Monday, September 30, 2013

3 reasons the Tigers will win their ALDS vs. Oakland (and 3 reasons they will not)

On paper, I do believe the Tigers have a better overall team than Oakland, but the home field edge is probably an equalizer. So I look at the odds of the Tigers winning the series about 50-50. I expect it to be close, but wouldn't be surprised if it isn't one way or another. It's just the nature of postseason baseball. It's very unpredictable.
                          Three reasons the Tigers will win this series
1. The Tigers starting pitching is far better than Oakland's. I know Bartolo Colon had a terrific season statistically, but he is a soft tosser at this stage and I see the Tigers possibly lighting him up like a pinball machine. Ditto for the remainder of the A's rotation. They are decidedly hittable by a lineup with the experience and raw talent the Tigers will present. Conversely, each Tigers' starter is capable of turning in 7 innings or more consistently in playoff starts.
2. The Tigers have more hitters who can take over a short series. Nobody in the A's lineup is going to the Hall of Fame. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder probably will, and Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez are borderline Hall of Famers.
3. The Tigers know they can beat the A's. They did it last season. And they did in Game 5 at Oakland.
                Three reasons the Tigers will not win this series
1. It's true the Tigers have won on the road in the playoffs before, but it would be naïve to believe home field advantage isn't an significant edge for the A's. Both teams play in unique ball parks, Comerica Park because of the gaps are so wide, and Oakland is an older ball park with a lot of nuance. Crowd noise and atmosphere does play a role in what happens on the field in the postseason.
2. Oakland has a deeper and better bullpen than the Tigers. The A's had the third-best bullpen in the AL this season with a 24-18 record, a 3.32 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. The Tigers' bullpen ranked 12th in the AL with a 17-25 record, a 4.01 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.
3. On paper, the Tigers may have the better team, but on the field, Oakland has won more games than Detroit the last two regular seasons. The A's two-year record is 190-134 compared to 181-143 by the Tigers.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My thoughts on the Lions 40-32 victory over the Bears Sunday

Lions Show playoff potential in victory over Bears: My Column on Lions in aftermath of victory.

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Bears, LIons

- Each week, Nadamukong Suh seems to play better. He is doing what the best defensive linemen in the NFL are known for doing, imposing his will on this game. He is giving rookie Bears' guard Kyle Long fits. He has had a sack. Suh has forced a fumble. He has done a terrific job of rattling Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who has typically lost his composure under pressure.
- The Lions' offense can't sit on leads. The turnover in the scoring zone late in the third quarter was beyond disappointing. The Bears are capable of coming back. Stalled drives are not the best sign. The Lions' defense did do a good job of holding the Bears to a field goal after QB Jay Cutler hit wide receiver Alshon Jeffery with a long pass along the right sideline.  But the best defense at this stage of the game is an offense moving the chains. From that standpoint, the third quarter wasn't good one for the Lions. The good part. They moved 15 minutes off the clock with a big lead and outscored the Bears 7-3, thanks to the defense.
- Reggie Bush's 12-yard run late in the third quarter looked a lot like something from Barry Sanders' playbook in the 1990s. It was elusive open-field running at its best. Bush is having a tremendous game.
- The Lions defense is so much better this year than last year its remarkable. The turnovers are not a fluke.
- Sam Martin is punting the ball better as this game moves on. His 50-yard in the third quarter was an excellent directional boot with a lot of hang time. The Lions are containing Devin Hester well so far.

Thoughts halftime Bears, Lions

- I don't know if that fumble at the end of the half by LIons' QB Matthew Stafford forced by the Bears' Julius Peppers should be hung on offensive tackle Riley Reiff. It looked Stafford held on to the ball too long. It's almost like he has gotten too comfortable in the pocket.
- Seldom has an offense fit a player in regard to player personnel better than the Lions' does for Reggie Bush. There is no limit to the impact he could have this season under his current circumstances.
- The Lions finally broke Michael Spurlock for a long return, but, in truth, a lot of NFL returnmen would have taken that in for a TD. It didn't matter. The Lions scored on the drive anyway.
- Kris Durham has come up with a couple clutch catches for the Lions this season. The Lions have some good size at receiver for a change. It does seem to be helping them in the scoring zone.
- Glover Quin, the Lions' safety, has been a huge addition this season. The Lions' safety play this year is so much better than in 2012 it is ridiculous. Quin, however, did not do a very good job on Matt Forte's long TD run for the Bears. It's understandable why Forte broke loose. The Lions' blitzed Stephen Tulloch and were caught in the perfect play for success by the Bears to counteract what they were doing defensively. But Quin more than made up for it with his interception of Chicago QB Jay Cutler later in the quarter. The takeaways are a great sign for the Lions, whose defense last season almost totally lacked that element, especially in the final eight games,, all losses.
- Detroit linebackers Tulloch and Ashlee Palmer had sacks on blitzes late in the second quarter. It does show you can either live or die blitzing. The Lions have done more living than dying with the maneuver today. The Bears are going to have to hit on deep passes today in order to comeback in this game. It seems unlikely.
- Lions' kicker David Akers is performing well. I thought he was a huge question mark coming into this game. He wasn't tested at Washington last week. He had a horrible game at Arizona and appeared to be ailing.
- The Bears have shown an alarming lack of poise in this game. Once this game started going south on them, they folded the remainder of the half. It's Cutler's M.O. and the team's overall in recent years. We'll see if it is any different in the second half.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Bears, Lions

- Terrific play by Lions' safety Louis Delmas on the interception. He was aggressive, but not too aggressive. The Lions are crowding the line of scrimmage and daring the Bears to throw the ball deep. Could be a good thing for the Lions, though, in it could lead to some sacks.
- Jay Cutler throws a beautiful pass with a tight spiral and good velocity. The degree of his ability to throw the football doesn't show up on television as much as it does live.
- Rookie guard Larry Warford has been the Lions' most underrated player this season. He has the makings of a future All Pro. It's not a mistake those holes exist when the Lions run up the middle, where they haven't in the past. He is also an excellent pass protector.
- The Lions are relying a lot on tight end Brandon Pettigrew in this game. He's made the plays, so far. It remains to be seen if that's a good thing in the long run. It does show Pettigrew should have 80 or so catches in this offense per season, if he'd just hold on to the ball. That, obviously, has been a big "if."
- The more touches Joique Bell gets is actually a good thing for Reggie Bush. It reduces the wear and tear on Bush. The Lions, for the first time I can remember, actually have good two-pronged rushing attack.
- Rookie Lions' punter Sam Martin's first punt was not very good. It was a line drive without much hang time. Chicago's Devin Hester got a decent return on it. However, more punts like that, and it's inevitable Hester will take one back to the house. He is simply too gifted to get the  ball in that much space and not do something special because of it. It's also very important Martin drills his kickoffs out of the end zone today, not giving Hester a shot at a return. The Lions' coverage unit did an excellent job on Hester's kickoff return in the first quarter, but he's a big play about to happen every time he touches the ball. Best to reduce the odds.
- The Bears have such a huge edge in this game at returner. Michael Spurlock, at least to this point, has not look threatening at all for the Lions.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland deserves more credit than he gets

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Riley Reiff, Ziggy Ansah turning draft day disappointment into game-winning delight

The Detroit Tigers, Jim Leyland and his bullpen

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has long carried a reputation for being a master handling his bullpen. Of all the things strategic in nature, it's Leyland's biggest strength.
And it appears it will take all Leyland's skills in the postseason to carry the Tigers over the top.
In Monday's 4-3 loss at Minnesota, Leyland turned to a couple of the main ingredients he needs for the postseason.
It didn't work.
Left-hander Drew Smyly appeared to be the perfect set up man for the Tigers during the first half. His ERA was low, his WHIP below 1.00 and he was taking to the role, with Joaquin Benoit moved to closer, like a duck takes to water.
In the last two months, the wheels have kind of fallen off Smyly. His ERA has been well above 5.00 over the period. His WHIP has risen by a half-runner per inning. This not just statistical situation, but he is rarely hitting 90 mph on the radar gun and his pitches appear to have flattened out. He has been decidedly hittable. Monday he allowed back to back hits to left-handed hitters.
Jose Veras is likely going to be the Tigers setup man instead, but it didn't go well Monday.
Benoit is throwing well. However, it was the ultimate stretch for Leyland to have Benoit try to pull a Mariano Rivera in his prime task by closing a game with 1 2-3 innings Monday. That Benoit wasn't able to do it hardly qualifies as a surprise, even against the feeble-swinging Twins.
Ideally, there would be a couple plan B's here, and perhaps Rick Porcello will provide somewhat of answer in the postseason. He has been pitching exceptionally well. It would be a shame to waste it. Could that be as a late-inning reliever?
The case for Justin Verlander starting one of the Tigers' first two playoff games

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why it's no conicidence the Lions, finally, won at Washington

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Lions, Redskins

- If the Lions' lose this game today, it will be even more disappointing than last week's at Arizona. The Redskins are as bad as advertised. The Lions definitely need to start winning these type of games on the road. If they can't, the playoffs will be a pipe dream. This is a very important final quarter which could set the tone for the entire season.
- The Lions had their dream play in third quarter when Ndamukong Suh held up Washington QB Robert Griffin III and Ziggy Ansah finished him off with a sack. The Lions' defense has played well in this game. The pick six did account for one of the Redskins' scores. Last week, it was the Lions' offense more than their defense which faltered down the stretch at Arizona. They don't need a repeat today. Ansah looks more and more like he merited the fifth overall selection in the NFL Draft the Lions' used to take him.
- Why would a team want to want run a power sweep with no fullback? There are a lot of things about the Redskins' offense which make no sense. Not sure if Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan deserves the "genius" label some want to give him.
- Haven't we seen enough of the 3-yard slant pattern when five yards are needed for a first down? Unreal.

Thoughts halftime Lions, Redskins

- The good news is the Lions forced another turnover during the second quarter on a Chris Houston interception. Not taking away the ball might have been their biggest weakness last year during a 4-12 season. The bad news is the Lions did not take advantage of the turnover. No points. The Redskins were like a tree about ready to fall at the time. They would have gone down fairly early in this game, if the Lions were able to put enough pressure on them. They didn't after getting the lead. Now the Redskins have come back. It's very much a ball game. Not sure it should be.
- The Lions have a sold defensive line, but Jason Jones is a big part of it. If his apparent injury is serious, it will be very hurtful.
- Willie Young accumulates a ridiculous number of penalties,. Is there ever a game when he doesn't get flagged for at least one? Enough of the cheap shots from Nick Fairley, too.
- Count me among those who think the Lions should target Joseph Fauria far more than Brandon Pettigrew. It does seem like he has much better hands, especially on high passes tossed into the end zone. His second quarter TD reception today was a repeat of a similar scoring play during the season opener vs. Minnesota.
- Anybody notice Stafford threw the TD pass to Fauria while throwing off his back foot? It's a throw he has made many times successfully, yet is often unjustifiably criticized for doing.
- The Packers did the exact same thing to the Redskins' secondary with the slant pattern. They are so unsure in the secondary, the Redskins are playing an incredibly loose zone, with exception of DeAngelo Hall in press coverage on Calvin Johnson. The Lions, to their credit, are taking full advantage of it.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Redskins

- What a horrible start for the Lions. A sack. A sputtering drive. A pick 6. Everything the Lions didn't need to start this game happened. Brutal. But the Lions did a nice job of responding to the adversity with a long scoring drive. It was a good work by backup running back Joique Bell. The kid is a player and taking full advantage of his opportunity with Reggie Bush out.
- Honestly, the Redskins' secondary is one of the worst I've seen in the NFL in awhile. It's a lot like the Lions has been late in seasons while injury depleted. But the Redskins' don't have that excuse.
- I don't know exactly where the fault lies on the interception, which was returned for a touchdown by Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Calvin Johnson did have inside position and it appeared Stafford led Johnson too much with the pass But it also appeared Johnson was held up on the route and stopped running full bore. Either way, it was a terrible play. It was a turnaround for Hall, who was burned on that inside slant continually by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last Sunday.
- It's a smart move by the Lions to not play Bush today. It's early in the season and wise to let Bush heal rather than risk further injury. Bell is a serviceable backup, and proving it today with some powerful runs. It will be interesting to see what Theo Riddick can do. Although he lacks Bush's pure speed, he is an elusive open field runner.
- Robert Griffin III can claim he is running as well as usual all he wants. He clearly isn't, and it makes the Redskins much easier to defense.
- Ziggy Ansah has excellent closing speed for a defensive lineman. He is not only an excellent pass rusher, but he does close quickly pursuing from behind, which is rare for his position.
- The Lions' punt return unit is an obvious weakness. The blocking is poor and Michael Spurlock doesn't seem to have the extra gear ideal for a returner. Wonder what Riddick could do as a returner.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My thoughts on Michigan's 24-21 victory over UConn Saturday night

MSU plays just well enough to lose to Notre Dame

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Michigan, UConn

- Shane Morris has gone from unassuming freshman quarterback biding his time to perhaps the most popular man in Ann Arbor. Seriously, I wouldn't make a QB change at Michigan. It would be ridiculous. I'd give Devin Gardner time to sort things out. But it's a good thing Michigan has a bye this coming week. It's also a good thing the Wolverines' first Big Ten game is a very winnable one at home vs. Minnesota. Even if Michigan wins this game, this cannot be considered even remotely an inspiring performance.
- Michigan keeps running behind All American offensive left tackle Taylor Lewan, and Mchigan keeps getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Ah, when Fitzgerald Toussaint broke loose on a long touchdown run, it was to the right side. So far, Lewan's decision to return to Michigan isn't exactly working out as planned.
- Wid Jehu Chesson is a very talented player. There is size and speed there. Obviously, he has good hands. Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges should come up with more ways to get the ball in his hands. That was a nice catch he made late in the third quarter. He also made a terrific play covering a punt on special teams.

Thoughts halftime Michigan, UConn

- What a disaster so far for Michigan. Honestly, UConn looks like the more poised of the two teams. And it is incredible the hapless Huskies have been able to move the ball this well, and have played this well overall, without wide receiver Shakim Phillips, who is out with a hamstring injury. He is easily the Huskies' best player. Who is that on? Wolverines' head coach Brady Hoke. His team wasn't ready for this game. How can that be after the scare vs. Akron? The Wolverines have just played poor fundamental football the last six quarters. It's the bottom line, and it's disappointing. Hoke's teams have never lost at Michigan Stadium, but more often than not, they have been underwhelming on the road. It's become a pattern.
- Devin Gardner has been terrible throwing the ball the first half. He looks tentative, like he is aiming the ball instead of just letting it loose. He, frankly, is an interception about to happen. He sure doesn't look a first-round NFK pick, does he>
- Michigan's secondary is not very good. It's surprising, too, given the quality of athletes they have recruited for the position. They are supposed to be much better than UConn's offensive skill position players,. They haven't been.
- The Wolverines tackling in space is questionable. Like the turnovers. It's the sign of poorly prepared team. So is the inability to gain yardage running the football with running backs.

My thoughts on MSU's loss to Notre Dame Saturday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter MSU, Notre Dame

 - There are two ways of looking at Michigan State's scoring drive in the third quarter. One is was a long drive and the Spartans ran the ball effectively. Quarterback Connor Cook made a couple nice throws. Yet, it ate up more than half of the quarter and netted just three points. There just isn't much explosiveness to MSU's offense. However, the idea to win on the road, is to shorten the game and let the chips fall where they may in the final quarter. The Spartans certainly have done that. They have a legitimate chance of winning this game.
- The lack of discipline by the Spartans' secondary today has been alarming. Not all the calls have been iffy, like MSU fans have been whining about on Twitter.
- It's amazing how Notre Dame, in third and short, still ran an empty backfield set and tried to throw the ball. I don't know if that says more about how good MSU's defense is, how bad ND's offense is. There is no reason to be impressive with the play-calling of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly today. He really hasn't presented any wrinkles, which has confused the Spartans' defense.

Thoughts halftime, MSU, Notre Dame

- The Spartans' defense is overrated from the stand point it is exceptionally stout until it really has to stop an opposing team. The first half of this game is a classic example. Notre Dame has many weapons, but the Fighting Irish offense was clearly perplexed. Then, at the end of the half, Notre Dame moved right down the field to take a 10-7 lead. It was kind of a snap shot of MSU's defense last year. It must change if the Spartans defense is, indeed, going to be the difference-making element in their games.
- The fact this game is low-scoring clearly plays into MSU's hands. If this game were to become any sort of shootout, the Fighting Irish would win. But it seems very unlikely.
- The Spartans wasted scoring opportunity deep in ND's territory early in the first quarter was very hurtful. There is no excuse to miss that the field goal, or not make more of a threat to score a TD. The kicking specialists on both teams had a rough first half, though.
- I don't know what it is, but the number of passes MSU's receivers drop is alarming. This has been going on for more than a year now. What reason is there to believe it is going to change soon? And it's not just s couple of receivers. It's all the Spartans' receivers. It's amazing. It doesn't matter who the MSU quarterback is in a sense. They don't have a chance. When Macgarrett Kings Jr. held onto Connor Cook's perfectly thrown pass for MSU's second quarter touchdown, it's as Al Michaels should have been calling the game, breaking out his, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!!" line.
- In no way am I saying Nick Hill is a great running back. But he is better than I thought he was, and he has made some good runs today. He is scrappy and does fight for the extra yard. He is not a finesse back, which was my thought about him in the past.

Thoughts pregame MSU, Notre Dame

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tigers are built for titles bigger than AL Central champions

My column:

Bigger picture for Tigers involves more than division title

Phil Coke is pitching his way off the playoff roster and why it could be a disaster for the Tigers

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Michigan won't be great until Devin Gardner is

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why UConn might be more threatening to Michigan than you might think

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jhonny Peralta a left fielder? Now that's an interesting concept. My thoughts on it

Prince Fielder having a bad season? Not really

Any discussion about Detroit Tigers' first baseman Prince Field
er begin with his $214 million contract, but shouldn't end there.
Statistically, this has been his worst year since he was a young player. A legitimate argument can be made he isn't living up to his contract this season. I do see some validity in it because Fielder has to be an off-the-chart hitter to live up to his salary. He has not been that this season.
There has been constant overanalyzing about his divorce, especially when he was slumping early in the season.

Prince Fielder: Water finding its level
But in truth, Fielder is having a good season by just any other standard than $214 million. His OPS has steadily risen to .824, which is in the Top 20 in MLB. He has easily topped the 100-RBI mark. His batting average isn't much lower than his career high. If he is bothered by the personal problems, it hasn't had a bearing on his play, which is predictable considering he is 29 and not battling any injury issues. Fielder is a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter, and very limited otherwise. He isn't just going to lose the ability to hit at 29 because he is fretting about a personal issue.
His 2013 story is a classic case of water finding its level.
His WAR is low (1.8), but Fielder is never going to star in the world of Sabermatics. His metrics are going to lowered, like a lot of sluggers without multi-dimensional skills, because his base-running and fielding metrics are low, and he hits into a lot of double plays. But you don't have to be Tom Tango understand what you see with Fielder is exactly what you are going to get. And as the season has gone on, he has essentially produced the good part.

But still, his WAR is better this season than Victor Martinez (0.8) and Torii Hunter (1.3) and you don't hear about their low metrics as much as with Fielder.
The biggest factor is protecting Miguel Cabrera as much as possible. Pitching around Cabrera isn't nearly the desired option it would be were it not for Fielder, even when Martinez was batting behind him.
I think the bigger issue with Fielder is the postseason. His lack of production in the postseason has been alarming. In 28 postseason games, he simply has not gotten it done  .183 batting average .563 OPS), and he came up very flat in he '12 World Series (one hit).
How finishes this season is particularly important and relevant than much of the angst about Fielder's "bad" year in '13.
Why the Tigers are still very in a pennant race and it has nothing to do with the Cleveland Indians


Sunday, September 15, 2013

My thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 25-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday

Typical Lions show up in Arizona: My column on Lions loss to Arizona:
David Akers: What a disaster Sunday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Lions, Cardinals

There is a long-established formula for success in football. Have a big play on offense. Score on defense. The Lions have followed that today. The one missing part of the equation is the special teams. The missed field goals and Micheal Spurlock's returns are a concern. If the Lions were doing a better job with field position today, this game might be over. Instead, it's very tight.
- You have to wonder if the NFL will fine Ndamukong Suh for hitting Cardinals' running back Andre Ellington too hard. Just kidding. I think.
- One of the more underrated, but wise decisions, the Lions made during the off season was re-signing DeAndre Levy. He has played well for them in the past, often under difficult circumstances, but at 26 and with experience under his belt, Levy is starting to shine.
- The Lions' defense has been solid today. Holding Arizona to a field goal after Reggie Bush's fumble was huge. They have, for the most part, done of terrific job in the scoring zone.
- It's a misnomer the Cardinals have been single-covering Calvin Johnson most of this game with Patrick Peterson. They have still been bracketing him with coverage by safety rolling his way deep.
- Ziggy Ansah did a terrific job of stripping the ball from Arizona QB Carson Palmer. Too bad Willie Young negated it with his bad judgment. Mistakes from the Lions' defensive line, as talented as it is, remains a constant.

Thoughts halftime Lions, Cardinals

- I haven't heard anybody complaining about Riley Reiff lately, have you? He looks like a pretty good NFL player to me. Larry Warford, too.
- Few quarterbacks can throw seams routes as well as Matthew Stafford. It is probably the biggest factor separating him from other QBs. That type of pattern he hit Calvin Johnson on for a long touchdown during the second quarter was completely taken away from him most of the time last season. There were no seams because of five- and six-man boxes and so many defenders popping up in coverage. It wasn't only a brilliant throw by Stafford into a small window on a rope, and a great catch-and-run by Johnson, but the Reggie Bush factor was a part of it. The Cardinals had nine players within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. It doesn't happen if Mikel Leshoure is the main running back instead of Bush.
Joique Bell is an adequate replacement for Bush, but not nearly the same type of differencemaker when it comes to having a bearing on the way defensive schemes are set against the Lions' offense.
- When Chris Houston came to the Lions from Atlanta, the big knock on him was his inability to play the ball effectively in the air. It's not nearly the problem it once was, and he can run with just about any wide receiver in the NFL It was impressive how he was able to run stride for stride with little effort, and Floyd can fly,
- Sometimes the zone blitz is maddening. Come on. Dropping Willie Young back in coverage? It's a concept which is overused and has been adjusted to by NFL offensive coordinators.
- You can detect some Stefan Logan in Micheal Spurlock. He literally went to the brink of disaster, didn't he?

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Cardinals

- Horrible example of field goal kicking by David Akers. It was a decent drive by the Lions considering they started at their own five. Anything under 50 yards should be a high percentage attempt for an NFL kicker. OK. So there is somewhat of a pass for a 52-yarder. But the second try less than 50? Come on. No excuse for that. As for the injury problem, Akers had them last season. The Lions were aware before they signed him. And please, don't start with the Kickalious talk. The Lions may have not signed the right kicker this off season. Special teams breakdowns are so hurtful.
- The Lions' defense did not look good on first Cardinals' drive. But you can see why the Cardinals are, well, the Cardinals. They just didn't connect on a couple makeable pass plays. It went better for the Lions' defense the second time they were on the field. Lions' can't win this game with constantly bad field position, though.
- The Cardinals are playing man-to-man on the Lions' other receivers and double-teaming Calvin Johnson. Thought they might leave Patrick Peterson alone on him. The Lions' "other" receivers have to come through. That was a bad drop by Nate Burleson.
- Bill Bentley is a solid NFL player. He is growing nicely into his role as a nickel back. He looks like a starting-caliber cornerback long term. He made a nice play to thwart Arizona's second drive.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The most disturbing aspect of Michigan nearly being upset by Akron Saturday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter, Akron, Michigan

- You run the ball well, good things will happen. Fitzgerald Toussaint broke off a couple nice runs (although one was called back because of a penalty) and the seas parted for the Michigan offense. It wasn't a coincidence.
- We've heard a lot about Jehu Chesson, but we've seen remarkably little of him until his third quarter touchdown. It was an impressive catch and run. Freshman tight end Jake Butt also caught a pass on the drive. Both are extraordinarily talented young players and part of why the Wolverines' future appears so bright.
- I amazed with how smooth Devin Gardner is as a runner. It's like defensive players just slow down and he is controlling them as he moves by them.
- I hate to use such comparisons, but the Lions did come to mind when Michigan was shooting themselves in the foot early in this quarter.
- Akron is lacking home run power, but the Zips have been remarkably consistent when it comes to moving the ball deep into Michigan territory. What's the main issue with the Wolverines defensively? Pretty much everything. Remember, it wasn't like the Wolverines played that well defensively vs. Notre Dame, either.

Thoughts halftime Michigan, Akron

-  Sure, it's natural to letdown after the massive win over Notre Dame last week. But come on, Akron is awful.
- If Michigan doesn't turn the ball over, this game is the expected rout already. Devin Gardner's interceptions in the second quarter were especially disappointing. He has the makings of an outstanding quarterback, perhaps one of the best in the country, but not if he doesn't start taking better care of the ball. The Wolverines will be in trouble and Gardner's potential will never be realized if he keeps playing loose with the football.
- Brendan Gibbons' missed field goal was also disappointing. The Wolverines are doing a lot of little things wrong today and displaying little intensity defensively. Akron hasn't played a perfect game (interception, two missed field goals), but has been effective shortening the clock. I still don't see much of a chance for an upset, though.
- Michigan's run blocking in this game has been terrible. It might be a good idea to see what Derrick Green can do if given on opportunity to carry the ball consistently. Michigan will not win big until it establishes a top-notch running game with its running backs. That just hasn't happened so far.

My thoughts on Michigan and MSU games today

Friday, September 13, 2013

My look at the Cardinals, Lions Sunday

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On the American League Cy Young Award race

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Time for the Detroit Lions to exorcise ghosts from season's past

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Detroit Lions impressive in win over Vikings, but definitely leave room for improvement

Thoughts atter 3rd quarter, Vikings, Lions

- Very impressive catch-and-run for a touchdown by Reggie Bush. Minnesota's safeties, particularly Harrison Smith, took poor angles in reaction to the pass. Bush saw a seam, and subsequently we saw his speed. He is one of the fastest backs in the NFL. If anything, his pure speed has been underrated. The Lions have done a good job of putting Bush in position to take full advantage of it. Now, part of this is because so much attention is being paid to Calvin Johnson. At some point, you might see the Vikings, and other defenses, respond to what Bush is doing. It will be at that point, a lot of things could open up for Calvin Johnson.
- Anybody complaining about the Lions taking Ziggy Ansah with their first-round pick? His ability to make plays is obvious, even in this game, for which he only had a few days to prepare.
- Jerome Simpson made a truly spectacular reception for the Vikings. I didn't think there was any way he'd be able to get underneath that ball. He is the same guy who did the somersault to score a touchdown for Cincinnati a couple years ago. He is an amazing athlete, evidently.
- In theory, Nate Burleson should be open a lot the way the Lions' offense is setup. They need him to make a play or two, which he did on the Lions' first touchdown drive of the half.
- The Lions' offensive line has held up well so far today. Stafford has had time to throw. Their running game has been respectable, if not spectacular.

Thoughts at halftime Vkings, Lions

The Lions are fortunate they are trailing by just a point. There is this "what if" quality about the Lions that is maddening. What if Sam Martin didn't fumble the snap from center? What if Calvin Johnson had actually hung on for a TD? What if Ndamukong Suh didn't try to throw a chop block on DeAndre Levy's interception return? What if Matthew Stafford's pass hadn't been tipped before being intercepted? What if Chris Houston had just turned around and played the ball instead of face guarding the receiver? What if Bill Bentley had been able to hang onto to that Christian Ponder pass that hit him right in the hands for a possible pick 6? What if Brandon Pettigrew didn't drop the ball nearly every time the Lions depend on him? They almost had another "what if" moment when Joique Bell, unwisely, like he did last year, exposed the ball jumping over the goal line. This team still doesn't appear to be fundamentally sound.
What if? What if? What if?
- By the way, haven't we seen enough of Pettigrew? He dropped a pass and fumbled in key situations on back-to-back plays late in the second quarter. It was definitely history repeating itself and a dreadful example of NFL football. Yet, he was still out there for the next drive/. There doesn't seem to be much accountability sometimes with the Lions.
- What was that with Louis Delmas and the after-the-whistle penalty. Awful.
- This has been an unimpressive NFL debut for Martin so far. The botched snap was brutal. So was that 33-yard shank he booted in the second quarter. That wasn't even a good punt for a high school kid.
- There have been two big plays the Lions' defense has allowed, the long TD run by Adrian Peterson and a long pass to Jerome Simpson, which setup Minnesota's second score. But the Lions' defense has been much better overall than the Lions' offense, which has mostly floundered. It's a good sign the Lions' defense has forced a couple turnovers.

Thoughts at the end of 1st quarter Vikings, Lions

- This game couldn't have started out any worse for the Lions. A promising Detroit drive stalling? A field goal snap fumbled by a rookie punter serving as holder? Vikings' All-Pro running back and longtime Lions' nemesis Adrian Peterson breaking off a 78-yard touchdown run? I understand a lot of Lions' fans began mumbling under their breath, or perhaps even screaming, "Same old Lions." I couldn't blame them. It was impossible not to think the same thing.
- Reggie Bush's bearing on the Lions' offense isn't overrated. He makes a huge difference. If both Bush and Calvin Johnson remain healthy, it's difficult to image they won't have big seasons.
- I didn't understand, after the apparent Johnson touchdown reception was overruled upon review, why the Lions weren't more aggressive after that. It was almost as if they settled for a field goal. The two play calls after the play was overruled showed a blatant lack of aggressiveness.
- Despite the TD being overruled, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford made a very good throw on the play. He did so throwing off his back foot and side arm.
- Joique Bell is an excellent inside runner with a very good feel for picking his way through the clutter. He has a knack for making tacklers miss when he gets the ball in space. His mediocre 40-yard dash isn't much of a factor. He is very functionally solid NFL running back.
- What is it with the drops and Lions' tight ends? It's like Tony Scheffler has caught the disease.

No excuses left for Detroit LIons and head coach Jim Schwartz

Impressive win over Notre Dame just the start for promising Michigan

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Notre Dame, Michigan

- It wasn't long ago Jeremy Gallon seemed undersized and underwhelming, but it wouldn't surprise me if he is an All-Big Ten receiver. He had a big game against ND two years ago, but this is turning into one for the ages. He has really taken off since Devin Gardner became Michigan's primary QB.
- These are two well-drilled football teams. It's been an impressive game so far considering it is early in the season. It's been very hard hitting. When Notre Dame tried running up the middle a few times in a row during the third quarter, the pads really started cracking. It's college football at its best in every way.
- Notre Dame's scoring drive was impressive. Ninety yards, 12 plays, five-plus minutes mixing both the run and pass effectively. The Fighting Irish remain formidable. They were not going to fold at the first sign of pressure. A bright side for Michigan has been preventing the big play and pretty much staying ahead of the curve. The Wolverines did respond with an impressive drive of their own.

Thoughts at halftime Notre Dame, Michigan

- Devin Gardner looks exceptionally under control tonight, that's for sure. He is an outstanding scrambler, who runs with a great sense of purpose, rather than flash. His first-down completion in the face of pass rush to Jeremy Gallon for a first down midway through the second quarter was particularly impressive. But Michigan needs more production from its running backs to ease the load on him. It will eventually catch up to the Wolverines. Time to let Derrick Green loose.
- Tommy Rees has mostly looked sharp. It makes you wonder if Notre Dame isn't better off with him than it would have been with Everett Golson at QB. But you could see his limitations when Rees was picked off near the end of the first half. He is strictly a pocket passer. If Michigan can get him more on the run, it would totally stymie ND's offense.
- Watching this game, you'd never know tight end Jake Butt is a true freshman. There was no hesitation to throw the first pass of the game to him and, later, he made an excellent play finding an opening in Notre Dame's zone while Gardner was on a scramble for a first down reception.
- The "Maize Rage" look at Michigan Stadium is particularly effective at night. It's like the Big House is glowing. Or you could say it has the look of the world's biggest sunflower.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Notre Dame, Michigan

- The Wolverines' receivers have been excellent tonight, especially Jeremy Gallon. He has been quite a nemesis for Notre Dame, considering his long catch-and-run for a touchdown in the first quarter tonight, along with the way he stuck a dagger in ND's collective heart, along with Denard Robinson, in '11.
- Michigan was smart to loosen Notre Dame's defense with a couple early reverses, getting the ball in space to Dennis Norfleet and Gallon. Michigan is very inexperienced in the middle of their offense line compared to Notre Dame defensively. Louis Nix III and Stephen Truitt, ND defensive linemen, are genuinely outstanding football players.
- I have a feeling Derrick Green, Michigan's freshman running back, will have a big say in what transpires tonight.
- I'm surprised Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly came out playing it so close to the vest. It's not like QB Tommy Rees lacks experience. And the best thing the Fighting Irish have going for them offensively is wide receivers T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels. Tight end Troy Niklas, also, is athletic and can stretch the field. You saw what they are capable of during ND's first quarter scoring drive.
- The retro numbers are cool and it was terrific for Michigan to honor Tom Harmon today, with his son, Mark, the actor, here. I think giving Devin Gardner Harmon's historic No. 98 is a definite sign he is viewed as the Wolverines' undisputed leader despite relatively few college starts at quarterback. It is a bit strange, though, to see a QB wearing No.98.

The 15 greatest players in the history of the Detroit Lions

My column:

Little doubt Barry Sanders sits atop Lions' all-time list

Thursday, September 05, 2013

It's eye-opening how vulnerable Detroit Tigers might be in the playoffs

Is there reason to panic about the Tigers? No. But it would be naïve to believe the Tigers' recent struggles against playoff-caliber teams Oakland and Boston weren't telling. I'd still list the Tigers as the favorite to reach the World Series out of the American League, but it's hardly a given. That will be especially true if they aren't able to gain home field advantage. Boston and Detroit are both considerably above .500 at home and just five games above .500 on the road. Also, the Red Sox have navigated a tougher schedule than the Tigers this year because the AL East is much stronger than the AL Central.

Wake up call Wednesday night at Fenway Park
The Tigers were 2-5 in seven games against the A's and Red Sox. In the playoffs, that would mean they re out. They easily could have been 1-6 were it not for an improbable comeback vs. Oakland in the series finale.
Oakland did hit the Tigers' vaunted starting pitching hard. Boston's pitchers did shutdown the Tigers, although they feature a different lineup without Miguel Cabrera. We've known all along in this town the Tigers' bullpen is vulnerable. We've seen it lately, especially Wednesday in a 20-4 loss.
It's a good thing the Tigers were able to dominate the Indians this season or the division race would be tight. As is, I can see it getting a little closer over the next week, but the ease of the Tigers' schedule down the stretch seems to make a 2009-like collapse highly improbable (the Tigers have a much better club now than in 2009, too). However, the Tigers
 simply must play better in the postseason than have recently or the playoff run won't be nearly as long as has been widely anticipated.

Why the Minnesota Vikings provide the perfect litmus test fort he Detroit Lions in NFL season opener

My column:
Lions need an early lead vs. Peterson, Vikings

Replay of our live chat this week on Michigan, MSU after season openers, Lions' upcoming opener and Tigers' issues. We do this every Monday 1 p.m. You participation is easy and encouraged.