October 2009


I don't know who could use a good week more in Week 8, me or these guys?

Maybe it’s the fact that I am stuck in a deathbed for football this year in Washington, or maybe I just am missing something, but the last two weeks have not gone according to plan.  After what looked like a promising start with four easy wins, the Texans forgot how to play offense and failed to cover against San Fran after nearly blowing a 21-0 halftime lead and Brett Favre decided to throw one of his patented late-game picks for a Pittsburgh TD.  The rest of they day went the same, pretty much, with my only win coming thanks to the Saints’ 2nd half rally past Miami.  The Eagles’ easy win over the ‘Skins salvaged a 6-6-1 week and moved the season record to 53-47-1 (.530).  Here’s the picks for Week 8:

Dolphins (+4) at Jets: The Jets lost to the Dolphins three weeks ago when they were completely healthy and still had Kris Jenkins in the middle to plug up holes in the run defense.  Now he, along with RB Leon Washington and potentially WR Braylon Edwards will not be available against a Miami rushing attack that had a field day against the Jets on Monday night.  The Jets will need to limit Ronnie Brown to under 100 yards and get a good game out of a struggling Mark Sanchez to win this one. I don’t see either of those things happening.

Giants at Eagles (-1): In the first game of what will be a wild Sunday in Philadelphia, I expect the Eagles to play a very strong and sound game and beat the New York Giants in a close one at the Link.  The G-Men haven’t gotten the production they need out of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw the last couple of games, and the Eagles’ defense might be the best out of the last three teams they’ve faced.  Also, the Eagles seem to have found the right offensive formula and are being driven by their youthful skill players in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy.

Broncos (+3) at Ravens: Going into Baltimore and winning is still a very tough task, but the way things have been going for the Denver Broncos, it wouldn’t surprise me to see it happen at all.  If Elvis Dumervil can get the better of his matchup on the line, I expect it’ll be a long day for Joe Flacco.  If this happens, the Broncos’ D can load up the box for Ray Rice and could make this ugly.  I also expect to see Denver spread the ball out offensively to anyone and everyone in order to buy Kyle Orton more time in the pocket and open things up for both Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.

Texans (-4) at Bills: This is a matchup of two teams that shouldn’t be where they currently are.  The Texans are better than their 4-3 record would lead you to believe and they are just starting to click into gear, which is huge considering how well they play in the second half.  The combination of Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson should prove to be too much for a 3-4 Bills team that has really been the beneficiary of playing well against some weaker opponents so far this year.  Plus, I don’t see Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for less than 150 yards and Buffalo beating Houston.

Browns at Bears (-14): Normally I would see Chicago with this big of a spread and run away from them.  This time, though, Da Bears are in desperate need of a win and Jay Cutler & Co. have one of the more porous defenses in the league to go up against.  I think the most interesting thing that will happen during the course of this game will be whether or not Cleveland switches between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn yet again.

Seahawks at Cowboys (-10): It took them six games to do it, but the Cowboys showed me something last week to make me think that they could be a serious factor in the NFC this year.  The emergence of the Tony Romo-Miles Austin connection, having Marion Barber and Felix Jones healthy, and the improvement of the pass rush has turned things around in Big D.  More than this, though, might be that the last time I saw Seattle, they got shellacked by Jacksonville, 41-0.  The Seahawks have some serious issues right now and are going to need some serious help to win this one.

Rams at Lions (pick ’em): Two reasons for picking the Detroit Lions this week:
1. They’re at home
2. At least when they’ve lost this year they’ve managed to be somewhat competitive.
This game merits no further conversation because of these teams’ combined 1-12 record.

49ers at Colts (-13): Indianapolis has just rolled through all of its opponents so far this year, and San Fran’s fairly suspect pass defense was exposed by the Texans last week. Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne is certainly not going to be easy for the Niners to contain, not to mention the rest of the cast from a Colts offense that once again is amongst the best in the NFL.

Jaguars (+3) at Titans: I want to meet the individual who made this line and ask him if he’s watched the Titans this season.  I also want to ask him if he made this line before or after he heard Vince Young might get the start, or if he just thought that Jeff Fisher wearing the Peyton Manning jersey was inspiration for his team.  So long as Tennessee plays the way they have thus far, they will not win on Sunday.

Raiders (+17) at Chargers: The Raiders and Chargers met at the beginning of the year on Monday Night and Oakland actually managed to play what might have been its best game so far this year, falling on a late TD drive engineered by Philip Rivers.  The Raiders still stink, but they seem to know something about San Diego that keeps them in the game.  Chargers will win, but it’ll be closer than you think.

Panthers at Cardinals (-11): The Cardinals seem to have finally shook off whatever was affecting them at the beginning of the year, as was obvious with their big win on Sunday Night over the Giants.  Kurt Warner is finding Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin again, and the defense is making stops when it needs to.  This is very bad news for the Carolina Panthers, who desperately need to re-commit themselves to their running game as long as Jake Delhomme is under center.

Vikings (+3) at Packers: If Favre vs. Green Bay goes anything like Round 1 did, then the Vikings will definitely win this game.  Jared Allen and the Vikes’ D is going to be gunning for Aaron Rodgers early and often in this one and I expect Adrian Peterson to have a bounce back week after being pretty quiet in Pittsburgh.  The Vikings might be the class of the NFC this year and will continue to make their case on Sunday night.

Falcons at Saints (-10): I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week, until some team gives me a reason to not pick New Orleans, I am taking the Saints every week for the rest of the season.  Drew Brees should be able to cut down on his mistakes and take advantage of playing against an Atlanta defense that seems to have some growing issues in the secondary.  Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Saints in a high-scoring game.

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Matty Ice has led the Falcons to a 4-1 start, but no one seems to be noticing. Maybe this week will help.

"Matty Ice" has led the Falcons to a 4-1 start, but no one seems to be noticing. Maybe this week will help.

I’m not going to preface this with anything other than oops.  Last week was just atrocious and hopefully no one that reads this bet using my picks after going 5-9.  If you did, and if I wasn’t a poor college student, I would pay you your losses, but alas I can’t.  Last week dropped the overall record to 47-41 (.534) for the season.  This is a big week for yours truly, so let’s take a look at the Week 7 picks.

49ers at Texans (-3): San Fran gets Frank Gore back, which is definitely good news for a team that was crippled offensively without him.  However, we shouldn’t forget what the Falcons passing offense did to these guys two weeks ago and the Texans are even better at throwing the ball around.  Houston seems like they’re on the verge of turning the corner after their typical slow start, and grabbing their first home win of the year this week would go a long way in helping them get into a muddled playoff picture.

Packers (-7) at Browns: One of the easiest picks of the week, considering the state of about half of the Cleveland players, who will be unavailable with the flu.  That, and Cleveland stunk with all of their regular players as it was.  The Pack in a yawner.

Chargers (-6) at Chiefs: After the loss to Denver at home on Monday Night, San Diego is at a crossroads in its season.  A loss to Kansas City might be a deadly blow to a team that has underachieved so far this year, especially defensively where Shawne Merriman has only 13 tackles in 5 games.  A win gets them back to 3-3 and keeps them in the playoff conversation in a congested AFC.

Colts (-14) at Rams: Unless Peyton Manning suffers a catastrophic injury during the course of this game, there is absolutely no way that the Colts are not going to blow the Rams away.  The Colts have beaten several good teams by convincing margins.  I wonder if Peyton will try and outscore Tom Brady and the Patriots from last week?

Vikings (+5) at Steelers: I think that everyone is kind of overstating how the Vikings’ D looked at the end of their game last week.  It was a complete blowout, and the D just packed it in early, nothing else.  Also, Pittsburgh almost never covers the spread and likes playing in ugly, close games.  This game will come down to a late field goal, and that will be the final margin.

Patriots (-16) vs. Buccaneers (in London, England): I don’t see how a game this lopsided is going to make the Brits like our version of football.  They send teams like Manchester United and Chelsea to the U.S. every summer.  We’re sending them the Tampa Bay Bucs.  The only thing that will even be entertaining about this game is to see how much New England can win by this week.

Jets at Raiders (+7): The Jets are beginning to play like the Jets again, which means that they’re due to throw up another stinker this week in Oakland.  Not to mention, the Jets’ run defense just took a big hit with the loss of Kris Jenkins, and Mark Sanchez will have to beat a tough Raiders secondary, which might be the only part of Oakland’s team that’s competent this year.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see Oakland pull the upset.

Bills at Panthers (-7): This game is definitely more of a pillow fight than a football game, but I think the Panthers are going to come out with a fire under their feet and play a very good game to get back to .500 for the year, if only by the grace of God, himself.  I expect to see two very good things from the Carolina offense. First, they’re starting to run the ball again, which is absolutely necessary for them to do considering the QB play of Jake Delhomme.  Second, the disgruntled Steve Smith will be a factor as a result of the success on the ground.  That’s bad news for the Bills.

Bears (+1) at Bengals:  The Bears are far more battle-tested than Cincy is and Jay Cutler is playing pretty well right now.  The Bengals defense is a complete mess with injuries and they looked very vulnerable last week at home against Houston.  In a game that’s basically a pick ’em, I think the Bears will take it 27-24.

Falcons (+4) at Cowboys: I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention to this team, but Atlanta is pretty good this year.  Matt Ryan is showing that last year wasn’t a fluke and the Falcons could, very quietly, join the conversation for NFC’s best team if they go into Dallas and knock off the Cowboys, who it’s impossible to tell what you’ll get from them.

Saints (-7) at Dolphins: Until a team actually gives me a reason to not have 100% confidence in taking the Saints, I am picking them for the rest of the season.  The Dolphins and the wildcat can’t keep up with Drew Brees & Co. on offense.

Cardinals at Giants (-7): The G-Men are coming into this one after being humbled a week ago in New Orleans, and they are not happy about that loss.  The Cardinals have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL so far this year, and after a couple of good games in a row, head into New York, where they were beaten 56-35 by the Jets last year in a sequence of 3 blowout losses in the Northeast.  I struggle to see ‘Zona play well in New York this time around, either.

Eagles (-7) at Redskins: Washington is a complete mess right now and couldn’t score on bad defenses before the most recent events surrounding Jim Zorn.  The Eagles are embarrassed after losing in Oakland and I fully expect them to show up in a big way for this one.  Philly should (note: SHOULD) win by a solid margin.

The Saints will be tested again by a team from New York on Sunday.  Can they handle the Giants the same way they did the Jets?

The Saints will be tested again by a team from New York on Sunday. Can they handle the Giants the same way they did the Jets?

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat unpredictable in the NFL and has left me with some spectacularly mediocre numbers.  An 8-6 record in Week 5 pushes the season record to 44-32 (.579).  Let’s take a look at the Week Six matchups (Picks in Bold, Home Team listed second):

Texans at Bengals (-5): This is a game between two teams that have gotten off to very different campaigns in 2009.  The Bengals might be one of the biggest surprises in the AFC this year, leading the North Division with a 4-1, which really should be a 5-0, overall record.  The Texans continue to be a first half disappointment, coming off of last week’s loss in Arizona, where they failed to punch it in from a yard out late in the fourth quarter.

Lions (+14) at Packers: Since when are the Packers one of the better teams in the league this year? The Steelers couldn’t cover an 11-point spread last week against Detroit and I think that Pittsburgh is better than Green Bay.  I also don’t think the Lions are THAT bad anymore.  This is a divisional game. Much like against the Vikings, the Lions will compete.   Alas, they will probably lose.

Ravens at Vikings (-3): I think it’s time we all realized that Baltimore’s defense is not the class of the NFL anymore.  This, combined with the struggles of the Ravens’ offense and the way the Vikes have played in their first five games, means this one might not be as close as some people think.

Giants (+3) at Saints: The Saints’ offense was somewhat exposed by the Jets’ defense two weeks ago.  I think the G-Men will have similar success containing New Orleans and that Eli Manning won’t make the same mistakes as Mark Sanchez, allowing New York to win this battle of the unbeatens by a touchdown margin. I think it’ll be 24-17 Giants.

Browns at Steelers (-15): I’m starting to buy back into Pittsburgh after they looked shaky when Troy Polamalu went down with his injury.  The offense seems to finally be clicking and they have a great young RB in Rashard Mendenhall, who holds onto the ball much better than Willie Parker, making it far less likely that the Browns’ very pedestrian offense will get the ball in scoring position more than a couple of times.

Panthers (-3) at Buccaneers: Carolina shouldn’t have much trouble with Tampa Bay, if only because no one else has really had an issue playing against Tampa Bay.  Neither of these teams are good at all, and it might come down to which starting QB, either Jake Delhomme or Josh Johnson, makes less mistakes to determine the winner.  There might also be more defensive TDs than offensive in this game.

Chiefs (+7) at Redskins:  Giving the Washington Redskins 7 points is an absolute crime considering they just lost to Carolina and Detroit earlier this year and look like they can’t put 7 points on the board most of the time.  I actually don’t think it’s unrealistic to say Kansas City will pick up their first win this season over the ‘Skins, plummeting Daniel Snyder’s group of over-payed and under-talented football players into further disarray.

Rams at Jaguars (-10): Jacksonville seems to be like two teams in one.  Either they will play you very tough and look very competitive, or they will throw up a complete goose egg like they did last week against the Seahawks.  The Jags will come out looking to put that game behind them, and shouldn’t have much trouble doing that against the lowly Rams, who might be the worst of the winless teams in the league.

Cardinals at Seahawks (-3): It’s amazing how much different Seattle looks when Matt Hasselbeck is under center.  Their performance against the Jaguars last week was nothing short of dominant, and they now look to make another big statement by beating one of the favorites in the NFC West in ‘Zona.  The Cards survived at home against Houston last week, but still look like they might be experiencing some of that Superbowl hangover from last year.  This might be a rude awakening for Kurt Warner and Co.

Eagles (-15) at Raiders: After last week’s 44-7 loss to the Giants, New York LB Antonio Pierce noted that playing the Raiders felt like “a scrimmage.”  The Eagles should win this game by at least 3-4 TDs if the Raiders are as bad as Mr. Pierce is suggesting.  Plus, Philly needs to keep winning as long as the G-Men are unbeaten.

Titans at Patriots (-10): Have you seen the Tennessee Titans lately? They are a complete and utter disaster.  Going up against a New England team that doesn’t lose back-to-back games ever, I highly doubt that Tennessee will prove to be much of a road block.  Expect to see Vince Young make an early appearance in this game. Should be a blowout.

Bills at Jets (-10): The Jets have gone from 3-0 and Superbowl contenders to 3-2 and really needing to win this one at home against a Bills team that just cannot do anything offensively, being held to just 3 points by the Cleveland Browns last week.  I expect the Jets to get back on track this week by taking care of business before heading out to play Oakland.  As for Buffalo, maybe they’ll actually get Terrell Owens involved in the offense, but he’ll be up against Darrelle Revis, so it won’t be easy.

Bears at Falcons (-3): I really have no idea who to pick in this game. Two pretty good teams in a game that they could both use to keep up with the undefeated team that’s ahead of them in their respective divisions, and both coming off of solid victories.  When all else fails, take the home team and hope for the best, plus Matt Ryan is my fantasy QB so I would like it if the Falcons won a high-scoring game.

Broncos (+3) at Chargers: After five weeks of mocking them, I can deny it no more. The Broncos have a good football team, as unjust as it may be, they are good, and probably the best team in the AFC West, especially with the Chargers struggling so far this season.  Here’s the chance for the Broncos to separate themselves from the rest of the division.  Now that I’ve stopped saying they aren’t that good, they’ll probably get killed, but that’s football, right?

Cliff Lee has been one of the best pitchers in the NL since he was traded from Cleveland. Can he do it in the NLCS?

Cliff Lee has been one of the best pitchers in the NL since he was traded from Cleveland. Can he do it in the NLCS?

The National League Championship Series is set to kick off tonight in Los Angeles as the Dodgers and Phillies meet in a rematch of last year’s playoff series.  Last year, the Phillies took care of business en route to their first World Series title in 28 years.  Will it be any different this year?

Catcher
At the outset of these playoffs, it was not a case of which of these two, Russell Martin or Carlos Ruiz, was better.  It was more a question of how much better Martin was than Ruiz.  However, in the NLDS, it was Ruiz who showed up for his team in a way that he usually doesn’t, coming up with key hits in the Phils’ 3-1 victory.  So, the gap has certainly narrowed. Still, Martin has shown a more consistent pattern of success, and there was never enough concern about him to make the Dodgers go out and get Paul Bako.

Advantage: Dodgers

First Baseman
Much like in the American League, this is a very big mismatch.  The Dodgers have a serviceable 1B in James Loney, who disappointed by not really having the breakout season that many were predicting, but still had a very respectable year.  The Phillies counter with the Big Man, Ryan Howard, who continues to rack up stunning power numbers, benefitting greatly from having a powerful lineup around him.  He also got his batting average up to a respectable level this year, making him even more dangerous to pitch to.

Advantage: Phillies

Second Baseman
Chase Utley is hands-down the best second baseman in the Majors today.  Not one other 2B gets it done batting and fielding quite like he does.  On top of that, he is the Phillies’ quiet team leader and a hero in the City of Brotherly Love.  The Dodgers have yet another solid presence at 2B in Ronnie Belliard, who I personally think is one of the more underrated second basemen in the Majors, but he’s not nearly in the same category as Utley.

Advantage: Phillies

Third Baseman
Moving to the left side of the infield makes it a lot tougher to determine who’s superior between these two teams.  The Phillies have Pedro Feliz at the hot corner, who is always solid, but far from spectacular, and isn’t the player you expect to get hurt by if you’re a Dodger fan.  Casey Blake has had a bit of a resurgence since leaving Cleveland for LA, but still is far from a superstar.  That being said, it’s hard to imagine either of these two having a major impact in this series.

Advantage: Push

Shortstop
Another slot in the infield that it’s truly unclear as to who has the advantage, but the difference is that both Jimmy Rollins and Rafael Furcal could have a major impact on this series.  Rollins has the ability to give the Phils a quick start, with his unusual power hitting from the leadoff spot, as well as good speed on the basepaths, and very good defensive skills.  Furcal has been one of the more clutch players for LA down the stretch, along with Andre Ethier, and isn’t a slouch out in the field, either.

Advantage: Push

Outfield
The Dodgers’ outfielders have certainly drawn the most attention this postseason, and that’s not a surprise when you have Manny Ramirez in left field.  The real surprises have been his supporting cast of Ethier and Matt Kemp, who have come up with numerous timely hits and home runs for LA down the stretch, and who both played very well in the sweep of the Cardinals.  The Phillies have a pretty good outfield, though, too, with Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez, all of whom could have been All-Stars this year in the NL.  The play of these groups in the field, as opposed to at the plate, might be a key to this series.

Advantage: Push

Starting Pitching
This is the separating point between these two teams. I feel it would be a dis-service to take the time and explain this, so I’ll just list the starting rotations for both teams.  For the Dodgers, it’ll be Clayton Kershaw, followed by Phillie outcasts Vincente Padilla and Randy Wolf, and finally either Hiroki Kuroda or Chad Billingsley.  These five have a combined season record of 51-39, and an ERA close to 4.00.  The Phils counter with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, J.A. Happ, Pedro Martinez, and maybe Joe Blanton.  Lee should automatically give them two wins, Pedro has been a huge surprise and has always pitched well in the playoffs, and Hamels and Blanton have been here before and excelled.

Advantage: Phillies

Relief Pitching
Almost the complete opposite of starting pitching, with the Phillies having some major bullpen issues as they sit on the ledge whenever they need to call on Brad Lidge to close out a game.  The Dodgers, meanwhile, might have the best overall group of relievers in the playoffs, which is a huge advantage for the Dodgers if they get into a high-scoring game or an extra innings game with the Phils.  Not to mention, Johnathan Broxton has been lights out all year for Los Angeles.

Advantage: Dodgers

Taking all of these things into account, as well as a few other factors, including the Phillies success on the road and its similar success against left-handed pitchers.  This is why I am taking the Phillies in six.

A-Rod powered the Yankees past Minnesota. Does he have an encore performance for Hollywood?

A-Rod powered the Yankees past Minnesota. Does he have an encore performance for Hollywood?

The American League championship is a battle between East and West as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim set to do battle starting on Friday night in The Bronx.  Before that, though, let’s take a look at both of these teams head-to-head.

Catcher
The Angels seem to have finally found their long-term solution behind the plate in Mike Napoli, who has really begun to play well on a consistent basis.  He also has a great relationship with an Angels’ pitching staff that might have the most depth of all the remaining teams in the playoffs.  The Yankees, on the other hand, caused some waves by electing to use backup catcher Jose Molina in Game 2 of the ALDS to catch Jorge Posada.  Although, with his series-clinching home run in Game 3, it’s hardly a debate in New York as to who the true starting catcher is.  In the end, it’s always a comfort to have someone who is young behind the plate and can deal with all the pitchers in his battery.

Advantage: Angels

First Baseman
This is much more clear cut than catcher was.  Mark Teixeira had an unbelievable regular season and stands to possibly win the MVP award this year.  Kendry Morales, while he played very well this year, is not the man he is attempting to replace who is, ironically enough, Mark Teixeira.

Advantage: Yankees

Second Baseman
Again, this position is simply a case of having a consistent and solid player against having a platoon system of two sometimes good players.  Robinson Cano had a bounce back year this season, putting himself back in the upper echelons of second basemen in the American League.  Meanwhile, after holding the second base slot for most of the year, Howie Kendrick lost the spot to Maicer Izturis, neither of whom bring the productivity or the talent to their team that Cano does.

Advantage: Yankees

Third Baseman
This is actually a tougher call than I initially thought it would be.  On the one hand, the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez, who, in spite of missing a month of baseball and being under the steroid cloud, still hit for 30 and 100.  On the other hand, the Angels have Chone Figgins, who is a do-it-all kind of player and is usually the key to their offense’s overall success.  At the outset of the playoffs, I would have definitely taken Figgins based off of A-Rod’s lack of postseason success.  However, it looks like he’s shaking those demons and will be a key factor in the ALCS.

Advantage: Yankees

Shortstop
Erick Aybar has been quite a revelation for the Angels this year, and that continued into the playoffs with his .364 average against the Boston Red Sox, which is unreal production from the #9 spot in any team’s lineup.  The Yankees counter with their captain, Derek Jeter, who has proven time and again that he just knows how to win.  He may not always light up the scoreboard, but Jeter finds ways to have an impact that most players don’t.

Advantage: Yankees

Outfield
The Angels have an outfield that is very experienced and very dangerous.  They have Torii Hunter, who is playing hungrier for winning than any other player in the postseason right now, Bobby Abreu, who would love nothing more than to beat his former team and get to the World Series they promised him, and Juan Rivera, who since leaving New York for Los Angeles, has been a thorn in the side of Yankee pitching.  The Yankees have an outfield of Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher, the three of which combined for 4 hits in the ALDS and will face even better pitching and will probably be challenged defensively much more in this series.

Advantage: Angels at all 3 positions.

Starting Pitching
This is where the series will be won and lost.  There is no denying the strength of the front of the Yankee rotation with Sabathia and Burnett.  There is also no denying that the Angels are very deep with Lackey, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Scott Kazmir.  It’s almost impossible to determine which is going to win out. Either way, expect some pitching duels in the series.

Advantage: Push

Bullpen
The Yankees have continuously touted the new-found strength of their middle relief this season, but it was less than convincing against the Minnesota Twins.  The Angels’ bullpen isn’t heard from all that much, and that’s because their fairly mediocre.  The tipping point is that the Yankees have the greatest closer in postseason history backing their bullpen, while the Angels have Brian Fuentes, who is basically untested in the playoffs in his career.

Advantage: Yankees, just slightly

Prediction: The positional breakdown is fairly even between these two teams as far as I am concerned, and it’s hard to determine because the teams play much different styles of baseball. That’s why it’s going to be those so-called “intangibles” that will win this series. Can the Yankees overcome their lack of postseason success against Los Angeles, or will the Angels work their way past them yet again?  As far as I’m concerned, the Angels and Yankees are the same teams that they were the last time they faced, another time the Yankees were favored against them.  Los Angeles might even be better than they were in 2002 when they won it all, and that’s why I’m taking the Angels in Six.

Ronnie Brown and the Dolphins ran all over the Jets last night, winning 31-27 in Miami.

Ronnie Brown and the Dolphins ran all over the Jets last night, winning 31-27 in Miami.

In a week of NFL action that was very unpredictable and had a few surprising results, it’s only fitting that we would get more of the same on Monday Night.  The Chad Henne-led, wildcat running Miami Dolphins defeated the favored New York Jets in South Florida 31-27.  Not only did they beat the Jets, but they dominated the Jets in the trenches, allowing Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Henne, and just about every key Dolphins player to get big yardage off of a now humbled Jets D.

Around this time last year the Patriots, with a backup QB of their own in Matt Cassel, went into New Jersey and beat the Jets.  A year later, it’s the same story as Henne, in his first career start and second career game played, looked like the second-coming of Dan Marino on the field, going a shocking 20/26 for 241 yards and 2 TD’s, including a key 53-yard strike to Ted Ginn Jr. to make it 24-20 Miami with about 10 minutes to play in the 4th quarter.

What really made it possible for Henne to have that level of success, though, was the ability of the Miami offense to establish and execute the Wildcat offense throughout the course of the game.  Ronnie Brown proved to be the star of the show, with 110 total yards and 2 TD’s and Ricky Williams continues to have a breakout start to the season, adding 138 total yards of offense.  The theme for the Wildcat this year has been unpredictability, and it continued last night as the Dolphins had two players in the passing category in Henne and Brown, five different players running the ball (Brown, Williams, Pat White, Lousaka Polite, and Patrick Cobbs), and nine different players with receptions (Williams, Ginn, Anthony Fasano, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Joey Haynos, Brown, Brian Hartline, and Cobbs).

For the Jets, two major things can be pointed out in the loss.  The first is to look at the major defensive categories.  The Jets failed to force a turnover, get a sack, or even touch Chad Henne in the pocket last night.  They had only four tackles for loss, and allowed the Dolphins to control possession for almost 34 minutes.  The other issue that the Jets need to look at is their lack of success running the football.  Thomas Jones and Leon Washington combined for only 86 yards on the ground, with Jones adding two short rushing TD’s of 1 yard and 3 yards in the 4th quarter.  In order for the Jets and Mark Sanchez to be successful this year, they must establish the run early in games to open things up for their weaker passing offense, regardless of who is on the field catching the ball.  That being said, one of the bright spots for the Jets was the performance of Braylon Edwards, who had five catches for 64 yards and a TD.  However, with last night’s loss, the Jets fall back into a tie for first with New England at 3-2, while Miami jumps back into the picture at 2-3.  New York will look to bounce back next week as they host the 1-4 Bills, while the Dolphins look to get back to .500 after an 0-3 start when they take on the red hot 4-0 Saints at home.

Torii Hunter's former team was elminated by the Yankees. Will his current team suffer the same fate?

Torii Hunter's former team was elminated by the Yankees. Will his current team suffer the same fate?

For the Angels, the path is a certain and familiar one as they take on the New York Yankees, who broke out the brooms last night with their 4-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.  For the Dodgers it could be just the same, as they watch the Philadelphia Phillies try and wrapup their  series with the Rockies tonight.

The Angels went 5-5 against the Yankees this season in a series of games that neither team was ever really out of, with the exception of the three-game sweep by LA at home just before the All-Star Break.  This has certainly been a trend for the Angels, who own the Yankees when they meet in Anaheim.  This will be a matchup between two teams that are as different in style in terms of play on the field as Hollywood and the South Bronx are in terms of glamor. The Angels will look to get it done the same way they always have against Yankee pitching by finding ways to get on base, and then running wild.  The Yankees know this, but with a defensive liability in at catcher in Jorge Posada, it’s hard to see them slowing down the Angels’ game plan.  The Yankees, on the other hand, will be looking for more of the same from Alex Rodriguez, who powered the Bronx Bombers past Minnesota, shedding his “Can’t get it done in October” moniker for the time being.  This should be a much more heated and contested series than these two teams had in the ALDS, and I fully expect it to go 6 or 7 games.

Assuming that Cliff Lee will pitch the way he did in Game 1 against Colorado, then we can safely say that the Phillies will advance to the NLCS to take on the Dodgers.  Of course, the last time I made this kind of assumption, I said the Twins were done and not making  the playoffs and look what happened there, but this time I’m confident that the Champs will prevail and advance to play Game 1 in Dodger Stadium.  The Dodgers desperately need to avoid getting into a high-scoring affair with the Phillies’ offense, because this plays right into what Philadelphia wants, as it makes it a battle to see which team’s pitching staff blinks first.  The Phillies should have a decided advantage in power and starting pitching, and have to feel like they have the best team remaining in the NL right now with the Cardinals being eliminated.  I struggle to see the Dodgers getting past Philly, but then again, I didn’t see them getting past St. Louis, either.

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