Christian McCaffrey official Twitter account
This week, 8 of 14 games were decided by one score or less. To clarify, I'm talking about a touchdown and two-point conversion or less. We even saw a couple top dogs take it on the chin, as well as toothless dog show some bite. Here are my observations:
-Panthers' running back Christian McCaffrey is a bad man! McCaffrey on pace to break the yards from scrimmage record and has 13 touchdowns. Sure Kyle Allen is playing as good as one could expect in the year of the backup quarterback, but McCaffrey is the straw that stirs the drink in Carolina. I have him as a 1a or 1b in the MVP race after his 27 touch 166 yard three touchdown performance in a 30-20 win over the Titans.
-Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson broke the Patriots' 21 game win streak over rookie or second year quarterbacks in a 37-20 win. Jackson went 17/23 for 163 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 16 times for 61 yards and two more touchdowns. Better yet, he didn't turn the ball over and was only sacked once. So much for "he can't play quarterback" or "he should convert to wide receiver" talk.
-Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the other half of McCaffrey's 1a or 1b in the MVP race. Wilson threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-34 overtime win over the Bucs. On the season, he has 22 touchdowns and only one interception. He's doing this without the help of a star running back or receiver. Not poopoo-ing his teammates, but none of those guys have been named to an All Pro team previously except Tyler Lockett.
-The Dolphins were able to beat the Jets 26-18. This is a bad thing several reasons. One: the Dolphins were supposed to be "Tanking for Tua" so a win hurts their chances of landing the first overall pick. Second: the Jets have enough talent to be a more competitive team, but are coached by the same guy the Dolphins fired last season. Third: Sam Darnold threw a ridiculous red zone interception. No wonder the Patriots make the playoffs every year.
-Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston replicated his 2015 Rose Bowl fumble return for a touchdown in thier loss to the Seahawks. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it. But Jameis, again, evaded pressure and fumbled the ball backwards only for the opposition to return it for a touchdown. This, amongst other reasons, are why he most likely won't or shouldn't be back with the Bucs next season.
-The Browns are the biggest dumpster fire in the NFL right now. After losing 24-19 to the Broncos, they're now 2-6 on the season and have no hope of making the playoffs after some picked them to win the AFC North. They were a sexy Super Bowl pick. Now, they're more talked about for what Baker Mayfield says in press conferences, or what Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry's pregame gear is about.
-Former Browns safety Jermaine Whitehead became former Browns safety when he decided to go Twitter thug on some reporters following their loss to the Broncos. He tweeted some profane language, racist remarks and even threw in a death threat as well as a standing invitation to fight. Players are given a cool off period after games before media obligations. Someone should take their phones as well because he reportedly did this while still in uniform!
-Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett sprained his MCL in his left knee. While they're optimistic he will be able to play against the Dolphins Sunday, they're not sure. If Brissett misses the game or isn't fully healthy against the Texans in a couple weeks, it could cost them the AFC South division title. All of this comes on the heels of him taking over for Andrew Luck after his abrupt retirement.
-The Bears are 3-5 and look like they're going nowhere fast. Despite having one of the better defenses in the league, their quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is dumpster juice. The 49ers hoodwinked them into trading up for what is the worst of the three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2017 draft. They took him over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Yikes!
I remember watching Rocky IV over and over as a kid. We had it on VHS and I'm pretty sure I wore it out. The scene when Rocky finally cuts Drago and Duke tells him he's not a machine, he's a man is iconic. Well the Ravens did that to the Patriots, and to a lesser extent, the Chargers did that to the Packers. Meanwhile, there are teams barely treading water (Lions, Jags, and Eagles), and others sinking fast (Browns, Bears, and Titans). We're over the hump of the midpoint and the light at the end of the regular season tunnel is now visible. It's still a ways off, but we can see what's ahead. Some of these teams are hoping not to get tripped up along the way. Others are hoping to just make it to the end in one piece.
With the signing of Josh Hader, the Astros have strengthened their bullpen. The bullpen was seen as a weakness. If you could get the starter out after five, maybe six innings and be within striking distance, you could beat the Astros. The starters were all injured or at least missed some time last season. If they were healthy, they had control issues. Now, the starters are almost all healthy (get well soon LMJ, Luis Garcia) and the bullpen has gone from weakness to maybe the best group on the team.
So…now what? What's the next move to help this team keep its championship window open? I addressed some of this last week before the Hader signing. Looking back on that, let's look forward and create a course of action for the Astros to remain in title contention for years to come:
Re-sign Jose Altuve: This is the first order of business. He's going to be 34 on May 6 and in the last year of his extension. Has his play dropped off some? Yes, but his level of play was so high, the drop-off in production is still respectable. He's the guy you think of when you think of Houston Astros baseball. You can Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio me all you want. Neither of them managed to bring a ring to this city. Bagwell won an MVP, but that's about it. Altuve is the heart and soul of this team and should retire here as long as he's somewhat productive, which he's remained.
Re-sign Kyle Tucker: While Yordan Alvarez may be the best hitter on this team now, Tucker may be the best overall player. He's got all five tools and hits lefty. Tucker will turn 28 in July and has one more year of arbitration left after this year. Then he'll hit free agency if he's not re-signed. A 29-year-old lefty with all five tools in the open market? Yeah, that deal will START somewhere in the $25-30 million per year range! GM Dana Brown is known for re-signing young talent to extensions. If he gets this one done, he'll help nail down his legacy in Houston, barely two years into the gig.
Give Cody Bellinger a Brinks truck: “Jermaine, you do realize you want them to re-sign Tucker, though?” RIGHT?!? Thank you, Captain Obvious! This team needs another bat in the outfield, like we all need to bathe and put on deodorant before we leave the house. Unfortunately like some of you, this team also tends to ignore the obvious. Having two good outfielders who can hit and are on the right side of 30 on long term deals sets you up for future success. So what if they're waiting on prospects to get to the show. How does that help the 2024 version of this team win? Do you wait until 2025? 2026? By then, most of your older core will be too old and not as good or productive. Added bonus of this move- if Tucker doesn't re-sign, you have his replacement in-house.
Alex Bregman can stay…for the right price: I love Bregman. From his brash attitude, to his style of play, even his media interactions. He's the consummate teammate. The guy learned to speak Spanish to better communicate with them, for God's sake. However, his production has had a noticeable drop. If he wants to return, he has to do so knowing he's not going to get paid what he thinks he may deserve. Let him hit the open market and find his value. If it matches the budget, fine. If not, we wish you the best in your future endeavors. He's a part of this team's lore forever, but business decisions need to be made. (This was hard for me to type!)
Make Yordan a 1st baseman: Yordan will be here for the foreseeable future. He's one of the most lovable guys on the team, and happens to be the best hitter. While I may on the wrong side of 40, so are Yordan's knees. In order to preserve him, and his knees, he needs to play 1st base. Jose Abreu and his inflated contract can have several seats. Jim Crane will have to eat this one and literally pay for not having a real GM at the time of that signing. Yordan can DH when he's playing the outfield, but if they make some of those moves listed above, he won't have to.
This team has numerous interesting prospects in the pipeline. Jacob Melton (OF) is one of them. Spencer Arrighetti (RHP) is another. Hunter Brown is already up on the big league team and made waves last season. I want to see more of these guys getting a shot while they're still young. See what they can/can't do at the big league level early on. If nothing else, it tells us what they need to work on before being called up. Or, it could help you move on from a vet. Either way, I'm digging the infusion of youth and look forward to more.