It is I, the Picks King! (Noahsports team picks NFL Week 2!)

That’s right, ladies and gents!  I am the Picks King.  You see, I’ve changed my mind.  Say goodbye to the Noah of before, the Noah that couldn’t pick a game to save his life.  Say hello to the Noah of now, the Noah that picked only 5 games wrong last week!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  It’s not that great.  But I am in the lead after the first week of Noahsports team picks.

So before I destroy everyone else again this week I must announce the future plans for this series.  As you may know, last week I said that I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a weekly thing because I didn’t know if I could get a new guest writer each Sunday.  Well, it turns out I don’t need one.  Conor, under a guestwritership (not a thing but who cares) has joined the Noahsports team for good!  Everybody give him a big hand.

If you didn’t, I can understand.  He had a little bit of good luck and ended up threatening I, the Pick King’s, spot on the throne.  Again, how dare he?  DOESN’T HE KNOW THAT THE THRONE IS MINE?!?

Nah, but seriously.  Welcome aboard, Mr. Burke!  Your help is greatly appreciated.  Thanks to my official writers Nate and Zach for their contributions as well!

The four of us will be publishing this article once a week, so be sure to stay tuned and subscribe.

Alrighty here we have our picks for Week 2:

Revenge of the Picks King! (Picks and Analysis is back!)

Top of the morning to ya, laddies!

Perhaps ye didn’t think it possible, but college football is BACK with a slate that is almost – but not quite – as stacked as that of the infamous Week Of The Century.  In fact, it is so loaded with playoff implications it needs a name.  To help it secure a spot in the history books, you know?  Hmmmm.  How about: “Noah is tired as heck so please excuse him this morning.”

That’s correct, ladies and gents.  The Picks King (see tomorrow’s article for an explanation on my new dubbing) can never rest.  It is 7 in zee morning right now, which is like 5 in the morning to us homeschoolers, so please excuse all of the a) bad jokes, b) excessively referring to you guys as “folks” or “ladies and gents” or whatever, and c) typos that are sure to be the result of me waking up an hour and a half ahead of schedule.

I’m practicing, you see.  If I can’t get my site’s signature article out by Saturday of next week, I am going to have to get up at like 5:30 AM because I’m off to the beach later that day.  Well, actually, let’s not do that.  Wait, what?

Might as well start to write about football before I fly off topic again.    So yeah.  Let’s put our heads together and conjure a deserving name for this week’s slate of games.

Ahhhh, I got it.

“The Week Of The Century: Everybody Goes On The Road This Time Edition.”

Does that not get you PSYCHED OUT OF YOUR SOCKS?  Then you, my friend, are….. Are probably not tired and are thinking completely straight.

Nah, I’m just kidding, you guys.  I did this every Saturday morning last year.  I can take it.

I hope.

Righty-o, enough of that.  We have no time to waste!  “The Week Of The Century: Everybody Goes On The Road This Time Edition” is about to go DOWN!

(Note: Rankings are AP rankings.)

(SU=Straight Up, or simply my pick to win the game; ATS=Against The Spread. For example, say a team was favored to win by 5 or more, and they won by 6, they would have won Against The Spread.)

GAME OF THE WEEK

2 Florida State @ 10 Louisville (Sat, Noon, ABC) Line: FSU 1.0  No question to me that this is the game of the week.  Louisville has a chance to prove that they have just as good of a shot at winning the ACC as heavyweights Clemson and the Seminoles themselves, while FSU is presented with a challenge for the ages on the road with serious playoff implications on the line.

Louisville will be very much aware that the country will be sizing them up today.  Yes, they stomped all over Charlotte and Syracuse, but those opponents were clearly not on the level of Florida State’s.  Louisville skeptics are wary of just how potent the Cards’ offense would be against a quality defense, so this is a great chance for the Cards to silence them.

Regardless of who he’s facing, containing superstar Louisville QB Lamar Jackson is a task for the ages, and especially so for the dinged-up FSU defense.  Due to injuries, they will be without S Derwin James and possibly without DE Josh Sweat.  Jackson has been unstoppable in his first two games, so FSU’s D must step up around the absence of their two stars if they are to limit him today.  Constantly applying pressure to Jackson will be the key to doing that, although FSU’s D-line takes a hit if Sweat is unable to perform.

The Cardinals defense isn’t perfect either, so FSU QB Deondre Francois and TB Dalvin Cook have an opportunity to do some damage as well.  Cook must not be allowed to rip up the Cardinals’ D as he did in last season’s matchup, when he rushed for 163 yards and 2 scores.  A backfield playmaker of Cook’s talent – or a backfield playmaker at all – is not something Louisville has seen yet in 2016.

Nevertheless, the key to this game will almost certainly be Lamar Jackson.  Jackson, who has already amassed over 1,000 total yards, is the early Heisman favorite.  If he is comfortable, Louisville’s offense is downright dangerous, and bordering on unstoppable.

However much of a challenge FSU’s experienced and loaded offensive attack brings to their defense, Louisville has two things going for them that FSU doesn’t have: 1) Lamar Jackson and 2) big-time home-field advantage.  Francois has never played a game this big and has never played a true road game.  Louisville also has an opportunity this season that they might never get again.  I say Louisville jumps all over their chance to gain national respect as a football program and walks out of the stadium as serious playoff contenders.   PICK: Louisville 45-35  ATS: Louisville

OTHER GAMES

3 Ohio State @ 14 Oklahoma (Sat, 7:30 PM, FOX) Line: Ohio State 1.0  Well, would you have a look at Oklahoma.  Two weeks removed from a loss that moved the Sooners to the brink of playoff extinction, Oklahoma has a golden opportunity to jump right back in it.

In one of the scheduling dandies of, like, all-time, OSU and Oklahoma will take the field today with everything on the line.  It’s a must-win for both teams, but for Oklahoma it could be a little bit more.

Either way, it will be a pressure-filled situation.  It’s not every day you see two teams with this much history and tradition surrounding them meet up in a non-conference game.

For Oklahoma to rise to the occasion, questions about the Sooners’ offense must be answered early.  Defenses know that QB Baker Mayfield’s lack of go-to targets makes him vulnerable to turnovers, despite how good of a decision-maker he is, so expect some heavy pass rushing from the Buckeyes.  The key will probably be to get OU’s RB tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, simply as good as they get when it comes to RB tandems, involved as much as possible.  Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the nation, but the run game will still be the way to go for OU unless someone steps up.

Ohio State always comes to play on the road – they are 18-0 under Urban Meyer – and even if Oklahoma is their toughest away-from-home test yet under the coach, they are the more complete team.  I say that their ball-hawking secondary wreaks some havoc and Oklahoma’s lack of targets results in them coming up just short in this one.  PICK: Ohio State 38-35  ATS: Ohio State

1 Alabama @ 19 Mississippi (Sat, 3:30 PM, CBS) Line: Alabama 10.5  Can Mississippi stretch their win streak in the annual early-season matchup between these two programs to 3 games?  It sounds crazy, but Mississippi has been a major thorn in Alabama’s side in the past two seasons.

Alabama and their nation’s-best defense look to end that streak.  They have allowed only 16 points this season, with 6 of those coming from USC, viewed as one of the country’s better teams before the loss.  They’ll face a tough test this afternoon, however, as they match up against Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, one of the better QBs in the country.  Kelly tore them up last season, but Alabama looks more prepared for the gunslinger this year.

It’s hard to beat Alabama twice, but it’s near impossible to beat them three times.  Alabama knows what to expect from Kelly this time around.  Ole Miss is not a bad team, but they aren’t good enough and deep enough to surprise Alabama once again.  PICK: Alabama 41-17 ATS: Alabama

Pittsburgh @ Oklahoma State (Sat, 3:30 PM, ESPN) Line: OK State 3.5  This game is very intriguing, as I think the entire country will be curious to see how Oklahoma State will respond to last week’s “loss” against lowly Central Michigan.  In case you missed it, CMU downed the Pokes on a no-time-remaining Hail Mary/lateral play that, under football rules, should not have been attempted.   The referees incorrectly granted CMU with an untimed down, meaning that Oklahoma State legally won the game.

The controversy surrounding that game has put a dark cloud over Oklahoma State’s season.  When or if that cloud will go away is a big question.

Oklahoma State must rebound quickly, however, as they play host to a Pittsburgh team coming off of a big win over renewed rival Penn State.

If there’s something to watch for here that isn’t the emotional response of OSU, it’s James Conner vs. the Cowboys’ run D.  Conner’s return to football has gone smoothly so far, but the Cowboys are one of the Big 12’s better run-stuffing teams.

I like Pitt in this one, mainly because I have no idea what to expect from Oklahoma State.  I also think that Pitt wins the battle of the turnovers, something that will be very pivotal to winning this game as both teams force a lot of them.  PICK: Pitt 24-20  ATS: Pitt

12 Michigan State @ 18 Notre Dame (Sat, 7:30 PM, NBC) Line: ND 7.0  It’s hard to know what to expect from Michigan State.  They did not look too strong in their only contest so far this season, which was against Furman.  And now they are thrown into the fire on the road against Notre Dame.

The good news is they know what they’re getting from their tough defense.  The same can not be said for Notre Dame, who raised eyebrows by giving up 50 points two weeks ago.  The Irish looked much better against Nevada, however.

Notre Dame is in a similar situation to that of Oklahoma’s.  They must go undefeated from here on out if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.  Michigan State is as hard to put away as anybody, but I’m looking for Deshone Kizer and the Irish to attack MSU’s issues containing the big play and escape with a win.  PICK: Notre Dame 28-24  ATS: Michigan State


Thanks for reading!  Be sure to stay tuned on Noahsports for more college football updates!

The Countdown: 19 days left of regular season baseball

Welcome back to The Countdown, this site’s daily look at what the heck all the postseason contenders are up to!

We had an action-packed day in baseball yesterday.  I hope you enjoy my roundup of it as well as my preview for today.

I’ll see you all tomorrow hopefully with another Countdown article as October gets closer and closer!

UPDATED STANDINGS

AL East

  1. BOS, 81-62
  2. TOR, 79-64 (-2)
  3. BAL, 78-65 (-3)
  4. NYY, 76-67 (-5)

AL Central

  1. CLE, 83-60
  2. DET, 77-66 (-6)
  3. KC, 74-69 (-9)

AL West

  1. TEX, 86-59
  2. SEA, 76-68 (-9.5)
  3. HOU, 75-69 (-10.5)

NL East

  1. WAS, 86-58
  2. NYM, 76-68 (-10)

NL Central

  1. CHI, 92-51
  2. STL, 75-68 (-17)

NL West

  1. LAD, 81-62
  2. SFG, 77-66 (-4)

AL Wild Card

  1. TOR, 79-64
  2. BAL, 78-65
  3. DET, 77-66 (-1)
  4. NYY, 76-67 (-2)
  5. SEA, 76-68 (-2.5)
  6. HOU, 75-69 (-3.5)
  7. KC, 74-69 (-4)

NL Wild Card

  1. SFG, 77-66
  2. NYM, 76-68
  3. STL, 75-68 (-0.5)
  4. MIA, 71-63 (-5)
  5. PIT, 69-73 (-6)
  6. COL, 69-75 (-7)

WHAT YOU MISSED YESTERDAY

  • Make no mistake: This decade has spoiled us baseball fans.  From 2010 to 2015, no-hitters were recorded at an alarming rate.  31 total to be exact, meaning that the average per year was a little over 5.  The trend has faded out in 2016.  Despite many close calls, only one pitcher has thrown a no-hitter this year.  (That was Jake Arrieta all the way back in April.)  His teammate, Kyle Hendricks, fell just short of making it two last night vs the Cardinals, giving up a lead off homer to Jeremy Hazelbaker after 8 hitless innings.  The Cubs would still snatch up the win, however, shrinking their already minuscule magic number to 3.
  • You know it’s officially the year of homers when a second baseman racks up a total of 40.  The Twins’ Brian Dozier became the first 2B since Ryne Sandberg in 1990 to hit 40+ homers in a single season, and the first ever in the AL.
  • More homer notes: David Ortiz continued his last-minute rise up the all-time dinger list yesterday, tying Mickey Mantle for 17th.
  • The Yankees and the Orioles suffered embarrassing losses last night in important games, with the Bronx getting hammered by the Dodgers and the Red Sox making quick work of Baltimore, beating them 12-2.  They weren’t the only October hopefuls that had a night to forget Monday, either; the Royals got trounced by the Athletics by a score of 16-3.
  • Indians starter Danny Salazar’s MRI yesterday confirmed that he will be out for the next 3-4 weeks, meaning that he could be back in time for the start of the postseason.
  • The Astros 4-3 lost to the Rangers last night in 12 innings and boy, does that sting for Houston. Those kinds of games are the must-wins of September.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

The Yankees are looking for a key bounce-back win against the Dodgers, who are trying to widen the thin gap between the Giants and themselves.  CC Sabathia, who has been respectable in his last handful of starts despite a rough second-half campaign, will take the mound tonight for New York.

Also, remember to keep an eye out for the other series pitting playoff contenders against each other, including the Cubs-Cardinals, O’s-Red Sox, and Rangers-Astros.

One other thing to look out for, I guess, would be more second basemen homers.  Dang.  The position, which is among (if not) the least power-producing in baseball, has seen seven players hit 25-or-more homers this season, including one who should break the single-season record at the position, Brian Dozier.  The former is a claim the SS, C, LF, and CF positions cannot make.

WHO CLINCHED YESTERDAY?

Nobody, but as I mentioned above, the Cubs could be just a few days away from an epic celebration.  If they can finish off a sweep with the Cardinals over the next two days, then the NL Central will be theirs for the first time since 2008 and they will be the first team this year to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

WHO WAS ELIMINATED YESTERDAY?

Again, nobody, but the Rays, A’s, Padres and Diamondbacks look to be the next cluster of clubs to become roommates in the standings with that big, ugly E by the end of the week.

WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT?

HOT: The Mariners.  Make it 6 in a row that Seattle has won, improving their September record to 8-3 and moving them to only 2.5 games back of the Orioles for the second Wild-Card spot.  Not bad, not bad….

HOT: Kyle Hendricks.  What a year for that man, who preseason was viewed as just your everyday pitcher with a no. 5-starter ceiling.  It’s truly a shame his 2016 campaign couldn’t include a no-hitter.

(See, what I did there was ensure that Hendricks will get a no-no before the regular season closes its doors.  I think.)

HOT: Rays.  The Tampa Bay Rays are having a fun month so far, and it only gets better.  You can probably predict why: They are the bottom-feeder in a division that all four other teams have an opportunity in September….. And they play each of them one more time.   Yeah, they’re still one of the worst teams in baseball, but it sure must feel good to have this much control over how things play out.

NOT: Royals.  They just haven’t been able to duplicate their August success in September, and their ESPN playoff percentage is down to 2.1.  Looks like it’s just not in the cards for the defending champs this year.

NOT: Marlins.  The slow slide down the Wild Card standings continues for the Fish.  They have just been gasping for breath all September (get it?  Get it?  Sigh.) and none more so than in last night’s absolute meltdown among the pitching staff.

INJURY IN FOCUS: LORENZO CAIN

The condition of the Royals’ outfielder’s ailing wrist must improve soon, because Kansas City will need him to help them if they are going to pull off a miraculous charge to a playoff berth.  Unfortunately, most reports suggest that Cain is likely to miss the remainder of the 2016 season.

Cain has played only one game in September.

AWARD RACE IN FOCUS: NL CY YOUNG

Think one month doesn’t matter when deciding an award race?  Think again.  Think Kyle Hendricks isn’t good enough to take home some hardware?  Think again as well.

Perhaps Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner may make more sense to you for the NL Cy Young, but Hendricks is making a serious case here.  Hendricks boasts a 2.03 ERA and an 0.96 WHIP, and he’s also been consistently rock-solid in the second half.  And, although casual fans probably don’t know it, last night is far from the only time Hendricks has dazzled this season.

Another thing to note is that if Scherzer and Bumgarner can’t at least somewhat replicate Hendricks’ outing in the short time remaining in this season, the last thing people will remember about the trio when October rolls around might be Hendricks’ near no-no.

All signs suggest Hendricks is poised for some more dominance this September, and his case is already making more sense every week.  It looks like the Cubbies could very well enter 2017 with the past two Cy Young winners in their rotation.


Thanks for reading!  Be sure to check back often on Noahsports for more MLB updates.  

 

 


The Countdown: 20 days left of regular season baseball

Welcome to my latest project, “The Countdown”!

Actually, call it whatever you want.  Call it Another Sure-to-Fail Experiment by Noah.  Call it Pure Genius.  I don’t care.  There’s 20 days left of the regular season.  I’m too pumped to care.

But yeah, welcome to “The Countdown.” Or whatever.  Anyway, over the next three weeks, I’ll have an article up some mornings that is simply a quick look at the situations of the division and Wild Card races, what to watch for that day, recent news, and more.  I won’t be able to have it out every morning, but I will as often as I can.  At least every few days, I will have one of these out.

Another reason I’ll be releasing this series is that it will be a great way to keep MLB content flowing while I am out of town from September 24th to October 1st.  The week I go to the beach is typically the biggest week in baseball’s regular season, and I’m never able to write it because I can’t take my desktop computer with me and I never have time.  I’ve found a solution: An article that doesn’t take too long to write but is a complete summary of everything important going on concerning the races that day.

So yeah.  Sounds cool, right?  Let’s have a look at it.  The fight for the 10 playoff spots has heated up so much it burns my eyes just to look at it.  We have no time to spare.

20 DAYS UNTIL OCTOBER BASEBALL

UPDATED STANDINGS

AL East

  1. BOS, 80-62
  2. TOR, 78-64 (-2)
  3. BAL, 78-64 (-2)
  4. NYY, 76-66 (-4)

AL Central

  1. CLE, 83-59
  2. DET, 76-66 (-7)
  3. KC, 74-68 (-9)

AL West

  1. TEX, 85-59
  2. HOU, 75-68 (-9.5)
  3. SEA, 75-68 (-9.5)

NL East

  1. WAS, 85-58
  2. NYM, 76-67 (-10)

NL Central

  1. CHI, 91-51
  2. STL, 75-67 (-16)

NL West

  1. LAD, 80-62
  2. SF, 77-65 (-3)

AL Wild Card

  1. BAL, 78-64
  2. TOR, 78-64
  3. DET, 76-66 (-2)
  4. NYY, 76-66 (-2)
  5. HOU, 75-68 (-3.5)
  6. SEA, 75-68 (-3.5)
  7. KC, 74-68 (-4)

NL Wild Card

  1. SF, 77-65 (+1.5)
  2. NYM, 76-67
  3. STL, 75-67 (-0.5)
  4. MIA, 71-72 (-5)
  5. PIT, 69-72 (-6)
  6. COL, 69-74 (-7)

WHAT YOU MISSED YESTERDAY

  • The A’s released DH/1B Billy Butler.  Butler was never a great fit with the A’s, and he also probably got on the higher-ups’ bad side when he was suffered a concussion in a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia.
  • The Royals announced that they will wait a week to decide whether or not to shut down OF Lorenzo Cain (left wrist) for the rest of the season.
  • The Blue Jays and the Red Sox played just the 3rd game in MLB history in which 18 pitchers were used.  The Red Sox won the game, 11-8.
  • Retiring legend David Ortiz is now within one home run of passing Mickey Mantle for 17th on the all-time home run list.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

There are five – count ’em, five – matchups of teams listed above in my standings (aka, teams that still have a realistic chance at the playoffs).  The biggest game today is probably the Orioles at the Red Sox at 7:05 PM (David Price, seeking his 7th consecutive win, will be starting for the Red Sox).  It’s still anyone’s guess who will walk away with the AL East crown, so a series between any of the O’s/Sox/Blue Jays/Yankees will be one of (if not the) top series pretty much every half-week left.

By the way, each of those clubs still has at least one series left against each of the others.  Don’t we love September, peoples?

WHO CLINCHED YESTERDAY?

No one has clinched anything yet, although the Cubs should seal up the NL Central division title this week (their magic number is down to 5 and they play a 3-game series at the Cardinals starting tonight).

WHO WAS ELIMINATED YESTERDAY?

Nobody.  While there is an “E” beside the names of 10 teams in the division standings, only two are actually eliminated from the Wild Card race as well.

We knew this already, but the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves will not be playoff teams in 2016.   Both were officially eliminated a few days ago.

WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT?

The competition is so fierce right now no one is seriously catching fire, but the Mariners have won 5 in a row to jump into a tie for 5th in the AL Wild Card standings.

Seattle almost certainly won’t be putting a scare into Texas for the AL West title, but those three wins over the Rangers this past week kept any sliver of hope there alive.  And, most importantly, the Mariners’ perfectly-timed streak is clogging up that stacked AL Wild Card race even more.

The Yankees also recently went on a 7-game win streak, but it ended yesterday at the hands of the pesky Rays.  One of the surprises of September, the Bronx Bombers are very much alive in the postseason.  Be sure to watch them closely over the next handful of days as their playoff percentage continues to bob up and down.

On the not-so-hot side, we have the Tigers.  Yes, they have gone a respectable (well, not really for the brutal, unforgiving month of September, but still not enough to say they have been struggling) 5-5 in their last ten games.  But every team in the AL Wild Card race won except the Tigers Saturday and the club really limped through last week.

AWARD RACE IN FOCUS: NL Comeback POTY

Every edition of this article I’ll be analyzing a different award race.  Today I’ll be looking at the chase for the NL Comeback Player of the Year title.

The NL CPOTY race is one of the closest award races in MLB.  The Padres’ Wil Myers and the Nationals’ Wilson Ramos are probably the top two guys, as Ramos has had a brilliant year at the plate after a dud of a 2015 season and Myers has blossomed into an All-Star after a disappointing and injury-riddled career.  Myers has not had a very smooth second-half campaign, so it could come down to Ramos, teammate Tanner Roark and Marlins’ OF Marcell Ozuna.

So which Wil will win?  I think you have to give this one to Ramos no matter what happens over the next three weeks.  This award may not be the most glamorous in the sport, but it recognizes hard work and that is what Ramos has done to become one of the most consistent on-base threats at his position.


Thanks for reading!  Be sure to check back often for more updates on the hunt for October!