In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Peter Fiorilla, challenges staff writer Mike Herold, correspondent Jim Cortiglia and news editor Brandon Gould to answer questions about the Arizona Cardinals’ hot start, what will happen as a result of all of the Jets’ injuries, and who is worthy of being named AL and NL MVP.
1. The Kevin Kolb-inspired Cardinals are 4-1 and have a couple of impressive wins, including one over the reigning AFC Champs. Are the Cardinals contenders?
MH: Not after that loss to the Rams, they’re not. Anytime the opposing QB goes seven for 21 and you don’t win, that’s a bad sign for the whole “contender” thing. Especially once you consider that Kevin Kolb was sacked more times in that game than, I can’t even think of a proper analogy. Nine times? Seriously? Anyway, the impressive 4-0 start is reminding me of the Bills last year — they look really good, beat some tough opponents to make themselves seem like legitimate threats, then, just like those Bills did, start fading away. The Bills finished 6-10 after a 3-0 start that included a win over the Patriots, and I’m seeing a similar result for the Cardinals this year. Especially if Kolb keeps getting hit like that. Seriously, I’m still trying to think of a funny enough comparison to make, all I have so far is something with Princess Peach not being sacked so many times in a week, you know, the kidnapping angle. The Cardinals offensive line was so bad that only lame jokes remain! Once that happens, any contender talk has to fly right out the window. Like a sack of potatoes. OK, I’ll stop now.
JC: While most signs point to the Arizona Cardinals as a young team on the rise, I am going to have to go against the grain and say no, they are not contenders. Dating back to last season, the Cardinals are 9-1, which is the best in the NFL. However, this 4-0 start shares a similar likeness to the Buffalo Bills of last year, a lot of luck, and luck can’t carry you all the way through the season. As we saw with the Bills, they eventually imploded when their defense gave out and Fitzpatrick started turning the ball over. Taking a look at the four teams they have beaten so far: both the Seahawks and Dolphins were starting rookie QBs in Arizona, an awful kicking day for the Patriots, and the turnover-happy Eagles. While I must admit that their defense is legit, I’m not ready to hop on the Kevin Kolb bandwagon. The schedule for the rest of the season is rough, as well. Two games against the 49ers, at Minnesota, at Green Bay, at Atlanta and home versus Detroit and Chicago. This team will be lucky to finish 8-8.
BG: I do not believe that the Cardinals will be able to sustain this run much longer, which was evident in their loss Thursday night to the St. Louis Rams. In the Cardinals first four wins, two came against rookie quarterbacks and one only happened because of a missed field goal by the Patriots, hardly impressive overall. The Cardinals offense is bad. Against the Rams, the offensive line let up nine sacks and the run game recorded 45 yards, total. What has been impressive though is the defense. In five games they have 17 sacks, 26 tackles for loss and 38 quarterback hurries. They’ve also forced 11 turnovers from their most notable performance of four against the Philadelphia Eagles. They can attack from all levels of the defense and that’s what has kept them in games. However, that type of defense won’t make up for 63.4 rushing yards per game much longer.
Brandon brings home the bacon for arguing that the Cardinals’ force-of-nature defense can’t hide a poor offense forever. Jim earns 2 points for detailing how much Bills-like luck the Cardinals have had so far this year. Mike gets 1 point for pointing out Kolb’s sack rate is unsustainable.
2. It’s not looking good for the J-E-T-S: Revis is out with an ACL, the team’s young players are underperforming, Sanchez is regressing, and the Jets only have one more game against the Bills this season. Will the Jets get their act together and make the playoffs, and if not, should Rex Ryan get canned?
MH: I’ll agree that things are not looking good for N.Y.’s lesser yet somehow more talked about team, but I don’t think things are quite as bad as the question makes them seem. The rest of their schedule has only four games I count as losses — the Texans this past game, the Chargers Week 16, and two out of their three games with New England and Miami. Every other game seems winnable, especially if/when Rex Ryan realizes that his backup QB has mystical powers/is a divine entity and gives him the reins. It’s the story we’ve all been waiting for, “Tebow Time Takes Times Square”. I say it happens starting Week 6. As for Ryan’s job security, even if the Jets miss the playoffs, there’s the always reliable “My best guy was injured” excuse to give him one extra year. Unless Tebow says he goes, in which case who knows what will happen.
JC: At the beginning of the preseason I predicted Rex Ryan as the top coach on the hot seat. After watching the team struggle to actually score any points, I knew that it would be a rough year for Gang Green. The Week 1 game was a testament to how inconsistent Mark Sanchez actually is. Since that great performance, Sanchez has boasted completion percentages of 37, 46.7 and 44.8. And I thought Tim Tebow couldn’t complete a pass. To be fair, the Jets have faced some tough defenses in Pittsburgh, Miami and San Fran, but at this stage in his career, Sanchez should be able to compete with the tougher teams. As for the rest of the team, the offensive line cannot block and there is absolutely no help from the running game. With Revis out, their defense will be completely exposed as they can only generate pressure on the opposing QB by blitzing and relying on their man-to-man coverage. Worst of all, the fans have completely given up on the team. I was at the Jets-49ers game last weekend and by the third quarter it felt like a game in Candlestick Park, with the few remaining Jets fans chanting for Tebow to start. With all due respect to the Jets fans, not even Tebow can save you at this point, and I believe this is Rex Ryan’s last year in N.Y.
BG: As a Jets fan, it is disheartening to admit that the forecast does not look good. They’ve lost Revis and now Santonio Holmes — injuries that kill a team with a lack of depth. This is not Rex Ryan’s fault though. If you want to point a finger at someone, it needs to be GM Mike Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum is way too aggressive in the draft and does not draft well in the later rounds. He has traded up to get Revis, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene and Stephen Hill. All of these trade ups produced solid talent — Greene has started to look like a bust though — but it has killed the Jets depth. Late-round picks are what load up the back ends of teams. The Jets cut four out of five picks they made after the third round in 2012. The process works only when your starters stay healthy.
Brandon gets 3 points for a thought-provoking indictment of Tannenbaum and his disastrous draft techniques. Jim gets 2 points for pointing out how Sanchez, who’s not getting any better, has no help from his offensive line or running game. Mike gets 1 point for implying Tim Tebow might be the answer.
3. The MLB playoffs have begun, but the end-of-season hardware has yet to be rewarded. Who are your AL and NL MVPs?
MH: The question in the American League comes down to two players — the one who won the Triple Crown and the one who everybody has been picking to win it for the past two to three months. OK, so Trout has great hitting numbers just like Miggy, plus leads the league in steals and runs, and also plays really good defense, while Cabrera, oh forget it, Trout has this thing locked up. To me, the interesting part is that both players were not seen as the best on their own teams heading into the season — not with Pujols signing with the Angels and Fielder and Verlander with the Tigers. In the National League, it’s more of a toss-up for the hardware — Buster Posey for the majors-leading batting average/defense, Ryan Braun for the power numbers, or Andrew McCutchen for the we-feel-bad-for-Pittsburgh angle? I think Posey will win it, because his team is in the playoffs, which matters in MVP voting, unless there’s a rookie phenom who everyone’s been picking for months involved — that could beat, like, a Triple Crown winner.
JC: I think we can all agree on who the AL MVP is. Miguel Cabrera not only had the best season on the playoff-bound Detroit Tigers, but he also captured the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did it for Boston in 1967. Thanks to his .330 BA, 44 HRs and 139 RBI’s, Cabrera joins some prestigious company by being only the 15th player to achieve the Triple Crown. Given the phenomenal year for the slugger, I don’t think there is any way that the AL MVP award does not return to Detroit for the second straight season. As for the NL, there is a lot more discrepancy. While my three top players are Buster Posey, Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen, I would have to give the edge to Posey. While he has less home runs than the other two candidates, he boasts the highest batting average and is right up there in RBIs. This is more impressive given the fact that he is playing day in and day out as a catcher. Furthermore, Posey and the Giants are playing post-season baseball while the Pirates and Brewers are watching from home. This plays a big role in MVP voting, as Braun was given the edge over Kemp last season due to the Dodgers not making the postseason.
BG: The NL MVP can only go to one man and that is Buster Posey. Posey batted .336 and got on base 40 percent of the time, while hitting 24 home runs and driving in 103 runs. All of this on top of managing one of baseball’s best staffs, which explains why he leads the NL with a WAR of 7.2. The real debate is in the AL, where the vote seems to be split between two players and two schools of thought. Mike Trout is a sabermetric dream, while Miguel Cabrera is your old-school slugger. Cabrera seems to be the favorite because he hit for the Triple Crown — the first one to do it in 45 years — and led the Tigers to the playoffs. Meanwhile, Trout posted a 10.4 WAR and supplied great production from the leadoff spot. It’s not an easy choice, but my vote goes to Trout. He brings so much more to the table than Cabrera does on the bases and on defense. Ultimately though, my main train of thought is that if Josh Hamilton had hit two homers in game 162, would this even be a discussion?