Up For a Letdown?

 

Unibrow Faces a Revenge Scenario In New England.

 

There’s some interesting stories developing in the NFL this week, but before that, I wanted to look at the possible letdown game.  We’re just five weeks into this season, but already there are no undefeated teams, and several times a team facing an opportunity to secure their position among the league’s elite has failed to come through.  The Giants have handed out back-to-back losses in such situations.  With the league where it is, I think this is going to be an every week occurrence.  So, who is going to fail to step up this week?  Here’s my top-5 candidates.

  1. Baltimore.  The Ravens are at New England.  A win sets them up as an AFC co-favorite with the Steelers.
  2. Atlanta.  If the Falcons beat the Eagles and get to 5-1, they will clearly be the class of the NFC.
  3. New York Jets.  The Jets have been among the league’s most consistent teams.  Does it end in Denver?
  4. Indianapolis.  The Colts are the highest rated 3-2 team ever.  A loss to Washington and more reality sets in.
  5. Kansas City.  Defense earned some respect in Indy, but a loss to Houston makes everyone forget 3-0 start.

So, if those are five teams with a lot to lose on Sunday, what else should we be looking at this weekend?

Will Vick Get his Chance Against the Falcons?

A little lost in the revolving door of injuries and QB swaps in Philly is Michael Vick’s old team coming to town.  I think Falcons fans have fully moved on from Vick, and Eagles fans are more concerned with winning the game than Vick’s shot at revenge, but I know Vick wants this game.  His prognosis for this week sounds more optimistic than anyone else’s for just that reason.  If Vick does play the pressure will be back on after Kolb’s serviceable effort in San Francisco.  If Kolb plays, and happens to win again, could Andy Reid be tempted to change his mind again?  Would he bench Kolb after 2 straight wins heading into a bye-week?

Unseasoned QB Play

I am going to rank/preview some DA quarterbacks sometime Thursday, but forgetting about DA Fantasy for a while there is a chance some very green quarterbacks could be thrown into tough spots this week.  The Browns are threatening to start Colt McCoy.  Against the Steelers.  That can’t be an ideal debut for the 3rd round pick who was supposed to be brought along slowly.  Elsewhere, the Packers could be forced to start Matt Flynn if Aaron Rodgers can’t go with concussion symptoms.  Flynn, the former LSU star, would be asked to beat Miami in a game the Packers, suddenly 3-2, need to win.  With so many teams struggling to find quarterbacks, I suppose it is no real surprise that the back-ups some teams have are pretty shockingly unprepared.  I just can’t believe the Packers don’t have a veteran back-up.  Hard to believe.

The Unexpected Stink Bomb of the Week:

When the schedule came out, I’m sure many people were pointing to this week’s Minnesota/Dallas game as a contest that would help determine NFC supremacy.  Hell, it could have even ended up being for home field in the playoffs.  But, both Dallas and Minnesota have stumbled badly out of the gate.  What hasn’t changed is that they both need this game desperately.  The loser could likely seal their fate of missing the playoffs.  For the Vikings, they have the added Favre factor.  Is he in danger of getting suspended at some point this season?  Is his elbow something that could actually keep him out of the game Sunday?  Is Favre pulling an Al Czervik and just trying to get this thing over with?

Worst Game Between Winning Teams:  New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay

Kansas City fans should love Tampa Bay, because if it wasn’t for them, they’d be stuck as the worst 3-1 team in recent memory.  Oh, there was the Bears of this season as well…but, here will be New Orleans’ fifth straight chance to get the momentum back.  They’re favored, by a pretty healthy margin, but there’s no real reason to believe they won’t put up another lifeless showing.

The Ultimate Stink Bomb of the Week:  Oakland vs. San Francisco.

Loser is banished to Alcatraz?  I thought for a second how to explain exactly how bad this game is, but then it came to me.  Last week, the Niners were 0-4, yet were still favored over the visiting Eagles by 3.5 points.  An odd occurrence to be sure.  They lost that game, obviously didn’t cover and yet this week they host the Raiders and are 6.5 point favorites. That’s a team that has not won a game this year giving up almost a TD.  Only in the NFL, folks.

 

I Want My 1980 NLCS.

Manny Trillo Stands on 3rd After Capping Biggest Rally in Phillies History.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about where this Phillies team stands in the franchise’s history.  What is their rank?  What will it be if they cap this season by winning a World Series?  It’s the fodder for classic sports debate.  Comparing eras, teams and debating whether or not the 1980 Phillies would have had a chance against this year’s version.  It’s an unanswerable question, but if you thought Halladay vs. Lincecum would be a good opener, how about Halladay vs. Carlton?  This team and this era of Phillies baseball may ultimately go down as the best the city has seen, but one crown they’re unlikely to take is that of “Best Post-Season Series” ever.

I think any baseball fan alive who is old enough to remember would call the 1980 NLCS the greatest series they’ve ever seen, and possibly the best in baseball history.  It certainly leads all Phillies’ post-season appearances in drama.  This generation of Philly fans has Stairs’ homer, or J-Roll’s game-winning double, two incredible moments to be sure.  But, the 1980 NLCS was full of those happenings.  If Stairs had hit his homer in ’80, the Dodgers would have comeback, sent the game to extra innings, and then something else crazy would have happened.  They were truly do-or-die moments, in the sporting sense.  I wonder if this year’s NLCS will give us a game 7, or a couple of moments that could even approach the bar set by the Phillies and Astros 30 years ago.

My memories of the 1980 NLCS have all been ingrained well after the fact.  When the Phils were playing that improbable series I was working on the guest list for my 1st birthday party.  I wasn’t there to see it in person, but I’ve come to know the series, and particularly game 5, almost by heart.  It is a shame that MLB polices the web so vigorously for video clips, because this is a post that is in dire need of some highlights, but perhaps you’ll bear with me while I regale you with some details of the series.

  • There was plenty of talent on both sides.  On records alone there were 5 stone cold lock, first ballot Hall of Famers.  Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Pete Rose.  Of course, Rose ruined his first-ballot status later in his career.
  • Game One was the only game that didn’t go extra-innings.  Steve Carlton bested the Astros 3-1 in front of 65,000+ at the Vet.
  • The Astros won game 2 in 10 innings, but the Phillies could have won in regulation if not for a mix-up between 3rd base coach Lee Elia and Bake McBride.  The Phillies left men on base all night, and the Astros scored 3 in the 10th, winning 7-4.
  • Before Game 3 Harry Kalas said he thought whoever won game 3 would win the series.  Richie Ashburn famously disagreed, and was correct.  Joe Niekro went 10 shut-out innings for the Astros, and they won the game in the 11th 1-0.
  • Game 4 made up for game 2 and set the stage for the historic 5th game.  After a controversial umpire ruling on a double-play the Phils found themselves behind 2-0 entering the 8th.  They’d score three runs to take the lead only to see Houston tie it in the 9th.  In the 10th Greg Luzinski doubled, and Lee Elia sent Pete Rose to the plate.  He should have been a dead man, but he completely leveled Bruce Bochy and scored the go-ahead run.  Phils win, 5-3.
  • Game 5 was probably the most improbable Phillies win in their history to that point.  They’d lost 3 straight NLCS from 1976-78.  They were facing Nolan Ryan and the Astros built him a 5-2 entering the 8th inning.  The Phillies started the inning with 3 straight singles off Ryan.  He then walked in a run, and was pulled.  After Mike Schmidt struck out, the less heralded combination of Del Unser and Manny Trillo knocked in the tying and go-ahead runs.  Trillo’s triple made it 7-5 Philadelphia, but they would blow that lead, and need to come back and win it in the 10th.

 

That’s Howard Cosell and Keith Jackson on the call. Perhaps you read this quick summary and think that it wasn’t the greatest series of all-time, just the worst display of relief pitching of all-time. Well, I guess that would be one way to look at it, but 4 straight extra inning games, moment after improbable moment, I’d love to have something like that in my memory that wasn’t implanted by stories and highlight videos. There’s no way the 2010 Phillies could ever match the sense of the relief that winning the 1980 series gave the city and its fans, but over the last 3 years we haven’t really gotten a classic. I think this time around that has the potential to change.

This is going to be it for posting today, unfortunately, but as always talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk some football and whatever else pops up, and then Friday we’ll do a complete breakdown for this Giants series and offset that with some NFL Picks that will hopefully go better than 8-18.

Things.

 

Rays Fans Get What They Deserve.

 

There is a difference between a guy like David Price and a real ace.  David Price is a great pitcher, he’s still getting better, but he didn’t have much chance against Cliff Lee in game 5.  Lee is emerging as one of this generation’s playoff stalwarts. Guys like Curt Schilling who were always good in the regular season, but found a second gear when the playoffs started. Lee is now 6-0 the last two years in the post-season, and if there is any way Texas can scrape out a couple of wins against New York, he could be lined up to pitch game 7 of the ALCS.  It’s nothing against Price.  He just doesn’t quite have it, at least not yet.  Tom Glavine didn’t quite have it in the playoffs.  Guys like that always give you a chance to win, but don’t take the game over.  There is just a tiny difference between these guys, but that could be the difference that ultimately decides the Phillies/Giants series one way or the other.  The good news with the Rays leaving is that the punishment of watching games played in the Trop Dome is finally over for the year.  Now the 19,000 faithful can go back to the dog tracks and casinos.  Fall baseball in Florida is unnatural.

I’m sure everyone has by now seen the SI story on the agent coming clean about paying college football players. Former agent, Josh Luchs, tells his story of breaking into the business and how it included putting several college players on the payroll so to speak, with varying results.  It’s an interesting read, if only for the details.  No one should be surprised that this happens.  Reading this story is a little bit like finding out professional wrestling is fake.  You knew it all along, but now some of the details are getting filled in.  I’ve become desensitized to the whole agent/student athlete storyline.  I just assume everyone is breaking the rules at this point, but agents really are among the sketchiest breeds.  If you judge professions by what they add to the society, agents have to be near the bottom, no?

In closing, I thought I had come up with another brilliant idea today.  I thought I had 2010′s version of the condiment revolver.  I was in the bathroom, and I thought to myself, why isn’t there a toilet seat that functions like one of those trash cans where you step on the lever to open the lid?  I mean, toilet seat up/toilet seat down, this is one of the great struggles of modern times.  And, I must say it’s one of our great tributes to laziness.  I just couldn’t put the seat back down.  It would have taken forever. Well, what if you just stepped up to the old john, took your normal stance, but your foot was planted firmly on a device that gave you a wide-open shot?  Then, when you moved away, poof, the toilet goes back to normal configuration.  Everyone’s happy, no falling in at 4 am in a haze, it seemed so easy.  Well, I got on the old Google machine and apparently this idea is already out there, though, I’ve never seen it.  Why it hasn’t caught on, I’ll never know.  We all see how popular Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets are, and as anyone who went to college with me knows, that was blatantly my idea.