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Alex Cora…

…so I feel like I should comment on the whole cheating scandal going on in Major League Baseball.  Not only because it involves the Boston Red Sox.  But also because the New England Patriots have been known to ummmmm…push the envelope a time or three as well.  So I guess it is in the water here.  Or it’s prevalent around all leagues.  Either way…

The punishment has not come out against the Red Sox as of yet, so I am not really sure how I feel about them in particular.  Though the punishment has been levied against the Houston Astros already, they still seem to be the focus of the public somehow.  I’ll take that.

There is nothing really to write about the actual Red Sox team either.  Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has spent the offseason basically exchanging bum/unproven relievers for…bum/unproven relievers.  And NOT cutting payroll, as he was apparently “mandated” to do.  He also got rid of some AAAA infielders and signed a backup catcher.  So there’s that.  Oh, and now he has to find a manager.  Seems pretty productive thus far, right?

So instead of wasting any words on Sam Travis, Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Springs or Matt Hall, here are some completely random thoughts on the cheating coming out of my head, in no particular order.  And I am not even guaranteeing they will make any sense either:

*As written in an ESPN article, “Cora is described by commissioner Rob Manfred as being “involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.””

YIKES!!

Yeah, based on that, I can’t say I am surprised by the Sox firing him…oops, I mean, “agreed with Alex to mutually part ways…”  Sorry about that.

But what penalty can Cora expect?  Based on the year that former Astro manager A.J. Hinch received, is there a chance Cora gets banned for life?  Is it worse than what Pete Rose did to get him banned for life?

I may be the wrong guy to ask about Rose.  Truly an abhorrable (abhorrent?) individual, he bet on his own team while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.  He may have not been the only one doing it, but he was dumb enough to get caught.  And, not to mention, dumb enough to do it in the first place.  Some may point out that he may have been showing confidence in his own team that day.  But he also likely tanked other days to assure the team was at its best the day he threw money down on them.  Or something like that.  In any event, despite being a colossal scumbag, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame as a player.  Since he would be far from the only scumbag in the Hall.

But I digress.  As for Cora…I don’t even know the answer.  It would seem kind of obvious that he would get more than Hinch.  But life?

I can’t go there unless I hear more damning evidence against him.  Perhaps that comes when the Red Sox investigation is complete.

*What does MLB do from here?  I mean, video is everywhere.  Some dude can take video from the 6th row and get valuable information, can’t he?  The Astro dude that was standing in plain view and recording in games against the Red Sox, Indians and who knows who else…was that even necessary?

I know the teams have some sort of video rooms in the back and all.  But even if they were eliminated, would that make a difference?

I’ve actually been wondering for years how on an NFL telecast in any year someone like Tony Romo, Troy Aikman or Cris Collinsworth say stuff early on like, “when we spoke to the quarterback and coaches on Friday, they told us they were going to do (this) to (combat the other team)”.  I mean, no one listens to the telecast and communicates that to the opposing sideline?  Yeah, it isn’t the whole game plan.  And maybe what was said was kind of obvious.  But still…

Video and recording devices are all around us.  How do you stop it?  I don’t know.  And I am not sure MLB does either.

*What about player suspensions?  Will we see any of those?

My guess is no.  For several reasons.  Are any of the reports going to single out any of the players?  Are there really any players that took advantage more than others?  Did some players frown upon it, but had no choice to go along with the plan due to pressure from their teammates/coaches (reports are that Hinch didn’t love what was going on and broke two monitors at some point.  But ultimately did nothing to stop it, so of course he is paying the price),

And above all, how can you suspend 25-40 players?

Perhaps heavy manager/GM penalties may discourage players from engaging in this practice going forward.  But can we count on that?

*And if they are going after General Managers, why not the owners?  I guess the draft picks and the 5 mil takes care of that part.

However, Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner faced some personal penalties years ago.  So who is to say the owners shouldn’t pay some sort of personal price here as well?

We know for these guys 5 mil is pocket change.

More questions than answers, I know.  But MLB is undoubtedly in the same spot.

And one thing is for sure, cheating is never going away…in any sport.

If it’s not video, it’s Apple watches, it’s performance enhancing drugs, it’s deflating footballs, or it’s something else.  And then something new will inevitably come along.

Sign stealing has been happening for years, in fact.  We all know that.  It’s just a little more high tech now.

So as the world becomes more complicated, busy and distracting…good luck to every sport for figuring all THAT out…

I Take It Back?

In recent weeks I have been saying that I feel like the New England Patriots have enough pieces on offense to make the whole thing work.  That they were still trying to integrate guys like Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry into the mix.  That they still had Julian Edelman and James White.  That the running backs have enough talent to be better.  That the tight ends are decent enough.  Etc.

But…I may have been wrong.  And I could be finally ready to admit it.

Now, I don’t have access to the coach’s film like some people that cover the team.  And some of them saw progress against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

I didn’t see it from my angle.

The Pats should have pummeled these pathetic Bengals, similar to how they pummeled all those bad teams at the beginning of the year.  Especially with the 5 turnovers.  Especially when they had some tape of the Bengals’ sideline to work with…oops…sorry, was that out loud?!

But they found themselves down by the end of the first quarter and barely up at the half.  And looked fairly brutal for most of the game.

Tom Brady missed open guys.  Receivers were dropping passes.  A bunch of punts.  All that.

Never really looked good to me.

Of course, it appears that Edelman is extremely banged up.  And Brady may have a bum elbow to boot.  Factors that have to be considered for sure.

To that I say, if Jules can’t go, that’s a wrap.  Even if Brady ends up being completely healthy.

It would be hard for me to believe the offense could move the ball at all without a somewhat healthy Edelman.  Since James White apparently has been defended more by someone in the defensive secondary instead of a plodding linebacker and isn’t as open as he used to be, Jules has been really been Brady’s only reliable target.  Even if, with all the drops this year, he hasn’t been as reliable as he usually is.

I just don’t think we can really count on the rest of the corps right now.  For a variety of reasons that we have been through before.  I just wasn’t ready to face those facts.  I am kind of ready to now.

UNLESS they get the running game going.  But I’m not counting on that with this offensive line.  Sure, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead looked pretty good Sunday.  But…the Bengals.

Big test this week against a top defense in the Buffalo Bills.  Being at Foxborough should definitely help.  And I do expect the Pats to win the game.  But I am also not counting on any offensive fireworks, that’s for sure.  Hope I am wrong.

Speaking of Edelman, despite the drops, we were really hoping he would make the Pro Bowl this year.

PRO BOWL?!!  WHO CARES??!

True.  Normally I don’t care.  Especially since we know it’s a popularity contest.  Same guys go every year it seems.  Not to mention we hope that no Patriots CAN even go, meaning they would be in the Super Bowl again.  Not to mention that like a quarter of the team usually backs out, so Jules may still get there if the Pats lose early in the playoffs.

My only thing with Edelman is that somehow he has never made one.  People actually put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame conversation.  And he hasn’t even made one single Pro Bowl?

Just would have been nice to see, that’s all.

But we know the Pats don’t care, so why should we?

Moving on…

So the Thursday Night Football slate is done for the season.  The feeling here was that the picks were brutal on this night over the course of the season.  But they weren’t as bad as I thought.  9-8 against the spread and 11-6 straight up.  Not too bad!!

We will separate the Saturday games out from the rest in this case.  Actually, let’s just do them all…

Houston (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Big win at Tennessee last week put the Texans in the driver’s seat for the AFC South.  Another matchup with the Titans next week to end the regular season and that is sure to be a big one too.  Let down for Houston this week?  Well, we saw it against the Broncos the previous Sunday.  But I’m betting it doesn’t happen again.

Houston 30, Tampa Bay 24.  

Buffalo at New England (-6.5)

The Bills are trying to prove they are ready for Prime Time.  But…Josh Allen still stinks.  There is just no way to sugarcoat this.

New England 20, Buffalo 17.  

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco (-6.5)

What a bad loss for the Niners last week.  The Falcons.  The way it went down.  They would have been better off getting smoked like the Rams did.  Guess LA was not back on track.

San Francisco 38, Los Angeles Rams 23.  

Carolina at Indianapolis (-6.5)

The Colts were brutal on Monday Night Football.  But the Panthers are down to their third string QB.

Indianapolis 27, Carolina 16.  

New York Giants at Washington (-2.5)

Wake me up when this one is over.

Washington 17, New York Giants 13.  

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tennessee

Good for Drew Brees last week.  But have a gut feeling the Titans show up this week.

Tennessee 31, New Orleans 27.

Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland

The Browns beat the Ravens in Week 4, Baltimore’s last loss.  Can’t see that happening again.  Lamar Jackson and company can wrap up home field advantage with a win.  Give some players Week 17 off in the process.  Even though some of the Browns players are denying they want out, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Baltimore 35, Cleveland 17.  

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at New York Jets

Duck Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Dennis Dixon, Mike Tomczak, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, Bubby Brister…does it matter?  And yes…I am saying this when they are playing the J-E-T-S!

New York Jets 24, Pittsburgh 20.  

Cincinnati at Miami (-1.5)

Wake me up when this is over, part II

Miami 17, Cincinnati 14.  

Jacksonville at Atlanta (-7.5)

Tom Coughlin just got fired.  Imagine that.

Atlanta 31, Jacksonville 17.  

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

Horrid loss for the Raiders last week.  Same for the Chargers.  When am I getting to a game that matters on this list?

Oakland 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24.  

Detroit at Denver (-6.5)

Nope, this one doesn’t matter either.  Glad to see Matty Patricia getting another shot next year.  Not sold on Patricia.  But I can’t imagine you can win many games with Jeff Driskel and David Blough.

Denver 34, Detroit 23.  Lock of the week (yup!).

Dallas (-2.5) at Philadelphia

Here’s one that matters!!  I imagine the winner of this one will win the NFC East.  Though it wouldn’t shock me if either lost their Week 17 game against the Redskins or the Giants, respectively.  Dak Prescott has been limited in practice, but I would doubt he sits this one out.  The ‘Boys have a more talented team.  The Eagles have been hammered by injury.  But your guess is as good as mine on this one either way.

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 31.  

Arizona at Seattle (-9.5)

The Seahawks should roll.  But they always seem to play close games.  9.5 is a lot of points.  Sorry to hear about Josh Gordon.  Looks like his last chance in the NFL.  Maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t.  But still a sad story.

Seattle 33, Arizona 24.  

Kansas City (-4.5) at Chicago

Here’s hoping the Pats beat the Bills and the Bears win here so the Pats that are banged up can take Week 17 off after wrapping up the second seed and therefore a first round bye.  Wishful thinking on the second half of that though.

Kansas City 34, Chicago 17.  

Green Bay at Minnesota (-4.5)

The final Monday Night Football game of the year should be a doozy.  The Vikings may have clinched a playoff spot by this time and they still may not win the tiebreaker for the division in the end, even with a win here.  And the Pack have seemed to sleepwalk through their last couple of games so maybe they awaken as well.  Sticking with the home team regardless.

Minnesota 30, Green Bay 24.

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  10-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  8-7

Season (against the spread):  112-112

Season (straight up):  144-80

Week Fifteen…

I didn’t get to see much of the Thursday NFL game between Baltimore and the New York Jets…we could probably say that was by design.  But of what I did see…I, of course, was not shocked.

The most surprising thing I noted was how long Lamar Jackson stayed in a lopsided game.  If he is truly nursing a quad injury, I would have yanked him much sooner.  Yeah, he has like 10 days to rest up now.  And may even get all of Week Seventeen off once they wrap up home field advantage in the AFC.  But no need to have him out there that late against the Jets.

On to the weekend:

Denver at Kansas City (-10.5)

The Houston Texans beat the New England Patriots in Week 13 and then got blasted at home by a bad Denver Bronco team in Week 14, with its rookie QB playing only his second career game.  The Chiefs beat the Pats in Week 14, so does a similar fate await them in their matchup against Denver?  I think not.  Unless Chief QB Patrick Mahomes’ hand is more hurt than they are letting on.  Drew Lock’s play has been good thus far, but let’s not get carried away.  The Chiefs are better than the Texans as well.  I don’t see KC falling into the same trap as many other teams have the week after beating the Patriots.

Kansas City 42, Denver 24.  

Philadelphia (-4.5) at Washington

Philadelphia came back from a big deficit and squeaked through with a win against the terrible New York Giants on Monday.  But I am not sure how many bodies they have left with all of their injuries.  The ‘Skins have all of a sudden become a plucky little team with their interim coach and their rookie quarterback.  I usually lean away from the Monday night winner.  Sounds like Washington here, right?  Probably.  But Philly needs it more, as they still have a shot at the division.  Maybe that comeback provides some juice.  Shot in the dark.

Philadelphia 24, Washington 17.  

Tampa Bay (-3.5) at Detroit

Looks like Tampa QB Jameis Winston is going to give it a go with his thumb injury.  That could be good news for the Bucs.  But it could also be bad news.  He is a turnover machine, after all.  Either way, the Lions still stink.

Tampa Bay 34, Detroit 13.

New England (-9.5) at Cincinnati

Hopefully, the league will allow the Pats to use the video they shot of the Bengals sideline last week.  They should need it against this pathetic franchise.  And yes, that was sarcasm.

New England Patriots 27, Cincinnati 10.  Lock of the week.  (Yup…and wouldn’t be shocked at a higher score either).

Seattle (-6.5) at Carolina

The Seahawks only scored 12 points in a loss to the Rams last week.  I cannot see that happening this week in Carolina.  The Panthers fired their coach and then got waxed by a bad Atlanta Falcon team.  It looks like they are ready for vacation.  So much for the Christian McCaffrey for MVP talk.  And are the Panthers really sure they want to unload Cam Newton now, with the recent play of Kyle Allen?

Seattle 38, Carolina 17.  

Buffalo at Pittsburgh (-2.5)

DUCK HODGES!!  I’m still going to ride this train.  Especially if JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner return.  The Bills surprisingly kept it close against the Ravens last week.  But I am still not buying in.  If they beat the Pats in Foxborough next weekend, then I may finally be on board.

Pittsburgh 20, Buffalo 17.  

Miami at New York Giants (-3.5)

FITZMAGIC VS ELI!!  MUST SEE TV!!  Actually, Fitzy apparently has been quite entertaining in recent games.  Eli proved he was washed up by the second half of the Eagle game Monday night.  That’s enough for me.

Miami 24, New York Giants 13.  

Houston at Tennessee (-3.5)

Everything is telling me to go Titans in this game.  Ryan Tannehill and the entire team is on fire.  They are at home.  But something tells me the Texans will rebound from that miserable performance of last week.  There really is no rhyme or reason for this pick, to be honest.

Houston 30, Tennessee 27.  

Chicago at Green Bay (-4.5)

The Pack beat the Bears a mere 10-3 in the NFL Opener way back when.  Seems like last season.  My guess is that more points will be scored this time around.  Most of them will be scored by the Pack I think though.  They should play like they are more interested in a football game, unlike last week against Washington.  Chicago has won three in a row…yaaaaay!  But they have been against the Giants, Lions and Cowboys.  No thanks.

Green Bay 31, Chicago 21.

Jacksonville at Oakland (-6.5)

That Raider playoff push was fun, eh?  6-4, then getting hammered 3 games in a row since then.  But the Jags have been pummeled for 5 games in a row themselves.  Therefore…

Oakland 37, Jacksonville 23.  

Cleveland (-2.5) at Arizona

Baker Mayfield vs. Kyler Murray!!  That may be the only intrigue in this game.

Cleveland 27, Arizona 24.  

Los Angeles Rams (-0.5) at Dallas

Have the Rams finally righted the ship?  Maybe.  Not sure you will be able to tell when they play this poorly coached and underachieving Cowboy team.  The ‘Boys have had a few extra days to prepare for this one.  Will it matter?  It should.  But I’m not counting on it.

Los Angeles Rams 31, Dallas 20.  

Atlanta at San Francisco (-10.5)

One may be able to forgive the Niners for taking this one lightly, what with their thrilling win over the Saints last week and tilts with the Rams and Seahawks on the horizon.  I can’t see it happening, however.

San Francisco 41, Atlanta 27.  

Minnesota (-2.5) at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ smokeshow against the Jags last week doesn’t change anything…they are a colossal disappointment this season.  Adam Thielen apparently will be back and the Vikes need this one.

Minnesota 34, Los Angeles Chargers 23.  

Indianapolis at New Orleans (-9.5)

Indy’s season essentially ended with that horrid loss to Tampa last week.  The Saints lost that aforementioned thriller to the Niners, so they will be looking to get back on track in this one.  They are already in the playoffs but are still fighting for a bye.  One would think they should be pretty focused in this one at home.

New Orleans 45, Indianapolis 27.  

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  104-105

Season (straight up):  135-74

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