NFL Power Poll
We are a quarter turn into the NFL season and what do we really know?
We know there are two great quarterbacks in the league, in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and in turn they lead great offenses. We know the Kansas City Chiefs have a bevy of playmakers and because of that have allowed Andy Reid to open up a playbook for the best team in the NFL. Yes, we in such a crazy space that the Chiefs are a) the league's most complete team, b) the league's only unbeaten team, and c) still quarterbacked by Alex Smith. We know that a defensive front four that can create pressure without blitzing has become the league's most valuable commodity, right there with elite quarterback play. In fact there are more teams with pressure-generating defensive lines (no fewer than 5 with the Chiefs, Broncos, Bills, Rams and Redskins, and the surprise Jaguars right there too) and all of them are relying on that trait to overcome other short-comings. Look at that list of six teams, all are 2-2 or better, and they are a combined 17-7 with the less than inspiring law firm of Smith, Siemian, Taylor, Goff, Cousins and Bortles taking snaps.
Finally, the biggest variable that can not be quantified or overstated is injuries. Look around the league and every team holds their breath every Sunday. The fortunes of the Vikings have changed from contender to complete unknown because Dalvin Cook tore his ACL. The Raiders went from championship-caliber to wondering if they can hold on through the next month or so and still be in the chase for a playoff spot as Derek Carr heals his cracked back. A season with Everest-high hopes has every Johnny Titans Fan from Humboldt to Honolulu holding their heaves for a hamstring highlights. Atlanta's offense without Julio Jones looked anemic.
The best laid plans of coach and team are that fragile friends.
1. Kansas City. Impressive wins over the Patriots and last night over the Redskins make the lone unbeaten an easy choice. And while we can talk about the rejuvenated offense that added life in the last two drafts with mid-to-late-round selections of Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt or whether or not the defense has started to feel the season-long absence of Eric Berry. Instead, we want to discuss the worst against-the-spread beat in recent memory. Consider the following: Chiefs were laying a full 7 last night with the over/under sitting at 48. Kansas City drives 50 yards in 43 seconds for a field goal to take a 23-20 lead with 0:04 on the clock. On final snap the Redskins try the crazy, throw-it-around, lateral play and the ball ends up on the ground to be scooped up by Justin Houston, who returns it 12 yards for a meaningless touchdown that means everything in Vegas. Houston's score give the Chiefs a 29-20 win that covers the 7 and pushes the total over 48. Now THAT'S Entertainment. (Unless it's really not entertaining at all.)
2. Green Bay. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, and no one else does. Hey, name a Packers defensive player? Exactly. Hey, name an actual running back on the roster who does not wear a number in the 80s? Exactly. Rodgers is the best we've ever seen at the toughest job in all of sports. And as long as he's upright, the Packers are always going to contend.
3. Denver. A defense that is truly changing the optics of the modern day NFL. The Broncos are rushing four and with Von Miller and Derek Wolfe are the playification of getting pressure without blitzing. With that limited time for opposing quarterbacks, Denver is pressing coverage across the field with varying safety help. This directly confronts today's passing preferences of 5-yard, quick-release patterns and challenges teams to go over the top.
4. Pittsburgh. Speaking of thinks we know, we know the Steelers are really complete offensively and really, Really, REALLY hard to handle at home. How big is the difference for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? Since the start of 2014, Big Ben has thrown 27 TDs and 24 picks on the road. At home, that split is 61 TDs and 16 interceptions. This screams the importance of the AFC race for home-field between the Chiefs, Broncos, Steelers and Patriots.
5. Detroit. We know what you're thinking? Hey, the Lions and the Falcons have the same record and the Falcons beat the Lions. Well, they did but it was by the slightest of technicalities. Here's the other thing: As we alluded to before, the survival of the healthiest takes on multiple faces and turns. Mike Ryan and the Falcons have been turnover-prone, with six in the last two games, and are really lucky to be 3-1 rather than 1-2. The Lions, conversely are tied for the league lead with 11 turnovers forced, and were a fraction from being 4-and-bagel.
28. Indianapolis. The Colts are the only team on powerless list to have a win, but that was a scant, three-point win over those wonderfully predictable Cleveland Browns. Now know this: The Colts' point differential is the worst in the NFL. Andrew Luck, a lonely Colts nation turns its
29. New York Giants. Wow, Eli, ODB and no wins. Hey, Ben McAdoo, do guys practice?
30. Los Angeles Chargers. The second team among the winless and worst in the league that has a future Hall of Fame quarterback. And that may be the biggest change in the optic of today's NFL. The Chargers and the Giants each have top half or better quarterbacks, but in the hard-cap NFL
31. San Francisco. Kudos to the 49ers. They are better. And they are sticking to the plan to lose as many as possible to get their choice of quarterbacks come next April. Hey, there's nothing worse than being the Jets and position everything to tank and then find ways to win in spite of themselves. Egad.
32. Cleveland. No matter how much the NFL spins on its axis and changes before our eyes, we owe a huge debt of personal gratitude to the Browns, who are the picture of consistency. Stay stinky Cleveland.
Baseball playoffs start
You know what, Major League Baseball has made a few decisions over the last handful of years or more that have really helped the excitement of the postseason.
Changing the All-Star outcome and its status as deciding who has homefield in the World Series. The extra layer of the wildcard elimination also is an excellent addition for a few reasons. In a lot of years, the added drama of the regular season with an extra ticket to the postseason adds great value. This year, those spots were wrapped up pretty quickly.
Still, the extra round adds two win-or-go-home games to every postseason, and that's the greatest thing of every postseason. It also puts the wildcard teams in a position to spend their best starter and a lot of their bullpen in those do-or-die games, which adds extra value to winning the division, which is also a good thing.
As for the playoffs, here's the schedule for the wildcard games and the first game of each division series:
Tonight: Twins at Yankees, 8 p.m., ESPN
Wednesday: Rockies at Diamondbacks, 8 p.m., TBS
Thursday: Red Sox at Astros, 4 p.m., FS1 or MLBN; Twins/Yankees at Indians, 7:30 p.m., FS1 or MLBN
Friday: Cubs at Nationals, 7:30 p.m., TBS; Rockies/Diamondbacks, 10:31 p.m., TBS
And yes, the way the Diamondbacks played down the stretch — especially against Los Angeles — those of us who want the Dodgers to win their first World Series title since 1988 hope the Rockies win Wednesday.
Also of note, here are the predictions from the March, 31 5-at-10 for the baseball season:
We said the Braves would win 70-75 games. They went 72-90. We had Boston, Cleveland and Houston winning their divisions in the AL. Each did. we had New York and Detroit making the wildcard round. We had Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles winning their divisions in the NL. Each did. We had the Cards and Giants, who were awful after Madison Bumgarner was injured, as the wildcards. So there's that.
Braves being dumb
Well, the John Coppolella era as GM of the Atlanta Braves came to a crashing halt Monday.
He resigned amid wide-spread allegations of multiple rules violations that the Braves called a "breach of MLB rules regarding the international player market."
Apparently multiple teams filed complaints against the Braves, who have turned the worst farm system in baseball into one of the best in the three years (two with the official title, one as the de facto leader) that Coppolella served as the GM.
Once the curtain was pulled back, Yahoo! Sports repotted Monday that the probe will also reveal violations in the Braves' domestic draft practices too. MLB told the AP that the investigation is almost complete, and it's fair to expect major penalties with the number of allegations and the number of complaints from varying teams.
For Johnny Braves Fans, you really hope that the only penalties are fines and limitations of contact in the international market and in scouting practices moving forward. That would hurt. But considering that the Braves signed 13 international players in 2016 — highlighted by 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, who got a $4.25 million signing bonus and was the consensus No. 1-ranked international prospect — numerous contracts could be voided.
And losing Maitan would be a huge blow, as well as the potential loss of high draft picks in coming years could redirect the rebuilding process the Braves are making.
It also raises an interesting question about if we think the college basketball recruiting world is a meat market in which shoo companies are paying middle men and AAU coaches to get players to school, can you image the shadiness and seediness that could be going on in Venezuela and other poor countries as teams and power brokers deal in teenage baseball talent?
This and that
— Louisville voted unanimously to start the termination process of Rick Pitino. The school believes it owes him $11K for 10 days of being suspended with pay. Pitino believes the school owes him $44 million, the remaining sum on his contract. Something tells me there may be a lawyer or three involved in this before it's completed.
— Tom Petty died Monday. He was 66. He will be missed.
— Lonzo Ball rolled his ankle last night in preseason action. He was wearing a pair of Nikes. Considering the family and the self-congratulations of his daddy, this would be a big deal if he were wearing Big Baller Brand shoes, don't you think?
— Here's Monday's interview with UTC football coach Tom Arth that included the opening reviewing the big win of the 4-5-grade Panthers flag football team that includes one 5-at-10 Jr. and Tommy Arth among others.
— Here's is TFP all-around SEC ace and Press Row cohost David Paschall trying to get UGA coach Kirby Smart to name a starting quarterback when everyone is healthy. As you would expect Kirby decline to name one — as well as either his left or right cornerback starter too — but kudos to Paschall for asking the question that everyone wants to know. (Well that and this one: "Hey Kirby were surprised how much you guys outcoached and outplayed UT last Saturday?")
Hey, it's Tuesday. True or false time.
On this day 22 years ago, .O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. Yes, that's true. As for the opened-ended one, if O.J. moved into the house next door to you, you would move.
True or false, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are underrated. True or false, you watched a more than seven innings of any one baseball game this year that did not invalid your kids.
Chubby Checker is 76. Dave Winfield is 66 today. Al Sharpto is 63. Fred Couples is 58. Tommy Lee is 55. Gwen Stefani is 48, Neve Campbell is 44.
John Heisman died on this day in 1936. That's a cool trophy friends.
Cherokee Chief John ross was born on this day in 1790.
Let's go here for a Rushmore: Lena Headey, who plays Queen Cersei in the amazing "Game of Thrones," is 44 today. In honor of Game of Thrones, what are the Rushmore of TV or movie