both batting lineups are loaded with studs. I'm not suggesting this game is a slam-dunk for the Dodgers against the defending National League champions, but there is no way I can pick against the soon-to-be back-to-back National League Cy Young award winner and probable 2014 N.L. MVP taking the hill for L.A..

Advantages: Game - Dodgers, Series - Dodgers 

National League Division Series - Game 1
San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) - Giants vs Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 ERA, 242 Ks) - Nationals

The Nationals finished with the best record in the league for a reason. The pitching matchup is one-sided, the Nats have better position players, and they are at home.

Advantages: Game - Nationals, Series - Nationals

Winning the N.L. West has not been a problem for Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers. Winning the pennant hasn't happened for them since 1988.
Saturday, October 4

Major League Baseball

National League Division Series - Game 2
San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
Ryan Vogelsong (8-14, 4.00 ERA) - Giants vs Jordan Zimmerman (14-5, 2.66 ERA) - Nationals

Once again, the pitching matchup is one sided. Vogelsong has got to give the Giants at least six innings in this game just to not risk jeopardizing the bullpen for the game(s) back in San Francsico. That may or may not happen. Fresh off of throwing a no-hitter last Sunday, I doubt Jordan Zimmerman will have any shortage of confidence.

Advantage: Nationals

National League Division Series - Game 2
St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA) - Cardinals vs Zack Greinke (17-8, 2.71 ERA, 207 Ks) - Dodgers

This could be another great game. However, while I understand that Lance Lynn had a breakthrough season in 2014, I simply do not have confidence in him as a postseason starter. Add in the fact that he is pitching on the road in a matchup against the former Cy Young winner in Zack Grenke and I can't wrap my mind around a victory in this game for the Redbirds.

Advantage: Dodgers

NCAA Football

#6 Texas A&M Aggies at #12 Mississippi State Bulldogs

Which Texas A&M will show up? On paper, they are better than Mississippi State and the Bulldogs are due for a letdown following the stunning upset at LSU. Still, the Aggies' defense has had some head-scratching moments. I am not convinced that this team has sealed up all of the painfully obvious leaks from last season, though they appear improved.

The Kenny Hill (A&M, 1,745 yds., 17 TD, 2 INT) vs Dak Prescott (MSU, 964 yds., 11 TD, 2 INT, 378 rush yds.) QB matchup should be compelling.

Advantage: Texas A&M

#3 Alabama Crimson Tide at #11 Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss is flying high, hosting its most meaningful SEC West contest in years. Expect them to come back down to Earth after Saturday. The Rebels are not strong enough on the ground to control the tempo of the game enough to beat Alabama.

Advantage: Alabama

#14 Stanford Cardinal at #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Cardinal has a defense that is to be reckoned with. However, I don't think they have enough to contain a rejuvenated Notre Dame offense with quarterback Everett Golson (1,142 yds., 11 TD, 2 INT) back for 2014, especially at Notre Dame, Indiana.

Advantage: Notre Dame

#15 LSU Tigers at #5 Auburn Tigers

I have almost no confidence in my LSU Tigers' ability to go on the road to Jordan-Hare Stadium and rub out the defending SEC champions. Freshman LSU QB Brandon Harris (394 yds., 6 TD, 1 INT, 73% comp.) has offered glimmers of hope for the Tigers, but I am not hanging my hat on that hope.

Advantage: Auburn

Alabama coach Nick Saban is on a mission to turn Ole Miss cheers into tears. 3
Sunday, October 5


Arizona Cardinals (3-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)

The Cardinals are the last of the unbeaten teams in the NFC. I expect that to end. Their defense has been stout and Drew Stanton has filled in very well for the injured Carson Palmer. However, Peyton Manning is playing at home and coming off of a loss.

Advantage: Broncos

Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-2)

The Bengals are the last of the unbeaten teams in the AFC. I expect that to continue. The Patriots are in a lot of trouble and the Bengals, frankly, look like the 2014 version of last year's Seattle Seahawks so far. The game is at Foxboro, though.

Advantage: Bengals

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 3
Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals
C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.51 ERA) - Angels vs James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA) - Royals

"Big Game" James gives the Royals their best chance to take a game in this series. The Royals fans will get one more chance to show their appreciation for a great season. Break out the brooms.

Advantage: Angels

American League Division Series - Game 3
Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers
Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA) - Orioles vs David Price (15-12, 3.26 ERA, 271 Ks) - Tigers

This is a complete mismatch on the mound. As long as the former Cy Young winner, David Price, doesn't get into a lot of long innings or any wide early deficits, I don't think the Orioles have a shot in the Tigers' home playoff opener.

Advantage: Tigers

Expect the Bengals to sock it to the Pats on Sunday night. 4
Monday, October 6

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers

While the starters are not yet known for Game 4, as we don't even know if there will be a Game 4, this is the point in the series in which I think the Grand Canyon sized hole in the Tigers' pitching staff - their bullpen - begins to catch up to them regardless of who starts on the mound. Even if the great Max Scherzer starts (and Brad Ausmus is likely to save him for a Game 5), I have doubts as to whether or not he can deliver enough innings in Game 1 and in Game 4 and help deliver Tigers wins in both games.

Advantage: Orioles

American League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals

I don't expect a Game 4 to be necessary, but if it is, I like the Angels.

Advantage: Angels

National League Division Series - Game 3
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
Unknown - Dodgers vs John Lackey (14-10, 3.82 ERA) - Cardinals

The Dodgers are either going to give the ball to Dan Haren (13-11, 4.02 ERA) or Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7, 3.38 ERA) if Ryu's shoulder is healthy enough for him to start. Regardless of who in Dodger Blue takes the mound, I expect Lackey and the Cardinals to demonstrate the value of playoff experience and home field advantage.

Advantage: Cardinals

National League Division Series - Game 3
Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants
Gio Gonzales (10-10, 3.57 ERA) - Nationals vs Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA, 219 Ks) - Giants

The pitching advantage and home field advantage swings to the Giants for Game 3.

Advantage: Giants

Tuesday, October 7

Major League Baseball

National League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants

The idea that Nationals Manager Matt Williams would start Stephen Strasburg on the road on three days of rest is far fetched. I expect Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41 ERA) to get the ball for the Nats, most likely against the hot handed Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA). Fister has been consistently tough all season, but I think the home field advantage and the possible availability of starter Tim Lincecum as a reliever (and a backup plan) tips the odds in a Game 4 ever so slightly to the Giants.

Advantage: Giants 

National League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals may be tempted to pitch Adam Wainwright on three days of rest if the Cards are facing elimination. However, I would not expect the Dodgers to respond in kind with their ace. The more likely matchup would be Dan Haren for the Dodgers and Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 ERA). Playing at Busch Stadium with the bullpen that the Cardinals have, I think Miler has a better than 50/50 chance to help get his team to a Game 5.

Advantage: Cardinals

Wednesday, October 8

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 5 (if necessary)
Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles

This will most likely be a rematch of Scherzer and Tillman. Playing in Baltimore in a deciding Game 5, I think that the Tigers would need eight or more innings to win this match, much like I think they would need in Game 1. I don't know if Scherzer will deliver that twice on the road in one series. My gut tells me that if this game goes to the Tigers' pen, the O's put it away. I think a narrow, but decisive edge goes to Baltimore in a Game 5.

Advantage: Orioles

American League Division Series - Game 5 (if necessary)
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels

Royals manager Ned Yost deserves a solid gold medal if he gets his team to a fifth game in the ALDS.

Advantage: Angels

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Circle of Football Life

When: Sunday, September 23, 2001
Where: Foxboro, Massachusetts
The Game: New York Jets at New England Patriots

The Situation: Jets linebacker Mo Lewis levels Drew Bledsoe as Bledsoe was running out of bounds. Bledsoe was briefly knocked unconscious, suffered internal bleeding and a collapsed lung. Bledsoe returned a series later, then left the game for good. Unknown, second-year backup Tom Brady replaced Bledsoe, ineffectively, throwing for less than 5 yards per attempt and no touchdowns. The Patriots would lose, 10-3, falling to the dreaded 0-2 record.

The Result: As the expression goes, "The rest is history." Brady remained the starting QB for the remainder of the season on the way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI and the beginning of a Hall of Fame career. Bledsoe, who had just quarterbacked the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI five years earlier, would only appear as a backup for the remainder of the season.

Bledsoe, who had just signed a record 10-year $103 million contract in early 2001, was traded to the division rival Buffalo Bills during the 2002 offseason. Bledsoe had some good years with the Bills and a solid debut season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, but he would never throw another postseason pass. Brady went on to play in four more Super Bowls, winning two. Ironically, Bledsoe was benched in Dallas and replaced by Tony Romo, who also would go on to have a long career as the Cowboys starter.

The moment the NFL changed.

When: Monday, September 29, 2014
WhereKansas City, Missouri
The GameNew England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

The Situation: During a pummeling on the road at Arrowhead Stadium, Tom Brady caps an abysmal evening by throwing a pick-six to Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah in the fourth quarter of a nationally televised embarrassment that was decided at halftime. Trailing 41-7, Brady is benched and replaced by rookie second round draft pick Jimmy Groppolo out of Eastern Illinois. Garoppolo is effective in relief, completing 86% of his passes, including one touchdown in at 41-14 debacle.

The Result: Brady is not getting benched for this week's Sunday Night Football game against the favored Cincinnati Bengals. But the clock is ticking on Brady's time as the Patriots' starter. Another repeat of Monday night - a poor enough performance by Brady to merit him being benched and another good relief appearance by Garoppolo - could signal the beginning of the end of Brady in New England.

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick already demonstrated, when launching Brady's career, that he has limited loyalty to quarterbacks based on past success. The Patriots have demonstrated the willingness to eat a large signing bonus in exchange for a younger, less expensive, high-potential quarterback when Brady's career was launched 13 years ago. Jimmy Garoppolo was not drafted in the second round to sit on the bench forever; he was drafted to possibly eventually replace Tom Brady one day.

"One day" could come much sooner than expected for the 37-year-old Brady, who is next-to-last among current NFL starting quarterbacks in yards per game (Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders). When times are tough, the backup quarterback is often the most popular player on the team. Certainly, the notion that an established starter and elite quarterbacking talent who was part of multiple Patriots Super Bowl teams would be forsaken by his long-time Head Coach is ludicrous, right? Ask Drew Bledsoe.

History inevitably repeats itself in football.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

All Washed Up

Derek Jeter's penultimate home game has come and gone. He is still retiring. The Yankees are still not going to the playoffs. The Baltimore Orioles are still the 2014 A.L. East champs.

The biggest non-story of the night was the biggest story of the days leading up to last night's game: the weather. A 50/50 chance of rain was forecast for Thursday evening, threatening to rain on the Jeter Parade and disappoint thousands of fans who paid a steep premium on the secondary market to be in the audience for this last goodbye.


The waterworks help up in the sky. They also held up in The Captain's eyes at the start the the came. As the Bronx crowd chanted "GREAT-EST EV-ER!" after the opening pitch, the jumping of Jeter's nerves were visible in the expression on his face. After launching an RBI double in his first at bat followed by stealing third base and eventually scoring, to the delight of the crowd (chanting "DE-REK JE-TER! - clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!), he appeared more settled down.

During Jeter's career, the Yankees missed the playoffs three times: in 2008, 2013, and this season. Jeter was injured for all but 17 games last season and the Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention during a season-closing road trip at the end of the 2008 season. The Yankees were mathematically eliminated from the 2014 playoffs after Wednesday afternoon's loss against the Orioles. This means that Jeter's career home finale was the first and only home game in his career - spanning 20 MLB seasons - that was completely meaningless for any Yankees' postseason implications.


With all of the build up over the evening and the weather and the absence of the Yankees from the postseason, etc., one may expect that Jeter may show up and go an unremarkable 1-for-something and perhaps trot off of the field in the top of the 9th inning to 50,000 fans standing and cheering. If you haven't seen any highlight shows, Jeter served up one more highlight reel for the fans.

The Yankees led by three going into the top of the 9th only to watch the lead evaporate on a two-run home run by Adam Jones followed by an improbable two-out, game-tying solo home run by Chris Pearce. Keep in mind that, at this point, Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had retired 16 consecutive Orioles batters. Joe Girardi inexplicably elected to summon closer David Robertson, who gave up the aforementioned booty, instead of rolling with the red hot Kuroda. The notion that Jeter would get an at-bat in the 9th was improbable.

The rest is history. Following a lead-off single and a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second, Jeter came up to bat. The first pitch was served right down Broadway and Jeter delivered a game-winning RBI single to right field. Storybook moment: delivered. Game over....

While the Mr. November and the New York Yankees will not be a part of October baseball, last night's Yankee Stadium sendoff was noteworthy event. Yours truly is no Yankee fan, but I have a profound appreciation for milestone moments in sports. In addition, Derek Jeter is one of the all-time greats in American sports and a class act. In spite of the anti-climactic end to the Yankees' season, Last night's final Bronx farewell was a fitting finish for The Captain.    

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