Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cleaning the Junk Drawer, part 2

LaDainian Tomlinson is cooked. Yes, Tomlinson put up respectable numbers, but for the second straight year he broke down at the end of the season and has been the most talented bench warmer in the playoffs.

Each of the last two seasons Tomlinson's yards per rush average has decreased - first by half a yard, and then between this past season and the previous one, a shade under a yard. Tomlinson ran for fewer yards, produced fewer yards from scrimmage and averaged fewer rushing yards per game than at any other time in his career.

Over and above that, Tomlinson might be one of the more overrated running backs...ever. He's a regular season stud, but he's a post season dud.

Consider, for a guy who's supposed to be a game changer, he's come up flat in the big games - in six post-season appearances Tomlinson has averaged 3.6 yards per rush (regular season - 4.4), and only once exceeded 80 yards rushing (123 in a loss to the Patriots). The Chargers are 3-3 in the post season with Tomlinson, but in the team's three wins, Tomlinson has combined to rush for 95 yards (28, 42, and 25) in those three games on 33 carries (2.9 yards per carry). Not exactly an impact player in the NFL's second season.

The current rumor is that Scott Pioli is likely to land the KC position. If that happens, don't be surprised if Josh McDaniels ends up there - or Matt Cassel. It would be kind of ironic if Cassel ends up as the starter for the team that, in essence, launched his pro career, wouldn't it?

I would not be the least bit surprised if all three end up in the same place. The only issue I see is that if it is KC, that Pioli won't want to give up that first round pick because the Chiefs are desperately in need of a stud offensive lineman - unless he believes that the draft is deep enough that he will be able to get someone in the second or third round that can make a difference up front.

What the hell happened to the Celtics in the last two weeks?

I think the American League East is a lot of ifs -

If the Yankees pitching staff stays healthy, they can make the playoffs. Sure, they're likely to have a solid one-two with CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang, but AJ Burnett has a history of injury, as does Joba Chamberlain when he starts (that goes back to before he was drafted - it's why the Yankees were able to get him with the 41st pick). If the Yankees have to rely on Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy for a significant number of starts, they should forget about the playoffs in the Bronx.

If Josh Beckett returns to form, and Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka continue to develop the way they have been, then the Sox have the best staff in the East and should make the playoffs.

If the Rays staff - including the bullpen - repeats the year they just had, they should be the favorites, particularly given the signing of Pat Burrell. Burrell is not a superstar, but he is a solid middle of the order (5th, 6th) sort of batter that will knock in about 90 runs and score about 72 runs in a season.

Speaking of the Yankees - kind of offensive that they go out and commit to over $400 million in contracts and then turnaround and tell the City of New York that they need $300 million more to finish the stadium, isn't it?

As good as the Eagles and the Ravens looked this past weekend, I don't think either team will go all the way, although I give the Ravens a better chance than the Eagles. Philly has a tendency to become too one dimensional. The flip side is that I don't trust the Giants without Plaxico Burress - they just haven't been that great without him.

I'm not saying that the best team is going to win the Super Bowl, but if I were to call it, I would say that the likely winner will be whoever is left standing in the Steelers-Ravens game, as long as the winner of that contest comes out healthy. Were I to rank the remaining teams based on their chances, I think I would look at it like this -

  1. Steelers
  2. Titans
  3. Ravens
  4. Panthers
  5. Giants
  6. Eagles
  7. Cardinals
  8. Chargers
If I had to venture a guess, the winner will be from the top four listed there and that the Giants will not repeat. Just a hunch.

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