by TOM WEPPEL
I still say the Tampa Bay Rays are a team that a majority of baseball fans simply are not accepting. They look at them as a flash in the pan deal. Even local Tampa sports fans are having to read a program to get the names of the starters.
Just in case you don’t know, 3B Evan Longoria, CF BJ Upton, and 1B Carlos Pena have been hitting HR’s in the postseason. They have been the power plant to the Rays’ offense.
James Shields, Matt Garza, and Scott Kazmir have been effective starting P’s for Tampa. Their relief pitching and bullpen have done a great job in shutting down opponents. And overall, their fielding and defense has been very good. That’s why we see the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
Then you have the Phillies, who pushed through the Dodgers to win the NLCS and had six days off to regroup themselves. This is a team that wasn’t the strongest of squads throughout the season, yet persevered to get to this point. While 1B Ryan Howard was their power hitter during the regular season, Philadelphia has looked to 2B Chase Utley and LF Pat Burrell to carry them in the post season, wit CF Shane Victorino providing clutch hitting and fielding at key points. Cole Hamels, local product Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton have been a respectable rotation for their pitching, with Brad Lidge coming in to close the deal when the situation arises.
Overall, I think this should be an interesting series, and while its not gonna play out as ‘sexy’ as we’ve seen in recent years, I think we’ll find some stars emerge when its all said and done.
After a week off to gather the troops a bit, Jack Del Rio gets his boys geared up for a late Sunday afternoon start against the precarious Cleveland Browns. In these last few days, a lot of people are feeling that the Jaguars are going into a rather easy portion of their schedule, playing the Browns, Lions, and Bengals. And while the records of those teams is not good by any means, with two of them winless, that doesn’t mean they can’t steal a win. If you don’t believe me, then check out the recent travails of the Rams, who were 0-4 before beating the Redskins and Cowboys on back-to-back weekends.
So, I’m sure the Jaguars are well-aware of the potential of these Browns, who, in the last two weeks, beat the Giants, then gave the ‘Skins all kinds of trouble before losing by a FG. This was a team that came on strong last year, with a number of offensive weapons to keep track of, including WR’s Braylon Edwards and Donte’ Stallworth, and RB Jamal Lewis. They will NOT be playing with TE Kellen Winslow, who has been suspended due to his comments last week in relation to his staph infection and hospitalization.
The Jaguars had a good win in Denver, and now want to work right off that with some positive momentum. They want to improve the running game, and also tighten-up the Defense. Look for a couple of different jerseys on the O-line on Sunday, including the return of starting C Brad Meester. Also look for play from former starting G Chris Naeole.
A win against the Browns will put the Jaguars over .500 for the first time this season. Let’s see what they do…
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions are STILL without a win heading into this weekends’ contests. The Lions will host the Washington Redskins, while the Bengals go to Houston to face the Texans. Looking at the games, I would say they have a slight shot at perhaps getting a win, but overall, look for both teams to lose once again, making things that much worse.
Mike Singletary takes over as Head Coach of the 49ers, replacing Dick Nolan. San Francisco will host the Seattle Seahawks, and I’ll be curious to see how Singletary acts on the sidelines.
In London, the Chargers and Saints will play as part of the NFL’s participation oversees. Both teams come off a loss and will be looking to get back on track, so it should be interesting to see how they play on foreign turf.
And finally, on Monday night, the undefeated Tennessee Titans will host the 3-3 Colts. I’ll be real curious to observe how this game goes. If the Titans beat up the Colts, then we’ll know for sure who is running the roost in the AFC South.
Another week, another weekend to follow the wheeling and dealing within the ranks of College Football. Starting out locally, the Gators should have no problem with the Kentucky Wildcats, while Virginia Tech will give Florida State a good test in Tallahassee. Look or both teams to emerge victorious.
Nationally, there are two contests that should be very interesting. Undefeated Penn St. will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the upstart Buckeyes in what should be a solid Big Ten tussle. Meanwhile, #1 Texas will host the #8 Oklahoma St. Cowboys. For the Longhorns, this will be the third consecutive weekend they will play a team ranked in the Top Ten.
In the SEC, Georgia will go to LSU for a tough contest, while Alabama will travel to Tennessee to play the Vols. These SEC scraps are leaving teams beaten up with a couple of losses, all of which, in a way, hurts their BCS rankings.
So, overall, this should be a weekend where, when its all said and done, we’ll know a lot more about who’s at the top of the heap, in sorting out the BCS mess, which to me is a good way to view it.
by TOM WEPPEL