NFL Week 8 Here and Gone

I should have quit while I was ahead. Maybe I got cocky. Maybe I just regressed to the mean. Maybe I pulled a Philadelphia Eagles and just simply cannot explain why all this talent is being wasted these last 2 weeks. Whatever the reason, I had my second straight poor showing in the picks department. But alas, that's why they play the games. My predicted picks from last week are in bold.

Green Bay 31, Arizona 14
Atlanta 29, Cincinnati 27
Baltimore 35, New Orleans 22
Tennessee 28, Houston 22
Jacksonville 13, Philadelphia 6
Kansas City 35, Seattle 28
Chicago 41, San Francisco 10
N.Y. Giants 17, Tampa Bay 3
San Diego 38, St. Louis 24
Indianapolis 34, Denver 31
Cleveland 20, N.Y. Jets 13
Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 13
Dallas 35, Carolina 14
New England 31, Minnesota 7

Last Week: 7-7
Overall: 72-42


Week 8 NF Pre-stink-tions.

If last week is any indication, my powers of predictability that led me to 3 straight double digit win weeks, have left me. Call me Jimmy the Greek at this point because any game I pick is bound to be as accurate as a Drew Bledsoe pass on a T.O. out pattern to the sidelines (and just as ugly). But here goes:

Arizona at Green Bay- Maybe this is the home game the Packers have been waiting to win this season. The Cards are (again) a sinking ship.

Atlanta at Cincinnati- Good win last week should translate into another quality win against another NFC south opponent. Although the Falcons' 42 points last week scares me against a weaker defense in Cincy than the one Atlanta faced last week versus Pittsburgh.

Baltimore at New Orleans- It doesn't matter who calls the offensive plays for Baltimore, the Ravens can't run the ball. But the key here is how hurt is Deuce McAllister (career-best 4.9 YPC this season)? If he plays, the Saints win.

Houston at Tennessee- Houston is coming off a big win. I smell hangover of an NCAA nature.

Jacksonville at Philadelphia- 2 teams that lost last week and should be angry. I'll take the home team and the leadership McNabb provides.

Seattle at Kansas City- I'm not a fan of Seneca Wallace. But if you looked to the other side of the ball and you saw Brody Croyle lining up behind center as the starting QB (in only his 7th professional tilt and 1st start), you would take the lesser of 2 evils too.

San Francisco at Chicago- Ah, coming off the bye week. Sorry Niners fans, the Bears are going to be a little hungrier than usual.

Tampa Bay at N.Y. Giants- Tiki Barber can say whatever he wants as far as I'm concerned. The NFL's leading rusher at least backs up his talk.

St. Louis at San Diego- Did the Merriman factor hurt in KC last week? My guess is the Chargers are finally over it.

Indianapolis at Denver- Denver can't score. But, that "D"! They can't score. But that home field! Read my lips... THEY CAN'T SCORE.

N.Y. Jets at Cleveland- Playing well and matched up with one of the league's worst. Not a bad way to put yourself into playoff contention at 5-3 halfway through the season. Well done Jets.

Pittsburgh at Oakland- I'm guessing Cowher won't need to remind his team how horrible they played (especially on defense) last week. This is a veteran group on both sides of the ball.

Dallas at Carolina- Do you think Keyshawn misses Dallas? Neither do I.

New England at Minnesota- That thud you here is the sound of a very good Pats' D-line colliding with a HUGE Vikings' O-line. Pats will do what they do best, bend and not break.


NBA Preview

And probably the only post I'll have about the NBA until next season's preview- unless the Celtics get on a roll, then I'll be a happy fairweather B-ball fan.

Seriously, I used to be a big NBA guy back when the NBA was IT. I'll date myself here, but I was a fan produced of the 80's Celtics and inaugural Dream Team. I can't stand the watered down, teen millionaire, thug-lifestyle, IQ dampening swill it is today. I used to hate HATE college hoops, but now because the NBA is what it is, I am all for "Midnight Madness" way before I am for "It's FAN-tastic".

That all being said, I am a sports fan and I do keep my eye on all things athletic and competitive. So here's my oh-so-short-and-sweet NBA predictions that I had posted in a separate blog. (See, that's how uniterested I am with the NBA; I simply just plagiarized myself- if that's possible.)

Dirk. Takes the leap while LeBron and Kobe fall back.

Coach of the Year-
Scott Skiles- most improved team (both natural growth and via FA a la Wallace)

Team on the Rise-
Bulls (same reasons)

Team on the Decline-
Spurs- getting older and not better.
Breakout Player (The "Diaw Award")- I'll go with Dan's new fad- Nazr Mohammed

Rookie to Watch (not necessarily "best")-
Rondo- call me a homer, but the kid is sneaky fast and a gifted passer which the Celts need.

Storyline We'll Be Talking About in January-
Telfair was the shooter.

Western Playoff Seeding/Conf. Champs (Who over who?)
#1 Mavs over #4 Suns Dirk/Johnson player/coach tandem best in league.

Eastern Playoff Seeding/Conf. Champs (Who over who?)
#2 Bulls over #1 Pistons. You just gotta have this happen!

NBA Champs
Mavs over Bulls- playoff experience from last year is the difference.

World Series Game 3.

The biggest question before Game 3 should be, are the Cardinals players over the fact their manager ceremoniously, albeit inadvertently, threw them under the proverbial bus by declaring, in hindsight, Kenny Rogers cheated. Though Tony LaRussa never actually applied the Scarlet Letter to Rogers' chest, the "it wasn't dirt." pretty much is the "A" we all wanted to see. But really, who is the bigger "A" in this?

My boy Shanoff rightfully says, it's Tony.

What manager in their right mind backtracks and makes an accusation like this? As the victim for crying out loud!! If you're going to make the call, make it when it counts- in the 1st inning of Game 2. Any effort (let's not even rank the hollowness of the actions) since then is completely and utterly useless.

What's worse is, by not calling a spade a spade in Game 2, LaRussa has directly put his team in a 2 games to 1 hole before they even play Game 3. Why? Because if you were a Cardinals player (not counting perennial LaRussa-hater Scott Rolen) wouldn't you be just a little miffed (and subsequently off your game tonight) if you knew your manager didn't have your back? I mean, come on- you and your team had a built-in excuse (and rally cry for Game 3) to chalk up a Game 2 loss to cheating, instead you took the high road, then took the low road and metaphorically castrated your HFA gained after a Game 1 win because everyone now feels cheated because they didn't have a chance to say they had been cheated.

Do you see the absolute conundrum here for Cardinals players (and fans)? Tonight is lose/lose. If you win, you know you got cheated out of a 3-0 WS lead and near-lock for the title in perhaps the greatest upset (to steal a Shanoff phrase) "of the ESPN Era". Better than the Red Sox '04 ALCS 0-3 comeback? Maybe not, but as I said in a previous post, all the "experts" virtually condemned the Tigers when the Detroit sweep talk was conceived before the WS started. At the time I said Murphy's Law will step in and the Cards would win in 7. But maybe it's worse than even that classic scenario. Maybe the Cardinals reel off the next 3 wins (at home), win the title 4 games to 1 and they get the time-tested, MLB-approved * in the history books.

2006 World Series: Cardinals 4 games Tigers 1 game*

* Should have been a sweep (and greatest upset of all time contender) if LaRussa had just rallied his troops before the Game 2 loss became apparent).

Sure, that may be 1 long footnote, but in this day and age of all things media, just winning is not enough anymore. Sure, no one remembers the events 10 years from now (I'd argue, by the start of next Spring Training more likely), but that's what asterisks are for- to remind us what should have happened.

If the Cards lose (more likely), they just handed Detroit back the HFA, are legitimately down 2-1 and have begun a 2-game losing streak with a demoralized team psyche- all thanks to Tony "a spade's not a spade... oh wait, yeah it is" LaRussa's fence hopping. It's this type of decision-making that will make LaRussa 1-4 for his career in World Series matchups.

Don't hate the playa, hate the manage-a.


NFL Week 7 Here and Gone

I know we still have MNF tonight, but let's get a jump on this weekend's results (and my prediction results- in bold)...

Cincinnati 17, Carolina 14 - Here: The swagger of a division leader in Cincy. Gone: DeShaun Foster, weak run defense exploiter.

N.Y. Jets 31, Detroit 24- Here: The Jets win total from last season (in only 7 games). Gone: The mockery of hiring the youngest Head Coach in NFL history.

Green Bay 34, Miami 24- Here: Joey Harrington, Fantasy League stud. Gone: Miami Defense, Fantasy League dud.

Houston 27, Jacksonville 7- Here: Texans' pride (and posibly a bright future). Gone: Jacksonville's eyes on the division crown (3 GB of Indy already).

New England 28, Buffalo 6- Here: The Pats as AFC's favorites. Gone: The Pats as AFC's most overrated.

Tampa Bay 23, Philadelphia 21- Here: The Gradkowski Era. Gone: The Simms Era.

Atlanta 41, Pittsburgh 38 (OT)- Here: Michael Vick, TD throwing machine. Gone Michael Vick, TD running machine.

Kansas City 30, San Diego 27- Here: Larry Johnson's Fantasy League promise fulfilled. Gone: San Diego's defensive impregnability (thanks Mrs. Kiel and Merriman).

Denver 17, Cleveland 7 Here: The Over on Denver's 13 point run. Gone: The hope that Jay Cutler will play soon (hint: not if they keep winning, even by low scores).

Oakland 22, Arizona 9- Here: The Black Hole. Gone: Dennis Green.

Minnesota 31, Seattle 13 Here: Quality road win for the Vikings. Gone: The Seahawks' HFA in the playoffs- Hasselbeck's injury insures that. As I noted in my Week 7 predictions, this team is now a pass 1st offense, but now without a quality passer for a month.

Indianapolis 36, Washington 22- Here: Washington's off-season come early. Gone: "Peyton is soft" critics after get bent like Gumby in a meat grinder.

I'll update this after tonight's MNF result.
And here it is...

NY Giants 36, Dallas 22- Here: The last season of Coach Parcells Gone: The NFC East as "most competitive division" this season. (It's only a 2-horse race.)


NFL Week 7 Preview

Carolina at Cincinnati- DeShaun Foster plays well against weak run defenses. The Bengals rank #24 against the run. DeShaun likes Cincy.

Detroit at N.Y. Jets- The jets have surprised with their 3-3 record. The Lions lackluster 1-5 record may be slightly misleading, but at home, the Jets should be able to contain the Lions' offense.

Green Bay at Miami- Somebody has to win this game, right? Harrington looks more comfortable than Culpepper did in this offense. And Green Bay's "O" line will get pounded by Miami's "D".

at Houston- Poor Gary Kubiak. No running game for the former RB mastermind.

New England
at Buffalo- Belichick always finds a compliment for even the weakest teams. This week? He says the Bills are dangerous and could go 6-wideouts on offense, they're that deep. Oh Bill. You're such a kidder.

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay- Bruce Gradkowski may not be a top-10 QB (heck it's only his second start), but he sure makes the Bucs feel more confident they can win than Chris Simms ever did.

Pittsburgh at Atlanta- Sure the Steelers ran it up on the Chiefs last week. But Atlanta has been preaching defense a lot longer than K.C. And the Steelers are not fast enough on defense to contain Mike Vick.

San Diego
at Kansas City- Phillip Rivers is legit. So is the Bolts' "D". As long as Martyball doesn't come into play, this game should be over by the half.

at Cleveland- Another game, another 13 points for Denver. And again, 13 points will be enough to win- this time against a pathetic Browns team who, unlike Denver, is impotent on both offense and defense.

Arizona at Oakland- The negative P.R. this week prior to the deadline may actually give the Raiders some energy. Arizona's only hope is Matt Leinart's decision-making. Unfortunately his O-line won't give him the 2-3 seconds he needs to make the right one against a decent Raiders defense.

Minnesota at Seattle- With or without Alexander, this team now relies on its compliment of WRs and Matt Hasselbeck getting them the ball.

Washington at Indianapolis- Must-win for the 'Skins is at worst possible time... Indy off of a bye.

N.Y. Giants at Dallas- The most important stat will not be how many balls come T.O.'s way in the first half, but how many times the Cowboys rush the ball against the Giants run "D" which yields nearly 70% more rushing yards per game than Dallas.

Better Late Than Never

It's been a busy week and not much time for blogging the usual reports and such. SO, here's a quick review of Week 6 (which I am just getting to now):

Here- My picks yielded an 8-5 record. I'm 60-27 overall.
Gone- Any chance to review these picks due to the fact it's already Friday.

OK, that's it. On to a Week 7 NFL preview in my next post.

P.S. The Cards beat the Mets to win the NCLS 4 games to 3. Are the Mets the MOST. OVERRATED. TEAM. EVER.? Quite possibly. Though there has to be at least 1 Atlanta Braves division winner since their string of titles starting in 1991 that can top the Metropolitans' playoff dud of '06.

At any rate, all you need to know about the World Series is what most prognasticators (including my boy Dan Shanoff) are predicting. Tigers in 4. Which means I'll put money on the Cards in a 7-game classic. Seriously, you know it's Murphy's Law at work when every "expert" (and novice) pick a team to absolutely destroy their opponent that the exact opposite will become reality.

But looking at reality, I too am taking the Tigers, but I have to give a little consideration to St. Louis. Afterall, they do have 2005 Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter and 2x NLCS hero/ace Jeff Suppan pitching for them. Figure they get 3 starts between them in the WS and they should at least get 1 win out of it. Too bad the Tigers can match them pitcher for pitcher with Robertson, Rogers, Verlander, and Bonderman lined up in the rotation (and a deadly bullpen), the Tigers can certainly make the case for the sweep.

But give the Cards some credit for: a) getting here and 2) having WS experience to toughen them to the critics calling for the brooms.

I say: Tigers in 5. (Hey, call me a rebel.)


Here and Gone- Week 5 NFL Wrap-Up

As always, my predicted winners for the week are in bold. I had my third straight double-digit win week. Of course, if I did this for money, I'd be 3-11, but that's why the blog is here. I get the picks right and save my money at the same time. Here we go:

40, Buffalo 7- Here: the Chicago offense- to stay. Gone: The notion the Bills were this close to turning the corner under J.P.

Carolina 20, Cleveland 12- Here: 3-game win streak by the Panthers. Gone: Romeo Crennel? (Maybe too early a prediction, but give it time to fester by Week 17 when the Brownies are 2-13.)

Indianapolis 14, Tennessee 13- Here: VY's 1st TD (rushing) Gone: The Colts mythos- I mean c'mon, this was the Texans they nearly lost to.

N.Y. Giants 19, Washington 3 Here: Giants' souring playoff hopes rebirth! Gone: Joe Gibbs- NASCAR is so much more relaxing than this.

Kansas City 23, Arizona 20 Here: Damon Huard, season savior. Gone: Larry Fitzgerald, at least 2 weeks on the sidelines.

Jacksonville 41, N.Y. Jets 0 Here: Jags' winning ways Gone: Jets' winning ways.

San Francisco 34, Oakland 20 Here: 49ers as the most improved team from a year ago. Gone: The Raiders motivation to win any game.

Philadelphia 38, Dallas 24 Here: Eagles as toast of the NFC East. Gone: Drew Bledsoe after this season (and possibly never to return again?).

San Diego 23, Pittsburgh 13 Here: Home rebound after Martyball road gaffe. Gone: Steelers' playoff aspirations (with Cincy and Baltimore in the same division, a 2nd WC in the AFC North has about 0% probability).

Denver 13, Baltimore 3 Here: Denver the pretender. They always play well on MNF at home. Gone: The notion Steve McNair is the answer to Baltimore's QB struggles. 3 INTs? Unacceptable.

Record this week: 11-3
Overall: 52-22


The FIRST College Poll results for Week 6.

Saturday is not even over, and I am daring to throw up an NCAA Top 10 D-1 Football rankings . Heck the "real" polls aren't worth the computer they are crunched on, so why shouldn't mine be taken seriously?

1. Ohio State- to be the best you gotta beat the best.
2. Florida- Thank LSU for this one.
3. USC- Struggled, but still won.
4. Michigan- Michigan State was a decent win, but not enough for the 3rd spot.
5. WVA- Only because they're undefeated.
6. Georgia- Until the SEC attrition hits them too, they are now the favorite to survive this nasty conference.
6. Texas- No movement up the charts, but doing it with a freshman QB is eye opening.
7. Notre Dame- They lost to Michigan who is a BCS championship contender- other than that they've played better every week.
8. Louisville- Until they lose, keep them in the picture.
9. Tennessee- HUGE win at Georgia- both the score and the implicaitons to the SEC (and Fullmer's job).
10. Cal- Beating the Ducks tonight vaults them into Top 10 territory.

LDS Hangover

I feel like one of those mediums in the early part of their careers. You know the point in time where you sense the future, but it's still all fuzzy so your predictions are somewhat... off. But the clues were there. You just interpret them wrong. Observe, my predictions for the ALDS and NLDS and how I was this close to getting it right.

Tigers over Yanks:
  • "While the Yankees on paper have a distinct advantage in the batting order now that Sheffield and Matsui are healthy to compliment, Jeter, Cano, Damon, and Giambi, they can't pitch their team to wins like the Tigers." Looks like I was right. Too bad I didn't stop there...
  • "If the Tigers steal Game 1, an inconsistent Mussina and an aged, aching Johnson give the Tigers potential for a sweep, let alone taking this series while in Detroit in Game 4 (if necessary)." Well, the striped cats didn't take Game 1. Instead they just took an extra day to gather themselves before Game 2 (thank you rain delay) and went on a post-rainout sweep of the next 3 games to make my 'Tigers in 4' vision a reality. Doh.
  • "My Pick: Yankees in 4. Detroit's 1st foray into the post season after such a long layoff just doesn't bode well for Leyland & Co." Um, yeah, I should have listen to the voices instead.
A's over Twins
  • "Matchup to watch
    The closers. Which young closer shows he's got the stuff to be the next Mariano?" OK, I picked the best matchup correctly.
  • "Meanwhile, Huston Street hasn't been to the post-season and, in fact, is only in his second season, AND he's only 23 years old! Closing out the 9th inning, when the game is on the line in a deciding Game 5 is a lot to ask a 23 year old kid." It still is a lot too ask. Which is why he came up big in Games 1 and 2 instead to put the Twins in an 0-2 hole- and those saves were on the road, giving the A's an all but certain finale at home.
Fortunately for me, I still have 2 series to blow before I can officially declare my powers worthy of my own TV show 5 years from now once I hone this skill. More to come at the conclusion of Padres/Cards and Mets/Dodgers series.


NLDS Preview, Continued

Mets vs. Dodgers
On paper, this matchup should be all Mets. But the recent loss of Pedro Martinez, the injury to El Duque and the unknown durability of elders Steve Trachsel and Tom Glavine this far into the season- and their careers- puts the Mets' starting pitching in a precarious position, not to mention their bullpen. The brightside is, this Mets club has enough firepower to play football score-type games against the Dodgers- who by the way do not exactly have the '95 Braves as their starting staff (despite the presence of Greg Maddux).

Matchup to watch
1-2-3-4-5 versus 1-2-3-4-5. Because the starting pitching in this series is "flip-a-coin" scary, the key will be the tablesetters and the run producers. Here's the top-5 of the lineup comparison. My edge is in bold.

Furcal versus Reyes
Lofton versus LoDuca
Garciaparra versus Beltran
Kent versus Delgado
Drew versus Wright

If you take the score, you get 3-2 Mets. And that's about the best way to sum up the series.

My Pick: Mets in 5. The starting pitching is a wash, so figure someone has to take a loss anyway. and take a loss these pitchers will. But if Carlos Beltran "Playoff Monster" returns from 2 years ago, and he's backed up by Delgado and Wright in the 4-5 spots, this team should bash their way to the NLCS.


NLDS Preview

Like yesterday's ALDS quick view and predictions, I'm back today for the NLDS. One series starts today (Cards/Pads) and one tomorrow (Dodgers/Metropolitans). Here's the former and later we'll visit the latter.

Padres vs. Cardinals
A year or 2 ago, this matchup would have been a lot different. But this is 2006, and the Padres have home field advantage against the Central Division champs who stumbled and bumbled their way to a playoff berth only because the Astros could not continue their torrid September to the end. But the interesting part here is that maybe the Cardinals need to be the underdog. What have they done as the favorite? Sure, they made the World Series in 2004 versus the Red Sox, but they never had enough of anything- pitching, hitting, fielding- in that series. And they still don't. Chris Carpenter is a 1-man show when the Cards really need 3 Carpenters. The Padres will counter with aces Jake Peavy and Chris Young back-to-back and follow it up with playoff veteran David Wells (pending his latest aches and pains). Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver are not the answer in games 2 and 3.

Matchup to watch
This series will come down to execution. The Cardinals have the big bats that can turn games in a single inning. Led by Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen, it seems like the Cards are always a HR away from turning the tide. But the Padres have youth and a deeper lineup top to bottom. The question is can they overcome the jitters and play the way they've played all season? Or do the vets from St. Louis prove their poise is the solution? I think the Padres, while young, have enough veteran calm in the dugout, like Piazza and Wells, mixed in to turn away any Cardinals rally in the late innings.

My Pick: Padres in 4.
Trevor Hoffman (this year's NL Cy Young winner?) is a much more solid closer than the Card's Braden Looper who's filling in for an inconsistent and injured Jason Isringhausen. You've got to ask yourself, if Looper was the guy why did St. Louis stick it out with "Tater Ball" Izzy for so long this year?

NFL Week 4 Wrap-up Revisited

So I had to get a comment in about the MNF game and it ties up my weekend NFL summary nicely, puts me at 10-4 for the second straight week, and leads me into the latest (and greatest) issue surrounding the NFL.

31 Green Bay 9- Here: The Eagles w/o T.O. Maybe they are better than the Eagles with T.O.? Gone: The Brett Favre era. Take this latest shot to the chops as a sign Brett.

So, Brett Favre did what Brett Favre does best at this stage of his career. He throws the ball downfield with wild abandon and doesn’t care who catches the ball, even if it's the other team. His second interception of the night (versus 0 TDs) was the prime example. Favre motioned to his right- the primary receiver in the play. Seeing it covered, he checked down to his left on a swing pass to his RB. It was open for the safe play, would have gained 5 yards due to blockers being there, but instead, the ageless one decided to check down the field and saw what he thought was a wide open receiver down the middle.

Unfortunately, the Eagles were baiting Favre, sat on the route, and picked off an off-balance throw that was about 5 yards short of the wideout anyway. I mean, it wasn't even close- like the DB Lewis needed to make a instinctive reactionary grab for the ball. He literally just sat and waited.

But this should surprise no one. It is what Brett Favre does. Sure he had 2 straight games with 340 yards and 3 TDs apiece. But as I said in my Week 4 predictions, wait until Favre plays a good team. I don't even mean a great team. And the Eagles are somewhere in between good and great for this season (final opinion withheld until the season ends).

I am sure it does not help that the opposing coach is Andy Reid who knows Favre as well as anyone- Reid being one of the dozen or so coaches who's genesis was the championship Packers coaching staff of the early and mid-90's that also produced guys like Mariucci, Gruden, and last year's NFC champion coach, Mike Holmgren.

But that aside, Favre is now his own biggest obstacle (as well as the Packers). He cannot get out of his own way on the field... or rather his own poor decision-making. How many more interceptions will it take to accept this as fact? It's over. Let the end of the game last night signify the beginning of the Aaron Rodgers era. Use the hit towards the end of the game as the excuse if you want, so it does not look like he is bowing out, but rather to put an end to his record games started streak as a medical precaution. Call it "lingering symptoms of post-concussive syndrome" or whatever you want. Just do Brett and the team a favor. The Packers should call the best audible of Favre's career for him at a time when this team needs it most.


MLB- Let the Playoffs Commence.

So here it is, October, the month of baseball madness. 162 games have boiled it down to 8 teams. If you're a betting man or woman, take a Wild Card team as your World Series winner. But if you're like me, well, good luck with those hair patches after pulling your hair out trying to decide on a deserving World Series prediction. So let's get to the Wild Card round predictions- I still have some hair left to pull out before offering up my LCS and WS picks. Today, the ALDS.

New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers
Is that sound you hear Jimmy Leyland screaming into a pillow at the fact his team: a) spit the bit down the stretch and lost the divisional title b) gave up HFA in the ALDS c) now has to play the hottest team in baseball or d) all of the above?

While it's true the Tigers did not do themselves any favors giving up the A's for the Yanks, the fact of the matter is the Tigers MADE THE PLAYOFFS. Take the gate revenue from the extra game(s) and run! But this team has a chance. First, they are the AL Wild Card, and if they can pull a 2004 Red Sox or a 2002 Angels, they'll be fine.

Matchup to Watch
This whole series comes down to pitching. While the Yankees on paper have a distinct advantage in the batting order now that Sheffield and Matsui are healthy to compliment, Jeter, Cano, Damon, and Giambi, they can't pitch their team to wins like the Tigers. The Tigers starters (and team overall) boasted the best team ERA in MLB, which helped TIGERS' starters post the most wins of any rotation (1 ahead of the Yankees) and is complimented by the 6th best batting average against in all of MLB (2nd best in the AL). Here's the matchups:

Game 1: Robertson vs. Wang
Game 2: Verlander vs. Mussina
Game 3: Rogers vs. Johnson

The fact that the Tigers worst starter of its top 3 is pitching the 1st game against, arguably, the Yankees best pitcher this year, may decide this whole series. If the Tigers steal Game 1, an inconsistent Mussina and an aged, aching Johnson give the Tigers potential for a sweep, let alone taking this series while in Detroit in Game 4 (if necessary).

My Pick:
Yankees in 4. Detroit's 1st foray into the post season after such a long layoff just doesn't bode well for Leyland & Co. If they come back to make the post season again next year, I may change my mind.

Minnesota Twins vs. Oakland A's

One thing can be said about all 4 teams in the ALDS, there is no shortage of pitching. The Yanks and Tigers may be good for the AARP (Johnson/Mussina) versus Cub Scouts (Verlander/Bonderman), but I'll stake my money on this series being the best pitching matchup in any of the 4 LDS matchups. IMAGINE what this would be like if Francisco Liriano could pitch? Instead, we're treated to #1 vs. #1 in Johan vs. Zito, and Bonzer vs. Loiaza, 2 guys who have been overlooked in the second half of the season as anchors to rotations that didn't have much after the #1's for a good strech post All-Star break. In the end though, the best pitching will come routinely after the 6th or 7th inning when both bullpens step in.

Matchup to watch
The closers. Which young closer shows he's got the stuff to be the next Mariano? The Twins' Joe Nathan has really be groomed for this spot in his career, while Huston Street of the A's is still that filthy raw and careless flame thrower who makes batters step back in the batter's box and extra 1/2 step. So which has more pressure? I say Nathan- he's been a top closer longer, his team has been to the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 seasons, but he's only 0-1 with 1 save and a 9.00 ERA, pitching 5 innings in relief for the Twins. Meanwhile, Huston Street hasn't been to the post-season and, in fact, is only in his second season, AND he's only 23 years old! Closing out the 9th inning, when the game is on the line in a deciding Game 5 is a lot to ask a 23 year old kid. Because of this, I say...

My Pick:
Twins in 5. It's going to take a return trip to the Metrodome, but the Twinkies home record in 2006 (the best in baseball at 54-27) is no joke. Team defense and the sick relief pitching, anchored by Nathan, win it.

Tomorrow ... my NLDS picks.

Here and Gone- NFL Week 4 Wrap-up

It's time for a new segment called "Here and Gone" which will review the results from the slate of NFL games from the weekend. My picks for the Week are in bold. You'll understand pretty quick what the objective of this theme is...

Week 4
Atlanta 32, Arizona 10- Here: The NFC South's most dominant team. Gone: The 2006/2007 playoff hopes of the Cardinals (and possibly with it, Dennis Green's tenure as head coach).

45, Tennessee 14 Here: Drew Bledsoe as Cowboy's QB. Gone: The Romo bandwagon.

31, N.Y. Jets 28- Here: Peyton with 2 minutes left. Gone: Mangini magic versus the Colts. Note: as DC of New England, he was the victim of a beatdown in Foxboro by the Colts last year too.

17, Miami 15- Here: The 1st win of the Texans season. Gone: The warm fuzzies Miami fans had from the Culpepper signing.

17, Minnesota 12- Here: The Bills as playoffs contenders 1/4th of the way through the season. Gone: The Vikings as NFC North title challenger to the Bears.

21, New Orleans 18- Here: The Panthers 2-game win streak. Gone: The goodwill from the Superdome last Monday night.

Baltimore 16, San Diego 13 Here: Baltimore as legitimate SB hopeful. Gone: Any notion the Chargers are as good as people thought pre-Bye Week.

Kansas City 41, San Francisco 0- Here: Damon Huard. Gone: Trent Green.

St. Louis 41, Detroit 34- Here: The simplified offensive terminology for Marc Bulger & Co. (instituted for this week). Gone: The anemic offense the Rams had under the previous terminolgy.

24, Oakland 21 Here:
The Raiders moniker as the "worst team in the league". Gone: The Browns moniker as the "worst team in the league".

Washington 36, Jacksonville 30 (OT) Here: Washington's 700-page offensive playbook, now good for 2 straight weeks. Gone: The confidence that the Jags' youngsters will breakthrough this year. These road losses are cause for concern because you know they are going to be on the road (in the WC round) to open this season's playoffs.

New England 38, Cincinnati 13 Here: A sigh of relief from Patriots Nation. Gone: Cincy's claim to best in the AFC.

37, Seattle 6 Here: Chicago's offense... to stay. Gone: Seattle's ground game- on the gurny with Alexander.

So far this week 9-4. A win by Philly tonight, and I'll have back-to-back 10-4 weeks. I'll take double digit correct picks each week.