The clear headliner on this awesome DC sports weekend was the debut of Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ 40-32 upset victory over New Orleans. Initial impressions: Griffin is the real deal. I love his mobility, ball faking, poise, and that the Skins weren’t afraid to take the wrapping off their prize possession and let him make plays. Awesome that new blood is flowing through the team’s veins on offense.
Billy Cundiff is a pleasant surprise as he debuted with a 4 for 4 day on field goal tries and controlled Darren Sproles and the Saints return game with his consistently deep kickoffs. The punt special teamers were as bad as Cundiff was good with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a fumbled snap by punter Sav Rocca. Defense was solid as they controlled Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints offense, but I sensed the Saints were out of sorts and were obviously affected by the bounty scandal and suspension of head coach, Sean Payton. Those who track point spreads trends noticed that the line opened at 10 1/2 and dropped to 7 over the week. Conventional thinking is that when a line moves by two or more points, take the team that it’s moving towards because someone knows inside information that’s getting the action. In this case, it was the Skins and it played out perfectly.
Up the road in Charm City, the O’s split a four game series with the Yanks and remained one game back in the tight AL East race. Game One was a sold-out tribute to O’s Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr, and the environment was electric as the O’s bombed Yank pitching for six homers in a 10-6 win. I have not been so excited to watch baseball in years and O’s fans totally dominated the Yards which has not been the case recently. The mood around town has definitely switched into pennant chase mode.
My enthusiasm has been tempered with the news that Nick Markakis will miss the rest of the regular season with a broken thumb. Markakis had moved into the leadoff position and was tearing up AL pitching since the All Star break and will be sorely missed. Can Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter plug this huge devastating hole? The starting pitching also showed some chinks in the armor as the Yanks touched up the staff for 31 runs in four games, but the loss of Nick is bigger.
Farther up I95, the Terps cruised into Philly as an embarrassing 10-point underdog to Temple but put up an impressive effort and beat the Owls convincingly 36-27. This was definitely not expected after last week’s lackluster 7-6 win over William and Mary but we’ll take it. Very excited to take on UConn at home next week even though the early line is UConn by 2. Need another win to earn some respect from the oddsmakers.
Closer to home, the Stephen Strasburg controversy continues to rage and the team let it be known that the pending shutdown had distracted Strasburg to the point of limiting his effectiveness in his last few starts. Totally ridiculous and it should never have come to this. I am already on the record as opposing this shutdown. How often do you have a chance to win a division title and go deep into the playoffs? Great pitching staffs on paper don’t necessarily translate into wins on the field. Need proof? Just look at the Phillies. Interesting that the Nats are leaving Strasburg on the 40-man roster. Might they pull an October surprise?
Final thoughts: The NFL replacement refs did an okay job and there’s no need to rush the full timers back. It’s the players the fans want to see and most could care less about the officiating. Also, instant replay is getting so slow that it’s detracting from the value of the broadcast. As soon as a play goes to replay I’m raiding the fridge or switching to alternate programming for the five minute delay. I’d be fine if they chucked the whole thing and let the refs call the games mistakes and all.