Predicting Week 4 of the NFL season

Hello and welcome back to The Cowan Corner for another week of NFL picks and predictions.

It’s been an up-and-down year for me so far with the picks, but I see quite a few games this week that I am very confident about.

Without further ado, let’s get into this week’s picks.

Bengals over Dolphins

I am currently 0-3 picking Thursday night games this season, but I feel pretty certain about this one.

The Dolphins have been very hit-and-miss so far this season and I feel like the Bengals will pull out all the stops to avoid a dangerous 1-3 start.

Colts over Jaguars

The AFC South is in very rough shape right now. The Jaguars are on pace for another sub-.500 season, the Texans will be without the best defensive player in the NFL and both the Colts and Titans feel extremely erratic and untrustworthy so far this season.

I could see the winner of this division being 9-7 at best. With that being said, I think the Colts are better and need to win games like this to have a shot at the playoffs.

Texans over Titans

Now we move on to the other half of the division. It is unclear exactly how much the loss of JJ Watt will affect the Houston defensive unit.

However, I still expect a Texans win here at home to maintain control of the division, especially after being embarrassed last Thursday against the Patriots.

Redskins over Browns

There’s still some life in the Redskins after beating the Giants last week. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Browns.

Just think, the Browns could have had Carson Wentz as the quarterback of the future, but decided Robert Griffin III was  a better option. Now, they still don’t have a quarterback and Wentz is tearing it up in Philadelphia.

Seahawks over Jets

Just when you think the Seahawks may not be as good as people thought, they blow the doors off the 49ers.

On the other hand, the Jets can’t really be trusted with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center which was made even more evident by his incredible six-pick performance on Sunday.

Patriots over Bills

This pick is being made under the assumption that Jimmy Garoppolo will be the starter Sunday. Even if he’s not, the Patriots will still find a way to win because Bill Belichick has consistently owned Buffalo.

Panthers over Falcons

Who would have thought the Falcons would be the team above .500 coming into this game? Unfortunately for Falcons fans, it won’t last long because the Panthers have the clear advantage in this game on both sides of the ball.

Raiders over Ravens

Do not let the Ravens 3-0 record fool you. They have played the Bills, Browns and Jaguars to open up the season and have won each of those games against weak opponents by less than a touchdown.

I am going with the Raiders to get the slight upset on the road here based on the weak schedule Baltimore has gotten so far.

Lions over Bears

Do I have to pick a winner here? This game will go a long way towards determining who finishes third in the NFC North this season.

I will pick against the Bears since they might be the worst team in football right now.

Broncos over Buccaneers

Trevor Siemian has proven he belongs as a starter in the NFL and he should have no problem cutting through a Buccaneers defense that just gave up 37 points to the Rams.

Cardinals over Rams

I guess the Cardinals aren’t as good as we thought they were after getting blown out by Buffalo Sunday. I still expect them to get back on track here against the Rams.

Chargers over Saints

It says a lot about the Chargers that two of their best players are out for the season with torn ACLs and they still nearly beat the Colts Sunday.

I think they will torch a bad Saints defense here and improve to 2-2 as the Saints remain winless thus far.

Cowboys over 49ers

Rookie Dak Prescott has given Cowboys fans plenty to be excited about even as Tony Romo continues to stay on the sidelines with various injuries.

The Cowboys will have more to be happy about this week when they win and improve to 3-1 on the season.

Steelers over Chiefs

This should be an interesting game to watch, especially with the return of Jamaal Charles to the field for the Chiefs.

I expect a close game, but the Steelers will edge it out.

Vikings over Giants

It’s a bit of a cliche in sports that defense wins championships. The Vikings will put that to the test this season as their stellar defense will have to carry the load with Adrian Peterson out for the year and Sam Bradford playing quarterback.

Time will tell if that is a formula which can work this season, but I expect it to continue to work here as they improve to 4-0.

That does it for this week’s picks. Check back next week for more NFL picks and analysis of the week that was in football.

Week 3: 7-9

Overall: 28-20

Predicting Week 3 of the NFL season

Welcome back to the Cowan Corner for another round of NFL picks and predictions.

Last week, I missed big on some games, but was still able to salvage a 9-7 record. Now, we move on to Week 3 which is typically the point at which the true contenders begin to separate themselves from the pack.

Let’s get into this week’s picks.

Texans over Patriots

With the suprisingly good Jimmy Garoppolo potentially out for the game, I have to go with the Texans tough defense to dominate this Thursday night game.

Then again, I am 0-2 so far on Thursday nights this season so who knows what’s going to happen.

Cardinals over Bills

The Cardinals bounced back from a disappointing opening game to trounce the Buccaneers and they should get above .500 this week.

The Bills are a bit of a mess and I would not be surprised if Rex Ryan was fired by the end of the season.

Raiders over Titans

There is no home field advantage for the Titans these days as they went 1-7 at home in 2015 and 2014. The Raiders were disappointing last week against the Falcons, but look for them to get back on track here.

Dolphins over Browns

It’s amazing how the Browns keep fighting ways to make their fans suffer. For a while against the Ravens Sunday, it looked like the Browns might actually have a competent team.

However, reality set in as the Browns blew a 20-point lead and lost. Now, they have to play a Dolphins team which hasn’t looked bad thus far and 0-3 seems like a virtual certainty.

Ravens over Jaguars

I don’t really know what to make of either of these teams so far this season. However. I think the Ravens are better overall which is why I am taking them.

Packers over Lions

The Packers have won seven of their last 10 games against the Lions and I expect that trend to continue.

The Packers were slowed down by the Vikings defense last week, but I put more of that on how good the Vikings defense is than anything.

Bengals over Broncos

I wish Demarcus Ware a smooth and speedy recovery after suffering a fractured forearm Sunday. Ware is a fantastic defensive player and he will be sorely missed by the Broncos.

However, the Bengals will not miss him being out there and should ride their solid units on both sides of the ball to victory.

Panthers over Vikings

Without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will need their defense to continue performing at a high level and will also need Sam Bradford to be a leader on offense.

I expect this game to be close, but the Panthers are the more well-rounded team and should win here.

Giants over Redskins

Remember when people were saying the Redskins are definitely a playoff team this year? Now they are 0-2 and have looked very disappointing in their losses.

The Giants, meanwhile, have looked very strong and the upgrades they made to their defense look like they are paying off. I expect both trends to continue here.

Buccaneers over Rams

The Buccaneers actually looked like a decent sleeper team before Doug Martin went down with an injury which will keep him out for three weeks. Despite that loss, I will still take the Buccaneers because the Rams still seem like a mess despite their shocking win over the Seahawks.

Seahawks over 49ers

Speaking of which, what happened to the Seahawks? They were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender and now they are 1-1 to start the year and have scored a combined 15 points in those games.

The offense has looked disappointing to say the least and will need to vastly improve for the team to have any shot of making it to the playoffs.

Jets over Chiefs

I think both of these teams are fringe playoff contenders and this game could have a major impact on the final standings come January.

I will take the Jets on the road, primarily because I have been more impressed with them overall to this point.

Colts over Chargers

In two weeks the Chargers have lost two of their best offensive weapons to ACL tears. First, Keenan Allen went down in Week 1 and then Sunday it was Danny Woodhead.

Without those two, it will be tough for Philip Rivers to get a good offense going for the season and I think the Colts will win here easily.

Steelers over Eagles

This will be the first true test of Carson Wentz and his ability to play quarterback in the NFL after torching the Browns and Bears to start his career.

This game should be a close one, but it will be difficult for the Eagles to keep pace with the offense of the Steelers.

Cowboys over Bears

There is no way I am picking this horrible Bears team over a Cowboys team which has looked pretty decent so far.

It really doesn’t help that Jay Cutler, average as he is, will likely not be playing and Chicago’s hopes will rest on Brian Hoyer under center.

Saints over Falcons

I expect this to be a fast-paced, high scoring shootout which will make for entertaining television even if neither team has much hope of making the playoffs.

That does it for this week’s picks. Check back next week for more NFL picks and analysis of the week that was in football.

Week 2: 9-7

Overall: 21-11

Predicting Week 2 of the NFL season

Welcome back to the Cowan Corner for another week of NFL picks and predictions.

Week 1 of the NFL season was crazy with four different games decided by a single point. Now, Week 2 is here and brings some more interesting matchups including our first division games of the season.

Without further ado, let’s get into the picks beginning with the Thursday night game.

Jets over Bills

The Jets had an impressive game to open the season against the Bengals and might have won were it not for a missed extra point by kicker Nick Folk early in the game.

That missed kick and a blocked field goal prior to that would cost the Jets dearly, but they should put the loss behind them with a win on the road against a struggling Bills team.

Panthers over 49ers

The 49ers surprised a lot of people, including myself, with their performance Monday against the Rams. However, they did a similar thing last year to open up the season against the Vikings and promptly had a terrible season.

I think the Panthers will get back on track after a disappointing loss to the Broncos to open up the season.

Redskins over Cowboys

I think the Redskins are just the better team here and at this point I trust Kirk Cousins as a quarterback more than I do Dak Prescott.

Bengals over Steelers

I’m admittedly very biased here, but I am going with the Bengals all the way here.

Giants over Saints

The last time these two teams met, there were a combined 91 points. I doubt there will be nearly that many this time, but the Giants should put up a lot against a Saints defense which will greatly miss cornerback Delvin Breaux.

Patriots over Dolphins

I don’t know which was more shocking in Week 1, Jimmy Garoppolo leading the Patriots to a win over the Cardinals without Rob Gronkowski or the Dolphins playing down to the wire with the Seahawks.

This game has potential to be interesting, but I highly doubt the Patriots will lose here.

Texans over Chiefs

Both of these teams have top-notch defense, but I will give the slight edge to the Texans. I just don’t trust the Chiefs because their comeback last week was impressive, but it also meant they fell far behind a bad Chargers team.

Lions over Titans

I don’t know what to think of either of these teams yet. However, the Lions looked like the much more impressive team this week in their victory over the Colts so I will go with them.

Ravens over Browns

Poor Browns fans. In the offseason, the Browns traded away a chance to pick Carson Wentz with the second overall pick, only to watch Wentz decimate their defense in his first career NFL game.

To top it off, Robert Griffin III suffered a shoulder injury and will miss the rest of the season. On the bright side, Browns fans can look forward to another high draft pick which will probably end up going to waste yet again.

Seahawks over Rams

Here’s a startling stat I read yesterday: a team coached by Jeff Fisher has not been over .500 since 2008. That’s eight years and counting of mediocrity and yet Fisher has had no trouble keeping a job in the NFL.

Unfortunately for Rams fans, the team’s debut in Los Angeles will likely not be a fun one as the Seahawks are looking to prove themselves after barely escaping with a victory against the Dolphins.

Cardinals over Buccaneers

The Cardinals loss to the Patriots Sunday was stunning and has shed some doubt about the chance of the Cardinals contending. However, I think they will right the ship for now.

I expect this to be a close game, but the Cardinals come away with the win.

Jaguars over Chargers

Look out, here come the Jaguars! Jacksonville fans have a lot to be excited about after their team came very close to beating the Packers in the first game of the season.

The Chargers, meanwhile, suffered a devastating defeat and are likely already dead in the water. Easy pick for me here.

Raiders over Falcons

I really enjoy watching the Raiders play and I think they will continue to be entertaining here in a very one-sided game.

Broncos over Colts

I think Andrew Luck is good for a few turnover against the Broncos defense and Trevor Siemen actually looked pretty good to start off the season.

The Broncos will need all the wins they can get to keep pace with the Chiefs and Raiders so I am going with them here.

Packers over Vikings

The Vikings put on a defensive clinic against the Titans, but the Packers should be a different story altogether.

If my options are choosing Aaron Rodgers or Shaun Hill, then my choice is incredibly easy.

Eagles over Bears

We’re 3-for-3 in unexciting Monday night games to start the season. I will probably tune in just to see how Wentz does in his second start. Otherwise, not much to see here.

That does it for this week’s picks. Check back next week for more NFL picks and analysis of the week that was in football.

Week 1: 12-4

Overall: 12-4

Predicting Week 1 of the NFL season

Hello and welcome back to the Cowan Corner picks column where I run down the slate of NFL games for the week and tell you who I think will win.

For those who might be new to the column, I finished last year’s regular season at 156-100, but sputtered in the playoffs with a 3-8 record. Here’s hoping I can regain my momentum with a new season upon us.

The opening week of the NFL season usually yields interesting matchups as teams look to establish themselves as contenders early. Without further ado, let’s get into this week’s picks.

Panthers over Broncos

Leading off the 2016 season is the game which ended last season as a Super Bowl rematch headlines the first Thursday night game of the year.

The Broncos had one of the best defense in football history last year and that defense dominated the Super Bowl. However, the Broncos are a very different team this year on both sides of the ball.

Their defense will still be pretty good, but the Panthers have a huge edge on the offensive side of things with Cam Newton under center.

Packers over Jaguars

The Packers have been one of the best teams in the NFL for a while now and they face off with a young, but talented Jaguars team to start off the season.

I think the Jaguars could keep it close, but Aaron Rodgers and his team will come out victorious.

Ravens over Bills

Neither of these teams really has the making of a contender this season, but the Bills are in especially rough shape with the injuries and suspensions they are currently dealing with.

The Ravens are hard to beat at home and should pick up a victory to open the season here.

Texans over Bears

JJ Watt is expected to be back in action after sitting out the preseason following back surgery. Watt is one of several quality defenders for Houston and the defense of the Texans should decimate the Bears.

Eagles over Browns

RG3 is not the answer in Cleveland and he will be the latest in an unbelievably long list of bad Browns quarterbacks since 1999.

Eagles rookie Carson Wentz is an unproven commodity in the NFL at quarterback, but I’ll take that over Griffin and the Browns.

Buccaneers over Falcons

This was a coin-flip game for me as I really don’t see either team being very good, but I had to choose someone.

I will go with the Buccaneers who did show some promise over the course of last season.

Vikings over Titans

The injury to Teddy Bridgewater was a devastating one to the Vikings franchise, but the front office in Minnesota is hoping the addition of Sam Bradford will alleviate that issue for now.

I don’t think much of Bradford as an NFL quarterback, but the Vikings are still a better team than the Titans in just about every aspect so that makes my choice easy.

Bengals over Jets

This should be a very entertaining game as both teams are strong on both sides of the ball. The matchup to watch will likely be AJ Green going up against Darrelle Revis and I will give the slight edge to Green and the Bengals here.

Raiders over Saints

The Raiders were a team I greatly enjoyed watching last season and they should be entertaining again this year led by a young core of Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper.

This game should be a high-scoring one, but I think the Raiders will have an edge with their defensive front.

Chiefs over Chargers

The Chiefs are a very good home team and should continue that trend as they open their season against a division rival.

The Chiefs are also on a four-game winning streak against the Chargers and I expect that trend to continue.

Seahawks over Dolphins

The Seahawks are still one of the best teams in the NFC and should open up their season with a big win at home against a Dolphins team which is somewhere in the middle of the AFC.

Colts over Lions

Injury or not, Andrew Luck was bad last season and will need to improve for the Colts to have any hope of a playoff berth.

However, the Lions are a bit of a mess per usual and the loss of Calvin Johnson to retirement will only increase their woes this season.

Giants over Cowboys

The injury to Tony Romo has forced rookie Dak Prescott into a rushed starting role and he will be joined by fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield.

Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, I doubt the young backfield will lead to success especially against a Giants team which spent a ton of money to improve their defensive unit.

Cardinals over Patriots

If Tom Brady was starting, I would have gone the other way here. Without Brady, there is no way I can pick the Patriots to put up enough points to beat a very well-rounded Cardinals team.

On the bright side, Patriots fans will get a chance to see if Jimmy Garoppolo has a future in the league.

Steelers over Redskins

The first of two Monday night games for this week brings us quite the mismatch. Even without suspended playmakers Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, the Steelers should win this game easily.

Rams over 49ers

Who is choosing these Monday night games? This is another mismatch and one that doesn’t really make a lot of sense unless the Rams were making their Los Angeles debut.

However, this game will instead be played in San Francisco and should be another lopsided affair to close out the game.

That does it for this week’s picks. Check back next week for more NFL picks and analysis of the week that was in football.

Deadline deal sends Jay Bruce to Mets

After months of speculation and rumors, the Reds finally pulled the trigger on trading Jay Bruce Monday in a deal which sent the right fielder to the New York Mets.

The move should come as little surprise as the Reds are in a clear rebuilding phase and have been unloading their most valuable assets since last season. Bruce now joins Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman as guys who have been traded by the Reds to contenders.

However, the Reds also benefited massively from Bruce putting together possibly the best year of his career so far and sold higher on him than they possibly could have one or two years ago.

As the calendar turns to August, Bruce has his highest batting average since 2010, hitting .265 thus far. He is also on pace for 42 home runs and 133 RBIs, both of which would be new career highs by a wide margin.

The departure of Bruce is a bittersweet one as it ends an eight-year run with the Reds. Bruce was originally drafted by the Reds and had been a major part of the major-league club since 2008.

He also leaves Cincinnati ranked eighth on the club’s home-run list, beating out names such as Ken Griffey Jr., Ed Davis and now-former teammates Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.

Bruce will now join a Mets team in desperate need of his .360 average with runners in scoring position as they have been the worst-scoring team in baseball since the All-Star break.

The only question will be how they organize the outfield with Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson already out in New York.

In return for Bruce, the Reds received a pair of minor leaguers in second baseman Dilson Herrera and left-handed pitcher Max Wotell.

Herrera is a 22-year-old who has seen some time in the majors, but has not had much success. He batted .211 for the Mets during his time with them in 2015 and has recorded a .276 average with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in Triple-A this season.

19-year-old Wotell was drafted by the Mets in the 2015 draft and has recorded a 3-1 record with a 4.25 ERA this season in the short-season Appalachian League. Wotell seems more like a long-term project and might not see the major leagues for a few more years.

The end of July is always an exciting time as big-name players are floated around in a last-ditch effort to make deals happen. The Jay Bruce trade is one of those many deals and brought an end to a lengthy relationship between Bruce and the Reds organization.

Time will tell whether it will make the Mets a contender and whether the prospects gained will help the Reds in the long-term.

46-year-old Phil Mickelson falls just short in 2016 Open Championship

The 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland turned out to be a two-horse race as Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson were far ahead of the rest of the pack when all was said and done.

The 46-year-old Mickelson was seeking his seventh major championship and his second at the Open Championship. The 40-year-old Stenson was seeking his first major title and, in fact, was looking to become the first man from his home country of Sweden to win any golf major.

Despite their age, the two men put on one of the most impressive golf duels in recent memories as they left their younger competition in the dust.

Entering the 13th hole, the two golfers were tied at 16-under, but it was Stenson who pulled away, birdieing four of his last five holes to beat Mickelson by three strokes.

The win was an impressive one for Stenson, who shot a combined 264 over the four rounds of the major. This broke the record for lowest score in a major which previously held by David Toms who shot a 265 in the 2001 PGA Championship.

Stenson is now the fourth man in the last six years to win the Open Championship in his 40s, joining a list which actually includes Mickelson who did it in 2013.

However, what will likely overshadow Stenson’s win is Mickelson’s loss. At 46 years old, Mickelson is likely nearing the end of his run atop the golfing world and this may have been his last chance to walk away with a major.

While Mickelson has been a major champion an impressive six times, he has finished as the runner-up in majors even more than that. The 2016 Open Championship was his tenth second-place finish in a major for his career including six such finishes at the U.S. Open.

Incredibly, in the history of golf majors, the 267 Mickelson shot for the weekend would have been good enough to win all but four of those majors.

Mickelson is revered by fans of the sport and he will likely go down as one of the greatest professional golfers ever, but he is also a man defined by his losses and near-misses as much as he is by his victories.

The 2016 Open Championship is just the latest in a long line of narrow misses which will be talked about when discussing Mickelson’s career alongside his consistency and his successes.

Kevin Durant joins Warriors to form latest super-team

After weeks of speculation and rumors about where he would play in 2016, Kevin Durant announced Monday he would be signing with the Golden State Warriors.

The contract, which is reportedly for 2 years and $54.5 million, is not the largest one of this year’s free agency period. That honor goes to Mike Conley who rode 13 points and five assists per game to a five-year, $153 million contract with the Grizzlies.

However, it may be the most important contract of the offseason as it brings Durant onto a Warriors team which won 73 games in the regular season before losing to the Cavaliers in seven games in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors only real free agency loss this season will likely be Harrison Barnes, who is rumored for a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks, and the addition of Durant makes the Warriors a super-team.

Durant has been an offensive force since joining the NBA as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, averaging 27 points and four assists per game while also throwing in seven rebounds per appearance.

The Warriors starting five will be hard to top as it will likely now have two-time MVP Steph Curry, three-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson, the aforementioned Durant, all-around player Draymond Green and the underrated Andrew Bogut.

Super-teams have become a more common occurrence over the last ten years or so, but few have been as stacked from top-to-bottom.

The Celtics built one around Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and rode them to two finals appearance in 2008 and 2010 with an NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Miami Heat created their own Big Three when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwayne Wade. The Heat took advantage of James in his prime to make four consecutive finals from 2011 to 2014 including two championships in 2012 and 2013.

LeBron was part of another Big Three, and one which is still going, when he returned to Cleveland in 2014 and was joined by Kyrie Irving and a traded-for Kevin Love.  The Cavaliers have made finals appearance the last two years and are the current NBA champions.

However, what the Warriors have now assembled has the potential to top them all because the other recent super-teams have been defined by a Big Three, but the Warriors arguably now what can be described as a Big Four with Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant.

Time will tell if this new version of the Warriors can co-exist and function at a same or higher level as the Warriors of last season did. History shows us that super-teams usually take at least one year of working together before they bring home a championship.

Regardless of how the Durant deal works out down the line, for now the Warriors are the clear favorite for the NBA championship in the 2016-2017 season.

National League All-Star standings highlight voting inconsistencies

Since 1969, the fans have been the deciding vote on who gets to start in the MLB All-Star Game and most years the fans make the correct decisions.

However, this year a team which has been a doormat more often than not has risen as a leading contender and their fans have come out of the woodwork to vote for their guys to start in the Midsummer Classic.

This has led to rampant accusations of ballot stuffing and calls to abolish fan voting altogether. If this sounds familiar, I could have written these same lines last year only this time we’re talking about the Cubs rushing the ballot box as opposed to the Royals.

As of this writing, the Cubs are leading the voting in every category but catcher and they hold wide leads at third base and first base.

Now granted, the Cubs are the best team in baseball this season, but the degree to which they are dominating the balloting hasn’t been seen since, well, last season when the Royals similarly dominated early polls before sending four players to the All-Star game.

The question is which of these players are actually deserving of their spot at the top of the polls? Today, we will look at each position where the Cubs lead and try to determine if the player at the top deserves to be there.

First base

Anthony Rizzo leads the polls at this position with a .277 batting average, 17 home runs and 54 RBIs. I think Rizzo is actually a great choice as a starter. Paul Goldschmidt and Wil Myers both have cases, but Rizzo has been the total package this season and deserves his spot.

Second base

The versatile Ben Zobrist is the Cub in question here and while he is having an all-star caliber season, there is someone else more deserving of his spot as a starter.

That would be Daniel Murphy who has hit 45 points higher, connected on three more home runs and driven in five more RBis. No question for me who is having the better season.

Third base

This is to me is the most egregious example of bad fan voting. Nolan Arenado of the Rockies is the best third baseman in baseball this season and yet he trails Kris Bryants by almost 500 thousand votes.

Even when you discount the Coors Field effect, Arenado is also arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball. I sincerely hope the voting swings to Arenado because there is no reason why he shouldn’t start.

Shortstop

This one is another doozy. Addison Russell leads All-Star voting with a less than stellar .239 average, six home runs and 37 RBIs.

There are several shortstops more deserving, but let’s name two in particular. Corey Seager has put up an impressive .289/16/37 stat line and Trevor Story has ridden a hot start to a .266/18/48 line.

I can’t see an argument for Russell starting over either of those guys.

Outfield

This is a position where three players get selected and the Cubs have two players in contention. Dexter Fowler is leading the category while Jason Heyward is just outside in fourth place.

Bryce Harper and Yoenis Cespedes round out the current leaders. I think Cespedes belongs as a starter, but Fowler, Harper and Heyward just don’t feel right given their current seasons.

As for who should replace them, Marcell Ozuna of the Marlins isn’t even in the top-15 but is batting .322 with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs this season and Jay Bruce has had an incredible comeback year, batting .281 and leading all National League outfielders with 55 RBIs.

While there are arguments to be made for the benefit of fan voting, the last two years have shown there are definite flaws. I am hopeful MLB will look at the system in the offseason and find a way to avoid bandwagon balloting and make sure the right players get to start.

Whether or not that means removing the fan’s ability to vote and putting it back in the hands of players and managers remains to be seen.

A look at the history of NBA teams which overcame a 3-1 series deficit

With a comeback win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Saturday, the Golden State Warriors have guaranteed at least one more game in their season.

While the team once trailed 3-1 in the series, the tide has turned and the Warriors will have a chance Monday to become the 10th in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit. The Warriors would also be the third team to accomplish the feat in a conference finals series.

With the final game of a very entertaining series looming, I decided to look back on the nine teams who have accomplished what the Warriors will look to do and see how they did during the rest of the playoffs.

1968 Boston Celtics

The Celtics became the first team to overcome the 3-1 deficit when they triumphed over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals. The 76ers were the defending champions in 1968, but the legendary trio of Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Sam Jones led the way to a historic comeback.

The Celtics would then beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals to capture their tenth championship in 12 seasons.

1970 Los Angeles Lakers

The Phoenix Suns finished the regular season below .500 in 1970, but still found themselves with a 3-1 series lead against the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers would overcome and ride the momentum to a sweep of the Hawks to capture a third straight conference title. The Lakers would lose in the NBA Finals, falling to the New York Knicks in seven games.

1979 Washington Wizards

The Wizards, led by Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes, were the next team to advance after facing a 3-1 series deficit when they played the San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals.

The Wizards would lose to the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals in five games and have not returned to the NBA Finals since.

1981 Boston Celtics

Two years later, the Celtics became the first of two NBA franchises to overcome a 3-1 deficit on two separate occasions.

Once again it would be the 76ers who would lose the series and once again it would come in the conference finals.

The Celtics would go on to beat the Houston Rockets in six games to capture the 14th championship in franchise history.

1995 Houston Rockets

The sixth-seeded Rockets finished 12 games behind the Suns in the 1995 season, but it didn’t stop them from overcoming a 3-1 deficit against them in the playoffs.

The Rockets would go on to sweep the Orlando Magic in the finals to win their second straight championship. The Rockets remain the lowest-seeded team in NBA history to win the championship.

1997 Miami Heat

The Heat came back to beat the Knicks in the conference semifinals. However, the Heat would then lose in the Eastern Conference finals to the Chicago Bulls in five games.

2003 Detroit Pistons

The top-seeded Pistons found themselves trailing 3-1 to the Magic in the first round, but were able to come back and advance.

The Pistons would make it to the conference finals before they were swept by the New Jersey Nets.

2006 Phoenix Suns

The Suns would also find themselves facing a 3-1 deficit in the first round before beating the Lakers to advance.

The Suns would beat the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games during the following round before falling to the Mavericks in the conference finals.

2015 Houston Rockets

The most recent team to join the 3-1 comeback club was the Rockets during last season’s playoffs. The Rockets would triumph over the Clippers in seven games before dropping to the Warriors in five during the conference finals.

The Warriors will have their chance to join this list when Game 7 of the Western Conference finals tips-off Monday at 9 p.m. The game will be broadcast on TNT.

Marvel’s cinematic dynasty continues with “Civil War”

The latest edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Captain America: Civil War” continued the box office dominance of the Marvel franchise by passing an important milestone Sunday.

The film officially passed $1 billion worldwide, becoming the 25th film all-time to do so and the fourth by Marvel. As of this writing, “Civil War” is 19th on the all-time gross list and joins three other Marvel in the top-20 for highest grossing Marvel films of all-time.


The film also did not take it’s time breaking into the $1 billion club as it is the ninth-quickest film ever to reach the mark. This is nothing new for Marvel as “The Avengers”, “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” are also in the top-ten for this list.

The success of “Civil War” should not be surprising to anyone who has been following releases by Marvel Studios since the critical and commercial success of “Iron Man” in 2008.

In the eight years since, the studio has released a total of 13 films and these films have grossed over $10 billion combined.

2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” has been the only film in the franchise to gross less than $350 million worldwide to this point.

The Marvel films have also been critical successes on top of their commercial success. The 13 Marvel Studios films have achieved an average critical approval of 81 percent on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

The success of the Marvel franchise has even extended into the realm of television. “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Agents of S.H.I.E.LD” and the recently-cancelled “Agent Carter” have been met with critical success and a loyal fanbase.

The next stop for the MCU will be the release of “Doctor Strange” on November 4. The character Doctor Strange is one who is not as well-known to mainstream audiences, but films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man” have proved Marvel can still have success with lesser-known characters.

With Warner Bros. putting their plans for a cinematic universe based off the DC Comics properties into action, Marvel could potentially face real competition for audiences in the near future.

However, Marvel is still the leader in movies for now. “Civil War” made more in its first three weeks than “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” made in its entire theatrical run.
Backed by the funding of Disney, Marvel Studios has built a cinematic dynasty which has dominated the box office for the past eight years and has yet to show any signs of slowing down.