Version 2.0

While the Vikes stumbled in Motown, the season picks up steam as we zoom into Week 2.

After encountering a speed bump last week in Motown, the Vikes will be looking to gain speed Sunday in a divisional bloodbath vs the Bears.

Last week: 4-2 ATS

Season to date: 4-2 ATS

Week 2 picks: (home team in CAPS)

Tennessee Titans and HOUSTON TEXANS OVER 43: Sure, the Texans were handed a gift due to an incorrect interpretation of a new rule designed to protect the long-snapper. But they were good enough to cash in and squeeze out a prime-time road win, no easy chore at this level. It’s the type of win that galvanizes a team early in the season. The revamped Titans are interesting, so expect something in the neighborhood of 27-17, just enough to push the number north and you into the winner’s circle.

Even his harshest critics can't deny Romo's toughness.

Even his harshest critics can’t deny Romo’s toughness.

Dallas Cowboys (+3) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: I picked Dallas to win the NFC East, and this is exactly the type of game they must grab if they have any intentions of reversing recent swoons. Can they handle prosperity after finally beating the Giants in Jerry’s new palace? KC rolled in a laugher last week vs hapless Jacksonville, so it’s tough to truly quantify any progress thus far under Andy Reid. While I think KC has the makings of a WC contender in the weaker AFC, this is a game Dallas scraps out. Barely. Will they commit to the run? Romo’s rib injury could be a blessing in disguise as they win the battle of the trenches. Fun game, roll with the ‘Boys.

New Orleans Saints (-3) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Alert! Alert! Franchise in distress! Anarchy on the horizon! If you think that’s a stretch, clearly you haven’t followed the early soap opera follies of Greg Schiano’s Bucs. The former franchise QB losing his captaincy after three years? The same QB reportedly missing a team picture? Players only meetings? A hideous loss to the Jets? Yup. Oh yeah, they’re playing the Saints who for the record, are back to being the Saints. Capitalize on a bad situation that appears destined to get worse. Saints, big.

Carolina Panthers and BUFFALO BILLS UNDER 44: The Panthers were game in a narrow home loss to Seattle last week while the Bills were pinched ostensibly at the gun by the Pats. Despite flashing in his debut, expect Doug Marrone to play it safe with rookie QB E.J. Manuel. That, coupled with a dearth of explosive weapons for Cam Newton to utilize,  should add up to a relatively low scoring game that keeps this one below the number.

Denver Broncos and NEW YORK GIANTS OVER 54.5: One Manning equals a lot of points, two Mannings equals a ton of points. The game plan? Lace up the Nike’s and air it out from the coin flip. Over!

CINCINNATI BENGALS (-6.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers: Ordinarily, I would be reticent to roll with such a high number in a divisional showdown, but the Bengals are by far the superior team. Forget history and pride, this is a mismatch. Treat it as such. The energy of the home opener coupled  with the sting of a tough loss in Chicago against a solid Bears team will have the jungle in a frenzy. Big Ben will be on the run all night behind a ravaged front five, and without much help in the backfield, a hungry and athletic Cincy defense will be salivating.

Version 1.0

1

(home team in CAPS)

A word to the wise: work up a decent lather before bursting into an all out assault on Vegas. The sharps are formidable, particularly with several months to prep for Week 1. No need to slide down the mountain before mid-September. Tread lightly, grab momentum!

Atlanta Falcons and NEW ORLEANS SAINTS OVER 54: Handicapping, 101. Two elite QB’s with plenty of weapons on a fast surface with a comfy, controlled dome climate generally equates to a ton of scores. Brees and Ryan reward this play with 35 + points in the 1st half alone, making the final 30 minutes “Coast City.” Enjoy an early gift.

Elite vs elite.

Elite vs elite.

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The equivalent of a tap-in putt for Andy Reid as the removal of the stench suffocating KC gets off to a quick start with a road win and cover. Beware, however, as Alex Smith is more dink and dunk than downfield, so a blowout seems unlikely. Still, the Jags are road kill once more in the AFC while the Chiefs should be in the mix for a WC. Better talent, better coaching. KC handles Blaine Gabbert and the Jags.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9.5) OVER Oakland Raiders: I’m not sold on Indy making a return trip to the playoffs, but I am very aware of the frightening dearth of talent Dennis Allen has to “work” with. It’s not his fault his GM has failed to stock the cupboards with a viable NFL roster. This game opened at 7 and has ballooned nearly three full points for a reason. Act fast, because the number ain’t going south. Indy exploits the Silver and Black’s deplorable offensive line and hangs a demoralizing loss on the worst team in the NFL. They’re baaaaaad. Biggest play of the day. By the way, anyone else think Reggie McKenzie resembles a “chubby” Blake Griffin?

Cincinnati Bengals and CHICAGO BEARS OVER 41.5: With back-to-back playoff appearances on their resume for the first time since the 80’s, the Bengals bring a wealth of explosive and hungry talent to the Windy City for a marquee matchup with the Bears. Injuries to Jay Cutler the past two seasons have derailed positive starts, but with QB-friendly Marc Trestman now calling the shots, look for Cutler to have his best season to date. Not sure this one climbs into the 30’s, but with a relatively low total of 41, lucky for you, it won’t have to. Roll with the over.

The next generation is here. #beast

The next generation is here. #beast

Arizona Cardinals and ST. LOUIS RAMS OVER 41.5: Bruce Arians looks to shore things up offensively with a vertical style that will match Carson Palmer’s skill set nicely. Both teams are trending in the right direction, particularly Jeff Fisher’s squad. In the bloodbath knows as the NFC West, the Rams, not the Niners or Seahawks, owed the best divisional record in ’12. (4-1-1) It’s officially time for Mr Bradford to step up. While this game lacks national sizzle, it has under-the-radar intrigue. Welcome back, Larry Fitzgerald. Over.

NEW YORK JETS (+3.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While the Jets have very publicly staged yet another QB circus, they have enough elements to hang at home against a team with QB and injury issues of their own. Darrelle Revis hasn’t played a meaningful snap in a year and will undoubtedly be very rusty. The Jets offensive line and defense is stout enough to keep things interesting before they become unraveled in Week 2 vs the Pats. If you’re patient, you might gain 1/2 point Sunday morning with some late action on the Bucs. Capitalize as Gang Green registers a surprise and possibly rare cover.

And they’re (almost) off!

AFC East

Still the man, but for how much longer?

Still the man, but for how much longer?

1. New England Patriots (11-5) Brady’s arm, strong running game and elite coaching enables Pats to feast on shallow division once more.

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8) Improving, but porous O-line could derail season. Liked this team a lot more in July.

3. Buffalo Bills (5-11) You want to believe, but where’s the evidence?

4. New York Jets (4-12) The circus is already underway. Dig in, Jets fans. 

AFC North

Absolute beast, and only getting better.

Absolute beast, and only getting better.

1. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) Most talented roster in AFC must take the next step: playoff success. I’m confident they will.

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7) Proud champions will not go as quietly as some think.

3. Cleveland Browns (7-9) Ascending, but not fast enough. Still, the Brownies could catch a few quality teams napping.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10) Descending, but proud. The logo stands for something, always has. Will it be enough to avoid the basement?

AFC South

Year 2 of the "Luck Era."

Year 2 of the “Luck Era.”

1. Houston Texans (11-5) Plenty of divisional wins in forecast, but how far can you truly ride Schaub? Not sold.

2. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) Luck’s efficiency improves, while the overall W/L record takes a baby step back.

3. Tennessee Titans (7-9) The absolute definition of irrelevant: good enough to avoid # 1 overall pick talk, nowhere near good enough to further the conversation toward anything pertinent.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) Yikes. Hello, blackouts. Again.

AFC West

Plenty of regular season wins, but plenty of January blemishes for Peyton.

Plenty of regular season wins and plenty of January blemishes for Peyton.

1. Denver Broncos (11-5) I like Denver, but not nearly as much as others. Good team, but far from dominant. Could be bumpy at points, particularly the first 5-6 weeks.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) Andy Reid slowly cleans up the stench from last season as Alex Smith dinks and dunks KC to a winning record. Barely.

3. San Diego Chargers (7-9) Crossroads for Rivers, which way will he turn? Very tough team to gauge. Show me.

4. Oakland Raiders (2-14) Pryor adds intrigue, but the trenches are pitiful. Overall dearth of talent leads to another coaching change in Oakland. This team is B-A-D.

NFC East

No greater unknown in the NFL. Is he ready?

No greater unknown in the NFL. Is he truly ready?

1. Dallas Cowboys (10-6) I’ve played this game before and been burned. But really, working in definitive terms, who’s better?

2. Washington Redskins (9-7) It’s going to be interesting, that’s for sure.

3. New York Giants (8-8) Poor LB’er play and decaying pass rush will force Eli to win shootouts every week. He’s good, but he’s not that good. Let’s be honest: he was spotty last year.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (5-11) I believe in Chip Kelly, just not immediately.

NFC North

Will the leader of the Pack once again lead his team to a divisional crown?

Will the leader of the Pack once again lead his team to a divisional crown?

1. Green Bay Packers (10-6) Defense was sliced up at the ‘Stick last January. Good team, but not a lock for divisional supremacy. 

2. Chicago Bears (9-7) If Cutler clicks with his new HC, this division goes thru the Windy City.

3. Detroit Lions (8-8) Bush helps, but there’s something about this team…not sold.

4. Minnesota Vikings (6-10) Playoffs last season, this season, not so much.

NFC South

Truly elite?

Truly elite? I believe so. Matty “Ice” has arrived.

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) Class of an interesting division. Championship balance?

2.  New Orleans Saints (10-6) Welcome back, Sean Payton. Welcome back, playoffs.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) How will Freeman respond? Is Revis 100% healthy? Is Schiano the right man for this job? Lots of questions, are there enough answers? Could go either way.

4. Carolina Panthers (7-9) Exciting, but flawed.

NFC West

Flip a coin for divisional supremacy.

Flip a coin.

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4) Super Bowl talent, athleticism and depth. Best team in the NFC.

2. San Francisco 49ers (10-6) Second best team in football’s best division. Love Kaepernick, but he’ll miss Crabtree. Secondary issues, too.

3. St. Louis Rams (8-8) They’re coming, but in all probability, remain a year away. Still, buckle that chin strap when Fisher’s team rolls in.

4. Arizona Cardinals (6-10) With a little luck, the Cards might hang around into December. Can Patrick Peterson make an impact at WR? Bruce Arians inherits decent talent in the desert.

Another chapter!

“THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW” LAUNCHES ON CBS SPORTS NETWORK, EXPANDING FOOTBALL COVERAGE ON SUNDAY MORNINGS

 NFL Veteran Bart Scott, Former Oakland Raiders Executive Amy Trask and  

CBS Sports Radio’s Brandon Tierney Join Host Adam Schein on “TOPS”

Beginning Sunday, Sept. 8

“The NFL Today” and “The NFL on CBS” Announce Team to Appear Regularly

Continuing its aggressive expansion of programming around CBS Sports’ marquee properties, CBS Sports Network launches THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW (TOPS), a new weekly Sunday football studio program debutingSunday, Sept. 8 (9:00 AM-1:00 PM, ET). The announcement was made today by Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports, and Executive Producer, THE NFL ON CBS, and David Berson, President, CBS Sports.

THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW breaks from the familiar pregame show format, presenting a unique fan-focused take on all the week’s NFL and college action, headlines and hot-button issues, giving viewers all the latest information as it happens. TOPS will be hosted by Adam Schein along with 11-year NFL veteran Bart Scott, long-time Oakland Raiders executive Amy Trask, CBS Sports Radio’s Brandon Tierney, CBSSports.com fantasy analyst Nathan Zegura and LEAD OFF’s Allie LaForce reporting.

The show also will incorporate various forms of social media interaction, engaging the TOPS team with its viewers.  The last hour of the show will be centered on Fantasy Football helping fans set their line-ups each week. Continuing its focus on all things football, TOPS will take a look back at all the college football games and performances that fans are still talking about from the previous day and look forward to the week ahead.

Regular contributors to THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW include analysts from THE NFL TODAY: Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher, as well as host James Brown and Insider Jason La Canfora. CBS Sports’ NFL on CBS announcers will appear regularly from their game sites, including Phil Simms, Dan Fouts, Dan Dierdorf, Rich Gannon, Solomon Wilcots, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein.

“In today’s television landscape, there is certainly room for another pregame show if that show offers a unique approach and perspective,” said McManus. “THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW will accomplish that, as we combine all the assets of CBS Sports including CBS Sports Radio and CBSSports.com, creating a show focusing on the fans and how they consume football.”

THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW is part of CBS Sports Network’s expanded studio programming focusing on NFL football. TOPS joins NFL MONDAY QB, which returns for its second season on Monday, Sept. 9 (5:00 PM, ET), with host Adam Schein and analysts Phil Simms, Rich Gannon, Steve Beuerlein and Insider Jason LaCanfora. After Week 1, NFL MONDAY QB airs weekly at 6:30 PM, ET.

Scott joins CBS Sports Network after an 11-year NFL playing career with the Baltimore Ravens (2002-2008) and New York Jets (2009-2012). In 2006, he was a Pro Bowl selection and earned All Pro honors.

Trask spent 26 seasons with the Oakland Raiders working directly for Al Davis. She was named the first female CEO in the NFL in 1997. Under her watch, the Raiders won four Division Championships (1990, 2000, 2001 and 2002) and one AFC Championship (2002).

Tierney serves as co-host of TBD in the AM, CBS Sports Radio’s national morning show. He has been a staple on sports talk radio in New York and San Francisco for the last 10 years, most recently at 95.7 The Game in the Bay Area. 

Schein, host of TOPS and NFL MONDAY QB, anchors “Schein on Sports,” a sports talk radio show on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio, and is featured on SportsNet New York’s weekday show “Loud Mouths.”

Zegura is the Senior Fantasy Football Writer for CBSSports.com and appears regularly on CBSSports.com’s FANTASY FOOTBALL TODAY.

LaForce is a co-host of LEAD OFF, CBS Sports Network’s weekday late night news and commentary program, and also served as sideline reporter during the 2013 NCAA Tournament.  She joined CBS Sports Network in 2012. 

Shawn Robbins and Andrew Finger produce THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW. Tyler Hale is Vice President, Studio Production, CBS Sports and Harold Bryant serves as Executive Producer of CBS Sports. The show will originate from the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City.

 

* * * * *

 

CBS Sports Contacts: Mariel Brady     212-975-5373  mariel.brady@cbs.com

                                 Jerry Caraccioli 212-975-7466  gwcaraccioli@cbs.com

Coinage!

The race for the "Big Apple" should yield plenty of twists and turns. Buckle in!

The race for the “Big Apple” should yield plenty of twists and turns. Buckle in!

ARIZONA CARDINALS: (5-11) 2013 O/U: 5.5 Will a brutal division offset a new head coach, new philosophy and new QB? Close call. I watched Carson Palmer up close with the Raiders, and the former #1 pick can still spin it. Larry Fitzgerald, enjoy your respite from your recent tortured past. Good enough to win more than 5.5 games? Yes. Good enough to matter from late November on? No. Verdict: OVER.

ATLANTA FALCONS: (13-3) 2013 O/U: 10 Previous playoff failures aside, Matt Ryan is entering a stretch in his career that will produce gaudy stats and plenty of wins. Enjoy the ride, Atlanta. This team is loaded, and SHOULD have been in New Orleans playing Baltimore last February for the Lombardi Trophy. Verdict: OVER.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: (10-6) 2013 O/U: 8.5 Speaking of Baltimore, congrats to a great organization and terrific fan base on an amazing run towards glory. Now, hold on to that feeling when things go awry this season, because they will. Too many injuries and other defections to overcome. Verdict: UNDER

BUFFALO BILLS: (6-10) 2013 O/U: 6.5 The Bills last winning season came in 2004. The perpetual rebuild continues: new HC, new QB’s, etc. I’m rolling Missouri-style when it comes to this team: SHOW ME. They’re intriguing, but until they actually crack thru, I’m not buying anything Bills related. Verdict: UNDER, but close and by all accounts, they’re slowly emerging from the abyss. SHOW ME. 

CAROLINA PANTHERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7 I’m a Cam Newton fan, period. Verdict: Over, 8-8.

CHICAGO BEARS: (10-6) 2013 O/U 8.5 Jay Cutler, meet Marc Trestman. You’re going to like this guy, trust me. Verdict: OVER

CINCINNATI BENGALS: (10-6) 2013 O/U 8.5 On paper, Cincy has as much balance as anyone in the league. Vertical weapons at TE should make life easier for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to connect on some quick strikes. Tough early schedule gives me pause, but this team is still ascending, and they were pretty good last season. Verdict: OVER.

CLEVELAND BROWNS:  (5-11) 2013 O/U 6 See, Buffalo Bills. Verdict: UNDER, but improving.

DALLAS COWBOYS:  (8-8) 2013 O/U: 8.5 New contract, new play-caller…same old Tony Romo? Tough division, and given RG III’s injury and questions for Big Blue on defense, I’m expecting a revival in Big D. Verdict: OVER, but tread lightly.

DENVER BRONCOS: (13-3) 2013 O/U: 11.5 Peyton Manning + Wes Welker + Oakland + San Diego = wins. Verdict: OVER.

DETROIT LIONS: (4-12) 2013 O/U 8 Better balance for Matthew Stafford with Reggie Bush on the scene, allowing more methodical drives, which in theory, should keep the defense off the field more than last season. Last year was a disaster, but clearly, this team has the talent to win double figures. Verdict: OVER, barely. 9-7, 10-6 feels right for this squad. 

Leader of the Pack.

Leader of the Pack.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Are they getting better or are they beginning to level out? Tough call. This is one I’d probably stay away from given the conflict between my brain and my eyes. The last time I watched this team play, they couldn’t tackle a QB. Granted a very, very fast QB, but a QB nonetheless. They were shredded at the ‘Stick, yet my brain says Aaron Rodgers will once again dominate the regular season. Verdict: Over, with sincere hesitation. Translation: stay away.

HOUSTON TEXANS: (12-4) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Plenty of horses, but last season’s swoon should be reason for slight concern as the Texans dropped 3/4 to close out the regular season. Are you truly a Matt Schaub believer? I’m not. Verdict: UNDER, but close. 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 8.5 Seamless transition for Andrew Luck, who never stopped winning after leaving beautiful Palo Alto. However, there were more than a few charitable bounces that Indy cashed in. What happens if they bounce the other way this season? Are they good enough to close the gap. If it’s my money, I’m leaning towards no. Verdict: UNDER.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: (2-14) 2013 O/U: 5 Would you risk a penny on any team with real, legitimate QB concerns? Of course not. Verdict: UNDER, as the Blaine Gabbert “era” officially ends.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: (2-14) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Plenty of talent for Andy Reid, and Alex Smith should stabilize the circus that emerged under center last season. How bad was Matt Cassel? Wow. As long as they don’t ask Smith to shoulder too much, the Chiefs should be much improved. I watched Smith mature with my own eyes in the Bay Area, and while I recognize some obvious physical limitations, he’s smart and tough. Exactly what this franchise needs right now. Verdict: OVER, Wild-Card threat in AFC.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: (7-9) 2013 O/U 8 Very, very tough call. All summer I’ve positioned Miami as a Wild-Card threat in the AFC, but O-line issues might be too big to overcome. One thing working for Miami (aside from a fair amount of talent) is the dearth of talent in their own division. They should bag enough wins to push the number past 8. I’m sticking with my instincts here. Verdict: OVER

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: (10-6) 2013 O/U: 7.5 I could be wrong, but the 2012 Vikes felt and looked like a team that somehow stumbled upon 10 wins. While that might be unfair and a 2.5 drop in wins represents a radical twist, I think they are “capable” enough to do just that. Verdict: UNDER, not sold at all. 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: (12-4) 2013 O/U: 11 I’ll just save everyone the trouble: it’s over. The league has changed quite a bit since ’05, the last time the Pats hoisted the big one. Respect Brady immensely, and they should once again win the division, but the erosion is obvious. Why is everyone so afraid to say it? Prediction: UNDER, 10-6.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 9 They won 7 games without Sean Payton, which means they’ll win at least 2 more with Sean Payton. Love the fact that it’s an even 9. I like this play quite a bit. Prediction: OVER.

NEW YORK GIANTS: (9-7) 2013 O/U: 9 I like the fact that the 9 stands alone here as .5 would probably force me to go the other way. Terrific coaching, team pride and QB play should push the number north of 9. If not, a push looks more likely than a loss here. This team always bounces back under Coughlin. Right? Verdict: OVER. I think.

NEW YORK JETS: (6-10) 2013 O/U: 6.5 I like the Jets defense quite a bit and if Chris Ivory stays healthy, along with Bilal Powell they should be able to run the ball with enough efficiency to surprise a few teams. The sooner Mark Sanchez disappears, the better. Is Geno Smith the real deal? Regardless, an overall dearth of talent at the skill positions makes this offense pedestrian, at best. Verdict: OVER, BARELY (or complete implosion)

OAKLAND RAIDERS: (4-12) 2013 O/U: 5.5 GM Reggie McKenzie is gutting the roster, and understandably so. Things are real bad in Oakland. By deleting bloated contracts and underachieving, lazy veterans the cupboards will slowly fill with hungry, viable NFL talent. The question is, will Dennis Allen be around to enjoy the fruits of his GM’s purge? My gut says no. This team is terrible.  Al Davis was lost for a decade, and it shows. Verdict: UNDER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: (4-12) 2013 O/U: 7.5 By early October, Chip Kelly will be reaching into his own pocket, hoping to book Bowling Green for a layup win. Tough camp for Philly as injuries and Riley Cooper’s stupidity have dominated the NovaCare Complex. Who’s playing QB, by the way? Verdict: UNDER

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: (8-8) 2013 O/U: 9 I want to respect the logo, they’ve earned it. The Raven’s stumble could open the door for a revival in Pittsburgh, and at the very least, inspires enough to lay a little wood on the Steel Dawgs. Verdict: OVER, barely.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7.5 What the heck happened to Phillip Rivers’ career? He should rebound, but not enough to invest any real coin in the Bolts. Tough call. Verdict: UNDER

Less posing minus Crabtree?

Less posing minus Crabtree?

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: (11-4-1) 2013 O/U: 11 They’ll miss Crabtree and Dashon Goldson, but Jim Harbaugh is a brilliant head coach, and he has a great locker room. This team loves football, and has strong interior play on both sides of the ball. Love Kaepernick, but Boldin’s odometer is running high and the division is getting better. They desperately need a young WR to emerge. Verdict: UNDER, but a playoff lock and viable threat for the title. 10-6 sounds right.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Last time Seattle played the 49ers, they beat them to a bloody pulp. It’s the kind of loss that empowers one franchise and possibly raises question for another. Another playoff lock, I think they edge out SF for the division by a game. Verdict: OVER, legit.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: (7-8-1) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Ignore the sub-500 mark from 2012 for a moment, as it doesn’t tell the entire story. This team improved as the year progressed, and oh yeah, by the way, also had the best divisional record: 4-1-1. Sam Bradford remains the key, but Fisher will have this team ready to roll after laying the foundation last season. Ascending. Verdict: OVER.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Interesting offseason for Tampa, as Greg Schiano and ownership drew a line in the sand for Josh Freeman: it’s time. I like Freeman, always have, and think he responds nicely. Improved field position courtesy of a revamped secondary will help. I’m buying the Bucs. Verdict: OVER, and playoffs.

TENNESSEE TITANS: (6-10)  2013 O/U: 6.5 Aggressive play by Tennessee in FA tilts the needle in the right direction, and given the small bump in wins, I’m inclined to roll the dice and push the number to 7, possibly 8. They’re not as bad as most people position them to be. Verdict: OVER, barely.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: (10-6) 2013: 8.5 RG III is great for football, and like everyone else, I’m rooting for a quick and full recovery for the second year star from Baylor. That knee, however, has been problematic for quite some time. When it comes to green, I’m rolling with my head over emotion and sentiment and I’m simply not convinced he’ll hold up for the  duration of the season. Plenty of holes on the roster. Verdict: UNDER

*Team record from 2012 in ( ), followed by updated Vegas Over/Under projected win totals in ’13.

***If you take this too seriously, you’re insane.

Quantifying Phil.

Legacy secure.

Legacy secure.

Given the time we waste trying to shave a few strokes off our handicap, there seems to be one glaring contradiction: as much energy as people exert fruitlessly chasing around a small, white object on a patch of grass (or a mound of sand, or a body of water, or a….), how many people can actually connect to the heart of the sport?

Granted, most people know where and when the sport (YES, sport!) was born (15th century, Scotland) as well as the names of some of the true titans of the game, but beyond that, the fuel tank is relatively empty.

Why?

Why can so few people expand on the actual history of the game on anything more than a very rudimentary level, particularly a game most people are possessed with?

When was the last time you compared say, Harry Vardon to Gene Sarazen, or Byron Nelson to Walter Hagen?

Exactly.

Yet, I’m pretty sure that at some point over the past few months Gibson and Koufax or Clemens and Verlander found their way into the conversation during a break in a card game or a Fantasy draft or near a bar stool?

For all of the money we waste trying to find the right clubs, balls and courses to play, our depth for a sport many of us inhale like a drug is as shallow as the kiddie pool.

I’m sure you know when to use a 5-iron, when to lay up (what’s that?) and how to theoretically get a ball to back up on a green with a wedge. (emphasis on theoretically).

But do you know anything about Gary Player, aside from his pretty slick wardrobe?

Probably not, and that’s understandable. Unless you grew up surrounded by affluence, you probably spent your youth the same exact way I did.

Find one subject you truly enjoyed, and when your friends weren’t looking, quietly pursue said course with vigor.

The rest of our days were spent annoying teachers, annoying girls, avoiding detention and doing everything humanly possible to avoid punishment from Mom and Dad so we can do what we truly enjoyed: playing ball in the street with our friends. Baseballs, tennis balls, whiffle balls, basketballs, nerf footballs, leather footballs and electrical tape serving as pucks were all part of the regular rotation.

Yet, I never once grabbed a funny looking thing that resembled a skinny, silver baseball bat with a hook on the end. You know, that thing we now beg to behave once the wheels come off during our weekend Nassau matches.

It’s called an iron.

Basically, I never pretended to be Tom Watson, nor did I dress like Raymond Floyd.

Yet, on the heels of Phil Mickelson’s riveting finish at Muirfield, we are barraged by radio hosts, TV shows and columnists determining FOR US where Lefty now ranks on the all-time list.

Keep in mind, most of those people espousing the history of the game grew up exactly the way we did.

How the hell would they know?

Would you ever let someone have that much influence on you when debating the ’84 Tigers and the ’86 Mets? Or comparing the great Yankee teams of the late 70’s to those of the mid to late 90’s?

Of course not, and it’s time to end that trend with golf.

In trying to accurately place Mickelson in the proper slot, I first had to establish my own personal Top 10. Leaning on expert opinions and stats, it looks this way, minus Phil:

1.Nicklaus

2. Woods

3. Hagen

4. Hogan

5. Watson

6. Palmer

7. Player

8. Snead

9. Sarazen

10 Jones

To complete the circle, I compiled a similar list for baseball, hoping to connect the dots:

1. Ruth

2. Mays

3. Bonds

4. Williams

5. Aaron

6. Cobb

7. Musial

8. Gehrig

9. Mantle

10. Wagner

From that list, I easily deduce that Ruth and Mays deserve undeniable separation from the rest of the pack, much like Jack and Tiger.

See where I’m going?

With eleven and nine majors respectively, Walter Hagen and Ben Hogan are the golfing equivalent of Bonds, undeniably the most amazing player I’ve seen (PED enhanced, granted) and Ted Williams, widely recognized as the greatest pure hitter of all-time. Lore has it that Hogan’s ball-striking ability was so natural, the Williams “comparison” feels right.

Personally, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Stan Musial earned their place in the Top 5 or 6, just like Watson, Palmer and Player. Those three studs combined for 24 majors. Simply put, Phil ain’t there, not yet anyway.

Rounding out the lists, my combination of Snead, Sarazen and Jones are a cut below the top spot, much like Gehrig, Mantle and Wagner.

Enter, Lefty.

The next time you’re debating Mickelson’s place in golf, look right at Mantle and use this to bolster your position.

mlb_g_mantle_576

Like Mantle, Phil’s penchant for providing awe-inspiring moments has led to a mythical existence, even though we’re watching it unfold right in front of our eyes. 

Like Mantle, Phil is, or perhaps was, fatally flawed. Mickey sabotaged his career with the bottle while Phil derailed his at points with an inability to grasp one simple concept: the smart play vs the heroic play.

Leaving the driver in the bag at Winged Foot is one example, while five other 2nd place finishes at the US Open are a few more.

So, where does Phil rank all-time? Right now, 9th seems like a pretty safe play.

Imagine where he’d rank if he “matured” earlier?

Hey, it’s hardly perfect, admittedly. But at least when someone asks me about Phil’s legacy in golf, I have an answer.

Not someone else’s. 

Of course, you can borrow mine if you so desire.

Prove it!

Quick, name an NFL QB without pressure. Impossible. Whether it’s aging icons like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning or developing neophytes like Luck and and Wilson, when it comes to the shield, no one one’s safe from the unrelenting spotlight. Had a good season? Great, have a better one this year. Finally brought your franchise back to the playoffs? Terrific, now get to the conference championship.

In attempting to quantify the pressures certain QB’s face entering the ’13 season, I used one pretty simple gauge: which players could have the course of their careers permanently altered if they stumble badly beginning in September? With that in mind, I automatically disqualified last season’s rookie crop: Luck, RG III, Wilson and Tannehill are safe. Regardless of what this season yields, they’re already locked in as starters for the ’14 season.

Immediately, Tony Romo came to mind, but let’s face it: I could have written this piece three years ago with the same result. Even with all of his miscues, in Dallas, his armor is impenetrable. Win, lose or draw there never appears to be any real consequence for Romo, unless of course you count contract extensions. His head coach of course, is another story.

With all of the whispers coming from Tampa, it’s impossible not to study Josh Freeman. I believe in Freeman and expect his play to mute the groans and silence his critics, so I eliminated him.

Sure, I’d like to see Andy Dalton take another step forward, particularly with his deep routes, and with another weapon at TE, the microscope is out, to an extent. Is he merely very good, or is he a superstar? Either way, safe. The Jaguars simply drafted the wrong guy in Blaine Gabbert as did the Vikes with Christian Ponder, so I won’t waste anyone’s time there. Eli and Big Ben, multiple rings, safe regardless. Philip Rivers’ implosion the last two seasons is a head scratcher, but I attribute that to other factors and for the most part, exonerate the former NC State star. He still resonates enough, barely, for him to avoid the heat of this column.

I’ve never truly been a huge Matt Schaub fan, and while I’ve always gone against the grain and supported Jay Cutler, his talents alone will keep him around, somewhere, for a while. Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford, armed with new deals and lofty expectations, will invariably have to fend off a few detractors at certain points this season, same with Cam Newton in Carolina, who by the way, will deliver. As always, there’s a revolving door under center in Buffalo and Oakland, and while the Bills situation is less intriguing to me, I strongly considered Matt Flynn, before ultimately passing. We know Matt, you tossed 6 TD’s a few years ago in a meaningless game, cashed out and haven’t been heard from since. Wake me when he’s actually relevant, which quite frankly, will probably be never.

Aaron Rodgers remains the best all-around QB in football and until one of the kids fully ripens, that title appears safe for another few seasons. Is Drew Brees still a Hall of Fame QB, or will there be a trace of attrition? Can Matty Ice take the next step? I’ll keep an eye on Carson Palmer in Arizona, now that he’s finally paired with an elite WR again, and while they could surprise, there’s not enough happening in Tennessee or Cleveland to make me loook twice, not yet anyway.

Michael Vick could easily headline my short list of QB’s facing the most pressure entering September, but quite frankly, it’s 50/50 that he departs Lehigh’s campus with a starting job, so he gets a reprieve for now. That ship has sailed.

For a select few, it’s less about money and glory, and more about salvation. Can they regain the wheel of their career or veer off into a very undesirable exit on the NFL Freeway. It’s called Obscurity Avenue.

sam-bradford

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: I like Bradford quite a bit. Talented kid, but there’s one very important stain on the former #1 overall pick’s resume: his W/L record. While the NFC West is now undeniably the strongest in football, for most of his career, it was irrefutably among the worst. Yet, entering his 4th season, Bradford’s career mark is a ghastly 15-26-1. While his TD/INT ratio is relatively solid, his overall efficiency lags behind many of his peers. Franchise QB’s connect on more than 60% of their pass attempts, plain and simple. The kid has the requisite tools, and he still has my support, but it’s time. He finally has the coach and a nice toy in 1st round stud Tavon Austin, plus with FA import Jake Long locking down his blind side, he’ll have time to throw. At the end of the day, QB’s are judged on how many games they win versus how many games they lose. He needs to start stuffing a more W’s in the left-hand column. Simply put, Bradford needs to prove that he’s not a bust. Will the real Sam Bradford stand up? Or perhaps, he already has?

Can Smith win without Harbaugh? We'll find out soon.

Can Smith win without Harbaugh? We’ll find out soon.

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: Since being drafted #1 overall by the 49ers in 2005, two Alex Smiths have emerged: Alex Smith without Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith with Jim Harbaugh and boy, they are two very, very different players. Without Harbaugh maniacally patrolling the sidelines, Smith’s first five seasons in the Bay yielded the following results: 2-5, 7-9, 2-5, 5-5 and 3-7. Following Dr. Jim’s rehabilitation, Smith rallied to win 19 of 25 games before having the plug pulled in favor of Colin Kaepernick last season. Yet, plenty of questions linger. Can Smith win without an elite defense? Remember, short fields equal fewer risks and fewer risks equate to fewer turnovers. What happens when he has to fling it 35-40 times on the road? He’s a smart kid, and a lot tougher than people give him credit for, but can he win without Harbaugh holding his hand? The training wheels are off, and Alex Smith needs to prove that he can play. I wouldn’t bet too much on Smith, personally. 

Fewer butt-encounters and more TD's must he on the menu for Sanchez to remain in New York.

Fewer butt-encounters and more TD’s must be on the menu for Sanchez to remain in New York.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: I have to admit, Sanchez tricked me. Looked the part, won a few games early, made some big throws on the road, in tough venues, in the playoffs. The problem with the former USC star, is that not a single part of his game is clearly above-average. His arm is solid strength, but he doesn’t have a blaster. At one point, his accuracy was developing nicely, but his mechanics dissolved and he now resembles a helpless pitcher aiming the ball. He’s a good athlete, but not nearly dynamic enough to actually have to game plan against outside of the pocket. But most disconcerting to the organization is his inability to lead other grown men, which at this level, is paramount. Santonio Holmes and others poisoned a winning culture, and Sanchez did nothing to stop it. At the end of the day, he’s an average QB with poor leadership skills. The Jets drafted Geno Smith for a reason and with Rex Ryan’s rope fraying to the core, Sanchez is out of chances. Stand up, put up and deliver, or get bounced from New York. Mark Sanchez needs to prove that he’s more substance than show. Simply stated, he needs to prove that he’s a starting QB in the NFL. My opinion? He trips early and stays on the canvas.

Prove it.

Nice job, Knicks.

No longer viewed as a franchise-player, the former # 1 overall pick should flourish in a supporting role in New York.

No longer viewed as a franchise-player, the former # 1 overall pick should flourish in a supporting role in New York.

Let’s be honest: 40 years without a title has deprived too many Knick fans of a realistic prism of evaluation. The senses are skewed, the books bogged down for more than a decade with horrific trades and pathetic mid-level signings.

Luckily, thanks to the patient hand of Donnie Walsh they’ve recovered, even though sadly, that has been largely forgotten. 50+ wins and the Atlantic Division crown is a sign that the ice has thawed, and hell is no longer frozen over.  

Title contender? Nope.

Which is why they need to tinker and adjust and move some pieces around the board. They did just that over the weekend agreeing with the Raps on a multi-player deal, one I happen to like very much.

Trust me, they were never getting Rondo with the spare parts they shipped to Toronto. 

Never. Which leads us back to reality.

In evaluating the Knicks-Raptors trade, there are three primary parts to dissect:

1) What did you give up?
2) what did you receive in return?
3) how does the move affect the salary cap moving forward?

Enter, Professor Tierney.

Class is in session, feel free to take notes.

Players/assets:

1) Steve Novak is a limited, one-dimensional shooter unable to create space vs aggressive defenses. He was invisible in the playoffs, and is a liability. That will never change. I’m banking on Copeland returning to New York, but even if he doesn’t, Novak was highly expendable.

Advantage: Knicks. 

2) Marcus Camby is completely untrustworthy at this point, and has been for years. Even if he flashes for a week or two, his season will consist of multiple interruptions. Like Novak, Camby too was highly expendable.

Advantage: Knicks.

3) A 1st round pick in 2016 plus a pair 2nd round picks. Firstly, NBA teams can easily recoup 2nd round picks and while they sound good in theory, in terms of practical application, they are virtually useless. Don’t believe me? Let’s rewind, shall we.

2000: Lavor Postell

2001: Michael Wright, Eric Chenowith

2002: Milos Vujanic

2003: Maciej Lampe, Slavko Vranes

2004: Trevor Ariza

2005: Dijon Thompson

2010: Andy Rautins, Landry Fields

2012: Kostas Papanikolaou

What in the world would the Knicks be without those studs? All second rounders, by the way.

As for the 1st round pick, it’s a move with risk, absolutely. However, despite most fans resistance,  I’m OK with this. To get something, you have to part with something. Toronto did the Knicks a favor by taking dead weight with guaranteed money for multiple years off their books. This is a fair exchange.

Advantage: Push.

Andrea Bargnani: I’ll spare everyone the scouting report, because he is what he is, and that’s not going to change. At least not from a skill-set perspective. He’ll never rebound and he’ll never bring an ounce of toughness to the floor. When evaluating Bargnani, however, disregard the vitriol coming from Toronto as he departs. They have a right to feel that way. As a former # 1 overall pick, using that metric, he was an abject failure. What will change with the Knicks, however, is that he will be slotted into a more appealing position: the 3rd or 4th option on offense. He’s 27 years old and should be highly motivated to secure one more decent contract. I like my odds there.

Advantage: Knicks. 

Current and future financial implications:

In the NBA, it's all about managing cap space and eventually being in a position to be in position.

In the NBA, it’s all about managing cap space and eventually being in position to be in position.

Camby was due $7.4 million thru 2014-15 while Novak was on the books for three more seasons totaling roughly $11 million.

Bargnani will make $11 million this upcoming season and $12 million in 2014-15.

The key however, and it is vital in judging this trade, is that the expiration of Bargnani’s deal coincides with the expiration of the rest of the big money the Knicks are currently committed to.

In simpler terms, entering the 2015 season, the Knicks will be staring at a qualifying offer of $3.8 million to Iman Shumpert (may as well sign it now, done deal) and a $4.5 player option of Raymond Felton (plus any draft picks added to the roster).

That equates to less than $10 million dollars.

To summarize, the Knicks gave up nothing, received a skilled player in return and preserved their financial flexibility moving forward. Oh yeah, they also got better in 2013-14.

Advantage: Knicks.

Nice work, Grunwald.

Class dismissed.

When 2nd place is good enough…

 

1

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m beginning to think that we will see another Tiger Woods before we come across another Phil Mickelson.

There will be tweaks and slight modifications, obviously, as each generation yields its own test tube prodigy. Eventually, the new mold will spit out 6’7″ 295 small forwards disguised as golfers. Evolution will eventually set in, as it always does. Clubs will change, balls will change and courses will change. 320 yard drives will eventually become obsolete, replaced with consistent 375 yard moon shots.

But it’s less about physical appearance. It’s about expressions and mannerisms, a willingness to be fallible with the entire world breathing down your neck, hoping to catch perhaps one final fling with greatness.

An understanding that even in the invasive new world of social media, packaged answers and rhetoric only go so far.

Clearly, based on diversity issues alone, Tiger Woods will forever reside in his own unique file, regardless of whether or not he catches Jack. The day Tiger showed up hunting pins and launching lasers at unsuspecting fairways, everything changed. Golf, forever viewed as as stuffy sport that once excluded so many, finally exhaled. It was finally cool. Quite frankly, that will never be matched. Advantage, Tiger. In a big and very important way.

Kudos.

Yet Phil Mickselon, with all of his ill-advised experiments on the tee box and around the greens does something that Tiger Woods has yet to truly do for so many: he touches your soul.

His ability to connect with the blue collar fan is amazing, considering his seemingly perfect life of private jets and mega-million endorsements.

During my career, I’ve been lucky enough to walk Shinnecock, Bethpage, Winged Foot, Olympic Club and most recently, Merion. I’ve followed  Phil and Tiger, studying body language and gauging the varying degrees of interaction with throngs of fans. Fans that are chasing one brief glance or exchange from players so many of us try to emulate on Saturdays with our friends.

Tiger

If Phil is a party, Woods remains a business seminar. Great when you’re knocking courses to its knees, not so much when double bogeys appear with increasing frequency.

It’s almost as if we’re not allowed to breathe when Woods lines up a putt, and quite frankly, it became paralyzing long ago.

You’re working, I get it. I respect that. That’s why the cell phone stays in the pocket and conversations halt. But a sneeze? A cough? Sometimes, God, you know, intervenes. Good luck fending off the death glare sure to follow.

Compare Mickelson to some of the largely faceless and expressionless players currently on tour. Decent men I’m sure, but robotic in preparation and unwaveringly resolute between the ropes, fixated on the next shot, the next lie, the next read of a green. For the most part, they all have the same swing. Nothing unique. Nobody jabs at the ball with a putter like Jack, or unloads with a fairway wood like Daly.

I’m sure Johnny Miller would challenge this statement, but to my untrained eye, it’s like watching the old Pink Floyd video, with the conveyor belt. All from the same factory of angles and pace and finish.

Next. Next. Next.

Pretty boring, actually. And I absolutely LOVE the sport. What about the fringe fans, the ones who ultimately determine ratings?

Today’s golfer thinks bright Puma and Nike shirts provides substance. It does not. Style? yes. But that’s it.

Enter Lefty.

Maybe I’m naive, but I truly feel as if we matter to Mickelson, and if not, he does a hell of a job making us feel as if we do.

He’s an old-school cowboy, still chasing and pursuing perfection in a sport based on imperfection.

When he fails, a small part of us fails.

When it comes to Phil or Tiger, I’ve always boiled things down to its simplest form. Of the two, who I would enjoy having a scotch with more?

Hey Phil, this one’s on me brother.

Window, shut.

40 more years?

40 more years?

One thing I learned long ago in this business, is that there’s a time to think and there’s a time to vent. At times they intersect, at times it’s a tsunami of misguided and entertaining rage, and every once in a while, simply stated, it’s absolutely perfect. Every syllable flows, every word resonates. It’s a verbal barrage with many twists and turns, and despite its unpredictable and fast-paced rhythm, you, the audience, is along for the ride, nodding in agreement, punctuating points with fists or characters on Twitter.

Buckle up, because I’m about to take you on that elusive ride.

First, a general commentary about my beloved New York Knicks. Encompassing 40 mostly pathetic years since their last crown, their road map to success is still written in Latin. Regardless of who they hire, fire, draft, sign or trade for, they are no closer to the secret sauce than some two-bit burger chain trying to take a bite out of McDonalds.

Put it this way: no franchise in NBA history consistently fails their superstars like the boys on 33rd and 7th. Was Bernard King really expected to beat the Celtics with Louis Orr and Rory Sparrow logging major minutes? The only reason they landed Ewing is because they were so pathetic and invisible, the commissioner (allegedly) tossed them a bone, and with good reason. Back then, without the true power of cable and all-access to everything, the NBA was better with New York in the mix. Can we still definitively say that now? It wasn’t so much about Stern helping the Knicks, by the way, as much as it was about lining his own pockets and securing and stabilizing his growing empire. The NBA needed Patrick Ewing playing Broadway, especially following those Big East wars with Mullin and the Johnnies in the mid-80’s. As hot a prospect ever to come out of college, that was # 33.

During Ewing’s prime, it was a rotating cast of aging, fading stars like Kiki Vandeweghe and Ro Blackman or one-dimensional chuckers like Gerald Wilkins and Johnny Newman. They failed Ewing so miserably, it actually hurts to relive his era at times.

# 33 deserved better.

# 33 deserved better.

When they finally stumbled on some legit talent, he was shot, no longer dominant, and eventually, no longer relevant.

Sadly, they are doing the same with Carmelo Anthony, like zombies tracing over the wayward steps of their front-office predecessors.

Because J.R. Smith was so miserable the last few weeks, they’ll probably be able to retain his services. Like many, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Truthfully, at $5-7 million per season, coupled with age and talent, it’s a deal I would sign off on, but I would do so out of sheer desperation. I will never, ever trust him again. Ever.

Can't reverse karma.

Can’t reverse karma.

Yet, as maddening as he was during the tale end of the Boston series and the entire Pacers series, imagine the Knicks without Smith this past season. 39, 40 wins?

Incredibly, they signed off on 3-year deals for both Jason Kidd AND Marcus Camby, further limiting their options this summer and beyond. While both deals were relatively cheap, combined, they could equal one player good enough, or specifically, tough enough, to theoretically put them in the Eastern Conference Finals next season. I mean, was that “plan” concocted over bong hits and shots of Grey Goose? Who the heck would, in a balanced state…forget it. The stupidity is obvious, so I’ll summarize it this way: J Kidd, start working on your Hall of Fame speech now. It’s over. It got beyond ugly. Time to hang ’em up bro.

I don’t care what you read this summer about “how healthy he is” and “how good he looks,” it’s destined to be another season of intermittent surgeries for Amar’e Stoudemire, trying to figure out where or if he fits when he’s once again shoved back into the rotation. He’s due $21.6 next year and $23.4 in 2014-15. Those guys don’t sit forever. Kind of sad, because I really like Amar’e. One look at his body, and it’s obvious that he has pride and cares about his craft. He added some post moves this summer after spending time with Hakeem Olajuwon, more evidence  that he’s willing to reinvent his game, even with veteran status and a bank account that resembles Fort Knox. Tremendous respect for the former All-Star, but when the body goes, it goes. This train has left station, sadly. It’s over.

Can't fault the effort.

Can’t fault the effort.

As for Tyson Chandler, I am trying to balance my healthy respect for his passion for the game and leadership skills and the injuries that basically transformed him into a skinny Eddy Curry the past few weeks: no defense, no rebounding. To be fair, at least Eddy had an offensive move or two. He was a threat. Chandler couldn’t stick a 15-foot  jumper if we spotted him 12 feet. He is a complete zero on offense, not a single post move, which just amplifies the strong undercurrent that will slowly swallow this version of the Knicks up for good. Too often, the Knicks play 4-on-5, and unless you’re playing the Bobcats 82 times, that’s not going to work.

Thoroughly schooled..By overpaying for Steve Novak, the Knicks are in a position to possibly have someone swipe Chris Copeland’s services right under their noses. This kid can obviously shoot, but more importantly, he’s willing to shoot when it matters, when the season is on the line. Can’t say the same for Novak. Either Cope signs elsewhere and the Knicks are stuck with Novak’s limited game, or they retain Cope and have more money wasting away on the end of the bench in Novak. Either way, they’re kind of screwed.

Let’s talk about the coach, Mike Woodson. Average. Limited. Actually, in big games, completely overmatched. Not only will he not elevate this team to a championship, but I submit that he actually does the opposite: he retards the progress of his team. How are we able to identify from our recliners such obvious substitution patterns, like pulling Kidd and playing Prigioni, pulling Smith and playing Cope, pulling Chandler and playing anyone, but the head coach cannot?

Unknown

Seems like a nice guy, but nice guys win nothing in this league, not coaches anyway. You want me to stop beating around the bush? How’s this: I simply do not believe in him at all, and that will never change. The man was eaten alive in the 2nd Round of the Playoffs, what the heck would happen in the NBA Finals? Quite possibly, the worst coaching job I have ever witnessed in a playoff series, and I’ve been watching the league intently for a long, long time.

This brings us to Carmelo Anthony. Even with his 4th quarter follies throughout the playoffs, I still support ‘Melo. His tantalizing offensive gifts, if paired with the right superstar, eventually, it should lead to chip, no? He beats you off the dribble, his midrange game is unstoppable, he has effective 3-point range and he gets to the stripe with great frequency. He’s mauled by 2,3 Celtics or Pacers, and after he fixes his headband, heads to the line, undeterred. Carmelo Anthony is both street tough and physically strong, and while it’s easy to blame the man with the biggest target and contract, I don’t believe that is fair nor is it accurate.

Stoned!

STONED!

However, with ‘Melo, it’s less about tangible skills and more about things far tougher to quantify, like leadership or the way he relates to the rest of the guys on the roster, on the floor.

As much as I’ve defended Anthony, something I read this morning stopped me dead in my tracks, and forced me to reevaluate things.

“We kinda teased the city of New York a little bit, because now everybody expects us to play at this level, this high level.”

High level? What?

Your team was punked by a bunch of kids in Indianapolis. PUNKED.

Imagine Jordan or Bird or Magic or Kobe or Lebron or Duncan saying that?

Along with the rest of hoops-starved New York, not to mention the rest of the NBA community, I just finished watching a 6 game , lopsided steel cage match. Rather than bleeding and fighting and punching and kicking your way to the Conference Finals, your team crawled out of the ring and meekly into the offseason. Your were pounded on the boards every game, and shot as accurately as a collection of 7th grade CYO players.

That quote, the strong inference that for Anthony and the collective effort against Indiana remotely resembled anything any player should be proud of, that stopped me dead in my tracks. It really made me think.

Sure, Carmelo Anthony wants to win a title, I don’t doubt that. What I do doubt, is his ability to lead any team over the requisite two-month journey of EFFICIENT basketball it takes to actually secure that lofty status.

Yes, the Knicks failed Carmelo Anthony, just like they failed Ewing and King earlier. They continue to talk a big game, until things go awry. Then they pull their head coach of off radio shows and act totally unprofessional.

As good as Anthony is, he’s not good enough to reverse 40 years of empty promises.

As much as I love the Knicks, I have to admit: it’s hard to like the Knicks.

Window, shut.

Is he really THIS good? Yes.

Image

(May 9, 2013)

If you haven’t watched the Mets this season, you haven’t missed much. 

Mired in 4th place in the NL East, Terry Collins’s crew has stumbled to a 13-17 start, and given the overall offensive deficiencies, are a pretty safe bet to drown by July 1. With the exception of David Wright the offense is anemic, ranking 15th in runs scored (-3 run differential) and 27th in team average. Daniel Murphy is a decent 6 or 7 hitter on a good team and Lucas Duda remains all-or-nothing. 1B Ike Davis is off to yet another confounding start, apparently forgetting yet again that the season begins in April. John Buck, the other true, offensive bright spot along with Wright, already has trade written all over his catcher’s gear, a pretty safe bet to be jettisoned by summer’s end for younger, cheaper talent.

While I actually really like Citi Field, it remains a wave of empty metal, unhappy fans revolting against with empty promises, empty pockets and unfulfilled expectations. 

Can’t blame them, it’s been a while. 

But every once in a while, the new stadium oozes energy and juice, excitement and intrigue. A delicious and intoxicating combination of raw power and presence, and it’s right in the middle of the diamond, in clear view for the entire baseball world to marvel.

His name is Matt Harvey, and he is simply awesome.

How awesome? Try these numbers on for size:

7 starts, 49 1/3 IP, 58 K’s/12 BB, 22 H, and 7 ER allowed. His WHIP is less than 3/4 of 1 and his BAA is a ridiculous .133.

Sure, he’s lined up against some softies thus far, but that’s not the point. Like Doc Gooden and Tom Seaver before that, Matt Harvey is streaking across the New York baseball landscape like a comet on HGH.

The easy part is declaring absolute greatness for the kid, yet, in a way, it’s reckless and unfair. Too many people ignore the journey and the process and instead get bogged down with debates about all-time status and legacies. There’s time for that, trust me.

However, I have no idea if Harvey’s arm and shoulder holds up for the long haul, or if his body betrays him, much like it did Kerry Wood or the late Mark Fidrych in the 70’s in Motown.

Before attempting to quantify why Harvey is the real deal, here’s a little taste as to how other notable aces fared in their first full season in the bigs.

========================================================================

Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals (1961) 27 starts, 13-12, 3.24, 166 K/211 1/3 IP, 1.443 WHIP

Tom Seaver, New York Mets (1967) 34 starts, 16-13, 2.76 ERA, 170 K/251 IP, 1.203 WHIP

Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox (1984) 20 starts. 9-4, 4.32 ERA, 126 K/133 1/3 IP, 1.313 WHIP

Pedro Martinez, Montreal Expos (1994) 23 starts, 11-5, 3.42 ERA, 142 K/144 2/3 IP, 1.106 WHIP

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (2006) 30 starts, 17-9, 3.63 ERA, 124 K/186 IP, 1.328 WHIP

========================================================================

It’s obvious Harvey resides in pretty good company thus far, but why? What makes him so dominant, so fast? Why is he so good?

Image

Start with the repertoire.

The kid packs some heavy artillery and unlike most young pitchers has confidence in every single pitch. The ability to reach so deeply into such an assortment of tricks at any point during a given AB prevents opposing hitters from developing a “book” on Harvey. His pitch patterns are seemingly impossible to predict, which turns average stuff into good stuff, good stuff into terrific stuff and terrific stuff into terrifyingly-filthy stuff. 

That’s where it starts, and its complimented by poise, presence and any other characteristic that makes scouts drool even though they are unable to quantify the intangibles when they file their reports. Trust me, he has ’em.

Thru 7 starts, Harvey’s average fastball clocks in at 94.7 MPH and his slider is trending toward 90 MPH, which by the way, is Randy Johnson territory. That’s rare. Also, unlike Stephen Strasburg who relies on just 3 pitches, Harvey, brings 4 elite pitches to the table. He throws a hard change, averaging 86.4 MPH and effectively uses his curve to alter planes and speeds, dipping the equalizer down to 82.1 MPH.

He has a repeatable delivery and is mechanically sound, limiting walks and allowing him to command the upper and lower portion of the strike zone with amazing precision. 

Remember, as good as Doc was, he also had plenty of run support in the early days with Hernandez, Straw and eventually in 1985, Gary Carter. If Harvey played with those teams, he’d probably win 25 games this season.

When it comes to greatness, trust your eyes, and your instincts.

If Matt Harvey isn’t great, quite frankly, the word doesn’t exist.

Is he really THIS good? Actually, he’s probably better.

Stay healthy kid, and enjoy the journey, Mets fans.

You deserve it.

Image

Time to Run.

Unless the Knicks average height sprouts a few inches over the next 24 hours or so, one thing remains certain entering tomorrow night’s pivotal Game 2 at Madison Square Garden: this has the look of a physical mismatch, advantage Pacers.

Indiana is bigger, stronger and on many levels, tougher, both physically and mentally. That too, probably won’t change throughout the course of this series.

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is already searching for answers as the Knicks look to bounce back in Game 2 versus Indiana.

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is already searching for answers as the Knicks look to bounce back in Game 2 versus Indiana.

Quite frankly, the only elixir for Mike Woodson’s squad right now is basketball efficiency. Sure, a Kenyon Martin elbow to someone’s grill might spark something, and perhaps Woodson dusts off Marcus Camby and utilizes his length and 6 fouls at times this series. But the bottom line for the Knicks is this: make shots or go home quickly.

While simple on the surface, it has proven elusive ever since his team recklessly and unnecessarily challenged karma toward the end of their first round victory versus the aging and depleted Celtics.

The Pacers you see, are not the Celtics. They are better. Actually, they are much better.

When the Pacers hit the Garden floor tomorrow night, they will have already swiftly stolen home court advantage from the beleaguered Knicks, and their physical advantage will remain unchanged, meaning Roy Hibbert will still be 7’2″ and David West will still be a rugged, no-nonsense forward.

The “rule of verticality” was referenced several times on Sunday as Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks were consistently swatted backwards. At times, it had the look of a sloppy and lopsided early October tune-up for the bigger and stronger Varsity squad against the frustrated JV.

News flash: that’s how Indiana plays, and the refs know it. The Pacers have quietly earned league-wide respect as a tough-minded team with great defensive principles. They rotate hard. They box out aggressively. They challenge when opponents attack the rim. They contest hard on run-outs. They set solid picks and they fight thru ones that are set against them. There’s a reason why the Pacers were a 3 seed rather than say the 7 or 8 seed.

In fact, they were good enough to have the eventual World Champs on the ropes in last year’s 2nd Round, racing out to a 2-1 series lead before eventually falling prey to the most complete basketball player ever to grace the planet: Mr. James.

This season, the retooled Knicks raced out to an incredible start and finished with a flurry, galvanizing the city and waking up the ghosts from the 90’s. They mattered. After playing well versus Miami and the Spurs during the regular season, and winning late at Oklahoma City, New York was viewed as a legit threat by some to Miami’s throne.

New-York-Knicks-Indiana-Pacers1

The Knicks are dangerous, but the Knicks are volatile and limited. Any time your franchise player lists “making it out of the first round” as a goal, you know things are dicey. Their second best player, J.R. Smith, is quickly morphing back into what we all despised: an unreliable, erratic chucker with zero conscience. (last 3 playoffs games: 3-14 FG, 5-13 FG and 4-15 FG) Their center, though proud and fierce on the defensive end and a leader in the locker room, is a complete zero on the offensive end, creating too many 4-on-5 scenarios. If he doesn’t catch an alley-oop off a pick-and-roll he is a complete non-entity on that end of the floor.

Since it’s the Knicks and Pacers, there’s an underlying narrative that traces back to the fierce battles between Reggie and Starks, the Davis Boys versus Ewing, Oak and Mason. It sounds good, but the 2013 Knicks need to play a completely different brand of basketball, a brand that Pat Riley resisted at every level in the mid-90’s, out of necessity.

Starting tomorrow night, the Knicks need to turn this series into a track meet. While the Pacers are tougher, the Knicks have the edge in the skill department.

If they can’t lace ’em and run for the next 10-15 days, they’ll have plenty of time to walk back to their sports cars and mansions, lamenting a lost opportunity and an abbreviated playoff run that went awry way too early.

Your move, Knicks.

When the right move feels wrong.

1

When evaluating the decision to jettison Darrelle Revis to the Bucs, I’m forcing myself to step back and do so two ways:

1) As a life-long Jets fan and season ticket holder for a few seasons in the late 90’s.

2) As a broadcaster with a nationally-syndicated platform.

Amazingly, both sides of my brain connect on this: not only was it the right move for New York, but quite frankly, it was the only move.

Literally.

No other franchise besides Tampa Bay was even remotely interested in rolling the dice on that ugly scar on Revis’ knee. Combined with his perpetually petulant ways regarding his contractual status with the Jets, John Idzik was left no choice: swallow hard and deal the most talented player in the history of the franchise.

You read that right. More talented than Namath, more talented than Klecko and Curtis Martin. Talent was never the problem for # 24 and as long as his knee holds up, really, never will be. 

The problem quite frankly, is that the New York Jets absolutely, unequivocally suck. And even worse, they will suck for quite some time.

They have no QB.

They have no RB’s.

Their offensive line is frighteningly overrated and thin.

Their top WR is an under-sized locker room cancer.

The one player with actual on-field chemistry with the embattled QB, Dustin Keller, is now wearing a different uniform.

Their HC is still writing checks his mouth can’t cash and will be gone next season. I still have a soft spot for Rex, but let’s face it: the only time he’ll meet the President is if the Commander-in-Chief needs some help filling out his NCAA bracket next March.

The salary cap, thank to Mike Tannenbaum, is in complete disarray. 

The division is getting better, namely Miami.

Must I continue?

Oops, almost forgot: the owner is a clown.

If you follow me on any number of social media outlets, you’ll know this trade hardly surprises me. I called it last season, put it down in ink.

3

“But it doesn’t make any sense to trade the only elite player on the roster!!”

Sure it does, especially in football, where every dollar counts. From offseason workout bonuses to roster bonuses to however the hell else they break down the numbers, it all matters, especially for a team with empty cupboards.

And the cupboards are as bare as they’ve been in quite some time, maybe ever, for the Jets. Now, that truly is a damning statement.

They are bordering on expansion bad, in my opinion.

Which is the only reason I am able to intellectually and emotionally put my brain and arms around this deal. You see, the problem isn’t necessarily Revis’ demands or even his knee. The problem is, the Jets are so bad, that his career-arc no longer matches the timetable for Gang Green’s resurgence. 

By the time Idzik balances the check book and the young, explosive and CHEAP talent he is about to draft over the next few years, by the time that matures, Darrelle Revis will be on the wrong side of a Hall of Fame career. 

I wish I was wrong, and as much as I feel like blasting this move, I can’t.

But do to so, it’s imperative to separate emotion from reality, which for me at times, is an interesting juggle.

My whole life, emotion has fueled me, propelled me, served as a magic power of sorts.

But when it comes to # 24, the most talented player in the history of my franchise, reality and logic must outweigh that emotion, otherwise I might just lose my mind.

It’s the only way to wipe away the haze and fog and realize, the New York Jets actually did the right thing.

Like all tropical vacations, unpacking is depressing. However, the quicker you reach into the suit case following our glorious stint on “Revis Island,” the better off you’ll be.

There’s always another trip, even if it seems light years away.

The Chase.

The  quest for immortality begins.

The quest for immortality begins.

Finally!

After another grueling 82 game marathon, the race begins in South Beach, as Lebron and Co. look to deliver yet another championship for the Heat, while 7th Avenue has the distinct feel and sounds of past, vintage Knick seasons. As trees grow in Brooklyn, the feisty South Siders lurk beneath the radar, while the proud, but tired Celtics look to summon the energy for one, final playoff run, together. Pull up a chair, and enjoy the ride.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

2013HeatBucks

Tierney’s Take: Brutal. The Bucks might just be the most faceless, anonymous NBA franchise out there, and that includes the Bobcats (MJ) and the Kings (arena issues.) The Bradley Center is sterile by nature (less so for Marquette games, admittedly), their uniforms are lame, and the roster is historically littered with guys just good enough to snag the 8 seed in a weak Eastern Conference before being transforming into 1st Round road kill. Brewers-Marlins might actually be more interesting. OK, OK, some real analysis for the more cerebral fans: Larry Sanders is a terrific defender and should make things uncomfortable for Chris Bosh inside. Milwaukee’s guards,  while explosive,  are woefully undersized and inefficient. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are capable of dropping 40 on a Monday and equally capable of dropping a 3-19 stinker on Tuesday. Oh yeah, and the Heat have Lebron. By far, the least compelling of all of the 1st Round series. See you in Round 2, Champs.

The Verdict: Heat in 5.

1

Tierney’s Take: You think Carmelo Anthony is feeling the pressure yet? Let’s be very blunt here: he absolutely, unequivocally MUST advance to the next round. Must. Dissect the numbers, react to trends and put this series in historical context as much as you want, be my guest. I’ll simplify it for you: the NBA’s scoring champ is by far the best player on the court, and he must punctuate his sensational season with the only thing that matters from this point forward: wins. Yes, the Celtics are extremely proud and self-motivated and their collective DNA is impressive. But the Knicks are the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference for a reason. They’re really good, and personally, I’m not buying the cautious rhetoric. The Knicks should wipe the floor with the green and white, and I’m picking them to do just that.

The Verdict: Knicks in 5.

2013PacersHawks

Tierney’s Take: Despite a very competitive season series (2-2), the Pacers and Hawks just seem as if they are headed in opposite directions. Indiana should be a force for a few years within the conference, while the Hawks prepare for a long, uncertain summer revolving around FA Josh Smith. The Pacers hard-nosed, interior toughness if perfect for the playoffs, and their advantage in the paint this series should negate their consistent battle knocking down open jump shots. The Hawks are just good enough to make this a fairly compelling series, but in the end, Indiana’s defense (allowed just 90.7 ppg. and limited opponents to a league-best 42% FG rate) and passion fuels a series victory.

The Verdict: Pacers in 6.

2013NetsBulls

Tierney’s Take: On paper, by far, the toughest Eastern series to predict. Without Derrick Rose, I can easily make the case the Nets individual talent is simply better than the Bulls. However, collectively, and on the practice floor, I like the Bulls and Tom Thibedeau. Thwarting two lengthy winning streaks within a month (Miami, New York) speaks to their ability to lock in when it matters most, when people are watching and the pressure and intensity is most palpable, all direct characteristics of the playoffs. If the whispers continue that Rose might return if the Bulls advance, the city and team will be sky-high with emotion and possibilities. Expect Williams and Johnson and Lopez to do their thing for Brooklyn and Deng and Boozer and Noah to follow suit for the Bulls. In a deep series, the supporting cast typically impacts the outcome, and with that in mind, Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson loom large for the Bulls. Fun series, long series.

The Verdict: Bulls in 7. 

***UPDATE**** Noah’s injury status changes everything, Nets in 6

======================================================================================

1

AVOID SLIPPAGE AT ALL COSTS

1. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: ‘Melo finally earned recognition as a willing defender, a great teammate, and a leader. Watch how quickly those platitudes dissipate if he’s watching Round 2 on his couch. It would be ugly times a million. Trust me, I’m from here.

2. Mike Woodson, New York Knicks: Woodson has done a tremendous job, particularly transforming JR Smith into a basket-attacking star. Not sure if you noticed, but Phil Jackson recently said that he’s eager to return to the game, either as a coach or an executive. Old Knick roots and a petulant owner is a bad combo if Woody doesn’t beat the Celtics.

3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks: It only takes one fool to overvalue a player to drive a price tag into “max” territory. While he’s far from that in my opinion, he does have a chance to open some eyes and state his case with a solid performance against the World champs. A 28% clunker would severely compromise his position in July.

4. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks: Unlike Jennings, Smith actually has a legitimate chance to play deep into his series and make a strong contractual push heading into the summer. While I doubt the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant, what if they choose to exercise that option, shave $30 million off the cap, and engineer a sign and trade with the Hawks (Gasol?) to pair Smith with D-12? Crazy, but the next 10-15 days are big ones for Smith.

5. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets: Currently, what exactly is Deron Williams? Is he a legit franchise-type player, or is he merely a shooting star? Bright and dazzling at times, but unable to sustain the wattage? Beat the Bulls and show up strong in Round 2, and he’ll probably answer that question for us.

Tomorrow: Western Conference Preview

The  quest for immortality begins.

The quest for immortality begins.

Finally!

After another grueling 82 game marathon, the race begins in South Beach, as Lebron and Co. look to deliver yet another championship for the Heat, while 7th Avenue has the distinct feel and sounds of past, vintage Knick seasons. As trees grow in Brooklyn, the feisty South Siders lurk beneath the radar, while the proud, but tired Celtics look to summon the energy for one, final playoff run, together. Pull up a chair, and enjoy the ride.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

2013HeatBucks

Tierney’s Take: Brutal. The Bucks might just be the most faceless, anonymous NBA franchise out there, and that includes the Bobcats (MJ) and the Kings (arena issues.) The Bradley Center is sterile by nature (less so for Marquette games, admittedly), their uniforms are lame, and the roster is historically littered with guys just good enough to snag the 8 seed in a weak Eastern Conference before transforming into 1st Round road kill. OK, OK, some real analysis for the more cerebral fans: Larry Sanders is a terrific defender and should make things uncomfortable for Chris Bosh inside. Milwaukee’s guards,  while explosive,  are woefully undersized and inefficient. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are capable of dropping 40 on a Monday and equally capable of dropping a 3-19 stinker on Tuesday. Oh yeah, and the Heat have Lebron. By far, the least compelling of all of the 1st Round series. See you in Round 2, Champs.

The Verdict: Heat in 5.

1

Tierney’s Take: You think Carmelo Anthony is feeling the pressure yet? Let’s be very blunt here: he absolutely, unequivocally MUST advance to the next round. Must. Dissect the numbers, react to trends and put this series in historical context as much as you want, be my guest. I’ll simplify it for you: the NBA’s scoring champ is by far the best player on the court, and he must punctuate his sensational season with the only thing that matters from this point forward: wins. Yes, the Celtics are extremely proud and self-motivated and their collective DNA is impressive. But the Knicks are the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference for a reason. They’re really good, and personally, I’m not buying the cautious rhetoric. The Knicks should wipe the floor with the green and white, and I’m picking them to do just that.

The Verdict: Knicks in 5.

2013PacersHawks

Tierney’s Take: Despite a very competitive season series (2-2), the Pacers and Hawks just seem as if they are headed in opposite directions. Indiana should be a force for a few years within the conference, while the Hawks prepare for a long, uncertain summer revolving around FA Josh Smith. The Pacers hard-nosed, interior toughness is perfect for the playoffs, and their advantage in the paint this series should negate their consistent battle knocking down open jump shots. The Hawks are just good enough to make this a fairly compelling series, but in the end, Indiana’s defense (allowed just 90.7 ppg. and limited opponents to a league-best 42% FG rate) and passion fuels a series victory.

The Verdict: Pacers in 6.

2013NetsBulls

Tierney’s Take: On paper, by far, the toughest Eastern series to predict. Without Derrick Rose, I can easily make the case the Nets individual talent is simply better than the Bulls. However, collectively, and on the practice floor, I like the Bulls and Tom Thibedeau. Thwarting two lengthy winning streaks within a month (Miami, New York) speaks to their ability to lock in when it matters most, when people are watching and the pressure and intensity is most palpable, all direct characteristics of the playoffs. If the whispers continue that Rose might return if the Bulls advance, the city and team will be sky-high with emotion and possibilities. Expect Williams and Johnson and Lopez to do their thing for Brooklyn and Deng and Boozer and Noah to follow suit for the Bulls. In a deep series, the supporting cast typically impacts the outcome, and with that in mind, Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson loom large for the Bulls. Fun series, long series.

The Verdict: Bulls in 7. 

======================================================================================

1

AVOID SLIPPAGE AT ALL COSTS

1. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: ‘Melo finally earned recognition as a willing defender, a great teammate, and a leader. Watch how quickly those platitudes dissipate if he’s watching Round 2 on his couch. It would be ugly times a million. Trust me, I’m from here.

2. Mike Woodson, New York Knicks: Woodson has done a tremendous job, particularly transforming JR Smith into a basket-attacking star. Not sure if you noticed, but Phil Jackson recently said that he’s eager to return to the game, either as a coach or an executive. Old Knick roots and a petulant owner is a bad combo if Woody doesn’t beat the Celtics.

3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks: It only takes one fool to overvalue a player to drive a price tag into “max” territory. While he’s far from that in my opinion, he does have a chance to open some eyes and state his case with a solid performance against the World champs. A 28% clunker would severely compromise his position in July.

4. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks: Unlike Jennings, Smith actually has a legitimate chance to play deep into his series and make a strong contractual push heading into the summer. While I doubt the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant, what if they choose to exercise that option, shave $30 million off the cap, and engineer a sign and trade with the Hawks (Gasol?) to pair Smith with D-12? Crazy, but the next 10-15 days are big ones for Smith.

5. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets: Currently, what exactly is Deron Williams? Is he a legit franchise-type player, or is he merely a shooting star? Bright and dazzling at times, but unable to sustain the wattage? Beat the Bulls and show up strong in Round 2, and he’ll probably answer that question for us.

Tomorrow: the West

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