NFL Week 17- Playoff Picture, Scenarios, and Predictions

The NFL postseason looms near, but there’s still one more week in the regular season we must get through before all is decided. There’s still a lot that’s yet to be resolved. The 6 teams that will be representing the AFC in the playoffs have already been determined, however there’s still battles happening for seeding and a 1st round bye. In the NFC, just  4 teams have clinched a spot in the postseason and there’s five teams still contesting for 2 spots. Perhaps most important, however, is that despite trailing 39 points in the championship game, my fantasy team (Don’t Get Chad Mad) won’t go down without a fight and plan on giving it all they’ve got.

In this piece, I will examine each team yet to be eliminated from playoff contention. I’ll recap their season, give you their playoff scenario and give you my prediction.

All stats found on NFL.com

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals will be finishing with the 2nd Wild Card spot in the playoffs, however who they play has yet to be determined. Coming off their surprising postseason appearance in the 2011-2012 season, the Bengals finished their first four games of the season pretty strong, going 3-1. They looked poised for another decent year. However, in their next four games, the Bengals didn’t look as strong, losing all 4 (including losses to Miami and Cleveland), they were then sitting with a 3-5 record going into week 10. Be that as it may, the Bengals were able to pull their socks up and win 6 of their next 7 games (which included wins against the Giants and Steelers). My prediction for the Bengals is obviously the 6th seed in the AFC, because that’s already been determined. Watch out for the Bengals in the postseason though, I think they have the ability to beat a team like the Ravens or the Texans under the right circumstances.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts will be finishing with the 5 seed in the AFC, but like the Bengals, who they play has still has yet to be determined. After posting the worst record in the NFL last season, expectations were extremely low for this Colts team, they’ve more than exceeded them to this point, posting 5 times as many wins through their first 15 games this season as they had all of last year. Now, I’m going to go on a mini tirade here about the Colts, because I believe they, along with Luck, may be getting just a little bit too much credit for the team’s success this year. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Luck and the Colts have a very bright future, that being said, neither of them deserve the praise or results they’ve been getting for this season. Starting with Luck, his completion percentage of just over 54% ranks him 33rd among 34 eligible QB’s, and he’s tied with Brees for most interceptions in the league (18). People could argue that he’s 7th in the league in passing yards (4,183), but that’s only because he’s thrown the ball 599 times. If you look in depth, he’s only averaging 7.0 yards per attempt which ranks him just 17th in the league, his touchdown numbers aren’t incredible either, look for a rookie QB he’s had a good season, however, he’s been discussed in MVP talks, which is ridiculous, he shouldn’t even be rookie of the year (I’d rank RG3 and Wilson ahead of him). The biggest argument in favor of Luck is that he took a 2-14 team to a 10-5 team, first of all, team achievements should be in a completely different category than individual awards. Secondly, the team is extremely lucky to be at this record based on the closeness in the score of most of their games. Lastly, in my opinion the team has not improved this much because Luck has been so good, but because Curtis Painter was so bad, his stats were atrocious, he had twice as many turnovers as he had touchdowns, and when Orlovsky took over, the team wasn’t half bad, I along with most would probably still consider Orvlosky a below average QB, but he won 2 games in just 5 starts with the club. Now to speak about the team, the Colts are extremely lucky to be where they are, maybe it’s because of inspiration they’ve received from Chuck Pagano or whatever else, their talent and even their play on the field does not match their record this season. The Colts have -46 Net points (points for minus points against), of all the other teams who have already clinched a playoff spot in the NFL, the lowest Net Points is +60, you can’t tell me there wasn’t a little luck involved in their record. They have twice as many wins as losses, yet they are being outscored by 46 points. Another problem I have with this Colts team is that they haven’t beaten an AFC team .500 or better all year, now they’ve only played 2 games against AFC teams that were .500 or better. However, this shows us their ease of schedule, as they’ve already played 9 games against teams under .500, and still weren’t able to post a positive Net Points. The Colts will finish with the 5th seed, but will be blown out in the first round of the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens: Even when the Ravens were a 9-2 team, I didn’t believe they were that strong, they proved me right by losing their next three games, they just aren’t complete enough, they have huge injuries on defense, Flacco can’t throw the ball on the road, and they refuse to give the ball to Ray Rice. Best thing that could happen to them is to play the Colts in the Wild Card Round, play the Texans in the Divisional round and hope the have an off night, and then hope that either the Broncos or Patriots miss their flight. They will have the 4th seed in the AFC unless they beat the Bengals, and the Dolphins defeat the Patriots, even though the Pats will probably win, they should throw the game to the Bengals just to make sure they get that Colts matchup in the 1st round. My prediction is they will finish with the 4th seed but won’t go far in the playoffs.

New England Patriots: In my opinion, the Patriots are the best team in the NFL, they have 4 losses, however they were all by really small margins. The offense is absolutely unstoppable, and the defense is much improved from last year, a big reason for their lead leaguing 190 Net Points. They should have Gronk back for the playoffs, I’m really hoping for a Patriots-Broncos AFC championship, it would just be terrific football. The Patriots still have a chance at a bye, they would need a win and a loss from either the Broncos or Texans, and a loss from both would get them the 1st seed. I don’t see the Broncos or Texans losing, so the Pats will probably have the 3rd seed and play the Bengals in the first round.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos may be the second best team in the NFL, I’d only put the Patriots ahead of them because of the schedules, the Broncos are in the worst division in the NFL and have posted just a 2-3 record against teams above .500, compared to the Pats 4-2 record in those games. The Broncos look extremely strong and are absolutely wiping the floor with their competition at this point, the defense is unstoppable, their passing game’s unstoppable and, and even without McGahee, their running game has been unstoppable. This is mostly due to the Broncos underachieving former first round draft pick, Knowshon Moreno. The only AFC team that I think can beat them is the Patriots, and they should have no troubles beating the Chiefs this week and will probably finish with the 2nd seed and a bye.

Houston Texans: The Texans are an enigma of a team. They can come out and destroy any team on any given day and on other occasions they look like a practice squad. Such as when they were destroyed by the Packers, Patriots and Vikings, and almost defeated by teams like the Jaguars and Lions. The Texans are definitely going to forget to show up to a game in the playoffs, and their whole season will come crashing down. They could finish with either the first, second or third seed. A win gets them the first seed, a loss and a Broncos or Patriots win gets them the second seed, and a loss accompanied with both a Patriots win and a Broncos win drops them to the third seed. They should beat the Colts and secure that first seed, but who knows, maybe it will be “one of those games”.

New York Giants: Boy, did the Giants ever blow this one. After sitting at 6-2 after week 8, and having a stranglehold on the entire division, the Giants have found a way to go just 2-5 since, and virtually eliminate themselves from the playoffs. The Giants always either get really hot or really cold at the end of the season. When they get really hot, they can win the Super Bowl, as they’ve already done on two occasions since 2006, however when they get cold, they can mess up their entire season. It’s sad to think that the G-men have done this to themselves considering that they’d have a much better chance to win the Super Bowl than at least 2 of the teams that are going to make it. Don’t worry Giants fans, this isn’t the end of an era, you’ll just go silent for a few years then come out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl again in 2015, it’s a fact. Now, I’ve been talking as if the Giants have  already been eliminated from playoff contention, they haven’t technically but it’s going to be pretty hard for them to sneak in. They need to beat the Eagles, they will also need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, the Packers to beat the Vikings, and the Lions to beat the Bears, maybe 3 of these 4 results could happen but I can’t see the Giants getting that lucky. Nevertheless, I would like to say that the Giants have had one of the hardest schedules in the NFL to this point, but a great team should have been able to overcome that and make the playoffs. I think the Giants will finish 7th in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys: These guys have somewhat secretly stuck around in the NFC East all year, and will be playing for the division championship this Sunday. Romo has been playing terrifically as of late and will surely be a big factor in this matchup, along with Dez Bryant, who I tried to acquire in my fantasy league in week 10, I decided not to give what was being asked of me, boy do I regret it, as since then, Bryant has been one of the best receivers in the NFL. The scenario’s easy for the Cowboys, win and you’re in, lose and go home. I have not been a big believer in the Cowboys all year, especially after almost losing to the Browns (who are a better team than their record indicates, but still a team the Cowboys should handle easily). However, the Cowboys surprised me with wins against the Steelers and Bengals, this proved to me one of two things, either the Cowboys are better than I thought, or the AFC is even worse than I thought. They were unable to beat the Saints, but they didn’t get humiliated against them either. I feel as if the Cowboys may be able to win this game, however there are two factors that stop me from picking them, the first is based on a prediction I made a while back that I will explain in the Redskins section, the second is the fact that they are the Cowboys and they will find a way to lose. Due to this, I’m predicting a Cowboys loss, and a a 9th place finish in the NFC.

Chicago Bears: After a terrific 7-1 start to the season, the Bears have fallen to the point where they no longer control their own destiny. They’d lost 5 of 6 before their win last week, and Bears fans are looking for someone to blame, as a result, Lovie Smith’s name’s been thrown around as a coach who could potentially be fired. I don’t think that’s deserved, however, I can’t quite figure out what the problem with this team is. It’s certainly not the defense, and despite the struggles, if you told me I could have Cutler, Forte, and Marshall on my team, I’d take it. Maybe it has to do with the O-Line, which for the 4th season in a row, has given up more sacks than at least 27 other NFL teams. For the Bears to make the postseason, they’ll need a win against the Lions along with a Packers win against the Vikings, meaning the Bears will have to cheer for the Packers this week, the humor in that is unbelievable. I do believe the Bears will be able to hold on for a win, and watch their arch nemesis Packers win to give the Bears the 6th seed in the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have put together a pretty nice season for their fans behind an unbelievable Adrian Peterson and their stellar defense. AP of course just 207 yards back of the single season rushing records, but the Vikings can’t be thinking about that this weekend against the Packers, if the situation calls for them to force feed the ball to Peterson (which I really hope it does, my fantasy team needs it), then do it. However, if it doesn’t call for that, then throw the ball, they need to believe in Ponder, who’s quietly put together a decent season. To make the postseason the Vikings need to win, they could still make it if they don’t win, but it’s unlikely, they would need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, the Lions to beat the Bears, and the Giants to beat the Eagles. If the Packers weren’t playing for anything, I think the Vikings may have been able to pull off this W, but with the Packers playing for a bye, I just can’t see it happening. I predict the Vikings to finish 8th in the NFC.

Seattle Seahawks: There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Seahawks start the season after a terrific preseason by one 5’11″ 3rd round rookie QB. Throughout the year, Wilson hadn’t done anything incredible but he continually playing decent football. With the combination of Lynch and that great defense, the Seahawks were able to keep themselves in it. Over the last 3 weeks, we have begun to see that great QB that we saw in the preseason, who can not only beat you with his legs, but with his arm as well. Adding to that, the incredible play of Lynch and the defense, have made the Seahawks absolutely unstoppable, outscoring their opponents 150-30, and really cementing themselves as a contender in the NFC. This is a young team who’s going to be really good for years, but I can’t see them coming up with big road wins that they would need in the playoffs this year. The Seahawks could still win the division and even get a bye. To win the division they will need a W against the Rams, along with a 49ers loss by the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. To get a bye, they will need both of those things to happen along with a Vikings win over the Packers, this would be huge for the Seahawks because the higher seed you have, the longer you get to play at home, where the Seahawks are a perfect 7-0, compared to a 3-5 record on the road. I predict they will win in week 17, however so will the 49ers and the Packers, so they will finish with the 5th seed in the NFC.

Washington Redskins: I don’t like to brag or anything (yes I do), but when the Redskins were 4-6, I told my fellow CTFC writer, Simple Jack, that the Skins would run the table and win the division, he laughed in my face, as he claimed that “the Redskins could never pass the Giants”, I also told him RG3 would win the MVP, but let’s not mention that, even though I believe he’s definitely been a top 5 QB this season.  After starting the season 3-6, there was some controversy at the head coach position, Mike Shanahan may or may not have implied that the team had given up on the year, maybe the team wanted to prove something to him, as they haven’t lost since that incident, winning 6 in a row to move to 9-6. The Redskins are playing for the division title this weekend against Dallas, but they can still win a wild card spot if they lose, though they would need some help, they would need the Packers to beat the Vikings, and the Lions to beat the Bears, but the better option would be to just beat the Cowboys on Sunday night. I do predict the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, mostly because of the prediction I made 5 weeks ago, however, I doubt they will go very far in the postseason if they make it.

San Francisco 49ers: When the 9ers are playing their best football, they’re the best team in the NFL, the problem is they let their weaknesses show way too often, like last week against the Seahawks, or in the second half a couple weeks ago against the Patriots. They obviously have a terrific defense, and an awesome run game. The inconsistency comes from the quarterback position, as despite pretty good play from Kaepernick (who started for my Madden 13 Connected Careers team for 4 years before he even took over in San Fran) and even Smith when he was playing, they seem to just go really cold from time to time, and it lets the opposition possess the ball a lot, and score points in bunches. The 49ers, just like the Seahawks can finish with either the 2nd, 3rd or 5th seed in the NFC, with a win against Arizona they would win the division, with a loss to the Cards accompanied with a Seattle win, they will have the 5th seed, and with a win along with a Packers loss, they will have the 2nd seed and a first round bye. I predict a win for the 49ers and a 3rd seed in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have very quietly put up a very respectable 11-4 record this year and they currently hold the 2nd spot in the NFC standings. The Packers’ season looked to be in trouble after the notorious missed call against Seattle, and the blown halftime lead against the Indianapolis Colts. After that 2-3 start, the Packers have won 9 of their last 10, and put themselves in a position to earn a first round bye behind another very strong season by Aaron Rodgers and a surprisingly decent defensive core Their defense has been good against both the run and the pass. If they win their game against the Vikings the Packers will secure that second seed and a first round bye, however, if they are defeated, and either the 49ers or Seahawks win, the Packers will be left with the 3rd seed. I predict a Packers win in week 17 in Minnesota giving them the bye. Their passing game is just too strong for the Vikings defense. You heard it from me, watch out for the Packers this postseason, they could put together something special.

Atlanta Falcons: Oh, the Atlanta Falcons, the Falcons have the best record in the NFL and are still not considered a top 5 team by many around the league. I was part of “the doubters” for most of the year, until i saw that blowout they pulled off against New York Giants. The Giants are not an easy opponent, especially not when their fighting for their lives, and the Falcons shut them down; handling them as if they were the Chiefs. Their defense is great, their passing game is great, and between Turner, Jacquizz, and Snelling their running game’s been up there among the top in league as well. One of the arguments constantly made against the Falcons is that yes, they have been one of the best home teams in the league for years, but they need to prove they can win on the road. My response is that 6-2 on the road isn’t bad, and also, because they secured home field, they wil be playing at home every game they play in the postseason until the Super Bowl. Maybe the biggest argument against the Falcons, however, is that they haven’t proved they can win in the playoff. I cannot fully argue against this, however they’ve only played 3 postseason games in the Matt Ryan era, and all 3 of the teams they’ve played against went on to play in the Super Bowl. It may have just be a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. Whether the Falcons win or lose in week 17 is irrelevant as they’ll probably rest many of their players. The Falcons will finish with the 1st seed in the postseason, and I’m telling you, don’t take them too lightly.

-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

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30 Teams in 30 Days – Cincinnati Reds

After a great year in 2010, which landed the Reds their first NL Central title since 1995, the Reds disappointed a lot of people last year. Despite having 2010 NL MVP, Joey Votto (who just so happened to attend my high school back in his youth), they couldn’t even reach the .500 plateau. Let’s recap.
Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Johnny Cueto 9-5, 2.31 ERA, 104 SO
Top Hitter: .309 AVG, 29 HR, 103 RBI
Manager: Dusty Baker
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ron Mahay, Dioner Navarro, Ryan Madson, Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, Ryan Ludwick, Jeff Francis
Important Offseason Losses: Francisco Cordero TOR, Ramon Hernandez COL, Edgar Renteria FA, Dontrelle Willis, Edinison Volquez, Yonder Alonso SD,  Travis Wood CHC

There were high hopes for the Reds in 2011 after a great 2010, but with the amazing years the Brewers and the Cardinals put up, the Reds didn’t have a chance. Joey Votto (CANADIAN)! got some heat last year, which I didn’t quite understand, I know he had a drop-off from 2010, but he still hit over .300, he had 29 Jacks and over 100 RBI’s. The real problem lied in their pitching, they finished exactly 20th in the league in ERA, WHIP and SO. It was mostly their Starters, besides Cueto and Leake, their Starting Pitching was horrendous, I mean, just look at the stats, of their 5 pitchers with 13 starts or more (not including Leake and Cueto), their Starting Pitching finished with an ERA of 5.00 on the dot. That is unacceptable. They had a decent Bullpen and a decent offensive attack, but their Starting Pitching lost them a lot of ball games. The Reds certainly went after improving that in the offseason, with the addition of young stud, Mat Latos. The 24 year old right-hander has shown great promise, posting an ERA of 3.37 in his first 72 big league starts. They also added veteran lefty, Jeff Francis (also CANADIAN!), who once had great potential, being selected 9th overall in the 2002 Draft, but was never able to live up to expectations, posting a career 4.78 ERA as a starter, the Reds may try to use him in a relief role this year, seeing as he’s already made 3 relief appearances for them in the Spring. So, I believe their Starting 5 should be greatly improved this year, with the hope of continued success from Cueto, Leake and Latos, and then if they can get improved years from Bailey and Arroyo (who had two successful campaigns before struggling last year), they could even be considered a somewhat dangerous starting rotation at times. Their bullpen should be improved a bit with the additions of Marshall and Mahay, but with them parting ways with Cordero, they brought on Madson to take over the closer role, unfortunately it was just announced that he will miss the whole year due to Tommy John surgery, so they’re going to have trouble finding saves from time to time, having established closer. Their offense has lost a little fire power in Alonso, Hernandez and Renteria, but it should still be a very dangerous offensive group. Ultimately I think the Reds will fall short of the Cardinals and the Brewers once again (despite their losses of Prince and Pujols). I just don’t see this team being able to compete with them. However, they are still young (28.0 yr old average) and I believe that they’ll be a threat in this division for years to come.

Prediction
Record: 82-80
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Mat Latos 14-9, 3.06 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Joey Votto .311 AVG, 31 HR, 108 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – San Fransisco Giants

All that needs to be said about the 2012 San Fransisco Giants is that the 2010 World Series Champs will be back with a vengeance, and ready for another title run! Here is there 2011 season review:
Record: 86- 76
Finish: 2nd NL West
Playoffs: None
Best Hitter: Pablo Sandoval, .315 AVG, 23 HR, 70 RBI
Best Pitcher: Tim Lincecum, 13- 14, 2.74 ERA, 220 SO
Manager: Bruce Bochy
Important Offseason Aquisitions: Melky Cabrera, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Theriot, Angel Pagan, Guillermo Mota
Important Offseason Losses: Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Jeff Keppinger, Orlando Cabrera, Pat Burrell

The 2012 season should be truly exciting for the San Fransisco Giants and their fans alike. The team had a down year last year due to an anemic offense, that scored the near worst amount of runs in the league. This year, things are looking quite a bit brighter in the bay, due to the return of a familiar face as well as some new ones. Back from injury this season will be rookie superstar catcher Buster Posey. In his rookie season Posey hit 18 home runs, and 67 RBI with a .305 clip. New to the club this year are outfielders Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera. Last season with the Mets, Pagan hit only 7 home runs, and 56 RBI while batting .262. This may seem disapointing, however, the outfielder is only one season removed from an 11 home run season,   to go along with 69 RBI and a .290 clip. That type of production could be very useful in the Giants lineup. Cabrera on the other hand, had a career season with Royals last year. He hit 18 HR, and 87 RBI while batting and impressive .305. These two additions, along with the return of Posey will surely help an offense that relied on the departed Carlos Beltran and third-baseman Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval is the Giants best hitter and was quite literally their only consistant source of offense. With an improving offensive core, the Giants boast one of the best pitching groups in the league. Led by all-star Matt Cain, the Giants rotation is in the leagues top 5 along with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington and the LA Angels. Following Cain is two time CY-Young award winner Tim Lincecum, who never fails to pitch a jem. All-star Ryan Vogelsong comes next, followed by Madison Bumgarner. If the starting 5 isn’t tantilizing enough, the Giants bring out Sergio Romo (one of the best relief pitchers in the league) in the eighth, followed by “the beard” Brian Wilson. With arguably, the best complete pitching staff and an improved offense, the sky is the limit for the 2012 San Fransisco Giants, and if all goes correctly, the bay area could see the return of an all to familiar trophy.

Predictions:
Record: 93-67
Finish: 1st NL West
Playoffs: World Series
Best Hitter: Pablo Sandoval, 27 HR, 86 RBI, .312 AVG
Best Pitcher: Tim Lincecum, 18-6, 2.68 ERA, 240 SO
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-Zookeeper

 

 

30 Teams in 30 Days – Atlanta Braves

Atlanta completely collapsed in September last year, losing their Wild Card spot to the Cardinals on the final day of the season. Luckily for them, it was completely overshadowed by the Red Sox collapse. You start to wonder, who would have won the World Series if Hotlanta had of been able to play just average in September, and were able to cruise their way to a playoff spot? Let’s see how they looked overall last year.
Atlanta Braves
Record: 89-73
Finish: 2nd in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jair Jurrjens 13-6, 2.96 ERA, 90 SO
Top Hitter: Brian McCann .270 AVG, 24 HR, 71 RBI
Manger: Not Bobby Cox (Fredi Gonzalez)
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Adam Russell, Josh Wilson, Robert Fish (he’s not really important, I just enjoy his name),
Imortant Offseason Losses: Derek Lowe CLE, Nate McLouth PIT, Alex Gonzalez MIL, Scott Linebrink STL, George Sherrill SEA

On August 28th, 2011, the Atlanta Braves led the Cardinals in the Wild Card race by 10 games. I want to put this in perspective here, the Braves were just 6 games back of the Phillies at this time, the Tigers were only 6.5 games ahead of the Indians, and the Giants only trailed the D’Backs by 3 games, at that time, it would have made more sense  for one of those teams (Braves, Indians, Giants) to have have caught their division leaders  
instead of the Cardinals catching the Braves. Apart from September, the Braves had a terrific season, despite struggling offensively from time to time, their pitching more than made up for it, finishing top 4 in the league in ERA(3.48), WHIP(1.25), SO(1332), Opponent’s Average(.240), Home Runs allowed(125), Runs allowed(605) and Saves(52). They also did a great job defensively, finishing 4th in the league in Fielding Percentage(.987). Unfortunately, they struggled offensively, finishing in the bottom 8 of the league in AVG(.243), R(641), RBI(606) and SB(77), they do have some pop in their bats as they hit 173 Home Runs, but they will need to improve their offense this season. The Braves have some AMAZING young talent, for whatever reason, I find a lot of people thinking the Braves have an old team, this may be because of Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson, but they’re the 6th youngest team in the league. Examples:
Freddie Freeman 1B
Age: 22
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 157 G, .282 AVG, 21 HR, 76 RBI
Brandon Beachy RHP
Age: 25
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 25 GS, 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 169 SO
Craig Kimbrel
Age: 23
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 79 G, 77 IP, 46 SV, 2.10 ERA, 127 SO
Eric O’Flaherty
Age: 26
Rookie Season: 2007
2011 Stats: 78 G, 73.2 IP, 0.98 ERA, 67 SO
Jason Heyward
Age: 22
Rookie Season: 2010
2011 Stats: 128 G, .227 AVG, 14 HR, 42 RBI
Jair Jurrjens
Age: 26
Rookie Season: 2008
2011 Stas: 23 GS, 13-6, 2.96 ERA, 90 SO
Tommy Hanson
Age: 25
Rookie Season: 2009
2011 Stas: 22 GS, 11-7, 3.60 ERA, 142 SO

It’s pretty clear that the Braves have tons of young talent on their team, and even some of their established players like Brian McCann and Miguel Prado are still fairly young, as their each only 28 years old, and their star reliever Jonny Venters just turned 27 yesterday. The team didn’t make many moves in the Offseason, nor should they have. If Uggla (who hit .296 and 21 of his 36 HR post All-Star break last year) and Heyward have bounce back years, and the rest of their players can keep up what they did last year (not including September), this team should have no problem nailing one of the two Wild Card spots, even with the improved Marlins. I even have them winninng the World Series, but I’m kinda crazy. Their bullpen might be a bit worse (but still amazing), but their offense will improve and their Starting pitching should be just as good, and having Bourn for the entire year should help them tremendously on the base paths. I expect good things from the Braves this year, but there’s still one question left to be asked, would the Braves have collapsed if they still had Bobby Cox as their bench boss? Too many what ifs, let’s just see how they play this year.

Prediction
Record: 92-70
Finish: 2nd in NL East
Playoffs: World Series Win (I have this strange gut feeling about the Braves this year, I don’t know why)
Top Pitcher: Brandon Beachy 17-8 3.16 ERA, 204 SO
Top Hitter: Dan Uggla .284 AVG, 36 HR, 108 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

 

 

 

30 Teams in 30 Days – Chicago Cubs

The one major question that’s been lurking on everyone’s minds since 1908, how long will it take this God-forsaken team to win another World Series? I mean for Pete’s sake it’s been 104 years since the North side has last wrapped up a world championship. In 1908, the laughing stocks of the league were the Boston Doves, the New York Highlanders, and the Brooklyn Superbas.. I mean come on the Yankees weren’t even an MLB team yet, and since then the Yanks have won 27 championships! Well after an abysmal 2011, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Cubs will have to wait another 104 years until their next championship. (That’s just hilarious! A 208 year winless streak! America is barely 208 years old.) Well let’s see how ‘dem Northsiders stocked up during their 2011 campaign.
Chicago Cubs
Record: 71-91 I mean that was even worse than the Pittsburgh Pirates (see below)
Finish: 5th in the NL Central
Manager: Dale Sveum (Nope it’s no longer that old dude! I loved that guy..)
Top Pitcher: Matt Garza 10-10, 3.32 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Aramis Ramirez .361 AVG, 26 HR, 93 RBI
Important Offseason Acquisitions: David DeJesus RF
Important Offseason Losses: Aramis Ramirez MIL, Carlos Zambrano MIA, Carlos Pena  TB

I’m not going to go very in depth about the Cubs in this article, I neither think they will make the playoffs let alone have a, in any aspect, successful 2012 campaign, nor do I believe they have a bright future in store for them. Sorry about that Cub’s fans, I’ve made fun of your team enough already. Aramis Ramirez had an exceptional 2012, he is an exceptional player, batting a career high .361. However, Aramis left the team in the offseason (I don’t blame him) to join the division rival Brewers. Along with Ramirez, the Cubbies also lost their haughty and often controversial long-time starting pitcher, Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins. Along with Ramirez and Zambrano, the Cubs lost another one of their top players in slugger Carlos Pena, who posted a solid 2011 campaign. The Cubs starting 8: Alfonso Soriano LF, Marlon Byrd CF, David DeJesus RF, Ian Stewart 3B, Starlin Castro SS (this kid actually has some potential), Darwin Barney 2B, Bryan LaHair 1B, and Geovany Soto C, sounds decent on paper, however most of these players have not performed up to par recently or are past their prime (Soriano). Their starting rotation doesn’t get that much better. I mean they do have names like Ryan Dempster (Canadian), Matt Garza, and Paul Maholm, but again these guys look good on paper, but their performance, and their team’s performance has not lived up to expectations recently. And with the Cubs LOSING tremendous depth in both their lineup and starting rotation I would not want to be a Cubs fan in 2012.

Prediction
Record: 68-94
Finish: 4th in NL Central
Top Pitcher: Ryan Dempster (Canadian) 12-14, 3.86 ERA, 173 SO
Top Hitter: Starlin Castro, 0.328, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 38 SB
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30 Teams in 30 Days – Washington Nationals

There have been some great moments in sports over the last five years, there was the Cardinals World Series run, the Giants upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl… twice, VCU going first four to final four, but my favorite moment of the last five years still has to be on April 17th 2009, when Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman walked out on to the field with “NATINALS” written across the front of their jerseys, to this day, I still call them the Natinals. Anyways, let’s see how they did in 2011.
Washington Nationals
Record: 80-81 (rained out game not made up)
Finish: 3rd in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman 8-11, 3.18 ERA, 124 SO
Top Hitter: Michael Morse .303 AVG, 31 HR, 95 RBI
Manager: Davey Johnson
Important Off-season Acquisitions: Ryan Perry, Andres Blanco, Jason Michaels, Jeff Fulchino, Mike Cameron, Chad Tracy, Xavier Paul, Gio Gonzalez, Mark DeRosa, Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson
Important Off-season Losses: Todd Coffey LAD, Alex Cora STL, Jonny Gomes OAK, Livan Hernandez HOU, Laynce Nix PHI, Ivan Rodriguez FA, Collin Balester DET

The Natinals had a pretty good season last year, finishing at 80-81. That may not sound great, but it was an 11.5 game improvement from 2010, and a 21.5 game improvement from 2009. They did this without having 2009 1st overall pick, Stephen Strasburg pitch until September, due to Tommy John surgery. Despite this, pitching was still their strength, finishing seventh in the league in ERA. They got great help from their Starting pitching, 6 of their 7 pitchers with 10 starts or more had an ERA under 4.05, Livan Hernandez was the only one over that mark with an ERA of 4.47, and he’s gone this year. Their offense did struggle throughout the year, finishing 27th in the league in batting average, and 24th in the league in runs. They didn’t get the production they wanted from Jayson Werth, as his batting average dropped .064 points, he had seven less home runs, 27 less RBI and 37 less Runs than he did in 2010, giving him a total of a .232 AVG, 20 HR, 58 RBI and 69 R.  However, Michael Morse was able to pick up his slack, with a breakthrough season, recording a .303 AVG, to go along with 31 HR and 95 RBI. Ryan Zimmerman, battled some injury problems, meaning Morse was really the only difference maker in the lineup last year. However, this year, if Morse can keep it up, Zimmerman can stay healthy and Jayson Werth can bounce back, this offense can greatly improve, and If 2nd year catcher Wilson Ramos and 3rd year shortstop Ian Desmond can improve, then the Natinals could become a top 15 offense, accompanied with a top 7 or 8 pitching unit, they could become a tough team in the NL East. Earlier today, the Natinals sent 2010 1st overall pick, Bryce Harper to AAA, so one can only assume that they want to keep him in the minors for one more full season to keep up his development. The Natinals made some confusing moves with their Starting Pitching, they acquired Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez despite already having 6 potential starters in Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzelanny, so we’ll see what ends up happening there. They lost some pieces to their bench and added some pieces to their bench, but some of the bench players they added may be able to steal a spot in the lineup with a lackluster Washington offense. They lost Coffey and Balester from their bullpen, but with the acquisition of multiple relievers including Brad Lidge, who will most likely be the set-up man for Drew Storen, who put up amazing numbers in his first year as a closer, going 43/48 in save opportunities (89.6%). All in all, this team should be improved, and MAY potentially make a playoff run, with that 2nd wild card spot in play this year. However,  I ultimately see them falling a few games short, having one of, if not the toughest division in the league, with the improved Miami Marlins to go along with the Braves and the Phillies. However, in a few years, if they develop their players properly, they could become a force to be reckoned with.
Prediction
Record: 83-79
Finish: 4th in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman 12-11, 3.24 ERA, 143 SO
Top Hitter: Ryan Zimmerman .301, 25 HR, 93 RBI
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-Vernon Smells