Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Thrilling Sports Weekend
2006-10-16 09:23
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Do we think that the reason the New York-St. Louis series has been very competitive and entertaining is because the Cardinals are a lot better than we thought, or the Mets are a lot worse?

I try to avoid writing about football for the most part because football is kind of the last sport where I am just a fan. In my mind I have promoted myself to analyst status for baseball, basketball, and soccer. I accept that there are a ton of things I simply don't understand about pro football, and that allows me to enjoy the games for such moments as Roy Williams' utterly gratuitous shot on an undefended Texans receiver after a pass was tipped in the Houston-Dallas game yesterday for what they are. Also, I don't tend to fall asleep during baseball games. Football games, which are like 8% confusing graphics, 10% screaming updates and halftime programming from the studio, 67% commercials, 11% replay challenges, and 4% actual action, are built for afternoon naps. For fun and personal illumination, the research department and I picked four games apiece against the spread yesterday. I went 1-3, and the one game I had right was by the skin of my teeth. Thanks, J-E-T-S.

But anyway, since I was more awake than usual for the games yesterday, perhaps because they were more interesting than most weekends, perhaps because I went to Safeway early Sunday and bought three cases of Diet Coke, here are some random NFL thoughts.

This thing with the Saints and their magical hurricane power needs to stop. Yes, New Orleans had a horrible record last year, 3-13. But that was with them playing the entire season as a road team. The last few years before that they were 8-8, and that was with Aaron Brooks and a bad coach. You don't think taking an 8-8 team and replacing Aaron Brooks with Drew Brees and a bad coach with a good coach will be worth two or three additional wins? Of course not, it's magical hurricane power. If Peter King says it, it must be true.

The Titans and the Lions are both horrible, even though they both finally won games yesterday. In any other year, these two teams would be in a race to the finish for the #1 draft pick, with the Texans (who at least have a decent quarterback) in the picture as a dark horse. However, this is not like any other year. The Raiders are unbelievably bad. Their coaching staff looks utterly unprepared for modern football tactics, such as the forward pass. Their veterans are so frustrated they're teetering on the brink, as evidenced in a string of stupid roughness penalties in the second half of the game against Denver last night. I think a lot of people are doubtful that any team in the modern NFL can go 0-16 with the parity and whatnot, but they clearly haven't watched this Raiders team in action. Normally bad teams are no fun to watch in football, but the Raiders are like must-see TV at this point. How low can they go?

As for the Broncos, if they can only beat the Raiders by 10, they are not very good. They look a lot like last year's Bears team, in fact, with a dominant defense led by super linebackers and an offense that just tries to hang on to the ball long enough so they can safely punt. In the playoffs, teams like this do not usually last. However, as a Bears fan living in the Denver area, I am rooting for them to improbably make the Super Bowl so they can get drilled by the Bears' new shufflin' machine.

2006-10-16 10:09:01
1.   Cliff Corcoran
re: the NLCS, it's because Pedro and El Duque are on the shelf. The rotation has been the Mets weakness all year and Pedro and El Duque are two big-game pitchers. Put them in the Mets rotation and the Mets are going for the win tonight if not celebrating a sweep. Instead, I think it's still St. Louis's series to lose (Mets win behind Glavine tonight, Cards win behind Carpenter in Game 6, then have a big advantage in starting pitching for Game 7).
2006-10-16 11:45:46
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
For my part, I expected the Cardinals to win the series if the games were low-scoring and the Mets to win if the games got into the 8-6, 12-10 area. However each team has won a game that's broken that mold. I've been most surprised by the peppiness of the Cardinals lineup. Just what is the deal with Scott Spiezio, anyway?

Albert Pujols has 0 RBI in the NLCS and the series is tied. That is quite surprising.

Sure, the absence of two of the Mets' planned playoff starters is a major deal, but I definitely think St. Louis past Carpenter and Pujols deserves more credit than they were given entering the series.

2006-10-16 13:08:33
3.   underdog
The Broncos defense is the best I've ever seen it, and I've been a fan since the late 70s as a n 8 year old. Their offense has been dull and merely adequate, but has the talent to be a lot better than it has. I think the defense has made Shanahan more conservative than he normally has been, but it's time for that to change. Don't think the Bears would steamroller over them, but would be favored to win a 10-3 superbowl. We'll see...

Meanwhile I'm rooting for Bernard Berrian tonight at any rate, so that my fantasy team can come out on top.

2006-10-16 22:36:58
4.   das411
So Mark, when are you and Scott Long gonna get into a Point/Counterpoint style debate over how good these playoffs have been?
2006-10-17 03:21:53
5.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I didn't say they were "good," I just said they were "entertaining." Like last year, the playoffs were "good," because the White Sox had a pretty complete team and they played well in all phases of the game, but they weren't that entertaining because Chicago pretty much steamrolled all comers. If the World Series is competitive (and I expect it will be, the Tigers do have an aura thing but they're no dynasty), these playoffs could be way less good and way more entertaining in sum total. These rainouts and the swift end to the ALCS are kind of ruining the momentum, however.

That said, for a 4-game sweep the A's/Tigers series was not bad. It's funny how some sweeps can be actually quite competitive (the World Series last year) and some can be utter whitewashings (the '04 Series). I hope this year's Series is neither kind.

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