Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pats, Haynesworth Lay Smack Down

Time for everyone to jump back on the New England bandwagon. Fresh off a 17-7 loss at home to the Broncos that had everyone pointing the finger at the inexperienced WR's, the management that didn't want to re-sign Deion Branch and Tom Brady's body language, the Pats laid the 3 Time Super Bowl Smack Down on the hapless Cincinnati Bengals 38-13. Now the entire world has flip-flopped from burying the Patriots dynasty to giving them a legit shot at winning a 4th Super Bowl title. One of the reasons for the quick turnaround is the play of rookie RB Laurence Maroney. With Corey Dillon a bit dinged up, Maroney stepped forward and ripped through the Bengal defense for 125 yards and 2 scores in an impressive coming out party. Maroney had been solid the first three weeks, but with his latest effort he's gone from Dillon's replacement next year to a viable #1 RB right now. I'm not saying I'm, ready to start carving his bust in Canton, but anytime a guy possesses his speed and strength, you're bound to start getting excited about his potential. But Maroney didn't do it alone this week. The Patriot defense got to Carson Palmer 4 times (3 by DE Jarvis Green) and held the Bengals to only 71 yards on the ground. Tom Brady, on the other hand, was never sacked and was back to his usual self completing 15 passes to 7 different receivers. Newcomer Doug Gabriel may have emerged as Brady's weapon of choice in the passing game, hauling in a team high 4 catches, 57 yards and a TD in his first full game since coming over from Oakland. This game seemed to answer a lot of questions for both the Pats and their critics. Their rushing attack continues to be one of the best in the entire NFL, and the more comfortable Tom Brady becomes with his receivers, the more dangerous the Pats will be. Next week the face a Dolphin team that looked bad in a 17-15 loss to the Texans. I don't want to call it an easy game, because Saban and the Phins always play the Pats tough, but if New England puts together another outing like this week in Cincy, then Daunte Culpepper and Co. will be "gettin' their roll on" back to Miami with their flippers tucked between their legs.

Patriots Update
Last Week: New England Patriots 38 Who Dey? 13
Record: 3-1

NFL News and Notes
*A lot of people in the media have spent the first few weeks of the NFL season doing what they do best, jumping on and off bandwagons. Carolina was awful at 0-2, but now they are a Super Bowl contender again at 2-2. The Jaguars were king of the world after their Monday Night win made them 2-0, but now they are mortal again after dropping two straight. I had the Redskins buried after looking offensively anemic early on, and...oh wait, I still think they are garbage. But you get my point. Feel free to make all the predictions you want from week to week, but like I've always said, it's pointless to try and peg a team this early on in the season. That's what makes picking winners each week so hard and this league so great. There is so much balance that from week to week the power structure seems to go through a decent sized shift. Next week I'm sure there will be a new group of teams that either continue to rise from the dead or fall into Bolivia.

*Apparently where Albert Haynesworth comes from, it's chill to stomp on somebodydies skull with metal spikes. That's really the only reasoning I can think of as to why else he would have done that. I'd have to guess that where he comes from, cutting someone's face with the bottom of your feet is equivalent to slapping a guy a high five. Otherwise, he's just an idiot. Did he really somehow think he was going to get away with that? There are so many cameras out there these days that ESPN aired a college game using 3 different TV channels, and he thinks someone won't see him trying to pop a guys eye out with his size 15? So, a day after his action the NFL handed down a 5 game suspension to the big fella. I feel the punishment fits the crime. I mean Haynesworth doesn't have a history of doing stuff like this, and he seemed apologetic in his remarks, so I think we chalk this one up to incredibly bad judgment in the heat of the moment. What's interesting is that Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he would make sure Albert got an appropriate punishment if he didn't feel the NFL dealt with it properly. Kinda easy to say that when your team has no chance of making the playoffs, but let's see if Fisher decides to make a move.

My NFL Picks
Last Week: 3-3-0


*Eh, another less than stellar week, but hey I still haven't slipped below .500 which is always a good sign. Plus, I started out worse than this last season and ended up the a great record, so I'm keeping the faith. Once I start winning there is no turning back baby! Until, that is, I inevitably go 1-5 or 0-6, then feel free to call me out when you see me.
*The Red Sox might be gathering their irons and woods together right about now, but that doesn't mean (contrary to popular belief) that baseball season is over. It just so happens, while most of Red Sox Nation has been tuned out of baseball for about 2 months, some pretty exciting things have happened. This weekend in fact, both the Twins and Astros had the chance to come basically from the dead and capture a playoff spot. While the Astros fell short of coming back from 8 down with 12 to go, the Twins continued their romp (going 71-33 over their last 104 games) not only making the playoffs, but capturing the division title over the Tigers who had been in first since April. So now the playoffs are set to begin, and while I can't say I'm nearly as interested as I normally would be if the Sox were still in, I am taking notice of the interesting matchups that these playoffs will bring.

Detroit Tigers vs New York Yankees
*You wouldn't have thought this way for most of the season, but the Yankees must be thrilled to be seeing the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the AL playoffs. Detroit has been sort of stuck in neutral for the last month or so, while the Yankees haven't let up since sweeping the Red Sox in 5 straight and have since cruised to the best record in the AL. The difference in this series should simply be experience. The young Tigers have plenty of talent, but in a playoff series where every at-bat is crucial, you have to give the edge to the veteran Yankee squad. Sure it may not be as loaded with experience as Yankee teams past, but these guys know how to handle playoff pressure, (we all know the one $25 million a year Yankee this doesn't apply to) especially the guy on the right. Combine that with homefield advantage and even without Randy Johnson I still like the Yanks in this one. Look for the Tigers to go out with a whimper after a great run during the regular season. Their only hope is that their young pitching can revert back to mid-season form and silence the Yankee lineup, but that just seems like too much to ask. The real issues for the Yanks should start in round 2.
prediction: Yankees in 4

Minnesota Twins vs Oakland A's
*Minnesota is by far and away the hottest team coming into the AL playoffs, and the Oakland A's are a team that has been labeled a squad that can never win the postseason. Oh so nice, nothing has to give here. The Twins can just steamroll through Oakland and send Bill Beane back to the drawing board right? Well, essentially, yeah. A five game series means Oakland has to go up twice against Johan Santana unless they sweep, and that right there should be enough. Don't get me wrong, Oakland has a lot of good hitters, and they can pitch alright as well, but overcoming the fact that you know you probably won't win 2 of the 5 games before they start might be a little too much to ask.
prediction: Twins in 4

St. Louis Cardinals vs San Diego Padres
*Well you can't start the playoffs with any less momentum than the St. Louis Cardinals. The Padres may not be a powerhouse, and the Cardinals may have more talent, but the way St. Louis has played the last few weeks has to have taken a toll on them. After almost blowing their huge division lead in the season's final days, the Cardinals now have to flip the switch and get ready for the playoffs. Easier said than done. Like I said, if this one's played out on paper, you give the edge to St. Louis every time, but seeing how badly they have played lately I don't like their chances against anyone right now. San Diego should be able to play well enough to survive this matchup, but no matter who crawls out of here, they can't like their chances much in the NLCS.
prediction: Padres in 5

Los Angeles Dodgers vs New York Mets
*This series is the only real head scratcher for me out of the first round matchups. I picked the Mets before the season started to make it the World Series, but with Pedro injured now I'm not so sure. I guess El Duke and Tom Glavine might be enough to get them out of the first round, but even if they can what are they supposed to do in the NLCS? Personally, I like my chances better with D. Lowe, Brad Penny and Greg Maddux taking the hill and that's why I give the Dodgers the edge. Combine that with their ability to go on 8-10 game winning streaks on a regular basis and you have to like their chances to run the table in the weak NL. Of course I probably should just stick with my pre-season prediction right? I mean I sweated out 6 months to now pick against my team? Well I've done dumber things in the past and will probably continue to do so in the future.
prediction: Dodgers in 5

2006 MLB Awards
AL MVP: Derek Jeter (.333 BA/14 HR/97 RBI/214 H/118 R/34 SB/39 2B)
*Pretty simple for me. Best player on the best team in the league. It doesn't hurt that he is at the top of the league in hits, batting average, runs, doubles and steals either. Let's face it, especially with all their injuries this year, the Yankees wouldn't have been the Yankees without Jeter. I know they have the highest payroll and their lineup is stacked, but it takes a special type of player to play in a city like New York, and Jeter is still able to lead and perform at the highest level night in and night out.

AL Cy Young:
Johan Santana (19-6/2.77 ERA/245 K/ 233.2 IP)
*This one was even easier. Santana led the league in wins and Ks yet again, and has proven that he is almost impossible to beat after the All-Star break. Add all that in with the Twins performance this year, and it's tough to make a case for anyone else.

AL Rookie of the Year:
Jonathan Papelbon (4-2/35 Saves/.92 ERA/75 K/68.1 IP)
*I might have picked Papelbon because I got to watch him play so much this year, but I feel his numbers are compelling enough to make my case. When he was healthy, he was the rock at the end of Boston's bullpen. In a year where they again suffered with bullpen injuries and ineffectiveness, this rookie stepped forward and provided the lift that had the Sox in first place after the All-Star break.

AL Manager of the Year:
Ron Gardenhire (96-66, .593/Central Division Champions)
*Could have easily given this to the Tiger's Jim Leyland, but the run the Twins put together at the end of the season really showed how great of a motivator Gardenhire must be. He always has his teams in contention, even when you look up and down the roster and see not a single name you recognize. Well they might be poised to change that with a deep playoff run.

Ryan Howard (.313 BA/58 HR/149 RBI/104 R/25 2B)
*Best player in the NL? I don't even know if Howard would be in my top 5. But as far as MVP, he takes it. While his Phillies didn't make the playoffs, his numbers down the stretch are just too overwhelming to ignore. In other years his numbers may have been good enough for a run at the triple crown, and you always have to respect that, even if the guy plays for the worst sports city in the country.

NL Cy Young:
Brandon Webb (16-8/3.10 ERA/178 K/50 BB/235 IP)
*Nobody was really spectacular this year in the NL, so I decided to pick the guy with the most dazzling stuff from a pack of 16-8 and 15-9 guys. Maybe the Diamondbacks didn't contend and Webb didn't have amazing complete game or strikeout numbers, but he's the best of what was out there. Had he been healthy all year I think he would have won it anyway in a cake walk. A delicious cake walk.

NL Rookie of the Year:
Hanley Ramirez (.292 BA/17 HR/59 RBI/46 2B/51 SB/119 R)
*There are a lot of ways I could have gone with this one. Most people would have picked Ramirez's teammate Dan Uggla, but the explosiveness that Hanley brings with his speed and surging power gave him the edge. And it didn't hurt that he was one of the best players in my upsidedown fantasy league this year.

NL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi (78-81, .481)
*On the verge of being fired, Girardi nearly led a team with a payroll lower than 4 players on the Yankees and an average age close to 23 to a playoff berth. You think he's going to get hired again? For his sake I hope it's not the Cubs, but I guess if anyone can start to turn that situation around he can.

Rocket Fuel?
Unfortunately, right in with all the talk of the 2006 chase for the World Series, comes more steroid allegations. And just like before, the reports are leaked government documents, and the person at the center is a rat, someone naming names because they got caught red handed. This time though, it's not Rafael Palmeiroid, it's Jason Grimsley. Sure, you remember him from such media incidents as "getting kicked out of the league for juicing" or "suing the Diamondbacks after he got caught juicing for the rest of his salary". According to a federal affidavit, Grimsley told investigators that he personally knew that Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts had or still used steroids/human growth hormone. Does he have any proof? Who knows. Did he even say those things? Well Grimsley is claiming to his friends that investigators put words in his mouth and he never called out these players, and his lawyer has stated that the story was inaccurate. Whatever his intention, the names are out there now, and it's not the first time for either Clemens of Tejada. Tejada was called out by both Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro, while Clemens has always been under slight suspicion. And while I have no proof or real hatred toward the Rocket, I have always said privately that if I were starting a steroid investigation, he would be one of the first pitchers I went to. Whether right or wrong, when I look at Clemens, not only do I see possibly the greatest right handed pitcher of all time, I see a guy that has constantly defied the odds. Despite being one of the oldest starters in the game, Roger appears to have the largest and strongest legs in the history of the world. We all want to look at guys arms and shoulders when we talk about steroids, but a pitcher like Clemens gets all his power from his push off the mound, hence the Starr Jones sized thighs. Like I said, I'm not accusing Clemens of anything, because I have no proof, but is he above being thrown into the conversation? Definitely not. How about the theory that he sat out the entire first half of this season on a "secret MLB steroid suspension"? That probably doesn't hold any weight. But imagine the reaction if it does surface that MLB knew about Clemens. All this time they were all over Bonds, letting him be the media black sheep, while they let their golden boy tip toe through the minefield with no real consequences. I'm sure that wouldn't spark any major controversy. No matter the truth, I doubt this is the last time players names are going to be thrown about like this by others that have been caught. It's unfortunate if you are named and you didn't do anything, but why don't these guys speak out? Instead of denying claims or refusing to acknowledge the reports, speak up and fight back! I know if someone called me out like that I wouldn't be sitting back and taking it lightly. Sometimes saying nothing is just as bad as admitting you're guilty, at least to the public. This really sucks for Roger if it's all just a lie, but if it's true even in the slightest bit, it would totally taint all of baseball from the late 80's up until the present.

*Ohio St. more than took care of business this week with their 38-17 dismantling of #13 Iowa, keeping them safe at the top for another week. The only real stumble this week came from the Virginia Tech Hokies, who were blasted from the top 10 by a 38-27 loss at home to Georgia Tech. Big conference teams like OSU, Auburn, Florida, West Virginia, USC, Georgia, Oregon and Michigan still have to feel they have a legit chance to play for the National title so every week is crucial for them. With so many top contenders still undefeated, it makes life even tougher for teams like LSU, Texas , Oklahoma and now Virginia Tech who already have one loss. But things tend to sort themselves out more often than not, so expect in 3-4 weeks the log jam at the top will be more or less sorted out. In news outside the top 25, Illinois won a conference road game for the first time since 2002 and their first conference game period since 2004 with a win this weekend over Michigan St. First, John L. Smith and his Spartans blew a 16 point 4th quarter lead to lose to Notre Dame, and now they have lost at home to an Illinois team that has only one win this year over Eastern Illinois. The Illinois players even went through the trouble of planting their flag at midfield, much like Michigan St. did last year when they won at Notre Dame. Ain't irony a bitch? John L. Smith might as well start packing his bags. They should have Steve Mariucci in there by the start of next season, I'd be shocked otherwise. And finally, I am going to apologize to Greg Robinson and his Syracuse Orange. I'm not admitting to liking this team, or the coach for that matter, but seeing as I like to rip on them so much, I thought I'd at least mention them a little when they start to win. They have actually put together three straight wins, and this is after blowing a chance to beat Iowa. Next up, though, is a brutal stretch against Pitt, Louisville and West Virginia, so I would expect this streak to end. But hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, and if the Orange can grab any one of those 3 games, I might have to start giving Greg Robinson his due.*

College Football Top 10
1. Ohio St. (5-0) 1
2. Auburn (5-0) 2
3. West Virginia (4-0) 3
4. Florida (5-0) 4
5. USC (4-0) 5
6. Michigan (5-0) 7
7. Georgia (5-0) 8
8. Notre Dame (4-1) 9
9. LSU (4-1) 10
10. Texas (4-1) NR

just missed: Oregon, Louisville, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia Tech
dropped: (6) Virginia Tech

Games to Watch this Week
LSU @ Florida
*This is a real put up or shut up game for both Florida and LSU. People want to talk about how Florida isn't nearly as good as their record, but if they beat the Tigers they will still be controlling their own destiny in national championship run. As for LSU, if they lose to Florida after already losing to Auburn, they will be lucky to call themselves one of the top 5 teams in the conference period. The SEC is so deep this year, that every game has the chance to totally break your season, and this is one of them.

Texas @ Oklahoma
*Another year, another Red River Shootout where both the Sooners and Longhorns are both ranked in the top 25. It may not be the all hyped matchup that it's been the past two years, but that's because for once they aren't both ranked in the top 10. This game still means a good deal for both squads. Aside from being a conference game, Oklahoma wants to show it's completely rebounded from that Oregon debacle, and Texas QB Colt McCoy and crew want to get their first signature win in the post Vince Young era.

Tennessee @ Georgia
*Two top 25 teams meeting and it's barely the second best game in the conference this week. Georgia has looked about as bad as a 5-0 team can look the past 2 weeks, barely beating a 1-3 Ole Miss team and squeaking past an 0-5 Colorado team 14-13. The Volunteers have already proven they can hang with good teams with a win over Cal and a 21-20 loss to the Gators, and they want to prove they are the consensus #3 team in the SEC behind Auburn and Florida. A loss here for Georgia could expose them as frauds, while a win will continue to legitimize them as a top 10 team and a major BCS bowl contender.

Oregon @ California
*The Oregon Ducks are still looking for respect. Weeks after that whole mess against Oklahoma, Oregon is still undefeated. And if they get by the Bears this weekend, should have smooth sailing until a matchup with USC on 11/11. It also would be great for their confidence, as I'm sure a bunch of them still feel maybe they got lucky and shouldn't have won that Oklahoma game. Cal, meanwhile, has been more impressive each week since being embarrassed by Tennessee on opening night, and wouldn't mind adding to their streak of 20+ point victories which currently stands at 4.

Missouri @ Texas Tech
*Missouri crept into the top 25 this week and immediately have to go on the road and play a Texas Tech team fresh off beating the undefeated A&M Aggies. Missouri is undefeated at 5-0, but it's possible the best team they have faced so far is the 0-5 Colorado Buffaloes last week. I mean with cream puffs like Ohio and Murray St. on the schedule, almost anyone could crack the top 25. This is by far and away their biggest test of the season. Tech on the other hand has had only one loss, a 12-3 decision @ TCU, and should look to build their resume with a home win this week over a ranked opponent.

Fantasy Update
Week 4: Open Back Door 87 Grundle Ni**er AIDS 47
Record: 2-2-0, 7th place

Next Week vs HeHateMe (0-3-1)

*The difference this week, was touchdowns. Stephen Jackson and Willis McGahee had their lowest rushing yard games of the season, but scored season highs in points because of? Touchdowns. It also didn't hurt that my new look WR corps of Bernard Berrian, Jericho Cotchery and Terry Glenn combined for 227 yards and 4 TDs. This week, Whitey stands in my way of climbing over .500 and into the playoff picture for the first time all season, but I'll have to do it without Mike Vick and Warrick Dunn. While they didn't do much this week, they've been two of my more reliable scorers. Hopefully new pickup Doug Gabriel and backup Jake "if I score negative points again Rooch might fly to Denver and kill me" Plummer can get the job done just enough to squeak it out.


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