NFL: Week 3 Picks

We’ve reached week 3 of the season, and still have 8 undefeated and 8 winless teams. There have also been a lot of big injuries early that will have a big impact on week 3 and beyond.  As for my picks, I’m 18-14 through 2 weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking going into week 3.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo left with a shoulder injury for New England, who still managed to move to 2-0.  This was thanks in large part to Garoppolo’s 3 touchdown passes before his injury as well as a big performance from LeGarrett Blount in the run game. The Texans took down the Chiefs on the strength of their defense to move to 1-1, a stark difference from their 33-0 loss to Kansas City in the playoffs.  Without Garoppolo, I think the Texans will do enough to get another win to start off the week 3 action. HOUSTON WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Ravens @ Jaguars: Baltimore got very lucky in week 2, as they overcame a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to improve to 2-0.  Cleveland never scored again, while Joe Flacco brought his team back with a 25-45, 302 yard performance.  Their opponents have been disappointing to me so far.  While I didn’t think the Jaguars were going to make the playoffs this season, I thought they’d be better than they’ve shown, starting 0-2 again after They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Both teams enter 1-1 after losing in week 2, and are looking to keep pace with the 2-0 Vikings.  The Packers lost their game in the 4th quarter, turning the ball over twice, while allowing Rodgers to be sacked 5 times. Detroit also lost their game in the 4th quarter when they were outscored 13-0 by the Titans, including a 93-yard game winning drive.  The Lions didn’t have a go to back in week 2, losing Ameer Abdullah to an injury.   So who gets back in the win column this week? I’ll take the Packers at home with a much-needed big day from Eddie Lacy. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington won the NFC East a year ago, but have opened up this season 0-2.  Struggles in the red zone and an inability to force turnovers meant a loss in a back-and-forth affair with Dallas last week. New York’s offense moved up and down the field pretty easily on Sunday, but also struggled in the redzone, and had too many turnovers in the 1st half.  But the defense and special teams stepped up and they moved to 2-0. So who takes this division matchup?  Give me the home team to get over their redzone struggles and take advantage of Eli Manning’s league leading completion percentage, which should be even better as the Giants receiving core dropped at least 5 balls in week 2. NEW YORK WINS
  • Browns @ Dolphins: For the 5th week in a row (dating back to last season), Cleveland will be starting a different QB.  Someone should tell them this isn’t baseball, there’s no starting rotation in football.  Even with the QB carousel, the Browns almost, and should have, pulled out their first win in week 2.  They were up 20-2 on the Ravens, thanks in big part to their ground attack, but fell late.  Miami isn’t in any better a position than their week 3 opponents, as they enter action at 0-2 as well.  The Dolphins were down big early to the Pats, but made a comeback after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury.  Cleveland will be in this game until the end because Miami has had issues stopping the run early.  But even of Isaiah Crowell goes big on the ground, I still think they pull out the win at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Vikings @ Panthers: Minnesota will now be without their starting QB and running back for the rest of the season after Adrian Peterson went down in their game on Sunday night. The Vikings defense looked stong against Aaron Rogers in week 2. As for Carolina, they rebounded offensively in week 2, but they still struggled a bit on defense, allowing the Niners to score 27.  They’ll be without their running back Jonathan Stewart, but were picked up by Fozzy Whittaker on the ground.  Despite the 27 points allowed, I like the Panthers chances of stopping Sam Bradford and the new Vikings weapon and league receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs. CAROLINA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bengals: Andy Dalton has gotten off to a nice start this season, leading the league with 732 passing yards, so here’s a good test for the Broncos league leading defense.  CJ Anderson is having a good start to the season, and we’ve seen the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game to start the season, so he should be able to help eat a lot of clock for Denver. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bills: Arizona rebounded from a tough week 1 loss by handily beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Cardinals led the league in total offense, while the Bills dropped to 0-2 despite putting up 31 points of their own in week 2. Buffalo has let their offensive coordinator go, so they really need this game.  Too bad I don’t think they’ll get it.  Look for a big game from running back Daniel Johnson. ARIZONA WINS
  • Raiders @ Titans: Oakland has not been able to stop anyone through two weeks, something I wasn’t expecting, allowing 70 points so far.  Tennessee has actually done a very nice job on defense.  Both teams are 1-1 heading into this game, but I still like the Raiders better.  The Titans offense hasn’t shown the big play ability the Raiders have, so Oakland should be able to hold them down better than they did with New Orleans and Atlanta. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425pm Games

  • Rams @ Buccaneers: LA’s defense showed up in week 2, Tampa’s did not.  The difference between these two teams is the offense.  While the Bucs went from scoring 4 TDs to 1, I feel more confident about their offense than the Rams, who have scored just 9 points in two games.  The best chance the Rams have is if their defense can do what it did a week ago, and good game out of Todd Gurley. That being said, I’ll take the home team in this one. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: This is a big (albeit early) NFC West battle between two 1-1 teams.  San Francisco followed up a surprise week 1 win with a defensive breakdown against Carolina.  Seattle had one of their worst offensive games in this recent stretch of Superbowl quality teams, scoring just a field goal against the L.A. Rams. I can’t see the Seahawks being held down again, especially by the Niners.  Russell Wilson should be able to dominate in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Steelers @ Eagles:  I never thought this would be a game where both teams have a chance to move to 3-0, but here we are.  DeAngelo Williams has been huge for Pittsbrgh in the abscense of Le’Veon Bell, who is out one more week due to suspension. Philadelphia has gotten about as good as you can ever hope to from a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, who hasn’t turned the ball over yet. It should be a good game, but I will go with the experience in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jets @ Chiefs: Two teams I picked to make the playoffs in the AFC face off in Kansas City this weekend.  New York picked up their first win last week, thanks to the offense.  Off-season acquisition Matt Forte finished with 100 yards rushing, and three rushing touchdowns. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall both finished with 100 receiving yards as well.  The Jets defense wasn’t as impressive as it was week 1.  The Chiefs hope that’s the case again this week, as they couldn’t get much of anything started against Houston. A lot went right for New York last week, and I can’t see them doing quite that well against Kansas City’s defense as they did against Buffalo.  If this were a home game for the Jets I might choose differently, but it’s a home game for the Chiefs, so I’ll go with them this week.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Colts: San Diego is 2-0, Indianapolis is 0-2.  I really thought that the Colts would be able to do better than they have on defense, but they haven’t. San Diego has looked very good on offense to start this season, Indy has been very up and down. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Cowboys: Chicago is 0-2 despite holding early leads in both week 1 and week 2.  And now they’ll be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a thumb injury.   Their best hope to beat the Cowboys is to continue limiting the passing game, as the Bears rank 4th in the NFL allowing 224 yards a game.   As for Dallas, they picked up their first win thanks to another clean day from Dak Prescott and a big night on the ground. The Boys were already a better team than the Bears before the Cutler injury, so give me Dallas at home to move to 2-1. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints: Atlanta picked up their first win against an impressive Raiders team in week 2, while New Orleans dropped to 0-2 after a game winning field goal by the Giants.  Atlanta hasn’t had any problems scoring this season, but their defense has struggled at times.  New Orleans’ defense was much better in week 2, forcing 3 turnovers, but it wasn’t enough.  I picked the Saints to make the playoffs, so this is a huge game for them.  If they want to get their first win, they have to figure out how to run the ball.  The Falcons tend to be very inconsistent, so give me New Orleans at home in a shootout. NEW ORLEANS WINS

MLB Postseason Predictions – NLCS

Here we are. One round from the World Series, and we’re now down to two teams left standing in the National League.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ St. Louis Cardinals

  • Joe Kelly (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs Zach Greinke (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

I had the Dodgers beating the Braves in four, and that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t even that close. LA scored 23 runs in their 3 wins. They gambled bringing their Ace Clayton Kershaw back on three-days rest for the first time in his career, but it paid off. Kershaw gave the 6 innings strong of, 3-hit, 2-run ball. But now they don’t have their Cy Young starter until game 2.

It’s the first time the Dodgers have reached the NLCS since 2009, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games. They also fell in 5 games to Philly in 2008. And if they should win, it will be the first time the reach the Fall Classic since 1988, when they beat the Oakland A’s.

As for the Cardinals, it took 5 games for them to get here. Again, that’s how long I figured their NLDS match-up against Pirates would go, It was a fun, close series, with the clincher the biggest margin of victory. Not counting the 6-1 clincher, St. Louis outscored Pittsburgh 15-14 in the first 4 games.

The question is always is it better to play everyday and get in on a high, or clinch early? Well, it’s another case of that in this years NLCS.

Without Ace Adam Wainwright because he went the distance last night, possible game 1 candidates included Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Kelly ended up getting the nod, after just 1 start during the regular season.

Clinching Monday meant LA could set up their Dodgers send their Ace 1A to the hill in Zach Greinke. Greinke took the game 2 loss to Atlanta, but pitched well enough for the win, going 6 innings of 2-run ball.

The LA Dodgers took the West, the St Louis Cardinals the central. Now one will take the NL.

And it all gets started with Game 1 Friday night at Busch Stadium- first pitch set for 8:30.

It’s going to be a hard fought series. But I think the fact that the Dodgers were able to set up their pitching much better than St. Louis will ultimately mean a win. Getting 2 from Greinke and 2 from Kershaw is huge. Wainwright won’t pitch until game 3, and it might be too late by then.

DODGERS IN 6

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ALCS UPDATE

  • The Red Sox have already clinched their spot in the next round.
  • The Detroit Tigers are in Oakland tonight for a winner-take-all Game 5.
  • No matter what happens tonight, the ALCS kicks off in Boston on Saturday.

MLB Postseason Predictions – ALDS

Two easy wins got the playoffs started last night.

NLDS Update:

  • The Cardinals lead the Pirates 1-0
  • The Dodgers lead the Braves 1-0

Now its time for the American League to open up play, as well as game 2 for each NLDS in today’s full slate of games.

 

In the first ALDS, familiar AL East foes face-off.

Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox 

  • Matt Moore (17-9, 3.29 ERA) vs Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

There are no secrets between these two division rivals, having played 19 games against each other in the regular season.  It’s a battle of southpaws who had very good seasons.   The Rays have two guys in Evan Longoria and Delmon Young who like hitting home runs in the postseason, while Boston had the best record in the league and know how to win in October.  Both teams have been to the World Series in the past 6 years, so this should be a fun series.  The Sox just hit .208 as a team against Tampa this year.

I like both starting rotations here, so I think it comes down to a battle of the bullpens.  In terms of closers, Koji Uehara was lights out to end the season for the Sox, and hasn’t allowed a run to Tampa in his last 16 innings.  While Rays closer Fernando Rodney is known to make you sweat.  Give me the AL East champs in a long, hard-fought series.

RED SOX IN 5 

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In tonight’s second ALDS, it’s a battle of division winners.

Detroit Tigers @ Oakland Athletics

  • Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) vs Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA)

This is an intriguing game 1 match-up in today’s playoff night-cap.  You’ve got Scherzer, who’ll probably win the AL Cy Young, going against Colon, a 40-year-old former Cy Young winner.  Scherzer was huge for Detroit this year, especially early when their former Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander got off to a rare slow start.  Colon has revitalized his career in Oakland, and was great all year.

The Tigers were the AL representatives in the World Series last year, while the A’s are making their second straight postseason appearance after sneaking in last year.  Detroit has more pop in its lineup, with a combo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  But don’t be surprised when Oakland’s bullpen carries them to the next round. I have much more faith late in games in the A’s than I do Detroit.

ATHLETICS IN 5

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Today’s postseason action gets started in the NL at 1PM.

Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals

  • Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA) vs Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA)

The Pirates look to bounce back from a 9-1 pummeling last night, while the Cards look to take a 2-0 lead before heading on the road to Pittsburgh.

As a I posted yesterday, I have CARDINALS IN 4

 

And finally, game 2 in Atlanta tonight.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves

  • Zach Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA) vs Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA)

The Dodgers made easy work of the NL East champs last night, and now send their other Ace to the hill looking to take a 2-0 lead back home.

Again, as posted yesterday, I have the DODGERS IN 4

Enjoy the full slate of Postseason action today.

Salty Slam Drops Yankees Back

It looked like it was going to be a blowout early. 

Hiroki Kuroda needed 30+ pitches in the Sox 4-run first inning.  Relievers were up alongside him the first couple innings.  But Kuroda battled, and fought his way into the 7th, giving the pen a blow and allowing the Yankees to make a come back.

Brendan Ryan hit his first homer as a Yankee, and 4th of the year in the 3rd.  In the 6th, Lyle Overbay’s sac fly cut the deficit to 2.  Then in the 7th, Robinson Cano stepped to the plate with the bases loaded with 2 outs.  A double to right looked like it would clear the bases and give New York the lead.  But with Alex Rodriguez running from 1st, he could only get to third.  Rodriguez is battling a sore hamstring, and isn’t running like he normally does.  Alfonso Soriano would strand the runners on second and third. 

So heading to the bottom half of the 7th, the score was tied at 4.  And the bullpen, as it seems to do a lot lately, didn’t do its job.  Heading into action, the pen was short once again after Phil Hughes was lifted after just 3 innings on Thursday.  No Mariano Rivera after 4 games in 5 nights, some for multiple innings.  No David Robertson after throwing 43 pitches in the past two games following a sore shoulder.  So first up for New York, Preston Claiborne, who has struggled of late.

And those struggles continued.  With one on and no outs in the bottom of the 7th, Claiborne came in and loaded the bases, with no outs.  A strike out of Daniel Nava set up the double play, when to the plate stepped catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  And he delivered a grand slam to take an 8-4 lead.

Kuroda picked up the loss, seeing his record fall to 11-11, and his ERA go over 3 for the first time in a long time. 

The Yankees are now just 6-11 against the Red Sox this year.  The loss dropped New York back down to 2 games out of a Wild Card spot, and Cleveland is back ahead of them by .5 a game.

CC Sabathia looks to even up the series, while Jon Lester looks to sink the Yankees even further down the standings.

Wild Weekend Ends on Walk-Off Wild Pitch

Things just happen when it’s Yankees vs Red Sox in September.

Down 1-0 early, Mark Reynolds tied the game with an RBI double in the 4th.  2 out rallys are always big, but they’re even bigger against a pitcher like Jon Lester as you fight for your playoff lives.

Robinson Cano would give New York the lead on a two run double in the 5th.  He now has 97 RBIs on the season.

Hiroki Kuroda has been off his game the last month, but he fought his way through 6 innings of 2 run ball and left up 3-2.  Shawn Kelley returned after a few days off with a forearm issue to throw up a scoreless 7th.  And in the 8th Joe Girardi showed just his bad the team needed this game, as well as how beat up his bullpen is. For the first time since 2006, Mariano Rivera came in tasked with getting a two inning save.  Mo last pitched Friday when he blew his sixth save of the year.  He got through the 8th, but needed 20 pitches to do so. Then in the 9th, he surrendered a game tying solo shot to the light hitting Will Middlebrooks.

So yet again the Yankees offense was tasked with picking up the overworked bullpen.  Brett Gardner was retired to start the inning. Ichiro Suzuki singled, then stole second base.  Vernon Wells flew out to right, but Suzuki was able to advance to third, which would prove key.

So with two outs and Alfonso Soriano at the plate, Boston reliever Brandon Workman threw a wild pitch, allowing Suzuki to score.  The wild finished saved the bombers from the 4-game sweep and keeps their head above water on the wildcard chase.  After a 5-1 start, New York finishes their home-stand 6-4.
Now they’ve got to contend with a 10 game road trip starting with 4 games in Baltimore.  It’s a series that will mean either leapfrogging them again, or sinking farther down the standings.  The O’s lost today, so the Yankees enter just a .5 game behind.

But don’t forget even if the bombers do well against the O’s, three games in Fenway await them next weekend.  The Yankees goal on the road trip is to at least win both series and stay within 3 of Tampa who they face the following week in the Bronx.