In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Johnny Sisto, challenges Sports Editor Alex Wolfe, Correspondent Josh Fidler and Opinions Editor Danny Pazos to answer questions about which team will win the NFC South this year, which NL pitcher is most likely to win the Cy Young and the chances that Dan Marino’s 20-year-old single-season pass yardage record falls this season.
1. The NFC South has not been won by the same team in a long time, so history is not on the Falcons’ side. Give me your NFC South winner for this season and why.
AW: I think that the winner will be the Atlanta Falcons, contrary to what recent history may say. They went 13-3 last year to win the division, and that wasn’t a fluke. It seems like the main rub against the Falcons this year is that Matt Ryan isn’t as good of a QB as Drew Brees of the Saints, but people seem to forget how much more effective Ryan was than Brees last year. Ryan had 28 TDs to 9 INTs, while Brees had 33 TDs but also a whopping 22 INTs. Another reason the experts keep picking the Saints is the large amount of weapons on the Saints’ offense. What they overlook is that the Saints have had roughly the same players on offense for the last three years. The Falcons, on the other hand, added rookies Julio Jones at WR and Jacquizz Rodgers at RB, to go on top of their already potent offense including Roddy White and Michael Turner. Lastly, the Saints’ defense is a wet paper bag. They can’t stop anything, and their biggest playmaker of the last few years, Darren Sharper, is no longer with the team. The Falcons, at least, have a passable defense and a pretty good pass rush headed by John Abraham.
JF: It is between the Saints and the Falcons. Both of these teams are very weak defensively. But they make up for that with two of the top offenses in the game. In a shootout, which is what a majority of their games will be, the Saints are going to win. Drew Brees is among the top four QBs in the league, with Brady, Rodgers and Rivers. Brees can make almost every pass he has to, while Matt Ryan struggles with the deep passes. The Falcons have a better ground attack, but in today’s game it is all about the passing. Between these defenses, I have to give an edge to the Saints because they have one of the best defensive coordinators in Gregg Williams. There may not be much to this, but it has some merit; the Saints beat the Bears 30-13, while the Falcons lost to the Bears 30-12.
DP: The New Orleans Saints will be the NFC South champions this year. I really do want to give the Buccaneers some credit for their record last year and their comeback last week, but they should have easily handled the Vikings. Also, their best offensive weapons are still very young and have time to develop. The Atlanta offense has a good amount of guys who know how to get the job done when the game is on the line against a future playoff opponent like Philadelphia, but their defense is seriously lacking in talent, letting up 824 total yards in two games. The Saints will win the division mainly because of Drew Brees and their schedule. They have games against the Jaguars, Colts, Rams, Giants, Titans and Vikings this season. If they can win those games and the head-to-head match-ups in their division, they will finish first in the South.
JS: Alex gets 3 points for pointing out that Matt Ryan’s quarterback statistics were comparable to Brees’ last season. Danny gets 2 points for mentioning the Saints’ easy schedule for this season. Josh gets 1 point for his reasoning that the Saints having a better defense is based on one game against Chicago and a defensive coordinator.
2. There have been a lot of pitching talents in the NL this baseball season. Who will win the NL Cy Young award and why?
AW: Clayton Kershaw is going to win the Cy Young. The past few years in the AL the Cy winner has been a good pitcher on a bad team, and this year it’s the NL’s turn. Kershaw has been outright dominant, and although the Dodgers suck, he has still managed to pull together league-leading stats in wins (20), ERA (2.27) and strikeouts (242), which would give him the pitching triple crown (which nobody has gotten in the NL since 2007). Literally the only thing you can put against him is the fact that he plays for a terrible team, but that’s not his fault. To top things off, he has also stayed healthy all year and not missed a start, so the argument can’t even be made that he didn’t play a full season. Just to further support that this guy is far and away the best pitcher in the league, here’s a couple more stats he’s top-three in for the year: total earned runs, innings pitched, WHIP and losses (he only has five). Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee will get some consideration because of the team they play on, but if the award is really going to go to the best pitcher, it has to be Kershaw.
JF: The NL Cy Young will go to the 23-year-old Clayton Edward Kershaw. It is a very close race between Kershaw and the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The reason I give it to Kershaw is because he has slightly better numbers. He leads the league in strikeouts, ERA and wins. According to Baseball Reference, Kershaw also leads the league in WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, which is a good measure of how valuable a player is to his team. Kershaw leads the NL in the traditional stats and even the more advanced sabermetric stats, so that is why he will win.
DP: The NL Cy Young this year will go to Cliff Lee. While there are plenty of contenders for this award, there are a few factors that put Lee above the rest. First, Lee is atop the most beloved rotation in baseball. Baseball news has been fascinated with this dream rotation since mid February, and unless it somehow tanked, whoever was the most prolific of the four was going to earn the NL Cy Young award. While Roy Haladay and Ian Kennedy have more wins than Lee, his 200-plus strikeouts and 2.38 ERA help push him to the front. The Dodger’s Clayton Kershaw does edge Lee out a bit in each statistical category, but Lee has the X-factor this year. The final piece of NL Cy Young puzzle comes down to one stat — shutouts. Cliff Lee’s six shutouts this year are the most by any NL pitcher since 1989.
JS: Josh gets 3 points for mentioning how valuable Kershaw is to his team’s pitching staff. Alex gets 2 points for mentioning that Kershaw could become the first pitcher since 2007 to achieve the pitching triple crown. Danny gets 1 point because he mentioned that Cliff Lee is third on his team in wins.
3. The first several weeks of the NFL have produced some amazing passing numbers for quarterbacks. Could this be the season that Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record is finally broken?
AW: The closest anyone has ever gotten to Marino’s record was Drew Brees in 2008, when he came up just 15 yards shy of Marino’s mark of 5,084 yards. Fortunately for Marino, I don’t think that record is going to fall this year. The only person that I think could break it this year, Tom Brady, unfortunately has to play the Jets twice as well as the Eagles, who both have great pass defenses. The other three quarterbacks on pace to break the record right now (Brees, Philip Rivers and Cam Newton) aren’t going to do it. Just to put it in perspective, for a QB to be able to break Marino’s record, they would need to pass for 318 yards per game AND stay healthy all 16 games. That just doesn’t really happen anymore. As I said, I think Brady has the best shot of all of them, simply because he has so many weapons and an offensive line that keeps him protected, but once he comes up against a few good teams (the Dolphins, Chargers and Bills are hardly the cream of the crop for pass defense), he will post at least a few 200-250 yard days, severely cutting his chances at breaking the record.
JF: Right now there are five quarterbacks who are on pace to break Dan Marino’s season passing record of 5,084 yards. I still do not think that this record will be broken yet. After only two games, I don’t think Marino should be worried. One of the quarterbacks who is threatening to break this record is Cam Newton, who is on pace for 6,832 yards this season. There is absolutely no way that this is going to happen. I think that the reason that we have seen so many passing yards is due to the shortened preseason. Defensive players are still getting accustomed to playing football, and this is why we have seen exceptionally poor tackling this year. The football season is rather long and physically and mentally taxing, especially for quarterbacks.
DP: No one will break Dan Marino’s passing record this year. While a few quarterbacks are on pace to break the record, some by a few thousand yards, we must take into consideration how prolific this record is and how difficult it is to break. In order to break the record, you must throw for an average of almost 320 yards a game. While it is true that Cam Newton has almost hit 1,000 yards by week two, he is bound to slow down as a full season takes its toll on the rookie. Brady couldn’t beat the record in his 18-1 season, even while becoming the single-season touchdown king. I can’t see Bill Belichick letting Brady throw as many times as he has in the past two weeks for the entirety of the season. Drew Bress and Aaron Rodgers both have a shot due to their individual team’s lack of a running game, but eventually the Packers and Saints will try to establish the run games necessary for their playoff push, and they will fall short also.
JS: Alex gets 3 points for mentioning that Brady faces the pass-stopping Eagles once and the Jets twice this season. Josh gets 2 points for bringing up the shortened pre-season. Danny gets 1 point again because he said that the record is prolific and hard to break, even though there are three active quarterbacks who have come within 320 yards of the record.
Alex wins this week’s AtD, 8-6-4