This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 09/29/2008
A - Armstrong, Lance. Let the circus begin - Lance Armstrong now officially has a team, Astana, and is heading towards the Tour de France. It's a slightly odd move in that the team was booted from the race last year for doping. The man in charge of the team was the guy in charge of Lance's glory days, though, so the strange association is worth it. Lance is serious about proving he is clean - he has hired an anti-doping expert to test him whenever he wants to and post the results online.
B - Burress, Plaxico. This guy may be turning into an elite receiver, but he sure isn't without problems. The Giants have suspended him for two weeks (a bye and a game) after he reportedly failed to show up at practice for two days or answer his phone. On top of that, reports are floating around that he has been fined by the team 40 or 50 times. Wow. That makes you wonder two things - will he be a distraction, and did the team think things through before they locked him up long-term heading into this season?
C - Curlin. Horse racing has a new all-time earnings leader. Curlin beat a solid field in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Saturday to surpass Cigar and become the first horse ever to earn $10 million. His next move is unclear. His owners have long said they won't run in the Breeders' Cup Classic because of the synthetic surface, but the horse flew to Santa Anita on Sunday and will try the surface in training. My guess is that he will be fine and he'll enter the race to take a shot at Big Brown and his trash-talking connections.
D - Duke. Is it possible that the Blue Devils are actually learning how to play football? It's way too soon to know for sure, but the signs are there. The perennial bottom dwellers are 3-2, and they snapped a 25-game ACC losing streak with a blowout win over Virginia. QB Thaddeus Lewis completed nine of 10 at the start of the second half and the team put up three touchdowns in 10 minutes. It's amazing what can happen when a team finally hires a good coach.
E - Ellis, Monta. This is turning into a farce, and I love it. Fresh off signing a big new contract, the Warriors' biggest star by default hurt his ankle and is likely going to miss the preseason and a month or so of the season. He said it was a basketball injury at home that caused the problem, but it turns out that it was a moped accident. A moped accident?!? What in the world is an NBA player doing riding a moped? That's just plain embarrassing.
F - Favre, Brett. Every time it gets tempting to write this guy off he does something to make you regret your thoughts. Favre had looked mostly average during the season, but he busted out in grand style this week against Arizona. He threw for a career high six touchdowns on Sunday. He was accurate and confident as he led his team to a massive second quarter and a much-needed win. So much for that ankle injury coming into the game that was supposed to impede him.
G - Golf cart. There are few things more entertaining to hear about than bizarre athlete injuries, and Erik Johnson, the defenseman formerly chosen first overall by the St. Louis Blues gave us a real doozy. He's likely going to miss the NHL season after a golf cart mishap. He reportedly tore knee ligaments getting out of a golf cart. I'm not a finely tuned athlete by any means, but I have managed to get out of several golf carts unscathed, so you really have to wonder what parts of this story we aren't hearing.
H - Houston. The Texans aren't building on the promise of their 8-8 season last year, and they are still winless, but at least they showed signs of meaningful life against Jacksonville. They took the Jaguars to overtime, and for the first time in a long time Matt Schaub actually looked like an NFL quarterback. That and the continued emergence of Steve Slaton gives the team some reason for hope. The game also reinforced something that has already been evident - the Jags just aren't completely right yet.
I - Injury. After 133 consecutive games, Jason Taylor snapped his starting streak on Sunday when he was inactive against the Cowboys. Before that, though, thing got a little scary. He was rushed into surgery on Tuesday over fears that his career, and his future dancing career, could be in jeopardy. He was kicked in the calf against Arizona, and that caused a giant mass of blood to collect on his ankle. It was something called compartmental syndrome, and apparently that's not good. The Skins look like they are just fine without him, so he can take all the time he needs.
J - Jimmie Johnson. The two-time NASCAR champ is on his way to a third after a win in Kansas this week put him on top of the Chase. It was a crazy, crazy win, too. Johnson took the lead 220 laps into the 267-lap race and looked in control, but Carl Edwards was determined to win and would go to great lengths to do so. He tried to squeeze by and even bounced off the wall, but Johnson was able to hold on. The Chase nightmare continued for regular season leader Kyle Busch. He had big engine troubles and ended up 28th. He's now 12th and last in the Chase.
K - Kansas City. How in the world did that happen? The Broncos were heavily favored against the Chiefs. Obviously. Yet somehow Damon Huard looked like a pro, and Larry Johnson was as good as he has ever been, and Kansas City won their first game in what seems like decades. Kansas City deserves credit for sure, but the real issue here is that the Broncos have a truly awful defense and their potent offense isn't going to be enough to save them if they don't do something about that. Soon.
L - Lions, Detroit. It took far, far too long, but the Lions finally did the right thing - Matt Millen is no longer the man in charge. Of course, it would have made sense for the team to find themselves a new leader a while ago before Millen had driven the franchise right into the ground. Here's hoping that this is a good lesson for teams - you shouldn't give a guy the keys to your team just because he can sound smart when he reads a teleprompter in the broadcast booth.
M - Mosley, Sugar Shane. Ricardo Mayorga lost to Mosley in a knockout at the last second. Literally. Mayorga went down at the last possible moment in the last round. That was the second knockdown in the last 15 seconds of the 12th round. Strangely, up to that point the fight had been close and both fighters had looked tired but okay. Mosley is now talking about all sorts of plans for his next fight. I just wish he had the good sense to retire while he is still ahead.
N - Navy. It was an action-packed week for the Navy football team. First, they were offered a spot in the 2010 Poinsettia bowl provided they are eligible. That will make travel plans easy. Then they got one of the stranger wins of the week. They beat the ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons, but they certainly didn't do it through the air. Navy only attempted four passes en route to scoring 24 points. They completed three, so the percentage was good, but that's just ridiculous. On the other hand, why pass when you can run 59 times and still average almost five yards per run.
O - Oklahoma. For the first time since 2003 the Sooners are back on top. Though they did have a nice win against a pesky TCU squad this week, there is no denying that Oklahoma has climbed to where they are through the actions of others. It could be very tough for the Sooners to stay on top, too. The Big 12 is very tough this year, with four teams in the AP Top 7. Oklahoma plays two of the other three, and would likely have to get through Missouri in the conference championship. Still, with Sam Braford shooting the lights out like he is nothing is impossible.
P - Pirates, East Carolina. What a fall from grace. After big upsets over Virginia Tech and West Virginia, the Pirates have seemingly forgotten how to win. They barely beat Tulane three weeks ago, lost to NC State last week, then were manhandled by Houston this week. Case Keenum couldn't throw an incomplete pass if he tried for Houston, and the Pirates couldn't get anything going on either side of the ball. Needless to say, East Carolina is no longer ranked.
Q - Quit. Every single person who draws a salary from the Mets' organization needs to quit immediately. For the second year in a row the Mets have come from way ahead down the stretch to miss out on the playoffs. It's not just that they threw it away yet again that is so stunning. It's that management doesn't seem to care. All indications are that the coach and GM will be back for another year. Bringing back that pair seems like a great way to break out a new stadium next year. What a mess.
R - Redskins. Washington looked truly awful in their first game, but in the three games since Jim Zorn has looked like he might actually know how to coach. The tem has progressively improved in each game, capped by an impressive upset of Dallas as 11.5-point underdogs. The most impressive part of that was that it was in Dallas, yet the Redskins looked totally unphased, and controlled the game at times when no one thought they would. If nothing else, the game proved that the NFC East is the toughest, hardest to handicap division in the league.
S - Scott Linehan. Well, that didn't take long. The Rams' bye week had only barely started before Linehan was booted out of the head coach's office. Jim Haslett will take over for the rest of the year. The move won't save a completely lost season, but it had to be done. As soon as Linehan made the odd move to bench Marc Bulger and the team spoke up against it you knew that things were totally and utterly beyond hope. Now if only the Raiders would hurry up and do the same thing.
T - Tide. Wow. Nick Saban is perhaps both the worst person and the best coach on the planet. He proved that he has Alabama way ahead of schedule when he went into Georgia and absolutely destroyed the Bulldogs. It was 31-0 at the half, and it only got closer than that in the end because Alabama let it. The Tide not only played better in the skill positions, but totally dominated the line of scrimmage in both sides of the ball. They were scary.
U - USC. The Trojans just need to figure out a way to avoid playing in Corvallis. We've heard this before, - a highly regarded Trojans team has their grand ambitions derailed when they are upset by Oregon State. The stunning part of the Beavers' win wasn't that it happened, but that it didn't look like a fluke. For well over half the game the Beavers looked like the better team. USC had looked unbeatable in their first two games, but they looked decidedly average on Thursday.
V - Villegas, Camilo. No one seems to care about the PGA's ridiculous playoff format, but Camilo Villegas sure is a fan of it. The Colombian got his first career win in the BMW Championship, the third of four FedEx Cup events, and then followed that up with another win in the Cup-ending Tour Championship. He needed a playoff hole against Sergio Garcia to do it, but the win earned him second in the Cup behind Vijay Singh, and certainly set the tone for next season.
W - Wolverines. Yes, Virginia, miracles do happen. At halftime against Wisconsin my beloved Wolverines had a pathetic 21 yards of total offense and five more turnovers to go with the six million they had against Notre Dame. Things looked bleak. Yet somehow they turned the 19-0 deficit into a 27-25 win - the second biggest comeback in the history of the Big House. It was far from perfect, and there is still a lot of work to do, but this first big win over a ranked team is a clear sign that the future of the Rich Rodriguez era is bright.
X - eXtreme. I think CC Sabathia may be a robot. The Brewers are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1982, and Sabathia is the biggest single reason for that. In an era where pitchers never pitch on three days rest, Sabathia did it three games in a row. He won twice over that stretch, including a dominating complete game performance against the Cubs in the last game of the season - the win that ultimately was enough to earn the playoff spot. If I was Milwaukee, I think I'd just throw Sabathia in every game of the NLDS. There's no reason to believe he can't do it.
Y - Yankees. New York won't want to remember much about their season, but one of their more likable players got a much-deserved milestone. Mike Mussina won his 20th game on Sunday. It was the first time in his career that the 39 year old had reached that pinnacle. Mussina had looked to be on the decline in recent years, but his ERA was the best since 2001. He has 270 career wins now, so 300 is certainly possible given his resurgence.
Z - Zzzzz. Football in the state of Ohio is virtually unwatchable these days. I'm not even going to take a shot at Ohio State, because I don't need to. The Bengals are an absolute mess on both sides of the ball, and the loss of Carson Palmer certainly doesn't help. The Browns are almost as bad, and only managed to salvage a little bit of respectability because they were able to beat Cincinnati. The most intriguing thing in Cleveland is the fact that Brady Quinn is still on the sideline despite Derek Anderson's awful play. Does Romeo Crennel have something against the former Irish star, or is Quinn just that bad?