Kershaw

Will Kershaw prove himself in the NLCS?

Playoff success has eluded Kershaw who is now in his seventh career postseason. Don’t be mistaken, he has not been unreliable by any stretch of the imagination. However, he has shown that he can be prone to blow up in playoff games. In 16 career playoff starts he has given up four or more runs on six occasions. In the 2017 season, Kershaw only allowed four or more runs in 27 starts.

It will be unpredictable

Kershaw

Despite Kershaw’s solid record in regular season play, he struggles to be reliable in October (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

One way to see how a pitcher may fair in certain match ups is what their history against the opposing team looks like. Kershaw faced the Chicago Cubs in last year’s postseason in two separate starts. Each start garnered two very results.

In game two of the 2016 NLCS Kershaw had the Cubs’ number. He managed to cash in seven innings shut out innings while only holding the Cubs to two hits. One would think he would be able to save the Dodgers season when they were on the hook in game 6 of the series, right?

Wrong.

Clayton Kershaw had four earned runs in five innings pitched, which included two home runs. Usually when dealing with a guy like Kershaw, you can tell when he has a hitter’s number. He is the most dominant pitcher of the past decade and does not look like he is slowing down in his regular season play. The playoffs look to be a whole other story though. If the Cubs push through to the NLCS, they may have a pretty good shot at getting to him. Their recent history against the Dodgers’ ace is much stronger than the Nationals.

Washington has struggled against the lefty during the regular season the past couple of years. In two regular season starts in the past two seasons, Kershaw has held the Nationals to just two runs in 14 innings pitched. This makes it seems like it would be a breeze if they met in the playoffs. However, the Nationals tattooed Kershaw for eight runs in 11.2 innings last postseason.

The Dodgers need him

Los Angeles has been to the NLCS four times since 2008. As you probably know, they haven’t won a single one of those series. Much of that may be because of their ace not showing up when it is needed most. Kershaw has made five NLCS starts in his career, and the Dodgers have only won a single game out of those five.

The Dodgers prided themselves on their pitching this season. It was the best pitching staff in the majors by far, especially after they picked up Yu Darvish. The Kershaw, Darvish, Hill, Wood combo is going to cause fits for any team they face in the postseason. This year may be different for that reason. Los Angeles isn’t nearly as reliant on Kershaw as they have been in the past because of the depth of their rotation in bullpen.

The commonality between all of the NLCS appearances they have lost though are Kershaw’s poor performances. Now is the time for the lefty to prove himself in the postseason.

Kershaw needs it for his legacy

Kershaw

Every great athlete is heavily judged by their postseason performance (Photo by Washington Times)

Clayton Kershaw is already a lock for Cooperstown. Some writers say that even if Kershaw were to retire at the end of this season, he would still get into the Hall of Fame despite only being 29 years old.

What Kershaw doesn’t want to happen is get the Dan Marino reputation. Marino is known as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. However, he is also remembered as one of the greatest to never win a championship. Kershaw has yet to even make it to the World Series. With the team he has around him, the time is now for him to prove himself and propel his team to a championship.

The Dodgers currently have a solid setup. Their team is getting some extra rest as they swept the Diamondbacks out of the postseason while the Cubs and Nationals have battled it out to a fifth game. If the NLCS happens to go to seven games, there is a good chance that Kershaw will get the nod in a decisive seventh game depending on his performance.

Kershaw is already in the mix for one of the greatest pitchers ever. In order to keep him in that top echelon of pitchers, he will need to pitch when it matters most. If he is able to put together the starts we all know he is capable of, the Dodgers will feel good about their chances of ending their 30 year championship drought.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Colin Kaepernick

The Miami Dolphins’ quarterback quandary

With head coach Adam Gase acknowledging that knee surgery is an a option for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a playoff team from last year is left with major question marks as far as who will be taking snaps this year.

Several solutions are being rumored. The Dolphins are a pretty solid football team. Thus, they cannot afford to knock on the wrong door here. If they do, their season could be over before it really starts.

That said, let’s dissect Miami’s quarterback situation and dive into the team’s options.

The safe bet: Matt Moore

Matt Moore is the perfect backup quarterback. That is exactly what he has been for most of his career. He has started 28 out of 46 career games played and posted a 15-13 record as a starter. This includes leading the Dolphins to a pair of wins that locked down last year’s playoff spot in relief of an injured Tannehill. Not many quarterbacks last a decade in the NFL, backup or otherwise.

Miami Dolphins quarterback quandary

Photo miami.cbsloacal.com

The Dolphins are in a tricky spot though. Unless they figure out time travel and bring back Dan Marino, they are not taking the AFC East from New England. However, they are suited to finish ahead of fellow division rivals Buffalo and the Jets, even with Moore. The 32-year-old can take care of the football well enough to keep Miami competitive.

It is difficult for me to get past Miami’s 30-12 playoff loss to Pittsburgh last year. More looked overwhelmed, as did the rest of the team. Sticking with Moore in Tannehill’s absence could get this franchise back to where it was last year, but certainly no further.

The bad idea: Jay Cutler

It makes perfect sense for Jay Cutler’s name to be thrown around when it comes to Miami’s quarterback situation. However, that does not mean it is a good idea.

The recently retired gunslinger had his best season as a pro in 2015. That year, current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was his offensive coordinator in Chicago. Even so, Cutler’s career best 92.3 passer rating was not good enough for the Bears to post a winning record.

To put it mildly, there have always been questions about Cutler’s passion for football. Now that he has shifted his focus to broadcasting, it is debatable as to whether or not he would be able to flip the switch back into competitive athlete mode. Worse yet, I am not even sure he truly wants to. The Dolphins have reportedly had casual conversations with Cutler and his representatives. That is as far as this flirtation should go.

High risk, high reward: Colin Kaepernick

Miami Dolphins quarterback quandary

Photo: boston.cbslocal.com

With all the controversy surrounding him, the fact that Colin Kaepernick still has it in him to be a very dynamic dual threat NFL quarterback is getting lost in the shuffle.

In 11 starts for an atrocious 49ers team last year, Kaepernick tossed 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Imagine what he is still capable of with real talent around him. Real talent is something the Dolphins definitely have.

We all know that his political activism is why Kaepernick remains unsigned. However, if dogfighting and domestic violence do not disqualify you from being on an NFL roster, voicing your opinion should not either.

Could signing Kaepernick alienate parts of the locker room and fan base? Of course. However, there is a very simple remedy to that: Be a productive player and deliver this franchise its first playoff win since the 2000 season.

Of the options on the table for Miami, Kaepernick is the only one who has shown that he may be capable of doing that. That is good enough for me. The Dolphins need to suck it up and sign him.

 

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Arizona Cardinals

Despite New Hall of Fame Status, Warner Still Criminally Underrated

When people debate the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history the same names always come up. Brady, Montana, Elway and Peyton Manning. The next series of names is usually led by Favre and Marino. Aaron Rodgers is starting to get thrown in there as well.

There is one name that does not come up nearly as much as it should, newly minted Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

The mere fact that Hall of Famer now precedes his name means there are plenty of folks out there who think Warner was great. Even so, few people realize how great he was.

Context:

            The beginnings of Warner’s journey are well documented. Undrafted out of Northern Iowa, he went from grocery store stock boy to NFL and Super Bowl MVP in 1999 following a preseason injury to starter Trent Green.

Warner spearheaded a then St. Louis Rams offense that scored 30 points on a dozen separate occasions in 1999. The nickname “Greatest Show on Turf” was shockingly accurate. It is almost impossible to put in to words how good Warner and that offense as a whole were that year. Warner, Marshall Faulk and the rest of the offense took their rightful place as one of the best in NFL history by notching the narrowest of victories in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Kurt Warner

Photo: kurtwarner.org

After a close playoff loss to the Saints in 2000, Warner and the Rams returned to top form in 2001. Warner bagged another league MVP and the Rams returned to the Super Bowl. However, they fell victim to Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri and the rest of the Cinderella Patriots as time expired.

From 1999-2001, Warner threw for over 11,000 yards, 98 touchdowns and 53 interceptions while reaching two Super Bowls. Despite missing five games in 2000 due to injury, Warner tallied a regular season win loss record of 35-8 as a starter over this three year span. That is as good a three year stretch as any quarterback has ever had.

Injuries caused Warner’s career to bottom out from 2002-2004. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, won just five games as a starter and only appeared in 19. Following a 2004 campaign that saw the Giants bench him for Eli Manning, Warner’s career looked to be done.

The Cardinals took a flyer on Warner signing him to a one year deal in 2005. Warner always seemed to be in competition for the starting job in the land of the sun, but the Cardinals kept bringing him back. By 2008, Warner was healthy and firmly entrenched as the starter.

That season, Warner guided Arizona to a 9-7 record and a playoff spot. To say Warner and the Cards got hot would be a gross understatement. Behind Warner’s 112 passer rating, the Cardinals franchise won its first playoff game since 1947. In Super Bowl XLIII, Arizona lost by the length of Santonio Holmes’ toenail.

Santonio Holmes

Photo: ftiznews.com

Playoff Success and Place Among All Time Greats:

            Warner led two different franchises to the Super Bowl. He is one of just three quarterbacks to do that. Moreover, unless you count the Rams Los Angeles glory days, both franchises have struggled to spell Super Bowl before and after Warner, much less get there.

Warner ranks second all-time in postseason passer rating. At one point, Warner owned the top three performances in Super Bowl history in terms of passing yards.

Warner retired after leading the Cardinals back to the playoffs in 2009. It is reasonable to speculate that being a part of two narrow Super Bowl defeats keeps him from being mentioned with the usual suspects of all-time great quarterbacks. His mid-career nosedive does not help matters either.

Even with those two negatives on his résumé, Warner has far more postseason success than guys like Favre amd Marino. When one considers the franchises he led to the promised land, his career becomes all the more impressive. For all these reasons, Warner belongs in the single digits when it comes to the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

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The NFL Ratings Drop Is Not a Big Deal…Yet

In case you have been living under a rock, NFL television ratings are down considerably. All primetime broadcast windows have seen a double-digit percentage decrease from last year. CBS’s Sunday afternoon ratings are down in similar fashion. The numbers at Fox have stayed the same or are only down slightly depending on the data source. Everyone within the NFL and those who cover it seem to be panicking. They should not be and here is why.

Prior to this year, record ratings were the norm- This is just simple logic. Everything peaks at some point. 19 of the 20 most watched television programs in American history are Super Bowls. Also, the top seven are all Super Bowls from this decade. The NFL may never be as popular as it was prior to this year again. That does not mean there is not still a massive market for it. However, whenever something is put up against record highs, the numbers are going to look bad. In a world where my friends and I struggle to agree on where to eat, it is difficult to get millions and millions of people to watch the same product every year.

 

We are living in a bizarre time- Some of this was already covered by my fellow writer Michael Sullivan in a well done recent article. Right now, we are all witnesses to the most unique (for lack of a better word) election anyone has ever seen. It is no secret that it is stealing viewers from football. The first presidential debate absolutely slaughtered the Monday night football game that was on at the same time.

 

There is also the Cubs. Those of us younger than 71 have never seen the wildly popular “lovable losers” have a legitimate chance at the World Series. Game one pulled in almost 20,000,000 viewers Tuesday night. Granted no NFL game was on at the same time. Even so, it has been a long time since baseball put up numbers comparable to those of the NFL. It will be interesting to see how the numbers stack up Sunday with both sports on at the same time. The good news for the NFL is that both the election and the Cubs are temporary. If there is not a significant ratings uptick for the NFL by the end of next month, I will be shocked.

photo from si.com

photo from si.com

 

The NFL is in a transition period- Like any other television show, the NFL is star driven. The stars are the quarterbacks. It has been a rough year for the established stars at that position. Peyton Manning retired and guys like Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger have missed or are missing extended periods of time for various reasons. Also, the signal callers that most thought would be the next generation of stars like Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are underperforming. Thus, we have had some underwhelming quarterback matchups this year. I love football and will always watch whenever it is on. However, I can certainly see some casual fans not being eager to tune in to a Brock Osweiler vs. Jacoby Brissett duel. The league went through a similar ratings dip when John Elway, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, and Dan Marino all retired in 1999-2000. New stars emerged then, and they will again, but it takes time.

photo from nydailynews.com

photo from                                              nydailynews.com

 

It is not like nobody is watching- So, the Seahawks/Cardinals game last Sunday ended tied at six and was mocked by media and fans the next day. As ugly and “boring” as it was 28.6 million people watched it. The NFL is doing just fine.

Declining ratings are never good, but if any other television show pulled in 28 million people with everything going on, we would be talking about how amazing it is. If the ratings are still sagging when the season ends, this can be revisited. Until then, stop finding solutions to problems that don’t exist and enjoy the football.