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The StatMan

In case you missed it, here are the notes from last week's show (#21).  If you want to hear the rest, you can also listen to the podcast from this show.  Better yet, you can join us and listen live next Saturday night at 11pm.  For all of the latest schedules, podcasts, and blog entries, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/The-StatMan.  Also, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/gstatman.

Topic 1: Baseball
* Friday's 20-11 Yankee win over the Red Sox effectively stopped any designs on the Red Sox winning the AL Eastern Division.  The wild swings in last weekend's Yankee-Red Sox series is a microcosm of their season series, with the Sox winning the first eight games and the Yankees winning the next four.  The Yankees can afford to trade wins and losses with the Red Sox at this point in the season.  The Red Sox need to worry more about Texas and Tampa than they need to worry about the Yankees.  Once the season ends, if the Sox make the playoffs, the records no longer matter and it is a different ballgame.

* The Phillies and Mets met at Citi Field this weekend and there were a lot of storylines, with super-rookie J.A. Happ winning his tenth game on Saturday and Pedro winning in his New York return on Sunday, with the game ending the unassisted triple play.  Mike Pelfrey outdueled Cole Hamels on Friday and they are very similar in age, but the similarities end there.  Hamels has done so much more in career, already securing a ring and a Playoff MVP.  Pelfrey was expected to be the #2 starter this season and Hamels is already the ace of the Phillies.

* The three things the Mets needed last offseason were a better bullpen, a starter, and a starting left fielder.  The bullpen was much better, but if you do not have a lead, the bullpen does not matter.  Passing on Raul Ibanez for being lefthanded looks silly now because the three Mets who were healthy (up until a couple of weeks ago) have been David Wright, Gary Sheffield, and Jeff Francoeur.  Ibanez would have given a nice balance in the Met lineup now.  I do not count the re-signing of Oliver Perez as addressing the starting pitching needs of the Mets in the off-season.  That was a knee-jerk signing because Perez was the medium-to-big name pitcher left on the board.

* The celebration of the 1969 Mets reminded me of how that legacy has shaped my rooting interests as a fan seven years before I was born.  The legacy of the Miracle Mets changed the perception of the "underdog" forever.  The culture of the Mets was a losing culture and 1969 changed that, capturing the imagination of the city and typified the generation.  Rooting for the underdog makes for great theater, but 40 years later, those Mets took it to another level.  More on this in a blog post later this week.

* AL Wild Card: Red Sox lead Texas by 1.5 and Tampa Bay by 3.5.  Texas salvaged the last game of its series against the Tampa and avoided a sweep with good pitching by Scott Feldman.  Tampa is on the road the next week, including a series at Detroit, so the Rays have a tougher road than Texas.  Boston is at home all week.

* NL West: The Dodgers lead Colorado by 3.5 and San Francisco by 6.5 in the NL West.  The Dodgers are teetering and they are allowing the Rockies to get close and the Giants to stick around.  The Dodgers are not pushing the panic button yet and Joe Torre will not allow them to panic.  Los Angeles will face Colorado for three.  If Colorado takes the series, Dodgers fans better start to worry and if the Rox sweep, the Dodgers will jump on the panic button.  And, former manager Jim Tracy would be loving it.

* NL Wild Card: Meanwhile, the Rockies have a three-game lead in the NL Wild Card.  Colorado won the final two games of its series against San Francisco to gain a game over the weekend on the Giants.  Atlanta and Florida are still in play for the Wild Card while Houston and the Cubs have fallen away.

* AL Central: Detroit is in the driver's seat right now, 2.5 up on Chicago and 4.5 ahead of Minnesota.  If Chicago and Minnesota want to make the playoffs, they have to win the division.  The White Sox are hanging on and have a very tough schedule this week, embarking on a pivotal road trip against Boston, the Yankees, and Minnesota.  The Tigers have home games over the weekend against the Tampa in a wraparound series, but travel to Anaheim for three against the Angels.  The Twins might jump closer into the race with an easier week against both Baltimore and Texas at home before what could be a Thunderdome series against the White Sox.  The team that loses week's Twins-White Sox series might be out of it.

Topic 2: 2009 NFL Preview - NFC North and AFC North
AFC North
* Big Question: Can John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco take the next step?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: C Matt Birk, QB Chris Carr, TE L.J. Smith, DC Greg Mattison
  * Going: LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard, CB Chris McAllister, TE Daniel Wilcox, C Jason Brown, QB Kyle Boller, K Matt Stover, FB Lorenzo Neal, DC Rex Ryan
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 11-5/10-6 (-1)
* Analysis: Rex Ryan left and took some key pieces of the defense with him.  But, there is plenty left to be a solid unit.  Flacco showed ability and great poise, and the guess here is he does take that next step, with second year coach Harbaugh, to make some noise.

* Big Question: Will stubbornness, off-the-field antics, theatrics, or just plain losing cost Marvin Lewis his job?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: WR Laveranues Coles, QB J.T. O'Sullivan, WR Chad Ochocinco
  * Going: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, DB Dexter Jackson, RB Chris Perry, OL Levi Jones, WR Chad Johnson
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 4-11-1/3-13 (-1.5)
* Analysis: Lewis has only made the playoffs once in four years.  After this season, it will be five and the distractions will be too much for either him or upper management to bear.  For a franchise that names their placekicker as their "franchise player", you are telling the world you have no one on your team worth poaching.

* Big Question: When will Brady Quinn get a shot?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: SS Mike Adams, TE Robert Royal, DB Hank Poteat, DB Abram Elam, LB David Bowens, LB Eric Barton, DE Kenyon Coleman, WR David Patten, WR Mike Furrey, C Fred Weary
  * Going: WR Joe Jurevicius, WR Syndric Steptoe, WR Donte' Stallworth (suspended for year)
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 4-12/5-11 (+1)
* Analysis: Eric Mangini left the Jets a failed coach and he goes back home to Cleveland to put his career back on track.  He brought in a lot of his guys, late of the Jets, but this team will spin its wheels until Brady Quinn is the quarterback and they get younger (and better) and running back and wide receiver.

* Big Question: How will the injury to Ben Roethlisberger affect the Steelers' repeat chances?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: WR Shaun McDonald
  * Going: WR Nate Washington, QB Byron Leftwich, CB Anthony Smith, LB Orpheus Roye, P Mitch Berger
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 12-4/13-3 (+1)
* Analysis: The Steelers are a stable franchise all around.  The reports are that the Roethlisberger's Achilles injury he suffered in practice is not serious.  If that is the case, they have the same pieces in place they had when they won it all last year.  There is no reason why they cannot repeat.

Projected NFC North 2009 Standings
1. Pittsburgh 13-3
2. Baltimore 10-6
3. Cleveland 5-11
4. Cincinnati 3-13

NFC North
* Big Question: How will Cutler adapt to Chicago?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: QB Jay Cutler, T Orlando Pace, TE Michael Gaines
  * Going: WR Marty Booker, DB Mike Brown, QB Kyle Orton, QB Rex Grossman, WR Brandon Lloyd, T John Tait
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 9-7/9-7 (even)
* Analysis: If the offensive line holds up, Cutler will have time to strike downfield and Matt Forte will continue his ascendance.  If not, too much will be put on Cutler, who has a substandard receiving corps to work with.

* Big Question: What exactly do the Lions have?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: QB Matthew Stafford (R), RB Maurice Morris, WR Bryant Johnson, WR Ronald Curry, WR Dane Looker, WR Billy McMullen, CB Philip Buchanon, T Ephraim Salaam, HC Jim Schwartz
  * Going: HC Rod Marinelli, WR Mike Furrey, WR Shaun McDonald, QB Dan Orlovsky, RB Rudi Johnson, TE Michael Gaines
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 0-16/3-13 (+3)
* Analysis: Expect an improvement this year, mainly because there is nowhere to go but up.  A top draft pick yielded a new quarterback.  A winless season yielded a new head coach who has experience coaching a top defense, as Schwartz did in Tennessee.  The offense is overhauled and there are rookie mistakes to be made, but they'll win a few.

Green Bay
* Big Question: Will the new 3-4 defense work?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: CB Anthony Smith, DT B.J. Raji (R), LB Clay Matthews (R), C Duke Preston, DC Dom Capers
  * Going: No notable players
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 6-10/10-6 (+4)
* Analysis: Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings are a year older and a year wiser.  Green Bay will use the lessons learned last year to improve this year.  It helps to have an easier schedule, too.

* Big Question: Will the Vikings regret signing Favre?
* Notable Comings and Goings:
  * Coming: QB Brett Favre, WR Percy Harvin (R), QB Sage Rosenfels
  * Going: C Matt Birk, QB Gus Frerotte, SS Darren Sharper
* 2008 record/2009 projection (change): 10-6/11-5 (+1)
* Analysis: Favre will be one of the missing pieces to help Minnesota improve on last year.  Favre has a better knowledge of the NFC and has Adrian Peterson to work with.  The play action passes will be textbook and that will help give them the edge.

Projected NFC North 2009 Standings
1. Minnesota 11-5
2. Green Bay 10-6
3. Chicago 9-7
4. Detroit 3-13

Join us for our next show (#22) on Saturday night, August 28th, at 11pm ET.  We will wrap up our 2009 NFL Preview with the NFC East and AFC East, which will cover all of our local teams we will concentrate on for the coming season: the Jets, Giants, Patriots, and Eagles.

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