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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Must See Sports - Fourth Weekend of September 2013

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 4-3
Last week's advantage/disadvantage record in series: 1-0
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 49-40
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 15-11-4

We did not have a Must See last week due to some personal obligations on my part. But Must See is back. The NFL is in full swing and the MLB playoff picture is going down to the wire!

Thursday, September 26

Major League Baseball

Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers
Jerome Williams (9-10, 4.55 ERA) - Angels vs Matt Garza (10-6, 3.90 ERA) - Rangers

If there ever were a team that would collectively kick itself if such a thing were possible, it's the Texas Rangers. Shortly after the All-Star break, the Rangers were in the driver's seat for the American League West division crown. Now they are struggling for their Wild Card playoff lives, behind the Cleveland Indians for the final spot in the American League playoffs. I can only imagine that manager Ron Washington is on the hot seat as well, in spite of three consecutive playoff appearances dating back to 2010.

While the Rangers have put the breaks on the nightmare of all losing skids, a September skid, the damage is done. In spite of winning five of their last eight games (including three of the last four) following a nearly catastrophic funk in which they lost 10 of 12 to start the month of September, including seven straight, Texas is on the outside looking in on the Wild Card race for the first time all year. 

Having the worst team in the majors, the Houston Astros, followed by the checked-out Angels at home at the end of the schedule is the only silver lining in this dark cloud for the Rangers. A sweep of this four-game series, minimally, should give the Rangers a reasonable chance at a one game tiebreak opportunity against the Indians or Tampa Bay Rays. I expect Texas to win the game and this series. Whether that gets them into October baseball is an entirely different question.

Advantages: Game - Rangers, Series - Rangers

This cake might be stale by the time there is cause to cut it. 1

Thursday Night Football
San Francisco 49ers (1-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-2)

Ah yes! Another riveting matchup on the NFL Network. The Niners are an underachieving 1-2 while the Rams are an improving 1-2. The defending NFC champion 49ers have some issues. A team with a normally impenetrable front seven, the 49ers have had a lot of trouble stopping the run thus far. Making matters worse, their super freak outside linebacker Aldon Smith (3.5 sacks, 3 TFL) is out for at least a month due to personal issues. 

The Rams may be just what the football doctors ordered for Frisco. The Rams have zero identity and, so far, zero production in their offensive backfield following Steven Jackson's defection to the Atlanta Falcons via free agency. St. Louis running back Daryl Richardson (98 yds., 0 TD, 3.3 avg.) has done nothing to make opposing defenses respect the running attack. This will make life difficult for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (891 yds., 6 TD, 2 INT, 62% comp.), who is already in a career make-or-break year. 

Bradford is not having a bad start to the season and Head Coach Jeff Fisher's Rams have held their own each week. Meanwhile, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (689 yds., 3 TD, 4 INT, 56% comp.) has completely vanished following a career-highlight performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. The bottom line is that this game has the potential to be a trap game on the road for the Niners, but I cannot pick against them until I see them trapped against this improving but, for now, inferior division opponent.

Advantage: 49ers

Kaepernick has been on the run the last two weeks. 2

Saturday, September 28

Major League Baseball

Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins
Scott Kazmir (9-9, 4.14 ERA) - Indians vs Cole De Vries (0-1, 11.70 ERA)

If you told me I would have the Indians and Twins in "Must See" at any time prior to two weeks ago, I would think I was dreaming or hallucinating. But that is the case. This series will decide the American League Wild Card race. A win guarantees that the Tribe will play at least one more game following the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday. Against the completely hapless and pitching-impaired Twins, that is an attainable goal. Should the Indians reach the postseason, I think Cleveland Manager Terry Francona is a shoe-in for American League Manager of the Year.

Advantages: Game - Indians, Series - Indians

I can only imagine that Joanna Garcia, wife of Indians first baseman Nick Swisher (.247, 21 HR, 61 RBI), approves of her hubby's move from the New York Yankees to Cleveland, at least in hindsight. 3
NCAA Football

#6 LSU Tigers at #9 Georgia Bulldogs

BIG matchup in the SEC. LSU has not trailed at any point this year. Georgia has its back against the wall, having lost against Clemson to start the season. 

It is always very difficult to travel to Athens and win between the hedges. However, LSU appears to be poised for a very special year. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger (1,026 yds., 10 TD, 1 INT, 65% comp.) is an early season Heisman hopeful as is wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (20 rec., 389 yds., 4 TD). Jarvis Landry (24 rec., 364 yds., 6 TD), a solid, steady receiver in 2012, appears to have elevated his game. LSU has something it has not had since it won its last national championship in 2007: a passing game. In addition, the Tigers also have an embarrassment of riches in the backfield, led by Jeremy Hill (350 yds., 6 TD, 8.3 avg.). 

Georgia, on the other hand, still appears to have a hangover from 2012 in its vulnerability against the pass. Even mid-major North Texas, who abandoned the run against the Bulldogs, only trailed by seven points at the half last week in Athens. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (1,040 yds., 7 TD, 2 INT, 72% comp.) is the real deal and I expect him to challenge a very tough LSU defense. However, LSU appears to have no weaknesses right now and the same cannot be said for UGA.

Advantage: LSU

The Golden Girls and LSU fans have had plenty to smile about in the first month of the season. 4

Sunday, September 29


Sunday Night Football
New England Patriots (3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

I have been saying, all season, that the Patriots would have a record not indicative of the myriad problems they have, particularly in their receiving corps. They play in the woeful "AFC Least", whose members have caught every break possible and whose records are not indicative of their collective deficiencies. New England's wins have come against the mediocre Buffalo Bills, the soon-to-collapse New York Jets, and the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

They Patriots have had trouble stopping the run, though their secondary, by any standard, is visibly improved over last year, despite facing two rookie quarterbacks and a now-benched Bucs QB Josh Freeman who has passed the peak of an underwhelming career. They also have future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Brady has impressed me more this year than in any other year in his career through the first three games of a season. 

Why? Am I a closet Brady fan who suddenly decided to jump out of the closet? Of course not.... But the ball don't lie and neither does the eye in the sky! The Pats' offense, excluding the offensive backfield, is putrid and depleted. While tight end Rob Gronkowski's speculated return will offer a huge boost to the receiving corps, this team is a D+, at best, at the wide receiver position. Other than guard Logan Mankins, the offensive line is banged up, underachieving, or inexperienced (or some combination), compared to past Patriots O-lines.

All of that considered, Brady has managed to guide his team to three NFL wins. He has been kissed by the scheduling gods, but he has done what it takes to get the "W". All of that said, the Atlanta Falcons are one of the best teams in the NFC and their bad luck has been the antithesis of the Patriots' good luck. They will be at home and on national television. Talent wins out in this game.

Advantage: Falcons

Monday, September 30


Monday Night Football
Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)

This is a battle of rapidly depleting unbeatens in the NFL. The Dolphins are off to an unexpected and blazing hot start, fresh off of a stunning upset over the Atlanta Falcons. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to improve every week, seemingly.

The joyfulness is over in the Big Easy this coming Monday. The Saints, both on paper and visually, are off to their best start through three weeks since their Super Bowl winning season of 2009. Drew Brees has lit up opposing secondaries for 300 yards or more every week this season. Finally, the Saints' defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan appears to be an actual threat to opposing signal callers. Still, this game should serve as a candid progress report for Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin and his fast starting team.

Advantage: Saints     

Get used to Brees raising his arms toward the sky. 5
Don't forget to vote in the fan polls! 

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