Apologies to all my loyal readers for the brief hiatus in posting – things really got busy at the office!
With nearly two weeks of NFL play in the books, I wanted to weigh in on some items that are currently flying under the radar in the National Football League. It seems like all the recent talk has been about dirty hits, fines, sportsmanship, and injuries. I want to focus on some team play instead. In this post, I’m going to focus on some teams playing above expecatations this year.
Not as bad as you thought: New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals
All of these low expectation teams are 1-1 and have avoided digging themselves in the proverbial hole. Watching these teams, I’ve been pretty impressed. It’s still too early to say that they’re playoff contenders, but I do think they’ve played above expectations and will definitely not be cellar dwellers of the league this year.
The biggest surprise in the group is the New York Jets. This team was written off last winter/spring. They have an incredible defense and a young, athletic quarterback that will continue to build confidence every week. This defense is really what’s special. Any time you can keep a team from scoring, you in turn keep the game close and always give your team a chance to win. I believe the Jets will be one of those teams that always hangs around games and will probably string together a fair amount of wins this year. They are going to be a pest for any opponent. I’m really curious to see Geno’s development and see if this offense can improve. It may be difficult due to a lack of talent at some skill positions, but just maybe they can get something going.
San Diego is another team that was written off well before the season. Every pundit claimed that Rivers was past his prime, with some suggesting that he may no longer be a viable starter after this season. There’s still a long way to go, but the guy looks pretty solid. They nearly beat what many consider a good Texans team (I think they’re a bit overrated) and finally came through with a late win against Philly. I’m not sure they’re a playoff team given how tough their division is – Denver looks good and KC is playing well – but like the NYJ, I think they have the potential to string some wins together and be a solid team. I think they could cause problems for a lot of teams, especially if they’re able to start winning the close games.
Arizona has been a bit up and down this year, but ultimately, I think they are a good team that has a lot of upside. Not enough can be said about Patrick Peterson – the guy is an absolute freak. What can’t he do? His completion Sunday was pretty impressive. Their defense came up huge vs. Detroit, which is no small feat given the amount of talent they were up against. They got some key turnovers and stops, which is always a good sign. I feel that a lot of their success will hinge on the health of Larry Fitzgerald. Having him healthy really keeps defenses honest. So far, he’s been hit by the injury bug. If he can manage to overcome this, the offense will be in a better spot. We’ll also have to keep an eye out for Carson Palmer. He been inconsistent at times. It will be a huge plus if he can keep the turnovers down. Overall, the Cardinals will never get a lot of press because of the two behemoths in their division, but I don’t think they should be taken lightly.
In light of recent news about Braun, A-Rod, Cruz and other baseball stars accused of or confessing to PED usage, I wanted to weigh in on a different topic related to steroids in baseball. Steroid usage has always intrigued me because its benefits are difficult to measure. Can we definitively determine how many additional strike outs Roger Clemens pitched due to his PED usage? What about how many additional home runs McGwire hit because of steroids? In short, their benefits although real, are very difficult to flesh out.
Here’s something you won’t hear discussed in the media. Logically, I don’t believe that steroids improve the most important skill of a hitter – hand-eye coordination. For anyone that has played baseball, you can certainly appreciate how incredibly talented professional ball players are in this category. Like all sports, it’s incredibly hard to turn pro in baseball and work your way up through the rungs of the minors. To do so requires a strong work ethic, tremendous athletic ability, but also, the unbelievable skill to consistently hit a tiny ball with a wooden bat that’s traveling ninety miles an hour while moving left, right, up, or down. I believe that of every sport, baseball requires its professionals to have the highest degree of hand-eye coordination. Without this ability, a player cannot generate hits and contribute to his team. A hitter that cannot hit will quickly find himself out of a job. Plenty of ball players never get called up due to this. As the competition intensifies up the food chain, survival of the fittest emerges. Those that don’t have the skill to hit against the stiffer pitching competition plateau. Others that can continue to move up.
In the media, steroids are discussed primarily in connection with being able to generate more power. However, what good is that power without the ability to hit the ball? This really makes me question why players take steroids in the first place. If solid bat-on-ball contact is made, how much of an advantage do steroids provide? If a player’s home run clears the wall by 2 feet, could he have done the same thing without steroids? What if he clears the wall by 50 feet – were steroids really necessary in this instance? In this way, I find the issue extremely murky. Do players feel that steroids help in hitting a ground ball single up the middle or pulling the ball to the opposite field, or are the benefits just for distance? Perhaps part of the allure to keep using is the placebo effect. A PED using hitter who hits a home run may truly believe that the drugs helped him achieve this feat. In reality, he may have hit the homer regardless. This causes a vicious cycle of drug use.
The other major advantage of PEDs are accelerated recovery times from injuries. This, I feel, is probably more measurable than the power advantage from hitting. If a typical injury suffered by a sample of one thousand athletes takes about a month to recover from and a steroid user recovers in two weeks, we can say with some certainty that using illegal drugs sped up recovery for that athlete. Although there may be one person out of a thousand that could recover especially quickly, it becomes more of a fact when recovery times improve across the board with all injuries suffered by PED users. In this way, I feel like PEDs really give baseball players an edge when it comes to increased stamina and durability. The demands of playing are tough on the body – 160+ games per year, constant travel, sleep deprivation. PEDs can really make these demands easier to handle for a player.
The steroid debate has caused us to try to measure the immeasurable. One thing is for sure; we’ll never know how much of a benefit PEDs give a particular player.
Please weigh in below.