Saturday, September 08, 2012

09/08 (Very) Quickie

College football Saturday, thankfully. Even if it looks like the slate is a foregone conclusion -- with the one exception being my team, playing on the road in College Station in Texas A&M's first-ever SEC game, which qualifies as the Game of the Day.

Saints back in the game: It's a rare moment when Roger Goodell is told what he can/can't do, and Saints fans are rejoicing. Hard to know what impact this has on the team in Week 1 -- or until the previously suspended players are up to speed -- but it can't hurt. Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Gregg Williams remain suspended, appropriately.

Serena to U.S. Open women's final: She's as must-see as any athlete in sports right now.

MLB: And back and forth the Yankees and Orioles go. This is fun, even if you don't care about Baltimore (although you should if you enjoy competitive balance in baseball); at the very least, you're enjoying rooting against the Yankees.

Thinking good thoughts for a full recovery for Brandon McCarthy.

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

09/07 (Week 1) Quickie

In a Quickie tradition, NFL Week 1 picks below...

It's been just about exactly one year since my family and I relocated from Brooklyn to DC. There have been a handful of sports highlights: I was at Verizon Center when my Wizards got their best win of the past half-decade, beating the Thunder. I took my kids to their first hockey game. I have totally embraced the Nats, made much more fun by being up close. The Redskins traded up for RG3 (I'm not even a Redskins fan, and it has me excited). My Wizards drafted Bradley Beal, the player I desperately wanted them to get.

But the best thing, by far, was moving from Time Warner to Verizon FIOS, because a year ago this weekend, I got my first taste of Red Zone Channel, and it was the single-greatest media or fan experience of my life. Gabe and I turned it on at 1, then sat slack-jawed for the next seven hours, mesmerized by what we were witnessing. It turned Gabe into an NFL nut. It made me love watching the NFL on Sundays again, after years of being bored by being forced to watch the Giants and Jets.

And so we will welcome Red Zone Channel host Scott Hanson back into our house this Sunday, like a favorite friend coming back after being gone for the past 9 months, from 1 p.m. kickoff until the signature game-ending "Touchdown Montage" -- or, should I say, "Touchdown Massage," which is what Gabe called it, which I then tweeted to Hanson, who then used it the next week.

Game day is back.

CFB Saturday: It's a snoozer of a week -- I'm picking all ranked teams to win, including Florida beating Texas A&M in the Aggies' SEC opener. (Famous last words...)

CFB Viewing Guide:
Noon: UCF at Ohio State (ESPN2), Penn State at Virginia (ABC), Auburn at Mississippi St (ESPN)
3:30: Florida at Texas A&M (ESPN), 7:00: Washington at LSU (ESPN)
8:00 Vandy at Northwestern (Big Ten Net)

NFL Week 1: My favorite storylines
*Can Peyton Manning make it through a game?
*The NFL debuts of RG3 and Andrew Luck.
*The debut of Tim Tebow in the Jets offense.
*Game of the Week: Packers-49ers. Whammo.
*Cam Newton: That's all. Just watching Cam Newton.

NFL Picks: Bears over Colts, Eagles over Browns, Pats over Titans, Chiefs over Falcons, Vikings over Jaguars, Saints over Redskins, Jets over Bills, Lions over Rams, Texans over Dolphins, Packers over 49ers, Seahawks over Cardinals, Panthers over Bucs, Broncos over Steelers, Ravens over Bengals, Chargers over Raiders. (Season to date: 0-1)

RIP Art Modell: Cleveland fans might loathe him, but he was instrumental in bringing the NFL to a national TV audience. And bringing football back to Baltimore. Seattle basketball fans would love to find an owner like Modell.

MLB: Back in March, anyone have "Yankees-Orioles" as the biggest baseball series of the weekend of September 6-9? Hell, it might be the biggest single baseball series of the year.

Book rec: "Soldiers First," by three-time Varsity Letters contributor Joe Drape, who spent a season inside Army football. Excerpt here, Amazon link here.

Must-See: The new "This Is SportsCenter" featuring John Clayton is the best one in the series in years -- it's an instant classic. Check it out here.

This is rooting for the home team, but offered earnestly: If you haven't given Sports On Earth a try yet, head over and check out some of the great work they've produced this week, only their second.

Yes, I bought a new Nike Jets Tebow jersey.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

09/05 (NFL Kickoff) Quickie

Replacement refs. Concussion epidemic. Peyton Manning. Tim Tebow. The X factor.

Those are -- in rough order -- the biggest storylines of the new NFL season, which kicks off today (I'll take the Giants over the Cowboys, who will struggle all season).

*The best leverage for the usual officials is that the replacement refs bungle things so badly that it erodes the integrity of the season, where one play can mean one win can mean playoffs or not.

*Concussions will be an even bigger problem, even if the league is slightly better about keeping players off the field who are recovering.

*I can't believe some of the predictions for Manning and the Broncos -- SI's Peter King tabs Manning as league MVP as Denver wins the AFC. I'll say Manning doesn't make it through 8 weeks.

*Another year, another round of doubt about Tim Tebow's ability to make a meaningful contribution -- this despite the fact that he led the Broncos to the playoffs last year, including a win. He'll be fine. The Jets may not be very good, but Tebow will be -- as usual -- better than everyone expects. (Have I bought my Tebow Jets jersey? Yes. Yes, I have.)

*And then there is the X-Factor: The team (or teams) that always go from nowhere to contention. The player that explodes on the scene. The player that gets injured. The fantasy superstar. That is always my favorite part.

Predictions: The only one that matters -- Green Bay over New England in the Super Bowl.

(Packers over 49ers in NFC title game; Pats over Ravens in AFC title game.)

NFC: Giants (East); Packers (North); Saints (South); 49ers (West); Lions, Panthers (WC)

AFC: Pats (East); Ravens (North); Texans (South); Chiefs (West); Steelers, Jets (WC)

Here's to a great season ahead for your team, for your fantasy team and for everyone.

A year ago, we moved from NYC to DC and switched from Time-Warner Cable to Verizon FIOS, with the main implication being that, for the first time, I got to experience Red Zone Channel. I am not exaggerating when I say that within 10 minutes, it became my favorite media experience ever.

Scott Hanson -- the most talented TV person in all of NFL-related media --  I look forward to another year with you at the helm.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

9/3 (September Is Here) Quickie

Be sure to get that fantasy draft in the books today before Wednesday's NFL kickoff...

MLB: I'm a Nats fan, but the Orioles are the best story in baseball this season, and it's not even close.

Meanwhile, the biggest story is the Nats' Strasburg shut-down, which I maintain is among the worst ideas in the recent history of baseball.

The Red Sox are a mess: Bobby V is as good of a person to blame as anyone.

CFB: I had Virginia Tech slotted 12th in my new BlogPoll ballot under the assumption that they would win -- if not roll -- against Georgia Tech. After barely escaping last night, 12 might be a little high, but I think GA Tech is only slighly below Auburn, Michigan and Boise State as the toughest opening-week opponent of the season.

Penn State: I wasn't a big fan of Bill O'Brien when they hired him, and he didn't do much to change that opinion after the opening-week loss to Ohio. I typically wouldn't worry about a coach's public posture -- and the media certainly seems inclined to sanctify him simply for showing up -- but I continue to contend that acting like Belichick won't help him.

Rory is back (did he ever leave?)

Honey Badger back at LSU: He's still not on the team, but let's add a big ol' "yet" to the end of that.

Florida names Jeff Driskel the starting QB: I'm a fan, and he's just OK. Combine that with some average receivers and it's on the running backs and defense to get this team to the 8-win mark.

Best story of the fall: Erin DiMeglio, the first girl to play QB in high school football in Florida history. No matter what happens with her on the field this year, that's going to make a great movie.

Monday, September 03, 2012

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot

Alabama still rules, and I've put Oregon in the No. 2 spot. Virginia Tech's spot is pending tonight's result. It's where I'd rank them if they won, but if they put on a show, they'll move up.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

9/2 (CFB Hangover) Quickie

A few thoughts after college football's opening weekend:

*It's already obvious that it is Alabama, then everyone else. USC and Oregon and LSU may roll along, but if/when they play the Tide, the reality check will be definitive.

*Breakout: Remember when Trent Richardson was a freshman and it was evident right away that he was even better than the RB in front of him, Mark Ingram, who only went on to win a Heisman? That's the way I feel about Bama freshman backup RB TJ Yeldon.

*Oregon is a juggernaut, and I can't wait for the Ducks to silence all the folks who seem to think that not only is USC the best team in the Pac-12, but the Trojans are the best team in the country (an absurd idea if you watched Alabama last night).

*Penn State isn't very good. Ohio is much better than anyone was giving them credit for (although many saw the upset coming). Bill O'Brien isn't in a position to have a terse Belichickian style; he needs to work on his charm. The media gives him the benefit of the doubt -- not sure he's earned that -- but he comes across like he's doing us a favor by being at Penn State.

*The best win of the weekend was Clemson beating a tough Auburn team in Atlanta.

*OK, looks like Urban Meyer will be just fine this season. Braxton Miller is a perfect QB for his system.

*Nothing I saw from Oklahoma made me doubt my preseason pick that West Virginia is going to be the best of the Big 12 -- and, don't forget, Oklahoma finishes the season having to travel to Morgantown. West Virginia will only get more effective from here.

*I've watched a lot of Northwestern games, particularly in the post-2000 era where they are constantly in barn-burners, and that was the most Northwestern game ever (with the possible exception that it didn't end with the opposing team going 3/4 of the field in the final minute for a game-winning FG).

*Florida: Last year was not fun. Doesn't feel like this season will be much fun either. I'm not sold on Jeff Driskel and I'm annoyed Jacoby Brissett didn't get more of a chance. The defense is fine, but I'm unclear how the offense will move the ball at Texas A&M next week.

*Tentative top 5: (1) Bama, (2) Oregon, (3) LSU, (4) USC, (5) West Virginia.

*Tentative Heisman ballot: (1) TJ Yeldon, (2) Marcus Mariota, (3) Marqise Lee.

So glad college football is back.

-- D.S.