Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Story lines

There are some interesting story lines developing around sports right now. Some short term, some long term. I wanted to look at some...

Short term...

The Orlando Magic are one blown alley-oop away from being up 2-1 in the finals. Can they actually come back from down 2-0, or are they just making the NBA finals interesting?

Can the Penguins actually go into Detroit and pull off the upset?

Longer term stories to watch...

At some point this season the Yankees are going to win a game against the Red Sox. It could be tonight, it might not be until the next series. But will the Yankees inability to beat the Sox early in the season come back to haunt them late in the season? And on the flip side, how much could this early dominance by Boston play into the team winning the division?

Is David Ortiz actually showing signs of breaking out of his slump? He's riding a seven game hitting streak, and has had hits in 9 of his last 12. Even though it's the only time this season that he's had a hitting streak last more than three games, he hasn't exactly been tearing the cover off the ball. He's had only one multi-hit game in that stretch, and is 10 for 48 (.208) - even if you just look at his seven game hitting streak, he's a respectable 8 for 29 (.276), not exactly tearing the cover off the ball, but better. Right now it's a more compelling story than the Red Sox trials and tribulations at short stop. Will he or won't he?

As bad as Ortiz has been at the plate, Chien-Ming Wang has been worse on the mound for the Yankees. How far can they expect to go with a completely ineffective (defective?) Wang. They're already keeping their fingers crossed that AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain can stay healthy, what is their future (this season) going to look like if they have to rely on an imminently hittable Phil Hughes? And how long can Andy Pettitte go, with batters hitting over .280 against him?

I can't help but think over on the gridiron that the Patrick Pass signing was more or less to add depth at the position for training camp. Does he have a shot at the team? Sure, but I would be surprised if he were on the roster on opening day. Honestly, I would be surprised if he made it to the final cuts. It should be interesting to watch.

Of course, there's always the question of Tom Brady's knee, and how he will respond in game situations. A lot of people are talking about early season issues due to shaking the rust off, and while possible, I think Brady will get the time and reps to do that during the preseason games. What people aren't talking about is how the Patriots' schedule might impact their high-octane offense.

After the bye week in 2007, on the team's way to the only 16-0 regular season, the Patriots played seven consecutive cold weather games, four of which were in Gillette, the rest of which were at the Meadowlands, at Buffalo, and at Baltimore. In the coming season, after the bye the Patriots will play nine games. Four games are at home - Miami on November 8, the Jets on November 22, Carolina on December 13, and Jacksonville on December 27. Of those, only the Jets game starts later than 1:00, and the Miami game is early enough in the season that the weather may or may not be a factor.

Of the other five games, one is in Buffalo, three are either in domes or stadiums with retractible roofs (Indy, New Orleans, and Houston), and the other is in Miami. With about half of their remaining games being played either indoors or in warm places, the Patriots offense has a chance to really light things up...assuming Brady is perfectly healthy.

Outside of New England, these are the things to watch -

The play calling of the new staff in Indianapolis. This is going to go a long way towards determining where the Colts end up this season. Will it be a seamless transition from last year? Do all the coaches have a good instinct for the right defense at the right time? Will they find they have the right people at the right positions?

Is Rex Ryan the right man for the job in New York, and are they really going to make any noise with their current quarterback situation?

Can Chad Pennington stay healthy for the entire season? Pennington has struggled his entire career to put together back to back healthy seasons. When healthy he's a top ten QB in the league - no, he doesn't rack up big statistics, but he's smart and doesn't turn the ball over a whole lot, and wins, even with sub-par talent. If Pennington can't stay healthy, the Dolphins have no chance. Healthy, they can still get to the playoffs.

How is the Buffalo soap opera going to play out? Sure, they managed to get an extra weapon in Terrell Owens, but he's paired with, easily, the worst quarterback of his career (after dealing with Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, Drew Bledsoe, and Tony Romo), and they open the season without their star running back for three games. If the team starts off 0-3 or 1-2, what's the likelihood that Owens will hold his tongue? The Bills are on the verge of becoming the AFC East's Bengals, or Raiders.

Speaking of the Bengals, after admitting to the press that he mailed it in back in 2008, are there any teammates that are going to trust Chad Ochocinco?

How's Jay Cutler going to fare without any legitimate, top-flight receivers?

How are teams like Denver, Cleveland and Kansas going to fare under their new regimes?

Will Lance Armstrong be ready for the Tour de France coming off his injury?

Off-hand, those are just some of the ones I can think of. Should be a fun year.

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