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Weekend winners

New England Patriots. No this has little to do with the outcome of a meaningless preseason game in Nashville. I'm telling you, Jarrett Stidham, the former Auburn quarterback — yes, as we learned last week, apparently folks think I'm an AU homer, so there's that — looks like a fourth-round steal. He went 14-for-19 for 193 yards and a score in Saturday's win and will either a) make Brian Hoyer expendable or b) be available for a trade. Either way, it's impossible not to see Bill Belichick turning him into a second-round pick either now or down the road. Now add to that the way Damien Harris, the former Alabama running back looked with the Pats, and you really have to start to wonder if NFL teams, when they are on the clock, don't just say, "Hey, who's the highest-ranked SEC player on the board?" We can agree that the Patriots are working NASA equations while the rest of the NFL is doing long division, right? Well, if that's the case, of the 94 or so players in Pats camp right now, 24 are from SEC schools, including five running backs and five defensive backs. And we're just now getting to the fact that Josh Gordon was reinstated to the NFL. Simply put, Gordon is the most athletic deep threat since Randy Moss that Tom Brady has ever had. 

NFL preseason picks. OK, this is a fast start, no? Two weeks of NFL preseason picks and we're 10-2 against the number after a 3-0 mark over the weekend. (Picks were in Friday's mail bag getting 3 with the Dolphins and Browns and taking the under in Dallas-L.A. Rams, a game that finished 14-10 and we predicted the final to be 13-9, so there's that.) Following the line movements and realizing that sharps believe that the biggest edge in betting on the NFL is in the preseason has become highly, shall we say, entertaining. 

College Hard Knocks. Not sure of the EPs of this marvelous idea read the 5-at-10 or not, but we suggested this earlier this month, and lo and behold, College Hard Knocks on HBO is headed to Pullman, Wash., for the Mike Leach Show. We are all-in, and in fact, it will be highly suggested, if not required viewing for regulars around these parts. Anyone else stoked for the episode about the college class Leach teaches? Hooray.

Zach Grienke. Man, that Houston rotation is slap scary friends with the addition of Grienke, who got his 200th career win over the weekend. Is Grienke a Hall of Famer? WAR of 70.8 — more than Smoltz' 66.4 and in reach of Glavine's 73.9 — with 200 career wins, a career 3.35 ERA, a Cy Young and five all-star trips?

College football fans. Game week, baby. Gators-Canes this Saturday night. It's here. It's all happening. 

Weekend losers

Not sure if loser is the most accurate term, but the lingering quarterback issues in Nashville are not good for anyone in any of the various shades of Titans blue. Personally, I believe the national speculation that it's a Ryan Tannehill-Marcus Mariota donnybrook is at least overstated if not completely overblown. Simply put, the Titans have to start Mariota this year to see if he's worthy of the monster deal that is the second contract for starting quarterbacks in this league. Have to. That decision can only be made in the 'er' months with real defenses playing real football. (True, if Tannehill takes the starting gig, then the decision is clear, but that would seem highly unlikely.) Still, that Mariota is not completely distancing himself from a quarterback that the stinky-pants Dolphins believed had no future has to be troubling for Titans brass. Because for all the "You can't have too much depth" conversations the excuse-makers want to levy, and that's true at every other position, we'll side with Spurrier on this one when the HBC said, "If you think you have two quarterbacks, that means you have no quarterback."

Golf. Hard to envision a more disappointing penultimate weekend for the PGA Tour. First, Justin Thomas ran away in the first 54 holes. (A troubling trend for a sport that needs Sunday afternoon drama. JT was the sixth player this season with at least a six-shot lead entering the final round. That said, it at least makes for a smile-worthy moment when Jim Nantz or Dan Whoshispants from NBC try to use voice in inflection and tone to inject drama when the lead 'shrinks' to 4.) Next, Tiger limped to the finish line and will not be part of next weekend's Tour finale at East Lake, where Tiger won last year and delivered a surreal un-golf-like scene. Finally, after Tiger's win last year at East Lake — a fact that overshadowed season-long Fed Ex champ Justin Rose winning the playoff and left some puzzled — the Tour predictably o overreacted and tricked up the system going into East lake. Thomas, who is now leading in the chase for the $10 million winner's share, will put his peg in the ground Thursday already 10 under. Hmmmmmm, here's a tip: When you are making a new rule that is going to be exhausting for me to explain to any casual golf follower watching — because while Thomas starts at 10 under, the rest of the field is staggered from there No. 2 is 8 under, No. 3 is 6 under, etc. — it likely is not a super good idea for attracting new fans to the sport. I understand the goal — having the winner at East Lake be the winner of the playoffs — but this seems junky. We'll see how it plays out I guess. But it will play out without Tiger. (Here's the staggered scoreboard starting spot for the final field of 30.) 

Antonio Brown. That is all. Man, dude is a terror for opposing secondaries. And apparently a terror for his own management, too.

The goofy reporter who could not stop laughing (or sucking up to Dallas owner Jerry Jones) at a pretty lame Jones joke of "Zeke who?" over the weekend. Here's more, and for those who think Tony Pollard is Zeke because of an above average performance against a Rams team that left 20 of its 22 starters in L.A., well, good luck with that.

Michelle Beadle. Reports have her on the way out as the host of the ESPN NBA pre- and postgame show. She was bounced about 90 seconds after the disastrous debut of "Get Up" with Mike Greenberg. (Side note: That show has improved a great deal.) Hard to know what her role may be, considering she was a fav of John Skipper, the former ESPN boss. 

Bonus pick: Every NFL player who gets injured in the preseason. That has to stink.

Braves' big moment

Simply put there were too many weekend winners from SunTrust for the Braves this weekend.

> Max Fried had no better than C-plus stuff Sunday. He had allowed eight hits before recording an out in the third inning but only three runs. He battled and kept the Dodgers there before turning to the bullpen which

— Holy smokes, the Braves bullpen looked structured, reliable and potentially dominant Sunday and even Saturday. Sunday, the box score and the order was almost perfect. Fried for 5, Swarzak in the sixth, Martin in the seventh, Greene in the eighth and Melancon to close. Against the Dodgers for Pete Van Wieren's sake. In wins Saturday and Sunday, the Braves relievers pitched 8.1 innings, allowed three hits and one run. Again, against the Dodgers, who are the best offensive in the NL. (Yes, it's a small sample size but if the bullpen roles solidify — it went Newcomb, Jackson, Greene and Melancon on Saturday — look out.)

— The juggling mantle of offensive hero for a day. Saturday is was homers from Adam Duvall and Josh Donaldson. Sunday it was a grand slam from some dude named Rafael Ortega. The Braves have been without three everyday players — Dansby Swanson, Nick Markakis and Austin Riley — for most of August and have not missed a beat. How dangerous and deep is this line-up? Atlanta took two of three from the team with the best record in baseball and Freddie Freeman went bagel-for-12 in the 3-hole and left half of Hixson on base.

— Brian Snitker taught Ronald Acuña Jr. a big-league lesson Sunday — benching the 21-year-old star for not hustling on the bases — and still won the game. Arguably the best moment for Snitker in his time in the Braves dugout. 

— Acuna and Ozzie Albies. Hard not to be extremely excited for Braves fans for that 1-2 combo atop the order for the better part of the next decade. Their numbers in August — Acuña is at .333 with 10 homers and 20 RBIs this month; Albies is .361 with three homers, 10 extra base hits and 10 RBIs — are hotter than the weather.

— Braves fans. We will start with two caveats. One, it was just three games in August and arguably the Dodgers two best pitchers — Buehler and Kershaw — did not pitch. Still, for all the ink spilled — and rightly so — for the bullpen woes and the injuries and all the rest, Saturday and Sunday allowed Braves fans to see what is possible against a team that almost assuredly was thinking sweep after topping  Atlanta ace Mike Soroka on Friday. Simply put, taking four of six from the hottest team in baseball (the Mets) and the best team in baseball (the Dodgers) is an impressive feat.

(And I was rooting for the Dodgers.)

This and that

— Interesting suggestion here from Aaron Boone, the Yankees manager, who believes there would be benefits to having a mercy rule in Major League Baseball.

— Not sure how many folks would guess this, but the public darlings in the betting world as Super Bowl picks are ... the Bears and the Browns. Go figure.

— We all know that The Donald can be very thinned-skinned and take to The Twitter to settle some beefs. That said, maybe everyone in politics is super sensitive. Here's a story that Rep. Rashisa Tlaib, one of the controversial freshmen Congress women known as 'The Squad,' is asking fans to boycott Bill Maher's HBO comedy program. Say what? If Democrats are going to get mad at Bill Maher, well, then they are not going to be pleased with anyone with a microphone unless Michelle Obama gets a chair on The View.  

— We talked about college football returning, well, high school football gets going this week in Tennessee too. Cool. Great job but the TFP sports collective on the Prep Preview section last Friday. And great coverage of the jamborees. Speaking of that, did anyone notice on Saturday that the only points in Ootlewah's 3-0 win over Baylor was by a kicker named Sarah Moser? 

— Rest easy Jack Whittaker, one of the all-timer classic voices in sports broadcasting.

Today's questions

Happy Monday, everyone. You know the drill. Weekend winners and losers. Go.

Also, if I said there are two surefire starting pitchers in the big leagues right now who are first-ballot Hall of Famers — Kershaw and Verlander — who else would you consider other than Grienke among the best off this generation? Jon Lester? Felix Hernandez? Max Scherzer? Discuss.

As for today's date, Aug. 19, let's review.

ABC started Saturday morning kids shows on this day in 1950. That's cool. Best Saturday morning cartoon for me? Super Friends by a wide margin.

Matthew Perry is 50 today. Ah, Chandler Bing. 

Bill Clinton is 73 today.

Kirk Herbsteit is 50 today. Wow, that dude does not look a day over 35, right?

Let's go there. If we start with Herbie on college football and Bilas on college hoops, who completes the ESPN single-sport analysts. Go.

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