The magic number is 41.
And I’m not referring to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver who sported the number on his jersey. This is how many days are left until the first pitch will be thrown out across America and every baseball fan across our great nation will rejoice in the commencement of a new season.
For me, a new season is synonymous with a new year. A time for new goals and resolutions. A time in which anything is defined as ‘possible.’ Even the most lackluster teams from the previous year stand a chance as different acquisitions throughout the off-season have been made, injuries have been treated and the proverbial ‘slate’ has been wiped clean. On the contrary, the biggest threats from previous seasons have to enter on a new stage in an effort to remain the force that they have been in seasons past and reprove themselves again.
Although the race is addictive to watch in all divisions I am particularly interested to see what will transpire in the NL West this season. The West presents a more opened door for the division than it has in years past and there is clearly no forerunner or favorite as there are in other divisions.
The universal fight over Manny Ramirez is incessant and driving me crazy. I go to bed every night praying that someone will offer him the 3rd year he desires in his contract so I can wake up the next morning a NEVER hear about it again. If he finds a home in the NL West, with the Dodgers for another year OR in rumored San Francisco, the division will become slightly weighted. Nonetheless, the division presents to the league an interesting race to follow.
Check in during the following weeks as I dissect the NL West and allow you to take a scientific look into the division’s teams. We will look at strengths, weaknesses and other variables that might allow us to answer the question, “Who looks to be the favorite in the NL West?”
Holler Back. StatDragon.
There is a lot of chatter that Donovan McNabb–who went 28 of 47 for 375 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception but threw a few poor passes on a critical drive late in the fourth quarter—is a choker.
They point to his record of 1-4 in NFC Championship games. Many also point to the fact that McNabb not only threw interceptions but, literally, threw up in the Superbowl against the Patriots.
What’s being forgotten is that, to put it very simply, getting to the Superbowl is hard. Very hard. Go ask Barry Sanders, Dan Fouts, or Chris Carter. Winning it is even more difficult. Go ask Dan Marino or Jim Kelly.
It’s funny—we as fans and the media have the ability to cut down players and coaches if they don’t win it all. What’s forgotten is how difficult it is to consistently get to the playoffs and championship games. Afterall, at the end of every season, only one team is happy.
Does McNabb deserve some blame for last weekend’s loss? Sure. Anytime a team loses in spectacular fashion, scrutiny ensues—and it’s often understandable. It may be very possible that McNabb is a quarterback that folds under pressure—I won’t deny that. Some people have ice water in their veins—some don’t. But don’t forget that McNabb was key to the Eagles being able to reach five Championship games.
Let’s too not forget about McNabb’s supporting cast. McNabb is one of the only quarterbacks in recent memory to almost never, sans Terrell Owens, have a legitimate number one receiver. And when Owens came on board, the Eagles went to the Superbowl. Surprise, surprise?
The Eagles also need a big back for short yardage. The idea that Andy Reid believes that Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter can carry the load on 3rd or 4th and 1 is absurd. The Eagles need what the Panthers or Giants have—a reliable 250 pound workhouse to help shore up their short yardage game.
So don’t put it all on McNabb’s back. It’s true that the quarterback gets the most scrutiny. But let’s remember that football is the ultimate team game. And, though McNabb’s last drive wasn’t stellar, the ball still hit Kevin Curtis in the hands of that pivotal fourth down play.
I don’t want to make too much of this–afterall, as great as Flacco has played this season, he is still a rookie and prone to “rookie mistakes”–but the Ravens are the scariest team in the NFL. We could be witnessing a team that channels the 2007 Giants–a squad that gets hot at the right time and rides a strong defensive wave (coupled with a good showing by their young quarterback) all the way to the Superbowl.
It’s not as if the Ravens haven’t been to the Superbowl before on the back on their defense. But this year, their offense is actually showing up. And that’s very scary.
I don’t forsee this being a game similar in vein to when these two teams met earlier in the year. I think Sproles will inject some speed and creativity into the offense, getting lots of YAC on screen passes in particular. But I expect that Pittsburgh defense to be in full force. I think they will shut down the running attack and blitz Rivers until he throws up the white flag of surrender. As good as Phiilip Rivers has been this season, I expect to see Polamalu to get a turnover and return it for a touchdown.
3. Tony Dungy Will Retire
By early next week, we should hear whether Dungy will retire or come back to the Colts in 2009. I think he’s completely done. Dungy has stated before that football isn’t his only passion, and one would think that such a serene man would like to spend more time with his family. With Jim Caldwell already lined up to replace him, Dungy will step aside and finally let someone else run the show in Indianapolis. Soon after the season ends, Favre will follow Dungy into the sunset, as well.