Round two of the AtD playoffs is the long-awaited showdown between No. 3 Justin Jez, No. 6 James Queally and No. 9 Allison Singer. Last week, No. 8 Bobby Olivier advanced to the final round in an unexpected upset. This week, anything can happen. Ref Brandon Lee will decide who moves on to join Bobby in the championship and which two contestants will be knocked out of the tournament.
1. Alex Rodriguez is a free agent and will command a record-setting contract. Where do you think he’ll end up?
JJ: Truth be told, no one has any idea where A-Rod will end up. It’s November and we are going to hear countless rumors before he puts on another uniform. A-Rod and his agent will savor the attention throughout the next four months, holding out for more money. I think A-Rod has to go to a big-market team. What small salary team can afford upward of $25 million per year? We know he is tired of New York so the Mets are out of the question. That leaves markets such as Philly, Los Angeles and Chicago. My guess is that when the dust settles, Los Angeles and Chicago will be the two teams willing to pony up the dough. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see A-Rod follow Joe Torre to Los Angeles – a sort of retaliatory exodus from the tyrant Steinbrenner? But realistically, I see A-Rod going to the Cubs, the only team with the money and legacy to satisfy him.
JQ: With only a few big names swimming in the free agent pool this year, Rodriguez might be able to secure a deal close to the $300 million he and baseball’s equivalent of Satan, Scott Boras, are asking for. The only teams with significant bankrolls right now are the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. While the Red Sox just freed up some cap room by dramatically reducing Curt Schilling’s salary, I just don’t see anywhere he fits into that lineup. While the Cubs are an obvious choice because of A-Rod’s close ties with manager Lou Piniella, the money issue will rear its ugly head and prevent the deal from happening. So is A-Rod California-bound? The Angels have the money, and while Orlando Cabrera is a talented shortstop, he can’t match A-Rod offensively. Cabrera totaled eight home runs last year versus A-Rod’s 54. The Angels also lack a standout third baseman, so if A-Rod is OK with remaining at third, Los Angeles might be the most logical destination for him.
AS: One thing’s for sure: he won’t end up in Boston. The Red Sox might be interested in signing A-Rod, but it won’t happen – their fans won’t allow it. Besides, when you’ve got a World Series-winning dynamic, why spend upward of $300 million to change it? I can’t see him going to the Mets either. With the way Yankees’ fans reacted to his leaving, I would think he would want to get as far away from New York as possible. That leaves the Angels and the Dodgers as the final two teams who have expressed interest so far. I would put my money on A-Rod becoming an Angel. The Angels are the only team that has publicly announced it will be attempting to sign A-Rod, and I think the higher-ups are willing to do what it takes to bring him to the team.
BL: Queally gets 3 for pointing out both the business and on-the-field issues. Allie gets 2 for narrowing it down to the Dodgers and Angels and choosing the Angels in the end. Jez gets 1 because he didn’t include the Angels, a key team in this race.
2) The Packers are 7-1 thanks to a rejuvenated Brett Favre. Why do you think Favre has resurrected himself this year?
JJ: The Packers are playing well this year for two reasons: an improved defensive squad and Favre’s adapting to the modern game. The defense has been solid against the run and the pass. Starting at the line, guys like Aaron Kampman have been active, batting down balls and forcing punts. The secondary has also stepped up this season. Up to this point, the defense has played consistent, opportunistic football. All of this translates into getting the ball back into Favre’s hands. The second reason for the Packer’s success is Favre’s willingness to adapt his game plan. Last year, his gun-slinging mentality resulted in more turnovers and less touchdowns. This year, he has gone to a more modern, short-passing game, taking what the defense allows and hitting the safe receiving option. This system also sets up Farve to make those occasional big plays for which he is known.
JQ: Why did Brett Favre decide to play like the Brett Favre that John Madden worships? He had to. Ahman Green jumped ship, officially bringing an end to the running game at Lambeau. Favre knew the team would have to rely on an aerial attack to have any shot this season. This year Favre has put his dangerous tandem of receivers (Donald Driver and Greg Jennings) to good use and recovered his arm strength, forcing opposing secondaries to fear his ability to throw the long bomb again. There is another, much bigger off-the-field reason why Favre is the Favre we know and love again. After the critics attacked him for hanging around and holding back Aaron Rodgers’ career, Favre knew he had to shut them up. He’s played eight games of stellar football, effectively silencing the hyper-critical media and proving what we should have known all along. When Favre leaves the NFL, he will do so on his own terms, not because the guys from “Around the Horn” said so.
AS: Favre resurrected himself for one reason: he wasn’t ready to go. Last year was a tortuous year for the Packers as they just barely went .500 on the season and there was talk in the NFL community about Favre retiring. Rather than going out on a low note, he used the sub-par season as a wakeup call and whipped himself and the Packers’ O-line into shape. Favre continues to show signs of a true team leader: he has said that, despite the team’s 7-1 season, he doesn’t feel the offense can become “complacent” and risk losing that lead. He is still on the lookout for ways to improve and refuses to give himself too much credit. In this way, Favre is resurrecting himself on a daily basis and demonstrating his willingness to adapt and advance his team.
BL: Jez hits the 3 for noting the technical side of football. Favre is not the gunslinger anymore and is more of a manager. Queally and Allie both used criticism as Favre’s turning point. However, Allie gets 2 points and Queally gets 1 point since he mentioned Favre regaining his arm strength this season and playing well because Green is gone. It’s not the arm strength Queally, it’s the offensive scheme!
3) The College’s football team has made a surprising run into the postseason. How far do you think it will go?
JJ: The football team put forth a fantastic effort this season, surpassing most peoples’ expectations with a record of 8-2. I think the key to the Lions getting out of the first round will be whether or not they get home field advantage in the first round of the tournament. James has been solid for the Lions all season. As of Nov. 9, the Lions have outscored their opponents 35-0 in the first quarter. Getting off to a fast start will be key in any postseason victory. They have a good chance of making it to the third round of the playoffs. I think any prediction further than that would be bold.
JQ: The New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) is fairly well-respected in Division III football, with Rowan University receiving a relatively high seeding as the conference champ over the past few years. The College was ranked No. 14 after its win over Buffalo State College, and while its loss to Kean University may knock them down a slot, the Lions shouldn’t have to worry about being seeded lower than No. 5. So they should at the very least get out of the first round. How far can they go past that? That depends on a few key factors. The defense needs to remain as aggressive as they have been all season. When the team forces turnovers early, they create opportunities for sophomore stud quarterback Chris James. When the Lions pile it on in the first half, they’re hard to beat. But the key is the momentum. The Lions have struck first in almost all of their victories this season, so it’s critical that James puts together successful drives early if the team is going to get out of the second round where they will likely have to face a No. 1 seed.
AS: This type of question is my weakness because I never want to shortchange any of the College’s teams, but I’m going to say they’ve got a shot at getting past the early rounds. I’m realistic: it isn’t going to be an easy trip. Even teams in the Eastern Conference the College has beaten earlier in the season aren’t locked-in victories. But head coach Eric Hamilton has a “one game at a time” mentality, and it’s worked for his boys thus far. I could make a list of Lions who are contributing this year, but it would take up my entire answer. Suffice it to say that the team is doing the College proud this year, and I think it will continue its record-breaking season past the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
BL: Jez hits the 3 again by saying the Lions need to get off to a fast start in order to be successful. Queally mentions the same thing but only says they’ll make it out of the first round. But Queally, how far will they go? Allie, you need to mention more on-the-field factors – 1 point.
With a final score of 7-6-5, Jez moves on to the AtD Championship.