The Cubs Won the World Series! (Also Week 8 Review, TNF Preview)

Posted: 11/03/2016 by levcohen in Baseball, Football

It’s Thursday, and I was going to write a typical football post, but the Cubs don’t win the World Series every day. They won it last night in one of the most heart-wrenching ways imaginable. As everyone knows by now (or at least the 40 million people who watched the game, most in a game since Twins-Braves Game 7 in 1991), the Cubs took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning after chasing ace Corey Kluber and stringing together some hits on the untouchable Andrew Miller. They had Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks on the mound and pitching well. Then, all hell broke loose. Joe Maddon pulled Hendricks after a walk, Jason Kipnis reached on an infield single on relief pitcher Jon Lester, and two runs scored on a wild pitch. And in the eighth, after the Cubs had added a run to make it 6-3, flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, clearly tired after throwing a lot of pitches in the previous two games, got hammered, first by a Brandon Guyer RBI double and then by Rajai Davis’s two run homer. It remained 6-6 and went into extra innings, when it went into a brief rain delay. The delay seemingly gave the Cubs time to settle down, and they put two runs across in the top of the 10th. But even then, the game wasn’t quite over. After two quick outs, the combination of Guyer and Davis again led to a Cleveland run, making the game 8-7, before Michael Martinez grounded out with the tying run on first base. It was a heck of a game, and the better team won in the end. I’m happy for the Cubs, whose fans looked petrified for the entire game (for good reason). But while the focus is on Chicago, let’s not forget the great run that Cleveland — and especially Kluber, Miller, Cody Allen, and Francisco Lindor — had. The Cubs will certainly be a favorite to repeat, while the Indians have almost everyone returning, including Michael Brantley, the oft-forgotten outfielder who was the team’s star player before missing almost the entire season with an injury. Could we see a rematch? Unlikely, but possible. It would be quite a feat for two of the worst teams of the last century. Now back to the regularly scheduled programming…

I’m removing Minnesota and Seattle from the top tier, simply because their offenses have been so stagnant. I’m close to putting one of three AFC West teams in the top tier, but let’s see how Denver-Oakland goes first. Pittsburgh will probably also end up back in the top tier depending on when Ben Roethlisberger gets back. I’m saying goodbye to the Jaguars, because even the AFC South isn’t bad enough to justify not eliminating the Jaguars.

Top tier: New England, Dallas
Eliminated teams: Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, New Orleans, San Francisco, Miami, New York Jets, Jacksonville

  • I think it would be prudent for everyone to hold their Derek Carr love in check a little bit. Yes, Carr threw for 519 yards and four touchdowns last week. And I really do think the Raiders have a good offense. But I believe that’s more a product of a good pass-blocking line and two great weapons (Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree) than it is a result of a big step forward by Carr. The signal-caller is undoubtedly the future at the position for Oakland, but right now he ranks in the top five in attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. I don’t think that’s sustainable.
  • I hope the Washington Redskins — and the rest of the league — learns from last week that there are some receivers that even great cover corners can’t lock down. A.J. Green destroyed Josh Norman last week, drawing five penalties and catching nine catches for 121 yards. He would have had more if Andy Dalton hadn’t missed him deep a few times. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers took Julio Jones out of the game. How? Well, they don’t have a Josh Norman, so they just doubled Jones. Some smart teams double a dominant receiver and put their best cornerback on the opposing team’s #2 receiver. I think more teams should and will start doing that going forward.
  • Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are the MVP favorites right now, but I’d like to put two other names out there… How about Adam Vinatieri and Justin Tucker? They’re clearly the two best kickers in the NFL, and given the number of terrible missed kicks we’ve seen this year, maybe they’re more valuable than we thought! They’re the only two kickers without a missed field goal, and they don’t just hit chip shots. They’re a combined 9/9 from 50+ yards… The rest of the NFL is just 28/63. MVP! MVP!
  • I’d like to introduce you to Bills linebacker Zach Brown, also known as the tackling machine. Brown already has 87 tackles, putting him on pace for 174, which would put him in a tie with Patrick Willis for third place on the all-time single-season list. Chris Spielman had 195 tackles in 1994, so Brown will have to pick it up if he wants to break the record. He also has a PFF rating of 89.9, sixth among linebackers. He’s only played 488 snaps, which means he’s notching a tackle 17.8% of the time, incompletions included. That’s insane.
  • I wouldn’t sleep on the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South race. The Falcons lead at 5-3 and are probably the best team in the division, but the Saints are 3-4 and have the easiest remaining schedule in the division. They also have three fantastic receivers, a great quarterback, and a dynamic offense overall. And they’re likely getting top cornerback Delvin Breaux back from a leg injury that has kept him out for the last six games. The defense isn’t good, but it’s sneakily not atrocious. That might be enough for them to at least challenge for the title in a weak division.

Last week’s picks:
9-3-1 straight up… 67-51-2 for the season
8-5 against the spread… 62-53-5
5-8 over/under… 57-61-2

1-2 on upset picks… 13-16-1
1-0 on lock… 4-4

Best picks of the week:
Panthers 30, Cardinals 23… Actual result: Panthers 30, Cardinals 20
Texans 21, Lions 17… Actual result: Texans 20, Lions 13
Saints 27, Seahawks 23… Actual result: Saints 25, Seahawks 20

Worst picks of the week:
Vikings 24, Bears 10… Actual result: Bears 20, Vikings 10
Colts 31, Chiefs 27… Actual result: Chiefs 30, Colts 14
Chargers 23, Broncos 17… Actual result: Broncos 27, Chargers 19

Atlanta Falcons (5-3, 5-3 against the spread) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4, 3-4):
Spread: Falcons favored by 4.5
Over/under: 50.5
My prediction: The Falcons are obviously the better team. But are they really a touchdown better on a neutral field and thus 4.5 points better in Tampa? I don’t think so. Now, it’s true that the Buccaneers have been terrible at home. They’re 0-3 in Tampa Bay, and the Falcons are 3-1 away from home including a win in Denver. That’s probably why this spread is so high. But I still don’t think it should be. The Buccaneers won the reverse matchup in Week 1, getting 281 yards and four touchdowns from Jameis Winston against the same Falcons defense that just allowed Aaron Rodgers and his decimated receivers corps to romp to gaudy numbers. In the end, the Falcons have the better weapons, especially with both Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers out for Tampa. I trust Matt Ryan this year, and I think he can lead the Falcons to another close win. But the spread is too high. Falcons win 30-27.
Buccaneers cover
Over

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