Thursday, October 19, 2017

Yankees Knock Out Kuechel, Dominate Astros Again

NYY lead series 3-2

The New York Yankees are just one win away from the World Series. The team that nobody thought would even be close to returning to the Fall Classic this season, let alone the ALCS continues to prove the doubters wrong. It has been a season of comebacks for the Yankees, the Bronx Bombers have made the postseason their own comeback story.

First it was the wild card game against the Twins where they trailed 3-0. Then it was the Indians series in the ALDS where they were down two games to none. Now it is the ALCS. The Yankees were down two games to none against the Astros, and erased that deficit, and, at the same time, exercised their Dallas Keuchel demons in one foul swoop to take a 3-2 series edge.

All New York has to do is beat Justin Verlander on Friday night and their ticket to the World Series will be punched.

Keuchel just didn't have it. Five days after frustrating the Yankees offense with a collection of off-speed pitches in Game One, the Yankees had him figured out in Game Five. With two out in the bottom of the second inning, Starlin Castro lined a 1-0 fastball off the top of the wall in left-center to get the party started. Three pitches later, Greg Bird lined a 2-0 fastball down the right field line to bring Castro home with the games first run.

Those two hits were the breakthrough the Yankees had been looking for. Now it was time to take Keuchel to the woodshed.

In the third inning, Chase Headley singled to lead things off. Brett Gardner then reached on a Fielder's Choice. Finally, Aaron Judge brought the roof down on Keuchel when he lined a double to left to score Gardner to make it 2-0 Bombers.

The Yankees were not done. They successfully knocked Keuchel from the ball game in the fifth inning with Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregarious delivered back-to-back RBI singles to push the lead to 4-0. Keuchel's day was done after 86 pitches. His final line 4.2 innings pitched, allowing four runs on seven hits.

It was almost like the cherry on top when Sanchez came back in the seventh inning and planted one in the left field stands for his first home run of the postseason to cap off the Yankee scoring at 5-0.

As for Mashairo Tanaka, he was absolutely brilliant. Tanaka was incredible for the third straight postseason game. He held the Astros to just three hits over seven innings, while striking out eight and walking one. He totally befuddled an Astros lineup that has gone  into a proverbial funk in the LCS. In the LCS alone, the Astros are hitting .153 as a team. In two starts against Tanaka, the Astros have managed only two runs on seven hits over 13 innings. Tank's postseason ERA dipped down to 1.38.

With the series back in their favor, the Yankees head to Houston looking to win one of the next two games in order to punch their ticket to the World Series for the 41st time in their remarkable history. Will their old rivals the Dodgers be there? We'll see. LA holds a 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Cubs. But before the Yankees start thinking about Hollywood, they need to write a finish to this script in the ALCS.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Judge Rises, Yankees Still Alive in ALCS

HOU leads Series 2-1

All rise, the Judge is back. Aaron Judge awoke from his postseason slumber to help deliver a much needed laugher for the Yankees as they blew away the Houston Astros 8-1 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. After two crushing losses to open the series in Houston, the Yankees won a game the desperately had to have to keep the series alive.

Judge played a key roll in the win. First he robbed Yuil Gurriel of extra bases when he snared in a fly ball against the right field wall. Then, a couple of innings later, Judge destroyed a Will Harris cutter and planted it over the left field wall for a 3-run homer that blew the game wide open at 8-0.

For a man who has really struggled to find his stroke this postseason, Judge's Game Three performance was a reminder of how dominant he can be. If it serves as a turning point will depend on how he does in Game 4 on Tuesday afternoon.

Judge wasn't the only headline grabber of the night. The Yankees started the party early when Todd Fraizer flicked a low fastball from Charlie Morton and dropped it just over the right field wall for a 3-run homer to give the Bombers a 3-0 lead.

From there it was the CC Sabathia Show. Sabathia dominated the Astros, holding them to just three hits and no runs. While CC did walk four batters, he struck out five and gave Joe Girardi his best performance of this postseason.

Sabathia has been that stabilizing for the for the Yankees all season. He is 10-0 in games where the Yankees are coming off a loss. Talk about being a stopper? That is exactly what he has been this year, and exactly what he was Monday night.

With the series now a 2-1 Houston lead, it is up to Sonny Gray to keep the momentum going for New York. Gray hasn't pitched too well since being acquired from Oakland. This needs to be his best performance as a Yankee if the Yankees are going to make the Astros truly sweat the rest of this series out.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Controversial Home Run Call, Verlander Doom Yankees

HOU leads series 2-0 

It was Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series. The Yankees were playing host to the Baltimore Orioles. Then Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter lined a pitch to right that a young boy named Jeffery Maier leaned over the wall and knocked over the fence for what the umpires called a home run. It was fan interference, but the umpires let it slide, and the Yankees would go on to win the game, and defeat the Oriles in the LCS, en route to the 1996 World Series title.

Fast forward 21 years later, the Yankess might be experiencing the Jeffery Maeir situation once again. Only this time it is going against them.  With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Astros shortstop (how ironic) Carlos Correa launched a 99-mph fastball to right. Aaron Judge tried to make a play on it until 12-year old Carson Riley leaned over the wall and knocked the ball off the top of his glove and into the seats. The umpires called it a home run. Even worse, the umpires reviewed it and still called it a home run. It should not have been. It should have been fan interference. Talk about Karma.

In a series where the Yankees have been incredibly unlucky, the home run by Correa was one of many nightmarish moments for the Bronx Bombers in Game 2.

In the third inning, Brett Gardner tried to leg out a triple, but a great throw from right by right fielder Josh Reddick nailed Garnder as he came in sliding head first into the third base bag. The umpires reviewed it and confirmed that Gardner was out as third baseman Alex Bergman clearly got his glove on Gardner's arm as he came in.

Then there was the ending. Again Correa was involved when he smacked a double into the gap with speedy Jose Altuve rounding the bases. The relay throw from the outfield came into the Didi Gregorious who tried to make the throw home as Altuve was rounding third and heading for the plate. The ball beat Altuve home, but catcher Gary Sanchez bobbled it and Altuve slide in safely. Again Yankees manager Joe Girardi tried to argue, making the case that Gregorious was interfe
red with by Correa. Not so. The throw was in time, it was all on Sanchez for dropping the ball.

Not only was luck not on the side of the Yankees, their offense was invisible. Justin Verlander was untouchable. He held the Yankees to just a run on four hits while striking out 13 batters over nine complete innings. How good was Verlander? He was hitting 96 mph on the gun at his 122nd pitch of the ball game. He was lights out.

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, who both have struggled all postseason long, were a combined 0-for-8 on the night. There is no stress for the Houston pitchers against this Yankee lineup that has posed no threat to anyone in this series thus far.

As for Luis Severino, he was good until he got hit by a line drive and left the game. The Yankee bullpen which was phenomenal in the ALDS, was good again. Tommy Khanle and David Robertson combined to throw four shutout innings of the Astros. Then came Aroldis Chapman and the bottom fell out.

Game 3 is Monday night in the Bronx. The Yankees need three things: 1) They need to hit. 2) They need to keep pitching well. 3) They need a little Jeffery Maier-type luck to go their way this time around.

Keuchel outshines Tanaka in LCS Game 1

HOU leads series 1 - 0 

Dallas Keuchel continued his mastery of the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2017 ALCS, as he guided the Stros to a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series edge in this best-of-seven match-up. If the Yankees are going to win this thing and get to the World Series, they are going to have to figure out Keuchel who owns a 0.71 ERA in two postseason starts this year, and has a 0.00 ERA in 13 innings against New York in the playoffs. Remember it was Keuchel who blanked the Yankees over six innings in the 2015 Wild Card game.

The Astros' ace dominated New York's see-fastball, hit-fastball offense with a heavy dose of soft stuff. Changeups, sinkers and a whole lot of sliders. His hardest pitch clocked in at 92 mph. Against a lineup like the Yankees, being crafty can be a work of art. And for seven innings on Friday night, Keuchel delivered a masterpiece.

He gave up only four hits, all singles, and struck out 10 batters. He handled the likes of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregarious with virtual ease, confusing them all with off-speed pitches on all levels of the plate. There was no way they could keep up.

This is not to say the Yankees didn't have a shot in Game 1. They did thanks in big part to their former-ace Mashairo Tanaka, who turned his second brilliant postseason outing in a row. Unfortunately for Tanaka his performance was overshadowed by that of Keuchel's. Tanaka held the Astros to just four hits over six innings, shutting down the highest scoring offense in the American League. He kept George Springer and Josh Reddick silent. Carlos Beltran was quiet, and Brian McCann was like a church mouse.

But the biggest problem for Tanaka on Friday was one man. Jose Altuve. All 5-foot-6 inches of him.  Altuve had three hits on the night, none bigger than the single that he bounced between Tanaka's legs that led to an infield single in the bottom of the fourth. Altuve then used his legs to kill the Yankees. He stole second base, and later scored on a RBI base hit by Carlos Correa to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Cuban defector Yuli Gurriel had the hardest hit of the day, a two-out smash hit of a single to drive in Correa to make it 2-0 'Stros.

An inning later, the Yankees tried to answer in the top of the fifth. Greg Bird singled and Matt Holliday reached on an Altuve error. With two on and none out, Keuchle jammed Todd Fraizer into a fly out to center, and struck out Brett Gardner swinging on a slider down and away.

Now it was Judge's turn. Judge who still looked somewhat uncomfortable at the plate, guessed right on a 3-2 slider and looped into left field for a base hit. The Yankees misjudged the depth of the outfield and sent Bird around third, who wound up a dead duck at home plate for the final out of the fifth inning. While manager Joe Girardi did challenge the play afterwards, the fact that the third base coach sent Bird on a shallow single to left was a hideous coaching decision, and one that haunted the Yankees all night.

How so you ask? Well, ironically, Bird blasted a solo shot to right field off the foul pole to make it a 2-1 game in the ninth. Imagine if the Yankees had been more patient, and scored that run in the fifth inning? We'd likely be looking at a brand new game in the ninth.

Instead it wasn't meant to be. It was Dallas Keuchel's night, and Jose Altuve's night instead as the Astros grabbed the early series lead.

Will the Bird home run serve as a turning point? If the Yankee bats come to life on the hard throwing Justin Verlander, Saturday afternoon, then maybe we can look at that solo homer as the hit that ignited the team. We'll see. The Yankees will need Luis Severino to pitch lights on Saturday if they are to bring this series back to the Bronx knotted up at one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Yankees Even Up Series, Force Game 5 Wednesday

Series tied 2-2 

In the course of two games the Yankees have gone from dead team walking to just 27 outs from a date with the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. That is how rapidly things can change in a five game playoff series. The Yankees brought the thunder to their game against the Indians on Monday, coming away with a 7-3 win before a rocking Yankee Stadium.

The Stadium was on fire from first pitch, with the echo of deep chants, cheers and euphoria spread throughout the building, making it seem more like a European soccer event, or even the late 90's when the Yankees were kings of the baseball world.

There is something about this Yankee team that is endearing. They never give up. Last week they were down 3-0 in their wild card game to the Minnesota Twins and pulled it out. In this division series they were down two-games-to-none, with the manager's head on the proverbial chopping block. Now, if they win on Wednesday, Game 2 in Cleveland would be reduced to a mute point.

The Yankees are facing a winner-take-all Game 5 because Joe Girardi trusts his guys, and they rewarded him for his confidence. It's been that way all season.

Right from the get-go, the Bronx Bombers jumped out on Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who was pitching on three days' rest, leaving little doubt that this series was far from over. Todd Fraizer, the New Jersey kid who the Yankees acquired from the White Sox over the summer got the party started when he lined a double down the left field line to score Starlin Castro with the games first run. Frazier's hit proved to be contagious. Aaron Hicks followed with a RBI single of his own to make it 2-0. Brett Gardner singled to center, and Aaron Judge brought the house down with a two-run double to left. 4-0 Yankees in the second inning.

The lead proved to be more than enough for starter Luis Severino who was masterful in his second postseason start. Like the Yankees, Monday was a rebound performance for the Yankees ace. Last week he only lasted a third of an inning against the Twins. On Monday, with the exception of surrendering a pair of home runs to Carlos Santana and Roberto Perez, Severino dominated.

He gave the Yankees seven strong innings, allowing only three runs on four hits while striking out nine batters. The Indians had no answer for Severino's fastball, which he blew by hitters like it was going out of style. As the night wore on, and with each strikeout notched to his belt the chants of "Severino" bellowed through the confines of Yankee Stadium.

Soon those cheers turned to chants of "Tommy, Tommy" as reliever Tommy Kahnle shut the door on the Indians with two brilliant innings in relief. Kahnle, was the forgotten piece in the Yankees trade with Chicago. While Fraizer and David Robertson were the headlines of that deal, the Yankees got Kahnle as well. He rewarded the Yankees confidence in him with his best outing of the season.

He came into the game after Dellon Betances walked Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor. With the Yankees leading only 7-3, this was a huge moment for the New York native, and he didn't disappoint. He struck out Jason Kipnis on a changeup high and out side. He then jammed Jose Ramirez into a fly out to right, and finally struck out Jay Bruce swinging to end the inning.

Kahnle was so good that Giradi left him out there for the ninth. The righty proceeded to overwhelm  Santana, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall, striking all three hitters out to end the ball game.

The boos that the Yankees heard from their fans before Game 3 were now turned to delirious cheers. Suddenly fans are thinking big again. The Yankees now head to Cleveland for a Game 5 that many thought wasn't going to happen. Even if they lose to Corey Kluber on Wednesday, just the fact that the Yankees never gave up on themselves and their manager is a victory in itself.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Yankees Avoid Elimination, Beat Indians 1-0

CLE leads Series 2-1

It was a thrilla in the Bronx. The New York Yankees answered the call and shut up the critics after a disastrous Game 2 with a thrilling 1-0 win over the Indians to keep their season alive for at least one more night.

It is amazing how things can change in the matter of 48 hours, but that is exactly what the Yankees did Sunday night. On Friday, Yankees fans were ready to ship Joe Girardi out of town after a controversial decision not to challenge a supposed "hit by pitch" on Lonnie Chisenthall that led to a 5-run inning for Cleveland. Two days later the Yankees flipped the script and left Yankees fans cheering with a performance for the ages.

Never has the new Yankee Stadium rocked as loudly as it did on Sunday. The fans could feel something special was happening and the players fed off it.

Mashairo Tanaka needed the performance of his career against 18-game winner Chris Carrasco and he delivered big time. He showed raw emotion, and fed off every second of the moment. For a guy who had taken a lot of heat for not showing ace like stuff since he arrived here in 2014, Tanaka pitched, arguably his best game in Yankee pinstripes.

Tanaka gave the Bronx Bombers seven shut-out innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out seven. The righty set the tone right from the onset when struck out Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez to open the ball game, then came back to strike out Yankee killer, Jay Bruce to open the second inning. The strikeout of Bruce was one of four strikeouts of the Indians slugger on the night as the Yankees succeed in changing their game-plan against him.

Whenever Tanaka found himself in trouble he found a way to get out of it. In the top of the fourth inning he surrendered a one-out triple to Jason Kipnis. With Ramirez and Bruce coming up, it was easy to think the Indians would scratch out a run, but Tanaka had other ideas. He worked a five-pitch at bat to Ramirez, always staying ahead in the count, before striking him out swinging for the second out. Then he overpowered Bruce with a series of splitters that the slugger couldn't keep up with for another strikeout to get out of the inning.

But that moment wasn't the greatest of the night. In the top of the sixth with a runner aboard for Cleveland, Tanaka left a meatball over the plate that Lindor crushed toward right. The fans stood a-gast as the ball traveled through the air. With all that great work by Tanaka it looked like it would be 2-0 Indians in just seconds. Then the ball found Aaron Judge. A little hop is all Judge needed with his 6-foot-7 frame, as he brought the ball back into the ball park for the out as the Stadium exploded with cheers.

The Curtain Call:
Bottom of the seventh inning, still scoreless and former Yankee Andrew Miller was on the mound for Cleveland.  In 18 career playoff games, Miller owned an ERA of 0.90. The chances that the Yankees would scratch out anything against him was next to none. Greg Bird didn't get the memo.

Even with the lefty-on-lefty matchup, Bird took a Miller fastball and ripped the cover off it when he launched a rocket into the right field stands for a solo homer. The Stadium exploded, the lights flickered as Bird rounded the bases with a homer that landed somewhere on the George Washington Bridge.

1-0 Yankees.

Believe it.

Aroldis Chapman made the lead stand up. He struck out Yan Gomes and Giovanny Urshela to end the eight inning, then worked out of trouble in the ninth inning with a strikeout of Bruce and a fly out by Carlos Santana to put the game on ice.

Gotta believe is typically a saying for the team across town, but the Yankees are telling their fans to believe in the improbable comeback. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Odell Fracture's Ankle, Might be Finished For the Year


The Giants season has gone from being over to being a total dumpster fire. Not only did Big Blue lose to the Chargers 27-22, but they may have lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the season. With four minutes left in Sunday's game, Beckham landed awkwardly on his left ankle and had to be carted off the field. Early indications are the injury is a fractured left ankle -- the same ankle he injured in August in preseason. There will be an MRI on Monday to determine what kind of surgery is required. Chances are Beckham will need surgery and could miss the rest of the season.

That is a huge blow to the Giants, who also lost Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd to ankle injuries in the first half and never returned. Dwayne Harris was carted off the field with a fractured foot.

The injuries are the lead for what was a horrible day for the Giants, as the fell to 0-5 for the first time since 2013. They started 0-6 that season.

Eli Manning was under siege all day. He was sacked five times, and never really had any time to throw as the Chargers front seven was all over him thanks to the Giants leaky offensive line. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa both had big days with two sacks a piece.

Defensively, the Giants had no answer for Phillip Rivers, who early in the game had a bad snap for a safety and threw a crucial interception in the end zone. It didn't matter, because it was Rivers who got the last laugh.

After the Giants took the lead on Manning's 29-yard touchdown pass to Roger Lewis, Rivers moved the Chargers on a 12-play 92-yard drive that culminated in a 25-yard score to Hunter Henry to give Los Angeles a 17-16 lead.

Even when the Giants did something right, they found a way to screw it up. Case in point, Manning's 48-yard touchdown to Beckham quickly became a sideshow when New York was called for delay of game on the extra point attempt. The Giants tried to go for two and missed it.

That would come back to bite them.

Later in the fourth quarter with New York clinging to a two-point lead, Joey Bosa stripped Manning of the football for the second time and the Chargers fell on the football at the Giant 11-yard line. Rivers would find Melvin Gordon for the game winning score three plays later.

Browns Out-Suck the Jets as New York Wins 3rd in a Row


To say that this game was ugly would be an understatement. The New York Jets had absolutely no business winning this football game, but did so because the Cleveland Browns just can't help themselves from being ... well ...  the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns could have easily blown the Jets out were in not for a series of stupid mistakes that sunk them. Let's review:

Mistake #1: At the end of the first quarter, the Browns were moving the football well on New York, with DeShone Kizer actually playing well. After an 18-yard scramble by Kizer on third and three at the Jets 24, Cleveland had a 1st and goal at the Jets six. It seemed almost certain they would score. Ah, but it wasn't to be. Kizer tried to lateral a football to Isaiah Crowell, but the running back wasn't expecting the football and fumbled it. The Jets fell on it, killing Cleveland's drive.

Mistake #2: Thanks to a couple of big throws by Kizer, the Browns were able to erase a couple of offensive penalties to get into field goal range for their kicker Zane Gonzalez. Little did we know Zane Gonzalez would turn into Nick Folk. Yep, he missed it wide left.

Mistake #3: After the Jets gift wrapped Cleveland an interception that put the ball in New York territory, Cleveland shot themselves in the foot when Kizer was picked off by Marcus Maye on third and three from the Jets four yard line.

Mistake #4: Zane Gonzalez .... enough said.

Mistake $5: With Kizer benched, back-up Kevin Hogan was tearing up the Jets defense. He moved Cleveland deep into Jets territory to set up a cheap shot field on fourth and two at the Jets four. With New York already leading 10-7, it was a no-brainer to kick the field goal. Instead, Hue Jackson decided to put his offense back on the field, and the Jets stuffed Crowell for no gain to force a turnover on downs.

As for the Jets, they didn't play well in this game. The offense struggled early, and the running game which was so key to the Jets win over Jacksonville, was non-existent on Sunday. Elijah McGwire was held to just 20 yards on 11 carries and Bilal Powell left the game with an undisclosed leg injury. In addition, a lot the Jets issues in the ground game can be attributed to an offensive line that finding ways to draw penalties, and couldn't block the Cleveland pass rush. It was embarrassing.

It was not until the Jets went into a no-huddle just before halftime that the offense started to show life. Quarterback Josh McCown was 4-for-5 on the Jets final drive of the first half, including connecting with Jeremy Kerley down the sideline for eight yards with six seconds to go. The completion got the football into field goal range for Chandler Catanzaro who nailed the field goal from 57-yards out.

After Maurice Claiborne picked off a Kevin Hogan and brought it back into the Browns red zone, McCown went back to work for the Jets. He hit McGwire for 11 yards to the Cleveland two, and then hit Austin Sefarian Jenkins in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown to give the Jets a 10-7 lead.

Perhaps the best moment of the day for the Jets came in the fourth quarter when New York answered the defensive stand against Cleveland with an 8-play 97-yard drive for a touchdown that put the game away. McCown was 6-for-6 on the drive, but his final two passes were the most important completions of the game. On third and eight at the Cleveland 42, he hit Jeremy Kerley for 18-yards to the Browns 24.  Next, McCown connected with Jermaine Kearse on a fade pattern to the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Jets up 17-7.

Overall, McCown was 23-of-30 for 194 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn't great, but he was good enough when he had to be, especially with the way Cleveland shutdown the Jets run game.

At 3-2 the Jets are now tied for first place with the Bills and Patriots. New York will play host to New England next Sunday at the Meadowlands. Should be fun.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Cohen's Corner NFL Week 5 Selections

Week Five of the NFL season is now upon us, and this is a huge week for a number of teams. The Giants and Chargers do battle in a match-up of 0-4 teams. One will have to win this game, at least we think. Meanwhile the Jets visit Cleveland for a dangerous game against the lowly 0-4 Browns.

Who will win? Who will lose? Check it out here.

Former Met Jay Bruce Kills Yankees in ALDS Game 1

CLE leads series 1-0

For all intents and purposes the Yankees season is on the brink in Game 2. Why? Because they face the Indians best pitcher, Corey Kluber in a game they must have after Trevor Bauer dominated them on the hill in Game 1, as the Indians came away with a 4-0 victory. 

Bauer was awesome for the Indians. He had a Yankees offense that led all of baseball in home runs, and was second in RBI's, total bases and hits to just two singles in six-and-two-thirds innings of work. In fact, Bauer was so good he had a no-hitter going for him until Aaron Hicks broke it up with a double in the top of the sixth. 

A lot of people questioned Terry Francona's decision to go with Bauer in Game 1, especially with guys like Kluber and Carlos Carrasco at the ready. But Francona, ever a manager who has the pulse of his players, said no to the skeptics and rolled with Bauer -- a pitcher he saw turn his career around in 2017 with 17 wins in 31 starts, including striking out a career high 196 batters. 

Bauer rewarded his manager's confidence. He mixed and matched nicely, keeping the Yankees off-balance, and more importantly getting them to chase pitches inside and tight, and high and away. The strategy, just don't leave it over the plate. Pretty simple. 

Perhaps Bauer's biggest moment of the night came in the fourth inning after a passed ball on a strikeout of Aaron Judge. With the Indians clinging to a 1-0 lead, Bauer was able to get Gary Sanchez to bounce into a inning-killing double-play on the first pitch. While it was still early, the Indians had won. 

It wasn't just Bauer who was the star of the show for Cleveland. This night also belonged to a certain former New York Met named Jay Bruce. Bruce, whom Cleveland acquired from the woebegone Metropolitans reminded New York fans watching back home what they missed. 

He just barely missed an opposite field homer in the bottom of the second, as the ball caromed off the scoreboard in left for a lead-off double. Bruce would later score on a double-play ball to give the Indians the 1-0 advantage. 

Two innings later after Edwin Encarnacion was walked, Bruce blasted a Sunny Gray fastball over the right field fall for a two-run homer and a 3-0 Indians lead. 

But that was not all. Bruce would tack on one more RBI for good measure on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth off Jamie Garcia. Jay Bruce 4, Yankees 0. 

Now the Yankees must win on Friday afternoon. CC Sabathia will go for the Bombers against the aforementioned Corey Kluber. In case you needed to be reminded Kluber won 18 games this year. He's a candidate for the Cy Young Award, and to top it off dominated the Yankees back in August. Last year in the postseason Kluber was 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA in six starts. He looks to pick up where he left off. 

Sabathia is the perfect pitcher for Joe Girardi. He was tied for wins on the Yankees this year with 14, and is one of the few connections left to the Yankees last world championship in 2009. In 18 postseason starts, CC is 9-5. If ever was the time for Sabathia to be a stopper, now would be the perfect time. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Yankees Take Care of Twins, Head to Cleveland Next


The Yankees are moving on to Cleveland after coming from behind against a very game Minnesota Twins team in Tuesday's AL Wild Card. After falling behind 3-0 in the games' opening inning, this group of young Bronx Bombers showed why this playoff game would be different than playoff contests before this one.

Two years ago in this very spot, the Yankees lost to the Houston Astros. That would not be the case this time, even if the early results didn't look too good.

The Yankees need to give a lot of credit to Chad Green and David Robertson. Both relievers stymied the Twins in the middle innings, allowing the Yankees to grab the momentum back and ride it all the way to victory.

Green came in when the game was teetering on the brink. Yankees starter Luis Severino struggled in his postseason debut, allowing home runs to Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario as the Twins jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

When Green came into the game, he was looking at runners on second and third with two out with Jason Castro coming to bat. Green overpowered Castro, striking him out to end the inning. Green would give the Yankees two solid innings of relief, allowing only one run and left with the game tied at four in the top of the third inning.

As for Robertson, he was masterful. The 3.1 innings of work Robertson gave New York was the longest outing of the season for him. His previous long was 2.2 innings on September 11 against Tampa Bay.  He struck out five over his three-plus innings of work, and even induced a huge double-play ball on Joe Mauer with one out in the fourth inning to keep the Yankees up 5-4.

Without Robertson's effort, this game could have gotten away from New York. It didn't, proving that Brian Cashman made the right move bringing Robertson back when the Yankees reacquired him from the White Sox before the trade deadline.

Offensively, the Yankees teed off on Ervin Santana and reliever Jose Berrios. Didi Gregorious 3-run blast in the bottom of the first inning tied the game at three, sending Yankee Stadium into a tizzy. An inning later, Brett Gardner went yard for a solo shot off Santana to give the Yankees their first lead at 4-3.

New York would regain the lead in the third inning on Greg Bird's RBI single, scoring Gary Sanchez to make it 5-4. The Bombers put the game away in the fourth when Aaron Judge cracked an opposite field two-run homer to give the Yankees a 7-4 lead. It was Judge's first career postseason home run.

The Yankees had three home runs on the night, with Gardner, Judge and Sanchez all collecting multi-hit games. As for Gregorious, his home run was a continuation of his tremendous second half. In September alone, Gregorious had six home runs and 25 RBI, which was second only to Judge who had 15 homers and 32 RBI in the month of September. The fact that both players remain hot into October is a great sign for the Yankees.

With Minnesota now behind them, the Yankees turn their attention to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday. The defending AL Champions are heavy favorites to beat the Yankees because of the plethora of pitching they possess. Still, expect the Yankees to give them a run for their money in this series. This is a Yankees team that has nothing to lose, and doesn't know the meaning of postseason inexperience. This will be a tremendous fun to watch.

Monday, October 2, 2017

At 0-4 Giants Season Sinks Into Abyss


Don't blame the offensive line for this one. Don't blame Odell Beckham Jr. and his antics either. Don't blame Eli Manning, who put his team on his shoulders for 60 minutes on Sunday. The Giants 25-23 loss to the Buccaneers, which has dropped this team to 0-4, is all the fault of head coach Ben McAdoo.

Why? Because he has allowed this team to be this bad. It's no longer about one unit being bad. The Giants are finding ways to lose, especially games that they should win.

Throw away last week's loss to Philly, because this was the game the Giants should have won. They fell behind 13-0 and stormed all the way back to make it ball game. Eli Manning engineered a 7-play 62-yard drive and scored a touchdown by himself before the half to cut the deficit to 13-10.

Early in the third quarter, Manning had the Giants rolling again, hitting Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Sheperd on short precise throws to keep the chains moving on an 11-play 61 yard drive. A drive that culminated with Manning finding Wayne Gallman of all people for a four-yard score to make it 17-16 Giants with 4:19 to go in the third quarter.

Eli was great.

Odell was also great. In the fourth quarter, he made two huge catches, one for 42-yards to the Tampa Bay 33-yard line, and another one on a huge third and five conversion. He did this all while battling a high ankle sprain that seemed worse now than when he tweaked it six weeks ago in Cleveland. In some ways it was Odell's Willis Reed moment to play while hobbled. The Giants scored on that possession too, when Manning rolled right and hit Rhett Ellison for the go-ahead score with 3:16 to go in the game. The Giants led 23-22.

But one common theme Sunday was this, the Giants once vaunted defense was pathetic on Sunday. Forget the fact that Bucs kicker Nick Folk missed three field goals, because the Giants were giving away opportunities to the Bucs like it was going out of style. From allowing a 58-yard bomb from Jamies Winston to O.J. Howard early in the game that gave the Bucs a 13-0 lead, to allowing the Bucs to answer every single Giants score, they had on answer on Sunday.

When the Giants cut the deficit to 13-10? The Giants allowed Winston to march the Bucs 72 yards in 12 plays for a field goal to make it 16-10.

When the Giants finally had a 17-16 lead? The Giants defense gave it back, when Winston connected with Cameron Brate on a 14-yard score to give the Bucs a 22-17 lead.

Then there was the finish. With the Bucs in a no-huddle the Giants put no pressure on Winston, who scrambled for a first down, and hit Mike Evans for 14-yards to move the ball to the Giants 48. Winston remained perfect as he hit his next three passes including a 26-yard pass down the sideline to Brate who beat Landon Collins on coverage. That catch set up a cheap shot field goal for Folk, which he made barely. Even if Folk had missed the kick, the Giants were called for off-sides when Collins jumped the snap, which would have given Tampa another shot.

It's not even the Christmas season and the Giants are in the giving mood. Merry X-mas Tampa Bay signed McAdoo Claus.

Speaking of Ben McAdoo, what the heck is with his comments after this disaster? When asked by the Daily News' Gary Myers about the defeat, McAdoo said he was "not surprised" by the defeat, adding success one year doesn't translate to the next year. Well ain't that encouraging from the HC of the NYG? McAdoo's comments are totally ignorant and emblematic of a coach who has no clue of what he is doing. In week 1, he threw his quarterback under the bus. Last week he wouldn't take any responsibility for his wide receiver's childish actions. This week, he's not surprised. This guy has put more feet in his mouth than Rex Ryan did in six years destroying the Jets. If this continues, hopefully McAdoo won't be "surprised" when the Giants can him after the season.

Jets Avoid Tie, Outlast Jaguars in Bizarro OT

JETS 23 - JAGUARS 20 - Overtime

For three quarters the New York Jets had done just about everything right against a good Jaguars team. They held a 20-10 lead; Bilal Powell and Elijah McGwire were killing the Jaguars front seven with one big run after another; Luke McCown was managing the game nicely, and the Jets defense was smothering the Jaguars.

The game was heading for a blowout victory for the Jets, especially when McCown dropped a dime into the hands of Robby Anderson for a 41-yard completion to the Jacksonville 14-yard line. Another field goal, or even a touchdown, and Jets would be walking to a 2-2 record. It wasn't to be, as the Jets reminded us all why this imperfect team can be both exciting and frustrating to watch.

McCown tried to lateral the football to Powell, but the ball bounced off his shoulder and was picked up by Myles Jack who dashed 81-yards the other way for a shocking Jaguars touchdown to make it 20-17. At this point it was easy to think, "here we go again, more stupid Jets tricks."

Maybe it was the fact they were playing the equally inept Jaguars? Maybe it was the fact this team has plenty of guts? Maybe its a combination of both? Because the Jets didn't allow the Jaguars to steal the game from them.

After Josh McCown threw a horrible interception late in the quarter, after his intended receiver slipped, it looked all but over. Jacksonville had the football at the Jets 34, and you knew it was just a matter of time before they scored the winning touchdown. That never happened. Credit the Jets defense, and give credit to the Jaguars for shooting themselves in the foot. Jacksonville actually had the game winner when Leonard Fournette scored on a 23-yard dash to the corner, but a huge holding penalty was called on the Jaguars, nullifying the touchdown.

The Jets defense stiffened, holding Jacksonville out of the end zone and forcing a tying field goal to make it 20-20.

In overtime, we were subjected to probably the worst execution of football we have ever seen as neither team could establish anything offensively. It looked like the game was destined to end in a tie, until Jets punter Lachlan Edwards pinned the Jags at their own five yard line on a beautiful 70-yard punt. The Jets forced Jacksonville into a three and out and got the ball back with great field position and 1:50 to go in the overtime. The Jets finally positioned themselves for the game winner which Chandler Catanzaro nailed to give the Jets a stunning 23-20 victory.

Standouts and Points of contention:

The Jets have a running game: Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire were both amazing on Sunday. The duo ripped apart the Jaguars for 256 yards on the ground. The highlights came early when Powell avoided a tackler, got up and ran untouched into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7.

Then, in the third quarter the Jets took full control of the contest, when McGuire burst through the seams and went untouched for a 69-yard score to hand New York a 17-10 lead.   If these two guys keep it up, the Jets don't need Matt Forte back, who is nursing a leg injury. In addition, the Jets offensive line deserves a lot of props for creating so much running room for this duo on Sunday.

The Jets don't Trust Josh McCown: It became painfully obvious after the backwards lateral-turned Jaguars fumble recovery, the Jets changed their entire game plan for the rest of the day. Before the fumble the Jets allowed quarterback Josh McCown to make some plays with his arm, but after the scoop-and-score by Jacksonville, offensive coordinator John Morton went into a shell and never allowed McCown to do anything to hurt the team again, opting for an ultra-conservative game-plan.

Honestly, you can't blame Morton, because McCown was awful on Sunday. He was holding the ball way too long and took a number of horrible sacks. For example, in the first quarter the Jets had the ball at the Jaguar 35, but McCown took a couple of hideous sacks on the possession, knocking New York out of field goal range.

Then in the second quarter, he had the Jets at the Jags 42 after a beautiful throw to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and proceeded to take two huge sacks that put the Jets in a third and 28. Eventually the Jets tried a field goal and missed.

Overall, McCown took five sacks and threw a pick. He was bad. While it is nice the Jets have won two games with him under center, they are better off with Bryce Petty at quarterback. The sooner the change is made under center, the better it is for the Jets, especially if they want to make something of this season.

Penalties: The Jets were called for 10 penalties on Sunday. While Jacksonville was not any better in that department, the Jets were hurting themselves all day with one bad flag after another. Most of those penalties came on the offense, which is to be expected with a bad quarterback (McCown) and a mediocre offensive line. The Jets have to clean that up, big time.

What's Next? The Jets play the Cleveland Browns Sunday in the Josh McCown Bowl. McCown spent the last couple seasons in Cleveland, so I am sure he will have revenge on his mind. This is a tricky spot for the Jets. Cleveland is 0-4, and is due for a victory. Todd Bowles needs to make sure his team isn't coming into Cleveland too confident.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Yankees-Twins Wild Card Game Now Set

The inevitable is now a reality. The New York Yankees will play their one-game wild card playoff game Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins. The match-up, which has been an inevitability for several weeks became official Saturday after the Red Sox finally clinched the AL East with a win over Houston. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 2-1, Saturday, but, with one game left to go, Boston held a two-game lead.

It's not like any Yankee fans are losing sleep over this. The team wasn't expected to win the division this year, and had found themselves three, and sometimes, four games out of first place since mid-July.

The question now is, can the Yankees slip by the Twins? During the season, New York was 4-2 against Minnesota, including sweeping them at the Stadium in September. But as we all know these wild card games are just that, wild and unpredictable. Whatever the Yankees did against Minnesota in the regular season can be tossed out the window Tuesday.

Nobody should sleep on the Twins. While the Yankees handled the Twins easily last month, this is a good baseball team in Minnesota. They won 84 games for a reason. They feature four hitters who have more than 20 home runs, including sluggers Brian Dozier (34 HR, 98 RBI) and Miguel Sano (28 HR, 77 RBI). Against the Yankees both Sano and Dozier did well. Sano hit .333 with two homers and four RBI against Yankee pitching. Meanwhile, Dozier had six hits in 19 at bats (.316) with a triple, double and an RBI.

Let us not forget that Joe Mauer is still in the game, and still having an impact; he was hitting .305 entering Saturday's action, while the Twins best hitter is Eddie Rosario who hit .298 with 27 homers in the regular season. This is a good team.

It will be imperative for Yankees ace Luis Severino to be on his A-game on Tuesday. Not only will he have to deal with a powerful lineup, he will match-up against veteran Ervin Santana, who won 16 games this season, and led the Twins in strikeouts with 167. The last time Santana pitched against New York, he held the Yankees powerful offense to just two runs in a Bombers 2-1 win on September 18.

In his own right, Severino has been fantastic. In a year where the Yankees have seen a lot of flux in their rotation, Severino stood out as the team's ace. He won 14 games, including pitching a 3-0 record and a 2.10 ERA in September. He is the right man for the job on Tuesday night.

Against Minnesota this year, he lasted only three innings, allowing three runs on five hits before exiting. The Yankees eventually won the game, but the Yankees hope that he can fare much better this time around.

What gives the Yankees the biggest edge on Tuesday is their own lineup. Go up and down the Yankee order and there is superstars power all over it. Led by Aaron Judge and his 52 home runs, Gary Sanchez and his 30 homers and the return of Greg Bird -- the Yankees can thump the ball out of the part at the drop of a hat. To see how this lineup matches up against Santana on Tuesday will be epic to watch.

Now that the division chase is over, the Yankees focus is now squarely on the Twins. Bring on the postseason.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Open Mike Program: Anthem Protest and NFL Week 4 Preview

On this episode of the Open Mike Program, I welcome Dan Feuerstein as we talk about the fallout from a controversial week for the NFL and the Nation. We give our takes on the NFL Anthem Protest. We then get back on course and preview Week 4 of the NFL season.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

No Winner and Plenty to Blame in Trump vs. NFL Battle

Since Sunday's controversial national anthem protests, I have taken a step back to observe the noise, madness and debate regarding the Trump vs. NFL storyline that has gripped the country. As a result I have come to a simple conclusion: nobody is winning this debate. Instead we are left with a country, no matter where you stand on the issue that is in taters with plenty of blame to go around.

Yes,  President Trump's remarks were extremely off-putting, random, and divisive. In all honesty he should not have used the term  "SOB's," to describe the players, and, his call to owners to fire players for taking a knee took the argument too far.  In addition, his criticism for the lack of hard hitting in games came in poor taste. With CTE a huge issue for the league's current and former players, these were comments he should have avoided.

But this is who President Trump is.  He has been known for providing fiery, provocative commentary, and with the NFL cracking at the seems over National Anthem protests, he tapped into it the anger that a lot of people are feeling right now.

It is that feeling of resentment from everyday Americans that NFL players do not understand, and from we have seen this week, they don't want to understand.

Predictably the NFL players took the President's comments to great offense and decided to conduct mass protests not against inequality, but rather against the President of the United States and his comments. Many knelt, others linked arms, and in the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they protested the American flag by hiding in the tunnel.

Such displays have distorted and erased whatever message Colin Kaepernick was trying to convey two years ago. Kaepernick wanted people to believe that he was kneeling to "protest injustice."  However, what Kaepernick failed to understand, and what many other players now fail to understand is is refusing to stand for the national anthem is a slap in the face at everything that is America. It is a slap in the face at those veterans who sacrificed their lives for this country, and freedoms that many enjoy to this day.

Is the United States a perfect country? No, it never was. Over our 250-plus years of existence, we are a Nation of many imperfections. There is no perfect Nation; there has never has been a perfect nation in the history of the world.  But compare the United States to other nations in the world, no country offers more opportunity to the individual than the United States of America. No nation believes in seeking equality and justice like the United States. No nation has freed more people from oppression like the United States. Don't believe me read a book on World War II; that's right I said read a book.

 Go to the Middle East and see how the Saudi Arabia or Iran treat those looking to voice their displeasure against the government? Heck, in most of those Middle Eastern countries, women are stoned to death if they even try to leave their husbands. The Communist nation of Cuba has long been known for its human rights violations. Just talk to any dissident of a Cuban-American, and they will tell you how their family members tried to leave the Castro-controlled island.

But back to the protest. What exactly are the players protesting now? It certainly is not injustice or inequality between races? That message is gone. Is it against the military as some fans believe? No. There are players who say they are not protesting the military and I believe them; but this entire protest has now morphed into a political message the players are forcing down the throat of the American people.

The paying customer did not ask to have this message thrown into their faces. All fans want is to break away from the politics of the day and watch a little football for 6 hours. NFL Sunday's are a chance to truly break away from the noise.

Kneeling or locking arms during the National Anthem is a poor way to protest all the problems that face the inner city communities that many NFL players grew up in.

If these multi-million dollar players, who by the way earned all that money thanks in big part to growing up and living the "AMERICAN DREAM," really want to speak out against social injustice, they should do themselves a favor and go into the inner cities where they play and make an impact on the lives of young black and Hispanic boys and girls who look up to them. Join a DARE program; work with the Police Athletic League; attend a National Night Out event; volunteer at a soup kitchen during the summer and winter; become a fabric of your community. That is how you make a change in the lives of those who are struggling.

That is why we have fans across the country vowing never to return. YouTube has become filtered with fans burning jersey's and memorabilia. Will these fans comeback? Are they serious? Yes. Especially the veterans who served this country. They have a right to be angry. Some fans, who are upset might  come back because their team is playing well, but others will most definitely stay away for good. The NFL lost their support.

Now for the hypocrites. First the owners, many of whom threw millions of dollars at the Trump campaign last year, and many of whom, (Jerry Jones this means year) vowed to throw out players who knelt during the Anthem. Well, on Sunday these same owners changed their tune faster than a chameleon changes colors. The same owners who took great offense to the Anthem protest when Kaepernick started it, and the same owners who did not want Kaepernick in their locker rooms providing a distraction to their teams, all of sudden did a 180 when Trump spoke up.

Like Shannon Sharpe said on Fox Sports, the owners will protect the NFL shield no matter the cost and matter who their anger is directed at.  The owners should be embarrassed by their hypocrisy.

Roger Goodell: This is the same commissioner who would not allow the Cowboys wear a decal honoring fallen Dallas police officers last season. However when it comes to kneeling before the Anthem that is ok, because it's a "first amendment right." So, let me get this right, honoring fallen officers is not a first amendment right, but kneeling before the anthem is? Ok, Roger. If anyone is responsible for creating this toxic climate in the NFL it is Roger Goodell.

His tenure has sent the NFL spirally out of control for some time. From the botched Delfatgate case, to his botched attempts at levying discipline on the league's players for their off-field behavior, the NFL has become the thing of late night jokes and online memes. This is now the latest in a long decay of the NFL's credibility in the eyes of its fans. I could say Goodell needs to go, but the owners will never let that happen.

Thinking back on this weekend, I wish the coaches and owners would have handled this differently. We saw the Steelers, for example, refuse to come out for the National Anthem, leaving only left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to stand out there by himself. It looked bad. Mike Tomlin looks foolish for his decision because he created a toxic locker room distraction when the focus should have been on the Chicago Bears.

While the President's words were divisive, the coaches had a chance to shape the moment. If I were a coach I would have told the players to stand up and place their right hand over their heart. Even better, I would have told them to walk up to the flag and grab one end of it, while placing their hand over their heart and honor the country. Why? Because that would have showed more guts to the nation, and demonstrated that the President's words would have no impact on them. The NFL players and coaches have a right to be upset, but they should not have taken the rest of us down the rabbit hole with them. Shame on the NFL.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Giants Season Crashes in Philadelphia

The city of Philadelphia has a new hero, and his name is Jake Elliot.

The rookie kicker was the Sunday's final and brightest star in a classic back-and-forth contest between the Giants and Eagles, because he made what is typically an impossible kick to win the game with no time left.

From 61-yards out, Elliot nailed the game winner on a hot and humid day in the City of Brotherly Love, and at the same time all but ending the New York Giants season ... in week 3.

While the Giants did come back from a 14-0 deficit there was plenty of blame to go around for the disastrous 27-24.

Odell Beckham Jr: Beckham had a strange day on Sunday. He had a breakout effort statistically speaking with nine catches for 79yards and two touchdowns, but he also had a number of key drops early that killed a couple of drives for the Giants in the first half. In addition, his behavior is once again a major issue for Big Blue. After scoring his first touchdown, Beckham decided to imitate the urinating of a dog as his touchdown celebration.

The celebration brought back memories of Randy Moss mooning Packers fans some 15 years ago. Commisoner Roger Goodell is the one to blame for this. Goodell opened the door to Beckham's antics when he allowed players to do whatever they pleased with end zone celebrations. He deserves as much heat as Beckham is getting for this low class celebration. Beckham's antics continued on the sidelines which forced Ben McAdoo to stop coaching and plead with his player to knock it off.

Don't Blame the Offensive Line: After getting beat up in the media the past week, the offensive line was not the reason the Giants lost this game. For the most part they kept Eli Manning clean with no sacks on the day. Although Ereck Flowers should get a lot of flack for a holding call on the Giants final possession, which turned a crucial 2nd and 3 into 2nd and 18. That led to a hideous punt by Brad Wing that helped set up Elliot's game winner for Philly.

Eli Manning: Manning was inconsistent on Sunday. The drops by his receivers were a huge problem for him on Sunday, especially early. If Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall actually held onto the football early in this game, perhaps the Giants wouldn't need a miracle fourth quarter to erase a 14-point deficit. Manning did throw two bad interceptions in the game, but he also had his brilliant moments such as hitting Sterling Shepherd for a 77-yard touchdown that gave New York a brief 21-14 lead.

Play-calling: Ben McAdoo did not relinquish the play calling duties on Sunday, but it is important to note that the Giants spent much of their time offensively in the shotgun.  That is both a condemnation of the offensive line, and also a sense of urgency on the part of the Giants. The one problem with the play-calling is the Giants refusal to run the football. Obviously they can't run it when they are down 14-0, but once they tied the game, they should have tried harder to slow the game down. Instead they opted to play the game like a track meet with the Eagles.

Ben McAdoo: Last week McAdoo threw Eli Manning under the bus for his performance against Detroit. On Sunday, he spent more time ripping Donald Trump for his bizarre comments on the NFL. When asked about Odell Beckham's behavior and his own play-calling, McAdoo either opted to be brief or didn't comment. Nice one, coach.

Now what? The Giants season is a flaming disaster. They are 0-3, and starring at 0-4 next week when the visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs got destroyed by Minnesota on Sunday, and surely will want to prove themselves to the world on Sunday afternoon at home against a bumbling Giants team.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

No Tanking Here, Jets Dominate Dolphins for 1st 'W'


So much for the "Suck for Sam" campaign (at least for this week). The Jets won their first game of the year with a virtuoso performance Sunday against the hated Dolphins. The much maligned Jets defense, which has taken a brunt of criticism through the first two games of the season, was spot on Sunday.

The Jets defense completely shutdown the Dolphins offense, holding running back Jay Ajayi to 16 yards on 11 carries.  Quarterback Jay Cutler was in typical Cutler-esq form, throwing widely all over the ball park, as he struggled to find open receivers.

The Jets secondary deserves a lot of credit for the way the played Cutler on Sunday. Terrance Brooks had three passed knocked down and two interceptions, while rookie Jamal Adams had a pass deflection, and even sacked Cutler on a huge third down play in the first half.

At one point the Jets held Miami to 47 yards of total offense through three quarters, and they were well on their way to a shutout were it not for Miami's late score with six seconds to go in the game. Overall, the Jets D held Miami to 225 yards of offense and 16 first downs. More importantly New York was able to get off the field on third down, holding Miami to 1-for-11 effort on the day.

Offensively, with the way the Jets defense played on Sunday, 20 points was more than enough for the victory. Josh McCown was solid. He threw for 249 yards and did a wonderful job running the football game for New York. He showed great poise in the pocket against Miami's front seven, and had a array of short, precise throws that ate up chunks of yards. The best play of day came with 1:42 left before halftime when McCown found a streaking Robbie Anderson down the nearside, and dropped it right into his waiting hands. Anderson did the rest, dashing into the end zone to give the Jets a 10-0 lead.

New York carried the momentum into the second half, with McCown marching the Jets on a 7-play 49-yard drive for their second touchdown of the day. A 15-yard pass by McCown to Lawrence Thomas set things up nicely for New York at the Miami 13. After Matt Forte gashed the Dolphins for 12-yards to the Miami 1, Bilial Powell went airborne into the end zone for the score to make it 17-0.

NOTES: Todd Bowles was noticeably pumped up during the game. The typically pocker-faced coached showed plenty of emotion on the sideline, including screaming at the side judges after a horrendous holding call negated a terrific run by Powell. Bowles had come under intense criticism in the past for not showing enough fire. He showed it today.

At 1-2, the Jets are clearly not going to be as bad as people think. No, this is not a playoff team, but it is not a team destined for 0-16. We'll see how the Jets get ready for the Jaguars (2-1) who blew out the Ravens 44-7 in London on Sunday. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Season turning into a Giant Mess for Big Blue


The season is seemingly on the brink for the New York Giants.

Monday's 24-10 loss to the Detroit Lions was an symbol of everything that is wrong with this football team. From terrible line play, to an inconsistent quarterback, to a wide receiver corps that was M.I.A. and a defense that looked overmatched against Matthew Stafferd, to say Monday night was a disaster is being kind.

Monday night was an abysmal failure. For a team that has Super Bowl dreams almost certainly puts that talk on the back burner, as all the focus now must go to Philadelphia, where the Giants must go and win a game just to avoid an 0-3 start.

Starting 0-2 is never good. Only 10 - 12 percent of teams that start 0-2 end up in the playoffs. Only the 2007 Giants started 0-2 and won the Super Bowl. Ironically, alumni from that Super Bowl winning team were in attendance Monday. Unfortunately that team didn't lose the first two games of their season as badly as this team has.

The problems for New York all started up front as Eli Manning was under siege  from the Lions pass rush all night long. Overall, Detroit sacked the veteran quarterback five times, and knocked him to the turf a dozen times. It was no fun, as four of those five sacks came in the first half. Whenever he tried to make a play, he couldn't without seeing a white jersey in his face.

But it was not like all of this was on the shoulders of the O-Line, because Manning didn't help his own cause. On the Giants first possession he was strip sacked by Haloti Nata. The Lions recovered for a touchdown, but luckily for Big Blue, the officials said Manning was down before he lost control of the ball. That was only the start.

Later in the first half after the Giants got a gift fumble by the Lions, Manning turned it right back to them when he overthrew Evan Engram and found Thair Whithead instead sitting back in coverage. The interception proved costly, the Lions scored their second touchdown of the night to take a lead they would never relinquish.

As for Stafford, he was absolutely brilliant for the Lions. In the first quarter, facing a third and nine at the Giants 38, he avoided the rush and scrambled for a 13-yard gain to move Detroit into the Giants Red Zone. Three plays later, Stafford hit Marvin Jones on a back-shoulder fade to the corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

After the Manning interception, Stafford went to work again. He hit Eric Ebron for 11 yards to the Giant 11, and finally connected with Ebron once more for the go-ahead score to push Detroit in front 14-7.

Overall, Stafford finished 15 - of -22 for 122 yards, two touchdowns and 23 yards on three carries, but it felt like a lot more. That is how dominant he and this Lions offense was Monday against the Giants defense.

What made matters worse for the Giants is they had a chance to get back into this game on several occasions, but came up snake eyes each time. Midway through the third quarter, Manning had Big Blue on the Lions one-yard line, but an offensive holding call pushed them back 10-yards to the 11. The Giants couldn't do anything. They would get to the two yard line on a Manning pass to Engram before the deciding to go for it on fourth and goal. The decision was a horrible mistake by Ben McAdoo. The Giants were called for delay of game, and forced back five yards, and had to settle for the field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10.

The poor execution wouldn't stop there. In the fourth quarter, Manning had a wide open Brandon Marshall down the sideline, but the receiver dropped the football on second and eight. The Giants were forced to punt returner Jamal Agnew, who made them pay with an 88-yard return for a touchdown to blow the game open at 24-10.

Perhaps it was fitting, on a night when Odell Beckham made his return to the lineup that he would pick up right where he left off in Green Bay last January. With the Giants trying once more to mount some kind of comeback, it was Beckham who dropped a huge fourth down pass at the Detroit 29 that sealed the Giants fate.

After an off-season where fans boasted about the Giants depth at receiver, Beckham had only four catches for 36 yards in his season debut. Marshall had only one catch and was invisible for the entire game for the second straight week. Sterling Shepard (2 catches, 23 yards) and Evan Engram (4 catches, 49 yards) were also invisible for the second straight game.

Let us not forget that the Giants running attack was also invisible. Thanks to Big Blue's putrid offensive line, the Giants averaged only 3.4 yards a carry on Monday for a grand total of 62 yards on 18 carries COMBINED!  By comparison, Detroit's Ameer Abdullah ran for 86 yards on 17 carries all by himself.

With no help on the offensive line, Eli Manning looking old, and a collection of talent not gelling the temperature is going up on GM Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo. Guess, the Jets won't be the only team in New York that will suck this football season.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Open Mike's 2017 NFL Week 2 Picks

Well, week 2 of the NFL season is now upon us. In case you are wondering, teams that start 0-2 have a 10 - 12 percent chance of getting to the playoffs. In other words this is a huge week for a number of teams including the New York Giants. Will they win? Check out the picks in the video below!

Last Weeks Picks: 4 - 2 .667.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Without Odell, Giants Offense Has No Bite in Big D


Odell Beckham's ankle problem turned into a nagging problem for the Giants Sunday in their 19-3 loss to the Cowboys in Big D. The Giants were lifeless. There was no zest, no power, seemingly no motivation on the field Sunday, and that is as much of an indictment of the players on the field as it is the head coach. No one player should make or break a football team, especially at wide receiver; but Sunday's loss made it abundantly clear that the Giants can't function without their flamboyant superstar.

For the entire first half the Giants did nothing, and I mean literally nothing offensively. In five offensive possessions in the first half, the Giants punted four times. Their longest drive of the half was only 23 yards, with the biggest play being a busted screen from Eli Manning to Sterling Shepherd for a gain of 12 yards and first down. By the way, the Giants didn't get a first down until midway through the second quarter.

The only time the Giants resembled anything of a competent offense was at the start of the third quarter on a long, time consuming drive that ate up 10 minutes of clock just for a field goal. Perhaps Ben McAdoo should have gone for it on fourth and goal at the Dallas seven, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Instead he showed little confidence in his veteran quarterback and even less confidence in the skill players around Eli Manning. Taking the three was a cheap way of getting points while your desperate.

By the time the game ended, the Giants recorded only 13 first downs, 233 yards of total offense, and averaged 4.4 yards per play. That just won't get it done in a league predicated on throwing the football for huge chunks of yards.

The offensive line which was a big concern coming into the season for the Giants remained so in Week 1. They gave Eli Manning absolutely no time to set up and throw. Manning spent a big chunk of the night on the turf. He was sacked three times, and was hit and dropped to the ground eight other times. Overall Manning threw for a measly 220 yards and a costly interception that sealed his teams fate in the fourth quarter.

Not to mention Manning couldn't get on the same page with any of his receivers. Brandon Marshall was held without a catch until the next-to-last play of the game with 25 seconds to go. Tight end Evan Engram had only four catches for 44 yards, and Sterling Shepherd had only 44 yards on seven catches. And this is supposed to be a dynamic offense? This is supposed to be the Giants version of the "Greatest Show on Turf"? The Giants were so bad offensively they made the Jets look good. That's hard to do.

As for Dallas they crushed the Giants in every facet of the game. Offensively the Cowboys whipped the Giants defense with a total of 71 plays, most of which came in the first half. While the Cowboys didn't get the ball into the end zone much, they held the football for nearly 35 minutes and rolled up 392 yards of offense and 22 first downs. It helped that Dallas was 8-of-15 on third down conversions as well.

Ezekiel Elliott, who is still facing a possible suspension for his role in a domestic abuse case, ripped apart the Giants exhausted front seven for 104 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Dak Prescott wasn't great, but was efficient, throwing for 268 yards and a touchdown. Jason Witten even got into the record books at the Giants expense when he passed Michael Irvin for the most yards by a receiver in Dallas Cowboys history.

It is anyone's guess had Odell Beckham been healthy, this game would have been different. The Cowboys played very defensively against the Giants. It's not like Big Blue didn't have playmakers. But without their biggest star on the field the Giants seemingly had no shot on Sunday. Beckham's status for next Monday's home opener against Detroit remains a puzzle. The fact is the Giants need him and they need him badly.

Jets Listless, Clueless in Loss to Bills

BILLS 21 - JETS 12 

To say it wasn't pretty would be considered an understatement. While expectations are indeed at an all time low for the New York Jets, their 21-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills did little to endear any confidence that this team can best those expectations. In fact, Sunday's loss confirmed a disturbing truth, the Jets are deficient just about everywhere on the field. From the defensive front, to the offensive line, running game, quarterback, and even the head coach, the Jets have a big problem. Call it a rebuild, but this team needs a lot more work than potentially just drafting Sam Darnold next spring.

Let's break it down:

LeSean McCoy and Mike Tolbert Killed the Jets: The Bills running back tandem of LeSean McCoy and Mike Tolbert were an unstoppable force on Sunday. McCoy gashed the Jets for 110 yards on 22 carries, and had another 49 yards receiving. He had four plays that went for 20-yards or more, including a 27-yard run that helped set up the Bills third touchdown of the day to make it 21-12. As for Tolbert, it seemed that every time he hit the line, he was pushing the pile for three yards or more. Overall the former Panther carried the rock 12 times for 42 yards with a touchdown.

This was an embarrassment for the Jets, because they came into the opener touting how good their front seven would be. Instead they were getting blown off their blocks by the Buffalo offensive line, and whenever they were in position to make a play on McCoy he sidestepped one way to move tacklers away from him.

Successful Run Game Sets Up the Pass with Tyrod Taylor: With McCoy and Tolbert toying with the Jets front seven, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a fine day. He was able to use his legs on numerous occasions to get himself out of trouble to make big play after big play. Nobody is going to confuse Taylor with Michael Vick or Doug Flutie, but it felt Flutie-lite on Sunday in Buffalo. Perhaps Taylor's biggest throw of the day came in the third quarter when he hit Jordan Matthews for 47 yards to the Jets 17 yard line, which set up Buffalo's second touchdown to push the lead to 14-6.

Stupid Jets Tricks: If you want a microcosm of how bad the Jets could be this year, look no further than the Justin Burris interception of Taylor in the end zone. With Buffalo poised to strike early, Taylor's pass was batted into the air and picked up by Burris in the back of the end zone. The safety brought it out untouched and it appeared he had the blocking to go the distance for 108-yard pick-6, but leave it to the Jets to screw it up. At midfield, Burris was tackled ... by his own man, Demario Davis who fell into him. The pick was a blown chance, because the Jets offense proceeded to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession.

Josh McCown wasn't Good Enough: This was the first time all year that Jets fans had a chance to see Josh McCown for an extended period of time. He wasn't spectacular, but he wasn't awful either. He completed 26 of 39 passes, but threw for only 187 yards, meaning that most of his reads were check-downs. That could mean a few things 1) the Jets don't trust McCown's deep ball. 2) The Jets don't feel that McCown is on the same page with newcomers Jeremy Kerley and Jermain Kearse enough to allow the deep throw. Either way, McCown's efforts were not enough. You get the sense when he is under center it is either field goal or bust for this offense.

Jets Best Offensive Player? It had to be Jermaine Kearse. He made a number of tough catches and converted a couple of key first downs to keep the chains moving. Overall Kearse had seven catches for 59 yards in his Jets debut. He is going to be the Jets leading receiver this year with Quincy Enunwa out for the year.

Todd Bowles Hot Seat: Let's just call it warm. While Bowles is getting a raw deal here by Woody Johnson, he didn't do much to make anyone believe that he should be the longterm head coach. The worst in-game decision he made came late in the fourth quarter with New York trailing 21-12 and facing a fourth and eight at midfield. Instead of going for it with four minutes to go in the game, Bowles elected to punt. That is about as close to waving a white flag as there is in the NFL.

Moreover, a story leaked out that Bowles benched back-up Bryce Petty, and only dressed Christian Hackenberg as McCown's back-up on Sunday. This was a curious move, considering Petty clearly outplayed Hackenberg all pre-season. Moves like this make you wonder who is running the show. Is it Bowles? Or is Bowles taking order from GM Mike Maccagnan, who wants to prove his pick of Hackenberg in the second round two years ago wasn't a total waste? Only those two men know.

Next Up: The Jets head to Oakland to face Derek Carr and the Raiders. Let's give the Jets a 10-point head start. They'll need it. Oakland could easily hit 50 points next Sunday if the Jets defense plays as poorly as they did Sunday in Buffalo.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Open Mike's 2017 NFL Week 1 Picks

Ah! The football season has finally arrived. Maybe someone should tell that to the Patriots after last night's 42-27 debacle? With the season underway this weekend, it is time to get back into the prognosticating business. Let's take a look at some of this week's key games!

Jets @ Bills (-8.5) - A battle between two of the NFL's worst teams, and two teams that are clearly rebuilding. The Jets have no idea who their quarterback will be, even though they have settled on journeyman Josh "2-20 as a starter" McCown. The Bills are stuck with Tyrod "interception" Taylor, who was battling his own injuries of late. It says a lot when the Bills probably would be better off with back-up quarterback Nate Peterman who lit it up in training camp. In fact it says a lot more that the Jets would be better off with Bryce Petty, who is the third quarterback on their depth chart. The battle between Bills running back LeSean McCoy and the Jets front seven will be the key to the game. If the Jets can slow down McCoy and generate some push up front, they can keep this close. Yes, the Jets are bad, but I think they'll be competitive. BILLS 24, JETS 20. 

Falcons (-6.5) @ Bears - Will the Super Bowl hangover carry over into a tricky Week 1 game at the Bears? That is the question the Falcons face this Sunday. Atlanta should have won that Super Bowl, we get it, but they did everything they could to blow a 25-point lead. The Falcons return much the same team from last year. The key is to jump out early and often on a rebuilding Bears team. The Bears are pinning their hopes that quarterback Mike Glennon can hold the fort with a bad supporting cast. It won't be long before rookie Mitchell Trubisky becomes the starter however. Like the Falcons here. FALCONS 31, BEARS 21.

Ravens @ Bengals (-3) - These two teams meet in Week 1 and Week 17 this year and I promise you both games could wind up determining a wild card slot this season out of the AFC North. The Ravens were banged up this summer, but are getting healthy. Joe Flacco returns from a summer long back injury, while receiver Breshard Perriman and running back Danny Woodhead also return for the opener. The only issue is that Flacco didn't have any preseason work, and it is anyone's guess how
sharp he will be for the opener in Cincinnati.

The Bengals took some hits. They will not have linebacker Vontaze Burfict and corner/special teamer Adam "Pacman" Jones due to suspensions, but I think the Bengals can manage without them. The question for Cincy is their O-line, which lost two key pieces in free agency this offseason. Still this game will come down to who can score on the fast track of Paul Brown Stadium, and I love Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in this situation. It's going to be hot and sticky as well, which plays into the Bengals favor. BENGALS 27, RAVENS 24. 

Raiders @ Titans (-2.5) - One day this might be the battle to end all battles in the AFC. In one corner you got the young Raiders will all of their talent on the offensive side of the ball, and on the other you got Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Derek Carr vs. Marcus Mariota. Ok, it may not sound like Manning vs. Brady, but who knows one day it might be. These two teams met last year in Week 3, and the Raiders came away with a 17-10 win on the road, so they are used to having to wear the black jerseys in the Tennessee heat. Look for another good matchup, but Oakland is better coached and more talented than Tennessee. RAIDERS 27, TITANS 16. 

Eagles (-1.5) @ Redskins - Don't look now, but the winner of this game could be in line for a very big start to the season. Speaking of big, this is a big year for Kirk Cousins, who once again is being asked to bet on himself for a major contract. He's going to have to do that with a flurry of new weapons at wide receiver with Desean Jackson now a member of the Buccaneers. As for Philly, the additions of LaGarret Blount and Alshon Jeffery make this offense very formidable. This will be a fun one, but I'll take the home team. 'SKINS 26,  EAGLES 24. 

Seahawks @ Packers (-3) - The last time these two teams met the Packers rolled over the Seahawks 38-10 last season. The Sehawks are trying to get back to their Legion of Boom days, but that might be difficult in Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers and the high flying Packers who added tight end Martellious Bennett in the offseason. Look for a big day from Rodgers, and a solid day from Russell Wilson. Packers pull away late: PACKERS 31, SEAHAWKS 16. 

Giants @ Cowboys (-4.5) - The game of the weekend. The Giants and Cowboys hate each other so much that the NFL decided to delay Ezekiel Elliott's suspension until next week. Why? Because the NFL needs the ratings. Elliott's suspension begins Week 2 and will last through Week 7, but it could be stopped by an injunction. More on that next week.

With Elliot in the backfield, it will make things a little easier for Dak Prescott, who had one of the worst games of his rookie year against Big Blue last season. The Giants defense is expected to be the best in the NFL this season. (We shall see). Offensively, the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall gives Eli Manning a new target, and a shoulder for Odell Beckham to pout on. This will be fun, and close. Just hope the walls in the locker room hold up better than they did in Green Bay when Odell put his fist through it. COWBOYS 30, GIANTS 27.