GOOD, BAD AND UGLY

NFL Week Eight Observations: Big deals spice up trade deadline

Alex Smith is having a great year, but the Chiefs are winning with defense. Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Week Eight in the NFL was just as crazy and exciting as we’ve all come to expect from the game we love. Not as crazy and exciting as game five of the baseball title series, but it served to appease our appetites.

The Good

-The Kansas City Chiefs are talented on defense as well. I’ve praised Andy Reid on his use of offensive weapons, but getting five turnovers from the Denver Broncos to win 29-19 was impressive. On a night when the offense wasn’t working, this was a clutch performance by the defense.

-The Minnesota Vikings are 6-2 despite being down to what amounts to their third string quarterback and not having prized rookie running back Dalvin Cook. The defense remains stout, run game is consistent, and Case Keenum is manning the quarterback position nicely. The Vikings are the definition of next man up.

-Last week I said the Buffalo Bills need to get LeSean McCoy more scoring opportunities if they want to maintain their winning ways. McCoy ran for 151 yards and a touchdown Sunday in another Bills win pulling them to 5-2 on the season.  Yes Virginia, the Bills are for real.

-The New Orleans Saints have managed to win five in a row beating the Chicago Bears 20-12. Despite two fourth quarter fumbles by Mark Ingram, the defense managed to hold on and secure the victory when rookie corner Marshon Lattimore sealed the victory with an athletic interception. Who would’ve thought the Saints defense would be the catalyst behind a 5-2, NFC South leading start.

The Bad

-Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed can’t stay healthy. He’s perpetually hurt despite his immense talent. Now it’s a hamstring injury that limited him to one catch for five yards in Sunday’s 33-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Same injury will most likely keep him out against the Seattle Seahawks this coming Sunday. Kirk Cousins looks worse for wear whenever Reed isn’t his safety valve.

-The 2-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ woes can be tied to franchise quarterback Jameis Winston’s inconsistencies. They brought in more weapons (1st round draft pick tight end OJ Howard and free agent wide receiver Desean Jackson), but he’s still as up and down as an instable stock. On consecutive throws in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, he threaded a needle between Luke Kuechly and Captain Munnerlyn, then overthrew a wide open Adam Humphries.

-Despite beating the New York Jets 25-20 in what looked like a monsoon Sunday, the 4-3 Atlanta Falcons’ offense doesn’t look the same this year without Kyle Shanahan calling plays. Last year, they threatened to hang 40 every week. Now, they’ve only scored 30+ in two of their seven games.

The Ugly

-Bears’ tight end Zach Miller severely dislocated his knee against the Saints Sunday. He underwent emergency vascular surgery to repair a torn artery which saved his leg. To make matters worse, his would be touchdown catch on the play he injured himself was called back.

-San Diego Chargers’ Travis Benjamin muffed a punt, recovered it, ran backwards into the endzone, and was tackled there for a safety. This play is a microcosm of the Chargers’ season and recent history.

-Mother Nature caused the Falcons/Jets and Cowboys/Redskins games to be played in torrential downpour rain conditions. At one point, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan held his throwing hand under his jersey to keep it dry until he snapped the ball. Here’s another vote for retractable roof stadiums.

Bonus Coverage: NFL trade deadline deals are pretty rare. However, despite Tuesday’s 3 p.m. Eastern time deadline, two pretty big deals were finalized on Monday. The Houston Texans sent embattled left tackle Duane Brown to the Seattle Seahawks for draft picks and cornerback Jeremy Lane, while the New England Patriots dealt quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a draft pick. Both deals appear to help both teams get what they need. Only time will tell who got the better of each deal.

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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