US U-20 World Cup Qualifying Part 1

The US Under-20 (U-20) Men’s team started their CONCACAF U-20 Title defense by going 5-0 in the first stage of qualification. This year’s CONCACAF U-20 World Cup Qualifying is vastly different from previous iterations. In a nutshell, the US, Mexico, Honduras and other quality teams would usually get a bye into the second round but this year they do not. Hence, the US played 5 games against drastically sub-par competition (Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname). We out scored that competition 39 – 2. For those 5 games we had a B/C team. You have to realize that our best players under the age of 20 are already playing for the senior team (Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent, Jonathan Amon, and Timothy Weah) so they won’t be called into these tournaments as they are generally considered “developmental” tournaments.

I’m going to quickly review the individual performances across the five games, because tactics were barely a thing in such wide-open games.

Name POSITION (Current Club/Former MLS Academy if applicable)

Players who played well:

  1. Alex Mendez CM (SC Freiburg/LA Galaxy) – When Mendez was on the field he was the hub of our offense. Playing centrally he was slipping in through balls and combining well with other attackers. Didn’t see him do a ton defensively but there also wasn’t much to do defensively.
  2. Ulysses Llanez LW (Unattached/LA Galaxy) – Playing on the left wing, Llanez was the best player offensively. He used his speed to stretch the field and get behind defenses. Has a deft first touch and he can ping in a final ball with the best of them.
  3. Servania DM (FC Dallas) – Servania was great at collecting the ball in the middle of the pitch and distributing it wide. Still needs to work on his physicality but that should come with age.
  4. Paxton Pomykal AM (FC Dallas) – Combined well in the final third to create chances for other players. Also put away a few goals of his own. Mostly played on the left wing.
  5. Justin Rennicks ST (Indiana University/New England Revolution) – finished off many chances and combined well with midfielders mentioned above.
  6. Chris Gloster LB (Hannover 96/New York Red Bulls) – was sound defensively, winning many headers and muscling other players off the ball. Also added to the attack from time to time in meaningful ways.
  7. Brady Scott GK (FC Koln) – Wasn’t asked to do much but made good saves when he needed to.

Players who played okay:

  1. Juan Pablo Torres CM/DM (Lokoren) – Did a good job of collecting the ball, and a decent job distributing it as a deep-lying midfielder but struggled in one-on-one challenges
  2. Frankie Amaya CAM (UCLA) – Played well in the final third combining with other attackers but played poorly in the midfield/in the build-up.
  3. Anthony Fontana CM (Philadelphia Union) – Was non-existent when playing deeper in the midfield but effective when playing further up the pitch.
  4. For almost all of our defenders the story is “The competition was so bad that they weren’t really challenged”. Here are those that fit under this category and other notes I had.
    1. Samuel Rogers CB (Seattle Sounders) – I didn’t see any errors from Rogers
    2. Mattew Real LB/CB (Philadelphia Union) – Showed some flexibility playing LB and CB, also captained the team for some games
    3. Jaylin Lindsey RB (Sporting KC) – Similar to Gloster but was at fault on one goal, and committed a few more fouls in bad spots.
    4. Mark McKenzie CB (Philadelphia Union) – Had at least one bad challenge in an early game but played well in the last game.
    5. David Ochoa GK (Real Salt Lake) – Only played one game
    6. Manny Perez RB (NC State) – Didn’t do anything to hurt himself.

Players who did not impress

  1. Julian Araujo RB (LA Galaxy) – Only played in one game and committed two fouls in dangerous positions. He is one of the youngest guys on the roster so perhaps he will improve over time.
  2. Ayo Akinola ST (Toronto FC) – Got into good positions but had a rough first touch and struggled to put easy balls into the back of the net.
  3. Isaac Angking CM (New England Revolution) – Played in a few games but didn’t touch the ball much and didn’t do anything spectacular when he got the ball.
  4. Griffin Dorsey RW (Indiana University) – Played on the wing and did nothing besides send in hopeful crosses. Bit of a one trick pony.

Now that these 5 games are over, the US can call-in six more players for the final qualification stage. The U-20 coach Tab Ramos elected to only bring in three new players. These are Tab’s three newcomers:

  1. Sebastian Soto ST (Hannover 96/Real Salt Lake) – A forward who’s been ripping it up for Hannover’s B team. He’s gotta beat out Bobby Wood for a starting spot on that team which shouldn’t be impossible.
  2. Sergino Dest RB (AFC Ajax) – Has started playing for Ajax’s B team in the Dutch second division at right back.
  3. Chris Richards CB (On loan at Bayern Munich from FC Dallas) – a center back that Bayern like enough to keep him around. Enough said.

The above three additions are replacing the below three players who left camp this past weekend:

  1. Anthony Fontana
  2. Issac Angking
  3. Griffin Dorsey

Next up the above group will take on Costa Rica (on Friday Nov 16th at 7:30 PM) and Honduras (Monday Nov 19th at 8 PM) in the Qualification Stage in a round robin style. The top two out of these three teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup, along with two of Mexico, Panama, and El Salvador. The top team from each of these two groups will move on to a final to determine the CONCACAF U-20 Champion. The final will be played on Nov. 21st. All of the matches will be streamed for free online at CONCACAF’s website.

Here’s the starting XI I’d expect to see going forward:

Scott

Dest – Richards – Rogers – Gloster

Servania – Mendez – Torres

Pomykal – Soto – Llanez

Tab Ramos’ line-ups have looked like a 4-3-3 to me but we were also attacking a lot more in these early games. It could slip pack into a more defensive 4-5-1 in the upcoming games. It’s also worth noting that this is still a B team at best. Even without the senior national team guys, this roster is still missing Richie Ledezma (Real Salt Lake), Chris Durkin (DC United), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United), CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), George Acosta (Boca Juniors), and maybe some others.

Check back here after Nov 21st for my thoughts on the US’s final two or three games!

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USMNT 2018 November Friendlies Preview

The USMNT has friendlies against England on Thursday Nov. 15th at 3 pm followed by Italy on Tuesday Nov. 20th at 2:45 pm. This is almost certainly Dave Sarachan’s last time in charge of the team and this might be my favorite roster he’s called in. First, a few quick notes from Sarachan (All of the below info is taken from US Soccer’s website).

  1. The 5 players still involved in the MLS Playoffs (Guzan, Long, Villafana, Adams, and Trapp) will join the camp after their games on Sunday the 11th (Thursday the 8th for Villafana). He didn’t explicitly say it, but we shouldn’t be surprised if these players don’t start the game against England on the 15th.
  2. Michael Bradley was not included because he already has experience playing good teams like England and Italy. Sarachan wants younger players to get that experience instead. Love this reasoning.
  3. (He didn’t say this but I’m adding it here) It’s very possible that some players like Brooks, Yedlin, Wood and/or Pulisic only play the first game and go back to their clubs early. Brooks has done this before. It’s just so that they don’t add too many minutes to their legs.

Now onto the 26 players available (originally 28; following each players name is their club; national team caps/national team goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 59/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew; 6/0), Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin/GER; 0/0).

  • Both Steffen and Guzan are still in contention for the #1 job. I don’t know that either has an edge on the other at this point. Steffen withdrew from this camp due to injury.
  • The #3 spot has been wide open but Horvath has started Club Brugge’s last three games in Belgium posting clean sheets in all three including a Champions League game against Monaco. I hope he gets in net for at least 45 mins.
  • Klinsmann was a late addition and hasn’t started for Hertha in Germany. I think US Soccer just want to take a look at him in camp, likely won’t see in-game minutes.

DEFENDERS (10): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 35/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 1/0), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; 6/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Matt Miazga (Nantes/FRA; 10/1), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu/ESP; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Portland Timbers; 19/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 56/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 3/1)

  • Good to see Brooks, Miazga, Yedlin and Robinson (Robinson rolled his ankle in camp and will not play in these friendlies) back again to build more chemistry as they are the tentative starting backline.
  • Shout out to Aaron Long for winning MLS Defender of the Year. Well earned award, well earned call up. Definitely want to see him get some minutes.
  • CCV is a Sarachan favorites but I don’t mind him getting called in. I am okay with Zimmerman also getting the call to compete with CCV for a spot on the CB depth chart.
  • Three RBs seems unnecessary but I also don’t mind it. Last month some questioned Yedlin’s starting position after Cannon’s solid shift against Peru. I like the idea as it should motivate Yedlin to up his game. This is healthy competition that pushes players and improves teams. We also might see one of them play LB due to Robinson’s injury.
  • I like that Villafana got the call as he is older (29 years old) but he may still have some utility going forward. This is only the case because LB is such a shallow position for the US.

MIDFIELDERS (13): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 21/2), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 7/1), Luca de la Torre (Fulham/ENG; 1/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 5/0), Romain Gall (Malmö/SWE; 0/0), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth/GER; 14/4), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 3/1), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 6/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 25/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 21/9), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 3/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 7/1)

  • Boy do I hope we get to see Pulisic, McKennie, Weah and Adams on the field at the same time. We haven’t see it ever before and they are pretty easily our four best players.
  • There are the usual Sarachan call ups in Acosta, Green, Delgado, and Trapp.
  • Lletget makes his return to the national team. Lletget scored against Honduras in a World Cup Qualifier, and then spent the rest of 2017 injured. His minutes for the Galaxy increased as the year progressed. Sarachan knows him well as a former LA Galaxy assistant.
  • This is Romain Gall’s first call-up to the national team. This season in Sweeden, he has scored 14 goals in 27 games (Between two teams, as he was transferred mid-season). Those are impressive stats, but the Sweedish league’s quality level is suspect. For now, I’m taking those numbers with a grain of salt.
  • Also excited to see Luca de la Torre included in this roster. The 21 year old plays for Fulham’s reserves but got 1 goal and 2 assists in his only first team appearance back in September. Like Weah and Sargent he’s currently buried in his club’s depth chart.
  • Slightly surprised by the Saief call-up after he played poorly last month against Colombia. I wish it were Amon instead but…
  • Jonathan Amon was not called in for the U-20s nor did he play this weekend for his club in Denmark, so I suspect he’s nursing a small injury.
  • It’s too bad Nagbe had to withdraw from camp with an injury. I was interested to see if he still had something to offer this national team at 28 years old.

FORWARDS (2): Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 5/2), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96/GER; 43/13)

  • Sargent has, frustratingly, yet to crack the starting XI for Werder Bremen but he has been training with the first team. Can’t wait to see him rip stuff up in these friendlies. Sargent is also carrying a knock coming into camp so we may see limited minutes from him.
  • Wood has been starting regularly for Hannover this past month but hasn’t found the net in that time. I expect more of the same from him.
  • Novakovich, another regular call-up for Sarachan, has been out for Fortuna Sittard’s last two games with injuries. His absence does not surprise me.

Since MLS Playoffs players are likely coming late I don’t expect many if any of them to start the first game. Here’s the lineup I would like to see at some point in either game:

Horvath

Cannon – Brooks – Miazga – Villafana

Adams – McKennie

Pulisic – de la Torre – Weah

Sargent

Subs: Wood for Sargent, Gall for Weah, Acosta for Adams.

This is a really young team but man am I excited just to throw all of their names onto one line-up. Everyone in that front six is 21 or younger. They’ll all be hitting their prime right as the 2022 World Cup rolls around. It’s hard not to get excited about that.

Save Guzan for the second game and Let Horvath play with the young guns here. You could talk me into starting Acosta in place of Adams. Not a like-for-like switch but McKennie can take-over more defensive responsibilities if Adams leaves the line-up. I also think Sargent should start the first game just because Wood usually gets the first start, so why not change it up a little? I wouldn’t mind Long going in for Miazga who has fallen out of favor at Nantes. Again though, with Long joining camp late I don’t suspect that. I also doubt de la Torre gets the start but I really want to see him there.

Before I finish this, I want to give Dave Sarachan some credit where credit is due. The USMNT needed a care-taker who was going to keep the tactics simple, incorporate youth, give previously ignored players opportunities, and raise the spirits of both the players and the fans. Sarachan has succeeded to some degree in all of those categories. Of course we would all prefer to have the full-time national team coach to be named, but Sarachan has no control over that. I think it’s fair to say that he made the most with the cards he was dealt. To be clear, I am NOT advocating for him as the full-time coach. All I want to do is thank him for providing some light to the national team in this bleak time.

Come back next week for a review of the games!

NFL Power Rankings 2018: Week 9

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1. New England Patriots: 7-2 (Last Week: 2)
Welcome back to the top of the power rankings New England. For the first time since week 1, there is a team other the Rams on top. After the convincing win over the Packers, it is well deserved. Holding an Aaron Rodgers-led offense to just 17 points is a big deal. Without Gronk, without Sony Michel, the Patriots continue to find more offensive playmakers, as they always do.

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2. New Orleans Saints: 7-1 (Last Week: 4)
Down go the Rams! Sean Payton and Drew Brees shredded the Los Angeles defense to the tune of 45 points. The Saints offense looked nothing short of unstoppable in the first half of this game. Giving up 35 points wasn’t great, but New Orleans did a good job containing Todd Gurley. The Saints head to Cincinnati looking to continue its run as the hottest team in the league.

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3. Kansas City Chiefs: 8-1 (Last Week: 3)
Maybe this win was not as convincing as many expected. After all, the Browns were down by just six in the third quarter. The Chiefs still look explosive on offense and the defense is looking marginally better than it did when it opened the season. Patrick Mahomes is a beast. This team has more elite weapons than any other offense in the NFL between Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce. Throw in Sammy Watkins and this offense is truly scary.

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4. Los Angeles Rams: 8-1 (Last Week: 1)
The Rams spent the offseason loading up on defensive weapons. It fell apart in New Orleans. Marcus Peters looked terrible trying to contain Michael Thomas. No sacks recorded and a whopping 45 points allowed is a tough thing to justify for a team with so much talent on the defensive side of the ball. Even with a prolific offense, Los Angeles will need to improve its play on the back end to win a Super Bowl.

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5. Carolina Panthers: 6-2 (Last Week: 5)
The Panthers are coming to primetime! Following a shootout win over the Buccaneers, courtesy of a 35-point first half, Carolina now hosts Pittsburgh on Thursday night in a cross-conference showdown. Norv Turner continues to find new ways to utilize this unconventional group of playmakers. If the defense can find a way to slow down James Conner, Carolina will emerge with another important victory as it tries to keep pace with New Orleans.

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6. Los Angeles Chargers: 6-2 (Last Week: 6)
Can someone find the Chargers a quality kicker? Caleb Sturgis struggled again, missing an extra point and a field goal, but Los Angeles held on for a tight win in Seattle. But I’ve buried the lede here, the Chargers join a pretty exclusive list of teams to go to CenturyLink and emerge with a victory. Los Angeles faces two struggling divisional opponents next in Oakland and Denver with an eye on the division crown.

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7. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-2-1 (Last Week: 7)
This team is starting to resemble the 2006 Steelers, on offense at least. They have a pair of dynamic receivers and an explosive running game to lean on. Ben Roethlisberger was on that team too. Pittsburgh is hitting on all cylinders now and earned another hard-fought win over the Ravens. A short week looms though with Big Ben nursing some injuries. It will be a tough test in Charlotte for Mike Tomlin and company.

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8. Minnesota Vikings: 5-3-1 (Last Week 8)
As you are reading this, Matt Stafford was just sacked again by the Vikings defense. Minnesota racked up a franchise record 10 sacks against Detroit on Sunday. Danielle Hunter returned a fumble for a touchdown as well. For the first time all season, Adam Thielen failed to pick up 100 yards receiving, which isn’t really a big deal when your team wins 24-9. He still scored a touchdown.

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9. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-4 (Last Week: 9)
The Eagles have to be feeling pretty good about themselves right about now. Washington is dealing with a ton of injuries and coming off a loss. The Cowboys dropped a key game at home after picking up Amari Cooper. Philly also added Golden Tate at the deadline to make this offense even more lethal. The Eagles are going to be a team no one wants to face in the postseason.

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10. Chicago Bears: 5-3 (Last Week: 11)
Chicago battered possibly the worst quarterback in NFL history once again. Nathan Peterman now has more touchdown passes to opposing teams than to his own. Looking at this game from a statistical standpoint, it seems impossible the Bears put up 41 points.  The offense produced just 190 yards of total offense. Goes to show how bad the Bills offense was and how good the Bears defense can be. Chicago will get a tougher test as the Lions come to town.

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11. Houston Texans: 6-3 (Last Week: 12)
Ugly as it might have been, the Texans emerged from Denver with another win. Houston is riding a six-game winning streak and it is games like this that set apart contenders from pretenders. Beating the 3-6 Broncos is not particularly impressive, but gutting out a tough game when you aren’t playing your best is important. Houston has a week off now to further integrate Demaryius Thomas into the passing game.

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12. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-3 (Last Week: 14)
The news regarding A.J. Green is not sounding too good as he is headed for a specialist this week to examine his foot. With their top playmaker on the shelf, Andy Dalton is going to need to rely on his ground game. The Bengals are still right in the mix for a playoff spot, but the work becomes harder with all the injuries that are piling up. Good luck keeping up with the Saints offense.

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13. Atlanta Falcons: 4-4 (Last Week: 16)
Matt Ryan is putting up MVP-caliber numbers and the Falcons are benefiting from it. Atlanta blew out Washington on the road. Perhaps the most impressive thing was holding Adrian Peterson, fresh off his best game of the season, to just 1.9 yard per carry. If the defense can play at this level on a consistent basis, expect the Falcons to be legitimate contenders for a wildcard spot.

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14. Washington: 5-3 (Last Week: 10)
It was an ugly loss at home to the Falcons. Washington is extremely banged up along the offensive line and at receiver. When the ground game completely disappears on top of that, it is a recipe for disaster. Adding Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the deadline was supposed to sure up the defense as well. Initial returns don’t look great as Matt Ryan torched the secondary for 350 yards and four touchdowns. Washington still leads the NFC East, but this does not feel like a playoff team.

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15. Baltimore Ravens: 4-5 (Last Week: 13)
Baltimore’s schedule has been brutal the last few weeks, facing the Saints, Panthers and Steelers. While that may be true, that stretch also taught us a lot about this team. The Ravens clearly are not on the same level as those top teams. The offense does not have enough firepower to compete with the top clubs in the league. Joe Flacco is not getting it done and Alex Collins is not good enough to compensate for it. The middling group of receivers does not help either. A much-needed bye week should give Baltimore time to regroup and reformulate the offense.

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16. Seattle Seahawks: 4-4 (Last Week: 15)
That was a disappointing showing from the Seahawks. If not for a couple of missed kicks by Caleb Sturgis, Seattle would never have been in a position to win at the end against Los Angeles. On top of that, David Moore dropped the ball on the final play of the game. It would have been a huge week to win in order to close the gap on the Rams following LA’s first loss of the year. Instead, Seattle will continue to hunt a wildcard spot.

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17. Tennessee Titans: 4-4 (Last Week: 23)
The Titans pulled off a solid win over the Cowboys in a tough environment on Monday night. It keeps Tennessee in the thick of the playoff chase. The Titans are second in the division trailing only the Texans. While it is easy to doubt Tennessee’s credentials as a playoff threat, this team won a game in the postseason last year and has some young pieces that are clearly improving. If the offense can play turnover free, we’ve seen the defense win games for them already this season.

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18. Green Bay Packers: 3-4-1 (Last Week: 17)
Another tough loss for the Packers raises questions over how good this team really is in 2018. The defense was gashed early and often by the combination of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson. Josh Gordon took the top off the defense after that. It is clear that while this defense has made strides, it still has a long way to go before Green Bay is back to contender level. If the Packers lose to Miami, put this team in full on panic mode.

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19. Miami Dolphins: 5-4 (Last Week: 21)
In the midst of some exciting result across the league, I feel bad for anyone else who had the misfortune of watching the Dolphins and Jets. Miami managed to outlast New York on a rain-soaked field in a game where no offensive touchdowns were scored. The defense picked off Sam Darnold four times, but the Dolphins offense was terrible. Brock Osweiler threw for 139 yards and the ground game averaged 2.4 yards per attempt. Ryan Tannehill could be back this week, but that is far from a guarantee things will improve.

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20. Denver Broncos: 3-6 (Last Week: 19)
Denver had a chance to pull off a meaningful win and draw closer to .500. Brandon McManus missed the game-winning field goal and the Broncos fall deeper into the hole it dug themselves. Denver has lost six of seven, with the lone win coming against the hapless Cardinals. The pressure has to be on inside that locker room to show signs of improvement. However, considering Demaryius Thomas was just shipped out, it is not surprising to see this team struggle to score points.

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21. Detroit Lions: 3-5 (Last Week: 18)
Despite the ridiculous amount of money Matthew Stafford makes, Monday morning was a good day to not be him. He was hit 17 times in Minnesota. Detroit is looking less like a wildcard team and more like a team destined to draft in the top 10. If the offense cannot find a way to get into the end zone, it is going to be hard to win games down the stretch.

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22. Dallas Cowboys: 3-5 (Last Week: 20)
No one is going to admit to it yet, but this week might just be the beginning of the end for Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott in Dallas. The Cowboys failed to show up coming off a bye for a major home game against a beatable Titans team. Amari Cooper seems like a worthwhile addition, but given that Dallas will be picking in the top 12 most likely, it seems like a high price to pay for a team still desperately needing to fill holes across the roster. Dallas is 0-4 on the road so far, which doesn’t bode well for a playoff push.

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23. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-5 (Last Week: 22)
What if I told you that through nine weeks of the NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars would be in last place in the AFC South? Hard to believe, but based on division record, the Colts own the tiebreaker over the Jags. That could all change this week when Jacksonville takes on Indy, especially with the rumors Leonard Fournette could be back on the field.

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24. Indianapolis Colts: 3-5 (Last Week: 24)
Indianapolis is entering a vital stretch where it will face either divisional foes or fellow wildcard bubble teams in the AFC over the next six weeks. In a lot of ways, the Colts control their destiny more than several other playoff hopefuls. It starts with a crucial matchup against Jacksonville. A win there and the Colts are in business. A loss would make hopes of a playoff berth fairly bleak.

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25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-5 (Last Week: 25)
The problem with the Buccaneers is not the offense. Tampa put up 28 points against a good Panthers defense. It also allowed 42 though, including 35 in the first half. No matter how much of a gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick may be, it is hard to overcome a 35-14 halftime deficit. There is no question that Tampa is in preparation mode for next season and based on how many key positions it needs to figure out, it might be a while before the Bucs turn it around.

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26. Cleveland Browns: 2-6-1 (Last Week: 26)
Considering how poorly the Bengals fared against the Chiefs just a few short weeks ago, this could’ve been much worse. A 16-point loss is nothing to be proud of if you are Cleveland, but there were signs of potential on offense with Duke Johnson finally showing up. The defense was pretty poor and the offensive line made some notable mistakes. Let’s keep in mind this team won one game over the previous two years. It is going to take a bit of time to get back on track.

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27. New York Jets: 3-6 (Last Week: 27)
It is just his rookie season, but there have to be some red flags rising in regard to Sam Darnold. He leads the NFL in interceptions with 14. That is four more than both Case Keenum and Jameis Winston, who are the next highest on the list. His completion percentage of 55 is also troubling. While all the rookies have struggled to complete passes, Darnold seemed to stare down coverages in Miami and launch passes into windows that did not exist. It was a week to forget, but if the Jets lose to the Bills at home this week, it could spell some major changes for this franchise.

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28. New York Giants: 1-7 (Last Week: 28)
For just the second time this season, the Giants did not lose. New York also didn’t play, but let’s not get too technical here. This front office is in the process of cleaning house. It seems like Eli Manning will be gone at the end of the season. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t appear to have too many building blocks currently in house.

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29. Arizona Cardinals: 2-6 (Last Week: 30)
A week off for the Cardinals gives a nice breather to their rookie quarterback. Josh Rosen has been a lot of what was advertised so far. Clearly this team is a few years away from competing for anything, especially with Seattle and Los Angeles in their division. This week isn’t going to be too pretty though with a trip to Arrowhead on the docket to face the Chiefs. Maybe Rosen can learn something from watching Patrick Mahomes and the blistering Kansas City offense.

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30. San Francisco 49ers: 2-7 (Last Week: 32)
It was a lot of fun to watch Nick Mullins tear apart Oakland on Thursday night, but the 49ers won a game against another basement dweller and potentially cost themselves an opportunity to draft Nick Bosa. This team has some talented pieces, most of which are hurt. A chance to add a talent like Bosa along the defensive line is rare, especially for a team that seems set at quarterback. There is always a chance Bosa could slide after not playing for most of the college season, but he seems to be a lock as a top three pick.

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31. Buffalo Bills: 2-7 (Last Week: 29)
Nathan Peterman is pretty much solidified himself as the worst quarterback I have ever seen play a game of football in my life. He has 12 interceptions to just three touchdowns in his career and a completion percentage south of 50. Sure, he has a rough supporting cast, but this is just awful quarterback play. The Bills really can’t wait for Josh Allen to get back under center.

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32. Oakland Raiders: 1-7 (Last Week: 31)
This week on “Are the Raiders Trying to Lose?” the answer seemed to be pretty clearly yes. A quarterback most of the country had never heard of torched the Oakland defense and the offense failed to generate much of a spark against a pedestrian 49ers defense. Jon Gruden is doing a great job of tearing the team down. Time to see if he can rebuild it.

Quit Telling Me the NBA Season Doesn’t Matter

A few weeks ago, Chris posted an article claiming that NBA season should not be watched. The main rationale for the article was based off the fact that the NBA faces the inescapable reality that the Warriors will be the 2018-2019 champions. However, I think this season, like any other, has many different reasons to watch. This article appears early in the season, but my reasons still stand. Through these first few weeks, we’ve seen the NBA with higher ratings than ever, but that only scratches the surface as to why the NBA is more interesting than ever. I won’t focus on it heavily, but just keep that in mind.

Wizards v/s Warriors 03/02/11
Golden State is just the latest in a long line of NBA dynasties. (Wikimedia Commons)

First, contrary to what Chris would have you believe, the dominance of Golden State is one of the main reasons why the NBA is must-watch entertainment this season. The NBA and all of the other major sports in the US are at their height in watchability when there is a dominant dynasty.

People remember eras based off those dynasties. For example, the Showtime Lakers or Jordan’s Bulls are what fans remember from the late 80’s through the 90’s. The Warriors are probably the first true dynasty since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. The “Heatles” and the Spurs were both amazing teams, but they were never truly head and shoulder above the competition for more than a year.  

Continuing on this, dynasties become must watch because fans hate watch them and to see if they will chase the ghost of previous dynasties. People love to watch dynasties lose, there is no denying it. You could go to any average sports fan and they want to see teams like the Patriots and Yankees, both dominant teams in this century, fail to get a championship. The sheer possibility that these top teams come up short is a compelling enough reason to watch in its own right.

The Warriors are no different. Go to any forum that discusses the NBA and it will be full of users who want an end to the Warriors. On the other side of this, however, fans tune in to see if records will be broken. One of the most watched games of this past decade in NBA was when the Warriors got to win number 73, becoming the new kings of the regular season. The new ghost for Golden State to chase this year is becoming the first team since Bill Russell’s Celtics to go to five straight NBA finals. Ultimately, the Warriors, the reason many people claim the NBA is pointless, is one of the most enticing parts of this season.

The other article also does not give credit to the growth of up and coming teams. Fans of bad teams only want to watch the night-to-night growth of their young players. While going through a rebuild they set aside the fact that for the next few years a run to the NBA Finals is only a pipe dream.

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The Bucks are one of the best storylines of the young NBA season as the last undefeated team in the league. (Wikimedia Commons)

Kings fans watch to see if De’Aaron Fox will go super saiyan. I am a proud Knicks fan and my reasons for watching this season is to see how Ntilikina improves in his second season and how the trio of Knicks rookies fair in their inaugural seasons to name a few. Young players attract fans, but young coaches do too. How will their new system affect the team? During the offseason, almost a third of the NBA hired new head coaches. Coach Mike Budenholzer is one coach I am most the intrigued about because I think he will make the Bucks a top four team in the East.

In the end, many fans worry that the Warriors will make the NBA unwatchable this season. However, I think Golden State should be the least of peoples worries when it comes to the watchability of the NBA. Nevertheless if dynasties are not your thing, there are too many up and coming players and new head coaches this season to not watch.