This season, the BBWAA did the fans a great service by releasing the full list of ballots submitted for all of the postseason awards. It is this decision that allows me to know that at least one kind soul (albeit Philly native Jayson Stark) voted Carlos Ruiz onto the ballot, even if it was just one 10th-place vote. But there is one name on the AL MVP ballot that I just cannot stomach:
WHAT??? Last season for the Phillies, Rauuuuul was the worst player in the league, according to FanGraphs' WAR. The worst. And now he goes to the Yankees, of all teams, and gets an MVP vote? Ugh.
OK, time to distract myself.
WHAT? New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders
WHY? Everybody loves a good old fashioned John Wayne shootout, and this game has the makings of a pretty good one, despite the completely disparate pedigrees of the two teams over the last 7 years. Both teams are top-5 in the NFL in passing attempts and yards, and in the bottom 10 in passing yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns allowed. Which, from the Raiders perspective, is fairly impressive considering they have Carson Palmer at quarterback and (in theory) Darren McFadden at running back.
WHO? Darren Sproles' injury and a lack thereof himself has given Chris Ivory another opportunity to strut his stuff on Bourbon Street, and it's some pretty good stuff. In the two games he's played, he's gained an excellent 120 yards on just 17 carries with two touchdowns, while the rest of the team has produced 168 yards on 37 carries with no touchdowns. However, this isn't some two-game fluke. With just 233 career carries (since 2010), he has 1210 yards and 8 touchdowns, he has almost exactly the same production as Frank Gore had last season (1211 yards, 8 TD) with 50 fewer rushes, and only slightly less than Arian Foster (1224 yards, 10 TD) with 45 fewer carries.
HOW? You don't happen to know any big wigs at costume companies, do you? (See what I did there?) Because I bet they're watching this game in some pretty nice digs, considering the outfits that these two teams' fans rock each week.
WHAT? Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
WHY? Because it will be a hard-fought, knock-down, drag-out division battle? Because everyone loves games where the teams have opposite records? Because both teams are coming off offensive explosions, and are going to light up the scoreboard? OK, I'll settle for the sheer curiosity about whether or not the Texans can cover the 16-point spread. After all, they did beat this team 27-7 earlier in the year, but they're just 3-3 in their previous six games against the Jags, with only one of those wins being by at least 16 points.
WHO? How about this battle of number one receivers that are trending upward? Andre Johnson has averaged 7 receptions for 79 yards in his past four games (averaged 3 receptions for 57 yards prior), while Cecil "Eat My" Shorts has grabbed 5 receptions for 89 yards per game in his last four (averaged 2 receptions for 41 yards prior). Raise your hand if you even knew who Cecil Shorts was prior to this season. Now raise your hand if you drafted Andre Johnson as a top-5 fantasy wide receiver this season. HA! HA HA! HA! I'm sorry, that's rude. Feel free to cite my preseason fantasy predictions post in your comeback.
HOW? MJD's not doing anything different this weekend than you or I, so maybe you guys can hang out while he watches some crazy NFL game package and follows his fantasy teams, most of which I'm sure are terrible because he probably drafted himself.
WHAT? Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
WHY? These two teams had top-five offenses and finished a combined 25-7 last season, but slow starts (3-5 combined after four weeks) tempered our expectations for both. Interestingly enough, the Packers are currently just 19th in total offense, while the Lions are 2nd, despite Green Bay scoring 2 points per game more than Detroit and being 3 games better at this point in the year. The last time these teams played, current overpaid Seahawks backup Matt Flynn led the Pack to a 45-41 victory by throwing for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns. Here's hoping that that does not happen with Aaron Rodgers this week, because I'm playing against him in two fantasy leagues.
WHO? The receivers in this game have been surprising in multiple ways. Calvin Johnson is actually on pace to exceed his reception and yardage total from last season, but with 25% of the touchdowns. Greg Jennings has played in just three games, with only 12 receptions for 78 yards. Jordy Nelson would be on pace for 1000+ yards and 10 touchdowns again, but he has been injured himself. On the flip side, James Jones is on pace for 15 touchdowns (although he's actually averaged more catches, yards, and touchdowns in games where Jennings has started), and Randall Cobb has averaged 6 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown over his last six games. And keep Ryan Broyles in mind, as the Lions' recently anointed slot receiver is the all-time leading receiver in NCAA history.
HOW? It's a battle of his division rivals, and his team isn't playing in that time slot, so maybe Jay Cutler will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy. That is, if he can see, or know who or where he is. I'm sorry, that was in poor taste.