Matt Harab

NFC midseason divisional report card

Dak and dunk is not working out. Tim Warner/Getty Images

NFC East

Redskins (5-2) A:  If we were listing “where the hell did this come from” teams in the league, Washington is right at the top and so is Adrian Peterson.  Talk about resurrection from the dead, he is fifth in the league in rushing, and Washington is just solid everywhere. It is so important to win in the trenches, and this team basically dominates the point of attack  in every game on both sides of the ball. They’re doing it with an old school running back, quarterback, and philosophy. Can they keep up on the scoreboard against the big boys down the road?

Eagles (4-4) B -: Let's just be honest, this team does not look as good as they did last year.  Carson Wentz is playing well coming off the injury; that is the lone bright spot for a very one dimensional team.  Wentz has 13 TDs and 2 interceptions, and keep in mind he has not played in all eight games. He looks great, but this team has zero quality wins.  Atlanta, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and the NY Giants. None of those teams are above .500. Many people think Philly will win this division and four of their first five games are within the division. Show us you’re a true champion Philly.

Cowboys (3-4) C: Dallas fans, are you ready for a really alarming statistic? They have 16 plays that have gone at least 20 yards this year.  THAT’S IT. That is second worst in the league as they trail only the Tennessee Titans. The word that comes to mind when you think about this “Dak and Dunk” offense is underwhelming.  They are the Anti-Kansas City. It’s bland, stale, and just completely unimaginative. Dallas has a great defense this year, but if the combination of playcalling / Dak’s playmaking ability doesn’t improve soon, this team will go nowhere.

Giants (1-7)  F: As a Giants fan this has been the worst season of my life.  I’ve gone through every stage you go through during a break up. 1.) Desperate for answers 2.) Anger 3.) Sadness 4.) Acceptance.  I would like to get to 5.) “redirected hope” but there is no hope with no answer at QB for the future. When you go through a breakup you eventually realize there are 100,000 other fish in the sea and and you go fishing.  I have no idea what the Giants plan is to get a QB, offensive line and defensive line together. This team sucks.

NFC North

Bears (4-3)  B-: There is so much to like about this team. The Khalil Mack acquisition, young innovative offensive mind as the head coach, playmakers all around.  But I think the story in the first half of the year for Chicago is “they could have drafted Patrick Mahomes OR DeShaun Watson.” Mitchell Trubisky is the hot girl that you FINALLY get a chance with.  You ask her out, set up this great date, get a haircut, get your sister to iron your shirt, clean your car and go to pick her up…. Then at the end of the night you drop her off, shake your head and say to yourself damn, her personality SUCKS and she’s got this zit on her nose I cannot unsee. Such a disappointment.  I’m not saying he cannot improve, I’m not saying he’s bad, he’s just a bit disappointing given the weapons and coach that he has and the quarterbacks they could have had.

Vikings (4-3-1) B -:  Just like Philly, lets review the wins.. They have beaten the Jets, Cardinals, Eagles (nice), and San Francisco. Three out of the four are just not very good.  Not having Dalvin Cook has hurt them a lot this year and you just would like to see more from them. Coming into this season I thought they were the most balanced team outside of the Rams.  Solid at every level offensively and defensively but they are losing close games to good teams. They play three divisional games to start the second half, show us who you are.

Packers (3-3-1) C:  This is the only division in football where the team with the best quarterback is not leading the division. Aaron Rodgers needs help from his running game, offensive line, wide receivers and defense. That’s right, he’s more on an island this year than Russell Wilson.  They have not won a road game yet this year and Rodgers' magic has personally won two games for them this year. They SHOULD win this division, but they’ve been underwhelming so far.

Lions (3-4)  C: This is about what I expected the Lions to be this year.  Detroit is this year’s “Never bet on them OR against them” team.  They will have days where they beat Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and they will have days where they lose to the Jets and 49ers.  They are the hands up in the air to the side, confused face emoji. I don’t know what else to say, they are who they are, a slightly below .500 squad.

NFC West

Rams (8-0)  A+: The Rams are just a force, plain and simple.  Where to start with the compliments? Offensive line is tremendous, Todd Gurley is an MVP and Sean McVay is Coach of the Year.  Is that enough? Defensively they get after the quarterback, and if I were to criticize one thing it would be one on one man coverage. However they have had injuries in the secondary this year. Tough stretch of games coming up though against the Saints, Seahawks and Chiefs (how lucky is Mexico City?)  We’ll see if they take a loss..

Seahawks (4-3) B-:  This team has overachieved, no question about it. A running game has finally emerged with Chris Carson, and you have got to give Pete Carroll a ton of credit in addition to Russell Wilson.  If I told you at the beginning of the year that a team with Chris Carson, Mike Davis, David Moore, Ed Dickson, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett as the top skill position players would be averaging 8.5 yards per play (sixthth in the league) you would tell me to get off the internet and stop writing. That’s what they’ve done and it’s impressive.

Cardinals (2-6) D:  I am fearful of Arizona screwing up Josh Rosen’s first year just like I am of Cleveland screwing up Baker Mayfield. They fire their offensive coordinator and just are not giving him a great chance to develop right now.  Nobody expected this team to be good, but Rosen has to LEARN. He has a 55% completion percentage and a 69.0 Passer Rating. I put a lot of this on the coaching staff who can’t get David Johnson working correctly either. This team has had bad leadership since Bruce Arians left.

49ers (1-7) D:  One bad decision ruined this team’s season. Jimmy Garoppolo not stepping out of bounds on a play where he tried to get more yards, cost him a healthy ACL. Dude, you are the FUTURE and the FRANCHISE. Be smarter in the future.

NFC South

Saints (6-1)  A:  I don’t think we’ve seen the best of this team yet, which is scary.  Mark Ingram was suspended the first four games of the season and just like last year, this defense started slow. I think they only get better from here with Michael Thomas having a career year and the threat of running the football with two quality backs is super scary to any defensive coordinator.  Drew Brees, just like Tom Brady, has not declined with age. I love this team.

Panthers (5-2)  A: Cam Newton has at least two touchdowns in each of his last six games.  Norv Turner has come in and totally progressed this offense. John Harbaugh gave a quote after Carolina beat Baltimore last week saying “They out-schemed us.”  That is the offensive coordinator doing one hell of a job, and that is Newton buying in. With 13 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, he has a 97.4 passer rating which is the second most he has averaged in his career.  Cam is also completing 66% of his passes which is the best percentage in his career. I CANNOT WAIT until they play the Saints the last two weeks of the year

Falcons (3-4)  C: Injuries have killed this team on both sides of the ball.  Having said that, I believe they have the best trio of wideouts with Ridley, Sanu, and Jones.  I’m actually relatively curious if they can make a push for a wildcard just because of the offensive firepower they have.   

Bucs 3-4  C: The Fitzmagic flame was rekindled last week, but realistically this team is going nowhere.  They fired their defensive coordinator already and they have a really long-term quarterback dilemma.  Is Jameis Winston their guy? The 10 interceptions in four games leads me to think the answer is no.


 

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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