Monday, October 17, 2005
NFL "Expert" Picks
Good morning! If you're here for the Football Panel's picks, click here.
What a weekend, huh? One baseball Championship Series is over, and the other is a game away from setting up the World Series matchups. The Vikings reached another low. The Gophers found a very unfortunate way to lose, and the Wolves are getting going. There is a lot going on in the world of sports. For Minnesota sports fans, it isn't all going that well, but it is still fun to follow, if you're a sports fan. Today, I will briefly touch on a number of topics, from baseball, football, basketball and even a very little hockey. You can see how our football picks went as well.
Be sure to stop by throughout the week as I have a few very good postings that I am excited to share with you. Tomorrow, I will post another fun Question and Answer segment. You'll want to see who was kind enough to answer more of my questions. Then on Wednesday, I will be posting. I just couldn't stay away from writing, I guess. But actually, it won't be much of my writing. I have another Why Baseball article written by a baseball fan. I think it is absolutely incredible. If I didn't, I probably would have just waited until next week to post it. Hopefully it will create plenty of discussion for you and maybe you will want to participate once in this series. Thursday, as you recall, we have a Minor League posting by "Roger" that is very interesting. Remember in his Why Baseball article, he briefly discussed a method he has developed to rank the Twins minor leaguers. Well, on Thursday, he will share with us his formula as well as the results using all of the pitchers in the Twins system. And of course on Friday I will be back with plenty of thoughts as well as our Week 7 "Expert" Picks. I hope you'll stop by and I hope you'll feel the need to e-mail me and say hi or let me know what you think of what is on the site.
So, there you have a look ahead to the rest of the week. Now let's get to what happened over the weekend. If you have any thoughts, comments, or ideas for future postings, please let me know. E-mail me.
So, let's get updated quickly on the Major League Baseball playoffs, first with the National League.
The Houston Astros took a 3-1 lead in their best-of-7 series with the St. Louis Cardinals. What do I love about the playoffs? Sure, the 'stars' get much of the publicity either positive or negative. But the playoffs are a short series. The best team does not always win. The best players do not always hit, and the best pitchers sometimes have bad days. Unlikely players become heroes. In the Astros 4-3 win on Saturday, that was the story. Their first two runs came on an opposite field homer by Mike Lamb, who later added a double. Jason Lane drove in the third run with a single. The 28 year old finally got his first shot at an every day job this year and responded with 26 homers and 78 RBI. We all know about the Chris Burke heroics, from his series winning homer against the Braves to a triple and another homer in this series. Fact is, he was a role player throughout the year who is now hitting second for the Astros. Lane went 2-3 with a walk and a home run in Sunday's game. A guy like Brandon Backe can start and give you good innings. The the bullpen guys like Mike Gallo, Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls can get the recognition they deserve.
By the way, the 4-6-3 double play turned in by Eric Bruntlett, Adam Everett and Lance Berkman to end Sunday's game was incredible. How slow must John Mabry be?
There was a game on each day this weekend in the ALCS. Friday and Saturday nights, the White Sox got wins, and on Sunday the Sox claimed their first AL pennant in almost fifty years with their fourth straight win.
I know I'm not saying anything new, but all this 'Small Ball' talk is just disturbing and really frustrating to me! If anyone actually believes that the White Sox won those games because of Small Ball, they are kidding themselves. And Fox, is trying to fool everyone with this jargon too. Maybe these teams aren't the prodigious home run hitting lineups that the Red Sox or Yankees might be, but they are not what we keep being force fed either.
In both Game 3 and Game 4, the recipe for success for the White Sox was the same. Paul Konerko gives them a lead with a home run in the first inning. Then, a complete game win from their starting pitcher. After getting a lead, it's just preserving it. Saturday, they added to the lead with a home from AJ Pierzynski. Sure, they scored runs on singles following advancing of runners, but that is about coming through with runners in scoring position. In Game 5, the Sox did get a couple of runs on singles, but the game clincher was on a two-run double by Konerko. The Sox used extra base hits throughout the series to bunch together some runs.
For the Angels, Vlad Guerrero did his best Alex Rodriguez playoff impersonation. He was 1-20 (.050) in the series. Most at bats, he was one pitch and done. But he wasn't the only Angels hitter to struggle. Looking at the series batting averages for the Angels Game 5 starters is interesting, and certainly not positive for the Angels. Chone Figgins hit .118. Orlando Cabrera hit .200. Garrett Anderson hit .176. Darin Erstad hit .235. Bengie Molina hit .118. Juan Rivera hit .111. Casey Kotchman and Adam Kennedy both hit .286.
Actually, if you look at the White Sox, it isn't much more impressive offensively. Joe Crede was great, hitting .368. Paul Konerko had three or four huge hits, but hit just .286. Tadahito Iguchi, Aaron Rowand and AJ Pierzynski all hit under .200.
But again, what wins in the playoffs? That's right! Pitching wins, and the White Sox got great pitching throughout the series. One thing I do like about Ozzie Guillen is that he is letting his starters go the distance. In Game 1, Jose Contreras took the loss but pitched well and went 8.1 innings. In Game 2, Mark Buehrle got the win with a complete game. Jon Garland threw a complete game shutout in Game 3. Freddy Garcia went the complete game in Game 4. And finally, Contreras went all nine to help clinch the series in Game 5. Sure, the bullpen isn't getting game time, but when your starters can give you those innings and be effective, it doesn't hurt to keep them out there. And they were able to do that with low pitch counts. Contreras threw 102 pitches in Game 1 and 103 pitches in Game 5. Buehrle threw 99 pitches in Game 2 and was ready to go out for the 10th had the game lasted. Garland threw 118 pitches, and Garcia threw 116.
Now the Sox will get some rest as they await the winner of the Astros/Cardinals series.
Any thoughts on the playoffs so far, let me know. E-mail me.
A couple of quick Twins notes heading into the weekend.
I was watching some playoff baseball this weekend, and a thought came to mind. During the Cardinals game, it was mentioned that Larry Walker was leaning toward retirement. I know that someone came up with this idea in their 2006 thoughts, but I fully agree that the Twins should at least make an attempt to sign Walker in the offseason. Try to talk him into a small role with the Twins. I think that he could DH a couple of times a week, and maybe even play in the field once or twice a week. Hopefully, he can stay relatively healthy. But I think that he could be very helpful to the team in a Corey Koskie-like role. He would take quality at bats and be an excellent influence on the rest of the team. He has done so much in the game that he would have to have the player's respect. I also think that he could have a huge impact on Justin Morneau, who happens to be (arguably) the most important player in giving the team hope in 2006. It is worth at least looking into.
I also read the Doug Mientkiewicz and his wife Jodi had their first child, a son reportedly named Steel.
Here is a quick update on the Twins prospects in the Arizona Fall League:
Matt Moses has played in just four games so far. Yankees 3B prospect Eric Duncan has played in eight games. Anyway, Moses is hitting .467/.500/.733. He is 7-15 with a double, a homer and three RBI.
Garrett Jones is playing some 1B and also DHing. In 9 games, he is hitting .303/.395/.697. He is 10-33 with a double, four home runs and 12 RBI.
Denard Span has played in seven games. He is hitting .219/.265/.281 with two doubles and four RBI. He is also 2-3 in stolen base attempts.
Glen Perkins has done a good job. He has made two starts and pitched seven innings. He does not have a decision, but his 1.29 ERA is very impressive considering all of the runs this team has allowed. He has given up six hits, but most impressive thus far is that he has struck out eight and walked just one!
Ricky Barrett has come into three games and thrown four innings. He has no record and a 9.00 ERA. He has walked two and struck out five. He has given up five hits, but two of them are home runs.
Travis Bowyer hasn't pitched much yet. He has only throw in two games and three innings. He has given up seven hits (one homer) and has an ERA of 12.00. However, in three innings, he has struck out six and walked none!
To no one's surprise, the Twins were able to sign OF Jason Tyner to a minor league contract. I do believe that he earned and deserves a shot at a fourth or fifth outfielder job.
Any other Twins thoughts that I should know about, or any comment on any of these... let me know, send me an e-mail.
First things first, I just have to ask if anyone noticed my Vikings Prediction last week. In this section, I predicted that the Vikings would win 34-13. However, in my actual "Expert" picks, I picked the Bears. That was intentional. First, to see how many paid attention (And yes, a number did!), and second, because I think it was a game that could have gone either way really. The Vikings could have used their week to really turn their focus 100% to football, or the distractions could have totally been running through their heads. So, what happened?
We have talked previously here about how this has been a season of disappointment for Minnesota pro sports fans. Many thought the Twins might be a World Series caliber team because of their pitching staff, but they had no offense so they didn't even make the playoffs. The Timberwolves had NBA Finals expectations and a nearly identical team returning and problems persisted the entire season and the team did not even make the playoffs.
And now, the Vikings are doing it to us. I'm just as guilty. I saw the additions on the defense, and figured that the offense would be nearly as good, even without Randy Moss because they were just fine in games he missed last season. But this start for the Vikings has been really pathetic and disappointing. The Timberwolves, although disappointing, still finished above .500 on the season. The Twins, although disappointing to some, still finished above .500. We went into this season thinking that the Vikings could be one of the top three or four teams in the entire NFL. Well, with their 28-3 loss to the Bears, it is pretty certain that the Vikings are one of the bottom two or three teams in the entire NFL. Who knows, they may just be the worst!
And it goes to the players too. Like Kevin Garnett, Daunte Culpepper was considered a preseason MVP candidate. Unlike KG, who still played at a very high level, Culpepper has looked incredibly pedestrian this year. Make that a pedestrian with his shoelaces untied who keeps tripping over himself. Yesterday was a low for him. He threw three more interceptions, but that only tells part of the story. He short-hopped a number of receivers, and then overthrew some wide open ones! Normally in a game, a number of incomplete passes can be attributed to receivers drops, but not this game. Incompletes yesterday were the fault of Culpepper. Actually, the offensive line did well for him in giving him time to make throws. Yes, they had way too many holding penalties and false starts, but Culpepper had plenty of time. And the running game was working well behind Mewelde Moore. But it isn't like the passes were even difficult. Most of the passes were of the short variety. I completely do not understand why Culpepper was not replaced in this game, in the second half, by Brad Johnson. I'm not saying Johnson would have won the game, or maybe even played better. I'm not saying that there should be a quarterback controversy. But I do think that Culpepper needs to take a step back and see the game from a different angle. And I also think that he needs to understand that he will no longer be just given everything. He needs to know that he can be replaced. I read a rumor yesterday that said that if Culpepper was bad yesterday, there was a chance that he could be traded to Denny Green's Arizona Cardinals. Now, I don't believe that at all, as I didn't believe the same thing about Michael Bennett. But he does need a little spark under him!
To the game, the Vikings far outplayed the Bears most of the first half. They won the time of possession battle. They were able to move down the field with relative ease. A couple of botched field goal attempts really hurt them. And then late in the first half, the defense just stopped playing, and they made rookie Kyle Orton look good.
Honestly, this may not be fair, but it just doesn't look like this team is playing with any fire. Sure, Jermaine Wiggins makes plays. Yes, Mewelde Moore runs hard and plays the game the right way. Keith Newman continues to impress me. But name other players where it just looks like they are having a good time and giving 100% effort. That is what is frustrating.
I don't know what the answer is for this. Is it a coaching change? I think that Mike Tice's time should be over, but I really don't think that this week is the right time. I can't blame Tice for the distractions that the players game the team this week.
By the way, did you see in the Saturday Tribune article that named some names? I found it very curious. First, we are told that 17-20 Vikings were on the boat. We had previously heard that Fred Smoot had purchased one of the boats with a credit card, something he is denying. We heard Mewelde Moore admitting that he was on a boat. The Tribune listed twelve names on Saturday, and that is what is curious. They were obviously comfortable now naming those players by name. Were they still uncertain of the other five or so? They have the names of all 17-20, so why name just the twelve. My other concern with who was named is that all of these players were black. I sincerely hope that race does not play a factor in which names were mentioned. That would make a horrible story even worse. The players named were Smoot, Moore, Daunte Culpepper, Kevin Williams, Moe Williams, Troy Williamson, Nate Burleson, Travis Taylor, Koren Robinson, Jermaine Wiggins, Ralph Brown, Darren Sharper and Bryant McKinnie. Rumor has it that McKinney may have orchestrated the ladies being in attendance.
Any thoughts on the Vikings, the Bears, this game or anything, just e-mail me.
Gophers Football - Did you happen to watch this game, particularly the way it ended? I don't know if I've ever really seen anything like that. The Gophers had played well against Wisconsin in the border battle. With about 35 seconds to go, they had a three point lead, and a fourth down situation which called for a punt. The snap was a little low, but still good. The freshman punter dropped the ball and then panicked. He tried to punt it, but it was blocked and recovered in the end zone by a Badger for a touchdown. With the extra-point kick, the Badgers had a four point lead. On the kickoff, the Gophers returner fumbled and the game was effectively over.
So, what should the punter have done? Well, it is obviously easy to know now, not in that situation. But it would have been best if he had picked up the ball after the fumble and either run into the end zone (if he felt he could get there) or throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. Either situation would have resulted in a safety. The Gophers would still have a one point lead, and could have had a free kick, putting the Gophers in a good position to hold on for the win.
But that isn't what happens, and really, isn't that the beauty of college athletics? We always hear the saying about seeing something we have never seen before. A lot of those situations happen in college because you're dealing with younger people. For once, it is really impossible to blame coach Glen Mason for this loss. It is also hard to blame a kid for a reaction play. Really, it is a game where little blame can be given out for the ending. I guess the best thing to say is, If they wouldn't have given up 31 points to that point, it wouldn't have mattered.
The Gophers running game is incredible. Laurence Maroney rushed 43 times for 258 yards and a 93 yard touchdown run! Gary Russell then got 19 carries for 139 yards and two TDs (1 and 39 yards). Russell has 10 TDs on the year, five games with two touchdowns.
- By the way, did you see that former Gophers RB Marion Barber III rushed 11 times for 30 yards yesterday for the Dallas Cowboys. His brother, Dominique, is a defensive back for the Gophers. He had a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown on Saturday, but it was called back because of a penalty on the Gophers.
Gophers Hockey - I was planning on writing all kinds of positive things about the #1 ranked Gophers hockey team. They have great freshmen in Phil Kessel (who is expected to be the #1 overall pick in next year's NHL draft), Jeff Frazee and Blake Wheeler (the third overall pick in this year's draft) to go with an already solid team. And then on Friday night, they lost in overtime to Alaska-Fairbanks at Mariucci. And on Saturday, the two teams tied. That isn't good. This is a team that the Gophers should have dominated, but it didn't happen. That said, it's very early in the season and line mates need time to figure things out and note each other's tendencies. They have good goal keeping and plenty of offensive firepower that by season's end, I would expect them to play a big role in the NCAA Championship.
Any thoughts on Gophers sports or anything about college football? (by the way, did you see the incredible ending of that USC/Notre Dame game? Amazing!) E-mail me.
Last night, Flip Saunders coached for the first time against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a preseason game. His Detroit Pistons topped the Wolves 91-80. Saunders takes over a Pistons team that Larry Brown left after the season. It is a talented team that includes Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace. I happen to think that the worst thing that happened to the Wolves last year was when Kevin McHale decided to fire Saunders although it was McHale himself that put together such a poor thing.
But that is in the past. The Wolves new head coach is Dwayne Casey. I admit that when he was hired, I knew very little about him. He was an assistant in Seattle and is highly thought of. I have now heard him in extended interviews a couple of times and I really like what I hear. I think that he will bring a completely new style to the Timberwolves which may be exactly what they need. After last season's disappointment, the players should be ready for mass changes.
As always, Kevin Garnett will be the man on the team. KG is the best overall player in the NBA, that is almost a certain. But what will he have around him? Well, a few guys are returning. Wally Szczerbiak needs to start and play a lot of minutes. There was not much more frustrating last year when such a great shooter would only get five to eight shots a game. He needs to get more shots! Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson and Michael Olowokandi are back. Hassell was a disappointment last year as he didn't even do the little bit that we knew he could, which is play great defense. Hudson never did play any defense, and last year, he never got on one of his streaks where he couldn't miss. Kandi, well, we can all hold on to the knowledge that he is in his contract year, and if he wants to stay in the league, he had better do something. Eddie Griffin spent some time in jail this offseason, but he is back and hopefully dedicated to playing basketball. Mark Madsen is back. I know he doesn't do much statistically, but the team always seems to draw off of his enthusiasm and plays better when he is in the game! Hopefully he can stay healthy this year! Ndudi Ebi is back, but he isn't even playing much in training camp. My guess is he'll have another mysterious injury this year.
There are also players new to the team. The Wolves sent Sam Cassell packing in a deal to the Clippers in which the Wolves got Marco Jaric. Jaric will likely start. He has point guard skills but I would compare him to Jalen Rose or Toni Kukoc in that he could probably play four positions. Nicholai Tskitishvili signed with the team as a free agent. He was a high lottery pick just a couple of years ago by the Nuggets. He has played very little, but he does have a lot of skill. Can he put it together? We'll see. I would compare him probably to Vladmir Radmanovich potentially. Richie Frahm was brought in to take the place of Fred Hoiberg, a shooter from the outside. The Gonzaga grad will be with his third NBA team in three years. Duane Jones signed as a free agent after playing overseas the last couple of years. He is a big man who the team likely hopes can spell, if not push, Kandi Man. Lionel Chalmers came to the Wolves with Jaric in the Cassell trade. The point guard got into 34 games last year for the Clippers.
There are the standard young guys brought in each year getting some minutes in camp. Rashad McCants was the team's first round pick. The U of North Carolina product came with plenty of baggage, but we do know that he can score. But the question is if he will play any defense. Second round pick Bracey Wright from Indiana has played a little in camp. Ryan Humphrey from Notre Dame and John Lucas, Jr. of Oklahoma State, are rookie free agents in camp, trying to latch on. These guys may be candidates to spend much of the season at the Wolves minor league affiliate in Naples, Florida. The Wolves share a co-op team with players from the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. The Wolves can allocate two players at a time to this team, and a player can only be sent up and down three times in a year.
The Wolves are 0-3 so far in the preseason. They will play five more preseason games before opening the season on November 2nd against the Portland Trailblazers.
Sad Note - I'm sure you read or saw the news about Atlanta Hawks center Jason Collier? The 7-0 center passed away of an apparent heart attack at his home in Atlanta early on Saturday morning. His wife tried to perform CPR, but Collier died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Things like this remind us that anything can happen to anyone and any time! Collier was an NBA player. At 7-0 and 260 pounds, he was in great shape. Our condolences certainly go out to his family (his wife and one-year old daughter) and friends and the Hawks team!
Any thoughts on the Wolves, e-mail me.
What a week for our panelists! Everyone got at least eight right and nine of the twelve got at least ten correct! But we already know our winners for Week 6. We have another tie. Both Cory Hepola and The Twins Junkie, Trevor Born, will win. Both have 11 correct and all 12 of us picked the Colts to win tonight so there will be no changes in the standings. Here are our Week 6 picks. (You can see the standings through Sunday's games by checking out the NFL "Expert" Picks page here.)
Seth Stohs Stick & Ball Guy Ben Jacobs Aaron Gleeman Grant Balfour Kevin Slowey SethSpeaks.net Stick & Ball Guy Hardball Times Aaron's BB Blog Minnesota Twins Pitcher Twins Pitching Prospect Atlanta @ New Orleans Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Cincinnati @ Tennessee Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers Jaguars Steelers Steelers Steelers by 14 Minnesota @ Chicago Bears Bears Vikings Vikings Bears Bears Washington @ Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs NY Jets @ Buffalo Bills Bills Bills Bills Bills Bills Houston @ Seattle Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Carolina @ Detroit Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Lions Lions Cleveland @ Baltimore Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Browns Ravens Miami @ Tampa Bay Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Dolphins Dolphins NY Giants @ Dallas Giants Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys New England @ Denver Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Broncos San Diego @ Oakland Chargers Raiders Raiders Chargers Chargers Chargers St. Louis @ Indianapolis Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts
Will Young Trevor Born Brent Hanson Cory Hepola Mike Brasel Melissa Lien Will's Twins Weblog Twins Junkie BrentNet KTVH-TV Fantasy FB Guru SethSpeaks.net Atlanta @ New Orleans Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Cincinnati @ Tennessee Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers Minnesota @ Chicago Bears Bears Vikings Bears Bears Vikings Washington @ Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs NY Jets @ Buffalo Bills Bills Bills Bills Bills Jets Houston @ Seattle Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Carolina @ Detroit Panthers Lions Panthers Panthers Lions Panthers Cleveland @ Baltimore Browns Ravens Browns Ravens Ravens Ravens Miami @ Tampa Bay Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs NY Giants @ Dallas Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys New England @ Denver Patriots Broncos Patriots Patriots Broncos Patriots San Diego @ Oakland Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Raiders Chargers St. Louis @ Indianapolis Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts
Looking at the selections of the 12 panelists, here is who the collective "We" think will win each game:
Atlanta @ New Orleans - Falcons 12-0
Cincinnati @ Tennessee - Bengals 12-0
Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh - Steelers 11-1
Minnesota @ Chicago - Bears 8-4
Washington @ Kansas City - Chiefs 12-0
NY Jets @ Buffalo - Bills 11-1
Houston @ Seattle - Seahawks 12-0
Carolina @ Detroit - Panthers 8-4
Cleveland @ Baltimore - Ravens 9-3
Miami @ Tampa Bay - Buccs 10-2
NY Giants @ Dallas - Cowboys 11-1
New England @ Denver - Patriots 10-2
San Diego @ Oakland - Chargers 9-3
St. Louis @ Indianapolis - Colts 12-0
That is it for me for today and for this week. I hope that everyone has themselves a great weekend! If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.
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