Questions for the Clowns: October 1st

I have been truly horrible at writing about relevant topics this semester. I completely missed the boat on writing about what ended up being an exhilarating couple of weeks in MLB, have been pretty awful at picking the NFL games, and have just generally been a Jimmy Fallon lately. Part of it can be blamed on school, part of it can be blamed on just not sitting around to write enough, but regardless, I am here to rectify it. Thanks to our readers, we will touch on everything we have missed over the last few weeks.

Was that the greatest ending to an MLB regular season of all time?
Keith in the Bronx

It wasn't THIS bad.

Honestly, yes. The ending on its own was fantastic, but given that the AL games ended virtually minutes apart, the ninth inning runs, and the incredible Rays comeback, it takes the cake. Remember when this was supposed to be the most boring playoff race in recent memory with all those spots sewn up? Just in case you were wondering what the chances were Boston would blow that lead, here are their playoff odds by game over the course of the season. Wow. By far the best ending of a season I have lived through and I cannot think of any season in history that really trumps it.

What is the big deal with Terry Francona’s firing? Isn’t that normal?
Billy Martin 

If Terry Francona was actually fired/forced out and didn’t just decide it was time to leave, then it is one of the funniest//most confounding moments in recent sports history among moments that are not actually funny. So Terry Francona is at the helm as the Red Sox rise to the pinnacle of baseball and, by all accounts, has the ear and respect of all his players, and because his players did not execute, he got fired? This is such a George Steinbrenner move that I can’t even reconcile the idea in my head that the Yankees and Red Sox don’t share a soul or something. Maybe funnier is that the team will probably be the exact same last year as long as the hangover from this season doesn’t ruin it. The managerial change will change nothing except adding the perception that there is doubt in the organization. The only thing a manager really does is manage morale in the clubhouse and occasionally decide when it is time to bring in a reliever. Do the Red Sox actually think he had anything to do with that collapse? I really, really hope they do. It would give hope to every other franchise that money cannot buy you common sense.

So you ignored the last few months of the MLB season on this blog. Care to make a few predictions anyway?
Mitch in Waukegan, WI

Sure, why not. The last time I predicted the World Series, I had Brewers over Red Sox. However, now that the Red Sox have folded, I should probably amend that. Considering we are one game in to all the playoff series, it would probably be wise to take that into consideration as well. My first instinct is to just take the Yankees in the AL, but that rain out in Game 1 probably hurts them more than it hurts Detroit. I know the Tigers miss a Verlander start, but Scherzer, Fister, Porcello is probably a little better than Nova, Burnett, Colon/Hughes. I think there are pretty legitimate concerns about the Yankees bullpen too, especially against the Rays, who they may meet in the ALCS. I still think the Yankees can beat the Tigers, but I am going to go with the hot hand in the AL and take the Rays. I don’t have stats to back that pick up, just leaning that way. Brewers over Rays in 5. And yes, I would have taken the Rangers if the Rays hadn’t won Game 1. Isn’t it nice when you didn’t print your hindsight?

So with the Drew League, Indy Pro-Am, and so on appeasing the NBA junkies and giving the impression that the NBA players are still having fun during the lockout, I think it is time the owners showed that they can have fun too. I present to you, the Front Office Challenge, a 3 on 3, halfcourt basketball tournament played NBA front office vs NBA front office in tournament form.
Erik in Chicago

Yes, yes, a million times yes. We will include broadcasting crews and coaching staffs for each team too, just to keep rosters flush and we will make it 2 on 2 (NBA Jam style) so more teams have a shot. Here are the relevant rosters as I see them. Each team is allowed 3 players so they can match up better (and so we can name more front office members). Just to be clear we will assume it is each of these guys at age 45 so we can balance out the age difference of some of the teams.

Front Office Challenge Fans

Orlando- Patrick Ewing, Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy (click the link for a sweet dribbling lesson)
Houston- Kevin McHale, Clyde Drexler
New York- Walt Frazier, Isaiah Thomas, Mike D’Antoni
Charlotte- Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley
Miami- Bob McAdoo, Pat Riley
New Jersey- Avery Johnson, Mikhail Prokhorov
LAL- Phil Jackson (without spinal surgery), Jerry West
Indiana- Larry Bird, Brian Shaw, Austin Croshere
Milwaukee- Scott Skiles, John McLaughlin
Boston- Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers
Minnesota- David Kahn, Bill Laimbeer
Memphis- Damon Stoudemire, Henry Bibby
Phoenix- Dan Majerle, Alvin Gentry

Missing out- Adrian Dantley (Nuggets),  Byron Scott (Cavs), Mark Jackson (Warriors), Joe Dumars (Pistons), Doug Collins (76ers), Sam Cassell (Wizards)

Alright, I may have left a few guys out, but that is pretty much the list of the relevant rosters. Naturally, most teams there would be extremely mediocre, but there are a few that would clearly run the league. Charlotte (Jordan, Oakley) would be a force entirely because of Jordan, Houston (Drexler, McHale) would be the best overall team, and the Magic (Ewing, Smith, SVG), Pacers (Bird, Shaw, Croshere), Lakers (Jackson, West), Knicks (Frazier, Thomas D’Antoni) would have a shot at the championship. I would pay money to watch the Nets (Avery Johnson and Prokhorov) play every day if I could. My MVP is david Kahn, point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has better court vision than Steve Nash and a better shooter than Nash and Steph Curry combined. No wonder he has drawn comparisons to the immortal Ricky Rubio.

Playoffs- (1) Houston vs. (8) New Jersey, (2) New York vs. (7) Miami, (3) Charlotte vs. (6) Orlando, (4) Lakers vs. (5) Pacers. I have the Rockets, Knicks, Bobcats, and Pacers advancing, the Rockets beating the Pacers, Bobcats beating the Knicks and then Jordan crushing Houston again just for nostalgia.

Yeah, the NBA will be missed.

You were 5-10-1 last week against the spread. You suck.
Reality

Yup, I have been pretty terrible at picking games this year, both in my actual picks pool (not against the spread) and here against the spread. Pretty embarrassing, frankly. But I am back again this week to hopefully atone for my extremely poor year. Maybe.

For the record I get my lines here so if my lines do not match yours, that is why.

Detroit (+2.5) @ Dallas

Detroit is better than I expected when healthy. I mean I know that has been written by every other blogger and writer, but holy crap. I know the injury threat still looms, but they look like an 11-5 team, which would still only get them 2nd in the NFC North but is really, really scary. Dallas, on the other hand, looked like a steaming pile of Romo against the Redskins but still found a way to win. If Detroit goes on the road and beats a team it is traditionally horrible against, the Lions bandwagon will literally break because the wagon can’t support all the people. Basically, by picking Dallas here it means I think they will win even though they have been all kinds of mediocre and Ndamukong Suh may get impatient and just eat Tony Romo’s broken rib. I can’t do that. I am taking the Lions even though it has letdown game written all over it.

New Orleans (-7) vs Jacksonville

I still think the Jaguars will finish with a top 5 pick in next year’s draft and I still think the Saints are an elite team. No need to overanalyze this one.

San Francisco (+8.5) vs Philadelphia

Even if Vick was healthy, I would be hesitant to think the Eagles could cover. I know it is a west coast team on the east coast in an early game, but the 49ers seem kind of decent and can at least make it close right? Am I really betting on Alex Smith? Screw it, yes I am.

Washington (-2.5) vs St. Louis

The Redskins look decent, the Rams look hopeless. Maybe a “we’re not dead yet” performance out of the Rams, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Tennessee vs Cleveland (PK)

Without Kenny Britt, the Titans will be forced to rely on Nate Washington to carry the entire offense. This is where Cleveland starts quietly climbing and making people think they are decent even though they are still sort of bad.

Buffalo (-3) vs Cincinnati

This has letdown game written all over it too, but I don’t care. The line is low enough that I am willing to let it ride on the Bills. Either the Lions or Bills will lose this week, and I am picking both of them. I just don’t think Cincinnati can resist the late Ryan Fitzpatrick comeback. Buffalo wins by 4.

Minnesota (-2.5) vs Kansas City

I am still supporting the Vikings cause, but they seem fatally allergic to holding the lead this year. KC on the other hand prefers to not have a lead. Don’t overreact to their performance vs SD as it was a divisional rival, they are still all kinds of bad. Minnesota will try to throw it away but barely miss. Minny by 3.

Carolina (+6.5) vs Chicago

Book it. Panthers over Bears and maybe even a Cutler injury to set the Bears on track for 6-10 and a rebound year next year. The Bears will start to figure Newton out, but the defense and running game will do just enough to get the Panthers a win.

Pittsburgh vs Houston (-3.5)

If the Texans are real, they win this game. The Steelers offensive line is really, really banged up, the Texans played pretty damn well for 3 quarters against the Saints and they get them at home. If they lose this game, it is Tennessee’s division to lose. They will win it and, in the process, make at least one AFC South team relevant this year. In other news, the Steelers MIGHT not be good, but we have to wait to find that out.

Atlanta vs Seattle (+4.5)

Remember how last week I urged no one to bet on NFC West teams out of the division? And remember how I have already done it twice here? Yeah I had a sneaking suspicion Atlanta wasn’t good and while it has not been proven, I do not think they are good enough to go on the road to a hostile environment and beat a really, really average-to-bad Seahawks team. I still think Atlanta wins, but it will be close. Of course, they might just blow them out too. No clue.

NYG (-1) vs Arizona

I still think the Giants suck, but they keep winning, so what am I supposed to do? Eli throws for 400 yards and the Giants sneak by the Cardinals.

Miami vs San Diego (-7)

Sticking to my guns on this Chargers team even though they looked pretty average against Kansas City. The Dolphins lost all their potential momentum last week against the browns and they will get rolled out in style against the Chargers in San Diego. Keep in mind that we are now out of September so the Chargers are allowed to play well now.

Denver vs Green Bay (-12)

Yup.

New England vs Oakland (+5)

Just to be clear, I am not taking the Raiders to win, but just to make it close. Talks of New England’s demise are pretty unfounded, but they might not be as good as we thought. The Raiders, on the other hand, look like they could be 8-8 this year and actually be respectable again, which is something I didn’t entirely expect. Oakland runs it enough to keep the score in check and keeps i close but New England wins by 4 with the Raiders cutting it close late.

NYJ vs Baltimore (-4)

I might be overreacting here, but I don’t think the Jets are making the playoffs. They were depending too much on Mark Sanchez making the jump and figuring it out, and he does not look ready to do that in the least. Baltimore, on the other hand, looks pretty good so far, and while the Torrey Smith thing might be a fluke, all the Ravens really need is the threat of the vertical pass to get Boldin free. The Ravens might be in line to win the AFC North too, but that depends on how good the Steelers are, which remains to be seen.

Indianapolis vs Tampa Bay (-10)

Curtis Painter isn’t as bad as everyone thinks, but he is pretty awful. LeGarrette Blount is going to eat the Colts small defenders alive and this one will get out of hand in a hurry. Pretty funny that the Colts get two prime time games in a row without Manning isn’t it? No, it isn’t funny, it is depressing. Tampa by 17 to 20.

Honestly, I don’t feel good enough about these picks to find a three team parlay so I am not going to bother.

Last Week: 5-10-1
Season: 21-23-4

Alright, that is all for now. Best sports time of the year!

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