What We Learned from the Seahawks 50-17 Win Besides the Fact that Buffalo is Also Pitiful

It’s really not a joke. The Seahawks aren’t pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone who seems to miss their games (i.e. everyone who lives outside of the great state of Washington.) Yes, Buffalo is a bad team, and Arizona was/is too, but you can’t ignore 50-plus points in consecutive games.

  • The Record Book just won’t go away. Russell Wilson continues to take records and break them as if he was eating a sandwich for lunch. After strong play last week, Wilson now holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game for the Seahawks. Something he did in the first half with three rushing scores. No Seahawks QB has ever rushed for that many touchdowns in an entire game.
  • Read Option. The Seahawks continually used the “Read Option” to their advantage on Sunday. On the play, Wilson receives the snap with Marshawn Lynch to his right in the backfield. If it looks better for Wilson to run it himself, then he fakes the handoff to Lynch and goes behind Lynch with the ball. If the play looks like the team would get more out of it if Lynch ran it, then Wilson simply hands off the ball. The point of the play is that the QB makes the split-second decision on what would work best. Hence it being called the “Read Option.” The Seahawks used this play to continually rip off huge gains versus a porous Bills’ defense.
  • Passing Dan Marino. Last week I told you with one more touchdown Russell Wilson would pass Dan Marino in terms of number of passing touchdowns in a rookie season. With his TD pass to Zach Miller, Wilson moved his total to 21, passing Marino’s 20.
  • Win and You’re In. The Seahawks can clinch at least a wild card berth with a win on Sunday against San Francisco. The Seahawks would clinch the number two seed in the playoffs, and receive the first round bye that comes with it, if they beat the Niners and Rams to close out the year. And, if the 49ers lose both of their remaining games, and if Green Bay loses one of its last two games. Plus, they would get home field advantage at home in the divisional round (they’re 6-0 at the Clink this year.)
  •  50-50. The Seahawks are now one of three teams in NFL history to score at least 50 points in two straight games. This feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 50’s. This is fantastic for a team who was 28th in the league in total offense last year. Other quarterbacks who have yet to accomplish this or haven’t: Tom Brady (very surprising,) Peyton Manning (equally surprising,) Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, John Elway ( I think you see my point.)
  • Winning. The Seahawks now have tied their highest win total since 2006, the year before they went to the Super Bowl. That team was 9-7.

Super Bowl Worthy? I posed this question last week, and now it should be a given. The Seahawks are Super Bowl worthy. Finally.

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading

The Madden Curse

With the exceptions of the “FIFA” franchise as well as the “Mario Brothers” Empire, “Madden” may be the most popular video game in the world. Hence, it would be an honor to be on the cover of it. And while it’s nice to be on the cover, there is a certain “curse” per say which follows it.

Which is why Lions fans are probably fretting over the season Calvin Johnson is going to have, or the fact that he’s probably being taken way too late in fantasy football drafts around the country.

And rightfully so, people have a right to be hesitant.

Dating back to 2001, when a single athlete graces the cover, it tends to impact their performance the next season. A lot of those declines are due to injury, however not all of them are. Continue reading

Trade Reaction: Tigers Acquire Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for Jacob Turner and Prospects

I was surprised that this happened. Not necessarily in a good way.

It was noted, the Tigers’ production at second base has been horrendous this season. Throw all the ugly numbers out there that you want. They have been bad.

A possible starting pitcher was another need seeing as, again throw all your numbers out there, the Tigers’ back end starters, namely the fifth spot, have been inconsistent. Continue reading

The Real Deal or Not So Real: Early Season Contenders and Pretenders

It’s early in the season. Perhaps too early to make assumptions and what not, but here goes anyway.

Every season some teams get off to fast starts, and somewhat slower ones. A fast start could propel you to a successful year (‘06 Tigers) or send you on your way to a horrendous one (‘08 Tigers).

The following teams are off to scathing starts and could very well be contenders…or pretenders:

Candidate Numero Uno- The Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very deep squad. They feature a rotation that has possibly five front-line starters, when their stuff permits. They also feature two more pitchers who would make most clubs rotations in their bullpen: Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman.

To continue with the pitching, Texas’ ‘pen could be hit or miss (pun completely intended). Joe Nathan could be one of the better signings of the offseason, or one of the worst. If he doesn’t work out, the bullpen could go into a tailspin without a defined closer.

(Side note, the Rangers are 10-2 and Nathan has both losses.)

If you live under a lake or something, you’ll be surprised to know that the Rangers’ pitching rotation isn’t even their “strength”. That “strength” would be the offense. Yes, Texas’ offense is very good. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mr. Eye Brows himself Nelson Cruz are all guys who could hit .300 with at least 20 bombs. To be fair, David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland aren’t terrible either.

So if you haven’t reached the conclusion, the Rangers are CONTENDERS.

 

Candidate Numero Dos- The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp and Andre Etheir going for them. That’s almost it. Clayton Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. But after that there isn’t a ton to be excited about.  Dee Gordon and James Loney are nice pieces. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are very good rotation options. There are some young, talented arms in the bullpen, but I’m running out of huge positives here.

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a hot start, but they beat up Pittsburgh and San Diego. There, go ahead, let that sink in a little. They crushed teams that they should be crushing, so to speak, which is what you’re supposed to do anyways.

The Dodgers might have shown their true colors against Milwaukee, who might not even get second in the NL Central. The Dodgers lost the first two games and, as I write this during the third game, it doesn’t look amazing.

Overall this might just be a fluke, or the Dodgers simply beat teams they should. Until they can start beating the big boys I’m labeling them PRETENDERS.

 

The Third Candidate is the Montreal Expos Washington Nationals

I write that because the Nationals haven’t been good in DC. Period. But that could change here soon. Right now as it is the Nationals look very good on paper. They have really good youth and talent at most positions in the field. They seem to have a strong bullpen with the likes of Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge and All-Star Tyler Clippard holding down the fort until Drew Storen comes back. Stephen Strasburg leads a rotation that includes, get this, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmerman. Granted Jackson is in town on a one-year deal, but regardless that’s an exciting first four.

Their offense is led by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and a seething Adam LaRoche. That middle of the order is pretty good even without the currently injured Michael Morse and the long-awaited-and-still-waiting-for Bryce Harper.

Sounds pretty scary.

After all this I still think the Nationals are a year away. They will no doubt be playing meaningful games late, and it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see them sneak in. But with Strasburg’s innings cap and Harper’s late arrival… Next year they definitely will be a force. This year, second or third in the division is more likely.  Verdict: PRETENDERS (for now).

 

Saving the Best for Last- The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are legit. The only possible questions of concern for Detroit entering the season were their infield defense and the back end of the rotation. Those questions aren’t really of concern much anymore. Miguel Cabrera has been turning in pretty good glove work at the hot corner and Prince Fielder isn’t a terrible fielder to begin with (again, pun completely intended). Jhonny Peralta should have won a Gold Glove last year and Brandon Inge is one of the better defensive players in the game wherever you put him.

The back end of the rotation has been quality as well. And when I say quality, I mean to use it as the worst transition known to mankind to get to the fact that Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly have posted quality starts. They have helped fill the short-term void of Doug Fister’s rotation spot as well as the fifth spot in the order.

The only glaring question now is the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been shaky this season, but really, anything is shaky compared to his perfect campaign of 2011. He’ll get it together. Other than that the rest of the team is loaded. And with Austin Jackson finally raking at the top of the order, the Tigers will propel themselves to a deep October run. Verdict- (If you haven’t guessed yet) CONTENDERS.

Assessing the Cleveland Indians Chances

In the AL Central… No chances at all. I’m just kidding. They have a shot, but then again, so do the Orioles.

Cleveland is certainly head and shoulders above the competition, for second place that is. They are certainly better than Kansas City, for the present at least. They are also better than Minnesota’s current Rochester Red Wings/ injured former stars jumble of a roster. Chicago remains the wild card here. They could certainly be an upstart team under Robin Ventura, or could fail miserably. That being said, the team itself is the definition of inconsistent: Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn all had unyielding seasons last year and could do with a solid season, much less a complete comeback and/or return to form.

Back to Cleveland’s bashing… Again I’m only kidding, but it isn’t looking exceptionally bright for the Indians. Prince Fielder signing with the Tigers wasn’t the only big first baseman news in the AL Central. Casey Kotchman moved into Cleveland’s starting lineup, displacing Matt LaPorta in the process. The latter is currently at AAA and waiting for the call should injuries or need reveal themselves.

If Cleveland wants to have the smallest of shots at the division title, they need their pitching to come through for them. It’s going to be a lot of groundballs if everything goes to seed. If everything doesn’t, then it could be a problem.

Justin Masterson is a solid option in the rotation, so is Ubaldo Jimenez. Derek Lowe can also be a dependable cog on a contender, but has shown the tendency in the past to be rather like some Chicago White Sox players: inconsistent.

Cleveland needs all the stars to align. They need to probably lead the league in ground balls, or come close to it. They need to score many more runs than expected with an offense that looks the part of a poor man’s Tampa Bay Rays minus Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena. They also need sheer luck and to catch more than a few breaks.

It’s not ridiculous for them to contend and be successful, just look up the Tigers magical run of 2006. However for Cleveland to win the division, or take a highly coveted wild card spot from the AL East or West, they are going to need a lot of everything.