Sunday, September 27, 2015

Jets are No Shows in Ugly Loss to Eagles


Coming into play on Sunday the Jets never beat the Philadelphia Eagles in their franchises history. After Sunday, New York is still 0-for-forever against Philly.

For the Kool-aid drinkers, this was a game that snapped everyone back to reality. In one respect, a lot of people were going gaga over the Jets 2-0 start. On the other hand, everyone was ready to fire Chip Kelly after Philadelphia's 0-2 start. Oh, how football can provide balance from one week to another.

Bottom line is the Jets looked sloppy against an Eagles team that isn't going to remind anyone of the Andy Reid/Donavan McNabb Eagles of the last decade. The Eagles are a bad football team and the Jets showed everyone that even with a 2-0 start, they are not that good either.

The Jets turned the football over four times and let Darren Sproles and Ryan Matthews run all over them on Sunday afternoon, especially in the first half.

Most of all the Jets offense looked sluggish, slow and boring for 60 minutes. Perhaps the loss of Eric Decker and Chris Ivory had a major impact in the final results on Sunday, or maybe it is the simple fact that Chain Gailey's game plan was too predictable and dull. Rarely did the Jets try to extend the field on the Eagles, settling more for dink and dunk passes to Bilal Powell, Quincy Enunwa and Jeff Cumberland.

Whenever Fitzpatrick tried to rear back and throw, Eagles defenders were all over him, getting their hands up into the air to knock the ball down. And to think the Jets didn't once adjust and try to move Fitzpatrick out of the pocket?!

Sloppy, ugly, downright awful.

Right from the get-go things were not looking up for Gang Green. The Eagles, who had only one first down in the first half of their game against Dallas last week, were churning out yards against the Jets vaunted defense on their opening drive. An 11-play drive that featured both Matthews and Sproles eating up chunks of yards set up Philadelphia with an early field goal and 3-0 lead. The Eagles had four first downs on the drive and ran for 43 yards on the drive.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Sproles put the game away. Yes, he put it away in the second quarter. Sproles took a Jets punt, ducked around a couple Jets defenders, and had nothing but daylight down the sidelines for an Eagles touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

The Sproles punt return broke the game wide open for Philadelphia, and they made sure to pore it on a clueless Jets team that didn't know what hit him. Midway through the quarter the Eagles put together their best drive of the day, when Bradford hit a streaking Ryan Matthews in stride for a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-0. Bradford for 3-for-4 on the drive, including a 21-yard strike to Zach Ertz that set the Eagles up in Jets territory.

Then, one of the dumbest plays in Jets history occurred; a play so inane that some think it challenges the buttfumble from three years ago. I disagree.

That being said, after catching a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick, receiver Brandon Marshall tired to lateral the ball behind him to a Jet player who was coming up from behind. However the lateral totally failed. As Marshall was coming down to the turf, the ball popped up in the air and the Eagles picked it up. After a wasted Jets challenge, the Eagles had the football back at the Jets 36-yard line. Philadelphia punched it in after a seven play drive, with Sproles culminating the Eagles scoring with a 1-yard plunge to make it 24-0.

While the Jets tired to make a game of it, watching their offense work down 24-0 was like watching molasses in January. Fitzpatrick was overthrowing receivers or throwing the ball into the ready arms of Eagles defenders. Whenever the Jets tired to run the football, there were no lanes for them to run in.

The Jets even had a 16-play 81 yard drive that ate up eight minutes of action that was pure torture to watch. Either Fitzpatrick threw an incompletion, or dunked it down low for a very short gain. Somehow the Jets found a way to convert four different third down attempts before they finally scored to cut the deficit to 24-14.

What made maters worse is that the Jets actually had a chance if they only played competent football down the stretch. Philadelphia gave the Jets the football on two separate occasions down the stretch, with plenty of time to go in the game, and each time the Jets turned it over on a interception by Fitzpatrick, icing a horrendous defeat.

Sure Fitzpatrick should remain the Jets starter, if for no other reason then the Jets don't have anyone on the roster capable of being any better at quarterback. The Jets need to get Decker and Ivory back, because they showed the NFL world that they are too top heavy in talent, with almost no depth if someone goes down with an injury. If this were the real Jets on Sunday -- it's going to get ugly really, really fast.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mets Clinch NL East, Return to Playoffs


When David Wright's fly ball landed just over the center field wall for a three-run homer the Mets knew it was official; years of pure misery were finally over.

Wright waited nine years between tasting the champagne of October baseball. He, like the Mets fans, endured some of the darkest days in club history. After the team's success in 2006, when they had the best record in the National League and came a swing short of the World Series, it had been down hill. From September collapses in 2007 and 2008, to the Bernie Madoff scandal, to horribly cheap and petty ownership by the Wilpons, and years of losing with subpar talent, anyone in Mets blue and orange took extra pleasure on Saturday night.

Flash back to 2012 and there was another watershed moment that cashed in on this evening in Cincinnati. In December of 2012, the Wilpon's convinced Wright to sign a contract extension, based on the fact they had some young pitchers coming up soon. For two-and-a half years it looked like Wright was tricked by the Mets, the franchise wasn't getting any better.

In 2012, the Wilpons promised that 2013 would be the year. They didn't spend at all, and the team floundered. In 2013 they promised that 2014 would be the year. Same story. In 2014, they promised that 2015 would be the year  -- and for half the season, we were getting ready to hear that the Wilpons were making plans for 2016.

Now back to Saturday's game in Cincy. While the game was already in hand at 7-2, Wright's three-run blast was the pushback to all of that frustration. All the failures; all the broken promises; all the losing; the Albatros was now gone.

As Terry Collins said in his post game press conference, "Now they couldn't take it from us." And they never will. No September choke this time around. The Mets are in the playoffs for the eighth time in franchise history.

While they have a week-and-a half until they play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Divisional Series, this is a moment to celebrate and enjoy. Because it was just two months ago it looked like even a wild card would be next to impossible for this team.

On July 24 the Mets were 49-48. They were in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and already got smacked around by the Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers -- three teams that everyone perceived were the class of the National League. While the Mets were getting quality starting pitching, they weren't scoring enough runs to make those efforts stand up. It wasn't pretty.

David Wright wasn't in the lineup at all; he was on the DL with a spinal injury that could have ended his season. A lot of people questioned if his career wasn't over. Moreover on the field, Lucas Duda was struggling; the Mets still couldn't figure out who their short stop was, and Daniel Murphy was dealing with nagging injuries as well. The only saving grace for New York was that Washington still hadn't caught fire yet.

Then a miracle happen. GM Sandy Alderson got the green light to go out and make some moves to get the team some help offensively. Maybe the Mets had a chance to make a push, thanks to the struggling Nationals.

They promoted rookie slugger Michael Conforto from Double-A; they traded for veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and acquired reliever Tyler Clippard. Now the Mets had a young power hitter and some veteran players to give the ball club an added punch. The Mets blew up the Dodgers 15-2 on July 25 with their new pieces, then outlasted them 3-2 in ten innings the next day.

With just a couple moves the Mets looked like a different team. Then, another watershed moment happened.

During a game against the San Diego Padres, reports surfaced that the Mets traded Wilmur Flores and Zach Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Gomez. Whether the Mets let the rumor get out, or the agents floated it out -- it didn't matter -- because the story was now out in the middle of a game. The fans started chanting for Wilmur Flores, who, through the fans found out he was traded.

Immediately Flores lost it. He started crying on the field. Terry Collins had no idea what was going on, and didn't know a trade was done. About an hour later the trade was nixed, because the Mets had concerns about Gomez's back. The moment looked like another disaster in the long line of disasters for the Mets. Not only did a trade blow up in their face, but it deeply affected the player involved during a game. With only hours left before the trade deadline, the Mets still needed to make another move, or the Gomez debacle would be remembered as just that.

As it turned out the Gomez debacle was the best thing that ever happened to the Mets. The Mets had another card to play and went for the biggest prize out there, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes was an All Star outfielder with the A's, Red Sox and Tigers. He was a gifted athlete, who has been rumored to have a bad reputation, and to top it off, is in the walk year of his contract. However the potential reward in acquiring him were far greater. The Mets acquired Cespedes on July 31 for a couple minor leaguers. They didn't have to deal Flores and Wheeler at all.

Cespedes turned out to be the difference. The guy came to New York and took the city by storm. In 52 games, Cespedes hit .272 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI. He was getting big hits in big spots. Had monster home runs, and had 21 multi-hit games. Cespedes had a five hit, three homer night in Colorado on August 21; he also had an eight-game hitting streak at the start of September. There was nothing Cespedes couldn't do.

With Cespedes in the lineup everyone else picked it up.

Curtis Granderson ended up hitting .279 with 11 homers and 39 RBI in the second half of the year. Daniel Murphy drove in 40 and hit .290. Wilmur Flores hit .284 with six bombs and 21 RBI, and Lucas Duda had 12 homer and 28 RBI in the second half of the year.

Even David Wright made his triumphant return to the lineup in August. In 25 games, Wright hit .298 with three homers and 10 RBI. As for Conforto, the rookie had a big second half thanks to the veteran presence in the lineup. Conforto hit .283 with eight homers and 23 RBI in 50 games this season.

Carlos Gomez? He hit only .234 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 34 games, and was a none factor for the collapsing Houston Astros in the AL West. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make.

It should come as no surprise then as the Mets offense clicked to back up the Mets staring pitching. The Mets went 39-19 from July 25 - September 26, blowing past the Nationals en route to a division crown and a record of 88-67.

Another guy deserving of this moment is manager Terry Collins, who endured a lot of that losing over the past four seasons. He was hired  as a mere caretaker for this franchise as they made their transition from bad team to decent team. There was never a guarantee that he would be the Mets manager beyond the 2014 season and got a tepid endorsement for this year. If anyone, other than Wright deserves this moment, it is Collins.

While it hasn't been an easy two months -- it has been an amazing two months for the Mets. They are the ultimate rags to riches story of the 2015 postseason. Enjoy it Mets fans, you waited long enough.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Giants Get 1st 'W' Against Hapless Skins


In need of a win before all of the New York City came crashing down on them like a deck of cards, the New York Giants found a way to hold off a late Redskins rally in a 32-21 victory over the hapless Washington franchise, Thursday night. 

While the final score ended up being only 11 points, it wasn't indicative of the kind of game this way: a total Giants blowout. The Giants outplayed the Redskins all night long, and even if the Giants couldn't find the end zone, the Redskins did everything in their power to help the Giants out with three turnovers. 

In fact the outcome of this game was decided in earnest in the opening quarter, when New York jumped out to a 12-0 lead. On Washington's opening possession of the ball game, Giants running back Rashad Jennings blocked a Redskins punt that went out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 G-Men lead.

Later in the quarter Washington quarterback, Kirk Cousins was picked off by Prince Amukamara at the Redskins own 20-yard line. Four plays later the Giants found pay dirt on a Andre Williams 1-yard plunge to make it 9-0. 

Even with a significant lead for most of the night, the Giants offense still struggled. Leading 12-3 in the second quarter, the Giants failed to convert a third and seven at the Redskins 18, forcing New York to settle for a field goal and a 15-3 lead. At the beginning of the third quarter, New York put together a 15-play, 50-yard drive that ate up half the quarter only to come away with three points, and a 18-6 lead. 

Fortunately for the Giants, the Redskins kept shooting themselves in the foot. An interception and a fumble on Washington's next two possessions basically sealed the deal. 

In the third quarter after Cousins was picked off for the second time, the Giants rammed the football down Washington's proverbial throat with some big time passes by Eli Manning. The quarterback hit Larry Donnell for 22-yards on second and 17 at the New York 48 to move the football to the Redskins 30. Next, the former Super Bowl MVP threw a bullet to Odell Beckham Jr. for a 30-yard touchdown strike, pushing the Giants to a  25-6 advantage.

Even with a 19-point advantage, the Giants STILL allowed things to get very interesting. The Redskins scored touchdowns on their next two possessions; one on a Kirk Cousins touchdown pass to Chris Thompson, the other coming on a 100-yard kick return by Rashad Ross. The only saving grace for the Giants was Manning's 41-yard touchdown to Rueben Randall in between the two Redskins scores that kept New York well ahead.

Manning threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants running attack left a lot to be desired on Thursday night, as the combination of Jennings, Williams and Shane Vereen rushed for only 84 combined yards. 

The Giants defense did come to play. They held Matt Jones to only 38-yards rushing. Alfred Morris (six carries, 19-yards) was also ineffective. The unit also forced three turnovers, two of them interceptions of Cousins. It was a big coming out party for Giants linebacker Uani' Unga, who had nine tackles and a pick. The first year player out of BYU hit people with authority all night for Big Blue. 

The Giants (1-2) now get to enjoy ten days off before their next clash in Week 4 against Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills on October 4.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jets Defense Dominates Colts on Monday Night


These are not the Rex Ryan Jets anymore.

Nope, these New York Jets are indeed Todd Bowles' team, and if Monday night in Indianapolis was any indication, then these "new" Jets are going to be a handful for the rest of the AFC this season.

To be fair, the Indianapolis Colts are not looking as good as they hype. They have injuries on defense; their offensive line is a total mess; they have no real ground game as Frank Gore looks old, and Andre Johnson is virtually a non factor. Not to mention, the Colts offensive line issues are killing Andrew Luck right now.

That being said, none of those worts would be visible if it weren't for the efforts of the Jets on Monday. The dominated the Colts with their defense from start to finish. As former Ravens linebacker/turned ESPN analyst Ray Lewis said after the game the Jets are winning by playing "ugly football" that reminded him of his best Ravens' teams back in the early 2000's.

The Jets manhandled the Colts offensive line, and Luck was totally under siege. For three-plus quarters, New York shutout Indianapolis, while forcing the Colts into five turnovers in the contest. Four of those turnovers were from Andrew Luck.

Early in the contest, Luck tried to force one to Johnson down the sideline, only to have it picked off by Calvin Pryor who brought it back 29 yards to the Colts 9 yard line. Four plays later the Jets were in the end zone when Ryan Fitzpatrick found Eric Decker on a six-yard slant to make it 7-0.

Meanwhile the Colts continued to shoot themselves in the foot. Adam Vinateri missed a field goal, and Luck fumbled before the half with the Jets up 10-0. Then at the beginning of the third quarter, Indianapolis looked poised to score and cut into the Jets 10-point lead. An 18-play 74-yard drive found Indy at the Jets goal line, but Colts running back Frank Gore bobbled the snap and Darrelle Revis recovered the fumble for New York. This was easily the turning point of the game, as it kept New York up 10-0.

It was a pretty big night for Revis. The corner had two fumble recoveries and a pick of Luck. Even Marcus Gilchrist got into the action, picking off Luck after a Jets touchdown, with Gang Green up 17-7.

Not only was Luck running for his life from the Jets ferocious front seven, but the secondary was huge. In addition to the turnovers, nickel corner Buster Skrine had a big night recording eight tackles, and even hit Luck on a play that led to a pick.

Meanwhile, the Jets offense did just enough to win. They weren't spectacular, but they were efficient. Ryan Fitzpatrick was precise with his throws, and converted big passes when he needed to. With the Jets holding onto a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick orchestrated a seven play 80-yard drive that culminated in a Brandon Marshall touchdown, as the wide receiver carried three defenders across the goal line for the 17-7 lead.

Fitzpatrick finished 22-of-34 for 244 yards and two touchdowns. He was accurate, and more importantly didn't make any mistakes. He also utilized the Jets two big receivers in Marshall and Decker, both of whom had big nights; Marshall had 101 yards receiving, and Decker had 97 yards receiving.

While it is only two games there is a noticeable difference with this team. 1) The Jets have a complete defense. They have three solid corners in Revis, Cromartie and Skrine. Not to mention the addition of Gilchrist at safety adds a huge ball hawk and hitter.  This secondary helps the front seven get even more pressure on the quarterback, leading to hits and sacks. Last night was a great example, as Luck had almost no throwing lanes to go to.

2) Fitzpatrick is a perfect game manager. Usually a game manager is knock on a quarterback, but in the case of Fitzpatrick, it's a complement. He isn't making mistakes, and is a smart, veteran quarterback who can lead the Jets throughout the year, if they let him.

3) Todd Bowles presence. Maybe it's his poker face on the sideline, or his calm demeanor in press conferences, but one can tell that this is truly Bowles' team. They believe in the coaches message of focus and discipline and controlled chaos from the defensive standpoint. Under Rex Ryan, the Jets were a fiasco. They got too hyped up in their own publicity that talking trash in the papers was more important than football. With Bowles, it's all football all the time. No distractions. No questions. No circus.

Yes, these are the "new" New York Jets.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

New Jersey Jackals Championship chase ends a run short


They came so close, yet so far.

The New Jersey Jackals pushed the Trois Rivieres Aigles to the brink, the fifth game of the Can-Am League Championship Series, and at the end of the day the Jackals were one run short.

A controversial play at the plate in the top of the fifth inning in which Eric Grabe appeared to have just got his fingertips on home plate as catcher Tim Quinn was applying a slap tag at home was very close. Grabe was called safe. The Jackals protested to no avail. At the end of the day that run turned out to be the difference as it gave the Aigles a 2-0 lead at the time.

The Jackals didn't help themselves. They grounded into three double plays. They left 10 men on base and never really got much going against Aigles starter Mike Bradstreet. Bradstreet was very good; the defense behind him, especially at short with Pedro Lopez and second with Jose Cuevas proved to be vacuum that sucked up one ground ball after another.

By the time the game came to an end it was the Aigles, not the Jackals who were celebrating at Yogi Berra Stadium on Sunday afternoon with a 2-1 victory.

While the loss hurts, it doesn't cloud what the Jackals accomplished this year. Having covered this team all season long, they were a pretty gritty group that overcame a lot of tough situations all season long.

The drama really began in August for New Jersey, with the team hitting the road for a 6-game trek to Canada to play the Quebec Capitales and Ottawa Champions. New Jersey proved their metal in Quebec, winning two of three from their rivals. The two victories for New Jersey were both comeback wins that New Jersey earned in the later innings. Big base hits by Leandro Castro, Tony Caldwell and Jared Schlehuber were all keys to their success in that series.

Then it got interesting. The Jackals followed that positive start to the trip, by getting swept by the Champions that week. With three weeks left in the season, the Jackals still had something to prove, and with a 5-game home stand coming up, they proved themselves in a big way.

While speaking with A.J. Kirby-Jones and Brian Ernst a couple weeks later in Fargo, the team formed a symbol that would become the status of their great run, "Fear The Jack." A simple saying that had a simple sign. Pinch the middle finger, ring finger and thumb together and raise the index and pinkie fingers into the air, and it forms a dog head -- or jackal. Whenever a player got a base hit, double, triple, home run, or scored the players would "flash the jackal" back at their teammates in the dugout.

The trend caught fire. Soon there were t-shirts, Twitter hashtags, and fans flashing the Jackal back at their stars on the field.

The Jackals beat up on the Capitales and Garden State Grays in that five game home stand, winning all five games, while scoring 59 runs in the process. It was an incredible streak.

The Jackals carried that momentum on the road to the midwest on the always difficult trip against the American Association and they came away with six wins in 11 games. They came back to beat the RailCats a couple time, held off the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks in a pair of games as well. However their best win of the road trip came in the first game at St. Paul.

Trailing 5-4 in the top of the ninth, the Jackals stormed back for five runs to steal the game from a team that won 74 games this year in the Saints. Peter Mooney and Kirby-Jones had base hits to set up Mark Threkled, who cracked a two-run triple to left that put New Jersey on top. Matt Helms, D'Vontrey Richardson and Jared Schelhuber would all follow with RBI base hits of their own to push New Jersey to a 9-5 win.

The victories in such adverse conditions set them up nicely for the playoffs. The Jackals found a way to get some needed revenge on the Capitales in the first round of the playoffs. The Jackals trailed 2-1 in the series, and needed to win Game 4 to stay alive. Behind a great effort by Shawn Sanford, and a two-run double by Threlkeld, the Jackals prevailed 5-2.

Finally in Game 5, an outstanding catch by Threlkeld robbed Alexi Bell of a RBI base hit. The Jackals built a 5-4 lead on Quebec, and held on thanks to great pitching by John Walter, Alex Powers and Hector Nelo in order to get the win and move on to the League Championship.

Speaking of Walter, the guy was a stud this year on the mound. He won 10 games and struck out 127 batters this year. He was clearly the team's ace, and even beat the Can-Am League's pitcher of the year, Karl Gelinas, twice in the playoffs.

While the Jackals lost to the Aigles in the LCS, Jersey still had some great wins, including an 8-6 comeback in Game 2, and a 7-5 comeback in Game 4.

What a season. What a group. I truly enjoyed my time covering them, and covering this franchise for the third straight year.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Giants Blow Chance at Beating Romo & Cowboys


If one is looking for a reason why the Giants are an inferior team to the Dallas Cowboys right now, just DVR and re-watch the Cowboys stunning 27-26 victory over Big Blue. Because the Giants were totally outclassed by the Dallas Cowboys in ever facet of the game on Sunday night, and still, it had a chance to win the game, only to see Tony Romo rescue his team for certain defeat in the last minute. 

Those fans who live on bashing Tony Romo as "un-clutch" and a "loser" better get their facts straight. Romo not only beat the Giants, but he beat his doubters as well with a heroic comeback in a game where Dallas did everything possible to hand the Giants a victory.

Case in point, the New York Giants as an offense did nothing. They were out-gained by Dallas 436-289; Dallas held the football for 37 minutes; Eli Manning threw for only 193 yards; the Giants as a team, ran for only 99 yards on the ground, and the great, Madden 16 cover boy, Odell Beckham Jr. was held to only five catches for 44 yards and no scores. 

All this against a Dallas defense that didn't have Orlando Scandrick and Greg Hardy. What are we in store for when the Giants actually play a defense at full strength? 

The only scoring this Giants offense could muster were four field goals that helped New York build a 26-20 lead with 1:37 to go in the game. 

Look closely, and the Giants only had that 6-point lead because of Dallas mistakes. With 1:30 left before halftime, Terrance Williams fumbled for Dallas, allowing corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to scoop up the loose football and score a touchdown, giving the Giants a 10-6 lead. 

On the next Dallas drive, Romo was intercepted by Uani' Unga, setting up a Giants field goal at 13-6. 

After the Cowboys finally scored a touchdown in the third quarter that cut the Giants lead to 16-13, Dallas almost gave the game away again. A pass by Romo that was intended for Devin Street was tipped and intercepted by Trumaine McBride, who dashed into the end zone for the score to make it 23-13, Giants. 

Yet, at the end of the day leave it to the Giants to screw things up. After the Cowboy responded with a Romo touchdown pass to cut their deficit to just three points, all the Giants needed was a long touchdown drive to ice what would have been an improbable opening night win. 

And the kicker is they almost had it. 

Manning led the Giants on a 13-play drive that started at the Giants own 20-yard line. A big third down completion by Manning to Beckham Jr. had Big Blue right on the goal line of the Cowboys with the clocking ticking down towards two minutes. The Giant pounded the football twice with Rashad Jennings, but couldn't get in for the score.

Finally on third down, Manning rolled to his right and decided, while under pressure, to throw the ball away in the end zone. This turned out to be a hideous mistake. If Manning had only taken a sack, or even slid to the ground he would have been able to milk another 40 seconds off the game clock. Instead the incompletion stopped the clock with 1:43 to play. The Giants, again settled for a field goal. 

With Manning leaving 1:43 on the clock, it gave Romo more than enough time to orchestrate a great comeback against a Giants defense that doesn't have the pass rush it once had. Romo was 5-for-6 on the drive, including passes of 24-yards and 16-yards to Lance Dunbar that moved the football to the Giants' 32-yard line. Three plays later, Romo had the Boys right on the Giants 11-yard line, before connecting with his old buddy, Jason Witten on a touchdown pass against a rookie linebacker for the Giants. 

All of sudden Dallas had the lead, and the game in hand with just seconds to play. It was a stunning lose for New York, but, considering how poorly they executed on both sides of the football, they were fortunate to even be in front in this game with less than two minutes to go. 

The Giants have a lot of work to do. For starters their offense was totally out of synch on Sunday. It is up to Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo, who was under a lot of heat last season by Giants fans to get his unit on the same page. Defensively, the Giants are very, very young and raw, especially upfront. They don't have the pass rushers that Steve Spagnuolo likes to have on defense. At 0-1, already its going to be an uphill battle for Tom Coughlin's club. 

Jets smackdown Manziel & Browns in opener

JETS 31 

The expectation level for the New York Jets this season has been tepid at best. A team with a new head coach and a new front office has been tasked with the challenge of getting the franchise back on the right track, after years of mediocrity and embarrassment under Rex Ryan. 

On Sunday, Gang Green took a first step, granted against the Cleveland Browns. Yet it was the positive first step the franchise has been looking for. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick, after an early interception settled down, delivering a solid ball game for Gang Green. He completed 15-of-24 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. Even the Jets running attack of Chris Ivory got into the mix, as the unsung tailback gashed Cleveland for 91 yards and a score. 

And speaking of making headlines with the fans, Brandon Marshall did exactly that on Sunday. After Fitzpatrick was picked off by Tashaun Gibson, Marshall stripped the corner of the football and recovered it for the Jets. The interception meant nothing. The Jets had the football back. Two plays later, Ivory dashed into the end zone for the score, tying the game at seven. 

Later Marshall caught a back shoulder touchdown pass by Fitzpatrick in the corner of the end zone that would push the Jets lead to 21-10. 

As for Decker he caught Fitzpatrick's first touchdown of the day on a 15-yard slant route inside that gave New York a 14-10 lead in the second quarter before halftime.

The Jets defense did an outstanding job adjusting to the ways of Johnny Manziel, after the former Texas A&M star hit a 54-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin. The Jets harassed Manziel, forcing an interceptions and strip sacking him a couple of times. 

The only real bad news to come out of the win were a couple of injuries, most notably to cornerback Antonino Cromartie, who left the game with a knee injury. He is to be examined on Monday, according to multiple reports. The Jets could ill afford to lose Cromartie, especially with Darrelle Revis back with him in New York. 

And, speaking of Revis, the corner had four tackles in his first day back in green and white. 

The game also marked the return of Fireman Ed, who gave up his duties as the leader of Jets Nation during the embarrassment of the Ryan-Sanchez debacle in 2012 (AKA the Butt fumble). 

Jackals outlast Capitales in Game 4

It has been a wild and crazy series between the New Jersey Jackals and Quebec Capitales in the Can-Am League SemiFinals. New Jersey trailed Quebec 2-1 in the series, and needed to win Game 4 in order to have a chance in Game 5.

New Jersey won the game 5-2, even with a little controversy mixed in. Take a look!

Game 5 between the Jackals and Capitales will take place on Monday, September 14 at 7:05 p.m. Listen to the game here:

Friday, September 11, 2015

NFL Week 1 Hot Picks of the Week

The NFL season has now arrived, thank goodness! With an off-season that was chuck full of talk about deflategate and its impact on the landscape of players union relations with the NFL front office, as well as the potential to change CBA litigation forever, we are finally back to football.

Say what you will about Judge Berman's decision, something shady was going on in Foxboro, Massachusetts involving Tom Brady and the Patriots, but, like the rest of the country we have to accept the decision and move on. And trust me, while the NFL hates to lose to Brady, they love the fact he's back on the field.

With the Patriots blowout win on Thursday night against the Steelers the NFL season has now officially opened, and it feels really, really good. Now it is time to take a look at some of the other potential match-ups in Week 1 and pick some winners to open up another season.

Cleveland @ NY Jets (-2.5): The Jets open up the season at home for the sixth straight season, only this time they will look totally different. No more Rex Ryan. No more John Idzik. No more circus. No more Geno Smith ... errr ... at least for a couple months anyway, but you catch my drift. The Jets needed a facelift and they got it in the hires of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles.

Both men are Jersey guys; both men are also no-nonsene football men. This is exactly what New York needs. Problem is they don't have a quarterback yet. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start week 1, and they have inherited a lot of players from the previous administration.

The one positive for New York is their defense (at least the potential anyway). Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are back, adding veteran depth and physical toughness to a defense with a stout front 7. They could have a good day against Cleveland.

The Browns are stuck with Josh McCown at quarterback. McCown had some moments with Chicago a few years back, but like Fitzpatrick he's been everywhere, and is not a solution to the Browns problems. For the Browns to be successful they really need Johnny Manziel back under center. He's expected to be available Sunday, but I doubt he plays a lot. Like the Jets, the Browns can play some pretty decent defense. They were ranked eighth in the league in pass defense last year.

Expect a very ugly football game with New York making less mistakes than Cleveland in this turnover fest. JETS 21, BROWNS 17

Colts (-2.5) @ Bills: Speaking of Rex Ryan, he's baaaaacckkk. Ok, he didn't really go anywhere, but he is back in the head coaching saddle this time in Buffalo. Ryan has talked a lot of trash this off-season (what else is new from him), about how the Bills will be a playoff team in 2015. He added LeSean McCoy, which certainly will make the Bills running game explosive, but he can't find a quarterback. The Bills quarterback situation is such a question mark they are going with career third stringer Tyrod Taylor as its starter! The Bills still have E.J. Manuel who was once the Bills starter. Matt Cassel who was released for financial reasons, returns on a cap friendly deal as the back-up. I guarantee all three will start this year.

As for Colts, the question for them is can they make the big run to the Super Bowl after the additions of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore on the offense? Both players are very talented, but getting up there in age. However, with Andrew Luck running the show they should score a lot of points. Can the Colts stop anybody? That is another big question surrounding Indy. Then again, defense has never been the Colts strong suit, even when Peyton Manning used to run the show for the Colts.

This is a rough way for Rex Ryan to open up his coaching career in Buffalo. While the Bills will get some pressure on Luck, he will make too many plays that will push Indianapolis over the top. COLTS 30, BILLS 14 

Ravens @ Broncos (-4): Who are the Denver Broncos this season? That is going to be the question of the season. The Broncos enter 2015 with a new head coach in Gary Kubiak, and Peyton Manning, age 39, now in a new offense run by Kubiak. Not only is Manning's adjustment in the new system going to be something to watch, but he's going to have to do it with a makeshift offensive line. Ryan Clady is injured, and the team just recently singed guard Evan Mathis from Philadelphia. Manning will also have a rookie center in Matt Paradis. In short, it could be rough at times for Denver.

That being said, their defense comes into 2015 with very high expectations. Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and company can rush the passer. They will have to get after it against Flacco if Denver is going to pull away in this game.

The Ravens return mostly the same crew that went 10-6 and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs last season. Joe Flacco will be with his 4th offensive coordinator after a couple very successful seasons under Kubiak (yes, the current Denver HC) as his most recent offensive coordinator. This will be an adjustment period for Flacco as well.

Expect Kubiak to give Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips some hints about Flacco's game that Denver's D can take advantage of late in this contest. Manning won't be at his best, but he's still going to throw for a number of touchdowns in this game. A very competitive game at that. BRONCOS 28, RAVENS 24.

Giants @ Cowboys (-5): The Dallas Cowboys have had to hear about Odell Beckham's catch for almost a year. Last November the Giants star receiver made the Cowboys look foolish with his insane back handed catch in the end zone last year. Ironically it was a game New York still lost, but, people forgot about that. The Cowboys will
try to remind them.

Dallas comes into this season without DeMarco Murray who now calls Philadelphia home. While this is a great subplot for when Dallas faces the Eagles in Week 2, the entire season will be about whether Dallas has replaced Murray's production. As good as that offensive line is, Darren McFadden is not Murray. Not to mention McFadden never stays healthy. Also, can this offensive line be at full strength for another entire season like it was last year? That is a good question too. I have no questions about Tony Romo, he will be fine.

Defensively though Dallas will miss Orlando Scandrick (out for the year with an ACL injury), and will miss Greg Hardy who will serve a 4-game suspension for violating the League's Personal Conduct Policy. Those two out of the lineup means Dallas could be vulnerable, and an explosive passing team like the Giants could take advantage.

That being said the Giants have questions as well. Big Blue will likely be without Victor Cruz on Sunday night, as the wide out has been bothered by a calf injury in camp. Cruz didn't practice on Thursday, the Giants final full scale prep day before Sunday's big game. That could mean Cruz might miss the game.

In addition, the Giants have many questions defensively, including but not limited to whether Jon Beason is ready to go. He's dealing with a knee injury and there is question about his availablity for Sunday. Plus, the team has a new defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnoluo. Well, not really new, but new to at least these Giants.

Spagnoluo was the Giants D-coordinator from 2007-2008 when Big Blue won it's first of two Super Bowls in the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era. Spags' defenses live on pressuring the quarterback, but it will take some time for this group to grasp his system fully. Remember in 2007, the Giants got ripped up their first couple games when Spagnoluo was in his first season with that unit.

Oh, and did I mention Jason Pierre-Paul and his missing finger? Yeah, well, I don't think we'll be seeing Mr. JPP in a blue jersey anytime soon.

The only thing the Giants have going for them in this match-up is Eli Manning and Beckham Jr. It will be fun to see Manning throw to both Beckham and Victor Cruz all season. Expect a high scoring affair in Big D, but the Cowboys get the last laugh. COWBOYS 35, GIANTS 31.

Green Bay @ Chicago: Aaron Rodgers all day. Packers 34, Bears 24 

Chiefs @ Texans: A Texas sized upset of a good Chiefs team. Texans 20, Chiefs 17

Dolphins @ Redskins: Washington on it's way to the number 1 pick. Dolphins 23, 'Skins 16

Seahawks @ Rams: Remember when the Rams stunned Seattle last year? So does Seattle. Seahawks 27, Rams 17

Panthers @ Jaguars: Do the Jaguars finally get over .500? Oh, hell I'll throw them a bone. Jaguars 26, Panthers 24. 

Saints @ Cardinals: The Cardinals should win this game, but I don't really trust them. Saints 29, Cardinals 24. 

Lions @ Chargers: The Lions lost a lot on defense, and Phillip Rivers will remind them. Chargers 37, Lions 24. 

Bengals @ Raiders: The Raiders are up and coming, while Cincy must Win now! Raiders 24, Bengals 20

Titans @ Buccaneers: Battle of the rookie QBs = ugliest football game EVER (if that's possible). Buccaneers 16, Titans 15.

Eagles @ Falcons: Chip Kelly's put his trust in Sam Bradford, and if Bradford goes down, Mark Sanchez. Ouch. And people expect Philly to be a Super Bowl team? Really? Falcons 24, Eagles 21.

Vikings @ 49ers: The Jim Tomsula era begins in San Francisco with a shaky 49ers team. Adrian Peterson is back for the Vikes. Vikings 23, 49ers 20. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jackals stop Capitales in Game 1 of Playoffs

 When it comes to ninth inning in the playoffs it’s never easy. The Jackals found that out as they held on for dear life when Hector Nelo worked himself into and out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the ninth inning, saving it for John Walter in a 4-3 New Jersey victory in Game 1 of the Can-Am League Playoffs. 

It was an honor to be there to call the action last night. Here is a highlight video of the action as the Jackals currently hold a 1-0 series lead. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Jackals Player Interviews: Tony Caldwell & Nick Giarraputo

I had the pleasure to sit down with two prominant players in Jackals history, current Jackals' catcher Tony Caldwell and former Jackal third baseman Nick Giarraputo.

Caldwell has had an outstanding season this year, driving in a career high 42 RBI, and hitting a career best .282 this year. It has been an amazing season for Caldwell, who opened the year struggling to get to .200. Caldwell hit a solid .290 in the month of July, and exploded in the month of August, hitting .380.

Here is his interview:

Nick Giarraputo recently signed with the Ottawa Champions as their new third baseman. However, from 2011-2013 Giarraputo was a mainstay at third for the Jackals. IN 2012 Giarraputo was named League MVP after belting 22 home runs and driving in 71. In 2013, he would have been the Can-Am League Championship Series MVP had the Jackals found a way to win that series. Here is that interview:

New Jersey Jackals Game Highlight Videos

For much of the past few weeks I have been shooting, editing and doing voice over to the Jackals games that I cover and do play-by-play for during our recent road trips to Canada and the Midwest.
While I have been busy completing these daily projects it is now long overdue for me to share them on here for your eyes.

Last night the Jackals came from behind, trailing 5-4 in the 9th against the St. Paul Saints and found a way to get a big win on the road by the score of 9-5.

Late inning rallies are becoming something of a habit here in August and September for the Jackals. Here is another one against the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks on September 3, 2015.

The great thing about getting that big time victory on the road in Fargo-Moorhead, it led to this celebration. The Jackals clinched their spot in the Can-Am League playoffs.

The Jackals made sure to open their trip to the midwest in style with an exciting win at Gary SouthShore!

In one of my favorite edits from the past month, this comes from the Jackals extra-inning win in Quebec against the Capitales on August 16.

In this video, the Jackals come from behind and defeat the Capitales 6-3 back on August 14, 2015.

Remember you can see all the Jackals game day videos, interviews and highlights on YouTube or by going onto!