Bry’s Week-by-Week NFL Preview: Week Five

A couple big upset took place in Week Four, so Week Five features a couple teams reeling and trying to right the ship.  There are only two undefeated teams left (Minnesota and Pittsburgh), but there are five winless teams (Cincinnati, Detroit, New York Jets, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay).  (Winners in CAPS.)

On Bye:
Chicago (1-3)
Green Bay (3-1)
New Orleans (2-2)
San Diego (2-2)

Sunday, October 11:
1:00 – Cincinnati (0-4) at BALTIMORE (3-1)
The Bengals stay winless, as they will not go into Baltimore and win.  The Ravens may come out flat, coming off a big win in Foxborough and a week prior to a trip to Minnesota, but they should be able to win this game flat or not.

1:00 – Tampa Bay (0-4) at PHILADELPHIA (2-1)
The Bucs stay winless also, as they will certainly not go into Philly and win after an Eagles bye.  Andy Reid teams just do not lose games after a bye, and this one just happens to be at home against a bad team.  Easy win for the Birds.

1:00 – Cleveland (1-3) at BUFFALO (2-2) *
I think the Browns have a shot at this game, but with Buffalo probably still smarting from a loss in Miami, they should show up to play at home.  This could go either way, but I like the Bills to get the win.

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Bry’s Week-by-Week NFL Preview: Week Four

Well, we are through three weeks and there is one more week with a full slate of games before the byes begin.  There have been some surprises good (Green Bay 3-0) and bad (Chicago 0-3), but there is a lot of football left.  So, on to Week Four’s action.  (Winners in CAPS.)

On Bye:
Arizona (1-2)
Atlanta (1-2)
Carolina (2-1)
Philadelphia (2-1)

Sunday, October 4:
1:00 – Tampa Bay (0-3) at WASHINGTON (2-1)
The Redskins continue to play well early in the season and should be able to handle Tampa Bay this week, at home.  Again, I don’t think the Bucs are that bad of a football team, I just think they will lose a lot of games…honestly.

1:00 – BALTIMORE (2-1) at New England (3-0) *
The Ravens always play New England tough.  Add to the fact that they are never intimidated and they get after the quarterback, I see this as one of the big upsets in what could be a crazy Week Four.  I do believe that the Ravens will go into New England and win the game, ending the ridiculous streak of 20 consecutive regular season games that the Pats have won with Brady as their starter.

1:00 – Tennessee (2-1) at JACKSONVILLE (1-2) *
Jacksonville usually plays Tennessee tough, and without Haynesworth in the middle of that D-line, Maurice Jones-Drew (one of the more underrated backs in the league) may have a big day.  Don’t forget that Jacksonville’s offensive line was decimated last year by injury.  Then again, I have this one going either way.

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Bry’s Week-by-Week NFL Preview: Week Three

A pretty interesting, but rather unsurprising Week Two has led us into Week Three.  The Birds have another home game, leading them into the bye.  (Winners in CAPS.)

Sunday, September 27:
1:00 – Kansas City (1-1) at PHILADELPHIA (1-1)
The Birds should have absolutely no trouble with the Chiefs at the Linc.

1:00 – WASHINGTON (1-1) at Detroit (0-2)
The ‘Skins are too good not to go into Detroit and hand the Lions their 20th consecutive regular season loss, dating back to Week 17 of 2007.

1:00 – GREEN BAY (2-0) at St. Louis (0-2) *
I am picking the Packers here, but I’m not incredibly confident about it.  I think they are the better team, and I think they can go into St. Louis and win, but it is really going to depend on just how much progress each of these teams have made in the offseason.  But, I am sticking with the Pack and my belief in Aaron Rodgers and going against the Rams and my lack of belief in Marc Bulger and, more importantly, that Ram defense.

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Bry’s Week-by-Week NFL Preview: Week Two

After an interesting Week One, we are on to Week Two.  (Winners in CAPS.)

Sunday, September 20:
1:00 – Houston (1-0) at TENNESSEE (0-1)
With 10 days to prepare, the Titans should be able to handle the Texans at home.

1:00 – CAROLINA (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0)
In the first big NFC South showdown, I really think that the Panthers can go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons.  Both are coming off nice home victories and both have tough road games in Week Three.  I just think the Panthers are a better team and will put a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan and win the game in Atlanta.

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Bry’s Week-by-Week NFL Preview: Week One

So, every year, right before football season, I run through the actual schedule and try and determine who I think will win every week.  I obviously take into account my own personal feelings about a team and whether they are home or away each week.  But, I also look at things like who they just played (letdown factor), who they have next week (the look-ahead factor), how many days they have had to prepare (coming off a bye or a Monday night game), and their coach and how much “preparation” or dealing with adversity will help/hurt them at particularly difficult junctures of the season.  I also look at the time (particularly West Coast teams at 1:00 and so on) and expected conditions (warm-weather teams in cold-weather cities late in the year).  I also try and keep track of the games that could “go either way,” just to see what kind of spread an individual team’s record would be.  Usually, I just do all this for myself when I’m bored (or I email Stri with my Giants prediction, so we can argue about it), but I figure now that there is a platform, why not just post it.  Stri will still probably be the only person to read it, but whatever.  There are 18 days from now until the first Sunday in the season, so if I do one week per day (I’ll try and get them out by noon each day), then we can hit the playoffs by that first Sunday in the season.  You can check all of them by hitting the tag “nfl week-by-week preview.”  So, here we go with Week One.  The team in CAPS is my pick to win, and an asterisk will represent a game that I think could “go either way.”

Thursday, September 10:
8:30 – Tennessee (0-0) at PITTSBURGH (0-0)
The defending champs are well-coached and will be prepared on opening day.  They should win this game at home to start the season.

Sunday, September 13:
1:00 – Jacksonville (0-0) at INDIANAPOLIS (0-0)
The Colts are not done, right?  And the Jags are not very good, right?

1:00 – Detroit (0-0) at NEW ORLEANS (0-0)
I don’t think the Lions will go winless again, but I definitely don’t think they go into New Orleans and win in Week One.

1:00 – Philadelphia (0-0) at CAROLINA (0-0)
Sorry, guys, but I think Carolina beats the Birds in Week One.  The Panthers are once AGAIN underappreciated when the season starts, and I have future bets on them again this year.

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Tuesday’s Top Twelve – World Series Contenders

With August winding down, the baseball season is getting awesome, as always.  I can honestly say that this is the most relaxed I have ever been with a Phillies team in contention–at least when it comes to making the playoffs.  Even the ’93 team had a real bump in the road in August, as the Expos closed to like 2 or 3 games, I think.  But, I really don’t see any chance that they don’t win this division.  [Did I just say that out loud?  If they blow it ’64-style, you can blame me.]  Anyway, there are plenty of contenders to take down the defending champs, but who are the favorites?  So, I’ve decided to list the Top Twelve 2009 World Series Contenders.

 31). New York Mets.  Now, with Santana out for the year with bone chips, their Queens AAA affiliate is complete.  Is that mean?  I’m sorry…sort of.

30). Washington Nationals.  They are getting hot, so I think they have a better shot than the Mets.

29). Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  If they hadn’t lost three key players in the Cliff Lee deal, they might have a better shot, but they still have some talent, so let’s put them at #29.

13). San Francisco Giants.  They would have been higher (and actually in the Top 12) before this weekend, but losing three of four to the Rockies has put them 4 games behind the Rox in the Wild Card race and 6 games behind the Dodgers for the West.  But, if they do, somehow get in, they may be tough because of their bally-hooed top 2 pitchers and then Randy Johnson’s experience.  Though (and this may be a topic for a future post), I think regular-season pitching is a completely different animal than postseason pitching, whereas the hitting is at least a little more similar, and this team doesn’t hit.  But, still, Lincecum and Cain are masterful, so I guess you have to watch out for the Giants, but I don’t really see it because the offense is just not good.

12). Florida Marlins.  Okay, the official Top 12 starts with the Marlins.  I don’t really think they are going to make the playoffs (they are tied the Braves, whom I put somewhere in between the Marlins and Iron Pigs), the Marlins have shown their magic in the past, with very similar teams than the 2009 version (at least the ’03 team is similar–the ’97 team had a bunch of aging vets like Darren Daulton and Bobby Bonilla).  They have pitching (including Cy Young candidate Josh Johnson and other studs) and one of the five best all-around players in the game in Hanley Ramirez.  Plus though they have never won the division…ever…they have as many World Series titles as the Phillies, who have been around for 125+ years, so I guess they have a shot, right?

11). Colorado Rockies.  Okay, I know I am crazy here, but isn’t this team doing it totally with smoke and mirrors?  I’m probably wrong because they have been the best team in baseball for like TWO MONTHS now, but come on.  Let’s take a look at their lineup for a minute, shall we?  They usually lead off Dexter Fowler, who is hitting an unremarkable .270 (and spent much of the year under .250).  Hitting second is Clint Barmes, whose on-base percentage is exactly .300…THREE-HUNDRED.  Then comes the professional hitter Todd Helton, who is just a solid player and always will be.  But, he’s their #3 hitter and he has 12 home runs.  TWELVE.  His power numbers used to be higher…I’m not saying, I’m just saying.  Anyway, then you have Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, and Seth Smith, who are all having nice years, but these are the 4-5-6 hitters, folks?  Really?  Then you have Garret Atkins and his gaudy .228 average hitting 7th and Chris Iannetta and his robust .221 average hitting 8th.  Oh, and may I remind you that this team plays in COORS FIELD!!!  Yes, they use the humidor to cut down on home runs, but does it make the outfield any smaller?  And please don’t get me started on how overrated the middle and end of their rotation are.  I actually like Ubaldo Jimenez at the top (though, he’s still probably the worst “ace” of any playoff team this year, unless Texas makes it) and Jason Marquis is a veteran pitcher who is having a nice year.  But, please don’t tell me that Rockies fans feel comfortable with Aaron Cook and Jorge De La Rosa pitching games 3 and 4 of a playoff series…PLEASE.  Sorry for the rant on Colorado, but how the hell is this team winning?  PLEASE, let the Phillies finish with a better record than St. Louis, so we can pound these Rockie pitchers and shut down this terrible offense.  And, if the Phils don’t get the joy of it, the Cardinals surely will.

10). Texas Rangers.  I know, it’s ridiculous, but I really think that the Rangers have a better shot to win the whole thing than Colorado.  This team is scrappy and their starters lead the AL in ERA.  Let me say that again–the Texas Rangers starting pitchers lead the AL in ERA.  Josh Hamilton is just getting going and Michael Young and Ian Kinsler may be the two most underrated teammates in my lifetime.  I don’t really think the Rangers can navigate a sure-to-be brutal AL playoff bracket, but they at least have a shot, right?

9). Chicago White Sox.  I actually believe that the ChiSox are going to catch the Tigers and win the AL Central.  (Full Disclosure:  I bet on them to win the division at the beginning of the year.)  But…I think that, though the Sox have a better shot at making the playoffs than the Tigers, I think the Tigers are better equipped to deal with postseason series than Chicago, and therefore have a better chance to win the whole thing.  Remember, though, the White Sox may be adding a former Cy Young winner to their rotation any day now in Jake Peavy.

8). Detroit Tigers.  Like I said, I think the Tigers are going to choke away a Central division that they should have already put away, so I don’t even think they will make the playoffs, despite their current 4.5 game lead.  However, I do think that if they can, somehow, hold on and win this division, they have a better shot at making some noise in the playoffs than anyone else from this division.  They have one dominant starter in Verlander, two guys that can be dominant on any given day in Jackson and Porcello, and one guy who is a steady veteran in Washburn.  They also have Miguel Cabrera, who somehow made a quick journey from overappreciated to underappreciated because he signed a monster contract.  And, they have the best infield defense in the American League.

7). Los Angeles Dodgers.  This team is falling apart at the seams, and it is not surprising at all.  Their once insurmountable lead in the NL West has shrunk to 2 games.  It is not guaranteed any more that they will even be IN the playoffs this year.  And, once they get there, their glaring weakness–starting pitching–will have to deal with either Utley and Howard or Pujols and Holliday.  It does not look good for the Dodgers to even reach the LCS, let alone win the World Series.

6). Tampa Bay Rays.  At this point, it looks as if they may not make the playoffs at all, but I still think that they are one of the seven most likely teams to win the World Series this year.  They proved how talented they are in last year’s run and they also proved that they will not be intimidated by the Sox or the Yanks or whomever they would have to face.  It will be a tough, tough road, though, as they have to first catch the Red Sox and Rangers for the Wild Card, then, presumably, they would have to beat Anaheim in a best-of-five and then probably the Yankees in a best-of-seven.  Wow, good luck, guys.

5). Boston Red Sox.  The Sox are most likely going to win the Wild Card, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they won the whole thing.  In fact, I think that they may be the 2nd or 3rd best team in all of baseball right now, but they are staring at Anaheim and then the Yankees before they even get to the World Series.  Throw in the fact that no deciding game will be at home if they are the Wild Card and October starts to look daunting to them.  But, you can’t count them out…ever.

4). Los Angeles Angels.  The best manager in baseball, bar none.  A team that always does the little things.  And, oh by the way, for the first time in this decade of excellence, they are actually led by their offense (if you haven’t heard of Kendry Morales or Juan Rivera, just wait, you will).  I actually think this might be the best team in baseball, and the only reason that they are not #1 on this list is because they will probably have to beat both Boston and the Yankees just to get there, whereas the three teams listed above them will have MUCH easier Division Series opponents.  Oh, and you can put up dollars to donuts that I will be rooting for them in the postseason because of a certain guy that goes by Bobby.  Yes, the most underrated player of our generation, Bobby Abreu, has a .401 on-base percentage, 84 RBIs, 77 runs scored, and 26 SBs.  And, any team in baseball could have signed him for the peanuts that the Angels are paying him.  GMs are dumb.

3). St. Louis Cardinals.  I am officially scared of the Cardinals and, though it’s very close, I think I’m being objective here when I say that they are #3 and not #2.  The additions of Holliday and DeRosa have made this offense special, and Carpenter and Wainwright are as good a 1-2 as you’ll find.  Plus, ‘roid-head Ryan Franklin is one of the most dependable closers in baseball this year.  This team is officially terrifying.

2). Philadelphia Phillies.  Here are my arguments as to why they are higher than the Cardinals.  (1) They have a 1/2 game lead for the better record between the two teams, which matters a lot because the better record will get the Wild Card, which is probably going to be Colorado, and you all know my feelings on Colorado.  (2) The Phillies have the starting pitcher advantage at 2 of the 4 spots in a postseason rotation, while the Cardinals only have it at one.  I believe Lee and Carpenter is probably a wash.  Wainwright is better than Hamels right now, and they both have a solid postseason pedigree on which they can lean.  But, I would definitely take Blanton and Happ over Piniero and Wellemeyer any day of the week, and ESPECIALLY in the playoffs.  (3) I know, I know, I’m scared of all of the Phillies left-handed starters against such a strong right-handed lineup, but at least they have Blanton, who is right-handed.  But, what people may not realize is that the Cardinals are going to have the same problem with the Phillies.  The Phils have, as everyone knows, a dominant left-handed hitting team, and ALL FOUR of the Cards probable postseason starters (and the closer) are right-handed.  In fact, the only two left-handers that have even thrown double-digit innings for the Cards this year are journeymen Danys Reyes and Trever Miller, the latter of whom was ROUGHED UP to the tune of an 18.00 ERA in the World Series last year by the Phils when he pitched for Tampa Bay.  Advantage: Phillies in both head-to-head and likelihood to win the World Series.

1). New York Yankees.  I wanted to put the Phils as likely to repeat, but I couldn’t because it would be going against everything I have said for years about playoff baseball.  The most important player on a postseason baseball team is the closer.  And, the Yankees have the best the game has ever seen, and the Phillies have a shell of that perfect guy they had last year.  Plus, the Yanks will probably get to open the playoffs with either Detroit or the White Sox, while the Phils may end up with the Dodgers.  The Yankees have dominant starting pitching and a great offense.  This is the team to beat.

Incredible Inning!

bruntlett triple playWow, the Phillies just finished up a win over the Mets with one of the craziest half-innings I’ve ever seen.  With the Phillies leading 9-6, Brad Lidge came on for the save in the bottom of the 9th.  The first Mets batter, Angel Pagan, hit a ball down the first-base line and Ryan Howard let it go between his legs, leading to a 3-base error.  The next batter, Luis Castillo, hit a ball right at Eric Bruntlett, who was playing second-base, and Bruntlett booted the ball for a second straight error, scoring Pagan to make it 9-7.  Daniel Murphy followed with a ground-ball up the middle, and Bruntlett booted it again.  It was scored a hit, but Bruntlett should have made the play and at least gotten the out at second.

So, all of a sudden, after two errors and a “hit”, the tying run was on base and the Mets fans at Citi Field were going crazy.  With the way Lidge has pitched this year, the outcome appeared very much in question.  I was fearing the worst.  Then, on a 2-2 pitch to Jeff Francoeur, the Mets sent both runners on the pitch.  Francoeur lined the pitch sharply up the middle, and it looked very much like a single that would put the tying run at third base with no outs.  BUT, Bruntlett, the guy who had almost single-handedly created this mess, was standing right on second-base to cover the bag in case of a throw on the steal attempt.  He made the catch, stepped on second, and tagged Murphy to complete a game-ending, unassisted triple play!  I was stunned.  The crowd was stunned.  And the silence in Citi Field was music to my ears.

It was the 12th unassisted triple play in major league history.  I remember Mickey Morandini had one in the mid-90’s, but I don’t know how many the Phils have had.  I also don’t know how many ended a game.  Either way, innings like that are one of the reasons baseball is so great.  You just never know what you’re going to see.

And in closing, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Bruntlett needs to go.  The guy is useless.  If you’re hitting .155 and can’t play a decent second-base, you have no place on any major league roster, let alone a title contender.  He’s got a ring and an unassisted triple-play, let’s send him on his way.

Live Blog: Eagles Preseason and Phils-Diamondbacks

Well, when the Phillies and the Eagles are both playing on national television on the same night, I think that calls for a BSB Live Blog.  As I write this, the Phillies lead the D-Backs 3-2 in the 4th inning in a game televised by the MLB Network, and the Eagles are about to get underway in Indianapolis on Fox.

8:06 PM:  The MLB Network play-by-play guy just brought up that Philly fans booed Santa Claus.  He’s officially bad at his job.

8:11 PM:  Looks like new defensive coorinator Sean McDermott is a redhead.  Nice!  Also nice take down by Quintin Demps on a screen play.  But the Colts are driving.

8:20 PM:  Well, the Colts march down the field and put 6 on the board in their first possession.  One play after Asante Samuel very nearly intercepted one in the end zone, Peyton Manning and Anthony Gonzalez execute a perfect fade play to the corner over Samuel for the touchdown.  After the passing of Jim Johnson and the injury to Stewart Bradley, the Eagles D is suddenly a bit of an unknown quantity.  Certainly there’s no shame in giving up a TD to the Colts in August though.

8:23 PM:  The Eagles go 3-and-out in their first possession.  I missed the first two plays because the Phillies have the bases juiced!

8:27 PM:  The Phils get a run on an RBI ground-out by Joe Blanton.  They now lead 4-3 heading into the 5th. 

8:31 PM:  Manning fumbles and the Birds recover!  I don’t who it was that hit him, some new guy.  Birds take over at the Indy 25 yard line.  Jason Avant drops a pass on the first play.  It would be nice to see them punch one in here.

8:34 PM:  On 3rd Down, McNabb gives it back on a fumble forced by Dwight Freeney.  Freeney is still one of the quickest D-linemen in the league.

8:36 PM:  On the first play, there’s a prototypical missed assignment by the Eagles as Reggie Wayne breaks WIDE open for a 76-yard score.  The Eagles are looking sloppy on both sides of the ball.

8:40 PM:  It was newcomer Ellis Hobbs that missed that assignment.  He did have a pretty nice kick return on the ensuing kickoff, taking it up to the 40.  We might want to keep Sheldon Brown happy, though.

8:45 PM:  In what is becoming a familiar sight in Eagles games, McNabb and Desean Jackson connect on a beautiful pitch-and-catch for a 40-yard TD! 14-7 Colts. 

8:49 PM:  Back in Philly, Jayson Werth hit his 3rd homer in the last two days to make it 6-3 Phils.  Werth and Ryan Howard have been producing a TON of runs in the 4 and 5 spots of the order lately.

8:55 PM:  Into the 2nd quarter now and Peyton Manning’s night is done.  It looks like Curtis Painter has taken Jim Sorgi’s cushy job as Manning’s backup.  It’s good work if you can get it.

9:03 PM:  McNabb’s night is also over, as good old A.J. Feeley is now under center.  I would imagine that Feeley is fighting for a roster spot with Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb also on board.  It’s hard to take anything away from this Eagle offensive performance considering 4/5 of the offensive line starters and Brian Westbrook are nursing injuries.  LaSean McCoy looked decent enough.  McCoy looks to me like he’s put on a fair amount of muscle since college.

9:09 PM:  Meanwhile, the Phillies have broken things wide open and they lead 11-3.  In the 6th inning they’ve added five runs on a solo shot by Carlos Ruiz, an RBI single by Chase Utley, and a 3-run bomb by Mr. Howard, who is now just 2 RBI short of 100.  Mark Schlereth’s son, Daniel, is pitching for the Diamonbacks, which makes me feel old.  Also, this just in: the Phillies are kinda good.

9:40 PM:  The Eagles game has hit half-time, which means they’ll be into the third-stringers from now on.  Jeremy Maclin dropped a pass.  Some running back named Eldra Buckley showed flashes of being pretty decent.  The Phillies are up 12-3 and headed to the bottom of the 8th.  Joe Blanton has delivered another stellar outing and could pick up the complete game as he’s still only in the low 90’s in pitches through 8 innings.  It looks like the drama is done in both of these games, so I’m going to call it a night here on the blog and turn my attention to Mad Men on DVD.