ATD 10/9: Brady’s TD record, AL/NL champs, No. 1 in men’s tennis

In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Andrew Grossman, asks our panel three questions: will Peyton Manning break Tom Brady’s 2007 record for throwing 50 touchdowns in a season, which teams will come out of the American and National Leagues in the MLB playoffs, and who will end the year in men’s tennis as the top-ranked player.

(AP Photo)

1. Will Peyton Manning break Tom Brady’s record of 50 TD’s in a season?

Nick: Peyton Manning has a very good shot of eclipsing Tom Brady’s 50-touchdown record: With 12 games left in the regular season, Manning needs 35 more touchdowns to reach the 51 mark. So, on average, he only needs about three touchdowns per game. Now let’s look at the defensive quality of the opponents he has left on the schedule: He still has a game versus Jacksonville, Oakland and Washington and two games against San Diego, who are all struggling defensively. Plus, out of all of the quality defensive opponents left, the only proven defense at this point in the season they will be facing is the Chiefs. I do not see how Manning will put up less than three touchdowns per game going down the stretch, and even if he only puts up two touchdowns per game against the Chiefs, you can’t tell me dropping four touchdowns on the favorable match-ups listed above is out of the question.

Joe: There is a great possibility that Peyton Manning will indeed break Brady’s 50-touchdown record.  Let’s review a few things about the chase. First, in the first quarter of Brady’s 50-touchdown season, he had 13 touchdowns. Manning, through the first quarter, has 16. Secondly, Peyton Manning has one of the best receiving corps in recent memory. And let’s not forget the Broncos’ schedule, which still has them playing four games against bottom-seven defenses. And that’s not even including the Raiders and Jaguars. If I had to bet on it right now, I would say yes, Peyton Manning will indeed break Tom Brady’s 50-TD record.

Chris: It’s very difficult to sustain the pace that Peyton Manning is on right now, so in order to truly determine whether the guy in orange can top Tom Brady’s mark, I had to watch his game against Dallas. It didn’t really matter that Dallas was the best defense he’s played yet, Manning was on fire and reached 20 TD’s less than a third of the way through the season. There are three huge factors that will lead to Manning breaking the record. First, Manning’s passes have been incredibly crisp. This is a quarterback who, despite having already won a Super Bowl and enjoyed so much statistical success, is always looking for ways to improve. Heading into this season, Manning knew that at 37, he had to get even sharper to keep up with the league, and he sure did. Second, despite losing Ryan Clady to injury, there has been great protection for Manning, and it showed against DeMarcus Ware and a fierce Cowboys’ pass rush. Finally, Manning has such a deadly corps of receivers that someone is always open. Whether it be Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas, it’s nearly impossible to account for everyone. The only thing that could derail Manning’s chase at the record are blowouts and the coaching staff sitting him near the end of the season, but Denver passes so much that matter what there will be more close games like against the Cowboys than you think.

Chris wins for saying Manning could sit out, Joe gets 2 points for saying Denver has four games against NFL-worst defenses, and Nick gets 1 point for showing statistics.

(AP Photo)

2. Which MLB teams will come out of the AL and NL to make the World Series?

Nick: The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are going to end up fighting it out in the World Series. Let’s look at the Red Sox. These players, after being embarrassed last year professionally and publicly, have come into this season with a clear chip on their shoulders. Home-field advantage is going to be monumental to their success as they climb through the AL. John Lackey this season has held opponents to a .232 batting average throughout his starts at home this season, and if anything is needed to win your way through the playoffs, it’s wins at home. On the opposite end, the Dodgers pitching core is one of the deepest in the playoffs, and although their series against Braves, and most likely the Cardinals in the NLCS finals, may be close, their pitching core will carry them through.

Joe: The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers seem like the two teams to beat to me. The Red Sox, to start, ranked first in baseball in runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage this year while rankings second in average. Their lineup is nearly impossible to shut down for an extended period of time, and their pitching is not too bad either. The back end of their bullpen, which always is a vital part of a postseason roster, is rock solid with arguably the best closer in baseball in Koji Uehara, and their starters ranked third in pitcher’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) this season.  As for the Dodgers, pitching, pitching, pitching. Kershaw/Greinke is easily the best 1-2 punch you can find among the playoff teams, and that lineup is unstoppable. Look for Yasiel Puig to shine on the big stage and, of course, at the back end of their bullpen you can find Kenley Jansen and his 13.03 K/9 ratio.

Chris: The two races in the American and National League will likely come down to two teams each: the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers for the AL, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL. While the Tigers are loaded with studs Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who are complemented by the likes of Austin Jackson, Victor Martinez and Tori Hunter, they are not as good, top to bottom, as Boston. Sure, the top of the lineup is among the best in baseball, starting off with Jacoby Ellsbury who, if he gets on base, is a good bet to steal. Then, if you can somehow manage to get past Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, underrated Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew are waiting for you, along with Will Middlebrooks, who has been on a tear since returning to the majors. Bench guys like Xander Boegarts and Mike Carp only make this team more formidable. The pitching is there too, as the quad of Clay Bucholz, Jake Peavy, Jon Lester and John Lackey can match Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Annibal Sanchez and Doug Fister. In the NL, I like the Cardinals. Sure, the Dodgers are led by the scary 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but keep in mind, these are the Cardinals we’re talking about. For the majority of the season, many thought this team had no flaws, and we’ve seen what they can do in the postseason. The absence of Allen Craig hurts, but veterans Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltrain and Yadier Molina should take this team to the promised land. But you say playoffs is all about pitching? Well the Cards have a fellow named Adam Wainwright, who has a 2.94 ERA with 219 strikeouts. He’s complimented by potential Rookie of the Year Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn (four earned runs over his last four starts). Expect more postseason magic in St. Louis.

Chris wins for giving two picks in each league, Nick gets two points for saying Boston has a chip on its shoulder, and Joe gets 1 point for mentioning Boston’s high-powered offense.

3. Who will end the year at  No. 1 in men’s tennis, Nadal or Djokovic?

(AP Photo)

Nick: As we near another classic Djokovic and Nadal match-up in the China Open, this question becomes a difficult one to predict, but my gut is telling me Nadal. Let’s face the facts here: Nadal has just been on fire lately, winning Grand Slams as if he were ordering them from Denny’s. By reaching the China Open finals we see him slide into the No. 1 spot, and I do not think his end-of-the-year status will fall squarely on the match-up against Djokovic in the finals. Sure, beating Djokovic again will only help solidify his world rank. But as long as he doesn’t get decimated, I believe he will still end the year atop the charts. Nadal has put forth a dominating performance this year that cannot be overlooked, and that is why I believe he will remain No. 1 as the season closes out.

Joe: Rafael Nadal has not lost a match on a hard-court surface all year, and all of his matches for the remainder of the year are on hard courts. He has definitely returned to form in 2013, winning the French and US Open, while Djokovic has seemingly taken a step back. By year’s end, the No. 1 spot looks like Rafa’s for the taking.

Chris: Djokovic has been No. 1 for so long, that it’s hard to not see him regain that ranking, despite losing it to Nadal recently. The fact is, as soon as Nadal gained the top ranking in the world, Djokovic came out with a vengeance and beat Nadal in the China Open in two sets. Djokovic had previously been No. 1 for nearly a year, and after just narrowly losing that ranking, he beat Nadal and should get it back soon. The other issue for Nadal is time. With the year having just a little over two and a half months left, it will be very hard for him to gain the ranking back from Djokovic. This, of course, is all assuming that Djokovic is renamed No. 1. But after his strong showing in China against Nadal, I expect that to happen sooner than later.

Joe wins for mentioning Nadal’s hard court performance, Chris gets 2 points for saying Nadal is getting old, and Nick gets 1 point for mentioning Nadal has been on fire lately.

Chris wins Around the Dorm, 8-6-4