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?
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.
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.