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NFL Week Two Picks: Look for Action Where There’s No Action

Picking games in week one is like trying to predict what to say on a blind date. Basically the best case scenario is to get a second date. So regardless of last week’s 1-2 start, the fact is that we found something to talk about.

The Jacksonville Jaguars. That was the one game that was correctly picked. The reason? A basic fundamental of all betting karma. The reason to bet on something is to generate higher interest (and depending on your lifestyle, as a means of income). Nobody was talking about Jaguars vs. Vikings. It was a game that the football gods were begging fans to bet on, so the few that did were rewarded. I’m back for a second date, and I’m only talking about awful games since that is what made the first date great. Therefore the following games are untouchable:

  • Chicago Bears versus Green Bay Packers:. Despite the fact that it’s the lock of the week since the Pack won’t go 0-2 since this is at home (and since they already played the game and the Pack covered it), this game involves two contendahs as of week two. Stay away! By the way, from this point forward I’m betting against the Bears. Jay Cutler is as likable as Biff Tannen.
  • New Orleans Saints (+2.5) at Carolina Panthers: Yes they are both 0-1, but that’s what makes it interesting. Everyone was thinking they would be 1-0 coming into this game. Way too big of a story line.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7) at NY Giants: People are calling it a must win for the Giants. That’s people do in New York, but it shows that people care. You can watch this game without any other incentives.
  • Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Flacco is looking like he’s ready to take a leap up into the elite QBs while Mike Vick appears ready to take the fall down from the second tier into the average guys. I’ll watch.
  • Washington Redskins (+3) at St. Louis Rams: Trading the number two draft pick was a bad choice. This should be a fun game to feel awful for Rams fans. Unless you’re a Rams fan. 
  • NY Jets (-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers: This gave us reason number 31 as to why the preseason is worthless. The possibility of the Jets beating a good team this week to get to 2-0 gives us a reason to watch the game. I like the idea of Rex Ryan getting his confidence built up so that it will eventually break down.
  • Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Seattle Seahawks: Tony Romo has to implode. It’s what he does. Based on my interest level though, this game screams stay away. 
  • Detroit Lions (-7) at San Francisco 49ers: As if having the only game on the tube isn’t enough to get you to the couch, the geniuses at NBC have dubbed the game Handshake Gate. Gotta love going into work tired because you had to stay up after all four quarters. 
  • Denver Broncos (-3) at Atlanta Falcons: I want to see how Jon Gruden handles Peyton Manning. I’m not talking about calling the game. I’m worried for families that watch this game. 
That said, everything else is worth getting invested in. Here are the seven least intriguing games on the schedule in Week Two. In yawning order.

7. Tennessee Titans (-7) at San Diego Chargers:
This game has no story lines, which is perfect. The Chargers won while I was asleep last week which could be the case again this week despite the fact that it will start 6 hours sooner. That said, Philip Rivers has started a season 2-0 only once since 2006. Jack Locker looked good in spots last week, but the Titans were no match for the Patriots. I don’t think they’ll be the first team to say that this week. 
Verdict: Titans lose, but cover. 31-28
6. Houston Texans (+

3 NFL Week One Picks That Can’t Miss

The worst part about this time of year is hard to put your finger on. The awful memory as a child of going back to school. The days getting shorter. The weather getting colder.

The best part about this time of year? Football. Easy.

The independent voter inside of me is leaning ever closer to D than R these days, and not only on account of foreign policy. This year the football season kicks off on Wednesday because of the Democratic National Convention taking place on a Thursday. What that means is that all those Survivor pools and spread chasers have to get an early start on the action.

New York Giants (-4.5) over the Dallas Cowboys

I don’t know what to do about the Cowboys and Giants. Four and a half seems like a lot of points for the defending champs. The last time Eli Manning and the Giants were defending a title they opened the season at home by losing to Dallas by 10 points. Then again Jason Witten will not play for Dallas. It’s one of those game I don’t need to pick one because I’m just going to watch anyway. However, the next three are too hard to resist:

Jacksonville Jaguars -4.5 over Minnesota Vikings
In the “Avoid Throwing Up in Your Mouth” Bowl, you could get a look at the first game in history to have two teams playing head-to-head both start the season 0-1.  In the Jaguars’ last preseason game against the Falcons, Blaine Gabbert could not successfully transfer a pitch to Rashad Jennings. The Jaguars fumbled the first play of their last preseason game against a team that started two regulars. Speaking of Gabbert, does any NFL quarterback look remind you more of Sunshine from Remember the Titans? 
As bad as the Jaguars are, there are the Vikings. Yup, these Vikings. Adrian Peterson is a game-time decision and already sat out the entire preseason (MJD has it much better than AP). He is never going to be the same player he was before the knee injury, and that’s tough news to swallow for a team that is relying on a second year guy who had his ups and downs last year in Christian Ponder. The Vikings have very little hope this season based on the rest of the team’s in the NFC North. This glowing report from CBS on the Vikings said “the Vikings are the fourth team in the division and appear to be a ways away from the other three.” 
Most importantly, the Jaguars have that “Rudy just walked back onto the field after quitting” thing going for them with Maurice Jones-Drew returning after a brief holdout. Coach Mike Mularky’s gotta have this speech in him, no?

When I was fifteen years old I lost my mother and my father in the same month Ronnie, same month. 12 brother and sisters I was the youngest one of them, now I wasn’t ready either, but they needed me. Your team needs you tonight, you’re the Colonel, you’re going to command your troops! Twins right 48 zero read. Go.” Coach Boone nailed it.

In a game this ugly, just take the points.

Washington Red Skins (-8.5) at New Orleans Saints
The same franchise that once saw one of the most devastating career-ending injuries of all-time when Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theismann’s leg, has more optimism than it has had in this century with the quarterback that just won Baylor its first Heisman. And as only Daniel Snyder’s karma would have it, the bounty for Robert Griffin III this week is essentially Six Flags since that is the only asset Snyder has left after trading for RG III. He does run Six Flags, right?
RG III is not Cam Newton. But Drew Brees is Drew Brees. The Saints lost one game after Nove… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers get: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Josh Beckett, OF Carl Crawford, IF Nick Punto

Boston Red Sox get: SP Rubby de la Rosa, OF Jerry Sands, IF Ivan de Jesus, 1B James Loney , SP Allen Webster

After the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to a new ownership group including former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, former Atlanta Braves President Stan Kasten and investor Mark Walter, Kasten repeated over and over that business in Chavez Ravine was going to change. For the past seven years, the team had been beset by management that didn’t have the capital to back up the massive responsibility that came with running a league institution like the Dodgers. Fans became disillusioned and bitter, and after several seasons of seeing the best players being eschewed from their dreams of playing in Dodger Blue because of bigger paychecks in not just places like New York and Boston, but Detroit and Milwaukee, simply stopped showing up to the Stadium.

From day one, Kasten repeated that the Dodgers would take their rightful place on the iron throne that they molded out of the ingenuity of Branch Rickey and the sweat of Peter O’Malley. Over and over, he said that the Dodgers would no longer operate like a small-market team whilst sitting in the middle of the nation’s second-biggest media market. Stan Kasten, with Magic’s infectious smile beaming a little bit brighter than usual, proclaimed that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be the New York Yankees.

On Friday, August 24th, the Los Angeles Dodgers have become the New York Yankees.… Read more...

MLB Dog Days of Summer Check-in: What’s Gone Wrong with the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins?

KOBEsh: The Detroit Tigers are one and a half games behind Chicago for the AL Central lead. D-Town was supposed to run away with the division this year, but a lot of pretty obvious holes have reared their head – an awful infield defense and a very subpar rotation beyond Verlander. 

What would you say is the most overlooked problem with their team? Were they just never that good to begin with?

Mr. Marquez: Defense – Looking strictly at fielding percentage the Tigers have actually overachieved expectations. Miguel Cabrera was previously moved to first base for an obvious reason, but third basemen for the Tigers this season are in the top five in all of baseball. I know, I’m shocked. Actually, the worst they are at any position in terms of field position is at first base, but even there they are not that bad. Any team with Prince and Miguel on the corners deserves further inspection though, and that’s where the 21st Century comes in.

The Tigers UZR (ultimate zone rating, which determines how well a team gets to hit balls and fields them) is indeed the fifth worst in all of baseball. Among 17 qualifiers, Miguel is 14th best among his peers and the Tigers as a team are in the lower fifth of baseball at third base. The Tigers are also below average at second base and (no surprise) first base.

Ultimately though, we see all of this coming. The offense that a team with Prince and Miguel should have been able to overcome this problem.

Grade: Met Expectations

Rotation – Justin Verlander was MVP last year. Since the award was given in 1911, only 11 pitchers have ever won it and only one has repeated (we all remember Hal Newhouser in 1944 and 1945…obviously). We have to be fair to Verlander; he wasn’t going to replicate what he did last year, but has he failed to meet expectations? I don’t think so. All the numbers are pretty close to where he was a year ago. And let’s remember the information about the defense above. The team is above average in terms of fielding percentage, but below average in terms of UZR. In other words, his ERA and WHIP could be even better than 2.46 and 0.99 respectively. He’s done what he needs to do.

The rest of the rotation though is a different story. Doug Fister has been on the disabled list and missed about a month. Anibal Sanchez, who the Tigers hoped would be this year’s Fister, has been awful. Max Scherzer was brilliant in his most recent start, but we’ve seen his Jekyll & Hyde act every year. Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly have been fourth and fifth starters, and have been inconsistent, to say the least.

Grade: Failed to Meet Expectations

Offense– When Victor Martinez was lost for the season, the Tigers swept in and took Prince relatively late in the free agent spending period. It was an upgrade on V-Mart, but let’s give the man some credit. He is certainly an average to above average cleanup hitter in a Major League lineup, or at least he was before his knee became jell-o. 

Even with the outrageous deal he’s gotten, Prince has been great. He’s hit for average, he’s hit for power, and he’s walked more than he’s struck out. Additionally, Miguel Cabrera has had a typical, unbelievable season. He’s missed one game all season and leads baseball in RBI.

Similar to the rotation, the problem isn’t with the superstars. In 2011, Jhonny Peralta had a career year,  Alex Avila came out of nowhere to being an All-Star. In 2012, we’re talking about Peralta having a career year last season because he’s decline, Avila has gone back to nowhere and Brennan Boesch’s lack of plate discip


MLB Dog Days of Summer Check-in: How bad is it in Boston and Houston?

You know your perennial All-Star first baseman? He’s not turning it around. Hoping that your bullpen can start to hold down leads? It’s not happening. Praying that your center fielder is going to regain that sock in his bat? Switch religions. 

It’s the “dog days of summer”. If your team isn’t playing to how you thought they would, then what you see is what you got.  Baseball is over 100 games into its season, so hoping for a late season surge has gone from unlikely to damn near impossible. Sorry kids, time to start saying “well, there’s always next year.”
The only good to come out of this desolate section of the summer? The playoffs are right around the corner, and the herd is rapidly being thinned out. As the air has gotten thicker and the temperature has risen to record heights, teams throughout the league start dragging and the true core and character of your favorite squad has begun to rise to the top. We know who the contenders are, and sadly for some, who will be selecting in the upper half of the MLB draft next season. Over the next few days, MAMBINO will be taking a look at what has gone horribly wrong with some teams, but unsuspectingly right with others.

The Red Sox are nine games back of the Yankees in the AL East but only four and a half games back of the Tigers, Orioles and A’s for the Wild Card. They’re pretty far away from being dead in the water, but if you were to listen to the national media, you’d think that they were absolutely toasted. My first question is, in a season of incredible lows, what’s been the worst part of it for you as a Sox fan? And do you think that they can make the playoffs, and will make the playoffs?
Mr. Marquez: Before 2004, we lived by the same mantra as Cubs fans do today: “There’s always next season.” After 2004, things were never going to be the same for a whole generation of Red Sox fans. Nor should they be. The passion isn’t the same – the pain of a loss, the scrutiny of a manager, the anticipation of a Yankee game, the desire to be inside Fenway – it isn’t on the unhealthy obsessive level. When a goal has been accomplished, it’s easy to lose motivation.
Since then we have continued to be spoiled as a city. Four months after the Red Sox swept the Cardinals, Tom Brady won his third Super Bowl. Two years after that the Red Sox won again this time with a core that was younger and primed to be a perennial juggernaut. Jon Lester threw only 63 innings that year after beating cancer. Dustin Pedroia was an MVP in his second season. Jacoby Ellsbury was in his first year and didn’t start in center field until the World Series. Clay Buchholz was left off the post-season roster after throwing a no-hitter in his third career start. The Patriots became the first team to go undefeated since the Dolphins (hey, they made it to the Super Bowl, okay?). The Celtics acquired Ray Allen and KG and won immediately. The Bruins somehow even managed to sneak in and win a Cup two summers ago. And the Patriots made it to a fifth Super Bowl in eleven years – maybe the most impressive team accomplishment of the 21st Century.
When you are spoiled though, expectations do get higher. When Jonathan Papelbon blew the save and Evan Longoria hit the home run, it brought out comparisons of Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner. THAT wound opened up. The Red Sox blew a 9 game lead with only 27 left. Think about if Seattle came back to take the Wild Card right now. It wouldn’t be worse than what the Red Sox did last season. The moment that Longoria touched on home plate it was one of those 

Trade Analysis: How Cole Hamels Signing Changes the Trade Market

Philadelphia Phillies get: SP Cole Hamels, six years, $144 million dollars

Cole Hamels signed up for six more years with the only team he’s played for earlier today. It was the second biggest contract in terms of dollars ever shelled out to a pitcher. After all the gushing things he had to say about the Phillies and their fans, it is probably safe to assume that he’s off the market. That means that the 19 teams that are competing for either the Wild Card or the division right now need to turn their attention elsewhere.

What it doesn’t mean though is that the Phillies are going to make a run.

Signing Hamels was more of a move to ensure that he never had to deal with the temptation of free agency. He is 28 years old, won a World Series MVP (and NLCS MVP that same year), throws left-handed, has the 9th best active ERA, and 3rd best active WHIP. Dude can pitch and has done so every year of his career. If he hit the open market, he could get as much as Josh Hamilton or any other player this winter.

That said, the Phillies now have a huge imbalance at the top of their payroll. Hamels is going to make an average of $24 million per season during this contract. Next year, Roy Halladay ($20 million) and Cliff Lee ($25 million) will combine with Hamels to make more money than the entire payrolls of six different teams. When you factor in a deteriorating 33-year-old Ryan Howard at $20 million, the team’s payroll is over the league median. Include Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins who all make more than $10 million and you have seven players that will make over $120 million. And then there are still 18 slots to fill. Usually that’s where a minor league roster comes in to play, but according to Baseball America the Phillies had the 27th best system coming into this season. Having said all of that, the Phillies need to get younger and cheaper.

Shane Victorino needs to be traded before July 31st. The thin trade market gives him extra value and the CBA just makes it look like bad business for the Phillies not to deal him. The same can be said of Hunter Pence who isn’t a free agent after the year, but might as well be given that he will need a deal well over $10 million in his final year of arbitration and the fact that the Phils might not be able to afford him in the winter of 2013. These players should be moved along with other smaller pieces such as Placido Polanco and Joe Blaton from the Phillies, but the Hamels signing impacts nobody more than Zack Greinke.

Since 2010, only 14 pitchers have had a better wins above replacement players than Hamels; Greinke is one of them. He is an obvious number one starter and as far as impacting a race or in the case of a team like the Yankees that is already in the playoffs, nobody would make more of an impact. Of course the Bombers aren’t thought to be interested because of Greinke’s well-documented battle with social anxiety disorder, but that isn’t stopping seven other teams from being interested. Hamels being off the market should give Milwaukee more leverage in a potential deal, and also give Greinke leverage should that team try to resign him. Greinke is only a year older than Hamels and because he could go to the open market, his deal will more than likely become the third biggest contract ever signed by a pitcher.

From here, the dominoes continue to fall: when six of those seven teams strikeout from their pursuit of Greinke, the door will open to players like Ryan Dempster (Atlanta isn’t out yet), Josh Johnson, Matt Garza, Francisco Liriano, and even James Shields. All of them wi… Read more...