NFL power poll
So, we now have two weeks in the books and what do we know?
We know that Jay could not have been more wrong to a) reference himself in the third-person and b) on his assessment on Josh Allen before the draft, which was cringeworthy bad.
From the 5-at-10 on Draft Day in 2018 — a day when Allen’s offensive and racially charged social media posts from high school were leaked too — this was the far-from-expert analysis we typed:
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Strengths: Big-time build and arm; clear QB champ in the underwear Olympics
Weakness: Accuracy; Only one quarterback in the last 10-plus years taken in the top half of round 1 has had a worse completion percentage; and that dude was Jake Locker, who lasted about three cups of coffee in the league; experience against top-flight competition is lacking
Location: Arizona at 15.
And to make matters worse, we had Buffalo taking Josh Rosen — yes that Josh Rosen — ahead of Allen.
So, how ‘bout those Vols.
It’s worth noting now because Allen was not only the best QB in that draft, you can make a hard argument that if you reshuffle the entire league and redrafted all of the 1,696 players on active NFL rosters at this very moment, Allen goes no worse than 2nd.
It’s a coin flip between him and Patty Mahomes at this point.
And Allen’s full range of skills were on total display in a total domination of the Titans last night. Wow.
To the poll.
1 Buffalo (2-0). Two games, two blowouts against playoff teams from a year ago. And not just playoff teams from a year ago — the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the defending Super Bowl champs. In an NFL in which we never really know what we think we believe, there’s simply no doubt who the best team in the league is. And they play in Buffalo.
2 Kansas City (2-0). Speaking of Mahomes, he’s in that category of dudes who deserve the huge chunk of the salary cap that a legit, difference-making, gotta-game-plan-for-weeks-in-advance, super-duper-future-Yellow-Jacket star gets. Teams give out a slew of them with fingers crossed that good QBs become Canton QBs or great defensive players stay motivated and become Aaron Donald or Minkah Fitzpatrick or a Watt after that monster contract and a vast majority of the time, it’s wasted money. Mahomes give the Chiefs Super Bowl dreams every season through the 2020s as long as he’s healthy, and that’s worth every penny.
3 Tampa Bay (2-0). So the Bucs went to N’awlins with a chip on their shoulder pads and handled BID-ness and made it look Big Easy. And this was my thought after GOAT QB, Bundy-level husband Tommy Brady posted pedestrian numbers and the defense choked the Saints out: Remember that great defense that got Peyton his second Super Bowl in Peyton’s final and far-and-away worst NFL season? That could be this crew of Bucs, who are playing with motivation for a defensive-minded head coach with the knowledge that the window is closing.
4 Miami (2-0). Yeah, that thing above about Mahomes, so the best feeling in the NFL executive world is having that dude — a Mahomes, an Allen, even a Herbert in a few years — locked down for a decade. The most uneasy feeling in that realm is wondering whether the dude pulling your trigger is that guy or finding success with a loaded roster around him because when you don’t have to give the QB $30-plus-million, well you can afford some nice shiny pieces everywhere else. That’s the offensive yacht the Dolphins have put around Tua.
5 Philadelphia (2-0). And it’s the offensive G6 the Eagles are allowing Jalen Hurts to fly right now, because adding AJ Brown to this offense — and with Hurts’ running bona fides — this Eagles team is going to be a handful.
28 (tie) Cincinnati and Las Vegas (0-2 each). Yeah, these teams are better than the Jags or the Texans or the Panthers or a few others, but man, when you know that roughly one out of 10 teams that start the season bagel-and-2 make the playoffs, these are two franchise that had huge aspirations that are facing a Harsin-like must-win scenario this weekend.
30 Atlanta (0-2). OK, I wrote — multiple times — in the preseason, and I will list it again for all to see: Give Desmond Ridder the ball and Marcus Mariota the clipboard. You’re 0-2, and likely will be an underdog in your next four games — at Seattle, vs. Cleveland, at Tampa Bay and vs. San Francisco — over the next month. See what the rookie can do, because there is no real downside to it. If he keeps you competitive in those games — the ceiling of what Mariota can do long-term — then you know you have a cheap back-up for the next few years. He shocks you and a few of those teams, well, then you could have the cap-cha-ching lottery ticket of a rookie QB deal for the next four years. If he stinks, you’re 0-6 any way (which you likely could be with Mariota driving) and you know you need to scout Stroud, Young, and any other QB that tickles your fancy every Saturday moving forward. Deal?
31 Tennessee (0-2). Speaking of AJ Brown, wow, this offense looks wretched without a true No. 1 option on the perimeter. And it makes sense, because if there is not a double-worthy guy on the perimeter — can you name a Titans receiver at this point? — then you can really commit to stopping Derrick Henry, who has 107 yards on 34 carries through two losses. Want more numbers: Last night, Buffalo true No. 1 wide out Stefon Diggs had 12 catches for 148 and three scores; Through two weeks, the Titans top two WRs — Treylon Bruks and Kyle Phillips have 14 catches for 173 yards and no scores. Hmmmmmmm. What could Brown have done for you, Titans leadership?
32 Indianapolis (0-1-1). Winless through two weeks with Texans and Jags on the schedule is not even a possibility that the most ardent Colts hater could have fathomed. Wow, not sure there are words for a team that should be near the bottom of the powerful list than at the bottom of the league.
Braves’ Battery power
So if every Braves game could be played at Truist Park right next to the The Battery concourse, well, I’m not sure they would ever lose again.
They won their ninth straight home game with a 5-2 win over Washington on Monday.
It was filled with good news.
Yes, Kyle Wright won his MLB-best 19th game. More on that in a moment.
And yes, fringe NL MVP candidate Austin Riley hit his 37th homer. That’s cool too.
But buckets of Budweiser for Skip and Harry Carey, which is the bigger news: Matt Olson got two hits or Kenley Jansen pitched a spotless, eight-pitch ninth for his 35th save?
In truth, the answer for me has to be Olson. Olson is going to hit fourth (or fifth maybe) for as long as the Braves play.
Sure they can win games without him hitting, but that’s regular-season games. Get to the playoffs and Olson is mired in this kind of funk — even with his 2-for-4 effort last night, he’s now 6-for-69 (.087) since late August.
And when the playoffs arrive — we are in the ‘er’ months, remember — if Olson is that much of an automatic out, do you really think any playoff opponent is going to throw Austin Riley anything but sliders on the outer half knowing that Olson’s worse-than-1-for-10 run is waiting to hit next?
As for Jansen, nice job by Brian Snitker — and karma — to get him the perfect save chance. At home, team up three so the pressure was muted, and he looked sharp.
Will Jansen still cause more heartache for Southerns than fast food onion rings? Almost certainly. But a hitless cleanup hitter feels insurmountable come October.
Cy Young dreams
Speaking of Wright, before the stat-heads redirected the number narrative, he could have been considered a Cy Young front-runner with a 19-5 record and a 3.18 ERA.
He will still get consideration and could finish top three — especially with the way three Dodgers pitchers will split a lot of ballots — but getting credit for a pitching win has been devalued in this day and age as much as homers have been coveted.
There was a day not that long ago that Felix Hernandez won a Cy Young with a 14-13 record on a really bad team and folks wondered if it was merited. Of course it was merited, Hernandez was a shooting star, flashing in the moment and turning heads with every pitch.
Heck, if he pitched an entire season, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with Jacob deGrom just winning the Cy Young because his stuff is so filthy.
Speaking of filthy stuff, as we have been consumed with the Braves internal struggles and efforts to reel in the Mets, have you noticed what the Dodgers’ rotation has done?
Looking at Cy Young candidates, the ESPN Cy Young Predictor (yes, it’s a real thing Spy) has Wright third on its list surrounded by the following Dodgers with the following numbers:
Julio Urias — 17-7, 2.27 ERA, 152 Ks in 158 IP
Tony Gosselin — 16-1, 2.10 ERA, 116 Ks in 128 IP
Wright — 19-5, 3.18 ERA, 165 Ks in 170 IP
Tyler Anderson — 15-3, 2.62 ERA, 119 Ks in 162 IP
This and that
— If you were watching live last night, the injury Bills DB Dane Jackson suffered was supremely scary. Reports have him moving his extremities, which is great news.
— So, gotta be honest here. Did not watch a single second of the Queen’s funeral. Not live, not on the news. So I’m the one. Also, apparently the first lady’s headgear has caused a hubbub. First, everything causes a hubbub these days. We’re in a hurry to hubbub. But also, isn’t that one of those Emily Post (or even Markie Post) etiquette things that we’re supposed to have someone check on the front end for an event like this? Discuss.
— Speaking of the Queen, I’m not sure — even having spent half my life covering athletics — there’s not a bigger ‘me, Me, ME person’ to ever draw breath than Donald Trump. Trump’s social media post after the funeral of arguably the most famous person on the planet said he would have been a better seat than Biden (the first lady’s hat choice notwithstanding). Here’s his social media post: “This is what’s happened to America in just two short years,” Trump wrote with an image of Biden being seated. “No respect! However, a good time for our President to get to know the leaders of certain Third World countries. If I were president, they wouldn’t have sat me back there — and our Country would be much different than it is right now!” Oy vey. In a country of 330 million folks with an unbelievable array of skill sets how have our last three choices for the White House been Hillary, Donald and Joe?
— Those Manning fellas are living their best life. We know Peyton is doing his Peyton things with the Omaha Production Co. Well, now baby brother’s "Eli’s Places" on ESPN+ has me greatly intrigued. For this Wednesday’s episode, Eli dressed up with a full make-up treatment and went to Penn State (with James Franklin’s OK) for the walk-on tryouts before the season as Chad Powers. He went through the reps and even had one coach say, “I see something in Chad Powers.” Nice eye coach. Here’s more.
— OK, we started tossing this around with the early calls for Geoff Collins to get canned at Georgia Tech. But now the huge names and monster sites are saying Deion Sanders should be the name atop everyone’s wish list who wants to make a coach change in college. Hard not to believe that Deion would bring a huge influx of enthusiasm to whatever program he heads to next.
— Speaking of the Vols, if you like them this weekend, get them now. That line is rising like Otis Campbell’s BAC on a Saturday night in Mayberry.
— So the one-and-done looks to be, well, done in terms of NBA options. The league and its players are reportedly going to let 18-year-olds (the current age limit is 19) back into the NBA for 2024 in the new CBA. Hmmmmmmm. Couple three points here: One, in 9 items out of 10 (and maybe more) current players do not care one iota about future players in CBA negotiations for clear reasons; Two, this will create more competition for more aging current players, which seems counterintuitive for current players association players. So why the good will? Hmmmmmm, could it have anything to do with LeBron James (the most powerful dude in the NBA, Adam Silver included) and his admitted desire to play in the NBA with his son, who will be — get this — 18 and under these new rules, NBA draft eligible in 2024 now. Wow. What a coincidence.
True or false, it’s Tuesday.
True or false, Josh Allen is the best QB in the NFL.
True or false, in the eyes of Braves nation, these players official names have become “Stupid Kenley Jansen” and “Dangit Matt Olson.” over the past six weeks.
True or false, Tennessee throttles Florida.
True or false, of the four Cy Young candidates above, you’d vote for Kyle Wright.
True or false, it’s Ridder time for the Falcons.
As for today, Sept. 20, let’s review.
In 1984, a ground-breaking TV show with Clair, Theo and the rest of the Huxtables debuted. Can’t recall the name though.
On this day in 1973, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in a sports exhibition that is still felt today. (In truth, the only exhibition even as close to as important in sports history was when Drago killed Apollo in “Rocky IV,” which then led to another exhibition in which Rocky beat Drago and in a lot of ways ended the Cold War.)
Sophia Lauren is 88 today.
Red Auerbach would have been 105 today.
Rushmore of people whose first name is a color. Go.