Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday 10/06 (Very) Quickie: Bugs!

Fans of bug puns, unite! That Yankees-Indians Game 2 was one of the weirdest in recent postseason history. Obviously, the bugs were the THE story, but it was the WAY they influenced the game:

They completely disrupted Yankees super-rookie reliever Joba Chamberlain, who was supposed to be their secret weapon this fall, not blowing leads (and games). I'm no Yankees fan, but I blame the bugs over Chamberlain. (Sure, in theory you want him to shake it off and do his thing, but I'm not sure ANY pitcher - relief or otherwise - could have ignored the swarm.) And now the Yanks are in an 0-2 hole going back to New York.

Oh, and A-Rod (0-4, 3Ks): Yikes.

Meanwhile: MANNY! ('Nuff said.)

-- D.S.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday 10/05 A.M. Quickie: Marion Jones,
Yanks Lose, Rox Roll, NFL/CFB Picks, More!

Update: The one story I wish I had this morning that I didn't was LeBron wearing a Yankees cap at the Indians game. If he didn't, y'know, play for a freaking Cleveland team, this would be less of a thing. But he does. And it is. At best, it's disrespectful to his customers, which seems awfully dumb for a guy with a marketing sense as finely honed as LeBron's. Unless...hmm: At worst, it's a symbol that James' heart (and wallet) belong to New York, which should only bother Cleveland fans when James bolts for Brooklyn.

Today's Names to Know: Marion Jones, Kenny Lofton, Kaz Matsui, Chris Young, Reggie Bush, LSU, Red River Rivalry, Steve Spurrier, Travis Henry, More!

Interrupting your MLB Playoff fun (not to mention NFL or CFB warm-up) for more from sports' cheating front...

Marion Jones admits using steroids: Given her prominence as America's poster-child Olympian in 2000, this is humiliating for her, for the sport and for the country (though in the current environment of justified skepticism of athletes, not to mention allegations about her PED use from a few years ago, hardly a shocker).

I guess it's most refreshing that she admitted it (although she admitted it after lying to federal agents who were investigating her, for which she'll plead guilty), although she insists that she didn't know she was using PEDs at the time.

This is the part that is most ambiguous: It is reasonable to think that she took what her trainer gave her, unquestioningly, because he said it would help (and was legit). The use might have been inadvertent; it is impossible to know if she knew she was cheating.

However, when she put up her very public protest in 2004, insisting she never took PEDs, she obviously knew at that time she was misleading the public -- lying -- just as she lied to the authorities investigating her. As usual, the cover-up is even more egregious than the crime.

Jones won 5 medals in Sydney, including a couple of golds, which she should be stripped of immediately.

Indians crush Yankees: Smack 4 HR (and ageless OF Kenny Lofton drove in 4 RBI), while holding the Yankees to only 5 hits, including zero by A-Rod. The Yankees don't NEED to win Game 2 tonight, but an 0-2 hole will be daunting. Playoff vet Pettitte is their starter.

Rockies roll on! You have to wonder if the Rockies sweep the series this weekend and have to wait more than 2 days to play a game in the NLCS, will they lose their momentum? They are going to be willing to play the local Beer League softball champs, if only to stay on the field and just keep playing.

Stud: In one game, Kaz Matsui eclipsed a career of disappointment and underachievement with "playoff clutch." HR, Triple, Double, 5 RBI. Wow.

D'backs put Cubs in 0-2 hole: I love the Rockies' story and the D'backs' youth movement is impressive (Young HR yesterday, along with more HR from Drew), but it would be pretty lame if the NLCS ended up being Arizona-Colorado. Cubs better turn it around at home, because a sweep would be crushing. Like the Phillies, the Cubs could find themselves done before they even really get started.

Red Sox-Angels Game 2: I'm betting that having never faced Matsuzaka, the Angels are completely baffled and the Red Sox take a 2-0 lead.

NFL Week 5 Preview and Picks
Ugh: I'm going to stop keeping track of my picks correctness, because the past few weeks have been horrible, and without any stakes riding on my predictions, they are empty, though I will still keep making them, if only to see how terribly wrong I can continue to be, despite my best efforts to actually pick the games correctly (without the spread!)

Top 5 Subplots:
1. Reggie Bush as featured back
2. Pats continue to decimate
3. Make-or-break for Chargers
4. Favre in primetime vs. rival
5. Rams or Fins: Race for 0-16

The picks:
At Titans (2-1) d. Falcons (1-3)
Jaguars (2-1) d. at Chiefs (2-2)
Cards (2-2) d. at Rams (0-4)
Pats (4-0) d. Browns (2-2)
Saints (0-3) d. Panthers (2-2)
Giants (2-2) d. Jets (1-3)
Steelers (3-1) d. Seahawks (3-1) (GOTW)
Redskins (2-1) d. Lions (3-1)
(2-2) d. Dolphins (0-4)
Colts (4-0) d. Bucs (3-1)
Chargers (1-3) d. at Denver (2-2)
Ravens (2-2) d. at 49ers (2-2)
Packers (4-0) d. Bears (1-3) (SNF)
Cowboys (4-0) d. Bills (1-3) (MNF)

CFB Top 25 Preview and Picks: "Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda Saturday." Instead of a Game of the Year, LSU-Florida is a remote chance of an upset (particularly at LSU, not sure there even was "remote"), although many fans will rejoice at Florida losing 2 straight, let alone 2 straight in the SEC. Meanwhile, Texas-Oklahoma means very little, although the winner regains some momentum nationally (while the loser is all but finished in the Big 12).

There ARE a couple of intriguing games: I have Cincinnati ranked in my Top 10, and a win at Rutgers should affirm my opinion of them (esp. considering my preseason opinion of Rutgers). I'm intrigued to see if Missouri is for real; a win over Nebraska helps that cause. And I could see two Big Ten unbeatens in the Top 5 losing: Ohio State at Purdue and Wisconsin at Illinois (where the Illini are favored. Favored! Over a Top 5 team!)

1 LSU d. 9 Florida (Game of the Week)
2 Stanford Duh, USC d. Stanford
23 Purdue d. 4 Ohio State (Upset Special!)
5 Wisconsin d. at Illinois
6 S. Florida d. at Florida Atlantic
7 Boston College d. Bowling Green
10 Oklahoma d. 19 Texas (Too Little Too Late Bowl)
12 Georgia d. at Tennessee
13 W. Virginia d. at Syracuse
15 Virginia Tech d. at 22 Clemson
16 Hawaii over Utah St.
17 Missouri d. 25 Nebraska
18 Arizona St d. at Washington St
20 Cincinnati d. at 21 Rutgers (Underrated GOTW!)
24 Kansas St over Kansas (All Bets Are Off Bowl)

South Carolina KOs Kentucky, 38-23: The Wildcats were a wonderful story for the first half of the season, but their enjoyable run as an unbeaten is over... as is their relevancy as a national storyline. They will drop out of the Top 10 (perhaps even the Top 20). Meanwhile, Spurrier's Gamecocks will make their way into the Top 10.

Travis Henry reportedly tests positive for pot, which could subject him to a year-long suspension from the NFL.

NBA/Sports Business: I'm not saying that the Nets' Continental Arena was a particularly inspired name, but the new name -- Izod Center -- instantly becomes the least intimidating in sports.

Comments will remain shut off today and this weekend. Exploring new systems that can go into effect next week. Sorry for any inconvenience.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thursday 10/04 A.M. Quickie:
MLB! Piniella, Beckett, Holliday, A-Rod, More!

Today's Names to Know: Lou Piniella, Carlos Marmol, Mark Reynolds, Matt Holliday, Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia, A-Rod, Steve Spurrier, Andre Woodson, Walt Jocketty, Gus Frerotte, Mike Vick, Brandon Roy and More!

Wow, that was a pretty fun start to the baseball playoffs: Lou Piniella's tactical error might have cost the Cubs a shot at winning Game 1... Josh Beckett picks up where he left off in 2003 (with a shut-out)... On 36 hours' rest, the Rockies go East, beat the Phillies to take a 1-0 lead, shut down Philly's Big Three and roll on.

D'backs rally over Cubs to take Game 1: Here's the controversy: Did Lou Piniella pull Carlos Zambrano too early – perhaps even a single inning too early? Zambrano hadn't hit his 100-pitch limit, but Lou was worried about Z being available to start Game 4.

So in the 7th, Lou put in super-reliever Carlos Marmol, who promptly gave up 2 runs -- the winning margin. There's no proof Zambrano wouldn't have gotten hit just as hard (and Marmol has been a complete stud this season), but this is an easy one for fans to second-guess.

Reigning NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb held the Cubs to 4 hits and a single run over 7 innings. On the offensive end, Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds each hit HR for Arizona; that's not a bad (very) young left side of the infield they've got there.

Red Sox blank Angels behind Beckett's complete game 4-hitter: Beckett re-asserts himself as one of the great postseason pitchers of our generation. (Oh, right: THIS is why he was worth all that money and talent to trade for!)

Meanwhile, no surprise: Big Papi with a HR. (Another Stud: Kevin Youkilis, who went 2-4 with a HR and 2 runs scored.)

Rockies win Game 1 in Philly. Wow, given that the Rockies were last seen boarding a red-eye late Monday night after clinching the Wild Card in a playoff, to win a day game on the road 36 hours later is pretty impressive. I was prepared for them to all but concede the game; instead, they continue their wild run, a 15th win in their last 16 games.

Stud: Matt Holliday hit a home run. We never really got into this on Tuesday, but with Jimmy Rollins the presumptive NL MVP after 162 games, edging out Holliday, you have to wonder if Holliday literally and figuratively slid past Rollins headfirst in Game 163.

I think they were close enough that Holliday's heroics in the final regular season game should nudge him past Rollins in the wildest MVP finish in years. (When was the last time an MVP race was decided in a come-from-behind vault in a 163rd regular-season game?)

Dud: The Phillies' Big Three (Howard, Utley, Rollins) went 0-for-11 with 8 Ks. That's some ugly foreshadowing.

Today's Games: Morales vs. Kendrick in Philly at 3 p.m., Wang vs. Sabathia in Cleveland at 6:30, Lilly vs. Davis in Arizona at 10. The only home team down 0-1, Philly is in a near-must-win position.

But most of the focus will be on the Yankees, who go up against Sabathia, one of the best pitchers in the AL. The spotlight is on A-Rod, who might be playing his final games with the Yankees. After his sick regular season, can he replicate that in the playoffs? Uncertain.

CFB: Kentucky at South Carolina. Now THIS is intriguing. Is Kentucky a legit contender or just a first-half phenomenon, due to dismantle once they hit the gauntlet of the SEC schedule? Or will this nationally televised game be Andre Woodson's official coronation as Heisman front-runner (where he should be already).

If Kentucky wins, they are officially an SEC East contender. If they lose, they were a nice first-half story. If South Carolina wins, they stake their claim as Florida's top rival in the SEC East (and probably get a Top 10 ranking for it). Nice little ranked-vs-ranked match-up to warm up for the weekend. Pick: Spurrier South Carolina.

(By the way, what's the chance that the TV announcers bring up the new book about the 1962 Wildcats squad that was involved in a sex scandal with Rock Hudson AND gambling?)

Bobby Petrino leaving Falcons...for Auburn?! This is just a rumor, and probably one just floated by a wishful-thinking booster. First of all, Petrino is mere weeks into his Falcons career; he hasn't even had the chance yet to build a team around, say, Brian Brohm. Second, how can this come out the week after Tommy Tuberville goes into the Swamp and beats Florida? I know Tuberville frustrates Auburn fans and has had an up-and-down 2007 season, but -- of any week -- this ain't the week to gripe.

Andy Reid stepping down as Eagles coach? Kudos to Philadelphia Mag's A.J. Daulerio with the scoop on the short-term and long-term fate of Andy Reid, who could be stepping down as coach imminently. Given Reid's off-field family issues, who could blame him? (From an on-field standpoint, it feels like Reid has done about as much as he can with the franchise.)

Cards let GM Walt Jocketty go: The big question is whether Jocketty and Tony LaRussa are a package deal wherever they end up next.

A-Rod and wife expecting another baby: In the spring. Someone do the math and figure out whether conception happened to coincide with A-Rod's little p.r. problem in Canada with that manly looking stripper.

NFL: Marc Bulger benched for Gus Frerotte. Wow, that 6Y/$65M contract extension he signed in August SURE looks good right now. (For him.)

Chad Johnson Turmoil, Cont'd: A day late, 85 took responsibility for the INT that he was a part of, rather than, say, blaming his QB on national TV.

Vick Watch: The Falcons want him to refund them $22 million in bonus money. Yikes, talk about adding financial insult to probable prison time.

Meanwhile, Vince Young continues to inject himself into controversies. First it was McNabb (where he didn't inject himself as much as distance himself, which he got criticized for). Now it's saying Vick "is a good person." Maybe, maybe not: You just don't want to be in his corner right now.

The Cowboys are the NFL's most popular team (displacing the Steelers), but I never really understood how that worked. Like: The Cowboys have the most total number of fans? They have the most fans who aren't a fan of another NFL team already? Willingness to buy and wear merchandise? I don't get it (though I'm sure there's some solid research methodology behind it). But seriously, this is one of the stupidest superlative rankings that come out all year.

College Hoops: Howland gets new deal. As the most successful UCLA hoops coach since Wooden, Ben Howland deserved his 7-year extension. He has turned UCLA into the best program in the West, in a few seasons quickly eclipsing Arizona. And after two great seasons, he may have his best team YET this coming season. (But, now, anything less than a national title is failure.)

NBA Training Camp: More bad injury news for the Blazers. Brandon Roy has a heel problem. As a precaution (or perhaps foreshadowing), the team might keep him out of the exhibition game season entirely.

And, in a heart-warming end to the post, the Warriors named their newest team captain: Stephen Jackson. Perhaps they'll all get tattoos like Jackson's: Hands clasped in prayer... holding a gun. Leadership!

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wednesday 10/03 A.M. Quickie:
MLB Playoff Preview! Your Champ Is...

Today's Names to Know: Cubs. Phillies. Rockies. D'backs. Yankees. Red Sox. Indians. Angels.

This is an utterly phenomenal baseball playoff field.

All 8 teams present must-watch storylines. I'm not sure there's ever been a playoff field this loaded -- this guaranteed -- to have something dramatic end up as the result. Let me rank the Top 6 potential outcomes for a World Series Champ:

(1) Cubs: Eclipses everone and everything else. Would be the nationally shared sports event of the last 20 years, easily eclipsing the Red Sox winning in 2004.

(Ideally, for maximum ratings, the Cubs would beat the Red Sox. But the Yankees would work nicely too. The Cubs beating the Indians would be kind of sad. The Cubs beating the Angels would be fine. Hey: If the limp Cards can win a title last year, then this Cubs team can win now.)

(2) Indians: If only because, next to the Cubs, they've had the longest drought without a World Series title (or any meaningful title).

(3) Phillies: Because Phillies fans deserve it. Ideally, they too would beat the Red Sox or Yankees to get it done, if only to ease Philadelphia's inferiority complex. (Can you imagine having an inferiority complex about Boston, which has its own inferiority complex about NYC.)

(4) Rockies: They aren't sexy. They have none of the decades of losing legacy that the Cubs, Indians or Phillies have. But they are the hottest team in baseball and a wonderful worst-to-first story.

(5) Yankees or Red Sox: Please don't let this happen. Please don't let this happen. Please don't let this happen. The rest of us just wouldn't be able to take the jacked-up levels of pre-existing smugness.

(6) D'backs or Angels: The least appealing champs (Angels-D'backs in the World Series would be a complete dud, from a "national event" perspective), but this champ would stake its claim as the best baseball team of the decade, with TWO World Series titles. Not unsubstantial.

The Predictions*:
NLDS: Cubs d. D'backs (5); Phils d. Rox (5)
ALDS: Sox d. Angels (5); Indians d. Yanks (5)
LCS: Phils d. Cubs (7); Indians d. Sox (7)
WS: Indians d. Phillies in 7

* - Last year, I believe I was wrong on every single series. So I guess you could call these my aspirational picks. This is for another time, but I'm not sure how I feel about the Cubs winning the World Series. It'll create a time-space continuum wormhole.

I don't think I'm crazy to say that while I'd love to see it, I think it would permanently ruin one of the strongest foundational myths of the sport: The Cubs' annual futility. Like I said about the Red Sox winning it all in 2004: Congratulations! You're now as "special" of a franchise as the Angels or Diamondbacks.

Dean of MSM baseball columnists Tom Boswell sums up the playoff field nicely here (although, as usual, he's a wee bit too bullish on baseball's place in the national conversation).

On to the other news of the day. More of Today's Names to Know: Isiah Thomas. Michael Vick. Willie Randolph. Tim McClelland. Carlos Pena. Dmitri Young. Andruw Jones. Memphis. Tony Joiner. Mitch Cozad. Chad Johnson. Dario Franchitti. Gilbert Arenas. And More!

Isiah and MSG found guilty, Dolan and MSG will pay $11.6 million in damages: The real damages, TBD, will come from the NBA. With the guilty verdict in the books, it slides into David Stern's domain, where "punitive damages" might have a little more teeth than mere dollars.

Mike Vick takes an 8-hour PETA course about... empathy: The thought of this is funnier than any SNL sketch of the past 10 years.

Willie Randolph will be back with the Mets: Seeing how he's coming off managing the worst collapse in MLB history, presumably the driving force behind his return was the good news is that things can't possibly get worse.

Rockies/Replay, Cont'd: Great discussion in the comments yesterday about instant replay in baseball. The fact that ump Tim McClelland insists he'd call the play the exact same way if he had another chance PROVES that the sport needs instant replay. Even with the benefit of watching a replay himself, he still makes the wrong call. WTF?!

Carlos Pena, Dmitri Young win MLB Comeback Players of the Year: Young was particularly impressive, given his various off-field problems (drugs, crime) and the fact that he was all but out of baseball a year ago.

Red Sox leave Tim Wakefield off the ALDS roster: First of all, he's not ready to contribute. Second, they don't need him in a 5-game series anyway.

Braves part ways with Andruw Jones: He's one of those players who will look very odd in another team's uniform.

Memphis wins emotional nationally televised game: Playing with heavy hearts just days after the murder of teammate Taylor Bradford, Memphis beat Marshall in an eerily timed nationally televised game on ESPN.

Florida football captain arrested: More troubles for the Gators, after senior safety Tony Joiner (Tim Tebow's roommate!) was arrested Tuesday for burglary. Karmic boomerang! It's all falling apart! (Actually, the guy who was allegedly burglarized says it was all a misunderstanding. We salute you, as-yet-unidentified booster who undoubtedly called the guy to help him "remember" his story.)

Mitch Cozad gets 7 years for stabbing his Northern Colorado teammate, in an attempt to win the job as starting punter, which ranked among the freakiest stories of the decade. He will now be battling for the starting punter job for the Cellblock D All-Stars.

Chad Johnson vs. the Bengals: I missed this yesterday, because I didn't watch the game. Was Chad Johnson out of line to berate his QB on national TV? Yes. Do I suspect he did it for the attention? Yes. Does that have a place in the NFL? Probably, and here's why: We cannot glorify his entertainment value, then act appalled when he takes it too far in the pursuit of our attention.

NFL "C" captain patches: There's an article in today's WashPost about the new NFL thing where team captains wear "C" patches on their jerseys. In hockey, this is awesome and distinctive; in the NFL, this is stupid-looking and lame. Here's the link.

NASCAR: Dario Franchitti is coming to NASCAR, which means that Ashley Judd is coming to NASCAR, which needs no further explanation.

Meanwhile, Busch will be replaced by Nationwide as the title sponsor of the AAA/JV/B-league series in the sport.

Video Games: NBA Live 08 releases! Anyone get this on the release day yesterday? How was it? I might get it just because it has my favorite pro athlete Gilbert Arenas on the cover.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 10/02 A.M. Quickie:
Rockies, MLB Playoffs, Pats Rule, Isiah, More!

Today's Names to Know: Matt Holliday, Trevor Hoffman, Scott Schoenweis, Sammy Morris, Reggie Nelson, Ricky Williams, Brian Griese, Isiah Thomas, Kobe, Oregon, More.

MLB Playoffs: Rockies Win the Wild Card! Wow: You can not care about either the Rockies or the Padres or the NL and appreciate what a wild, satisfying (if late-running) game that was to decide the NL Wild Card.

Let's start with the controversial ending: Would-be-MVP Matt Holliday did NOT seem to touch home plate for the winning run (and I say that as a Rockies sympathizer), although that's how the ump ruled.

Yet another classic example: Baseball needs instant replay. Period.

Really, for two simple, fairly clear-cut purposes: (1) Checking home runs (which they could have used earlier in the game; this game might not have even gone to extra innings if that Atkins double had been correctly ruled a HR), and (2) plays at home plate. Let me emphasize: PLAYS AT HOME PLATE.

Anyway, you've got to give the Rockies credit for scoring 3 runs after going down 2 in the 13th. They could have folded (particularly against baseball's all-time saves leader, despite Hoffman's recent struggles), but they found yet another way to win, as they have the entire last month of the season.

In a surge rarely seen in baseball, Colorado truly earned this playoff spot. (Having spent a lot of time in Denver this summer and having attended a bunch of Rockies games -- no, I'm not declaring them as my new favorite team, thank you very much -- their fans deserve it. It's been a long time since this team has given them something to cheer about.)

If you have no natural rooting interest in the playoffs, these Rockies are really easy to root for (although they'll be hard-pressed to siphon national sympathy from the Cubs, or even the Phillies... and that's just in the NL.)

Up next: Enjoying the moment for the next 24 hours, then traveling to Philadelphia to take on a Phillies team with just as much mojo -- as much belief in themselves -- as the Rockies have.

MLB Playoff Preview coming later this morning, in its own post. (Update: Changed my mind. It'll be the lead of tomorrow's usual a.m. post. Anyone who says they know what's going to happen -- from the LDS to the LCS to picking a WS champ -- is pulling one over on you. Can't remember a more wide-open MLB playoff, especially coming off last year, when 99 percent of "experts" and fans got most of the predictions flat wrong.)

MLB PED Watch: Who had "Scott Schoenweis" among the MLB players who would have used PEDs?

(I could make the easy self-hating joke about how, as the rare Jewish baseball player, it's understandable he might need that extra edge to nudge his athleticism to the MLB level, but really, it's just as much of an embarrassment for Jewish fans as it is for any fans who find out one of their team's player is cheating. Schoenweis reportedly acquired PEDs in 2003 and 2004, but -- then again -- during '03 and '04 who DIDN'T?)

NFL MNF: Pats stifle Bengals, 34-13, affirm their place as the NFL's preeminent team this year. Given that the rest of the league is such a mish-mash of unevenness, I don't think I can remember when one team seemed so much better than the rest than this year with the Pats.

(Yes, I know the Colts are 4-0, but with the injuries, I just don't see them anywhere near the Pats' level. And, as longtime readers know, I'm no fan of the Pats, yet I still am fully a believer in the 19-0 potential. The Pats have the best offense AND the best defense. Yikes.)

Here's the stat of the season so far: The Pats are the first team in nearly 90 years to have a 20-plus-point victory margin in all of their first 4 games. (h/t: Fanhouse)

The Pats D flummoxed Carson Palmer into 21/35 passing and 2 INTs, with only 1 TD. And Chad Johnson was held to 3 catches. Meanwhile, the Pats offense put the ball in 7 receivers hands, including Mike Vrabel for a TD (and Randy Moss for 2).

Moss as NFL MVP? Let me be the first to say it: I know Brett Favre is the sentimental favorite as the 1/4-Season NFL MVP, but you could make a great case for Randy Moss. That's who I would pick as my MVP through 4 games: 31 receptions, 500-plus yards, 7 TDs. Moss is the special sauce that has transformed the Pats offense into an unstoppable juggernaut.

Fantasy Break-Out: Sammy Morris. Don't bother checking your league's free-agent list; undoubtedly, Morris is already gone. But last night he proved his value, rushing for 117 yards (including a 49-yard run) and a TD. He's going to be a classic fantasy points-robber from Maroney.

Scandal Watch: Was Reggie Nelson (and three other as-yet-unnamed Florida players) involved in a shooting at a Gainesville on Saturday night.

This ain't good for Nelson, and this sure as hell ain't good for the Gators involved, not to mention a program already reeling enough from on-field problems -- the last thing they need is off-field ones.

(Nelson's lawyer says he wasn't there at the time of the shooting. Waiting on the involvement of the Florida players. Hopefully, witnesses just named them because they knew who they were, not because of involvement.)

Brian Griese still the Bears QB: I'm sure fans are thrilled. Thanks to the Chicago Trib's excellent daily blog for pointing out my observation yesterday that, at this rate, the team will have a great shot at one of the top QBs of the 2008 NFL Draft. (Andre Woodson would look nice in a Bears uniform, wouldn't he?)

DeAngelo Hall wants out of Atlanta: Wouldn't you? (Oh, wait: I'm talking about the Falcons sucking. He's probably talking about the Falcons presenting a wee bit of a hostile environment toward him.)

NFL Injury Watch: Alex Smith won't need surgery on his separated shoulder. But what about his separated psyche?

Ricky Williams wants back in: If he can get himself into anything resembling game shape, I can't believe he can't play again.

Cadillac Williams done for the season: Hey, maybe the Bucs want to sign Ricky Williams...

Isiah Thomas on Trial: Looks like the jury is going to convict him. The only question now seems to be this: How much will he have to pay in punitive damages?

CFB: Here's the latest Deadspin column, if you missed it yesterday.

This week's BlogPoll: A reader has convinced me to change my mind! Here's from Dan Womack:

"You seriously dropped Oregon 9 spots for losing to an undefeated Cal team with a fluky fumble out of the endzone finish? They dropped 3 in the AP. Meanwhile, you dropped Florida 7 spots for losing to a 2 loss Auburn team in an awful looking game."

Good point, Dan! I have moved Oregon up to No. 15. Probably not as high as you'd like, but it's a start. And if they beat USC, hell, I'll likely be so giddy that I will vault them back into the Top 10.

NBA: Kobe (finally) arrives at Lakers training camp. I wouldn't read as much into that as others (for once), but there's no question Kobe can't be happy about the state of the team. They didn't get much better in the offseason, and the rest of the West is still either better or made moves to GET better.

More: Mutombo signs with the Rockets for one more year. He's the NBA's Methuselah, not to mention author of the greatest NBA quote of all time: "Who wants to sex Mutombo?"

Condolences to family, friends and fans of Memphis football player Taylor Bradford, shot and killed on Sunday.

Readers in NYC: Tomorrow night is Varsity Letters! Great writers, tasty booze and good people. 8 p.m. at Happy Ending (302 Broome St). And it's F-R-E-E. Here's the link.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Monday 10/01 A.M. Quickie:
MLB Playoff! NFL Recods! CFB Mayhem! More!

Today's Names to Know: Rockies! Padres! Peavy! Fogg! Phillies! Rollins! Favre! Kitna! Umenyiora! Culpepper! Griese! Romo! Norv! Crennel! Cal! Auburn! South Florida! LSU! Michigan! Gebrselassie! More!

MLB Playoff Races: We've got a one-game playoff! Rockies vs. Padres at Coors Field. Winner is the Wild Card; loser is out of the playoffs, joining the choking Mets watching the proceedings at home. You've got to love the one-game playoff.

Jake Peavy vs. Josh Fogg, and there's an intriguing side-show that Matt Holliday could lose the NL batting title if he goes 0-for-5, because the game counts as a regular-season game.

Pick: Rockies. Wow. Peavy is the best pitcher in the NL, if not all of baseball. The Rockies are the hottest team in the NL, if not all of baseball. Something's got to give, and I'm picking the Rockies to win at home.

Phillies win NL East/Mets choke away NL East: Philly coming back from 7 games down on September 12 matches the biggest standings comeback in MLB history. (This isn't very "Instant History," but I'd say this exorcises Philly's Ghosts of 1964.)

The Phillies are playing with a lot of mojo right now, but I'm waiting until seeing the results of the Wild Card playoff to make my World Series pick. (Stud: NL MVP contender Jimmy Rollins, for calling this back in February, then leading his team to back it up.)

Complete MLB playoff preview coming tomorrow: D-backs/Cubs, Phillies/Wild Card, Angels/Red Sox, Yankees/Indians. I won't make any picks right now...

...But I will say that the best-case scenario for MLB is that it's Cubs-Phillies in the NLCS and Red Sox-Yankees in the ALCS, with the Cubs ideally making the World Series against whoever survives the Boston-NY series.

NFL Weekend Wrap: The story of the year in the NFL has got to be the resurgence of the Green Bay Packers behind the ageless Brett Favre, who set the all-time TD record in a win over the Vikings that ran the Packers' record to 4-0. TD pass No. 421 came in the first quarter; he added No. 422 in the 4th. Unbreakable record? (Unbreakable? Hardly. As Commenters pointed out: Ummm...PEYTON MANNING?!)

But the offensive story of the day had to be the Lions' 34 4th-quarter points, an NFL record, en route to beating the now-hapless Bears. Maybe there's something to that offseason Jon Kitna season-win-total guarantee.

Griese, Grossman: It just doesn't seem to matter. At this rate, the Bears (1-3) will have their choice of the particularly loaded 2008 QB Draft class.

Fantasy Stud 1: Giants D, which tied an NFL record with 12 sacks in holding last week's explosive Eagles offense to a measly 3 points. (Osi Umenyiora had six sacks by himself.) Apparently, it's harder for McNabb to throw for a gajillion yards and tons of TDs without Brian Westbrook there to balance the offense.

Fantasy Stud 2: Daunte Culpepper, who had 3 TDs -- rushing! -- and another 2 passing. Sure, he didn't throw for many yards, but with that many TDs, who cares?

Tony Romo ain't bad either: 339 yards, 3 TDs in another Cowboys romp. If you drafted Romo in the middle of your fantasy league, you're sitting so pretty right now.

Rams the NFL's worst: Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, yes, confirming Friday's speculation, the Rams are in fact the worst team in the NFL.

Things have hit rock-bottom for the Chargers. Not only are they 1-3, but they lost to the hapless Chiefs. I mean, yikes, the Chargers crowd was openly cheering for Marty Schottenheimer! It's a full-on revolt.

(Maybe if the Chargers fire Norv Turner – as they should today – he can return to San Francisco and save what's left of Alex Smith's battered young career.)

Fantasy Dud: Cadillac Williams, who could be done for the season.

Broken Colts top broken Denver: Wow, Denver isn't great, but they're not a bad team either (particularly defensively), and the Colts broke them. (Speaking of broken, keep an eye on all those Colts injuries: Harrison, Addai, Morris, Sanders, Utecht.)

OK, so given the grief that the Falcons have taken for letting Matt Schaub go, it must have been particularly sweet to beat him, especially because it was Atlanta's first win of the season.

Cleveland has a better record than a third of the league, and that's with Derek Anderson as their QB. Good for them! Romeo Crennel for Coach of the Year!

Eliminator/Suicide Picks: Anyone have their season ruined by Arizona beating Pittsburgh? (Oh, right: Matt Leinart had HIS season ruined! There's a full-blown controversy in Arizona, and it feels like Kurt Warner is going to win it.)

This week's Adrian Peterson Memorial Rookie of the Week: Dwayne Bowe, who caught 8 passes for 164 yards and a TD, showing up every other skill-position player on the field, including Tomlinson.

(Honorable Mention: Trent Edwards. It's hard enough to be a rookie in the NFL, let alone a rookie QB, let alone starting for a winless team. Edwards got the win.)

MNF: Pats at Bengals. Here's another chance for the Pats to show how dominant they are. Not only will they slice up a Bengals D that allowed Cleveland to score 50-plus points, but I'll bet they stifle the high-powered Cincinnati offense, too.

CFB Saturday Recap: Cripes, has the dust settled yet? It was a multi-upset parlay that NO ONE could have predicted. Maybe one or two games, sure, but ALL those upset results? (Not to mention the close finishes for other top teams like USC and Wisconsin.)

In addition to South Florida, the weekend's big winner is Cal: Winning at Oregon is arguably the most impressive single win of the year. They've been rewarded in the polls with a No. 3 ranking. It's all meaningless, however, unless the Bears beat USC in a few weeks (or lose to anyone along the way).

Florida loses: Obviously, I was (and continue to be) crushed about Florida's loss. They played horribly in the first half; they couldn't have played worse. In the second half, they did the worst thing they could have: Allow for hope. When the game was tied at 17, I thought they would pull it out. Even as the Auburn kicker lined up for his re-do of a game-winning 43-yard kick, I figured the game would go to OT. When it went through, I psychologically crumpled. (I will tip my cap, however, to that Auburn kicker, a true freshman no less, who basically nailed TWO 43-yard game-winning field goals on the road.)

CFB Top 25 This Week: There was one thing to watch for this week: Where would voters rank the six previously unbeaten contenders who lost – and which team would have the inside track at climbing back up? Florida emerges as the biggest winner, ranked No. 7 in the Coaches' poll. It's a moot point if the Gators lose at LSU next week (which they will).

The other thing to note is that LSU vaulted USC for No. 1 in the AP poll. Why is this notable? Because usually the voters are slaves to their own inertia; they rarely displaced a No. 1 team if that team wins, even if it's a tough or sloppy game. In this case, they did the right thing: LSU has consistently looked better than USC, and apparently USC's near-miss at Washington was enough to drop them. I was a little more harsh....

Here's my BlogPoll ballot: Note that I rank South Florida at No. 2, a function of USC not looking particularly dominant in that win at Washington -- and because not only did South Florida shut down the sick West Virginia offense, but all of a sudden, USF's win at Auburn (the team that just beat Florida at Florida) looks WAY more impressive.

The other thing to note is that I have both Cal and Ohio State ranked ahead of USC. I think Cal has looked better (and winning at Oregon is more impressive than any single win USC has had this year); meanwhile, we have a nice direct point of comparison between the Trojans and the Buckeyes. Both played at Washington; both won; Ohio State just looked better doing it.

Notre Dame SuckWatch: QB controversy! Hey, if the team is 0-5, at least they can provide a little QB controversy to spice things up. It turns out that Golden Boy Jimmy Clausen ain't all that, and backup Evan Sharpley did more (and better) things in his fill-in time against Purdue than Clausen has done all season combined.

Michigan forfeiting Penn State win?! If last week's off-field CFB intrigue was Mike Gundy's freak-out, then this week's is the emerging news that Michigan might have to forfeit its win over Penn State because they used an ineligible player. That would instantly derail Michigan's miracle bid to win the Big Ten this season after their brutal start.

Boxing: I don't follow boxing, but Kelly Pavlik upsetting undisputed middleweight champ Jermain Taylor by KO appears to rank up there among the most incredible boxing results of the last two decades.

Women's World Cup: Germany tops Brazil for the title. The US ends up in 3rd, with Hope Solo not participating and the team in disarray after the combination of her benching and the throttling they took from Brazil.

NBA: If rookie PG Jared Jordan of Marist makes the Knicks, who just traded for him, he will be the most popular player on the team. Just a prediction. I think he'll end up in the D-League.

More: Will Leitch got an interview with Gilbert Arenas for Deadspin while Gil was in NYC. Needless to say, I'm so jealous. (But I don't think I would have gotten Gil to talk about his online surfing habits, which was the highlight of the interview.)

World Sports: It's worth noting that Haile Gebrselassie shattered the world record in the marathon by 29 seconds. That's insane.

-- D.S.