Friday, October 19, 2007

ALCS Game 5 Recap/NFL Week 7/College Week 8 Predictions

"I'm shipping up to Boston."

Well, that was a relief, and who would have thought before the series that C.C. Sabathia would be a welcomed sight for the Sox. Despite more umpiring blunders, the Sox were able to get 10 hits off the slightly larger than life lefty, scored four earned off of him, and were able to get enough of a cushion for the wunderkind, Josh Beckett, to be able to breathe a little easier (unlike myself), and once again shut down the Cleveland offense, who has been able to get the timely bloop hit, random Sox infielder deflection, then a three-run homer basically all series long. While they did get the first two (by the way, after watching Lugo botch so many plays in the infield and swing at so many pitches off the plate, is there anyone left on this planet that is thinking that dumping Cabrera three years ago was a solid move? you not see the continuing digression going on?...and also, when they had a good shortstop (Alex Gonzalez), they signed him for one year, but when they got two inferior players (maybe it's just me, but I think Gonzalez is better than Renteria despite his resurgence in Atlanta...I'm talking better in terms of playing in Boston), the Sox signed them to four year deals...sort of interesting I guess), Beckett was able to stop any hint of bleeding that was impending, and was dominant over eight innings. Then, in probably the best move he's made all postseason, Francona put in Papelbon in the ninth, despite being up six runs, purely for the fact that if he allowed any of the "scrub" relievers to come in (Lopez or Gagne...for right now, Gagne is a scrub...I still haven't completely given up on him because of how good he has been in recent history, with "recent" meaning the first half of this season, but he has been tremendously awful since dawning the Sox uniform...thus, scrub), then they probably would have given up two or three runs, and driven down the Sox confidence in their bullpen, which was already pretty low to begin with.

In any event, scoring first was absolutely pivotal, with Youk hitting a solo shot in the first. After the Tribe had scored first in each of the first four games, it was nice to be on top in the early going for once. After Ramirez hit that "single" in the third, I got flashbacks to Game 6 of the ALCS, the last time in a Sox playoff game that the umpires huddled up to make a key decision to affect the outcome. I determined to myself that if we got the call, the Indians would have no shot, and if it was upheld, we would be in trouble. It was upheld...but the Sox were able to put a run up on the board, and no one was called out on the play, so it wasn't completely horrible. Still, the Sox do not need anymore blown calls going against them...they need blown calls for them...they definitely still need a lot of luck if they are going to pull this one off. Fortunately, for whatever reason, Kenny Lofton decided it would be in his best interest to go after Beckett after, apparently, Beckett trash-talked him as he flew out to left. While this wasn't exactly A-Rod-Varitek game-changing, it did halt any kind of momentum the Tribe may have ever gotten, especially considering that Beckett barely blinked while Lofton came out and started screaming at him. I have to say, in a fight, I have Beckett winning in a second round TKO, and the only reason the fight would go on that long would be because Lofton would dance around most of the first round...but he's 40...he'll get tired, and then it's all over. What is interesting is that Cleveland's "hero" was reduced to nothing more than a crybaby who only motivated a pitcher who was already mowing the Indians down. The hero for the Red Sox, Manny, doesn't let anything bother him anymore. Remember in 2003 when he went off on Clemens purely to start a fight even though the pitch he went off about wasn't really that close to hitting him? I just don't see that kind of thing happening. In my opinion, you want to keep Manny away from as many details as possible, like who's pitching, who's winning, where they're playing, that kind of stuff. This guy is perfect for the postseason, because any kind of pressure just slides right off of him...because really, what does he have to prove? He has a ring, and was the MVP of that series, now he has the record for the longest hitting streak ever in the LCS (he either has it, or he's tied with Pete Rose, one of the two)...he's done pretty much everything a baseball player can do for their career. He's a first-ballot hall-of-famer, and probably has another four or five good years left, so he really doesn't have anything to worry about. Considering all the members of Red Sox Nation (including myself) can do is freak out about every little thing this team does, it's nice to see a guy who just doesn't care about what the situation is, or how much of a pressure cooker one at-bat will be. Rather, he goes up to bat and out in the field with the same aloof, fun-loving attitude that has both won him love and ridicule from all kinds of baseball fans. So, it's onto Game 6...anyone recall how Schilling did the last time he pitched in a Game 6?


Ok, onto predictions...ok I was horrible last week. I will be the first to admit that I took a turn for the worse, at least for straight up predictions. Then, two QB injuries killed me in the NFL (Young and Warner). Oh well, I did well ATS, so for those of you in foreign countries where gambling is not "illegal," I hope some of those picks helped you out. In any event, it's back to the grindstone. Also, I'm going to make the explanations quicker, because looking back at the time when I had to rush to go drink a ton of beer at Oktoberfest, I did really well. Also, if I mention the words "will kick the crap out of," I tend to lose. So, onward and upward...

First, once again, I should have thrown out a Thursday night pick, because I once again saw it coming. Good for Rutgers, good for BC, good for USC...and the Bruins won again...what a night!

USC vs. Vanderbilt:
4-0 ATS in the SEC. Interestingly, the Cocks play Vandy tougher on the road than they do at Williams-Brice. Oh well. Go Cocks! (W, -13).

Tennessee vs. Alabama: The last time these two played in Tuscaloosa, the score was 6-3 tide...yikes. While I don't think it will be quite that low-scoring, I do know that Tennessee has played three road games, two of whom were quality opponents, like 'Bama will be, and they got run in both. Roll Tide (W, +1).

Texas Tech vs. Missouri: Tech is coming off a huge win over A&M, while Mizzou was very impressive against Oklahoma at Norman. Now, these two will face each other at Mizzou, where the Tigers have been dominant at home, while Tech has the #1 passing offense and scoring offense in the country. This will not be one for the fans of defense. Mizzou has won their last two meetings, hopefully they can make it a third. Mizzou (W, -3).

Miami vs. Florida St.: Despite the fact that Florida St. is probably the better team, these teams play each other so close each year that there's no way I can pick FSU ATS in this one. I think it will come down to a field it always does. Florida St. (W) and Miami (+6.5).

Auburn vs. LSU:
Again, this is one of those games that seems to always be close. Auburn has won four in a row, and can clearly play well in hostile environments...just ask the Florida Gators. LSU (W), Auburn (+11.5).

Southern Cal vs. Notre Dame: This is not your big brother of two years' Southern Cal team. No, this one is actually just not so good. Booty may return, but watch out, ND is starting a new QB, their third, and have covered three in a row. Southern Cal (W), Notre Dame (+20).

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss: Sometimes, you really have no explanation of why you like a game. This happens to be one of them. I guess my reasoning is that when playing at The Grove, Ole Miss is extremely difficult to play against...again, ask the Florida Gators. 'Bama barely snuck out with a win last week, and eventually, the cookie will crumble. Also, the Hogs have played one, count 'em, one away game, I'll take the Rebs (W, +6).

Michigan St. vs. Ohio St.: When the dust finally settled from last week, the Buckeyes became the #1 team in the country. The Spartans have been able to hang in there for most of the year, bouncing back from a crusher against Northwestern to beat up on Indiana. I like the way MSU plays at Columbus as well, so I'll split the difference. Ohio St. (W), Michigan St. (+19).

Wake Forest vs. Navy: Really, it comes down to Navy's run game vs. Wake's defense. The Deacons have had success stopping the run so far this year, and have won four in a row. Navy has won three in a row themselves, including a wild one last week at Pitt. Wake has played their last five on grass, with their only loss coming at home to Nebraska...when they were a field goal. Wake (W, -3).

Last Week: SU: 4-6, ATS: 6-4
Season: SU: 34-22, ATS: 30-23-3

New England vs. Miami:
Of course I'm going with the Pats here, but seriously, it will be interesting to see how this game plays out. Miami won 21-0 at Dolphin Stadium last year, and they did put up 35 last week. The problem is that, despite going 12-4 last year, the Pats are a team that is on another planet compared to last year. Still though, the Pats have so many injuries going into the game that I'm feeling like they will be sitting a bunch of their starters, meaning that Miami will be able to hang around in this one. Pats (W), Miami (+16.5).

Arizona vs. Washington: So the status of Warner is up in the air, and I have to say that, given what happened against Carolina, the Cardinals are going to be in trouble against the 'Skins. Also, the 'Skins defense is really, really good, and I would like to see a good performance from Chris Cooley, who resides on every single fantasy team I have (him, Brady, Kitna, and Gostkowski). Redskins (W, -7).

Atlanta vs. New Orleans: I would personally like to thank the Saints for showing up last week and killing my pick of the enigmatic Seahawks. So, are they back? I know who isn't, and that's the Falcons, who now go into full-on Byron Leftwich mode after getting crushed by the G-Men at home. The Saints have won three straight ATS against Atlanta in the Superdome...why change a good thing? Saints (W, -7.5).

Baltimore vs. Buffalo: A battle of two former Pac-10 quarterbacks who were on the bench to start the season. The Ravens, despite being 4-2, are 1-5 ATS. That's an indication that people are giving them way too much credit. Buffalo is also 3-0 ATS while being at home and 'dogged, losing all of those games straight up, but only by a combined five points. I'll take Buffalo (W, +3).

Minnesota vs. Dallas: Despite leading the league in rushing, the Vikings are content to stick with Adrian Peterson as their #2 back. You know, I like their thinking. Keep Peterson fresh and let Chester Taylor pound out yards, eventually wear himself out, and make the Peterson transition a lot smoother. Dallas got blown out by you know who last week, and have not looked good in their last two games. Good luck running on this defense too. With Minnesota having a win and two pushes on the road, I'll take Dallas to win (W), but the Vikings to cover (+10.5).

San Francisco vs. New York: Well, I can say this: Thank goodness the Niners are losing. Going into this year, this was everyone's "sexy" pick to win the NFC West. Now, after three losses, it's looking like they are going nowhere fast. The Giants are basically doing what they did last year, which is start off real hot, and what's going to happen is that they'll come down to Earth sometime soon. However, I don't think it will be this week. G-Men (W, -9.5).

Tampa Bay vs. Detroit: The two former Lions backups square off, as the two guys they were #2 to (Josh McCown and Joey Harrington) are now riding the pine in their respective locales. What's nice is that because Detriot got demolished by Washington two weeks ago, they get a handicap of about six points in this one. After a bye, Calvin Johnson should be back to full health, and Tampa still has no running game, even though they barely snuck out a win against the Vince Young-less Titans. Lions (W, -2).

Tennessee vs. Houston:
I hope Vince Young plays in this one, because if he does, it should be another epic like the game last year, when Young made his improbable TD run in OT to give the Titans the W. The last three contests have been decided by six or less. This game is off the boards at most places because Young's presence is a three point mover. Andre Johnson for Houston is another game-time decision. This is probably one of the biggest unknown games you may ever see. Who's healthy? Who isn't? I'll take the Texans (W, +1.5).

Kansas City vs. Oakland: All the money in this game is being tossed on the Chiefs after their win against the Bungles last week (they have officially stepped back into "Bungle" mode too by the way). Oakland has lost there last three meetings at home to KC. Also, Oakland is 0-2 ATS at home this year. I'll go KC (+3).

New York vs. Cincinnati: I feel like Ty in Caddyshack when Carl asks him how he likes his place with this game. "It's really...really awful." Wow. Well, let's see. Rudi Johnson may not be able to go again, but the drive to play Kellen Clemens will come up short for another week. I have to go with the Bungles (W, -6).

Chicago vs. Philadelphia: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the NFC. Just when it looked like the Bears were on the right track after beating Green Bay, Adrian Peterson goes for over 200 on the ground in their loss at home against the Vikes. Given how well the NFC East has played the NFC North (especially the Lions getting absolutely beaten down by Philly and Washington), I'll go with the Eagles and Brian Westbrook (W, -5).

St. Louis vs. Seattle: For the second straight week, the Seahawks will take on a winless team at home. Seattle will be without Deion Branch again, and the Rams will still be without Steven Jackson, but will get Marc Bulger back, meaning that this game is a little bit harder to predict now. Seattle has won the last three, but the last two have been by a combined five points. If Seattle loses this game, the NFC West could officially be the worst division in sports history. So, I'm hoping Seattle gets their act together. Seattle (W), and the Rams to cover (+8.5).

Pittsburgh vs. Denver: This one is almost too good to be true, which means that my pick is in trouble here. The Steelers are 4-1 ATS and have won the last two ATS at Denver. They also are coming off a bye, and will get Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, and Casey Hampton back. Denver, meanwhile, has looked downright awful, going 0-5 ATS this season. They too are coming off a bye, but still will not be able to get Javon Walker back. Again, this is too good to be true. Pittsburgh (W, -3.5).

Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: Despite all the hype for the "Duel in Dallas," this could become the game of the year thus far in the NFL. The Jags just crushed a Texans team that usually plays them tough 37-17 last week, while Indy, who is 5-0, was on a bye. To say I love Jacksonville in this game is an understatement. The Colts are 2-0 in the division, but have only won by a combined eight points in those games, while winning their other three by a combined 68 points. Give me the home 'dog (W, +3.5).

Last Week: SU: 8-5, ATS: 7-4-2
Season: SU: 59-30, ATS: 49-31-9

The Pats Insider preview will be up soon. Have a great weekend everyone. Go Sox! Peace.


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