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New England Patriots Schedule –The Division is There for Taking

It’s not exactly a surprise,but the New England Patriots are right in the thick of things in the AFC East as we move deeper into the second month of the NFL season. But the NFL season is filled with ups and downs,and the second half of the New England Patriots Schedule is loaded with important matchups that will make or break the season for the Pats. Here’s a look at some of the marquee matchups for the second half of
the season.

Week 9,Giants at Pats:

After a brutal game against the Steelers,the Pats then have to come home for another very physical matchup with the New York Giants. You never know what you’re getting out of the Giants,but they’re capable of playing with anyone when they’re focused. With the Bills clearly much improved from last season and the Jets likely to come around at some point,the Pats will need to be able to beat teams like the Giants,a team that can rush the passer,throw the ball downfield and run the ball in crucial spots. Oh yeah,maybe you heard the Giants ruined the Pats’ perfect season a few years back.

Week 10,Pats at Jets:

The Jets struggled coming out of the gates this year,but don’t expect that to matter when they square off with the Pats in Week 10. Jets-Pats has become a major rivalry with the laconic Bill Belichick getting pitted against the outlandish Rex Ryan,who has helped raise the Jets from a struggling franchise to a team that believes it can win the Super Bowl. The Jets are probably going to come on strong and the Pats would love to finish them off to get the season sweep.

Week 12,Pats at Eagles:

True,the Philadelphia Eagles really struggled to start the season,but they’re still one of the most talented teams in the league and boast the electric Michael Vick as their quarterback. From here on out, the Eagles will be playing every game as if it’s their Super Bowl,including this crucial Week 12 matchup with the Pats. The Pats’ defense has been less than spectacular so far this season,and they’ll have to show some real signs of life in this one if they are to come out with a win.

Week 16,Dolphins at Pats:

After a long stretch without a divisional game,the Pats come home in Week 16 to take on the Dolphins, a team that is struggling this year to get wins but also a team that won’t lie down for the Patriots. The Patriots should have plenty on the line in this one and could need this game in order to put themselves in a position to clinch the division.

Week 17,Bills at Pats:

Possibly the biggest surprise of the NFL season has been the Buffalo Bills,a team with a complete lack of star power that came out firing in 2011. After losing to the Bills early in the season for the first time in about a decade,the Pats will be looking for some revenge and should have plenty of playoff implications on the line in the regular season finale.

Studs &Duds:Oct 30

Who better than us to pass judgment on athletes?  You rely on us for it,and we aim to please.  Here’s your first edition of TJR Studs &Duds.

STUD: AJ Burnett.  Simply brilliant when the Yankees needed him to be nothing less.  Over 7 innings,Burnett struck out 9 while allowing only 4 hits and 1 walk.  He made the big pitch every time it was needed.  Maybe most impressive,however,he threw first pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 hitters he faced.  That’s 85%,well over the league average of 59%.

DUD: 1st base umpire Brian Gorman and crew chief Jerry Davis.  Gorman blew 2 calls in the late innings that could have altered the outcome of the game.  In the bottom of the 7th inning,Ryan Howard trapped a Johnny Damon line drive that Gorman incorrectly ruled was caught in the air.  The resulting double play ended the Yankees inning when they should had the bases loaded with 1 out in a 3-1 game. Maybe even worse,after the game Davis,said that the replay confirmed that the call on the field was correct when it CLEARLY did not.  Somebody check that guy for cataracts.

The 2nd call happened with 1 out in the very next inning.  With runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out,Chase Utley hit into what was called a 4-6-3 double play.  But,again,replay CLEARLY showed that Utley was safe at first.  So 10 minutes after blowing a huge call,Gorman blew another one.

DUD: Major League Baseball.  There have been too many plays similar to the ones above throughout these playoffs,and all could easily have been corrected with the use of instant replay.  It’s time to make a change.

STUD: Carmelo Anthony. Anthony came up huge scoring 41 in a big game (if you can call the 2nd game of the year big) against division rival Portland on Thursday night.  Melo led the Nuggets 4th quarter rally pouring in 19 of his 41 as Denver won in Portland 97-94.

DUDS: Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard. The two sluggers entered the World Series on fire,combining for 7 homers and 26 RBI this postseason.  In the first 2 games,Rodriguez is 0-for-8 with 6 strikeouts while Howard is just 2-for-9 with 6 strikeouts and 1 RBI.

STUD: Pedro Martinez. Pitched 6 innings of 8 strikeout ball before giving up 2 hits in the 7th.  When the lights were brightest,Pedro showed up again.  Oh,and we just looked at the numbers and Pedro’s record as a Red Sox was 117 wins to 37 losses.  That’s just absurd.

Dud: Any media outlet that continues to mention the old guy in purple’s return to Green Bay.  Really.  Could there possibly be anything that we haven’t heard?  Is there any way we could find some dead ancestors to interview?  Soooo tired of hearing about the old guy in purple.  So he’s comfortable in Wranglers. Great. Who really cares?

Stud: Jimmy Johnson. There’s 4 races left in The Chase.  Doesn’t matter.  The dude is gonna win his 4th straight championship.  That’s a record.  Not even The Intimidator did that.  Now that’s impressive.

The 2011 MLB Season As It Panned Out

So here we are in October and are coming to the end of another great season. For some teams it has been a long road. Whilst there have been some great games and plenty of surprises,conversely there have also been some upsets too. So without further ado,lets take a look at the 2011 MLB season and how it panned out.

Early contenders

The season started on Thursday 31st March  and finished on Wed 28th September and is the first time a season has started on a Thursday since 1976. Early contenders were the Philadelphia Phillies,who got off to an amazing start,despite their highest average age for a position player of 31.5 years,not bad for a team made up of veterans. The Yankees are always ‘there or there abouts’ and it helped when early on in the season Mark Teixera hit a third consecutive home run in three consecutive days and by early April the Yanks had hit an astonishing 27 homers in the first 14 games. In the NL The Brewers also got off to a flyer and by the all star break had the NL’s best home record at 33-14. This was clearly helped by one of the outstanding players of the season,Ryan Braun. Despite failing to sign 2011′s biggest free agent pitcher Cliff Lee,the Texas Rangers  didn’t lose a game until April 19th against the Orioles and as a result were the last team to record a loss

 

Not so rans

Whilst some teams were riding high,lets take a look at some of the teams who were having a season they’d rather forget. The Houston Astros had the unenviable recognition of losing over 100 games in a season and were the only team in the MLB to do so. Equally this was also the first team in the franchises 50 year history to do so. The Minnesota Twins were probably surprised to find themselves in this position after finishing in first place the year before,but the bottom line is that they just weren’t good enough. The Mariners haven’t made it to the dizzy heights of the play-off’s for ten long years and it showed. After a coaching change in October 2010 when Eric Wedge was hired,the fans were optimistic,but unfortunately it was short lived.

 

Outstanding players

So who really shone during the hectic MLB baseball schedule?

Mat Kemp from the LA Dodgers had an outstanding season. and finished just one home run short of that famous 40/40 club. Jose Bautista is 31 years of age but that still didn’t stop him hitting 43 homers for the Blue Jays this season. Miguel Cabrera is the spearhead of the Detroit offense and has been rock solid this season. Milwaukee had Ryan Braun to thank for the best home record of 2011 and is one of the reasons why they won the NL central title.

 

Most disappointing players

Every season begins optimistically for teams fans and players alike,and some players are regarded as pivotal in their team’s success. Unfortunately some players simply don’t live up to these expectations,so  let’s take a look and see who failed to ‘step up to the plate’when it really mattered.

 

Adam Dunn -  Chicago Whitesox

Over the last seven seasons Dunn had averaged over 40 home runs and 100 RBI,so more was expected of the same when he signed for the ‘sox’as a free agent at the start of the season. However he seemed to have left his playing ability at his former team and his shockingly bad 11 home runs,42 RBI and 165 strike out’s in 115 games does not make good reading.

 

Hanley Ramirez -Florida Marlins

The ‘Fish’had a lot of their hopes pinned on Ramirez,but unfortunately shoulder surgery ended his season early on. However by this time,it had already started to go wrong and as a result had still only managed to hit 10 homers an average of just .243.

The world series

Last year’s champions the Giants were eliminated from contention post season which left it open for the Yankees,the Tigers,Tampa Bay and Texas Rangers to compete from the AL and the Cardinals,the Phillies,The Brewers and the Diamondbacks from the NL. In the Semi’s the Rangers beat the Tigers 4-2  and the Cardinals beat the Brewers by the very same score leaving St Louis and Texas to compete. At present it is one game apiece so there is everything to play for.

 

There you have it,the 2011 baseball season and how it panned out. If your team didn’t ‘cut the mustard’then there’s always 2012 to look forward to.

Studs &Duds:

Who better than us to pass judgment on athletes? You rely on us for it,and we aim to please. Here’s another edition of Studs &Duds.

STUD: Saints and Colts.  They haven’t always made it look easy,but both teams are 10-0.  The Colts streak is particularly impressive as they’ve managed to win despite not playing really well for a stretch of games.

DUD: Joe Flacco. The Ravens’ 2nd year QB threw an inexcusable interception inside the 20 with less than 3 minutes left and down 2 points.  A field goal was good enough to win;he did the one thing he couldn’t afford to do.

DUD: Mark Sanchez.  A few weeks after a 5 interception game,Sanchez threw 4 Sunday against the Patriots.  One was returned for 6.  He’s regressed as the season has gone on,and the rookie growing pains are costing the Jets games.

STUD: Syracuse hoops.  2 dominating performances in Madison Square Garden last week.  Beat #12 Cal and #4 North Carolina by a combined 38 points.

DUD: New Jersey Nets.  At 0-13,they’re just 4 games away from tying the worst start in NBA history,and they’re headed on a 4-game road trip to the West Coast.  They’re so bad,the team ran a “10 is Enough” promotion after they’re 10th loss.  Ouch.

STUD: Jimmy Johnson.  We don’t know much about NASCAR,but we do know that winning 4 straight championships is probably really good.  The dude is dominant.

DUD: Charlie Weis.  7 games into his first year,the school prez and AD gave him a 5 year contract extension through 2015.  5 years later,he’s got a worse record than both Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham had in their tenures.  And with Jim Harbaugh having so much success at Stanford,Notre Dame can’t pull the whole “we have trouble recruiting because we have such high academic standards” card.

STUD: The old guy in purple. 213 yards on 22-of-25 passing with 4 TD and 0 INT on Sunday.  That brings his season totals to 21 TD and just 3 INT (or 1 fewer than Mark Sanchez’s total this week).

DUD: The Denver Broncos.  The NFL’s best story through 6 weeks has looked awful losing its last 4 games.

STUD: Tom Brady.  Looking like Brady circa 2007.

Buy or Sell:Baseball Edition

Buy: The Yankees.  Baseball’s two best teams met in the World Series for the first time in a long time,and the best team won.  We continue to be astounded by the brilliance of Mariano Rivera.  It’s well beyond words at this point.

Sell: Chemistry as the main factor for the Yankees return to the top.  It played a big role,sure,but they got big pitching performances when they needed them throughout the postseason.  The importance of AJ Burnett’s lights-out performance in Game 2 against the Phillies can’t be understated.

Buy: Regardless of what happens from now until their contracts run out,the signings of CC,AJ and Tex should always be considered a success.  We don’t buy into the Steinbrenner Doctrine’s win or failure policy.  Their signings led to a championship.  That’s enough for us to consider them successful.

Buy: Joe Girardi.  Driving home just hours after managing the Yankees to a world championship,Girardi stopped to help a car crash victim. Pretty cool story.

Sell: World Series MVP Hideki Matsui playing in the majors next year. He can’t play the field anymore,and he’ll get more money from teams in Japan. What better way to head back to Tokyo than with a shiny new ring and an MVP trophy.

Sell: The Yankees signing free agent OF Matt Holliday. He’s 29,a 3-time All-Star,and plays hard every day.  But the Yankees still have a lot of years left on big contracts. A-Rod (8). Tex (7). Sabathia (6). Burnett (4). And an extension for Jeter after next season.  They’ll want flexibility.  So bet on them signing a vet (maybe Damon) for a year while grooming top prospect Austin Jackson.  And if that doesn’t work,they’ll make a splash in free agency a year or 2 from now.

Cold Stove

Unless you’re a huge Ryan Dempster or Jeremy Affeldt fan,this year’s free agency period has started out quite slowly.

It’s no surprise though.  The big fish need to be signed in order to establish the market for all the others.

Dempster’s 4 year,$52M deal should be a little disconcerting for everyone. $13M a year for a guy who had 6 starts in the 4 years prior to this season? Who’s ONLY good season  as a starter before ‘08 came in 2000 with the Florida Marlins? Sign me up.

This contract has all the makings of an albatross for a Cubs franchise that is already stuck with Alfonso Soriano’s horrible deal.

Anyway,here’s my thoughts on the big boys:

CC SABATHIA - If someone offered you $140M,how long do you think it would take you to say “Yes”?  I was already nervous about offering a 300lb pitcher with 1,600+ innings on his arm a 6-year deal,but now it’s clear that Carsten Charles doesn’t want to pitch in New York.

And if that’s the case,I’m not so sure I’d want him.  Okay,I’d still want him because I think there’s a great chance he’ll be very very good,but I’d still be uneasy.

AJ BURNETT - If anyone wants to offer this 32 year-old guy a five year deal,more power to you.  That’s insanity for a guy that has started 30 games in a season 3 times in 8 years –with the last 2 times coming in contract years.

DEREK LOWE - He’ll wait until the other 2 guys sign and make a lot of money.  I still think he’d be a great fit for a National League team.

His last year in the AL East wasn’t pretty,but you can bet that if the Yankees lose out on Sabathia (and I think they will),they’ll offer Lowe too much money for him to pass up.

MARK TEIXEIRA - At the end of the season I was almost certain he’d re-sign with the Angels.  But his agent is Scott Boras,who loves to drag things along slowly,and the Angels have said they’re not going to wait around forever.  Right now,I think he could end up anywhere.

FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ - If people thought the Mets would jump at the chance to over pay K-Rod,think again. The market for closers isn’t a good one this year.  There are a lot on the market and not a lot of teams that need them.

And with his stuff in decline,I’d be shocked if anyone offered him more than 3 years.

NCAAF Power Rankings:Week 9

Some strong statements made this week in college football,both good and bad.  Florida chewed up Georgia.  Texas rolled over Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  Oregon took USC behind the woodshed,and Iowa used a huge  4th quarter to whoop Indiana.

Disappointing weekend for fans expecting to watch some good games as the scores show.

  • #6 TCU 41 – UNLV 0
  • #7 Boise State 45 – San Jose State 7
  • #8 Cincinnati 28 – Syracuse 7
  • #9 LSU 42 – Tulane 0
  • #11 Georgia Tech 56 – Vanderbilt 31

You get the point,right?  So with another week in the books,there’s a shakeup at the top of our power rankings.

Florida: The Gators made sure Georgia’s miserable season continued on Sunday with a 41-17 beating in Jacksonville.  The annual contest is dubbed The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,but the only ones partying were the folks from Gainesville.  Florida still has question marks especially at wide receiver,but the defense is solid and there’s too much talent for them to falter before facing Bama in the SEC Championship Game.

Texas: We’ve been waiting for a statement game from the Longhorns all year long,and they finally gave it to us on Saturday.  Sure,Oklahoma State was playing without its biggest weapon,but not even Dez Bryant would have made a difference in this one.  The defense returned to picks for TDs,and at 41-7,the game was over before the 4th quarter started.  With their biggest tests out of the way,we’d be shocked if Texas didn’t waltz into the National Championship Game.

Alabama: Last week’s close win raised some question marks,and Texas’ convincing win on the road moves them up for now.  I still think Bama has a great shot to beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game.  They’re defense is the best in the country,and they can run the ball with anyone.  That wins a lot of football games.

Oregon: Wow. Last week we said USC’s defense “has cracks”.  Turns out they’re gaping holes.  Oregon put up 613 yards of offense including 391 on the ground in dismantling the Trojans.  Everybody watching – from the fans to the broadcasters to the coaches and players – knew they could do whatever they wanted to with the ball.  USC had no chance of stopping them. Give the Ducks credit.  After the opening loss to Boise State and the ugliness afterward,they’ve proven they’re a damn good football team.

Stay tuned for TJR’s NFL Power Rankings coming later in the week.

TJR Picks:NFL Week 8

Better late than never right?  So we took a bunch of weeks off,but after such a good run last year we figured we deserved it.  Here’s a few picks we like for this week.

Seattle (+9.5) at DALLAS: The Cowboys are the better team no matter how you analyze the numbers,but big home favorites are just 60-142-3 against the spread (ATS).  The Seahawks defense gets a little healthier and keeps it close in Jerry World.

St. Louis (+4) at DETROIT: Both of these teams are baaad,and history shows that when two bad teams play it’s best to take the road team (especially in a non-division game 68-36-2 ATS),which in this case is the Rams.

CHICAGO (-13) vs. Cleveland: All the math points to the Browns covering,including a 76-21 ATS record for road underdog bounce-back situations like this one. But the bottom line is this:we just don’t believe in the Browns.  So give the points in this one.

INDIANAPOLIS (-11.5) vs. San Francisco: The Niners offense is a big question mark with Alex Smith at the helm.  He was good in 1 half against the Texans,but that’s not enough evidence to assume it will continue.  The Niners defense has been average to this point while the Colts defense has played really well.  We’ll take Peyton Manning and give the points.

Green Bay (-3.5) vs. Minnesota: The first matchup in Minnesota should have gone Green Bay’s way,but the Vikings pulled out the win at home.  The Green Bay defense is much better than people realize,and we’ll take Aaron Rodgers throwing to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver over the Vikings secondary all day.

Miami (+3.5) at NY Jets: Miami won the first matchup at home.  This one is sure to be close given that it’s an inter-division game and with the Jets missing DT Kris Jenkins,the bet here is that the Dolphins continue to run over the Jets.  Take the points.

Those  are the games we like this week.  And as we always say,bet with your head and not over it.

TJR’s Biggest Loser:Antoine Walker

$110 million.  That’s what Antoine Walker earned in his 12 year NBA career.  And yet, it seems that wasn’t enough.

Just one year removed from his last season in the league,Walker’s money is gone.  And worse,he’s been arrested on felony charges of writing bad checks to Las Vegas casinos totaling more than $1 million.  On top of that,Walker owes JP Morgan and Wachovia each $1.5 million.

It’s just astounding.  How long have we been reading about professional athletes and celebrities blowing through cash and ending up broke? It’s like the holiday classic “The Christmas Carol”.  The story never changes.  The only thing that changes is the actor playing the lead role.

Congratulations Mr. Walker.  You’re this year’s leading man…and TJR’s Biggest Loser.

Fun With Numbers:World Series Edition

We’re back with a World Series edition of Fun with Numbers.  No game focuses more on numbers than baseball so we had plenty of stuff to work with here.  Almost too much.  Our heads are still spinning.

Without further ado,here are your numbers.

2: World Series Championships in Phillies history

2: Number of times the Yankees have won 4 straight World Series Championships (’36-’39 and ‘49-’53 when they won 5 straight)

31: World Series games played by the Phillies in the franchise’s 116-year history

32: World Series games played by Derek Jeter

10,167: Losses in Phillies franchise history,making Philly the only team in American sports history to surpass the 10,000 loss plateau

16.7: Consecutive 0-win,162-loss seasons the Yankees would need to reach 10,000 losses

1: Number of times Cy Young winners have faced off in Game 1 of the World Series before CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee tonight (In 1995,Greg Maddux of the Braves faced the Indians Orel Hersheiser)

0: Teams that have started pitchers in World Series Games 1 and 2 who weren’t on their Opening Day roster (Lee and Martinez are scheduled to pitch games 1 &2)

5 2/3: World Series innings pitched by Phillies Closer Brad Lidge

9: World Series games saved by Mariano Rivera,the most all-time

1.89: Cliff Lee’s ERA in his last 3 starts (2-1) versus the Yankees,including a 10-2 win on Opening Day this year

0.74: Lee’s ERA in 3 starts this postseason (2-0 with 1 no-decision)

8: Consecutive postseason games with an RBI by Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez,an all-time record shared with Lou Gehrig

1976: Year the last National League team repeated as World Champs (Cincy’s Big Red Machine in ‘75-’76)

Here’s a look at some other numbers you should know.

2009 Postseason Numbers

  • Alex Rodriguez: .438 AVG,.548 OBP,5 HR,12 RBI
  • Ryan Howard: .355 AVG,.462 OBP,2 HR,14 RBI

Yankees World Series Numbers

  • Derek Jeter: 32 G,.302 AVG,.375 OBP,27 R,3 HR,8 RBI
  • Johnny Damon: 4 G,.286 AVG,.286 OBP,4 R,1 HR,2 RBI
  • Jorge Posada: 23 G,.208 AVG,.337 OBP,6 R,2 HR,6 RBI
  • Mariano Rivera: 20 G,31 IP,4 ER,1.16 ERA,9 SV,29 K,6 BB

Phillies World Series Numbers

  • Jimmy Rollins: 5 G,.267 AVG,.261 OBP,4 R,0 HR,0 RBI
  • Chase Utley: 5 G,.167 AVG,.375 OBP,5 R,2 HR,4 RBI
  • Ryan Howard: 5 G,.286 AVG,.375 OBP,3 R,3 HR,6 RBI
  • Brad Lidge: 5 G,5 2/3 IP,2 ER,3.18 ERA,2 SV,9 K,0 BB