11-2-09: Monday Notes

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another week. I've nearly given up on trying to figure out which day it is in my week relative to yours. Frankly, it's giving me a headache.

So instead, I'll just say, “Happy Monday” and move on. Okay? Okay.

Monday means it's time to take a peek back at the weekend. And what a sports weekend it was. There was college football, World Series action, and a little football game in a small, northeastern Wisconsin town starring a quarterback from Mississippi...

All that and whatever else occurs to me before I sign off for the day... let's get after it, shall we?

Oh yes, we shall...

”I have learned to use the word 'impossible' with the greatest caution.”
- Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), German-American rocket physicist and astronautics engineer

It's “impossible” for the World Series to go seven games. “Impossible”, I say! Are you listening to me baseball gods? “Impossible”! (end reverse jinx)

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Monday Notes

College football kind of sucks this year... and I'm not just saying that because I'm not doing as well in my picks columns this year, though that certainly doesn't help.

There just aren't any “great” teams this year. Florida, Alabama and Texas are all pretty good. But every one of them has flaws that prevent you from leaning on them as “the” favorite to win the National Championship.

Then there's the group of teams whose records say they're pretty good, but you're not sure if you can trust. Yes, Iowa is undefeated. But can anyone who's seen their games really believe them? Do National Champions trail Indiana 21-10 in the 3rd quarter? Really? Oregon has only one loss, but just beat the tar out of USC. So I guess they're pretty good, but can you really trust a team who's talking about bringing back a running back who's most famous for his right cross? And what about TCU? They're this year's mid-major du jour. Sure, they're undefeated. But look at their schedule. Their biggest wins are at BYU and at Clemson. Good wins to be sure, but are they enough to elevate a team to that next level? I don't know.

The funny thing is that, theoretically, having so many teams in the National Championship chase should make the season more interesting. But when you lack any “Goliaths” for “David” to slay, it becomes this mash of mediocre teams where the championship will be won by whomever has the reputation enough to get into the Title game and has that one good night.

That doesn't feel exciting to me. It leaves me feeling unfulfilled.

And as much as I'm in favor of a playoff system, I'm not sure even that would save things this year. After all, what's the difference between two slightly-above-average teams squaring off for the title and eight mediocre squads bumbling their way through a playoff? I can't really get amped up for that either.

It's too bad really. I'm a huge fan of the atmosphere that surrounds college football. And I suppose that hasn't been all that greatly diminished. I just find myself less excited for this bowl season than in the past. And that's a bummer.

The Yankees lead the Phillies 3-1 in the World Series... and there's no way this thing is going to seven games as I'd hoped.

You hear me baseball gods? It's absolutely, utterly and in every way imaginable “impossible”!

(Hey, the way I'm running, why not give this a shot, right?)

It's a shame too, because this Series has been pretty darned competitive throughout the first four games.

Cliff Lee was marvelous in Game 1, and A.J. Burnett was nearly as good in Game 2. Game 3 featured the grizzled veteran Andy Pettite out-dueling last year's World Series MVP, Cole Hamels. And Game 4 wasn't decided until the 9th inning when Brad Lidge had a 2-out melt-down, the likes of which he had avoided in the post-season.

But through all four games, the Yankees have consistently out-hit the Phillies and that's turned out to be the key difference. Alex Rodriguez has had only 2 hits in the series, but they've both been huge. A 2-run home run in Game 3 that got the Yanks back into that game which they went on to win, and a clutch double in Game 4 in the top of the 9th to plate what ended up being the winning run.

Ryan Howard has more hits (3) than Rodriguez, but his hits have produced only 1 RBI, which came in Game 1 where Cliff Lee and Chase Utley were the stars.

Utley's been tremendous for the Phillies. But outside of him, there hasn't been nearly enough production from the Philadelphia lineup.

Then there's the question of who should've started Game 4 for the Phillies. The Yankees announced their intention early to throw their Ace, CC Sabathia, in Games 1, 4 and 7. It was assumed by many that Philly would counter with Lee in those same games. But after Game 2, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel announced that Lee would go in Game 5 while Joe Blanton would go in Game 4.

While I understand that Manuel wanted to keep Lee on regular rest, I have to ask, “Why”? This is the World Series. What are you saving him for? There can't be any doubt that Game 4 would've been different in some way, even if Lee wasn't fully rested, if he was on the hill instead of Blanton. That's not to knock Blanton, but it's clear Lee is Philly's Ace. If he's going to be your horse, then for heaven's sake, ride him!

Now, Philadelphia finds itself down 3-1, with Lee trying to prevent elimination and send the Series back to the Bronx. And while some might think that he's a lock to win that game, remember, A.J. Burnett was nearly as good as Lee in Game 2. So I think Game 5 is up in the air, at the least.

And even if the Phills win Game 5, they're forced to go back to New York and win two games in Yankee Stadium to win the title. Oh, and there's a small matter of beating CC Sabathia in Game 7 while the Phillies will have to rely on Cole Hamels, who got thumped pretty good in Game 3.

I'm sorry to say it Phillies fans, but I think you're cooked. And sadly, you're left with the kinds of “what if's” that make losing a championship all the more bitter.

Game 5 comes your way tonight from Philadelphia. Check your local listings.

The Vikings are better than the Packers... and Minnesota's quarterback is better than Green Bay's too.

I can hear several readers already gnashing their teeth as I write this. But the numbers don't lie.

The Vikings are 2-0 against the Packers this year, outscoring them 68-49 in the process. While Green Bay has put up more total yards than Minnesota, when it counts they've only been able to put it in the end zone 3 of the 7 times they've reached the red zone against the Vikings. Minnesota, on the other hand had capitalized 7 of the 8 times they've been inside the 20.

That speaks to defense. And the Vikings defensive superiority is best illustrated by the following stat: Minnesota has sacked Aaron Rodgers 14 times while Green Bay failed to sack Favre even once.

And while I take nothing away from the quality of Rodgers' overall performance, Favre has simply been better. Favre has 7 touchdowns to Rodgers' 5 and Brett hasn't thrown a single interception while Rodgers has. And Favre has had a higher QB rating in both games.

All of that occurring while Favre was under infinitely more pressure than Rodgers. That's not to say that Rodgers' life has been footloose and fancy free in those two games. But there's no question that the spotlight was firmly on Brett in both games, especially yesterday's contest. It's one thing for any Packer QB to try and play well in a noisy Metrodome. But for Favre to have to try and perform with perhaps the most hostile crowd in Lambeau Field history, his numbers take on added weight.

Minnesota now enjoys a 2.5-game lead in the NFC North, and in effect, a 3-game lead over the Packers as they hold the tie-breaker advantage.

Sorry Green Bay. You're going to have to work for a Wild Card berth if you want to participate this post-season.

That's going to do it for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with more college football goodness and hopefully not with a World Series wrap-up.

(Impossible, baseball gods. Impossible!)

Until then, thanks for reading!

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