published Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

5 at 10: Braves cling to lead, SEC school in trouble and the Best/Worst of the NFL

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) jumps over the tackle of Atlanta Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards (93) and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) in the second half of an NFL football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. Atlanta won 35-31. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) jumps over the tackle of Atlanta Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards (93) and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) in the second half of an NFL football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. Atlanta won 35-31. (AP Photo/John Amis)

From the "Drunken Moose Studios," here we go...

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    Aaron Rodgers (12) watches from the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers during an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Carolina Panthers 30-23. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

NFL Power Poll

Two weeks into the season, here's where they stand, and remember according to an ESPN report of the 177 teams to start 0-2 since 1990, 22 have made the playoffs. Granted, if Peyton Manning does not return, the Colts will not add to that 22.

Top 5

1) Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers still has the champ's belt, and the Packers are wearing it well. Season-ending injury to safety Nick Collins hurts, though.

2) New England: He's Tom Brady, and you're not. Through two games, Brady leads the league in completions (63), attempts (88), yards (940), touchdowns (7), QB rating (128.0) and spilt ends (0). Dude is money.

3) New York Jets: League's best overall roster. Is it time to say Mark Sanchez is the NFL's version of Stephen Garcia?

4) New Orelans: The league's best one-loss club after dropping the opener at Green Bay in a shootout. As long as Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton are on the same headset connection, the Saints can play with anyone.

5) Detroit: If quarterback Matt Stafford stays healthy, the Lions are going to stay in the race all season. Side note: Detroit is a favorite at Minnesota for the first time ever. (And the Lions play there every season.)

Bottom 5

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    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) scrambles to get away from Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) during an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

28) Carolina: Cam Newton has more than 800 yards passing in his first two games. Heck, that even impressed SportTalk's Dr. B (he's a doctor after all).

29) St. Louis: Lot of talent mixed with some injuries (Steven Jackson needs to come back quickly, and has anyone been worn down by a career of injuries like Cadillac Williams?) and some inexperience equals growing pains. That said Sam Bradford can flat-out play.

30) Minnesota: Not only are the Vikings a home underdog to Detroit, the coach asked the fans for patience in the rebuilding process. After week 2. Ouch.

31) Indianapolis: We were asked last week if Peyton Manning could win the MVP without playing a snap. Can't happen, but a top-five finish looks possible. Either way, Manning's credentials are getting the biggest addition by subtraction in recent memory.

32) Kansas City: Friend of the Show Weena knows some folks who gamble more than a little. (We're not saying that they meet with a counselor, get free coffee and doughnuts and start by saying, "Hi, I'm Weena." "Hi, Weena." But it's close.) One of Weena's rules is riding a streak, for example, he made a little coin riding the Steelers last year on an seven-game streak where they covered every week. Here's saying the reverse is true. Betting against the Chiefs is 2-0 right now, and here's saying Kansas City would have home-field advantage in the losing against the spread playoff race. We'll predict a 13-3 finish against the number.

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    Atlanta Braves' second baseman Dan Uggla, left, puts his arm on the shoulder of relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel, right, after the Braves lost to the Florida Marlins 6-5 on a walk off home run by Omar Infante during a baseball game in Miami, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

It's officially time to fret Johnny Braves Fan

The Braves' lead is 2.5 over the Cardinals and 3.5 over the Giants. It's officially time to be concerned. How did this happen you ask? Simple: Atlanta is 3-7 in its last 10 games; St. Louis and San Fran are 8-2.

And the consternation really is more about the way the Braves are losing games than the games lost off what once seemed to be a comfortable lead in the wildcard race.

Last night in a disastrous 6-5 loss to Florida, Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel was touched up for a game-winning walk-off homer by Omar Infante. That was after Chipper Jones lost a grounder in the lights — Yes, you read that right — to extend the inning. Oy vey. It was the second consecutive loss and the second time in two days that the Braves' once untouchable bullpen was roughed up.

Playoffs aside, if the Braves bullpen does return to its previously awesome state, even if they make the playoffs, they won't be around for long.

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    Drivers who made NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship pose for photos early Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in Richmond, Va. From left in front are Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. From left at top are Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. (AP Photo/Clem Britt)


OK, let's get this straight: After the first of 10 "playoff races" Dale Jr. is fifth in points and has not won a race Cup since W was still in office. Heck, Junior has led all of 50 laps for crying out loud. All season. FIFTY. Who is he chasing in the points, the pace car.

Earnhardt's finished third at Chicago, where Tony Stewart pulled out some magic from his glovebox and took his first checkered flag of the season. Stewart, the last man not named Jimmie Johnson to win the NASCAR season points title, is in second, seven points behind Kevin Harvick, in the standings.

With this season's new rules (NASCAR would never "tweak" the rules, would they?), the jumbled mass at the top of the points standings is as certain as the late race Big One at Talladega. It's going to happen, and whoever emerges relatively unscathed will win the whole thing.

Which means take heart Junior fans. Your driver could become the first star/team in modern sports history to win a championship without ever winning anything.

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    South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, foreground, throws a pass to South Carolina tight end Rory Anderson to set up a field goal to give the Gamecocks the lead at the end of the second quarter of their NCAA college football game against Navy, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, at Williams-Brice Stadium, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Brett Flashnick)

This and that

— Did you see that South Carolina was sent an official NCAA notice of allegations that centered on the players staying in a Columbia hotel for a cut rate and included the dreaded "Failure to monitor" verbage? What's the over/under timetable down there on Spurrier? With Lattimore approaching the halfway point of his college career — and if you think that dude is not turning pro after three seasons, well, then you're not thinking — the NCAA looking around and Spurrier approaching his 67th birthday in April, how long before the Ol' Ball Coach hangs up the visor?

— Texas and Oklahoma have been cleared for take-off in the conference expansion race that is part "Let's Make a Deal," part "Musical Chairs."

— Hats off to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees closer that set the all-time MLB record with his 602nd career save Monday night. That's an amazing total and an amazing career for a guy who really had just one pitch. (Yes, it as an amazing pitch, but still it's the only pitch he throws.) What say you BISpy and Eljefe, does mark even get a golf clap from the He-Man-Yankees-Haters Club?

— During the first half of Sunday night's Falcons game, NBC played a short clip of NFL rookie Julio Jones during his pre-game toss around. ((CLICK HERE)) and ask yourself if Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has given a second thought to his critics for moving up to get the rookie wideout.

Today's question

The Big East and the Big 12 are discussion a possible merger. With Texas and Oklahoma standing at the end of the diving board waiting to cannon ball into the Pac 12, 14, 16 or even 36, the Big 12 is cooked. With the best dual-sport programs (Syracuse, Pitt and even UConn) bolting the Big East for the ACC, the Big East is looking at a basketball-only future.

So a merger could possibly give the other schools a conference seat when the realignment music stops. While the basketball could be salvaged (adding Kansas and Missouri softens the blow of losing Pitt and the 'Cuse) the football would be G-R-O-S-S. Wow, we can hardly wait for that long-standing, always-bloody, always-bitter Iowa State-Rutgers showdown. Plus, in the future of mega-conferences, the only beneift of having a conference is going to be TV money and that is based on football. (Basketball TV deals are not as lucrative and the big basketball TV deal is March Madness, and that's negotiated by the NCAA as one whole group. And that's the main reason college presidents do not want a major college football playoff. Period.)

But today's question, if the Big East also-rans and Big 12's lesser half merge, what do we call it? The Big Least? The Big Leftovers? The Dreary Dozen?


about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
patrickd said...

Rivera's 602 mark now puts him just in front of Bo Jackson on the Best Athlete All-Time list. This of course is only my opinion. Congrats Mariano!

September 20, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.
eljefe said...

I am certainly impressed with Rivera. I will say I mostly respect him because he plays the game the right way. I have seen him on numerous occasions speaking to younger pitchers. He offers them guidance and instruction. Every time you see him at an All Star Game or some other multi-team event you recognize how much everyone seems to like him. That's good enough for me. It also helps that despite his dominance the Red Sox have the best record against him. If only he didn't play for those evil jackwagons ...

September 20, 2011 at 10:52 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

Panic? You want panic?

Trying being a Red Sox AND a Braves fan. Right now.

September 20, 2011 at 10:57 a.m.
kburgess1013 said...

Can't we just call them Division 2-A?

September 20, 2011 at 12:57 p.m.
jgreeson said...

P-Davi —

Even though tone does not translate into typed words, something tells us you're being a TOUCH sarcastic. Just a hunch.

Jefe —

Your true grace as a sports fan never ceases to amaze. Although we know for you that does not carry over to Yankees who have success against the BoSox, all Lakers, anyone that has ever worn an Alabama uniform or any person who does not believe "Side Out" was robbed during the Oscar nomination procedures in the early-1990s. Alas.

Spy —

That's a lot of hang wringing right there. And nothing leads to more chapped hands than the "-er months."

KBurg —

We like Division 2-A. A lot. Well played indeed.

Maybe even with a tweak of Conference 12-A or Medium 12-A (it's not just a shoe size anymore).

— 5-at-10

September 20, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
chas9 said...

"Let's Make a Deal" and "Musical Chairs" is good, but you might wanna add in a third parent, "Survivor," with the coalitions, back-stabbing, posturing for the cameras, and voting people on and off the island. Yes, Julio's grab was awesome. Anytime the Falcs cross the 50, just send him to the endline, and fling it high. Real high. For the Big 12 Least remnants, following the Big 10/12's horrible "Legends and Leaders" example, how about calling them "Losers and No-account Boozers"? And the Bravos seem determined to flip their 1993 late season streak from 9 games behind to edge the Giants.

September 20, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Yogi and Boo Boo came by but I told them it wasn't picnic time. It was panic time.

Then I told the poachers where to find them. Yes, I'm just that mean.

September 20, 2011 at 2:55 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Strong post, and we wish we had included "Survivor," because this is an elimination type event.

Legends and Leaders ---------->Nuts and Bolts -----> Losers and No-account Boozers (although that describes a lot of SEC tailgates we've been to as well) -------> Dazed and Confused ---------->Hall and Oates ----------->Why don't you stop talking for a while, huh 5-at-10? Good idea.

Spy —

Seriously, you turned Yogi and Boo Boo over to the poachers? Wow. And if we mention dolphin, are you going to say, "Mmmmm, tastes like chicken," too?

For shame, for shame.

September 20, 2011 at 3:14 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Come on, big fella, you know Flipper makes a nice mahi mahi sammich.

Am I the only one completely disinterested in all this conference expansion/eradication hoo-ha? It has not one iota of effect on me on Saturday afternoons. If, however, it eliminates the great cross-section games, particularly those we saw last Saturday with Auburn-Clemson, OU-FSU, THE Ohio Cheat University and The P (for Probation), then yeah, I may get a little irked. (Irked with an I, not an E. Dadgumit. Thinking about Erk just makes it all dusty in here again. Where was I?)

One good thing that may come from all this — maybe it puts the I-A college football world one step closer to a true playoff system. Or even a half-tailed playoff system, as opposed to the one-eighth tailed system we have now.

September 20, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.
chas9 said...

You mean it's not Haulin' Oats? And are you gonna tell me there's not a bathroom on the right?

September 20, 2011 at 4:02 p.m.
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