There is just something about October that most other months can’t touch on the sports calendar. Consider this weekend – NFL football, MLB Playoffs, College Football, NHL is back and for the few delusional Knicks fans like myself, we even have NBA preseason basketball. What’s not to love? Maybe my picks from last week but we’ll talk about that a little bit later. Before we get into this week’s slate of games let’s talk a little MLB Playoffs. While baseball has become almost exclusively a regional sport, the higher ups at MLB have to be thrilled with the teams slugging it out to get to the World Series. The Dodgers and Padres are a natural divisional rivalry, same with the Phillies and the Braves. Not only are both best-of-5 series tied up at one game apiece, but both series feature stars like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. On the American League slate, the Yankees jumped to a one game lead over the Guardians behind a much needed strong performance from Gerrit Cole. The Mariners lost a heartbreaker in Game One to the Houston Astros who won on a Yordan Alvarez walkoff. The Astros are a veteran laden team and the Mariners in many ways represent baseball’s future. Lots of baseball to be played should be a fun ride.
For those who have asked me specifically about the Yankees, it’s going to come down to the starting pitchers ability to go long into games. The bullpen is missing so many key pieces – Scott Effross, Michael King, Ron Marinaccio, etc. They still have some arms but they’re not very deep, so the ability of Cole, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino to take the pressure off the bullpen is going to be key. Offensively I don’t have many concerns. I would have liked to see Oswald Peraza make the ALDS Roster over Marwin Gonzalez, but otherwise this team has no excuses to why they can’t hit. Yes, they’re missing DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi but they have their big guns healthy, time to step up.
Shifting gears, when I was a kid one of my favorite movies was Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The movie revolved around Pee-wee Herman scouring the country for his beloved stolen bike, running into psychic’s, the ghost of Large Marge, a biker gang (Tequila!), and of course, the non-existent basement of the Alamo. At the end of the movie Pee-wee discovers a burning pet shop and even though he’s on the run he stops to rescue all of the animals. He rescues all of the other animals ignoring the snakes for as long as he possibly can, but at the end he begrudgingly acknowledges what he has to do and runs out of the burning store, snakes in hand, and screams yelling before he passes out. My point? This column thus far has been the other animals and my picks from last week basically are the snakes. Time to get uncomfortable. I went a woeful 8-8 last week including incorrectly selecting the Seahawks over the Saints, the Rams over the Cowboys, the Jaguars over the Texans, and maybe worst of all, the Lions over the Patriots who ended up losing in a 29-0 shutout. Gross. Yes there is a lot more parity in the league than usual this year but a .500 record is unacceptable here so let’s get back on track this week. Onto the picks!
Washington at Chicago – Last week’s Thursday night game between the Colts and the Broncos was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen in my life. Sadly, this game may top it. As I said last week, can we please just end Thursday Night Football? I’ll begrudgingly go with the Commanders here. (If they lose, Ron Rivera may be fired)
Cincinnati at New Orleans – This one is tricky. The Saints look much improved against the Seahawks last week and after winning 2 in a row the Bengals took a step back against Baltimore. Teams have adjusted against the Bengals this year and are no longer letting Ja’Marr Chase run free. I’m not sure the Bengals have adjusted as quickly. Close one but I’m taking the Saints.
Baltimore at NY Giants – Baltimore won last week against Cincinnati, insert Lamar Jackson superlatives, blah blah blah. Alright now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff! What is going on with the New York Football Giants? The Giants pulled off another improbable win against the Green Bay Packers in London and now are sitting at an almost unfathomable 4-1 to start the year. What’s been most impressive is that they’re doing this with many practice squad castoffs like Marcus Johnson, Nick McLoud, Richie, James, Justin Layne, Jihad Ward, Nick Williams, and Fabian Moreau. There are simply not enough superlatives for the job that head coach Brian Daboll and his staff has done this year. Player development is the area where the Giants swung and missed more than maybe any other team the past 10 years and you’re starting to finally see what it means to have competent leadership in place. That said, Lamar Jackson is an entirely different challenge and John Harbaugh is probably the best coach the Giants have faced this season. Giants will put up some fight but going with the Ravens here.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis – Does anyone want to win the AFC South? It’s almost unfathomable to think that this Colts team knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs based on their offense this season. They are among the league’s worst but are still in a position to win the division. Jacksonville will be up and down all season but that is to be expected. The loss last week to the Texans however was not. This is a coin flip game but I’m going Indianapolis.
Minnesota at Miami – The Dolphins caught a rough break last week as second string quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out against the Jets. The Dolphins have now lost 2 in a row and are facing a Vikings team who have won 3 straight. Under any normal circumstance I would take Miami here, but with the Dolphins starting Skylar Thompson there’s just too much of the unknown. Vikings win on the road.
New England at Cleveland – The Browns could easily be a 5-0 team this year – sounds hard to believe but they lost to the Jets by 1, the Falcons by 3 and the Chargers by 2. This week they take on a New England team who shocked the NFL by winning 29-0 at home over Detroit. I’m not quite sold on Bailey Zappe just yet. Browns running attack gets it done this week, I’m going with Cleveland.
NY Jets at Green Bay – Who had the Jets at 3-2 on their preseason bingo card? Certainly not me, but they have been a fun watch with Zach Wilson back behind center. The Packers are coming off of a very disappointing loss to the Giants and I just can’t see them losing 2 in a row. Packers defense steps up and Green Bay takes it.
San Francisco at Atlanta – Similar to Cleveland, the Falcons are another team that could easily be 5-0. Their 3 losses were for a combined 11 points and they should have had an opportunity to drive for a game winning score this past week however the officials called an awful roughing the passer penalty that allowed the Bucs to close it out. That said, the 49ers are rolling and Jimmy G. is doing Jimmy G. things. 49ers win.
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh – I said last week that starting Kenny Pickett against Buffalo in his first start was a mistake and boy was it ever. The Steelers couldn’t get anything going offensively and were overmatched all game. The Bucs are playing ugly football but as I’ve stated before, they’ll be fine by the end of this season. As long as Brady is behind center this should be a no doubter. Go with Tampa.
Arizona at Seattle – The Seahawks offense put up over 30 points again this past week but it wasn’t enough to knock off the Saints. The Cardinals should have handed the Eagles their first loss but made some very questionable time management decisions down the stretch. I don’t like betting against Seattle at home but their defense has been spotty this year. I think the Cards pull it off.
Carolina at LA Rams – I said last week that if the Panthers lost Matt Rhule was in trouble at the end of the year. The Panthers didn’t wait that long and fired him mid-season. Hard to pin all the blame on Rhule as he was absent significant quarterback talent for most of his tenure. The Rams are looking very sluggish this year (Super Bowl hangover?) but I think they win this at home against one Baker Mayfield who has been horrible this year. Ram It.
Buffalo at Kansas City – Let me offer all of you some free advice. Most football fans dread the notion of family parties, weddings, etc. on a Sunday during football season. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but if it can, do your friends and family a solid and find another day. If you are going to have a party, I suggest doing what my sister is doing for my niece this weekend, and having it at a local pizza place flush with TV’s and a full bar. That’s why she’s my favorite (albeit only) sibling. Uncle Rob will be a happy guy because there is no way I want to miss this game between possibly the two best teams in the NFL. The Bills and Chiefs playoff game last year was one of, if not the greatest football game I’ve ever seen. You’re a fan of the game for matchups like this. The Chiefs are underdogs at home and I get Buffalo is great, but I think the Chiefs have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as well. KC in a classic.
Dallas at Philadelphia – As if one great matchup wasn’t enough on Sunday, the Sunday night game features a battle between NFC rivals battling for the division lead. The Eagles escaped from Arizona with their undefeated record still in tact and the Cowboys rode a conservative but efficient game plan to knock off the Rams. Cooper Rush is 4-0 as the Cowboys starting quarterback. After this weekend he’ll be 4-1. Prime time games on the road are an entirely different animal and I think the Eagles win and win big.
Denver at LA Chargers – After a great slate of Sunday games it’s almost as if we’re being punished on Monday night. Can we petition to the NFL front office to stop putting the Broncos on in prime time please? The Chargers are lucky to have escaped Cleveland with a win and Brandon Staley is extremely fortunate that Justin Herbert is skilled enough to overcome Staley’s coaching limitations. Other than their game against the Raiders, the Broncos have put up 16, 16, 11, and 9 points respectively. That’s just not going to cut it. I don’t know if Russell Wilson is hurt, but I do know Nathaniel Hackett should not be the head coach of an NFL football team. This team should be playing way better. Taking the Chargers at home.
Enjoy a great week 6 everyone, and thanks as always for the support!