Monday, September 28, 2020

Road Warrior Animal

The loss of Road Warrior Animal at the age of 60, is yet another lost link to the past, and fans 30 and up likely have special feelings about the final Road Warrior to leave us.

Joe Laurinaitis was part of the most popular and influential tag team of their time, perhaps of all-time, and even if they weren't the best tag team ever in "working quality" (My vote would go to either incarnation of the Midnight Express with Bobby Eaton with either Dennis Condrey or Stan Lane), the Road Warriors are easily the most remembered by wrestling fans older than thirty from their youth.

The first of their time, the Road Warriors used a muscleman look combined with squash matches filled with real pounding of hapless opponents and rarely taking even a punch in return to become the innovators of their style and the number one tag team to fans of the time.

It was difficult to put your company's tag titles on the Road Warriors because like Andre the Giant, once you gave them a title, you would have to eventually take it away, and not only would you have to figure out how to have the Warriors agree  (and they were known to be difficult when asked to lose), but you also would have to have the team that beat them be credible enough that the fans would buy the result because in their eyes- no one could beat the Road Warriors.

For example, the Road Warriors held two world titles during their dominant period ( Even though they held the WWF titles, that stint wasn't as dominant)  the AWA and the NWA.
Both title losses were controversial, didn't come off well, and showed the difficulties in having the Road Warriors losing at all, let alone by pinfall.
Their loss of the AWA titles in September 1985 to the less than remarkable team of Jimmy Garvin and Steve "Mr. Electricity" Regal only occurred when all of three of the Freebirds charged in to interfere and essentially took five on one for the Warriors to lose and their 1989 NWA title reign ended when the extremely fast count by heel referee Teddy Long allowed Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and Mike Rotundo (a very underrated team) to lift the championship from the Warriors, each defeat showed the problems in having the Road Warriors lose.
Fans couldn't imagine anyone beating the Road Warriors and promoters didn't bother trying to force-feed the issue as the Warriors almost never lost and if they did, it had to be against overwhelming odds.

Still, as an attraction, there were very few that could match the Road Warriors and those squash matches were must-see television with the Warriors running from the locker room and pounding opponents into submission usually in two minutes or less.
I'm not sure what really got the Road Warriors over the most- the physical squash matches, the painted faces with the spiked shoulder pads, or their promos, but the combination of the parts certainly created the most memorable team of the 1980s.
As the 1980s began to draw to its end, the Road Warriors weren't as unique as they once were.
The WWF had created their own painted face tag team in Demolition (Bill "Masked Superstar" Eadie and Barry Darsow, also remembered as Krusher Khrushchev and later as Repo Man), the NWA created the Powers of Pain (Barbarian and Warlord), a larger team with bigger muscles that later moved to the WWF, and the more spectacular Steiner Brothers arrived on the scene as well.
Dusty Rhodes tried to turn them heel with the team finally winning the world championship from the Midnight Expres to emphasize their new attitude and had them turn on him with the infamous "spike in the eye" angle, but weeks later Rhodes was released for the violence of the role and the Road Warriors were fan favorites again without explanation.
The fans just weren't going to dislike the Road Warriors no matter how much the promotion may try to make it so.

When the Road Warriors finally arrived in the WWF, the long-awaited feud with Demolition awaited and it was a bit disappointing.
The feud ended fairly quickly and despite the Warriors getting the better end of the battles, it was unfulfilling, not that was the first or last time that a dream angle was was dropped in the lap of McMahonville only to be fumbled like a Mark Sanchez miscue.

The Road Warriors slowly moved away from the spotlight with more and more trips to Japan with the occasional stop in with WWF and WCW and when the WWF tried an embarrassing 'suicide' angle with Hawk, the fearsome Road Warriors didn't seem so fearsome anymore.
Hawk passed away in 2003 and Animal didn't have his heart into his occasional wrestling appearances without his long-time partner.

Animal still had the spotlight as his son, James, would be one of the best linebackers in Ohio State history and Buckeye fans often dressed in Road Warrior garb during James' time in Columbus with Animal getting more than his share of television time with interviews during games.
James would play seven seasons with the Rams and currently works for the Big Ten Network.

The Road Warriors would remain in the spotlight personally as they were Ryan's all-time favorite team.
From the time he was old enough to talk and walk, he was a Road Warrior fanatic. Ryan has all of the various Road Warrior figures through the years from different toy companies when he was about five, his favorite hat was one from their initial stint in the WWF complete with one of the colors of the game- neon lime green.
Ryan wore that hat everywhere and he loved it dearly.
One day, Ryan and Cherie came with me to meet my friend Greg at Subway, where he worked at the time.
Greg had a friend working there as well and this fellow was playing/teasing (whatever) with Ryan, took his beloved Road Warriors hat off, and literally jumped up and down on it with his shoes.
Ryan was very upset and after I helped him clean his hat, I walked over to this guy and said "Now you can jump up and down on your hat".
Confused, he said "this is a fill in the blank of cost of a game cap here"! and refused.
I told him he can jump on it or I can, his call.
When he protested about the expense of his hat, my response was "Ryan's hat is just as important to him and you had no problem with it, so let's even the score".
He then sadly began to jump up and down on his own hat, beating it up and getting it dirty.

The Road Warriors will be long remembered as the most popular tag team of their time.
The team that was too popular to turn heel and too popular to be a champion, the Road Warriors will always be special to the fans that saw them in their prime and maybe even to a guy that had to jump on his own hat as well...

Browns defeat Washington 34-20

The Cleveland Browns moved to a winning record for the first time since 2014 with a 34-20 win over the visiting Washington Whomevers in Cleveland.

The Browns intercepted Dwayne Haskins three times and outscored Washington 17-0 in the fourth quarter to eliminate a 20-17 deficit entering the period.

Nick Chubb rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns and Baker Mayfield threw two touchdowns to lead the Browns offense in the victory.

The now 2-1 Browns begin a difficult three-game run next week when they travel to Dallas to meet the 1-2 Cowboys before a home game against Indianapolis and a visit the following week to Pittsburgh.

Brownie Bits

1: Yes, it's the Browns first 2-1 start since 2011 and first winning record since late in the 2014 season,
so it's hard not to at least be a little optimistic about the state of the team.

2: BUT let's keep this mind before getting too high for the two wins- both wins were at home and against the two worst teams in the league last year as well.
These are the games that teams that are building a program need to win- beating teams that are on your level or below, especially when you get them at home.

3) Washington came into the game with a heralded pass rush and even though they lost Chase Young to a groin injury in the first half, Washington still made Baker Mayfield hurry his throws all afternoon and the Browns good fortune was that none were intercepted, especially one pass that Odell Beckham was forced to play defensive back to stop an interception.

4) The Browns offensive line allowed only two sacks and the WFT did seem to be in Baker Mayfield's face all day, but in crunch time, Cleveland was able to run the football effectively for most of the game, third-quarter excluded.

5) Five turnovers and committing zero will go a long way in getting a victory.
One of those was a meaningless fumble at the end of the half, but on each of the three drives following interceptions of Dwayne Haskins, the Browns would score touchdowns.
When you are able to make teams pay on the scoreboard for turning the ball over, you won't lose many football games.

6) As for the former Buckeye, Dwayne Haskins was a player that I really liked leaving Columbus, but having played just one season, it was pretty clear to see that he had a lot to learn and wasn't a plug and play passer.
Quarterbacks can be ruined when pushed before they are ready and Haskins was definitely a player that needed seasoning before being placed into the lineup.
Going to a Dan Snyder owned franchise with the consistent uproar that follows every year wasn't going to be a place where Haskins was going to mature and it's proven to be true.
Washington rushed Haskins before he had the talent surrounding him and before he was ready to play and they may have lost him before he really had a chance to succeed.

7) The Haskins fumble that essentially ended any Washington comeback hopes wasn't on him either as Myles Garrett made the type of play that you expect when he is able to pin his ears back and get the quarterback.
Haskins never saw Garrett coming, Garrett stripped the football from Haskins, and with Haskins on the ground, the falling football bounced off Haskins shoe and into the waiting arms of Garrett.
Garrett had a sack earlier in the game and forced a fumble for the second game in a row.

8) But the final shot that ended the game was the type of mistake that the Browns usually make and this time it was made by Washington.
On a fourth and four and under four minutes to play, Cleveland attempted to get Washington to jump offside.
Ryan Kerrigan obliged, the Browns were then able to run the clock down to one minute and ten seconds before Cody Parkey's field goal from thirty yards away.

9) Both of Nick Chubb's scores were the type of run that reminded you of those old Earl Campbell scores where he bounces off tacklers, shoves them aside, and then gets into the end zone like Pat Healy in Something About Mary.

10 ) A battered Browns secondary did return Kevin Johnson for the game, but Denzel Ward, who was listed as questionable entering the game, was only able to play in the first half.
Other than Myles Garrett, Ward is the defender that the Browns can least afford to play without, and with teams on the horizon that have big-time receivers, the Browns will have to hope Ward can heal quickly.

11) For all the questions about the secondary, Karl Joseph played a very good game at strong safety.
Joseph delivered a highlight-reel hit in the first quarter and his interception and long return set up a Browns touchdown, although he did fumble the ball at the end of the play and the Browns were fortunate to recover.

12) The Browns moved to white pants for this game and they were good enough.
But I still prefer the orange version worn against the Bengals.
As for the Washington uniforms, they reminded me of the road uniforms of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Or Minnesota State in the Hayden Fox years with a little more burgundy than the Screaming Eagles purple.

13) The final note is on the return game where JoJo Natson left with an injury.
No word on his status, but should he miss the game against Dallas, could this be the debut for Donovan Peoples-Jones?
DPJ can return kicks and punts, but has been inactive for each of the first three games.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Charlo Brothers win in PPV Debut

  The debut of the Charlo brothers in their first appearance on pay per view went as well as the brothers, PBC, and Showtime could have expected as both brothers grabbed victories in fights that were generally good bouts.

Jermell Charlo won his title unification fight at junior middleweight as he took away Jeison Rosario's WBA and IBF titles to add to the WBC championship that he held entering the fight by an eighth-round knockout.

Charlo knocked Rosario down in the first round with a shot to the top of the head, but Rosario survived and worked his way back into the fight.
Charlo was losing round six before hitting Rosario with a left hook that sent Rosario to the canvas and Rosario would barely survive the round.
Charlo would end the fight in the eighth with a jab to the stomach that took all the air from Rosario and ended the match.
I haven't seen a knockout from a jab to the stomach since Little Mac knocked out King Hippo on Mike Tyson's Punch Out, so that is quite an achievement for Charlo.

Jeison Rosario joins the depth chart at PBC at junior middleweight of fighters that can beat some, lose to others and will likely still in the mix among their contenders.
For Jermell Charlo. if he is the king of the hill for now and deservedly so, I'm not sure that he is head and shoulders above the rest for the long term.
Charlo struggled twice with Tony Harrison and there could be one of the guys on the depth chart that could match well with Charlo (Jarrett Hurd perhaps) and upset him, but he'd be favored over any of them until proven otherwise.
Three championships come with three mandatories and they range from interesting (Talented, but inexperienced Israil Madrimov WBA),  mundane (Bakhram Murtazaliev IBF), and been there done that (Erickson Lubin WBC, who Charlo knocked out in one round in 2017), so I really don't know where Charlo goes next, but I'm doubting it will be anyone to really excite fans because there just isn't anyone in the junior middleweight division to do so.

Earlier in the evening, Jermall Charlo defended his WBC middleweight title via unanimous decision over Sergey Dereyvanchenko for the biggest win of Charlo's career.
The fight played out in the manner that most expected to- Charlo scoring well from long distance, getting out to a fast start, banking early rounds, and holding off the Dereyvanchenko rally.
Charlo wobbled Dereyvanchenko in the third round and Dereyvanchenko stung Charlo in the seventh, but neither fighter was ever in huge trouble during the fight or knocked out.
Dereyvanchenko did take heavy damage around his eyes with bruising around both, but he continued to press the action and make Charlo work throughout the fight.
I scored Charlo a comfortable, but not dominant 116-112 winner, which agreed with one of the three scorecards.

I'm not sure where Charlo is headed now.
As strong as PBC is at 147 and 154, they are that weak at 160 as Dereyvanchenko was the best fight that PBC had for Charlo and Dereyvanchenko was ranked first by the WBC.
The next eventual mandatory would be Jaime Munguia (currently ranked second) and the talented but still raw Munguia isn't quite of Charlo's caliber yet, along with the promotional problems of PBC dealing with Golden Boy as Munguia's promoter.
Charlo says he'll fight anyone, but if seven million dollars wasn't enough for a unification fight with WBO champion Demetrius Andrade to fight outside of the PBC, I have my doubts that he's moving outside the PBC cocoon anytime soon.
As for Dereyvanchenko, he now has three close title fight losses and I'm not sure that he gets another title shot anytime soon and with his association with PBC, who does he fight to move back up the ladder?
A very difficult spot to be in for the veteran.

John Riel Casimero knocked out Duke Micah in the third round to keep his WBO bantamweight championship to open the evening.
Casimero knocked Micah down in the second and delivered a fearsome beating for the remainder of the round before finishing Micah off in the first minute of the third round.
Casimero had a scheduled unification match with WBA and IBF champion Naoya Inoue canceled due to Covid-19 and I'm not sure if his contract with PBC was a one-off contract or if it could be longer in term.
A Inoue-Casimero fight would likely be explosive, exciting, and short, but I hope that pairing can be revived and made in 2021.

The other three fights on the card, I have not watched yet, so when I do I will return and edit with my scorecards.

Luis Nery won a unanimous decision over Aaron Alameda to win the vacant WBC junior featherweight title.
Daniel Roman won a unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Payano.
Brandon Figueroa stopped Damien Vasquez in the tenth round.

In the boxing challenge I outscored Ramon Malpica eleven to eight on the PPV.
I moved my overall lead to 128-117.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Briedis wins WBSS, Taylor wins in one!

  The afternoon from the old country saw two world title fights before the huge PPV from PBC in the evening.
If you chose to watch DAZN live from Germany- you were able to see a good matchup.
If you picked ESPN+ from England, well, at least it was short.

From Munich Germany, what could be the final event from the World Boxing Super Series crowned the winner of their cruiserweight tournament as top-seeded Mairis Breidis defeated second-seed Yunier Dorticos via a majority decision to win the tournament and lift the IBF championship from Dorticos as well.
It was a fight that saw heavy punches exchanged, yet one that had its tactical parts as well with Briedis using the right hand to land counterpunches against the heavier-hitting and aggressive Dorticos that shifted the tide his way in a close fight.
I scored Briedis a 116-112 winner and thought the decision was a fair one.
I'd like to see Briedis stay in the division, where he is the top fighter for now, but he could seek bigger heavyweight money as the other three champions (WBA Arsen Goulamirian, WBC Illunga Makubu, and WBO title is vacant) aren't likely to be bouts that fans crave.
As for Dorticos, a rematch against Briedis down the road is not out of the question, and a fight against any of the other champions would be favored.

As for the WBSS, which has seen financial problems, it'll be interesting to see if it survives.
I would imagine that if it would continue, the purses could drop, and with that drop would go any incentive for fighters to not control their opponents for their next three fights.
Even it should continue, I'm not sure that there is a fit with many divisions for a compelling elite tournament.
Top Rank refuses to send their fighters, PBC only sends very few and usually in the lower weight divisions, and Matchroom, Sauerland, and other European promoters do participate, but they might wonder if it is worth the time spent, if their fighters aren't fighting the best.

When you consider the promotional ties involved, only two divisions make sense to run a tournament with the best fighters in the game.
Junior bantamweight could work with Matchroom controlling the best of the division with Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and if WBO champion Kazuto Ioka and the latest Japanese phenom Kosei Tanaka could be added, all the best fighters would be available except IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas, who is associated with Top Rank.

Flyweight would be available with three excellent champions in Julio Cesar Martinez, Moruti Mthalane, and Artem Dalakian and might make a star with an eventual winner.
Other than those two, only junior featherweight would even be close to having the elite and that would have to be worked out with PBC as they have the best of the division other than WBA/IBF champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev.

Unless the WBSS would be willing to settle for a lesser tournament with contenders and prospects, I don't see any other divisions that would work out.
It would be a sad end for a series that gave world stages and made stars out of Oleksandr Usyk, Callum Smith, Naoya Inoue, and Josh Taylor, but that could be how it ends...

As for Josh Taylor, the quicker we can move away from IBF mandatory contender Apinun Khongsong the better as Taylor retained his WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles with a first-round knockout with the first significant punch that he landed to Khongsong's body.
Taylor, wearing Bay City Rollers style Tartan, left Khongsong writhing in pain on the floor and will unify all four titles in the division in his next fight with WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored three points to move our totals to 117-109. 

Boxing Challenge

   It's been a difficult week with Blogger here at TRS and the frustrations mount, but I'm hoping that I have a fix to make things smoother.
Please hope that becomes the case!

It's a huge week in the boxing challenge with EIGHT fights to watch and all of them are either title bouts or fights with championship contenders involved...

The day starts in the afternoon with two fights from Europe with massive implications.

DAZN will be showing the long-delayed finals of the cruiserweight division of the World Boxing Super Series between Yunier Dorticos and Mairis Breidis from Germany.
The IBF title held by Dorticos is on the line also and this is a fight between the top two fighters in the division.
Briedis gave up the WBO title after a controversial win over Krzysztof Glowacki in the semi-finals that was terribly officiated and rather than a Glowacki rematch, Breidis chose the bigger money for the WBSS finals and a Dorticos showdown.
The huge punching Dorticos knocked out Andrew Tabiti on the same card with one punch in round ten to punch his ticket to the finals.
Both fighters fought in the first WBSS cruiser tournament and were eliminated in the semi-finals with Dorticos being knocked out in the final round of a great fight with Murat Gassiev and Briedis giving Oleksandr Usyk his toughest fight as a pro with Usyk winning a majority decision that I scored a draw.
I'm very excited about this fight as a true toss of the coin battle.

ESPN+ will be live from London with arguably the best junior welterweight in the world as WBA and IBF champion Josh Taylor defends those titles against IBF mandatory contender Apinun Khongsong.
I know nothing about Khongsong other than he's an undefeated fighter from Thailand, but I do know Taylor and unless Khongsong is an undiscovered diamond, this should be a Taylor rout.
Should Taylor win as expected, his next fight should be a unification for the four championships in the division against WBC and WBO titleholder Jose Ramirez.

Showtime has put together a huge pay per view with six fights for the boxing challenge.
All of them are reasonably competitive, even if there are some clear favorites and the card is broken up into two pieces with a 30-minute intermission for a unique touch.

The main events involve both Charlo brothers with their titles on the line along with two others in a unification bout.
Jermall Charlo defends his WBC middleweight title against Sergiy Derevyanchenko in what is Charlo's first true test at the weight despite being essentially handed the title when Canelo Alvarez was promoted to the ridiculous franchise champion designation.
While Charlo's competition has been as dazzling as a sparkler outside at noon, Derevyanchenko is entering the fight after his narrow loss to Gennady Golovkin and will be the best fighter that Charlo has faced at 160 pounds.
The Golovkin fight might have been 2019's fight of the year, but who knows how much that brutal battle took out of Derevyanchenko, who has lost two close fights to Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs with early flash knockdowns suffered by Derevyanchenko costing him badly in each loss, so Charlo could score an early knockdown that could be very big in the scoring.
This is a pick-em fight, but I lean Charlo very close.
Charlo will bank too many of the early rounds, Derevyanchenko will make his standard rally, but it will fall just short to win the decision.

Jermell Charlo will place his WBC junior middleweight championship against the WBA and IBF titles held by Jeison Rosario in a unification fight that will see the winner holding three of the four championships and will clearly be the top fighter in the division.
Charlo regained his title from Tony Harrison after losing a controversial decision in their first fight, to come from behind (on my card anyway) to knock Harrison out in the eleventh round.
Rosario shocked the boxing world to take the WBA and IBF titles from Julian Williams when Rosario stopped the heavily favored Williams in five rounds to ruin the planned Charlo-Williams unification fight, which would have had a built-in storyline with Williams only previous loss occurring against Jermall Charlo.
Give PBC credit for making this one ASAP rather than their usual M.O. of a squash match in between and this could be a very fun fight.
Rosario is a big puncher and Charlo hasn't faced a puncher before (other than Erickson Lubin, who went out before he had a chance to land), so Rosario is a live underdog in this one.
Still, I have to give Charlo the edge unless Rosario can land a big punch.

The exciting and controversial Luis Nery will face Aaron Alameda for the vacant WBC junior featherweight title, which became vacant when champion Rey Vargas broke his leg.
The WBC has named Vargas a "Champion in Recess" which basically means when Vargas is healthy he will get a title shot when he requests one.
Nery's power and skills rank with the best in the game, but he's missed weight on a few occasions and has been popped for PED's, so there is baggage that comes with Nery.
Still, Nery made weight for this one, which is bad news for Alameda, and his 27-9 record indicates that he's going to be a heavy underdog.
Alameda has never been stopped though and the main point of interest here is this- can Nery knock out a durable opponent?

John Riel Casimero defends his WBO bantamweight title against undefeated Duke Micah of Ghana.
Casimero knocked out Zolani Tete in three rounds to win the WBO title last November and was scheduled to face WBA champion Naoya Inoue in what would have been a unification fight, but the pandemic canceled that one and left him in need of a fight.
Micah hasn't beaten anyone of note, but rugged underdogs from Ghana have done well in similar positions in the past, so don't count out Micah in this one.

Brandon Figueroa defends one of those meaningless WBA titles in the junior featherweight division against Damien Vasquez.
Figueroa last fought in November, battling to a draw with tough veteran Julio Ceja that I scored for Ceja but Ceja missed weight by four pounds and was allowed to fight after donating a portion of his purse.
The draw was an excellent fight and considering Ceja's advantages, it's hard for me to dock Figueroa for that effort.
Vasquez has only one loss and one draw, but in his last two fights drew with Josue Morales, a fighter with a record of 9-10, and holds a win over a fighter with a record of 24-43-3, so he appears to be overmatched in the most lopsided fight of the evening.

Former WBA and IBF junior featherweight champion Daniel Roman makes his PBC debut in his first fight since losing those titles to Murodjon Akhmadaliev via a close split decision.
I scored that fight a draw and the fight really could have been given to either fighter.
Former WBA bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Payano moves up to face Roman after losing by knockout to two of the best in the world in his last three fights with a first-round KO loss to Naoya Inoue in the World Boxing Super Series and a ninth-round stoppage defeat to Luis Nery.
Payano handed the above-mentioned Damian Vasquez his first loss in between the two losses in January, so Payano may not be completely through and Roman isn't remotely in the same league as Inoue or Nery as a puncher, so Payano might be a bit competitive, but Roman seems a class above.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 114-106.

IBF Cruiserweight Title/World Boxing Super Series Final. 12 Rds
Yunier Dorticos vs Mairis Breidis
R.L: Briedis KO 8
TRS: Briedis Unanimous Decision

WBA/IBF Junior Welterweight Titles. 12 Rds
Josh Taylor vs Apinun Khongsong
R.L: Taylor KO 7
TRS: Taylor KO 5

WBC Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Jermall Charlo vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Both: Charlo Unanimous Decision

Unification WBA/IBF-WBC Junior Middleweight Titles. 12 Rds
Jermell Charlo vs Jeison Rosario
R.L: Rosario KO 9
TRS: Charlo KO 10

Vacant WBC Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Luis Nery vs Aaron Alameda
R.L: Nery Unanimous Decision
TRS: Nery KO 9

WBO Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
John Riel Casimero vs Duke Micah
R.L: Micah KO 10
TRS: Casimero Unanimous Decision

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Brandon Figueroa vs Damien Vasquez
R.L: Figueroa KO 8
TRS: Figueroa KO 10

Junior Featherweights 12 Rds
Daniel Roman vs Juan Carlos Payano
Both: Roman Unanimous Decision

Friday, September 25, 2020


The PPM is once again riddled with collegiate cancellations. I cannot wait for several reasons for us to be finished with Covid-19 and the college football havoc is one of those!

Last Week: 5-1
Overall: 11-3

Louisiana over Georgia Southern 35-21
UTSA over Middle Tennessee State 28-17
Texas over Texas Tech 35-20
Virginia Tech over N.C. State 41-31

Game of the Week
Cincinnati over Army 24-14

Browns over Redskins 30-26
Packers over Saints 28-24

Game of the Week
Chiefs over Ravens 36-34

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

The cleaning of the inbox never stops with tributes to those that have recently passed.
As I am posting this, I have learned of the passing of Gale Sayers.
I'll be writing about Sayers tonight, if possible...

Goodbye to Diana Rigg at the age of  82.
Rigg is known by recent fans from her work on Game of Thrones, which earned her two Outstanding Guest Actress Emmy nominations, but to almost everyone else in America over 50, she will always be remembered for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers.
"Emma Peel" arrived in the middle of the show's run (the show ran from 1961-69) for four seasons from 1965-68 and despite the show having a track record before her arrival, it is the four seasons with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel that most people think of when The Avengers is remembered.
Rigg had never watched the show when she tried for the role "on a whim", and often was said to have felt mistreated by the producers of the show and uncomfortable with her role as a sex symbol as well.
While Rigg would go on to do many roles on stage, film, and television, she will more than likely be remembered as Emma Peel by the American audience.

Goodbye to Larry Wilson at the age of 82.
The football hall of famer was legendary for his toughness in a thirteen-year career spent all with the St.Louis Cardinals as their free safety
Wilson was inducted into the hall in 1978 in his first year of eligibility after a career that saw Wilson make eight Pro Bowls for the Cardinals and named first-team All-Pro six times and second-team All-Pro once.
Wilson was the player that popularized the safety blitz, intercepted passes in seven straight games in 1966, and not only played games with two broken hands, Wilson actually intercepted a pass with casts on each hand!
Larry Wilson would also serve as the interim coach for the Cardinals in 1979 and was the team's front office leader (among a few different titles) from 1977 to 1993.

Goodbye to Alan Minter at the age of 69.
The 1972 Olympic bronze medalist at junior middleweight, Minter won the unified middleweight title in March 1980 (In 1980, there were only two titles- WBA and WBC) with an upset split decision victory over Vito Antuofermo in Las Vegas in a title fight with two of the largest "bleeders" of their day with both fighters with a long history of cutting easily.
The controversy with the decision wasn't as much giving the win to Minter (It was a close fight) as the British judge scoring the fight for Minter 13-2 in rounds.
Minter would defend the title in a rematch against Antuofermo in London three months later, winning on cuts in the eighth round.
Three months after the Antuofermo rematch, Minter would defend against the mandatory challenger in Marvin Hagler, who had drawn with Antuofermo in 1979 in a fight that most thought Hagler clearly won.
In a fight that was racially charged after a pre-fight incident, Hagler ripped through Minter in three rounds when the fight was stopped due to cuts on Minter's face and the British crowd rioted, pelting the ring with bottles and anything else that they could throw, and sending Hagler and his cornermen racing to the dressing room surrounded by police to escape the crowd.
Minter never received a rematch against Hagler as he would lose a split decision to Mustafa Hamsho in a fight that the winner would become the new mandatory challenger.
Minter then was stopped in three rounds by countryman Tony Sibson (who would eventually also challenge Hagler) and would retire.

Goodbye to Ian Mitchell at the age of 62.
Mitchell joined the Bay City Rollers at the top of their success as a seventeen-year-old bass player in 1976, but despite Mitchell's instant popularity with the group's fans and their high charting cover of Dusty Springfield's "I only want to be with you", Mitchell left the band after nine months.
What made Mitchell unusual was that after he left the band, Mitchell remained all over the teen magazines for the next year or so despite his new band (Rosetta Stone) never scoring with a hit record.
Mitchell was quite a bit younger than the other band members and that could have been why he connected with the group's fans despite such a short tenure.
Long time readers might remember a long-ago piece that briefly mentioned the Rollers that gained many MANY more hits than an average post at that time and made me wonder if Rollermania ever really moved away from their fans.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Boots Ennis shines brightly!

Welterweight Jaron "Boots" Ennis may not have been in the main event from Uncasville, Connecticut on Showtime's three-fight card, but on a night that didn't have a lot of action, it was Ennis that walked away as the evening's star.

It wasn't that Ennis disposed of veteran gatekeeper Juan Carlos Abreu in six rounds as that would have been impressive enough considering Abreu had never been stopped in his five losses to contenders such as Egid Kavaliauskas, Alexander Besputin, and Jamal James.

It was how Ennis did it as he controlled Ennis with power punches that shook the durable veteran with every punch and showing veteran poise in the fifth round.
Ennis and Abreu each landed very low punches that cause brief stoppages and warnings, but as Abreu charged in, Ennis leaned away from the incoming punch and connected with a huge uppercut that dropped Abreu with seconds remaining in the round.
Abreu rose and survived, but tried some macho tactics to unnerve Ennis at the end of the round with an attempt to make Ennis do something dumb.
Ennis verbally sparred back to Abreu but showed maturity by not getting physical.
The decision proved fruitful when Ennis quickly dropped Abreu again and continued to batter Abreu into a corner before Abreu dropped to the floor for a second time with the referee waving the fight off.
It's not often that the first fight on a show leads off our recap, but as much as that says for the other fights on the evening, it says tons for the talent of Boots Ennis.
Ennis is almost certainly a future champion, assuming his chin holds up when tested.
My biggest concern with Boots Ennis is this- A few years from now, boxing fans may be pining away for a Boots Ennis-Vergil Ortiz welterweight unification fight as they currently are for an Errol Spence-Terence Crawford matchup and they may be equally unfulfilled.

In the main event, Erickson Lubin trudged through twelve rounds to win a unanimous decision over Terrell Gausha and put himself in position for a future junior middleweight title shot against the winner of next Saturday's Jermell Charlo-Jeison Rosario title unification bout.
The positives in this one, Gausha hurt Lubin in the tenth round, and round twelve was a pretty good round with both fighters exchanging punches.
Outside of those positives, this one was quite the snoozer with Lubin winning the rounds, but looking far from the exciting bomber that was at the top of most prospect lists before his one-round knockout loss to Jermell Charlo.
Lubin could arguably say he is more effective now, but he certainly isn't half as fun to watch.
Lubin's chin questions still are a concern after being hurt badly by Gausha, who is not known as a puncher, but that's one thing that can be said for the "new" Lubin- he is protecting that chin much better than in the past.
I scored Lubin a 118-110 winner with Lubin winning the first nine rounds.
I'm not sure Lubin will fare much better in a potential Charlo rematch, but should he decide to go bomb for bomb against Rosario, the result could be a memorable encounter.
But if it is this version of Lubin that arrives for his title shot, his challenge might not be more watchable than this victory.

Tug Nyambayar won a split decision over late replacement Cobia Breedy to win an eliminator that may lead to a rematch against WBC champion Gary Russell or at least another eliminator to earn that rematch.
Nyambayar fought much like he did in his loss to Russell with a reluctance to get off punches and giving away early rounds, but salvaged the first two with knockdowns in those rounds.
Nyambayar did begin winning rounds on the last half of the fight once he began to move his hands and won on my card 115-111 (7-5 in rounds minus two knockdown points).
Despite the victory, Nyambayar didn't seem especially motivated for the fight, which is understandable with a late replacement that was unknown at the world level and I wonder about his future with his tendency to start slowly continuing to plague him.
As for Breedy, his showing was an excellent one considering his lack of experience and stepping in on late notice.
Without those early knockdowns, Breedy may have had a case for a victory, although the scorecard for Breedy was an outlandish 115-111.
That scorecard gave Breedy nine of the ten rounds remaining after being knocked down twice and for all that Breedy overcame to make a good showing, that simply was not the case.

Meanwhile, over at the Top Rank bubble on ESPN+, Jose Pedraza won a ten round unanimous decision over Javier Molina in a battle of Olympic teammates.
Pedraza puzzled Molina and left him unable to do much offensively other than desperate and ineffective charges with Pedraza hitting him over and over with the straight right.
Not much else to say for this one other than Pedraza hurting Molina badly in the final round and Pedraza attempted to put Molina away for the strong finish.
Give Molina credit for holding off Pedraza and making it to the final bell, but that's mostly what he was about to walk away with as I scored Pedraza a 99-91.
Pedraza will likely be in the scramble next year for pne of the open titles after a projection that will see the Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez winner give up the titles to move up to welterweight.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored seven points to move the total to 114-106.
Next week will have a NINE fight entry in the challenge, so a big week will be on hand!!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend is centered around Showtime at their version of the bubble in Connecticut with three fights that will see a title eliminator, the return of a contender, and the best-kept secret in boxing will open the show.

The main event will pair Erickson "The Hammer" Lubin against former Olympian Terrell Gausha in an eliminator for the WBC junior middleweight title.
Lubin was highly touted as a prospect before being destroyed in one round in his only title shot against WBC champion Jermell Charlo in 2018 and hasn't been overly impressive since his return.
Lubin has been knocking out lower-level opponents, but last time out, Lubin went the distance with Nathaniel Gallimore, who was stopped by Sebastian Fundora in his next fight.
Gausha is a solid, but unspectacular fighter that lost to Erislandy Lara and drew with Austin Trout in his only two attempts against top ten opposition, although I thought Gausha deserved the decision against Trout.
In a division controlled by PBC, the winner does have many options but I'm not sure either is to the standards of the best in the division.
I have doubts that Lubin can take a good shot (none of his post-Charlo wins have come against a good puncher) and while I think Gausha is a good fighter, he will have to show that he is more than a solid fighter that isn't quite title grade.

The co-feature brings back Tug Nyambayar in a ten round featherweight fight against Cobia Breedy.
Nyambayor rallied late in his title challenge of WBC champion Gary Russell but had given away too many early rounds on the scorecards to pull out the upset win.
The undefeated Breedy is making a huge leap forward in competition and unless he is a diamond in the rough appears to be out of his element against Nyambayar

The curtain-raiser features the top prospect in boxing in my opinion as welterweight Jaron "Boots" Ennis faces veteran warhorse Juan Carlos Abreu.
Ennis has looked sensational in his twenty-five wins, knocking out twenty-three of his opponents, and no opponent has lasted six complete rounds against the Philadelphia bomber.
Ennis faces his first test in Abreu, who is a gatekeeper in the division as with losses to contenders Egid Kavaliauskas, Alexander Besputin, Jamal James, and former junior lightweight and lightweight champion Humberto Soto, holds a victory over former contender Jesus Soto-Karass, and has never been knocked out in any of his five defeats.
If Ennis can stop Abreu, it will be a very impressive feat.

ESPN+ and Top Rank will have a card on the same night with the main event pitting former IBF junior lightweight and WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedraza facing Javier Molina in a junior welterweight match of 2008 Olympians.
Pedraza will be in his second fight since losing to contender Jose Zepeda in his first fight at 140 pounds, while Molina, who has been a mild disappointment as pro, upset former world title challenger Amir Imam in his last bout in February.
The winner could be in contention for a future title shot in the Top Rank-dominated division or at least a possible title eliminator.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 107-99.

Junior Middleweights. 12 Rds
Erickson Lubin vs Terrell Gausha
Both: Lubin Unanimous Decision

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Tug Nyambayar vs  Cobia Breedy
R.L: Nyamabayar KO 8
TRS: Nayambayar KO 5

Welterweights. 10 Rds
Jaron Ennis vs Juan Carlos Abreu
R.L: Ennis KO 3
TRS: Ennis KO 5

Junior Welterweights. 10 Rds
Jose Pedraza vs Javier Molina
Both: Pedraza Unanimous Decision

Browns earn their stripes! Beat Bengals 35-30

The Cleveland Browns moved from opposing a team that finished 14-2 in 2019 to playing against one that finished 2-14 last season and the difference in result and performance was striking as the Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 35-30 Thursday night in Cleveland.

Baker Mayfield threw for 219 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while the running game paced the offense with Nick Chubb finishing with 124 yards and two touchdowns along with Kareem Hunt ran for 86 yards along with one score.
The now 1-1 Browns will host the Washington Red and Yellows next Sunday in Cleveland.
                                                                Brownie Bits

1:The Browns may have won this one on the ground, but the early strike was through the air as Baker Mayfield threw a beautiful pass to Odell Beckham for a 43-yard touchdown.
Mayfield's accuracy has been in question over the last year, but that was a well-thrown pass that was on the money.

2: The ground game is going to have to carry this team.
That's not a surprise to many, but when two backs as talented as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are on your team, hammering the opponent in the running game takes the pressure off Baker Mayfield, gives his play-action far more presence, and gives the Browns an identity as a physical team that they have lacked.
Chubb set the table and late in the game on the game-clinching drive Kareem Hunt cleared the plates.
The Bengals couldn't stop these two and if the Browns want to reach respectability, they should ride these two horses.

3) The offensive line was missing Jack Conklin, who was active with injuries to his ankle and finger but the Browns started Chris Hubbard in the hopes that Conklin would not be needed.
Hubbard played well, Conklin was able to sit out and the hope is with ten days before the game with Washington that Conklin will be able to return to the lineup.
Jedrick Wills was again fine at left tackle, Wyatt Teller is much improved at right guard, and the usual standouts are playing to form in Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter.
Very encouraged after two games.

4)  Baker Mayfield played good, not great. Good.
Mayfield was given more plays that called for him to roll to his right, which seems to be the only way that Mayfield can play like an NFL quarterback and he was successful.
The key to Mayfield's future may come down to how he plays when teams force him to stay in the pocket or roll to his left.
When he's been forced to do that to date, the struggles begin to happen.

5) The defense is bad.
I mean really bad.
Other than the defensive line, this defense is porous and the Browns are going to have to outscore teams to win and few teams are similar to the Bengals to allow the running game to beat them in shootouts.

6) Olivier Vernon missed the game at one defensive end and his replacement went down as well as Adrian Clayborn left the game due to injury.
Cleveland finished the game with only three defensive ends, Myles Garrett, Porter Gustin, and recent arrival Joe Jackson.
I don't have any news on Clayborn's injury, but a loss of Clayborn from the pass-rushing rotation would really hurt the Browns.
Clayborn had a sack of Joe Burrow before leaving the game.

7) Myles Garrett made the play that saved the day for the Browns when his strip of Joe Burrow inside the Bengals five and resulting fumble recovery by Joe Jackson, not only set up a Nick Chubb touchdowns run, it evened the possession before when the Browns failed to score on four shots from the Bengals one.

8) Sheldon Richardson continues to be tremendous on the inside and is playing the best football of his career.
I counted three times that Richardson lost his helmet, but continued to charge after the football.
It's only two games, but Richardson is playing at a Pro Bowl level.

9) Porter Gustin may have to play a larger role depending on the time that Olivier Vernon and Adrian Clayborn could miss.
Gustin sacked Joe Burrow once, but grabbed Burrow by the facemask and was deservedly flagged.
Gustin might be the biggest surprise on this team since his signing during the 2019 season.

10) The bad news for Baker Mayfield?
The horrendous interception in the red zone that should have never been thrown makes me wince and he overthrew a wide-open Austin Hooper for which would have been a score.
Color me open to any opinion on the future of Mayfield.

11) I know that injuries have contributed to Andrew Sendejo and Taviarre Thomas being on the field so much in the secondary, but man are they a hindrance!
Sendejo is just too damn slow to be effective and while Thomas is an excellent player in special teams it is clear that he just cannot stay with receivers.
Sendejo's time will decrease as Ronnie Harrison becomes more comfortable in the defense, but I'm not sure where the help in getting Thomas off the field until Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson are able to return from their injuries.
Until then-Yikes!

12) How about those orange pants?
In the name of Brian Sipe- I love them!
These are THE home uniform that the Browns need to use and I'll accept no substitutes!!!

13) Now it's onto Washington.
A team that looks a little better than Cincinnati with a young quarterback in Dwayne Haskins and a pass rusher with the potential to be the best in the game in Chase Young.
This is a winnable game, but it's also one that could be very competitive or even a defeat.
The schedule toughens after the visit from Washington with a trip to Dallas, a home game against the Colts and a visit to Pittsburgh.
The Browns will likely be underdogs in all of those games, so the Washington game might be the difference between 1-5, 2-4, and assuming the Browns can win one of those three games following Washington 3-3.
It'll also be another matchup of young quarterbacks for the third game in a row after Baker Mayfield opposed Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow, he'll face Dwayne Haskins.
See you then.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bear with us...

Bear with us for a while, please.
Blogger has completely revamped their template and all of the things that made it so easy to use for those of us that have little HTML knowledge are now gone.

Blogger has made it difficult to move images around and has made even the smallest post a chore.
It has made this a little less fun as I learn how to best deal with this and learn the new template.

I'll figure it out, it'll just take some time.

Big Ten Football Returns

The Big Ten realized that where they go that other conferences don't have to follow and after a month spent with the league watching other conferences play, the decision was made to return to the field on October 24.

The league will play an eight-game schedule with a ninth game with what I think is a really neat twist.

The ninth game will be held on championship weekend and with the top two teams in each division playing each other as usual, but the twist comes in with this- the remaining teams will play their corresponding team in the other division. 

For example, if Iowa finishes second in the Western Division and Penn State finishes in the same spot in the Eastern Division, they will play each other in week nine.

The league will announce a schedule later this week and I suppose that they will announce how the ninth game will work, with my only question being will the league be accepting of a possible rematch between the sixth-place teams for example or will they slightly modify if needed to avoid rematches.

With everyone from the three teams that voted to play in August (Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska), Big Ten players with a social media campaign, a group of Nebraska players threatening a suit of the conference, and even President Donald Trump dueling for credit for the league's about-face, the main thing that the league is going to try to play the season out and by making the decision now, if the season manages to conclude ( far from a guarantee with some games being canceled each week) the league champion has a chance to make the college football playoff.

The Big Ten has installed a more stringent policy for players that have tested positive as their players that test positive for Covid-19 will be unable able to play for 21 days, where other conferences are using a 14-day restriction. Players that fail tests will have to pass cardiac testing before a return to play and all players will take daily antigen tests before hitting the practice fields. The development of those tests may have been the largest factor in the return to the field for the Big Ten schools as the testing was unavailable for daily and time-sensitive tests at the time of the postponement.

While I'm not sure about how long the season will last because nothing will surprise me at this stage, it will feel much more normal once Ohio State and the Big Ten are back and on the gridiron.

In a world that is in desperate need of such normalcy, I'll take whatever I can get.


The PPM goes up early this week with the Browns playing in the Thursday night game, but there is more scheduling craziness in the college game with the light at the end of the tunnel is there for the Big Ten with their announcement of a late October return!

Last Week: 5-1
Overall: 6-2

College Football
Baylor over Houston 34-27
Troy over Middle Tennessee State 35-17
N.C. State over Wake Forest 27-20

Game of the Week
Miami over Louisville 29-27

Browns over Bengals 20-16
Saints over Raiders 31-21

Game of the Week
Seahawks over Patriots 27-21

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I tell ya' Herbie:

It's been a while since our last "I tell ya' Herbie", which is a weekly post based on thoughts from the college football world.

I tell ya, Herbie:
                          It's been tough getting into a season where half the teams that I follow closely (Ohio State and Boise State) aren't playing, but it's even harder when you cannot count on games from week to week to be played.
It's even tougher when you hear things about teams having Covid already as LSU coach Ed Orgeron stated earlier this week.
I'm not sure that it's a good thing for college football to be playing, mainly because it's just so hard keeping the 18-22 year olds doing the things that need to be done in order to play this game and keep healthy doing so.
The one edge that the NFL has over the college game is the money that the league has to spend to keep things as healthy as possible.
No matter the school or how much the football budget is for a school, that school doesn't have what the NFL has and there is why if I had to wager on the NFL completing their season, I'd bet yes.
And why I'd bet on some sort of stoppage, even a temporary one, for the college game.

I tell ya, Herbie:
                          The Big Ten seems to be dragging their feet on a possible return in late October.
Each of the last three days, the rumors started that the conference was planning an announcement for a return to action.
To this writing, no announcement has taken place.
I'm not sure who to blame for this mess..
Commissoner Kevin Warren doesn't want to play (although he seems to be fine with his son playing with Mississippi State) and he has some school presidents on his side.
He is opposed by the league's coaches and athletic directors and if the playing leagues manage to shove some sort of a season through and the Big Ten cannot, look for Warren  to suddenly "decide to spend more time with his family" sometime next year- No matter the amount of dollars that the league has hauled in.

Editors note: As I am writing this column, the Big Ten announced their football return for October 24.

I tell ya, Herbie:
                           As someone that likes Group of Five football, few were as tickled as I was to see the Sun Belt defeat three Big 12 teams with Louisiana (minus the Lafayette) dumping a ranked Iowa State team, Arkansas State dropping Kansas State, and Coastal Carolina pounding a hapless Kansas squad with all of those games at the Big 12 teams homes.
The Sun Belt has quite a few schools that have been playing Division I for less than two decades and you can make an argument that they have surpassed the MAC and Conference USA on the G-5 totem pole.
I would even say this- If conference realignment comes along sooner than later (which is rumored with television contracts possibly being ripped up after the pandemic "disappears"), the Sun Belt may have a choice- be a shark or a minnow.
The Sun Belt could watch some of their teams be poached- Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Louisiana (no Lafayette), Troy, and Arkansas State could all be targeted by other leagues.
The league could also go all in and build a really G-5 football league by grabbing the top CUSA teams that would be a geographic fit from a group including Marshall, Western Kentucky, UAB, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and International, and maybe Middle Tennessee or Southern Mississppi.
You don't want your league to be too bloated, but some type of merger between the Sun Belt and CUSA would be a pretty damn good football league.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                           With the floating schedule that has come with Covid-19, the Houston Cougars get a big opportunity on the national stage.
Louisiana Tech was forced to drop out of their game with Baylor and the Bears needed an opponent.
Houston jumped on the chance to renew an old SWC rivalry and national television as the main game on Fox.
If I can, I may cover this game for TRS mainly because I'd like to see a college game that I care about even a little!

I tell ya' Herbie:
                           Ohio State may have helped bring the Big Ten back, but the conference's foot dragging has still damaged the Buckeyes with the losses of two All-Americans in guard Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade.
While I wouldn't rule those two players deciding not to play anyway, the close to a week delay in announcing the league's return might have cost Ohio State the two players, both of which decided to train for the NFL draft in that time period.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Kavaliauskas, Gonzalez score comeback victories.

Photo Credit: Mikey Williams Top Rank
The boxing challenge was completed at one location with ESPN+ and Top Rank returning to the bubble in Las Vegas.

The main event was a spicy affair with plenty of punches exchanged with a sudden ending as Egid "The Mean Machine" Kavaliauskas rallied against a tough Mikael Zewski to win his return to action after a loss to Terence Crawford in his last outing.
Kavaliauskas had all he wanted against Zewski, who I had leading the fight after six rounds and even after Kavaliauskas landed a huge right uppercut near the end of the seventh round sending Zewski to the ropes and to the floor after a followup combination of shots.
Zewski barely beat the count and only the bell saved him for more action, but there would only be seven seconds of action as Kavaliauskas charged from his corner and dropped Zewski with one right hand to conclude the evening's activities.
For Kavaliauskas, the win and exciting battle suits him well in his bounce back from his first defeat to Crawford and keeps him solidly in the top ten in the division.
As for Zewski, a strong effort against a top ten contender should allow him to receive plenty of offers from other welterweights for future fights.
A good main event from Top Rank and both fighters.

The co-feature wasn't quite as exciting, but it was decent enough as the comeback theme started with featherweight Joet Gonzalez winning his first fight since being dominated by Shakur Stevenson with a clear, but not easy unanimous decision over veteran Miguel Marriaga.
Gonzalez managed to wear down and back Marriaga up over the second half of the fight after a competitive first few rounds and scored a very good victory over Marriaga, who lost for the first time against a non-champion (previous losses to Vasyl Lomachenko, Nicholas Walters, and Oscar Valdez).
I was impressed by Gonzalez in his victory (I scored him a 98-92 winner) and I'd like to see him against IBF champion Josh Warrington soon.
I think that would be a good matchup for Gonzalez and an entertaining fight that could go either way, but a WBO title challenge against the winner for the title vacated by Stevenson between Emmanuel Navarrete and Ruben Villa is more likely as Gonzalez is only rated by the WBO for now (11th entering the Marriaga fight) and Marriaga was rated sixth by that organization before the fight, so Gonzalez should make a major jump in their rankings.

In the boxing challenge, I scored three points to Ramon Malpica's one with the Joet Gonzalez win being the difference.
I increased my lead in the boxing challenge, moving my margin to 107-99.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Browns release Austin Seibert, promote Cody Parkey, Njoku to IR.

 Give Kevin Stefanski this- he's not going to tolerate players that cannot handle the basics of their job.
The basic job of the kicking position to kick the football between the uprights on field goals and extra points.
Austin Seibert failed at that job yesterday in the Browns 38-6 loss at Baltimore and Kevin Stefanski wasn't going to tolerate any further struggles as the Browns released Seibert and replaced him with veteran Cody Parkey from the practice squad.

Siebert was selected by the John Dorsey regime in the fifth round in 2019 out of Oklahoma and Seibert did make 25 of 29 field-goal attempts in 2019 after beating out Greg Joseph for the job, but he missed four of five attempts over forty yards and five extra points and once Dorsey was gone after last season, Seibert was going to be watched carefully.
When Seibert missed both of his kicks in Baltimore, the only question was would the Browns pull the trigger on a short week and release him now or give him one week to turn things around?

Cody Parkey was on the enlarged practice squad as each team is keeping a kicker on their squad in the event their kicker would fail the Covid test on a Saturday before a game.
The twenty-eight-year-old veteran has kicked for six years in the league for five different teams, including the Browns in 2016, where he kicked 20 of 25 field-goal tries.
Parkey kicked for Tennessee in three games last season, connecting on all three attempts.

The Browns were in a tough spot with Austin Seibert.
Do you tolerate the errant kicks and limited range because releasing him would be yet another wasted draft pick and give him more time to develop?
Or do you let him go and set a precedent that you won't tolerate basic problems, even if it means players are always looking over their shoulder?
I think they made the right call here, inconsistency from the kicking game is often a hallmark of bad teams and the Browns hope to be at least average, so keeping Seibert around was more likely than not to eventually cost the Browns a game.
Better to cut those ties now.

David Njoku must have taken the compliments paid to rookie Harrison Bryant in camp personally as in the loss to the Ravens, Njoku was one of the few bright spots in catching all three passes thrown to him for fifty yards, including the only Cleveland touchdown and a spectacular leaping grab along the sideline for a 28 yard gain, which was the longest gain of the day for the Browns passing game.
Njoku sprained an MCL in the defeat and will miss at least three weeks under the NFL's newer relaxed version of the injured reserve list.
The Browns may not add a tight end to replace Njoku since they have three on the roster without Njoku in Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant, and Stephen Carlson.

The team has not announced a replacement for Cody Parkey as the practice squad kicker or the player to replace Njoku on the roster either from the free agency pool or promotion from the practice squad.

Browns Ripped by Ravens 38-6

The Kevin Stefanski era began in Baltimore to a resounding raspberry as his initial game as head coach of the Cleveland Browns ended with his team steamrolled by the Baltimore Ravens 38-6.
Cleveland's only touchdown came when Baker Mayfield hit David Njoku with a one-yard pass late in the first quarter, but Austin Seibert missed the extra point.
Other than a missed 41-yard field goal try by Seibert, the Browns didn't threaten to score again.
Baker Mayfield finished the day with 21 completions from 39 attempts, finishing with 189 yards with the mentioned touchdown and one interception.
Kareem Hunt finished with 72 yards rushing on thirteen carries with Nick Chubb running for sixty yards on ten carries.
The now 0-1 Browns will return home for the next two games with a Thursday night battle with the Bengals before the following Sunday visit from the Washington "Buckeyes".

Brownie Bits

1) This wasn't ALL bad and it's hard to type that in a 38-6 loss.
BUT the key time of the game was in the second quarter, the Browns are driving and are at Baltimore's 29-yard line.
Then, the plays fall like this: False start, complete pass for one yard to Odell Beckham with a facemask on Beckham, incomplete pass, sack, delay of game, incomplete pass.
Fourth and FORTY ONE!

2) Still, the Browns use a great kick by Jamie Gillan to down the ball at the Baltimore one.
Baltimore marches ninety-nine yards to lead 17-6.
Austin Siebert misses from 41 yards in what would be the Browns final threat of the day with 1:23 to go in the half and Baltimore moves 69 yards in 35 seconds for a touchdown.
24-6 at the half = Ballgame

3) Baker Mayfield's play might not have been the worst of the Browns, but it wasn't anything to inspire either.
Mayfield was intercepted on the first drive on a tipped pass, struggled with Odell Beckham, despite throwing to him ten times. overthrew a wide-open Beckham on a deep route that would have certainly been a score since the Ravens defender had stumbled, and his longest completion was 28 yards to David Njoku, which was more to the credit of Njoku than Mayfield as Njoku made a spectacular leaping catch along the sidelines.

4) Even considering Mayfield's play, I still wouldn't even make a passing consideration of replacing Mayfield with backup Case Keenum.
The Browns need to make a decision on whether to pick up Mayfield's fifth-year option over the winter, and they won't be able to make an evaluation without playing Mayfield- as painful as that may be.

5) Mayfield's accuracy was raved about when he was drafted and many criticized that part of Lamar Jackson's game.
I liked Jackson more than most did entering the draft of 2018 and I even floated the idea of passing on a quarterback at 1 and 4 ( Cleveland had two first-rounders) and trading back into the first round and tabbing Jackson.
Jackson completed 20 of 25 and made every throw.
Take that- "Buddy Boy".

6) I noted in the Browns preview that I had concerns about Austin Seibert's accuracy beyond forty yards and his five missed extra points in 2019.
So, Seibert missed his only extra-point attempt and his only field goal of forty-one yards went wide.
I wouldn't be surprised if Seibert is replaced by Cody Parkey off the practice squad and if he isn't, it could be only because of the early Thursday game this week.

7) The glaring weaknesses on the defense were the linebackers and safeties entering the season and I feel no better about them now.
Mark Andrews seemed to be open every play and the Ravens continued to send receivers on slant routes for catch and run chunks of yardage.
Veteran safety Andrew Sendejo was signed to mentor Grant Delpit and in the perfect world wouldn't have been starting before Delpit's injury.
It's easy to see why Minnesota or the Browns cannot start him, he's just too slow to stay with receivers, and pass-catchers can run by him or jump over him.
Sendejo is a liability and the Browns need to get Ronnie Harrison quickly up to speed to hopefully install him as the starter by week three when the Browns have ten days in between the Bengals and Washington.
Taviarre Thomas has been forced into action due to injuries to several Cleveland corners and Thomas showed why he is best suited to be a special teams performer.

8) The Browns were able to run the ball well with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb but had to abandon that in the second half.
I still think the run game is the way to go for this offense, but that will need to grab a lead and hold it!

9) Odell Beckham was targeted ten times, caught three for a mere twenty-two yards.
Included was a third and two throw that was on the money from Mayfield, would have been a first down and instead forced a missed Austin Seibert field goal.
Beckham and Baker Mayfield have next to no "feel" for each other even after last season and training camp and I'm not sure what to do about it.
The Browns have tried forcing the ball to Beckham and that hasn't worked.
The only thing that I can think of is to try to hit him in mid-stride in the middle of the field.
Beckham was effective with those as a Giant, it's worth a try.

10) The defense had its struggles, but they did force a turnover on their own twelve when Larry Ogunjobi stripped the ball from Baltimore's Patrick Ricard with Myles Garrett falling on the ball.
Ogunjobi had a strong game, especially in the first half.
The Browns did hold Baltimore to 107 yards on the ground, averaging under four yards a carry.

11) Kevin Stefanski called a fake punt on the first punt of the year inside their own thirty-yard line.
Jamie Gillan dropped the ball on the play and was swarmed over.
It seems like so many coaches in their first game try something like this and I'm not sure why.
Is it to establish a reputation for such plays? Or a new coach struggling with telling his assistant that something is a bad idea?

12) I thought rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills played fairly well in his first start.
Wills was called for one holding penalty, which he committed because he was beaten on the rush, but otherwise was decent enough.
Wills injured his left leg in the third quarter and the late word has a possible bruise, but an MRI is in store for Monday.
The Browns also lost rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips and tight end David Njoku during the game.

13) Wrapping up, the Browns need to win one of their next two games to avoid a season out of control.
Two games at home against Cincinnati and Washington, two bad football teams, are both possible wins and they better get one of them as the three games after that are at Dallas, Indianapolis at home, and at Pittsburgh.
I think they will get at least one of the two and maybe both, but I can't be sure of that.

Back later with the Boxing Challenge on the ESPN plus card from Las Vegas from Top Rank.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Cleveland Browns Preview- The Defense

The Cleveland Browns defense last season both had its moments of excellence and moments of disappointments, which was very indicative of the Browns 6-10 season.

Of course, this being the Cleveland Browns there is a new defensive coordinator in Joe Woods for 2020.
Woods spent last season with the 49ers as their defensive backs coach and in 2017 and 18 was the defensive coordinator with Denver.

Woods will have a strong defensive line to work with as Myles Garrett leads a talented group that should be able to put pressure on the opposing passers, should they stay healthy which wasn't the case last season.
Myles Garrett was on his way to setting the team sack record before missing the final six games after bonking Pittsburgh's Mason Rudolph on the head with a helmet and Garrett signed the largest contract for a defender in the history of the game after he was allowed to return to the team.
Garrett seems prepared to have his best season and I have a feeling that this is the season that Myles Garrett makes the leap to the level of the dominant defenders in the league.
Olivier Vernon struggled through injuries in his first season in Cleveland and was rumored to be a salary-cap casualty in the off-season as the team pursued Jadeveon Clowney.
When a deal couldn't be agreed on with Clowney, the team decided to keep Vernon, and should he stay healthy, will give the Browns a viable alternative across from Garrett.
Veteran Adrian Clayborn was signed in free agency and should Clayborn be used in special pass-rush situations, I think can still be very effective.
Porter Gustin beat out former third-rounder Chad Thomas for a spot on the roster with an impressive training camp and should see time as a rotational player with the likelihood of replacing Olivier Vernon in the event of injury.
Joe Jackson was claimed on Waiver Sunday from Dallas and the second-year man completes the defensive end group.

Cleveland's defensive tackles are strong in the starting lineup with Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi.
Ogunjobi is entering a contract season, so this is a big season for him and Richardson was the Browns best defensive lineman last season.
Andrew Billings was signed in the offseason from the Bengals to provide depth but opted out of the season due to Covid-19.
Third rounder Jordan Elliott of Missouri is expected to step in and play early as a rookie and recent waiver claimee Vincent Taylor rounds out the corp as a veteran run stuffer.

The linebackers looked to be the weakest part of the defense after the Browns allowed Joe Schobert to leave via free agency to Jacksonville and the team didn't do a lot to address the bunch.
Mack Wilson looked to be the standout after a rookie year that showed occasional brilliance and the usual rookie mistakes, but a camp knee injury sidelined him for at least the first few games.
Wilson was fortunate after original projections thought he may miss the season.
Sione Takitaki will enter the starting lineup after being picked in the 3rd round in 2019.
Takitaki was thought to be a slight overdraft at the time and he didn't do much to change those thoughts as a rookie.
Still, he'll get a chance to change minds this season.
Veteran B.J. Goodson was signed from Green Bay as a free agent and should serve the purpose of a journeyman bridge.
Rookie Jacob Phillips will eventually move into the lineup after being selected in the third round from LSU, former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith was signed during camp for depth and Tae Davis will be mainly seen on special teams.
This unit has plenty of things to prove if the Browns defense is to show improvement.

The Browns secondary figured to be improved with last year serving as a development year for young cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams and the drafting of LSU safety Grant Delpit in the second round.
Ward has been impressive in camp, but Williams has missed much of camp with a shoulder injury.
The duo has the talent to be among the best pair of corners in the game, but both have tended to battle nagging injuries and will need to play to their potential in order to so.
Former first-rounder Kevin Johnson was signed as a free agent to play the slot corner and was reported to have been playing well before a lacerated liver ended his camp and early portion of the season.
Johnson is expected to return sometime during the season.
Steady veteran Terrence Mitchell will start for Greedy Williams until Williams can return to the lineup and should Williams return before Johnson the versatile Mitchell will fill the vacancy left by Johnson's injury.
The Browns claimed 2018 second rounder M.J. Stewart off waivers from Tampa Bay and could see some time at slot corner and as an extra safety, where Stewart might play in the long run.
Tavierre Thomas is a special teams specialist that made the team as the final cornerback.

Cleveland signed two veteran safeties in the hope that they could turn around a weak positional group, but the drafting of Grant Delpit figured to be the big move in adding the playmaker from LSU once he broke into the lineup for good.
Delpit's training camp Achilles injury delays that plan until 2021, but former Raiders first-round pick Karl Joseph might be a bargain signing on a one year contract.
Joseph was having his best year with the then-Oakland Raiders and in week ten, Joseph intercepted Phillip Rivers to clinch a victory in the waning seconds.
However, that was all for Joseph, who injured his foot on the play and his season was over.
That might be fortunate for the Browns, who may not have had the chance to sign Joseph had the injury not occurred.
Veteran Andrew Sendejo was added from Minnesota to mentor Grant Delpit and perhaps start for a bit until Delpit earned a starting position, but will now have to hold the position longer if needed.
Hopefully, Ronnie Harrison can displace Sendejo on the field after being traded for late in camp from Jacksonville for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Harrison started for the Jaguars in both of his seasons after being drafted in the third round in 2018.
2019 fourth-rounder Sheldrick Redwine is back for his second season as a backup at both safeties.

Cleveland carried two rookie kickers in 2019 and both return for 2020, but only one can feel safe in his position for now.
Austin Seibert was drafted in the fifth round last season and had positives and negatives as a rookie.
The good news for the Oklahoma Sooner was he hit 25 of 29 field-goal attempts, which is a strong percentage.
The bad news, Siebert was only one for five from over forty yards and missed five extra points, which is way too many!
The Browns signed veteran Cody Parkey, a one-time Brown, to the practice squad, and what Parkey does best is kick from long range, so if Seibert struggles early, look for a possible promotion for Parkey.
Punter Jamie Gillan averaged over 46 yards a punt and became a fan favorite for his willingness to get into scraps and make tackles.
Veteran Charlie Hughlett is back for another year as the long snapper.

Former Ram JoJo Natson was signed to be the main kick returner and the Browns hope to see Natson hold that job as Natson's return ability is what won him the final wide receiver spot over Damion Ratley.
Donovan Peoples-Jones will see time occasionally as a returner in kicks and punts and D'ernest Johnson will be the third player in the return game.

Now to the predictions.
Last year, I predicted 10-6 with the Browns finishing 6-10.
This team seems a little more solid with the best players returning other than Joe Schobert, but going into 2019, I was more enthused about Baker Mayfield than I am right now.
There are questions at linebacker and in the secondary, that will need to be answered and the depth will be tested early with the losses of Mack Wilson, Greedy Williams, and Kevin Johnson for the early portion of the season.

I think a .500 record is possible.
I think the ceiling for this team is 9-7, the floor is another 6-10 season.
The key games between the two records are these four- the week two and three games with the Bengals and Washington Red and Yellows both at home.
The Browns need to win both of those games, they may be favored, but they aren't slam dunk victories.
The other games to tell the tale will be the week seven rematch in Cincinnati and the 14th and 15th games which will see the Browns play back to back games in New Jersey against the Giants and Jets.
If the Browns manage to win four of these five games, I can see the Browns finishing 9-7.
That means winning three of those five on the road.
I'm going to say 7-9, although I'm close to saying 8-8.
I stated on Twitter recently that I thought 7-9 would be the record, so I'll stick to it...

Back later with the boxing challenge and the Browns visit to Baltimore, although I am unsure which will come first!