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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Must See Sports – Fourth Weekend of August 2013

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 3-1
Last week's advantage/disadvantage record in series: 1-3
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 36-30 
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 8-8-4

Just one more week before the return of college football, folks! Get ready!

Thursday, August 22

NFL Preseason Football

Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens

The third week of preseason is the dress rehearsal game, so this could be the first glimpse of what we can expect from two teams with quarterbacks with high expectations.  Cam Newton is setting out to prove that he can bring his game and his team to a higher level in 2013. Labeling 2012 a ”sophomore slump” for Newton maybe be hyperbole, but only a little bit.

Joe Flacco reaped the benefits of a quarterback who bet on himself going into a contract year and signed the jackpot of new contracts. The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens made Flacco the highest paid QB in the league after he was awarded the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens lost a significant chunk of their 2012 starters from retirement, waivers, and free agency. The spotlight is squarely on Flacco this year.

Friday, August 23

NFL Preseason Football

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
The possibility of this being a preseason glimpse of the NFC Championship game is not farfetched. In many ways the controversial Monday Night Football game between these two teams in 2012, ending on a disputable Hail Mary touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, vaulted the Seahawks into the front of the NFC race. The Packers are a team with an offense capable of getting them to a Super Bowl every year. They will be without Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target before this season, Greg Jennings, who joined the Vikings as a free agent in the offseason.

Make no mistake. Just because it doesn’t count doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. The Packers and their fans haven’t forgotten how the Seahawks essentially stole one from them with help from replacement officials last year. There will be some small measure of payback on the mind of the Pack.

Major League Baseball

Atlanta Braves at St. Louis Cardinals

Kris Medlen (10-11, 3.71 ERA) – Braves vs Adam Wainwright (14-7, 2.66 ERA, 173 Ks) – Cardinals
This battle of heavyweights may factor into determining home field in the National League playoffs this fall. The Braves have completely run away with the N.L. East. MLB may as well crown them as division champions now. The Cards are in a three way dogfight in the N.L. Central that could be decided on the final day of the regular season.

St. Louis is currently a game back of the first place Pittsburgh Pirates and a game ahead of the third place Cincinnati Reds. They play exceptionally well at home and have a pitching advantage on paper, though Kris Medlen has been hotter of late. In addition, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward (.253, 13 HR, 37 RBI) is out for at least a month after suffering a broken right jaw after being hit by a pitch earlier this week. I think the scales of home field advantage tip this game in the Redbirds’ favor.

Advantages: Game – Cardinals, Series – Cardinals

Jason Heyward...OUCH! 4
Saturday, August 24

Major League Baseball

Detroit Tigers at New York Mets
Max Scherzer (18-1, 2.82 ERA, 185 ERA) – Tigers vs Matt Harvey (9-4, 2.25 ERA, 187 Ks) – Mets
Expect this to be a spectacular pitching matchup. Matt Harvey is the one pitcher in the Mets rotations that gives their fans legitimate cause for excitement. Unfortunately for Mets Fans, Detroit is just too good and Scherzer is on fire. The Mets just cannot hit while the Tigers lineup is potent from top to bottom.

Advantages: Game – Tigers, Series – Tigers

Sunday, August 25

NFL Preseason Football

New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans
Are you a Who Dat? I am! I naively said, last year, that this could be a preview of the Super Bowl. The Saints had merry-go-round management due to the Bountygate suspensions and the Texans just weren’t ready for the big show yet. Both teams are out to prove this game is different. This is a great dress rehearsal for both clubs.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees (left) and former LSU and current Oakland Raiders QB Matt Flynn. Who do you think would be the first to want to trade places? 3

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

The Vikings are seeking to build on their playoff appearance from a year ago. They have to improve throwing the football to do so. The defending NFC champion 49ers have a quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who will face the challenge of running an offense from the start of the season through the end for the first time. Defensive coordinators have has all offseason to break down and analyze Kaepernick’s game.

In addition, there is only one result the 49ers can have that would improve upon last year. The pressure is on. Can Kaepernick rise to the challenge this year?

Major League Baseball

Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
Jake Peavy (9-5, 4.25 ERA) – Red Sox vs Chris Capuano (4-6, 4.70 ERA) – Dodgers
The trade from the Chicago White Sox to the Red Sox is just what the doctor ordered for both Peavy and the BoSox, sort of. After earning a win in his first start with Boston, Peavy was been slapped around the yard and earned a loss against the Kansas City Royals followed by a hard-luck loss at Toronto and a no decision in a Red Sox loss to the Giants in which Peavy only gave up one earned run.

Chris Cupano has been the weak link in the Dodgers’ rotation all year. He have an ERA over 5.00 in August and hasn’t earned a win at Chavez Ravine in over a month. As blazing hot as the Dodgers have been in the second half of the season, the Red Sox are in a desperate struggle to cling to their thin, one game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East. I think the Sox take the rubber match in this series.

Advantages: Game – Red Sox, Series – Dodgers

The Padres...the White Sox...Katie Peavy is just as happy has hubby Jake to be in Boston, I'd imagine. 2
Monday, August 26

Major League Baseball

Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals
Mike Leake (11-5, 3.12 ERA) – Reds vs Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.49 ERA) – Cardinals
In spite of the Cardinals being hot and in spite of the Cardinals being very good at home against a mediocre road team in Cincinnati, the stars are lined up for the Reds on Monday Night. Jake Westbrook is in a deep funk, earning four consecutive decisions as losses. He’s been slapped all around the majors in August, with an eye popping 10.29 ERA during the month and no wins.

Leake has been porous in August himself, with an ERA over 6.00 for the month, but he hasn’t been losing games. How well your team is performing decides the risks you can take on the mound and Leake has been stacking more “W’s” than “L’s” all season. When two teams are similarly talented, it’s all about the pitching.

Advantages: Game – Reds, Series – Cardinals  

Wednesday, August 28

Major League Baseball

Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Bud Norris (9-10, 4.22 ERA) – Orioles vs Felix Doubront (9-6, 3.79 ERA) – Red Sox

I don’t know if the casual baseball fan can fully appreciate how much of an upgrade the trade for Bud Norris from the Houston Astros was for the Orioles’ starting rotation. Before Norris’ arrival, the Orioles starters’ ERA was approaching 5.00. He is 3-0 as a starter, only giving up nine earned runs in four starts. Adding him to the rotation has taken significant pressure off of the overworked bullpen and the position players.

The Red Sox have reached the “every game matters” part of the season with the Rays and O’s in hot pursuit. Baltimore is in striking distance in both the Wild Card and A.L. East races, so expect both teams to leave everything on the field in this series. With Dubront, you don’t know which pitcher you are getting. He’s feast or famine. Norris is Steady Eddie. For that reason, I like Baltimore in this game.

Advantages: Game – Orioles, Series – Red Sox   

Norris couldn't be happier to get a shaving cream pie. I doubt he had many in Houston. 1

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