Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Last summer, for some reason I don’t understand, we got Detroit Tigers games on our satellite TV service, and I was not happy with the Tigers’ broadcasters.
Last year, my beloved Tigers finished 78-84, good for second place in the worst division in Major League Baseball. Although 2023 was a big improvement over 2022’s record of 66-96, the Detroit Tigers clearly have a way to go to compete for a championship.
There were many (most) times when the Tigers started a lineup of nobody hitting .250. The Tigers had a team batting average of .236, 27th of 30, and ranked 28th in runs scored, 28th in on base percentage, 24th in home runs, and backed up their lack of power with a lack of stolen bases, ranking 24th. Until Spencer Torkelson found his power stroke at the end of the year, the Tigers backed up nobody getting on base with nobody hitting for any power. You could always count on Javier Baez to flail haplessly against any pitch that broke sideways and Miguel Cabrera, once a great hitter but last year a shadow of his former self, to hit at least one slow grounder per game to right field. Offensive is the best way to describe the Detroit Tigers offense in 2023.
But you wouldn’t know it to listen to the Tiger broadcasters. The “Tiger Way” was regularly touted as the key to what was described, quite inaccurately, of the offensive “success” of the 2023 Tigers. The coaches were genius, the players were sterling, the Tiger bats were sending balls regularly crashing into and over outfield fences. More than one time I was at a loss to explain how such poor performances could be spun to be good. If everything was so great, how can the record be explained?
As the disclaimer that broadcasters read during every Tiger game says, the broadcasters are approved by the Detroit Tigers. That makes sense to me because, obviously, the Detroit Tiger broadcasters know who butters their bread.
It is not like that for every MLB team. The New York Mets broadcasting crew is fair, knowledgeable, and does not hesitate to point out mistakes and flaws of the players. You may not like the New York Yankees broadcasters, but they are more journalists than “homers”.
You would think that national broadcasters, who are not approved by the teams, would use their expertise to help less knowledgeable viewers to better understand what’s going on during NFL telecasts.
You would only be partially right.
During the FOX broadcast of the Green Bay Packers/LA Rams game last Sunday, it was quite clear to me that Ram QB Brett Rypien was a major roadblock to any success his team might attain. Rypien not only was very inaccurate throwing the ball, but struggled to do the most rudimentary quarterback functions like handing off the ball and catching snaps from the center while in shotgun formations. Rypien actually looked to me like he was playing on a slick ice surface in leather shoes.
Although I saw problems, color commentator Daryl Johnston either didn’t see the issues or just chose not to comment on what was probably the most important aspect of how the game was ultimately decided. Rypien stunk series after series and Johnston said nothing.
My opinion was validated two days after the game when the Rams released Brett Rypien and signed QB Carson Wentz straight off his couch.
Then there is Cris Collionsowrth, the expert color commentator on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”.
There is no doubt in my mind that NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is not an NFL quarterback. He proved that to me last year and why the Jets decided to bring him back this year is way beyond me. On Oct. 1, the Chiefs played the Jets in New York on Sunday night and Collinsworth was effusive in his praise of Wilson, whose offense scored only 20 points in a loss. Balls that looked to me thrown late and/or inaccurately were ignored while the accurate throws were lauded as “awesome”. That Wilson was not the reason the Jets lost seemed to be grounds for immediate enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
Wilson was not so lucky last Monday night. Troy Aikman was the color analyst and he showed why he’s the best. Aikman did not rip Wilson every time (and there were many) he messed up, but he did point out mistakes and bad tendencies. When Wilson, on the Jets’ first offensive play of the game, sailed a ball 5 or 6 feet over his open receiver’s head on an out pattern, Aikman said he didn’t know how the Jets could have any success if they couldn’t hit that simple play. When Wilson held the ball, threw late, led one of his receivers into near injury with a “suicide” pass, made a bad handoff or pitch, or was inaccurate with a pass that should not have been, Aikman pointed it out. He did not, like Stephen A. Smith, rail on anyone and he also blamed others when appropriate.
I am not advocating for unnecessary criticism, but I like it when broadcasters add to my enjoyment of the game by sharing their expertise and pointing out things I missed. If, like in the case of Brett Rypien, I can see obvious problems and they are not highlighted, there is a problem. As much of a problem as if good plays are not similarly highlighted.
Maybe somebody should point out to the Fernley Reporter my inept record at picking games, although I have been doing a little better of late. Unlike Tiger broadcasters, Cris Collinsworth and Daryl Johnston, I will point out to you not to chase your losses, only bet what you can afford to lose, keep track of your bets, and don’t listen to me.
Here are my picks against the spread for this week. Odds are from sportsline.com on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Indianapolis Colts (- 1 ½) at New England Patriots (Germany): I think the line is too low, because it’s not a real home game for the Patriots.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) vs Tennessee Titans: I would like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on my fantasy team this week. Of course, I don’t have either of them.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) vs Green Bay Packers: The other QB isn’t Brett Rypien this week.
Detroit Lions (-3) at LA Chargers: Even though there will probably be as many Lions fans in the stands as Chargers fans, I still hate giving points on the road to a good team
Dallas Cowboys (-16 ½) vs NY Giants: Truth be told, I’m not betting this one, even though it’s on TV. The Cowboys either win by a lot or lose, the points don’t matter. That was my theory, and it’s going to get a test this week with this huge spread. But with Danny DeVito pitching footballs instead of Jersey Mike subs, my pick is looking good…jk Tommy, not Danny DeVito is playing QB for the Giants, but I’m not sure it will matter.
NY Jets (-1) at Las Vegas Raiders: Listen, Jets! Run the ball and you’ll win. Run a wildcat with Breece Hall getting the snap, have Zach Wilson hand off…heck, kneel down three times, punt and wait for the Raiders offense to mess up and you’ll win! DO NOT let Zach Wilson lose this one for you!
Buffalo Bills (-7 ½) vs Denver Broncos: I don’t like giving 7 the way the Bills have been playing defense lately, but they did tighten up late against the Bengals, and the Broncos certainly are not the Bengals.
Last week: 4-3
Alabama (-11) over Kentucky: I don’t expect any letdown by Alabama off that win over LSU. This team continues to make steady progress since their struggles at the beginning of the season, and they’re a very dangerous team right now. Not sure there’s a team other than Georgia I’d pick to beat them right now, and I think they’ll take care of Kentucky by at least a couple scores.
Michigan (-4 ½) over Penn St.: While I keep reading elsewhere that the sign-stealing controversy is a distraction, I actually think it’s exactly the kind of “us against them” scenario Jim Harbaugh loves to use to keep his team focused. Meanwhile, as Penn St. continues to show time and again, they’re a real good team that hasn’t yet been able to hang with the true top teams. I’ll keep betting against them in those situations until they show otherwise.
Colorado (+10 ½) over Arizona: Arizona has won three games in a row, all as an underdog. But now they’re trust in the role of a double-digit road favorite. Underdogs who suddenly become favorites tend to not be able to handle the pressure.
Navy and UAB over 53: UAB averages 450.9 yards and 30 points per game, and that includes being held to 21 points and 336 yards by Georgia, which is a respectable output against the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, their defense gives it back as fast as the offense gets it, and here comes Navy running the triple options with some creative variations. Meanwhile, UAB coach Trent Dilfer has never been a coach before, and defensive coordinator Sione Ta’ufo’ou was actually a quarterback instructor at Dilfer’s Elite 11 quarterback camp. I doubt either one has a clue how to defend the option.
USC (+15) over Oregon: Admittedly, it’s scary to think how badly the terrible USC defense that gives up 30 and 40 points to mediocre offenses could get torched by an explosive offense like Oregon. It’s also an open question about how much heart USC will play with after having all their goals taken away with their three recent losses. But bottom line, if they come to play, Oregon isn’t 15 points more talented than USC, and USC’s offense can light the scoreboard as well or better than Oregon. This is a line that would have been Oregon by about 3 or 4 just a couple weeks ago.
49ers (-3) at Jaguars: Jacksonville went into their bye last week after five straight wins, the 49ers off three straight losses. I like to bet on good teams that lost their last game before a bye and I especially like good teams in a position where they are likely to bring their best effort.
Vikings (+3) over Saints: Josh Dobbs was a reason Arizona was so competitive early in the season, before their weaknesses became too much to overcome. This Minnesota team is fighting hard to rebound from a poor start and Dobbs’ performance last week gives them some more enthusiasm to keep that run up.
Steelers (-3) over Packers: Amazingly, the Steelers have been outgained in every game this season, and by an average of 100 yards per game. That’s the profile of a 1-7 or 2-6 type team, not 5-3. But the Steelers find ways to pull out wins, and I’ll take that over a quarterback that I don’t believe could lead a game-winning drive on the road if it was necessary.